Chanda the Dark-Haired (KathyB) - Saabi Thief
Derori Bat Natanyu (Angela) - Shiradi Storyteller
Meheka the Wise (Ellie) - Saabi Sage, Sorceress
Menachim Bar Vidal (Mark) - Shiradi Physician
Erick Olafsson (Peter) - Orkadian Mercenary/Adventurer
(7th day of the second Ten-day of the 4th Month of the year 5997)
The others ask whatever does she mean, to which Chanda the Dark-Haired repeats that there’s no one down in the village of Seph. The others are puzzled, Derori Bat Natanyu saying that of course the people of Seph are down in the village, and when Chanda blinks, she sees and hears that what she thought was an empty village is full of life and song. Menachim Bar Vidal says that he is quite looking forward to a decent night’s lodging, but the others merely laugh and Chanda chides him that he didn’t enjoy Serregu’s Repose. Descending the jebel and following the well-travelled path into Seph, the Dragon-Marked are pleased to be among the company of the villagers, who greet them with open arms, though Derori notices that a couple of people watch them suspiciously before moving off in the crowd. Derori makes a mental note about what they looked like.
Winding their way through the large village, the Dragon-Marked are approached by several vendors, a few children waiting for some coin or cumin, and some curiosity seekers. One of them, a well-dressed man with dark hair and a trimmed beard, inquires if they are from the caravan that the townsfolk are expecting. A male voice tells Safir that they are obviously not, as Hammun would not have hired an Orkadian mercenary for his caravan, but Safir refutes this, saying that perhaps in these troubled times, Hammun might well have. Edrick Olafsson asks Safir what he means, but the other man gestures for him to be silent. The man tells Edrick his name, Abraham Bar Mallash, and that he is what passes for authority in the village. He sees that they have come not from the desert to the north, but from the south, perhaps from Halifah. Edrick acknowledges this wisdom, and Meheka the Wise says that perhaps they will speak in private when they are presentable again. Abraham asks who she is, and Meheka introduces herself and the others to him and the people still hovering in the area. Abraham says he has heard of Meheka, and that she and her companions are welcome in Seph. Abraham gestures Meheka to move forward, saying he’ll escort them to the local inn and tavern, the Sand of Imwar. Edrick notices as Abraham Bar Mallash’s guards settle in around them. As they walk, Abraham and Meheka engage in witty conversation, each holding their own, but the rest of the Dragon-Marked can sense that Abraham is trying to learn something specific, something that Meheka won’t address at this point. The group reaches the Sand of Imwar, and Abraham says that he looks forward to talking with them the next day. They can find him at his office close to his large manse the next day.
The player characters make themselves comfortable at the Sand of Imwar, and after bathing and refreshing themselves, enjoy an early evening meal that is quite tasty and pleasant. The Dragon-Marked discuss their plans for the next day, though they also talk about their impressions of Abraham Bar Mallash. As they talk at their table, Chanda mentions quietly that they are being observed by a couple of individuals at one of the nearby tables. The man and woman at the table in question are both well-dressed and Derori hazards a guess that they are brother and sister from their looks. Derori beckons them to come over and join them, and the two look at each other before agreeing in harmony to do so. They introduce themselves as Shimon and Sarah, not giving last names, and Derori introduces them to her companions. Once the necessary platitudes are made, Shimon and Sarah have tea brought over for the table, to the pleasure of all but Edrick (who still doesn’t understand all of the Jazirati customs very well). Shimon gives them his full name, Shimon Ibn Aziz Abd-Al-Salif, and says that he and his sister, Sarah, have come from Carrassine to search for some goods that were taken from them - as in their clan - that they have learned are being delivered to someone in Halifah. He says they were told that the goods were being carried by a caravan belonging to one Charom Ibn Yussef Abd-Al-Salif, a Saabi merchant of some repute. Meheka says she is sorry to have to be the bearer of bad tidings, and then tells them what the Dragon-Marked encountered in the desert between Halifah and Seph, though she doesn’t mention the business of the Umbral Caravan. Both Shimon and Sarah are aghast at this news, and ask for proof of the truth of their words. Meheka shows them Charom Ibn Yussef Abd-Al-Salif’s identifying symbol that she took off the caravan master’s body, and Shimon and Sarah are even more upset. Chanda comments that they recognized the symbol Meheka showed them, to which Sarah merely says that she is “acquainted” with that Saabi tribal clan. Shimon presses the characters about their true reasons for being in Seph, but the Dragon-Marked remain noncommittal, saying that these things are better discussed in daylight. Sarah seems somewhat taken with Edrick, notably his foreign-ness, and attempts to seduce him but the Orkadian is having none of it for the moment (as her realizes he is not at his wits’ best, and that she is trying to manipulate him). Meheka and the others tell them that they’ll see them in the morning. The grim-faced Shimon says that they can count on that. The Dragon-Marked excuse themselves, and retire for the evening.
