Writeup 16th June 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 4

The morning after the rest of the night, where the group achieved better rest, undisturbed by ant further interlopers. Utana, José and Arpaesis gather with Doraksha and some of her fellow clergy as they install the real harp back in the temple. Grateful for their help, they let the group examine the harp, alleged to have been made by Hyyan wa Kothar, and it has symbols of Hyyan wa Kothar, Shmun, his/her lover and other symbols, possibly to do with Hyyvan’s life here as a farmer’s wife.

Utana detected sound, music from the harp, even when the only pressure on the strings was the wind, but then Doraksha started playing and the sound of the deity filled him with joy, and he felt blessed.

Arpaesis’s and José’s researches as Doraksha played shone a light on the comet, that it appeared ever 101 years and there were always two disasters, one as the comet approached the sun, one as it left. These disasters took different forms, not all repeated, but the green plague was one that had happened more than once, One piece of information José found, a plant that might be found in the hills which, when its leaves are ground and mixed in with a resin extracted from its roots it makes a salve that alleviates the symptoms of the green death, but does not cure.

They asked about legends of heroes rising to meet the challenges of the disasters and were told that there were some that came, why, only recently in the west there had been matchless heroes without flaw, giants who had fought the darkness threatening to take first a a city then a nation. The group coughed and looked embarrassed.

The group thought on what to do next, to go ahead to the bandit centre of Iduabjan, and follow up investigating the green plague, or to Bukrish, the place the prophecy Harvan found had told them to go to.

They decided to push onto Bukrish, finding maps and directions, but mistakes led to delays and it was evening and it was getting dark. The sky was darkening also with gathering thunder clouds and the threat of rain, and dark woods loomed ahead when they heard voices, shouts, Idarit mostly with some Araya shouts of hatred and violence.

Investigating, they say a hill surrounded by an angry mob of farmers, villagers and the like, with. Torches and tools being brandished at five soldiers. on a small hillock, looking as if they had armed and armoured themselves in a hurry but lacking the bronze badges of the brigands and soldiers belonging. to the bandits.

One of the mob detached from the throng, introduced himself. As “Abadhir”, upon being asked what was going on, he explained.

_“They are soldiers of Rasghan Ilyhan Gharsemi, I’m afraid you have stumbled upon a bloody night’s work. The men we pursue up yonder hill are far more than brigands. They serve the Rasghan. Yes, that’s right, I said ‘Rasghan.’_

_“Before you judge us, please allow me to explain. Everyone in thesYou will learn nothing from him, but when you are ready, come and talk to me at Qalharbarhe parts knows the Gharsemis consort with dark powers. When I was a lad, Heydar Gharsemi was rumored to have created a creature from the limbs of the dead. His grandson Ilyhan has continued his grandfather’s work—for I have seen the creature with mine own eyes. It did this very night slay the beloved of my nephew, Shunif, and we have tracked it back to the Gharsemi keep. Their home now burns on the mountain, but the Rasghan himself, and some of his murderous guards, escaped._

_“This day the people of Qalharbarh say no more. We have destroyed the Rasghan’s castle, and now seek to end this evil tyrant’s life. The coward slipped away while his soldiers fought his battle for him, now he hides here with his most loyal henchmen. We must find him tonight. He is no woodsman, and will not easily travel these tangled hills in darkness._

We are simple men, but we are not afraid and our cause is just. Will you strangers help us bring Rasghan Gharsemi to justice before he slips away in the dawn light?

Utana went to parley with the soldiers, but one loosed a warning arrow that Utana walked into, surprised, he fell backwards under the impact. Picking himself up, Utana launched an arrow back at his attacker, wounding he archer. José joined in, downing the archer, and at that signal the mob surged forward. Another soldier threw a javelin at hit José, Arpaesis bided his time.

The fight was soon over, though José took another wound from a hurled Javelin, and only the original archer was left, barely clinging to life. Utana moved to secure him as a prisoner, but two of the mob tried to rush in for the kill. At that point Arpaesis acted, casting “Bar the Way” to stop them.

_The caster projects the strength of their will to keep the target at bay If the spell succeeds then, no matter how the target tries to, even if another pushes them towards the caster. The caster can move towards the target, but if they do, the target gets another chance to resist the spell. If they fail, the must step back, but they cannot be driven to their deaths by this, attempting to do so will break the spell._

Now, the way the spell was used, was not as quite as written, but I allowed it, because it was dramatic and worked. Abadhir objected, stressing the perfidy of the Gharsemis and their hireling sellswords, as he rushed in with a knife, but Utana used his skill in unarmed combat to turn Abadhir’s charge and throw him to the ground. Arpaesis held off the mob (_by the way, Arpaesis is on about 0 fatigue from the effort of that_) as it surged to prevent José patching up the archer so that Utana could use the cruel methods he learned from Jalabu to question him.

Utana demanded to know where the Rasghan might be, the archer. Did not know for sure, after all he was the. Part of a rearguard to let the Rasghan escape, but he said that he might have gone back to the ruin of his castle to see what he could recover, or hide nearby, unless he has tried the woods, but Ilyhan was not known for his woodcraftiness.

You will learn nothing from him, but when you are ready, come and talk to me at QalharbarhYou will learn nothing from him, but when you are ready, come and talk to me at QalharbarhThe mob was howling as Arpaesis strained at the effort of holding back so many (_technically. I think 7 is the most he could hold back, but, again, drama_) and the group decided. to mount up, ride away and question him further at a distance, and let José attend to his own wounds. As they did so, Abadir shouted at them “You will learn nothing from him, but when you are ready, come and talk to me at Qalharbarh!”

And there we left it

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Writeup 2nd June 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 3

The group are resting after the events of the last few hours, being fed by the village as they await the return of the parties sent to hide the bodies and cover the traces of the fight that, for a short time at least, freed the village of the bandits that seemed to be assuming control of the area. As they wonder where to go next, to pursue the symptoms of the Green Death or the signs of bad governance, or straight to the goal set by Harsan, they are dining on mutton and fruit stew, and stuffed shrews washed down with fig wine when, dressed in the robes of the Temple of the Cold Ones, a man approaches and bows. He introduces himself as a messenger of Doraksha, the Sangun of the nearby Temple of the Sacred Pool. The Sangun has heard of the service the group provided the people of the village of Pamasdeh, and wishes to thank them for it, and offer them accommodation for the night.

