Turn 4 News
News of the 93rd Day of the 2nd Year of the Reign of Her Most Faithful Magnificence, Amlatta the Pious
NAJAAH UNDER HADAR CONTROL!!
On the 75th day of the 2nd year of Amlatta the Pious, the Armies of Marcillus al Hadar rained down upon the Fesk town of Najaah. The fighting was brief and conclusive: 200 Fesk soldiers dead compared to moderate Hadar losses before the practical Fesk saw the futility of further conflict and lay down their weapons.
Marcillus's conquest was both swift and relatively quiet: it was made known that any who declared allegiance to the Hadar and put down their weapons would be spared. Several of the Fesk militia changed sides shortly after the fall, and serve on the wall as watchmen to this day. It was only a few (and usually old) Fesk protestors and rebels who were imprisoned, although rumours of their flogging and torture were not unheard of.
Hakesh al Hadar, Vizier to Emira Bahiya of the Hadar, responded to Fesk questions within Shalazar by saying, 'The northlands are becoming ever more dangerous for us all. That the Fesk could leave Najaah so underdefended became a threat to every family, and to Shalazar itself. We of the Hadar saw this and moved to rectify matters...'
The Fesk, ever quiet, have issued no formal complaint as of yet.
Bookwala re-establish trade with Harkam-Karim
Slowly, over several weeks, trade goods from Punt become more plentiful. Although there are fewer idols (traders being afraid to be seen with them), the jewels and spices one would expect from Puntish caravans begin to wander into Shalazar.
Most of the traders are Bookwala, although they often travel the Jerezad route north from Karnak. It is said that they alone do not fear the pygmies to the south, although legends of their ferocity and cannibalism remain.
A short time later, a band of Jerezad survivors from the massacre of Harkam-Karim make their way into the city. They mouth words of gratitude to the Bookwala who have saved them, but it's obvious to any who see them that these words are not reflected in their eyes.
Council of Seven Remain Undecided
'OK, Malik, when are we going to let these Kal'Nayak folk into the house? They're going to break the door down soon.'
'Never, so far as I care. You know the Council of Elders hasn't decided yet on whether the Kal'Nayak can actually force their way onto our family grounds, and until they say so, I'm not lettin' them in.'
'This is going to come to nothing but trouble....'
Warden of the North Appointed as Northern Cities Garrisonned
[Daily, the armies to the North continue to grow in number. Whispers reach the city of an army hundreds of thousands strong--some say that the Elunsii have no male tribesmen who are not warriors...]
'Here ye, here ye! Today, by order of the Calipha, Ghazi al Altair has been instructed to take the commission of Warden of the North, and that his word is to be law in the defense of the North against the barbarians. His army shall be dispatched to Abib, and he shall organise the defense of Muna, Al-Hadeen, Yumn, and Tharaa, to each of which shall be dispatched an Army of the Calipha. The city of Najaah, recently grasped by the Family of the Hadar, shall be defended by them, but they are not to move against the troops of the Calipha.'
Pygmy Giants Released as Totems Broken
'OK, I know it's not a popular theory, but there's a lot of evidence for it. It's there in the Theopneustic Tomes, at least, it's there if you look for it. And it's certainly there in the old legends, the ones of the First City.'
'You see, originally Shaliq created the pygmies very tall--the largest race of giants that ever walked the earth. The Djinn who made them hadn't gone bad yet, hadn't revolted, but he had the seeds of it, you could tell, because he made them so big. But Shaliq thought the were wonderful creations, if somewhat flawed: basically, they were so tall she kept worrying they'd scrape their head against the stars.'
'So she shrunk 'em down, and stuck their height in those little idols that they worship. And ever since, they've bowed to those idols in respect for the fact that Shaliq created their race at a proper height, since they're a lot more comfortable down among the trees. But now the Order is going and smashing all those idols, and so we're getting a lot more tall pygmies. And they're just going to keep growing, you know...
'Sure, its some kind of defence against demons. The armour may be steel on
the outside, but on the inside its lined with gold! Sure its covered in
symbols and stuff, but its still gold!'
'But how did you manage it? The Order people are pretty tough.'
'Yeah, but even they don't have eyes in the back of their heads. I just
bopped one on the back of the head, and peeled the stuff off the inside.
