Our intrepid party left the crew of the Silverfish behind with careful instructions. There was enough food on board for a little over two weeks rations. If the four of them did not return in 2 weeks, the crew had orders to set sail for the nearest port. With that, the party jumped in the launch boat and started for shore.
This was not a port town by any stretch of the imagination. The structures in the distance couldn’t have numbered enough to house more than 300 citizens, and the modest docks were barely big enough for fishing boats. Still they pushed on, tying the launch boat off at a small dock. Some fishermen passed by them on their way to their morning catch. They wore short pants, light vests and turbans. The made a curious symbol with heir left hand as they floated by the party, sharing ominous looks amongst themselves. Yurm’s memory told him that the hand symbol was a religious warding of some kind, but his ignorance of the culture prevented him from knowing what kind of danger it was intended to protect from.
Once on shore, the party sought out someone who could tell them where they were. They received only frightened looks from most villagers, and nearly every one made that same curious hand gesture. Norvi tried to make that same gesture back at someone, only to earn some puzzled looks. Aldo hailed a villager, attempting to engage one in conversation. The young man said something hurried in a strange language and scuttled away. Krömm heard what he said, and though he could not translate, he immediately knew the language as Arabiyyan. This told the party that they had landed on the northwest continent known most commonly as Al Arabiyya. Norvi couldn’t believe that his captain had strayed so far off course! “You are one terrible mess of a captain”, Norvi commented to Aldo. ‘’We were supposed to land in Issyc, and you put us a continent away!’’ Aldo shrugged the comment off. He had heard worse form Norvi, who frequently reminded the whisper gnome of his navigational follies. Even if Aldo had decided to take Norvi to task on the issue, the seacliff dwarf as already halfway out of sight. He was bee-lining for a small building, who’s sign bore cryptic letting from an alphabet none of them knew. Aldo chuckled to himself as he realized the dwarf must have smelled a tavern.
The party followed behind Norvi into the tavern, where their arrival was greeted by the nervous looks of patrons all around. A few were at the bar enjoying some morning beverages. Most were seated at tables enjoying breakfast. Norvi led the party to the bar where he immediately ordered ale. The party was relieved to find that the barkeep spoke their language. “What have we here?” he asked. “It is not often we get visitors from such far away shores.” He poured an amber liquid into a clay jar and handed it to Norvi. “How much?” Norvi inquired. “One dirhem, sir,” the barkeep replied in a thick accent. He could see that Norvi had no such currency. “In this land,” he explained, “We trade in Dinars and Dirhems, 2 of which are equal to one of your coins. You may exchange money in the market, but I will take your silver to save you the trip. You will want to go there though if you plan on staying in these lands.” “You are being very helpful to us. What is your name?” Aldo inquired. ‘’I am Hafa ibn Ladan, and I am pleased to serve you.’’ Aldo asked about the hand gesture they had seen made. “That is a warding. The people here are not used to seeing your kind. They think you are giving them the Evil Eye.”
Hafa explained that The Evil Eye is a negative force in these lands, capable of being cast upon someone merely by willing it. The hand symbol helps protect against it… most of the time. While Aldo and Hafa were chatting, Yurm and Norvi were eavesdropping. They had picked up a conversation in their native common. Two sun darkened men in turbans were speaking in hushed tones by the tavern’s hearth. The taller on said to the other, “…I swear to you I’ve seen it, but I was nearly caught. I had to leave it behind.” Norvi grabbed Krömm’s attention, and the two immediately started making plans to follow and interrogate the two. Yurm kept listening. The shorter one asked, “Where is it?” The first opened his mouth to say, but thought better of it. He looked over his shoulder to see if anyone was listening, and he locked eyes with Yurm. “The walls have ears,” he whispered. “Meet me later.” The tall one left and his friend lingered behind.
Krömm and Norvi watched the shorter man for some time, and followed him when he left the bar. They tailed him outside, through the village market and down an alley. They watched him duck into a clay house and followed him inside. He was startled by them and grabbed a carving knife. Krömm didn’t want a fight (for some reason), and made up some story about needing directions out of town. The man complied and Krömm and Norvi left with no intelligence.
