Akkarid; July 21
Sehera and I wound our way back to Uncle’s house, nearly unmolested; a group of guards confused Sherea with some rioters and we had to bribe our way out. I’m sure this will be a profitable day for the city guard.
Our route was long and circuitous and, as we had had no breakfast save a sweet roll hastily shoved in my mouth on the way out the door, we eventually stopped for an early lunch. Most of the city was shut down due to the riot, even once we had walked a fair distance away, but Sehera caught a scent of food and we found a little shop, barely more than a kitchen with a couple tables, run by a garrulous and stubborn old woman who boasted at having never closed one day in fourty years.
It was a slow day for her, so she piled our plates high enough that, after several minutes of quiet eating, there was still plenty of food to pick at.
Both of us had something on their minds, and I encouraged Sehera to go first. She had been talking to Cressida, who remains quite concerned about the Ushtarak, despite their violent rejection of her. She might be a stranger to them, but she is unable to see them as strangers in turn. That makes sense, I suppose. I can’t help but think of Marid and wonder what sort of reception he will get, if he ever returns to Hazred.
Cressida wants to help the Ushtarak, to free them from the grip of Keergai’im. This seems like a wise goal to me. Sehera agrees, of course, but I don’t think she sees this in the same way I do; she sees him as just another usurper of a tribe’s power, who will eventually be overthrown or be the cause of a splintering of his tribe, as has happened so often throughout Zythu history. I think Keergai’im may be the beginning of something more.
I recall my mentor speaking one night, after drinking much wine, of the Terashal’s firearms. They were the future, he said. If the Terashal ever loosed their grip on the weapons, when the armies of nations began to arm their masses with these weapons, it would change the face of war as much as the longbow or the combat mage had. The day of the sword, he said wistfully, would end as surely as the day of the pointy stick had. He indented it, I think, as an encouragement for me to make the most of my life in the time I had but, when I think of powerful weapons in the hands of a man like Keergai’im, I begin to wonder what the future might hold.
In any case, Keergai’im is not the end of the world, but yes, if we can help the Ushtarak, we should. It is the right thing to do.
Additionally, Sehera has an additional motivation for this course of action; Keergai’im may have this world’s copy of the Karabelataniec. We suspect that he was supposed to trade it with Al Haddid Jalut for his weapons, but to him it is just a sword. If the Terashal did not take it, he would likely still be wielding it for its symbolic importance. But if we can get it, and unbind both swords from Khegan, perhaps we could bind them both to Sehera, who recently perfected the technique of wielding dual scimitars…
A chance to do some good and get two legendary blades? I was sold.
When it was my turn, I found myself delaying. I told Sehera about my plans for my immanent birthday—which prompted a bit of explanation of birthday traditions; the Zythu celebrate surviving every day, and don’t see anything particularly special about a birthday after childhood—but eventually I got to the point and told her that I was going to ask Dendera to marry me.
After I persuaded her that, no, I was not joking, she was remarkably supportive. Apparently, Zuthu don’t really have much of an engagement tradition—marriage seems fast and direct for them—so she might not have understood the breadth of what engagement means to a Sultan’s son, but still, it was good to know she had my back. It was strange saying it out loud for the first time, as if it had suddenly become real.
The others had made it back fairly quickly, though Cressida struggled to stay airborne, and by the time we had returned, the Shula’s had settled in somewhat, though formality hid a their shock. My uncle would host them for a few days, while the public furor calmed down.
I found Fazia on the roof and Indira as well, both alone in their thoughts. Fazia was, understandably, furious, but I think her anger and aggression hides some deep-rooted pain. I told her about our progress with the Tenrashinban and, I think she was pleased, though really it is difficult to tell with Fazia. She seems very concerned about the construction of the Mashket. This isn’t just a thing she wants because it is rare or valuable, I suspect; she’s putting a lot on the Mashket’s completion. I suppose we’ll find out eventually, when it is complete.
I asked her about Jalal Ére, who was also working with the Shogun in her world. When I explained some our interest in him—that he was partially responsible for what we have experienced—the connection between him and Indira struck her.
