This prelude to the NotDA Campaign is the story of the last great annual hunt among the Mountain, Sky Fur, Ice Seer, and Valley tribes of Woes. In short:
Introducing the Characters
We meet Chief Tokala (played by Brent), a venerable shaman of the Earth Mother. At 50, he is considered to be of very old age and holds leadership over the Valley tribe. He is a highly intuitive man of great inner power, much respected and well-liked among his people and of allied tribes.
We then meet Nim, a 17 year old tech scavver of outside origin. Nim grew up in the Valley tribe from before he could learn to speak, but his lineage is untraceable and he still sometimes feels as though he is treated as a stranger within his own tribe. His truest friend, known as “Crackjack”, is a 8 foot tall mutant, something between a brawny fish and a giant man. While Crackjack is hardly sapient, he seems to understand and care for Nim, helping him with various tasks.
Introducing the Important Tribal Members
Jenna, Shamas, and Gariggon meet Tokala in his home and shrine. Jenna, a young outsider herself, hails from the far west region known as Orpia, a series of badlands and networks of subterranean vault-dwellers. Jenna is the fiercest huntress in the Valley tribe, and fanatical in her loyalty. Shamas is a native woen, and a strong warrior. He is the alpha male of the tribe, having slain the most threats from rogue tribes and waylaying beasts. He is known as a belligerent and father to many children in the tribe. Then we meet Garrigon, a bitter farmer of middle age, who tends to the crops as well as masters the tribe’s domestic animals. Garrigon is no friend of Nim, and treats him as the tribe’s unwelcome bastard.
Preparation for the Hunt
The tribe is to gather their able-bodied men and women (just three adolescent males) and head to the Communion Arch, an ancient monument where the tribes meet each year in early Crimsoning to hunt game for their stores for the coming harsh winter. After a meeting, the group gathers the Kuzaks (beasts of burden not unlike large monitor lizards), and Nim pulls a few waste rovers and a hauler for the hunt. The Hauler is broken by some of the tribe’s children, who have a go at parts on the undercarriage and engine —Nim suspects Garrigon to have put the children up to the trick. Fortunately, Nim repairs the hauler temporarily by rigging some placeholder parts, and the group leaves the Vale to head to the Arch.
The Communion of the Tribes
The journey takes all day, with the permanently dim skies giving way to a light ashfall until evening. Darkness falls before the group’s arrival.
The tribe meets with Haqqara, Chief of the Fur Skins, who is well loved among the allied tribes. Haqqara receives a gift from Tokala; a shimmering black fur cloak. The cloak is appreciated, and a feast is presented to Tokala and his people to share with the other tribes. Nim, who is betrothed to Haqqara’s daughter Fallessa, is given a fur skin shawl of his own. The shawl is provided by Haqqara, and looks to be incredibly discreet; hiding in any landscape would be easier when wearing the shawl.
Tokala makes a public blessing to the Earth Mother, but senses something wrong in the balance of things. He intuitively meets the steely gaze of Jo-koe Greyhands, the missing Chief Koe Blackhands’ son. Jo-koe rides a large Kuzak on the perimeter of the feast pavillion, and does not avert his strange gaze from Tokala’s. Tokala processes the intent of the Earth Mother’s spiritual message, but cannot place why he receives the sense of wrongness that he does.
Chief Skyfeather, a taciturn stone-faced man of the Mountain tribe, takes an aside with Tokala, greeting him with the usual stoic disposition of the Mountain people. He asks Tokala why he acted strangely during the Earth Mother’s blessing. Tokala cannot say, and instead defers to a give brought to give to Skyfeather. It is a jewelry box, salvaged but refurbished nicely no less. Skyfeather accepts the gift with custom appreciation but no emotion, and commands a few of the Mountain tribesman to take Tokala to his tent so that Tokala can choose any gift he likes as a trade of respects.
Nim works on the broken hauler. It is a bareframe rover as most are, with a large flatbed for carrying materials and game. Crackjack hoists the thing while Nim replaces the parts. But they are interrupted by Jo-koe Greyhands, who comes upon the two on his Kuzak and carries a large, immaculate plasmabolter. Greyhands doesn’t seem to kindly to Nim, taunting him and Crackjack. Nim remains composed, attempting to keep the peace, but a large rock is thrown from the darkness of the nearby jungle perimeter, scoring Crackjack on the back of his unprotected head. Greyhands smirks small, and bids Nim an underhanded piece of advice. He tells him that new hunters with little experience in the wastes do not return home more often than not. Greyhands plods off in his Kuzak, plasmabolter swaying behind him as Nim tends to Crackjack’s headwound. The men among the trees and surrounding the two fade away with the sound of receding footsteps.
Trek to the Moon’s Tear
The morn of the next day preludes the great Hunt. The tribal leaders consult one another after Haqqara gives a traditional speech below the Communion Arch on the steps. The Valley tribe chooses to hunt among the eastern Moon’s Tear, a land riddled with deep craters from asteroids new and old. It is a land rich in crater mollusks, a delicacy and easy hunt if one has access to the porous crater networks in the basins. There is risk of encountering gargantuan terrorsaurs, but Cheif Tokala takes the risk at the advice of the divine Earth Mother’s vision, which he received on a psychotropic ritual days prior.
The tribe gathers their kuzaks, vehicles and gear and heads four hours east to the Moon’s Tear. A strong ash storm sets in, obscuring the already dim atmosphere. Tokala receives a boon from the Earth Mother, and is able to part a line in the storm a brief way to the first crater site. The tribe begins to descend the slippery ashen crater when Nim spots several corpses on the lip of the crater. Tokala throws of the ash of the corpses, revealing recent mortal wounds on several unidentifiable woen huntsmen.
Jenna says they are what remains of a terrorsaur attack…