5E Al-Qadim Moving Through the Flame

[SECTION]Derafsh sucks his lower lip, rubbing the back of his head where Amina had struck him, coincidentally at the edge of his second mouth. "Not banditry and not working for the Sheikh. I've tasted enough of both to last me a lifetime. Something with a greater promise of reward. There are lots of opportunities for an enterprising businessman in Tajar...perhaps imports and exports...perhaps we could even give Jina the Bold a run for her coin unearthing artifacts from the desert..."[/SECTION]
[SECTION]If caged birds could sing, Derafsh would be a cockatiel, delving into the familial and political nuance with wry relish. Neither he, nor his second mouth, seem to have a shortage of words. Yet when Akilah asks about his sister, he falls sullen, studying the ground as he rolls his newly freed wrists. "There is no telling my sister Fereshte's mind. Even when we served the old Sultan, her allegiance was always...tentative."

After a moment of thought, he clears his throat. "She used to boast, when she had too much palm wine, that one day she would start her own tribe in the desert, and that everyone who spat upon us or tossed stones would find their fortunes waning. She is the more sentimental of us," Derafsh offers diplomatically, attempting to avoid painting his sister as a villain.[/SECTION]

[SECTION]At last realizing that Derafsh has a second mouth, and perhaps a bit uncomfortable being out of the spotlight at his own menagerie, Suelasta chirps up, "Why, my good man, with a curse like that you could do nicely in my menagerie! I just so happen to have several spaces I need to fill. Never fear, oh Vizier, I wouldn't keep him caged like some common beast. That is, ah, perhaps a bed there and a chest of drawers here..." He rambles motioning to different areas of the cell.[/SECTION]

[SBLOCK=Salahuddin]Easifa's telepathic communication tickles Salahuddin’s inner ear, “The veiled woman from Rawun's Well heads toward the western gate. She has retrieved a pack and seems to be making ready to travel, but keeps looking over her shoulder as if she senses she is followed and takes a tortuously winding path through the city. Already I have passed an umm ali (sweet pastry pudding) baker, a boy selling candied pistachios, and a family supping on mohallabiah (sweet milk porridge)! How far do you desire that I should follow her on an empty stomach, oh my master?"[/SBLOCK]


"Well you left my side earlier to..." she lets her sentence trail off. "Ah well if that's the case then just ensure I don't see you." Akilah says as she takes Derafsh's arm in hers. She smiles as she addresses
Derafsh, "So where to? I trust I'll be safe under your care?"

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No return to the well. I will meet you there soon.

Salahuddin looks at Akilah. Going with this man alone was not a good idea.

"And what about the rest of us? Should we just wait here for you? I do not think you going off alone even with your capable handmaiden is a good idea."


"You were not alone then," Amina says quietly, but firmly.

She does nod though at Akilah's suggestion that she accompany her out of sight.


Akilah ponders on Salahuddin's question for a moment before responding, "Return to the Palace. Who knows... if this goes south I might beat you there." she says with a sly grin and a wink to her sister.

OOC: Najiyah is familiar with Akilah's teleportation spell, hence the wink.
GM: Btw, if you guys want to split the party at any time, I have no problems running that. In this case, while Akilah & "Amina" would go with Derafsh to Rawun's Well, Kaniel, Najiyah, and Salahuddin could...

  1. Have a little R&R at the Palace getting acquainted with one another (i.e. PC-to-PC roleplaying).
  2. Speak with NPCs at the Palace, such as the brother and sister sea mages (Ihsan and Nireen al-Bahr-Izdiham), or members of Sheikh Ali's court (like his rawuna Dulcet Riqqiyah or his son Afzal who is honorary commander of the cavalry).
  3. Investigate the 3rd merchant who was robbed by the raiders: Hamsar the Swift, who operates funerary caravans.
  4. Handle any purchases or caravan preparations you want to make in the markets.

Just let me know the direction you all decide on?

Also, here is a quick recap of clues about the raiders since I thought you could use one:

[SECTION]The Clues Thus far...

Sheikh Ali noted the raiders-in-black have attacked Sinna Oasis and Hakim Oasis (both SW of Tajar), the western caravan route to Akota (who deal in rare woods & slaves), and the village of Turab (SE of Tajar) in an especially bloody attack that left two acolytes of Hakiyah dead and a qadi (judge) mutilated. The raiders take everything they can and are merciless killers. He pointed out 3 merchants who'd run across the raiders: Jina the Bold (antiquities dealer), Suelasta the Magnificent (monster keeper), and Hamsar the Swift (funeral expert).

