Khurshid ibn Ali
Khurshid grew up as a courtier in the Rakhman city of Al-Azraq. He was a virtuoso rider, poet, and swordsman, who also possessed the ability to transform into a hawk. Khurshid was advancing at court, until one day, he made an unfortunate purchase at the local market. A suspicious book-seller somehow enticed him into buying an illustrated page, done up in gold-leaf, and apparently excised from a larger work. The language was unfamiliar to Khurshid, but the illustration left little doubt that it dealt with a demon bathed in flames. Khurshid tried to hide the page away, but a casual conversation with a rival made clear to him that others were aware that he was in possession of a heretical text (or possibly, something quite a bit worse). Deciding that the item was too dangerous to keep, Khurshid rode out for picnic one day, telling his intimates that he wanted to spend the day outside, composing a new poem. But when he found himself alone, he saw a group of ruffians approaching him, and decided to flee into a nearby cave, as there were too many for him to deal with. Khurshid awoke and unspecified amount of time later, in an unfamiliar and cold environment. He was on an island in the middle of a lake, and surrounded by Chonkorchuk, Plamen, Druvvaldis, Vasya, and Katarina. The young man had no idea how he got there, but he needed to figure out where he was, and the group seemed to lack a competent swordsman, so he joined their group. He found that the mysterious page was still on his person, but said nothing about it for the time being. Khurshid's new companions rowed him off the island, and made their way along a lake, but most of them were soon kidnapped by a group of foreign knights who had come to find Baba Yaga. They held their captives hostage, hoping that the rest of the group would come to rescue them. Khurshid was an especially valuable hostage, because the knights wanted to use him to enter Baba Yaga's service as a herder of her horses. The horses were said to possess magical power, and Khurshid was a talented rider and horse-whisperer. The knights intended to take the horses for themselves after Khurshid completed his task, however. Soon, the knights captured nearly the whole party, and pressured them to lead them to the River of Fire. As there was no way across, they sent Khurshid in falcon form to attach a rope to the opposite side of the ravine, and after several mishaps, proceeded to cross to the other side, taking Khurshid and Plamen with them, and chopping down the bridge so that the others could not follow. They soon found the compound, surrounded by a wall made of bones, and watched over by skulls set upon bony spikes. The knights ordered Khurshid and Plamen to find a way in, and though Khurshid's companion summoned up magic that made them move stealthily, the skulls spotted their progress, and one spat out a ball of fire at them. It nearly killed Khurshid, but Plamen saved him. The knights relentlessly drove their captives forward, and soon, another skull spotted them, nearly killing Plamen. In the confusion, the two were able to sneak away, and hide from the knights. Soon, they were joined by their companions, who had crossed the River of Fire, and killed or drove off the rest of the knights. By day's end, Baba Yaga herself appeared, and ushered the party into her compound. It is not clear how long Khurshid spent at the hut. Upon meeting him, the crone told him he had brought great evil into her domain. Khurshid showed her the scroll, and she told him that it summoned a being named Koshchei the Deathless, who would appear in the wake of great disasters - fires, famines, plagues, and the like. At that point, Khurshid's tale breaks off. His companions later heard that he undertook to graze Baba Yaga's herd, just as the knights intended, but for his own benefit. The crone later implied that he had failed in his task, and suffered the punishment for his failure. While gnawing on a bone, she suggested that it belonged to their erstwhile companion. But she was in possession of his scroll, and had Sasha and Vasilisa translate it into various languages, to find out who was disseminating it. Khurshid is now presumed dead.