They follow the clergy to the temple, asking their guide about the Temple and Doraksha, being told that, like most temples outside Idym, the clergy serving here are not permanently assigned. The temples of the Cold Ones in Haraxa prefer that the clergy serve in the communities, with trades that support them, serving in the temples is a temporary duty, for a relatively short time, some of them learning trades and skills to take back, others being instructed in precepts of the faith. As they approach the temple, they see priests working repairing the roads, others tending groves of trees and, as they get closer, see that the temple is actually a small complex, the temple itself, built over the stream feeding the sacred pool, there are accommodation buildings, on one sides for the clergy, and on the other for pilgrims, in other places workshops and stores.

They are greeted by Hahmir, the master of pilgrims, who nervously and apologetically tell them that the accommodation offered has subsequently been taken by Yamizh and his party, and that more pilgrims are expected at any moment, and they can no longer offer accommodation, As he flounders and apologises he is interupted by Sangun Doraksha, who also apologises, and offers space in the dormitory used by the clergy. They follow, and the dormaitory space proves that the usual occupants are shoved up one end, and space is given over to the group with the best that can be provided at short notice.

There is some time before the light evening meal for guests, Farshad looks at the activity, seeing woodworkers and potters in open sheds. Utana approaches the group that took their accommodation, finding them to be a noble of some sort, here on pilgrimag, esome soldiery types and they have servants who come, take some baskets and boxes and take them to stores before returning to the same dormitory that the group are staying in. Utana thinks that the noble, Yamizh, is hiding something, and is suspicious of the mention of the harp relic held by the Temple.

José goes to the temple looking for any evidence of the comet or the disease it spreads in the depictions at each station of the pantheon. He finds a triptych as part of the decorations around the statue of Hyyan wa Kothar showing a comet, some people lying down, and the god playing music to them on his harp, then the people sitting around the seated god as he played music. Speaking to one of the clergy there, José learns that this temple is founded near the farm where Hyyyan, in female form, lived with a farmer and raised children. She made a harp that is a relic held by the temple, gifted to the temple by the farmer as he grew old.

Asking the priest about the green death, the priest did not know anything but rumour, though, upon examination of the comet in the triptych, there were flecks of green paint, though José could not see it.

The evening meal is held outside, the clergy, pilgrims and characters are split into groups, a priest at each. Doraksha starts the prayers, and a priest at each of the groups adds a line in turn, before the prayer is finished by Doraksha. The meal progresses and José, looking for information about medicine, is pointed at Odimil, a rather merry drunken Shevam. Farshad spotting a Shevam, goes over, they make merry and progress into singing the infamous Goat Song. Unfortunately, they started by singing different verses, and it got worse when it became apparent that the song was going down badly with the assembled crowd.

That song, and Yamizh’s good nights, end the festivities, and they all go to bed.

During the night, José wakes up, spooked by a shadow, he investigates to see that it was cast by a statue on the wall, but in so doing he sees a figure steal into the Temple. Waking the others, they grab weapons and shields and head to the temple. It was odd, their movements did not wake up any other sleepers, and others they met on the way were asleep.

Opening the door to the Temple, they see a group approaching the main altar and at the other door an archer keeps watch. The group charge the interlopers, it does not go well for Utana, who skids past Yamizh, Jose wishes he had his bow, but does what he can hand to hand, Farshad has a better time of it, wounding someone who seems like a mage, forcing them to drop rod and amulet as they surrendered. Luckily in the dark, the interlopers have it just as bad. Shortly Yamizh is dead, two of his soldiers are down, the archer has fled and the last soldier is trying to flee but is downed and forced to surrender.

José tries to heal the mage, but the wounds are too great, and the mage dies. Odimil arrives and treats another, Farshad, lifts rod and amulet, and he and Utana find a box containing a harp, realising that the interlopers planned to switch this harp for the relic, Farshad decides to complete the heist, and moves to swap before Odamil turns round and notices. Alas, the normally stealthy Farshad trips, smashing box and fake harp.

Doraksha and others arrive, take in the scene and she thanks the group for trying to save the relic. Luckily they knew of the attempted theft, thanks to bribes made by Yamizh and one of the bribees telling Doraksha what was planned. This is why all the junior priests that conduct night services were absent, they had been paid. and the one in the altar is a fake.

She thanks them profusely, generously, fullsomely as Farshad and Utana try not to look each other in the eye, They will now stay in her quarters, she will sleep elsewhere, it is the least she can do.

Until the morning, they can rest, the question of where to go next still, however, remains

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Writeup 19th May 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 2

Noises being heard outside, the group prepare, Farshad and Utana by the door, José behind some tables, bow ready, a push at the door turns to a shove, then a brute force, in arrive four soldiers, Utana and José evaluate them. They are cheaply armed and armoured, spears and wicker shields, no helmets or body armour, their robes were uniform, once, but are faded and ripped, and there are no signs of the symbols of respected soldiers, no daggers awarded for bravery or good service, no medallions of grants of land or gifts from a grateful commander. They are astonished and suspicious, but Utana’s authorative manner gets them to open up.

They are soldiers of the Rasghad Bidijhan, on patrol and in the habit of using this building as a rest point on their long patrol. She, like other Rasghadi, are low level parts of the civil administration, under an Istanhar, responsible for maintaining order, assisting tax collectors, ensuring roads are maintained, gathering surpluses with the aid of the Temples against time of need, ensuring that the levy is in a fit state. Instead a neighbouring Rasghan decided to get rid of the bandit problem by promoting the most powerful bandit chief to an officer of the local standing forces of the army. The Bandit, Dahyuka, was successful in quelling other bandit gangs, and has managed to get himself power in the rest of the Istanharate, the regular soldiers have had problems getting paid, the levy is not getting the training or the weapons to drill. The village they are standing in, whose name was once Rughlen, was razed to the ground by these bandits, for not paying “taxes”.

The soldiers tell the group that they can identify officers amongst the bandits by a token they wear, a brooch of a griffin, a mix of Haraxan and Sakah styles.

The group asked about if the soldiers knew of any new illnesses in the area. They were told of a cousin of a cousin had wasted away, vomiting green bile, in a village called Iduabjan, to the north-east, along the same general route that the comet quest seems to be leading you. The soldiers and group shared food and drink, in the morning their patrol is off on the next leg of their patrol.

The group carry on, coming to the next village, the entrance blocked by 5 bandits, led by one wearing the griffin token. The bandits try to extort money from the group, but are surprised by a sudden charge from Utana, an almost acrobatic leap from Farshad and rapid bow fire from Josê soon bring down two, including the leader, Himmun, struck almost dead, others flee, but they are also brought down and questioned. The corpses are taken away from the village by the villagers, who hide the blood and take some, but not all of the looted foodstuffs to hide against a rainy day.

