5E Al-Qadim Moving Through the Flame

GM: Ruling his DC 17 Wisdom save vs. Akilah's hold person an automatic failure due to the circumstances.

No one but Akilah would be any wiser of the man's attempted deception, for the man is paralyzed long enough to get him locked within the would-be leucrotta habitat. Suelasta handles locking of the iron gate leading from the cell.
GM: The save DC for Akilah's spells is 17. Zone of truth is a Charisma save.

So, I recommend whenever casting a spell that involves a saving throw to mention your save DC as a courtesy. I do try to record those in my document with notes on your PCs, but I doubt other players especially are going to such lengths.

Man's DC 17 Charisma save vs. zone of truth _: 1D20+2 = [20]+2 = 22 succeeds

[MENTION=4936]Shayuri[/MENTION] When it comes to "how hard is it to escape being restrained with rope (or its equivalent) in 5e?" we're in the realm of improvisation. My thinking is a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check, which you may opt to 'take 10' on instead?

[SECTION] The man cracks an eye, breathing in a high-pitched tone for several heartbeats as he struggles against the restraints before resigning himself. "Well-played, hakima," he concedes begrudgingly. However, the gleam in his eye tells Akilah that the man is well-acquainted with this sort of enchantment magic, and it won't work on him.

Despite his artful feint, he seems genuinely dazed from Amina's capture of him, groaning as he feels the bruises above his kidneys. However, his discomfort does not stop the wiry man from evaluating the cell he now finds himself in. A rueful low-bellied laugh leaves his lips, dissolving into a grimace of pain. "We were surprised to see you viziers in the auction house. I'd have thought Sheikh Ali al-Hadd kept his favored pets on a tighter leash." The way he intones "sheikh" suggests very little respect for the present man in the office.[/SECTION]
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Amina dutifully found a length of rope and with clever hands tied it around the man's wrists in a nautical sort of knot that tightened when struggled with. It had been awhile since she had tried such a thing, but since she was standing right there, ready to put him back down if he got up, she wasn't overly worried about it.

[roll0] Sleight of Hand. (Hope I don't regret not taking 10! :))


Akilah ignores the blatant disrespect towards her father and just continues with her questions. "Well you wanted our attention and now you have it. So speak!"


Amina clears her throat. "Vizier...he did not want our attention. He was well hidden, watching us. I believe his intent was to notify the others of our movements, so they could ambush us and take the book."
[SECTION] "The spellbook?" sneers the thin man, his lip curling up along with the spotty hair of his poorly groomed goatee. Now that his vision is back in focus, he watches Amina closely, recognizing her voice as the one who'd turned the tables and ambushed him. "You don't know what it contains, do you? It's not the spells...as I hear it, they're paltry magic...it's the map."

Nodding his head toward Amina, he offers begrudging praise, "You got the drop of Derafsh. My name is Derafsh. Never thought an acolyte would bring me down. Now, I'll tell you what you wish to know...all about my family and our oath against the Sheikh...but if you wish to find the rest at Rawun's Well, it must be just you and I. Otherwise, they will never let you get close. Well, perhaps you. But if I come with just one of you, then we'll be permitted to pass. This is the best way, I assure you." He stares intently at Amina with a smug smile.[/SECTION]

[SBLOCK=Amina / Ankabut]His eyes seem to momentarily glimmer with amber ethereal light. Make a DC 12 Wisdom save vs. charm person.[/SBLOCK]
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Amina's eyes narrow behind her veil, and she cuffs him across the back of his head.

"Try that again, and I will not be as gentle with you as I was when I first brought you down."

She looks at Akilah and adds, "With your permission, honored one. He was using magic against me."

Without casting a spell, no less. What is this, I wonder? Human?

Amina saves! [roll0]
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[SECTION]Amina's swift blow across the back of Derafsh's head elicits a wincing groan from the man. However, something doesn't feel right about how her hand made contact, almost like she was striking... a mouth at the base of his skull! Sure enough, the strength of the reprimanding blow having knocked aside the man's keffiyeh (head scarf), a bizarre toothy second mouth is visible at the man's occiput amidst matted black hair. It moves in parody of his own lips, albeit no sound issues forth.

