Amaranthia

Session 25
(Updated Quest Log)

June 24

The thing that had been (presumably) masquerading as Igneen Faheed fought viciously, striking us with barbed tentacles and even vomiting forth a disgusting, mobile grey slime, but I and a small elemental summoned by Feng kept it occupied while Sehera, Indira, and Ramal (whose weapons and powers were able to hurt it) cut it down.

In the process, it had infected me with some sort of fungal spores, which rooted in my skin, covering and painfully binding me. Unfortunately, there was little we could do to halt their slow growth at the time, and we continued to explore.

We found the chambers of Igneen Faheed and discovered the remnants of a large summoning circle on the floor, under the rug. I wonder if Igneen Faheed had cast some spell that had gone wrong, or if someone had lain a trap for him. Unfortunately, we found little evidence for that, so we gathered what we did find, including a locked ledger, and continued. We found two doors, one leading to a large chamber where grey-robed, masked figures worked, and the other a barrack.

After dispatching those sleeping in the barracks, we burst into the other room and assaulted the men within. They had been working at large cylinders, each containing a body, and extracting some form of rich, perfumed oil. We had discovered the production of Azu Makeen’s life extension treatment.

We slew the men, though not before they summoned some fierce, armored doglike creatures, but even they could not withstand our combined assault.

As Indira and Sehera scouted ahead, finding a way out, the rest of us examined our surroundings, discovering a reserve of supplies used in the production of this unholy cosmetic.

A way out discovered, we escorted the captives out. We found ourselves in another warehouse, not far from where we entered. I discussed with Ramal and a clever young woman named Saffron what the best course of action would be for the escaped prisoners. We gave them a large sum of money, taken from their captor, escorted them to an inexpensive inn, and encouraged them to go to the temple of Pelor, offering a portion of the gold as a donation. If the temple could help them recover—for some of them were quite malnourished and injured—they could leave Sefet safely and never look back.

As we did this, Ramal destroyed everything he could, cleansing as much of the area with fire. We shall have to come back to tackle the Charnel Hound—we do not know for certain that Igneen Faheed and the men in the masks were the only necromancer involved in their construction and we should not just let those things be.

June 25
My sleep was restless and fraught with horrific and weird nightmares that I shall not discuss here. Suffice to say, I was intensely relieved to have Lyr cure me of this infection and to take a long bath.

As we discussed our next steps—we need to go to the Grand Bazaar to obtain necessary supplies and to deal with the various items and weapons we recovered off our adversaries the night before—Sehera discovered a crate had been delivered to us while we slept.

Inside was a message from The Burned Crow, the burned bodies of Maram and my cousin Abd al-Nur. The meaning of this message was clear: The Burned Crow must die.

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Session 24
(Updated Quest Log)

June 24

As the Black Phoenix closed in, Sehera and I threw Festiz ibn-Hazool on the back of a horse. Once Khegan tore down his barrier, I took off, carrying our quarry to safety, confident in my companinon’s ability to overcome their opponents.

I needn’t have worried, for, by the time I got to the meeting place—the same location we encountered Tu Fan Zui on our first day together—and secured the still-unconscious Festiz, the others arrived, having quickly eliminated our attackers and evading the authorities.

Festiz was carrying quite an array of magical items, which we divided amongst ourselves, a fine, enchanted dagger went to Lyr, some protective bracers went to Feng (who gave the his older pair to Cressida), and Nessisus took a cloak that enhanced his already considerable charisma and the amulet Festiz had used to hurl Lyr into the air.

After healing him slightly, Lyr cast a spell, compelling all those within the room to speak the truth and began to question him. He seemed particularly unnerved by Feng, and so the bird took the lead, pumping him for information.

After some initial confusion, we learned that he did not deal directly with The Cobalt Crown but rather through an intermediary, Igneen Faheed, who he described as one of his primary clients. He had recently sold a shipment of slaves to Faheed—and the next would not be for several weeks—but fortunately our next quarry’s permanent location was known.

