Back/up After the ritual Pavis overall

The previous resident

Pavis swelters in Fire Season, and Siggyr swelters with it. A long, hot day is upon them, and having trained with the new recruits, attended an ad-hoc meeting of the Temple Council, visited Yodi, found a source of certain ritual supplies, conducted a punishment drill for Shrev, had a tense but illuminating discussion with Hengist, and explained to Aelfwyrd for the fortieth time this week that current Temple policy is to wait for Illig's command before storming the Governor's palace and throwing the Lunars out of Prax, Siggyr is finally heading back to digs for lunch. He walks upright, alert and energetic, buoyed by the morning's activity. Hrodar and Shrev trail at his heels, and Siggyr knows that if he turns suddenly he is likely to catch Shrev flipping him the bird. He doesn't turn around simply because he wants to eat lunch and whet his sword in the shade, not stand around all afternoon bawling at a baboon in the Sun.

Of course, to acknowledge this would be do admit to personal weaknesses and desires, so Siggyr is instead trying to calculate the optimum frequency for punishing Shrev: too little, and discipline is harmed; too much, and morale is harmed. A vexing problem indeed! The challenges of command!

Squaring his shoulders, the proud officer pushes his way through the crowded alleys towards the Riverside tenement that has become the VII Cohort's new lodgings. He notes with displeasure the sloppy attitude adopted by the day guard, slouched in the building's doorway like a bored drunk, but then remembers that the man is supposed to be unobtrusive - the Cohort is here incognito! - and grunts in approval. Clattering up the steps, Siggyr enters the main reception room and finds Hrolf, Dorinda, and several others lounging about. They make little attempt to stand and salute, and for once he does not begrudge it - it is simply too hot to stand up much longer.

Wyredd, with intuition carved from the oak of half a century's service, appears unsummoned from a door to take his master's cloak, hand him a glass of wine, inform him that a light lunch of bread, cheese and pickles will be served shortly, and comment that the last remains of the unfortunate previous resident have now been removed from the room's far corner. Siggyr barely listens, instead keeping his one eye on Hrolf, who is carefully cleaning and sharpening his swords.

Siggyr is fairly certain that Hrolf doesn't like him, and he's not sure he much likes or trusts the rotund Sartarite either. The man carries two
swords, for Humakt's sake - as if one wasn't enough! Siggyr has met plenty of these war-scarred Sartarite hill-billy Humakti in the last ten years. Taciturn men without learning, with hard stares that conceal desperate, painful stories of battling Lunars, betrayal, slain kin and sword-brothers. In his experience, the more weapons they carry the more likely they are to be paranoid psychopaths, capable of snapping at any instance and slaughtering thousands, following the Lord's Dark Path. Siggyr winces with relief as Wyredd unbuckles his longsword, and then himself removes the short sword hidden between his shoulder blades, the axe hung at his waist, the long knife in his boot, and the small throwing daggers secreted up either sleeve, handing them, one by one, to his servant to stack in the corner. But, he concedes, Hrolf has shown no sign of trouble - yet - it's just he doesn't like the way the man looks at him.

Out of the sun the day's harsh heat recedes. In fact, Siggyr thinks, it is rather cool - or even cold. At the same moment as he registers the look of surprise on Dorinda's face, staring at something behind him, there is a rush of otherworld cold, a swelling of Undeath. Slowly he turns to face the corner, where the insubstantial figure of a robed, bearded man is beginning to appear. Without thinking, Siggyr draws his belt knife, holding it by the blade to form an impromptu Death rune, but even in doing so realises the ghost poses no threat.

"Wyredd," he calls "I thought you said the previous resident had been entirely removed?"

Jamal and his followers are resting in a couple of rooms of their racid-billet, Abul sharpening the new sword that was his Bhar'vat present from Raus, and practicing his Carmanian verb conjugation to a half listening Abyad. Fulfold and Boltar are playing in some dice-game or other, and Elnor and Jakkanna engaged in some quiet but earnest discussion.

Jamal is in a light doze against the intensifying heat of the day.

Their repose is shattered by the sound of Seeker crashing into the room, in a state of agitation. Rather annoyingly, he seems to be immune to the soporific effect of the heat.

"Bull-man come quick, quick," he says. "Major spirit comes to your companions"

Although not yet used to his new vassal's ways, he obviously wouldn't act this way unless there was something serious occuring.

Quickly grabbing Bull-Spike, and yelling "Muster !!" to his followers, he crashes out of his small room, following Seeker.

He arrives in the room with the manifestation, followed by the rest of his retinue. As the rest of his group assemble he looks as Seeker and Jakkanna, the nearest he has to experts in such things.

Seeker is sniffing at the occurance earnestly, while Jakkanna peers at it with an air of professional detachment.

"Would you like to attempt a banishment?" she says, regarding Jamal.

Jamal shakes his head. "Let's see what's happening here first, before we step in."

Dori and her new Sage friend had been poring over a map, but as the figure starts to appear, Vindana jumps back, pulling a dagger. Dori merely raises an eyebrow, and waves aside Kristen's attempt to get between them and the non-threat.
"He's not dangerous. He's not carrying a pen."

