Council resumed again, and Rushlight asked Umbra to let her speak of what she now knew.
Umbra: I would prefer that you did not.
Rushlight was torn. She said that she wanted to help, but if Umbra would not allow her to speak of what she knew, she could not in good conscience tell the Leyanti to allow the siblings to stay. Other Leyanti said that if the siblings were to join the tribe, they would have to trust it enough to tell their story.
Lucius joined Umbra inside the circle and told their tale. He took his sister's scarred hand in his own, explaining that they had always been together. Always. Day and night, light and dark, sun and moon -- call them whichever you would. But, then, the stories began to change, yes. He and his sister were separated -- they dropped hands to show their scars.
Yes, they were gods. Rumors followed them, men followed them. Yes, there were deaths. Kasimir had followed and attacked them, and yes, Lucius had wounded him, striking with fire, as if the sun's rays were swords.
This changed everything. The Leyanti were used to gods living among them. The rules for gods were different than the rules for men. The Leyanti did not know that Lucius and Umbra were lovers, as well as brother and sister, but at that point, it would not have mattered so much. The laws for gods were different.
But, while this changed everything, it did not settle the question of whether Lucius and Umbra could stay. Rabbit asked why people persecuted the siblings so.
Rushlight: Because they are afraid.
Redcrest: They are right to be afraid.
Rushlight: I do not say they are not.
And, perhaps for the first time that evening, the two women seemed to understand each other, at least in this matter. Redcrest was not saying that it was right to attack something simply because you fear it, and Rushlight was not saying that one should not fear the unknown or always welcome it. This was a matter she was not presuming to rule on for the tribe. Instead, she was fighting to make sure that the tribe knew all it needed to before it reached a decision.
Eagle decided that the shaman needed more knowledge, so he challenged Lucius to a single round of asumi. This was not a bitter fight, as the first two duels of the evening were. It was closer to the third, a duel to gain knowledge. And, the earlier duel had paved the way for this one.
Rushlight: Who is unbiased enough to drum in this?
The consensus was that the shaman herself should drum, a decision with which she could not argue.
This was both a physical and a spiritual duel. As the combatants circled, Lucius put on a god mask. Rushlight looked to see if it had a symbol of the Sun, but it was blank. Yet, as he circled, as far as I could hear, he seemed to be saying that he was the Sun, the same god to whom Eagle was initiate, willing Eagle to believe this.
I am extremely glad the GM did not ask for Rushlight's call on who the drummer thought had the edge. Lucius was powerful. Eagle seemed more or less to be holding his own -- or was that only because that was what Rushlight wanted to believe? I wasn't sure.
They were very closely matched and had, from what I could understand, the same special ability to win ties, and the R-P-S was a tie. So, they did it again, and this time Lucius won. Eagle was wounded with a wound similar to the ones on Kasimir. Fireheart ran to him in dismay.
Rushlight healed Eagle. This and the dream journey were abilities she could use once an hour, but, happily, this was the only call for the healing ability. As far as I could tell, Lucius had basically proved his right to be a god, perhaps becoming the new Sun.
So, it seemed quite obvious what Rushlight had to do.
Rushlight (pointing to a very surprised Umbra): Asumi.
Rushlight may be the only one who found this the obvious thing to do. Well, Eagle was fairly confident that all was proceeding as it should. He had brought the shaman more knowledge, and she had determined that this was what she had to do. But, many Leyanti -- and the GMs -- were very surprised. The GMs had been expecting asami duels between Redcrest and Nightshad, as the former challenged the latter's right to be chief, and between Eagle and Fireheart. as the former challenged the latter's choice of lovers -- not between old Rushlight and fragile Umbra.
Calm, placid Reed was on his feet in an instant, trying to talk his wife out of this madness. This was something that I was aware of, but only appreciated in retrospect, as it just seemed to obvious that Rushlight had to have an asumi duel. She had to know, just as Eagle had to know with Lucius.
She asked her sister to drum. Stormlight agreed. Someone asked who would heal Rushlight if she fell. There were at least two Leyanti who said that they could do this, one of whom I think was Rushlight's daughter.
Now, I fully expected Rushlight would lose this, just as Eagle had lost to Sun, and thus the two stranger gods would prove their right to join the Leyanti pantheon, all neat and tidy.
It didn't happen that way. First, the GMs gave me the god mask of the Moon and the ability card to go with it. I assumed that was because I was effectively channeling Moon as Eagle channeled Sun -- I think Eagle may have had Sun's godmask in his duel. But, the GMs later told me I got the mask because of the sheer coolness of the challenge.
