Session One: The Arrival

Session Date: July 8, 2007

Arrival in Kuseme
14 Nolus 720 TR (Evening)

After an uneventful journey from Kaldor along the Salt Route, Brother Olrau and his followers (Bowdyn, Jaroud, Judyn, Kalrun, and Maban) arrived in Kuseme at sunset on the 14th of Nolus. As the gates across the Kobar Bridge to Coranan were closed, they rented space at the Kuseme Inn. Bowdyn, the young master mason, paid extra to secure a private room for his wife, Hillay, who was weary and bitter over the long journey. (He balked, however, at her demand that he also pay for her to have a bath. In response, she sulked.)

Before supping, Olrau led his followers to the Kuseme Harbor, on the banks of the Thard. He explained that the Thard was holy, as it flowed from Lake Benath in the north, which was fed by streams whos source was “Ilvir's cloaca”. He said that the next day, when they would finally enter into Coranan, would be momentous one. He then led them in a short prayer as the last light faded in the western sky.

After dining at the inn, Judyn and her mother, Gwelen, visited their family's house in Kuseme and met with its steward. Jaroud looked around to see if any locals expressed interest in his dogs, but none did so. Maban expressed delight at the high quality of the inn, speaking at great length to all and sundry about the freshness of the rushes on the floor. Kalrun struck up a conversation with with some soldiers from the Eidel Legion, who told him about the Pamesani Games to take place in Coranan the next day. Among other things, he learned that Kronas Elernin, a respected general (and the current Marshall and Magistrate of Eidel Province) was paying the admission costs for all the soldiers in the Eidel Legion who wanted to go, and that he was giving away free 'admission tokens' to hundres of ordinary Coranan citizens as well. Kalrun also learned that one of the fights scheduled would feature four gladiators against a terrible 'Vessel of Wind'.

Maban, who had been eavesdropping, spoke later to her fellow missionaries that this 'Vessel of Wind' must be an Aklash, one of Ilvir's Ivashu. The missionaries expressed mixed feelings about gladiatorial games in general and the the fact that one of Ilvir's brood would be fighting in them. Bowdyn and Kalrun argued that the games were horrible and that they should try to find some way to save the Aklash. Jaroud and Maban were more fatalistic, taking the view that death was itself an inevitable part of the circle of life. (Maban also expressed admiration for the bravery of the great 'Aklash gladiator'.) Upon her return, Judyn joined in and redirected the conversation by suggesting that, regardless of how one felt about the Games, the Aklash's presence in the Pamasani Arena the next day should provide an occasion for the missionary group to make its presence known in the city. Brother Olrau agreed, noting that the presence of an Aklash in a prominent public spectacle was surely a sign from Ilvir that they should be at the Games, and perhaps give a sermon before them.

The Entry into the City— and an Omen
15 Nolus 720 TR (Morning)

The missionaries awoke to a drizzly morning. Brother Olrau slept in later than the others and, upon waking, revealed that Ilvir, in a dream, gave to him the words that he should pronounce at a speech outside of the Arena. The others asked him what these words were. Olrau replied, “The words have been given to me, but I will not know what they are until the time comes to speak them”. Olrau, however, did convey to them he would speak about the fact that nothing could be slain for ever, that the time has come or the rebirth of Ilviranism in the city. He added that he would also reveal to the crowd that the time would come when when Ilvir would become the greatest god in the city. Some among the missionaries were uncertain about the wisdom of the last point in the planned sermon, but kept their thoughts to themselves.

After breakfasting, the missionaries crossed the Kobar Bridge and passed through the courtyard of Caer Coranan, where they were subjected to rude behavior by the soldiers of the Red Guard (Coranan's 'city guard'). Kalrun, the wounded war veteran, upbraided the Red Guardsmenfor their rudeness and sloppiness, but they paid no heed to him.

After passing through the city gate, the missionaries were greeted by an array of beggars, urchins, hawkers, and representatives of brothels. Several urchins approached the missionaries and offered to be “guides”, but were rebuffed. One particularly persistent lad refused to stop following until Jaroud threatened to sic his dogs on him.

