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News of the 347th Day of the 40th Year of the Reign of Her Magnificent Highness, Adara the Glorious

Salma al Izar made Elder of the temple

By pronouncement of the royal crier:

'Hear ye, hear ye! Let is hereby be known that Salma al Izar has been pronounced an Elder of the Great Temple. Glory be to Shaliq!'

King of the Beggars is Tariq's Twin?

A funny thing happened on the way to the Casbah...

I met a man peddling a very funny tale. It seems that the Beggar King, rumoured to be Demonologist and Heretic, the man who poisoned Salim and is rumoured to be leader of a pack of assassins, may well be of royal provenance after all.

The tale goes like this: When Tariq, the eldest of the Calipha's children, was born, the Lady had been put into a sweet stupor by the Royal Physician, under order of the Grand Vizier. When the birthing was over, not only was the strong and healthy Tariq upon the birthing sheet, but a small and sickly twin as well.

The Grand Vizier was troubled by this--some say by prophecy, some say by political acumen. And for this reason, he stole the child from its mother unawares and cast it into the streets. Of course, only the Grand Vizier would know which child was born first--but it is possible that a child with a claim to a seat at the Palace has now been condemned to execution.

Of course, it's so silly as to be unbelievable... but it has the ring of truth to it...

'Notable Lack of Murder' spree

[All over the houses of the nobility of Shalazar, scenes rather similar to this one are heard by house staff]

'Dear wife, what in all of Shalazar has happened to you? You look white as a sheet!'

'Guards! Guards! Someone has been in my bed-chamber! Where are my guards? Guards!'

'But dearest, what has happened?'

'That murderous demon-worshipper, the Beggar-King, he snuck into my chamber while I was taking a bath and left a note by my chalice saying I'd have been poisoned if he'd have wanted! Guards!'

'That fiend! Thank Shaliq you're alright!'

'Yes, that man has a very funny way of 'assuring' people he's a friend of the Caliphate! He's stark, raving mad! I want his head! Guards!'

'Well, yes dear, but he didn't actually poison you, did he? Maybe he's trying to make a point?'

'Shut up! I'll have his head for this outrage! Guards! Guards!'

Draquim Escapes Imprisonment

In the dark corners of Shalazar, it is whispered that the Demon-bound and murdering Draquim, leader of the Company of the Black Serpent, has escaped the dungeons of Shalazar. Perhaps he called upon his dark forces to walk through the walls themselves; perhaps he made himself into shadow, and slipped the guard. Or perhaps this is merely being told as a story to frighten small children: disobey, and Draquim Lord of Shadows will suck out your soul.

If so, it is a very effective children's story: for no members of the Company of the Black Serpent remain in Marinia, the city they were sworn to protect. At first, it was supposed they had disbanded or deserted without their leader--but one old soldier was found in an alley, his hands frostbitten and his nails black, and his eyes wide and unresponsive; he died in agony shortly thereafter, and the remaining few who once wore the colours of the Black Serpent are now believed to be in hiding somewhere in Shalazar, praying to escape their fate...

Ship sinks in harbour

[A big splash]

'Wow... that was strange...'

'Yeah, I've heard of ships sinking at sea before, but rarely whilst tied up in harbour...'

'Did you hear that funny drilling, whirring sound just before it went down?'

'Yeah, and there was a couple of fellas and a girl who ran onto it, and ran off it, with some of the crew just before it sank.'

'Whose ship is it?'

'I don't know, but the Scarlet Sourge was one of the people running off the ship just before it went down...'

'Sounds dodgy to me...'

'Yeah, I reckon he's done it for the insurance.'

Park set up for the map

'Wow, daddy, look I can see our house!'

'Yes, dear, but be careful not to touch it now, it's very delicate.'

'And look, daddy, there's the whole world on here! Tani said she saw little huts and tents in the jungle bit... lift me up, daddy I can't see... oh look, there they are! Whose map is this, daddy?'

'Why it's that old gentleman's map, dear, he's the one who's put it into this lovely park and let people come to look at it. Isn't that nice of him?'

'Yes, daddy. But, what's all that wood over there? Is that the wood he used to make the map?'

'I don't know dear, but if it is, he'd be better off keeping it indoors somewhere, that wood pile is just crawling with beetles.'

'Ewww... I don't like bugs, daddy! Ah! Look there's one! Squish it! Squish it! Squish it! Squish it!'


[The next day, a 'Please Do Not Squish The Beetles' sign is erected]

(Heard in the Visible College)

'I've just received a letter from Old Man Bookwala through the ferret-mail.'

'What's it about?'

'He's offering us a book he's writing. He's calling it the Book of True Tales and it is (ahem) `a Compendium of Legends Incomparable and Wondrous, Learnt by the Author on His Many Journeys Within and Beyond the Caliphate'.'

'That's rubbish, why we want a copy of that?'

'We have people studying history, and legends, and folklore, don't we?'

'Well, I think there's a slight difference between folklore and the mad gibberings of a senile old man...'

Rumours of a Ruchbah/Jerezad peace

Despite their recent hostilities, rumours are afoot that the Jerezad and Ruchbah are prepared to make peace. Talk is that delegations from the houses have been meeting in secret to discuss terms of a treaty which would end the hostilities. Many speculate that the downfall of Takiyah, once-Emira of the Ruchbah, has much to do with such a change of heart.

One of our Balloons is STILL missing

By pronouncement of a royal crier:

'Let it hereby be known that the balloon stolen from the treasury of the Calipha is still missing. We call upon all the good people of Shalazaar to aid us in recovering this priceless treasure and apprehending the thiefs.'

Ahmed al Smarmy has a Secret Enemy?

'Really? Someone tried to poison him?'

'Well, so it seems, but the whole thing was funny. Ahmed, the Obsidian General, and this funny guy were just sitting in one of the Fesk's restaurants, when Sousserah comes up, has a sip of Ahmed's wine, and falls down in a swoon, poisoned.'

'But who'd want to poison Ahmed?'

'Your guess is as good as mine, boss. But they didn't do very well at it. Sousserah's up and about, and if you've not managed to poison that slip of a girl, what would it have done to Ahmed?'

Week of Strange Winds and Dust Devils

The wind can be an old friend or a bitter enemy in the great dry deserts surrounding Shalazar--but if it has been anything lately, it has been confused. Sorcerers of the Invisible College (those who remain outside its closed gates) have been puzzling over the appearance of occasional sandstorms and dust devils around Shalazar, and wonder if some unseen or forgotten magic is stirring in the deserts.