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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 1 — Preparations


"Do we know anything about this shyk?" asked Jayce, as they followed the amlak.

   "I was told at the cloister that he is actually an elf and can be trusted," answered Leokas.

   The guard led them northwest toward the center of the city toward one of the tallest minarets in view. This tower was built at the intersection of two drudach walls and the wall surrounding the palace grounds of the sultan of Keltar. He led them up some steps onto the pathway atop one of the drudach walls and into a small entrance of the minaret, past two spear-carrying guards.

   "Follow me to the 'Amlak Arcane''s office," said the guard. They proceeded up several flights of stairs. Near the top, the guard knocked, opened a door, and led them inside. The shyk of the amlakkar sat behind his desk reading reports. On a t-stand nearby sat a motionless owl. Apart from that, the room was empty, but a series of narrow arched windows provided a breathtaking view of the whole southern half of the city.

   The amlak spoke to his commanding officer in Alzhedo. Jayce understood him to say, roughly, "Sir, these strangers were found in the second precinct. They claim to have been threatened and attacked by a gang of boys and defended themselves. Four of the boys were injured. Abu is looking into their conditions and will bring them here shortly. We responded to a call from several frantic witnesses in the apartments nearby that a fight was underway between five youths and five dangerous strangers. One of the reports claimed the woman here was casting magic and floating, so I thought you should be notified."

   The shyk thanked the guard and dismissed him, standing up to greet the adventurers. "Alae," he said to them in Elven. "I am Xaros Tenseal. It is good to see folk of my kin, both close and far removed." He looked at Mythlos and then the other two elves in turn. Had Leokas not been informed in advance by Stedd Buckman, he would not have recognized Xaros as a fellow elf. While he had the facial structure of an elf, his tanned skin and the turban he wore on his head that covered his pointed ears could pass him for a Calishite.

   "I regret to hear tell of your misfortune on our streets," he continued, now in Common. "Clearly, you managed for yourselves. But that is why my men brought you to me. Your display of magic and bloody rage gave quite a fright to several housewives.

   "Adventurers are rare here in Keltar, and those who do pass through tend to drink their cares away in Sabban East, yet you were in Ashnarti territory...."

   Jayce shivered a little. From what he had heard about the Ashnarti family while in Copper Hill, they were not a criminal element to be trifled with.

   "These were not Ashnarti men, thankfully," said Vashti. "They were city riffraff."

   He looked at Vashti, whose lower face was still veiled. "Your eyes are beautiful, rifa, and blue."

   "I do not think we were brought here to discuss my eye color," she said. "What is it to you?"

   "Levitation is not a spell I myself have yet mastered...." He paused, as if they both understood something unspoken, then he continued. "I assume you are this party's mage, and it seems we have a bard (from Lantan, no doubt) and a ranger and a druid among you."

   Some of the group nodded. Mythlos partly drew out his sword. "Do you know anything about this sword?"

   Xaros seemed somewhat taken aback. "It appears to be an ornate and likely magical sword, but unless I were to examine it in my laboratory...."

   "How is it that you are an elf and yet hold a position of power in this place?" Mythlos asked.

   "I have a small amount of magical ability, with which I have impressed those in power. Magic speaks louder than many words or deeds here in Calimshan. But we are getting off topic; you were taken to me because of this incident with the gang of youth, and it is my duty to look into that.

   "Personally, it is of no concern to me for a group of adventurers such as yourselves to pass through these walls; in fact, you have done the streets a service by clearing it of some of its vermin. But if word of your presence here reaches the sultan or el Ashnarti, they may think differently than I. I would ask that you share your reasons for being here with me."

   So Leokas shared with him most of the key details of their adventures thus far.

   "An intriguing story," said Xaros. "I can update you on the status of the slave escape, and perhaps you, in turn, could assist us.

   "Since the escape, we have rounded up 10 of 12 bugbears — being as large as they are, it is harder for them to hide — and 39 of 47 goblins. Neither group seemed to have any organization; each creature acted on its own. However, we have recovered only one of 23 hobgoblin slaves, one who was crippled during the escape and abandoned by the others. They have acted together as a group and are being led by their two rescuers. We know that they have left the walls of the city and headed into the desert. As far as we and the slavemasters are concerned, this is an irrecoverable loss. We do not have the manpower to risk an excursion into the desert to recover the stolen property, and the odds of their surviving out there are exceptionally low anyhow."

   "Do you think they could survive in the desert?" one of them asked. "How far do you think they could have gone?"

   "Have you not heard the history of the Calim desert?" said Xaros. "Legends say that the desert was formed because of the ongoing war between the spirit of the djinni Calim and the efreeti Memnon. Millennia ago, after the destruction of many beautiful trees and the deaths of many of our people, due to the wars between these two genies, the elves at last had had enough. Joining together, with high magic, they trapped Calim and Memnon forever in a magical prison, yet their spirits are still said to war till this day. Calim is the source of all the sandstorms; Memnon of the earthquakes and sinkholes. So, no, it is not likely they could have gotten far. And if they have, all the more reason to be curious about it."

