About Talib Abd al-Abadar
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Talib Abd al-Abadar
AC 16, touch 12, flat-footed 14, (+2 armor, +4 Dex)
Speed 30 ft.
Str 16, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 12, Wis 16, Cha 7
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Talib is tall and athletic, though he bears the gaunt aspect of an ascetic: his face is long and narrow, cheeks sunken, and his build is lean, with little to no body fat. He has the dusky skin and black locks common to most Keleshites, and he sports a short, well-trimmed beard. His hair is fast turning salt-and-pepper, however, and his features are lined far beyond his years. While his general demeanour is calm and composed, his dark eyes burn with an alarming intensity—a combination most find disconcerting. He dresses in austere, though well-tailored clothes, reminiscent of a traditional Qadiran military uniform: high riding boots, loose trousers, a knee-length white tunic under a gleaming chain shirt, which in turn is worn underneath a grey woollen kaftan, with a sash of white silk wrapped around the shoulders, tastefully embroidered with golden thread. Whenever he is not trying to blend into a crowd, he proudly displays the gilded key of Abadar, in the form of a pin on his lapel. On his belt hangs a heavy-bladed scimitar, its hilt lengthened to accommodate a two-handed grip—he is obviously not a Sarenite dervish.
While he might seem unassuming at first, when Talib opens his mouth, everyone is compelled to listen: his voice is a rich baritone, and his speech patterns carry all the qualities of sagaciousness. Yet he is a humble man, knowing that his words are not his own, but a blessing from the Judge of the Gods. As such, he tries to be as sparing with his verbiage as he is monetarily. The inquisitor is not ashamed to seek profit in all he does, for all the influence and wealth he manages to accrue also benefit his adopted homeland, further vitalising its economy and spreading the gifts of civilisation, law, and peaceful trade across Golarion. He possesses a keen sense of justice, and is ever critical of mortal authority—complacency is the enemy of progress.
Even though he is Katapeshi by birth, and his family is traditionally aligned with the satrapy of Qadira, Talib sees himself first and foremost as an Absalomian: the City at the Center of the World is at least as dedicated to trade as Katapesh and Qadira combined, and far more influential on the world stage—even if it is also a haven for corruption, delinquency and other sorts of unrighteous greed. These latter defects are what Talib seeks to rectify, in his own limited capacity. As an inquisitor, he is afforded more freedom in pursuing his duties than the rest of the clergy, and he readily employs all the privileges this affords: he remains mobile and self-sufficient, acting where the authorities cannot—or will not—rouse from their bureaucratic slumber. Of course, this also means that he is often bereft of the support that his more integrated colleagues enjoy as par for the course. Personal contacts and ingenuity help to alleviate this inadequacy: Talib is not afraid to ask for favours in lieu of a monetary reward.
Talib ibn Nabila Abd al-Abadar belongs to a well-off Keleshite merchant family, originally of Katapeshi extraction. His grandmother, a tradeswoman named I'tidal, was forced to flee her home country after a disagreement with the Pactmasters—the exact nature of this development is still unclear, though it was serious enough that I'tidal had to dodge assassins for the rest of her life. She was able to re-establish herself in Absalom, though her wealth had been greatly diminished in the process. Despite their national origins, the Abd al-Abadar clan have aligned themselves more closely with groups of Qadiran loyalty: they are informally vassals to House Damaq, and have married several times into the prestigious Al-Hadir noble family. Even if the Pactmasters appear to have forgiven I'tidal's progeny, they remain wary of the masked rulers of their erstwhile motherland.
After her death, I'tidal was inherited by her eldest daughter, Nabila. She was a shrewd businesswoman, and soon revitalised her mother's tattered empire. She married well, and produced many children: Talib has three brothers, all younger than him. Their oldest sibling, Raabi'a, was a woman, so by Keleshite custom, Nabila's sons were never going to inherit much. As such, most of them dedicated themselves to businesses of their own, and sought profitable marriages. Due to family tradition, however, the second-born child was given to the priesthood of Abadar for training—this was ostensibly done to placate the Master of the First Vault, but also in order to maintain good relations with his clergy. Talib's mother was not an overtly devout woman, but saw the wisdom in sending her eldest son away: the young man was painfully shy, and likely to be worth nothing as a negotiator. He did not possess the mathematical skills for accounting, nor did he show any aptitude in the arcane. While he was reasonably athletic, he lacked the drive for a career in sports, and his lack of presence meant he was not fit to be a military officer. With all those options exhausted, he seemed destined for the priesthood—at the very least, he was observant and obedient.
