Session Eleven: Scenes from the Summer (1)- A Death and a Rescue

Session Date: January 13, 2008

Stalking Punat
(Larane & Early Agrazhar, TR 720)

At the temple founders' meeting last session, they had decided, as a kind of pre-emptive self-defense, that they should be prepared to kill Punat of Khonary before he hired more thugs or assassins to kill them.

Following that meeting, the skilled huntsman Jaroud had begun making increasingly frequent solo trips out of the city, to hunt in the great woods to the northwest of Coranan. On his trips, he repeatedly scouted out the village of Thoff, where the Khonary clan owned a magnificent villa, and where Punat was said to have been staying.

On his trips, Jaroud lurked in the woods and spied out the village, the villa, and the habits of those in it. This was a great challenge as many villagers let their pigs pannage in the woods, and many eyes could have seen him. Moreover, it turned out that Punat's cousin Withas (a Senator and the owner of the villa), was an avid hunter and went out into the woods frequently. Nonetheless, he hid himself well from all possible prying eyes.

Through this reconnaisiance, Jaroud saw that Thoff much resembled a feudal village in Kaldor, with many peasants, dwelling in small tofts, and one great house (the Khonary villa) which exerted a powerful influence over the other homes. It was in the heart of hay-harvesting season and the first grain harvest, and most of the farmers and agricultural slaves were out laboring in the field. A few tended the apple orchard, but not frequently. More interesting to Jaroud were the activities of the villa, where Punat was staying. He gathered that the main Khonary clansmen there, Senator Withas of Khonary, had recently married a very young wife who was already pregnant. He also saw that Punat was staying there. There were also five full men-at-arms (ex-legionnaires by the look of them). in the villa.

Though somewhat unnerved by the presence of five soldiers, Jaroud refused to be swayed form this goal. He carefully watched the bahvior of Punat and noticed that the mason, on many days, took morning walks in the apple orchard. He determined that the orchard would be the best place to strike the man down unawares.

The Death of Punat of Khonary
(6-8 Agrazhar, TR 720)

On the sixth of Agrazhar, Jaroud consulted with Maban as to what the weather would be like the following morn. Her instincts told her that it would be an exceedingly foggy day. To Jaroud, this sounded promising for a time to eliminate Punat once and for all. He spoke with Kalrun, to see he would accompany him on a stealty trip up to Thoff to take care of Punat, but Kalrun had guard duty the next morning and could not get off on short notice. Jaroud wanted someone to accompany him in case things got tricky, so he called upon Bowdyn, who he knew had had some fighting experience as part of Tashal's city guard back in Kaldor. Bowdyn agreed to go with Jaroud.

The two men set out on the afternoon of the sixth, dressed with gear as if to go on a hunting expedition. They started off along the Road to Ostenor, but quickly cut into the woods. Jaroud led them cross-country through the forests until they came to Thoff manor just before the sun rose. They were, as Maban had predicted, concealed by a thick morning fock. Fording the mill stream they made their way into the apple orchard, climbed up into a strong sturdy tree, and waited.

As the morning progressed, the fog thinned iinto a faint mist. Farmers went out into the fields. Herds were driven into pastures. But it was not until the late morning that there was any sign of Punat. He came out of the villa, accompanied by a slave who led a horse. Punat spoke to the slave (whom Bowdyn recognized as Stevis) the personal slave of Punat directing him to take a letter to Coranan that day. Stevis left and then Punat began his daily walk into the apple tree, totally oblivious to the two men hidden within.

Jaroud waited carefully as Punat neared, until the man was just a few yards away. He then released the arrow he had nocked before. The arrow pierced Punat through the heart and he fell instantly, without even uttering a cry. The force of the arrow was such that it passed all the way through Punat's body and lodged in the ground behind him. [Note: This was the result of a great deal of Artha being spent on the roll, which resulted in several extra successes being used to increase the roll of the die of fate, that led to the mortal wound.] Jaroud and Bowdyn jumped out of the tree and ran to Punat's fallen body, prepared to finish him off— but Jaroud's arrow had done its work. The man was dead.

Jaroud retrieved the arrow from where it landed and took it with him. Bowdyn recalled that he still had the poisoned dagger he had taken off of the assassin who nearly killed Girardius the Finder. He took out the dagger and plunged it into the wound, leaving it there a kind of poetic justice against Punat. He also hoped that leaving the Navehan instrument might possibly throw the Punat clan and any others who investigated Punat's death off their trail, although he know it was also possible that those who knew Punat had hired an assassin would see the blade as a link to them.

