Saturday, 19 January 2013

Tekumel - Session 6

The big event now facing the PCs was the feast that the Governor of Urmish was throwing. The Red Mountain and Standing Stone Clans were currently at odds with each other for influence in Urmish, and the holding of the seat of Governor by on of the Red Mountain Clan- seen as foreign interlopers in Urmish by the Standing Stone- was one of the points of contention. Paying for regular feasts and other public events was one of the ways in which the Governor sought to increase his status in the city.

The White Stone Clan would naturally be turning up, and the PCs had sufficiently improved their standing with the Urmish Clanhouse that they would be accompanying them in proper fashion. Of course, Fashion was an operative word here- the PCs would require clothing appropriate to their social station. The Clanhouse could provide some, but it would be barely adequate.

Examining their resource ratings and reserves of Kaitars, the PCs went clothes shopping. By dint of Tsodlan spending what money he had left and Sirukel using his resource rating, the group was able to pay for clothing at the bare minimum level appropriate for their station. Gachaya, being the only PC with the Style skill, gave the other PCs advice on what to wear and then made a roll to see how well he'd outfitted everyone. Getting a critical success, I decided that this warranted a +1 to the PC's social skill rolls at the party.

(Those who've read the "Coming of Age in Tekumel" solo gamebook will doubtless recognise that the party in the Bey Su section is the big inspiration for the feast here.)

Finally, the evening came and the PCs joined the rest of the Clan in the torchlit procession to the Governor's Villa. The villa was a private holding rather than belonging to either his Clan or the position of Governor and was in the New City, the section of Urmish created by extending the wall to enclose a large section of ground. This area had been landscaped and used to build residences for the well-to-do Clans and individuals of Urmish. Several processions of litter-bearing slaves flanked by torch-bearers could be seen converging on the Villa, amongst the throngs of lower-status Clans who were merely walking there.

In the Tsolyani manner, rather than issue invitations the Governor had simply announced the event and then made preparations to serve everyone who turned up- a significant portion of the city's populace in effect. The villa was surrounded by three rings of revellers, each of higher status as they drew nearer to the villa itself. At the outermost ring, barrels of Dna-grain beer and tables of bread surrounded the fire-pits that had been dug to spit-roast whole Tsi'il in one go, where the lowest status Clans celebrated. Things improved in quality as they approached the villa itself, until just outside it they could see the pavilions erected for the Medium status Clans to feast within on food poor only by comparison to that being served inside the villa.

After entering the dining hall within the villa and making the ritual obeisance to the Seal of the Imperium displayed on the highest dais at the head of the hall, the White Stone Clan were shown to their places and the players were introduced to the subtle etiquette of Tsolyani dinner customs. After roleplaying for some time until they seemed to grasp things, they players began to leave the dining hall to mingle and observe the other entertainments which had been arranged in the adjoining chambers.

When the various entertainments were described, the PCs decided to watch the puppets first. In the nearby hallway the Clan of the Hands Which Are Not Seen was putting on one of it's better performances, the small but exquisitely made puppets striding about the stage in the midst of the dramatic epic. After appreciating the quality of the puppets and the performance (having the differences between a modern and Tsolyani puppet show explained) the PCs began to mingle with the crowd.

Trouble began brewing when observation rolls let the PCs spot Dresu, the eldest of Tsodlan's sons, getting on very well indeed with a girl his own age from the Red Mountain Clan. Out of Dresu's line of sight was a much older man from the same Clan, who was powerfully built for his age and showed all the signs of being a veteran warrior. He seemed less than enthused by Dresu's progress in seducing the girl, and once courtesy allowed him to leave his current conversation he began to make his way over with an unpleasant expression on his face.

Seeing this, Gachaya made a quick inquiry- finding that the man was a senior officer in the Legion of Lord Kurukaa who'd been transferred from the Legion of the Lord of Red Devastation in Tumissa on his Clan's orders, as part of their efforts to transform the local Legion into a serious military force. The girl Dresu was trying to seduce was his youngest wife, and he'd shown very little understanding toward such things in the past, preferring the Hirilakte arena as his way to seek satisfaction.

