5E Al-Qadim Moving Through the Flame


Moving Through the Flame

Rogue's Gallery
OOC Thread
Play Thread (you’re here now)
Map of Zakhara 2875 × 4025

Table of Contents (by adventure / scene)
Blood & Fire (11th level adventure)

Marching Order (current)
[SBLOCK=Marching Order]
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NPC Index
[SBLOCK=NPC Index (by site / alphabetical)]

PC Companions
Easifa: Salahuddin's djinnling gen
Sinjin: Salahuddin's towering tasked genie valet

NPCs from the Past/Background
Sultan Nazir al-Azrad: wicked ex-Sultan of Tajar, deposed in civil war, purportedly locked away in monastery-prison
Jabir bin Hayyan: former moneylender to the Sultan, greedy man who was buried with stolen wealth

Tajar, City of Trade
Derafsh: brother to Nimar, far less loyal to the Sultan, more interested in his family making their own enterprise
Dulcet Riqqiyah: lovely rawuna (bard-ess) serving as Sheikh Ali's confidante and spy
Fahad al-Zakir: wealthiest merchant of Tajar, respected but very hard to audience with, served by Khafaz
Fereshte al-Baksheeshi: sister to Nimar
Ihsan and Nireen al-Bahr-Izdiham: brother and sister sea mages hunted by the Brotherhood of True Flame seeking sanctuary and justice; he is a tempestuous evoker, she is a calm far-seeing diviner
Imad al-Mashallah: purveyor of fine goods for the discerning caravaneer
Jina the Bold: merchant-rogue dealing in antiquities, she is more than she appears, lost several ritual urns to the "black-robed raiders"
Nazir al-Azrad ("The Sultan"): former wicked sultan-mage of Tajar who was overthrown, his name is forbidden to be spoken
Nimar al-Solak: former head of the Sultan's Haras al-Sirri (secret police)
Sheikh Ali al-Hadd: ruler of Tajar, urban head of House Bakr nomads, Akilah's (PC) father
Suelasta the Magnificient: boisterous keeper of a (mostly safe) monster menagerie, lost several monsters to the "black-robed raiders" including cockatrice, leucrotta, and young roper

High Desert / Badu al-Kabir
Ajan bin Najon al-Yaqud: Nephew to Sheikh Ali, cousin to Akilah, governs those members of House Bakr remaining in the desert
Burhan beni Bakr: an outrider in House Bakr, he delivered message from Ajan to Sheikh Ali requesting troops to face raiders, supposedly delivered to a woman in Sheikh Ali’s court
Khafaz ibn Dahz: caravan driver and merchant in service to Farad al-Zakir
Turin: foolish manservant of Khafaz, tricked out of decanter of endless water by Harun

Hakim Oasis
Usqual al-Shakari: A shady jann of the anti-urbanization Shakari tribe
Hadia al-Sarraf: Mistress of the caravanserai
Na'im and Naji: 13 and 11 year-old sons of Hadia
Malsoor the Water Bearer: ancient Enlightened vampire who took caravanserai under his "wing"
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Party Treasure
[SBLOCK=Party Treasure]Writ for 50,000 gp (45,775)
-3,000 roughly, for PC expenses from before database crash we can't remember
-400 Salahuddin's spell components
-150 Lal Qalander expenses
-675 expenses for NPC Nimar al-Solak and his rogues
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Blood and Fire (11th level adventure)

Sheikh Ali's Throne Room



Sheikh Ali al-Hadd is no longer young, the kiss of grey in his black beard, but he is not yet old. He is no longer al-Badia dwelling in the desert, but not yet fully al-Hadhar dwelling in the city, as is evidenced by his open air throne room and braziers crackling like a nomad’s campfire. He is no longer a hero, but not yet able to let go of his weathered shamsir which rests alongside his throne, not having left its scabbard in many moons. Holding a whispered conference with his two trusted lady viziers Akilah and Najiyah, he nods in agreement. His viziers’ words bring him relief, but his weary eyes do not leave the three who’ve arrived to his city that day. Tajar, City of Trade, Gateway of the High Desert.

“Welcome,” he extends a hand beckoning you forward, flowing banners and frankincense incense streaming in the light breeze moving through his throne room. Servants – brown youths fresh-eyed from the desert – offer goblets of cool mint and pomegranate water, along with platters of tart green grapes. It is late in the evening, yet the throne room has many warriors flanking its halls, their eyes alert to danger. “When my nadhir (herald) told me I had not one, but three auspicious guests, I was skeptical. Yet here you are…”

“Kaniel ibn Faruq al-Masafir, seasoned warrior sent by the Mamluks of the Valiant, at the behest of the Grand Caliph, all praise be upon him…” He gestures appreciatively to the half-orc Kaniel, who seems to have been the first of the Sheikh’s guests to arrive that evening.

