The Light of a New Day
Caliph Jaliah's Entreaty
[An incredibly clear illusory image fills the room. It shows the veiled but unmistakable figure of Calipha Jaliah bint Khalil al Zahir, with flowing black hair, blue silk pants, jeweled scimitars, and ruby over her forehead. She is standing in an intricate circle of blood and dust of some sort, obviously to focus her magic. She appears to be in an old, packed room that seems to be a storage room; there are crates of glassware and bolts of silk, jars of spices and honey. Light seems to be projecting from her ruby forward into a receptacle in front of her, and that receptacle is the point of view the room and she are recorded. Behind her is a solid door, with arcane runes in blood on it. The door is banging loudly, and clearly a person or people are trying to break it down.]
[Her eyes and voice seem desperate but strong as she speaks.] Hello. I am Grand Caliph Jaliah bint Khalil al Zahir, and I have been Calipha of Zakhara for three months. Tonight I shall die at the hands of the Purists, Vultures, and Zhenterium. I am investing my complete soul and life essence into this last spell, and pray to the Enlightened pantheon it is enough to make my death not be in vain.
[The door bangs and rattles more, and she glances back before continuing.] There isn’t much time, I’m afraid, so this will have to be more concise than I would prefer. This spell will serve as my last official act as Calipha to deputize to the original listeners as official agents of Zakhara and proxies of the throne. The spell will also serve as my official confession to the state and peoples of Zakhara. Finally, this spell will function as my updated will and testament. Of these three functions of the spell, I do swear authenticity thrice: I swear it, I swear it, I swear it. Ka-lords or ghul lords will be able to prove the veracity of the spell and the authenticity of my soul in doing this.
Addressing the first function of the spell: as outlined in bylaw 12C, paragraph 124, section 246 of Extensions and Provisional Powers of the Caliphate, I willingly and under no duress conscript royal deputies for the good of Zakhara. They are beholden only to me as Calipha, and in the event of my death, they are beholden to their interpretation of my final directions to them for the good of the Zakharan nation state. My directions to them are thus: remove the Zhenterium and Purist movement from power, see to it that any political or religious movements that propose drastic or sweeping changes to Enlightenment as we have practiced it for millenia do not come to pass, thwart the Elemental Shadow Kings, and protect my daughter.
[Her voice drops the monotone it picked up when she delved into the official legality, and her voice gains more life.] Good. Now that the legal groundwork is laid, I will briefly explain this spell, and segue into my confession. I am investing my full remaining life force and soul into this spell, and since Fate has granted me no small measure of power in the weaving of magic, it will be potent. I am trapping my soul, along with an illusionary recording of my final minutes, in this crystal decanter stopper. Since ka-lords can read the souls and feelings of others, I am designing this spell to only take effect in the presence of the first group of people who harbor no love whatsoever in their livers for the Vultures or Purists or Zhenterium. The spell will activate, activate this illusionary recording, and embed fragments of my soul into this group of people. They will then be my deputies, as described above. [She smirks slightly] Since I have found out about so many conspiracies surrounding me, I will call them Zahir’s Conspiracy.
[She takes a deep, shaky breath] I’m afraid I don’t know you, O Listeners, and that is a great tragedy. All I know of you is you have no love for the Purists or the Zhents, and hopefully that means you actually oppose them. If not, it is my hope I can convince you to oppose them. To address the elephant in the dunes: if you had no love for the Purists, that means you likely had no love for me, and yet I am beseeching you to be my agents. You may have no desire to help me, who you in all likelihood regard as an enemy. To this I say: I’m glad you mislike the Purists, and I’m glad you misliked me. What I’m asking you to do do isn’t for me, it is for Zakhara herself. I was a fool, and intend to confess why. If you hate me, then I do not begrudge you. I prostate myself and beg for forgiveness…[at this, she bites her lip, and actually sinks down to her knees and clasps her hands in front of her, something no recorded Caliph has ever done]… and if you can find it in your livers to forgive me my mistakes, then thank you. And if you cannot forgive me, then at least take the power I give you, the power granted by the official law of the land, and use that power against the official law of the land to heal Zakhara herself, reveling in the irony.
[The banging on the door intensifies, and even with the magical wards, slight buckles and splinters appear. She turns again to it on her knees, then back to face you.] There is so much to say and so little time. Let this lead into my confession and a confession of the Vultures. When my father died, it looked the choice would be clear. I expected to be told I would be the Calipha, as there were no other children that were known. Then Malik was named the Caliph, and I was shocked. I was a ka-lord, I was wise, and I suspected Malik was an elaborate conspiracy by those in power to run things as they wanted. Some preliminary magic indicated… conflicting things, but some of that conflict came from questionable heritage from Malik. I knew I was the Caliph’s daughter, and this is undisputed, and Enlightenment says our blood should sit the throne. If he was an impostor, the words of Enlightenment were being disgraced. I needed to sit the throne, as I knew I was the blood of Zahir. The Vultures were a petty but well-organized bandit group, and they had many well organized cells. They believed in me and approached me. I saw uses for them to attain my goals, so that the blood of Zahir could sit the throne of the land as it has done since the Loregiver. They evidently saw uses in me. I was welcomed to Vulture Mountain, and we spent two years planning the coup in as bloodless a way as possible.
