Eleven Baneful Gates

The Story of the Once and Reborn King

Book One: From Ashes of Empire

Part II: The Seawolf

Adventure Three: The Making of a Wolf

Act I - Eleven Baneful Gates

Chapter One: Haroushin

Ander meets with Haroushin, a high priest of Zann, about the seal of Suhail minn Zann. Haroushin has little more to tell the boy then he has already learned. Haroushin goes on to tell Ander of a set of ancient tablets brought out of the deep desert by a merchant friend that were found by a tribe of Al-Badians. The tablets tell of the location of the city of Al-Anwahr, the city of Lions, ancient homeland of Muluk. The last king of this city was Azaltin, who, legends say, tricked the Loregiver into revealing the secrets of Immortality. Supposedly, this secret was recorded in a book called The Eleven Baneful Gates. It is said that Azatin took the book into the desert for many years, ignoring his subjects and leaving his brother to rule in his stead. After many years Azaltin returned from the desert, a dried and dessicated husk, animated by the power of the book. Horrified at what his brother had become, Amakim led a revolt against the lich. Victorious, they marched on the palace, but Azaltin and the book had vanished. Amakim gave orders that the palace be sealed that no man should find the horrid book, and led his people to the far seacoast where he founded a new city, that is now Muluk.

Haroushin funded a large expedition to Al-Anwahr last spring to excavated the city and recover the book. After many months with no news, divinations revealed the entire expedition slain. Haroushin tells Ander that through augury and charting the stars, he believes that an expedition led by Ander has the greatest chance of successs of reaching the ancient city of al-Anwahr. He offers the boy 2,000gp to equip and provision, and offers 10,000gp for the return of the book. He also mentions he is interested in any other items of historical significance, and says he will pay a bonus for such items. Ander agrees, since he had promised the strange mystic Nerim that he would someday journey to Al-Anwahr anyways.

After leaving Haroushin, Ander is accosted on the street by a strange figure. The figure wears a flowing black desert aba, pulled tighly around him and covering his face. He seems hunched, with a large hump on his back, though even hunched, his height exceeds seven feet! The strange figure tries to reassure the boy that he comes in peace, led here by a dream that told him the ajami boy was his best hope in finding more pieces of the Peacock Throne, an ancient treasure of the lost city of Moradask, city of the Sun. The figure introduces himself as Ardasir, a simple ogre of the desert. Ander however, having seen Janni before in Krak al-Sarahin during his time with the Everlasting, recognizes the Janni for what he is, as well as his high station. Having learned something of what courtesy demands in the Land of Fate, Ander refrains from pointing out the glaring failure of the Janni's disguise.

Ander recounts his current mission, to recover The Eleven Baneful Gates. Ardasir knows the Haunted Lands well, even the location of Al-Anwahr. He agrees to accompany and guide the expedition as long as they can make a stop in Moradask to search the catacombs there. Ander readily agrees. Ardasir mentions a strange band of adventurers he met up with on the road traveling to Muluk, and that they are back at the caravansari. The pair heads off to attempt to recruit them.

Chapter Two: Wisdom

Muluk's caravansari is an immense building, almost a small city in its own right. Able to house over six large caravans of men and animals, it sits to the east of the city, just beyond the Elephant Gate, near the Grand Bazaar and slave markets. Ander remembers the place well, having stayed here some months ago when he first arrived in Zakhara with Aeluin. Ardasir begins a search of the numerous cafes, coffee shops, and restaurants inside the mammoth building, looking for his traveling companions. Finally spotting one of them in one of the fancier cafes, they approach.

Uzarad looks up from his hookah to see the young ajami boy Ander for the first time since they parted ways in the desert months ago. Enthusiastic greetings are exchanged. Ardasir mumbles something about Fate weaving a complex tapestry in his gruff faux-ogre voice. Uzarad tells Ander that he just missed Aeluin who had set sail for Quadra with that very morning's tide. Ander pretends to be dissappointed.

Ander tells Uzarad of his latest expedition. Uzarad summons his ogre-mamuluk bodyguard, Omar abd al-Nisir and Grim al-Har, a bugbear al-Badian who he feels might be interested in such an adventure to join them to hear Ander's proposal. Excitment mounts and plans are made to spend the next day or two purchasing provisions and hiring help before the party sets off into the desert.

