Thursday, 15th November, 2012, 02:33 AM #21
"HAW! Watch out Trevvis, you may get burned again!"
"She fought well, as I am sure you will." Jadid bows quickly and goes straight for a grapple, no strike.
The two come together in a flurry of limbs. Trevvis is talented, but Jadid's training simply beats out the mercenary leader. Jadid spins around and wraps his limbs around Trevivis's arms and pinning his neck down in a full nelson.
Jadid applies pressure. "You are too used to your objects."
Trevvis gasps as Jadid pulls his muscles taut.
The mercenary leader struggles to free himself, but the monk has him locked in tight.
"The body is both soft but hard. Knowledge and training shows you how to decide."
"GRAAAHHH!" Trevvis yowls in pain as he flops in Jadid's arms. The monk, quite, simply, is a tree rooting the mercenary leader in place.
The other mercenaries have stopped throwing down their coins and their cheering and laughter has subsided to a slow murmur.
Jadid simply keeps the hold. "Submit?"
Trevvis is red-faced and sweating profusely. He struggles in Jadid's grip but his legs find no purchase on the dusty ground.
"Stupid... Scarred... HRPMH... Not... Let GO!"
Gerber looks over to see the mercenaries watching the battle, a little wide-eyed at seeing their leader so helpless. "Enough, Sand Snake! Hold!" Gerber yells in Imperial, concerned about the sentiment growing in the mercs.
Jadid lets go, but stands watchfully. "You fight with great talent. I am certain your weapons are deadly. I . . .hope I have not overstepped bounds. This has been my life since I was a babe. I wished only to practice with other students of combat."
Gerber walks over and helps the mercenary leader up. "Just go to bed, now, Sand Snake. I'll smooth it out."
"In what language, northerner?" Jadid offers his own hand as well. "I think we can teach each other things, my friends. Life is not only combat, though I can teach what I know."
The mercenary looks extremely unsteady on his feet as he struggles to catch his breath.
"Piss off," he snaps, butting elbows with Jadid as he walks toward his bedroll.
"Don't pay him any mind," one of the mercenaries says quietly (Jadid thinks it's Akram). "It's been a while since anyone has trounced him so thoroughly."
"Besides," says one of the female mercs. "You won us some coin against him."
The other mercenaries slap Jadid on the back. The mercenary next to Gerber nudges Gerber and smiles giving him a thumbs up.
Gerber just purses his lips and nods.
"I meant no offense," JAdid says to Gerber. "Perhaps I can teach you the language of the sands in exchange for knowledge of your ways? Until then, let us drink. At least these are not Imam's shouting their lies.”
"Now, who here is an expert in this . . .Hanaan's piss? For though my body has been burned many times, my gut has never burned with such fire."
"This one just about finished it off I think," one points toward Gerber. "But we have another-"
The entrance of Almah's tent flies open suddenly. She looks over the camp.
"Get. To. Sleep."
The camp goes quiet as Almah looks over the camp. Garavel walks out after her.
"These people were hired to do a job. I will not have you weakening them unnecessarily."
She looks toward Garavel. "See if those three are done with that creature. It's the middle of the night and that thing has barely stopped screaming."
"Everyone else get to bed. Now. First thing in the morning your playmates have work to do."
"It is like I am in the temple," Jadid sighs. "always someone to say when to sleep."
Gerber gets the idea and wordlessly returns to his cot. Those watching cannot discern how he feels about Jadid.
Dima is halfway through describing her life at the desert Oasis her tribe called home before her family moved to the markets of Rashadar, to the camel drivers when Almah gives the command to quieten down. She bids them a fond fairwell and beds down, watching the flames for a while.
Kashif finds a dark nook between pack and bedroll to watch over his mistress.
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The next morning is hot and dry. That's hardly unusual.
Everyone is woken by Abu'l's passionate prayer as the sun peeks over the horizon. The imam prostrates himself on his prayer rug and sings loudly. If he notices the young mercenary woman he saved yesterday watching him, he does not let on.
Everyone goes about their morning. Jadid practices his forms. Gerber vomits just outside of the camp and tries to keep his eyes closed against the morning sun. Mahjub looks with some curiosity that Dashki has apparently dug up the pugwampi they buried last night. The dirty man has fashioned a tiny noose for it to hang from the end of his staff and most of the camp mutters darkly as they clean up and eat their meager breakfast.
In the light of day, they can see that the Sultan's Claw is located very close to the Scorched Peaks. High hills and near-mountains block the view to the south. But to the southeast, they can make out ruins past some rolling cracked hills.
The party is quickly ushered into the tent after everyone's morning rituals. When they enter Almah's tent, she barely looks up at them as engrossed as she is in the map on the table.
"I'm going to assume Abud told you what is we're doing here. If not, then ask him after I'm done talking."
She motions to Garavel and he begins to translate for Gerber's sake.
"About a mile from here is an old mosque. A group of muridin of Hannan came all the way South and set up just a mile south of Kelmarane. These fakirs formed the Varishdalyyah a very long time ago but when Kelmarane fell, it fell."
