Allen Varney, Writer and Traveler



by Allen Varney

IN THE NAME OF FATE, the Compassionating, the Compassionate! O Fate, ofthe Land of Zakhara sovereign, All-knowing of the hidden things, rain blessingsupon ALQ1 Golden Voyages, by David "Zeb" Cook, the first adventure sourceboxfor the AL-QADIM(TM) campaign. This worthy work teaches how the player characters(PCs) may outfit a ship and hire a crew to sail the Crowded Sea. Thereinit says, "The single most important position of the regular crew isthe cook. Because of his work, the cook always gains attention.... As such,[the cook] should be role-played fully, perhaps as a running joke or pleasingcomfort for the PCs" (Book 1, pages 28-29).

This set of encounters offers a cook, running gags, and a comedic subplotto weave through Golden Voyages, or through any sea adventure inan Arabian setting.


The PCs recruit their crew on a dock in any large city. As they interviewseamen of low station and clumsy speech, suddenly a delicious aroma waftsforward from the rear of the line, a mouth-watering smell of roasted lambwith mint and pistachios over saffron rice.

A Zakharan man of medium build, aged about 45, begs permission to approachthe PCs' table, then places this dish before them on a pewter tray. Regardlessof their station, he addresses them in the most respectful terms:

"Honored gentlemen and ladies, you would bring unbounded joy to thisunworthy one's life by sampling his unassuming provender. Should you renderthe generous courtesy of pretending to mild pleasure at its taste, I humblyrequest the honor of cooking for you on your momentous journey. May Fatesend you in peace and safety!"

The food tastes wonderful. The supplicant, Yezeed ibn Mamoon (h/m/R/mr/2),receives compliments with transports of delight. Yezeed has bright blueeyes, bulging high cheeks, lips that pout slightly (and that he habituallypurses), and much graying light brown hairuncommon but hardly unknown inZakhara. He wears his hair pulled straight back from his broad foreheadand tied in a ponytail; he also has an abundant moustache and an unkemptbeard.

Dressed in poor brown linens, Yezeed cannot hide the well-spoken breedingof his high station (14). However, because he evidently wishes to concealit, sensitive PCs may ignore the deception. If confronted about his pose,Yezeed finesses his answer, naming a dozen expeditions he has served asship's cook in the last decade. All his references check out, and his formeremployers recommend him highly. However, they know nothing useful abouthis background.

The PCs have met no better candidates for cook. Yezeed hires on at standardwages and percentages. His meals tastes superb. While he cooks, life seemsgood.

Soup and Salad

Running jokes: Over several adventures, you can use Yezeed to injectcomedy relief in several ways.

First, he may grow lugubrious at a moment's notice. At any provocation hesighs, drops some enigmatic remark about "the many paths we leave untakenas Fate propels us forward," favors the PCs with a rueful smile, andwanders away. If quizzed, he says, "No, no, my heart still aches; Iwill tell you some other time."

Second, Yezeed shows amazingly deep but sharply limited knowledge of everyland in the Zakhara region. He knows them all, entirely in terms of whatspices they use on their food. "Ah, yes, the Isle of the Elephant,land of cardamom, a hundred curries, and a heavenly tea spiced with gingerand nutmeg." (But what about the monsters, Yezeed?) "I know nothingof this." (How do you know so much about spices?) "I will tellyou some other time."

Lastly, Yezeed resembles the other NPC crew in one respect: He refuses toaccompany the PCs in land adventures, serve as guard, or otherwise helpthem out. However, he proves fearless in venturing out alone into the wildestterrain, searching for new spices for his delicious meals. Think of Yezeedas talented enough to get into trouble, but not enough to get out again.So he can foment the heroes' involvement in adventures. (Racing out of thewoods clutching a sprig of spearmint, Yezeed shouts, "Save me!"The ogre magi emerge in close pursuit....)

Sneezes: If anyone ever sneezes in Yezeed's presence, the cook displaysshocked dismay, then quickly recovers. If anyone questions him, he says,"In my land a sneeze represents awell, an offense. But I forget howfar I have travelled. My apologies." He may reveal his homeland, ifyou have chosen it (see below), or he may fall into a moody silence.

