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

Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Bactra was having a fun Festive Night.

He really was beginning to love these Onans. They were so free and unbridled, yet contained enough not to be scary. He had learned early on that during Festive Night, in the Central District, a reveler was safe as long as you didn’t hinder another reveler’s good time.

And Bactra was having a good time.

Two maids hung attentively on Bactra’s arms as he strolled down a side street towards an inn that was recommended to him by Vestin. Normally, the guard wouldn’t have confided in an outsider, but Festive Night was unusual to say the least. Bactra escorted the young ladies into the Singing Troubadour where the common room was a flurry of sound and delights. The mood was erotic without being raunchy, which suited the elven mage just fine.

Yes, Bactra was definitely having a real good time.

One of the girls whispered into his ears, as they climbed the stairs beyond the hustle and bustle of the common room. Bactra smiled and listened intently as the wine loosened the girl’s tongue. Her suggestion was, intriguing, to say the least.

“Is that legal, my dear?” Bactra laughed.

The two girls giggled as they led Bactra into a vacant room. He had little worries about any subterfuge that the two girls may have considered. His magic was a great equalizer. A quick cantrip removed the worst effects of the wine from his mind. The door closed and what went on is better left unspoken.


* * *


Dabuk was not having a fun Festive Night.

So far, he’d discovered that the Onan people rarely considered business on this night, even “gray” business. He hadn’t discovered any contacts and had been forced to seek the shelter of the rooftops in order to better map out the streets in his mind. Dabuk had an amazing memory and could remember even the most obscure details, regarding such things, as long as ogres weren’t involved.

He watched the Onan revelers with a mixture of disdain and mirth. They were definitely not like the humans of the Eastern Shores, and he had a sense that any alliance made with Onaway wouldn’t last even a decade. They were contradictory in every way. They liked order and ceremony in their day-to-day lives, yet they willing gave into chaos, and with wild abandon.

“Insanity,” Dabuk watched as a group of revelers began a torrid dance down one of the main streets of the Outer District. “I should have gone with Bren into the tangles. At least that’s a type of chaos I can understand.”

Dabuk watched as enamored couples peeled off from the main dance to find shelter in the many inns, taverns, and even stables to consummate their fiery pleasures. Onans were passionate, that Dabuk had learned even before Festive Night had begun. He had seen it in Bren and in the staff at The Creeping Vine. He’d heard in the voices of the senators, and had admired their passion, for their need of independence from the east.

He had not expected what was going on below, however. He’d suspected that Festive Night was not some posh ceremonial event, like his father had thought it would be, but he’d never expected unbridled revelry as an Onan trait. He knew his grandfather would have considered the whole evening a waste of resources, when the threat of evil humanoids and giants lurked just beyond the crumbling walls of the city-state.

“Traditions die hard, young Dabuk.” The half-elven ranger mocked the tone of one of his less flexible teachers from the guild. “For without traditions, how would we ever remember the past?”

“By learning there is more to be learned in the truths of the hear and now you horse’s ass.” That had been what Dabuk had wanted to say, in response. Instead, he had simply shrugged off the teacher’s words as “old way” thinking. “Traditions should never dictate society or force things to stay the same.”

Yet, Dabuk looked down at the Onans in their revelry and couldn’t help but reconsider his teacher’s point of view. “Maybe he wasn’t as brainless as I thought,” Dabuk mused to himself.

The half-elven ranger continued to watch from the rooftops in silence. The entire city was open to him, and yet he could not move or look away from the wreckage of society, below, as he found it all strangely fascinating.

* * *
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
“Now this is a feast,” Mesik had stuffed himself beyond the confines of his small frame. If he ate anymore he’d get sick. “I wish I had a magical satchel to store some of this for later.”

Mesik wasn’t talking to anyone in particular, not that anyone would have heard him anyway. The hairfoot had migrated his way into the halfling quarter of the Central District. It was a small area of the city-state, as most of the city’s halfling population lived in the Outer District, and quietly went about their business.

Tonight was a huge exception, it seemed.

Mesik watched as a plate of sweetmeats went by, as his tummy told him not to even consider eating anything else until some time had passed. He had found a place he liked almost as much as Fruen. If it wasn’t for the unbridled nature of Onaway’s citizenry on this night, the city-sate could easily become like a second home.

Mesik sighed.

