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News of the 124th Day of the 2nd Year of the Reign of Her Most Faithful Magnificence, Amlatta the Pious

The Decimation of Elmiyah

Two weeks pass while the Calipha's commandment is organised. The Order of Kal'Nayak, aided by the armies of the Calipha, seal the city of Elmiyah and make certain none enter nor leave. Troops who had wondered why they had been sent to this troubled city before the Calipha's judgement bow their head now they know their task.

In the beginning, there are tears and wailing--some plead for forgiveness, but these pleas are not even taken to the Palace. And then the grim task of registration and selection begins. Jhezt al Gharizme organizes the lottery, as has been demanded. When names are called, the men and women are generally stoic; relatives cry quietly; and the wailing of mothers and fathers becomes a kind of sick birdsong in the city. The peasants of Elmiyah (not, technically, Bookwala, and thus exempt from the command) admire the courage with which their masters meet their fate. It takes one week for the two thousand names to be selected; the Bookwala are given another week to make their preparations.

Wills are compiled, goodbyes are said--a few brave souls have quiet celebrations before the process begins. It is said on the street that when the elders of the Bookwala meet to decide upon the executioners, there is silence, until Adsiz al Ash-Kenz, General of Amarat, stands forward. None envy him his duty, and he takes no honour in it.

Under Adsiz' eye, raised platforms are erected in a square near the walls of Elmiyah, and swords are sharpened and blessed. Throughout the city in the quiet week before, families visit temples and say goodbyes.

And then it begins. Fully two thousand souls are brought into the square, two hundred a day for ten days without rest, starting after prayers at dawn, and ending just before the prayers at dusk. There is barely room to stand in what quickly becomes known as the Square of Sighs, by those who put a poetic face on sorrow, and events can only carry on because Adsiz honour guard form human walls down which the condemned may march and the bodies may be carried for burial. By the fifth day, grim humour has already renamed the abbatoir the Square of Stench, and a foul miasma clings to the city.

On the last day, when the final condemned woman walks the steps to her fate, and just before the blade falls, a small mercy makes its way into the city. Slowly, though the sky has no clouds in it, the desert receives its rarest of blessings: rain. The last victim's hair is wet, and when she has gone the skies themselves open in deluge. Frantic citizens rush indecorously for shelter as the downpour continues, as it does for the rest of the night.

Finally, with dawn, citizens once again take the street, and a brave few find the Square of Stench immaculate: the rains have washed away blood and left behind the fresh desert air. Throughout the street flowers creep out near the sides of roads. The charitable give credit to the Calipha's mercy, that her Djinn should bring such absolution; but many more praise only Shaliq's beneficence.

A Fire upon the Deeps

A few brave souls have crept back into the ruined areas of Tobruhk, and brought back strange reports. It seems that the djinn still do battle with each other, but that their fight has grown strange. No more do they battle with swords of fire and shield of ice, instead, great powers of fire and water bend all their will to the shattering of pebbles, and to guiding the motion of a single leaf. Who wins these contests, no man can determine, and how much longer they will fight is likewise a mystery.

Hardline Cult Hates Carpets

'Apparently they all wear black cloaks and hoods and masks, and only address each other by codenames, and meet for candlelit processions through underground tunnels to secret cellars where they plan their next move.'

'And these are the people who keep ambushing and beating up the Honourable Messagers and blew up those labs in the Alchemist's Guild?'

'Yes, the very same. I heard that Captain al Kayam chased some of them away from the Temple courtyard only the other week, just before his body got possessed by a necromancer!'

'Hm, that sounds like more than just coincidence, if you ask me. I hope someone does something about them soon!'

'Me too. They may've started with kids on carpets and blowing up buildings, but who knows where they'll stop?'

Yilden Floating Boat Rescues Hadar Children

In the skies above Tobrukh, sweeping majestically between the columns of fire and clouds of steam, there moves a large sailboat. What would be a large boat were it found floating on the ocean looms hugely where it floats in the sky. From its sides dangle ropes and ladders, and up and down them climb many Yilden priestesses and monks, who search amongst the rubble of the battered city, to rescue the children from the ruins where they huddle, mourning for their lost parents. The Hadar on the ground assist them as they search, and before long the boat is laddened with orphans, and it sets sail back to Shalazar, where the emira of the Yilden has promised that places in the orphanages of the priesthood will be found for all these rescued waifs.

A Gift fit for an Emperor reaps a Great Reward

From the court of the Jade Throne:

'Emperor, you honour me with your gift of an audience.