Only took a few minutes, and I'm rich, rich, rich!'
Calipha sends Elder Shala al Yildun to Inspect the Morals of Hadar Pleasure Island
'There she is! Elder Shala! God, just look at her eyes--that kind of cold would freeze the seas.'
'Ah, she's not so bad. At least not just lookin' at her.'
'That woman would as soon burn us as look at us! I can't believe she's landed here on Tobrukh. From what I've heard, the Calipha's sent her here to make sure we're all 'on the straight and narrow', as the Yildun define 'straight' and 'narrow.' And if we fail...'
'OK, so someone's makin' sure she just doesn't go down the wrong alleys, right?'
[Quick glance at each other as Shala walks away from her tour guide and starts walking down a dark alley.]
[In unison] Bugger...'
The Thirteenth Tome
[In an unknown cafe, a venerable scholar explains to a young student a lesson in forgotten history]
'The Order of Kal'Nayak, you see, is far older than even most of their foot soldiers know. It didn't arise in the Age of Wonders with Waleed al Din. Indeed, that is merely when it became public. In fact, it goes back to the first Caliphate, the reign of the first Calipha Adara.'
'Back then, things were still being set up, and Achmed the Mighty, the man who founded the Calipha's Bodyguard and mapped much of the Palace itself, was put in charge of the Thirteenth of the Theopneustic Tomes. Within this book was a description of why, and how, Shaliq allowed Evil to come into the world. All copies but one were burnt, but all considered it would be heresy to completely annihilate the word of Shaliq. It's said that there were secrets dark and dangerous within it, and so Achmed founded a special order to guard the book and keep it from prying eyes: the Order of Kal'Nayak.'
'But alas, my pupil, I'm afraid that the Order has become too big for its own good, and I suspect its masters have begun to read from the very tome they are forbidden to touch. Now their eyes have been warped into seeing only the evil in the world, and their ferocity is turning them into the very thing they dread. I wonder what Achmed would say.'
[The lesson ends, and the pupil prepares to go home. But the eyes and ears of a street urchin are also present, and he carries away this story along with the scholar's purse...]
Jerezad begin paying taxes again... finally
[After much negotiation and politicking between the Houses of the Jerezad and the Yildun, it is decided that Jerezad caravans along the northern trade route may not use the armies of the Calipha for shelter or lodging, and that they must pay the appropriate taxes.]
Abib Offerings Continue
'Our Omar was talking to one of those Honourable Messagers just back from Abib, and she'd been taking a look at their Grey Tower...'
'Isn't that surrounded by water now?'
'Nah, it's not really a moat, just a big crater. Though it might fill up a bit next time it rains...'
'So what'd this messenger say?'
'If you'd just let me finish... [pauses for a drink] ...she said she saw one of the offerings appear! Nobody else around, and it just popped into being right there in midair next to the tower, at the level of where the ground used to be!'
'What, just floating there?'
'No, soon as it appeared it fell to the bottom of the crater. Can't have done the fruit much good, ending up all bruised and battered like that.'
'Hah! Might've known sorcery was involved. That'll make it a darn sight trickier to catch those heretical buggers and put a stop to them, won't it?'
'Yeah, but hasn't stopped that Bookwala general - not Adsiz, the other one, you know - asking to buy up explosives from the Alchemist's Guild. Word is that he's going to have a go next. Thinks the first blast might've weakened it...'
Attempted Assassination of Wei-Ling
'Did you hear? Did you hear? That great evil they've been talking about, the one that's been preying upon the Jade Ambassador's retinue, the one that wants that beautiful lady's blood? It tried to get in!
'Yeah, some said it could fly! It tried to get over the wall, but then someone spotted it. And you know how many guards are watching that lady. It was like the area outside the Jadite compound just came to life with the Kal'Nayak! And that Jolem fellow was bellowing about, and Arkan. But it was no good--the shape, whatever it was, just jumped back from where it had come and disappeared into the shadow...
Memorial set up to victims of Harkam-Karim Massacre
Sahmid al Jerezad announces the creation of a memorial to those who died in the massacre of Harkam-Karim. The memorial will consist of a garden in the quarters of the Jerezad, with a bronze statue of a typical settler family sent down to educate and preach to the pygmy populace. Donations to the memorial begin almost immediately, and it is said that quite a few Bookwala have placed money in this particular coffer....