Meanwhile, Yurm and Aldo had left the tavern to do a little money changing and perhaps peruse the market. Aldo was doing just that when he felt a tug on his clothes. His eyes drifted down to see a small had dart out his coin purse. Aldo causally waited for the thief to do it again before snapping his hand out and grabbing the thief’s wrist. He spun the rogue around to find he was just a young human boy of about 12. Aldo was about to ask him what the hell he thought he was doing, when the boy wrenched his wrist free and took off like a bolt. Aldo looked at Yurm and the two sprinted after him. The boy darted around a cart, knocking over some barrels. Aldo and Yurm tripped over them. The boy darted down an alley. He deftly slipped through 2 dogs fighting over a dead animal. Aldo sneaked through right behind him. Yurm, not trusting his agility, charged straight forward, barreling through the gnashing canines. He only succeeded in getting caught in the middle of two vicious dogs fighting to the death. He sustained a few good bites before asserting his dominance over the beasts. Aldo was almost on top of the boy, who had gotten some distance with the barrel trick. A dead end was fast approaching. When the boy reached it, he simply started scampering up the wall of an adjacent building. Not to be outdone, Aldo climbed after. Just as the boy was abut to reach a ledge where he could escape, Aldo’s hand caught his boot. With all his might, he wrenched the thief off of the wall and he crashed to the ground. Aldo jumped down after him. The boy was in pain on the street. Aldo stood over him and demanded his gold back. The boy begged Aldo to let him keep it. He said he and his mother were starving and she was very sick. He offered a trade. “I don’t have much, but I can tell you a secret that I think will make you very rich!” Aldo was intrigued. “I overheard two men talking about a treasure hidden in the Kabah. They said they were going to retrieve it tonight at moon’s full rise.” Aldo threw a small handful of gold on the ground, which the boy greedily scooped up. He sent a whisper to Krömm. “Meet me in the tavern, I have something to share.”
Meanwhie, somewhere in the market, to the surprise of several market going onlookers, Krömm flung his hands up to his ears and cried, “GET OUT OF MY HEAD!”
The party met back at the tavern and discussed the morning’s events. Aldo and Yurm set out together again to find this temple and investigate. Norvi and Krömm, fully charged from their liquid breakfast, set out to find the two men that were whispering in the tavern.
Aldo and Yurm made it to the only temple in the village. It was tall and stone, with a stone disc above the shut door. The disc was engraved with a large T, but was otherwise featureless. Yurm identified the symbol as that of a sun or moon god. The two lingered around for a bit and looked in the windows. They could see inside with their darkvision. All was dark and quiet. Aldo tried the door, finding it unlocked. The two slipped inside and started snooping around. After some searching, the two found a loose board in the floor. The pulled it up and discovered a dusty box. Quickly, and without opening it, Aldo stuffed it in Yurm’s pack. He had just replaced the floorboard when the door opened, filling the solemn place with light. Three stern, olive skinned men, wearing loose robes and turbans were holding scimitars and glowering at them. Just then, a woman appeared thru a trapdoor. She was dressed in a long robe and held lit bronze lamp. Her features were striking, and she was very beautiful. Her eyes had black kohl around them which enhanced her beauty even more so. She defused the situation, explaining in common that the temple was a sacred place dedicated to Hubal, the moon god. The temple was off limits during the day, only opening at the zenith of each moonrise. Aldo and Yurm had committed a great offense by entering this early in the day. The priestess forgave their ignorance, and ushered everyone out, no doubt glad to not be cleaning blood from the temple floor. As Aldo and Yurm walked down the temple’s stairs, the men were waiting. One shot a look at Aldo that seemed to burn right into him. He didn’t return it, hoping to avoid confrontation. But even when he was well away, he just couldn’t shake that look off. It dawned on him, and he said to Yurm, “I think I just got the Evil Eye.”
Norvi and Krömm were hunting for the two they saw whispering in the tavern. Looking for some time with no luck, they decided to head to the shorter one’s house, which Krömm had cleverly marked with his punching dagger. The two walked right in to find the shorter man, alone. He was not thrilled to see them. He grabbed a falchion and threatened them with it, yelling for them to leave. Krömm attacked. The two killed the man quite easily and looted his body. Norvi pocketed a curiously small dagger. Krömm found a few dinars. They left that home with little gain for the second time that day.
Everyone met back at the tavern and had some more drinks. Aldo opened the box to reveal an ancient map, covered in Arabiyyan script and crumbling at the folds.
He showed the map to Hafa, who attempted to translate it. He was mostly successful, but couldn’t translate one word: Sbar. The lines he could translate were:
- When Hubal sees Sbar, Sbar will point the way
- Do not be tempted in to the oasis
- Wait for the three wise men. They know which way.
- Enter through the gates of Iblis
- Bring a camel or you ill surely perish. Travel toward Hubal’s servant.
The group decided to attempt to find the treasure that they figured this map led to. First thing in the morning, they would prepare for a journey into the desert.
Will our party be ready for the perils that lie in wait, deep in the sea of sand that is the Nasim-ul-Ghani Desert? Find out next time!