5E Al-Qadim Moving Through the Flame

Thateous

Explorer
"Suelasta the Magnificent is next up to be graced with our presence," she says to group before turning to her sister with a smile and continuing, "I trust you can lead us to the Menagerie after we've dealt with the company we've attrated?"

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Shayuri

Villager
Amina simply stepped up and cut in front of Akilah, placing herself between the group and her charge. Beyond that, she made no sound or movement, leaving it to others to defuse or escalate the situation. Such was not for her to decide.

She made no move to draw the sword hidden among the folds of her aba as well. This was not a fight for such a weapon, if fight it was to be.
 

Foxbytes

Villager
Najiyah bowed her head in gratitude as she accepted the book from Amina, the ornamental coins on her bodice softly jangling together in the movement. She could not resist a peek at the beautiful elven script within the coverpage of the book, but it was only a momentary glance before she tucked the item away into one of her many pockets.

She had no grasp of the language within and fully intended on delivering the book to Salahuddin in the hopes that he knew what he was looking for, but after her earlier fiasco with her hands, she did not trust herself to safely free the writ from the book and let it exchange hands with so many eyes upon them. She would need to wait for a more private opportunity, and allow the witnesses to continue to believe the clever Amina had possession of the writ.

As they departed from Jina's company and stepped outside of the ornate pavilion of the auction house, Najiyah frowned at the darkening bruise of the skies, the purple light fading quickly on the far reaches of the horizon. She muttered under her breath, "I did not realize it was growing so late already..." before turning to Akilah with a fond and mishievous glint in her eye.

"The musk of those beasts alone could lead me there blindfolded. But I can pick a common path so as to avoid the more isolated alleyways. Kaniel?"

She turned to the Mamluk, whom may not have towered over them as Salahuddin and his valet did, but his half-orc countenance was made all the more fearsome by the shadows cast by the torchlight and shining off of his tusks.

"Perhaps you could be so kind as to take the lead to disperse the crowd to quicken our progress? I will guide you on which direction to take."


She did not need to advise anyone to keep a lookout. Even Najiyah could sense the tension of accute awareness among her companions. She hoped Kaniel's intimidating presence and the sheer size of their valet would be enough to discourage any followers, and to avoid a fight with fools.
 

Jago

Villager
~ That had been a strange, sordid business, the Mamluk thought. However, Kaniel's mind burned with questions, wondering how this all fit together. And the book: the others thought it clearly important, important enough to now have the spotlight outside of the auction house. The Half-Orc narrowed his eyes at the robed men, shifting a bit in his own, loose clothing and laying a palm on the hooked pommel of a scimitar at his hip. It was a sun-exhausted fool that dared to accost a Mamluk, but Kaniel had met many fools in his day.

"Kaniel?"

He was stirred from such thoughts by the warmth of Najiyah's tone, blinking a bit and turning to face her. While half of a rather savage race, Kaniel was not exactly a large Orc, coming to maybe a few inches taller than the Vizier herself.

" Perhaps you could be so kind as to take the lead to disperse the crowd to quicken our progress? I will guide you on which direction to take."

" Perhaps I would, sayidda," Kaniel agreed with a small smile, his tusks revealed a little more and glinting in the flickering flames of nearby sconces alight with fire. He was pleased that she trusted him with guiding her and the assembled, though he also heavily assumed that they would handle themselves just as well as he. Perhaps more so, in some areas.

He inclined his head differentially to the Sorceress and she pointed the path to begin their journey. For his part, Kaniel once more took a look at the robed gatherers, his nose and brow scrunching together into a sneer; a warning that perhaps incognito jambiyas would be rather useless if they did not kill him on the very first blow.

He walked with his shoulders back, his chest out, in the manner of a proud warrior. Though he wore no mail or even the iconic mirrored plate of other Mamluk, the indigo tattoos upon his verdant skin were more than enough to note that not only was this a soldier, but this Half-Orc was a soldier of The Grand Caliph himself. Whomsoever in this troubled district decided it would be wise to try and confront the Sheikh's advocates over a book (or anything else) would also be making the very unwise decision to cross Kaniel Ibn-Faruq.

And Kaniel had met many fools in his days. ~

OOC: Make Way for the Viziers of Ali! (And Guests): Intimidate [roll0]
 
Salahuddin grins as his magic takes hold of the man and stops him from pursuing the book. He watches the man congratulate Amina on winning the book and walk off. Salahuddin moves back towards the others as the book is handed to Amina. Salahuddin grins to Jina.

