After finding shelter from the afternoon sun blazing in the sun, the heroes took a short rest in the refuge of some rock outcroppings and boulders in the desert. Once they awoke, they looked to sky to see the sun setting in the west and welcomed the coolness of the desert night air. Just as they were about to break camp, from out of the rocks to their east walked a familiar figure, his frame that of a half-orc, but his beard unmistakably dwarven.
“Exelmort!”, exclaimed Kildrak and Targrim, and greeted the brief companion they had fought with in the Manor. “How did you get here?”.
Exelmort exaplained how he had fled from the giant statues that started to attack him and ran through a door with a brass handle, locking it behind him so that they would not follow (the party sighed at this). Shortly after, he explained, he as well with his powers of sneakyness found the hidden door that led to the portal to Calimshan. Since then, he has been aimlessly wandering in the desert trying to avoid the heat and strange beetles, taking refuge behind what rocks and caves he could manage. He then saw the party camped near him after awaking from an afternoon nap.
Kildrak introduced Xelmort to Merkin and Emere, and explained what they were doing here and that the city on the horizon was Almraiven, last refuge from the warring Genasi in these parts. Also home to Merkin’s grandmother, Nira Ganillin, who is also Gimaelior’s aunt. After some more chatter, the party packed up and started to move out of the rocks and towards the open desert and Almraiven. Just as they were passing through the largest rock outcrop, Targrim thought he saw part of the rock ahead of him shift. No sooner had he said something to the party than surely, before their eyes, the group witnessed a large chunk of the rock detach itself from the whole and shift slowly towards them, with what seemed like abstractly shaped granite fists raised above it’s craggy mass! Battle was upon them yet again.
Emere shouted, “Earth elemental. watch out!”
with deliberate movements, the party relentlessly bashed away at the earthy foe, only to several times have him knock them on their backsides as it stomped the earth, and then meld back into the rock. Only after what seemed like eternity did Targrim land a shattering blow with his craghammer, reducing the creature to rubble. No rest in the desert it seems, they all thought to themselves as they moved beneath the starlight towards the awaiting walls of Almraiven.
As they approached the magnificent high-walled city of Almraiven, he party noticed how heavily defended it seemed. With 40 foot walls topped with towers and archers patrolling the parapets, it did not seem like there was any chance of fighting their way in. They would have to rely on their wits and hope that Merkin’s grandmother being a resident held some influence.
“Halt!, who goes there?”, shouted a guard as they approached the entrance to the northern gate.
The party slowly approached and exclaimed that they were travellers seeking refuge from the harsh desert and that they were here on friendly terms. However, once the guards saw Emere, they all simultaneously drew their swords.
“Genasi, what business have you here? This is a free kingdom and we will allow no men of Almraiven to be enslaved by your cruel race!”
At this the party nervously shifted and Targrim and Kildrak wondered if it was wise to be travelling here with a Genasi. Emere then, very diplomatically went on to explain how he was not in support of the slave trade or the war, and how he had been working with the Janessare in the Marching Mountains to help disrupt the slave caravans and once again return Calimshan to the noble empire it once was, full of diversity and flourishing with trade and arcane study. He added that he was merely interested in the great libraries of the School of Arcane Hands, and the Brother’s Arcane. While this was happening, Kildrak ever so un-slyly approached one of the other guards and slipped a black pearl into his hands, hoping to gain entrance by other means. Upon seeing this transaction, the Captain gave the guard a look that said, “that will go in my pocket when we are done here”. The Captain seemed to believe Emere though did not lower his weapon and asked the other travellers why he should allow them to enter the city gates. At this, Merkin stepped forward and explained how his aunt Nira Ganillin lived in the city and if they would only dispatch a messenger to her she would vouch for them. The captain, knowing the old gnome family of which Merkin spoke did indeed dispatch a runner with a message, and added to the heroes,
“Very well, wait here and we shall see what fortune your future holds”.
While the party was waiting, Kildrak motioned to the Captain of the guard to come closer at which point he slipped another gem in his hand, giving him a wink and a nod. The guard captain smirked, thinking to himself, “Well at least this dwarf knows the way of commerce in these lands”.
Within the hour the messenger returned followed by an older gentlemen holding a lantern. Merkin recognized this man as Oliver, an elderly human who had served the Ganillin family for close to a century. This sight boded well for them, Merkin thought. After the messenger conversed with the Captain of the guard, the Captain spoke.
“Very well, it seems Nira Ganillin has vouched for you and wishes you to accompany her servant to her home at once. However, all presence of Genasi must approved by the great Weave Pasha, ruler of our fair realm. We will arrange an audience in the morning, and until then, you will be escorted under armed guard and not let out of our sights for a moment.”
At this, the gate to the city opened and the heroes, greeted by Oliver and accompanied by armed guard, made their way into the fabled city of Almraiven, oldest home of magic in all the Realms. As they travelled through this strange world, sights and sounds unknown to most of them filled their senses: strong spices, veiled women walking slyly by, some men with snakes wrapped round them playing flutes and other strange instruments. Even at night, the city seemed very lively, though everywhere they walked, Emere drew stares from the mostly human population, and whispers close behind. The party slowly walked behind Oliver, and eventually made their way up towards the top of the city, to what seemed like a very wealthy district, and eventually to the house of Nira Ganillin, a small old gnome woman, who greeted them with fondness and after several hours of questions and teas, a place to sleep for the night. The heroes slept well.