Knightfall's World of Kulan: Tales of the Companions Story Hour (Final Update: Sep 20, 2014)

Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Knightfall's Tales of the Companions [AD&D 2E]

Greetings fellow story hour enthusiasts! This thread details my campaign in my homebrew campaign setting, World of Kulan. And while I'm not going to try and compete with P'Cat or the other story hour veterans (you know who you are), I do hope to find an audience for this story hour.

Now, if you haven't visited my World of Kulan Yahoo Group, that's okay. You don't need to know everything posted on that group before reading this but it will help you better understand my world in the long run. you can also find more information about Kulan from my World of Kulan Wiki here on E.N. World.

This story hour started out mainly from Bactra's point of view, but the story hour is beginning to evolve more into a full-blown narrative.

NOTE: I've taken a lot of creative license on the exact details of the adventures since our group was sort of a kill the monster, collect the treasure, and move on kind of group. We were heavy on roll-playing, not roleplaying.
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World of Kulan Threads
* Kulan: The Fallenlands


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* Knightfall's Fiend Lexicon
* Mirror, Mirror...

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Now before I get into the nitty-gritty of the first adventure, I thought I'd give a little background on the first three PCs and two NPCs (in alphabetical order).

Bactra Redwind (elf wizard) - This character comes from the forest elf community known as Woodknot. Born a poor tailor's son, Bactra grew up without very much to look forward to. He took to the adventuring life as soon as he came of age, determined to expand his magical skills beyond the mundane cantrips and spells the Elders of his community allowed him to learn. Exposed to human culture by Dabuk Tigerstorm, his half-cousin, and Mesik Tindertwig it didn't take long for Bactra to remake his image with the best clothes he could buy and a weakness for human women.

Dabuk Tigerstorm (half-elf ranger) - This character was conceived after I sold my friend G on playing a ranger and showing him my AD&D Ranger's Handbook. He immediately started salivating over the Stalker kit and Dabuk was the result. Dabuk is as good a tracker in urban environments as he is through the forests of the Eastern Shores including the Great Forest. Dabuk's father is a human ranger and his mother was a forest elven druid from Woodknot. She was brutally killed by ogres when Dabuk was an infant. He watched it happen and has never been able to keep the images from haunting him to this day. As a result, Dabuk hates ogres with a passion that fuels his need for revenge. He doesn't go looking for ogres to kill but won't retreat from a fight if an ogre is involved. He is frustrated with his father, Garth Tigerstorm, because of his father's friendship with the good ogre, Kellin One-Eye. He can't understand why his father would betray his mother's memory by associating with one of the brutes.

Dvalin Thunderstone (NPC, dwarf fighter) - If I hadn't been the DM then Dvalin would have been my first PC. Of course, since Kulan is my world and I wanted to be the DM, Dvalin became my first NPC. Dvalin is not a typical dwarf in that he likes to spend time with humans and elves. He met Jeddar Silversun first then Bactra and Dabuk. For a long time, Dvalin was the big brother of the group. He tended to bail the others out of jams they got into. Sometimes this meant actually bailing his friends out of jail. Dvalin is not an official member of the Tiger Guild but became close to the Tigerstorm family regardless. Carl Tigerstorm knew that Dabuk and Bactra were in good hands when they went off adventuring with Dvalin watching their backs.

Jeddar Silversun [half-elf bard (blade)] - Jeddar was more like my PC than my friend's. I created the character concept and did up all the stats. (That alone should have told me that he wasn't all that interested in playing D&D.) Jeddar is the adopted half-elven son of the ruler of the Kingdom of the Silver Leaves. The boy's life wasn't easy under the scornful eye of his adopted elven mother and the Silver Council. It's no wonder that he chose to leave the silver elf kingdom and learn the bardic life at the Bardic College of Thallin, in the city of Fruen. Once there, Jeddar soon met Dvalin Thunderstone and the two became fast friends. Eventually, the pair came across Dabuk and Mesik Tindertwig in the same back alley under difficult circumstances. The foursome came out cut and bruised, as well as fast friends. Jeddar then began to become influenced by the teachings of the Tiger Guild and learned to love the way of the blade.

Mesik Tindertwig (NPC, halfling rogue) - Mesik was a throw in NPC to give Dabuk a fellow, long-term member of the Tiger Guild. Mesik is to Dabuk what Dvalin is to Jeddar. For years, the two were inseparable, sharing the same room at the Tiger Guild through their early years. Mesik even tagged along with Dabuk when the ranger went to Woodknot to visit his mother's grove and Bactra. Mesik was instrumental in getting Bactra to open up and risk leaving his home to visit Fruen once in a while. Bactra was soon visiting Dabuk more often and hanging out with Mesik as much as possible. Mesik's past is a bit of a mystery and not even Dabuk knows the whole story.

* * *

RUDWILLA'S STEW

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

Griffondale:

My friends and I were walking the streets of Griffondale in the Duchy of Minar when a noble gentleman named Jelmark, an emissary for the local Duke, approaches us about a quest. While hesitant, we agreed to listen to his story in exchange for a meal at the local tavern. Once there, Jelmark told us of the quest.

A lair of bugbears in the Sunus Mountains warred with the peoples of Minar and the Barony of Wolffire six years ago. Duke Brookwater and Baron Hault's combined forces drove the bugbears back into their caves beneath the mountains.

Fearing another bugbear incursion, a senile old crone named Rudwilla Grumb concocted a stew for the bugbear king, as a gift of homage from the bugbear King’s human neighbors. Her stew was so well received by the bugbear king, Brulok, that he decided not to renew his attack against the humans. Brulok demanded that the stew be brought to him every year as a tribute, just in time for the bugbear King's birthday.

The bugbear tribe hasn't attacked since.

The time has come again for the stew to be delivered. Jelmark contacted the old crone and found out that the stew wasn't ready yet, as she requires several ingredients. He needed our help to gather the ingredients for Rudwilla and then deliver the stew to the bugbear tribe. He offers 1,000 gold pieces for our help.

Dabuk, of course, tried to wrangle more gold out of Jelmark and supplies for the journey. Jelmark was unhappy but agreed to request the additional gold and supplies from the Duke. He then gave us a scroll to present to Rudwilla that proved we were acting for the Duke's.

As Jelmark left the tavern, Dabuk decided to tail him just to make sure that the mission wasn’t a setup. (He's like that.) Jeddar, Dvalin, and I stayed behind to continue our feasting and Jeddar put on quite the show.

Dabuk and Mesik came back several hours later. Dabuk told us that he and Mesik tracked Jelmark to a local brothel. There, they trapped the Duke's man insisting that our demands be met before we’d help with the quest. Dabuk encouraged Jelmark to be very forthcoming. It would be a shame if the Duke found out about the man's extracurricular activities. Jelmark quickly agreed to pay whatever we wanted, as long as the Duke and his wife never find out.

We left Griffondale by morning, traveling to the old crone's isolated hovel across the Duke's River near the town of Severton. We arrived just in time to save Rudwilla and her apprentice, a human girl named Carrie, from two strange undead creatures wrapped in bands of cloth. They were covered with a sticky substance that could be best described a grey-white paste. Dabuk and Jeddar's weapons stuck to the things and the old crone had to dump boiling hot water on the weapons to free them.

Luckily, I didn't have to suffer the hot water.

The old woman thanked us for our help and invited us inside for a snack. We explained that we had been sent by Jelmark and presented the Duke's scroll as proof. She gave it a once over then presented us with a list of three ingredients that she would need to complete the stew. She tells us that an old friend of hers, an alchemist named Nellus Alakart, has all sorts of things on hand in his home, and old stone fort called the Keep of Ewerwell. He should have what is needed but that we only have three days to find the correct ingredients.

Dabuk took the list, as well as a sketched out map of the area, and we headed for the Keep of Ewerwell. Along the way we were ambushed by a small pack of gnolls. Dabuk outwitted them, easily, sending the gnolls on a wild goose chase through the woods without their breeches.

Several hours later we arrived at the Keep of Ewerwell, which looked abandoned at first. The drawbridge planks were rotted and after Dabuk surveys the Keep from the outside we soon discovered a broken wall and the body of a man in the moat, obviously it was this Nellus Alakart person. He was quite dead and we worried that Rudwilla might blame us if we couldn’t locate the culprits who killed him.

