Dark Days in Taladiq
As told by Farouk ben Raschid, a conman with a penchant for verbiage
Welcome, o traveller, to the Holy City of Taladiq! The shining city on the banks of the Great River; the City of Ten Thousand Gods; the source of ambrosia. Even if you have never visited this sparkling jewel of civilisation in the middle of the Sunsear Desert and are reading this tale from some less blessed location, I hope through my words to paint a picture of this most marvellous of places – of the Holy City itself, of its storied history, and of our group’s role in shaping that history. Yes! I, your author, have had the great honour to touch the destiny of such a place – but you will read more of that later.
For now, let me describe the city itself from the point of view of a visitor. You have come upriver from Ratport of course – only the rodens and the ambrosia merchants brave the barbarous elves who infest the mountains further upstream; the elves produce nothing of value, of course, but sing their songs to lure in lost travellers who are torn apart and consumed. If you should be travelling in the eastern reaches of the Sunsear and hear a song so beautiful it tugs at your soul… stop up your ears and turn west. To do otherwise invites certain death.
But forgive me! I have wandered far from the original path of my narrative. On your journey up the Great River you will have become familiar with the pounding heat of the Sunsear days and the bitter chill of its nights. You may have seen the ruins in the desert. You will have discovered the rats – rodens in their own language but rats in the common parlance – to be skilled sailors and shrewd merchants. You will have long since become used to the smell of dung fires, which I have been told are quite pungent to those who are unused to them. Hold these images in your mind as Taladiq edges over the eastern horizon, your barge making good headway against the current.
As a visitor to Taladiq you will first encounter the chaotic Outer City. This place will seem familiar to travellers, adventurers, and those who have seen some of the greater cities of this world – and indeed it is much like those other places. In the Outer City you will find bazaars, souks, coffee houses, inns, taverns, brothels, exotic storefronts that sell everything that can be dreamed of, cramped and filthy slums, well-to-do manors guarded by hard-eyed men in the livery of their various masters – in short, all the trappings of civilisation! What you will not find are temples – at least, not of the kind that you would recognise – although you will see the tattooed priests of the Ten Thousand Gods everywhere you look. But I shall speak more of them in a moment.
You will only experience this from a distance at first, however. The rats refuse to stop their barges anywhere but the Rat Quarter, that floating collection of lashed-together boats and rafts that drifts near the walls of the Inner City. They do this, of course, because it gives them the first opportunity to relieve an unwary visitor of his coin before he makes his way into the Outer City – however, it has the surely-unintended benefit of granting visitors their first view of the great walls that encircle the Inner City. Marvel at these towering bulwarks of stone! The walls were raised by some of the earliest guilds, gods and men working together for the betterment of all. From the Rat Quarter you can even see one of the gates – but do not be tempted to enter! Only members of a guild may set foot in the Inner City, for it is a holy place. Trespassers are beset by guards and gods and the giant intelligent jackals of the Inner City alike, and their swift death is certain.
On the subject of the gods: not for no reason is Taladiq known as the City of Ten Thousand Gods. All the business of the Holy City is done by the guilds, and to form a guild one must undertake a pilgrimage into the desert to find a god to become your patron – it has been the law ever since the city was founded. The small gods of the desert are always willing to become a guild patron; they crave the ambrosia that the masked merchants deliver from the mysterious lands beyond the mountains at the head of the Great River. The sultan takes possession of the ambrosia, and the guilds trade favours with the sultan and with each other to secure the ambrosia their god needs. In this way the gods are satisfied and the business of man is performed, one in harmony with the other.
This is why you will see no temples in Taladiq: every guild hall contains its own shrine, and most allow free access for those who come to worship. If you do visit a shrine it is customary to leave a donation – simply coming to gawk is frowned upon, and the gods themselves may take unkindly to those who do no more than stare.
Yes! In Taladiq you may look upon the face of your god, although doing so is not without risk. They reside in their shrines and walk the streets as they will – if you see one coming, whether it is a lesser god on foot or one of the greater gods in their litters and palanquins, it is best to avert your eyes and keep out of the way. Do not attempt to talk to one, for they communicate only with their priests. Do not attempt to interfere with their business, for should the god forbear to strike you down it is unlikely the devout citizens of Taladiq will be so forgiving.
A word of warning to the visitor: every year there are four holy days, during which the streets of the city are given over to the gods and the people remain indoors. There are no verified tales of what happens to normal folk should they venture outside on a holy day, although any storyteller of Taladiq can recite half a dozen gruesome or tragic legends that they will swear up and down are the absolute truth. Take these stories for what they are – cautionary fables and spine-tingling entertainment – and stay inside on the holy days.
I hope this overview of the Holy City properly sets the scene, for this is the backdrop for the drama that is about to unfold. It is two days after the last holy day. The broken coffers have been removed from the shrines, the gods sated for another season. Business has resumed. But no-one has emerged from the palace of the Sultan, and a dark crevasse has opened in the centre of the city, spewing dark fumes. Something dark happened on the holy day, and the city will soon be plunged into turmoil.
Characters – Writeups and stats of PCs and some NPCs.
The Campaign Log – A session-by-session writeup of what happened.
Lifepath Browser (contains the list of all the skills and traits from the character burner).