Session Nine: The Secrets Below

Session Date: November 10, 2007

Post-Trial Prayer and Congratulations
24 Nolus 720 TR (Evening)

Following the missionaries' acquittal (see Session 8), Brother Olrau stood up and offered a prayer. He asked Ilvir to bless the magistrate, the court, and the city of Coranan for its wisdom and justice. The magistrate, Bertin of Nordaka, thanked Olrau for the benediction, but also fined him an additional 5d for taking up his time.

While Hondash was being half-dragged out of the courtroom by his friends and supporters, stil shouting insults and accusations, friends and supporters came up to congratulate the missionaries. Judyn, in particular, was swamped by offers of congratulations by her fellow guildsmen, most of whom she had personally asked to be there, and found herself cut off from her fellow Ilvirans.

Analia of Erm, the Eight Demons priestess, was also among the well-wishers. She was not wearing her formal Agrikan vestments, but rather clothes appropriate to a high-ranking patrician woman. She did, however, still wear her whip of office on her belt. Greeting Kalrun, Analia remarked on his Red Guard cloak: “Your new outfit suits you!”

Kalrun rreturned the compliment and said that her (non-priestly) outfit was also pleasant. To Kalrun's surprise, she became irritated. “Hmmph! I for one don't care for this garb at all! These robes make me feel like a lady-in-waiting somewhere, wasting my time, endlessly waiting… I much prefer my formal vestments and armor.” However, she quickly regained her composure and asked Kalrun to introduce her to his fellow missionaries. Kalrun did so. She asked a few questions of the group, including— curiously— which members of the group were prone to visions.

Analia then departed. After she did, Olrau took Kalrun aside and warned him not to trust her. “I don't,” Kalrun replied, but noted that Analia had done them no harm and had regularly offered assistance without any conditions attached. Olrau told Kalrun that he briefly “saw into the priestess' soul” when he kissed her hand. He saw that it was filled with turmoil and rage. “Her calm demeanor, he elaborated, “is but a mask concealing an overwhelming anger. Her seeming friendship is also a mask for some purpose of her own.” Kalrun said that he would heed Olrau's words.

Laranz of Khonary, who had been sitting in the back of the courtroom approached Bowdyn to offer his congratulations. He relayed to Bowdyn that his father had been disappointed and frustrated that he had not come in person to the meeting the night before. Bowdyn apologized for the confusion and explained the odd set of circumstances that led to Jaroud going instead. Laranz said that his father would get over it, but that it might take some time.

Bowdyn suggested that they go see Punat right now so that he could apologize, but Laranz hemmed and hawed, marking rather transparent excuses about it being a bad idea. Bowdyn tried to talk the younger mason into it, but failed to do so. However, Laranz did agree to get together with Bowdyn for drinks the following night, with just the two of them. Bowdyn proposed that they meet at the Scroll & Quill. It seemed that Laranz wanted to suggest an alterate meeting-place, but he nonetheless agreed to the Scroll & Quill.

Eventually, the well-wishers departed. Judyn hired some criers (who had been there waiting, per prior arrangement) and asked them to carry news of the verdict around the city, emphasizing the magistrate's order that Hondash needed to apologize (and also to note that the Ilvirans were found innocent of all charges). She then told her fellow missionaries that she would stay behind with Vurnt the litigant to ensure that they got a written copy of the court decision (which would require bribing a clerk or two), and to see about getting their share of the 'wager' that Hondash had placed with the court in order to bring the case against them. She suggested to the rest of the group that they meet that evening in the Scroll & Quill.

Afternoon Activities
24 Nolus 720 TR (Afternoon)

After leaving the court, Maban expressed a desire to go to Kotros Square to tell fortunes in the marketplace. Jaroud, Olrau, and Kalrun chose to accompany her, primarily to protect her in case Hondash should again try to attack her. Also, they were curious to see what the word was in the marketplace regarding the trial.

As the group arrived in the square, they heard one of Judyn's criers announcing the court's verdict, to the (surprisingly?) great interest of the buyers and sellers.

