Amaranthia

Session 18

June 21

Spending a night in a proper bed was the greatest luxury after weeks of travel, sleeping in tents, cheap inns, and mildewed hammocks. And I have nothing but praise for the skills of Al Ghemd’s masseuse and bath. Though I have grown accustomed to the lack of luxury over the past years, but it is difficult to overcome the conditions of my birth.

I still recall my horror, at the age of twelve when I was sent to serve my uncle Sajjad, upon seeing my new surroundings. At the time, I thought it was the depth of poverty, but how quickly was I to realize that it was simply a lack of opulence. Even Khayyam’s modest dwelling was palatial compared to a small tent…

Despite my experiential education, the circumstances of the common-born can still be truly shocking to me and, this morning, I had just such a shock.

As I settled the last of our debts in the morning, I saw a familiar face, so changed by experience that I almost did not recognize her, Maram.

I allowed the others to proceed without me and bought the two of us coffee. She was nervous, tired, with nary a trace of the brashness I remembered. I coaxed her story from her…

Upon my parting with them, The Batta had continued on its route. Thankfully, its sounds as if her father had made me the sole target for his anger and life had continued as normal for several weeks until, one day, the ship ran afoul of the most terrible luck: the tiny coastal trader became the prey of the Sidero Lykos, flagship of the Dread Pirate Chalazias.

Some of the crew paid with their lives to buy her enough time to hide, but it would not have been enough. But, a mysterious passenger, a woman named Noza performed an act of peculiar magic, and Maram suddenly found herself in Sefet, devoid of possessions.

Unable to find any to aid her, she quickly wound up in massive debt and was forced into indentured servitude. Her contract had recently been sold to Puzur Ubar, the proprietor of Al Ghemd.

What else could I do? I found this man, bargained with him, and bought Maram’s debt. I gave Maram a letter of introduction to the household of a second cousin, once removed—charitable people who have a reputation for finding jobs for the unfortunate—who I hope can help get her on her feet. After ensuring that she left safely, I rejoined my compatriots.

We visited the famous markets and left word at the agreed-upon point for Ramal and Lydra, but most of the day passed me by. The events of the morning wholly occupied my mind, as did the shock of dropping such a staggering sum of money—nearly all of my personal share—in one impulse. I need to find a way to offset my losses while we are in Sefet. I cannot count solely on finding random coins in the pockets of monsters…

Of course, the sudden loss of as much gold as many earn in a year—I have no idea how she could’ve accumulated that scale of debt in a few weeks—is nothing compared to Maram’s loss. She was uncertain of her father’s fate, but the reputation of the Dread Pirate leaves little room for doubt…

In the afternoon, we spilt into two groups. Sehera needed to meet with Khegan, so she headed back towards the Western Gate with Cressida, Lyr, and Nessius. Meanwhile, Feng, Indira and I traveled to East Sefet. Feng was confident he could make contact with the Black Phoenix Syndicate, a Harukan criminal orginization, to help us learn more about The Cobalt Crown.

Passing himself off as a seller of gladiators (and Indira and I as bodyguards and samples), he was able to make contact with an apparent agent of the Syndicate, who invited us to an underground fight that evening.

Meanwhile, as Sehera told me later, her party found their way to the Zythu hookah bar Khegan had told them of. As Nessisus and Lyr overindulged, Keeghan told Cressida and her more about his sword, the Karabelataniec. He said it was an old weapon, one that he won from his grandfather Shenkogan, in a Ghigam Ducral, a form of Zythu honor duel.

The weapon had supposedly been created by the Dao Genasi smith and engineer Bennura, architect of the legendary temple/fortress Zarjasz Al-Ulaq. We may have to visit this fortress to free Sehera’s copy of the sword of its bond to the Khegan we knew.

Though I am unsure how this will connect to our other tasks, the idea of discovering an ancient, lost site of legend sets my blood aflame…

That night, Indira, Feng, and I found this fight, a brutal cage match between (mostly) unarmed combatants. Obviously, not a battle that would’ve played to my strengths, but I could not help wonder if there were armed fights and what their prizes would be. I tried to think of what Khayyam would think of such an endeavor.

Iskandar told me stories about tournaments he had fought in, but the old man was reluctant to talk about such topics. It raises some significant ethical concerns. Is it just to fight another, possibly even kill, simply for the sake of wealth? A man who murders another for money is a criminal. But soldiers are paid to fight and kill, and being a soldier can be an honorable calling.

If honor is at stake and the conditions are fair, then a fight, even to the death, is surely just, for are not the histories—even the stories of the gods themselves—full of such battles? If a man so offended my honor that there was no other recourse, I would fight without hesitation and I would expect the reverse to hold true.

Few would have moral qualms about two men pummeling each other into unconsciousness for a prize. Does giving them weapons change the morality? Most accept honor duels as a fact of life. Is it foolish to think that money would sully the honor of a battle? Men fight and die for money constantly; I see no shame in being a mercenary (though it is not a life for me). And rare is the merchant who would balk at far less honorable profits that that obtained through a fair fight.

An unusual battle illuminated my musings. A fighter named Dendera Seth, an usually tall Terashal woman, was set to battle a much larger opponent. As he lunged at her with wild, powerful attacks, she dodged his blows easily and pierced in the back with a small pin. Seconds later, he seemed to glow from within, a jet of flame flared from his wound, and he died almost instantly. A member of the audience told me that Dendera Seth had never lost…

While I had been engrossed by the fighting, Feng had been making contacts, guarded by Indira, though she too had been distracted, for a stranger, standing by the wall, was watching her…

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jtanzer

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