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The Living Waste of Mekhallah (IC)

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Lancearc
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Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

The Living Waste of Mekhallah (IC)

Postby Lancearc » Fri Jul 10, 2020 2:02 pm




Alkhafat, capital of the Sheikdom of Mekhallah

44 years After Coronation, 2nd day under Full Moon


The gentle crunch of hooves on packed dirt resonated around the noble riders. For over three weeks the refrain of beasts trotting obediently towards their destination had been one of the only sounds breaching an anxious silence, save for the occasional grunt from one of the animals and sparse conversation among the six horsemen, most now haggard from their journey. Under normal circumstances the party would have sailed directly from Tawira Mundh and up the Qaara River to reach Alkhafat, but atypical times and the Sultan's mandate demanded they instead make landfall at Junadina, traveling overland from the south.

One of the group's tasks had been to assess the true extent of the Living Waste's expansion, and without a doubt they had found the tales spun by Sand Striders and common folk alike left little room for exaggeration. For hundreds of miles along the road to Mekhallah, the dull expanse of the Living Waste hung on the horizon like a stalking predator. It had been less apparent in the northern reaches of Misardun, where much of the landscape was already made up of rolling dunes. Along the banks of the Qaara river however, just south of the Earthspine Mountains which had begun to crest into view, the earth was fair to its occupants. The land had always been hard, but vegetation and wildlife were not uncommon sights. Desolation had no home here.

The man at the head of the party, a pale figure with a countenance like bearded porcelain, turned his gaze to the east. The hardy shrubs and short trees of Mekhallah extended towards the skyline, but he could see they eventually tapered off into nothing but loose sand drifting with the wind. These dunes seemed bleaker than they had any right to be. The sun battered them more grimly than was natural, their heat dire and wicked. The unnatural sight tied a knot of anxiety in the elderly man's stomach. His horse, a brilliant black stallion with a coat which shimmered magnificently under the sun's intense rays, loosed a low whinny as if he too could sense treachery.

Here before the elder was an enemy not so easily defeated with spouts of fire or a swordsman's tricks. Most of his illustrious life had been dedicated to felling armies and besieging cities. From the southern jungles to the far north's rugged frontiers, how many men had fallen to his magical prowess or his tactical abilities over the years? How many commanders had he bested in service to his closest friend and dearest Sultan? Yet for all his martial achievements, how could one meet apocalypse in the field? He was now asked to call upon knowledge he'd rarely had time to refine since his youth. How the heavens may influence the world below, how the very sands can be made to ebb and flow by the grace of the Shayamun.

An uncharacteristic seed of doubt had already been sown in the mind of the daring Flame of the West.

The six horsemen passed a withering caravansary on their left, though by then it was a glorified ruin, little more than a tomb for the old man sitting cross-legged in the shade outside. Upon spotting the rider's elegant silver saber, inlaid with a radiant red-orange gem, the rugged elder gave a nod and leaned forward as far as his aching bones would allow in a sitting bow.

It had been twenty years since Mubarak Alani Jaffer had rode to Mekhallah, but he was not an easily forgotten man, even by the common folk.

"Moonlight upon you, Your Grace," the caravansary keep croaked in a voice that sounded as worn and dusty as its owner.

"And upon you," the magus responded, continuing up the road. As the riders left the caravansary behind, the city of Alkhafat had finally come into view.

"The edge of the world," one of the magus' companions commented, a Sand Strider draped in the order's trademark turquoise cloth.

While the frontier city couldn't hold even a dim candle to the spiraling minarets and golden domes of the West, Alkhafat was a jewel on a harsh landscape. Nestled along the Qaara river, elegant stone bridges stretched from the south and west towards the city's gates, massive wooden constructs decorated with the sheik's family crest, a crescent moon beneath a sun with seven rays bursting forth in all directions. The dome of the Tabalist temple emerged from the center of the city, nearly the same pale blue as Mubarak's djellaba and turban. Sandstone constructions painted various shades of blue peaked over Alkhafat's walls, and on the river the corpse of what was once a bustling waterside market still held more people than five of the various villages dotting the city's outskirts.

The last time Mubarak had seen the city, it was wrapped in a great inferno, the result of a devastating siege. Even from a distance, he could make out which buildings on the skyline had been rebuilt since then, though there were discrepancies between the outline of Alkhafat his eyes reported and what his memory recalled. The city was already on the decline 20 years prior, and little had changed. The roads to Alkhafat had been nearly devoid of life, but Mubarak recalled many an emigrant family headed the opposite direction.

A great horn sounded from above the gates, and the doors swung open slowly. Mubarak spurred his horse forward, turning to the rider on his right, the only other magus among the six companions. The Alrifaq woman, Hikmat, with deep blue skin and beautiful moonstone eyes. She had been sent along as a political strategy -- ideally, seeing an Alrifaq among the Sultan's delegates would secure cooperation from her kinsmen native to Mekhallah. Having one of her kind along to such matters was always a boon of course, and Mubarak had a sneaking suspicion that the Sultan hoped the level-headed magus would temper his own reckless nature.

"I've heard it's been long since you've returned here, magus," Mubarak said as the party closed in on the city gates. "It must be a strange sight now," the man paused here, letting his words marinate.

"The last moon I saw this place under was stained with ash and blood. The people surely still bear me no great love, so I am glad to have you along, as I've said."

A small crowd had already begun to form within the gates, a common occurrence which marked with the comings and goings of authority figures.




Image

Somewhere on the Qaara River, 10 miles from Alkhafat


"...they hatched a plan, to stop The Waste
Through scorching sands,
The mage made haste.
Swiftest steed and West's own flame,
Returned to lands that curse his name."


Her words carried across the water like dragonflies, alighting on the shores their canoe left behind as it cut deftly through the Qaara. The girl performing the melody occasionally kicked her feet in the water, the river's refreshing coolness gliding over the lower halves of her legs and offering a welcome respite from the sun.

The woman stopped strumming her oud gradually, her orange-painted right hand dipping to meet the river and her left hand, decorated with a rich blue dye, setting the instrument at her side in the boat. The wind had shifted since they took to the water, so much so that the men who had been rowing their vessel towards Alkhafat now took time to rest, reclining in the center of the canoe and gazing at the clouds overhead.

"Why'd you stop?" one of the men asked, his thick, curly brown hair bobbing as he spoke. Almasa answered without looking back at him, her rich chocolate eyes locked on a pair of Qaara River Turtles perched on a sturdy length of driftwood.

"I need some time to think about what happens next, Baqir," the minstrel responded as one of the spiny-shelled reptiles launched itself back into the water, deciding that the boat was drifting uncomfortably close to his platform. His companion remained steadfast as the canoe shot past, refusing to surrender an inch. "Unless you want to write the ending for me."

Baqir ignored her challenge, certain it would end in some kind of mockery. "If you keep your feet in there too long you'll get dragged in by a crocodile," the Jai-Annar swordsman cautioned after a period of silence, rolling onto his belly to address the back of Almasa's head. Baqir was roughly her age, with a deceivingly bitter countenance accentuated by a deep scar running down the left side of his jaw, a memory of the robber's saber that nearly took his life as a teenager. "Then you'll have no ending to your little tune, and who'll play for us?"

Almasa grinned at this, raising her feet from the water and turning around to face her companion. Her face was painted in the same style as her hands, the left and right halves the same shades of blue and orange, respectively. "Good question, you lot are fucking dull," she jested, pushing a thick lock of black hair away from her eyes and setting her feet down on the canoe's warm wooden deck. "Then you'd die of boredom before a bandit's blade."

This illicited a smattering of chuckles from the dozen men manning their boat. Almasa stood, walking to the center of the craft and resting her hand on the small mast that toted the boat's loudly flapping sail. The cool wind similarly affected her hair as she cast her eyes over the front of the canoe.

"The Flame of the West will reach Alkhafat today, if our foot party was right. They saw his entourage not twenty miles from the city this morning," Baqir remarked to no one in particular. "Tell it true, what do you guys think he's like? Beyond stories and legends?"

One of their companions spoke up from the rear of the canoe, a broad-shouldered elder with an unkempt beard stretching to his belly. "I hear he's bitter. Foul, hot-tempered as an Alqarni Rocksnake," the man said, waving his hands dramatically as he spoke. "And with far more than venom. He can shift the sands with his sighs, and call down slices of sunlight. That's how he burned Alkhafat the first time."

Almasa's eyes grew wide suddenly, as her companion finished. "Shining stars, fire!"

The elder began to speak again. "Fire indeed, and he can--"

He was cut off as Almasa pointed to the river's west bank and Baqir leapt to his feet, sensing the alarm in her voice. "No uncle, she means a fire!" he hissed, gesturing with his head towards the western horizon.

An ominous plume of black smoke spiraled skyward, but sounds of a distant struggle or combat were eerily absent. The source of the flame was concealed by a thick line short, thick-trunked palms and broad-leafed bushes along the riverbank. Almasa could feel her heart race at the opportunity to once again take up her blade, but she was crestfallen to know they may be too late to make a difference.

"Come on, let's make for land," Baqir spoke up without delay, hefting a nearby oar from the boats' deck and plunging it into the water.
Last edited by Lancearc on Fri Jul 10, 2020 3:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Great Confederacy of Commonwealth States
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Democratic Socialists

Postby Great Confederacy of Commonwealth States » Sun Jul 12, 2020 3:01 am

From the notes of Shadhaa Samita
Concerning the Beast Market of Alkhafat


Among the most pleasant places to visit in the city of Alkhafat is the Great Northern Market, also known pejoratively as the ‘Beast Market’. It is a moderately large area centred around a large well, from which water is wheeled up to feed into a system of irrigation that supplies water to a great number of wooden animal pens. The area is flanked on three sides by the city’s walls, as to still exclude the area from the walled limits. From the city proper, the market can be reached through the Gates of Man, which are five parallel gates just large enough to let a human pass through. Its design suggests that the gate was meant to make sure no-one brings in animals from the market, which is corroborated by the history that the market-goers tell. For once, this market lay far outside the city’s borders, a place for humans, alrifaq, and sometimes nasrifaq to come together and haggle. As the city grew, however, it began to encroach on the market, and when the city walls were erected, they purposefully excluded the animal market for fear of letting too many nasrifaq within the city bounds. The name ‘Beast Market’ refers more to the Hooved and Horned Folks than to the animals that are traded there.

