Salt and Sand - Yusuf bin-Fouad
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By HoratioAtTheBridge

Yusuf bin-Fouad

Yusuf has been asked to keep the Circle in Chiarascuro until Mnemon Cayla can bring her strike force to bear. Once they arrive, he will further be instructed to bring them to the ambush site. Linna has spies assigned to watch Yusuf to be sure that he doesn't spill the beans, and she visits personally once every couple of days to ensure that he is highly motivated.

Yusuf's Campaign

Yusuf carries out his plan by being aggressively hospitable. Upon first meeting the Circle, he gushes at length about the beautiful things that may be found in Chiarascuro - the music, the dancers, the great art, the fine Delzhan storytellers, horse racing in the deserts - and warns the party to be wary of the Delzhan's prickly honor, as they are quick to a duel. This is more than a merchant hawking his wares - he is also watching the player characters to see how they react to this litany of entertainments. Even the mention of dueling is intended to draw out interest from characters who may enjoy engaging in such hot-headed actions. Treat this as a Read Intentions action, with Yusuf asking what kind of intimacies the players have regarding the entertainments available in the city.

Once he has a good idea of the Circle's interests, he goes out of his way to provide them. Twice per day - once in the morning and once in the evening, with the afternoon left as a rest period - Yusuf arranges for some entertainment for his guests. Such entertainments might include a horse ride just outside the city, a feast at his estate, a demonstration of dancers, or a trip to the city's temples. This is treated as an instill action. He first attempts to build up two to three minor intimacies related to the subject of the entertainment (e.g., Love of Music), his own person (e.g. Yusuf is a great host), to the Principle of Indolence, or towards Chiarascuro in general (Chiarascuro is a jewel of a city). Once these are established, he uses further instill actions to strengthen them, attempting to build up at least one Major intimacy with which he can request favors from the group.

Yusuf uses his Persuasion die pool for this effort with a -3 modifier for trying to work a crowd. His elaborate preparations do count as a 1 point stunt, however, granting him 2 bonus dice. Furthermore, any intimacies related to the entertainment (other than the one he is attempting to create/strengthen and the one used to justify strengthening an intimacy) will apply penalties to the Resolve of the PC. This is why he aims to instill at least 3 Minor intimacies related to this entertainment. Don't forget to apply other intimacies that may modify the PC's Resolve. An intimacy of Hospitality will lower the PC's Resolve, as would an intimacy of love for family if Yusuf is related to them. An intimacy related to suspicion or cynicism, however, might boost the PC's resolve.

The Circle should already have a suspicion of Yusuf based on the opening scene at the Docks of Chiarascuro, and may attempt to either interrogate him or to just leave Chiarascuro. This is the other reason he has been building Intimacies with the Circle. He deflects these attempts by appealing to the Circle to stay just one more morning or afternoon, describing the entertainment he has planned for them. He rolls his Persuasion against the PC's Resolve as a request for them to stay and/or stop asking questions. Remember to apply any related intimacies as a penalty to the PC's Resolve in this event.

Interrogating Yusuf

The players may interrogate Yusuf using one of two actions: they may attempt read intentions actions to determine his intimacies, or may attempt persuade actions to convince him to tell them relevant information about the planned attacks. The players, as a whole, may attempt one of these actions each morning and evening during the entertainments. Yusuf is not available during the afternoon or night, being either sleeping or involved in personal business.

The key information to find from Read Intentions is that Yusuf feels guilty about the Tri-Kahn's request, that the guilt is formed around the player Circle, and that he is deathly afraid of the Realm. Once all three of these intimacies have been revealed, inform the players that Yusuf has become embroiled in a plot to turn them over to the Realm, and that the Tri-Kahn is also involved. Each of these Read Intentions actions is opposed by Yusuf's Guile. Yusuf is prepared for these efforts and deflects attention by telling a story about his youth. These stories count as a one point stunt, increasing his Guile by 1. Count them as a two point stunt if the Storyteller actually tells the story. Possible story ideas include:

  • The time he rode with the Tri-Kahn and raided Realm pay wagons, much as the players are doing now (this does, however, give away his defining Tie toward the Tri-Kahn).
  • If he is related to one of the PCs, he tells a story of how he took in that PC and taught them the ways of the court, including a particularly endearing story about the time that the Desert Noble snuck into the Tri-Kahn's gardens to get figs. This story gives away Yusuf's defining tie of loyalty to his family.
  • If he is not related to the PCs, he tells a story about one of the party's previous exploits which he was involved in - perhaps the time he helped them give the slip to an Imperial patrol. He'd disguised one of his wagons as a merchant's stall, and once the PCs ran into it the horses rode off and carried them quickly away. This story does give away Yusuf's love of Raiders, Pirates, and Thieves.
  • The outstanding beauty and impeccable taste of his dearly departed wife, perhaps accompanied by pointing out her collection of gray scarves. This gives away his attachment to her memory.

In terms of Persuade actions, Yusuf has several options upon which to base Decision Points and spend willpower to resist the player Circle's attempts to tell them what is bothering him. However, he also has other intimacies which they can use to try to get him to tell them what's going on. They might start with his guilt about the party, asking him why he is guilty. They might then appeal to his love for his family, if one of them is a member of his family. They might also appeal to his hospitality, or if they frame it as in the best interest of the Tri-Kahn, to his loyalty to his ruler. Of course, they may also instill intimacies in order to get at this information. Note that divulging this information could be quite costly to Yusuf, so the players must base their request on at least a Major intimacy.

