Players: Chris V, Peter, Oliver
The session begins as the last one ended, with Farouk carrying Mara to the shrine. At the sight of his sister’s body, Duban is filled with shock and horror, and demands to know why she’s dead. Farouk dodges the question, and instead begs Duban to try and get Zarus’ aid in bringing her back. Duban, shaken, agrees, and sends Farouk out to gather as many guild members as he can to help the ritual. Fazzik joins Duban in the shrine, deep in prayer for the resurrection of Jamal.
Janwar and Soraya have been walking in a leisurely fashion from their boat back to the guildhouse, relaxed and exotically perfumed after two weeks of rest in Ratport. That calmness fades quickly, however, when they enter the guild compound to find it in chaos. They quickly rearm and question the other guards about what has happened, and what steps need to be taken. Janwar places guards on every entrance into the Guildhouse and two on the walls, and then heads inside to get answers from the rest of the Hand.
Azam does not share his companion’s desire for Jamal’s resurrection, afraid that if Jamal is resurrected he will indict the necromancer who sent him to his death. He considers doing horrible things to the rest of the guild, but decides he’d need a lot more force to take the rest of the guild on. He goes out into the city, desperately searching for signs to lead him to the death art masters that lurk within the city, but is unable to find them in so short a time. Making new plans, he returns to the guildhouse and cleans up his basement.
Duban has finished his preparations and all the guild aside from Azam assemble in the shrine. He has constructed an exhausting ritual stretching all the way from midnight to dawn, mimicking the journey from death to life he hopes to create. There is praying, singing, shedding of blood, and exhortations for aid. Duban brings the worship together and tries to bring down Zarus’ power, but falls short (9 successes vs ob 10). The shadows fade in the light of dawn, revealing the two bodies perfectly preserved with fine stitching. The hideous twisting of Jamal’s body has been undone, and Zarus tells Duban that this was as much as he could do; the bodies will not rot, and their spirits are still kept in them, able to perceive the world around but as at peace as spirits can be.
The congregation disconsolately files out, but Duban stays behind to spend some more time with Jamal and Mara. Physically and emotionally drained, he apologises to the two for not being able to do enough, and promises to try and find some way to bring them back. He falls asleep next to the two of them, in one of the shrine’s alcoves.
Azam has weighed up the power that the death art has brought him against the sacrifices he has had to make, and found it wanting. Deciding to denounce it once and for all, he collects up all his death art tools and texts and, disguised, throws them in the river. As they water carries them away he heads back to the guild, hoping for more harmony with his guildmates in the future.
The next morning, Duban travels to the Desert Orchid and tells his mother of the fate that befell his sister. She’s devastated, and rather rightfully blames him and his guild, asking how much more he plans on taking from their family. She also blames ‘that little weasel’ who was obviously a bad influence. She bitterly asks him to leave, unless he has anything more he needs from her. As Duban leaves, word spreads through the servants of the guild, and he is surrounded by the sound of grief.
That evening, Duban’s sleep is troubled. He sees the city as from above, lights glittering in the darkness. Then he sees it as from far away, but the city is now as a giant temple to something old. The view is now framed by a mountain pass, as a boat travels towards the city. Suddenly the original view is restored, the temple disappearing. The boat stops, is unloaded of great jars, and loaded with armed people in strange garb. The boat sails on.
A few days pass. Duban has been busy down in the city’s docks, cultivating contacts among the workers there. Leveraging his reputation as one of the city’s priests, he gets people to agree to send him word if any strange ships arrive. Meanwhile, Azam has decided to resume the plan to unravel his master’s defenses, and begins plotting how to read the books belonging to the next mage on the list: Afira the Bright.
Azam disguises himself with Mask, and he, Duban and Janwar go to meet Afira, pretending to be a small group of scholars called the Brotherhood of the Eternal Sands. They eventually find her reading books at a bar, and try to persuade her to let them read some of her books. There’s some haggling and attempts to establish how much the other knows about the subject in question, and eventually they agree to pay a deposit on every book of hers they want to read. Together they scrape together the shards she asked for, and so she allows them temporary access to her library.
From a bestiary of desert spirits Azam gets clues to spirit’s clauses; an alarm spirit won’t cry out in the presence of a newborn, a warrior spirit needs its symbol on the wall of the room it protects, and a tracking spirit will be mollified if someone breaks one of their own fingers in its presence. From a holy text, Azam also learns a little about the spirits of the sanctified dead: they are unwilling to be raised from their peace, but it’s possible to summon them to get information or minor social services.
Finally, Duban gets a runner from the docks. A barge has moored right next to the Sultan’s palace, coming down from the mountains. It’s of the style of the ambrosia barges, but it’s full of armed people and no-one knows what to do.