|Last Updated||2019-09-23 08:22:59 - Update|
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Episode #21: On to Krak-Al-Shidda
The sun still sat high in the sky; the villagers of Tedohfosek still fawning over the siblings and their heroics earlier in defeating Ynadin.
Mindful that their honour demands they grant us a gift of some kind, but unwilling to take what little money they had, the orphans asked if they could offer any insight about the ruins of Krak al-Shidda; where they might find greater riches. Dubious that there would be anything left since it is such a common destination for would-be adventurers, they did remind the orphans that many adventurers who travel through the valley on the way to the ruins... never come back. A morbid fact perhaps, but they certainly had provisions with them when they set out, to be sure.
They villagers also mention that if you continue a little further, there is a 'lucky' shrine that many would-be adventurers ask to visit before their attempt to delve into Krak al-Shidda, hoping for some extra luck in their adventure.
Before the orphans set out for Krak al-Shidda, they ask the villagers not to spread word of Guzman's weapon and they agree gladly. One of the few young women of the village, Sierra, was offered to act as a guide for the siblings, and she led them astutely through the narrow passes, listening intently to the orphans' stories and keenly interested in the goings-on of Huzuz. Asking about why there were so few young children in the village, Sierra offers that she herself gave birth to a stillborn child, and that very few others had been born in recent years.
Sierra leads them within sight of the shrine, and points further on "There you go, we are here."
F: Thank you, Sierra... be home quickly and be safe.
Sierra: May the Loregiver watch over you.
As the orphans start to make their way down the treacherous descent to the valley below, a loud buzzing can be overheard, and a huge, six-foot black wasp descends from the air above, careful to keep its distance from the siblings. Difficult to see, the wasp seems to be scratching something in the sand, and flies further away from the siblings, then pauses and looks at them again.
Faruq creeps closer, inspecting the area that the waps was scratching at and is amazed to see they are legible words:
Sulayman whispers to his siblings; I know of these creatures... they are called Mason Wasps... associated with luck... some are rumoured to even be sentient! One has found us, it seems...
Creeping forward, the orphans see what the amazing wasp scratched on the next spot:
It has fallen victim to a series terrible earthquakes,
and I have been unable to determine the source,
nor make repairs.
Normally, other pilgrims effect maintenance,
but pilgrimage season is so far away,
and I fear there will be naught but rubble when new pilgrims arrive.
S: Yes, we will be more than happy to assist you.
If you would follow me...?
S: Be wary, brothers and sister. I wonder if this amazing creature is actually the reason why so many adventurers do not return from this place? I do not think it wishes us ill, but...
F: I think it is safe brother... I am not suspicious of this creature for some reason.
Following the huge black wasp that hovers only ten feet off the ground, they are eventually led to the shrine. A low, decorative wall surrounds the shrine, and wells covered by leather tarps dot the grounds. Countless eroded tombs testify to how many adventurers never made their return trips from their pilgrimage. A locked, wooden door in the mosque's outer courtyard. From the outside, the orphans can see why this creature is concerned that this mosque to Zann is in poor repair.
Faruq begins exploring the area, looking to see if the obvious fissures affecting the mosque are affecting the area around it; wondering whether or not these 'attacks' might be targeting the mosque.
Sulayman asks Nalv; how often do these attacks occur? What causes them?
And more and more frequently!
S: Do you have some mechanism for stopping them?
faithful will use supplies here to keep the mosque in a state worthy of Zann
S: Where does the side door to the mosque lead?
Nalv scratches into the sand again,
Faruq, still investigating outside, but the remaining orphans enter the mosque, and the damage is extensive. Despite the extensive damage to the cieling, the walls, and the fixtures within, only some of the writing on the walls is still clearly legible:
Translated into Medani on the inner walls of the Mosque to Zann:
"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"
Z: When, Nalv was the most recent earthquake?
S: Are they happening daily now?
As the siblings consider the information at hand, the entire mosque begins to shape with a terrible rumbling. Guzman, Sulayman and Zephyr make for the door; mindful of debris that may fall. Faruq foolishly tries to help Nalv, but rubble falls and hits both Nalv and Faruq as they clumsily flee the mosque. Less than a minute goes by and the rumbling and shaking stops, and all is quiet again.
F: Honourable Nalv, I must apologize for my foolish attempt to shield you from harm.
