Chapter 25: The Sands of Fate
The chapter starts with a flashback to when the party arrived at Sidron with their cargo: the beautiful storytelling niece of the Sultan, Dinarzade. The Sultan sends for a powerful priest from a nearby emirate to heal Father Pat from his drained energy, and rewards are delivered to the crew of the Captain Morgan. Before the ship leaves port, the new Captain of the ship, Miss Teeg, confides in the party that she has obtained information about an Armada of Dominion ships heading for the Duchies, and provides scant information about the government of the Golden Dominion and it’s leader, called the Capable. Peloquin leaves the party to find other Dominion contacts in Sidron in an attempt to verify this.
At the celebratory dinner for the return of Dinarzade, the scene is recounted where the evil Al Hazared lays a trap, pretending to be a court magician before decimating the royal family with a cloudkill spell, killing the Sultan in the process. Al Hazared announces a command which causes Dinarzade’s necklace to glow red hot. Telekinetically grabbing the necklace from her when she drops it, he uses it to sommon a fiery Efreet to attack the party as the surviving party-goers attempt to escape, only to find the doors barred.
Meanwhile, Porkins uses his ring of return to escape the room and attack the thugs that are blocking the doors.
Inside the chamber, the Efreet and Al Hazared seem to have the upper hand of the party, each side summoning powerful allies and casting powerful magic. Dinarzade can only help from the outskirts by singing to encourage the party and bolster their courage.
Porkins is able to defeat the thugs and open the doors to the chamber from the outside, then sneak up on the Efreet, landing a blow that causes it to disappear in a blast of smoke. Simultaneously, an air elemental summoned by Clinton seems to destroy Al Hazared’s invisible stalker.
With the odds now in the party’s favor, Al Hazared injures Dinarzade before being seriously wounded. Clintons chimp, Urnicee, grabs the necklace back from Al Hazared, who then escapes with the aid of a dimension door. The party helps Dinarzade regain consciousness, who leads them through secret chambers away from the palace to the royal stables.
At the stables, Dinarzade introduces the party to Faisal, the young groom responsible for the royal mounts. Faisal in turn introduces the party to his camel, Habibi. While the party hides in the stables to heal and recover, Faisal tells them about the royal family, and Dinarzade leaves to gather information, eventually returning with the powerful cleric that heals Father Pat as promised.
Warning the party to be careful now that her uncle has forcibly taken over as Sultan in the absence of her father, Dinarzade recommends places in the city where the party can procure equipment from the Grand Bazaar. The party leaves to shop for exotic and helpful wares. Father Pat engages a fortune teller for information about the mysterious Golden Shield. The Fortune Teller initially is afraid of the artifact but offers that it is an item of great power that will only reveal its true nature to One Who Proves Worthy.
Later in the bazaar, an assassin attempts to kill Radcliffe, but luckily for him trips on a child’s toy and misses in the attempt. The assassin flees with a cohort, but the party manages to capture her and bring her back to the stables. There, the party roughs her up to gain information about whom she works for, but she will only admit that her cadre of assassins were hired by a rich man.
Dinarzade and the party agree that they must leave. Without risking finding a wizard to transport the party, the best option is the overland caravan route to the port city of Malagra, where they can find a ship to transport them to the Duchies. She is able to get the party access to a caravan leaving in the coming days.
In an early morning that the party joins the caravan, with Faisal as their personal guide, and meets the head of the caravan guards. On the last night of the three day trip to the first Oasis stop, the party hears screams from the desert night. The Captain of the Caravan guard indicates that it is probably a woman from the caravan that wandered into the night but refuses to send his men to help, as wind is picking up and there is danger of a sandstorm.
The party proceeds into the desert, to find some pilgrims from the caravan attempting to sacrifice women in the cover of night and blinding sand. From the darkness, foul undead creatures, which Faisal recognizes as undead genies, or Ghuls, arrive and attempt to feed on the captive girls. The party attacks the pilgrims, however, and the Ghuls stop their attack to feast on the fallen pilgrims themselves. The party manages to return two of the grateful women to the safety of the caravan tents.
The next day the party arrives at the first Caravanserai, a fort built in an oasis. There, a merchant that introduces himself to the party recognizes them of men of power, and offers to give them a treasure map that he claims to have acquired in Malagra, if the party promises to hunt for the treasure and share any results with him. The party agrees and takes the map, as the location is not far off of the path to Malagra, in the Zarkisi canyons.
As the party leaves the dinner, the captain of the guard warns the party that there is a price on their head from Sidron, as the new Sultan has blamed them for the death of his brother. Sure enough, the party is attacked by whirling dervishes as they attempt to leave the oasis, but Radcliffe is able to block the path with a wall of fire and the party escapes with their camels.
With Faisal leading the party into the Zarkisi canyons, the group continues towards Malagra without contact for the night. The next day, a wyvern flying overhead swoops down to attack the party, who is able to kill it. From out of buildings carved into the caverns, and old man appears, praising the party on their bravery and offering to tell them of the greatest lie if they give him a treasure. Clinton offers him a small gem, and the man tells Clinton that the greatest lie is that all men eventually believe they are not in control of their own lives.