Al-Qarin: Into the Desert (11/17/12) - Page 4




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  1. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Muench
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    I only read 4 story hours: Piratecat's, Sagiro's, Sepulchrave's, and this one.
    That's some august company you've put me with. Thanks for the praise (and the bump). As always, the feedback is greatly appreciated and along with my group's reaction to what I write is one of the main reasons I'm enjoying this so much.

    Just so this post isn't completely devoid of crunchy bits, I'll direct your attention to my signature. No, not the clever little witicism, below that, to Galeman's Rogues Gallery. He has posted an update and given a little glimpse of what's to come. Since we were already almost level 5 when I started writing and were too lazy to try and figure out what our 3rd level sheets looked like, he's gone ahead and posted our characters at 5th level. At this point in the story, we're 2nd level, quickly approaching 3rd.

    I'm gonna try and get another update done before the end of the weekend. Shayla returns next week, and we're all itching to play. Truth be told, however, I've got a bad feeling about the next adventure...
    Last edited by EternalNewbie; Friday, 9th January, 2004 at 04:21 AM.
    EternalNewbie - because some things are forever

    Al-Qarin: Into the Desert
    Join Khalid the cowardly conjurer as he bumbles from one catastrophe to another! Watch, as he and his companions flee from danger at every opportunity! You'll laugh in derision at the party's poor tactics! You'll cry with frustration as they ignore the obvious hints of their inevitable doom! Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!

    Note: Any money sent to author will not be refunded.


    Al-Qarin Rogues Gallery

 

  • #32
    As promised, here's your weekend update. I didn't get quite as far as I'd originally planned with this update either and faced with the prospect of splitting it into two parts and delaying it until I can get the rest of it finished, I opted for the former. Gorak has been complaining about the title of the thread too, so I'm going to change it, yet again. Now, without further ado, I present:

    CHAPTER 2: THE CITY OF SIN

    The caravan rolled slowly through the crowded streets of Shalazar. The cramped, dingy hovels and press of bodies tainted the cool river breeze, creating a stale humidity that coated the skin. An endless stream of people flowed around the caravan, urged aside by the implacable horses and occasionally by Nasim's stinging whip. He seemed to Khalid to be even more nervous now than he had been out in the desert. Glancing back over his shoulder, Khalid saw Gorak and Shayla sharing a laugh with the other guard. They didn't seem the least bit worried. Khalid sighed and tried to find a more comfortable spot on the hard buckboard wagon.

    Finally, after the third time he saw Nasim flinch toward his sword, Khalid could no longer stand the tension. "Ah, you seem a bit agitated, yes agitated, Nasim. Is there a problem?"

    Nasim turned to Khalid, his expression grim. "It is not unheard of for caravans to be attacked in broad daylight in the streets of Shalazar."

    "Indeed?"

    Nasim nodded. "Most of the time, it is a simple robbery. But Haroun, he's dead now, we buried him in the desert, he told me that he saw it happen once. He said that they swarmed over the caravan like ants and dragged the guards out of their saddles. Hacked them to pieces right in the middle of the street." As he said the word hacked, he made a little chopping motion with his hand. "All over the price of coffee in Gem-Sharad." He shook his head sadly, "I'm sure it made the merchant prince behind it a lot of money." Then he grinned sheepishly. "Ah, forgive me my friend, I'm certain there is nothing to worry about…you can't blame me for being a bit jumpy after that trip we just had through the desert."

    "Yes, quite," replied Khalid, his eyes darting nervous around the street. Suddenly everyone in the mob pressed around the wagon seemed to be paying it undue attention. Khalid saw daggers within every shadowed alley and cursed the gloom for hiding would be assassins from his scrutiny. Then he saw something that he wished had gone unnoticed. A thin rivulet of blood was flowing from an alley and pooling in the gutter. As they passed by the alley, Khalid saw three men, steel in hand, standing over a fourth who was badly injured or dead. One of the men looked up, straight at Khalid whose morbid fascination would not let him turn away.

    "Don't look!" hissed Nasim. "If you don't see them, they won't see you. It is the way of things here."

    Khalid snapped his head around and stared straight ahead as the wagon slowly trundled past the scene. The people in the street were doing much the same, carefully looking anywhere but at the alley. He even saw one man step over the pool of blood and continue on his way. Khalid bit his lip uneasily. Gem-Sharad could be a dangerous place. Fights were common and bodies turned up in the poor quarter with disturbing frequency but a murder in broad daylight, with nobody calling for the guard or even reacting too it, that would never happen, even in the seediest parts of the city. Khalid began to question the wisdom of coming to Shalazar.

    His attitude changed however, as they left the poor quarter and entered a more prosperous area of the city. As the squalid buildings changed from crude mud huts to brick buildings and storefronts, Khalid began to relax a little. Slowly, the surroundings became cleaner and less congested. The merchant quarter slowly gave way to an upscale neighborhood that reminded Khalid of Gem-Sharad, albeit a part of Gem-Sharad he had rarely set foot in. There were more armed men in evidence here, moving through the streets in two's and three's, or lounging outside various shops and establishments. They each wore a different tabard or insignia on their clothing.

    Nasim smiled then, and called out a greeting to a group of men wearing white armbands with some sort of green sigil emblazoned on it. As the men approached, Nasim leaned closer to Khalid and said, "Ah, excellent. These men are in Arbaq's employ. They will take the caravan the rest of the way to Arbaq's estate." The four men hopped up on the slow moving wagons and Nasim handed the reins to one of them. "Come, come, I will show you to the accommodations Arbaq has arranged for you," he gestured at Khalid as he leaped off the wagon.