   "Are there known paths across the desert? Or towns along the way?"

   "There are no remaining towns, only ruins and a few brave Ilmatari monasteries. Centuries ago, the Trade Way was built from Calimport to Memnon. The minarets along the Way magically protected travelers from the powers of Calim and Memnon, but they fell into disarray. The syl-pasha has been trying for the last few years to restore the magic in the minarets, so caravans have recently begun attempting the journey again. Caravans from Keltar now head out west across the desert until they reach the Trade Way, which runs north-south, and then follow it on to Memnon. These caravans make use of various oases and caravanserais.

   "But back to the hobgoblins: You will also want to know that the one beast we recovered was interrogated thoroughly. It seemed to believe that some god had sent the other two hobgoblins, Gnish and Barlock, I think, to rescue them, having chosen them to serve him at his 'holy palace'. It sounded like some nonsense story, particularly since I had never heard the name of this 'god' before: 'Allu'." Neither had any of the others.

   "Where is this prisoner?" one of them asked. "We would like to question him."

   "He has been returned to the slavemasters and will likely be a slave within the next few days," said Xaros.

   "We do not have time for that," said Vashti. "We do not want to lose the trail."

   "A bounty for the heads of Gnish and Barlock is in place," continued Xaros, "if you are so bold as to attempt pursuit over the sands. The price is 50 centarche per head."

   "How much is that?"

   "A centarche is a gold piece here in Keltar, as in Calimport."

   "Surely our services are worth more than that," said Jayce. "You yourself admitted the large danger involved in crossing the desert."

   "Most of the amlakkar are but indentured servants," said the shyk. "Our coffers do not hold much. I had assumed that any extra reward you might receive would be viewed favorably, as you seem already interested in pursuing these hobgoblins regardless of what I have told you. Is that not why you came to Keltar in the first place? In addition, the slavemasters will surely reward you for any slave you return live to them. I would guess that such a reward would be close to a silver trade bar per returned slave."

   "In any case, you are free to go. Do you have any further questions for me?"

   "Where can we find supplies to make it across the desert."

   "I would suggest that you check with the Guild of Caravanners and offer yourselves as mercenaries to protect their wares. They will have supplies for the journey and will know the way. It is almost dark; I suggest you hurry to Sabban West."

