And thus it came to pass that, be it by the work of the gods, something diabolical, or mere happenstance, a group of unlikely companions came to find themselves on a journey that would test both mind and mettle. For it was on this day that Orastes, a grizzled Gunderman soldier of many campaigns. . . Darvus, a mysterious Zamoran of quick wit and knife. . . and Ramla, a troubled Tribeswoman from the jungles of Southern Kush, came to find themselves in each other’s company. This all came to pass in the city of Shumballah, in the inner-walled section, El Shebbeh.
Orastes was serving as bailiff in the Court of King Arrakkamani I of Kush, having been delegated down the chain of command from his previous position of Captain of the Guards some six months prior. He had seemed to have fallen out of favor with the ambivalent King and his sister’s constrictive whispers, and was on this day serving his less-than-proud role of administrator of the guards of the Court as suspect after suspect was marched forward for the King’s draconic justice.
It was on this day that Darvus and Ramla, accused of thievery, eluding the King’s Justice, and disturbing the King’s Peace, were brought forth for inquisition. These outlanders received the same suspicious scowls from the King’s Court as they had from the denizens of Shumballah, and the King ordered that they be put to Death.
It was then that Betzallah, the perverse Royal Priest of Set in charge of the Temple District of El Shebbeh stepped forward, crooning his praises for the Queen Sister. His beguiling soothes convinced her to order her brother’s mercy upon the accused Zamoran and Tribeswoman, which was carried out instead. Little did any know that Betzallah had a plan for the two. . . and for Orastes as well…
They proved an unruly bunch, waiting for their opportunity to steal away from the bailiff and guards’ watchful eyes, prior to reporting to Betzallah’s chosen location for reveal of his plan. Orastes, never besmirching his honor, resisted the silver-tongued Priest’s cajoles to serve his dark requests. Darvus slipped away into the market district, eluding the guards and priests that were set out to find him. Ever the rogue, he talked and sneaked his way from the throngs of heavily armored soldiers, until he was seized and beaten a mere three steps from freedom. Ramla resorted to the survival tactics that had kept her alive in the jungles. . . sneaking and hiding but ever watching, the Dark Presence that plagued her ever scratching its nails against the walls of her mind. She, in the end, came willingly, when the voices became too much, and upon the promise of the Serpent Priest that he would assist her with that which plagued her.
While force and persuasion captured the two, Orastes would succumb to neither. He defied the Priest’s promises and threats, and when the Priest saw that nothing short of bloodshed or appeals to the King would bring Orastes to heel, Betzallah sought out the latter. The King, in all his Omniscience, dismissed Orastes without batting a sleepy eye.
And thus Together they came, for better or worse, to serve Betzallah, the High Priest of Set of El Shebbeh.
Jeremines, Chief Historian and Chronicler of the Historical Society of Tarantia.