Hidden 3 mos ago 3 mos ago Post by Shu
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Shu

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Call of the eldritch one…



~ Art by haryarti ~ (DeviantArt)
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The Manudhe Desert - a desolate expanse of endless dunes, treacherous canyons, and dried oasis’. In Equarish it is known as the Forsaken Desert, a name deserved for such a wasteland inhabited only by madmen and monsters. It is the very core of Dahard and many claim the beating black heart of the land’s savage nature and woes. Such claims and warnings of course do not keep the most daring away, many of whom's bleached bones can be found buried in the sand still clutching their rusted swords and broken spears from when they drew their last rattling breaths.

Malachy of Ezain was one such daring man, but he was one who still lived. Having braved the dangers of the Manudhe Desert and relying on his wits and innate skills he had found what he had been looking for, that which had first driven him unto his travels and brought him to Dahard. Malachy had spent years searching for the ruins of an ancient city, one of many that had been lost within the great maw of the Manudhe over the countless centuries. This city however was said to be the final resting place of an ancient artifact. Already worth it’s weight in gold it also is a coveted prize among those with magic in their blood, the fabled relic said to give one great elemental powers.

Where so many had given up or failed Malachy had finally found the remains of the ancient city. All the time spent pouring through scrolls, comparing outdated maps to ancient tablets, and bickering with desert sages had proven fruitful in the end. Finding the ruins themselves would be a reward regardless. Even if the relic Malachy sought was not there or indeed just a tale the ruins would surely have a number of treasures and valuable items to be claimed. And as Malachy now trudged across the sands towards the cities’ towering walls he wished for the hundredth time he had never found the accursed place. For this was not his first arrival.

Malachy neared the massive front gate which stood as tall as any building, his eyes scanning the walls overhead. It was quiet as it had been when he had first came here and every other time after, the air as dead as the city itself. There were no signs of any people or animals to be seen anywhere, the only tracks being those of Malachy’s own two feet. He was just short of the gate when he heard an unwelcomely familiar voice.

“Malachy… you return.”

Malachy froze in place, eyes turning to a shadowy nook to the left of the gate. A dark look crossed his already downtrodden visage as he made out the silhouette of the voices’ owner within the shadow. “Yes.” Malachy said flatly.

“Well,” the voiced rasped, “what have you to present?”

“I do not answer to the likes of you.” Malachy retorted, jaw jutted out. “Let me through the gate.”

A hoarse chuckle, “No, you do not answer to me, tis not I who holds your leash. But I am the gatekeeper.” From within the darkness of the shadow Malachy could see two gleaming white eyes and a yellowed smile of cold spite. Malachy spit in disgust but knew he had to appease the curiosity of the creature before him if he wished to enter the city. He had to do so before after all.

“I visited the foreigner as told.”

“Well?”

“His army is small. He calls upon locals and sellswords to do his bidding. I imagine he hopes to gain the allegiance of the natives as well.”

“Hmm,” mumbled the hunched form, “what of his stronghold?”

“It is barely worthy of being called such, mere houses and tents thrown together around the remnants of an old ruin.”

“Easily fell.”

“I suppose.” Malachy said saltily, lips drawing into a crinkle of contempt.

There was a moment of silence, Malachy stood impatiently as the shaded being remained quiet. He spoke not and made no effort to move forward from his tight cranny. “Will you open the gate now?” Malachy snapped finally having no interest in spending anymore time in the company of the hunkered gatekeeper. There was an amused chuckle followed by the call for the gate to be opened, the hunkered creature’s fried shouts even worse than his calmer tone. Like metal against rock it made Malachy’s hairs stand on end.

“Go slave, your owner awaits you.”

As the gate slammed shut behind him Malachy began the long walk through the damned city. Crumbling shells that were once houses danced with shadows and the fleeting shapes of those who watched the lone man pass by. They like the gatekeeper denizens of this lost city, and like him servants of the one whom Malachy now went to see. As bothersome as the constant movements from the corners of his eyes were what truly vexed Malachy the most was the empty silence. There were no gusts of wind, no caws or screeches of birds, not even the buzzing of an insect. The only sound to be heard was the scraping of his shoes against the sand laden stones and the rhythmic thump of his staff as he walked. One could say that the endless silence was near maddening, Malachy feeling his feet begin to glide beneath him as he was eager for both more sound as well as to be away from this place again as fast as possible.

Malachy had done as he had last been instructed which was to journey south to the coast where the foreign nobleman who had arrived a year ago had first raised his banner. He had since erected fortifications which soon had drawn in settlers as well as merchants and other travelers seeking the safety of walls and soldiers. Malachy was told to visit the colony site which had been named “Kaganja” and learn what he could about the foreigners, their leader, and the settlement. Having spent twelve days among the people he had learned much and now - like the lapdog he had become - returned to report to his superior.

As he ascended towards his destination atop the hill in the midst of the city Malachy’s disgust and seething had been reduced to wistful melancholy . He had felt often since the first time he departed this city, his fate sealed as he began his new life as an empty thrall. He wondered how long before he became like the gatekeeper and the rest of the malformed beings he had encountered here. Naught but a shambling husk that followed the commands of the ancient being that had snared him in it’s web when he had first arrived. In the end it was Malachy’s ambition and greed that had brought him here and thus placed him at the mercy of forces greater than his comprehension, and he knew this without denial. How arrogant he had been traipsing into the ancient ruins alone thinking himself a match for all that lie within only for his adventure to end with him on the ground pleading for his life in a spreading pool of blood. His pleas were indeed answered though it was hardly an act of mercy. This brief exchange for his continued existence was the signature on the contract that reduced him to what he was, a slave bowing to the voice of one most sinister. His body and soul theirs now.

As he clumb the great steps towards the sanctum of his host, or rather leash holder, Malachy gathered what composure and lingering hope he had held on to so far. What precisely he hoped for he had no clear picture, he just knew that it helped him to face the fear that came with returning to his subjugator as well as coping with the knowledge that he had a hand in their evil even as a mere emissary. The chance that he could perhaps escape from the snare in which he was caught. That maybe he could find someone to help free him from his imprisonment. This flickering hope and strained grasp on his self was all he had left.

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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Penny
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The cerulean waves lapped at the breakwater without enthusiasm. The settlement glinted white as the blazing sun shone of the sandstone. Kashvi Singh stood on the prow of the trading dhow as it coasted in on a gurgling wake, it long lateen sail billowing in the fitful winds. Desert coasts were notoriously fickle for winds, but Jaseem knew his business. He might be a reeking black toothed old sea dog, and odds were he turned corsair whenever he liked his odds, but he was a fine seaman. That worthy worked his way forward to where Kashvi stood, arm wrapped around a spanker stanchion.

"It is a beautiful sight Jaseem," she said, gesturing expansively to the the town with her free hands. It was true, green palms waving across white washed walls. The familiar domes, a hallmark of Banegorhan architeture put her in mind of her homeland, though not as much as the scents of spices and curry simmering and goat roasting. It had been a long time since she had seen Banegorha and this little piece of it tugged at her soul.

