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Thread: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: Nov 11]

  1. #81

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 8]

    Just found this, great job!

  2. #82

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 8]

    Quote Originally Posted by Turkafinwë View Post
    Good to see another side of Mun'at. He is indeed no city-dweller or governor but a warrior accustomed to the free sandplains. Also through his eyes we see the mundane things of everyday life for the desert peoples which is great to expand the world a bit. The ending is also very intriguing and I can't wait to see what happens next.
    I thought it was about time he become more than just the "great general". And I also like the idea of using the traits and ancillaries to flesh things out. Mun'at is a "Nomad", and as such his thoughts and moods will be those of a nomadic individual. This is actually a big part of what makes these "everyday" things in Dedan so frustrating, because from the perspective of someone accustomed to regularly traveling the great sand wastes of Nefud or having to always be certain about where the next water is, bickering about building plans or taxation seems just so very petty. No one will die because of the decision and no one will be lost and unable to be found, so why bother so much?! That, at least, was what I thought someone like him might think in that environment.

    Quote Originally Posted by UK730 View Post
    Just found this, great job!
    Hi UK730! Always good to see a new face, and I'm glad you're liking it so far! And as a new reader you will actually get a slightly better experience through those first posts than others have, because I've retroactively included better maps and made small changes to increase flow and whatnot. I hope you continue to like it and stick around as things progress, and as always, any thoughts or feedback are always welcome, even if it's just a small comment about a typo or something you particularly liked (knowing those things helps greatly in proof-reading later, and also makes me aware of what the readers are into).
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  3. #83

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 8]

    Continued from Chapter 3 - Part I


    Dramatis Personae

    Nabati:

    Mun'at Ha'Qadri: General of the Nabati army, tasked with uniting the tribes of Arabia and subduing the Saba' confederations that control Arabia Felix.
    Shullai Ha'Maleki: Prince of the Nabati, riding south under Mun'at's command.
    Ravîv'êl Bikrum: Crown Prince of the Nabati. Recently assisted Mun'at's forces in capturing the settlement of Dedan.
    Malka Qênu: King of the Nabati, and leader of the united tribes.

    Rana'in: Elder warrior and long-time friend of Mun'at.
    Khalil: Raider under Mun'at's command, usually tasked with leading the cavalry and light skirmishers.
    Haza'el: Captain of the Nabati.
    Wayyuq: A spy and pathfinder in the service of the Nabati, but not of their tribes.

    Sabeans (Saba'):

    Mubsamat: Queen of the Saba' with ambitions to end the tribal rivalries that plague her people.
    Tharin: Captain of Mubsamat's guard, tasked with contacting the approaching Nabati on Mubsamat's behalf and bringing them over to her cause.



    Chapter 3
    Crimson Sands


    --------------------------------------------------
    (Part II)


    Initially the company, still far distant, could not readily be estimated and their intentions were equally unclear, but it was certain that whatever plans lay in their hearts, they sought to carry them out in the newly won city of the Nabati.

    Mun'at and Rana'in looked on in silence, at first neither moving, but after a short span the aging warrior shook off his paralytic mantle and made as if to descend from the wall, no doubt to send scouts or spies to investigate the new potential threat. Mun'at, however, laid a hand on his wrist to stay him, and when Rana'in's questioning eyes met his he only nodded toward the distant ever-nearing shapes. They were many and they came from a direction destitute of friends or allies, but something in their aspect failed to bespeak any malign will. In fact, it seemed almost as though they were afraid or perhaps broken. Mun'at could not explain it, for they were still too far distant to permit any true inspection, but he was certain that the approaching figures were not enemies, and when he looked to Rana'in he saw the same estimation mirrored in his eyes.

    Before long the watchmen of the city took notice as well -- though not nearly as quickly as Mun'at would have hoped for; their commander would require words -- and they began to hastily assemble themselves along the crest of the southern wall. Mun'at bade them make ready for whatever might be coming over the sands, quickly adding in iron tones that none were to loose arrows or draw blood without his leave. There was still some mystery at work and he would see it laid bare before taking any actions which could not be undone.

    Soon enough the guards were well arrayed, their orders passed down the ranks, and they settled into that most common task and pastime of soldiers, waiting. It mattered not if they were waiting for reinforcements to arrive, waiting for a long-anticipated battle to begin, waiting for orders, or even, as now, simply waiting to find out what in fact was going on. Waiting would always be the heart of a soldier's true calling, for in that patience and quiet resolve lay the foundations of an unshakable will, the seeds of victory on as yet unseen and unknown fields of battle.

    For an hour they stood watching the horizon, the flickering images barely growing in that time. For an hour more they stood, and still the distant figures trudged on, moving painfully slowly, almost deliberately so. As the third hour began Mun'at found himself warily scanning the hillsides to east and west, intuition making him fear that perhaps the entire display was a show, a ploy to draw their attention while some hidden force came at them sideways, but there was nothing. No columns of dust rose in the distance and no sights or sounds marked the passage of men through the hundred valleys that surrounded Dedan. Nothing moved except the slow processional on the southern plain.

    Then, as they finally began to near, the shapes ever so slightly resolving themselves, Mun'at found himself overcome by a very different fear. He silently begged the gods of the desert to make it not be true, but the stoop of the approaching people's shoulders, the way their feet dragged or they leaned on one another assured him his invocations would be in vain. When the first of them reached the city gates he no longer held any doubts, and with a heavy heart he descended from the walls to meet the incoming refugees.

    There were men, women, and children of all ages, their clothes dusty and ragged, scraps of them torn away to used for bandages on the wounded. And of these there were too many, and too evenly distributed to mark the passage of an army or some battle. There were old men covered in blood, women carrying maimed children, and even an orphaned boy and girl, siblings, who had put on brave smiles even though the tracks of pink on their dirtied faces betrayed the tears they had been shedding. Mun'at stopped a youngish man who was less badly hurt than the rest and asked him where they had all come from, what had happened.