[SBLOCK=Akilah, Najiyah, and Kaniel]You previously held counsel with the Sheikh about the brother and sister sea mages and the threat posed by the Brotherhood of True Flame. The Sheikh relented that it was worth investigating. The brother and sister sea mages, Ihsan and Nireen al-Bahr-Izdiham, are away in another room now.[/SBLOCK]

“Amina al-Din, bodyguard and maidservant sent to serve you, oh Akilah,” he leans over, glancing to the keen-eyed vizier at the right of his throne, “on orders from his holiness Imam Kerim, High Priest of the Mosque of Hakiyah the Honest in Huzuz…” The Sheikh spreads his hand towards the woman garbed in the raiments and off-white aba (robe) of an acolyte of Hakiyah, She of the Sea Breezes.

[SBLOCK=Ankabut]Your cover is “Amina al-Din” (Honest of the Faith), a lay acolyte of Hakiyah. The faith of Hakiyah values wisdom, truth, and reasoned inquiry; their guiding principle is that people see what they desire, not always what truly exists, and so the only real belief is one that questions and seeks. An acolyte of Hakiyah is expected to be calm, meditative, and methodical. While there is a hierarchy, the temple of Hakiyah also attracts many hakima (truth seers) and mystics who don’t follow the traditional hierarchies of other gods. In the “Pearl Cities” (like Tajar) Hakiyah is favored among the merchant class, and often depicted guiding her younger brother Haku from making foolish mistakes.[/SBLOCK]

“And an emissary sent from the very court of the Great Caliph of the Djinn…” Lastly, he regards Salahuddin with awe and traces of superstition common among his al-Badia ancestors towards all things pertaining to genies. Several of the younger guardsmen peer around pillars and lift up their helmets to get a better view of the man.

A dusky skinned genie bodyguard accompanying Salahuddin salaams to the Sheikh, introducing his master in a booming voice, ”Oh great and noble Sheikh, honored viziers, it is my humble pleasure to introduce to you Salahuddin ibn Hamid al-Qadibi, The Wind Called, Consort of the Venerable Fatima ibn Zaida, the Mistress of the Northern Gale, and Mortal Hand of the Great Caliph of All Djinn Husam al-Balil ben Nafhat al-Yugayyim…”

[SBLOCK=Salahuddin]Easifa overhears what the Sheikh was whispering about with his two viziers, and is eager to tell you, if you don’t object to a bit of eavesdropping…[/SBLOCK]

The Sheikh politely clears his throat and raises his brows as the genie bodyguard inhales to continue the myriad names of the Great Caliph of All Djinn. Realizing it would be wise not to upstage the Sheikh nor belabor the wonders of the djinn at this time, Sinjin falls silent with a wry smile and bows with a flourish, dropping back alongside his master.
 
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Shayuri

Villager
Amina bows deeply towards the Sheikh, then again towards Akilah. Dark haired and dusky-skinned, most of her face is veiled save only her deep brown eyes. Here in the presence of the Sheikh she bears no armor or weapon of course. Her acolyte robes are a light beige, the color of sand under a noonday sun, with the underlying raiments in the turquoise and soft greens of the sea. If there is anything notable about Amina, perhaps it is the lack of notable things. A sharp and canny eye might realize that there are no personal touches in her ensemble. No good luck charm dangling by a thin chain from a wrist, no unseemly belt buckle from an unwise bazaar purchase, no rings or earrings or bracelets or any other such affectation. Humility, perhaps, or a desire not to offend. It was not every day an acolyte would stand before the Sheikh and his Vizier.

"It is my honor to be called to serve, should it please you," she says in a soft voice towards the Vizier, not looking up to meet her eyes.
 
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Salahuddin stands behind his valet as he is presented to the Sheikh. The man looks small standing behind the ten foot tall valet. He is dressed in fine dark blue robes the color of the night sky. His head is wrapped in a traditional turban the veil used while travailing loosely hung around his neck. He sports a well trimmed and oiled goatee of dark black hair. His eyes are the dark grey of a summer storm. He has several trappings of the Sha'ir hung about his waist.

Salahuddin bows towards the Sheikh as Sinjin steps to his side. His eyes flick to the right and look at the spot that Easifa is invisibly floating. The Djinnling was eavesdropping again. Salahuddin speaks to it through the telepathic link they share.

