Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Tale of Two Rascals, Two Largomani, a Warrior and a Jeweled Bowl

Salaam and well met, O weary travellers of the wasteland. Hearken ye to this tale.

In the Bazaar of Profuse Delights in the heart of the great coastal city of Kalabad, did two rogues of low character find themselves playing at dice in the late afternoon shade of a rug merchant's stall, when lo did they hear a great ululation and groaning at the mouth of a nearby alleyway. One rascal, Assadola the Shark by name and inclination, a low bred cutpurse of little wit but with some skill at picking pockets and slitting throats, turned to his dissolute companion Mehmet, a ragged, scarred, hashish addled kedai, and wondered at the noise. Lacking much better to do than cheat what meager coins they had off of one another, the two ne'er do wells decided to investigate.

A short walk later, they found a grief stricken largoman, kneeling in the dirt and scooping up handfuls of sand to pour on his reptilian head, keening in despair as the denizens of the bazaar passed unheeding about him. When plied by the two rapscallions as to what was the matter, he replied that he had just come to the city from the deep deserts where his kith and kin made their home, and had been waylaid by thieves in the alley. His prized, heirloom dewwok (the polished bronze bowl that all largomani used to gather the water of the morning dew and sustain themselves in the wastes) had been stolen. Upon hearing of its gemstones and intricate inlaid gold and silver filigree, Assadola and Mehmet's eyes lit up with something other than charity, and with a curt nod to one another, they helped the trusting sojourner from the desert to his clawed feet and bade him be of good cheer, for they would help him find his treasured dewwok. And thus a small party of adventurers was formed.

Two losers and a lizard.

Seeking first to trail the robbers, the trio made their way down the alley, searching for signs of the thieves passage. There, they found a sack, reeking pungently of fish, and marked with the sign of Vahid the Fishmonger. This, the largoman (Scrocmalaku by name.) revealed, was the bag that the robbers had forced over his head to overcome him.

Following this lead, the trio wended their way to the waterfront, and found the foul smelling establishment, where a burly man was busy chopping the heads off of eels. He looked up warily when approached by Mehmet, for kedai are known to be a nuisance at any establishment that sells fish. When asked if he was Vahid, he said no, his name was Djalel, and that he worked for the aged widow of Vahid. Eyeing the two rascals up, the burly fishmonger's assistant jerked his scruffy head toward the ill favored building next door, saying they had an untrustworthy look about them, and that they'd be more suited to the company of the thieves den next door, and threatened them that if they did not wish to buy eels that they should leave before he struck them with his cleaver.

Taking this brusque exchange as yet another vital clue, the trio hied themselves next door, to a run down house with a ramshackle enclosed balcony that was pouring forth volumes of white smoke from its latticed windows. Stepping up to the door, Assadola rapped sternly, and demanded entry when a brass shutter opened and a pair of eyes glared out. The trio was told to begone, so the charming thief attempted to bluff his way in, declaring they had a lucrative business deal for them. The guardian's eyes narrowed cagily, and he told them that he had changed his mind, and that they should come right in. With that, the brass shutter clicked shut, and the sound of a bolt being drawn could be heard from behind the door. Mehmet, muddled by his vices and eager to plunge ahead with this latest endeavor, opened the portal and strode inside.

Inside they found a dimly illuminated room with a tattered rug on the floor but nought else, save for a foul stench, fouler even then the fishmonger's, and several unpleasant brown stains on the walls. As the kedai's slitted eyes instantly adjusted to the dark, he spotted a door across from him closing behind a receding figure. On either side of the portal were more latticed windows, behind which he could see movement. Tail twitching in impatience, he crossed the room and threw open the opposite door. A pair of sinewy, shaggy arms reached out and cuffed him, sending him spinning back as a horrible, filthy ape with a leather collar attacked, hooting with bloodlust as cheers and cruel laughter sounded from behind the screens.

Get your paws off of me, you damned dirty ape!

