Gyrfalcon Dawn

Session 21 Recap (1/10/15)
Abortive mission

The meeting with Countess Matreya is interrupted by a message that there is a disturbance in Timble-tain, namely a public uprising at the police station which sounds like the one the group was trying to plan for, only a day early. The group leaves the estate and hurries into town, picking up James along the way. Upon arrival near the warehouse, they learn that the uprising was more popular than expected, and spontaneously ignited a day sooner than intended by Buttles’ organizers. They hastily make plans to rescue Kibu while the distraction is occurring, and head down into the sewers with a few of the Syndicate members in tow.

But when they finally reach the cell where they had seen Kibu, he is gone and the whole place is deserted. Rather than enter the jail to investigate, they beat a hasty retreat. As they are retracing their steps, however, they encounter a group of approaching police in the tunnels threatening to cut off their escape. Refusing to be herded back towards the jail, Septimus shoots at them and they halt long enough for the group to make it back out to the carriage. They leave town by the west road and head to the clearing in the woods where Nhymeri has been staying.

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Session 20 Recap (12/19/2014)
Those explosions you hear in the distance? Narrative bombshells.

Pinborton collects the group of four (Septimus, Marina, Trink and Yachak) at the appointed time at Romerto’s, and slips them into a private carriage. The ride takes about 20 minutes before they pass through the gates of the Grinborian estate, where guards check the lawyer’s identity before letting them pass. Septimus’ emotions are mixed as they approach the mansion that he had fled so many years before, but there seems nothing threatening about it now. After years of neglect, it appears that Countess has made a sincere effort to restore the property to its former glory.

Inside, they are ushered into a sitting room where other guards inform them they must relinquish their weapons before entering the presence of the Countess. Such security is not always observed at the great estates, where decorative rapiers and jeweled daggers are often considered de rigueur on formal occasions, but given Matreya’s foreign origins and the party’s own assortment of unknown quantities, this precaution does not strike Septimus as unreasonably cautious under the circumstances. The guards efficiently locate every last blade and blunt implement the guests are carrying, including Yachak’s staff and Trink’s collection of kusari weights. Only the silken rope dart itself, wrapped demurely around her waist, escapes their notice as the deadly weapon it is.

Yachak is pensive as they are led into the waiting room outside the Countess’s office. His oracle had been relatively chatty that morning, doling out its typical string of inscrutable hints with more snap and verve than normally filter through its disinterested drone: “Be careful what you wish for. Today is heavy with portent, ripe for the achievement of goals. But some goals, once attained, yield more questions than answers. Choose your loyalties with care; your decisions this day will have great impact.” Yachak has no more idea what this means in a specific sense than usual, but the warnings have made him quietly watchful all day, and it is in this opulent residence that the events of the day seem to be coming to some kind of head. He stays at the back of the group, and tries to observe every detail.

As Pinborton leads them into the lavishly furnished room, the Countess is seated behind a huge, ornate desk, bent over some documents. She is dressed elegantly in a ruffled silk blouse and a brimmed hat with a bit of veiling coming down over the front obscuring her eyes. She is still talking to a young man standing in front of the desk.

“…not what I asked for, but it’s a start. They’re not nearly detailed enough. I want the yield projections broken down by crop with a margin of error that takes weather and pest cycles into account. I’ve already explained to them how to do that. And this expense report. I’m not going to accept a miscellaneous expense figure that’s 40% of the total. Tell Migram that if he doesn’t know how it was spent, make his best guess for this report and keep better records next month. I guess that’s all for now. I have another meeting. I’ll keep making notes and give them to you this afternoon.”

The secretary nods and hustles himself out. Pinborton steps closer to the desk and motions for the others to follow, but he makes no effort to introduce the guests until she speaks to him first, which she eventually does without yet having looked up from the papers. “A minute, Pin.” While they are waiting, two of the guards from the hallway brush past and take up positions a few feet away from her on either side of the desk. She goes on reading and making notes with a quill for a few moments more, then pushes all the papers together and shoves them aside, looking at her lawyer for the first time.

Attentive to his cue, he steps forward. “Countess, allow me to present—“

“The Karradevelia group, yes I know.” Looking past him she favors them with a glance. “I thought there were more of you.”

Septimus steps forward, bows, and says, “Yes indeed, m’lady, but this is all of the group that could be mustered on short notice.”

“I see. Well please have a seat.” She gestures to some armchairs in the center. “Pin, be so kind as to give us the room, will you?” The lawyer bows and hastens out, and the Countess addresses Septimus, having picked him out of the crowd as the obvious spokesman. “Pin tells me the Lady Vastavika has been taken to a secure location. Are you confident that she is safe from this manhunt that seems to be rampant at the moment?”

“I am indeed, as secure as we can be under the circumstances given the lack of precedent to the upheavals in the normal order of things.”

“Good. Had I known her plight, I would of course have offered her the sanctuary of my estate. Consider it an open invitation should her present circumstances require adjustment. I can guarantee you that she would receive the best possible care under my protection.”

“That is most gracious, and I will convey to her your invitation.”

“You’re the magician. You’ve been missed on the social circuit these past few days. Your lady admirers are wondering why you haven’t yet made your big splash performance to launch the season.”

“As I’m sure you’re well aware, other events have overtaken us. But obviously I regret not being able to meet the expectations of my, um, fandom.”

For the first time she flashes him a small grin. “Oh sir, surely the preponderance of regret falls on their empty heads.” Scanning the rest of the group, she adds, “And who else have we here?”

Septimus starts with the meticulously hooded Trink, who casts her eyes down as her name is spoken and merely mumbles, “My Lady.” Realizing how little information he has of her origins with which to embellish Marina’s introduction, he simply refers to her as an envoy from the north, which Marina acknowledges with a nod. He gestures finally towards Yachak, but before he can say the name, the Countess gasps loudly, and interrupts with a breathless statement in a strange language.* Yachak’s jaw drops, and he involuntarily blurts out a single word:

“Mom?”

The stunned silence extends for several moments as Yachak’s friends absorb the fact that he has replied to her in Nimmo’s language. Matreya is attempting to stare more closely at her son, but finds herself hindered by the lace falling from the brim of her hat, and she finally just flicks it from her head, letting it sail to the floor behind her. The others now fully behold her striking face for the first time, with almond eyes and delicately chiseled features, whose beauty is scarcely marred by the years implied by the possession of an adult son. There is one other member of the group besides Yachak, however, for whom that face triggers no sudden spark of admiration, but rather the cold shock of recognition. Trink abruptly breaks her gaze and looks sideways.

“Well, then…” says Matreya quietly, realizing from their expressions that everyone has understood what Yachak blurted. She appears confused, and the air of command has gone out of her voice. “So you know…” Then she rallies her thoughts and continues in Timble-tainian. “I’m sorry, but you have me at a bit of a disadvantage here. Would you all be willing to excuse me for a moment while I have a word with my son? I find myself somewhat speechless at this development.”

Septimus says “Of course” and rises to lead the others out of the room. As he approaches the exit, Trink catches up to him and has an urgent, whispered exchange which the others do not hear. Before they can get all the way out the door, however, Yachak recognizes what’s happening and, remembering what the oracle had said that morning about momentous decisions, speaks out in the one tongue they all hold in common, the one which everyone in the party except he himself learned from Nimmo. “Guys, you don’t have to go. Mother, these are my friends. I trust them. What you have to say to me, you can say to all of us.”

Anger clouds Matreya’s exquisite face. “This is your decision? You’ve cast your lot with them?”

“Yes. We have been travelling and working together with a common goal, and I have no reason not to trust them.”

She takes a few moments to process the situation, and forces her features back into composure. “Very well, I suppose, then…everyone have a seat. I must apologize for the unexpected drama here, but as you have now surmised, I am indeed related to one of your number. Yachak is my son. Do you all understand what I’m saying in this language?” They assure her they do. “I had expected to enter upon this subject more delicately, but here we are. Apparently you are all acquaintances with this gentleman, the one Vastavika knows, I believe, as ‘Nimmo’?”

“He is our good friend,” says Marina.

“May I inquire as to the nature of your relationship with him?”

