A Troubled Economy

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So long, Assur! Hello adventure...
Into the desert to discover...?

Journal of Tuck Arbuckle

So my time as assistant Harbor Master has come to an end. Fernid Empator was useful, and together we lined our pockets (mine more than his). Unrest came to the city from some outside source. I am curious as to what it is, and have no good leads. For my part, I see that I can profit from it. I was able to squeeze a little extra gold here and there, but now the Church of Luce has offered 1000 crints to those who go on information gathering missions.

Fortunately, my wealth is very portable. I was able to sign up with a group of what seem to be the heroic or desperate-type…well most of them anyway. I know these missions must be quite dangerous. He who dares greatly, stands to make great gain! I have no ties to this world, and if I do not come back from this mission, no one will mourn me.

I have become fond of a young fellow called Sahil. He is not yet into his adult maturity, yet he has a striking humility coupled with very valuable powers. More than that though, he seems to have a child-like innocence and a good heart. He gives freely of himself. I must protect him on this dangerous adventure.

There are several more in my company. Most notably two aasimar. They are quite beautiful and both are armored and armed like champions. They don’t talk much, but they are eager for battle.

There are a pair of men from a land called WA. I’ve heard of this land. One of them, Danjo, chafes at the mention of his family, and I think he must be banished from his own land, or he fled from the law. Either way, his emotions lie just below the surface of his thoughts. Danjo has a servant named Sheeno. He is a quiet man, who rarely speaks. I will try to befriend him, so I can learn more of his past and what path he presently seeks. It is odd that he should set aside his own ambitions to follow Danjo. For now, both these men are mysteries to me.

On Elesias the 9th, we went to an outfitter’s station and we hired a fellow to tell us what equipment to take. He seemed very knowledgeable of the desert and we followed his guidance, purchasing sand tubes, long tent spikes, extra steel bands for our barrels, whale fat and dried dates. We went back into Assur and I treated my new companions to fine wine and fine food. It seemed like a good way to cement our partnership and build some bonds of trust among us. My life may be in these very folks’ hands soon.

We left on the 10th, taking two camels and I purchased a mule. We plodded along in the dark, thanking Adama for respite from the harsh sun, and for two days all was well.

On the twelfth, a fierce rainstorm occurred in the mountains. Enalda, one of the aasimar, predicted it the day before. Soon the torrential rains became a flood, and our beasts were toppled by the onrushing water. My trusty mule lost it’s footing and I was waist deep in the mud momentarily until he scrambled to his feet and I got back on. I was ever so thankful for the beast!

Some supplies were destroyed by the flooding. When my mule went down some of my make-up was destroyed. The barrels holding our supplies all broke, but Sahil repaired them all. I must reward him. As he does not value wealth, I’m not yet what he would value. Sahil also replaced the water!! Such a boon, that one is!!

On Elesias 13th, we came upon some toppled wagons and were ambushed by three hobgoblins and a bugbear. I put one hobgoblin to sleep. My other allies slew a hobgoblin and the bugbear and the remaining hobgoblin fled. I was forced to give chase and I killed it. We have survived two threats, to our lives already! What could possibly go wrong from here?

I’m anxious to get to the town we are heading to. I can’t wait to “pick up a few things.” Hahahaha!

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Journey to a New City

These past few days have been rather exciting! We stepped off the ship from Lath and entered Assur. The docks were filled with merchant and cargo ships. More than I’ve ever seen! Setibyr and I went to the market and shopped for a few essential items for the new climate before we found a place to stay for the night.. Lodgings and dinner was far more expensive than I anticipated, but I heard that the situation in Assur was driving costs upwards. Our room was at a place called The Kraken’s Afterbirth. It certainly wasn’t a name you’d hear in Lath! Setibyr did much better than I expected in the new city. I suspect part of that is from the anonymity. No one gave us a second glance or came too close. Part of that was probably from the heat. Part if it was probably from the variety of folk that were milling around the city. For once, we did not stick out.

