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.