Tales from the Fireside

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 Episode 33 of 13th Age
 2020-02-25 -  
Hildebrande... ( Member Submission! )... 2020-02-25 
The city of Hildebrande is a medium-sized city located on the shores of Pocket Bay, between the two forests just northwest of Gorogan's Maw. Its primary source of wealth has traditionally been from its large shipyards, but in recent years commerce has dwindled in this are due to the oversized influence of the crime guild known as the Syndicate. Using means both mundane and magical, the Syndicate has a stranglehold over the wharves, and this has resulted in a lot of commerce that previously came to Hildebrande going elsewhere. The citizens of Hildebrande are suffering from a lack of resources, as a result, causing much turmoil throughout, and a small exodus to other cities.

Religiously, one faith has taken prominence over all others in Hildebrandee, the faith of Makaria, goddess of community. Itotia, the high priestess of Makaria, is beloved by all the citizens, and with good reason: during this time of economic depression, Itotia makes sure everyone coming to her temple (the only one in the city) gets what they need, whether it's food (usually), or a cure for some disease or injury (more rarely). In fact, Itotia makes sure any adventurer who goes off to make their fortune with the promise of returning to Hildebrande gets several healing potions when they go. In fact, the temple of Makaria is known far and wide as being a provider of particularly potent healing potions.

Hildebrande is also known for its unnaturally tall buildings. There does not seem to be any written record as to why the buildings are so tall...and the people who are old enough that they might remember aren't talking. The elite ruling class of gnomes in Hildebrande supposedly keep detailed records, but no one has access to them; the gnomes are too busy with their mechanical creations, automating important tasks within the city.

Hildebrande exists underground as well; the Undercity runs at least the length and breadth of the city above. The Undercity is largely run by dwarves; though they do not form a separate government, they do control the tunnels and wield an outsize influence on the city, largely due to their ability to procure resources the city needs. Rumours circulate that the dwarves are keeping some things for themselves, allowing citizens in the upper city to suffer...

The knighthood of the Great Gold Wyrm has a secret training ground for the Wyrm's heroes in the city; everyone seems to know the facility exists, but only those who serve the Wyrm seem to know exactly where it is. Rumours amongst the populace is that there is a powerful magical artifact hidden in the facility; one that people hope the knights will use to expel the Syndicate once and for all.

Another claim to fame that Hildebrande has is that the city is home to what is considered the oldest tree in all of the Dragon Empire. While some contest this claim, the fact that the High Druid sent one of her most esteemed druids, Nakato, to the city for the sole purpose of guarding the tree lends the claim credence. Nakato herself takes her job very seriously, too seriously for some; people wonder why she doesn't use her magic to care for the people as well as the tree...especially since the weather wards of the Archmage seem to be failing, creating random weather patterns in the area.

The populace of Hildebrande are somewhat unique in their own way: the citizens all seem to be virtually supernaturally talented musically. All kinds of music, too: singing, different instruments, musical writing...and no one is sure why. Every so often, a traveling bard known as Antoine will come by and recruit a citizen to come with him to a major city where he will apprentice them to a popular bardic college. They never return to Hildebrande though...and no one has ever seen one of their performances, though everyone has heard of them.

The musicality of Hildebrande was affected in another way in the past: A red dragon, presumably from the Red Wastes (unconfirmed), would come once a year and demand tribute from the city...but not for the last five years. No one knows why the dragon has stopped showing up; people hope that a group of courageous dragonslayers killed the beast, but on that anniversary of the last time the dragon showed up, people stay in their homes and board up the entrances.

Notable Persons of Hildebrande
Ursel is a paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm who runs the training facility in Hildebrande. Missing 3 fingers from her left hand from the slicing blade of a Marilith, Ursel remains excellent at dice games, though she always donates her winnings to the city temple. Always with a mint in her mouth, Ursel is honest to a fault, making her a great instructor. She believes deeply in the sanctity of life and honoring tradition; this last, combined with her honesty, sometimes makes her an easy mark to unscrupulous persons.

Itotia is the head cleric of Hildebrande's only temple. Stunningly attractive, Itotia's personality is just as beautiful; everyone loves Itotia for her generosity, compassion, and skill at diplomacy. Like many of Hildebrande's citizens, Itotia has a special talent for a musical instrument; it seems to be some type of harp, though she will not confirm what it is, exactly. As part of her diplomatic nature, Itotia tends to enunciate overly clearly; citizens know she is not condescending, but outsiders are not sure. She is quiet, but it seems to be a quiet born of confidence. She sees the whole of Hildebrande as one big community and sees the Syndicate as eroding that.

Jocelyn is the gardener the city has assigned to the Oldest Tree, and he takes his role very seriously. Highly intelligent, though failing in health as his age increases, Jocelyn was intimidated by Nakato at first but now is quite in awe of her. Sometimes Jocelyn likes to just sit against the tree and draw, something he is quite good at. He once tried to make a gift of one of his drawings to Nakato...no one knows how this gift was received and Jocelyn isn't talking. Jocelyn is coming around to the philosophy of the High Druid, and no one had better threaten the tree when he is around.

Mayor Wesley has been the head of government for over ten years, but has been reduced in status severely over the last five. Pulled in all directions by the various factions in Hildebrande, Wesley has become obsequious, stressed, and somewhat pathetic...a fact not unnoticed by his wife Patricia and their three children. Rumours circulate that Patricia has taken a lover; other rumours say that Wesley knows and cannot do anything about it.

Saelorn, preferring the name 'Sally,' is a local celebrity. Intensely charismatic, people seem addicted to him; everyone seems to love being in his company. Sally possesses an eidetic memory, and uses it to entertain, but not commercially; he does manual labour instead, and isn't very good at it. His charm keeps getting him work opportunities, enough to support his wife, Rhea. Sally is a functional alcoholic, who can often be found in the taverns of Hildebrande, having drinks bought for him.

Condon runs the Freighter Pub with his wife, Aife, and their three children. The Freighter used to specialize in service to the mercantile ships that would frequent Hildebrandee, but with the recent plummet in traffic to the city, he's had to become creative...and he is experiencing more success than ever by specializing in dwarven cuisine, or more precisely, his interpretation of dwarven cuisine. The dwarves of the Undercity have graced the Freighter with so much business that Condon is considering changing the name of the long-standing pub. The dwarves have named Condon an 'honourary dwarf' and he is known to offer the Freighter as a place to negotiate business between the city and the Undercity.

The sheriff of Hildebrand is named David. No last name, and never, ever, refer to him as 'Dave,' 'Davey,' or anything of the sort. David won't tolerate it...not that he ever reacts with any great emotion. Any emotion at all, really...but misfortunes tend to happen to those who disrupt order, which, to David, is paramount. David has no lieutenants, no deputees, no standing militia...it's just David. Astonishingly, he remains quite effective and maintaining law in Hildebrande, though no one is quite sure how. What everyone is sure of, from the Syndicate to Sally, to Itotia...is that David is frightening. Terribly, terribly frightening. No one feels at ease in David's presence. Is it supernatural? His mannerisms? Both? Something else altogether? No one knows...and no one is going to ask.

'Nasty Nate' runs a gambling den and bar 'The Loaded Die'. A typical breeding ground for thieves and other neer-do-wells, the Loaded Die is the place to find someone to do something you don't want known. Nate keeps the business running well, despite tough economic times, by taking a finder's fee for any deal brokered within the confines of the Die. Of course, the Loaded Die has long been rumoured to be a front for Syndicate, but bar was torched only two years ago, also presumably by the Syndicate, so no one is entirely sure where Nate's allegiances lie. Assuming he has any.

Branda Tulles has lived her whole life in Hildebrandee as a community worker, volunteer, and do-gooder. What she wants most is to make peace here, and as such openly opposes the Syndicate in some very public ways. More than once, the Syndicate has attempted to silence Branda, but she has, thus far, resisted all attempts to at control or on her life.

Judith is the madam of Hildebrande's one brothel, and as a result is one of the most knowledgeable people in the city. She often operates as a broker of secrets and other information. While some believe she is firmly in the pocket of the Syndicate, most believe she is an independent agent, though how she operates without Syndicate protection is unknown. Her courtesans are always unfailingly polite but also dangerous; there are no visible bouncers at Judith's brothel because all the workers can take care of themselves...and then some.
 Episode 29 of 13th Age
 2020-01-30 -  
Canvasing the Dream Theater... ( Member Submission! )... 2020-01-30 
You check out the sturdiness of the bars blocking access to the chute the Dreammaster used to escape. Tough. Eventually, they would break, but it would require considerable effort and time, and you weren't sure if he was retreating to a defensible position or escaping the theater altogether. Better to look for other avenues to find him.

Looking throughout the rest of the theater, there are three backstage storerooms, plus a latrine and an obvious trapdoor in a hallway floor that opens to reveal a set of
stairs going down to the cellar. One storeroom is filled with old construction materials from the theater days and other debris. The other two have been converted into living quarters and a simple kitchen/eating area. The living quarters holds food, drink, a pouch with 20 gp, and 3 packets of dreamleaf worth 30 gp each on the black market (according to NIldaru) or half that as a reward if handed over to the Archmage's people (according to Legion)...and two threadbare robes: one is a dark blue robe that has a very faded Lamplighter's Guild symbol on it, while the other is a tattered blue Eldritch Master's robe.

There is also a back exit from the theater, but it's boarded and nailed shut, with a pile of debris stacked against it from the inside.

The total coins on the assembled downed foes is 220 silver pieces.

Wednesday at 8:15? I don't know about you guys, but I am loving 13th Age so far. I haven't done a spectacular job rping the villains, because I am paranoid about missing stuff in a new game, but I am confident that will improve!
 Episode 26 of 13th Age
 2020-01-20 -  
Leaving the Dead Vaults... ( Member Submission! )... 2020-01-20 
It's only a few hours to dawn. You are walking the streets of Eldolan, heading back to the rooms rented for you at the Red Quill Tavern by Therilisa. Many of you are lost in your own thoughts; for some, like Nidalru, thoughts are of where to pawn the rings taken off Grayson (if that's his real name...) and where to spend money on magic here in Eldolan. For others, like Legion, they are of the recent combat in the Dead Vaults and the odd events that took place within. Meanwhile, Idris wondered at what kind of people the Golden Dragon put in his path as he walked alongside the necromancer and Milo, now reverted to his considerably-less-menacing halfling form.

One thing you all had in common though: You felt you were being followed.

Whoever (whatever?) it was, it stayed just beyond your sight, even with the lamps providing illumination in the dark of night. Every now and then you'd stop, listen, scan the shadows...but nothing. You'd swear it was paranoia, but each one of you had that feeling...

You began walking again, whispering amongst yourselves that you should perhaps not head to the Red Quill until you somehow ducked your tail...but ducking this pursuer seemed impossible at this point, and you were already exhausted from the day's battles.

Suddenly, the lamps of the street flashed brightly, lighting up your street as though it were midday. Temporarily blinded by the sudden light, you regained your sight in just enough time to see a dark figure fleeing down an alleyway at great speed. Looking around for the cause of the flare-up, you see a Lamplighter Wizard with his staff raised. He lowers it, and the lamps return to their normal levels of illumination. From his vantage point in the street, he looks down the alleyway where your stalker fled, then turns to you and gives a friendly nod. Returning the gesture, you finish the walk back to the tavern, feeling a bit safer here in your first night in Eldolan.
 Episode 22 of 13th Age
 2019-12-19 -  
Shadows over Eldolan... ( Member Submission! )... 2019-12-19 
"Servants of the Lich King..."

Although this was the most obvious conclusion, there was still something unsettling about hearing Therilsa say it out loud. The half-elf seemed to be completely recovered from whatever spell had incapacitated her at the beginning of the combat. She gathered you all in a small circle to get your version of events; after listening intently for several minutes, her beautiful eyes narrowed as she stroked her chin thoughtfully.

"It's hard to understand the plans of the One-Eyed Lord, sometimes...a being that has existed in one form or another since the 1st Age thinks in ways most of us do not. Still, this is likely not the result of the Lich King himself, but those who seek to curry his favour. So, we need to ask ourselves: what is here that wretches hoping to impress the Lich King would want to acquire?"

Hawker's Square was still a shambles, with overturned carts, broken vendor stands, and produce everywhere. Several citizens and one Silver Shield lay dead, with tarps pulled over their corpses. Several Silver Shields were interviewing witnesses, trying to form a picture of what happened. Therilsa Stormhand didn't seem impressed. She stared at them for a moment longer, then returned her attention to you.

"I have been in Eldolan for well over 2 years, now; if I was going to be targeted by some faction for something I did on my own, it would have happened already, I should think. Do we believe it's a coincidence that the attack happened the day you arrived?" Meeting each of your stares, one at a time, she accepted your respective silences as answers. "So...now we ask: what is it about you that might be of interest to the Lich King? Some responses," she continued, with her stare landing on Legion, "are more obvious than others...or perhaps he is interested in these two," she said, indicating Milo and Legion, "for the same reasons the Great Gold Wyrm is?" She let out an exasperated sigh, putting her hands on her hips, and staring at the Silver Shields again.

"Or perhaps it's something else entirely! One thing I know for certain: those fools won't solve anything," she hissed, indicating the Silver Shields with a nod of her head. "They are afraid, undermanned due to other issues, and won't make the effort necessary to root things out; they won't risk exposing one of the magic schools if this was the result of a powerful magician making a statement against another school. No...it's going to have to be you." Therilsa took both Idris and Aegus' hands. "This is nothing less than an attack upon the Great Gold Wyrm. As members of the Golden Order, it is your duty to uncover the forces that would wreak such havoc and bring them to justice, even if it's justice at the end of your blades." Letting go, she turned to the group as a whole. "There is something else going on here, and there may be more lives at stake. It is important to be smart about things; if you falsely accuse anyone in the name of the Great Gold Wyrm, things will go very badly, especially with the forces of the Crusader present in town."

Therilsa then broke away from your huddle, all business. As she took a few steps, you could see her stumble a bit; the spell had obviously done some damage. "I am going to arrange some quarters for you for your stay in Eldolan. In the meantime," she indicated the people being clumsily interviewed by the Silver Shields, "go do a better job than they can do. There must be something to be learned here..."
 Episode 5 of 13th Age
 2019-10-26 -  
A Leaf on the Wind... ( Member Submission! )... 2019-10-26 
Everything was coated in oranges and reds now; the sun had almost finished it's descent and the heat was finally starting to break. He mopped beads of sweat from his brow with his now damp sleeve, a sigh of relief that they'd reach their destination before nightfall.

The dry breeze did little to offer relief on the well-worn road; but at least this road was smooth compared to the winding path from their village; days in the wagon with his family was starting to wear on him.

"Are we there yet?" Came a familiar call from the covered wagon behind him.

"When the wheels stop, we'll be there." Grenyl replied with unmasked sarcasm. "And if your little brother asks next he'll be the first one unloading."

"Boys, leave your father be and wrap your things, we'll be there soon."

"Yes, mother..." both boys responded in unison as Alea came to join her husband at the reins. Adjusting herself comfortably on the creaking bench of the wagon, she leaned in close and wrapped her arm around Grenyl's sighing contendedly, admiring the scene as they rounded another hill.

"Beautiful here even during the drought, isn't it?" She mused.

"These fields used to be brimming with crop; trees bursting with fruit and these last few months have hurt..." Grenyl replied, his usual pessimistic inclination showing.

I think I can almost see it, Alea straighted a little and pointed into the distance, the path still winding into the distance with a few hills in between.

"Yep, that's it... Hildebrand. We'll let you and Samea off at the inn first then the boys and I will unload at the mill, ok?"

The rattle of the wheels and the trudging and breathing of the horses mixed with the dry breeze whistling through the trees along the road, when without warning, a startling clap shattered the quiet afternoon and echoed over the landscape.

Wincing at the sudden sound, and trying to keep his grip on the reins of the startled horses, Grenyl exclaimed "What in the name of Omir!" and Alea was sitting up now, looking all around to find the source of such a noise.

"What was that!?" both boys stuck their heads out, wide-eyed and looking around them as well.

"There!" Alea exclaimed, pointing into the distance ahead of them. "What could..." but she was cut off in bewilderment when she realized what she was seeing... in a cloudless sky of blue, a dense, dark cloud formation seemed to whirl and spin just over the next hill... storm-like clouds in place of the road.

Another ear-splitting clap of thunder sounded and Grenyl snapped the reins to quicken the horses' pace...



The peaceful wood echoed with the second clap of thunder, but instead of lightning, an explosion of light; a whirlwind of arcane force seemed to tear at the air itself; flashing and screeching at reality as it tore at the trees and ground around it.

The cacophony then stopped as abrupty as it began; though the echoes surely travelled far into the forest. The underbrush burned away and nearby trees scorched as witness to the violent cyclone that now vanished, leaving the forest around still in shock.

But in the center of this burned and charred scar on the forest floor lay a figure, cloaked and hooded, sprawled akwardly, unmoving amidst the still smoking forest floor.



"There, Pa!" one of the boys pointed into the treeline from the road, his eyes wide and already leaping out of the wagon.

"Boys, you come with me. Girls you stay here at the wagon." The smoke was still rising just past the treeline and the boys rushed with their father to get a better look.

"Hold on", Grenyl said, his arm outstretched to caution his sons. "Let's just see here..."

Walking cautiously into the threes, Grenyl could now make out the scene, a figure, lying in the centre of a circle clear of any vegetation, the ground gray, black, and smoking. The trees bordering the small clearing were singed, smoking and black, but looked on at the unmoving figure below.

"Hello?" One of the boys called out anxiously. With a quick look from his father, the boy snapped shut but moved still closer with his brother through the brush towards the clearing.

Daring to step into the circle formed, Grenyl crept closer to the figure, watching for any sign of movement, but there was none. Reaching out, he touched the shoulder of the figure, his robes charred and burned and pulled his hand back; perhaps thinking to provoke a reaction, but there was none. Certain now the man needed help, Grenyl gently turned the stranger's shoulder to roll him over and caught his breath... this man's skin was grey as ash.

"Whoa!" one of the boys exclaimed.

"Now, now... " Grenyl regained his composure, trying to set an example for his sons. "I don't think he's breathing... this man needs help... ok help me with him, get his legs...". The boys looked at each other and the older did as he was told, helping to hoist the unconscious man up and towards the wagon.

"Get those things, boy." Grenyl called to his youngest.

"...these!? ..." he called back looking at a smoldering walking staff, and little more than a charred bag, its contents blackened and destroyed.

"Yes, boy, now do it!" Grenyl's voice now strained under the weight of this strange being.

"What's wrong with him, Pa?" the older asked as they made their way back to the wagon.

"I don't know boy, but it's not right to leave him, ya hear?"

Making their way back through the grass and shrubbery to the road, Alea jumped down, clearing space on the back of the wagon for this strange figure.

"Are we bringing him to Hildebrand, Pa?" the youngest asked as he caught up to his brother and father.

"That's where we're going, and there are people there who can help him."

Omir knows, we can't...
 Episode 136 of The Burning World
 2019-09-24 -  
Information Faruq gleans from The Lions of Tomorrow... ( Member Submission! )... 2019-09-24 
Faruq cannot hide his eyebrow-raising smile when he hears that Batul was willing to give such a gift to the heroes to free Aunty. What an incredible gesture! Even the wealth the heroes have seen as guests in Batul's estate did not make Faruq think Azizullah's father could make an offer such as THIS! Despite his excitement, Faruq tries his best not to be impolite and of course it's Azizullah's role to respond but if the offer was made in front of Faruq he does a terrible job at hiding his nervous excitement at the prospect and his boundless gratitude that the struggle might, at last, be over. (can cover this later).

Ok so after reading that it's clear that this book is incredibly valuable and has a ton of information to arm the Lions of Tomorrow to combat the Geomancers should they return. First of all; it seems like there's little doubt Fate has chosen us now that Tisan may well be free.

What do you guys think? I think we should consider a means of protecting ourselves from the magic of the geomancers; Tisan may be making preparations quietly in the background. If the scarabs take this long to prepare, we should perhaps get working on them right now. Also; who do we trust to share this information and the crafting process with? What about Imam Ren? This is the guy who freed Kal from the burden of the cursed axe; and getting a glimpse into the magicks employed by the famous Suhail Min Zann should surely be interesting to him! (priesthood of knowledge and all).

Good call! Imam Renn is likely the most prominent cleric of Zann in Zakhara; in that role, he would be VERY interested in 'Lions of Tomorrow.' The importance of the work both religiously and historically cannot be overstated.

Also; can Faruq do an Arcana check after reading all of this (I am assuming there's a lot of detail) as to whether something simple like carrying a vial of seawater is sufficient to impact geomancer divinations like scrying us? Or does it seem that's the kind of thing scarabs are for?

I rolled for you. Faruq is certain that something as simple as a vial of seawater will not foil the divinations. Having said that, Faruq knows of other magical items that offer proof against detection and location.

Do you guys think it's worth giving more though to why geomancer relics were never found on Afyal or Sahu? Is it as simple as "they're islands" so being surrounded by water was enough to thwart Geomancer influence? Or maybe the other civilizations that scholars have found evidence of had magicks of their own to keep them free of Geomancer influence? Eric; are those islands currently inhabited by more than just the harbor towns on the map? Afyal is the one where we discovered the resting place of the Lions of Yesterday, right? Where the elephants were? They worshipped "The Forgotten One", right? Can Faruq do a History check on the island of Sahu? Was it populated by those worshipping another of the old gods? It seems to have a number of locales on the map currently.

I rolled for you again. Don't count on those locations; the map was supposed to be DM only, and some are there as plot hooks for DMs who might want them. You spent some time researching, and the general rumour seems to be that the Mad Padishah of Afyal wants to "conquer" Sahu. The "" are used because it's not clear there's anything there to conquer; it's not even clear it's inhabited. Sahu is known as the Isle of Serenity for precisely this reason.

Faruq seems uncharacteristically pensive after he divulges all he read in the book to his brothers. Clearly the weight of all of this is heavy on his 7 strength shoulders. You guys haven't seen Sachiel in days and Faruq keeps re-reading the book as if he's worried that he might miss some important detail; he's coming to realize the scope of what lays before you all; and he does not think himself ready for such an undertaking.
 Episode 135 of The Burning World
 2019-09-15 -  
Lions of Tomorrow Notes from Kazerabet... ( Member Submission! )... 2019-09-15 
Chapter TwoThe GeomancersIt is similarly mentioned that when a human being is placed in a barrel of sesame oil and kept in it for forty days, is fed with jigs and nuts until his or her flesh is gone and only the arteries and sutures of the skull remain, and is then taken out of the oil and exposed to the drying action of the air, he or she will answer all special and general questions regarding the future that may be asked. This is detestable sorcery.
- Ibn Khaldun, from the Muqaddimah

No group of sorcerers has ever held as much sway over the Ruined Kingdoms as the ancient Geomancers. Through a frightening combination of wizardry and priestly magic, the Geomancers could predict the future, command towering monoliths, and cause the earth to heave in mighty earthquakes. Today their geoglyphs and potent talismans live on, the last surviving legacy of their terrible power.

History of the GeomancersThere is little doubt that the Geomancers once held the entire Nogaro River valley in their firm control, as their geoglyphs can be found in many of the ruins on the continent. Curiously, their talismans or geoglyphs are not found on the islands of Afyal or Sahu.
For the latter, surely it must be Vermissa's presence, cloaking the isle from the Geomancers...further proof that my theory that she is "alive" on that island is correct!!

The Geomancers' ruling elite met in the Nine Council, each member taking a title according to rank and ability: Wihda, Ithnayn, Thalath, Arba., Khlams, Sitta, Sab., Thimaanya, and Tisan. Only one valiant group was able to stand up to the Geomancers: a young and fervent band of farisan remembered in legend as the Lions of Yesterday. Guided by Suhail min Zann, they confounded the Geomancers' divinations and smashed the power of the Nine Council, destroying eight of the wizard-priests. During that last battle, the ninth Geomancer, Tisan, withdrew to a secret stronghold called Tadabbur and vanished from sight, some say never to
return. In Midani, the word tadabbur has come to mean foresight, or divination. Now we know why...

Now, Tisan's power was great, such that her strength equaled that of all the other Geomancers put together. After many years, the Lions discovered Tadabbur. Those who entered to confront Tisan met with a slow and horrible death, but the mighty Geomancer did not dare leave the safety of her last fortress. My guess is that it is heavily protected by their glyphs...

Inspired by Zann, Imam Suhail enchanted a mighty talisman and used it to seal the entrance to Tisan's retreat. Calling upon Fate, (Doubtful. Fate serves Tisan) the priest swore an oath that he would return from Paradise to council the Lions of Tomorrow, should Tadabbur's talisman ever be disturbed. Based on what my betrothed's bard has told me, this has already happened; the spirit that rides along in his body was herself possessed by the imam when she was a living being.

Suhail gathered the few surviving Lions and labored the rest of his days to destroy all traces of the Geomancers' existence, breaking their talismans and burning all the records he could find of their foul sorcery to prevent others from duplicating their spells.
Ironically, Imam Suhail wrought his work so well that today the only remaining account about the Geomancers comes from his own sacred writings. (This was insanely foolish on his behalf.)

Imam Suhail was one of the most powerful priests of Zann ever to walk the face of Zakhara. Suhail was the architect of the Geomancer's defeat in the Ruined Kingdoms many centuries ago. After that force was banished from the world, Suhail wandered through the Land of Fate, destroying all records of the Geomancers he could find.

When he knew that his mission on al-Toril was ended, he consulted the stars for an auspicious location to be buried, so that a future generation of heroes, Lions of Tomorrow, would easily discover his burial place should the last Geomancer ever be awakened. (The fool...all he has done is condemned to a Fate worse than death those who would call themselves Lions...)

During his travels, Imam Suhail befriended the Queen Mother of the giant mason wasps. As a sign of respect, she decreed that her followers would always watch over his final resting place. Since mason wasps are considered harbingers of good luck and fortune, many pilgrims would stop at Suhail's grave on their pilgrimage to Huzuz. Miracles have been associated with the grave since the first pilgrims arrived centuries ago, and it wasn't long before a small shrine was erected near his sepulcher.

Lions of Tomorrow
Before his death, he transcribed all his knowledge about the Geomancers into a book called Lions of Tomorrow, so that a future generation of heroes would be forewarned of the perils they would face and how best to combat Geomancer magic, should Tisan ever return.

The book itself is fashioned from seaweed dipped in iodine to foil Geomantic divination, which the author, Iman Suhail, feared might be used to predict the book's future location. The tome's cover and binding consist of thin silver tubes filled with mercury, skillfully soldered together by a master silversmith. These precautions effectively shield the book with a cloaked wizardry enchantment. Impressive precautions, but I am certain a wish can be used to divine the book's hidden location.

The very first page contains an ancient and powerful abjuration spell researched by, presumably, Suhail. My theory: when touched by an artifact of the time (presumably the holy avenger wielded by the brother), it will cause a massive disjunction, obliterating all magic within its (undetermined) radius. I must admit, when considering confronting an opponent such as this...it may be enough to turn the tide, even if the gambit itself seems desperate; will she be weakened enough to be defeated without any magical resources on the part of her attackers?

The book continues in Chapter One with a life history of Imam Suhail, describing his ascendancy to the priesthood and his first encounters with the Geomancers. Suhail devotes many pages to his epic battle with the Nine Council, at a stronghold called Majlis, somewhere east of the Nogaro River. Suhail describes Geomancer battle-magic in great detail, highlighting their ability to summon and direct earth monoliths in melee. (Earth monoliths would seem to be earth elementals of incredible size.) After the battle, in which eight members of the Nine Council were slain, Suhail and his army razed the castle. After Suhail's victory, the castle was renamed Yinhani Abraaja, meaning "Leaning Towers." The imam reports having a vision and inscribing a short prophesy somewhere in the ruined castle. Suhail does not elaborate on his prophesy in the Lions of Tomorrow. (My beloved and his companions discovered this; it seems to have invigorated them on their quest. Undoubtedly, they believe Fate has put them on this path, but they refuse to acknowledge Fate's true Mistress...)

