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Episode #11: Yodfah and the Waterfall
The next morning, the orphans chat in hushed tones on how they should prepare for their trek they have been commissioned to by Ayyam the night before.
Their recent trek outside the city to reclaim the treasure of a miserly merchant taught them some important lessons, so each of Aunty's children had their own checklist.
Agreeing they needed to set off in short order, they spent the morning gathering a few things for their trip:
5x potion of healing
2x 20 arrows
As the orphans prepare, Aunty helps as much as she can, helping Chaka fit the large chain shirt back to her size, and asks what they need all these things for; some of her naivite showing, but seems suspcious of their answers.
S: it was terrible of us to lie to Aunty
G: I tried but no one backed me up
S: It would have been better to tell her some semblance of the truth, you know. We could have been making money as caravan guards or at least something...
G: She has too much on her mind, Su. Let her believe what she wants in this instance. She will most likely forget it. As long as she knows we are safe, that's what her concern is.
The lands are well patrolled by the Grand Caliph's forces, so the orphans encountered naught but a desert hound along the way that Guzman was able to out-growl and it disappeared. The lands are very much still considered 'civizilied lands' farms and the occassional structure dot the lands. These are well-travelled caravan paths.
Following the roads they eventually come to the Secchnia river, and just as any map would show, they began to follow the banks of the river towards the
G: Brothers, I think we have arrived, but...
Scanning the horizon, none could see any structures nearby as they all expected. Falling what must be 250 feet, the falls thundered down the cliff, but
barely visible was a small foot path that seemed to disappear behind the fall.
Z: Are you sure we followed the directions properly? Who would hide a cottage in the falls?
Chaka advances towards the falls... braving the water and mist. Zephyr too sneaks closer to the river whose current was significant; the water moved too
swiftly to be sure, but it looks deep enough.
Sulayman summons his familiar Yousef and sends it into the sky to scout the area.
Faruq approaches the waterfall from the top; trying to see if there's a concealed entrance somehow; thinking of how well-hidden the door to Jabir's
mausoleum was in the orphans' last exploration.
Watching Faruq from the other side of the falls, Guzman follows suit and begins looking himself for a secret way in or behind the waterfall. Even after
everyone joined in the search, not a single hint was found. Sulayman pauses for a second, and thinks of how one might hide a complex beneath the
waterfall... "There MUST be something magical about this, damnit..."
Zephyr gives up and takes a look at the tracks Chaka identified along the path, certain that the tracks may be only two days old...
Chaka, thinking now of the powers of her gods... is there truth to this waterfall? Is this really even a waterfall at all? But she remains convinced
that it's as real as the rudimentary tests her brothers were performing; throwing sticks in the water, reaching out their hands, etc.
Frustrated, Guzman steps closer to the rush of the waterfall; the thundering water soaks him through and through. Intuition saves him, however, and he
pulls back at the last minute; certain he would have been swept away like a feather on the wind.
C: Perhaps patience brothers, perhaps somebody will come by, and we can watch them go through.
G: Perhaps nightfall, even.
Z: You mean we should wait for someone to come here?
C: Yes, and we hide, and we watch them.
Z: that could be days...
C: What other choice do we have?
All the orphans look at each other, thinking on Chaka's suggestion... and it sounded better than anything tles they could think of.
Deciding to wait and see, the orphans find vantage points sufficient to see the falls but remain hidden. Sulayman perches his familiar, Yousef in full
view of the waterfall.
G: Did anyone bring any ranged weapons?
S: Did you buy any javelins when were in the city, Guzman!?
G: We didn't have any more money, remember?
Z: I have my bow...
C: Are we planning
Waiting. Such long waiting. Hours and hours pass, and the orphans begin to start doubting their plan. But as the sun begins it's slow descent, the now
familiar sound of thundering water began to change in the orphans' ears. Growing louder even, and from their hidden perch, the unbelievable sight of
Secchnia falls actually MOVING held the orphans entranced. The water was actually, somehow, shifting all the way up, moving away, like a curtain.
Z: By the gods...
And almost as in answer to Zephyr's exclamation, two wagons appear in the periphery, each with two guards pulling each wagon; a dwarf at the front, and
now the area marked by the mule's path now leads directly into the waterfall! The three-wagon caravan led by the dwarf; bald wearing a fancy pirate
shirt, silk purple pantaloons, scimitar at his side, big jewelled earring in his left year, his beard braided with jewels leads the three mule caravan.
After all the mules are out, the dwarf turns back towards the waterfall and Faruq barely makes out the words, "Secchina draw aside." And just as
unbelievably, the water shifts back into place, just as if a curtain drawn by a huge, invisible hand.
