Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Ull: Land of a Thousand Villains - Nura bint Ramil

Welcome back Greyhawk faithful! Today is the start of another new blog column. This one is dedicated to the late Jason Zavoda, who would post NPCs and monsters on his blog Hall of the Mountain King. Jason is why I'm naming this series, Ull: Land of a Thousand Villains. My first post is on the alluringly deadly Nura bint Ramil. Originally an NPC from my own 2E home campaign, this villain first appeared in 2010 as my entry in Postfest XIV on Canonfire. Twelve years later it is time to re-examine this shady lady from Ull so she can be used in your own Greyhawk campaign. Enjoy!

"There are few sights in Ull rarer than a woman who wields power and wealth. In the seedy heights of Kester is one such woman, and though she is not a native of Ull, none dare contest her right to live and prosper in that harsh frontier land.”

Nura bint Ramil the Pit Mistress (human female, rogue 12)

   Nura bint Ramil arrived in the far-flung trade-town of Kester during the reign of Draske the Short in 581 CY, and she brought enough wealth and attitude to effectively buy her way into the upper echelon of Kester’s popular gladiatorial market. Her sudden fame, and influence was considered remarkable by locals, because in Ull a woman of any lineage has to be twice as ambitious and aggressive as her rivals. Nura bint Ramil operates from a walled compound on the edge of Kester, that includes holding pits and a training yard for her hand-picked stable of gladiators. Known across the region as the “Pit Mistress”, she is frequently found at Kester’s markets appraising new talent or at the Grand Pavilion by the fighting pits. placing bets with her fellow Pit Masters on their upcoming fights. Nura is always accompanied by a retinue of loyal eunuch bodyguards and other sycophant servants. Whispers tell that she also has a very powerful, but secret benefactor watching over her in return for some unknowable bargain. Indeed, no one in Ull seems to know Nura’s history, and the Pit Mistress does not tolerate personal questions about her past.

DM’s Background: Nura bint Ramil was born in 564 CY in the city of Sefmur in Tusmit. She is the daughter of a small-time guild thief named Nadira and the notorious assassin, Ramil the Serpent of Ceshra. Nura never knew her father, she was only a year-old when he was apprehended on a mission in Ket, never to be seen again. Nura grew up on the streets of Sefmur, running with a youth gang after she was abandoned by her mother at age eight. She faced the judgment of the qadi magistrates several times for pick pocketing and cut-pursing, spending her formative years in more than one detention house and finally as an indentured servant to a clothier. At the age of sixteen Nura caught the eye of a lieutenant in the Sefmur thieves guild named Mirak al-Massari, who often came to the clothier to have custom garments made. By chance one day, he saw young Nura casually concealing sewing needles, strong thread and even a pair of shears on her as she worked. Mirak watched her pocket these items from afar and was impressed with what he saw so he took her aside during a break. Nura was told she had special talents and that she was wasting her time here, so Mirak managed to get her released from the sweatshop after bribing the head seamstress with promises and fake jewelry.

   Sponsored by Mirak, Nura became a valued guild-thief in only a few years, concentrating on house burglaries at night, or bait and switch jobs during the day. One fateful night at the guild-house, she overheard talk about how she was the spitting image of her mother Nadira, who once spurned the Guildmaster’s advances and fell for a Ceshran assassin. Nura became obsessed with learning more about Ramil the Serpent, what happened to him, and even what kind of debts the guild may have owed him. A couple years later, her curiosity led to trouble when one day she broke into the Guildmaster’s chambers and found a journal. To her dismay, Nura discovered that the mission Ramil was sent to Ket on was in fact a set-up with the Ketite authorities by the jealous Guildmaster. Nura had just finished reading the account when Mirak, and the other senior lieutenants caught her in the act. Rather than kill Nura, the Guildmaster punished the daughter of Ramil by turning her over to Sefmur’s corrupt qadis, who were handsomely paid to convict her on false charges.

   Nura was sentenced and sold to an unscrupulous caravan master whose last recorded expedition was south through Ull toward the Dry Steppes. Istus intervened however, and the caravan was scattered by a freak dust storm that took the life of the caravan master and left everyone to survive on their own. Nura surprisingly turned up in Kester a week later, a free Baklunish woman again with new-found wealth to start her life over. While she now enjoys an extravagant career beyond her wildest dreams, Nura bint Ramil privately plots revenge for her father on the Sefmur thieves’ guild in the near future.

   Description: By all standards in the West, Nura is a comely individual, fit and youthful in appearance with lustrous black hair down to her waist. However, her severe hazel-colored eyes and harsh demeanor show what a rough life she has in fact lived. Nura is normally dressed in the finest robes and dresses that can be found in Kester, along with an endless assortment of veils and jeweled accessories won from bets with other Pit Masters or gifted from visiting merchants. When travelling outside the comforts of Kester through the rugged land of Ull, she dresses in leathers, a light cloak and often a heavy turban to disguise her appearance. Nura is highly proficient in many light weapons and will always have at least one blade hid on her during any given encounter. Since moving to Kester, Nura bint Ramil is not above the use of poisons. Her eclectic collection includes exotic poisons that can be delivered with a kiss or from her painted fingernails. Given her resources and contacts, any of the above items in her possession could be magical with an emphasis on worn protective devices. In certain dangerous situations, Nura may also have access to magical dusts, sands and possibly even a one-use item with the ability to summon an earth elemental.

   DM’s Campaign Notes: Nura bint Ramil was in fact rescued from the dust storm by the enigmatic necromancer Abi Dalzim, recently returned to the outskirts of Kester after his long banishment at the hands of his nemesis Alhamazad the Wise. Nura is completely in his thrall, secretly doing his bidding without fail, and fearing his omnipresent attention from the crumbled ruins of his tower in the Ulsprue foothills. When not tasked with some fell quest by her shrouded master, Nura is independent to pursue her own goals. This is an arrangement she freely chose, thus making her even more cunning than most would-be villains. Her position as a Pit Master in the lawless trade town of Kester makes her an excellent source for information or minor missions for Player Characters who don’t mind her shady nature. In the most extreme situation, she can even buy captured PCs and put them to work in Kester’s deadly fighting pits until they can win their freedom back.

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