Issue One | Spring 2001
A Dark and Stormy Night
By Krista Donnelly
I owe inspiration and much of the presentation format to Bob Dushay’s excellent scenarios ‘A Matter of Honor’ and ‘Against the Grain’, both of which I was privileged to play in the Tékumel Track at Ucon. I also owe thanks to David Aitken, Joe Pizzirusso, Jim Fetzner, Michael Trout and Rakesh Malik for a very entertaining playtest session.
Referee’s IntroductionThis adventure is set in a villa by the Sákbe road between Chéne Hó and Tumíssa, where the Nátla river bisects the Sákbe road, necessitating a ferry crossing. It is the 18th of Shápru, the middle of the rainy season. The year is 2357 A.S., late in Hirkáne’s reign, and the war with Yán Kór has just turned hot with the Battle of the átkolel Heights occurring several months earlier.
The characters are divided into two groups: the travelling party and the villa party. The introduction will bring the travelling party to the villa, which has just been threatened by a group of deserters. Each character has individual, secret goals. This information should be passed on to the appropriate players, and not shared unless the player chooses to divulge it. Many of these goals contradict each other to some extent, adding to the tension in the scenario.
The scenario is set up for 7 PCs, but can be run with as few as 4. Turning the two assistants and then Mnéktu into NPCs does the least damage to the dynamics of the plot. If there are more than 8 players, it’s possible to turn Túrisan, the spokesman for Peaceful Water, into a PC, but after that, roles are limited.
1. Ngáya hiFésrengala
Daughter of Mígor, Golden Sheaf, Avánthe
5' 2", slender
You were never fond of your father. While your older brother Chúrisan was still alive (he drowned in the river two years ago), your father ignored you (as he had the children of his concubines previously) and doted on him. The attention he has shown to you lately is too little, too late. You also dislike this rural locale. Many times you have watched the passing parade on the Sákbe road and wished you could join them. (And, frankly, ever since your brother drowned, the river’s given you the creeps. He was a good swimmer.)
You've never really known what to do about your predicament. Then, three weeks ago Kotáru, the new overseer, arrived. Kotáru is all you could dream of in a man tall, moody, and handsome with a somewhat mysterious past. (You have steadfastly refused to listen to any of the servants' rumors about why he’s exiled out here.) He seems to return your interest, and you already have a sexual relationship established.
However, everything is about to be ruined. The local fief-holder, Visán hiZhemré, provincial and boring, was just here to visit. From all the odd comments your father dropped, you realize he’s about to marry you off. You'd about resigned yourself to being a good clan girl until you met your prospective husband.
Now you've hatched a far better plan. You know your father keeps a strong box with many káitars in a secret place in his bedroom, and you know where the key is kept. You can steal the money and run away with Kotáru to live in Yán Kór, where women are properly appreciated. You'd better do it soon though. With his health failing, how quickly will your father push the inevitable wedding?
1. Steal the money.
2. Run away with Kotáru.
1. Your father does not own the villa or the immediate surrounding land. Instead he purchased a lease "in perpetuity" to the villa, the surrounding land and the ferry concession from the ruling Zhemré family. You can only inherit the lease if you remain non-Aridáni.
2. Your father keeps his money in a chest which is locked away in a hidden compartment in his bedroom. The key to the compartment is itself hidden. You press on a certain flower in a wooden mural carved in his bedroom wall and a spring releases a small drawer. Then, in another part of the mural, you push aside a leaf to reveal a keyhole. This opens up to reveal a small cavity in the wall where the chest resides.
3. Your father’s health started failing about two months ago.
4. You know of a secret room within the villa that no one else does (you discovered it while playing as a child). It is reached by manipulating carvings on the mural in your room. A small door opens into a narrow passage (see map) and ends with a trap door in the floor leading down into a damp, muddy tunnel. You have never explored the tunnel.
5. In your room, you have a stash of 89 káitars.
GM Note: The tunnel meanders for several hundred feet and ends with a ladder leading up to a trapdoor. This opens with difficulty (roll vs. strength), due to dirt and roots above it, into the middle of an overgrown thicket in the forest along the river’s edge.
2. Kotáru hiVraisúna
Sword-fighter/Overseer, Golden Sheaf, Avánthe
6', medium build
You have always lived the good life. Studies bored you, and you got out of them early by proving very proficient at sword fighting. You even managed to get the clan to sponsor you for several years at The Hall of Heroes academy in Khirgár. You weren't sure what the clan expected you to do for a living, but you knew you would not tolerate the discipline and tedium of a legionary’s life. You found yourself growing fond of visiting the priestesses of Dlamélish and Hrihayál, enjoying both the sex and the drugs that often accompanied it. Since you received too little spending money from your clan and family, you took to fighting in the Hirilákte arena.
