|Last Updated||2018-09-27 09:47:49 - Update|
Episode #45: Our Tale, Such As It Has Been Told, Part I
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 Babazedeh in a scuffle. Separating the two, it was revealed that Babazedeh 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). Babazedeh 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."
"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."
"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?"
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
"Babazedeh is asking for you to be charged with grand larceny."
Yunnus tilted his head. "You agree it has merit?"
"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 Babazedeh 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..."
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:
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.
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
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.