February 25th, 2007

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Session 3: Jendai's Crusade

Our scene opens shortly after the return of Ambassador Acilius to the Tarsuli Republic's embassy compound in Shanur. Gaius and Brutus discuss the overlong absence of Alcibiades (who left with the dwarven and reptilian segment of the party the night before), and determine that the latter should track the ex-gladiator's movements to determine where he's disappeared to. Alcibiades, meanwhile, is languishing along with Dalgeard, Viad, and Shamir in the dungeons of the House of Ark, where they were captured after witnessing the Seed's ripening.

The Missing Gladiator

Brutus proceeds to the House of Ark, looking for evidence of Alcibiades and his wards. Instead, he encounters Asim, who aids the foreign scout as a translator in his investigations. The temple is in something of an uproar, with more guards than normal at the gates. The cause of this commotion seems to be a large contingent of priests, from all across Shanur, who entered the temple that morning.

Alcibiades, however, had not been seen in that courtyard since the day before. Upon being questioned about alternate ways into the temple, Asim notes the possibility of route through the city's necropolis. Brutus and Asim proceed through the city to the funeral temple at its gates, which they find in a tizzy and lacking many of its high-ranking priests. Questioning guards and acolytes, they eventually are escorted into the necropolis in search of Alcibiades' path. Brutus detects marks of the gladiator's passage along the dust- and mold-caked stones, and tracks the captives as far as the site of their battle with the necropolis' guardian undead.

This seems to be the first the funeral temple knew of the damage inflicted here, as their escort was quite perturbed, and insisted that they leave immediately.

Negotiation

Gaius spends the rest of that first day arranging meetings with the important figures now gathered at the embassy: the ambassador, Caius Acilius, and the Master of Docks Maurus Vitus.

He meets the former the next morning. The ambassador questions Gaius about his investigations, and the trouble stirred up by the other foreigners whose paths have continually crossed his. The question of smuggling is only touched on lightly, and that of Maurus Vitus's role not at all. Ambassador Acilius seems chiefly preoccupied with his recently failed negotations at the Orchid Palace, and lets slip the Republic's vested interest in keeping Chorach out of the game of naval power on the Sunrise Ocean.

Later, he meets with Maurus Vitus. Given all the pleasant-faced lies and skullduggery surrounding this mission so far, the encounter is refreshingly direct. Gaius reveals that he knows of the dockmaster's corruption and smuggling interests, but states his primary desire to be a smooth resolution of these troubles, one that will leave the Republic's honor intact in Chorach, and allow all parties involved to escape with their lives and fortunes as intact as possible. Maurus makes a show of being unthreatened by Gaius' talk of Senate intervention, but seems at least willing to consider the idea.

Interrogation

The druids, Alcibiades, and Viad have by now spent perhaps thirty hours imprisoned in the House of Ark. In this time, they have spoken only to one Eshegal, a senior scribe of the temple, who took their names and stories to the High Priestess Jendai and conveyed her interest in a more complete conversation.

At nearly the same time Gaius is meeting with the Maurus Vitus, the four prisoners are summoned to Jendai's office, high in the temple, to answer for their trespass. The High Priestess of the House of Ark questions each of them in turn, and listens to Dalgeard's prophecy with more sympathy than anyone in the city has yet shown.

Nor does Viad's plea for aid fall on deaf ears. Though she dismisses the deep dwarf's efforts to gain the aid of the Eternals, whom she views as unrepentantly corrupt tyrants, Jendai seems willing to consider aiding in the fight against Pandemonium. And though she will be preoccupied for the next several days, she suggests that she may shortly be able to

The conversation then turns to the Seed, which has rested on Jendai's desk this entire time. She asks the druids what they would do with this thing, and where they would choose to plant it given the option. Jendai takes the Seed's appearance quite seriously, seeing in it some portent of great change even before these foreigners broke into her temple.

In a surprising stroke of mercy, Jendai declares that she will not punish any of the four trespassers. Instead, she not only frees them, but gives them tasks. The seed, hidden within a too-small pouch, she gives into Shamir and Dalgeard's care, with the understanding that they will seek the aid and counsel of the Green in the north and report their findings back to her. To Alcibiades she gives a message, to be delivered to his superiors at the embassy: "I and my followers in Shanur bear you no ill will. I hope, when the confusion of the next few days dies down, that we may meet at length to establish a mutually beneficial relationship."

The four are released, and race back to the embassy with Jendai's somehow ominous words of friendship still echoing in their ears.

The Temples Revolt

What happens next cannot be as sudden as it seems. No doubt Jendai has been laying plans and gathering allies for years, but the appearance of the comet and the Seed have accelerated her designs. The city is tense with built-up religious apprehension, awaiting her pronouncement of the comet's meaning on baited breath. Most of the Eternals, including their most skilled warriors and wisest minds, are absent, and have been since the comet's appearance in the sky six weeks ago.

Alcibiades rushes to the Tarsuli embassy to bring both Jendai's message and the druids' sacred burden to safety. The High Priestess' message was a veiled warning as a much as an offer of friendship; upon hearing it, Gaius quickly brings the gladiator into the Ambassador's presence. Messages are hurriedly sent to Tarsuli citizens elsewhere in the Foreign Quarter, and a ship is dispatched to the mainland, hopefully in time to make it out of the bay before the exit is closed by traffic or fighting.

On a balcony over the courtyard of the House of Ark, the High Priestess speaks words to start a revolution.