Their deed done, Jaroud and Bodwyn made their way as quickly and stealthily as possible through the orchard, across the mill stream, and then through some irrigation ditches, carefully making their way back to the wood. They appear to have gotten away unseen— or, at least, without pursuit, for no-one followed them from what they could tell. They slowly made their way through the woods of Coranan Province back to the city. In the process, they stopped to stalk and kill a doe, which they brought back as collaborating evidence that they were “just hunting”.

An Invitation from a Dead Man
(Evening of 8 Agrazhar, TR 720)

Bowdyn and Jaroud returned to Coranan the evening of 8 Agrazhar. The two men separated and went to their respective homes. . Bowdyn found Nur there, but not Hillay. Apparently she had gone to a feast at the Halean temple.

Nur told Bowdyn that Laranz had come by before to speak with him. Bowdyn, after quickly bathing, went over to speak with him. Laranz was in good spirits, apparently not yet having received news of his father's death. He did, however, relay to Bowdyn some exciting news that was brought to him by letter the prior today: His father was willing to meet with Bowdyn and the other missionaries— but it would have to be at one of the family's more out of the way estates so as to avoid any public perception that he was associating with the missionaries.

Bowdyn was immediately suspicious of this invitation, and suspected that it was a trap being laid for him by Laranz's father Punat, in which Laranz was an innocent pawn delivering the bait.. He felt glad that he had helped to kill Punat before an such trap could be sprung. At the same time, he knew it would be inappropriate— and quite possibly dangerous— to show a lack skepticism about this offer to Laranz (let alone to hint that he knew that such a meeting would now be impossible, since Punat was now dead). He tried to show great enthusiasm and hope, but it came off poorly (a failed beginner's luck roll on Falsehood). Though Laranz sensed that Bowdyn's enthusiasm was somewhat feigned, but he did not comment on it.

A Prayer for Concealment
(Evening/Night of 8 Agrazhar, TR 720)

While Bowdyn was visiting with Laranz, Jaroud was gathering the other missionaries (sans Kara and their local convert) for a meeting at Judyn's house to report what had been done. Bowdyn joined them after his meeting with Laranz.

The missionaries were relieved to hear that Punat would be causing them trouble no longer— and that Jaroud and Bowdyn appeared to have gotten away without incident. Some however, voiced disappointment that it had not been possible for things to have been reslved without bloodshed. Olrau commented that their astounding success was proof part of Ilvir's divine plan that this 'obstacle' in their path be removed. He reassured them that, though it may seem difficult to understand why Ilvir should have led Punat to oppose them— and them to kill him, the group must have faith that it was all part of the Shaper's divine plan.

Maban queried whether it was also part of Ilvir's plan that the group's actions might somehow be discovered— or learned of— by Laranz or his other family members. Olrau said that was a difficult mystery. Maban led the group in a prayer with help from Judyn and Olrau) that Ilvir 'draw a veil' over the eyes of Clan Khonary so that they might not learn the truth of Punat's death. [Note: The intent of this prayer may not be accurately phrased above; I am double-checking with the players and will correct if needed.]


Rumors and Speculation
(9 Agrazhar and ongoing, TR 720)

Over the next few tendays, they missionaries heard many rumors among the people of Coranan about the death of Punat.

Most seemed to believe it was a politically motivated killing, as Punat had been making efforts to get himself elected to the Senate. Others suggested that perhaps it was not Punat, but rather his cousin Withas, already a Senator, who had been the intended target. The dominant theory was that the death may have had something to do with Clan Khonary's increasingly close ties with Clan Elernin— and in particularly, their support for General Kronas Elernin. (The Khonarys, apparently, had previously been more closely allied with the powerful Nordaka clan, Clan Elernin's main rival.)

A few folks, later overheard by Hillay— in Session 12— voiced speculation that Punat was not actually an honest Halean, but may have been involved in one of the 'dark churches' of Naveh or Morgath. But none, apparently, mentioned any connection to Ilvir or Ilvirans.

Those who held to the political explanation— and even many who don't— voiced the opinion that Punat's death was likely to lead to lead to retaliation against one of the other greatclans. The characters wondeedr about the repercussions that their action might have. Could this be the start of some political conflagration that will end in the great fire/war/slaughter that Maban has foreseen?