Slowly and carefully, we entered the Keep with Dabuk and Dvalin in the lead. Jeddar and Mesik watched the rear, as well as my back. Inside, we found the lower half of the Keep in ruins, but not abandoned. An old hag named Hezra Blacktooth and her three half-orc sons had occupied the Keep. They retreated to the upper level, attempting to ambush us. We easily succeed in killing the half-orcs but had a little more trouble with the old witch. She kept blinking in and out of existence, harassing us while we explored the keep for the ingredients Rudwilla needed.

Eventually we got lucky. She took a wrong step and walked right into my color spray spell. After that Dabuk and Jeddar made short work of her despite her pleads for mercy. Ha! Mercy after what she and her sons did to the old alchemist. I don't think so. The best part, for me, was gaining her spellbook and wand of fear.

Once the foul family was dealt with, we concentrated on finding the ingredients needed – troll warts, black gretchen moss, and witchroot. Luckily, the first item wasn’t too hard to find. We found the troll warts in two jars on an old wooden table in what was left of the kitchen.

The third ingredient we found in the dead alchemist's lab on the second level. Oh, what I could do with that lab!

The second ingredient had us stumped until we found a note addressed to Rudwilla telling her that getting the moss wasn't a problem for Nellus, as it grew in his well in the kitchen of the Keep! I could have kicked myself. Moss... water... well. Damn... I should have known that.

We take the ingredients, and the note, back to Rudwilla so she can make the stew. Although, why anyone would want to eat such foul things as troll warts, moss, and witchroot is beyond me.

Rudwilla put the awful concoction together then directed us to travel up the road past Chorlette to the bugbears' lair to deliver it. We entered the mountain and ran into two large bugbears, Kull and Garg, guarding the bridge over a chasm, which lead into the lair. The two guards ordered three bugbear skeletons to attack us, to test our strength and courage. I think they were just trying to amuse themselves.

After defeating the undead trio, the bugbear guards allowed us to take the stew into the lair and present it to Brulok, the bugbear king. He was an awful smelling individual, but I kept my mouth shut, as peace depended on our success.

The tribe’s shaman, a bugbear named Crud, poisoned the stew in hopes of breaking the agreement with the Duke. Brulok's taster, Iggy, died from the poison and we were soon forced to explain ourselves. Luckily, Dabuk had been suspicious since we arrived, watching the stew like a hawk. He had seen Crud put something in the stew and didn't believe it was “seasoning”. We exposed Crud and the bugbear King declared him banished “forever and a day”.

The bugbear shaman attacked us in frustration. Jeddar and Dabuk made short work of the shaman dispatching him down the chasm for his crime. Surprisingly, the bugbears were pleased and let us go. I was sure we were going to end up in the stew.

We returned to Griffondale to receive our reward and were offered a chance to fix up the Keep of Ewerwell, and become servants of Minar. We gladly accepted the Keep, but Dabuk soon becomes bored and we left it unoccupied to head south into the unknown…


Note: As a result of the PCs failing to stay and watch over the keep, the Duke grants it to another group of adventurers several weeks later.​

Below are brief descriptions of four new NPCs that the characters encountered during this adventure.

Brulok (NPC, King of the Sunus Bugbear Tribe) - Most underestimate Brulok’s intelligence, which he uses to his advantage. He tries to appear dim-witted during first encounters with those he considers a threat. Then he leads such opponents into cleaver traps or military ambushes. Brulok is both respected and feared by the members of his tribe, as well as most intelligent foes. His love for the stew brought each year, as tribute has become an addiction for him. He has been considering demanding the stew more often to sate his appetite and force the human's to decide what's more important to them, the peace they crave so much or their pride.

Carrie of Samari (NPC, Apprentice Transmuter) - Carrie comes from an alternate prime material world called Samari and speaks with a heavy accent. Carrie is naturally shy and is superstitious about dark, enclosed places such as dense forests. This is due to the fact that Samari is a barren world and is known for its wide-open spaces. The encounter with the adherers didn't help her fears either. She is devoted to Rudwilla and has dedicated herself to learning as much as she can from her mistress. Rudwilla saved the girls life after she was accidentally transported to Harqual by a spell gone awry by her old master on Samari. Carrie hasn't any plans to return to her world, as her old master was a mean old brute and she finds Harqual much more to her liking. She had never seen snow before and absolutely loves winter.

Jelmark (NPC, Emissary of the Duke of Minar) - Jelmark is a portly man who has a tendency to eat too much and spend his coin on loose wenches. His wife would be angry to the point of violence if she ever found out about his philandering. He goes to great lengths to ensure that neither his wife nor the Duke finds out about his habits. Jelmark would be shocked to find out that the Duke is well aware of his habits and considering whether or not to dismiss the man outright or confront him first. Jelmark was glad to see the characters leave Minar, along with their knowledge of his secret.

Rudwilla Grumb (NPC, Transmuter) - Rudwilla is a lanky, long-faced woman with tangled silver hair and large, jutting while teeth. She isn't nearly as frail or absentminded as she lets on, and her vitality and humor haven't waned over time. She is good-natured towards those that visit her and goes out of her way to entertain guests. Rudwilla came upon Carrie being threatened by a group of bandits and saved the girl from a fate worse than death. She took the girl home, fed her, took care of her and soon came to realize that the girl was gifted in the magical arts. She let the girl stay and become her apprentice. Rudwilla is very fond of the girl and considers her more like her adopted daughter than her apprentice.
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[Next up... the journey south.]
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
JOURNEY SOUTH

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

The Keep of Ewerwell:
I still don't understand why we let Dabuk talk us into this. The Keep was given to us by the Duke for our role in helping placate the bugbears of the Sunus Mountains. It would have been a great place to setup in. It had everything we could need including the alchemist's lab for me. Sure it needed some work but we didn't choose the adventuring life because it would be easy.

But then again, that had been Dabuk's point. He said and I quote "I am not going to become someone's servant. My only loyalty is to my family and myself. If the Keep is still ours when we come back then great. If the Duke wants to give it to someone else then so be it. Life on the road is harder, which is the way it should be."

I guess it made sense from his point of view. But I wish there had been a way I could have done both. I can't believe I walked away from a fully stocked, free alchemist's lab. I guess I'm more like Dabuk then I'd like to admit.

I did get to keep Hezra Blacktooth's spellbook and wand of fear, though. That plus the coins and gems we recovered were more than enough to restock our supplies and buy some better weapons. My new staff is a lot sturdier than my old one. It's shod with mithral heads and made out of strong foxwood that only grows north of the Greystone Mountains. It cost me quite a bit but it was worth it.


DM's Note: This weapon was originally a better than average staff (But not magical), but now it is a masterwork staff for 3.5e.​


* * *


South of Minar:
…We traveled south past the edge of the Duchy of Minar and into the Hather Plains. I heard rumors about this land when I was a child from my father. He told me that it was full of brigands and thieves riding across the plains stealing from travelers and each other alike. So far, all I've seen are rabbits and tumbleweeds…

…The Hather Plains provided nothing but to parch my throat. I was glad to run into civilization again as we came across several towns and villages. I asked some fellow travelers where we were. They called the place Liran pointing towards the east…


"The capital city is that way but stay out of the Thunder Mountains, There is a huge city of orcs in the mountains and they'll eat your elven hide if they get a chance."

That hadn’t sound like something I wanted to experience and we all agreed to keep going south. Dabuk was actually insistent that we kept going south until he said otherwise. Sometimes he can be a real pain in the-…

…Our decision brought us to the edge of a huge desert that stretched south in every direction. The leather-bound map, Mesik bought in Minar, of the southern lands hadn’t had any markings about a desert. Of course, it hadn't had any markings on it about Liran either. The rest of us agreed that he'd definitely been cheated…

…I had hoped that Dabuk would turn us around return to the north or at least skirt the edge of the desert heading west. But he is determined to brave the desert. The heat is almost unbearable and we were forced to purchase loose tunics and breeches for everyone and stock up on water from a roadside peddler.

His prices were outrageous!

We pushed on into the desert, which the trader referred to as the Great Expanse. That didn’t sound promising. I'm beginning to wonder if Dabuk might be trying to distance himself from something.

Dvalin didn't like the idea of going through the desert period. He started sweating uncontrollably. We tried not to pay attention to his odor, but it was so bad. Jeddar has been closest to him during our time in the desert, and hinted that Dvalin should try rubbing sand all over himself to hopefully mask the smell. So far, it hasn’t worked very well…

…Soon after entering the Great Expanse a low mountain range becomes visible in the distance to the southwest. We all agree it might be better to travel near the mountains then in the open desert.

