Kai Leng nudges his fellow party. “Did you hear that? There’s nothing you should be hearing animals.”
“Kai Leng, did you sleep?” Con Rua asks. Frogs ribbit around the boat.
“It’s so quiet. Don’t you see it? There are no animal sounds.” Just as he says it, a bird passes by, loudly cawing.
Worried, Mu hits him over the head with an oar so that he would “fall asleep”. Kai Leng falls over with no issue. Squiggy pops out, worried.
Mu and Rohan study. Dyuang takes point and also takes up rowing. He hears rustling. Enemies? “Who is there, man or beast?” he shouts, in the Trade tongue.
A voice speaks back, a heavily broken accent: “Territory”, “Alon tribe”, “trespass”.
Dyuang rushes back to grab Mu, who cries out to the tribe that she is a friend and a member of the tribe. They ask her her mother’s name. Mu replies. “When was the last time you were at the tribe? Have you sworn allegiance to the Nipan tribe?” “What, no! Why would I defect from my mother’s tribe?” “She died three months ago!” they tell her.
They arrive at the village. “You have not been here for a while, little girl,” a wizened old man tells her. Together, they talk. Apparently there was a misunderstanding; Mu’s mother was still alive and well.
The elder sprinkles Rohan and Dyuang with salt and gives them a garland of garlic. “And you must also hold an apple all the while,” he says.
“It is bad timing that you have. Another tribe has engaged war with us, because they do not agree with our culinary tastes. Our cannibalistic tendencies are our treasured cultural heritage.” the elder adds.
Mu leaves the party to visit her mother.
While Mu speaks with her mother, the Elder takes Rohan and Dyuang to an aromatic massage parlor. The Alon tribesmen carefully rub in herbs into their skin, making sure to really baste their nooks and crannies. Rohan, panicking, conspicuously mentions that he is a priest of a God. The tribesmen respond that they are actually familiar with Con Rua. “Oh! Wow. Is there a local shrine here?” Rohan asks. “Yes, our opium master, Ni Lan I keeps a small statue in her house.”
They head to Ni Lan I’s house. The floor slats are unusual: they are narrow, and spaced two feet apart. Dyuang rolls to avoid getting tripped up; Rohan follows. Mu decides to walk across the floor the traditional way: gripping the slats with her toes.
Ni Lan I offers Mu opium. Mu gratefully accepts. It is a stimulant. “We have come here for a business proposition, cousin,” Mu explains. She introduces her friends. Rohan introduces himself especially as a priest of Con Rua.
Ni Lan I displays her wooden statue of Con Rua. It is the exact same statue that’s been missing from his shrine. “I bought it from a really desperate looking high priest,” Ni Lan I drawls. “He had a fear of death in his eyes.”
Ni Lan I offers to sell it, but for 3,000 SP.
The gang decides to do a favor to her — recovering the bodies of her dead husbands — to get into her good graces. In return, they decide to ask for the location of a good stimulant opium to that can be profitably sold to students.
“You want it to be good for students, highly profitable—which means you want it to be very addictive—well, I’ll give you something. Grab the Eyes.”
A female servant hands her a puzzle container. Ni Lan I opens it to reveal a blue paste. "I call it Eyes. But, it is more formally known as the Sight of Asura.
“Now here is the problem. The problem is that there is only a limited amount of poppy that can be generated in a year. Unless you live in a very specific area in Sughd. As it happens, I am in contact with the oligarchy who leads over such land.
“Because of the special rarity, aside from that particular area, the process of constructing this will already require around 30 sp worth.”
Ni Lan I can help the gang get into a contract with the oligarchy so that they could receive it in seed form. The seed could even be planted, but the process of growing it is very difficult. It flowers very rarely. The expected yield is only about 10 flowers a year. Ni Lan I offers 10 seeds for 400 silver.
Alternately, she can offer a letter of recommendation, for only a one-time payment of 100 silver.
“Ni Lan I, um, just to ask about the old high priest,” Rohan asks. “What did he exactly get for the statue?”
“Information,” Ni Lan I says.
Rohan and Ni Lan I talk about the Con Rua religion. Ni Lan I reveals that she is not actually a true believer, but only kept the statue out of a love for loot. She also mentions that there is a Lamarakhi tribe, the Pawik, that worships a turtle god of disease.
“Well,” she says. “I am in need of a new husband. Hm. What we could do is, a god for a god. The Lamarakh believe that there is a pair of kinnara somewhere within the jungle. If you can kill the female, capture the male, and bring him back to me, then I will have a new husband.”
Rohan taps into his bank of religious knowledge. The Kinnara are demigods.