"From here perhaps," Jaseem said, his voice sour and bringing with a blast of arak scented hallatosis. Well, if the worst threat she faced on a voyage was a fragrant companion, she could do worse.

"Up close we will be treated to the aromas of rotting fish, mixed with dung of all varieties and an undertone of trash baking in the sun."

Kashvi leaned back and laughed as the dhow cleared the breakwater. There was no guard ship and no customs launch, though a variety of dug out canoes were already pulling hard for the oncoming ship, oars digging at the calm waters of the harbor like irritated water beetles. Dirty ragged vendors held up fresh fruit, stale fish and clay pots filled with arak and honey, screaming the quality of their wares at the top of their lungs. Some of the boats contained whole families, ragged children hawking wares while sibblings gripped weather worn tillers with calloused hands. Sex partners were on display also, drab and dejected creatures in faded and stained finery. They did not look particularly appealing to Kashvi, but hope, apparently, sprang eternal.

"No booze or boobs till we are tied up you curs!" Jaseem roared back along the length of the deck. His crew, many of which had been drifting to the towards the railings.

"Besides," the captain went on in more conversational tone, "I haven't paid anyone yet, and if anyone has a sheckle to scrape together my name is not Jassem al Hassan. Kashvi snickered, she didn't doubt it, but then they weren't her crew.

_____

The world lurched beneath Kashvi's feet as she stepped off the gangplank. Landsickness was an occupational hazard, after three months at sea, it would take her a couple of hours for the lack of a rolling deck to become normal again. She waved to Jassem, touching her purse by reflex to make sure the old pirate hadn't taken her last sheckle as a parting gift. Pirate or not he had been right about the smell. Up close it was all beggars, sewage and rotting fish. All the world was beauty Kashvi had been taught and she truly believed it. Admittedly it was a little more difficult to see that beauty while stepping over shit, but it was there.

Without conscious direction she began to climb towards the palace, the atmosphere improved markedly as spice shops replaced fishmongers and the quality of inns rose. Market stalls gave way to neat cool shops selling brassware, sweat meats and all manner of other items that cost more than the pitiful handful of coins that the Jaseem's of the world left in a sailors pocket. There was a surprising amount of greenery, mostly palms and a few sick looking figs. Unexpectedly they made Kashvi think of tamarin trees, and her mouth puckered at remembered sour snacks in her youth. A broad smile began to creep across her face. Truly the world was a wonder if one looked at it the right way. Before to very long she found herself standing before the palace. A pair of guards leaned against the gate, halberds propped against the wall. The stonework looked none to new and the ancient limewash was flaking away giving the place a pocked unhealthy look. The guards themselves were not impressive specimens of the breed, leaning listlessly as they swatted at flies that buzzed around their sweat stained uninforms in a monument to optimism.

"Peace be upon you," Kashvi called pleasantly, holding out her palms in the ancient benediction. Both guards straightened momentarily before slumping back into bored inattention.

"Here to see the Zeminda?" one of the guards called as she approached. Kashvi had no idea what they were talking about, but it was too pleasant a day to allow a thing like that to upset her.

"I suppose I must be," she smiled.

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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Force and Fury
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Force and Fury Actually kind of mellow

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The last time that Azar had been in Qadir, she'd left bodies in her wake. The plural made it sound worse than it was. There had only been two.

It had been freeing, at first: a place where she could walk the streets and... no, that was wrong. The people here loved ayiralites, or had brainwashed themselves into thinking that they did for the sake of mundane convenience or out of thinly-veiled mortal terror. Yet, even among her kind, there was a hierarchy. The Maatrho was water, and so they loved water best. Earth had always fallen closest to human hearts and kinship and was valued as well. Air jinnbloods were... inoffensive even if they were dead, soulless things inside. There had still been unease beneath the fawning: too much sweat in a handshake, subtle crossings to the other side of the street. Azar was young and uneducated, but she was not stupid. They always thought she was stupid. Damn them.

Almost three years had passed: enough time for them to have forgotten her. If not, things were about to get bad. She'd been around the outskirts when a small band of Jushites had materialized out of the dusty foothills and set upon a covered wagon. It had been cheap, on her part: an ambush, but Azar now had seven bodies to her name, not that the people around here knew that name. Officially, she was about to be a hero. Unofficially, she was and would always be a fire ayiralite.

Crickets chirped and the air hummed with an arid sort of life as she walked, torches flickering along the walls of more noteworthy buildings, a near-full moon casting pale light upon the dusty ground. "I cannot thank you enough, miss," the old man from the wagon insisted. It was not the first time he'd tried to make conversation. "And thank Maatrho for sending one of his kin to save me in my hour of need. Your timing was not mere coincidence. You must believe it."

Azar clenched and unclenched a fist. Eight bodies, she thought. I must not leave eight bodies. She'd considered it when he'd insisted on reporting her deeds to the Imit's office. He'd promised she'd be rewarded but, from the youth's experience, rewards were not something that came to her much. She'd be content with being left alone, but he JUST. WOULDN'T. DO IT.

"What is your name, so that I may tell them? My son, he works there! You will see: he is a good man - hard-working, keeps the Gods, serves Maatrho... through the Imit."

Some part of her wanted to talk to him, of course. She'd been two months out in the desert and spoken no more than a couple of sentences to any actual person in that time. Speaking got her in trouble, though. Just thinking about it was starting to put her in a sour mood, so she opened her mouth to blunt her rising annoyance. Annoyance was the vanguard of anger. "Azar," she replied shortly. "Al-Hashimi."

He bowed as he walked. It was almost - but not quite - obsequious. "Then, tonight I shall honour Azar Al-Hashimi, with my wife and our servants."

She was about to tell him that it really wasn't necessary, despite the little warm feeling at her core. Then, they were there, and conversation ended. Guards parted, bowing a little deeper in her direction, a little more warily. Inside were... more guards in front of a pair of double doors, even in these early hours after sundown. Tawr was nothing if not... disciplined.

"I am Naseem Hamidi, a merchant." He marched up to the head guard and announced himself. "I would like to report something to the Imit's scribe: My wagon was ambushed by Jushites." He pointed in Azar's direction. "This one saved me. She killed them all, praise be Maatrho. Praise be Jhator. She said her name was Azar Al-Hashimi: a fitting name for how ferocious she was in protecting me." He twisted back and smiled at her. She nodded back. This place: she needed to get out of it. She knew it. The last time she'd been here, she'd only escaped a death sentence by virtue of her being the wronged party, even in an immoral act. More likely, she'd escaped by virtue of her jinnblood nature. "It was nothing, honestly. I was only..." What do these people like to hear? she wondered for a moment. "...serving as an instrument of the gods' divine wrath. I could not let harm come to a good man such as..." She'd forgotten his name. "this one. I ask no reward and the hour is late."