    Khalid jumped down too and joined Shayla and Gorak with Nasim, who led them through the city streets while delivering a running commentary on the various places of interest. He indicated which restaurants served the best al machboos, which wineshops cut their wine and which brothels had the best women. Shayla rolled her eyes as Gorak made several pointed inquires into the latter subject.

    Finally, they arrived at the inn, a tall building whose brick walls had been covered with a gleaming white plaster. A large garden surrounded the building and liveried guards stood at attention outside the door. As they entered the inn, Khalid's mouth began to water at the savory smells that enveloped him. The room was shaped like a horseshoe, with a large bar on the eastern wall. High vaulted windows stood open to the breeze and the air carried the mingled aroma of roasting lamb and fragrant herbs.

    "I will make arrangements with the owner. All of your expenses will be taken care of while you are a guest of Arbaq." Nasim said.

    "Join us for a drink?" Gorak rumbled.

    Nasim smiled broadly, "But of course my friends."

    They had no difficulty finding a table in a secluded corner. It was after siesta and the bar was almost completely empty. Nasim returned to their table with four glasses of wine. Khalid took his glass and was about to taste it when he stopped and spoke. "Ah, if I may offer a toast," Khalid said as he raised his glass. "To journeys, both the ones behind us and the ones which still lay ahead."

    "To journeys," the others replied and the all drank. Khalid was absolutely certain he had never had wine this good.

    They laughed and joked and enjoyed each other's company for a time, before Nasim grew serious again. "I must caution you, my friends, Shalazar is not like Gem-Sharad. There is no Sultan here. The city councilors are the puppets of the merchant princes, and the city guards are, for the most part, ineffectual and corrupt. The merchant princes and their retinues dictate the real law here. The politics of Shalazar are murky and treacherous and the most unassuming of its denizens may carry great influence." He looked at Shayla. "I would recommend that you do not venture out into the city unescorted." He glanced at Khalid as well. "You either." Khalid flushed slightly but in all honestly had already reached that conclusion on his own.

    "And where does Arbaq fit into this snake's warren?" Gorak grumbled.

    "Ah, you will have to forgive me, for it is not my place to discuss such things," Nasim replied apologetically. "Suffice it to say however, that the name of Arbaq is known in this city and he will be able to shield you, to a certain extent." Nasim stood up then and drained the last of his wine. "Now I must return to my duties. Arbaq will call on you shortly, I am sure. Until then, enjoy yourselves and fare well." He bowed low, then left the inn.

    Alone for the first time in several days, the three looked at each other. Then Gorak grinned. "You heard the man, it's time to enjoy ourselves. Khalid, go get us a few more bottles of that wine.

    The common room began to fill up as darkness shrouded the city. Musicians and dancing girls appeared and entertained the growing crowd. A never-ending stream of servants kept their table laden with food and their glasses full of wine. At one point, Gorak left the table and returned with a pouch of pipe weed and a large hookah. The smoke it produced was aromatic and heavy. The rest of the evening faded from Khalid's memory, carried away on wispy curls of bluish smoke.

    Khalid awoke late in the morning, with his mouth tasting like ashes and a head that felt as though it had been used as an anvil. He stumbled around in a daze, finally deciding that a bath would be the best thing to clear his head. When he returned to his room, he found that Arbaq had generously provided him with a wardrobe. Khalid immediately threw his worn rags aside and donned a richly appointed crimson robe. Examining the effect in a mirror, Khalid was pleased with the result. With his head freshly shaved and beard neatly trimmed, Khalid headed down to the common room.

    Gorak was already there, seated at the same table they had occupied last night, surrounded by the remnants of an enormous lunch. As Khalid sat down, a serving girl appeared immediately bearing a glass of mango juice. Khalid ordered a meal that rivaled the one Gorak had just consumed. As the girl left, he pulled a piece of roast fowl off one of the many plates surrounding Gorak and popped it into his mouth. Gorak, Khalid noticed, had a broad grin on his face the entire time. Arbaq had evidently provided them all with new clothing, and Gorak was wearing a pair of pantaloons and a dark green silk vest that left his muscled chest bare.

    Khalid, unnerved by Gorak's silent mirth, spoke. "Ah, you seem in good humor this morning, yes, quite. What is it?"

    "Have you been to the baths yet?" Gorak asked. His smile was immediately mirrored by the one on Khalid's face.

    "Yes, quite." Khalid replied, and both men shared a knowing laugh.

    He saw Gorak's eyes widen then, and turned to see what he was looking at. Shayla had just entered the common area, wearing a stunning dress of pale blue. Her hair, combed straight now and pulled back with an ivory comb, shone in the morning light. She looked absolutely stunning and she practically glided over to their table and joined them. Every eye in the room was on her and she knew it.

    "What are you two grinning at?" Shayla asked as she sat down and bit into a piece of fruit.

    "We was just talking about the baths," Gorak rumbled.

    "The baths? They certainly are delightful here. I think I spent two hours down there this morning. I can't remember the last time I felt this clean…" She trailed off as she realized that both men were on the verge of open laughter. "What is it?" she demanded, then her eyes narrowed as she looked at both men in turn. "Wait a minute, were their naked women in your bath rooms as well?"

    Gorak, unable to contain himself, burst out laughing as Khalid replied, "Yes, quite!"

    Shayla rolled her eyes and exclaimed with some exasperation, "Men!"