Lions of Tomorrow, written in Kadari, describes how a powerful priest of any enlightened deity may use Suhail's procedure to craft scarabs of protection, provided the priest has access to a mosque or holy site in which to pray and the right materials (a brooch carved out of a precious stone, like sapphire or ruby of at least 5,000 gp value, which has been sanctified in the Golden Mosque of Huzuz). Even with Suhail's completed research and the right materials, it still takes several weeks to complete the task.

In Chapter Three, Suhail includes a description of something he refers to as a "quest spell," which the high priest used extensively in his battles against the Geomancers.
Lions of Tomorrow only contains a vague reference to the spell, requiring research that only a holy person could achieve. (And so, I have left this alone...)

Finally, Chapter Four includes a general description of geoglyphs and how each of these could be foiled by a prepared and cautious individual. In particular, Suhail mentions that the presence of salt water, or proximity to the sea, will disrupt the effects of most geoglyphs.

GeomancyGeomancy is the study of the element of earth. Its practitioners, the Geomancers, sought to understand Fate through magic and thus command the entire world. What made Geomantic wizards and clerics different from common mages and clerics was their holistic philosophy, which combined the two forms of magic to make powerful runes, called geoglyphs.

Priest GeomancersAlthough many Geomancers only practiced wizardry, the society was directed by Grumbar's priests. All members of the Nine Council were priests/wizards of incredible power, but many did not begin their instruction in wizardry. Geomancer priests worshipped Grumbar, Cold God of the Earth. Because of their devotion to Grumbar, specialty priests were resistant against sand or earth magic. They could turn and command undead. As they became more powerful, they gained the ability to turn or command creatures native to the Elemental Plane of Earth. They eventually could summon such creatures and did not seem to need to concentrate on the summoning magic; the elementals seemed to serve out of devotion...

Wizard GeomancersWizards were common in the Geomancer Empire, far more numerous than the specialty priests. Unlike the priests, specialization among wizards was not popular, as their spells, magical items, and runes required a broad background of magical expertise to employ.

Undoubtedly, Geomancers used many different spells from those employed by modem wizards. Today's common flame, sand, and wind spells were probably developed by the Geomancers. The sole exception is sea magic, which has its origin in the Corsair Domains. Geomancers also employed many spells that are currently rare or extinct in the Land of Fate; they would assimilate all magical practices from the empires they conquered, and their power must have grown exponentially.

Emblems and GeoglyphsThe Geomancers. emblem was the asfr, a nine-spoked wheel with a dark central hub. The asfr symbolized a relationship between Fate (the outer wheel), Magic (the nine spokes of the wheel), and the world (the hub). This nonmagical symbol can be found on almost all their buildings or magical items, signifying ownership. Nine was a sacred number to the Geomancers, who devised an elaborate system of magical runes and symbols called geoglyphs. Their symbols were organized into nine categories: whd, thnn, thlth, rba., khlms, stt, sb.a, thmn, and tsn, each with a different purpose or power. While geoglyphs could theoretically be inscribed by a single individual, they were almost always made by a group of nine wizards or priests, called a Council.

Given the cooperative effort that went into creating them, geoglyphs are almost impossible to erase. For dispel magic to be successful, it must overcome the contribution of each member of the Council that created it. Otherwise it fails and the geoglyph remains. A wish only eliminates the contribution of the first (i.e., weakest) member of the Council; it can thus take up to nine wishes to remove a geoglyph.

When encountered in ruins, geoglyphs are frequently invisible, flashing with gold or blue light when triggered. Depending upon their nature, geoglyphs can be activated by touch or by command. In either case, the glyph discharges once and goes into dormancy, recharging its magical energy from the earth for nine minutes (or hours, or days; the more potent the effect, the longer the recharge time). Thus, geoglyphs can discharge infrequently.

Geoglyphs by PriestsCouncils of priests made the first three types of geoglyphs (whd, thnn, thlth) by scratching with a metal implement in earth or stone.

Whd: Dream glyphs. These glyphs are typically found in private chambers, where they work their power on sleeping minds. They were used to obtain minor divinatory revelations and to influence the dreams of enemies.

Thnn: Sight glyphs. These glyphs were inscribed on a wall, enabling it to serve as a permanent scrying device, similar to a crystal ball. More complicated configurations enabled the detection of sound and (in the most powerful) thoughts as well.

Thlth: Sending glyphs. If combined with sight runes, sending runes could enable two-way communication of sight, sound, and thought. When inscribed on the walls, floor, and ceiling of a chamber, the room became a oneway gate with a fixed destination. Sending runes enabled
the Geomancers to establish an extensive communication and transport network in their empire. Their operation is unhindered by deception runes (see below).

Geoglyphs by WizardsGeomancer wizards made the next three types of geoglyphs (rba', khlms, stt) by scratching on copper with a diamond-tipped stylus.

Rba': Ward glyphs. This broad family of geoglyphs includes all rune configurations meant to harm or destroy those who inadvertently activate them. They were used to protect the entrances of strongholds, secret chambers, and the treasuries of the Geomancers. (Seems familiar with the modern symbol spell) Ward runes can be disarmed by a secret command word, muttered while touching them.

Khlms: Deception glyphs. These glyphs were inscribed on the surfaces of most Geomancer strongholds. In their most primitive configuration, they merely blocked divinatory magics, but in their more advanced forms they could misdirect divinations, giving a false reading to their caster. Deception runes can be modified to prevent teleportation and block dimensional travel both into and out of an area.

Stt: Calling glyphs. The most powerful group of wizardly geoglyphs, calling runes were used to gate in creatures from the Outer Planes. Few contain binding or protective clauses, leading to the conclusion that the summoned creatures were usually the Geomancers' allies or counselors. When encountered near treasure vaults, they summon deadly fiends (usually devils or yugoloth) charged with protecting the Geomancer's property. Such creatures are rarely amenable to negotiation.

Geoglyphs by the wizard/priestsGeomancer priest-wizards could fashion the three most powerful groups of geoglyphs (sb'a, thmn, tsn) by sprinkling the powder of precious stones on surfaces of gold or platinum.

Sb'a: Time glyphs. These potent glyphs alter the subjective flow of time for all caught within their area of effect, which is usually small (no more than a few hundred square feet). They were sometimes used to hold advancing enemies in thrall (similar to timestop) while preparations were made to decimate them. They could also be used to speed up the passage of time in their area of effect, aging the victims to senility before they could escape.

Thmn: Past glyphs. A combination of sight and time runes, this family of glyphs allowed the user to scry upon known individuals or events in Zakhara's recent or distant past. These runes transmit an audio-visual image of the past, automatically translating foreign languages into Kadari.

Tsn: Future glyphs. A much more powerful (and elaborate) combination of sight and time runes, this family of glyphs allows the user to survey the tangled skeins of Fate and understand the probable course of the future if certain events are allowed to transpire. The runes do not show what WILL be, only what MAY be, under known preconditions. The far future is thus very difficult to predict, but very specific short-term visions are quite accurate.

Nine Falling StarsThe following are my written recollections from my arcane communing with powerful extraplanar entities. There is always a risk in attempting such communion, but my need to know has pushed me to this point and I will not stop now. I feel I have emerged unscathed...for the most part. I know I am changed; whether it is as a result of a very reasonable fear of the doom that now threatens to engulf all of Zakhara, or...something else...I can not say with certainty.

Does it matter?

The night of the meteor shower...its significance is now clear. Nine meteors for each of the Council of Nine, the council of the Geomancers. This was the night the talisman used to seal away the Sunderer of Dreams was disturbed. Divinations reveal it was a desperate band of bounty hunters from Rog'osto, searching the hinterland jungles for treasure, accidentally stumbled across the outer ruins of Tadabbur. Having no knowledge of the terrible Geomancers, the group removed the talisman sealing the entrance of Tisan's prison below Tadabbur. One of the two surviving explorers, Raja al-Sadiq, is a potent, greedy, and ambitious sha'ir. Through her intellect and bravery, she managed to parley with the last Geomancer.

Tisan was both relieved and amused that her liberator had no knowledge of her history or true identity. Through her vague glimpses of the future before she was imprisoned, Tisan knew that her only weakness lay in a small seal, which could unlock the knowledge to destroy her.

Considering her liberator's possible utility in obtaining the seal, Tisan struck a bargain with Raja. The Arch-Geomancer would have retrieved the item herself, but she was weakened after nine centuries of sleep and had more important long range plans to set in motion. In exchange for the sha'ir's assistance, Tisan promised Raja rulership and power in a resurrected modern-day empire of Kadar. The pair entered into a magical contract (enforced with a geas) not to betray each other. It would seem Tisan agreed only because she could use a wish to negate the geas in the future. (Inevitable, since she will inevitably desire to eliminate her arrogant and rude accomplice.)

After striking this bargain with Raja, Tisan cast a wish to learn the location of Suhail's magical seal, but her divination spell brought only a vague response because of the seal's undetectable wardings. Collapsing in exhaustion, Tisan passed her sketchy information to Raja, who agreed to obtain the seal to the best of her ability. Herself heavily exhausted by her efforts to gain and win entrance to Tisan's company, Raja summoned a lesser servant to fetch the seal and eliminate its current owner. That servant was Tabati, a female invisible stalker.

Tisan's GoalsHaving regained her strength, Tisan wants nothing less than to re-establish a modern Geomancer empire. Tisan is not foolish enough to think that she can accomplish this on her own. Backed by the full power of an assembled Nine Council, however, Tisan feels certain to succeed. Tisan has devoted the full intensity of her supra-genius intellect to the task of rebuilding her Nine Council. Tisan's enemies did an admirable job of scattering and burying the remains of her fallen counselors eight centuries ago at the Battle of the Leaning Towers. Most were slain in a manner that would prevent them from being easily brought back to life with a wish.

That has barely slowed her down.

The Arch-Geomancer has begun researching unconventional ways to recalling the long-dead. Her archives in Tadabbur are preserved remarkably well, and during the past few months she has put together an ancient and elaborate necromantic ritual, long-abandoned by the Geomancers after they discovered easier methods of prolonging their lives. Tisan realizes her eight counselors will not rise willingly from graves eight centuries old. The Arch-Geomancer has never been shy about magical coercion, though; she willwillwillwill have her Nine Council back.

Tisan's First ExperimentAt first, Raja thought she would have the upper hand in dealing with the ancient sorceress Tisan, who had seemed so weak and powerless after their first confrontation. Then, once she had seen glimpses of Tisan's power and fury, for the first time the sha'ir was truly afraid.

When Raja's invisible stalker failed to recover the magical seal Tisan had requested, the Geomancer's dark fury threatened to eclipse the sun. The ancient sorceress seized Nadan, Raja's lone surviving adventuring companion, and brutally tortured him in front of the sha'ir's eyes. Tisan slew him and raised him several times, just to illustrate that she would not tolerate future failures. The Geomancer forced Raja to help change Nadan, twisting him into something horrid and quite insane.

Afterwards, Raja tried to flee.

Of course, Tisan prevented her.

With a carefully worded wish, Tisan had shattered the geas preventing her from harming Raja. Now Tisan spoke a word, slaying Raja's gen familiar, and ordered her fiendish servants to carry the screaming sha'ir to her workroom. Before attempting to recall her eight counselors, Tisan thought it prudent to test the elaborate necromantic procedure on the more recently deceased. Raja, a pathetic modem genie-summoner, would not offer her the same kind of resistance as her ancient, unwilling colleagues, but it was still an important exercise.

Months later, her task complete, Tisan was glad she had expended the effort to experiment with Raja. Of course,

Tisan had made some minor mistakes and the sha'ir had to be slain a few more times than strictly necessary, but in the end Tisan still considered her research a complete success. Tisan has now turned her attention to gathering the remains of Thalath, her only true ally in the council. Her fawning puppet while alive, Thalath will require the least amount of coercion to join her service, or so Tisan hopes. While absorbed in her current task, Tisan has directed Raja to find the bearers of the seal and destroy them. The possible outcomes of their continued existence are too risky for Tisan to tolerate. She once underestimated a barbarian priest from the savage western deserts. Never again.

Tisan Balshareska, Ninth of Nine, Ruler of the Supreme Council, Arch-Geomancer, Sunderer of Dreams, She Who Turns the Wheel of Fate can appear in many shapes and sizes. However, her natural form is that of a fair, heavily muscled woman in her late thirties, with jet-black hair tied back in a single braid reaching almost to the floor. She typically wears short-sleeved robes which reveal the elaborate golden tattoos covering her exposed hands, arms, legs, neck, and face. These geoglyphs protect Tisan with the effect of several permanent spell effects, including lifeproof (same as Sumulael used).

The geoglyphs glow and flash with gold or red light when actively warding Tisan, but they are otherwise inert and ornamental.

This powerful character was born nine centuries ago into one of the ruling families of the Geomancers. Her given name was Balshareska. Like all members of the nobility, she was trained as a priest of Grumbar in the service of the Empire. Her political adroitness and talent for intrigue eventually landed her in the Imperial College of Geomancy, where she completed her wizardly training. Within 50 years, she had maneuvered herself to the summit of imperial authority, the position of Tisan, Ruler of the Supreme Council, through a combination of intimidation, coercion, and treachery. Tisan carefully concealed her true name after reaching the Supreme Council.

Tisan's tragic flaw was underestimating the western barbarians, who invaded the eastern jungles proclaiming a new "enlightenment" in their alien religion. The most powerful of these barbarian priests, Imam Suhail min Zann, somehow managed to visit defeat after defeat on the Geomancers. Try as she might, Tisan could not harm Suhail; she settled for corrupting his younger brother Ashtarek, a paladin naive enough to believe she might be persuaded into changing her evil ways. Ashtarek was wrong. She slew him inside the gates of Tadabbur with a powerful death magic, so he could not be resurrected by his brother. Although she tried to capture his holy avenger, it eluded her grasp as she was driven into the bowels of her stronghold and eventually imprisoned in her laboratory by Suhail's talisman.

Malakir was bound to Tisan's service many centuries ago to act as her chief lieutenant. He appears in the short-sleeved robes common to the ancient Geomancer empire. This is only a carefully crafted permanent illusion, however, placed upon the greater yugoloth by Tisan so he could make public appearances without inciting riots. His true form is enough to strike fear in the hearts of the most battle-hardened of mercenaries. In battle, he wields a great scimitar of life stealing.

Trapped by Suhail in stasis with Tisan, Malakir has served his mistress for an uncommonly long term. Having recently learned of her plan to restore her Nine Council, the yugoloth could hardly contain his excitement. He longs for the return of the ancient ways as much as Tisan. Possessing a wry sense of humor, uncommon among denizens of the Lower Planes, the ultroloth talks with a sarcastic, almost condescending tone to mortals and delights in his ability to fool their perceptions with his disguise.

Tisan has but one pet, a large earth elemental named Keskeg. Big, stupid, and unconditionally affectionate, it is the only creature the Geomancer treats with any semblance of kindness. Keskeg is never far from his mistress's side in Tadabbur. After a few painful lessons, he quickly learned to sit quietly in a comer while Tisan works on her experiments.
 Episode 126 of The Burning World
 2019-07-17 -  
The Warehouse Aftermath... ( Member Submission! )... 2019-07-17 
There was a limited amount of collateral damage since most of the battle took place on the skyship itself. That ended up a bit of a mixed blessing, however, since that was the outstanding gift the Al-Danafis (Princess Tanya's family) wanted to give the Grand Caliph on his Ascension Day. Then, there was the matter of breaking and entering, a fairly serious charge. Fortunately, Yunnus swapped places with the district qadi to judge the case, even though it would almost certainly go to a higher court. The merchant tasked with keeping the warehouse, Masala, was understandably livid, and Yunnus was having a hard time keeping him calm. Extra guard were called in, led by One-eyed Kassad, who did not hide his glee at the opportunity to finally get at Azizulah.

So it was with great surprise that, a mere 30 minutes later, a group of royal bodyguards arrived with Princess Tanya bint Perijan. Imperiously, she walked through the assemblage and addressed Yunnus, asking what had happened. When Masala tried to interject, a steely glance from her silenced him. Yunnus described things as he had come upon them (honest to a fault, Yunnus) and then looked expectantly at the heroes. Thinking quickly, Tanya (somewhat too loudly) thanked the heroes for "completing her task," confounding everyone else there. She then spun a tale about how she had suspicions about the ajami mage-merchant Aja, and had enlisted the heroes to discover his secret. When Kassad began to object, she turned on him with a barely contained fury, reminding him that a red dragon had been operating in an area where he was supposed to be head of security.
She then turned to Azizulah and whispered "I believe our debts to each other are now fulfilled, yes?"

Masala, despondent but not wishing to upset Tanya, asked about the skyship, and what could be done for it, since it was supposed to be a royal gift...everyone turned to look at you at that point.

(I know Azizulah has the rod, but he may or may not want to reveal that now)

However that scenario ends, since you're in the area and you know it's time for the midday break, you decide to take a chance to drop in on Aunty. Sure enough, she has just returned from prayers, but she asks you to look in on Sulayman, who she thinks is ill. Knocking on his door, gets you a panicked shout; when you identify yourselves, he lets you in, eyes darting about. He is clearly paranoid about something, so you ask about it.

He shows you a piece of parchment, burnt around the edges. It reads:

You and your family are not safe from my burning touch. I can take you
whenever I wish, but your end shall be slow and lingering, like wood
consumed by fire.
                                                                -Ali al-Lazan
 Episode 29 of FRINGE
 2018-10-22 -  
A Dragon...... ( Member Submission! )... 2018-10-22 
As the echoes of the guttural roar fade off into the unexplored caverns, only the sounds of the river of lava remain.



"It's likely Grumeo (the other missing comrade) is... well, we can't assume. And if there's a dragon in here, maybe it has answers (or other things 😉)"

Michael states calmly. The heroes nod in agreement, and gather themselves to press on.



The copper wyrmling (baby dragon) which was freed by Arondhil, continues to follow him around and gazes at him adoringly.

Magnus, combing his long hair turns to the bladesinger and says, "i think he likes you".



And at that moment, Arondhil intuitively agrees as he gazes back into the little dragon's eyes.



---------------



Dave, you are now owner of a copper dragon wyrmling, and have the following according to your level:



Companion's Bond

Your companion (copper dragon) gains a variety of benefits while it is linked to you.

The dragon loses its Multiattack action, if it has one.

The companion obeys your commands as best it can. It rolls for initiative like any other creature, but you determine its actions, decisions, attitudes, and so on. If you are incapacitated or absent, your companion acts on its own.



Keeping Track of Proficiency

At 3rd level, its proficiency bonus matches yours at +2. As you gain levels and increase your proficiency bonus, your companion's proficiency bonus improves as well, and is applied to the following areas: Armor Class, skills, saving throws, attack bonus, and damage rolls.



Your companion has abilities and game statistics determined in part by your level. Your companion uses your proficiency bonus rather than its own. In addition to the areas where it normally uses its proficiency bonus, a companion also adds its proficiency bonus to its AC and to its damage rolls.

Your companion gains proficiency in two skills of your choice. It also becomes proficient with all saving throws.

For each level you gain after 3rd, your companion gains an additional hit die and increases its hit points accordingly.

Whenever you gain the Ability Score Improvement class feature, your companion's abilities also improve. Your companion can increase one ability score of your choice by 2, or it can increase two ability scores of your choice by 1. As normal, your companion can't increase an ability score above 20 using this feature unless its description specifies otherwise.

Your companion shares your alignment. Your companion shares your ideal, and its bond is always, "Dave's character is a beloved companion for whom I would gladly give my life."



Coordinated Attack

At 5th level, you and your companion form a more potent fighting team. When you use the Attack action on your turn, if your companion can see you, it can use its reaction to make a melee attack.



Beast's Defense

At 7th level, while your companion can see you, it has advantage on all saving throws.



Storm of Claws and Fangs

At 11th level, your companion can use its action to make a melee attack against each creature of its choice within 5 feet of it, with a separate attack roll for each target.

Superior Beast's Defense

At 15th level, whenever an attacker that your companion can see hits it with an attack, it can use its reaction to halve the attack's damage against it.

Why No Multiattack?

Multiattack is a useful design tool that keeps monsters

simple for the DM. It provides a boost in offense, but that boost is meant to make a beast threatening for one battle--a notion that doesn't mesh well with a beast intended to fight with the party, rather than against it. Project Multiattack across an entire adventure, and a companion runs the risk of outclassing the fighters and barbarians in the party.

So in story terms, your companion has traded in some of its ferocity (in the form of Multiattack) for better awareness and the ability

to fight more effectively in concert with you.
 Episode 101 of The Burning World
 2018-09-27 -  
Our Tale, Such as it has been told, Part III... ( Member Submission! )... 2018-09-27 
The Eleven Baneful Gates, Pt. 1
After returning to Huzuz and recuperating, the Orphans were contacted by a messenger from the cleric Haroushin. The message described how the priest had very excitedly been researching the clay seal described by the heroes. His inquiries led him to the mosque of Zann in the city of Wasat, and he asked the Orphans to meet him there.

The Orphans secured sea travel to Wasat by hiring themselves to the merchant Barak al-Gani, a noted rival to the criminal merchant Yodfah. Taking pity on the situation the Orphans were in, he offered them better-than-usual rates to accompany his goods to the port of Wasat. He got his money’s worth: twice during the trip his vessel was attacked, by saughugin and merrow. Each time, the Orphans beat the creatures back, and so safely ended up in Wasat, the Middle City.

Once they were settled in, the young heroes decided to explore a bit of the city before meeting Haroushin the next morning. During this time, they interrupted a mugging in an alleyway where several ruffians were accosting two women; the women ended up being Tanya bint Perijan and Yasmi al-Datma, two of the Grand Caliph’s favoured wives! They thanked the young heroes for “rescuing” them (they were never in any real danger, considering Yasmi’s magical prowess), explaining that they sometimes snuck out of the Golden Palace in Huzuz for some fun, teleportingback before sunup. Swearing to keep their secret, the Orphans retired for the evening.

The mosque of Learned Zann had assigned Haroushin guest quarters, and it is was there that they met. The older priest shared what he had been able to discover, which wasn’t much, but he was excited about it. There were virtually no references to a nine-spoked wheel in any of the texts, but he did find a picture of one in the background of a book detailing the ancient kingdom of Al-Anwahr, City of Lions. Researching into the lost city, he discovered the following legend:

In the distant past, when Fate passed her knowledge to the Loregiver, Al-Anwahr was a rich and proud city ruled by King Azaltin, an intelligent man well versed in poetry, astrology, and the ways of magic. As the Loregiver wandered Zakhara, teaching the laws of the divine to man and genie alike, she is said to have stopped in Al-Anwahr and been a guest of Azaltin for 11 days. Azaltin honored his guest daily with lavish celebrations and exquisite gifts of silks, gold, and perfumes. After each night of entertainment, the king would ask his guest the same question: “How can a man live forever?”

The Loregiver warned Azaltin about the danger of such knowledge, but in the end could hardly insult her gracious host by refusing to answer. Each night she told the king about the obstacles that prevent man from achieving immortality. Azaltin’s scribes labored furiously to capture the Loregiver’s parables and cryptic riddles, which were set down in a legendary scroll titled The Eleven Baneful Gates. According to legend, the Loregiver departed Al-Anwahr, leaving the equivocal scroll in Azaltin’s care. Azaltin pondered the scroll for a decade, ignoring his people while trying to unravel its secret.

After months of fasting and meditation, he abandoned the kingdom to his brother Amakim and left to ponder the scroll in the solitude of the wilderness.

Ancient legends say he returned a dozen years later, an undead creature of hideous appearance, to reclaim his kingdom. Before long, Amakim led a revolt to topple his monstrous brother. Some members of court remained loyal to their undead king, however, and a bloody battle ensued throughout the city. Ultimately, Amakim’s forces triumphed, but when they reached the king’s palace they found that Azaltin had vanished. Amakim and his forces departed Al-Anwahr and eventually founded the city of In’aash. Centuries past, the city was renamed Muluk, while Al-Anwahr and Azaltin passed into folklore.
If there was anything to be learned about the nine-spoked seal, it was within the ruins of Al-Anwahr. As such, the Orphans prepared for a mighty journey across the Haunted Lands.

The Shattered Statue
During their sojourn, the heroes were greeted on evening by a glowing, spectral horse. While somewhat sinister, it was not threatening, and eventually the heroes understood that it meant for them to follow it. Concerned that not doing so would be unwise, the Orphans followed the ghostly steed through the desert until they were confronted with a raging thunderstorm. Narrowly avoiding the lightning strikes and flaming hail, the heroes found shelter within the abandoned city of Sokkar.

The city was filled with a mind-numbing panorama of graves and mausoleums stretching for miles in all directions. The sepulchers increased in stature and apparent importance deeper into the city. At least six lofty pyramids rose above all other structures. The city was a veritable necropolis.

The horse led them to a particular tomb; the heroes understood the tomb to be for the horse itself! They learned that it was a prized steed named Edimu, and its tomb had been desecrated. The Orphans understood that the spirit of the steed could not rest until its tomb had been repaired. Setting out into the seemingly abandoned city, the adventurers encountered the lamia, Ophidia. Unlike most of her kin, she was kind and not aggressive. She explained the history of Sokkar to the adventurers:

At the dawn of time, giants ruled the jungles that engulfed the now-desolate terrain of the Land of Fate. These magnificent creatures founded the city of Sokkar. The giants governed wisely, and the city’s human citizens prospered. But all that is good must pass, for the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Societies visits every giant, every man, every nation. With time, the female giants began to produce only male heirs, and the population of giants steadily dwindled until only a few males remained. Renouncing their rulership of Sokkar, the giants built massive cairns for themselves far outside the walls of the city and shut themselves up inside their necropolis.

Although many giants passed into eternity, the three most powerful and principled members of their race could not rest leaving their beloved city unguarded. Noq the Inspired, Arun the Ever-Vigilant, and Merodach the Deprived all ignored their own deaths. Animated by their forces of will, these giants became rom, the Undying.

After the giants’ exodus, humans continued to rule in Sokkar according to their ancient laws. New kings and queens deferred to the memory and traditions of their forbears. Each year, the rulers visited the necropolis to confer with the rom and hear their undying wisdom.

Before long, the rom were praised as noble heroes and worshiped as demigods in Sokkar. Citizens begged to be buried near their sacred cairns. The rom welcomed the expansion of their necropolis and encouraged a reverence for the dead. As the centuries passed, a vast city of tombs expanded around the giants. Funerary complex, until even their towering mausoleums were lost in the avenues of vaulted tombs and memorials. More time passed, and the city of the living dwindled. Wars came and devastated the population; the jungles and fields dried up as the climate changed; and the citizens neglected Sokkar’s fortifications, pouring all their wealth and resources into extravagant tombs. Eventually, the curse that had plagued the giants resurfaced, and Sokkar’s women began to produce only male heirs. Sokkar fell into ruin and was devoured by the rapidly encroaching desert.