Septimus says “Well, for my part, he has been friend and mentor to me for some number of years now. I count him as a close friend whom I don’t see but one season a year, but close nevertheless.”

“Here in this city?”

“Yes indeed.”

“For how long, exactly?”

“It would be the better part of a decade now.”

She shakes her head at that information, and mutters, as if to herself, “He’s been here that long, all this time, virtually under our noses.” Nodding at Marina, she says, “How about you?”

“For my part, I come from a land far to the north. I didn’t see him often or for long periods, but he was a great source of knowledge and counsel for me personally and, through me, for my people.”

Matreya takes this in without remark. Trying to meet Trink’s gaze, she says “What about you, girl? What’s your story?”

Still avoiding direct eye contact, Trink responds, “I’m nobody, Ma’am.”

This causes Matreya to look more closely at Trink, until recognition begins to dawn in her face. “I know who you are. I remember now, I know where I’ve seen you…. So you DID get away. I wondered what happened to you. You caused quite a stir down in Surregaard.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Matreya tries to keep her voice soft and sympathetic, but can’t resist pressing the interrogation. “So you knew him at that time. How long?”

“It was several years by then, since the time I discovered him.”

“What I told you then, I still stand by, you know.”

Finally looking her in the eyes, Trink responds, “And I still don’t believe you.”

Matreya stares at her for a few moments and says evenly, “Well, as long as we both know where we stand.” When no one else says anything, she gathers her thoughts and begins addressing them as a group. “Since my son has seen fit to include you all in our personal story, I will reveal what I can. Yachak, you know I never told you much about my life before I met your father. I’m afraid I still am not at liberty to explain myself fully. But suffice it to say that there were obligations I had incurred before you were born which came back to haunt me, and I was called away against every fiber of my being. At first I hoped the absence would be brief, but it has not turned out that way. My…objectives, shall we say, have proved more elusive than I could have imagined.”

“But you were a doctor,” protests Yachak. “You helped a lot of people.”

She sighs. “Yes, that was a simple but fulfilling life. I assumed I had made a clean break with the past, and I was intent on living out my remaining days as a wife and mother, and performing those services for the countryfolk at your father’s side. But fate has commanded otherwise. My greatest regret, and my deepest apologies, my son, are for my unforgivable abandonment. I simply had no choice. I fervently wish that events will allow me to make things right with you in the few years I have left, but the future has yet to be written. May I ask, how were things with your father when you left him?”

“After you left, he seemed to lose interest in life. Within a few months, he started descending into the Madness. I tried to cover for him for a while, but he became so angry and unpredictable that I had to keep him away from people. Finally, some of his old patients in Parufa kindly offered to take him in, and care for him until the end. There wasn’t anything else I could do for him. He wouldn’t even talk to me, as if he blamed me for you going away. I decided the only thing for me to do was to go out and try to find you, maybe get you to come back and do for him what you’ve done for others at the end. You know, that way you have of comforting them, calming them down before they die. I headed west out of our territory. But instead of finding you, I found Nimmo and Marina, and she needed my help. So I stayed with her, became friends with her and with James, and I followed them here. I never knew Nimmo the way these other did, but I feel like I’m connected with him somehow. It’s important that I find him. And anyway, looking for him has brought me back together with you. But as for father, well, it’s been too long. I don’t see how he can possibly still be alive.”

There are tears now in Matreya’s eyes, and she looks lost and vulnerable. “I’m so sorry to hear that. It breaks my heart that I had to do that to you, and I wish I could have been there to nurse him through his final days, as I had always intended. But making it necessary for me to leave you both is just one more little crime that I must lay at the feet of the man you all profess to love so much. We will get to the bottom of this, and I will call him to account if it’s the last thing I do, which as it looks, may not be very far off. I’m younger than your father was, as you know, but not by all that much.”

“Am I going to have this madness too?” Yachak asks her.

“As far as I know, no cure for it exists,” she says with sudden sharpness, “although generations of healers have spent their lives searching for one. Over time, their toils and sacrifices have succeeded in pushing the disease off a few more years, and we have gained the power ease the suffering to some degree. But I only know of one man in this world who has lived beyond this short stretch of time we are given. And that man is the elephant in this room, the overarching topic which we keep avoiding. As Trink here is no doubt eager to tell you, I have a different opinion of this man you call Nimmo. However, I must admit that I am apparently at a disadvantage to each of you in the sense that I have never had the opportunity to meet him in person.”

“Perhaps that would explain the difference of opinion.” puts in Marina.

“No doubt. For the time being, and for the sake of civil discussion, I shall attempt to suspend judgment. But make no mistake, I will not be easily seduced. I am not the only one here whose information is incomplete. His reputation was forged long before any of you were born. I was taught as a child to fear and curse his name.”

Marina answers, “I agree that there’s a lot I don’t know about him, so I will not attempt to persuade you one way or the other. I appreciate your willingness to be neutral in the discussion.”

“Very well, I will restrain my prejudice as well as I can. But it brings up an important question: Just how much of his past did he in fact reveal to you? Has he told you of his childhood, of his early career?” She fixes each of them with her gaze in turn.”

“No,” murmurs Marina. “I hardly knew anything about him.”

“Then how do you know you can trust him?”

Trink rises to the defense. “No! But the judge of a person’s character isn’t from knowing what their childhood was.”

“Just so,” acknowledges Matreya. “But a person can portray any character he wishes when his acquaintances are new. If I’m not mistaken, you were all at a rather impressionable age when he, shall we say, took you under his wing. Would that be a fair statement?”

“Well he helped me escape from captivity,” rejoins Trink. “What do YOU know about him?”

Matreya seems about to snap something back at that, but hesitates. She looks down at the desk for a few moments and carefully thinks out her response. “I’m afraid I am forced to demure on that question for the time being. I am on uncertain ground here. There is a great deal that I am not at liberty to disclose. On that basis, I will withdraw my challenge to your loyalty, and acknowledge your right in turn to reveal only what you wish me to know about your past experiences.”

Marina says, “I know that I don’t want to disclose too much about my dealings with him either, but I will say that with his help, many lives were protected and saved under dangerous circumstances. And that being the case, if he had some sort of dark secret, I would have to weigh both of those things evenly. He’s been a great help.”

Matreya acknowledges this and turns to Septimus. “Am I misinformed, sir, that the Lady Vastavika recently denounced her consort publicly and professes to have been betrayed by him?”

“No, milady. In fact, she did that on my advice and only under the duress of the threat of interrogation by Inspector Crimner.”

“Ah yes, Crimner. We haven’t even spoken about him yet, even though he was the original purpose for this meeting. Well, I hope you will forgive me for having found her declaration to be entirely plausible when I first heard it. But again, I will attempt to remain civil here. So how is it that you have run afoul of this Crimner character?”

Septimus launches into a dramatic account of the persecutions Vastavika has suffered, with special attention to the underhanded nature of her abduction and incarceration by the Inspector.

“But do you know what motivated this?” asks Matreya. “What did he have against her.?”

“He was in fact trying to learn more of Nimmo.”

“Ah,” she says, getting a faraway look. “I might have known…. He’s one of THEM.” Focusing back on Septimus, she continues, “ Very well. It seems that his interference has been a fortuitous development for me. I will in fact assist you in this matter to the extent I hold any sway with the Council, and I hope my good faith in this matter will contribute to a dialog among us.”

“Well, milady, you seem very reasonable. It presents us all with a difficult situation as you may well appreciate, because it’s very hard to reconcile what you’re presenting to us with what we all know of our dealings with Nimmo. We’ve never seen any side of this inhuman monster that you apparently paint him to be.”

“Just so. Perhaps you will be able to paint a better picture of him for me. I will certainly be interested to hear what you have to say. Has he explained anything to you about his motives, what he does, where he goes, outside of the time he has spent with you? For that matter, how is that you have all known him over the same space of time?”

“I don’t know,” says Trink.

With her compulsion for honesty, Marina offers, “Since he was only around for short periods of time, I understood that he travelled extensively and collected both information and artifacts.”

“Artifacts?” prompts the Countess. “I can imagine that. Did he tell you what his interest in these artifacts was?”