Perhaps your successes there turned your head. Perhaps you resented the easier life of those in more noble clans. No matter how it started, it ended when the high status prig insulted you in front of the laughing Dlamélish priestess, and you challenged him to a duel and fought it then and there. You won, of course.
Unfortunately, you were supposed to give him the chance to get a champion to fight in his stead. Since you were insulted, you escaped the 'high ride.' But the clan is insisting you pay back the shámtla (5,000 káitars) that they had to pay on your behalf. The elders are insisting so much that they have sent out to this godforsaken place in the back of the beyond where you are only earning 35 káitars a month. It will take you years to pay off your debt to the clan.
The only thing making your stay here palatable is Ngáya, the daughter of the owner. She’s a romantic fool, and certainly no Dlamélish prietess, but at least she’s free with her favors. You want a way out of here, but not with her. You know that her stubborn willfulness will only cause problems for you in the future.
1. Get away from this place somehow.
2. Do not get tied down by Ngáya.
3. Wow someone with your sword-fighting prowess.
1. You are the overseer of the estate. Basically, you're responsible for everything outside of the house itself, including overseeing Mígor’s interest in the ferry operation. You are not good at your job (and you don’t care to be).
2. A proverb you might use in anger: "A poor man must ever bow to his inferiors."
3. You possess 54 káitars.
3. Mnéktu hiFésrengala
Merchant brother of Mígor, Golden Sheaf, Avánthe
5' 4", heavy
You are also a merchant, like your brother Mígor, but you sell out of the clanhouse in Purússa (a Sákbe road village). You're doing well enough, but you'll never earn the káitars Mígor did with his caravans to Mu'ugalavyá. And now he is living fat off the concessions from the ferry operation while you still deal with customers on a daily basis. You would dearly love to get your hands on his villa and his ferry operation concession. However, this is just not possible. When the ruling Zhemré family leased the villa and ferry concession "in perpetuity" to Mígor twelve years ago, the terms were very strict. Only a direct descendant of Mígor’s could inherit the lease, and any female inheritor must not be Aridáni. Otherwise, the lease reverts back to the Zhemré family.
You are a clever man, however. You have contacted the steward of the household, hapless Adlár hiSorúna, and proposed a scheme to him. If Mígor dies while his daughter is unmarried, you, as another father to Ngáya, will decide who the daughter marries. If Adlár will poison Mígor, you have promised Ngáya’s hand to him. In return, Adlár will kick back 10% of the ferry proceeds to you. At least, that is how you have explained it to Adlár. You plan to use the murder to blackmail him and take far more than 10%.
Since the murder must be undetected, the two of you decided upon arsenic poisoning which could easily masquerade as a health problem. So for the last two months, Adlár has been adding gradually increasing amounts of arsenic to Mígor’s wine. Since he doubles as the house priest, he has "fruitlessly" tried both Healing and Alleviation on Mígor. You had planned for at least one month further of "failing health," but your hand has been forced by the recent visit of Lord Visán hiZhemré to Mígor and Ngáya. You both fear that the ailing Mígor has matchmaking on his mind.
You just arrived at the villa this morning, ostensibly in order to check up on your brother, but in reality you intend to make sure that Adlár finishes him off immediately, before any marriage between Ngáya and Lord Visán can be announced. (You have brought extra arsenic with you to make certain the deed is done.)
1. Make sure Adlár poisons Mígor tonight.
2. Make sure nothing untoward happens to Adlár and Ngáya, so the happy couple can be married off and safely under your thumb.
3. Make sure nothing happens to impend the earning potential of the ferry operation.
1. Ngáya knows nothing of your plans with regard to Adlár.
2. On this quick trip, you brought only 20 káitars with you.
4. Adlár hiSorúna
Steward and House Priest, Golden Sheaf, Chiténg
5' 5", medium build
You are a 3rd Circle lay priest of Chiténg. Yours is one of the lower lineages within Golden Sheaf, and your resentment toward your uppity clan-brothers manifested itself as a rebellion against the Stability gods generally worshipped by your clan. You entered the local Monastery of Lord Chiténg, and talent and hard work won you through to 3rd Circle. As you were repeatedly rejected for 4th, you realized you could rise no higher without clan or family inducements to back you.
Just as you left the monastery to become a lay priest, you heard through the clan grapevine that a local successful clan businessman, Mígor hiFésrengala, was looking for someone who could double as a steward and a house priest. Though he worshipped Avánthe and seemed quite interested in Belkhánu, he accepted you.
That was four years ago. You didn’t know much about running a household when you started, but again through hard work and talent, you succeeded. Unfortunately, the pattern of your life is repeating itself. Mígor doesn't seem to value you much, and you know he’s sent off a suspicious number of letters to the temple of Belkhánu in both Tumíssa and Chéne Hó.