The pleasantness of the Animal Market comes from the fact that it is managed under Dzho'Drakt principles. Firstly, this means that there is little waste or dirtiness to worry about. Alrifaq tenders carefully scoop up dung, and when animals are slaughtered, not even the blood goes to waste. The animals are cared for, given fresh hay and water regularly. Secondly, the whole area is filled with fumes from scented torches, both to calm down the animals and to mask the stench that they produce. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, the outward city walls flanking the market to its west, south and east provide much-needed shade. Arguably, this too can be attributed to the Alrifaq religion, if only because the walls were built in this fashion to exclude them from the city.

While the market is managed mainly by humans and Horned Folk, there is a small number of nasrifaq around. Chiefest among them Syd al-Aseari, whose name in nasrifaq is too complex for an average human to pronounce. Like his father before him, and his father before that, Al-Aseari decides the value of animals if two traders cannot come to an equitable decisions. He has a natural feeling for the health and wellbeing of animals, and with one gaze, he can separate the weak from the…


“Excuse me, lady” said the deep voice of Syd al-Aseari, looking down at Shadhaa cross-armed. The Qadi looked up from her paper, staring at the nasrifaq against the sun. With her writing hand she shielded her eyes from the sun, and with her other hand she made sure that her notes did not slip into the fountain, on the edge of which she had perched herself. The nasrifaq had obviously taken refuge from a particularly vicious argument between sheep-traders, which was currently unfolding about a hundred yards further. Shadhaa could not hear what they were talking about, but the continuous pointing towards a flock of sheep made it clear that it was business-related.

“Can I help you? Are you lost?” al-Aseari inquired. Shadhaa shook her head.

“No, I’m just fine, thank you. Enjoying the cool of the market” she answered. The stoic horse-man only lifted his right eyebrow in surprise.

“You mean to say that a slaughterhouse filled to the brim with animals is the most soothing place in the city?” he asked. Shadhaa shrugged.

“I wouldn’t know, but one filled ¼ with animals apparently is” she said truthfully. Al-Aseari looked around. It wasn’t news to him that the market became less occupied by the week. More and more herdsmen were taking their flocks south, so there were both fewer buyers and fewer sellers. On top of that, farmers were unwilling to invest in their uncertain future. A market that had been filled to the brim years prior was now but a husk, and there was little improvement in sight. Not even the Great Fire of 20 years prior, which had burned down much of the market, had caused so much disruption.

“What are you writing, anyway? Eyeing up the competition?” The horse-man asked. He kneeled down at the fountain and wetted his forehead with the clear water. With a rag from his belt he squirted some more on his human back and chest. He periodically looked over his shoulder to check out the two sheep-traders bicker and curse, just to make sure that they would not make a mess of things.

“No, I’m a Qadi” she answered, which was again met with an incredulous raising of a single eyebrow.

“Truly! I did not know bila shaear allowed women to be justices” the nasrifaq said. He quickly picked up on the questioning look he got from Shadhaa.

“Oh, ehm… Humans, I mean” al-Aseari corrected himself. “No offence”

“None taken” Shadhaa replied. “Normally they wouldn’t, but there are exceptions”

“Like you?”

Shadhaa nodded, and held up her notes. “So, I’m just writing down the interesting things I see”

Al-Aseari looked over his shoulder again. The argument between the sheep-traders had devolved into a bout of uncreative curses, which had gathered the attention of the market’s other patrons, who seemed amused at the prospect and were booing or cheering curses they found lack-lustre or which they enjoyed.

“May your sons be born at noon!”
“May your skin turn red!”
“That your moon may be ever-eclipsed!”

“What’s their beef?” Shadhaa asked al-Aseari, who shook his head at the mere thought of the quarrel.

“See, Hamud, hailing from the al-Tariq-clan of the Tariq Oasis, brought in his herd yesterday evening and stored them in one of our pens, staying the night until the start of market today. Baqir, of the Al-Satter-clan, brought in his sheep today, past the pen where Hamud’s sheep were kept. Hamud, however, coming in late in the evening, forgot to properly lock his pen, and just as Baqir brought his sheep past, Hamud’s sheep joined Baqir’s flock and now they are all together in the same pen”

“Normally, this would not be an issue, since every clan has a mark with which they paint the lower back of their sheep. However, for reasons myriad, of extreme historical importance to the clans but extremely annoying to me, the Al-Tariq and Al-Satter use the exact same sigil to paint their sheep”

“And now they want to separate the herd again?” Shadhaa enquired, leading al-Aseari to give an exasperated nod. Shadhaa stared at the bickering pair for just a moment longer, placing her pencil pensively against her forehead. She hummed a few tunes, and then collected her belongings.

“Alright, I’ll go talk to them. Fill me in on the details”

Al-Aseari looked delighted at the prospect, and as soon as Shadhaa had put her paper and pencil into a large leather bag hanging from her shoulder, the two started pacing towards the argument.

“There are 70 sheep in Baqir’s pen, 30 of which belong to Hamud” Al-Aseari explained. “While Baqir is known to own more sheep, Hamud is known to have the best quality overall. Although, some of Baqir’s sheep are quite good as well, so…”

“So you can’t just say that all the best sheep go to Hamud” Shadhaa finished that thought, silently groaning that her preferred method of resolution was off the table. Even if it had been possible, though, the thought of Baqir allowing Hamud to take all the best sheep sounded unrealistic at best, and a recipe to violence at worst.

“Gentlemen!” al-Aseari spoke as he and Shadhaa approached the sheep-traders. However much the two hated one another, the sight of a nasrifaq twice their size towering over them was enough to silence them instantly. Most of the people who had watched their exchange pretended to get back to work, but Shadhaa could not help but notice them trying to listen in.

“If you two can’t come to an equitable decision on your own, I have found someone who will. This is a Qadi”

The two men scanned Shadhaa from top to bottom, in a manner that she had become used to by now. The fact that women could be Qadi was known throughout the civilised world, although it remained an oddity even then. On the frontiers, many had to see if they could believe their eyes before accepting that it was actually true. Shadhaa had seen quite some disrespect in the past, although these gentlemen were far too eager to find a solution (or to rip the other off) to make her gender a sticking point.

“Qadi-sir!” Baqir immediately shouted, using the honorific that was most commonly used when addressing Qadis, seemingly not aware of the slight discrepancy in its use.

“This thief here is seeking…”

“Thief!” Hamud bellowed. “You take my flock with you, and you call me a thief! You sun-burnt…”

“Gentlemen” Shadhaa interrupted, pretending to be oblivious to the name-calling. “How do you think this matter should be resolved? Baqir?”

“Why does he get to go first! I…” Hamud tried to protest, but a sideways glance from Shadhaa was enough to silence his objections. Baqir smiled at his competitor, straightened his back, and proposed his solution.

“Qadi-sir, in my opinion, Hamud is trying to claim his sheep from me. Which, I might add, he is at liberty to do. However, since he is making the claim, he has to prove to me which sheep are his. And since he can’t…” he shrugged. “Well, I will just assume all of them are mine until he can prove what’s what”

Shadhaa nodded, and turned to Hamud. “What do you think would be right, Hamud?”

“Everyone knows my sheep are the best in the region” Hamud exclaimed, which solicited some nods among the onlookers. “So, I know which sheep are mine: the strongest, biggest sheep of the bunch. The thirty best sheep should go to me!”

“You fiend, you…” Baqir tried, but Shadhaa raised her hand to silence them both. She pondered for a moment, her mind racing through the jurisprudence of the ancient sages, the stories and legends of old, and how their morals might be applicable to this situation. Luckily, this part of the Sultan’s law was well-researched. After rummaging through her bag, she procured a thick, leathery tome. Quickly she skimmed the pages, paying no heed to most of them.

“Ah yes” she said, resting her finger halfway down one of the pages.

“The wise Qadi Muzammil el-Amen has given an authoritative interpretation on this matter. When two flocks of animals come together, and their animals cannot be told apart, then they become one flock, under the combined ownership of the owners of the two flocks”

Baqir’s smile soured as Shadhaa told this, while Hamud seemed to light up for a moment. That was, until Shadhaa explained further.

“This means that you can both tell it where to go, and you can both undo each other’s decisions, and you can both benefit from all the rewards of this single flock”

“But that’s impossible” Hamud said, his smile now evaporated. Where he thought to have gained an additional flock, he now realised that he could do absolutely nothing as long as Baqir was also the owner.

“I agree, that is horrible” Baqir added. “What can we do to fix that situation?”

Shadhaa flipped through a few more pages, which gave many examples in the literature and the legends of why the law was as it was, which was of no interest to them at that moment. They just needed answers. After three chapters of explanation, el-Amen went into the matter of separation.

“Yes…” she said, tracing the page with her finger. “If you can separate the flock again between yourselves, then the legal unification of the flock can be undone”

Baqir and Hamud looked at one another. They both wanted the current situation to end, and were reliant upon one another to make that happen. Baqir held out his hand.

“Alright, I think we can come to some agreement. You had 30 sheep, right?” Hamud nodded, and shook Baqir’s hand. “30 for me, 40 for you. We’ll figure something out”

The men spent the next hour by trading sheep between two pens. It was impossible to find out which sheep had originally belonged to whom, but at least they could come to an equitable division which they could both agree to. In the end, Hamud got 30 qualitative sheep, as least as good as the sheep he had come to market with. At the end of the day, the men shook hands again, and separated into their differing pens, Hamud this time taking good care to close his properly. When this had occurred Hamud and Baqir went about their own business, trying to sell their sheep to the highest bidder.

