The Secrets of al-Sulat

The Story So Far...
or 'The Ship of Theseus for Adventurers'

In Gana, the City of Riches, after returning from a short quest to retrieve a golden bowl (which they then ate from), the party was forced into a series of alleys by a parade. No matter which way they went, they ended up in the same place, and finally decided to speak to the old man hawking wares in a sing-song voice in the alley.

For a steep price, he sold them a map and a vague “key” to a treasure that he claimed would make the characters richer than the caliph. They left with their key and the map, suggesting they should begin their search in the strange and little-known island town of Bandar al Sadat. [Nick’s character] recognized the name of the town and knew its vague location in Nada al-Hazan, but knew nothing specific about where in the archipelago the town is.

The party then decided to head to the docks in order to find someone who knew the location, then to book passage. [Drew’s character] set up a barber’s stool and eventually groomed the beard of a dwarf in the service of the Bashir al-Assad mercantile company. He told the party that he had overheard them speaking of Bandar al Assat, and that he could provide transportation to a different location in Nada al-Hazan, but he required a service first.

He told the party of a warehouse a day north and half a day west of the city, past the marshes and into the desert. Within that warehouse (likely guarded), the party would find three eggs that his employer desired. If they could return those eggs to him on the morning of the third day, he would provide passage for free.

The party set out quickly and arrived not far from the guarded warehouse. They decided to make camp and wait until dawn to attack, but during the night, they were attacked by one of the mythical yak-men. They defeated him and assaulted the warehouse, killing everyone within and ransacking the contents. It was full of silks and spices – all bearing the sigils of different merchants – but found no eggs.

Eventually, they found a secret passage leading to a magically created deep below. They found another hidden door leading to a room with two eggs on a pedestal. Removing the eggs without caution ended up triggering a trap, and the party was forced to fight a summoned sandling, which ended up almost killing their ranger. Upon defeating him, they gathered horses, stolen silks, and waterskins. Among the stolen goods, they found a tapestry known to be stolen from the Grand Caliph’s palace: The First Caliph takes his Wife. They also gathered this in hopes of a reward for its return.

Though they lost two horses to heat and thirst before realizing that [Ben’s character] made a damn good draft horse, they arrived safely at the oasis that night, but ended up setting the merchants there at alarm. So bad was their offense that hospitality was cut to curt, offensive levels, and both groups slept under uneasy guard. In the morning, the party decided against returning to the dwarven merchant, fearing that he missing egg would be cause for his wrath. Instead, they will provision for a long trip, so [Ally’s character] and [Drew’s character] returned to Gana with the riding horses and silks. They met a fence named Yusuf bin Salat who bought their silk and offered to buy other stolen goods they ran across in the future. They met another merchant who sold potions, but offended him and probably should not return.

After stocking up with a week of provisions, they returned to the oasis to make preparations to head first to Jumlat, then to Huzuz, where they will return the Grand Caliph’s tapestry.

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Fear and Running in the Desert
or 'When Wisdom is a Dump Stat'

Before leaving the oasis, the party met a ragged, sun-worn elf wearing yards of silk, carrying weaving materials, toting a case of silkworms, and bearing a tapestry on his shoulders. Since he was also going to Jumlat, they decided to accept his company for the trip. Good thing, because he would actually be useful in combat later, unlike 2/3 of the party’s fighters.

Leaving the oasis, Nick almost ran over a man dying on the road. They gave him water, moved him into the shade, and entered into the hospitality bond with him – over the objections of the party’s resident ninja-looter. The man’s name was Said ibn Jumlat, and he was traveling from Jumlat to Gana. According to him, there is a mysterious murderer called only al-Zulmat who is targeting servants of Jumlat’s sultan and their families, friends, and associates. He left because his brother was a now-dead member of the sultan’s guard, and he feared for his own life.

The situation in Jumlat as he explains it is dire. The city is almost always on edge anyway – the poor can barely afford to eat outside of pearl harvest season. Right now, the sultan’s guard is in the middle of a crackdown against dissidents, and al-Zultan has popular (if quiet) support among the people. The guard has dispersed several mobs a week for the past few weeks, and Said fears that things will only get worse. He implored the party not to travel past the Gate District.