   Satisfied for the time being, they turned to leave. The "Amlak Arcane" sent them off with the following benediction in Elven: "Sweet water and light laughter until next we meet."

~~~~


With their new directives, the travelers hurried west through the city, passing over several bridges that crossed canals full of leisure craft and naked brown children swimming. Sabban South smelled much better than the eastern half of the city and was clearly richer as well. They passed a decadent Temple to Sharess and two enormous public bath houses, one for men and one for women. Vashti commented on how she wished they had time to stop there. But they did not if they were to join up with a desert caravan before sundown. It was already starting to get dark.

   Going under an archway into Sabban Southwest, it was immediately clear that this district of the city was more magical than the rest. As they walked, street lamps magically lit themselves with green flames. They pressed on to the northwest, as shopkeepers in the open markets were closing for the night. They saw one hapless shopkeeper chasing down an escaped toy flying bird with a net. "In that direction," noted Vashti, "is the Seminarcane, a university of magic, much much larger than the enclave in Copper Hill."

   "Have you ever been into the desert?" one of them asked her.

   "I have not," she said, "though I quite look forward to it. I grew up in Manshaka, on the coast."

   "Could we use your carpet to search for the hobgoblins from the air?" asked Mythlos.

   "We could," she replied, "though it cannot carry too much weight. I am sure it will come in handy during our trip."

   They entered Sabban West near to the western wall of the city, which, unlike the other city walls, had multiple large gates. Livestock were passing in or out of these gates for the night, mules, donkeys, horses, and... camels.

   It seemed to Belvin that time had stopped.

   Belvin immediately approached the nearest one, a one-humped camel, but it grunted and spit at him.

   "You three elves stay here," said Vashti. "Get to know the camels. We will obtain passage. Jayce, come with me."

   Vashti took Jayce aside and said, "I am sure it is obvious that I do not like you. However, if we are to travel the sands together, we shall need to at least tolerate each other, and there is something I need you to do now for the sake of our party, which also will help improve your standing with me. You are a male, and you speak Alzhedo better than I would have expected, I must admit. You are the only one with a chance of bartering passage for us across the desert with one of the caravans.

   "Inside this khanduq is the guildmaster of the caravanners of Keltar, Pasha Faruk yn Kahlar el Jhotos. Repeat his name to me."

   "Kahduq al Jhotos?"

   Vashti sighed. "This is important. Pay attention. His title is 'pasha'. His name is Faruk. He is the son of Kahlar of the family Jhotos: Pasha Faruk yn Kahlar el Jhotos."

   "Pasha Faruk... yn Kahlar... el Jhotos," repeated Jayce slowly.

   "Good, it is imperative that you address him correctly. It is also crucial that you do not ever look him directly in the eyes. Doing such is an insult to one of higher rank than you.

   "On the second floor of the khanduq you will find the guildhall. Do not let us down. I will wait for you here."

   Jayce entered the khanduq and walked up the steps to the second story overlooking the courtyard where the merchants were closing their shops. The guildhall entrance was two doors down on the left. The guild guards, better outfitted than the amlakkar, questioned his intentions and then one of them escorted him into the room.

   Pasha Faruk was an old, white-bearded Calishite man, richly dressed in white and red. He sat on a pile of pillows on the ground with a small table in front of him. Two male slaves in loincloths were fanning him. A serving girl stood nearby at ready with an earthen jar. When Jayce entered the room, Pasha Faruk did not move; he stared at the ground, having dozed off.

   The guard coughed, and the pasha stirred but did not look up. "Rafayam, an adventurer is here, who has requested to speak with you."

   "Zenobia, wine for our guest," said the pasha. The serving girl approached and poured some red wine into a glass on the table. "Come, sit," said the pasha.

   Jayce came forward and carefully sat down on the ground across from the guildmaster, taking care to look down at the table. He sipped from the glass. "Thank you for your generous hospitality, Pasha Faruk yn Kahlar el Jhotos."

   "And who might you be?"

   "I am simply Jayce, rafayam."

   "Ah, I am always confused by the... simplicity of you... foreigners' names. Alas, it is getting late, and you have come to me as the sun sets. Let us get to the point. What do you have to offer me?"

   "I wish to offer our services to you as mercenaries to defend one of your caravans across the desert."

   "Our? I see but one of you."

   "I am but the lowliest of a powerful band of warriors. We are feared throughout the northern wilds of your country. Goblinoids tremble when they hear the strumming of my yarting. They melt in terror when they see the blue glow of the sword of the mighty fighter Mythlos. The hair on the heads of gnolls raises at the sight of the vicious beast of nature who is Belvin. They laugh in hysterical fright as their bodies are filled with the arrows of the great archer Leokas. And all are turned to ice by the power of the mighty sorceress Vashti."

   "This is grand talk from so little a man as you."

   "I speak the truth, rafayam. Looks can be deceiving."

   "They can, yes, they can." Faruk looked directly at Jayce, examining him. Jayce continued to focus on the table.

   Faruk said, "The caravan being led by Asref yn Effen el Pashar is in need of an escort. They leave for Memnon by way of the Trade Way tomorrow morning at dawn. I will send word of our arrangement through my servants. You will meet them just outside the fifth gate. They will guide you as far as the Trade Way, at which point you can go as you please, for they will be safe on the road until Memnon from that point. Along the way, you will provide for their defense against raiders or other dangers. They will cover your food and water. You will protect their goods."

   "I thank you. You are a wise and honorable pasha. We shall not disappoint you." Jayce carefully rose and walked backwards out of the pasha's chamber, then returned to Vashti with the news.

~~~~


Meanwhile, the camels were being herded from open pens into the stables for the night. Nearby stood a large pen with a single camel within, a seemingly angry camel. Two men in the pen with the beast were trying to direct it into the stables for the night, but the camel was snapping at them and not cooperating.

   Belvin felt Thard Harr's presense heavy upon him and knew then that this animal was his spirit guide in the flesh at last.

   He leapt over the gate to the pen.

   "What are you doing?" called one of the herders, but Belvin ignored him. Approaching the camel carefully, he spoke to it gently. When he got just to within reach of the animal, it looked like it was about to snap at him, but instead, it grunted and trotted off to the other corner of the pen. Leokas and Mythlos stood by, watching. Leokas tossed Belvin some of his rations, and Belvin held some in his hands to offer to the animal. It hesitated and tried to move to the other corner, but then it smelled the food and slowly inched closer until it took the offering from Belvin's hands. It then knelt down on the ground.

   "Amazing! Amazing!" exclaimed the animal herder in Common. "The animal had been nothing but trouble to us. If you had not calmed him down, we'd have put him down. He's yours."

~~~~


Shortly, the other two arrived with news about their assignment to Asref's caravan. They discussed visiting the slavemaster to see about talking with the crippled hobgoblin, but decided against it. It was too late. They would stay at an inn. In the morning, they would purchase some last minute supplies and then join up with the caravan at the fifth gate. Jayce earned some money by playing his yarting and they all purchased rooms and retired for the night, except for Belvin, who spent the night in the stable with his camel, Kamil.
Session: 8th Game Session - Thursday, May 16 2013 from 3:00 PM to 5:30 PM
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