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  Lympago Forums    Board, Card and Role-playing Gaming    Game Reviews  ›  Arabian Nights (Moderators: rdm, leece)

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  Author    Arabian Nights
Posted on: December 1st, 2004, 4:54pm Quote Report to Moderator
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Posts: 103

After the main horde had departed from the Friday night gaming session, Leece suggested playing their newly acquired copy of Arabian Nights. This was produced by West End Games in the mid eighties. The chief designer was Eric Goldberg at that time probably recently ex the breakup of SPI. In fact a lot of the game components look like they could have been SPI products.

The game feels (and plays) like it was intended to compete with the Infocom text games by being richer and deeper than anything that would fit on a PC of the time. This I think it does admirably. There are a lot of good storylines, the combination of cards, dice, character attributes, and player decisions means that you will seldom have the same encounter and even if you remember a good outcome there is no guarantee you will be able to repeat it.

  The characters start in Baghdad and are moved around the map on a network of connections both on land and sea. Travel distance depends on the current wealth of the player. At the end of each turn an encounter card is drawn which will direct the players to a paragraph in the 'story book'. There are a number of possible story links on each card depending on either the location of the encounter or the stage of the game. A dice is rolled and some simple modifiers are added to determine the exact type of encounter ( a Foolish Efreet is not the same as a Vengeful Efreet ) and the player decides how to interact with the encounter ( typically a verb like aid, rob, avoid, examine, etc. ) this yeilds a paragraph entry in the story book which is then modified by another dice roll to keep some uncertainty about the possible outcome. The final entry will have some description to be read out and a range of possible outcomes based on the characters skills.

  The whole process plays quickly and is an outstandingly elegant piece of games design. We played for over 3 hours before Leece won. She did extremely well in the first part of the game and then struggled to make her last few victory points. A good four star forgotten classic.

Originally posted on Steveg's blog

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Posted on: December 1st, 2004, 10:23pm Quote Report to Moderator
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Randy Peek
Posted on: July 6th, 2005, 3:14am Quote Report to Moderator
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The following is a liberally-rewritten transcript of a solitaire game of Tales of the Arabian Nights. I have posted it here at leece's request.

There was in Baghdad, the city of most wondrous sights, a young boy named Omar. He was the son of a weaver and his wife, and he grew up not far beyond the shadow of the palace of the Sultan. Omar in his youth had befriended the son of a caliph, and had learned much of the ways of the Sultan's court from his friend, but Allah had taken his friend in a fire, leaving Omar with only his memories and an understanding of the ways of the wealthy and powerful. He also spent much time in contemplation of the Koran, and his belief in the power and wisdom of Allah were as solid as the roots of the mountains themselves.
  Now it came to pass that the father of Omar, a good man named Ahmed, ran afoul of a rival weaver of great wealth and low scruples, and so it was that one night the small workshop of Ahmed was burned to the ground, causing the family to fall destitute. There were none who could come to the aid of the family due to their fear of the evil weaver and his connections, and so the family was forced to move away from that city of most fabulous wonders. Omar chose to stay behind, and to try to regain his father's fortunes by finding his own fortune. He vowed that he would return to Baghdad one day, and that the evil weaver would be laid low before him, and so Omar set his feet upon the path of his destiny, and left the city.

  Omar's travels first took him to the city of Alexandria, a vast city known for its paper mills and the vast treasure of wheat and rice stored in its many granaries. It was here that Omar heard a wizened storyteller spinning tales of faraway lands. The story that most caught his young imagination was one of Bantus, a city to the southeast in the wilderness. The story told of the gold to be found there, and the many slaves who dug this bounty from the earth. Omar vowed to one day visit Bantus, as surely a young man with his wits could secure some of that gold and restore their family fortune.
    Omar was too poor to stay in one of the fine inns of the city, so he made his way to the poorer districts of the city and found a deserted alleyway in which to spend the night. When he lay down, he saw a dented and fire-scorched brazier lying amongst a pile of trash. He thought to himself that this brazier could easily be cleaned and repaired and sold for a few coins. When he took the brazier and began to wipe the dirt and soot from it, there was a sudden flash of green fire in the brazier, and before his amazed eyes he saw a beautiful woman with eyes like fire. Omar fell to his knees in wonder at this vision, knowing that this must indeed be an efreetah.
  "Stand, my rescuer. You need not fear me," said the beautiful woman, whose skin was like oiled bronze, and whose dark hair seemed composed of dark ringlets of smoke. "You have freed me from the prison that has held me for many long years, and if it were within my power, I would reward you, but alas, my powers are as yet too weak." Omar was moved by both the beauty and the helplessness of this powerful creature, and told her that no reward was necessary, beyond her happiness. The efreetah looked upon him with her smoldering eyes, and said sadly, "I thank you, Omar son of Ahmed, for the kindness you have shown me. Would that it were better times for each of us to have met." And with a second flash of green fire, the efreetah was gone, leaving behind only the scent of a sandalwood fire and the wondering eyes of Omar.
  The next day Omar was walking through one of the larger bazaars when he saw a one-armed slave trying to hoist a large and heavy basket on to a cart. Omar leapt to aid the slave but the man turned on him with rage in his eyes. "I have lifted this basket into this cart a thousand times and more, and I need no one's help to do it!" cried the slave. "Were my master to see someone helping me lift it, he would surely beat me for being a lazy wretch, and I would deserve it! Go! Leave me to my work!" Omar slunk away from the slave, his ears burning. The raucous catcalls of the merchants and shoppers followed him away from the square, and Omar knew in his heart that the slave's words had brought a curse down upon him. His heart was heavy as he left the city of Alexandria, moving ever southward.