Mígor’s daughter, Ngáya, is beautiful, if a tad willful, but she’s never given you a second glance certainly nothing like the eyes she’s been making at the overseer, Kotáru, who arrived just three weeks ago. So when Mnéktu hiFésrengala, the brother of your employer, approached you two months ago with a plan, you listened. Like all good plans, it’s simple. You will poison Mígor by adding arsenic to his wine, but you will do it slowly, in ever increasing amounts, so that it looks like a health problem. As the house priest, he will rely on you for medical attention. When he dies, Mnéktu will arrange your marriage to the Ngáya, and you'll take over Mígor’s affairs, his lease "in perpetuity" to the villa and his share of the ferry operation concessions. In return, you'll give Mnéktu 10% off the top of all proceeds. It’s not a perfect plan, and you realize that you're bearing the brunt of the risk, but it looks like your best bet.
Now the timetable has been sped up. Mígor has apparently been prompted by his failing health to be more cognizant of his duties. Recently, Lord Visán hiZhemré, the local fiefholder who leased the villa and ferry concessions to Mígor in the first place, came for a visit. A marriage announcement is obviously imminent. On receiving this news, Mnéktu came down as soon as he could, arriving this morning. It looks like Mígor needs to take a sudden turn for the worse.
1. Poison Mígor without being caught.
2. Secure a written promise of marriage to Ngáya from Mnéktu
3. Make sure nothing happens to the villa or ferry operations
1. Traditionally, as steward you retrieve and serve the wine and powders at meals. Other servants bring in the rest of the food.
2. You've managed to save out of your meager wages 180 káitars.
Alleviation (Ritual) U2 [Cost: 35 points]
Ascertainment (Psychic) U1-U4 [Cost: U1: 30, U2: 40 points]
Elicitation (Psychic) U1-U4,U6 [Cost: U1: 30, U2: 40, U3: 50, U4: 60, U6: 90]
Far-Seeing (Ritual) G1, G2 [Cost: G1: 35 points, G2: 45 points]
Healing (Ritual) U1 [Cost: 35 points]
The Radiant Gaze (Ritual) G3 [Cost: 55 points]
You have 240 psychic power points. To successfully cast an unopposed spell, you need 50 or under on a d100 roll. To successfully cast a combat spell, you need 35 or under on a d100 roll. Targets of combat spells do receive a saving throw. Psychic points are used up even if the spell was not successful.
GM Note: I recommend altering Radiant Gaze: remove the automatic death provision for those in its area of effect who fail their saving throw. Instead, have it ignite a fire (use Damage Table B). Otherwise, this spell is far too powerful.
1. Gayán hiSsánkoral
8th Circle Bureaucrat in Palace of the Realm, Standing Stone, Hnalla
5' 5", medium
You are an 8th Circle bureaucrat within the Palace of the Realm, a not inconsiderable feat for someone your age (25), especially since you only belong to a high medium-status clan. You have slowly but surely worked your way up. Your last assignment was as a rural fief-holder (Lumèharétokoi) for the Palace over a small group of villages just southeast of the átkolel Heights. Your success there led you to be summoned to Chéne Hó, with your assistant Srúdhal, where you were presented with a large promotion. You are to proceed with all haste to Tumíssa where you will be assigned a large and important fief to run for the Palace. You can sense that the 9th Circle is just within your grasp, and that if you do well here, you will soon be given an even higher administrative post in Tumíssa. Indeed, your mind speculates as you toss on your mat each night: if you make someone look good enough, you may even gain a powerful patron. Perhaps you will end your career in Avanthár!
However, you do have a few small problems to deal with first. Chief among them is the assistant foisted on you in Chéne Hó. Nirún hiRi'inyússa is from a higher status clan than you are (Jade Diadem), he’s 18 and already 3rd Circle. You are certain that this is his first assignment, and clan inducements bought him his rank. He looks extremely unpromising, to say the least. Despite his ostensibly higher position, you will have to rely on your other assistant, Srúdhal. You know that you must look out for him (else risk making your superior lose face before Jade Diadem), but you secretly wish he would do something so dreadful that even Jade Diadem would accept a decision to oust him in favor of the hard-working Srúdhal.
1. Do not be delayed on your way to Tumíssa.
2. Don’t let anything happen that will besmirch your reputation.
3. Protect Nirún from physical harm. 4. Reverse Srúdhal and Nirún’s positions (but keep in mind goal #2)
1. The Palace entrusted you with 50 káitars for any unexpected expenses on the road.
2. Most of your assets are kept by your clan. You are carrying 30 káitars with you for any personal expenses on the trip.