"Your gentleness," he winces, "is not in dispute. You would make an excellent wife for my brother." A trembling laugh leaves his voice, seeming to occupy two pitches at once. Heaving a resigned breath, the man slumps down, apparently having no more tricks up his sleeve...at least for now. "My family once served the sultan -- whose name is forbidden to speak -- but in his final hours the gray-bearded coward abandoned us to our fate. And so we've made our own way in a city that despises us for our past service. Only my brother Nimar al-Solak holds onto the hope that the sultan will one day restore us to our former graces, but it is a fool's hope. We are alone. And neither sheikh nor sultan will give us succor."[/SECTION]

GM: Anyone familiar with Tajar, such as Akilah and Najiyah, know the sultan's name was Nazir al-Azrad. He was deposed through the efforts of Sheikh Ali and Sheikh Ali's father. A DC 15 Intelligence (History) check can recall more details...

Get a total of 20+, and you can choose one (or two with 25+):
  • Details of what happened to Nazir al-Azrad after he was deposed.
  • Details of the current succession issue around the Sheikh's foolish son and possible descendents of Nazir al-Azrad.
  • Details on the secret police that Nazir al-Azrad created, of which Derafsh appears to have been one.

Get a total of 10 or less, and you must choose one (or two with 5 or less):
  • You or your forebears crossed Nazir al-Azrad's path, and he seeks revenge against you.
  • One of your spells/magic items/trinkets (choose one) was taken from Nazir al-Azrad's looted palace, and he can use it as a spell focus (e.g. for scrying).
  • You know three rumors about Nazir al-Azrad, only one of which is true.

GM: Anyone can attempt to identify just what kind of creature Derafsh is with a DC 15 Intelligence (Nature) check.

Get a total of 20+ and you can choose one (or two with 25+):
  • Weaknesses of the creature type.
  • Innate magical abilities of the creature type.
  • A brief tale explaining the creature's habitat/society.

Get a total of 10 or less, and you must choose one (or two with 5 or less):
  • These creatures robbed you recently, though you just now make the connection about the nature of who robbed you. Deduct 250 gp from your personal wealth.
  • These creatures - in particular those in Tajar - have blackmail material on you, and have been using it to leverage you to cover their tracks.
  • You know three rumors about this type of creature, only one of which is true.
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The Sha'ir is taken aback at the sudden outburst from Nahjiya. It was such a change from the joyful woman Salahuddin had just meet. The venom seemed to be spit at his Gen. Easifa could be disconcerting to people but this reaction was unusual. Fear or amazement but never anger. There was a story behind this reaction. She then stumbled back into the Mamluk. Salahuddin was about to respond to the man's questions when Akilah suggested discretion and that things would be discussed later. Salahuddin nods and follows the others back into the menagerie.

Questioning the man confirmed Salahuddin's suspicions. Though it was not the book and it's spells but some map hidden inside. Now what could this map lead to that would be so desirable to men such as this? He would need to examine this book and try to root out it's secrets. As it is revealed that their captive is more than a man Salahuddin reaches out to Easifa to be cautious as the men he is heading for might be more than they appear. He turns back to the captive. It seems that the creature was loyal to Tajar's deposed Sultan. He studies the creature thinking back to his fathers teaching those many years ago.

[sblock=Skill Check]Using arcana to see if I have any idea what this creature is since it has innate spellcasting abilities. If this wouldn't work let me know.
Arcana Check to figure out what creature we have captured: 1d20+5 22[/sblock]
GM: In this case, with Arcana, I am just going to list all human-seeming monsters with innate charm spellcasting that Salahuddin has studied...

[SBLOCK=Salahuddin]There are many creatures with an innate ability to charm mortal-kind and pass among them undetected. The volumes in the court of the djinn went into great detail, reviling especially those creatures with any association to the efreet, like the succubus and its offspring the cambion which some efreet lords enlist to their courts as part of an infernal bargain. The al-Jahar (dazzle) is a form of malign elemental that some efreet lords bend to their will, compelling the human-seeming dazzles to charm their enemies and feed on their emotions. Others might enslave ogre mages (oni) who can change their shape and charm mortals, making valuable bodyguards and assassins.

