Atum-Ra Ascendant

The Cult Conundrum: Part Two

The investigation begins.

After leaving their audience the Corrac the party mulls over their options in how to proceed tracking down this cult. They consider borrowing a caravan from someone and trying to temp the cult into attacking it and then following them back to their encampment. They also consider trying to appear as eager converts looking to join a cult-like organization. Finally they settle on talking to locals and seeing what they can find out. After receiving a few vague fourth or fifth hand clues they eventually hear of a talkative barkeeper at The Bitter Bit who seems like he may have some information. The party makes it’s way to the Bitter Bit and after ordering a few ale’s and a bit of awkward attempts at small talk by Bug Man Todd (coupled with a very ill-advised disguise) they eventually learn from the barkeep that one of the cult’s most locally visible spokesmen is Yanech The Poor who can often be found preaching in Dry Well Square, deep in the east quarter of Ut-Ramet. The barkeep does not seem to have a very high opinion of Yanech though saying “Ya, I hearda him. Heard he hangs around Dry Well Square most days. Heard he’s just some sun-addled swindler, talking good people outa their hard earned bits and given ’em not much in return.”

The party heads to Dry Well Square to find out more about Yanech. Upon arriving they find a medium sized square with many run-down stalls and old buildings in various states of disrepair. The square is fairly packed with people, many of which are sitting around what looks to be a hastily erected stage at the far end of the square from where the party entered. Around the crowd sitting there are also a large number of people who look and sound less eager for the appearance of Yanech. The party overhears a number of conversations centered around how Yanech is a swindler and a fraud. After a few minutes an older man takes the stage. The man, presumably Yanech, although older appears quite healthy and strong. He wears his hair in a tonsure and is dressed in a white robe with yellow sash wrapped around his shoulders and waist, both appear to have seen better days. Yanech followed by four younger men all similarly dressed. After a smattering of applause (and the occasional derisive cry) die down Yanech begins speaking to the crowd. During his oration Yanech expound’s on the virtues of co-operation and grace. He implores those listening to share with and provide for their neighbours just as Athas and someting he calls the Life Tree provides for it’s worshipers. Some in the crowd seem unconvinced, and walk away, a few giving voice to their derision. Others though sit at his feet, enchanted. When he finally finishes assistants come forward and hand out fruit to those who have stayed and listened. As they make their way past the party they various fruits into their hands. The fruit appears ripe and healthy, far better than any fruit the party has seen in the city before. Most of the party partake of the fruit they were given finding it delicious and filling. Flint (aka Hairy McShifter) though distrusts Yanech and gives his fruit to the nearest waif. While the party is considering what they heard and the strangely excellent fruit a commotion breaks out near them. An elderly man is suddenly crying out “I can see! I can see!”. A crowd forms around him with people excitedly talking and trying to get a look at the man. A young woman worms her way out of the crowd and excitedly tells those around her that the man says he has been blind since birth but after eating the fruit from the fruit he can see. The party makes it’s way to the man and questions him for a few minutes about his condition before and after eating the fruit and what he knows about miracles happening at Yanech’s gatherings. They suspect that the old man is a plant there to spur belief in Yanech and the Life Tree he refers to, but the old man appears so genuine that they are unsure. The party then makes their way over to Yanech himself, near the stage to talk to him. They speak about a number of things, asking about the fruit, the Life Tree, his work in Ramet and the nature of the miracles he has seen happen. Throughout their conversation they get the feeling that Yanech is not telling them everything. They try to get Yanech to allow them to assist him in his work which he is only to willing to allow saying their is much work to be done in Ramet from feeding the poor, to helping rebuild homes. This is not quite what they were looking for as they want to track down this Life Tree and his encampment outside the city but he is reluctant to take them there saying only that in time perhaps they could come with him once his work in Ramet was complete. As they are speaking with Yanech they notice his assistants moving through the crowd with baskets, collecting donations.