The Emira of the Great Shalazarian family of the Bookwala sends her greetings to our honoured and respected neighbours, the Empire of Jade.

In association with the most devout family of the Yildun, I, Rabbani al Bookwala, member of the Invisible College and Royal Advisor on matters relating to the Djinn, have been sent by my Emira to extend the open hand of trade and petition that with the ship which sails upon the clouds, we be allowed to set up a permanent trade route directly between the Capitals of our two great nations.

As a small token of our esteem, and in recognition that trade to the North has been compromised by the foul Horse Barbarians, we, the Bookwala, wish to present to you a Potent Djinn of Stone,

[Hold up a silk lined box containing a rather ordinary looking bottle]

who will tirelessly work to repair and extend your Great Northern wall.

Simply have this bottle smashed upon a foundation stone of the Great Wall and the Djinn contained within it will be bound into the wall, to protect, repair and extend it. I have prepared a document which details how to accommodate the Djinn and pay him a suitable tribute for his work.

[Give the box, bottle and scroll to an aide who steps forward to recieve them]

Accompanying me on this journey are a number of prominent Bookwala, amongst whom is Zahrah al Bookwala, The Royal Fireworker and a number of highly respected traders. There are also a number of other members of the Calipha's Court who have finally been given the opportunity to visit your fabled lands.

The Bookwala and the Yildun hope that a permanent trade route in the sky will be a great boost to both our economies and provide for closer co-operation between the civilised lands of our two nations against the barbarians of the North. It should also provide swifter communication and travel between our two capitals.

May the prosperity of both our nations be assured.'

A blue robed figure steps from behind the throne and whispers in the Emperor's ear. The emperor beckons to a youthful page who steps forward bearing a scroll, to which the Emperor afixes his seal. The page then reads from the scroll:

'His Sublimity, The First Blossom, Emperor who sits on the Throne of Jade, has listened favourably to your words. Be it known that he accepts your gifts, and that henceforth only those Traders of the Family of the Bookwala may trade within his Lands. So it is sealed in Heaven and on Earth.'

Bookwala Accept the Calipha's Judgement

The Bookwala quarter is a silent place these days. Most have lost friends, and all are in mourning. The only places that are busy are the temples, as the Bookwala gather to pray for forgiveness, and to bless Shaliq, and her earthly hand the Calipha, for leading them back to the path of righteousness. The Order of Khal'Nayak march down the streets with a swagger in their step, and are welcomed wherever they wish to go. Even the children are quiet, except for the weeping of the newly orphaned, who have been sheltered in the arms of their relatives.

In the palace?

Apparently so. Some kind of secret treasure. Half the staff of the palace are being made to go around for this or that.

But why now?

Looks like they think someone's hiding something. And have you noticed how those men from the Order of Kal'Niak suddenly have so many people waiting on them? Someone's keeping an eye on them, mark my words.

Huh. I can't imagine the Order having anything exciting in their chambers.

Show's what you know. Its the only place people can't search properly. Too many big men with swords hanging about, just looking for mischief.

Tome Review

'What's that you've got there?'

'Oh, it's a passage I heard this guy quoting on the street last week. He says it's from the thirteenth tome.'

'The thirteenth tome?! Aren't there only supposed to be twelve?'

'Nah, apparently there's another one that the Order of You-Know-Who have been trying to keep from the rest of the public - let me read it to you, I think it's quite beautiful. It says,
'Though my tears of grief shall be the rain of a thousand years,
In time even the great mountains I raise shall be ground to dust.
For I am the creator of all things and by my will there is change,
And none shall stop my glorious machine.'
Nice isn't it?'

'Yeah, but sounds a little bit foreboding doesn't it?'

Something isn't quite right...

[Throughout the lands of Shalazar, what began as a quiet whisper acquires a somewhat greater volume. The tale of the slaughter at Elmiyah becomes more vivid with every passing telling, and even before embellishment it is the most bloody punishment laid down by a Calipha since the Obsidian City was condemned.

In Elmiyah most of all, but throughout the Caliphate, the Amlatta has gained somewhat different nickname: Amlatta the Bloody, Amlatta the Cruel, Amlatta the Hated. Of course, none would dare to say these things openly, but they're there, a charnel scent in an otherwise perfect garden.]

One of our bodies is missing...

