Dark Sun: Praetor

Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Preface to the Journal of Praetor of Kar Jerrek

It occurred to me that those who look back upon the rise of Kar Jerrek would benefit from a record of how exactly he rose and came to power. This is my private journal, from which such a record would be inspired but not directly produced, since the intimate and forthright details contained herein may not be suitable for proper public revelation.

If you are not authorized to read this journal or have come into possession by any other means than by the direct authority of Praetor Kar Jerrek, deliver it to him by the most expeditious means available. There are rewards for being a friend and those who become enemies of Kar Jerrek are not his enemies for long...
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
1st of Sorrow, Season of the High Sun, Year of Priests' Defiance, 190th King's Age
Jerrek Family Estate, Market Precinct, Balic

The Praetorial election results have come in and they've locked the bailiffs away to tally the votes. They'll announce them at dawn. Here's hoping our hard work pays off and I beat the worthless incumbent Livius Marnus.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
2nd of Sorrow
Dephnical Family Estate, Villa Precinct, Balic

I lost the election to the Praetorship. This is obvious evidence of the corruption of the system and, simultaneously, my inability to properly leverage it. Lord Dephnical spent a small fortune on the appropriate bribes, feasts, public appearances, private discussions, meetings with Praetors and election officials, and more. Losing the Praetorship relieves me of any means of repaying him. I despise being beholden to anyone, especially someone who knows how to leverage debts as well as he does.

In the discussion we just finished, Dephnical suggested I meet an acquaintance of his that has helped him resolve certain issues in the past. We may be able to utilize this man.

Something needs to be done.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
7th of Sorrow
Jerrek Family Estate, Merchant Precinct, Balic

I received the included note from my new friend Mortuus.

Dear Sir;

I would first like to congratulate you on your new appointment as Praetor, I hope that you will have years of prosperity and rewarding work ahead of you as well as many terms in office. A sad day indeed, that the election did not go your way, but we are able to rejoice in the knowledge you were there for us to fill the role when your rival met with misfortune in the market.

Upon the referral of Lord Dephnical, I am inquiring if you would be interested in retaining my services? As a minstrel in your employ, you will find a new level of prestige to help elevate you in your new social standings here in Balic. Providing you with more than simple entertainment I can help insure your term runs well for you as well as preventing any issues with your eventual re-election. You should find me very capable and my services most agreeable to you and your new status. If you seek any further information I can supply a Writ of Character from Lord Dephnical as well as other Patricians and various Houses of stature here in Balic.

I look forward to your response and to what will hopefully be a long and most beneficial arrangement.

Kind Regards
Mortuus Animus

To which I replied:
[FONT=Times New Roman, serif]
My Dear Mortuus,

I took upon it myself as my first task as Praetor to see that the owner of a certain fruit stall where a certain Praetor choked on a certain sand plum be sent to the arena at once.

While my reelection stands nearly a decade in the future, I find myself quite fond of your special brand of talent - musical, of course. Lord Dephnical has already spoken to me in person and said that you played so beautifully at his daughter's wedding that he nearly cried. Tragic about the groom drinking too much and falling out of that window on the way to the consummation, especially with such a substantial dowry on the line...

While I and all the peers of Balic regret defenestration of such an upstanding young man and I traveled to Lord Dephnical's house personally to do what I could to console his widow, I doubt a young woman of her appearance and family stature should be lacking for a qualified suitor in the near future. Once the proper mourning observances have been upheld to satisfaction, of course.

In any case, we should meet soon. My father is holding a banquet in honor of my Praetorship and I would welcome your company, perhaps to help me compose a toast to my father's seemingly-perpetual good health.

Until that day,

Praetor Kar Jerrek
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
13th of Sorrow
The Crafty Crodlu Broy House, Merchant Precinct, Balic

Feasts, political meetings, religious ceremonies, banquets, speeches, quiet conversations with Dephnical, meetings with Darus on what to expect as Praetor, a hundred other engagements large and small - sleep is the luxury of the lazy and the idle. They say ambition has its price, and perhaps this is it - by the time I get home it will almost be time to get up again.

Tomorrow I go to meet Dictator Andropinis himself. I've spent the whole day with my brother going over the rules and rituals of the occasion and I just want to get it over with. I grow impatient with all these little social stepping stones that I must meticulously follow, playing the part of good, loyal, honest and respectable Praetor Jerrek. And while I play out this charade, others are free to work, building up their power bases while mine sit empty; bare foundations with only dreams yet erected upon them.

How interesting that at tonight's feast my father was "so proud" of me and even gave that elaborate speech. You never would have known that he tried to stymie me at every turn my whole life up until now.

"Don't join the Legions, we need you to be the foreman at the new Arvos Ludus we're building." "Don't associate with Lord Dephnical, he's not an honest man." "Don't run for Praetor, you'll never be elected."

The Legions were the only way I could get out of my father and Parlin's shadows and make something of my own. If I hadn't met Dephnical, I might have never gotten out of the Legions. If I hadn't run for Praetor, I would have never gotten out from under Dephnical's thumb. The only thing you've ever done for me old man is to give me a merchant house and a noble name to inherit once you and Parlin are out of the way.

Anyway, my father prattled on about "all that he had done for me", "family loyalty", and all that nonsense while my brother got drunk with his cronies, then made a spectacle of himself as he left just to spite me. And I had to sit there with a smile on my face, mouthing nepotistic platitudes and social niceties, gritting my teeth the whole time.

At least I got a chance to go meet with some of the boys from the Legion afterwards. With them, at least, I don't have to fake enjoying myself. Darus was there too since he's not allowed at the family estate. My old Legion-mates got a kick out of my introduction: "this is Darus, my bastard brother, not to be confused with Parlin, my brother, the bastard."

Little Kara stopped by with her gang of fellow tomboys. I'm sure she isn't allowed out of the house, but that's never stopped her in the past and it sure didn't tonight. Father has his work cut out for him trying to get her to marry now that she's turned of age. He'd have better luck finding a bride for Darus.

Speaking of Darus, never try to out-drink a Mul. I'm surprised I can still write.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
14th of Sorrow
Praetorian Dormitory, The Praetorium, Balic

Darus showed me around the Praetorium this morning. I barely remember it. I saw my dormitory. Not exactly on the scale of my rooms in the family estate, but it's better than a Legionary tent. The rest of the Praetorium; large stone buildings, gardens, mul and half-giant bodyguards and Legionnaires everywhere... I'll spend plenty of time there, didn't seem much need to focus on it more, especially not today.

I met with Andropinis and all I remember is the sheer power that radiated from him. It wasn't just charisma and presence - I've met plenty of powerful men with those qualities - but a sense of the actual arcane power he wields; a spark of which it is said I now carry within me. He looked into my eyes as I said the words of the ritual, then he touched my head for a brief moment before moving on. And everything changed.

I can feel it now, like a vibration, like part of him remained with me when he left. The whole world looks different somehow, like everything is less substantial, less real than the power that thrums somewhere deep inside. My gift from Andropinis.

