Journal Posts

Tag: keltar

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 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM
Viewable by: Public
Chapter 1 — Keltar
~ third-day, 13th of Hammer, The Year of Wild Magic, afternoon

There had been no further disturbances during the night. They had all risen early and packed up. The guards dragged the bodies of the gnolls to the fire pit and burned them. They all boarded the barge once again, picking up three more passengers who arrived at the docks at dawn. It was an ugly, drizzly morning, but it cleared up after lunch. The river was clogged with boats now, many of them fishermen. Heading north against the river, many crafts were being towed by beasts of burden on the shore.

   While on the boat, an argument arose among Leokas, Jayce, and Mythlos regarding the distribution of the loot from the previous night's battle. In the end, Mythlos admitted that, yes, he had taken not one but two gems for himself, and Jayce finally agreed to divide up the 170 silver pieces among the five of them once the value of the gems had been ascertained. But Vashti refused her share. "I have a long way to go before I have paid my debt to all of you," she said. Perhaps because he was feeling guilty, Mythlos gave a silver piece each to the three other passengers, none of whom seemed comfortable being on board the craft with the strange group of adventurers.

   Near to dinner time, they saw Keltar in the distance, built right alongside the river, with mud-brick walls and countless minarets. The boaters guided the craft into a large off-shoot canal that led directly to the main northern gate of the city. They stopped among a multitude of other river craft at docks. The canal waters, continuing past the docks, plunged through a massive sluice gate underneath the walls of the city.

   "Welcome to Calimshan, companions," said Vashti. "Now, follow my lead and do try not to get us all killed." She pulled her cloak over her head and veiled her lower face as well. "One of you must lead the way; I'll stay close behind and give directions. We will stand out even more if it appears that a woman is leading a group of males."

   "Well, I am the obvious leader," said Jayce. This resulted in collective eye rolls from everyone else.

   "We will cross all the way to the other side of the city, where the slave market is," continued Vashti, "and see if we can learn any news from the amlakkar there."

   They passed through the ornate archway that served as the gate to the city, bumping shoulders with throngs of brown-skinned, barefoot, shirtless men with baggy pants, vests, and headscarves and fully concealed women in cloaks and veils. They could see that the city was divided by many shorter inner walls into precincts. Along the tops of these walls were walkways, and men and women of clearly richer standing walked along them. They also observed a few litters being carried on the shoulders of slaves, which bore upper class citizens within. All along the walls, in layers two to five stories tall were mud-brick, flat-roofed row houses and larger, domed houses with second floor balconies and gardens. Many of the homes contained high-arched windows with intricately fashioned stone screens.

   Magic seemed everywhere. They saw brooms sweeping the streets of their own accord and ghoulishly carved djinni ornaments on roof corners with eyes that followed them as they walked past. They even spotted a few more flying carpets in the air above.

   They passed into a large open square and beheld a massive work of breathtaking architecture. "The Steps of Istishia," said Vashti. The Steps were a monolithic, flat-topped square pyramid. Water bubbled out of the top and flowed in magically shaped patterns down the stepped sides into a large, clear reflecting pool that surrounded the whole structure.

   "Istishia is the god of water, by the way" said Jayce, mostly directed toward Vashti.

   "Of course, you dolt."

   "She didn't know that until I told her," he said to the others, who ignored him.

   "There to the west," said Vashti, pointing, "you can see the walls and minarets of the House of the Broken God, which fills the entire area of Sabban Northwest and spills outside the city walls proper into the fields. But we are heading southeast; you may wish to plug your noses."

   They soon understood why. In stark contrast to the pristine beauty of the Steps of Istishia was the awful smell of the precincts they soon crossed into.

   "What is that?"

   "That," she said, "is why Keltar, though older than any city in Calimshan except Calimport, will always be one of the smallest Calishite cities. A third of the drudachs in this city contain slaughterhouses and tanneries. And you should thank Akadi and Shaundakul; it would be a far worse smell were it not for all the windmills."

   There were windmills everywhere, but these were not in fact mills at all, nor were they being driven by any wind; there was not a natural breeze to be felt today. In actuality, a series of narrow canals passing through the drudachs of Sabbans Northeast and East powered the spinning blades in an attempt to blow the unpleasant odors of offal and tanning hides out of the city. While a fascinating accomplishment of human engineering, the windmills were clearly only moderately effective.

   Water wheels also drove grinding mills for the production of grains, which Vashti informed them were another of the chief exports of the city.

   Jayce noticed that Mythlos looked a little sick. "The smell is really getting to you?"

   "I hate the smell of meat," he answered. "I only eat plants. It disgusts me that so many animals are being killed."

   "You are aware that you are wearing leather and that leather comes from cows?"

   Mythlos looked shocked. "This armor was passed down to me. I would never kill an animal myself!"

   "But goblins and gnolls are allowed?" asked Belvin.

   After about 15 minutes of walking, they were cut off by a train of cattle being led toward one of the slaughterhouses. "Beshaba's breath," Vashti cursed. "If we wait for all these cows to pass, we won't make it to the slave market before nightfall. Follow me, we'll take the back alleys."