Maban set up her rug right in front of the cobbler's shop, as if to deliberately provoke him. Jaroud elected to stand by her, in the event of another confrontation byHondash. Olrau, by contrast, went into the middle of the marketplace and gave an impromptu speech of thanks to the people of Coranan. Towards the end of his speech, he pointed at the Umbathri on the bonding house and reminded those hearing him that he Umbathri was the sign of Ilvir's blessing and favor on the city— and that those who gave support to his missionaries would gain the god's blessing. After his speech, which was well received, he went around asking for alms to help defray the hefty court costs the group had to incur. Kalrun accompanied Olrau closely on his alms-taking rounds, fearful that someone (one of Hondash's friends, perhaps) might try to do him harm,

While between customers, Maban kept her eyes and ears on Hondash's shop, which was closed to business. She got the distinct impression that Hondash himself was not in his shop at the time. As she was benath an open window, she did, however, hear a argument between Hondash's daughter Hida and her mother. Hida forcefully voiced the opinion that her father was dragging the familyinto ruin, and that he had deliberately sent Tymas up to the roof to get him killed, “because he didn't want me marrying him”.

Hida's mother chided her for a lack of respect for her father, and insisted that the family would be fine and that it would be able to still provide a suitable dowry for another suitor. Hida then burst into tears saying, “But I don't want someone else! I want Tymas!” She then added, “I'm also with his child!” Hida's mother at that point suggested that they would find a way to marry her before that became a problem. Maban shared this tidbit of gossip with her fellows.

After it became clear that Hondash was not around, Jaroud went back to his shop to see to his dogs. Kalrun went to find Duglan to practice fighting with him. And Olrau and Kara went to go visit the K'norran temple to find out if there was any news on scheduling a meeting with the Peonians.

While tending his dogs, Jaroud received a visit from Tiny. Jaroud relayed news of the trial, and Tiny complimented him for “getting off the hook without help”. Tiny then told Jaroud that he had talked to his man who had delivered the dogs, and that his man insisted the dogs were in good health when he delivered them. Jaroud said that seemed strange, since the dogs were in bad shape when he first saw them at his place. Tiny suggested that maybe Mykel had done something to them, perhaps fighting them between the time they were delivered and the time Jaroud saw them. Jaroud was skeptical, as the dog's injuries didn't seem that fresh when he had looked at them, but indicated that he would talk to Mykel.

Evening Celebration & Discussion
24 Nolus 720 TR (Evening)

That evening, the group met up again for dinner at the Scroll and Quill to celebrate their successful day in court.

Bowdyn proposed that the group use their victory as an occasion to press Hondash further. He suggested that he visit the shop the next day, accompanied by a letter from Judyn (as the shop's new owner), authorizing him to make an inspection of the building.

Olrau voiced concerns over the plan, but dropped them when Kalrun and Jaroud said that they would accompany Bowdyn to provide protection in case things turned ugly.

Judyn agreed that she will provide such a letter, but counseled that it might also be prudent to have a letter from Lady Alys as well, as the current lessee and Hondash's patron. She indicated that she would visit Lady Alys in the morning, to see if she will provide such a letter. [Note: Judyn suggesting that they obtain a letter from Alys as well is a GM-embellishment. If you hate it, I can change it.]

Kalrun Reports for Duty
25 Nolus 720 TR (Morning)

After an uneventful night and a quick breakfast with the other missionaries, Kalrun reported for duty at Caer Coranan. He was told that his cohort was scheduled for “Wall Duty” that evening— a task that was not particularly hard (it involved patrolling the walls), but also rather dull and which offered few opportunities for accepting bribes. He was quite surprised to learn how short the shift was as well— only six hours long, which was quite cushy, by his standards.

While there, Kalrun spoke with Arbun who was just beginning his own shift. Arbun suggested that Kalrun also join them on their morning “Gate Duty” shift. Kalrun agreed, mostly to see what that task entailed, but also to ask other questions about what to expect from his future duties on the Guard, and the possibility of changing them.

While joined in on Arbun's patrol (which consisted of four men), Kalrun came to understand that Gate Duty patrols had two components. On the one hand, there were the actual guards who stood at the gates, looked out for problems, collected tolls, etc. Then there was a small squad of men, headed by a sergeant, who made the rounds between all the gates, dealing with any difficulties, and transporting collected tolls back to the castle. The duty also appeared to involve collecting portions of bribes paid by merchants and others and taking those pack to the Castle as well, after first pocketing a small amount.

Kalrun was initially appalled by the gross corruption of the Guard and the “Gate Duty” shift overall, but realized that there were opportunities in it as well. And, by the end of his morning shift, he found himself pocketing a small quality of coins for his own use.

Arbun told Kalrun that if we wanted to get a plum shift like morning gate dutyhe would need to pay another bribe. But until he did, Arbun warned, he'd probably remain on night-time wall duty.