I don't even remember being led back to my dormitory nor do I know how long I've knelt here before I regained enough of myself to write. Minutes, hours, days?

It's irrelevant, I have this power for a reason.

My whole life I have been given sand and forged glass. Now I have been given a taste of real power and with it I will forge an empire that Athas will never forget.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Game Notes:

If it wasn't obvious already, we're playing an evil party(pre-4e equivalent: Lawful Evil). If anyone joins our campaign with a character more towards the good end of the spectrum than "unaligned" they would probably have issues with our goals and methodology.

The choice was somewhat inspired by our Rogue Trader game, where there really is no such thing as "good" in the frickin' universe and for us profit was the one and only motivator. Everything was bent towards increasing the group's wealth and power. Sure, we might end up helping others out along the way, but only those who could be useful to us in the future.

The key to a harmonious game was the group's profit, not any individual player/character's at the expense of another. A less lawful/group-focused game would be a much different sort of beast which could be fun in its own right, you'd just have to have players mature enough to keep meta-knowledge out of the game and not take in-game conflicts into RL.

Here is this same philosophy in a fantasy world. That doesn't mean there might not be moments of nobility, sacrifice, good deeds - just that each likely has an ulterior motive.

A couple house-rules/conventions for this game (it's 4e - don't hold it against us :p):
*Divine Power Source is allowed, but you have to come up with a good justification (such as being Praetors of a Sorcerer King).
*Dark Sun and General Backgrounds are allowed, Dark Sun Themes are allowed.
*There are no skill restrictions by class, though each player receives the normal number of skills for their race/class.
*Weapon breakage rules are in effect with their severity increased: your weapon always breaks on a 1, but when it does you can either try to salvage it (save and it's ok) OR reroll your attack and have it break automatically. If it breaks, you can make another save for it at the end of the encounter to salvage it.
*For arcane characters, defiling works similarly: you always defile on a 1 with a daily, you can make a save to try not to defile OR use the reroll.
*We're using inherent magic item bonuses.
*Sanzuo(our DM) is using the random treasure tables from the Rules Compendium. However, he had a brilliant idea for when magic items are rolled - give consumable(s) worth what a magic item rolled would normally be worth. For example, if he rolled a level 5 magic item(1000gp), he would instead give consumables worth a total of 1000gp - such as a single paragon-level potion. Thus, there are still magic items, they are powerful and relatively rare, and they are spent when you use them.
*XP is only quest xp. Each player receives a minion's worth of xp for minor achievements (trivially easy battles, interesting minor scenes, etc) and a standard monster's worth of xp for major achievements (hard battles, important goals reached, major events, etc). Thus, anything that advances the game, be it combat, roleplay, puzzle solving, scheming, etc is all rewarded roughly equally.

PC: race theme class (build)
Kar Jerrek: Human Templar Blackguard (Domination)
Darus Sandstone: Mul Templar Runepriest (Wrathful)
Mortuus Animus: Bogtangle Human Athesian Minstrel Executioner (League of Whispers)
Hakar: Human Gladiator Fighter (Tempest)*

*"Drop-in" - unlikely to play again
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Haraxes' Dormitory, Praetorium, Balic

Darian Haraxes tossed sand onto the parchment then tilted the page and blew lightly to clear it away.

"One thing we'll never run out of, sand," Haraxes said, handing the scroll an attendant to roll and seal it. "See that this gets to the Praetor Emantius immediately."

The attendant nodded and carefully took the scroll to the next room, pausing at the door as another slave arrived.

"There's a Praetor Jerrek here to see you, Praetor," the attendant said. "Shall I let him in?"

"Yes, give me a few moments then lead him in."

He leaned back in his chair and picked up the iron sphere from his desk. Its weight helped him think - a symbol of his ever-rising power and wealth, yet also the weight of his responsibilities.

When Praetor Jerrek entered, Darian was standing at the balcony overlooking the dust and bustle of Balic, distant cries and aromas - fair and foul - from the markets drifting on the hot winds from the Forked Estuary, the faint grit of the ever-present silt lending its own gritty texture to the air.

He let the young Praetor wait for a minute as he thought, then finally turned.

The new Praetor was a handsome young man, his long black bangs stirring in the desert wind blowing in from the balcony, alternately hiding and revealing dark, intent eyes. A faint smile played about Jerrek's lips as if something amusing was about to happen, his skin was the light tan of the aristocracy with just a hint of weathering from his years in the Legions. He wore heavy armor of black chitin, held together with straps of thick leather. Here and there about him, black and red silk stirred faintly and brushed against the bone hilt of the slender sword at his side.

"Congratulations," Haraxes said. "You came through the ceremony I see."

"Glory be to Dictator Andropinis," Jerrek said without missing a beat. "I'll admit the rush of contact with him was significant and nearly debilitating, but I have mastered it and am ready to do his will."

Just the right amount of piety, a touch of revealing honesty and shared experience, mixed with obedience and a taste of eagerness without being needy, Haraxes thought, nodding slightly to himself. This one is no empty political tool, he might actually be useful.

"I have a task," he said, gesturing towards the stool that he'd had a slave bring in before Jerrek arrived. As Jerrek sat - somehow seeming relaxed and attentive at the same time - Haraxes took his own seat and leaned back, one hand resting lightly on the iron sphere.

"There is a Lord Ermak that has an estate at the edges of the Verdant Belt. His loyalties are... questionable and we'd like you to bring him in."

Jerrek nodded. "I understand. And if there is resistance?"

"That is where the unit of Legionnaires you'll be leading come in. Raze his estate to the ground after you have secured him. If he is a source of sedition, it is important that the presence of Andropinis be felt."

"I see. I'm assuming the men are ready to go?"

"Yes. This needed to be done so they are already ordered to assemble at dawn tomorrow. Take whoever else you think might be necessary." He paused. "Also, Keep in mind, this is not an order."

"No." Jerrek smiled. "It's an opportunity."
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Ermak Estate, Verdant Belt, Balic Territory

Aray climbed to the top of the gate and felt a stab a fear pierce her gut. Armored figures approached through dust and broken earth, rippling like a mirage or psychic's illusion in the baking heat of the sun.

It was no mirage.

She turned to the people Ermak had left in her care, trying to stay calm.

"Legionnaires from Balic approach," she said, raising her hands to calm the sudden cry and tumult from below. "Yes, we have been afraid of this, but know that our work will go on, even if we die here today. Some of you are to be runners and spread the word of what happened hear and be sure our work lives on - you know who you are - the rest get your weapons and return here. They will be here soon."

She turned and watched the figures become more substantial, like a nightmare slowly materializing from the realm of dreams. A few deep breaths steadied her shaking slightly, but did little to blunt the jagged dagger of fear lodged in her gut.

It seemed like only a few seconds that they were at the gate, the Legionnaires halting in formation, desert cloaks masking their faces and features, hiding all traces of humanity but hard, dark eyes. They could be armored demons for all Aray knew and, for all intents and purposes, they may have been.

