The last few sessions were all single-session makeshift adventures, a consequence of having a couple of months with a very spotty gaming schedule. Now there was a span when all players could make the session for several weeks in a row, and this was the point where I returned to the more plot-oriented ongoing adventures for a time.
When Sirukel returned to Jakalla after a lengthy trading voyage to Salarvya, he found things not remotely peaceful in the PCs assigned home. The arrival of Tsodlan's family had been death to domestic bliss. Tsodlan had taken to sleeping overnight at the guard barracks on the docks, Kemuel spent more and more time at the Temple of Dlamelish, and Gachaya was finding his default position as arbiter of disputes increasingly stressful. The fact that both Tsodlan's wives insisted in putting his new bride in her place at any opportunity didn't help matters- nor did the fact that in the boredom of rural exile he'd had an affair with Su'esa, the younger of Tsodlan's wives, and she showed a desire to pick things up now they were under the same roof again. As for Sirukel, his own wife, Hale, was finding it rather difficult to deal with these out-of-town shrews, despite her nominally being in a socially superior position.
Matters were not helped by the fact that Tsodlan had daughters approaching marriageable age, and having returned from the trading voyage a rather wealthy man (investing all his money in the voyage and then making some very good rolls on Merchant) Sirukel was looking very eligible. He did his best to avoid Tsodlan's wives, and looked to invest his new-found wealth in the construction of what he hoped would be the first of his trading vessels (he actually had enough to buy a ship, though I ruled this would mean him commissioning the construction of one rather than there being one for purchase).
So when the opportunity to escape Jakalla for a time was presented to the PCs, they seized upon it without a second thought. Lelai hiSankolum, Kemuel's theology tutor and a secret heretic looking to recruit him, had organised a hunting trip for several members of the Clan, along with a number of guests from other Clans. Acceptance was quickly given, and some days later the PCs found themselves mingling with their new travelling companions as their servants and slaves made the final preparations to depart. To help keep things clear, I've decided to just copy out the list of NPC names and agendas I used in the game- referencing this will hopefully let people keep things straight.
Lelai hiSankolum of the White Stone- Priestess of Dlamelish, and secret heretic. She has arranged the trip to give an excuse to get Kemuel out of Jakalla, where she can introduce him to other Heretics without the Temple learning about it and hopefully recruit him.
Hettukeng hiKutanyal of the White Stone- A fashion-conscious gambling addict deluded of his own status. He has been brought because his (theoretical) status in the Clan adds to the cover story of the hunting trip. His lineage should make him a big deal inside the Clan, but his behaviour and incompetence has eroded this somewhat.
Migor hiSankolum of the White Stone- a cousin of Lelai who has been brought along to toady to Hettukeng and try to keep him out of trouble. He's just glad to have been allowed to join this journey, and hopes to make some contacts or good impressions that will improve his lot.
Paluel hiSankolum- another of Lelai's cousins, brought along because an attractive young woman known to be free with her favours can surely only help any social gathering. As it transpires, she's a xenophiliac with a definite weakness for foreign-looking males of unsuitable status.
Nirun hiTlelsu of the Great Stone- a guest of some status, who unknown to anyone else has been ensorcelled by the Temple of Dlamelish into acting as their spy.
Shemek hiNezar of the High Pinnacle Clan- rich and high status, but also a bore of epic proportions who turns any conversation to the minutiae of his job in the Palace of the Realm and how much he misses living in Urmish.
Balane hiSankolum of the Purple Gem- a scatterbrained girl with a tendency to try and attach herself to whichever male she feels has the most status in any given group.
Dijaya hiMranu of the Rising Sun- a lowly acolyte of Dlamelish, whose inclusion is purely based on the fact that Kemuel is desperately in lust with her and her presence helps assure his acceptance of the invitation.
The expedition departed along the Sakbe road, and the PCs soon recalled various issues with travel just after the rainy season had ended. Fortunately they were high enough status to use the middle tier of the Sakbe road, or the crowds would have made the going even slower. Observation rolls made by the PCs along the way led Kemuel to believe they were being followed, but the other PCs declared he was just being paranoid that business was done with now he was a member of the Temple of Dlamelish. (The follower was in fact an agent of the Temple of Dlamelish, whose superiors were not as ignorant of Lelai's heresy as she believed.) Still, the slaves were pushed hard and the group made Palla Jakalla by evening, which was chosen as a convenient mid-way stop on the journey. Arrangements had been made in advance to host them by the White Stone Clan, and they settled into the guest quarters to enjoy their hospitality for the night.
The drama soon started. Kemuel found his attempts to woo Dijaya coming to nothing, as Hettukeng managed to seduce her with “his unfair technique of being smug and rich!” as Kemuel's player put it, and the various PCs and NPCs all got dragged into things by one or the other of the women. (The simple technique for dealing with players wanting to stay out of something like this is to have one of the women show interest in HIM, and then have her NPC suitors respond.) Eventually, several of the NPCs decided to go out and “look for some adventure” in the town, whilst others retired to their beds, alone or otherwise.
Hours later, a street urchin delivered a rather frantic-sounding note from Migor, who claimed that Hettukeng was in some manner of difficulty. Quickly rousing the various PCs, the group followed the urchin back to a rather shady-looking establishment just inside the gates of the Foreigner's Quarter. Inside, the various forms of gambling on display soon had the PCs realising what was transpiring. Hettukeng had begun to bet heavily, losing sums of money that even someone of his status would find awkward to explain. And in true gambling addict fashion, his solution was to keep betting until his luck turned around. A number of rather serious-looking Salarvyani were looking as if they would object to Hettukeng's departure unless confirmation of payment was given by his Clan.
Recalling that Gambling is based on Psyche, and that Kemuel had placed points in the skill, Gachaya hit upon then plan of having him take over Hettukeng's debts and keep gambling. Many social rolls were required- not least to make Hettukeng abandon what he was convinced would become a winning streak. But the game was set up, and even with modifiers for less than sporting play by the hosts Kemuel managed to begin winning back the money. The debt was reduced to a manageble amount by the time the Salarvyani called an end to things, and the group returned to the Clanhouse. Hettukeng condescendingly thanked them for their services to the Clan before retiring to bed Dijaya (which annoyed Kemuel no end). And Nirun went to call on Paluel one last time in the hope that she'd be receptive- and the violence started.
Whilst most of the menfolk were busy rescuing Hettukeng, Paluel had decided to indulge her passion for brutish and unsuitable foreign males by seducing Sirukel's retainer, M'vekku the N'luss. Finding the object of his desire in the arms of this Nakome, Nirun took exception and began attacking him with a sword. This naturally put Sirukel's player (who usually made M'vekku's combat rolls) in a difficult position, because attacking a High-Clan Tsolyani would get M'vekku executed. He fought on the defensive, receiving several wounds, until he finally managed to grapple Nirun and pin him down. The PCs then arrived and dragged Nirun outside, where he began demanding M'vekku's death loudly. Tempers were raised, and when Nirun managed to recover his sword, Tsodlan drew his. Challenges were made, but in the heat of the moment blow were exchanged immediately- and Tsodlan rolled a critical attack, killing Nirun outright.
Had this taken place in the Hirilakte arena, there would have been no legal issue. But with such a dubious and improper challenge, Tsodlan now stood in serious danger of being declared a murderer.
(This was an issue where the player didn't seem to grasp the fine distinctions of challenges in the setting, seeming to think that a challenge in front of witnesses was all that was required and that given time Nirun would “weasel out of things” and find a way to kill M'vekku. I decided after the first hint that, what the hell, I'd let him do it and face the consequences.)