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Lich Hunters, Inc.

Fiction Date 2019-09-15
Last Updated 2019-09-15 15:12:03 - Update

Episode #135: Lions of Tomorrow Notes from Kazerabet

The Burning World Campaign


NPCs mentioned in this Episode:


Ashtarek

Khaldun

Raja

Suhail

Sumulael

Chapter Two

The Geomancers

It 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 Geomancers

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.
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.

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 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 Geomancers

Wizards 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 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 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 Priests

Councils 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 Wizards

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. (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/priests

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 (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 Stars

The 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 Goals

Having 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 Experiment

At 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.


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