Friday, 8 March 2013

Tekumel - Session 12

The afternoon of the day after the attack, following a morning of the various parties involved having hasty meetings and sending runners back and forth, the PCs were summoned to the White Stone Clanhouse. The Clan Master was presiding over a gathering of representatives from all those who had been affected by the events at the Sea Blue Clanhouse and the attack on the PCs shortly afterwards. The players were naturally feeling a certain amount of trepidation at this, having had a week to consider just how bad things could get for them if the Clan Elders decided they'd made too much of a mess.

(There was a brief aside when one player asked “Where could they send us that's worse than where we started off?”, and I had to read out the various descriptions of Penom.)

The Priest of Hru'u had naturally sent a lower-level Temple flunky as a representative, to essentially start the Shamtla process. The Sea Blue Clan had a representative, because it was their Clan-house that Kemuel had started throwing spells at, and so they were also seriously considering Shamtla. The Blue Kirtle Clan had sent people to try and discover just what had occurred, and probably to also make polite but pointed (as much as status difference allowed) inquiries as to why the PCs had been lodged with them if they were involved in such dangerous affairs. And finally, the Temple of Dlamelish was represented by the highest-circle member of the White Stone Clan in Jakalla, who was naturally wanting to make sure that whatever happened to Kemuel, her temple would end up holding him.

The situation was defined as the PCs gave their testimony again, and the various claims of wrongdoing were made. One matter that was agreed on by all was that Kemuel had been irresponsible in his use of magic. To address these fears, Kemuel was fitted with a collar by the Temple of Dlamelish- made of silver and emeralds, it was elaborate enough to pass as jewellery and so avoid the stigma of wearing an Iron Collar, but contained enough metal to inhibit spellcasting in the same way. And as Kemuel tested it and found out at the first chance, it was solid enough and possessed of a lock that meant it couldn't be easily removed without the key. It has to be said that the other PCs were probably as relieved as the NPCs at this...

After the various representatives had left, the Clan Elders addressed the PCs. They were chastised for not informing them of the fact that they could be in danger, thus endangering a client Clan, and for Kemuel's reckless actions the night before (and the other's failure to prevent them). Since the PCs had demonstrated themselves to be in danger, some (rather cramped) quarters would be found for them in the main Clanhouse, where they could be properly guarded (the term “House Arrest” was never used once, but the PCs were left with the impression that leaving would be frowned upon).

The PCs freedom to enjoy the last few parties before The Enhancement of Emerald Radiance was therefore somewhat limited. That night, however, the White Stone Clan was itself hosting a party, and so the PCs would be in attendance- though warned to keep on their best behaviour, and in the case of Kemuel assigned a couple of “Minders” for the evening.

Nonetheless, the PCs took the opportunity to enjoy themselves (knowing they might be exiled from civilisation afterwards), and were able to circulate and talk with numerous high-ranking people in the Clan. Sirukel rose to the occasion here, managing (with good roleplaying backed with equally good dice rolls) to convince the several Clan-Elders that he was, in fact, a very capable young man and if he'd been there, then the sorry mess wouldn't have happened. As it was, he felt he knew how the matter could be resolved with a minimum loss of money and status to the Clan- would they allow him to try?

In the interests of not ending the campaign here, I decided that Sirukel had convinced them. He then immediately started to work on the first part of the plan that he and Gachaya had hatched, finding the highest-ranking Priestess of Dlamelish present at the gathering and making play. A meeting was arranged at the Temple of Dlamelish the following morning, and the Priestess would manage to have someone of sufficient rank present.

(Those who may have been following the discussion thread here will note that the players actually managed to come up with a solution to how to handle the corpse of their attacker that none of those involved in the discussion had thought of...)

The next day, the PCs arrived at the Temple of Dlamelish- with a suitable armed escort from the Clan- and met the gathering of high-Circle Priestesses. By now, they all knew just how powerful Kemuel could be- the fact he'd managed to cast a low-level spell with a few months of access to some books and no instruction said enough, even if his judgement was clearly questionable. But those who knew of Sorcery could tell that this was merely the sign of a very powerful Pedhetl influencing one who'd not been trained to properly control it. He was a potential asset, and the plan required that the Temple of Dlamelish be very keen to secure him.

Each PC carefully played his part in the rehearsed speeches, the players having figured out how to apply the Planning and Teamwork rules to social situations. Kemuel stated how he'd been instructed to go to Sokatis and felt that his duty, although perhaps he should offer himself to the Temple of Hru'u as penance for what he'd done. The others stressed how they had various duties to fulfil- but that they could see the advantages of having Kemuel join the Temple of Dlamelish here in Jakalla, the heart of the Emerald Lady's worship. If certain matters could be made to run smoothly for them here, then they would certainly ensure that Kemuel remained here to repay the debt they would owe...

After much roleplay, several dice rolls (one having XP burned to re-roll) and Sirukel marking down several significant favours owed to the Temple, the Priestesses agreed that the situation warranted the actions the PCs finally proposed. The body of the Priest who attacked the PCs was brought to the Temple of Dlamelish, where a Revivification spell was cast upon him (using a scroll, no Priestess wanted to be without magic with The Enhancement of Emerald Radiance so near). It succeeded, and the Priestesses proceeded to work their charms upon him. Newly Revivified and in the heart of the Temple of Dlamelish, they were able to enthral him into co-operation.

The Temple of Ksarul had taken the precaution of mind-barring him from revealing any of their secrets, but his name, Clan and Temple Affiliation were not secrets, and so were revealed. He was Firu hiChankresha of the Purple Gem Clan, and a Sorcerer-Priest of Ksarul.

Knowing full well that any confession made while Enthralled would hardly be seen as convincing, the PCs went to the Purple Gem Clan-house. Once there, they asked if anyone knew a Firu hiChankresha, of their Clan and possibly from Urmish. Finding some who did- he'd visited Jakalla before, and stayed at the Clan-house then- they asked about him, and confirmed that he was a Priest of Ksarul. They then informed the Purple Gem Clan that he was at the Temple of Dlamelish and in some trouble- the Clan should send someone there to assist him.