The guards bowed their heads momentarily in thanks. "You may pass, Naseem and honoured Azar," one said. "Come come," the old man waved her forward. "What sort of fellow would I be if I did not return your generosity at least in part?"

For a moment, Azar thought about running. It was early nighttime and it was cool. She could be well into the Jushite foothills by daybreak. It beat meeting anyone higher up. It beat them remembering her. She was exiled upon pain of death. The fleeting fantasy passed, like many did, and the double doors creaked as they opened. Truth was that she wanted the praise. Some part of her needed it. The path of lesser resistance here was to hope that fate's dice would roll her way and the man she was about to meet - for it was usually a man - would be someone new who did not remember her.

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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by POOHEAD189
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"Death would be too good for you," Mala-Shim said with blood flecked lips, hatred in his eyes. Amal had to give him credit, he faced his own mortality with defiance. Too bad he couldn't risk him staying alive. The thief held his curved knife to the merchant's throat, having killed his bodyguard and descended upon the tradesman before he knew what was happening, and after Amal bloodied him, he had told him the truth. It would have been better had he not.

"Well then I guess that means I will live forever, yes?" Amal replied, slicing the merchant's throat before Mala-Shim could respond. It was a quick cut, but Amal's strong arms made the knife slice very deep. The crimson liquid gushed out with every beat of his greedy heart, like the lapping of the waves against a dry beach. Amal only gave him one derisive look as he crumpled before turning, sliding a cloth over his jambiya blade. He had already nabbed the dead man's coin purse at knife point.

A servant, likely a debt-slave, cowered in the corner, unfortunately chained to the cart Mala-Shim had been taking to Arilqas. The ass neighed in annoyance, its ears flickering as the flies that gathered about its head began to migrate over to the fresh corpse. Amal took a moment to contemplate, then decided he really didn't care to take much from the now ownerless cart. The slave man flinched when Amal approached him, his skinny body shivering in obvious fear. When the thief's hand flashed, the slave cried out and ducked, only to be hit in the face with the key to his chains.

"What is your name?" Amal asked, counting the coins he had taken from Mala-Shim even as the slave looked at him, astonished he was alive and even more surprised he had been given the keys to unlock his chains. He swallowed to wet his throat, thinking Amal was playing some sick game with him.

"Ekara," the man responded, sun-baked hands slowly fidgeting with the keys."And...you are Amal, yes?" The thief's amused smile showed him he was correct. "Master spoke of you often."

"What did he say about me?" Amal laughed.

"Many nasty things." Ekara said, his manacles 'clicking' open, taking them off and not sure on if to toss the keys back to Amal or keep them. The Esaad thief did not seem concerned with them, now placing the coins back into the small sack, pleased.

"Well it makes sense, seeing as he is now dead. Perhaps I deserved them?"

Now Ekara was certain this was a game. There would be no reason to free him other than the kindness of one's own heart, and this man killed with no hesitation. Ekara even suspected he had enjoyed it for its own sake. Now he bandied words in a way that kept Ekara on his toes, not knowing how to respond. As he contemplated running, Amal strode over to the cart and leaned in, glancing at the goods Mala-Shim had been transporting. The slave was not very familiar all of his master's business going south, but he knew he had been transporting iron and textiles for an order of armorer materials to Arilqas.

"Well Ekara, it seems you have now been freed! And with your own business, as well. You are far luckier than I was when I freed myself, I will not lie to you." Amal confided, and stepped over to Ekara, though he seemed to be more interested in the weather above and their surroundings, for some reason.

Ekara's jaw dropped, blinking over and over until the servant, well... former servant, shook his head. "You will give me his things? Why!? Why not just steal it all?"

Amal shrugged. "I was a debt-slave once. Call it nostalgia. Though I am also letting you live so you could bury the body." Amal rested his hand on his sheathed knife, and the other on the hilt of his scimitar. He looked so casual, it was difficult to say whether he did so to look threatening, or if it was mere habit. Likely the latter to achieve the former. The thief looked at him with eyes so dark under his wave of black hair, they looked abyssal. "Men do not look kindly on slaves killing their masters."

"But-"

"Also, because I let you live, I would like discounts on whatever business you find yourself in, in the future. If you manage to bury your master before someone arrives to find you. Sound good?"

Ekara's mouth worked, but no noise came from his throat. So he merely nodded. Amal took his hand and shook it. "Friends, then! It is nice to meet you, Ekara. I will see you later! Mala-Shim had a shovel in the back, by the way."

The thief tossed his bag of coins into the air and caught it, walking southward toward Arilqas. He felt a bit liberated himself, if he was being honest. Mala-Shim had him thrown into prison and had killed a woman Amal had fancied, and it was providence his vengeance took him out of Esaas where no one looked for him. Perhaps he would find where his fortunate lay, ahead?
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Fetzen
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Clack. Clack. Clack.

It almost sounded as if the innkeeper had cramped his wine glasses a bit too close together on the narrow shelf, causing them to touch each other and emanate the typical sounds of glass hitting glass whenever there were vibrations coming from the floor above. However it just were the hands of a lonely Ayiralite, or rather the hard tips protruding from their fingers, who made contact with individual items of a whole heap of glass shards. It was not a scattered mess, but a well organized pattern Dalani had laid out on the wooden table in front of him. Every piece had been arranged in a way that correlated with the level of confidence he had about it belonging to those pieces next to it.

Trying to reassemble broken bottles randomly picked up from the dirty streets was a task likely to be considered completely unnecessary and horribly boring by the patrons sitting at the adjacent tables, but for Dalani nothing could have been further away from the truth. He was creating small miracles in the minds of those who could not understand: bottles that clearly showed signs of having been shattered once in their past, but then again fully functional without any treacherous seams only the melting of glass could cause! A good way to earn a few tiny coins and to make people both curious and happy.

More importantly however he was creating a small miracle for himself and that was being able to concentrate on something else than just how wicked this place seemed to be. Maatrho here, Maatrho there, Maatrho everywhere! If this was some sort of delapidated outpost of Tawr, just how bad must things have turned in their heartland since he had been there for the last time ? Couldn't just some bad guy buy a big bat and batter this blue skinned benefactor's beautiful bottom to bits ? And then set fire to the palace, just to vaporize the evidence of an injured god king for good measure. No, really, Dalani had nothing against his own kind, but just how an entire human population of such size as the Tawr could deliberately and effectively enslave themselves and just how a single Ayiralite such as said 'god king' could obviously dare to do nothing against this kind of belief he himself profited the most of was a shame. And yet at the same time there were other people in this world who could certainly use some of the respect for Ayiralites those in Tawr seemed to have in utter excess.

The bottle reassembly thing just helped to take his attention away from his surroundings while he was stuck here, making it a lot easier to ingore those humans around him who were all too eager to make him feel superior while he actually did not want to. Now if he only could find the right piece that matched this oddly shaped breaking pattern...

Bang!