“All in the name of knowledge and their usefulness was my understanding. He only ever shared with me what was useful in my circumstances.”

“I see. So it sounds like he did not teach you about ancient history, or offer much of a historical perspective on the items he was seeking. Would that be fair to say?”

“No, he didn’t, and I admit I didn’t press him at the time because I had more urgent things to deal with.”

“Fair enough. So you were under attack?”

“Indeed. My people are the survivors of a series of invasions from Ragrameer.”

“I am aware of the city.”

“Are you aware of the man in charge there?”

“Yes, I have had dealings with Warlord Gravak. You have my sympathies. He was pursuing you to the south?” When Marina nods, she adds, “You were fleeing to the ruins of Mihahk?”

“Yes, that’s where we took refuge. Jeruman, I mean Nimmo, led us there because he knew it would be defensible.”

“When were you last there?”

“About seven months ago. It was a long journey. I traveled with Yachak.”

“Then I can offer you some news of your people, perhaps 2 months old. They were doing very well.”

“News!” cries Marina. “How did you come by this news?”

“I have…friends in the area. I travel a fair amount, and I hear reports. The peace has held so far, and the Warlord has been behaving himself. For a while there was some danger of incursions from Asterhelm, but those seem to have subsided at last report.”

“Asterhelm!? Then no more of my people have been taken there?”

“Had this occurred? I wasn’t aware.”

“Yes, my closest friends were abducted by the knights, the soldiers.”

“I’m afraid I can’t provide any information about your friends, but Asterhelm has been under somewhat of a strain lately. Like Ragrameer to the west, it has not been in a position to make trouble for its neighbors for some months now. It might be that I could inquire of some sources and see what I can find out about them.”

“I would be in your debt.”

“Was the metal monster destroyed?” pipes up Yachak.

Matreya gives him a level look. “You are disconcertingly well informed of events in the area, son. What have you heard of such a…phenomenon?”

“I was attacked by this creature!” exclaims Marina, “or…whatever it is.”

“Hmm. This borders on topics I am not able to discuss. But what you speak of was indeed destroyed. You were not told?”

“I – ” Marina struggles with some of her most difficult memories. “I was not entirely aware. I was close to it when there was a great calamity and I lost consciousness. Yachak was able to look after me, with the help of Nimmo.”

“Dear me. So Nimmo was there at that time?” Matreya interest is sparked.

Marina is flustered as she realizes she may be saying too much, but she can’t help herself. “I’m not sure if I saw him there, exactly, but I think he…might have rescued me. We didn’t see him again until later, near Asterhelm…” she trails off at an alarmed look from Septimus.

“Well,” says Matreya when it’s clear Marina has stopped talking. “this would at least help to explain your devotion to the man.”

Trink says, “Well, I don’t know anything about his background or how he found me or what his motives might have been. I owe him my life. He was instrumental in my escape from my oppressed lifestyle, and I expected that I would be able to find him. I hoped he would be able to teach me more, but of course, since finding his other friends in this group, I have found my path to learning about the world beyond the one I was raised in. I would like to learn more about him.”

“That’s all very touching,” says Matreya. “So do I understand correctly that you do not at present know his whereabouts?”

“We think we know SOMETHING about his whereabouts…” begins Trink.

“Well,” interrupts Septimus, “Only in that we think he’s been captured. He failed to show up this season as he has done for the past decade.”

“When did that customarily occur in this town?”

“Just this past week. He generally timed his arrival at the start of the festival season.”

Matreya nods thoughtfully. “So my recent appearance on the scene and the pressure I put on Vastavika may have been more sensitively timed than I had any idea. Well, I feel like you’ve been very honest with me, so I will attempt to tell you what I can. I am of course in pursuit of this man, and it is my primary mission to find him for purposes of my own. My reason for coming to this city was in response to certain clues we received that he might have some ties to this area. Before I got established here and was able to do some digging, we had no idea how much time he had spent here, or that he had made it one of his bases of operation. I bought this estate in order to insinuate myself into local society in the hopes of picking up his trail, which I have now succeeded in doing beyond my expectations. My sole interest in Karadevelia, once I had heard of Vastavika and the story of her liaison with the mysterious white-haired man, was to gain unrestricted access to the place where he lived, in order to assess whatever clues might be hidden there. Obviously, through your interventions, that scene has now been compromised, more or less, though I would still like to secure it for the sake of whatever evidence it may yet conceal. I wish to reiterate, however, that I have no wish to harm Vastavika or turn her out of her house. If some arrangement could be made to guarantee her comfort at whichever location she prefers in exchange for the unfettered right to examine the Chateau, I would readily pledge my resources to the provision of whatever needs she may have. So,” she adds at the end of her speech, “where does that leave us now?”

Trink says, “Well I still haven’t learned what you think is so harmful in his background.”

“And,” chimes in Septimus, “I have to add to that that we don’t really know anything of who you represent, milady. It’s clear that you don’t operate alone, and I am sensitive to the need for some discretion, but you’re somewhat of an unknown quantity to us in terms of your motives. It sounds almost like you’re a detective, or that you’re law enforcement of some sort.”

Matreya thinks for a moment. “The question that you touch upon is precisely the topic upon which I am least authorized to enlighten you, at least without further instructions from my superiors. But I will tell you that there is an authority that I answer to. I am a field agent for this authority, and under strict obligation to carry out this mission. It is true that I am empowered to exercise some degree of discretion in the pursuit of my objectives, but I can assure you I am already stretching that discretion to the limit in cooperating with you to the extent I am proposing. Whether I am doing this in deference to my son, I’m not quite sure. But I think I can safely say that I am by far the most sympathetic representative of my command structure that you could hope to be dealing with. If it were up to me, I would personally have chosen to retain the life I had won and to have spent the rest of my days looking after my family. I will continue to think about this situation, specifically the extent to which my instructions will allow me work in tandem with you and provide information. There is strong policy in play here which I am already perilously close to violating as we speak. But I will say this: ends are more important than means, and if your judgment of my quarry has any merit, there may well be some justification to my bending the rules.”

“I fully appreciate the candor you’ve expressed so far,” Septimus tells her, “and your need to stay within the strictures of your order.”

“Understand I can make no promises, but I will try to keep an open mind as far as I can. It certainly appears that our cooperation may bring us both closer to our goals, although those goals may not turn out to be compatible in the end.”

Marina has been watching and listening to this exchange very carefully, and her acute intuition about the sincerity of others gives her the strong impression that Matreya, while picking her words very carefully, is essentially telling the truth. Yachak is also getting a clear impression of her forthrightness, although he is conscious that in this case, he may be biased towards trusting her.

Matreya tries to probe a little further into the question of how the group could have trusted someone who was so secretive about his past, and they reiterate how short their time with him was, and how much more important was the good that he was doing. It does come out, however that he was known to each of them by a different name, at which Matreya expresses some amusement. Marina points out that if the name he went by was an alias, that would not have been uncommon or a cause for suspicion where she lived.

“Point taken,” says Matreya. “Perhaps I can offer this much. Would you like to know his real name?” They are of course interested. “He was born ‘Geronimo Kittikov.”

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Session 18a Recap (11/21/2014) Kibu edition
Kibu rides forth

Kibu enters Timble-tain square, supremely confident in the impenetrability of his disguise. James’ helmet is less convenient than he had foreseen, with with its narrow eye slits and the limited ability to turn, but he’s sure it must look cool on him. The bells chime in the Church across the square as he heads south towards the market sector. He scopes out Spekso’s emporium stall which is moderately crowded with customers and guards, though the merchant himself is not in evidence. He decides to hunker down across the plaza and watch the place.

Nothing much happens for a while, but then a group of men arrive at Spekso’s stall and some of them go in. A few minutes later, they come out with the merchant in tow, who seems to be in an agitated state. As he gets on his horse, Edibal seems to be giving orders to his men to pack up the stall, and is then escorted by the riders eastward to the street that leads from the river up to the Legislature buildings. Kibu follows at a distance, getting out on the street in time to see them turn out of sight a block ahead. As he moves forward to keep up, something lands on him from above.