As they entered Kotros Square, the main marketplace (which was mostly empty, as it was a holiday), a ray of sunlight pierced through the clouds and struck the city's bonding house. The sunbeam fell squarely upon a sculpture of an Umbrathri (who was depicted sitting on a pile of coins) on the building's second floor. As rainwater dripped off the Umbathri's head in the light, it appeared that the creature was weeping.

Brother Olrau, apparently not having realized that the Umbathri was a sculpture, rather than a real Ivashu, addressed it and asked it to give them a message regarding their mission. The sculpture remained silent, but Brother Olrau nonethless proclaimed this a clear sign from Ilvir that their plan to give a sermon to the crowds at the Pamesani was in accordance with the god's plans.

Varied Morning Activities…
15 Nolus 720 TR (Morning)

The missionaries made some quick inquiriesand learned that the Agrikans who run the Games would open the Arena's gates at noon. As it was still early, and as several in the group had private matters to attend to, they agreed to split up and re-gather outside the entrance to the Pamesani Arena at the 10th bell. [GMs note to Hârn fans: For this campaign, I have decided that one of the K'norran temples in the city marks off the hours by ringing a bell.]

Jaroud sought out the small house with the attached pens that had he had arranged to purchase before having arrived in the city. He found it in what locals call “The Agrikan District”, a slummy area south of the Arena. His house was small, but respectable and the pens made a usable kennel. From other buidlings on the street, there were distinct animal smells and Jaroud gathered that there may be other other animal-keepers— or butchers— nearby.

Judyn met with Indros of Obyne, one of the city's wealtiest mercantylers, at his home in Mangai Square. They discussed her new religious outlook and her turning over of her clan's business to her cousin Cobart. In their conversation, Judyn strongly hinted that their new temple might be interested in helping to supply Ivashu to the Agrikans for the games. Indros indicated that there could be good money in that and stated that he would be interested in partnering with her in such a venture. They also discussed who in Coranan currently supplied Ivashu to the games. Indros noted that those who did so currently lacked his influence and that he could 'take care of them' if they trid to cause trouble for any venture between him and Judyn. Indros also gave Judyn a pass for the use of his 'reserved' box in the Arena at today's games, upon her request.

Kalrun and his ward Kara walked around the city. In doing so, the veteran observed that the Red Guard did not appear to take an active role in 'policing' the city or providing watches— and that many city residents relied upon private mercenaries and even armed slaves for protecting themselves. In a tavern, he struck up a conversation with a Red Guard sergeant and, by buying him several drinks (while holding his own liquor) pumped him for information about how the Red Guard operated. The sergeant, named Arbun, conceded to Kalrun that the Red Guard's discipline was sloppy. He gave the excuse that this was a product of their having been without a commander for three years, due to the inability of the highly factionaized Senate to appoint one. Over more ale, Arbun provided further details on the politics of the City and Republic.

Maban headed directly to the Pamesani Arena, where she discovered a sizable crowd near the eastern entrance— most of whom were taking or placing bets on the day's bouts. She asked one cluster of individuals where she might find “the brave Aklash gladiator”. The others at first thought she was making a joke, but her persistent questionning— and her offering up a bone from her divination kit as stakes for a bet— led them to conclude that she was mad. Some laughed at her, but one soul tossed her a farthing, which she immediately placed on a bet for the Aklash to win his fight. This was met with great mirth by the crowd, but the bet was accepted with generous odds. Maban agreed without hesitation and indicated that she woul come back later to collecting her winnings. Maban also spoke at length with two guards from the Agrikan Order of the Demon Pameshlu outside of the still-closed eastern gate into the Arena, unsuccessfully trying to persuade them to let her in to see the Aklash. The guards were not sure what to make of Maban, but they too concluded that she must be a madwoman. Snickering to themselves, they told her to come back just before the gates opened and promised to “let her in to see the great Aklash warrior”. If Maban sensed the less-then-friendly intentions hidden beneath there words, she did not let on.