The entirity of Dalani's right arm twitched as he suddenly felt something warm, soft and odd on the back of his head. The large piece of glass still in his hand scraped across the table and sent its fair share of the careful arrangement hurtling towards the ground, multiplying the overall complexity in the process. He twisted his head and upper body so fast it almost didn't seem good for the stool's integrity, only to then look into the wide, brown eyes of a small boy who had crawled onto the table behind him. The young man's hand shook quite a little as he, very slowly, retracted it. No words were exchanged, but Dalani could see the fear and anger written on the faces of those two individuals who sat at the other end of the table their child had just used as a shortcut.

The Ayiralite raised his hand and made a waving gesture, trying to indicate that he was not angered by what had just happened. A small touch just to know how his upper head felt like was a very harmless way to take a sample, no reason to be worried at all. It didn't seem to be of much help however. The couple still just sat there in a rather shocked and frozen manner.

Dalani tried to muster a smile when he said "I think my hands got the same feeling to them as my head. You could touch them a lot if you'd help me to reassemble my little puzzle.". He didn't even have to point at the now completely unordered pile of glass shards down on the floor. Of course he'd pick them up for his skin didn't suffer from cuts that easily, but he really could use some assistance now with holding a few things in place while he worked his magic.

The boy's lips parted, but no words were to be heard. Was he afraid of punishment from his parents for he had sneaked up to and touched one of their 'divines' faster than they had been able to react ? Or were all three of them now anxiously waiting for said divine's verdict ? Dalani couldn't help but let go of a sigh he tried to suppress at the same time. He could see in the boy's eyes that the latter would be all too happy to join the earth man in front of him, then decided that sometimes one had to just force somebody's luck onto them.

Dalani reached for the boy's ankle, dragged him over the remainder of the table gently and let him extend his legs down to the floor again. "Come on, sit down and help me a little." and a chair was pulled out and offered quickly. Those two individuals behind their backs ? Dalani slowly stopped caring for their facial expressions. These two wouldn't intervene against the decision of someone who had descended from the heavens above, would they ? At least sometimes even the most stupid superstition could be good for something...
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Gunther
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Gunther Captain, Infantry (Retired)

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The Baghala or Bugala was the Baneghoran word for a mule. These double masted sailing ships were the mules of the sea. The one Kichirō traveled on was hauling spices, silk and tea from his homeland in Akana. The nation produced other natural resources and finished products as well, but this vessel carried specific items bound for Baneghora.

Kichirō had spent far too much time aboard ship. It did not agree with him. On the first day away from land, he offered up the contents of his stomach to the sea. By the next day he was at least able to keep his food down, but the constant rocking of the deck was certainly unsettling for the Akanan Monk.

Only a handful of Akanans were present on the nine-day voyage from the port of Panchang in southwestern Akana. Most of the travelers appeared to be returning to their homelands. They all had dark hair like his own, with browned flesh and overly round eyes of brown. Their mannerisms appeared barbaric to the clementine Monk. He considered himself somewhat more refined than the Esaadis, Tawrans, and Baneghorans traveling aboard the baghala traveling east towards the Dahardi Continent. Regardless of his personal opinion about himself or his traveling companions he refused to acknowledge them to anyone. They were personal and would remain personal. He extended a liberal benefit of any doubt about the integrity and worth of these people.

At often moments he would query his companions about their language. It was not as though he were aboard ship for months on end, but he did learn enough of the local language to at least get what he wanted. Just in the little over a week voyage, he was able to discuss foodstuff and personal mannerisms as well as polite etiquette.

As the ship neared the dock, Kichirō insured his possessions were close at hand. He didn’t want to leave anything behind. He hoped there would be an alchemy shop in this port city he recently learned was called Kaganja. He heard the city was nothing more than a hasty trading outpost, but already its sandy limestone structures provided evidence that this settlement was so much more. The colorful arrays of tentage, canvas or awnings provided life as people milled about in search of something. They were the life blood of the settlement.

With his bag upon his shoulders, Kichirō strolled down the gangplank returning to firm land by way of a 150-meter-long wooden dock. Several ships of varying sized were moored to the pier. This provided stimulus for the monk to take in with his dark colored eyes as he learned from them just by watching them. Each ship a different color with a crew of different colors busying themselves with whatever mundane task they chose as their own.

At the end of the pier, he found a man selling fish. There were a few pre-cooked fish wrapped in lettuce. Kichirō bought one fish which he quickly stuffed in his backpack. The dock area was crowded with people. He was fascinated by everything he witnessed. It was indeed overwhelming. He hoped and prayed he would be able to find someone less fortunate than himself to help.

Kichirō wondered if his distinctive Arkanan appearance could have a negative impact on how the others perceived him, but he honestly did not fret over such trivialities for very long. He spied a young woman about his height, maybe slightly taller dressed in a blue jacket with headscarf and tanned trousers. Her jacket concealed a white blouse with gold trimming. There was something that drew him to her. The woman appeared to be similar to himself. He considered extending a helping hand, but vacillated in his mind, but figured it would be the right thing to do.

In his best Baneghoran, “Greetings! Welcome to Kaganja.” Kichirō wasn’t sure about the word choice. He thought he had it right. “I just arrive from Arkana. You know if herb or alchemy shop here?”

He figured he got some words wrong. He hoped he didn’t mess the words up too badly. Maybe the woman didn’t speak Baneghoran? Maybe she spoke a more common language he understood as well? That certainly would make things much simpler.

@Shift
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Hidden 2 mos ago Post by Kassarock
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Kassarock The Conquering King

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H A R W A A H M E S T E P | Q A D I R



The sun beat down hard on the dry hills where the Twaran hinterlands met the sands of the Manudhe Desert. The air was thick and still, without a breeze to stir the fronds of the dusty palms. It was the kind of heat that sent man and beast a like in search of shade. But in a town such as Qadir, shade was a sought after commodity, especially for those who could ill afford it.

This close to the Manudhe it was known that on days such as these, that to spend to long exposed to the Lhat of the Sarin, was to invite death upon one's head. The only people who would willingly sit out beneath the open sky for any extended period of time in such conditions were those who had no other choice, or one who's sense and reason had deserted them.

Harwa Ahmestep wondered which one he was.

The old man sat cross legged, his white haired head and thick armoured body covered with a thin dun coloured sand cloak in a vain attempt to block out the noon inferno. His axe lay beside him, its blade wrapped in bandages to make it appear little more than a bundle atop a stick. Obscured so, there was little to differentiate him from the other beggars and street dwellers of Qadir. Save for the fact he was broader than any beggar had a right to be.

He was perched upon his open bed roll, placed along the edge of one of the thoroughfare's that led through the city up to the Imit's palace. His wooden begging bowl was placed in front him, for that was the prime purpose of choosing such a god forsaken spot such as this.