"My lady thank you for your cooperation. I will make sure to visit next time I am in magnificent Tajar."

Salahuddin takes the woman's hand and kisses it before turning and following the others outside. As he exits the tent he looks over at Sinjin and then to the group of men. He grins at his valets comment.

"And how do we know it is I they flock towards. You shaqiq (brother) are a sight to gawk at and mortals would strive to be near such greatness."

Salahuddin smiles again at his friend and looks back to the men.

"But these men appear to be some that attempted to bid on the book we acquired. It would be best if we are careful with these men as they may resort to other means to gain what they want. Sinjin keep a wary eye for such troubles."

He nods to Akilah as she suggests visiting Suelasta the Magnificent next. He stepped in behind Kaniel to follow the Mamluk. As the group heads out Salahuddin instructs Easifa to scout ahead and look for any trouble.
 
[SECTION]
With a stiff bow, the towering valet swirls his cloak out as he follows behind Salahuddin. “My eyes shall be like unto the moon, ever revealing yet restrained in greatness. So as not to burn mortals with my brightness, Alrriah Yusamma.” Sinjin quips as his dusky eyes scan the streets for the slightest sign of the twitchy men shadowing you from the auction house.

With Sinjin on guard, the men dare not approach your party from behind.
[/SECTION]

Only a keen observer would note the lanky men in old grey abas (robes) following you from the portside auction house through the streets of Tajar’s markets. At times they seem to fade away into the background, lost amidst the crowd, only for Sinjin to point out one lurking down a dark alley or watching through a slit in the canvas behind a potter’s stall. There seem to be four of the beady-eyed men in total, armed with jambiyas like many in the Pearl Cities, though an occasional hint of a scimitar beneath their abas is possible.

Just when several of them seem to be gathering the resolve to approach you through the tangled market, Kaniel’s well-timed display of silent authority causes the men to balk at the last second. As quickly as they were there, they slip away behind a troupe of ornery dromedary camels.

GM: Make a Wisdom (Perception) check [MENTION=4936]Shayuri[/MENTION] since you’re at the front of the group on the lookout, whereas Sinjin is towards the rear.


The riverfront estate of Suelasta the Magnificent is easy to find by the stream of Tajar’s denizens visiting for the evening menagerie. Censers blazing with pale flames lead along the brick pathway leading down to an array of domed buildings with gilded decor. Here, the night is interrupted by intermittent sounds of whooping bird calls, screeching monkeys, and yawning beasts amidst the backdrop of the river.

[SECTION]
The portly Suelasta, a merchant well known by the two viziers for smooth-talking Sheikh Ali into allowing the menagerie’s creation within Tajar, is just finishing a tour for a group of wide-eyed children. In one cage, a giant scorpion is barely visible under a rocky ledge where it has withdrawn warmth, and in another a massive mangy bear with white fur paces about sniffing at tufts of grass.

“As you have seen, dear children,” announces Suelasta in his high-pitched wheezing voice, “the will of the Loregiver is that we Enlightened beings should tame the beasts of the wild. So tamed, they are defanged, de-venomed, a threat to not even a fly…”
[/SECTION]

GM: Anyone watching the beasts closely can make a DC 13 Intelligence (Nature) check or a DC 13 Wisdom (Animal Handling) check to read their behavior.
 

Shayuri

Villager
While peripherally aware of the shadows, at least at first, Amina grows to trust that the genie servant can do the job of rearguard and focuses her attention on her own task. Even veiled, her eyes are sharp as she scans the crowd ahead, the terraces overhead, and the dark recesses between buildings...

Perception: 1d20+7 20

(OOC - Oops, make that 24...my Perception bonus is +11, thanks to Expertise. Sorry!)
 
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Thateous

Explorer
Akilah trusts in the many eyes looking out for their well being so instead of looking for danger she enjoys the many scents and sounds as they make their way around Tajar.
When they arrive at the Menagerie she notices the group of children being led out by Suelasta and his explination on the harmlessnes of the animals. The Hakima's senses tingled and she gave the animals an investigative glance.



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[SBLOCK="Amina"]For now, it seems like the men following your party faded back into the city, not wanting to risk exposure in the light of the burning censers or perhaps frightened away by the sounds of the menagerie's beasts. However, their skulking retreat suggests they may return when the odds favor them.[/SBLOCK]

[SBLOCK=Akilah]The glint of torchlight in the giant scorpion's eyes unnerves Akilah. It is not resting, no, it is poised in a coiled tension, ready to spring at the nearest thing to it - Suelesta or one of the children - should they just come within striking range of its stinger.[/SBLOCK]
 

Thateous

Explorer
"Suelesta!" Akilah proclaims with air of authority in her voice. "I don't imagine you'd care to demonstrate the tamed nature of these beasts?" Akilah says raising a knowing eyebrow as she speaks. " Children!" she says with the same authority as before. "It grows late, hurry home!"

