Amaranthia

Session 03
From the journal of Hasan al-Husam

Date Unknown Soleria-3 Day 1

This time, we woke up in a net hanging over the water. So that was interesting… We apparently were placed there, having been discovered unconscious in a ship’s hold, but this does raise concerns as to what sort of locations we may awake in later.

It has become clear that some semblance of time passes when the Glass Artifact transports us. The last time, I had suspected something odd, but now it seems definite. Before, in the desert, I was contemplating brushing up on my knowledge of the royal houses of Raqaejah and, now, that information is in my mind, but I cannot recall ever studying. I had considered working with Sehera Tarzi to develop a new defensive maneuver, inspired by watching her duel; now we both have mastered it. Hopefully, we’ll figure out what is happening at some point. I am worried about what will happen if more and more time slips away from us.

As we hung in the net, none of the Mashkhet’s crew responded to our hails. It seemed clear they thought us stowaways. Eventually, a remarkable young woman, a fire genasi whose name we later learned was Fazia Shula, emerged from below decks. Sehera noticed the Artifact react when she appeared.

Later Maisha told us she overheard her talking to one of her crew, suspecting us of being agents of “Hokoru”—if she suspected us of being enemies, it would explain her abrupt treatment of us.

She threw me a knife and dropped the net in the water.

After cutting ourselves free, we were able to swim towards an island that was not far off. The sea was very calm and so, while most of us were not able swimmers, we made land.

The island was a strange place, the air utterly, eerily calm. So calm, in fact, that Indira was unable to use her natural genasi magic. Still, mysteries aside, we were alive!

We were then approached by two other castaways, a woman by name of Janna Rejahl and a young man. A man who named himself Marid al-Husam, who claimed his true name was Hasan al-Husaym ibn Hatim ibn Hasshim al Hazred.

He was—is—convinced that he is the son of my father, though of a different mother, a woman named Dessere. He had never heard the name of my mother, nor of my father’s youngest wife, Ulrika and her two sons. He knew the name of Iskandar al-Husam and of Khayyam al-Mahir. He had even rode the same ship as me and had nearly the same experiences—though he had obviously failed to restrain his temper and had been tossed off the ship.

Obviously I suspected him of being a liar or some sort of trick, but his words all rang of truth, and he seemed as disturbed by me as I of him, so we ultimately called a truce. I still don’t know quite what to make of him, but the problem of our stranding was a more immanent threat.

Also, the Glass Artifact resonated and reacted to him, further emphasizing that our meeting was no coincidence.

Meanwhile, Indira and Sehera were exploring, and found a strange cellar, filled with broken jars and a door, sealing something in. Feng, unable to resist the allure of a mysterious door, sought to open it, despite Sehera’s attempts to stop him.

She is too serious. Sometimes you must let fate carry you along a path for a time; if fate puts you on a small island with naught a single door on it, you should open the door, despite the eerie noises you hear on the other side. Feng lives at the opposite extreme and in his impulsiveness set fire to the door with magic, rather than simply opening it a crack to peer inside…

Smoke rapidly filled the airless room, forcing us to evacuate, save for Feng. The creatures from the other side of the door emerged, hostile elemental beings called earth mefits. In the fight, the mysterious woman—Janna—revealed her skill with bardic song, joining her voice with Nessisus’, giving us the strength to control the creatures while Maisha devastated them with her spirit magic.

In the other room, we found a large glass jar, which we brought out into the late. We reasoned that anything the mischievous mefits chose to keep sealed might not be hostile to us. While the rest of us stood back, Feng opened it, freeing a massive air elemental! In its gratitude, it offered us a boon, a way off the island. Now free, winds returned to this area of the sea.

Janna added a magical song to the winds, saying it would help draw a ship to our aid.

There was little we could do now but wait, so we made camp. While Nessisus entertained my companions with performances I copied the text on the Glass Artifact to parchment, reasoning that a record might prove useful in the future. Then, as I had little else to do, I began this journal during my watch.

My mind is continuously drawn to Marid and the implications of his existence. What is he? If he is what he claims, what am I?

Day 2

We awoke early to the sight of a ship on the horizon. It was nice to get a night’s sleep, though my rest was not easy. Janna lit the fronds of a palm and soon, skiffs landed on the beach.

The ship was a merchant vessel—traveling the route between Sefet and Akkarid—run by a man named Haziz, who was thankfully willing to take on paying passengers for a very modest fee. It would have been well within his rights to take us for all our coins; that he did not was a promising sign.