"What have you learned?"

Salahuddin did not always condone his familiars compulsion to eavesdrop but it has been of assistance in the past. On this occasion the information could be of use. Salahuddin absorbs the information and then waits to see if the Sheikh will continue to speak.
 
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[SBLOCK=Salahuddin]Easifa swallows a few pomegranate seeds pilfered from a water glass, the seeds vanishing in mid-air alongside Salahuddin, too small to be noticed. Telepathically: "The Sheikh was displeased with his advisors for bringing two elementalists into his court, a brother and sister of the Sea's Children... A society of mages that has been hunted it seems... The Sheikh was concerned it showed favoritism that could make Tajar a target of whoever has been hunting the Sea's Children. But his viziers have convinced him that protecting his subjects, including these mages, is the wise course of action... Something about facing the fire that burns in the High Desert..."

Musing to himself, Easifa makes a sprig of mint disappear, munching on it contentedly as his telepathic rapport verges to the nostalgic. "Why, this level of intrigue reminds me of home... Clearly one of the viziers plans to poison the Sheikh." He concludes with dramatic pomp.[/SBLOCK]
 
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Jago

Villager
Sheikh Ali al-Hadd.

The name carried the weight of salt in the vast expanses of The High Desert. To both Al-Badia and Al-Hadhar, the man was a mystery, an impossible reconciliation of the two. One might as well have drunk heartily from the sea to sate their thirst!

But it was this impossibility that immediately earned the respect of the Half-Orc, whose name had, at one point, been solely 'Kaniel'. None of these ostentatious and cumbersome titles, for what use are titles beneath the stars and Gods? But just as Ali al-Hadd walked the fine line between his tribal ancestors and the riches of Tajar, so, too, did Kaniel in a sense.

The dark, indigo tattoos upon his face clearly marked him as Mamluk: there was no other conclusion that could be drawn. Mamluk ... another title. Slave, but also Soldier. Chained, but also free. A wealth of contradictions. Haku mocked him even as he provided the means to travel, to take back his identity. Beyond the assignment of Mamluk, though, it was clear that Kaniel's markings were distinct from the normal guards and soldiers that the Mamluk served as, for the adopted son of Faruq was Valiant.

The Valiant were no more 'guards', no more than a hurricane is 'just' a storm. Trusted only with the most dangerous and deadly of assignments, many were not expected to survive. To give the ultimate sacrifice in The Valiant was worthy of no accolades, no honors: they had no word for 'Hero' in their ranks, for heroic acts were not only expected, but mandatory. To bear those dark marks upon his face and stand before a Sheikh was to show that Kaniel had survived time and time again against impossible odds.

But he was not always a Slave: once, he was Al-Badia, just as the Sheikh. Once, he guarded the holiest site in the entirety of Zakhara. Once, he was of the desert: he rode horses across her burning sands, he drank from her oasis springs, he hunted her game and slept beneath the most gorgeous veil that the Gods had deemed to bless this sacred land with. Such a perfect, blessed life could not last: Kaniel had made what peace he could with that fact, assuming it a test of Hajama. A test he failed, fleeing from home and nearly dying in The High Desert, plagued by maddening visions of fire, darkness, and death.

His yellow eyes caught the extravagantly-garbed Vizier next to the ruler of Tajar, a smile cresting over his tusks. He had seen her in the Desert, mad with thirst and starvation, and it was her that lead him to the slavers that ultimately saved his life. And yet, while they both knew that this event happened, today was the first time that Kaniel and Najiyah had laid eyes upon one another. A touch of magic, or divine salvation? Regardless, he was grateful to her, so grateful that he had risked his life when the Sea-Mage Siblings had threatened her within the center of Tajar earlier that day. However, the Vizier and her sister were overwhelmingly charming and astoundingly wise, preventing blood and fire from touching the streets with barely any word needed from Kaniel himself.

Were that he only in Tajar solely for such business as preventing arcane duels.

Respectfully, the Half-Orc took a goblet of the flavored water, enjoying the refreshing drink with a small sip while regarding the Sheikh.

" Almighty Sheikh, Blessed by Sand, Stone, and Sky alike, I bring tidings from Qudra, that the bond between our cities grow ever stronger."

It was detectable, just slightly so, that Kaniel had perhaps barked the word 'Qudra' more than said it. Whatever his feelings on the city he was normally stationed, he continued on.

