(From now on I will be referring to the Grigori game with the "good" guys as Shnecke's Wolves)
* * *
08:00 – The group have awoken and eaten (the barbarian has choked down some gibbon blood). Shi has explained that as this is the second day of the Summer Solstice, the villagers will be making their way to the spring to pay their respects to the water kami there, and to make offerings of rice cakes and perfumed oils.
Grigori explains that he needs to work a powerful ritual, intended to bring the spirit of their fallen comrade back from the netherworld. Shi is not happy about the prospect of Maho being used in the village, but Lia convinces her to at least let the priest try his ritual. Shi grudgingly agrees.
08:30 – The villagers form a respectful column, and begin to head northwards out of the village, towards the well spring shrine. At their head, the oldest man in the village holds a wooden spirit house on a long pole, within which hang sacred prayers inscribed on rice paper by a Shugenja in times past. Varrauda accompanies them, eager to try and communicate with the elemental presence he felt there yesterday, and Shnecke is sent (somewhat grudgingly) with them by Grigori (the priest not wanting to risk the Ulnyrr distracting him mid-ritual).
The Ashano Ishi'Tao form a protective perimeter around the villagers, their eyes on the jungle, alert for any movement that could suggest trouble.
Meanwhile, Grigori, watched over by Lia, Shi and the inn keeper, has begun to sanctify the chamber in which he will enact the ritual. At sight of the assassin's warped corpse, Shi's eyes widen, and she seems about to protest. However, Lia, once more, soothes her nerves, assuring her that all will be well. Grigori also chips in, telling the bushi that it she truly wishes the onida dead, this is the first step towards that goal being accomplished.
09:00 – 17:00 – At the spring, the villagers arrive and begin to pray and offer their gifts to the water. Varracuda finds himself a quiet area, and reaches out with his senses, touching at once on the presence in the spring – in truth, two distinct entities; “mother” in the spring itself, and “child” in the well. Silently he begins to concentrate on them, and initially senses fear from them both – a result of his undead nature. However, as the villagers relax, and the rainy air begins to fill with their songs, the spirits become curious, and gently probe the genasai's aura, feeling out the shape of his being. It takes some time, but the genasai suddenly realises that they have accepted him, though they are deeply troubled by his state.
Shnecke simply stands stock still, the rain pouring over him, loosening his carefully tied hair and beard. He watches the mortals as they pray and sing to the wailing resonance of a biwa, throwing rice cakes into their only water supply and polluting it further with scented oils. He tries not to think of the glorious surging warmth he can sense pulsing through each of them, and trembles as he fights to keep still, and to stop his eye teeth from involuntarily extending. Shnecke curses his state, and is the only one actually glad when all hell is let loose back in the village...
* * *
Grigori has sent everyone out of the ritual chamber, and warned Lia, Shi and the inn keep that once the casting begins, it will no longer strictly exist in this universe. “There will be sights in here no mortal should see. You must stay out once I begin. Do you understand?”
Everyone says they do, a look of dawning horror on their faces.
Grigori then begins the powerful ritual, and at once wonders if he has the physical and mental fortitude to safely cast it. From the moment he begins, he senses the damaged fabric of reality surging strangely around and through him, fighting his casting, threatening to break free. Gritting his teeth, he forces his way through the spell, fighting to stay focused as the terrible, dark energies of its castings grow within and around him. Pain flashes through him, and the chamber begins to writhe with strange, distorted shadows, the metaphysical pressure within it increasing by terrifying levels with each passing moment.
* * *
In the darkness, the no man wanders...
...How long has he been in this place of gloom and emptiness, this mournful fugue plane of endless, dread waiting? How long has he wandered, pained and afraid (though of what?) through the bare forests and endless, grey plains? How long has he sought...something?
But now, something is stirring in the mists. Something strange, that feels (familiar?) familiar? A light...a definite light...misty....growing.....
The no man almost remembers something at that point, but the blank deadness of the plane steals it again before he can grab it.
The no man stops and feels something within him leap....was that....hope?
Confused and dreading the disappointment his eternity here has taught him to expect, the no man wanders towards the light and that voice...
* * *
At the shrine, the music stops as a dull booming, like warped thunder, is heard emanating from the village. Fearful faces turn to look back down towards it, and all can see that something is very wrong, for the inn is wreathed in pale corposant, the skies above it spinning tightly as if a tornado is about to drop down. Black lightning dances and plays amongst the turbulent clouds, and all can see that some kind of terrible sorcery is being worked.
Varracuda stands up, and is suddenly grabbed by one of the bushi. He screams in the genasai's face, pointing at the distant village, and stamping his feet – though the swordmage cannot understand him. After a few moments, the villagers join in, calling out in their native tongue too. Babies begin to cry, women and men alike begin to weep, and for a horrible moment it seems that any trust the party had built is being undone.
Varracuda reaches out to “mother” and “child”, his psychic voice emphatic. “Help them!”
He feels the spirits contact, and senses them gathering their might.
The effect is instantaneous.