They seemed to be fairly dry, as Dabuk noted that there aren't any visible snowcaps in the range. More than likely they would be barren without much life, but all agree the mountains might provide some shelter from the heat...

…The mountain range soon blocked the horizon to the west, as we traveled along the edge of the range, through dusty foothills. They’re very low mountains, indeed. Even the Sunus Mountains, which separate the Duchy of Minar from the Barony of Wolffire, put them to shame.

However, they weren’t as lifeless, as we originally thought. Scraggly trees and bushes could soon be seen growing on the mountainside, but not much else. And while we hadn't come across any monsters or overtly dangerous terrain, Dabuk had refused to travel any closer to the mountains. He was sure that something lived in the deeper hills, but didn’t know what. Everyone was becoming tired and tense, at this point…

…Dabuk's suspicions had been correct. Something did live in the mountain range and it soon began stalking us. My cousin had found several large tracks like a lion's, but nothing else. The beast always evaded us somehow. Dabuk had refused to go any farther until the creature's intentions were discovered…

…Dabuk and Mesik soon became annoyed. They had no idea what was hunting us or how it seemed to be everywhere, all at once. I suggested that maybe there were more than one, which Jeddar didn't like the sound of. I hadn’t liked suggesting it either. However, my cousin had become sure there was only one creature and he had become certain it was unnatural…

…On the third night of being stalked by the beast, we discovered its secret. It could fly! The beast flew over us during the night and had roared at us. Fear had trickled down my spine, and it had felt like my strength of will was being drained from my body. The beast flew off while we stood side by side together in the darkness trying not to shake.

The next day we worried about rogue dragons and fell beasts of legend. Dabuk didn’t think it was a rogue dragon, but he isn’t 100% sure. We didn’t see or hear anything, however, now watching the sky as well as the horizon.

Then on the fourth night it attacked. The beast flew in low and roared at us. Even with my elven eyes I had trouble spotting the beast in the night sky. Dabuk tried to knock it out of the air with his bow, while Dvalin finally lost his cool howling at the beast waving his axe in the air. I tried to prepare a spell to bring it down but found myself unable to move. The beast's roar is obviously a magical attack of some kind.

It circled us several times staying well out of range of Dabuk's bow. I noticed Mesik on the ground shaking in fear, at this point. Jeddar tried his bow as well but lost his nerve when the beast flew in low right at him roaring again. Mesik had curled up in a ball and wouldn't move.

The second time I hadn’t felt the fear, casting daylight into the night sky. Dabuk found his range putting an arrow into the beast's hide. The beast landed several feet behind me in the sand growling in rage. It was over 10 feet long with a cat-like face. Yet its body looked almost reptilian.

Dvalin charged into the beast his axe whipping through the air. Jeddar regained his composure putting an arrow into the creature's shoulder. I stepped back as Dabuk went charging by, his short sword cutting into the beast's hide, at the same time it pounced on Dvalin. Jeddar joined the fray, his twin blades flashing, while I tried to get Mesik to snap out of his fear induced stupor.

The beast tried to take to the air with Dvalin but Jeddar and Dabuk succeeded in pinning its wings down. The beast snapped and clawed at them, releasing Dvalin. He looked bad.

Eventually, Dabuk and Jeddar severely wounded the beast. It didn’t get up again. We all stood around the creature wondering whether it was intelligent or not. Dvalin hadn’t been hurt as bad as I originally thought and Mesik soon recovered.

Dabuk hadn’t felt it was right just to leave it there to be claimed by the vultures and desert sand. We dragged it deeper into the hills and piled stones around it. We felt a little guilty. It hadn't been evil, we were pretty sure of that. It had simply been hungry. Dabuk said a prayer to Rillifane for the beast and we left the mountains behind to continue south, beyond the Great Expanse.

I still say there had been more than one…


* * *
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Journey South (cont.)

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

The Great Expanse:
The battle with the flying beast left me uncertain of whether or not the adventuring way of life is for me. Dabuk was also melancholy for a while, but he seemed to move on, standing firmly in the belief that we hadn’t a choice.

Our horses quickly died without water, as we barely had enough for ourselves. Dvalin began struggling to keep up, as his wounds started festering. I couldn’t believe we had decided to go off adventuring without a cleric to heal us. The arrogance…

… Dabuk and Jeddar are soon half carrying the wounded dwarf, as we reached the edge of the Great Expanse. It's amazing how quickly the terrain had gone from harsh desert to verdant plains. The warm plains were a lot less dry, although not less warm.

Dabuk ordered us to stand guard over Dvalin while he tried to find some water to clean out our friend's wounds (and for our parched throats). Mesik insisted on going with him stating “It isn't safe for you to go off alone.”

If it had been anyone else but Mesik, Dabuk would have told him to “go kiss Hades”. They aren't gone for more than an hour, coming back with filled waterskins and huge smiles on their faces. They had found a small creek several miles to the south and Mesik had been fairly certain he had seen a settlement in the distance.

First thing though, Dvalin had needed tending. Dabuk and I cleaned out his wounds the best we could, while Mesik and Jeddar scouted ahead to see if Mesik had been right. I located some shoots of grass that looked like thistle-weed, a special herbal medicine that grows around Woodknot. Of course, we had tested it on one of Dabuk's minor cuts first, but trying it on Dvalin. It seemed to be what I thought it was and prayed to Rillifane that I hadn't made a horrible mistake…

…Dvalin soon got better, thank Rillifane. His breathing settled and he was soon awake and alert. Mesik and Jeddar returned to confirm that there was indeed a community ahead. From what they could tell, it appeared to be a village of halflings.

Mesik was very excited about going to meet them and learning if halflings are considered common in the south. His people had so few independent villages and homes in the north. Everyone agreed it was the best option and that Mesik should introduce everyone…

…The halfling village is more like a hamlet. Mesik had trouble containing his excitement, running ahead to introduce himself to the first halfling he sees. Luckily, it goes well and soon the entire community came out to greet us.

Th village is called Leverkan. They were a little less friendly towards the rest of us, however, thinking Dabuk and I were desert elves. Desert elves! I'd never heard of such a thing.

They we very concerned about Dvalin's health, however. Soon his wounds were thoroughly cleaned out and bound in clean cloth. They didn't have a local healer but we couldn't have been happier. A young halfling lass even helped tend Dabuk's and Jeddar's minor wounds…

…We introduced ourselves to the local sheriff, a middle-aged halfling named Cade Metalwater. He invited us all to his home for some much-needed rest and some pipe weed for Mesik, and anyone else who wanted a puff. We gladly accept.

His home is small compared what I remember of Mesik’s home but we all managed to fit inside. We told him about our homes and our journey from the Duchy of Minar. Then we tell him of the flying beast that stalked and attacked us and of the battle that ensued…


Cade listened intently to the story intently. After Dabuk finished the halfling sighed, "It sounds like you had no choice but it's trouble all the same. The beast you speak of is intelligent creature known as a dragonne and is revered by the desert elves of the Great Expanse.

They will soon learn of its death. Dragonnes are sacred to their god, Chaeon. If they track you here I cannot protect you. Desert elves may be honorable at the best of time but they can be very bloodthirsty as well. It's best you leave as soon as possible.”

“We were protecting ourselves.” Bactra scoffs at the idea that these desert elves had a right to judge their actions.

Just then, a noise came from outside Cade's home. Several community members knock on Cade’s door. They tell him that desert elves are at the edge of the village demanding the surrender of the Sacred One's murderers.

“You best leave right now.” Cade sighed.

"We are not going to run." Dabuk refused to just leave. He felt responsible and wished to try to explain what happened.

They went with Cade to edge of the village. There were more than a hundred desert elves. All decked out in war paint with a look of vengeance in their eyes. The elves carried wicked looking spears and other weapons.

“This isn't a good idea lad.” Dvalin fingered his axe, twitching with the anticipation of hostility.

“You might be right but we are not going to just run away without telling our side of the story.”

The desert elves were surprised that the murderers included an elf and two half-elves. Dabuk did his best to explain what had happened and that it hadn't been done out of hate or evil intent. However, the shaman leader refused to even consider their version of the encounter insisting they be brought back into the desert to face justice. He showed them a crystal globe that depicted the adventurers stalking and killing the creature in cold blood. They were shocked to say the least.

