Monday, October 19, 2015

Companions of the Rose, Pt. IV

In the wake of the insolent rebuke, Akram secretly negotiated with the djinn, infidels and believers alike. He granted to the faithful the right to live among the people of Narwan, provided they did so openly. He also agreed that efreeti infidels would dwell in the desert, away from settled areas, and that the emirates would not encroach upon their domain if these djinn kept to their own as well. To seal negotiations with the infidels, the Caliph of Fustat convicted the Companions of using djinni magic at the Trial of the Silk Turbans, 1331 CE, branding them as outlaws. Those who failed to go underground and defied his authority were lured to places of ambush across the realm, and massacred during what was called the Night of the Khanjar in 1335 CE. Surviving Companions quickly moved the artifact to a desert hideout and once again resumed a secret life.

Whether the First Caliph of Narwan had meant to respect his promise to the efreeti infidels remains a mystery, as he was assassinated in 1348. Intrusions and encroachment happen now and then, prompting brutal and usually deadly responses. Neither is it clear whether the desert djinn would keep their promise forever. Meanwhile, those who’d been converted live among Narwan’s upper class, often work as advisors to the emirs or to affluent sheiks. They stand as guarantors of a fragile peace between Narwani and desert efreet. Priors watch them to ensure their faith is true, while wizards do the same to prevent the djinn from abusing their powers at the expense of the Narwani and their rulers. Current laws prevent the djinn from holding nobility, office, or clerical titles, barring them from leadership.

Desert spirits, Narwani justiciars, and Nicarean spies still actively look for Companions of the Black Rose. They all covet the artifact. Djinn infidels consider it an abomination which should be destroyed. The caliphs wish to hold it as the symbol of their spiritual ascendancy. The inquisition hopes to use it as a weapon to regain control over what they still call Eastern Ellyrion. Though they do not submit to the caliphate’s authority, Companions remain devout followers of Soltan and, therefore, their divine liege takes no action against them. Neither will he interfere with the caliph and those who serve him, or the Nicarean inquisition, for they all serve the same god. In his view, the worthier party will prevail. Meanwhile, the sect continues its mission to convert infidels (of which there are plenty) and to protect the meek from their masters’ abuses (of which there are even more).

The secret shrine of the Black Rose lies in the most deserted corner of the Emirate of Ad-Dhimah, atop a rocky spur of the Nizarim Ridge, a hundred miles south of Ras Al-Khat. Very few Narwani dwell in this inhospitable land. Desert djinn are more likely to wander about, searching for the shrine and for imprudent travelers daring enough to trespass.