13th Voyage

34 - The City of Flame

The tale of a magical and perilous port.

Harida brings the venturers to a dock where a two-masted xebec awaits, the Educated Virgin. “A common enough fantasy, I suppose,” says the elven broker. She describes it as the inheritance of a second son, whose fortune turned for the worse, and who had to give up the ship and his business. “Not exactly a fable… but perhaps the moral to one.”

The venturers gather their crew, scarred and loyal to Mashaar, selected from the three principal ships of the Golden Venture Company. After a short period of negotiating seniority, the mixed crew agrees on a command, a half-northern sailor from the Dracosphinx, named Zinta. The crew easily adapts to the new xebec — temporarily rechristened the Petulant Parrot — but has difficulties adapting to one another. Those from the Twist of Fate complain that the others are insufficiently respectful, the Dracosphinx sailors call the others undisciplined, and the all-but-corsairs from the Rich Man’s Fear find their associates insufficiently flexible of mind.

Despite the minor sparks of dissension, the ship makes good time, especially with Aya directing the winds. She notes three clouds, like spearheads, coming together in a triangle on the second day, and marks it as a fine omen. By the third day, they come to the island of Izir.

The City of Flame sits on the edge of a great volcanic island, mostly mountain slope and coastal jungle. A perpetual cloud of smoke blots out the sun overhead, and slender towers topped with gemlike beacons jut from the harbor’s waters. Aya warns the others that the beacons are likely weapons as well as lamps, equipped to sear any intruding ships with hostile intent. Beyond they see the city itself, from the sooty lower districts to the finer neighborhoods higher on the mountain slope, marked with magical lampposts and the occasional tower topped with the sculpted sigil of a noted Ascending Flame wizard.

As they pass the outer beacons, a glowing will-o-wisp sails over the water and hovers aboard the deck. A voice comes from it, demanding that the vessel heave to and prepare to receive the harbor warden. Shortly thereafter, a small sailboat arrives alongside the Petulant Parrot. The harbor warden, a fussily groomed man with a perpetual sneer who is announced as Jairut al-Fedwar al-Izir, clearly expects both deferential fawning and a palm crossed with gold. He discovers a reservoir of humility when “Raisho” presents him with her diplomatic pouch. Jairut obligingly sees the Petulant Parrot to a swift docking, and asks “Raisho” to deliver his compliments to Nehedza the Shrouded Moon.

The venturers divide once on the Izirian streets. Wind-of-Embers notes flyers posted by the harbor speaking of a “Prismatic Flame,” in particular that they prominently feature a rune of her god Hakasarre. She splits away to investigate as the others pursue a rumor passed on from Captain Mara-Set. According to the Dracosphinx captain, a man called Khosa the Constrictor would be very sympathetic to their cause, and he can be found at the Burning Belly.

Attsu calls on the Hunter Jewel, naming Nehedza as his quarry. The jewel points him toward the lower-class Char district, and the venturers decide that she must be at her crematorium presently. They choose to visit the Char, where Attsu splits away and scouts the exterior of the one-level building in his metallic cat form. If any locals spot him, they seem to take him for a wizard’s familiar or servitor, and ignore him completely.

The others take a more leisurely tour of the Char district. Along the way, they recognize a pair of bickering voices — Siyeka and Rhuduum, the genasi last seen pursued by a storm-spirit and very likely dropped into the ocean. The two lackeys of Akhman al-Ifrim are arguing about a personage of the Prismatic Flame, and whether or not Siyeka should try to seduce him for his knowledge — or if she even could. The venturers carefully opt to avoid contact with the two genasi, and maneuver well past them.

After Attsu’s return and an exchange of information, they head for the Burning Belly. The parlor of entertainments offers wine, gambling, and a number of shows — including some exhibition wrestling matches. The house champion turns out to be Khosa the Constrictor, whom Aya and Kismet remember rescuing from transformation during the tale of the Emerald Monkey.

They meet with Khosa after the show, and he is most grateful to have the opportunity to be of use to his liberators. He says that he has no love for the wizards who govern Izir, and has many friends among the lower classes. He also notes that he has come to the attention of Nehedza, who gave him a pass-token to her tower and instructions to come by and visit some night after the eleventh hour. He offers the token to the venturers, if they are so inclined to use it. Noting that this likely indicates the necromancer’s hours in her crematorium, the venturers begin to work out their plan to rob her of the Dysian implements, and — if Abd has his way — her head.

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