“It didn’t happen that way,” Dabuk insisted.

The shaman, Detyan Thundersand, wouldn't consider any version that didn't come from the crystal. Cade stood up for the group saying that they weren't the bloodthirsty sort. Several halflings stood next to them with pitchfork and clubs just in case the elves attacked.

The shaman screams a war cry to kill the infidels. The desert elves attack the village and chaos quickly ensues. Cade helps the group escape through the village, as the halflings try to hold off the desert elves. It is a little more than Bactra had given the halflings credit for. Obviously, they've faced the elves before.

They fled the village, with the angry desert elves in pursuit. Several miles away from the village the adventures turn to see several of the village's buildings on fire. Again, Bactra felt like he didn't have any right to be an adventurer.

“There wasn't anything we could do.” Dabuk stated grimly.

“Those elves are right behind us lads.” Dvalin was nearly back to his old self. “No time for feeling sorry for yourselves.”

“Right,” Dabuk led the way as the sun begins to set. “Let's get out of here.”

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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Journey South (cont.)

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

South of Leverkan:
We ran for hours. The desert elves were relentless. A forest soon appeared in the distance and Dabuk decided he’d rather face the elves with some cover than out in the open. We reached the trees just minutes before the elves would have caught us. Dabuk yelled for everyone to keep going and look for cover. I found a cubbyhole in behind a large tree, while doing my best not to let my heart jump out of my chest.

Dvalin ducked behind a fallen log, Mesik scampered up another tree hiding in the foliage, and Jeddar crouched down behind a large stone. I couldn’t see Dabuk anywhere. Then he was right beside me with one hand on my shoulder and the other over my mouth. He scared me so badly I was sure I was on my way to Arvandor. (I wish he wouldn't do that.)

He had stared at me with cold eyes, which spoke volumes. Obviously, I had been breathing to loud or something. We sat there for what felt like hours. Dabuk kept scanning the forest for the desert elves, while keeping me calm at the same time.

Then we saw them. The elves came to the edge of the forest. Thundersand just stood there staring into the tree line not moving. None of the elves had looked like they wanted to come in after us. Soon they were setting up camp, but the whole time the shaman hadn’t moved a breath…

…Twilight came and went. Dabuk refused to move and everyone followed his example. We stayed that way for hours. Then the shaman roared defiantly at the trees, spitting on the ground and went to his tent, which his devoted followers had ready for him.

I sighed in relief but Dabuk still refused to move for another half an hour. Then he gave the signal to the others to come out of hiding. Everyone moved as quietly as possible moving deeper into the forest with Dabuk in the lead...

…The forest was a nice change from the heat of the desert and plains. The moisture seemed to hang in the air and the canopy that hung overhead kept the lower regions somewhat cooler. It was like being home again…


“Dabuk, where are we going?” Bactra kept his voice to just a whisper.

“With this much moisture there has to be some sort of lake or river here. That is where we are going.” No one doubted his keen senses. To him a forest was a forest, no matter where it was. He could just as easily track something here as he could in the Great Forest of Northern Harqual. It was his insight, his gift from Rillifane.

Several hours passed in silence as the companions concentrated on keeping up with Dabuk's brisk pace. Dvalin had removed his armor carrying it on his back. Dabuk had shown him years ago how to pack it so that it didn't clang together. He wasn't as silent a runner as the rest of them but it would have to do.

Mesik strode beside Dabuk coving his back, while Jeddar ran in the rear to cover the rest of them. Bactra easily timed his footfalls with his cousins, while keeping an eye on Dvalin – making sure he didn’t falter.

Then Dabuk stopped. “There is definitely water up ahead. Bactra, you, Dvalin, and Jeddar stay here while Mesik and I scout ahead.”

Before anyone could object, he and Mesik disappeared into the forest.

“I hate it when he does that.” Dvalin heaved his pack off stretching his sore shoulders.

“Would you rather go back and face those desert elves?” Jeddar noted his friend's answer was silence. “That's what I thought.”

“Will you two be quiet. Those elves could be right behind us.” They had spoke out loud as if we were back home in the hall of the Tiger Guild.

“I don't think so.” Jeddar shook his head lowering his voice. “They seemed very reluctant to come into the forest.”

“And what does that tell you?” Dabuk dropped down out of tree behind Jeddar. The bard went for his blades but Dabuk wrapped his arms around him before he could reach them. “Got you!”

“You bastard, don't do that.” Jeddar wiggled free, scowling.

“Well?” Dabuk let him go as Mesik came out of the trees beside me.

“All right, all right. More than likely something about the place scares them. And whatever can scare a whole tribe of bloodthirsty desert elves is something not to take lightly. Happy now?”

“Yes.” Dabuk usually doesn't say a lot. It's in his nature.

“There is a lake about 100 paces to the southeast.” Mesik elbowed Dvalin’s knee. “We found a nice clearing in the trees up ahead. Perfect for a camp.”

“And an ambush.” Dabuk obviously didn't agree with Mesik's decision.

“It's better than the shoreline. We don't want to be trapped with our backs to the water.” Mesik crossed his arms tapping his boot. “Besides, we have an agreement. You're the tracker, I pick the camp sites.”

“I remember. But that doesn't mean I have to like it.”

“All this nonsense over a camp site.” Dvalin hefted his pack back onto his shoulders. “Now, which way is my bed.”

Everyone smiled.

* * *
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Journey South (cont.)

Forest clearing, just past midnight:
The clearing was fairly nondescript for such a beautiful forest. Several large stones sat near its center providing a natural campsite. Shoots of tall grass covered the entire clearing providing natural cover for the adventurers and anything else that tried to ambush them.

While comfortable, it was an odd choice. Normally, Bactra would have objected to such a spot but Mesik had never been wrong before.

The cool night air was relaxing after the harsh heat of the last few days. They didn't even consider making a fire. They still had more than enough rations and easy access to a water source. Plus, Dabuk wouldn't have let them even if they had wanted to. A fire would have given their location away to every creature within miles.

Dvalin was soon fast asleep snoring loud enough to wake the dead. Dabuk rolled him over to silence him. Mesik leaned against a small, low boulder throwing his cloak over his head. Jeddar said he'd take the first watch. Dabuk insisted Jeddar sleep. Dabuk always had to take the first watch and would stay up for hours before waking Dvalin to relieve him.

Jeddar reluctantly agreed. He found a spot close to me and was soon fast asleep.

“You too.”

“You know I don't sleep.” It was the same every time they made camp.

“Well, then meditate or something.” Dabuk liked the first watch because it gave him time to himself.

“All right.” I learned a long time ago not to deny him his moments of peace.

Bactra sat on one of the larger stones, one with a fairly flat top. Crossing his legs, with his hands on his knees. He took himself into the Reverie.


* * *


From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

About the Reverie:
Forest elves don't dream, at least not the way other races do. We do see images but these are always events of our past, present and sometimes even the future. However, that is rare for even the oldest of my kind.

That night I saw my father and my mother as when I was I was still just an infant. I saw my siblings being born and meeting my cousin for first time. I saw all of Woodknot then, as if I saw it from highest point of my family’s treehome.

Soon I was on the streets of Fruen, Dabuk's second home. I could smell the people, hear the sounds of work being done, and taste the salt of the sea in the air. The Tiger Guild, the Baker's Dozen, the Middle Well Inn, the…


"Snap out of it lad." Dvalin was shaking me something fierce. "We have company."

"W-what?" Being forcefully pulled out of the Reverie was hard on him and Bactra knew that if Dvalin needed to bring him out then it had to be important. It was like being torn away from life towards death, for just a moment.

Bactra’s vision cleared and he noticed he was lying on the ground behind the largest boulder in the clearing. Everyone else was already awake their attention fixed upon something behind Bactra. Dabuk had that look on his face and his cousin instantly knew what it was.

“Ogres.”

“Quiet.” Dabuk fumed.

The elven wizard peered over the boulder; he saw them instantly. Two of the large brutes were on the other side of the clearing walking towards the group. They hadn't seen the companions otherwise they'd be charging at them, howling the whole way.

They moved in silence. Well, silent for an ogre that is. Bactra thought for a moment that they would simply pass them by. He knew that even if they did, Dabuk wouldn't let them live. In fact, he was counting on them missing the group in the darkness so that he could surprise them from behind.