Naturally the Purple Gem Clan did so, and soon an Elder and his entourage was arriving back at the Temple of Dlamelish with the PCs. Once there, they made sure to have the Purple Gem people identify Firu in front of a senior Priestess. Only then did they inform the Purple Gem of what he'd done- naturally they'd heard rumours of the affair, but not yet the names of those involved. With his identity confirmed beyond doubt, the blame for at least half of their troubles was now shifted from the PC's shoulders. The Shamtla the White Stone Clan would pay to the Priest of Hru'u should be balanced out by what they could claim from the Purple Gem Clan and Temple of Ksarul, and the Blue Kirtle Clan should likewise be mollified by someone to make their own claims to.

And it was noted that the Temple of Ksarul probably owed the Temple of Dlamelish for having Revivified one of their Sorcerer-Priests, and that more specifically, the Firu himself likely owed the PCs a debt of honour for not just throwing his body into the death-pits of the Nakome to be stripped by carrion-beetles. Firu himself grudgingly admitted his debt to the PCs, and in response Kemuel tossed over the Eye of Inimitable Psychic Nullity that he'd used to defeat him. Having learned which Temples can best use Eyes and other ancient devices, he grinned and asked Firu to have it fully recharged for him.

After this, the PCs status in the eyes of the Jakalla Clan-house had greatly improved- it looked like they were actually going to break about even, so while they'd made a mess, they'd managed to clean it up as well. Kemuel at least was going to be staying in Jakalla now, so they were made somewhat more welcome- and allowed to attend that night's party, the last before the climax of the festival tomorrow, at the Rising Sun Clan-house.

It so very nearly ended in disaster for the PCs. Things were going well at the party, when Kemuel decided that it was time to go and try his hand at gambling- he even had this collar round his neck, which meant he couldn't be accused of using magic to cheat. Looking over the games, he settled on Tsalhten as sounding the most interesting. He had a small handful of Kaitars to his name that he could have gambled, but listening to the amounts the High Clan guests were betting, he would have felt embarrassed to do so. But, if someone ran up a really bad gambling debt, then the Clan would cover him, wouldn't it?

The other players looked as if they were thinking of strangling him when he loudly declared, “Five Thousand Kaitars, on the Dragon!”- betting five thousand on the hardest pattern there was. There was a mass intake of breath from the NPC observers, and people watched with baited breath as the sticks were tossed.

Kemuel's player had actually just been thinking he'd not made enough trouble this session, and knew full well that Sirukel was hiding a large sum of money from the other players by now- he hoped to force him to part from it in order to not have them all in trouble with the Clan again. Nobody was more surprised than him when he rolled the dice, and saw he'd actually made the Dragon. Paying out at five-to-one, he suddenly found himself with 25,000 Kaitars to his name. Sirukel immediately started making plans of what this could be invested into, but Kemuel knew exactly what he was going to use it for.

At dawn the next morning- the day of the climax of the Festival- Kemuel showed up at the Clanhouse of the Priest of Hru'u he'd cast the spell on. Having converted his winnings into actual coin rather than a letter of credit (“a promissory note just doesn't have the same effect!”), he made sure that enough of the Priest's Clan was watching before he launched into an abject apology. Managing to critical his Ettiquette roll, he wept and tore at his clothes as he proclaimed how ashamed he was to have offended such a person of note in the manner that he did, going on at great length and then finally having slaves pour the 25,000 Kaitars onto the ground before him as Shamtla. The Priest and witnesses all agreed that this was a more than sufficient apology, and Kemuel actually gained back all but one of the Respect points he'd lost for Terrorising the Priest in the first place for this display.

The PCs then went through the city, enjoying the festival. Whereas during the week leading up to it the festivities had been limited to evenings inside the Clanhouses, today the whole of Jakalla was celebrating out in the streets, with only an hour or so's break taken at noon (Whilst not yet at the hottest part of the year, it was still early Summer in Jakalla). Street performers of all kinds, along with the dancing throngs of citizens, milled all about.

Finally, as the sun set, the throngs began to head toward the Temple of Dlamelish, where the gates opened to admit the many worshippers. The PCs passed through the Temple grounds, the many labyrinthine gardens, courtyards and colonnades that surrounded the Temple building itself (given her importance in Jakalla, I've said that the Temple of Dlamelish is the only Temple that IS to scale on the map). Going inside and then down, being members of a Clan traditionally devoted to Dlamelish above other deities meant the PCs were able to watch the main rituals taking place in the central shrine itself. As the Priestesses danced around it, the great statue of Dlamelish started to look more and more beautiful, and appear almost alive, as the presence of the Goddess descended on Jakalla, and all gave in to her influence.

Waking up very late the next day, exhausted and with most of the night before just a pleasurable blue, the PCs made their way back to the Clanhouse.

A few days later, the PCs, along with most other people involved in the various affairs of that notorious night, were summoned to the Palace of the Realm to give an account of the matter to an Imperial Judiciary. Though those involved had settled things between them, the authorities wanted to be assured that the affair was done with- as well as to find out exactly what had gone on for themselves. By this point, the PCs stories had become very well polished, and they'd settled things sufficiently well that all involved gave them at least grudging praise. The details of everyone's account were carefully recorded by a scribe, before being filed away to gather dust in some archive.

After this, the PCs briefly mingled with the people there, and Kemuel found himself being spoken to in a quiet corner by a man wearing the emblem of the Omnipotent Azure Legion. Details of how powerful he was had reached their ears, and Kemuel ended up quickly assuring him of the fact that he and his friends were all loyal servants of the Seal Emperor- to which the OAL officer nodded and responded that he'd doubtless be given a chance to demonstrate this one day if his magical might proved as great as rumoured...

Back at the Clan-house, the Elders had Sirukel brought before them. They'd been very impressed by the way he'd handled things- clearly he was a young man with great potential, and would be wasted returning to his rural backwater of a Clan-house. To make this official- they'd noticed that he'd been getting along well with one of the unmarried Clan-girls, and he was certainly overdue for his first wife now. Seeing this as a chance to secure his escape to Jakalla, Sirukel accepted this proposal.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Tekumel - Session 11

Following the scare at finding they were being tailed, the PCs held a brief discussion on what to do. They concluded that so long as they secured the building they slept in at night and stayed in public areas, they would likely be safe- being members of a High Clan would make people reluctant to move against them now they were no longer on the road and relatively isolated and vulnerable.

