The party tries to get to the bottom of Barret's involvement. Sasha has a breakdown and flees to the strip. Grizzop and Azu chase after looking for her. Hamid has a heart to heart with his brother Saleh.
Sasha is still stabbing the strange creature, starting to cry a bit. Grizzop tells her that it’s alright, and Azu pulls the cloak off the creature to try and see what it is. None of them have any idea what the creature beneath the cloak is, but it is clearly definitely dead. It resembles a broadly humanoid shape, with elongated hands and feet that are distinctively tentacular in nature and look almost like ones of ape, although longer, and with strange pseudopod fingers. It has a long and thin body (more so than a human), and a bulbous head, its face with a lot of suckers around the mouth area. What’s left of the brain is squelching its way through the stab wounds, and their eyes have a milky quality to them. [The players name the creature a 'squizzard', or 'calimagi' (plural). The term 'Squizzard' is adopted.]
Sasha has collapsed in tears, and Grizzop hovers over her a bit, asking for Azu to give him a hand. The rest of the crowd is beginning to cry out in shock and terror. Hamid turns around to face his brother and tells him that Saleh needs to tell him what’s going on, right now. Saleh says that it’s really complicated. He looks like he’s been drinking again. He says he doesn’t know what to do, and Hamid asks if the name Barret Racket means anything to him. Saleh goes completely pale, hands shaking, and starts stuttering – Hamid tells him to cut it out, and says that he’s wearing a ring from Barret. Saleh begs Hamid to give him the ring, but Hamid says no, and again demands that Saleh tell him what’s going on.
Back in the garden, Grizzop goes off to deal with the crowd, and Azu starts attempting to comfort Sasha, saying there, there. Azu says that she’s sure it wasn’t following Sasha specifically, and that maybe she should confront her fear. Sasha continues stabbing the creature. Azu points out that it’s dead, not sure what else to do, and Sasha starts yelling, saying that the lines of life and death hasn’t been that clear in a while, and stops stabbing the thing, twitching a bit. She says that she thought she’d escaped; they went everywhere, and yet they’re still here. Azu starts shushing her, trying to comfort her, and telling her that it will be okay, and starts nervous laughing as Sasha yells, saying that she thought Barret wouldn’t be able to reach her here, but he still has, and that things aren’t going to be okay. Azu says that it can’t be that bad, and that she’s sure there’s a way out, and Sasha calms down unnaturally fast, saying that she agrees, and she’s sure there is a way out; she seems more resigned to her fate than actually calm. She says that she only has a month left anyway, and Azu tries to convince her that they’re going to fix that, but Sasha just says that all of this is part of Barret’s plan, and that if she stops, she’ll no longer being under her own control. It’s the only thing she can do.
Meanwhile, Grizzop is trying to calm the crowd down; the guards come running over, and listen to him as he explains what’s going on - he says that it was an assassin coming after the younger Saleh, and figures out logistics with the guards for moving the body.
Back in the room, Saleh explains that he needs the ring so that he can make up for what he did. Hamid stands up to him and pushes him back on the bed; Saleh, still drunk, just falls backward, and asks Hamid why he won’t listen to him. He says that he’s Hamid’s big brother, and that Hamid needs to listen to him. Hamid says he isn’t a little kid anymore, and that he’s dealt with a lot bigger problems than this, and again demands to know what happens. Saleh goes quiet, and says that Barret said if he took the ring, no one would have to find out, and that he didn’t mean for anybody to die. Hamid’s lip starts quivering. Saleh says that he knows that he has a lot of trouble with money, and he’d been able to get out before, but things got really bad this time, and so he’d robbed the bank, but he’d been caught. Hamid asks who caught him, and Saleh says that he didn’t even know her name, and that he panicked, and then she was on the floor and he was outside, and the rest of Barret’s lot were there and they all legged it. He says that he doesn’t know how it happened, and that he didn’t mean it, and Hamid pulls him up and into a hug. Saleh is weeping, saying that he didn’t mean it and that it was an accident, and he’s going on and on, most of it completely nonsensical. Hamid tries to calm him down.
Grizzop is still discussing how to handle the body with the guards. He recommends that they burn it, and they go off to grab something to use. Sasha says that it won’t help; the guards come back and wrap it in a blanket, moving it away and start trying to light it on fire. Grizzop comes back and asks where Sasha has gone. Azu realizes that she’s been comforting an object the entire time, and hasn’t noticed that Sasha has disappeared. Grizzop immediately starts looking for Sasha. He says that she’s not doing well, and Azu agrees. Grizzop leaves Hamid back in the house to handle the situation with his brother, and heads off, calling Sasha’s name, as Azu follows him doing the same. Sasha is just wandering aimlessly around into the city, kicking sand dunes around.