Jina the Bold revealed the raiders stole 60,000 gp worth of antiquities from her caravans, including clay urns (sometimes associated with earth elemental binding) bearing inscriptions of old elven rituals predating the Loregiver dealing with akashta bariyat (“shield creature” in Elven). She also complained that she was having lots of competition for sites holding antiquities with House Uqab (League of the Vulture), though that may be unrelated to the raiders.

Of particular interest was Jina's description of the raiders...

"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."

Suelasta the Magnificent reported dealing with House Asad (Children of the Lion), specifically with Sheikh Najib's son Nabil, and after leaving Jamal Oasis his caravan was attacked by the raiders. The raiders stole a pack of leucrotta, several cages of cockatrices, and a wagon enchanted with darkness holding a young roper. Salahuddin was aware that a mage might find uses for cockatrice feathers and roper "glue".

Not sure if you've shared all these clues in-character, however.[/SECTION]
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"As you say."

Salahuddin watches as Akilah, Amina, and Derafsh walk off heading towards Rawun's Well. Once out of earshot Salahuddin turns to the others.

"We should follow. I have seen how many wait for them at the well. I fear Akilah and her handmaiden maybe walking into more trouble then they can handle. If we decide to go I will keep all eyes from seeing us."
Akilah and her handmaiden Amina set off for Rawun's Well with Derafsh uncomfortably following as the vizier bids. As they trek up the ramp from the river, wending through the night markets of Tajar, loquacious moneylenders offer reasonable rates for the conversion of coins into gems, but find themselves bereft of words in Akilah's presence. Fire swallowers emit gouts of green flame from their mouths as hakawati (traditional tribal storytellers) tell the tale of how the wicked sultan was cast down. Under-lit merchant stalls boast cinnamon and saffron, exotic cuisines ranging from scorpions on a stick to candied cactus, swords fashioned of Hiyali steel, and rarer goods.

[SECTION]Looking sidelong at Akilah taking his arm, the beady-eyed Derafsh sighs and acquiesces to the vizier's will. Having survived this long – through a tyrant's reign, espionage, and a rebellion – he knows when to adapt to those of greater power. "The sultan's treasure...it is hidden in a tomb in the Al-Yabki Mountains. If you agree, we will need to be circumspect. As you know, the Sheikh's outriders patrol the lands around Tajar. You are the Vizier, true, but many of these men of House Bakr grew up with families raiding Tajar during the Sultan's reign. You can put such a man in armor and give him a house, but his nature does not change so easily." Derafsh's second mouth silently echoes the word nature with a grim smile.

He keeps Amina in the corner of his eye, for she seemed less inclined to believe his story than the vizier, and she'd gotten the drop on him earlier. "There's nothing I can say to dissuade you from this course of action? There's no telling how my siblings will takes this manner of approach." Derafsh inquires, eyes scanning the street. His close scrutiny of passersby suggest that even that urchin boy selling roasted coffee beans or that old woman offering llama hair rugs might actually be an informant for Derafsh's family.[/SECTION]
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Amina caught Akilah's eye for a moment and nodded. It was time for the Vizier to appear alone.

She glanced at Derafsh.

"I will never be so far that I cannot be at her side in a whisper," says the handmaid to the rogue. "Keep that always in mind."

Amina then stepped away from Akilah and Derafsh as a handful of well-dressed men and a few of their guards passed by, arguing animatedly. In the two or three seconds that she was out of sight, Amina had utterly vanished. There were many places she could have gone...the alley just beyond, the rooftops overhead, or even just tucked away into the crowd. But as to which of these places she had gone there was no sign.

Stealth with advantage: 1D20+9 = [19]+9 = 28
1D20+9 = [19]+9 = 28

Ankabut had gone high, of course. She preferred elevated positions to work from, true to her namesake. Sightlines were in her favor that way, and it was easier to see a larger area. It also put her in a position to intervene against enemies waiting in the heights...though in truth if this went badly, her intent was to take the Vizier and get her clear rather than fight the multitude.


"Your concern for my well being is admirable, but misplaced. Your family wishes to be free to roam Tajar not attack a Vizier and  be hunted for the rest of their lives." Akilah states. "But" she sighs. "You know your family better than me so, I shall prepare for worse."