2. Nirún hiRi'inyússa
3rd Circle Bureaucrat in the Palace of the Realm, Jade Diadem, Dlamélish
5' 3", medium
The favorite son of an elder, you have never had to worry about anything. You did fair in your studies until your father gave you a concubine as a Name Day present. Then you discovered where your true interest in life lay. You enthusiastically threw yourself into the traditional Dlamélish worship of your clan. So enthusiastically, in fact, that it was suggested to you to join the priesthood. You considered it, but realized it would entail many less pleasant aspects -learning dogmas, performing rituals, entertaining partners that you didn’t care for. You spent some time as an acolyte before expressing your feelings and quitting.
Your father immediately set to work finding you another profession. To your disgust, he foolishly chose the Palace of the Realm. When you began expressing your opposition, he quickly reassured you that you would start as 3rd Circle and have an assistant to do the demeaning work for you. Seeing that he would not be swayed, you gave up your protests.
Waiting in Chéne Hó for Gayán, the 8th Circle rural fief-holder whom you are supposed to serve, was not too bad. You managed to share the bed of a 1st Circle functionary while you were there. Gayán looks like a fool, however, spouting nonsense about nobly serving the Imperium. Worse, it looks like he doesn't understand the nature of your arrangement. Your assistant, the First Moon girl (Srúdhal), is pretty enough and hardworking, though she’s proving more resistant to your charms than you expected. But maybe she’s just waiting for the right moment. After all, she wouldn’t be carrying that bottle of Másh brandy to drink all by herself.
1. Have an assignation with someone
2. Do no work for Gayán
3. Consume Srúdhal’s bottle of Másh brandy
1. You own The Eye of Being an Unimpeachable Shield Against Fear, a gift from your father. He has said it will protect you and a few friends if you are attacked. You don’t know how many times it can be used.
2. Your father also gifted you with 100 káitars to tide you over until you start receiving your salary.
GM Note: This eye provides immunity from all edged or blunt weapons. Its effects last for 20 combat rounds and as many as four beings (roll d4) can be protected. It has no power against spells, Eyes, or other magical devices. Nirún does not know any of these specifics.
3. Srúdhal hiMriyén
2nd Circle Bureaucrat in Palace of the Realm, First Moon, Dilinala
5' 4", medium
"The Gods will answer it for you!" your grandmother always used to say when you asked her inconvenient questions about why so many other clanhouses were bigger than yours, and why you didn’t have a personal slave trailing you like you saw with the other children in the marketplace. You didn’t actually need the gods, however, to divine the answer. Soon you were clever enough to know when to keep your mouth shut.
You started working for the Palace of the Realm when you were 15. That was six years ago, and you are now only 2nd Circle. Fortunately, for the last year and a half you have been working for Gayán hissánkoral. He is that rare creature: an honest, fair and hardworking man. And though his status is higher than your own, it is not awkwardly so. You have attached yourself to him in the hopes that he will regard himself as your patron, and that your Skein will be woven as his is woven.
Your greatest success is that he requested you to accompany him to his new assignment outside Tumíssa. But this victory was short-lived. In Chéne Hó he was assigned another assistant, a 3rd Circle high clan idiot (Nirún hiri'inyússa). Not only does he out-rank you, he seems to think you are there merely to serve his every whim as if you were a slave! You have concealed your fury (successfully, you think), but are simply biding your time. You have promised yourself that you will make him appear so bad that he will be forced out of the position that’s rightfully yours. Then in Tumíssa you will drink a toast with your clan-sister from the bottle of Másh brandy that you are bringing her as a present.
1. Discredit the 1st assistant and gain his position
2. Be publicly praised by Gayán
3. Do not do anything that Nirún tells you to do.
1. You carry 25 káitars in cash with you to your new job.
1. Mígor hiFésrengala
Owner of the villa, Golden Sheaf, Belkhánu
When Mígor was younger, he ran caravans to Mu’ugalavyá and was highly successful. He had only one wife but by the time he stopped running caravans, he had picked up four concubines from the surrounding villages. (His home village is Purússa, along the Sákbe road). He was able to settle down when he purchased the lease "in perpetuity" for the villa, the immediate surrounding land, and the ferry concession 12 years ago from the Zhemré family. The Zhemrés are the local fief-holders, but the lord needed cash as his eldest son, Visán, had slept with the wife of a high official in the Temple of Thúmis in Chéne Hó and the husband demanded a large shámtla which the clan refused to pay. (The lord has since died and Visán is now the local fief-holder.)
The lease specifies that it can only be inherited by Mígor’s direct descendants: sons or non-Aridáni daughters. Otherwise, it reverts back to the Zhemré family. The terms are intentionally strict as the Zhemré family eventually wants back what they were forced to sell.
Mígor had one son (by his wife), but he drowned in the river two years ago. Now, only a daughter, Ngáya, remains.
When Mígor’s wife died five years ago, he got religion and pensioned off the concubines (and their children). Previously an Avánthe worshipper, he is now much more interested in Belkhánu. He has not been able to find a Belkhánu lay priest to join his household, so he settled for Adlár, a Chiténg lay priest from his own Golden Sheaf clan, who used to be at the local monastery.
