Waleed raises an eyebrow, and whispers to his men,"Slowly put your weapons away, I do not wish to be crushed into meat paste." Slowly sheathing his sword, Waleed bows reverently to the elephants and says respectfully. "We mean no harm, we come on an honorable quest and will respect your authority here." Waleed waits patiently for an answer.
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Aug 18, 2015 6:50:10 GMT -7
The elephants show no sign of understanding Waleed's words. After a few inscrutable moments the largest one lifts its trunk and trumpets a long call. In response, the rest turn and begin to walk in a circle around you and the white statue.
The sailors are growing nervous and close together, back to back, hands impotently on the hilts of their swords as they stare at the massive creatures before them.
The statue begins to glow with a soft white light.
Last Edit: Oct 9, 2017 7:12:34 GMT -7 by Zaim al-Daleel: grammar correction
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Sept 28, 2017 13:51:29 GMT -7
The white light slowly envelops you, brightening until your eyes are forced closed. The sounds of the jungle fade away as does the sweltering heat, replaced by the sound of waves across sands and cool breezes. Blinking, you peer at your surroundings from behind the back of your hand. The shadowy jungle is gone.
You stand on a terrace of a vast, ornate palace. Behind you a fair blue sky bends to touch a clear green sea which rolls in low waves upon a beach whose rocks had been ground to a fine white sand millenias before. Looming before and above you is a circle of white marble pillars shaped as mighty elephants rearing upon their hind legs. The pillars support the roof a golden dome on their ivory tusks. Beneath the dome on a low throne surrounded by fruits and nuts is The Lost One, one of Zakhara's old gods from before the coming of the enlightened gods.
The deity has the body of a giant, four-armed obese man with the head of an elephant. One tusk is broken. One right hand holds an axe, the other is extended toward you in an sign of blessing. One left hand holds a rope, the other a bowl of sugar. Meeting its gaze briefly you get a sensation of falling into the night sky before quickly averting your eyes.
From the ring on your hand, a chain extends to the enslaved efreeti Saleh who kneels in a man-sized version of his true form, fiery forehead pressed to the floor.
"Scholar Waleed ibn Alurah. You have shown the wisdom to respect the shrine of one who is forgotten." the deity says in a voice as smooth as the silks that drape over its vast shoulder.
With its trunk it points to Saleh. "I offer to reward you with knowledge. You once asked..."
The floor between you and The Lost One fades and you stare down at a familiar scene. You see yourself sitting with all your companions at the Jasmine Dream inn- telling riddles and drinking wine. The sound of your friends laughter reaches you clearly. You see yourself summon Saleh from the ring and remember the trepidation you felt that first time. You hear yourself say: "...what will happen if the ring is destroyed? Will you also be destroyed?"
You look away from the scene that is clearer than any memory as The Lost One asks:
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Sept 29, 2017 11:52:03 GMT -7
Saleh raises his head, his black eyes narrow, but says nothing.
The Lost One meets Saleh’s gaze and holds it. “Azzasoon Saleh Ibbua, once venerated advisor to Amir Massezzi Ibrem Obbash, the lustrous. You traded your honor for servitude when his daughter Nadria ibnat Massezzi fell under the spell of your promises. You can break the curse that binds you to the ring. Would you know how?”
“I would, Oh Lost One Who Does Not Wander, Who Does Not Forget. I would.” Saleh says.
The scene of the Jasmine Dream inn on the floor before you changes, swept away with a wave of The Lost One’s trunk. You now see an opulent dais, curtained in black, red and orange, upon which sits a distraught efreeti surrounded by his harem. The efreet women wail and pull their hair, holding each other in despair.
At the foot of the dais, a young female efreeti lies dead, her skin a pale red, her lips a pale blue. From her hand a scroll is removed and read to the Amir.
You see Saleh dragged into the scene, at first he looks confused, but when he sees the Amir’s daughter, he bows his head. For once his silver tongue fails him and he confesses to the accusations in the suicide letter. The furious Amir reads aloud the curse written thereon. Black smoke rises from the words, stretching forward to form a chain around Saleh’s neck. He struggles but guards hold him fast in their grips. Then, before he can even scream, he is whisked away, summoned by the first of many masters.
The scene shifts again, this time to a tomb with a floor of flowing lava. You know, without knowing how, that this tomb is deep beneath the Amir’s palace in the City of Brass. Lying in repose on a raised basalt altar is Nadria ibnat Massezzi, her body wreathed in flames. You see her family filing out from the tomb, closing the doors behind them.
For a moment, you see time as the gods do. Millennia pass and still Nadria lays unchanged in the flames.
“Return,” says The Lost One. And she does. Her eyes open as if from sleep and she draws a deep breath.
Then the scene is swept completely away with a wave of The Lost One’s trunk.
