5E Al-Qadim Moving Through the Flame

Salahuddin nods at Jina and feigns shocked disbelief at the trouble she is having with House Uqab. So the Vultures are looting tombs and other ancient sites. He accepts the ledger from Jina and pauses as he skims the list. His attention perks up at the Urns. Much of what was taken could have been a distraction and these urns might have been the true target. Salahuddin thinks back to the lessons he learned from the Venerable Fatima. She taught him much on things of power, especially those associated with genie kind. Perhaps these where the treasures given to the Efreet.

"The Uqab can be a scourge especial when they pick from the bones of forgotten people. These sites that they have pilfered, they where in the high desert? If we intend to look into this for you we would need to know of their location and any other information about the sites and the people to which they belonged."

As Salahuddin spoke he informed Easifa to search for this alleged spellbook. If it was truly the lost Spellbook of Akdam then it would be good to know who won the bid or perhaps win it himself. Salahuddin turns his attention back to Jina.

"It is distressing that the Uqab have been able to not only discover the location of these sites that I'm sure you keep hidden. However have been able to scavenge from them just mere moments before your own associates can arrive to properly take possession of such valuable antiquities. It is quite vexing." Salahuddin turns to the others. "I believe that it is a good idea to look into this. This might all be related to the raiders in some way."

[sblock=Arcana Check]Arcana check on the Urn. (With Advantage re-roll if it is Genie related): 2#1d20+5 11 23
If the urns are not related to genies then take the 11.[/sblock]



Najiyah's voice suddenly took on a sultry, far-away lilt, a smoky melody that was intentionally softer than the voices of the auction that surrounded them to force the listener to focus entirely on the sound.

In Najiyah's hands, produced from gods-only-knew-where, was an old oil lamp that smelled strongly of incense. As her thumbs brushed against the aged brass, fine diamond-cut engravings caught and glittered in the torchlight in the oddest of ways.

"I recall the stories from afar,
Whispered on the streets of Tajar
Of these ossuaries of ceramic make..."

The incense began to thicken until a haze of smoke began to surround them all in a small radius, blurring reality into a surreal hypnotic landscape. Images began to form in the tendrils, illustrating the very urns spoken of. Najiyah's black eyes were all that seemed to pierce the dizzying plume.

"...Elves carved riddles into the clay,
In a language that glows night or day,
To bind elementals to their own eternal wake."

Najiyah carefully lowered the lamp in her hands, her gaze burning into Jina's to keep a strong hold of the entrancement.

"Now, we would love to know all that you know and more of the precise nature, locations and directions of these raiders, and hold nothing back. Given the dangerous tales of these artifacts, that seems far more important than maintaining your business uninterrupted, wouldn't you agree?"
[SBLOCK=Salahuddin]Though he is versed in Elvish, and vaguely understands the translation akashta bariyat likely refers to some sort of construct or elemental, such urns were not encountered in the Citadel of Ice and Steel. As least one thing Salahuddin can be certain of - the urns are not the works of genie-kind.

Easifa also returns to Salahuddin with news exchanged telepathically, Alas, my master, I was unable to see inside the book to verify whether or not it was the genuine article. It has not been opened even once behind the auction house platform. And just when I tried to open it, I found it swept out of reach in a series of most unlucky events... At the very least these cretins are treating it with a modicum of respect such magical lore deserves.[/SBLOCK]

In the background, several bidders argue vociferously as the obsidian rainbow skull is sold for 275 dinars (gp) to a tall beady-eyed man representing the interests of the merchant Fahad al-Zakir. As the commotion dies down to disgruntled murmurs, the announcer presents a worn dark leather journal he calls the "Traveling Spellbook of Akdam." The bid starts at 350 dinars (gp)...

[SECTION]"Within the Badu al-Kabir," answers Jina in a quiet voice after a moment's hesitation, fingers twirling the rim of her palm wine glass vexingly. Trade secrets are a merchant's only upper hand in the cutthroat markets of Tajar, and she only reluctantly parts with hers. "A tribe of elves used to roam the Badu al-Kabir, so the stories go, who learned how to hide their valleys from the eyes of warring sheikhs and sultans. Only ruins remain of their settlements. My best finds of antiquities were southwest of Hakim Oasis and northeast of Murr Oasis, where the magic used to hide their valleys eroded in time."

