In the City of Brass evening descends over all. Within his magnificent palace the Sultan stomps around one of his magnificent rooms, the day’s events having disturbed him. Before him the beautiful Shahzara, her sister Dumzarad, and several handmaids dance. With a bellow of rage he scatters most of the women, only Shahzara showing the courage to stand before him. “This day has been the ruination of my many viziers’ plans wife. Amuse me, and abate my just wrath, or face the Headsman’s axe here and now,” he demands.
“Oh great master, Lord of the Fire Nation, Potentate of the Sacred Flames, I will of course obey your will and seek the Headsman myself, but you will never know how Sioned managed to finally speak to the Caliph Al Raschaid and expose the evil of his Vizier Ja’far,” countered Shahzara, bowing gracefully to her husband and master. “Very well,” the Sultan replied, settling upon a couch to drink wine and eat fine figs while she spoke .. . .
“So it was that after escaping the castle of Malec Keth with the scrolls of Alhazared that Sioned and her men set forth upon the Desert of Sighs. Little did they suspect how lifeless, or how wide, the desert was. For days they traveled over sand, scrub, rock, and dunes seemingly without end. In the end they found themselves approaching the oasis of Al A’Qa, near to the city of Aqaba. As they approached they beheld a rare sight, a magnificently appointed riding horse, and nearby a finely dressed young man sitting, sobbing, at the base of the date palms that ringed the pool of the oasis. .. .
Introducing themselves the five companions met Haqim, son of one of the greatest merchant families in the Caliphate. Haqim warned Sioned that she and her men should leave immediately, for he was a doomed man and he did not wish to bring his doom upon them. Upon some friendly prodding he began to embark upon the voyage of telling his tale, only to be interrupted by the attack of a group of ghuls on the oasis.
The pack of ghuls descended upon the six travelers, blocking them from the eastern desert entirely. Their leader, a powerful witch, hexed many of the warriors and turned two of them (Sim and Sioned) into small desert snakes while the rest fought her foul minions. In the end Haqim was as successful in defeating his opponent as the party proved in defeating the rest. Settling down to a quick rest, Haqim began again to tell his tale . . . .
“I was once the most fortunate of men, a beloved son of a powerful House with signs that I should rise even farther in the service of the Caliph. The signs were so great that the Caliph’s most favored Vizier Ja’Far went so far as to offer his own niece to be my bride. The wedding was magnificent, but not all was at it seemed.”
Haqim then related how he’d discovered his wife was a powerful ghul with sorcerous powers that she used to transform him into a dog. She then stole a great deal of his family’s gold and cast him into the street, telling the city he had left with a great treasure to seek wealth and trade in a foreign land, ruining his reputation and preventing him from returning even if he should regain his form. Through the will of the gods, and the magic of a young girl in training with a good sorceress, he was restored to his form. But though he was given the magic to turn the tables on his wife he was powerless to do so until her own source of power was found and destroyed. Haqim tried to find that source, but discovered it was concealed in a house of ghuls near the city’s walls. And though he tried to sneak in he was discovered and chased from the house. Only through great skill and cleverness had he managed to out-run them this far. Even now he knew he was doomed, for if they did not slay him it was possible he could yet obtain the proof of his wife’s nature and inform the Caliph.
“And so it is that I, once most favored of all merchant’s sons in the Caliphate, am now an outcast and doomed to certain death,” concluded the dejected young man.
Knowing that without access to the Caliph there was no way Sioned could convince him of the Vizier Ja’Far’s treacherous necromancies Sioned then struck a bargain with the merchant’s son. She and her forces would deal with the house of ghuls, and aid Haqim in dealing with his wife. In return Haqim agreed that when he brought his case before the Caliph he would bring Sioned with him and speak on her behalf to the Caliph, as the first son of a powerful House he was sure the Caliph would hear him out faithfully.
Steering across the desert wastes by the stars Pieter proceeded to lead the group to a river valley. Below them a slow river lay beyond a great city. And before the city an ancient building lay near the desert’s edge, and the city’s graveyard, the House of Ghuls was found.
Sneaking up to the house the group prepared for battle with prayers to the Gods and spells. Flinging open the door they were initially stopped by a charge of ghuls. Behind the ghuls came cultists of Demogorgon with long-spears, and in the far back a foul priest of the demon lord lurked. Though the priest neatly caught Rook with his tentacles, Rook flung them off soon enough to advance after Pieter’s divine power flung the ghuls backwards. Sim and Rook soon combined forces and trapped and burned many of the ghuls and the cultists. Seeing the inevitable the priest snuck out a side door and escaped from the house to warn Haqim’s wife.
Seeking throughout the house the five found neither gold nor magic. But they did discover a small jar of foul, necromantic, odure that held the soul and power of Haqim’s wife in it. With that in hand the plan could now proceed.
Knowing the wife would now be watching for her husband via mystical methods Sim worked several spells to shield Haqim. Rook stole up to the back door to Haqim’s house and picked the lock, allowing the six adventurers entry. Alruna explained what had really happened to the servants, who showed their true loyalty to the merchant’s son by helping conceal Haqim and his friends until the wife returned. Sioned, checked over everyone’s hiding places to confirm the plan was solid, then hid herself behind a tapestry concealing an alcove.
“And so it was,” Shahzara spoke, “that when the wife came home that morning to her home she was caught unawares by the merchant’s son and Sioned and her companions. She was so surprised that Haqim managed to leap to his feet and begin speaking the magic words before she even saw him. Putting his hand to the cup of water he . . .” “Sister,” broke in Dumzarad, “Look, the sky is lightening again. Dawn is nearly here.” Shielding a yawn with her hand she continued, “We must not keep the Sultan any longer, there is business he must attend this day, important affairs for the City of Brass.”
Bowing low Shahzara turned to address the Sultan. “Oh Master, Husband, Lord of the Fire of Creation, I would not keep you from your urgent business. Shall I go to find the Headsman myself, or should you prefer to call him yourself?”
Waving a meaty hand the Sultan replied, “No, no. You have won yourself another day oh Cunning Wife. I fear I prefer the end of the tale to your execution this day. Come to me again this night, and we shall discuss the matter once more.”
And so, as the Sultan departs for a new day in the City of Brass, this tale too must end . .. for a time.