Saturday, December 8, 2012

Monks & Merchants

Gwinch, Kishi, and Gunjar have spent the past year as guests of the Two-Path Monastery in the market town of Pasar. Pasar is a peaceful town, having benefited from the age-old wisdom of its Founding Families, who continue to direct its administrative affairs and staff the militia. The Founding Families aversion to both violence and commerce have made Pasar an ideal place for foreign merchants from all corners who know it as a place where they bring their goods to market without fear of criminals or corruption. Tariffs and duties are high, but it’s a small price to pay knowing that the businesses they build are well-protected.

The foreign merchants bring their foreign faiths with them and the most prominent temples are those dedicated to One Law and to Shining Path. Both have multiple temples and monasteries throughout the town. The Two-Fold path is one of several faiths whose place in the town is currently small but may be larger in the future.

The merchants also organize themselves along commercial lines and most belong to one of two merchant’s guild. The Silk Guild is the older of the two, but The Spice Guild may have more members today. Most Silk Guild members are dedicated (in varying degrees) to the Shining Path faith while most Spice Guild members have submitted (at least nominally) to One Law. That said, neither guild is restrictive as to membership. At the same time, both guilds expect loyalty of its members—especially with respect to what territory each member may buy and sell in and the prices charges for various goods.

In the past, when controversies have arisen among guild members or, more seriously between the two rival guilds, one of the temples of the Shining Path has offered its priests and facilities as a neutral meeting place for the resolution of differences. In response to complaints of bias, the merchants recently met at a One Law temple—but merchants from both guilds found the priests too intrusive and the atmosphere generally inhibiting. 

So, in response to the latest controversy, the Abbott of the Monastery of the Two-Fold Path offered to host negotiations, pointing out that the Two-Fold Path claimed few adherents from the merchant class. His offer was accepted, and a meeting scheduled. The Abbott asked Gwinch and his associates to delay their pursuit of Goyat and Kawabi until after the meeting so that they could help ensure everything ran smoothly. He was excited about this opportunity to raise the status of his monastery, but had strong concerns that something bad would happen. His long-time visitors agreed to repay his hospitality by preserving peace at the event.

With about a week to prepare, Gwinch, Gunjar, and Kishi decided they should get to know what they could about the most prominent invitees. Jiro, as the de facto leader of the Spice Guild was their first person of interest. With the help of Saisho’s magic, they made themselves invisible, and after a couple hours exploring the streets of Pasar and were able to find Jiro. They trailed him for the rest of the day, watching him interact with customers, share a lavish dinner with other members of the Spice Guild and, at the end of a long night, retire to an inn. They heard him refer to the upcoming negotiations in conversations with both customers and his associates, but did not hear say anything that suggested any underhanded plans.

When the day of the meeting arrived, the adventurers divided themselves into six patrols and circulated throughout the monastery grounds, giving special attention to the entry points and the rooms where the merchants were meeting. Jiro and the other Spice merchants had just finished a private meeting and were leaving it to rejoin the Silk Merchants in the larger room where negotiations were taking place when— one of the Two-Fold monks drew a sword from under his robes and charged Jiro. Gunjar’s patrol was passing nearby; the priest responded quickly, using his magic to apprehend the attacker. Unfortunately, Jiro’s bodyguards regarded Gunjar as a threat and drew their swords on them. Other monks joined the fight and for several minutes confusion and chaos reigned.
super monk by letgoandletsgo
super monk, a photo by letgoandletsgo on Flickr.
As Gwinch and Kishi reached the scene, they noticed an odd sight. While most of the servants who worked at the Monastery were fleeing from the brawl, one woman was standing and watching. This woman raised a blow gun to her lips; seconds later Jiro raised his hand to the back of his neck and then crumpled to the ground. Kishi attacked the mysterious servant with her magic, but the woman disappeared. Gwinch’s sohei helped to calm the general melee while Gwinch looked for the invisible assassin. 

Gwinch’s efforts were unsuccessful. The chaotic fight among the monks, the merchants, and their bodyguards ended without any deaths— except Jiro’s. The other Spice Merchants did their best to save their leader, rushing his unconscious body to the One Law temple. There the priests determined that he had been poisoned, probably by a dart, and administered their most powerful drugs. Despite their efforts, after a few hours, the priests of One Law announced that Jiro had died. Before dying, he expressed remorse for the dissipation, pride, and occasional deception that had marred his life, exhorting all people, and especially his fellow Spice Merchants to adhere more closely to One Law. The priests announced that they were organizing a procession to carry his body back to his home village for burial.

Meanwhile, at the Temple of the Two-Fold Path, the Silk Merchants expressed their outrage at the poor hospitality and despite the Abbott’s apologies, departed very soon after the Spice Merchants. Gwinch questioned the servants and learned that they had noticed a new laundress among them. He searched the servants’ quarters and found several scrolls inscribed with prayers characteristic of the Shining Path. The monk that attacked Jiro was also found to be carrying Shining Path prayer scrolls, although he claimed he had not seen them before. He was turned over to the City Guard. 

The Abbott was disappointed. But more than disappointed, he was absolutely furious.

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