" The Grand Caliph has requested of his loyal Mamluk to look into the raids upon caravans within The High Desert, a most unsettling matter that is the duty of every Pearl to stop. With the ... events of this morning in mind," he treaded carefully around the fact that the Sheikh's advisor was brazenly called out in broad daylight, " I seek your merciful aid, that I may better protect our people from such savagery, and peacefully reach the Jann of The High Desert, for the Grand Caliph wishes for an emissary to be sent to Qaybar."

Our People, he had said. Ours. For in his heart, Kaniel knew that perhaps, just perhaps, he had far more in common with a Sheikh than anyone else in all of Zakhara.

" With your Blessings, Munificent One, I beseech you for the means to carry out The Grand Caliph's wishes."
 
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[SECTION]Receiving his own goblet, Sheikh Ali al-Hadd waves away the serving boys, and his impressive retinue of al-Badia guards. As any good host, the Sheikh knows the value of making a strong first impression. The twenty-four guards turn on heel and walk from the chamber, the only sound the hissing of sandals or jingle of mail as they slip away into side passage beyond the support pillars of the throne room. With only the two women at his sides left to guard him, it is clear the Sheikh puts great trust in his viziers.

"Would that my son Azul spoke words as humble and potent as yours, mamluk," he says with a hint of bitterness in his voice. "These matters in the desert have weighed heavily on my mind, but my attention is needed here in the city my father reclaimed. But at last the Grand Caliph has answered my entreaties. Alone, if it were just a single event, I could send my viziers to investigate or a troop of men to quell disturbance, but over the last year I have heard report after report of increasingly brazen raids. Long have my kinsmen of House Bakr defended against raiders of the High Desert. To this day, when we meet outside the city walls..." The Sheikh wets his lips on the pomegranate mint water, a look of wistfulness in his eyes, "...my cousin Ajan regales me with stories of battles against burnt elves who hide beneath the sands, outwitting hungry one-eyed giants, and defending caravans from common bandits. These raids, however, he tells me they are no common bandits. Cunning. Ruthless. Observing none of the laws of ransom or blood price. And above all, what my cousin does not say but I can infer, organized. Though to what end, or by whom, I do not know for certain."

It is clear Sheikh Ali wishes to promise more aid than he is himself convinced he can offer, but he restrains himself, his discerning eyes scanning the trio who have come before him. "What aid I can offer, I shall. The Grand Caliph has given a writ for the provisioning of your caravan and settling of any other expenses. My treasurer makes ready what remains of that wealth in coin and gem; it shall be ready for you forthwith in the morning. These southern reaches of the High Desert are well known to my kinsmen, and I have asked my cousin to put his most competent guide and caravan master at your disposal."

"When it comes to matters of Qaybar, that mystical city that appeared in the shadow of the Al-Yabki Mountains some two years past, and matters of the jann, I defer to my vizier Najiyah," the Sheikh smiles at Najiyah, recalling the day she was brought into his court performing minor fire tricks. A diamond in the rough.

"Akilah, it may behoove this conversation to fetch the map. Would you get some serving boys to help you spread it across the table here?" Sheikh Ali says in a quiet voice, leaning over to Akilah and resting his hand on her shoulder before himself rising and gesturing practically to gather around his war table. He quickly sets to the task of brushing a bowl of grapes and a goblet to the side. "Now the attacks have mostly occurred in the southern area of the desert, below the Range of Marching Camels..."[/SECTION]
 
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Shayuri

Villager
Without comment, Amina hastens to assist with the map herself, settling into her role as Akilah's assistant quickly it seems.
 
[SBLOCK=The map is spread out...]
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[SECTION] Gathering several tokens from shelves built into his war table, Sheikh Ali firmly places crossed swords at four points on the map, his jaw tightening with each placement. "Sinna Oasis and Hakim Oasis, both critical and well-traveled. These were the first to be struck by the raiders-in-black. Wealth, camels, prisoners - they took everything from the caravans that crossed their paths without exception..."

"Then the path to Akota. Here. That is the western overland trade route, the only link the Enlightened Throne has to Akota's rare woods. Few merchants will dare take it today, fearing these wretched raiders..."

"And soon after, the village of Turab, a stopping point for infrequent caravans bound for Sikak, City of Coins. All their wealth taken and dozens slain, including two acolytes of Hakiyah, and the qadi (judge) they assisted was mutilated..."

"A few reports of attacks further north, but nothing substantiated yet as being the same raiders..."