“Saleh, what would you advise your Master? A part of what you have stolen has been restored,” The Lost One says.
Saleh turns to you. “I would advise you to forget what you have seen, Master Waleed ibn Alurah. There are things even a scholar should not know. Return us to the realms of men, seek out beautiful women, wealth, and power. These I can give to you. A vast library in a glorious palace. This I can give you. That would be path of safety.”
“If however, you would know what happens if the ring is destroyed, order me to take you to the City of Brass. Ask the Amir to destroy the ring.” Saleh pauses and studies your face. “Or you could ask him to remove the curse.”
Waleed nodded, but thought carefully before answering, "Saleh, what you have done, many a mortal man has done and paid the consequences. However, I do not believe you should spend the rest of eternity as a slave. I abhor slavery, in all forms. That being said, Saleh, I leave it up to you. What is your wish?"
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Oct 2, 2017 9:49:57 GMT -7
The Lost One observes the two of you, saying nothing. Its face inscrutable.
"I would end my servitude," Saleh says, rising to his feet. "Thank you Master Waleed ibn Alurah, wise Scholar who would know more." To The Lost One he says: "As a slave I can serve only one master, Oh Lost One Who Does Not Wander, Who Does Not Forget, but should one day this curse be lifted I vow to devote one thousand and one years restoring faith in your benevolence."
If the deity acknowledged this you can not tell, but perhaps there was the slightest of nods.
With no sensation of movement you find yourself on the white beach. The palace looms in the distance, its white spires and minarets reflecting light from an unseen sun.
Saleh stands beside you. "Would you go now or is there anything you would tell your companions on the Isle of Afyal?"
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Oct 2, 2017 15:21:06 GMT -7
Saleh nods in acknowledgement but sits down, cross-legged on the sand. "I have no power here," he says, staring at some unseen point in the distance.
Time must be passing, but it seems disconnected from you. The sea rolls in and out again, ceaselessly, and for a while you idly watch the waves. No birds reel in the clear blue sky, no creatures burrow in the white sands, no debris washes ashore.
Behind you the palace seems to have moved farther away. You sit beside Saleh and try to follow his gaze but see nothing.
Movement in your peripheral vision. Ghostly people in strange attire share the sands with you, disappearing each time you try to focus in on any particular one.
For the first time you notice a small wooden boat, just beyond arms reach, beached upon the shore.
Saleh stands and pushes the boat into the waves. "It's time."
You climb aboard and the efreet climbs in after you, taking the oars.
He pulls mightily on the oars as the prow of the boat meets an oncoming wave, up and over you go, sea spray cool and salty momentarily blinding you as you descend the crest of the wave. Descending, descending, a feeling of weightlessness.
Wiping the water from your eyes you see the sea and sky has been replaced by a disorienting featureless plain.
Saleh steps from the boat, which now sits at an odd angle.
You join Saleh as he walks across the plain. Glancing back you see the boat is now a skeletal hull half buried on the side of a swirling Zakharan desert dune, two sets of footprints stretching from it to you.
Your wet clothes are now dry--you taste the familiar sands carried on the winds and feel the burning sun long absent from your travels through the jungles. Turning back towards Saleh you see a black sea, dancing with black and orange flames. You stand on a rocky outcropping above the black sea, no canopy of stars above you. In the distance, the lights of a vast city floats above the sea.
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Oct 3, 2017 10:26:24 GMT -7
Saleh reaches down from the ledge into the turbulent sea, pulling up strands of molten metals. Brilliant brass, blue cobalt, and white gold extend from his fingertips to the sea. Before your eyes he spins a keffiyah and a long flowing kaftan of marvelous design.
He presents it to you. "I know not my fate... I do know you have shown selflessness when others would have succumbed to greed. Should we become separated, this gift will allow you to walk The City's streets unharmed."
Your scholar's clothing curls to char when you let it fall. The new clothes are heavy, but soft as silks- and though low flames crawl its surface, you are cooled as if your body heat fed the flames.
Taking you by the arm, Saleh steps over the sea and you glide just above the tips of the molten waves, the ocean's flames bending around a globe of protection that encircles the two of you. Soon you reach the fabled City of Brass and touch down upon its busy streets.
The street scene is similar to that of other great cities, with the exception of efreeti citizens of all ages, classes, and sizes. You occasionally spot other races, sorcerers perhaps, about their business. No one pays much attention to you or Saleh as you make your way to the amir's palace.
"Would you announce us at the palace gate and try to gain an audience, or should we first visit his daughter in her tomb?" Saleh asks.
"Perhaps if you win back the daughter and then seek an audience, we would be more successful--if it is indeed your wish to do so. I'm not sure which would be better, an eternity being harped at by a woman, or trapped in a ring, so let us hope for the best."