A deputation from the main Jakallan Clanhouse arrived late that afternoon. It seemed that word of the Sirukel being invited to perform at the Sea Blue Clan's party that night had reached them. The etiquette of a Tsolyani party meant that an invitation wasn't required to attend, but the status of a guest would affect where they dined- the group accompanying Sirukel would have far more access to the more prestigious guests then the White Stone typically would. After much bartering thinly disguised under a veneer of etiquette, two senior people from the Jakallan Clanhouse would now accompany the PCs there, whilst the Clan would make more effort to find better quality clothing for the PCs for the rest of the festival season.

That night, the PCs attended a party at the White Crystal Clanhouse. It was a mostly uneventful evening, as the PCs all actually behaved themselves for once and no potential social gaffes were made. In retrospect, I can't help but suspect that Kemuel's player felt this was far too boring and decided he'd make up for it at the next party.

The next day, Sirukel returned to the Sea Blue Clanhouse to continue learning the poem he was to recite. The other PCs ventured out into the streets in the morning to see the various street performers who lined the main roads of the city during the festival, before retreating back to the cellars at their accommodations to escape the rising heat- though not yet at the hottest time of year, mid-day in Jakalla was still far from pleasant.

When evening came, after much preparation the PCs donned clothing of the Twelfth Form and went to the Sea Blue estates. The two NPC Clan-members left the PCs to begin circulating, in the hopes of making some contacts that night. The PCs managed to make favourable impressions and offered suitable deference to the noble Clans who made up a large portion of those present, and remained quietly to themselves whilst waiting until it was time for Sirukel's recital.

The moment came. In the room set aside for the performance of Epic Poetry, the PCs noted members of many Clans present. A few discreet questions to those of equal status revealed that a significant number of the artistic scene in Jakalla had attended to hear the first public recital of the renowned poetess Lussani hiPavu's latest composition. Sirukel's player was most definitely feeling some of the same pressure as his character, as he realised he'd managed to essentially stake his character's reputation in Jakalla onto a single dice roll. Finally tossing the die (after much anxious selection of the right die from a pile and fondling the chosen polyhedron nervously), he groaned as he saw a bare success- MoS of 1, just barely above sub-standard. Deciding that this would never do, he decided to go for a re-roll (the T:EPT rules allow this, but essentially you have to spend experience, so it's only usually done in the case of rolls that would kill a character if failed). The second roll came up with an MoS of 7, a magnificent performance that was just short of legendary. The poem was received with great acclaim, and Sirukel was most certainly elevated in the eyes of the audience, and in the affections of Lussani herself.

(It was commented by Sirukel's player that he'd never had an RPG experience where any roll outside of combat could have affected his character status so much- let alone one where it was a Poetry Recital.)

As Sirukel mingled with the crowds after the performance, Gachaya had been wandering around keeping his ears open and asking discreet questions. Suspicious by nature (as many PCs tend to be), he'd found it rather odd that Lussani's usual Voice had been stricken ill just before this major performance. It seemed that this Illness had robbed him of his voice, and he might need potent magical healing for it to ever fully recover. Gachaya decided someone had deliberately poisoned the Voice, and soon found a suspect.

Sakunu hiKanme of the Golden Sunburst Clan was also a Poet- albeit one of significantly lesser talent. He was without a doubt one of the best Voices in Jakalla, but while he was exceptional at reciting the works of others, his own compositions were considered poor at best and cringe-worthy at worst. His status, however, was such that he couldn't simply function as a Voice, nor could his poems be rejected out of hand. Thus, he continued to be an active part of the artistic circles in Jakalla, one that those of genuine talent learned to simply endure with a smile. Now entering his middle years (though still attempting to cultivate a rakish and dashing look he hadn't been able to pull off in his youth), he'd become something of a fixture.

Lussani hiPavu had, in the last few years, become an object of frustration to Sakunu in so many ways. Younger than Sakunu and possessed of a genuine talent, she was also of sufficient status that people could openly compare his work to hers and say that hers was better. Sakunu was also smitten with unrequited desire for Lussani, who wanted nothing to do with him. Everyone knew this, and his fruitless pursuit of her gave more reason for people to smile quietly behind his back.

Sakunu's plan was clear once the facts were known. Lussani's Voice was given some poison to damage his vocal chords, leaving her with nobody to recite her poem. Since it was the festival season, even someone of the Sea Blue Clan would struggle to find a replacement of suitable quality. Unless, of course, Sakunu- who was an extremely capable Voice- were to offer his services to Lussani, and in so doing place Lussani in his debt, both for rescuing her poem's debut and lowering himself to perform as a Voice for another poet. But he hadn't counted on Lussani encountering some unknown out-of-town talent a party, and now instead of the triumph he'd anticipated, Sakunu got to watch Lussani basking in her moment of glory whilst looking far too close to the new interloper.

(Once this was revealed, Sirukel's player commented that perhaps combat hadn't been the wrong comparison to make when he made the recital...)

In the meantime, bored by the poetry, Kemuel had slipped away from the performance to find something more entertaining. He'd ended up in a room stocked with various powders, and decided to indulge. Alas, his Intoxicants roll was botched, and he seriously overdosed on Drarsha, along with several other drugs in smaller quantities. The resulting cocktail sent him on a VERY bad trip. Two of the Sea Blue Clan's household slaves (stationed here for just such a possibility) noticed this, and moved to quickly and quietly usher the drugged guest into a back room where his state would cause no embarrassment to anyone.

In his current state, though, Kemuel decided that he was being attacked- and threw his Terrorisation spell. Managing a critical success, the spell actually affected both slaves instead of just the single target it was supposed to. Screaming loudly, the slaves fled off through the party, not worrying about the direction their panicked flight took them, only that it was AWAY. Many very high status guests were startled, or even jostled, by the fleeing slaves.

A crowd began to gather in the powders chamber, which prompted Kemuel to once again throw his spell- fortunately he failed to cast it, until the other PCs arrived- at this point he managed to send both Tsodlan and Gachaya fleeing after the slaves. A Sorcerer-Priest of Hru'u, who was also a guest at the party, stepped up to put a stop to this- but Kemuel's extremely high natural Magic Resistance let him shrug the Priest's spell off, whereas the Priest somehow failed his own resistance roll (despite a 9 or less on a d10 being a save). The Sorcerer-Priest or Hru'u, an experienced and high-status member of the Temple, was ran screaming away in front of a crowd of witnesses who'd just seen him bested in an exchange of magic by a callow and untrained youth.