At the lead of the unit a mul with a wicked long-axe and a giant stone axe strapped to his back stood beside a young man with black hair who wore heavy carapace armor, a sword strapped at his side and a giant gleaming tortoise-shell shield on his back. Praetors. Behind them stood a nondescript man in cowled desert clothing carrying what looked like a flute of all things. Aray had no time to consider the oddity.

"What are you seeking so far from Balic?" she called out.

In another situation, Aray might have found the young Praetor that stepped forward handsome. He spread his hands in supplication, the traces of a faint smile on his lips. "We just need to have a word with the master of the estate."

"He's not here."

He frowned and furrowed his brows as though deep in thought for several seconds. "I'd like to be able to take your word for it, but my superiors in Balic wouldn't be happy if I didn't at least take a look around. If he's not here, we'll be through and on our way quickly."

She thought quickly, fear and adrenaline fogging her mind. She couldn't think of a justifiable way to deny him entry.

Maybe he will do as he says, just search and leave?
she thought, realizing as she did that it was just her mind scrambling for some faint hope. No, we can't take that chance. If they get inside, we'll have no chance against a full platoon. We have to hit them now, to give our runners more time if nothing else.

"Open the gates," she said, turning to glance in the courtyard. Even if they pulled off a perfect ambush, the poorly armed collection of servants and freed slaves inside the estate's crumbling stone walls had little chance, but they'd have to take it - their cause was too important.

Kneeling so the wall would hide her from the view of the Legionnaires, she spoke in a loud whisper to those below. "Get ready, attack them once the first few are inside, maybe we can kill the Templars at least."

The Praetors walked through the gate almost casually, weapons still sheathed, and for a moment she thought they might have a chance. Then there was a cry from the rear of the estate and four lanky warriors wearing bright-feathered cloaks and carrying heavy battle axes ran into the courtyard, throwing the heads of Aray's runners into the dust.

With series of war chants, the Legionnaires charged through the gates, the Praetors' weapons flaring with the corrupted magics of their Sorcerer-King.


Praetor Darus Sandstone stood in the courtyard of the estate and watched the flames dance, a skein of thick smoke swirling up in front of the simmering red sun.

A dusty, blood-spattered Legionnaire stopped beside him and saluted. "Praetor, there was no sign of Lord Ermak. We searched the whole place before it burned."

"Any survivors?"

"Yes, there were a few."

"Any useful information?"

"Nothing substantial."

"There were no survivors."

The Legionnaire saluted and departed.

Jerrek joined Darus, wiping the blood from his sword torn bit of cloth. "No sign of Ermak?"

"No," Darus said.

"Unfortunate. Let's leave the flankers behind in case he returns. Nothing more we can do here."

Darus nodded and whistled, then called out a short war chant. A few minutes later, they were on the march back towards Balic, leaving the bodies of the fallen to bloat in the sun beside the broken and burning shell of the estate.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
17th of Sorrow
Unknown Estate, Verdant Belt, Balic Territory

An interesting few days.

Ermak's estate is a corpse-strewn ruin, but the man himself was long gone by the time we arrived. The traders at the outpost we departed from in the middle of the night said Ermak's estate was poor - which I can verify from the paucity of loot the Legionnaires sized from it - and the man reclusive. Better a reclusive, impoverished subversive than a popular, wealthy one I say.

Still, the thought of reporting our relative failure to Haraxes leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

An ex-gladiator from Tyr accompanies us out on our current hunt. His sword arm - or should I say sickle arm since he fights with twin razor-sharp bone sickles - has already proved itself useful, but the information he brought from Tyr is even more so.

Apparently, Sorcerer-King Kalak is dead, killed by a lowly gladiator with a wooden spear. This is not information that should be widely disseminated, but I don't see how Andropinis can stop it.

The Sorcerer-Kings are not immortal. I find this news disturbing and... interesting at the same time.

Back to our current hunt. In the middle of the night, a House Tomblador caravan guard by the name of Eanus rode up on a crodlu, nearly collapsing from exhaustion, bringing word of a small caravan attacked by raiders not far from the outpost.

We left in haste - without the rest of the Legionnaires as they are due back in Balic tomorrow - only to find the caravan site swarming with kestrekel. Realizing the scavengers were in great enough numbers that they might reach the threshold for a psychic swarm if we didn't act quickly, we attacked at once.

Darus and I fought back-to-back as we have before in the alleyway brawls and Legionary skirmishes of a misspent youth, with Mortuus nearby, using that strange blowgun of his to potent effect. Hakar, the gladiator, charged off like it was some arena exhibition, wading into the things with flourishes and roars that would have gotten a crowd on their feet - if there were enough people to fill a hut within an hours travel in any direction.

The remaining kestrekel switched from attack to dispersal in an instant, the latent psychic power that makes them so dangerous in large numbers somehow binding their tiny brains together in united egress.

There was one survivor, a wounded guard named Timious, hiding under an overturned wagon. Once Darus patched him up and we got him to stop attacking "Eanus the Coward", he directed us in the direction the raiders had departed.

Eanus elected to disprove Timious' appellation by scouting for us as Timious limped back towards the outpost.

After a few hours of tracking, we found some slaves working in a field by a remote estate, the promise of double rations for information that would lead us to the bandits finally loosening a slave boy's tongue.

One of the guards watching the slaves had the temerity to ask who was paying for the double rations. I informed him that he now was and to lodge any complaints with Dictator Andropinis.

By the glare he gave that young slave that stepped forward and told us where the raiders had gone, the guard is going to leave Andropinis out of it and take his complaint up with the slave.

No time to deal with that now - the boy's information must have been correct; Eanus just motioned that he found the raiders tracks leading off to the east.

Right into the teeth of that incoming siltstorm.

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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Edge of the Verdant Belt, Balic Territory

Varkan motioned for the others to drop. Jarsin glared at him, but Varkan just motioned down the dune.

"Brother, I saw movement in the siltstorm," Varkan said.

"How could you see anything in-" Jarsin started to say, but stopped as he heard a loud snort from the base of the dune.

Varkan readied a javelin, squinting into the swirling, stinging silt until a crodlu-mounted form became visible.

Anyone out here in this is after us, he thought. Or stupidly unlucky. Either way, them or us.

He loosed his javelin and the form grunted and doubled over, landing heavily on the broken earth at the base of the dune.

Before the body had even come to rest, several more vague figures appeared, rushing towards the side of the dune with the easiest slope. The one in the lead - a large man with the mien of a gladiator - ducked and dodged the javelins Varkan and Jarsin threw, roaring as he rushed up the slope towards where Hars and Zurtch were hidden.

Hars leapt from hiding and connected with his spear as the roaring gladiator parried Zurtch's spear with a sweep of bone sickles. The gladiator spun and buried one of the weapons in Hars' shoulder.

Hars wrenched himself free with a gasp just as another figure suddenly materialized, wrapped in swirling shadow, a slender sword flaring with unholy light just before it buried deep in Hars' side.

