- The Fa’Galasiim family’s plot to marry Gayda to Gaeus Jains has been uncovered by a rival prince, Gariim Fa’Ossess who has somehow quickly taken control of the Fa’Galasiim stronghold of Shesai.
- Abbas’ Galasiim’s three daughters are to be executed, although it seems the heroes have rescued them.
- Gariim Fa’Ossess has brought with him a significant detachment from the 53rd Legion.
By Imperial law, no military force larger than a village militia can be maintained within the Kretzera Empire, other than the Legions. The Legions generally rotate duties in a tradition meant to foster loyalty to the empire as a whole. The Desert Princes, however, have managed to keep several Legions effectively permanently stationed in the south, however, and have infused them with dessert culture. When the Empire called on nearly every Legion to defend Held, only the 69th Legion in Kerizatz responded. Now the princes have control of the southern Legions and are using them to affect their rebellion.
The noble who was teleported away was most likely Gariim Fa’Ossess or one of his sons and its’ likely that they would dispatch a force of rebel legionnaires to deal with the interlopers. Litters are made for the two surviving daughters and then the group moves north through the jungle, hoping to avoid any forces arriving from the east. The fashion a shelter from loose rocks and fallen branches to hide in for the day. It’s not especially convincing though, so Dinesh leaves to scout the area and see if they’re being pursued. As it turns out, they are. But it isn’t members of the 53rd. Instead, it’s a large group of desert raiders, much faster moving and likely better at tracking than legionnaires. Their presence this far into the Garden of Life means they must be working with Fa’Ossess, as otherwise their type would be violently repulsed from the Garden. They are moving in small groups, moving quickly, but also obviously wary of the unfamiliar terrain. It’s hard to be sure, but Dinesh thinks the force is about 50 strong.
Wanting to warn the others, Dinesh leaves his vantage point, but on the way back in runs into the back of a five-man group of raiders who take him captive. He tries to convince them that he’s from a nearby village, so they lead him to it. The woman who opens the slat in the palisade obviously doesn’t recognize Dinesh, so he teleports through the palisade and makes a break for it. The raiders force the villagers to let them in and then pursue Dinesh over the next wall. Once back in the jungle, Dinesh uses his Vogati Skirmisher’s Boots to put on a burst of speed and take cover under some roots, letting the raiders pass. Once they’re gone, he makes his way back to the others.
The discussion about what should be done next in suddenly interrupted by the raiders, who apparently managed to follow Dinesh back. Their leader is the infamous Vratas, who is called the Blade Storm by the smallfolk. Backed by a score of raiders, the odds are grim. Strangely, however, Vratas apparently cannot see them. Confused and angry, he and several of his men enter the hideout and destroy it looking for secret boltholes while the heroes do their best to stay out of the way. Giving up, Vratas commands his men to continue their search in the immediate area. Mystified and unwilling to press their luck, the heroes leave their ruined hideout and make haste for the village that Dinesh found. At the gates, Fishbone does an amazing job of convincing the villagers to help them, pointing out the two helpless girls who need healing desperately.
The villagers take their boots and create a false trail to a nearby creek while one of the village’s man, Adan, talks to them. In the end, the group leaves Gayda and Felanna to be tended in the village, while they take Qi’s body in the hopes of finding a priest in Shesai who can return her to life. The villagers, for their part, are not particularly loyal to any prince, but will keep the princesses safe as well as they can. And as far as they know, the only man nearby holy enough to perform the miracle Qi needs is a priest of Maithus named Kherka.
Crossing the O’quoiir River proves less difficult than they had feared. When a ferry from Shesai crosses to pick up a caravan of fruit-sellers, Fishbone veils them as members of Vratas’ band and board the ferry. Once in the walled city, they head through the Beggar’s Shore to the temple of Maithus, but are turned away by legionnaires guarding it. Legionnaires denying access to a temple to anyone, even bandits, is a bit strange, but the heroes don’t want to start any fights yet. They retreat to the slums as the veil wears off. They spend of the rest of the day gathering information. If the rumors can be believed, Abbas’ brother Salar betrayed the family to the other Dessert Princes. Gariim has imprisoned Abbas, executed his daughters, and has sent men to hunt down his only son, though no one can say where he is. The Fa’Galasiim palace is build on massive wooden supports, suspending it over a massive limestone cave teeming with Kell’Vin. Gaining access to it might not be especially hard with Fishbone’s magic, but once inside any attempt at attacking Gariim or freeing Abbas would need to contend with several hundred rebel legionnaires. With few people in the city having any real loyalty to the Fa’Galasiim, the only chance for powerful allies lies in the criminal underworld. Dinesh learns that in order to make contacts in those circles, they should visit the Red Storm.
The Red Storm is an establishment in the Lake of Tears district. It is guarded by street toughs and eyed warily by legionnaires. After an hour of careful observation, it is apparent that a few families have entered the establishment with a large ceramic urn and left missing a family member. This is worrying, but the group decides to purchase such a vessel and investigate. They enter to find the establishment to be somewhat of an opium den, constructed with many pillars and alcoves that make it impossible to see much of it from any one point. They are met by a host who explains to them that Grael the Merciful offers a service whereby for a small offering, he will transmute the body of one who is willing into life-giving water for their loved ones. Apparently, for the desperately poor, this is seen as quite the service for those who have fallen on particularly hard times or those who have lived past their years. The heroes ask to meet Grael, a very polite, older Kemerai dressed in pure white robes. He is quite happy to answer questions and proves that he is no fraud by transmuting a small part of Goreman’s finger into water, an uncomfortable, but painless effect.
After conferring back in the main room, Fishbone goes back to see Grael again and ask him directly about helping in rescuing Abbas. Grael has expected that someone would approach him about this, but is surprised to learn that it is Imperials. He has no problem with helping northerners, but will need some sort of payment. Fishbone’s mention of Imperial coffers after the war does little to sway Grael as he suspects collecting from the Imperials will prove impossible. He can get a group into and possibly out of the palace, but he will need payment up front. The group is left to decide what to do.