OOC: casting protection from evil on self

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Rawun's Well

As Akilah and Derafsh near Rawun's Well, from the rooftops Amina can see the narrow streets open up into the small courtyard holding the well. From her vantage point, Amina spots six men milling about and trading brusque jokes and barbs; they are clad in the attire common to the poor of Tajar, a functional blend of al-Badia and al-Hadhar styles, with jambiyas and scimitars at their sides. A bottle passed among them reaches their tall veiled leader, who examines the empty contents with an impatient snarl before discarding it. A limited view down into the well is possible as Amina creeps along the flat rooftops, the raised edges and domes providing her with opportunities for cover; a spiral stair going down around the sides of the well is faintly visible, descending into darkness.

Amina makes out two waifs, a boy and girl of 12 or 13, speaking in hushed voices as the girl reveals something small and glowing in her hand to the boy's wonderment. Noticing Amina and Derafsh's approach, however, they exchange glances and scurry off the doorway they'd been lounging in, heading into the court of Rawun's Well to report to the veiled leader.

[SECTION]"Make ready," barks the leader, stirring his men, "my brother returns and he is not alone." He moves toward the street Amina and Derafsh are entering from, drawing his scimitar casually as the others fall in behind him, hands on the pommels of their sheathed blades.

This must be Nimar al-Solak, brother to Derafsh who the latter spoke of.

Barring Akilah's advance, Nimar glances to his brother with a disproving look as he unhooks his veil, revealing a bitter desert-hardened face with a nasty scar dominating his left cheek. "Brother. And who have you brought for dinner? Ah, one of the Sheikh's viziers?"[/SECTION]
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"Now now easy boys, I'm here to come to terms" she says with one hand up. The other remained within Derafsh's arm. "besides, I heard the truth can be hard to swallow."

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[SECTION]Arching his brow ruefully, Nimar glances back at the other five men, giving a subtle gesture to them. It looks like it may be some secret hand sign unknown to Akilah. "A common trouble for the wealthy and fat. Perhaps if the truth is hard to get down, it needs to be sliced into smaller pieces?"

Taking a step forward, he rests the tip of his scimitar against the earthen street, squinting his eyes at Derafsh as if trying to figure out what his brother's angle is. "Brother, your mouth is showing," he says acerbically. Though Derafsh drew his cloak back up as he walked through the crowds with Akilah, it seems that Nimar can tell his brother revealed his curse to the vizier. "Terms? You've been busy little brother. Very well, what terms are these? This should be rich." He restrains a dry chuckle.[/SECTION]

[SBLOCK=Amina]Nimar is using a version of Thieves' Cant involving hand signs, signaling for his men to hold back and hear Akilah out, but to be ready for a fight.[/SBLOCK]

[SECTION]Derafsh's head declines ever so slightly, a sign of respect to his elder brother, but it resembles the gaze of a cowed dog waiting for a chance to slip the leash more than true respect. He steps forward slightly, slipping from Akilah's hold of his arm to better make his case that he is not merely acting as a mouthpiece but that he believes what he's saying. "The hakima might help us, Nimar of my liver. With the resources of the palace, and her boon companions, can help us get the treasure buried in the moneylender's tomb in the mountains. Hear her out." He squints hard at Nimar. "We've been gnawing at scraps, and this could change things for us, for our family..."[/SECTION]

[SBLOCK=Amina]Derafsh is interlacing Thieves' Cant into his normal speech. 'Of my liver' is usually an expression of endearment, but also is used in Thieves' Cant to signify that tempers have recently been running hot, suggesting a recent altercation or an implicit threat of violence. 'Boon companions' is a cue that someone hasn't come to a meeting alone. To say 'hear her out' could also mean to listen closely (on multiple levels), but that bit of the cant is unfamiliar owing to Amina's different background from these bandits turned secret police turned thugs.[/SBLOCK]
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Meanwhile, Back at Suelasta's ...

~ Kaniel regarded Salahuddin's sudden request to take off after Akilah and Amina with narrowed brows, eventually shaking his head slowly.

" No. We should not follow," he answered the mage, " We must trust that they can do this, and I do trust them. Besides, where there is magic to obscure, there is also magic to unveil."

Kaniel could only assume that Salahuddin's ability to conceal the trio left behind from view would be arcane in nature, especially considering the revelation of not long ago.