It is late before people filter up to their rooms, and each is tired, from the excitment of the planning session and from the wine and smoke of the cafe. It is a tired and stiff Ander that awakens to the sounds of morning prayers being called across the city from the mosques. He rolls over to grab a pillow to cover his head to find a strange jade jambiya stuck into the pillow, pinning a note to it. Ander casts a quick glance around the room, but sees no one there and nothing else disturbed. The fitful sounds of someone repositioning themselves turns out to be only Beni sleeping at the foot of Ander's bed. Ander awakens Beni and shows him the jambiya. Beni seems fearful of the knife, recognizing it as the symbol of the Soft Whisper, a Holy Slayer cult of the goddess Hakiyah. Ander reads the strangely singed note, the words of which seem scorched into the parchment, rather then inked on. It is a threat against Ander, his companions, family, and friends from Ali al-Lazan, the Flame Mage pyromanic who Ander stopped from burning down the Calipha's palace here in Muluk when he first arrived. A large knock on the door starts Ander and sends Beni cowering behind his master. It is Omar, the ogre-mamuluk of Uzarad. He brings word that his master wishes to see Ander about a matter of some import.

The party collects in Uzarad's room where he is reading a strangely singed note, very similiar to Ander's. Uzarad is confused why this Ali person is targeting him, but after Ander explains who he is and his relationship to the Brotherhood of True Flame, Uzarad realizes the seriousness of the note. Comparing the two notes shows a distinct similarity in the scrawling, almost manic handwriting. The party decides to be on its guard and to watch themselves carefully in the suq today, but not to put off their shopping.

A long morning of haggling and hiring follows as the sun nears its zenith. Trading stops as the heat of midday sets in. The party returns the caravansari to relax and escape the heat until the trading resumes in the late afternoon. While they are taking their ease with cool sherbets and a light lunch, a travel-worn man approaches them. He introduces himself as Akbar min Najam, an adventuring cleric who Haroushin has asked to accompany the expedition. The party welcomes him and discuss their plans.

Late afternoon arrives and more shopping, haggling, and hiring commences. As evening approaches the party once again heads back to their lodgings. A beggar hidden in the darkness between two tents calls out to Ander for alms. Ander approaches and bestows a dinar on the lucky unfortunate. Quickly mumbling a thanks the beggar whispers an invitation to Ander from the Leper King to discuss last night's happenings. Ander is told that the Leper King will be holding court tommorrow in the Plaza of White Cloth. The beggar quickly dissappears when Beni distracts Ander with an outburst about the Leper King's legendary skill at gathering information. The rest of the party overhears his outburst and begin to ask questions about the meeting. Unresolved discussions end late in the evening as the party retires for the night.

Chapter Three: The Price of Doing Business

Ander wakes up early and slips out of the caravansari early with only Beni. Arriving at the Plaza of White Cloth he finds the Leper King seated on a driftwood throne and surrounded by his scabrous court. White linens and clothing hangs on clothlines strung high above the courtyard where a broken fountain rests. The beggar king offers infomation about Ander's enemy for a mere 10,000gp. Ander scoffs at such a price, already knowing much about Ali and the Brotherhood. The Leper King is out-haggled and finally offers all that he knows for a mere 1,000gp. A more reasonable price, but still more then the boy can afford at the moment, Ander offers to get the money. A new meeting place is arranged for later in the day.

Ander sells some treasure accumulated over the course of his journeys and meets with the beggar lord once again. Ander finds he knows much of the information the Leper King offers, but does learn a few things about his enemy's movements that may prove useful.

Returning to the matter at hand of gathering equipment and supplies, the party finishes before the heat of midday and once again retires to the shelter of the caravansari. As they make plans to set off in the late afternoon, a veiled woman approaches the table and introduces herself as Yllani. She asks to travel with the caravan as she is travelling that way and has business to attend to. She offers her services as a barber to pay her way. Never ones to turn down good grooming and a massage, the party agrees.

As the heat of the day fades away in the late afternoon the party gathers their caravan of camels and animal handlers together and sets off. Uzarad rides on a sedan chair borne by two burly Nubian slaves he has bought, while the rest of the party walks or rides as finances and weigh permit. A brisk pace is set and good time is made through the cultivated and civilized lands surrounding Muluk.

