Zomaris:Khanate Rising/Chapter 08
Chapter #8: Solid Snake Bashing
<mainstreet> ---BEGIN SESSION---
<mainstreet> You walk out of the Count's Manor in Kandar, ready to begin your journey to Xalrin. But apparently there may be some important conversation to be had as well.
<Fir> "So, how do we get to Xalrin?"
- Nergui quickly looks around to make sure no one is eavesdropping
<Capn_Mercy> "I dunno, let's ask Ms. Apparantly Royalty here."
<Nergui> "Yes, I am royalty. A princess. The eldest child of my father. I should be empress right now, in fact."
<Nergui> "Should be," she practically snarls
<Magwitch> "Is this to do with social prejudice against your Race?" the diminutive pariah questions.
- Fir pats Nergui on the knee. "Yes, yes, you can steal the tribute and get your throne back. Now how do we get to Xubin?"
<Nergui> "The official reason is because I didn't submit properly to Ra. But yes, the actual reason is because I am part dragon."
<Capn_Mercy> "You mean...empress of all of this right here?"
<Magwitch> "Steal? Is it stealing when it should be yours? I hope we're not considering doing anything Evil here."
<Fir> "Potato potah-toe."
<Nergui> "The tribute could definitely be said to belong rightfully to me."
<Capn_Mercy> "So could the throne, but you don't have that, now do you?"
<Nergui> "We'll have to fix things one at a time."
<Capn_Mercy> "Will getting this tribute help you get in power somehow?"
- Magwitch loves it when the plant talks dirty.
<Nergui> "It'll be money, with which we can buy what we please. Including the loyalty of...a certain kind of person."
<Magwitch> "Mercenaries with dubious ethical perspectives? Not Evil ones, though!"
<Capn_Mercy> "Uh...we *are* mercenaries with dubious ethical perspectives. Aren't we?"
- Magwitch looks around at the crew. "Well, I'm here For Great Justice - not payment."
<Fir> "Does it count as being a mercenary if you fight with magic instead of a sword?"
<Nergui> "And it is a great injustice I was denied my due just for who my grandmother was."
<Capn_Mercy> "I fight for justice. As in...just-ice long as I get paid! Eh heh heh!...ahem."
<Nergui> "Just remember how much I could pay you if I reclaimed the throne."
- Fir pictures herself as a much larger fighter, slinging magic fireballs at enemy soldiers in return for gold. Then she realizes that she did literally throw some little balls of fire at people and got paid for it.
<Fir> "So how many people do we have to throw flames at, to put you back on the throne?"
<Nergui> "To be honest? Probably a lot."
<Magwitch> "All the Evil ones who stand in the way of justice! I guess?"
<Fir> "But you still want us to go get this tribute first, right? Or do you think Xunrin will lend you whatever army they have?"
<Capn_Mercy> "Having money in our - er, I mean, Nergui's pockets would be advantageous when it comes time for a revolution."
<Nergui> "As will disrupting the power and legitimacy of nobles who would not support me. Such as by intercepting their tributes."
<Capn_Mercy> "Money is power. More for you, less for them."
<Capn_Mercy> "Works for me. I'm totally for supporting a would-be ruler in return for future favors. ...did I say that out loud? I mean...you're our friend and we'll gladly help you out."
<Fir> "Sounds like we're all agreed. So how do we get to Xinchin?"
<Capn_Mercy> "Dunno. What're our options?"
<Capn_Mercy> Mercy stops to think (a rarity for her). "Camels could work. We wouldn't have to bust our humps to get there - we could bust theirs! Eh heh heh! ...ahem."
<Fir> "So, still through the dry, dry desert?" Fir asks with a tinge of sadness.
- Fir snaps her finger and whispers "su", drenching herself in water just at the thought of the desert.
<Capn_Mercy> "Basically everything around here is dry, except the waterways."
<Magwitch> "Wherever we journey, we have opportunities to form allegiances and enemies. If we go inland, we may get to know allies in the wastes. If we go via the coast, we may form allies in the ports. What's more likely to benefit the long-term goal here?"
- Magwitch asks Nergui, who seems to be the one with the hopes and driving ambitions.
<Nergui> "The coasts often have more riches and people, but the wastes have more places to lay low."