S: What could they be transporting in those large pots?
Z: Well, they have to get food in the cottage somehow...
G: I think we should go now, and waste no more time
C: Or should we wait for the cover of night?
S: I say we go now, we are on the clock, after all.
Considering the manner in which they might infiltrate this complex, Chaka considers impersonating the workers who accompanied the flamboyantly-dressed
dwarf, and Sulayman notes that all the workers had a similar stain on their legs; perhaps blood?
Whether anxious to leave his argumentative brothers or anxious to try out the command words, Faruq starts climbing down.
C: Would you like to do the honours?
Faruq smiles and says aloud, "Secchina draw aside." Unbelievably, the water draws aside just as it did for the dwarf. Proceeding with both apprehension
and excitement, the orphans walk into the cavern revealed behind the thundering curtain of the Secchina Falls.
As the orphans proceed a little further; the water would certainly move back like they had witnessed before. With the sound of the water still around
them, the orphans walk in, and see that the path opens into a 20 foot wide hall; with pillars and tiles adorning the ceiling. Depicting water motifs,
they sparkle in cobalt, and three small fountains adorn the hall. Unfortunately, four retainers seated at a nearby table notice the orphans enter, and
draw their weapons.
With many floor-to-ceiling pillars dotting the hall, the orphans all take cover behind them, waiting for their quarry to come into range.
Intruders! We must stop them!
Racing forward, one of the guards makes the mistake of coming out from behind a pillar, and Faruq blasts him with magic; sending him flying backwards
against the wall.
"Ughhh! Waht hit me?" the stunned guard
"They have a sorcerer amongst them!"
I don't kknow why you came here, you only came to die! Swinging wildly, his scimitar glances off Guzman's new breastplate.
Zephyr finishes the guard with another well-placed arrow to the shoulder.
"Where are you, little one? Ah HAH! There you are!" One of the guards looks for Chaka behind the fountain but she dodges deftly past their swings
displaying the dexterity halflings are known for.
S: Careful sister! Sul calls out and conjures a firebolt at another of the guards.
"Did something happen?"
S: Just a warning shot; Sul disappointingly
F: Chaka! And he blasts one of the guards, knocking him backwards away from his sister.
Guzman, unbuckling his warhammer, swings back at the guard, slamming him hard, "Enjoy that; c'mon try... hit me!"
"You goad me and then you run? WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU"RE GOING?!"
Zephyr, taking careful aim at one of the guards, "Stay away from my sister!" and skewers him with another arrow, felling him; his body dropping in front
Z: Thanks, Yousef!
S: Yousef's the bird, you fool!
Z: I knew what I was saying!
One of the guards runs to attack Faruq, but Chaka quite reflexively reaches out with her dagger; impaling the guard who slumps to the floor.
Faruq, looking at hte body with wide eyes, looks at Chaka with concern and amazement.
G: Women are not immune to giving pain, brother.
Sulayman, with only one guard remaining, throws another bolt of fire and engulfs him in flame; his lifeless body falling unceremoniously to the floor.
Faruq puts his hands on Chaka, "Sister, are you ok? My thanks." Chaka wordlessly nods.
Inspecting the bodies of the guards, the orphans notice they are dressed similarly, but without the curious stains on their boots and legs.
F: I do not relish that you have all had to kill, but I fear they would have done the same to us...
S: I think there will be more killing before we're done today, best come to terms with it
G: I agree, something tells me you may enjoy it after a while
S: Oh Guzman, have you no sympathy!?
C: Perhaps we should take their guises...
G: a good idea
C: And rid their bodies into the falls
S: one of us will be without a guise
F: Perhaps one of us plays the role of prisoner?
After a quick discussion, the orphans decide they had best get rid of the bodies of the guards to avoid them being found and raising an alarm. Faruq
tries in vain to carry one of the guards' bodies out to the entrance, but soon has help.
C: We should do this quickly.
Z: Faruq, I don't know how I feel about throwing dead bodies into the river...
F: Why aren't you helping me? I do not relish this at all either, but we are doing this for Aunty, yes? Surely they would have killed us. Think on
G: That is an interesting thought, but I don't know that Aunty would be happy that we are killing 'in her name'..
S: We need to come to terms with this reality brothers, we're not going to save Aunty by 'playing fair'
Listening carefully for more guards, Sulayman's attention is distracted by teh Continual Light stones that illuminate the hall. Prying one easily from
it's perch, the stone appears fairly to be enchanted with continual light; but still a bit strange that so many would be found in a merchant's hideout.