Everyone had backed away in case Kemuel started throwing spells again, until Tsodlan and Gachaya managed to recover from the spell and return. They went in to restrain him, realising that the spell could only take one of them, and the other could then wrestle him down. As it was, Gachaya resisted and Kemuel was rendered unconscious and quickly carried away. Sirukel- by this point enjoying Lussani's attentions in her private chambers- remained blissfully unaware of these actions by his associate, which had the potential to lose him all the status he'd gained.

Back at their quarters, Kemuel eventually came down from the drugs enough for Gachaya to start berating him soundly. The sullen response was cut off suddenly, though, as Kemuel felt the now-familiar sensation of a spell failing to penetrate his magic resistance. Gachaya made his roll as well, leaving these two PCs as the only ones in the building still standing. Tsodlan and the NPCs had all suddenly slumped to the ground asleep.

Outside, the Sorcerer-Priest of Ksarul who'd been dogging their footsteps since Urmish had decided it was time for one last attempt to capture Kemuel. Arriving with a half-dozen hired (and Mind-Barred) thugs from the Foreigner's Quarter, he opened he waited until Kemuel was present at night to attack (his magical connection to the slave-girl Anlasha has given him a good idea of what the inside of the building is like and who's there at a given time). He opened with three potent Soporiferousness spells (scrolls recently obtained from the Temple, since he used Psychic magic exclusively), and casting the three let him ensure the entire interior of the PCs residence was blanketed with the magic. He would then use Clairvoyance and Translocation to unbar the doors, and he and his men would enter, take Kemuel, and be away without any fuss or trouble.

This plan naturally didn't survive contact with the PCs. Not only did Kemuel and Gachaya make their saves, but because Kemuel had kept them hidden away, Anlasha (and those seeing through her eyes) had no idea that Kemuel had several potent scrolls and an Eye, things that Kemuel immediately moved to grab when danger threatened. Gachaya ran straight to the front door, suspecting that this was the prelude to an attack. Seeing the door unbarring itself, he ran to try and hold it closed. He succeeded for long enough that Kemuel was able to find the Web of Kriyag scroll, which he cast as soon as the door was open- the thugs about to rush in were tangled in it, and the door blocked. Kemuel then cast a Greater Phantasms scroll past the webbed thugs, and the conjured beings then began attacking the Priest and those outside.

Thing had not all gone the PC's way, though. As Kemuel was invoking the Phantasms scroll, the Priest of Ksarul was casting Dominate on Gachaya. Failing his saving roll, Gachaya became possessed of the desire to beat Kemuel senseless and deliver him to the Priest. ("After the last few sessions you don't need to NPC me for this" Gachaya's player declared, reaching for a dice and looking at Kemuel's player with sadistic glee in his eyes.)

Kemuel was able to keep dancing around Gachaya for several rounds (it was commented that we should've had Yakety Sax playing for the chase), with Kemuel able to evade Gachaya's grasp but Gachaya resisting every time Kemuel had the chance to cast his spell ("NOW you start making your saves?"). Finally, the Domination spell expired just as Kemuel was cornered.

The delay had, however, given the Sorcerer-Priest time to cast Disenchantment on the Phantasms, and the Web blocking the door. Stepping into the building with his thugs, the PCs ran back toward the door and found themselves facing him.

The Priest then failed the most important (and last) initiative throw of his life. Kemuel had already been holding the Eye of Inimitable Psychic Nullity ready when he ran around the corner, and he immediately zapped the Sorcerer with it, stripping him of his entire magic reserve. Without any spellsto protect him, Gachaya was able to leap forward and run him through with his rapier. Seeing their Sorcerer falling, and with the terms of the Mind-Bar not lasting past the Sorcerer's death, the thugs all fled.

The PCs quickly checked that the Priest was dead- and saw a blue Scarab amulet at his throat (he'd been powered up for the mission by a ritual priest), which seemed to be trembling, with glowing cracks spreading across it. Kemuel quickly snatched it up and hurled it out of the door before it exploded (as Blue Scarabs do when struck by an Eye of Inimitable Psychic Nullity). Alas, the scarab landed at the feet of three members of the Blue Kirtle Clan, who were roused by the commotion and were coming to see what the noise was about. All were slain instantly by the energetic discharge.

The PCs found that shaking and slapping someone for several minutes would eventually rouse them from the spell, and soon the household was awake. A deputation from the Blue Kirtle Clan arrived as this was happening, to politely and respectfully enquire of the honourable members of the esteemed White Stone Clan if it would please them to inform their lowly selves of just what the &$*% just happened?!? (though the last part is obviously paraphrasing). They replied that an unknown Sorcerer had, for reasons the PCs had no idea of, taken it into his head to attack the PCs, who had slain him in self-defence. But not, alas, before he threw one final spell- the one which had slain the Blue Kirtle members outside.

A quick examination of the corpse showed he carried nothing that identified his Clan or Temple affiliation- a suspicious thing in and of itself in Tsolyani society- and so it was only the word of Kemuel and Gachaya that they'd seen the Blue Scarab which could tie him to the Temple of Ksarul. The PCs decided to keep that quiet for now until they could decide if making that claim was worth it- they did, naturally, have visions of a vast Shamtla claim to be made for this affair if they could identify the corpse.

When Sirukel returned in the morning, it was to find Gachaya giving another recitation of the story (getting more polished with each repetition) to the city guard and a deputation from their own Clan, both of whom had arrived to see what the fuss was about. Seizing inspiration, Gachaya had now started adding that Kemuel's behaviour at the party last night was also the work of this sinister assailant's dark magics- after all, Kemuel had never had such a problem with drugs before. His Deceit rolls were all more than high enough to make this sound very plausible indeed.

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Tekumel - Session 10

The ferry carrying the PCs and their entourage finally arrived at the Musa Jakalla docks on the first day of Drenngar. With the Unveiling of Beauty the next night marking the beginning of the festival, they had just barely arrived in time. The city was a frantic bustle of activity, as everyone rushed to make last-minute preparations or to conclude business before everything shut down for a week.

Like most new arrivals in the city, the PCs found numerous lowly individuals approaching them with exuberant deference to insist that they could show the "Great and Mighty Ones" all they wished to see in the magnificent city of Jakalla (and incidentally they had a VERY attractive sister). Selecting some who were at least from Very Low Clans and not Nakome, they overpaid them and were guided to the White Stone Clanhouse- since finding the Clanhouse in a Tsolyani city none of your party has been to can be a tricky matter.