Mígor’s health began failing two months ago, and he has become even more religious of late. Conscious of his unfulfilled duties, he intends to marry off his daughter before he dies. In preparation for the event, he had Visán visit last week so he could meet Ngáya. He thinks it went well.
Mígor is a tight-fisted, self-centered person. He respects only status and power. Consequently, he treats Adlár very poorly, ordering him around, treating him with barely concealed contempt. He will show a clear preference for Kotáru, the flashy newcomer with a better lineage than Adlár. He is condescending toward Mnéktu, his less successful brother, and refuses to take Ngáya seriously. With his health failing, he is concentrating on one last social coup: getting Lord Visán to marry Ngáya (as he is likely to do in order to regain the lease).
Mígor is very ill from sub-acute arsenic poisoning. (He suspects nothing.) He is constantly in pain, making it difficult for him to think clearly. But he is loathe to give up any of the reigns of power and will try to direct events as long as possible.
2. The Deserters
The soldiers are deserters from the Legion of the Givers of Sorrow (8th Imperial Heavy Infantry). They took part in the initial battle on the átkolel Heights, having been posted there from Butrús to guard against a Yán Kóryani invasion. Except for the tirrikámu, they are recent recruits, ill-equipped. Many of their comrades died in the fighting. The tirrikámu bitterly blames the losses on the fanaticism of their general, Lord Korikada hiKurushma (High Priest of Chiténg at Butrús), and when the order came to march north of Chéne Hó to engage the Yán Kóryani, this semétl simply marched in the other direction.
They have been hiding out in the nearby forest for a number of days. The tirrikámu conceived his plan as they were cursing the rain. Once the river floods and the Sákbe guards can’t come easily, they will go and demand a large sum of money from the villa at the river crossing. They have prepared a battering ram if the owner should prove recalcitrant. Then, they will get away on the two rafts that they have constructed. They will go down the Nátla river to where it joins the Turin river (This is not without risk as they will have to pass the Sákbe road again. It will have to be done in the dark of night.) and then go up the Turin river into the Chákan forest.
They would prefer to get the money and run. Their escape route (and identities) are supposed to remain a secret. Despite the tirrikámu’s threats, they are basically honorable and will not slaughter the inhabitants. In fact, if everything goes their way, they will not kill anyone. After all, murderers are much more likely to be pursued than simple robbers.
If Kotáru tries to join them, they will accept him only if he brings a substantial sum (at least 400 káitars) with him.
Tirrikámu Kágesh hiNezár
Red Sky, Chiténg
5' 4", heavy build
Tirrikámu Kágesh is very charismatic and has the soldiers mostly under his sway. In his presence, everyone will follow him completely. Apart from him, the others' will and courage may waver.
Full semétl (20 soldiers)
Eye of Flame, 14 worship Chiténg, 6 worship Vimúhla
They wear round spiked helmets, elaborate breastplates and vambraces. They carry oval shields, long spears and short chopping swords.
3. Villa Inhabitants
Besides the player characters, there are 43 people living at the villa. All have an HBS of 50. Any may have 1-10 levels of the Brawling skill, roll for as needed.
Chef and his wife, the maid Granite Lintel 2 kitchen assistants (a boy and a girl, the chef’s children) 20 porters/general laborers 17 from Red Moon, 3 from Flat Rock.
All of the above are servants under Mígor’s control. The wives and children of the laborers live in the surrounding villages. None but the chef has specialized skills. They perform whatever job needs done at the moment, including serving as palanquin bearers. No one has any military training.
15 members of Peaceful Water also live here. Their clan is low status, but they do not answer to Mígor. Rather, they have worked out an agreement with him. They have the sole right to run the ferry but he owns the land on either side of the river and thus has the right to collect a percentage (30%) from them. In return, he provides them with food and shelter within the villa.
Túrisan, the local leader, is extremely unhappy with the latest developments. He will resist any attempts to put his people in dangerous situations, but will accede if the gravity of the situation is properly stressed.
1 Fair collector (Túrisan, local elder)
2 Guards (no weapons, Brawling 10, HBS: 110 Damage Table A)
1 Head of maintenance
4 Maintenance apprentices
The ferrymen are strong, but only the guards have any experience with fighting.
4. Palanquin Bearers
There are 16 in all. Eight will be exhausted from carrying the palanquin and will not be able to do anything significant this evening. The other eight will only participate in any dangerous actions if they are forced to. They will need constant watching and cajoling to keep them at any hazardous task which is set to them. (HBS: 50)
5. Sákbe Road Guard detachment
It will take great provocation for these shiftless wonders to try to come to anyone’s rescue. If they are convinced, their kási will send 10-20 men. They do have a boat but they are not proficient at using it. If they attempt to cross the river, there is only a 35% chance that they will not capsize the boat (and in that instance, they will all certainly drown).