Suddenly the well spring grows unnaturally still, and a thick luminous mist rises above its waters. Everyone goes immediately silent, their eyes wide at this blatant display of spiritual energy. Varracuda moves to the edge of the water, and then steps back, his eyes wide in shock as the waters explode upwards; frothing and glowing with power. The villagers either stumble back or drop to their knees praying as the eruption sculpts itself into the form of a beautiful humanoid woman, 12' tall, with the delicate features of the Kai'Yassanians. Above her head, a misty sphere of glowing water hovers and shines, and at once the mist around the shrine resonates with a powerful, atonal voice. It speaks in Low Yassan, but Varracuda understands every word.
“Children of the land, great blessings upon you. Your offerings are most warmly accepted and your protection assured for another year. Know that these Yissen are sent to help you, and that they should not be feared. And remember, that though they be strange, beneath the pallor of death, they still live.”
At this, the Kami reaches out towards Varracuda, changing at the last moment into a surging, crashing wave of glowing water that engulfs him. Shnecke roars in shock, and draws his axe. For a moment the genasai is transfixed within an arcing column of living, glowing water, his face serene. Colour seeps back into his flesh, and his eyes become alive once more. A few more moments pass, and the Ulnyrr can see Varracuda arch his back suddenly as if struck from behind, his mouth opening wide in a silent, submerged scream.
The villagers and bushi alike are simply overawed by this display, and drop to their knees, praying and wailing,and soon only Shnecke remains standing, feeling oddly stupid with his axe drawn. A deep rumble comes from the village again, and the barbarian feels a planar shock wave pass over the area, buffeting the Kami's substance. At once, the water spirit withdraws back into its well, withdrawing from Varracuda in a heartbeat, leaving him smiling, dry....and alive.
Varracuda turns to the villagers and bushi, winking at the barbarian. Then, in Low Yassan, he speaks.
“Children of the forest's edge, know no fear. I am Varracuda Brakesh, chosen of your guardian Kami. Know that as long as I am here, you shall know no horror, and shall be safe, and that by the time I leave, the horrors you fear shall be no more”
The villagers regard the glowing genasai with awe.
“Well bugger me backwards.” Is all the Ulnyrr can say.
* * *
“Oh shit! I'm losing control!”
Grigori is almost being torn apart by the primal forces he has summoned, and can feel his body and spirit being ripped away. Fear almost overwhelms him, almost makes him mispronounce a phrase, as he dwells on where the black winds he has called would take him.
The entire inn now resonates with spiritual energy. Every part of it shines with a dazzling foxfire glow, and balls of ghostly flame dance along its roof. The inn keep wails at the sight of his home being consumed by Maho, and Lia suddenly sees Shi leap to her feet, her hand on her sword.
“No! Shi, no!”
“He is unleashing the forces of Shukai! He must be stopped”
A horrible wailing scream, ghastly and drawn out unnaturally issues from within the blazing, vibrating inn.
“No, Shi, he warned us that this would be unpleasant. If you interrupt him now, he could lose control and then who knows what will happen.”
“Why meeeeeeeeee......?” Wails the inn keep, now on his knees in the mud.
Shi glares at Lia. “Please Shi. Please don't go in there.”
A tense moment passes before the terrified bushi leader moves away from the inn.
“If he harms anyone in this village, “ She snarls at Lia, “I will kill him, and then I shall kill you.”
* * *
The no man...no Jaeger...is running now....running towards the light and the warmth. A strong breeze, scented (I had forgotten about smell) with the smells of life, is blowing through this world, sending whorls of mist whipping out towards him. Around him, other no men appear, ghostly and wan, reaching for him, trying to stop him escaping this place. But he has had enough. It seems like he has never known anything other than this foul realm, and now that he might have a way out, he is going to take it.
The light looms closer and closer, its brilliance so alien to this world that it is painful. Smiling, the assassin's shade leaps into the relucent mass, and feels at once a great sense of being drawn forth bodily into the unknown. For a moment he is terrified, for all at once a million sensations he had forgotten existed barrage him, and agony cries through his body.
The screams of a newborn entering a cold and dangerous world....the screams of a return to life.
* * *
Shi is about to head in again, and Lia is not sure she can stop her this time. The entire village resonates with a terrible ghostly power, and the ardent realises that Grigori has agitated the damaged fabric of reality with his spell. Her teeth ache and she has to force air into her lungs, so heavy and cold has the air become. The inn keep has passed out, and Shi sways like a flower in a storm, lit by the horrible negative light that now emanates in bars from the inn – the whole structure now shining in reverse; dark as light, light as dark.
There is a sudden increase in the psychic pressure and Shi is forced, gasping to her knees. Lia also gasps as it feels suddenly as if she is being squeezed by an all encompassing hand, and for a moment she truly feels that she will pop under it. The inn is shaking impossibly now, and Lia cannot understand how it is holding together...ghost light colours everything, and the skies crawl with warped distortion.
And then, just as the pressure is about to crush the life and soul from the mortals outside, the skies are split by an apocalyptic bolt of black lightning, which arcs straight down, and strikes the inn. At once the pressure is gone, and Shi falls unconscious, unable to take any more of this weird and uncanny pressure.
Dizzy and dazed with shock, trembling in fear, Lia stumbles towards the now silent inn, slogging through the muddy street. Inside she can hear someone gasping and screaming, and with numb shock she realises it is the assassin.
Running inside, she find Grigori unconscious, bleeding from his eyes, ears and other orifices. She also finds Jaeger – alive (as in truly alive) – though still only a shade of the mortal human he once was.