We have all seen the sign of momentous times that flashed in the night sky six weeks ago. I am here tonight to tell you its meaning. It signals the end of an age, the age of the rule of the Eternals. Though mighty, and though rightly honored in the ancient days of our land, they have fallen into decadence and tyranny, and are no longer worthy of fealty. The comet bore this message: that the gods themselves reject the rule of the Eternals!

Now, I call upon every faithful citizen of Shanur, and of Chorach, to join me in breaking our shackles at the dawn of this new age of mortals. Most of the Eternals, including their most deadly warriors, are absent; this is a chance we will not have again. Even now, our allies in the Iron Serpents and Red Tigers strike the first blows. Join them, and let us topple the Eternals from their thrones, and be free of them forever!

The doors of the House of Ark, closed these many weeks, swung open. And the temple guard marched forth, arrayed for war.

All across the city, other priests in other temples speak similar words, gathering their followers and rejecting the ancient, iron rule of the Eternals. Fighting instantly consumed the city, as many Iron Serpents and most of the Furious Red Tigers turn on those of their brethren still loyal to the Eternals. They are joined by guardsmen from every temple, and by many of citizens of Shanur who have felt the Eternals' oppressive taxation and brutal whimsy for too long.

Arrayed against them are those soldiers and citizens still loyal to the old ways. At the core of this resistance are the servants and warriors of the Djatey, the hereditary servants of the Eternals who have pledged loyalty to last beyond death and the afterlife. But the rebels are many, and many of those most loyal to the Eternals are still within the City of Immortals when the fighting begins.

Asim witnesses the speech, and beginning of the revolt, firsthand, and is eager to take advantage. Anticipating that the temple army is heading for the City of Immortals, he sprints there ahead of them to see the results. What he finds instead is Jendai - who has traversed the distance between her temple and the gates of the copper city with mystical speed - and a group of elite temple guards. The High Priestess works a mighty spell (forbiddance), sealing the gates of the City of Immortals and trapping what Eternals remain inside. She then takes flight and advances on the Eternals' private docks to do the same.

Taking advantage of the chaos and his deep knowledge of Shanur's streets, the opportunistic Asim gets there first. Incapacitating the skeleton crew remaining with a barrage of ranged octopi, he steals one of the small but richly decorated pleasure yacht kept by the Eternals, and proceeds to set the remaining ships there aflame even as Jendai floats overhead and seals the dock gate as she did the main.

Fall of the Orchid Palace

Night falls at last, but does nothing to stop the fighting.

Even as the Tarsuli scramble to gather their citizens into the safety of the embassy walls, they witness the flash of Jendai's magic at work to the north. Gaius sends Brutus and Alcibiades to investige, while he helps to plan strategy with the ambassador and Maurus Vitus. The pair make their way to the docks, hoping to find a boat rather than have to maneuver through the burning, rioting streets of Shanur.

Asim, meanwhile, has crewed his stolen yacht with a handful of old pals who are eager to join in the looting. He happens upon the Tarsuli scouts as they search the docks, and the pair join him. They set sail for the Orchid Palace, to seek out the fate of Governor Belam.

The Palace is a battleground, invaded by the rebel members of the Red Tigers under the command of their Captain Nuru Belam (brother of the governor), as well as the core of Jendai's temple army under the command of the scribe-priest Eshegal (who, it turns out, is one of the few secretaries to have perfected the use of fireball.) The defenders are hard-pressed, making it relatively simple for the trio of Asim, Brutus, and Alcibiades to slip in through a service dock. They avoid most of the fighting, but skirmish with a handful of the Red Tigers still loyal to the Governor on their way through the palace.

Asim, it seems (haha), has some inside knowledge of the Palace, as he's able to lead the trio deep into defended territory with little contact with the fighting. Disguised as a Red Tiger himself, he leads them to a chamber guarded by two obviously dangerous soldiers (who will later be revealed to be of the feared Voiceless Guard). The three are barely able to defeat them using all the stealth, magic, and fighting skill at their disposal, but find them to have been the last defenders left to watch over Governor Belam.

With the Governor taken prisoner by Asim, the remaining defenders quickly surrender. Rewards are promised to Brutus and Alcibiades by Eshegal and the new Governor, while Asim secures himself a cabinet position in the new government once it stabilizes.

The Tarsuli Response

All is not well in the Foreigner's Quarter. Anti-foreigner sentiment, stirred up by the general chaos, is running high tonight, and a threatening mob has gathered outside the Embassy. Gaius and Shamir are able to persuade them to see to their own families first, but those Tarsuli still outside the embassy are not all so lucky. When the legionnaires sent to evacuate the customs house and ships return, they report lynchings, burnings, and more chaos. Those ships not under attack by the mob have fled out into the bay, where they clog the harbor entrance. Shanur Castle is still a battleground, as Iron Serpents loyal to the Eternals have barred themselves into the keep while their brethren lay siege.

The Tarsuli leadership are chiefly concerned with keeping their own people safe, and surviving long enough to determine which side is likely to win. Jendai's overture of friendship means nothing when her position is still so precarious; if she is given Tarsuli aid but still fails, the Republic will likely be banished from Shanur for the next fifty years at least. But most of their people and their most vital documents, equipment, and supplies are safe within the embassy - along with the Seed that Jendai warned must not fall into the Eternal's hands. Shamir and Dalgeard have even been allowed to setup a first-aid tent just outside the embassy, in an effort to maintain local goodwill.

At the night's final, exhausted war council, Maurus Vitus reveals one more piece of bad news. One of his warehouses, containing unspecified contraband that he implies is sure to raise Chorachi ire if discovered, is not safely locked down or evacuated. In fact, it's under the control of a certain notorious criminal, who has taken advantage of this chaos for his own profit: one Odji Beleg.

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