They need to receive two calls to action before they will bestir themselves. If the kuni falcon is sent to them, this will not be enough (they can easily claim later that the message was unclear or never received) but it will count as one attempt. One unlucky soul will also be sent out into a location where he can keep a watch on the villa (15% chance he will fall asleep or wander off somewhere else to find some shelter). He will have no greater than a 30% chance of noticing any particular action, if he is looking.
They will not hear any of the activity, even if combat breaks out or the battering ram is employed. If combat occurs next to the Sákbe road, and thus within their line of sight, they have a 30% chance of noticing it. If a fire manages to be lit, their chance of noticing it depends on the size and duration of the fire.
All have HBS of 60, Drills 1, Formations 1, Field Tactics 1
Short Sword 3 HBS: 78 Damage Table C
Four days ago, you were all assembled in Chéne Hó and given your new assignment in a fief outside of Tumíssa. Instructed to proceed with all haste to your destination, you set off immediately. Gayán, as Lumèharétokoi, has been provided by the Palace of the Realm with a litter with eight bearers (and a relief shift of eight more trotting alongside). His two assistants walk. The trip normally takes about two weeks.
You are travelling along the second level of the Sákbe road. The journey is miserable. It’s the 18th of Shápru, the height of the rainy season. The rain pours down without letup, soaking everyone walking to the bone. Even Gayán cannot stay completely dry within his litter. As few others are foolish enough to travel at this time of the year, you scarcely meet anyone on your trip. There is little scenery to distract you either. The Sákbe road rises up on the west, your right, to its final third level. To the east stretch soggy, muddy fields, dotted by the occasional village.
You have spent each night bedded down in an empty Sákbe watch tower. Although shielded from the incessant rain, you are still cold and damp. This morning Gayán happened to look through the tower’s windows out to the west and noted to his dismay that the Nátla river, which runs parallel to the Sákbe road at this point, but will soon curve to the east and cross it, has flooded. Indeed, water is lapping almost up to the edge of the road itself. This does not bode well for your rapid progress.
Late in the afternoon, you reach the intersection of the Nátla river with the Sákbe road. Bearing out your foreboding, the ferries are not running. The river is a raging torrent. You can just make out that a ferry has been pulled out of the water and lashed to a makeshift dock. Though normally it would no doubt be far out of reach of the water, it now looks dangerously near. On the opposite side of the river, you can see a Sákbe road tower, large enough to perhaps include a small garrison. On this side, however, there is simply a large villa complex off a stone’s throw to the east. The villa looks surprisingly well fortified until you remember the history of Mu'ugalavyáni invasions in this region.
As you approach to find a place to spend the night, you see a body lying in a pool of blood and water on the path leading out from the villa.
You live in a villa which belongs to Mígor hiFésrengala, situated where the Sákbe road from Chéne Hó to Tumíssa is crossed by the Nátla river. The main business in this little backwater is ferrying travellers across the river, and putting up some of the better ones for the night. The local transportation clan, Peaceful Water, runs the ferries. Mígor provides them food and shelter and collects his percentage for allowing them to work on land that he owns. He owns this land, and the right to collect a percentage, due to an advantageous business deal made years ago with the local hereditary fief-holder, the Zhemré family. Usually nothing much happens here. The Sákbe road guard complement who live in the watch tower across the river are fat and lazy. They must offer up thanks every day to their deities that they're not in the legions now being sent north to deal with the Yán Kóryani.
Business has been very slow for the last few weeks. It’s been a legendary rainy season, and most travellers have chosen to postpone their business. Lately, everyone has started to eye the river uneasily as it began to rise. Yesterday, Mígor and Túrisan, the local head of Peaceful Water, conferred and decided to draw the ferry to dock on higher ground until the river dropped. The decision was almost made too late, as the ferry was nearly ripped out of the laborers' grasp and hurtled downstream. Finally, cursing, wet and muddy, the Peaceful Water clan members managed to secure it. All have retreated within the villa’s walls, and watch anxiously as the water continues to inch its way up.
All such worries were banished from your minds late this afternoon when out of the lengthening shadows stepped a group of soldiers. They carried no banner but many weapons. One stepped before the others and demanded to speak with the lord of the villa. When Mígor hobbled up to gate, the soldier commenced making threats.
"I know you are rich. I know you keep a stash of káitars hidden away. You have 9 kiren [4.5 hours] to decide whether you will give it all up to me or whether we break down your gates and slaughter every living soul within. If you hand over less than 1,000 káitars, we will know you are cheating us and you will all die!"
Adding other threats and imprecations, the man and his companions withdrew. Not long after they left, Mígor sent one of the servants out of the villa’s walls to run down to the river’s edge and try to attract the attention of the Sákbe road guard. He made it but 50 paces when two men sprang out from the trees and slew him before your eyes.