The next day, we went to the temple of Lucha. Even though we arrived early, the lines were long. I was prepared to wait, but some priests from the temple came out and started separating us all into groups based on our skill sets. So many of the others had real combat experience, and I was a little embarrassed to admit that our fighting was mainly in settle a few brawls in the tavern. Oh well, I’m sure there’s still plenty of time to get that kind of experience. I’ll probably be sick of fighting long before I’ll be free of battles. I can hold my own in a fight, but I don’t take as much pleasure in it as Setibyr does.

Once we were inside the temple, I was greatly impressed by the symbols and the power I could feel from the very stones of the building itself. I’ve prayed to Lucha for so long, but this is the first time I’ve been in her temple. The priest who brought us inside offered us a job seeking information and offered to advance us part of our pay. We were paired with some other foreign fellows. Before we left the temple, I took the chance to pray to the Goddess. I asked her for healing for Setibyr and guidance on our trip. I am not sure that it will be what Setibyr needs to heal, but I prayed that the taste of battle would quench his thirst for revenge. I did not pray as long as I had wanted, but I trusted that we would be back and I could spend more time with the Goddess. We had some money left from when we left the tavern, but we supplemented it and bought a little more hot weather gear before meeting back up with our new work companions.

Our comrades had made the acquaintance of a Hinn, and we were offered a job for the night to guard a warehouse. The building had a form of magical cooling, so we spent the night in relative comfort and made a little money at the same time. The next day we formally accepted our assignment and set to completely outfit ourselves for our desert trip. A very helpful man looked over our gear and gave us pointers to help us survive. After a few more purchases and significantly lighter coin purses, we decided to leave at dusk. Travelling by the heat of day would be suicide.

Our travel went pretty smoothly the first day. The worse we really encountered was boots full of sand. The next night of travel, however, would be far more trying. I spotted a storm blowing up on the horizon. Sure enough, shortly before dawn the downpour came. What would have been a heavy rain in Lath was a dangerous torrent in a desert. There were no trees and no vegetation to slow the water and we were nearly washed away. I managed to dig my long sword in the ground and hold myself steady, but in the end we lost some rather important supplies. I am glad no one was gravely injured, but it was quite disheartening to have our trip start off with such a loss. Setibyr handled the sudden rainfall wonderfully and did not even slip! I fell in the water and got a good dousing. I suppose it was one way to get the sand out of my clothes!

Once the rain stopped and we fixed what supplies we had left, we continued on as the temperature was much more conducive to travel. We came upon some overturned wagons and approached slowly. They might have some of the information we went sent out to retrieve! What luck would it be if we had what we were looking for only two days into our trip! Before we could get too close, we were attacked by three particularly gruesome hobgoblins and a bugbear. Setibyr approached them right away, showing a confidence I rarely saw from him. He went directly after the bugbear, and I followed. We made short work of him and suffered not even a scratch! I am proud that he was so confident, but his willingness to go directly into battle worries me slightly. I hope that he won’t let his desire to fight cloud his judgement.

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The Holy Orphan of the Ormpe Trashpickers

From the travelogue Shaar and Beyond by Loducius the Laughing, in the chapter entitled “The Holy Orphan of the Ormpe Trash Pickers.”

“My principal reason for visiting the mining town of Ormpe was to catch a glimpse of the famed Curna emeralds. These gems – harvested from the nearby mountains by the wealthy dwarves of the Gemstone chaka and cut in Ormpe by the town’s sizable population of gnomish gemcutters – were found nowhere else and I was eager to see them. However , it was not the gems, regardless of how exquisite I indeed found them to be, that most occupies my memory of that town; rather, it was the sprawling squalor of ramshackle homes that festered outside the city walls, and within that dilapidated slum, the singular child I met during my sojourn.

“Here, in what had come to be called The Quarter of No Hope, I experienced poverty unlike any I had witnessed in this most prosperous nation. Here, I was greeted by a sullen, taciturn people, far different than the warm and curious folk I had met elsewhere in this tolerant and hospitable land. This was a community broken by poverty. That I should find such desperation in a town whose singular wealth had catapulted the leader of the Gemstone chaka into the nation’s High Council posed a mystery I was particularly motivated to solve. My initial inquiries, however, yielded few results. Few among the downtrodden residents proved willing to communicate with an outsider such as I.

