Mysteria

Beyond the Gate of Old Cyreen

In the courtyard beyond the Gate of Old Cyreen those whose families have lived in Siwal for many generations gather to drink coffee, smoke and discuss the politics of the day. Shaded by the grand dome trade and marriage are arranged, debts are settled, scandal and rumour are spread. Seating arrangements are established and based upon a system of old alliance, rivalry and vendetta, the veneer of respectable social intercourse however is a mask for there are those whose business and intentions are darker, they gather here to observe those entering the city.

For it is here that new arrivals gather, drink, wash, make plans and ablutions before entering the city proper. Thieves, pilgrims, merchants, guards and slayers for hire may or may not be of interest to those who may or may not have needs of their services. It is not unknown for example, for those deemed to be well armed or wealthy to be followed by a near riot of agents representing those in power as wells as beggars, traders, prostitutes and other chancers.

Tolot was observing the courtyard today from his tower, the gossip of the day related to a group of adventurers. Rumour said that they had been involved with Djinni mischief and a mismatched marriage as well as the destruction of a cult of ghouls, with a group of valiant guards they had smashed the cultists in open battle. Tolot had observed this group up close, they posed as bards but clearly they were not, he also knew that the ghouls had used a form of magic to disguise themselves as the living and that the vizier had paid the group handsomely for an unknown item. A drunken guard had spoken of a ‘fountain of blood’, and further research into this warned of a deadly curse. There were certainly those who would find word of this ‘fountain’ interesting…

Alas Tolot could not waste any more time contemplating gossip and profit for the crew of a newly arrived sand ship came into the courtyard, one of the officers would die tonight and Tolot was to confirm his arrival, if he had guards and where he was lodged. He must have offended someone in power for the job paid well, focussing on his crystal his head sagged over it and his eyes rolled back…

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A Town Called Malice
Chaos at The Grand Souk

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Words whispered between two dark shadows in Ye Olde Darakhul:
“That be him – mithral shirt and buckler with the swaggering gait. See how he carries his blades!”
“Oooh yes, My Love! I may even enjoy this mission!”

Ramon Marakesh to Jim Al-Khalili:
“Give them a practice tent and prepare my private booth at The Odour. I would see what racket these Northerners can produce.”

Two young acolytes at the Library-Temple of Thoth-Hermes:
“That’s the one she likes. See by his furry face – Nkosi! Hangs around with them Northerners, I hear.”

Two Kobolds in Ye Old Darakhul:
“That one’s a friend of Snakey’s. Leave his pockets alone, whatever you do!”
“….And his scabby friends…?”
“I wouldn’t!”

Two town guards in the Grand Souk:
“Killed a cave full of ghouls, they did.”
“They don’t look very deadly. Okay, I’ll keep my eye on them. But they better behave. Nobody’s above the law!”

Carmelle Qatada to her friend Giselle:
“Surprise double gig at The Smells tonight!”
“I heard it was just a bunch of Northerners.”
“It IS, …. But The Puddings are playing a surprise gig afterwards.”
“You got tickets?”
“Four!”
“Count me in!”

Elgar One-Ear to Tolot the Toothless at the TEAHOUSE OF TAMIR:
“I see that young Haytham is mixing with the Northerners. Trouble will come of this. You mark my words. Especially if that young lover of his has anything to do with it. There’s something about her that just isn’t right!”

Spice Girl Aisha Sabella to her husband:
“A bit of a tragedy at the market today.”
“Hmmmmnn?”
“I did alright, but some of the girls lost a lot of money….and some even more than that.”
“Really?”
“And the whole place burnt down.”
“How?”
“I don’t know. Northerners, I think. But nobody knows for sure. It was all a bit chaotic.”
“When’s dinner ready?”
“Soon Dear. I just have to go next door and get some spice.”

Town Guardsman to Captain Wadir:
“By the time we got there, the whole place had burnt down.”
“And you had no clue as to its cause?”
“We’re sure Abdul-Jibral was behind it in some way. Challenged someone at the market, he did. And I heard they killed him twice!”
“For the love of Aten, we almost had them. If it wasn’t for that flying carpet…. Where is Jibral now?”
“In the cells, Sir, claiming his usual crap about Infidels and Genies.”
“Well, he can stay there for a good few days. Give the objects of his hatred some time to leave town… or disappear. I really hate that paladin!”

