The World Beyond: al-Jazira Sadim
Balmar never knew his father Alden. Lydia, Balmar’s mother, used to tell him of the quests his father and she shared. Adventuring was a sort of family business before Balmar came along. When Lydia became pregnant with Balmar she decided to bow out of the adventuring and allow Alden to continue on with his life’s passion. Lydia waited patiently for her hero to return but alas, he never did. When word of Alden’s death came Lydia vowed to protect Balmar from the dangers of adventuring. Her stories no longer spoke of his father’s bravery but of the perils of questing. She took every opportunity to turn Balmar off to the idea of leaving with a party in search of fame and fortune.
It worked, for a time, but Balmar was like any other young, impressionable youth. After his lessons he would sneak away to hide in a barrel by the open window of the tavern in town. There, he heard the truth about adventuring. Sure there was risk, but how the fortune outweighed the danger! Still, Lydia’s words rang in his ears and he resolved himself to merely listening to the stories at the tavern and not actually seeking adventure.
Lydia sold a great majority of the spoils she and Alden won in their quests and bought a small market in the town of Lake Farmin, a mostly Christian town on the Isle of Mist, known to the Muslims as al-Jazira Sadim. She set up shop and sold the usual market items and whatever objects reminded her of Alden. She was devastated by his death and sought to erase him from her world. Subconsciously she began to distance herself from Balmar, who resembled his father more and more each day. She stayed away from the shop, leaving young Balmar to watch the store. She had taught him the basics of shopkeeping and he felt it was his duty to help his mother out. He was was a born haggler, able to talk the prices of his suppliers down easily. He had fondness for mechanical, tiktoky things. Gears, drive belts, clockworks: all of these fascinated Balmar. He bought up any strange tchockey traveling merchants had and set about to learn how they worked. He taught himself engineering from books he traded scholars for. These distractions made the days at the shop more bearable. They also helped distract him from thinking of his mother and what she was doing. He didn’t know where she disappeared to. She always had an excuse: something about faith and devotion and fasting. She fasted so much he wondered if she’d ever eat again. After a long absence she returned for a short afternoon and told him she loved him and “be a good boy” and “mind the shop, it’s all you have now”. This last bit troubled Balmar and so when she left he followed her out of town to see where she was going. It was then that he saw she was secretly meeting with Ollie (now Ali since the town was converted to Islam). He overheard Ali speak of their “new life together” in a town called Bandahurr. Balmar was excited by this news, and ran home to pack his things for the trip. He anxiously waited for his mother to come home and give him the news. He had prepared his surprised look, practicing it in the mirror so she would believe him. He stayed up as long as he could finally falling asleep on his engorged backpack. When he awoke he thought maybe she had come home and, seeing him laying there obviously exhausted, snuck into her bedroom quietly as to not wake him. He knocked on her door and waited for her to reply. Nothing. He knocked again. And again. Finally he pushed the door open cautiously. As the door opened it revealed a completely empty room. Everything was gone. Every piece of clothing, every bottle of rose water, her furniture, her staff. Everything. Balmar suddenly realized she wasn’t coming back. His soul was destroyed — he couldn’t believe he was all alone. How could God, or Allah, or whoever he was supposed to believe in now let this happen? His own mother abandoned him for the charlatan who lurked outside of town. What would become of him?
[Ask David about how Balmar was found by the party, incorporate that here]