The next morning dawns bright and with the promise of a hot day, and the Dragon-Marked meet for an early morning meal shortly after sunrise. The player characters discuss their plans for the day, and the group agrees on a plan of action. As they prepare to head out of the inn/tavern to take care of matters, they spot Shimon and Sarah entering the inn, but manage to avoid them [all succeed at their Stealth checks]. Edrick comments to Chanda that perhaps at some point they should follow the brother and sister and see what they’re up to in Seph. Chanda asks if there’s something going on, but Edrick says that he’s merely interested to see if there’s more to the two than they’ve admitted to. Chanda merely smiles at him, and Edrick gets a little huffy with her.
Chanda and Menachim go to the morning market to purchase supplies for the group’s planned trip into the desert once more, also going to check on the camels. They find that while the small souk of Seph is well-stocked, the prices are triple what they should be. Chanda learns from a merchant that this is due to a lack of caravans and goods coming through the village. Another of the merchants, Amar, tells them that the last caravan passed through Seph some ten days ago. Menachim asks him whose caravan it was, but Amar is unable to remember, something that strikes Chanda as suspicious, but she doesn’t question matters in so public a place, and besides they have errands to run. Menachim has the various merchants deliver their purchases to the Sand of Imwar in his name. Menachim tells Chanda that he also needs to restock some medical supplies and equipment, and she asks if he’s fit to handle that business on his own. He says he is, and she tells him that she’s got some stuff that she needs to take care of, but that she’ll meet him at one of the small eateries they passed on the way to the marketplace. Menachim visits one of the local physicians, Haram Bar Solomon, whom he knows from a previous visit to Seph. After exchanging pleasantries, and making several purchases, Menachim asks Haram about how his business is going and if there have been any odd goings-on of late. Haram cautiously tells him that there has been a run on purchases of various medicinal oils and liniments, but nothing out of the ordinary. The two talk of other matters, but Menachim learns little else of value, other than the fact that one of Haram’s mercantile contacts who delivers medicinal items has failed to arrive. He’s at least a week overdue now.
Meheka and Derori pay a visit to the home of the authority figure of Seph, Abraham Bar Mallash. They see that while his manse is quite simple, very much in the Saabi style of architecture, the number of guards that he has are more numerous than they might have expected. Derori recognizes several of his guards as Agalanthian and other Occidental fighting men, mercenaries most likely, among the Saabi soldiers employed by Abraham. She’s curious about them, but Meheka tells her they must speak with the authority figure of Seph first, as they need to gain his good will. After gaining entry to the manse, the two are impressed with the sheer splendour and wealth, marvelling at how Abraham has managed to furnish it so lavishly in such an…out-of-the-way place. Abraham appears and tells them that it is through family connections, wise investment, good merchant sense and some luck. The three sit down for some tea and biscuits with some fruit as well, and Abraham asks how he can help them. Meheka says they’re interested in what is going on with the caravans that are supposed to be coming through Seph on their way to Halifah and the towns of Kh’saaba. Abraham asks why they want to know, and before Meheka can say anything, Derori tells him they are there seeking the missing caravans, and perhaps make a few Silver Talents in the process. Abraham asks if they are mercenaries, but Meheka says, “We are *not* mercenaries, as we’re not that crude in our methods.” ‘Dragon-Marked,” adds Derori. A perturbed look comes across Abraham’s face, but only Meheka catches it in his fleeting glance. Abraham says the situation is more complicated than they realize. Some ten (!!) caravans that were due to arrive the last three months did not, three in the last month alone, seemingly having disappeared in the wastes of the Aramla El-Nar, despite the experience of the caravan masters and their fellow caravaneers. Most of these caravans are...were carrying various commodities, as well as vital foodstuffs and shipments of cloth and silk. He says that a caravan from Carrassine was somewhere near Seph, on the way to the towns and villages of the south, as a courier had passed through with important messages, bound for Halifah, but the caravan itself never arrived. A group of Dragon-Marked set out to track down the caravan, but they never returned. Meheka asks who the Dragon-Marked in question were, but when Abraham tells her, she doesn’t know them, though Derori says that two of the names are familiar to her through stories and tales that she’s heard. Abraham says that the guards for the majority of caravans that pass through Seph are seasoned in the ways of the desert and experienced. He says that he believes some other, perhaps supernatural force is at work here. Meheka scoffs at the notion, but Abraham tells her not to dismiss the idea. The Desert of Fire is, after all, a highly magical place. Abraham says it’s not all that bad, as one caravan passed through Seph some ten days ago, the caravan of Charom Ibn Yussef Abd-Al-Salif. Meheka and Derori look at each other, and then tell him the news they have of finding the caravan remains in the desert south of Seph. Abraham is horrified at the news, but doesn’t seem as unprepared to hear this news as they might have expected. Abraham asks the Dragon-Marked what they plan to do next, and Derori tells him that they want to talk to the others about matters first. They take their leave of the village leader. Meheka tells Derori they should go to the souk. When Derori asks why, the former tells her that she’s hungry and the food found in souks is the best.
