Players: Joe, Chris L, Chris V, Oliver
Downtime – damn you Luke Crane! What looked to be a reasonably simple system (put in x hours a day for y months to get a test) turned into a nightmare of spreadsheet wrangling as people needed to look up how much practice they could do per day, what tests they needed for their skills, what skill type the skills were in order to find out how many months they needed to practice for and how many hours a day set the difficulty… And so on. I think it’d be simpler if we weren’t trying to get the most tests possible out of the system but it could really do with being more clearly laid out.
So, what happens in the actual downtime?
- The Desert Rose and the Hand and the Eye will have been trying to pull the city together, using their copious Ambrosia stores to contract crucial guilds and get them to keep doing their jobs. Entirely coincidentally, this is exactly the job the sultan used to do.
- Ambrosia stores are being drained. This would’ve been bad enough without the storehouse thefts, but as months pass with no boat down the river, people (and gods) are getting scared. The traders are coming up from Ratport only to find that people aren’t buying anything more that the basic staples, being stingy with their remaining stores of Ambrosia. Allegations of thievery are starting to be thrown around, and there’s been a few violent confrontations in the street.
- Although the Hand’s in the destruction of the Red Blades has been guessed by many, there’s no reprisals; general consensus is that they were bullies and bastards, and if one of the Guilds they picked on turned round and tore out their throat, no-one’s very bothered.
- Word has gone round of work beginning excavating under the desert gardens. It’s only at the initial planning stages, though.
- Five months pass, people raise their skills, the new Red Blades are set up, Azam finishes his first reading for both of his new spells, Fazzik wakes up, and Duban and Farouk pass their maintenance checks and thus help advance resources.
As play picks up again, Azam tries to find someone who knows more on the sorceror’s defenses but fails his circles. He meets an old sorcerer in the Golden Thurible, a guild that procures reagents for enchantments. Thankfully Azam goes disguised and bluffs as a desert scholar, so the sorcerer doesn’t set on him the desert spirit given him by Rashouk. Instead, he just warms him very strongly not to continue this line of investigation. They talk instead of old sorcerers of lore, discussing the flame barriers of Drizzik the Unholy, and then Azam takes his leave.
Trying to take another route, Azam goes to the libraries of the Visionary Conclave – they know him and are happy to let him browse. He fails the research test, and finds that the library has no books that go into any great detail on the desert spirits. He asks the librarian about this, and is told that a few years back, a lot of the guild’s collection was sold off to help the guild make its bills. He gets a list of those who bought the books to chase up on.
Back at the Guildhouse, it’s getting late in the evening as a messenger runs up. He’s from the Bronze Helms, the guild that works as this region’s neighbourhood watch. Apparently there’s been a murder, and the Helms want to gather the local guild heads together to discuss what to do.
Duban, Farouk and Fezzik go off to the meeting, while Azam stays in his basement. As they travel through the dark streets, Fezzik glances up and notices they’re being watched; there’s a figure on one of the roofs, and a smaller one down one of the alleyways. Sending the other two on, he ducks into an alleyway and sneaks round the back streets, hoping to catch their stalkers off guard. His knowledge of the back streets is a great help here, allowing him to move silently behind them. As he gets to a corner, he peers round, and sees the smaller figure crouched behind some barrels, looking out away from him into the main street. There’s a strange smell in the air, like burning herbs.
Now he can get a closer look, he realises that it’s a child, but horribly disfigured. Its flesh is twisted, and its limbs look like the bones have been broken and reset multiple times. It glances back in his direction, and although it doesn’t see him he recognises the face, as Jamal. Like the rest of him his face is twisted and disfigured, and embers glow in his eyes.
Fezzik inches back away from the corner and, mindful of the other watcher, starts climbing the building. His wound is still paining him, but he manages to climb up without making a noise. As he pokes his head up and looks about, he sees the rooftop watcher (clearly female) go over to the edge and call down in a whistle to Jamal below. Fazzik climbs up onto the roof, and after some consideration reaches back into his quiver. He slowly creeps forward, getting ready, and then rapidly taps her on the shoulder and offers her a flower. “Are you a widow?”
The woman, clad in dark leather, is totally flat-footed by this approach. She takes the flower with a “…yes?”. Fazzik does his best at small talk; nice weather, do you come here often, why are you on this roof and so on, and manages to find out that she’s seeking revenge against the Hand, and has formed some alliance with the child due to shared goals. Fazzik tries to find out why she’s after the Hand, but lets slip that he’s a member of the Hand himself. Immediately she draws a knife and jumps at him, as he scrambles back. He jumps across to the next roof, and the chase is on. Although she has the speed advantage, he knows the home terrain and manages to shake her. What he can’t shake, however, is her haunting, grieving song, rising as they run over the city roofs and resonating inside his mind. It’s a strange, alien sound that overcomes his mind with thoughts of grief and spite, leaving him crying as he hides in an alcove.
By this point, the others have arrived at the meeting. Most of the guilds in the area have sent someone to hear what is said, and low conversation fills the amphitheatre. A sergeant from the Bronze Helms calls for order, and then explains why they’ve all been called here: a body has been found in the district, the third one this month, and horribly enough it’s been partially eaten. They think they have a cannibal murderer on the loose, and ask the guilds present if they know anything that could help the investigation.
On hearing the state of the corpses, Farouk wracks his brains for what he knows of zombies. With a successful Folklore roll, he establishes that zombies eat their prey raw, whereas other cannibals tend to cook the meat first. The Bronze Helms hadn’t considered that, and after a brief discussion within themselves say the state of the bodies was strange; some had obviously been chewed on, while other parts had been sliced away like a side of meat. Farouk hearing this works out that they may be dealing with more than one cannibal here. One is very likely a zombie, given the Hand’s activities, but as the Hand talk among themselves they realise the other’s likely to be an elf of some kind; only they are feared for their hunger for the flesh of men. Immediately Duban sends off a runner to the Obsidian Claws, asking for advice on the problem of Elves. The circles roll is successful (special knowledge, soon).
Fazzik joins them at this point, eating a kebab, and relays what he saw to the others. They discuss the matter, wondering what could have happened to Jamal, and then a member of the Obsidian Claws shows up. They concur with Farouk’s assessment; this sounds like the behavior of one of the desert folk. Normally, he says, the elves tend to keep out in the desert, but they’ve recently had trouble in the city. Five months ago their leader left to stay at a retreat ina nearby oasis, but never returned. When they investigated after a few days of silence, they found everyone in the house dead, murdered by each other. The elves, apparently, can bring on such profound emotion with their songs that they can cause people to turn on each other and cut their fellows down. He warns the hand that they should stop up their ears if they go to fight elves, and to be wary of their wiles.
The meeting finishes with the organisation of a watch roster; the Bronze Helms are asking for help patrolling the district to try and catch the murderer. The Hand make their goodbyes and walk home, considering these new foes.