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…

Session 17

June 20

We left the ship by boat a few hours walk from Sefet. The crew would have awkward questions to answer and it would be best if we were not there to make the questions even more awkward. Furthermore, we are not yet ready to risk confronting The Cobalt Crown, who may have their hooks in Igneen Faheed and the Delishea Djieda company, until we can gather more information.

We found ourselves in a slum and market on the outskirts of the city. I have never seen such poverty. It was… distressing. Our passage through this market was uneventful until Lyr distracted by the lure of dice, slipped away from our group. Mere moments later, with a great crash, she hurled a man through a wall. She had found slavers trading in children. Indira, Sehera, and Feng pursued the other slavers, the rest of us helped the children, who were badly treated and in shock.

They slew one of their number, a Flind, and pursued the other, a Daricassan to the city gates, where they lost him.

After we had regrouped, we headed to the city with the children in tow.

Cresida and Sehera then had a peculiar, sad meeting, encountering this world’s Khegan, the warrior who gave Sehera her sword, who was living in disgrace after being ousted by Keergai’im. Even wrapped, he recognized his sword in Sehera’s scabbard. She and Cressida have arranged to meet him tomorrow.

We then left the children with the Temple of Pelor and went to find lodgings. A cousin had recommended an inn called Al Ghemd. Of course, it was not until we entered that I realized that Al Ghemd translates from Old Raqaejahn as “The Sheath” and that we had walked into a brothel and that I would take Barakat’s recommendations with a grain of caution in the future.

My companions did not seem to mind though and, after some small chaos, we all had quite an enjoyable, relaxing night.

Especially Lyr.

Session 16

June 8

Little of note today. Feng and Nessisus spent some time examining the strange cube we found; elements—flames, water, etc—are attracted to it and it seems to be of Celestial make, but more information is beyond their reach.

We are somewhat concerned about Feng. He has left the deepest hold little over the past few days and is going somewhat stir crazy.

June 9

According to Lyr, the first of this day’s strange events came at dawn, when she greeted the sun. Indira was standing on the poop, holding the cube and seemed entranced. As Lyr tried to rouse her, she spotted an approaching ship. A peculiar man was standing aboard and, when the crew came to look, another strange figure appeared behind us on our ship, followed by several more.

These mysterious individuals were silent, clothed in black robes and Harukan theatrical masks. When Feng asked them why they had come, they gestured at Indira and attacked.

The battle was short, but brutal, these entities touches sapping our strength and vitality. One touched me, rendering me blind.

When defeated, these things vanished, leaving behind only their masks, which had lingering trace of illusion magic on them. Were these individuals bounty hunters? Or were they magical constructs sent by an unseen puppet master? I fear we shall not have to wait too long to find out.

My blindness persisted until the next morning, when Lyr was able to heal my eyes. She has made quite an impression on the crew; I suspect the temple of Pelor may have some interesting new additions to their congregation. I have listened to her speak of the glory of Pelor often and I suspect she begins to view me as a convert as well. I suspect she would not approve if I told her my confidence was not in Pelor, but in her.

June 20

Sefet ahoy!

The remainder of our voyage has been uneventful, allowing me time to work on the earlier years of my memoires and for Sehera and I to develop our swordsmanship. We have seen little of Feng; he mostly sits in the hold with the cube. While slightly concerned with his sanity, we quickly discovered just how sharp his claws are when we tried to coax him out into the sun. Perhaps being on dry land will help restore balance to his mind.

Session 15

Session 15

May 26

Quickly, Ameen Makara revealed that his hand was behind the Charnel Hound, but denied responsibility for the plague itself. He suggested that we leave and, due to some magic in his voice, Sehera and I agreed with him.

Fortunately, my companions were not so easily swayed. As stepped forward to fight him, he transformed into a monstrous entity, his true form, and was joined in the battle by two Spawn of Kyuss.

Fortunately, Sehera and I were freed of his control when he counter-attacked. Lyr burned the undead to dust with Pelor’s light and we were able to keep the creature that was Ameen off balance until Feng was able to destroy it with a wall of fire.

Further investigation of the catacombs revealed numerous cages containing zombies—and one dead vampire—in various states of disrepair. They looked as if they had been flensed while “alive.” I am quite comfortable in being ignorant of the reason for this.

We found a chamber or laboratory Ameen had established and discovered amongst his possessions numerous, furious scribblings in an Infernal tongue, some manner of journal or grimoire, and an ominous black staff.

We returned to the estate of Bey Ayman Al-Aziz with the staff and explained what had occurred to him and Alkilli.

The sage experimented upon the staff, confirming that it was the lynchpin of the necromantic magic affecting the plague, but he could not destroy it, healing any damage almost instantly.

Sehera, Feng, and Cressida Shesel brought it to Rana Tutwaiaf Al-Ghalan in the hope that he could help. Though Sehera said it writhed in protest almost like a living thing, Rana was able to suppress its magic long enough for her to cut it in half. It seems that, at this moment, the necromantic spell was broken.

Afterwords, Rana was freed, by written order of the bey, and left Mazooz, escorted by Sehera and company.