"The events of last night has led me to believe that we are too exposed a location. I think that this ruined mosque would make a much better base of operations for the coming battle for Kelmarane. It will be easier to defend and fortify the mosque than this camp."
"However, I doubt after all this time the place is unoccupied. So this task falls to you."
Almah finally looks up. "I do appreciate everything you did last night. And I don't expect you to do this out of the goodness of your hearts. I'm willing to pay you each two hundred gold for the work we're about to do."
Arms folded, Jadid merely shakes his head.
"Not from me, blessed mistress,” Abud bows. “We are sure we're enough for the challenge and your reward, although not needed, is appreciated and well received."
"As soon as you give me leave, I shall inform my fellow adventuers about what you saw fit to inform me yesterday." He bows. "A most magnificent and cunning task."
Almah smiles slightly. "You have it."
"Who is likely to have occupied this place?" Gerber asks.
"The desert is one thing, but we're close enough to the mountains as well," Garavel says. "Could be anything. Perhaps gnolls. Perhaps dumb beasts."
"So, we're only a couple of miles from Kelmarane?" Dima asks.
"A little over a mile actually. You can see it just over the hills."
The party comes toward the ruined mosque after a short walk in the morning. The air is cool coming down from the mountains, a pleasant relief after the punishing travel in the Great Desert they had just gone through. Everyone knew it wouldn't last as the sun rose.
Most of the mosque's walls remain intact, though a few of its minarets have collapsed and gaping holes mar most of the structures ceilings. Some of the old red and orange tile work remains intact, but the massive sun symbol common to Hannan's faith is cracked and faded.
The overgrown path leads up to the western wall, where two fifteen foot wide entryways lead inside.
Jadid pads in quietly as Gerber looks outside the area. The former knight fails to see signs of much aside from the occasional small animal dropping.
Just inside, the monk sees that the two entrances are huge fallen sections of wall, although one seems to have once been a door. Scrub brush and a light, patchy carpet of hearty desert weeds invade the through the holes. The exposed area beyond is a huge hallway littered with bits of debris ranging from tiny rocks to enormous sections of collapsed masonry. Most of the roof above the long promenade is gone, but several jagged pillars remain.
Gerber stumbles a little as he walks south toward the first entrance. Even though daylight creeps into the mosque from outside, the small opening makes it difficult to see much upon simply peering in. Gerber sees a small entrance to his left as well as the hall extending further down to the south past where he can see.
Gerber hugs the south wall of the promenade and heads to the next door, discreetly peering into the room. Once Gerber's out of sight, Mahjub follows the same path and observes him from where the knight stood previously.
Gerber peers in and is momentarily startled by the man staring at him.
Gerber studies the man's face and disposition. "Ho, there, friend. Do you speak Imperial?"
The man stonily doesn't respond and stares straight ahead, face impassive.
It's with some embaressment that Gerber realizes that the man is part of the bas relief carving.
"Oh," he says. Face red, he turns and whispers to the others. "I knew it was a sculpture. I sometimes talk to sculptures. Big deal."
Gerber turns back and looks inside further. He can't see much of it, but just inside is what he thinks may be a cloister area. The outer wall of the north side he can just make out bas relief carvings, but without any light, he can't see much of it.
Abud walks slowly and carefully towards the Western Door. Looking inside briefly, Abud sees three long wooden tables and dozens of chairs that once lined this mess hall are in shambles, mostly rotted away with the passage of years, Light shines through several large holes in the ceiling, illuminating a closed door on the east wall.
Abud starts at the screech behind him. He feels a painful stab between his shoulderblades, and another one just behind his knee. He reaches back and pulls a tiny arrow from his neck.
Blood leaches into his clothes as clattering and loud yelps and shrieks comes from the room behind him where the arrows came.
"Nice meeting you," Gerber whispers to the relief before turning and running towards the commotion.
Abud looks down the small doorway where the arrows came from. He thinks he almost sees something for a second, when a stiff wind blows and dust blows in from the outside, blinding him.
Cackles come from within the small room.
The imam sighs and draws his scimitar after he sees Abud shot. Abu’l closes with the other man to support and protect him, and to drag him behind cover to heal him if necessary.
"The light of Hannan has grown in this place, but will shine brightly once more."
Meanwhile, Gerber turns and begins to run, when he hears a clatter next to him as a tiny arrow shatters far in front of him. He turns quickly, to see the sickeningly familiar figure of a tiny lapdog with milky white eyes. It screams at Gerber unintelligibly as it hops up and down on a piece of masonry.
Gerber, still hungover and having none of it this morning, roars in anger at the tiny creature and moves to attack. He swings at the creature. It would have normally taken its head off, but the sword gets stuck on the scabbard and dips lower than usual.
The pugwampi shrieks in fear and scrambles back. It screams, impossibly loud and Gerber's teeth rattle.
The fallen knight looks on in shock as his sword snaps in two.
Gerber flies into a blind rage and charges the thing with his shield. He slams into the pugwampi and sends it sailing into the air with a mighty blow. The creature's face is badly bloodied and its eyes widen as Gerber stands over him. It screams and scrambles as it runs west further into the mosque. Gerber roars as he takes a throwing axe from his belt and hurls it. It thunks solidly into the creature's back so hard that the blade sticks out the other side and its chest nearly cracks open.