Such has been the pattern thus far!
Please, follow me!
Leading the orphans up a small incline, Nalv continues to communicate to them:
Suhail min Zann. However, sadly, an earthquake has covered it up.
S: Why do you think the Tomb will help, Nalv?
Faruq, looking at the entrance way, says to his brothers, "That is no earthquake rock that is blocking the entrance... it's far too smooth and form-fitting. It's the work of Dao." And as they inspect further, the orphans are more convinced than ever that it is the same type of seal that held Mahara captive.
G: Hello? Is there anyone in there? Guzman calls through the hole in the rock. The echo continued long after Guzman stopped to listen.
G: Do you want me to smash open this hold? Guzman offers.
Guzman sets to work with his warhammer on making the hole bigger, and Faruq picks the lock on the mosque's side door to find more tools to help. Guzman, exhausted, rests while his siblings work pathetically to widen the hole such that they can fit through; after more than an hour in the hot sun, panting and wheezing, the orphans have made a hole large enough to squeeze through.
Before entering, Faruq asks Nalv, "Are there any protections around the tomb that might cause us harm?"
Nalv indicates no.
I cannot enter with you.
I cannot abide enclosed spaces, Generous Pilgrim!
Beyond the entrance made by the orphans, a long tunnel descends into darkness ahead of them. The apparently widened tunnel is cause for concern, as Faruq immediately recognizes the claw marks to be those made by the massive hands of the Dao. Guzman looks to Cyclone of the Four Quarters to see if it is sensing the presence of genies, but it remains quiet for now.
Tossing a small stone down the long corridor, the sound echoes into the distance, and with almost perfect timing, the cave around them starts rumbling again; the heroes rattling about within the 10x10 corridor, and just as suddenly as it started, it stops.
As the orphans continue, Guzman notices that Cylcone begins to feel warm in his hand, and as soon as he recognizes the fact, the faint green glow wreathes the blade, indicating the orphans were not alone...
The tunnel opens up into a wide cavern; perhaps the antechamber to the tomb of Imam Suhail. The tomb seems to be home now to a less-than-vigilant genie, massive and apparently sleeping on a massive stone slab along the far wall. Cyclone is shaking now in Guzman's hand, and even with his great strength, he is having trouble controlling the sword. Guzman tries to sheath the sword, but it resists.
S: Sneak up on the genie Guzman, now's your chance.
G: If I do this, you'll all have my back, yes?
No one answers because none is necessary; the siblings all set their gazes and their minds to felling this Dao.
As if in answer, the genie sits up, eyes still closed, and in Medani seems to mumble to himself, "I'll show you... lose some weight you fat... just wait until I'm free... do I have to watch you eat.... zz.... snoring so loudly that the cave itself starts to shake... and the siblings all realize: the SNORING is the cause of the earthquakes!!
Steadying themselves, Guzman charges and unleashes Cyclone on the unsuspecting genie; gouging into his hard flesh and the genie awakes with a scream, "Who dares awake the slumber of Hasan!!?"
G: It is I, wielder of the Cyclone!
Swinging again, Guzman calls out, "By the power of Shaddad!"
H: No! It cannot be!
Hammering away at the genie with their magics, the orphans marvel at the long, green arcs of their brother wielding Cyclone of the Four Quarters. Their magic and his steel made them more confident, until, amidst the onslaught, the genie extends his hand outwards, and rocks start to pile up on each other, forming into the shape of rock-like humanoids that
H: And so now it is just you and I, Terror. And when I bring back your battered corpse to the great Khan of the Dao, I will be made a noble. You have just made yourself a form of promotion for Hasan! Forming a massive maul from the rocks around him, Hasan moves to crush Guzman.
Disposing of both the Dao and his summoned elemental, his siblings see Faruq curiously again, gathering some of the Dao's essence into one of his small pouches, and Chaka hears him whisper to himself, "This will surely be of interest to my him... ""
Seeing the cavern descend further, the orphans elect to inform Nalv that they have found and resolved the 'cause of the earthquakes'. Sulayman returns to the entrance, and seeing Nalv still there says, "We have destroyed a Dao which was the cause of the earthquakes, but we wish to investigate the shrine to make sure there is nothing else here."
S: That's what we're investigating. We shall return. And Sulayman turns to rejoin his brothers and sister.