Episode Thirty Five - The Widow Amala
Episode Thirty Five – The Widow Amala (Level 14)
*In the sewer-den of Fat Tabo, an exploitative leader of a gang of child-theives, Darius sneaks up behind the abusive villain and knocks him out. He rescues the goliath boy Patch, whom Tabo has chained in cold seawater in a pit, and is threatening with death by man-eating slimes, unless Patch’s friend Lynx can bring in more valuables by dawn. Lynx is another Lyda look-alike, only a child. Darius chains Tabo in the pit in Patch’s place. He calms the children, assuring them he is a friend. He gives first aid to Tabo’s prisoner, an Avaan named Kademi, who was poisoned and captured while trying to help these children. Darius hauls him out into the main sewer network, leaving him momentarily with the kids. Then, he goes back in, wakes up Fat Tabo, makes sure he can’t escape the chains, secures the grate over the pit, and releases the man-eating slimes into the pit with him. Although he doesn’t stay to watch, the man’s screams echo after him as Darius shuts the door on the sewer-den for the last time. Both he and Kademi are poisoned from Tabo’s door-spike, and they need an antidote. Lynx offers to take him to Tabo’s supplier in the market, but that man is known mafia, and won’t be there for hours. Now that Kademi knows Darius is a trusted friend of the Avans, he offers to get them both cured at the enclave a few hours march into the jungle. Kademi is near death, and the local mafia will show up soon for their appointment to buy him from Fat Tabo, so they leave immediately. Darius follows the sewer network out of the city, carrying the larger man and keeping the kids safe. Kademi is muscular and heavy, and it’s hard going, especially when they hit the jungle.
*In the jungle, they pass by several mutilated corpses in various stages of decomposition, evidence of the cannibal who has been attacking travelers south of the city. Hours into in the Holthirien jungle, behind a waterfall, the Avan war-enclave Sirigoma is led by Abbess Zalika Dhambizao, Abasi’s mother. She welcomes Darius as a friend of the order, thanks him for saving Kademi and the children, and offers him whatever resources or support her group can provide. This is an enclave of warrior-operatives, but they have a portal, and can send the nine children to an enclave with an orphanage, and Queen Linwë to Ambassador Losoran’s hidden Avan camp. She explains that the cannibal was them at first, a ruse to keep away enemies, mutilating the bodies of enemies they had to kill anyway, and spreading rumors. But when other bodies started appearing, they stopped the practice. Now, none of the half-eaten bodies in the jungle are their doing. Someone or something else has taken over the role of “the jungle cannibal.”
*Without mentioning a name or details, Darius tells the Abbess of a local (Amala) who needs their help, a lone convert to their order in a city hostile to the Jharric faiths. Abbess Dhambizao asks him to bring “the poor young woman” to a camp they maintain nearby, where she can live for a time under their protection until they are certain they can trust her.
*Darius questions Lynx, the young girl who appears to be another “copy” of Lyda, on her origins. She tells him that Patch, a young goliath boy, was born locally as a slave. His mother found her outside their home, in the middle of the street, a naked infant who just seemed to appear out of thin air, ten years ago. She was raised secretly with the slaves as a sister to Patch, but when the masters discovered her, she was thrown out, and Patch ran away and went with her. The two have been on the streets for over a year, and fell in with Fat Tabo’s exploitative gang of child-pickpockets. Knowing another “copy”, Linna, showed up naked and without memories in the jungles of Telgard 60 years ago, this raises interesting questions about Darius’ lost love of, who also looked exactly like Lyda. (Was she adopted, fourty-some years ago? Was she another copy? And why was there a copy of Ichtaca in Telgard, 60 years ago; one who knew his past, and seemed to have been very much an older version of himself, before he was reportedly devoured by an aberrant monster?)
*Cured of the poison, but troubled by thoughts of his lost love, Darius is escorted back to near the city walls by Kademi and a group of enthusiastic young Avan warriors, masters of the dance-like Arrochulean martial art Capo. He sneaks into town and reunites with his new lover Amala, anxious to tell her that the orphans are saved, the stolen purse recovered, and, not least, that she can finally be united with others of her lost order. Excited to have him take her there as soon as possible, Amala delays to kiss him passionately and try to lead him upstairs. Something about her is nagging at him, though. What is it?