The smoke from Najiyah's lamp is lit, and Jina arches her brow with practiced reservation. She has seen dozens of cheap parlor tricks from every manner of liar and cheat, after all, but this is something else. With Jina leaning forward over the table to speak in confidence and the new item being brought out onto the auction floor, her guards scarcely notice the illusion...or perhaps unexposed to its scented smoke they do not notice it. "You think I'll be impressed by smoke and poetry..." she begins haughtily, but her voice quickly trails off.

"Dangerous tales? Yes, yes of course," she agrees with a perplexed expression fading into bewilderment. Her voice is slow like honey. "The raiders were tall, either the most robust of men, jann, or some other tall race. They wore dark black abas (robes) and kaftans (tunics) and wielded scimitars and bows. They raided my caravan near Hakim Oasis before we reached Qaybar. It was a trap, for they lay in wait for us throughout the oasis, or so it seemed, emerging silently as if from the date palms and pools of water itself. They did not have strength of numbers, but they struck hard and fast. My men claimed that the raiders were as strong as ogres and seemed to glow from underneath their abas (robes), and we sustained many losses before we routed them. Thereupon, they fled into the desert twilight in every which direction, their tracks swallowed by the wind."[/SECTION]


Satisfied that Salahuddin's charms and the lamp's incense had loosened Jina's tongue sufficiently, Najiyah tucked the oil lamp back into one of the many hidden pouches sewn into her colorful clothing.

"Thank you. I apologize for the lackluster quality of my act; next time, I will be sure to double my efforts to impress you better."

However, even as her words were addressed to Jina, Najiyah's attention had returned with intensity to Salahuddin. That strange feeling began to raise the small hairs on the back of her neck, as though she were about to be struck by lightning...what was it about him that made her so uneasy...?

She followed Salahuddin's line of sight to the auction dais, but was quick enough on the uptake not to let her eyes linger on the book in question. She gave the subtlest of nods to the emissary in understanding, then slipped another unseen item from her sleeves into Amina's hand.

[roll0] - Sleight of Hand; to transfer the writ into Amina's hands unseen.

As her fingertips graze Amina's hands, Najiyah's lips move slightly, but no sound can be heard.

[sblock=Message to Amina] Amina, you are the least likely of us to attract attention in this place. Bid on the book at auction now, and see if you can acquire it for not too high of a price.[/sblock]


Amina bows her head and accepts the writ, tucking it into the inside of her sleeve with a quick, fluid movement.

She then rises to her feet without a word and goes to join the bidding. She positions herself so she can see Najiyah, so as to get any indication that the bids have become too high.
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Akilah sat back confident that she had established the tone of the meeting. Looking around she noted Salhuddin's intrest in the spell book that just opened for bidding. She turned back to Jina and leaned in closer for a more private exchange. "Jina, The Ever So Bold, earlier you proposed that I allow your ship to dock. If I were to allow a small dhow entry what would it be worth to you?" She reaches over and grabs an apple. "Perhaps that book on auction?" Akilah muses as she removed a small dagger from her boot and began carving into the apple in a similar fashion as Jina did earlier.

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As Amina settles into a seat alongside the other bidders, two wiry men in barely presentable grey kaftans and spotty beards seat themselves just to her left. The one closest to her sits with his right arm folded across his waist, his hand at his belt, and his eyes straight ahead at the auction platform. The other glances past his companion, glaring at Amina with dark eyes and a slight twitch of his lip.

[SECTION]With scented smoke still trailing from Najiyah's fingers, even her "discrete" pass of the writ to Amina ends up being done with excessive flourish. Not only do Jina the Bold's eyes momentarily linger on the writ, but so do the eyes of several unsavory characters at the auction house. Jina notices the undesirable attention as well, squinting at Najiyah in silent reproach.

Leaning in along with Akilah, Jina the Bold begins to part her lips to object, but quickly silences herself. Her secret must remain safe. "I didn't realize the vizier took an interest in such arcane baubles. It's of little value to me," she lies to Akilah and herself, attempting to diminish the sting of the lost sale. "I am told it is worth over 600 dinars (gp); would giving it to your woman there at the opening bid price be satisfactory?" Surveying the auction floor, she signals two of her guards who advance toward the men nearby Amina, and two more to advance on others bidding for the spellbook.