   They hurried through mostly empty, narrow alleyways, which twisted this way and that, at one point taking some stairs down into the ground through a tunnel and then back up again to the surface. A few steps further, and they found themselves in a little square, surrounded by several tall apartments, with laundry hanging out to dry above their heads.

   "By the hells!" Vashti cursed again, because suddenly, five youths, no older than 15 years of age, stepped out from behind barrels or piles of trash, each bearing some improvised weapon in his hands. The party was surrounded.

   "Well, well, well," said the oldest boy, "Not one, not two, but three 'pointy-ears' invading our turf!"

   The other boys laughed.

   "Look, they are the 'rainbow hair guild', black, yellow, blue, and orange," said another, pointing at their heads in turn.

   Vashti threw her cloak to the ground and set her hand on the jambiya at her thigh. "Go back to your mommies, children. You've bitten off more than you can chew."

   One of the boys whistled crudely. "Yeah, she's taking it off!"

   "I'll take your tongue off, orcwit."

   "Ah, I like my women feisty," said the oldest boy. "We'll have fun with you after we hang the elves' ears on these clotheslines. Come on boys! Let's show these barbarians how we deal with intruders!"

   None of the boys had noticed the strange breeze now blowing trash around the little square.

   Jayce also tried to warn them off, but his warnings were also unheeded. "Fine, we'll hang your ears from the line too; your loss."

   As combat seemed inevitable, Jayce rushed to one of the nearby staircases and ascended, as his right hand searched his spell pouch for a pinch of wool. The oldest boy lunged toward Vashti, who easily avoided the punch from his spiked gauntlet, but she took a blow to the shoulder from a second boy's club. There was a rush of wind, and suddenly Vashti shot up into the air, floating a story above everyone else, from where she cast down a beam of frost from her palms, covering the gang leader with icy snow. "Ach!" said the leader, wiping ice from his face and shivering, "She's a witch! Get them, boys. Come on!"

   Mythlos stepped toward the gang member with the club and swung with the side of his blade, hoping to knock him out. When the blade made contact, he heard the familiar humming sound that the sword made when it healed him. Clearly, such a tactic was not going to work with his moonblade.

   A boy with a crowbar threatened Belvin. Without hesitation, he cut him down with his scimitar, leaving a deep gash diagonally across the boy's chest.

   "Belvin!" protested Leokas. "These are just boys. What are you doing?" He then spun and took aim at a boy with a sickle, yelling at him in Common. "Hands in the air!"

   Having seen his friend fall, the youth obeyed.

   "Murderer!" screamed the boy with the club, and he charged toward Belvin, striking him with a blow to the kidneys. Belvin ran him through in response.

   The gang leader, dodging another blast from Vashti, still hovering above the fray, ran at Mythlos but pitifully missed.

   "Why are you just standing there?" the leader shouted at the others. "Avenge your brothers!"

   The one youth was just standing there because he was in a stupor. Unbeknownst to him, Jayce had cast an enchantment spell on him, holding him in a daze. By the time he came out of it, Jayce was beside him, his crossbow pointed at him. "Hands up! On your knees!" He obeyed and laid his katar on the ground.

   "Drop the sickle!" commanded Leokas of the other youth. He also obeyed. "Now turn and run and do not come back." But as the boy turned to run, Belvin swung around the corner and struck him across the lower back. He dropped to his knees and fell forward. "No!" yelled Leokas, and he ran to the boy.

   Mythlos dodged several more feeble swings from the enraged leader, warning him to cease his attack, but his attack was finally stilled by the hovering Vashti, who froze him solid with magic ice.

   Leokas was trying to stop the one boy from bleeding to death by applying pressure to the wound, but Belvin was pushing him away. "What are you doing? His lot in life fell unfairly. He is just a child."

   "No, let him die."

   Mythlos came over and joined the wrestling over the boy's body, trying to pull Belvin away from Leokas.

   From the other side of the square came a firm voice. "Halt! What is going on?" Two armed guards stood at the alley entrance.

   "We were mugged," said Jayce to them in Alzhedo. Vashti had floated back to the ground and was donning her cloak again as the guards had arrived. She turned and joined the conversation, somewhat surprised to hear Jayce speaking in her own language. "These elves... and this man... defended me from this gang," she added.

   "We will have to ask you to follow us back to the shyk.

   "We cannot do that, syl," said Jayce firmly but politely.

   "Where do you think you are heading then?" asked the guard, taken aback.

   But Vashti said, "Um, dear, we were heading to the amlakkar anyway, remember?"

   Looking somewhat embarrassed, Jayce said, "Yes, she is right; we will go with you. But look after the three fallen boys. They are sorely injured."

   The guard shrugged and turned to his fellow officer. "Look after the boys if anything can be done and the situation warrants it."

   "Please," said Jayce. The one boy still conscious began crying quietly.

   Unable to understand the conversation happening behind them, the three elves still struggled together and argued in elven. The second guard strode toward them and called out in Common, "Leave that criminal to me; you are to follow the musar to the shyk."
Session: 7th Game Session - Monday, Apr 29 2013 from 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM
Viewable by: Public, Craig, Brian, Mike, Krishna