By virtue of their past associations and/or current connections to Farhan Oquarta, of “Farhan’s Emporium of Curios, Oddities, and Reliquaries,” the party of characters are brought together by Farhan and hired, on behalf of Dathan Shom of House Shom, to travel into the Ringing Mountains northeast of Tyr and determine, if possible, the fate of a lost House Shom caravan. One clue provided by Dathan is the gith book, found by the caravan leader on the body of a gith nomad in a cave near the last known location of the caravan. The book was sent back to Dathan in Tyr, and the caravan was suppose to continue on to the Dwarvish iron mines at Kiriak — except that it never made it there, disappearing without a trace. Dathan has given the book to Farhan for whatever help it might provide in finding the caravan. [a]
Dathan offered Farhan 1,000 sheqels (gp), of which Farhan promises 750 sheqels to the party (Farhan’s customary fee/commission is 25%) to discover/rescue/salvage the lost caravan. In addition, Farhan suspects that a scroll in the book with an apparently translated snippet of the book’s indecipherable text may indicate a place of interest where the various curios, oddities, and reliquaries he trades in (usually brought and sold to him by adventurers such as the characters) might be found, which is an added bonus/source of reward for the characters. Farhan entrusts the book and scroll to Qara.
After concluding their agreement at a sumptuous dinner with Farhan, the party heads out to the Merchants’ Market area to outfit their expedition. While scattered about the market square shopping and haggling, the party notices soon figure out that they’re being watched with interest by a richly dressed and beautiful woman, possibly a noble, and that they’re being shadowed by some dwarvish and thri-kreen thugs. The woman, poorly pretending to shop for wares obviously far beneath her station, directly addresses Qara, asking about “the book.” Qara quickly identifies the woman by her appearance and jewelry worn (specifically a gold lion’s head medallion on a necklace) as either a worshipper or templar of Hamanu the Lion, sorcerer-king of Urik. Qara stonewalls the woman, who walks away from her in disgust, and the thugs spring into action, attacking the group, in conjunction with some chatkcha-throwing elvish snipers on the rooftops of the market buildings.
The party holds its own against the thugs and the woman, who indeed turns out to be utilizing templar-like psionic powers against them. A couple of the thugs and the woman are killed, and the rest of the band quickly disperses into the streets. The party examines the woman’s body, finding a pouch of 200 actual gold sheqels (stamped with the head of Hamanu), the gold medallion (worth 200 gp), and a silver lion’s-head ring, worth 150 gp, and a pot of ink and needles used for tattooing. The party also notes that one of the slain dwarvish thugs had a tattoo at the base of his skull, with a burn mark in the center of it exactly matching the lion’s head ring.
[a] Qara, thinking it strange that Dathan would hire adventurers through Farhan, a merchant well known for straddling the line between legal and illicit commerce, pushed Farhan a bit in questions asked on the side, determining that Dathan was loathe to involve the Tyrian Guard or regular mercenaries, likely because the caravan was either comprised of or trading in slaves, a major no-no in or around the city of Tyr or its various holdings. Farhan did not confirm this, and Qara has not communicated this to the rest of the party (comprised in part, of ex-slaves).