Meanwhile, as everyone rushes or sneaks down to where Abud fell back, they hear screams from inside the room. Two pugwampis fly out, shrieking loudly and pointing hysterically into the room with their bows.
Mahjub takes this opportunity to nock his arrow and fire, but his hands get tangled in the bowstring for no apparent reason and his arrow falls flat to the ground.
Jadid creeps close enough to see this scene. As does Dima, who's frost ray hits the side of the door but little else.
Abu'l takes a swing at the creatures at his feet now as well, but his scimitar catches on his robe and it goes over the tiny canine creature's heads.
The two shriek at the room. One screams and the party can hear what sounds like cups and dishes shattering all at once inside. The other shoots his arrow inside the room.
Jadid warily watches what's going on, unwilling to throw himself in the middle of all those potentially catastrophic f*ck-ups.
"May your bones be bleached by the sun and the name of all your kind be erased from history!" roars Abu'l-Faraj Muhammad bin Is'haq al-Nadim as he hacks at the creature before him. Abu'l's scimitar sails over one pugwampis head, but Mahjub takes a step back, nocks his arrow, and fires. This time none of the uncertainty or clumsiness takes over, and his arrow streaks into the other pugwampi. However, given that he's trying to keep from hitting the others, his shot barely scratches the pugwampi.
Abud al-Jabiri takes a look at the pugwampi closest to him. Such a disgusting, stinking creature.
He slowly makes a fist and pushes it in the direction of one of them.
Abud rears back and slams his fist into the pugwampis with surprising force. Even though the pugwampi falls back, it doesn't seem to be enough to faze him.
Jadid watches Dima fire a bolt of frozen droplets at one of the creatures. It holds its face and shrieks in terror, before running south down the dark hall.
The second pugwampi shrieks in horror as it looks at the blood running down its chest and bolts south down the hall following its companion, shrieking the whole way.
"Cowards! To do this to a mosque and then to flee?" The imam charges after them, intent on hacking them to pieces. Dima curses most unladylike at the lack of damage from her ray, and hoists her crossbow instead.
Jadid lunges toward the fleeing creature as it rushes by, but even with his training, the tiny creature manages to just barely slip from his grasp. But somehow, Dima's loaded crossbow streaks across the dark hall and thunks solidly into the pugwampi's back. The creature crumples onto the ground. Abu'l’s cimitar whirls through the air as he chases the remaining pugwampi into the dark. Whether Hannan blessed his blade is up to debate, but somehow- even in the dark and with the bad luck that seems to follow the pugwampis, Abu'l's weapon takes the tiny canine head off at the shoulders- sending it bouncing away.
The mosque goes quiet.
For a moment.
The others, but especially Abu'l- who has run further down the dark hall where his human eyes can't see, can hear animal hooting in the dark and something moving.
The imam backs up the way he came, keeping his scimitar at the ready.
"Baboons!" Mahjub exclaims. “Coming at us!”
Gerber steps on the dead pugwampi to pry his axe out of it and then rejoins the others.
"Does anyone have a blade to spare? I do my best work up close, and a throwing axe is not terribly efficient for repeat usage, anyway..."
"He needs a blade,” Jadid shouts as he takes a fighting stance. “Do any of you carry metal weapons? We need fuel for a fire. We should burn anything still living in this, then it will be clear without any more people being hurt." The monk then notices something and begins to walk toward the shadows.
Dima nods as she hands over a well-worn short spear to the northern knight. "My father gave me this short spear, although I told him I may never use it." Dima offers to Gerber in reasonably accented Imperial.
Dima and Gerber’s conversation is interrupted as Abu'l stumbles backward out of the darkness.
Everyone hears a series of thumps in front of them. Moments later a single baboon screams and leaps on Abu'l. The imam's readied scimitar comes down hard on the simian's back and the primate howls in pain.
Mahjub's arrow streaks over everyone's heads as the baboon claws and bites at the cleric, but Abu'l manages to push him back.
Gerber grabs the spear from Dima and whirls around.. "Thank you, kind lady." The former knight is a little surprised as the spear almost comes tumbling out of his hands as he does so. However, his fingers tighten and he drives the spear home deep into the animal's belly. The baboon crumples to the ground.
Gerber looks in the spear in annoyance, about to blame his relative unfamiliarity with the new weapon for the near fumble, when there's a deafening shriek.
Everyone turns to see Jadid spinning out of the entrance and holding a thrashing pugwampi with one arm. It's tiny arms and legs beat the monk as it screams at the top of its lungs. Jadid gives the creature a brutal twist and the pugwampi's form goes limp.
The mosque is blissfully quiet again.
"If you wish to speculate on unlawful fornications, gentlemen,” Abu’l says. “The baboons and these creatures sharing living quarters raises some unwholesome questions."
"No need for a prayer, holy man," Gerber says, clapping the cleric on the back.
The imam rolls his eyes and sighs. They really need to teach this dumb foreigner the language.
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