Back at the house, Saleh has finally calmed down and sat down on the bed. Hamid says that he’s made mistakes too, and Saleh says that it isn’t his fault that he dropped out. Hamid admits that he didn’t drop out; he was kicked out because there was an accident, and someone died. Saleh starts crying again, and Hamid says that he’s been where Saleh has been before, that he knows how it feels, and that it’s incredibly hard but he has to face it. He can’t keep running from it; he’ll have to be honest and work at it, and try to be better. Saleh says that Barret promised that if he took the ring and did what he said, he would arrange a resurrection for the woman who died. Hamid says that he can’t trust Barret, and that Saleh needs to tell their parents about it. Even resurrecting the person won’t change what he did, and Saleh needs to understand the ramifications of his actions and change who he is and stop running around with the people who put him in this mess. Saleh says that he’s just trying to clean it up, and Hamid counters that, saying that you can’t clean something up in the darkness, you have to bring it into the light. He says that Saleh needs to tell someone, and Saleh says that he told Hamid. He’s getting a bit petulant now that the story has broken, and Hamid says that he’s going to help Saleh but he isn’t going to make the situation worse. Hamid says that things can’t always be solved with money, some things you have to solve by working at them. Saleh asks what he means, but Hamid can’t tell him what the right thing to do is.
Saleh says that Hamid not giving him the ring just means that worse things are going to happen, but Hamid says that he isn’t scared of Barret or what he can do. He’s half-looking at the ring while he speaks, and then tells Saleh that he needs to find a way to make up for what he’s done. Saleh asks what he needs to do, and Hamid asks who the person who died was. Saleh tells him that it was a guard, and Hamid says that he needs to find their family and make sure that they’re alright. He can’t sink back into alcoholism to deal with his problems, and he can’t stick around with Barret’s group of people. Hamid confesses that he’s been there, that he wallowed after the university incident, but then he found a group of people who helped him be better.
Cut to Grizzop and Azu: Sasha is long gone. Grizzop splits off from Azu; he looks outside of the house for any sign of Sasha while Azu looks around inside, and they reunite having seen no sign of her anyway. They figure out that she’s probably left, and is somewhere out in the city.
Sasha, meanwhile, continues wandering around the city aimlessly. She’s torn between waiting out the 28 days and becoming an evil lich or throwing herself off of a building and becoming that now anyway. She feels lost and hopeless, and is thinking about how she thought that they’d done good, but is now re-evaluating all of that.
Back at the house, Saleh is asking Hamid what the plan is. Hamid says that he needs to tell their parents about what happened, and Saleh stands up and complies, heading over to the door. Hamid says that he’ll handle Barret, and that Saleh doesn't need to have any communication with him anymore. Saleh heads out the door and Hamid follows him, intending to support him while he confesses. They find Hamid’s parents conversing with a few guards about the attack that just happened, saying that it’s been handled. Saleh interrupts their conversation, saying that he needs to talk to his father, and his father turns around, telling Hamid to stop Saleh from embarrassing himself before turning back to the guard. Hamid doesn’t let his father steamroll the conversation, pushing back and saying that it needs to be handled now. His father finally turns back to them, and Hamid says that they need to speak in private. Saleh (the father) agrees, still very dismissive, and pulls Hamid and his brother into a side corridor, asking what Saleh needs to tell him. Hamid lets his brother speak. Saleh is slow to start, and his father is visibly getting impatient, until Saleh blurts out that he killed someone. Back to Grizzop and Azu: Azu summons Topaz so that they can start searching for Sasha. Azu sits on the camel and Grizzop scrambles up on her shoulders.
Sasha is heading into the city - the strip is all huge hotels and temples and bars and casinos. She climbs up onto the roofs and sequesters herself away up there, atop a casino. It’s leaned into a lot of ancient Egyptian designs. There are a number of gargoyles on the roof, and she sits down next to a carved sphinx. It turns to look at her, saying something in Arabic, and she makes a general gesture of hello. It gives a knowing nod, and brushes a half eaten pigeon over to her. She takes a pigeon and gives it a thumbs up, before putting the pigeon into a bag of holding. The sphinx gives her another nod and picks up a stone, handing one to her. She takes it, and the sphinx picks up another one, motioning toward the bottom. It throws the rock down and it hits someone in the head, who immediately looks around, confused. Sasha laughs her head off, and peeks out from behind the turret, tossing another and hiding back behind the turret. It just misses someone, landing right in front of them, and they pause to look at the stone. The sphinx throws another stone and it clips them in the back of the head, knocking them over into the fountain. It laughs from a few
turrets down as Sasha does as well.
and Azu are still looking for Sasha, walking throughout the city.