May 27

In the morning, Cressida was recovering from her brush with the plague, healed by Rana’s magic. The destruction of the staff had lifted whatever resistance the disease had to proper treatment and, though this came too late to help many, far more were on their way to recovery. Grateful for our help, the bey offered a boon. We requested passage to Sefet.

Captain Amat Kadeer and many of his crew had survived and would transport us. It appeared that Igneen Faheed, owner of the Delishea Djieda shipping company, had perhaps provided Ameen with the staff and may have been expecting to receive the completed Charnel Hound in return. As well as allowing us a quick departure, travelling on Captain Kadeer’s ship might allow us easier access to this man.

We sold our camels and most of our supplies and otherwise prepared for our journey. Fazia Shula left for Akkarid. Cressida would accompany us to Sefet.

May 28

Today we left Mazooz. The city is still reeling from the plague, but end of the staff’s magic also meant the end of the undead fleas; Alkilli and the priests of Bahamut have been able to restrict its growth. It is unlikely that there will be many more deaths.

I should have liked to look into the Temple more—Ameen Makara was a disciple of Kyuss and had been working to undermine it for years—but I suspect there would be little we could do to help. We may be more useful pursuing news of Igneen Faheed.

Clear skies and calm seas today. We should make Sefet in about nineteen days.

June 7

The past ten days have been pleasantly uneventful. My companions and I have largely kept to ourselves, allowing the crew to do their jobs and each other a chance to enjoy as much privacy and rest as one can get aboard a merchant vessel.

Necissus and Lyr have been relishing the pleasant, sunny weather in very different ways. Feng’s apprehension about the wide-open sea has been slightly offset by easy access to as much fish as he can catch. Sehera and Cressida have struggled somewhat with seasickness and a lack of freedom of movement. Indira spends much of her time either teaching Zia tricks or gazing indecipherably at the horizon.

I have split my time between training exercises, some small-stakes gaming with the crew, and recording my memories of my early days, an interesting journey down the paths of memory, but separate from this journal.

Today, we encountered the floatsam of a destroyed ship. Sehera spotted what appeared to be a survivor and several crew boarded a boat to help. Unfortunately, it was an ambush.

A school of Sea Devils emerged from the water and swarmed the ship. Most of the crew wisely retreated and we stood against our foes, whittling down their numbers until, at last, there were none left. Sadly, one of the crew was killed by a shark in the battle.

As we recovered, a small chest was discovered floating in the water. Feng puzzled over the lock for a time and finally cracked it, discovering inside a small alabaster cube, engraved with elemental symbols. Discovering what this artifact is may have to wait until we reach Sefet.

Session 14

May 26

Upon discovering the connection between the fleas and the Temple of Bahamut, we consulted again with Alkilli, who was surprised by the result but confident in his process. He was unaware of any noteworthy changes, curses, etcetera to do with the temple, but he mentioned that Bey Ayman Al-Aziz donated money to them recently.

We asked the bey and he expressed disturbed surprise at our findings and was also unaware of any suspicious activity. He regularly donated money or, rather Ameen Makara donated the bey’s money, in amounts that had been increasing lately. Ameen had remained at the temple after we had visited there, so we decided to find him.

The temple was largely empty, as most of the priests and servants had ventured out to treat the sick. None had seen Ameen since he was there with us.

As we investigated, Feng found a tooth and a strange stain on the ground; suspicious but what could it mean? He picked a lock to the doors leading further into the temple. Indira Ére found a secret door in the floor. We bypassed a trap and ventured beneath, into the catacombs.

There, we discovered zombies and began to do battle, but were ambushed by many more zombies and three monstrous undead Boneclaws.

The battle was long and fierce, but Feng and Lyr devastated our foes with fire and holy light, allowing us to eliminate the monsters.

As Lyr healed some of our party, Feng and Nessisus wandered off, discovering a horrific, huge construct of deformed skeletons called a Charnel Hound. Fortunately, this monstrous creation was not complete and Feng began to incinerate it as the rest of us arrived.

Then, a person stepped from the shadows. It was Ameen Markara…

Session 13

May 25

Today we arrived in the small city of Mazooz, the first port east of Akkarid. It seems like it was once a small, pleasant place, but is currently beset by the pains of rapid economic growth. In a way, it reminds me of home, not from the similarities, but from the contrast. I wonder if, in a few centuries, Mazooz will have grown, peaked, and be in a similar slow, comfortable decline as Hazred. I wonder what will become of Hazred in those centuries.

After purchasing supplies and evening fell, we found a reasonably reputable inn to spend the night. As I bargained with the innkeeper, some poor drunk nearly vomited on my shoes. My mother would have been horrified by the place.

As I closed the deal, a man approached, saying that his master wished to both speak with us and host us for the night. After discerning that he meant us no harm, we followed him outside where he identified himself as Ameen Makara, an emissary for the bey, who was currently host to Fazia Shula.

We followed to the bey’s estate and were treated to a fine dinner, but Fazia did not join us. Bey Ayman Al-Aziz and his wife Bahija were gracious hosts and had been graciously, patiently hosting Fazia for several days.

After dinner, we met with Fazia who was quite incensed that we did not attend her party, but she was less irritated at the social slight than the inconvenience she now suffered tracking us down.

It was not a social call. She explained to us her plans to rebuild her ship, The Mashkhet—which had sunk years ago in this world—as a glorious, flying ship and she had knowledge of the means to do it.

