- Markshire PCs:
Thus began Sun-Ok’s real introduction to the tumult of Foothold and its varied inhabitants. For the most part, she remained calm in the Way, but oft-confused by the people, their speech, and their strange values. At least some things grew clearer with time: the Captain had been encouraging them to donate money to the families of the dead guards, not to their corpses; the dwarf who bought their nuggets—which was the right word after all—was named Durok, and he was a skilled crafter of metal.
Some things, though, remained perplexing. Why would they insist she, weak and a stranger, carry all the metal? Because it ended up not being worth all that much? Was it a test? Or a sign of trust? And why did they insist on equal shares, when she had contributed so little? They were questions that echoed in her mind from time to time—but only from time to time, because these new comrades introduced her to new places and people, so many and so quickly, that she was perpetually filled with questions.
Many of those Sun-Ok met were generous—with answers to her questions, with their time deciphering her halting speech, with items they found that they thought she might need. She traded what she could—healing kits mainly—for these gifts, but still she felt she was not contributing fairly to these developing friendships.
That began to change when Tam’s half-sister Nitha introduced her to one of the most important men in Foothold—important to Sun-Ok at least—Alec, the tanner. He showed her new facets of the tailor’s craft that played such a large part in keeping her in the Way: how to use a skinning knife, how to cure the skin and tan the hide. He wasn’t exactly generous—she ended up purchasing from him almost all of the supplies she needed for her work, and he never once confided his family name to her—but he did open his doors to her, and open a door for her to a host of new options for caring for her own soul along the Way. Her joy expanded as she learned the art of making ever more useful items—wondrous armors, magical bags, and even better healing kits. The embroidered symbol of the Way slowly spread its way into Markshire, unheralded, unnoticed, and unexplained, but spreading nonetheless.
Sun-Ok also took a secret pleasure in reading the stories of Markshire’s many gods. It was a secret pleasure because her people had no gods, considering the entire concept somewhat barbaric and hugely unenlightened. But the stories were entertaining, and it did help her with the language.
Underlying that pleasure, though, was a vague unsettling fear, and a number of unresolved questions. How could these people ever find harmony if their gods were constantly bickering and fighting? Why were they so ready and able to use body parts of animals and people in their various crafts, yet so opposed to the animation and use of soulless corpses? Sun-Ok, of course, could not perform such magics, but the philosophical contradiction still worried her. She had the feeling, somehow, that it was important to understanding these people, but she could not settle the issue in her mind. The people here were worried about their souls—worried within the narrow definitions laid down by their respective gods, of course—but seemed to judge a thing by some unknown, inherent characteristic, rather than strictly by the utility of the thing and the use to which it was put. These worries nagged at the back of her mind, like a question she knew she would never be able to answer.
She became even more perplexed, of course, when she died.
She had been invited to raid an orc lair by Mezano and Tam—they had become friends after that first chaotic fight in the Grotto, and Sun-Ok was always delighted by the different forms Mez could take with his magic. And the orcs here—the full-blooded ones at least—were just as evil as the ones back home, their lair disturbingly close to Foothold, and to Alec’s house in particular. So she went, and used her bow admirably. Until they were ambushed on their way out, and a huge orc charged at her and smashed her with a spiked club. Which is, of course, an entirely normal thing for an orc to do.
What was not normal—at least not expected—for Sun-Ok was that her soul did not leave her body for another. Nor did it go to the spiritworld to await another body, which could happen if one didn’t adhere to the Way. Instead, she went to a strange place, a temple of sorts filled with fire and screams. And when there, she clearly remembered everything about her life as Sun-Ok, every step both off and along the Way. She looked around curiously—not really a very nice place to visit, even if it was warm.
She stood in the strange place, trying to reconcile all that, for a minute or two, then she felt an odd tugging. In a moment, she arrived back in the orc cave, back with her new friends, who looked down at her—she was suddenly lying on the ground—with obvious concern. They used a healing kit on her—in her confusion she didn’t notice whether it was one of hers that she had given them—and she rose shakily to her feet.
Later, after they had left the orc cave and she had had some time to think, they confirmed that she had died and gone to Elvidnir, Markshire’s dead-place. They had brought her back through some magic, but apparently there was a creature there named Garm who would enforce some deal Odin had made to allow his people’s souls to return to life.
Mez explained all this, gently, as though it would clear things up for her—but it did only on a superficial level. The questions Sun-Ok’s death and re-life raised were altogether more unnerving. Was she subject, then, in this place, to the whims of its struggling gods? Was her soul? If the soul did not move on in Markshire, was there a purpose to the Way here? Was there a purpose to her?