Time skips ahead - Saleh has come clean, explaining that he was having issues with gambling and spending more time than he should at the casinos. After their father went crazy at him and nearly put him under house arrest, Saleh says that he tried to clean his act up but fell back into old habits, but got better at keeping it from his father. His debts were bought and sold to the Rackets, so he ended up in debt to Barret. He found a way to get out of that; all he had to do was go to the Meritocratic vaults in the central Cairo bank and steal something for Barret. He used his connections to get himself and some others into the bank, and they were interrupted by a guard. The story gets a bit hazy here. Saleh skips around a bit - he didn’t really know what was going on, and swung a bag at the guard as the alarm went off, but the robbery failed and nothing was stolen. He was then told that Hamid would be arriving with a ring for him, and that he would have to listen to Barret because it was his fault that it went wrong. He’d been given the rote spiel of how, if he didn’t listen, his family would be harmed, etc. He explains that Barret promised a resurrection if he listened.
Resurrection used to be a thing; however, it was incredibly expensive, so it was only ever really an option for the rich. In the height of Rome, resurrection was still a popular thing. When the Meritocrats took power, they drew a hard line on resurrection; it was a controversial action before, but they banned it outright. To them, resurrection destroys social mobility, inheritance, etc., and so they banned it. In history books, it’s portrayed as a final decision that the temples in the meritocratically-ruled lands fully agreed with, but there’s a bit more nuance than that. There was some push back at the beginning, but the Meritocrats came down quite hard and basically locked up every single thing that could be used for resurrection (including the Heart of Aphrodite). Any of the materials that could only be used for resurrection are under lock and key. The agreement, as it stands, was basically that the temples and people had to surrender these things in order to live peacefully in Meritocratic lands. So, there aren’t really any sort of options for “backstreet resurrections” because all of the materials have been locked down. If Barret is actually offering to perform a resurrection, he’s most likely flat-out lying, but it is an incredibly bold thing to lie about.
The story finishes, and their father asks why this always happens. He says that he thought he was a good father, that he raised them right and gave them every opportunity, and that he did everything a father could do, but that he must have been wrong. He doesn’t say anything else, and just strides out of the room. Hamid grabs Saleh by the arm and pulls him out of the room, chasing after their father. Hamid asks if he actually wants an answer, but his father doesn’t respond, walking toward the front door. Hamid asks where he’s going, and his father pauses, turns around, and says that he is going to do what he’s always done and what he always will do: hold this family together and make sure that the problem is dealt with, and that Hamid needs to let him do it.
- "I thought you were supposed to be of Aphrodite! Where’s your bedside manner?!"
- "Really?! See, you say that it’s dead, you say that, but the lines of what’s dead and what isn’t haven’t really been that clear for me for a while! And, yeah, it’s great, it’s great, it’s great. It’s dead. I should stop stabbing. It’s just twitching now. Like, I thought I’d escaped. I thought I’d escaped, I thought, I thought that I’d beaten him. I thought all I needed to do, I left the country! I left the country! I left everything! I got teleported here! We went to a pocket dimension! We went everywhere and yet, and yet, here we are! No, you know what, no, no, none of this has helped! None of this has helped! I, I, I joined this, I worked, they said, they said we’ll be traveling, they said we’ll be going far away! I thought this would take me away, but yet he’s still here, he’s still, he’s still here."
- Azu: "Look on the bright side!"
- Sasha: "The bright side is that I have maybe a month to live! No matter how far I travel…he’s always there. He’s always there, and it’s always part of his plan. Everything that I’ve done! Everything I’ve done has probably been part of his plan. Right, all the fighting, all the winning, has actually been part of his plan. I, I’m just gonna stop. If I stop he can’t control me anymore. Okay, that’s, that’s, that’s, okay, that’s something I can, I can just, I can just stop. Just stop everything."
- ―Azu attempts to comfort Sasha.
- Saleh: "He said that if I took the ring, then no one would have to find out…I didn’t mean anyone to die, Hamid."
- Bryn: "Hamid’s lip starts quivering."
- Saleh: "So, um, basically…like, you know, it’s been trouble with me and money before. And I sorted myself out, you know, it’s all good. But, it started getting bad again, and then one thing sort of led to another, and…I kind of robbed the bank, Hamid. I kind of robbed the bank, and then someone caught me at it, and I didn’t want anyone to know…"
- Hamid: "Who caught you, Saleh?"
