The Burning Sultans

Burzam's Magnificent Goods
Finest purveyor this side of Sandsea!

Welcome! Welcome to Burzam’s! Gentlefolk of every mortal race, gather here in the shade of my cart to behold some of the finest wares you’ll see in these dunes!

You, sir! You look like a learned dwarf of means! I’d recognize those beard toggles anywhere! You’re a member of the proud Slatekiln clan, yes? No? Well, no matter! Step right up! I have here in my possession a verified ledger of Darvik, yes that Darvik, sage of the Burning Sultans! What a find, and a steal at just five hundred gold! Come now, they’ll be the best suns you’ve ever spent to acquire THIS treasure! Plucked from a tomb overrun with… sir? Sir! Well to the Pariahs with you, then…

Why, madam! What a radiant sight you are on the oasis promenade! Wouldn’t you look even lovelier with this fan fashioned from real hippogriff feathers? It’s just the thing for… well why have one fan when you can have two, eh? Come give this a try, and I assure you you’ll find it far superior to the, frankly, gauche thing you’re carrying now. Madam! I say, madam! I’ll lop of fifteen percent… well sizzle on the dunes, for all I care…

Yes, sir! What can I help you with today, then? Say, weren’t you one of Vonn’s boys…? Shame about your boss, I heard about it on the way into town. What do you need? Afraid I’m fresh out of jackaltongue, but I do have a few other wares that I could bear to part with for just a few suns… ah yes, there we are! Now just have a look at THIS little draught, would y— Why hello, officer! Come for the best purchase you’ll make all day? No…?

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The Secret Stash
Forgotten in the smugglers' hideout

“You get these goods put away,” Semelai rumbled, indicating a stack of boxes. Phorys sighed audibly, wrapped the tow rope around his shoulders, and started dragging the heavy load back to the storeroom.

“Don’t let me hear any of that groaning!” the lieutenant roared at Phorys’s retreating back. “Boss wants that sorted and ready for distribution by tomorrow night!”

“Yeah, yeah,” the younger man retorted, adding in a low mumble, “and who is it gets thrown to the guard’s dogs if we get pinched? Not the boss, Mahara knows, oh no…”

Phorys trundled up to the storage room and began unloading the boxes. He looked over his shoulder. No one there. His expression changed to a smile, and he pulled a small crowbar out from his vest. Quietly popping the lid off the biggest box of the bunch, he rifled through the hay-packed contents. He could barely suppress a triumphant chortle when he pulled from inside the box a gleaming sword with riveted pommel.

He heard approaching footsteps. Quick, into the box went the sword, and on went the top. Phorys made a show of languidly hauling up one of the other boxes onto the shelves. One of the other members of the gang passed by, calling to him as she went, “Almost done, Phorys? Dawn soon, gotta get going before too many eyes are open.”

“Aye, aye, almost done, give it a rest, would ya?” The woman rolled her eyes and walked on. From down the hall she called over her shoulder, “Well don’t blame me if you get caught by the morning guard!”

“Yeah, sure, get caught, all right,” the lanky Phorys grumbled as he resumed his furtive work. “Any of ‘em try to catch ME, I’ll stick ’em right good with this beauty!” His eyes sparkled as he took the sword out again. Checking once more that no one was coming, he slipped over to the secret door, softly pressed the latch, and ducked inside. He closed the wall behind him and made his way down the low-ceilinged passage. Cressa, who’d helped him dig it, was waiting in the small room at the end, lit by the single hurricane lantern they dared keep for light. Phorys grinned as he approached her and held his bounty high.

“Where’d you get that?” she probed.

“Simple. Out of the booty from the latest shipment from Edam’s Rest. No one will even know it’s gone. Would you look at the way it catches the light!”

“Idiot, you know the plan! We gotta stick to the small stuff. No sense sticking our necks out now, we’ll only get ‘em chopped off! Put that back after we’re done, I don’t want it in here. Now what’s your take this time?”

Phorys sulked and pouted. “Spoilsport. Here, look.” He pulled the hidden string in his waistband, and silver coins poured out from his voluminous trousers. Cressa grinned and started scooping them up.

“Good one,” she crowed as she dumped them into the chest. “The stash is really growing. We keep this up, and we’ll never want for anything.”

“I dunno, Cressa, this just seems like small newts. I think we should go for bigger drakes, like this!” He flourished the sword again for effect. “I mean, we could have a real hoard, here, worthy of a king! Right now, we’re just pecking at the gang’s leavings and pretending to be bandit lords. Couldn’t we pick it up a bit?”

