The Golden Wastes
Inquistion Archive on Trial of the Company of the Phoenix - Third Dynasty
The inquisition’s archives have a book on the trial of the Grandmaster of the Company of the Phoenix, written by a chronicler named Tariq at the time of the trial during the Third Dynasty (about a thousand years ago). Tariq was a member of the Company of the Phoenix who learned of the Grandmaster’s conspiracy and betrayed him to the inquisition. One section recounts the emergence and inﬂuence of a cabal of heretics who attempted to establish an underground cult worshipping evil genies.
The archive is in a heavy tome recording the minutes of the trial, the inquisitors, witnesses, and a reconstruction of the events. The verdict for the top conspirators was death, although low ranking members of the cult were released after their confession and repentance if their crimes were inadvertent. The archive appears to be a copy made soon after the trial ended (the original is most likely in the secret archives of the Calusari), but there are additional notes made at the end.
Grandmaster Khalid was trying to use the various artifacts the Company had kept as a means to reverse its economic and political decline, and had uncovered a Spirit Mask that allowed contact with outsiders. Using this, he had made contact with a spirit that called itself the Hidden King who provided Khalid with locations of buried treasure. Now convinced, Khalid went from being intrigued to devoted and began subverting other members of the Company and the city in the worship of his new master. Eventually, this Hidden King taught them about a group of genies – the Black Jinn – who had received wisdom about the true nature of the world, and the cult eventually adopted their worship under the guidance of the Hidden King.
Khalid and his followers descended into worship of the Black Jinn, and sought to master genie magic and enslave the genies for their treasure and wishes. They did this initially out of greed, but as their appetites grew so did their corruption, and they engaged in acts out of the worst aspects of human nature.
At first, the prestige and influence of the Company increased as their wealth brought them new friends and position. Perverted doctrines deviated people from their righteous faith and damning their immortal souls after death. But eventually their bad advice and corrupt favors lead to misery, death, and destruction, and the people of Velos began to complain.
At the end, Khalid’s main interest was in finding a Blackball at the behest of his master. Such knowledge was forbidden, and it was when Tariq learned about this that he notified the Calusari.
In his descriptions, the account reveals certain details of the original layout of the “Crimson Keep” which was the headquarters of the Company in Velos. Someone with ranks in Knowledge (Local) can attempt a skill check to determine where.
The end of the journal is written in a different hand, and seems to be a comment by someone of the Calusari.
Dag Zahag is the key. His presence is a shadow over the city even now. The First Emperor destroyed him, but the ghul cult in the city is his legacy. I am sure of that. When the Companions of the Phoenix were destroyed by the Calusari, some missing members were never captured. They knew what the Grandmaster kept secret. Research is frightenly incomplete.
Dag Zahag found – something – in his quests, and brought it here to Velos. When the First Emperor seized the city, it went into hiding – careful not to appear.
It waited a long time and perhaps tried several times to find an appropriate pawn.
Grandmaster Khalid was one such. Tariq knew something. His disappearance after the trial is probably its doing.
What did Dag Zahag find, and what is its true origins?
Near the end of the account are separate pages tucked into the back of the book. It appears to be original notes that Tariq had made outside the trial, perhaps by independent investigation afterwards. If so the later chronicler must have found it and incorporated them into the official archive. One page in particular is intriguing.
It is as I suspected. The elder ghoul named Arukurshu is the Apostle of the Worm. He was granted his unlife by a disciple of the Conqueror Worm among the genies millennia ago when this parched land was still green. He was the Kingpriest of Eresh, but in his desire for immortality he served the harbinger of death and thus became his slave, binding him eternally to his will.
The Hierophants who opposed him created a weapon to destroy him should he appear again. But the rite the Ghul Queen performed obscured it from thought, history, and sight as if it never existed at all. Nothing remains in the Akashic Record, the collective knowledge of mankind’s unconscious. But the original Companions of the Phoenix were no fools. They suspected the Conqueror Worm would one day rise again, and that his servants would learn to walk once more.
Arukurshu’s presence in this world was long quiet for many centuries. His defeat centuries ago made him a coward, and he rarely makes his desires known. I do not believe that the corruption inside the Order was his only ploy, but that he patronizes various odd cults and servants – often unknowingly – to be ready for his plan.
I suspect that since he has been defeated now, he will again retreat and his plans slumber. But they will awake again at some point when all knowledge of this affair has been forgotten. How many centuries could it be? Why does he wait so long between attempts? Is it just fear of exposure, or is there a cycle that governs his attempts?
To defeat this evil for all time, I must journey to the lost city of Eresh and uncover any clues it may have. As long as Arukurshu survives, the Cult of Worms will always have a patron. Arukurshu lies trapped in his prison tomb of Esaglia in the Tempest. No doubt, he has enslaved the pneumavores there and bound them to his will.
No other information is found, as if Tariq disappeared sometime afterwards and never completed his quest.
The original cult leader Khalid is called “Khalid the Black” throughout the tome. Like all guilty of sorcery, he and his followers were sentenced to death by being burned at the stake.