In the end, Sirukel had invested everything he had in the goods the slaves were now carrying, luxury food and drink from the farmlands around Urmish to carry to Jakalla. Realising he'd probably need money along the way, he managed to negotiate a loan from the Clan (with Reputation loss if it wasn't repaid) due to his good standing. One of the first things he did was set aside money to get a better grade of food for the slaves, as the slave-handlers had told them they could likely manage a faster pace if the slaves were well fed and rested on each sixth day.
The quicker pace was needed for two reasons. First, Sirukel had opted for the Risky investment option, which we'd decided would mean it needed to get to Jakalla within a month or lose a large amount of it's value. The reason for this deadline was easy to deduce from a glance at the calendar- in just over a month's time, The Unveiling of Beauty by the Temple of Hrihayal would be followed a week later by The Enhancement of Emerald Radiance by the Temple of Dlamelish. The two most significant feast days of these Goddesses happening so close in a city that worshipped them above all others led to great celebrations in Jakalla. I decided that in my version of Jakalla, in the days between these festivals every Clan, Legion or other organisation was expected to host a significant party, leading to a week of revelry between these two religious festivals. The climax would be The Enhancement of Emerald Radiance, which here was a day-long carnival culminating in feasting and orgies. Naturally, anyone who had reason to travel to Jakalla at this time of year would try to have their visit coincide with this time.
(The scale of things here is something I came up with myself, but given the official dates of the festivals and what I know of Jakalla, it seems to make sense. Plus, I love the idea of something like an XXX-rated New Orleans Mardi Gras being held in the streets of The City Half As Old As The World.)
The group made excellent progress down the Sakbe road. The moons were both full in the sky, so the group pushed ahead at night and made up for the loss of sleep in the heat of midday. They took note of the other travellers on the road, but none heading the same direction at the same pace were of the sort of status that the PCs would interact with. There were some problems with potential loss of goods due to the general shenanigans inherent to Tekumel, but the PCs kept their eyes open and Sirukel had by now grasped how to get the Sakbe-road Guards to do their jobs ("Proclaim my Clan and then hit them with a bag full of money until they get off their lazy behinds").
In fact, the only incident involving a merchant being swindled out of goods that succeeded was the one the PCs initiated- showing that Sirukel's player is already grasping how the mind of a Tsolyani merchant works. The group had stopped to rest for a day at one of the larger Sakbe forts, which had a tent city of various people living off the passing travellers just off the road. Sirukel noticed that there was a group of Mu'ugalarvyani merchants who had a suspiciously large number of guards compared to the size of their caravan. This led him to deduce that the goods they were carrying were very expensive, and he concocted a plan. With the connivance of the Sakbe-guard Captain, he managed to have some of the goods- rare perfumes, oils and spices- stolen and planted in the baggage of a Salarvyani merchant who was also resting nearby. When the theft was discovered, carefully coached witnesses hinted the Salarvyani was to blame, and when the guards searched his goods the planted evidence was found. The PCs set off again, leaving the rest stop to the sound of the Salarvyani merchant being told he might escape impalement and merely be enslaved if he told them where the rest of the goods were hidden...
A little way down the road at the next tower, Sirukel met up with a guard patrol and paid a few hundred kaitars for the missing goods which the guards had "vanished" in the confusion, secure in the knowledge that he'd get as much as ten times that when he sold them in Jakalla.
The weeks went by, and it looked as if the party would reach Jakalla on time and without major incident. The players themselves, of course, knew full well that things wouldn't go that smoothly, and were becoming increasingly paranoid about keeping an eye out for trouble. With the exception of Kemuel's player, who had been spending the weeks availing himself of the spellbooks he'd recovered from the Citadel of Sighs and Dortlavyanu's tomb. With some very good rolls on the skills involved (including his Scholar: Sorcery roll at the default Intelligence-3) he managed to learn a very flawed version of Terrorisation in two weeks, and then after another two weeks a more refined one. Learning from a book with gaps in the knowledge base and no Temple instruction is very, very difficult in the T:EPT rules, but Kemuel has the stats to give it a try, and in this case it paid off. But just wait until the first time he botches a spell-learning roll with no teacher supervising him...
The first thing he did on learning the first version, naturally, was to start testing it on the slaves, and after these frantic runaways were caught (given a token whipping because the slave-master knew they were having Sorcery used on them) the other PCs started lecturing him on why throwing magic at the slaves they needed to carry them and their possessions to Jakalla was a Bad Thing. Though now he had actual magic, he noticed that Gachaya no longer attempted physical beatings as a means of discipline (conducted out of sight to avoid any loss of status even if all present knew fully well what the thumping sounds and cries of pain meant).
