Chanda the Dark-Haired (Kathy Bauer) - Saabi Thief
Derori Bat Natanyu (Angela Marsh) - Shiradi Storyteller
Meheka the Wise (Ellison Bauer) - Saabi Sage, Sorceress
Menachim Bar Vidal (Mark Williams) - Shiradi Physician
Erick Olafsson (Peter Johnson) - Orkadian Mercenary/Adventurer
(10th day of the first Ten-day of the 4th Month of the year 5997)
“Know, oh my wise and respected Caliph, that on Kafer Nahum of the first ten-day of the fourth month of the year 5997 did the Dragon-Marked led by Edrick Olafsson did venture into the Aramla El-Nar, the Desert of Fire, in search of a missing caravan (or three) but their quest would lead them to the mythical Well of Amood and the dangers to be found there…”
The Dragon-Marked player characters head out of the town of Halifah, in a generally northern direction, Edrick Olafsson leading the way with advice from Meheka the Wise. The characters have camels, on which their gear is carried, but plan to use the beasts as riding animals as well, much to Chanda the Dark-Haired’s annoyance. The Dragon-Marked talk about what they learned in Halifah’s souk, and become somewhat disillusioned to learn that they are not the first group of Dragon-Marked to attempt to find out what has happened to the caravans. Chanda cheers the others up, putting her hand on her khedama, and stating, “But we’ll be the ones to find out what happened to the caravaneers! And perhaps there will be some spoils as well!” Meheka says she is concerned with the myth of the Well of Amood, telling the others that she doesn’t know that story, and that worries her greatly. The group continues on for a bit, and Menachim Bar Vidal mentions to the others that they’re being followed.
The group arrives at a small wadi that offers some cover via several bluffs and cliff faces, and they make a plan. While the others move off a little ways, Chanda and Edrick sneak to one of the bluff edges and conceal themselves, waiting for the follower to come close to them. Their pursuer approaches the area but doesn’t see them, and the Saabi thief and the Orkadian adventurer take him by surprise. The Shiradi tells them that he is Abslom, a purveyor of goods and information. He tells Chanda and Edrick, for he knows them both by name, that he has a message for them from Serenya the All-Seeing. Chanda is shocked, for she knows the reputation of that seer of the Saabi. She pays Abslom some 5 cumin for his services, and he tells them the message:
“The caravan of night shall not rest until it exacts payment,
The Desert of Fire does not forgive.
The evil that came before takes the form of only one,
And the Well of Amood may run dry.”
The two Dragon-Marked regard each other, but neither can make sense of the riddles. As Abslom turns back towards Halifah, he offers the two a full waterskin. When asked why, he says he believes they shall need it. Chanda and Edrick ride on towards the wadi, and following it come upon the others.
Chanda and Edrick tells the others what happened, and recite the message given them by Abslom. The group is puzzled by it for the most part, but Meheka says that parts of it are easy. “The caravan of night” portion refers to the Umbral Caravan. Derori Bat Natanyu says that she knows that story, and recounts it: That a caravan led by a woman known as Harani of the Stars did something that no caravan is permitted to do by the unspoken code: They cheated their customers in a long-forgotten place called Omras. However, the Omrasi were the chosen of Almaqah, the Moon God, who took exception to Harani’s actions. He cursed the caravan, causing them to only be able to travel by night, and that they must never deal with any form of silver, Almaqah’s favoured coin. Harani vowed that she and her kin would take their revenge, exacting payment in a manner that is never specified in the tales. A cold shiver runs down Chanda’s back at the conclusion of the tale, and for a reason that she cannot fathom, she gives Derori 3 ounces of cumin. Bringing the group back to the present, Meheka says that the second line, “The Desert of Fire does not forgive” , is simplicity in and of itself, for the place is well named, but Menachim says he’s not sure, that it may refer to something else. Meheka asks if Derori knows more of the Well of Amood, but the storyteller replies that there are tales even she has not heard of. Menachim says that he has heard merely that Amood was a great healer. The others posit that perhaps the Well of Amood is a healing spring. Edrick says that regardless, they need to travel on.
The Dragon-Marked travel on until it is time to sleep, the Aramla El-Nar taking its toll on them in moisture. Edrick stops them near sunset, and the group sets up camp near a lonely, rocky gnoll. Derori and Edrick take care of the camels, while the others go about their chores. The group establishes a watch for the night, Menachim taking first watch, Edrick taking middle watch, and Chanda taking last watch. Nothing occurs during the night, though all the Dragon-Marked have a restless night, tossing and turning in their sleep, and plagued by some nightmare that they don’t remember when they finally wake.