And then there are a host of monsters that belong to the wild and forgotten places, independent of the efreet. Doppelgangers too have an ability to read minds and exploit that knowledge that can verge on the magical. Ashira (dryads of Zakhara) are able to charm animals and humanoids to protect their oases. Rare venerable hags can possess innate charm magic, but only the oldest and foulest of their kind, and are well-versed in disguising themselves. Lamias have innate charm magic and can masquerade as mortals, while their jackalwere servitors possess a soporific gaze putting creatures into a deep slumber. Powerful werehyenas, scavengers of the deserts, also can draw upon an ability to charm or befriend mortals. Rakshasa are terrifying fiends mightier than some genies with the capacity to control mortal minds and senses on multiple levels. Likewise, vampires have a potent charming gaze attack, but typically have tell-tale signs of their undead state. Finally the zin, shapeshifting trickster serpent spirits, are masters of charm magic who enjoy causing mischief for its own sake.[/SBLOCK]


(OOC - I think the mouth on the back of his head is the real detail to focus on...that's an unusual feature, and one that would instantly identify it to someone who knew what to look for. Oh, and the distinctive laugh maybe? :))


Kaniel was trying to guide Najiyah near the warmth of a burning brazier, the glow of the flames within the disc a tempting invitation, but she just could not for the life of her figure out why he was fussing with her so much. 'Take it easy, sit down here' and 'Don't worry, Akilah can handle this' and other words of careful aid gave her the distinct impression that he was trying to keep a considerate...but meditated...distance between herself and the others.

Najiyah clicked her tongue at her desert-seasoned friend even as she waved off his guiding hands in confusion. "Tut-tut-tut, I am not made of glass, it was only a bit of a stumble I had. I feel quite well, why do you keep asking me-"

She heard the sharp strike of Amina's hand across Derafsh's flesh, causing her to leap from her half-seated position and nearly trip over the skirts of her caftan in her rush to reach the cage, her fingers hooking around the links.

"Now wait a minute, let's not lose our civility, here. He may not be...ah...the most respectful man we've run across today (come to think of it, everyone we've spoken to has been on their utmost rude behavior today to us viziers, quite unusual, I'm-speaking-to-you-Lord-Suelasta), but this man has not so much as threatened our lives. A bit of spying and a bit of trickery is no reason to lose...our...tempers..."

For a brief moment, Najiyah's gaze focused on the end of her own nose, as though she recognized there was something strange about her words. However, just as quickly, the feeling was gone and the moment forgotten.

Najiyah entered the cage with Akilah and Amina, then knelt down before the bound prisoner.

"Sir Derafsh, you may think me fraudulent for it, but I do sympathize with your plight. How demoralizing, and unsettling it must be to have served the Sultan whose-name-we-do-not-speak, only to find yourselves displaced by a man whose rule has no familiarity, and by law cannot recognize you for your former honors. It would be as though your very identity were stolen from you by a war that was not of your making.

She ducked her head just a bit to try and secure eye-contact with the prisoner and convey her sincerity. "But you clearly have worth and value, with a strength of will that remains unbroken. Perhaps if you help us now, my sister vizier could put in a word for you, and we might still hope to earn your loyalty some day. The Sheikh, may the moon guard his rest, is not an unkind man."

Gingerly, she risked brushing her hand across the scarf at his nape to better reveal the discomfiting second mouth.

"Perhaps you could start by briefly telling us more about yourself, while you still have a vizier willing to listen."

OOC: Question to GM: Would Najiyah recognize Derafsh from a past vision? Such as the one in her backstory about foreseeing an attempt on the Sheikh's life?
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[SECTION]The abrupt change in tone takes Derafsh off-guard, and he leans away incredulously when Najiyah kneels down alongside him. He snarls instinctively when she attempts to subtly brush her hand to lower his scarf, jerking his head away. His beady amber eyes focus on her skeptically, recognizing her as perhaps his only hope.

"I know how to weather a regime change. Sultans. Sheikhs. They all know how to gather men for their cause. We were at least a dozen strong in the Sultan's Haras al-Sirri ("secret guard"), some kin others from across the desert who I didn't know. Before then we'd been bandits on the road to Akota, robbing for our bread and for sport. One day we chanced to rob the very caravan of the Sultan himself. Terrible magic seized us, making it impossible to move, and the Sultan stepped out of his wagon bedecked in dark silks. He offered a swift death or clemency within his city walls. Of course, we chose to live."

Continuing, Derafsh glances nervously over your party, attempting to gauge whether he is appeasing the less generous among you. "When my siblings and I gazed upon the great buildings and sedan chairs and ships of Tajar...such wealth and majesty!...we knew there was more to life than scraping by in the desert. And so we ate the Sultan's words like honey. He promised us new lives as his agents if we would accept the Enlightened Faith and swear fealty, bringing our skills at banditry in service to rooting out his enemies. And it was good work in the beginning, my brother Nimar even growing fat..."