“Thanks, Qadi” al-Aseari said when the day was drawing to a close. “You know, if you could stick around, I would be happy to give you food and shelter. What’s your name?”

“You can call me Shadhaa. Qadi-sir seems less appropriate to me” she answered. Al-Aseari chuckled.

“Alright, Shadhaa. I hope you are as accustomed with livestock law as you say you are, because tomorrow is trading day”
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Reverend Norv
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New York Times Democracy

Postby Reverend Norv » Sun Jul 12, 2020 11:10 am

Arif al-Hakim spent a lot of time alone.

He had come most of the way up the Qaara River by barge, disembarking when the Waste came into view to the west, where it blighted the hills between the river and the southern spur of the Earthspine Mountains. Arif could see a narrow band of palms and bushes along the water edge, and beyond it, the earth turned to dust, and the dust piled into dunes, and heat shimmered in the air.

Arif, naturally, had wanted a closer look. And he did not mind taking it alone. The other passengers of the barge were just as glad to be rid of their Mourakhi companion, with his locked book of secrets.

Now Arif rode the margin of the Waste. If he looked to his right, he could still see trees and ferns cascading down to the river-bank. But if he looked to his left, he saw death.

That was what his senses told him, anyway, and Arif believed them. He took a long breath in and out, seeking the Roha, binding his eyes and ears and mind and the third eye of the soul together in submission to the Nazam. He felt the calm settle over him, and looked: without expectation or anticipation, without dread or hope, merely opening himself to the world.

He saw individual grains of sand swirl. He saw the air ripple, mutilated by the power of the sun. He saw not a single beetle burrowing beneath the dunes, not a single acacia sinking in its stubborn roots. He saw death, and only death.

Arif's grip on the Roha slipped. The waking trance receded, and like the tide, fear rolled in to take its place. He tightened his grasp on his reins, and wished suddenly that he was not alone after all.

Zoubah, Arif's grey mare, looked back over her shoulder at him worriedly. He patted her neck. "It's all right, girl." The horse whickered skeptically.

He smelled it before he saw it. The legend was that Mourakhin had superhuman senses. It was just that - a legend. Arif's nose was no better than any other man; he just knew how to pay attention to it, how not to become distracted. That was how he smelled the smoke.

A few hundred yards further on, treading the line between green life and dusty death, and Arif could see it, too: a pillar of dark smoke rising from the riverbank. Arif listened, and heard no clash of steel or scream of pain, no matter how faintly. But the smoke persisted.

Had he a traveling companion, Arif might have asked his advice, or offered a guess as to what the smoke might mean. But he was alone, and so the decision was Arif's alone. He made it wordlessly.

Arif pulled gently on Zoubah's reins, and horse and rider turned into the vegetation at the edge of the riverbank, and vanished into the palms - moving toward the smoke.
For really, I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live as the greatest he. And therefore truly, Sir, I think it's clear that every man that is to live under a Government ought first by his own consent to put himself under that Government. And I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that Government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under.
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Lancearc
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Founded: May 16, 2012
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Lancearc » Sun Jul 12, 2020 5:50 pm


Image


The Beast Market



Uzair Semaan offered a silent prayer to every god he knew of as he sank his teeth into a fat date, the sweetness of its abundant juices offering the guardsman a much-needed reprieve from the Alkhafat's unnatural heat, which radiated throughout his body even as he sheltered in the shadow of the Beast Market's eastern wall.

Another gluttonous bite sent more of the soft fruit's juice spilling down his chin and onto the white shemagh wrapped around his neck and helmet, forcing the dark-skinned man to wipe his calloused hand down his face, starting from the bushy mustache adorning his upper lip and ending at his square chin. The soldier popped the final portion of fruit into his mouth afterwards, savoring the remaining flavor by chewing on the rubbery morsel as long as he could.

In previous years, it was impossible for him to enjoy any meals during his watch duties in the Beast Market. The smell of thousands of animals shoved into their pens wafting through the air was more than enough to make Uzair queasy, and he hated to imagine the stench's severity if the Horned Folk weren't so diligent in cleaning the piss and dung that inevitably fell in foul waves with such dense herds concentrated in a single space. Uzair despised the smell of the Dzho'Drakti scented torches as well, the heavy aromatics turned his gut no differently than the odors they were meant to mask.

This was the one benefit The Living Waste afforded him -- there were so many fewer herds coming to market now that the characteristic stink he was subjected to had begun to melt away on the air, allowing Uzair to take lunch at his leisure. It had however come at the price of a substantial pay cut, and on the worst days, rising temperatures that made even natives to Mekhallah like himself drip with sweat.

Uzair scanned the faces of the market carefully while biting at his left hand's thumbnail, his harsh, dark eyes inquisitive beneath a prominent browline. Even with so many families leaving the city, the Sultan's law enforcement found themselves as busy as ever. The ranks of citizens counting themselves among Alkhafat's most desperate were burgeoning by the day, and there was no solution in sight. Until the sheik could somehow convince the common folk that he'd found a way to stop the financial bleed and dearth of harvest, they would turn against the law. They had always been animals, but now they were starved animals. Left unfed for long enough, they would turn on each other in an emaciated rage.

Of course, the city remained a gem on a harsh land. The high sandstone walls offering the market their shade were a masterwork among the Sultan's mainland cities, born from brutal necessity to fight off Nasrifaq savages looting the country. Some of the stones on the battlement were etched with depictions of great victories over the horde.

Uzair was reminded how times had changed as his eyes passed over Syd al-Aseari conversing with a woman Uzair did not recognize. The beast man was honorable enough among his kind -- that is to say Uzair had never had any trouble with him, and he seemed to garner a deal of respect among the Beast Market's traders. Even so, the continued aggression of the Nasrifaq closing in alongside The Living Waste only pushed some to ask the question why Alkhafat continued to harbor these Hooved Folk when it could barely afford to feed the Sultan's own people. Uzair had heard talk among some of his men that the Nasrifaq were to blame for the Waste's expansion, using Sun magic to weaponize the dunes against the Sultanate so slowly it wouldn't be noticed until the mainland's cities were already swallowed.

He was inclined to believe some of these tales.

Uzaire was about to lean back against the wall and shut his eyes when a heated argument between a pair of local sheep herders grabbed his attention. The guardsman heaved a sigh, closing his fist around the pommel of his sleek shortsword and assuming that his rest would be interrupted by this provincial squabble.

He loosened his grip on the blade in surprise when he saw the strange woman intercede, further observation revealing that the stranger was a Qadi, a connection Uzaire felt foolish for not making when he noticed her leather-bound tomes and writing implements.

Uzaire jumped, startled by the swift approach and salute of another guardsman. "Raqīb Semaan, Moonlight upo--" the fresh-faced man began, before Uzaire raised a fist and glared at him from the side of his eye.

"You might think better than to run up on a man taking his rest, idiot! I could have cut you in half," he spat with a frown, grasping the junior guardsman by his chin forcefully. "Whatever you need can wait...I need you to head to the sheik's palace, at once. Tell him I am looking into someone who may be helpful, and I will bring them immediately if this is true. He may need to come to court later than usual."

The young soldier's face betrayed, briefly, an irritated scowl. The boy clearly thought better of displaying his anger to a superior however, and as if rehearsed, his features tightened into determined obedience. "Yes, raqīb. Right away."

After the youthful fool had jogged off, pushing his way through the Gates of Man, Uzaire stepped out of the pleasant shade and strode into the sun, sauntering towards the Qadi and her Nasrifaq companion.

"Deftly done, Qadi," Uzaire greeted the pair with a suspect smile, one of crooked, yellowed teeth indicative of a cruel life and many years. "I feared I'd need to tame those blubbering buffoons myself."

He stopped a few feet from the learned woman and al-Aseari, his left hand resting loosely on his blade's hilt. He gave the hulking half-horse a short glare, but said nothing. "It is pleasant to receive one of your order, though I fear their visits have become rarer. These lands' laws have fewer men to hold accountable, recently," he stated with a firm nod, a silent agreement with his own assessment. "And fewer men remain to dispute them. What brings you to Alkhafat then?"

Eight miles west of Alkhafat, near the Qaara River



Almasa felt her heart thump against the inside of her chest at the same instant the canoe struck muddy shoreline, the front of the vessel burying itself into the wet earth with a distinct dull thud.

The Jai-Annar band traveled in apprehensive silence from the moment they sighted the sinister black beacon, a quiet which left Almasa's palms cold and clammy even as she strained her fingers around the leather grip of her hooked blade, her knuckles pale. She and her comrades disembarked, maintaining the grave hush. The quiet was not unusual -- they often sprang upon unwitting criminals and common outlaws camped near the river, waiting for their unlawful prey, and this craft of theirs required a fine degree of surprise -- but the vigilante warriors would often swap confident smiles as they crouched in the vegetation, mere feet from their targets, waiting to pounce.

No such bravado permeated the air now as they knelt a few yards from the road. A knowing dread had replaced it, heavy in her heart Almasa could sense it. Tight, dense, immutable.

The thick and inky column rose over her, a dread mist threatening to extinguish the afternoon sun. For all her desire to carve her mark forever in the world, Almasa was unfamiliar with failure, its consequences. She had rarely been called on to defend herself on the road, and in her limited live experience with her blade, she of course emerged victorious. In her brief stint with the Jai-Annar, they had only fallen upon progressively smaller bandit groups, and in skirmishes she was supported by capable allies.

Baqir gave a wordless command, gesturing through the foliage with his free hand, and the dozen blades crept up to the row of shrubs and palms.

Before, Almasa had never had reason to truly fear for her life. Her adventures, though dangerous, had given her only the adrenaline rush of performing lesser equivalents of the heroic exploits she sang of. She had been in life-or-death struggles, but usually with the help of a few experienced ruffians to enhance her odds.

She couldn't shake the dread that hung over her now though, her pulse running cold as the group arrived in the riverside herbage, peeking through broad leaves.

