SHAZRAD: City of Veils

A character created and played by Anna.


A wisewoman huddled at the corner peers at Sabbira and sees a young woman of slight build and somewhat small stature. Although she appears to be no more than sixteen or seventeen, something about the way she carries herself makes the wisewoman suspect that she is most likely older than she appears. While she is no great beauty, her features possess a sort of unique charm.

Her dark eyes seem to see another world entirely, her head obviously in the clouds, and the wisewoman wonders just what she is seeing. She pauses to pull a scrap of paper from some unseen pocket and makes a few brief notations, murmering softly to herself. The paper is returned to its hidden pocket in her fine brown robes. She stands there a moment longer--absently brushing some of her long, black hair out of her eyes--before suddenly realizing that she has been standing in the middle of the street. She smiles warmly at the old woman before hurrying off.


Sabbira is a very introspective sort of person, and as a result she tends to give the impression that she does not pay attention to the world around her. But those who think that she is not paying attention would be surprised by how little she misses.

Being an only child, Sabbira's father was determined that she would follow in his footsteps and become a member of the House of the Golden Hand. His disapproval of her creative leanings forced her to simply hide her writings and songs from others, a habit which she has been unable to shake even now that she has reached the age of independance. It is also a habit that grieves her to no end since she often has trouble remembering which of her hiding places her latest song is in.

Despite such an unpleasant upbringing, Sabbira has managed to retain her peaceful, cheerful nature. While she can be a bit quiet, she is not shy. She is the sort that genuinely wants to please people, although she often tries a bit too hard.


Fareed al-Bashani was a man with boundless ambition. Perhaps it was the will of the star-eyed god, or perhaps it was just phenomenal luck, but everything seemed to go his way. After rising to prominence within the House of the Golden Hand Fareed married into the Azel kinship--determined to have a son who would follow in his footsteps. It would seem that fate, or the star-eyed, has a sense of humor. Fareed's wife, Jalila, bore him only one child, a daughter, a fact which he reminds his wife of every day. Her mother named her Sabbira in the hopes that she would be patient enough to endure her father's eternal disappointment in her gender.

Not being a man to let the unexpected set him back for long, Fareed realized that a female heir would be better than no heir at all. From a young age, he enrolled Sabbira in some of the best schools in the hopes to groom her to become a member of the House of the Golden Hand. Unfortunately for both father and daughter, it became obvious rather quickly that Sabbira was completely unsuited to be a member of that House.

For one, she showed no interest in financial matters--although not for lack of trying on her father's part. Jalila did her best to shield her daughter from her father's growing disapproval, but things quickly became very uncomfortable for her. Her father began to belittle her daily, calling her a lackwit for "staring off into space" and "not taking interest in proper pursuits." Being the sensitive person that she was her father's insults hurt her immensely, although she took care never to let her father know just how much it pained her. Even with her father's constant disapproval, Sabbira still couldn't find it in her heart to hate her father. It wasn't until her father started burning her writings that she began to despair of ever reaching an understanding.

As a result, Sabbira took to staying away from the family home as much as possible. Often she wandered the Bazaar, delighted by the exotic wares and luxeries that her father had always declared to be "unneccessary and frivolous". Occasionally, when her father was exceptionally cruel, she ventured to the Temple in order to pray for release from her father's clutches. But her favorite retreat was the Garden of Prisms. There she was able to find the peace and serenity that was so lacking in her own home. She would spend hours in one of the little alcoves, writing songs or just simply enjoying the solitude.

Sensing that his daughter was only retreating farther from him, Fareed became determined to bring his errant daughter to heel. To that end, he arranged a betrothal for his daughter to the son of another prominent member of the House of the Golden Hand without her knowledge. It was her mother who informed Sabbira of her father's clandestine deal.

Not knowing what else to do, Sabbira once again retreated to the Garden of Prisms. Instead of her usual cheerful humming, Sabbira began to softly sing every dirge she knew as she mourned for the loss of her freedom. As the star-eyed would have it she was heard by Hassan Askhalani, a member of the House of the Thousand Tales. Astonished at the beauty of her voice, he interrupted her laments and demanded to know why she hadn't applied for membership in his House. Too shocked to respond, Sabbira found herself almost dragged away by the rather engergetic Hassan and that same afternoon was made his student.

While elated at this opportunity, she was filled with dread as to how her father would react. She can only hope that things will turn out for the best in the end.


It was her mother Jalila who found her first, thank the star-eyed. Not every woman would have had the nerve to demand entrance from the House of the Thousand Tales. Then again, not every woman came from the Golden Hand, itself influential.