    After they had eaten, they discussed their plans their for the day. Shayla insisted that Gorak take her to the marketplace, and he agreed without requiring too much cajoling. "Might be a good idea to get a feel for the city, until we figure out what we're gonna do," he rumbled. "What about you Khalid, whadda you gonna do today?"

    "Ah, yes, I think I'll take advantage of the peace and quiet to return to my studies. I'm on the verge of unlocking a new formula which may prove quite, yes, quite useful. I think I've found a way to use Ibrahim's theory on trans-substantiation to force an opening into a dimensional abnormality. I'm having difficulty achieving any sort of stability however and…" His voice trailed off as he realized that Shayla's eyes had become unfocused and were staring past him as she absently picked at the fruit she was eating. Gorak wasn't even pretending to pay attention anymore, and was staring appreciatively at one of the serving girls. "Ah, yes, well suffice it to say that I will be continuing my research and will remain here for the next several days." He pushed the last plate of his lunch away from him and glanced down at his greasy hands. "Of course, ah, first I think I will take another trip down to the baths to freshen up. Yes quite."

    Shayla frowned disapprovingly, but her comment was lost beneath Gorak's rumbling laugh.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Three days went past before they heard any word from Arbaq. Khalid stayed for the most part, within the luxurious rooms of the inn. Arbaq had rented out the entire third floor and Khalid's room was roughly twice the size of his dingy hovel in Gem-Sharad. By the time three days had passed however, it looked remarkably similar, with papers and books strewn around the room, and plates of half eaten food decorating the various end tables and desks he had requested. In addition to his research, Khalid had taken the time to inscribe a number of scrolls, storing his arcane power for use in an emergency. Shayla and Gorak spent most of the time walking the streets of Shalazar, learning the city.

    They were enjoying an evening meal together when a young boy approached their table. He bowed low and then said quietly, "Master Arbaq humbly requests your presence at his estate. When you are ready, I will take you there."

    The three glanced at one another, then pushed their plates away and stood up. "No time like the present." Gorak rumbled.

    The boy led them through the darkening streets of Shalazar into the richest part of the city. The lamplighters were out in full force, lighting the various torches and lamps that hung in the affluent areas of the city. Gradually the houses became larger and more opulent and eventually they passed out of the city proper altogether. High walls surrounded the houses in this area and their gates were manned with armed sentries. Finally the boy stopped in front of a huge wrought iron gate and spoke to the men guarding it. They admitted the four of them and then locked the gate. Khalid was awestruck by what lay beyond. Palatial estate was barely adequate to describe Arbaq's residence. Beyond the walls, a palm tree lined cobblestone path led the way to the main house through an immaculately groomed carpet of grass. The house itself was enormous, with two wings angled back away from the main building. A huge golden dome capped the center building, and carefully concealed lamps illuminated the entire structure. The boy led them to the front door, where an elderly man dressed in fine silken robes greeted them. "Welcome to the humble home of Arbaq ibn Asadel. He has asked me to show you to him, straight away, so if you would please follow me."

    They saw little of the house itself, save for the maze of marbled hallways that the servant led them down. The servant stopped finally in front of two large wooden double doors. "You will find Master Arbaq within," he said as he bowed low before them.

    As Gorak opened the door and the three walked into the room their eyes widened in shock. If Khalid was awestruck by the sight of Arbaq's estate, he was rendered speechless by what lay beyond the doors. The room itself was enormous. Marble columns carved in the likeness of heroic warriors stretched towards the ceiling at regular intervals. Rich tapestries lined the walls and plush divans and sitting chairs were arranged around the room. There was even a fountain feeding a small pool at one side of the room. None of these things, however, were the cause of the surprise. The room was also occupied by about twenty or so gorgeous young women in various states of undress. Some were lounging on the divans talking quietly while others were bathing in the pool. As the three walked through the center of the room, Khalid flushed as he felt the eyes of the women upon him. A young woman with dusky skin leaned over and whispered something to one of the other girls while pointing at Gorak. They both laughed demurely behind their hands as he walked past.

    Arbaq's voice reached them from the far side of the room and cut through the distraction. "Gorak. Khalid. Shayla. It is good to see you again. Please, join me here."

    Khalid hurried forward, anxious to catch a glimpse of the mysterious merchant. He was foiled again however, as Arbaq was concealed by three huge silken screens. Once again, all they could see of him was a silhouette against the silk.

    Arbaq continued, "I am pleased at your prompt response to my summons. I had hoped to discuss with you the possibility of future employment with you, if you are interested."

    "Ah, well, that depends I suppose, on ah, what you would have us do?" Khalid replied, his gaze still flickering around the room.

    "Indeed. I have something in mind for you three, which I think will be well within the range of your unique skills. If, after you hear me out, you decide that the task is too difficult or distasteful, then you may leave here with my thanks, and enjoy the rest of the week in Shalazar at my expense."

    "Sounds fair," Gorak rumbled.

    "Excellent. There is a man, here in Shalazar, who has betrayed me in a sense. I wish for you three to…reprimand him for me."

    "You want us to give him the kind of reprimand that involves a hole out in the desert somewhere?" Gorak asked.

    "While I would find that deeply satisfying, I'm afraid that he is too valuable to simply discard. I simply want you to show him the wisdom of continuing to deal with me, rather than one of my competitors. Now I must caution you, he is a wealthy man and wealth of course, breeds paranoia. He surrounds himself with guards, which is why I am asking this of you. While I have no shortage of men at my disposal, I would prefer that things remain relatively, shall we say, tidy."

