The Chronicles of 'Team B' - Chapter 11 - The Vizier's Trap
Hegumen Mitrofan angrily bursts on the scene. Agapia was still to be serving her punishment, and he is upset that she slipped out of the window. The clay pot she is holding suggests that she is up to her old tricks, so he sternly takes her by the arm and leads her away. As the companions watch niece and uncle depart, one of Zinovii's servants comes down the stairs, holding a rolled up scroll. Upon inspection, it contains illegible markings, and a wax blot with an impression, depicting a bear eating berries. None of the companions present can read. And unfortunately, the hegumen just departed. Yuri tries his best to make out the letters, and then decides to head to the monastery. The companions arrive just in time to hear the door to Agapia's cell slam shut. The hegumen is visibly upset, but he does read the letter. It seems that Zinovii has decided to give the party incentive to continue its hard work by giving them the letter of introduction to the amir's daughter, Botagöz. The letter is affixed with the official seal of the Grand Prince of Kliakva. In preparation for their nightly vigil, the group then proceeds to the mess hall, where the brothers are partaking of the evening meal. Lokan pesters Anatoly by asking for some chicken soup (to help him get over his cold), but the rooster shapechanger won't have any of it, and asks how Lokan would feel if he were served human soup, succeeding in turning one brother's stomach. Lokan proceeds to turn his attention to the monks, and asks one if it is possible for a creature such a rooster shapechanger to find salvation. Another brother answers that God's mercy extends to anyone who has faith, and cites that even normally evil creatures such as wolf shapechangers have been accepted into the bosom of the Church (and a very few have even become ordained priests). Lokan acts incredulous, but says that he feels the need to unburden himself to the hegumen, and goes into the Holy Veil church to confess his sins. The hegumen takes Lokan's hand, and asks him if he is baptized into the Church. Unless he is, and has received a Gaalite name, he cannot accept his confession. Lokan says that his family never discussed this, and did not attend services, but that he would like to accept Gaal into his life. The hegumen tells him that on Nedelia - the Sabbath day, he will be dressed in white, and formally accepted into the community of the Faithful under a new name. When Lokan objects, and says that he likes his name, Mitrofan says that in the True Confession, nothing is taken away - things are only added. So he will be able to keep his old name, and receive a Gaalite name as well. The hegumen asks Lokan to think about what the new name might be for the next two days (which is how long he has until the solemn ceremony). Following the eventful talk with the hegumen, Lokan, along with Yuri and Anatoly, return to the cemetery. Anatoly converses with the watchman in Kochmak, and learns that no sighting of the grave robbers has taken place since the party first took on this assignment. The first order of business is to set up simple traps for the grave robbers, and that involves removing removing lids from the sarcophagi in the crypts. Yuri and Anatoly carry these to the new walls that have been constructed in the underground passages. It's difficult progress, and the second sarcophagus lid nearly crushes the two strongmen, but they are able to catch it before disaster transpires. Each lid is set up within striking distance of each wall, so that each strongman can drop it down on anyone trying to slither through the "back doors" built into the walls. While this is happening, Lokan decides to inspect the empty sarcophagi for any items that may have been placed there, but he finds only old bones in burial shrouds before Yuri sends him back up to the surface, to take up watch behind the font enclosure. The third night at the cemetery passes uneventfully, and the three watchers return to their respective resting places to sleep until noon. The next day, they meet back at the Nikonov estate for a new foray into the city. The task is to find Mamoun once again, and to try to hitch a ferry ride - either to Slave Island, or across the river, where Yaqub supposedly dwells. The day starts off with great optimism, as Lokan has recovered from his cold, and no trouble accompanies the progress through the West Gate into the main city, Soon, however, Lokan notices a group of men following the trio - six cloaked, and one armored. He warns his companions, and then tries to lose the men by pretending to shop at various street stalls, and the tails seem to melt away. After getting to the docks and locating Dockmaster Kardysh, they inquire after the whereabouts of Mamoun, and are told that he hasn't been seen around since last night. The trio turn to leave, and suddenly sees the same seven men positioned at the end of the dock, blocking any escape. Anatoly rips a stake out of the dock and breaks it in half, to provide makeshift weapons for Yuri and himself, as their real arms have been left behind in the Nart Quarter. At this, the men draw their sabres, and the armored leader commands the group to drop what they are holding. He then informs them that they are under arrest for espionage by the order or Vizier Ilyas ibn Umar, and are to accompany his men to the citadel. Lacking options, the party complies. The limestone-and-brick citadel is located in the center of the city, behind an actual stone wall. The central building is a castle-like, rectangular hold with round towers in each corner. The armed men lead the three companions inside, and await the appearance of the vizier. When the turbaned, bearded offiicial appears, flanked by two more guards, the companions are forced to their knees onto the carpet. The vizier, speaking in the Norik tongue, wastes little time before accusing the companions of being spies, of endangering the security of the amir's realm, and of unseemly behavior. As if to demonstrate the last point, another pair of armed guards drag out Alden, who has not been seen for several days. The vizier informs the companions that their friend was found drunk in a ditch, and taken into custody. He then proceeds to inform them that the authorities are well aware of their plan to hunt down Yaqub, and that he will not stand for it, as any such effort will put Udyn in great danger. The companions begin to argue, and say that the serpent will have no way of linking them, who are only trying to right a wrong perpetrated in the Land of Nor', to Udyn. Ilyas ibn Umar cuts the debate short by ordering the guards to throw the foreign scofflaws into the dungeon. At this point, Yuri appeals to the vizier, saying that his companions are only here on his behalf, and that if anyone should be imprisoned, it is only him. The vizier says that if the rest pledge to renounce their mission against Yaqub, he will release everyone but Yuri. They do so pledge, and Yuri gives a satchel of valuables to Anatoly before being dragged away. Lokan, Anatoly and Alden are set free, but in parting, Ilyas warns the companions that he has an extensive network of informants, and that breaking their pledge will lead to the most dire consequences. Yuri is taken below, and thrown into a cell with a circular back wall. There is stench coming from the neighboring cells, one of which turns out to be occupied by a man calling himself Karim. Yuri inspects the bars of his cell, and ponders his next move. In the meantime, the companions return to the Nikonov mansion in the Nart Quarter. Anatoly ascends to receive instructions from his master Zinovii. After learning what had transpired, Zinovii asks his man if they showed his letter to the vizier, and Anatoly responds in the negative. Zinovii then surmises that the vizier is likely in cahoots with Yaqub, and is probably using this situation to cast aspersions on the Grand Prince. Downstairs, Lokan has a heart-to-heart with Alden about his behavior, and tells Alden to not conform to society's stereotypes. He then reveals something about his own past in the alley behind the mansion.
Zinovii's letter of introduction to the local princess
- Traps set up in the subterranean tunnels beneath the cemetery
- Yuri convinces the vizier to release his companions