It’s a large fishing net circled with weights that click on the cobblestones and immediately wrap around his horse’s legs. The startled animal prances and makes it difficult for Kibu to hack at the strands, and it’s impossible to remove the helmet because of the weight bearing down on it. Before he can make much progress on a hole, other riders surround him and begin hitting him with clubs. He resists as best he can, but is dragged off the horse and beaten to the ground, noticing only that his assailants are wearing constable blues before losing consciousness.

As he begins to awake, he is aware of great pain in his arms and shoulders. He is hanging by his wrists, which are tied to separate ropes attached to opposite walls. He realizes, however, that his feet are not dangling, but are resting on a cold stone floor. Slowly he opens his eyes but the movement is immediately detected by his closely watching guards, who speak briefly between them and send someone off to report. Understanding that his stealth has been to no avail, he straightens his legs and stands, relieving some of the discomfort in his arms.

He takes stock of his person and the prison cell. He is clothed only in the loin cloth that served him for underwear. Looking frantically around, he sees his scarf sticking out of a pile of his clothes on a table outside the bars of his cell. There is no sign of Momo. His head is throbbing from the blows he received during the capture, but there seems to be nothing broken. His hands are numb, but with the pressure off of his wrists, he soon begins to feel the pins and needles of returning circulation.

Other officers come, look at Kibu, speak to the guards in Timble-tainian, and leave. Finally, Inspector Crimner shows up. He orders most of the others away, save one spear-wielding guard, who lets his boss into the cell, and locks the door behind him. Crimner wears his customary plain black coat with no concession to current fashion; no cravat, lapel pin, or ornamentation of any kind. His straight black hair is combed back from a receding hairline, his sharp features have pinched look, and his shoulders are slightly hunched. [I imagine him looking something like Ben Kingsley in one of his more villainous roles.] His voice is thin and nasal.

“So, at last, to meet the great Kee-boo.”

This is not in Timble-tainian, but in Garry talk. Kibu stares at him defiantly, making no effort to hide the fact that he can understand the speech.

“Not so wily and dangerous after all, it would appear,” Crimner continues. “An easy catch, in that buffoonish get-up. Were you deliberately trying to insult our intelligence? Is this all a game to you? Because I am not playing.” Kibu just sneers insolently at the man as he slowly circles his captive. “What are you, some kind of idiot-savant? You’ve got half my men whispering about the criminal mastermind up on the mountain. Pfft. I see no genius. Without your gang to back you up, you look pretty harmless to me.”

“Let me out of these, and you’ll see,” mutters Kibu.

“Oh, I’m sure you know how to be violent,” breathes the Inspector. “That requires no special talent. But leading men, that takes wit and tact. You have to outthink them, manipulate them, especially if they are stronger than you. You have to convince them that the force of their arms is no match for the power of your intellect and your will. You have to give them something to believe in and fear. Look at you! Dressed in rags that smell like a midden, with vermin crawling out of them! You are no mastermind, admit it! You’re a puppet, aren’t you? How many men do you command? And who is REALLY calling the shots?”

Kibu’s continued silence enrages Crimner, and he threatens to send for men with whips and cudgels to make Kibu talk.

“When you gonna let me go?” Kibu spits back at him.

“When you talk, of course – when you cooperate with me. When you tell me everything you know about HIM, your master. What are your orders? What is he after? When you’ve told me what I need to know, then we’ll talk about letting you go, that is, if there’s anything left of you by then.”

“Like what?”

“Well for a start, how do you know this man you call Nimmo? Where did you meet him?”

“I don’t know anybody named Nemo.”

“I suppose the name Vastavika doesn’t ring a bell with you?”

“Who? I just came in with that fat merchant.”

“Yes, he’s had quite a lot to say about you, you and that scrawny sidekick of yours, the one with the picture. We know the man in that picture has lived here in this city. And now you two arrive from nowhere and suddenly you have a small army of his supporters at your back, using his harlot’s estate as a hideout.”

“I’ve seen lots of pictures of lots of people, people with money,” says Kibu.

“You know the picture we’re talking about, the one you showed Spekso.”

“So, I had a picture. I don’t know the guy.”

“You had a name, didn’t you? He’s told us the whole story. You agreed it was the man he called Nimmo! I know you know him. The question I’m asking is how – from where? Who is he to you?”

Kibu sighs, and says “Fine. I know OF him. I don’t KNOW him – we never met or anything. But two villages over, they told me this guy had a big house and lots of stuff. So I came here looking for him. I thought I’d knock the place off and get rich quick, you know. Spend the rest of my life somewhere nice.”

“By a couple of villages over you mean the city of KallaBalla, a full season’s journey from here?”

“Well, the guy was really rich. Look, you let me go, I’ll leave the city, and you’ll never see me again. You have my word!”

“Hah!” Crimner is visibly stunned by this proposal. “You honestly believe I would be interested in that suggestion even if I was foolish enough to trust your word?”

“I haven’t done anything to you, or the people in this town. I’m just passing through.”

“What?” sputters Crimner. “I have reports that several of my men occupy freshly-dug gravesites up on the mountain. Done nothing?”

“That wasn’t me.”

“There were witnesses! Do you take me for a simpleton? Your lies are laughably transparent.” Crimner steps back and takes a breath. “My friend, the only way you will talk your way out of this situation is to tell me what I wish to know about your master, your leader, whatever he is to you. How many men are in the band up there? Are they mere mercenaries, or are they his disciples like you? What are their instructions?…”

“What is this ‘band’ you keep talking about?” breaks in Kibu. “I don’t know anybody else here.”

Crimner sighs. “Alright. If that’s the way you wish to play it, I guess we will have to get a little rougher here.” He says something to the guard outside, who nods and leaves. He soon returns with a couple other cohorts, none of them wearing blue uniforms. They have lashes and cudgels, and at a gesture from the boss, begin to work Kibu over. After a few lashes and blows to the sides, Kibu’s struggles become violent and he wrenches his left arm so hard it feels as if it’s been broken.

Finally, the Inspector waves them off. “Who is the red-haired girl you were seen with? Do I have reports of some waif of that description winning a horse race at Carnaval? Obviously she’s one of your inner circle.”

Kibu’s voice is now starting to break a little. “She’s my girlfriend, alright?”

“I see. Another disciple. What’s her name?”

“Meri.”

“Where do the two of you come from?”

“I-I don’t know… it’s called…Sol.”

“Sol? This is in the east?” Kibu nods. “This Meri, she is from Sol too?”

Kibu shakes his head. “I don’t know where she’s from.”

“So you used Spekso to find your way here. I get that. But how did you meet up with the rest of this mob? Were you acting under his instructions? Were they?”

“I don’t know them, I didn’t join anybody.”

“Then how did you end up at the estate of Vastavika? Who told you that you could find protection there?”

“Where? I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Your lies are futile, don’t you know that? That was where we found you. You can’t deny you were her guest. You were overheard discussing it with your gang. That’s how we knew where to look!”

“I was just staying there. I don’t even know her. She offered me a place to stay, that’s all.”

“So you did know who to contact.” Crimner paces a little. “That picture, it must have been a password. That’s how you linked up with them. This conspiracy network must be more extensive than I thought. He could have agents anywhere…. But how does he recruit? What is his hold on them?” Turning back to Kibu, he says “Why are you indebted to him? What brought you into his service?”

“Service? Service of what?”

“Of Jer— of the one you call Nimmo! You will tell me all you know about him, his capabilities, his plans. Let’s start with the basics. Do you know where he is?”

“No!”

“But you knew enough to come to Timble-tain. Why here, in this misbegotten backwater? What was here that drew him? Probably it was because those elite landowners were so easy to dupe…that fool Ducarte keeps saying they have their heads in the sand, and so far I have to admit he’s been right, not a peep out of them. That trollop of Nimmo’s, Vasty – what’s her name? You people think you put one over on me, getting her out of that cell, but it makes no difference. She obviously didn’t have anything useful to tell me, just a witless wench he was stringing along. But she’s in thick with that upper crust crowd, isn’t she? A real social butterfly, that one, as rumor tells it. Or WAS. Maybe THAT’S why he’s run off – she’s getting old, no more influence with the hoi polloi. He used her up so now he’s gone off to greener pastures.”

