The session started with a Trait Vote, the final part of the Burning Wheel play cycle to be introduced barring Deeds. This works through everyone thinking through the game so far, thinking of distinctive moments for each character and encapsulating them in a trait, whether Character, Call-On or Die Trait. Additionally, reputations are modified.
To begin with, all agree that the guild could do with a reputation boost. They all get a 1D reputation of ‘A Guild Not To Be Underestimated’, while Duban boosts his to 2D and changes its context to fit. Then, we go round the table thinking of traits.
- Duban gets the trait Dreamer [Dt] from his visions from Zarus. He will now occasionally get prophetic visions.
- Fezzik gets a pair of traits to represent how being in the cocoon has changed him; Spooky [Char] and Aura of Darkness [Dt] – shadows lengthen around him and protect him, giving him and all in his presence +2D to Intimidate and Stealthy. Unfortunately, he also suffers +1 Ob to all tests in bright sunlight.
- Jamal firstly gets the Loyal [Dt] trait to represent his extreme loyalty to his people. He gets an extra belief to represent this. Second, there’s all the hair-slicking; he gets Greasy [Char] and Flammable [Dt] (fire damage is increased by one pip).
- Azam gets the Sibilant [Char] trait from spending a lot of time as a snake. Also, because of his verve for bringing his old master low and stealing his staff, he gets the Driven [Dt] trait – it acts as a call-on for Sorcery when he’s pursuing that belief.
- Najma also gets the Driven [Dt] trait, but for the Sword skill while trying to find the Sultan.
- Farouk gets Tall Tale Teller [Dt] from all his tale-spinning. He gets +1D to Persuasion, Falsehood, Seduction and Interrogation so long as he can come up with an appropriate tall tale.
We start off in the aftermath of the attack. Najma is doing her best to try and treat the wounded and dying Hands of Stone, to little avail; one bleeds out on the floor, and they take the other wounded fighter away with them to find a surgeon. Ali, their priest, says a few words over the dead man, and then they carry him away with them. Janwar’s troops file in, tired from their night’s work, and go off to their barracks to rest.
In the morning, Duban wakes in his bed in the Desert Orchid. Remembering his dream, he heads out to the guild. Others are heading back too; Azam has turned back into a human and found his clothes inside the city walls, while Farouk has been scouting through the bars and cafes for word of what happened. Unfortunately, he only hears secondhand rumors of blood and murder and fears the worst.
At the guild, Duban has returned and takes stock of the situation. He’s glad no guild members were harmed, and thanks Najma for her aid. Then, he goes to question Zarus. He finds him in the shrine, hanging a rat with pigeon wings from the ceiling. Zarus turns, regards him, and they talk. Zarus makes it clear he didn’t send the vision; instead, Duban had tried to channel too much of his power, and as he failed some small part of Zarus had lodged into his mind, giving him some of the god’s memories. Zarus relates how millennia in the desert can erode your mind, leaving only the urge to be whole once again. A few months ago, he felt something stirring in the city, an old foe, and knew enough to force his way to the front of the crowd of gods that greeted Duban in the desert. He hopes to bring down Tiamat again, but is willing to postpone his vendetta with the other gods until it will not harm the city itself.
Azam has arrived back at the Guildhouse and blends into the crowds on the street outside, trying to see how the night’s events played out. As he watches, he notices a disguised Farouk trying to sneak inside the Guildhouse, but doesn’t make himself known. Farouk tries to sneak in, but is noticed by a guard he doesn’t recognise, one of Janwar’s new recruits. The guard challenges him, and Farouk tries to obfuscate and deflect the guard’s pointed questions. This is somewhat disrupted as he’s talked by Nikesh, pinning him to the floor before sniffing and licking him in a friendly fashion. Duban has heard the clamouring and spends a short while enjoying the scene before making himself apparent and telling the guard not to worry. The guard cuffs Nikesh around the ear, and they head off. Duban helps Farouk to his feet, and as the go back inside the guild Azam joins them.
After some discussion about the state of the guild and the attack last night, Duban heads off with a couple of the new recruits to look through the Red Blade’s compound. They make their way in through the sewers, but have to find another route after being confronted with the mountain of corpses down the route used before. They make their way out into the Red Blade’s guildhouse, and Duban sets to work looking through the office records while the guards are set on watch. He finds a few records of assets and stores to potentially follow up, but is warned by the guards that they see people approaching the guildhouse’s gate. Moving quickly, he heads upstairs to talk to the god.
Thapsis, the god of the Red Blades is standing in his shrine, a long room with ochre walls covered in weaponry. He takes in Duban, shit-covered rough clothes and all, and doesn’t look impressed. They get to bargaining; Duban wants Thapsis to form a vassal guild under the Hand of Zarus, while Thapsis wants Duban to leave him alone and show contrition for the death of his guild. The duel is tense; Thapsis has the edge with duelling ability (G6 Oratory!) but Duban consistently makes good, cutting points. They both get knocked out in the same volley, leading to a tie, where neither side can get what they want. The eventual compromise reached is that the Hand will help Thapsis set up his own guild, not subservient but favorable to the Hand. As this guild would be much smaller than the Red Blades were, the Hand of Zarus would be given the majority of the Blade’s assets to run.
As Duban leaves the shrine, he sees his guards facing off against a small armed squad. They introduce themselves as the local guard, and inquire who he is and what he’s doing here. With a great persuasion roll, he’s able to convince them he’s a concerned friend of the Blades, visiting to talk to their god after this terrible tragedy. With them fobbed off, he’s got time to look for information one more time, this in the chief’s office. Scouting around he doesn’t find much of interest in the desk, but while looking behind a small stone statue he notices it’s movable. Pulling it away, he finds a hidden receptacle containing:
- Letters between Mukhtar and the heads of other guilds.
- A skin covered in flowing writing, with two signatures at the bottom; one is Mukhtars.
- Other letters, of a somewhat more… intimate nature. It seems Mukhtar had romantic inclinations.
While this has been going on, Azam has headed off to check the lair of his necromancer friends, with Farouk in tow. The shop is still empty; Farouk has a brief nose-around and gets rather creeped out but discovers nothing new. Trying to find out what happened to Jamal, they start asking around. Soon they find a street vendor who admits seeing a small kid enter the shop a few nights ago, and later leave it after a few hours. But he hasn’t seen him since.
They head back to the guildhouse, where Duban talks them through the deal with the god and shows them the documents. They’re not greatly enthused with the deal, but as Azam looks over the writing-covered hide he recognizes the script as one he encountered in his time in the desert cults – it’s the writing of the cannibal elves of the desert. The piece of hide is a contract between Mukhtar and one of the chiefs of the elves; in return for Mukhtar occasionally sending caravans their way, the elves would grant them safe passage and sell them slaves, elven slaves, for the Red Blade’s more discerning clients.