Pathfinders of Qadira by Ted Thompson

Suri’s Chapbook

22 Pharast 4709 AR
The Inner Sea

As I begin this new journal, I am on my way back to Qadira. There are those who think I don’t wish to return, but I am looking forward to working there once more.

Our ship has made good time and I will be in Katheer within a day. Once in port, I plan to take a room at Baqiya’s Inn. Hopefully I will be able to obtain a decent night’s sleep away from the rocking waters of the sea. I will then meet Mansoor after I have had a chance to rest. I will do my best to make amends for the past.

23 Pharast 4709 AR
Katheer

This was not the Katheer I was expecting! I pride myself on being self sufficient, but I never thought I would run to Mansoor’s house so soon after my arrival. I have stopped in a small coffee house so I may quickly record the first part of this day’s events.

By morning’s light, we traveled south along the Saray Coast from the north, heading to Katheer. Though this was the quickest route, we ran the risk of ambush by Taldor pirates. Fortunately our captain knew to fly a flag of Absalom, which has always remained neutral in the feuds between Taldor and Qadira.

Once we reached the mouth of the Pashman River, the captain turned the ship east and had his men put the oars down so they could row upstream. I forgot how magnificent the canyons of this river were, but they were quickly overshadowed by something far mightier: great fortresses of stone jutting straight up in the middle of the river. These were not actual fortresses, but water-sculpted divides, which the Qadirans hollowed out and fitted with hoses that shot fire at invading ships below. Any ship that comes by these in a time of war had better hope they aren’t the enemy. Above, ballistae of immense size overlooked the canyons ready to let loose on anything that flew or floated. The river’s security didn’t stop there either, for towers lined the canyon cliffs and flying carpets whizzed above even higher still. The layers of armament that defend that river are truly awe-inspiring. When I saw the massive Qadiran warships, I had to shake my head. Then, I remembered that the Kelish Empire ruled by spectacle and inconceivable power. This river was just a small demonstration of that skewed philosophy.

As we pulled into port I could smell the camels. We have camels in Absalom, but nothing like this. Their manure and the blistering heat create a horrible stench. You would think that such a baking would just dry their leavings like clumps of dirt, but it seems to magnify the rancid smell. In places, the flies are so thick they look like clouds of black smoke.

The last time I came to Qadira I brought several crates of materials and provisions. Mansoor laughed uncontrollably during that first meeting. When I came to his door for the first time, he could not believe that I had rented 10 slaves to carry my cargo. At the time, it seemed like a good idea to have all my excavation tools available, but that was short lived when everything was stolen.

On this journey, I have brought just the one backpack. Setting foot on dry land, I made my way from the labyrinth of docks Qadira prides itself for and made my way to the familiar city I remembered.

When I reached Baqiya’s Inn, several children surrounded me and attempted to grab whatever hung from my pack. Luckily I had tied everything down, and they eventually gave up. It was very disconcerting to see their parents standing on the curb watching their own children do their dirty work for them. The town guard must have stopped patrolling the area since my last visit at the Inn, which I was also surprised to learn, had become a brothel! So much for being a self-sufficient Pathfinder.

I am now forced to meet Mansoor, and it is getting late. I thought I knew this place. I may not have forgotten Katheer, but it seems Katheer has easily forgotten me.

23 Pharast 4709 AR
Katheer, The House of Mansoor Sorush

I am at last resting in Mansoor’s house, but the thunder and lightning outside keeps me from falling asleep. I am glad this night is nearly behind me, because I truly dreaded meeting Mansoor again.

When I arrived at Majeer’s tent of Exotic Weaponry and Antiquities, I realized they were closed for the night, so I went behind, to Mansoor’s house. I stared at the door remembering the last time I had seen it, Mansoor had been screaming at me. “Never set foot in this house again!”

After considering several poorly worded attempts to say how sorry I was for the way things worked out, I simply knocked. I expected a cold reception; but Mansoor opened the door and smiled warmly at me. I was so surprised at this that I smiled back easily and without thought. He invited me in and showed me around.

Things had changed. I was completely spellbound by the new additions of ancient relics adorning his walls. Though they were neither magical nor notorious, I could see their value. Mansoor’s house has become a gallery of ancient art. There were a few pieces in particular that I could have studied all night but Mansoor literally pulled me away.

He took me through a long hall to his lavish new study. My mouth dropped open as I took in the room. The artifacts, maps, hunting trophies, certificates and medals that filled the room dwarfed everything I had just seen. I turned to Mansoor and commended his success with all sincerity.

Mansoor graciously accepted my praise and then left me alone for a moment. He soon returned with a tea set neatly organized on a tray. “I usually make just a small pot for myself, but I made extra in case you stopped by tonight”, he poured two cups and offered me one. As I held the cup closer to my lips, I was surprised to see the ancient engravings on the cups. Mansoor noticed my shock.

“We found this entire tea set in the Royal Naefsta’s burial chamber. Believe it or not, it was meant for his cat to drink from, somewhere in the great beyond.”

I laughed. This was a tea set fit for a Taldor king, not a king’s cat. I shook my head at the story and raised the teacup to my lips once more. It had been a long day and I hoped to gain strength from the kay leaves that lay within.

As we sipped our tea, Mansoor and I shared a moment of silence. I glanced around the study and noticed a small painting of his daughter. I quickly looked away, hoping Mansoor hadn’t noticed, but he had. I drew a breath knowing I could finally say something about the terrible event that led to our parting, but Mansoor spoke first.

“Do you want to be here in Qadira?”

I stopped and thought about his question before I answered, “Yes, I do want to be here.”

“Good,” he said looking relieved.

“I am sorry for what happened between your daughter and me. I have wanted…”, but Mansoor raised his hand and cut me off in mid-speech.

“The past is done, I should have used more discretion with my daughter. Your age, her age, I was that age too, once. I should have been ahead of things, but I was preoccupied, as always. I put you both in a situation where temptation was possible. But…Anadira is married now. All is well. So let us move ahead and forget the past.”

Mansoor studied me for a moment before he spoke again, “Suri, I will be moving out of this place soon to one of the richest houses in Katheer. The clientele that I sell to demand it, so, I am going to deal exclusively in fine antiquities and leave the exotic weapons trade to my brother, Majeer. All these operations that I oversee in Qadira are creating quite a market for artifacts, non-magical of course. I have a reputation, and the richest in Katheer demand I meet them in more tidy conditions. My dreams are coming true, I suppose.” Mansoor looked around the room as if it were somehow hollow in its glory and breathed deeply.

(featured in Wayfinder, Vol. 1)

Pathfinders of Qadira continues in Part 2