Where have all the children gone?

Ulmo’s Beard limps on through the Southern seas, charting a course by the stars and relying on Ulmo’s grace and favour to find a secure port. Some days later, a small atoll is spotted, the start of a chain of low lying islands. Captain Reiss orders the crew to set a course to follow this bread crumb trail of islands in the hope of finding a safe port to effect repairs.

The atolls slip past until the look out spots a small fishing village on an island in the latest atoll and Ulmo’s Beard’s journey is halted as the Captain send the First Mate, Azruzagar, and a shore party to inquire about the local area. Azruzagar orders the First Watch, which includes Fulton and Aerandir, to man the skiff ashore. He invites Denig and Dagaard to join the party reasoning that their sense of danger is more finely tuned than that of the sailors and it never hurts to have a dwarf with a big sword.

On the island itself they find that misfortune and calamity have struck the poor fishing village. They have been brutally attacked and their children have been taken by disfigured pirates out of myth and legend. Black Reivers who would feast on the flesh of the islanders and took the children to sacrifice to their dark god. Denig, looking at the disfigured limbs and faces of the victims, takes pity and heals those he can help. The heroes discover during this time that an Imam at a Mosque in a nearby port, Khalij Aldhahab, may know more as he is known for caring for lost and orphaned children. Information gathered, and poor fisherfolk aided the Ulmo’s Beard set sail for Khalij Aldhahab, a port a days sailing to the north and where legend says the Black Reivers once occupied.

By the grace of Manwe, the ship slips through the azure waters arriving at Khalij Aldhahab as the sun begins to set. The atoll island is occupied mostly by a walled town with a coral breakwater forming a harbour that will provide some shelter from the ocean swell. Around the walls a shanty town of stalls and refreshment establishments swell the number of those who live on the island. The sounds of a call to prayer ring out across the water as Ulmo’s Beard rests at anchor and the crew prepare to rest before starting repairs in the morning. However, the call to prayer also appears to signal a call to activity and the sounds of the shanty market continues well into the dark hours.

The next day, work crews are assigned. Fulton and Aerandir are to go with the First mate to purchase rope and chandlery to repair rigging and replenish ropes lost in the storm. Denig and Dagaard decide to go ashore to talk to the local Imam. Vanwa asks Aerandir if he will take her to buy some clothes more fitting than one of his spare shirts. Aerandir gets permission to do so providing the ships supplies are collected. Likewise, Denig and Dagaard realising that they will need either Fulton or Aerandir to act as translators decide to lend a hand to get the job done quicker.

On the shore, the party is immediately surround by a crowd of hawkers and pedlars. A coin merchant offers them decent rates of exchange, showing his wares and immediately apologising for giving them a coin not of the realm. Looking at it Aerandir is struck that some of the motifs on the coin faces are similar to something he has seen recently but he is unable to recall exactly what. The journey through the market allows him to pick up something more fitting for Vanwa and she asks him also about the coin they had just seen. She thinks it would make a nice piece of jewellery. In response, and perhaps misunderstanding, Aerandir purchases a few coins for her.

Vanwa returns to the ship with Azruzagar to change and because going to a place of worship and talking to a priest is not of any real interest to her. The rest of the party having asked a few locals make their way to the mosque of Eimlaq Latif.

The mosque has seen better days. Money for its upkeep has clearly not been available. Within the clean and empty confines the party meet a giant of a man, Eimlaq, whose open smile soon has the adventurers sat down and enjoying a simple meal with some orphans who Eimlaq cares for. The imam shares his worries. He cares for the lost and orphan children within the town but some have gone missing and he fears to let the rest of his charges roam far from his gaze.

The Old Mosque

Eimlaq has not been idle in trying to find his missing charges but has met a dead end in his enquiries. Perhaps it is that his face is well known in the port. He has been attacked once with a poison dart which suggest that there are forces at work in the area who do not welcome his questions. The brave heroes volunteer to be his eyes and ears as he outlines the extent of his investigations. They are provided with three lines of inquiry to follow, shadowy cloaked figures sighted around the port; Hasa the stone merchant; Tajir Tawabul the spice merchant and Hulq the barber. The latter is a well known storyteller with many a tale of the days before the unifications of the Juzur Almuhit.

Following Eimlaq’s advice the group first go for a hair cut. They argue over who should sit in the chair. Dagaard will not let the dwarfish barber near his beard. Denig is more concerned with revealing his stone-skinned nature. Aerandir pointedly remarks that his long dark locks are not for cutting and so it is Fulton who hops into the chair for a trim and a shave. They all listen to the tale of Dhuki and the pirates; a tale that echoes some of the reports from the Island of Lost Children.