We tasked a good-hearted and well-meaning group of adventurers to retrieve the ancient Arrow of Haqq for us, to dispel any illusion or enchantment. The arrow is true, but after what I have found out, I… I am no longer sure if it was the actual Arrow of Haqq. I know the adventurers retrieved the actual arrow, and I know they thought they fired it… but given the level of conspiracy and deception the Vultures have shown, I am concerned the deceitful Vultures they swapped the arrow out for a false arrow that did cast an illusion on Malik. O Divine Eight, what if I did lead a revolution on my actual half-brother?
But I mustn’t dwell on it. I do think it was the Arrow of Haqq, and I think there was much suspicious about Malik; I mistrust the Vultures, but I do not think they were capable of switching the arrow. That doesn’t excuse this war, however… better to have had a false Caliph than what followed. But I was blind and foolish, and Ash Caliph or no, the entirety of Zakhara saw that arrow shot. Some believed that he was an Ash Caliph, other believed the Vultures sent an elaborate illusion to besmirch him, and the War of Ash followed. I am so sorry. But time robs me of the ability to let words or actions show how sorry I am, so I must leave it at that. The simple truth is, I needed an guerrilla army to lead a revolution, so I chose the Vultures. The Vultures, in turn, needed more than well-trained and strategic bandits to win a war, so they turned to the Cities of the Pantheon and the Moralists for support. The Cities of the Pantheon had money and their holy warriors, but they in turn needed more money and supplies then they had to give the Vultures, so they, in turn, turned to the Zhenterium. The Zhenterium had everything: men, supplies, and magic. All they demanded was the living soul of Zakhara in return.
[The door buckles and splinters more, and the Calipha hurries her words.] I have learned of many conspiracies within the Vultures and Purists, with my magic and my few trusted spymasters. VERY few trusted spymasters, numbering one: Hariq Minusone. I had hoped to go into those conspiracies, but the life of that door is now but a few minutes at best. Some Purists and Vultures are good and well-meaning people, but the conspiracies run deep and rotten, and it is impossible to know the good from the bad without complex trickery and magic both. Know that these conspiracies amount to partnering with the Elemental Shadow Kings for immense personal power at the ruin of Zakhara, and changing the very foundation of Enlightenment to appease the Zhents and further please the Shadow Kings. My daughter will eventually be a sacrifice to this.
I have a list of known conspirators among the Purists, and my digging into their conspiracy is what hastened their attack on me tonight. It is not all of them, but there are no innocent men or women on that list, and so it is gold to friends of Zakhara and poison to them. It is, unfortunately, in my room at the palace, under much subtle illusion. One with my soul and voice must speak the words “Hakima guide me” thrice while the light of a full moon shines in the room in order to obtain the lists with no harm coming to them.
This is all I can manage in my confession, as I must now outline the will and testament while there is time. The legality of this change is documented in numerous court cases, the most famous being Al Sharad vs. Ibn Ackbar. I revoke my current will, as outlined and held in the Mosque of Jisan, and leave nothing to the House of Purists or the Moralist League of the Pantheon Cities. I leave 90% of my wealth, holdings, and titles - all of which are defined in the aforementioned will of the Mosque of Jisan – exclusively to my daughter, Saniyah. In the event of Saniyah’s death, I bequeath the wealth, holdings, and titles to no one, ordering that the lands are salted, they gold is melted and destroyed, the gems are ground to dust, the artifacts and unmade, and the titles dissolved. The further 10% of my will, earmarked in the will currently as Ancillary Wealth and Titles, will be distributed evenly among the original members of Zahir’s Conspiracy, provided they are instrumental in fulfilling the tasks outlined in my requested duties.
[An enormous crack splits in the door, and the hinges seem to be coming loose. The noise of screams and shouts are pouring through, and the door is clearly about to shatter as the magical wards give way. A look of relief seems to come over the Calipha.] And that does it. I wish I could give more, but that covers the strictly necessary elements. I am sorry to saddle you with my mistakes, O Conspiracy, and I know not how you will go about your task. But Fate has led this message and my words to you, and I can only trust it is for good reason. Since I get to choose my last words, I will go with the very first words of Enlightenment my father taught me: Go into the night with peace, wisdom, and compassion." [The door finally screams open, and you catch just a half-second of a large orc with a robe and great scepter striding into the room, scepter raised over his head. The Calipha waves her hand to complete the spell, the image blinks out, and the crystal decanter stopper shatters.]