"A Rollicking Band of Adventurers We"

A Bit o' Prophecy
Self Explanatory

In Detva…

Mad Zoila’s good eye begins to steady and lose focus. Her shaking and fidgeting subsides and she stares into the middle distance. She begins to murmur eldritch verses in lofty tones, clutching her throat and making wafting motions with her other hand. Finally, she takes a pinch of grey and white dust from a bowl and casts it into the air, which dissipates as she takes a long drawn out gasp of air.

She then looks at each of you in turn, saying in perfect unaccented Faerie, Icatian, and Hammaddi, “Greetings travelers of distant lands! Come ye to have your fortunes told by Mad Zoila?”

She settles herself on the overgrown mound. Zoila takes a brown leather pouch from under her ragged shawl and shakes it vigorously, clattering the contents within. She pours out a pile of fingerbones etched with runes and stares at their arrangement with her steely grey eye.

“I see… a journey, a winding path… forked, but both ways lead to the same destination. You must choose… the longer safer path, or the short path frought with peril. I see… an evil, a horrible darkness…”, she says her voice quaking, “… this evil looms over and surrounds a victim wearing the guise of an adversary, a hapless pawn of its dark gods, this one.” Her voice sounds sad, “I see an obstacle on your journey… but it lies before the evil… and the victim, barring them from their desires. To achieve what you wish, you have two patrons available to you. You may call upon an old god… or a new one.”

* * *

“Foreigners they were, but they wore the guises of our people. BEAR BAITING!”, Zoila suddenly shrieks, “I saw through their masks. Zoila sees through the mists and fog… she does! They spoke in strange words, like a thousand black ants swarming about the grass. But, to have sight one sees the patterns of their scurrying. Words they make in the dirt, words Zoila can read.”

The old crone rocks back on her heels muttering to herself, “The innkeep will hang, oh yes he will… oh yes!” She breaks into a fit of cackling that ends in ragged wet coughing. Coming to her senses, Zoila recalls the details, “They were speaking of someplace far away… someplace in the west, across the salt seas. They spoke of a woman they were meant to seize. They failed, and their masters were wroth. So they fled, they fled here. They fled from their wrathful masters, because they failed to get the woman. They took her prize, though. Something valuable, something precious to her. More precious was it to their wrathful masters, though. A ‘key’ they called it… a key to a mountain. The ‘Mount of the Seven’, they said.”

Interlude: Apsifoppotis
In Which Pastanti Has a Visitor.

Posted by Darth Krzysztof

Again, Pastanti’s first waking thought was of Ser Quinn Mac Teague.

She groaned, covering her head with her arms, wishing that the big foreigner would leave her be. Things had been so much simpler before he’d come into her life… less joyful, and less colorful, but simpler.

She’d tried to forget his face by losing herself in her work, but those lovely blue eyes waited for her in every lull. She’d tried to convince herself that he’d never return from Al-Jebail (or was it Port Crorbak?) alive – the Balearaen corsairs spoke highly of Quinn’s skill in battle, but the world was still a dangerous place – though she always chided herself for basically wishing ills on the man.

And she’d told herself, time and again, that Quinn could never persuade Enchrais Noble House to free her. This was known, a certainty, like the rising of the sun; only Quinn’s ignorance of Lavinian ways kept him from seeing it. She longed for the day when he finally gave up, and left her in peace.

Why, then, did she dream of running away with him every night?

Interlude: A Visit to Faerie
In Which Quinn Catches Up With Nyleth.

A Visit to Faerie

Posted by Darth Krzysztof, from a conversation with Elenore

1380 C.E.

The Al-Tair al-Bunni lurched again, pulling Quinn out of his troubled sleep by the stomach. He clapped a hand to his mouth, stifling a moan as he rolled out of his bunk and made his way topside, to the spot which Hada’s crew called Quinn’s “post” on the ship. He hugged the rail with both arms, too sleepy and queasy to keep his balance on the rolling deck, and waited for the inevitable. Serves ye right fer eatin’ so much, he told himself as his mouth started to water, as it always did. Findin’ the wee bairn’s cause t’ celebrate, an’ no mistake, but ye knew ye were gettin’ on a blasted boat agin.

