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.

1 comment:

  1. To have many parallel story-lines taking place at the same time worked nicely: one story-line came to an end (the poetry performance), and another started right after (the attack). The players' interest therefore never wavered much. Script-writing 101 nicely executed.
    - alx