I took the opportunity of the journey to introduce the players some of the sights of Jakalla, tracing a path along the map and describing each landmark as they passed. The Barracks of the Legion of Girikteshmu, the Temples of Chiteng and Hrihayal, the Palace of the Priesthood, and the House of the Pleasant Hour lined the way to the river. There, they boarded the small boats that carry people to locations on the river bank and sailed under the Bridge of the Splendour of the Gods, with the Temples of Ketengku, Avanthe and Belkhanu on one bank and those of Chegarra, Vimuhla and Dlamelish to the other. Breaking out Mitlanyal, I gave descriptions of the Temples, and the players were becoming familiar enough with Tekumel that these were now more than just a string of words. Then round the Palace of the Ever-Living Lord, the Governor's residence that stood overlooking the entire city, and to the docks nearest to the High Clan areas of the city.

The reception at the White Stone Clanhouse was not what the PCs had hoped for. With the White Stone Clan being great worshippers of Dlamelish, many Clan members would come to visit Jakalla for the Enhancement of Emerald Radiance and the week-long carnival preceding it. The main Clanhouse was already full, many of the subsidiary Clan properties were likewise fully occupied, and the sudden unannounced arrival of a group of Clan members from a poor and distant Clanhouse was not seen in a favourable light. After most of the day was spent sitting in audience chambers with Sirukel arguing with various people, they were finally assigned some lodgings after someone recalled a place the Clan owned that should be suitable.

The building in question was in the Middle Clan areas of the city. In theory it was still a residence owned by the White Stone Clan, but most of the place had been sub-let to the Blue Kirtle Clan, several families of which resided there. One single wing was theoretically still occupied by the White Stone (certain particulars of tenant agreements under Tsolyani law made it a bad idea to let out the entire building), but since it had been decades since any of the White Stone lived there, the Blue Kirtle Clan had quietly expanded in and used it for storage. Since the Blue Kirtle Clan here was mostly concerned with wine-making, the basement levels had been converted into a wine cellar, and when the PCs arrived at their Jakalla residence, they found the Blue Kirtle members- informed an hour previous of the PCs arrival- were still busy moving things out of the rooms.

After some time, the rooms were made habitable if not comfortable. In the course of their travels the PCs had endured worse accommodation, but as Gachaya noted, none of them would be bringing back any female acquaintances of status whom they might encounter to this place.

The next day- after a night spent in rooms that had interesting moulds growing all about and were still not fully cleared of the various insectoid vermin infesting them- the party began looking to things beyond a roof over their heads. Sirukel went back to the Clanhouse and managed to convince someone to show him where in town he could sell his goods, and since they were all spirits, drugs, oils and perfumes he was able to find buyers even with (and partly because of) the imminent festival. Several good rolls later, he'd made a couple of thousand Kaitars in profit.

The Clanhouse also gave them a list of various parties the Clan would be attending during the coming week, and arrangements were made to supply them with the bare minimum needed to fit whichever if the Twenty-Four Forms was expected for each. These poor quality outfits would, however, give the wearers penalties to social rolls at these events.

That night, immediately after sunset, the PCs donned their (somewhat sub-par) costumes and went to the main Clanhouse, where the Clan was assembling. Once all were present, they went down to the piers where boats that had been elaborately decorated for the event took them down the river toward the Temple of Hrihayal. All along the route, green and purple-shaded lanterns had been lit, and the boats heading to the temple likewise bore such lights, making for an impressive procession. Reaching the pier at the other end, the route to the Temple had been lined with torches, and many other Clans were already walking down it. Soon, the PCs followed their Clan into the Temple of Hrihayal.

As with the Temples of Dlamelish, those of her Cohort were single- storey buildings rather than the pyramids many other deities of Pavar's pantheon favoured. High-ceilinged and consisting of many rambling chambers and corridors, the Temple was also set amidst a maze of gardens and courtyards. Given the many worshippers in attendance tonight, all of these spaces were occupied and some of the less important areas beneath the Temple had also been made accessible.

Since the White Stone Clan was of High status and favoured Hrihayal and Dlamelish over most other deities, they were granted access to the great central chamber to witness the most significant public rites of this sacred night. Joining the procession of worshippers to throw their offerings (large purple orchid-like blossoms, as they couldn't afford to make offerings of green and purple gems) into the sacrificial pool, they then managed to find a place where they could almost make out most of what the Ritual Priestesses were doing at the head of the chamber. The many elaborate and symbolic rituals were completed- and then the climax of the Public Ceremonies came. The Priestesses invoked The Dance of the Emerald Goddess, and the conjured manifestations of Hrihayal's nature began to dance through the halls and courtyards of the Temple, spreading the desire to act as Hrihayal wished upon the crowds there.

The PCs were all asked for a magic resistance roll. Gachaya and Sirukel simply ended up performing the usual forms of coupling with available females, though likely rougher and more imaginative than usual. Tsodlan ended up being taken into a lower chamber, utterly enthralled by the spell of the Goddess, and had only hazy memories of what took place next- he awoke the next day feeling sore in unmentionable places and feeling very, very used and soiled. Kemuel, gazing at the utterly desirable females that had appeared before him, actually managed to perceive the true face of the demoness Maraggu in one of them- the Priestesses noticed this, and took him into another chamber to participate in deeper rites. A Critical on his Sexuality roll had him definitely making an impression on the Priestesses.

The next day consisted mostly of recovering from the previous night for the PCs. That evening they felt rested enough to go to one of the parties they'd been told about- every Clan in Jakalla would host a party on one night of the week between the Rituals of the Goddesses, so it was simply a matter of working out with the most closely allied Clans which days they should be on to let there be a full week of events for all concerned. This night's party was a minor affair- the Medium status Blue Kirtle Clan, with whom the White Stone had many business dealings in Jakalla, had arranged a function. Officially, it was being hosted by a member of the White Stone Clan at a Entertainer's Clan rented suite, thus letting people who normally wouldn't attend a Blue Kirtle function attend without loss of face (naturally the White Stone would receive concessions for this). The party itself was low-key and uneventful enough that the PCs didn't feel overtaxed after the previous night.