    "Right. So what's his game?" Gorak rumbled.

    "His name is Festran," Arbaq continued, "and he runs a house of ill repute called the Blessed Sin here in the city. He dabbles in prostitution, gambling and to a lessor extent, drugs. He is reasonably well known and prosperous within the city, but you need fear no retribution in this. Simply inform him on whose behalf you are acting and let him direct his enmity towards me, if he is so foolish. I will reward you with a sum equal to that I gave you for your fortunate assistance in the desert. So, what do you say, will you assist me in this endeavor?"

    Khalid, realizing that he had just been asked a question, jerked his gaze away from the nubile young women lounging around the room. "Ah, we may need some additional, resources, yes quite."

    "Of course," Arbaq replied. "I can provide you with anything you may require."

    "Ah, yes, rather than having us running back and forth to your estate all the time, perhaps you could simply reimburse us?" Khalid asked.

    Arbaq paused for a moment then replied, "That is acceptable, within reason of course."

    "Sounds good to me," Gorak growled. "I'll do it, if Khalid and Shayla are up for it."

    "I'm in," Shayla replied without hesitation. "This sounds like far too much fun to pass up."

    Khalid deliberated for a moment before giving his answer. Waylaying merchants wasn't exactly what he had in mind when he set out for Shalazar. Still, he reasoned, Gorak and Shayla seemed enthusiastic about it and he owed them both a great deal. He glanced about the room again and decided to accept the offer. Khalid was however, honest enough with himself to realize that his decision was influenced as much by Arbaq's exorbitant wealth as his loyalty to Shayla and Gorak. "I ah, see no reason why we can't aid you in resolving this little matter. Yes, quite."

    "I am very glad to hear that," Arbaq responded. "Perhaps after you finish this little task, we can discuss a more permanent arrangement which I assure you, has the potential to benefit us both greatly."

    "Indeed," Khalid replied.

    "Well then, return to me when you have finished this business. I'll have one of the servants show you out." And with that, they were dismissed.

    As they walked back to their inn, they discussed their next move. "Ah, if I might make a suggestion," Khalid offered, "I think perhaps Gorak, yes, Gorak should indulge himself at this fine establishment."

    Gorak grinned eagerly. "Sure, lend me some money."

    Khalid frowned, "Ah, yes quite. Try to keep your wits about you."

    Gorak chuckled, "You worry to much. I got the idea. I'll check the place out, see what kind of security he's got."

    "Ah, yes. After that we should have a better, yes quite, better idea of how to approach this situation." Khalid said.

    They parted ways a few streets away from the inn as Shayla and Khalid headed back to their rooms and Gorak ventured off to do some late night reconnaissance. The inn was still reasonably busy when they arrived. Khalid hesitated at the foot of the stairs, and then finally decided it was probably too late to visit the baths. He climbed the stairs and unlocked the door to his room, still thinking about the meeting with Arbaq. He disrobed and climbed into his gigantic four poster bed, settling deep into the plush mattress. Surrounded by opulence, entangled with a man who wielded his wealth like a weapon and embarking on a task of questionable legality and indeed, morality, Khalid sighed to himself and wondered if he had made the right decision in leaving Gem-Sharad.
    Last edited by EternalNewbie; Sunday, 11th January, 2004 at 04:59 PM.
    EternalNewbie - because some things are forever

    Al-Qarin: Into the Desert
    Join Khalid the cowardly conjurer as he bumbles from one catastrophe to another! Watch, as he and his companions flee from danger at every opportunity! You'll laugh in derision at the party's poor tactics! You'll cry with frustration as they ignore the obvious hints of their inevitable doom! Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!

    Note: Any money sent to author will not be refunded.


    Al-Qarin Rogues Gallery

  • #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by EternalNewbie
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member.
    Surrounded by opulence, entangled with a man who wielded his wealth like a weapon and embarking on a task of questionable legality and indeed, morality, Khalid sighed to himself and wondered if he had made the right decision in leaving Gem-Sharad.
    Right decision?! The baths man, the baths!

  • #34
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    wow!

    well met,

    wow! this definitely rocks the casbah! the crowd here has caught a whiff, of that crazy Casbah jive! Khalid, continue to rock on!

    yours,
    shao
    So, ever hear about the movie with the Flesh Golem telepath and his bard son-in-law?

    i think it was called "Meat the Parents"...

    Bad Joke Sig Virus. Possibly the Worse in Existence.

    Mekhet's Magnificient Seven - our second stab at it.

    Mekhet's Magnificent Seven, Redux!

  • #35
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    ok, shameless bump to see if my new sig worked
    "Of all the things i've lost, I miss my mind the most." - Cereal Killer, quoting Ozzy Ozborne, in Hackers.

    EternalNewbie's Al-Qarin Story Hour

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  • #36
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    Great update! I'm curious, have you had any trouble with combats since you only have 3 characters, all of whom are spellcasters?

