Jazirat Alburunz – Landfall

The breeze is light and the sun sparkles off the water like gold. The Ulmo’s Beard sits low in the water such is the bounty of her provisions and the crew line the deck dressed in new uniforms of blue and gold. At the edge of the quayside, the finest baldachin covers the Amyr and his closest advisors. Aerandir has bid farewell to Vanwa earlier in the day having assured himself that she is happy to remain on the island.

“My Friend and Companion at arms, it is with great regret that I bid you farewell,” announces his eminence Amyr Fatih Albahr across the deck to where Qubtan Alquazam stands. “It is a perilous quest that you embark upon and there is no guarantee that you will be successful. Remember, that it was your actions that brought this doom upon you; that you travel the seas until you return with the cloak of Zahara.”

Ulmo’s Beard slips its moorings and sets sail upon the ocean. The ship and crew travel southwards towards distant shores at Alquazam’s orders. As they do not know the location of the the kingdom with the cloak, he has reasoned that they should first seek rumour of its location. As he explains to Denig on deck one day, it is unlikely that rumours of an island hidden or under special protection will have gone unnoticed by Sea Farers.

After several weeks of sailing from the Southernmost tip of the Mustiq Eali island chain. An island is sighted on the horizon: a welcome distraction from the monotony of days at sea. Is it luck or fate that there appears to be a town on the northern shore? Either way, Alquazam is all for a shore party to talk with the islanders and Captain Reiss wishes to replenish the ship’s water stores and food. 

A few hours later, Ulmo’s Beard anchors in the bay of the port. From the port itself there is no sign of life. It has been clear as the ship closed in on landfall that something was amiss; the lack of smoke and sound carrying across the waves. This close it is clear from the lack of activity on the shore and the boats that would be expected to be harvesting the bounty of the sea. Only the lonely cries of the seabirds and surf on the shore can be heard.

The heroes, led by Alquazam, with Chad and Beowulf to man the skiff, form a landing party to investigate the port. Ashore it becomes very clear that the port has been deserted for some time. Dust and dirt have invaded houses and plant life has begun to reclaim the port. The nearby windmill continues to operate, millstones turn without grain to mill. The shore party head to the centre of the port and what looks to be some sort of town hall.

By the small river that runs through the centre of the port, stands a long low building that the heroes think may be a town meeting hall. In front of the steps that lead up to the double doors, stands a bronze statue of a fisherman with a trident and net. Nothing seems amiss in the large dirt square before the hall so the companions cautiously enter the hall.

With some effort, Denig and Fulton swing the doors open to reveal the dark interior of the hall. Light filters down from windows set under the eaves of the roof onto a glittering horde of gold, opal and jewels. The eyes of the party glimmer in interest until Denig advises caution and spends a quarter of an hour investigating the approaches for any sign of a trap. Satisfied, he allows the rest of the party to approach the hoard. Seeing the wealth left unguarded forces them to consider why it has been left untended for so long. Alquazam is most pleased and says that this is a bounty from Wahid Eali. Some of this treasure can be taken with them on the voyage and will pay for supplies and repairs. The rest can be recovered on the return voyage when they return in victory for it will avail them not if they keep it with them at the bottom of the sea. However, Denig and Fulton feel that a little personal wealth is due to them and pocket a small number of gold coins.

Having investigated the treasure trove to their satisfaction, Alquazam gives orders to his fellow lesser nobles. The island is certainly curious and it will help with understanding why the treasure has been left to scout the island for any more information. This is a task for those with experience of adversity. So it is to Aerandir, Denig, Dagaard, and Fulton that he assigns this task. He will return to the waiting skiff where Chad and Beowulf wait and organise the resupply of the Ulmo’s Beard.

Having decided on a course of action the party leave the hall and prepare to leave to scout the island. Alerted by the groaning sound of the bronze statue moving the party quickly come to arms. Aerandir, who is closest, leaps away; drawing bow and seeking to cover his fellow adventurers. Perhaps, thinking that their small petty larceny is the cause of the sudden animation of the statue, both Denig and Fulton run back to the hall to divest themselves of their misappropriated coins. Meanwhile, Alquazam leaps straight into the fray calling on the others to support him in the attack. Only Dagaard follows the call to battle, leaping in with his normal fearlessness.

The battle does not start well, Dagaard is imperiously brushed aside by a blow from the bronze statues trident. Aerandir continues to cover the melee but does not fire. Racing quickly back to the fray Denig leaves the hall and moves to take up a secondary position to support Aerandir in firing on the statue. Ignoring the blows of Alquazam the statue swings towards Denig. Meanwhile, Fulton remains safely in the hall awaiting a chance to escape.