Unfortunately, he new little of the internal politics of Hazred, so I was unable to find any information to solve the problem of Marid. I was, however, able to get a very fair price for several of our rubies!

Less fair were the tidings that interrupted my conversation with Haziz. While all others were occupied with various business, Sehera had been guarding our belongings. She was approached by Janna, who hypnotized her with magic and then leapt overboard… but not before stealing the Glass Artifact!

Though Maisha dived in after her and swam as fast as she could, Janna revealed herself to be some form of sea-creature and outpaced even the ship.

There was very little we could do but continue to Akkarid, in hopes of asking my uncle Adil al-Khayrat for help.

Day 3

We will reach Akkarid today. There was no further sign of Janna nor the artifact.

While my companions rest, I have spent most of my time focusing on the problem of Marid, while he focuses on the problem of charming Maisha. I probably should help her—or more likely warn him—but the distraction is vital. It is very difficult for me to think clearly while he is present.

My thoughts have led me to a hypothesis, though how I will prove it will be a challenge.

Simply, what if he is telling the truth, as I am? Obviously, common sense says that one of us must be mistaken, but he is familiar with the sort of intimate details of my family that nobody, not even the palace servants would know. And my answers to his tests yield similar results. However, there undeniable differences between our lives, such as the Khayyam al-Mahir of his experience being a full-blooded Anari, so it is not simply a question of different parentage. Indeed, the difference in my—our?—father’s wives raises an intriguing possibility, as it implies that the political situations that lead to my father wedding my mother and Ulrika did not occur to Marid’s father.

(It is worth noting that his mother sounds very similar to my own—and of course most of the servants who raised him were the same as the ones who raised me—which may explain the broad similarity between our personalities. And the less rigid training he received from Khayyam may explain why he seems to be slightly less disciplined than I.)

This would suggest that there are two Hazreds, nearly identical. My initial thought was that, perhaps there was some strange magic afoot that had created a false duplicate on some abandoned stretch of coast, but beyond the obvious lunacy of such a thought, it doesn’t explain these other difference.

But what if there were two worlds? What if there was another world beyond my own, with slight only differences from the existence of my experience? A world where some small, seemingly insignificant event had taken a different tack.

A tutor of mine once said:
“An arrow is a fickle thing. If it is kept dry and if the wood is strong and true, it may fly as true as a falcon. But the smallest flaw can twist its flight.”

That same day, another tutor had explained that, at times, a single stray arrow could decide the fate of a battle, as it was when my grandfather’s grandfather, Riaz al-Sahar, was struck by a friendly arrow that splintered in flight, and caused a lethal infection, halting his relentless expansion of Hazred’s borders.

The first tutor had been reprimanding me for a lack of concern over a minor error. The second had been trying to impress upon me the apparent fickle nature of the gods. But, the proximity of these two lessons struck a chord with me. What if the unknown archer had pulled a different arrow from his quiver at that moment?

In Marid’s history, perhaps an arrow had struck—or missed—a single target, a minor event, but one with expanding ripples of consequence.

What if the Glass Artifact had brought us not to a different time and place, but a different world?

I am reminded of when, in Sefet, we met Ramal, and he said that Lydra was dead. What if, in his experience, Lydra really had died? Could it be that the artifact has been bringing us to new worlds all this time?

Noon:

I write this later, as we wait for a pilot to guide us into dock in Akkarid. I am now almost certain that we are in another possible world, for in the harbor was a great, black vessel the Demon Slayer, a fearsome naval ship that Haziz explained was a gift of friendship from Thaumeris. A Raqaejah with a friendship with Thaumeris is indeed a different Raqaejah, suggesting a broad range of changed diplomatic relationships that could explain my father’s differing marriages. I am still reluctant to share this observation with the others. I await confirmation at my uncles’ home. Marid and I will enter, and he will embrace only one of us as his nephew…

Night:

It appears my hypothesis can now be called theory, for this Adil al-Khayrat, for all his similarities, is not my uncle, but Marid’s.

For all other purposes, he is still the same man, however, as wise and generous as I remember, and he lent us money—and a letter of introduction—to bring my transcript of the Artifact to a translator, a man named Gaius.

We attended this man only to learn, to our surprise, that another had been here seeking translation before us, Janna! Evidently, what she learned was all she sought and she had left the artifact with Gaius. When we explained that it had been stolen, he very generously offered to return it to us.