  • #37
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    hey bill,

    to answer your question from a gm's point of view, things seems to go one of three ways with a group like this.
    1) the group completely anhilates the encounter - usually while at full capacity.
    2) the group turns tale and runs - usually when at low capacity.
    3) the group gets their collective a$$ handed to them and gorak's snake bails them out - wait for it. it'll become a recurring theme in the 2nd-4th level games, that is, if EternalNewbie decides to play it up

    also though, i try to tailor set encounters such that i feel they can handle them. as it is though, Gorak makes a pretty decent front line fighter, and sorceresses can deliver a sick amount of damage. things tend to go wrong when Shayla goes down or gets low on spells. though Shayla really is as deadly as Newb describes her with that crossbow.

    of course, newb's perspective on this all may vary and i'm sure he'll give a completely different answer than mine. one in which Khalid shines through no doubt. :rolleyes:
    Last edited by Galeman; Tuesday, 13th January, 2004 at 06:38 PM.
    "Of all the things i've lost, I miss my mind the most." - Cereal Killer, quoting Ozzy Ozborne, in Hackers.

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  • #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Muench
    This quote is hidden because you are ignoring this member.
    Great update! I'm curious, have you had any trouble with combats since you only have 3 characters, all of whom are spellcasters?
    Actually, I'm just relieved that we actually have somebody that can heal this time around. In the last two campaigns in this world the groups consisted of a Fighter, Rogue, Wizard and a Fighter/Sorc, Wizard, Rogue and a bard that never made it to second level, so this is a walk in the park . Thus far it hasn't been too bad. We use NPC's occasionally to bolster our ranks and we're getting pretty close to the point where one of us will take leadership. And Galeman's right about that stupid snake. Damn thing has more hps and a better AC than anybody in the group :rolleyes:

    Now, since I always feel guilty posting without an update...here's there update which will be forever known on my harddrive as Part 7b.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Khalid woke at his usual time the next day, when the sunlight finally became too intrusive to ignore. Donning the crimson robe that had become his only set of clothing since he threw out the threadbare remnants of his White Tower apprentice robes, Khalid headed downstairs. When he got there, Gorak was already seated at their customary table. This morning however, there was nothing in front of him except a steaming mug of coffee. His eyes were bloodshot and he seemed to be even more disheveled then usual. Khalid joined him at the table and asked quietly, "Ah, yes, so how did things go last night."

    Gorak grunted something inaudible as he took a sip from his coffee.

    "Ah, yes. What?"

    "I said, we'd better wait for Shayla so I don't have to repeat myself," Gorak grumbled.

    Khalid had finished eating by the time Shayla finally made an appearance in the common room. Waving away the serving girl, Shayla grabbed a piece of fruit on her way over to the table. As she sat down, she mumbled through a mouthful of apple, "So, we ready to administer some punishment or what?"

    Khalid glanced around the nearly empty common room. "Ah, perhaps we should adjourn to somewhere a little more private to discuss this, yes?"

    "Ya," Gorak grunted as he stood, stifling a yawn. The others joined him and they headed back upstairs to Khalid's room. Shoving aside a stack of papers, Gorak sat down on a chair and said, "Alright. It doesn't look great, but it could be worse." He picked up a sheet of paper and a quill, and quickly sketched out a crude map. "The place is three stories high. The bar and the gambling tables are on the first level. There's a huge staircase opposite the front doors that leads up to the second level. The center of the second level is open, so you can look down on the card tables. Around the outside are the private rooms. There are two guards at the front door collecting the entrance fee. There's two more here, and another one here, here and here." He indicated the corners of the room. "There's also a few circulating around the crowd."

    "So maybe seven on the main floor, and two more within earshot. That's inconvenient. Any good news for us?" Shayla asked.

    "Ya, and that was it," Gorak grumbled. "I saw Festran himself. He's about as tall as I am, but rounder. Thinning black hair and wearing enough jewelry to put Shayla to shame. He came in with four more guards. They went straight up to the second level and in this room here, which I figure is the way up to the third floor. Two of the guards took up positions here, outside. The other two went up with him."

    "Ah, yes, it would seem that attempting to strong arm our way into the Blessed Sin is not an option, and I do not think we have the ah, capabilities, yes, capabilities to make it unnoticed to the third floor. Yes, quite." Khalid mused. "What about, ah, following him?"

    Gorak grunted, "Maybe. We jump him outside though, no way to tell who's gonna come to his aid. Hit him in some other place, we don't know the layout, and maybe there's some bystanders that get caught up in it."

    "Ah, hrm, well then, what options do we have." Khalid said.

    "Well," Gorak rumbled. "I was working on something while I was there last night. He's a merchant right?" He looked at Khalid who nodded. "Well then, let's sell him something. I spent a bit of money there last night, got myself seen, made nice with some of the bouncers."

    "Ah, excellent idea." Khalid said. Then he was silent for moment before snapping his fingers and speaking again. "Ah, what about drugs? If you can find me a root of the bavala plant, I can perhaps distill, yes, distill it down and synthesize a type of narcotic called Crystal Smoke."

    "I probably can, ya." Gorak rumbled, with a slow grin spreading across his face. "But that ain't exactly what I had in mind to sell him." He shot Shayla a sidelong glance. Khalid, catching on, immediately began to chuckle.

    Shayla, who had been absently trimming her nails with her dagger, held up her hand and examined her handiwork in the sunlight. Realizing suddenly that the conversation had stopped she looked up to find both men grinning at her. "What?" She demanded, then her eyes widened slowly. "You can't be serious!" she wailed as both Khalid and Gorak burst out laughing.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Gorak dropped a fistful of sultanas into the doorman's hand and strode into Blessed Sin. He nodded to one of the bouncers as he moved towards the bar. Recognizing one of the guards he had talked to the night before, Gorak picked up his drink and walked over. The man was casually leaning on the railing of the staircase, watching the crowd.

    "So?" Gorak rumbled. "He here yet?"