To make the story short, she had obtained an artifact, the Tenrashinban which, in form, is much like a ship’s compass. If bound to the power of the The Four Cardinal Spirits, it would theoretically allow a vessel to travel through the air. She wished us to take the artifact and bind these spirits to it.

This sparked much debate among my companions as to the ethical, practical, and magical implications of this task. Neither us nor Fazia had enough knowledge to answer these questions so, with varying enthusiasm, we agreed, all conceding that it was better to have such a deed in our hands than in those of mercenaries who would not ask questions and that it would be better to have Fazia as a friend than an adversary.

I am concerned about Feng’s behavior of late. He actually proposed pushing Fazia overboard once the renewed Mashkhet was airborne. He has been developing a mean, belligerent streak and this was particularly worrisome.

I am feeling very tired. I shall think on this more tomorrow.

May 26

Am covered in pox. How did this happen? I must find Lyr.

Lyr cured my pox easily, but I was not the only victim. An outbreak of the Red Death had gripped the city overnight. At breakfast, we met the chief sage of the bey, a Kenku-like individual named Alkilli.

He informed of us the rapid spread of the plague, its implications, and of the fact that the city was locked down. Furthermore, it seemed Nessisus, Indira, Fazia, and the bey’s wife were all struck ill as well.

We volunteered our aid in investigating the problem. There were two likely vectors for the disease. One, a ship of the Delishea Djieda mercantile company whose crew was currently incarcerated. The other, a band of Anari we saw leave the city yesterday afternoon. One of their number had returned after his band left and was also incarcerated. We traveled quickly to the jail, accompanied by Ameen.

The sailors were feeling the effects of the plague, but the captain of the vessel, Amat Kadeer, explained quite sensibly that they could not have knowingly brought the disease with them from Sefet. The captain was quite helpful and informed us that their stop in Mazooz was made to deliver a shipment of rugs and he provided us with a shipping manifest. Due to the rapid spread of the disease, its effects would have been felt on the voyage. We recommended they be allowed to return to their ship, but that they be kept apart from the populace for their own safety.

We then met with the Anari prisoner, Rana Tutwaiaf Al-Ghalan of the Khen-she’ahb Al-ith’mar tribe. He explained that his people’s timely departure from the city was not an indication of guilt; they had not brought the disease into the city knowingly or unknowingly. They had left quickly due to detecting a fuin, a miasma over the city. He did, however, explain the peculiar reason for his return.

He said that he was drawn by visions of Orod Al-Carad, the Ruby Mountain. We suspect that the peculiar rubies we have were what drew him. A curious phenomena to be sure, but not related to the outbreak of the plague.

We next traveled to the home of one of those who purchased the rugs, a private collector who was known to Ameen.

There was nobody alive at this house.

The rugs were lying in the foyer, one partially unrolled. When examined for magic, the rugs themselves showed no signs of tampering but there were signs of magic elsewhere. Horrifyingly, the rugs appeared to contain fleas, ensorcelled with necromantic magics. We fled the house and had Feng burn it down to be safe.

We sent a messenger back to the bey and stopped at the temple of Bahamut to have those of us who had become infected cured. Afterwards, Lyr mentioned that there had been something peculiar about the prayers uttered by the priests, but she was unable to put words to what had caught her ear.

We returned to the bey’s estate and explained our findings to Alkilli, who asked us for a sample of the fleas. Some of us headed to the warehouse where the ship’s cargo was kept, while Cressida and Sehera returned to the jail to inform the prisoners of what was occurring and to see if the captain knew anything about these rugs.

The warehouse was crawling with fleas and so it was easy to gather a few.

Sample in hand, Alkilli was able to verify that these fleas were the vector for the plague and that they were the creation of necromantic magic. Using some sort of process I do not understand, he was able to reveal a wispy tether of magic leading from the fleas to some source. As we followed the trail, it became quickly apparent that it led to the temple…

Session 12

May 23

We pursued Creature north of the Path of Prosperity. The little beast’s energy and stamina are miraculous. He very nearly outran the camels.

He led us to an old ruin at the edge of the Sheel Khali Desert. Several dead Zythu lay about the place and we passed them by until we found Cressida Shesel, at the brink of death from a bullet wound to her side.

Lyr healed her but Cerssida was, initially despondent. When she spoke, it was to blame us for her lot. A fair enough accusation, I suppose, for we were the ones who intertwined her fate with the Glass Artifact. We did not know what was happening—and there is much we remain ignorant of—but our actions inarguably contributed to this chain of events.

She had found the Ushtarak tribe, but they did not know her. To make matters worse, Fusthid, a moderate baro and father-figure to Cressida, had been overthrown by Keergai’im, the xenophobic daleel who had, on another world, dueled with Sehera Tarzi. Under his leadership, the Ushtarak have “learned the ways of smoke and iron” and now fight with weapons stolen from the Terashal.

Khamuth, daughter of Fusthid is now wed to Keergai’im and Khegan was not with the tribe.

For her extensive and seemingly unexplainable knowledge of the tribe, Keergai’im called her a Devil of the Desert and declared accam mak shaiden. The men of his new daleel separated Cressida from Sartaj Bharatra, chasing her to the south, while he fled north.