Of course there were other places that were populated and well trafficked enough to warrant pan handling that were also in possession of shade. But those were either kept clear by the guards, or currently occupied by other beggars. Harwa knew he could send either of those running if he revealed his blade and made a few choice cuts, but he had no heart for it. The guards were only doing as they were ordered, and the beggars were just as deserving of the merciful blessing of the shade as he was... Perhaps more so.

And so Harwa sat beneath the sun, half hidden under his cloak, bowl outstretched the other unfortunates that braved the noon-day sun.

"Alms for the poor? Take pity upon a old sinner." He croaked out in a low and husky voice to the shadows that passed over him, their very indifferent presence providing a moment of respite from the relentless heat. A few coins had rattled in his bowl over the last few hours, but none for a while, and so he had hoped for another copper when two of these shadows paused above him.

"Hedes, friends! Spare a coin for a lowly beggar?"

A swift and sharp kick to his lowered head was the only response.

Harwa bent himself lower and tasted a mouthful of dust, mixed with the faint copper tang of his own blood, his ringing head pressed to the dirt. A spurt of rage, hotter than the sun above, seared his insides. For a moment he thought of how easy it would be for him to unwrap his axe and paint the street red with the blood of these two bastard fools. It was what he would have done once if provoked so, the inclinations of a man better left buried in the past.

He breathed deeply, and suppressed the urge.

"Clear the street, by order of the Imit. Find some other corner to stink up, old man." Barked one of the pair of guards who had just kicked him in the face.

"But of course, of course, fine sirs. Sahnat a wenbet besu!"

All the while he prayed for them, that the Arhanphast would forgive them for the damages they unknowingly did to their everlasting soul.

When they had gone he looked up and gathered his now scattered belongings, including the coins that they had spilled from his little bowl. It wasn't as much as he had hoped for, but it was enough for something to eat from a market stall... and maybe a swift drink. In fact, Harwa thought that the drink might serve him better than the food at this point.

There was a taverna near by that was friendly enough to his kind. He took a quick swing from his waterskin and began to head in its direction.

____________________________________________


The shaded interior of the taverna was mercifully cool compared to the world outside. It's arched doors were covered with beaded curtains through which the sun's baleful rays furtively tried to creep they way inside. Harwa did not do likewise, he strode in, bold as brass, his voice booming as he called out to the bar keeper.

"Hedes, my good friend! Do you perchance have a free drink for one of your best customers?"

It was not a practically busy bar, but there were some other patrons. Some merchants and market traders, a family with young children, and a hulking Ayiralite of stone and earth who appeared to be playing with a child, with broken glass of all things. Strange.

"Harwa, you are neither one of my best customers, nor my friend. Unless you have coin, Pah hret!" Came the answer from the other side of the serving hatch. Harwa reacted with mock surprise and feigned outrage.

"You wouldn't deprive a feeble old man of his last few coins simply because he needed to quench an unbearable thirst?"

Perhaps there was someone here who would buy a drink for him?
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Her body cast almost no shadow as the sun blazed fiercely from above at the sky’s zenith. Although she was finally becoming accustomed to the unyielding temperature after two years of wandering through the outskirts of the Manudhe desert, Namihra still felt suffocated by the oppressive heat. Wave-like fumes rippled through the still air before her, mimicking the waves she longed to see at the coastal outpost of Kaganja toward which she now traveled. She hoped the unfamiliar landscape would make her trek worthwhile. Or at the very least, that the rumors of the Baneghoran newcomer proved useful.

“Cha haket! I should know better by now.” She cursed her eagerness to continue the journey during the day instead of setting camp and waiting for the relative cool of twilight. What she wouldn’t have given for a casar. She briefly considered the indulgence of traversing through the sarin atop an agile steed without any care for the time of day, but the weight of the coin purse rocking against her hip with each step was still much too light to justify such an expense. Still, she would have welcomed the company of another living creature.

In truth, even if she had waited until the early evening to continue toward the coast the temperature wouldn’t have dropped too drastically, but her decision to move about while the sun bore down mercilessly upon her was nonetheless a steep price to pay for quicker arrival and earlier access to a drink other than the warm water sloshing in her flask. Much to her perpetual dismay, she hadn’t quite figured out how to manipulate the water sufficiently enough to garner a cooling effect.

It had always been a dream of hers, to bare witness to the sea, and Namihra would have made the sojourn to the shore much sooner had the learning curve to survive autonomously in the desert not been such a precipitous one. The incline was sheer, dizzying, and arduous, but after two years, she fancied herself as having successfully overcome an initiation of sorts into desert life, and felt an unmistakable sense of accomplishment as well as a renewed sense of confidence to venture farther from the familiar trading villages and outposts that had initially served as her lifelines.

The previous evening had started much like every other in the recent past. In the late afternoon, Namihra packed away her camping supplies, gathered any excess items she had liberated from bandits who preyed on a nearby trading route, and headed into the nearest outpost to trade her goods. In this case it was Jalantha, a Baryakin village with whom she’d had previous dealings and was able to establish herself as a trustworthy peddler.

While at the market, she heard mention of a new colony led by a formidable man, the so-called Zemida Naakesh Kaanada. A caravan had recently arrived from the settlement bringing with them contemporary merchandise and lively tales of the Baneghoran people, their wares, of the Zemida’s growing infantry, and of his call for volunteers. Intrigued by the location, particularly due to its distance of only a day’s travel, as well as by the prospects this development might provide for increasing the weight of her coin purse, Namihra marked Kaganja’s location on her map and set off into the night.

When she departed, she estimated she would arrive at the new colony just after midday if she pushed through without taking a break. Looking up now from her dragging feet on the baked and cracked ground beneath her, she was relieved to see the pale stones comprising the settlement’s outer walls and taller buildings in the distance.

Imagining the rivulets of sweat soaking her shirt might soon be replaced by cool ocean water, she closed her eyes and savored the hint of a sea breeze that finally reached her.

As she neared Kaganja, Namihra realized a small Baryakin outpost had been established close by. Deciding she trusted the desert folk more than the unfamiliar Baneghoran foreigners, she stopped and made arrangements for the bulk of her stash of items to be held safely in their care with a promise of coin upon her return. It was a cheaper option than doing so within the colony's walls and this way, she would be less likely to be targeted by unsavory individuals.

No longer weighed down by her effects, she all but sprinted toward the docks. The initial view of the expansive ocean took Namihra’s breath away. The sea was jewel-blue and the sky was silk with slowly drifting tufty clouds of pure white. The strange mixture of beauty and ferocity both awed and inspired her. The air too was unlike anything she’d experienced, humid and thick with a lingering scent she couldn’t quite place. Something tugged at her from within and she felt a curious sense of deep connection. After spending a few minutes admiring the crashing waves and observing the incoming vessels, she pulled herself away toward the pier-side market.

After purchasing a refreshing beverage from one of the many stalls, she located a vendor who spoke Equarish well enough to provide the directions she sought. As she finished confirming the route a second time, Namihra overheard another man’s voice and turned, sensing his warm greeting was directed at her. She didn’t understand much Baneghoran, but was familiar enough with their words to vaguely understand him.