Early in the morning, after a hearty, but light breakfast, the group of heroes pack their belongings, and set out in a more westerly direction, heading for the village of Seph. The characters’ pace slows as they travel through the heat of the day, and Derori stops them a couple of times in the shade of a large dune to rest for a bit. The wind picks up in the late afternoon, but Meheka says they should not worry as there is no storm coming. When asked how she knows that, she smiles, and replies, “I just *know*!” Before dark, the wind dies down, and Meheka smirks at the others.
They reach an area with small jebels, and Edrick claims this is a good place to camp for the night. The evening and night pass uneventfully, and the Dragon-Marked talk for some time over their meal and before turning in, learning a bit about each other. Edrick is somewhat taken with Chanda, but the Saabi makes it plain that she has no interest in the Orkadian. When morning arrives, Derori points out to the others faint prints on the ground, animal prints. She says that she doesn’t know what type of animals they were, but the other speculate as the group eats their early morning meal and prepares to break camp.
As the group travels on, they emerge from the jebel area into a region of large serif dotted here and there with hardy plants that draw their nourishment from the deep earth. Edrick tells the group they need to be wary of ambushes and attacks from some of the desert wildlife. Derori says they need to get through the serif as quickly as possible, for water sources are pretty much non-existent. The Dragon-Marked head out at a pretty good pace after Meheka gives Edrick some advice on which direction to take. Menachim starts to slow the group down somewhat, and Edrick realizes it is due to the wounds he took in the fight in Halifah. The group slows its pace, and after another hour’s travel, Meheka estimates they are some 7 leagues from Seph. It is the sharp eyes of Meheka that notices a shadow up ahead, which finally resolves itself into a series of caravan wagons and the bodies and carcasses of both dead animals and people. The group approaches cautiously, Edrick taking the lead, as he draws his Orkadian axe.
Chanda shouts a warning to him as she spots a blur of movement, and something charges and attacks Edrick! The Orkadian defends himself from the creature, which looks to be a rat some 2-3 feet in length. Derori shouts that it’s a Fayahra. The others are forced to defend themselves as several more of the creatures burst from the inside of the various wagons’ wreckage. Despite the danger that the fayahra represent, the Dragon-Marked are able to deal with them with relative ease, though Chanda takes a nip on the finger [for 5 points of damage]. Fortunately, Menachim has some antidote to the creatures’ fiery bite, and says that Chanda will only have a small scar later. Since the desert rats are inedible, the Dragon-Marked proceed to investigate the caravan wreckage.
Meheka tells the others that it is the caravan of Saabi merchant Charom Ibn Yussef Abd-Al-Salif, as he recognizes the markings on some of their caravan belongings and on some of the torn open barrels that have been left behind. The Dragon-Marked find little of value, other than a pair of half-empty waterskins and a barrel of corn. Examining the bodies, Menachim says that while some were struck by arrows, the majority of the caravan guards and the other personnel were killed with weapons, long weapons, and he believes they were using suyufs or shimshirs. Whatever else they were, their opponents were skilled. Chanda examines the bodies herself, but decides (for reasons of her own) not to loot them. She also realizes that each body’s money purse still holds a quantity of Silver Talents, but no other coinage - and all the cumin is gone. The group comes to the conclusion that it was attacked by the mythical Umbral Caravan. Given that the ground is unsuitable to burial, Meheka goes around offering up a prayer to the gods and goddesses for each man and woman. She insists on a funeral pyre for the corpses so that they ascend in purification, and once that is done, the Dragon-Marked take an identifying mark or symbol for the caravan master and his closes clan members, and then without a backward glance, move off towards the northwest and the community of Seph. As they travel onward, Derori wonders aloud how many other caravans have not made it safely to Halifah...
Last night's gaming session of Capharnaüm - The Tales of the Dragon-Marked was a pretty good one, and had a bit of something for everyone - some conflict, some mystery, a tale within the tale, and some great roleplaying on the part of the players. The players told me they had a good time, and Kathy mentioned she's never drunk that much water at the gaming table - my description of the heat and oppression of the desert really made her thirsty! :) They rather enjoyed the enigmatic message they received, and were a little freaked out during the attack of the desert rats, not expecting what they were capable of.
Overall, it was a good session of the Capharnaüm - The Tales of the Dragon-Marked RPG campaign, and I'm looking forward to the next gaming session in early January, 2019 (weather permitting, of course).
And that brings gaming with the Friday night group to a close for 2018. And what a good year of gaming it was, even with the change in gaming schedule. I can't wait to game with the Friday nighters in the new year! :)