They did not relent, though their chase continued for over a day until Cressida was forced to kill three men she knew as brothers.

While she recovered, Sehera heard the sounds of camels—aside from ours—and went to examine the source of the noise. She found a small herd of four camels, grazing on Anari Brush, four camels that belonged to an irate sun giant, who demanded she surrender our camels to him.

Her “no” was stated with enough force to attract our attention and we joined the battle before he was able to slay her with his great spear. As I harried his legs, Indira Ére peppered him with ice arrows until Feng slew him with a magic missile to the head.

Amongst his possessions, we found a strange chest with a ring of six rubies on the lid. Feng picked the lock and a hot wind rushed out. The box was now empty and far lighter than it was. We took the box with us, for it seemed to not have any residue of magic.

Indira talked to the camels who were quite docile and held no sorrow for the death of their master, Gat.

We all wished we could go to the aid of Sartaj, but he had gone the opposite direction, north of the Ushtarak, which meant that he was two days away from us, and we only have two more days of food and water. Fortunately, he has the Warp Ring; if he winds up in a serious pinch, hopefully he uses it.

That night, we made camp shortly before returning to the Path of Prosperity and a baffling event took place. As Indira described it, the night grew hot and the air shimmering. Suddenly, one of the new camels burst into flame. The smell and noise woke us, but there was nothing we could do, save for calming the remaining camels.

When the fire died, all that remained was ash. Underneath, the ground was melted to glass and we found a cluster of six spherical rubies.

We abandoned the chest, just in case.

May 24

Today, we rejoined the Path of Prosperity and continued towards Sefet. Cressida has, for the time being, joined us.

The road was quite busy, affording us an opportunity to purchase some additional supplies and tack to accommodate our new camels and Cressida (who swallowed her pride and agreed to ride with us despite the Zythu disdain for beast of burden).

That night, we set camp off the road and were, again, denied a normal night.

This time, it was the tents that caught aflame but it was Feng’s watch and he was able to control the flames, removing it from our tents before serious damage was done to them or us. (Though I shall have to remember to have them patched at our next stop.)

As we awoke from the heat and noise, the malevolent presence that had followed us since yesterday revealed itself, an undead efreeti named Izznaar-Al-Sara.

Efreeti are cruel and tyrannical by nature, but not wholly unreasonable. This one, however, had been rendered quite insane by his condition and demanded we surrender Feng to him. Obviously an unacceptable solution, we drew arms…

Sehera took the brunt of the efreeti’s assault until she was forced to retreat, for her weapons would not touch it. Though Indira and I were able to strike it repeatedly and Feng masterfully dispelled a wall of flames that would have turned the battle against us, it was Lyr’s holy magic that drove the beast to desperation. It dove at Feng in what we believe was an attempt to possess him, but our wu-jen’s will was too strong. It careened away and exploded into the sand, leaving a ring of red rubies. Hopefully, this is the last we’ve seen of this nuisance.

Feng was left deeply troubled by the experience and claims the rubies are pebbles from the legendary Ruby Mountain. We must have our remaining eleven rubies analyzed at some point by more insightful minds than merchants to see if we can learn more about them. If Ruby Mountain is a real place, it could raise some interesting concerns about the prophecies we have heard…

Now that I think of it, Izznaar-Al-Sara spoke of a prophecy, calling it “broken.” Unfortunately, he was not in a fit mental state to elaborate. I hope we can find a way to learn more, for whatever this prophecy is, we seem to be caught in its web.

Soon we reach Mazooz. I know nothing about this city but perhaps they have a library or other center of learning we can inquire at.

Session 11

Akkarid, Soleria-Prime. May 19

The priest has restored Lazar Al Rakim to life. We have not seen him yet, for he needs rest, but the priest and Maqsood Musaru say that he is doing well or as well as one would expect. I am tempted to talk to him to see if he can recall anything, but I’m fairly certain that is precisely what one is not supposed to do when someone returns from the dead.

At some point, Qessab left, without anyone noticing. I wish her luck and I hope she leaves the city. A city is not a safe place for an ettercap, nor would an ettercap be safe for the inhabitants. I have not forgotten who her prey was when we first encountered her…

It has been a short, but strenuous day. Tomorrow, we shall decide what to do next.

May 20

We all awoke late, even Lyr, who seemed somewhat distraught by the fact. This is why I have never had much to do with the gods; who are they to tell me when to wake and when to sleep?

Lazar had a duty to perform at the edge of the city and we accompanied him, having some chores we needed to do as well. I shall not record it here, for it is his business, but it was a simple task with great weight to him.

We discussed our plans on the way back to my uncle’s house. The six of us still plan to travel to Sefet and to leave as soon as possible, due to the price on Indira’s head. Lazar and Maqsood will remain behind to see if they cannot come to a greater understanding of Al-Mhuqtebel and the Key Disc.

Upon returning, I wished to test a hypothesis, so we reopened the portal in my uncle’s guest room and stepped through. I attempted to visualize a location in Sefet while activating the key disc, hoping to open a portal that would take us directly there. Alas, it was to no avail.

And so we gathered up our belongings and headed to the port, accompanied by a servant who knew the area. Unfortunately, no ships were leaving, despite the pleasant weather. The Mara had left port earlier and all were braced for a storm.

