Dark Sun: Call of the Desert

Chapter 5: Fallen off the Wagon

… Wherein the Jarko Gang gives the heroes the poor end of a deal

10th Night, Month of Haze, Season of Sun Ascending
When we last saw the heroes, they had just won the opening match of the Dritan Games, and the herald Mahamud had announced: “By the venerable charity of Ozymandius the Sun King will bread and water be served free in the arena square at midnight! Welcome to the Dritan Games!”

The group takes the injured Khadija to the arena healers for sorcerous care, and to the arena office to receive their prize of 125 gp.

As they leave the arena, they are accosted by Asenn, their number-one fan from the kank ranch, who has evidently been waiting for them outside. He waves the teddy kank that Sihaya gave him.

“Whoa,” he bursts. “That was amazing! She went… like… psh… and then he was like poof, and then she went, whoa, and—oh uh h-hey, you’re not dead.” This last he stutters at Khadija. “Wow, you got killed out there! You were crushed… like an erdlu egg! You were goners!” At this reminder to Khadija of her recent defeat, the others point out to Asenn that he might be treading on sensitive mul nerves.

After a bit of nervous monologuing from Asenn, he manages to talk the group into going with him to get bread in the arena square. It’s clear that he regards being seen with the winning gladiator team as a status boost to make him look good to the one friend he has made in Balic.

As the group approaches the crowded arena square they note the start of what seems to be a commotion. There is yelling and people seem to start gathering around something.

Khadija, Markos and Val go to investigate the commotion while Sihaya, Khayal and Asenn head toward the bread distribution in the center of the square. As Khadija, Markos and Val draw nearer to the noise, they hear: “I am the prophet Jejjereth! Hear my words! Hear my tellings! A shadow will cover you!”

They see an older human man, balding with random surviving gray strands, standing on the back of a bent-over mul sculpture, part of the square’s gladiatorial sculptures. From this vantage, he’s shouting dark prophecies to anyone bemused enough to stand and listen.

“The winds will rock the earth, the stone shall quake and the silt shall rise a thousand feet! Giants of the sea will stand and walk the streets and slaughter the sons and daughters of Balic! You are doomed! A shadow will cover you! And you are doomed! Doomed! And you and you and you!” Jejjereth points at seemingly random people in the crowd, the last one of which is Khadija. “I am the prophet Jejjereth! Hear my words! A shadow will cover you!”

Periodically the mad prophet pauses and stares into empty space. An elf girl standing on another mul gladiatorial sculpture takes advantage of the dead time to loudly hawk rock candy to the crowd. “Rock candy! Get yer candy rocks here!” Then the prophet perks up and starts raving again.

Khadija wanders over to the elf girl and buys some blue rock candy. Then she spends some quality time taunting the others in the party with her blue-black tongue.

Meanwhile, a white-robed templar with a half-giant soldier wander over to the self-styled prophet’s crown from the bread distribution. He is lean, with a pinched face set in a thin sneer, and long black hair tied at his neck. He wears around his neck a circle of finely woven white sandcloth, a silt mask, which most residents wear to ward against sudden silt storms. Markos recognizes the templar as Sutekh of the White, a low-ranking templar with a reputation for active persecution of primal magic.

Sutekh stands silent behind the crowd for a moment, watching with cold black eyes while the prophet rants. A few in the crowd who notice him subtly find reasons to be elsewhere. When the prophet shouts, “And the fires will burn! The lord of the sun will summon the flames down from the sky and bury the streets in ash! A shadow will cover you!” the templar and half-giant push through the crowd and he responds in a loud, clear voice, “Commoner, by order of Sutekh the White on behalf of the Sun King, you are under arrest.”

The prophet hunkers down and is subdued by the half-giant. He seems to cooperate until they get to the edge of the crowd, then he shouts, “’Ware the cinders of oppression, lest they fan into flames!” and is cuffed on the head by the half-giant. The templar and his charges leave in the direction of the Tower of Balic.

Taking advantage of the distraction, Anso of the Jarko Gang approaches Val, the city eladrin who has never known the Feywild and works for the gang. Anso tells Val that a cargo wagon’s been reported lost off the Road of Legions on its way to South Ledopolus. He wants Val to take a group and recover one crucially important item from the cargo wagon: a small amber stone, shaped like a globe. He says the group can have any other riches they may find.

Meanwhile, Sihaya, Khayal and Asenn have elbowed their way through the crowds to get their shares of bread and water. The dung-baked bread is pretty good—not completely hardened, still soft in the center.

Val discusses the proposition with the group when they gather, and they agree. Val asks Anso how much the gang would pay for the stone alone, and he agrees to find out; though he’s clear that the gang wants the stone and nothing else.

11th Day, Month of Haze, Season of Sun Ascending
The group finds the wagon, true to the directions, a couple hours outside the city. Unfortunately, they’re ambushed (surprise) by a group of silt runners while crossing the sand patches and dry orchards off the Road of Legions. They’ve faced silt runners before, in all their draconic-gibbering goodness, but perhaps not quite in this fury. Khadija becomes over-engaged and is taken down to lie unconscious (and blue-tongued) on the sands. But she is revived and the party has no further significant trouble against the silt runners, or against the scavenging kruthiks that are picking over the lost wagon when they arrive.

The wagon is partly-buried in the remnants of the last sandstorm. After dealing with the kruthiks, the group finds only a couple red linens and a roll of red silk that haven’t been destroyed or carried away. They are also able, with a bit of hunting, to find the globe-shaped amber stone that the gang wants. Val keeps the red silk.

The group sells kruthik plates for 4 gp each. Val orders a custom-made red silk robe.

Markos, through some bumpy dealings in the shady elven market, gets the stone appraised, and its illicit magical properties identified. The elves tell him the stone enhances attacks and is worth 200 gp.

Since there was little loot besides the stone, the group comes to the question of how to conclude their business with the Jarko Gang. They meet with Anso and some of his thugs at a dive in the House Jarko quarter. Tensions peak in the ensuing conversation as Anso holds firmly to his gang’s demand for the stone and Markos pushes toward selling the stone to the gang for its appraised value because the other loot left at the wagon was small. Anso concedes that he is authorized to give 30 gp for the stone if needed, but points out that the group has otherwise received the precious directions to the wagon and its loot for free. That won’t do.

Just as it seems likely there will be a fight, the party opts not to choose this battle. They accept 30 gp for the stone and are allowed to leave the bar without incident, and without any blood-bounties from the Jarko Gang.

Once more they walk the streets of Balic free and clear, and a little wiser from each experience.

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Goldie

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