Writeup 22nd April 2022 – The Greatest Heist episode 5

What of Farshad and Utana, what happened in their attempt to get a message to summon troops from the Haraxan Kingdom

Not stopping for the rest of the feast, Utana and Farshad try to slip quietly away. It is not subtle, but, louWhat of Farshad and Utana, what happened in their attempt to get a message to summon troops from the Haraxan Kingdomdly announcing that they are seeking the facilities, they make their stealthy exit.

They are let out the gates and take their riding beasts and make for a pathway up into the hills, a shortcut Utana identified. they climb up and take a pathway leading to a flat area, home to some scrubby bushes and some oblivious goats..

However, the exit is blocked. Three men, amed but not armoured, sit by their hobbled horses. They are on watch, weapons handy, but they haven’t seen the pair yet.

The duo ponders, an attempt to steal past and race off would still mean a pursuit, better not to be seen. Utana quietly motions back away, there is a more difficult, more treacherous route that they could try, hardly more than a goat track, and so they climb, cloaks around them in the cold air, unti they are far enough away to rest. During his watch Utana, thinks through his survey and looks ahead to the route for the morning, and the information he needs to pass on to the troops that will come this way.

False dawn sees them travel on, but it is not long before they notice patrols, riding near where tracks meet, more of the same riders. Farshad and Utana observe, watching the patterns, picking their moment before they ride through the patrols and on for the border fort

They luck, which has held till now, ends, and they are pursued, the riders, on more rested horses, catching up, javelins fly past the heads of our heroes until Farshad makes the ultimate sacrifice.

He jettisons the false hump of his “”camel””, it bounces and careens wildly, causing the pursuers to have to take action as their spooked horses lose the plot. It buys the two enough time to get under the shelter of the fort. The haughty Haraxan noble accosts a soldier, the easy manner of command swiftly establishing who is in charge.

A courier is to be sent to the nearby garrison town of Churantash, where troops are awaiting the call. Utana hands over his message tablet, and quickly adds more notes on a fresh tablet concerning routes to the Bardij, and what sort of welcome to expect there.

The pair water, feed and rest their horses, remounts are provided, and an escort of two, as they prepare for the journey back to their prize

And, upon their return?

Morning breaks over the city of Bardij. The market camps at the Ishtir Gate and Haraxa Gate are striking, some merchants will return, others will continue on, and the gate guards and tax collectors are ready.

Although Farshad and Utana are gone, the remaining group must find accomodation in the city, and await the results of their machinations. They choose the Caravanserai where Farshad once entertained the crowds, and got stabling for their beasts and awaited news of what was befalling the city.

Rumours came in as people arrived for food and drink in the open air area where the locals were accustomed to eat rather than at home. The main temple was struck with many of the clergy falling ill, expelling much through vomiting worse, their limbs stiffening and weighing heavy, the temples afflicted by a noxious smell that their new incense seemed to make worse, rather than better.

On top of that, there was disruption at the building and manufacturing sites, as guards and scribes from the Servant of the Land were examining records against materials allegedly bought against those used and in store.

As the group listened to the chat, and considered how they had achieved all that, Dhran slipped away, and made his way to the work sites, where bricks, tools, utensils and pots were not being made, as the craftsfolk hang about, wondering what was going on.

Dhran made himself known to the crafters, and, refusign their gift of flatbreads donated to them by the Temple, spoke to them of the rights of mortals, to live free, beholden to none, whose labour profited them, not being mere piece workers at the behest of the Temple, not only making homes to live when the Temple said, where the Temple said, but for the wishes of the people.

Puzzled at first, Dhran’s words took root, and puzzled as they were, they thought that Dhran knew what he was talking about, and he, sort of got proclaimed leader and spokesperson. Partly through his suggestions, partly on people’s own initiative, the door to the nearby wall fort was barricaded up, supplies were “”liberated”” from the temple and an area around the building sites marked off with trenches from which the spoil was used to make a low wall, bundles of reeds stacked to be used at need as shields in case of arrows.

As they settled down for the night, Dhran stole back to the Caravanserai, and awaited morning.

The next morning saw the rumours grow, what had befallen the temple, what was this about the workers in revolt? No one seemed to know, and everyone had five opinions on it.

It also saw the return of Utana and Farshad (they have may have magically gained a day, or teleported from the fort to Bardij, such is life)

An invitation came to the group from Anaraxha to attend him at the palace. There was some fear and false bravado “”Let him come to us””, as they feared that they might to be held account for the chaos in the city.

Jalabu swithered, should he go with Dhran who was planning to return to the workers, and foment discord, or side with the nobles and attend Anaraxha. He eventually decided that, as an Agent of the Haraxan Kingdom and a lesser noble of Dilamun in Ishtir, his place was at the palace, completing his mission.