Meanwhile, Edrick takes his own advice and decides to follow the brother and sister, Shimon and Sarah. Donning some lighter armour, Edrick follows the two from the Sand of Imwar as they head for the village’s souk, and observes as they make several purchases here and there, seemingly just normal everyday items and some travelling goods. At one point he gets the impression that Sarah knows that he’s following them for she turns in his direction and gives him a wink, but Shimon seems oblivious to his presence. The two go into a smith’s shoppe, and take quite a while there. Edrick decides to follow them inside, and finds them bargaining over a couple of passable swords; he sees they are the only two weapons on display. They don’t seem to be as astute in their haggling as he expected them to be, as they pay far more for the two swords than they are worth. Shimon and Sarah approach him, and ask him what he thinks of the two weapons in question. Edrick unflinchingly says that they’re not up to Orkadian manufacture, but the blades seem combat worthy with a bit of sharpening. Shimon agrees, and goes to talk to the vendor again, while Sarah stays at Edrick’s side. She flirts with him while once more trying to get information from him on what he and the other Dragon-Marked are doing in Seph, but he manages to avoid her questions by deflecting matters...and attempts a little bit of flattery and flirting with her. She returns this with more ardour than he’d expected, but he is rescued by the return of Shimon. Sarah surprises Shimon by telling Edrick that they found a lead on the goods that they have been searching for. Edrick asks what he means, but the Kh’saaban tells him that they have their secrets, too. Without another word, though Sarah strokes his arm with a seductive touch, Shimon and his sister leave the smith’s tent. Edrick, his head whirling from all that’s happened, looks around the smith’s shoppe and buys a small pot that he thinks will make an excellent tea brew.
After leaving Menachim, Chanda goes about making several small personal purchases, but then gets down to her real business. She inquires where she can obtain some information in Seph, and is told after talking to a few people [and a couple of Elegance rolls] to talk to the beggar Avram the Golden-Tongued. After looking around, questioning several people [and paying out 5 Silver Talents], she finally comes upon Avram at his usual spot, just south of the souk. She immediately realizes he is no typical beggar, as his clothes are of fine quality, his grooming is impeccable (though he is somewhat dirty after spending the morning in the souk area), and he’s quite bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. After leaving a Silver Talent in his begging pot, and noticing that he’s done quite well so far for the day, Chanda and Avram exchange pleasantries, and then get down to business. She inquires as to what he knows about the missing caravans, and Avram says that will cost her. When she asks what, he says “favours, favours in the future.” She is somewhat leery, but agrees and they ceremonially spit and shake hands on it. Avram tells her much of what she already knows, but adds a few interesting facts. While many of the so-called informed believe that the Umbral Caravan has some role to play in matters, as it has been spotted in the area several times over the last few months, his “sources” tell him otherwise. The Umbrals are seeking something that was taken from them, “something that is simple, but that is old.” It is their agents, not the members of the caravan itself, at work in the area of Seph and Halifah and there are hired swordsmen and women, led it is rumoured by an exiled Lion of Shirad. They thought they had found what they are seeking in the caravan of Charom Ibn Yussef Abd-Al-Salif (yes, he knows of its destruction, but won’t tell her how he knows), but were in error. His sources says there are two agents of Carrassine searching for the item(s) as well, and that they may have hired mercenaries (or even the group with the exiled Shiradi Lion) to despatch caravans that pass through the area; it appears that they have been somewhat...zealous in their work. In answer to her question, he doesn’t know who the agents of Carrassine are, but believes they have a camp in the desert just to the west of Seph. Chanda thanks him for his information, and tells her that she owes him a debt. “Indeed, Daughter of the Saabi,” he tells her, “you do, but destiny may yet play a hand in the matter of payment.” She turns to leave, and as she does so, notices that there is a Red Lion in the immediate vicinity as well - who is watching her. Doing her best to ignore the red-robed clad figure, Chanda heads for the eating spot that she agreed to meet Menachim at.
Friday night's game session of the Capharnaüm - The Tales of the Dragon-Marked RPG campaign was a pretty good one, though we did stop about half an hour early due to the fact that I was just wilting from whatever illness I've come down with. The players had a good time, and enjoyed the various interactions going on among themselves and with various NPCs through the course of the game session. The Dragon-Marked have learned a lot about what's going on, but it's a matter of putting two and two together and coming up with four. The group is also intrigued by what's going on with Edrick and Sarah, the enigmatic but flirtatious NPC!
I'm feeling a bit worse for the weather today, but really hope I'll be able to run the next Capharnaüm - The Tales of the Dragon-Marked session on the Friday night group the first week of February. We'll see how things shape up, both health-wise and weather willing.