Having heard the tale there are discussions about which line of inquiry to follow next. They decide on the spice merchant and seek out his stall only to find it abandoned. Enquiring around they end up chatting with a Sijada a carpet seller who tells them that Tajir is a terrible merchant and is currently drowning is sorrows in a a sorry excuse for a hana (tavern) called Alsamak Al’akhdar.

The hana sits on stilts towards the less developed part of the shanty town outside the walls of the port. The heroes clamber up a ladder into a bar where the only light is provided by gaps in the haphazard planking. A one-eyed barman glares at the foreigners who have tumbled into his bar. The only customer is a small, thin man, a head crowned with a few strands of greasy black hair, slumped on a table and a cup of spirits in his hands. The interlopers appease the owner by buying large quantities of the local spirit, rough as it is and set about trying to get information from the inebriated Tajir.

It turns out that Tajir has kidnapped a child but only in extreme need and the act haunts him; hence the drinking. The time is getting late and the party decide to sober Tajir up with kindness taking him to the Alsuwf Aldhahabiu which has previously been recommended by Eimlaq. Denig and Dagaard stay with the spice merchant and Aerandir and Fulton return to the Ulmo’s Beard for the night. It is only in the morning that Denig and Dagaard realise the mistake of not keeping one of the translators with them but manage to hold out with gesture and coin until the two sailors return.

A more coherent Tajir provides little more detail than already gathered and so the party plan to return to Sijada to question him. However, they are unsure of the best approach reasoning that asking directly will be unlikely to elicit a confession. They briefly consider offering their services as a ship for hire but Fulton points out that Sijada is not the sort of merchant who would contract such services. The idea of posing as child traffickers sits uncomfortably with most of the party and so they opt to follow him at the end of the day.

While they wait for the day to end the investigators decide to question Hasa the stone merchant, who according to Eimlaq, took delivery of a large quantity of black tiles but never sold them. Hasa is rather evasive and tells the adventurers that he sold them to some woman. Pressed he tells them he does not know where she lives but gives them a description of her and that he may have seen her in the Alqurad al’azraq, a hana near the Sahat Al’asad.

So it is that as the sun sets and the shadows deepen in the alleyways the adventurers arrive at the Alqurad al’azraq. Inside are a number of patrons including the woman described by Hasa. What luck they think! Not so Denig who prays for wisdom over the alignment of not only the woman but also the other patrons and discovers that the room is full of those with evil in their heart. The party make a rapid exit into the alley outside the hana.

Exiting the alley, Denig is hit by a dart delivered by a silent weapon. Quickly, he spots the would be assassin and sets off in pursuit down an alley opposite. However, the rear is attacked by the patrons inside and Dagaard is forced to defend the retreat of Aerandir and Fulton. Now the party is split. Fulton and Aerandir find themselves ambushed as they exit onto the street. Dagaard is forced to hold the door fending off two attackers and a priestess whose curses call down stunning bolts of divine power on the dwarf. Fortunately, the dwarf’s pragmatic outlook shrugs off most of this religious mumbo jumbo.

Market Ambush by Darren Tan

In the street, Fulton soon falls to an attacker and Aerandir’s whip proves to be an ineffective weapon. Meanwhile, down the dark alley Denig is ambushed by two foes and only through divine intervention of a wall of wood at his back is he able he buy time to dispatch the opponent in front. The battle does not go well. Doughty Dagaard still holds the door alone his back unprotected. Aerandir is forced to retreat tumbling away from two opponents and leaving Fulton’s body unprotected. Denig extricating himself from his opponent manages to join Aerandir in the street and again is granted a wall of wood to hold the attackers at bay while he heals Aerandir and himself.

5 thoughts on “Where have all the children gone?

  1. The tale is quite enjoyable. I like how you are having the Arabic context enter the game. I hadn’t heard of حَانَة (hana) before, but it may anachronistic. It seems to mean pub rather than tavern, though there is a Persian. It seems to be an abbreviation of حَانُوت (ḥānūt), which does mean tavern. The origin of either word is uncertain to me. Wiktionary suggests that ḥānūt may derive from the Persian xâne (house), which would be another abbreviation, from میخانه (meyxâne), again in Persian. The Persians were the wine, women and song people, after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now that’s interesting – I’ve been using google to create some quick language for Haradric. The actual language and culture not being documented. I have to admit the pace of creation has meant I haven’t really been that immersive and should this cycle be published there are going to be gaps you could drive a coach and horses through. But I’m glad you can appreciate the attempt to get an Arabic flavour into the tale. I can see I will have to shoehorn meyxâne into an adventure at some point.

      Like

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