Chapter Four: Encounter on the Al-Zalim

Starting early in the morning the next day, the party continues its travels along the Al-Zalim river. Midday finds the party tired and hot, they decide to camp till the cooler late afternoon. As they begin unpacking and setting up camp, a haunting song drifts across the 200' wide river from beyond some trees.

All the handlers, Grim al-Har, Beni, and one of Uzarad's bearers are overcome by the beauty and lure of the song and begin wading into the river. The rest of the party resists the lure of the captivating song, while Yllani feels no compulsion at all. Ander, Britta, Omar, and Yllani stop three of the handlers from swimming across the river, while Ardasir wrestles with a suprizingly slippery Beni, but Grim, the bearer, and the remaining two handlers all enter the deep river before they can be stopped. The party sees something huge roll off the far shore into the water. Having seen many crocodiles and hippos in the river over the last couple days does nothing to reassure them.

Uzarad and Akbar call forth their powers and fly across the river to confront the singer. Something large and unpleasent snaps its massive jaws on the unlucky bearer in the water, and pulls him under. Realizing he is too slow, Akbar returns to the closer shore to teleport Ander across the river. Uzarad confronts a lone harpy, and blasts a few magic missiles at her. She takes off with an outraged squawk and attacks the lizardman. Uzarad blasts her with his magic again. She attempts to retreat, but before she can get far, Uzarad finishes her with his magic. In the distance Uzarad sees three more harpies rise from their nests. Uzarad heads back to the river.

Meanwhile, the swimmers, now free of the compulsion begin a panicked swim to the shore, Grim deciding to continue to the far shore, a near fatal mistake. One by one the other swimmers are pulled under and crushed in the mighty jaws of the giant crocodile. Akbar flys out and bestows water-breathing on the desperate Bugbear, who is too heavy for the cleric to fly with. Massive jaws snap as the huge reptile bursts from the water to attack, but Grim swims out of the jaws before they can close. Ander and Omar, on opposite sides of the river now, slap at the water trying to attract the attention of the monstrous creature. Yllani lets bolt after bolt fly from her crossbow, but the tough hide and ennormous size of the creature belie her deadly accuracy. The snapping jaws of the crocodile finally find their mark and drag the hapless bugbear beneath the deceptively calm waters of the river.

Leaving Ander to fend for himself on the far shore, Akbar and Uzarad retreat to the rest of the party. Two of the harpies dive on the lad. Ander readies himself for another pass. One of the harpies attempts to draw his attack, but veers too late and receives a wicked slash from Darkslayer for her trouble. The other takes the opportunity to gouge Ander's back with her raking claws. Seeing the boy's predicament, Uzarad flys towards the melee. Akbar grabs Yllani and attempts to teleport her, but she doesn't know his plan and wrenches free before Akbar vanishes only to appear on the other side of the river.

Grim wriggles free from the jaws of the crocodile vainly attempting to drown the water-breathing bugbear. He surfaces and strikes out for the shore once again, badly mauled. Again he is taken under, again he wriggles free after a few moments of struggle. Weakly he struggles for the shore, his luck and vitality running out quickly. Akbar launches himself toward the struggling bugbear and reaches him in time to use his divine power to heal much of the bugbears worst damage. He is drawn under yet again.

The last harpy finally reaches the river's edge and lets loose with a barrage of her own magic missiles at the beleagured Ander. Uzarad smashes one of the harpies with his halberd, taking the fight out of her she limps off barely able to sustain her flight. The Wind Mage harpy flaps into position to catch Uzarad and Ander in a devastating lightning bolt, but they both dodge the worst of it. The remaining harpy assaults Uzarad with a huge bone wielded as a club. Akbar and Yllani pepper the harpy mage with arrows and bolts, but she seems protected from missiles by her magics. Again Uzarad displays his prowess with his halberd as he slices the harpy attacking him in two with a punishing blow. Blood and feathers rain down on Ander. Again the harpy mage lines the pair up for a searing blast of lightning, and again both avoid the worst effects of it.