<Capn_Mercy> "The adventurer in me likes the idea of rapsing through the dangerous desert. But the laziness in me likes the idea of a nice, uneventful boat ride."
<Fir> "Ooooh, boat!"
<Nergui> "I would lean towards overland. Allies who might be able to hide us where people won't want to look for us is valuable in the short term, and we need to survive the short term before we can think long term."
- Fir looks at Nergui, images of her talking down the blue dragon flashing through her memory. "If that's what you want."
<Capn_Mercy> "Woks for me. More ass-kicking in the desert it is."
<Magwitch> "The ocean is just another desert."
<Fir> "But with water, which is, you know, the stuff of life."
<Magwitch> "Nasty water, salty from all the fish sweating in it."
<Fir> "So which way to the boa...er...camels, then?" Fir tries to remember if she saw a camel store in the city.
<Magwitch> "This trip will take some time. So if we need any shopping or supplies, we'd better get that done before we depart."
<mainstreet> Fir: There are camels at the north end of the city. Fittingly, the direction you want to be going anyway.
- Fir follows the others around as they go shopping, oohing and aahing over many strange articles in the markets and shops.
- Nergui allows her minions to shop as much as is needed
<Capn_Mercy> "What is this 'soap'?"
- Fir points the others in the direction of the camels once the coin is all used up.
<mainstreet> You do all necessary shopping, and eventually find the Camel Rental shop. An elf is leaning on a post at the corner of a small paddock. Several camels are inside. "SAM'S CAMEL RENTALS" is proudly displayed on the paddock's gate.
- Fir hands Molly a new bag that she purchased. "This will be so much easier for you to carry, Molly."
<Magwitch> Meep Meep peers up at the towering quadrupeds and Magwitch wonders how mammals have worked so hard to survive the deserts when reptiles have already got all that sorted out.
<Fir> "How much for a camel, Sam Camel?"
<mainstreet> "It's just Samel, and that depends. Where you going, and how long you going for?"
<Fir> "To Xinchin. Xalchin. Xalin?"
<Nergui> "Xalrin. It may be a while."
<Fir> "I was close that time."
<mainstreet> "Define 'a while'."
<Fir> "However long it takes to get to Xalrin."
<mainstreet> "Well presumably you do plan on returning them, yes?"
<Fir> "You don't have a bunch of stores in other cities that we can return the camels to?"
<Magwitch> "Do we have to refuel them before we return them? That might be tricky in the desert."
<Fir> "It's like you don't even know me," Fir says, looking at Magwitch.
<mainstreet> "Well if it's a one-way trip your looking for, I suppose you can drop them off at my brother's establishment in Xalrin. His name is Dan."
<Fir> "Dan the Camel Man, got it."
<Nergui> "Let's go with the assumption that the trip is one way."
- Magwitch looks over the companions and admits that it doesn't really know the full capability of anyone here. Maybe they /can/ trivially feed camels. It's clearly not very familiar with this plane.
<mainstreet> "Straight there? Well, for a trip like that... I'll say 15 gold per camel, as long as you sign an agreement accepting full responsibility for the full purchase price should they die on you or you are foolish enough to get them confiscated for violating the law."
<Fir> "They're illegal?"
<Nergui> "I am not particularly familiar with the law in regards to camel usage."
<mainstreet> "No, they aren't, but property forfieture is a common restitution for minor crimes in the Empire, *especially* in Xalrin, and the Church of Baldar has a tendency to be unwilling to comprehend that rental property isn't actually yours."
<Capn_Mercy> "What's the going rate for a camel these days?"
<Nergui> "We will practice all due caution, then."
- Fir pulls 15 gold out of her new bag and hands it to Dan, err...Sam.
<mainstreet> "Full camel purchase price is 200 gold right now. Times are tough."
- Nergui and Kiyomi each pay up the 15 gold
<Fir> "Do they come with drinking bags?"
<mainstreet> You all quickly realize 2 people can probably fit on a single camel, especially if 1 of those people is small.
<Magwitch> "So you want 15 gold from us now, and a verbal contract to pay you 200 gold later if you can find us but not the camel? Where do you get your profits?"
<Nergui> "Even a few gold pieces can be a lot to a lot of people."