"Yeah, very funny." The dagger vanishes back into Vindana's robes, and she does her best to look unconcerned.

"A sage, and presumably a local," Dori continues thoughtfully. "Anyone you know?"

"I am not in the habit of associating with dead people," Vindana begins, haughtily, then realises what she's just said, and in front of whom.

Dori just smiles. "When he was alive, maybe?"

Vindana eyes the apparition nervously, and from as far away as possible. "You're not suggesting I...?" She glances at Jakkanna, then moves firmly forwards - and stops, startled. "Solayo? I thought you were late back from that last trip."

"So you do know him?"

"Yeah." Vindana relaxes, a bit. "Thinks - thought - of himself as a map expert. Had some daft idea about getting some Orlanthi to fly him over bits of the Rubble, looking at foundations from above, or something silly like that. It never worked out. His sketching's lousy, for one thing."

The figure reaches towards Vindana, his mouth moving silently. He seems to be pleading for something.

Jakkanna looks questioningly at Jamal, who reads her intention and nods. The Spolite steps forward and starts to mouth to the apparition, apparently making no sound. She looks back at the others. "This ghost seems to have something he wants to communicate," she says.

Siggyr peers down at Jakkanna with something close to astonishment. "Really? You don't say? I thought he was trying to blow smoke rings. Thank Humakt we have an expert in the ways of the Dead with us!"

Behind the caustic Tarshite's back, Wyredd makes a placatory, palms up gesture towards Jamal. "Sir," he ventures in an even voice, "it is not unknown for Spolites to be able to communicate with the dead - I believe it is large part of their traditional customs. Your great-uncle had some interest in the practice when he journeyed in the West and I was in his service."

Siggyr knots his brow and turns back to the shade. "Hmmm. Yes, I recall. But I also recall there being something deeply unsavoury about it all. Jamal, if you vouch for this woman then by all means let her attempt it. If she fails, there is a young Issaries Dark Guide I met this afternoon who may be of some help. And if she tries anything funny, I think there are enough of us here to make her stop, in a pointed and final fashion."

Jamal looks at Siggyr with a mixture of extreme annoyance and embarrassment at his ill-judged attempts at sarcasm, probably the sort of look that Siggyr is well used to recieving.

"As your learned vassal correctly states, Jakkanna is Spolite, and as such they are as comfortable with the dead as with the living. But she is also a follower of Saint Abbassar of the Dry Bone, whose role in our society is to lay unquiet spirits to rest. As such they are in the forefront of the crusade against the Heresy. There is no trace of deceit upon her."

"Indeed," replies Jakkanna.

Siggyr shrugs casually, blithe about any offence he may have caused. "All the same to me - talk away." However, as the Standard Bearer turns away he can be heard muttering under his breath about ragamuffin foreigners cluttering up the VII Cohort.

He regards Jakkanna's preparations to negotiate with the spirit with an air of put-upon, but amused, tolerance.

She adjusts a disk of lead and bronze at her throat, and steps forward again, ignoring Siggyr and addressing Jamal as if he had been the only (live) person in the room. "It seems likely that the matter on which it wishes to communicate concerns whatever binds it here. In any case, I will endeavour to ascertain what that might be."

She turns to the ghost, mouths to it in silence again, and apparently listens to its equally silent replies.

Dori watches with continued detachment, apparently trying to lip-read the conversation. "Interesting," she murmurs. "I'd always wondered about Hu's Fifth Silence."
"What?" Vindana grabs at any distraction from her dead colleague.
"Hu's Fifth Silence - speech with the dead[1]. Or so I was told, years ago. I always wondered what it meant. Hrolf or Vastyr[2] would understand it a lot better, I expect."

Jakkanna steps back and returns her attention to Jamal. "What holds him here is an oath unfulfilled. A task entrusted to him, the results of which were never delivered to his patron. He asks for aid in fulfilling his oath, that he may rest in peace."

"Oh, yeah?" Vindana's usual cock-sure arrogance has returned, at least on the surface. "Very nice for him, given half the people here can banish him just like that". She snaps her fingers. "What's in it for us?"

Dori starts to remonstrate, but Jakkanna smiles thinly. "He seems to have been correct, then. He offers you the rest of his papers, once the ones concerned with this task have been delivered."

"Right!" A momentary eagerness and greed is hastily hidden by a sneer. "Probably rubbish, his research was always sloppy. But the temple'll want them back, anyway. That'll do."

"I'm sure I'm not the only Humakti present who would regard well any man who regards his oaths so seriously. It is our cult duty to help this soul find its rightful place in the world, regardless of any material reward. However, Vindana, if we are to help him, his papers will be a gift to Hereward's Temple, a gift appropriate to the exercise of his servants." Siggyr eyes Dorinda, "do you not agree, Raven?"

Something flickers in Dori's eyes at the use of that title, without the rather important word "acting" applied to it. "Indeed. I have nothing against the Library storing these papers afterwards, if we have no use for them, but we claim our reward first. Vindana, you came to me because you wanted protection from the various people you seem to have somehow managed to annoy. That protection has a price."

