Issue Two | Autumn 1993
Dermot Bolton plays a deadly game of I-Spy in Kerunan
This is an adventure based in south-eastern Tsolyánu, designed specifically for the TIRIKELU rolegame. The following guidelines will be helpful for adapting it to other systems. Typical Melee values are: 10 for an average untrained person, 14-18 for ordinary militia, 18-24 for a trained soldier, 25-30 for a well trained veteran, 31-35 for a legion champion and 36+ for a hero type. Average Hit Points are in the 10-12 range, with 13-15 being high and anything above 16 quite exceptional.
Beginning-level characters should be able to handle the adventure if they include one or two ex-soldiers with decent arms and armour. They ought to be of high enough status to justify the thought of a few days’ recreational hunting, but not so high that they can just demand and get their own way with the yokels. The adventure works best if at least one character has some skill in Hunter, Tracker and/or Forest Survival, but this is not essential. A good rationale for travelling in this area is clan business, especially if most of the characters belong to the same clan.
Sections in italics are designed to be read out to the players, but the referee ought to glance through these sections first to make sure he doesn’t give too much away. Events are listed in a probable order of play to aid the referee in the direction of a timeline. However, the plot is broad enough to permit improvisation if the player-characters want to do something else. If they don’t bite when intrigue is thrown their way, let them potter along until they either bump into an NPC or visit a significant location. Remember, just because they may not want to get involved that doesn’t mean they can avoid it.
On the road
(Read this to the players:) A fine spring day sees you travelling south-east on the Sakbe towards Salarvya. Your travel documents indicate that accommodation has been arranged with the Sapphire Bird clan in the small town of Gilris, just off the Sakbe. You have heard of the fine hunting on the fringes of the great Forest of Gilraya. Perhaps this would prove a good place to stay for a day or two of well earned recreation. You leave the Sakbe at one of the many way-stations and follow behind a slow moving chlen cart whose owner says he is going to Gilris. The farmer, whose name is Tanikh, gives you a swig of hgenka beer and tells you about the town in exchange for news from afar.
The small town of Gilris has a population of about seven hundred. It lies very close to the Salavyáni border—in fact many of the rural folk hereabouts speak Salavyáni as their first language. Once a major trading centre, Gilris has declined in importance and now exists through local crafts, agriculture and hunt-mastering for the holidaying classes.
The town is dominated by four great clanhouses, although there are some private residences. A large shrine to Lord Belkhanu is centrally situated beside the market square. The rest of the town is taken up with warehouses, mercantile interests and workshops.
There are a number of lodges in the fringes of the great Forest of Gilraya, including two quite close to the town. These nearly all belong to high clans.
Asking Tanikh about hunting, you find out that the fauna in the forest varies from the beautiful kheshchal-bird to the highly dangerous vringalu—a large venomous flying snake. He suggests that you visit the Clan of the Broken Reed if you are interested in doing some hunting.
You find the town a tsan or so off the Sakbe. It seems to be market day and there is much activity as people go about their business. Farmers display their goods piled up on reed mats. Chri-flies are kept away from foodstuffs by enthusiastic children, while more cautious merchants employ cousins to guard their produce. A couple of young acolytes hang out near the shrine, seeming bored and listless in the warm afternoon.
Tanikh points out the Sapphire Bird clanhouse on your right. Pushing his way through a gaggle of scampering young urchins, he bids you good hunting.
The town of Gilris is not as mundane as it seems. A recent discovery has brought interest from quarters both inside and outside the Empire. It all started four weeks before the player characters’ arrival, when an agent of dubious loyalties disappears somewhere in the area. Supposedly an Omnipotent Azure Legion operative of Salavyáni descent, he revealed his true colours when he absconded with an item of great importance to sell to the highest bidder. This man was later found murdered in Rü. Unfortunately the item had gone.
One by one the interested parties traced the murdered agent’s movements back to this area. Gilris is not the only place being searched, of course, but it happens to be the right one. At this point five factions have agents in the area: the Omnipotent Azure Legion, the Incandescent Blaze Society, the Military Party, the Thirreqummu family of Koyluga and the Hruchchaqsha family of Chame’el. The two Salavyáni groups are aware of each other, and everyone is aware of the Incandescent Blaze involvement because their agent is so conspicuous. So far, overt action has been minimal and only used by the Salavyáni.