“Everyone remain completely still.” Dabuk's voice was barely a whisper.

The two ogres were close now. Bactra could smell them, putting a hand over his mouth and nose to keep from gagging. How could anything want to smell that bad?

They walked right through the camp passing mere inches by Dabuk, Dvalin, and Bactra. The elven wizard couldn't believe how much restraint his cousin was showing. He hated ogres more then anything else in the world.

Ogres had killed Dabuk’s mother. Killed his aunt. He had watched it happen as a child. He had never been the same after that. He was shaking uncontrollably his hand wrapped around the hilt of his sword so hard it was bleeding.

Still he waited until the ogres had passed out of the clearing towards the lake.

“Everyone else stay here!” Dabuk commanded.

“I don't think so.” Bactra stepped in front of his cousin.

Dabuk shot his cousin a look cold as the Heart of Ice. He didn't like to share his kills when it came to ogres.

“You can kill them both if you want but I'm going to guard your back. There could be more of them.”

With the ogres beyond his sight he had calmed down a little. He knew it was logical. He'd be so engrossed with the kill that he wouldn't see anything else until it was to late.

“All right, but be careful cousin.”

“I'm coming with you too.” Jeddar grabbed his blades strapping his belt on.

“No.” Dabuk would not have everyone traipsing through the trees with him. “You, Dvalin, and Mesik stay here and guard the camp.”

“Sorry, you don't speak for me. Mesik and Dvalin can guard the camp just fine by themselves. But if there are more of them out there, then who is going to protect Bactra while your busy slaughtering those things.”

“Killing ogres isn't slaughter, it's cleansing the world.”

Dabuk started to run and Bactra knew it was either keep up or be left behind. Soon Jeddar was beside the elven wizard with Dabuk a good ten paces ahead of them. Dabuk had strung his bow notching an arrow. The lake came into view just as Dabuk turned to the left in front of Bactra and Jeddar. They followed, as Dabuk skimmed the tree line following the tracks of the ogres.

Then they saw the brutes. They were no more than 30 paces away when Dabuk shot the first arrow. The second arrow was aimed and fired before the first one thunked into the back of the first brute’s head. The ogre roared in pain clutching at his skull like it was on fire. It slumped over in a heap, not moving.

The second ogre turned just in time for Dabuk's second shot to go whistling past its nose. Dabuk drew his sword as the brute raised its club. His sword flashed in the moonlight once, twice, then again and again. The ogre howled swinging its club down to try and crush Dabuk's skull. Bactra’s cousin deftly dodged the blow hamstringing the smelly giant with one fluid motion.

Bactra turned away, as Dabuk drove his sword into its heart. The other ogre was still alive but the elven wizard knew Dabuk wouldn't show mercy. He hadn't made a sound since he started running. All he did was grit his teeth his eyes wide with rage. It was always the same when it came to these ugly brutes. Bactra didn't even have to see his face.

“He's going to get himself killed one day because of his hate. I just hope he doesn't get the rest of us killed too.” Jeddar walked away shaking his head.

The brute's raspy breathing stopped with a gurgle behind Bactra. Dabuk had slit its throat.

* * *
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Journey South (cont.)

The forest clearing at dawn:
“Well, this is quite a pickle.” Bactra though to himself

After Dabuk had dealt with the ogres during the night he had become even more distant. He’d refused to let anyone else take watch pacing back and forth at the edge of the camp.

Bactra had pretended to meditate in order to keep an eye on him. His cousin could go for days without sleep after encountering ogres. Soon his pacing had become tiring to watch. Bactra forced himself back into the Reverie.

The next thing he knew it was dawn and the group was surrounded by little furry humanoids with spears. Bactra’s hands had been bound together and an awful tasting piece of leather shoved deep into his mouth.

The little humanoids were chattering to themselves excitedly. Dvalin was hog-tied like a pig. His arms were tied to his feet behind his back his face in the dirt. He and everyone else were gagged. The burly dwarf struggled in vain to get free trying to growl at the little creatures through his gag.

Dabuk was tied back to back with Jeddar. He looked more embarrassed then angry. Obviously, he had fallen asleep on duty, which wasn't like him at all. Mesik had been tied to the large stone the group had hidden behind when the ogres passed through the camp during the night. He looked mad.

It was strange occurrence. Both Dabuk and Mesik have always been light sleepers. Even if Dabuk had exhausted himself, Mesik would have been alerted to any ambush.

Bactra seemed to be the only one who wasn't tied in a way to restrict his movement. He sat up looking at the humanoids more closely. They were definitely some sort of fey. Their language almost sounded like some sort of sylvan dialect. They had large bushy tails and looked like squirrels.

Strange, he'd never heard of any fey creature like them during his studies in Woodknot. He'd have to tell the Clan Elders about them, if he lived long enough to get home that is. The creatures had been chatting amongst themselves this whole time not noticing that Bactra had sat up.

“Well, how rude.” Bactra mused internally. He cleared his throat noisily, which caused the gag to pop out of his mouth.

One of them turned, mouth agape

“Greetings little ones, my name is Bactra Redwind. And these are my friends. We were just passing through your wonderful forest, stopping for the night. I assure you we don't mean any harm.”

Now they were all staring. Several of the larger ones’ noses were twitching almost instinctively. They all looked like they were in shock.

“Hello.” One of the little ones was soon bouncing up and down in front of Bactra. “You a elf?”

“Pakwa, don't speak at it.” One of the larger ones pulled the little one back away from me.

“But it friendly. It elf.”

“Hello little one. Yes, I am an elf. What are you?”

“Pakwa.”

“No, um, what is you?” Bactra tried hard to form his Sylvan words correctly so they could understand.

“Phan-“ The little humanoid was pulled further away by its elders.

“Don't speak at it. Evil spirit.”

The others started laughing and snorting through their gags. Dvalin was turning red with mirth.

“I most certainly am not!” Bactra felt very embarrassed. Obviously, these little creatures were a little more primitive than your average fey.

The large one that had pulled away little Pakwa put the gag back into Bactra’s mouth tying a leather strap around the back of his head like they had dome with the others.

The leader had several of the larger creatures push Bactra down on his back. They poked him several times with their spears ordering the elven wizard to stay down.

“Evil spirit. How humiliating” Bactra’s face was red, as he mumbled the words through his gag.

* * *
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Journey South (cont.)

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

Deep into the Merewood:
The fey creatures had refused to remove the gags from our mouths the entire way to their treetop community. They had allowed everyone but Dvalin to walk. Him they kept bound, dragging him along on a makeshift wooden cart without wheels. Dvalin had not been happy to say the least.

Pakwa bounced up and down the entire time. He kept asking questions over an over again not caring that I had been gagged. Soon I had figured out enough of their language to find out what they had planned for us. Their chieftain would administer a test that would prove whether or not we were evil spirits.

This seemed logical at first. Then I realized that this test would likely be magical in nature. If it was a simple detect magic spell then I would be dead in the forest, so to speak. If it was the more advanced detect undead spell then they might let us go. Yes, it could go either way...

Fortunately, these phanatons, as they call themselves, were a little more primitive than that. Their chieftain was also their shaman, or more precisely, their “false” shaman. I have more magic in one fingernail then he has in his entire body. We tried not to look menacing or amused as the phanaton chieftain danced around us waving his “staff” in the air chortling and gurgling to him self.

In the end it was declared that we were not evil spirits. Although we had to restrain Dvalin after they cut the irate dwarf loose. The chieftain proclaimed that we would remain as honored guests “For while.”

We weren't sure how to take that.

The phanatons seemed very interested in learning about Jeddar, Dabuk, and me, in particular. We told them of the Great Forest in the north and our homes there. Dabuk didn't share anything personal about his life in the city. He thought it better to make them think he was as wild as they were. Not that he was trying to be rude. He just wanted them to accept him more for his knowledge of the forest.

The chieftain was taken aback by my obvious magical abilities. I had been entertaining the little ones with some minor cantrips when he spotted me casting spells. He looked more scared then angry, but I decided against using anymore “real” magic while visiting the community.

The day was a great change from the hardships of the previous week. The dragonne, the halflings of Leverkan, and the angry desert elves – it seemed so far away now.