  While journeying southward, Omar stayed the night at a caravanserai filled with many colorful people, travelers from every corner of the world. Perhaps the strangest one was a large man with odd, slanted eyes who claimed to be from Su Chou, a city distant China. Omar quickly became friends with the merchant, whose name was Ling Po, and promised the massive man that if he were to ever visit China, that he would see the wonders of Ling Po's home in the mountains. The next day, Omar set off for Bilma as his new friend turned northward toward Alexandria.
  Bilma was another of the grand cities of Arabia, a jewel set into the sands of the southern desert. Here Omar stopped at a small and shabby inn for some food. As he went to pay a copper for his meal, he found that another hand was already in his purse. The small man gave him a smile, and said, "Ah, perhaps I am not as quick as I was in my youth. You have caught me fairly in the commission of my trade."
  "You are a thief?" asked Omar.
  "As my father was and his father before him. I pray you shall not dishonor their memories by turning me over to the caliph's guardsmen, and in return I shall tell you a fabulous story."
  Omar did not want this thief to go free, and yet he did not want him to be turned over to the caliph's men either, for to do so would mean that this man's hand would be removed, and Omar would not let that sit on his conscience. "Tell me your story then, but promise me that you will find another profession, as well."  "That I shall do," said the thief with a wide grin, "for my quickness is not what it once was. You shall have your story, and I shall have a new job. I have a friend who is a water seller, and perhaps he will take me under his wing."
  The story that followed was a wonderful adventure about a city beneath the sea, people by creatures half fish and half man. The city was filled with pearls and gold and jewels and treasures beyond measure. Omar listened to the story, but knew it only to be a tale. When they parted, Omar hoped that the man would be good to his word and would become a water seller. While there was no good reason to believe the wiry little man and his vow to leave thievery behind, there was something in Omar's heart that told him that the man would do as he said.

  The stories of Bantus had placed it to the southeast of Bilma, and so it was in that direction that Omar traveled out of the city. He journeyed through the mountains and down into the valley beyond. Far in the distance Omar saw an exotic-looking village. Surely this must be Bantus, he thought. But as he came closer the land slipped away and became a maze of deep canyons. Omar girded himself and made his way into the maze of sandstone as he tried to reach the city of gold. The maze, however, was not marked with a path, and in fact, he came upon the skeletons of other travelers who had become hopelessly lost in the twisting canyons. What had appeared to be a simple journey of an afternoon became a nightmare trek that lasted days.
  On the third night an angel appeared to Omar in a dream, and told him of an escape from this prison of sandstone, and when he awoke, Omar remembered the dream and traveled as he was bidden by the angel. The path was perilous and there were times when Omar feared for his life, but his faith in Allah was great, and he persevered. Finally, on the fifth day his wits left him as he entered a dark canyon with cliff-like walls, only to find that the way behind him was closed now due to a rock fall. He fell to the ground in misery, and in his madness all he could do was to cry out for Allah's aid.
  But Allah had heard Omar's pleas and in his mercy had brought Omar unbeknownst to the home of a holy man who lived alone in that canyon and knew the ways through the sandstone maze. He cam upon the raving Omar and took him to his hut, where he fed him and vowed to remain with the stricken young man until his wits had once again returned. The holy man, Ali by name, brought Omar out of the canyons and to the very gates of Bantus. Omar did not know it in his madness, but he had reached the city of gold mines.