Vysal - Hars' best friend - roared in response and abandoned his hiding place near Jarsin at the top of the dune and rushed towards the fray.

At that moment, the silt storm intensified, blinding Varkan to what was going on down the sandy slope. He closed his eyes as the hurling grit bit into his skin. When it had abated slightly, there were three foes engaging Hars and Zurch, a huge mul with an long-hafted axe now beside the shadowy figure with the gleaming sword, arcane runes swirling in the air about them.

"Magic!" Varkan shouted, biting back panic. "Kill the mul, kill the swordsman!"

He and Jarsin threw as one, their javelins both striking the mul. The mul staggered, snarled, and wrenched the javelins free.

Their foes retaliated by teaming up on Hars, the gladiator planting one sickle in Hars' leg and another in his arm, leaving Hars open to the one with the glowing sword. The sword didn't seem to penetrate very deeply before Vysal stepped in, allowing Hars to break free and stagger back towards Varkan.

Varken saw Hars' face clearly in spite of the storm, watching in horror as the half-elf raider's veins bulged out in his face and darkened, the whites of his eyes turning inky black as he toppled over.

The swordsman stepped over Hars, the swirling shadows fading to reveal a young man in heavy chitin armor. A slight smile played across his lips as he walked up the hill towards Varkan, tendrils of dark power swirling amidst flares of light along the razor-sharp bone of his sword.

Varkan shuddered as he saw the death in those eyes, readying his javelin and turning to call to Ghrys, only to see the last man of their band charging a fourth of the foes: a slender, cloaked figure that was sneaking up the side of the dune.

The storm intensified again and, when Varkan could see clearly again, the mul was there, drawing a suddenly flaming axe from Ghrys' back, runes tracing themselves into the sand at the mul's feet as Ghrys fell lifeless at the mul's feet.

Varkan threw his javelin towards the mul and Jarsin did the same, turning back in time to see Zurch drive his spear into the leg of the gladiator. The huge man grunted, broke the spear, yanked the tip from his leg, and slammed it into Zurch's neck even as Vysal was slowly driven up the hill, slipping backwards in the sand as the young swordsman pressed him.

A moment later, Vysal too lay in the sands, the young man with the glowing sword and the mul blasting Jarsin with arcs of black energy from their hands as they approached. Jarsin staggered and threw his last javelin at the swordsman, embedding it the young man's thick armor while Varkan dropped the gladiator in his tracks with a well-placed javelin just as the man came roaring across the top of the dune.

"Think we can take the last ones, brother?" he said, backing towards Jarsin, ready to make their stand against the approaching mul and swordsman.

Jarsin fell against his back.

Varkan glanced down to see a small feathered dart sticking out of Jarsin's throat, the skin into which it stuck blackening and swelling grotesquely as he watched.

He roared in anger as his brother died at his feet, drew his long bone knife, and charged, ready to take the sorcerous demons to hell with him.

Seconds later, he lay in the sand looking at his brother's swollen face and staring, empty eyes, his own blood seeping into the thirsty sands...
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
18th of Sorrow
Habardeen Outpost, Verdant Belt, Balic Territory

We're heading to Balic shortly and it's going to be busy once we get back, so this is probably my last time to write for a while. I'll write quickly.

Our hunt was a success. We tracked the raiders that attacked the Tomblador caravan in spite of the siltstorm, though Eanus caught a fatal javelin at the outset of the fight. At least he redeemed his honor.

We all have minor wounds - Hakar took the worst of it, though it was nothing compared to the gladiatorial scars that cover most of the rest of his body. Fortunately Darus's link to Andropinis gives him remarkable restorative powers. We'll still have scars, but the wounds themselves are healing remarkably quickly and well.

There was a small fortune in coin on the raiders, as well as supplies and a few exotic goods that they probably stole from the caravan. These, of course, "were lost" for all intents and purposes when we return to Balic and report to Tomblador. I'll consider them donations from the Tombladors to their friendly local Praetor, maybe give them a few items that we recovered to make it less suspicious.

More interesting is the rune-covered jagged copper fragment that was carefully wrapped in cloth and tucked in the raider leader's pouch. While I can't make heads or tails of the designs on it, I can't help but think that it was made for some larger purpose and also that it was some part of what the caravan raid was about. A curiosity and a mystery.

I also acquired my first personal slave. We found the boy that reported to us about the raiders left to die in a gully after a severe beating. The guard said he "fell" and was useless because of it. Darus was able to patch him up, so, free slave. He'll make a useful page and messenger.

I'll have to be careful about when I use Andropinis' gifts which, in my case, seem to be potent combat enchantments that flow through me instinctively when I fight. There's an addicting rush as the power courses through you, your sword so charged with energy that it glows like the sun then fades like a shadow, cutting through hardened chitin plate and shell shield alike like a knife through a sand plum.

My father and I agree in this at least - addictions are like chains you bind around yourself, making yourself a slave. And as we all know, when you are a slave, your master is chosen for you.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
18th of Sorrow
Praetorian Dormatory, Praetorium, Balic

Long day.

After marching half the morning back to Balic, I snuck in a quick bath in the Praetorium's private bath house - bigger than the one at my familiy's estate but far more utilitarian - and went to meet with Haraxes.

He was out, but left another "suggestion" for me with his aide. Technically we're the same rank so he can't give me orders, but he's been a Praetor for far, far longer than me, so his "suggestions" carry a significant amount of weight...

The "suggestion" had to do with a new acting troupe forming in Balic known as the Sand Devas. They are planning on performing a play about the rise of Balic - a subject that must be carefully handled to say the least - and it's important that there's nothing subversive in the material or the way it's presented. Last thing we need is some Veiled Alliance terrorist propaganda slipped into the malleable minds of the illiterate, unwashed masses.

We have several days until the play premiers, but Darus, Mortuus, and I found the amphitheater early this afternoon. Once there, I arranged a private meeting with the secretive head of the troupe, a mysterious woman known as Lady Barrenyche. She wore a veil, but I could see the emerald glow of her eyes through it. When she made me swear the vow, I felt those eyes boring into my soul.

I'm getting ahead of myself.

In the private meeting, I convinced her I was representing a powerful noble seeking to sponsor a play. In all honesty, I should probably say that I tried to convince her; there's something strange about the woman and my natural knack for reading people failed me - I couldn't tell if she was even listening to what I was saying much less accepting it as true.

Anyway, I presented my sponsor as anonymous to keep his sponsorship a surprise, revealed only on the night of the premier. I "reinvested" some of the money we found on the bandits into a substantial "private screening fee" and managed to get permission to watch the play the night before the premier.

Strangely, she made me swear that my report about the play would only be that it was "acceptable" or "unacceptable" - nothing more - and when I swore it would be so, she raised her veil and pulled me deep into her seemingly bottomless emerald eyes. I don't even remember leaving the tent, just looking into her eyes then walking out of the amphitheater to questioning looks from Darus and Mortuus.