Two young slender lads at Boys R Us:
“So, are you coming?”
“You know I’m not!”
“No, I mean tonight.”
Finrod Halfelven and Peter La Fayette? I may even be coming twice tonight!”
“You Devil, You….!”

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The Lingering Odour - Holy House Indeed
First Siwal Gig!

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Looks like you have friends in the entertainment business…….!

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Desert Deep, Monster High
Report of Captain Wadir to Vizier Akil ibn Khaldun of Siwal

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As instructed, we followed, and on hearing the designated whistle, swept in like the wind with our cutlasses high. The two priests you gave us were very useful but alas, both were killed in the ensuing battle. Of what went on in the cave at that time, I cannot tell, but out in the desert, the ferocity of the ghouls was astounding and it was only with severe heavy losses, that we endured.

In the cave, the Northerners destroyed the evil wizard and when I arrived, were packing the evil device known as the Fountain of Blood into a large bag of holding. They had rescued all four remaining prisoners and I suggested they make way to the palace with haste.

As commanded, we stayed in the vicinity and, true to your prediction, some of the wandering ghouls returned and were quickly despatched to their dark underworld. Over a hundred and twenty I counted all told, and although I could not swear to all being destroyed, I am confident that the cult has been smashed.

A guard of ten loyal men will be stationed at the accursed oasis for a further two weeks and my men are now particularly vigilant towards those with overbearing perfumery in the city. All such citizens shall be challenged. And the Master Gravebinder has been asked to step up watch on the Necropolis.

The ten soldiers killed have been buried and their families reimbursed, and apologies have been sent to the Temple of Aten with enforced Sabbatical attendance ordered on all of my men for a full wax and wane of the moon.

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Diary of a Druid (or A Carmine Bee Eater lands on the Balcony)
from the hand of Bartiman Greenbough

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We arrived safe and well, but not feeling very comfortable so far what with the dead walking the streets but we’re making the most of it.

Met with the grand vizier of Siwal and have been asked to look into a Ghoul problem he’s been having. Long story short and a faulty logic gear in our clockwork friend later we now know the man we’re after is one Ab’Nelka or sutchwhat. Calls himself the master of the Fountain of Blood, and he’s operating out of the Oasis of the Blood Moon just 3 days south of the city.

All thing’s going well we should be back in the city by day break. Might take a bit longer though. Bloody Ghouls. They’re tough. Old Man Margreve wouldn’t allow such things to suffer and nor shall I.

Bart.

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Brooding
Written by stigandr

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They laughed at me! Laughed! I, I have a 6 octave vocal range with complete control over it! That is one of the largest vocal ranges any human has EVER POSSESSED. Listen. AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHUH! ME,ME,ME,ME,ME,ME! BADAAAAAAAHHHHH! Did you hear that sustained 5th octave G sharp? Of course you did.

And because I was foolish enough to accept a challenge before warming up THEY MOCK ME! Next time we battle on the place of MY CHOSING Peter Whateveryournameis! They will watch your complete and utter HUMILIATION!

My ancestors have, oh you are asleep…

Drunk? The air here is dry, I must ensure that I lubricate my throat, it is not that late, another wine barman pleashe!

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The Watcher.
Written by stigandr

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Tolot ‘the Toothless’ had finished recording the events of the day and took his usual balcony seat with its shady view overlooking in the evening plaza. From up in his minaret he could watch the people of Siwal meet and bleat and from here he, diviner, spymaster and rumourmonger of some import, could magically put out his senses to catch the more trivial events of the city.

He sat back and mentally focussed on the crystal orb that sat within his cupped hands. His senses began to swim… He could hear the intolerant grunts of camels and the cries of street-vendors mesh into a cacophonous din, beggars protesting as a guard patrol attempted to move them on, or was it a shake down for a bribe? Prostitutes watching from the upper story of the brothel opposite occasionally shouting crudity down to those who might possibly ‘try their wares’. A group of adventurers stalking the early evening. Interesting.

The elf-blood in the lead was sinuous and easy to lose in a crowd, too practiced for that to be an accident. His boots however had picked up a slight dusting of spice and Tolot could see that he was seeking distance from a large spiked gearforged that was the opposite of subtle. The gearforged in turn was followed by three figures, a N’kosi and two humans, both of whom were obviously foreign, alert and watching for trouble. The northerners were clearly unaccustomed to the heat, but well dressed and armed. All subtly smelled of spice… And what was that? Underneath the scent of the gearforged’s grease (and was that, bear?) Tolot could sense that the weapons he carried wore the wet tang of recent blood. Tolot had heard that such a group had recently arrived from Nuria Natal and been privately received at the sultan’s palace. He practiced a mnemonic exercise in order to memorise their faces and appearances. Most fascinating.