Using untoward treatment against the prisoners, the group learns that the next in the chain of command is Sarahad, who is expected in the village of Iduabjan soon.

Farshad took the token from Himmun’s corpse, found it cheap, a bronze recast of a recast of a recast of an original, but now they have one.

And there we left it.

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Writeup 5th May 2022 – The Return of the Comet episode 1

The journey north say the group passed from military patrol to military patrol until they returned to Eshtaband, capital of the province of which Niralha is the magistrate and Harvan her chief of agents. During that time Utana and Farshad train in dodging and brawling, wearing Dhran’s helmet backwards as they practice their dodging whilst waving a stick going “schzoonm schzoom“. When settled back in their accommodation, the group rest, undisturbed for a couple of nights, getting rested, cleaned and possibly drunk.

One morning, Arpaesis tells them of Harvan escorting him to his chambers to find out why he had sought Harvan out. Upon learning that Arpaesis was here to further his mystical studies, Harvan showed Arpaesis a text written by his mistress that he owned then took him up to his roof to view a comet. This comet is the one that presaged the Rising of the Dark, returned around the sun.

Where then it heralded the encroachment of Akharazura, “the nothingness”, the adversary of The Three, now it displays a different sigil, one unknown to Harvan, but identified by Arpaesis as an obscure emblem of Lotnyas, the adversary god of The Cold Ones.

Depicted most often as a five headed dragon, one head in the stars, one swallowing the Sun, one drinking the seas, one devouring the Moon and the other rending the earth, or less frequently as a warrior standing in a maelstrom, their spear raised defiantly against the other gods.

The goal of Lotynas is to undo the works of others, to bring back the original chaos stuff of the universe, back to when they were a great power to rival Ahera-Ba, but this time as the ruler of all.

There are temples to Lotynas, secret temples, guarded by priests and devoted warriors. Some orders of worshippers exist in hidden fortresses, hiring out murderers, thieves, poisoners and mercenaries to ambitious lords who find themselves now under threat of blackmail, and brought under the control of the Masters of the Orders.

Lotynas is also claimed as the parent of monsters and dark things to trouble the earth, no one knows who the other parents are, if there are any, perhaps it is Lotynas itself.

Harvan explains that with the information from Arpaesis, he searched and found a box, onewith a brass plate that was hitherto unmarked. Now it has a silvered image of a flame, the sigil of Lotnyas, a couple of diagrams and some text.

This was attached to a box, blank, containing tablets of utter tedium, notations on the accounts of one Mashiravata, ruler of a nation that once occupied this space 13 centuries ago. Now look at it, words in a language I do not understand, but the symbols are in a form of Habbarisrri, they are symbols that convey meaning, rather than expressing sounds.

The Silver flame marks the place, under the flame and under the mound is the treasure . Knock upon the stone to find it.

Underneath that is etched a circle of posts or standing stones, and to the right is depicted a stylised mound of earth topped by a flame.

Underneath that depiction is
“Seek the mines of Bukrish, cross the wastes, find the stones, head north-east to the mound, let the comet guide you, for only when the comet burns will it be found”

Under those words is the same sigil as can be seen on the comet.

Harvan apologises for not giving you more time to rest in the city, but he needs you to seek out the mound and treasure that the comet is supposed to mark. He gives you a public mission, in case you need to use a cover.

This public mission is to inspect the less well used border roads and settlements, and report back on where they can be improved for military access, protection and trade.
• Utana to gauge the roads and routes
• Farshad the prospects for trade
• Jose the military engineering for villages and towns, and the availability of medicinal plants
• Dhran the state of farming and the well-being of the peasantry
• Jalabu as the prospects of cultivation of exotic plant products suitable for medicine and trade
• Arpaesis to record the surveys, to be the group scribe.

He mentions also that there is some concern about the area not being as well maintained as it should be, if you see anything you should make a note of that too. The real motive is the search for the treasure. If they can at least make it appear as if they are doing the survey too, that would be good.

The terrain you will be heading to is rough, so he recommends not taking horses, and taking riding mules. A pack mule with basic survey tools, some boards with clay, papyrus and birch books with ink, some filter pots for examining water.

Between Utana’s geographical knowledge, Farshad’s merchant contacts, Arpaesis’s arcane information and José’s medical knowledge, they piece together a little information.

Bukrish is the old name for a village in the hills to the north-east, bordering the lands claimed by the Sakah. Once it was a thriving copper mine, and  silver was found there too, but the mines becoming played out, meant that the village had reduced over the years. Now the only metl it exports, and that in small quantities, is iron extracted from the bogs nearby.

It is about six days travel from the city to Bukrish, leaving the main road and climbing into the hills by the old trade road.

The comet has a mention in old medical texts, associated with a horrible disease called something like “The Green death

The first day takes the group beyond the more travelled road, over the less used road away from the main route, and then off that. Utana finds a military road concealed by brush and starting to become overgrown but otherwise in good repair. That road will save time from the overall journey.

Night is close as they find themselves close to a ruined village. Much that they can see, with the aid of a spell from Arpaesis, beautifully executed, that lets them see in the dark, is fallen down, the closest building in some repair turns out to be a wolf den, so that they bypass. They head for the only stone building in the village, a store house by the looks of it. The door and latch are jammed, but they get it open and set up for the night in what appears to be a combination storehouse, meeting hall and shrine to the Three.

Farshad sets alarms, the door is blocked, and a watch is set. During the night, on the second watch, something occurs ….

and there we left it, a short session tonight.

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Writeup 22nd April 2022 – The Greatest Heist episode 5

What of Farshad and Utana, what happened in their attempt to get a message to summon troops from the Haraxan Kingdom

Not stopping for the rest of the feast, Utana and Farshad try to slip quietly away. It is not subtle, but, louWhat of Farshad and Utana, what happened in their attempt to get a message to summon troops from the Haraxan Kingdomdly announcing that they are seeking the facilities, they make their stealthy exit.

They are let out the gates and take their riding beasts and make for a pathway up into the hills, a shortcut Utana identified. they climb up and take a pathway leading to a flat area, home to some scrubby bushes and some oblivious goats..

However, the exit is blocked. Three men, amed but not armoured, sit by their hobbled horses. They are on watch, weapons handy, but they haven’t seen the pair yet.