As an assistant fetched the Artifact—I find it difficult to call it “our” artifact, for it sometimes seems the chain of ownership is reversed—he translated the text. It was not a magical or lost language, but a multi-linguistic code, the first half of a common twelve-stanza prayer to Bahaumat (if stated in an old style).

Gaius further perplexed us by insisting the Artifact to be a non-magical forgery. When we told him the full story, however his interest was piqued and he rescinded his offer to return it.

Then something odd happened. We felt the sensation of some form of energy leaving our bodies and it was as if we had stepped back in the flow of time, before we told our story to Gaius. Taking this as a sign, we left quickly.

This was not the first time we experienced it, for when we were on the back of the cloud ray, there was a moment where it seemed as if some of our number had fallen to their deaths, only to find us back where we were when we first awoke on it. Sehera has reported a similar sensation from when she was struck a seemingly mortal blow in her duel. It is as if the forces behind the Artifact have given us the potential to repeat certain events to prevent failure… but it somehow seems clear we only have a small, limited number of these opportunities.

We returned to my uncle’s home. My mind was reeling, and I was ready to track down Fazia Shula and be done with this. And so we are bathing and dressing, for we are off to the theater, the great Khaymeshab Bazi Theatre in fact, in Akkarid’s wealthy Arusim district where an event is occurring in the girl’s honor. If the pattern be true, this may be our last moments in this world. I shall have to catalog the worlds we visit. I suppose this is the third alternate existence we have visited. Soleria Three. Hopefully, our journey will return us to Soleria Prime…

Later:

We visited the theater, while Marid and Maisha wait with the carriage (and our weapons) in case something goes wrong and we need to leave quickly. The plan was to find Faiza, allow Feng to approach or sneak up on her, touch her with the Artifact, and be on our way.

After the requisite mingling—where we learned that Faiza sounds as pleasant as our initial meeting indicated—I wrote her a note to go with my gift, the same knife she had throw to me. Meanwhile, Nessisus was socializing, and managed to find a faster route, an introduction to the Shula parents. Apparently, he is of a noble elven family of Danu, which intrigued the genasi (who seemed eager for any hope of marrying their daughter off to someone far away. I was tempted to offer Marid…

Despite their distaste at Feng, they invited Nessisus and I to their box, where their daughter was. However, once there, the Artifact did not resonate with her. Also of note: Feng found a white feather, of a sort not unlike his own. We watched the show while he slunk away. The performance was magnificent! Some of my older brothers had seen it, and I had always wanted to. Shame we couldn’t stay for the whole thing.

Feng followed a noise down the halls, until he came across another Kenku, a white one who named herself Miyuki No-Shi, who was in the process of abducting Faiza! (The one sitting by Nessisus and I was likely some doppelganger. We never found out for sure.)

As he explains it, he was able to convince Faiza’s abductor to allow him to touch her with the Artifact. When he did, it began to react, first with text, and second by collapsing the area around him. We ran towards him—he was easy to find for the Artifact was the eye of the storm—and felt ourselves being pulled to somewhere else, as we hoped Maisha and Marid were close enough for the Artifact to work its magic…

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Session 02
Arachnophobia

From the journal of Hasan al-Husam

Date Unknown (Though I did not think it was far from the previous events.)

The Glass Artifact brings us to all the best places…

Our transit from Sefet to our new location seemed instantaneous, but at the same time, there was something strange about it, as if it simultaneously took a very, very long time. I hope that whatever forces are manipulating us give us a chance for a few answers soon, for we found none on this day.

We found ourselves clinging—with varying degrees of success—to the back of a majestic Cloud Ray. There was a moment where it seemed we had lost some of our number off the beast’s back as it hunted a Manticore, but all survived until it landed on the dunes of the Sheel Khali Desert. It then buried itself to rest, leaving us wondering where we should go next.

The decision, however, was quickly made for us, as it became apparent we had landed upon a nest of giant scorpions! Needless to say, I quite dislike scorpions, and so this was not the grandest of battles. Sensibly, we withdrew while Maisha used magic to restrain the creatures.

In the process of our tactical withdrawal, Sehera encountered a strange woman, watching us with a group of jackals. She was no enemy, fortunately, and lent us a rope with which to tow a levitating Indira to safety.