Maban's Second Visit to Fargil of Krunos
25 Nolus 720 TR (Morning)

While Kalrun was patrolling with the Red Guard, Maban returned to Kuseme to the shop of Fargil. Though the shop was closed for business, she was let in by Darifa. (She learned that this was the name of the dark, plump, foreign-born journeywoman whom she met last time.)

Darifa introduced her to Fargil, who was dimunitive a man in his late forties to early fifties, with short black hair and gentle demeanor. She gathers from the interaction between Darifa and Fargil that the formeris not just a journeyman bu also Fargil's common-law wife.

Fargil asked her some questions regarding her desire for a love potion, and then told her that he could indeed make the philter she wished. He warned her, though, that it would take 2-3 tendays and and that it would be very expensive: 800 d.

Maban reeled upon hearing this sum, which was far more money that she had possibly imagined— indeed, it was probably more than than she had ever possessed in the whole of her life. She sought to haggle the cost down, but Fargil would not budge on the price. He was willing, however, to offer her another option: 250 d plus, she would work for him without pay for 3 months. This option suited Maban no better; she was no more able to pay 250 d (at least not on her own) than 800 d. She also chafed at the thought of having to wait for three months to get the potion, rather than just 2-3 tendays.

Frustrated, Maban mde ready to leave, but Darifa insists that she sit down and join her over a pot of herbal tea. Darifa told Maban that it would not bad to work for Fargil— even without pay— as Fargil was a kind man— and possessed of extremely rare knowledge about herbs and potions. ”One can learn a lot just from watching him,” she explained, then adding, “especially if he doesn't know you're watching.”

Darifa then asked Maban about herself, where she came from, and the like. She also told Maban about her own rather extraordinary, if somewhat unbelievable, life story, which involved abduction from her wealthy family home in Anzeloria, being taken to Ivinia warbride, seducing a Hârnic sailor and persuading him to 'abduct' her from her husband and take her back to Golotha, and finally, marrying that sailor and then poisoning him for unfaithfulness.

Darifa changed the subject to Maban's divinatory powers, and asked Maban to tell her future. Maban asked Darifa what it was she wanted to know. Darifa said that she would like to know whether she would inherit Fargil's shop and business when he died. Maban casts her bones and told Darifa that the fates say that Fargil's shop will be left to her, but that she will not herself be able to enjoy the benefits of owning it.

There was further discussion during which Darifa re-assured Maban that she would talk to Fargil to help ensure that something could be worked out, including the possibility that Maban's work could be a kind of 'semi-apprenticeship' that could eventually lead to journeyman status.

Jaroud Interrogates Mykel
25 Nolus 720 TR (Morning)

[Note: The write-up here contains some post-play GM embellishments and a couple of minor changes in details.]

Jaroud had gotten up early to tend to his dogs, before joining the other missionaries at the inn for breakfast. After breakfast, he went over to Judyn's house in Kuseme, along with Olrau and Kara to speak with Mykel about Tiny's accusations (i.e. that Mykel had fought the dogs after delivery and that is why they were injured).

Gwelen took him and Olrau to speak to the young man, who was lying in a guest bedchamber eating a hearty breakfast. He appeared quite pleased to see the two older men, until the hard questions started.

Mykel at first vigorously denied that he had fought the dogs— they had arrived already injured, he insisted. Under prodding from Jaroud, and insistence from Olrau that there was something he was hiding, however, he said that he did. Jaroud asked him when he did this— and why the wounds weren't fresher when he saw the dogs, and Mykel wasn't able to provide good answers.

Jaroud told the young man that his lies were pointless, and Mykel then admitted that the dogs had been delivered by Tiny's men already injured. He had been told by Tiny's men to get Jaroud to believe that he was responsible for their injuries— so that if asked about it, Tiny could claim that the injuries had occurred after delivery, not before. When asked why he had at first insisted that he didn't fight the dogs, if he was trying to persuade Jaroud that he did, Mykel just said, “Well, the lie wouldn't be believable if I just came out and admitted it, would it? I had to deny it so that you'd think it's true!”

Jaroud shook his head in frustration and anger, “So, do you work for Tiny or me?” Mykel replied, “Well, I've got to work for Tiny or else— if I didn't I wouldn't still be here.” Olrau observed, “If it were not for Jaroud bringing your injuries to us so that Ilvir's grace could heal you, you wouldn't still be here either.” Mykel looked sheepish, with his eyes cast down.

Jaroud asked Mykel if there was any other way in which he had betrayed him and Mykel insisted there wasn't. Olrau looked at the boy sternly, and said, “He tells the truth this time— that is his only betrayal of you. But he has also betrayed the hospitality of Judyn and Gwelen!”