Mortuus reported that he managed to infiltrate the actor's close-knit tent-village that's sprung up around the back of the sizable Amphitheater of Rizas, his efforts mostly aimed at ingratiating himself with the actors and stagehands. He did overhear mentions of Andropinis, Kallik, Draegoth, Bodach, and Kalidnay - some names familiar to me and others unknown. Also, a thri-kreen is playing the Dragon, a clever choice if you ask me.

I have the beginnings of a plan and have Mortuus tailing the lead actor - the man playing Andropinis, of course. As a child, I once had thoughts of becoming an actor myself, though my brother mocked me, threw sand in my eyes, and said "there, act like you're a pathetic blind weakling". Darus showed up about then, body-slammed Parlin into the wall, and got some water for my eyes as Parlin went to go cry to father.

Anyway, if the lead actor has sudden serious health issues, they may need to find a replacement on short order. I was always the one telling the telling the tembo stories as a child and late-night tales around the Legion camp fires and so I think I can handle a play. I'll be sure to be available "if" something untoward happens to their fine lead.

We stopped by Tomblador when we left the Amphitheater and met a representative known as Kalius. I told him that we avenged the loss of their caravan and he asked - very intently - if we recovered anything.

I gave him a few miscellaneous articles that we did, in fact, recover and said the bandits must have buried the rest, though I covered myself by telling him we had traveled and fought beside a Tyrian ex-gladiator that disappeared into Balic's broy houses when we arrived. That much was true at least.

I promised to track down Hakar and see if he had "found anything".

Kalius offered a reward for our efforts, to which I replied that recompense was not necessary from our friends at House Tomblador and continued to turn down his offers until he grudgingly said that they owed us a favor - a far more useful item than some token reward.

In reply, I said I would make purchases at Tomblador whenever possible. I made good on my word then-and-there and we purchased a small fortune in weapons, armor, and survival supplies to have on hand should we need to venture out of the comfort of Balic again.

Another small victory in convincing Dephnical to sponsor a play - little did he know that the sponsorship was in already in place an just waiting for him to step into the role I had created for him - and good thing he did. Convincing my father to do something so "frivolous" as to further the family name amidst the commons would have used up all the favor I've built up with him in a lifetime of playing "good son". "Good" except for not letting him lock me in a life of subservience to him and my brother, that is.

Lastly, I've already reaped the fruits of my "friendship" with Tomblador. They sent me a personal slave - a dark-haired beauty named Eutropia. She's intelligent, personable, and can even read and write. In one day she's already organized my dormitory, decorated it stylishly, set Abu to various tasks, and even found fresh flowers somewhere to liven up the bare sandstone walls. And her bedroom skills are... more than sufficient.

She's also a spy.

I gave that strange copper fragment we found on the Tomblador raiders to Darus to be sure Eutropia doesn't find it. Tracking down Hakar and "getting it from him" is my first priority tomorrow, in case anyone else is tailing us. My power base isn't strong enough yet to withstand even the relatively minor weight of Tomblador's suspicions - if the fragment is that important to them, they can have it.

I'll call Eutropia an even trade for the copper mystery - even if I do have to doctor everything we say in her presence to be what I want Tomblador to hear. It will save me the effort of social calls to Tomblador to curry favor.

As Dephnical says, there's advantage in every situation, the trick is being the first to find it.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
House Tomblador Compound, Market Precinct, Balic

Kalius stared into the flat, cold eyes of the elven caravan leader trying to swindle him.

"You call this glass?" he said, gesturing at the deformed lumps of melted sand laid on the table between them. "I've seen halflings more useful than these lumps of rubbish. Two gold, no more."

The elf glared back. "Maybe Wavir will give us better, we don't have to trade with Tomblador."

"If Wavir will buy these shoddy bits of half-melted sand from you for more than two gold chits, then you'd be doing us a favor by weakening our competition." He produced two etched and hardened ceramic discs and slapped them onto the table. "Take them now, or go try to find someone else generous enough to buy your offal."

Behind the feigned anger, Kalius saw the calculations running in the elf's eyes. For being a nomadic savage, Ariendal wasn't a fool. He swiped the coins and spat in the sand.

"May you cut your hands on them and your blood attract a Tembo," Ariendal said, storming off.

He grunted. "Why would I be carrying them when I have a dozen slaves at my command?"

With a gesture, said slaves set to gathering up the twisted glass shards while Arakai, his half-elven aid and the most useful slave he'd ever worked with, set about dealing with the minutia of determining where in the massive Tomblador compound and to what ends each individual piece should be taken. Kalius leaned back and drank a drought of warm broy, wiping his forehead at the early morning heat.

As the slaves scurried about, he saw familiar figures walking towards him; the young Praetor and his mul brother that had so conveniently tracked down the caravan raiders.

If he wasn't so young and so newly Praetor, I would suspect that he arranged the whole deal just to curry favor with us,
he thought sourly, bringing a wide smile to his lips.

"Praetors Jerrek and Sandstone, to what does Tomblador owe the pleasure of your company?"

Jerrek smiled - though it seemed like he was always smiling slightly, like there was a joke that he got that you wouldn't understand - and bowed. "Kalius, we are fortunate this day. Our ex-gladiator friend Hakar did indeed have one other oddity that he'd swiped from the raiders. We managed to drag him away from his broy long enough to get it from him."

He produced a strangely shaped copper fragment, covered with undecipherable designs and patterns. Kalius tried not to let his expression change as Jerrek set the bit on the table, watching him intently. "While it is, of course, valuable for its metal alone, it seems to be of little functional use..."

Kalius reached for it, trying to act casual as his pulse pounded at his temples. "Hm, I'm not sure what this is, but if you say it came from our caravan, I'll give it to my superiors as they likely know its purpose and true value. Once again, House Tomblador is in your debt. Perhaps you would have some broy with me?"

Jerrek shook his head even as his brother swiped the broy jug from Kalius' hand and downed the whole thing. A wry smile spread across Jerrek's face as Darus set the now-empty jug down on the table and wiped his mouth with his sleeve.

"Unfortunately, there seems to be no Broy left and urgent business calls me elsewhere," Jerrek said, with a smile and a slight bow. "We are just grateful that we are able to be of some small service to our Tomblador friends,"

Kalius marveled at how sincere the Praetor made it sound - either Jerrek really believed in what he was saying or he was one of the smoothest liars Kalius had met in decades of haggling, bartering, and negotiating with every variety of merchant, swindler, petty thief, desert brigand, noble, starving pickpocket, merciless slaver, unscrupulous nomad, and every other flavor and disposition of the intelligent races of Athas.

One finger absently traced over the designs on the cool surface of the copper fragment as the Praetors wove their way through the traffic of the ever-busy Tomblador Market and out of his sight.

Arakai walked up beside him, following his gaze to where the Praetors had just passed through the compound gates. "Do you trust him?"

"As far as I can throw his brother," he said with a snort.