    "Where have we come from?" the man repeated. "Everywhere. The exiles of Banu Sulaym are destroying everything they find, and they have made common cause in devilry with other raiders out of the eastern wastes, other men who hold to no law or custom. These lands of our home are not safe anymore." The man then looked quizzically on Mun'at, seeming to have only then noticed who he was talking to, and he added, "Who are you?"

    "I am Mun'at Ha'Qadri, servant of Malek Malka Qênu Ha'Nabati, and I assure you I have come to help." On hearing the name of the Nabati the man's brows tightened, but Mun'at continued quickly. "We have come to unite the desert peoples." he said. "To bring law to these lands that have so long been bereft of any. And I promise you that Banu Sulaym's exiles and any other brutes who harm the people will be found." Mun'at's voice then became earnest, almost aggressive. "Look at me!" he said. "I will find them all and I, Mun'at Ha'Qadri, will show them the price of their actions. You said they were doing the devil's work. Well, I plan to give the devil his due!"


    The refugees streamed in throughout the afternoon, coming in small groups or by single families, a few tragic individuals arriving alone with stories too dark to be told. The Nabati and Lihyanite soldiers quickly set a makeshift camp for them outside of Dedan, for before long they numbered almost as many as the residents within the city's walls, too many to be accommodated in the spare housing available. But fresh bread was baked, wounds were carefully tended, and by nightfall the newcomers were settled comfortably in a temporary home of comparative luxury, a city of canvas and open skies protected by the watchful eyes of Wayyuq's scouts, the taut bows of Khalil's raiders, the lancers and companion cavalry of Shullai, all of the desert tribesmen of the Harra and Hisma, and Dedan's own levy soldiers. All the might of North Arabia lay nestled in the narrow Wadi al-Jizl, and Mun'at would make certain that no more harm came to those people. He would make certain that such might was put to use.

    When the last of the dispossessed had been looked after Mun'at retured to his own tent in the Nabati camp north of the city, his countenance darkened and spirits cool. He did not greet the sentries or any of his captains as usual, but instead went inside in silence, closing the outer flap behind him. It was not like him to shut himself off so, but the day had been unfortunately unusual and so his companions at first ignored the change in behavior. However, as evening wore on and still he remained ensconced in solitude some began to quietly worry, until finally Rana'in and Khalil determined to together speak with their commander and friend, to ease his mind if they could.

    The old warrior and the rogue entered Mun'at's tent in silence, finding him seated alone and twisting between his fingers that narrow scrap of bloodied cloth he had taken from Al-Hijr so long ago. "Commander," Khalil began, "you cannot let this sit so heavily on you. This is war. Pain and death is all we will find before we return home."

    At first Mun'at was still, his eyes downcast, examining every fold and crease of the death-stained fabric. "No Khalil, it was not war, and it was not a raid." he finally answered, his gaze still averted. "It was a crime, and those responsible will be punished."

    Khalil's jaw clenched ever so slightly, and he spoke between closed teeth. "Mun'at, my friend, I know that this weighs on you, and I know why it does so--"

    "Tread lightly, Khalil!"

    "Commander, it is not our place to play watchmen for the desert!" Khalil snapped. "This force was raised for a purpose, and to forget that purpose would be treason!"

    "Hmph. Khalil, you are bold and you are daring, but you are rash, short-sighted, and foolish also. This force was raised that we might unite the desert, but who, I ask, will follow our banner if we cannot protect them from criminals and murderers? Who will trust us to safeguard them against the Greek tyrants when the tyrants within our own lands roam freely?" Mun'at shook his head, mirthlessly chuckling to himself. "Who will bring back the sons and daughters, the wife that was so loved, when once they have been taken away?" he finished quietly.

    Mun'at then rose his head. "Rana'in, go with Wayyuq and the scouts and find what you can of these lawless men." he said, glaring at Khalil all the while. "When you have located them return, and then we will show the tribes what happens to those who break the bonds of law and justice." Rana'in stepped out of the tent leaving Mun'at and Khalil alone.

    "Khalil," Mun'at began, his voice suddenly soft, "this does indeed weigh on me, and you know the reason why, but it should weigh on you as well. We were both there that day, and we both know the cost of barbarism and brutality. Why do you not stand with me on this?"

    "I long ago cast aside those memories, that life." Khalil said softly. "I am a raider now, nothing more, for were I to think on that day as you do I would break. It is done and gone, like those we once loved, and we must forget them."

    "Forget them?" Mun'at repeated quietly, half to himself. "She was the best of me. If I forget her what then will I be? No. I will not forget, and I do not believe you have truly forgotten either, though I understand your wish to. Understand my wish as well."

    "I will," Khalil responded, "and I will stand beside you through this all, but do not let your hope to undo the past cloud your sight of the present. The men who stand behind us have families and loved ones as well, all marching stolidly in our wake, and they matter as much as you or I. Do not forget that."



    Continue to Chapter 3 - Part III
    Last edited by Kilo11; May 14, 2019 at 07:36 AM. Reason: Added links
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  4. #84
    Turkafinwë's Avatar Cheerful Nihilist
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 15]

    Dark and grim chapter. Refugees from recent atrocities and a glimpse at some committed in the past. A glimpse at some terrible thing that has happenend in Mun'at and Khalil's past, of which I want to know more. Interesting developments.

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  5. #85
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 15]

    I agree, the contrast between Mun'at's uncertainty as he watches the horizon for potential threats, and his reaction to those who arrive, is well done. It sounds like Mun'at has a new, powerful motivation to achieve his goal of uniting the desert peoples and bringing law to lawless lands.