Kal'Nayek patrol Fesk Quarters
'Not good for business, are these Kal'Nayak types?'
'Nah, they scare off most of my normal customers, and they don't drink their share.'
'So why do they hang about?'
'I don't know--they keep asking if anyone's seen dogs or wolves about. Like we keep those around here...'
'Ish obvioushly the molesh wot done it.'
'That'sh nonshenshe - wanna finish the bottle? - and you know it.'
'I'm tellin' you, they - thanksh - they burrowed under the Guildhouse
and dishturbed something in the bashementsh, which blew up. It'sh ash
clear ash day.'
'I heard a different shtory. What happened wash - wot?, yer, 'nother
bottle would go down nishely Achmed - the Cartersh Union thingy
dunnit,'cosh they wanna shtop carpet maufacture.'
'Thash a good - yeah, and make it shome of the shtrong shtuff Achmed -
a good theory, but where'd they get the 'shploshives?'
'Well, a little bird tellsh me that the Feshk've been fundin' 'em an'
providin' them with-'
(From across the inn.)
'WOT DID YOU SAY ABOUT THE FESK!?!?!'
(A brawl begins...)
Calipha announces Pygmies to the Exterminated in the Wake of Harkam-Karim
'Here ye, here ye! By the word of her most reverent Calipha Amlatta the Pious, who stands aghast at the bloodthirsty nature of pygmy-kind, and their total lack of humanity, she calls upon the men of Shalazar to begin their extermination from the face of all that Shaliq has created. Where they are captured, they are to die by fire if it be expedient, or by sword if fire is not to hand. It is the wish of the Calipha that by this order, and by the strong arms and solemn wills of the women and men of Shalazar, that the scourge of these people may be wiped from creation, and an end put to their blasphemy. To befriend or trade with a pygmy is now treachery, and may be punished by death...
Strange illness amoung the Jerezad
'Poor Weesha. What did she do to deserve this?'
'Punishment by Shaliq it is. She never did understand how evil those Bookwala devils were, or their little pygmy-helpers. She always said live and let live. Bet it's pygmy-poison that is.'
'Oh Habitha, don't be daft. She's never been near a pygmy, nor her mother. And besides, if they loved the pygmies so, or the Bookwala, why would the pygmies make them ill?'
'Ah, you just don' understand their cunning little brains...'
Horse Barbarian Captives Freed
[A pub somewhere in the Hadar Quarters]
'Drink up, lads. A pint of ale for our fallen comrades, in toast. A libation to Shaliq for the safe voyage of their souls. And on my word, a barrel of the finest this, their favourite watering house, has to offer, to those who find the bastards that killed them. I don't know what kind of heathen would steal into our camp, slay our friends, and take away with two hundred of the Tribe of the Dragon. We were teaching and testing them in the way of Shaliq. Perhaps an infidel, perhaps a necromancer, who knows. All I know is if I find their murdering heads, they'll soon decorate my parlour!
I hear the Order of Kal'Nayak are trying it on with the Calipha. They don't bother asking her first, they just go ahead and do it. And aren't they supposed to be demon slayers? How many demons have you seen them slaying lately? Now they're trying to start a war with the barbarians, and for what? Leave them alone in the desert, I say.
Jerezad Lady Kidnapped by Pygmies!
'Oh no, poor Jesmina!'
'What? What happened to her?'
'We thought she was lost to the pygmies when our cities fell. We assumed she died there. But those poor souls who came back said she'd left the city to come back here a week before. She never made it.'
'It's worse. They say that pretty young girls like her don't just get killed and eaten. It's so much worse. They sacrifice them to their dark gods!'
'Really? How do you know that?'
'Well, that's what they say, anyway...'
WAR OF THE DJINN
[Day 88: An odd, bitter and salty wind begins to moan around the Isle of Tobruhk]
[Day 89: From the coasts of Shalazar, a terrible storm can be seen to be gathering to the west of the Hadar island of Tobrukh.]
[Day 90: The storm breaks upon the Island. Immediately the storm can be seen to have at least twenty, perhaps one hundred faces, each that of a Prince of the Water Djinn. As wave crash upon the shore, lower-lying cities are flooded almost instantly. At the same time, the vineyards of the Hadar break into flames.]