He glanced down at the fragment. "But just because someone can't be trusted doesn't mean they can't be useful."
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Amphitheater of Rizas, Guilder's Precinct, Balic

Mortuus sat quietly, watching from back stage as the cast prepared to give their private showing to Jerrek. As a whole, they seemed more nervous than the situation would seem to warrant - Jerrek was supposedly just a spokesman for some rich noble or merchant.

"They're about to start," Breeck chirped. The thri-kreen clutchling, son of the actor playing the mighty "Dragon of Athas", sat with the other children around Mortuus, the whole group trying to stay quiet and out of the way since it was the first time any of them were allowed to watch the play.

"Shhh," Mol the mul said, ten years old and already bigger than most of the other children half-again older than she. "If you make too much noise we'll all get in trouble."

Then it began. Later, he retold it for Darus in Jerrek's Dormitory since the mul was reporting to Haraxes about their progress during the actual performance.

"Act I: The wilds of the Estuary were wild indeed, overrun with giants and tareks and monsters of all types. The human tribes struggled in despair against the foes and beasts that surrounded them on all sides, their numbers ever dwindling... until Andropinis arose in their midst.

"A humble wise man from one of the tribes, his people had urged him to lead them for decades, but he refused as he had no desire to rule. Then the tareks overran the next village and word came that a horde of the brutes was on their way to wipe the humans off the Estuary of the Forked Tongue entirely.

"With great reluctance, Andropinis finally agreed, shouldering the heavy responsibility for protecting the people. He rallied the remaining tribes and together they held off the tarek assault, driving the horde into the silt sea. The people, overjoyed with gratitude, begged him to remain as their leader once the crisis was over.

"With much hesitation and under constant pressure from the people, he agreed, but demanded that in ten years they hold an election so that if one arose more fitting to rule, that one should rule instead of he.

"He appointed his Templars, the Praetors, to protect the people and formed the scattered warrior bands into the first Legion. He began the building of the walls, the planning of the city, and the irrigation of the wastes around it. A paradise arose in the desert, the first city-state, Balic. Across the world, other leaders took note and other city-states arose in emulation. Bright lights flared in the darkness and Balic shone brighter than them all... that is, until the Dragon arrived.

At this point in the retelling, Mortuus had took a long drink and rummaged in his bag for a needle to patch a hole in his cloak. His real reason, of course, was to increase the tension of the story for his audience - which had grown at this point to include Abu and Eutropia as well.

"Act II: The Dragon of Athas flew over the city, its mighty wings blotting out the red sun, and all in Balic trembled beneath its shadow - all except Andropinis. He climbed to the top of Mount Laeron and there stood calmly, waiting the beast.

"The Dragon saw the one man that stood unbowed by its might and landed before him, its tail stretching half-way down the mountain, the wind from its wings creating a dust storm that shrouded the mountain from view. Alone with the dragon, Andropinis bravely challenged it, knowing that he could but buy the city time for he was still only one man and had not the strength to defeat it.

"The Dragon laughed, a terrible sound that left nightmares stalking the sleep of Balic's people for generations. Then it spoke, its voice like the claws of a Tembo scraping on stone:

"'You are a fool, but your challenge amuses me. I will return in a week so all your people might gather to watch you die.'

"With that it launched into the sky, its laughter echoing to the far corners of Balic. Andropinis mourned - though not for himself - only that he could buy but a week for his people.

"The people begged him to flee, to save himself. So great was their love for him that they would perish to the last child if it meant their great leader might live.

"Andropinis spoke:

"'I will leave, but I will go to the Golden Ruin. They say it is death to enter that ancient and forbidden place, but there might I find some key to saving my people.'

"A day's time found him standing before the Golden Ruin, its bent and broken metal walls gleaming in the burning sunlight, dark things stirring in the long shadows of its golden towers. Even his mighty heart shook with fear and his inner demons told him to flee, to leave his people to die that he might save himself.

"Two days it took for him to master those demons, to steel himself for whatever foul doom lurked in that ancient, blighted ruin. Even the bravest of his subjects watched from but a distance as he entered the ruin.

"Act III: Four days later, his people wailed in the streets and tore at their hair. Andropinis had not returned and the Dragon was soon to return. Some fled, some prayed to long-dead gods, while others cowered in their homes awaiting the end. There was rioting in the streets and it was all the Praetors could do to keep the people from destroying themselves before the Dragon did.

"And then the Dragon arrived as the sun began to set on Balic, perching atop Mount Laeron and looking for the one man who had dared before to face it. When it saw him not, its laughter again echoed across the lands.

"'I see that the great Andropinis who swore to protect you has fled. I am not surprised, for he must know that all who have ever faced me have died and surely the same would have been his fate - as will now be yours!'

"The Praetors gathered, knowing that they could not harm it, but vowing that though they would die to a man, it would be worth it if even a single child made it safely away.

"The Dragon reared back to take flight, ready to reduce Balic to yet another crumbling ruin in the desert, but what was this? A gleam of golden light arising from the West. The light grew and grew and, intrigued, the Dragon paused to see what approached.

"The people rejoiced when it drew close for it was their dear Andropinis - but Andropinis the man no longer. Though he nearly died more times than he could count, he had vanquished the evils that lurked in the Golden Ruin, mastered their ancient magics, and performed an arduous ritual that imbued him with their power.

"Enraged, the Dragon hurled itself into the sky, its laughter a harsh counterpoint to the grim expression on Andropinis face.

At this point, Mortuus took another drink, then excused himself for a moment to use the privy. When he returned, Abu was nearly exploding with anticipation, Darus leaned in, and even the suave Eutropia - who had been pretending to organize Jerrek's things - gave up all pretenses to sit and listen.

"For three days they fought, their battles taking them from deep into the Estuary of the Forked Tongue in the east to the wastes beyond the Verdant Belt in the west, across mountain and field and silt and sand they fought, the force of their struggle shaking the ground like a quake, a sandstorm swirling and gusting about them with the might of their combat. The people feared that their battle might destroy the whole of Athas itself, so great was its intensity.

"When the Dragon finally fled, realizing it could not defeat Andropinis, the people did not cheer for too great was their shock. They merely stood in awe as their savior walked through the streets, battered and bloody yet unbroken. They followed him to his humble home, every man, woman, and child standing before him in silence.

"Exhausted from a ten days of constant battle - first with the darkness within himself, then with the terrors of the Golden Ruin, then with the mighty Dragon itself - he bowed to his people, a single tear falling with his gratitude that he was able to save them before his exhaustion caused him to topple.

"He never touched the ground for his people bore him up with a great cry. So great was their joy and jubilance that they built the Praetorium for him in a day, demanding that he be their leader, their protector, their savior for as long as he might live to do so.

"Again reluctant, he finally agreed to the heavy duty they laid upon them and lucky are we that we did so, for now, centuries later, still he watches over us. Praise be to Dictator Andropinis, may it always be so."

After the performance, Jerrek had applauded mightily and sang his praises to the Director at its completion. The children about Mortuus dispersed, Breeck already claiming his father's part in the recreation the children were already planning.