With the death of Sokkar’s last citizen, the three Undying, Noq, Merodach, and Arun, summoned a great tempest to encircle their city, shielding it from view by the outside world. This maelstrom is generated by Al-Amzija, a Black Cloud of Vengeance bound to the city by the mysterious powers of the Undying. Al-Amzija cannot enter the necropolis, nor can it stray more than a few miles from its border. Enraged at its everlasting imprisonment, the malignant tempest fills the sky with a fury of sand and wind as it storms about its prison, searching for a means of escape.
The City of Eternity does not welcome visitors, Ophidia explained, but, having arrived, newcomers cannot safely depart without the express permission of the Undying. While the perimeter of the city is far too large for Al-Amzija to notice every being entering Sokkar, leaving is another matter. The sound of its own name attracts the cloud; it also senses when beings or objects that have spent a day and a night in the necropolis attempt to pass through the maelstrom. Countless adventurers, Ophidia warned, have gone fleeing through the stormy border with their plunder, only to be intercepted and destroyed by the Black Cloud. Only the Undying can call the Black Cloud away from its prey, she explained and they never bother to intercede on behalf of tomb robbers.

The Orphans explained their quest to Ophidia and she remarked that there was a pack of ghouls, led by a Great Ghul (an undead Jann) that haunted the city; the damage done to Edimu’s tomb looked like it had been done by ghoul claws. Tracking down the ghoul nest in the Pyramid of Kagemnemni, the heroes killed them and defeated the ghul sorcerer, Dashul. The latter warned them of an Underking who had been cursed by the rom before dying and was responsible for the animation of the ghouls. They tracked the undead lord down, destroyed him and his servitors, and returned to the surface. Dashur formally surrendered to them, wanting only to continue his research. In exchange, the ghul sorcerer provided them with the means to repair Edimu’s tomb. The spirit of the steed was finally at rest.

When the time came to leave Sokkar, Ophidia brought the Orphans before the Pyramids of the Undying. With thunderous voices, they gave the heroes permission to leave, since they took not a single coin from the necropolis. As well, they forgave Ophidia for her long-ago crime, and restored her to her human form. Wistfully saying good by to the warrior Guzman, she used her magic to leave. While still pursued by al-Amzija, the Orphans also managed to escape Sokkar without serious injury.

Sibling Rivalry
As they continued their way to Al-Anwahr, the Orphans were approached by a young blue dragon. Calling herself Ghish, the dragon warned the adventurers that they were trespassing in the territory of her older sister, Fakhira. She described that it was just a matter of time before the elder dragon detected them and destroyed them. 

Ghish then offered the Orphans a deal: she would show them where Fakhira’s lair was, and if they killed her, would let them have all the treasure the elder dragon kept there. If they refused the offer, she said, she would simply leave and let Fakhira destroy them.

The Orphans agreed, and Ghish did indeed navigate them safely to Fakhira’s lair. Their attempt at an ambush went awry, however, having greatly underestimated the senses of the dragon. As the battle raged, Ghish revealed herself as the true source of her hated sister’s suffering, and joined in the attack. By the battle’s end, however, both Guzman and Chaka lay dead.

Without knowing what to do, and far from any city-state that could possibly raise their siblings, the Orphans bound up the bodies of their siblings and continued on to Al-Anwahr.

Eleven Baneful Gates, Pt. 2
As the adventurers came within bowshot of the ruins, they were met by several Jann. Known to be wild, unpredictable, and extremely dangerous, the two groups came to blows, with the Orphans defeating the genies. Unable to do anything other than press on, they did so, and eventually came to the encampment of the Jann within the ruins. Their leader was a wise sheik by the name of Sheyisha. After some severe negotiations, aided by the jann prisoner, Printz, the Orphans were able to secure accommodations. After sharing many of their stories of adventures, the jann took to the group, and offered to use their magics to restore the hama of their siblings to their bodies. After a long while, the process succeeded with Guzman, but ultimately, Chaka’s spirit remained out of reach.

The Jann had a favoured prisoner, a rawun named Printz. He was permitted to join the Orphans as they searched the ruins of Al-Anwahr. They encountered a strange hermit by the name of Nerim. They had a fairly cryptic conversation with him, when he suddenly disappeared, leaving behind some magical items the Orphans would use later as they explored the ruined palace of Azaltin. When they entered the latter, they saw many murals that showed brave warriors combatting earth elementals, undead, and fiends from the lower planes. Within the palace itself, the heroes encountered such creatures, eventually discovering a sealed book and an ancient scroll, both penned in a language they couldn’t understand. Faruq’s innate magic enabled him to understand the contents, however. The book was titled The Kingdom of Lions, and it was a concise history of Al-Anwahr right up until Amakim’s revolt. The scroll was a simple message that read:

Too late have I realized the Loregiver’s warnings. Immortality is a curse, not a treasure. No man or woman should bear this burden, which I shouldered only through youthful pride. Rest assured that The Eleven Baneful Gates has been destroyed. It can tempt mortals no further.
Deciding that this was the kind of artifact that Haroushin was looking for, the Orphans set out to return not to Wasat, to meet the priest, but home to Huzuz, to first bury their sister Chaka.

A Boasting Contest
As they traversed across the deserts of the Haunted Lands, the Orphans were suddenly put upon by a giant Efreet. Calling himself Achmed al-Zuli, the Magnificient, the genie demanded tribute as they were trespassing upon “his” territory. The Efreet challenged one among their number to a boasting contest, to be judged upon by the rest of the Orphans. Should Achmed win, he would take one of their magical items (and he had his eye on the scimitar, Cyclone of the Four Quarters); should the Orphans’ representative win, he would exchange on of his items with one from Achmed’s treasure chest, which contained many wonderful items.

The contest went poorly, however, with the Orphans antagonizing the sensitive genie; Achmed attacked them, beating the group badly. To spare their lives, the heroes gave up the genie-slaying scimitar and were allowed to go along their way.

Retrieval of a Prize Most Dear
The Orphans returned to Golden Huzuz uncertain how they were going to deal with their greatest challenge: consoling Aunty after the death of Chaka.

Devastated at the loss of her adopted daughter, Aunty demanded the remaining Orphans promise to cease their adventuring to pay off the debt. They all agreed…except for Faruq, who felt honour-bound to refuse and continue to do what he could to free Aunty from the impending slavery. He was, however, alone to do so…

The funeral was attended by many of Aunty’s former adoptees; three of them were congregating over coffee in the small garden of the house they grew up in: Roheen, a former Al-Badian desert rider who had been banished from the House of Hanif; Kal, a barbarian from the northern mountains; and Azizulah, a fire-wielding sorcerer matrud who never discussed how he came to be branded a criminal. The three men were discussing how they themselves would band together and finish the work the young heroes had begun. They noticed that Faruq had distanced himself from his siblings and deduced that the young sha’ir was determined to go on its own. They resolved to help him…and make sure Aunty would not face another death of one of hers. Faruq was extremely grateful for their promise of assistance.

Near the end of the funeral reception, there was a suspicious-looking, veiled woman who lingered behind, waiting to get a private audience with Faruq. Suspicious, the older adventurers joined him. When she was certain that they could not be overheard, the woman revealed herself to be Yasmi al-Datma, wife of the Grand Caliph. Faruq recognized her right away from his encounter with her and Princess Tanya bint Perijan back in the city of Wasat. Once she ascertained that the newcomers could also be trusted, she explained why she was there.

During one of their secret excursions, this time to the dangerous city of Kadarasto, they ran afoul of the strong criminal element of the city. Separated from each other, the women found themselves fighting for their lives. Yasmi had not prepared a great many combat spells, and decided to use her magic to flee and gather reinforcements to come back and rescue Tanya.

She explained to the group that, having already discovered of their illicit excursions, Yasmi decided upon the Orphans to be her rescue team. She also emphasized that, to spare embarrassment to the Golden Throne, the entire mission must be kept a secret. She demanded that the heroes be ready to leave the next day; while she was reasonably certain that the criminal gang did not realize exactly who they held hostage, she knew it was only a matter of time.

The next day, the group teleported with Yasmi to a circle she had secretly placed in a shop in Kadarasto, near where the abduction had taken place. The Caliph’s wife remarked that she had many such circles in cities around Zakhara, making her excursions with Tanya as varied as possible. Venturing into the city, they eventually came across the criminals who had kidnapped the Grand Caliph’s Favoured Wife. In the chaos that ensued, Yasmi escaped with Tanya, leaving the adventurers to find shelter in the city. Faruq opened the package that Yasmi had given him; within was a note apologizing for how things went, and a promise to retrieve them as soon as possible. As well, there were 4 vials of liquid that were to be ingested if the heroes decided to flee into the Grey Jungle as she suggested; they were to help ward off the Grey Fever that explorers often faced when traversing within the area.

Eventually, the heroes were discovered by a rival gang to the one they had initially encountered. Securing from them (through the use of magic) a promise to find and return a specific relic from the Old Empires to them, the criminals smuggled the heroes out of Kadarasto. 

Talisman
Wandering in the Grey Jungle for days, the heroes started succumbing to the Grey Fever, Yasmi’s efforts notwithstanding. Fate smiled upon them, however, in the form of a beautiful couatl named Taj who healed them of their wounds and cured them of the fever. In return, Taj asked them to accompany him to the one he served, King Sharaman. Feeling indebted to the couatl, they agreed. 

Taj led them through the jungle, where they had several encounters, including one with warrior-wights they would later learn had escaped from the Necromancers of Ysawis. Eventually, Taj brought them to the Doors of Shajar, where a damn used to force the Abdo river into a reservoir of a now-lost city. Today, only two gargantuan statues of Shajar remained, a hint of what the ancient empire was like. About a mile past the imposing ruins, Taj led them to a cave, warning off the giant snakes that served as guardians. His task done, Taj asked the heroes to enter the cave and attend to King Sharaman.

The King, it turned out, was a benevolent Serpent Lord; a snake with the head of a kindly old man atop the body of a large snake. Atop his forehead was a brilliant stone, shining like a diamond. The Serpent Lord explained how he was dying, and that he needed the stone atop his head (which contained all the memories of his life) to be touched to the headstone in the Temple of the Serpentine Empress, deep in the heart of the jungle. Additionally, he asked that his brain be removed and brought, along with a gallon of holy water, to his daughter and successor Sharamaz. The heroes accepted to perform this pilgrimage for King Sharaman.

The Serpent Lord died soon afterwards, and the heroes fled the scene, fearing the wrath of all the serpents mad with grief. Now immune to the Grey Fever, they travelled weeks through the jungle to reach their destination, the Temple of the Serpentine Empress. It was not what they expected; it had been defiled beyond description by the Cult of Ragarra. Inside, a priestess of the cult, Anaiz, was tearing the remains of the temple apart, searching for its magical treasure. She was served by many seggeran; crocodile-headed humanoids who used to be humans but became perverted through the magic of the cult. After a pitched battle, the heroes defeated their foes, killing Anaiz in the process.

After the dust of the battle had settled, they touched the stone from King Sharaman to its counterpart on a huge serpent lord statue in the main hall. Several miraculous things happened next: The temple and surrounding land was immediately cleansed and reconsecrated. Secondly, a huge monument rose from the earth in the outer courtyard, bearing King Sharaman’s name and epitaph, to join the others that represented previous serpent lords of the temple. Finally, a secret compartment in the statue (now revealed to be solid gold) opened, providing the group with the treasure of the temple.

The group took their rest for a day within the confines of the temple. Dozens of snakes of all sizes began to congregate around them; through Kal’s primal magic, they were able to understand that the serpents meant them no harm, were exceedingly grateful for what they had done, and wished them luck on the last part of their journey. Now that the well provided holy water again, the heroes drew some to go with Sharaman’s brain to bring to his daughter.

As they journeyed to the location of Sharamaaz, a place called ‘The Leaning Towers,’ the group had to cross the mighty Nogaro river. As they tried to do so, they were beset by three giant crocodiles; the beasts had a fiendish intelligence and a woman’s voice could be heard from their mouths, demanding vengeance. The heroes would prevail, however, and eventually reached their destination.

‘The Leaning Towers’ seemed appropriately named: Nine massive towers, once tall and majestic, now cracked and corroded by the merciless humidity. Many seemed like they would topple over at the slightest touch. The whole area was basically swallowed up by the jungle. However, beneath the ruins in cavernous cellars was Sharamaaz. Attended by several snake servants, she greeted the heroes graciously, thanking them for undertaking her father’s pilgrimage. She then asked for her father’s talisman to be touched to her own, the dim light from the former transferring to the latter. Caught up in the reverie, Sharamaaz did not regain her awareness for a full day.

While they were waiting, the heroes did some evaluation of their surroundings, trying to ascertain the origins of the Leaning Towers. Using magic and Faruq’s ability to read all languages, they discovered some magical runes and a prophetic riddle, written in Kadari:

Our proud lions vanquished here,
Sorrow for our fallen friends.
Eight of Nine we’ll never fear,
Buried where the walls descend.
Our proud lions come once more,
Sorrow for their fallen friends.
Ninth of Nine will fear restore,
When in Tadabbur descend.
 Episode 136 of The Burning World
 2018-09-27 -  
Continuation from Our Story so Far... ( Member Submission! )... 2018-09-27 
The Eleven Baneful Gates, Pt. 1

After returning to Huzuz and recuperating, the Orphans were contacted by a messenger from the cleric Haroushin. The message described how the priest had very excitedly been researching the clay seal described by the heroes. His inquiries led him to the mosque of Zann in the city of Wasat, and he asked the Orphans to meet him there.

The Orphans secured sea travel to Wasat by hiring themselves to the merchant Barak al-Gani, a noted rival to the criminal merchant Yodfah. Taking pity on the situation the Orphans were in, he offered them better-than-usual rates to accompany his goods to the port of Wasat. He got his money's worth: twice during the trip his vessel was attacked, by saughugin and merrow. Each time, the Orphans beat the creatures back, and so safely ended up in Wasat, the Middle City.

Once they were settled in, the young heroes decided to explore a bit of the city before meeting Haroushin the next morning. During this time, they interrupted a mugging in an alleyway where several ruffians were accosting two women; the women ended up being Tanya bint Perijan and Yasmi al-Datma, two of the Grand Caliph's favoured wives! They thanked the young heroes for "rescuing" them (they were never in any real danger, considering Yasmi's magical prowess), explaining that they sometimes snuck out of the Golden Palace in Huzuz for some fun, teleporting back before sunup. Swearing to keep their secret, the Orphans retired for the evening.

The mosque of Learned Zann had assigned Haroushin guest quarters, and it is was there that they met. The older priest shared what he had been able to discover, which wasn't much, but he was excited about it. There were virtually no references to a nine-spoked wheel in any of the texts, but he did find a picture of one in the background of a book detailing the ancient kingdom of Al-Anwahr, City of Lions. Researching into the lost city, he discovered the following legend:

In the distant past, when Fate passed her knowledge to the Loregiver, Al-Anwahr was a rich and proud city ruled by King Azaltin, an intelligent man well versed in poetry, astrology, and the ways of magic. As the Loregiver wandered Zakhara, teaching the laws of the divine to man and genie alike, she is said to have stopped in Al-Anwahr and been a guest of Azaltin for 11 days. Azaltin honored his guest daily with lavish celebrations and exquisite gifts of silks, gold, and perfumes. After each night of entertainment, the king would ask his guest the same question: "How can a man live forever?"



The Loregiver warned Azaltin about the danger of such knowledge, but in the end could hardly insult her gracious host by refusing to answer. Each night she told the king about the obstacles that prevent man from achieving immortality. Azaltin's scribes labored furiously to capture the Loregiver's parables and cryptic riddles, which were set down in a legendary scroll titled The Eleven Baneful Gates. According to legend, the Loregiver departed Al-Anwahr, leaving the equivocal scroll in Azaltin's care. Azaltin pondered the scroll for a decade, ignoring his people while trying to unravel its secret.



After months of fasting and meditation, he abandoned the kingdom to his brother Amakim and left to ponder the scroll in the solitude of the wilderness.

Ancient legends say he returned a dozen years later, an undead creature of hideous appearance, to reclaim his kingdom. Before long, Amakim led a revolt to topple his monstrous brother. Some members of court remained loyal to their undead king, however, and a bloody battle ensued throughout the city. Ultimately, Amakim's forces triumphed, but when they reached the king's palace they found that Azaltin had vanished. Amakim and his forces departed Al-Anwahr and eventually founded the city of In'aash. Centuries past, the city was renamed Muluk, while Al-Anwahr and Azaltin passed into folklore.



If there was anything to be learned about the nine-spoked seal, it was within the ruins of Al-Anwahr. As such, the Orphans prepared for a mighty journey across the Haunted Lands.



The Shattered Statue

During their sojourn, the heroes were greeted on evening by a glowing, spectral horse. While somewhat sinister, it was not threatening, and eventually the heroes understood that it meant for them to follow it. Concerned that not doing so would be unwise, the Orphans followed the ghostly steed through the desert until they were confronted with a raging thunderstorm. Narrowly avoiding the lightning strikes and flaming hail, the heroes found shelter within the abandoned city of Sokkar.

The city was filled with a mind-numbing panorama of graves and mausoleums stretching for miles in all directions. The sepulchers increased in stature and apparent importance deeper into the city. At least six lofty pyramids rose above all other structures. The city was a veritable necropolis.



The horse led them to a particular tomb; the heroes understood the tomb to be for the horse itself! They learned that it was a prized steed named Edimu, and its tomb had been desecrated. The Orphans understood that the spirit of the steed could not rest until its tomb had been repaired. Setting out into the seemingly abandoned city, the adventurers encountered the lamia, Ophidia. Unlike most of her kin, she was kind and not aggressive. She explained the history of Sokkar to the adventurers:



At the dawn of time, giants ruled the jungles that engulfed the now-desolate terrain of the Land of Fate. These magnificent creatures founded the city of Sokkar. The giants governed wisely, and the city's human citizens prospered. But all that is good must pass, for the Destroyer of Delights and Sunderer of Societies visits every giant, every man, every nation. With time, the female giants began to produce only male heirs, and the population of giants steadily dwindled until only a few males remained. Renouncing their rulership of Sokkar, the giants built massive cairns for themselves far outside the walls of the city and shut themselves up inside their necropolis.



Although many giants passed into eternity, the three most powerful and principled members of their race could not rest leaving their beloved city unguarded. Noq the Inspired, Arun the Ever-Vigilant, and Merodach the Deprived all ignored their own deaths. Animated by their forces of will, these giants became rom, the Undying.



After the giants' exodus, humans continued to rule in Sokkar according to their ancient laws. New kings and queens deferred to the memory and traditions of their forbears. Each year, the rulers visited the necropolis to confer with the rom and hear their undying wisdom.



Before long, the rom were praised as noble heroes and worshiped as demigods in Sokkar. Citizens begged to be buried near their sacred cairns. The rom welcomed the expansion of their necropolis and encouraged a reverence for the dead. As the centuries passed, a vast city of tombs expanded around the giants. Funerary complex, until even their towering mausoleums were lost in the avenues of vaulted tombs and memorials. More time passed, and the city of the living dwindled. Wars came and devastated the population; the jungles and fields dried up as the climate changed; and the citizens neglected Sokkar's fortifications, pouring all their wealth and resources into extravagant tombs. Eventually, the curse that had plagued the giants resurfaced, and Sokkar's women began to produce only male heirs. Sokkar fell into ruin and was devoured by the rapidly encroaching desert.



With the death of Sokkar's last citizen, the three Undying, Noq, Merodach, and Arun, summoned a great tempest to encircle their city, shielding it from view by the outside world. This maelstrom is generated by Al-Amzija, a Black Cloud of Vengeance bound to the city by the mysterious powers of the Undying. Al-Amzija cannot enter the necropolis, nor can it stray more than a few miles from its border. Enraged at its everlasting imprisonment, the malignant tempest fills the sky with a fury of sand and wind as it storms about its prison, searching for a means of escape.



The City of Eternity does not welcome visitors, Ophidia explained, but, having arrived, newcomers cannot safely depart without the express permission of the Undying. While the perimeter of the city is far too large for Al-Amzija to notice every being entering Sokkar, leaving is another matter. The sound of its own name attracts the cloud; it also senses when beings or objects that have spent a day and a night in the necropolis attempt to pass through the maelstrom. Countless adventurers, Ophidia warned, have gone fleeing through the stormy border with their plunder, only to be intercepted and destroyed by the Black Cloud. Only the Undying can call the Black Cloud away from its prey, she explained and they never bother to intercede on behalf of tomb robbers.



The Orphans explained their quest to Ophidia and she remarked that there was a pack of ghouls, led by a Great Ghul (an undead Jann) that haunted the city; the damage done to Edimu's tomb looked like it had been done by ghoul claws. Tracking down the ghoul nest in the Pyramid of Kagemnemni, the heroes killed them and defeated the ghul sorcerer, Dashul. The latter warned them of an Underking who had been cursed by the rom before dying and was responsible for the animation of the ghouls. They tracked the undead lord down, destroyed him and his servitors, and returned to the surface. Dashur formally surrendered to them, wanting only to continue his research. In exchange, the ghul sorcerer provided them with the means to repair Edimu's tomb. The spirit of the steed was finally at rest.



When the time came to leave Sokkar, Ophidia brought the Orphans before the Pyramids of the Undying. With thunderous voices, they gave the heroes permission to leave, since they took not a single coin from the necropolis. As well, they forgave Ophidia for her long-ago crime, and restored her to her human form. Wistfully saying good by to the warrior Guzman, she used her magic to leave. While still pursued by al-Amzija, the Orphans also managed to escape Sokkar without serious injury.





Sibling Rivalry



As they continued their way to Al-Anwahr, the Orphans were approached by a young blue dragon. Calling herself Ghish, the dragon warned the adventurers that they were trespassing in the territory of her older sister, Fakhira. She described that it was just a matter of time before the elder dragon detected them and destroyed them.

Ghish then offered the Orphans a deal: she would show them where Fakhira's lair was, and if they killed her, would let them have all the treasure the elder dragon kept there. If they refused the offer, she said, she would simply leave and let Fakhira destroy them.

The Orphans agreed, and Ghish did indeed navigate them safely to Fakhira's lair. Their attempt at an ambush went awry, however, having greatly underestimated the senses of the dragon. As the battle raged, Ghish revealed herself as the true source of her hated sister's suffering, and joined in the attack. By the battle's end, however, both Guzman and Chaka lay dead.

Without knowing what to do, and far from any city-state that could possibly raise their siblings, the Orphans bound up the bodies of their siblings and continued on to Al-Anwahr.



Eleven Baneful Gates, Pt. 2

As the adventurers came within bowshot of the ruins, they were met by several Jann. Known to be wild, unpredictable, and extremely dangerous, the two groups came to blows, with the Orphans defeating the genies. Unable to do anything other than press on, they did so, and eventually came to the encampment of the Jann within the ruins. Their leader was a wise sheik by the name of Sheyisha. After some severe negotiations, aided by the jann prisoner, Printz, the Orphans were able to secure accommodations. After sharing many of their stories of adventures, the jann took to the group, and offered to use their magics to restore the hama of their siblings to their bodies. After a long while, the process succeeded with Guzman, but ultimately, Chaka's spirit remained out of reach.

The Jann had a favoured prisoner, a rawun named Printz. He was permitted to join the Orphans as they searched the ruins of Al-Anwahr. They encountered a strange hermit by the name of Nerim. They had a fairly cryptic conversation with him, when he suddenly disappeared, leaving behind some magical items the Orphans would use later as they explored the ruined palace of Azaltin. When they entered the latter, they saw many murals that showed brave warriors combatting earth elementals, undead, and fiends from the lower planes. Within the palace itself, the heroes encountered such creatures, eventually discovering a sealed book and an ancient scroll, both penned in a language they couldn't understand. Faruq's innate magic enabled him to understand the contents, however. The book was titled The Kingdom of Lions, and it was a concise history of Al-Anwahr right up until Amakim's revolt. The scroll was a simple message that read:

Too late have I realized the Loregiver's warnings. Immortality is a curse, not a treasure. No man or woman should bear this burden, which I shouldered only through youthful pride. Rest assured that The Eleven Baneful Gates has been destroyed. It can tempt mortals no further.

Deciding that this was the kind of artifact that Haroushin was looking for, the Orphans set out to return not to Wasat, to meet the priest, but home to Huzuz, to first bury their sister Chaka.



A Boasting Contest

As they traversed across the deserts of the Haunted Lands, the Orphans were suddenly put upon by a giant Efreet. Calling himself Achmed al-Zuli, the Magnificient, the genie demanded tribute as they were trespassing upon "his" territory. The Efreet challenged one among their number to a boasting contest, to be judged upon by the rest of the Orphans. Should Achmed win, he would take one of their magical items (and he had his eye on the scimitar, Cyclone of the Four Quarters); should the Orphans' representative win, he would exchange on of his items with one from Achmed's treasure chest, which contained many wonderful items.

The contest went poorly, however, with the Orphans antagonizing the sensitive genie; Achmed attacked them, beating the group badly. To spare their lives, the heroes gave up the genie-slaying scimitar and were allowed to go along their way.



Retrieval of a Prize Most Dear

The Orphans returned to Golden Huzuz uncertain how they were going to deal with their greatest challenge: consoling Auntie after the death of Chaka.

Devastated at the loss of her adopted daughter, Auntie demanded the remaining Orphans promise to cease their adventuring to pay off the debt. They all agreed...except for Faruq, who felt honour-bound to refuse and continue to do what he could to free Auntie from the impending slavery. He was, however, alone to do so...

The funeral was attended by many of Auntie's former adoptees; three of them were congregating over coffee in the small garden of the house they grew up in: Roheen, a former Al-Badian desert rider who had been banished from the House of Hanif; Kal, a barbarian from the northern mountains; and Azizulah, a fire-wielding sorcerer matrud who never discussed how he came to be branded a criminal. The three men were discussing how they themselves would band together and finish the work the young heroes had begun. They noticed that Faruq had distanced himself from his siblings and deduced that the young sha'ir was determined to go on its own. They resolved to help him...and make sure Auntie would not face another death of one of hers. Faruq was extremely grateful for their promise of assistance.

Near the end of the funeral reception, there was a suspicious-looking, veiled woman who lingered behind, waiting to get a private audience with Faruq. Suspicious, the older adventurers joined him. When she was certain that they could not be overheard, the woman revealed herself to be Yasmi al-Datma, wife of the Grand Caliph. Faruq recognized her right away from his encounter with her and Princess Tanya bint Perijan back in the city of Wasat. Once she ascertained that the newcomers could also be trusted, she explained why she was there.

During one of their secret excursions, this time to the dangerous city of Kadarasto, they ran afoul of the strong criminal element of the city. Separated from each other, the women found themselves fighting for their lives. Yasmi had not prepared a great many combat spells, and decided to use her magic to flee and gather reinforcements to come back and rescue Tanya.

She explained to the group that, having already discovered of their illicit excursions, Yasmi decided upon the Orphans to be her rescue team. She also emphasized that, to spare embarrassment to the Golden Throne, the entire mission must be kept a secret. She demanded that the heroes be ready to leave the next day; while she was reasonably certain that the criminal gang did not realize exactly who they held hostage, she knew it was only a matter of time.

The next day, the group teleported with Yasmi to a circle she had secretly placed in a shop in Kadarasto, near where the abduction had taken place. The Caliph's wife remarked that she had many such circles in cities around Zakhara, making her excursions with Tanya as varied as possible. Venturing into the city, they eventually came across the criminals who had kidnapped the Grand Caliph's Favoured Wife. In the chaos that ensued, Yasmi escaped with Tanya, leaving the adventurers to find shelter in the city. Faruq opened the package that Yasmi had given him; within was a note apologizing for how things went, and a promise to retrieve them as soon as possible. As well, there were 4 vials of liquid that were to be ingested if the heroes decided to flee into the Grey Jungle as she suggested; they were to help ward off the Grey Fever that explorers often faced when traversing within the area.

Eventually, the heroes were discovered by a rival gang to the one they had initially encountered. Securing from them (through the use of magic) a promise to find and return a specific relic from the Old Empires to them, the criminals smuggled the heroes out of Kadarasto.



