The Burning Sultans

A Merchant's Faith

Confusion and hope in the Quarter

The afternoon sun had begun to sink toward the distant spine of the Ridge of Heaven when Anans went to walk the Merchant Quarter. By now, the town was abuzz with news, rumors, and conspiracies. The high priestess was dead! No, only kidnapped, being held for a sultan’s ransom. Wrong again! She had angered Eidala in some inscrutable way, and the goddess had inflicted a terrible metamorphosis on her as punishment. The high priestess once so adored was now a many-headed chimera advancing on a serpent’s tail and spitting acid.

“They always seem to find themselves where the trouble is,” Anans mumbled to himself as he strolled the Boulevard of Palms. Crowds thronged the wide avenue, pressing up to the temple doors where a dozen guards were struggling to maintain order. The town guard had arrived some time before and was investigating inside, looking for any further signs of danger. Acolytes shouted at the top of their lungs that the temple was currently closed to worshipers. “Please!” one half-elven woman shouted in vain, “Remain calm! Evening prayer services will be held out here if the temple has not been re-opened! Please!”

Anans was surprised by a familiar voice calling his name. He looked to the left to see Preva and her husband busily unpacking wares in their small shop. Dozens of brightly colored fans and sun shades were already arrayed on the tables, and a few bundles of herbs hanging from the ceiling perfumed the shop with refreshing scents.

“I’m surprised,” Anans said as he entered the store. “You seemed resigned to closing the shop when last we spoke.”

“Well if it’s true what they say that the plague business was nothing but a fraud, we thought we’d make a go of it.” Qarivesh spoke as he pulled a box of textiles from the rear of the small space. Anans noticed the modest offerings to Adaster on the shrine next to the burly elf. “We already had all the goods made, so what’s the harm in trying to sell as many as we can? Looks like a lot of others have had the same thought.” He gestured vaguely out the door, where a number of other merchants were similarly hard at work getting their shopfronts in order.

“But what of your friends, little dervish?” Preva asked as she splayed wares on the table. “Are they alright?”

“I’m sure they’ll be fine,” Anans replied with only slightly more confidence than he felt. “I just hope they make it back in time for whatever festivities we do manage to put on. If I know them, too, they’ll be tired. Perhaps I can be your first customer, then. Will you give me five of these?” Anans smiled as he pressed the coins into Preva’s hand. “Perhaps your belts need not be so tightened after all, this year.”

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