Assadola and Scrocmalaku hurried forward to aid their belagured companion as the kedai gave the grunting beast battle with his khopesh sword, dodging and darting on unsteady feet as the ape swung with his filth begrimed paws. The human thief attempted to flank the beast and get a surprise jab with his broad headed spear, but was spotted by the creature's tiny, piglike eyes. As it turned to fend him off, he still managed to drive the spear's wide head into the ape's side, wounding it grievously, but not before the creature's long, sinewy arm reached out and grasped the hapless rogue by the neck, snapping it like a reed with its hideous strength. Assadola the Shark dropped to the ground, dead.

Enraged by its wound, the filthy ape began to flail its arms seeking to kill the kedai and largoman. Seizing an opportunity, Scrocmalaku came in low (as is often the way with his kind) and drove his short sword into the beast's heart, ending its miserable life. The creature slumped forward, pinning the hapless reptile under its unclean bulk, as Mehmet bewailed his companion's fate, and the impossibility of ever recovering the money that he had owed the mourning kedai.

The pair's grief was short lived, as the sound of angry voices and the rattling of locks filled the room. Mehmet kicked the dead ape off of Scrocmalaku and the largoman snatched up the fallen rogue's scimitar, dropping into a defensive pose as some ill favored cutthroats who dwelt in the house poured into the room, enraged that they had slain their pet and guardian. Deeming discretion the better part of valor, they seized Assadola's corpse by the ankle and fled. As he ran, the kedai snatched up the dead thief's pole arm, and used it to wedge shut the front door behind them, blocking their pursuers as they fled into the deepening twilight.

They killed our monkey! Those bastards!

With heavy hearts and nothing to show for it, the pair bore Assadola's body back to the house of his siblings, where his sister (and fence) Magda received it with much wailing, wondering to the gods how she would get back the money she was owed by her brother now. From the back room of their small apartment, a stern faced youth with flaring eyes stepped out and shoved her aside, introducing himself as Assadola's brother, Rashid of the Seven Fires. Something of a warrior, with a fiery temper, the young man swore vengeance on the slayer of his sibling, no matter how richly he'd deserved it. Arming himself with his mail, shield, and sword, he declared a blood feud, and prevailed upon Mehmet to lead him to the thieves' house where he might have his revenge. Hot blooded, and angry at his ill treatment by their pet ape, the kedai agreed.

Meanwhile, out on the street, a despairing Scrocmalaku knelt down and began keening and anointing his head with earth once more, bewailing both the loss of his new found friend Assadola and their failure to retrieve his heirloom dewwok. It was then that he was approached by a fellow Largoman, a kinsman who had accompanied him in from the wastes, by the name of Kashmalaku. Seeing his kinsman's plight, the kindly largoman offered to join him in retrieving his dewwok. Soon, Mehmet and Rashid came storming out of the front of the backstreet hovel, and so the party of avengers numbered four, as they wended their way back to the pungent house of the robbers.

We thirst, for vengeance! And khoumiss...

Before returning to do battle, Mehmet wished to see if he could get the wounds he'd received from the thieves' ape tended with some magical healing, and so they took a side trip to the extensive temple grounds of the kedai of Kalabad, and sought out one of the albino priestess of his feline people. The alabaster furred female's lip curled at the sight of this gaudy jeweled, mange ridden reprobate, and she flatly told him he would need to pay gold to receive the blessing of wholeness from her divine patron, the Ohai. When he clumsily attempted to bargain the price down from 50 denarii to 5, she clapped her slender hands, and a pair of large, growling kedai escorted him summarily to the door.

It was fully dark by the time the group made their way to the thieves den, now dimly lit from within by lamps. Deciding to take a less direct approach, they walked a circle about the building, discovering the entries and exits. All of the windows were latticework, breakable, but unlikely to permit rapid escape, so they concentrated on blocking the doors, driving iron spikes into all but the back entry so that they would not be opened easily. The foursome then crouched by portal, steeling themselves for the fight.

With a fierce cry, Rashid kicked down the back door and leaped inside. He was met in a large, shabby room by a hulking brute of a thief, their leader, and a trio of his men, who drew their scimitars and the battle was joined.

Flashing blades!