Though he attempts to sit up proudly despite his restraints, Derafsh cuts a pathetic character, his voice laced with a whining bitterness, a rueful multi-tonal laugh at the edges of his lips. "Until the rebellion some thirty years ago. Kori al-Zafiri turned the merchants and poor against the Sultan's rule. My siblings and I pleaded for the Sultan to give us sanctuary, as the crowds were out for blood, but he would not acknowledge us. He turned us away. We were dragged through the streets, collared, beaten, and those who didn't succumb to stoning were branded traitors by al-Zafiri. When al-Zafiri's son, your Sheikh Ali, came to power there was no amnesty, no forgiveness, just a silent acceptance of his father's will that we suffer. We are guilty by association. This is your Sheikh's verdict."

GM: Possibly [MENTION=6866331]Foxbytes[/MENTION]... I think it would be more likely that she saw a man and woman (Derafsh's siblings) who share some of Derafsh's facial features, rather than Derafsh specifically (who has no real allegiance anymore).
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"If you were secret police," Amina observes tonelessly, "...then you were not merely associates of the Sultan. You were instruments of his will. Whatever he ordered to incite the people, you carried out. It was cowardly of him to abandon you, but I think claiming to have clean hands is at best an exaggeration, yes?"


~ As Najiyah made to talk to their captive, Kaniel finally relented: clearly the woman was focused on the matter at hand rather than what clearly had happened, no matter how much she tried to deny it. Why was she denying it? She may have been coy from time to time, but this adamant adherence to ignorance was almost like ... Like Najiyah had no recollection of her outburst.

Curiouser and Curiouser.

However, when the Vizier set herself to talking with Derafsh, even The Half-Orc saw his respect for her grow: whereas before she had been rather mercurial and extravagant in her mannerisms, here Najiyah showed that she truly cared about the people of her wondrous city, be they friend or foe, and put her considerable talents of diplomacy to use.

Her attempt even seemed to cause Derafsh to lose his guard, opening up to the assembled without so much of the venomous edge he carried before. And, thanks to the attempts of the assembled, Kaniel Ibn Faruq al-Masafir felt ... pity, for this creature.

" Your liege betrayed you when you stayed faithful," he breathed softly, coming over to stand by Najiyah and lend credit to her diplomatic approach, " Brave Hajama looks favorably upon such courage."

While Amina had a point, Kaniel had to disagree gently with her.

" Sadiqa," he addressed her as a companion, " To serve sometimes means to do things that are ... less than noble. My hands, too, bear the stain of crimson. Would you judge my loyalty to The Grand Caliph based upon the nature of my work? Can any of us truly claim innocence in the deeds we have done?"

It was clear it was not an accusation against the Handmaiden, more something to ponder. To remind her that as a Slave Soldier, Kaniel did not even get a choice in what his orders were.

" But, while what happened was a tragedy, Derafsh, it is as you've said: regime change is all too common within our lands. I find your conviction admirable, but it does not answer why you followed us, why this Map of yours is important. What does it hold?

His yellow eyes settled softly (for a Half-Orc) upon the man, trying to emulate the same sincerity that Najiyah had shown for the creature.

" On My Life, sadiq, while I may be unable to convince a Sheikh to forgive enemies of the past, if your intentions be noble, I will try to help you achieve them. If, that is, you may be able to help us."

He stroked at his beard, crossing one army over his chest to prop up the elbow of the other.

" We are investigating many dangers, not just to Tajar, but seemingly to Zakhara herself. If this Map will help your people, and if you and your kin mean no harm to the Sheikh, his Viziers, and Tajar, I would hope that we could come to an agreement. Aid for Aid in our own investigations. It is clear that you and your kin know this city well, and we could use your eyes and experience. We avoid bloodshed, and we both walk away with what we desire from this."

He sighed quietly, bowing his head and speaking more to the floor than to their captive or anyone else.

" I, too, know what it is like to have your life suddenly change, to find shackles where once there was only the freedom of The Sands. But the cowardice in my story is mine and mine alone, and so Hajama The Brave tests me for my crime to this very day. Perhaps Hajama has put us both here so that we may be reminded of what it means to espouse Honor and Courage once more, aywa?" ~
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"His loyalty was never in question," Amina replied evenly, her dark eyes flicking up to bore into Kaniel's. "But we are responsible for those we are loyal to, as those who hold our loyalty are responsible for us."
[SECTION]Derafsh may have resisted Akilah's magical compulsion to speak the truth, but between the vizier's eyes and those of her handmaiden he spoke carefully. Especially the handmaiden he'd need to be careful of. His eyes dart from Amina to Kaniel, nodding in silent agreement with the mamluk's wisdom. "Yes, innocence belongs to the animals," he adds with a forlorn expression, "and guilt to men." The mouth at the back of his head moves in exact imitation of his words, only with a toothy grin and no sound.

