This adventure is an adaptation of Losing Face by Kevin Kulp, for Swords of the Serpentine. You can get it as Pay What you want from DrivethruRPG here.
The session started with the group split in two. Fetnah and José Juan looking after an injured Smersh in a watchhouse. Utana, Jalabu and Farshad had found the boatman who had abandoned them on the Isle of Old Griefs, leaving them vulnerable to the ambush by criminals, a Khanedarya gang known as the Yellow Turbans.
Utana used threats to the health of the boatman to force him to take them to the base of the Yellow Turbans, a hostel on an island in the lake that forms the north of the city, past houseboats, a floating market and floating underworld, on the so called “Snakebird Island”, as the only way to get there is by air or water.
José Juan decided to find an alchemist or doctor who could provide a more immediate cure for Smersh than rest and time, Fetnah instead sought Divine help. He might not be the best of priests, but Smersh is a priest of the gods called The Cold Ones, and in this city, the Cold Ones are the majority religion, rare in this far East in lands ruled by the Araya speaking nobility of the great empires.
As the boatman poled the boat along the channel, he chanted in rhythm to his actions, just as did the other gondoliers. The trio did not pay any attention to the words of the chant, which was in the local Bakhdin language, the language of the people who once considered themselves this land’s rulers. It is related to Araya but as the trio did not pay attention, they missed the words of the chant, a plea for aid against the criminals who had kidnapped him.
They were surprised then when, in a narrow and out of the way channel, their way was blocked, and behind them came another boat, with armed gondoliers ready to rescu their comrade.
Utana seemed bellicose, but Farshad was more conciliatory. Accepting that any worker is worthy of the hire and that’s perhaps it could have been expressed better, and trying to discourage their boat being set on fire, Farshad offered a payment, plus some extra for the misunderstanding.
That proved to be a tidy sum, one even Utana would notice, which seemed fair as it was his purse the money came from, Utana handing it to Farshad so that his hands would not be sullied by handing money to someone Utana seemingly viewed as an extortionist, unaware, in his noble manner, of the irony of that situation.
Matters settled, they were allowed to continue.
Meanwhile, José Juan looked in the market. Starting near the perfumiers they had visited before, he hunted for signs of herbs and medical equipment. He did not decide to ask anyone, trusting to his own knowledge, and soon he found a herbalist to talk to, and exchange talk. After that, he circled out, looking for the medics, and picked one when he found them, Avagauri, a deft woman of middle years, mixing potions.
When the situation was explained, the apothecary first offered curse amulets to destroy those who had beaten up Smersh, but José Juan brought the topic back to healing. Avagauri selected ingredients, and ground and mixed and dissolved and dried out and eventually made a pill that they swore would speed the healing process tremendously, it was inexpensive for the sworn effects, and Jose Juan took it away.
Fetnah made her way, not to a local shrine of temple, but it the great Temple of the city, where she had been before. She saw a minor priest who the group had seen before , and dumped a heavy responsibility on. He saw her, and fled, outrunning Fetnah. Fetnah still needed top find someone she had dealt with before, and made her way to where the faceless victim, believed to be the priestess Farnkhsundeh, was being cared for. There a priest was tending to the victim, Susheelya, a librarian that Fetnah had met before and who knew the mission the group was on. Fetnah explained the situation, and the librarian pulled in thr harassed priest who had fled to take care of the victim whilst the Librarian went with Fetnah.
Eventually they came to Snakebird Island. The boatman deposited the group then settled back off shore a little way, so as not to get in the grips of the Yellow Turbans again.
The group approached a group of toughs, gathered outside the gate, who seemed mystified and indeed nonplussed by Utana’s imperious orders to be taken to their leader.
The yellow turbans pointed to within the confines of the hostel compound and there they found Lao Zhe (not that Utana, as confident as no man who has literally walked into a den of thieves has any right to be, actually asked him) and other yellow turbans surrounding him, listening to their orders for the night.
Utana demanded information on who had paid to have them ambushed and this conversation, like that with the gondoliers, threatened to explode in violence, with the trio severely outnumbered. Farshad seem unconvinced by the unarmoured Utana’s chances of taking so many of them at once, or that trio’s deaths would be avenged by a great army, and instead tried to find something that the criminals would accept as a good price for information and a peaceful resolution to the encounter.
In that conversation, Farshad, identifying himself as “Jalabu the Fop” (as opposed to the real Jalabu the Fox, and explaining Farshad’s fabulous hat) seemed to offer Lao Zhe access to corrupt officials and a number of etes turned away from illicit activities.
The offer was accepted, with around of drinks, which Utana refrained from with the most haughty suspicion he could muster. But matters concluded, the group was givem information. They were ambushed because anyone investigating the deal with the assassin was to be at least encouraged to leave the city or if required, disappeared.
This was at the behest of Zi Huijan, a chieftain of the Zhuezhi who seeks to weaken the Eastward defences of the nation by obtaining the death of Ushwamarra, the chief military engineer for the district, and a most competent archutect and general they are. Upon their death, the role would doubtless fall to their brother, a venal and dissolute incompetent, to the benefit of the Zhuezhi.
Lao also informs them that the assassination is to take place at a party of notables to be held after the festival concludes. As they part, Lao Zhe reminded the company of their deal, and Jalabu the Fox remained strangely silent on the misuse of his name.
José Juan and Fetnah, with Susheelya, arrived back at the same time. It was agreed to let Susheelya effect a cure first. Careless worshipper of the Cold Ones that he was, Smersh’s devotion to them was sufficient to join to the priest’s prayers. Smersh was healed, but left still marked with fading bruises and lines of wounds, no doubt a chastisement from his neglected and sarcastic deities.
This left José Juan and his mysterious phomboid pill of ble. Should Smersh take it now, or leave to a time of need but if he did so, and it proved poisonous, it would finish him off. What to do? After some deliberation, Smersh took it, and lept to his feet, wide eyed and energised, hyperactively rigidly upright.
At this point, the rest atrived and told their tale. All the time going to the island and finding cures had brought them to near the end of the festival. There was nothing to do now but hurry to the party and try to forestall the assassination.
And that is for the next time.
Will they stop the assassination?
Will they kill or capture the assassin?
Will they restore the face to the faceless?
We will find out…..