    The guard, whose eyes never really left the crowd as Gorak spoke to him, replied, "Nah, not yet. He won't be in till later, probably. Then he'll make his rounds, greet the regulars and that sort of thing before he heads up to his office."

    "Do me a favor would you?" Gorak asked. The guard grunted noncommittally. "When he gets here, tell him I've got some business to discuss with him." Gorak turned his palm over revealing two sultanas in his hand.

    Now the guard's eyes flickered away from the crowd to stare at the gold in Gorak's palm. The guard grinned at Gorak as he shook hands with him. "I think I can put in a good word for you."

    That taken care of, Gorak went to the card tables and began to lose, slowly and methodically. Several hours passed before Festran made an appearance. Gorak's first drink was still almost full and his purse was almost empty, neither of which put him in a particularly good mood. As he watched Festran make his way through the crowd, he ran through the details one last time, then slammed back his drink and ordered another. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Festran begin to climb the stairs and the guard he had bribed lean over to tap him on the arm. They spoke briefly, and the bouncer pointed in Gorak's direction.

    Festran turned around and walked back through the gambling pit. Flanked by two bodyguards he moved up beside Gorak at the end of the bar. "So you think you have business with me?" he practically sneered.

    "Not me, my master." Gorak grumbled.

    "Ah." Festran seemed to relax a little. "And what pray tell is your master peddling?"

    "Girls." Gorak grunted.

    Festran waved his hand dismissively. "Take a look around my friend. Girls, I have."

    "Not like these you don't." Gorak muttered.

    Festran's expression hardened a bit. "I will forgive you that, my friend, because they tell me you've made me a fair bit richer in the last two days."

    "Ain't my money." Gorak shrugged. "The boss, he says come in here, spend some money, take a look around and see what kind of place it is. So I come. I spend. Nice place, good security and you got the gold to make the deal."

    "Well, I don't need any more girls. I'm sorry that you wasted your time, my friend, but I do sincerely appreciate your business." With a nod of his head, Festran turned to leave.

    "Red hair." Gorak grunted.

    Festran stopped. "What did you say."

    "Red hair," Gorak continued. "Green eyes. Skin the color of cream. 'Bout this tall and this big around." He put the tips of his fingers together.

    Festran turned around. "And…" He made a cupping motion with his hands.

    "Yeah, but bigger.

    Festran laughed. "Well my scruffy friend, you have managed to capture my interest. Tell your master to bring the girl by, and I'll take a look at her."

    Gorak shook his head. "The boss, he don't come in places like this."

    "Oh, and why is that?" The suspicion had returned to Festran's face.

    "Dunno." Gorak shrugged. "The boss don't tell me and I don't ask. He said if you wanna take a look, he'll be having dinner tomorrow at the Crescent Moon."

    Festran stared hard at Gorak. The suspicion was bright and quick now. "I think I will pass, my friend. I don't really need any more girls."

    "The boss, he said you might say that," Gorak rumbled. "So he told me to tell you he also has some Crystal Smoke."

    "Really?" Festran raised an eyebrow. "How much?"

    Gorak could see the greed smoldering in the man's eyes. "Depends."

    "On what?" Festran demanded

    "On how much you need," Gorak smirked. Festran's expression didn't change, but Gorak saw the spark of greed turn into a raging bonfire. Gorak knew then that everything would fall into place. He had him.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    "I just want you to know that I'm still mad at you. Both of you." Shayla pouted. The wispy, diaphanous gown she was wearing revealed more than it hid. Much more.

    "Two votes to one, darling. Ya lost." Gorak rumbled with an evil grin on his face.

    "Just where in the nine hells am I supposed to hide a weapon, wearing this thing?" She demanded.

    "Here, I'll give ya a hand." Gorak said, still grinning as he stood up to help.

    "Get off of me, you oaf," Shayla cursed, slapping his hands away.

    Two bright spots of color were rising on her cheeks, and she looked furious. Khalid, sensing an imminent explosion, spoke quickly, "Ah, why don't you hide your crossbow under that couch over there, and tuck a dagger down into the cushions. You should be able to retrieve them quickly enough, should the need arise." Shayla rather uncharacteristically bit back what she was about to say and simply nodded.

    Khalid surveyed the surroundings, trying to decide how best to arrange things to their advantage. At Gorak's suggestion, Khalid and Shayla had visited most of the more expensive restaurants the day before, searching for a suitable room. After looking at a half dozen places, they settled on a private room at the Crescent Moon. It was to the rear of the restaurant, well away from other patrons and staff. They had paid for the room for the entire afternoon, and left strict instructions not to be disturbed once the food had been served.

    The room itself was long and narrow. It had only one door leading to the restaurant and a window directly opposite that, which provided a delightful view of the small alley behind the building. Only two chairs were arrayed around the large table that dominated the center of the room. Khalid slid a chair to the end of the table, near the window, figuring that if things went bad, it would provide a convenient avenue of escape and placed the other chair near the door for Festran. Frowning, he muttered, "Ah, yes, that's a little close to the door. Yes, quite."

    Gorak, who was stuffing Sousee underneath one of the couches, looked up from what he was doing. "Yeah, but it'll look funny if he opens the door and you're sitting there with your back to him," he grumbled. "Relax," he continued, "if the plan works it won't matter no how."

    "Yes, quite." Khalid muttered, very much aware that the plan, as it stood, relied rather heavily on him. He scanned around the room, trying to think of anything he may have missed.