Grim somehow manages to make it to the river's edge, where he runs behind Ander, and quaffs a healing potion of his own. The crocodile emerges from the water and assaults Ander, who parries the beast's massive jaws. Uzarad moves in on the harpy mage, but her magical protections deflect his blows harmlessly. Now that the crocodile is out of the water, Yllani rains bolts down on it. Grim draws his keen great scimitar and leaps at the crocodile, laying its head open to the bone with a massive swipe. Uzarad resists a hostile spell the harpy attempts. The crocodile surges forward and snaps up Ander, drawing him back towards open water. Desperatly Grim attacks it again, giving back some of what the monster had dealt to him.

The worst of Uzarad's attacks are once again blunted by the harpies protections. Akbar flys forward, releasing a blinding flash from his magical shield, unfortunatly catching the hapless Ander, while failing to effect the crocodile. Uzarad fails to resist the harpy's spell and is struck blind. Desperate to win free, Ander transforms into a wolf and begins tearing at the crocodile with his bite. The crocodile finds the resilient shapeshifter much tougher to damage, but is still able to inflict more damage then the boy's wolf-form can compensate for. As the crocodile wheels about to drag Ander to his doom it lashes out with its massive tail, almost snapping Grim's spine with the forceful blow. Barely able to stand, Grim realizes that Ander is about to be dragged into the river without the benefit of the water-breathing spell. He musters everything he has into one power-attack and shears into the crocodiles spine, ending its reign of the Al-zalim river. Using the sensitive heat-sensors in his jaws, Uzarad pinpoints the harpy's location in front of him and performs a devastating combination attack on her, severing her head from her shoulders.

The battle over and all their enemies destroyed or driven off, Akbar flys to see about the harpy nests, finding several items from past victims. The rest of the party collapses in exhaustion.
The party remains by the river for the rest of the day and evening, recovering from their harrowing combat. Much argueing ensues over the value and magical nature of the treasures discovered. In the end, it is decided to take the items to a professional for appraisal.

The next day continues the journey up the Al-Zalim river. That night is spent in the relative comfort of a local caravansari. While there Uzarad and Grim purchase new slaves. Uzarad to replace his lost bearer, and Grim so as to have a servant. The boy Grim buys is a barbarian youth from the Hill Tribes of the Furrowed Mountains. He cannot speak Midani and seems rather slow, weak, and witless, though his health seems rather remarkable. The merchants who sell Grim the boy tell him they have been calling him Mogli. Grim sees little point in changing this. Akbar looks into hiring more handlers for their little caravan, but has little luck with the first few he approches. The last man available for hire is a sun-darkened, leather skinned, old man. Akbar offers him a job at triple normal pay, desperate to hire animal handlers. The man says he is Ulli, Ulli al-Nodwick. He claims to have traveled the length and breath of Zakhara, seeing many of the wonderous sights it holds. He says that he does not take on jobs that lead to places he has been before and asks the party's destination. Akbar tells him of the mighty adventure to the ancient and lost city of Al-Anwahr that the party has embarked on. Ulli agrees to accompany them on their journey. Even at ten times the normal price, Akbar feels he has made an excellent bargain.

The party makes good time the next day, again spending the evening in comfort. From here Talv lies another three or four days travel up the river, which turns intermittent, with many large oasis and Al-Badian tribes, though no caravansari. The party is prepared, with food laid in for many weeks of travel. They set out. The days pass uneventfully. Grim starts to teach the boy some rogue skills as well as Midani.

Chapter Five: The Valley of Echoes

On the last day of travel the party overtakes a large caravan also headed to Talv. It is Taglian, the merchant with whom the group had traveled to Muluk with early in the week, returning from his business in Muluk. Grim and Taglien conduct business over a game or two of chess in the shade of Taglian's tent during the hottest part of the day. Taglian sells Grim a large and gaudy samovar (a coffee service of ungainly proportions).

The party travels the rest of the short trip to Talv with Taglien's caravan. Discussions are made about traveling into the desert with Taglien, at least for awhile, but it seems Taglien plans on a southeasterly path, while the party had planned on heading northeast. Much grumbling ensues. Some hurried shopping ocurs before the bazaare closes for the night, but more remains for the next day. The partry encounters an odd little figure: a goblin Sorcerer of Sand and Wind. The goblin has a weakness for antiquities and ancient ruins, and after hearing tales of the party's journey, asks to join them. They accept.