The item they are all after is a box which contains a set of High Cartographic crystals. These crystals chart in detail large parts of the Tsolyáni/Salavyáni border and the Kerunan Protectorate. Needless to say they are of great importance to the Empire and were confiscated by the Omnipotent Azure Legion agent soon after their discovery in the Underworld beneath Sokatis.
The agent intended to sell the crystals in Salarvyá, but took the precaution of buryiing them in a cave near Gilris before proceeding on to Rü. The Koyluga faction murdered him only to find that the crystals were not on his person.
That was four weeks ago. As fate would have it, the crystals were discovered in the interim. A group of clanless warriors who are living in the woods found them while digging a latrine. This was one week ago. Four days later one of the men dared to venture into town to try and sell one of the crystals, which they thought were cheap gems. The merchant, Kagoth of the Sapphire Bird clan, deemed the man a worthless bandit and thief and promptly chased him off. Much abuse was hurled on both sides, causing something of a stir in the street outside the clanhouse, and word of the incident reached the Salavyáni agents. Kagoth later lost the crystal somewhere in the clanhouse, but that did not save him from being murdered silently in his bed.
The players enter the scene two days after Kagoth was found dead—apparently from natural causes, but rumours have an uncanny way of stumbling on the truth.
Inside the Sapphire Bird Clanhouse
Here the player-characters should hear of the suspicion behind the death of Kagoth. Later they will discover the High Cartographic crystal being used as a toy by the children of the clan.
(Read to the players:) As you push past the various pedlars of furs and leather, you are spotted by a young man who introduces himself as an assistant to the clan chief. You make your introductions, and after a frought look he dashes off down a corridor. A little while later, a tall middle-aged man wearing jewellery strides down the corridor. He is followed by two men brandishing accountancy slates, both urgently babbling about clan business.
The tall man stops and looks at you, a smile momentarily replacing the harassed look on his face. “Greetings, my friends. I am Changetke hiKangme, elder of this humble clanhouse. A room has been made available for your stay and any needs you have will be attended to. Perhaps we’ll get the opportunity to talk at dinner, after market closes, but I’m afraid I am too busy to chat right now.” He turns away, wiping his brow as his assistants start haranguing him again.
The young man who met you earlier leads you towards your room. It appears you are being accommodated in the clanhouse’s storage area. At first the disused storage room looks to be unappealing, but then servants come in with clean bedrolls, some furniture and a large rug. After a while you realise that it is unusually cool in here—a pleasurable respite from the heat outside. After a rest and a cup of chumetl you hear the dinner gong.
Over dinner you pick up on the main topic of conversation: the recent death of a man called Kagoth. It turns out that this old fellow died in his sleep, even though he was as fit as a fiddle. Some people are saying he was murdered! “Perhaps it was that bandit coming back to get his own back?” suggests one man. “More likely the evil sorcerer just outside town I reckon,” is his wife’s opinion.
During the meal a large Salavyáni man introduces himself. This is Belugin, an importer of wines and spirits. He is also staying here and strikes you as unusually friendly, asking about news and offering you dronu, the thick sweet wine of his homeland.
Changekte does not appear at dinner. Let the player-characters chat with other clan-members and pick up whatever snippets they can. Speculation is rife, so really ham up the rumours. Remember that this is a good opportunity for players to find out more about the town’s people and places.
If they’re interested, they will discover that Kagoth’s body is in the shrine awaiting rituals. One of the men who found the body mentions that Kagoth’s room was very untidy for such a fussy old man.
Belugin can be of use to the characters, as he can get them access to Kagoth’s room and a meeting with Changetke (who is otherwise too busy to see them).
Ideally they will visit the shrine to Lord Belkhanu and see the body. If anyone specifically thinks to examine the body, a -5 Cleverness or +5 Physician check will lead them to notice the puncture mark behind the ear. The suspicions of foul play are justified!
If the characters go to see Changekte about Kagoth’s murder, read the following: Changetke looks relieved to take a break from his duties to talk to you. “Now, what is on your mind that is so urgent?”
After hearing your concerns he frowns, and silence fills the room for a moment. “I thank you for this information. You understand I am a very busy man. Would it be possible for you investigate this matter as a sign of goodwill between our clans? Rest aSsúred, if you can help I shall be sure to let your clan elders know of my gratitude.”