Casting a glance towards Kaniel, acknowledging the mamluk's understanding of mortal tactics, the Sheikh gestures towards an ambiguous area south of Hakim Oasis. "The Badu al-Kabir, that's what my kinsmen call this region. Hostile desert. My impression of the attacks is that they are radiating from either the Al-Yabki Mountains or the Badu al-Kabir."[/SECTION]
 
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Salahuddin watches the map as the Sheikh outlines these raider attacks. It was no coincidence that these raiders began not long after Qaybar returned. The city was on the Plane of Fire just before continuing its journey to the Material Plane. Then there was the information Easifa overheard. Raiders stealing treasure in the high desert. White robed mages organizing the raids. These same mages delivering these treasures to the Efreet. Efreet that more likely than not came from Qaybar. Qaybar which recently appeared in the shadow of the Al-Yakbi Mountains from which the raids are radiating.

"Almighty Sheikh, these raids are the reason I asked for audience with your court. In his abundant wisdom the Great Caliph sent me here knowing of the troubles you face. These raids are different because they are being organized by white robed mages. They are gathering tribute for the Efreet that recently held dominance over Qaybar in its unending journey through the inner planes. I do not know who these mages are or the treasures they seek but this is all connected."
 
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Foxbytes

Villager
thumbnail najiyah.jpg
Najiyah Amahhum

Even among the brightly-colored banners and smoky atmosphere that defined the renowned city of Tajar, Najiyah Amahhum's adornments were ostentatious, bordering on garrish, as though she were playing the exaggerated role of a fortune-teller in some campy play rather than holding the far more sober position of vizier to the Shiekh.

And yet, maybe it was in the calm confidence in which she positioned herself, or the perpetual comaraderie in her smile that silently invited each observer in on a secret jape, but the strange attire seemed to suit her.

Her grin broadened in response to Kaniel, but suddenly faltered with a somewhat startled expression and a sharp glance towards Salahuddin, her brows raising briefly, if dramatically, before she quickly regained her composure and focused her attention on the Shiekh's instructions.

[sblock=Quickleaf, VLAD]
OOC: The above action is concurrent with Salahuddin's telepathic communication with his genie familiar.
[/sblock]

[SECTION]"When it comes to matters of Qaybar, that mystical city that appeared in the shadow of the Al-Yabki Mountains some two years past, and matters of the jann, I defer to my vizier Najiyah."[/SECTION]
She offered a respectful tilt lowering of her chin. "I offer what insight I have, but also welcome the knowledge and experience of those better traveled than I."

Listening with a darkening expression, Najiyah found it difficult to keep her jovial demeanor in witness of these reports. In a growing sea of violence and turmoil, Tajar seemed to be a shrinking oasis of respite. And yet, even then, hadn't she just had to use every ounce of charm in her repertoire just to discourage Ihsan al-Bahr-Izdiham from making good on his promise of a duel to the death with her own self based on the flimsiest of circumstantial evidence?

No spectral visions needed to haunt her dreams this night for Najiyah to conclude something otherworldly was at play in Zakhara.

"Almighty Sheikh, these raids are the reason I asked for audience with your court. In his abundant wisdom the Great Caliph sent me here knowing of the troubles you face. These raids are different because they are being organized by white robed mages. They are gathering tribute for the Efreet that recently held dominance over Qaybar in its unending journey through the inner planes. I do not know who these mages are or the treasures they seek but this is all connected."
"That is the second time I have heard such an account today," Najiyah replied with a resounding, but not in any way defensive tone. "The sibling sea mages spoke of horrific attacks upon their own and incriminated the fire jann as well. What no one seems to know...is their motive. Is it treasure, or is it bloodshed they seek? Or both, or neither? I see a pattern emerging of an unknown hostile entity wanting to blind us by leading us into assumptions. I caution against drawing any conclusions at all before we know more."
 
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[SECTION]
Contemplating the sha'ir's words, Sheikh Ali runs a hand through his beard, his gaze rising from the map stretched across the war table. He is taking measure of this Salahuddin, but the pure fact that Salahuddin stands in the Sheikh's throne room speaks volumes of the Citadel of Ice and Steel's reach even here in the land of ins (mortals). Genies make the Sheikh unsteady, and Salahuddin's nearness to that race born of smokeless flame (or so sayeth the poets) even moreso. Yet if there are troubles brewing among the jann, it is precisely Salahuddin's type of knowledge that the expedition will need. Remaining silent, the Sheikh listens to Najiyah's words with a bowed head, nodding quietly to himself as his eyes return to the map.

"We can't rule out that it is jann who've allegiance to the efreet, but neither can we assume it is. Well said, Najiyah." He also sees an emerging pattern, but is disturbed by it. Pursing his lips, the Sheikh continues gazing at the map as if he might have a sudden flash of divine insight if he stared at it long enough. "Indeed, Salahuddin al-Qadib, these are bold claims. White robes, you say? Hmm. You seem to know more than most of the merchants my aides have spoken with about who is behind these raids."

