A Diplomatic Monk Seeking a New Home
Ibram Al-Amin is a large, dark-skinned man with stern features and sharp eyes. Tall and shaved bald, Ibram’s distinctive silhouette stands half a head taller than most Ursundovans. Ibram prefers to adorn himself in clothes made of light fabric in bright oranges and reds, though the selection common in the North have limited his options in this regard. No matter what he’s wearing, Ibram stands rigidly straight and lifts his chin proudly. Whether working at his ledgers or practicing in the martial forms, Ibrams uses slow, careful movements that belie his considerable strength.
Ibram always speaks in deep, measured tones. He seldom raises his voice or shows any sign of emotion, even when in combat. He is calm, thoughtful, and polite in all things, especially when involved in matters where such traits are of use. While not especially personable, those who get to know Ibram find that he is easy to get along with and tough to offend. And while he doesn’t have many in Ursundova that would yet call him ‘friend’, those that do know him to be loyal, generous, and endlessly supportive.
Ibram was born a thousand miles south of Ursundova, in a rich caliphate ruled by a wealthy trading family. From an early age, Ibram’s intelligence earned him a place in the halls of learning, where he acquired knowledge of language, arithmetic, and statesmanship. When he was sixteen he was already working alongside the Caliph’s head vizier, and by twenty-five he had acquired the position for himself. There he busied himself for a full decade, managing the caliphate’s growth and prosperity through years of feast and famine.
But the longer Ibram held the Caliph’s ear, the less he found that he enjoyed the work. Ibram’s efforts expanded his master’s influence and riches, but similar benefits were not transferred to the people that actually did the work. Rather, Ibram was tasked with cutting back wherever possible, buying slaves and the indentured to replace those that took pay. Over the years he bought and sold men, women, and children like so much grain and steel, balancing their lives in his ledgers against the silver and gold it took to keep them alive. The Caliphate’s power grew and its nobles found new ways of entertaining themselves, but Ibram grew restless and dispirited.
In this thirty-fifth year, the village of Ibram’s family was raided by rebellious bandits. When the reports came in, the Caliph ordered Ibram to dispatch soldiers to hunt down the bandits, but offered no help to the victims of the raid. Ibram tried logic and compassion to change his master’s mind, but to no avail. Finally Ibram begged his master, falling on his knees in the royal chamber. The Caliph laughed at him, as if he was telling a joke.
Ibram did something then that had never been done in the history of the Caliphate—he resigned his position. He told his master that he could not serve the Caliphate any longer, and was imprisoned as his reward. Ibram was led down into the dungeons where the Caliph directed that he would serve the rest of his days in chains—at least so long as he acted in defiance of the proper order.
It was a Cleric of Irori that saved Ibram from his fate. One day, while touring the city dungeons, a cleric named Saleed recognized Ibram and asked his crime. When Ibram told him what had happened, Saleed told him that if he pledged himself to Irori that he would speak to the Caliph on his behalf. Fortunately for Ibram, the laws of the Caliphate were strong enough to allow for Ibram’s freedom as deference to the contributions of Irori’s many servants. The Caliph surrendered Ibram with a grimace and a warning that he should never return.
Ibram retreated with Saleed to a monastery on the Inner Sea. There he learned the ways of meditation, of self-sacrifice, and of forgiveness; both for his former master and for himself. Ibram trained his body and his mind until there was no more doubt or fear within him. With time he became a master to others, a teacher for others that had been similarly rescued by Saleed’s mercy.
Ibram studied and grew strong, but he did not move on. Saleed would come back from time to time, delivering students to train and taking clerics and monks out to serve the world. Every time Saleed returned, he would ask his friend if Ibram if he had found his purpose. Each time Ibram would bow his head and say only, “No.”
It was at the dawn of his forty-seventh year that Ibram was sent a vision. In his dream he saw a new Kingdom, far to the North, guided by the enthusiasm and hopes of its young leaders. Beset on all sides by danger and tribulation, a small band of heroes had come together to protect and guide it. Ibram saw that these heroes had suffered setbacks and loss, but had carried on in spite of their hardships. But for all they had accomplished, there was greater danger to come…they still needed help. Ibram woke in a cold sweat, knowing what he had to do.
The next time Saleed returned from his journeys, Ibram told him that he had discovered what he was missing. Saleed smiled, and asked where he was going. Ibram said, “I don’t know, but they call it Ursundova.”
Ibram went North with the blessings of the monastery, taking with him sacred items passed through generations of warrior monks before him. He journeyed by ship, by horse, and later by foot, down forgotten roads and through overgrown wilds. Ibram trusted Irori’s guidance, and ultimately found himself among the River Kingdoms, and then in Ursundova itself.
For more than a year now Ibram has been living in Tuskendale, volunteering to Neddar Thistlewhip to do whatever jobs needed doing. At first there was suspicion among the Ursundovans, as Ibram was an outsider without precedent. But with time and dedication, Ibram has become a welcome addition to the servants of Tuskendale’s growing civil service.
Now Ibram looks to assist Ursundova in any way that he can, knowing that Irori has brought him to this new path for a reason. He has vowed to serve in whatever may the Master of Masters will provide for him.