As you leave Changekte’s room, you almost trip over a group of small children playing a game of stones on the floor. You would normally move on, but you notice that one of the stones looks a bit odd for a toy. In fact... could it be a gem?
An intriguing gewgaw
Whatever they think of Kagoth’s death, the crystal will prove interesting. The problem is that the children are using it in their game and are reluctant to hand it over unless they get a replacement toy. (Really go to town on the squawling brat theme!) They aren’t interested in cash, but will swap the crystal for a shiny interesting object. Naturally it is unlikely that any of the player-characters would have previously seen a High Cartographic crystal (allow a -10 Soldier or -5 Sorcerer check to see if they have) and so you should just tell them in is a triangular sliver of blue-green glass or gemstone.
If the characters think of informing the authorities they will soon find that there aren’t any as such. This is a small town and there is no branch of the Palace of the Realm. Changekte is the Laithturun, or headman (see The Tékumel Sourcebook Section 1.810), but he is too busy with clan matters to do much. However, someone will suggest approaching the old major (Denitolen) just outside town. Denitolen would recognize the crystal, having seen such things used while in the army. He would be more than willing to take it for safekeeping and enlist the help of the players.
Possible timeline of events
The characters leave the Sakbe and arrive in the village of Gilris.
The characters enter the Sapphire Bird Clanhouse, meet Changetke and are shown to their quarters.
Dinner. Rumours abound about the death of Kagoth. Belugin the Salavyani introduces himself. The characters hear about the argument Kagoth had with the bandit.
Kagoth’s room is examined and is found to be unusually untidy.
Visit to the shrine of Belkhanu to see Kagoth’s body. Foul play is suspected.
Talk to Changetke about the murder. “Will you investigate?”
Find the kids playing with the missing gem/crystal. A sorceror or scholar may get a clue about its nature.
Visit Broken Bough clan to hire forest guide. Set out to track the bandits.*
Visit Durumu in the summer house.*
Visit Major Denitolen in his lodge.*
Find track that leads to bandit camp. Encounter bandits and negotiate purchase of their two remaining crystals.
Go to cave and find body of black-clad man badly beaten by clubs. Has scars on forearms – this tallies with the bandits’ description of the thief who stole their other crystals.
Follow tracks to mnor den. Negotiate for a swap or attack.
Meet Verussa hi Sirukel and his renyu for a bit of light relief. Discover more about the situation (ie, other interested parties involved).
Back to town or Denitolen with crystals. Assess situation.
Get attacked in the night by the Koyluga group.
Deal with spurious claims of ownership from Denitolen and Verussa.
Approached by Anushin and Belugin who want to buy the crystals (up to 3000 Kaitars). Possible mayhem at the end if/when Bashan hiMetsoleng presents himself. If Denitolen ended up with the gems, he grudgingly hands them over to the Imperial agent. If Verussa, Bashan will pursue and kill him on the road. If the Salarvyani get the crystals, Bashan will enlist the characters’ help in tracking them down. There’ll be a 1000 Kaitars reward and a mention in despatches if the characters behaved themselves; probable arrest if they did something naughty like knowingly selling the crystals to foreign agents.
*These events are not integral to the plotline, but are possible courses of action the player-characters might take.
Cast of characters
These are the principal local personalities:
Changekte hiKangme (male, 44 yrs old) Head of the Sapphire Bird Clan. Tall, middle-aged and haggard looking, he is a very busy man and seems to work far too hard (at least, that’s what his major-domo tells him). Changekte will try to oblige the player-characters as far as possible, but has no time for gossip. He suspects nothing about the death of Kagoth, but will respond to the characters’ concerns and give them his backing to investigate.
Belugin of Tsatsayagga (male, 31) Like many of his countrymen, he has a long pomaded beard and is getting fat with age. Belugin is an honest trader in expensive leather and wood products. (In fact he may be one of the few completely straightforward and trustworthy Salavyáni merchants alive.) He also imports quantities of dronu wine, usually to order. He is of a cheerful disposition and is genuinely concerned about his fellow man. He has travelled extensively and has no dislike of foreigners. To most Tsolyáni, of course, the very fact that he is Salavyáni will be probable cause for suspicion. Belugin is currently staying at and doing business with the Sapphire Bird Clan, and has done on and off for about twelve years.