Changing track, he decides to give her 9 gold coins for the information that she offered his high priest. Ni Lan I is pleased. “When I was young, I had the distinction of being able to enter the Topaz Dragon’s lair unharmed. And since you paid me, I reckon you are entitled to this.”
She gives him a map of the Topaz Dragon’s lair.
“The lair would’ve changed since I last went there, but it should still be at least 70% accurate.”
Dyuang pays Ni Lan I for the letter of recommendation.
They head to Ma Hek, seeking answers to questions about the kinnara. Ma Hek lairs in a large abandaoned tortoise shell. Crows fly overhead as they approach her lair.
Darkness seems to stretch out six arms. A teenager pops out and informs the gang that Ma Hek is still preparing herself. The crone herself appears.
Ma Hek tells them of the kinnara. Kinnara can take on human wives, but the change must be quick. “When you capture a kinnara, it is very efficient to keep a part of its soul. It was something that you could take out of a kinnara.”
“Now if you don’t mind…” Ma Hek takes her leave. But just as she enters her house, her body seems to dissipate and her clothes fall down to the ground.
The gang decides to retrieve Ni Lan I’s dead husbands’ bodies. The fighting happened near the Sacred Waterfall.
A greenhaired woman rises from the water to meet them. She speaks Sughdian. “Will you allow us to retrieve the bodies?” Dyuang asks. She stands and performs a backstroke. As she swims back, her naked form reveals all.
“The vagina is making me tingly,” Rohan says. “I wish to know her better.”
“This is a relationship is based on boners! There is nothing that can come from this,” Mu protests.
Rohan grapples with Dyuang, who is intent on stopping him. Rohan falls into the lake and flounders. Just then, another figure appears, this one male. Mu falls for his charms. Dyuang attempts to stop her as well, although luckily this time he is successful. He grapples her.
Rohan swims towards the female. Dyuang, torn between keeping mind on Mu and going after Rohan, attempts to instruct Squiggy to keep an eye on Mu. “Squiggy, take care of her!” Squiggy, being Squiggy, does not understand. Dyuang jumps overboard and swims after Rohan.
Rohan, swimming nearer, encounters a crocodile. The crocodile attempts to bite, breaking the charm on Rohan. He dodges. The sight of the crocodile also snaps Mu out of the spell.
The greenhaired creatures look back, shrug, and dissolve into water.
Dyuang throws a rope and attempts to pull in a corpse. While doing so, he accidentally breaks its neck, spewing dank fluids onto the sacred lake water. The greenhaired creature reappears, and spits poison at Dyuang’s eyes. Rohan prays to the creature, seeking its forgiveness and permission to recover the bodies. The creature nods, then dissipates once more.
They successfully recover the bodies and head back to the village.
Ni Lan I personally thanks the group with a small statuette, a replica of the Topaz dragon. She also hands them a small group of five seeds of Sight of Asura.
The group then attempts to do a MATCHMAKING SERVICE with the greenhaired dude and Ni Lan I. They return to the Sacred Waterfall at dusk.
“Spirits of the lake, we seek an audience,” Dyuang cries, in Sughdian. The male appears; Mu turns her back to avoid being charmed by the magical penis.
“A fair lady seeks your love,” Dyuang prompts. Instead, the man turns to Rohan. “You. Magic of Gods,” he speaks in Trade. “Holy Man. We protect Sacred Waterfall. We cannot leave until other protects Sacred Waterfall.”
“Is it possible for anyone to take on this responsibility?”
“Take sacredness. Free us.”
“What do you mean?”
“How…how can one take sacredness?”
After back and forth, Rohan agrees…to take the sacredness. The green-haired man seems jubilant. “Finally duty ends. Finally, duty transferred to you. Come, come.” He leads Rohan, who can now magically walk on water, towards the waterfall and in a tiny cave.
There are three small golden statues: one of a kinnara, another of a turtle god, and the last of a crocodile. Rohan is presented with several scrolls, and a holy book containing the names of thousands of gods. “So….if I take the sacredness, do I have to stay here?” “No!” the green-haired man shouts. “Leave our home alone.”
“Oh. Okay. I take the sacredness.”
They take him to Ni Lan I’s hut. He takes one sniff of the opium-drenched den. Noped.
The gang thanks him anyway. “By the way,” Rohan asks, “Where did you get the sacredness?”
“High priest of Iskandar entrusted it to us,” green-haired man tells them. With the group’s thanks, the creature returns to his lake.
Rohan and Dyuang speak to the tribe. The tribe agrees to give them tea, looted from the traders they kill, in return for the group’s silver. Their contact is Rr Zmdn Grrmrski (best effort).
Pleased with their efforts, the team retires for the night.