- Saleh: "I don’t even know her name. But, I didn’t mean to, and then, and then I was shocked, and then I just sort of panicked, and then she was on the floor, and I was outside, and the rest of Barret’s lot were there, and we just legged it. And the debt was paid off, but then, well, you know…"
- Bryn: "I pull him up to his feet again and just hug him."
- ―Hamid learns why his brother has been acting strangely.
- Hamid: "Saleh, I, I need to tell you something as well. I’ve made mistakes too. And…and I’ve done things I regret."
- Saleh: "It’s not your fault you dropped out, Hamid."
- Hamid: "Saleh, I didn’t drop out. I got kicked out. Because there was an accident. And…someone died."
- Alex: "He starts crying again."
- Hamid: "I’ve been where you are, Saleh. And it’s horrible, and I can’t tell you that it gets easier, and I can’t tell you that you can move past it, but…you have to face it, you can’t run from it. You have to be honest, and you have to work at it. And you have to find ways to be better."
- ―Hamid tells his brother why he left Cambridge.
- Hamid: "You should tell Mom and Dad. You can’t fix everything. Even if you resurrect this person it doesn’t change what you did. You have to understand the consequences of your actions and you have to change who you are, and that’s not gonna happen if you keep running around with the people who put you in this mess."
- Saleh: "I’ve just been trying to clean it up, that’s the only reason I was there. I’m just trying to clean it up, Hamid."
- Hamid: "You can’t clean something up in the darkness, you have to bring it into the light, you have to face it."
- ―Hamid comforts his brother.
- "You need to find out if the guard had a family, you need to make sure they’re taken care of. You need to work at being better. You can’t sink into alcoholism, you can’t stick around with this group of people who are bringing you down to this level. I’ve been there. When I had to face it, I wallowed too, but it got better when I found a group of people who helped me be better. Who helped me do good things."
- Sphinx: "Hi."
- Lydia: "She makes a general gesture of hello."
- Alex: "It gives a knowing nod. It’s the nod of a bartender at the end of a night. It brushes a half eaten pigeon over to you."
- Lydia: "She makes a two thumbs up gesture of thanks, and kind of respectfully takes it and puts it in a bag of holding."
- Alex: "It gives a sage nod. Sits there for a while, silent, perfectly still. It reaches out with a paw and picks up a loose stone on the rooftop. Hands it out to you. It reaches out and picks up another one. It very slowly turns to look at you, nudges its head toward the bottom, and then chucks it, till it pings off someone’s head down there, who immediately looks up going, ow!"
- Lydia: "She laughs her head off."
- Alex: "It gives another head bob."
- Lydia: "Sasha stays in the shadow, cause they’re looking up now, tosses one and steps back."
- Alex: "It drops, and it looks like it’s missed someone. It slams down at their feet and they stop, they look down, and then the sphinx next to you chucks another one, it clips them in the back of the head, they fall straight headfirst into the fountain, they’re wearing like a suit, really posh, and they’re completely soaking. And then from like two turrets down, you just hear a: gargoyle laughter."
- ―Sasha escapes to the roof of a building in downtown Cairo.
- "I can’t handle much more sad. I just can’t. I’m going to skip a chunk of roleplaying, also because it’s me being sad to myself."
- "Why does this always happen? I thought I was a good father. I’m fairly certain I raised you all right. I gave you every opportunity. I did everything that was possible for a father to do. Clearly I was wrong."
- ―Saleh Amoun al-Tahan
- Alex: "Okay, okay, I need this on the record. I promise it is not all misery forever."
- Lydia: "There’ll be just enough hope for it to hurt when we lose it"
- Alex: "Things got just real enough to be a bit much, and I promise that there is light."
- ―Episode close.
Dice rolls and Mechanics
- Grizzop rolls a Knowledge (nature) on the creature: nat 1.
- Azu rolls a Knowledge (religion) on the creature: 20.
- Hamid makes a Diplomacy check on his brother: 17.
- Hamid makes a Sense Motive check on Saleh: 14.
- Azu rolls a Diplomacy check on Sasha: nat 1.
- Grizzop rolls a Diplomacy check to calm the crowd down: 26.
- Sasha makes a Stealth check to get away from Azu and Grizzop: 29.
- Grizzop rolls a Perception check to find Sasha: 22.
- Sasha makes a Knowledge (local) check: 23.
- Hamid makes a Sense Motive check on Saleh: 11.
- Grizzop and Azu make a Knowledge (religion) check: Grizzop gets a 15, Azu gets a 13.