The Journey to Shiran
(12-15 Agrazhar, TR 720

On 12 Agrazhar, during the middle of summer, a group of the missionnaires (Kalrun, Judyn, Kara, and Maban) began their planned trip to Shiran to visit the Ilviran temple there. Hillay, wishing to make a pilgrimmage to the Halean temple there, and to see Shiran, accompanied them. Judyn also brought a pair of servants with her.

The group traveled by talbar (river barge) up the Thard. The barge contained quite a number of goods that Judyn was bringing to the city for trade. En route, they saw a great deal of river traffic— much more than they had ever seen on the Kald back home in Kaldor. It seemed that the river was a veritable highway of trade-- small fishing boats, barges, and even a few sea-capable vessles passed them. A heaveily laden barge filled with high quality marble from Telen caught their attention, and they thought of Bowdyn.

As they traveled, they noticed how, except for right near Coranan (and later near Shiran), the left bank of the Thard was largely unsettled, while the right bank was filled with farms almost to the water's edge (except for a marshy patch south of Telen). They learned from the sailors manning the barge that this was because of the Tulwyn barbarians who dwelled on the left bank of the river. A few abandoned/ruined settlements passed along the way attested to the failure of the Thardans to settle on the east side the river.

As the group neared Telen, a wonderous sign was given to the group. An osprey dove into the water near them and flew up with what appeared to be an eel in its mouth. The osprey and its prey struggled in midair, and the osprey let go. Its prey fell down and landled on the deck of the barge. It was not an ordinary eel, but a water-serpent of some kind. (The waterman said they were called 'scaled eels' and were fairly common in the summer, but clearly, the creature was a snake.)

Maban claimed this to be a clear omen from Ilvir. She interpreted it for the group, saying that the water serpent, a creature of Ilvir, was rudely ripped from its natural home by a viscious predator (the osprey) and taken unwillingly to a place where it didn't belong (the air). It struggled valiantly against its attacker, and even defeated it (forcing it to let go), but that did not spare its life (it still died when it landed on the deck dead). The water-serpent, Maban explained, represented the Ivashu and the osprey the Agrikans and hunters who captured them and brought them out of their forests and hills and into the arenas. Even if the Ivashu fought bravely and won, there was still no chance for them to survive— just as there was no chance for this seprent to survive once it fell on the deck. The omen, she explained, was an unmistakeable sign from Ilvir that on their trip to Shiran, they must take action against the Ivashu trade.

Although Kalrun and Judyn were somewhat skeptical of the fact that Maban's intepretation already fit with her own beliefs and pre-conceptions, they could not deny that it was a highly compelling reading of the omen.

At length, the barge pulled into the Shiran docks late on the 15th (after a long wait for a local pilot to guide it in). The group was in Shiran!

First Sight of Shiran
(Afternoon, 15 Agrazhar, TR 720

While Judyn took care of some details with her goods (arranging for them to be assessed and taken to the bonding house; appropriate bribes to be paid, etc.), the rest of the group went out into the Shiran market, just outside the docs.

Though smaller than Coranan, Shiran's market was still busy and it had a higher percentage of unusual luxury goods. Perfumes and incense, brightly colored dyes and fabrics, jewelry and fine glasswork, exotic birds in gilded cages,were all on display. The people attending the market— and in the city more generally— were much more finely dressed than in Coranan, on average— or at least, more ostentatiously. Women wore more jewelry, and painted their faces with makeup. A few men did as well. Garments were more revealing as well, even by the cosmopolitan standards of Coranan.

Throughout the market, bare-breasted whores and boys ran round, calling the names of various brothels and inns, telling of the pleasures to be found within. Hillay and Maban learn that there is a brothel where all the prostitutes are boys and young men— and they make plans to go there together, later.

Judyn rejoined the group and they proceed north, to where the Ilviran temple of the Seafarer Ibenis was said to be. The decadence of the city— and the Halean influence on it— made itself apparent even outside the market. The hall of the Mangai was decorated not only with symbols of the various guilds and scenes of craft and commerce, but also with symbols and pictures from Halean mythology. Even more shockingly, the Pamesani arena of the Agrikans (where there had apparently been games that morning) was decorated by sculptures whose nature was more erotic (or— perhaps more accurately— sexual in a vulgar sense) than martial.