Gesturing subtly to a tall beady-eyed man seated on the other side of the bidding "pit", the man who started the bidding on the spellbook, Jina whispers, "He is the merchant Fahad al-Zakir's man. I can sort out any others in the bidding, but Fahad al-Zakir is no man to trifle with. The others will nurse wounded pride and return next week, but to cross Fahad al-Zakir... It would not be wise for me, vizier."[/SECTION]

As the bidding rises to 400 dinars (gp), with Fahad al-Zakir's man in the lead, several guards approach bidders for the spellbook, asking them to leave. Two guards stand over the seedy looking men to Amina's left and usher them out of the auction house; one of them snarls and must be pushed out forcible. In their wake, Amina notices a tattered letter sitting on the empty seat of the one who was closest to her.

The only ones bidding for the spellbook now are Amina and Fahad al-Zakir's man.


Without fanfare, Amina scoots over into the now-vacant seat. It's hard to see if she picked that bit of paper up, or simply sat on it... (Sleight of Hand [roll0])

Somewhat pointedly ignoring the interference in the bidding up to this point, she simply continues to raise the amount in neat, tidy increments. She makes no attempt to 'game' the auction, gauging facial expressions or the like...she's content to simply continue raising until Najiyah or Akilah indicate things have gone too far, or all other bidders cease.

And should anyone attempt to remove her, well, she would cross that stretch of wasteland when she was confronted by it.
[SBLOCK="Amina"]The letter reads...

My master, He of the Bronze Turban, Forger of Pacts, Master of the Empty Quarter, invites you to meet with him should you reach Qaybar.

Should you seek something in Qaybar, my master sees and knows all within that transpires within that city.

And above all he hungers for arcane lore and forgotten scrolls. Seek him in the Empty Quarter, also called the Smoke Medina.


Najiyah visibly winced, having the grace to look chagrined even before Jina's scornful look caught her eye. She could only offer an apologetic shrug.

She trusted that Amina would be able to handle any situation, or else the High Priest would not have sent her on such a delicately dangerous mission, but still...Najiyah felt wretched that her clumsiness had made the woman's job more difficult.

She should have known Akilah would come up with her own bargaining chip. She dared to hope things might still be settled quietly. She kept her eye on Amina with her fingers raised ever so slightly...signaling to hold back on the bidding war, but she also drew a small circle in the air, indicating to draw the bidding out as much as possible; just on the unlikely chance that Akilah was unable to seal the deal.


Amina caught the signal and, perhaps frustratingly for the only fellow left, reduced her bidding even more, outbidding him by a small amount each time now. When he glared at her, she let slip just a hint of a smile.

There were many ways to outbid, after all. By coin, or by the even more precious coin of time. I can do this all night, that ghostly smile said, can you?

As if to punctuate just how unconcerned she was with the pace of bidding, she took out the scrap of paper and looked it over. After a moment she looked away...then looked back at it. With a satisfied nod, she tore it into tiny, tiny pieces, one strip at a time. As if simply passing time.
The tall beady-eyed man frowns seeing Amina's idle smile, as if this were just a bit of sport for her. Begrudgingly, he raises his finger again as the price creeps to 500 dinars (gp).

[SECTION]Alarmed by Akilah's move to depart, Jina makes a conciliatory motion of her hand over her chest. "Of course, vizier, I must have misunderstood. For such auspicious gifts from the Sheikh himself, the spellbook would make a lovely gift. It's only..." She casts a sidelong glance at the tall man locked in a bidding war with Amina. "I don't have any way to dissuade Fahad al-Zakir's man that won't have terrible fallout for my business. Of course, there's nothing stopping your entourage from convincing him to drop from the bidding. Once he has withdrawn from bidding, then the book is yours. Surely that is agreeable?" Her voice wavers, realizing that it's not an ideal offer, but being as far as she can extend herself, and hoping that this way her secret stays safe.[/SECTION]


Akilah sits back down and crosses her legs." I guess we will just have to wait and see how this all plays out. In the meantime, what makes Jina the Bold so cautious about matters involving a man such as Fahad al-Zakir?"

