Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Oct 18, 2017 22:40:59 GMT -7
Nadria’s father, for all his hulking menace, studies you with what appears to be a cautious curiosity. He has so far ignored Saleh’s presence. Folding his powerful arms over his belly, he waits another moment before speaking.
“I would know your name before I invite you to take salt in my home,” he says, his voice deep and low. “My name is Amir Massezzi Mass'ud Mirza Zell-e Soltan. You may call me Amir Zell-e.”
“Father, he…” Nadria begins but doesn’t finish when the Amir signals her to silence by slightly lifting one index finger.
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Nov 6, 2017 3:58:09 GMT -7
Soundtrack: "Army of the Dead" by Midnight Syndicate
"Welcome to my home Prince Waleed ibn Alurah."
He sweeps a hand toward the stairs. "Join us in celebrating my daughter's return."
Inside the house two guards pull open tall, narrow black doors revealing the chamber you saw in the vision. In the center of the room broad steps lead up to a low dais. On the steps, family members languidly eye you but make no move to rise from their rugs and pillows. Servants hasten about to refill goblets from tall carafes or present trays of nuts and dates. Some bearing a familial resemblance to Nadria, sit on the highest steps and eye you with curiosity. Four females in revealing wisps of ornate gowns and two bare chested males. All of them surrounded by personal consorts.
The Amir leads you up the dais and gestures for you to sit on a large pillow beside his.
Saleh sits to one side, several steps down, still chained to the ring around your finger.
Amir Zell-e nods toward a servant who hastens over to you with a tray of salted nuts.
"We have an honored guest!" the amir calls out. "Prince Waleed ibn Alurah, first of his name, grandson of Khalil al-Assad al-Zahir Grand Caliph of Huzuz, the City of Delights and the eighteenth of his line. He who was called Master of the Enlightened Throne, Worthy of the Gods, Scourge of the Unbeliever, Defender of the Faithful, and Confidant of Genies!"
Nadria takes a goblet of wine from a servant and hands it to you. Her smile extends to her eyes that burn with a lustful intensity. Taking a goblet of her own she settles beside you on the pillow, coiling about you as would a lover.
Waleed wasn't sure what to say, if anything at all, after such a grand introduction. Nor was he sure of his heritage, for it sounded way too good for what Waleed thought of himself. Waleed did as custom dictated and ate a small number of salted nuts, ensuring there would be an unspoken promise of peace between he and his host.
Waleed raised his hand to stave off any misunderstanding, "What Saleh has said is true. He has always respected my privacy, and does not pry, for I do not talk about such things openly. When I have need of information, I have always trusted his advice for my questions have little room for opinion and more firmly rooted in fact over fiction." Looking to his enslaved efreet and the chain that linked them, "Which brings me to why I chiefly came here to your amazing city. I wish to end Saleh's enslavement and set him free."
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Nov 10, 2017 16:46:23 GMT -7
The amir stares at you wordlessly for a time, then drinks slowly from a goblet.
"Only Nadria can break the curse," he says, setting the drink on the floor and turning his attention to a food tray.
"Though, even she cannot simply will it away." A fat purple grape meets his approval and he puts it in his mouth. "She was to be married." He closes his mouth slowly, crushing the grape, eyes widening slightly and begins to chew. "To a prince. A marriage I had arranged. The sultan is now closely allied to another family and the opportunity has as they say, past."
"My daughter, my beautiful Nadria, delight of my dark heart seems to favor you, prince. A prince who has the favor of The Lost One."
Last Edit: Nov 12, 2017 18:42:14 GMT -7 by Zaim al-Daleel: fixed spelling error
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Nov 20, 2017 10:30:20 GMT -7
"First, you must vow to press your claim to the throne." says the amir.
The scribe burns the words into the scroll of unknown material with elegant strokes of his pen.
"Only by this will I consent, for the honor it will bring to my name."
Waving aside the food tray, the amir sits up and leans forward. The scribe lifts his pen from the page and waits.
"Let us examine that claim." says the amir, rising to his feet. "No one will follow you into battle if you lack the conviction of your own cause. You must know with certainty that you are twentieth of your line."