We asked him some additional questions as well, discovering that he new about the disappearance of The Effulgent One, but not particularly much more than any in Sefet who knew its criminal underworld. Interestingly, he knew about Lyr and told us that she had become a known entity in her search for The Effulgent One, and had in fact turned to the Black Phoenix Syndicate for help. Evidently, it did not turn out well for her.

When questioned about the plague in Mazooz, he maintained ignorance of Igneen Faheed’s role in the plague and of the Charnel Hound the thing that was Ameen Makara had been creating.

Ultimately we determined that we could obtain no more information from him. Against her objections, I took Lyr from the room while Ramal killed Festiz.

We readied ourselves and promptly traveled to the docks. Though we were tired from our fight—and our spellcasters had cast much of their magic—we could waste no time, for the sake of Igneen Faheed’s captives.

We infiltrated the compound of Faheed’s Delishea Djieda shipping company and, within the warehouse, discovered a curious patch of floor: a trapdoor disguised by illusion magic. It was protected by some form of magical trap and, when we were unable to dispel it, Nessisus used his new amulet to tear the door from its hinges. We ventured into the damp darkness below…

The corridor was below the tideline, and so damp and fetid, but, when it opened into a vast chamber, a greater stench hit us, the stench of death.

In the darkness, we discovered, in various stages of completion, eight Charnel Hounds and one more, which had been finished. Lyr protected us from it with her magic, allowing us to evade it, even when the screech of the exit attracted its attention.

Down a short corridor, we found a grisly room where corpses were repurposed into parts of the charnel hounds and, again, the noise of our environment summoned the animate charnel hound. We escaped through another door just in time.

In this room, we discovered what remained of Festiz’ latest shipment. Whatever else happens, it is good that we came tonight, for there were likely just enough individuals her to complete another one of the hounds…

Nessisus and I talked to the prisoners and calmed them while Ramal started to melt the bars. The others began to scout. To the south were a series of confinement/torture chambers, a dead end. To the north, a corridor. Feng and Indira heard voices, speaking in Harukan on matters of business.

When Ramal finished, we armed the prisoners with surgical implements, admonished them to avoid leaving the way we arrived (and to hide in the rooms to the south if necessary, despite the traumatic memories those chambers may hold), and we hurried to the north.

In a room, we discovered Igneen Faheed himself, at a table with Tu Fan Zui and his barbarian companion Batou. I had forgotten that these men we killed back at the beginning of our journey were not of our world…

We rushed them, taking them by surprise, but then Igneen Faheed took us by surprise, revealing that he was no Daricassan, but a horrific mass of tentacles and weird, alien fungus

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Session 23
(Updated Quest Log)

June 24

After attending to a few final details, we split up, on our various tasks.

Cressida and Sehera were able to cross the city unmolested and found Khegan at his stall. After explaining the situation to him, they were able to hire his services at a hefty, but not unreasonable price. They realized we were asking much of the man, who would likely have to leave Sefet after our work was complete.

At the Grand Bazaar, we obtained new clothes for Feng and Lyr and a few miscellaneous goods such as healing potions. In the Sword Market, I found Bashaa working and, in addition to selling my old, broken sword—the blade would have to be reforged and was little more than scrap, but the fine hilt was worth a few coin—I asked him for his story.

After we parted with his caravan, Kurgu Enusat’s retinue split up, dividing most of the explorer’s possessions. Bashaa, however, stumbled across an overlooked box, which contained a head-sized device constructed of a bronze sphere within a sphere of sliver lattice. He discovered that compressing the silver caused the bronze to expand.

He also discovered that doing so caused him to fall into the sky. After an initial panic, he discovered that he could adjust his falling by pulling the silver sphere outwards—causing him to fall towards the ground again—and by angling the sphere—changing the direction in which he fell.

Falling thus unimpeded by the ground or—in the flat, largely tree-less land crossed by the Path of Prosperity—obstacles he fell horizontally for many hours until, his grip weakening, he attempted to land, crashing in the middle of a small village.

