SHAZRAD: City of Veils

A character created and played by Frank J. Perricone.


Twenty-four years ago, as Kaabyshan later learned, Djaiz Eimynaa was a powerful man, close to the centers of power in the House of the Golden Hand, a man who brokered many complex trade negotiations (particularly with Shokuru) and who reveled in his status. He had many rivals for his position, and delicate ploys and intrigues were arrayed against him; it took all his considerable intelligence and talents, plus lots of hard work, to fend off these attacks and still manage to advance the causes of his House. In other words, life, for Djaiz, was perfect. There was, perhaps, one grain of sand in the fountain: his wife gave him no sons, and he wished for one. But his daughters brought him joy too, he told himself, and every day was a new challenge, a new plot to foil, and a new deal to seal.

The threat that almost tore down his life came from an unexpected direction: a young female assistant of his, with whom he had almost casually had an affair, was with child, and it could be none but his. Everyone knew that powerful people had affairs, but everyone also knew that powerful people were necessarily discreet about it; being caught could upset delicate balances of power, as even the smallest disgrace could be made into more by one's rivals. Djaiz had to act quickly, and he did. The woman (whose name Kaabyshan never learned) was sent, along with a select few of Djaiz's most trusted aids, on a trading negotiation mission to Shokuru, one which, coincidentally, would take just under a year. Secrecy was assured; the woman would give birth far away, under the watchful gaze of trusted colleagues, and the baby would be slipped into an orphanage and forgotten.

It was handled efficiently and no one suspected a thing. And so the story would have ended, except that the woman bore Djaiz a son. When he learned of this, he could not resist, could not leave the boy to an anonymous orphan's life. Contriving reason after reason, he found the boy, arranged for his adoption by some well-placed lower cousins in his Kinship, secretly provided for his education (above what his station would normally suggest), and found ways to be in the boy's life, as a "friend of the family", sometimes even called "uncle".

The boy, named Kaabyshan by his adoptive parents, was bright and strong and smart and handsome. "Blood does not lie," as the saying goes, and his parents were sometimes hard-pressed to keep up with the child's drive, an image of his father's. He grew up in a sort of fantasy life, always better dressed, better educated, and better treated than any of his peers, able to get away with far more, and accustomed to always being somehow more important than another would have expected to be.

As he neared young adulthood he finally became aware of how unusual was his situation, and his inner fire of curiosity drove him to wonder, and to try to find out why things were different for him than for others. His parents had kept the secret well, but not well enough, and soon he knew the truth. He held it bitterly inside for a time, chewing over the sense of betrayal, until he could no longer restrain himself. He confronted his father, his real father, with the truth, and with his anger. At first Djaiz was only worried the boy would reveal the secret and ruin his status. Kaabyshan was dumbfounded; the possibility had never occurred to him. "Still it blows over you as a wind from the sea, Uncle! This isn't about you! I don't care about your precious status. I'm not threatening you, I'm not talking about you at all! This is about me! It's about who I am! You've lied to me, my parents have lied to me, all my life. I don't know who I am, and I have to find out for myself. I won't have anything more from you; I don't ever want to see you again!"

He was true to his word, and his word bound him. To make sure, absolutely sure, he would go a different way, outside his father's reach, he immediately sold himself as a bondservant to an overlander (a merchant who stayed to overland routes) and spent five years working hard under the desert sun, fiercely loyal, always working a little bit harder than was needed, always trying to prove something to himself. He bought his own freedom just before his 19th birthday and returned to Shazrad, feeling free of his heritage, feeling he'd proven himself his own man, that even Djaiz would have to admit it. But even then, somewhere deep inside him, something knew that proof would never be complete, and he would have to prove it again, every day.

In time he set his ambitions on the House of the Crescent Sword, mostly because his talents suited it, but also in part because that House and the House of the Golden Hand were in opposition at the time over some incident that seemed important then, but has since been all but forgotten. His obvious talent and powerful inner drive attracted the attention of a skilled patron, Ylaadjaash, renowned as a teacher, and for the fact that she was very selective at accepting candidates for her patronage. (Perhaps that challenge is why he sought her, specifically, to be his patron.) Unbeknownst to him, part of her selectivity came in investigating the past of her candidates, and with some crafty prying, she was able to learn his secret, though it was well hidden.

Ylaadjaash explained to Kaabyshan that she could not accept him and tried to leave it at that, but he would not go without an explanation. Finally she admitted that she'd learned his secret. Even as he drew in a breath for an impassioned reply, she held up a finger and quelled it. "I do not hold your history against you. In fact, you've done very well to avoid using it in your favor, to make all your accomplishments your own. I respect that. And I do not hold against you that you lied to me about who you are. I would have done the same, and in a way, your lie was your truth. And any man who would not lie when a lie is the right weapon, is a man who fights at a disadvantage.