Kagoth hiTohlen (male, 56, deceased) Late merchant of the Sapphire Bird Clan, he had a reputation as something of a miser and kept pretty much to himself, having no immediate family at this clanhouse. It was Kagoth whom the bandit approached with what he thought was a gem. Kagoth decided the man must have stolen the gem and chased him off. He later assessed the gem as worthless and lost it somewhere in the clanhouse, where it was later found by some children. Kagoth was murdered by one of Beluri’s men. Poison was used and no trace left other than an untidy room and a minute puncture mark behind the left ear.
Verussa hiSirukel (male, 25) A member of the Clan of the Red Sky and a worshipper of Vimuhla. He presents himself as on a hunting trip while actually investigating on behalf of the Incandescent Blaze Society. He hopes to gain any items or information that may help with Prince Mirusaya’s claim to the Petal Throne. Unfortunately for his cause, Verussa is a crass idiot without the faintest notion of the art of subterfuge. His clothing declares his religious inclination most vehemently, but it is his frank and forthright manner that really lets him down. At some point after the characters have found at least one crystal, have him approach them openly. After a brief introduction he will ask, “Found anything interesting, then?” and, “Give us a look at what you’ve got—could be a few Kaitars in it for you.” He will persist in this vein until they either show him what they have (he will then try and buy the crystals) or just get fed up and tell him to go away. In any event, he will probably end up stomping off in a huff.
Verussa can be recruited if need be. He is a very tough warrior and also has a scroll with Vallation of Fire. (This creates a wall of flame 6m long by 3m high which moves at 15m per round. Anyone hit takes 2D6+3 damage, with armour giving half normal protection.) Verussa is travelling with his valet (a droll fellow named Pauchar) and a nasty pet renyu called Zhitlin (‘Ripper’), complete with tufts of fur dyed red and orange.
Berusha hiNekotu (male, 45) Elder of the Clan of the Broken Reed. He is also senior hunt master, which for the most part means being nice to paying customers. Berusha does enjoy a good scrap and has a reputation as a dirty fighter. (His brawling Melee value of 26 includes 4 levels of warrior.)
Kengitlen hiNekotu (male, 17) Son of Berusha and a competent apprentice hunt-master. He is good at archery (Missile value of 14). This young lad should be useful as a guide if the characters wish to explore the forest. He is very helpful and will be quick to point out potential game such as Kheshchal calls, etcetera. If put into a dangerous situation he will do a runner.
Elulen hiReshmoi (female, 33) Elder of the Green Pyramid Clan. She spends most of her time chasing after young men—and having her way with them. She is fairly plain (Comeliness 8) and makes a poor job of disguising the fact with heavy make-up and cloying perfume. Handsome male characters had better watch out! If given certain favours, she may have some useful information on who’s new in town.
Saluri hiKingetmu (female, 40) Local Matriarch of the Golden Sheaf Clan and sister of Ssúri, the priestess of Belkhanu. Saluri is an astute businesswoman who has kept her clan thriving despite the obstacles to trade caused by the current political uncertainty. If the characters turn up something interesting she will grant them some of her time. She is hard-headed and pragmatic, however, and is impatient with speculation.
Denitolen hiMarattu (male, 48) A retired Molkar of the Legion of the Clan of the Standing Stone. He lives some three tsan south-west of town, near the forest. Denitolen has been an almost permanent fixture in the region during the few years since his retirement and is often seen about town. People regard him as a kind of local magistrate, although he has no official position. He has resolved many local disputes in a Solomon-like fashion. As well as being a nice chap, he is also well placed within the Military Party and has an interest in local events. He will instictively take charge of any situation and order the players about in true military fashion. If that should fail he always has his Excellent Ruby Eye to fall back on. (This freezes time for 1-6 targets within fifty metres; it has 21 charges.)
Bashan hiMetsoleng (male, 36) This man is the real special agent here, holding the rank of Kasi in the intelligence arm of the Omnipotent Azure Legion. He is a master of disguise and will trail the party in various identities such as a gardener, labourer, farm worker or slave. He has a knack of not being noticed. He knows most of what is going on, but on his own he lacks the resources to take direct action. His primary concern is to recover the missing High Cartographic crystals before they fall into Salavyáni hands.