Bowdyn began the morning by seeking out Jorak of Asarn, the Guildmaster of the Coranan Masons' Guild, to discuss opening a franchise within the city and to seek advice on what might be good places to build a temple. Upon visiting the man's office in the southeast corner of the city, however, Bowdyn was told that Jorak was “not available” by a snide journeyman who demanded a bribe simply to relay a message to his Master. Peeved at this impertinence, Bowdyn continued on to his new shop and house (which, like Jaroud, he had-purchased sight unseen). The building was a respectably well-maintained structure in the far west of the city, just south of Impaler's Square. Bowdyn was rather pleased with the structure, but his wife Hillay is horrified— both by its need for repair and its location. She and Bowdyn argued and she ran out of the building. Bowdyn chased after her, but lost track of her in Impaler's Square. Unsure what way to go, he returned to the shop to await her return, knowing that it might mean that he could not meet with the other missionaries before the Arena.

A Sermon in the Pamesani Plaza
15 Nolus 720 TR (Noon)

Shortly before the noon bell, Brother Olrau, Judyn, Kalrun, and Kara gathered in the square outside of the eastern entrance to the Pamesani arena. Jaroud was also nearby, along with his two fighting mastiffs, speaking with the Demon Pameshlu guards at the entrance to they had any interest in using his mastiffs in the games. (He had heard that one of the day's events would be involve setting trained fighting dogs and wolves on minimally armed prisoners, to see whether the wolves or trained dogs killed more— and he thought this would be an ideal way to display the ferocity of his dogs, and his skill as a breeder/trainer, to hundreds of potential patrons.) The guards explained, however, that no new dogs were needed for the day— although they also hinted that for a bribe, they would put him in contact with one of the priests of the Octagonal Pit so that he could discuss using his dogs in future games.

Brother Olrau related that he was ready to speak and made ready to stand on an empty crate that he had found and broght. The other missionaries, however, were a bit apprehensive that Olrau's planned sermon— specifically his scomments about Ilvir one day becoming the chief god in the city, may not go over with the crowd. Kalrun leapt up on the crate ahead of Olrau and gave a short speech to 'warm the crowd up'. Targeting the many soldiers in the square, he spoke about the great strength of the Aklash, describimg him as a tough and formidable foe. He kept speaking until the gates were open and the crowd began to move out of the square and into the arena. His speech was well received by the crowd, many of whom gathered near, although none heeded Maban's call for alms.

Once Kalrun finished, Brother Olrau mounted the crate and spoke to the curious crowd about his mission and how the time has come for the faith of Ilvir to be “reborn” in Coranan, where it has been too long forgotten. While speaking, his voice gradually rose from calm and slow to impassioned, and his very face was transformed by the enthusiasm of his words. Many in the remaining crowd stayed to hear out the sermon of this foreign preacher, and a few seem genuinely moved by it. To the relief of the other missionaries, Olrau did not proclaim that Ilviranism would again become “the main faith” in Coranan, despite what he had said in the morning. The missionaries, relieved, also felt confident that they may have even gained some converts— or at least attracted some curious souls— through these open-air sermons.

The missionaries, in possession of the box seat pass given to Judyn, Indros of Obryne, then entered the arena. While doing so, Maban was jostled by a passerby who grabbed her by the shoulder and croaked, “Save our sister!” in Ivashi and then released her, suddenly vanishing into the crowd. Maban recognized the figure as Ro'agg, the shape-changing Ivashu who has stalked her for years. That he has shown up in Coranan is a great surprise!

Marital Strife at the Halean Temple
15 Nolus 720 TR (Noon)

After having lost track of Hillay when she stormed off earlier, Bowdyn went back to his new house/shop, to wait for her to calm down and return.

At length, the main door opened. But instead of his wife, Bowdyn saw fifty-something man with a long unkempt beard, a dirty white tunic, and an iron bracelet on his arm, carrying twin pails of water. Quick questioning revealed that the man, named Nur, was a slave who “came with the place” along with other furniture and property that the prior owners no longer wanted.

