Daniel Bar Yeremiah (SteveR) - Shiradi Sage
Debora Bat Solomon (Tammy) - Shiradi Red Lion
Faqid the Witless (GM/NPC) - Amnesiac Merchant Prince
(9th day of the second Ten-day of the 4th Month of the year 5997)
Outside the Black Dabbat, the Dragon-Marked and Fara prepare to travel. Faqid the Witless determines which direction north lies in, and the characters decide they will go out through the South Gate. When Faqid asks Debora Bat Solomon why she would prefer to go out the South Gate, she tells him she doesn’t want another headache from the North Gate.
Once the player characters leave Halifah, they decide to take the western, longer route around the town so as to take in some of the buildings and the stalls outside the town walls. “It’s time for Fara’s education to begin,” says Faqid. As the Dragon-Marked walk, with Daniel Bar Yeremiah leading their camels, Debora begins teaching Fara about observation and how it is very much subjective. Fara asks why Daniel has the camels and Debora, Faqid and she don’t. Faqid tells her of his dream about the camel being impaled on the scimitar-sized knife. Fara says that camels must not be hurt, as we [the Saabi] depend on them. Both Debora and Faqid tell her they have learned to heed the signs that dreams offer them.
As the characters round one of the exterior town walls, they come upon the noisy caravanserai, and are met with a cacophony of sounds and smells. They manage to hear conversations, barely, but there are many different cultures present, with their own accents. Debora recognizes two caravans in the caravanserai proper, one from Carrassine and one Fragrantine. The characters come around the next corner wall of the town, and find themselves in a much quieter area, with several houses outside and a variety of merchants at stalls and wagons, many of them more properly peddlars. Fara sees a seeming peddler, selling various items, and spots a pretty, yellow scarf with some sort of embroidery. The girl goes up to the merchant’s wagon, and the others follow. The merchant tells her the scarf can be hers for one Silver Talent. The Dragon-Marked realize that’s excessive, but Faqid tells them that Fara must learn things through experience. Debora looks at the scarf and it reminds her of the scarf that was found as belonging to one of the missing children. She whispers to Faqid about it, and he agrees that it does remind him of that scarf. He adds that there’s something about the scarf... and Debora suspects there may be magic associated with it. Daniel checks the scarf, and it has some magic to it - and he tells the others. The merchant, a kindly, friendly older Saabi who reminds them of a kahan, says that it is indeed magical. The merchant tells Daniel that some information is not to be shared, and that he must now charge them the proper price, 1 Gold Talent. He tells them that the scarf when worn protects the wearer from weapon strikes [adds +2 to Passive Defense]. However, it is meant for Fara, pointing at her. Not sure that he trusts the merchant, Faqid asks if it’s really meant for Fara, to which the merchant says it is. [Faqid fails his roll to assess the merchant’s character.] He buys the scarf for Fara, paying the Gold. As the three characters and Fara leave the merchant’s stall, Faqid blames Daniel for the increase in cost, and tells Daniel to pay him 1/3 of the cost of the scarf, 3 Silver Talents. Daniel pays up, no questions asked. Once the characters leave the area of Halifah proper, Debora asks Faqid which way they need to go, and he directs them.
After around 6 hours of travel (some 25 miles in distance), Faqid and Debora see that Fara is lagging behind. They are all feeling somewhat morose [Daniel takes 3 fatigue, Fara takes 4 fatigue, and both Debora and Faqid suffer 1 point], and stop. When asked, Fara tells the characters that she’s fine, and then promptly collapses to the sand unconscious. Debora holds the girl in her arms, while Faqid rummages in Debora’s pack and grabs her waterskin. He wets Fara’s dried lips and then offers her a sip to drink. Since it is late afternoon by this time, Faqid decides they need to camp. He and Debora agree on a location, and once Faqid has set up the tent they tend to Fara and quench their own thirst. Debora takes the four empty waterskins and using magic, fills them with water once more. Daniel conjures a loaf of bread to go with their travel rations, and then he creates two sources of light so they can eat and clean up a bit. It is a weary group that camps for the night.
The morning dawns, with the sense that it will be a hot day. Fara is recovered, but says she doesn’t think she likes travelling in the desert. Daniel snarkily comments that she had better get used to it and is about to say more, but a look from Faqid and Debora quells his instincts. The three characters admit to feeling the pull of the Dragon Mark, and Fara admits to the strong feeling as well. Fara learns a quick lesson about desert travel, as there is a scorpion in her left boot. Debora shakes it out for her, and tells the girl not to eat it; they’re not very good food. The characters strike camp, and Faqid packs the tent, Debora telling him that it could be useful. The group travels for several more hours, making sure to take care of Fara’s needs and their own. At one point, Debora falls into a magically induced state of despair, and freezes into immobility on the spot. Daniel is able to magically bring her out of it, bolstering her will to live somewhat, and the characters continue on.