The only noteworthy event was Kemuel discovering a new party trick- he'd radiate other-planar energy as if opening a conduit for another Sorcerer to dray on his power, then wait to see who noticed, thus bringing him to the attention of any Sorcerers present if they passed near enough to him. In this case, the Sorcerer who noticed was a low-level Priestess of Avanthe, a member of the Blue Kirtle Clan. She spent the rest of the night trying to talk Kemuel into joining the Temple of Avanthe, but Kemuel felt she was past her prime for his preferred method of being "persuaded". A few things she did say started some of the players thinking, though, about several aspects of their assigned task in escorting Kemuel to Sokatis that didn't quite make sense...

The next day, the PCs awoke feeling far more refreshed and ready for a far more significant event that evening. The White Stone Clan would be attending a party at the Clanhouse of the Jade Diadem Clan, which naturally meant getting a glimpse up the social ladder- the PCs were warned to not embarrass the local Clan in any way whilst there. Dressing themselves as best they could in the barely-passing-muster outfits of the Tenth Form they'd been supplied with, the PCs joined the procession to the palatial estate of the Jade Diadem.

The PCs began taking advantage of the various entertainments around them. Gachaya found some attractive Noblewomen to try and talk his way into the beds of. Kemuel tried his trick with the other-planar energy again, and this time wasn't so fortunate- he lost respect due to a public dressing-down by a Sorcerer-Priest of Ketengku for behaving in such a way in public. Tsodlan looked over the list of skills he had that might work in a social setting, and decided to try Profession: Military and Deceit just to see what effect they had. With a very good roll on one and a critical on the other, I decided that his fine Military bearing, advanced years and talent for quietly agreeing with whatever was being said without revealing anything had him spending the evening in the company of some very high ranking Legion officers, who if they met him again would recall he'd seemed a very fine soldier indeed.

Sirukel had the best luck when it came to making contacts. Many sessions ago, he'd decided he wanted something other than being a merchant to use with his character, and looked at Artist. Deciding to go for Epic Poetry, I told him I'd consider that the average of Intelligence and Charisma, both of which he has at high levels. The player has been raising it steadily, and now he decided this was the venue where he'd give the skill a try. He nearly got a critical, and had an MoS of 7 even without this.

I told him that whilst his choice of poem was considered somewhat trite and cliche by this crowd, they were most favourably impressed by the recital itself. So much so that a woman from the Sea Blue Clan approached him afterwards to inquire as to whether he would consider performing a recitation for her later this week. It transpired that she was a poet herself, of some renown in Jakalla, and at her Clan's party two days hence she was to show people her latest composition. Tsolyani Epic Poetry traditionally demands a vibrant, deep-throated recitation, which the female voice is most unsuited to- female poets, as well as male ones who lack the vocal talent, will therefore often commission a "Voice" to perform their works before an audience. The Voice she'd arranged to perform for her had fallen ill- so she wanted Sirukel to step in for her.

(The "Voice" idea is one I found in the Butrus Gazetteer. I have no idea how canon it is, but liked it anyway and so stole it for this encounter.)

Sirukel immediately started trying to work out how to turn this to his advantage. The player's first thought was to see how much she'd pay him, but I reminded him that they were both of a social level where speaking of money like that meant a loss of Respect points. Re-thinking this, he recalled how he'd been shocked to hear the price of costumes of the Twenty-Four Forms. Struck by inspiration, he told her that he'd consider it an honour to recite her work before such an audience, but regrettably, he would have to decline as he had nothing suitable to such a high-status gathering to wear. The Poetess told him not to concern himself with such matters- and so he was gifted a fine outfit of the Twelfth Form in exchange for his services. And naturally, he'd be allowed to bring along a couple of his closest Clan-cousins to witness this performance with him.

The next day, Sirukel went to visit with the Poetess to begin memorising her work- reciting from a written document being considered something only a school-child needs to do. With another roll on Epic Poetry, he was able to recognise that it was indeed a rather good piece of work, and to compliment her on it in ways that showed he understood the poem and wasn't just offering rote praise. His stock with his new patron grew.

Meanwhile, the other PCs were heading toward the Temple of Dlamelish. Several things that had been said by several Priests they'd encountered, along with a few questions the players themselves had been asking, had them wondering just why the Temple of Dlamelish was letting someone who was apparently so important be taken across Tsolyanu without any real escort. They intended to seek answers to this at the Temple. Things were somewhat busy when they arrived- preparations for the Enhancement of Emerald Radiance, the increasein worshippers with the festivals, and the fact that senior Clergy were likely also recovering from over-indulgence endemic to the season meant it was difficult to find someone senior to speak to.

Eventually, they managed to get to see a low-level Sorcerer-Priest, a dissolute-looking man of middle years whose minor magical talents had been focused into learning the Temple's version of Alleviation, which he used as a hangover cure for high-status worshippers of the Goddess. Somewhat out of sorts at this interruption, the PCs nonetheless managed to persuade him to draw on Kemuel's power to cast the next Alleviation spell. He did so, and in so doing learned just how potentially powerful Kemuel was. He quickly sent word to his higher-ups, and a more senior Sorcerer appeared to confirm this.

The immediate response was to tell the PCs that there was, of course, no need to take Kemuel all the way to Sokatis- the Temple here in Jakalla would be more than happy to offer him a place. While some players felt this was a much better solution for them, Gachaya and Tsodlan reluctantly informed the Priests that this was what their Clan wished, and they certainly couldn't go against it, no matter how much honour the Jakalla Temple's offer did them. The players had worked out that if they seemed as reluctant as possible, they could probably get the Temple of Dlamelish to start offering "gifts", so they should how much they could get out of them before dumping Kemuel on them and declaring the job done.

What the PCs didn't know was that the reason they'd not just been sent to Jakalla was that there was a highly-placed member of their Clan in the Temple of Dlamelish there, who was also a member of a heretical secret society. Crossing the Temples of Avanthe and Dlamelish, it held the Salarvyani view that these Goddesses were both merely aspects of the one Goddess, Shiringgayi, and met together in the Underworlds on certain nights to worship her together. Word had reached her through the Clan of Kemuel, and she'd arranged for him to be sent to Sokatis so that he could be indoctrinated as a member of this secret Cult.