" Who is to say that be moving to assist them, we do not inadvertently doom them through our own carelessness? Akilah is a vizier. Amina is a servant of Hakiyah. Truth shall guide them, not veils. Besides, you've your ... assistant, Salahuddin, do you not? Any danger arises and I assume we will be notified in due time."

The Half-Orc swept his gaze between the sha'ir and Najiyah, scratching roughly at the hair on his cheek. There was still that matter to address, and despite the circumstances, Kaniel knew that sooner was better than latter. A Valiant needed to have absolute faith in the Mamluk beside them: without it, the endeavor would always fail. At the moment, Kaniel was not sure if he could have absolute faith in either of these two spellcasters: magic was already strange enough, but now there were hidden genies and strange, blackened eyes.

" I feel we have a more pertinent matter to address," he began slowly, motioning for the two to follow him and leave Suelasta's Menagerie behind, " As the Sheikh, indeed even the Caliph, expects us to put an end to these troubles in the Desert, I would much rather depart Tajar with no secrets between ourselves. Salahuddin, you conjure up an invisible servant into our midst, and Najiyah, you seem to have known of this creature the entire time. While I do find the idea of secret spies unsettling, even I must say your reaction, Vizier, was ... aggressive."

Kaniel ibn-Faruq watched both of them for anything his ears might miss, and then prodded along.

" What is going on here?" he said bluntly, revealing himself to not always have the flowery language of these city-folk, " Both of you. Why the secrecy, why this Djinni, Salahuddin? And Najiyah, what was that? You appeared ... not yourself, in the presence of ... Easifa, was it?" ~


~ Najiyah stared in the direction that Akilah and her escort, Amina, had gone long after the two were no longer in visual range. Deeply torn between her need for Akilah to be safe, and the knowledge that her sister Vizier and stealthy companion would probably have an easier time maneuvering without a flamboyant sorceress tailing them, Najiyah reluctantly conceded to Kaniel's wisdom.

"Curious as I am to see what they see...and fearful as my heart is...Akilah's wisdom has never lead me wrong. I will honor her wishes."

Resolute, she hurried forward to join Kaniel and Salahuddin at their sides as they moved towards the direction of the palace. But as Kaniel's tone turned cautiously confrontational, Najiyah's step faltered briefly before she recovered, her expression a shifting mixture of shock, offense, and confusion.

"'Aggressive?' I've been called many things, but never that! I admit my charm may not be as cultured as the daughter of the Sheikh (may the stars guide his path), but I've never recalled being discourteous with a single soul I've met. How can you accuse me of being 'aggressive,' when all I said to him was...was..."

The grandiosity petered out of her flowing speech, leaving behind a thick fog of uncertainty like ash snuffing out its own flame.

"All I said was...hmm....."

She placed her hands at certain points in the air, mentally illustrating the scene as she tried to recreate what had occurred less than an hour before.

"...I was behind you...you were here, Salahuddin was standing just there...I was preoccupied with some grain when Amina returned with an unconscious Derafsh, and then...I must have said..."

Najiyah held her breath, as though listening for her own words that eluded her. When no sound aside from their own footfalls came to her, she exhaled in frustration.

"...Well that's rather strange, isn't it? I just can't recall what I said." ~


From her spot in the shadows, above the palaver, Ankabut watched and listened. She remembered the way of hiding meanings in meanings, of passing messages under the noses of guards. These had their own 'dialect,' but the gist was clear.

Nimar knew that Akilah's embassy had hidden allies, and was prepared for a fight. Ankabut suspected that Derafsh had also recommended a course of action to his brother, though she wasn't completely clear on what that was. It didn't seem like a call to arms, but the cant of thieves was all about seeming like something other than it was.

So Ankabut counted. She counted steps, eyeballing them from her vantage. If she was standing there beside Akilah, she would step one, two past Derafsh, then quarter-turn to her left to miss the abandoned old cart shoved up against the wall. Then one, two, three, four and quarter-turn right. Then they'd be free to move straight until they could see again.

Hopefully the Vizier would have some magic or power to ease their escape from there. Ankabut was confident in her own ability to evade, but much of what she did could not be done with another person along with her. It would have been wise to have consulted before this meeting, somewhere Derafsh couldn't hear. A mistake born from too great a reliance on working alone, and one that would have to be remedied.

(The plan: At first sign of aggression, Ankabut throws Darkness on Akilah's location and shadowports to her. Then she grabs Akilah and abducts her. :))