Deciding to try and head things off before any challenges could be issued, Gachaya took advantage of the fact that the offended husband was speaking to his Legion Commander to walk up to Dresu and the wife (Tsodlan lacks the social skills to get involved in such a thing without causing offence). His attempts to subtly draw Dresu away failed, however- he didn't see the husband, and was a teenage male getting on well with an attractive female. Seeing that the husband was soon to join them, Gachaya resorted to Plan B in desperation, Using his own skills at Charm and two levels in Attractive (exquisite), he started seducing the wife himself. The idea was that the wife's interest would focus on Gachaya, who had a better chance of talking his way out of trouble with the husband than Dresu did.

As it happened, the husband didn't even have a chance to say anything. Dresu himself took offence at being interrupted when he was "about to score", and started making a scene with Gachaya. He did so to the extent that there was going to be a loss of a Respect point if Gachaya took the insult sitting down- so he decided to throw subtle insult back and let Dresu live with the loss of Respect. Dresu, his blood now well and truly up, responded by challenging Gachaya to a duel in front of the growing crowd of High Clan witnesses.

Sighing, Gachaya accepted and let Dresu stalk off from the room to sulk before finding his Father to inform him of what had transpired (he'd failed the Observation roll). Feeling somewhat concerned, Tsodlan took Sirukel with him to start asking around after where his sons had gone. There were no clues about Dresu after he'd stormed out, but they heard that Quren had already left the party- in the litter of a Priestess of Hrihayal twice his age. Muttering a prayer to Avanthe to watch over foolish young men being led into trouble by their erections (and wondering as a player if Avanthe and/or Dlamelish has an Aspect devoted to such), they returned to the festivities.

In the meantime, Kemuel had found himself talking with a matronly woman from the High Pinnacle Clan, and making a far better impression than he normally does (critical Charm roll). Deciding that he was "Such a nice, well-mannered young man", she introduced him to several other members of her Clan- including her Daughter, who was a Priestess of Sarku. Noticing that she was rather attractive under the Ritual face-paint, Kemuel immediately started trying to impress her.

At first prepared to listen to his bragging and attempts at seduction indulgently before politely brushing him off, the priestess picked up on one of the many things he was mentioning as he tried to impress on her his mystical potential. She heard about his attempts to harness his mystical energies and how they seemed to have swapped the minds of two slaves around. She knew full well that such a claim was unlikely- but she was also privy to some of her Temple's secrets, one being about a cache of artefacts which had gone missing along the road between Tumissa and Urmish. And one of these artefacts was The Jade Bowl of the God-King of Purdanim, a powerful artefact with the power to exchange the minds of two people. The wheels started turning in her mind- could the PCs group have unknowingly stumbled onto at least part of the cache? (As anyone who read Sirukel's character background will know, this is indeed the case.)

The priestess of Sarku suddenly started returning Kemuel's interest, seeing seduction as the perfect excuse to speak with him at length in private. At this point things became complicated, however, as another attractive Priestess- this time in the robes of the Temple of Ksarul- approached Kemuel and began vying for his attentions. The Temple of Ksarul had decided to start trying to recruit Kemuel whilst he wasn't pledged to any Temple and therefore fair game, and had guessed (rightly) that this was the best way to get his attention.

Having only just finished being challenged to a duel by Dresu, Gachaya had gone looking for Kemuel to ensure that he didn't get into any trouble as well. Seeing the situation and quickly grasping that the women were both acting as honey traps for some reason, he decided to go with seducing them himself again (the player just worked out this session what sort of bonuses two levels of Attractive: Exquisite gives against women and was making the most of it). He didn't roll well enough to make either Priestess ignore their duty to the Temple for him, but since Kemuel wasn't going to roll well enough to get the threesome he wanted Gachaya was probably going to end up with the one Kemuel didn't pick. As it transpired, he went for the Sarku Priestess, leaving Gachaya to enjoy the favours of Ksarul's Priestess for a night.

Sirukel and Tsodlan visited the rest of the entertainments, and spent a considerable amount of time observing the gambling room. Deciding that neither actually dared risk money (Tsodlan was poor, and Sirukel had a Miserly disadvantage) they still got a good idea of how gambling works in Tekumel, both the games played IC and the mechanics OOC. Realising that the Gambling skill in T:EPT was based on the average of Intelligence and Psyche, the players all glanced over at Kemuel's sheet, worked out just how good a gambler he'd make, and immediately made plans to teach him the Gambling skill.

Whilst enjoying the company of their respective ladies, Kemuel and Gachaya were both subtly questioned. Gachaya was skilled enough at intrigue to not give anything away and skilled enough in Sexuality that the Priestess soon forgot to ask anyway. Kemuel told everything, but didn't have anything to add beyond what he'd told the Sarku-Priestess at the party.