She returned the gesture to the bald man behind her, though with an inquisitive and inherently distrustful gleam in her eye. What does this stranger want? As she assessed him further, her hand hovered close to a hidden throwing dagger she’d kept on her person as a precaution. In such a crowded environment it would be much easier to maneuver with it than her isameh.

His clothes seemed to be of high quality and his features were serene enough to ward off her immediate suspicion of his being a common thief, though she supposed this could just be a ploy and his appearance ultimately did little to lower her defenses against him. The more she considered him however, she realized he seemed altogether foreign. Much more so than the Baneghorans milling about the various stalls. It was only then she registered the accent during his initial address.

“Apologies, I don’t speak Baneghoran very well,” she continued in Equarish, hoping he was familiar with the more common tongue. “Did you mistake me for someone?”

The man gave a curt bow and a relieved smile. “Oh good. My understanding of Equarish is much better than Baneghoran.” He seemed to relax in her presence. “I have just arrived from Arkana. I do not know this land yet. I would like to see their Herbalist and Alchemy shops. Do you know where they may be?”

Arkana? Namihra had only heard of the name in passing and her map wasn’t large enough to indicate its location. She wondered what he was doing so far from his homeland. “I too am unfamiliar with the locations of shops here, I'm afraid. I myself just received directions from this shop owner,” she motioned to the stall behind her which displayed countless different hooks and fishing lines. At her gesture, the elder man behind the counter offered a short bow and a kind smile. “He speaks Equarish as well.”

Assuming their interaction was done, Namihra offered a nod of farewell and turned in the direction the shop owner had indicated where she would be able to find an audience with the Zemida. The bald man thanked her for her time and she heard him ask the same query to the vendor before his voice was drowned out by all the others.
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Hidden 2 mos ago 2 mos ago Post by Shu
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Kichirō Takagi, Kaganja


The young woman walked away. There was something about her…Kichirō just felt he would see her again. He quickly turned away and faced the fish monger. “Do you know where I might locate the Herbalist or the alchemist? Or potion master in this settlement?”

“Aye,” the man reeked of the sea. He was at least fifteen years senior to the Arkanan Monk, with a bulbous figure. Undoubtedly equal parts sinew and cellulite. Quite possible the sinews were hardened from a life at sea and carrying the extra weight around. People tend to discredit overweight figures with weakness, but they do conceal muscle. They are both located two streets west of here about three hundred yards down on the left.” What wasn’t said was the two businesses were neighbors. Since one relied on the other, it only made sense the two had a shared existence.

“Did I hear that woman ask you about Zemida Naakesh Kaanada?”

“Aye. He is raising an army to deal with the fractured state of affairs here in Baneghoran society.” The fishmonger started a coughing fit. He was at wise enough to turn his head away from his wares.

“Where might I find this Zemida Kaanada?”

“His estate occupies the lands where the ruined fort, one of the earliest buildings in this land. You can find him there.”

“Thank you, sayidi,” Kichirō bowed with his hands pressed in front of him. His eyes remained on the man with a slight approving smile pursing his lips.

Within ten minutes, he was in front of the Herbalist shop, which was in fact adjacent to the alchemist shop. These businesses were located indoors, wooden buildings rather than hasty stands and tents with people clamoring all around.

The door was slightly stuck, causing him to appear hesitant. A swift and hearty push caused him to stumble inwards.

“I do need to get that door fixed,” a thin dark featured man with a bad case of crows’ feet lamented upon Kichirō’s entrance. “How may I be of service to you, Sayidi?” The man spoke Equarish eloquently. His dialect was much more refined than the man from Arkana.

“Thank you. I was wondering if you had any powdered puffer fish extract and a bottle or two of seaweed extract?” Kichirō asked.

Without skipping a beat, the thin businessman jumped into action. He clapped his hands together as he stepped to the side. “Why yes, of course,” he drew Kichirō’s attention to a row of vials on a shelf to the man’s left and then waved a hand over a display table containing the powdered fish liver.

Kichirō stepped forward to view the items. He could tell right away they were exactly what he was looking for.

“Suitengu's Surge and Strike of Flowing Waters, I presume?”

Kichirō snapped his head towards the man, initially in surprise that he knew what the items would be used for, but then assumed the man had met monks like himself before. The monk smiled, “you are good. Do you remember every spell component?’

“It is my business.” The man then charged him a few coins for his purchase and Kichiro left to find the Zemida Kaanada.

Within twenty minutes or more, he was entering the grounds containing Kaanada’s estate.
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H A R W A A H M E S T E P | Q A D I R



It seemed that Harwa had misjudged the mood of this particular watering hole, and badly at that. As the cries of the patrons bought a pair of guards in through the beaded curtains he groaned inwardly and slumped his shoulders. His luck was proving to be exceptionally poor this day, first the attack on the street, now this. Or perhaps it had nothing to with luck at all, perhaps the Arhanphast was testing him once more.

But exactly was being tested, his forgiveness or his righteousness?

Harwa had felt like this since he had arrived in Qadir a few weeks ago. The compulsion that had brought him back after so many years was not clear. He knew that he wanted to help these people, all of them, from those that suffered beneath the lash of the Maathro's whip, to the hand that held it, all the way up to the false God-King himself. But he did not know how. He did not know if was even right, or if was just another selfish desire - that forgiveness was absolute, that everything could be atoned.

Maybe this was not a test, maybe it was his punishment instead.

"Sirs, please, sirs. I am an old man, a veteran of Tawr. These are but my only possessions and a walking stick. You... you would not part an old man from his crutch?"

He allowed himself to collapse to the floor at their feet. Weak and trembling. If this was to be his punishment then he would gladly accept it... but he could do little good behind the bars of the Imit's prison, so he would not throw away his freedom lightly. He hoped the All Father would forgive his lie. Besides, it was only half of a lie. His axe had been a crutch for him for many years, and sometimes he was forced to rely on it still.

The two guards tutted above him, a mixture of disgust and pity behind their hardened eyes. Oh and fear too. The strong always feared weakness in places where weakness was punished, because they knew deep down it was something that could happen to them. They barked commands for him to make himself scarce, and reinforced their point with a few well placed kicks and the butts of their spears.

Harwa make the appropriate noises of suffering, but inside he was calm, serene. He prayed that these men would be forgiven too.

When it was over he crawled out of the taverna, dripping blood across the tiled floor, and out of the beaded curtains. He would find somewhere to rest up for now. It was not the first beating that he had received here, and it almost certainly would not be the last. Such was the life of the one of the Tariqa Al-Shahadh, beggars in service to teachings of Sharaq.



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Dalani



Just like the destructive jaws of a grappler crane, just a lot more miniature and unlike the latter in actual existence, Dalani's clawed fingers hovered over the small area of table all of his attention was focused on. People commonly believed that glass was a very well organized, crystalline miracle with a high degree of order on both the very small and the larger scale, but the truth was that it was chaos just like liquid water that had stopped moving because its internal bonds had become too strong anyway. It made merging the stuff actually easier, at least on the tiny scale of things Dalani could only see by means of magic.