After helping Said rest and loading him up with wine and fish according to the laws of hospitality, the party left him at the oasis and started through the pass in the al-Yabki mountains, which will eventually lead into the Al-Fatir river delta at Jumlat. Ally took point and scouted ahead, noticing very quickly that the party was being watched from atop the ridgeline. After warning the party, they all noticed movement from the corners of their eyes here and there, but were never able to spot what was coming. They reached a pool of water among the rocks halfway through the pass and made camp for the night.

While sitting around the fire, a pack of fearsome debbi attacked the party. Not used to the adventuring life (and with wisdom as a dump stat), the party bolted in several directions, allowing groups of two debbi each to focus on Nick, Ben, and Ally. Over the next twelve rounds, the debbi fought a mostly one-sided battle, slowly whittling away at the party members. A few lucky rounds and decent saving throws allowed half of the adventurers to fight back, causing the cowardly creatures to flee.

Two pelts worth about 200 gold each were recovered. Two horses have escaped (Ally’s and a pack horse) and will have to be recovered at the beginning of the next session.

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Continuing to Jumlat
or 'The Brown-Robed Men Made Me Soil Myself'

After recovering from the pack of Debbi, the party set out to find their lost horses. They tracked them to a small mountain path, clearly not wide enough for the beasts. The path ended up being an illusion, but only Chris and Drew’s characters passed their save, so they alone made their way up through the illusory wall and into a wide, paved area housing a fortress. The fort was defensible and obviously in use, but just as obviously empty at the moment. A number of warhorses were present, in addition to the party’s till-hobbled pair. The two quickly retrieved them and the party continued on.

That night at camp, a pack of jackals attacked the horses, but were quickly chased off. A pack horse was seriously wounded, but the cleric took care of it. The next morning, riding out of the mountains, Ally’s character spotted three lions stalking a trio of fully laden camels. She charged with her lance and the party backed her up, eventually slaying the lions and rescuing the camels.

A cursory glance about the are showed a large number of tracks heading up a small path off the side of the road. Assuming this is where the erstwhile owners of the camels must be, the party walked up into the remnants of a bloodbath. A dozen bodies were littered about the area, ten wearing the sigil of the al-Assad mercantile company and two in plain brown robes.

While examining the bodies, six riders came down the path, all in nondescript brown robes. They surveyed the carnage and claimed to know nothing of the events, but in a tongue-in-cheek and obviously lying manner. Our brave adventurers offered hospitality, and the pair of parties descended the mountains and build an impromptu shelter in order to share wine, song, stories, pickled fish, and a short jousting tournament.

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Friends to My Left and to My Right
or 'Will we ever make it to f-ing Jumlat?'

Picking up with the festivities, the party carefully negotiated another half an hour or so of tense conversation with the adventuring party they met, who hinted that the al-Assad mercantile company was in the business of slave raiding and black market flesh sales. They also warned the party against entering Jumlat, as The Darkness was making things difficult for the wealthy, so the wealthy were making things difficult for everyone else.

After saying their goodbyes and heading safely into the delta, Ally’s character spotted someone crawling in the distance. Upon arriving, she saw that it was a young human male, disemboweled but still alive. He said that he had been caught unaware by men in black, attacked, not robbed, but left for dead. He asked for transport back to his family, which the party agreed to give him. He gave directions from the mouth of the delta – north to the chimney rock, then immediately west. Through a natural stone arch and into a hollow.

Rachel’s character cast a cure spell on him and bandaged his wounds, during the trip, but the injuries were terrible. However, an hour into the journey, she noticed that he was healing much faster than he should be. Not long after that, he lost control of himself in his sleep and changed into hybrid werelion form.

After a bit of discussion, the party decided not to leave him, as the wagon would not be fast enough to escape a pride of werelions should they find the body and decide to follow. Ally and Rachel went alone and met with the pride. After short but tense negotiations, they went back for the wounded cub and returned him to his family. The leader of the pack promised one favor, but no more.

Feeling relieved at their luck, the party headed back on the road to Jumlat. Arrival in the rich delta was accompanied by farms and vineyards, though one was smoldering from a recent attack by the forces of the sultan. The party investigated and found a weeping and drunk tasked winemaker genie, crushed at the loss of the vineyard he had put so much time into. Drew offered to find him a new master.

