Wednesday, June 23, 2021

King of Kings Session 8 After Action Report

Picking up where we left off last time!

Dramatis Personae
Ishthyromeda the Small, level one amazon
Kusa, level one cleric of the exiled and half-dead foreign goddess Nasitu-Neb
Manchugo Coldeswain, level one cleric dedicated to Damir, foreign god of the trade routes
Rohm'Daan, level one cleric dedicated to Anzhalar, a local chthonic god of subterranean flame

(Zana the Charlatan's player was not able to join us so I just said that Zana went home instead of venturing on with the group the following day)

Waking up in the Snail's Trail (or out in the wide open plaza in the case of Ish), the group of four congregates in the eatery at the fore of the establishment. They proceeded to just kind of ask around for work to do, not finding any interested parties there (despite Ish advertising herself and the group as a bunch of mercenaries), but they do hear from some pilgrims that a dehqan (landowning noble) along the road to the north has been worried about unproductive farms under his sway. Apparently there is talk that his peasants are disappearing, but he refuses to believe such things no matter how much his attendants visit the places. His name is Shahab, and the proprietor of the establishment (a wide-smiling sacred one clad in red silks and wearing a prominent nose ring) inform them that yes he is wealthy and yes he is in need right now, but also that he is very rude, capricious, and paranoid. They also inform them that he is a member of house Manati, a noble family here in the satrapy especially prominent in Tabur city. As they leave, Kusa leaves a little tip for the proprietor.

I think in my mind the biggest visual inspiration for the proprietor was Maya from KSBD, if not necessarily in personality.

Before leaving for dehqan Shahab's estate, the group decides to make a visit to the shrine of the Morning Star in Temple Town, where there is a deaf oracle that can speak with the voice and the certainty of the Morning Star herself. Entering the shrine, they are met by a small group of priestly functionaries in red robes, the whole place lit up by flaming torches and sunlight through red-hued hangings between the black stone columns. They set up some sacrifices (a cow and two sacred owls) and tell the scribe what to write down on the paper for the oracle to read from. Four questions were asked:

Does the Morning Star shine on our work with dehqan Shahab?
Is there anything we need to know about the situation?
Does Ishthyromeda have great herds and wealth in her future?
On what and which axes will Kusa's path converge with that of Silvered Nasitu?
(All the exact phrasing of the queries)

After the animals were sacrificed and the group was brought into the chamber of the oracle, the deaf oracle made her pronouncements with suitable ritualistic pomp and circumstance. I can't reproduce all of this scene here because that would just be too long but here is the bit where they enter the chamber: 
"with the floor now slick and shiny with blood, the looming yellow door beyond is dragged open from within, smoke billowing out from the room beyond and into the chamber which houses you now... stepping within, you are greeted by the sight of a woman in black and scarlet robes, a hood hanging over her eyes leaving only her chin and expressionless lips visible. She sits upon a looming wrought iron throne, flanked by chalices billowing with flame, the scribe you saw earlier standing beside her and holding three parchments in his hands. She reaches for the first, and holds it before her eyes."

Here are the verdicts the oracle provided:
"The fateful Morning Star, ever-glorious in her flaming beauty, shines on your acts and deeds. Her baleful light will show you the way into the darkness that now sits before you. The Morning Star wishes you to only know one thing: beware that which yawns deeply."
"The woman of the long axe shall sit upon a woolen fleece, gazing across the wide expanse of her homeland. The Morning Star speaks to your god now. Many steeds shall become thee."
"You who is in exile, you who has fled the destruction wrought on your people and your land, you shall hear your goddess once again and see your goddess once again. In the shining hills of the east, where gold is wrought and war is fought, there you will find her. The Morning Star shall see to it that the crimes of the ones who hate flesh and blood will be avenged. The Silver Star is in a golden valley."

With the knowledge from the Snail Trail's proprietor and the oracle in their hands, they depart for the estate of dehqan Shahab, cracking jokes about the sleepy Rohm'Daan being "that which yawns deeply" that they are supposed to beware. Riding on Ish's cart, they converse among themselves on the way. Manchugo tells a folk tale about a man traveling through a desert unable to refuse the coats and furs that the people he meets offer him while Ishthyromeda listens, Rohm'Daan explains the story of Anzhalar to Kusa while Kusa shares some of the tales of Nasitu-Neb. Their talk is cut off, however, when they come across a group of six gryphons desperately scratching at themselves and rubbing themselves on trees just off the road. Debating what caused the creatures to suffer, they ultimately decide to go on, concluding that it may have something to do with the peasant disappearances.

Griffon vulture scratching... closest thing I could find

After another few hours of travel, they came upon a small group of goatherds crossing the road with their flock. One of the goatherds stopped to speak with the travelers, she told them that the gryphons probably just had sky fleas and that they could find "Shahab the Worrywort, that piece of shit" in the garishly-colored estate home on the next hill over. Dashing back to be with the rest of the goatherds, the group overheard her being mocked by her fellow herders for wasting time talking to city folk that look like they have a load of debt.

They travel just that short distance and are at the home of dehqan Shahab, a looming staircase winding up the side of the hill, two guards and a trumpeteer stationed at its base. The trumpeteer asks who they are, Manchugo replying that they are craftsmen here to offer mutually beneficial trade with the dehqan, the trumpeteer letting out a trumpet blast to call forth a servant-messenger in a short tunic who, after being informed of who the group are and what they are actually here to do, goes to retrieve the dehqan. Shahab emerges from the home with the messenger, clad in an ill-fitted facsimile of a military uniform, with a wooden panel hanging from his neck and a silver diadem upon his brow, a ragged beard hanging down recklessly. Manchugo engages in some deft persuasion to convince the dehqan to hire them, and negotiates a payment scheme with the assistance of Kusa and Rohm'Daan (20 drachmae each up front and 1.5 drachmae per peasant's tribute debt retrieved or peasant confirmed dead or disappeared). The paranoid and cowardly Shahab haggled with Manchugo but ultimately gave in, fearful for what might be around him and antsy to just get a conclusion to his present problem. Shahab informs them that what falls under his domain is a small worthless village and a small handful of farming estates, three of which have been particularly problematic and failing to provide anything to him. 

Oh also they asked dehqan Shahab if he had heard anything about bird lice or sky fleas and all he said was that a friend of his in Humakuyun apparently had lice in his pigeons.

This was where we ended the session, with the next session presumably going to feature the group investigating the three supposedly abandoned farmsteads!

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