The duo ponders, an attempt to steal past and race off would still mean a pursuit, better not to be seen. Utana quietly motions back away, there is a more difficult, more treacherous route that they could try, hardly more than a goat track, and so they climb, cloaks around them in the cold air, unti they are far enough away to rest. During his watch Utana, thinks through his survey and looks ahead to the route for the morning, and the information he needs to pass on to the troops that will come this way.

False dawn sees them travel on, but it is not long before they notice patrols, riding near where tracks meet, more of the same riders. Farshad and Utana observe, watching the patterns, picking their moment before they ride through the patrols and on for the border fort

They luck, which has held till now, ends, and they are pursued, the riders, on more rested horses, catching up, javelins fly past the heads of our heroes until Farshad makes the ultimate sacrifice.

He jettisons the false hump of his “”camel””, it bounces and careens wildly, causing the pursuers to have to take action as their spooked horses lose the plot. It buys the two enough time to get under the shelter of the fort. The haughty Haraxan noble accosts a soldier, the easy manner of command swiftly establishing who is in charge.

A courier is to be sent to the nearby garrison town of Churantash, where troops are awaiting the call. Utana hands over his message tablet, and quickly adds more notes on a fresh tablet concerning routes to the Bardij, and what sort of welcome to expect there.

The pair water, feed and rest their horses, remounts are provided, and an escort of two, as they prepare for the journey back to their prize

And, upon their return?

Morning breaks over the city of Bardij. The market camps at the Ishtir Gate and Haraxa Gate are striking, some merchants will return, others will continue on, and the gate guards and tax collectors are ready.

Although Farshad and Utana are gone, the remaining group must find accomodation in the city, and await the results of their machinations. They choose the Caravanserai where Farshad once entertained the crowds, and got stabling for their beasts and awaited news of what was befalling the city.

Rumours came in as people arrived for food and drink in the open air area where the locals were accustomed to eat rather than at home. The main temple was struck with many of the clergy falling ill, expelling much through vomiting worse, their limbs stiffening and weighing heavy, the temples afflicted by a noxious smell that their new incense seemed to make worse, rather than better.

On top of that, there was disruption at the building and manufacturing sites, as guards and scribes from the Servant of the Land were examining records against materials allegedly bought against those used and in store.

As the group listened to the chat, and considered how they had achieved all that, Dhran slipped away, and made his way to the work sites, where bricks, tools, utensils and pots were not being made, as the craftsfolk hang about, wondering what was going on.

Dhran made himself known to the crafters, and, refusign their gift of flatbreads donated to them by the Temple, spoke to them of the rights of mortals, to live free, beholden to none, whose labour profited them, not being mere piece workers at the behest of the Temple, not only making homes to live when the Temple said, where the Temple said, but for the wishes of the people.

Puzzled at first, Dhran’s words took root, and puzzled as they were, they thought that Dhran knew what he was talking about, and he, sort of got proclaimed leader and spokesperson. Partly through his suggestions, partly on people’s own initiative, the door to the nearby wall fort was barricaded up, supplies were “”liberated”” from the temple and an area around the building sites marked off with trenches from which the spoil was used to make a low wall, bundles of reeds stacked to be used at need as shields in case of arrows.

As they settled down for the night, Dhran stole back to the Caravanserai, and awaited morning.

The next morning saw the rumours grow, what had befallen the temple, what was this about the workers in revolt? No one seemed to know, and everyone had five opinions on it.

It also saw the return of Utana and Farshad (they have may have magically gained a day, or teleported from the fort to Bardij, such is life)

An invitation came to the group from Anaraxha to attend him at the palace. There was some fear and false bravado “”Let him come to us””, as they feared that they might to be held account for the chaos in the city.

Jalabu swithered, should he go with Dhran who was planning to return to the workers, and foment discord, or side with the nobles and attend Anaraxha. He eventually decided that, as an Agent of the Haraxan Kingdom and a lesser noble of Dilamun in Ishtir, his place was at the palace, completing his mission.

Dhran found himself with the workers still confused, but enthused. However by this time Temple guards had arrayed themselves in front of their barricades, and archers had started to gather on the wall behind them. Negotiations went poorly, the troops incapable, because of their indoctrination, of comprehending the advanced political principles that Djhran was espousing, and so they concluded, in an unsatisfactory way. The troops gathered themselves and advanced, but Dhran stopped them by firing an arrow at the feet of their leader. The archers made themselves known, and Dhran ordered others to take cover as he went to the next phase of his plan, he had secreted oilskins at points around the temple, lighting a prepared arrow, he fired at one, setting it alight and dripping flaming oil onto other combustables. The temple was ablaze. The trooops abandoned the attack and hurried to the temple to fight the fire.

In the palace, Anaraxha reported the findings so far of investigating the accounts, and the strange malady afflicting the priests of the main temple. Discussion goes on until Anaraxha is alerted to the fire at the temple. He decides to tackle the worker’s revolt, after all, the Temple will need rebuilding itself.

Anaraxha recognises Dhran, and thus the issue afflciting the work is of the Haraxans making. He quietly indicated to Dhran that he knows him, though Dhran denied it, stating he was Bhran, a man who did, admittedly, look a lot like Dhran. However, in disguising himself, the illiterate Dhran had smeared soot on himself accidentally writing, in perfect scholar’s script “”I am Dhran””.

He listened to Dhran’s list of issues, and noted his concerns that, as there was no work that could be done, the workers were not getting paid, so Anaraxha arranged for food, including dates, wine and flatbreads not coolked by Jalabu, to be brought. To the workers and Dhran, Anaraxha proposes this, a committe of public works, upon which the workers will be represented. This will be responsible for building houses, allocating contracts for tools and utensils for the poor, and other general works of public benefit.

Dhran and the workers considered this, and asked what assurances would the Servant of the Land give that he would fulfil his promise. Anaraxha considered this and said that he would go to each temple, and the main market and declare his offer for all to see, and that the offer would be written in stone, and placed at each city gate, so that all might know if it.

Dhran the Paranoid hummed and hawed, he was unsure, for how could he tell that the words on the stone would be the same as those said in public. Sighing inwardly, Anaraxha asked Arpaesis, as a stranger to these lands and unaffected by local politics, if he would write the words down, mark them on the stone and confirm that they are as promised. Arpaesis made certain that the Temple of the Cold Ones would not be slighted, and would continue in the city and only then agreed to assist.

He also offered Dhran a post in the Palace, a stipend, new clothes, a secretary, his post to ensure that the Committee of Public Works be all that was promised. Dhran has not given his answer, but it seems doubtful.

And so, with only junior clergy of the Temple fit enough to be involved, the compact was made, and peace settled on Bardij.

