Episode 10 – Quid Pro Quo

 

During one quiet evening, have each PC roll Alertness + Perception / Hearing, with whoever rolls highest picking up a soft hiss from a darkened doorway. A quiet voice speaking in a stilted mix of English, Latin, and Lemurian that requires an AVERAGE (7) Intelligence + Perception / Hearing roll to understand first assures the PC that they mean no harm, and second, makes a startling offer. The unseen figure says “A ‘certain person of status’ needs to speak with whoever is empowered to speak for the Tail-Less Ones on something of grave importance. Please have that person with no more than one guard return to this spot tomorrow night and I will take you to them. I, and who I represent, swear upon all that we hold dearest that you will not be harmed in any way.” If the PC attempts to stall or ask any questions, they find the individual has disappeared into the night.

 

Assuming the PC that had the encounter relays the message to the rest of the characters, the humans now have an interesting mystery on their hands, however, the first thing they must deal with is an issue that they have skirted around, but have yet to directly address, namely who does speak as the ‘high-chief’ of the humans?

 

The players are free to choose among themselves would be the best leader for the group, but if there isn’t a clear single leader, the issue will be decided by vote. Each PC will again make their choice as they want, but the NPCs will decide based on the results of an Opposed Roll between the candidates. Each PC that wants to be the group’s leader will have to roll their Willpower + Influence / Appropriate Specialty or Discipline / Leadership with whoever rolls the highest gaining the most votes.

 

Due to his position as the Macao Clipper’s Captain, Kenneth Martin has been the spokesman for the humans, but based on the multinational nature of the passengers and the contingent of military, Martin’s status as the leader of the humans had never been decided. As this mysterious ‘person of status’ only wanted to speak to their de facto leader, the humans would have to finally make their decision as to exactly who that would be. For the seven military personnel, the choice was obvious. Captain Sokolowski was the senior person present and was thus automatically in charge. While the three other members in the flight crew of the Macao Clipper automatically backing Captain Martin.

 

This left the international contingent consisting of three Britons, one Dutchman, and one Chinese and the nine American civilians. The four missionaries decided to support Captain Martin, as did Wanda Storm, the Arquettes, Chester McKenzie and Xiong Tao. Harry Mueller supported Sokolowski along with the three Britons and one Dutch passenger. This was a total of twenty-three votes with eleven going to Sokolowski and twelve to Martin.

 

Having settled who would be their leader, Marin immediately asked Sokolowski to be in charge of military affairs and he accepted. Lieutenant Norman Ellington was assigned to be Martin’s lone guard for the meeting.

 

At the appointed time, the two humans returned to the darkened alcove and are hailed by the same soft hiss. The Lemurian is cloaked and asks that they follow him. The trip is a convoluted journey through the twisted back streets of Davao. Any PC attempted to remember the path will have to roll an FORMIDABLE (15) Memorize (Intelligence + Willpower) test to retrace their steps. After nearly ten minutes, the guide opens a recessed door that leads into a run down, but clean shop’s store room. Inside is none other than High Chief Visk-Del-Ab of Home Dalmora. He is dressed in the simple garb of a sailor and greets the humans warmly, if a little stiffly and then begins to speak in Latin with a sad, almost wistful tone in his voice.

 

Please forgive me for having you skulk about in the night as thieves, but it is not easy for me to go anywhere unseen as I am watched almost relentlessly. I know it is clear to you that the High Sky Priest of my Home is your enemy. What I doubt you know is just how bitter an enemy of yours he has become. He has ever and anon been cursed with a stiff neck, but at last he has gone too far. Sak-Tel-Ay well served my father and my father’s father and while both of my august forbearers were of an age when they became High Chief of Dalmora to have the gravitas to keep him in his place, my beloved father died far too soon for me to have the same sway over him. He was my teacher from an early age and not only do I still hold him in high esteem for his vast knowledge of the stars, the memories of his ruthless hand as he forced me to learn the from the sacred texts is all too fresh for me to speak against him easily.

 

Yet there comes a time when every student must step away from the shadow cast by their teacher and stand on their own. I can not prove his part in the sabotage against the refinery, but I know him too well to not see the signs of his hand at work. It was his counsel that kept my Home from joining in your fight against the Ancient Enemy. As was rejecting arming Dalmora with the mighty weapons you offer. These things troubled me, but when a man has become so hidebound that he would actively stand in the way of those attempting to help resist an evil as obvious as the Grik, then respected or no, it is time for a change.”