We noted a curious sight at the harbor, The Chernabog Obietsa, which I had thought did not exist in my world. This has gnawed at me for hours but I have not had time to decipher it. The simplest explanation is that I did not know of it. I was never destined to be a navy man, and thus it is possible that knowledge of this escaped me. If it indicates something different… we simply do not have enough information to decipher what that could be.

While the servant asked around, we had a conversation with a man, Mehmet Aurelius, a collector of swords, who seemed quite pleasant. Imagine our surprise when his bodyguard, Isha, returned and we saw she was an Ancilla.

He was of the Ordo Clavis and I could detect no hostility in him, even after I showed him my sword to continue conversation, forgetting for the moment where I had obtained it. It has been some time since I have done something so stupid… But he responded with a measure of contrition that I would not have expected, even if I doubt he believed my equivocations.

I suppose this is a reminder that the Odro Clavis, whatever it may be to us, is a human organization, not a shadowy cabal of demons. But, if for every ten Mehmet’s—assuming he was not concealing a significant darkness—there is but one who would execute our friends casually or do whatever that was to Lyr, that is far too many. I must try to learn more about what they actually do and why.

He told us of a ship, The Majnoon that would likely be sailing out tonight and of its unusual master, Captain Nafuna. Not long after, as the weather made good on the infamous curse of the Mara and took a turn for the bleak, the servant returned and described to us a chance meeting with this same Captain. Though she sounded reckless and, according to Mehmet, asked a tremendous sum, we sought her out.

It was an… interesting encounter. To make a strange story short, we did not gain passage on her ship. She would not negotiate her price and so we left unsatisfied as the heavens split open. I think Feng planned some mischief in revenge for this inconvenience, or perhaps simply because he was restless and, now that I see he is gone, I fear he has gone off to do something ill-advised. I think it best if I do not ask him what occurred upon his return…

Currently, we are staying in an inn near the port. The rain is unlike any Akkarid has seen in the memories of anyone I ask and no ships, save the Majoon, are leaving harbor. We were lucky enough to simply find a floor to sleep on on such a night. Even in Hazred, which experiences far more rain than dry Akkarid, I would have to go back many years to find it’s like.

I hope there are ships leaving tomorrow. If not, we may consider taking an overland voyage. It would take us twice as long, but another few days in one place could be a death sentence to Indira.

May 21

Alas, our fears came to pass and the storm remains. In truth, it seems so peculiarly strong and stable, that we may not lose much time at all with an overland voyage. Few will be the ships in the harbor that will not need lengthy repairs.

Upon waking and leaving the inn, we encountered Abu and the servant who had accompanied us yesterday. He was delivering an invitation from the Shula family to an event held in honor of Fazia’s return. If it were not for Indira’s situation, I would have been glad to attend; I feel it important that the seventeen of us who interacted with the Glass Artifact to not lose contact with each other. As we were able to find merchants who could supply us on this wet day, I had to decline the invitation and sent a letter back with Abu, conveying my regrets.

I hope she stays safe. I hope she can be happy with her family and can forget that they are not, in a sense, her family.

We purchased seven camels, tack, a map, gear for making camp, and three days worth of supplies, which should be enough to get us to the first village along the Path of Prosperity.

The journey is two thousand miles. If we move at a good pace—keeping the camels healthy and not running into any particular problems—we should make roughly forty miles per day, so we should be on the road for fifty days. Twice the time by ship, but it gets us out away from Akkarid today.

Even if I had swallowed my pride, I probably would not have been able to secure a loan from my family today, but I still feel like I have failed in not leaving aboard the Majoon. It would have been a lively trip.

Perhaps we will encounter some interesting adventures along the journey! Trouble does seem to have a way of finding us…

Apologies for filling my journal with such minutiae, but it is not my money alone that is paying for this passage, so I must keep a record.

On this day, the 20th of May, we purchased seven good-quality camels and tack as well as: two tents, 50’ hemp rope, two empty sacks, one iron pot and cookware, one hooded lantern, one tinderbox (inc. flint & steel), and two large casks for water.

We purchased three day’s supplies: three days trail rations for six people, three days feed for seven camels, two clay jugs of wine, two pints of oil, three days firewood, and water to fill the casks. This comes roughly to four gold for each day of travel (supplying our entire party). Estimated total cost of supplies for the trip: 200 gold.

On the Path of Prosperity, villages are spaced two or three days apart; we should hit roughly nineteen villages between here and Sefet. I assume we will be staying at inns in these towns. One gold and five silvers each—nine gold for the entire group—should buy us comfortable lodgings, meals more interesting than trail rations, stabling for the camels, and perhaps some small luxuries. Nineteen such stops… I estimate a total cost of 171 gold.

Three hundred and seventy one gold for travel expenses, minimum. If we maintain our equipment well, it could last us well beyond this trip, so I think we can write that expense off. And if we care for the camels—Indria seems excellent with animals—we could sell them back in Sefet for a reasonable price. Maybe we can pick up some trade goods to help further defray our costs.

I hope my tutors are satisfied. My knuckles ache in memory of their switches as I worked that out…

We left Akkarid under the still-raining skies. It was slow going at first but, by nightfall, the rain tapered off. Almost immediately, it then stopped, as if we had crossed a boundary. Truly unnatural weather.

