Thursday, December 23, 2010

Into the underworld

Well, The party was given instructions to find a clan house for a Pé Chói liquor trader in the foreign quarter. Given a primer on Vintner clans from the eastern empire, they were expected to make passable conversation with the clan elder and then ask to see the Brandy store rooms. A code phrase was given, they they were to give to the keeper of casks and this would get them access to the underworld. All went according to plan. They were left alone, to try the brew they had requested, and when they picked up the bottle, the cellar wall slid silently open. Down steep spiral stairs, and they found themselves with a very small bottle of a vintage called Orange Silken Treacle, in a sub-cellar beneath the foreign quarter. They found no obvious way out, but Suni looked for a place to set the bottle again. Once located and used as expected, (and balanced to offset a small portion of the bottle they had tasted (it wasn't actually very good, in their opinion – overly sweet, heady, syrupy)), another door opened into the sewers.

The sewers under Butrús are actually fairly well populated by her “sub” citizenry. They were fortunate enough to not open the door onto a party of people, or others, having failed to find the peephole that would tell them the coast is clear. The sewers are two levels down into the Tsu'urum, and serve as the main streets for the upper two levels, which are used and they are home to Nakomé, poor lineages of low foreigners, and the idle, lost, or dispossessed youth of the city. At least the areas they were in for the moment were considered part of the city, if only the foreign quarter, and patrolled. They stood out, as the interlopers that they were. But they went unmolested towards the main lines. When they reached the first gates, under the great walls of the city, they were told to contact a specific guard, when he was alone, present him with a token from the temple Hriháyal, and he would let them out. But when they arrived they found 6 guards at the gate, at the far end of a large chamber where several sewer lines met, and which served as a bit of a sewer life market place. As they waited to see what would happen next, they were approached by a young entrepreneur who, suspecting they were after the wealthy lower levels, offered to help them procure proper papers for access.

The sewers mark the lowest level of the Tsu'urum that were accessible to the masses of Brutus without specific authorization from the city government. A mere couple hundred years ago, Butrús had suffered an unpleasant level of uninvited attention from below. Whole families had disappeared from invasions that came from their own sub-cellars. Rumors of Shunned ones and Ssú raced through the streets and troops were sent down to secure the Tsu'urum. They chose the level of the sewers, which had been saved through the past two Ditlána, as the line of demarcation. Access below would be strictly controlled, under penalty of impalement, or worse, I suppose if some force less friendly than the city or tomb guard caught you. Above the Sewers were two Ditlána of underworld, in more active use by the Temples and clans who valued their traditional sites for rituals and observances.

As they spoke with this man, they noticed that four of the guards at the gate had taken notice of the group. The dealer, eager to avoid “Imperial entanglements”, offered a to take them to a safer site. They agreed to hire him as a guide, if he could lose the guards. Back up the sewers they all went, their new guide stopping, occasionally, to negotiate, (and allow the guards to catch up, to maintain a negotiation advantage..). It became clear to Mriga that he was also trying to make sure the party was lost, so he made mental notes of the route. Eventually they came to terms of two K per day, assuming they all survived, and considerably less if they all died.. and their new guide led them to a clan house that hid them while the guards passed. They then doubled back to the “plaza” and the guide negotiated passage through the gates, saving the party the necessity of using their token, which might now allow them to exit later by this gate. Good move..

The party passed under the City walls and out side the current city to what was, several Ditlána ago, the sewers under the old foreign quarter. Here they found evidence of whole clans, and Nakomé, whose social status was in question because of the current hostilities with Yán Kór, and a few social groups who are less social to the humans above. Specifically, they were aware of Pygmy Folk, Ahoggyá, and a clan group of Swamp Folk. They initially avoided contact with these groups. The directions they had been given were based upon re entry to the city at the SE sewer gates. But the SE gate was now guarded by a dozen guards, far more then they had been told to expect. The party had come down with only two bearer slaves, so the odds, should they try to force their way past, would be 4 to one against. They began to seek an alternative.

Though Suni had reason to believe the Pygmy folk would know of alternative entry points, Sánjesh and Mriga felt they would not be trust worthy, and might be hostile. They elected to send their new guide to speak to the Swamp Folk first, as they seemed most likely to be warm to humans. They offered simply a gift of one bottle of Orange Silken Treacle, and the chance to socialize and gossip with some outsiders. Surprisingly, this worked. They were invited in, and spent some time gossiping with the Swamp folk, They learned that the guards in this portion of the Sewers and at the gates were more numerous and more active as a result of rumors of Mu'ugalavyian activities in the Chákas. The Party told them a small amount about the Mrúr activities, and the subject of the Goddess of the Turín river came up, as Sánjesh thought perhaps, being water dwellers, they might have insights or know legends. The party learned that the last known manifestations of the Goddess were a up in the area of the Lushman Canal project, and the Swamp folk had heard of these drowned undead, and several of the strange “bounties” that they had encountered emanating from the caves (mushrooms, Étla, etc) had been noted at that time. This was 2000 years ago, and the dates coincided with the alleged authorship of the book they were seeking. As it turned out, no one much liked the Orange Silken Treacle..