Tolot continued to follow the group’s progress as the sun began to ebb and they left the basalt towered plaza, heading down towards the funerary gate via an alleyway. They were heading into the cemetery… At night… But although discrete they made no real attempt to hide the direction of their travel. Nor did the gate-guards make an attempt to question or hinder the armed strangers… Speaking in accented Nurian one of the humans produced what looked like a warrant or writ, Tolot focussed and could make out the seal of the Vizier.

‘Official business…’ Hmmm… Tolot knew that there had been rumours of disappearances recently… Tolot’s scrying further watched the adventurers through the gate, vicariously he felt his pulse quicken as memories of his own adventuring days came flooding back to him, ah yes, the feeling of threat, the facing of danger… violence was building in the air tonight.

Remembering his health Tolot ceased scrying, at his advanced age he had to limit the strain of sustained concentration over a long day. Approaching his journal he began to organise his thinking, the quill danced into life, dipped itself into the ink and began to record his train of thought ‘Now, who would profit from this?’

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Siwal
from the mind of Arcael - written by stigandr

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Siwal

The throat-song of the night invoked ghosts.

Cats yowled nervously, heckled and aggressive, whilst dogs yelped and welcomed the leash as a token of protection, only a lone jackal answered the darkness with delight.

The tavern dancer was infused, slow and hypnotic, rotating her hips apparently with disinterest and this reflected in the patrons, willing to watch and smoke themselves into a stupor, anything that would give them a reason not to acknowledge the fact that the dead of the necropolis had risen and played out a parody of existence not far from here.

For this ‘entertainment’ was a cloak and Arcael observed that every fire here struggled against grasping shifts in the wind, even the imbibed glow of the hookahs stuttered at the insinuation of the wind-borne scream in the night. Weak circles of light, breath-given, flickered askance within the smoky darkness, as if to reflect the truth that mortality is a spark that we cup in hope that it is never taken away.

‘For the light is transient and night will win?’ a tutor had once asked, for most perhaps.

And yet, Arcael mused, that both death and undeath need life to come before it and without it both are nothing. For while we burn with revelries, momentary sparks of sex and food, company and drugs, our life frittered away in vibrant moments… the dead do not. Does this momentary dance of sense and fire define us against whatever darkness there is to come? The heavens and the afterlife? If so, regardless of power and appetites, these undead seem unable to escape the banality, the burdens, the duties, the joke that was their previously mortal existence.

Arcael inhaled the smoke and a thought rose unbidden, a hint on the high wind carried him and he was on an airship climbing far above the distant western wastes of his homeland – the cries of the Shrieking Mountain, a great pre-existent entity magically held in stasis, trapped in slow motion but still bellowing a maddeningly discordant chorus of notes… and his kin had brought it to this world.

The woman on Goran’s lap choked, she’d laughing taken a toke on the pipe and drawn too deeply, then Goran kissed her and they exchanged tongues and smoke. Ironwall gleamed, for once silent by the firelight, the lion-priest Saabu entertained himself with rare slices of goat’s meat and the druid was drinking, his great beard glittering with drops of night-blackened wine.

Chancers and courtesans plotted the periphery of their circle and the smiles of their host seemed almost desperate, imploring them to ignore the wind as it rose again, wild in the desert and to spend more, spend more!

But the darkness wanted in… And so ignoring their host, the company, the prostitutes, the food, the revelry and smoke Arcael left the fire and the temptations of the room. He unsteadily approached the door following his thoughts, for whilst he knew he wasn’t on the bow of an airship, the high winds were howling and he would give himself to this, listening… listening… for the desert night’s own discordant notes.

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Arcane Musings
from the mind of Arcael - written by stigandr

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The statue of Thoth at the head of the high altar was fifteen feet of solid gold and inlaid with magnificent stones, each masterfully set. Its value beyond immense, the price of desecration was however, eternal… For how can you hide from the wrath of a god of knowledge?