First Sight of the Temple of the Seafarer Ibenis
(Late Afternoon, 15 Agrazhar, TR 720

They found the Ilviran temple in the far north of the city, just next to the Pamesani Arena, in a region of Shiran known as the "UnderCut". It was so called because the great flood of the Thard a decade and a half before before was so terrible that it collapsed the city's northern walls. The Thard has since been eroding the northern part of the city at an increasingly fast rate. The Ilviran temple's yard opened right onto the Thard, and was slowly being eaten up by it.

The temple appeared to have once impressive structure, built in a Corani imperial style, but was clearly in a state of decay and neglect. Many of its outside scuptures had fallen off. Cracks and shifting stones were apparent throughout, perhaps the sign of a bad foundation. The whole temple was covered in what seemed like layer upon layer of moss, lichen, and mildew, so that it had a greenish-yellow cast. Its yard was mostly mud and weeds, although a small unfenced herb-garden appeared to show signs of some tending. A lot of open cages and crates lay around the yard in what looked abandonment or disorganization. There were no outbuildings, although some ruined lumber suggested that some may have previously collapsed-— or that plans to build some, never came to fruition.

Hillay, upon seeing the state of the temple, immediately turned announced that she would stay at an inn instead. Judyn graciously provided her with a servant and made arrangements for staying in contact with her. The rest of the group went inside.

Visiting the Temple of the Seafarer Ibenis
(late afternoon /evening, 15 Agrazhar, TR 720

The temple's main door was closed. The group (now minus Hillay) pulled at the bell outside the door. A few minutes later, an older, somewhat confused looking man with a slight Jarin accent opened it. The missionaries announced that they were fellow Ilvirans from Coranan, and that they had come to visit their brethren in Shiran.

The man appeared even more confused, but welcomed them inside warmly (if nervously) and said that they should meet with Gwydion. The missionaries asked who Gwydion was and the man (who they later learned was named Bardech, and that he was one of the temple's oldest priests), said that he was 'the chief priest' there. The missionaries asked if Gwydion had a specific title, and Bardech simply said, “We all just call him Gwydion. His clan name is Morric.”

They were taken to the refectory where they were given bread, cheese, and ale, while Bardech sought out Gwydion. The man arrived not too long thereafter. He was a cheerful looking man in his early 30s, with a big head of curly black hair and piercing green eyes. He also spoke with a Jarinese accent. Greeting were exchanges and Gwydion asked them about themselves. They told him who they were, and that they were seeking to found a temple in Coranan. He seemed amazed by this news, of which he had previously heard nothing.

The missionaries, in turn, asked him about his Temple— and its history. Gwydion was happy to oblige them with the tale, and a tour, of the building. It had been built back during the Corani Empire, before the Balshan Jihad or the Theocracy of Tekhos. And even during the worst days of the Theocracy, it had continued to stand— despite the attacks upon Ilviran churches elsewhere in the Empire. The temple endured even after the Theocracy felland the chaos of the interregnum— and was now one of the oldest-standing temples in Tharda.

“But,” as Gwidion explained with sadness in his voice and many gestures towards cracking stone, fading tapestries, and a library of old, rotting books, “the temple's best days are long behind it”. It now hadbut five priests— all foreign-born (three from Jara, two from Kaldor), one acolyte (a foreign-born child orphaned when his parents died en route to Araka-Kalai), no local parishioners, and constant money troubles. The only reason the temple was even able to stay in existence was through annual donations from pilgrims and through assisting in the providing of Ivashu to the Agrkans for the Pamesani Games.

Several of the missionaries, most notably Maban and Kalrun, bristled at the mention of their temple's involvement in the Pamesani. Gwydion noticed this and said, “It is a pity that we must work for other temples in order to survive, but such is how things are here. We have not the wealth and the luxury to make our own way.

Maban objected that it was surely wrong for ther order to assist the Agrikans in hunting Ilvir's beasts and bringing them in for slaughter in the order. Gwydion himself stiffened a bit upon hearing this and responded tactfully, yet formally, “I have heard such objections from others— and I am even somewhat sympathetic to them myself— but again, we are not so wealthy as you appear to be. We do not have the luxury of choosing reject the only hand willing to feed us.”

On that note, Gwydion took the missionaries to see the temple's 'treasury' which was a small coffer filled with coins. Judyn asked Gwydion if she might offer her services in reviewing the temple's accounts, and Gwydion agreed, and gestured at the tiny coffer: “Count it as many times as you like, for that is all we possess, besides the land on which our temple is built— and the river is slowly taking that from us.”