Not this time, he thought. Mebbe ye ain’t sea-blooded, but ye’re strong. Stronger’n this. Keep yer food down, Quinn!

He squeezed his eyes shut and thought of calmer harbors, casting his mind ahead to their destination of Balearaeos. The city stood bright and warm in the afternoon sun, the people making way for the Spellknight as he climbed the road to Koritsi Kai Kalukas once more. Sitting beside the well there, Pastanti rose at the sight of him, a simple curtsy and a shy smile failing to hide her happiness at the return of her apsifoppotis. She started toward him as he drew nearer, holding out her arms…

The ship crashed down again, and Quinn opened his eyes to find himself back aboard the Al-Tair al-Bunni in the middle of the night. They were still days away from Balearaeos, from the reunion he ached for. To his surprise, though, the urge to vomit had passed.

“Quinn?” came a quiet voice. “Are you all right?”

He looked over his shoulder to see Nyleth hanging in the rigging above him, wide awake and shoeless, with her hair down. Quinn had encountered her like this before, but hadn’t looked for her this time in his haste. Aye, an’ last time she was upside-doon. ““Oh! Nyleth! I dinnae see ye there. Aye, I’m a’right. Jist tryin’ tae find mah sea legs, still. Honessly, I like th’ sea jist fine. Only from the land, d’ye kennit.”

He turned and stood with his back to the rail, dabbing at the corner of his mouth out of habit. Elves went into a trance instead of sleeping, and Nyleth’s trances had been less restful since she’d learned that her cousin was among the missing Faerie slaves… “An’ ye? Are ye all right?”

“Oh, of course,” she said lightly. “I just like sitting up here. I can feel the wind!” Her toes wiggled in punctuation, just about at Quinn’s eye level. He wondered how feet so dainty could support her, even tiny as she was. He started wondering what Pastanti’s feet looked like, and not for the first time, before Nyleth spoke again: “And, if I want to talk to the stars, no one else will hear me.”

Every star in creation had come out tonight; Quinn couldn’t conceive a better time or place to speak to them. “An’ what d’ye talk to the stars aboot?” I know so little aboot ‘er… mebbe if I keep it light, she’ll share a wee bit.

Session 3.08: Smoke and Dust
In Which the Heroes Begin Searching for Joram Param.

Posted by zero

10 September 1380 C.E.

As the company left the Colosseum, they found that the sun had set. Nyleth peered up at the gloom with a surprised expression. “I hadn’t realized we’d been in there that long,” she said, placing one hand unconsciously on her stomach.

“I’ll ne’er ken how someone so wee eats so much,” Quinn said to her.

“Someone once told me they thought I might be hollow,” she replied cheerily. “I think they might be right.” The Dalesman nodded in agreement. Moria shook his head at the exchange, surreptitiously keeping Nyleth between himself and Hada.

A crowd had gathered in the lamp-lit streets as the Pleasure District roused itself for the evening, and they all pointed and murmured as Hada’s sailors led Al-Fi away from the Colosseum.

Session 3.07: A Snake in Shadow
In Which the Heroes are Hoodwinked by a Serpent.

Posted by zero

10 September 1380 C.E.

“Al-Fi, hold!” Nima commanded before moving to support the elves. He barked a short prayer and a spark of sunlight flew from his outstretched hands to scorch the nearest goblin. The Kannite shrieked in pain as it merged from the cell door. Nyleth released the hilt of her rapier and instead pulled her bow from the enchanted haversack. As a second goblin pushed past the first, her arrow caught it in the neck, sending it to the floor. The bard took a step forward, putting herself between the Kannites and Moria.

