5 Pharast, 4715 – Day 0: Wati: Midwife
After an early morning breakfast with a few of fellow explorers, the Scarabs make their way to the Grand Mausoleum. The desert city of Wati is near busting at the seams with people and excitement. Adventurers from every corner of the of the Inner Sea region have assembled here with the announcement that the long-sealed Necropolis of the city would be opened for exploration. When the Scarabs arrive a crowd has already formed in the Sunburst Market and around the Golden Lake at the foot of the Grand Mausoleum waiting anxiously for the start of the lottery.
There is a festival-like quality in the air as exploders mingle with pilgrims gathered to observe the formal ceremonies of the Day of Bones. Surrounding the gathered throng, street vendors are hawking delicacies and refreshments to participants and spectators alike. Some merchants have even brought what can only be described as adventuring gear, hoping to make a last-minute sale to the unprepared adventurer. Still others cater directly to the faithful with the sale of icons and “holy relics” for the devout. And yet a third group mingles amongst the throng quietly promising to buy up recovered treasures and antiquities from those who visit their establishments, all with the promise of the giving the best deal.
As the sun reaches higher into the sky, the roar of the crowd is suddenly interrupted by the blast of several horns to signal the start of the day’s events. As the crowd slowly begins to quiet to hushed whispers, the doors to the Mausoleum opens and a procession of clerics and other officials slowly make their way down the steps to the stage. Leading the procession is Sebti the Crocodile with a contingent of church guards followed by clergy and state officials appointed to oversee the lottery process. She is wearing a dark ceremonial black robe with red and silver highlights along the trim. She remains seated until the rest of the procession makes its way to their appointed spots. Xenya points out that there are two large urns resting on the tables, one on each side of the stage.
Once the procession is complete and all participants have reached their places, Sebti rises and the hushed roar of the crowd quiets immediately as she steps forward to address the crowd. She pulls back the cowl of her ceremonial gown and begins to address the massed throng. Although she is quite a distance away, her voice is loud and clear as Janisa points out that there is divine magic being used to make sure her voice is projected across the length of the Market.
“Greetings friends and faithful alike. I am Sebti Al-Noor, High Priestess to Pharasma and Holy Protector of the Sacred Necropolis. The Church of Pharasma welcomes all on this most holy of days, the Day of Bones. Although we the faithful are gathered here today to celebrate the journey of life, I would be a fool to not acknowledge that many of you are here solely on the invitation of our most revered Pharaoh. Because of that many of you will be seen as nothing more than treasure seekers and defilers of holy ground. However, to those who think such things, I say that our honored guests are not as you define them but are caretakers for our long lost past. As such, I would ask each of you to listen and understand why the ground you walk is so special to all present.”
Closing her eyes for a brief moment as if in prayer, she then smiles as she once more looks back into the crowd before she continues. “Many thousands of years ago, the city of Wati was born from the mind of the mysterious Nethys through the decree of the Pharaoh Djederet II. With blessing of the All-Seeing Eye, the foundations of the city were laid in less than a year, the city sprang to life. In a short matter of time Wati grew to great prominence and was favored in the eyes of the Pharaohs of several dynasties. However, Lamashtu, evil Demon Mother and Mistress of Insanity unleashed a catastrophic blight known as the Plague of Madness, forever warping her destiny of the city.”
Whether intentional or not, a hint of rage rises in her voice as she continues, “Those that did not die immediately from the raging fever, soon succumbed to a cursed murderous insanity, killing family and friend alike. Thus much like the sudden birth of the city, the populace of Wati was nearly wiped out with most of the innocent citizens of Wati killed in less than a six months. A lucky few fled into the desert with hopes of starting a new elsewhere. Those who remained found only death and despair as hordes of the city was besieged by a near constant barrage of undead. Where Wati was once one of the prized jewels of Osirion, it was now nothing more than a living tomb for those who were massacred. Eventually, even those who braved the dangers of the Plague gave up hope and left the city to the blistering sands of fate.”
“Wati was lost …,” Pausing for effect she glances out over the expanse of the gathered crowd before she continues, once more calm and measured in her words, “…for a half a millennium, but it was never truly forgotten. In the year 2953 the enlightened Nefru Shepses arrived leading an army of priests, soldiers, masons, alchemists and countless other practitioners of the mortuary arts. Intent on consecrating the entire city in the name of our beloved Goddess, Pharasma, he set out to collect the lost remains of those slaughtered. Thousands of corpses were collected and finally given a proper burial in and around their former homes. The former city of Wati was walled off even as a new city began to spring to life around it. The former city of Wati is what today we know as the Necropolis. Wati has been reborn and again flourishes as the city we enjoy to this day under the watchful eye of the Lady. We pray that she will continue to grow in the thousand years to come. However, it would be doing a disservice to all those innocents if we did not take the take to remember those who came before us.”
Beckoning the crowd to join her, Sebti lowers her head to pray. The crowd as if on cue follows her lead. Even those who do not follow the dictates of Pharasma at least pay token and silent respect. “Our most revered Lady of Graves, please here our words as we once more submit ourselves for your most humble of blessings on this most holy of days. For in this we are reminded that our time in life is but a tiny drop compared with our time under your care in death. We beseech you to ask that all of those who have gone before us, especially those innocents who came under your blessed care during the Plague of Madness may finally know peace and contentment in your welcoming arms. Amen.”