    Gorak stood up and snapped his fingers. "I almost forgot." He fished two small vials out of a pouch at his waist. "I picked these up." He handed one of the vials to Shayla and the other to Khalid.*

    "Ah," Khalid held it up to the light and examined it. It was filled with a thin, translucent liquid. "What's this?"

    "Healing unguent. I got it off an alchemist down in the merchant's quarter. They're expensive as hell, but worth it," he replied.

    "Ah, yes, of course, assuming that the man who sold them to you wasn't a charlatan." Khalid said dubiously but he tucked it in his belt nevertheless.

    Gorak shrugged, "We'll find out sooner or later I guess. Let's get ready, he could be here any time now."

    Khalid closed his eyes, and chanted the words to a protection spell. Once again, glowing bands rippled out from a small strip of leather he was holding, and encircled his body.
    Shayla, watching him closely, waited until he had finished before speaking. "Um, should I use this now Khalid?" she asked holding up a rolled piece of parchment.

    "Ah, yes, that is yours to do with as you will, but now would probably be an appropriate time. Yes quite," he replied. "Just hold it, yes, like that and speak the rune as I showed you."

    Shayla stared hard at the paper for a moment, and then spoke an arcane word. Her eyes widened as the rune vanished and glowing bands, similar to the ones that just enveloped Khalid, surrounded her. Then she grinned and flopped down on the couch in a decidedly unladylike fashion.

    Khalid, smoothing the front of his crimson robes, sat down in the chair opposite the door. Gorak, looking particularly menacing in his freshly oiled leather armor, took up a position slightly behind and to the right of Khalid. Seeing that all was in order, Khalid took a deep breath and muttered, "Now it begins."

    It didn't however, begin immediately. In fact, much to Khalid's annoyance, it took Festran another half an hour to arrive. The pudgy little man smiled broadly as he entered the room and said, "I am truly sorry for keeping you waiting." His tone indicated that he was anything but.

    "Yes, quite." Khalid replied as he waved away the apology. "Ah, I am, Achmed Abdul-Azim. Please, sit down. The food should be along shortly, yes, shortly."

    Festran sat down at the opposite end of the table. Khalid's heart began to pound, as no less than five guards, including a hulking brute of a man whose physique rivaled Gorak's, filed into the room. The brute stood slightly behind Festran, near the door, while the other guards took up positions in the corners of the room. Khalid noticed that Shayla had tensed up slightly and was biting her lower lip. Gorak, implacable as always, showed no emotion as he sized up their adversaries.

    Festran dispensed with the preamble and went straight to the point. "So this is the girl," he practically purred. "Not bad, not bad at all. And you say that you can get more like her?"

    "Ah, yes, quite." Khalid stammered, somewhat taken aback. "With the ah, turmoil, yes turmoil in the east there are plenty of refugees. Yes, quite."

    "Interesting. We may indeed be able to reach an agreement here. Stand up girl, let me have a look at you," he instructed.

    Shayla, staring daggers at both Khalid and Gorak, stood up slowly. She was spared the indignity of parading around in front of the lecherous merchant however, as at that moment servants entered bearing trays of food. They quietly and efficiently set the table and then backed out the door, bowing as they left.

    "Now, where were we," Festran said. "Ah yes. Dance for me girl. Let me see what skills you have." Juice dribbled down his fleshy chin as he bit heavily into a piece of lamb.

    Shayla, still glaring at Khalid, began to slowly strut around the room, emulating the motions of the dancing girls she'd seen at the inn. Khalid, painfully aware of the terrible violence that would erupt at his command was desperately trying to think of a way to put more distance between himself and the guards that now surrounded him. Even preoccupied as he was, Shayla's dance still captivated him and he was unable to look away as she wound her way around the room with sinuous grace. When she finished, the guards were all leering appreciatively.

    Festran however, looked unimpressed. "Adequate," he remarked.

    Khalid, realizing that the time for action was fast approaching, tried to look indignant as he stood up. "Ah, yes, I assure you, she is of the highest quality…"

    "Yes, yes," Festran dismissed his objection with a wave of his hand. "It's nothing a little practice won't take care of. Now, take that dress off and we'll see what you really have to offer."

    "Achmed…" Shayla said dangerously.

    "Ah, yes, you heard the man, get out of those…" Khalid was rather proud of himself. There was no hesitation, no indication that anything was out of the ordinary as his sentence trailed off into an arcane chant. With a flick of his hand he sent a tiny pinch of sand drifting through the air. As it settled to the ground, the huge brute and the guard in the corner beside him toppled over.

    Gorak reacted instantly. Like a huge hunting cat, he took two quick steps forward and then leapt at Festran, tackling him backward off his chair. Shayla too spun around at the sound of Khalid's voice and unleashed a spell on the guard behind her.

    Festran's bodyguards, taken by surprise, were slow to act. The guard nearest Khalid drove a fist into his gut, winding him. Khalid staggered backwards and gasped out the words to a spell. He couldn't spare the breath to curse however, as the man shrugged it off. The guard beside Shayla started to move forward to help Festran, but Shayla cried out, "Please, you must defend me!" Torn between his duty and Shayla's enchantment, he hesitated, glancing back and forth between the two.

    Gorak was not faring as well. Struggling with Festran on the ground, he was unable to defend himself as the other guard lined up and drove a fist into his kidney. Gorak grunted and his grip on Festran relaxed, allowing the tubby merchant to wriggle free and scramble towards the door. With a Herculean effort however, Gorak reached up and seized him by the belt, dragging him back to the ground and clamping a hand over his mouth to keep him from screaming. Again and again the guard hammered at Gorak, landing blow after blow. Gorak gritted his teeth and ignored the mounting punishment as he tightened his grip on Festran.