Wondering if the it was his misdeeds that have brought the statue to life Denig flees from the square and the guardian follows with huge implacable strides. Behind them follow Alquazam and Aerandir, neither able to mount an attack against the rapidly moving target. Dagaard remains stunned on the ground, while Fulton hides until the Bronze statue has left the square in front of the hall.

Noticing that the Bronze giant is continuing to follow him and feeling that he cannot out run the fisherman forever buys himself extra time by calling on the power of the bat-winged brooch to haste him. This he uses to pray for aid from Cloch in defeating the animated statue. As the bronze fisherman crosses the river by the bridge an 8ft pit opens in front of it. The lumbering monster manages to avoid the hazard moving to one side to attack the stone man. Desperately, Denig parries the trident thrust at him while Aerandir and Alquazam race to catch up. At that moment Dagaard finally recovers and his able to groggily follow; calling Fulton to aid in the battle. Feeling, he is not the target of attack Fulton decides now is the time to join the battle when there is a chance of attacking a foe from behind.

The battle continues with Denig desperately defending himself against the fisherman. Aerandir risks a couple of shots that do little damage to the bronze behemoth; at the same time, Alquazam hews at the frame attempting to disable the sentinel. Soon he is joined by Fulton and eventually Dagaard, now fully recovered, joins the fray. The combined blows of the three begin to tell on the structure of the statue, Alquazam’s blows being most telling. But, Denig defences are brought low when the statue slings its net and grapples the Dunlending. Trapped, his shield side is exposed and he is badly wounded by the following trident thrust. Fortunately, it is at this point in time that the blows of his companions finally tell and ichor gushing from a final wound the bronze fisherman is finally stilled.

Having healed his wounds and the party having readied themselves for exploration they set out to scout the island. Choosing to travel west from the port, the soon come in sight of a small fishing village. Like the port, the village appears abandoned, but the group decide to scout round the hills. Grudgingly, Dagaard follows the party until they decide that he should remain behind the hills while they observe from a distance. Up on the ridge, they hear the sound of children singing and occasionally glimpse childlike forms dancing through the abandoned buildings. Deciding to investigate a bit closer, Denig and Aerandir move cautiously down into the village while Fulton watches from above.

Approaching the village, Aerandir and Denig are again met with laughing song of children. In and out of the abandoned village children flit alway beckoning them on. Until, finally, a group appear and dance and sing around the pair and that is the last thing they know of the world.

The Doom of Alquazam

The meeting at the gate

After days of feast held in their honour, it is time for the heroes to turn their attention to other mundane matters. Aerandir, with the honour of an elf wishes to return to the his duties; Denig and Dagaard are keen to set sail for Caras Celairnen somewhere to the North; and Fulton is slightly less keen, given the praise and adulation he receives. Nonetheless, it is a lightly armed party that sets off for the dock and Ulmo’s Beard. The usual mercantile bustle fills the streets of Mustiq Eali. Despite the party’s general alertness, Aerandir feels a sudden tug at his elbow. A shabbily dressed vagrant with an eye patch implores him “Here,! Here! Master there are many attractions in the bayt daeara of Zahrat Allayl! Come, come I show you. If you enter with me, there is a BIG discount!”

Arabic Market in Kaloun by Alberto Rossi.

With his keen elven senses, Aerandir sees through the disguise the 7′ Qubtan Alquazam has adopted, even with the added stoop.“A word my friend,” he croaks harshly into your ear, steering Aerandir towards a side alley.

Using the natural advantage of Westron in a foreign land, Aerandir quietly tells his fellow adventurers to follow and seeing through the disguise they do so willingly. Alquazam leads the party through a myriad of side streets until he is sure that they have not been followed. Whereupon he tells the heroes of his woes. He has returned as advised but discovered that his wife was still alive, but was receiving suitors in marriage. He is torn. Does he announce himself and discover his wife no longer loves him? In which case he puts her in an awkward position. Is she marrying to protect herself and the son he has not yet seen? This would mean that the suitors are after his estate and would soon see him dead rather than risk his presence derailing their chances. He implores the new nobles to seek news of his wife’s feelings towards him so that he can make a decision.

Naturally, Fulton is pulled by the tale of sundered love and Aerandir by a sense of duty. However, Denig and Dagaard feel that none of this is their problem and that they know nothing of the politics of court. Alquazam appeals to their honour, the shared bond of fighting against the Zilal Ramiditan and the fact that it was his presence that turned the tide in the battle of the night of long knives. They eventually agree, for passing a message is low risk and they could try Vanwa to see if she could find out woman to woman. They talk to Captain Reiss and find the ship could sail he has a potential destination for some cargo. But really the ship needs dry dock and a refit to be fully sea worthy. In her current state she is only good for short runs and pray that there are no storms.