Almasa felt breakfast rushing up from her gut when she regarded the remnants of the looted caravan, suddenly breathing the stench of charred wood and flesh intermingled, as if her own nose rejected the scent before her eyes confirmed it to be true.

The Jai-Annar confronted the slaughter before them rather than their enemy. Corpses were lain limp across the narrow road. Almasa counted thirty, scattered around two overturned carts with smoldering embers still live around their burned-out husks. Almasa held her breath instinctively, afraid to choke on the ashen splinters, the seared skin, the overwhelming reek that blanketed the scene. Like the carts, some of the lifeless ashen forms still had small fires melting away their extremities. Her blade was no longer raised to strike, instead fallen listlessly to her side, its tip nearly scraping the paving stones.

Her head spun wildly as she stumbled aimlessly around the small caravan's skeleton, clutching her abdomen. She was uncertain if the tears she felt suddenly escaping down her cheeks were drawn by the stinging smoke lingering in the air, her rage, or her worry. Memories cascaded back of her father's monthly journeys along the Qaara's shore, sojourning to fishing villages and herding communities to offer up "fine city araq and rich palm wine."

Slowly, Almasa let her gaze fall upon the body to her right, face down in the sand with its knees drawn towards its chest. It was unidentifiable. Black and sanguine blisters mingled with white pocks to mar the flesh. Where the skin wasn't burned it was wilting, and where it wasn't wilting she swore she could see muscle and bone black with soot.

Almasa forced herself to look away, fighting against her rigid muscles to turn heel, briefly escaping only to stumble upon another of her companions examining a corpse. Wiping away bitter tears she saw these remains clutched a dagger, terrified even in death of the animalistic killers who fell upon him. The blade's steel was warped and folded, and the very tip had pooled onto the road. She could see her reflection in the cooled metal, despite the surrounding ashes. The sunlight shone off the unnaturally clean material, allowing Almasa to stare down at her own disheveled countenance.

"We should bury them tonight," a somber voice suggested at last. She wasn't able to tell where it came from over her heart's deafening roar.

"Who...could have done this?" she finally choked out. In the melted steel, she saw her face drawn tense with caged fury.

"The goods are gone. These men were helpless," Baqir spoke from behind one of the overturned carts. At the front of each cart, the blackened remains of a donkey lay, four legs stiffly outstretched. "Banditry. Unless you suppose the Flame of the West has need for a common merchant's baubles."

"And they've done this before?" Almasa asked next. Remnants of the fire that destroyed the dead body before her danced in her eyes, reflected by the watery buildup of new tears.

"To this degree of cruelty?" responded the elder with a belly-length beard, shaking his head. "No. Desperate men can be vicious. Maybe they know the Sultan's men aren't patrolling as heavily, and this is some kind of message. Who can justify the actions of the wicked? They have no reason."

Almasa nodded sourly, finally tearing her eyes away from the molten blade.
Last edited by Neutraligon on Tue Jul 14, 2020 5:59 pm, edited 11 times in total.
Reason: fixed formatting
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Ovesa
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Founded: May 16, 2020
Scandinavian Liberal Paradise

Postby Ovesa » Sun Jul 12, 2020 8:00 pm

Hikmat Eayan

From a top a pale, sand-colored horse, Hikmat looked out to a homeland that was no longer hers. Waves of sun-baked sands choked what little remained of a once endless horizon, dotted with shrubs and rocks, before giving way to nothingness. This was a land of dream-like memories, a world she had not seen since her childhood.

Had it really been so long? The memory of her last day here were still clearer than crystal; the tearful goodbyes, the parting gift, the long journey away from the desert all the way to the sun-kissed island of Rat Alshiq. She hadn't been home in over fifteen years; was it even acceptable to call it that? A land and culture she distanced herself from, until it was but a faint memory?

In preparation for her task, she had spent many hours researching what others had learned about the Waste. The results were disheartening, to say the least. Scholars and holymen alike had searched for answers just like her, but to no avail. What would make her any different? She also looked into rituals and ancient tomes that could offer help. All were cryptic and difficult to decipher, but they gave her a sliver of an idea as to what techniques and spells could slow the spread of the Waste.

Still not satisfied, she tried utilizing her greatest of gifts to find answers. Farseers were renown for their incredibly ability to catch glimpses of the future. Even if her vision was shrouded with mystic symbolism, Hikmat was determined to use it. However, try as she might, all of her visions ended the same way; with Mekhallah, buried in sand, as the Waste continued to approach the rest of the world...

Even with this bleak outlook, Hikmat refused to let it consume her. There was still time to find a way to stop the Waste. Besides, saving Mekhallah was a task one person couldn't take on alone. If there was one thing she learned from her visions, it was this; it would require multiple people, with many backgrounds and skills, in order for there to be a chance to save Mehkallah.

Hikmat knew that her skill wasn't the only thing that got her sent to Mekhallah. As an Alrifaq, she was instantly recognizable as a native to the arid Sheikdom. There was no doubt in her mind that she was sent by the Sultan not only to offer advice, but to help ease tensions between the Sultanate and the local Alrifaq communities.

If she was a more comedic person, that would've been humorous to her. Although she was raised in Alrifaq culture and tradition, she had gradually distanced herself from it over the past several years. Not only that, but she had practically been raised in between the two worlds, something that distanced herself from other, more isolationist Alrifaq. Then again, maybe her unique experience was what made her suited for this role.

Maybe she was chosen because of her level-headedness, or maybe it was because of her experience growing up in the Shiekdom. But at the end of the day, it mattered little. Hikmat was not there to place judgements or speculate on the Sultan's true intentions; she had more important matters at hand.

"I've heard it's been long since you've returned here, magus." Unexpectedly, the Flame of the West turned to address her directly. They had spoken little during the journey, so it came as a surprise when he did so. Not that she openly showed such a feeling; it would be improper for any magus, let alone a farseer, to be caught off-guard. "It must be a strange sight now."

That was certainly true. Alkhafat was still a gem in the sands, but it had turned duller with the encroaching threat at hand. The city used to feel so vibrant, so happy, so alive. Maybe her repressed nostalgia had corrupted her memories, but that still didn't ease the cognitive dissonance she experienced just by looking around. Even from a distance, the city's gates carried with them an unspoken and heavy truth.

"The last moon I saw this place under was stained with ash and blood." Mubarak spoke with a distinctive and collected wisdom that only an old soul could. He, calm and patient, was far different than the Mubarak she had heard so much about. "The people surely still bear me no great love, so I am glad to have you along, as I've said."

"It is an honor to accompany one as highly estemmed as yourself." The words felt almost artificial, but she meant them wholeheartedly. As they entered through the city's gates, a crowd had formed alongside the roadway. Crowded together in front of the numerous sandstone structures, the onlookers curiously peered at the procession. In some stretches of town, all work seemed to come to a standstill, as a thousand watchful eyes tracked them. Many people waved as they began to pass by, with warm smiles that rivaled the desert sun. "They seem to have taken kindly to your arrival."

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Union Princes
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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Union Princes » Sun Jul 12, 2020 10:56 pm

On the Banks of the Qaara River

In peaceful times, on the floodplains, villagers would spend their days sailing up and down the Qaara River making a living off of fishing, farming, and trade. Praise Solaire, the Holy Sun, for even in times of drought, people in these river villages can always count on their labors from the sea. But these are uncertain times and even the oceans seem to dry up under the intense gaze of Solaire. What evils this land has done to earn the ire of the Blessed Sun, no mortal can decide. As sure as the Sun is the witness to every good act and every bad, the sultanate shall suffer regardless of who committed the greatest sin.

Sir Lorin Lothar, the Mountain that March, has spent the last couple years wandering and seeking the truth of the Daughter of the Sands before having to take up arms defending villagers and merchantmen from corsairs and raiders alike. It was already a hard day for the 8ft tall warrior of light, purging the nearby countryside of hideouts for the herders and he was ready to end it with water and bread. A small coin purse was generously tossed at the tavern keeper, a small man with a gray beard with every grayer hair, by Sir Lorin who had taken pity at how parched the wood has become in this establishment. The small town that surrounded the tavern was desperately trying to store some grain and livestock for another month of famine.

Mercy to the souls scrambling for a shade under every tree, mercy to the wanderers dying of thirst, and mercy to the poor bastards that dare to rob a knight of Solaire. Behind the sitting knight clothed in white cotton was a dozen armed men with crooked teeth with crooked grins. Their attire was a myriad of colors and silks either bought or robbed off of innocent folk traveling the roads. The men spoke in tongues Sir Lorin still haven’t learned but from the snickering, he figured that they must be mocking him or his god. Perhaps one of the men was talking directly to the armored giant as he lightly tapped Lorin’s helmet with the tip of his sword.
Seeing the worry shown on the tavern keeper’s face, Sir Lorin fished another gold coin to give to the poor man. “May...you...see the Sun….rise..again….tomorrow.” the knight struggled to remember the right words to speak in order to comfort the owner before rising from his seat with his warhammer in his hand. Sir Lorin couldn’t figure out how these bandits became so brash in their behavior. Have patrols become so scarce that robberies can be conducted under the gaze of Solaire? It probably doesn’t matter. The knight has already paid a king’s ransom to obtain a camel and a desert destrier to carry his supplies and equipment and he has no intention of letting the bandits from taking them.

As soon as the men saw the true size of the knight with his helmet nearly scrapping the ceiling and his massive warhammer in his hands, the cruel smiles were quickly wiped off their faces. Lesser men would soil their pants or flee and some of the thieves here looked like they were about to do both. Perhaps they had a good reason to stay and fight. Was it because they are here to avenge their fallen bandit brothers that Sir Lorin had killed before in the past? After a tense moment, the knight got his answer when the dumbest of the group or its leader charges at him with a scimitar drawn.

