The venturers ride through the gates of Hamaji on steeds made of wind. Wind-of-Embers promises to meet her new friends later, and excuses herself to go see if any of her drakhan comrades have also returned to the City of Blades.
The young Raisho, still marveling at the ride, wonders aloud about his future. Aya, Kismet, and Abd promise to take him to meet Zufar first thing. After a brief stop to clean away some of the road dust, they pay a call on the sorcerer’s estate. The talking gate lets them through, and Zufar’s elder daughter Jisiri greets the venturers. She escorts them into a parlor and has refreshments brought, and soon Zufar appears. He is glad to see the venturers safe and most interested in their story.
Aya tells the tale of the Kholos-Sahar and the Behemoth Jewel from the beginning. Kismet occasionally leaps in to embellish the narrative. Zufar is an attentive listener, asking intelligent questions at relevant points through the story. His children Dasaan and Khajeira also wander in during the tale, and settle in to listen.
At the close of the tale Aya formally introduces Raisho and Zufar. Zufar regards the young man, and confesses that he will not be able to take on an apprentice at the time, but he might be able to recommend another teacher. He asks if Raisho is skilled at mathematics; the youth admits he has no experience. “A pity,” says Zufar. “A wizard of my acquaintance, Danafid the Anvil, tends to have more use for potential students if they can assist with her bookkeeping. Of course, she can be… tectonic.” He pauses and thinks for a moment, and then asks Jisiri to try Raisho on a few sums to see if he might have the talent. She nods in assent, and guides the young man out of the parlor. The departing Raisho cannot help but notice the warning stare of Jisiri’s father, and he bobs his head nervously on his way through the doorway.
The venturers share a few more pleasantries with their host and his children before a voice announces another visitor — Lightning Zan. Soon the storm genasi swordsman joins the group, delighted to see his fellow venturers as well as his presumed father. He talks idly about the difficulties of travel, then reaches into a pouch and produces a pale, triangular gemstone — the Crow Jewel.
Lightning Zan’s tale is not as elaborate as the quest to find brides and grooms for the Kholos-Sahar. He describes arriving at the parched oasis, where they scouted about until nightfall. When the night came, the ghuls emerged. Zan and his band — Katifa, Jisan, and Seshuun — slew the ghuls, and tracked them to a hidden crevice that led to a great cavern below. There they found the signs of a Serpent Emir’s court, long abandoned. A strange creature, a ghul that may have once been a snake-blood in the court, taunted them and led them on a chase through the caverns. The chase led to the bones of the perished Emir, where the ghul Pergu had built his workshop. The battle was fierce, and they set the ghul’s workshop on fire in the process. They pursued the fleeing Pergu to a natural bridge across a chasm, where the ghul threatened to drop the Crow Jewel into the abyss. But Jisan invoked an ancient snake-spirit to snap away Pergu’s withered arm, and the ghul was hurled below while the others seized the gem. They escaped the cavern as water began to rise through old, dry channels. Then they returned to Hamaji, bearing the Crow Jewel and a Serpent Emir’s diadem — the symbol of office for that oasis’ realm, no doubt something that would be of great interest to the other Emirs.
At the close of his tale, Zan bows politely at his audience’s congratulations. “I hope that if anything, this has proven that boldness and capability run in my bloodline.”
“Zan,” sighs Zufar, “if you were my son, I would be proud indeed. But… I did have liaisons in the Court of Sky, but only one with a djinn. She was changeable, but she was wind, not storm. Your parent would be thunder, casting sparks from their teeth. But the Opal of the Southern Skies, Taya-Wuurashi… I do not see her in you.”
Zan looks somewhat crestfallen, but raises his head and nods. He politely thanks Zufar for the friendship that he’s shown, and begs his pardon for overstepping. The venturers choose to rise and depart at that time, giving Zan the opportunity to leave without any further embarassment. Zufar asks them to keep him informed as to their progress with the Zodiac Jewels. They promise to return if his door is open, and he assures them it always will be.