We traveled for a distance and encountered a caravan setting camp. We requested to join them and were greeted warmly.

We spent the night in conversation with the travellers who, like us, were mostly bound to Sefet upon personal business. The closest to a leader the caravan had was one Kurgu Enusat an adventurer of some note. His boasts were quite singular; he was either a great liar or truly a great explorer.

A lusty man, he spent much of the evening making Lyr quite uncomfortable. The poor girl is more innocent than I would have thought possible.

We set camp slightly away from the remainder of the caravan. When it came time for me to replace Sehera on guard, we heard a ferocious banging noise. A large crate in the back of a wagon contained something that very much wanted to get out…

Around the wagon, we found the body of Kurgu, headless. As I cried out that I had found his body, his head found us. It had somehow become a hideous, bat-winged thing. Then, an even greater monstrosity burst forth from the crate, a mass of human-like heads on serpentine necks, suspended from a small, bulbous body with leathery wings.

By then, our companions had been roused—as had the entire camp. Quickly, Indira slew the flying head with a well-placed arrow, but the shrieking terror proved a more difficult foe. It screamed horribly, paralyzing Indira and then flying at her, kissing her grotesquely. Before it died, it bit Sehera and I, leaving strange-feeling wounds.

Lyr’s magic cured the poison of its bite and undid whatever foul effect Indira suffered. Should none of our heads detach and fly away, I should consider offering more respect towards Pelor…

May 23

We traveled with the caravan an uneventful day and night before reaching a small village. There the caravan remained and, after replenishing our supplies, we continued on separately.

Not long after, we spotted a small animal running towards us from the wilderness. It was Creature

Session 10

Akkarid, Soleria-Prime. May 18

We awoke early, but Lyr had already been up for some time, filled with energy. My uncle’s concoction had helped, though her memories are still shattered. Beyond amnesia, her mind seems intact. I wonder again at the aim of the experiment she was trapped in. Was this devastation of her memory, leaving her other faculties intact, the purpose of it?

The six of us, Lazar Al Rakim, and Maqsood Musaru commissioned a pair of carriages and traveled to the library. Alone, I approached the guards bearing a letter for Captain Hunzuu, posing as a courier. Not betraying the content of the letter or our prior knowledge of each other, he informed me of where to “make the delivery.”

My friends and I waited at this location until a pair of guards approached, as the Captain had described—we knew them by the blue plumes, rather the standard red—and led us down an alley, changing their appearance along the way so as to confuse any onlookers. Though we know the Captain and the Provost of the Library are friendly to us, there were no doubt agents of the Ordo Clavis whose gaze we hope we avoided.

They brought us into the Library by some form of teleportation magic and the Captain escorted us to the location within the library where we had arrived. Once Qessab joined us, Indira opened the portal and we stepped through…

Al-Mhuqtebel was dark and abandoned so we retraced our steps, finding ourselves again in Seb Rashidi’s chamber. The corridor leading to the rest of the complex seemed a suitable enough point to lay an ambush, and so we prepared ourselves.

Indira slipped into the darkness, returning once she heard the noise of the Zabaniya—the construct guards—as well as a strange disturbance in the air. Qessab wove a tangle of webs in the hall to, hopefully, slow our enemies. She warned us that what approached was not just the guards, but also their leader, a thing that was not like us, but like all of us. We would soon discovered what she meant…

As we waited, a deep, inhuman voice called out to us from the dark, telling us that evacuation had been ordered and to state our business. I attempted to give an impression of Seb Rashidi—our presence was already detected and so I might as well obtain some information—but after a short dialog the conversation abruptly ended when something burned away Qessab’s webbing.

The thing that spoke charged down the hall. In form, it was like a gigantic gorilla, but made of metal and leather and unnatural substances. I later learned that this was a type of construct called a Warforged, which are more like living things than the Zabaniya.

As we engaged this hulking brute, several Zabaniya approached from down the corridor… as well as a pair of fireball spells, which detonated beyond Sehera and I. Lazar was instantly killed from massive burns and Nessisus was brought down as well. It seemed for a moment that he shared Lazar’s fate, but Lyr was able to save him. Upon recovering, he was panicked and nearly fled the field.

When he rejoined the battle, we had killed the warforged brute and began to fight the Zabaniya by the illumination of a rock charmed with a light spell.

In a moment of resourcefulness, Feng used the remains of the Warforged to create a metal warrior, which joined us against the Zabaniya. When we destroyed some of their number, more devastating spells began to strike us from the darkness. Sehera ran towards the source as I, Lyr, and Feng’s metal warrior continued to fight the targets in front of us.

Feng cast another light source beyond us in the dark hall, revealing Sehera and Qessab paralyzed and brought near death by an unknown foe. Quickly, I dispatched two more Zabaniya and dived away from the fray. I grabbed the light-ensorcelled rock, dashed towards the darkness, and hurled the light beyond my allies, revealing what they fought.

The creature that was not like us, but like all of us was a six-armed thing about the size of a slender man, with a strange, birdlike face. It held in two of its hands a magical disk and its other hands were in constant motion, for it was able to cast powerful spells at a fearsome rate, giving it and its kind the name Spell Weaver. Beyond it were two large entities, with strange, indistinct bodies and eerie white masks for faces. These were the “Cleaners” we heard spoken of.