Fortunately, the village had a healer who was able to help him, though sadly there were none who could do the same for the shattered device, which was ultimately sold as scrap (though broken, it was still made of fine metals) to pay the healer’s fees.

After hearing his story, I gave him a note to deliver, along with a shipment, to Mehmet Aurelius, and traveled to East Sefet.

The plan went without a hitch. Festiz ibn-Hazool showed up for the meeting at the appointed time and Feng’s ruse went smoothly. As expected, a group of thugs showed up at the tea house shortly before he arrived, but they behaved themselves.

Once in the carriages, they proceeded until a riotous band of urchins and street people—who had created a bonfire in the middle of the street—forced them to divert down the side street. Things nearly fell apart, as Festiz’ carriage (and that of his bodyguards) spotted the block that Khegan had set up and did not want to proceed. They were having trouble with their horses, however, as they had already begun to turn.

I, simply a helpful passer-by, persuaded the bodyguards to go and help Sehera clear the blockage, for going through would be much easier than backing the carriages out.

At this point, as they began to move, Nessisus sprung to action, compelling the carriage driver into the alley and causing a collision of horses and carriages, allowing us to spring to action, taking out Festiz’ guards and the man himself, though he nearly crippled Lyr by hurling her high into the air with a magic amulet.

However, as we fought, a hit squad from the Black Phoenix Syndicate arrived, dashing our hopes for a quick escape…

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Session 22
(Updated Quest Log)

June 23

When the paralyzation field was disabled, Lyr rushed into the ring and promptly healed Ramal, as I did my best to not show the severity of my own injury and to sell the action as good sportsmanship.

I worked the crowd, attempting to buy some time until Ramal was led from the ring so our companions could work their ways behind the scenes, trying to ignore the possibility that our message would not reach them.

Fortunately, it had and, as guards escorted Ramal and his treacherous second (who I thought Lyr would tackle and begin to pummel at any moment), the others got to work. Nessisus put two guards to sleep, and they slipped into the back passages, eventually finding their way to the gladiators’ chambers. They had arrived just in time, as Ramal, bound, was about to be executed.

Feng distracted the guards momentarily and launched a fireball into the room, disabling Ramal’s captors enough for him to overcome them. They escaped into the night and began their journey back to the inn, though Feng apparently had some business to attend to back at the Deep Water Court. We did not ask what and he did not tell…

Meanwhile, Lyr and I were applauded by the audience and I was rewarded with my prize, a ring described as a great treasure of House al-Maeh. A fabulous prize, to be sure, but I really should have told my companions to wager a few gold on me. I am somewhat disappointed to not come away from this with any more coin in my pocket and, in fact, in debt. I am sure there is a lesson in here somewhere…

Jaleed al-Maeh, after presenting this award, invited us to dine with him and other dignitaries and took the opportunity to offer us work, which was not entirely surprising. I suspect I will not be taking him up on this offer, but who knows? Maybe this will be a useful tool in the future.

He departed early and left his sister Aliya al-Maeh, to entertain us. She proved to be a charming hostess, as well as a source of some interesting information about our old acquaintance Kurgu Enusat, whose adventurous tales may not only have had more than a glimmer of truth to them, but a darker side as well.

Eventually, Lyr and I departed, our exhaustion overpowering sociability, and we headed back to the inn.

By the time we got there, the inn was a smoldering ruin and fire raged across the neighborhood. We did what we could to help civilians caught in the fire, but overcome by exhaustion and smoke—and a knowledge that whoever started the fire, which Ramal seemed certain was arson, may have been watching for us—we had to retreat. (We had also found Cressida, but not Creature, at the scene.)

Ramal led us to a safe-house, where we promptly went to sleep.

June 24

In the morning, as we gathered for breakfast and to make plans for the day, Creature returned, but was acting strangely. He was uncharacteristically aggressive, even more ravenous than usual, and seemed physically distressed. Lyr calmed him with a spell and treated him with an emetic. None of us knew quite what to expect, considering his boundless appetite, but a second, fully-formed Creature was nowhere on our list.