  The dervish Ali led Omar through the city, and when they had entered a large square, Omar spied a tall man dressed completely in black, a man named Hasan Akbar, who was known for his dire, prophetic ravings, and was feared by all around him. Hasan Akbar was known to be a cruel man and so it was bad luck that brought Omar to him that day, as Omar mistook the prophet for the angel in his dreams and fell at his feet. Ali knew of Hasan Akbar, and hid behind a cart, not wanting to draw the wrath of powerful enemy, but close enough to help if he could.
  "Angel of Allah, I have endured much. What more do you want of me?" cried Omar. The wicked Hasan Akbar looked down at the maddened Omar and his lips curled cruelly.
  "I require what little wealth you have," said the evil one, and Omar pulled what coins he could find in his purse and gave them to the haughty prophet. "So little? This will have to do," said Hasan Akbar, and he disappeared into the tide of people in the square, leaving Omar even more penniless than he had been.
  The dervish took Ali to the small house of his friend, the learned enchantress Jafira, and asked her if they could stay there while he sought a cure for Omar's madness. Jafira allowed them to stay, but said she knew of nothing that could cure the effects of the sandstone maze on Omar's fevered mind. That night though, Omar's brain fever burned its hottest, and he awoke with not a clue as to who or where he was. Moving through the silent house he came upon the enchantress' workshop, and there he saw a beautiful jeweled egg. In his fever, he wanted nothing more than to possess this egg, and went to take it, but Jafira had set an alarm in her workshop to protect it from trespassers and the room was suddenly full of the sound or roaring lions. The local guard came to Jafira's house and arrested Omar, although Ali did try to plead for mercy. Sadly, the plea fell upon deaf ears, as Jafira had been robbed before of this treasure, and Ali could not persuade her that Omar had only acted out of his madness. Omar was taken to the caliph, and never again crossed the path of his benefactor, and never knew of the kindness extended to him by the kindly old dervish.

  So it was that Omar was brought before the Sultan, who had him imprisoned. In the jail cell Omar's wits finally returned to him, and it was with a heavy heart that he learned the reason for his imprisonment. He cried out, "When I am released from this place, I vow to live a good and fruitful life to make up for my misdeed. Though my mind was not my own, I will take full responsibility for what I have done."
  "Ah, but there is no escape from this dark place," said a voice from the dark, and a hunchback with a twisted, scarred visage walked into the dim light. "This is a place of final incarceration, and you will never leave these walls"
  "Is there nothing that can secure my release?" asked Omar.
  A thin smile twisted the misshapen man's face. "There is but one thing that I need from you, and for that I will release you." He opened the cell and led Omar into the center of the room. "Wait here a moment," he said, and disappeared behind Omar.
  "What can I provide you?" asked Omar, "I am not far from being a beggar, and so there is little boon I can provide."
  "I dabble in sorcery, little rabbit," said the hunchback, "and there is one ingredient that is in short supply that I need for my most secret spells - the blood of an innocent!" Omar saw the shadow of the hunchback behind him, knife raised, and he leapt away at the last moment, the blade grazing his arm. Holding his injured arm, Omar made a desperate jump for the open window, and fell to the street below. The crazed hunchback called down curses from the window below, but he dared not go out into the street where Omar lay.
  The bruised and battered Omar was once more brought before the Sultan, who looked upon him, not unkindly. "I see you have your wits about you now," he said, "and I must thank you for helping me to discover the traitorous sorcerer in our midst, but I am afraid that the judgment against you still stands. Do you deny that you tried to take the jeweled egg of Jafira?"
  "No. my lord, I do not deny it. I admit that I tried to steal it, even though I was beyond reason at the time. I am responsible."
  "It is refreshing to hear a man take responsibility for his actions, and for that I will place you in a better jail than you had before."
  "Your wish, my lord, although it is more than I deserve," said Omar. And so he was led away to a jail that was more a house than a prison. The food was good, and there was a garden there which he could see from the small window of his cell. Over the next several days he was allowed to walk in the garden with his jailor, a white-haired bearded old man with a limp. As they walked, the two of them would discuss the mysteries of the Koran and the ways of Allah, and they developed a deep respect for each other. One day though the jailor forgot to lock Omar in his cell after their garden walk, and so Omar found himself free inside the deserted jail.
  He called out to Rahib, for that was the man's name, when he heard the lower door close, but Rahib did not hear him. Omar did not want the kindly old man to get in trouble for leaving Omar unlocked, for their friendship was strong. The cell could not be locked without Rahib's key, so Omar left the jail with the intention of catching Rahib and having him come back to lock him in the cell. When he reached the street, he saw Rahib hobbling down the street and so ran down toward him.
  As Omar ran, he was amazed at how quickly the old man could move on his bad leg, but he caught up with the white-haired jailor just outside the gates of the Sultan's palace. The old man turned with an odd smile on his lips, and looked into Omar's eyes. "Ah, my lad, I was expecting you. Come with me."
  The two of them walked into the palace and through a deserted corridor that opened up suddenly into the Sultan's private chamber. The wizened old man suddenly stripped away his robes and his beard revealing himself to be none other than the Sultan himself!
  "Friend Omar, I was impressed by the way you took responsibility for your actions at Jafira's house, and with the piety and wisdom you showed in our talks in the garden. I needed but one more proof of your good heart to see that you deserved to be set free, and you have passed that test as well."
  And so it became clear to Omar that he had been with the Sultan these past several days, and that against all odds he had been befriended by this great man. In this way, Omar found himself in the exalted position of Vizier to the Sultan of Bantus, and a well-respected young man in the city of gold.