As they crest a dune, they come upon an incredible sight: Eight multi-coloured tents, one much larger than the others, a statue of an attractive woman seemingly made of the same metal as swords in the very centre of the “camp” next to a multi-coloured fire with a well nearby. The various children are milling about or playing, gaily and carefree. Debora notices that there are four or so areas of swirling sands scattered about, but there’s no breeze in the area for some reason, and the group notices there are no signs of any camels or other beasts of burden in the camp. Fara sees several of the missing children that she knows, pointing them out to Faqid and the others. The multi-coloured fire is the same shade of reds, greens, yellows, and golds as were seen in the eyes of several children and the North Gate guard.
Telling Fara to stay hidden at the dune, the three Dragon-Marked descend the dune to the edge of the camp area. As Debora gets closer to the nearest tent, one of the swirling sand areas resolves into a 7-foot tall guard made of sand, with two dark brown stony eyes, wielding a sayf. When they try different directions and tactics, both Faqid and Daniel are confronted with similar foes. After several moments of observation, during which Debora tries to feint her way past the guards, the battle is engaged. Faqid proves to be no match for his guard made of sand, the creature inflicting two terrible wounds to him [one for 9 points, another for 10 points]. Her Red Lion training and abilities through Shirad allow Debora to defend herself, and she manages to inflict some minimal damage to the creature she faces. Daniel does not fare so well, suffering horrible damage [13 damage and 12 damage respectively] and goes down, unconscious and possibly dying. Faqid says they can’t deal with these “sand demons”, and he and Debora retreat quick, hauling Daniel with them.
Faqid is barely able to keep Daniel from dying, binding the two nasty wounds as best he can, and then he and Debora discuss what they should do. The two realize they’ve come too far to leave the children here. Faqid tells Fara to look after Daniel, and then he and Debora make their way around the campsite to where the largest tent is. Cajoling somewhat and flattering him, Faqid demands that Olobis show himself. The two are surprised when he appears directly in front of them [teleporting in]. The characters talk to Olobis, and learn that he yearns, nay hungers, for an end to the curse. The long and the short of it is that Debora must face the Peril of the Knives, either through sacrifice or self-sacrifice, and whether she would willingly die for the children’s safe return. When she agrees to self-sacrifice, she is teleported to the front of the statue. It is that of a beautiful, half-Saabi half-Shiradi woman and is made of a grey, iron-like metal with streaks of red (blood?) in it. Bracing herself, Debora disrobes and draws her suyuf...
...and then proceeds to attack herself with the weapon [inflicting 8, 10, 9, and 10 points of damage], eventually killing herself. Each time she strikes herself, the blood from her wounds remains and hovers in the air. The blood is sucked into the statue, which transforms into a fleshly version of the woman, Olobis’s former wife, Medha. Medha informs Olobis that the curse is broken, and that they shall now be together for eternity. However, she cannot let Debora’s sacrifice go unnoted, and touching the dead Shiradi warrior on the left shoulder, restores life to her. Some of the blood from Debora’s wounds lands on the ground, in the form of a small chooris, seemingly the same colour as the statue once was. She tells the re-awoken Debora that the children are returned to them, but she should not cross paths with her again, for while Debora broke the curse she cheated Medha of her vengeance on Olobis. She also adds that the Peril of Knives is over for now, “but there will be a reckoning” at some point. Olobis and Medha walk away from the characters into the desert, fading away into nothing as they walk. The tents and well disappear from the campsite, leaving nothing but frightened and bewildered children - and the multi-coloured fire still burning serenely.
Two days later, with the characters somewhat healed from their ordeal, though Daniel still needs the services of a physician, the group sets off with the children for the town of Halifah. Faqid accedes to Debora that his taking the tent along and Daniel’s purchase of the camels proved to be a worthwhile endeavour. When the Dragon-Marked and the children return to Halifah two days later, they are given a hero’s welcome and greeted warmly by Sheik Ehadin. The Sheik awards each of the Dragon-Marked a sum of 20 Gold Talents, and pays for their stay at the Black Dabbat with all and any amenities.
Some fifteen days later, with the characters recovered for the most part, Faqid and Debora talk about Fara and what they should do with her. For the most part the girl has recovered from her own ordeal in the desert, but Fara is still having nightmares about Debora’s having cut herself almost to shreds and having died. Faqid says there’s a strong attachment between the girl and Debora, but the two (with Daniel’s input) decide that the girl is Dragon-Marked, and that she must come with them when they leave Halifah, Debora taking her in hand as mentor and teacher. They decide to head south and east, and perhaps Fara will find her own path among the Saabi.
Sunday afternoon's session of the Capharnaüm - The Tales of the Dragon-Marked campaign went pretty well, and things came out as I expected. The sand guards, what Faqid called "sand demons," were meant to be tough, thus forcing the player characters to find another solution to matters. Tammy did, and when it all counted she was willing to sacrifice herself for the children. There was never any doubt that she would actually die permanently (though the same cannot be said of SteveR's Daniel), as that's just not how Arabian Nights stories tend to resolve themselves. Tammy's character now also has a child that will accompany them in Fara, and this will allow me to teach the player characters a bit more about what it means to be Marked by the Dragons.
Overall, it was a very good session of the Capharnaüm - The Tales of the Dragon-Marked Sunday campaign, and I look forward to the next session of the game the players get to play. The next several weeks will be spent, however, doing some playtesting of gaming stuff for the adventures I'll be running at CanGames 2019 in around 5 weeks.