It was agree that the swamp folk would show the group a way into the Sewers under the city.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Chnéhl, the final episode

Our Heroes set out in pursuit of the Chnéhl. They opted to push hard during daylight, but not to press on at night, both because of the inherent risk, and because it would hamper tracking efforts. They are fortunate that the escaping Chnéhl decided to slow down once they put some Tsán betwixt themselves and their hunters, because, if they had simply pressed the advantage, they were faster than the party by a significant enough margin that the delays of tracking would have allowed them to escape. But it quickly became apparent that the Chnéhl did not have a plan for exactly where they were going, and they lacked the skills to disappear stealthily into the forest.

Day after day the party closed the gap. I can't say this was extremely exciting, but the drudge of daily tracking tests was probably realistic. It didn't become exciting until they they closed the gap to an hour or two separation. It was at that time that they discovered they were in the territory of a pack of Feral Rényu, and the forest became alive with yipping calls back and forth, as the critters tracked them, while they tracked the Chnéhl. This was the Chnéhl's end game, but our heroes were having none of it. They decided that, if the Rényu attacked, they would deal with it, but if not, they would give them no reason to do so.

They focused, single minded, upon the Chnéhl, and closed to within sight, sending the resting Chnéhl running, Bigfoot-esque through the undergrowth. A couple of well placed, drugged arrows took down the first, and Sánjesh, ordered three spear men to stand guard. Luck was with them, and a moment later, perhaps 50 yards hence, they dropped the second one. (Their animal handlers advised them that this was certainly good fortune, because if they had split up, the chance that the Rényu would attack one group or the other would have gone up substantially.)

Some applied healing skills, and drugs, and they had recaptured Mis's valued ritual subjects. They were kept heavily drugged for the trip home, as the Slaves, really, a bit over burdened by the task, carted the glorious prizes back. They decided to retrace their route, rather than risk a random encounter in uncharted forest, while heavily burdened. The trip back was laborious, but uneventful, until they got back above the tree line on Silver mountain. From their they could see the remaining smoke trails rising from the river village that had rescued Sánjesh and company during the unprecedented summer flooding so long ago. Our heroes quickly surmised that the Semétl of Mrúr were probably afoot again. They made as quickly as possible for the Camp at the Cave entrance.

Upon arriving they found more refugees were streaming in. Fewer, and mostly children, capable of outrunning the Mrúr, who had, this time, killed everything they could catch. The river village had been less defensible in many ways, sitting between the river and steep banks. The Mrúr had entered from two sides. The young man who had accompanied Sánjesh and the Hriháyal guards during the initial search for Mis did survive, though he feared he might well be an orphan as the village was, to the best of his knowledge, his entire clan. He reported that the village had taken strongly to the new practices of the goddess of the river, adding them to their worship of Belkhánu, and believing, perhaps, that their might be more to their lives than simple escape into an honorable death, in time.

After a rest, the great Chnéhl were loaded, along with what was left of harvests from the cave, and the party, onto a Chlén cart for a long, slow, and hopefully relaxing trip into Butrús. Signs of occupation had begun to return to the village by the Sákbe Road gate, and the guards were complaining about extra duties, now that there were reports of rogue Semétl of Mrúr, along with the wet ones.

In Butrús Sánjesh received his promotion to Tirrikámu, though he was not given a command, as yet. This was in part because there was none to be had, and, in part, because his independent operations might prove more profitable. The party collected and divided the bounty, paid off the labor, sold the Gerednyá, and other critters they had acquired along the way, visited their temples and clans, and took a break. Well, they used the time to better themselves.

Suni gave most of her earnings to her clan, and went to study with her temple. This will give her better access to clan resources, when the time comes. Mriga kept his personal wealth, as this venture had not been funded by his clan. He also went to his temple to study. The temple of Grugánu was taken by his tales, and he has been tasked to record what he can of the cave, which has tentatively been title “The Silver Womb of Hriháyal” as his labor of reverence for his advancement to second circle. Sánjesh was assigned training for his new rank with the Temple guard. Mis packed up her entourage and her Chnéhl and headed for Tumíssa, to complete her variation on the ritual of the 32nd Unspeakable act. I can not tell you how that went, however. But before she left, she gave the party a few pointers and instructions on how to access the underworld of Butrús, and, if they were lucky, obtain the book they had been seeking in the temple of Avánthe about a few weeks before.