As you wait, hoping Mígor will not be stingy, a servant keeping watch on the wall lets out a cry. A palanquin, with many men surrounding it, has descended from the Sákbe road and is making its way towards you.
There are sufficient funds to satisfy the soldiers, if they are handed over. Mígor keeps his money in a chest which is locked away in a hidden compartment in his bedroom. The key to the compartment is itself hidden. One presses on a certain flower in a wooden mural carved in his bedroom wall and a spring releases a small drawer. Then, in another part of the mural, you push aside a leaf to reveal a keyhole. This opens up to reveal a small cavity in the wall where the chest resides. The chest itself is opened by a key carried by Mígor. Besides Mígor, only Ngáya knows of this.
Mígor likes to keep enough cash to cover at least 6 months expenses on hand. This means that the chest will contain 1,200 káitars, 400 hlash and 400 qirgals. It is 12" long, 6" wide, 6" deep and weighs just over 20 lbs. The weight will be reduced considerably if the hlash and qirgals are removed.
4:30 The tirrikámu and his men make their demands, as stated in the villa introduction. They retreat into the surrounding woods, and split up.
1. Five are maintaining a line of sight with the Sákbe road tower. If the guards start behaving suspiciously, they will send a runner, sounding the alarm.
2. Two others are by the rafts, keeping watch over them. They will not leave unless specifically summoned by the tirrikámu.
3. Three are keeping watch on the villa, making sure no one leaves. On the other hand, they will let anyone enter who wants to.
4. The other ten and the tirrikámu are making final preparations on the battering ram. They are not far from the villa watchers and can respond to vocal alarms in several combat rounds.
After the demand, Mígor is fully ready to hand over the money, though he will not let this be known But, he will not retrieve it or tell anyone where it is until just before the deadline as he is racking his brains to figure out a way to avoid the loss if he can. He is having a hard time thinking clearly since he is suffering from sub-acute arsenic poisoning. He is constantly nauseous, has pain in his extremities, the skin of his palms and soles has thickened and roughened, and there’s an unusual raindrop-shaped depigmentation over his torso.
All NPCs will overestimate how many soldiers they saw, guessing 50 or 100.
4:45 Mígor sends the servant out, who is killed by the watching soldiers.
5:00 The travelling party arrives, as per the introductions.
Mígor is a proud man. He lets in the party, even if he is not sure whether they can aid him or not, in order to keep up appearances. He will greet them, explain the situation, and apologize. He'll assign them rooms and offer to let them rest up until dinner. If anyone expresses a concern about defense, he'll remind them of their total armory of 2 hunting bows, a spear and one old chlen-hide sword down in the cellar (and lack of any trained military personnel).
6:00 Dinner is served in the main hall. Mígor is obviously making a special effort to attend. He will command Adlár to go and choose his best wine to serve to his guests. At the dinner’s end, he will have Adlár serve powders (narcotics) to any who wish them.
Peaceful Water and the servants will each eat separately in their own rooms. All others will eat in the main dining hall, sitting crosslegged on mats piled to an appropriate height. Serving dishes are set on low tables in the middle of the group, and each eats from an individual plate.
The wines offered are an Ndalu wine (an excellent red wine) and a Dlel wine (a dark purple wine).
Four powders are offered: Chumaz, bluish-white, heightens perceptions, acts as an aphrodisiac ... Osi, a thick greyish muscus-like substance, reduces tensions, arouses libido ... Drarsha, a clear crystalline substance, causes amusing visions and distortions of time sense ... Nto, a fine white dust, volubility and giddy joy
The effects last for 1-2 hours.
7:00 If Mígor was poisoned at dinner, he will collapse from a seizure: muscle spasms, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and a garlic odor to his breath. He will still refuse to reveal the location of the money, insisting on waiting until the deadline.
At this time, the three soldiers (Hóru, Sánjesh, Shémek) assigned to watch the villa will approach the gate and ask to defect. They will explain that they have had second thoughts about the wisdom of their desertion from their legion, and the likelihood of actually pulling off the robbery and getting away successfully. As an earnest of their good faith, they’ll reveal that there are 17 other men plus the tirrikámu and that they have a battering ram.
If the soldiers are let in and treated well, they will also reveal the rafts and the escape route itself. The more they are distrusted and insulted, the more likely they will be to turn against the PCs if a battle starts going against them.
If they're refused entrance, they’ll return to their guard posts with their comrades none the wiser. However, they’ll be much more likely to kill if given the chance later.
7:30 A kuni falcon arrives with the cryptic message, "Come soon." If feed and cajoled, the bird will stay but will only repeat its message, adding "Master said come soon." The bird is merely repeating what it was told and cannot explicate whether this is a request for someone to go somewhere or an announcement of an impending arrival.
