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The Chronicles of 'Team B' - Chapter 8 - The Virtuous City And Its Underside

Written by KoshcheiBessmertnyi

General Summary

The party heads toward a gate flanked by two square wooden towers. Two unsmiling mailed Kochmak spearmen, wicked sabres hanging at their sides, stand at the ready, their feet spread apart. Between them is an official with an abacus, calculating toll rates for all those who are waiting to enter. When their turn comes, the official informs Yuri that the toll for the four of them and their three animals will be 2 and a half dirhems - the local term for kopecks. While the companions search through their pockets, the official, who calls himself Zaman, instructs them in local etiquette and ordinances. As Gaalites, they may not ride horses or bear arms in the city. They may only stay in the Nart Quarter - set aside for Gaalites - which is located at the other end of the city. Finally, they must wear light blue armbands when they are about in the main part of the city. Unless they want to leave their weapons at the gate until they leave, they can pay a boy named Ahmed to carry their weapons to the Nart Quarter (for a nominal fee).   Grumbling at the regulations, and fearful that the staying in the city will result in one shakedown after another, the companions finally enter the city. Udyn is mostly built of wood, but with imposing stone structures - fortresses, public buildings, and temples towering over the residential buildings. The temples are crowned with the sign of the crescent, which the locals worship apparently. Though some of the domes and spires seem to belong to churches, none is topped with the sign of the cross. Strange, bad-smelling humped animals roam the streets and alleys of the city, and the scents of exotic spices and succulent meats hover over the markets and hostels. Alden, who has lived in the lands of the Garipy, is not overly impressed with the wooden structures, but Yuri, who has not traveled much in his life, is overwhelmed by the size and grandeur of the place: many tens of thousands of people must live here!   After making their way to the eastern edge of the city, the party finally locates the gate to the Nart Quarter. Prior to turning their weapons back over to them, Ahmed suggests that once inside, they may want to consider going to a bathhouse and washing their clothes. All four are filthy, and Alden's clothes are stained with blood - a memento of his encounter with the rusalka's husband, who he killed for his cow. Most think this is a good idea. Fedor says that now that he has helped Yuri get to his destination, he will be heading back soon after his bath. Alden says he wants to run an errand to give his friend a proper sendoff, and heads back into the main part of the city.   The Nart Quarter, though much smaller than the main city, is still a sizable conurbation in its own right. Though the people who live here are supposedly Gaalites like them, most speak languages they don't understand. They head toward the main church with a tall spire, where they learn that it is the Irii church. From there locals direct them to a bathhouse frequented by the Noriki. Wary of losing their animals, Yuri and Fedor stay to watch them, while Lokan goes for a steaming. At the entrance, he pays the attendant, and receives a wooden bucket and some birch switches. As he heads inside, a young girl with a tangled mess of auburn braids follows him inside. A mean-looking grandmother instructs them that they need to head to different steam rooms - the men's or the women's, unless Lokan is interested in paying for a private room. Intrigued, and bewildered, Lokan opts for the later, and the girl follows him inside. She reveals her name to be Agapia, and says that she likes to hang around near the bathhouse in hopes of running into interesting people, though she is not sure why. When Lokan presses her for information about who she is, she answers each question after casting a colored die, and considering the facet that lands up.   In the meantime, Alden searches the district near the gate to the Nart Quarter for a fortune teller. He locates a Noriki-speaking adolescent, and gives him the equivalent of nearly two days' wages in exchange for information of leading to a good fortune teller. The kid, named Khariton, knows just the person, and says he will take Alden to her. The two go into the Nart Quarter, and proceed to the plaza just outside the bathhouse, where they find Yuri and Fedor impatiently waiting for Lokan to emerge. Khariton asks whether anyone has seen Agapia, and after learning that she went inside, enters the bathhouse with Yuri. Yuri knocks on the door to the private steam room, and is chased out by the mean grandmother. Lokan, in much cleaner (but wet) clothes, along with a dry Agapia, exit, while Yuri and Fedor take their turns, steaming and cleaning the grime from their clothes. After all have bathed, Agapia uses some sort of magical trick to instantly dry everyone's clothes, thus confirming her bona fides as a fortune teller. Khariton then conducts the rest of the group to a nearby tavern.   While they dine on bowls of cabbage soup and bread, Agapia uses her die to determine Fedor's fortune: he will return home, find amazing adventures, and die a true hero's death. In the meantime, Yuri has more mundane concerns - does Khariton know anyone who might be willing to buy their cow? Khariton says that he is a servant in at a nearby Noriki abbey, where Agapia's uncle happens to be the hegumen. Given how much money he has been plied with, Khariton goes to fetch the hegumen forthwith.   Khariton soon reappears with the hegumen, Father Mitrofan. Mitrofan is not entirely pleased with the cow, but when he learns of the party's travails and the reason they are here, he undertakes to help them, and buys the cow for slightly more than a ruble. He then invites them to the monastery, to relax, and cleanse themselves spiritually, now that they have bathed. The group follows Mitrofan and makes themselves at home in the monastery courtyard, while the pious Yuri proceeds inside to confess his sins. Aside from various youthful indiscretions, he reveals that the cow he has just sold was stolen, but does this so sincerely that Mitrofan's furrowed brow soon relaxes. As the hegumen grants absolution, he also informs Yuri that he thinks the actions of his cow-stealing companion have cursed the whole group, and that will be hard to overcome.   