  6. #86

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 15]

    Quote Originally Posted by Turkafinwë View Post
    Dark and grim chapter. Refugees from recent atrocities and a glimpse at some committed in the past. A glimpse at some terrible thing that has happenend in Mun'at and Khalil's past, of which I want to know more. Interesting developments.
    Well, a part of Mun'at's and Khalil's past has already been very briefly alluded to before (somewhere in chapter 1, right as they begin to march from Elath; I'd guess around Part III or IV), but it will come up more throughout I think. Never in a clear statement of what happened, but in oblique references and lenses through which they see various situations. Put shortly, their past is past, but it will always shape their view of the present, which is our concern.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alwyn View Post
    I agree, the contrast between Mun'at's uncertainty as he watches the horizon for potential threats, and his reaction to those who arrive, is well done. It sounds like Mun'at has a new, powerful motivation to achieve his goal of uniting the desert peoples and bringing law to lawless lands.
    I was thinking about that a bit Alwyn, about what drives the man. There are some personal wishes and goals, things he wants to achieve or at least thinks he wants to achieve, but more important than these are the things he has to achieve. There are proper drivers for him that do not allow for choice or half-measures, and these will crop up here and there, often to his detriment (as ardent desires so often tend to be). We'll have to see how things progress though. I am not totally certain where we will end up.


    Anyway, the next update is coming now, a day early, because tomorrow we will be in the car most of the day heading off for vacation. I will still make sure I write over the course of my week away, but the installment after this one may be a bit shorter, depending on how much free writing time I find while out with the family. Until then, I hope you all enjoy this next installment!
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  7. #87

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 15]

    Continued from Chapter 3 - Part II


    Dramatis Personae

    Nabati:

    Mun'at Ha'Qadri: General of the Nabati army, tasked with uniting the tribes of Arabia and subduing the Saba' confederations that control Arabia Felix.
    Shullai Ha'Maleki: Prince of the Nabati, riding south under Mun'at's command.
    Ravîv'êl Bikrum: Crown Prince of the Nabati. Currently governing the conquered settlement of Dedan.
    Malka Qênu: King of the Nabati, and leader of the united tribes.

    Rana'in: Elder warrior and long-time friend of Mun'at.
    Khalil: Raider under Mun'at's command, usually tasked with leading the cavalry and light skirmishers.
    Haza'el: Captain of the Nabati.
    Wayyuq: A spy and pathfinder in the service of the Nabati, but not of their tribes.

    Sabeans (Saba'):

    Mubsamat: Queen of the Saba' with ambitions to end the tribal rivalries that plague her people.
    Tharin: Captain of Mubsamat's guard, tasked with contacting the approaching Nabati on Mubsamat's behalf and bringing them over to her cause.



    Chapter 3
    Crimson Sands


    --------------------------------------------------
    (Part III)


    Tharin walked through the narrow, oppressively noisy, fish-reeking streets of Zambram with his head held high. His face was gaunt and his skin had lost all of its color over the weeks of confinement on the ship from Adedou Kome, but he was finally, blessedly, back on solid land. Once again, like he had so many times since they made port, Tharin breathed deeply, drawing the air in through his nostrils and savoring the scents of terrestrial life. As might be expected, the air was heavy with the maritime odors of sea spray, salt, and stinking fish, but beneath those sharper tones lay the rich aromas of coastal cypress, citron trees, and desert sage, as well as the softer notes of earth and rock.

    He let his nose lead him on, and it, following unspoken but noisy cues from his stomach, made for the popping sizzling spits that were at the center of a hazy cloud of wood smoke and the heady scent of roasting meat. Tharin, unsurprised, found himself suddenly back where he had begun that morning, at an open bazaar of shops, ceilingless stands, and intoxicating opportunities. Scattered amongst the merchants were the soldiers under his command, a sizable detachment of them loitering in the shadows before the inn that was their temporary home, another portion of them shamelessly chattering and giggling with a band of overtly professional women a few doors down. He shook his head at their foolishness but said nothing. To his mind Zambram was nothing more than a backwater waystation, but it was the closest thing to civilization they would encounter until they reached Bakkah, and so he would allow a spot of amusement before they left.

    With an easy smile he turned away from the playful negotiations and drink-riddled attempts at flattery, shifting his gaze to the indistinct outlines of jagged blue that marked the far distant Hijaz. Tharin had already hired local guides to lead them, men who came with reputations of honesty and resilience, but on seeing the strength of those mountains his expression slowly solidified.


    The sharp curves of the Hijaz lay at his back, towering like gods, but he took no time to wonder at their glory. For days they had followed Wadi al-Jizl, finally turning onto Wadi Tithan, stalking their prey at a discrete distance, and the devils were nearly within his grasp.

    Wayyuq tightened his vision and could just make out a series of dark smudges on the eastern horizon, columns of smoke rising to the heavens, heavy laden with the ashes of unholy sacrifice. Another series of villages laid waste, no doubt, their inhabitants slaughtered if they were lucky, turned out to try the desert's mercy if they were not. He could still see some of their faces in his mind's eye, men so maddened by thirst they had cut their veins to drink of their own blood, to find any respite from the burning in their throats and lungs, or mothers forced to murder their sons and daughters or watch them waste away in increasing pain and agony before them. Worst of all were the few they found who still lived, if indeed one could call their ragged breath and broken minds 'life'. Wayyuq had given them the only mercy to be had in such a place, a sharp blade quickly drawn, and though it was a kindness it did not make his actions any easier to bear.

    As he looked on, his face darkening, Rana'in crept up to him and laid a hand companionably across his back. "It must be them." he said matter-of-factly. Wayyuq held his tongue, but nodded once. "What is there?" Rana'in went on, "Where are they going?"

    Wayyuq pointed to the thickest pillar of cinders and smoke. "That is Khadrana and her lesser daughters." He then pointed to a narrower cloud of ash far off to the southeast. "That way is Khayban, Khadrana's sister, and beyond her is Keseiba, the youngest."* Wayyuq then looked sharply at Rana'in, his eyes chips of flint. "I know where they are going." he said. "The devils march to Yathrib*, a city of which I'm sure you've heard. Rana'in, they cannot be allowed to reach it, or the tribes of this region will never trust your king. I am sure of it." After a brief pause he added earnestly, "The general must come at once!"