Bashan has 15 levels in Spy, 14 in thrown dagger (for a Missile value of 22) and carries four steel throwing knives. Knives.
Anushin of Koyluga (male, 27) A top operative of the Den of Profitable Joy, currently in charge of the search for the missing crystals. He his backed up by six other agents. All wear black clothing when operating at night and are accomplished thieves and competent assassins. They are under cover as peasant labourers working for the Golden Sheaf and Green Pyramid Clans.
Beluri the Traveller (male, 35) Reputedly from Chame’el, he works for the ruling family there. He and his four comrades are are posing as members of the Blue Stream Clan on a hunting trip. They are staying as guests of the Clan of the Broken Reed. They are the ones who murdered Kagoth.
The following are the clans of the town, with status indicated in brackets:
1. Green Pyramid (Very low)
A sprawling single-storey affair with many shabby extensions. A lot of peasants live here. The clan deals with some mundane local crafts but primarily supplies labour for the fields. A dirty-looking green triangle is visible above most of the entrances.
2. Sapphire Bird (Low)
A large solid building with baroque gargoyles that betray its cross-border ties. An old clan, Sapphire Bird have a good local reputation for fine leather goods, furs and wood carvings. An ornate bas-relief of a plumed blue bird is visible above the main entrance. They have a good relationship with the Broken Reed for hunted furs and vringalu hide.
3. Broken Reed (Low)
A grand shop front displays many trophies and hunting equipment, while young men stand around outside touting for business and watching the women. Private apartments are available for those willing to pay. Guides and hunt masters can be hired at prices to suit all pockets.
4. Golden Sheaf (Medium)
As the most influential clan in town, they have the most impressive building: three storeys with a small tower proudly displaying the clan’s banner. Nearly all the clan wealth comes from agriculture, and they own most of the land between the forest and the Sakbe. The higher lineages firmly worship Belkhanu, and it was they who funded the large shrine in the town. The clan head’s sister is the priestess of this shrine.
Two clans own hunting lodges in the immediate vicinity of the town:
5. Domed Tomb Clan
The house cannot be seen from the distance as it is surrounded by old trees with twisted limbs. The clearing between the trees is dark and cool. The house is very old and in need of repair, and many of the windows have been boarded up.
This is the summer residence of Durumu hiBeshani (male, 37), who is a worshipper of Sárku (locally unpopular) and widely rumoured to be a dark and powerful sorceror. In reality he is just a wealthy and somewhat eccentric recluse. He is not a sorceror or even a priest—just a civil servant who likes to catch up with some reading in the summer. The locals use him as the bogey man to frighten children, a fact he finds immensely amusing. He is polite to visitors but shy, staying to the shadows if possible. (Nervous characters might even conclude he is one of the undead, as a musty smell pervades the interior of the building!)
6. Standing Stone Clan
This, a tall house with definite military styling, is the home of Denitolen hiMarattu. It is surrounded by pleasant well-kept gardens complete with statues and follies. The sound of barking dogs can be heard from a low building attached to the house.
Other locations likely to feature in the course of the adventure are:
7. Shrine to Lords Belkhánu & Qón
This is the grandest holy site in the area—a small building in the centre of Gilris. Of the five priests who attend the shrine, Ssúri hiKingetmu (female, 28) is the most senior. A ranking member of the Golden Sheaf Clan, she keeps an interest in local affairs and is always willing to lend an ear. She has access to some magic, including minor healing if the need should arise.
8. The Blue Shrine of Lady Avánthe
This is situated just to the west of town in a pretty meadow. Squatting wide and low, it is attended by two lay priests. On holy days a higher ranking priest comes in from Rü. Offerings abound, especially at harvest time.
9. Shrine to Shiringgayi
A monument to an older era, this weathered fane to the north of Gilris has been largely overshadowed by the Blue Shrine. People still bring offerings on holy days, but not in the numbers they used to. It is becoming more derelict with the passing years and the goddess’ clerics make only the occasional visit. (These visits are overlooked by the temples of Pavár’s pantheon.)
10. The caves
An old and abandoned set of caves in a limestone outcrop, once the home of enemy soldiers and bandits. Nowadays they house many small (and a few large) creatures. Presently a pair of jakkohl and their pups have made their lair at back of one of the caves (possibly giving the characters a nasty fright). Another cave contains a battered corpse. This was a thief of the Den of Profitable Joy, who made it back here after being mortally wounded by a mnor. A +5 Hunter check is enough to identify the fur under his nails as having come from a mnor.