“Nonetheless, I was able to assemble at least a general explanation of the poverty I encountered here: The economic boom that had been precipitated by the Curna emeralds has attracted laborers from across the Shining Lands and beyond. Few of these arrivals, however, found profitable work. It was rumored that the mining jobs that these migrants, largely of human stock, had come to claim were instead granted only to dwarves. Gem cutting also was granted largely to the town’s gnomish minority. Consequently, the humans who had sold their worldly wealth to migrate here found few opportunities for gainful employment, and so ended up among the town’s most desperate.

“With this knowledge, at least, the mystery of the unexpected poverty I encountered in this town was solved, but another mystery, far more intriguing, arose during my search, especially during my inquiries among the younger residents of the Quarter. Time and again, they, in their own broken dialect of the common tongue, referred me to a certain Sahil, an individual to whom they attributed various wonders and no small amount of wisdom.

“It seemed that the rapid growth in wealth among the city’s more privileged residents had given rise to a sprawling dumping grounds outside the city walls, near the Quarter of No Hope, in which the region’s newly rich had dumped many of their old, worn possessions in deference to their newly acquired luxuries. And here, children, many of them orphans either in fact or in practice, picked among the discarded possessions of the newly prosperous, hoping to find something that still retained enough value to trade for food.

“Among these child trash pickers, this Sahil individual had attained the status of something like a holy man. Or so I assumed him a man, until I fully parsed the Durpari phrase by which they referred to him: Roughly translated, he was child saint, or more literally, holy older brother not yet reached adulthood.

“In the end, I did not find this Sahil. Sahil, rather, found me.

“It was on my third day of inquiry regarding this holy child that a single songbird alighted upon my path. Many such birds I had witnessed flitting among the refuse of the Quarter, but this particular specimen possessed feathers of purest white and glowed with a vibrant health to rival his ragged kin. And when this unusual creature furthermore spoke a single word in the common tongue, I could not refuse.

“‘Follow,’ it trilled, before it took wing. I followed. How could I not?

“The bird, I later learned, was named Pak-Pak, a common name for such avian pets among the Durpari. But this particular Pak-Pak I followed with an inspired zeal, as he flew through narrow alleyways, one after another, until he returned to find his home in a tiny birdhouse of thin, patinated copper. This tiny birdhouse was lashed to a frayed rope belt, and that belt was tied about the waist of a boy who had seemingly not yet reached his fourteenth year.

“His eyes, however, seemed decades older. He sat upon a half-broken chair of carved rosewood, an object that might have fetched a few coin in mint condition, but now, compared to the ascendant wealth of whatever dwarven emerald miner once owned the thing, was rendered nearly worthless by comparison.

“This child on a broken throne, this was Sahil, I knew it.

“His robes were tattered, dirty, and beneath them, I noticed something like armor, made of scraps of leather sewn together by tiny hands, and reinforced with cheap copper coins affixed with needle and cords of sinew. More curious, however, was the mace that he wielded like a scepter. This iron thing, almost certainly stolen from some abandoned temple and wrenched from the grip of a forgotten idol, was forged to encompass on each of its four sides the visage of what I assumed was some Durpari deity or hero or another. To certain buyers of antiquities, I’m sure, this scepter would still retain some value, despite having been rusted almost beyond recognition.

“But this was not my query. I simply wanted to know: Who was this child saint of the Ormpe trash pickers? For a ten-day, I sat at his feet asking questions, and found at least some answers to my queries. But mostly I found a child ignorant of his own power and influence. I witnessed children bringing to Sahil stale loaves of the local flatbread, having already begun to become spotted with mold. And Sahil, with a gesture and a brief prayer, erased the spoilage with the ease of an innkeeper wiping a tavern’s drink-spotted counter. I saw children approaching with empty pitchers, and again, I saw Sahil touch the pitchers’ rims with a whispered prayer and the things fill to the brim with clean, potable water.