Talisman

Wandering in the Grey Jungle for days, the heroes started succumbing to the Grey Fever, Yasmi's efforts notwithstanding. Fate smiled upon them, however, in the form of a beautiful couatl named Taj who healed them of their wounds and cured them of the fever. In return, Taj asked them to accompany him to the one he served, King Sharaman. Feeling indebted to the couatl, they agreed.

Taj led them through the jungle, where they had several encounters, including one with warrior-wights they would later learn had escaped from the Necromancers of Ysawis. Eventually, Taj brought them to the Doors of Shajar, where a damn used to force the Abdo river into a reservoir of a now-lost city. Today, only two gargantuan statues of Shajar remained, a hint of what the ancient empire was like. About a mile past the imposing ruins, Taj led them to a cave, warning off the giant snakes that served as guardians. His task done, Taj asked the heroes to enter the cave and attend to King Sharaman.

The King, it turned out, was a benevolent Serpent Lord; a snake with the head of a kindly old man atop the body of a large snake. Atop his forehead was a brilliant stone, shining like a diamond. The Serpent Lord explained how he was dying, and that he needed the stone atop his head (which contained all the memories of his life) to be touched to the headstone in the Temple of the Serpentine Empress, deep in the heart of the jungle. Additionally, he asked that his brain be removed and brought, along with a gallon of holy water, to his daughter and successor Sharamaz. The heroes accepted to perform this pilgrimage for King Sharaman.

The Serpent Lord died soon afterwards, and the heroes fled the scene, fearing the wrath of all the serpents mad with grief. Now immune to the Grey Fever, they travelled weeks through the jungle to reach their destination, the Temple of the Serpentine Empress. It was not what they expected; it had been defiled beyond description by the Cult of Ragarra. Inside, a priestess of the cult, Anaiz, was tearing the remains of the temple apart, searching for its magical treasure. She was served by many seggeran; crocodile-headed humanoids who used to be humans but became perverted through the magic of the cult. After a pitched battle, the heroes defeated their foes, killing Anaiz in the process.

After the dust of the battle had settled, they touched the stone from King Sharaman to its counterpart on a huge serpent lord statue in the main hall. Several miraculous things happened next: The temple and surrounding land was immediately cleansed and reconsecrated. Secondly, a huge monument rose from the earth in the outer courtyard, bearing King Sharaman's name and epitaph, to join the others that represented previous serpent lords of the temple. Finally, a secret compartment in the statue (now revealed to be solid gold) opened, providing the group with the treasure of the temple.

The group took their rest for a day within the confines of the temple. Dozens of snakes of all sizes began to congregate around them; through Kal's primal magic, they were able to understand that the serpents meant them no harm, were exceedingly grateful for what they had done, and wished them luck on the last part of their journey. Now that the well provided holy water again, the heroes drew some to go with Sharaman's brain to bring to his daughter.

As they journeyed to the location of Sharamaaz, a place called 'The Leaning Towers,' the group had to cross the mighty Nogaro river. As they tried to do so, they were beset by three giant crocodiles; the beasts had a fiendish intelligence and a woman's voice could be heard from their mouths, demanding vengeance. The heroes would prevail, however, and eventually reached their destination.

'The Leaning Towers' seemed appropriately named: Nine massive towers, once tall and majestic, now cracked and corroded by the merciless humidity. Many seemed like they would topple over at the slightest touch. The whole area was basically swallowed up by the jungle. However, beneath the ruins in cavernous cellars was Sharamaaz. Attended by several snake servants, she greeted the heroes graciously, thanking them for undertaking her father's pilgrimage. She then asked for her father's talisman to be touched to her own, the dim light from the former transferring to the latter. Caught up in the reverie, Sharamaaz did not regain her awareness for a full day.

While they were waiting, the heroes did some evaluation of their surroundings, trying to ascertain the origins of the Leaning Towers. Using magic and Faruq's ability to read all languages, they discovered some magical runes and a prophetic riddle, written in Kadari:

Our proud lions vanquished here,

Sorrow for our fallen friends.

Eight of Nine we'll never fear,

Buried where the walls descend.

Our proud lions come once more,

Sorrow for their fallen friends.

Ninth of Nine will fear restore,

When in Tadabbur descend.
 Episode 100 of The Burning World
 2018-09-20 -  
The Lions of Tomorrow... ( Member Submission! )... 2018-09-20 
Batul hosts you over a couple of days, giving Faruq enough time to go over Lions of Tomorrow fairly well.

Assuming you share your stories with Batul (not necessarily the Geomancer stuff), he makes a generous offer to pay the rest of Aunty's debt.

Nog and Kadar
Practically everywhere one looks in the modern cities or jungle, one can see icons and ruins from the past.

The Ruined Kingdoms of Nog and Kadar left behind writings, inscriptions, and magical artifacts which long outlived their doomed civilizations. Without knowledge of the cultural context in which they were created, this historical legacy is often fragmented and meaningless. Most sages are sure that more than two ancient civilizations evolved along the Nogaro, a wide, crocodile-infested river twisting hundreds of miles through the jungle wilderness.

Given the mainland's two prominent ancient languages, some think that Nog and Kadar were the only civilizations of note in the region. However, historians have found evidence of at least four other cultural traditions along the Nogaro River valley, starting with the giants before the arrival of humans. Since none of these other cultures developed a strong written tradition, however, the truth about them may never be known.

The history of Nog and Kadar is convoluted and confusing, as the two empires seem to have gone through several ruling dynasties, some of which may (or may not) have ruled different regions along the Nogaro at the same time. Kadar is by far the older of the two empires, founded over a thousand years ago by the despotic Geomancers, a race of terrible sorcerer-priests who at one time held sway throughout the entire river valley. The Geomancers were toppled by pioneering missionaries of the enlightenment and replaced by a dynasty of corrupt warrior-kings, or khedives, who seized power in the wake of the western explorers' departure.

The Geomancers
No group of sorcerers has ever held as much sway over the Ruined Kingdoms as the ancient Geomancers. Through a frightening combination of wizardry and priestly magic, the Geomancers could predict the future, command towering monoliths, and cause the earth to heave in mighty earthquakes. Today they are (thankfully) gone and all but forgotten, but their geoglyphs and potent talismans live on, the last surviving legacy of their terrible power.

There is little doubt that the Geomancers once held the entire Nogaro River valley in their firm control, as their geoglyphs can be found in many of the ruins on the continent. Curiously, their talismans or geoglyphs are not found on the islands of Afyal or Sahu.

The Geomancers' ruling elite met in the Nine Council, each member taking a title according to rank and ability: Wihda, Ithnayn, Thalath, Arba, Khlams, Sitta, Sab, Thimaanya, and Tisan. Only one valiant group was able to stand up to the Geomancers: a young and fervent band of farisan remembered in legend as the Lions of Yesterday. Guided by Suhail min Zann, they confounded the Geomancers' divinations and smashed the power of the Nine Council, destroying eight of the wizard-priests. During that last battle, the ninth Geomancer, Tisan, withdrew to a secret stronghold called Tadabbur and vanished from sight, some say never to return. In Midani, the word tadabbur has come to mean foresight, or divination.

Now, Tisan's power was great, such that her strength equaled that of all the other Geomancers put together. After many years, the Lions discovered Tadabbur. Those who entered to confront Tisan met with a slow and horrible death, but the mighty Geomancers did not dare leave the safety of her last fortress.

Inspired by Zann, Imam Suhail enchanted a mighty talisman and used it to seal the entrance to Tisan's retreat. Calling upon Fate, the priest swore an oath that he would return from Paradise to council the Lions of Tomorrow, should Tadabbur's talisman ever be disturbed.
Suhail gathered the few surviving Lions and labored the rest of his days to destroy all traces of the Geomancers' existence, breaking their talismans and burning all the records he could find of their foul sorcery to prevent others from duplicating their spells.

The Book: Lions of Tomorrow
Lions of Tomorrow is written in Kadari, on parchment fashioned from seaweed dipped in iodine to foil Geomantic divination, which the author, Iman Suhail, feared might be used to predict the book's future location. The tome's cover and binding consist of thin silver tubes filled with mercury, skillfully soldered together by a master silversmith. These precautions effectively shield the book with a cloaked wizardry enchantment.

The very first page is incredibly difficult to decipher; it seems to contain an ancient and powerful summoning spell, apparently researched by Suhail.

The book continues in Chapter One with a life history of Imam Suhail, describing his ascendency to the priesthood and his first encounters with the Geomancers. Suhail devotes many pages to his epic battle with the Nine Council, at a stronghold called Majlis, somewhere east of the Nogaro River. Suhail describes Geomancer battle-magic in great detail, highlighting their ability to summon and direct earth monoliths in melee. After the battle, in which eight members of the Nine Council were slain, Suhail and his army razed the castle. After Suhail's victory, the castle was renamed Yinhani Abraaja, meaning "Leaning Towers." The imam reports having a vision and inscribing a short prophesy somewhere in the ruined castle.

In Chapter Two of the tome, Suhail discusses how to craft scarabs of protection. A powerful priest of any enlightened deity may use Suhail's procedure, provided the priest has access to a mosque or holy site in which to pray and the right materials (a brooch carved out of a precious stone, like sapphire or ruby of at least 5,000 gp value which has been sanctified in the Golden Mosque of Huzuz, City of Delights). Even with Suhail's completed research and the correct materials, it takes anywhere from 4 to 7 weeks to complete the task.

Finally, Chapter Three includes a general description of geoglyphs and how each of these could be foiled by a prepared and cautious individual. In particular, Suhail mentions that 1) Geomancers often managed to scribe the power of these glyphs into their own flesh as a sort of living, magical tattoo, and 2) The presence of salt water, or proximity to the sea, will disrupt the effects of most geoglyphs.

Geomancy
Geomancy is the study of the element of earth. Its practitioners, the Geomancers, sought to understand Fate through magic and thus command the entire world. What made Geomantic wizards and clerics different from common mages and clerics was their holistic philosophy, which combined the two forms of magic to make powerful runes, called geoglyphs.

Priest Geomancers
Although many Geomancers only practiced wizardry, the society was directed by Grumbar's priests. All members of the Nine Council were dual-classed priests/wizards of incredible power, but many did not begin their instruction in wizardry until they had mastered the most powerful of priestly spells.

Wizard Geomancers
Wizards were common in the Geomancer Empire, far more numerous than either the generalist clerics or specialty priests. Unlike the priests, specialization among wizards was not popular, as their spells, magical items, and runes required a broad background of magical expertise to employ.

Emblems and Geoglyphs
The Geomancers' emblem was the asfr, a nine-spoked wheel with a dark central hub. The asfr symbolized a relationship between Fate (the outer wheel), Magic (the nine spokes of the heel), and the world (the hub). This nonmagical symbol can be found on almost all their buildings or magical items, signifying ownership.

Nine was a sacred number to the Geomancers, who devised an elaborate system of magical runes and symbols called geoglyphs. Their symbols were organized into nine categories: whd, thnn, thlth, rba., khlms, stt, sb'a, thmn, and tsn, each with a different purpose or power. While geoglyphs could theoretically be inscribed by a single individual, they were almost always made by a group of nine wizards or priests, called a Council. Given the cooperative effort that went into creating them, geoglyphs are almost impossible to erase. For dispel magic to be successful, it must overcome the contribution of each member of the Council that created it. Otherwise it fails and the geoglyph remains. Even the magic of a wish only eliminates the contribution of the first (i.e., weakest) member of the Council; it can thus take up to nine wishes to remove a geoglyph.

When encountered in ruins, geoglyphs are frequently invisible, flashing with gold or blue light when triggered. Depending upon their nature, geoglyphs can be activated by touch or by command. In either case, the glyph discharges once and goes into dormancy, recharging its magical energy from the earth for nine rounds (or hours, or days; the more potent the effect, the longer the recharge time).

Geoglyphs by Priests
Councils of single-classed priests made the first three types of geoglyphs (whd, thnn, thlth) by scratching with a metal implement in earth or stone.

Whd: Dream glyphs. These glyphs are typically found in private chambers, where they work their power on sleeping minds. They were used to obtain minor divinatory revelations and to influence the dreams of enemies.

Thnn: Sight glyphs. These glyphs were inscribed on a wall, enabling it to serve as a permanent scrying device, similar to a crystal ball. More complicated configurations enabled the detection of sound and (in the most powerful) thoughts as well.

Thlth: Sending glyphs. If combined with sight runes, sending runes could enable two-way communication of sight, sound, and thought. When inscribed on the walls, floor, and ceiling of a chamber, the room became a one-way gate with a fixed destination. Sending runes enabled the Geomancers to establish an extensive communication and transport network in their empire. Their operation is unhindered by deception runes.

Geoglyphs by Wizards
Single-classed Geomancer wizards made the next three types of geoglyphs (rba', khlms, stt) by scratching on copper with a diamond-tipped stylus.

Rba': Ward glyphs. This broad family of geoglyphs includes all rune configurations meant to harm or destroy those who inadvertently activate them. They were used to protect the entrances of strongholds, secret chambers, and the treasuries of the Geomancers. Ward runes can be disarmed by a secret command word, muttered while touching them.

Khlms: Deception glyphs. These glyphs were inscribed on the surfaces of most Geomancer strongholds. In their most primitive configuration, they merely blocked divinatory magics, but in their more advanced forms they could misdirect divinations, giving a false reading to their caster. Deception runes can be modified to prevent teleportation and block dimensional travel both into and out of an area.

Stt: Calling glyphs. The most powerful group of wizardly geoglyphs, calling runes were used to gate in creatures from the Outer Planes. Few contain binding or protective clauses, leading to the conclusion that the summoned creatures were usually the Geomancers' allies or counselors. When encountered near treasure vaults, they summon deadly fiends (usually devils or yugoloth) charged with protecting the Geomancer's property. Such creatures are rarely amenable to negotiation.

Geoglyphs by the Dual-Classed
Dual-classed Geomancer priest-wizards could fashion the three most powerful groups of geoglyphs (sb'a, thmn, tsn) by sprinkling the powder of precious stones on surfaces of gold or platinum.

Sb'a: Time glyphs. These potent glyphs alter the subjective flow of time for all caught within their area of effect, which is usually small (no more than a few hundred square feet). They were sometimes used to hold advancing enemies in thrall while preparations were made to decimate them. They could also be used to speed up the passage of time in their area of effect, aging the victims to senility before they could escape.

Thmn: Past glyphs. A combination of sight and time runes, this family of glyphs allowed the user to scry upon known individuals or events in Zakhara's recent or distant past. These runes transmit an audio-visual image of the past, automatically translating foreign languages into Kadari.

Tsn: Future glyphs. A much more powerful (and elaborate) combination of sight and time runes, this family of glyphs allows the user to survey the tangled skeins of Fate and understand the probable course of the future if certain events are allowed to transpire. The runes do not show what WILL be, only what MAY be, under known preconditions. The far future is thus very difficult to predict, but very specific short-term visions are quite accurate.
 Episode 93 of The Burning World
 2018-07-05 -  
Not Strong Enough... ( Member Submission! )... 2018-07-05 
Faruq slumps against one of the large tables in the room, breathing heavily.

"Come..." Faruq calls out telepathically to Sachiel, "... it's not safe out there."

His relief was apparent when Sachiel slipped inside, her translucent form escaping notice from the guards outside, and when Roheen and Kal closed the door behind them, Faruq sat down, sighing in relief.

"You're safe now." Sachiel whispered with her thoughts.

"But we were lucky" Faruq thought in return. "I've never used my magic like that before... not that many people at once. They were formidable; we could have been overrun."

"You did just fine!" she smiled at Faruq but he knew she would say that.

"And next time? I'm not strong enough yet... I panicked when I felt the sting of his sword. My brothers can't depend on me..."

Before Sachiel could respond, Faruq continued.

"I need to be stronger next time. I need to focus these... these 'gifts' better." Faruq's thoughts now flowed openly to Sachiel as if he were talking.

"You must do something for me, Sachiel. You must go into the ether again and find another magic for me. I must be able to do that which others can do; to protect myself... and all of you."

Sachiel's gaze now hardened as she sensed she would be put to task.

"Yes... you must find for me another magic so that I might have it when needed. Go forth and find for me the Shield spell, my dear."

Sachiel nodded her understanding. "Like your brothers use?"

"Exactly."

"I'll return as soon as I find it!" Sachiel looked almost giddy at the prospect; she seemed to enjoy chasing the other spells she'd found for Faruq.

"I'll be waiting for you." Faruq replied, and though no sound passed between them, Sachiel Plane Shifted away with the subtle sound of rain to perform her task.

His shoulders heavy, Faruq turned and looked at his brothers.

"What next?" He asked aloud.
 Episode 92 of The Burning World
 2018-07-04 -  
Sulayman Describes First Meeting Mamoon... ( Member Submission! )... 2018-07-04 
It could be embarrassing. The people looking at Su quizzically as he walked through the campus towards the university library. Al-Bidir Sallah was the greatest university in Huzuz, and therefore, the world, and so Su was sure to find the answers he sought there. It's just that Su didn't belong there. Well, technically, he had been accepted, but the "financial situation" as he had explained now prevented him from actually enrolling. So he wasn't officially a student, and was only given library access as a special favour for his unfortunate situation, and only this one time. Su hated that he was basically being treated with pity, and sometimes wondered if it might not be prudent to try to gain access to the library of the Grand University, located in the Pilgrim's District. It just seemed to the young fire magus that everyone who saw him knew he wasn't a real student, which bothered him to no end; hells, even Khalid was enrolled as a student!

Su was smart enough to know he had to put his pride aside in order to find out the information he needed, though. Still, he entertained more than once the thought of one of these sneering students suddenly catching fire and having to run to the river to save their lives...entertained the thought with a thin smile on his lips.

The librarian assigned to assist Su in his searches was a handsome young man named Yezeed. Although Su tried to be discrete in his library searches, Yezeed gave a somewhat subdued yet alarmed look at the requests. Obviously, the subject matter was considered a dangerous one, so Su had to make the appropriate excuses for looking into the Brotherhood of True Flame. He wasn't sure if Yazeed believed him or not, but the good-looking human faithfully brought the relevant texts to Su's table with the standard offer of more help upon request.

Su learned the following about the Brotherhood of True Flame: 1) To say that every flame magus is a member is an exaggeration (obviously) but to say one in three is probably not. 2) The"Brotherhood" is an organization of flame wizards who make no bones about their aims. They believe that the only true magery is that of fire. Further, they believe that all wizards who are not elemental mages in flame must convert--that is, come under their control--or die. They believe Zakhara is best served governed by the Brotherhood. 3) The Brotherhood maintains chapters and related bodies in all major cities of the land. Su had a harder time believing the Brotherhood could go unnoticed in Huzuz, but... 4) The Brotherhood apparently has ties to the Flamedeath Fellowship, a holy slayer organization that purportedly serves the god, Najm. 5) They supposedly have their main headquarters deep in the Great Anvil, where resides their ruler, known only as The Bonfire. That last Su saw more as rumour than fact, obviously.

At one point as Su was reading, two young women, obviously students, began making obnoxious comments, ostensibly to each other, but loud enough for the elf to hear. They spoke about how the university was letting just anyone in, and more. Su clenched his teeth, not wanting to give them the satisfaction, but it began to be too much. Just as Su felt his temper about to leave his control, another voice cut them down with a polite-but-harsh insult. The two girls huffed and walked away. Su turned to see his "savior" ready to berate the man.

He stopped. Another student was there, before him, with a gentle smile that beamed out from within his dark goatee. His almond shaped eyes and slightly pointed ears identified him as half-elven. His skin was dark (a shade Su could never achieve), his eyes hazel, and his hair an absolute mess. "I hope you don't mind," he began, "but I've been waiting for an opportunity to put those two camel-maids in their place for a long time now."

"I didn't need your help, you know."

"Of course not. As I said, I did that for me; helping you out was merely a pleasant coincidence."

Su waited and frowned. What else does he want?

"May I sit?"

"Fine. I'm not a student here anyway, so I don't see how I can say no."

The young man smiled at sat. "My name is Mamoon," he said, holding out his hand.

Su smirked, but shook it. "I am Sulayman."

"Pleased to make your acquaintance, Sulayman. So, since I have ostracized myself from everywhere else in the library, may I sit with you?"

"You already are."

"True, but I thought it best to be assured I am not disturbing you. I'm not, am I?"

Su sighed. "No, I am almost done here."

"And what are you looking at, I wonder?" Before Su could stop him, he had grabbed some of the texts and saw their titles. He let out a low whistle. "Interesting reading material, Sulayman."

"None of your business!" Su snatched the material back from the half-elf.

"True, true. I must apologize. Perhaps, you can listen to my apology over a cup of coffee?"

"No...I don't think so."

Mamoon looked down. "Ah, well, I can rest easy knowing I tried to satisfy the demands of hospitality, so soon after I had broken them," he said with a smirk.

Su looked him over. He smirked too. "It's just...I need to know more about them."

Mamoon nodded seriously. "Most people should. They are said to be found everywhere."

"Dangerous folk, it seems," contributed Su.

"It seems so, yes," responded Mamoon. "But is it true? Are they dangerous? They wouldn't be the first people to be misunderstood because of the flame."

Su's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?"

Mamoon leaned in. "You don't know? Really?"

Su cleared his throat quietly. "No...what do you mean?"

Before he could react, Mamoon leaned in close for a whisper. "Tell me Sulayman, what would have happened to those bitches had I not arrived here in time? What would you have done?"

"No..nothing."

Mammon's breath was hot as he chuckled a reply. "Now, now, Sulayman. No need to lie to me. I saved their lives, didn't I?"

Su was starting to get very uncomfortable. "Of course not," he hissed. When people looked, he lowered his voice to a whisper "I was hardly going to kill them!"

Mamoon made a tut-tut sound. "No, not here...not yet. But you wanted to, yes? Of course you did; I know you did. You would have used your fire to cleanse the world of their completely useless presence. And you know what? You would have been right to do it."

Su looked at him in shock. How did this man know what he was thinking? "No...no that's not true."

Mamoon leaned back and smiled. "No? No, perhaps not. I may be projecting some of my own thoughts upon you, Sulayman. And so, again, I must offer you my apologies."

Su looked away. "N...no...no need, Mamoon, no need," stuttered Su in response. He turned to look back at Mamoon but said nothing.

Mamoon got up abruptly. "As you say, then. Allow me this one gesture of hospitality in return. Here is the address for my dormitory. Whenever you need to use the library in the future, simply come by and I will lend you my library permission slip. This way, there is no need to go through any more humiliating hassle at registration. You can then come and go as you please. If I am not there when you are ready to depart, simply leave it in the post-box. What do you say?"

Su was shocked. After clearing his throat, he looked up at the half-elf and said "I say thank you, noble Mamoon."

Mamoon shot a brilliant smile in return. "Excellent! Until we meet again, Sulayman." He had turned to leave, when Su called out after him.

"Su."

"A thousand pardons?"

The elf cleared his throat again. "My friends call me Su."

Mamoon smiled. " 'Su' it is, then.' " The half-elf was then on his way, leaving Su happy he had possibly made a new friend.
 Episode 89 of The Burning World
 2018-06-26 -  
Aftermath... ( Member Submission! )... 2018-06-26 
After you set up in position to take down the remaining gnoll and shoosuva, the fight was bloody, but quick. While both opponents displayed unmatched savagery, they could not withstand the ambush upon their return from the pocket dimensions from which they were sent.

After searching the remains of the wrecked building, you came across a small enclosure that had 5 prisoners in it. It still seemed strange; gnolls taking prisoners was unheard of. Even if these gnolls were somehow under the control of the cambion Aramek, why keep prisoners...?

You quickly released them from their bonds: two young girls, 2 middle-aged women, and one elderly matriarch. The latter was in bad shape; the younger women explained how she had thrown herself in front of her charges and suffered a grievous blow as a result. It didn't look like she was going to make it...

As you saw to them, it quickly came out through conversation just who these people were. Swearing you to silence, one of the caretakers, Atta, revealed that the young girls were Janya and Dalilah, the Grand Caliph's only daughters. If Aramek was truly working for the Brotherhood of True Flame, then it meant that organization was now taking direct action against the Golden Throne.

As you were deciding what to do, you noticed Kal standing off from the group, staring off into the distance. When you approached him to contribute to the plan about how to get the people back home, he responded "That isn't my concern. I'm not sure how I came to be here, but I am neglecting my duty...I must return to Ysawis. I must return to Zoraya."

You all exchanged looks. "Kal, what do you mea..."

"Why do you call me that? Call me by my name."

"...and, what is your name?"

"Kazim."
 Episode 84 of The Burning World
 2018-05-09 -  
Approval... ( Member Submission! )... 2018-05-09 
The pain in his side was like a hot poker from the fire was wedged between his ribs. Faruq clung to his side, wet with blood, staring at the lifeless body of the Yuan-ti on the floor in front of him.

Leaning heavily on the wall beside him, Faruq turned to see his companions, each of them weary and bloodied as he was, but with a faint sense of relief on their faces. Sumulael was truly dead, and they had been victorious.

The smell of the place was worse now; the blood and the steel, the memory of flames and dark magic cast back and forth lingered powerfully in Faruq's mind.

Diliram's gaze was still on the mummified creature that had turned the tide of the fight, as was that of the rest of the party.

"Faaarruuuuuuqqqq...."

What was that? A voice? Faruq turned around the room once but no one had called him. Nonsense... I am nearly spent... I need rest. he thought to himself.

As the heroes left the gory scene of Sumulael's defeat, Faruq hurried to keep up with his companions, uninterested in staying in that horrible place any more than necessary. His leg still pained him, and he was certain now that it always would.

Just as the heroes were starting to cross again the distance between the bone pavilion and the Queen's Jade Palace, Faruq definitely heard something this time; faint and tiny.

"Did you miss me?" The voice seemed familiar, but hard to place; like someone speaking in the wind. Diliram was far ahead of Faruq now, it couldn't be her.

Faruq turned around again, certain whoever said it must be close, but he saw nothing again, and almost lost his balance this time. Catching himself and leaning heavily on his wooden staff, Faruq's thoughts drifted back again to the face of the one he lost...

... Fadiya.

Weak, hungry, bleeding and exhausted, Faruq kept following back to the palace, keeping his thoughts to himself... for now.



Back in the quarters prepared for them by their host, Faruq's reluctance to enjoy the Queen's generosity came completely apart. Even without complete privacy, the rest of the party quickly took to their own spaces and Faruq was left to heal and rest. Sending away the undead servant left for him, Faruq finally laid down to rest and closed his weary eyes.

"You have done well, Faruq..."

The voice!

Faruq's eyes opened in a flash. He lay still and looked around the room without moving, but nothing seemed out of place. The servant had not returned, and the room was still in shade, only a little light streaming through the veiled window.

Faruq was sure he wasn't hearing things this time... it wasn't in his mind. "Who are you?" he whispered as low as he could so as not to wake the others. Faruq waited but heard nothing in response. Daring to sit up, Faruq pulled aside his cover and struggled to get up; his leg ached still despite his rest.

"You have suffered..."

Faruq spun around as quickly as he could; the voice was absoloutely behind him, but he saw nothing. The shades remained drawn, the food and bath just as they were before. He could hear Printz snoring loudly from his quarters and a sideways glance showed no movement from anyone's adjacent quarters.

What is going on? Faruq puzzled.

