Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tough time in Menkan

Beatriss and Tetsukichi had promised Afu-- the Priest from the Temple of the Sun who had accompanied them from Khanbaliq-- that they would join him in making an expedition to the slaver's stockade in hopes of rescuing any captives still imprisoned there. After several months of delay, they decided that they would delay a little longer and instead make a trip to Menkan, to see if they could hear news of how their families were doing. In this they disappointed not only Afu, but also both Tsao Ho and Golfo, who argued that their commission from the Emperor had not been satisfied-- it was not enough to find that Gwinch was no longer languishing in Quitokai, they had to confirm that he was still pursuing the traitors, and be ready to assume this mission themselves. Without argument, Tetsukichi and Beatriss simply confirmed that they were going to visit Menkan and would return to their responsibilities in good time.

 Tsao Ho with his disciple monks and Golfo, accompanied by his wife Phi Phong, set out on the trail of Gwinch, Kawabi, and Goyat alone, guided by three villagers from Quitokai and the area. Afu declared that he would continue to investigate the slavers' dealings on his own, while waiting in Quitokai. Beatriss and Tetsukichi, accompanied only by Al-Fitar, made good time traveling to Menkan, and checked in at "The Nice Inn," their designated meeting place. And then they got ready to wait for one of Sansar Anca's ("Uncle") men to show up and take them to where the herds were grazing.

 While waiting, they got to know the town.
Beyond "The Nice Inn," and the avenue where it sits, the town of Menkan is not very nice. The main avenue-- running from the main gate past the governor's house and the favored temples, and a handful of inns and shops catering to Imperial visitors and other well-heeled foreigners, to an imperial warehouse at the riverside-- is the only street well patrolled by the watch.

The three visitors became the subject of much interest, both official and unofficial. They were questioned by the watch who, finding their papers counterfeit, ordered them not to leave the city until representatives from the Sansar family arrived to vouch for them. A fortune teller warned them that a man in yellow robes was looking for them. A dropped note let them know that they were being targeted as "Gwinch's friends" and that their "secret admirers" were meeting that night at a boarded-up tavern on the very south end of the riverfront. They found the moribund tavern, but rather than venture inside, lingered and watched.
dim lights, faint shadows by Brayo
dim lights, faint shadows, a photo by Brayo on Flickr.
They noticed someone watching them, a hooded figure who, being noticed, ran down an alley. The party pursued, the lightly-armored Beatriss running ahead, and staying close enough behind the watcher to see him enter a deserted house. They entered the deserted house, and in the upper story found the foot bridge connecting it to a fortified compound. And as they entered the compound, they were attacked by close to a dozen armed men. Beatriss, Tetsukichim and Al-Fitar are seasoned warriors; adopting a disciplined defensive position, they cut down their attackers. But then the spellcasters emerged-- a man in yellow robes and a woman in black robes. The sorcerer's magic seized Beatriss's muscles from within, incapacitating her. And he threw bolts of magic energey at Tetsukichi and Al-Fitar. The initial attackers were replaced by stranger foes, half-human beasts with the heads of rats, and with the rats uncanny habit of popping out of small holes and scurrying up walls.
Chinese Horoscope - Rat by Yoyo Miyoko
Chinese Horoscope - Rat, a photo by Yoyo Miyoko on Flickr.

 Al-Fitar lifted Beatriss over his should like a sack of flour and made for the exit, Tetsukichi guarding his retreat and slaying several of the ratmen. But then the sorcerer threw a net of sticky black netting, like the web of spider, both blocking the exit and ensnaring Al-Fitar.

Tetsukichi, unencumbered by any immediate assailants, exchanged his katana for his bow and fired several arrows at the sorcerer who, responded by sailing into the air and out of sight. The black robed woman directed the remaining ratman and her personal guards to attack Tetsukichi, simultaneously offering him a chance to surrender. He hesitated, but then concluded his superior skills still outweighed his attackers' superior numbers (and if nothing else that he would have additional opportunities to surrender) made an all-out counter attack. He swiftly killed most of the his assailants and put the others to flight. For her part, the black-robed woman clumsily clubbed the helpless Beatriss and Al-Fitar and then ran for her life. Tetsukichi did not pursue her. Instead, he cut Al-Fitar's web and together they carried Beatriss across the bridge, and out to alleyway.  They stopped to look for anyone following them, and Tetsukichi spotted the yellow-robed sorcerer, silhouetted against the moon.  As he raised his bow, the sorcerer flew higher, but not fast enough.  The arrow found it mark and a body wrapped in yellow robes plummeted from the sky, crashing the slanted roof of one of the alleyway hovels on its way down.  Their were gaps and muffled cries of surprise all around, but the houses stayed dark and closed.

Treading their way through the slum, the three warriors returned to The Nice Inn.  With some hot water and time, Beatriss muscles loosened and she was back to normal, save for a couple bruises. Tetsukichi and Al-Fitar had suffered some more serious wounds and the three concluded that they should stay at the inn for a few days.

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