There is no sense of movement but the room shifts and you stand in what you quickly determine to be a palace. Nadria and Saleh stand behind you, the amir at your right side. People walk about as if you are not there. You note that though you stand before a mirror you cast no reflection. Through a tall, arched window you see the fabled skyline of Huzuz.
You also see the Golden Mosque and realize that you are within the Palace of the Grand Caliph.
Before you can speak, a smiling young man in princely attire pulls a wide-eyed girl into an curtained alcove.
"Achmed!" she whispers, looking about with concern. "We'll be discovered..."
Her voice is cut off as he presses his mouth to hers.
You know with certainty this girl to be your mother in her youth. Further, you know the young man to be prince Achmed al-Assad al-Zahir, first and only son of Grand Caliph Khalil. Achmed was given the name of his grandfather, who was the 17th of his line.
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Nov 28, 2017 8:50:13 GMT -7
The prince pulls the curtain and they are obscured from your view. "No..." you hear Alurah say. "We're promised to others..." Their voices drop lower and their breathing heavy.
"I'll change that," you hear the prince reply. "It is my right, I will demand it, I swear."
"Then have patience my sweet prince!" said Alurah.
"How can I have patience, with passion's fire in my heart, with tears from my eyes flowing in an eternal flood? I knew nothing of what was passion till this love for you. By God, I am not pleased by the thought of a life in which you are not at my side, for how could my heart rejoice, filled as it is with grief?"
The palace becomes hazy as if a memory your struggle to recall.
With a wave of the amir's hand the palace corridor disappears and you find yourself on a balcony overlooking an opulent audience chamber. You sense some time has passed, but not how much. Courtesans stand in adoration before the throne of the Grand Caliph. Before him stands the prince and a veiled young woman, dressed in the finest wedding attire. You see the two them switch rings from the right hand to the left, and hear a cheer swell up from the assembled guests.
The prince pulls the veil aside and presses a kiss to the lips of a woman you do not recognise.
You follow the amir's gesturing hand toward the crowd. After a moment you see her, Alurah bint Alurah, standing flanked by her mother and father, dutifully applauding, but her smile is thin, her eyes dark.
You know that though it is too early to show, she carries within her a child, a child she will name Waleed. At this moment though, you see in her gaze what no one present that day did, so small and unnoticeable was she.
"You see it don't you," Nadria says, her hand resting lightly on your shoulder. "Isabat al-'ayn". The evil eye.
Last Edit: Nov 28, 2017 8:52:10 GMT -7 by Zaim al-Daleel: *some of the prince's words borrowed from an ancient arab poem
Waleed chose his next words wisely, or so he thought, "I am a man of books, magic and the sword. I know little of the machinations of politics, so I have little knowledge to draw from of what I should do to fulfill my debt of the bridewealth. I could easily accept your offer and choose to languish on it's completion, but I would think you can see in my heart, I am not such a man. I am determined, yet remain ignorant on how I should proceed--if you would advise me in this matter, my future father in-law, I would greatly appreciate your advice.
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Dec 5, 2017 21:47:56 GMT -7
“Patience, Prince Waleed.” the amir says.
The wedding begins to fade like a dream, but not before you note Prince Achmed’s striking green eyes.
“The fool. He wore no khamsah, and you saw his eyes- every child on the street knows that light eyes are especially susceptible to the evil eye. His bride wore an khamsah amulet, for all the good it did her. Your mother’s curse was directed at your father, not his new bride."
You hear Nadria laughing behind you as a new vision comes into focus.
Time has passed but you are unsure how much. Your eyes adjust to a candlelit room. It is Prince Achmed’s private chamber high in the palace and he reclines languidly on a vast bed, naked amid great pillows and disheveled silken sheets. Out on a moonlit balcony, his wife sobs into her hands.
"Come back to my bed, wife," the prince says, a half smile playing across his face. From an alcove, a naked girl appears bearing two flutes of deep red wine. She climbs into the bed, straddling the prince, her long black hair falling across skin pale as milk. A slave girl, from the far northern lands.
He takes a wine from her, sipping the drink while listening to something the slave girl says to him. They share a laugh and drink wine, laughing all the more when some wine spills onto his chest. Holding her drink to one side, the slave girl bends down and puts her lips to the spill.