As Moon, I asked if Umbra wanted to take my place. She was confused, pointing out, not unreasonably, that it was not she who had asked for this duel. This was one of the times when the combination of acoustics and our lack of desire to shout made it hard for folks to hear. This included me -- I had trouble hearing both Umbra's player and exactly what the GM said at first.
GM: This is probably the weirdest, most abstract duel any of you have ever seen. They're just talking and staring intently at each other. And then, Umbra has lost.
This confused me for several seconds, as I heard "Umbra is lost", which was not at all something I considered desirable. But, it was not as bad as all that; merely rather confusing.
Umbra stumbled back and Rushlight / Moon caught her and asked if she would watch over the Leyanti.
Umbra: If you will have me.
Moon: This is not my choice only. (removes mask)
Rushlight: This is not my choice only.
And some one of the Leyanti said that the stranger gods should stay.
And someone else said, "Yes." And then another. And another.
That alone is enough to send a thrill up the spine, hearing yes after yes, knowing you've done that, almost by accident.
I think Reed was silent, just being relieved that his wife seemed to be all right. But, I was holding the hand of Umbra's player, facing into the circle, so I only saw about half of the people.
And then, from somewhere behind me, Redcrest said, "Yes." That was awesomely special. And one after another, more Leyanti said yes.
And then there was this tidal wave of emotional catharsis after catharsis. Some were small. Rushlight went to reassure her husband.
Rushlight: It is well.
Reed: You are well?
Reed: Then, it is well.
Some were larger.
Years past, the Leyanti who was now Patch was in love with a woman who had sex with him, but also with his friend Eagle. He could not accept this, and fell prey to jealousy. He tried to kill Eagle, but the woman, Fern, intervened, and was killed instead. Eagle bound his friend and brought him to council where the two fought an asumi duel. Eagle blinded his friend in one eye and had to be pulled off him.
And that is how Patch lost his eye, how he became Patch, and how he switched from his old god to follow the Trickster.
This story was known to the Leyanti, but not to the strangers. It was told to Anders some time earlier in the evening, and the player said that when he saw Patch, with a strip of cloth over one eye, it was wonderful. He thought, "I know your story!"
Patch and Eagle had not spoken to each other in years, I gather. But somehow, something now reconciled them. I forget who said, "Forgive me" and who "I forgave you years ago", but when the two of them hugged in reconciliation, I'm not sure how many of us were able to keep our eyes entirely dry.
We knew their story. We had seen them live it, and now we saw it completed as it should be.
Meanwhile, Rushlight had decided to name her oldest daughter her apprentice. There was a bit of confusion as the player thought that her character already was Rushlight's apprentice, but it turned out that she was apprenticed to the woman who had the strongest connection to the Earth goddess. She certainly had no objection to being Rushlight's apprentice as well, and given that this was one of two people my character sheet said that Rushlight was thinking of taking as apprentice, clearly that was all right.
Rabbit complained that he had not been able to speak to the shaman. Rushlight went to talk to him, and he explained the difficulty he had in choosing just one god. As they talked, Bluebell challenged Lucius to a round of asumi.
He tried to talk her out of this, as did Rushlight. She protested that she needed to know if she were strong enough, if she were worthy, if he were worthy. Rushlight noted that she was putting Lucius in a position where he would be forced to her. A couple of Leyanti said that Bluebell needed to make her own choice, and Rushlight did not dispute that nor forbid the challenge. She did, however, think it was unwise.
Now, this was to be the final asumi challenge of the evening, and it ended differently from all the others, and was a logical progression from them. The duels we had were:
The first was an inevitable, bitter duel that had to be fought. The second was to prove Anders' place in the tribe, a duel that started with bitterness on one side, and ended in thought and the hope of reconciliation.
The third introduced the idea that a duel need not be a bitter thing, and could be fought among friends, in a friendly fashion. This led to the fourth duel, fought to learn the truth. That led directly to the fifth, fought for the same reasons, if far more abstractly.
This sixth duel was an outgrowth of these. Bluebell was fighting to learn, about herself and her world. Lucius told her that there could be no duel without two to fight it.
And he walked away from her, refusing her challenge.
It was perfect. And it left Bluebell feeling lost. But, she examined her heart, and decided that she would become an initiate of the Sun.
Rushlight agreed to paint the sign on her and to get her one of the god amulets which -- which --
And I completely spaced exactly where the heck the Leynati got them from.