Judyn was appalled at the temple's poor accounting practices, and it's seeming lack of effort to find other ways to make money, but she held her tongue for now, especially since Gwydion was so gracious. Still, she vowed to herself that it was a subject she would address shortly.

The Debate with Gwydion
(night / early morning, 15-16 Agrazhar, TR 720

That evening, after sharing a humble supper of pottage and jellied eels with the temple's priests and sole acolyte, the missionaries spoke with Gwydion at length about his temple's involvement in the Ivashu trade.

Gwydion explained that the temple's priests did not, on their own, go out and capture Ivashu, and then sell them. But, instead, they accompanied hunters and trappers in their ventures, and used their abilities to summon and communicate with Ivashu to ensure that they could be captured easily, without the Ivashu being harmed in the process. They also visited the Ivashu in their pens in the Arena, spoke with them, and cared for them, until their time to fight had come. For this, they were given monies by the Agrikans and hunters of wild beasts.

Gwydion also relates that their involvement in this trade comes with great cost. Sometimes, the hunting parties fail to capture Ivashu, and they are not paid. Or sometimes, things go horribly wrong, and the hunting parties do not come back. That happend just a few months ago, and one of their priests and a large Ivashu-hunting party vanished in the wilderness. Presuambly all died.

The missionaries asked several hard questions of Gwydion during his explanation, and even those who had previously felt somewhat ambivalent about the Ivashu trade (like Judyn) found themselves joining in with comments like: “And what do your priests tell the Ivashu will await them if they come quietly into the cages? Do you tell them it is death in a city, far from their homes? And what of the troubles you are experiencing— the destroyed hunting partices, for instance. Do you not think this could be Ilvir telling you to stop!?”

Gwydion, becoming increasingly defensive, responded, “Do you think I am proud of this? I would that our temple was rich and wealthy and we could do as we wished. But, that is not the case. You are wealthy merchants, come from a land where there are faithful Ilvirans to tithe to the church. You can afford to travel to a new land, and buy land for a temple there. You can decide what you will do and what you will not. You can be your own masters. But we here are not so fortunate. We are poor. We depend on the handouts of those who are willing to tolerate us, in exchange for what service we can provide them. I wish it were otherwise, but wishing does not make it so!”

He then added, somewhat mysteriously, “And I know that there are others who are poor who same things as you do— but they live in caves and eat mold and blind cave fish. They do not have a temple to maintain— such as we do. It is easy to hold to your ideals when you have much— or when you have nothing. It is when you have little, but seek to hold on to it, that you have the least choice.

At this point, the Kadorians sensed that Gwydion was not entirely in disagreement with them on a personal level, and sought to persuade him that it was time to put his inner beleives into practice. They told him that, if he was truly faithful, he would put an end to his temple's involvement in the Ivashu trade altogether. He insisted, once again, that his temple was too poor to turn its back on its major source of income. The group argued about this until late into the night. Gwydion gradually conceded that the missionaries made good points, but they were also forced to concede that his temple's economic situation made it very difficult for him to stop their involvement in the trade. At length, Kalrun, getting tired and grumpy, told Gwydion, “Ilvir will take care of you if you do what is right— If you don't believe that, you have no faith!" When Gwydion started to object that their temple could live on faith alone, Kara spoke up, and said, “Well if you also need silver, that we can provide.” Gwydion, at that point, agreed to a temporary halt in his temple's involvement in the Ivashu trade (at least through autumn), in exchange for a sizable donation from the Coranan temple.

[Note: This was handled as a Duel of Wits. The PC's stakes were that Gwydion would direct his temple to halt all involvement in the Ivashu trade. Gwydion, by contrast, offered stakes that the PCs would be so distressed by the absolute poverty of the Shiran temple, that they would make a donation of 30 lbs of silver (approx. 10,000 d,) or an Ob. 5 Resources role, with no strings attached. The Duel of Wits was very close, and almost was a draw, but the PCs one barely with only a few Body of Argumenet points left. It was decided that the compromise would be that Gwydion would agree to halt the temple's involvement in the Ivashu trade through the end of the autumn, if the PCs would give them enough money to make up what they would lose. This amount was estimated by Gwydion to be approximately 750 d, which was ruled to be an Ob. 3 Resources roll. The PC's successfull made this roll, although they were taxed in the process.]