Then, as if in answer to his unspoken question, Faruq caught movement out of the corner of his eye. Turning to his left, Faruq's eyes squinted as he tried to bring into focus what was happening; the still water in the bath began to ripple, as if a drop had landed and radiated outward... slow at first, but faster and faster as the seconds passed. Unable to turn away from the curiosity, Faruq felt for the dagger at his side and extended his arm outwards toward the bath, ready to meet his assailant. But as he continued to watch, from the center of the ripple began to form a shape; water of its own control rose up, incredibly slowly, just a few feet from the surface. Pausing every few seconds, the water changed shape, and soon began to take shape... a humaoid shape... a small, female shape...

What a fool I am.

Faruq closed his eyes slowly in relief. As the shape continued to change, it finally dawned on Faruq who's voice he had been hearing, distorted by his weariness, the wind, and then this water.

Sachiel.

Faruq smiled as her form solidified, but she did not look exactly as she had before.

"Sachiel, is that you?" Faruq asked quietly, careful not to disturb his brothers.

Finished her transformation, the tiny djinn stepped onto the edge of the bath and curtsied, then turned around in a playful manner, admiring her new form.

"Don't you like?" she replied, her voice now the same familiar voice Faruq had heard before... it seemed like a lifetime ago. "I can change now."

"Yes of course, it is good to see you again."

"Thank you, master... it has been a long time, hasn't it? Quite a bit has happened..."

Faruq cast his eyes downwards. "Yes," he said. "Much has happened. I feared you might never return; I thought I was wrong to send you away."

Sachiel smiled. "No, I was always to return... just not... always at a time of my choosing...". Without warning, Sachiel moved to the edge of the bath and with a small jump, landed on the table with many of the fruit set out there. Taking one of the tiny figs but needing both hands, she took a bite and closed her tiny eyes as if savouring the flavour. "Sorry, it's been a while...".

"So you know what happened, then?" Faruq asked, moving closer to the bath to see Sachiel better in the poor light. "You know...?"

"Yes." Sachiel replied, her face sad. "We've been watching."

At this, Faruq's eyes fixed on the tiny genie. "We?"

"Oh yes, I have much to share." Sachiel smiled and continued. "Much of this has been a test, you know. For many weeks now we've watched you struggle, suffer, and wander. It's been awful not being here to help, you know... but I serve and I obey." Sachiel's face turned up to Faruq's at this point and she forced an apologetic grin.

"I understand." Faruq said, his face solemn. "I do not blame you; when I sent you away I was... uncertain... about... her. I'm sorry. I did not think it was proper to ask you stay at my side..."

Sachiel nodded in understanding.

Faruq continued, "... but why have you been sent back to me now? Especially in this place?"

"I bring congratulations from your benefactor," Sachiel bowed formally. "You have been deemed worthy of another boon, and that which you have been granted already shall now be made fuller. But know that if you accept this gift, your word already given is not broken, nay the bond will be considered even greater than before."

Sachiel's formal speech was unfamiliar; she was normally quite casual; the impact was not lost on Faruq.

"Do you accept?" Sachiel asked innocently.

"Of course... but what is it?" Faruq replied.

"Let me show you then!" Sachiel shouted and launched by a jet of water, she dove straight at Faruq, surprising him and making him lose his balance, knocking him backwards into the bath.

But Faruq did not hit the bottom. His eyes open in a panic, Faruq saw the water's surface above him, but he was sinking, legs and arms pointing upwards, further and further. No longer was he in a bath in a palace, but in a sea of turquoise water, growing darker as the light disappeared above him. In alarm, Faruq struggled to right himself and swim to the surface, but an invisible force seemed to drag him under.

"You will be granted the power to wield other magics, and I will get even more for you!" Sachiel's now serious and stern voice rang in Faruq's head even as the water filled his ears.

On top of him, Faruq could make out the amorphous form of Sachiel, her expression impossible to read but forcing him down further still. The panic of drowning set in, and Faruq's eyes grew wider still that she may be drowning him, that it was all a ploy!

His lungs about to explode, Faruq kicked and fought to stop his descent, but it was no use. Further down he sank, the light above growing even more faint. "You will call on even genies to serve you, and they will respond!" Sachiel was speaking softer now, even as Faruq's panic grew.

The water threatened to fill his lungs and his eyes stung from the salt water, but it was inevitable. "You will face greater threats and you will defeat them, all in his name." Again Sachiel making promises in Faruq's' last moments.

Desperate and light-headed, starved for oxygen and ready to pass out, Faruq opening his mouth to try and scream, and water poured in drowning any sound he might have made.

But it was not the horror of drowning that happened next, it was relief. Quiet, calm and still. Faruq's lungs filled with water and then he exhaled. And again. Faruq's descent stopped and he remained still in the water, staring out into the vastness of whatever ocean this was in disbelief. Far above him, Faruq could see the faint glow of the sun, still trying to pierce the depth to which he had been dragged, a reminder that all was not lost.

And beside him, the obvious form of Sachiel, starting at him patiently.

"And I will be with you as you see fit from now on. Such are the gifts of your patron." How could he hear her? But Faruq understood her completely. His eyes wide now not in horror but in disbelief, Faruq attempted his reply with no idea that she would hear him:

"I accept."

Sachiel smiled.



In a burst of water and air, Faruq felt the thud of hitting the bottom of the bath. Startled and arms and legs flailing as before, he caught the edges and pulled himself up, coughing and wiping his eyes as he struggled to the floor of the chamber.

WHAT IN THE WORLD!>

Faruq, now on all fours and soaking wet, looked around for his assailant. Sachiel sat on the edge of his bed, smiling broadly and giggling to herself. "This is going to be fun!" she laughed in her tiny voice.

Struggling to stand, Faruq looked back at the bath and then at himself, recalling what had just transpired. Eyes still wide but now in disbelief, the chambers adjacent where his companions slept were still quiet, as if they hadn't heard a thing! Turning to Sachiel, ready to berate her...

Faruq's eyes opened.

Sitting up, he could hear Printz snoring, and the light just coming under the veiled curtain. All was quiet. Faruq looked himself over, dry as a bone.

A dream? he thought to himself. Did that even happen?

Rubbing his temples, Faruq pulled aside the cover... again... and stood to get up. He stopped in alarm however as his feet touched the floor...

There was water all over the floor.

Faruq smiled.
 Episode 83 of The Burning World
 2018-05-08 -  
After the Bone Pavillion... ( Member Submission! )... 2018-05-08 
The zombie staggered and shambled up the stairs, easy to follow. Now that you knew what to look for, it was clear that the zombie was different in some key ways, most notably the spark of intelligence in its eyes.

Waiting for you at the bottom of the outdoor steps to the Bone Pavillion was Kazerabet, Angel of the Dark. Her eyes had a faint blue glow about them that suddenly ceased; when that happened, the zombie that had escorted you out collapsed to the ground, newly lifeless. Apparently, her latest attempt to come up with a way to penetrate the wards her now-dead husband had placed against her worked.

She was not alone. Several zombie ogres, 2 zombie beholders and over a dozen wights were at her side. The wights were not in a terrible state of decay, and were not armed. Speaking in a language you didn't understand, but were now sure was ancient Noga, she gave the wights simple directives. They came forward with silk shawls and began wrapping them gently around the shoulders of the remaining caravan workers, of which there were now only 8. She gave the undead new directives and they began escorting them through the jungle, back to the Jade Palace.

She turned to you and explained that she would see the "poor souls" would be bathed, fed, then given quarters to rest in; her servants would see to their every comfort. Looking you over with an appraising eye, she then offered the same to you, pointing out that it was now a good 3 hours past midnight and that you must be exhausted. Her eyes lingered on Diliram appreciatively for a moment before settling upon Kal. They widened somewhat as she took in the reality that she was looking at Drinker of a Thousand Souls, the blade wielded by the eternal guardian of the Crocodile Princess. She smiled somewhat (gods, but she was beautiful) and mentioned that you all have much to discuss in the morning. For now, you must receive the greatest efforts of her hospitality, to rest and recover from what was surely a harrowing experience, confronting her husband. She further mentions how pleased she is that none of you died in the conflict, for, unlike herself, "Sumulael is never really done with his opponents; to fail in a confrontation with him is to serve him forever...I am quite thankful none of you have to do that."

(The following assumes that you will respect the Bond of Salt and return with her to the Jade Palace to rest and recuperate. If this is not the case, please let me know asap)

Kazerabet's hospitality is indeed generous. You each now have your own resting chamber, though they are all interconnected. Cool baths, warm incense, and fresh fruit platters await you all. Macabre undead masseuses make themselves available to treat any soreness left over from the combat. All in all, you are quite spoiled, and it is lovely. So much so, that you are disappointed when it breaks the next day, around noon (such was the slumber you were in) by a familiar scratching at the door.

It is Shalmaneser. He is there to know your plans about killing Kazerabet. He suggests doing it before the Bond of Salt is expired since she will not be expecting any hostilities whilst under its "protection."...
 Episode 76 of The Burning World
 2018-01-24 -  
The Dao of the Ferry... ( Member Submission! )... 2018-01-24 
Their names are Kenai al-Afriz and Siri al-Klemin; Faruq is fairly certain those are not their real names, but knows enough not to ask about the aliases. For these two Dao to be pushing the barge, they must have offended someone important somewhere...someone who could command their service to Golden Huzuz. They were being humbled, and it was always wiser to not poke at such wounds.


Kenai is easily the more conversational of the two, and he always talks with a sly, conspiratorial voice. He converses pleasantly with his passengers, but only imparts knowledge, gossip, or rumour after being offered a "topic fee," usually a gem of some sort (Dao being Dao, of course). After being bribed by your group (Joe, please subtract 50 gp from the group total), he offers up the following nuggets, all being prefaced with "Not that I know personally, but I heard from someone who really would know..."There is a warehouse somewhere that is working on an great engine of destruction. "They" are close to completing their work, but there is one item missing to make it complete. They would be most interested in someone who could acquire the item...
There is an unusual item that has very obviously been buried along the shoreline on the university side of the al-Sarif river. I wonder what it could be...
Law enforcement have brought in magical specialists to deal with a rash of unlawful summonings in the poorer parts of Huzuz. Perhaps a madman who is try to open a portal to the Hells themselves?
Imam Jomhur, high priest of Hajama in Huzuz is a longtime enemy of the Grandfather of the Everlasting. There are agents of the Everlasting within Huzuz specifically to "deal with him."
The Brotherhood of True Flame is also active in Huzuz. Several disappearances of prominent citizens can be attributed to them. They have infiltrated many levels of government and other city structures.
Adnan al-Raqi has lost a significant number of students over the last year. I wonder what has happened to them...?Siri says nothing, but makes a few grunts at different points in Kenai's expositions. When Kenai mentioned the infiltration of the Brotherhood though, he nodded his head visibly.
 Episode 69 of The Burning World
 2017-11-09 -  
A Conversation... ( Member Submission! )... 2017-11-09 
"This is quite the place."

Who said that? Printz thought to himself. Perhaps its just the sound of the wind, or his mind wandering off like it usually does allowing it to play tricks upon itself. Yet, he could not shake the feeling that the voice was in his head.

"It's more orderly than I had expected"

There it is again. It doesn't sound like the other voices... and those tend to be of a more colorful playful nature.

"Printz is it?"

Printz looked around in his gaseous form, to see if he could spot the source of the deep manly voice, which did not sound like any of his companions.

Breathe... focus... find your center... the symptoms of delirium will pass...

"My apologies for the intrusion, I am Khan. Chaka Khan. And I feel for you"

Well this is new, thought Printz. First, he couldn't remember anything that happened before the violent end to his original party and living with the Jann. Now he's having hallucinations of a man's voice with Faruq's dead sister's name. What more delirium must I endure, he thought to himself.

"I do not know what other forms of mental anguish you must endure, and I hope you feel better soon. It must be very frustrating forgetting who you are and your past. This is a fate I would not wish upon anyone. I am no man, however in my past life, my sexual preference was for the female variety."

This is quite interesting, Printz thought. Could it really be? And if so, why does she sound like a man?

"It appears the lack of memories you are suffering from has allowed me to enter your mind without your permission. I do not wish to frighten you and the others, especially Faruq. He has been through so much. I am the spirit of Faruq's sister Chaka Khan, and have come to bestow upon you the memories of my past life, and seeing that your mind is so vastly empty, you appear to be a worthy recipient of such knowledge, if you are willing to accept."

Hmmmm, Printz thought. This would be quite interesting... is this even happening?

"It is happening Printz. Let me show you a glimpse of some of my memories"

In a sudden flash of light, Printz has a memory of Chaka's first intimate encounter; it was with an older girl, and very innocent, tender, and delicate. Unlike his memories with the Jann.

Then, he sees another. This one is of her consoling Faruq; they are both sitting, and she has her arm around him, as they sit in silence leaning on one another.

Then, one final memory. This one is of a huge blue dragon opening its maw, and letting loose a lightning bolt which streaks towards herself and Guzman. As the lightning bolt reaches her, in a flash, the memory stops, and Printz is once again in his gaseous form on the trail of the genies.

"I have seen much before my passing, and my memories I feel will be able to help you all reach your goal in freeing Auntie. You are free to decline my offer. Do you accept?"

Printz replies, "Let's go crazy"
 Episode 64 of The Burning World
 2017-11-01 -  
Roheen... ( Member Submission! )... 2017-11-01 
Whatever else, if you were taking care of a horse, you felt like all was right in the world. At least, that's how it had usually been. Now, it wasn't soothing your soul the way it always did. As you brushed down the coat of the stallion in front of you, you wondered why.

You were busy working at the caravanserai The Merchant's Home. It was the most popular one, and had the most employment opportunities, so you usually found yourself there. You had worked at others, though: The House of Wo was run by an ajami mage from Kara-Tur and was also quite popular (mostly for the food Wo made, usually involving what he called 'noodles.'), and The Darni House, which was a sort of high-end caravanserai. They all had their regular workers though, so for someone like you who needed work on an off-and-on basis, The Merchant's Home was, well, home.

That wasn't the only reason though; the last time you worked at Darni House, a group of al-badia riders came in, apparently with business in the city. You were excited to serve their horses, but quickly had to back away when you saw who they were: Riders from the House of Hanif. Your House. Well, your former House, the one you were exiled from. You had made peace with it a while ago, but you still remember, as a teen younger than Faruq is now, how you clashed with Blood Riders along the Ghost Route. You fought bravely, but when one of the Blood Riders seemed to recognize you, the other desert riders from the House of Hanif thought you had led them into an ambush, and so left you at one of Huzuz's gates. Fortunately, you were taken in by Aunty, but you always had that pain in your heart. And you never did find out how that Blood Rider knew you...

So it was city life for you now. Mostly, you worked with the different caravanserai, bringing your expertise to the care of the horses and camels people brought in. You made a few contacts along the way: Minak al-Zafyi, who could supply animals of all kinds; and Janci al-Kriman, and agent for the livestock dealers in Huzuz. He was an interesting one; apparently, no animal ever dealt by Janci could ignore an order he gave. Either the man was an incredible trainer, or, more likely, he had some magical aid in his animal dealings. You remember a story once about a man who thought to ride off with a horse he hadn't paid for; the horse ignored its rider and galloped right back to Janci... who had a contingent of the guard waiting. You really liked that story.

You saw Nabil hanging around, and walked menacingly toward him, a hand on your new scimitar. He held his hands up defensively, and sheepishly backed away. Nabil al-Rashad was an unscrupulous horse dealer, and he was no doubt here to see if there were any animals unattended to. You shook your head at the man, relaxing your grip on your weapon. The hilt was always warm. You had to admit, taking on the little sha'ir's mission certainly made life more interesting! It also made you miss the life of adventure that being part of the House of Hanif involved, though; it had awoken that spirit in you that wanted the freedom that comes with being an adventurer, and serving a great Sheik. You shook your head at this revelation and put it aside; your leather armour needed repair, and you needed to see the Al-Thuria leatherworkers before nightfall.
 Episode 63 of The Burning World
 2017-11-01 -  
Printz... ( Member Submission! )... 2017-11-01 
Time to work the crowds. Re-familiarize yourself with the city. Huzuz has a pulse, a heartbeat, like a real person. All the major cities do, but none quite like Huzuz. It was time to get re-acquainted. And the best place to do that was the Grand Bazaar.

There was one of Laksi's "fetchers." Laksi ak-Afyid ran a "fetch" service for lazy nobles who couldn't be bothered with the labyrinth that was the Grand Bazaar. The "fetchers" were good hagglers, and knew the Bazaar inside and out, despite the fact that it kept changing. You still shook your head ruefully though; half the fun is maneuvering through it all, getting all the sights and sounds...the vibe.

You passed by "Mad Aja's." Ostensibly, Aja Pelima was an eccentric fire magus, selling enchanted items. He was of note for two reasons: 1) He seemed to have mastered fire magic quite well for an ajami; and 2) He was quite obviously insane. More than once, city watch had been called to put out some fire he started "accidentally."

Hearing music up ahead, you found yourself tracking it to the source, before you were even conscious of doing so. What a sight to behold: Andorra of the Many Veils. Possibly the sexiest woman you have seen (and I've seen naked jann, you reminded yourself), she was performing her signature dance, wherein the beat rises steadily, as she loses veil after veil, faster as the beat goes faster. Her dance always seemed to get interrupted before the last piece of silk was gone, though, much to the disappointment of her fans. You smiled as you recognized her marketing ploy, hearing onlookers whispering "Perhaps, this is the time when..." It wouldn't be, you were sure. Still, you were surprised she wasn't arrested for public indecency...you were sure anyone else would have been.

Speaking of surprise regarding a lack of arrest, your eyes fell on the musician accompanying Andorra's dance. Judarin the Sot as he was known. Usually somewhat inebriated, Judarin had the very dangerous habit of espousing atheist beliefs when sufficiently drunk. Considering that was a capital crime in most city-states, you couldn't believe he was still alive and free to roam about. You hatched a plan to convince Andorra you'd be a better accompaniment to her performance.

You continued through the Bazaar, this time following your nose, a delightful smell dragging you to its source: Howard Baker's Pastries. The ajami halfling was an extraordinarily good pastry chef, and was now selling his "bubblers;" fruit pastries best eaten while they were still hot. You were tempted to get one, but the lineup was too long and you wanted to be on the move. You took notice of two people in line however; one was Ibtisam bint Latifa, wardrobe designer extraordinaire. More than a few royal guests were sent to her to make sure they were properly attired before meeting the Grand Caliph. You'd love to have a session with her, but any gold you were making these days went to Faruq's Auntie. Still, once you met the 30,000 dinar obligation, Ibtisam would be one of your first stops.

The other was Jera al-Farif. You liked Jera. He really seemed to have learned humility; he was once an arrogant sculptor of mediocre talent but seemingly overnight became a very modest sculptor of incredible talent. You knew business was booming for Jera, and you figured it was because of his new attitude on life.

Finally, you passed by the stall of Bahija Jalin, another rawun. The old crone and you had an agreement to remove the evil eye should either of you get it; a useful business relationship to have. There was something about her, though, that rang false. Of course, that was probably true of all rawun, but you never felt like you could let your guard down around her. Probably a good habit, you reminded yourself.

At any rate, Golden Huzuz may be the Gem of Zakhara, but you knew it was the people that made it what it was...and you were glad to be back amongst them.
 Episode 61 of The Burning World
 2017-11-01 -  
Azizullah... ( Member Submission! )... 2017-11-01 
It's like a living thing, a network. A plant, maybe, or temperamental pet; if you don't look after it, it' die.

Or worse, turn on you.

You knew this better than most. As such, once back in Huzuz, you made sure to check in on the various branches of your "plant.”

You spied Nabil al-Rashad being chased out of a caravanserai, though you couldn't see by whom. Nabil was a snake but a fantastic opportunist. Perfect contact in case a quick getaway was needed. You saw him try to strike up a conversation with another unscrupulous person you knew, Jarda the Rogue. She brushed him off (predictably) and went back to eyeing the streets. You made brief eye contact with her, held it until she inclined her head as though to ask "And...?” You smirked and continued on your way. Today wasn't the day you were going to find out who her mysterious employer was.

One day, though.

There was Farim al-Kanafi, "guarding” the Gate of Wealth. "Making money off it” was more accurate; the guard accepted more bribes than anyone else you could think of. Not that you were judging; a bribe-able guard was your favourite kind of guard. Another guard that you recognized rounded the corner and this time you quickly took to the shadows; One-Eyed Kasad was out and about and that meant looking for trouble. You'd seen him get people thrown into prison for nothing, and that was when he was being nice. You determined a while ago to never get on his bad side.

Sneaking away, you passed by a couple of shops you liked to keep tabs on: the first belonged to an ajami dwarf, Mandrake Trollsbane. The dwarf was a master wagon-maker, and he would have made enough dinari that way, but what not everyone knew was that he was skilled enough to make virtually undetectable hidden compartments in his wagons. For an increased price, of course. Clever little being, and useful to know.

The second shop you checked up on was that of Kola bint Fayala, a retired gnomish thief who now specialized in very high quality locks (and, if rumors were to be believed, magical ones). Apparently she was always behind on her orders, so in demand were her services. The cynical side of you knew that once a thief, always a thief, and a thief whose homemade locks were the only things standing between her and the treasures behind them was a very smart thief indeed.

You passed by a few more stalls in the Grand Bazaar. The large one was owned by Gogal al-Misal, the "procurer of talent.” A shrewd judge of character and an excellent debater, Gogol always had the face of a man who knew more than everyone around him. One of your former contacts ended up as sold by Gogal as one of the "talents” he can procure.

You always felt it best to avoid him.

The smaller stall was owned by Zaynal the Scribe. She was precise, even anal when it came to her work, which was good. It was even better when she performed her other, less well-known profession, that of a forger of documents. You had done business with her a couple of times, and, while you don't trust her, there was no denying she did good work.

A cry of pain followed by a soothing voice caught your attention. There was Mustapha, "The Street Physician,” tending to what you imagined was a beggar of some kind. Rumour had it that Mustapha's wife threatened to bankrupt him with the lavish parties she would throw. Realizing he'd be in debt forever, one night he just left without a word, to live on the streets and care for those who could not afford it otherwise. Rumour also had it that she was still looking for him...

Finally you touched base with the two "runts” of your network. The first was Harjad the Water Bearer. He had a neat scam going: he'd target pilgrims and offer to sell them water from the Golden Mosque. Of course, it was just tepid water from the nearest well, but he could be quite convincing, even speaking in tongues on one occasion.

The second was Umar al-Fennec. Poor Umar; barely ten years of age, and living on the streets. Once, 2 years or so ago, you had brought him to Auntie to raise, but the boy kept running away. You thought to keep an eye on him, sporadically, since. He was orphaned when his parents, adventurers, according to him, went missing on a mission to the Ruined Kingdoms. Every time he meets an adventurer, he asks if they know his parents. The truth is, he probably doesn't remember his parents accurately at all. It was a sad situation all around, but you tried to give the boy missions that weren't too dangerous so that he would feel useful. Mostly, it worked.

After you were done your due diligence, you retired to Laski's for a brandy before heading home to try to sleep without dreaming of what happened in your tribe not so long ago.
You were not successful.
 Episode 60 of The Burning World
 2017-11-01 -  
Faruq... ( Member Submission! )... 2017-11-01 
It was another beautiful day in Huzuz. When wasn't it? Sunshine, breeze coming in off the Al-Sarif river, beautiful architecture...but you were too busy with your own thoughts to notice.

You were headed to the Mosque District, to deposit the riches from your latest adventure in the Ruined Kingdoms. Despite all the wonders you saw there, despite the honour in working for Princess Yasmi, you were instead focused on your problems. As usual.

Passing by the bathhouses of Jisan, you reflected on the relationship you had with that church. Maybe they were decent bankers for you, but you were still bitter about having to lose any money at all to them. Hundreds of people used their bathhouses every day; you absent-mindedly wondered how much of the interest from your adventuring scores went to their maintenance. You also wondered how much business was done between merchants in there. Were there members of the Al-Kamari family in there now?

Aunty wasn't home when you came in. Your siblings informed you that she had gotten a job at the Al-Kamari silk warehouse, so she wouldn't be home as much. You felt a slight pang of guilt at the relief you felt; her being gone more often would mean less overt lying to the sweet woman. Working for the family’s famous silk company was a good job, with a decent amount of prestige; "Treat it as though it were the finest silk in the world, because it is." You just hated that she had to work at all.

You weren't in a rush, and so decided to meander a bit through the city; it wasn’t often that you had a chance to see anything beyond the Harbour and Warehouse districts. So lost in thought were you that you almost ran over a gnome in a hurry to get somewhere. You recognized him as the alchemist, Basem bin Rumi; the story for him, apparently, was that he was a former adventurer who found a formula somewhere in the Ruined Kingdoms to turn base metals into gold. He isn't said to have had any success though, and has apparently squandered his wealth trying to make it work. Too bad; you might have found such a formula useful in dealing with your current woes.

At one point you found yourself shocked, absolutely shocked. Dumbfounded. Flabbergasted, even. There was Khalid, walking arm in arm with a girl. A beautiful girl. More beautiful than you can remember ever seeing, with highlights in her hair, dark eyes, swaying hips... and she was with Khalid. Stupid, simple, drinks-too-much Khalid.

Fate was cruel, that much was certain in your world.

You kept walking, strolling through some of the wealthier neighbourhoods. You recognized the estate of Zima al-Hatik, the sage. Supposedly remembers everything he’s read, and is familiar with the contents of all of Huzuz's libraries. Snooty and reclusive too; you liked that about him. Apparently he could charge a hefty price just for one meeting with him, and he only took one meeting per night. You spotted someone leaving his estate, a veiled man in white and red clothing. Must be his one appointment.

You imagined how nice it would be to be in demand like that, providing answers no one else could. You didn't see how that was going to happen now, though, not with the burden you were carrying. As though to twist the knife, you found yourself within sight of the tower of the sha'ir Adnan al-Raqi. Master of the Invisible. The Pillar of Wisdom. The Whisper that Thunders. Were you ever going to have impressive sobriquets like that?

Didn’t seem likely.

The sha'ir was apparently in semi-retirement now; he had decided on Huzuz to live out the rest of his days, but decided to help the Grand Caliph with his problem; The Pillar of Wisdom was going to find out why the Grand Caliph could not sire a son. Doesn’t seem so have solved it yet, you thought, remembering how the Grand Caliph is seen less and less in public these days; whispers were that he was spending all his time in the harim.

You knew that Adnan had a school for young sha'ir, and had hope to one day enroll, but that didn't seem possible now. Still, you kept track of others like you: there was Essafah al-Jamila, who catered to the wealthy and specialized in the creation of genie prisons; and Qoha'dar who hoped to join the Magical Legion as a liaison between the forces of Huzuz and the Jann that served the Grand Caliph, so it was said. You never found the courage to introduce yourself to either of them, but you still liked to keep abreast of their activities; following their exploits always gave hope that one day you too might make a name for yourself as a sha'ir in Golden Huzuz.

You found yourself in front of the Mosque of Jisan, not really remembering exactly how you got there. With a sigh, you walked in to hand over more of your hard-earned dinari. You wondered for the hundredth time if you’d make enough in time.
 Episode 62 of The Burning World
 2017-11-01 -  
Kal... ( Member Submission! )... 2017-11-01 
Of the five of you, you were sure you were the happiest to be returning back to Huzuz.

The reason, of course, was seeing Tufala bint Waleed.

Tufala had been your language instructor for many years. Truthfully, if one measured her competency in how quickly her students no longer needed her services, she would be considered a disaster, since you were still taking lessons seven years later. Obviously, you no longer really needed instruction, but it was fair to say you really needed Tufala. You would never have known any girl like her back in the mountains. Quiet, with a subtle beauty and a fierce intelligence, you could get lost in her dark eyes as she went on and on about an ancient language like Kadari, or the fiery expressions of Ignan. What’s more, you genuinely enjoyed learning, enjoyed the educational opportunity your lessons with Tufala provided.

