Tomb of the King
After we arrived in Samara with my families caravan, I was informed that our goods, horses, and camels were to be turned over as payment for an old family debt. The signature and seal on the scroll was indeed that of my father, so I had very little choice. With a bitter taste in my mouth, I bid my companions to take their personal belongings, and we left our wealth to the mongrels at the souk.
My father’s dispatch had a personal letter for me, instructing me to find an old friend of his, Ali-Ben Harouz, a local merchant. It was possible that he could provide us work, or a caravan, to begin again. We found Ali-Ben at the end of the souk. He was a large, pinched-faced man with a jovial disposition, but with the eyes of a hawk. After I introduced myself and my companions, he said that he did have some work for people with our talents, but he wanted a test of trust first. I agreed, seeing as there were no better prospects. His task to us was simple. Find a mercenary named Garath Orl in the Free Companies staging grounds, and collect a document from him…discreetly. A password was given, and we were off.
What we did not know, and learned upon arriving at the staging grounds, was that there were many free companies gathered here. Far more than a city-state like Samara would require. But that was not our concern, so we started looking for Garath. After asking around, and finding a helpful (bribed) city official, we located Garath. A tall, handsome Brythunian, he talked quickly and quietly with us after the password (Devi) was given. We were given a small tube, and he walked away. We, then, turned and headed back to Ali-Ben’s shop (with Kaari continuously whispering in my ear “what’s in the tube? No one would know!”) …..I must explain to her again what a test of trust is. It would be wrong to open it.
It was late evening by the time we returned to Ali-Ben’s shop. As we approached, we could hear the sounds of a struggle. Koros and Kaari, the experienced warriors, instantly leaped into action, pouring into the burst door of the shop. They were immediately set upon by assassins, intent upon making sure no one would live to report their work.
Sura, as methodical as any Bossonian I have met (although in truth she is the first), carefully set down her possessions, picked up her bow, and prepared to strike, when given an opportunity. How I envy the patience of these bossonians.
I, not being so calm or patient, immediately picked up Kaari’s shield, drew my sword, and charged forward, wishing to save the life of our employer, and my fathers friend.
The battle was swift and deadly. Although we struck down all of our foes, their leader proved deadly in his craft, striking down Ali-Ben with a well thrown dagger. I am sure it was poisoned, as Ali-Ben collapsed immediately. I was at his side immediately, trying vainly to help him. He shook his head, knowing that time was short. “No, take this. Find the satchel in the flour barrel, and deliver it to Darshan, at the Fortress of Graphapta. Make haste, for there is precious little time.” As he slumped, he dropped a leather pouch in my hands. I went to the flour bin, found the satchel, and stole away with my companions out the back before the sounds of the battle brought the town guard.
Nobility and Intrigue
We found an inn and stayed the night, tending to our wounded, and discussing the evenings events. Upon examining the satchel (and the tube, now that Ali-Ben was gone), we found that they contained papers naming all of the Free Companies and Imperial Turanian troops in the area, and the routes to Vendhya.
We sat and pondered. It all made sense to us now. It was well known that the King of Vendhya had recently passed away, leaving the country to be ruled by his sister, the Devi Yasmina. Rumors abounded of the King of Turan’s intent to marry the young Devi. The implications of this news, as well as the troop movements, told me that the King of Turan intended to make Vendhya a part of his empire. Something the people of Vendhya did not want.
We decided to honor Ali-Ben’s wishes, and deliver the documents to Darshan. Early the next morning, we gathered a few meager supplies and left Samara for the Vendhya, following the great Ilbars river.
Pass through the Misty Mountains
Our travels went without incident.
At least until we started into the pass through the Misty Mountains.
It was here that we met the first of our troubles. At the mouth of the pass, we were stopped by a band of ten or more brigands. Highwaymen with no regard for the rights or lives of others. They live to feed off those weaker than they.
WE were not what they expected. As we rode forward, their leader demanded we stop and pay a ‘toll’. Sighing, I asked him “How much is this toll?” With a wry grin (and obviously liking what he saw), he demanded 100 pieces of silver!
With an incredulous snort, I drew myself up straight, summoned forth the air of nobility that is my birthright, and demanded that they allow my party to pass unmolested.
And they did. If we had more time, I would have given him a lesson in manners with a switch to his back, as one would any common slave who dared make demands of me. But we were short of time and patience.
In truth, this pass frightens me. No. Maybe not the pass itself, but there is a heavy feeling of dread and fear in the air. It is always mist covered (as befitting the name of these mountains) and cold. And always, there is the feeling of something watching.
After about two days travel through the pass, we met up with a caravan of Iranistani bedding down for the night. Oaths and promises of protection and respect were offered and taken, we camped together. The leader of this group, Fallah Al’Kuraf, was a kind man, hospitable, with a (very) lovely daughter by the name of Alathra.
I had an enjoyable evening talking with Alathra, finally bedding down for the night as the first of our night watch started. It seemed like only a few moments, when a scream ripped through the night. We were up in a moment, just in time to see….something…carrying Alathra off into the darkness. With a half-muttered oath on my lips, we were after the creature. It was fast. It took us the rest of the night, and most of the day, to find the creatures lair.
On entering the creatures lair (for I feared it was not a man), we found the many bones of previous victims. I feared the worst as we delved deeper. I was amazed to find runes on the walls, warning not to disturb the dead. This did not ease my fears.
Sura, well in the lead, saw the dread beast, preparing to kill Alathra. The poor, frightened girl saw Sura and called out. As the rest of us turned the corner, the creature turned to face us.
Fear grasped at my throat as I finally saw it in the glow of a sickly, green light. The scarred body of a man, half again as tall as I, with the head of one of the fabled apes of the misty mountains. I cursed whatever inhuman god or twisted sorcerer that made this abomination, and struck upon a plan to rescue the girl. I am not a warrior. That is Koros and Kaari. Even my bossonian companion has seen more war and battle than I. So I would leave the fighting to them. I determined that I would slip behind the thing as it fought my companions, and free Alathra.
I did not have to wait long, as both Koros and Kaari, leaped to the attack, striking deep blows on our inhuman foe. It, however, was not without skill, as it landed a great blow upon Kaari, then folded the great savage into it’s giant grasp.
Taking this opportunity, I, as well as Sura, slipped behind the creature. Sura prepared to plant her blades into it’s back, as I began cutting the ropes holding the girl.
As I cut her bonds, I heard the creature bellow, then fall to the ground, mortally wounded. Sura looked very disappointed that she had not been able to land a blow. I would console her later, for we had the girl to worry about. As I helped her up, I realized she had been tied to an ancient sarcophagus. Curiosity getting the better of me, I pried it open.
I should have warned my companions. As the lid opened, the ancient ones arm fell out, striking fear into the heart of Kaari and Koros. It is the nature of their savage, uneducated upbringing that feeds their superstitions and fears. It took me a while to calm them, at which point I could look closer. What I found was wondrous.
It was the tomb of an ancient Turanian king. Within I found a scepter, obviously the instrument of his power and claim as king. He had a beautiful scimitar as well, and a bag of silver coins (which will allay my companions. Silver is a universal salve). In his hand he gripped an ancient scroll. With these treasures secured, we escorted Alathra back down the mountain to her father. His gratitude was immense, showering us with 200 pieces of silver each, and a letter of introduction to a close friend of his in the city of Khawarizm.
After promising to see Alathra again, we rested, and then parted ways. It is now that I record these memories, and read what is written upon the parchment of the ancient king.