Akbar is approached by a few al-badian herders, who mention the lack of communication with a local mystic who lives in the Valley of Echoes a few days travel from the city. Akbar feels compelled to help them, and offers his services. More arguements ensue about whether or not to head out to the mystic and then come back, or just continue the journey as the valley isn't too far out of the direction of travel. The decision is made when Yllani talks the party into going after Ali al-Lazan so as not to leave such a large loose end dangling behind them. She shows the party an almost identical singed note as they received back in Muluk, saying that she too has been targeted by Ali, and that she plans on going after him with or without them. She tells them that she had heard in Muluk that the party had also been targeted by the insane Flame Mage, and that she had hoped to enlist thier aid in ending the mage's threat forever. Ander and Ardasir decide to change their route and travel with Taglien after all, as his route travels close to Krak al-Nirraan, The Fortress of Flame, where Ali is rumoured to be. Taglien won't be leaving for almost a tenday. At last, only Akbar, Yllani, the goblin wizard, and Grim decide to ride out and look into the problem, the rest of the party is too busy with other matters. At the last minute, Akbar is called away to the raise the dead son of a local sheikh, leaving only Grim and his slaveboy, Yllani, and the goblin to investigate the matter of the mystic.

It is a trek of some three days of rough country, they are told. They spend the first evening camped in the rocks near the entrance to the Valley. Around midnight, a clap of thunder and a brilliant flash announces the arrival of a massive Dao. He catchs the group unawares and with a voice as loud as thunder he demands they answer his riddle, lest he blast them to bits. He asks:

Centuries dead and still is living,
Can't forget, but is forgiving,
All beauty gone, all men reviling,
Time betrayed, but still is smiling.

Each of the party members gives up an answer. The earth genie listens to each in turn, then vanishes with an excited laugh. The party glances about uneasily, but no other sign of the genie is seen that night.

After another hot day picking their way along the rock-strewn valley floor, the party hunkers down for the night. Just as they are falling asleep, a cacaphony of noise assaults them. First it is mountain goats bleeting, then hyenas laughing, then goats being attacked by hyenas, then a woman crying out for help, then being eaten alive, then a baby screaming. Each time they investigate, the sounds stop, but each time they are about to fall asleep again, the noises begin again. None of the spell-casters gets enough rest that night to recover their spells. In the morning a tired and bedraggled crew sets off.

Chapter Six: Mahara's Vale

It is midday when they spot the narrow goat trail to Mahara's Vale winding its way up the steep valley side. They leave Grim's boy to watch after the horses and set off up the trail. The goblin flies off to scout around. The trail is narrow and treacherous being more a mountain goat trail then anything made for a human. Still, after a few problems they approach its end. Suddenly they hear the ominious laughter of a hyena echoing around them and from the shadows steps a massive hyena. Hackles raised and teeth bared it lunges at Grim. A desperate battle ensues along the narrow path as the supernaturally tough hyena battles Grim. Yllani leaps forward and deals it what should be a mortal wound, but the wound heals almost instantly, leaving only a small slash. At the beasts cries of pain, several smaller hyenas appear from the rocks above and leap into the fray. Finally Grim is able to pry the beast's jaws open and fling it from him long enough to draw his massive sword and cleave the beast. Yllani and Grim then make short work of the other hyenas.

The pair climb the remaining few feet of the trial and arrive in a hidden vale. Plant growth and jumbled rocks block vision for more then a dozen feet in any direction, but the pair spots a thin trial leading further into the vale. Yllani spots the hyena's cave, but the smell is more then she can bear. She glances back at the fallen animals and notes in suprise that the largest's body is gone, replaced by that of a young man who bears similiar wounds to those of the hyena Grim cleaved. She keeps her suspicions to herself.

A bit further into the dense underbrush and a monsterous hyena which makes the first they fought look normal, leaps out and assaults Grim, viscously tearing into him. A second bursts forth, though smaller and somewhat feminine. Yllani flanks the beast and dishes out massive damage. Suddenly a third hyena that neither had seen erupts from the undergrowth and bites Grim from behind. Grim staggers, barely clinging to consciousness, he lashes out at the smaller hyena and catches her a mighty blow. She retreats from the combat and miraculously heals. Yllani deals another flank attack to the enormous hyena. Grim is bitten again from behind, but again manages to heroicly keep his feet. Grim surges forward and cleaves the she-hyena dead. With the killing blow the already massive hyena seems to surge in strength as it goes berserk! It tears into Grim and Yllani, dealing tremendous damage. Yet, it is not enough, and soon the pair kill the beast. The third retreats out of the vale and down the goat trail. Taking the time to quaff a few potions and check their wounds the pair readies to continue their explorations. This time both notice the bodies of the woman and large man in place of the hyena corpses.