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Oct 5, 2017 10:27:09 GMT -7
In design and style the amir's palace rivals any you've seen in Huzuz, though it lacks the vast gardens typical in Zakhara. It also lacks an outer palace wall.
You follow the street past the tall entrance doors, glancing up at the impossibly tall towers of brass intricately inlaid in red and black stones. Narrow windows encircle the tower and occasionally you see movement inside.
You arrive at the rear of the palace and step off the street and into a courtyard encircled by orange and black pillars. Engraved into the pillars are all manner of dead and dying figures.
Next to the palace, two lewd succubus statues frolic in fountains of flowing magma. Though carved of red stone, their visages stare lasciviously at you no matter where you stand. Between them, an arched stairway leads curving down beneath the palace.
The statues are of such cunning design that as you pass them and begin down the steps, it appears their heads swivel to follow you until you are out of sight. The sounds of the city fade away replaced by your footfalls and the low crackling of the fires dancing across your kaftan.
For a long while these are the only sounds you hear. The walls of the tomb give off a gentle light like embers in the evening fire, illuminating your way ever deeper.
At the bottom of the stairs you see the tall doors you saw on the terrace of The Lost One.
The door slowly swings open.
Before you Nadria ibnat Massezzi stands wrapped in nothing but dancing flames, her beauty dark and terrible to behold.
Waleed couldn't help but avert his eyes, drop to one knee and bow. He said nothing, we was as insignificant as a fly on the wall--or at least he wished he was. He would leave all the talking to Saleh, unless addressed specifically.
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Oct 6, 2017 12:03:17 GMT -7
“Slavery suits you Saleh the deceiver,” Nadria says. She stares around the tomb and peers up the stairway.
When Saleh doesn’t respond her temper flares. “Doubtless your master will allow you to speak!”
“As you say lady Nadria,” Saleh says, head bowed.
She strides toward the two of you, heedless of her lack of clothing, swelling in size until she stands head and shoulders over the massive Saleh. Or did Saleh shrink beneath her withering gaze?
“I sealed your curse with my death, deceiver!”
“It is as you say lady Nadria,” Saleh says without raising his head.
“And yet it is half unraveled! How is this possible?” This last was asked in wonderment and when Saleh started to speak she cut him off with a wave of her hand. Turning from him she slowly shrinks down to about your size and sits thoughtfully on the stairs.
To herself aloud: “It is beyond our abilities… no wish from his master could bring me back, even had the deceiver convinced him to try...”
She looked at her hands as if seeing them for the first time, mumbling. “...where have I been? Shadows of memory dart away when I…”
With a shake of her head she seems to refocus her attention. “Did one of the Eight Enlightened intervene?”
Her gaze falls on you. After a thoughtful moment she stands, a sheer black gown entwining itself around her waist and over one shoulder. “Forgive my manners honored guest, but who are you and whom do you serve?”
Last Edit: Oct 9, 2017 7:23:53 GMT -7 by Zaim al-Daleel: grammar correction
Maintaining his current position, not raising his eyes until given permission, Waleed answers, "I am Waleed, a lowly scholar, nothing more. I serve no one, but honor the Forgotten god who has made my wish of freeing Saleh, possible." Turning to Saleh, "You are free to speak, you are your own man here and in my company during this journey."
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Oct 8, 2017 22:54:48 GMT -7
“A short journey that would be, scholar!” Her voice is playful. “My father’s audience chamber is but a few floors above us. I’ve...” she pauses.
A soft voice, her voice, fills your mind like a lover’s whisper: “It is customary to look at the one with whom you speak…”
You look up and meet her gaze. She looks at you bemusedly. “...informed him of my return. Even now surprised servants hasten to prepare a feast to welcome me and my guests.”
She makes no move to ascend the stairs and studies you a few moments before speaking.
“Does he understand the curse, deceiver?”
“Yes, lady, he knows I am to be enslaved until I have returned what I have stolen.”
Nadria says nothing for several moments. Then: “The Lost One plays an interesting game, deceiver. It seems one of the savage gods has not forgotten the war of ‘enlightenment’ and has acquired enough worshippers to rouse him from his slumber.”
Looking at Saleh she raises a hand toward him with three fingers extended. “Three things you have stolen...”
“As you say, Lady Nadria.”
“My life, stolen from me by the grief of realising your promises were lies, has been returned,” Nadria says, lowering one finger.
“My body’s virtue has been restored,” lowering another finger. “This I know,” she says with confidence. “I have been resurrected whole and pure.”
She pauses her counting and directs her gaze at you.
“Scholar Waleed, did you know my father planned to offer me to our noble sultan Marrake al-Sidan al-Hariq ben Lazan, as a bride for his son the prince? The sultan’s son was of the age to marry and my father the amir had long curried our sultan’s favour. For my entire life I was told I was to marry a prince at the altar of Kossoth, Lord of Flames, and this would bring great honour to my family and myself. This too the deceiver stole from me.”