Back at the palace, Aerandir enlists the help of Vanwa, who by some method unknown communicates with Saydia Wafairu (the wife of Alquazam and informs the half-elf that the Sayida is indeed still devoted to her lost husband. Armed with this information the companions make another trip into the port and meet with Alquazam in a quiet alleyway. The Qubtan is relieved to hear the news and presses the heroes to aid him in meeting his wife. There is much debate over the best method to get the seven-foot sailor into the palace unnoticed. Eventually, they decide to hide Alquazam on Ulmo’s Beard while they scout out guard patterns. The plan to smuggle him into the palace one evening as a fellow crew member acting as a servant. Then, knowing the pattern of patrols and using the power of the brooch recovered from Jundiin, which they have observed creates a shadow around the wearer, Alquazam will make his way to meet his wife in one of the many gardens.

It is perhaps a surprise to all involved that the plan is successful. By showing a complete lack of interest in the events and politics at court they manage to avoid rousing the suspicions of the suitors and anyone of note a court. Soon, Alquazam has had a chance to be reconciled with his wife and son; in the process hatching a plan to reveal himself to the Amyr whilst neutralising the risk to his son from the suitors.

Again the Qubtan requests the heroes help. The plan is for Wayfuiru to set a contest for the suitors so that she can choose who to marry. To wed the widow of Alquazam the suitor will need to shoot an arrow through the eye of the swinging axe head that belonged to her husband. The companions need only ensure that Alquazam can get through the cordon of guards to take up the challenge when the suitors have failed.

Following Wafuiru’s declaration that her future husband must measure up to the skill of her late husband in archery, the whole of Mutiq Eali is abuzz with excitement. The day of the contest is a festive affair. Market districts are awash with commemorative memorabilia and food sellers take advantage of the crowds that have come in from the surrounding districts. Crowds push and swirl in constant eddies making progress through the port unpredictable. The heroes struggle to deliver Alquazam to a place where he can enter the arena.

In the plaza in front of the Sultat Almina (Port Authority), an area has been cleared. A pedestal with a short bow and arrows stand fifty paces from the frame where Alquazam’s Axe swings freely. Under the shade of the colonnade, the Amyr and his closest courtiers sit alongside Sayida Wafuiru.

The hot midday sun beats down on the sandy plaza with the ferocity of a hammer on an anvil, conjuring up memories of the earlier encounter beneath the volcano. The noise of the crowd rolls round the strip of plaza cleared for the contest by a wall of soldiers. A herald reads out the challenge for all to hear. There are murmurs from someone nearby that Sayida Wayfuiru has gambled well by setting this challenge but you can’t locate the speaker. The crowd are jostling to get the best position to see as the first suitor, Akhbithkhôr, steps forward and begins to test the bow. Turn by turn the suitors shoot and fail to thread their arrow through the “eye” of the battle axe. Then, Alquazam steps into the arena begging the pardon of the Saydia, he mocks her suitors for their lack of skill. Taking the bow he shoot swiftly; the arrow arcing smoothly through the eye of the swinging axe.

Concept art of the Palace and harbor in Agrabah for Disney’s live-action ALADDIN.

There are gasps from all as Alquazam throws aside his disguise. He walks to the axe and removing it begins to dispatch the suitors one by one. Guards press forward to prevent further blood-shed and protect the Amyr from harm. In horror our heroes step back into the general crowd to avoid being noticed. The silence that follows is palpable. Alquazam, breathes heavily as he eyes the nervous guards surrounding him. The heavy axe in his grip drips with the blood of the suitors who lie scattered on the sandy floor before the steps. 

A simple command issues from the shade at the top of the steps, “Hold!” Out of the shade steps the Amyr, resplendent as ever, his face as fierce as a hawk he surveys the carnage on the ground at the foot of the steps. With a look of regret in his dark eyes he turns towards the Qubtan. “Why, my friend, why?” 

The Amyr pronounces that Alquazim must may the blood debt to the suitors families but has also drawn weapons in the presence of his Prince. The former he could possibly have pardoned for a loyal and valued friend, but the latter carries the penalty of death. With understanding of the travails of the famous sea-captain, the Amyr instead sets him a task. The legendary cloak of Zahra was worn by the beautiful Zahra when she rescued her love Bialkhati Bayd Wahida (Bold the One-Handed). It is said that the cloak grants protection to the kingdom that possesses it. It is said to be held in a kingdom far to the south, Alquazam must seek it out and return with it in penance for his actions this day. But the Qubtan has need of a ship and brave adventurers to embark on this journey with him. Thus, the Amyr calls upon the Heroes of Mustawade to fulfil their noble duty and provide the ship.

In return for providing the ship Alquazam offers to enable the repairs to the ship, a gift that captain Reiss grudgingly accepts given that it is his ship that the adventurers have just offered for a voyage into the unknown.