It would be nice to live in a place where his past wouldn’t ever find him, or, at least, have to work at finding him. It was why he was here. The damn Vespinites had nearly trapped him in a blind alley in Fruen. He’d had to fight his way out, and had immediately sought the shelter of the Tiger Guild. When Dabuk had told him of the mission to Onaway, he’d gone to Garth and quickly volunteered his services.

He’d likely have tagged along anyway, but he had wanted to make it official. He hadn’t even blinked when Carl had given he and Dabuk a more clandestine assignment. Thinking of Dabuk instantly brought the small hairfoot back to the present. He needed to check up on Dabuk’s progress, as he was the boy’s superior, in more ways than one.

“He’s likely brooding somewhere,” Mesik burped. By Dvalin’s beard I need to get some fresh air, or I’m going to hurl right here.”

Mesik gathered his belongings, straightened his garment as best he could and headed out into the cool Onan night.

“Damn bed sheet.”
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Summary: Intrigue In Onaway

In the weeks following Festive Night, the characters work towards their various goals. Dabuk and Mesik spend hours both day and night making contacts in the city's limited criminal world and mapping out the city's street system. The cartography work, mostly done by Mesik, is done above board and used to cover the duos more clandestine work.

The dwarven senator Eagleon Hammervein tries to sabotage the whole "alliance" process before it starts. He uses his more "illicit" contacts to try to have the characters assassinated. Dabuk and Mesik uncover the plot during their clandestine work, but the source of the plot alludes them, at first.

The assassination attempt causes major friction between the characters and the citizens. Once again they are viewed as outsiders and the senate almost vetoes the proposed alliance. Senator Hammervein and his supporters lose the veto by a slim margin, which enrages the dwarf.

His next plot is more deceptive and scheming, as he murders a rival and sets up the PCs for the fall. Bactra, Dabuk, and Mesik go underground before they can be arrested for the Murder. The trio uncover Eagleon's involvement in the murder as well as his smuggling network. Garth doesn't believe them, at first, trying to convince them to turn themselves in. (At this point both Thessa and Hugh are in jail.)

They spend days hiding out, avoiding patrols, and gathering information on Senator Hammervein. They fight several pitched battles against his criminal network, while there only allies are Bren and the Tanglewalkers. They are forced to retreat into the tangles on several occasions. Meanwhile, the alliance talks have broken down into accusations of spying and sabotage. Garth is forced to choose between the law or his son, regardless of what he knows. He chooses the law. (Dabuk is not surprised.)

The character eventually set a trap for the dwarven senator at one of his warehouses, during a smuggling shipment. They expose him in front of the local guard, Lord Than LaMarche, and several key members of the senate. Lord LaMarche declares Hammervein a traitor, and tries to have the dwarven senator arrested. Unfortunately, the dwarf uses his considerable resources to evade capture and flee the city-state.

Lord LaMarche is so impressed by the characters guile, valor, and insight that he agrees to the new treaty with the Eastern Shores. He has little trouble convincing the Senate that the alliance would be in Onaway's best interest. The characters are invited to stay longer, which they find totally ironic since they were being hunted for over a week. The citizens both lowborn and noble are torn regarding the PCs, as some still consider them criminals, while others see them as heroes.

Dabuk is made an honorary Tanglewalker. Bactra helps dispel some of the fears of arcane magic in the city. Thessa becomes beloved by the lowborn and tolerated by the more established faiths in the city-state. Hugh still draws "oohs and aahs" everywhere he goes. Garth spends his time in seclusion, away from his son, and hammering out the alliance with the Onan Senators.

Then the alliance is struck and a Senatorial function is planned for the following day...
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
THE ALLIANCE – PART II (cont.)

Alliance Epilogue (Part One):
Dabuk felt like a salted fish stuffed into a barrel. Nothing he had experience over the last few weeks was nearly as uncomfortable as his current surroundings. Dressed in Onan finery and trying to nod politely to people who had been hunting him only days before.

The irony was the only thing keeping him entertained.

Dabuk let his eyes wander around the room to the faces he knew, both friend and foe. Of course, his cousin and his other companions were all there, as well as Bren and Onans known as Claris and Vestin who had been assigned to Bactra after they first arrived in the city-state. Claris had become close to Bactra over the weeks, and Dabuk knew that his cousin had tried to win over the ex-guardswoman, romantically.

