Nadia Zalebyeh - Frances

Player: Frances
Faction: Islamic States, Arabia

Carefully courteous and rather solitary, Nadia Zalebyeh is not most people's idea of a professional dancer. The most popular rumour (for there are always rumours) is that she used to dance exclusively for some powerful tribesman, but that she lost her patron through one of the strange and savage accidents that wait in the desert. Nadia herself sometimes seems a little adrift or dazed, as if she had indeed survived some ordeal. If it was wandering lost in the desert sun that left her so, it does not seem to have cured her of a passion for walking the dunes alone. Some whisper that she lost some of her wits in the desert, and has to keep returning there to look for them.


1,150 years ago

Suppose you're Herodias, the wife of King Herod. And supposing your irascible, temperamental and lecherous husband has a bit of a thing for your daughter, and has absolutely set his heart on seeing her dance on his birthday. And supposing the girl is seriously freaked out by him leching at her all the time and is hiding in her room refusing to come out. Herod's drunk and unpredictable and things look like they're about to get nasty.

But there's a travelling invocator in town, so you swallow your pride and talk to him, and he summons a djinn who will take your daughter's shape for one dance. And what a dance it is - by the end King Herod says that he'll give the girl anything she wants. You're just heaving a sigh of relief when the monster with your daughter's face opens her mouth… and asks for the head of John the Baptist.

What? Where the hell did that come from? You look across at the invocator, whose face is spasming in a “don't look at me” kind of way. Herod goes white, but he's given the promise, and next thing you know your smiling 'daughter' is receiving the holy man's head on a charger. And then she's out the door and away to wherever she came from. The invocator makes a pretty sharp exit as well, without asking for the rest of his fee. And it's not like you can tell anybody what happened…

The djinn herself does not ask her secret djinn master why he should have anything against this particular holy man, it is enough for her that he is pleased. Particularly since he lets her keep the head…

200 years ago

Suppose you're an invocator for a small Bedouin tribe who regularly have to take a particularly perilous route through the djinn-infested desert between watering holes. You're not particularly powerful nor that young, but you're the best the tribe have, so they look to you when a particular shai'tan spirit starts taking a whimsical but lethal interest in you all. It is intermittent, but about once or twice a year someone will vanish in a sandstorm, or fail to come back from the well, and all that will be found of them is their hands and feet, planted stump downwards in the sand like strange flowers. It is not enough to tell the children not to speak to strangers. They must be told not even to run to their mother if they meet her unexpectedly in a deserted place - until they have called out a password and received the right response.

As time passes it becomes clear that you personally have attracted the evil djinn's attention. She targets your family, your friends, your apprentices, but always leaves you alive, as if she enjoys playing with you. You study, and pray. You talk to the more benign djinn. And then you talk to wandering practitioners of other magics, looking for some way of defeating this monster. It takes you most of your life. Then one day you arrange for it to be declared to the tribe and their allies that you are on your deathbed.

It's not far from the truth. You're old, sickly and half-blind, but what grips you is not the terror of death, but the fear that your enemy will not come, or will come in a disguise too cunning for you to see through. But this is the demon's last chance to torment her plaything, and she can't resist walking into your tent in the shape of your long-dead wife. So you tear the cover from the mirror of polished copper by your bed, speak the words of power, and watch her face stretch and distort as she is dragged into the glossy surface. The next day you set out with the rest of the tribe to bury the mirror as deeply and remotely as possible…

8 months ago

You were right all along, there is something buried down here. A half-length copper mirror which has somehow retained its polished surface uncorroded and unscratched. Lifting it clear of the sand, you realise that the image reflected in it is not your own. Impossibly, a woman appears to be on the other side, beating at it in a frenzy of desperation, and screaming silent entreaties to you. It is almost painful to watch. She is pointing to your belt - to your knife. She mimes a slashing motion at the barrier before her, and clasps her hands imploringly.

Scratch the mirror. Please.

In the end, it only takes a second…


The Story

“Mummeeee! Fahim's scaring meeee! He keeps telling me stories about Nadia the Child-Eater!”

“Fahim! Achmed! Into bed with you! Or Nadia will come and eat both of you, and wear your eyes in a necklace!”

The Head

Mysteries of The Fourth Covenant, New Babylon Press, Al-Nazihah House, 1943

”…and the mystery of the reappearance of the severed head of the martyred John the Baptist. Famed for being buried in a crypt in damascus, the body of Jesus' close friend had for the best part of two millennia been missing it's head, removed at the bequest of the Princess Salome. Despite many searches for the relic, it was finally recovered in a tea-house in Venice in 1674, supposedly believed by the shop-owners to be a good-luck charm that foretold minor curse-word ridden prophecy when force fed a particularly rare blend of Baghdadian Lemon Tea. When asked about why the strange artifact no longer gave it's oracles, the shop owners calimed that it had supposedly “drunk itself stupid” a century previously, in an attempt to recreate it's own Baptisement. The head, real or not, was returned to Damascus the following year.”

The Mirror

You can't believe your luck. The old mirror you stole from the New Babylon market.

A Thousand Broken Facets. Light shimmers across their ebon surface.

Briefly, you think you can see faces in the shards. Golden, orange faces, Fez-wearing and smiling, chanting.


A young female, black hair blowing in a non-existent breeze. Tears choked behind glass lenses. Both lonely and empassionned. Golden face showing both compassion and sadness.

Slowly she recites the most basic acts of compassion and self-worth. The paths to happiness and purity.


A pale-face hidden behind shadows. Symbols wind around her features and entwine her limbs. Chains wrap around her body. Cold, patient eyes stare out at you. Stare into your soul. Stare through the abyss.


There is only darkness.


The last woman's face again. Realization. She clasps her hands imploringly.

Scratch the mirror. Please.

In the end, it only takes a second…

bio/nadia_zalebyeh.txt · Last modified: 2009/07/13 15:15 by david
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