“Quiet, you,” his partner snapped from over her shoulder. “We’ve got a good operation going here, you’re just impatient. I’m not getting left out for the vultures on your account. You stick to the plan, and don’t do anything stupid.”

Phorys could feel his resentment boiling up in him. Indignation seethed and swelled in his throat. “Stick to the plan, stick to the plan, sure… sure…” his anger was barely held in check in his voice. His foot was tapping, and his fists clenching and unclenching around the hilt of his sword.

Cressa turned around to look at him. He seemed to be staring at her, but staring through her at the same time. “The hell’s wrong with you?” she asked.

“Sure, I’ll stick to the plan. I’ll stick… I’ll stick… I’ll stick YOU!” Phorys lunged at Cressa and jabbed the sword into her gut. Her eyes widened in shock, pain, and anger. Instinctively, her hands locked around his throat, squeezing hard.

“You bastard! I knew you were too orc-headed to trust with my plan! It was foolproof, you idiot! Foolproof!” She coughed, and blood spattered across Phorys’s face. He didn’t even blink, but just drove the sword deeper in her stomach. His mad stream of verbal abuses sputtered out as his windpipe collapsed. The two struggled weakly and finally fell to the floor, dead. A day or so later, the lantern guttered out. Six months after that, outside, the sounds of pitched battle and the cries of the authorities rang through the den’s halls. Eventually, all went quiet.

The door to Phorys and Cressa’s secret hoard would not open again for 300 years.

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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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Mobilizing
Lahalid rides with a critical message

“Emergency! Emergency!” Lahalid leapt from her horse as she approached the gate to the Shieldhouse. She announced her name, rank, and station to the guards at the door. It seemed the town criers hadn’t yet spread the word of the high priestess’s disappearance this far, judging by their languid posture.

“It’s critical I speak with Captain Khousim. There’s an emergency at the temple that demands attention from the highest ranks.”

“The door-watcher wants to see the Captain, is it? What, did someone spit in the purification basin?” One of the guards snickered and ribbed his companion. Lahalid rolled her eyes with an exasperated sigh and shoved him out of the way. The other guard let her past and gave his partner a reproving slap on the back of his head as she went.

Lahalid pushed her way in to the Captain’s office. Once in the door, she stood at attention and snapped a salute. “Sir! Lahalid, lieutenant of the temple guard reporting! There’s been a terrible emergency, sir!”

Alehira looked up from her work on the High Side murder case. “What is it, lieutenant? I’m in the middle of a murder investigation, here. Can it wait?”

Suddenly feeling the eyes of everyone in the room on her, Lahalid felt nervous. It was her first time actually speaking to the Captain, and she wasn’t sure what the proper protocol was. Nevertheless, she pressed on.

“Sir, I’m afraid the high priestess is missing. A group of… erm… mercenaries confronted her in her chambers, only it wasn’t her, you see, it was… well it was someone else, but made to look like her. With magic, of course; we wouldn’t be so daft as to mistake someone in makeup for the priestess. And that man – that is, the impostor – is dead now, but we still don’t know where the priestess is. Ma’am.”

Alehira straightened herself up where she stood at this news. “Hells,” she muttered under her breath. “Always it’s more complications…” She looked down at the case on her desk. There had to be a connection. She’d been a guard for too many years to ignore that instinct. “You three,” she said at length, pointing to three senior guards in the room. “Return to this crime scene and search the place again for anything that would link the murder there to this case. Ached, you’re heading the murder case now. You three, come with me. We’re going to comb the temple with Lieutenant Lahalid. Lieutenant, I’ll defer to your wisdom on this case until you’ve gotten me up to speed on it. Inform the gate watches they’re to inspect thoroughly all persons and cargo moving in and out of the Shore. The last thing we need is someone smuggling out our high priestess.”

Lahalid swelled with pride as she rode out with the Captain. Her message was delivered. All would soon be well.

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The night shift
Closing time at the Viper's Eye

Yennas wiped the sweat from his brow as he finished scrubbing the grease pot. He hated this job, he told himself for the dozenth time tonight. Hated the grime, hated the dirty washing water that inevitably soaked his clothes, hated the cuts and bruises and burns that he accumulated every night. And especially hated the imperious boss. Why should it matter whether they were done cleaning up in under half an hour, so long as they finished? Slave driver.

