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?
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.
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?
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…
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…
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…