He will refuse this request twice. First, he will refuse based on his fear of Peleps Deled and the consequences, both personal and to the Delzhan as a whole, if he gives away Deled's secrets. Second, he will refuse based on his loyalty to the Tri-Kahn (unless the players base their request on this loyalty). Since the players may only attempt this interrogation twice per day, it takes at least two days to get Yusuf to give up this information.

Yusuf's Tale

Once Yusuf has been convinced to help the party, he takes them into a private room and divulges the plot. He tells them about Mnemon Cayla's threats, the Tri-Kahn's orders, and the upcoming ambush. He tells them that he has already sent a messenger, and that he has been told to keep the party in place for one week. He presumes that the strike team will arrive in that time. He also gives them additional information - first, that his point of contact with the Realm is a Wind-Aspect Dragon-Blooded, and he gives a description of Linna. Second, that Abd al-Malik was assigned by the Tri-Kahn to monitor this operation and ensure that it occurs. Third, that he's pretty sure that both Linna and al-Malik have installed spies in his household to both monitor the Circle and to ensure that Yusuf follows the plan.

Investigating Yusuf

Instead of or in addition to interrogating Yusuf, the party may also investigate him. They may do this by sneaking into his room and looking for clues, or by following him around and seeing who he meets.

Yusuf's room - Getting into Yusuf's room requires getting past the guards. This can be accomplished with a Stealth roll, difficulty 3, or with a Presence roll, difficulty 2, to distract them while someone sneaks into the room. Once in the room, the following clues can be found with no roll. Yusuf has left these items out on his desk, almost as if he wants to be found out.

First, there is a dagger. It's made of black jade, quite expensive, and on it is inscribed a passage from the Immaculate Texts: "Give no quarter to those who aid the Anathema. The words of these demons corrupts the very soul; the only cleansing is with fire." Peleps Deled's signature is inscribed on the pommel. A Read Intentions action automatically identifies this as a threat - Yusuf is being coerced into helping the Realm capture the circle.

Second, there is a letter from the Tri-Kahn. This describes Yusuf's mission - that he is to make contact with the Circle and to delay them for one week. The Tri-Kahn makes it clear that he will not aid in fighting the Circle, but he will not stand in the Realm's way. The Tri-Kahn expresses regret for this action, and sympathy for Yusuf's pain in having to betray his friends (or family, if any of the PCs is related to Yusuf). However, the Tri-Kahn states that this is best for the Delzhan people - this action will ingratiate them with House Mnemon, and can be leveraged for a reduction in tribute and an increase in status for the Delzhan. Furthermore, opposition would invite retaliation by Mnemon's forces, and perhaps even the return of the Chiarascuro garrison.

Trailing Yusuf - A Perception + Stealth roll is required to successfully trail Yusuf without being noticed. Two meetings may be witnessed:

Difficulty 1: Yusuf leaves his chambers during afternoon rest and goes to the market, where he may talk to al-Malik about the state of the plot. Yusuf will mention his discomfort at this action, and al-Malik will assure him that it is for the best - the city stands to gain much, and the Circle are a bunch of dangerous Anathema anyway, who would bring destruction on the Delzhan. They discuss tactics for keeping the Circle in town, and mention that the Wyld Hunt will arrive on the seventh day after the Circle's arrival.

Difficulty 5: Linna is cautious and observant, so will not make an appearance if she notices the PCs trailing Yusuf. However, a particularly skilled spy may evade her notice, and thus may see her when she drops in on Yusuf in his room one night to ensure his loyalty. She requests and update from a visibly shaken Yusuf, then informs him that one further task will be required of him - leading the PCs into the trap. This gives the time and location of the ambush (see The Wyld Hunt for this information). Yusuf will protest that he's already soiled his honor too much, at which point Linna will lift the dagger on the desk and speculate on how disappointed Deled would be to hear this. Yusuf pales, then agrees.

Aftermath

Yusuf is able to give the party quite a bit of information, which is enough for them to be prepared for the ambush. However, he also brings to light some threats already within the city - namely Linna and al-Malik. These would be much easier to deal with before they link up with the Wyld Hunt, and it is recommended that the players neutralize these threats before dealing with the Hunt itself. It is much easier to defeat their enemies in detail. To see how this might play out, see Sand & Salt: The Spy Master and Sand & Salt: The Spy Ring.

Once Yusuf has spilled the beans, he is as good as dead unless the Circle takes some effort to protect him. He was cautious when he informed the Circle of what he knows, but some of Linna's spy ring noted the private conference and reported it to Linna. Linna will take some action to deal with this compromised agent. If the Circle has indicated that they value their contact, she will arrange for him to be kidnapped - this will ensure that the Circle stays in Chiarascuro for at least a few more days. Note that the daring rescue of Yusuf would be a good time for the Wyld Hunt to spring their ambush.

If the Circle has no use for the poor merchant-prince, or actively despises him, she'll simply have him killed. Note that the PCs should have a chance to avert both of these fates if they act to protect him. Furthermore, if they've already identified Linna's spy network and taken steps to neutralize them, then they may be able to prevent the spy master from even learning of Yusuf's confession.

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