The next day, not long after the City Gates were opened, the people of Bardij found Haraxan troops in charge of the gates, the Temple barracks, and many of the thoroughfares. Utana and Farshad’s work had borne fruit!

The officer in charge found and saluted the Agents, and Anaraxha, presented him with a temporary tablet confirming him as governor of the city, a more permanent investiture and title, together with the seal cylinder and fillet of rank would be presented soon.

And so, the group of Agents, and a mystified Ta-Khameti mystic, had stolen a city for the Haraxan Empire, with very little blood shed, though a few clergy whose prognosis is uncertain.

Anaraxha was grateful, and his wife and he expressed thanks to them, and told them a curious fact, that Ishtiri agents had been in the city trying to do the same thing as them, lead by Harshan, who had his own plot to poison the Temple hierarchy, though in a more fatal manner.

As tokens of his gratitude, they presented the group with gifts

Jalabu – From Harshan’s abandoned stock, chemicals, suspected poisons, mixing equipment and a small wooden paged book of poisons and antidotes

Jose – From Harshan’s abandoned stock, medicinal supplies, ingredients and a small wooden paged book on diagnoses and treatment

Dhran – A silver engraved sword, once belonged to Anaraxha’s brother

Utana – A trained warhorse, Bahbi, and gear. The name ‘Bahbi’ is actually of Ta-Khamet origin, and means a kind of night monster

Arpaesis – a set of decent quality maps of Idym, Haraxa, Eastern Ishtir and the lands between, and 100 silver dan.

Farshad – a beautifully worked saddle that looks as if it was made for his horse, fine embroidery, beadwork and silver and gold thread

Some of these may be more than they appear

The next game will be some weeks game-time later. As guests you will stay in the city until the stone plaques are made to Arpaesis and Dhran’s satisfaction, the officer of the new Haraxan garrison will no doubt seek the advice of these experienced diplomats and more may happen

But we will pick up, back in the palace quarters, meeting with Harvan

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Writeup 25th March 2022 – The Greatest Heist episode 5

The morning breaks, with heads clearing from the celebrations of the night before, and some time to go before the feast with the Servant of the Land that they are invited to that night.

So, one thing is certain. “We need a plan. For once in our careers, we need to consider what
– our situation is
– our task is
– our actions should be
And see if that produces our Result, after that we can Reflect”

Gathered around a bright, white-painted wall, the group cast illusions against it demonstrating what they knew, and Dhran wrote notes on the wall in charcoal as the ideas flowed forth, not much use, as Dhran is illiterate.

With a sigh, Dhran, knowing that it would fall to him, starts contemplating gathering flammable materials, ready to set a series of major filters across the city but this reverie is interrupted by the group coming up with actual plans. Considering what might discredit the Temple leadership, a piece of history comes to mind, a temple of the Cold Ones was once laid low by the clergy becoming laid down by fits, talking nonsense, having fevered dreams, seemingly in waking hours too, and the clergy had to be replaced. There was no signs of possession, so the temple was cleaned out. Putting their heads together, Jose and Jalabu conclude that this might have been a sort of poisoning that can result from mouldy grains, wheat and rye, though rye is only grown in colder, mountainous areas. The lesser temples they do not consider at this time, it is the leadership they wish to undercut. Other preliminary thoughts involve trying to create a fraudulent prophecy that serves their ends, or just going ahead with Anaraxha’s idea of infiltrating troops into the city and then seizing its strong points. Arpaesis suggested using magic to bend someone to their will, but that idea was not developed.

The groups split into three. Jalabu and Arpaesis go to the Ishtiri market looking for materials that could be used to do to the main temple here, what happened to the temple that was cleared. Jalabu disguises himself as a different merchant. Unfortunately, as he is the only Dilamuni merchant in the city, his disguise as a totally different Dilamiuni merchant may have limited utility.

Jose wants to find materials for the same effect within the city and, at the same time, he and Utana are surveying the city for approaches to the city where bodies of troops could be dispersed and filter through more naturally, and the weaker points in the city for immediate seizure and how to take over the rest. Jose purchases some mushrooms that he knows can have intoxicating properties, Utana uses his insights to plan routes and, with his knowledge of the area of the last two days he thinks he has some routes mapped in his head. (In a retcon, whilst Jose was mushroom shopping, Utana found some vantage points on the walls, which are not that actively guarded, to have a better look at the mountains areas to the north between the Ishtiri and Haraxan gates,

Farshad and Dhran scout out the main temple and works. There is much coming and going, which would allow any random person who wander around much without being questioned. They find places where Farshad might be secreted should they wish to have him try to pose as a god speaking through one of the idols, and other places that look more flammable than others. Farshad dissuades Dhran from his earlier idea of trying to foment a worker’s revolt, as the aim is to achieve as peaceful a takeover as possible. Besides from information gained earlier, this might be hard to do, the workers and artisans are getting steady employment for this work, at the moment this is perceived as aa good thing, so it would be hard to shift attitudes. However, as they see people keeping records and materials shifting back and forward, they wonder who is getting paid for this and how it is recorded. They scout about and see a small yard where tablets of records are put out to dry before filing or sending on.

With this information they wonder about falsifying the records so that it looks as if more goods are being paid for than are arriving, so that, if investigated, it looks like the clergy are skimming off money. With this in mind, Farshad sneaks into the yard to filch a tablet. They feel that, rather than just amending a tablet in situ, they need to create a plausible one that indicates fraud.

Arpaesis and Jalabu, at the Ishtir market, find a merchant that has some spoiled grain that he was preparing to dump and leave behind. They can get the grain for free, but they have to buy baskets to transport it. Jalabu seems Harshan, allegedly the one who hired thugs to beat them up, back selling goods, but does nothing further at that time. They scuttle back to their camp and borrow the materials to help them make griddle cakes. This wheat is too old to make Samanu and besides, they do not have time. The rest of their morning and early afternoon is spent getting the grains, grinding them, making the cakes and cooking them.

Utana acquires some refined writing lay and stylii and they all meet back at camp. As Dhran helps Jalabu make the cakes, Utania, Arpaesis and Farshad puzzle out the accountancy tablet, written not in the modern Alphabetic script, but the scholar’s cuneiform (as that is symbolic and tends to transcend spoken language) and make what they feel is a useful set of orders that are higher than those in the original, indicating that more was paid for than was received.

Jose powers the mushrooms and, with some incense he has bought, mixes it through to evenly distribute the powder.