 

As he speaks, Visk’s voice grows stronger and this last part is spoken with a hardness that gives the humans a glimpse of his potential as a leader.

 

I would bargain with you for your help in ridding both of us of a problem that will only grow worse if it is given the time to do so. Because of his long service to Dalmora, I can not take action directly against the Sky-Priest unless he were to be foolish enough to overstep his bounds in public or was caught in the act of his schemings. And regardless of what else he may be, Say-Tel-Ay is no fool. However, his own inflexibility is the key to his undoing. Are you willing to help me in this matter?”

 

If the PCs agree, Visk nods in satisfaction before continuing.

 

This is what I propose. The next time Aako-Hris-Am calls a formal conference, Sak will attend with me as is proper. In this meeting, you will propose to implement the use of yet another one of your amazing devices – the more radical a thing you can devise, the better. However, it is absolutely critical that such a thing be possible for you to actually do. Sak will be unable to resist condemning this idea. For all that you hold dear, stand your ground and insist how the plan must go forward to get him to commit to publicly being dead set against this new heresy.  

For my part, I will claim outrage as well and my entourage and I will depart in disgust rather than be tainted by so blasphemous a plan. Normally, when Sak is enflamed by yourabilities, I attempt to calm him as we return to Dalmora, but this time I will say that the Tail-Less Ones have gone too far this time and will imply that I wish I had the means to stop this corruption of the People to such unnatural ideas. This is as much as I dare do, but I believe that with him thinking he has my tacit approval, he will take it into his head to take decisive action, hopefully your device will drive him to making a rash action that will give me the grounds to dismiss him from my service for once and for all.

 

After this staging this drama, I can not be seen being involved with you in any way and will deny that we have ever spoken outside of the Davao audience chamber. The only other further involvement I will be able to manage once this plan is in action is my messenger will contact you using the phrase ‘the mountain fish approaches’ when we believe Sak will make his move.

 

In exchange for your assistance, I can pledge Dalmora’s assistance in resisting the Grik. As a measure of good faith, I ask that my ship be armed as the Tellana and my people trained in both the use of these wondrous weapons and in your new way of fighting so that we may truly be an active partner in the defense of Davao and the lives of our two peoples.”

 

Visk stops speaking at this point and expectantly waits for an answer to his proposal. The two PCs may roll against an AVERAGE (7) Alertness + Perception to see that he is completely sincere in his offer.

 

Assuming the PCs agree, he smiles for the first time, tight and strained to be sure, but genuine.

 

My man will lead you back to where you met. May the stars shine upon our endeavors.

 

True to Visk’s word, their cloaked guide takes a different path back to their meeting place, which makes trying to memorize their path even more difficult as the previous trip becomes muddled with the second making the Memorize roll HEROIC (19).

 

On returning to their home, the two PCs inform the others of their conversation and the humans must begin planning their half of the plot to trap the High Sky Priest. Exactly what invention the PCs will choose to announce is up to them, but if the players can not think of anything themselves, rolling a successful HARD (11) test of Intelligence + Knowledge will work out the following plan to meet Visk’s scheme.

 

Since their arrival in this Not-Earth, the humans have learned that Tail-Less Ones, almost certainly members of the English East India Company, from three hundred years earlier taught the Lemurians the art of navigation via charts and celestial positioning. For some unknown reason, this nameless sailing master could not, or would not, use the English language while imparting these lessons and used Latin instead. A Lemurian of the time, Siska-Ta, took these teaching to heart and taught them to others becoming a revered figure for spreading this precious knowledge. As is typical with primitives that do not understand the scientific foundations behind an advanced technology, the principles of the technology become ritualized traditions and are passed down as mystic wisdom, or given long enough, as magic.

The role of Sky-Priest was initially that of navigator. However, over the intervening years what began as simple navigation evolved into a religion to keep the vital skill a closely guarded secret obscured with ritualized traditions. Given Sak-Tel-Ay’s ultraconservative views concerning his religion’s dogma, anything that would break the Sky-Priest’s strangle hold on the now sacred art of navigation would be a direct not only to Sak’s seat of power, it would be a direct challenge to the beliefs he holds dearest. Thus the device that would do the most to enflame the hidebound Sky-Priest would be a simple lever operated printing press. However, it would not be the press itself that would drive Sak to action, it is what the humans would propose to print that would be the agent of his downfall. The humans will offer, in all innocence, to mass produce detailed maps for the People of Davao.