With the prayer concluded, Sebti lifts her head once more and smiles again at the adventurers lined up before the stage. “Now that you know a very brief and simplified history of our fair city, all of our caretaker friends will understand why the Necropolis is so revered in the eyes of Pharasma. It not only symbolizes death, but it also represents birth, a rebirth, and as such represents both aspects of the Queen of Fate and her supervision over the entire cycle of life. Because it is sacred ground, no needless conflict and banditry will be tolerated as those are the marks of the criminal and the accursed. And as you all now comprehend the sanctity of the grounds you will soon be walking, you will understand that every structure should be protected and every precaution taken to leave it in its present state. Even if trapped or decrepit, the abandoned buildings and streets are testaments to the people who lived and died there, be it a noble’s home or the simple hovel of a slave. Minor modifications for personal safety cannot be made, however any wanton destruction and vandalism will not be tolerated and violators will be removed, by force if necessary, not only from the Necropolis, but from the city proper as those who can not respect the property of others does not deserve the respect of our hospitality.”
A slight murmur runs through the crowd at this sentiment before Sebti concludes her sermon, “Lastly, just as the buildings of the Necropolis are deserving of respect, nothing deserves respect more than the sacred dead who still rest within the walls of the Necropolis. As you move about through ancient city of Wati, you will encounter the dead. These poor souls did nothing more than become pawns, caught in the machinations of an evil god. They will be treated with the proper dignity and respect they have rightfully earned. If in your explorations of the city you move a body, either inadvertently or through discrete care and reverence, all care should be taken to restore the dead to their place of eternal rest. However, this final missive does not apply to those creatures which have suffered the curse of undeath. These monsters are an affront to our Blessed Lady and destruction of these abominations will serve to restore these wretched souls to the proper path of judgment by the Lady of Graves so that they may follow their fated path through the afterlife.”
As Sebti completes her liturgical speech she returns to her seat before continuing, "Now that the Day of Bones has arrived, friend and faithful alike can truly appreciate the nature of the Necropolis and the care and devotion all must render to this sacred ground. Although the gates to the Necropolis will remain shut until sunrise on the morrow so that everyone can celebrate the festivities of this special day, we will begin the lottery of assignments.” With this declaration, she sits and relaxes as the crowd bursts into excited applause and cheers as the Sunburst Market erupts, the formal part of the festivities ended.
A rather stoic Pharasman steps forward to stand to the right of Sebti’s chair. He begins to speak but soon realizes that he will not be heard over the roar of the crowd. With the simple gesture of lifting her hand, Sebti quiet the cheers and motions for the cleric to continue with his instructions. “Thank you. I am Bektor-Na, and I have been blessed by our High Priestess to oversee and conduct today’s lottery. Even though many of you have requested specific sites to explore, we must leave these matters to the Keeper of Fate. And although I do not know what is prophesized for each of you, rest assured that the Lady of Graves is a far better judge of destiny than we of this mortal sphere and will ensure the assignments are aligned with your fated paths. Use the rest of this day to make preparations and to join in the festivities of this special day, but let earlier words of our High Priestess guide you in this holy place; remember how this came to pass, every slave’s hut is a memorial, and honor the departed. If you can keep these in your heart, then the Lady’s blessings will surely find you.”
Stepping forward a bit and motioning to the sides, he describes the process for the lottery. “Father Ahnel will draw a chip from the urn on the left and call out the name of the group it represents. A single member of the group will come forward to confirm their understanding of the rules. Father Taleem on the right will draw a chip from the right urn which specifies the group’s assignment. After receiving their assignment, each group will be given a map with instructions on how to find their site along with a special blessing from the High Priestess. Each drawing will take place sequentially with the next one not beginning to the previous one having been completed. It is recommended that if you have not sent your representative forward, you do so immediately to make the process go as quick as possible.”
The first chip is drawn out as the crowd surges and stirs as several group representatives move forward as instructed. Janisa moves to the front to represent the Jeweled Scarabs and by chance winds up standing next to Velriana of the Scorched Hand. The rest of the Jeweled Scarabs stand to the right side of the Golden Lake and watch the proceedings. By chance, the Scorched Hand is called as the third group. Velriana steps up onto the stage as the right chip is drawn and called out. It is not the Sanctum and Janisa can see the physical disappointment in Velriana’s countenance and stature as her shoulders slump for a moment and then she recomposes and steps forward to get the map and blessing for her group. Sebti hands her the map, “Patience Velriana. For even though the Lady of Mysteries knows the path we are to take, it is our choices which dictate whether it will be paved or over broken ground.” Velriana takes the assignment and moves off stage to join her compatriots without a word, her reaction soliciting a quiet hiss from many in the crowd.
The Scarabs wait for over an hour before they are finally called forward, nearly one of the last groups summoned. As Janisa steps forward, the crowd much thinner than earlier, the Scarabs are assigned the Tomb of Akhentepi. Sebti smiles to her as she hands her a map pointing to the group’s assignment, “The trees of the mightiest forests often start with the most simple of seeds.”
Janisa smile and replies, “The Jeweled Scarabs thank you High Priestess for the change to be your humble servants in exploring the most sacred Necropolis.”
Once the ceremonies are completed, the Scarabs spend the afternoon enjoying the treats and drinks of the festival before returning to the Tooth and Hookah at sundown to review their map. As somewhat expected, the Scorched Hand is grousing about their assignment and seeking information about any groups which might have received the Sanctum, again offering to trade As best can be determined, no one has received the Sanctum, or are not stating such in the presence of the irritating Scorched Hand