The man never got a chance to strike down the knight as Sir Lorin quickly counterattack with a punch to the bandit’s face. It seems the Holy Sun has blessed his armored fist as the man’s skull caved in with a vicious display of blood and bones under the intense pressure from the knight’s strength and speed. After the body crumpled to the ground paired with the clattering of the fallen sword, the eleven bandits were at a loss on whether to retreat or avenge their fallen comrade. But Sir Lorin made that decision for them. With one swing of his warhammer, the knight popped a man’s head like grapes the moment the weapon made contact. It was at that moment that the remaining 10 bandits proceed to engage Sir Lorin at the same time.

A spear was thrust into his side but it bounced off the plate armor that he wore under his cloak. An axe tried to imbedded itself into the knight’s chest but the giant parried with the shaft of his warhammer. The daggers and serrated whips the other opponents wielded cannot do anything more effective than being a distraction to a warrior of light. With a ferocity of an angered bear, Sir Lorin lunged at his opponents swinging his warhammer with deadly quick strikes. A bandit wearing leather armor crashed to the floor after getting his ribcage shattered. The other in chainmail saw his legs swept from underneath him by the force of Sir Lorin’s weapon before the spike was stabbed into his thigh leaving him paralyzed from the pain.

At this point, the attacks grew desperate as the remaining bandits starting thrown cups, chairs, and even candles at the foreigner in a pitiful attempt of disorienting him. The knight retaliates with a jab from the spike to a bandit’s throat before spinning his weapon to perform an uppercut to a different opponent’s jaw causing a cacophony of his head snapping backward from the force. Sir Lorin found himself take by surprise when a bandit sneaked up behind him to strike him with a mace. The pain was immediately felt and Sir Lorin abruptly turned around to grab the man by the face and crush it underneath his metal palm. The sick crunch of the skull and the sounds of a squished brain was enough for the survivors to flee the tavern and the village in a flurry of panic.

Stomping his way towards the bandit crying on the floor unable to flee due to his injury to the thigh, Sir Lorin easily picked up the wounded thief by the collar of his shirt. The terrified man was crying and weeping in his native tongue, speaking too quickly for the knight to comprehend. The giant looked down to see the man has wet himself out of fear. Not waiting for a patrol to hang this criminal, Sir Lorin snapped the man’s neck with his hands before letting the body collapse to the ground.

Next comes the meticulous task of disposing of the bodies in a pyre. Grabbing what wood he stored on the camel, Sir Lorin dumped the bodies in a pile after carefully scavenging them for coins. Laying a circle of wood around the corpses, he muttered a quick prayer to Solaire sending his holy fire to cleanse these bodies of their sins before sticking a match to light the pyre. The heat was intense and the fire burned bright with holy conviction leaving the knight wondering if he could ever fulfill his penance alone.
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Rodez
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Corrupt Dictatorship

Postby Rodez » Mon Jul 13, 2020 2:36 am

A hammer.

Arukhatai tried to place the sensation that greeted him when the new rays of the morning drifted in through the curtains he'd forgotten to close the night before.

Yes, that was it. It felt like a little man with a tiny warhammer was placed, somewhat inconveniently, inside his skull, where his sole job was to strike away at Arukh's brain in a dogged attempt to turn it into jelly.

The Zalabelkh warrior sat up with some effort. Casting resentful glances at the mudbrick walls, which seemed to close tighter around him with each passing minute, he pulled himself out of the cot which the innkeeper had 'reserved' for him for the price of three talents. That seemed like close to extortion to Arukh, and the cot was made for a child, but at least the old man's araq had down its job. The brain-midget with the hammer was testament enough to that.

He started his morning routine, which in an establishment like this began with rifling through his saddlebags to ensure that nothing had been stolen. The door had been locked, true, but the wooden latch which looked to be rotting off by the hour didn't present much of an obstacle to a determined thief.

Arukh's hands whipped through the bag with practiced haste. His fingers closed around something elongated, smooth.

He pulled out an object about half the size of his palm. It was a wooden statuette of a horse, polished to a fault and intricately carved. The maker had captured the animal in mid-gallop, nostrils flaring and ebony mane astray. A stranger might think of it as a portrayal of a steed in combat, riding down the enemies of the men of the steppe. Arukh knew better.

His scarred, wind-blasted fingers caressed the wooden horse lovingly. It was a ketboge, a Zalabelkh horse-charm that fathers gave to their sons when they left the yurt for good. It was meant for those setting off on a life of their own, sixteen or seventeen. But the Sultan had needed younger boys for the Janissary Corps, so his father had fashioned this earlier than both would've liked, using rare sandalwood from the far south.

Arukh had been eleven.

He could still feel his father's hot tears splashing on the newly-carved wood, making almost infinitesimally small pools of water that magnified the grain of the wood so that they appeared as little rivers running down the length of a hand-carved steppe. The water had dripped off, falling to the steppe grass below. Men with swords had yanked him away under the cloudless eternal sky. It was the only time he had ever seen Toghonemur of the Tansumiran cry.

Arukh's hand closed around the horse. It was meant as a sort of going away present and a good-luck charm rolled into one. As far as he was concerned, it had always protected him. But one day, whether by blade or age or sickness, his life would flame out and the ketboge would carry him to the Eternal Blue Sky.

He had not received news from the steppe for several years, but deep in his soul Arukh knew that his father must have passed. He knew with a certainty that a letter or messenger could never convey. One day they would ride together again, hunting prey forever on the Twilight Plain. His heart sang with exultation just to think about that future.

But not today. Sometime last night, under the sway of four or five cups of araq, Arukh had decided to stay in the Sultanate a little while longer. He couldn't recall the why or how he had reached this decision, only that it was made.

Perhaps it was because this sandy, sun-blasted country was now more his home than the Great Steppe had been. Twelve years in the Janissaries and four in the Imperial Guard had seen to that, his dishonorable discharge aside. If he had any friends left alive (he didn't), they would be here. If there was still a path to honor for a man like him (or a quick, convenient death), perhaps it could be found in Jalema.

He sure-as-sky wasn't going to find it in Alkhafat, though - this dying city at the edge of a living, creeping oblivion. It had been a pleasant enough town in past years - he had even been stationed here for a time as a janissary - but it was clear that the desert, growing year after year like a monstrous demon-child, was taking its toll on Alkhafat and the people of Mekhallah as a whole. There were fewer inns, fewer merchants, more armed thugs on the streets.

Arukh threw on his traveling attire of silk and fur and slung a full quiver of arrows over one shoulder and his prized recurve bow over the other. He never truly felt at ease without the weapon on his back, just a single motion away.

Saddlebags in hand, he strode outside into the inn's common room. The innkeeper had been waiting for him.

"Two talents!" The old man croaked, holding up the requisite number of fingers in case Arukh was deaf.

"I paid during the night, codger," Arukh said, feigning boredom to keep the anger out of his voice.

The innkeeper shook his head doggedly and gestured to an octet of empty tin cups at one table. "I thought this might happen with you, so I left them out as proof."

Arukh threw the saddlebag down. "I see eight cups. I paid up."

There were only two other patrons in the place, seated at a corner table. They turned now, ready to receive free entertainment.

"No, no, no." The old man was coming out from behind the bar now, shaking his head and grimacing, or doing the best job that a man with all gums and no teeth can do at grimacing. "Eight cups of araq is four talents, not two. The bed was three. You paid five, so the bed and half the drinks last night when you were six deep, thinking you were even. You still owe two."

He was close now, shoving a spindly finger in Arukh's jet-black beard and spitting foam all over him. "I know your type. I know it well. Former soldier, thinks he's had a rough life. Thinks he can come into my caravanserai and drink for half-price. You think you've done your duty? You really think that now, don't you? Twenty years ago that arsehole that they call the 'Flame of the West' or whatever nearly burned my place down and now he has the nerve to come back here and-uggh!"

There was a wet thud as Arukh's fist connected with the innkeeper's head. It was a quick, hard motion, without the kind of wind-up stiffs in barfights liked to employ.

Arukh went to one knee and checked the prone form of the old man. There was a pulse, thank Sky. He might have broken the man's nose; it was hard to tell through all the blood. Even if that was the case, he'd live. Arukh had not wanted to employ his Shaas, the martial art taught to all the janissary trainees as boys, on an old man, however insufferable.

The nomad collected his bags and hustled into the courtyard and out onto the dusty street. Then a particularly strange emotion got its hooks in him and reeled him all the way back into the cavaranserai's common room.

Arukh deposited two silver talents by the man's head, carefully avoiding the pool of congealing blood. The greybeard's face was beginning to emanate weak groans, indicating that he was slowly coming to.

"Full price," Arukh muttered. He glanced over at the two patrons, merchants by the looks of them, who looked ready to scream for the guards to please come arrest this heathen barbarian and get him out of Our City.

"Get him some water when he's on his feet," Arukh said, as if he was giving an order to an idiot corporal. "And a stiff drink for the pain. If you take his silver, I will flay the skin from your faces. Good day."

A moment later, he had returned to the relative fresh air of the street. Fresher than usual, he reflected, glancing about.

The caravanserai sat on one of the busier avenues adjacent to the Beast Market. But this morning it was nearly empty. The handful of townspeople or travelers Arukh did see were headed for the city's main gates.

Now he has the nerve to come back here . . . the innkeeper's words returned to Arukh. Had the old man been cracking, or was there something to it? It didn't make sense for Mubarak Alani Jaffer, the Flame of the West, to come back to Alkhafat of all places after doing a fair job of burning it down twenty years before. When Arukh had still been a green seventeen year-old, the veteran janissaries had talked about that siege, and that man, with fearful tones approaching reverence.

It didn't make any sense - unless he was coming to kill everyone. Arukh decided that this, at least, could be somewhat entertaining, even if he was ultimately included in 'everyone.'