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Salahuddin raised an eyebrow as the two viziers picked up on the importance of the spellbook. They were perceptive he would need to be careful around these two. He watched as the two worked different angles to acquire the book. He was impressed by their abilities. Jina's men dissuade all the bidders but one. Salahuddin watches as the hand maiden slows the bidding down to give her mistress time to make the deal. He smiles as Akilah artfully makes her play and gets Jina to give the book for dock access. When she looks to the final bidder and hesitates Salahuddin understands. She can not move to block the man for fear of his master. He nods at her request to help and moves around the auction to get closer to the man. As he does he pulls a small rod from a pouch and begins to speak softly to himself. He completes the spell and then whispers in Midani.

"The book is a fake. Go to your master and tell him this."

[sblock=Action]Moving to within 30 feet of the man and casting Suggestion (DC=19 Will Save)[/sblock]
GM: Bidder's DC 19 Wisdom save vs. suggestion _: 1D20+2 = [2]+2 = 4 fails

Also [MENTION=6803188]VLAD the Destroyer[/MENTION], let's have you make a DC 12 Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check to avoid your spellcasting being noticed by other bidders.

As Amina draws out the bidding, the tall beady-eyed man glowers at her, doing his level best to avoid losing his nerve. Fingers stroke his bushy black beard pensively as he raises the bet, but his squint as the book shows Salahuddin that his magic is taking hold. Already the man doubts. In any other situation, he might make a handsome drinking companion. At last he rises with a frustrated expression, lowering the betting stick he'd been raising to the announcer's confusion. Folding his robes, he bows congenially to Amina as he departs, seeming to hold no ill will toward her now that he has stopped betting. "A well played bet. Truly, you deserve what you have won, sayyida (miss)."

[SECTION]Jina watches the proceedings closely alongside Akilah. "As you know, Fahad al-Zakir is a preeminent merchant of Tajar, perhaps the wealthiest man besides the Sheikh. If it's imported into Tajar, chances are one of Fahad's agents has had a hand in it. With a few exceptions," she smiles wryly and cautiously at the vizier. "Fahad is a bit of a shut-in, but that man is Khafaz ibn Dahz, chief administrator of Fahad's affairs. Keep an eye on him vizier, he's not to be trusted. Even less than me."

Just as the announcer is about to sell the spellbook to Amina, Jina gives him a quick hand signal, to which the announcer stutters over himself, before proclaiming that given the irregular nature of the bid, Jina the Bold has seen fit to offer the spellbook as a gift to the representatives of Sheikh Ali, may the sun and moon smile upon him. And so the spellbook is passed into Amina's hands amidst much murmuring, but no evidence, of foul play.
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Akilah once again stands and prepares to leave. "Jina, your hospitality is noteworthy. Perhaps you should visit the palace sometime. A taste of what someone of your station is used to." she leans in and lowers her voice as she says the last sentence. She looked to her newly made friends and long time family with a smile. "Shall we?"

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Amina takes the book back to where the viziers wait and offers it to Najiyah. Tucked into the pages of the prize, the corner of the writ just barely protrudes. Anyone who'd seen it pass to Amina might assume she still had it this way.

"A bold strategy," she commented quietly, eyes down. "Was obtaining this book our true purpose in coming here?"
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[SECTION]The ten-foot tall valet who'd introduced Salahuddin in the Sheikh's court remained outside the auction house so as not to draw undue attention to your party. Najiyah, however, seemed to have done a fine job of that on her own. Opening the doors to the auction house as you ready yourselves to leave, Sinjin bows slightly with a wry smile. "Sayid, Sayidda, Sayyida, Sayyida," he murmurs politely as each of you pass until Salahuddin passes through the arch of the double-door.

"Alrriah Yusamma, it would appear you gather thieves like honey left out gathers flies." He nods across the dockside streets to a group of shifty men in worn abas (robes), some the same as those who had been seated next to Amina before being ushered out.[/SECTION]

GM: Let me know where you all are headed next? If you're still interested in talking with the merchants Sheikh Ali mentioned, the remaining two are:

Suelasta the Magnificent - who maintains a monster menagerie
Hamsar the Swift - who runs funerary caravans, embalming, mourners, etc.