Mykel, looking stunned, sputtered out denials but under further questionning from Olrau and Jaroud, quickly admitted that he had nicked a silver candlestick “while exploring the house at night” and that he had planned to sneak out another night to sell it. He pulled it out from underneath the mattress and gave it to Jaroud.

Jaroud, in leaving, gave the candlestick to Gwelen and told her to keep a closer eye on Mykel. He then set off to meet up with Bowdyn and Kalrun. Olrau, along with Kara, stayed behind at Judyn's to help prepare for the celebration she was throwing that evening.

The Inspection of Hondash's Shop
25 Nolus 720 TR (Early Afternoon)

At noon, after Kalrun got off of his morning 'gate duty' shift and met with Jaroud and Bowdyn for a quick lunch at the Scroll and Quill. Judyn had left with the innkeeper a scroll case with two letters— one from her, and one from Lady Alys— asking Hondash to let Bowdyn inspect the building's physical structure. Master Goris (the innkeeper) relayed Judyn's advice that it might be best only to present the letter from Lady Alys, thus avoiding the issue of the whop having been sold. They then went to Kotros Square to visit Hondash's shop.

The shop was closed, as it was a market holiday. Bowdyn knocked loudly on the door, After a moderate wait, Hondash himself answered, looking ill and/or hung-over. Bowdyn quickly presented him with the letter from Lady Alys and explained that he was there just to make a quick look at the building to perform measurements and an examination of the is conditions, ostensibly for the purpose of helping the owner argue that taxes on it should be lower. Hondash seemed rather confused by this all, but took a look at the letter with a furrowed brow.

Hondash looked up at Bowdyn and seemed ready to tell him to come in, but a quick glance at Jaroud and Kalrun changed his demeanor suddenly. “What the Ak-Syt!” he cried, “You– you're another of those foreign Ilvirans! Get out of here now before I thump you one good!” He then tried to shut the door on them. While Bowdyn tried to hold the door open, Kalrun bellowed commandingly at Hondash: “We must do this, do not stand in our way!” while making a point of showing his Red Guard cloak and patting his sword as well. Hondash, much to their surprise, took several steps back from the door, giving the missionaries the opportunity to push their way in. They did so. [Note: This was the result of a successful Intimidation attempt against Hondash.]

Sensing that Hondash's feisty spirit was diminished for the moment, Bowdyn told Hondash that their mission as divinely blessed, and that it was futile to fight against them as they were agents of the god's will. Hondash at first ridiculed this idea, but Bowdyn pressed home the idea that all of Hondash's efforts to hinder them were for naught. Hondash became frustrated and enraged by this, and sought to challenge Bowdyn— and Karlun-- to a fistfight but both missionaries refused, saying that the time for fighting was over, and that Hondash must now show them the house, so that they could do their work. Seemingly broken, Hondash agreed (somwhat grumblingly) and told them that he would take them through a tour of the house.. [Note: This was handled as a Duel of Wits between Hondash and Bowdyn. The player of Bowdyn proposed the stakes that if Bowdyn won completely, Hondash would be so convinced of the missionaries' divine blessing and favor that he would himself actually convert to Ilviranism. The GM proposed counterstakes that, if Hondash won, Bowdyn, Jaroud, and Kalrun would leave him and his family alone, never troubling them again. Bowdyn won the Duel of Wits with some minor compromises, which meant that Hondash had come to accept that they really were divinely ordained and that it was futile oppose them— but he was not willing to convert.]

While examining the house (under Hondash's still-suspicious eye), Bowdyn sought to assess the building's general condition and stability, as well as its suitablity for conversion into a temple. Kalrun, also, cast a critical eye at the structure, but with more concern for its defensiblity, than for its physical stability. Jaroud kept his eyes open, watching Hondash carefully.

Both Bowdyn and Kalrun were disappointed by what they saw. Bowdyn remarked that, though the building was built well enough for a house and shop, it was unsuitable for a temple (not to mention being quite old) and would need to be totally torn down so that a proper temple to Ilvir could be erected. Kalrun also voiced concerns about the defensibility of the present structure.

While in the basement, Bowdyn made a discovery that he felt to be extremely important. The building sat on a well-built foundation that was several centuries old— and which was made of fine-quality granite, to boot. It was not the sort of foundation that an architect would normally choose to use when building an ordinary house or shop. He also got the sense that the foundation actually extended beyond the boundaries of the present shop in places, as if the building that had stood there before had been much larger. Though he said nothing of this to his companions at the time (since Hondash was watching them), he felt in his heart that a temple of Ilvir must have once stood on the site.