  It was in the service of the Sultan that Omar found himself in the nearby city of Zaila, a few days journey from his new home in Bantus. There he met the niece of the Sultan of Zaila, a young enchantress of surpassing beauty named Zamira. Omar found his heart gladdened at the sight of this raven-haired woman, but alas, she had nothing but scorn for her young suitor. "Begone, worm," she said, as she sent him away from their first encounter. Omar was left with the realization that the beauty of Zamira's features were only matched by the coldness of her heart. After completing his mission for the sultan, Omar dutifully turned back to Bantus.
  On the trip back, Omar had to cross a mountain lake on a ferry boat. When the boat had reached the deepest waters, Omar was overcome with a feeling of dread. Suddenly the black tentacles of a lake monster rose above the dark waters and pulled the ferryman overboard to disappear into the depths below.  Where only moments before he had been sharing a water skin with the ferryman, now there was only a gray slick upon the waters. The monster had fed and now sated had disappeared back into its unholy lair. Omar was stricken with grief for the poor ferryman, and most importantly, was lost in the dangerous waters of the mountain lake.
  The boat lay upon the still waters of the dark lake for two days, and Omar became feverish without food to sustain him. He prayed to merciful Allah, and on the morning of the third day his prayers were answered. A glittering water snake circled the little boat three times and then swam toward the distant shore of the lake, and magically the boat followed along. The boat ran aground at last upon a rocky beach below a tall cliff. Omar steeled himself for the trial ahead, and made his slow way to the top of the cliff. Although he was badly battered and bruised by the ascent, he finally reached the top and found himself not far from the road to Bantus. During his confinement upon the lake, Omar developed a deep-seated ability to endure hardship, and vowing not to let another innocent die through his own inaction, he made a vow to learn the use of the sword, and in that he was good to his word.
  Upon returning to the sultan's court, Omar was presented with the dilemma of a local sage who had been placed under a spell by an evil enchanter, The enchanter had fled from the city, and there were none who could undo the enchantment on the sage, so it was with a heavy heart that Omar told the man, "My sympathy is with you, my brother, but I am afraid that I know nothing of magic, save its dangers. Were I to try to undo this spell, I would almost assuredly make it worse. The sage nodded gravely, and made his way home. The sultan had observed this and said approvingly to Omar, "It is a smart man who can recognize the effects of magic, but it is a wise one who can recognize its dangers."
  It was some time later that Omar was in the court of the sultan when the sultan's brother, a renowned wizard came to visit. The sultan was pleased to see his brother until he saw the look of impending doom in his brother's eyes. "What is it, my brother, that troubles you so?" asked the sultan. The wizard answered him with great sadness, "I fear, brother, that this may be the last time we shall meet, for I am under a geas to visit the standing stones of distant Breton, and from all I have heard of that barbaric place, I fear I will likely fall prey to the savages there ere I return."
  Omar looked into the eyes of the sultan's brother and he was moved by the despair he saw there. Here was a man who had no hope of ever returning to his homeland, and who had every expectation to die in the distant lands of the infidels, and yet could no nothing to undo this fate. So moved was Omar that he went to the sultan, saying, "My lord, you have treated me with great kindness and now I feel that I am in a position to repay you for the faith you have shown to me. If it is your will as well as Allah's, I will accompany your brother on this quest, and will return to you only after we have reached the standing stones of the Bretons." While saddened by the loss of his young vizier as well as his only brother, the sultan agreed that the proposal was for the best, and that the two would make a formidable team against any infidel marauders they might meet, and so it was that Omar began his quest across the whole of the civilized lands of Arabia on his quest for the legendary Stonehenge.

