Week 8, Exploring the Under-city
We left our heroes just after they had rescued Tambala from the slave market. Tom had tracked down the diadem segment and received the unnerving, but not unexpected, impression that it sustains this whole world as well as holding up the floating city.
All the party return to our hidden camp-site to rest and confer, also to make the camp ready to evacuate at a moment's notice. We decide we need more data on the people of the city, so next morning Chris, Sophie, and Pfusand show up at the city gate, suitably disguised as trader explorers from "the East" and suitably impressed by the floating city. The guard wants to know who our sponsor is. "Sponsor?" The guard now realizes the explorer part of our trader-explorer role; we've never been here before. He patiently explains that (1) infidels are not allowed into the holy "City of Heaven" at all and (2) they are allowed into the earthly suburb only on sponsorship. However, it is entirely possible to acquire a sponsor. The guard sends a messenger off to do so.
While we wait, we learn the place is also called "Kashi" or "Kashki" and it is NOT held up by "magic" but by divine favor to the "holy ones." Magic is forbidden by the holy books. Chris starts asking about their religion and discovers that it is a very strange deviation from Islam, having acquired many of the characteristics of a mystery religion. For instance, they are not all that keen to make converts, so they don't sell or give copies of their holy books. Also, there are at least two levels of membership -- exoteric and esoteric. The "holy ones" are the ones with esoteric membership and include the sultan, since religion and government coincide here, as in standard Moslem cultures.
A merchant now shows up, one Achmed bn'Ali, who is willing to be our sponsor. He is very interested in our "jade," Sophie notes, though he tries to hide it. We explain we are the outriders of a cautious band of traders, so what we have here are samples.
He gets us through the gate, in return for a small cut of any profits we make, and asks what we wanted to take back with us. Chris answers spices and horses and anything we can't get at home. They were hoping for magic. Well, spices are obtainable and they're rather proud of their horses, but there's no "magic" allowed here, and the only miracle going, the miracle of the city, is hardly marketable.
While we are wandering the city, we see signs written in a script matching the odd script that showed up on the watch in the place for the month. Sophie recalls the look of that work with Photographic Memory and we sketch it for Achmed, who informs us that that is the name of the "Month of Flowers."
Psychic examination of a floating barge reveals it is in a big vertical shaft of invisible power. The scouting party makes some tentative dealing with Achmed, to look good, then retreats.
Copyright © 1998, Jim Burrows. All Rights Reserved.