"Ah, that reminds me..." Finding the bowl of salt on the table, the Sheikh consumes a sprinkle, tossing the rest habitually over his shoulder - a warding gesture carried down from the al-Badia. He passes the bowl among you, sharing the bond of salt, that universal sign of guest hospitality known throughout Zakhara.

"Akilah?" The Sheikh beckons his vizier in temporal matters to his side. "There are several merchants you may wish to speak with in the bazaar who've encountered these black-robed raiders... There is a woman known only as Jina the Bold who operates a small but specialized trading firra (firm) between the Pearl Cities and Pantheist League; she deals in antiquities with many tribes of the High Desert and isn't known for her honesty."

"Then there is Suelasta the Magnificent, who received my writ to create a menagerie of wondrous creatures from across the land by the riverside. Several creatures bound for Suelasta's menagerie were taken by the raiders in transport for reasons unknown. The poor man is quite distraught."

"And another merchant I recall, Hamsar the Swift, operates funerary caravans and mourners for the noble families of Tajar. Such vile and low morals, these raiders, that they would attack a funeral! What honor can be found in stealing from the dead?"
[/SECTION]
 

Shayuri

Villager
Amina listened, hands folded and head down, to the others deliberate. She had not yet taken food or drink, and participated in the salt ceremony simply by pressing a fingertip to the salt and then putting it to her lips for a moment. Her attention was on the map.

It was not honor the raiders were looking for, of course. The question posed was rhetorical, to encapsulate the Sheikh's outrage. But it did pose an interesting corollary question. If not honor, what were they after? Because he was right, after a fashion. These were not normal targets for bandit raids.

Tribal antiquities. Magical beasts. Personal possessions to be buried with the dead.

Ankabut was not a woman with great formal training or scholastics. She had a very particular set of skills, perfected over a long career. Outside concerns were things she rarely had time for. But to stalk intelligent prey one had to get into their heads. One had to see patterns of behavior. There was a pattern here, though she did not see the connections yet.

It didn't help that there was a ghostly desire, buzzing in the back of her head, to ask about the sea mages. Were they still in Tajar? It was a vanity, Ankabut knew. An echo of a life she'd ended. Would they know though? If she asked, would they be able to tell?

Ugh. Focus. Discipline. She was not a novice any longer, struggling to keep the initiate vows. Ankabut brought up her list in her mind, visualizing it precisely as it had been the moment before it was burned. There was the focus she'd sought.

She looked up at Akilah then. The other Vizier had not yet spoken, even to acknowledge her assignment. The sort of person she was would have a great impact on Ankabut's ability to work. It was a little frustrating to not have a read on her yet. A little more time, she decided, before she had to try to provoke some kind of reaction to gauge her by.
 

Jago

Villager
Curious. Very curious. The Badu al-Kabir seemed to be the likely source of these raids, however: Nothing could live there. Even the mightiest of House Nasr preferred to stay away from that dead land. An Al-Hadhar had once tried to inform Kaniel that the Al-Badia loved the desert. This was simply not true. While they greatly respected their home and its lands, they did not love it. No man loved the desert. Even the Al-Badia loved water, and green trees. There was nothing in the desert, and no man needs nothing.

The exception to this was the Efreet. The Efreet loved the desert, like no mortal ever could, and if, if they were truly involved in these raids, it would make sense that they would base themselves in such an inhospitable place. The Efreet were quite territorial, it was true: It was not uncommon for Mamluk patrols or Al-Badia riders to skirmish with them, but to demand so much in tribute that the bearers must resort to banditry? Did that brass City not provide enough wealth?

" This makes ... relatively little sense," Kaniel stated flatly, right before the salt was placed before him.

He grinned a bit upon seeing the small ritual that the Sheikh partook, replicating it when he consecrated The Bond of Salt. As the grains skittered to the floor behind him, He found that he cared not if others would judge him as a "simple" desert dweller: if it was good enough for the ruler of Tajar, it was good enough for a simple servant of The Caliph. With the sharp taste of salt upon his tongue, Kaniel continued his line of thought.

" Tribute is not tribute if it comes from these sources. No mortal or jann would dare accept such a gift, lest they would invite the Vengeance of The Gods. Tribute ... I do not think this is about mere wealth, if you will allow my opinion, Son of Hamid," Kaniel asked of Salahuddin, " But raids such as this are sometimes used by Mamluk. Strike fast, strike hard, strike indiscriminately, like a Sandstorm, and throw your enemy into disarray. Look at us now! Even we struggle to identify their true goals."

