13th Voyage

26 - The Jann and the Matchmakers

The tale of a jinn liberated and a giants' celebration.

When Abd was inspecting the salt-harvesters’ camp in Tegwali, he suddenly received a visitation — the image of an abstracted, hooded older man, not unlike other sendings dispatched by the Immortal Sage. The spectral image spoke to him, telling him that he should find the city’s shrine to Jalisa and meditate there for a vision from the Defending Maiden. Abd set out immediately to discover the abandoned shrine.

The streets of Tegwali are unfamiliar. It takes Abd nearly two hours to navigate the peculiarities of the former City of Lotuses and locate the Jalisan shrine. He enters into the dusty hall, kneels before the altar, and focuses. Many hours pass, indeed much of the night, before something stirs. The spectral form of a robed young girl appears above the altar, beckoning to him.

The vision speaks. The girl charges him with taking the Behemoth Jewel and departing Tegwali alone, returning to Hamaji apart from his companions. Abd pauses, and says “I of course would do your bidding, but.. Why must I travel alone?”

The Jalisan image warns Abd that his companions are a grave danger to his cause. They will turn on him, even if they do not intend to, and they will cause him to lose the Zodiac jewel. Abd absorbs the warning, then stares grimly at the vision.

“Who are you?”

The apparition pauses, then smirks. Her form grows and fills out, becoming a mature and lovely woman. “You should know me, Abd al-Rashid,” she says. “I am Nehedza the Shrouded Moon. And I will make you the offer fairly: leave the Behemoth Jewel here, on the altar, and leave Tegwali.”

Abd refuses her immediately. The ghostly woman’s face distorts into a cold, mirthless grin. “You think that you are a wall that protects your friends. But you are the door through which I will strike.” The apparition then fades as Abd stalks from the shrine.

Abd returns to the camp and quickly falls asleep. He wakes again around noon, to the sound of thunder. He arms himself and follows the sound, meeting with his companions and the giants by the river. Kismet explains the fruits of their incursion — that they sighted the bell, but that the tower was guarded by air elementals, and the Crawling Storm was not so docile at noon as they had hoped. Her tale is punctuated by the sound of the bell pealing, as if being rung by a panicked sentry or a madman.

The group crosses the river again, the giants keeping careful watch for the behir. Kismet produces a great length of rope from the enchanted sack, and Hashatur is nominated to be the one lowering the bell to the ground. The venturers climb the tower stairs and finally reach the bell’s level. The floor that the bell hangs over has been carved with a complicated glyph of air magic, which seems to leak winds elemental winds.

A swirl of wind manifests into a more humanoid form, something like a four-winged male harpy. The elemental — what Aya recognizes as one of the piratical gale reavers — rings the bronze bell with some delight. It then turns to the venturers with a broad smile on its face. “Are you here to torment this wretched earth creature as well? She is so angry!”

Aya attempts to pacify the gale reaver, but it shows no particular interest in doing anything but following its own whims. As it pays more and more attention to the venturers, it begins to ask if they can fly — and if they are not afraid of falling. With that, it lunges for Abd.

Aya calls up a wind from the storm orb in her hand, and blasts the gale reaver back. But it resumes the attack, trapping Abd in a dust devil. The venturers fight back with blade and fire and ice. The whirlwind pulls more of the air from Abd’s lungs, and the paladin fights free.

The gale reaver turns its attention to Aya. It wraps its wings about her, engulfing her in another small whirlwind. But Kismet drives her compass sword through it, and its face manifests in the gale, bleeding small dark tufts of cloud that spin away on the winds and dissipate. The gale reaver’s expression of surprise is still on its face as Wind-of-Embers finishes it off.

They attach the rope to the bell, throw the other end to Hashatur, and help the philosopher-giant lower the bell to the ground. Aya also disables the glyph carved into the stone, severing the connection with the realm of elemental air.