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GM: Ruling an auto-success for Akilah due to the part of her Noble background about commoners treat you deferentially [MENTION=6814006]Thateous[/MENTION].


[SECTION] Fiddling nervously with the many brooches adorning the silk sash navigating his rotund frame, Suelasta glances at the approaching vizier as his resolve crumbles. "Why, ah, the demonstration shall have to wait for tomorrow for every creature under the eyes of the gods must rest until the sun rises in the east." Glancing at the scorpion clicking its legs in anticipation, Suelasta quickly steps several feet away, ushering one of the children out of its reach. "Yes, it is sadly time to return to your madrassas (learning institutions) and parents, dear children, but do not pout, for Suelasta the Magnificient will be here every day of the week, with special discounts on religious holidays..."

The children disperse obsequiously, but their faces register their disappointment.

Suelasta swallows at the approach of your party, smoothing out his mustache in an attempt to soothe his clearly ruffled nerves. "Are you trying to put me out of business, my dear viziers?" He bows his head respectfully, but his cordial tone is betrayed by a shakiness to his voice. "Already I struggle to pay the Sheikh, may the sun and stars forever smile upon him, after that incident with the great python. A misunderstanding I assure you. How was I supposed to know it spoke Midani (Common)? I assure you no more sentient creatures grace the menagerie, purely beasts. And now these vexing raiders have taken three of my future exhibits! Stolen! How shall I entice visitors unless I introduce some new wonders to my menagerie?"[/SECTION]
 
Salahuddin takes in the sights and sounds of the menagerie. He quickly dismisses the animals. They seem sullen and withdrawn to his untrained eyes. He quickly turns his attention to Suelasta as the man speaks to the group. These raiders have stolen animals from his trappers. The Sha'ir wondered what creatures were taken. He had a feeling that the incidents were connected in someway.

"Then it is good the Sheikh, may the sun and stars forever smile upon him, sent us to look into these troubles. Your magnificent menagerie is spoken of across the lands. It would be sad indeed to lose it's wonders because of such brazen crimes. By chance what creatures were taken and where were your wranglers accosted?"

As Salahuddin speaks with the portly man he sends Easifa into the menagerie to look for secrets.
 

Shayuri

Villager
Amina remains silent and just behind the vizier, as their station warrants...but her eyes move restlessly over her veil's edge, scanning the streets and alleys around the menagerie for signs of those who'd followed them.

It would, she reasoned, behoove them to arrange an ambush if their resolve was sufficient to mount an attack at all. This wasn't a good place for it though. Too many ways in and out...no easy way for them to predict where they'd go next. Most likely they'd lie in wait farther away, with someone unobtrusive keeping an eye on them. Once they committed to a direction, the others could reposition to take advantage.

Nothing about them bespoke a connection to the Brotherhood. Had they access to magic, they could probably have moved far more openly by now. As such, these ruffians were simply a nuisance. In some ways, simply giving them what they sought would be preferable to risking exposure through fighting.

And yet...if the note was true, the book could be extraordinarily useful in terms of favors bought in an otherwise difficult to investigate place. In that vein, it was important to their purpose, and thus to be protected.

That left few alternatives. The thieves, if they still pursued, would have to be evaded or defeated.

Their scout would know where to go to find them.

[roll0] (seeking someone taking 'undue' interest in the party with Perception)
 
[SECTION]"The Sheikh, you say?" He gives Salahuddin a brief glance before doing a double-take at Sinjin towering behind the sha'ir. "Well, ah, the Sheikh of course. Across the land, you say?" Suelasta's attention returns to Salahuddin upon hearing his ego stoked, thrumming his fingers proudly on the edges of his fur-trimmed coat. "Well, perhaps as far as Huzuz. Yes, a most brazen crime! I should hope the Sheikh buries the perpetrators up to their necks in sand and leaves them for the vultures..." He catches Amina's watchful eye and quickly adds with a nervous laugh, "If the gods will it and the wise Sheikh thinks it advisable, of course."