Even the decor and tiling... depicting crashing waves and dolphins, seems strange for a merchant interested in illegal commerce.
While her brothers are distracted by the magical stone, Chaka turns her attention to finding where the beasts of burden they saw earlier may have come
from. Exploring further, the heroes discover the stables from which the mules are packed, and in an adjacent room, a huge store of grapes...
S: What kind of creature eats that many grapes?
G: Perhaps a serial grapist
F: Perhaps the stains we saw on those workers were from making wine?
S: Ah... clever, Faruq.
S: Did you hear that Guzman, that's what intelligence sounds like
Faruq raises his hand when he gets close to the door, and tries to sneak around the corner. Peering deeper, Faruq can make out that this hallway is
luxuriously appointed with tapestries, beautiful columns, and three 10-foot tall piles of ripe grapes. Over 50 large urns are stacked, and 2 wooden vats
at one end of the hall. Two men in each of them, basically mashing down grapes, stomping away, but apparently unaware of Faruq's presence.
G: They're in the middle of wining, only slightly less than you are, let's leave them be
Sneaking to the other side of the stables, the orphans continue to move deeper into the hideout. Making a sound however, Faruq listens and hears
footsteps fast approaching from the hallway. Gesturing for everyone to hide, the orphans wait to see what happens.
A guard appears in the hallway outside the stable, but after hearing nothing else, returns back where he came from without any apparent concern. Peering
around the corner, Faruq is amazed at both the trappings of this hallway and it's decoration; a magnificent mural adorns the ceiling, and it is not just
Faruq's predilection for magic; the water in the scenes does seem to be moving...
Seeing two guards in the hallway, Faruq tells his siblings what he saw.
G: I see two options: either someone stealthy goes in and cuts both their throats, or we lure them back here into a trap
F: perhaps the latter...
S: Well, fi we lure them here, won't the grape-makers hear them?
G: I don't think they're 'making grapes', but nevertheless you may be right
S: You're the tactician, Guzman, tell us where you think this combat should take place
Guzman, deep in thought... focusing clearly. "I think we might be best.. to... quietly lure them.. perhaps one of us can close the doors on the other
side? Well.. I'd be most interested in other opinions..."
S: My opinion Guzman as ever is that you're stupid and ugly, but I'll close the doors
C: I shall lure them, are we ready?
Z: Perhaps let's not slit their throats here.. maybe just knock them out and hide them in the hay?
Chaka peers around the corner, listening for a moment to the chatter fo the guards to one another when one of them stops, "Eh! Who are you?" Chaka, now
with their attention, maintains eye contact with the guards as they fast approach.
"Ah... what I have been dreaming of..." says one of the guards perversely.
Their footsteps audible from the stables, Chaka's brothers prepare for their impromptu ambush.
As soon as one of the guards appear through the doorway, Zephyr fires an arrow past one of their heads; Guzman choosing to charge at them without his
accustomed battle roar. Chaka, the game now up, swings with her dagger but misses. Sulayman singes his beard with a fire bolt, "Aye, it burns! We're
under attack!" Faruq reaches out blasting the closest guard with force damage, striking home.
Zephyr fires another arrow, striking the guard right through the neck, falling down dead. Following his brother's example, Guzman swings again with his
warhammer, slamming into the other guard full in the chest. Reeling, the guard didn't even see Chaka flip her dagger and slam him in the back of the
head, knocking him to the floor, unconscious.
G: Nice, sister. Truly learning that weapon well.
C: As are you, you're quite impressive with that hammer.
G: I do my best; thank you sister.
Quickly ridding the guards of their belongings, it becomes clear that all guards here took turns making wine, but since they weren't great with their
weapons... were they even guards?
C: Chaka perhaps they're slaves...
G: It could be argued that we're setting them free...
Hiding the bodies in the hay, and binding and gagging the unconscious guard, the orphans return to the hallway with the moving mural
C: Maybe we should drag him back nearer the waterfall to muffle his voice?
F: Yes, back to the waterfall
S: We have no time; ask him quickly
S: Which of you wants to do the talking
G: I strike myself as more of an imposing figure
S: Yes, we need someone persuasive to do the talking.
G: Why not you?
Zephyr looks at Faruq purposefully.
G: Ah yes, Faruq.. what a better choice.
Faruq looks with wide eyes at his siblings... "But I ... um... well I'm... I haven't...."
Chaka interrupts Faruq's stammering and says, "I can question him. Wake him up."
F: Thank you, sister...