[A sign posted throughout the city of Shalazar]

WARNING, CITIZENS OF SHALAZAR! CAPTAIN KAYAM OF THE ORDER OF KAL'NAYAK, A MAN OF GREAT HOLINESS AND VIRTUE NOTED FOR HIS FIGHT AGAINST DARK FORCES, HAS BEEN STRUCK LOW BY HIS LIFELONG ENEMIES. HIS BODY HAS BEEN STOLEN BY A DARK NECROMANCER. IF YOU SEE THE CAPTAIN WALKING THE STREETS, DO NOT TALK TO HIM, DO NOT APPROACH HIM--CONTACT THE ORDER OF KAL'NAYAK IMMEDIATELY.

Pygmies Do The Honourable Thing

[Before the Temple in Londameldarol, three pygmies boldly step forth carrying the sign of the Shaliquar faith.]

'We follow Shaliq! Shaliq good, big, wise! Shaliq not give us souls: we not worthy of life she gives! We ask be killed! Glory to Shaliq!'

[The crowd fall silent, looks of disbelief and some sadness on their faces. An Order of Khal'Nayak member steps forth and duly puts them to the sword. He completes the act and proclaims that the justice of Shaliq has been carried out, and that these heathens should be praised as an example to others of their kind.]

Grey Tower 2, Flying Ship 0, Alchemists 0

[In a coffeeshop in Abib]

'When will these people give it a rest. First we get blown up, then steamed, and now? Now that floating ship comes hopping over here with a bunch of big ropes and anchors itself on the tower. And while that [spitting noise] alchemist busies herself with her potions around the base, this ship keeps hooking up more and more ropes.

Then, finally, the ship starts pulling upwards, until all the ropes are tight and straining. Meanwhile, more of those bloody bombs go off around the base of the tower, and there's a roiling cloud of smoke. Finally, ptooey, the ropes snap and the ship catapults another hundred feet in the air...lucky it was tied to the ground, too, or it might have become a new star or something...

General Marsillus Hatches Secret Plans

[A conversation overheard in a seedy tavern in the Fesk Quarters, punctuated by frequent gales of laughter.]

'...so the barbarians tell him that there'll be peace if the Calipha kneels before the First Son of the Wolf and apologises, and Marcie stretches out his hand bold as brass and says it's a deal! Like the Calipha's at his beck and call! Nearly started a war there and then when it was explained to them northern infidels that it was a joke. Not famed for their sense of humour, that lot. It's said to have been some of the fastest talking old Melinka's ever had to do, and she's made some matches in her time!'

'Ah, I've heard even better than that! I've heard he was telling his Emira that all the other generals are jealous of him, and that he should be put in supreme command of all nine Hadar armies! Even been asking other Hadar to put in a good word for him, he has.'

'You never! Did she like his plan for a secret alliance with the Yildun...'

'After what Elder Shala said about Tobrukh? Hah, some chance!'

'...or the Bookwala?'

'Yeah, like they'd side with the House who sank their fleet. Anyway, Marcie's been telling anyone who'd listen how disgusted he was with the amount of vice he found in Najaah.'

'What, wasn't there enough for him? Are you sure he's Hadar? Good job he never went to Tobrukh then, maybe he'd have had to invade there too!'

'Worst of it is, I've heard he wants to take the rest of the Fesk's cities as well.'

'What is this big grudge of his against us all of a sudden?'

'Who knows? He even had the gall to come up to one of the Fesk waiting in the Temple courtyard to hear the Calipha's judgement the other day and tell them that he 'meant no offence' by taking Najaah!'

'The cheek! Sounds to me like he's getting a sight too big for his boots. Never mind, he'll bite off more than he can chew soon enough. Lucky for us he talks so loud...'

Hadar/Yildun Alliance!

[Town crier]

Here ye, here ye! Let it be known that the Houses of the Hadar and Yildun recognise the sisterhood of all in Shalazar, and in their families, and laying aside any quarrels they have announce the alliance of their respective families, this alliance to be sealed by a marriage between the most distinguished branches of either line...

'...sho I shaid to Achmed, you can take your bill for the damage from th' brawl and shove it where Shaliq's glory don't shine.'

'Yeah, yeah, you've told me shixsh timesh, I know why we're drinkin' in the gutter thish evenin'. 's all your fault.'

'You're th' one that got ush thrown out of al-Pallaq.'

'Jusht 'coz them 'adar don' like me shaying shtuff about their precioush general.'

'Wot did you shay?'

'Oh, jusht that he'd been given a tickin' off by 'is Emira for conquerin' that city wi'out 'er permishun... and turn'd roun' and demanded a promomosh... a promo... demanded full control of the Hadar armiesh...'

