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 Babazadeh in a scuffle. Separating the two, it was revealed that Babazadeh 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 for her, 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). Babazadeh felt cheated, however, and brought the matter before a qadi. Fortunately, Fate was smiling upon the Orphans, for the qadi 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, but there was still a fine to be paid.
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. After three days of waiting with now word from Ayyam, the young heroes began to worry. Mid-afternoon, Khalid then showed up at the 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 Khalid thought he’d see if the Orphans were interested.
Wondering how Fate was intervening in their lives this time, the Orphans agreed and followed Khalid, each afraid of what they were going to see.
There was a large crowd around a young man, wailing in sorrow, but the Orphans were fixated upon the body, already wrapped in linen. 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…They contacted a priest at the mosque of Learned Zann, Haroushin, and told him Adil’s story. Excited at the prospect of a long-term research project, the older priest promised he would look into the origins of the strange seal.
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:
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, colloquially known as Yak-Men. 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 dead cleric 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:
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:
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. They were ambushed by a strange group of psychic warriors who claimed to be searching for some sort of orb, but defeated them after an intense battle. Exhausted, the Orphans decided to rest at the next oasis they would come upon, and this was to be Halak’s Smithy and Inn.
When the Well Runs Dry
The Orphans arrived, battered and bruised, to recuperate at Halak’s. He was a well-known blacksmith who ran a prosperous inn with the advantage of having the last oasis before reaching more civilized lands. Another group was there as well, a platoon of mamluks of the Dauntless, led by Captain Zamanyeh bint Salman al-Kahn. They were bringing their payroll to Wasat; a small merchant caravan was also taking refuge at Halak’s, also having Wasat as a final destination.
During the night, a holy slayer positioned himself above the well with a heway snake, known for being incredibly poisonous. A note was found describing the slayer’s plan to rob everyone of their wealth before fleeing into the desert. The Orphans offered to assist the Captain, but a successful plan of action seemed to elude them. Suddenly, Faruq tried to paralyze the slayer above the well with his magic, but the slayer resisted and dropped the fish into the well. Two others amongst the civilians revealed themselves as slayers as well, and a great battle began amongst the grounds of the inn, causing significant damage. In the end, the slayers were killed, and the Orphans, leaning heavily upon Chaka’s clerical magic, spent the better part of 4 days restoring the well and the inn. Captain Zamanyeh promised she would remember the good deed they had done.