He keeps glancing at Kibu, but gets no reaction to confirm his theories, just a sullen stare. A new thought seems to come to him. “Say, you’re as lost as she is, aren’t you kid? Is that why you’re here? He’s abandoned you, and now you’re just a shiftless hoodlum, no orders from the ringleader, just killing time, making trouble? Hmm?”

He stares Kibu in the face and senses the hatred and defiance in those eyes. After a few moments he shrugs and looks out through the bars. “Very well. It doesn’t matter. We have you now and you won’t be going anywhere. Maybe you’ll serve as the bait to bring the rest of them circling around. I’ll catch them all in good time. Right now, I have other things to attend to, but in a few days I’ll have this infernal Burgher nonsense wrapped up and I can devote my energies to the real business at hand. Then, I will be back to continue this discussion and I can guarantee that you will be ready to start giving me some straight answers. Enjoy your stay in our little hotel.”

He gives instructions to the men and they bring in a wooden palette. One by one they untie his arms from the ceiling and reattach the ropes to rings set in the floor. They push him down on the palette with his arms still stretched out to his sides, and manacle his legs. The men treat him roughly and poke at his bruises, jeering at him and laughing at his incomprehension. When they finally leave, a single guard settles down on the stool just outside of Kibu’s cage. He stares at the prisoner for a while, then leans back against the stone wall and before long is snoring contentedly away.

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Session 19 Recap (12/12/14)
Taking meetings, making plans

The group awakes at the tavern and finds a note from Weed saying that he is on an errand and will rejoin them when he can. Yachak tries to find a place outside to meditate, but there’s not much privacy to be found, the surroundings are not very inspiring, and he’s not successful connecting to his oracle. Trink also rises early, cases the area and communes with Azi. Jarley Buttles appears around 9am, and Septimus manages to rouse himself in time to confer.

Plans are going well to get the populace aroused about the plight of the now sympathetic figure of Kibu, who is painted as something of a Robin Hood figure unjustly persecuted and imprisoned by the villainous Inspector. Gossip is running like wildfire through the tenements, and pubs are abuzz with angry speechifying and drunken oaths to join the revolt against the interloper. All sorts of wild speculation is flying around about who this Kibu really is, but his legendary folk hero status is growing by the hour. People have had their lives disrupted by the downturn in trade that Crimner’s actions have caused, and it should take only a spark to send them into the streets.

Buttles does say, however, that his influence only extends so far. His organization is not so influential outside of the working-class portions of the city, and he wonders if Septimus has any contacts in the middle class among the shopkeepers and artisans who are even more directly feeling the crunch, and who might be persuaded to join the cause. Such support would go a long way toward encouraging those fearful of reprisal to overcome their reluctance and work openly to cast off the interloper. Septimus thinks he might know just the person to contact.

Trink is somewhat cautious about getting swept up in something so momentous, but Septimus feels confident they will be able to use any disturbance to their advantage to infiltrate the jail and free their friend. Yachak also has questions about what could go wrong, and Buttles simply responds, through Marina’s translation, that these things are never predictable, and you just have to roll with the situation as it unfolds. He hints that he was in fact looking to Kibu’s group to provide some of the logistical planning once things got under way – this is new territory to everybody, and they’ll all need level heads to make sure things go in the general direction they have in mind.

After parting company with Buttles, Septimus leads the group into the suburbs where they call on the son of the jeweler, Grigg Selvitian, and bring him up to speed with the plot. Grigg confides that he has been meeting with his friends in secret to see how they could resist the persecution being visited upon their families. He thinks they would be only too eager to join in solidarity with the movement Septimus is describing, and proposes to gather them for a meeting that evening backstage in the Theatre.

Next they make their cautious way to Sir Romerto’s casino, where they find a note from Pinborton relaying the good news that Countess Matreya is interested in taking up their cause, and would like to meet with them. Romerto has his own ideas about how the business community could coordinate efforts with the street movement. He is cautious about committing, but Septimus appeals to the man’s gambling nature and reminds him that any contact with the elites should emphasize that this is not a rebellion against them, but against forces seeking to challenge their power.

Marina believes they should try to capture Crimner and extract what information they can, and Septimus feels he could get behind that plan. The tactical wheels are turning in her head as to how a chaotic street movement could be exploited to put the Inspector into a corner, although she is also concerned about preventing unnecessary loss of life. Yachak raises questions about the precedent for these events in Timble-tainian history, and Septimus feels this is something the constabulary will be quite unprepared to confront.

The group next visits Pinborton, who informs them that Countess Matreya is interested in their cause and would like to meet them in person. He also introduces them to a sympathetic guest, Magistrate Bukumar, who witnessed the abduction of Vastavika by Crimner, and is interested in helping build the court case against Crimner and the conspirators on the Plenum. He mentions that the documents they really need to support the larger court action are probably all deposited in the boxes within Ducarte’s bank, if only there were some way to penetrate that property and search what is being held there.

Septimus inquires how such evidence would be used, and how quickly it could be brought to bear on an attack against Crimner, and the magistrate says it depends on what is revealed, but if the evidence indicated treason, court action could be initiated immediately, say in a matter of days. This seems distressingly slow to Septimus, who feels that the Inspector will not stand still and wait for a trial to commence. Bukumar is receptive to this point, but questions what alternative courses of action are available. Septimus responds that the winds of change are rising, and suggests that if the other branches of government were to join the crowd action and wrest control of the constabulary from the corrupt Plenum members, this would be hard to resist.

The magister is impressed with Septimus’s presentation, and is persuaded to pursue actions open to him in support of an insurrectionary movement. Privately, Trink and Marina discuss the possibility of penetrating the Ducarte bank to gather the material spoken of, although it seems that the action on the street is a more compelling arena for planning. Septimus suggests that Weed would be a valuable asset in any assault on the bank.

The meeting with Bukumar ends, and the group meets up with the shopkeepers’ sons at the theater. They discuss logistics and protecting their shops from looting, and the idea emerges for them to coordinate with the Syndicate (Buttles) , which is already in the business of offering protection to clients. They rally to Septimus’ rah rah charisma, and are fired up to get out there and do what they can.

Before they break up, however, a young man who has been listening quietly steps forward and introduces himself as Carwyn Ducarte, the son of the banker. Septimus recognizes his voice as the youthwho he overheard arguing with his father on the night Vasta was rescued. He says he hadn’t wanted to believe that his father was involved in such treachery, but from the things he’s heard tonight, he must join in opposition to the nefarious machinations of those who he believes have led his father down the wrong path. He offers what help he can, and Septimus takes him aside after the meeting.

Septimus grills him for information about security procedures at his father’s bank, and the lad seems skeptical that such an assault would be possible. But he tells what he knows about the guard schedules, the use of dogs, and the location of keys, perhaps not catching onto the idea that such a venture may be realistically under consideration. In fact, he seems almost under the impression that by answering Septimus’s questions as honestly as he can, he is actually helping to rule out any notion the man might be entertaining about making the attempt.

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Session 18 Recap (12/5/2014)
Out of the frying pan?

It was not long before the company heard noises outside the warehouse, indications that the police were trying to get inside to search it. James spikes the small door at the end and pushes a crate against it, but the efforts to break through from outside are undiminished. The group retreats up into the lab and pulls a heavy desk over the trapdoor, but this is not enough to deter the onslaught. Listening through the floorboards, Septimus hears the officer below assign one of his men to wait until a detail can be sent to force their way into the loft.

They decide to gather what they can and get out. Weed fills several wine bottles with the corrosive chemical he calls sulfur hydroxide, and they escape down the hidden back stairway that the police had not thought to check for. The only direction they can move is east, into the tenement-lined alleyways of the River Quarter. Winding their way through the maze of streets, they find a tavern called the Wandering Eye. They sit dispersed across several tables, hoping to escape notice, but to no avail. Someone has been following their progress for some time.

A few tawdry-looking men engage the group in conversation, apparently not fooled by the seating arrangements. The leader is one Jarley Buttles, who introduces himself as the new head of the Crimson Knuckles Syndicate (aka the Bloody Knobbers), which Septimus knows to be the loose organization which fancies itself to be the local thieves guild. Steering our friends into a private back room, they are joined by at least a dozen more of their cohorts, and proceed to question them about their presence and the recent hubbub among the cops.