Strictly macrosopically speaking however it was still a daunting task to drop each and every single shard into a position that would preserve the bottle's overall shape. One misaligned piece and none of its successors would fit properly anymore -- and it appeared the tavern was becoming more vibrant by the second. What was going on ?

Dalani raised his head and looked over the boy that was accompanying him towards the counter. The hefty male was hard to overlook, but even more so the crude exclamations from the patrons behind his back were hard to overhear. These primitive people! And then the guards arrived and happily picked up on the overall situation. It was apparent that the big, elderly man's moments in this tavern were already counted, but what Dalani did not expect was for them to end with such a beating quite literally.

"Please go back to your parents for a moment, will you ?" Happily the boy had been sitting with the back towards the worst of the scene, so maybe the child's eyes had been spared some of the bloody spectacle. Dalani did not even want to know at this point however whether the boy's parents had been part of those patrons asking for this. Afraid of the answer ? Probably, yes. But also lucky to have been spared of that sight, too.

The Ayiralite approached the two soldiers who seemed rather confident in having done a good job, something he hoped to change: "My sincere thanks for getting this man out and caring about this place's atmosphere." he introduced himself not trying to tear down the door right away.

"It is important to keep the filth out, but..." His voice remained calm and halfway friendly, but his tongue right now was nowhere near reflecting his real thoughts about what had just happened. "... would you mind turning your eyes towards your most immediate surroundings ?

Dalani's arm reached out as if to embrace all the bloody dirt on the way from his current position to the beaded curtains and beyond and sure he could and maybe even would have taken care of that all for himself, but only if there had not been two disciplined and able-bodied men who'd certainly be willing to listen to someone who was much closer to their beloved Maatrho than their humble human self could ever hope for, right ?

"Do you think it will do any good to this business' income if its customers' feet are denied to tread on these refreshingly cold, beautifully laid glazed tiles with their marvelous red-brown color, but instead have to avoid the occasional tooth that might otherwise punch into their skin and give back the extra bit of grip they might be missing due to all the... blood-red lubrication on the ground ?" More serious than before, he continued: "You think the Maatrho would approve of such a thing impairing the economy of his kingdom when there's such a simple fix available ? I believe it's called 'a rag in your hand'!"

With this being Dalani's last words, he left the guards to their own devices and returned to his table only to scoop up all the glass in the partly reassembled state it was and dump it into his bag a little less carefully than would have been appropriate for that kind of stuff. One last smile to the boy and the Ayiralite shoved aside the beaded curtain quite vigorously so he could start following this tavern's most recent... advertisement... on the ground.

Whether the guards would be sensible enough to try and clean up this mess outside as well ? He had little hope, but it would be fun if they did because he planned to go where any cleaning effort would have to go as well and that was the elderly man who had been treated so miserably.

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The Imit tried hard to radiate power and dignity and maybe even succeeded. It was not difficult when he already possessed one of those things. Azar had seen men like him before - and they were almost always men - of course. Sitting there above her upon his fancy chair, his gaze had flickered momentarily to lewd. She didn't need to be particularly perceptive to notice it.

The ayiralite bowed low before him. These Tawrish thrived on recognition of their awesomeness. "I am Azar, your excellence, called Al-Hashimi or else Masoumi by others." She rose in a single, sinuous motion, her hair momentarily enfolding her in ebony and flames before settling about her back and shoulders. "You may, of course, address me however you desire." She paused for just long enough before continuing, aware that she should probably reference the Tawrish pantheon lest he suspect her of not being a follower. "I am grateful to have saved a man of such value. Indeed, I have come here from a place of some hardship to serve the will of the Gods and of Maatrho himself -" And, by extension, you, she thought, though she did not say it. "- in any way that I may be of use. Of course, as you know, my nature lends itself better to some pursuits than others..." With a thought, she conjured five small tongues of flame that danced at her fingertips.

It was near to noon and dusty columns of light streamed in through the tall narrow windows of the palace. This place reveled in that rarest of indoor commodities: sheer open space where utilitarian function was often the order of the day. Azar's attention, however, was on the Imit and her own performance, with which she found herself pleased. Nailed it, she thought, hiding her smirk of triumph. The jinnblood's expression remained beatific, or so she imagined it. She stood before the Imit's throne, feet together, chest out just a touch, for too much would make her appear low and that wouldn't do. She allowed a slight smile to crease her lips as she snuffed out the flames in her palm. A curl of smoke arose from it and, ever so slightly, she bowed her head and awaited his words.

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The music and arid breeze made Amal nostalgic, feeling very much like he could find a temporary home here. He had already sidestepped a few beggars and some scam artists who thought they were being clever. Amal kept his face hidden, save for his abyssal brown eyes. Eyes that always looked for an edge or an advantage. He waded through the crowds, looking for a bazaar or some other place he could get something to eat. He was even in such a good mood, he might pay for it!

That was, until a very strange man caught his attention, though why he chose Amal out of the masses he could not guess. The thief did not exactly stick out, other than being noticeably fit. Amal shrugged and approached, curious on what the man was selling or at least offering. Nothing free, of course, but still. Amal lowered the scarf around his lower face, peering at the baubles and trinkets and alchemical potions.

"Well, I have enough endurance where it counts, already." Amal said. He wasn't even making a joke, just stating a fact. "But I appreciate the offer. Then again..."

Amal rubbed his chin, looking at the man and then glancing momentarily at the muscle he had arrayed. Amal could nab the bottle lightning-quick, but he did not wish to make enemies. Not yet, anyway. As usual, his boredom got the better of him. This was only a small pause before he grabbed something to eat.

"What is a fair price, in your opinion, my friend?"
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The number of grapes that Azar had consumed - both in solid and liquid form - was truly unholy. By Arhaphast himself, she had devoured a queenly amount. She reclined on a divan in a fine silk robe making little dancing fire puppets with her fingers.

What a maroon! Haha! What a knob! She grinned with a self-satisfied air and it lingered on her face for a good few more seconds before she let it fade. She flicked a grape up and caught it in her mouth, feeling rather proud of herself. She'd always been naturally acrobatic. Smug as a snake in a ratsnest, she went for a second but, this time, it went down a bit wrong and she nearly managed to choke herself. Azar sat up, coughing and wheezing. She stumbled to her feet, hammered her chest, and swallowed. She could taste grape in her nose and suddenly she did not want anymore. After a few further coughs, she drank greedily from her wine and, at last, managed a steady breath. Cursed little choking-orbs! With a petty sort of satisfaction, she smacked the silver bowl away and watched the grapes spill across the floor. That'll teach you! she forced herself to think, twin flames igniting in her palms, but it was not near as satisfying as she had hoped and the fires flared and were extinguished.