    Arabia





    For a week now they had been marching, without pause and without mercy. To Mun'at's mild dismay Rana'in had remained with Wayyuq and the advance scouts, but the messenger he sent had in unmistakable words laid bare the dire situation of the southern settlements; if help did not arrive soon Yathrib would be sacked, its citizens bled and broken, and the hearts of the tribes of the central Hijaz would be forever turned inward, without trust and without friends. Mun'at could not let that happen, and so he had immediately set forth, leaving Ravîv'êl Bikrum and a token force to maintain order in Lihyan while he moved ever south.

    Their first days were spent following the broad course of Wadi al-Jizl, the Barrier Hills rising on their right, the bold sands of Nefud clawing greedily from their left. It was a harsh land, made ever more so by the absence of the local guides who had left with Rana'in and Wayyuq, and the Nabati force found themselves daily tried in their efforts to find water and respite in those alien regions. With each sunrise and sunset their stores waned ever further, but though they wanted Mun'at and his men had not yet truly lacked, and for that at least he was grateful.

    As they neared Wadi Tithan, following in the shallow footsteps of their comrades, the marks of desolation and devilry slowly increased. At first it was nothing more than a solitary burnt or ransacked farm here and there, but soon enough they began to find the corpses as well, the men and women who so haunted Wayyuq's memories. As they passed the first set of fly-ridden shapes Mun'at, against all reason, determined to lay the bodies to rest, commanding Khalil's raiders to dismount and dig graves for all they found. He half expected Khalil to protest, yet his friend obeyed without a word, a darkness and veiled flame just visible in his eyes. As their spades struck the earth Mun'at moved on, making not mention of what he saw, but he took note of Khalil's ripening sentiments, hoping he read them rightly.

    The next day they reached the cracked and rocky paths of Wadi Tithan and all were surprised to learn that it was no true wadi at all. Tithan offered no central broad course of weather-worn sands but instead presented a spider's-web of knife-edged gullies and twisting ravines, all presumably leading in the same direction though without any guarantee of that fact.* Mun'at looked on the sharp walls and unreachable precipices and shook his head in frustration. The scout sent by Rana'in had made clear that this was the enemy's road, that beyond the shrouded valleys lay the smoldering remains of Khadrana, Khayban, and Keseiba, but to brave such a trail was folly. It's narrowness would spread his men thin, forcing them to march in long files exposed to any brigands who might command the surrounding ridges. They would be trapped without hope of deliverance and with no means to save themselves. The risk was simply too great, and one he could not justify.

    As Mun'at considered what was to be done, what course to take, the long-strung lines behind began to reach his position, bunching together and filling the sparse space with a roiling mass of exhausted men and agitated horses. He would have to decide quickly, to ease their growing congestion before the animals began to panic or some tired fool spoke out of turn, causing a brawl which all too easily could spread through the wearied and heart-heavy soldiers. He racked his brain but to no avail. They surely could not take Tithan with all her dangers, and yet neither could they turn back. The only true course lay ahead, but that way was unknown to him, dangerous in its uncertainty.

    The noise and chaos continued to grow, rising to a fevered pitch, and he could feel the heat and instability vibrating in the air. It was like the taste of the wind before a summer storm, that oily metallic precursor to the wrath of the gods sent earthward, and Mun'at prepared himself to make a decision, any decision. However, before he could speak he spied a small band of grubby dirt-caked men hurrying toward him through the press, their steps determined and purposeful.

    As they came before Mun'at they declared themselves to be scouts sent from Wayyuq tasked with bringing news and guidance through these strange new lands. The men then, showing a sensibility not generally to be expected of common soldiers, continued to speak rapidly, seeming to recognize the need for haste. Their words tumbled into the growing din without pause but lost none of their clarity for all that. They told Mun'at that Banu Sulaym's exiles had been heading continually south, striking villages and oases along their way and then moving onward, ever in the direction of Yathrib. To reach them Mun'at's men could continue following the broad gentle swath of Wadi al-Jizl, whose easy road would carry them lightly to Yathrib's doorstep before the lawless devils ever saw that place. Haste would by needs be the watchword of the Nabati as they traveled, but they could make it. They would be in time.

    In an instant Mun'at had the scouts in saddle riding at the head of his men, and with the sun shining on their brows they left the shadowy depths of Tithan's leviathan ravines behind.



    *Glossary + Author's Notes

    *Yathrib: The antique name for the city now known as Medina.
    *The locations of Wadi Tithan, Khadrana, Khayban, and Keseiba are not picked out on the map, but only because I didn't want it to become too busy. For the interested reader, Wadi Tithan runs northeast from Wadi al-Jizl, connecting to the latter just south of the junction with Wadis Hamd and Ays. The three "K" oasis towns are roughly due north of Yathrib, in a close line with one above the next.
    *Wadi Tithan is indeed a normal wadi (nothing about it being sheer, narrow, or winding would make it not a wadi). However, the Nabati are surprised to think of it as a wadi because in northern Arabia most wadis are wider, their bases are sand, and they have a more clearly marked direction to them. The language here is not meant to indicate a proper difference of denotation, but rather of regional differences between the connotation attached to specific words.




    Continue to Chapter 3 - Part IV
    Last edited by Kilo11; May 14, 2019 at 07:33 AM. Reason: Added links
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  8. #88
    Cookiegod's Avatar Campidoctor
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 21]

    Hey Kilo,
    I was absent for a while but now I'm back. I read it all through and can only say that your story keeps getting better and better.
    You put a lot of effort in your geographical locations and that is something very commendable. It adds a lot to a story, and it's what makes your story truly good.
    "Something funny."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Derc View Post
    No one cares what Derc has to say.

  9. #89
    Turkafinwë's Avatar Cheerful Nihilist
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 21]

    Good update! I must agree with Cookiegod, the sheer amount of detail you present us with for the character's surroundings is phenomenal. Your descriptions in general are always thorough and really flesh out the world this story is set in.