Gliding forward, she stops just before you, appraising you. “And now here you stand, by the grace of The Lost One and delivered to me by the deceiver.”
Without taking her eyes from you: “Who is he really, deceiver?”
“He is Prince Waleed Ibn Alurah, royal son of the House of Hannah and of Hiyal, lady Nadria,” Saleh says.
"Wait, what..." Had it been so long that Waleed had forgotten his own past, placing the future and it's goals only in his vision that all else no longer could be seen. Only now did he begin to remember where he came from. "Forgive my impertinence, are you asking me to marry you?"
"Oh, please forgive my ignorance in such matters. I fear I have been at sea to long to remember the proper way of things." Looking to Saleh and then back to Lady Nadria, "If I may ask, and please answer truthfully Saleh, for I would have no secrets between us. Do you still love Lady Nadria and wish to make her your wife?"
"Thank you, Saleh," says Waleed while placing a hand on his shoulder in comfort, "It is never easy to talk about one's shortcomings. If Mamoun were here, he'd tell you all of mine for the cost of some Koumiss." Waleed smiles, removes his hand from Saleh's shoulder and stands, facing Lady Nadria. "As I am loath to keep anyone in slavery, so too am I loath to keep anyone in marriage against her will." Waleed strains hard to keep his eyes on Nadria's eyes and not to let them wander. "If I make this offer of betrothal to your father and he finds it acceptable, would you find me acceptable? Do not think of your duty when it comes to your father, in your heart, would you find me fit to be your husband?"
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Oct 10, 2017 18:19:26 GMT -7
"A faithful daughter obeys her father," she replies, "this you know. This a mother teaches from the time a child is at the breast and each day after. As the youngest of four faithful daughters, I knew my heart was not mine to give."
"My oldest sister Gamila was briefly wed to the Sultan's food taster. I imagine their wedding night was... unpleasant. He was chosen to serve for his discerning tastes, not his looks. Father owed him a debt from some war or another and agreed to the marriage. I suppose she is now a content widow here in the City; the Sultan cares well for the families of those who die in his service."
"Pretty Dahab was married to the handsome Tamir, a commander from the border regions. I imagine their nights were filled with passion until he died in single combat with Bloody Gerrus the giant. Before I... took my life... she commanded the region in his stead. She was said to be as loved by Tamir's warriors as much as they once feared him."
"Eshe, who I called the Unkind, for she delighted in tormenting me, my father arraigned for her to marry the City's old librarian. Who knew he was that old... He passed on during the consummation of their wedding night! Now she is the librarian, though I don't recall her being overly found of reading."
"But that is not an answer to your question."
She studies you silently for a moment.
"You are a handsome man. I detect no cruelty in your countenance, nor deception. You are not a food taster, impetuous warrior, or dottard, but a kind, young prince. I find you more than fit to be my husband," she says with a warm smile.
You hear footsteps hastening down the long stairs. From the air Nadria pulls a veil of transparent smoke across her face and raises an index finger to her lips.
"Shhhh....here comes father. Don't tell him you've seen me with my face uncovered." Turning she started up the stairs, her delightful figure clearly revealed through the transparent robe.
"Oh! This will never do." She stops and races back, the robe tied over one shoulder serving only to accentuate her features. Taking you by one hand, she says, "By your leave, Prince."
You find the dimensions of the room have subtly changed. She drops your hand and races up the stairs. You realize you have grown greatly, easily twice as large as your were before.
Waleed, looks at himself, then at Saleh, "How ever do you find clothes that fit?" Chuckling a little, Waleed adds, "Yes, I know, you make them yourself, lucky you. Well, I hope this goes well and we both are burned alive and fed to the dogs."
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Oct 13, 2017 11:09:45 GMT -7
"Burned alive?" Saleh answers distractedly, staring up the stairs but making no move to climb them. "Oh. A jest. But, yes that would not be pleasant for you..."
You see that the chain still binds him to your ring.
He turns quickly to you and whispers. "You are a prince. You must act like one! My people respect rank and despise weakness. Know this and we may yet live to see you wed."
"Father!" Nadria calls out from a turn or two up the wide stairs. "I have returned..."
The footsteps continue toward you without pause, drawing nearer, becoming louder.
Saleh prostrates himself, forehead touching the floor.
An enormous efreeti fills the landing, small black eyes taking in the room from beneath a heavy brow. Heavily adorned horns protrude there, sweeping back behind him. A massive belly hangs uncovered over a wide belt that holds a golden scimitar. Puffs of smoke roil from his nostils.
"Father," Nadria repeats, catching up to him. "I've been rescued! Just like in the stories, by a brave prince!"