Utana and Jose also make message to send back to Haraxa, detailing the plan, the possible routes to Bardij and where should be seized. The message is not sent. It would possibly be better carried by one of the group, perhaps Utana with a swift horse and checking secret paths through the hills. That might cut the time to the border post, even to the nearest garrison town.

They have a short time to act before the feast they are invited to and they decide act first, and tell Anaraxha later.

With this in mind, they head to the main temple. With Dhran goes outside the temple and starts The Goat Song, with the actions, pretending to be drunk, but with he dodgy wheat he’s been handling, maybe he is a little intoxicated,. His voice, whilst not good, is still better than any performance of Farshad’s noted to date, and he hopes it provides a distraction. Farshad tries to sneak to the yard, but is caught. He manages to convince the clergy who finds him that he was looking for help because of the performance outside. The problem is, that The Goat Song, whilst abhorrent, is not actually blasphemous, unless you sing THAT verse, but with his charm Farshad convinces the clergy to go and investigate, allowing Farshad place the damning tablet.

Jose presents a member of the clergy with the incense, as an offering to the gods. It is received with thanks, and the clergy Blesses Jose (in a Prayer sense) and Jalabu and Arpaesis distribute griddle cakes at the various idols at the various alcoves around the main hall.

At that point, they scarper to the feast, making it in time. They are at a table with Anaraxha and Aslahira, his wife and chief advisor. Jalabu can see Harshan at another table with Sangun Adinaba, the more fearsome opponent of the Temple leadership here. Other personalities they recognise are here.

The group tell Anaraxha that it might be worth sending scribes and soldiers to go ver the recent accounts of the temple for materials paid for versus received, and to be prepared for strange goings on when they get there. But will they? Will the priests eat the cakes? As magic mushrooms have no demonstrable effect when smoked, because heat destroys the active ingredient, will THESE mushrooms have an effect?

We have left it there, and will resolve all next week

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Writeup 25th February 2022 – The Greatest Heist episode 4

Leaving Payam’s place in the twisted alleys of the poor areas of Bardij, the group found themselves surrounded by ne’er do wells with clubs, the villains are lightly armoured, if at all, and are armed with clubs, however as the group are also lightly armoured, if at all, and only have short swords or daggers, it is more of an even match than the group might hope. These newcomers demand money and possessions, and are not deterred by Jose’s use of the name of Payam as a contact, he may be head of the fences, but he is not a Capo di tutti capo.

With the refusal, combat ensues, the group with daggers are faster than the footpads, but the daggers are light weapons that do not do as much damage as a sword might. The combat is short, and the group are wounded by solid hits by well swung clubs. Two footpads are killed, and the others run away, two of them with cuts from Farshad and Utana, Utana, finding his lack of armour bothersome, strips the leather armour of one that can be fitted under his outer cloak without attracting too much attention. Farshad and Jose loot the pockets, finding enough coin and dried food to provide for accommodation and a meal that night, and dried food for lunch tomorrow.

The group found a caravanserai near the Haraxan Gate, and they were surprised by an uproarious cheer as they entered, they clientele recognised “”Farshad Throatripper””, the wrestling champion who had felled a giant three times his height. Drinks found their way to the groups table and food was brought, and perhaps too much drink was taken, as Farshad stepped up to sing, a harpist and drummer accompanied him, the drummer mostly to try and drown the sound, but it has to be said that Farshad’s singing was not a total disaster, being the least possible success, but others join in and it is not the sort of situation that the group are used to , fleeing for their lives.

Then Farshad took up the harp and that was more of a success, being about as good as he could make it, strong mortals wept, dogs and children were stilled, and the clientele went away entertained and happy, in a sad way, and so to bed.

As the group left, Farshad spotted two spies, lurking on roofs, he was sure that they were the footpads from the night before, the live ones anyway, and Utana planned a trap. Farshad would sneak unseen, whilst Jose and Utana would more noisily close in on one of them so that Farshap would surprise them. As they planned, the footpad ran, leapt over one roof to another, not well, teetering on the edge, only to find Farshad’s shortsword pointing at his soft, vulnerable areas.

Utana came over himself, as Farshad keep the villain in danger of falling off the edge and worried. Remembering what Jalabu had taught him, Utana tried his skill with “Untoward Pressure” but failed compared to Farshad’s use of “Beguiling”, flexing his muscles and trading on his reputation as a killer wrestler, and the wounded Kotharim, called Bedrim, capitulated. He revealed that they, including his now dead friend Ashterim, were paid by a well spoken man, wjho had described the group as foreign merchants and thieves, preying on the vulnerable of Bardij. He suggested was to rob the group and take their goods so that they would have to flee in shame.

Bedrim took them to the Ishtir Gate, where they had met the man, but he was not there, however Bedrim spotted him a little way outside, at a stall with two others, and goods behind the stall with beasts and guards, a mirror of the scene at the Haraxan Gate.

Not knowing what to make of this, and knowing that they had a chance to get into the palace today, the group left Dhran and Jalabu to watch this stranger (we can pick this up somehow outside the game)

The route to the palace the rest chose took them to the main Temple, where the work on new houses was going on, and craftsmen were making plates and tools, and inside a normal worship was going on. Utana asked one of the clergy about the tenets of the Cold Ones, and got told some of them, (because they are bloody written down in the world description). After an hour of that, they saw the clergy Garashp and Adinaba, the most senior clergy of the city, greet two dust covered messengers, and they decided to sneak back after them and eavesdrop their conversation.

In doing so they learned that the rebellion in the West is not going well,in part because the Servant of the Land Izad is hanging back until he gets his promised quid pro quo, that his cousin Reyhangets her post as Servant of the Land in a decent sized town. And so they learn that she will be arriving here to take over from Anaaraxha in two months .

With that snippet of information, the group leave and have arrived at the Palace fo the Servant of the Land, and there we left it.

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Writeup 11th February 2022 – The Greatest Heist episode 3

From leaving Payam’s place, Farshad returned to the caravan and relieved Dhran from his beast tending duties. The group had a few hours to wait before Payam had information for them, so they decided to investigate the Temples and take the measure of the rulers of Idym. Of the group, Dhran and Jalabu would most likely to be familiar with the rites of the worship of the Cold Ones. These are not exact from place to place, as there is no central authority save for the Gods themselves, but they should know.

The Cold Ones dwelt in the Ancestral Sea, in those days the sea chilled the stars so much that they were just as embers. Ahera-Ba, the eldest of the Cold
Ones swam to the depths and found there the stars, dark, quiet, cold but with promise of life.