Chapter Seven: The Hermit's Riddle

The goblin arrives back from his scouting about this time. The trio continues up into the vale. Following the worn footpath they arrive at a sealed off cave. The mouth of the cave has been plugged by a smooth sheet of magical rock. At about the same time they notice the small hole in the ceter of the rock wall, a weak voice calls out to them from within the cave. It is Mahara, the hermit they have come to investigate. He tells them that about a fortnight ago, a massive genie named Ynadin appeared at his cave. The genie threatened the holy man with horrible destruction and attempted to intimidate him. Mahara though frail, kept his wits about himself and managed to trick the genie into a riddle contest. Ynadin did not seem able to resist the challenge and has been searching for the answer to the hermit's riddle since. In the meantime, he has kept Mahara a prisioner in the cave, opening it only once a night when he brings his newest answer.

About this time, Uzarad and his ogre mamuluk show up. Uzarad realized several days ago that the finer intricacies of mercantiling are not for him. Ander and Taglien's constant book-keeping and hiring were wearing him down the first day that the party had left Talv for the Valley of Echoes. Early the second day, he set out after them and has finally caught up with them. He is apprised of the situation, and feels it might be a good idea to get Ander and Ardasir to help against the genie.

The goblin decides he will be able to accomodate this and flies off to Talv to fetch them before night falls. It is a quick trip as the crow flies, and he reaches the outskirts of Talv after only a couple hours of flight. Ander is open to the idea of helping out back in the Vale, but Ardasir has just left the city that afternoon on personal business. The goblin decides that Ander can carry him and Britta so he only needs to use one of his spells. The trio wobbles aloft and flies back to the Vale, arriving sometime before dark.

Plans are laid to ambush the genie when he appears, which is usually sometime around midnight. Yllani and Grim hide near the cave mouth, while everyone else pulls back into the brush. Time begins to slowly tick away, agonizingly slow. Uzarad, though well hidden, forgets about Mansplitter, his massive halberd which sticks conspicuously above the braken. Ander finds he forgot to urinate before hiding and has to break his concealment to go. The rest remain as still as possible.

Suddenly, a flash of lightning and a blast of thunder heralds the arrival of Ynadin. With a flourish, the wall of stone plugging the cave vanishes. Before Ynadin can even speak, Yllani is out of hiding and behind him, dealing the genie a painful lesson in back-turning. A huge combat erupts as the genie flies into a rage at having been ambushed by ins. During the course of the fight, Grim is Dominated by the genie and forced to attack Yllani, who he almost kills. The goblin Charms the hobgoblin to make him stop, and Uzarad lays a Suggestion on him, but neither is able to override the genies mental control and finally, the goblin Sand Slumbers the ensorcelled scout, buying the party some time to concentrate on one enemy. Ynadin soon falls to their massed power.

Mahara is grateful to them and promises to do what he can for their wounds after he rests for the night. In the morning, he heals what wounds he is able. The party asks him what the answer to the riddle was. He tells them that in his youth he traveled the Haunted Lands and met an old hermit named Nerim in the ruins of Al-Anwahr. It was from this old man that he learned the riddle, and its answer: Azaltin. Mahara recounts to them some of the history of Al-Anwhr, though nothing he says is totally new to most of the party. Asked to accompany them, he tells them he is too weak from his weeks of fasting within the cave. The party takes its leave.

Chapter Eight: Hunger of the Beast

The trip to Talv takes three days. Taglien is ready to leave the day after tommorrow, giving the party only a small amount of time to make any final preparations. Grim heads off to the bazzar to sell coffee, Ander gets down to provisioning, while the rest of the party shops and prepares. It is pre-dawn at the eastern gate of Talv, almost 200 camels mill about, the shouts of drovers and animal handlers ring out. The caravan gets under way at last. First out of the gates are Tagliens huge sand wagons that convert to sleds once into the desert sands. Following are the laden camels and guards. Last comes the party, some 20 camels and about a dozen people. The days are long and hot. They travel in the morning before the sun gets too hot, and in the evening after it begins to cool. The sheer amount of planning in running a caravan of this size is staggering to many in the group. Days run into days as they march through the craggy Furrowed Mountains. It is on the fifth day of their travels that Grim notices the caravan is being watched, though he is not sure by whom. He keeps this information to himself. That evening he and Taglien play their nighty game of chess and have coffee together. Again, he fails to mention the surveilience. Ander's contingent is responsible for a watch fire, and they have broken their nightly watch duties into teams of brain and brawn.