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  10. #90
    Skotos of Sinope's Avatar Macstre Gaposal
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 21]

    Finally all caught up. (The more I enjoy something, the more I drag it out.) I think I already gave you most of my thoughts as I read via PM. However, something that got my mind going:

    Quote Originally Posted by Kilo11 View Post
    There are some personal wishes and goals, things he wants to achieve or at least thinks he wants to achieve, but more important than these are the things he has to achieve.
    Maybe this is something more for the writer's lounge chat thread, but it made me think. We think of characters in terms of what they want (blame Aristotle's Poetics, I suppose.) but I suppose most who've lived throughout history really didn't have that luxury. Want didn't matter, need did. What they wanted was to survive. Is our view of the human condition a bit warped because we've all grown up in a world of plenty? As Alwyn pointed out, necessity is Mun'at's motivation. It just feels right that Mun'at might not indulge in much introspection. All the things that drive 'character' from a modern sensibility would have likely been suppressed in that kind of society. I dunno.

    Anyway, keep it up.

  11. #91

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 21]

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    Hey Kilo,
    I was absent for a while but now I'm back. I read it all through and can only say that your story keeps getting better and better.
    You put a lot of effort in your geographical locations and that is something very commendable. It adds a lot to a story, and it's what makes your story truly good.
    And it is a good thing indeed to see you back around Cookiegod; I was super happy to see the new updates coming from you! And I'm glad the settings are working for you. I myself put a lot of stock in settings (Lord of the Rings was one of my formative readings when growing up, so I got a heavy dose early), and I'm glad that is panning out for readers.

    One thing I wanted to check before I forget is whether or not I ever sent you the large map template I had made for all of Europe? I know when we were talking a while back about maps I said I would, but I can't remember whether or not I actually did. Just let me know. If I didn't, I'll get on that right away!

    Quote Originally Posted by Turkafinwë View Post
    Good update! I must agree with Cookiegod, the sheer amount of detail you present us with for the character's surroundings is phenomenal. Your descriptions in general are always thorough and really flesh out the world this story is set in.
    Thanks Turk. At some points I must admit I worried it might be too much, or have too much of a (possibly forced) poetic-ness to it, but if you're happy, then I'm happy!

    Quote Originally Posted by Skotos of Sinope View Post
    Finally all caught up. (The more I enjoy something, the more I drag it out.) I think I already gave you most of my thoughts as I read via PM. However, something that got my mind going:

    Quote Originally Posted by Kilo11
    There are some personal wishes and goals, things he wants to achieve or at least thinks he wants to achieve, but more important than these are the things he has to achieve.

    Maybe this is something more for the writer's lounge chat thread, but it made me think. We think of characters in terms of what they want (blame Aristotle's Poetics, I suppose.) but I suppose most who've lived throughout history really didn't have that luxury. Want didn't matter, need did. What they wanted was to survive. Is our view of the human condition a bit warped because we've all grown up in a world of plenty? As Alwyn pointed out, necessity is Mun'at's motivation. It just feels right that Mun'at might not indulge in much introspection. All the things that drive 'character' from a modern sensibility would have likely been suppressed in that kind of society. I dunno.

    Anyway, keep it up.
    Skotos, you keep it up as well. Your updates are great and I'm loving your story. And in case you want to join the discussion you mentioned above, I started a small chat on the Writer's Study thread about this. That being said, a small chat here is totally in order here as well, and might also be helpful for fleshing out some things with the culture/time that this specific story is set in.

    For me thinking about Mun'at and his men, I find myself having trouble imagining what they even would "want" to do. I mean, life is hard in the desert, more so if there is the looming danger of nearby great powers rolling through your homeland, and that keeps one busy enough with needs. The only things that come close to "wants" for them will be the big questions or drives that shape their life in a more significant way (e.g. Mun'at's wife was murdered by lawless raiders, which puts him at odds with most criminality and barbarism on a very primal level, and is one of the few things which can make him go out of his way to do something. It is also the only thing that might make him break an oath or a bond of tribe/nation.) However, to class these things as "wants" in the modern sense of the word seems odd (if not wrong) to me. And even for a king or an emperor, an individual with the means to indulge in luxuries and have private enterprises solely for his pleasure, there still seems to be far more dictation of what is done than we might initially anticipate. Enemies come knocking or treaties require action, or even just the mob needs pleasing via some good ol' conquest. At any rate, that people can often or even ever indulge in satisfying wants seems to be something isolated and rare, and only really possible in very specific circumstances.
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  12. #92

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: November 6]

    Continued from Chapter 3 - Part III


    Dramatis Personae

    Nabati:

    Mun'at Ha'Qadri: General of the Nabati army, tasked with uniting the tribes of Arabia and subduing the Saba' confederations that control Arabia Felix.
    Shullai Ha'Maleki: Prince of the Nabati, riding south under Mun'at's command.
    Ravîv'êl Bikrum: Crown Prince of the Nabati. Currently governing the conquered settlement of Dedan.
    Malka Qênu: King of the Nabati, and leader of the united tribes.

    Rana'in: Elder warrior and long-time friend of Mun'at.
    Khalil: Raider under Mun'at's command, usually tasked with leading the cavalry and light skirmishers.
    Haza'el: Captain of the Nabati.
    Wayyuq: A spy and pathfinder in the service of the Nabati, but not of their tribes.

    Sabeans (Saba'):

    Mubsamat: Queen of the Saba' with ambitions to end the tribal rivalries that plague her people.
    Tharin: Captain of Mubsamat's guard, tasked with contacting the approaching Nabati on Mubsamat's behalf and bringing them over to her cause.