After he has confessed, Yuri and the rest consult the hegumen as to their next steps. They are especially concerned that any extended stay in Udyn will quickly drain their already meagre funds. Mitrofan recommends that they sell their horses as quickly as possible, because there is no other way they can earn sufficient funds to redeem even a few of Yuri's relatives. Yuri is reticent to part with Vera, and asks what sort of help they might find in releasing the prisoners in other ways. In response, Mitrofan warns Yuri that any altercation will reflect badly on the Gaalites in town, who are sheltering the party, and advises against it. There are occasionally princes that stay with local notables in the Gaalite quarter, and perhaps winning their support will allow the companions to freely carry weapons around town, but this is a project that they will have to pursue by themselves. Yuri inquires whether there is any sort of work the companions can do for the monastery to earn a little money. Mitrofan tells them that there have been sightings of unclean beings at the Gaalite cemetery at night - strange, because it is on hallowed ground. If the companions undertake to watch the cemetery, perhaps the churches can pass around a collection plate to support their efforts. Lokan, taking a different tack, asks if there are criminal organizations in Udyn that might help them get information about the prisoners, where they are kept, and how they are guarded. To this, a surprisingly businesslike Mitrofan says that although he has no contact with such people, he knows that the Banu Tabar - a criminal network that is spread throughout the Bahite world, does operate in the city. They have a gathering place right near the main souk - the market next to the central mosque. The place, operated by a man auspiciously named Kesha, is a gathering place where the Banu Tabar drink alcoholic beverages - a practice forbidden to Bahites, and yet one that is indulged by many of the recent converts, and aided by the town's brewers, who are all located in the Nart Quarter. In fact, Agapia has supplied the place with beer in the past, and can conduct the companions to the establishment.   Now that they have a few leads to follow up on, the companions decide to spend their first evening in Udyn productively. While Alden stays behind to say good-bye to Fedor, Yuri and Lokan follow Agapia to the main town. The sun has not set when they arrive at the souk, and Lokan toys with the idea of pickpocketing someone, in hopes that members of the Banu Tabar will notice someone poaching on their turf, and intervene. Yuri decides this is a bad way to start a relationship, and suggests that they simply follow Agapia to the tavern, which is what they do. Inside, they quickly locate seedy types seated on cushions, drinking beer and wine, and smoking shisha. While her companions order some fermented milk, Agapia heads over to a table where a big Kochmak named Berke is holding forth, surrounded by hangers on. Berke recognizes her, and asks her what she is doing there, to which she answers that she doesn't remember. Lokan, who is a man of the world, flashes some signs at Berke, which the latter appears to recognize. Berke suggests that the newcomers buy him and his friends a round of beer. In response, Lokan pleads poverty, and says they could do that if Berke offers them a job. Berke lets him know in no uncertain terms that he is not a man to be trifled with, and then tells him he would like to have a private talk with him in the alley.   Once outside, the two men speak in an argot that Lokan mostly understands. Berke informs him that as a newcomer, he should behave with the proper deference, and if he wants information, he is going to have to pay, and not haggle. After a brief consult with Yuri, Lokan agrees to do so. After parting with nearly 40 dirhems, Berke divulges the following information. First, the slavers arrived in town 10 days ago, and are housing the captives in a caravanserai on an island in the middle of the Udena. The Banu Tabar can smuggle the party there, for a price. Second, shortly after their arrival, men working for Vasilii, the Grand Prince of Kliakva, arrived in town, and are staying at the house of a local boyar named Georgii, in the Nart Quarter. Vasilii, Lokan and Yuri know, is the rival of the Prince of Ladeisk, overlord of Vladykino, from whence the party has come. Third, a good number of the slaves have already been sold, some down the river, probably bound for the Khan's capital at Ak Karam. Some were sold to local notables, including the amir. However, a number of young women were separated from the rest, transported across the river. It is not clear where they were taken, but it seems unlikely that they were headed to Ak Karam, unless they were to walk the whole way there.   At the end, Berke tells Lokan that he must keep up appearances, though he would prefer not to do the deed himself. Lokan appears confused, but Yuri understands what the Kochmak means, and after Berke has gone back inside, he slugs his companion in the face, giving him a black eye. The party then briefly returns to the tavern, so Berke's henchmen can bear witness to their boss' prowess.

Rewards Granted

  • Ruble plus in earnings for the cow
  • A meal at a tavern
  • A place to stay at the Holy Veil Monastery

Missions/Quests Completed

  • Party bathes after a long trip
  • Yuri sells the cow
  • Party makes an ally out of Hegumen Mitrofan
  • Party learns about the Banu Tabar, and discovers their hangout by the souk
  • Party learns that an envoy of Grand Prince Vasilii is staying in the Nart Quarter
  • Party learns about the fate of the young women captives (including Yuri's Svetlana)

Character(s) interacted with

Report Date
14 Sep 2018
Primary Location
Nart Quarter
Secondary Location
Udyn

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