Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ar: A Dream of Djinni

Continued from "Song of the Cockatrice."

The District of Djinn emerged entirely for one purpose.  A permanent gate to the elemental plane of air had been, somewhat inconsiderately, opened by an Archonian mage.  As a result of this action, inhabitants of that plane strayed into northern fringes of Ar, engendering some disconcerting encounters with human residents.  To solve the problem, the viceroy of Archon at that time offered to create a small island that could be used by both people, Alphatian and elemental denizens of air, as permanent ambassadorial grounds.  Thus was the District of Djinn created.

Mystara Alphatia Ar Djinn Map
Lower & Upper Djinn Districts -- Map Scale: 8 Miles per Hex
This new dominion includes a small strip of what used to be a part of Archon along the northern coast, along with the village of Pitch Banks.  In total, less than 10,000 Djinnites now live in the area, including 470  islanders.  The coastal lowland yields enough food for local consumption and actually exports part of it, usually pickled flying fish sticks and dancing giant crab legs, local specialties.  A tiny military force of slightly over 100 holds the village below (20) and the two embassies above (40 each).  To patrol the coast and Upper Djinn’s airspace, the force employs one small skyship, the H.H.M.S. Sky Fennec whose crew includes several individuals from the elemental plane of air.  Although few, these troops are well paid, well trained, and reliable.

At an altitude of 7,400 ft and about ten miles across, Upper Djinn rests beneath a weak force field that traps heat and humidity.  The temperature stays around 80°F (27°C) year round.  The semi-solid, porous dome allows slow-flying skyships through.  Upper Djinn looks like an oasis similar to those lost in the desert of Ylaruam, surrounded by a rocky ridge.  Under an intense, cobalt-hued vault, the land within features white to pale pink sand dunes, with a lake in the middle, ringed with swaying palm trees.  A slight breeze circles counter-clockwise around the island.  Predominantly turquoise, the lake turns entirely translucent depending on where an observer stands, making dhows plying its surface look as if they flew in mid-air.  It rains rarely on the island, and any snowfall outside melts on contact with the dome.  Condensation or infiltration streak down the sides of the force field, dripping past the rocky ridge.  The water then gathers under the desert’s surface to form a spring that feeds the central lake.


Lone towers and Ylari-looking abodes dot Upper Djinn.  They house families of land owners, Alphatians and denizens of the elemental plane of air who contributed to the island’s enchantments.  The Embassy of Ar, which stands on the northeastern shore of the oasis, also harbors an imperial consulate.  An elemental pasha referred to as Siadet Al Safeer (or Syadt Alsfeer), a greater djinni, dwells in the Embassy of Air, on the opposite shore, with a staff of thirty lesser djinn.  Also known as "The Cloud" (or Haroon of his Truename), Al Safeer represents a djinni kingdom lying on the other side of the gate.  The Alphatian embassy is the typical sort of wizardly palace, with slender towers, wide open bays, columns, statues, and enchantments galore.  The pasha’s embassy looks more like an Ylari palace, with onion domes, elaborate latticework engravings, mosaics, atriums, and fountains.  It floats on a small cloud, about 900 ft above the oasis’s shore.  Visitors on flying carpets can be seen frequently entering or leaving.

The magical portal levitates above the lake, halfway to the dome’s vault, and is large enough for small skyships to travel through.  Flying in or out of the magical gate requires approval of the pasha and either Ar’s ambassador (Her Highness Qiaa), or the imperial consul (His Highness Naberral).  The gate’s steel iris does not open without a certain scroll bearing all the appropriate diplomatic seals, which acts as a sort of passport.  Both embassies include landing platforms for the H.H.M.S. Sky Fennec or other visiting vessels.  Traffic from Pitch Banks includes freighters with supplies from the surface, exclusively headed to the Aran embassy or the various surrounding residences.  The pasha’s staff magically produce their own food which they often exchange with that of their neighbors for the sake of hospitality.  Ship traffic usually involves private vessels carrying dignitaries from other dominions or from Sundsvall, seeking business with His Highness Al Safeer.  All Alphatian business must be first approved by the Embassy of Ar or by the imperial consulate.  Qiaa and Naberral are highly unlikely to approve foreign missions through the gate, provided they even permit them on Djinn Island.