Bowdyn also made a number of other noteworthy observations about the basement of the building. First, he noticed that it was not nearly as damp as it seemed like it ought to be given that it was so close to the river. Whoever had built the cellar had done a fine job of making it close to watertight. More remarkably, he also noticed a section of the floor where there appeared to have once been a trapdoor or a steep flight of stairs leading down into a crypt or subbasement. It had, Bowdyn discerned, later been sealed off with similar— but not identical— stone. Bowdyn's mind began racing as he thought of what secrets might lie beneath, but still he said nothing to his companions, as he did not wish Hondash to know his thoughts

While Bowdyn was looking around the basement with such curiosity, Kalrun and Jaroud noticed that Hondash seemed particularly uncomfortable in the cellar. They asked him about this and Hondash indicated that his father had been murdered in the building's cellar— and that he himself had found the body here when he was a boy, back so many years ago. Recalling that Hondash's father was supposed to have been murdered by Ilviran priests from the east (possibly the priests of the Order of the Elongated Serpent), Bowdyn began wondering if those priests might have been seeking out the entrance to the downstairs of an old Ilviran temple.

Brief Encounters
25 Nolus 720 TR (Afternoon)

As Jaroud, Bowdyn, and Kalrun were leaving Hondash's shop, they saw Maban, who was just making her way back into the city from Kuseme. She was stunned to see them coming out of Hondash's shop— at least without also seeing the cobbler screaming and kicking at them as they left. They explained that they had persuaded Hondash to act like a reasonable, civliized person at last.

The group chatted for some time in the Square. Bowdyn, in a soft voice, shared with the others his observations about the shop's foundation and his belief that it must be on the site of an old Ilviran temple. He also told them about the blocked-off passage downward. When asked whether he thought the building, as it currently was built, was fit for a temple he said, with no small amount of enthusiasm, “Oh no, it will have to be be taken down and completely rebuilt.”

Kalrun parted from the group to seek out Duglan, who he had not seen since the prior day, to resume their martial practices. Despite the offer from Analia of Erm to use the exercize yard of the Cohorts of Gashang at the Eight Demons temple, he and Duglan instant went to their practice green outside the walls of Coranan. After his practice, he went to the castle, ate a quick supper in the mess, and then reported for wall duty.

Jaroud also took leave of Maban and Bowdyn, to see to his dogs again. Since Mykel was still injured, he had to do more work on his own. He also grumbled to himself about Tiny's deception and the paltry number of opportunities that he had given him thus far. He weighed breaking his agreement with Tiny.

Maban and Bowdyn returned to the inn together. While walking back, they discussed Bowdyn's exciting discoveries, but Maban casually changed the subject to that of Ivashu. She sought to probe Bowdyn's feelings on the Ivashu trade and the use of Ivashu in the arena. He agreed that it was shameful how the Ivashu were treated by beast-hunters and the Agrikans, but when she sought to persuade him that it was their duty to bring an end to it, he balked. Though he was sympathetic to the goal in principle, he felt that the group had to have higher priorities at the moment.

The Finder Returns— with Disturbing News
25 Nolus 720 TR (Morning)

That evening, while Kalrun was on guard duty (and Judyn and Olrau still at Judyn's house in Kuseme), Maban, Bowdyn, and Jaroud met at the Scroll and Quill to dine together.

Girardius the Finder came in while they were finishing their meal. He asked to speak with Judyn. When informed she was not there, he asked where she could be found as he had important news for her. When prodded, however, he agreed to tell it to the missionaries who were there, provided that they went upstairs to somewhere more private.

He quickly told them about some of the minor discoveries he had made regarding the sequence of attacks on the night of the 20th— specifically that Forena the Potter's shop was hit first, and Hondash's shop second. He also indicated that he had gathered information that suggested that at least two other attacks had probably been planned for that night, but that Kalrun's and Duglan's interruption of the attack on Hondash's shop had probably prevented the others. Girardius did not elaborate upon how he came by this information.

He also related that he had, per Judyn' request, been keeping a close eye on the Khonary clan— particularly on Mster Punat himself. He had learned, among other things, that Punat had two or three 'informants' (apparently clients of some of his clients) who were keeping an eye on the missionaries. He gave them a description of one of these people.