Whistling a childhood steppe-tune, Arukh the Janissary sauntered towards the ballooning crowd at the gates, hoping against hope for a speedy death - or a good laugh.
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Romextly
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Founded: Nov 10, 2018
Iron Fist Consumerists

Postby Romextly » Mon Jul 13, 2020 10:20 am

The hot sun bared down on an mysterious armored figure walking a distance away from the Caravan. He was riding his horse constantly alert that any moment, bandits might appear. Ja'kil always had his hand on his sword. He was intimidating, yes, but a good person. He had become a shell of himself since he was born...

Ja'kil had been born an orphan. He knew not his parents nor his status. All he knew was his adopted father saved him. He had been left in the desert to die. His father, a merchant had noticed the faint sound of crying and risking his life went to investigate.

For the life as a child, he had been open and friendly, always helping those not able to defend themselves, as he had been before. He had been educated and a good hunter. He helped his father at his shop. He was known to be a goog haggler, and was great at convincing others to buy the goods.

At age 15, his father's present was to give him complete control of the shop while he went to get more goods. He supposed be back in 2 weeks. But weeks passed and no news came. Then, a fellow merchant broke it to him; his father had been killed by the White Bandits.

After looking for weeks, Ja'kil had found their lair. He and many other family members of the many other merchants slayed went with him to the lair. He wore the exotic helmet of his father that he had found in one of his foreign trips. He led the members to the lair. They surprised them and left no one person alive. A family member who was not able to go had hired a Jai-Anar to help dispose of the bandits. He was left stunned by the swordsmanship of Ja'kil. He offered a job as a Jai-Anar as long as he should perfect his style.

That had been 5 years ago. Ja'kil was now 20 years old and taking solitary job. He did not foresee the great evil shadowing the land.
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Theyra
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Founded: Aug 29, 2015
Democratic Socialists

Postby Theyra » Tue Jul 14, 2020 11:31 pm

Ehsan Shariati

There has to be more information about the Living Waste then what he has gathered so far. Ehsan thought as he buried himself in another tome. Sitting alone in a spacious room with books and papers scattered throughout. More so on the large table that he was sitting at. To the untrained eye, the state of this room is a complete mess. But, it is an organized mess that Ehsan has carefully arranged over the weeks since coming to Alkhafat. Myths and legends related to the Living Waste on the right cupboard. Logs of people that have ventured in the Living Waste and what they found on the left bookcase. And at the table at the moment, magical experiments done to the Living Waste. Ehsan sighed as he closed the book and added to the tower of books near him. Leaning back as he took a fresh breath of air. Nothing, after weeks of research he has made no step forward towards finding a way to stop the Living Waste's advance. Or even a hopeful way of reversing and reclaiming the land that was lost to it. Though he should not be surprised at his lack of progress. The Living Waste is a mysterious thing with no clear answer to counter it.

As he put up another book from the unread pile on the table, Ehsan heard a knock at the door. It crept open and a horned head poked out and a feminine voice spoke. "Are you free to talk for a moment Ehsan?

Sounding exhausted and turned to face her, "Yeah sure, we can talk. "I was just about to read another book and what is the matter Yekta?

She entered the room and Yekta visibly was holding a letter. Yekta was an old friend that is allowing him to stay at her place in Akhafat while he researches the Living Waste. Along with helping him when she can. "One I got a letter from your friend in Rat Alshiq about gathering information of she knows of the Living Waste and sending to you soon".

"Sending me wait... you opened the letter then?

" My curiosity got the better of me", she tried to play it off cool.

"Ehsan sighed heavily and got up from his chair, "could you not read my letters for once?

"Ah, Ehsan you know me", she smiled. "I just love to read things and there is nothing really important going off now to sate my interest".

"Nothing like how the city is losing people and business due to the encroaching Living Waste? He sounded annoyed.

"That is the obvious parts Ehsan and for the second thing, I want to talk to you about. You should get out and get some fresh air. You have not left the house in days".

Ehsan sighed again, "days spent researching how to stop the Living Waste in its tracks".

"Yeah, but look at you and you sound awfully tired from researching", crossing her arms.

He would have protest further but, Ehsan knows how she is and Yekta can be stubborn about him taking care of himself. Maybe he should get some fresh air and with a final sighed he relented. "Fine, I can take a break and walk about the city. Just do not rearrange anything like last time". Ehsan sounded serious, "everything is where it should be".

"Okay fine, I will let this mess of a room in my house persist... for some more".

"Thank you and I will be back soon".

"No, take your time Ehsan, you need it".

Without another word, Ehsan left the house and entered into the city proper. After walking around some, passing some crowds and empty buildings. It is strange to him how the city he used to know years ago is changing like this. Before it was a busy place and the city was bustling with activity. Now, now it is slowly becoming a shadow of itself and eventually, it will be deserted like his hometown. Which is something he intends to make sure it does not happen. Too much land has been taken by the Living Waste and it will come to an end. But, here he is thinking about it while he is supposed to be relaxing. It is hard to relax when something is slowly approaching and is going to make your homeland uninhabitable. Shaking his head and moving that thought to the back of his mind for now. Ehsan continued to walk around and take in the sights that are still around in Akhafat while they are still around.

As he was nearing the front gates, he noticed that a small crowd as forming. Curious, Ehsan went to investigate to see what fuss is about. After moving through the crowd and stopped when he spotted who the crowd was gathered around. His eyes widened in disbelief, Is that...no why would that be. Is that the legendary The Flame of the West. He looks like the description of him at least and if the flame is here then... Thoughts started to rush into his mind. Then he must be here to deal with the Living Waste and if that is the reason. Then maybe he can find out how to stop it and if not then... who knows who will if he and Ehsan fail to save the region from the Living Waste.

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Lancearc
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Posts: 15433
Founded: May 16, 2012
Inoffensive Centrist Democracy

Postby Lancearc » Wed Jul 15, 2020 8:51 am




Alkhafat's Southern Gate

Mubarak couldn't suppress a wry grin when his Alrifaq companion noted the apparent warmness Alkhafat's citizenry greeted them with when they finally rode past the gates, the two magi flanked closely by four Sand Striders as they pressed into the wide mainway. The road leading into Alkhafat was adorned on both sides by high sandstone buildings, their wooden window shutters thrown open as mothers and daughters peaked from the upper floors to catch sight of the Flame of the West himself.

A young Alrifaq girl peaking from inside her home seemed to shrin back below the window's ledge when Mubarak scanned upwards, her twisted horns the only evidence she remained there to gawk at his arrival. Dusty bolts of fading red and dull blue fabric hanging from lines that criss-crossed between the rooftops flapped weakly on the wind as the people that had assembled moved aside, or were forced to do so, the soldiers steering their steeds down the stone-paved road.

"Yes, perhaps the young are happy to see us here, the most exciting strangers to ride through Alkhafat in years. Or perhaps they are happy to see you, or our dashing blue-clad companions," he carried on, scanning the crowd as he bid his mount to slow to a brisk trot. "The old of Mekhalla remember. Representing the old myself, so do I."

Among a modicum of wondered grins in the crowd of haggard faces there flashed furrowed brows, angry eyes, and clenched fists. Some of the more foolhardy members of the mob grasped loose stones from the road in their hands, squeezing hard against their rough edges as they considered what value a strongly tossed rock against the Flame of the West's temple might have towards avenging their brothers, their wives, their children. None yet found the courage to loose their fury.

"Murderer! Turn back!" came the first uproarious decree from an unknown citizen, an elderly man with a bulbous nose whose nostrils flared angrily. Mubarak's weathered hands tightened around his steed's reins, his jaw clenched beneath his thick silvery beard.

"Tyrant! Sunfire take you, pale bastard!" another brave, unseen member of the assembly belted, causing the unruly gathering to become even more so. Now many of the locals began to shove their neighbors for better angles from which to shout obscenities, to remind Mubarak of the names of dear family members passed in the siege two decades prior, names he'd never known or cared to know. Skinny elbows were thrown indiscriminately into the ribs and heads of strangers as the group threatened to trap the riders between them.

Even still, none dared to move forward and tear the magus from his horse, or cast stones at his skull.

"Truly you are brave now, among your hundred peers!" Mubarak shouted mockingly as he ordered his riders to a halt with a raised hand, his left hand, his pink and ring fingers cut off at the knuckle. "That is good, I require the bravest among you for my task, and I see I shall have plenty!" the magus finished as he produced a small roll of rough paper from a saddlebag, handing it off to one of the turquoise-cloaked Sand Striders.

As the soldier received the writing, bound tight with a bright red string and bearing a thick wax seal featuring a crescent moon, Mubarak motioned to the remainder of his companions to continue. The Sand Strider removed his bronze mask before unsealing the paper, fumbling with the small item slightly as his gauntlets hindered his fingers.

"A declaration from the Jalema Sultan himself, Moonlight upon the Earth, wisest of kings," the soldier read the script robotically to the crowd, which had fallen mostly silent since the Sand Strider raised his voice and Mubarak had departed.

"Let there be no man who can question the generosity of your Sultan, nor the care his heart has for all under his banner. For in this time of dire need, I send the wisest and most trusted of my servants. It is clear to me however, this is not enough. The omens are clear on the day my Flame returns to your city: without the lowest of the wise men, the destitute sellsword, or the impoverished trader, your city will be destroyed. The stars have foretold as much. The mystics have seen as much."

This doomsday prophecy went over poorly with the crowd, who again began to jostle with each other and shout curses of disapproval. The soldier continued reading loudly, yet without enthusiasm.

"Let the lowly wise man be elevated befitting his wisdom, the destitute sellsword be showered in riches, and the impoverished trader see only fortune under my direction. If this be you, step forward and submit yourself to judgement by my Flame, and his farseer. If the night skies favor your coming, I will take you into my service. If you succeed in your task, your reward will be beyond imagination. If you fail, you doom your land and brothers to sun-shone suffering. Let it be so."

There was a moment of silence before the Sand Strider addressed the crowd again.

