Actual session writeups for my home game always run long, because I get all verbose when sharing my players’ exploits. So I’m dividing this up into multiple posts.
I expected to do a bit of combat testing this session, but two PCs handled potentially violent encounters with social influence alone. It’s pretty effective!
Anyway, onward to the adventures of Hakim Abbas, Zenith Caste mercenary shaman:
Hakim Abbas traveled westward along the road from Gem. He accompanied a caravan that had made its way through the Firepeaks and was now descending toward the lowlands. The caravaneers and a handful of fellow travelers left him alone, by and large. He was an imposing figure, this tall Southerner, with his leathers glinting with gold and gems, his panoply of weapons, and his animal companion, the lion Bahadur, whose hindquarters bore elaborate patterns of shaved fur.
His traveling companions spent the trip in conversation, debating the relative merits of this or that city, ethnic group, cuisine, or religion, but Abbas paid little attention. His nape prickled as the caravan approached the fifth rockslide of the journey. Previous collapses had been natural, but this time he felt something was wrong.
A score of archers appeared on the right-hand cliff overlooking the descending canyon path, validating the Southerner’s intuition. An arrow thudded into the woodwork of the caravan master’s wagon just inches from his head. Then a heavily armored woman—clearly the bandit leader—stood at the edge of the cliff and announced that the state of Hawkflower claimed a tariff for their passage.
Several youngsters, ranging from ten to fifteen years of age, clambered down the rocks like monkeys, then began stuffing valuables into baskets on their backs. At first they shied away from the intimidating shape of Abbas and his equally intimidating lion. Then two girls approached and demanded that the Southerner throw down his valuables. With a few brief words, he assured them that any attempt to confiscate his wealth would go worse for them. The lion Bahadur spoke in a human voice to agree with his master’s assessment, a display the girls found equally convincing.
One of the girls replied, in a low voice, that their leader would beat them if they did not bring back enough loot. She pulled back her sleeve to reveal bruises that might or might not have arisen from such an incident. Abbas proved equally unmoved by this entreaty.
The bandit leader, irritated by her girls’ failure to perform such a simple task as relieving a traveler of his ornaments, advised Abbas that failure to comply might result in undesirable perforation of his epidermis. The Southerner, for his part, brought forth his flamepiece and offered to demonstrate its use. The bandit leader replied that the distance between them exceeded the weapon’s range, and indeed that she could withdraw before the flames could reach her, but her arguments were half-hearted at best.
With a word from their commander, the bandit youths scrambled back up the cliff face with their take. The bandit leader acknowledged that she would permit Abbas to continue without the usual tariff, but she informed the caravan master that the Southerner was sufficiently unwelcome that any caravan that escorted him back along that route would face extermination.
That evening, as the caravan made camp in a broad open space pocked with the scorch marks of a hundred campfires, Abbas was approached by Bai Gong Wen, a merchant of the seafaring Baihu people. The man had overheard Bahadur’s use of mortal speech, and he offered Abbas vast sums to purchase such a rarity. The Southerner made it quite clear that the lion was his friend and companion, not chattel to be bought and sold. After Bai Gong Wen turned in for the night, Abbas observed that others who wished to procure a talking lion might not take kindly to a declined offer or balk at gaining ownership through underhanded means. He advised Bahadur to speak in public only when absolutely necessary.
A few days later, the caravan reached Footprint, a small trading city in the southwest of Zhaojun. After paying a sizable fee to enter the city, Abbas paid an urchin to lead him through the maze of bazaars, warehouses, mercantile compounds, and brothels to a reputable caravanserai. After procuring a room from the gregarious proprietor—“Two rooms or one? I’m not one to judge!”—Abbas headed out to gather information and inebriation at a local teahouse.
By coincidence, Abbas encountered one of his many mercenary contacts, a veteran of the Tattered Prince Company named Yara of Longcliff. The two settled in to drink and reminisce. After asking if Abbas had any ongoing assignmnts, Yara said he was recruiting as part of a minor contract he’d obtained from the Zhao government. Extra guards were needed for the annual procession of the Golden Seal of Zhao, a relic that was carried each year from the capital city to the temple-city of Holy Fire and back. Would Abbas be interested? The Solar thought this a fine idea, and after sealing the deal with a handshake, they settled in for an evening of revelry.