Chapter 80: Caves of Chaos
Death and destruction
Are the wages of chaos:
~ Miyara Miwa
Suluruku admonished us against using rope to tie ourselves together: it looks bad to try to hard to avoid death around here. I reminded everyone that we are not, after all, mortal, and we can fly if need be. He leapt out, grabbing hold of the net, expecting us to follow, and we did.
As we crawled our way carefully, we saw a family of bedraggled cultists, halflings, climb from one cave to another: looked like grandmother and grandfather, mother and father, a child, and a baby. They ignored the child, when he slipped, and then recovered his hold. They watched impassively as the net ripped and grandfather fell screaming to the bottom, where he hit a jagged rock with a sickening crunch. They hailed Tzeentch, master of Change, and continued their way.
Suluruku led us to a natural cavern, roughly ten or twelve yards across. He waved to a woman nearby, walked up to her, and introduced us. She is Peitra, and he told her we had sworn allegiance to Tzeentch and hoped to participate in the destruction of the world. I suppose that was true enough: we intend to participate enough to stop it. She told us to follow her along the net to the confession chamber, and we did so. On the way, Ravenna missed her hold and fell a short distance. She caught herself with an interesting acrobatic maneuver, and received a sharp and disappoving look from Peitra for not simply accepting death at the hands of Tzeentch. Peter likewise fell and barely caught himself, and received the same disapproval.
This cave was about the same width as the first, but deeper, and it was the most miserable western temple I've ever seen. There was a rough stone altar at the back of the cave, just in front of a curtain, and several rickety wooden benches before it. Peitra led us through the curtain, and asked us a series of nonsensical questions one by one, starting with Ravena.
First, she asked who Ravena was and where she came from. She answered with her name and her birthplace. Peitra asked how she came to approach Tzeentch, and Ravena answered that Tzeentch is the enemy of Nergal, and she fights Nergal and his disease wherever she goes. Peitra produced a bagful of symbols of the western gods and poured them out onto a table. She asked Ravena to spit on them, thus repudiating all the other gods but Tzeentch. Ravena refused to spit on the symbol of her own god, Bianka. Peitra asked her if she was ready to reject the shackels of love that blind us to change. I couldn't make sense of that, and apparently neither could Ravena, because she asked what that was supposed to mean. Peitra told her she was not ready yet, and moved on to the White Faerie with the same set of questions and demands.
He answered her with tall tales that made himself out to be a devoted follower of Tzeentch, and eagerly spat upon the gods' symbols. He answered her question about the shackels of love enthusiastically, and then agreed also to greet death with joy, and to cast off all his material things. He happily deposited all his belongings, including his maul and his armor, into a bag she held out. She was happy with him.
Sun answered just well enough to get by, and Caramella likewise. Peter, Hosei, and Baku also played along. Ashe did fine until he was asked to give up his axes: this he refused to do, and Peitra told him "I don't think you'll make a good servant of Tzeentch. Your mind is still clouded and much correction will be needed." He walked away from her bag.
At last, she came to me. I told her truthfully (and at great length) who I was and where I came from. I answered that I followed Tzeentch because of his powers of destruction, and his enmity with Nergal. I spat upon the western gods' symbols: they mean nothing to me, nor I to them. Although I did not understand her question about shackels of love, I answered in the affirmative, and I agreed to meet death with joy, as I have always meant to do anyway. Finally, she asked me to give up my material things.
Of course, if any temple asks a samurai to leave his weapons with them in safety, one does so without question. And I had little else but the Crystal. And so the katana and wakizashi, that I carry for my family, went carefully into her bag. I hoped to keep the Crystal with me, simply because I did not wish to hand it over to true servants of Tzeentch. But she insisted on it, too. I placed it carefully in the bag, and she took no notice of it: it was just another item to be left behind. And I could call it to me at any time, should I need to. And we will all know where it is merely by stopping and thinking about it for a moment.
And so we were done and accepted into their cult.
Peitra turned to Ravena and Ashe, the two who had failed, and led them back to the edge of the cliff. They both willingly stood right at the edge. Peitra told them to jump. Ravena asked Ashe if he would jump with her, and he shook his head no emphatically. Ravena jumped right out, but called an air spirit to catch her just before she hit the rocks at the bottom. She floated twenty feet above certain death, and then raised back up to the ledge and was set carefully back down. The spirit's winds further eroded the net, but did not wreck it completely.
People's heads poked out of caves, looking at her with astonishment. She merely said, "Apparently Tzeentch is not done with me yet." Peitra answered, "Apparently." She told Ashe it was his turn, but he refused to either jump off the cliff or give his axes up. When she told him that Tzeentch asked them of him, he said no she doesn't, and looked briefly at Caramela, standing silent as always.
Peitra gave him a very odd look, but asked us all to follow her to another cave, where we are to reside a while. There are filthy peasants, eta all, in the back. They seem to want little to do with us, thankfully.
We were not there long before the peasants here gathered at the cave mouth, staring up. We, too, looked up in the sky.
A sudden gust of wind sucked us all out of the cave and into mid-air...