SHAZRAD: City of Veils

A character created and played by Bryan Ray.


A slightly drunk sailor regards Reidjai Shakhir and sees a man so ordinary as to be indistinguishable from the thousands of others who throng Shazrad's streets.  His short, black hair is almost completely concealed by his Ghutrah, beneath which is a moderately handsome face, but not so handsome as to make any woman look at him twice.

He seems young, perhaps twenty-five, and certainly no older than thirty.  Reidjai breaks into a sudden smile as he notices the sailor, and he inclines his head briefly before turning back into the crowd, his finely-cut robes blending instantly with so many others in the crowd.


Reidjai has always been mediocre.  Never the smartest or the strongest, nor the slowest or weakest.  All of his life he has been pushed aside by stronger personalities--men with louder opinions or quicker wits.  He has resigned himself to always being in the background.

He grew up with harsh discipline, wedded to strict morality; his father was never slow to emphasize lessons on honesty with a stout rod.  Reidjai and his brothers grew up with the certainty that the star-eyed god was watching them and knew all that they did, and anything which the god missed, their father surely would not.  Although this strict upbringing may have broken the spirit of his youngest brother, Reidjai himself took solace from his certainty that the star-eyed god was, indeed, watching, and that everything would turn out for the good.

It is that very certainty which lends him an irrepressible good nature.  Reidjai is always cheerful and pleasant.  In fact, his joyful countenance has served to alleviate that life-long feeling of inferiority; he has many friends among merchants, traders, and shippers in the Bazaar.  This popularity has served to bring his family much more wealth than they have ever before enjoyed as well as much more attention from certain factions within the city...


Reidjai was born into a rather large extended family.  His great grandfather had first opened a stall in the Bazaar when he was but a young man, and that small business had been barely adequate to support the family for three generations.  His grandmother serves as a sort of matriarch of the family, holding a mother's influence over her three sons, all of whom share responsibility for the family's business.  Her four daughters have all married and care for families of their own under other roofs, but the ties to the Shakhir home remain strong, and Reidjai commonly has the pleasure of his aunts' company, as well as that of many, many cousins.

At a young age, Reidjai began to help with tending the Bazaar stall, which had grown over the years to accomodate so many men working it.  His fetch-and-carry role was eventually taken over by a younger cousin, and his uncle taught him how to haggle over prices.  When Reidjai showed quite a talent for the process, he was left to tend to customers.

His honest affability allowed him to quickly develop healthy trading relationships with a number of well-to-do merchants.  Almost effortlessly, Reidjai attracted customers, serving to turn the stall into a thriving and very profitable business.  The family began to deal in more and more exotic and expensive wares: silks and dyes, metals and wood, among other things.  Within five years, Reidjai's eldest uncle had purchased a warehouse and the family had begun offering shipping services to many of the smaller neighboring booths in the Bazaar.

It was in this way that Reidjai and his family came into new wealth.  With that wealth came greed; mysterious crates began to appear in the warehouse and at the booth.  They moved by night and seldom bore the stamps of tariff officers.  Reidjai, out of respect for his elders, has held his tongue, but he has begun to be uncomfortable with the goings-on.  None of his brothers or cousins knew anything of what was in those boxes, nor did most of them care to find out.  All they were concerned with was their new-found affluence and protecting it.  Poking their noses where they didn't belong could do naught but threaten that.

So Reidjai has done nothing, but his prayers to the star-eyed god have lately been filled with petitions for wisdom.


It should have been another ordinary day, with the daily lingering unease that, unfortunately, Reidjai was becoming used to.  Crates appeared and disappeared; the scents of fine spices and herbs, some of them only questionably legal, pervaded the warehouse; and there was half a dismembered dragonling inside the box that Reidjai had just knocked over while he was looking for the inventory sheets his brother had left here.

A dragonling?

His first thought had been that someone had been unforgivably careless in the packaging of the box, for it to have fallen open so easily; only a few forlorn layers of greasy cloth cushioned the contents.  But the skeletal, gleaming remains of a miniature dragon, no larger than his two hands--unmistakably kin to the smaller guardian automata that the Watching Dragon was known to manufacture for its own use--suggested that more was going on in his family's business than simple smuggling.

