Write up 6th Sept 2023 – The deed of Smersh – Part 1

Still issues with video-conferencing, temporary  Google Meet sessions rather than the one that had been working for us. Not helped that for everyone the weather was hot, and the week intense, not sure anyone was totally awake.

The scene opens with the group gathered in the magistrate’s palace in Eshtaband, with Smersh trying to cudgel his mind to see if he knew any of the reference points mentioned in his deed. He did not, and the names meant nothing to anyone else.

Jalabu raised a point of the validity of the deed, how can the rights conferred by it be transferred to Smersh, but his astute legal mind was satisfied as to that, though the idea of the authority to grant, after so many centuries, remained open.

At this point a stranger was ushered into the room. whose clothes, though clean and of quality, were bleached and stained by travel. He introduced himself

I am Hamid bin Khawla al-Malmuntaqim al-Maqqaniyy, I have business with one called Farshad.

Farshad, politely made himself known,and Hamid spoke further

I represent a certain trading family. Long ago you borrowed money from us to invest in an ill-fated venture. We sent one to retrieve it, Jalabu al Dilmuniyy, who has vanished from the face of the land or the swell of the sea. We accuse you, Farshad, of his murder, to conceal your attempt to escape your obligations. How do you answer?

Farshad made his point that any debt was alleged, and an allegation he disputed, a comment he was to make often during the conversation.

Jalabu at the back, questioned Hamid as to whether or not he had ever met Jalabu. Hamid replied that he had, when both were small children, as Hamid was Jalabu’s cousin.

Hamid seemed glad that, in fact, Farshad had not murdered Jalabu, but he then kearned that Farshad had done many noble acts and, as a consequence, Jalabu had forgiven Farshad and taken on his debt

“ALLEGED DEBT!” was heard

Ah, Cousin Jalabu. We have not met in such a long time, Then, I am afraid,  the responsibility is now yours. The debt has been accruing for some time, the date of settlement is long past, and now is enough to outfit two caravans with a range of spices, perfumes and rare woods enough to delight the rulers of old Haxamanis. Such debts transcends family loyalties and love

Jalanu, and some of the others, considered this, and loudly, in front of Hamid, suggested that removing Hamid would remove the problem. Jalabu cast aspersions on Hamid’a ability to handle themselves in a fight, and Hamid responded by throwing a knife, faster than Jalabu could spot, thudding into the chair by Jalabu’s head.

The rension ramped up, but the problem for Jalabu was that he could not deny the debt, merely try to escape payment, or live up to his obligations, or suffer the consequences. Hamid offered Jalabu a day to consider, and he left.

Jalabu did consider borrowing from Utana, and UItana was willing, but whilst wealthy, Utana’s wealth was derived from the family landholdings, and it was doubtful he would have so much cash on hand.

The conversation then turned to Smersh’s inheritance. The deed was taken to the great Temple of the Three in Eshtaband and a priest found a scribe to help. The scribe was able to shed some light on the deed. The nation of Vaykattara stretched from what is noe eastern Haraxa into lands currently occupied by the Zhuezhi. The names specified on the deed, the scribe believes, are in south-eastern Haraxa, but they could not be more precise than that.

He advised either checking with records in the capital of Anakhbitana, or the Temple of the Cold Ones in the city of Pariksharan, which was once a capital of  a dynasty of Vaykattara.

Looking at the map, the group decided  that the capital was the best choice to go to first, it was on the way to the region, and Jalabu saw another advantage, it was far away from Hamid.

However, upon Hamid’s return, another thought occurred to him, their family, great in trade in their native land as they were, still constrained by being in the middle of a long trade. If their family had a station closer to the spice and silk trades, that would be of value, and it is possible that Smersh’s inheritance could be a perfect location.

He never asked Smersh but, luckily Smersh kept schtumm. Hamid thought of the timre taken to travel to the rough location and back, and believed that two months would be sufficient. He then offered Jalabu three months to arrange this, or repay. Three months at the same spot.

Hamid left a box of baklava as a parting gift to his cousin. Once they examined it foir poisons and had the food-tasters test it

The group then left Eshtaband, some riding their own beasts, some with horses borrowed from the household stables. A few days brought them to Utana’s estates, as they rode up, rose petals were strewn in Utana’s path as the household greeted their young master.

The group were offered refreshments as Utana cleaned himself up, and had fresh garments, perfumes and makeupo put on, a decision he was to regret as Jalabu punned about it so heavily (this is why we call him the kohlman) that the gods grew angered and struck Utana with lightning as a form of collective punishment. Utana was taken away, revived and restored to his immaculate self.

Nonetheless, Smersh studied UItana closely. With the notion of being in the landed gentry in his head, no time like the present to learn how to act as if to the manner born.

That night, as often happens when they travel, there were entertainments. Fetnah sang a cheerful song that, though only Smersh understood the words, pleased people.

Farshad also sang, a bit reedily adter the dust of the day’s journey, but acceotably and it found an audience.

Juan José showed off “Nibbles, the amazing surviving hamster”, Jalabu got caught in the strings of his oud, but the laughter lightened the mood.

Smersh tried to  juggle knives, but fumbled and injured himself, so Juan José also got to show off his first aid skills, staunching Smersh’s bleeding.

The group also discussed how to best protest Jalabu. Jalabu managed to borrow a mailshirt from Utana’s armoury, a valuable gift, but Fetnah had another idea. She communed with the local spirits, but only founbd a hearth spirit, which could not travel the roads looking after Jalabu.

Fetnah asked it if it knew of a spirit that could help. The spirit thought and, hesitantly, named a spirit of the road, “Oblat”, which might be able to help. Fetnah thanked the hearth spirit.

As the group left Utana’s estates, with Fetnah called upon Oblat, who appeared to her as a dust devil held together by fire. She asked Oblat if it would look after Jalabu, and it seemed to agree. In any case Jalabu now has a guest in his body, with a light case of possession.

A few more days on the road and mighty Anakhbitana, capital of Harixa, was in sight, and there we left it….

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