The Temple of Dlamelish in Jakalla had since learned of the Shiringgayi worshippers. Naturally, it wants to put a stop to this- but it would prefer to do so without the other Temples finding out and the subsequent loss of respect. A quiet war of intrigue, seduction and assassination has begun. The Priestess who'd been sent from Sokatis to escort Kemuel there was one of the first casualties, as was the High Priestess of Urmish, whose Rejuvenation ritual was sabotaged. Both of these died without mentioning Kemuel, and so the mainstream Temple of Dlamelish had no idea he even existed. Until he literally came knocking on their door.

Since the PCs are playing coy about him simply joining the Temple at Jakalla, the conclusion the senior Priestesses drew was that the PCs are fully aware of the Shiringgayi-cult and the fact they were working for it, and are essentially negotiating the price of their defection. Deciding they needed to know more, the Temple sent some people to tail the PCs once they left the Temple. Unfortunately, Kemuel made a critical success on hi Observation roll, and spotted the tail. Immediately deciding this must be the Temple of Ksarul again, he threw his Terrorisation spell at those following him and so they lost the PCs.

This won't do anything to dissuade the Temple of Dlamelish that the PCs aren't up to some sort of subtle political game, however.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Tekumel - Session 9

One of the agents who had tried to kidnap Kemuel had been captured alive but badly injured. While technically a bandit and subject to punishment by Tsolyani law, a quick "reward for their swift actions in defending us from these Nakome bandits" to the Sakbe Road guards ensured that he was left to the PCs to do with as they wished. Interrogation was quickly applied, with steadily increasing levels of creative tortures. After several extremely high intimidation rolls backed by torture failed to produce results, careful examination of his strange reactions led them to the conclusion that he had indeed been broken. He wanted to give the PCs the answer they wanted- but he wasn't able to.

Since they already suspected Sorcery had been involved in the attack, it wasn't much of a stretch to deduce that the prisoner had been magically prevented from revealing anything if he was captured. Lacking any skills applicable to this, Kemuel was still able to make an unskilled Intelligence roll that meant he'd heard something of the Mind-Bar spell. Gachaya hit on the idea of questioning the prisoner on what work he'd done for each major Temple in turn, and then seeing which one he stopped answering about. After several hours, they finally determined that the sorcerer behind the attack was most likely a Priest of Ksarul.

After dispatching the prisoner ("perished of the wounds he took whilst attacking us"), the PCs pressed on with their journey. The possibility that the palanquin which had been a gift from the Temple was being used to mark them out somehow was raised (if only the player knew), but abandoning it here was deemed impractical. In the end, they decided that since the attack had been thwarted, their best plan was to press on to Jakalla and hopefully reach the safety of the Clanhouse there before another attack could be organised.

Over the next several days of travel, the PCs saw the terrain changing. The road grew closer and closer to the edges of the Flats of Tsechelnu, and was soon passing through them. The route which the Sakbe road followed was unchanged from Engsvanyali times, but the terrain it passed through was not. The raised ground the Sakbe road was built on often had marshland on both sides, though the areas here were more populated and partially tamed compared to those around Penom. The areas of high ground were artificially enlarged over centuries of occupation, and the marshes all around converted into rice paddies.

One of these villages close to the end of the Sakbe road was where the PCs stopped now. The Flats of Tsechelnu gradually deepened into the Gulf of Porudana at this point, with no solid and clearly defined coast to provide a suitable place for a harbour. Instead, where the Sakbe road met the sea, a series of wooden platforms were erected on pillars sunk into the swamp and jetties built there, with a channel dredged (at great effort) to allow smaller boats to reach it and ferry travellers and cargo to Jakalla on the fat side of the gulf. Since this place was not intended for comfortable long-term habitation, the nearest village had several Clan-houses devoted to providing warehouse space and hospitality for travellers. Those travelling on the Sakbe road would wait here until arrangements had been made for a ferry, and then travel to the harbour to embark.

Unfortunately, the imminent festivities in Jakalla meant that there was an unusually high volume of traffic on the Sakbe road. Not only were the ferries all busy, but the various Clan-houses offering hospitality were already full. The PCs initial goal was therefore to find a place to stay whilst they found passage.

The first attempt to find somewhere to stay involved finding a Clan-house with an empty set of guest-rooms. A Bureaucrat in the Palace of the Realm, familiar with travelling this route, had sent runners ahead of him to ensure that there would be room when he arrived. Judicious use of the Bribery skill let the PCs move in by paying more than the Bureaucrat had, with their hosts intending to claim there had simply been a mistake and no room had been reserved when the Bureaucrat arrived. However, when his palanquin finally reached the town, it was Gachaya who met him. Sirukel had quietly arranged things behind the scenes so far, but Gachaya was a little too brash in his confrontations with the Bureaucrat- from the High Pinnacle Clan, he was of sufficient status to start threatening Shamtla claims. After Gachaya failed or fumbled a series of social skill rolls in the confrontation, the PCs ended up being hastily moved out before loss of respect and Shamtla became an issue.

Grumbling very loudly at Gachaya's incompetence, Sirukel started trying to find some alternative lodging. Finally, the PCs found themselves being housed an hour's walk through swamplands from the town, in a Clanhouse of the Green Reed Clan. The rooms offered weren't of the best quality- mainly being used for extra labourers in harvest time- but at least the PCs weren't outdoors and exposed to the various kinds of unpleasant night life in the marshes. Kemuel found that the Clan brewed a crude but potent version of Tsuhoridu, and many PCs consumed it steadily throughout his stay there. The staple dish served to the high clan guests (various multi-legged insectoid/crustacean things caught in nets or baskets in the marsh then stewed in fiery spices, or "Tsolyani Gumbo" as it was dubbed by the players) was also acceptable enough.

With the problems of a place to stay now solved, Sirukel turned to the task of finding a boat to ferry them across to Jakalla. The initial thought was naturally to use their status and bribery to jump the queue. This failed due to the fact that there were many High status parties currently waiting for a boat, and two Very High Clan parties as well. Apparently, the flooding earlier this year had resulted in the loss of some boats by local Clans who would otherwise have sent a vessel or two to supplement the ferry's usual complement in peak travel times such as this.

Meanwhile, there were other factors coming into play around them. The Priest of Ksarul who had been behind the previous session's kidnapping attempt had arrived in town, and put his next plan into action. Word had been sent to the Temple of Ksarul in Jakalla that aid would be required to make another attempt to kidnap Kemuel, and he needed the PCs to remain here until it arrived. He therefore had the PCs placed under discreet observation, and used Mind-Bar to influence the ferry owners to prevent the PCs from finding a way across.

