The party again mounted their camels and joined a caravan headed southeast through Tajjib to the city of Pao. The trip was long but relatively uneventful. Lions, rhinos, and dikdiks were seen. A survivor of a bandit attack was picked up, one Regili Anslan by name. Evan killed a skunk that wandered near camp, and forced the camp to move in the wee hours of the morning.
One night on watch, a Droad seized control of Lizbetta and one of the caravan guards and began walking them back to his lair. Another guard came out and tried to stop Lizbetta, and she cut off his left arm for his troubles. Then Augeise tried the same thing, and went down with a cut foot. Finally, Kenshin wrestled her to a halt and held her until she came to her senses. By then the Droad had returned to its lair with its latest prize, and the party advised the caravan leader not to attempt a rescue. He agreed, and they decamped and fled east.
On the last day of the journey, a rider was seen heading west on top speed on a Nightmare. Then the great wizard-shaped walls of Pao came into sight. The caravan halted at the tent city of Respite outside the gate, the Ligan settlement derisively called Goggle City by the Paoji.
Deeply guilty, Lizbetta led the party inside the walls to find a Restorer to heal the guard she had mutilated. They found Paoren (the true name of the city) to be deeply divided between rich and poor. Many guards protected the neighborhood of Hightown, and a good number also protected the Merchant’s Quarter, but there were few patrols in Midtown and almost none in the Docks. Augeise clutched his bags of coins and thereby made himself for the thieves that abounded in the city. A gang of fifteen youths made away with his smallest bag, which they thought might contain jewels. It only held a few silver coins. A more desperate man tried to wrestle away his huge bag of pence, but failed miserably as Augeise pushed him to the ground. The guards took him away and the party later saw him outside the walls in a slave coffle headed for Ordi.
None of the characters could speak Pao beyond asking for food and bathroom, so they resorted to Eskrendi, which Augeise and Evan spoke poorly but functionally. Pao had long ago been founded by Eskrendi exiles, and it still retained not only links to that culture but also trade relations that had been re-established over the centuries. Indeed, there were enclosures of Eskrendi mercantile interests in the city, to which the party would later be directed when they went in search of a translator.
They spoke to an apprentice at the King’s Fixers, a Sorceror’s covenant in the Merchant’s Quarter, and she pointed them towards the Awakenings, a covenant of Restorers housed in the Palace Grounds. The party made it past the gate guard into the Palace Grounds but when they inquired as to the location of the Awakenings, the ranger they asked brought them instead to the barracks, where a Knight Protector who spoke passable Eskrendi questioned them. When it became clear they were on a mission of mercy, he allowed them to continue and the ranger escorted them to the Awakenings. There were two masters in residence. Neither would have anything to do with the Ligan but Baldwine She, a soft-hearted journeyman went with them, albeit with six guards who surrounded him. Lizbetta paid him 12,000 p. for his services before he left. He successfully restored the arm, which would regrow over the next three days. He suggested alcohol or Body Controlt to control the pain, and returned to his home.
At this point, the party sought an inn and were directed to The Stinking Fish, which they found to be one of the finest in the city. Perhaps something was lost in translation? They ate a fine meal but the inn was full so they went across the square to The Guard Lizard, which showed a vicious lizard standing on its back feet, each of which featured a long curved blade. These lizards, they learned, as well as much larger beasts, roamed the jungle of Kimmhay. Most of the world had been taken over by Terran creatures, but in Kimmhay, little had changed since the time of the Seveysas.
The inn was again a fine one, and they took two rooms. The food there was even better than at The Stinking Fish, but so expensive the party resolved to eat mostly at the food stands in the market as they had limited funds. Kenshin continued to borrow money from Augeise.
The next day, they found a translator at one of the Eskrendi compounds. Sucheta Kikuju was large, strong, and lean, with long earlobes, hooded dark brown eyes and very short straight fine black hair. Dressed in fresh blue & yellow intricately embroidered fine linen clothing, she spoke not only Old Imperial, but also Eskrendi and Pao.
With her guidance, they also hired four guards to keep the thieves at bay and then went to the house of the Gazers of Infinity, a covenant of Seers in Hightown. They paid one of the masters to send a telepathic message to Strnad in Deybadon:
“Greetings! Saviors of dragons here! Have arrived in Pao. Near Khim-Hay, but have lost heroic, dead spiritologist Brennett. This is Kenshin, hero of Deybadon. How much time do we have until dragons are all dead? Need to train new spiritoligists, and all the locals are weenies.”
The message was sent successfully, but it did little to build good feelings locally. Fortunately, the Seers maintain a high level of confidentiality in such messages. Waiting for a reply in the inn, Sucheta relayed some of the rumors heard there:
- The Malanga and Mongbwandi families are the oldest of the crime families still around.
- There was a customer who treated the King’s Fixers poorly after being healed. He was buried under a pile of Roc poo the next day.
- A ghost haunts the docks. People who go out at night there are sometimes never seen again.
- The Fifth Street Gang is looking for a mage who has been using a spirit to steal in their territory.
Sucheta also has shown a disquieting affinity for booze, and often drinks too much. In other respects, however, she is a skilled and valuable translator.