The prince sighs in pleasure. With half-lidded eyes he turns to meet the gaze of his wife. "My seed is wasted on you," he says. When she turns and throws herself to the courtyard far, far below, he closes his eyes and smiles.
Then, the prince is gone and you are once again in the chamber of the amir.
"She was only the first of his wives to fail him," the amir says. "Since his father died and Achmed became the Grand Caliph, seven more weddings. Seven more angry houses nursing a simmering hatred."
"Worse," Nadria says, "he has turned from the Loregiver. He's taking council from the slave girl's ajami god."
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Dec 11, 2017 21:13:44 GMT -7
"The fool has turned his back on the traditions of his fathers," the amir says. "If the people knew the truth of their caliph..." He shrugged, "Who can say what the common man will do? But there are those who would follow the first to take up a banner against him."
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Dec 22, 2017 16:03:34 GMT -7
The amir takes up a steel goblet and holds it out to one side without looking. A servant fills it with a dark red wine which begins to boil immediately. Without taking his eyes off of you, the amir drinks deep from the goblet.
"War will come prince, with or without you. The question is," he says, gesturing toward you with the goblet, "will you avail yourself of the opportunities war brings?"
"You have the favor of the Forgotten One, and a legitimate claim. Can you convince warriors to follow your banner?"
"I'm afraid I am no general in this war to come," Waleed answers truthfully. "I see Fate handing me a morsel to taste of a future that may be, but I have accepted my lot in life and seek to better it through other means. I know this is not the answer you seek, and it is not one borne of cowardice, but one of finding peace amid a sea of travail."
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Feb 27, 2018 16:15:18 GMT -7
"Hearts desire, but Fate decrees," Amir Zell-e replied "You know this Prince. All children learn this at the feet of their teachers; al-Hadir and al-Badian children alike."
His eyes narrowed and regarded Waleed for long moments. "And yet... knowing this you hesitate. Saleh, your master is a cunning negotiator. He waits to hear what his prospective bride brings to the union."
The scribe's pen burned the amir's next words into the scroll. "In addition to Nadria's hand in marriage, I, Amir Massezzi Mass'ud Mirza Zell-e Soltan grant Prince Waleed Alurah of House Hannah the choice of another of my delightful daughters as second wife, and with her, all the lands and inheritances of her prior marriage. Furthermore, I pledge my house in alliance with his for as long as our houses are united by marriage, be it one thousand and one generations!"
With that, the amir smiled broadly and snapped his fingers. "Let us be entertained while the prince considers his choice of brides!"
As the music began, orange and black curtains were pulled aside by unseen hands, revealing a balcony overlooking the fantastical city of brass, turrets and minarets ablaze in the reflected fires of the turbulent sea beyond. Dancers, each more beautiful than the last poured from unseen alcoves on to the balcony, long gowns flowing behind them like steam, bells about their wrists, waists and ankles, tinkling in time with the music.
Nadria ran her long nails through Waleed's hair while watching the dancers. After a moment she whispered in his ear. "I think you should choose Dahab... she knows the ways of war and will give you wise council. Eshe does control the old library and you would have access to all the wisdom within..."
She paused and studied her sister Eshe. The woman regarded her back from across the dais, raising her goblet of wine and smiling. Nadria sneered but returned the gesture and then drank. From behind her glass, "...but she is called 'the unkind' for a reason."
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Mar 20, 2018 20:23:03 GMT -7
"Such delights as no mortal man can imagine," Nadria breathed in Waleed's ear. Her lascivious eyes blazed for a moment then looked aside and down, as if chastised. "Unless you prefer... a quiet wife who is not so bold?" Her sideways glance was pure questioning innocence.
Then that aspect too was gone, replaced by a look of cruelty and excitement. She spun and knelt before Waleed, opening her palms. Flames danced there, and in the flames writhed charred men, mouths wide, black sockets staring sightlessly toward Waleed.
"This will be the fate of any who oppose my husband." She watched the figures dance a moment longer, then in a wisp of acrid smoke the vision was gone and she reached for her wine glass.
"Oh," she said after taking a small sip. "I also have a ship."
Post by Zaim al-Daleel on Mar 28, 2018 15:58:18 GMT -7
"Father," Nadria said, turning her attention to the hulking amir. "Grant me permission to show my future husband Zanji'ahlam."