*The others wake up late, unable to head out into town and deal with business until well after noon, due to potion-related mishaps with Ichtaca and Tobias. Tobias, unable to keep his promise to accompany Viln to the jungle ruins of Kuharibifu, sends a note to the Chorrom, assuring him that he will join him at his camp there in a day or two, with some of his adventurous friends. Catzin, meanwhile, is set to “babysit” the five small, unshielded fallen-stars the party has, flying far each day in the wilderness around the city, making sure they don’t remain in the same place for more than 24 hours, lest they attract one of Maruma’e’s dragons or worse.
*Unable to easily communicate with Darius because he is out of range, but with no reason for alarm, Tobias, Ichtaca, Vash, Carmenith, and Lyda spend a few hours looking for Abasi’s family, so they can tell them how he died. Vash is a wanted escaped slave now, but he comes with them, deeply cloaked. They are directed to the smithy in the rich south side of town, and, on the way there, they put the pieces together. Amala is the widow of Abasi, the daemon woman masquerading as a human, who used him to learn and then betray his allies. Abasi was secret-sworn, and in the years she spent married to him, she learned the locations of an Avan enclave in the city, a hidden Jharric community in the jungle, two secret Jharethil cities, and the identities of every Avan operative in the city of Dulunum at that time. She sold their locations to the Eithalim ten years ago, causing a slaughter, and is thus responsible for the deaths of about 160,000 people, that they know of. Abasi was made a Ravari for this, although he has atoned for his mistake, with his heroic death.
*Tobias telepathically contacts Darius, who is in the hallway with his shirt unbuttoned, kissing Amala. It’s an interesting conversation, as they realize whom he’s with right as he realizes whom they are seeking. They are let in by the butler as they talk, just in time to find Darius in that compromising position with the lovely widow, who has no idea that her identity is compromised.
*Amala welomes the newcomers, and tries to take advantage of them immediately. She tells them her “sweet old mother-in-law,” lives alone in a cabin out in the jungle, and sends her a letter every week, but this week’s letter didn’t arrive this morning. Can they go out and take a look? Better yet, escort her out there and help her look? She’s so afraid of the cannibal! Knowing the truth, the party intuits that she actually seeks Zalika Dhambizaou and the Avan enclave, but that she can’t find it or penetrate the defenses on her own. She wants them to help her do this, so she can sell them out.
*Along with two of Amala’s personal guards, the party escorts the widow, in her carriage, through the jungle, in the general direction of the Avan enclave, along the same road that leads to the ruins of Kuharibifu. She doesn’t know exactly where ‘the cabin’ is, because ‘the jungle’s just gotten so overgrown and confusing!’ They come across another half-eaten body, and Lyda stops to examine it, and determines that although the bites look humanoid, they are far too large to be human, healthfolk, or even a goliath.
*Amala leads them as far as she can, still trying to deceive and manipulate them into finding the Avans for her. Darius is furious, and determined to force Amala into revealing her true daemonic self with a pair of manacles of true form. As the others “search” the jungle, he leads Amala off, followed by Tobias and Ichtaca, silent, stealthy witnesses. Darius easily seduces the daemon widow, and, in the process of their tryst, handcuffs her to a sturdy root, revealing her true form, a succubus-like daemon with leathery wings, glowing skin, and eyes like lightning.
*Caught out and trapped, unable to teleport away, Amala screams and rants in rage, refusing to give them any information. Tobias takes another step towards the tactics of Dythan Mathis. He forces his way into her mind, battering aside her mental defenses with difficulty. Then he strips the information he needs out of her, causing terrible pain as he does so. He learns that when she was a child, the exarch Burath came to her, a dark herald to tutor her in the ways of Daemoth’s will. She has been his faithful servant ever since, and a terribly successful one. Tobias also learns that she keeps an enchanted handmirror in her home, with which she communicates and sets rondevues with her contacts in the Eithalim, the Illiantros, and others who pay well to acquire information for the glory of Daemoth. He sees clearly in her mind the lack of regret she feels for all the deaths she’s caused, both directly and indirectly. As soon as he is done with her, Ichaca executes her with his axe.