Bowdyn described his wife to Nur and asked whether he had seen such a woman. Nur, almost apologetic, admitted that he had overheard a woman of her description asking directions to the Halean temple, leading him to the Merchants' Quarter in the southeast of the city. His mind still on his troublesome spouse, he scarcely noticed that the temple was was just on the other side of a wide plaza from the Pamesani Arena, into which the waiting crowds began pouring.

The Halean grounds and temple door were open, so Bodyn entered. After being momentarily distracted by the fine imported marble out of which the structure was built, he heard the sound of sobbing coming from a curtained alcove. As he neared, he overheard a woman— presumably a Halean priestess— speaking to his still tearful wife behind the curtain, counseling her that she should look on Coranan as a great opportunity for herself: “Not everything you do here need involve your husband— or his strange faith. You can be quite happy and satisfied in Coranan if you open yourself up to what there is to be enjoyed. All the best people attend our rites here, and you will have ample opportunity to consort with them.”

Bowdyn, incensed at the priestess's not so subtle suggestions that his wife make him a cuckold, burst into the alcove, grabbed Hillay by the arm, and began pulling her to the door. Hillay struggled to break free of his grip, but proved too weak. However, to prevent further attempts, he picked her up, threw her over his shoulder, and carried her out. The priestess, outraged, accused him of blasphemy for having interrupted a confessional ritual. She did not, however, command the temple's Solithori (temple guards) to stop him from leaving with his wife. Instead,she simply called to Hillay "You're welcome here any time, good lady!”. Bowdyn, still angry, spat back at the priestess, "You'll welcome anyone here!"

Upon leaving, Bowdyn's intent was to take his wife back to their new home, but upon exiting the temple and seeing that the Pamesani was just across the way, he instead decided to seek out his fellow missionaries in the arena. With Hillay still slung across his back, he entered the Arena's gates.

The Triumph and Death of the Aklash Gladiator
15 Nolus 720 TR (Early Afternoon)

Brother Olrau, Jaroud, Judyn, Kalrun, Kara, and Maban installed themselves in Indros's 'reserved' box, which was located in a 'quality' part of the arena reserved for those of means.

After some pomp and ceremony by the officiating priests of the Octagonal Pit and the fighting order bout the Demon Pameshlu, the games began. The first match was a simple gladiatorial match, while the second pitted four gladiators against a score of Gârgun. The crowd seemed to love the bloody spectacle, although some of the missionaries— most notably Kalrun— were appalled at the games' disrespect for human life.

Shortly before the third fight, when four gladiators were slated to fight the Aklash, the missionaries prayed to Ilvir to give his spawn strength in the upcoming battle. Judyn specifically called upon Ilvir to lend his divine stench to the Aklash so as to make its breath even more unbearable. Maban and Olrau echoed this call for Ilvir's aid.

At length, a gate opened and the Aklash was released into the arena. Those nearest the blubbery beast gasped in horror at his appearance and stench. Some began retching in their seats; others fled to seats further back. The Aklash stomped around the Arena for several minutes, roaring and bellowing. At one point, it looked at Maban (or so it appeared to her) and roared in Ivashi, “Mountains! Want mountains! Home!” She was moved to sympathy for the creature and began to wonder if the Aklash might be the 'sister' whom Ro'agg told her to save.

Eventually the gladiators emerged: two on food, two on horseback. Maban, called upon Ilvir to hinder the horseman in their attempts to harm the Aklash. Her prayer was granted: just instants later, one rider slumped back in saddle, overcome by the creature's odor, and fell unconscious of the side of his horse. The other's horse spooked and he was thrown— head first— from his mount against the walls of the arena. After some brief jerking spasms, he stopped moving alogether. The Aklash slashed at the belly of one of the fallen and eviscerated it with his claw. It then picked up the body of the other and with one crunching bite, ripped the man's head off and ground it up, skull and all, in his fang-filled maw. The missionaries, thrilled that Ilvir had granted their prayers and was helping give victory to the Aklash, commenced cheering loudly— even Kalrun, despite his misgivings about the deaths of the men. Others in the crowd began to join them in cheering, not so much for the sake of the Aklash but for sheer delight at the carnage.