 

The revelation that not only that the Tail-Less Ones possessed a set of the sacred sailing master’s charts, but that they would made so common that just anyone could have a set would be deepest blasphemy imaginable to Sak-Tel-Ay and would be guaranteed to invoke not only his public condemnation, but his vehement opposition to any plan to construct such a device.

 

It is a simple matter not even requiring a skill roll for the PCs to ask Aako-Hris-Am to call a formal conference. When the human delegation is given the chance to speak, all it takes is an AVERAGE (7) Intelligence + Influence / Persuasion roll to convince the crowd of usefulness of a printing press. Mentioning the ability to mass produce navigation charts will seeming to do so innocently is a HARD (11) test of Willpower + Performance / Acting or a FORMIDABLE (15) Willpower + Influence / Persuasion roll.

 

Sak-Tel-Ay will be incapable of containing himself and launches into a vitriolic tirade against this unacceptable blasphemy. He will be so agitated that not only will Vish be unable to calm him down Aako will have to order him from the audience chamber. At this point, as per the plan, Vish’s delegation will depart in seeming support of their High Sky Priest. Once decorum is restored, Aako dismisses the others and asks that the humans speak with him in private. Alone in his study, but accompanied by his own High Sky Priest Jannick-Ree-Ad, Aako is clearly displeased and demands an immediate explanation as even the moderate and supportive Jannick is taken aback by the human’s plan. The human’s have two options at this point, they can either come clean and tell them they are trying to set up Sak-Tel-Ay, or they can invent a cover story.

 

If the PCs tell the truth, both Lemurians will be unable to hide their shock at the audacity of the devious plan. Jannick is still shaken that such a thing is possible and that the Tail-Less Ones have their own charts. Convincing the Sky-Priest that no disrespect is intended will take a HARD (11) test of Intelligence + Influence / Persuasion and if the test is successful, he agrees to a clandestine trip to the Macao Clipper. Sneaking Jannick aboard the flying boat will require that he dress as a commoner and a HARD (11) Intelligence + Covert roll to leave the center of the city and another Intelligence + Covert roll, but this time at an AVERAGE (7) difficulty.

 

Once Jannick sees the extremely detailed charts, he is taken aback again. He has never seen such detail before and is so shaken by the maps of areas he didn’t know existed that he is nearly speechless. The humans are also shocked as they didn’t realize just how deeply their plan would challenge the beliefs of the Lemurians. It takes an AVERAGE (7) Alertness + Perception / Empathy roll to realize they will have to modify their plan to reduce their supporter’s distress.

The modified plan will have the press used mainly for the simple duplication of schematics, blueprints, and other technical purposes to help the master smiths and carpenters, but the offer will be made to make copies of any documents the High Sky-Priest of Davao deems fit for such treatment. This adjustment soothes Jannick and he agrees to support the construction of ‘such a labor saving and useful device’. Sneaking the Sky-Priest back into the city will require the reverse of the tests used to get him out, an AVERAGE (7) Intelligence + Covert roll to get off the plane and the dockyard, and a HARD (11) test to get back into the city.

 

If the PCs choose to make up a cover story, they will have to succeed in a FORMIDABLE (15) Intelligence + Performance / Acting or an HEROIC (19) Willpower + Influence / Persuasion roll to come up with a plausible reason for their actions. If the roll succeeds, Jannick demands to see their charts and will have to use the procedures above to sneak him aboard the Macao Clipper, deal with how badly shaken the Sky-Priest is by the human’s charts, and to sneak back into town. In this case, Jannick will make no statement pro or con leaving the PCs without any official support or assistance.

 

If the cover story roll fails, both men will refuse to allow the humans to proceed. The only real option the characters have at this point is to tell the truth of the plot. Being caught in such a direct lie will have later consequences in that any request the humans make for the next six months will be at a one-step penalty as the Lemurians have to learn to trust them again.

 

Regardless of how it was obtained, once the PCs have gained Jannick’s and Aako’s permission to proceed, choosing the location for the press is a HARD (11) Intelligence + Perception / Tactics roll to select an area away from the city on a slight rise. Designing the printing press itself is a HARD (11) Intelligence + Craft / Drafting roll, while building it is an AVERAGE (35) Complex Action using Intelligence + Craft / Carpentry with each roll taking a day.

 

As Vish predicted, once the construction begins, Sak begins plotting the destruction of the press. How many supporters he has depends on how the PCs obtained permission to proceed. If they told the truth and Jannick gives his support to the project, Sak is convinced all of Davao has fallen into apostasy. Believing he has Vish’s approval, he is able to actively recruit aboard the Dalmora and obtains twenty followers. If the PCs used a cover story and Jannick did not give his support, Sak is unable to claim that Davao has been corrupted and is only able to find a dozen followers for his cause.

