It is a week since the journey down the well ended with Jalabu both embarrassed and injured by his possessed underwear, and the palace is being tidied and prepared for the incoming conference.
However rest is not forthcoming, Jalabu is somewhat traumatised by his experience and the rest of the group have their sleep disturbed by his screams. Smersh has his own problems, he has visitations of a religious nature. His gods are reaching out to him, but he cannot hear their words.
It is early morning, Fetnah is doing her morning rituals as Smersh, accompanied by Arpaesis, goes to the Temple. It is in a better state than it was when the group first arrived, when Smersh did a little cleaning, but Smersh had not attended the Temple since, or really shown much devotion.
There they found strange wet footprints, which, under investigation, proved to be a large group that had come up the cliffs from the sea, gathered in the Temple, then split into three groups, two returning to the sea, and a small group heading to the the older central palace building. There they followed the footprints, part of the group clambering over the compound wall as did the intruders, others, like Utana, being more dignified and using the gates.
Each well in the Palace complex had, on Smersh’s advice, been covered with a cover to stop anything coming up the well.
Jalabu could hardly wait to drop his clothes, tie a rope around himself and head down the well, accompanied by Fetnah and Farshad, with spells of seeing cast by Arpaesis, well, mostly cast, for some reason something went awry with Jalabu. Arpaesis also provided inflated goatskins to be used to provide flotation or emergency air as required.
Down the well, again a sloping passage going under water, and again a chamber with strange tables. Fetnah’s dive did not go well, but Jalabu managed it, finding a set of plaques. Meanwhile Farshad rested in an air pocket, lying on a collection of the inflated goatskins, gods alone know where the cocktail came from, or the little umbrellas, or indeed the concept of either.
Jalabu, emboldened by his success so far, decides to explore on, a passage leaving this chamber towards the one he had been in previously, he swam on but only just reached the air pocket in that chamber, breath heaving and gasping, at the limit of his ability. There he looked around, it was unchanged, but the rope was at its limit and going on would be a risk. It never came to that, something dark and mysterious swam towards him, Jalabu experienced the strange effects of Arpaesis’s botched spell, instead of the reality of what was in the water, he saw a fearsome sight, a jagged toothed, razor horned sheep, angling towards
Him, panicked, Jalabu tugged the rope, and he was hauled out, gathering Fetnah and Farshad with him.
Settling down afterwards, the aftereffects of a submarine Nantucket sleigh ride making underwater adventures a sore trial for Jalabu twice in a week, Farshad and Arpaesis examined the tablets.
Writing of the North and East
Shamek The most common current writing system. it is alphabet based.
Ebbarisi A cuneiform system used before Shamek, still used as a scholarly form.
Habbarisrri A more pictographic ancestor of Ebbarisi.
Writing of the South and West
Shehkhami The most developed glyph based system of Ta-Khamet, Menasveh, Bedewah and Damat
Shehhemnet The ancestor of Shehkami, the glyphs are closer to pictures
Writing of the Haozi
Haozi The writing system of the Zhau, where each character representing an idea.
Adshir musical notation also used in ciphers
The script on the metal plaques was Shamek, but the way of expressing ideas seemed to indicate someone more used to Ebbarisi than the modern alphabet. It read
“We are the Keteaorum, we dwell here for centuries, why do you visit us?”
Between the group, they pooled what they knew of the Keteaorum, an aquatic folk, with strong magic that allows them to work metal underwater and to exist on land. In times past, they were brought by priests from some other realm, and bound as temple guardians. They spread under the waters, in both fresh waters and salt, and from time to time they raid the land and take captives.
The group checked out the Temple again, there they found more of these message plaques, at the pantheon statue, at the crypt and the room of offerings.
The day was further complicated by new arrivals. Soldiers to garrison the palace, put under José’s command, hunters reporting back that a unicorn had been found, and was being herded to a more convenient location for an organised hunt, and news came of entertainers descending in droves tomorrow to be selected.
Smersh then went around the complex looking for vulnerabilities. Particular attention was paid to the main palace buildings, as both would be used for meetings, especially those when some of the parties probably would be unable to stand to be in the same building as each other
In the cellar of the older building Smersh found a door disguised behind a false wall, leading down to a meeting room. This was a strange room, a table like those underwater, chairs for both mortals and the strange physiology of the Keteaorum. Leading away from the room on the other side was another passage leading underwater.
A reply was written, and placed where the Keteaorum might find it. They would meet with them in the secret room under the palace.
The next morning, Smersh held a service, aided by Farshad as cantor. The other workers and guards who attended the service were satisfied, but Smersh could not feel his connection with his gods as clearly as he once did, but he did feel his bond grow closer.
The peace of prayer was soon lost, as entertainers descended on the palace. Birds of Prey were brought to each of the group as they settled down to audition the acts. Each act was judged and, if found wanting, the judges hit the buzzard to signal rejection.
The evening grows near, the meeting draws near, and there we left it