Wow. Those were two horrid and wonderful weeks of overwork.I'm really sorry about that!
The Efreet hovered toward the mages on a flame surfboard and somewhat perturbed by the ice blasts created the illusion of horrid smoke on the battlefield after moving to engage the fighters followed by a celestial pig.
According to my quick check everyone failed to see through the illusion, so you can only see flamer if he is right next to you.
Everyone knows where he is though.
So Jon moved in on his last position and laid some blade into him, leaving a massive gash across his chest.
Syd is a few steps away, but can easily close from his position.
The mages have a little farther to go.
Cordoba continues circling around the north of the map to see where the others have gone.
Maybe it was just your week in the slave hold, maybe not. But when you looked the Efreet in the eyes you got the impression that it wasn't cursing you, in fact it wasn't really interested in fighting. You're pretty sure it was enslaved.
You set off over the dunes on the trail of the Efreet's masters, wondering where Vass has gone and counting the days passed to guess how far ahead Book may be.
Over the sand the three move with the speed of natives, and as the trail moves from shifting dune back into the flat, sharp scrub closer to the river, the trail becomes harder to follow - but their advantage of speed vanishes.
You only had a glance of the bald man, and at a distance. Who is he? Your uncertainty erodes under a growing conviction that you've seen him among the Satrap's mages (There are dozens of minor mages, he is one of their number). His name is Ashram, and though he does command the respect of his title, as you remember it he is neither politically powerful nor socially important.
Before long you are on the North Road from Katheer to the Inner Sea. Those new to the area are struck by the turns and curves the wheel worn trail takes on such flat land. But before long all quickly see that the trail snakes around gullies and erosion of the Qadr's edge.
The sun creeps down behind you from its burning apex above. You sweat. You drink. Sharp gravel gnaws at your boots, leaping in and slashing your blisters. Still air smothers you, smolders. The horizon quivers behind a curtain of rising heat. The torture is interrupted by breezes that bring short conversations, relieved sighs and sips of the awakening water brought from the temple.
By the time you actually see the Qadr the sun is well behind you.
You shall all be at the edge of the city by nightfall. The city is surrounded by slums. Al Nuntesh, or “The Hives” as it is called by Katheerans: mud and stone buildings nervously huddled together outside the wards and packed with the poor and disenfranchised of Katheer.
Separating the Hives from the walls, the Wards are an open strip of land outside the walls that hide an arcane barrier to undead and unnamed abominations which inevitably try to creep in from the desert. More obviously it allows wall guardsmen a significant field of fire - it is a defensive buffer where no permanent buildings may be erected and tremendous firepower may be focused from the walls themselves.
Inside the walls the city is built largely on the Qadiran plain but falls off in quarried layers or steps down into the River Qadr’s canyon. The bottommost layers of the city, the docks and the mud domed shacks of those who ply the river rest fearfully on a flood plain that literally sweeps the scum out of Katheer every year. This, no doubt, is where your friends will find their friend Book.
Tired from the day's march, you drag your feet through the gravel and dust as the trail bends toward a ledge. Step by step, a breathtaking panorama unfolds.
From the widening road you gaze out over a ledge, across a deep green snake of water cutting through a canyon stacked with curving layers of yellows, reds, and browns. The sight is so beautiful that everyone stops and stares in silence.
River Qadr runs through a canyon cut from rocky plains by eons of annual floods and Katheer was founded to secure trade along it - trade between Casmaron and Avistan. Overlooking the Qadr from a plain in the middle of a desert, the city oversees, supports, regulates and protects all commerce and all travel on the River Qadr. So overwhelming is Katheer's strategic command of the water below that only attack by land is feasible, and that must be made over daunting miles of burning, shifting, sand.
It sobers everyone to think that almost every coin that moves between two continents passes on the water below.