Gwydion told the PCs that he would let his fellow priests no his decision at their next meeting. When asked whether they would heed his direction, he assured them that the would do what he asked, “though they might be troubled by it I am more troubled by how others in the city will receive it.”

The Repercusssions of the Debate
(morning 16-17 Agrazhar, TR 720

At the crack of dawn following the late-night debate, during the temple's meager breakfast, Gwydion received a message that he was “summoned” to attend an immediate meeting witht the Viriahn (high priest) of the Octagonal Pit. Gwydon hastened to leave immediately and the missionaries were shocked at how he, a chief priest of an Ilviran temple, went at the becan and call of an Agrikan priest. “One must heed one's patrons,” Gwydion said with mild humor, while re-assuring the group that he would not change his mind from his decision during the night, no matter how mad it made the Agrikans.

Gwydion came back a few hours later, looking like a soldier who had long been dressed-down by his commander, but he told the missionaries that he informed the Viriahn that, because of other concerns with his temple, he might need to “scale back” his priests involvement in Ivashu-capturing and caretaking activities. He told the missionaries that he might still have some of his priests go along with such missions, to make it appear that they were trying— but that he would order them not to actually assist. Judyn warned him that this could be a dangerous game, and that the Agrikans might get suspicious quickly. Gwydion said, “We now have money as well as faith. We will be prepared.”

The following evening (i.e. the 17th) at dinner, Gwydion told his fellow priests about the generous donation that was made by their fellows from Coranan/Kaldor. Gwydion also told them that since they now had this unexpected money, they would devote their energies in the coming months to making particularly special preparations for the piligrammage season, which would leave them very little time in the way of assisting in Ivash-capture/care. The other priests seems of mixed mind about this, and though none challenged Gwydion's decision, some asked questions that showed clear concern about the possibility of repercussions by the Agrikans if they were not assisted more fully.

Gwydion responded: “Do not fear, brothers, for Ilvir will protect us— and the hand of man shall protect us at well, for I have used part of the money given us by our fellows to ensure our protection. He then revealed that he had hired three Ivinian mercenaries (who had taken a liking to Shiran and sought ongoing land work) to guard the temple on an ongoing basis. This seemed to reassure some of the uneasiness of the Seafarer Ibenis priests, although it was clear that Judyn— and some of the other missionaries— seemed very puzzled by Gwydion's decision to hire Ivinians— the enemies of the Jarin— as mercenaries to guard an Ilviran temple.

Exploring the City / The Halean Celebration
(18-19 Agrazhar, TR 720)

On the 18th, the group spent more time exploring the city. Although it was ostensibly a holiay (for a minor Halean saint) and the main market closed, Judyn successfully made contacts with local mercantylers and guildsman. Kalrun also observed the Shiran legionnaires who guarded the city (and concluded that they were still quite sloppy, but at least better disciplined than the Red Guard), Maban and Hillay visited the boy-brothel they had heard about (and despite Kara's protestations, refused to take her).

Unable to go to the male brothel, Kara spent her time, with Gwydion's permission, looking through the library of the temple of the Seafarer Ibenis. She noticed that the books, though largely in poor condition, were of goodly number, and of potential interest. Later that evening, she showed several to Judyn that she thought interesting, including the life of the Blessed Ullam, a Shiran-born Ilviran priest from the 5th century, a book on architectural symbolism, and a book on hunting. This got Judyn thinking that a mutually beneficial could be reached between Gwydion (who needed further coin for his temple) and them (who could perhaps by these books— or have copies made— for their own temple). Judyn worked out an arragement with Gwydion on this point the following day. [Note: This is discussed more in session 12.]

While out in Shiran, the missionaries had a dance to observe a curious procession through the streets in honor of the Halean saint. The procession involved the priestesses, accompanied by their armed Solithori, parading through the streets in full formal regalia, accompanied by musicians and by slaves waving around burning sticks of incense. The procession was lead by the high priestess of the Halean temple in Shiran, who learned was also the Halean primate of all Harn. She walked in front of the group, holding a golden cage in which a number of brightly colored exotic birds were kept.

The exact symbolism of the birds was unclear to the Ilvirans, who did not ask for an explanation. What struck them more is the fact that each of Shiran's guilds also partcipated in the parade, each with a contingent of guildmembers, marching behind the priestesses. Many carried their own banners and displaying the guild's badges. Also participating in the parade were Serenima of Dethale, the Magistrate of Shiran Province (and one of the Republic's two female senators) and Quarlid Jeredosta, the provincial Marshall. The fact that so many guilds, and the province's two highest ranking civic officials, would participate in a minor Halean festival illustrates for the missionaries just how powerful the Halean church is in Shiran.