As he wiped oily water from his arms, the halfling spied Ralesk coming downstairs from his meeting with the boss. Yennas had never seen the gnome woman who came asking after the bookbinder before. He had always just assumed the old grayhair didn’t keep any associates, given how standoffish he always was with the rest of the staff. Probably why he got along with the boss so well. There was something a little odd about that gnome, but Yennas couldn’t place it, and honestly didn’t care enough to concern himself about it. Whatever sorts of uncanny company the bookbinder wanted to keep on his own time was his own business, so long as it didn’t bring any trouble with it. Halfway through mopping the back floor now, Yennas recalled he hadn’t seen the gnome leave. He wondered briefly whether she had met Ralesk as she hoped. A bark from the supervisor drove the thoughts from his head.

“Yennas! Hurry up with that mopping! The front room’s already done!”

“Well there’s five people working on the front, isn’t there? I’m just one halfling, for Lady’s sake!” He turned back to his task, grumbling sullenly. “If I’d wanted a task master, I’d have joined the bloody guard. Not even any High Sun to look forward to this year…”

He hated this job.

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Murder in Highside
Just before dawn in the residential quarter

Alehira stifled a yawn as she entered the house where the guards reported the killing had occurred. She had been woken from trance by an urgent message to come to Highside immediately to investigate a murder, but the import of it didn’t do anything to relieve her exhaustion. She took one last, long drink of the clove tea she’d brought with her from home and set the empty mug on the table of house’s kitchen. Steadying her nerves with a deep breath, she headed back to where the guards were clustered around a bedroom door.

“Captain Khoushim!” one of the younger guards snapped to attention as Alehira made her way up to them.

“Save the formality for when the sun is out, Treshem,” she responded wearily. “Just tell me what you know already.”

“Ah, er, yes ma’am. Well, um… it’s pretty gruesome, as you can see. The victim’s name is Apamurvesh Kestervar, former Master of Elixers at the Eidalan temple. From what I’ve heard, he was expelled about a week ago when the news of the plague first broke. He was found by a citizen returning home from a long night’s drinking. It seems the man drunkenly mistook this house for his own, which is on the next street over, and waltzed right in and found our victim.”

“But how did he get in?”

“He says the door was left wide open. Possibly our murderer just dashed out the front after the killing and neglected to close the door. Seems odd, though: looks like the criminal entered the house through a rear window.”

Alehira stepped carefully into the room. Signs of a fight were clear enough. Small items knocked over, the wardrobe door standing ajar, even a pillow slashed open. Then she caught sight of the victim’s face, and her breath caught in her throat for a moment. Two empty eye sockets stared out from where the acolyte lay across his desk. Alehira muttered an oath under her breath.

“We found this emptied chest next to the desk, so at first we thought maybe it was a robbery, but with how badly he’s been mauled, it could be the murderer had some kind of personal grudge. Not sure how many enemies you can make as a priest, but I guess anything’s possible.” A guard standing by offered unhelpfully.

Alehira knelt down to examine the victim’s broken holy symbol on the ground. Given that he was still wearing vestments of his order when he died, it wasn’t likely in her mind that he would have broken it himself out of resentment for his expulsion. There was more going on here, and the captain didn’t like where the signs were pointing.

She stood up and addressed the other guards in the room. “For now, as far as the public is concerned, this is a burglary gone wrong,” she said. “Tensions in town are too high as it is, we don’t need to add an unexplained murder on top of it. You and you, take the victim’s body to the Merenites. Have them start funeral proceedings. You two, take first shift guarding this house. Only members of the guard are allowed in. We’ll keep 4-hour watches. The rest of you, go home and get some sleep. We won’t be able to ask many questions until daybreak. Assemble at the Shieldhouse at the hour of the coin, and I’ll give you all your assignments. Dismissed.” Alehira rubbed her eyes and sighed. She had a feeling this was going to be a very unpleasant case, adding to an already unpleasant week.

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Eidala's Ire
The divine inscrutable

“Your stew is as delicious as ever, Preva,” Anans says after savoring his first bite. The smell of simmered goat meat and spices fills his old friend’s small house. It’s been months since he last tasted elvish cooking like he had eaten growing up in the Sapphire Shore.

“Thank you, little dervish,” she replies. She sighs and says, “I only made it because I can do it without thinking. Too much to think on already, recently. I’ve been praying twice as long every day since the temple made its announcement. I even got out my copy of the Barkhoum and sang a few verses last night. In the desert, water’s never unwelcome, as they say.”

“Will your business be alright? I know the festival is usually a busy time for the both of us.”