Dhran found himself with the workers still confused, but enthused. However by this time Temple guards had arrayed themselves in front of their barricades, and archers had started to gather on the wall behind them. Negotiations went poorly, the troops incapable, because of their indoctrination, of comprehending the advanced political principles that Djhran was espousing, and so they concluded, in an unsatisfactory way. The troops gathered themselves and advanced, but Dhran stopped them by firing an arrow at the feet of their leader. The archers made themselves known, and Dhran ordered others to take cover as he went to the next phase of his plan, he had secreted oilskins at points around the temple, lighting a prepared arrow, he fired at one, setting it alight and dripping flaming oil onto other combustables. The temple was ablaze. The trooops abandoned the attack and hurried to the temple to fight the fire.

In the palace, Anaraxha reported the findings so far of investigating the accounts, and the strange malady afflicting the priests of the main temple. Discussion goes on until Anaraxha is alerted to the fire at the temple. He decides to tackle the worker’s revolt, after all, the Temple will need rebuilding itself.

Anaraxha recognises Dhran, and thus the issue afflciting the work is of the Haraxans making. He quietly indicated to Dhran that he knows him, though Dhran denied it, stating he was Bhran, a man who did, admittedly, look a lot like Dhran. However, in disguising himself, the illiterate Dhran had smeared soot on himself accidentally writing, in perfect scholar’s script “”I am Dhran””.

He listened to Dhran’s list of issues, and noted his concerns that, as there was no work that could be done, the workers were not getting paid, so Anaraxha arranged for food, including dates, wine and flatbreads not coolked by Jalabu, to be brought. To the workers and Dhran, Anaraxha proposes this, a committe of public works, upon which the workers will be represented. This will be responsible for building houses, allocating contracts for tools and utensils for the poor, and other general works of public benefit.

Dhran and the workers considered this, and asked what assurances would the Servant of the Land give that he would fulfil his promise. Anaraxha considered this and said that he would go to each temple, and the main market and declare his offer for all to see, and that the offer would be written in stone, and placed at each city gate, so that all might know if it.

Dhran the Paranoid hummed and hawed, he was unsure, for how could he tell that the words on the stone would be the same as those said in public. Sighing inwardly, Anaraxha asked Arpaesis, as a stranger to these lands and unaffected by local politics, if he would write the words down, mark them on the stone and confirm that they are as promised. Arpaesis made certain that the Temple of the Cold Ones would not be slighted, and would continue in the city and only then agreed to assist.

He also offered Dhran a post in the Palace, a stipend, new clothes, a secretary, his post to ensure that the Committee of Public Works be all that was promised. Dhran has not given his answer, but it seems doubtful.

And so, with only junior clergy of the Temple fit enough to be involved, the compact was made, and peace settled on Bardij.

The next day, not long after the City Gates were opened, the people of Bardij found Haraxan troops in charge of the gates, the Temple barracks, and many of the thoroughfares. Utana and Farshad’s work had borne fruit!

The officer in charge found and saluted the Agents, and Anaraxha, presented him with a temporary tablet confirming him as governor of the city, a more permanent investiture and title, together with the seal cylinder and fillet of rank would be presented soon.

And so, the group of Agents, and a mystified Ta-Khameti mystic, had stolen a city for the Haraxan Empire, with very little blood shed, though a few clergy whose prognosis is uncertain.

Anaraxha was grateful, and his wife and he expressed thanks to them, and told them a curious fact, that Ishtiri agents had been in the city trying to do the same thing as them, lead by Harshan, who had his own plot to poison the Temple hierarchy, though in a more fatal manner.

As tokens of his gratitude, they presented the group with gifts

Jalabu – From Harshan’s abandoned stock, chemicals, suspected poisons, mixing equipment and a small wooden paged book of poisons and antidotes

Jose – From Harshan’s abandoned stock, medicinal supplies, ingredients and a small wooden paged book on diagnoses and treatment

Dhran – A silver engraved sword, once belonged to Anaraxha’s brother

Utana – A trained warhorse, Bahbi, and gear. The name ‘Bahbi’ is actually of Ta-Khamet origin, and means a kind of night monster

Arpaesis – a set of decent quality maps of Idym, Haraxa, Eastern Ishtir and the lands between, and 100 silver dan.

Farshad – a beautifully worked saddle that looks as if it was made for his horse, fine embroidery, beadwork and silver and gold thread

Some of these may be more than they appear

The next game will be some weeks game-time later. As guests you will stay in the city until the stone plaques are made to Arpaesis and Dhran’s satisfaction, the officer of the new Haraxan garrison will no doubt seek the advice of these experienced diplomats and more may happen

But we will pick up, back in the palace quarters, meeting with Harvan

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