But that is exactly what happened. Baffled and disgusted, we watched as the second Creature flew off.

When we recovered from this and listened to Cressida’s tale of how she came to travel with Creature, we set aside that experience and set to making plans.

Ramal told us more about his conflict with The Cobalt Crown and what he had learned of their relationship with the Ordo Clavis, particularly their relations with Asha Druj, who may have been the creator of the Glass and Onyx artifacts. She had entered into an arrangement with The Cobalt Crown, but it had broken down, prompting the conflict we witnessed on our first journey to Sefet. Part of the arrangement included sharing the knowledge of creating Ancillae with Azu-Makeen; though he was ultimately not given complete knowledge, the fact that he has captured Lydra raising disturbing implications that he is continuing to research their creation, hoping to build an army.

He also shared with us a disturbing tale, that Azu Makeen, in his monstrous vanity, had discovered the recipe for an ointment that undoes the ravages of time on a body, extending one’s beauty and life, an ointment whose active ingredient is those of exceptional beauty.

Tonight, Feng will be meeting with Festiz ibn-Hazool, and that seemed an excellent opportunity to gain access to The Cobalt Crown. We will try to get him to follow Feng to The Great Vaults of Al Hafiz for payment and waylay them in some alley.

We shall use the day to prepare. Lyr and I shall visit the market to obtain supplies. Hopefully I will be able to find someone who can identify my ring (Nessisus was able to shed some light on its purpose and function, but we were unable to determine how to use it), though I suspect I do not have enough coin to pay for such services. I should have had one of the others put at least a gold on me last night… I would also like to take a moment to talk with Bashaa and hear his story if we have time. If we can find him, I may also inform Mehmet of Azu Makeen’s attempt to create his own ancillae. I don’t think we can count on the Ordo Clavis for help—and I do not want to—but this must be stopped.

Ramal will raise help in East Sefet, hiring some orphans to create a detour.

Meanwhile, Cressida and Sehera will find Kehgan and contract his aid. He shall pose as a highwayman, stopping the carriages after the detour leads them astray.

Nessisus will arrange for the carriages and, when the time comes, enthrall Festiz’ driver to ensure he follows our plan.

At sunset, Feng, Sehera and Lyr will meet with Festiz while Ramal, Indira, Cressida, and myself remain inconspicuous, but ready for things to go wrong. If they do not, Feng will persuade Festiz to follow him in his carriage to the vaults (while the rest of us follow, a detail we still need to work out), where he will be diverted, waylaid, and captured. If things do go wrong, we will attempt to incapacitate him and his men and abduct him by force. (And, if things go very wrong, Lyr can always resurrect him…) One way or another, we will extract information from him. None of us feel any particular sympathy towards this man, who provides humans like livestock to Azu Makeen’s hunger.

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Session 21

June 23

By the beginning of my next bout, I had regained my composure. My opponent was a Harukan man, heavily armed and wielding a long and short sword, a master of the daisho style of swordsmanship. He was introduced as Izayakaku, the Black Dog and his second was a large, well behaved dog. I did not have time to ponder this oddity as he nearly took my head off with his sword. For a man wearing so much armor, he moved quickly and struck with incredible power, but his strikes were all intended to be killing blows, leaving him open when he accidentally left me alive.

Though I managed to maintain the upper hand, he nearly forced me from the fight when he sliced through my rapier. Fortunately, I had planned ahead and, taking my hammer in hand, was able to bring him to his knees. His code of honor, however, did not allow him to surrender. Khayyam and Iskandar had warned me of such codes of honor and, when he rushed me, I met his charge, striking him dead with a hammer blow to the chest. It was a shame to kill when it was so unnecessary, but Izayakaku chose his fate and died well.

With my rapier sundered, I was forced to turn to Mehmet. I could have obtained a standard blade, I suppose, but my battle against Husk showed me that I might need the edge of an enchanted blade.