    Chapter 3
    Crimson Sands


    --------------------------------------------------
    (Part IV)


    In the west the sun was slowly sinking behind the distant ridges, the furthest outriders of mighty Sarat* cloaking its face. As day abandoned the earth the light took on a sultry character, hues of blood and lust firing the volcanic peaks, their long shadows clawing their way toward Mar'ib's high walls. Mubsamat turned from them and began walking the length of the western rampart, heading south toward the broad parapet overlooking the floodplains below. She reached the end of the bastioned path and met the familiar guards flanking the stairs leading down, the Hashid boy and the aging Bakil warrior, their spears resting on the flagstones and there for no purpose but show. Mubsamat nodded to the elder soldier as she passed, and once on the even steps slowed her progress. The man had nodded in answer, but his eyes had refused to meet hers, seeming determined to remain fixed in the middle distance. Her feet clicking off the ground she realized that the boy too had seemed ill at ease, a thin beading of sweat adorning his young brow despite the chill evening air. They would not speak to her, not ever, for such action would be above their station, but it was unlike them to avoid her gaze.

    At the bottom of the stair she paused briefly, her head cocked to one side, but she soon continued on, striding toward the crenelated drop without further hesitation. Mubsamat reached the fortress' edge and rested her fair hands atop the battlements. Her land lay spread before her, her palace behind, but this night she was alone, alone in all the world. Tharin had gone, her fool of a husband was out with the other kings making petty war on their neighbors, and in the whole of Ma'rib there was no soul with whom she might commune. Mubsamat was alone.

    Then, suddenly, her reverie and self-pity was abruptly broken by a sound, or rather by a lack of sound blaring on the edge of hearing. All around her was the strained silence of surreptitious individuals laboring to be unheard. Comprehension dawning, Mubsamat removed her hand from the cold stone wall and slowly turned on her heel, her jaw set.

    From the shadows at the back of the terrace five darker shapes detached themselves from the cloying gloom, stepping towards her sidelong and uncertainly, and as they neared her the torches caught their features, casting them in ghastly pools of fire-brightened light and uncertain shade. However, even in such obscurity she knew their countenances, the visages of fools, vagabonds, and soothsayers, princes and lesser nobles of the Saba'.

    "Good evening, Queen."

    "And to you, lord of the Northpass." Mubsamat replied, her words echoing the honeyed tones with which she was addressed.

    "What brings a lady such as you to the walls so late, if I might ask?"

    Mubsamat did not answer immediately, considering the daring of the man before her, to speak to her so bluntly. She could cry out, call the guards and have them cast the rake from the walls and be done with him, but then again, they had not looked her in the eye. Perhaps she truly was alone, and to cry out, to cry like a frightened maiden, it would not do. "What brings me to this place is my business alone, bold Qayl*, but on this fine evening I might indulge your questioning. I come to look on our land that so mirrors the heavens above." She then cast a coy glance in his direction. "What brings so stalwart a citizen as yourself to these walks? And why do your companions remain silent?"

    The man chuckled under his breath, unpleasantly and with traces of malintent. He then tiled his head to one side, as though he did not quite know what was before him, and with ice in his words he snapped "Do not toy with me, woman! I know your designs, and they will not stand." As he spoke the other men had taken small hesitant steps forward, and were now all waiting just behind their assumed leader.

    "And what designs are those, little 'Qab*? Mubsamat calmly replied, her words spoken sweetly but with concealed barbs. "Do you wish to accuse your Queen of some misdeed, or have you come merely to try my patience?"

    Seemingly without thought for the treason of his actions the man strode forward, his toes nearly touching Mubsamat's, his eyes looking down on her. "Do not toy with me!" he shouted down, his eyes fired by rage. Involuntarily Mubsamat took a step backwards, hating herself all the while, and she could feel the rough blocks of stone behind her, digging into her thighs and back as she leaned against them. Her eyes, however, remained steady, hard and unforgiving. Seemingly bridled by such defiance the man took another step forward, leaving her nowhere to escape and he leaned in close, whispering in her ear.

    "I could take you here, you know. In front of these men I could turn you about and bend you over these ramparts, show you for the whore you are. I could break your will and abuse your body and then cast you down without a second thought. Do you understand me woman?"

    Mubsamat breathed deeply, composure filling her with each intake of air, but before she could speak the man raised a hand as if to strike her and she flinched. A simple reaction, beyond her control really, but no less demeaning for that. And at that her battle was lost. The guards would not help her, she knew that now. She was alone, good and truly alone. The queen nodded meekly, not trusting her voice, and the interrogation began.


    With each day they recovered more of Wayyuq's scouts, the men having been sent in ones and twos to await Mun'at's company. As they neared Yathrib the distance between them decreased, until finally Mun'at felt he could see the next pair before having even had a chance to speak to those they had just reached.

    Their news was grim, tales of death and desolation beyond all reason, of a wanton violence without purpose or thought. Mun'at listened well, and though their words were indeed dark, he could see from their hooded eyes and subdued tones that they had only told a portion of what they had seen. However, disheartening as their burdens had been, by their vigilance they had managed to keep a constant survey of the enemy's movements, even drawing them on at times by means of bait and feinted maneuvers, leading them to a place where Mun'at's soldiers might once and for all end the brutality and tyranny of Banu Sulaym's exiles.

    They quickened their already arduous pace and by and by the scouts continued to turn up, until soon enough the Nabati force had found nearly everyone who had left with Rana'in and Wayyuq. Those two esteemed men, however, still lay somewhere ahead on the road to Yathrib, unwilling to abandon their task. They were now all but alone, alone and without provision in a strange land, and yet they persisted, the former out of loyalty to the wishes of his friend and commander, the latter for reasons his own but no less worthy for that.


    When they were but two and half days' march north of Yathrib and nearly upon their quarry the Nabati were halted in their progress. Wadi al-Jizl, which so long had offered them a broad highway to ease their passage, had begun drawing in, its walls leaning closer and closer by the step. At first the men had failed to notice, but as their lines constricted, the flanks buckling and eventually folding onto themselves lest they be pressed against the rocks, it became evident that their road had lost its earlier temper. Orders rang back through the ranks, commands to tighten the formations and close any gaps, but the narrowing cleft of light ahead assured them such measures would not suffice.