It was just really nice to be with Tufala.

You paid the street urchin Umar al-Fennec to take a note to her, letting her know you had returned to Huzuz, and wished to meet her at your usual spot. Umar was to find you with her response as soon as possible. With the time in between, you wanted to make preparations to make a good impression; you had been gone a long while, and hoped to charm her with a well-groomed appearance. With the stink of the Grey Jungle still on your clothes, you needed to hit up some of the best shops in Huzuz. Fortunately, you knew where to go.

First stop was Sadik’s. Sadik Harama was a dwarf weaponsmith who made decent to fine weaponry. You trusted his work enough to sharpen the blade of your axe again while keeping the weapon’s balance as you liked it. While there were many weaponsmiths in Huzuz, Sadik employed two ogres, and since they were each almost as strong as you, you trusted them to ensure the heft of the weapon remained to your preferences.

Off now to see another ogre, this time the tailor Hakim Sayad. Hakim owed you a favour from a while back, and you called it in to get an emergency appointment with him. The fastidious ogre took too long (he always seemed to) but you eventually walked out with fresh silk pantaloons, new sandals, and a bold vest that he tailored to appear conservative whilst also showing off your incredible physique. Money well spent. He did sniff in snobbish fashion when he was fitting you, however, and casually worked into the conversation that Gomir probably had an opening right about now.

Taking the hint, you set off for Gomir al-Kasir’s barber stall. Normally popular with the tourist trade, Gomir rarely had regulars from Huzuz, which suit you just fine. The friendly man was happy to see you, and for a few silver dirham he gave you a fresh cut, washed the dirt and tended to your wounds, and anointed you with some spices and perfumes to remove the last lingering odours from the jungle. You never felt better.

While you were getting your shave, Umar had returned with a note from Tufala. You read it more than once. Was that a curt tone? No, not curt, but...distance? No, couldn’t be.

You left Gomir’s and started for your usual spot: a café right across from Fatima’s. That’s where you had first spied her. Fatima Kossi ran a boarding house for poor pilgrims visiting Huzuz; you stayed there yourself for a while. The café served great coffee (both hot and cold) and a lemon sherbet that you knew Tufala enjoyed.

She was there waiting for you. Over 2 warm coffees and two lemon sherbets, you caught up with one another...but something felt off. Like, she was holding something back. Patient at first, eventually you asked her flat out what she was hiding. What could possibly be wrong.

With tears in her eyes, she explained how she had been invited to a party in the noble district. It was lavish and she enjoyed herself immensely. She made a great impression on whom she thought would be future customers. It turned out she made a better impression than she could have imagined. The next day, her home was visited by Prince Tannous himself, the Grand Caliph’s uncle. He spoke with her parents, then left a gift for her.

She was to join the Grand Caliph’s harim as a concubine, with the hope that she would finally give him the son Fate never could.
 Episode 66 of The Burning World
 2017-10-24 -  
Our Tale, Such As It Has Been Told, Part II... ( Member Submission! )... 2017-10-24 
Flick of the TailAfter the departure of Imam Renn min Zann from their home, the Orphans headed to the docks to look for sources of income. They encountered two of their acquaintances, Khalid and Babazadeh in a scuffle. Separating the two, it was revealed that Babazadeh had acquired a magnificent sapphire-scaled talking fish, only for Khalid to take it from him and through it down a well. The Orphans descended into the well and investigated the passageways, discovering an entrance into an abandoned bathhouse, owned by the merchant, Yodfah. Eventually, they found the fish, in a bowl owned by a mysterious old crone who had taken up residence in the bathhouse. The crone only spoke Midani backwards, making communication difficult, but eventually, after performing some grooming tasks for her, the Orphans took possession of the fish.

However, Faruq found himself magically charmed by the fish, and absconded with it, heading towards the docks. Before his siblings could stop him, he flung the fish into the river. It turned into a beautiful mermaid, and thanked the young sha’ir for his service (charm, notwithstanding). Babazadeh felt cheated, however, and brought the matter before a qadi. Fortunately, Fate was smiling upon the Orphans, for the qadi in question was Yunnus, another one of “Auntie’s Boys.” He managed to make legal matters easier for them than they might otherwise have been, but there was still a fine to be paid.

Suitable DonationsThe Orphans were soon approached by another one of “Auntie’s Boys,” a barber named Yakub abu Yusuf. He remembered her fondly, and was aghast at the idea that she may end up in indentured servitude. He promised the Orphans he would keep an ear out for any possible schemes that might net them gold enough to eat away at the 30,000 dinar debt. Within a week, the barber made mention of a miser, Jabir, who had been buried not far from the city, preferring to be buried with his wealth rather than give it to his sons, Anwar and Kalib. Yakub had them meet with the dwarven acolyte, Abdalla min Jisan, who revealed the location of the hidden tomb in exchange for a cut of whatever they find inside. Reasoning that Auntie needed the money more than a dead man, the Orphans set out on their first grave robbing. After combing through the hills for two days, they eventually discovered it, and looted its riches.

Unbeknownst to them, the miser’s sons had been hunting through the area themselves, and tracked the Orphans down, demanding they hand over the money they had stolen. A fight broke out, resulting in the death of Anwar, though Kalib managed to escape with some of the treasure after knocking out Zephyr. The Orphans returned to Huzuz and opened an account with the priesthood of Jisan, also paying to have the Evil Eye removed from them, it having been placed upon them by the hama of Jabir.

Nine Flawed SapphiresAs good as his word, Yakub had discreetly spread the word that the Orphans were willing to undertake dangerous tasks for proper compensation, and this yielded results: Using Khalil as an unwitting messenger, a hakima by the name of Ayyam contacted the Orphans and met with them at dusk in the public gardens. There, she outlined that she worked for a powerful noblewoman in Huzuz, and that this noblewoman had been cheated in a sapphire transaction with a merchant named Yodfah. Rather, her husband had been unwittingly taken advantage of by the merchant, and she wanted revenge on his behalf. Ayyam had infiltrated Yodfah’s household, posing as a servant, until she could discover what was needed to bring the merchant down…which she eventually did. Ayyam tasked the Orphans with finding Yodfah’s ledger which she was certain would have the proof her mistress needed to have the merchant arrested. The ledger was said to be in one of Yodfah’s headquarters hidden behind a waterfall; the merchant had bought it over a year ago when its previous owner, a powerful sea magi, had abandoned it.

Waiting for the right opportunity, the Orphans set up camp near the waterfall as they tried to figure out a way to get inside without being washed over the edge. Eventually, that time came, as one of Yodfah’s henchmen, the dwarf Mustanir, left with a small caravan, and his password to magically draw aside the waterfall was overheard by the Orphans. Using the same magical phrase, the Orphans penetrated the hideout and had several scuffles with some of Yodfah’s servants. It was revealed that many of them were slaves, and had been tricked into slavery by Yodfah using all sorts of illegal means. Furthermore, they discovered that the merchant was manufacturing wine in the hideout, contaminated with the drug yimna, which causes a deep, almost supernatural slumber. Their search throughout the complex also uncovered a prisoner, the desert rider Rashad, who had been captured and tortured for information about the House of Hanif al-badian tribe.

Of greater concern as the Orphans investigated the hideout was the discovery of the fire magi, Hanzala, member of the Brotherhood of True Flame. A conflict broke out, made all the more serious by the return of Mustanir during it. However, Mustanir and Hanzala refused to cooperate with each other, giving the Orphans a chance to defeat them all. After the combat was over, the Orphans discovered Yodfah’s ledger, freed the remaining slaves, and took the treasure they discovered, the ledger, and further proof of Yodfah’s crimes with them back to Huzuz. On the way, Faruq prudently made a copy of the ledger they were to give over to Ayyam. Upon their return, they did exactly that, at the prearranged time and place. The hakima promised to get back to them about the results of their investigations.

Invitation to a FuneralThings did not go as the Orphans expected, however. After three days of waiting with now word from Ayyam, the young heroes began to worry. Mid-afternoon, Khalid then showed up at the house. Something is happening in the warehouse district. A young man needs porters for a funeral. It's not a lot of money, but since he can't do it all by himself Khalid thought he'd see if the Orphans were interested.

Wondering how Fate was intervening in their lives this time, the Orphans agreed and followed Khalid, each afraid of what they were going to see.

There was a large crowd around a young man, wailing in sorrow, but the Orphans were fixated upon the body, already wrapped in linen. Whomever had prepared the body had not shut the eyes. They stared up at the sky. Lifeless. But still beautiful. Still utterly unique.

Still the most surefire way of identifying Ayyam.

The Orphans were approached by a young man by the name of Muli, who claimed to be Ayyam’s brother. When he found out the Orphans were the ones Ayyam had employed for her last mission, he halted his grief long enough to ask them to be porters for his sister. Additionally, he whispered with them conspiratorially that he believed his sister had been murdered, and he hoped the Orphans would look into it after the funeral was done. They agreed.

Fate did not smile upon the young heroes, however. After accompanying the procession to the funeral hall, Muli stealthily locked them in, as the three priests who awaited them there turned out to be ghouls and a ghast. The undead creatures set upon the Orphans but were beaten back and destroyed. The Orphans discovered a series of underground tunnels beneath the hall from whence the undead emerged, and traversed them to find a way out, having several more distasteful encounters along the way. Eventually, they reached the surface again, about a mile away from where they were locked in.

Returning to Huzuz, they tracked down Muli (with some assistance from Khalid), who unsuccessfully fled from them. Interrogating him, they discovered he was not Ayyam’s brother, but rather another unfortunate soul who had been enslaved by Yodfah and was promised his freedom if he lured the Orphans to the funeral hall where the merchant used the undead to dispose of evidence. He showed great remorse for his actions, enough that, after having Khalid fetch the qadi Yunnus, the Orphans asked that Muli receive mercy.

Nine Falling StarsThe Orphans found no new opportunities, and were waiting for more to manifest when they had an odd encounter. While lounging at a coffeehouse, they were accosted by a beggar who was yelling and screaming strange utterings in a mix of Midani and at least one other language. Finally, Fate directed him to fall at the feet of the Orphans. They tended to him, and he awoke. His name was Adil, and he described his curse: He had been a thief in the northern city-state of Muluk, when he picked the pocket of a Zannite priest. While he did not obtain the gold-purse he was hoping for, he did obtain a bizarre clay seal, outlined with nine spokes. He was wondering what he could get for it when he suddenly passed out. He awoke days later, at an oasis, with no memory of how he got there.

Concluding that it was the strange seal that was responsible for his predicament, Adil tried to throw it away…only to discover it on his person again within a few hours. He tried to leave it at a mosque to Zann but got the same results. He continued to awake in strange places with no memory of how he got there. He was certain something was following him as well.

As if on cue, an invisible force picked up Adil and began strangling him. While the Orphans tried to save him, ultimately the beggar was killed, and the invisible force seemed to depart. Miraculously, Adil recovered. In a highly emotional state, Adil explained how the seal would resurrect him whenever he dies, his curse keeping him alive for some mysterious reason. At this point, the invisible force returned, with Su correctly surmising it was an invisible stalker. The Orphans managed to just barely destroy the stalker, and turned Adil over to Yunnus, who promised to keep the beggar in protective custody as long as was legally possible. It seemed all was at peace, but Su ruminated darkly upon the stalker; these creatures were usually summoned to the Prime Material Plane, and usually to track down a target…They contacted a priest at the mosque of Learned Zann, Haroushin, and told him Adil’s story. Excited at the prospect of a long-term research project, the older priest promised he would look into the origins of the strange seal.

The Treasure PitThe barber Yakub caught up with the Orphans again, using Khalid as a messenger. He had come up with another lead for the prospective treasure-hunters: the so-called ‘treasure pit’ in the ruined fortress of Krak al-Shidda located near the al-Akara mountains. While many prospective treasure hunters began their careers pursuing whatever riches the pit might still contain, some never returned, enhancing the reputation of the place. The Orphans weighed the options and decided it was worth the risk to investigate. They made preparations and took off towards Krak al-Shidda.

The Genie’s TerrorThe Orphans followed the al-Sarif river until it forked into the mountains, and began following that. The river bed was mostly dry and made for easy traveling until Fate turned against them, sending a huge thunderstorm to wash them away. They narrowly avoided being drowned in a flash flood. After the waters had passed, however, they noticed that the water had washed away a secret entrance alongside the ravine wall of the riverbed. Clear steps led to what appeared to be a marble door embedded in the wall. The inscription read that it was the lost tomb of Shaddad, Terror of Geniekind.

Unable to resist, the Orphans penetrated the tomb to discover what riches in might contain. In the pitch blackness, they were set upon by a dozen undead shadows, the cursed remnants of the men who served Shaddad. Faruq was badly injured and the Orphans were forced to flee. Chaka managed to use her faith to keep the fire genasi from becoming shadow-like himself, though was unsure of any long-term consequences. They decided to enter the tomb again, this time defeating the shadows and confronting the mummy form of Shaddad himself and his zombie wives. Shaddad wielded Cyclone of the Four Quarters, the legendary genie-slaying scimitar that allowed the al-badia sheik to cow all genies who crossed his path. After a pitched battle, the Orphans proved victorious, with Guzman claiming the undead sheik’s blade and ring for his own.

The Hermit’s RiddleThe Orphans continued their trek through the mountains, eventually coming across the small village of Tedofosehk. The inhabitants explained that their local holy man, a wise hermit by the name of Mahara, had not been seen in some time. As well, a group of werejackals would raid them periodically. Offering to help, the Orphans journeyed to Mahara’s cave, fighting off an ambush of werejackals, only to see it perfectly sealed in stone. Realizing it was the work of genies, Faruq cautioned there may be a Dao nearby. Mahara explained how the Dao Ynadin had taken on a group of werejackal servants, and had trapped him here until it could solve the riddle Mahara had put to him:

Centuries dead, yet still is living
Can’t forget, but is forgiving.
All beauty gone, all men reviling;
Time betrayed, but still is smiling.
Mahara explained that Ynadin periodically returned to put an (incorrect) answer to the mystic, and that he was due to return soon. The Orphans prepared an ambush, with Guzman pretending to be The Terror himself! They ambushed and destroyed the genie with Cyclone of the Four Quarters doing much of the damage, wreathed in green flame. After dealing with Ynadin, they returned to the grateful villagers of Tedofosehk, who treated them as heroes. There was a tragic occurrence in the village, a stillborn birth that the Orphans found strange, but seeing as there was nothing to be done, they decided to continue to the treasure pit.

PilgrimageOne of the villagers told the Orphans that more than a few treasure hunters opted to visit a nearby mosque for good luck before setting off for the treasure pit of Krak al-Shidda. Intrigued, the Orphans asked to be led there. Once there, as they approached, they noticed a giant wasp watching them from a distance. Communicating with the Orphans by scratching in the sand, the wasp explained that its name was Nalv, that it was the guardian of this mosque, and that it needed help to discover the source of some localized earthquakes that were tearing the mosque apart.

The Orphans agreed to help, eventually discovering a passage in the mountainside that led into a chamber beneath the mosque. There, they saw that the “earthquakes” were caused by the snoring of a sleeping Dao, Hasan. Ambushing the genie, the Orphans destroyed Hasan. Further investigation into the mosque’s basement led the Orphans into a pitched battle with two Yikaria, colloquially known as Yak-Men. Unprepared for the assault, the Orphans beat a hasty retreat, only to return later and finish the insidious beasts off. Once they had done so, they investigated the area, and Chaka touched one of the many skulls the Yikaria had in their collection; the beasts had been ambushing and devouring pilgrims as they arrived at the mosque. Chaka found herself possessed by the spirit of the skull’s owner: a great priest known as Suhail min Zann.

Using the Halfling as a medium, the dead cleric explained that this mosque was dedicated to him, where he was laid to rest a great long time ago. He explained to the Orphans that he had been part of a legendary adventuring group, The Lions of Yesterday. His group was devoted to the defeat of the Geomancers, the despotic rulers of ancient Kadar, in the early days of Enlightenment. During their last battle, the ninth Geomancer, Tisan, withdrew to a secret stronghold called Tadabbur and vanished from sight, some say never to return. In Midani, the word ‘tadabbur’ has come to mean foresight, or divination.

Now, Tisan’s power was great, such that her strength equaled that of all the other Geomancers put together. After many years, the Lions discovered Tadabbur. Those who entered to confront Tisan met with a slow and horrible death, but the mighty Geomancer did not dare leave the safety of her last fortress. Inspired by Zann, Imam Suhail enchanted a mighty talisman and used it to seal the entrance to Tisan’s retreat. Calling upon Fate, the priest swore an oath that he would return from Paradise to council the Lions of Tomorrow, should Tadabbur’s talisman ever be disturbed. The spirit then informed the Orphans that the meteor shower described by Adil, the “Nine Falling Stars” was the sign that the talisman had been removed.

The spirit of Suhail explained how he gathered the few surviving Lions and labored the rest of his days to destroy all traces of the Geomancers’ existence, breaking their talismans and burning all the records he could find of their foul sorcery to prevent others from duplicating their spells. He then told the Orphans that they have been entrusted with the seed for Tisan’s destruction; more specifically, that the magical seal discovered by Adil can help arm them against Tisan and her allies. Finally, the spirit of Suhail min Zann left Chaka, but not before saying these final words:

I wish I could stay to counsel you further, but my link with this world is fading. After I am released tell the guardian of the shrine that the Lions of Tomorrow have awakened. He will know what to do next. My last request is that you repair my tomb and restore my remains to their rightful place in my sepulcher. Then, and only then, will my mission on al-Toril be complete.
The Orphans repaired the tomb and the mosque above to the best of their ability. While in the mosque, they noticed the following saying etched into one of the walls:

We cannot destroy what we do not understand.
Fate is a woman, carrying us towards our Kismet;
only a fool thinks he can escape her embrace.
We must learn from the mistakes of our forbears.
The written word is a gift to the Lions of
Tomorrow.
They told Nalv that “The Lions of Tomorrow have awakened.” Excited, the wasp took to the sky, and was quickly out of sight. Surmising that it had its own instructions to follow, the Orphans offered up a quick prayer for luck and continued to Krak al-Shidda.

The Treasure Pit, Part IIThe Orphans eventually arrived at the ruined fortress of Krak al-Shidda. There, they meant the adventurer Kamilla, who told them of the great pit located near the centre of the fortress. The Orphans descended into the pit to investigate, but were set upon by a large Yellow Musk Creeper plant. The Orphans narrowly avoided becoming zombies under the control of the plant. Discouraged, they and Kamilla looked around the fortress for any other possible treasures. They discovered a staircase leading to the dungeons of the keep. Kamilla had left them by then, so the Orphans descended into the dungeons to see what gold could be found. The dungeons seemed mostly abandoned, though they did destroy some undead spirits who had been cursed during the last battle of the keep. Two encounters were of particular note: In a summoning chamber, the Orphans accidentally released the Slayer Genie, Al-Ashara Usbiyad, from whom they barely escaped. The genie seemed to have precognitive powers, predicting the exact manner of Zephyr’s death. Additionally, while investigating what seemed to be a wizard’s study, the Orphans discovered three names in an ancient language written on one of the recesses of the shelves: Al-Afaz, Al-Mirish, Al-Kazad. What the names meant, they could not decipher.

When the Orphans emerged from the dungeons, they found Kamilla waiting for them…along with the rest of her pack of jackalweres. It turned out that Ynadin had stolen many of her pack from her, and that his destruction at their hands sent them crawling back to her. To further test their loyalty, she demanded they destroy the Orphans and take their valuables (no one, as far as she knew, had ever returned form the dungeons). The Orphans managed to kill most of the pack, though Kamilla herself escaped. Disappointed at how little progress they made in overcoming the debt, the young adventurers started back for Huzuz. They were ambushed by a strange group of psychic warriors who claimed to be searching for some sort of orb, but defeated them after an intense battle. Exhausted, the Orphans decided to rest at the next oasis they would come upon, and this was to be Halak’s Smithy and Inn.

When the Well Runs DryThe Orphans arrived, battered and bruised, to recuperate at Halak’s. He was a well-known blacksmith who ran a prosperous inn with the advantage of having the last oasis before reaching more civilized lands. Another group was there as well, a platoon of mamluks of the Dauntless, led by Captain Zamanyeh bint Salman al-Kahn. They were bringing their payroll to Wasat; a small merchant caravan was also taking refuge at Halak’s, also having Wasat as a final destination.

During the night, a holy slayer positioned himself above the well with a heway snake, known for being incredibly poisonous. A note was found describing the slayer’s plan to rob everyone of their wealth before fleeing into the desert. The Orphans offered to assist the Captain, but a successful plan of action seemed to elude them. Suddenly, Faruq tried to paralyze the slayer above the well with his magic, but the slayer resisted and dropped the fish into the well. Two others amongst the civilians revealed themselves as slayers as well, and a great battle began amongst the grounds of the inn, causing significant damage. In the end, the slayers were killed, and the Orphans, leaning heavily upon Chaka’s clerical magic, spent the better part of 4 days restoring the well and the inn. Captain Zamanyeh promised she would remember the good deed they had done.
 Episode 4 of The Burning World
 2017-08-07 -  
Equal Pay for Equal Work... ( Member Submission! )... 2017-08-07 
Faruq dipped the quill in the ink and straightened the parchment he 'borrowed' from Auntie's desk. Alone finally, he sighed, closed his eyes and shook his head slightly in disbelief.

Gammam 14, 23rd Year of the Grand-Caliph, Khalil al-Assad al Zahir

I don’t know why I’m doing this.

Chaka said it would help, but it feels completely ridiculous. Why would I read what I wrote?

She says it will help when I get like this… like I am now. It wasn’t even a big deal… today… those bastards always try to cheat us. I hate them. But we need to work; Auntie can’t do this alone. I wish Uncle was here… he’s been gone for so long.

He said it would be a short trip, but Guzman said he’ll be gone longer this time because trade is not what it used to be. Used to be? He’s only gone on one trip with him, it’s not like he’s some big trader now…

So I’m supposed to write what happened. Fine. It was Hamza again. He’s always hated me. From the very first time I worked there. I knew it the first time he looked at me. He had that look of pity and disgust like people in the street. Damn him. This time when we were finished, Guzman and I both went to collect our wage and he said he didn’t have enough for us both. Of course he gave Guzman his. I told him that wasn’t fair, but he said he had not received a full shipment anyway so it wasn’t worth as much to unload it. My arms were aching because I did the work; why would he not pay me!?

Guzman didn’t even seem upset; so I’m mad at him too.

What happened? Well I felt the same burning in my eyes; I hate it. I knew what I looked like. Everyone always looks shocked when my eyes change. I can’t stop it. I hate that I can’t. I wish I never had these damn eyes; this skin, I am cursed.

So as soon as Hamza saw the change he ordered me out of the office. Without any money! How dare he! I started to feel my skin get hot like it always seems to but Guzman saw it too. He stopped me and said Hamza had to pay or neither of us would leave. I hate how people do what Guzman says but they ignore me. It’s not fair.

Of course Hamza did what Guzman wanted. And he found more dinar of course. He looked at me as he handed it to Guzman; he was trying to make me angry I could tell.

Guzman said when we left that I need to control my temper better; what a laugh! Coming from him that’s funny; he’s always throwing a tantrum about the dumbest things. But I didn’t say anything because I was glad we both got our wage. And Auntie was happy when we came home; the carvings have not sold well lately and she does everything alone with Jojo gone. I think I would do anything for her; even put up with Hamza; I almost totally forgot when she made dinner for us; she makes the best moutabal in Huzuz.

Chaka might have been right; this was not very hard.
 Episode 1 of FRINGE
 2016-12-21 -  
Fringe Forward... ( Member Submission! )... 2016-12-21 
Once upon a time long ago, on a tiny planet called Neuphoria, the lands of the world were for most part living in peace and harmony (think of it as star trek in ideology in a d&d setting). Of that world, the largest city of them all was Infinite. A booming metropolis that thrived in trade populated by humanoids of all variety.

Neuphoria was not always peaceful, for the dark forces of the world were once more prominent, reeking havoc across the globe and ruling almost half of the planet. The forces of evil were led by Duke Ssszzeffffrinnnn, an undead being. Despite having differences among themselves (go figure, they're evil), the duke would call upon them to do his bidding.

As time went on, the forces of good banded together with the help of the gods, and defeated the evil kingdoms, rendering them to scattered small pockets across the globe, leaving the duke not much to rule over. Although, what ever evil remained, still answered to his call. His whereabouts after this became unknown.

The evils that remained in the world were being kept in check by a task force called the Knights of Ni (that's u guys). The evils that remained were left alone, but if and when they acted out, they would be dealt with by the Knights of Ni.

The Knights were sanctioned by the governments of the world to oversee the security of the planet. Its members consisted of men and women of great ability and special talents, who gave their oath to serve and protect, and were led by "General" Six. She was not of the military but was referred to as the general as a nickname because she was the one who sent out the orders.

The task force had a department of R&D (transmutation magic), although not a good one. However, they did create a dropship for them...

Everything in Neuphoria seemed to be good. What could go wrong?
 Episode 40 of The Burning World
 2016-10-06 -  
My Deepest Sympathies... ( Member Submission! )... 2016-10-06 
My Deepest Sympathies

I can feel the heaviness of their grief. Its overwhelming. "Slow your breathing... " he thought to himself. "...Steady its pace... Inhale... Exhale... Wait a moment... "

"My deepest sympathies to you all" said Printz. His wide eyed gaze looking back deeply into the eyes of any of his new comrades who felt they could at this moment; yet his affect remained emotionless.

Printz pulled his lute from his side, and began to play. The melancholy notes emanated from the instrument, washing over those near by, grabbing their attention. Others hushed those who werent aware that they may miss something that they may regret not listening to.

Printz locked eyes with Faruq and he began to sing. His falsetto voice which blended with his instrument, was followed by a gentle echo, and at times as if another voice was singing along harmoniously. Even another instrument not visible would enmesh its self into the tapestry of sound.

The wild jann within the area stood motionless listening intently to the sounds which emanated from him. Printz stood still as he appeared enthralled in the moment of sorrow; his fingers dextrously playing his loot moving from note to note flawlessly. His lyrics painting a picture of loss and his voice imbued with emotion.

When he was done, those that had stopped to listen continued on with what they were doing prior to his dedication, and printz bowed his head respectfully to his new mortal friends.
 Episode 45 of The Burning World
 2016-10-05 -  
Our Tale, Such As It Has Been Told, Part I... ( Member Submission! )... 2016-10-05 
Flick of the Tail
After the departure of Imam Renn min Zann from their home, the Orphans headed to the docks to look for sources of income. They encountered two of their acquaintances, Khalid and Babazadeh in a scuffle. Separating the two, it was revealed that Babazadeh had acquired a magnificent sapphire-scaled talking fish, only for Khalid to take it from him and through it down a well. The Orphans descended into the well and investigated the passageways, discovering an entrance into an abandoned bathhouse, owned by the merchant, Yodfah. Eventually, they found the fish, in a bowl owned by a mysterious old crone who had taken up residence in the bathhouse. The crone only spoke Midani backwards, making communication difficult, but eventually, after performing some grooming tasks, the Orphans took possession of the fish.

However, Faruq found himself magically charmed by the fish, and absconded with it, heading towards the docks. Before his siblings could stop him, he flung the fish into the river. It turned into a beautiful mermaid, and thanked the young sha'ir for his service (charm, notwithstanding). Babazadeh felt cheated, however, and brought the matter before a qadi. Fortunately, Fate was smiling upon the Orphans, for the qadi in question was in question was Yunnus, another one of "Auntie's Boys." He managed to make legal matters easier for them than they might otherwise have been. A more narrative account of the aftermath can be found below:


She looked over her brothers for a long time with a look that was equal parts curiosity and disdain. Finally, she said in a curt voice "You stink."