She got up, approached Indira, and uttered something very close to an apology: an acknowledgement that the bounty hunters pursuing Indira are partially due to her actions; if she had not stolen the Tenrashinban, the Shogun would not have needed the Ére family, and he would not have needed to put a bounty on Indira’s head.
Indira, who had already seemed distressed, bore this news silently and asked me to leave her be after Fazia departed.
Next came another conversation I had been dreading somewhat. I took my uncle aside and told him about Dendera. He took the news surprisingly well, as he had my new face. I also told him of my desire to host a party for my birthday and, within moments, I was racing him to Abu, so I could put in some requests for normal food before he could get… creative.
I also sent a message to my brother, Salih al-Wasim, to meet me that evening; I hope he will attend the party, but there are things I must tell him beforehand.
We regrouped and, finally, had a moment to see what Lazar and Maqsood had accomplished with Al-Muhqtebel. Their work was impressive.
After our exploits, there had been only a few rooms left of Al-Muhqtebel. The room we had exited from, which had been some sort of storeroom, had been converted into a well-lit entryway (still accessed by a portal in the guest bedroom). The cells were still there, filled with much of the detritus from construction and supplies. The large, main chamber was now divided into three rooms, a large multi-purpose room, a small bedroom that Lazar and Maqsood were using (with one bed which… sheds some light), and a barrack. The small room down the long hall had been turned into a small kitchen area.
They had discovered a source of water—a small portal to the Elemental Plane of Water—in a small chamber hidden beneath the floor and discovered a series of tiny portals, barely the size of a coin, to the Elemental Plane of Air, which kept the air in here clean and breathable.
They had also done some magical experimentation with Seb Rashidi’s mechanisms and built some crystal key-like devices to activate the portals and some sort of freestanding door, which opens into some sort of empty pocket of space. Lazar called it a “Chamber of Holding” and said that time did not flow normally in there; one could put a piece of fruit in there and it would never go bad. We stored Kage Okosa’s sword in there for now, so Lazar could find a way of destroying it safely.
Most of us spent that afternoon at the market, which was slowly getting back to business after the chaos of the morning. We had loot to sell, armor to enchant, and I had some dowry gifts to purchase. It was pleasant to spend some time with Dendera doing something normal, walking through a market, arm-in-arm. We didn’t talk about much, but I think this is one of the first times where we’ve felt just like two normal people, taking a walk…
We sought out a book store—which was doing a brisk business with the destruction of the library—and I purchased a volume of Terashal poetry; I have heard it said that, to understand Terashal poetry is to understand the Terashal language. But I bought a primer on Terashal as well, to be thorough. Dendera gave a quick smile when she saw what I was buying and has offered to help, though she cautioned that she is a stern teacher. I thought she was making some sort of innuendo, but no, she was not. This will be interesting.
As the others made their way back, Sehera and I met with Salih. It was good to see him—he seems much more comfortable here in Akkarid than he does at home—and the meeting went surprisingly smoothly. My face did not overly disturb him. I wonder if the differences are less stark to others than what I see in the mirror? I suppose I’ve only spent a mater of weeks with Salih over the past ten years, so he is surely not as used to my face as I am…
Sehera was a great help, as I found myself lost for words a few times. I had played so many possible scenarios in my head that I wasn’t sure where to start. I was not following my mentor’s teachings of thought through action.
He was more shocked about the engagement. My father had, of course, promised my hand long ago to, oh, what was her name… Sara, the daughter of some minor family; though we are not technically engaged, that is but a trivial detail to my family.
I remember her, vaguely. We met once, when I was eight or nine. She would have been the same age. I recall her being sweet, kind, and well behaved and having no more understanding of what was going on than I did. We have exchanged a few formal letters over the years, but truthfully I have no more knowledge of her than that she is alive and lives near the Kohonman border.
Dendera is here, now, and she needs me. And today I found myself thinking that, perhaps I could see myself with her in the future. I can scarcely imagine being alive ten years from now, but maybe…
Salih will be coming to the party, if only to see what happens. I hope to have a little more time to talk to him then.