  During their travels through the heart of the Sahara Desert, the two men came to stay at a small caravanserai set near a forlorn oasis. It had once been a regular stop on a rich and well-traveled trading route but frequent attacks from thieves had caused the trade to move to the east, and now the rest stop was but a mere shadow of its former glory. While sitting in the public room that evening, Omar heard a voice that was oddly familiar to him, and it sent a chill down his spine. When he turned he saw none other than the scarred hunchback who had been his captor those many months before! Omar stood and drew his sword, the anger rising up inside him. When he confronted the hunchback, it was a few moments before the twisted sorcerer recognized Omar. "Ah, it is you, the instrument of my downfall! And now a vizier in the court of that fool, I see! Is that his imbecile brother with you?" he said. "I could no longer get close enough to the Sultan to lay a geas on him, but his brother was easy prey. And now here the two of you are, off to the land of the infidels!" He laughed wickedly, the scars contorting his face into a fearful visage of grotesque mockery.
  Omar raised his blade to strike down this evil one, and there was a flash of fear in the eyes of the hunched sorcerer. At the last moment though, Omar lowered his blade, and stated solemnly to the wretch, "It is not in my hands to judge you, for that is in the hands of Allah and the Sultan, but know this. I will accompany this good man to Breton, and when we return your hold on him will be broken, and I daresay that he will have no trouble in finding you or exacting his revenge upon you."
  The scarred hunchback snarled at Omar, his voice little more than a guttural growl, "Your way to the land of the Breton's will be the greatest challenge of your life, young pup, and doubt you will survive the next seven days, let alone the whole perilous journey." And with a wave of his hand he turned into a desert bat and flew out over the cooling sands of the Sahara. For the second time in his young life, Omar felt the hands of fate descend upon him, and knew that the way would be longer and harder than he ever could have anticipated.
It was a matter of days later when they completed their journey across the Sahara and set sail from the city of Tripoli for the city of Cordoba in the Moorish lands of Hispania. The ship was a merchant vessel full of trade goods to sell to the wealthy Moors, and the captain was a garrulous man with many stries of his travels around the Mediterranean Sea. Three days into the journey, the ship was enveloped in dark clouds as a fierce storm took them. At first the captain laughed at the darkening skies and the rain that fell upon them, but as the tempest's fury grew and grew, even the stout-hearted captain fell silent and worried. Finally, with lightning flashing in the clouds above and the wind wailing as lound as a thousand warring efreets, the captain and crew took cover below the deck, hoping to ride it out. Moar and his companion sensed something wrong in the way the storm had grown so suddenly, and they stayed above decks, lashing themselves to the masts. The ship was riding high on each surging wave, with water pouring onto the deck and nearly capsizing the vessel with each huge swell. Again and again the tiny ship was dashed from crest to valley of wave, and it was then that Omar saw a pair of huge eyes materialize in the clouds above, and he gazed into the horrible mien of a Storm Hound, but Omar's faith in Allah stood firm, and he held the marid with his gaze. Unable to break the spirit of the little vizier and the wizard he accompanied, the marid gave one final roar of thunder and left to the south, dragging the remnants of his mighty storm after him. Within minutes the waters had calmed, leaving the seas as calm as they had been an hour before. The captain and his crew came out, graterful for their salvation by this unlikely duo.