“Now, I had seen such minor miracles performed by numerous priests from here to Waterdeep, and I had no doubt that clerics dwelt here too in these lands for whom such feats were a trivial effort. This child was no proper priest, it was certain. Even the raiment and accoutrements of this child, his tattered robes and makeshift armor and rusty mace, seemed a mockery compared to the merest acolyte in even the most modest temple. And yet, among the urchins of Ormpe, this Sahil was regarded as a saint.

“It became apparent over the weeks I spent among them why this was the case: Priests indeed came to visit the Quarter over those weeks and many other goodly individuals besides. The Hin of the local Baker chaka came to distribute their unsaleable day-old goods among the hungry, and even a few properly trained priests passed through long enough to assuage their consciences.

“But few dwelt here for any meaningful duration, and the poor of the trash heaps treated all of them with skepticism and distrust. Sahil, however, was one of their own, an orphan of Ormpe. His miracles, however meager, were homegrown, without the pretense of pity or self-indulgent sacrifice, and so the others in the Quarter held them in high esteem.

“Sahil himself seemed reluctant to answer any personal questions. Instead, he spoke mostly in cryptic sayings and rambling parables, as if trying to imitate the wisdom of properly educated priests. But over several weeks, I did manage to tease out a few pertinent facts about his history.

“His family, like most residents of the quarter, had moved here in search of work, but they had succumbed to the slum’s despair. His father had turned to the cheap but strong drink plentiful in such neighborhoods as these. His mother had turned to despondency. The father disappeared, in the end, and Sahil’s mother disappeared within herself.

“From what I had been able to prise from Sahil, his mother still dwelt here in Ormpe, but he was unwilling to speak of her. When I inquired further about his family, he seemed to grow annoyed, until he at last gestured to the children who had assembled before him. ‘These little birds,’ he said, ‘These are my mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers.’

“I did not press him further on the matter.

“The next day, I departed. In the marketplace, I had encountered a Calishite merchant bound to Pyratar. My purse had grown light through my travels, so when he offered me passage on his dhow for a modest fee, I could hardly refuse. Had I time and coin enough, I would have investigated more thoroughly the mystery of the Holy Orphan of Ormpe, but the exigencies of travel forbade it.

“I worried that Sahil might be offended by my sudden departure, but, as our dhow departed the dock in Ormpe, a certain thrush alighted upon the taffrail. ‘Come again,’ he chirped, ‘Come again.’ I laughed heartily at this cheerful bird. If the gods will it, I shall indeed return one day to Ormpe.”

~

An excerpt from the later correspondence of Loducius the Laughing, in a letter responding to a reader of his travelogue Shaar and Beyond

“… In response to your latter query, I did indeed return to Ormpe, some three years after I penned my initial account. I did not, however, find any trace of the Holy Orphan Sahil.

“It seems that, after my departure, tensions had arisen between the young denizens of the Quarter of No Hope and the merchants of Ormpe. These tensions began at first with a series of minor incidents: a mango snatched from a street vendor’s stand, a hole cut in the bottom of a purse in a crowded market, events that seemed relatively insignificant to me and common enough, especially in a town of such disparate wealth. But as I observed often in my travels in the Shining Lands, the famed tolerance of this region did not extend to sins of trade and commerce. For such crimes, there was little forgiveness.

“As the merchants of the town grew impatient with these offenses, minor thefts quickly gave way first to scuffles and soon to more violent altercations, and the ruling Gemstone chaka was eager to put an end to such disruptions in the marketplace. Moreover, the dwarves were eager to find some cause for the urchins’ newfound audacity. To this end, they could find no better scapegoat than the child preacher Sahil, who held such sway among the town’s younger poor.

“In a torch-lit assembly in the dead of night, the town’s Nawab, that is, its chief merchant and de facto ruler, prevailed upon his appointed judges to condemn Sahil for conspiring to interfere unlawfully in the free trade of goods. They agreed, and since Sahil possessed precious little in material wealth, they determined also that seizure of his property would affect him little. Instead, he would be taken into custody and deprived of his freedom.

“Fortunately for Sahil, his young disciples, his ‘little birds’, had already caught wind of the Nawab’s efforts, and when the town guards came to seize Sahil early that next day, they found him already gone.