Mortuus simply sat, wondering if Jerrek had seen the hesitation, the improvisation, the subtle inconsistencies of word and action visible throughout, hidden behind psychic pyrotechnics, elaborate costumes, and lushly crafted and painted sets.

He didn't miss Jerrek's nod to him as the Praetor broke away from the Director to leave. Mortuus gave his own nod in reply, turning to seek the tent of Horolon, actor extraordinaire, bottomless windbag, and arrogance personified, now taking off Andropinis' beard as he soaked up the praise of his fellow actors.

I'd like to see Jerrek take his part just to watch him deflate, he thought, thumbing the vial in his pocket as he trailed the actors into their colorful camp. If he lives through this, that is.
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Thought I'd post pictures of the player characters, or at least the closest I can find to what I imagine they look like.


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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
20th of Sorrow
Amphitheater of Rizas, Guilder's Precinct, Balic

I go on stage shortly, so I'll keep this brief.

Dephnical formally agreed to sponsor the play yesterday, which is good. Better is that he allowed for me to stand in as his representative at the end of the play to announce his sponsorship. I also happened to mention the Tomblador caravan and the strange copper bit while I was there and he seemed intrigued, suggesting that giving it to him might have been a wiser option.

To be honest, I never even thought of it. The weight of Tomblador's power bearing down on me through Eutropia's eyes was enough to convince me I wanted to be free of it. Anyway, he said he'd investigate it and get back to me.

When I stopped by the Amphitheater later to deliver Dephnical's sponsorship terms and make sure all was in readiness, I was sure to mention my proclivity for and desire to be involved in acting. The Director was fairly busy and I wasn't sure he even heard me at the time. He obviously did, however, since here I am after the previous lead's sudden unfortunate "illness".

The play begins in less than an hour, just enough to run through my lines one more time. I'm fairly certain the play is legitimate, but should anything go wrong, there's a dozen City Watch "working security" outside, Darus is in the front row, a squad of disguised Legionnaires are infiltrated back stage, and Mortuus promised to get some "fellow" to watch the rear entrances and be ready to come in if we need them.

My costume is also bulky enough that I removed the padding I was to wear under it and put on most of my armor while Darus has my sword under his robes.

I recited as much as I could remember of the play to Darus and he said nothing seemed to be blasphemous from what he knew. I've looked at this from every angle and I don't see what could go wrong. The only wildcard is Barrenyche. The actors speak of her with near-reverence and say she's the reason the Sand Devas are even around, yet she's almost never here and, when she is, she just watches for a while, speaks briefly with the Director, then disappears.

The nonchalance with which she listened to the Director's explanation of Horolon's sudden inability to play his role, my proclamations of the unacceptability of a delay to my sponsor, and my "spur of the moment" idea that I play Andropinus are suspicious, as was her quick agreement that I was "just the one" to play the part.

Still, with me as the lead actor, Darus no more than twenty paces away throughout the performance, the Watch, Legionnaires, Mortuus and his horde of ruffians ready to move at a gesture - what could go wrong?
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Amphitheater of Rizas, Guilder's Precinct, Balic

Darus leaned back against the sandstone steps of the amphitheater, snorting to blow the silt drifting in on the night breeze out of his nostrils. Around him, the audience chattered excitedly, perfume, wine, fruit, and broy aromas mixing with the sweat of the hot day and the omnipresent sand and dust.

His brother's ambitious political subtleties had never been his strong suit, though he also didn't care for them enough to dedicate the time his brother had spent mastering them. Somehow Kar would come out ahead through this play, just as he had in games they had played around the Jerrek estate when they were younger - excepting games of strength, of course, in which Darus' mullish strength, bulk, and raw athleticism prevailed more often than not.

Darus grunted, chugged a swig of broy, and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

When will this thing get started,
he thought. It's been an hour now and they can't seem to get their act together.

He snorted at his own pun and wished Kar was there so he could tell him. Actually, he wished he was back in his room getting work done or in a rowdy broy house somewhere rather than sitting down to watch whatever fluttering nonsense was about to take up his next three hours. Fortunately, there was movement on the stage, someone finally coming out to relieve him of his boredom.

An elegant swath of deep green silk adorned her, trailing behind in wisps that seemed to swirl into mist at the ends. Her movements were graceful, smooth, as if she were floating across the stage.

That's Barrenyche or I'm the Dragon of Athas, he thought.

"Thank you all for coming," she said in a voice that was simultaneously seductive, commanding, and vaguely ominous. "I'd like to welcome you to..."

She lifted her veil and trailed off for a moment and Darus felt himself leaning forward entranced, spellbound. It took a moment to realize that he really was spellbound - Barrenyche was half-singing, half-chanting in some forgotten, ancient language that drew him in, swirling deeper and deeper into the bottomless emerald pools of her eyes.

So focused was he on her, Darus scarcely noticed the green mists swirling around him, the deep emerald light that was filling the sky.

He did notice Kar, dressed as Andropinis, standing just off the stage, staring fixedly at Barrenyche along with everyone else present. Darus noticed him and it was the last thing he noticed before everyone in the Amphitheater was taken elsewhen...
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated

In the beginning, there was a Green Age when life covered Athas.

Barrenyche's voice echoed from the skies like a goddess. Darus squinted at the sunlight - a strange soft, yellow sun that shone from behind fluffy white clouds over hills blooming with fragrant flowers as distant trees hundreds of feet tall swayed in a gentle breeze beside a meandering river.

There was no magic, no defiling.

The unmistakable figure of Andropinis stood before the gates of a small town as man rode up on a noble-looking four-legged, hoofed, fur-covered beast with a flowing mane and tail.

Thousands of years ago, when Andropinis was yet Albeorn of the small nation of Brunswitch.

Suddenly, Darus was at the city gates as the messenger dismounted and bowed to Andropinis.

"M'lord, you have been invited to the Pristine Tower, there to meet with a man who has made a great discovery."

With a hundred of his men, he journeyed to the Pristine Tower.

Suddenly, Darus was flying between the trees, paralleling Andropinis and a hundred metal-armored figures riding the same strange beasts. On the horizon before them was an ivory tower that seemed to touch the heavens.

On the way, they encountered the creatures of Athas, such as the trolls.

A massive, gnarled green figure exploded from the trees, tearing apart the man that rode beside Andropinis and panicking the mounts nearby. More came from the trees all along the line of men, tearing into them with fierce savagery. Even with their metal weapons and armor they stood little chance as the beasts large as giants with long claws and fangs and, as Darus watched, a man drove a spear through one's chest only to have the beast break free, the wound healing instantly.

Magic did not yet exist in Athas. As bravely as they fought, they were no match for the savage beasts of the ancient world...

But there was an answer.

Andropinis and several of his men finally brought one of the beasts down, but as they turned, it rose again as dozens more charged from the trees.