    Khalid shied away as the guard circling him lunged forward, his fingertips just barely brushing the sleeve of Khalid's robe. Khalid stumbled backwards with a startled squawk and was in the midst of casting another spell when out of the corner of his eye he saw the guard standing over Gorak draw his cudgel. Even as the arcane words rolled from his lips, Khalid shifted his target and the guard with the cudgel blinked and shook his head as though seized by some strange confusion.

    Shayla took the opportunity to dart in beside Gorak and upended one of the alchemical healing unguents over his head. The guard, finally shaking himself free of Khalid's minor confusion delivered a blow that would have felled a lesser man. Gorak however, clenched his jaw and fought through the pain. Festran jammed a hand up under his chin but Gorak swatted aside his feeble defenses and seized him by the hair. Hauling back, Gorak then drove his head into the floor three times in quick succession. Festran immediately went limp.

    Sousee chose that instant to make her appearance and slid out from beneath the couch. The guard immediately backed into the corner of the room crying out, "I surrender, I surrender, get it away from me!"

    Khalid whirled around, prepared to defend himself against the last two guards, but even as he turned, both guards dropped their cudgels to the floor.

    "I surrender."

    "Me too."

    Shayla, breathing heavily from the excitement of the fight, reached under the couch and pulled out her crossbow. Waving it at the three remaining guards, she ordered them back into the far corner of the room. Gorak stood up slowly then, in obvious pain, and grunted, "We got no quarrel with you. And if you just stay over there in the corner like good little boys, everybody will live to see the sunset."

    At that moment, a servant tapped lightly on the door. "Is everything alright in there?" he asked cautiously.**

    Khalid answered quickly. "Yes, quite. We are, ah, yes, conducting business in here. I told you we did not wish to ah, be disturbed!"

    "Most sincerest apologies, effendi, I will not trouble you again." Placated by Khalid's response, they heard his footsteps receding down the hall.

    Gorak gathered up his things, then knelt down beside Festran. Placing a hand over his mouth, Gorak pinched the man's earlobe between his thumb and forefinger until Festran came to with a muffled shriek. His eyes however, were blank and unfocused and he seemed unaware of his surroundings. Gorak grabbed a fist full of Festran's silk shirt and jerked him up into a sitting position. Then he leaned in close and growled, "Arbaq sends his regards," before driving his other fist into Festran's face. He then proceeded to beat Festran within an inch of his life.

    Khalid, a little unsettled by the display, was keeping a close eye on the guards. At the mention of Arbaq's name, one of the guards tensed up slightly. "Ah, yes," Khalid said, "I see you recognize the name of our illustrious, yes, illustrious employer. Be sure to remind Festran of it when he awakes."

    With one final kick, Gorak scooped up Sousee and tossed her in his rucksack. Turning to the guards he growled, "Count to five hundred. Slow. If I hear any noise outta any of you before then, maybe I'll come back here. And if I do, you can damn well bet I won't be in such a good mood." That said, he walked out the door, trailed by Khalid and Shayla. They walked quickly through the restaurant and out into the searing desert sun.

    Turning down a side street, they walked in silence for a bit as they mingled into the afternoon crowds. Then Shayla began to chuckle, softly at first then finally bursting into laughter, "Did you see the look," she gasped, "on that fat pig's face when you tackled him?"

    Gorak began to chuckle too, "Ya. His jaw dropped open so wide I thought he was gonna swallow me. He closed it up real quick though." Gorak held up his hand. The imprint of Festran's teeth was clearly visible in the fleshy part of his thumb. "That hurt worse than the bastard hitting me with the club."

    That sent Shayla into another gale of helpless laughter and finally, Khalid could contain himself no longer. With people looking at them as though they were insane, they stood in the center of the street while the crowds walked past and laughed until the tears rolled down their faces. Hundreds of miles from home, in this strange and dangerous city, Khalid no longer felt alone; in fact, flanked by his two best friends, he felt positively invincible.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Notes:
    *Galeman added these to the campaign because nobody ever plays a healer in our games. A bit more explanation will come with next post, but here's the effects and prices:

    Alchemical healing salves:
    1d4 25 Gold
    1d6 50 Gold
    1d8 75 Gold

    **The whole fight lasted 4 rounds I think. This is fairly accurate as to what happened, but even after discussing it with everybody, we're still a little hazy on the exact details. I do know that we very nearly lost this fight. When Shayla healed Gorak, he was at 1 hp. He went up to 6, then immediately after that, he got clubbed for 5. If I hadn't slept the big guard, we probably would have been toast..of course it didn't help that Gorak forgot about Sousee until the last round of the fight either
    Last edited by EternalNewbie; Wednesday, 14th January, 2004 at 11:39 PM.
    EternalNewbie - because some things are forever

    Al-Qarin: Into the Desert
    Join Khalid the cowardly conjurer as he bumbles from one catastrophe to another! Watch, as he and his companions flee from danger at every opportunity! You'll laugh in derision at the party's poor tactics! You'll cry with frustration as they ignore the obvious hints of their inevitable doom! Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!

    Note: Any money sent to author will not be refunded.


    Al-Qarin Rogues Gallery

  • #39
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    ø Ignore Bill Muench
    That was a fun update. Thanks!

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    ø Ignore Bill Muench
    Again I say: page 3? Back to the front with ye!

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