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  1. (Looks like my title was too long! It should read: A Part to Play: Abd-al-Malik's role in the Kaliphlin Civil War) The din of the battle raging around Abd-al-Malik grew dimmer, replaced by flashing moments of his earlier life. Even the pain from his wound, though mortal, began to fade away. He had premonitions that his death would come on Al Amarj Island, but he never expected it to be so peaceful. As the Desert King troops and High Council defenders battled around him, Malik's thoughts turned to happier times. There, in his old home, he could once again see his wife and child. How long it had been since he had seen their faces. The house, with its palm trunk walls and dirt floor, was nothing fancy, but it had been their home for years. A wood burning stove cooked the family's meal each night and kept the house warm during the cold months. There was no other place Malik would rather be. Malik's thoughts than moved to his son and the many adventures the two had. Malik wanted his son to grow strong and brave. Often the two would explore the nearby jungle, clearing their own trails and stumbling upon many natural wonders. Those were happy days, before death and violence had consumed Kaliphlin. Everything changed the day the war came to Malik's home. He had been laid off from the nearby sawmill that day. Many of its workers had either fled or joined one of the various armies marching across Kaliphlin. Only Malik and a few others remained, but the owner closed the sawmill in fear of becoming a casualty of the spreading war. Malik walked home slowly, wondering how he would tell his family of the loss of their only source of income. When his house became visible Malik immediately knew something was wrong. His son, Adnan, always waited for him by the road, jumping out of the bushes to surprise his father and then walk home together. Then Malik noticed the smoke rising from his home. He ran as fast as he could but the house was completely engulfed before he arrived at its doorsteps. Hours later, when the fire had died and the ash cooled, Malik collected the remains of two bodies he found inside. He would learn later from neighbors than a pack of rogue Ulandian soldiers had stumbled across the home, performing unspeakable horrors against Malik's wife and child before setting the structure ablaze. Malik collected what remains he could and buried them under a nearby tree. For days he did not sleep and ate nothing. He only laid there, weeping quietly by the graves of his beloved family. Then, suddenly, the thirst for revenge hit him like water does a man lost in the desert. He had watched his world collapse around him, and decided he would seek vengeance. He hated the Ulandians, and the High Council for not putting up a stronger resistance against the Centurion's march across Kaliphlin. He had heard rumors of a prophecy brought to life in the northern stretches of Kaliphlin. And it was the Desert King, and Malik knew it was to him that he would place his allegiance. The Desert King was the one entity willing and able to force peace on these lands and return Kaliphlin to the glory of its past. Malik found a Desert King outpost and signed up initially as a mercenary. Those early days were filled with sharp and hectic battles for the peripheries of the marching armies. It was at one particularly crucial battle for an aqueduct where Malik's potential was noted by a senior officer of the Desert King. Shortly afterwards, he was inducted into the Desert King's covert operations. Malik's covert military career with the Desert King quickly took off. At first, he was tasked with detecting and countering sedition in towns captured by the Desert King's forces. These included "fifth columnists," deserters and those who would dare to defenestrate the Desert King's tax collectors. Malik was then put in charge of subverting targets of the Desert King, especially the big cities which stood as the centers of power in Kaliphlin. As a southern Kaliphlin, Malik was especially adept at infiltrating High Council positions and leadership circles. From Qarkyr to Petraea, Malik served an immeasurable role in weakening enemy defenses and allowing the Desert King's armies to march in secretly and quickly defeat their opponents. (Malik watches from the shadows as civilian supporters of the Desert King triumph their victory in Qarkyr) (Desert King troops surprised the High Council defenders of Petraea, no doubt due to Malik's subterfuge) (Malik looks on as Desert King troops capture Petraea, Kaliphlin's greatest city) After these stunning victories, Malik was ordered with his greatest task yet: neutralizing the High Council strong point at Al Amarj Island. No enemy forces had ever landed on Al Amraj, let alone conquered the fortress, but Malik was not one to back down. He swore to the Desert King that he island would be captured, or that he would die in the attempt. After all, Malik had nothing else to live for. Again, using his masterful ability to blend in, Malik as well as his apprentice, Salah-ad-Din, managed to infiltrate the island under the guise of a merchant and his bodyguard. Malik began quickly to study the islands defenses and watch schedule. He quickly concluded that the island's defenses had been largely siphoned off for the war effort on the mainland. An eavesdropped conversation revealed the arrogance of the island's defenders and their belief that Al Amarj would miss the bloodshed as it always had. One night, when the opportunity seemed perfect, Malik sent a signal to a large group of Desert King forces stationed on vessels just out of sight of the island's defenses. Malik and ad-Din neutralized the few guards on duty on the island's southern watchtower. Dozens of Desert King troops began scaling the walls and descending on Al Amarj's few defenders. Despite a valiant and fierce resistance by the defenders, it was clear that the island would not stand up to the Desert King onslaught. The defenders fell where they fought and by morning virtually all of the island was in Desert King hands. It was at this point that the High Council commander of Al Amarj called to Malik to join him in single combat. As Malik's soldiers cleared the last few areas of resistance, Malik battled the commander on the high rock archway above the crashing ocean. It seemed as if their battle lasted an hour or even more. Despite Malik's plea that the commander surrender, the High Council officer continued to strike. A heavy blow struck Malik's sword, throwing him against a tree. The commander raised his weapon to deal the final blow, but Malik struck sooner, his blade entering the enemy's chest. A swift kick sent the High Council officer soaring off the arch and into the water below. Malik turned to join his troops but a sharp pain in his stomach stopped him suddenly. He looked down to see a young boy holding a sword, half its length now buried in Malik's abdomen. He was the High Council commander's son, who had witnessed the battle and now sought his revenge. The boy's face reminded Malik of his own son, which brought to the fore those memories of happier times. Desert King troops rushed to help their fallen leader. One mummy grabbed the young boy but Malik ordered him to be released. The boy had only done what was right by the code of honor and family. The boy ran off to join his remaining family in the High Council stronghold. Malik's flashbacks caught up to his present time, where he was slowly dying. His death would not bother him, as his mission had been completed - Al Amarj was in Desert King hands. The victory would likely signal the beginning of the end of the war. Nothing would please Malik more. After so much violence and bloodshed, Malik was happy to turn his thoughts to peace. Salah-ad-Din attempted to treat Malik's wound, but it was too grievous. Malik thanked him but knew there was nothing he could do. It was there, on the island fortress, that Malik died. Malik's troops noticed the smile on his face - the first they had ever seen on the old warrior. They were relieved that he had died happy. Malik was dressed in the white robes of a Kaliphlin elder and given the funeral rites of a highly respected Desert King officer. He was placed in a floating funeral pyre and set into the ocean. 14 That morning, as the sun rose over Al Amarj, Salah-ad-Din walked alone to one of the islands watch towers. He looked out into the ocean and he too began to think of peace. Ad-Din's lust for combat had been tempered by the loss of his leader and friend. He vowed that, when this war ended, his work would focus on making sure future generations would enjoy the peace those like Abd-al-Malik had died to achieve. 15 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Hello again everyone! I know this is a few hours past the deadline but I hope I will be forgiven - I had intended to have this uploaded last night but, as some of y'all know by now, the recent Flickr update has made it impossible for me to grab the BBCodes for my pics using the hardware I own. I had to borrow a friends computer this morning to get the pictures. If Ska or the group thinks my entry should be disqualified because of the deadline, I will certainly have no hard feelings. A little sad, not but mad! Anwyays, I hope you guys enjoy this story. Thanks for looking!