"Yes," he says hesitantly, "we know of Tajar's secret byways and hidden markets. It is how we tracked you to the auction house. The map is hidden by illusions in Akdam's Spellbook. You see, Akdam was a confidante of the Sultan and he kept track of the Sultan's secrets behind the Sultan's back. The map leads to a treasure cache of the Sultan - many rare valuables and gilded antiquities he took from desert tribes under duress through cunning trades and blackmail. However, the Sultan was taken by the Grand Caliph's mamluks before he could reach the treasure and so it languishes in its hiding place. My brother Nimar wishes to use the treasure to free the Sultan from his imprisonment... The fool..." Furrowing his brows, it's clear Derafsh is none too fond of the idea. Kaniel's proposal has him quiet in thought for a moment, chewing his inner cheek.

"Before when I was a common bandit, I had little courage and less pride, taking what I could with as little work as possible. Though I came to the Enlightened Faith under the Sultan's sword, perhaps it was all for a reason. For something greater than robbing caravans or waiting on the Sultan's scraps." He seems wracked by an inner conflict, perhaps a weighty conscience or a loyalty to his family. At last he looks up to the two viziers, Akilah and Najiyah, "Would turning the treasure over to the Sheikh be enough to secure clemency for me and my siblings? To save my brother from himself?"


~ The Half-Orc smiled tightly, nodding a bit at Amina's observations.

" If only we all were so lucky to merely serve The Gods and take solace with the peace that such enlightenment brings us, rather than serve more mortal masters. But while some of us are so blessed, the majority of us are not, Wise One."

His tusks bit a little into his upper lip, his jaw clenching before releasing, as if working a muscle loose.

" Every rebellion is Just. Just as every tyrant believes what he does is also Just. Just as every prophet and madman believes that the Gods speak only through them. Zakhara, our planet, cannot be simply divided into what is Just and what is Not: I abandoned my sacred duty to my people."

Kaniel paused. It had just come out, as if he were speaking familiarly to someone he had known for ages, and yet Kaniel had never truly admitted this before. Perhaps not even to himself, and yet now Amina and the assembled knew. There was a flush of sweat across his brow, the Mamluk finally feeling the same heat that Suelasta had remarked on.

" I ... I made a mistake. What I have done is considered unforgivable by my people. Were I to return, I would more than likely lose my head, or worse. Because of that mistake, something terrible may have happened. Because of that mistake, people, my people, may have died. I was young, and I was frightened, and I have since dedicated myself to The Enlightened Gods and to my service; my attempt to atone as I endure the challenges set before me. But even with this change, even with every step forward I take to rectify this, would it be Just for my people to still exact their punishment upon me? Would it be Unjust if I continued to walk this path rather than return home? Return home and forsake the new oaths I have sworn to The Grand Caliph, even though abandoning an oath is what lead me here in the first place? What is Just, Handmaiden? What is Just, Amina?"

It almost seemed as if Kaniel was actually asking for Amina's opinion. As if he wanted to know where his salvation was, where this road ended for him. He had grown in volume since he began, and suddenly became very aware of that. The Half-Orc deflated, almost shrinking in size as he backed away, lowering his head.

" This One forgets himself, sometimes: forgive my discourtesy, Amina," he offered in apology, humiliated in the lack of control over his own tongue.

" But." Kaniel lifted his gaze again, straightening himself back up.

" The Past is in The Past. Derafsh and his Kin no longer pose any threat to this city, regardless of what was done before. For all I know, he and his people may be even more blameless than I, merely a symbol of the Sultan the people rose against, rather than their actual targets. I have seen words coax men to do many things, sadiqa, and if I do not hold that against the people of Tajar, I do not hold it against this man here."

His mouth stretched slightly: not a smile, but an attempt to show that he was not trying to argue with The Handmaiden, despite the intensity in his words. The intensity of The Desert sun.

" We all deserve a chance to find redemption, Servant of Hakiyah." ~