"If you think you can help save this city, and your country, make yourself known," he barked from atop his horse, a hostile reprimand. "Don't waste my time. I'll not have drunks and lepers brought before the farseer. There's gold to be had, enough to raise you from out of this shit hole. There's land and prestige, and women too I suspect. So come forward, or disperse. You're clogging the streets with stink."




Shayamun Square, outside Alkhafat's Tabalist Temple, “Bayt Maqal”



The farther Mubarak and Hikmat grew from the crowd, the looser he clasped the reins. His brow came to rest once more.

Their entourage minus the lone Sand Strider had by then made its way into Shayamun Square. Even with the rest of the city looking bleaker, the incredible stonework and craftsmanship apparent in this central district took Mubarak's breath away. The stones of the square were not typical carved sandstone, but a strange, dark volcanic rock which had a smooth glassy sheen. While it was difficult to tell just by walking through, a trained eye who had studied the stars formally would know that the pristine white painted starbursts spaced across the square provided an accurate depiction of the night sky the day the construction of Mekhallah's temple began some 100 years prior, the first day under full moon that year.

Carved across the square and painted with the same white were beautiful patterns of interlaced linework representing comets and falling stars. The most outstanding features on the square however were the two statues in the center of the square. They stood facing each other, roughly 20 yards apart, perfectly centered with the entrance to the Tabalist temple. One was carved from white marble from Jazallay, a gift from the former Jalema Sultan long before the unification of the sheikdoms. It was said to be a likeness of the Jalema Sultan's first wife, her form perfectly captured in contrapposto. The folds of her flowing abaya represented in stone were almost indistinguishable from reality.

Her counterpart was the wife of Mekhallah's past sheik, crafted from the same black glass that made up the square's ground. Similarly, the royal woman’s abaya appeared as if the stone was folding naturally over itself, this sculpture also sporting a hijab.

A man in a bright white kaftan quickly appeared around the corner of the Tabalist temple Mubarak's entourage was approaching, the clothing reflecting the sun's light brightly enough that it drew Mubarak's eyes down from the temple's titanic blue dome. The young man sported red draperies around his shoulders falling forward over his torso, a black vine pattern running the length of the fabric.

The youth had been sprinting towards them, and when he finally came to a stop before the riders his face was glistening with sweat beads. He doubled over, hands on his knees, wheezing to catch his breath for a few seconds before finally speaking in breathy gasps.

"My...your eminence, I..." the messenger began, before Mubarak cut him off.

"I'm no ruler child, catch your breath before the moon is up!"

"Apologies yo...apologies, sir. The sheik was no--"

"Was not expecting us?" Mubarak interjected with a chuckle, pulling at the end of his beard's left braid absentmindedly. "That was quite the point. But since you are here, perhaps you would pleasure us with a tour of your temple?"

The young man shook his head, having regained his breath. "The sheik instructed me to bring you immediately."

Mubarak had already begun dismounting by then, grunting as he climbed down from the saddle. "Then I will lie, and say that you found us as quickly as possible, and spirited us to his palace immediately, like requested." The young man was bewildered, but said nothing as Mubarak strode to Hikmat's own steed, offering his full hand.

"If you would indulge me on this personal errand," he asked. "I'm sure it will do wonders for my image here -- 'the demon prays during the day!' -- but there is something I must see before we greet our esteemed sheik officially."
Last edited by Neutraligon on Wed Jul 15, 2020 4:55 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Reason: fixed code order
If you ever need advice on writing, help creating an RP of your own, or just generally need any kind of help, feel free to TG! I've been around the block in my old age.

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Voxija
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Posts: 659
Founded: Jan 17, 2019
Civil Rights Lovefest

Postby Voxija » Wed Jul 15, 2020 3:05 pm

In a small adobe house located in the south end of Alkhafat slept Narif al-Nassim ibn Chakaryat. The sun was coming up, and Narif woke up when the first rays of sunrise snuck through the eastern window. Narif got up, yawned, and then reapplied the orange paint on his hands. Narif followed Dzho'Drakt, a religion that worshipped both the sun and the moon, and thought they were sisters chasing each other across the sky. The moon was waning, and so Narif wore orange paint to symbolize the sun.

Narif put on his clothes—a long-sleeved undershirt, breeches, and a green vest. He lit the torch that stood in the center of his one-room house, and made it burn with a strong scent. Narif thought he could smell oregano. He closed his eyes—never look directly at the sun—and positioned his face towards the east. Narif could feel the warm sun on his face.

Narif chanted solemn prayers in the almost-forgotten ancestral language of the Horned Ones. Narif didn't know what they meant exactly, but he got the gist of it: the prayers were meant to catch the attention of the sun and moon and reunite them, upon which lasting peace will be created. Narif hoped that at least it would stop the Living Waste. He had heard the terrible things about how the Living Waste had ruined farmers and driven families off their land.

When Narif finished his prayers, he looked to his western window and made a cheeky grin. He could see the waning gibbous moon slowly setting. "Hope you find your sister," said Narif. He put out the torch and grabbed his belt and the lantern he always carried.

Narif was a member of the Shrouded Star, that group of mystics that guided foreign visitors and sometimes locals on the streets of Alkhafat, and also gave information—for a price. Even Narif didn't know much of their secrets yet, but he knew enough. Narif liked being mysterious. He liked the feeling of knowing secrets not many people knew.

Narif walked out of his shabby excuse for a house and gamboled around the city of Alkhafat, trying to hear the gossip of the city. The Alfrifaq woman who had initiated him into the Shrouded Star had told Narif he already knew Alkhafat's secrets and urban legends, but Narif figured he could always figure out more. However, Narif didn't hear anything that he didn't already know.

The people instinctively kept out of Narif's way. They knew a Shrouded Star when they saw one, mostly by the lanterns they carried, and they remained wary. Narif walked with a strange gait from a childhood accident, but that didn't stop him; it just gave him a certain je ne sais quoi.

"Hey, Narif!"

That was Yusuf, Narif's childhood friend. When they were both street rats living in the same area of the city, they would share their food. Now, they hung out and caught up with each other once in a while.

Narif ran over to his old friend and shook hands.

"Hey, Yusuf. You're looking good."

"Of course I do. I just met the most wonderful girl! When're you gonna meet your soul mate?"

"Eysh. You know me." Narif looked into what was supposed to be the far away distance, but his eyes landed on a big slab of cow. "I have things to do, places to go, duties."

"I know about that! Is it true you're in the—"

"Sh, sh, sh, sh, sh. It's a secret."

Yusuf nodded in approval. "Ooh. A secret. Nice. Be seeing you!"

"Be seeing you." And the conversation ended.

Narif flew across the city like a monkey. He knew all the secret passageways and shortcuts. Narif noted that he never got mugged while he carried his Shrouded Star lantern. Gossip and rumor said that the lanterns had a special magical property for keeping away thieves, but Narif figured that even thieves were aware of the reputation of the Shrouded Star.

In less than an hour, Narif al-Nassim had reached the gates where new travelers ventured into Alkhafat. There were less and less of those lately, but enough to provide steady income for Narif, alongside with... other sources of income. Visitors often requested or approached members of the Shrouded Star specifically, knowing their reputation, wanting to experience a bit of the local culture. What they didn't know was that Shrouded Star mystics heard all, and they were willing to sell information to the highest bidder.

A small gathering had already formed at the gates. Narif had heard that the Flame of the West himself was traveling to Alkhafat, but there were many foreign tourists who didn't know that, and whose ignorance could be milked for a price. Narif had only heard bad things about Mubarak, but morbid curiosity was still curiosity.

What looked to be a family of travelers approached Narif. A man, a woman, and a child. The man had brown skin lighter than Narif's, a mustache, and he wore a cloth around his head. The woman was almost completely covered with a white niqab, and Narif couldn't tell what the gender of the child was.

"Hello," said the man. "I'm Ismail al-Krim. I heard that Shrouded Star mystics are the best guides, and by your lantern, you look like Shrouded Star. Is that true?"

Narif broke out into a grin. He liked friendly people. "Yes, I am. Where would you like to go?"

"Wherever you want to take me, of course. I hear you people know all the best ways to get through the city!"

Narif sputtered, about to say that if you don't know what you're looking for in a city, you shouldn't go there, but he was interrupted by the child, who ran over and asked Narif a ton of questions about being a member of the Shrouded Star.

"Do you have magic? Does that lantern really ward off thieves? Can you see in the dark? Can you walk on water? How does—"

"Now, now, Musa, don't pester the nice young man." Al-Krim took his little son in his arms and smiled proudly. "So, what's your name?"

A bit flustered, Narif said "Narif."

"Narif? That's it? Do you have a last name?"

Narif smiled mysteriously. "Just Narif."

"...Okay, then."

"So," asked Narif. "You said you wanted me to take you wherever I thought was best in the city. You must be here for a reason. What is it?"

"We're going to visit my second cousin's step-aunt's sister-in-law's third cousin," said the woman. Narif get the feeling that she didn't talk a lot. "She married a man from this city and now she lives here."

"Ah, that's nice," said Narif, addressing the man. Narif was friendly around most people but shy around women. It didn't matter the age of the woman or even how pretty she looked. "So, where does her relative live?"

"That doesn't matter," said Ismail, all too quickly. Narif was suspicious.

"Don't worry Narif, I'm telling the truth," said his wife. Narif was even more suspicious, since the woman seemed to know what he was thinking now. "Aisha lives in the south end of the city, next to the Cloth and Diamonds Bazaar."

"Eysh! That's near where I live!"

The woman giggled. "My husband's embarrassed because that's a poor area."

Narif turned awkward. It was indeed a poor area, although it was better than being homeless. "Uh, yeah, eysh, I mean, I guess so..." The street urchin cleared his throat. "So, uh..."

"Please," said Ismail al-Krim, "You can call me Ismail."

"Well, that's good, Ismail! Where do you want to visit?"

Al-Krim tapped his chin thoughtfully. "I've heard some things about the Beast Market."

Narif was horrified. "The Beast Market? Ugh! That's full of Hooved Ones."