The small horde of goblins rushed toward the steps out of the pits, and for a moment it seemed as though they intended escape. Before they reached the exit, however, they stopped in a great scrum and began rummaging around on the floor. They screeched at one another in their guttural tongue as they tore into a leather-wrapped bundle. A moment later, they hefted well-used short-swords, and turned to glare at the adventurers.

Session 3.06: Trap for a Trickster
In Which the Heroes Enter a Dungeon.

Posted by zero

10 September 1380 C.E.

Quinn and the elves met Nima at Al-Fakir wal-Halal around noon, as they’d agreed. “Ah, sadiqi, you are all here! Welcome. Welcome!” the Hammaddin greeted them. “Come and join me. Our food shall be ready soon.

“Aye, an’ I thank ye,” the Dalesman said.

Nyleth clapped excitedly, and smiled broadly at Nima. “How wonderful! Thank you for organizing lunch for us.”

“It is truly my pleasure. Come, sit. Perhaps some wine or maybe qahway?”

“Wine, thanks,” Moria said as he took a seat; Nyleth echoed his order, and Ha’ra sat down beside the bard.

“Whass qahway?” Quinn wanted to know, sitting as well. “Mebbe I should try that.”

“Ah, Qahway is a delightful drink. It clears the mind and sharpens the senses.”

The serving boy brought a platter of eggplant parcels served with flatbread with herb butter, peppercorn-encrusted goat cheese, and honey rolls. He took their drink order from Nima, then departed to fetch the beverages.

Interlude: Reverance
In Which Nyleth Gives a Gift.

Posted by Elenore

10 September 1380 C.E.

Despite the ugliness at the jail, it was still going to be a lovely morning. The sun was barely peeking over the walls of the city, and there were still pockets of cool shade under awnings and hidden in corners. Ha’ra was winding her way through the crowds like a veiled ghost, dodging between laborers and men holding vast baskets of bread on their heads alike. Behind her, Quinn, Nyleth and Moria followed, trying to ignore the wide-eyed stares that followed in their wake.

The unmistakable smell of the spice merchants preparing their wares wafted across the street, and Nyleth paused to take it in. Inhaling deeply, she couldn’t help but smile. Truly, cinnamon was a gift from the gods themselves.

“Are you quite finished?”

Interlude: The Souk
In Which Our Heroes Shop and Talk.

Posted by Darth Krzysztof, from a conversation with Elenore and zero

10 September 1380 C.E.

The group seemed strangely quiet as they left the colosseum for the Souk al-Madinat. Quinn had grown accustomed to Moria’s silence, had even learned to share it, but he couldn’t remember ever seeing Nyleth go this long without saying anything. The slavery they’d just witnessed – and it was slavery, no matter what the Hammaddi called it – disturbed her, more than she’d let on. “Suren a shame that sorta thing is tolerated here,” he hazarded. “They git tae watch ‘em fight, but don’t have tae see how they’re treated down below. Outta sight, outta mind, I guess.”

“Perhaps,” Nyleth said, as if she’d been waiting for someone else to break the silence. “Though I think they may have just been accustomed to it. Which is, well, a shame. Everyone has different ideas about what is normal and what is not.” She deftly avoided an oncoming cart then regained her position near Quinn. As crowded as the souk was, he still caught the scent that always followed her… jasmine, he thought, with the tiniest smudge of vanilla…? He shook his head; trying to figure it out always distracted him.

“So, are they condemned criminals, or jist slaves? Or d’ye ken?”

“Mmm. Usually a combination of both. I mean, the criminals usually are the Hammaddi, the others are slaves. It… turns my stomach, to be honest. One of the few things about this culture that bothers me.”

“Law is Law, an’ I’m sworn tae respect it.” His head swiveled at something that smelled wonderful on a nearby food cart, then back to Nyleth. “But I dinnae have tae like it.”

“Nor do I! And … were those chestnuts?” Nyleth’s face suddenly regained its glow.

“Smells like it. Let’s git some.”