Soon twilight had come and gone. We watched a phanaton ritual under the moonlight by the lake, which they call Thers. (I'm not sure what Thers is supposed to mean.) It looked similar to a dance that I'd seen satyrs and fawns perform during the Fall Equinox festival in Woodknot. Now I'm positive they are some sort of relation to the fey of the Great Forest...

...The next morning was confusing. The phanatons had come for us before dawn. Their warriors escorted us by spear point to the chieftain. He was a little less than polite. He stated matter-of-factly that we were no longer welcome in the forest. (Roughly translated as Mere. I've decided to call it the Merewood until I learn whether or not it has a real name.) All of them seemed in agreement except the younger ones. Little Pakwa looked completely lost and very sad. Either “for while” doesn't mean very long in their language or the chieftain had been angrier than I thought.


“Take them to edge of trees.” He was scowling right at me. Yes, he was definitely flexing his power over his people.

“Oh, oh.” Dvalin was scowling.

“It's not that bad. It was fun while it lasted.” Bactra didn't see what the big deal was other than not being able to learn more about them. Yes, that was disappointing.

“Uh Bactra, remember the desert elves?” Mesik was making sure he had all his gear.

“Oh damn.” The elven wizard had totally forgot about them.

“This is not good.” Dabuk was fingering his short sword.

“No kidding.” Jeddar looked like he was ready to smack the chieftain.

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

Addendum to last entry:
…The phanaton warriors lead us out of the community their spears poking us in tender places if we even looked like we were going to dawdle. I tried to reason with them. That the chieftain was making us leave because he was jealous of our magic. (No sense making the others mad at me personally.)…


“No talk! Move now!”

They didn't believe a word. The warriors took them all the way to the edge of the Merewood near the other side of the large lake. Then they ordered the group out into the savanna beyond.

“Go! Leave!”

“Can't we talk about this?” Bactra’s answer was a barrage of spears coming at them. The phanatons had come well prepared and were readying to throw another barrage of spears.

“Leave! Please...” The warriors didn't look as angry as the chieftain.

“I don't think they have a choice in the matter, cousin.” Dabuk walked out into the savanna.

“Well that settles it.” Dvalin trots out after Dabuk. “After all, we can't hide in here forever.”

The rest of the party grudgingly followed their friends out into the harsh heat of the savanna. They had gone no more than 100 feet when the desert elves ambushed them, rising out of the high grass.

* * *
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Journey South - part 7

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

Elves in the Grass:
The elves had appeared out of the grass all around us. Several of the nearest ones made loud animal noises their hands cupped over their mouths to amplify the sound. More elves started popping out of the grass down the entire edge of the Merewood. There were definitely more of them then we encountered in Leverkan.

Dabuk ordered everyone to form up and the five of us formed a tight circle facing the elves. We all had our hands on our weapons ready for anything. The elves closed in around us blocking off all thoughts of escape.

Soon there were dozens more of them as the rest of their tribe moved to surround us. We'd have had to fight through at least three rings of foes in order to get away. I had went through my spells, mentally, hoping there had been a low-level spell that could save our butts.

The only useful spells I had had available were burning hands, color spray, and sleep. I wouldn't have been very useful if they had attacked.

But for some reason they didn't. Oh sure, they snarled at us and dared us to fight to the death. Dabuk was starting to get annoyed growling back at the elves closest to him. Jeddar had both his blades ready and Mesik was ready to start tossing daggers. Dvalin held us all back trying to keep us calm. You could have cut the tension with a blade…


“Quiet, everyone be silent!” A large elf strode through the ranks of warriors.

The warriors instantly became silent upon hearing his words. The elf was armored from head to toe in beaded hide armor. He wore a headdress made from some sort of large wild cat. Its pelt was his cloak. He carried a large staff made out of something that looked like stone.

Beside him strode the shaman looking at the companions with disdain. He was decked out in full war paint like the warriors of the tribe. Only the large elf wasn't decorated for war. His face was grim but also carefully assessing the group. He seemed to be the one in charge, not the shaman.

“There will not be an execution without a trial first. Do I make myself clear on this matter, Detyan?”

“Yes, Lord Protector.” The shaman obviously didn't agree with his leader's decision. He glared at the group with hate in his eyes.

The desert elf leader stepped toward the adventurers waiving for his warriors to get back. He looked at Bactra raising an eyebrow. Then he looked carefully at Dabuk and Jeddar. He barely glanced at Mesik and Dvalin.

“I am Phyre Everstrong. Lord of the Kin, Protector of the Desert. I am the faithful servant of Chaeon, Lord of the Great Expanse. He is our God and favors the beasts known as the dragonnes. It is a great crime to kill one without reason or need. I have seen the images in the crystal globes. They show the death of one of Chaeon's true favorites in a most brutal fashion.”

“I swear in Rillifane's name it didn't happen that way.” Dabuk was obviously still beside himself with grief and anger over the creature's death. “The crystal is wrong.”

Several of the desert elves starting shouting and crying out to Chaeon for vengeance.

“Silence!” The Lord Protector turns to his warriors in rage. “I said silence!”

None of them wished to anger their leader. All fell silent. Some even fell to their knees.

Everstrong stepped up to Dabuk whispering to him. “Please restrain yourself, half-child. I'm trying to save your neck.”

Dabuk turned red at the Lord Protector's words. He didn't like being called such things. He showed surprising restraint, as the desert elves glared at him.

“Now, where was I. Ah yes, the crystal. It is a sacred artifact blessed by Chaeon himself. The crystal doesn't lie.” That didn't sound like he was trying to help them. Bactra wondered what this Lord Protector’s true plan was.

“However,” Everstrong looked at his shaman. “The crystal can be influenced by one who knows how manipulate it. You must prove to me Detyan that you didn't manipulate the crystal because of your sorrow and anger.”

“Lord Protector, I would never do such a thing. The crystal shows the truth. I have not done what you accuse me of.” The shaman was in shock. He hadn't expected his leader to accuse him of a crime before the entire tribe.

“Prove it.” Everstrong demanded.

“I am the Shaman of Chaeon for our people, chosen by our God in a dream.” The shaman was irate. His rage was obvious. “You realize what you risk if you are wrong? And you are wrong. You will lose everything. You will be cast out of the tribe.”

“Prove it. Give me the crystal.” Everstrong held out his hand to the shaman.

“I will not!” The shaman spit out the words raising his staff into the air to attack the adventurers. “You are a coward Phyre. I will destroy them myself.”

The Lord Protector leaped at the shaman bringing his staff down breaking the shaman's staff in two.

“Get down!” Bactra yelled out the warning to all that would listen.

Dabuk and the others hit the ground. Several desert elves also fell to the earth covering their heads. The shaman's staff erupted in a thunderclap of magical energy. He screamed as he was pulled into the dimensional rift that opened above him. Then a wave of magical energy burst out in all directions knocking everyone off their feet.

Bactra’s ears wouldn't stop ringing, for what seemed like hours. When he could hear and see again, Bactra heard someone calling his name.

"Bactra! Bactra, can you hear me?" It was Dvalin.

"Oh man. That hurt the eardrums."

"No kidding. My ears are still ringing."

"The Lord Protector?"

"It's unbelievable. He's fine, not a scratch on him. He just stood there and took it. I've never seen anyone that powerful before. Not even my father."

Dvalin pulled Bactra up to his feet. The elven wizard looked around at the damage caused by the shaman's sundered staff. Several of Everstrong's people were still lying on the ground. A few that had been closest to the blast would never get up again. It was such a shame. These people didn't deserve this. What is it with shamans? Why do they have to be so biased and power hungry?

Dabuk was already helping out those he could. He tended their wounds like an expert healer. Bactra went to help two elf warriors that were still moving. One of the warriors tried to stand.

"Don't try to move. You'll just hurt yourself."

"W-why do you help us? You could easily escape."

"I didn't choose to be an adventurer so that my life would be easy. No, I said don't talk." Bactra easily bound his wounds. The desert elf would live but his fellow warrior had been too badly hurt. Bactra held his hand as he died.

He wept for him, for all of them.

“It isn't your fault.” The Lord Protector stood behind me. “Detyan caused this. I only hope that Lord Chaeon can forgive him. He wasn't an evil man. He was just wrought with pain over the death of the dragonne. The beasts are considered to be brothers and sisters to us and the one that attacked you has been a long-time friend to Detyan.”

“So you believe us now?”

“I always did. But my word alone wasn't enough to overturn Detyan's edict. I needed proof that his heart was influencing the crystal. It is such a shame. He is lost and so is the crystal. Lord Chaeon will be saddened twice fold now.”