<mainstreet> "I said a contract, not a mere verbal agreement, son. Contracts are quite enforcable in the Meterrian Empire."
- Fir pets her camel. "Hi camel, what's your name? I'm Fir, and this is my friend Molly," she says, pointing at the air next to her.
<mainstreet> The camel just munches on a weed in the paddock.
<Magwitch> "I don't want you to lose out on business. Could I buy two camels from you at full price, and sell them to Dan later if they're still fit for duty?"
<Nergui> After riding arrangements are thought out, Kiyomi determines she does not need to pay for a camel
<mainstreet> "Son, the contract is mainly to make you understand I am serious. I don't anticipate any problems, unless you're actually intending to lose them, either through misadventure or running afoul of the Church, but why would you do that?"
<Magwitch> Meep meep says, "Meep meep" like a cartoon roadrunner.
- Fir climbs on her camel. "Ready to go?"
<Nergui> "I am willing to sign the contract. I'd like to get going as soon as I can."
<Fir> (Molly has to lift Fir so she can reach the camel's back.)
<mainstreet> Sam hands Nergui and Fir a contract each.
<Capn_Mercy> Mercy saddles up behind Fir. ...is there a saddle involved at all?
- Fir signs the contract from the back of the camel.
<mainstreet> Mercy: No.
- Nergui does her best to read and understand the contract before signing
<mainstreet> Nergui: You look it over and it's all standard language. Still, you feel like it's probably better not to sign with your real name, just on general principles.
- Magwitch signs a contract the size of a King-sized quilt.
<Fir> "Don't worry, I'll take good care of..." Fir looks at the camel thoughtfully..."Birch here."
<mainstreet> Magwitch: Why are you signing? You didn't rent anything.
<mainstreet> Sam takes the contracts and opens the paddock. "Enjoy your trip."
- Magwitch erases that last. Duh.
- mainstreet erases the corresponding line
- Fir directs their camel northerly.
- Nergui and Kiyomi tag along on their camel
<mainstreet> You start your journey into the deep desert!
<mainstreet> You ride for a single night without incident. Sleep through the morning, and get through the afternoon just fine. As you continue into the night though...
<mainstreet> Suddenly, Fir's camel rears up in frustration!
<mainstreet> It's not hard to see the problem. You almost had him stepping right onto a snake that now comes bursting out of the sand. And three more follow!
<mainstreet> These brightly colored snakes were camoflagued by hiding under the sand, but they can't do so any longer now.
<Magwitch> Meep meep scoots to a point 20 feet from the snakes and Magwitch manifests a Ward Hex on Fir's camel.
- Fir moves the camel backward, wriggles her fingers in the air, and begins chanting, "millepa millepa millepa" over and over.
<mainstreet> The snakes move in and attempt to strike the camels! 2 snakes at each camel.
<mainstreet> Pathetically, none of the snakes get even close to pulling off a successful bite.
<Nergui> Kiyomi begins singing a tune in some foreign language. It may or may not be about mustelids, serpents, and fungi.
<Nergui> In one swift motion, Nergui draws her cleaver, hops down from the camel, and brings the cleaver down upon the nearest snake while screaming "NEVER INTERRUPT ME!"
<mainstreet> The snake is a bloody mess on the ground. It doesn't even resemble anything remotely like a snake at this point.
<Nergui> "...you're WROOOOOONG!" Nergui lets out in an extended scream
<Capn_Mercy> Mercy leaps up to stand atop the humps of the camel, her legs arched over Fir's head. "SNAAAKE! It's not over yet!" She then leaps off and drops while swinging her hammer down, intent on playing Whack-A-Snake.
<Capn_Mercy> The snake looks up just in time to see a giant hammer-head coming down from above. It goes rigid with fear! *THWACK* With a single strike, Mercy drives it into the sand like a giant, scaly nail.
<Magwitch> With the ritualised resonant baritone warcry, "Sucks to be you!", the diminutive Shaman hexes the final snake mere moment before it meets its maker!
<Magwitch> *the snake near Birch
<Fir> "Attack that snake!" Fir calls out, pointing at the snake near Birch's feet. Three hundred ridiculously tiny monkeys appear and begin climbing all over the snake, pummeling it and trying to steal scales from its pockets...err, skin.