    Mun'at, fearing to leave his men so compressed, so vulnerable should there be an enemy lying in wait for them, determined to examine the lay of the land himself. He rode ahead with his companions and Khalil, taking a number of the scouts along as well in the hopes that their knowledge and sharp eyes might prove useful. They rode briskly, but not overly so, leaving their mounts energy enough to beat a hasty retreat if danger was indeed lurking in the gullies or between the peaks, and soon enough they found themselves warily pounding over sands which huddled together between the watchful hills that crowded so jealously close on either side. The valley could not have been wider than a bowshot, but still it narrowed, its seemingly forced placidity and quietude stifling speech and hope.

    Mun'at felt his heart speeding but he held his breath constant, determined to display strength for his men. They continued to ride on, almost doggedly so, and when he began to finally fear he had judged wrongly in moving forward they burst forth from the canyon into a land of wind and sun and broad walks. Behind lay the pitifully slender cleft of Wadi al-Jizl, but ahead the dry riverbed had spread to an unimaginable width, its farthest reaches capped by a great massif of jagged rock wreathed in wispy clouds.

    He raised his horn to his lips and gave a long blast, the signal that all was well and that Shullai should follow, and as he lowered the hollowed crescent his vision alighted on a sight he had somehow failed to yet notice. Sitting coolly in the shade of a large outcropping of sandstone sat two men, a light meal spread between them and broad smiles on their honest faces. Their eyes were fixed on Mun'at and the elder of the two nodded deeply to him in welcome. With a cry of joy the general leapt from his mount and ran to embrace Rana'in and Wayyuq, for the moment utterly forgetting the cares and worries of war.


    *Glossary

    *Sarat: The Sarat mountains run northwest to southeast along the western coast of Arabia, and serve as one of the walls which hems in the high plateau of upper Yemen.
    *Qayl: Qayl is the Southern Arabian word for a lord of a tribe or community, or for a member of a leading clan.
    *'Qab: 'Qab is the Southern Arabian title for a deputy or lesser governor. Such a term could be used as an insult when spoken to someone who holds a rank higher than this.




    Continue to Chapter 3 - Part V
    Last edited by Kilo11; May 14, 2019 at 07:26 AM. Reason: Added links
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  13. #93

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 29]

    Oh, and one thing I forgot to say yesterday:

    If anyone reading this has knowledge or expertise in Arabic, Old Arabic, or Demotic (the precursor to Coptic), or if you know someone who does, I would be very interested in picking your/their brains on some things to do with names and linguistic elements from the story that I want to get more accurate. Feel free to respond here or via pm, whichever is easier for you. Thanks
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  14. #94
    Cookiegod's Avatar Campidoctor
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 21]

    Overall a good part, but the first half of it, the interrogation of Mubsamat didn't work that well for me.

    I like the idea behind it very much, but it seemed to me you took some shortcuts, which a) prevents what could've been a crucial moment in her story line from reaching its potential and b) made it feel to me a bit forced.

    A: So she's at the mercy of the chieftains who hold almost all the power and she almost none. The interrogation could've been intense for us readers and extremely stressful for her.
    It's in those moments that the true character of a human shows, and storywise it's also those struggles and moments of weaknesses that makes a reader empathise with the character and root for their success. The worse the circumstances, the more of a badass the character turns out to be.

    So it could've been a key low point in her story line and character development. But of course, it all comes down to personal taste and how dark you want it to be.

    Sadly it's a scene we only get in retrospective, which inherently already defuses the situation. Mubsamat couldn't have known for sure what they were going to do to her as it happened. We already know from the first lines the worst thing that's going to happen is her being called a "woman", which stops all suspense dead in its tracks and brings me to...

    B: "Woman" as an insult. I tried to imagine it in my head and failed. I get the general idea, showing them as misogynists vs. a strong female character. I get that they might say it occasionally to remind her (from their perspective) of her place, but I don't fully comprehend why they'd say it over and over again (I'd assume even though they'd see women as lesser beings, they'd still know that women are needed for mating at least and thus, from a chauvinist perspective, not be inherently bad, just less), and secondly I fail to understand why she took it as an insult.
    Yeah, I know, the tone. But with the antipathy towards her they'd surely say every single word against her with contempt. And surely also be rude in other ways.

    I might be a bit unfair in my criticism in this regard, especially since I can't help but compare her with my favourite female hero, Clarice Starling in "The Silence of the Lambs" and how she (and even the victim in the well) deal with the men around them.

    There's this scene in the movie where all the police officers are staring down on her in clear contempt. Their misogyny is implicit.
    Soon after, she's the one to essentially kick them out of the room.
    There are a multitude of such scenes in the movie, and even though most of them go the same way (and are mostly nonviolent), even when it's not Clarice but the girl in the well, none of them are predictable.

    Jodie Foster plays the tiny and unsecure newbie so well, that it makes every victory of hers more and more satisfying, and she grows and changes. The woman Hannibal is talking to over the phone at the end is not the girl he met in the very beginning.

    I understand that Mubsamat isn't a newbie, but a shrewd and experienced queen, but her defiance towards the end still feels unearned. Had we followed her through what must've been an intense interrogation, much like Clarice talking to Hannibal Lecter, which is one of the most famous scenes in movie history, if we'd seen her struggle and THEN had her comeback, that'd've had a powerful effect, even if it had happened solely in her mind:

    The chieftains try to break her. She resists. Her defiance thereby becomes a victory in itself. If she's experienced and shrewd, you could've showed us some of her skills in action in that difficult situation. Instead we see defiance without much on stake.