Stranger and more disturbing, however, was the news that followed. Punat, Girardius explained, had left the city that very day, apparently heading off to visit one of the family's villas in the country. Before he did, however, Punat had apparently visited The Apple Inn, in the northwest of the city, where he met with some Lia-Kavair members through whom he arranged to hire an assassin, possibly a Navehan temple assassin. Girardius believed that one of the missionaries, quite probably Brother Olrau, was the intended target.

Giardius also added two somwhat peculiar facts to this story. First, he related that Punat had apparently been extremely agitated and fearful before he left the city. He also noted that Punat's son, Laranz had not left.

Girardius advised the missionaries to be extremely cautious and keep their wits around them at all times, never walking alone. He also asked them how they wished for him to proceed at this point. Did they want him to see what Punat was up to at the villa? Or should he concentrate his efforts on seeing what Punat's son Laranz was up to? Or on finding out the identity of the assassin? Or someone else entirely?. After some discussion, they agreed that they would like Girardius to leave the city to see what Punat was up to at the family villa. He indicated that he would travel there the following day and bade farewell.

Death of an Assassin / A Life Saved
25 Nolus 720 TR (Morning)

Just as Giarardius stepped out the door and into the hallway, there was a sudden 'thud' sound and he suddenly staggered back, clutching at his chest. The missionaries saw the hilt of a taburi, a throwing knife favored by assassins and (some say) Navehans, protruding from his chest. The sound of feet running down the stairs followed. Girardius started to come back into the room, but instead collapsed in the doorway.

Jaroud and Bowdyn jumped over Girardius' body and ran down the hall towards the steps, in pursuit of the attacker. Maban uttered a quick prayer for aid from Ilvir, asking the god to slow down the assailant so that he might be caught. Jaroud and Bowdyn arrived at the top of the steps and saw a black-hooded figure below them slip and tumble down the stairs, falling prone on the floor on the common room of the inn. Clearly, Ilvir had heard Maban's prayer!

They ran down after the attacker, who was moving slowly on the floor, semi-stunned by the fall. Jaroud loosed his axe and Bowdyn his short sword. They both ran down the stairs as quickly as they could, but ended up obstructing each on the narrow staircase. Just as they arrrived at the bottom, the assassin was beginning to stand. The black hood fell off and it revealed that the attacker was a woman— a rather slender and beautiful blonde woman at that. Everyone in the inn was staring at her and them in great surprise.

The dark-clad woman tried to bolt to the door, but she was still partly stunned and Jaroud easily caught up with her, while Bowdyn positioned himself between her and the main door. Jaroud raised his axe and brought it down hard on the woman's left arm just below the shoulder with all the might he could. The sharp axehead had clove all the way through flesh and bone, and the arm was lopped off. It fell to the floor. Blood began pouring out of the severed arm and the shoulder where it formally was and the woman collapsed on the floor.

Bowdyn and Jaroud quickly ran over to her, hoping that they might revive and interrogate her, but she was already dead. They quickly searched her body and found on her only two items: a taburi whose edges were coated with a sticky resin (presumably a poison) and a small square of white cloth. Several of the inn's patrons gasped as they saw the cloth— and one sputtered out in terror, “She's a priestess of Naveh! They carry white cloths which they dip in the blood of their targets. Or so I've heard it said”.

Blood continued to pour out of the woman's body and many in the inn were unsettled. Most fled. Some called for the city guard. Kalrun, who had been on wall duty not far from the inn, heard the commotion and ran down with two other guards to see what was going on. The guards asked some questions, but (other than Kalrun), they did not appear interested in the body upon learning there was nothing of value on it. Upon hearing the rumors that it was a Navehan priestess, they left (again, except for Kalrun).

Meanwhile, upstairs, Maban was trying to save the life of Girardius, who was on the verge of dying. She noticed the resin on the blade and recognized it as an extremely nasty blood poison made from a mixture of snake venom, toxic mushrooms, and a variety of potent herbs. However, through either chance or divine plan, she already had all of the herbal components in her pharmacopia needed to mix together a quick-acting antidote, which she administered to Girardius. She also carefully removed the taburi from his chest, staunched the flow of blood, cleaned out the wound as best she could, and then bandaged it with rags to which she applied a salve.

The Finder was clearly still in a bad way, but he would live— thanks to her efforts. Her hands and clothing were covered in blood, however, and blood all over the floor. She remembered her dream from the other night, in which a dying Olrau had told her that her path into the future was 'paved with blood'.

Secrets Below the Khonary House
25 Nolus 720 TR (Morning)

Not long after Jaroud slew the assassin, while there was still a terrible commotion in the common room of the Scroll & Quill, with Goris trying to tell his patrons that they were safe, Laranz of Khonary came in to the inn.