Yllani and Grim have the second watch and it is on their watch that Yllani hears something out in the darkness, creeping up on the sleeping camp. She slips into the darkness to investigate, leaving Grim talking to now empty space, but was but moments before filled with his watch companion. Yllani stealthfully bumps into a group of stealthful Hill Tribesmen. Both sides look at each other, momentarilly startled. Yllani is the first to react and turns and runs back towards the camp. Throwing axes wing out of the darkness, nearly ending her flight. She begins screaming that the camp is under attack and about then, over a hundred tribesmen, hungry for sacrifices to their god, the Beast, leap from concealment and charge the camp.

Warned by her shouts, the majority of the party leaps to the camps defense. A massive tide of men washes over the camp. Like rocks the party stands firm under the assault. Seeing a weakening in their left wing, the Tribesmen leaders commit the bulk of their reinforcements to combat the party. Kurgen and Ravana, leaders of the berserkers are cut down, the Shaman of the Beast too almost loses his life, and it is this threat against their priest that finally drives the Tribesmen off. Staggering but victorious, the party assesses the damage done. It looks like the early warning, combined with the steadfast defense has kept losses to a minimum. The only notible loss being Taglien, who, it is claimed by his second in command Thurnas, has received a mortal wound and is ensconced in his tent receiving healing. Grim attempts to force his way into the tent to bring his friend coffee, but he is re-buffed. Watches are doubled for the rest of the night. In the morning the caravan sets out. Grim is allowed to see Taglien, but he is still unconscious.

Chapter Nine: Sibling Rivalry

The caravan gets under way and pushes hard through the next day and into that evening to arrive at a nearby oasis. Thurnas tells the party that the caravan will remain here for several days to rest before they head south to try to sell their prisoners into slavery. The party is welcome to continue on or wait. They decide to push on, feeling that things have gotten a little hostile under the new management of Thurnas and his crew.

The party wends its way through the treachous Furrowed Mountains, sticking to the wind carved valleys and lowlands. The only other people they see during this time is a large contingent of horsemen traveling almost perpendicular to their route. Since they are not spotted, the party lets the riders pass and push on. Ulli leads them unearringly to the last oasis before the desert, one Ander and Uzarad have seen before when they traveled to Assassin Mountain. It was here they met Kheldun al-Hanif and his son Yazid many months ago. The oasis is deserted this time, and the grateful party drinks their fill and reprovisions themselves from the artisen well. Grim hears a mysterious voice claiming to be a Sakina, or wind sprite, named Ghish who needs help ousting a vishap, a type of desert dragon, from her lair. The party is suspicious of the voice, but since the detour is only a day or two away, they agree to look into it. Uli and Ardasir remain behind at the oasis with the handlers and pack animals. Ghish leads them true some thirty miles northwest into the foothills of the Furrowed Mountains. They encounter a small band of pilgrims who are headed to the oasis during this time. Their guides robbed them and rode off with the majority of their supplies several days ago, and now they are trying to reach the oasis for water. The party tells them that they have supplies and camels at the oasis and to talk to Uli and Ardasir when they reach it.

Pushing on into the hills, Ghish leads them to a large cave with an enormous mouth. Cautiously they approach and enter the cave. Some eighty or ninety feet in, the tunnel is intersected by a deep, but narrow fissure. On the other side of the fissure, a massive cave stretches out of sight. Several of the party descend into the fissure with plans of climbing the far side. It is while the party is seperated like this that Fakhira, the resident vishap of the cave springs out of the darkness where she was concealed and leaps nimbly over the fissure to land in the midst of the confused and terrified party. The vishap lashes about itself with terrible speed and fury. Ander is suprised at the size of this vishap having met another in his earlier travels, but he draws Dark-slayer and wades into battle nontheless. It is a furious and quick battle, but in the end Fakhira decides that the party has gotten the better of her and she decides to flee. Suddenly a much smaller, but simarly marked vishap, appears to block Fakhira's retreat. The now revealed Ghish gloats over her wounded sister, laughing at having used the party to bring her older sister down. The smaller vishap tells the party to leave the cave and Fakhira to her. The party finishes the wounded Fakhira, driving Ghish into a frenzy at being cheated of her revenge. She assualts them with no thought of retreat or quarter, but she too falls.