This was stupid. She felt stupid. She was no sumptuous courtesan or high class lady. She was, always had been, and always would be dirt. Why, Azar could not even swallow a grape properly! It was absurd to think that she'd actually wormed her way into the Imit's good graces: absurd! Were she capable of such feats, she'd have managed one last time she'd been here. After pacing for a few minutes, increasingly distressed, mind going to paranoid places, temperature rising like it inevitably did, she paused by the window and looked out over the city. but if I could get my hands on even a small sliver of this...

She knew that she wouldn't. She was playacting at being a schemer again. Sometimes she had enough chutzpah to pull it off in the short term but, in the long run, she always came undone. Even now, just a few minutes ago, she had nearly burned the room down over a grape. Steal what you can, the practiced scoundrel's voice within exhorted her, scare them with fire, and run for Baneghora or Esaad. She went back to pacing, mind flighty, coming up with and endlessly amending half-plans until she ran out of impetus and hurled herself back down onto the divan. Within half an hour, Azar was in bed in her silk robes. It was a really nice bed. Maybe she could make this work after all. Maybe she didn't need to cut and run for once. Maybe, if she passed whatever inevitable trial the Imit would send her way - for that was the manner in which opportunities always seemed to come to her - she could just... be lucky, for once. The young ayiralite managed to half-shrug into her covers. Before sleep claimed her, she remembered to thank the divine. She recited the seven virtues and was lost to dreams.


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Kichirō Takagi


“Just for one night,” Kichirō responded to the Innkeeper.

“Not a problem, sir.” The innkeeper looked at the board with the keys on them and pulled down a small key handing it over to the priest, “Room 202, sir.”

Kichirō took the key and headed up to the room. He lay his possessions out on the floor and pulled open his spellbook. He turned to a spell he had been studying. He folded his legs on top of one another as he read the spell in the book.

‘Ebbing Strength,’ reading the title of the spell. ‘Intended to sap the strength of a victim or target, strengthening a second target or possibly the caster. The material component for this spell is a cherry blossom flower petal. The caster must focus on the target and think of this person while uttering or thinking the word, Sakura. The spell lasts for one hour.’

He had no target there in his room. Closing his eyes, he pictured a random image in his mind of someone who could potentially be his target. He focused on the fictional person in his mind while softly muttering, “Sakura.” He said again, “Sakura.” And the word fell from his lips a third time, “Sakura.” He repeated the word over and over again quietly while focusing on the effects of the spell. He knew he would not have this spell available for some time, but when it was ready, he would be ready to receive it.

By the morning time, Kichirō had his belongings packed up again and checked out of the room. Two of the Zemida’s men had arrived with three camels to meet him. Kichirō was impressed by their attire. They each wore a steel helmet with a pointed top and a sheet of mail draped around the sides and back of the helmet. The eyes were outlined by what could have been a nose strap but stopped just between the eyes. A rolled-up length of white cloth outlined where the brim of the helmet would be located. The length of cloth wrapped around the soldiers’ heads.

Each wore a mail coat over a padded surcoat. At the chest, the mail was composed of scaled leather and small steel plates composing layers or lamellar armor. At the waist, the armor spread out into a similar patterned girdle to protect the hips and upper thighs. Light cotton white breaches and soft brown leather boots completed the ensemble. The white cloth at the head and the billowy trousers contrasted the darker earthy tones of the armor.

Their weapons consisted of a curved blade called a scimitar. Their gloves were more leather backings for their hands. The fingertips and palms were open. Only the back of the hand was covered in leather with steel vambraces on their arms.

The men were instructed that the priest would not know any of their greetings. “Are you Takagi?”

“Hai!” Kichirō stated. “Yes, I am. You are taking me to Jalatha?”

“Yes. Have you ever ridden a camel?”

“No sir. Anything I should know?”

“Shift your weight as the beast changes his gait. It will make the ride more comfortable.” The older soldier with greying temples spoke to Kichirō. He manipulated the reigns on his beast to get her to lay down. Then he pulled his leg off to dismount. He then pulled on the reigns of the third camel and gestured for this beast to lay down as well. “Just swing your leg over the hump, like mounting a horse. When she stands up, lean back a little to maintain balance.”

The camel laid down for him. Kichirō moved to the left side and swung his leg over the hump. He didn’t have his feet in the stirrups as the beast pulled itself up to a standing position. She leaned forward slightly as her hind quarters went up first. Kichirō did not lean back enough and tumbled onto the ground next to the camel just as it rose.

“Abn aleahira,” the man muttered. “Lean back more!” He reset the camel, readying it for the priest to remount. On the second try, Kichirō remained balanced and rose with the animal. He was pretty happy with himself, chalking it up to a learning experience.

“Follow us!” the man spoke to Kichirō. That was the last thing he said to Kichirō. They didn’t even talk to one another on the half day trek through the desert. Kichirō was fine not speaking. He marveled at the landscape. In some areas, it was just sand for as far as the eye could see. In other areas, small Copses of trees dotted the landscape with sparse grasses and pools of stagnant water. After riding for a bit, he found his hips rocking back and forth with the movement of the camel. He was able to adjust to the rhythmic sensation, happy with his ability to ride the camel.

An hour or two after the sun passed its overhead zenith, the three camels arrived at the Balyakin Village of Jalatha. A much larger pool of water stretched across the desert to the right with a more densely populated grove of trees. Slight buildings of wood and tents sprawled the landscape with one long building dominating the center. Smoke drifted up from a chimney.

The three riders alighted from their camels at this longhouse. The two soldiers brought Kichirō inside.
Hidden 20 days ago Post by POOHEAD189
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"Twenty?" Amal chuckled bemusedly. He knew robbery when he heard it, and that certainly fit the description. Of course, he would think differently if Amal had a particular job lined up where he needed to have more endurance than usual, not to mention with a great payoff. But merely buying it for a rainy day? Perhaps it was vanity, perhaps merely confidence, but he was never really worried on his skills or energy, just his luck.

Still, he did have twenty, and while it was recently stolen from a dead man, he still was loathe to part with it. The thief, his broad shoulders swept within his cloak, stroked his chin and considered for a moment, if for no reason but to be polite to a fellow ne'er-do-well. But then the man continued to talk, having clearly read him as well as Amal had done in return. Amal actually gave a laugh once his intentions became clear.

"If you are looking for someone to do a job for you, friend, you need only ask." Amal remarked confidently. Sometimes he was in the mood for verbal jousting...well, he always was, but he was also tired now and ready for the opportunity to make more money and good will amongst a new mover-and-shaker. "I am in need of friends in this land." He plucked one of the vials from the table, gazing into it and considering how likely it was horsepiss. Not that Okan wasn't honest in his sell, but many alchemists only had a few items, filling many other bottles with nonesense to appear as if they were well stocked.

"Depending on the task, I will gladly take your merchandise off your hands." The thief turned his ear to the merchant to indicate he was listening.

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