"Nevertheless I cannot be your patron. If I could learn your secret, I, perhaps a bit crafty but still just a teacher of swordplay and the arts of the body, then others could, and even easier than I. Your secret has been safe because none have had reason to seek it. If you were to join this House, in time, you would become a person of rank within it. Your talent and your drive are clear, even if the one sometimes strives for what the other cannot yet reach." She smiled knowingly. "In time you would become important enough to investigate, and then, your secret would not only be your own undoing, it would hurt the entire House. I must choose my actions for the good of the House. I am sorry, but I know you will find another way to use your talents. I know this as I know my own hand."

Kaabyshan walked the city's darkest places through that night, sleeplessly, despairing, wandering without direction. Surely the same unpassable expanse of dry sand awaited before him on any other path he chose; Ylaadjaash's reassurances gave him no comfort. He was hardly aware of his surroundings as he moved in a haze through the night and into the morning. Stumbling groggily into the Bazaar of the Patchwork Roof by morning, he found his senses tickled by something not quite right, but he paid it little heed.

But even in his sleep-deprived, despairing muddle, the oddness at the edge of his perception gnawed at him until he finally gave it his attention, and he was surprised to note that the fruit he'd always known as bluemelon was now beige, and called instead cantaloupe, and no one seemed to know it had ever been blue. More strange differences came to his attention. Here, where there should be a booth where a woman he'd worked for the week before sold cloth and trinkets, a frail old man was selling books, and had been for years; when he called at the woman's shanty, he learned she'd died years earlier in a shipwreck. There, a road that had zigged to the left now zagged to the right, and its stones clearly had been set into the earth that way for seven times seven lifetimes. The crescent of a sword worn by a man of the House had a sharper curve in it than he knew. And there were more things to notice, too many to count, but none very important. A Veil had turned during the night, he knew not when.

As the sun was high in the sky, and his exhaustion was just beginning to overwhelm his drive to find out what was going on, Ylaadjaash found him in a tavern conversing, almost animatedly despite his weariness, with one from the House of a Thousand Tales. He had been inquiring after a powerful man by name of Djaiz Eimynaa, of the House of the Golden Hand, and no one, not a single soul, had ever heard of the man. Perhaps no such man had ever existed; perhaps he had a different name; perhaps he simply had never become noteworthy. But who had been in charge of negotiations with Shokuru, then, he had inquired, and learned that such matters were attended to by a deeply religious old woman who was best known for having been frail of health, on death's door, for going on ten years now, but always just barely strong enough to keep up her work for the House.

It was as he was marveling at this revelation that Ylaadjaash grabbed him roughly by the shoulder and spun him about, causing him to weave dangerously in his exhaustion. "A fine way to start your first day of training, Kaabyshan!" she shouted. "What part of 'sunrise' did I not make clear to you yesterday? You will march twice as long today, and in armor, too!" She dragged the befuddled young man off to the square to begin his training, and some animal wisdom in him knew, as he marched in the hot sun in armor until he passed out, to not ask her if she had investigated his past, or what she'd found.

Instead he simply threw himself into what he'd always been most comfortable at: proving himself, by himself, rising over every challenge. Ylaadjaash struggled mightily to teach him to take orders, to know his limitations, to work with others, and to curb his sometimes over-strong drives. Once during sparring, he made a simple but grievous mistake, an over-reach typical for him, that, through no one's fault, tore the muscles down his left arm in a way that no priest could ever fully heal. But instead of learning from his mistake, he simply threw himself into the challenge of making himself a capable and talented swordsman despite the disability of a left arm with almost no strength or dexterity, barely able to hold a buckle, and totally incapable of holding a buckler.

In the end, Ylaadjaash had to accept him into the House without making as much headway towards that lesson as she'd hoped. He had learned; he could work as part of a team, could take orders, could stop himself from overreaching. But his confidence, his need to control things, his natural tendency towards leadership, and his eternal drive to face and overcome every challenge, would always flare up under pressure. "Sometimes it's better to make your ship the shape of the wood," she mused. "One way or the other, this ship will sail many storms and many seas. I will enjoy watching the voyage."


Of tall and strong stature and handsome build, Kaabyshan is an impressive sight. But when one looks a bit closer, it's clear he's not quite as tall, or as strong, as it seemed at first, and his clothes aren't quite as rich as they perhaps should be, and he definitely holds his left arm oddly. But somehow, there's something in his poise, his confidence, and his presence that marks him as one worthy of notice. He is one to watch out for--either because he'll be one to do great things, or because he'll be a rival to the ambitious and strong of will, or because he is a force to be harnessed to someone else's ends. But whatever the reaction, it is not to ignore this driven young man.

Kaabyshan is always dressed just as well as he can afford, which isn't necessarily very well, depending on his current circumstances, but he's willing to cut corners elsewhere. Most of the time he is dressed in a dark hunter green that matches the dark green of his eyes. His hair is very dark and cut short, and his features are classical, statuesque, with a strong jaw and axe-like nose. Any more than a casual examination will show that his left arm is hardly functional, and his clothes invariably cover up the long, grisly scar along its length.