'...an' I 'eard he lied 'bout how many Dragon tribersh he'd kept alive... said 'alf of them were shtill alive, so that'd be, wot, thoushandsh?, and only two hundred were left when they eshcaped. Hope she firesh him...'

Order of Khal'Nayak Defies Calipha?

'..but that nice Jhetz al Gharizme, he hasn't the heart to kill the pygmies. I've heard he wants to go down south and set up a mission, try to convert them all to the worship of Shaliq.'

'But isn't that what the Bookwala were trying to do? Didn't work out too well for them, did it?'

'True enough. And it does kind of go directly against the Calipha's pronouncement...'

'Like that means anything to the Order. Word is that they're sending a squad of men up to Najaah in Hadar uniforms to investigate these wild tales of a necromancer infestation which some of the Hadar have been spreading as an excuse for taking the city, so that if the city is attacked nobody'll know there's more than Hadar there to defend it.'

'The Hadar have got them off chasing necromancers, eh? Maybe they should look a bit closer at...'

'Shhh! Here comes one of them now...'

Palatial Pallette Pleasing

'Dear Shaliq! 40 Oxen in one sitting?!'

'What're you guys talking about?'

'Well, Farish here was talking about what he's heard the palace grocery list has been like of late, it sounds a bit lavish, to say the least.'

'Well, it's the palace isn't it? Those folk have always had obscenely rich tastes.'

'Yeah, but twelve swans, all stuffed with peacock sweetmeats, served with 40 roast oxen, three cartloads of various Shalazar fruits and vegetables, and cakes and pastries layered three feet high, all for a mid-day lunch?! Sounds to me like even the devout Yildun are being tempted by the delicacies of a royal diet.'

'Yeah, fat-bellied, greedy, intemperate gluttons!'

'I wouldn't say that too loudly if I were you, matey: you never know who's listening these days.'

'I'm telling you, it's the Shaliq-honest truth! No, no, really, Mercillus didn't kill all those barbarians! No, not the men, nor the women, and definitely not the children! No, seriously, it wasn't him, it was them, you know, the Order of Khal'wotsit. Yeah, really, it wasn't the Hadar guy at all: he just took the credit for the Order's work, cheeky lad! Yeah, I know, I thought he was the mad bloodthirsty type too, like most of those damn Hadar soldier-types; but apparently, and I hear this from a very reliable source, it's a false reputation this time... Yeah, I know, there's a first time for everything, isn't there.'

[Two guards atop the walls of Shalazar, sit smoking their pipes one night.]

'What was that?'

'I'm not sure: looked a bit like a man and a woman on a horse, leaving the city. Looked like they were quite well packed too; must be going on a trip or something.'

'Hm. S'alright for some, I guess. I haven't had a holiday in ages. Mind you, I wouldn't like to spend it in the desert, too sandy by far...'

Party for the Palace

[It is noted that several well known faces of Shalzar, known for their fame in beauty or deed, as well as some very prestigious palace nobles, including the Grand Vizier himself, were seen travelling to the residence of one Saleem al Fesk one evening, and for the rest of the night, music and laughter could be heard radiating from the main hall and several other chambers.]

Get Me to the Temple on Time!

'Hear ye! Hear ye! All notables are hereby invited to the glorious occassion of the marriage of the niece of the Emira of the House of Yildun, Shari al Yildun, to the Royal Maker of Toys and Amusements, Al Pharique. May all of name come to celebrate this joyous union and partake of the famed generosity of the hospitality of the family Yildun. Glory be to Shaliq.'

[The wedding ceremony will be the setting of the next meeting.]

Obituary: Arch Chancellor of the Invisible College

[Several Invisible College initiates, dressed all in black, walk through the streets of Shalazar, proclaiming their message.]

'All hear these words, Ramaj al Kerek, most devout and successful Arch Chancellor of the Invisible college has been found dead in his chambers within these past seven days. The college is now officially in mourning, and will continue to be for the next thirty days as a mark of respect. His most worthy successor, Katache al Fesk, a man of great principle and academic prestige, will be officially inaugurated within these coming days, and publically declares his desire to see the college move beyond this tragedy into a new era of success for the good of the college and the good of Shalazar. Glory be to Shaliq.'

Birthing Tragedy Continues Striking

[Wails of grief are heard emanating from within several Great Family residences over the previous months. Most conversations overheard proceed along the same lines as the one you heard yesterday.]