*The party arrange Amala’s body carefully, along with the rest of them, feigning death. Vash conjures blood and casts an illusion over them all, making them appear to be the latest victims of the Cannibal. Then Darius, in his wrinkled, hideous true form, charges at Amala’s guards on the carriage taking on the role of the killer. The guards flee for their lives, returning to the city with their tale of horror
*The heroes hurry in their wake, sneaking into the city, where they sneak past Amala’s servants, and loot her estate. They find the mirror and some jewelry along with a safe full of money and bank documents. Darius takes on her form and goes to the bank, where he withdraws the contents of her accounts. He is followed by two burly heathfolk from the bank, but he easily eludes them.
*While Darius is busy, Linwe plys her charms again on Ichtaca, hoping to manipulate him into letting her do whatever she wants instead of going into seclusion with the Avans as Darius wishes for her. Ichtaca sees right through her, but willingly accepts her continued dalliance. At the same time, a trio of hooded men approach the Harlequin, asking for Tobias. He greets them, acceding to their request to speak with him privately onboard. He asks Vash to hide himself nearby, in case of trouble. The leader, Rilone, dances around his topic, hinting that he hopes the man who was arrested for witchcraft really is a witch, and comfortale wtih magic, and those who use it. He wishes passage for himself and his order on the Harlequin, to the Norlythe, in time for a lesser conjunction of stars in three months time, no questions asked.
*Tobias questions the elusive Rilone, and although the man claims only to be a leader of a religious order who worship the stars, the psion figures out that he is a member of the Starborn. Rilone is impressed by the professorial knowledge of astronomy that Tobias demonstrates, but refuses to confirm such a claim, or divulge any more information. Believing Darius will be pleased with him, and without consulting the others, Tobias offers Rilone and his 50 acolytes passage on the Harlequin, asking them to show up in two week’s time, with double the going rate of passage. Darius is furious. He’s sure this is a deadly mistake, and Tobias disagrees. The two quarrel, and Darius punches Tobias, breaking his jaw. When Lyda comes to heal him, Tobias claims he fell. Tension bubbles between Darius and Tobias, but there is work to do.
*The group go now with Darius to the Avan enclave, and spend time with Abasi’s mother, Abbess Dhambizao. Although a projection of his spirit came to her after his death, he was unable to say anthing to her or stay more than a moment, due to interference from the worldfire. The friends are now able to tell his mother how he died heroically to save their lives. That done, they wait for nightfall, and set out to hunt the Cannibal.
*Darius realizes that he can now fully see in the dark, another benefit of his connection with Catzin. Instead of letting the connection fade, he has been focusing on it, strengthening it, and it is granting him some shadow-powers. No mater where the exotic Jharu vampire assassin is, he can sense her direction. When she is close, he can feel her heart beating, hear her breathing. The spirit graft she gave him seems to have taken, although she seems unaffected.
*On the late-night Cannibal hunt, Ichtaca acts as bait. He sets his tattoo aglow, walking along blithely through the jungle, with only snowball by his side. The others spread out around him, silent and hidden, and the group track the Cannibal. The trail leads them deep into the jungle, to the ruins where the Chorrom and his entourage are camped; the ruins of Kuharibifu. A huge demon rises up out of the rubble near the ruins, crunching on human bones. He attacks, and the party defeat him quickly, then retreat into the jungle before the Chorrom and his guards come running to investigate the noise. They watch as the leader of the Etholchan church treats the demon with honor, arranging the great body, consecrating it and laying it to rest with prayers and ritual runes all around.
*They head back to the Avan enclave for the night, some four hours back towards the city, which is six hours back.
*Amala’s safe contained her identification documents, her checkbook, and 3,000 gp in cash.
*They also found four stones much like the teleportation stones Jennish made, and recovered her enchanted handmirror. Its a communication device, used to arrange rondevues. Tobias has the incantations and names needed to use it, he stripped them from Amala’s mind.
*The bank withdrawal yielded 50,000 gp worth of local currency, in a leather satchel.