  Omar and his companion traveled beyond the city of Damascus, and turned their way north through lands foreign to their eyes. These countries were full of strange woods and people who spoke all manner of barbaric languages. It was deep in one such forest when they came upon a creature whose lower half had been imprisoned in a block of basalt. Although its language was coarse and strange to their ears, they came to understand that it was an efreet of a type unknown in the civilized lands of Arabia, and that this efreet had cast its lot with a band of evil efreets in an effort to overthrow the local sultan. When their attempt failed, their power was broken, and most of the efreets were banished to the nether realms, but this unfortunate was spared by the local sultan, in payment of a past service the efreet had provided.
  The efreet told this sad tale to Omar and Kamal (for such was the wizard's name), and Omar was moved by its plight. Tell me how you may be freed, and I will see what can be done, he said. The efreet shook his head sadly, saying thus; "The only thing that can free me is the power of prayer, and who would pray for one such as I? Who would take the word of an efreet?"
  Omar thought this over, and then thought to himself; Surely, if this creature is repentant, he has had much time to think upon the error of his ways and to reflect on the teachings of Allah. He then asked the efreet a number of difficult questions, and though the creature's answers reflected a devotion to a different aspect of all-powerful Allah, there was o doubt that the devotion was true. Thus Omar knelt on his prayer rug and offered up sincere prayers to deliver the poor creature from its bonds. With a sound like that of an earthquake, the basalt block shattered, leaving the efreet standing before them, restred to his old power by the prayers of Omar. I am in your debt, my lord, the creature said, and I would give you my magic for payment. So it was that Omar took with him from that spot an ensorcelled ring, containing a small part of the efreet's magical powers. Omar hoped that he would never be in dire enough need to have to use that ring, but he was also glad that he had it on his hand.
  After many adventures, the two finally came to the rainswept island of Breton and so to its standing stones, here in the light of the moon, a group of hooded figures performed a rite that was surely an abomination the eyes of Allah. Kamal wept, for he knew that it was here that he must surely meet his fate, and he saw that at each entrance to the stones stood a massive guard. Surely, he said, there is no way for the two of us to overcome so many. Omar smiled in the wan light and said to him, Never fear, brother of my lord, for Allah is with us and will protect us, even here in the land of the infidel. And so Omar took a rock in his hand and threw it and struck one of the guards. The guard fell and Omar quickly took his robe, disguising himself as one of the infidels and entering the ring of stones.
  The dark priests of this unholy place scarcely noticed him, as their incantations were at their conclusion, and a monstrous shape began to form in the center of the standing stones, an abomination of huge size, and surely an affront to All the most powerful. Go, foul creature, he cried, Allah will not let you exist. Go now to whence you came, he cried, and suddenly there was a crackle of blue fire that rippled across the ebony skin of the creature, and it was sucked back into the earth, in its descent, the creature reached out, and the dark priests of this place tried to flee but they too were pulled down into the pits of the earth by the desperate creature. When the howls of it had finally died away, the orange moon reappeared in the sky and Omar could see that he and Kamal were the only two who remained, and that they had triumphed. Kamal fell upon his knees and wept with joy, for his geas was lifted and he had survived it. My thanks to you, he said to Omar, my thanks and my undying gratitude. You are surely a prince among men, and my brother will reward you for this service.
  No, said Omar, I did not come with you for my own gain. I came because you needed me. We shall only tell your brother the sultan that your geas has been delivered, and that we have survived and that Allah preserved us in our hour of need. The wizard nodded, and said that he would honor Omar's request.  As they left the silent stone circle, they found a magical pair of saddlebags, which Omar took as his single reward for this long and perilous trip. The saddlebags were enchanted in such a way that they held food in them whenever they were opened, and Omar was glad of this, as he knew he would never go hungry again. And so, having fulfilled this part of their destiny, the two turned southward for their homeland.