Before they can speak any further with Yanech a scream goes up from the far end of the square, the party turns to see Ut-Sekar flooding into the square from every street and alleyway. A man who appears to be a Sergeant or captain is exclaiming “This is an un-authorized gathering of more than 10 persons and as such you are ordered to disband and return to your homes and/or places of business immediately.” The ut-sekar around him begin laying into those gathered around them with their truncheons and the crowd begins to scream and run from them. The party is momentarily stunned and can only watch the brutality. In short order a few Ut-Sekar have worked their way through the crowd and have the party surrounded against the stage. After trading a few blows with them the party decides the situation is hopeless since there are so many Ut-Sekar (as well as not wanting to actually kill any agents of the Farrach as they are working for the same person and towards the same goal even through the Ut-Sekar have no knowledge of them or their mission). The party retreats onto the stage and Yanech calls for them to follow him, he heads to the back of the stage and through a door in the building the stage was built against. Yanech leads them down a twisting and confusing series of alleys and side streets. He sets a fast pace for such an old man, but as they noted before he appears to be in exceptional shape for his age. They catch the occasional glimpse of ut-sekar in pursuit, or hear their shouts in neigbouring streets and alleys. Eventually Yanech leads them through a small door, into a ramshackle building. He leads them through hallways and rooms until you reach a stone wall, out of place with the rest of the brick and wooden structure. He searches the wall for a moment with his fingers, you hear a click, and part of the wall springs forward an inch or two. Yanech pulls on this section and it pivots easily outwards. Through the man-sized hole in the wall the party can see a stone hallway and on the other side stands a man bearing a torch. “I heard there might be trouble today, figured I should be expecting you.”, he says. Yanech grins and the two men shake hands. Yanech replies “Trouble always comes eventually, I am surprised it took them so long this time.”. “I see you picked up some more straglers.” the stranger says. He suddenly starts in recognition when he gets a better look at the party “Well, I know you, or some of you at least. Todd if I remember right. Where are the rest of your friends?”. Todd recognizes this man as Suldan, now blade master of the arena whom he first met during the festival of absolutions gladiatorial games.

Suldan takes the group to one of the gladiator training prepatory rooms. The arena appears practically deserted, Suldan explains that on days when there are no games not many people are required to keep the arena.

Yanech explains it will be dangerous for the group in the city for the next while and that perhaps they should accompany him out of the city, they can stay with him for a few weeks at his groups encampment.

The party puts their heads together and decides to get a message to Zuldan at the Jarresh Consortium to see if he can secret them out of the city in a wagon. The next morning a wagon arrives from the Jarresh Consortium to carry them to safety. As they are leaving to get on the wagon the party sees a mysterious visitor arrive at the same time. Is this just a coincidence? Did this person arrive with the wagon? There is no time to find out more as they quickly mount the wagon and leave the city. They do not encounter any problems leaving the city as the guards on the city gates are more interested in people entering the city than leaving it. During the weeks long journey to Yanechs encampment the party is ambushed by a rag tag group of raiders. Instead of killing them the party takes pity on them and their miserable state, giving them fruit from the Life Tree and inviting them to journey with them. The raiders agree warily and the party soon learns the raiders are the Oben Brothers (Choben, Roben, Doben, Koben, Soben, Yoben and Floben), a rag tag group of half breeds each with their own sad tale to tell.

The party finally reaches Yanech’s “encampment” to find a marvelous sight. A wood and brick wall surrounds a rather large encampment consisting of a few permanent structures made of brick and stone and a very large number of tents. The most amazing sight though is great and massive tree that spreads it branches high over the entire area. The tree is truly massive, larger than anything they could have ever imagined. The tree itself is easily as large as the palace in Ramet if not larger with uncounted branches. Fruit of every kind seems to grow from these branches and as the party gets closer they can see that people scurry about high in the tree lowering down baskets of fruit on long ropes. Once the party gains entrance to the encampment Yanech finds a place for the Oben brothers he invites the party to stay in his tent while he speaks with the elders about their presence.

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bscarbeau

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