Nyleth approached the merchant, chattering quickly in Hammaddi before prodding Quinn into completing the transaction. The Spellknight’s vocabulary was improving, but she corrected his inflection more than once. Moria, who’d been lost in thought, rejoined them as Nyleth claimed three paper cones packed with roasted nuts. “Ecoriel, would you like some chestnuts? They smell delicious!” She held a cone out to the wizard, smiling brightly.

“Thank you,” Moria said, accepting the cone and crunching on the tasty treat. Quinn grew increasingly sure of two things: that Nyleth was going out of her way to find nice things to say to and do for Moria, and that Moria was finally catching on to it, and starting to show his appreciation. Maybe it had been Quinn’s words as they entered al-Jebail that had done the trick. The thought brought a smile to his face. He’d have to ask Nyleth about it when the opportunity arose.

“But of course!” Nyleth replied. “What fun are new cities if you don’t try all the food?”

They snacked on the chestnuts as they moved through the souk, keeping their eyes open for interesting booths. “I haven’t had these in so long,” Nyleth sighed. “I forgot how yummy they are.”

“Oh, aye?” Quinn glanced at Nyleth. “How long ago was that, then?” He still had only the vaguest understanding of Nyleth’s history.

“Hmm,” she said, idly brushing bits of shell from her gown. “Twenty years or so? I think? It’s difficult to keep track.”

Quinn saw that Moria was now glancing at Nyleth, too. “Truly? I didnae think ye were older’n me… ‘less ye were jist a wee lass then.” His mother had given him enough sense to keep from just asking Nyleth’s age…

She laughed gaily and ate another chestnut before speaking. “That is kind of you, Quinn. But I’m a little older than you, I think.”

Moria leaned around Nyleth. “You’ve seen what? Twenty-three summers, Quinn?”

“Twenty-five.” The Spellknight slowed to peer into the windows of a closed perfume shop. Suren they’d have somethin’ fer Pastanti, he thought. Not that anyone’d smell it in th’ Koritsi Kai Kalukas… Course, ye might have her tae yerself someday. The very thought made him blush, and he gratefully allowed the elves to pull him away from it.

Session 3.05: Cleric of the Sun and Wind
In Which Abd-Al-Azhar Nima Ibn Ni'ad wa-al-Ashar Enters the Story.

Posted by zero

10 September 1380 C.E.

Nyleth failed to control her shaking hands as Ha’ra led the adventurers from Barka Prison. “Ecoriel, I’m glad that you were able to handle that,” she said. “When people are aggressive…sometimes, I don’t know what to do.”

The wizard shrugged. “Bullies don’t like to be stood up to.”

“Still, thank you.”

He nodded. “Of course.”

The bard beamed a smile at him. “Shall we find a place to eat? And chat?” Their young guide recommended a shoma shop that she knew of.

Moria shook his head uncertainly. “Ha’ra, when do the games usually take place at the Colosseum?”

“There are games every month for three days, during the new moon, in honor of Tanat, but the next are not for four more days for the festival of ‘Fik’,” she replied.

“Do you think Al-Fi might be there now?” Nyleth asked.

The mage nodded. “Likely, and he won’t be ‘too busy’ to see us, perhaps. Not that I intend to be put off.”

Session 3.04: Hammaddi Hospitality
In Which Interrogations Are Made.

Posted by zero

9 September 1380 C.E.

As the sun set on Al-Jebail, the streets remained crowded, and dimly lit by many lanterns and the occasional magical post glowing softly overhead. They had come north from the Bab al-Hummam along a very wide flagstone street. Bu’il had led them between the narrow square stone buildings along winding alleys until they came to a three-story narrow building with a high stone wall separating it from the street. Their guide informed them that they stood before the home of Sayyadah Hada ar-Ri.

“You say we are expected, Nyleth?” Moria asked.

“Mmm, yes, in a way. We were told to call when we came to Al-Jebail. One does not refuse offers of hospitality here.”

The wizard inclined his head. “I see.”

“Aye,” Quinn agreed. “I jist hope she’s home.”


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