Dabuk smiled at the thought of Claris’ initial reaction. She had been both flattered and mortified. Elves were looked upon with scorn in Onaway and arcanists were outright distrusted. Claris had thought Bactra was a good person for an elf and a wizard, but that hadn’t meant she’d ever consider a romantic relationship with him. Dabuk watched with amusement as the Onan woman now clung to Bactra’s side. Events had changed her opinion about Bactra, and about arcane magic.

Events had changed many an Onan’s mind. However, not all such changes were for the better. Vestin, Claris’ former partner, avoided Bactra like an unknown plague about to infect him. Dabuk couldn’t blame the guardsman, of course. Vestin had been one of the most determined members of the guard to catch Dabuk, Bactra, and Mesik when they had gone underground. And as a result, Vestin had witnessed Bactra’s magic in action. It had scared the Onan out of his wits.

Of course, the fact that his then partner had been secretly aiding the trio escape detection throughout the city, along with the help of the Tanglewalkers, hadn’t helped matters either. Claris’ involvement had been uncovered after Senator Hammervein’s crimes had been exposed, and she had been forced to quit the guard. The decision hadn’t been hers, but Bactra convinced her she could help the city better as a freelancer.

Bren and the Tanglewalkers involvement had not been uncovered and the companions had agreed to never speak of it. Dabuk’s father hadn’t even been able to prove that Bren had helped the trio escape justice. Dabuk’s heart groaned at the thought of his father’s betrayal. He had known that Garth would oppose any clandestine activities in Onaway, but the half-elf ranger had hoped that his father would have seen reason once they had lain out of the evidence against Senator Hammervein.

He had not, and Dabuk would never forgive him for that.

Dabuk caught a stern look from Garth out of the corner of his eye, but instead of returning the gaze he simply turned away and walked through the mingling crowd. A troupe of musicians began playing a haughty tune on pipes, zithers, and drums. The Lords’ Hall’s dance floor filled with a throng of gaily dressed Onans whirling and twirling to the indulgent music. Several Onan ladies tried to seek him out, but he dodged them as he had dodged the guardsmen for weeks.

Dabuk quickly slide between one of the hall’s pillars and a large marble table filled with sweetmeats, fruit, breads, and bottles of fine wine. He deftly pinched one of the bottles off the table and quickstepped his way towards the hall’s marble, spiral staircase, which would lead him up into the gallery. Mesik appeared out of nowhere next to him as he began climbing the stairs.

“I see you’re avoiding Lady Carolette and her brood again.” Mesik climbed the stairs with his friend and companion.

“And that surprises you?” Dabuk grinned at the mention of Mesik and his nickname for the noblewomen of Onaway.

“Hardly,” Mesik chortled. “I just don’t think we should leave Bactra and Hugh to fend for themselves.”

“Funny.” Dabuk reached the top of the stairs two steps ahead of the hairfoot, stretched out his sore back, and proceeded to flop down on the nearest divan. “Bactra is having the time of his life, and everyone down there knows it. And Hugh has nothing to worry about when it comes to the brood. There isn’t a single woman down there that could handle him, if you get my meaning.”

Mesik couldn’t stop laughing.

“I’m going to be so glad to get out of this city, full of sycophants and highbrow criminals.” Dabuk yawned.

“I hope you don’t include me in that group,” the voice carried up from the landing of the stairwell. “I’d hate to have to kick you butt across the dance floor.”

“Ha!” Dabuk knew that voice like he was family. “Bren, you scoundrel you. You know I didn’t mean you and the rest of the Tanglewalkers.”

“Aye, as you Easterners like too say.” Bren appeared arm-in-arm with his wife.

Dabuk and Mesik both stood and bowed to her, as if she were a princess from the Eastern Shores. They did this to honor their friend and to snub their noses at the true Onan noblewomen, several of who were now watch from the other side of the gallery.

“You two really like to live dangerously, don’t you?” Teresa shook her head in disbelief at the honor they continued to show her, a lowborn woman.

“It’s a calling,” Dabuk grinned.

Bren’s loud laughter echoed across the hall to mingle with the rest of the merriment going on down below. Soon they were all laughing and chatting together and the night flew by. They stayed away from the more dire topics that had been their lives over the last few weeks.