They make the decision to go drinking as a group. Katifa meets them in the streets and lets them know that the Twist of Fate is not yet in harbor, to Kismet’s disappointment. She gives Abd an enthusiastic hug, and the group makes for a wineshop.
Zan is uncharacteristically philosophical as he puts away several cups of a rich local red. He says that while some part of him suspected it wasn’t true, Zufar and his children seemed such an interesting and impressive family that it would have been nice to belong. As the wine lifts his spirits, the talk turns to the next steps in the Zodiac pursuit. Aya, with unusual focus, argues that the group should chase the more loosely guarded stones first, not those in the keepings of powerful figures. She recommends the Crocodile and the Maiden, both of which are likely somewhere in the Necklace archipelago.
This leads to talk of Uur Iblim, the island kingdom of ogres where reputedly the Maiden Jewel was given to an ogrish princess. It is suggested that perhaps Zan could seduce the princess, should she even be alive at the current date. The Crocodile Jewel, however, was said to be in the hands of Barbafir Bloodmouth, one of the more “traditional” corsairs. And while the Dragon Turtle Jewel may be safer if it remains among the Serpent Emirs, it’s true that the diadem Zan retrieved might help provide a great advantage in negotiating with them. Aya contemplates aloud the possibility of contacting Mirza Taskasha to discuss matters.
At that point a small argument breaks out between Ramjat Azmeil Hashaban Fazim Omnibus Prismatica jan Ramjat jan Ramjat and Abd al-Rashid. The two grow more dismissive of one another, particularly when Abd criticizes the utility of Aya’s familiar. “I am of aristocratic lineage in aristocratic plumage,” huffs Ramjat, “and I serve my mistress with all of the strength in each feather, in whatever ambitions she has.” He pauses. “If she had any.”
“My ambition right now,” Aya says sweetly, “is to find Prince Taskasha.”
The bickering continues for another round or two, but Ramjat heads away as dispatched to locate the Serpent Emir. The venturers likewise separate for the evening.
Kismet goes to explore the notion of some games of chance; a number of wealthy individuals have arrived in Hamaji to observe and bet on a current arena festival, and it stands to reason that they would continue their gameplay into the evening. She finds her way into a few games, inevitably winning a few games of chance and deliberately losing some games of skill.
Eventually she finds herself at a table with Kirazta, sister to the sultana of Hamaji, who once wagered a clockwork instructor against Kismet at the Moon of a Thousand Horses and lost. Kirazta certainly remembers Kismet, and seems to have no hard feelings. Kismet inquires about a game, and reveals the petrified gem-pomegranate she took from the Petrified Forest of Nok. Kirazta agrees that she might buy her way into one of the more exclusive games with such a stake, and agrees to make introductions.
And so eventually Kismet finds herself at a piwazta table, a complicated game of cards and tiles, across from a veiled spider-mage of Naas, attended by two veiled lessers of his order. She plays carefully in their first game, making poor enough decisions with her tile play that her inevitable victory seems closer than it was. The spider-mage asks for a rematch, at higher stakes. She wagers the pomegranate, and the Naasi offers a pair of enchanted silk-thonged sandals.
Regrettably, Kismet fails to conceal her excitement and confidence during the second game, and falls into outright smugness. The spider-mages seem perturbed as she wins cleanly, and whisper behind their veils to one another. But they seem to find no trace of cheating. They stiffly congratulate her, offering her the sandals, and depart. Kirazta also gives Kismet a slyly evaluating look, congratulates her in friendly fashion, and then the two part ways.
In great contrast, Abd meditates that evening at the Mosque of Bright Steel, attempting to shut out all forms of frivolity and seek a vision. He has extreme difficulty in attaining the receptive state of mind. Finally the darkness behind his closed eyes resolves into the image of Mashaar, sitting at her desk, working at figures. Suddenly Abd draws forth a knife and stabs her in the chest. She falls back, a look of great surprise on her face, and Abd glances to one side to see — himself, Abd al-Rashid, in the mirror that stands in her office.
Greatly troubled, Abd wakes.