Leaving the remaining zabaniya to the metal warrior, Indria and Nessisus’ arrows, and Maqsood’s bullets, I engaged the Spell Weaver, giving Sehera and Qessab a moment to recover. We surely would have all perished yet again if not for Lyr’s healing magic, so we were given a great fright when it struck down Lyr with dozens of simultaneous magic missiles. Fortunately, we had purchased several healing potions yesterday and were able to get her back on her feet.

The Cleaners were fearsome beings, but could not withstand us long, particularly after Feng scorched them with a fireball of his own. Once the remaining Zabaniya were destroyed, both of the Cleaners were brought down by our combined might.

The Spell Weaver was not so easy to defeat. With both Sehera and I bearing down on it, it teleported away, surprising Nessisus and nearly killing him again. The Spell Weaver had used the time we spent fighting the Warforged wisely, casting protective spells upon itself. Even my uncle’s bombs proved largely ineffective on it. Lyr was able to dispel some of them, which would ultimately prove our salvation.

As Sehera and I ran towards it, it cast a dazzling spray of rainbow light, hypnotizing Sehera and I while it struck down Lyr and the metal warrior. It required great effort to break free and, by that time, we were all seriously injured, save Indira and Maqsood. Out of spells, Feng rushed at the Spell Weaver, hoping to distract it momentarily so I could slay it, but still somewhat dazzled by the spell, I missed. Hope seemed lost until Sehera, broken free of the spell by Qessab, charged and severed its head with her scimitar.

We breathed a sigh of relief and set about helping Nessisus and Lyr back to their feet. A quick inspection of our surroundings revealed that Al-Muhqtebel, once a sprawling complex, now consisted of this room, the ones behind it, and one more room down the hall, the room the corridor led to. Where once doors had opened to other corridors and chambers was nothing but blank walls.

Sadness in our hearts, we began to offer final rites to Lazar when Maqsood interrupted. Sartaj Bharatra was not with us, said he, why could we not get a priest of Bahamut to resurrect him? I did not know that one could resurrect someone as badly burned as Lazar. Of my brothers who have died, none were in a state fit for resurrection. Umar had lost a long battle to a wasting illness. Zahi lies at the bottom of the sea. Makram… who in their right mind, even as a joke, jumps off of a He is in a better place now and I don’t mean the jaguars.

Carefully, we wrapped Lazar in a sheet and quickly inspected the bodies of our foes. All that remained of the Cleaners were their masks, which, upon examination, seemed as if they would be incredibly valuable if we could find a buyer for such a strange object.

The Spell Weaver’s disc seemed to have no power and so to did the crystal key. We were all somewhat at a loss what to do—trapped now in Al-Mhuqtebel with little food and water—when Indira on an impulse, set the key on the disc. The two merged somehow, which charged up the key but, when activated the portal it created was incomplete, showing no location on the other side.

We tried different ideas and, eventually, Indira pictured in her mind the guest room she had slept in at my uncle’s house. The portal finally connected, this time with that room, and a symbol appeared and remained on the disc. Wasting no time, we stepped through.

As we recovered, I sent a servant to sell one of the masks. He returned with a great sum of money but with a somewhat unsettling story. The merchant he had sold it to claimed to be of The Mara, the infamously mysterious, cursed ship.

Whatever the provenance of this gold, it should be enough to pay the priest if he can resurrect Lazar. I shall have to make sure Sartaj never reads this.

Later, I hope to have a chance to examine this new Key Disc. In my wild imaginings, perhaps it will allow us to set up Al-Mhuqtebel as a sort of hub, with portals in different locations. I wonder if, instead of traveling overland, we could simply create a portal to Sefet. (That abandoned house where we fought Tu Fan Zui springs to mind.) Perhaps, if we could get some servants and a couple trustworthy tradesmen in there, we could remodel it as a base of operations. I don’t think there is a source of water, but if we could stock it as one would a ship for an ocean voyage… But I race ahead of myself.

I hear noise from downstairs. Perhaps it is the priest. I hope we can still save Lazar.

Session 09

Akkarid, Soleria-Prime. May 17

It is difficult to tally up how long we have been traveling together, as our method of travel has created broken strands of causality. I feel like months, years have passed, or perhaps only mere hours.

Our first meeting, in Sefet, took all of a few seconds until we were whisked away to several days in the relative past. There, we spent, at most, a few hours following Lydra Geb until we reached Ramal. (Now that I think of it, she knew where we were going. Did she realize the date? Was she trying to prevent something from happening? Did the Ramal of our world die in that warehouse by the hands of the Agents of the Cobalt Crown? I wish I could ask her.) Let us call it three hours.

We then journeyed to the Sheel Khali Dessert and met Cressida Shesel. It was but a short walk to her tribe’s camp. We then stayed in the marketplace through the end of the afternoon. After Sehera’s dual, the sun was beginning to set. We could not have been in Qessab’s cave for longer than half an hour. Generously, I estimate eight hours.

