Write up 8th February 2024 – A lost soul in Khanedarya part 5

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.

Note, the term priest is used for celebrants of any gender. The English word “priestess” is of relatively new creation, and priest would have been used before then, so I use that. Priests mostly follow other trades, and only serve part of their time in temples and shrines. 

Ou heroes, realising that they have taken so long, consider what to do next. They know that there is a party the false priest Farnskundeh is going to be the honoured guest at, as she played the part of the female aspect of the goddess Mawet, the patron god of the city, at the culmination of the recent festival.

But who do they know that knows what Farnskundeh looks like? The Librarian had gone, who do they know in the city who could tell them? Who? Utana and Jalabu, those wise nobles were stumped. A chorus of a cough from Fetnah, José Juan and Smersh had those stern visages out of their deep thoughts as the chorus continued “Someone at the party is bound to know who she is!”.

With that as a thought, and as the light starts to dim, the group is carried over to the great ha;; where the party is being held. The group made their way in. Immediately Utana, Jalabu and Jo?e Juan took stock of the venue as a matter of attack or defence, Fetnah tried to take stock of the people and Smersh flitted about like a hummingbird, under the effects of the medicine José Juan had procured for him.

The groups did not mingle and ask anyone to point out the priest Farnskundeh, believed to be the person whose face was stolen by the assassin.

This lack of social drifting led the major doom of the hall to be suspicious. He challenged Utana and Jalabu, but was convinced of their bona fides, Jalabu also introducing his companion, his fool Farshad. Jalabu’s companion in his body, the spirit Oblat, attempted to exert control, to stop Jalabu being honest and revealing himself, but Jalabu resisted and was his own person.

The party hall

Things are coming to a head

Fetnah was a bit more successful at blending in, but was all too aware of the drain on her spiritual resources meant that she was unlikely to be able to exercise her powers.

The hyperactive Smersh became so noticeable that two soldierly guests lifted him bodily, but gently, away from the party and to a corner where soothing tea was poured down his throat until he was seemingly calm.

Eventually, at least, the target Ushwamarra, targeted for the assassination by a Zhuezhi general in order to weaken the defences of the eastern Haraxan border, was identified. Fetnah spoke to him, but found his conversation dry and uninteresting (at this point the GM pretends that was the characterisation he was giving the character). The others in the group took positions ready to intercept any threat.

Jalabu did find time to make some contacts with local merchants, flashing the promise of access to the wealth of Dilmun, and possibly mindful of the threat of death (as delivered by Jalabu’s cousin Hamid bin Khawla al-Malmuntaqim al-Maqqaniyy) for the debts he assumed from Farshad’s debts (alleged debts – Farshad) to his family.

Farshad found himself cut off from these contacts as Jalabu interjected, again, that Farshad was his personal jester, so amusing, even pretended to make business deals,

In the end, the merchants exchanged contacts and Jalabu can follow these leads up before leaving the city.

Not long after, the major-domo banged his staff against the ground, announcing the priest Farnskundeh, the prime singer of tonight’s show. Other singers and dancers followed her, but they filtered around and mingled, letting the attention coalesce around the star.

Whilst the warriors and Smersh were concentrating on being ready for a physical intervention, though Smersh’s looming over Farnskundeh in an unsettling manner wasn’t subtle, and the priest moved away, a lot. Fetnah tried a different tack. Knowing that the priest was false, a renegade Pale Folk, thrown out of their lands because of the face stealing power, Fetnah introduced herself, showed her the fetish she carried, one made 1500 years ago with assistance from the Pale Folk. The false Farnskundeh could not keep recognition from her eyes.

Fetnah softly challenged the assassin. “I know what you are, and why you are here. You must stop.”

The false priest balked, tried to talk her way out of it, saw it was going nowhere and moved away, Smersh, seeing this, chased after her, crying “Assassin!“.

The priest seized her chance, pointed at Smersh and cried “There he is, the Assassin is so bold he declares himself!“, trying to take advantage of the confusion. The party guests, many of them soldiers and merchants used to handling themselves RS in dangerous situations. This of course, included General Ushwamarra, the target, not getting closer to the assassin.

Smersh and Jalabu tried to physically restrain Farnskundeh, but she slipped their grasp, though her own spells used in response failed to take hold,.

Eventually both the false Farnskundeh, and the group were separated and the accusations heard. Without proof, the accusation sounded a  bit hollow but the group were able to convince the assembled guests and guards that there was a faceless body in the Temple (I had decided that a couple of guests would have heard that so would be primed to accept if it was mentioned) . Unable to take a boat to the Great Temple, a strange and resplendent crocodile made their way to see the victim, who otherwise would soon perish.

At the end, in the more crowded Great Temple, the false priest again tried to slip away, but she was easily caught, and forced to face the victim. The group laid out what happen, and the plan by a Zhuezhi leader named Zi Huijan to have Ushwamarra killed by someone wearing the face of Farnskundeh.

Dejected, the false priest revealed themselves, sloughing off their appearance and returning Farnskundeh’s face to her. The real priest started gasping, getting air properly into their lungs, able to taste and smell for the first time in a couple of days.

Revealed was one of the Pale Folk, a light green mortal, with features unlike any of the other mortal kind, whose speech was unintelligible to those there. She was taken away by guards, to a secure place Ushwamarra and the others thanked the group. They could not make a great fuss about this situation, because it might cause panic, but they would help the characters resupply and help arrange transport when it came time to leave.

There was one last warning from the group, about how criminal elements among the Zhuezhi settlers in the city had aided this plot. (Not sure if they were trying to encourage a pogrom or not!). Those would be investigated, they were promised.

The next planned encounter will be when the group arrive at the place of Smersh’s inheritance, and the map as it exists now was shown to the players but, before then, there will be deals to be made, resupply and Smersh crashing after alchemical amphetemines.

That is for next time, for this, there we left it.

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