With enough distance put between us and the scorpions, the woman revealed her name to be Cressida Shesel, a half-elven Druid who happened to see our descent from the sky. The artifact called to her, as it did Lydra and Ramal in Sefet, and when she touched it, more text appeared. She had no insight as to its meaning, however. While beautiful and clever, she did not have the knowledge we sought.

The Zythu tribe who had liberated her from slavery as a youth, the Ushtarak, were not far, and so she led us to their camp, hoping their chief Fusthid could shed some insight on our situation.

Unfortunately, he was not present, having left to meet envoys of the infamous Anari, so we whiled away some time purchasing a few supplies and getting some food. Hopefully, at some point soon in our journey we shall have a chance to eat, bathe, and rest properly. Though the magicks that transport us also restore our flesh, it has been an overwhelming experience. The mind must also have rest.

Of course, we would have no rest here, for Keergai’im, the tribe’s Daleel (I believe a sort of master-of-the-hunt), accosted us with a sizable crowd at his back, accusing us of being not servants of Bes, as Cressida maintained, but rather Anari spies, despite the obvious absurdity of the claim. Fusthid and his delegation had not returned, and he was seeking scapegoats. (Alas, we had not time to see if this was simple xenophobia or if he had deeper motives.)

As expected, diplomacy failed—such formalities must be observed wherever possible, of course, but all opponents we have encountered have clearly been seeking a fight. Sehera stood up to him directly, and challenged his proclamation of accam mak shaiden—formal orcish for “death to the outsiders”—on the grounds that he had no authority to issue such a declaration, which led in turn to a formal duel between him and Sehera.

Unfortunately, the rules of etiquette required her to use a scimitar, a weapon she had little experience with. Fortunately, Khegan, an honorable and experienced warrior we had met earlier, gave her his fine blade to use.

The rules of the fight forbade direct intervention from others, but there seemed to be few, if any, other strictures. The rest of us did our best to keep the crowd from interfering, preventing them from crowding the fighters or breaking their own rules of honor.

I mean no disrespect to Sehera when I say it was not the most elegant of battles. She is a fine warrior, but it was clear neither the scimitar nor this sort of battle suited her. Every warrior has his own strengths… For his part, Keergai’im had clearly overestimated his own strengths, for his fighting was sloppy and undisciplined.

Ultimately, the battle seemed to be decided by a lucky stroke from Keergai’im, who struck what should have been a mortal blow. Amazingly, Sehera remained standing and turned the tide, raining righteous blows upon her opponent until he fell to the ground. I am not a religious man, but I had to wonder if this was indeed a sign from Bes, though I suspect the magicks behind our artifact played a greater role.

The battle won, word came to us that the meeting place Fusthid had been dispatched to was abandoned, and search parties were assembled. We volunteered our aid, of course. It did not seem wise to linger unattended in the camp…

I learned an interesting lesson about the Zythu in this process for, when I suggested we ride, I was met with derision and contempt. I would never tell my companions, but I am unaccustomed to such treatment and had difficulty restraining my indignation.

I had heard the Zythu did not use beasts of burden, choosing to rely on their own strength, but I had not known these reports were so completely accurate. They sounded like the exaggerations of dishonest travelers, and there were no relations between the tribes of the Al-Ramlayan Desert and Hazred to tell me otherwise, for the deserts beyond the high hills at our borders were chiefly home to elven and human tribes.

Indeed the Zythu attitude towards horses and camels is the exact opposite of my own people. They view reliance on beasts as an impurity and a weakness, while to my ancestors it was a vital, defining point of life. Though it is a dozen generations since the people of Hazred were the feared horsemen of the desert, no true Hazredian forsakes teaching his children to ride. It was this implication of weakness that it was hard to swallow back, but I did for the error was mine.

I digress. We had not far to go to reach the meeting site, which was indeed abandoned. We searched and found no sign of struggle or obvious misdeeds, but strangely, though there were tracks leading to the site, there were none leading away.

It was when we began to search under the sand that we made progress, as we quickly uncovered the bodies of the Ushtarak, the Anari, and the Anari horses. Their deaths were horrific. Some tremendous heat had erupted beneath the sand, cooking them as if on a griddle. At least it must have been a fast death, for none even had the time to flee. We never did discover why they were buried though…

The source of the heat—which glassed a layer of sand black—was likely magic, but the only thing we could find that stood out was a group of six rubies, which we took for later identification.