The combat has not been without casaulties however. Grim's warhorse has fallen and his servant fled. Ghish also took the time to run off their pack mounts and spoil their provisions and water before she entered the cave. No one else has died, though the party is severly wounded by their encounter and lack of adequate provisions. They decide to hunker down and try to heal before returning to the oasis. Searching about the cave they find the majority of the vishap's treasure consisting of some coins, bolts of cloth, jars of spices, and other treasures taken from passing caravans over the years. Ander cooks up some delicious "chicken of the desert" as he calls the spindly and decidedly bird-like vishaps. Late in the afternoon, Ardasir shows up with fresh supplies and mounts, as well as Grim's young man-servant. He had a dream last nite of the party's predicament and decided to travel to meet them. He also tells them that he gave the pilgrams a large portion of their supplies, a move which upsets Ander to no end. The party returns to the oasis.

Chapter Ten: The Fortress of Flame

At the oasis they find their camp burned and looted. Following the tracks of horsemen, they find a camp of troops from Krak al-Niran, the nearby fortress of the Flame Brotherhood. They assault the camp. During the fight, troops of the Hanif show up to aid them, but it is too late for Grim and Omar, who are slain in the battle.

Gear, mounts, and provisions recovered, the party travels with the Hanif back to thir nearby camp. Kheldun al-Hanif awaits them there with his sons and his army. An assault on Krak al-Niran is planned. With the Hanif are two escaped prisoners of Krak al-Niran who swear they can lead a small strike force into the fortress to open the gates, a young and inexperienced monk, and another.

The party agrees to be that strike force, and after a night's rest and some planning, set out. They dodge several patrols, fight one, and finally infiltrate the fortress. As planned, the Hanif begin their assualt to distract the garrison and allow the party to open the gates.

As they make their way into the dungeons underneath Krak al-Niraan, they encounter the mad Ali al-Lazan. He is in the midst of torturing a recently captured tribesman with a couple ogre jailors for guards. He seems suprized to see them and has no knowledge of sending them letters.

Yllani, sent to execute Ali, attacks him in the middle of their talks, setting off a bloody combat. Ali attempts to teleport to safety, but finds himself unable to. He and the jailors are killed. About then, Jamal al-Yindannim, leader of Krak al-Niraan, springs his trap.

He enters the room with an overwhelming force of hill giant heavy infantry, thanking the party for their role in his little plot to destroy Ali, who was becoming a liability for the Brotherhood. He orders his troops to attack, making sure to incinerate Ali's corpse in the initial fighting.

While Jamal was busy with his soliloquy, a familair voice spoke to Ander, that of the mystic Nerim. It told him that an escape route was near and that he and his friends should flee. As Jamal begins his attack, arcane power strips him and his troops of their magical protections. Faced with this unexpected assault, and unable to teleport either, Jamal flees on foot. The party retreats to a nearby prison cell where a hidden pass wall allows them to exit via the ceiling and into the upper levels of the fortress.

The party begins trying to find their way to the gatehouse to allow the attacking al-Hanif tribesmen into the compound. They find themselves in the very heart of the fortress, near the private quarters of the highest ranking members of the Brotherhood. The party makes it way through room after room, killing guards, apprentice wizards, and strange fey creatures that appear to be half a man, split head to crotch as they go. In Jamal's private harem, they find the missing chief's daughter ensorcelled along with many other women. They are disgusted to find that he has been using the women to breed the strange nasnas.

GM Notes
This is where the campaign ended

Chapter Eleven: The Shattered Statue

Chapter Twelve: The Kingdom of Lions

Chapter Thirteen: Oasis of the White Palm

Chapter Fourteen: Lost Tomb of Martek

Chapter Fifteen: Idolatry

Chapter Sixteen: Dead Bearing Witness

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