 

As soon as the construction of the building that will contain the press begins, near the end of the first day of work, the PC that rolls the highest Alertness + Perception / Hearing  realizes that as a Lemurain passed them, they heard the words ‘the mountain fish approaches’. Whoever spoke has disappeared into the crowd, but the humans know that Sak will soon be making his move. The main focus of the day’s work was to build a convincing looking fake printing press while in actuality, building solid a defensive position. Much of the walls are façades, but there is a very real chest high wall that will provide the equivalent of light cover (+4) in all directs and has Armor 6, Life Points 6. How the PCs choose to set up their defenses and what weapons are available is completely up to the players. The attackers wait until just after midnight to strike and spotting them is an Opposed Roll of the PC’s Alertness + Perception versus the attacker’s Agility + Covert / Stealth.

Run the fight as normal, but after ten Combat Turns, if the PCs obtained Jannick’s blessing, a dozen members of the Davao Guards arrive to restore order. If the PCs did not have approval, they will be on their own for thirty Combat Turns, when the Guards will have no option to arrive in response to alarms being sounded throughout the city. 

 

The human’s initial statement to mass produce the sacred charts has so incensed Sak-Tel-Ay that he has indeed been tricked into making a rash decision. Not only is he leading an armed attack on citizens of Davao, he has become so worked up that, despite strident counsel from his followers, he has chose to personally destroy the Tail-Less One’s cursed evil machine himself. He and his followers are absolute zealots and will continue the attack until sustaining 75% dead or unconscious. At that point the remainder retreat, bodily carrying Sak away in order to save him to fight another day. If the PCs do not pursue or the zealots escape, there is more than enough evidence to glaringly point to the attackers coming from the Dalmora. Aako will demand that Vish-Del-Ab produce the criminals. As the High Chief was waiting at the railing of the Home, Sak and his surviving followers are caught red handed.

 

The High Sky-Priest’s crimes are so blatant and he was caught in the act that he has no defense and thus there is no trial. Vish based on his right as U-Amaki of the Dalmora strips Sak of his position, title, and rank on the spot. In addition, the defrocked Sky-Priest and his surviving followers are immediately barred from the Dalmora. As Vish speaks, Aako-Hris-Am has remained silent, for the disciplining of a member of his Home is strictly the prevue of the U-Amaki. However, while the dumbfounded Sak stands speechless, Aako adds one further caveat to events of the night. Sak is emphatically warned that if he should attempt to bring harm to any citizen of Davao, he will be banished into the deep jungle as an Outcast. Dejected and broken, takes two leaden steps toward the city and then emits a keening wail, stopping in mid-step, before turning impossibly fast for a man of his age and dives off the pier into the harbor. Shocked to immobility, no one can react before his screams pierce the night as the flasher fish bring his long life to a terrible end.  

 

Sak-Tel-Ay

Agility: d10, Strength: d6, Vitality: d8, Alertness: d8, Intelligence: d8, Willpower: d8; Life Points 16; Initiative d10 + d8

Traits: Nature Lover (minor), Religiosity (Major), Sharp Sense: Sight (minor), Credo: Keep the Faith (minor), Deadly Enemy: Grik (minor), Prejudice (minor), Superstitious (minor)

Skills: Athletics d6, Covert d6, Discipline d6, Influence d6 / Persuasion d10, Knowledge d6 / Navigation d10 / Religion d10 / Sailing d8, Linguistics d6 / Latin d8, Perception d6 / Sight d8, Melee Weapon Combat d4, Survival d2, Unarmed Combat d2

 

Zealots

Agility: d10, Strength: d6, Vitality: d8, Alertness: d8, Intelligence: d8, Willpower: d8; Life Points 16; Initiative d10 + d8

Traits: Nature Lover (minor), Religiosity (minor), Sharp Sense: Vision (minor), Talented: Climbing (minor), Deadly Enemy: Grik (minor), Loyal (minor), Prejudice (minor), Superstitious (minor)

Skills: Athletics d6 / Climbing d8 / Dodge d8, Covert d6 / Stealth d10, Discipline d6 / Morale d10, Knowledge d6 / Sailing d8, Perception d6 / Sight d8, Melee Weapon Combat d6 / Scota d8, Survival d6, Unarmed Combat d6 / Brawling d8