The ruffians fought fiercely, but were poorly armored, and while they struck some telling blows with their curved blades, and were soon reinforced by three of their fellows from the next room, it wasn't long before all but one of the robbers all lay dead on the floor, felled by the flashing blades of the avenging party. The one they spared they plied with questions, with Rashid angrily demanding which of them had slain his brother. In a stammering voice, the prisoner told him that Oogoo the Ape had slain Assadola, and was dead (sent to the taxidermist to be stuffed, in fact). "You lie!" the hot headed warrior replied, running the last ruffian through. Lifting his bloody sword over his head, the angry fighter declared he would hunt down this thief named Oogoo and take his revenge, as his two largomani companions exchanged glances and shrugged at this angry mammal's fervor. Meanwhile, Mehmet was rifling through the dead robber captain's belongings, finding a handful of half-dinars in a belt pouch, and discovering an odd tattoo on the dead ruffian's back, two circles connected with a v, rather like the mark on the hood of a cobra. Rashid claimed the leader's heavy bladed scimitar for his own, and soon the group fell about searching the room for Scroc's dewwok.

As they overturned the pile of pillows in one corner, they found that one clinked and jingled. Slitting it open, a pile of gold and some gems and jewelry poured out onto the floor. This they scooped up and claimed for their own. Deciding to search the rest of the building, they went into the room whence the thieves reinforcements had come, and found Scroc's family heirloom sitting on a low table among dice and game chits holding a pile of mangoes and persimmons. Croaking with joy, the largoman reclaimed his precious dewwok, thanking his comrades for their aid.

As an overjoyed Scrocmalaku turned it over in his thorny hands, checking it for damage, Rashid noticed a map of some kind etched on the inner surface of the bowl like device. When queried, the largoman answered the map had been there for long ages, as the dewwok was handed down from sire to offspring, and detailed a ruin in a far off quarter of the desert that his people scarcely ventured to. He said the tales spoke of a bowl like depression in the earth lined with ledges of stone, with ruined statues of winged lions arranged about it.

The group then decided to investigate the rest of the house, seeking to make sure no thieves were lurking to avenge their brethren. They found only a hunchbacked crone making stew in the kitchen on the first floor. The shrill voiced old harridan assumed they were new recruits for the band of thieves, and gave them each a bowl of dubious fish ragout over undercooked rice, which Mehmet with his hashish urged cravings and Rashid from his poverty both accepted and ate without much question.

In the central courtyard of the house, they found a reeking, muddy pool. Tossing aside his empty soup bowl, the warrior took up a long pole and stepped forward to prod the stagnant water and see if perhaps something might be hidden there. Indeed it was, as a small, pock skinned crocodile snapped at him, hissing with rage. He drew his sword and smote the creature, sending it vanishing into the murky water in a frantic splash followed by silence.

Back! Back you dimetrodon pretending to be a crocodile! Back!

Finally, the group climbed the rickety stairs to the second floor, and forced the door on the room overlooking the street, where they found three kidnapped damsels who were being held to be sold into slavery by the evil robbers. They were glad to be rescued, especially from the clouds of cloying incense needed to shield them from the stench of the place, and went on their way saying many thanks and wishing blessings upon them from the gods.

Our heroes!

A quick perusal of the upstairs yielded little else of interest to the adventurers, and there were no other occupants of the building, save for some dull eyed opium addicts lounging in the room next door to the captive damsels, who barely stirred when the quartet entered their stuffy chamber. In one hall, a nightingale floor, which Rashid assumed was to warn if the maids from the upper room attempted escape, and another hall full of large clay jars of oil, one of which Mehmet claimed as spoils to sell. Though unsteady on his feet from the khoumiss and hashish, he managed to bear the ten gallon jar down the rickety steps and out of the building without disaster striking.

Gathering up their captured treasure, the four avengers quit the thieves den. The others watched and chuckled among themselves as Mehmet tried to sell his oil at the fishmongers, and was once again thrown out of the reeking establishment. His companions consoled him in his bristling, tail lashing irritation by dividing up the coins and jewels they had won, and the four and went their separate ways in the heady, warm Kalabad night, to spend their newly gained wealth on what they chose.

What happened to them next is a tale for another night...

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