When he entered Vault of Abadar in the Ivy District, Talib was an empty vessel, mostly devoid of ambition or any sort of direction of his own. Already well steeped in Abadaran doctrine due to his cultural background, he passed his initial examinations without much trouble, but as time went on, the acolyte was subjected to increasing scrutiny by his superiors: his grasp on holy literature and ritual was adequate, but he showed little initiative when it came to investing his weekly allowance in local businesses—not to mention his persistent stutter, which largely precluded him from leading sermons. Subsequently, after some debate between his instructors, Talib was directed to study law instead of economics. He trained with the Vault's golden-armoured warpriests, with mixed results—even as he excelled in the martial pursuits required, he never truly integrated with his peers.
Most importantly, Talib participated in his first patrols: the warpriests primarily guarded the Vault, and helped to keep order in the surrounding Ivy District, but sometimes they ventured into the mercantile havens of the Coins and the Docks, to supplement the local constabulary—for a price, of course. During these latter excursions, the acolyte was, for the first time, exposed to the lives of the lower classes. He knew, in theory, that such a disparity existed: for others to succeed, others had to fail—not everyone could enjoy the fruits of civilisation equally. However, Absalom is vast enough that one could spend their entire life within its walls, without ever venturing outside their native district—and so it was with Talib, who had never had the motivation to explore beyond the luxury of his immediate surroundings. Now he was exposed to all of it at once: the acolyte witnessed many an injustice, from desperate thieves who stole bread to survive, to traders who cheated both their customers and peers, and from crooked moneylenders who all but indentured their debtors, to the unadulterated misery of the Slave Pits. Worse yet, more often than he would have liked, the Abadarans were either unable or unwilling the victims of systematic defects—charity was antithetical to them, and poverty a sign of unvirtuousness.
Over time, all of these experiences had a fundamental effect on Talib, quite unlike anything he had ever experienced before: he felt a gnawing sense of uncertainty that ate away at his already teetering faith, as well as the basic principles—or rather, the lack of principles—which had allowed him to coast through life without sparing an honest thought to his own privilege. Had the eldest son of Nabila Abd al-Abadar been born outside the Ivy District, would he have been able to survive? Everything he owned had been given to him, and those around him were forced to deal with his listlessness for no other reason, save for the wealth of his family. Witnessing true suffering had awakened Talib's sense of conscience, and he possessed no way of placating it without going against the tenets of his deity. For the first time in his life, he felt a sense of urgency; and for the first time in his life, he prayed with purpose. With no one else to turn to, he begged the Judge of the Gods for guidance: for hours each night, he recited every formal supplication he knew, and when he ran out, he made up his own rogations until his throat was parched and sore from the effort.
Abadar himself showed no interest his petitioning, at least insofar as Talib's prayers earned him no divine revelation. They did, however, catch the attention of the Vault's masked inquisitors, ever watchful for heresy amongst the faithful. The young man soon found himself standing in the office of the Executive Taxmaster—an office he had never been to, for it had been deliberately placed out of the way of regular traffic. Few people had business with the high inquisitor, if they could avoid it. Their identity, like those of their underlings, was a mystery, and the featureless, gilded surface of their mask reflected all of Talib's frustration and uncertainty right back in his face. After an impassioned, straightforwardly honest—and for him, notably stutter-free—entreaty in his defence, he submitted himself to the inquisitors' judgement. Of course, this was not the first time an acolyte had expressed uncertainty in regards to Abadar's great plan, nor would it be the last: instead of meting out punishment, the Executive Taxmaster saw this as an opportunity for recruitment. They offered Talib a choice: the following morning, they would send a missive to his instructors—it was up to him whether it was a request for his immediate dismissal, or for his transferral to the Taxmasters for further training. They promised him an alternative—a way to make a difference. Finally having found his voice, as well as something resembling a sense of purpose, Talib did not have to deliberate his answer for long.
The inquisitors' pragmatic interpretations of Abadaran dogma proved well suited to Talib's new outlook, and he found a clarity in his new calling: if his former instructors had found him intellectually meandering and non-committal, now he threw himself into his studies with unforeseen fervour and rigour. After finishing his education at the Vault of Abadar—in a record time, no less—he has maintained a working relationship with the rest of the clergy, while deliberately keeping himself at an arm's distance. Nominally a member of the Taxmasters, he often comes in during tax season to supplement the resident collectors. Otherwise, unless called for specifically by the high inquisitor, Talib prefers to work as a bounty hunter and a private investigator, as well as an occasional adjunct to the Harbour Guard and Token Guard—he has freely used these opportunities to his advantage, rooting out corruption within both organisations whenever possible. Most often, he busies himself in the markets of the Coins and the Docks—primarily the Grand Bazaar, which he considers his headquarters—keeping an eye on the commerce there. Both cutpurses and dishonest traders receive his ire in equal measure, though does take a special notice of the circumstances surrounding each case: where he can, Talib chooses to address the disease, rather than its symptoms. Besides apprehending criminals, he offers his services in hunting down monsters that make their nests amidst civilisation.
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