Runequest Thursday #146 - The Crimson Bat's Return!

Clint Staples

The Crimson Bat is one of the biggest of the Big Bad's that a Gloranthan can hope to avoid ever seeing! Huge enough to carry a contingent of priests, soldiers and giant ticks without effort, it is a creature beyond the power and ken of all but the greatest heroes. And unlike the gods, who are barred from direct interaction in the world,  the Crimson Bat is able to manifest on Glorantha in all its terrible power!

Art in the header is by the amazing Dan Barker!

Last week's RQT gave you the breakdown on the Brightwater Company's mission to disrupt an alliance of tribes against the Goddess of the White Moon. In the climactic encounter, the heroes led a small army of angry ghosts onto their ancestral Challenge Grounds that were being perverted by a ritual of dark sorcery conducted by the masters of sorcery on the White Moon - the High Folk! After disrupting the ritual and defeating the Coven of the Black Bolt, they were shocked to find that the battle was only beginning!

To everyone's surprise, Include the High Folk sorcerers of the Coven, who saw it with their dying breaths, the hidden Red Lunar allies of the High Folk had betrayed them along with the rest of the White Moon. Though they had lent support to the High Folk and brought allies like the Blue Moon trolls under High Folk banner, the Red Moon Lunars used the High Folk's deep understanding of the Smoking Mirrors - a portal system that links diverse places on the White Moon to each other and beyond - as a means of retrieving the Crimson Bat from its place of exile, returning it first to the White Moon, and then (through the Smoking Mirrors) to Glorantha.

You see, about a dozen years ago, at the Battle of Boldhome (a battle crucial to the Lunar war of conquest for Sartar), the Crimson Bat was killed or banished from Glorantha. Tales are confusing as to how this was accomplished. Some say that Orlanth or one of his heroes slew the Chaos creature. Others claim that a dragon appeared and drove the Bat into the outer darkness beyond the Gloranthan Celestial. No one really knows.

But the result was certain: Because the Crimson Bat has not been seen on or above Glorantha since.

This has had the effect of stalling the pacification of Sartar, and of hobbling the power of the Lunar Army and the Empire as a whole. The Lunar priesthood of the Crimson Bat has a ritual to summon the monster in the event it should be banished, but after the sacrifice of two high priests, the Bat had not returned. With the war in a state of stalemate in Sartar, growing unrest on the River of Cradles, insurrectionist activity in Tarsh, and new of dire events in Heortland and the Holy Country, the Red Emperor devoted his will, and the lives of dozens of Bat priest sto the task of locating the monster. 

The shredded souls of the Bat Priests that returned to their Emperor carried details of vast cosmic distances and wards of tremendous magical power, combining to hold the Crimson Bat at bay. With everything else on his plate, the Emperor could not devote the necessary resources to an expedition to the retrieve his pet.

But one potent celestial navigator of the Black Void survived, mad, but with a plan to circumvent the distance and power barring the return of the Crimson Bat. The Smoking Mirrors that linked the merest memory of a goddess from before time, that the Red Goddess had stripped of Lunar Preeminence, were a vast series of portals that could be made to extend far beyond the surface of the White Moon. Indeed, they already did, as evidenced by the recent discovery of such a portal by a band of miscreants in the plains of Prax. It appeared that the Smoking Mirrors were reflections of the White Moon Goddess herself, and were actual pools of sacred water. Could not Lunar sorcery use this new understanding to create a portal from the Red Moon to the White Moon, and bring the Crimson Bat back from its exile?

And this Lunar sorcery did. They begn by offering the High Folk their aid and expertise, aiding in the binding of three tribes of lowland savages into an army to aid the forces of the Blue Moon in their rebellion against the White Moon Goddess. In truth, of course, the rituals were a veiled means by which to gain access to the Black Void. With the collected spirit energy of several ghost hordes, and the slaughter of as many living warriors in the Challenge Grounds, the table would be laid, the power waiting to call forth the Crimson Bar once more.

It nearly worked. I won't repeat the epic efforts of the Brightwater Company, which you can read in RQT #145. But I will provide stats for the Emergent Head of the Crimson Bat, that you can use in your own games.

The Emergent Head of the Crimson Bat is considerably weaker than the entire Crimson Bat - which means it can actually appear "on stage" with your heroes even if they are not godlike in power. Clearly, this should still be something extremely out of the ordinary in any event, but it makes for a great, if high stress, encounter! Because of the circumstances of the encounter, there was no contingent of priests, no wings or similar, and the bat was incapable of moving from the place from which it had (partially) emerged.

Also provided are stats for the Giant Chaotic Bat-Tick Swarm that the monster's mouth spewed forth in RQT #145.