He looked at the dead woman on the floor, the blood everywhere, and looked unnerved. Bowdyn saw him and greeted him, explaining that someone had tried to assassinate a friend of theirs— and that Jaroud killed the asssassin. Laranz expressed shock and amazement at this— and told Bowdyn that perhaps it would be best to meet another night. Bowdyn insisted, however, that he was still very much interested in an evening of drinking and chatting— but that another venue might be more appropriate.

Laranz suggested the family house/shop, stating, “My father's gone on a sudden trip out of town— a personal family matter, so I am in charge of the house! We have some excellent wine which we can drink.” Bowdyn agreed enthusiastically and the two men left.

Upon entering at the Khonary house, Bowdyn noticed with curiosity that the tapestry in the entry foyer— the one in a Jarinese style depicting snakes— was gone. Bowdyn asked about it. Laranz said that his father had taken it down. Bowdyn asked why and Laranz, after a long, thoughftul pause, admitted what Bowdyn and the other missionaries all suspected: He and his family were all Ilvirans, but they kept their faith secret and hidden from others. His father, he explained, had it taken down immediatley after the painted snake appeared on their house, as he didn't want there to be any other signs that might lead outsiders to suspect their faith.

Bowdyn asked more about the family's secretive worship of Ilvir, and Laranz, leading Bowdyn down into the cellar where the wine was kept (he said he didn't want to trouble the servants), told him the clan's story:

The Khonarys had been followers of Ilvir since the days of the Corani Empire, when they were just a small merchant family— and a relatively undistinguished one at that. Back then, there was a sizable Ilviran community in Coranan— and throughout the empire. There was also a great temple to Ilvir in the city itself. When the Balshan Jihadists marched into Coranan, the temple of Ilvir was sacked and burned— its priests put to death, its treasures carried off, burned or melted down. Eventually the worship of Ilvir was proscribed under the Theocracy an most of its followers killed.

His forebears, however, had rescued a handful of the temple's treasures and books before it was razed, and at great risk to themselves, they kept these items in their home and continued to worship Ilvir in secret, performing rituals in their own home. Ilvir blessed them for their courage and steadfastness, and made a special covenent with them, promising that when the current terrors were over, they would be given power, wealth, and prestige within the city— and that as they prospered, so would the city. In exchange, they had to keep worshipping him as they had been doing— through sacrifice and prayer— but that they must to do in secret, letting no others know, and permitting no others to practice the faith in the city, in order to maintain their special relationship with Him and to secure his blessing on the city.

Eventually, the Theocracy fell. The worship of other faiths became permitted again. But, the Khonary clan was wise and cautious, and continued to keep their faith and their rituals hidden from the eyes of others. And so, Ilvir blessed them. And as they were the only ones to worship Ilvir in the city, they enjoyed his blessings fully, without having to share them with others— and it was through them that Ilvir bestowed his favor upon Coranan.

To this day, their clan has faithfully kept their secret covenant with Ilvir, worshipping him in secret, and thereby gaining his blessing upon both them and Coranan.

Laranz clarified that all those born into the Khonary clan are taught of their clan's special covenant with Ilvir from the moment they can speak— and to honor it and keep it hidden. Those who marry into the clan are not told of the secret. Thus it is kept to those with blood ties to the clan. All of the important Khonary males— including his father and his two Senator cousins— are thus Ilvirans, though they never would admit this to outsiders, lest they lose their special divine favor. Slaves born into the household, Laranz added, were also raised in the Ilviran faith.

To Bowdyn, these revelations were not entirely surprising,as he and the other missionaries had suspected that there was a secret Ilviran cult, to which the Khonarys were linked. But he was unprepared for the aniquitity of the local cult— as he, Judyn, and the others had believed that the cult had first come to Coranan fifty years ago, when priests of the Order of the Elongated Serpent had come to Coranan from Jara/Kaldor. He had also not expected that it would be so closely— and exclusively— linked to the Khonary clan.

Bowdyn had many questions he wanted to ask Laranz, not least of which was why it was that Laranz was revealing his clan's secret faith to him. But, rather than interrupt the younger mason's revelations, he let him go on speaking.

Laranz told Bowdyn that the family kept a shrine in its basement. He showed Bowdyn a concealed door in the wall that was manipulated by pulling a loose stoon behind a wine cask. The door led through a low dark tunnel into a small square chamber— maybe 15' square,was decorated with aged tapestries, whose colors were not identifiable in the flickering torchlight, depicting serpentine patterns anreeking with decades of mildew. “Here,” Laranz said, resting his hand on Bowdyn's shoulder, “Here is where we conduct our familial rites.”

