So, we showed-up and had planned to spend a little while getting up to speed on what all this other group had been doing while we had been looting the Tubeway Car Stations and what-not. We started out back at the White Stone Clanhouse and the major domo wanted to know what we'd like to do with the dead Pachi Lei on the front step. The major domo politely inquired if it was the Shen's dead Pachi Lei. Shen ask how many pieces it is in. He says "one." Obviously it is not my dead Pachi Lei. But out of the kindness of my heart, I go to take a look at the dead thing on our doorstep. The poor
In short order, as the Pe Choi and his companion-monkey told us about their recent encounter in the forest with troops carrying red-fletched arrows, and the subsequent meetings and goings-on at the Abbey of Vimuhla, including an episode of Zooic Domination gone terribly wrong for the local brigandage. The City Guards assigned to keep a watch over our compound sidled up to the dead body and someone sent for the Guard Captain and a Pachi Lei elder.
The Guards identifed the arrows as belonging to Mu'uglavyani long-bowmen, most likely members of the Eighth Legion: The Long-Arrows. So we know that it was very likely Mu'uglavyani long-bowmen who dry-gulched the Pachi Lei. Funny enough, those were Mu'uglavyani long-bowmen that the group had encountered out in the woods earlier. Very likely the same Legion. Oh, and that's when we learn that there was a second group of troops out there, discrete tourists possibly, but more likely camouflaged troops from some as-yet-to-be-determined Yan Koryani unit. A non-Shen unit. The plot thickened.
Kaiya consulted her manuals and such-like and decided to attempt a spell to revivify the dead Pachi Lei. The spell goes reasonably well, but the Pachi Lei spits out a silvery capsule and proceeds to disintegrate, making a real mess on the floor. The major domo is not pleased by this at all. The capsule contains a small scroll. The priest of Vimuhla reads it and then shares it with the rest of us. It's fairly straight-forwards:
"Beware the woman in purple and gold."
There was mention of a Priestess of h'rsh previously, so that'd be the most likely 'woman in purple and gold.' Why anyone would warn us about her, or try to get us to mistrust her, remains a mystery to Shen.
Analysis of the scroll revealed that the ink was peculiar to that used by Mu'uglavyani diplomats and some spell-use helped narrow it down to the legation in Butrus. Someone over there was trying to warn us or steer us into not trusting the Priestess of H'rsh. Politics. Monkeys love politics. Makes Shen lonely for homeland where things are more sensible.
The Pachi Lei elder assisted us in getting rid of the ashen remains and the Shen makes sure to get their name, etc. (calling card). Just in case. Talking with the Guards a bit, buying them a round of beers, the Shen learns that there are twenty Mu'uglavyani Longbowmen that have just recently been admitted to the Mu'uglavyani legation as personal bodyguards to the Priestess of H'rsh. Most people do not use Longbow-men as personal bodyguards. Yet another thing that smells funny about this whole business. The guards confide in the Shen that the
Enough is enough, so say the Shen. Entanglements and politics are dangerous. Shen decides that it is time to use some of monies gained over last few looting-trips to set-up a discrete villa on the river. Shen contacts the local real estate people and rather quickly and painlessly a suitable location is pointed-out, visited and scouted. A nice sandy beach with a few rocks, making a jabbing-out spit into a bend in the river, perfect for a small, discrete harbor or dock set-up. The platts are looked-over, the surveys examined, the history of the place inquired into only to have the local Count of the Ito Clan show up fortuitously to discuss all the fine-points of such matter personally. The Ito Clan never developed the site, as they had no real need to do so, controlling plenty of shipping back in the city precincts. The Shen and the Ito Clan Count come to a mutually advantageous understanding and the deal is sealed. The Shen invites the Ito Clan to attend the house-warming party he's planning, once the villa is completed. Plans are drawn up by the local architect, the same one currently overseeing work on the Ksarul-priestesses new laboratories and the Thumis-priest's laboratories. It turns out that the new villa, complete with discrete and small-scale commercial shipping facilities will be abutting their land and the Vriddi Hunting Lodge estate as well. We're all neighbors. This might get us somethingof a discount.
There is a wonderful little lagoon on the Shen's property that only requires a modest amount of work to establish a channel and sluice-gates and a rammed-earth and stonework dock ideal for discrete loading/unloading of small vessels, some lovely raised-bed ornamental gardens including a melon patch, an ornamental fish tank, and a few other must-have features any self-respecting Shen would want in their personal villa, including thicker walls with interior passages for Fluffy the wonder-zrne to romp and play, as well as the usual (but Shen-sized) secret passages, boltholes, murderholes, trapdoors, etc. All with plenty of room to expand, and to house the collections that the Shen is planning on bringing in from Shenyu. There's also suitable quarters for Kaiya and her many, many books (a small library on the second floor, out of any danger of flooding). There's also a special room just for the strange egg recovered from the nearby tomb complex. (When will we ever find time to ascertain just what this egg really is, and what we might want to do about it?)