Just as the Aklash rent the head from the one gladiator Bowdyn spotted his fellow missionaries and made his way to them, with Hillay, still slung over his back, screaming in horror at the site of the blood spurting out of the man's neck and the monster chewing up his head. When he joined the others, Bowyn finally set his wife down and her hysterics were transformed from screaming to accusations: “This horrid spetacle is what you dragged me to see?!? This is what you made us leave our home for?! This is the kind of god you worship!?!” Bowdyn did his best to ignore her jibes..

Soon, the Aklash slew the two other gladiators and the now-riderless horse, but its triumph was brief. After slaying all four of the gladiators, it began bellowing its foul breath towards the crowd and slashing at the arena's walls with its claws. A gate opened and a score of Demon Pameshlu warriors— both mounted and afoot— rushed into the area to slay the victorious beast. The battle was pitched, but at its end, the Agrikan Terahni slew the Aklash after suffering severe casualties of their own. Most spectators applauded the demonstration of the Agrikans' armed might over the monstrous beast, but a few seemed to think it a shame that the beast would not live to fight again. Maban, in particular, was appalled. She began shouting loudly from her seat, “They cheated!" and exhorting her fellow missionaries, “We've got to do something about this!"

Her shouts attracted the attention of nearby spectators. The other missionaries tried to calm her down. Judyn told her, "We will do something about this, but we'll discuss it elseshere." The two got into a heated argument in which Maban accused Judyn of secretly wanting to make money off the sale of Ivashu to Agrikans. Eventually, though, Maban stops shouting so loudly.

A priest of the Octagonal Pit announced that there would be a longer pause before the next battle, apparently due to the higher than expected number of casualties. Slaves come out and start dragging the numerous bodies of the sand. With the Aklash battle over, Olrau and the other missionaries decided to leave, rather than witness more slaughter. Kalrun was particularly concerned with getting Kara out of the arena, although the girl did not appear troubled by the gore and death— and in fact, metnioned that she thought it was “really funny” when the Aklash bit the man's head off. Kalrun chided her in a fatherly tone, explaining it is never funny when a person is killed.

On her way out, Maban went to the bookmaker with whom she had placed her bet on the Aklash's victory to collect her winnings. Initially, the man balked, insisting that the Aklash was killed and hadn't won. Maban pointed out it did win the battle against the four gladiators he had faced— and that was what she had bet on. Judyn, perhaps trying to patch things up with Maban, stepped in to support the soothsayer, saying, “When you bite your opponents' heads off, it usually means you've won." Others nearby nod in agreement with Maban and Judyn, and the bookmaker handed over her winnings. One man, an obvious gambling enthusiast, asked Maban to give her tips on how to bet in the remaining fights. Maban declined, but told him to seek her out before future games. He asked where he could find her. She responded, “At the Ilviran temple!” and headed off.

But Wait, There's Still More Carnage… (or Jaroud's Dogs Finally Have Their Day)
15 Nolus 720 TR (Early Afternoon)

As the missionaries were leaving the arena, one of the Demon Pameshlu guards with whom Jaroud had previously spoken appraoched him. The guard, named Garryx, explained that, after the unexpected turn of events in the Aklash fight, the priests wished there to be no upsets in the upcoming fight between the prisoners and the dogs/wolves. They would like to have Jaroud's two mastiffs join the group of trained dogs, to ensure no prisoners survive. Without hesitation, Jaroud agreed, taking leave of his fellow missionaries and following Garryx towars the staging area where the dogs are being assembled.

The event turned out to be not so much a battle as a lengthy mass execution— the ten prisoners were sickly and clearly malnourished, in no shape to fight. They were also tied together by thick ropes and given only short knives with which to defend themselves. The dogs and wolves finished them all off, suffering only minor injuries themselves (mostly from scuffling with each other). Jaroud's dogs do quite well by his estimation and he is glad for the attention received to them. He is, apparently, untroubled by the deaths his dogs just caused or by the cruel means of executing the prisoners— trusting in the counsel that Olrau gave to him after his own family was murdered: that all things— even the violent deaths men inflict on each other— are part of Ilvir's divine plan.