He frowned, his tusks biting gently into his mustache. Kaniel was accustomed to not knowing much of his foes: The Valiant often fought things which had no names in the Enlightened tongue. However, it did not mean he enjoyed it.

" Though the black-robed assailants ..."

The Half-Orc lost his voice for a moment, his yellow eyes gazing towards a far wall and staying there. A night of blood, and fire. Of the Desert Mosque, its proud walls in dark danger. Of black robes spewing fire.

" These ... these black robes," he continued on, faltering at first before finding his voice once more, " They are the very same that your Vizier, Gracious Sheikh, was accused of wearing. Najiyah was untruthfully named as a member of a Brotherhood."

Kaniel recalled the words of the siblings: the boiling anger of the brother, the calm wind of the sister. How wronged they had been.

" A Brotherhood of Flame. Your humble Mamluk suggests that if Efreet are involved, if this Brotherhood is involved, if these attacks are connected, and if this servant of The Gods were leading such dastardly affronts (May Najm lose me in The Haunted Lands should I ever become so irredeemable)?"

The Half-Orc's green finger struck the map, below the Sinna, west of the Hakim.

" That is where I would roam. Far from Tajar, far from the jann of Qaybar, beyond a man's ability to carry water and salt. For no man loves the desert, but those who love fire would bear that burn if it suited their purposes."

He withdrew his touch, leaning back and sipping slowly from the refreshing, cool drink in his other hand. Inclining his head in respect, he finished with a softer tone.

" Your merchants here may know far more than we here, in these walls, could ever hope to. I would accompany Vizier Akilah should she speak with these entrepreneurs, which I suggest we do, with deference to the Wisdom of a Priestess of Hakiyah."
 

Thateous

Explorer
Akilah weighs the many suggestions and conversations happening around her. " If this meeting concludes in a reasonable amount of time then I shall visit these merchants tonight while doing my usual rounds as to not raise too much suspicion. Any who are willing may join and experience the city of Tajar at night. I'm sure your travels have taken some toll on you, so you will not offend if you choose to pass."
 
Salahuddin accepts the salt and takes a pinch. He places his fingers to his lips to complete the ritual. With the ritual complete Salahuddin contemplates what Kaniel has said. The Mamluk had a point about this not being about mere wealth. Individual Efreet might be after wealth in jewels, art and oddities but as a whole they are not swayed by wealth. An Efreet is more concerned with power and dominance. Slaves would be a more preferred tribute over gold. But they might be searching for something. Magical treasure would fetch a fair price in the bazaars and markets of the City of Brass. Where the half Orc was wrong was thinking the Efreet would not accept tribute for fear of the gods vengeance. The genie and especially the Efreet see themselves as almost equal to the gods. No fear of retribution would sway them if they sought some special tribute or treasure.

"Tribute may have been a poor choice of words. You are correct that the Efreet have no pressing desire for riches. Dominance and slaves are a more driving need for the fire genies. But I do not think these raids are distractions or misdirection. The Brotherhood of True Flame is behind these raids. I know for certain that The Brotherhood is using these raiders to gather something. They used whatever this treasure was to gain something from the Efreet."

Salahuddin looks at the map and the spot in the middle oh the High Desert. It made some sense but the Efreet liked their slaves, their palaces, and their strongholds. However if a noble Efreet was here then he could build a stronghold anywhere in a matter of days. There were to many questions.

"We need answers to some of these questions. Let us hope these merchants have some for us and not just more questions."
 
[SECTION]Running his thumb under his lower lip, Sheikh Ali nods in quiet agreement. "I do not envy you such a task. And I must contend with a city brimming with merchants! If there are no more questions of me, and none wish to speak with my eloquent rawuna (bard) Dulcet Riqqiyah, whose kettle overflows with words," the Sheikh chuckles as he kindly hints at his court rawuna's propensity for bursting into sudden storytelling, "then I shall have the three of you swear upon my blade." He levels a serious gaze to Kaniel, Amina, and finally Salahuddin.

For the moment, the Sheikh waits to see if there are further questions or requests of him before the meeting draws to a close.[/SECTION]
 
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[SECTION]"Very well. Kaniel, Amina, Salahuddin. Come. Kneel here," Sheikh Ali steps away from the war table, gesturing to the open center of the throne room. He draws forth the old shamsir at his side, its blade long, thin, wickedly curved, the luster of the metal dark; then, holding it lengthwise with two fingers under the blade and his palm under the hilt, he faces you.