- Fir also throws one of her mini balls of fire at the snake.
<mainstreet> The snake is now quite scorched and clearly unconscious.
<mainstreet> The last snake rears up and attempts to bit Nergui.
<Nergui> Kiyomi continues singing, doing nothing in particular yet
<Nergui> Meanwhile, Nergui turns her freshly-bloodied cleaver on the last snake, chopping at it relentlessly
<Nergui> Nergui engages in a snake-slaughter of a scale scarcely seen before in a rattling display, killing it in cold blood and ultimately removing that snake from this plane of existence. Then Nergui lets her little hissy-fit end, breathing heavily.
<mainstreet> There are currently 2 dead snakes, 1 unconcious snake, and a small pile of blood and bone, splayed out on the sand.
<Capn_Mercy> "Whew. hat was some solid snake-bashing."
<Fir> "If I stabilize my snake, do you think I can make it my pet and ride the Great Wyrm across the desert?"
<Nergui> "...feel free."
<Capn_Mercy> "It's kind of...small, though."
<Magwitch> "It's huge!"
<Capn_Mercy> "What, these? Pfft. I've seen bigger."
<Nergui> "I have certainly met bigger snakes than these."
<Capn_Mercy> "I wonder if they're good eating?"
<Fir> "Oh, we could try snake stew, instead. It'll probably be hard to get it to like me, what with trying to kill it and all."
- Fir directs the monkeys to go dancing across the desert until they disappear with a pop.
<Nergui> "Do what you wish with the remains, and the living snake. I'm getting ready to ride again."
<Magwitch> Meep meep says, "Meep meep" like a cartoon roadrunner.
<Capn_Mercy> Mercy pulls out a knife and carves about a foot of snake-meat for later, then re-mounts.
- Fir shrugs and follows Nergui.
<mainstreet> You ride on through the night, and set up camp in the morning. The next afternoon you start riding again, and after about an hour or so of riding, you notice what appears to be some sort of structure or perhaps jumble of objects off to your left a bit.
<Fir> "You know, if you guys want to travel during the day instead of at night, I do have a spell concoction that will let everyone be ok in the heat and the sun."
<Capn_Mercy> Mercy points. "What's that?"
- Fir steers the camel closer and looks it over.
<mainstreet> As you take a closer look, you find a rather disturbing sight. Four human corpses are scattered across the sand. By their uniform fragments, two of them were clearly Priests of Baldar, and the other two Priests of Ra. You also see the remains of a cart, and an empty chest. The symbol of Baldar was on the chest, but it has been cleanly sliced through in a neat X. There doesn’t appear to be any sort of visible trail, this certainly happened long enough ago that any such trail has long been erased by the shifting dunes.
<Magwitch> "I prefer riding at night. I like being able to see the stars."
<Capn_Mercy> "Nergui, does this look like it might be our missing tribute caravan?"
- Magwitch begins searching the remains for Holy symbols.
<Nergui> "Yes," Nergui deadpans
<Nergui> "We must stop and investigate."
- Nergui inspects the chest more closely
- Fir takes a look at the bodies to see how they were killed.
<mainstreet> You scrape together 3gp and a metal symbol of Baldar that went untouched. These corpses seem to have been, on the whole, cleaned pretty thoroughly. You do note that one of the Baldaran priests appears to have a strange sort of brand on his arm that you are not familiar with.
<mainstreet> Fir: It's probably a better question to ask how they weren't killed. This looks like a well-organized attack from a sophisticated group. A group such as yourselves might leave corpses like these. Okay, not like *these*, they wouldn't be this intact, but still.
<mainstreet> Nergui: The symbol of Baldar has been cut through with an X very deliberately. The symbol is sliced through in such a way as to provide the largest deliberate insult: a priest of Baldar seeing this would almost feel obligated to attempt to destroy someone that did this. You're sure the people doing this knew exactly what they were doing... you take a further look and find a hidden compartment in the bottom of the chest!
<Magwitch> "I know nothing of Religion, being a Spiritual fellow myself, but wouldn't followers of Baldar or Ra who survived this battle (if any) take their dead with them for ritual burial rather than leave them behind? Does this mean nobody survived the encounter? Or that some third faction was (ir)responsible?"