Rampage and Departure
(20 Agrazhar, TR 720)

The missionaries made their arrangements to leave Shiran on the morning of the 20th (except Kara, who would be staying for some time— see Session 12 for details. Judyn had arranged to purchase a number of dyes from local dye-makers, as well as some unusual perfumes, and was overseeing their loading onto the barge.

Meanwhile, Maban and Kalrun (and Hillay), made a last visit to the market, They were joined by Kara, who was seeing them off.

There, they had a chance to see their second procession in two days. Today's parade was by the Agrikans of the Octagonal Pit and the Demon Pameshlu who were promoting the next Pamesani Games on the 30th.. In addition to the priests of the Octagonal Pit and their Demon Pameshlu warriors, the parade included vaunting gladiators in full armor, captured slaves and criminals in chains, and carts carrying cages with gargun, wolves, and other wild animals, all of whom were destined to fight in the next spectacle.

The most attention was being given the last cage, which contained a particularly nasty looking beast such as no Shirani— and none of the Ilvirans— had ever seen before. This vicious looking creature was man-sized, and vaguely man-shaped, save that instead of two arms, it had three— one coming out of the center of its chest. Its left and right arms ended in three-fingered hands, with visious talons. Its center arm, ended in a serious of tentacles. It had a huge oversized maw on its head that was filled with rows of razor-sharp teeth. A yellowish drool continually flowed from its mouth. As it stood, it leaned over slightly due to obviously powerful legs. The creature paced pack and forth in its cage, apparently agitated. Maban, who felt quite certain this was a unique Ivashu, believed she heard it cry out “Hungry!” and “Food!” several times

Maban, filled with sympathy for the creature, told the other missionaries that they must save it. Kalrun was sympathetic to the idea, but felt that there was little they could do, given not only the number of Demon Pameshlu guards, but also the fact that there were crowds all around who would see if they tried anything. Maban suggested that there might be some way to free it once it got back to the arena, but again— Kalrun countered that they were scheduled to leave that day, and that sticking around for a tenday while trying to infiltrate the arena was likely to fail.

“If we you it, then perhaps Ilvir will,” Maban replied, and began praying aloud in Ivashu. Kalrun, fearful both of what she might pray for— and that her strange prayer might be overheard— tried to grab her to shake some sense into her, but his injured knee gave out as he lunged forward and Maban easily sidestepped. She completed her prayer, and apparently Ilvir heard, for just seconds later, the creature began to roar particularly loudly and violenty striking and pulling at the bards of its cage. It then began making a strange hacking noice, like a cough, and spewed up a greenish-yellow liquid which it spat where the bards of its cage met the floor on one side. An acrid smoke began rising from the base of the bars and the creature began shaking them fiercely— and lo! it wrenched one loose, and then another, and then thrust itself through the space between them, leaping out into the horrifid crowd.

“Food!” Maban heard it cry out as it slashed a demon Pameslu laumak in the throat with its claws ripping out the man's voicebox with a handful of flesh, and began feasting on them. In the chaos, the Demon Pameshlu guards were slow to respond and the creature ran, killing a merchant's slave in the process, and ripping off a juicy chunk of flesh from the dead man's arm, which it proceeded to gnaw. Their wits finally recovered, several Demon Pameshlu guards sought to drive the creature back into the cage with their pikes, but it was too fast and clever for them, cleverly jumping and doging out of the way— and even over the heads of the guards. As it slew, Maban and Kara cheered, although the latter stopped once Kalrun chided her. Miracuously, Maban's continued cheering went unnoticed by the others in the square, as they were too stricken with horror at the carnage the creature was causing.

The creature eventually fled from the market (as did most other market-goers). Both Demon Pameshlu Guards and Shirani legionnaires pursued it through the city, but eventually it found its way north to the undercut and dove off of a crumbling wall into the Thard, where it dove underwater. A few in the city claimed they saw it raise its head above the river's surface quite some distance away several minutes later, but if that was indeed the creature, that was the last it was ever seen. All in all the creature appeared to have killed four people and wounded at least three others in its rampaging escape.

It was in the wake of this violent destruction that Maban, Kalrun, and Hillay made their way to the docks, boarded Judyn's barge, and the headed back to Coranan.