Fortunately, Mehmet had easy access to a few fine blades and was willing to cut me a deal. Unfortunately, I had nowhere near enough money, and I was forced to borrow a large sum of money from the group and from Indira. But what a fine blade I was able to obtain! The blade I had taken from Jaleh was a fine weapon, but this blade, which I have named Nesr, for all good swords should be named, is a work of art.

It made a difference in my next battle, against Dendera Seth. I fought cautiously at first, having seen the effect of her needles. Her style is a defensive one, and, when I failed to penetrate her guard, she counterattacked, striking me with a needle. It burned, but the poison did not take effect. However, my reach overcame her technique and she surrendered. To my surprise, as she left the arena, she told me that “Adil would be proud.”

Who is this woman, and how does she know my uncle?

Coming off two victories, I was perhaps a little too comfortable entering into my next fight. My opponent: Jaleh. I was finally able to return her hand to her, and it seems the gesture was taken in the spirit it was offered.

When we last met, it had been all I could do to stay alive; now we stood on much more even footing, but even still she was too fast for me.

They tell me it was a marvelous sight: as I lay, unconscious on the ground, Jaleh decided to take her revenge and moved to strike off my hand, but Lyr charged in, hitting Jaleh in the back with her mace, buying enough time for Lyr’s new friend Bishoy to activate a magic field, paralyzing us long enough to break up the fight.

Again, Jaleh nearly killed me, but again I have won despite that, for her act disqualified her from the tournament. And, as with last time, it was Lyr who saved me from death.

Because of her disqualification, I made it to the final round of the tournament, where I faced Ramal. We talked as we measured each other. I had not seen any of his previous fights, but he clearly possessed great skill to make it this far, and neither of us were prepared to dishonor the other by throwing the fight.

We learned that Azu-Makeen lives in the heart of the city, a bold move for a dragon, even one who controls so much of the power. And Lyr somehow learned that Ramal was not to survive this night, regardless of my actions.

It was a good fight, both of us giving all we could despite the night’s injuries, but Ramal ultimately surrendered. (Which was fortunate, since I was nearly forced to surrender as well.) As Ramal’s treacherous second—a Xamuss cleric—entered the ring, Bishoy paralyzed us again, apparently due to a malfunction, though I know it was due to the efforts of Lyr…

I shall write more about my experiences later that night shortly, but first I must recount the stories of my companions. The order of events may be slightly inaccurate, as all this information is second hand.

Nessisus had taken up Mehmet on his offer of employment and was lead away, to a tent in the courtyard of the Deep Water Court, where he performed for the merchant lord Dawn al-Quin Feedrayhl. Feng had followed them in secret and corroborates Nessisus’ claim that it was a magnificent performance. He was paid handsomely for his efforts.

Cressida, Indira, and Sehera met Sohail Ghia al-Maeh, sister to Jaleed al-Maeh, a powerful, strong-willed woman, who seemed very interested in Indira. So interested that, when Feng returned (and Indira was lending me a staggering sum of money), she bartered with Feng for her services. This turned out to be a grave mistake, as Indira took this to be the grossest of insults. Fortunately, Cressida volunteered to accompany Sohail instead, diffusing the situation or, at least, postponing the consequence to Feng.

Earlier, they had noticed a familiar Daricassan, the same who Sehera and Feng had chassed outside the gates of the city. (We learned that his name was Isik Hiriz.) He was meeting with another man, Festiz ibn-Hazool, who has connections with both the Cobalt Crown and Igneen Faheed.

Feng approached Festiz later in his guise of a fight-promoter and arranged a time to discuss “importing” more fighters from Haruka. A promising lead.

I shall write more on this night later, for I am still very sore and tired.

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Session 20

June 23

Feng and Cressida had not returned by the time we woke and so we decided to look for them. First, however, Lyr used her magic to cast a sending to Sartaj Bharatra and Ramal. We were all relieved to hear Sartaj was alive, having fled back to Akkarid. Ramal’s response was more worrying, as he told us to not come to his aid, but to find Lydra Geb, who had been captured by Azu-Makeen.