The kuni falcon belongs to Lord Visán, as Mígor, Adlár or Ngáya can figure out. In his idiosyncratic way, Visán is announcing his attention to visit again soon to finalize the marriage agreement. "Soon" is not soon enough to help the villa inhabitants. However, if anyone thinks of it, it is possible to send the bird to the Sákbe road tower with a four word or less message.
Also, at this time if the previous soldiers have successfully deserted to the villa, their desertion will now be discovered. Three more soldiers will be taken from the nearly completed battering ram to take up watch. When the tirrikámu comes to collect the money, he will also ask for these traitors to be delivered over to him, bound. Only under the direst circumstances will they leave while these three (who can positively identify them) are still alive.
8:00 If Mígor has been poisoned this evening, he will now die before revealing the location of the money.
The leading Peaceful Water member, Túrisan, will start making increasingly agitated demands to know what will be done to insure their safety.
8:30 Unless a clear plan is presented to them, Peaceful Water will panic. They will try to fling open the gate and make a break for the ferry. The laborers and the palanquin bearers will also flee if the gate is opened, but they will run for the Sákbe road.
The soldiers keeping watch will raise the alarm and rush in to give battle, concentrating on chasing those going for the road. The alarm will draw those watching the Sákbe road tower and working on the battering ram. Two will join in the chase. The rest will make a concerted rush for the gate before it is closed and barred again.
9:00 Tirrikámu Kágesh and all his men will appear and demand the 1,000 káitars (and anyone who has successfully deserted to the villa). If their demands aren't met, they will bring out the battering ram and begin work.
The gate is strong but old; the soldiers are strong but inexperienced. In the first hour, there is a 5% they will succeed (check for every 15 minutes of uninterrupted battering). For each hour that has at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted battering, add another 5% to the base chance (while continuing to check for every 15 minutes of activity). Thus, from 9 to 10, there’s a 5% chance, from 10 to 11, 10%, from 11 to 12, 15% and so on.
Once inside, they will take higher status hostages to guide them to the káitars. If there’s resistance, they’ll kill the resisters. If a hostage is uncooperative, they’ll kill him (except for Adlár, they respect his status as a Chiténg priest). If the money cannot be handed over: if the tirrikámu is still alive, he'll cut his losses by stripping what valuables he can find and leaving; if the tirrikámu is dead and they've sustained major losses, they’ll go berserk and kill everyone they can (but won’t chase those who run), then engage in some looting and flee. If their losses have been minor, they’ll kill up to two people in frustration and then loot and leave.
If they haven’t broken into the villa by an hour before dawn, they will drop the battering ram and leave on the rafts. The Servants Speak At appropriate moments, it can be fun to throw in some information that can be gleaned from talking to the servants (or that the servants may take on themselves to helpfully offer up.)
1. On Mígor’s son’s death: "Drowned in the river, 'e did. And 'im a good swimmer too. There’s somethin' in the river."
2. On Mígor’s failing health: "The gods are strikin' 'im down. Just not lan to worship one god and keep the priest of another."
3. On Adlár’s lack of job security: "I been to the Temple of Belkhánu in Chéne Hó three times since the cold began. 'E couldn't change his mind in the summer, now could 'e?" The servant is illiterate, and doesn't know the contents of the letters.
4. On Kotáru’s recent arrival and lack of competance: "Cha! I wouldna ask him if I were you."
5. On Ngáya’s movements in the secret passage, the cook’s boy will say: "Master Chúrisan didna go to the Blessed Isles. 'E’s still around. I hear 'im sometimes."
However, there are also a number of ways to achieve a peaceful outcome in which the soldiers receive their money and leave. If Adlár and Mnéktu don’t poison Mígor and Ngáya doesn't steal his money, then Mígor can simply hand it over. If Mígor dies, Ngáya may still have mercy on the rest of the characters and sacrifice her goals for their greater good. The characters could appease the soldiers even without Mígor’s money if they combine all their funds (total must be greater than 400 káitars) and offer that plus Nirún’s Eye.
Alternately, since the soldiers still think of themselves as honorable, they will accept if Kotáru challenges Tirrikámu Kágesh to a duel. The deal they will strike is as follows: If Kotáru wins, they will leave without the money. However, if Kágesh wins, one person will be handed over to them to sacrifice to Chiténg. If Kotáru actually wins, they will try to talk him into a second duel. If this fails, one soldier will simply break and attack Kotáru anyway. The others will leave after this if there is no further provocation from the characters.
There is a faint chance that the Sákbe road guard will try to come to the rescue. If they do arrive, there will be a fight to death between the soldiers and the guard. If more than half the soldiers die in this battle, they will flee to the rafts and leave.
Gayán’s reputation is considered besmirched if either of his assistants dies, or if there is a mass slaughter in the villa.