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.


  1. Another great episode!

    Regarding the prejudice about "voice" in the Butrus Gazetteer:

    I don't know how "official" the Gazetteer is either; I had the impression back when it was published in the Seal, that it had been reviewed, and that this sort of marked its (partial?) canonization (or beatification perhaps?), but I could be wrong about that.

    But who cares. Canon or fanon, either way, its a great piece of work with great ideas.

    And the attitude toward voice that it presents is utterly plausible in my opinion.

    1. The 'Butrus Gazetteer' is definitely not canonical. It was received and read by M.A.R.B., and I gather he felt generally favorable about it, but that's as far as it went. He and the 'inner temple' involved in producing official Tekumel materials didn't pursue working it up into something canonical. Hence its present-day obscurity ;) I'm still always really pleased to hear about people getting something usable out of it, though!

      I only just found this campaign writeup and am still working through it. It's delightful! I see that the last post is from March this year; I'm hoping against hope it's just a long delay and not dead ;(

      Kim (compiler of the 'Butrus Gazetteer' way back when)

  2. clever little monkeys.. I am betting you have them a bit "hooked" by now...

  3. Really like the Hrihayal ceremony. Lots of atmosphere and mystery.
    - alx