The thought of Thoth’s wisdom and protection always gave Inu, scribe-priestess, comfort, especially at night in the vast library. Tonight she lit candles and incense in preparation for a reading of the lore under the third moon but she kept glancing at a stranger from the north, she did not think him a thief she was merely curious about the fairness of his skin and blueness of his eyes, such features were rare in the south as her dark skin would be in the north. She was also curious to hear the words he was whispering to himself, for she knew a little of Caelmaran from her work in the library, the devil-summoner’s tongue, one of her fellow scribes had gone mad translating it from a flesh-bound text. Tilting her head slightly she could make out some of the words he idly whispered to himself.

“Knowledge … born from nothing we are shaped by it, naked facts and foot-notes to be set down in histories.

So much knowledge … a thousand years here would serve me well… All will be mine, in the fullness of time.

Lord Thoth, why did you bring me here? I have searched the crimes of my … and can find no slight against you? Am I chosen for some higher purpose?”

Inu pondered this, she knew that an Nkosi priest of Thoth had brought the northerners here, but for what purpose? The hushed tones of recent divinations foretold destruction, were the strangers agents of chaos and change? She shuddered at what the stranger said next.

“My blood sings with the power of the ley-lines here and I begin to understand the failures of my ancestors a little better. Intoxicated, might I become the cleansing flame or the torch of destruction? What sacrileges could I inflict upon this land?”

The priestess dropped her candle, it sputtered and went out, however the northerner’s train of thought had been interrupted and he stared boldly into the eyes of the priestess, his voice smiling, melodious yet questioning…

“You understand the summoner-tongue? Who taught you it? I shall have to be more careful in my meditations around you yes? Still I am sure you did not mean to spy, perhaps we could discuss your faith and how I might access the full library here?”

There was no enchantment at play yet Inu very much wanted to say yes, to help this scholar in his quest for knowledge, but then there were the omens, chaos and destruction, her service to Thoth was surely being tested! She looked up at the golden statue and realised that perhaps the possession and pursuit of knowledge could be far more perilous than she, sheltered in her scriptorium, had ever thought. Then, out of fear of the ambitions of a strange northerner she risked the wrath of the god of knowledge and committed what she knew to be a great sacrilege to the very spirit of Thoth… she fled, denying the pursuit of knowledge and humbly acquiescing to ignorance.

The stranger watched the sheltered priestess flee and then turned to the statue, Thoth’s image glittered in the light of a hundred candles but no-one was there to see nor to hear the northern scholar say:

“In time, all will be known to me.”

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"I see a Blood Moon rising...."

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After a comfortable (and safe) airship journey from the North of Midgard over the MIDDLE SEA to Nuria Natal, Arcael and The Oooze stopped off in the city for a spot of discount shopping. Next day the sales were over and another two day airship journey led them to The Garden City of Siwal where the adventurers met up with Jim Al-Khalili, settled into their quarters and went out for an afternoon stroll to visit the Library Temple of Thoth-Hermes, while Goran availed himself of the dubious pleasures offered in Ragged Tooth Ralph’s bar, Ye Olde Darakhul.

On the way to the temple, through the GRAND SOUK, a scream was heard and investigation discovered two damsels in distress. Guys in Red Cloaks! Shucks! One ran away, carrying a damsel; but the other, bent over his intended victim, met with the fist of Bartiman Greenbough (or was it a Pauliel Quarterstaff?). In any case, the opponent’s award was death, especially after a particularly vicious magic attack by Arcael. Running into a spice shop, Saabu Theet could detect a strange smell but could not follow a trail.

Soon the town guard had arrived and after a few questions, the party made their way to the TEMPLE, meeting with Steward Librarian, Cassandra Per-Aten, before returning home to an invitation to the palace by none other than Vizier Akil ibn Khaldun himself. Thanking the group with small bags of 100 GP per person, he showed them the GHOUL they had killed and there was some talk of a religious cult and a so called ”Fountain of Blood”. With a courtesan still missing, The Grand Vizier offered 1,000 GP per person to help discover the secret – but they needed a live ghoul!

It was a great plan, visiting the Market Shop where the girl had disappeared. It seemed the shopkeeper was “IN CAHOOTS” and was also a ghoul. After his attack on the party failed, he succumbed to the thorough beating he deserved, and in the end, Iwandornless Walderin (Iron Wall) stepped in with his axe and went: DOOSH!”, thus smashing any hope of a live ghoul to spill the beans. Never fear, there’s always the Pauper’s Field near to the Grand Necropolis….

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