Papers are signed. Money changes hands. The Title is amended and verified. Workers get brought-in and the Shen starts making other preparations. Messages need to be sent to contacts in the North and South. Word needs to get back to certain ears in Shenyu, and things must be ready to receive the next group of Shen soldiery travelling North to a certain undislosed location.
So the group enjoyed their picnic out at the Shen's new building site and everyone seemed to approve of the location, agreeing that it would be ideal for raising melons, a bit of fishing, and the ocassional jaunt in a boat. Everything in order, on schedule and officially bought and paid-for, the group headed back into town. It was time to take the N'lyss and the Livyani Princess drinking.
We went down to the Foreigner's Quarter and made ourselves known to the proprietor of Miropu's Happy Kiosk. Upon setting eyes upon Thioleb, he threw himself down into the mud and begged for mercy. It turns out that they had some history between them. When Thioleb first arrived in Butrus from Livyanu, she had no money and was forced to stay in a horrible room filled with bats. To say that she had been mistreated would be an understatement. It was good to see an imbalance readjusted. There was pandemonium and panic amongst the entire staff of the place. People were presented to be kicked or beaten as the lady wished. Shamtla was due and everyone of them knew it. It was Thioleb's pay-back time. Thioleb put the proprietor through a fair amount of punshment and degradation for his past misdeeds. The Shen drank bad monkey wine and watched for Red Hats. The others found a secret entrance and forced the proprietor to accompany them down into what he loudly declared was jsut his wine cellar. The Pe Choi knew better. They could sense that there was something not right about the huge casks down there, and it wasn't just the lousy wine either. There turned-out to be a secret compartment. Several secret compartments. They found spices, hling seeds, and sacks of Chakan Fire-opals. Thousands of kaitars of goods and spices that were being transported without the payment of taxes, customs fees, or the like. Unlicensed wholesalers.
The Shen spoke with some of the staff in back, Blazing Sail Clan-members all, and made sure that they understood that they were to let the Shen know if his 'associates' from a certain ship arrived back in town, as there was mutually-beneficial business to discuss. There would also be a need for a few good and discrete sailor-types to help out with the new small-scale luxury-goods import/export business going into operation soon. As long as they could work with Shen and knew how to avoid Imperial entanglements. The Blazing Sail clan-members seemed to be very confident that they knew of such people and no doubt there would be an opportunity for further discussion along these lines another day.
The Shen was walking back to the party's table when some Red Hats came into the place. Acting quickly, the Shen made it clear that the Red Hats drank for free. They were friends. After a few drinks the Shen proffered the warning note to the drinking longbowmen. They apologized for leaving the dead body at the Eye of Flame Clanhouse. But orders were orders. They didn't know that the Shen or his friends were staying at the Eye of Flame clanhouse. The Shen made sure that they understood that there were no hard feelings, this time, but things might have been handled in a less messy fashion next time. The Shen also verified that the orders and the note came from the Military legate. It was good to have something more to go on than just somebody over there wanted to send them a message. Now we had some idea of who it was that had sent the message, and that would help in sorting out the why.
Both the Pe Choi and the Vimuhla priest who'd encountered the Red Hats out in the woods recounted more of their meeting with the Abbot, H'rsh-Priestess, and others. This was where the Nlyss and Vimuhla priest were inducted into the Incandescent Blaze Society. The Shen listened and put pieces together in a very disturbing picture that made him very glad to have been setting up shop outside the walls of Butrus. Expansionists, fanatics and militarists were conspiring all too close to the city, and mysterious troop movements of both Red Hats and what were suspected to be Yan Koryani units on Tsolyani soil all combined to paint a graphic and grim picture of a future where it would be a good idea to be both discrete and in the right place at the right time. Anything else would leave everyone exposed to what looked very much like a prelude to a major incursion, invasion, siege or full-out war. The Shen only hoped that he'd have time to adequately prepare for what was clearly on the horizon.
It was about then that a large, ponderous woman, the Clanmother of the Green Pyramid Clan herself, had arrived with a bodyguard of four crossbowmen. They showed-up and interrupted the Shen's cogitations. She demanded to know why the group was dealing with her clan cousin so sternly. It was too bad he'd fallen up the stairs. Accidents had a way of just happening. The Shen discussed the situation with her, in regards to the former mistreatment of the Livyani Princess. Shamtla was far cheaper, and much less intrusive, when handled outside the courts. The Clanmother heartily agreed. She made sure that Thioleb was completely satisfied with her shamtla and that no lingering ill-will existed. Then the Shen took her aside and discussed some matters of business. She and the Shen became fast friends and the Shen invited the Clanmother out to his new villa for the house-warming party, once it was completed. There was a lot of mutual assistance that they could lend one another, and the Shen wanted her advice on certain matters. A place for discrete shipping outside the prying eyes of the city officials was of great interest to the Clanmother. The Green Pyramid Clan lacked the resources to pursue such a thing on their own, at this time, but they were more than happy to lend a hand and work cooperatively with the Shen, seeing as they were on such friendly terms with on another and the Blazing Sails clan-members vouched for the Shen. It was the start of a beautiful friendship. One that would lead to much loot for all parties concerned in due time.