Morning began for Fetnah as it often did, with her finding a quiet spot to clear herself of the influences of the spirits she had been dealing with and ready herself for a new day. She had found a likely spot by a pool in the trees, near the rock tomb, She was aware of the spirits below, but they kept their influences to themselves.
However, her plans are unterupted by the sight and sounds of a large crowd come through the gates of the walls of the Palace of Nashwa, pack animals and bearers amongst them. Rousing the rest of the group, Smersh making sure a dagger is in his hand, if not held high, at least visible.
People got out of his way, forming a semi-circle with, at its centre, a better dressed individual, a Kurrim. He introduced himself as Jumab, who was recognised by the group as an official from the household of the Magistrate of Eshtaband. He had been sent here by Tingis, deputy to the major-domo of the Palace, to take on the role of steward to the Palace of Nashwa, at least until the conference begins. The people with him were cleaners and workers here to repair the Palace.
Behind them another group with pack beasts made themselves known. At the head of this caravan was a man wearing a camel-hair robe with sheepskin trim, open at the chest revealing gold amulets. He announced himself as Abmetep, his accent and name betraying him as Ta-Khameti, a dealer in furnishings and household goods to the gentlefolk, known as the “Geezer from Giza”.
“You knows the gentle-folks. They don’t want to use a bowl or a goblet that has even been looked at by another. So you are gonna need new bowls, new cups, new utensils, new rugs. I am the one to supply them. Urns from the Anaxoi, animal shape cups from the Sardic Empire, all sorts of wares from the Zhau and more besides. What sez you we make a deal?”
Farshad took on negotiations, and barely scraped a useful price in the haggling, Abmetep’s notion that the goods could be sold on the souvenir hunters apparently falling on deaf ears. However he did take Abmetep aside when the latter suggested a “consultancy fee” that the two could divide. A little extra profit for Abmetep, a little bit of cash for Farshad. A deal was struck, and the goods started to be unloaded into some of the empty buildings.
The entertainments were discussed, in particular, and Utana’s area of expertise, the great Unicorn hunt. Styles of hunt were the first descision. Previously the thought had been to capture one, and bring it to be placed in a park fotr the gentry to hunt, the realisation was that, for the honour that such a hunt represented, it had to be real, not staged. They sought and found two hunt guides, Osen and Feffa (*), to form a party and try to find a unicorn and, if successful, try to force its range closer to the Palace.
There was a bad joke here. The Scots term for a hunt guide is ghillie, from the Gaelic “gille”, boy and that ids the term some of us used as it is what we are familiar with.
So, ghillie ghillie Osen Feffa……..
The next concern is basic physical security. The bays in the shoreline that a boat could get close to and use were identified, the vantage points to observe them noted and the wall inspected for climbable spots, which cost Fetnah a winding, luckily Smersh caught her to break her fall.
The next places that were inspected were wells. Fit youngsters were lowered on ropes down each, still immaculately lined with clay but going deep before the clean water was reached. Not wanting to take chances, the group arranged to securable covers to be made to each well.
All were unbroken save one to the east, in which a side passage went off. Farshad was lowered for an initial scout, but the side passage sloped down to the water line to the North-East, and then continued. Farshad returned to report. The fear of the creature that tried to seize Farshad in the watery tunnel under the ruined tower returned, it must be investigated.
Farshad and Jalabu then prepared themselves, Jalabu stripping to his small clothes and carrying only his magic buckler that gave off light, went down the water passage, Farshand hanging back in support. The water soon gave way to a large chamber, with, fortunate for Jalabu, a very small breathable pocket of air at the top.
Diving down, Jalabu found stone tables of an unusual type, there being two tiers, there being a gap between the two. The chamber went on, but he could not determin the end or an exit, and so he returned, his air in short supply, the rope tying him growing heavy and waterlogged.
Back up top, the group considered how to properly explore the chamber, goat skins filled with air were proposed and then Fetnah hit on the idea of seeing if a spirit inhabited the chamber, one that might be able to help.
The issue was how to make contact, it would require water from the chamber. How to get some? It was thought that Jalabu’s small clothes, sodden with the water of the chamber, might provide enough to use. A bowl was found and a measure of water carefully extracted by cautious wringing.
Fetnah set to work. This would be difficult, but, cleansed as she was, surely she could summon a water spirit from the chamber, if one was there?
She could! However, her rapport with it was incomplete, the spirit was angry, and violent, it inhabited the water remaining in Jalabu’s loincloth, twisting and contracting, raising welts of bruised flesh and even nblood as Jalabu howled in agony, and then in Terror as Smersh and Farshad lunged at him, knives drawn.
They were able to slice off the garment, leaving a bleeding Jalabu writhing in the dust, clutching himself and swearing off nether garments for life as the underclothes leapt at Fetnah like a soggy and malodorous face-hugger, only to be caught on the point of Smersh’s knife, and pinned to the ground, where the water drained out into the dust.
Jalabu’s composure returned enough for him to cover his shame with the shout “it was very cold in that water” as Fetnah laid on healing hands and José applied soothing unguents, returning his body somewhat
And there we left it
The organisation is not the main focus of the adventure. The group are management, and they are involved, but the conference will be arriving soon, and protocol and intrigue will be the daily concern