[Day 91: A volcano on the island erupts without warning, covering the Hadar vineyards in fire and lava. Before this can spread, however, the rainstorm collides with the firey slag and begins a steamy, impassioned conflict.]
[The days after: The battle continues to rage upon a now-ravaged Tobrukh. Many of the Hadar have been forced to evacuate the Island altogether, while the fleet has sailed out of harbour to avoid the conflagration. Even in this it has been only partially successful, and some of the fleet has been lost or damaged irretrevably. There is no sign of the conflict between the Water and Fire Djinn abating.]
From what I hear, the dragon has an enormous diamond for its heart, and that's what keeps it going. You'd have to be pretty clever to get that stone out, but if you could, you'd have slain the dragon, become a hero, and you'd be rich, too!
'Ha! All these Jerezad going round complaining about the revolting pygmies - serves them right.'
'What do you mean?'
'You haven't heard? They were oppressing the pygmies and stirring up unrest and trying to get them to revolt so as to discredit the Bookwalas, show everyone that the pygmies can't be trusted. That keeping them in line with a firm Jerezad hand was the right thing to do. Maybe even step in and save the day afterwards, make themselves look good.'
'So why haven't they? Saved the day, that is?'
iI don't know. Maybe the pygmies started revolting before they were ready, or maybe the Jerezad weren't expecting them to break into the Bookwala growth-potion warehouse. Or maybe they're just waiting until the pygmies look like a real threat, so that they can charge in and be even more theheroes! Never can tell, with these Great Family types.'
'So what's in this urn everyone's looking for?'
'Damned if I know. Every time I hear about it, people're saying something
different. Some say it's the blood or the ashes or the bones or even the
soul of the First Emperor of the Jade Empire. Others that it's the blood
or ashes of a dragon. A few whisper that it's an imprisoned demon,
maybe even one of the first of the Dwellers in Shadow!'
'Hmph, sounds like something best left where it is if you ask me. If I
found it, i'd leave it right where it was and cover it up again, and pray
to Shaliq it stayed that way.'
'Yeah, but that foreign emissary, Asuki Ashi-summat, certainly seems eager
enough to get hold of it...'
City of Abib Steamed
'As if it weren't enough that the attempts to destroy the Grey Tower pyrotechnically a few weeks ago left the city's eponymous monument with a twenty foot moat about it, now the same alchemist has decided to remove the moat by boiling it away.'
'You must be joking?'
'Wish I were, mate. She's managed it, too. Of course, for the last three days the whole city's been shrouded in steam and fog, and nobody can see to get anything done. Then again, I've been told everyone's skin is clean and their pores cleared...might be a place for a constitutional?
Old Mother and the Northern Invasion
'Ha! It's not that army you have to be afraid of. We can take them any time. It's Old Mother.'
'Yeah, it's all her fault. You see, she's just getting her revenge, because they married that First Son of the Wolf off to someone she didn't like. She's a cunning little heathen.'
'What? Why does her sending them to war against us make her cunning?'
'It's those heathen magics. You see, she keeps telling them the First Son is invincible, but she knows it isn't true. We'll whip them the first time they come against us. She's waiting for them to get slaughtered, in penance for neglecting her advice. She's the one who really runs things, you see.'
'You're still not making sense. She wins by them all being slaughtered?'
'Yeah. Because she's got dark magics, you see. Even now, she's transferred the soul of her tribe's leader into that kid born in the wolf skin, and any day now, when the attack comes, she'll steal the child. She thinks he'll have the strength of the first child, and his fate and destiny, and she'll use that to rebuild her tribe from the ashes. In the meantime, they learn never to doubt her again.'
'What, so she kills half of them off to make them listen to her?'
'Yeah, she's a canny one, I tell you...'
Hadar Recruiting--Apply Within!
[Two random Hadar young men discussing the recent Hadar military buildup]
'So, have you considered applying to the Hadar Guard? I mean, with the various wars and conflicts and all, it's important that we men band together to keep our cities safe.
Yeah, right. And get killed when we piss off another family and they decide to attack?
Well, you've seen all those flyers Marcillus has put up. I mean, there's good wages, and OK it's a bit of a rough life, but the ladies just love you.'