Teresa hadn’t liked Dabuk or his companions at first (except for Thessa), but she had warmed up to them after she saw the respect they showed to her and her husband. Even when Dabuk, Bactra, and Mesik had gone underground to avoid capture, and that they had relied on Bren’s knowledge of the city’s streets to do so, she’d still stood by them as friends. She had been mortified when Thessa had been taken away in irons, while visiting in her home, and Teresa had visited the gnome priestess as often as she had been allowed.

“Oof, these stairs are murder.” Thessa appeared, as if on cue, lifting her Onan-styled robe above her ankles as she climbed the last few stairs. “So this is where you’ve been hiding all night, Dabuk. Lady Carolette has been asking for you whereabouts for hours.”

“And?” Dabuk worried that Thessa had decided to give Dabuk up in order to spare herself Lady Carolette’s insane need for attention.

“I told her I saw you in the lily garden, outside, at the other end of the hall. She’s been swooping up and down the pathways ever since looking for you.”

“Not to bright, is she.” Mesik laughed.

“She’s as dense an onion, sir.” Bren smiled.

The conversation picked up again, twisting and turning onto the news of the day, as well as rumors circulating throughout the city-state. Several of Onan’s less uppity citizens joined them. Wine flowed freely, but not enough to get anyone too drunk, and a serving tray found its way up into the gallery, along with a musician playing a reed flute.

These were the Onans that Dabuk had come to respect, if not call outright friends. There was Telis the Clockmaker, a man known not only for his mechanical clocks but also for his fine clockwork locks and toys. There was Sylvania, a local priestess of Hela, who likely had some elf in her veins, shoal elf perhaps. There was Ten Balm Hillim, a local hairfoot hedge healer and rogue who had developed a business relationship with both Thessa and Mesik, but for different reasons. There was Lord Connor Kassadine and his wife, Julia, one of the nicer more down to earth noble families in Onaway.

And there was a man known to the city-state simply as Beasley, who is, in fact, head of one of the lesser thieves’ guilds in Onaway. It was Beasley who hid the trio on their first few nights on the lam, and who had agreed, in theory, to an alliance with the Tiger Guild. Beasley was known, in Onaway, as a gentleman, a merchant, and a champion of the downtrodden. In truth, he was those things, as well as a thief. His small guild was known for protecting the innocent from the actions of Senator Hammervein’s minions, as well as stealing back from the more cruel noble families of the city-state.

All these sat and talked together. Most didn’t realize the others’ secrets, but Dabuk knew them all. His flawless memory cataloged each face and personal story, and he knew he would spend over a month telling his grandfather all he knew about these people and their behaviors.

“Well, it time for us to retire for the evening, sirs and ladies.” Bren stood and held a hand out for Teresa. “But before I go I have news for my friends.”

He addressed the entire group, but Dabuk knew it was meant for him, Mesik, and Thessa. “Garth Tigerstorm offered me an opportunity to travel with him back to the Eastern Shores, shortly after I met him. After discussing it with my family, I have decided to accept the offer and move my family to a city in the east known as Tian.”

“Well, what intriguing news. I thought the Tanglewalkers had agreed to reinstate you?” Lord Kassadine’s family had known Bren’s family for years. Connor felt he was losing a friend.

“They did, my friend, but the Senate wouldn’t even allow a vote on the matter. Some wounds just cannot be healed in Onaway.” Bren sighed.

“I will miss you, Teresa.” Julia reached out and held her old friend’s hand. “Thessa, you and your companions must look out for them on the journey back to the east.”

“Do not worry, dear wife.” Lord Kassadine beamed at the love of his life. “Bren and Teresa could not be in better hands.”

“Agreed, Dabuk and the others have proved their worth to my family and to myself. We will be safe with them, I know it.”

Dabuk couldn’t help but worry that Bren was giving him and the others too much credit.

* * *
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Alliance Epilogue (Part Two):
Bactra was out of his element, but loving every minute of it. Bactra was the son of a poor elven tailor and hadn’t been trained in courtly manners during his youth. Yet, he was a quick study and found high society fascinating. Many of the women were lovely, and everyone tiptoed from conversation to conversation. Those without the ability to think on their feet were lost in high society. Bactra knew he had a better than average intellect and that he could outthink most of the lesser toadies in the Onan Court. There weren’t very many scholarly types in the city and arcanists were even more rare.