11. Bandit camp
Camped somewhere off the path in the woods are four ‘Grey Warriors’—clanless and disgraced men with neither home nor master, they wander the backroads and eke out a meagre living. While digging a latrine in the caves a week ago they found a box with strange markings they could not read. In the box were six gemstones, seemingly of no great value. Malnourished and broke, they unsuccessfully tried to sell one of the gems two days later. Two nights ago, the box and three of the remaining gems were stolen from their camp by a dark figure with a scarred face. (One of the Salarvyáni thieves. This man was subsequently attacked by mnor on his way through the woods and crawled to the caves to die—see area 10, above.)
The ‘gems’ were of course the High Cartographic crystals. The bandits will sell the two remaining crystals for as much as they can get, starting at 100 Kaitars apiece. Desperation will bring them down to maybe 10 Kaitars and some supplies if the characters are hard nosed enough. It is possible to recruit these men if a suitable offer is made. Note: they will flatly refuse to talk about their history, on grounds of honour.
12. The mnor lair
In uncultivated grassland on the south-eastern fringes of the forest stands a mound that is home to a group of mnor. These odd looking ‘furry insect creatures’ generally keep away from man and flee if encountered. However they are semi-intelligent and have a primitive language, and are fond of glittering objects. (Remind a character of this if he/she succeeds in an unmodified Hunter or Forest Survival check.)
The characters can befriend the mnor by gifts of food. If they follow this up with glittering objects then the mnor will reciprocate by bringing out the box with the three crystals inside.
If attacked, the mnor will fight until outnumbered. There are thirteen adult mnor here. Two always remain inside the mound guarding the young. Any character entering the mound must squirm on his belly down a shaft which suddenly drops away into a central chamber. This requires an unmodified Dexterity check so as to land upright. The two mnor will get a free attack regardless, with increased ferocity as they are guarding young. Their treasure includes the box with three crystals, plus two Kaitars, four Hlash, three Qirgal and many pieces of broken bottles, etc. (One of the ‘Kaitars’ is actually an Engsvanyáli Su’or worth 20 Kaitars).
How it all might end
Hopefully as the characters close in on the remaining crystals they will begin to sense the noose of intrigue that is tightening around them. None of the people looking for the crystals are particularly principled, and there is a good chance of temporary alliances being formed and then broken by back stabbing. The Salarvyáni groups are mutually highly antagonistic, however, and will not make any kind of truce. If the characters are clever they should be able to exploit this to their advantage, and it is also possible they will have recruited the help of others (such as Dresu and his cronies) for the final battle-royal.
|Melee value||Damage||Hit Points||Armour||Evade|
|Dresu||24 (sword)||+1||15 [3/6/8]||4||12|
|Ghuru||21 (sword)||13 [3/5/7]||3||13|
|Lobi||22 (sword)||+2||18 [4/7/10]||2||8|
|Janiyel||23 (sword)||+1||14 [3/5/8]||3||10|
|Anushin||21 (shortsword)||13 [3/5/7]||2||12|
|Tolaggu||19 (shortsword)||+1||13 [3/5/7]||2||11|
|Kammarek||19 (shortsword)||+2||16 [4/6/9]||2||8|
|Treshin||18 (shortsword)||12 [3/5/7]||2||12|
|Sharnaur||18 (sword)||12 [3/5/7]||2||10|
|Halaqu||19 (flail)||11 [3/4/6]||2|
|Gliyanek||18 (Arruche)||12 [3/5/7]||2|
|Beluri||23 (sword)||12 [3/5/7]||2||9|
|Hriyannur||20 (Arruche)||+1||13 [3/5/7]||2||9|
|Vialven||20 (shortsword)||13 [3/5/7]||2||9|
|Khakhallu||20 (fisticuffs)||+2||16 [4/6/9]||2||5|
|Yalikar||20 (dagger)||+1||14 [3/5/8]||2||12|
|Verussa||30 (sword)||+2||17 [4/6/9]||5||11|
|Bashan||23 (dagger)||12 [3/5/7]||3||15|
|Average mnor||15 (club/spear)||12 [3/5/7]||2||8|