Ahera-Ba called the rest of the Cold Ones and they sang the song of the stars and raised them up with fire to the skies, Ahera-Ba became two, Ahera, Mother of the True Sea and Ba, Father of the Sky, Shepherd of the Stars. The other main deities are Hyyan wa Kothar, parent of the Kotharim, Smith and Crafter, Mawet, God of the Dead, Shmun, God of healing and seeker of knowledge, lover of Hyyan and Unat, Goddess of fertility, sexuality and war. There is also Lotnyas, serpent and destroyer, but only bad mortals worship that deity.

Apart from little prayers through the day before particular activities, worship of the Cold Ones is usually of the whole as a family group, with special offerings to a particular Cold One of you need help in their realm. Homes will have a small shrine dedicated to them, whereas a temple will have multiple shrines, so that groups can circle the temple, praying at each shrine in turn. Clergy of the Temple are expected to learn useful crafts and work in the community when not on Temple duty.

The group decide to split, there are three temples that they know of in the city, the main temple is farthest away, there is a temple used by the less well off and travellers and there is one used by the wealthy in the centre of the rich quarter’s houses, and so they leave the poorest area, redolent of crime, ordure and houses too close together, and set off into the better parts of the city

On the way there, moving through the Street of Art, where may be found the mages, scribes, better class of charlatan, specialist artisans and a few open areas with things for sale. Near to one of the open areas is a bakery, Dhran noticed that a pregnant woman lift a couple of loaves and secret them, winking at him as she went past. Jalabu spotted that the baker was secretly watching her do it, but did not intervene.

Jalabu spoke to the man, and found out that she was the wife of a friend, currently languishing sick and at home, unable to work, and while she was too proud to ask for help, he was happy to turn a blind eye to the theft. Dhran dropped a coin and said to the woman that she must have dropped it. She was proud, but Dhran’s silver tongue persuaded her to take the act of charity.

Meanwhile Utana got into a staring contest with a dog for no clearly discernible reason until, discomforted, the dog wandered off.

Splitting up, the groups go to their respective temples. It is a special day, a more general service commemorating the division of Ahera-Ba into the two deities Ahera and Ba, in the larger and more cosmopolitan temple, although most will celebrate in an evening service, as most of the city works in the fields outside during the day.

There were priests washing the feet of those entering the Temple on this special day and groups gossiping about work at the temple for crafters of various sorts. Dhran subtlely probed for signs of unrest amongst the peasantry, but, of course, most of the proletariat are out in the fields, the folk here are the local artisans and travellers able to attend during the early afternoon. Farmers are having lunch in the fields, miners up in the mountains.

From Dhran’s probing and ear wigging, he learned that the people at the Temple seemed happy enough, and the service, different from normal though Jose would not know that, proceeded well, singing praises in call and response. A few private worshippers also made their small acts of worship at the niches for the various gods, but in general offerings of food were made at the temporary main altar. At the end of the service, worshippers took up brooms and swept out after them, until the temple was cleaned of any dust missed by the ritual washing.

At the other temple, things were similar, though the conversation was more business oriented. Utana made a contact with a mine owner, who misrepresented Utana’s vague interest as a definite order of 1000 bars, ingots if you prefer, to Jalabu who Utana, forgetting that he was in the guise of a simple travelling caravan guard, represented as his business manager. Jalabiu made interested but non-committal noises, but the duo did manage to get the name of a potentially useful contact in the Palace, the person in charge of any trade going through the Haraxan Gate, Saram Amin.

Meeting up for lunch, the foursome decided to have a look at the main temple, to see what was what . They found that there was some old and dilapadated housing nearby, being cleared and rebuilt, apparently by the Temple who were the landlords, and they learned that the Temple in Idym, a custom is some of the longer civilised parts of the world, but not universally the case in these more modern times. In other places the Temple is supported by a tithe on the worshippers.

They have not, as yet found out what is happening in the West apart from peasant unrest and the accusation that the state of Merem is somehow involved according to gossip. As far as they can tell, the people seem indifferent to what banner flies overhead, as long as they can live in peace and get on with things. They know that although Bardij imposes taxes, they are lighter than in other places, making it attractive, especially in a place where three nations meet.

The Temple is gearing up not only to build new houses, but also goods for those and other houses which they will sell. Jose asked about healers and was told that, despite the very fortunate being able to receive healing through Divine intervention, they do have healers. If Jose had been an adherent of the Cold Ones, then he would have known more of Shmun, and the gardens of herbs that the Temples maintain, and the healers and teachers of the art at many Temples. I assume that Dhran told him.

Payam, Donya and Irash have some new information, a possibly amenable official, Shirin, a scribe working for Anaraxha in the court, if approached she seems likely to listen to the group and may be able to arrange a meeting.

Irash is relatively respectable, but can offer the information that some spears and bows for hire have travelled west, where mercenary companies are being formed.

The group now have two names for potential contacts in the Servant of the Land’s palace, a scribe working to the Servant of the Land, Shirin and the Steward of the Haraxan Gate, responsible for the market outside it and taxes for goods passing through, Saram Amin

And there we left it

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Writeup 28th January 2022 – The Greatest Heist episode 2

The morning sees the camp of the caravan wake up and start to pack from their campsite outside the village. The night guards, including the group, have not been troubled, and a day’s travel should see them come to Bardij.

Most of the caravan of their employer is pack animal based, but there are a couple of carts, pulled by strong mules that Dhran is tending to the delight of their drivers. He will be tending mules the rest of this session. Out of the corner of his eyes Utana notices a leg squirrelling under a pile of blankets and bolts of fabric from the north.

Reaching in he drags out an urchin, in fact the same one that had tried to thieve from them the previous night and from home they had obtained the name of the fence Payam. Utana asked him his business and was told that, having given them the name of Payam, he had intended to get to the city and warn the fence that he had done so, he intended to go to the town and warn Payam.

The group considered that and made a bargain with the child, they would let the child come as he had planned, but he was to introduce them to Payam and they would pay the urchin a silver dan for the favour. This was agreed and the child went back to his hiding spot.

The day was uneventful, and the group arrived at the market place outside the city walls in time to get a good spot in the campsite, other caravans arrive and there is the start of celebrations. The urchin is passed some food by Utana and slips off to make his way into the city to contact Payam.

There is singing, which drowns out Farshad, to the delight of all, but then wrestling. The form this takes is a ring in the dirt, two lightly oiled contestants trying to push or overbalance their opponent out of the ring, best of three. Utana is up first, he is not a skilled brawler, but he is strong, and , in the end, despite some scrappy moments, manages his well matched opponent handily, though the second fall was by grappling his opponent and falling out of the ring, but ensuring that his opponent went first.