“We’ll survive. Qarivesh has been saving money. I’ve always groaned that he never buys me any nice gifts for Springday and the like, but it’s saved us, I suppose. He’ll never let me live it down, I’m sure. Still, it will be a year of tightened belts.” Preva sips her wine, and Anans ruminates that her expression reminds him of the horizon just before a dust storm. At length, she continues. “I just can’t fathom why Eidala would visit such a catastrophe on us. Priestess Ilir’ana claims that the goddess is displeased with us, but displeased for what? Ilir’ana says it is for allowing this disease to creep so close, but… forgive me, Anans, you know I would walk into the ocean before I profane the Feyqueen, but why didn’t she give us some kind of warning before? If even those afflicted are not aware, how were we to know? I should like to ask Eidala that, but I am not Ilir’ana.”

“No, indeed none of us are, my friend. Tarmun had much the same questions, as do I. But we are not Ilir’ana.” The prayer bells begin to sound in the town as the sun sinks behind the horizon. Preva busily pulls her prayer cushion out from under her small shrine and kneels down. Anans stands to leave. “Thank you for the stew, Preva. I must go to meet my companions. Feyqueen grace your house.” Preva’s singing follows him out the door.

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Zeemo's Adventure Log #3
  • Found and freed the missing town guards, plus a Dragonborn Sorcerer named Deirdre.
  • Three guards escaped home to seek treatment. Kexa T. Halforc aided us for the mission.
  • Deidre joined the party.
  • Discovered the cause of the canal running dry: a giant fire snake’s magma-like eggs that evaporated the water.
  • Slew the giant snake courtesy of a critical frost spell.
  • An official of the Burning Hand appears to have escaped the cave without a trace.
  • Informed Zabba of our success and received some more treasure as reward.
  • Returned to Vez to rest and restock.
  • Received 3 new quests to choose from: (1) joining Anans in the Sapphire Shore for a festival and a job to investigate ruins, (2) redeeming our letter of recommendation from Djeeta to her cousin Karakrum Sungeld in the Red Canyons and learn more about the Burning Hand, (3) help Fiddin Glimmereye to mine a nearby gem mine.

DnD_Session_3_cave_map.png

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The saviors of Vez
Afternoon at the temple of Meren

When Yamal woke up, she found Djeeta sitting by her bedside. Abbot Moonsilver had performed a number of healing rites on Yamal when she was brought into the temple in the early morning hours, and had given her a draught to help her sleep at the end of all of it. Her wounds were healing up nicely, she was pleased to find.

“Are you comfortable?” reeve Sungeld asked. “I can have Rashel bring you more pillows if you need.”

“Just fine, thank you, ma’am,” Yamal replied. “The abbot says I’m not to walk until tomorrow, but I feel like I could if I tried. Are the others alright?”

“They are, by the Dwarfmother’s blessing. It was just you that worried us. But the abbot’s done a good job, I see. I’m glad. I’ll go notify your family that you’re up. They should be by later.” Djeeta stood with a relieved smile from the small stool on which she’d been sitting. After the infirmary door had closed behind the dwarf, Rashel came over from where she’d been mixing poultices at the other end of the room and stood by Yamal.

“The reeve was here all morning, waiting to see how you held up,” she said. “You’d have thought she had nothing to do, but it was just that she was so worried. Truly amazing.”

Yamal nodded. Something occurred to her. “Rashel, who were the people that rescued us? I didn’t recognize their faces.”

“Just a bunch of caravan travelers, I hear. Never seen the likes of them stick their necks out for strangers before. Strange. Lucky, though!” Yamal idly wondered whether the Merenite acolyte had gotten her habit of declaring judgment on everything from her devotion to the Warden of the End. Still, she was right. It was incredibly lucky that they’d come into Vez when they had. Yamal wanted to thank them. From what the cultists had been saying, she would likely be fire snake food right now if it weren’t for them. By the half-dragon sorcerer’s account, the Burning Hand was more than just the cultists in the caves here, but whatever plan they were devising was certainly disrupted by this bunch of caravan travelers.

“How much longer will they be here? I’d like to give them my gratitude for all they did.”

“Just until tomorrow morning, from what I hear. Seems they’ve got business elsewhere. Too bad, really.”

Too bad indeed. Yamal decided she’d just have to risk abbot Moonsilver’s ire for walking too soon.

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Zeemo's Adventure Log #1-2
  • Entered town of Vez.
  • Canal is running dry.
  • Anans offered to pay to find missing guards who investigated the dry canal, and also to investigate the lack of water ourselves.
  • Traveled several hours to reach the cave.
  • Gained trust of Zabba & goblins who revealed that Burning Hand cult has taken over the caves and is responsible for lack of water.
  • Killed a number of cultists, including the leader, and several elementals
  • Currently mid-battle(?) – have cleared the immediate room but a human cultist saw us and escaped to inform others.

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