"Akeylah, please," said aunty as she grabbed an extra blanket to cover up Faruq. The thrill of the mermaid's kiss had passed and whatever he and Guzman had picked up in the foul waters of the disused bathhouse was running them at a fever whilst also giving them the chills. Guzman was pale and sweating, his eyes rolling back in his head and truthfully Faruq was even worse.

Akeylah nodded, and went to get the boiling water Aunty had set to the fire. She poured it into two ceramic cups that contained Aunty's all-purpose herbal remedy. Soon, the small kitchen filled with the sweet and pungent smell of the hot beverages. The young woman, stone-faced as ever, took the steaming mugs to her aunt, who administered them to her sick boys.

"Drink slowly, you need to let the herbs do their work" cajoled Aunty as Guzman tried to down it all in one gulp.

"I don't need this!" hissed the barbarian, struggling to stand up. It was a testimony to how sick he was that he failed to overpower Aunty and sit up.

Akeylah arched an eyebrow. "Yes, you do," she said coldly. "Look at you, you look like you're going to die, even with the drink."

"Akeylah, please!" said Aunty with an exasperated voice. "He's sick; he doesn't need to be badgered..."

Akeylah didn't look convinced, but she knew better than to argue with Aunty. As far as she was concerned, Guzman needed constant badgering. Usually, Sulayman took care of that. Speaking of which...

"You stink too," she said, fixing her elven brother with a stern look.

Su shrugged his shoulders. "We all had to do some impromptu swimming, dear sister."

"Yet you're not as sick as him," she said, indicating Faruq.

Su shrugged his shoulders a second time. "Perhaps Faruq just doesn't have the constitution the rest of us have."

"And Guzman?"

"Oh, that's not the diseased water, that's just his bad hygiene finally catching up with him."

She looked at him quizzically.

Su rolled his eyes. "My apologies, dear sister; I forgot you don't have a sense of humour."

"What? Who told you that?" She seemed genuinely offended.

"Well, that is...you know..."

"I know what?"

"Well, that,...I mean....Akeylah, you never laugh."

"I laugh. People think I'm funny."

Su's eyes widened in surprise and disbelief.

"People think I'm funny," she insisted.

Sulayman was racking his brain, trying to imagine what people his sister was talking about.

"For instance," she continued, "I know how funny an elf looks with a black eye."

Su raised his hands defensively and backed away, a sardonic smile on his face. "I confess, I've never heard that one. Gods willing, it will be a long time before I do. Reminds me, though...where's the nice sister hiding? She might be able to do something to help our hapless brothers."

Akeylah gave him a quick look. "I heard that."

"Heard what?"

"How you said that. How you hit the word ‘she.'"

"Akie, I have no idea what you're talking about..." protested Sulayman.

"Shut up," interrupted Akeylah. "I'll help; I just don't want you thinking you manipulated me somehow."

"Sister, who could manipulate you?"

She narrowed her eyes at Su (who wisely fled) and then went and knelt by Faruq. She looked him in the eye and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Were you brave?" she asked seriously.

Faruq stirred, barely awake. "What...?"

"Were you brave?" insisted Akeylah. "Did you show bravery? Is this pitiful condition you're in a result of you exercising courage?"

"...yes...I suppose so," whispered Faruq.

Her gaze softened at his words. "Courage should be rewarded, brother, and Hajama looks after those who are brave. If you've been brave..." She placed her other hand on his chest and after a few moments of concentration, the young genasi began to feel better.

Aunty smiled at her. "Now, don't you feel better having helped your brother as opposed to haranguing him?"

Akeylah frowned in genuine confusion. "Can I not do both?"

A tut-tut from Aunty meant that particular conversation was over.

There was a sudden commotion by the entrance. "Aunty! Look who's here!" In walked Chaka, eldest sister of Aunty's brood accompanied by a much taller man. Eldest but smallest in stature; Chaka was a Halfling with a personality as large and giving as Aunty's. It was an unspoken assumption that she would continue Aunty's work with orphans after Aunty passed, though the latter event was far, far off as far as Chaka was concerned; Aunty's health was the first thing Chaka prayed to the Ten Thousand Gods for at every prayer time, and every other time she stopped to pray, which was often.

"Yunnus!" exclaimed Aunty, rushing towards the man who had walked in with Chaka. They embraced warmly, with smiles breaking across their faces. Yunnus was a former "Aunty's Boy" a while ago. With the help of her and Uncle JoJo, Yunnus found a passion for law enforcement in the Golden City. Initially, he tried to become a member of the Diligent contingent of mammluks, but found he lacked the constitution for it. His officers, however, saw the young man's keen intelligence and flawless memory would be great tools as a qadi and wrote excellent recommendations for him. Studying law and graduating at the head of his class, Yunnus al-Awwa became a qadi for the City of Delights. It was whispered in more than a few corners that he was being fast-tracked to become a palace qadi. Yunnus was one of the greatest success stories to come out of Aunty's generosity.

"Hello, hello all," he said in a friendly fashion as he went about the room, Aunty's arm locked with his own. "I trust you are all well...or...as well as can be hoped," he trailed off, seeing the shivering form of Guzman.

"I'm fine," responded Guzman in a guttural voice, clearly irritated at the attention he was receiving.

Akeylah looked at him somewhat sternly. "You are hardly ‘fine,' " she reproached him.

"Oh, he probably just doesn't understand what the word means, Akie," added Sulayman with his trademark smirk. He received a strong pinch on the arm from Aunty for his sarcasm.

"Oh, you poor thing," said Chaka as she knelt by him. "Whatever happened to you?" she asked and then began a murmur of a prayer.

"Nothing! I'm fine!!"

"You won't tell me?" asked the Halfling. "Really?"

"Really, no!"

Yunnus cleared his throat, breaking the tension in the room. "I'm afraid that you'll have to tell me, however," he began. "Sadly, this isn't just a friendly visit."

"What do you mean?" asked Aunty with concern.

"I'm afraid there was an incident in the wharf area today, Aunty. One that involved the boys."

Both Akeylah and Chaka rolled their eyes in unison. The little Halfling shot a look at Guzman, then asked "Honourable Qadi, before you interrogate my brothers, may I minister to this one's sickness first?"

"Yes, of course, by all means."

After a quick prayer where the little hakima named off several gods at once, Guzman had to admit he was feeling much better.

"The midday bell for prayer is going to ring soon. I suppose this is going to take a while?"

"Sadly yes, little sister."

"Fine, then. I'll make sure to pray for all of you in your stead. Coming, Akie?"

The young woman arched an eyebrow, not sure what was going on...but she didn't want to miss prayers. "Yes, coming," she said in a low voice, joining her sister as they headed for the mosques in the center of the city.

"They are good, your sisters," said Yunnus as he looked at the doorway they exited. "I know you are too," he hastily added. "But...I will need to know your version of events, today."

"What events are you talking about?" asked Sulayman.

Yunnus fixed him with a look that said Let's not play this game, little one. Su arched an eyebrow, but didn't respond.

They all stood looking at each other.

Finally, Aunty said "You boys need to speak up! Yunnus IS a qadi after all, and he's family. I'm sure this can all be cleared up. Let me go prepare some coffee, while you all sort things out."

After she had left, the judge looked over the boys. "Please. I am trying to help here, but there are serious charges pending against you."

"What charges?" asked Zephyr

"Babazadeh is asking for you to be charged with grand larceny."

"Huh. Yeah."

Yunnus tilted his head. "You agree it has merit?"

"Well..."

"Of course it doesn't have merit!" interrupted Su with a harsh look at the air genasi. Zephyr looked at the floor.

"Why don't you tell me what happened, and let me decide, all right?"

Su crossed his arms in front of his chest but didn't say anything.

Yunnus sighed. "Fine. What about the rest of you? Faruq?"

The fire genasi struggled with himself, but finally relented. "All right, I'll...don't look at me like that, Su! Yunnus is family..."

"Not our family...he was gone by the time we all got here."

A silence descended on the room. Aunty had returned just in time to hear the young wizard's comment, the hurt obvious on her face. "I...I came to see of anyone wanted something to eat with their coffee...I...I should go." Before anyone could say anything, the sweet old lady had retreated back into the kitchen.

"Idiot," whispered Guzman harshly as he smacked the back of Sulayman's head. To his credit, the elf did nothing in response.

Faruq then took the lead to tell Yunnus everything that happened, with Zephyr offering some details his genasi brother missed, and Guzman offering some colour commentary. Yunnus listened intently, asking some questions for clarification every now and then. He subconsciously started biting his nails during the recitation, obviously uncomfortable with what he was hearing.

Finally, with a sad look on his face, he said "I am sorry, my friends...but Babazadeh has a case. According to the law, I must rule in his favour."

"And what of the man he was beating, Khalid? Nothing happens there?" asked Sulayman, breaking his silence.

Yunnus took the question seriously, nodding. "I spoke with him at length. In the end, he refused to press charges against Baba. Either he feels bad for being ensorcelled or he doesn't want to engender hard feelings...either way, he seems to have forgiven and moved on. Sadly, for all of you, Baba has not."

Looking somewhat concerned, Zephyr asked "So, what does this mean?"

Yunnus bit his nails again. "Some sort of monetary restitution needs to be made. I've asked around the Grand Bazaar and gotten an idea of what he could have sold his fish for..."

"Mermaid," corrected Sulayman. "Talking, thinking, and with full consciousness."

Yunnus nodded again. "Yes, I thought that might be a way to dismiss the case, but...mermaids are not considered Enlightened creatures. They have no protection under the Law of the Loregiver."

Su snorted, and Yunnus ignored it.

"Yunnus...we have no money," began Faruq. "And, certainly, you have heard of..."

The qadi raised a hand. "I have, of course," he interrupted. "And I am greatly saddened by it. Aunty has refused all help from me, and others, from what I have heard. I am sympathetic to your situation, truly, but...it cannot influence my judgement here."

"But, we really don't have any money," began Zephyr.

Yunnus looked at them. "Baba gave testimony that you all received some pearls from the mermaid...that could be used to pay for restitution. I would have them appraised and count them against what needs to be paid."

"And if we don't feel like handing them over?" growled Guzman

Yunnus sighed. "Boys...please don't have me bring in the city guard into the house of one I love so much..."

Suitable Donations
The Orphans were soon approached by another one of "Auntie's Boys," a barber named Yakub abu Yusuf. He remembered her fondly, and was aghast at the idea that she may end up in indentured servitude. He promised the Orphans he would keep an ear out for any possible schemes that might net them gold enough to eat away at the 30,000 dinar debt. Within a week, the barber made mention of a miser, Jabir, who had been buried not far from the city, preferring to be buried with his wealth rather than give it to his sons, Anwar and Kalib. Yakub had them meet with the dwarven acolyte, Abdalla min Jisan, who revealed the location of the hidden tomb in exchange for a cut of whatever they find inside. Reasoning that Auntie needed the money more than a dead man, the Orphans set out on their first grave robbing. After combing through the hills for two days, they eventually discovered it, and looted its riches.

Unbeknownst to them, the miser's sons had been hunting through the area themselves, and tracked the Orphans down, demanding they hand over the money they had stolen. A fight broke out, resulting in the death of Anwar, though Kalib managed to escape with some of the treasure after knocking out Zephyr. The Orphans returned to Huzuz and opened an account with the priesthood of Jisan, also paying to have the Evil Eye removed from them, it having been placed upon them by the hama of Jabir.

Nine Flawed Sapphires
As good as his word, Yakub had discreetly spread the word that the Orphans were willing to undertake dangerous tasks for proper compensation, and this yielded results: Using Khalil as an unwitting messenger, a hakima by the name of Ayyam contacted the Orphans and met with them at dusk in the public gardens. There, she outlined that she worked for a powerful noblewoman in Huzuz, and that this noblewoman had been cheated in a sapphire transaction with a merchant named Yodfah. Rather, her husband had been unwittingly taken advantage of by the merchant, and she wanted revenge on his behalf. Ayyam had infiltrated Yodfah's household, posing as a servant, until she could discover what was needed to bring the merchant down...which she eventually did. Ayyam tasked the Orphans with finding Yodfah's ledger which she was certain would have the proof her mistress needed to have the merchant arrested. The ledger was said to be in one of Yodfah's headquarters hidden behind a waterfall; the merchant had bought it over a year ago when its previous owner, a powerful sea magi, had abandoned it.

Waiting for the right opportunity, the Orphans set up camp near the waterfall as they tried to figure out a way to get inside without being washed over the edge. Eventually, that time came, as one of Yodfah's henchmen, the dwarf Mustanir, left with a small caravan, and his password to magically draw aside the waterfall was overheard by the Orphans. Using the same magical phrase, the Orphans penetrated the hideout and had several scuffles with some of Yodfah's servants. It was revealed that many of them were slaves, and had been tricked into slavery by Yodfah using all sorts of illegal means. Furthermore, they discovered that the merchant was manufacturing wine in the hideout, contaminated with the drug yimna, which causes a deep, almost supernatural slumber. Their search throughout the complex also uncovered a prisoner, the desert rider Rashad, who had been captured and tortured for information about the House of Hanif al-badian tribe.

Of greater concern as the Orphans investigated the hideout was the discovery of the fire magi, Hanzala, member of the Brotherhood of True Flame. A conflict broke out, made all the more serious by the return of Mustanir during it. However, Mustanir and Hanzala refused to cooperate with each other, giving the Orphans a chance to defeat them all. After the combat was over, the Orphans discovered Yodfah's ledger, freed the remaining slaves, and took the treasure they discovered, the ledger, and further proof of Yodfah's crimes with them back to Huzuz. On the way, Faruq prudently made a copy of the ledger they were to give over to Ayyam. Upon their return, they did exactly that, at the prearranged time and place. The hakima promised to get back to them about the results of their investigations.

Invitation to a Funeral
Things did not go as the Orphans expected, however. A more narrative account of events is recorded below:

Still nothing.

Which might not mean anything. There could be any number of reasons under Zakhara's hot sun as to why Ayyam hasn't gotten back to you since your midnight meeting in the garden three days ago.

You spent those days well. First, was the return to Huzuz. Fate was with you as the gate's main inspectors weren't there, so no one looked too closely at your wares. Of course, getting the materials, including two large treasure chests) into the house and not noticed by Aunty was much more difficult, but it happened without incident. Since Akeylah had not been home for a few days now (where had she gone, anyway?), you stored most of it in her room. You'd deal with her when she came home.

After midnight of that day, you spent most of the rest of the day resting, not moving far from your home, anticipating a messenger from Ayyam. Aunty asked several times if you all were unwell, or if you were in trouble and hiding out...it was great to be able to answer without lying. You hemmed and hawed, but there was no need to deceive. You spent the day puttering around, having whispered conversations about what was likely to happen, what the fallout would be. While your ideas covered the gamut of possibilities, you never heard anything.

The next day, you knew you couldn't spend it all at home doing nothing again, so you came up with a rotation whereby there was always at least one of you at home to greet Ayyam's inevitable messenger, while the rest of you did what you normally do, find odd jobs for money. Your barber friend, Yakub, had promised to keep an ear out for any possibilities, and while you made sure to check with him, he apologized, saying he had nothing to report but that he would be sure to let you know if he heard of anything that might lead to some money.

Some dock work, some messenger running...but no matter who was "on guard" back at the house, nothing.

Who knows? Maybe Ayyam's mistress had to contemplate the ledger's contents for a day or two? Maybe things were progressing and you just hadn't heard about it? Not unlikely; after all, it's not like people of your station would be on a tight need-to-know list.

Day three and still nothing. You all started to get worried about what was or wasn't going on. Aunty was worried about Akeylah's continued absence, and it's not that you weren't, but you figured she could handle herself; what wasn't clear was what in the Land of Fate was going on with Ayyam, that ledger and Yodfah. Was he still at large? If so, and he knew your identities (from the slaves that survived your attack on the Sakina Falls complex), were you safe? Was Aunty?

Paranoia, nervousness, fear...things were getting highly stressful in Aunty's household. The lovely woman was sure your attitude had to do with your missing sister...you felt bad that you couldn't tell her the real reason behind your concerns...but now you were wondering...who else knew about the Sakina Falls attack? And what were they planning??

Mid-afternoon, and Khalid has shown up at your house. Something is happening in the warehouse district. A young man needs porters for a funeral. It's not a lot of money, but since he can't do it all by himself he thought he'd see if you were interested.

You all exchanged glances. You all privately wondered how Fate was intervening in your lives this time. Something was gnawing deep within each of you, but none of you said it aloud, afraid that would make it true. Unable to resist, you agreed and followed Khalid, afraid of what you were going to see.

There was a large crowd around a young man, wailing in sorrow, but your eyes weren't on him, not yet. No, they were fixed upon the body, already wrapped in linen. Your hearts felt heavy in your chests and pits opened up in your stomachs, threatening to swallow you up. Whomever had prepared the body had not shut the eyes. They stared up at the sky. Lifeless. But still beautiful. Still utterly unique.

Still the most surefire way of identifying Ayyam.

The Orphans were approached by a young man by the name of Muli, who claimed to be Ayyam's brother. When he found out the Orphans were the ones Ayyam had employed for her last mission, he halted his grief long enough to ask them to be porters for his sister. Additionally, he whispered with them conspiratorially that he believed his sister had been murdered, and he hoped the Orphans would look into it after the funeral was done. They agreed.

Fate did not smile upon the young heroes, however. After accompanying the procession to the funeral hall, Muli stealthily locked them in, as the three priests who awaited them there turned out to be ghouls and a ghast. The undead creatures set upon the Orphans but were beaten back and destroyed. The Orphans discovered a series of underground tunnels beneath the hall from whence the undead emerged, and traversed them to find a way out, having several more distasteful encounters along the way. Eventually, they reached the surface again, about a mile away from where they were locked in.

Returning to Huzuz, they tracked down Muli (with some assistance from Khalid), who unsuccessfully fled from them. Interrogating him, they discovered he was not Ayyam's brother, but rather another unfortunate soul who had been enslaved by Yodfah and was promised his freedom if he lured the Orphans to the funeral hall where the merchant used the undead to dispose of evidence. He showed great remorse for his actions, enough that, after having Khalid fetch the qadi Yunnus, the Orphans asked that Muli receive mercy.

Nine Falling Stars
The Orphans found no new opportunities, and were waiting for more to manifest when they had an odd encounter. While lounging at a coffeehouse, they were accosted by a beggar who was yelling and screaming strange utterings in a mix of Midani and at least one other language. Finally, Fate directed him to fall at the feet of the Orphans. They tended to him, and he awoke. His name was Adil, and he described his curse: He had been a thief in the northern city-state of Muluk, when he picked the pocket of a Zannite priest. While he did not obtain the gold-purse he was hoping for, he did obtain a bizarre clay seal, outlined with nine spokes. He was wondering what he could get for it when he suddenly passed out. He awoke days later, at an oasis, with no memory of how he got there.

Concluding that it was the strange seal that was responsible for his predicament, Adil tried to throw it away...only to discover it on his person again within a few hours. He tried to leave it at a mosque to Zann but got the same results. He continued to awake in strange places with no memory of how he got there. He was certain something was following him as well.

As if on cue, an invisible force picked up Adil and began strangling him. While the Orphans tried to save him, ultimately the beggar was killed, and the invisible force seemed to depart. Miraculously, Adil recovered. In a highly emotional state, Adil explained how the seal would resurrect him whenever he dies, his curse keeping him alive for some mysterious reason. At this point, the invisible force returned, with Su correctly surmising it was an invisible stalker. The Orphans managed to just barely destroy the stalker, and turned Adil over to Yunnus, who promised to keep the beggar in protective custody as long as was legally possible. It seemed all was at peace, but Su ruminated darkly upon the stalker; these creatures were usually summoned to the Prime Material Plane, and usually to track down a target...

The Treasure Pit
The barber Yakub caught up with the Orphans again, using Khalid as a messenger. He had come up with another lead for the prospective treasure-hunters: the so-called ‘treasure pit' in the ruined fortress of Krak al-Shidda located near the al-Akara mountains. While many prospective treasure hunters began their careers pursuing whatever riches the pit might still contain, some never returned, enhancing the reputation of the place. The Orphans weighed the options and decided it was worth the risk to investigate. They made preparations and took off towards Krak al-Shidda.

The Genie's Terror
The Orphans followed the al-Sarif river until it forked into the mountains, and began following that. The river bed was mostly dry and made for easy traveling until Fate turned against them, sending a huge thunderstorm to wash them away. They narrowly avoided being drowned in a flash flood. After the waters had passed, however, they noticed that the water had washed away a secret entrance alongside the ravine wall of the riverbed. Clear steps led to what appeared to be a marble door embedded in the wall. The inscription read that it was the lost tomb of Shaddad, Terror of Geniekind.

Unable to resist, the Orphans penetrated the tomb to discover what riches in might contain. In the pitch blackness, they were set upon by a dozen undead shadows, the cursed remnants of the men who served Shaddad. Faruq was badly injured and the Orphans were forced to flee. Chaka managed to use her faith to keep the fire genasi from becoming shadow-like himself, though was unsure of any long-term consequences. They decided to enter the tomb again, this time defeating the shadows and confronting the mummy form of Shaddad himself and his zombie wives. Shaddad wielded Cyclone of the Four Quarters, the legendary genie-slaying scimitar that allowed the al-badia sheik to cow all genies who crossed his path. After a pitched battle, the Orphans proved victorious, with Guzman claiming the undead sheik's blade and ring for his own.

The Hermit's Riddle
The Orphans continued their trek through the mountains, eventually coming across the small village of Tedofosehk. The inhabitants explained that their local holy man, a wise hermit by the name of Mahara, had not been seen in some time. As well, a group of werejackals would raid them periodically. Offering to help, the Orphans journeyed to Mahara's cave, fighting off an ambush of werejackals, only to see it perfectly sealed in stone. Realizing it was the work of genies, Faruq cautioned there may be a Dao nearby. Mahara explained how the Dao Ynadin had taken on a group of werejackal servants, and had trapped him here until it could solve the riddle Mahara had put to him:

Centuries dead, yet still is living;

Can't forget, but is forgiving.

All beauty gone, all men reviling;

Time betrayed, but still is smiling.

Mahara explained that Ynadin periodically returned to put an (incorrect) answer to the mystic, and that he was due to return soon. The Orphans prepared an ambush, with Guzman pretending to be The Terror himself! They ambushed and destroyed the genie with Cyclone of the Four Quarters doing much of the damage, wreathed in green flame. After dealing with Ynadin, they returned to the grateful villagers of Tedofosehk, who treated them as heroes. There was a tragic occurrence in the village, a stillborn birth that the Orphans found strange, but seeing as there was nothing to be done, they decided to continue to the treasure pit.

Pilgrimage
One of the villagers told the Orphans that more than a few treasure hunters opted to visit a nearby mosque for good luck before setting off for the treasure pit of Krak al-Shidda. Intrigued, the Orphans asked to be led there. Once there, as they approached, they noticed a giant wasp watching them from a distance. Communicating with the Orphans by scratching in the sand, the wasp explained that its name was Nalv, that it was the guardian of this mosque, and that it needed help to discover the source of some localized earthquakes that were tearing the mosque apart.

The Orphans agreed to help, eventually discovering a passage in the mountainside that led into a chamber beneath the mosque. There, they saw that the "earthquakes" were caused by the snoring of a sleeping Dao, Hasan. Ambushing the genie, the Orphans destroyed Hasan. Further investigation into the mosque's basement led the Orphans into a pitched battle with two Yikaria. Unprepared for the assault, the Orphans beat a hasty retreat, only to return later and finish the insidious beasts off. Once they had done so, they investigated the area, and Chaka touched one of the many skulls the Yikaria had in their collection; the beasts had been ambushing and devouring pilgrims as they arrived at the mosque. Chaka found herself possessed by the spirit of the skull's owner: a great priest known as Suhail min Zann.

Using the Halfling as a medium, the priest explained that this mosque was dedicated to him, where he was laid to rest a great long time ago. He explained to the Orphans that he had been part of a legendary adventuring group, The Lions of Yesterday. His group was devoted to the defeat of the Geomancers, the despotic rulers of ancient Kadar, in the early days of Enlightenment. During their last battle, the ninth Geomancer, Tisan, withdrew to a secret stronghold called Tadabbur and vanished from sight, some say never to return. In Midani, the word tadabbur has come to mean foresight, or divination.

Now, Tisan's power was great, such that her strength equaled that of all the other Geomancers put together. After many years, the Lions discovered Tadabbur. Those who entered to confront Tisan met with a slow and horrible death, but the mighty Geomancer did not dare leave the safety of her last fortress. Inspired by Zann, Imam Suhail enchanted a mighty talisman and used it to seal the entrance to Tisan's retreat. Calling upon Fate, the priest swore an oath that he would return from Paradise to council the Lions of Tomorrow, should Tadabbur's talisman ever be disturbed. The spirit then informed the Orphans that the meteor shower described by Adil, the "Nine Falling Stars" was the sign that the talisman had been removed.

The spirit of Suhail explained how he gathered the few surviving Lions and labored the rest of his days to destroy all traces of the Geomancers' existence, breaking their talismans and burning all the records he could find of their foul sorcery to prevent others from duplicating their spells. He then told the Orphans that they have been entrusted with the seed for Tisan's destruction; more specifically, that the magical seal discovered by Adil can help arm them against Tisan and her allies. Finally, the spirit of Suhail min Zann left Chaka, but not before saying these final words:

I wish I could stay to counsel you further, but my link with this world is fading. After I am released tell the guardian of the shrine that the Lions of Tomorrow have awakened. He will know what to do next. My last request is that you repair my tomb and restore my remains to their rightful place in my sepulcher. Then, and only then, will my mission on al-Toril be complete.

The Orphans repaired the tomb and the mosque above to the best of their ability. While in the mosque, they noticed the following saying etched into one of the walls:

We cannot destroy what we do not understand.

Fate is a woman, carrying us towards our Kismet;

only a fool thinks he can escape her embrace.

We must learn from the mistakes of our forbears.

The written word is a gift to the Lions of

Tomorrow.

They told Nalv that "The Lions of Tomorrow have awakened." Excited, the wasp took to the sky, and was quickly out of sight. Surmising that it had its own instructions to follow, the Orphans offered up a quick prayer for luck and continued to Krak al-Shidda.

The Treasure Pit, Part II
The Orphans eventually arrived at the ruined fortress of Krak al-Shidda. There, they meant the adventurer Kamilla, who told them of the great pit located near the centre of the fortress. The Orphans descended into the pit to investigate, but were set upon by a large Yellow Musk Creeper plant. The Orphans narrowly avoided becoming zombies under the control of the plant. Discouraged, they and Kamilla looked around the fortress for any other possible treasures. They discovered a staircase leading to the dungeons of the keep. Kamilla had left them by then, so the Orphans descended into the dungeons to see what gold could be found. The dungeons seemed mostly abandoned, though they did destroy some undead spirits who had been cursed during the last battle of the keep. Two encounters were of particular note: In a summoning chamber, the Orphans accidentally released the Slayer Genie, Al-Ashara Usbiyad, from whom they barely escaped. The genie seemed to have precognitive powers, predicting the exact manner of Zephyr's death. Additionally, while investigating what seemed to be a wizard's study, the Orphans discovered three names in an ancient language written on one of the recesses of the shelves: Al-Afaz, Al-Mirish, Al-Kazad. What the names meant, they could not decipher.