Next up is the seeming mismatch of Farshad versus the giant Sakah caravan guard Bunjid. Farshad is small and fast and has some training, but Bunjid, whilst untrained and huge, is faster but not as strong as he appears. Farshad is forced on the defensive, slipping past Bunjid’s attacks, but winding himself in the process, not as winded as he was from a heft slap from Bunjid would have made him had it been meant in earnest. Eventually Farshad’s skill told and though it came down to the third pass, he was able to knock his opponent off balance and out of the ring. There was a lot of grumbling as many, including Utana, found themselves out of pocket after losing what seemed a sure, if low paying bet,

The rest of the night ended up in drunken revelry, and Farshad’s voice could not be contained. However Bunjid gave him some information on Bardij, what the areas of the city were, and the names of three of the leaders of the unsavoury part of the town, Payam, they knew, Donya is another leader of the fences, and Irish, who looks after mercenaries.

He also tried to explain the peculiar nature of power in Idym, that there was the civil power, and it ruled, but there was the Temple of the Cold Ones, and it reigned, but that the Temple had the power to depose their Servant of the Land. In matters of trade however, it was the civil power that you dealt with day to day, and they had set up the markets from Haraxa on the East of the city, and you traded there, and the market from Ishtir on the North, and they traded there, and any goods passing through the town, at the north or east gate were subject to tax and there they made their money on trade from the south or between the neighbouring nations.

Farshad sang, and there we will draw a veil

Morning broke, and the Sakah brought over cooked flatbreads as the group tried to make themselves human. They market was being set up and by the time the horns blew to announce the opening of the town gates. A procession of priests led out a crowd from the town, two holding flaming incense braziers on rods, and a third singing praises to the gods. The rods were thrust into the ground at either end of the market and the priest finished their prayers and hymns. The priests withdrew and the crowd behind, led by the customs officials, came to the market.

The market open, Jose was able to find and purchase rare and expensive leaves, “Woundheal” that were explained to have miraculous efficacy in the repair of wounded flesh. This he has heard of but never encountered, and he bought all four leaves for a high price.

The caravan master came to them to let them know that they would be spending two days here before heading south, so the group had their own, unpaid, time. If they wanted to continue with the caravan then they knew where to find them. The group left their most bulky weapons and armour in the secure and guarded cart, save Utana, who hid his armour under his robes. By this time the urchin had returned ad was able to lead them to Pavam, circumventing most of the tight, winding alleys of the Closed Quarter to pick a broader road in and leading them to what was, ostensibly, a potter’s workshop, though with two bruisers outside.

Once escorted them in and they spoke to Pavam about possible opportunities for a change in trade to Haraxa, perhaps opening up, perhaps removing other barriers, bound to have an effect, and who might be interested and able to work with what they presented as traders, to effect that. Pavam saying he would talk to Donya and Irash, but also try to find the names of officials in the Servant of the Land’s palace that might be amenable to an informal approach, with Pavam’s suggestion that the next day, with an open audience at the place, might be a good time to slip aside and find them for a talk.

And there we left it

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Writeup 13th January 2022 – The Greatest Heist episode 1

Another day, another system

Until now, the campaign used DragonQuest 2nd edition. From this point we are using my “Essence” system, after all, the world was created as a world for my new RPG as I wrote it.

A free sample of the Essence system, Essence Core,  is available here.

The long work was, if not over, at least far along that Harvan was ready to return home. His investigations, aided by the Temple of Ghalmerha, had uncovered a treasure trove of forgotten magic, and more would be sent by the Temple over the months ahead, in exchange for other lore and aid being sent in return. The group finalised their time in Iralun, Dhran had long gauntlets made and Farshad painted and styled his horse. The streaks and extensions in the mane were a masterpiece.

Impressed by the service rendered by the group, Harvan, on behalf of Magistrate Niralha of the Haraxan Kingdom enlisted in her service, as Agents.

One result of Harvan’s reasearch was about to amaze the group. As they paraded through to mass cheers from a grateful populace, they ended up at the wizards tower where they were blessed by the clergy of Mammerha and Ghalmerha. Farshad was approached by the former owner of his horse who hugged him and told him to look after the beast.

They were stunned to find the wizard Zhoraqam still alive, constructing a mystic device of metal, incense, markings and bound together with wire and spells. Powered by the destruction of a magical artefact found deep in the Temple of Ghalmerha, he had constructed a gate back to the Haraxan Kingdom. Utana, Dhran, Farshad and Jose led the way, until soon all the group, Harvan and his guards were in the Court of the Fountains in Eshtaban, the Palace of Niralha, atop a mosaic that seemed to have the same layout as the gate. There is no chance of the gate being opened again without another artefact of great power, no one knows how to tap that much power.

After settling into accommodation, the group hit town. Utana visited an aunt, assured her he was alive and resisted an attempt to set him up with one of two sisters from the aunt’s husband side, for which they were also grateful. Farshad was met by the merchants for whom he had invested the groups money all those months ago, and it was mixed, but the return was threefold.

Jose stocked up on herbs and medical supplies and Dhran got hammered with mercenaries and learned a few tricks about smuggling and leads on profitable trade. He may have sung The Goat Song

Their rest was not long, for Harvan had a mission. There is a town, Bardij, an Idymite town bordering Ishtir and Haraxa. The civil administrator (Servant of the Land – Anaraxha) wanted to defect from the Theocratic rule of Idym. As that rule is not onerous, as these things go, it is not clear why. He is sending the group to find out why, and if possible, to help. This has to be quiet and subtle, otherwise it might draw in Ishtir or more forces from Idym, and as newly hired Agents from far away from Idym, it is hoped that the group will not attract any attention, but there are no arranged meeting with Anaraxha, the group will find their own way.

Farshad and Dhran quiz merchants and are sounded out as prospective investors, Jose and Utana talk to palace officials. They learn a little about the governance of Idym and the evidence that Bardij is governed well enough. The merchants do not complain unduly of grasping guards or a greedy Servant of the Land.

And so they take on hire as caravan guards, on a caravan that stops off in Bardij befiore heading to the coast. An uneventful journey till the camp the night before the last day till Bardij. Dhran saw a rider gallop east, and Farshad caught an urchin stealing from the packs. They let him go with a warning, but did buy the info that they sold stolen items to fences in Bardij, the leader of who seemed to be one “”Payam””.

And there we left it

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