"Kaniel ibn-Faruq. Will you swear upon this blade, forged in service to the Grand Caliph, all praise upon him, that you will serve the Enlightened Throne above all others, and that you will be a scourge to those who raid the caravans of his most effulgent cities?" As with all things of his reign, the Sheikh's traditions are a blend of al-Badia oath-swearing with the customs of court.

"Amina al-Din, servant of Hakiyah. Will you swear upon this blade, forged in service to the Great Gods, may they smile upon us, that you will serve the Enlightened Throne above all others, and that you will be a true aide to my trusted vizier Akilah in seeking the truth?" In the old ways, kissing the blade upon swearing would be called for, with the superstition that the metal would store the energy of the oath, and should the oath-swearer be untrue the blade would blacken where their lips met it.

"Salahuddin ibn-Hamid, emissary of the djinn. Will you swear upon this blade, forged by the very hands of the jann, who know wonders beyond mortal comprehension, that you will serve the Enlightened Throne above all others, above even the Great Caliph of the Djinn, and that you will strive to make peace between genie and mortal man?" There is no magic in the oath, beyond what the minds of mortals place in such pledges of allegiance, and yet the old blade carries a spiritual weight of many lips which have kissed its surface over the years. Perhaps it has tasted more of kissing than of blood.
[/SECTION]

GM: Btw [MENTION=6855130]Jago[/MENTION] the shamsir is like a rapier except it deals slashing damage (25 gp, 1d8 slashing damage, finesse, 2 lbs). The Western equivalent is a saber. You may upgrade your scimitar to a shamsir. I forgot to mention earlier.
 
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Foxbytes

Villager
Though her hands remained tucked unseen within the voluminous sleeves of her caftan, Najiyah's lips began to move in a near-inaudible incantation.

As each of the three, individually and at their turn, leaned forward to touch their lips to the blade to seal the oath, a warm glow surged through the dark metal of the shamsir, bursting against the crossguard into a shower of harmless sparks around the Sheikh's hand.

Najiyah's eyes glanced away and skyward with a bit of mischief in her smile, ever unable to resist the guilty pleasure of mating exhibition to ritual.
 

Shayuri

Villager
Amina goes to kiss the blade of the sword. She had already sworn oaths in far sterner inks, with much firmer consequences of breaking...but since Grandmother served the Grand Caliph, this oath was no conflict.

When the little magical fireworks went off, she gave Najiyah a silently reproachful look, and retreated to stand behind Akilah, face down and hands folded together.
 

Jago

Villager
Kaniel bit gently into his lower lip, wondering just where Salahuddin's information came from. He knew, for certain, that the Brotherhood of True Flame controlled these bandits? It was a bold claim to make, and if the sha'ir was correct, then they had quite the fight ahead of them. The Sea Mage Siblings would want to be informed as well, but not before the assembled knew who, exactly, they were setting off for. It made the Half-Orc tense, the same tension he would feel before a fight.

These thoughts were put aside as the Sheikh encouraged him to come forth, Kaniel dropping before The Sheikh. There was apprehension as those yellow eyes looked up towards a powerful man of the Al-Badia: Kaniel had once sworn a similar oath. A promise he had resolutely broken, leading to punishment, self-exile. Slavery, slavery for one of The Eagle! A slavery he now worked within with no complaint, no will to carve apart his captors and return home!

But home to where? Back to House Nasr, House Nasr whom he abandoned after pledging to be their eternal warrior, to defend The Desert Mosque as his father, and his father's father before him had done?

The shamshir before him carried all this weight, all this power, for Ali Al-Hadd invoked the old ways, his words stirred up the feelings of the Desert Rider Kaniel was born to be. This Oath, this oath now, would be held upon the Half-Orc's life.

" Min qibal alalihat, ldhlk yjb'an yakun. Sayfi hu alaintiqam. Sayfi hu alhafaz."
" By the Gods, so shall it be. My sword is to vengeance; My sword is to preserve."

His pale green lips pressed to the sharpened steel ... And almost immediately Kaniel cut himself upon the edge, drawing back in surprise at the sudden burst of flame in front of his face. Wildly his gaze darted aback until it settled upon the Genie Vizier looking absolutely innocent. His heavy features curled perceptively upwards, suppressing a laugh for the severity of the situation: It was not a true oath unless there was some danger involved in swearing it, no?

With that, he moved backwards to allow the last of their number to swear to their commitment, and then they would be bonded: The Five of them would set out to save Zakhara once again from a new, deadly threat. ~
 
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