Mate, you could be made Admiral and the ladies wouldn't love you...'
Flying Troops Don't Take Off
'FREE LAKALA! FREE THE SHALAZAR ONE! LAKALA'S BEEN FRAMED!'
'Hey, calm down, stop all that shouting! What are you on about?'
'Lakala! She's been framed for a crime she didn't commit!'
'You mean them labs in the Alchemist's Guild that got blown up? But I
thought she confessed, and got dragged away for trial by the Order of
'Well, yes, but she didn't do it. See, the labs that got blown up were the
ones where the Cloud Weavers were working on those new carpets for General
Ghazi's competition. And someone didn't want them finished. Maybe a
rival in the competition, maybe someone who was worried about an army of
airborne soldiers at the Calipha's service. Them infidels up north for
example, the heathens what the Fesk are being so cosy with. But you mark
my words, that's why it was done.'
Wei-Ling Addresses the Public
[Throughout coffeeshops and casbahs, the words of Wei Ling, spoken in front of the Gates of the Hadar in the manner of an Emira, make their way throughout Shalazar. Word of her Shalazarian beauty and her fluency with the Shalazarian tongue spread far and wide as well...]
'Throughout the lands for seventy generations the name of Shalazar has been one of peace and wonder, luxury and law. All my life, I wished to come to Shalazar to see these things for myself. It is with some trouble in my heart, therefore, that I see how an eminent Emira treats a man of honour like Nadir the Juggler. Here was a man given responsiblity possibly beyond his means by the Djinn, who all know to be fickle and turbulent. He tried his best to defend against the indefensible: the behaviour of the son of a noble line.
'Now he find himself hunted because he did not wish to shed the blood of a girl half my age, since the dishonourable man challenged to an honourable duel could not find a champion stronger than a child to stand up for him. Is this justice, Shalazar? Is this what all of mankind beyond your borders has wondered at since time unimaginable?
'...and then he ran off, screaming that his killer moles would kill them all.'
'What, so he had some kind of deadly facial blemish?'
'No, not *moles*, *moles*! You know, the ones you find underground'
'Get out of it! Next you'll be telling me they was 6 foot high and made out of metal'
Month of Mournings
A month of mourning is declared as Saphiya, aunt to the present Calipha and the child not chosen in the Contest of Wonders, was found dead in her apartments. Citizens of Shalazar wear black upon them for seven days, as is traditional, and some have resolved to wear black for the remainder of the month.
It is rare for scurrilous rumours to surround members of the royal family, but perhaps in this case it is merely the outlandish nature of the rumour which has taken hold. On the streets, there are those who speak of the dart, as those of a pygmy blowgun, found in her neck, and the horrified and pained look in her eyes seen by those who found her body...
Standing is a measure of the relative strength of the Great Families of Shalazar. The Standing of a great family determines how useful it is to spend points of Influence on your actions each turn. The horizontal lines represent standing at the end of last turn.
The Jerezad have solidified their relationships with the Empire of Jade, and yet have lost nearly all of their contact with Punt. Still, the Empire is in favour at court, while the pygmies are slated for extermination: is this a sign that the Jerezad are supporting a winning trend?
The Yildun, having regained the tax rights on their trade routes and retained most of their influence within the Court, find themselves awaiting a joyous wedding and watching some of their rivals disintegrating around them. While this is true, they find it slightly easier to think about the massed army of barbarians on their northern borders.
The Bookwala seem beset by anxiety: they have picked a quarrel with the Order of Kal'Nayak, sided with the Pygmies now marked for extinction, and are definitely not flavour-of-the-month at court. Some astute political manuevering may be necessary to ensure their survival.
The Hadar, although seemingly as might as ever, are suffering from ups and downs. On the positive side, they have wrested a city from the hands of the Fesk... er, rather, have fortified an undefended populace against invasion by the Elunsii. On the other hand, every other family wonders when their aggression shall stop. Against this background, the wreck of their main holdings on Tobrukh are a headache they do not need...
The Fesk have been quiet in adversity, but the loss of Najaah has hurt them badly. As always, they keep their counsel close, and all wonder--are they a wolf retired to lick its wounds, or a serpent ready to strike?