We passed through several populous markets in East Sefet, looking for Feng but, unfortunately for us, his magical camouflage had done its job…

As we searched, Lyr was distracted by the sound of dice and, by the time we noticed, was being threatened by a man who had lost more than he was willing to part with. A kenku emerged from the crowd and threatened him, forcing the man to back off. Feng, it seems, had found us.

He provided minimal details of his experience, but it seems he had been summoned before the head of the Black Phoenix Syndicate, who “wanted Feng’s destiny.” What that meant Feng himself seemed unsure of, but he did not want to relinquish whatever it was. Unfortunately, it seems Feng has attracted the wrong sort of attention…

He also heard an interesting piece of news, that the fight tonight at the Deep Water Court will include Ramal amongst the combatants. His admonition aside, it seems we will be finding our fiery friend, not just to rescue him, but so he can guide us to Azu-Makeen.

We discovered that the price of the fight was significantly higher than we anticipated and so traveled to the Grand Bazaar to find sponsor. By some twist of fate, we found one, Mehmet Aurelius. Though I am uneasy at his vague terms of sponsorship—if I win, I will, essentially, owe him a favor to be redeemed at his choosing—there was little choice and little time, and so I accepted his offer.

In another interesting coincidence, we also encountered Bashaa Bheretina, the young weaponsmith we encountered on the Path of Prosperity. It seems he made it to Sefet only after a very peculiar set of circumstances. We shall have to visit him again and hear his story.

With the rest of our afternoon, we prepared for the evening’s activities and enjoyed the luxuries of the city.


My mentor would be most displeased.

With Lyr as my second, I stepped into the ring with my first opponent, a sinister being calling itself Husk, but my mind was not in the fight, focused not on the present but on the near future, the next fight, encountering and, if possible, rescuing Ramal, the possibility of fighting Dendera Seth and Jaleh (who Mehmet warned me may be a competitor tonight) that I dropped my guard for a moment, moved to largely when a single step would have done, and nearly, quite literally lost my head. Though I won—my opponent bursting into a cloud of foul vapors and dissaperaing—I was only able to walk out of the ring thanks to Lyr’s magic. At least the audience got a good show.

It is one thing to know that one lives on the edge of death, it is another to feel it, and I had forgotten to feel it at all times, as Khayyam admonished me time and time again.

Were it not for Lyr, I would have likely had to bow from the competition after this first bout. I must be more cautious; if my competition continues to be monsters like Husk, I suspect that few of these battles will end in surrender, and I have no desire to die tonight. But, dear reader, if I do, please tell my mother that I loved her with all my soul, and my father that I died with no regrets.

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Session 19

June 21

After Dendera Seth’s fight, some cleanup was needed and Feng was able to use the lull to find someone who could give him some more information about the underground fighting circuit in Sefet. Evidently, there is a major match coming up in a couple nights, but it is difficult to enter without sponsors. We could probably use our group fund to pay our way in, but if we are trying to make contacts in the Sefet underworld, finding a sponsor seems like the smartest option.

While my attention was turned (watching Feng’s back) Indira slipped out, following the mysterious man who had been watching her. Fortunately, all he wanted to do was give her a letter, a claim slip for a stronghouse vault. We shall have to investigate this tomorrow.

Meanwhile, as they were coming back to the inn, Cressida and Sehera realized they were being shadowed. Creature confronted them (for lack of a better word) and they left, but he followed. Cressida seemed unconcerned about Creature, but we will all have to be vigilant. Between Indira’s messenger and these pursuers, our presence in Sefet has been noticed by someone. But who? And why?

June 22

We had regrouped at the inn last night and agreed that our destination should be the library. First, though, we needed to look into this vault.

The Great Vaults of Al Hafiz was an old institution in a massive block of a building. Indira and I went inside while the others waited and we were escorted to the vault within, with very little fanfare. Within was a single, large chest that appeared to have been undisturbed for quiet some time. It was marked with symbols of House Ere, though Indira had no knowledge of it.