<Capn_Mercy> "I think we can assume there were no survivors. After all, the tribute was reported missing, which means nobody from the caravan made it back."
<Fir> "Is it normal to only send 4 priests on a tribute trip?"
<Nergui> "Looks like whoever did this did it in a way to maximize the insult."
<Nergui> "I think the standard allotment is two priests. They must have sent more since this wasn't the first time a tribute went missing."
- Nergui checks the hidden compartment
<Magwitch> "Do tributes usually have no armed escort?"
<Nergui> "I assume the priests are generally combat-capable ones."
<Magwitch> "Even four priests isn't going to stop people eager to get their hands on a tribute."
<Capn_Mercy> "Ideally, nobody will know they're here."
<Fir> "Who are the religious enemies, or maybe frenemies, of Baldar or Ra?"
<Capn_Mercy> "Given the desecration, we can assume this was a targetted attack. Which begs the question: how did they know when and where to ambush the caravan?"
<mainstreet> Nergui: You open the compartment without too much difficulty. Inside is a scroll.
- Magwitch shows the others what it has found. The odd arm brand. The Holy Symbol. The meagre coins.
- Magwitch inspects the heads of the corpses, to see how in tact they are. Would they be recognisable? Would they be capable of responding to a Speak With Dead effect?
<mainstreet> Magwitch: The corpses seem to have been mutliated specifically to prevent a Speak with Dead effect. It's possible someone may recognize them, but you'd probably have to get lucky, without context.
- Fir looks at the odd brand to see if she recognizes it.
- Nergui takes a quick look at the scroll
<Magwitch> "Pity there are so few plants growing here, or you might have been able to ask one what happened here."
- Fir nods in agreement with Magwitch's wisdom.
- Nergui looks over at the brand, then at the scroll again. A wicked grin splits wide open on her face.
<Nergui> "Xalrin's been having rebel problems."
<Nergui> "The priest with the brand looks to be a personal servant of my dear ol' aunty Victoria."
<Nergui> "My aunt. The sister of the current emperor. She's a princess, but she married a count."
<Capn_Mercy> "So, she's a princess *and* a countess? That sounds like cheating."
<Fir> "Is she in charge of Xalbin?"
<Nergui> "She would have great influence, if nothing else. And her influence is not the kind I'd want to live under."
<Fir> So if she's the one who wanted to stop the tribute, why was a priest with her brand one of the ones who died while transporting it?
- Fir inserts quotation marks around that.
<Capn_Mercy> "An inside job?"
<Nergui> "No, it was the rebels who likely did it, and the branded priest was a servant of hers who was killed."
<Nergui> "Take a look at the scroll I found," she says and shows it off
- Capn_Mercy looks at said scroll.
<mainstreet> The scroll is a short note, but written in very formal calligraphy and all the fancy scrollwork of an official document:
<mainstreet> “Your Majesty,
<mainstreet> We are formally requesting assistance in dealing with these pesky rebels that have been a plague upon the people of Xalrin. The Priests of Baldar have enough of a time maintaining order in the city and watching our borders, these rebels have not been hunted down effectively at all. Imperial troops can secure the border and free up our priests to destroy these traitors.
<mainstreet> Your loving brother-in-law, and sister,
<mainstreet> Count Ivan III of House Xalrin
<mainstreet> Princess-Countess Victoria Metros-Xalrin”
<Nergui> "Rebels against my aunt means...potential minions..." Nergui grins
<Fir> "Oh. So aunty and uncle are in charge, they sent the priests with the loot and the note for help. Then rebels attacked and got it all. Aunty's not doing any rebelling, she has a rebel problem like some plants have an aphid problem.... Right?"
<Nergui> "I think so?"
- Fir finally processes the other thing Nergui said. "Wait, minions? So we're going to side with the ... err..." Fir stops talking, eyeing Magwitch out of the corner of her wooden eyes.
<Nergui> "Trust me, you wouldn't want to side with Victoria."
<Capn_Mercy> "I've never even met her and I already don't like her."
<Fir> "Sure, sure, that's fine. There's no sign here of how to find them though, right? Unless their dislike of Balder means they will be at the opposite part of town from his temple."
<Nergui> "She grinds people beneath her heel. Metaphorically speaking."
<mainstreet> ---END SESSION---