    So just to clarify: It's not a bad part per se, but mostly a missed opportunity in my opinion. I hope I didn't come off harsh in any way.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kilo11 View Post
    One thing I wanted to check before I forget is whether or not I ever sent you the large map template I had made for all of Europe? I know when we were talking a while back about maps I said I would, but I can't remember whether or not I actually did. Just let me know. If I didn't, I'll get on that right away!
    No, or at least I never got one.
    Last edited by Cookiegod; October 30, 2018 at 01:31 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Derc View Post
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  15. #95

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 29]

    Thanks a million for that feedback Cookiegod. I honestly hadn't even considered the larger point you're making here about the importance of such a scene, and how that makes the result of it that much more powerful. I had just thought that including the lead-up to what I wrote would make the installment too long, but I totally see how the added space would be worthwhile. It would also give me a good opportunity to explore more the dynamics of power in Saba', and also what the men can get away with when interacting with a woman who is not only at a high stature, but in fact a queen. And you're right as well that even a simple or subtle act of defiance and strength can do a great deal to show core character traits. Maybe I will take some time this week to try to write a beginning to that scene and add it in when I post the next installment. At the very least, I will make sure I have some fleshing out of that scene at some point, because your thoughts here are spot on in my opinion.

    Regarding the "woman" as an insult point, there are a few things I would say in response. First, she is a queen, and so they can't do much more than insult her (a point though which is probably better made via an interrogation scene with suspense where we only learn at the end that that's the most they can do). Second, calling her "woman", and doing so with a certain tone, is indeed a rather significant thing to do given that she is a powerful queen, and a good deal higher up than most of the lords of Ma'rib. (Think on how the Queen of England would feel if some lowly earl from the countryside called her "woman" with a tone to it.) The final thing I think I wanted to get in was that gendered power dynamics were different there, and women were seen as powerful and able, and so for them to spit that word at her is doubly insulting, because not only are they looking down on her for some arbitrary characteristic like that, but they are doing it against the grain. As a foil, it (plausibly) wouldn't irk a Roman lady as much for her to be talked down to because that was the norm there, but for a man to single out Mubsamat's womanhood and treat it as grounds for looking down is insulting in its own right, and also odd in that context which makes it cut somewhat more. It would be like someone I'm talking to looking at me and saying "Who are you to say that American!" (I'm from the U.S.; context is important here ) Using that identifier as an insult is somewhat unusual, which makes it stick out, and can make it more cutting for that because it's harder to wave off than some normally occurring insult might be. I guess I also wanted to have an intro to her taking some matters into her own hands.

    All that being said though, I can indeed see how it could come across as forced. Like I said, I'll try to pound out an interrogation scene and tie it in, and maybe things will have a better flow then. At any rate, the critique is very well received, and I'm glad to have heard it. It's the first really incisive comment I've gotten that called me out on a more significant point, and I was beginning to fear I wouldn't get any. I can always count on you to cut me down (meant in a friendly fashion, of course!)

    Oh, and the map will come your way right now! I also just finished today stitching together the pieces for a big zoomed-in map of Italy and environs, in case you're interested. Just let me know.
    Last edited by Kilo11; October 30, 2018 at 02:49 PM.
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  16. #96
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 29]

    I did understand that "woman" thing, it just felt overused and forced. Your "American" example illustrates it quite perfectly. Anything can be said disrespectful. Any words can be said in a disrespectful tone and sarcastically or with negative connotations. And I'd assume they did just that. So her being obsessed with just one word felt strange.
    But as I said, I do understand the motivation behind it. You're creating this "misogynists vs strong female character" subplot, and that's an excellent subplot to have, and considering the length you wanted to invest in this "woman" was the term to go. So it wasn't bad considering the circumstances, it just wasn't too subtle.
    Btw., I feel like body language would be something especially worth your attention when writing that interrogation scene.
    You already did that quite well when describing her "downcast eyes and meek words", so props for that, but her experience of the attitudes of the men would also be quite interesting. These details would give us additional information of both her and her adversaries.

    I had just thought that including the lead-up to what I wrote would make the installment too long
    Btw., I know how you feel. For me that lead to a lot more parts than I anticipated, simply because situations kept coming up that I felt needed to be explored. It's easy to think of certain events A, B & C, but I for one cannot predict all the small things that happen in between that are yet important as they're essential to those events happening in the first place.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Derc View Post
    No one cares what Derc has to say.

  17. #97

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 29]

    I think it just was forced. I liked the idea and it seemed to flow nicely at the time, but it is a bit blunt. Your idea of going at it via the interrogation is surely more subtle and offers a greater range of development of other traits as well. Maybe the "woman" bit can then be folded in in a way that is slightly less "in your face", cause it ties nicely to her final thoughts (which I like), but as is it is too blunt. And body language will definitely be the way to move that scene along in the ways it'll need to go, so thanks for pointing me toward that.
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  18. #98
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 29]

    Yeah, I'm looking forward to that. Just to make sure there's no misunderstanding here: Interrogation can, but doesn't have to be police station like. It can be them assaulting her physically or sitting seemingly polite across the room with her on the "throne" (or whatever the Sabaeans had that'd resemble that) and their pressure being entirely psychological. There are lots and lots of ways to do that, depending on how you imagine that.
    I really look forward to how that interrogation scene is going to turn out. Maybe even more than for the next part itself, given how much all of this can add to Mubsamats character and drive.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Derc View Post
    No one cares what Derc has to say.

  19. #99

    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 29]

    So I think I got the scene together, and I hope it passes your muster when it comes out. But do let me know if you've still any objections or thoughts.

    To all other readers, a small update: If you've not read the latest installment then don't yet. I will make a significant change to it when I upload the next one, adding in Cookiegod's suggestions from above, and moving some parts of the previous installment into the next. So it will be better for you all to just wait a beat and then catch two updates on the coming Monday. I apologize for any inconvenience or need to double read (for those of you who might already have read the piece), but I hope the added work/irritation is offset by the end result that you'll get out of it. And if anyone else has thoughts or suggestions like Cookiegod's, do tell! That's how we all improve, by hearing critiques and responding to them, and it's always lovely to see someone with a point that is worth folding into the work
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  20. #100
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Written in Sand (Nabataean AAR for EBII)[updated: October 29]

    I enjoyed part III of the Crimson Sands chapter, it sounds like Mun'at is determined to ensure that Banu Sulaym's lawless exiles won't reach Yathrib. I look forward to reading the new part IV.

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