Reidjai glanced over his shoulder furtively to see if any of his seemingly omnipresent family were nearby.  Seeing no one, he sighed quietly in relief and turned back to the quandary before him.  It seemed obvious that the presence of an automaton, despite its obvious state of disrepair, posed a great danger to the family.  If the Watching Dragon were to learn of its presence, they would undoubtedly stop at nothing to retrieve it.  Unless, of course, the device were, in fact, on its way to the House.

Reidjai made his decision swiftly.  He carefully wrapped the dragonling back in its protective cloth, snorting softly at the obvious lack of care that had gone into the packing to begin with.  Placing it back inside the box, he looked for some kind of shipping directives, the sort which were usually scribbled on the outsides of the crates.  This one had only an inventory number.  He quickly retrieved the inventory list he had been sent to find to begin with, and, taking note of the lack of an entry by that number, went about his work as normal.

That evening he went in search of information.  He knew a few other merchants in the Bazaar who occasionally dealt in small devices, to their own peril, but nothing so complex as the dragonling must have been.  His first stop was the Wagoneer's yards, where he asked about a merchant he had met months ago, a dealer in fine wire and the sorts of metals that the Watching Dragon often imported.  That man was not in the city, but another knew that he had only recently left after making a delivery to a shipping warehouse.

"A warehouse, you say?" Reidjai asked curiously.  "Pray, do you know which warehouse that was?"

"I did not inquire.  It is not polite to pry into another man's business affairs," the merchant said pointedly.

Reidjai flashed his famous smile.  "You are correct, honored sir, I forget myself.  Thank you for your time, and may you rest well this night."  He found himself frustrated by the necessity of following the myriad rules of protocol surrounding the Bazaar.  He spent another two hours in fruitless rumor-hunting, only to come up with three more very shaky leads:  It seemed that Memet Adrash had lost something recently; no one seemed to know what it was.  Reidjai knew Memet slightly--a very confident man who occasionally sold his surplus to some of the merchants in the Bazaar.  Other times he undercut their prices, but that was business.  Reidjai dismissed that one; Memet Adrash was hardly the sort to be dealing with the Black Market.

The second rumor was that some fruit-vendor's daughter had built a dragon.  Laughable.  The third, though, piqued Reidjai's interest.  The taxmen were muttering about a ship that had come and gone with no cargo.  No cargo that they were told about, Reidjai thought.  He had no time to go to the docks, however.  If that box were going somewhere, it would be moving soon, in the night.  The sun had set more than an hour past, and activity in the Bazaar was ebbing.  It never fully quieted, of course, but the night was not a time for buying and selling.

The time had come to engage in an activity certain to cause him trouble.  He turned his head skyward.  The stars were dim behind the light of torches and lamps, but the majesty of the god transcended the perception of a man's feeble eyes.  Great Star-eyed god, give me the wisdom to find my way through this darkest night, and protect me from harm in the way that I must go.  His prayer seemed a thin shield against the possibilities of danger arrayed before him.

The family's warehouse was a-buzz with activity.  With the crowds gone from the streets, a shipper's job was made much simpler.  For that reason, the city's warehouses were often centers of stir during the dark hours.  Reidjai stepped into the traffic effortlessly, blending immediately with the dozens of other men who had been hired to move crates into and out of the three warehouses which crowded one another in this dark corner of the Bazaar. Reidjai pretended to work on at least a dozen projects, wasting more than an hour trying to stay within eyeshot of the mysterious box.  He found it a great chore to be seen to be working without moving far, yet never be recognized by anyone; his uncles and cousins seemed to be everywhere! Finally, someone checked the inventory mark and placed the box on a cart with several other items similarly devoid of useful information.  Reidjai immediately shouldered a crate and followed the men pushing the cart out into the night.

He earnestly prayed that he could continue to follow without being questioned.  He glanced at the label on his crate--the thing had just been delivered!  What possible excuse could he give for carrying it away?  I hope you are out there.  Have mercy upon this poor fool.  This prayer seemed even less likely to help than the last...

Read about Reidjai in the archives

Copyright © 2000-2001 by Alioqui & Yoon Ha Lee

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