Septimus comes clean and confides that they are trying to find a way to get their friend out of jail. Kibu has apparently earned himself a name around town through the outlaw posters that were the brainchild of Weed, and Buttles’ gang becomes quite interested in helping. He doesn’t quite buy Septimus’s story in full, however, because it doesn’t seem to include an explanation as to how several of the guild’s top fighters were lost up on the mountain. He’s not too broken up about the loss, however, given the opening for advancement the encounter created for him. He agrees to let the matter rest.

The conversation turns towards a plan to create a public disturbance that will sufficiently preoccupy the police that the jailbreak can be carried out. Jarley agrees to assess the willingness of the folk in his part of town, and suggests an inn where the group can spend the night under the safety of his own protection detail.

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Session 17 Recap (11/29/14)
Underground reconnaisance.

Our adventurers set off from the casino to gain access to the sewers, and get as close as they can to the jail. They move through the streets in groups of two, but have a little difficulty establishing a means of communicating between the pairs. They finally end up regrouping down in the sewers, then send Trink and Weed ahead.

Under the circle near the police station, they find the tunnel intersection lit by a lantern and guarded by two cops. They take the cops by surprise, put them out with syrettes, and Yachak sends them into a deeper sleep with an herb concoction. Then they head south to the branch that provides ventilation to the jail. Trink and Septimus crawl into the narrow passage and discover that they can see down into some of the underground cells. The final one contains Kibu, stretched out on a cot with his wrists tied to ropes attached to opposite walls. He appears to be sleeping but they do not try to get his attention because of the alert guards outside the cell.

Trink catches a fleeting glimpse of Momo in the tunnel before she crawls out. Shortly after rejoining the others and discussing what can be done, they hear a commotion down the tunnels, in the direction from which they had com. There are shouts which seem to be getting closer, so the party ducks down a side tunnel and escapes just in time through a gate which Weed happens to have a key to. They emerge into a warehouse, and Weed, at first reluctantly, admits that his laboratory is in the loft on the second floor over their heads.

Septimus is the only person he invites up the stairs. Septimus wants to case out the building, and Weed needs to make some more syrettes. The others politely stay down in the warehouse, but there is little to do. Septimus surveys the scene from the roof and finds cops running everywhere in small groups on the streets below. He can see across to the second floor windows of the courthouse and the jail, but the distance is too great to jump from the buildings on their side of the street. The session ends with the party considering its options.

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Session 16 Recap (11/21/14)
Under the hospitality of Sir Romerto

The group proceeds to Karradevelia under cover of darkness and manages to avoid any authorities that might be on the road. Trink sneaks ahead and discovers some constables camped out on the grounds of the estate. But she checks out the house and finds it deserted, though not apparently ransacked. She also checks the barn and discovers a trail up the mountain she hadn’t seen before. After she reports back to the group, they decide to investigate the trail, and discover the cabin in which the household servants have taken refuge. Mully tells them what he knows, and they decide to head back towards town with the couple of hours they have before dawn.

Even on the back roads they are taking, they spot and easily skirt a road block as they get closer to the city, indicating that the constabulary is still out in force looking for them. While passing through a wooded section, Sy shows keen interest in a side trail, and Yachak has a strong premonition that they should check this trail out. Trink scouts ahead and finds two people at a camp fire, who turn out to be Nhymeri and James, but no Kibu. They have a long talk filling each other in as dawn breaks, and decide it would be wise to stay there for the day resting up before heading into the city that evening.

Nhymeri has been spending her time working with Spot, who turns out to be a little more accustomed to human handling than a wild zebra would be, and shows signs of responding favorably to her patient, gentle approach. She has also been trying to read the papers Kibu brought back from the mountain cave, but many of them are unintelligible, and those she can read appear to be random pages torn from textbooks, or scraps of Nimmo’s field notes about places she has never heard of. She elects to continue to stay with the horses, partly because after Kibu, she is the next most publicly recognizable member of the party.

James, however, is feeling antsy to be up and doing something. He is much recovered from his wounds, and has had time to pound out the worst of the dents in his armor, not counting the helmet which Kibu took with him. He sets off with the rest of the group in the evening, and they follow back streets into the north end of Timble-tain where they reach the gambling establishment of Sir Romerto, which holds a prominent position in the upper-crust shopping district. The bouncer there is old friends with Septimus, and they are welcomed in.

The group speaks with Romerto, who is able to point out that the Elites might be willing to back an action against Crimner if they can be persuaded that their own interests are jeopardized. He reminds Septimus that their economic base consists largely of the agriculture performed by the tenant farmers who work their extensive landholdings, and a major disruption in the trading and distribution system in town could well create a threat to the stability their supply and demand chains. For as long as anyone can remember, it has worked well for the Elites to let the Plenum hash out their own issues over trade and taxation as they saw fit, but an organized effort by the bankers to usurp total control of the town’s finances could easily upset the apple cart sufficiently to arouse their attention.

There is even some vague speculation about a possible larger power play by the bankers. If they gained so much control over the city government that they held all the economic, legal, and military resources in their own hands, they might be in a position to challenge the position of the Elites. The upper-crusters command a considerable force of arms, but it is dispersed among the guard personnel of the various estates and city properties, and nobody really knows how quickly they could be assembled into a unified militia, or what would happen if such a force were to come into conflict with the city constabulary.

Romerto agrees to let Septimus use his parlor as a meeting place, and Septimus sends a note to Pinborton, summoning him to a conference. Weed is released from wall-holding-up duty, and they all avail themselves of the pleasures of the establishment until Pinborton arrives about a half hour later. After inquiring earnestly after the welfare of Vastavika, he also proves very interested in the Ducarte papers. He feels that a good case could be made before the Council of Governors, but says that it will still require the patronage of a member of the Elite circle in order to present it as an agenda item at the next Council meeting, which is coming up soon.

After mulling over legal and authentication issues, and discussing some of the other hostages and abuses that could be brought forward as evidence, Pinborton thinks they might have enough of a case to present to his employer, the Countess Matreya, to see if she would be willing to sponsor an appeal to the Council. Septimus seems to be satisfied with Pinborton’s sincerity and indicates that he is willing to defer the question of Matreya’s interest in the acquisition of Karradevelia until these larger threats are resolved. Pinborton reiterates his and the Countess’s paramount concern for Vasta’s wellbeing, and comes as close to an apology as he is likely to get for coming on so strong in his initial confrontation with her.

They agree on terms for keeping in touch through messages left with Romerto, and Septimus returns to the pleasures of the evening, offering to introduce Weed to the excitement of three-card monte. A little later, they overhear other patrons talking about the news item of the day, the capture of the notorious outlaw, Keeboo. They find a broadsheet in the lobby which confirms the story, but offers little additional detail. It seems safe to assume that he has been taken to the city jail, and the best approach for a possible rescue is the sewer. The session closes as they begin to make plans.

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Session 15 Recap (11/15/14)
Brainstorming for direction

The group spends a comfortable night at the private inn of Miss Poplin. Late in the morning they assemble to discuss their options. They conclude they need to reunite with the missing members, find some way to discredit Crimner and ultimately defeat him, and secure a safe place for Vastavika while they get on with the business of rescuing Nimmo.

Yachak reports having received a cryptic message from his Oracle that morning, which came to him in the form of a poem:

Consider the turtle,
Secure in its box.
It fears not the eagle
And laughs at the fox.

It crawls through the dirt of
A lumberman’s road
Not knowing of wagons,
The speed or the load.

The sheltering mountains
True dangers conceal.
Hooves thunder on past, but
You won’t hear the wheel.

They discuss the possible meaning of this poem for a while, but nothing obvious comes to them.

Vasta joins the discussion and speaks in greater detail about her interrogation and the impressions she was left with of Crimner and his motives. She says he did not seem very interested in the question of her competency, but tried to steer the proceedings to the topic of Nimmo, making the connection between him and the fire at Karradevelia for the first time. Vasta did her best to minimize the information she divulged about Nimmo, sticking with the agreed claim that she had broken relations with him. When the magistrates tried to redirect the hearing to its original purpose, Crimner declared it to be no longer about that, but rather an investigation into possible high treason.