The sage subsides, looking rather shocked.

"Regardless. Jakkanna. Ask the wretch how we may satisfy his oath, sending him to the underworld and securing our undisputed sovereignty in this tenement. If we can help, we will - so long as doing so does not violate our pre-existing oaths and duties."

Jamal nods at Siggyr's request. "Get what you can out of him Jakkanna, also I'd like to know what he was looking for for his employer that caused him to reach his current state. And also if there is anything in his papers that may be of help to the Legion"

He turns to Seeker speaking quietly, "You see spirits don't you. Can you tell if this spirit has any malign intent?"

Jakkanna nods and turns back to the ghost. More of the silent conversation follows - it's remarkable how fast one can find the company of a ghost in one's quarters turning from horrifying to surprising to merely boring.

Seeker moves towards this spirit and reaches into his medicine bundle, scattering a little dust on the ground around the apparition. He then
raises his sword, forming a Death rune towards the ghost. He then starts chanting in a low sotto-voce for a couple of minutes. Abruptly he stops, sniffs the air, then looks back at Jamal, apparently satisfied. "This not bad Spirit, strange yes....not bad no."

Finally, after some gesticulation towards the window on the part of the ghost, Jakkanna turns back to Jamal. "He declines to say quite what he was asked to research, since confidentiality was part of the agreement. But his patron was Duke Raus."

Siggyr frowns slightly, but doesn't interrupt.

"All his papers are stored, he says, behind a loose brick in the wall. In the outside wall, which is at least an interesting innovation, and
possibly the reason why his killers - Lunar soldiers, incidentally - did not find them. The document we are asked to deliver is sealed - the rest in his store are partially completed maps of various areas of the Old City as it may have been in its heyday."

Siggyr looks slowly at Dorinda and Jamal. The maps are obviously valuable, and precisely the sort of intelligence that will help the legion in
establishing a new headquarters. Dori may be trying to play poker-faced, but she is obviously interested in the prospect. The value of the reward is not the problem - the question is whether the legion should be assisting Duke Raus, a Lunar aristocrat - an exiled one, to be sure, but still....

Yet Lunar soldiers were willing to kill for the documents, and Jamal appears to have established some kind of relationship with the man over the boy Abul, and what, exactly, is Siggyr, if not an exiled aristocrat from the Empire?

"Jamal," says Siggyr. "You have spoken with Raus. Do you think he is our enemy, or may become our friend? If we aid him there is the risk we may hurt ourselves, but if you vouch for him I am inclined to agree to the ghost's wishes."

Jamal looks thoughtful at Jakkanna's report. "From our meeting, I would say that the Duke is a complex man, who has his own agenda. He has made enemies to be sure, but they seem to be the 'right' sort of enemies."

He shudders slightly at the thought of falling foul of the Taloned Countess of Spol, maybe that's why he was so keen to offload Jakkanna on him...

"He has treated Abul well, and that counts as a positive. I would say that he is a honourable but ambitious man, and his motives should be
treated as such."

"Besides, if the Lunars want these papers so much, it might be in our best interests to deny them..."

Siggyr considers this. "Well, we both know there are Lunars and there are Lunars. My guess is that the document is something damaging to the present administration, which Raus wishes to use for his own ends. Nevertheless, it is our duty to help this ghost achieve rest if we can, and the maps he offers in reward may prove more benefit than any harm we may suffer from aiding Raus - who may himself, of course, be indebted to us."

Looking around at all present to check there are no dissenters, Siggyr turns back to Jakanna and the shade. "Very well. Tell the scholar's ghost he has our oath to deliver the document to Duke Raus, and so help him rest. Ask him precisely where it may be found."

"Lean out of the window into the courtyard, sixth brick down from the left-hand edge, I'm told." She walks over there, seats herself on the sill and reaches down. "Ah. Of course, he was a tall man. But if I'm right... yes, the hollow behind that brick will be just below the floorboards."

The senior officers of the VII cohort carefully spread out the documents.

"Dorinda, take these maps for now. Have a look at them with Vindana. Try to find out what and where they might be, and prepare a report on any likely candidates for a good Temple base in the Old City. Meanwhile, I suppose Jamal and I would best be off to deliver this package to Lord Raus."

Dorinda and Vindana are already doing just that - a first pass through the various maps and sketches, working out what shows what area, where they can identify them. Most seem to show the more thoroughly ruined areas of the Rubble, with few landmarks by which they can be identified. When Dori asks why, Vindana explains that Solayo had a theory that by looking at ruins from above, the lines of old walls, now buried, could be seen. She doesn't seem to be very impressed by the theory.

And then....

"That's the area south of the Real City. Pavis Temple marked on the north edge, road from Wyvern Gate along the bottom right hand edge."

"And what's that? I thought that area near the road had been flattened?"

"It had - someone didn't want any ambush sites near the road. Must be one of these wall foundation things Solayo was so keen on."

"But it's shaped like a Death rune!"

[1] Don't bother trying to find references, I just made it up.
[2] I believe they're the two local Hu devotees?
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