Access to the floating island is restricted to inhabitants or official business.  Merchant traffic must remain at Pitch Banks.  A possible way for a foreigner to gain access to Upper Djinn would be through a personal invitation by a resident, subject to ambassadorial approval.  There is no tourism on the island, but flying past its dome is tolerated as long as skyships do not loiter nearby.  Nocturnal flybys within less than 8 miles (or any other sort of concealed passage) are strictly forbidden.  If in doubt, boltmen aboard the Sky Fennec will shoot first, then ask questions.


Siadet Al Safeer (Haroon, "The Cloud"), Ambassador to Ar for the High Kingdom of Samaa, also known as Al Mamlaka Al Samaa.


Al Safeer is the cousin to the Queen of Samaa, otherwise known as Her Majesty Faiza Al Malikah Al Samaa.  The ambassador resents Faiza’s reign.  His openly mitigated attitude toward the monarch earned him the posting as a diplomat on the prime plane and as the “ruler” of no more than a palace on a tiny cloud.  This ambassage is tantamount to a banishment from djinni heaven.  Al Safeer chose to use his time secretly finding allies among Aran nobility who’d support his move to overthrow the queen.  In exchange for their help, Al Safeer promised many things—perhaps more than he should have—among which were magical knowledge about the element of air and native slaves presumably chosen from supporters of the defeated queen.  His djinni servants are loyal to his house, except one individual who spies for Queen Faiza and communicates of all information he can glean.

Al Safeer is instrumental in permitting “friendly” Aran aristocracy to visit his native world.  Though good-hearted, Djinn are cautious about outer planar travelers, especially the sort who arrogantly summon their kin through magic and bind them into service, however short-lived.  This disposition reflects Queen Faiza’s distant attitude toward Alphatians in general and Aran aristocracy in particular.

Appearance: Out of courtesy, Al Safeer takes an illusory human appearance when dealing with Alphatian visitors.  To his guests, he is a handsome, six-foot-tall man in his early forties with creamy skin, intense brown eyes, and short black hair.  A closely-trimmed beard outlines his strong chin.  Al Safeer’s dashing good looks attract admiring and envious attention.  As a greater djinni, he stands 9’ tall, with long black hair tied in a knot and a pale blue skin.  His favorite weapon is the Scimitar of Al Samaa, a huge weapon made for a nine-foot-tall owner.  Made of 21 folds of steel and having a hilt encrusted with gray pearls, the scimitar rests otherwise on a special stand never far from his hand.  He is an excellent swordsman and equally good with his fists.

AC-2, HD 15***, hp 70, MV 120’(40’)/360’(120’), AT 2 fists, or 1 scimitar, or 1 whirlwind, Dmg 3d10/3d10 or 4d10+2 or 3d12 + special, Save M30, ML 11, In 14, AL C.  Special Attacks (once per round): create whirlwind, create illusions, enter or leave the ethereal plane.  Special Defenses: invisibility (once/round), +2 or better magical weapon to hit, regenerates 1d3 hp/round, cannot be summoned by spell.  Other Special Powers (once/round): create food & drink, create metallic objects, create soft good or wooden objects; (and once per day) grant someone a wish, cloudkill, water to gas, and weather controlMagical Items: scimitar of Al Samaa +2/+4 vs. efreeti and fire elementals (provides Al Safeer with one attack inflicting 4d10+2 or +4 dmg).

Her Highness Qiaa Esq., Ambassadress for the Kingdom of Ar and Floating Ar, Acting-Viceroy of Djinn


Mystara Alphatia Ar Heraldry
The ambassadress, a high-born native of Empyrion in the Griffon District, is a fairly young aristocrat, as Aran diplomats go.  An ambitious and sharp negotiator, she attended both the prestigious School of Magic at Sundsvall and obtained a degree in magic law at the University of Eagret before obtaining employment at the Royal Palace in Skyreach.  During her time there she forged a good relationship with King Qissling and became a trusted advisor.  The king later assigned her the ambassage at Upper Djinn to handle Ar’s relation with Queen Faiza, to promote Ar’s interests, and to develop as much as possible the ability of Ar’s residents to visit the Kingdom of Samaa.