Within was a king’s ransom of sapphires. Several kings. Even within my father’s vaults, I have never seen so much wealth concentrated in one place; to an air genasi—who prize these stones so highly that they will trade with the Plane of Earth to get them—it must have seemed an impossible treasure.

Indira took a few of these stones and we left. When we inquired about details of the chest, none were given; we were directed to the reverse side of the slip, where a record was kept in Infernal.

While waiting outside, Creature returned as did, possibly, Sehera and Cressida’s shadows, but they left as soon as he pointed them out.

We proceeded to the library. Nesissus researched the Elemental Cube for hours, but found only a single reference to it, describing it as an item of rank belonging to The Effulgent One, the leader of a Harukan sect of Pelor worshippers.

Meanwhile, Sehera and I researched Zarjasz Al-Ulaq, discovering more of its long history and some clues to its location. We will need to learn more if we are to venture there; we cannot just wander the desert hoping to run into it. It is a shame the only person we met who had been there (or claimed to have been there) died horribly… Still, if he was telling the truth, it is possible there are others who might know its whereabouts.

Lyr and Indira tried to translate the Infernal text and had some success, discovering the vault was acquired by Indira’s grandfather, Jalal Ére, many decades ago. It is unclear how long the chest has been there, but I cannot shake the suspicion that such a treasure may have played into her family’s fall.

After we left the library, Feng departed, saying he had something to do. Cressida and Creature followed him secretly…

The rest of us went to the Temple of Pelor, which was conveniently close, to as about The Effulgent One. Nessisus questioned a priestess and learned that Her Effulgence had been in Sefet, naught but a few days before we were and she had been abducted in front of this very temple.

Now having an answer as to how the Elemental Cube had come to Amaranthia, we requested to speak to the high priest. Nesissus told them the story of finding the cube and presented it to them. The priest examined it, ascertaining that it was the true artifact and, to our surprise, gave it back. Apparently, the effects of the cube on most mortals is quite detrimental—explaining in part Feng’s strange behavior aboard the ship—but it did not react negatively to Nesissus for some reason; it should be safe in his hands.

The priest tasked us with helping find the Effulgent One and we agreed. This will be a worthy task. Particularly once he told us the Effulgent One’s name: Noza, the same woman who rescued Maram.

As an aside, it seems we have yet again encountered a member of the Ordo Clavis in an unexpected place. I asked the priest if he knew anything about them—wondering if perhaps they might be involved—and he let slip that he was a member of the order.

I am perplexed. I had thought them to be a secular force, but if they have priests amongst their ranks… Do I simply want them to be evil? Our involvement with them was an accident. But I cannot forget the condition in which we found Lyr, nor their emotionless decision to kill our many companions.

I have heard, of course, of organizations that keep secrets from their own members. It could be that parts of the Ordo Clavis are involved with dark, secretive matters other parts are ignorant of. In some respects, I suspect I was hunting for a crusade. The Ordo Clavis does not seem to be it, though. There is still far too much we do not know about them. Hopefully Lydra Geb and Ramal have been able to find information here in Sefet.

As we were leaving, Lyr—who had an unexplained feeling of familiarity for this place—asked if she had ever been here. Indeed, she had, shortly after the disappearance of the Effulgent One. Most curious.

The day was drawing to a close, but we traveled to the Southern docks to attempt to learn more about the Dread Pirate Chalazias and to see if anything jogged Lyr’s memory. We had little success, save for learning that the Dread Pirate’s fleet is quartered somewhere on the northern shore of Mileisa, and that they ply the entire trade route between there and southern Raquaejah.

So, as with Zarjasz Al-Ulaq, there is still more we need to learn before we can investigate this situation further, assuming the Dread Pirate even has The Effulgent one still…

With some answers and many more questions, we returned to the inn. Feng had not yet returned (nor Cressida). Hopefully they have not wound up in deeper trouble.

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Session 18

June 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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