Monday, October 12, 2015

Companions of the Rose, Pt. III

The sect adopted its name because of a mystical desert rose a band of adventurers had unearthed in the Ad-Dhimah wastelands. Rather than the common sand or pink-hued gypsum concretion, this one was black and made of something similar to obsidian, but infinitely harder. After extensive testing and divination, the adventurers concluded it was an ancient artifact, a holy relic of divine origins. It seemed to give its owners an edge against the djinn, stealing some of their abilities for some time. The Companions saw Taneth’s spiritual patron Arun-Te more as “Soltan,” the great lord of the sun but also of the desert—their god, the Spirit of Narwan. They called him Arun Al Malik Al Soltan. Whatever his true name, it was he who’d buried the object in the desert as a weapon for his faithful to overcome the djinn.

While continuing to oppose the inquisition, Companions also targeted the djinn at the heart of the conflict. As Companions fell, others took their place, all in the name of Soltan-the-Munificent. Universally reviled, the Nicarean inquisition had nearly withdrawn by 1167 CE, limiting their actions in Eastern Ellyrion to spying (mostly on Nicarean forces there). A protracted fight went on with the desert spirits, as the Companions endeavored to convert them to the rightful cult or to force them back to the wastelands. Likewise, the newly-styled faith also attracted disenchanted colonists from the ranks of traditional Arun-Te believers.

In 1208 CE, while Nicarea redoubled its repression of the colonies, the Black Rose and the “hidden ones” became instrumental in causing Eastern Ellyrion to secede from Munaan, both camps wishing to neutralize the hated inquisitions once and for all. Exploiting the clash with Talikai islanders, pawns of the djinn and of the Black Rose contributed to the imperial viceroy’s expulsion (see Historical Timeline in CAL1 “In Stranger Skies”, page 80). The former Munaani colony thus became known officially as Narwan. The old imperial districts grew into emirates, with a caliph overseeing all spiritual matters in Soltan’s name.

Despite their common achievement, the djinn and the Black Rose continued their struggle. With the help of efreet converted to the cult of Soltan, the Companions regularly gained ground during the next century, uncovering the infidel spirits hidden among the people of Narwan, expelling them, converting them, or slaying them. Most powerful and popular, the sect had reached its zenith. Yet, in its success lay the seed of its downfall. Companions of the Black Rose had become a threat to Narwan’s new ruling elite. The Caliph of Fustat, Akram I saw the sect as a growing political liability, an arrogant rival faction claiming the ability to convert desert spirits to the cult in whichever manner best served its purposes. By then, the existence of Soltan’s artifact had also become common knowledge. The caliph, who wasn’t a djinn, thus demanded prominent members of the sect to hand over the holy relic at once to prove their loyalty. Its keepers promptly refused.

To be continued. . .