Late at night there is a knock at the door. A hooded, cloaked slender figure with brilliant green eyes asks (in a feminine voice) to speak with the group. She offers a single emerald earring – as her proof of identity, she says, and as payment for their time.
Once inside the room, she removes the hood and veil, and she introduces herself as Thala. She has come on behalf of a great personage who has taken an interest in them, and has come to arrange a discrete meeting.
The party is brought to the Shrine of Corellon through back alleys. The gate guard ignores them completely. Once inside the shrine, they are introduced to the wealthy lady from the market, who is Lady Sasaela the Gentle, the Second Wife of Abu Hazam al-Khas, the Caliph of Ahgram. She is joined by the blind beggar (and former Legatus) Valarius Davo and Sister Melasiel of the Shrine of Corellon..
She tells the story of General Decius Gladium Sicerem, who served the former Caliph of the city of Ahgram loyally for over two decades. Seven years ago they won the battle of Martok against the southern orcs, but during the fighting the Caliph had been struck with a poisoned weapon. Before he died, the Caliph named General Decius as his heir to rule Ahgram, rather than his cruel wastrel of a son, and the Lady’s own husband, Abu Hazam.
As the army returned to the city with the Caliph’s body in state, a party of guardsmen intercepted them and arrested General Decius for the murder of the old Caliph. He was captured and enslaved, and since then nothing was known of his fate… until recently.
Valarius picks up the tale, explaining that a small corps of loyal soldiers sought out Decius’ whereabouts. It took some time, but a new gladiator in the arena was creating quite a stir. The soldiers recognized the General’s fighting style at once, and learned that he belonged to a trainer called Proximo. Sadly, before they could act, Decius was slain in the arena.
She feels the Caliph must be punished, but she needs their help.
Her plan is complex, but it will depose the current evil Caliph and his dangerous vizier Atia, restore the rightful heir to the throne and clear the name of a great hero.
To accomplish it, however, will require subtlety and misdirection. First, the heir – Sasaela’s son, Mahmoud – must be secured outside the city in a safe location. Second, the surviving communiqué between Atia and Abu Hazam must be retrieved from the Caliph’s things. Finally, a loyal member of the Caliph’s Guard must be found who can work with the palace guards.
Thorn volunteers to bring the boy to safety. He accepts the help of Valarius and his men.
First Objective: The Letter
The letter is believed to be in the Caliph’s locked private chambers, which is usually guarded. There are several possible approaches that can be taken to achieve the goal:
Ophelia led Lux and Cora through the palace by stealth, having crept in through the harem (aided by Lady Sasaela). Once inside, they crept through the hallways up until they reached the upstairs hallway leading to the Caliph’s office.
Ophelia then climbed a tapestry to walk along the beams over the guards’ heads. She quietly opened the transom over the door, slipped inside and secured the latter. After rejoining her friends, they moved to the next objective:
Second Objective: Loyal Guards
The heroes decide to approach Octavian Steel-Eye, the Captain of the Guard to obtain his help.
Octavian is wary, but listens patiently to the heroes. He reminds them that they are complicit in a treasonous conspiracy, and that if their plan fails, they have guaranteed their own execution. He says he would join the rebellion, but such a risk requires an incentive. In this case, he requires Lady Sasaela’s hand in marriage and her assent to his becoming Regent until Mahmoud comes of age.
After some discussion, Cora agrees to his terms. They then return to the harem to deliver the news to the lady.
Optional Objective: Retrieving the Book
Knowing that Ophelia requires a book from the Caliph’s library ( Desert Shadows), Freya volunteers to take this task. To slip by unnoticed (being too large to sneak easily), she borrows some clothing and veils from the harem.
Without much drama, she found her way to the library, discovered the book and returned.
With all the evidence in their possession, Lady Sasaela, Captain Octavian and the party entered the chamber where the Caliph was consulting with the city’s elite. Sasaela laid out the proof of collusion between Abu Hazam and Atia to implicate General Decius in the murder of the old Caliph, the document in which the old Caliph declared Decius to be his heir, and documents showing that Mahmoud is actually Sasaela’s son, but by Decius rather than Abu.
With the Palace Guard behind the Captain, Abu was exiled from Ahgram, Mahmoud recognized as the new Caliph, and Lady Sasaela recognized as regent. She also announced her imminent marriage to Captain Octavian.
Once things settled down, Lady Sasaela thanked the heroes for their efforts and informed them that they will always have a home in Ahgram.
Next: Proximo’s Villa