“This god of yours, I've never heard of him. Is he one of the Elven Gods?”

“No and yes. He is our elven god but he isn't part of the pantheon of elven gods. It is difficult to explain.”

“No need. I understand.” Chaeon was obviously one of the gods known as the Interlopers. A group of gods that came to the world after the North Gods defeated the Sword Gods. “So what will you do now?”

“I will take my people back into the Expanse. Those that can still walk will walk. Those that cannot walk will be carried by those who can walk. We are not like your kin. We must continue to wander the desert. It is Chaeon's will.”

Without another word the Lord Protector picked up the warrior Bactra had tended, carrying him north towards the desert. Without even a word from their leader, the elves knew their purpose. The able bodied carried the wounded and dead, all following their Lord Protector without even a second thought.

It was over. They weren't coming back. Dabuk stood there watching them leave.

“Well, that didn't go the way I expected. Considering everything, it could have been a lot worse. For everyone.”

“Ok, now what?” Jeddar was dusting himself off.

Now what indeed.
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
TRAVELERS' MET

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

The Lione Savanna:
Our encounter with the desert elves left me uncertain of whether or not to challenge Dabuk's insistence regarding heading further south. The southern lands seem wrought with peril.

After the elves’ departure, we took stock of our supplies for several hours. Dabuk wanted to make sure we wouldn’t starve or go thirsty. I spent the time trying to convince Mesik that it would be arrogant to continue on.

Mesik agreed that we should have some sort of plan, but stated matter-of-factly that he has promised my cousin that where the ranger went he would follow. Jeddar and Dvalin hadn’t agreed with me either…


"If you want to go home lad then go home." Dvalin wasn't known for being anything but blunt, and overly loud.

"What's this?" Dabuk hadn't been paying attention, while Bactra tried to recruit the others to his way of thinking. The half-elven ranger was fairly abrupt himself but tended to restrain himself when it came to Bactra.

"Bactra, what's wrong?" He looked worried about his cousin. It was strange family dynamic. Bactra was over 100 years old but Dabuk always made the elf feel like he was the half-elf’s little brother. He's always looked out for the elven wizard.

"I-I don't like the idea of going any farther south. I don't feel like we are accomplishing anything here. Where is this journey supposed to take us?"

What Dabuk said next was surprising. "Damn it Bactra! Here I thought something was really wrong. I thought you were injured or something. Dvalin's right, you need to work this out yourself."

He turned his back to his cousin going through the inventory of supplies again.

Needless to say Bactra was really pissed. Dabuk didn't even care what he thought. Well it was time for him to learn something.

"Ok, Dabuk. Have it your way. You always have to have it your way don't you. Wandering off to who knows where seems to be all that your good at. I am sick and tired of you pushing everyone else around just so you can feel more self-important. And I'm not going to put up with it anymore. Now, if the rest of you want to follow him into Hade's Underrealm, go right ahead. At this rate, you'll all be dead within a week."

Bactra stalked off towards a small hill fuming. Dabuk hadn't expected him to lash out. It wasn't something the elven wizard did to others without a really good reason. Bactra climbed the hill and sat down on the ground trying to calm his mind. It didn't do him any good to have his mind unfocused. Without concentration, his wizardry wouldn't function.

Of course, if Dabuk stuck to his mind then Bactra would have to go with him anyway. The elven wizard had made a promise to Dabuk’s father and grandfather that he wouldn't abandon him even if he became irrational. But if he didn't apologize then Bactra would turn him into a toad. At least, when he learned how to cast that spell.

Bactra was just coming out of his meditation when he sensed the boots clomping up behind him. Heavy, ponderous boots, with all the grace of a wagon with a chipped wheel.

"Dvalin."

"Beard lad! How do you do that? On second thought, I don't want to know."

"Well?" Bactra had resolved him self not to move until his cousin came up the hill himself, suck up his pride, and apologized. "Where's Dabuk?"

"Oh, he's brooding over there where you left him. He's real upset. I think you hurt his feelings."

"Sometimes I don't think he has any feelings to hurt." Bactra was still angry but was outwardly calm.

"C'mon lad, don't make a bad situation worse. You are the older one, remember? He's barely out of his teens."

"If he's going to behave like a ungrateful boor then he deserves to be treated like one. I'm not going to apologize for speaking my mind. He need's to learn to listen more, dictate less."

"Agreed. But it's hard on him. You of all people know he doesn't forgive without difficulty. You have to make the first move."

"Not this time." Bactra refused.

"You know, you are the most stubborn elf I've ever met. Are you sure you're not part dwarf?"

Bactra kept his eyes closed but couldn't help but laugh. Dvalin sat down next to him slapping the elven wizard on the back.

"That's better. I was really beginning to worry about you. And don't worry about having to keep going south if you don't want to. Mesik isn't going to let Dabuk's pride split us up."

"It's always the same." Bactra couldn't believe it. He was going to make the first gesture of good faith.

"I see something." The dwarf stood up pointing towards the south.

Instantly, Bactra was on his feet looking towards where Dvalin was pointing. A small figure was on the horizon walking towards them. It was impossible to see who or what it was.

"What do you think?" Bactra asked.

"Could just be a trader or a pilgrim. It's only one person." Dvalin was straining to see who or what it was.

"Yes, but looks are deceiving." Bactra couldn't help but remember the Lord Protector. He had seemed so ordinary at first. "Go tell the others but remain calm. If the person is dangerous then it will help our cause to seem confident."

"Agreed. I'll be right back."

Dvalin trotted down the hill towards the others, while Bactra waited.


* * *


From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

Thessa:
...I had continued to stare as the figure, in the distance, as the person came closer. The sun's glare had made it difficult to see her at first. She was wearing light, billowing clothes that covered her from head to toe. Only her face hadn’t been covered.

She was mature looking for her size and I though she was a halfling at first. But her features didn't look like a halfling. She was definitely too small to be human or elven.

Her nose seemed a little oversized at first but fit the features of her face perfectly. Then, as the others were walking up next to me, it hit me. A gnome! It had to be. It seemed like I had stepped through a portal into one of my history lessons…


"Is she a…" Jeddar stood there dumbfounded.

"Yes."

The little gnome stopped at the bottom of the hill looking up at them. It must have been quite a sight seeing the adventurers looking down at her.

"Incredible, I thought gnomes were extinct?" Dabuk studied her as carefully as he would a set of tracks on the ground. "Oh by the way, Bactra I'm sorry, ok?"

"It's ok. It's not your fault you’re a jerk." Bactra patted him on the back grinning like a cat.

"Ha! He got you there." Mesik stepped forward. He was still the best choice as ambassador for the group.

"Mesik, better hope she likes halflings with big egos." Dabuk gave as good, as he got.

"I certainly hope so." Mesik cantered down the hill.

The gnome was cautious but seemed friendly. Mesik put out his hand and she shook it. He turned point up the hill at the others. Of course, she had seen Bactra before the others had come up the other side of the hill. The elven wizard hoped that she didn't think he was a bloodthirsty desert elf.

Mesik offered his arm like a courtly gentleman. She shook her head saying something that makes him stare at her, his mouth agape. Then he nodded his head laughing. They were soon standing next to each other, for a second, looking up the hill. Then they did something none of the others had expected. They start racing up the hill.

The companions all started cheering Mesik on. It was a short race. She immediately left him behind. Bactra hadn’t seen anyone out race Mesik, except for Dabuk. It was amazing. She reached the top of the hill laughing. She turned around just in time to see Mesik trip on a hidden hole and fall flat on his face. Soon they were all laughing. Mesik laid there in the dirt, his face red.

"C'mon Mesik, don't stop now." Jeddar was loving every minute of it.

"Ah, bugger you!" Mesik picked himself up dusting himself off.

"Now, now. You promised to be a good sport if I beat you." The gnome's voice was like water running though a forest.

"I know, I know." Mesik limped up the hill in a great deal of pain. He had hurt his ankle.

"Oh dear," The gnome scampered down the hill towards Mesik. "You're hurt."

"I'll live." Mesik beamed at her through a grimace.

"Nonsense, now sit down. I can help."

The rest of us all gathered around the two smaller humanoids. She slipped Mesik's boot off. His ankle was bruised and swollen. It would take days to heal properly.