He directed Bowdyn's attention to a hole, maybe 3' diameter in the center of the floor. “This pit,” Laranz explained, “leads to Ilvir's court in Araka-Kalai, and it is into this pit that we place our sacrifices of flesh.” Bowdyn, intrigued— and a bit disturbed— asked Laranz about these sacrifices. The younger mason explained that on the full moon and the new moon of each month, they cast the bodies of beasts— or dead humans— or parts thereof into the pit, in honor of Ilvir, and to return to him flesh, so that he may send new beings forth into the world. They obtained these primarily throught he priests of the Octagonal Pit, who always had a surpless of bodies after the games on the 15th and 30th.

“So,” Bowdyn asked, “you only sacrifice dead bodies?” Laranz hesitated briefly, but then spoke: “In my lifetime, yes. My father told me that when he was a child, they cast a living human sacrifice into the pit, as it was time of great need for our family. But that was a long time ago, and we have not had such need since then.”

Bowdyn wished to ask more about the sacrificial pit— and the human sacrifice that had occured during Punat's youth—, but Laranz grasped him by the hand firmly and told him, “There is something else I should show you!" and led him out of the chapel and up through the house to his father's private study. (During the trip, Bowdyn begins to wonder if Laranz's increasing amount of physical contact with him might be indicative of something more than friendship or politelness, but he says nothing...)

When they come to Punat's study, Laranz tells Bowdyn in a whisper (so as not to wake the slaves or the family members who still remain in the house), “One of the great treasures we rescued from the old temple before the Morgathians came was a book of prophecy. It tells the future of the city to those who have eyes to see and hears to hear. My father has spent near all of his time during the past few days poring over it, and a few passages in particular!”

Laranz went to a scrollcase in a small pigeonhole and removed a tiny key from it. he then opened the drawer in his father's desk, lifted up a panel that mate up a false bottom, and then inserted the key in a tiny keyhole in the bottom, that was the lock for a hidden compartment. The key turned and a clicking sound followed. Laranz opened the compartment and discovered, to his shock, that it was empty!

“Oh!” Laranz said with terrible disappointment. “Father must have taken the book with him to our villa.” He caressed the bottom of the chamber longingly with his fingertips. “I can't believe he did so, as he told me that the book must never leave this room, unless the need was great! But perhaps he thought it was. I know that he has been very worried about some of the verses he had read in it recently, which he believed were related to your coming. He showed them to me, but I could not read them. He translated them aloud.”

The verses, as Laranz recounted them in Hârnic, went something like:

From the east, false prophets come,
With them comes fire, with them come knives
With them come beasts who sow discord and death;
Through them, that which should remain hidden is revealed;
By their deeds, war is unleashed, anger let loose;
With their coming, the faithful shall fall, the city shall burn.

Bowdyn, upon hearing Laranz cite these lines, was struck by how his and Judyn's own 'attack' on Hondash's shop (and the inn and Bowdyn's shop) seemed to fit the description of “With them comes fire, with them come knives” and of how the Umbathri's involvement in the death of Hondash's journeyman— and the animosity that followed— seemed to fit the description of “With them come beasts who sow discord and death.” He also cannot help but think about how the ominous prophecy of war and a city burning seem to correspond to Maban's own visions.

Bowdyn, his mind still going over the implications of this prophecy, was prompted out of his thoughts, by a wine-filled goblet being thrust into his hands by Laranz, who was still apologizing for not being able to show Bowdyn the actual book.

After taking a deep draught of wine, Bowdyn asked Laranz, “My friend, if this book of prophecies is true— and if you believe that we are the false prophets it describes, then why are you telling me about this? Why are you showing me your family's secrets, and revealing that which should remain hidden?”

Laranz took a sip of his own wine, swished it around his mouth thoughtfully before swallowing, and answered,"I see it this way. Either you are the false prophets or you aren't. If you aren't, then there's nothing to worry about. But if you are, then it's all part of Ilvir's plan as the prophecies lay out, isn't it— and there's nothing my father or I can to stop it. To me, you seem like a good man, and the other missionaries seem like decent sort. You don't seem like false prophets who want to cause harm. I'd like to think that you're not. And if you are, well, I'd rather fulfill Ilvir's will through my error, than vainly against it in stubborness.” As Laranz said this, he looked up at a bust of his father resting on top of rack of scrolls, and sighs.