Rabbit: We carve them from the shoulder bones of elk. The elk we kill for the tribe when we become initiate, remember?
At that point, Rushlight had already thought that she had named an apprentice too soon, for her conversation with Rabbit had convinced her that here was her true successor.
She got the ink and quill to put the sign on ***'s brow, and I asked someone to show me the symbol again.
Rabbit (again ready to help): Here: It's the easiest one to draw.
And, out of character, Sarah, who played Rabbit, said that she knew, for she had made every single one of the amulets for the game. And they looked exactly as they should.
Bluebell was ready, and at dawn, she would leave on her quest.
I asked the GMs if Rushlight could take two apprentices. They said that this was certainly not unheard of, especially for a shaman. So, Rushlight told the tribe that she would be taking as apprentice both her older daughter, who had already agreed, and Rabbit, if he agreed.
Suddenly, all eyes were on Rabbit.
Someone: Rabbit, you are going to become initiate then?
And again, I felt silly, for I'd managed to forget that naming him as apprentice meant he'd have to make his choice then and there, rather than over time.
On the other hand, this would resolve the problem between Eagle and Fireheart. Rabbit's status would no longer be gray.
And, it gave Rabbit's player the spotlight, which was a good thing. She proceeded to make the most of it, which included letting other folks get in some good lines.
Rabbit repeated the breathless explanation he'd given Rushlight, about how he admired all of the people who followed the Hunter, but didn't want to be that always, and how even the Trickster, even though sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes an it, was too limiting, and how it was so hard to choose.
Patch and Eagle's wife, who followed the Trickster agreed that Rabbit was definitely one of the Trickster's This worried Rushlight, who understood that Rabbit didn't think so, and she didn't want him committing to the wrong god.
Then, Rabbit spoke of how he really liked Lucius, but he also liked Umbra.
Rushlight: Oh, yes, that's the answer!
Well, perhaps not Rabbit's answer, for Rushlight had been thinking about the new gods ever since they had been accepted by the Leyanti. Lucius had defeated the Sun, but the Moon had defeated Umbra. Were Lucius and Umbra to be Sun and Moon? Day and Night? Sun and Night? Were the Leyanti now to have nine gods, as they seemed to think? Or seven, with Umbra and Lucius becoming Moon and Sun? Or eight, with Lucius as the Sun and Umbra as the Night? These are the kinds of conundrums that keep shamans awake at night.
But, Rabbit's words gave her an idea. The two gods should share one god sign. They would be Day-and-Night. Perhaps this would help heal them.
Rushlight: After all, you did say that you never wished to be parted.
Someone (Patch?): Rabbit, have you just solved a problem of the gods?
The GMs, while not seeing that one coming, rolled with it and drew a new sign on a piece of paper, which they handed to me.
Rushlight: I have been given a sign!
When we finally stopped laughing at the eucatastrophe, Rabbit decided that he would become an initiate under the new sign. Silence decided to do the same.
Silence: It is time I put this aside.
And he took off the amulet of the Warrior's Husband, the death god for whom he was never truly suited. Another note in the symphony.
Rushlight took it from him, relieved. And, if each Leyanti didn't have to kill his or her own elk to get the shoulder bone to carve the amulet, she would have given it to Anders. Fortunately, Rabbit had reminded her / me earlier.
So, Rabbit and Silence decided to go together to become initites of the twin gods.
Lucius: All who take initiation with us must do it in pairs.
And that felt so very right.
Rabbit and Silence started dancing, and those of us wanting to drum did so with enthusiasm. Dancing and drumming all ended at the same time, at the right time, and so ended the larp.
Stuff I found out afterwards:
Lucius had been trying to create a champion. This is why people in that far away land called Rome were dying: They were vying to become his champion. He had hoped that the sacrifice of a champion would save Umbra. But, he was willing to try the Leyanti's gentler ways, and I think that refusing to fight *** was a big step in the right direction.
Kasimir had Melody's god sign.
Anders had been sleeping around a lot.
At game start, no one had dreamed the secret tale of the Hunter. Either Rabbit or Bluebell might have received it had they committed themselves to the Hunter. I'm not quite sure how that would have worked mechanically, as I don't know if that happens before or after the shaman draws the godsign on them, and Rushlight was determined to make sure initiates were thoroughly committed before she did that, which, in the case of the Hunter, could be proved by knowing the secret tale, so there was a potential catch-22.