As they return to the bridge, the sounds of storm and battle reach them. They find Kabotol leading the fight against the Crawling Storm, backed up by the hunter siblings. The immense behir pulls free of the giant champion and flanks the others — and then a huge fist made of water rises up from the river and strikes the drake. For the second time, it flees. The venturers turn to see a huge gondola on the river, an grand parasol protecting it from the sun, with a crocodile-headed ogre at the rudder and Igwu standing in its center. As the other giants return to the bridge, Igwu looks over the newcomer Kabotol, and then shifts into her womanly form.

The venturers make introductions between Igwu and Kabotol. They then take the bronze bell to a plaza, safely on the other side of the river, where the cobblestones have peeled away and the bell can rest on bare earth. Aya and Wind-of-Embers both coach Abd in the practices of etiquette when mortals address jinn. Thus prepared, the paladin recites a respectful address, and invokes the power of the Behemoth Jewel. The earth shakes and buckles around the bell, coating it in fresh soil.

As the tremor dies down, the metal-covered skull clapper falls free of the bell proper. It crumples inward for a moment and then explodes. An eight-foot woman appears, sturdily built, with deep brown skin with bronzelike highights and nails of polished bronze. She looks about, swells up to the same size as the giants, and then kicks the bell, hard. It flies into the wall of a nearby building with a resounding crash.

That done, the jann exults that she is finally free — afflicted with something of a headache from all the ringing, but free. She turns her attention down to the small mortals, and gives a respectful gesture. “You have freed me, and you have been polite, and that is worth three tasks that I may perform for you.”

They tell her that the first task is that they would have her attend the celebration with the Kholos-Sahar and their other guests. The jann shrugs; it seems a pleasant and painless enough way to expiate the a task, and she agrees.

For the second task, they ask what she can tell them of the Zodiac Jewels. The jann flexes her clawed toes in the earth, then stoops to rest her palm on the soil. She closes her eyes, and listens.

“I hear the Fox jewel, in a vault below the earth, in a city of locks. I hear the Dragon Turtle, kept company by a blind old serpent. I hear the Crow, recently ripped from a grave. I hear the Mourner, in a city of tombs and sand and echoes.” She then opens her eyes. “The rest do not lie on or in the earth.” The venturers thank her, and promise to ask for the third task after the celebration.

A short time passes. Aya continues to have no idea how to instruct Raisho, lacking as he does her instincts or elemental connection. Abd keeps a close eye on Kismet, who in turn goes wandering about the ruins. Wind-of-Embers spends time with the salt-camp’s guardian, the Sentinel Palif. She accepts the task of retrieving the body of Palif’s apprentice from northern Tegwali, and in return Palif gives her a pair of enchanted earrings, which allow one wearer to communicate with the other over great distances. The giants also wait and converse, and the women are amused to note that Kabotol seems to be about as vulnerable to Igwu’s sorceress charms as he was to the sea witch of long ago.

When the Kholos-Sahar arrive, they are astonished to see that the venturers have managed to free or retrieve three young giants and the legendary hero Kabotol, as well as convince the hermit Igwu to attend, to say nothing of arranging for Burunizha Ten Bronze Mirrors’ presence. The celebration is far more joyful than one might have expected, watching the stoic desert giants before. The siblings Ishurdur and Tarrikis are effusively welcomed home, young as ever and seemingly free of the curse. The giants immediately set about seeing them introduced to the chieftain’s daughter Aninat and the tribal champion Assurdanum. Igwu seems rather protective of Kabotol throughout the festivities, and although the Kholos-Sahar keep a small, respectful distance between themselves and the jann, the philosopher Hashatur cannot help but ask many questions of her. All in all, the venturers are quite proud of their matchmaking efforts.

Deep into the night, they ask for the third task: a means to break the Curse of Taliyah, as it was passed on to an incautious mortal thief some time ago. Burunizha Ten Bronze Mirrors smiles, and then she weeps a single tear. As it rolls from her cheek, she catches it — a diamond, with almost countless facets. “Give that to him,” she says, “and he should be free.” Kismet takes it in hand, and keenly anticipates the trip back to Hamaji.

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