"Yes, indeed! When first they struck, the raiders attacked my caravan returning from Jamal Oasis and other al-Badia lands by way of the western route passing through the Range of Marching Camels. They seized several cages with variant-plumed cockatrices - whose bite can turn a grown man to stone - as well as a kennel of creatures known in northern lands as leucrocotta - able to mimic the sounds of infants and women in distress, very clever beasts. Such a loss! I thought my luck could not get any worse..."

"And then the raiders struck again! Not far from Sinna Oasis on the western trade route to Akota. My representatives unearthed a strange creature from a dark cavern the likes of which the surface world has never seen. It resembled a stalactite with a single yellow eye and tendrils growing from its side; my representative informed me it was but a juvenile of a species they referred to as roper, so you can imagine my dismay. To have such a rarity grow to adulthood in my menagerie would make me the rival of zooophiles across the Land of Fate! Alas, the raiders took the creature and the wagon enchanted with darkness it was transported in."
[/SECTION]

[SBLOCK=Amina]Her eyes scanning the silhouetted buildings and animal cages, Amina sees no sign of any pursuers at first. Then her instinct draws her vision up above to a small stone lookout above the ramp descending to Suelasta's menagerie. A grey cloaked figure - wiry and twitchy like the others from the auction house - watches your party closely. The glare from the everburning censers, however, shrouds the details of his face.[/SBLOCK]
 

Shayuri

Villager
Amina leaned just a little forward so as to put her lips near Akilah's ear. She breathed softly, "Honored one, would you permit this one leave for a moment?"

It was good the scout was skilled at choosing secluded spots. It would mean taking him should be equally hard to notice.

Working with professionals was always a pleasure.
 

Thateous

Explorer
Akilah turned to her assistant and took her hand within her own, palm downward. She drew a small symbol on the backside of Amina's hand while whispering, Be safe. before planting a small kiss on her forehead. She pulled back a bit while making eye contact with Amina, smiled and nodded in agreeance.

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Shayuri

Villager
It had been a long time since Ankabut had been truly taken off-guard. The gesture, and peculiar tenderness, from the vizier did that though. They'd only met that day. Was Akilah so trusting, even after rising to the power and influence she possessed? Or was this simply how she chose to treat all her servants? Hakiyah's breath, how was she supposed to react to that?

She bobbed her head in a quick nod, said, 'Thank you,' and started back the way they'd come at an unhurried pace. Focus on the task at hand. The menagerie unfolded in her mind's eye as if seen from above. The scout there, high up. She was moving away from him, hoping he'd lose interest in her quickly. The sun was not so high anymore, making shadows along the sides of buildings. Yes.

Amina ducked between two buildings into a narrow alley and felt in front of her with a hand. Not dark enough yet. Further ahead, the end of the alley was under an awning that ought to work. Testing there, she felt a certain...tension in the air. A slight resistance, as though gossamer cobwebs stretched across it.

With a quick glance around, she brushed the 'cobwebs' aside and stepped into the deeper shadows under the awning...and vanished.

Several buildings away, she found a way back to the world...under a wagon bumped awkwardly up against another building maybe forty feet or so away from where she'd vanished. Coming out from beneath it, Amina paused to take stock of her new location...in the other realm, she could only see the shadows in the real world, all other details were hidden...and quickly began to circle around the building at a prodigious speed. From here she could loop around behind the scout's position and see if he'd moved since she last saw him. If not, she'd climb up and introduce herself.

If so, then there would be an interesting game of cat and spider to play.

(OOC - Moving away, then Hiding and using shadow teleport to relocate so he has no idea where she is anymore...then stalking him like a stalky mcstalkerface. Stealth [roll0], [roll1] w/advantage from cloak. Any perception check to find her is at disadvantage.)

(Edit - lol...a natural 20 on stealth is bad news for our scout. :))
 

Jago

Villager
~ " These beasts seem ... incredibly exotic," Kaniel observed, the emphasis on "exotic" heavily implying that the Half-Orc was not too keen on such dangerous creatures being brought to such a heavily populated city.

He turned to try and gauge Amina's reaction to this assessment, seeing as the quiet girl appeared to still be quite sharp, but was surprised to find that she was already gone and moving away. Kaniel had not even noticed: his senses were getting duller the longer he spent amongst Al-Hadhar ..! Shrugging off the disappointment in his own slipping perception, he instead put that City-sensibility to work by trying to suss out useful information from Suelasta.

" Jamal and Sinna ... and Hakim Oasis, we learned before, these raiders struck. It seems that they lay in wait for those seeking refuge and attack when they think themselves the most secure. But what would the raiders need with such ... special, creatures? Surely they would not be easy to tame or sell. Curious."