Finally, one night when the PCs were camped just off the Sakbe road- the Tower was already taken by persons of High Clan status and they didn't feel like marching all the way to the next one- the trouble the players had been expecting arrived. The slave-handlers had informed the PCs that word was spreading to the new slaves about what had happened before reaching Urmish, and the mutterings were now that Kemuel was intending to practise darker and darker magics on the slaves as time went by. And now, the inevitable seemed to have happened. Two slaves were missing, taking one of the packs loaded with the expensive goods stolen from the Mu'ugalarvyani merchants with them. The PCs found this a little strange- did the slave expect to sell these somehow?- but Sirukel was not going to lose the pack. He set out, with Tsodlan, Mvekku and the six entourage guards to hunt them down- Kemuel refused to go traipsing around in the dark, and Gachaya decided he didn't want to leave Kemuel unsupervised.
Eventually, after two hours, they located the slaves. For some reason, they'd stopped to argue with each other- creeping closer, it seemed the argument was about whose idea this had been and, did they actually need to have the pack. Surrounding the runaways and seizing them, Sirukel questioned the slaves. After much prodding, they admitted that they'd suddenly known, without any doubt, that the only thing they could do was flee from the caravan, and that taking the pack had seemed like such a natural thing to do they hadn't even questioned it until they'd been running for an hour. Immediately guessing that some sort of magic was at work, they hurried back to the camp.
Back at the caravan, the Temple of Ksarul was making its move. Having failed to recruit Kemuel by simple persuasion, and the first attempt at casting Mind-Bar upon him having failed, they had now hatched a plot to kidnap him and take as much time as was needed to properly Mind-Bar him into joining the Temple. A group of agents for the Temple, led by a Sorcerer-Priest, had contacted a group of local bandits. Posing as a slightly more competent grade of lowlife scum, they told the bandits that they knew of a very valuable cargo being taken by caravan but lacked the numbers to raid it by themselves- did the bandits want to help them in exchange for a cut of the loot? The Sorcerer-Priest was in civilian disguise and had attached himself to the entourage of an Iron Helm official, arranging for them to stay in the tower and so ensure the PCs were outside any protective walls. The agents joined the bandit raid, and Gachaya was suddenly awoken by the sounds of combat.
Gachaya soon learned the advantages of learning a fighting style which didn't use armour became apparent, being able to simple spring up and grab his weapons before fighting at full effectiveness- the caravan guards had all taken off their light armour to sleep. The tide was very much against the caravan from the start, but Gachaya managed to injure two of the attackers and buy time for a group of guards to rally.
The agents had let the bandits form a distraction whilst they went for the palanquin he was sleeping inside (it had curtains to draw against the various nocturnal insects). Kemuel had woken at the sound of the fighting, and begun throwing his Terrorisation spell- his first use of the less flawed version that only needed a round to cast- at the bandits, failing each time. When he saw the agents coming for him, he leapt out of the palanquin and fled, quick thinking and good Dex rolls keeping him ahead of the pursuit.
Seeing that Kemuel was in danger, Gachaya ran to aid him. A Stealth roll allowed him to circle round in the darkness and make his first attack against an opponent who hadn't seen him. With no defence roll, the blow took the agent out of the fight. This gave Kemuel a chance to try his spell again, and this time one of the agents ran screaming off into the night. Another agent then smashed the hilt of his sword into Kemuel's face, knocking him unconscious (higher than his Shock Value and failed Will roll) as the final agent turned to face Gachaya.
The fight lasted several rounds, and made use of many of the advanced combat rules as well as my own house rules- it seems the PCs are definitely getting the hang of combat, because with some intelligent choices Gachaya was able to injure his opponent badly while taking only two minor injuries himself. Deciding rescuing Kemuel was more important than finishing him, Gachaya left him and pursued.
Carrying the senseless Kemuel over one shoulder, the remaining agent hadn't managed to get enough of a lead to escape. Gachaya ran past him, and another fight began. This time it went worse for Gachaya, as he took a significant wound, but deciding to pin everything on one roll he stacked up as many bonuses from other strategies and manoeuvres as he could before going for an all-out attack. The defensive roll was a poor one, and the final agent fell.
By this time the Sakbe guards had roused, and the remaining bandits fled with whatever loot they could carry. Some were pursued, and dropped loot to run faster. Sirukel arrived back to find the losses to the caravan goods weren't as dire as he'd initially feared- selling what he stole from the Mu'ugalarvyani would mean he still came in at the level of profit he'd been anticipating.
A Priest of Ketengku from a Medium status Clan had been described as being carried on a cheap litter on the lowest level of the Sakbe road during the day, so he was quickly found and persuaded ("donations to the Temple") to use healing magic on Kemuel and Gachaya, along with the injured caravan guards. Sitting down to take stock, the PCs agreed that somebody was clearly targeting Kemuel- the question was, who could it be?
The session went well, and I managed to entertain the PCs without throwing any strangeness beyond what usually happens on Tekumel- I was afraid these might be getting over-used. The fights went extremely well, and I'll have to remember to post my house rules for how combat manoeuvres work soon.