He was not the only one plotting against the PCs. Word having reached the Temple of Sarku that one of the PCs might somehow have The Jade Bowl of the God-King of Purdanim, which the Temple wished to recover- as well as learn how the PCs had come by it in the first place. To this end, the Temple had contacted some trusted members of the Black Mountain Clan to supply them with a boat. This would arrive at the ferry docks, and they would try to get the PCs to arrange passage with them, whilst not letting anyone else do so. Once the PC were aboard, they would be taken not to Jakalla but to a secluded cove just to the south of the city where a suitable force to capture the PCs would waiting.

Over the next few days, the PCs seemed to feel that it would just be a matter of waiting for Sirukel to finally locate a boat. Matters did not progress so smoothly, though- on the second day at the Green Reed Clanhouse, they found that several of the entourage- Dresu, Quren, Jaluda and Trasuni- had departed from the Clanhouse early in the morning and gone into the town, presumably in search of something more entertaining and diverting than sitting in a Low-status Clanhouse for an unknown length of time. Tsodlan and Sirukel went out to search the town for them.

Tsodlan's idea of stopping at the barracks of the town militia first proved to be a good one, as half of those missing were found to be there. Quren and Trasuni had ended up coming to blows in an argument over the only truly attractive girl offering "Roadside Easements" to travellers, and a fine was quickly paid before they were dispatched back to the Green Reed Clanhouse. The other two proved somewhat more problematic, having become involved with two members of the Cloak of Azure Gems Clan currently residing in the best guest quarters in the town. One of these was a young nobleman who had become somewhat taken with Jaluda, and she was currently being "entertained" by him in private. All indications were that she'd gone with him very willingly, but this did mean that until this noble tired of her, leaving in a hurry would be problematic due to the problems of extracting her from the bed of a higher-status Clan member without causing anyone embarrassment.

This noble's companion had been an Aridani Clan-cousin of his. She considered herself a dashing adventuress, and finding that her companion and lover had taken up with some lower-status hussy she decided that sitting in the same cramped rooms and listening to them coupling from the other side of a Meshqu-plaque was not tolerable. Being rather attractive herself, she'd had no difficulty in gathering several men to accompany her on a trip out into the marshes to see if she could find some animal worth hunting. Dresu had been one of these smitten young men who'd joined her expedition.

Easily visualising what could befall Dresu and the rest of the party out in the marshes, the PCs quickly organised a party to go and search for them. Except for Sirukel, who remained in town to try and get Jaluda back to their rooms (when someone pointed out he was the only PC with the Wilderness Survival skill, the player responded "Why do you think I'm not going? I know what sort of things are out there!"). They fortuitously had the sense to get the Green Reed Clan to supply them with two guides who knew the area.

Wading through the swamplands for most of a day, the PCs in the search party were required to make Hiking and Wilderness Survival rolls. Surprising everyone, Kemuel managed both even with low stats and the unskilled penalty. Tsodlan did well enough, but Gachaya fumbled his Wilderness Survival roll. I decided that he'd been lagging toward the back of the group (Hiking also failed), and seeing them taking a long detour around a hillock covered in trees he went through the trees to try and catch up. Being so far behind, he'd missed the reason for the detour- namely, the Kayi lurking up amongst the tree-tops.

Gachaya was caught in the Kayi's dangling strand-like tentacles, and looking up could see the single huge eye staring back at him as it pierced him with the many thorny protrusions on the tentacles and began to suck at his blood. The rest of the party responded quickly, but the height of the Kayi made attacking it difficult. Tsodlan had some success thrusting with a spear at it's body, before the guides managed to light a fire javelin each and throw them into the Kayi's gas-bag. Gachaya was recovered, but he was close to death from blood loss and Kemuel had to use another valuable healing scroll to save him. With Gachaya mostly restored, the party continued onward.

An hour later, they came upon the unfortunate hunting party as it slowly limped back home. After much searching, the Cloak of Azure Gems adventuress had found something she considered a worthy trophy. Emerging from the swamplands where they met the sea, the party had come across a Ghar browsing along the shoreline. Declaring that the Ghar's mother-of-pearl shell would be a worthy thing to display in the Clan-house, their leader ordered the party to surround and attack it. The results had been somewhat predictable- two had died, and most of the party had some form of injury, broken bones being the most common. The gallant leader was being carried in a litter with many of her bones shattered (fortunately her family would likely be able to pay for a Regeneration spell, or she'd be crippled for life), and the group was travelling so slowly that they had little chance of reaching civilisation again before some other predator came upon them or infection started to set in on the many wounds.

The PCs rescue party changed matters- with so many healthy additions the pace quickened, and the guides meant that the route back was far less meandering that it would have been. Pushing on through the night, they arrived back at the town.

Sirukel had not been successful in extracting Jaluda from the bed of her Noble paramour, and so had instead made a renewed effort to find a ferry boat. In the process, he'd discovered some of the plots surrounding them. Many ferry owners had abruptly forgotten him or changed their minds about transporting him- and now, there was a boat that seemed to vary between this behaviour and being eager to take the party. What was in fact happening was that the boat arranged by the Temple of Sarku had arrived, and the Priest of Ksarul had treated it as any other boat the PCs tried to hire. The Priest of Sarku, when the boat returned without the PCs, had realised what had happened and reversed the spell- and so the two plotters began working to undermine each other, their moves becoming obvious enough in the process for Sirukel to uncover. Whilst still having no idea what was going on (all their theories made no sense because they assumed there was only one group after them), the PCs were wary after the attack the previous session and knew that something was going on, so resolved to avoid the boat in question.

Having rescued a member of the Cloak of Azure Gems Clan from possible death in the swamps, the PCs found a means to escape. With the aspiring huntress too badly injured to moved again, most of the Cloak of Azure Gems party was going to stay with her until a Priest could come from Jakalla to heal her. The PCs were therefore permitted to take their place on a ferry crossing the next day, and at the PCs request no mention was made of this until the PCs arrived at the docks with a servant of the Cloak of Azure Gems Clan carrying a message stating they were to be sent across instead.

With the PCs glad to be moving again, the session ended with the ferry approaching the docks at Jakalla.