Hassan had stopped mid-demonstration of a tricky scale as a House servant gestured to him, and told Sabbira to meet her mother. "It never does to offend your kin unnecessarily," he said with no trace of irritation at this interruption. But then, a House of storytellers did well to verse its members in diplomacy. "Go, child. Your voice will keep."

The servant, a man who walked as though every step were a dance, led Sabbira through the House's hallowed halls to a different archway than the one through which Hassan had taken her. There, beside one of the marble columns, stood Sabbira's mother. There were two small lines between her brows; they eased when she saw her daughter.

"I came when I heard that you had disappeared from the Garden," Jalila said without specifying how she had heard this. "What new pasttime have you found, daughter?"

"Mother, I..." Sabbira bowed her head as much in apology as to hide the tears of shame that sprang to her eyes.

"None of this, daughter of my heart," Jalila interrupted firmly. Sabbira looked up and was astonished to see her mother smiling gently. "Do not apologize for finding something that makes you happy." She paused then, the creases between her eyebrows returning. "It is I who should apologize to you. The star-eyed knows that you have had precious little in your life to make you happy."

"No, Mother! You have been the best mother anyone could ask for. Itís not your fault that..."

"Your father has been cruel to you?" Jalila finished, smiling when her daughter cringed. "It warms my heart to hear you say that, daughter But I canít help but feel that perhaps I could have done more for you." A shadow of sadness passed briefly over her motherís elegantly composed features, vanishing so quickly that Sabbira questioned if she had really seen it or if it had been merely imagined.

"Mother? Why did you marry Father?" the young girl blurted out, unable to contain her curiosity.

The older woman smiled again, her eyes sparkling with amusement and mystery. "I had my reasons. Not all of them financial," was all she said before the smile faded and was replaced by a look of grave concern. "Be assured that your place within this House is secure. Your father may have influential friends, but I am not without allies of my own. If you desire a place in this House, it shall be yours with my blessing. However, I doubt that my influence will extend to...other matters. You will have to face your father yourself." Her mother paused to pat Sabbira on the shoulder encouragingly. "It truly is a blessing that you have found your way into such an influential House. Iím sure that you will be able to make allies here who can help you in ways that I cannot." With that said, Jalila gave her daughter a short but affectionate embrace and walked away, leaving a dazed Sabbira behind to ponder the conversation that had just taken place.

"Your mother is a very wise woman," Hassan said, startling her out of her reverie. Sabbira whirled to face her teacher, surprised that he had approached without making a sound. She wondered for a brief moment just how much of the conversation he had overheard. "Perhaps it would be best for us to suspend your lessons for today," her teacher continued, apology coloring his rich bass voice. "It has been quite a day for you and I fear that I have inadvertently made things worse for you. I hope that you will not hold it against me."

"N-never, sir!" Sabbira stammered.

Hassan laughed. "Very well then. But do not get used to such leisure. Your lessons will begin again bright and early tomorrow morning. There is more to being a Storyteller than simply having a wonderful voice." The large man winked to show his pupil that he had meant no malice. He then paused, frowning thoughtfully. "You had best come with me--you'll need a room to stay in." Hassan began to walk down a hallway at a brisk pace, forcing Sabbira to nearly jog to keep up.

"A room? Here?"

"Of course. We can't have you going back home now can we? No telling what your father would do once he had you back under his roof. Very impatient man, your father."

"You know my father, sir?" Sabbira asked incredulously.

"I know of your father, yes. He is a very influential man. Always keep an eye on potential enemies, I say."

Sabbira held back the hundreds of questions that sprang to the tip of her tongue, something in Hassan's manner warning her that perhaps that was a subject that should not be broached farther as of yet. It was enough for her to know that the man was on her side. The two of them fell into a not uncomfortable silence, Sabbira brooding over the implications of what Hassan had said.

"Ah, here we are." The large man stopped abruptly and gestured to a door. "This will be your room. Rest well, young Sabbira. I will see you in the morning." With that he made his exit, whistling a jaunty tune.

After a brief moment, she cautiously opened the door. The room was sparsely furnished, but not shabby. Certainly not what she was used to, but knowing that her father would not be able to disturb her here was enough to make this small room feel like the most decadent palace. Wearily, she flopped onto the bed--all of the day's excitement catching up to her at once. Would she ever be able to keep up with her teacher's boundless energy?

One problem solved. Oh, but star-eyed... So many others now to deal with. Give me wisdom to choose the right path...

Copyright © 2000-2001 by Alioqui & Yoon Ha Lee

[ Return to the top of the page ]


Game info
Other lands

Link to us