After trying to negotiate with one absentee landowner, he managed to find one at home. He gave the party 100 dinari to go to town and find Aladdin at an inn, which Ally’s character swiftly did. Aladdin turned out to be an unscrupulous Sha’ir who imprisoned the genie and turned him over to the equally unscrupulous landowner.

The session ended with the party trying to decide how to approach the situation: contact the brown-robed haters of slavery in the mountain pass, attack the villa and free the genie, contact the authorities, or destroy the vintner’s reputation.

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Arrival in Mahabba
or 'When Spellcasters Fail Saving Throws'

After a quick break for some much-needed shopping, the party took to the sea for a one-week cruise from Sikak (snicker) to Mahabba aboard the small ship The Jewel of the Pearl Coast, captained by the supposedly-able Rufi bin Rafi. After several days of travel, the ship was attacked by a pack of flying ixitxichitl, which made quick work of the masts and half of the crew. Missed (of near Heisman fame) was nearly brought back to the mud as the giant flying stingrays made pass after pass, and Awesome the Statuesque exemplified her name alongside Amabrar Never-Finds-Spells. With the beasts vanquished the ship hobbled through the archipelago and eventually pulled into line for inspection in Mahabba’s bay.

The coast guard was a bit miffed to discover that 4/6 of the conscious party was either a foreigner or a heretic, especially since the city is in the middle of a guerrilla civil war against the Balanite heretics, but they allowed the party to enter the city on the condition that they register at a mosque.

Heading west, Yzra discovered that the mosque was dedicated to Hakiyah of the Sea Breezes and quickly ordered the party to head east, assuming there was some aversion to the truth. The party approached and entered The Mosque of The Love of Money, dedicated to Jauhar the Gemmed in her aspect of charity. Once within, the priestess interviewing the party was even more disturbed about the party’s makeup, ordering them to check in every day that they’re in the city. She was especially stern with Awesome, who may have to watch for an assassination attempt later. She was, however, kind enough to direct Yzra to • Dusalaya’s coffee shop, near the city’s only gate, in the northeast.

Once there, the party ran into a beggar shouting:

Zgjohu! Zgjohu! Yjet nëntë-fish kanë rënë! Zgjohem, Luanët e Nesër, për portat e Tadabbur janë hedhur hapur!

Which turned out to be an ancient language known by Amabrar Never-Finds-Spells. What he meant to say was:

Wake up! Wake up! The nine-fold stars have fallen! Waken, Lions of Tomorrow, for the gates of Tadabbur are thrown open!

He told the following story when he came to:

For the first time in his life, Adil is beginning to regret stealing something. In hindsight, the theft itself was easy, almost trivial. It was a clear, starry night outside the Mosque of a Thousand Fountains in Muluk. A rotund, distracted priest left the mosque for the short walk home, his heavy purse begging to be lightened. Adil had hoped the bulge in the priest’s purse was gold, not this drab clay seal, covered with strange, barely comprehensible writings.

He would have returned it (if he couldn’t have found an interested buyer, of course), but for some reason he found the writing on the seal fascinating, almost mesmerizing in its movement, illuminated by the bright starlight. He tried pronouncing words of the ancient language and all at once realized that he shouldn’t. By then, of course, it was too late. As if on cue, nine meteors streaked across the night sky overhead.

That was the night Adil blacked out. And then the nightmare began. Adil has been so many places, he has never been rid of the seal, and even death itself is no release, for it drags Adil back each time to punishment.
The sheik Filgut? Yes, Adil met him here. He is interested in the seal and wants to help Adil break the curse, but requires Adil to get to Dihliz, which is too far to travel in Adil’s condition. If you will help Adil get there, surely you will meet the sheik.

He also showed the party the seal, which is a circular disk about 4” in diameter, and has the following inscription (translated to Zakharan):
bq). Embrace Fate, and she will smile upon you. The key to understanding lies through the mists of ignorance. Learn from yesterday to shape tomorrow.

Adil was then murdered by an invisible stalker and the seal was stolen. The party panicked and ran in two different directions (foreshadowing!), one subgroup seeking help, the other seeking to avoid the authorities. In the end, it didn’t matter – Adil was right, and he did resurrect. The stalker came back and a fast but furious fight ensued in which friendly fire was determined not to be so friendly, and almost everyone got a little bite out of the 8 HD creature before it died. Oh, and Yzra broke her hip and is in need of heal or restoration to get it fixed.

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