“It seems that several bands of mercenaries had passed through Ormpe in recent days, responding to a call out of Assur for individuals willing to help them quell some troubles they had experienced there of late. Sahil’s disciples, having already heard rumors of the trouble that was to come for Sahil there in Ormpe, prevailed upon him to offer his services as healer to one such band and thus secure safe travel out of the reach of the local Nawab.

“Sahil was reluctant to leave, I was told, wishing rather to face arrest than to abandon those whom he called family. But when he could no longer bear the tears of his followers, who had no desire to see him bound in chains, he conceded to their pleas and departed without further objection.

“With this, I heard no more of the Holy Orphan of Ormpe. I can only hope that whatever god or gods he worshipped – and I confess I never wholly understood the nature of his faith – guided him to a new calling and a good end. Perhaps his later adventures will someday too be recorded, but as of my last visit, I could find neither rumor nor trace.

“I apologize that I cannot provide a more satisfying response to your query.”

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The Sands of Money

1372DR, Eleasias 10th
3508MC/2622SY/1446KC/1790WA/1586TR/1347CR/340NR

Desert_people.jpg

The Shining Lands comprised of Durpar, Estagund, and Var the Golden have recently been assailed by economic turmoil. Rumors abound that a vast brigand army, military excursion by Veldorn into the Shining Lands, naval skirmishes with the Dambrathan navy, and even more horrifying possibilities have begun to interrupt trade from Assur in Durpar, through Estagund. Whatever the reason, which as of to date is only speculation, the economic impacts are real.

Within the last ten-day, stragglers, claiming to have barely survived attacks by brigands, and strange beasts of the hills and high-desert, have crawled back to the relative safety of Assur. Trade has halted between Assur and Lastarr, the first and a major trade city-state along the Great Trader’s Way. No messages, passed to the public, have come from naval forays and scouting to determine from the ocean what may be transpiring in that realm. One thing is for certain though: the life blood of the most free, economically independent, and strongest economic empire in the world has had a massive strike at its foundation!

Speculation runs rampant at the thought of the impact rippling through the region, but the truest of reasons rings louder than any other: survival. The comforts of living in such a wealthy, thriving land as the Shining Lands is that practically anything is at your fingertips. Thus, little is ever planned for in consideration of a ceasing of access to luxuries, let alone necessities. The immediate impact has been an increase in prices, somewhat sharply when it comes to weapons, dry foods, and magical tools for around the home, to keep them cool and comfortable. Like the smell of a rotting corpse in the Golden Desert, the smell of fear has become palpable, if for now, contained by social custom to maintain appearances.

Another unusual occurrence has been a recent assumption of focus for efforts to discover and eventually, combat, whatever is leading to the economic woes of the region. The Church of Lucha has recently erected dozens of criers posts through the city of Assur, and posted on them are offers of employment, and significant compensation. The offer of lucrative employment opportunities, especially during such worrisome times, has attained a booming response from the public. Like bread lines seen in major cities with hostiles run by Ilmater, countless people have lined up to seek employment. So many in fact, that small tent cities have been erected just outside the walls of Assur to house the many people who ran out of money to stay in city due to rising prices, and those very people stand in the blistering heat, in line at the Temple of Lucha, to gain audience and hopefully, great fortune.

In the meanwhile, trade has effectively come to a halt. While certainly the sea lanes would seem plausible as a means of transportation, the shock of something causing so much economic standstill in these lands of all lands, has made all but the most…….foolish perhaps……seek to avoid any travel for fear that way may be plaguing the lands, may plague the oceans and seas. Travel out of the area by land or sea, when it pertains to an escort or vessel, has risen in price by orders of magnitude.

Regardless of the rumors, innuendo, and fear that have been on the rise, something much more ominous is readily apparent:

The conditions economically and socially, are being strained. While the government appears to be taking action, no one is certain whether it will be successful or not.

To that end, with limited resources available, transportation being prohibitively expensive, and reports indicating that travel on one’s own is incredibly dangerous, if not impossible, two things seems abundantly clear:

Time is ticking and options are running out for what could be massive social unrest in the not so distant future.

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