Our next journey was our longest. We were dropped into the ocean by Fazia Shula at about midday, spent the next day aboard a merchant vessel, and left via the artifact the following night. Fifty-six hours.

Our fourth journey began around lunchtime, and we spent the entire afternoon walking, camping that night. The next day, a long walk, coming to a close in our battle with Mikelebasah Ulehte around sunset. Thirty-two hours.

Our fifth journey began in the evening. We entered Tamba Khoya before midday and we not in there long. Being generous, twenty hours.

Our sixth journey was shorter than the previous to the mine, as our travel time was entirely eliminated. Three hours at most.

We then spent about four hours escaping Al-Mhuqtebel and approximately fourteen hours in the library. It is now late, roughly thirty-four hours since we were freed by Anansi.

That is one hundred and fifty-six hours, generously estimating and including the time spent asleep. Six and a half days placed end to end. A week since I parted ways with Maram afore her father could… well, best not to think of it.

I feel it not overly presumptuous to say that no man has ever had a week like the one I have just survived.

We began today by bidding our companions farewell and good luck and then set out to purchase equipment, provisions, and some new clothes. I invested a portion of our funds in a fine buckler. I lost my old shield at some point and I am glad to get a new one, particularly a lighter one that will not slow me down. My brutal handling by Jaleh reminded me how close death can be…

Eventually, we regrouped at a central fountain and journeyed to my uncle’s estate. A second carriage followed us closely, unbidden. Sehera pursued us on foot to keep an eye on it.

My uncle’s manservant, Abu, did not recognize me at first, prompting a momentary lurch of fear, but he simply had not seen me in ten years. Neither my uncle nor aunt was home, but he welcomed my companions and I in. Eventually the second carriage discharged Maqsood Musaru, who entered through the servant’s entrance with a trunk that held his rifle. (I had begun to suspect that it was he, and possibly Qessab, when they made had made no hostile move. I surmised that Maqsood, who was acting in such a secretive manner, would prefer to pass through the less-visible servant’s entrance.)

Unfortunately, Abu seemed convinced that one of my companions was my wife, fiancée, or at least a… romantic partner. There was naught I could do to dissuade him of this, just as there was very little I could do to cause him to stop talking.

We spent the next few hours in the garden, drinking tea and observing the interesting flora and fauna, until my Uncle returned.

He was, as ever, himself.

After explaining to him my romantic circumstances or, rather, the lack thereof, I shared our entire story. Fortunately, he believed every word of it—except perhaps that I was not engaged to Sehera, Lyr, Indira, or some combination of the three. When he asked me why I told him this, I answered truthfully that I wished to warn him about the menace of the Ordo Clavis, that he should spurn their influence, reject any advances of theirs, and, if possible, advise others to do the same. I did not tell him of the nightmare I had last night, of a very different outcome to this meeting as, here in the comfort of family, such fears seemed increasingly far away.

He then helped prepare some explosive devices, which Maqsood, Feng, and I felt might be helpful in our return to Al-Mhuqtebel. He also prepared a potion for Lyr, to help her troubled body and mind. It rendered her unconscious, but my Aunt—who returned at about this time and to whom I did not have to explain my female companions—assured us that it would not cause her harm. Of course, it is quite possible that all Lyr truly needed was sleep, long and sound, after her ordeal and, in his own way, my uncle had recognized that.

It has grown late as I write this at the desk my uncle uses for his diplomatic work, his curiously faithful half-basilisk at my feet, and a glass of mulled wine in my hand. I realize now that, for the first time in that six and a half days, I am fully relaxed. Up to now, to this moment, my strange journey had not truly been over.

When I first set out on my adventure, there was something always in the back of my mind that I wasn’t even aware of: that I could go home. That, if something ever went truly wrong, be it crippling injury or simply realizing that my father was right and this is a stupid idea, I could return to Hazred and see my mother’s beautiful face and once again laugh with my brothers and cousins and eventually marry some minor noble girl as chosen by my father and live out to a comfortable old age. It was never a prospect I thought much of, but it was there. A safety line.

After the first time the Glass Artifact carried us away, I knew something strange was happening. When I met Marid I knew that my safety line had been cut. There was no true home for me. There is no true home now for Marid. But he has time to adapt and he will. (And, as far as I am concerned, he is family, and I will do what I can to do right by him.) The Glass Artifact did not give us time to adapt. We had nothing but the vague hope that, when it finished whatever it was doing, it would bring us back. I almost envy Maisha in her return to Khonoma.

But I do not want to retreat to Hazred. I know that now with certainty, not from having lost it, but from having that option returned to me. I set out for a purpose. It may seem a selfish purpose, but it is in memory of my friend, in service of my master’s sword, in honor of my great ancestors, that I do this. I embrace this journey now. Now that I have the choice to do so.

And yes, Iskandar, I will have fun.

It is time now. The streets are quiet and I must allow Feng and Sehera out of the side door. Maqsood said that he saw someone in the opposite house—a typically unoccupied house—observing us and that he “took care of it.” It would not have been appropriate at the time, with the streets so busy, but now, they will sneak in to this house and see what there is to find. I could not possibly guess…

They have returned. Maqsood’s knife flew true. They discovered the body of a lone assassin, who had on him a list of names. Most were unknown to us, even to Abu.

One, however, was Indira Ére.


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