The World Beyond: al-Jazira Sadim
Banished royal bodyguard turned religious crusader
There are stories so ancient and so terrible that no man should abide their retelling. There are stories so insipid and quotidian that they merit not a single word. This story lies in the chasm between; a story that is even now progressing. Here is that enviable story which lies malleable in our hands to be taken to great heights or to be crushed and discarded. This, this is Ibrahim’s story.
A Royal Youth
All births are momentous, at least to the birthed. Ibrahim came into this world the much anticipated only child of his then aging mother and his celebrated father. His birth, alas, was rather overshadowed by the contemporaneous birth of Sultan’s first son, Amir. But the royal birth was a cause of great celebration, and Ibrahim’s timely arrival was seen as very auspicious, paired so neatly with the birth of his charge. Ibrahim was to be the bodyguard of this royal son.
A family of considerable status if not wealth, Ibrahim’s paternal ancestors were, and had been for near countless generations, employed in the protection of the Sultan and his royal family. Theirs was a tradition of honor; they took pleasure in service where others grew bitter and rued their place.
Ibrahim benefitted from a royal education, alongside the prince. More than a mere companion or employer, Amir became a close friend and confidant. As Amir began to be granted some powers of the sultanate, Ibrahim was often consulted and the two would debate fanciful arguments of politics and power. The education was as elite as it was secular, which is to say that while Ibrahim knew much of geography and history and maths and finances, his educators were not concerned with his spiritual development or marketable skills. Religion was taught as tool of influence, not as a personal exploration and understanding. And while many of his class learned crafts and trades, these were of no use to those upon whom the royal security depended.
While the prince went for lessons in etiquette, Ibrahim was trained in the defensive arts. His uncles, after the early death of his father, taught him the scimitar’s many expressions of emotion. The soft slicing caress of the blade as it glides sunnily along the enemy’s flesh; the deadly hacks that come with a bout of melancholy. Ibrahim expressed himself in his work. He dealt with the viscissitudes of puberty with his weapon, aided as he was my his enviable might and agility.
An Evitable Death
On their 17th birthday, the two boys were relaxing from the day’s many celebrations. A groundbreaking occured for a new wing of the palace in honor of the prince. However, the cursed ground had, unbeknownst to any present at the time, released a tormented spirit. While the prince retired to his quarters Ibrahim went to his adjacent quarters to keep watch. Tired from a long day Ibrahim fatefully drifted into slumber.
It was too late by the time the icy shiver brought him awake. Before Ibrahim could sense something evil was present, the creature had slipped past him into the prince’s quarters. As Ibrahim stumbled into the room, the abomination, driven some demonic urge, assailed the prince. Amir collapsed, lifeless.
They say that when tears overfloweth the ewer of Sorrow they pool like blood in the vessel of Wrath. So it was with the rage of Ibrahim, which he served up hot. In a single fell blow of his scimitar he smote the ghoul. If you asked Ibrahim to describe his feeling in this moment, he would likely say he was distraught or defeated — but he would be conflating his feelings of the moment before (viewing the death of his friend) with his feelings of this moment (the killing of the creature). This second emotion might better be approximated as “joy” or “fulfillment” — crass or baseless as this may seem, Ibrahim felt for a fleeting moment, powerful. Alas, it was a moment too late. The prince lay slaughtered at his feet.
Ibrahim found himself blamed, not without reason, for the death of the royal son and haunted by his responsibility for the death of his friend. Thus was he doubly shamed and defeated.
A Wandering Soul
Lost to himself and banished from his home, Ibrahim joined a caravan. He cared little where it led him, and he found himself in the cosmopolitan city of Tredroy. He was accustomed to the palace’s royal tranquility, and the bustle and uncouthness of the city disconcerted Ibrahim. He took daily solace in the one place he found most familiar to his previous life, a subdued mosque on the outskirts of the city.
Seeing Ibrahim so often in attendance at the mosque, the imam believed Ibrahim to be a very devout man, and Ibrahim, struggling to identify himself with something other than his lineage and erstwhile employ, found in the imam a new father — a man to guide him on what he now realized was his destined path. What he lacked in religious understanding he made up in zeal. He took on a job as handyman and security for the mosque and, in exchange, was given food and given all the religious education he was never offered before.
The mosque was a regional center of Islamic scholarship, boasting a reputable library and having a long tradition of deep study. The time Ibrahim spent in the library was largely devoted to dust removal and pest control, and though the scholars who spent long hours there found him affable and funny, he found them boring. Their religion, one of doubt and curiosity, was a long way from his sure-footed commitment to the Truth. With each passing day his convictions grew stronger, and, though his imam urged constraint and caution, he wished to move on to the northern crusades where his brawn might be put to better service of Allah.
And so it happened that one night sweeping the passage between the library and the scholars’ quarters, Ibrahim was roused from his twilight thoughts by a terrific rumble, the very earth startled at some awakened evil. The long ignored crypt had been opened by some careless scholar. Ibrahim rushed into the library to find a skeleton in battle with the hapless Ismail ibn Yusef. The two men combined were barely able to hold the powerful skeleton at bay.
The imam had been aroused by the infernal tremor and appeared in the entryway. Seeing its opportunity, the skeleton lunged at the man who could do little but feebly cower as the it deftly cleaved his holy soul from his body. Rushing up from behind the skeleton, Ibrahim was able to dispatch the unholy monster. The crumpled figure of the imam was as lifeless as the skeleton’s had ever been.
A Northern Incursion
Saying that Ibrahim was “devastated” by this turn of events — first seeing his sometime brother slain by an undead and now to see his sometime father thusly undone — would merely be distilling into a word a vinegar apt to pickle a soul. Allah clearly must having been sending a signal that His work, Ibrahim’s redemption, lies in the northern crusades. He took a temporary job as Ismail’s bodyguard on the journey north to the Pillars of Heaven, and quickly left the scholar’s tedious company with the arrival of some questionable lizard-man guide to the travelling party.
The battle with the infidels sharpened Ibrahim’s physical skills and found him battle-tested and battle-ready. He was an asset to the front lines, admired for his fervid might (if not his subtlety) by his compatriots.
The slavers’ attack came at night, after a particularly arduous day of battle. Ibrahim had no chance to grab his weapon. Thus was he captured and brought in chains to this Allahforsaken island. The captivity gnawed at his already frayed soul and left him desperate to see Allah’s glory manifest. Humiliation enough for a ambitious warrior to be thusly mistreated, but then to be freed by a runt of a goblin!? Perhaps there may be some opportunity to redeem his pride here before heading back to the front lines…
Will Ibrahim find the glory he so desperately seeks? Will his zeal be his undoing? Will he have to endure, yet again, the torment of watching a loved one die?