Vasta describes the conclusion of the hearing. The Magistrates were sworn to confidentiality about what they had heard, and Vasta was whisked into a carriage, where she was taken blindfolded to an unknown location in town. She was further interrogated by Crimner in a small cell, during which Crimner betrayed an almost irrational fear of the mysterious threat he believed Nimmo to present to the City, and even the world beyond. Without tipping his hand about specifics, he came across as a sincere fanatic bent on a crusade to rid the world of a major threat.

Septimus strongly pooh-poohs the idea that Nimmo could be evil, but Vasta reminds him how secretive and distracted Nimmo became in the final year they knew him, and about the explosive powder that he possessed and shared with Septimus. Still, she agrees with Septimus that he could not be the monster Crimner describes, although Marina has a good point that there is yet much they do not know about him.

Completing her account, Vasta reports that late in the evening, Crimner came back for one more interrogation session, this time intent on finding out what she knew about Kibu. She could quite honestly claim that she knew nothing of the battle at her Chateau that day, which Crimner seems so accept. But the Inspector had finally put all the pieces together and realized that it must have been no accident that Kibu’s band of outlaws chose her estate as a hideout. He grilled her about all the key players he knew about so far, the redheaded amazon, the hooded friar, the black-robed witch, and a highly inflated number of powerful sword handlers. Only the presence of Weed seemed to have escaped his informer’s notice. Even as her nerves were beginning to unravel by this stage, Vasta stuck to her claim of ignorance of any such group of people, and Crimner left in a highly agitated state, defeated for the moment but vowing much harsher treatment the next day. He had apparently become convinced by her answers that his enemies were more powerful than even he had imagined, and might be closing in around him hour by hour.

Marina proposes that they set some sort of trap for Crimner, perhaps using Septimus as bait. But Septimus, who earlier had been breathing death threats on the villain now seems to have absorbed the need to proceed cautiously and within the confines of law and order, since they need a resolution that leaves Vasta in good legal standing. He shows Vasta the records stolen from Ducarte’s house, asking who she knows on the Council of Governors who might be interested in seeing them. She is out of touch with the current Council members, but suggests that Pinborton would be the man to talk to.

Septimus now realizes that the political situation will require some time for a solution to emerge, and wonders if Vasta can stay safely here at the inn while events play out. Vasta is willing to stay, but is concerned to find out what’s going on with her property. They brainstorm for other ways to proceed, and discuss several possible allies for their cause, including Sir Romerto and some of the disgruntled burghers that have been harassed by Crimner, the jeweller’s son they rescued, and possibly the Magistrate who seemed on Vasta’s side at the hearing, Bukumar. They wait for nightfall and head out on the back trails for Karradevelia.

The scene switches to Nhymeri and James, who are spending the day in the wooded clearing where Kibu left them. At some point a group of riders appears in the woods surrounding them, and Nhymeri recognizes them as similar to the 3 riders she met at the beach races, the leader of whom had unsuccessfully coaxed her to join them for an archery contest. After trying several languages, one of the strangers turns out to be able to communicate brokenly in the tongue of Asterhelm, which allows James to understand them.

They claim not to present any threat, but are trying to find out what has happened to their leader, who has disappeared and may have been captured by the authorities. For some reason, they seem to think that Kibu might be able to help them, but James curtly informs them that Kibu is not here, and he and Nhymeri can do nothing to help. They turn sadly away and melt back into the trees.

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Session 14 Recap (11/1/2014)
Rescuing Vastavika

Session 14 Recap

When Septimus, Marina, Trink, and Yachak have time to compare notes in more detail, they decide one one of the most likely places to look for Vasta is the Ducarte estate. Weed is filled in on the plan when he arrives from the Inn, and Vasta’s servants are advised to stay away from the house until further notice. The two cops who were captured while staking the townhouse out are bound and gagged, and dropped into the sewer through the same grate near the stables recently used by Trink.

The group cases out the mansion grounds and leaves Weed in charge of the horses while the rest sneak over the wall. They avoid detection by some guard dogs in a pound, and finally gain entry through a third floor dormer window in the servants’ quarters. They hide out in a guest room until the household has gone to bed, then look for evidence of Vasta’s presence. Septimus searches Ducarte’s study. There is a safe there which he cannot open, but there are remnants of the package which Trink had seen delivered. In a locked drawer of the desk he finds records of past transactions that look as if they relate to a series of payoffs and disbursements that might indicate bribes or other illegal activity.

In an adjoining guest room, they discover Crimner’s private chamber. At the desk they find journal entries that mention recent known activities of the Inspector, providing concrete evidence that could incriminate him. Finally, the last of the kitchen staff go to bed, and they sneak down there, finding the entrance to a cellar. At the end of a long corridor is a lone guard sitting outside several chambers. They attack and kill the guard, and Vasta turns out to be one in one of the cells he was watching.

She is not injured, but is rather frayed from her lengthy interrogation. She gives a cursory account of her ordeal while the other cells are examined for survivors. One other prisoner is rescued, the son of one of the Burghers opposing Ducarte. The group is able to get out of the house through the kitchen doors without raising alarm, and make it over the wall. After seeing the young man to a safe haven, the group takes off in the night, heading north out of town along the ocean road. They travel about ten miles, to a small private Inn run by a friend of Vasta’s, where they take refuge for the night.

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Session 13 Recap (10/18-19/2014)
The force begins to reassemble

Yachak, Marina, and Weed hear their names called as they ride through Timble-tain square on the way to Vasta’s. Trink is coming out of the Dog and Pony Inn, beckoning them to come in and discuss what’s going on. She helps Weed in with his sore ankle, and seats them at a table by the window. She tells them about the man watching Vasta’s apartment, and fills them in on what she saw after she followed the escaped thug into town. They also bring her up to date on what happened after she left the battle, including the switch of the gems and the plan to plant them back on Edibal.

[Since all of these details have been brought out in past recaps, I won’t repeat them here. I’d like to assume that most such debriefings are thorough enough that all relevant information from the recap is shared, even if the players make mistakes or omissions during roll play – it gets too hard to keep track of what was actually told and not told. In certain cases, however, this rule is not appropriate, such as when the time for explanations is too short, or when a player may not choose to tell all he knows. For instance, later on in this session, Septimus gives only a cursory description of what happened to Vasta, and the group does not yet know most of the detail that was published in his recap (12d) this past week. If Septimus later decides to tell them the whole story, then all that information becomes available to everyone for analysis.]

Trink wants to get word about the watcher to anyone who might currently be at the apartment and not know they’re being watched. Yachak still has enough light to get a look through his eagle, and confirms the man is still there. He suggests creating a diversion to draw the man away, but the group doesn’t pick up on it. They discuss whether to go ahead and scout Edibal’s place of business, or wait and confer with the missing members of the party. Weed feels it should be done asap, and shyly feels them out about whether he will be allowed to leave town with them when they go. Trink warmly assures him that he may join them, and neither Marina nor Yachak express any contrary reservations. Wagging his tail out on the veranda, Sy seems fine with it too.

The logistics of sneaking into Edibal’s installation is discussed. It’s one of the larger units in a permanent structure that provides a solid back wall, a roof supported by poles, and movable wooden sections to a variety of merchants on a seasonal basis. Edibal’s enormous caravan wagon pulls up into one end of the stall and is unpacked and partially disassembled to provide racks and display tables, giving his emporium the capacity to spill more luxuriantly out into the market plaza to draw the customer into his little world. It is draped and partitioned with colorful cloths and exotic decorations, most of which also bear price tags. He has a comfortable office /sleeping chamber in the back for meeting special clients, and employs night watchmen of his own to supplement the security provided by the constables who periodically patrol the area.

Weed knows any number of places where the necklace might be stashed if the guards can be diverted, but it makes sense to put it somewhere where it might not have been looked for since the caravan’s arrival and initial setup. The big weapons chest Chike mentioned is only one of many cupboards and cubbies that could serve this purpose, and it contains compartments for occasionally used supplies such as whetstones and fletching tools. The question of how it might be hinted to Edibal that the necklace is there without implicating the hint-giver is a delicate one, however.