Bactra’s mind had wandered a bit, and when Claris poked him gently in the ribs as a reminder to pay attention, he simply beamed at her, as if to say don’t worry about it. In truth, Bactra could hear and process what Lady Verga Solemnstone was saying and keep his own thoughts, without any difficulty. Thus, when she asked him his opinion on what she had been talking about, for over ten minutes, he already had formulated his reply. The question was usually about arcane magic, since Bactra was one the few friendly arcanists most Onans had ever met.

“It is true that some wizards, sorcerers, and the like create pacts with evil beings, but to generalize and say that all arcanists are demon worshippers is quite misleading. You’re human friend sounds like he’s the sort who hides under his bed sheets when a tree branch rattles against the shutters of his chamber.”

“But you admit that some do,” Lady Solemnstone seemed unappeased by his comments. “Doesn’t that concern you?”

“Of course, lady dwarf, it would concern anyone with a good heart. However, I don’t believe in the power of evil over good any more than I believe in the power of chaos over law or the wind over the stone. Our world is built on a balance of forces. Magic is simply one of the most powerful forces that requires the need for balance, whether or not you are talking about arcane magic or divine magic.”

“So you believe in the Tenets, then?” She was persistent; Bactra would give the dwarven noblewoman credit for that, at least.

“I certainly wouldn’t disagree with the driving force of our world. The All Mother created this world and her will keeps it in motion. To oppose Mirella is to oppose the world. In my opinion, anyone that would do so is either crazy or doesn’t understand how the world works. Good exists to balance against evil, and the opposite is true as well. Many find the view distasteful because good people prefer good over evil.” Bactra paused to sip his wine, for effect. “As do I.”

Lady Solemnstone scratched the beard on her face inquisitively thinking of how best to respond. She was one of the more thoughtful Onan nobles that Bactra had met, and he enjoyed their verbal jousting immensely.

“I see you are matching wits with my nephew again, Lady Solemnstone. “Garth Tigerstorm appeared out of the crowd. “Careful, he’s very secure in his world and political views. Not even I have been able to change his mind, and I have learned to stop trying.”

“Uncle,” Bactra hadn’t been as angry about Garth’s decision to oppose their lawless behavior, as he understood his uncle’s position better than Dabuk. “I see you’ve tired of dealing with Lady Carolette and her entourage.”

“That woman is insufferable,” Lady Solemnstone shook her head disgust.

“I’m sure my uncle is glad you said it so he didn’t have to.” Bactra laughed.

The elven wizard quickly scanned the room for Dabuk to see if he was nearby. Garth and his cousin were definitely at odds, at the moment. They would need time to forgive each other. Bactra wondered if either could forgive the other, ever, and for so many things. Bactra caught the scowl on Garth’s face and followed it past the dwarven noblewoman towards one of the serving tables. His eyes found Dabuk staring back at the Justiciar, dispassionately. Dabuk turned away before he noticed that Bactra had seen him, disappearing into the crowd.

“Did I miss something?” Lady Solemnstone stared at where both men were looking, but failed to see Dabuk.

“Nothing worth getting into, lady dwarf.” Garth’s scowl turned to a beaming smile as he bowed to the dwarven noblewoman. “And my nephew is correct, I found Lady Carolette’s company, unsatisfying, as she prefers to debate the coming and goings at court and little else. After a while I found I had nothing else to bring to the conversation.”

“How diplomatic of you to say so,” Lady Solemnstone returned the bow. Dwarven noblewomen dis not curtsy under any circumstance.

“Quite so,” Claris remarked.

“Yes, I left her in the company of our friend Thessa and Lord & Lady Kassadine. I believe she was attempting to discern the location of my son, this evening.”

“And what did you tell her?” Bactra couldn’t help but worry that Garth had betrayed Dabuk once again. Garth knew how much his son despised Lady Maria Carolette.

“I told her the truth. That I hadn’t seen him all night.” Garth’s stare was unyielding in what he would do if he had the chance.

“It’s too bad that you had to leave our friends in such puffed up company, though. Poor Connor and Julia.” Lady Solemnstone sighed. “And how could you leave poor Thessa to fend off Maria and her brood.”

Bactra couldn’t help but laugh and even Garth cracked a smile. The brood was the nickname that Mesik and Dabuk had given to Lady Carolette and her constant companions. Bactra had no idea that it had caught on with the Onan nobility too.

“I don’t get it,” Claris looked at them confused.