  While traveling through the dark woods of Bavaria, the two went to cross the fields of a farmer on their way to drink from a stream. While crossing the field, they found a trapdoor set into the field, a very unusual place for a trapdoor to be. They went to the farmhouse and tried to make it clear to the farmer that there was something odd in his field. Although he spoke a strange language, they were able to convince him to follow. When they arrived, the farmer seemed most surprised and motioned for them to open it, as he stood back in fear. When the door was raised, a fetid odor came boiling up the earthen stairs, and they glimpsed the decaying bodies of several people in the shallow room below. As they turned to the farmer, an evil gleam came to his eye and he swung a hoe at them. Omar knocked it aside and slew the farmer with a quick thrust of his sword. Fearful that they would be held accountable for this, they went into the nearby town and told the local sultan, called the mayor, about what had happened. The language in these distant realms was strange to their ears, but when they took the mayor into the field and showed him the aftermath of the battle and the grisly remains in the secret room, the mayor was moved to tears, for he saw the body of his wife, missing for two years among the bodies below. The aggrieved mayor sent them on their way, and it was with great relief that they re-entered the civilized world on their journey back to Bantus.
  While in the desert, the two stopped in the city of Timbuktu, where the wizard had many friends, and one of these friends told them of a flock of red cockerel that he had seen in the mountains the last time he had traveled to Bantus. Omar knew that the red cockerel was a bird of unsurpassed beauty and rarity, and noted where the man had seen the flock. On their trip back, he found the spot and waited. Sure enough, after several hours a flock of red cockerel flew past, whirling in a wild crimson flurry that alit on a Cliffside some distance above him. Omar tried to climb up to the cockerel nests, and it was his strength of will, honed over the course of many adventures and more hardships, to make his way high enough up the steep cliff to snatch one of the red cockerel from its nest. Stuffing it in his pack, Omar quickly descended and they made their way onward to their home city. When they arrived in the city, word had already spread of their arrival, and among the well-wishers at the gate was a powerful magician who saw the red cockerel among their belongings and offered a large amount of gold for the bird. Omar was only too happy to sell the bird for such a princely sum, and so both parties left this deal happy.
  Returning to the court of the sultan of Bantus, Omar and Kamal were warmly received, and the sultan was only too happy to hear of their many adventures. First, he said, with a twinkle in his eye, there is someone else in the court who would hear of these tales, and the sultan stepped aside revealing Zafira of Zaila. Omar was startled to once again see the haughty young enchantress. Ah, not the niece, I am afraid, said the sultan, but the daughter. During your journey the sultan of Zaila passed away without an heir and so his brother ascended the throne. Zafira was sent here to marry an appropriate man of my court in order to seal the friendship that exists between our two cities, and it is good fortune that you have returned, Omar, as I can think of a mate better suited to this than you.  Weary from his travels, and unwilling to embarrass his mentor, Omar met with the beautiful young princess over the next several days. At first their conversations were as cold and formal as they had been long ago in the Zilan court, but over the next week he sensed a change in the mood of the beguiling young lady. At first distant and haughty, she seemed to soften toward him as he told her of his adventures. Finally, one day, she put her hand upon his. Omar, she said, you have shown me that you are a most uncommon man. It is not your adventures that have impressed me as much as your kindness and your devotion. At every step of your path you have shown yourself to be a man of honor and character. She leaned forward and kissed him on the lips, and in return he found his lips pressing back against hers.
  And so it was that over the next several weeks the two young people fell more and more deeply in love, and it gladdened the sultan that his young vizier should be so happy, so it came as a surprise to him when Omar came to his throne one day and asked his leave to go back to Baghdad. You would leave my court, and leave the fair Zafira behind? He asked. No, said Omar, it is only that I have to fulfill my earliest obligation, and restore my family's fortunes. While I am not a wealthy man, I intend to bring my parents and my brothers and sisters to Bantus where my father can re-establish his weaving business. I also feel that there is one more adventure left in me before settling down, and that I must find one true gift for Zafira to show her my love. She has tried to persuade me not to go, but she knows in her heart that this is something that I must do.
  It was with no small amount of sadness that the sultan and Zafira bade him goodbye as he sailed northward on his quest, but Omar knew in his deepest heart of hearts that this was the right thing to do.

  Omar sailed north and east for many weeks, and made himself useful as a member of the crew, even though he had paid for passage. He helped them pass a giant whirlpool that threatened to swallow up their ship, and he developed a love of the open seas, but he also found himself longing for the beautiful gardens of Bantus, and the deep brown eyes of Zafira. Finally he came to the city of Su Chou, and thus to the home of his old friend Ling Po. Here in the wild countryside of China he found his massive friend pondering an unusual problem. Ah, my young Arabian prince, I am so glad to see you, he cried. And it would appear that fate has smiled upon you, for now you look every bit the prince! Omar explained to him that he was now a vizier in the court of the sultan of Bantus, and Ling Po sat back on his bench his eyes open in mock amazement. A vizier, he said, at so young an age, too! Surely a man of your wisdom could help an old peddler in solving a little conundrum? Omar was not sure how he could help, but he offered to do whatever he could to aid Ling Po.
  The huge merchant led Omar into his garden and there Omar saw the sad face of a woman in the waters of a fountain there. In your lands, said Ling Po, such a creature is called a marid, yes? Omar nodded. This marid was the object of affection of a local enchanter, and when she spurned his affections he cast a spell on her, so that she is neither water nor woman, but both and neither. She had been my friend for many a long year, and she loved from her mountain pool to this fountain when I retired after my last trip abroad, when I met you. Sadly, that is when she scorned that young magician. Stupid boy! She is far older than even I am, although to look upon her she appears to still be a woman in her earliest flower.
  Omar looked upon the sad face of the beautiful marid, and wondered what he could do, when he recalled the ring he still wore upon his finger. The ring still bore some of the magic from the efreet that had been captive in the basalt rock all those months before, and now he decided to use that boon to free yet another efreet from its bonds. He slipped the ring from his finger, and held it above the pool of the fountain. With the power of your kind, he said, I release you from your bonds, and he dropped the ring into the waters. The water began to bubble and then to boil up, and then it burst upward and there stood the woman whose face he had seen beneath the water's surface, only now her face radiated relief and happiness. She leaned down to Omar, and touched his cheek, and the touch was like the touch of spring rain in the mountains, cool and refreshing. She touched Ling Po's cheek as well, and Omar saw that despite the folly of love between efreet and human, there was denying the love that existed between the elderly Ling Po and the beautiful water sprite. Love, he reflected, took on many forms and guises.
  As he turned to leave them, Ling Po called out to him, and asked him what he could offer as a reward. I ask for nothing, said Omar, I am only on a quest to find the true gift to present my own beloved. Ling Po frowned for a moment, and then his face brightened. This may not be the gift for your beloved, he said, but it is the best I have to offer, and I will no longer have use for it, and he presented Omar with a beautiful gold-encrusted sword. It is the Thunderbolt Sword, he said, and it has been my salvation on many occasions. Take it as a token of my thanks. Humbly, Omar bade the old man and the marid goodbye, and turned westward.