Little Musa barraged Narif with a bunch of questions again. "Are Hooved Ones really half-man, half-horse? How many are in Alkhafat? Do they really raid human towns are kill everyone? Do they eat people?"

"Please, please, please!" shouted Ismail. "Those questions will be answered at a later time. And Narif, if you don't like the Beast Market, where else should I go?"

"Eysh, that's a great question. Are you interested in buying anything..."

Narif guided the family throughout the city. It didn't seem like the al-Krims knew any useful information, but Narif paid close attention to their conversation to see if they said anything important. Narif wore a self-confident expression, and his feelings matched his face. It felt good to be recognized, not for who you are, but for what you were. Narif ran a hand through his hair.

"See that?" Narif pointed to a fountain. "It is said that a heartbroken woman once threw her necklace in there, and a handsome man walked out of the water and immediately proposed to her."

"Aw," said Ismail. "Yawn," said Musa.

No one attacked them or harassed them. It was evident that Ismail al-Krim had heard both about thieved in Alkhafat and the powers of Shrouded Star mystics, for the traveler had his eyes on Narif's softly glowing lantern the entire journey.

The sun was high in the sky when Narif brought the family to their relative's small house. It was a carbon copy of Narif's house, just a pitiful little cube with two windows and a door. The al-Krims walked in, and Narif strode back to the gate with a self-satisfied look on his face.

Narif followed the steady stream of curious citizens back to the gates. He wanted to see Mubarak.

He did. The wandering mage was a figure to behold, even when the crowd was screaming obscenities at him. Narif al-Nassim chuckled at his doomsday prophecy. There was a reason he had abandoned Tabala in favor of Dzho'Drakt. Narif followed the Flame of the West all the way to Shayamun Square. There was information, secrets to be uncovered, following this man.
The Republic of Voxija (pronounced: Voshiya)
I'm female.
Oddly Jewish. Trying to learn French and failing. An American who wishes the US would switch to the metric system. Secret pyromaniac?

my politics are confused and muddled
I did not create this friggin flag; it is the Basque flag, and I will not change my IC flag.
I'd rather be fishing. | Author of Issues 1324 and 1346.
I think that by now I've created more lore for my nation than most real-world nations have.
I actually don't speak Basque. I just think it's a cool language.

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Neutraligon
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Posts: 34391
Founded: Oct 01, 2011
New York Times Democracy

Postby Neutraligon » Wed Jul 15, 2020 4:56 pm

Lancearc wrote:



Alkhafat's Southern Gate

Mubarak couldn't suppress a wry grin when his Alrifaq companion noted the apparent warmness Alkhafat's citizenry greeted them with when they finally rode past the gates, the two magi flanked closely by four Sand Striders as they pressed into the wide mainway. The road leading into Alkhafat was adorned on both sides by high sandstone buildings, their wooden window shutters thrown open as mothers and daughters peaked from the upper floors to catch sight of the Flame of the West himself.

A young Alrifaq girl peaking from inside her home seemed to shrin back below the window's ledge when Mubarak scanned upwards, her twisted horns the only evidence she remained there to gawk at his arrival. Dusty bolts of fading red and dull blue fabric hanging from lines that criss-crossed between the rooftops flapped weakly on the wind as the people that had assembled moved aside, or were forced to do so, the soldiers steering their steeds down the stone-paved road.

"Yes, perhaps the young are happy to see us here, the most exciting strangers to ride through Alkhafat in years. Or perhaps they are happy to see you, or our dashing blue-clad companions," he carried on, scanning the crowd as he bid his mount to slow to a brisk trot. "The old of Mekhalla remember. Representing the old myself, so do I."

Among a modicum of wondered grins in the crowd of haggard faces there flashed furrowed brows, angry eyes, and clenched fists. Some of the more foolhardy members of the mob grasped loose stones from the road in their hands, squeezing hard against their rough edges as they considered what value a strongly tossed rock against the Flame of the West's temple might have towards avenging their brothers, their wives, their children. None yet found the courage to loose their fury.

"Murderer! Turn back!" came the first uproarious decree from an unknown citizen, an elderly man with a bulbous nose whose nostrils flared angrily. Mubarak's weathered hands tightened around his steed's reins, his jaw clenched beneath his thick silvery beard.

"Tyrant! Sunfire take you, pale bastard!" another brave, unseen member of the assembly belted, causing the unruly gathering to become even more so. Now many of the locals began to shove their neighbors for better angles from which to shout obscenities, to remind Mubarak of the names of dear family members passed in the siege two decades prior, names he'd never known or cared to know. Skinny elbows were thrown indiscriminately into the ribs and heads of strangers as the group threatened to trap the riders between them.

Even still, none dared to move forward and tear the magus from his horse, or cast stones at his skull.

"Truly you are brave now, among your hundred peers!" Mubarak shouted mockingly as he ordered his riders to a halt with a raised hand, his left hand, his pink and ring fingers cut off at the knuckle. "That is good, I require the bravest among you for my task, and I see I shall have plenty!" the magus finished as he produced a small roll of rough paper from a saddlebag, handing it off to one of the turquoise-cloaked Sand Striders.

As the soldier received the writing, bound tight with a bright red string and bearing a thick wax seal featuring a crescent moon, Mubarak motioned to the remainder of his companions to continue. The Sand Strider removed his bronze mask before unsealing the paper, fumbling with the small item slightly as his gauntlets hindered his fingers.

"A declaration from the Jalema Sultan himself, Moonlight upon the Earth, wisest of kings," the soldier read the script robotically to the crowd, which had fallen mostly silent since the Sand Strider raised his voice and Mubarak had departed.

"Let there be no man who can question the generosity of your Sultan, nor the care his heart has for all under his banner. For in this time of dire need, I send the wisest and most trusted of my servants. It is clear to me however, this is not enough. The omens are clear on the day my Flame returns to your city: without the lowest of the wise men, the destitute sellsword, or the impoverished trader, your city will be destroyed. The stars have foretold as much. The mystics have seen as much."

This doomsday prophecy went over poorly with the crowd, who again began to jostle with each other and shout curses of disapproval. The soldier continued reading loudly, yet without enthusiasm.

"Let the lowly wise man be elevated befitting his wisdom, the destitute sellsword be showered in riches, and the impoverished trader see only fortune under my direction. If this be you, step forward and submit yourself to judgement by my Flame, and his farseer. If the night skies favor your coming, I will take you into my service. If you succeed in your task, your reward will be beyond imagination. If you fail, you doom your land and brothers to sun-shone suffering. Let it be so."

There was a moment of silence before the Sand Strider addressed the crowd again.

"If you think you can help save this city, and your country, make yourself known," he barked from atop his horse, a hostile reprimand. "Don't waste my time. I'll not have drunks and lepers brought before the farseer. There's gold to be had, enough to raise you from out of this shit hole. There's land and prestige, and women too I suspect. So come forward, or disperse. You're clogging the streets with stink."




Shayamun Square, outside Alkhafat's Tabalist Temple, “Bayt Maqal”



The farther Mubarak and Hikmat grew from the crowd, the looser he clasped the reins. His brow came to rest once more.

Their entourage minus the lone Sand Strider had by then made its way into Shayamun Square. Even with the rest of the city looking bleaker, the incredible stonework and craftsmanship apparent in this central district took Mubarak's breath away. The stones of the square were not typical carved sandstone, but a strange, dark volcanic rock which had a smooth glassy sheen. While it was difficult to tell just by walking through, a trained eye who had studied the stars formally would know that the pristine white painted starbursts spaced across the square provided an accurate depiction of the night sky the day the construction of Mekhallah's temple began some 100 years prior, the first day under full moon that year.

Carved across the square and painted with the same white were beautiful patterns of interlaced linework representing comets and falling stars. The most outstanding features on the square however were the two statues in the center of the square. They stood facing each other, roughly 20 yards apart, perfectly centered with the entrance to the Tabalist temple. One was carved from white marble from Jazallay, a gift from the former Jalema Sultan long before the unification of the sheikdoms. It was said to be a likeness of the Jalema Sultan's first wife, her form perfectly captured in contrapposto. The folds of her flowing abaya represented in stone were almost indistinguishable from reality.

Her counterpart was the wife of Mekhallah's past sheik, crafted from the same black glass that made up the square's ground. Similarly, the royal woman’s abaya appeared as if the stone was folding naturally over itself, this sculpture also sporting a hijab.

A man in a bright white kaftan quickly appeared around the corner of the Tabalist temple Mubarak's entourage was approaching, the clothing reflecting the sun's light brightly enough that it drew Mubarak's eyes down from the temple's titanic blue dome. The young man sported red draperies around his shoulders falling forward over his torso, a black vine pattern running the length of the fabric.

The youth had been sprinting towards them, and when he finally came to a stop before the riders his face was glistening with sweat beads. He doubled over, hands on his knees, wheezing to catch his breath for a few seconds before finally speaking in breathy gasps.

"My...your eminence, I..." the messenger began, before Mubarak cut him off.

"I'm no ruler child, catch your breath before the moon is up!"

"Apologies yo...apologies, sir. The sheik was no--"

"Was not expecting us?" Mubarak interjected with a chuckle, pulling at the end of his beard's left braid absentmindedly. "That was quite the point. But since you are here, perhaps you would pleasure us with a tour of your temple?"

The young man shook his head, having regained his breath. "The sheik instructed me to bring you immediately."

Mubarak had already begun dismounting by then, grunting as he climbed down from the saddle. "Then I will lie, and say that you found us as quickly as possible, and spirited us to his palace immediately, like requested." The young man was bewildered, but said nothing as Mubarak strode to Hikmat's own steed, offering his full hand.

"If you would indulge me on this personal errand," he asked. "I'm sure it will do wonders for my image here -- 'the demon prays during the day!' -- but there is something I must see before we greet our esteemed sheik officially."

OOC: You are mixing up the code order in your posts. the code should be [1][2][3][4]Text here[/4][/3][/2][/1]
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