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!”
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.
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.