It was growing late by the time we returned to my Uncle’s house and it seems that nobody slept well last night, so we turned in a little early. Several of us slept in the barracks in Al-Muhqtebel.
We were awoken early by Lyr, who ran out of Al-Muhqtebel, shouting something about becoming a Radiant Servant of Pelor. After we woke up again at a saner hour, we found that Lyr was still on the roof, praying. Sartaj explained that the Radiant Servants are sort of the elect of Pelor. The glow on her head had been a sign of this transformation; it had now become a permanent, tattoo-like mark. I don’t really understand it; Lyr still seems like, well, Lyr, but I understand this is very important to her.
If ever there was a sign that Pelor was watching over us in some way, I suppose this qualifies. Something to think about…
We spent most of the day engaged in various labors. Cressida, Indira and I went out to get supplies for our travels, getting some good deals. It is an interesting edge at the bartering table when you have friends who can actually talk to the camels…
We purchased enough supplies for about a week of travel, but little enough to maintain mobility. With Lyr and Cressida’s magic to create additional food and water and to restore the animals if they are overworked, we should be able to travel without stopping for as long as we need.
We returned to my uncle’s house and spent most of the night in Al-Muqutebel with our friends, plotting our course through the desert. Indira, Feng, Lyr, Cressida, Sehera, Dendera, and myself will be making the trip.
Sartaj was originally planning on coming with us at least part of the way, but those plans were superseded by the need to rescue the Effulgent One. I believe he will stay here and get things ready for our return; if we do not return, he will reach out to the Radiant One and seek the aid of Amaranthia’s militant orders of Pelor.
Lazar and Maqsood seem to enjoy living in Akkarid and will remain, working on Al-Muhqtebel and doing what they can to help Claudia Lestoue. Ramal and Lydra seemed uncertain of what to do next; I know they want to return to their work in Sefet, but there is much to do in Akkarid as well.
Dendera seemed amenable to the idea of helping the Ushtarak, provided it was not too much of a distraction. Fortunately, it sounds like they might still be near Al Hadid Jalut who, she explained, would still be supplying Keergai’im with supplies for his new weapon.
After a leisurely morning, we went to the baths; if we are to leave tomorrow, this would likely be the last chance we would have to do something like this for a while. I believe this is the first time I have had an opportunity to just talk with Ramal, Lazar, and Maqsood like normal people.
The party began shortly after we returned, with various appetizers and beverages provided in Uncle’s house before moving to Al-Muhqtebel, where tables, chairs, and the buffet were set up. I had hired a few musicians, who earned their keep, and purchased an abundance of wine and liquor, so spirits were high. My brother came late, of course, but he did come.
I gave a quick speech of thanks to my friends and was preparing to ask Dendera to marry me, when I realized she was not there. I am really bad at this “getting engaged thing.” Though, in fairness, she can be very quiet.
She came a bit later, wearing a stunning dress, accompanied by Maqsood. I was somewhat confused for a moment, until she reminded me that her father was not present…
In Terashal custom, engagement is arranged in a formalized negation/drinking contest called zestre wherein the hopeful groom drinks copious amounts of zlatechimze with the father and argues his case. Maqsood would be playing the role of the father…
I introduced Dendera to my brother. I’m afraid I made a blunder and had mentioned that Dendera was a half-Terashal—I was very tired when she explained things to me; she is just tall, apparently—so that resulted in an awkward moment…
After everyone had had time to eat, we went up to the roof, where Feng produced an elaborate fireworks display. I’m sure he would’ve like to use his magic, but all the same he seemed quite content. He’s been on edge the past few days, so it was good to see him in a positive mood.
We went back to Al-Muhqtebel, where a variety of deserts had been arranged—my uncle’s sweet tooth in full display—and the dancing began. It seemed as if everyone was having fun. I think I even saw Fazia nodding to the music as she glowered in the corner. After Barlan put Lillian to bed, and the wine began flowing at an even greater pace, I grabbed a bottle of zivania—we had no zlatechimze—found Maqsood and a we sequestered ourselves.