“I’ll explain it to you later, darling.” Bactra whispered into her ear.

Claris melted into his arm, content. Bactra had admired her since the first moment he had met her, but not in a romantic way. Then he saw her on Festive Night and he knew he had to have her. She was a vision that night and he had started wooing her the next day. Her initial resistance only encouraged him. Her semi-distaste at the though of being with an elf only aroused him more.

And after he went underground, he continued to romance her from afar. He had risked the wrath of her fellow guards, and escaped several close calls. Claris had been annoyed, at first, but soon she began helping Bactra, Dabuk, and Mesik avoid guard patrols. For her loyal to him and his friends, he had taken her into his confidence and his bed. It was a great relationship, for both of them. Bactra had begun teaching her the basics of arcane magic.

Bactra shared a quick smile with his lover before moving the conversation to a variety of topics. He would miss Claris after leaving Onaway. He would hate having to explain it to her why he couldn’t stay in the city-state, which she had been hinting she wanted him to do. He adored her, it was true, but his life was in the Knotwood and the Eastern Shores. He’d make her understand, he was sure of that, but he worried that she’d want to come with him. That wouldn’t sit well with his family.

“Excuse me, dear friends, I must find my husband before he drinks all of Lord LaMarche’s wine.” Lady Solemnstone bowed before she disappeared into the crowd.

Bactra then noticed Thessa wandering towards where Dabuk had disappeared. Lord Connor Kassadine and his wife were leading the way for the gnome priestess, but there thankfully wasn’t any sign of Lady Carolette.

Garth noticed them too, a catlike grin on his face.

“Don’t do it.” Bactra shook his head, knowingly.

“It would serve him right,” Garth looked at Bactra, disapprovingly. “I know I can’t change you, but I’ll be damned if my son becomes a lawless thief and brigand.”

“If that is what you think of him then you really don’t know him at all. He is who he is and if you try to force him to change then he’ll never speak to you ever again.”

The human Justiciar harrumphed is disdain.

“And you’d risk such a break with me, as well.” Bactra’s tone left no doubt how he felt.

Garth stared at him blankly, unsure of what to say. They had known each other longer than Dabuk had been alive. They didn’t always agree, but they always managed to remain friendly, if not actual friends. He nodded but walked away.

“Well, that’s not what I expected,” Bactra watched his uncle disappear into the crowd, headed for the marble stairs leading out of the Lord’s Hall. “Looks like my uncle is retiring for the night. Shall we do the same, darling?”

“Not until after you twirl me across the dance floor for a while, my dear.” Claris pulled him onto the dance floor with insistence. He gladly joined her for a twirl.

* * *
 

Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Alliance Epilogue (Finale):
The hours passed quickly, after Bren and Teresa left Dabuk and the others to continue their conversations and Bactra and Claris entered the melee on the dance floor. The night outside grew cold and the outers doors were soon shut tight and the fireplaces lit and roaring. The guests began to trickle out of the hall and into their carriages and soon there were but the few diehard partygoers and scholarly citizens left, divided into their little cliques around individual fireplaces.

“We should retire for the night, Connor.” Lady Kassadine stifled a yawn. “It is well beyond the midnight hour.”

Her husband knew she was tired, not bored. He smiled at her, but the look in his eyes told her that he wasn’t going anywhere, yet.

“I must speak with Dabuk and his friends for a while longer, dear wife.” Connor Kassadine helped his tired wife to her feet. “I must tell them about my father, and the stories he told me. I think it is something that they will find interesting, especially you Dabuk.”

Lord Kassadine turned towards the elven ranger, at the last moment, to emphasis his words then he turned back to his wife taking her arm in his. “Take the carriage home, my dear. I will join you at home after I’m done with my story. I promise.”

“All right,” Julia sighed. “But remember, you promised. No gallivanting around in the dark with two before you come home. We promised Lucinda that we would take her to the horse field tomorrow morning.”

“I remember,” Connor kissed her on the check before escorting her to the stairs. “A promise is a promise.”

The Lady Kassadine glided away down the stairs as quietly as a ghost. Connor turned and motioned for Dabuk to stand with near the stairs.

Once he and Dabuk were out of earshot of the other guests gathered on the divans, he spoke in a whisper. “I must speak with you and your companions in private, my friend, but not here. I will meet you and the others in the Library. Bring all your companions with you, yes, even your father. I will not exclude him, but if he refuses to come then that’s fine.”