If no sneeze occurs, a PC may instead happen to observe Yezeed, hard atwork in the galley, sneeze over a vial of pepper. Then the cook looks aroundwith a haunted look and, should he see the PC, offers profuse apologies.If he sees no one looking, he seems to become lost in recollection, thenbreaks down in tears.

Main Course

When you want to resolve the mystery, send the PCs sailing to a large city.As they approach day by day, Yezeed grows more agitated, even fearful. Bythe time they dock there, if none of the PCs has elicited a confession yet,Yezeed breaks down and tells his story. And he begs a favor.

The cook's shame: "You must know first that among my peoplein this land, you honor a meal with a polite belch afterward. But if youshould sneeze, you have committed a grave and humiliating offense. And soI once did.

"I, Yezeed ibn Mamoon, once bore the honored name Yezeed al-Fazli,a member of the Fazli tribe. As a boy I left al-Badia life and became atownsman in this city. There I developed a prosperous trade in spices andincense, leading many expeditions to Tajar, Gana, and Ajayib to the southwest,and Harab and Bariya to the south. I returned wealthy from one such expedition,only to discover that my young wife had died of an illness. We have no Fatebut the Fate we are given! In remorse I threw myself wholly into my business,elevating it in 15 years to a rich success.

"My friends insisted I marry again. They quoted the Zakharan poet whosaid `A wife is an almanacgood for the year.' At length I negotiated withthe old matchmaker women who sit in the public square, and they securedme a partner. At my estate on the eve of the wedding I offered a festivebanquet for hundreds, kith and kin, friends and foes, and all my acquaintancesof this countryside.

"My bride displayed her eight dresses to the crowd and then awaitedme at the midnight nuptials. But as I rose from my divan, heavy with meatand drink, an irritation assailed my nose, and I let fly a loud and terriblesneeze.

"At once each guest turned to his neighbor and talked aloud. They madeas though they heard nothing, for if anyone laughed or sneered, I mighthave struck them down in anger where they sat. But instead I left the room,went to the courtyard, saddled my horse, and rode off. I cried as I rode,until I reached port and found a ship ready to sail. I traded my horse forpassage, keeping my name secret, and made for Huzuz.

"I found that sea life suited me. So I learned to cook from a congenialsailor, and in Huzuz I hired on to an expedition. In the ten years sinceI have found solace. But now I yearn to see my homeland once more.

"Even yet I dare not go ashore in my own person, for perhaps they mightknow me. So I humbly beg of you, wander the town and listen to the folk.May Fate grant that they do not remember my case!"

Just Desserts

When the PCs visit the city, the site of Yezeed's old shame, run the followingencounters at suitable pauses during their main adventure:

Yezeed's old storefront, now a burnt-out shell, holds a few beggar-thiefsquatters. If asked what happened to the place and suitably bribed, theysay, "Fate increase thy reward, O lords! The merchant of this placesneezed away his honor, and the townfolk hounded him away."

A shingle has fallen from an aged citizen's roof, and the PCs happen upona furious argument between tenant and landlord. "You have let thisbuilding go to ruin," says the old tenant. "In truth, I have notseen you repair the place even since Yezeed al-Fazli sneezed!"

A ten year-old girl speaks to her mother: "O mother, tell me the dayI was born, so my friend can cast an omen for me." The mother answers,"O daughter, you were born on the very night Yezeed al-Fazli sneezed."

Should the PCs report all this, Yezeed reacts with comical horror. "Intruth my sneeze has become a date, which will last forever and ever!"He continues voyaging with the PCs, or, if they stop here, takes the nextship out.

If the PCs instead report that the town has forgotten him, or if they saynothing, Yezeed musters his courage and heads into town. As the PCs completetheir adventure in the city and get ready to leave, at the last possiblemoment Yezeed comes racing back and rejoins them, gasping and dismayed."If ever I sneeze again, let Fate remove my nose forever! May I continuemy travels with you, O lords?"

And now I have told my tale, and Fate knows all.

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Copyright (C) 1995 by Allen Varney.