There was a flash and boom that nearly blinded Darus, lightning like that of a sandstorm blazing out of a clear blue sky. It exploded amidst the trolls, blasting them apart. In moments, the scattered survivors of the ambush were fleeing into a forest that quickly blazed into an inferno.

Albeorn led his followers to the great tower.

Darus turned towards the distant tower as Andropinis rallied his men and rode hard from the forest and suddenly he was there. Even in the sudden darkness, he could see that the tower's base was wide as a city and rose to touch the night stars high above.

Other travelers on strange beasts, bearing metal arms and armor of exotic metals, stood with Andropinis before a massive door, eying each other warily.

But he was not the first; others had arrived before him. Myron of Yorum, Dregoth, Kalak and Sacha of Arala were there. Others would soon arrive; Tectuktitlay from the deep jungles, Keltis, Sielba, Ennonec, Wyan of Bodach, Borys of Ebe, Daskinor, Kalid-Ma, Inenek, Gallard, Uyness of Waverly.

Fifteen arrived in all with their followers, fifteen leaders of the human peoples of Athas.

The doors swung open and Darus squinted to get a look at the figure that advanced from within. It stopped when just its face was in shadow and gestured within.

"I have summoned you here to become my followers. I will teach you an art that I have discovered, a power unlike any the wisest and most ambitious of you have ever dreamed. You have been at the mercy of other races, but once you have partaken of my gift, no longer shall you be - you shall be Kings of Athas. I will teach this power in exchange for a service... come!"

They all walked in and suddenly they were atop the tower. Clouds drifted by far below while even further away stretched the patchwork of green and yellow and blue that was the verdant forests and fields and rivers of ancient Athas.

Even in whatever his current insubstantial form was, Darus moved away from the edge and turned towards the center of the tower where suddenly a shimmering lance of pale red light flared, piercing into the sun itself. Darus could feel the massive power of the beam, feel the energy it leeched from the sun.

The fifteen champions watched on as their master began to drain the life from the sun and the world to give them their power.

Light branched from the main beam, illuminating each of the fifteen figures ringing the top of the tower. The figure, his features washed away by the incredible brightness of the beam behind him, walked between the champions, stopping for a moment before each.

"Now you share my power, now you too are no longer at the mercy of the monstrous races.

"Sarla, there are races that steal human children from their beds, steal their livestock, and plague the people like a pestilence. They are the kobolds and you shall cleanse them from the world. The Curse of the Kobolds."

The figure move to the next figure.

"Kalak, there exist hideous abominations, giants that command the mountains. You shall be the Ogre Doom."

And the next.

"Dregoth, in the highest peaks of the mountains, there exist brutish giants of all varieties. You will cleanse them as the Ravager of Giants.

"Myron, horrid beasts plague the swamps and forests with unnatural strength and healing. You shall be the Troll Scorcher.

"Uyness, you will take the battle to man's fiercest enemy, the orcs. You shall be the Orc Plague.

"Gallard, there exists a fey race, tricksters that seek to spoil minds with illusions and trickery. You will eradicate them as the Bane of Gnomes.

"Albeorn, you have been often at ends with the elves. You will drive them from their forest homes and wipe them out as the Slayer of Elves..."

And so they followed, obeying their master blindly in their thirst for power.

Suddenly Darus stood beside Andropinis, an army at his back. Thousands of elven warriors walked out of the forest before them, their faces grim.

Battle was joined, Andropinis striding through the elven host, shattering their ranks and killing them by the hundreds.

The elven army began to route, fleeing back into their forests. Andropinis did not pursue, merely gestured and turned their forest into a wall of fire.

The other races of Athas were no match for the human champions' new power. And yet even with their great might it took time. They fought their wars for fifteen hundred years.

They stood on the same battlefield, but the vegetation was scorched, blackened, crumpling to ash as far as the eye could see, the sun burning red and dim. Broken bodies littered the broken ground and Andropinis stood in the center, robes billowing in a charnel breeze, staring across the battlefield, his expression troubled.

Only after all those centuries did the champions realize their folly, what their striving for power had done to the world. Only then did they realize they served a madman. And so they met in council...

A dozen powerful figures stood in the midst of a ring of towers in the midst of a wasteland. One stepped forward.

"Our master is insane with power. We know now that he will not let us stop with the other races; humans will be eradicated as well. He will not be content until all life on Athas is destroyed. He must be stopped, yet even together our power does not match his own. We know what must be done."

Suddenly they were atop the massive stepped pyramid of a ziggurat, the figure that had spoken standing at its center.

They joined together and channeled their power into Borys.

Power arced from them into Borys and, as Darus watched, he began to transform. When the transformation was complete, the Dragon of Athas unfurled his wings with a roar-

And suddenly Darus was rising from his seat in the Amphitheater, reaching for his weapon as the crowd stirred back to life around him.

On the stage, Barrenyche stumbled, a dart protruding from her neck...
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Iron Sky

Procedurally Generated
Amphitheater of Rizas, Guilder's Precinct, Balic

Mortuus lowered his blowgun and watched as Barrenyche vanished into a swirl of green mist. The amphitheater exploded into motion; the crowd jumping up and shouting, staring stunned, or running for the exits, Kar tearing off his costume and shouting for the Watch to seal off the Amphitheater, Darus leaping to the stage with his brother's sword as the chagrined actors produced knives and clubs and surrounded the brother Praetors.

A quick dart that sent one of the actors stumbling into a wall - dead before he hit the ground from poison - was all Mortuus had time for as he ran back to rally the thugs he'd rounded up. A quick whistle and they came rushing in through the tents behind the amphitheater, clubbing down anyone who tried to resist or flee.

Mortuus shouted quick orders, gratified that the men mostly restrained themselves from looting - for now - roughly but effectively subduing and rounding up anyone they found. He headed quickly back to the stage, arriving just in time to see the Legionnaires dispersing the last of the actors that had assaulted the Praetors. A ring of bodies circled Kar and Darus where they stood stood back-to-back, the Praetors' weapons still gleaming and thrumming with their Sorcerer-King's magics as they quickly took charge of the situation.

Within ten minutes of Mortuus breaking Barrenyche's spell, the Amphitheater was sealed off by a company of City Watch, the audience sitting sullenly in their seats or grumbling amongst themselves. The actors and their families were rounded up and subdued backstage nursing bruises and the occasional broken bone, watched over by Mortuus' men and a handful of Legionnaires. Those who had actively resisted hung from the Walls of Balic set that stood on the stage.

Darus had briefly filled him in on the effects of the illusion Mortuus had broken and he was wondering how Kar was going to pull this one together. An audience of four hundred respectable and increasingly restless citizens of Balic witness to heretical magic that had produced an... unfavorably probable version of a history that Andropinis has spent centuries shaping to his favor. Then there was the issue of what to do with a hundred treasonous actors and their family members...

Mortuus glanced at Kar and saw him deep in thought. Then Kar looked up, met his questioning gaze, and his lips twitched in a subtle smile.

Mortuus knew that look: Kar had a plan.
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Epic Threats

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