Kaabyshan is a very driven man. His every action is colored by a need to prove himself. He does not rely on others easily, and he has difficulty taking orders from others; these are weaknesses that the House of the Crescent Swords has struggled to teach him how to overcome, and he works hard at both, but they go against the grain, and no matter how hard he tries, his curious blend of confidence and insecurity push him into new feats of independence and braggadocio from time to time.


The solitude of the Garden of Prisms was always welcome, especially today. It was easy to wander about for hours without encountering another person. But as Kaabyshan followed the curve of the path, his eye caught upon an unusual pattern that proved someone had been here before him. The rocks were arranged into words...

The sun had hardly moved in the sky since he'd first noticed the puzzling message, when suddenly, with a jolt, Kaabyshan stood. The pensive look was erased in a moment of enlightenment; at first, elation at having deciphered the riddle, immediately replaced with concern. He looked around quickly, then charged into the pattern of rocks, kicking them apart anxiously. When the ruckus drew the attention of others he tossed a sheepish grin their way, as if to indicate he'd merely slipped, then turned and hurried out of the garden before the matter could be pursued any farther.

Leaning against a stone pillar at the garden's gate, breathing heavily, Kaabyshan whispered to himself, as he was wont to do when trying to figure something out. "I might not have been the first to see that... so the threat might still be there. Someone must be alerted, something must be done." Without hesitation he set out at a brisk jog to the House of the Watching Dragon.

"I assure you," the supercilious young man told him, "the Lighthouse is entirely secure; it's well guarded, by members of your own House in fact, and constantly monitored and checked for problems of any kind. Whatever could have led you to think it had been sabotaged, anyway?" The man's tone bordered on accusatory, and Kaabyshan knew he had no satisfactory answer, so he muttered some vague retraction and left, taking a circuitous route in case he was being watched. He wended his way through narrow alleys and behind buildings little more than shanties, held up more by leaning against neighboring houses than by any structural integrity of their own. Finally he came to the seaside quays and past them the base of the Lighthouse. By the time he arrived, he'd already figured out what to do.

"Anaan, my friend!" he said with deliberate bluster to a short, stocky man standing guard at the Lighthouse base. "Why haven't I seen you of late?"

"Kaabyshan! You rascal! I've been assigned to the Lighthouse for weeks now--don't see much of anyone down here." Anaan clapped Kaabyshan heartily on the back.

"Sounds cushy, spending your days down by the sea."

"Was at first, but after a while, the salt in the air gets in between the straps and into your armor... I have the most terrible rash on my elbow. What have you been up to, lad?"

"Oh, just the usual. Patrols, mostly. Sand instead of salt. At least until today; Ylaadjaash wants me to take over your shift today, or at least the rest of it."

Anaan peered suspiciously. "Why?" he asked in a long, drawn-out drawl.

"Well... let's just say she's a bit peeved at me for, um, well, more of the usual."

Anaan nodded knowingly. "What did you do this time? No, don't tell me, you wouldn't tell the truth anyway. Nor would she, I warrant. So I get the day off, thanks to your punishment?"

"So it would seem. Better enjoy it." As Anaan strolled off, Kaabyshan smiled. That had gone easily, and his reputation for getting into trouble with Ylaadjaash ensured Anaan wouldn't wonder too much. Probably wouldn't even mention it, so no one would ever discover his lie. Probably. Every thing worth doing had a risk in it, after all. He stepped up to Anaan's spot and took over the watch, waiting for an opportune moment.

He was still standing watch dutifully two hours later when noise inside the tower revealed that someone had noticed. Just a few rocks tossed into some gears behind a panel, but it was enough to alert the Keepers that something was wrong. Kaabyshan was sure that while they checked out and fixed his minor sabotage, they would also find the greater sabotage, and fix it. Come tomorrow the Bazaar would be full of a Thousand Tales of the terrible danger averted by careful work of the dedicated Keepers, who would bask in the praise, probably never even realizing that they would never have found the problem but for the intercession of an unknown interloper. The greatest lights do indeed shine in the dark, he thought.

But as Kaabyshan patrolled the Bazaar the next day, the story was on no one's lips. Oh, there was a brief mention here and there of the short time that the Lighthouse was being worked on, but nothing about any great threat, nothing about sabotage narrowly averted, no heroes, no tales. Had the House of the Watching Dragons kept the story quiet, and why? Perhaps the sabotage had been done by someone within the House? Unthinkable! But surely even that house was subject to internal squabbles and intrigue and power games, the same as the others. Or perhaps there never was any sabotage? And, for that matter, who had left that cryptic message in the Garden, and to what end? Chewing over these questions for an hour and another and then another, Kaabyshan finally shrugged and, as Ylaadjaash would advise him, let it go. These mysteries were too deep for him. Either circumstances would conspire to reveal their depths to him later, or they would not. Probably not.

Read about Kaabyshan in the archives

Copyright © 2000-2001 by Alioqui & Yoon Ha Lee

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