Edibal puts in long hours, but he has to sleep sometime, and the market is pretty deserted from midnight to dawn. The constables keep a predictable schedule, if past experience is to be trusted, and there is usually one caravan watchman at a time, whose reliability on any given night is an open question. Chike has told you a little about the three or four guys who rotate the duty, and a couple of them are prone to indulge in a snort now and then to help the night hours pass, especially if a bottle should happen to have been abandoned where they couldn’t help but find it in the course of their rounds.

Since Edibal’s domain is best taken on late at night, the group at the inn decides that the first priority is to get past the lookout and into the apartment, using the diversionary tactic of sending Sy and Azzy to attack the man while they sneak onto the roof and from there drop down onto the balcony. Trink’s long years of training her hunter make it easy for her to communicate her intentions, while Yachak relies on a more intuitive rapport he’s built with his dog over years of traveling and hunting together. The distraction has the desired effect, and Trink and Marina are able to get down onto Vasta’s balcony from the roof above without his seeing them.

They discover that no one but the servants are there, and Vasta and Septimus have been gone since morning. They leave a note that they will be at the inn, and peek out the front door to see if the man’s attention is still occupied enough for them to just slip down the steps. Unfortunately, he has achieved a stand-off with the animals, keeping them at bay with a stick while he is on high alert, watching in all directions for some other phase of the attack. Marina decides it’s too risky for her to leave right now, and Trink, who has the dark clothing and extra stealth to get back up on the roof, should return to the inn by herself.

The scene shifts to Nhymeri and Kibu, who have just awakened to find the wise woman, Surinara, gone. They head back down the road, and, coming around a corner, discover from a distance that there are eight policemen guarding the turn-off up to the Chateau. They manage to duck out of sight before they are spotted, and discuss what to do.

“Kibu, why are the law people here?”

Kibu shrugs, and then he starts holding up his hands and starts counting. “Okay, I’ll take this many, and you take…this many,” just throwing out random numbers on his fingers.

“We’re not taking THAT many people out, just two of us!”

“What else are we gonna do? We gotta go get Spot!”

“Yeah, I hear that. Maybe we can climb…” The off-road terrain up to the Chateau is rugged, but passable, they determine, though it will take much longer than going by road.

A light goes on in Kibu’s head. “Like, what if we sent one of the horses in one direction as a decoy and have them chase after it, and we could try to sneak past them on Yarraman?”

“Okay.”

“And, and, and, we could make it look like somebody’s riding it! And, and, and, we could use these as bags…”

“How are we…we don’t have anything that we could mock up, just, a body…”

“We could use grass! … Yeah, I guess you’re right.” Kibu thinks a little more. “If I slap the horse real hard, you think it’ll go home?”

“Where is home to this animal?” She laughs. “It doesn’t have a home anymore. Unless you want to travel across country, but the nag will probably just starve because she’s lazy…” Kibu reminds her it’s not the old nag that he’s riding anymore. “Oh, oh, well yeah, then, it would definitely find its way home.”

“I’m gonna try it,” he says, jumping off. As he finds a switch, Nhymeri starts to say something, but it’s too late. With a Thack he hits the horse on the butt and it bolts down the road straight for the grouping of constables. Highly pleased with himself, Kibu jumps onto Yarraman behind Nhymeri, and they head deep into the brush as quickly as they can, making a pretty good distance away from the road before the constables who are sent in that direction to investigate have any chance of detecting them. They pick their way up the steep sides of the canyon until they reach Vasta’s road well above where the men are, then give Yarraman his head and gallop up to the Chateau.

They find no more cops when they ride through Vasta’s gates, and as Nhymeri leaps off and heads for the house, she tells Kibu to find Mully, the cook, and the groundskeeper, and warn them to leave before the authorities get here. They are suitably attentive to this message, seeing as how these guests have now earned their respect as defenders of Vasta’s hearth and home, and Thornton knows of a hunter’s cabin farther up the mountain where they can take the animals and all go up to hide out for a while.

Nhymeri finds James and asks how he feels and whether he can move. Not giving him much room for self-assessment, she gives him some painkilling herbs and declares him fit to ride. As they gather together his things, she gives him a quick explanation of what’s going on, and he agrees it’s a good reason to get out of there. Kibu wants to ride Spot, even if he has to be tied on, but Nhymeri puts her foot down and insists that they can’t afford to stress out the zebra so much before his training even begins, so Kibu has to take one of the other horses left over by the thugs. Mully is in a quandary because he really wants to go with them, but he decides his duty lies with helping Thornton and the women, and taking care of Ginny the Gyrfalcon, who would probably not travel well. They pack up everything they can on one of the extra horses, and head back down the switchbacks.

It’s well into the afternoon before they can pick their way down the canyon on the seaward side of Vasta’s road in order to avoid the lawmen on their way out. They find a stream where they can smear some mud on Spot to disguise him, and decide to camp somewhere secluded on the outskirts of town. Kibu puts together a disguise for himself as well, and sets off alone to find out what’s going on with his friends.

[to be continued]

The scene shifts to Septimus, perhaps half an hour or so later in the evening after Trink returns to the inn. The magician proceeds cautiously up the street towards Vasta’s apartment wearing a dark cloak, broad brimmed hat, and stage whiskers. He notices two men talking to each other across the street from her door, and they take notice of him as he approaches. He can tell what one of them is saying in the light of the street lamp using his lip-reading talent he long ago developed for his clairvoyance act. “…boss says just keep watching,” one of them is saying. “Somebody’s got to show up sooner or later.” But as he draws near, they shut up and watch Septimus as he draws near Vasta’s stoop.

He is about to pass by and keep walking down the street, but is accosted just then by a well-dressed gentleman stepping out of a parked carriage. The man inquires he is Septimus Alovar, but Septimus denies it and continues on his way. When he rounds the corner at the end of the block, he retraces Trink’s route up to the roof and down onto the Vasta’s balcony without being detected by the men on the street, who are again speaking in low tones.

Septimus and Marina have a brief discussion about what’s going on, and he instructs her to wait inside the front door of the apartment until she hears a commotion on the street, her signal to run out and secure the parked carriage. He returns via the roof to collect Yachak and Trink and execute a plan to subdue the watchers and hustle them into the apartment, which goes off essentially without a hitch. Marina, for her part, easily persuades the driver of the carriage not to resist, and he and the gentleman inside the carriage are obliged to enter the building as well, although not under restraint.

The gentleman identifies himself as Pinborton, the legal agent to Countess Matreya, who tried to get Vasta to sell the Chateau a few days before the fire [and who was also spoken of by Ambrish in Session 12d]. Septimus explains to him that Vasta’s abduction is the reason for the sudden rough treatment, and as soon as Pinborton hears of this, he is all polite cooperation, vowing that neither he nor his client, the Countess, wish any harm to come to her. He is asked to step into an adjoining room for the moment.

Septimus interrogates the two watchers, but gets little out of them except that they are operating under the orders of Inspector Crimner. The larger man at least, the one who had carried a sword, claims to be a member of the constabulary. He tells Septimus “You don’t know how much trouble you’re in,” and Septimus points his rapier at the man’s heart. “Say that one more time,” he says, threateningly. The man shuts up after that.

Septimus returns to speak further with Pinborton, who confirms that much of what Crimner is getting away with right now reflects a power struggle in the Plenum of Burghers. Pinborton says he has so far kept clear of the Inspector’s attention, since his business primarily involves the elite landowners, whom Crimner seems to be avoiding. As far as he can tell, Crimner’s scare tactics appear aimed at intimidating the smaller guilds and professions who can normally hold their own in the Plenum through their greater voting strength.

Septimus states that Crimner is a villain and if he catches up to him, he shall do the man in. Pinborton tells him that while such a deed would do nothing to hurt his feelings, he cannot afford to be affiliated with any disreputable behavior. Nevertheless, if he can be of any service to Septimus in his plight, he need only ask, and hopes they can resume their business discussion regarding Vasta’s property at a later time. He provides his business card, and Septimus allows him and his driver to leave.

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