Her new duties bear the title of “acting-viceroy.”  The District of Djinn is peculiar in that it is partially shared with subjects of Queen Faiza, and a middle ground between the two realms.  As a result, there is no Sky Lord for the floating island, and the ambassadress handles general administrative responsibilities for the lowlands and Aran properties on Upper Djinn.  Her counterpart, Al Safeer, does the same for djinni assets on the floating island.  So far, all diplomatic issues have been resolved in an amiable and constructive manner, at least from Qiaa’s point of view.

The ambassadress frequently meets with Al Safeer.  The two get along awfully well—perhaps too well.  Qiaa, despite her businesslike demeanor, developed feelings for the handsome djinni.  In keeping with her main mission to further Ar’s interests and access to Al Samaa, she became a key player in Al Safeer’s political scheme.  The ambassador is well aware of her feelings but sees her as a romantic conquest he’d just as soon lock up in his harem.  Qiaa is a great source of potential allies in his endeavor, and so the djinni treats her and her liege royally.  King Qissling, coveting exclusive secrets about air magics, quietly encourages Qiaa’s liaison with Al Safeer, hoping for a marriage of convenience and a formal alliance should the outer planar envoy’s ambitions succeed.

Appearance: In her mid thirties and very good looking, Qiaa stands about 5’ 7”.  Her white skin, delicate nose and gently molded cheekbones, long blue-black hair, and celadon green eyes suggest ancient Alphatian ancestry.  Her movements are extended and graceful.  She wears the Gown of Al Samaa, given to her by Al Safeer.  With a stand-up collar behind her head and wide sleeves gathering into narrow, jade-studded cuffs, the robe’s translucent fabric reaches down to her ankles.  A string of pearls rings her chest, well above the waist at the point of a gentle V-shaped neckline.  Despite Al Safeer’s wishes, Qiaa retains beneath the gown a more austere and functional Alphatian outfit, a close-fitting emerald green tunic buttoned to its mandarin collar, narrow trews of darker green and black, and knee-high boots.

M16, AC4 (see bonuses below), hp30, MV 120’(40’), AT 1 dagger or spell, Dmg 1d4+2 or by spell, Save M16 (see bonuses below), ML10, AL N; St10, In17, Wi12, Dx12, Co11, Ch18.  Magical Items: Gown of Al Samaa*, ring of flying, bracers of defense AC 4, and a +2 dagger of banishment*.

Gown of Al Samaa: offered by Al Safeer to Qiaa, it confers her with protection from evil (as the spell).  Although it isn’t powerful enough to affect Al Safeer, it does prevent lesser djinn from touching her.  The robe also provides a bonus to AC and saving throws of +6 against water-based attacks, +4 against fire- or air-based attacks, or +2 against earth-based attacks.

Dagger of Banishment: if wounded by it, an outer-planar foe is automatically teleported back to its home plane (no save).  If already in its home plane, the foe must save vs. petrifaction or become paralyzed for 1d4+3 rounds.  If thrown, the dagger vanishes at the beginning of the following round and returns to its golden, bejeweled sheath.  Alternatively while visiting Al Samaa, Qiaa could prick herself for a point of damage to return to her latest residence on the prime plane.  It was given to Qiaa by her father when she received her commission to Upper Djinn.

His Highness Naberral, Consul General for the Empire of Alphatia in Upper Djinn


Mystara Alphatia Ar Djinn Heraldry
Poor, poor Naberral. . .  a man torn by love and duty.  The Consul General, a native of Aasla, was appointed to this post by order of Empress Eriadna, to watch over Alphatia’s interests in the Kingdom of Samaa.  Therein lies the seed of rivalry with the ambassadress.  To complicate matters, Naberral was smitten with Qiaa’s beauty the moment he first saw her, a sentiment she doesn’t share in the slightest.  In the course of his duties, he became well acquainted with Al Safeer, and perceived unmistakable clues about his liaison with the ambassadress.  The consul soldiered on despite his broken heart, hoping that somehow he’d find a way to conquer hers.

