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Abdul-Assir al Karenz, The Obsidian General

Long ago, in the first days of the first Caliphate, Calipha Adira sent twenty-five generals into the desert, to bring word of her ascension to the tribes of Shalazar. Of these, twenty-four of returned, but one did not.

It was while the generals were away that the Calipha began the traditions that we live under to this day. Before the Golden Throne had appeared in the desert, it had not been women who had ruled the tribes, but men--and it was only to be expected that some of them might believe that was as things would continue.

And thus it was that General Abdul-Assir al Karenz led his tribe into the desert, determined to bring back tribute. To his mind, the general who brought back the most bounty would be her husband, and thus become the Caliph. He laboured not to serve the Calipha, but to subjudgate her, and that would be his undoing.

He did find the greatest city, and they gave tribute unto him, as they expected he would become Caliph of the whole of Shalazar; and they swore loyalty to him, that they would be his servants. And so with an army of one hundred thousand men, he rode back to the walls of the City.

He was the first of the Generals to return, and he announced himself to the Djinn at the gates as their master; and he laid claim to the Calipha, and swore an oath upon his soul that he would marry her.

At once the Calipha thanked him for his tribute, and reminded him of his place. She sent word to his encampment that she was not to marry him, and but that he would be her General among Generals. Abdul-Assir al Karenz was enraged by this, and swore once more that he would marry the Calipha.

At this the Calipha sent reply again, that she would not marry; and that for his insistence he would not be first among her Generals, but that should he relent he might once more enter the City of Shalazar. And she bade him to wait three days, for his anger to abate, before he might reply.

But Abdul-Assir did not wait--he lifted his sword into the air and for the third time swore upon his very soul that he would marry the Calipha. And his troops grew ready at the gates, and girded their loins and oiled their bodies, and sharpened their weapons.

When finally Abdul-Assir al Karenz gave the order to attack, the desert itself rose up against him, and the Djinn of the Air and the Djinn of Stone and Sand presented themselves before him. And at the end of the third day of battle, the desert was still, and a great cone of sand blew to the northeast, to the city conquered by Abdul-Assir.

There, by the magic of the Djinn, the city was set in blackest obsidian, its people set there to suffer in frozen rage as blackened stone. The city can still be found in the desert, its very ground a carpet of jagged black glass, which will cut the feet and hands, and rip at the clothing of those just passing through it. And it is said at the centre of this city, in a Palace of Black Mirrors, Abdul-Assir sits motionless, his waist and legs now obsidian, but his body whole, that he might live in the knowledge of his Oath, taken in haste and repented forever.

The Sword Over the Edge of the World

Once, in the times when the First Calipha had barely come to power and most other cities lived in the darkness of ignorance, there lived a brother and sister. They were not citizens of Shallazar, but of a city where men still held rule. The brother was an arrogant man, and prided himself on being the finest swordsman in the city. His sister he hoped to marry profitably, and in the meanwhile he kept her safe in a tower room pursuing those pasttimes he thought seemly for her.

Little did he know that while he thought her busy with her needle, she was learning the art of a very different length of metal. Each day she would take all the cloth given to her and sew them end to end, and when night came would climb down this ladder in male disguise so that she might learn of life, and liberty, and the ways of the sword.

One day a messenger came from Shallazar, bearing the word of the first Calipha and asking for tribute. The city was deeply divided, and many families were split down the middle. The brother was among the loudest in defying the stranger, and many in the city began to look to him to protect their 'freedom' as they called it. The sister, however, felt in her heart the truth in the stranger's words. As time passed she came to be recognised as something of a leader by those who wished to offer tribute. They did not guess at her sex, however, and did not know her name, and so they gave her a name in their own tongue which translates as "Only-at-Night" for of course, she was never seen during the day.

The brother gradually became aware that at every turn the notorious Only-at-Night was a step ahead of him, convincing the wavering and gathering support. At last he issued a public challenge to Only-at-Night to meet him in a duel. A prophet tried to dissuade him, telling him that it would be his undoing, and that he would only meet Only-at-Night at the edge of the world. The brother was adamant, and swore that he would meet his foe in battle, even at the edge of the world.

He tracked down a necromancer, who promised that in exchange for his soul he would be given the opportunity to face Only-at-Night at the edge of the world. The sister was startled to be snatched from her bed by dark djinn. Shaliq watches the faithful, however, and two bright djinn came upon them, and drove them away. The bright djinn then told the sister that she had a choice. If she chose to meet her brother over crossed swords, then she might perish or wander unfound forever at the world's edge. If she declined, however, then her brother would return calling Only-at-Night a coward, and the city would refuse to offer to tribute and fall under Shaliq's curse. The sister asked to be taken to her brother, and the djinn bowed before her, presented her with a sword of surpassing brightness, and obeyed.

Waiting in the grey lands at the edge of the world, the brother saw a young man approach him in a white mask. The battle between them was of blinding speed, for in the art of the sword each outshone the other warriors of their city as much as the stars outshine the velvet of the night sky. Once the brother's guard dropped, and the sister had a chance to drive her sword through his heart, but she hesitated, even knowing as she did that his heart was cold and empty. He took advantage of her hesitation to aim a cut at her chest, but his curiosity was so strong that he could not help but snatch off her mask with his other hand.

Even the finest swordsman in the world may take a fraction of an instant to recover from a state of total surprise. His stroke faltered, and his sister did not waste her second opportunity. Her bright sword passed clean through his black heart, and then she stepped back and watched as he tumbled backwards over the edge of the world, taking the sword with him.