The amir studied her for a moment and then distractedly nodded his great horned head before turning and calling for his advisors.
"Find out who dares..." the amir was saying as Nadria led Waleed down the dias and out of the palace. Saleh followed behind, the chain hanging around his neck stretching to Waleed's finger.
Arm and arm Waleed and Nadria walked through the streets of the fabled City of Brass. Few paid them much attention as they passed through residential neighborhoods and markets bustling with hawkers of goods exotic and mundane, but Waleed could not shake the feeling he was being watched.
Nadria paused at an ornate cart, bright blue streamers incongruously waving amidst a row of carts with mostly metallic colored flags. She smiled with childlike delight and gestured for Waleed to look inside the baskets that hung from the cart's sides.
"Oh! Its been so long and these are such a treat!" Nadria said.
Waleed looked down into the baskets and saw large blue lizards of a type he'd never encountered before lounging about on blocks of ice that by some magical means didn't melt instantly.
The smiling seller was a thick bearded man who would be unremarkable in any Zakharan market except for the aura of cold radiating from his robes and the chittering homunculus darting about his shoulders.
"A blue salamander for the noble lady?" the seller asked.
When Nadria nodded the seller drew a long steel skewer from his cart. "And which would the lady prefer?" he asked with a sweep of his hand across the baskets.
"This one!" she said, darting a hand into the cold and snatching a panicked creature from its perch. With a sharp intake of breath she laughed and held the wriggling lizard before Waleed.
"Its burns!" she said, eyes wide with delight. Taking the skewer from the seller she hastily impaled the reptile and placed her cold fingertips into her mouth. "So cold," she laughed, a shiver running down her frame.
With one hand on the skewer and the other intertwined with Waleed, Nadria turned to continue their walk toward the docks.
"Pay the man, Saleh." Nadria said. Pursing her lips, she blew a steady, gentle flame on her not quite dead snack. Turning it this way and that, she began to slowly roast it as they walked.
Saleh pulled a gold ring from one of his fingers, gave it to the vendor, and hastened rejoin Waleed and Nadria.
A short while later, the group stood on the docks before a massive black and gray ship constructed of a material unknown to Waleed. The vessel was tied fast to the dock and barely moved as it floated in the turbulent magma sea. A crew of hulking efreet hung about the ship, engaged in activities ranging from gambling to fighting. Nadria delicately picked a last bit of the meat from the skewer then tossed it aside.
"Lady Nadria," a particularly brutal looking efreeti said as he hastened drown a stone gang plank. He knelt before her, "The rumors are true then. You have returned. This pleases me. Are you here to inspect Zanji'ahlam? I assure you lady, the Black Dream is ready to sail. We'll strike terror into the hearts of your foes and remind your friends why they fear you!"
"Captain Shakhs Haqir," Nadria said, "This is Prince Waleed ibn Alurah, first of his name, grandson of Khalil al-Assad al-Zahir Grand Caliph of Huzuz. He is my betrothed. I would have him see Zanji'ahlam."
"As you say Lady Nadria," the efreeti replied, and rising started to lead the way up the gang plank. At its foot he paused, a look of puzzlement troubling his massive red face.
Waleed felt the sensation of being watched grow--so sure was he that he spun around expecting to catch his observer. There was no one there. Turning back to Nadria he saw her staring at a small flare of blue-green flame swirling a few feet off the ground nearby.
Suddenly the flame burst outward with a hiss of steam, causing Waleed to stumble backward while shielding his face. About him efreet roars of anger and confusion rang out. Waleed lowered his arm to see what had happened. Before him stood his faithful man-servant Mamoun, framed in a steaming oval portal, arm outstretched toward Waleed.
"Hurry master!" Through the portal beyond Mamoun, the green jungle of Afyal and chaos. A priest of Selan straining to hold open the portal--beside him a massive blue marid stood with arms crossed, the set of his face a clear challenge to any efreet. Waleed's body guards Jaheira, Wudei'a, and Najiba were mixed in with a large troop of farisan wearing the colors of Selan, thrusting long spears at enraged elephants.
Waleed turns and looks at his betrothed and holds out his hand as he moves to the portal, "Come with me, if you think I'm worthy," then plunges through the portal, with or without his beloved--dragging Saleh with him.