"Ow," Mesik grit his teeth. "Ok, I admit it hurts a little more than I thought it did."

"I think it's broken." Dabuk pointed to where the bone seemed to be out of alignment. "He's going to have to stay off it for some time."

"Don't count him out yet." The small gnome woman placed her hands on Mesik's ankle mumbling in a language Bactra had never heard before. Her hands began glowing with a bluish radiance.

"You’re a cleric." Dvalin meant it as a statement not a question.

"A pretty good one too." Mesik wiggled his toes. "The pain's gone."

"Yes, but you're going to have to give a day for the healing to take full effect. After that, it will be as good as new."

"Thanks." Mesik was grinning from ear to ear. "Guys, this is Thessa Simmial from Mt. Rockwood."

The little gnome priestess stood up putting her hand out. They each shook her hand ending with Dvalin. She seemed a little taken aback by him.

"You're a dwarf, right?"

"Of course, what else would I be?" Dvalin harumphed.

"I-it's just. You're not like any other dwarf I've ever seen. You have so much hair... and that beard."

"Is there something wrong with my beard?" Dvalin didn't have very many things he worried about but his beard was definitely one of them.

"No, it's very nice. It' just the Torin don't have beards or very much hair at all."

"Torin? Is that what you call dwarves in the south?" Jeddar noticed that Dvalin was fussing over his beard. He hoped to keep the burly dwarf from embarrassing himself.

"Actually, Torin is what they call themselves. I believe it was originally their clan name. Now they all call themselves Torin dwarves. Most other races call them dwarves, except the rakasta."

The adventurers helped Mesik up to the top of the hill. There they all sat in a circle listening as Thessa told them more about the Far South.

* * *
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Traveler's Met (cont.)

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

The Hill:
Thessa turned out to be quite charming. She entertained us for hours with stories about the south. Mesik's ankle was still quite tender by the end of the evening and we all decided it was better to spend the night camped out on the hill then go traipsing around in the dark.

Both Dvalin and Mesik seemed quite smitten with the gnome priestess. She obviously liked the attention, flirting with both of them.

Thessa had been on her way to learn more about the north. She hadn't expected the north to come to her. She listened to us intently as each one of us described our people and families. Dabuk had come to trust her rather quickly telling her more than he normally would to a stranger.

She turns out to be a cleric of a god she calls Baervan. He is a God of Travelers and Wanderers. She felt blessed by Him to meet such interesting fellow travelers. I had never considered myself that interesting before. Yes, she was charming all of us, if by magic...

...The eventual debate came up again, as to whether or not we were going to continue going south. They all look to me…


"Don't let me stop you." Bactra leaned back on one elbow losing him self in the beautiful sky above. The air has cooled quickly over the last couple hours. "As long as we've got a plan, I'm up for it."

"Bactra's right. We need a plan, Dabuk. No more wandering around without a clue." Mesik was watching a centipede crawl across the ground.

"Ok," My cousin turns to Thessa. "Can you guide us through this Far South, as you call it? I know you wanted to go north but who better to learn about Northern Harqual from then us."

"I'd love to." Thessa was combing her long golden hair.

"Great." Dvalin was actually glowing.

"Uh, guys," Mesik had turned around to watch the centipede crawl down the north side of the hill.

"And lady." Thessa shook her comb at Mesik.

"Yes, and lady," Mesik stood up looking out towards the north. "We have more company."

"What?" Dabuk turned his head to see what or who Mesik was looking at.

"Damn, this savanna is crowded all of a sudden." Jeddar started searching the grass for his weapons just as Dvalin recognized who it is.

"I don't believe it. It can't be." Dvalin was staring at shock at the newcomer. "Rikin!"

The burly dwarf waves his hands in the air in greeting. The other dwarf waves back, while keeping up his pace. He was wearing full armor, which had to be really uncomfortable. Not to mention he was running like his life depended on it.

Fate is a strange thing and it seems to have a plan for them. The dwarf gets halfway up the hill then stumbles. Dvalin goes to help his old friend. Jeddar also lends a hand.

"D-Dvalin… I-I found you at last…" The exhausted dwarf passes out from the heat.

Dvalin quickly stripped the plate mail off his friend. Rikin had heatstroke, as well as several burns where the armor had rubbed against his skin. He looked awful. Thessa did what she could for him.

Rikin Stonefossil was Dvalin's brother, his adopted brother. Rikin's clan had been wiped out during the Second Ogre War, leaving Rikin clanless, a fate worse than death. Dvalin's father had taken the clanless dwarf into his own and Rikin and Dvalin had grown up together.

"Dvalin, do you have any idea what he's doing out here?" Dabuk was worried about the overheated dwarf. They all were.

"No. I don't understand. This isn't like him at all. Thessa, is there any way for you to wake him up?" Dvalin was trying to get his friend to swallow some water.

"I don't know, he's hurt pretty bad. I could try but it could kill him."

"It has to be important. Rikin wouldn't come all this way if it wasn't life and death." Jeddar knew Dvalin the best having traveled to the dwarf's homeland several times. He knew Rikin too, while the rest of them only knew of him.

"All right, but if he dies there isn't anything I can do for him." Thessa sighs.

"Understood." Dvalin's face was grim but determined.

Thessa bent down over Rikin putting her hands on his chest. She chanted a spell in her native language. Healing energy flowed from her fingertips into the burned dwarf. His breathing cleared as he opened his eyes.

"D-Dvalin..."

"I'm here brother." Dvalin clasped his hands over Rikin's.

"Praise Moradin, I found you at last." Thessa's spell seemed to be working. "I tracked you as far as Minar before learning that you had left for the south. I am glad to see you, my brother."

"I am glad to see you too, brother. But tell me why you have come all this way?"

"I have grave news. Several tribes of evil ogres are on the move in the north. They began attacking Stonedale and Treestead several weeks ago and are now laying siege to Milo."

"It's that bad?" Mesik was kneeling next to Rikin's head.

"Worse," Rikin breathing was becoming horse. "High Thane Blackforge has been killed."

"No," Dvalin's clan was close to the High Thane's clan. So close that Dvalin was promised to his daughter. "Does this mean?"

"Yes, brother. Sannl has become the new High Thane with only your father's guidance to protect the Kingdom."

"Ogres," Dabuk spat on the ground in disgust. "Turn my back for one minute. I'll gut them all myself."

"You'll get your chance, Dabuk Tigerstorm." Rikin knew them almost as well as they did him from Dvalin's stories. "The Kingdom of the Silver Leaves was also attacked and is barely holding on. The ogres were marching down the banks of the Wind River the last I heard. The lands of the Eastern Shores are in danger of being overrun."

"Damn," Jeddar was gathering his gear. "I knew I shouldn't have left."

"You're only one man, Jeddar." Bactra understood his frustration. If Silverleaf was under siege then Woodknot could be in danger as well. "You can't fight an army of ogres. None of us can."

"That may be true but I could be helping them right now." Jeddar sat down crossing his legs his face buries in his hands. "My father is all the family I truly have."

Bactra tried to console him. "I know. But if anyone can hold them off it is Menkhar Silversun."

"And besides, Mesik and Rikin can't go anywhere yet." Dabuk was pacing back and forth fuming. "We all want a piece of those bastards but we can't leave them behind. Thessa, how quickly can you get Rikin moving, within reason of course?"

"Give me a couple days and he should be strong enough to walk. But someone else is going to have to carry that god-awful armor of his."

"It will slow us down." Now Jeddar was being the impatient one. "We could leave it behind."

"Absolutely not!" Dvalin was ready to smack his friend for even suggesting it. "You of all people should realize its importance to him. You were there."

"Yes, I remember." Jeddar pulled Dvalin aside speaking to him in private.

The conversation was heated but in the end Dvalin seemed to win. They walked down the hill continuing to talk in private. They had secrets, those two.

"I wonder what that's all about." Mesik was lying on the ground straining to hear.

"Someday," Rikin was gasping for air. "Dvalin and I will tell you. If I live that long."

"Don't say that." Thessa became all motherly on him. "Now, no more talking. You rest."

She placed her hand on his chest humming a peaceful tune. To Bactra it didn't look like magic but he wasn’t well versed in the Healer's Art. It seemed to calm Rikin down, however.

Dvalin and Jeddar returned to the top of the hill just as twilight came upon us. They all prayed with Thessa to her God to watch over them and their loved ones in peril.
 
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