My memory of our zestre is vague but I was surprised by the forcefulness with which Maqsood embraced his role. We argued loudly and drank heavily for a long time. I’m not really sure where more bottles came from, nor the tray of pastries, but a closed door never seems to stop Abu…
Like a burst of desert sun throughout my body, I next became aware standing in my room, Lyr having just purged me of the effects of my night of excess. I had, it seemed, succeeded and made it to sunrise, zestre complete. I don’t think I need to drink zivania ever again…
Lyr explained quickly that there had been an explosion last night and another just now, somewhere nearby. We found my brother and he realized that the closer explosion was at the temple of Pelor and, to his horror, the previous night’s may have been at the stables.
We hurried to the temple, most of my companions still hurting from the night before. I myself began to feel the effects of the alcohol still in my stomach, but Lyr’s spell had purged my body of most of the alcohol.
The temple of Pelor in Akkarid is a far smaller than that of Bahamut, but it is renowned for its beauty, particularly its gleaming walls of polished stone, flecked with golden mica, and an extravagance of gold on every possible surface. Something incredibly hot had exploded at dawn, blackening those walls and killing several. I helped Lyr tend to the wounded while Sehera and Feng snuck in for a closer look.
It appeared as if it had been attack by effriti and the heat and strange markings in the temple seemed to point the blame at some source from the Plane of Fire, probably a Salamander. Many reported seeing figures that looked like they could be effriti leaving the temple.
Feng and Sehera found a sheet of brass, inscribed with a message that seemed particularly damning, though knowing the truth as we did of what happened to the library, we instantly became suspicious. It declared:
For the Honor of the First King of the City of Brass, your moaning prayers shall not be heard on this or any future morning. Despair before the might of our flame. The mute dance of the unfaithful idolaters, those who play at being kings by the will of fools, more valuable than the lives they mock, shall never know life, but shall witness a death without pity before your broken God wails above.
Finding little else, we made haste to the stables, where we found a similar scene. Some of the finest horses in Raqaejah had been murdered in an explosion at midnight, including Al-Almzariah, my brother’s finest and favorite horse. When I overcame my initial rage and disgust, it occurred to me that these were excellent targets to get people angry without doing a lot of damage. Perhaps that is why whoever was really behind this chose the temple of Pelor. Destroying the famed golden walls and the stables of some of the city’s most popular champions would be a great insult; attacks on the stables of the king and the temple of Bahamut would have been a declaration of war.
We found another sheet of brass, which proclaimed:
For the Honor of the First King of the City of Brass, the most base among you have been shown the glory of our might. When next your four golden walls raise a roof of fire, even your tears shall burn bright with our vengeance, as you shall know what it is to weep in despair.
We realized this was a warning of the attack on the temple of Pelor, which meant the other sheet may have been a warning as well. From the content of the message, it seemed as if the likely target would be
The attack’s like target seemed to be the famed Khaymeshab Bazi Theatre with its golem puppets and the attack would probably occur at noon, which was fast approaching.
On our way back in the direction of the theater, we saw many rioters headed towards the docks, and we were forced to go through Uncle’s neighborhood and we encountered a roadblock. Travel between districts of the city was being severely restricted. As we argued with the guards, we saw Fazia and our other friends. The target of the riot, it seemed, was the Mashket.
Claudia’s presence and the information we had for the guards allowed us not only to pass through the block, but resulted in us getting an escort to the theater. With the guards’ help, we cleared the theater and made our way backstage, to where the golems were kept.
It was very eerie walking among those silent, nude giants…
We had arrived just in time, for the arsonists showed up moments later. It seemed indeed that they were assailants from the Plane of Fire as they looked like efriti, but they moved like automatons. They were accompanied, however, by a very real Salamander.
And following them was a woman who was a stranger, but at the same time seemed vaguely familiar. When she saw us, she seemed vaguely pleased to see us. She explained that her name was Xea Rashidi and that she was looking forward to avenging her brother.
Then she turned into a dragon…