Guzman slaps the unconscious guard awake and Sulayman silences him quickly, "We're going to ungag you fool, but if you make too much noise it'll be a
dagger to the throat, understand?"
C: ... or worse, my brother's hammer will crush your skull.
G: Oh; that sounds nice...
The guard nods fearfully at Chaka's words. Taking his gag off, the guard looks up with big eyes and nods fearfully. "Now don't lie, I'll know, you
understand? And if you lie, my brother's hammer comes down on you. Who do you work for?"
Prisoner: My master is the merchant rogue Yodfah.
C: And what are you doing here?
P: we're here to help him with his business. We make the wine.
C: Is there anything else that's happening here?
P: Uh.... yes....
P: I'm sure there is, but I'm not privy to everything
C: Who is?
P: The waould be the mistress, Hanzala.
C: Hanzala, eh?
P: She is his..... the master rarely comes here. She is in charge of this operation.
C: And where is she now?
P: She has her quarters within the complex.
C: Is she here now?
"Yes..." he looks at you all and says, "I must say, you are in great danger."
S: We are aware of that. You said you don't know much, but can tell us more of what you DO know?
P: I told you what we do! We are owned by Yodfah! Each one of us has come to be in his household in different ways;' everyone has their story.
S: And yours?
G: The quick version
S: But you said there was other things going on.
S: give us your impression then
P: we crush the grapes to make the wine. not specifically outlawed by the loregiver. This is not a problem, people drink the wine. But Mistress Hanzala, she inspects the wine before it goes... she.. I... I do not wish to speak ill of her, but I suspect something else is going on with the wine...
S: You think she's adding something to the wine?
P: I have not said that. That is not what I said!
G: keep your voice down
S: Of course not, we're not going to drag you into a court of law. Now where in teh complex can we find this mistress?
P: She has her own quarters off the winery. You must... must... leave... you do not want to make an enemy of this woman. Please, I am trying to save
your life, if you promise to save mine; you DO not want to make an enemy of this woman!
C: Does she have a ledger?
P: I have seen no ledger. Many apologies, small one, I have seen no ledger. Please understand, I gave my life away when I did this, but you are about to
give yours away if you confront this woman.
C: Is there a way of not confronting her? If we search for a ledger?
P: if there is a ledger to be found here, then I am sure Mistress Hanzala has it.
F: Why do you fear her so?
The prisoner bites his lower lip, sweating tremendously, "She's a wielder of terrible magic. I saw one of my friends who displeased her once, she burned
him to ash where he stood. And she... it is not just who she is, but what she belongs to... if you know what I mean!" His voice lowered, his whisper
sharp and conspiratorial.
C: No, what do you mean?
P: I cannot speak their name out loud.
At this, Sulayman's back straightens and his gaze drifts for a moment; checking his recollection.
S: I believe his is referring to The Brotherhood of the True Flame
G: What makes you believe that?
S: Because they were burned to ash, and it's a group he would rather not speak of. They are a subversive group of fire mages, terrorists. they want to
conquer Zakhara. Their leader is rumoured to be 'The Bonfire' and they have many secret agents.
S: What is your name, slave.
Z: Thank you, Azzad.
S: Azzad, we have no desire to kill you, you understand.
Azzad: Well, that's good...
S: If we release you, what are your plans?
Azzad looks down and says, "I... I am honour-bound to play out my service."
S: Hmm. Where can we stow you then until we're done. Because you understand the alternative is... not good for you.
A: Stow... stow me!? What do you mean?
S: We either slit your throat or put you somewhere where you cannot cause us problems. You understand now?
Azzad looks depressed and dumbfounded... "I... uh... I do not think I can help you with this."
S: The room... what room just west of the room we found you in, what is in there?
A: well.. yes... there is a prison here
S: Is there anyone in it? What will we find there?
A: There is a desert rider... he came too close.
S: Perfect, let us bring you there then.
When they arrive at the prison, hanging upside down is a desert rider, unconscious but still breathing, with burn marks all over his body.
A: Oh... the Mistress has been interrogating him, it seems.
S: How often does she come here?
A: I do not follow the... comings and goings of Mistress Hanzala. He was brought him in by the dwarf who wanted to kill him, but Mistress Hanzala said he would be good to be interrogated first. I... I do not think he has anything to tell her... I think she keeps him as a plaything.
Faruq steps forward, a look of pity on his face, "Someone help me get him down." Zephyr steps forward to assist Faruq.
Discover that Yodfah has engineered the circumstances by which they everyone here became slaves and they are forced to work off the engineered debts to him.
silver & copper
Food & water for the trip
Containers specific to what was being distributed