Cressida was shocked to discover the Anari were elves, which puzzled me at first. But it occurred to me that I only knew their nature due to some dealings my father had had with them in the past. From the tales and their dress, one could be forgiven for thinking they were something monstrous…

Fusthid and his daughter Khamuth were not among the dead, and at this time some other party had discovered a small cave. We investigated, traveling into what seemed to clearly be the den of some monstrous animals.

It turns out they were spiders. Big spiders.

We discovered the chief and his daughter encased in cocoons and, when Sehera began to free them, two particularly monstrous specimens attacked. As we fought these, another creature revealed itself, some sort of abominable spider-man. Strangely, the Glass Artifact resonated with this monster and—as it was in her grasp at the moment—Sehera touched the thing with it, causing a peculiar distortion as we had experienced in Sefet.

Cressida (and, presumably, her companion “Creature”) disappeared in a vertical light, as Ramal and Lydra had, while we were taken elsewhere. Though we attempted to take them with us, Fusthid and Khamuth seemed to be left behind. I sincerely hope they were able to escape.

What is this Glass Artifact, and what does it want from us? It seems to me that we are, perhaps, collecting people for some purpose, but why us? What was its connection to the spider creature? For the moment, there seems to be little we can do but try to hold on and survive the journey if we ever want answers…

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Session 01
Unexpected Introductions
From the journal of Hasan al-Husam

The Feast Day of Sirrushalan

The legendary Sefet at last! I unobtrusively debarked The Batta at the earliest opportunity, as seemed to be the wisest course of action. Though I would have liked to bid adieu to Maram, I would also like to retain all of my appendages.

The city is vibrant and alive, full of strange people and sights. The proprietor of the café I sit at, writing in this new journal, tells me today is a festival day—I seem to have lost track of time on the boat—and I should be remarkably lucky to find a place to stay the night. I shall explore the great market soon, and see if I cannot make my own luck.

I write the following much later, for the sake of completeness. Time has to me lost some of its meaning, and I hope keeping this log will restore some structure to my future historians… If I have erred in my recollections, look to my companions for correction.

The market of Sefet was an entertaining sight, full of food and performers and beautiful women… and danger!

Without cue, explosions began wracking the city, demolishing buildings, until a great blue dragon was revealed amidst the wreckage! A marvelous creature for all its fearsomeness… (As one of my companions later pointed out, its appearance was singular, for despite its age and the blue dragon’s notorious hermeticity it was magnificently pampered.) It was not alone, for chaos truly erupted in a great battle between many magic users, horsemen, and others, with the populace caught in the middle.

By some chance, an object they fought over landed in my hands, the Glass Artifact, and that is when things became strange…

The Fasting Day of Shirrushalan

I awoke in an alley, having been saved by a mysterious, silent woman along with several other strangers. The artifact called out to this woman—whose name I later learned was Lydra—and when she touched it, strange writing appeared on one of its sides. We followed her through the market, discovering that it was no longer the same day; we had, in fact, been carried backwards through time several days!

To think, elsewhere, I had not yet had that fateful argument with the Batta’s captain and my day was one of idyllic boredom. I wonder what became of me—him?—now…

We followed Lydra on a merry chase until we reached a decrepit building, filled with squatters, sinister men, and, notably, not that which she sought. As we looked for answers—and received none from our silent guide—we accidentally attracted the attention of men in room below us, who were apparently servants of one Azu Makeen. Amongst their number was Tu Fan Zui, as rude and arrogant a man as I have ever met and who apparently had a prior connection with Feng.

These men died, as it was revealed that not only was our guide a mighty warrior, but my new companions were all skilled and ruthless fighters as well. I killed a man. I bore him no malice, I did not even know his name, but it had to be done. I do not think I will ever escape his face as my rapier pierced his chest. Khayyam warned me I would have to harden my heart…

On Tu Fan Zui’s corpse, Feng discovered a book of great importance to him, but also a clue in the form of a magic square puzzle. Acting on this, Lydra led us to a new destination, another “abandoned” building. Like the other, this location was also filled with masked killers, these Agents of the Cobalt Crown. Fortunately, there was one other person in the building who was not hostile, a man named Ramal. With the aid of him and Lydra, we survived a rather difficult battle…

It was then we learned a new oddity; Lydra was supposed to be dead! (It seemed news to her…) Again the Artifact called, and when Ramal touched it, more text appeared. But then, something stranger happened and, for lack of a clearer description, the world collapsed. We held the crystal as a drowning man clutches a log, and the last thing I recall was Lydra and Ramal vanishing.

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