The next day, those who'd spent the night elsewhere returned one by one to the Clanhouse. Tsodlan found his sons, Dresu and Quren, returning in the afternoon. Quren had a slightly shell-shocked look about him from his night with the Hrihayal Priestess, and Dresu was accompanied by a servant who presented the Clanhouse with a bill- thwarted in his plans to bed the officer's wife, he'd struck up with another attractive female and not really registered that she was a very expensive Courtesan until the morning after. Needless to say, Tsodlan spent the afternoon disciplining Dresu extensively (made to do weapons drill in full armour in direct sunlight for hours whilst still slightly hung-over).

Kemuel returned to the Clanhouse to find that an invitation to speak with the High Priest of the Temple of Ksarul had been delivered to him. The Temple was clearly stepping up it's campaign to woo him over to Ksarul, and this was the next stage. An invitation from a High Priest was both flattering to Kemuel's ego and not something he could refuse without giving insult, so he sent reply that he'd attend the Temple tomorrow as requested. None of the PCs knew enough of Ksarul to grasp that this wasn't as big a thing as it would be from other Temples- the High Priest of Ksarul is likely just some stooge whose job is to attend social functions and meet whoever he's told to with the real power likely being one of his functionaries.

Another day dawned, with everyone finally recovered from the revelry. People rose early to visit the Hirilakte arena- this was the day that Dresu was to fight Gachaya, and nobody in the Clanhouse wanted to miss it. Dresu wore his new Medium armour with longsword and shield, whereas Gachaya fought in his preferred fashion- no armour, with a rapier and dagger. Fortunately for Gachaya, his player finally took note of what all his Fight Manoeuvres actually meant and made good use of them. It was a good example of how skill ratings alone don't win fights in T:EPT- Dresu was just as good numerically, but Gachaya had Fight Manoeuvres and Weapon Specialisations, so despite being injured was able to strike two significant blows and force Dresu to yield.

Kemuel visited the Temple of Ksarul after the duel. He was made very welcome, and treated as an honoured guest whilst the full "Sales Pitch" was made (Ksarul is a far better patron of Sorcerers, and he would do far better to live up to his full magical potential in His Temple). Kemuel considered this, but with his general lechery he decided that Dlamelish was still the deity for him. The High Priest told him that the door was always open if he should change his mind. An attempt was then made by a Sorcerer-Priest of Ksarul watching from a secret room nearby to Mind-Bar Kemuel and gain his allegiance that way. Fortunately for Kemuel, his incredibly high natural Magic Resistance let him throw the spell off, without even realising exactly what it was. He left the Temple as soon as he was able to without being rude.

The day after this, a gift was sent to Kemuel from the Temple of Ksarul. A very comfortable and finely decorated litter (far better than the one the PCs have now) was sent to the Clanhouse, with a team of slaves to carry it and a beautiful Livyani Slave-girl (the tattoos make her look so exotic!) within. The documents presented showed that all of these were now Kemuel's property.

Naturally, the PCs were highly suspicious of this (though Kemuel was lecherous enough to not care), but examination of the situation suggested that they couldn't really turn the gift down or leave it here (failing to do so could be taken as insult by the Temple of Ksarul). They settled for trading the bearer-slaves with the Clan to ensure that whoever carried the litter wasn't under some secret orders, and very thoroughly checking the litter to make sure that no sorcerous charms were somehow concealed upon it.

All of these were very sensible precautions, but the players had in fact completely missed where the trap they were looking for was. Anlasha the slave-girl had been subjected to a ritual by the Priests of Ksarul that would allow them to see through her eyes and listen through her ears whenever they wished, so long as the talisman she was linked too was held. A variation of the Dominate spell would also allow the one holding the talisman to take control of her briefly. A Mind-Bar placed upon her made Anlasha herself completely unaware of any of this, and indeed she was going to fall in love and become utterly devoted to her new master. The Mind-Bar and linking ritual were both protected from detection by the seals placed upon Anlasha herself- these take the form of mystical tattoos when used on a human, hence the use of a Livyani girl. Their habitual use of tattoos means that the seals will go unremarked- unless she's shown to someone familiar enough with Livyanu to realise that half of Anlasha's tattoos are in fact nothing to do with Livyani script.

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