While journeying back toward Baghdad, Omar had occasion to stop in the trading city of Samarkand, the city of markets, and it was there that a crazed ne'er-do-well leaped out of the crowd to confront him. The tattered vagrant cried out, you have his eyes, and you shall not have them! The eyes are the gate, the eyes are the way! And with a shout, he drew his sword and fell upon Omar. At first Omar tried only to subdue his opponent, but it soon became clear that this one would not settle for anything short of Omar's life, and so it was necessary for him to draw the Thunderbolt Sword, and in a few moments the deed was done, and the vagrant lay in a pool of blood on the ground. There was a silence from the crowd around him, and then an old woman stepped forward. He was my husband, and I shall grieve him, but he attacked you, and there was naught else you could do, for he would have killed you. His sanity had been slipping away, and there was nothing we could do for him. What little he has is yours, as I want none of it. A murmur of agreement from the crowd, and Omar was presented with the few trinkets the wild-haired vagrant had in his possession. Sadly, Omar moved on.
  Omar left Samarkand that day, not wanting to be in the city of this recent misfortune, and so it was in the countryside that he examined the few baubles he had been given, and found that one small and dented copper pot contained a princely sum of the rare yellow kohl! The rare substance was reputed to be able to transform base metals into gold, and so he was able to sell it easily in the next city to an alchemist who was only too glad to have the substance in his collection. Omar sent a portion of the money back to Samarkand, asking that it be delivered to the widow of the madman.
  Omar made his ay onward to Baghdad, where he sought his family's whereabouts. As it turned out, they were staying with friends in a village not far north of Baghdad, and when he went to them they scarcely recognized him. He was dressed in the robes of a vizier, and he had grown taller and stronger in the many months since they had been together. He told them of his adventures, and of his home in Bantus, and they happily agreed to go with him to that city. He went on to tell them of Zafira, and of his quest to find the one true gift for her.
  Hearing this, his father took from his pouch a small item and handed it to Omar. Here, my son, he said. It is not much, and it will certainly not be fit for a princess, but it is all that I have, and I would give it to you. Looking down at it, it appeared nothing more than a large bead on a leather thong, but he felt something in it, that there was something more to it than what could be seen to the eye. Where did you get this, he asked. I found it only this morning in the fields as I helped with the planting of wheat. Omar rubbed the dirt from the bauble, and that while the thong indeed was simple leather, the bead itself was large and had ornate carvings covering its surface, reading its inscription, Omar was thunderstruck when he realized that this was in fact a magic bead with several strong enchantments on it, granting many abilities to its possessor. He told this to his father, and his father smiled at him. It would make a good wedding gift, then, he asked. Yes, father, said Omar, this is the one true gift I sought.
  And so, Omar, now a wealthy and respected man, led his family in a small caravan down to Bantus, and again took his place at the side of the sultan, and took Zafira as his bride, and with the magic bead she did many good works for the cities of Bantus and Zaila, and Omar became an even more important part of the sultan's court, as his words were wise and his heart was pure. And their family grew and flourished, and when the sultan took to his final bed, it was to Omar that he passed the sultanate, having no children of his own, and so it was that Omar led a long and happy life.

Thus ends the tale of Omar of Baghdad.

{To anyone reading this far into this meandering narrative, this is a somewhat fictionalized version of a solitaire game I played out today of the wonderful old game, `Tales of the Arabian Nights.' I didn't play the full solitaire game, which includes special quests and the merchant path as well, and concentrated on a cohesive narrative. Almost all of the encounters happened as shown here, but the denouement was considerably padded out. I only really fudged toward the end, as I was getting rather tired, and wanted to finish the story before bed. I hope you enjoy this session report.)

Last modified July 6th, 2005, 8:54pm by leece
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