When the Orphans emerged from the dungeons, they found Kamilla waiting for them...along with the rest of her pack of jackalweres. It turned out that Ynadin had stolen many of her pack from her, and that his destruction at their hands sent them crawling back to her. To further test their loyalty, she demanded they destroy the Orphans and take their valuables (no one, as far as she knew, had ever returned form the dungeons). The Orphans managed to kill most of the pack, though Kamilla herself escaped. Disappointed at how little progress they made in overcoming the debt, the young adventurers started back for Huzuz.
 Episode 38 of The Burning World
 2016-10-04 -  
Useless and Ugly: Part 2... ( Member Submission! )... 2016-10-04 
D'Aro sat in a daze on the floor of the cavern. The sounds of Gish devouring her evil older sister could be heard faintly. He gazed around the dark cavern and his mind could not wholly accept the devastation and death he saw there.

Two dead bodies lay in a heap on the ground. Beloved Chaka seemed peacefully asleep. Guze the big man did not look restive in death. His face was contorted as if he was still fighting the dragon. Both were burned in several places by lighting and ozone still permeated the air. They died well, brave to the end. Hajama be proud, he whispered silently in prayer.

Su was bent over Guze, in some personal dialogue of grief. Tears streaming down his face. D'Aro thought he could see flames threatening to burst out of his eyes. He quickly looked away. This was a personal moment for the siblings. He was just an outsider. He joined them ostensibly to help them on their quest, but he had his own reasons as well. That they coincided was a great coincidence, or was it?

"Never shall I underestimate a dragon again!" he thought fiercely. His bumbling might have been the cause of their deaths, despite the fact that they emerged victorious. He understood his training was not complete, not by far, and he still had much left to learn in his quest to become what he was destined to be. He was not used to his failures causing harm to others though, this was a new bitter pill to swallow. "Fool and fool again" he whispered to himself bitterly.

He held the magic Cyclone weapon weakly in his hands, letting the tip dangle onto the ground. He could feel its magic pulsing and was slightly repelled by the weapon. It had its own desires and needs which were not in line with D'Aro. He could feel that clearly. While not intelligent, it hungered for something, it was pretty clear what that was. It was not a subtle device and would likely attract too much attention. Regardless, it was too powerful to dispose of. He felt an urge to jump onto Gish's back and use the weapon to sever her head.

He nodded at Su, breaking his reverie. "What now?" he asked him.
 Episode 37 of The Burning World
 2016-10-03 -  
Useless and Ugly: part 1... ( Member Submission! )... 2016-10-03 
"He's so ugly," Sulayman whispered to himself, as he tried to wipe at the blackened flesh on Guzman's cheeks. Behind him he could hear Farouk's shuddering gasps as he attempted to revive Chaka. It was too late though. They were dead.

One should not speak ill of the dead. The voice in Sulayman's head sounded like Auntie but he wasn't quite sure anymore, since it had been so long since he'd heard her voice. Auntie. How would he tell her? How to explain all this?

"He was an oafish brute," Sulayman muttered to himself as he gazed at Guzman. Why had the elf been so mean to Guzman? They were brothers, after all. And why was Sulayman thinking of this now?

It wasn't his fault, poor Guzman. Sulayman knew deep down that Guzman didn't deserve to be spoken to as the wizard had done, but he would probably never admit it. When Su looked at Guzman, he sometimes saw them. Those brutes from the street. The strong ones that took from you what they wanted and you could do nothing about it. They'd laugh at you as they used you. Sulayman shuddered and felt shame and tears on his face.

Gish had called them useless. The dragon had uttered the word more than once. Once was too many times for Sulayman, his eyes burned with hatred as he watched the dragon tear into the corpse of it's own sister. The wizard could feel the fire burning in his veins again. Su could see the dragon in his mind's eye, awash in flame and screaming in anguish. The thought brought pleasure to him, more than it should have. The wizard was angry at himself. Angry for letting the dragon manipulate them.

"I will see you burn, bitch," the elf promised himself. But first, they had to find these Jann. They'd have to see if anything could be done for their brother and sister. Sulayman caressed Guzman's face, and his shoulders sagged.

"I'm sorry brother," Su sighed, "I'm sorry... it wasn't you. It was always me. I wish I could have made you understand..." D'Aro cleared his throat awkwardly behind Sulayman, bringing his attention back to matters at hand.

Their cousin was holding Cyclone, his eyes concerned. "What now?" D'aro asked.

"We leave this place." Su replied.

"What of the dragon?"

"Gish will pay," Sulayman spat from clenched teeth, "in due time."

The elf stared across the cave, and smiled as he imagined the dragon burning to ash in front of him.
 Episode 13 of The Burning World
 2016-03-01 -  
Life, Death, and Consequences in the Land of Fate... ( Member Submission! )... 2016-03-01 
Still nothing.

Which might not mean anything. There could be any number of reasons under Zakhara's hot sun as to why Ayyam hasn't gotten back to you since your midnight meeting in the garden three days ago.

You spent those days well. First, was the return to Huzuz. Fate was with you as the gate's main inspectors weren't there, so no one looked too closely at your wares. Of course, getting the materials, including two large treasure chests) into the house and not noticed by Aunty was much more difficult, but it happened without incident. Since Akeylah had not been home for a few days now (where had she gone, anyway?), you stored most of it in her room. You'd deal with her when she came home.

After midnight of that day, you spent most of the rest of the day resting, not moving far from your home, anticipating a messenger from Ayyam. Aunty asked several times if you all were unwell, or if you were in trouble and hiding out...it was great to be able to answer without lying. You hemmed and hawed, but there was no need to deceive. You spent the day puttering around, having whispered conversations about what was likely to happen, what the fallout would be. While your ideas covered the gamut of possibilities, you never heard anything.

The next day, you knew you couldn't spend it all at home doing nothing again, so you came up with a rotation whereby there was always at least one of you at home to greet Ayyam's inevitable messenger, while the rest of you did what you normally do, find odd jobs for money. Your barber friend, Yakub, had promised to keep an ear out for any possibilities, and while you made sure to check with him, he apologized, saying he had nothing to report but that he would be sure to let you know if he heard of anything that might lead to some money.

Some dock work, some messenger running...but no matter who was "on guard" back at the house, nothing.

Who knows? Maybe Ayyam's mistress had to contemplate the ledger's contents for a day or two? Maybe things were progressing and you just hadn't heard about it? Not unlikely; after all, it's not like people of your station would be on a tight need-to-know list.

Day three and still nothing. You all started to get worried about what was or wasn't going on. Aunty was worried about Akeylah's continued absence, and it's not that you weren't, but you figured she could handle herself; what wasn't clear was what in the Land of Fate was going on with Ayyam, that ledger and Yodfah. Was he still at large? If so, and he knew your identities (from the slaves that survived your attack on the Sakina Falls complex), were you safe? Was Aunty?

Paranoia, nervousness, fear...things were getting highly stressful in Aunty's household. The lovely woman was sure your attitude had to do with your missing sister...you felt bad that you couldn't tell her the real reason behind your concerns...but now you were wondering...who else knew about the Sakina Falls attack? And what were they planning??

Mid-afternoon, and Khalid has shown up at your house. Something is happening in the warehouse district. A young man needs porters for a funeral. It's not a lot of money, but since he can't do it all by himself he thought he'd see if you were interested.

You all exchanged glances. You all privately wondered how Fate was intervening in your lives this time. Something was gnawing deep within each of you, but none of you said it aloud, afraid that would make it true. Unable to resist, you agreed and followed Khalid, afraid of what you were going to see.

There was a large crowd around a young man, wailing in sorrow, but your eyes weren't on him, not yet. No, they were fixed upon the body, already wrapped in linen. Your hearts felt heavy in your chests and pits opened up in your stomachs, threatening to swallow you up. Whomever had prepared the body had not shut the eyes. They stared up at the sky. Lifeless. But still beautiful. Still utterly unique.

Still the most surefire way of identifying Ayyam.
 Episode 7 of The Burning World
 2016-02-02 -  
Not Much to Show For It... ( Member Submission! )... 2016-02-02 
She looked over her brothers for a long time with a look that was equal parts curiosity and disdain. Finally, she said in a curt voice "You stink."

"Akeylah, please," said aunty as she grabbed an extra blanket to cover up Faruq. The thrill of the mermaid's kiss had passed and whatever he and Guzman had picked up in the foul waters of the disused bathhouse was running them at a fever whilst also giving them the chills. Guzman was pale and sweating, his eyes rolling back in his head and truthfully Faruq was even worse.

Akeylah nodded, and went to get the boiling water Aunty had set to the fire. She poured it into two ceramic cups that contained Aunty's all-purpose herbal remedy. Soon, the small kitchen filled with the sweet and pungent smell of the hot beverages. The young woman, stone-faced as ever, took the steaming mugs to her aunt, who administered them to her sick boys.

"Drink slowly, you need to let the herbs do their work" cajoled Aunty as Guzman tried to down it all in one gulp.

"I don't need this!" hissed the barbarian, struggling to stand up. It was a testimony to how sick he was that he failed to overpower Aunty and sit up.

Akeylah arched an eyebrow. "Yes, you do," she said coldly. "Look at you, you look like you're going to die, even with the drink."

"Akeylah, please!" said Aunty with an exasperated voice. "He's sick; he doesn't need to be badgered..."

Akeylah didn't look convinced, but she knew better than to argue with Aunty. As far as she was concerned, Guzman needed constant badgering. Usually, Sulayman took care of that. Speaking of which...

"You stink too," she said, fixing her elven brother with a stern look.

Su shrugged his shoulders. "We all had to do some impromptu swimming, dear sister."

"Yet you're not as sick as him," she said, indicating Faruq.

Su shrugged his shoulders a second time. "Perhaps Faruq just doesn't have the constitution the rest of us have."

"And Guzman?"

"Oh, that's not the diseased water, that's just his bad hygiene finally catching up with him."

She looked at him quizzically.

Su rolled his eyes. "My apologies, dear sister; I forgot you don't have a sense of humour."

"What? Who told you that?" She seemed genuinely offended.

"Well, that is... you know... "

"I know what?"

"Well, that,... I mean... .Akeylah, you never laugh."

"I laugh. People think I'm funny."

Su's eyes widened in surprise and disbelief.

"People think I'm funny," she insisted.

Sulayman was racking his brain, trying to imagine what people his sister was talking about.

"For instance," she continued, "I know how funny an elf looks with a black eye."

Su raised his hands defensively and backed away, a sardonic smile on his face. "I've never heard that one. Gods willing, it will be a long time before I do. Reminds me, though... where's the nice sister hiding? She might be able to do something to help our hapless brothers."

Akeylah gave him a quick look. "I heard that."

"Heard what?"

"How you said that. How you hit the word 'she.'"

"Akie, I have no idea what you're talking about... " protested Sulayman.

"Shut up," interrupted Akeylah. "I'll help; I just don't want you thinking you manipulated me somehow."

"Sister, who could manipulate you?"

She narrowed her eyes at Su (who wisely fled)and then went and knelt by Faruq. She looked him in the eye and laid a hand on his shoulder. "Were you brave?" she asked seriously.

Faruq stirred, barely awake. "What... ?"

"Were you brave?" insisted Akeylah. "Did you show bravery? Is this pitiful condition you're in a result of you exercising courage?"

"... yes... I suppose so," whispered Faruq.

Her gaze softened at his words. "Courage should be rewarded, brother, and Hajama looks after those who are brave. If you've been brave... " She placed her other hand on his chest and after a few moments of concentration, the young genasi began to feel better.

Aunty smiled at her. "Now, don't you feel better having helped your brother as opposed to haranguing him?"

Akeylah frowned in genuine confusion. "Can I not do both?"

A tut-tut from Aunty meant that particular conversation was over.

There was a sudden commotion by the entrance. "Aunty! Look who's here!" In walked Chaka, eldest sister of Aunty's brood accompanied by a much taller man. Eldest but smallest in stature; Chaka was a Halfling with a personality as large and giving as Aunty's. It was an unspoken assumption that she would continue Aunty's work with orphans after Aunty passed, though the latter event was far, far off as far as Chaka was concerned; Aunty's health was the first thing Chaka prayed to the Ten Thousand Gods for at every prayer time, and every other time she stopped to pray, which was often.

"Yunnus!" exclaimed Aunty, rushing towards the man who had walked in with Chaka. They embraced warmly, with smiles breaking across their faces. Yunnus was a former "Aunty's Boy" a while ago. With the help of her and Uncle JoJo, Yunnus found a passion for law enforcement in the Golden City. Initially, he tried to become a member of the Diligent contingent of mammluks, but found he lacked the constitution for it. His officers, however, saw the young man's keen intelligence and flawless memory would be great tools as a qadi and wrote excellent recommendations for him. Studying law and graduating at the head of his class, Yunnus al-Awwa became a qadi for the City of Delights. It was whispered in more than a few corners that he was being fast-tracked to become a palace qadi. Yunnus was one of the greatest success stories to come out of Aunty's generosity.

"Hello, hello all," he said in a friendly fashion as he went about the room, Aunty's arm locked with his own. "I trust you are all well... or... as well as can be hoped," he trailed off, seeing the shivering form of Guzman.

"I'm fine," responded Guzman in a guttural voice, clearly irritated at the attention he was receiving.

Akeylah looked at him somewhat sternly. "You are hardly 'fine,' " she reproached him.

"Oh, he probably just doesn't understand what the word means, Akie," added Sulayman with his trademark smirk. He received a strong pinch on the arm from Aunty for his sarcasm.

"Oh, you poor thing," said Chaka as she knelt by Guzman. "Whatever happened to you?" she asked and then began a murmur of a prayer.

"Nothing! I'm fine!!"

"You won't tell me?" asked the Halfling. "Really?"

"Really, no!"

Yunnus cleared his throat, breaking the tension in the room. "I'm afraid that you'll have to tell me, however," he began. "Sadly, this isn't just a friendly visit."

"What do you mean?" asked Aunty with concern.

"I'm afraid there was an incident in the wharf area today, Aunty. One that involved the boys," offered Yunnus.

Both Akeylah and Chaka rolled their eyes in unison. The little halfling shot a look at Guzman, then asked "Honourable Qadi, before you interrogate my brothers, may I minister to this one's sickness first?"

"Yes, by all means."

After a quick prayer where the little hakima named off several gods at once, Guzman had to admit he was feeling much better.

"The midday bell for prayer is going to ring soon. I suppose this is going to take a while?"

"Sadly yes, little sister."

"Fine, then. I'll make sure to pray for all of you in your stead. Coming, Akie?"

The young woman arched an eyebrow, not sure what was going on... but she didn't want to miss prayers. "Yes, coming," she said in a low voice, joining her sister as they headed for the mosques in the center of the city.

"They are good, your sisters," said Yunnus as he looked at the doorway they exited. "I know you are too," he hastily added. "But... I will need to know your version of events, today."

"What events are you talking about?" asked Sulayman.

Yunnus fixed him with a look that said Let's not play this game, little one. Sul, arched an eyebrow, but didn't respond.

They all stood looking at each other.

Finally, Aunty said "You boys need to speak up! Yunnus IS a qadi after all, and he's family. I'm sure this can all be cleared up. Let me go prepare some coffee, while you all sort things out."

After she had left, the judge looked over the boys. "Please. I am trying to help here, but there are serious charges pending against you."

"What charges?" asked Zephyr

"Babazadeh is asking for you to be charged with grand larceny."

"Huh. Yeah."

Yunnus tilted his head. "You agree it has merit?"

"Well... "

"Of course it doesn't have merit!" interrupted Su with a harsh look at the air genasi. Zephyr looked at the floor.

"Why don't you tell me what happened, and let me decide, all right?"

Su crossed his arms in front of his chest but didn't say anything.

Yunnus sighed. "Fine. What about the rest of you? Faruq?"

The fire genasi struggled with himself, but finally relented. "All right, I'll... don't look at me like that, Su! Yunnus is family... "

"Not our family... he was gone by the time we all got here."

A silence descended on the room. Aunty had returned just in time to hear the young wizard's comment, the hurt obvious on her face. "I... I came to see of anyone wanted something to eat with their coffee... I... I should go." Before anyone could say anything, the sweet old lady had retreated back into the kitchen.

"Idiot," whispered Guzman harshly as he smacked the back of Sulayman's head. To his credit, the elf did nothing in response.

Faruq then took the lead to tell Yunnus everything that happened, with Zephyr offering some details his genasi brother missed, and Guzman offering some colour commentary. Yunnus listened intently, asking some questions for clarification every now and then. He subconsciously started biting his nails during the recitation, obviously uncomfortable with what he was hearing.

Finally, with a sad look on his face, he said "I am sorry, my friends... but Babazadeh has a case. According to the law, I must rule in his favour."

"And what of the man he was beating, Khalid? Nothing happens there?" asked Sulayman, breaking his silence.

Yunnus took the question seriously, nodding. "I spoke with him at length. In the end, he refused to press charges against Baba. Either he feels bad for being ensorcelled or he doesn't want to engender hard feelings... either way, he seems to have forgiven and moved on. Sadly, for all of you, Baba has not."

Looking somewhat concerned, Zephyr asked "So, what does this mean?"

Yunnus bit his nails again. "Some sort of monetary restitution needs to be made. I've asked around the Grand Bazaar and gotten an idea of what he could have sold his fish for... "

"Mermaid," corrected Sulayman. "Talking, thinking, and with full consciousness."

Yunnus nodded again. "Yes, I thought that might be a way to dismiss the case, but... mermaids are not considered Enlightened creatures. They have no protection under the Law of the Loregiver."

Su snorted, and Yunnus ignored it.

"Yunnus... we have no money," began Faruq. "And, certainly, you have heard of... "

The qadi raised a hand. "I have, of course," he interrupted. "And I am greatly saddened by it. Aunty has refused all help from me, and others, from what I have heard. I am sympathetic to your situation, truly, but... it cannot influence my judgement here."

"But, we really don't have any money," began Zephyr.

Yunnus looked at them. "Baba gave testimony that you all received some pearls from the mermaid... that could be used to pay for restitution. I would have them appraised and count them against what needs to be paid."

"And if we don't feel like handing them over?" growled Guzman

Yunnus sighed. "Boys... please don't have me bring in the city guard into the house of one I love so much... "
 Episode 5 of The Burning World
 2015-07-06 -  
Prologue... ( Member Submission! )... 2015-07-06 
Golden Huzuz. Home of the Grand Caliph. Gem of Zakhara. City of Delights, where all can excel and succeed.

So they say. You wish you felt that way. Today, it does not look like Huzuz will be particularly forgiving.

It’s not the hardship that you will inevitably be facing that has you thinking this way. No, you’ve been through a lot and are confident you can face anything.

No, it’s not yourself you worry about, nor your fellow adopted siblings.

It’s Auntie.

Samnit bint Jarella and her husband Johanin took you in when you were at your lowest: an unwanted orphan with nowhere else to go. Knowing of Huzuz’s reputation, you made your way there, hoping to find opportunity. You didn’t, not really, but you found something better: Auntie and Uncle.

Auntie Sam and Uncle Jojo, the elderly couple who had been married as soon as it was legal. Whose Fate had been to never have children of their own. Who embraced that fate to instead look after the abandoned and unwanted. They had made a lifetime of taking in orphans, loving them as their own children and seeing them enjoy the opportunities Huzuz had to offer, to make something of themselves.

While Auntie had some skill in pottery, especially in the creation of heroic figurines, it was Uncle Jojo who was the breadwinner. While a kind, loving man, and generous to a fault, Jojo was always after a way to get rich quick. That he should ever turn away an orphan in need was not to be considered, so instead he worked tirelessly to make sure they had the funds for their sometimes enormous family. He was a labourer of some skill, and most people knew of the kind of family he and Auntie had built and so tried to hire him as much as possible. It was hard not to like Uncle Jojo.

As he got older, though, it became increasingly difficult for him to work. Merchants started to regretfully hire him less often. Some continued out of charity, but Uncle Jojo sensed it and would not hear of it. As a result, he would use what money he had to make investments in merchant caravans, hoping to make a profit from their business.

It rarely worked out. Most times, Johanin would be lucky enough to make his initial investment back, but usually little more. He began to look for more dangerous caravanserai to invest in, such as those headed to the Ruined Kingdoms in the south east, or the sea lanes of the Crowded Sea. It never worked out. The Jarella family didn’t have two dinars to rub together.

Maybe that’s why he entered into that crazy contract with Gogol al-Misal, the merchant. Gogol was known as a “procurer of talent” which meant he dealt in slaves. While slavery is perfectly legal in Zakhara, Huzuz is known to be the most enlightened regarding slavery; the story of the Grand Caliph in his early days as a prince buying a slave only to free him (and become a military advisor later on) is a well known one and the people of Huzuz try to imitate their beloved leader. As such, there is no official slave market in Huzuz.

In practical terms, this just meant there was no real competition for Gogol’s business. Truth be told, there was also plenty of demand, enlightenment notwithstanding. Not that anyone in Huzuz would dream of mistreating a slave, and certainly not one procured by Gogol; the finest cooks, meticulous gardeners and enticing dancers were always found by him.

Uncle Jojo also thought he had something going for him: one night he awoke from a dream, certain that the family’s financial woes would be over. He knew of a caravan that would return from the World Pillar Mountains laden with treasures never before seen. He knew that if he invested in that caravan, his family would be set for life.

But one needs money to invest, and he had none. While everyone was kindly predisposed to Uncle Jojo, no one wanted to lose their money on such a fool’s errand; everyone knew those were the lands of the Yikaria, and few had returned from there. Uncle Jojo dismissed such fears and even volunteered to do labour on the caravan himself, so confident was he.

Confident about the journey, but desperate about the money, Jojo approached Gogol and under what circumstances Fate only knows, drew up the contract that was no hanging like an executioner’s scimitar over their heads. While it was filled with legalese that only the wisest of qadi could navigate, the end result was that if Gogol was not paid his loan back with interest before a year had passed…

…”Johanin and all members of the Jarella family shall present themselves to be sold as slaves to pay off the debt owing.”

Now, Huzuz was known to be one of the few cities that did not have the practice of enslaving people who could not pay their debts. Gogol and Uncle Jojo knew this, which is why the contract was drawn up to specifically allow this. Several qadi verified the contract and signatures, and it was found to be binding.

Auntie would never speak against her husband. Whenever the topic came up, she would smile sweetly and say she was sure he would return with all that was needed to make everything all right. In the meantime, she began to produce more of her figurines, hoping to make a few more dinars and pay off some of the debt.

Knowing of the sad situation, people would buy out of charity…but that lasted only so long, and eventually Auntie lost her tiny space at the Grand Bazaar to another merchant, named Yodfah.

Every night, you’d go to bed, with some of Auntie’s figurines by your sleeping roll, and you’d imagine yourself as one of those heroes. Your adopted brothers and sisters all had similar dreams, you were sure: To study geniekind under Adnan al-Raqi, Master of the Invisible. To apprentice oneself to the enigmatic magi, the White Agate. To return to the Haunted Lands as a sheik with a tribe of one’s own.

It seemed like those dreams were to remain firmly dreams…

One year to the day Uncle Jojo’s caravan departed Huzuz, you all took up silent vigil by the same gate he had left. With no shared words but plenty of shared looks, you knew…yet still you waited. Finally, when curfew was announced, you returned home, not knowing what the next day would bring. No shed tears; you had been through too much to cry now; instead, it was like walking through a void, not knowing what was on the other side or if you would even make it through.

A small crowd had gathered the next morning outside Auntie’s little house. Miracle that she is, she wondered aloud how she was going to make coffee for all the people assembled, and began gathering beans to grind. Before long, there was a knock on the door. It was Gogol and the dwarf qadi, Mutamin al-Subvir.

To their credit, neither looked very pleased at what was about to happen; everyone loved Auntie after all. Nevertheless, with a small contingent of the city guard ready to enforce the contract, the dwarven qadi was about to render judgment, when all of a sudden, an excited cry from the back of the crowd drew attention to a new visitor to Auntie’s home.

Walking a bit hunched over, but with eyes as alert as they were 200 years ago, the most powerful priest in Huzuz, the ancient elf Imam Renn min Zann, approached the proceedings. Everyone was shocked, including Gogol and Mutamin. All fell over themselves offering respect, prostrating themselves, and making holy signs of Zann, god of wisdom.

He took quiet council with Mutamin and Gogol. No one could hear what they were saying, but it was obvious that the latter two were having instructions given to them. After disengaging with them, Imam Renn turned to Auntie and held a brief, quiet conversation with her. She would not speak of it afterwards.

What you remember most of that day was that the venerable wise elf turned to look at all of you, winked, and said simply “You have much to do,” before leaving.

As it turned out, someone in the Golden Palace has gotten wind of Gogol’s contract with Uncle Jojo. While it could not be undone, it went “significantly against the spirit of the law and culture of Huzuz,” and so it was decreed from the Grand Caliph himself that while the trip may have been a year, the payment was only due a year after the caravan was due to return. Certainly, someone spent enough time with the contract to come up with that interpretation. Was Fate smiling upon you after all?

The happiness quickly turned to despair when Mutamin informed Auntie of the debt, once interest was applied. Thirty thousand gold dinars.

That was more money than you had ever dreamed of…but then you remembered your dreams. Dreams of being free men and women of adventure; didn’t the heroes in those tales come across treasure such that could engulf a man? Mountains of gold and silver, magical items that commanded genies, staves that summoned sandstorms…

A year. A year of professional treasure-hunting…could it be done?

Making a vow amongst you that you would all rather die than see the kindest woman, the one who loved you when you thought none could, fall into slavery…you decided that you would forge your own way to free yourselves from this yoke. There are treasures aplenty left over from the World that Was…you would find them and finally pay back Auntie for all her kindness over the years to you all…

Which was surely worth much more than thirty thousand gold dinars.

You set off to the bazaar to see what rumours you could pick up, when you heard the shouting of Babazadeh, one of the porters you’ve come to know…
 Episode 1 of The Burning World
 2015-06-28 -  
Al-Qadim Primer... ( Member Submission! )... 2015-06-28 
There are no rapiers in Zakhara. If you are playing a class that gets rapier, you can now use a saber, which has the same stats as a rapier but does slashing damage instead of piercing.

(For nomenclature purposes, I would actually prefer to change the names of the two, but I don't want to screw up the framework).

Some foreigners 'especially pale-faced characters from the distant North' have dubbed Zakhara 'the Burning World'. Whether the setting is city, sea, desert, or jungle, the Land of Fate is uniformly hot by day, especially during the summer months. Only the high mountains of northern Zakhara offer relief from the searing midday sun, but in turn they offer new difficulties, such as unsteady footing and sheer slopes.

The omnipresent daytime heat shapes every aspect of life in the Land of Fate. Resting (or at least slowing the pattern of business) is common during the midday hours. Bazaars are busy during the early morn and late afternoon. But in between they may be empty, save for a few dozing businessmen and half-crazed barbers flashing their blades in the sun.

The most obvious concession to climate is dress. Loose robes are preferred to tight-fitting leggings. More importantly from a gaming standpoint, the heat also affects a Zakharan's choice in armor. The heavy plate mail found in the distant North is a rarity here, used for occasional pomp and ceremony if at all. Full metal plate armor, encasing the body from head to toe, is unknown to the common Zakharan; those few suits which exist are collectors' items, procured for their magic or as curiosities.

The reason for this is simple: heavy armor makes movement difficult and even dangerous in a hot climate. Foreigners who insist on wearing such armor often stagger and pass out with exertion. Even with 'exhaustive'training, a man in full plate will be less effective in the Land of Fate than a man who chooses his armor more prudently.

Armor (not including shields) heavier than 20 lbs. is laborious to wear in Zakhara, inflicting a penalty to weapon attack rolls and physical ability and skill checks as follows:

Ring Mail and Half-Plate -1
Scale Mail: -2
Chain Mail: -3
Splint Mail: -4
Plate Mail: -5