Nonetheless, wisdom compelled Naberral to worry about the ramifications of this affair and how it threatened imperial diplomacy.  He didn’t miss the fact that his requests to allow passage through the gate to aristocrats linked with Sundsvall were almost always denied, while Aran nobles well connected with Qiaa or King Qissling easily obtained access.  Through roundabout ways, a hint then came across the consul’s desk that Queen Faiza did not see Al Safeer in the best of light—far from it.  Equally troublesome, Naberral used his Robe of Intrigue (described below) to reveal a connection between the queen and an obscure servant of the ambassador.  The consul concluded the queen was spying on Al Safeer.  With the same device, Naberral also unveiled a growing network among Aran nobility connecting with Al Safeer far more frequently than legitimate business ought to suggest.  Thinking like a seasoned diplomat, he became convinced that the pasha was plotting something against his queen that almost assuredly implicated Aran aristocracy, and therefore the empire.  A few well-placed spies in Floating Ar confirmed the matter.  The thought that Queen Faiza might be aware of it all was beyond sobering.  It would explain her reticence to communicate with him despite his best efforts.

The consul knows full well that Empress Eriadna would never be a party to backing a coup against a peaceful monarchy, outer planar or not.  Not only is such an attempt very risky, but the empire would suffer a regrettable setback regardless of whether it succeeded.  If it did, Alphatia as a whole would be shut out for the exclusive benefit of Aran supporters.  If the coup failed, Queen Faiza would sever ties with the empire—seen as Ar’s “treacherous” liege—or possibly declare war.  And he, Naberral, would either be a lame-duck diplomat at best, or a scapegoat at worst.  And there we have it: the consul’s unfortunate conundrum of a soul torn between duty to the empire and his love for a delusional Aran ambassadress.  Despite it all, Naberral hopes to demonstrate to Qiaa that Al Safeer is using her, ending her exotic idyll and Ar’s perilous political adventurism before it is too late.

Appearance: In his early forties, Naberral conceals premature balding under an elaborate, curled black wig flowing past his shoulders to his back and chest.  Of coppery complexion and medium build, he stands between five and six feet tall, leading him to wear high-heeled shoes giving him a more regal stance.  To steady his walk, he relies on his magical staff, a slender, shoulder-high ebon cane with a silver knob at the top.  Naberral normally wears the Robe of Intrigue, a black, floor-length garment with ample sleeves, showing a subtle web pattern that can only be seen under the right light.  From his clothing and demeanor, one might think Naberral less manly than the norm, a first impression belied by angular facial traits, gray eyes, and a baritone voice as sharp as a blade.

M20, AC-1, hp34, MV 120’(40’), AT 1 staff or spell, Dmg 1d6+2 or by spell, Save M20, ML9, AL N; St11, In18, Wi16, Dx16, Co9, Ch12.  Magical Items: Robe of Intrigue*, spectral chainmail*, +2 ring of protection, and staff of power.

Robe of Intrigue: this garment can “tag” with an invisible mark a person in the presence of the owner.  The robe then tags anyone this person meets later on, and others these people encounter next, and so on, forming a never-ending diagram of connecting lines akin to a spider web.  The mental diagram only reveals to the owner the names by which newcomers introduce themselves to a previously tagged subject.  The robe does not reveal hidden identities, concealed natures, motivations, appearances, locations, time of day, circumstances, or what was said—just a name and the number of encounters if more than one.  Connections do not register at all if a tagged subject relies on a device or a spell to communicate remotely.  If a creature has no name, it is tagged as “unknown.”  The total number of tags is equal to the owner’s wizardly (or clerical) experience level, +1 per point of Intelligence.  A tenth level, 18 Intelligence mage would therefore be able to track up to 28 names with any number of interconnections.  Since the number of simultaneous tags is finite, the owner may “reset” his mental web of connections, or erase a part of it to allow another to grow.  There is no time limit on a tag so long as it isn’t erased, allowing later connections to appear.  A successful dispel magic cast on a subject will erase its name (along with any other downstream tags unless they connect with another valid part of the network).

Spectral Chainmail: it isn’t armor, but an elaborate enchantment upon oneself.  It consists of a force field that is weightless and does not impede the owner’s movements or spellcasting ability.  This protection is only visible for an instant as a ghostly suit of chainmail when stricken with force, such as a blow from a weapon or a fist.  It does not interfere with slow-moving objects.  Spectral chainmail confers its owners a basic AC of 5.


Special thanks to Janet-Deaver-Pack for her editorial contribution.

To be continued