'Oh good Shaliq, no! Not again! No!'

'What's happened?! Is the baby alright?!'

'No! No! Dead, another dead! My child, my beautiful child! By Shaliq, why is this happening?! What have we done to deserve this?!'

'There, there, it's alright...'

'No! I can't take this! First my brother's son, then my cousin's daughter, and now my own first child! Oh, Shaliq, what did I do to make you punish us so?! Help us, please Shaliq, help us!'

Obituary: Luyia and Weesha al Jerezad.

'Hear all, these sad tidings! The great family of the Jerezad today hold themselves in mourning for the recently departed Weesha al Jerezad, a trader of noted success and gentle spirit, and her mother Luyia al Jerezad, retired trader respected throughout the family for her contribution to our families good name. Both found dead in their bed chambers, having suffered a recent period of ill health. Their lands, titles and possessions shall hereby be given unto the widower of Jesmina al Jerezad, a close friend of the deceased. The family shall hold ceremonies of mourning at their temple at the next three sunrises and sunsets. Glory be to Shaliq in her mercy.'

Stop the Pygmies! Stop the Pygmies!

'Well, will you look at this mess! That bleedin' Order of Khal'Nayak lot ain't too tidy are they? What were they searching for anyway?'

'Hidden pygmies they said... don't trust us 'heathen-loving Bookwallah' not to to hide them in the kitchen cupboards, apparently!'

'Honestly! They must have looked in every cabinet, every cupboard, under every table, in every chest! Ever since that damn Elder Coucnil ruling they've been running roughshod wherever they like! Damn self-righteous fanatical types!'

Troubles in Londameldarol

'Citizen, open up! The Order of Khal'Nayak, demand the right to search this abode for the heathen pygmies!'

'We have no pygmies here, sir, honestly!'

'Search the house, men! Leave no stone unturned!'

'Sir, we found these pygmies hidden in the straw in the stables outside.'

'Right! Take these two back to the barracks: they are hereby sentenced to a hundred lashes each for attempting to pevert the righteous investigations of the Order of Khal'Nayak. Cry all you like, you have done wrong, now face the consequences. Take them away!'

Mega, Mechanical, Marauding Moles of Doom Creator Caught!

[The criminal Barag al Izar, the admitted creator of the destructive mechanical moles that have destroyed property and terrorised citizens in the Hadar quarters of Shalazar, has been caught and arrested at his secret hideout in the former Izar quarters of the city. He was charged before the temple for his crimes and sentenced to be put to the sword. Unfortunately before he was executed he did not reveal how to shut down the moles, although he did claim that they were still working and would carry out their designated mission against the family that shunned him.]

Barbarians invade Gazala!

On the 125th day of the 2nd year of the reign of Amlatta the Pious, the Elunsii, under the standard of a Dragon, sweep into the Hadar town of Gazala. Fighting rages there for several days, and although a series of cunning defenses had been put in place, and the populace had been prepared to defend itself, they were no match for the massed forces of Dragon tribesmen riding for vengeance. While peasant that fled were spared, women and men of standing (obvious members of the Hadar family) were shown no mercy, nor were their children. For two days the fighting lasts, until finally the Army of Gazala is forced to withdraw under the onslaught. Casualties on both sides are known to be heavy--besides that the fate of the city remains unknown, but rumours have it that while the Armies of the Dragon may be crippled, the Wolf stands behind them..

influence chart

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 Jerezad's otherwise good luck has been fouled by a monopoly trade agreement between the Empire of Jade and their rivals, the Bookwala. The Jerezad will now control the unfortunate city of Elmiyah, and in time they may gain from the extermination of the pygmies and trade with anything else that may thrive in the lands of Punt; but for right now, the loss of their Jade trade route stings badly.

The Bookwala, however happy they may be about the trade route, have lost both land and blood. Much of their family is wracked by mourning, and their next actions are impossible to predict.

The Yildun are graced by the stars, their mercy apparent to all through their salvation of the children of Tobrukh. Their favour at Court has stood them in good stead, and now they find themselves in an alliance, and a marriage, with the Hadar...

The Hadar have lost Tobrukh and now Gazala. The fall of one of their strongholds and the antagonism of the Elunsii (particularly the Tribe of the Dragon) seem to have humbled the might family somewhat. There are rumours that their alliance with the Yildun was not necessarily on equal terms.

The Fesk have fared no better this month than before, but while a quiet family, their satisfaction with the sack of Gazala is obvious.