Kaniel Ibn-Faruq ran a hand over his beard, a thumbnail scratching gently against a tusk as he mulled this over.

" It is unsettling to hear that you came under such assault within the lands of ... of my People." he said with gravity, admitting for the first time within the group that he, himself, was Al-Badia and not of their metropolitan culture. He moved on from it quickly, however: surely it was not so rare for a man of the Desert to wear the tattoos of those of the City.

" Not much passes through the High Desert without the Desert Riders knowing of it. I fear these Raiders may be far more cunning than I first gave them credit for. Which of the Houses did you deal with, Suelasta? ~
 
Despite the scout's advantageous position and keen eyes surveying the market's streets, he is left with his guard completely lowered as Amina stalks up behind him, her motion seemingly blending in with the evening cacophony of baying camels and merchants luring shoppers to their stalls. Thirty feet away. His twitchy demeanor is evident at this range, how he swivels his eyes from left to right, but fails to check behind him. Twenty feet away. A scimitar, jambiya, and hand crossbow are secured underneath his gray aba, tools of a nefarious trade. Ten feet away. From this close, his thinning grey hair is visible on the backs of his hand and edges of his face not covered by the aba. Time slows down, the perfect angle for the patient...

GM: You've surprised the "scout" [MENTION=4936]Shayuri[/MENTION]. His AC is 12.


[SECTION]Uprighting his turban, which had swayed to the side after his sidestepping the giant scorpion's would-be line of attack, Suelasta thinks deeply on Kaniel's question. He is about to answer twice, but his mouth shuts as he finds himself confounded. "Not easy to tame at all. Why within Tajar I am the only one I know of with such aptitude to train cockatrices. Churlish creatures! I cannot fathom! Did these raiders plan to deceive travelers and turn them to stone? Moreover," he adds with an air of authority that for once seems to stem from actual knowledge as opposed to puffery, "each beast is best suited to a different ecology. The leucrocotta is a creature of forlorn wastes and deserts, yes, but the cockatrice is indigenous to more tropical climes, and the roper is a creature dwelling entirely beneath the earth."

Though Suelasta continues to try ascertaining the origins of your unusual party, he is quickly distracted by Kaniel's inquiry into his business. With practiced bluster, Suelasta waves his hand so the numerous bracelets jingle together, "Why, I trade with the venerable Children of the Lion, and have been fortunate to do business with Nabil bin Najib, the very son of the Lion's Sheikh! A quite prosperous arrangement, until these audacious raiders nearly ruined me!"[/SECTION]

GM: Anyone present to the conversation with Suelasta can make a DC 10 Intelligence (Arcana) check to recall/deduce what a student of magic/occult arts might want with one of the monsters (choose one: cockatrice, leucrotta, or roper). DC 15 allows you to recall/deduce for 2 of the monsters, while DC 20 allows you to recall/deduce for all 3 of the monsters. Failure (i.e. attaining a total of 9 or less) means you know misinformation as if it were truth.
 

Jago

Villager
~ " House Asad? Kaniel clarified, unawares if his compatriots would know which titles belonged to which desert tribes, " Sheikh Najib bin Kamal protects the Jamal Oasis: your men were accosted within the very territory of The Lion of The Desert?"

For his part, the Half-Orc found this claim ... quite incredulous. Unless Suelasta was not exactly on the up-and-up. Though he did not know much of Najib's son, Nabil, there were rumors that the boy was rather ... trusting. Both to his credit and to his detriment. There was a cool anger that was quickly suppressed within Kaniel at the suspicion that this trader may have run some sort of con on Nabil in Najib.

" Even The Eagles keep their talons curled when in the presence of Lions," Kaniel went on, working out a thought in his head through his tongue, " To have these raiders ambush your men, steal your ... goods, and escape unscathed, so close to the territory of al-Asad?"

Something did not add up, or at least that is what al-Masafir assumed.

" Forgive a simple servant for such presumptuousness ... But how is it that someone dealing with the heir to House Asad himself could be left so unguarded as to be beset and pillaged by raiders, within the lands of The Children of The Lion?" ~

OOC: Kaniel does not trust this guy, and I may be taking a few liberties with the info in The Land of Fate, but it makes sense to me that Kaniel would know a little bit about House Politics and Families. Rolling Insight to try and feel this guy out and see how his story shapes up with what Kaniel knows about Al-Badia Culture and Customs.
Insight: [roll0]
 

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