“What’s with all the secrecy?” Dabuk found Conner’s behavior odd. It wasn’t like the nobleman to keep secrets, especially from his own wife.

“I can’t say, here.” Connor patted Dabuk on the back and put on a false smile for the others. “I need you to trust me on this one.”

“All right, you’ve piqued my interest. We’ll meet you there in, say, ten minutes.”

“Make it twenty, and make sure no one follows you.” Connor laughed.

“Of course,” Dabuk’s lopsided grin seemed to settle the murmuring coming from around the divans, which had increased the farther they stepped away from the group.


* * *


Bactra pulled himself out of bed and covered his body with one of the sheets. He smiled to himself as he watched Claris sleep. His heart sighed at the thought of leaving her, but it couldn’t be helped. His family would never accept their son having such a woman as a mate, not that he was even considering her in that manner. He was much to young to be settling down yet.

The elven mage walked to the wooden doors that led onto the balcony of his quarters in the Lord’s House, Than LaMarche’s personal residence. He was a far from The Creeping Vine as that inn was from where they first met Bren at the ruined, outer wall of the city-state. Here he was in luxury, but he didn’t have as much freedom to wander around Onaway.

The people of the Outer District had come to see Bactra, Dabuk, and the others as friends and, in some cases, heroes. However, many living in the Central District still considered him and his companions to be outsiders, and dangerous radicals, at well. There were those like Lord Kassadine and Lady Solemnstone who had come to respect them, but more often the nobles of Onaway were like Lady Carolette – scheming, self-serving, and willing to use Bactra and the others for their own purposes.

Bactra stepped onto the balcony and breathed in the crisp, cool air. It wasn’t too cold, at least not for him. He slept in trees, in his youth, in temperatures near freezing and been fine. Forest elves were known for being resilient under harsh conditions. He closed the doors behind him so dear Claris wouldn’t become chilled. She was a strong woman, but like most Onans, a bit soft underneath a veil of strength. She wouldn’t last one night sleeping in a tree of the Great Forest.

A small rock plunked against the vine-entangled stonework of the balcony. Bactra’s elven ears easily picked up the noise. He picked up the stone and knew immediately who had thrown it, just by its shape and color.

“Mesik,” Bactra mumbled.

He pulled the sheets tighter around himself and looked over the balcony. Mesik and Dabuk stepped out from behind a large tree and signaled to him. They wore their normal traveling attire and carried their gear and weapons. Their intent was clear, as this event had been commonplace in Dabuk’s youth in Fruen, while Bactra had been studying with the wizard named Breel.

‘Come on,’ Dabuk mouthed the words, which Bactra could easily see with his enhanced vision. ‘It’s important.’

“It’s always important,” Bactra sighed, but he quickly nodded to his cousin and friend and quickly slipped back inside to gather his belongings.

He blew out the candles alighted around the bed, stoked and fed the fire, and slipped back out onto the balcony. He dressed, tied one core of the bed sheet around one of the balcony’ supports, threw the other end over the edge, and then climbed down as far as the sheet would allow. He jumped the last few feet, wincing as he came down hard on his left foot.

“Corellon,” Bactra cursed under his breath.

“Come on, it wasn’t that far of a jump. Shake it off, you’ll be fine.” Dabuk helped his cousin up.

“Easy for you, maybe.” Bactra walked as best he could, and soon the pain was going away. “Now, what was so important that you had to disturb me at this hour.”

“It’s not like you were sleeping,” Mesik snickered.

“True,” Bactra smiled. “But that’s not the point.”

“Lord Kassadine has something he wants to tell us.” Dabuk walked alongside his cousin ready to help if the injury turned out to be severe. “And he wants to tell all of us, in private.”

“Well, that’s unusual for him.” Bactra was soon walking stronger with each step. “I take it we’re meeting him at the usual place.”

“Actually, no.” Mesik led the way keeping an eye out for guards. “We’re meeting him at the Library, of all places. He sounds like he doesn’t even want his wife to know about this.”

“Hmm, that is interesting, and I take it Thessa and Hugh are going to be there, as well.”

“And my father, if he comes.” Dabuk’s scowl showed his feelings regarding including Garth.

“If he does come then you two are going to need to be civil. No arguing in front of Connor.” Mesik stated matter-of-factly.

“I’ll behave as long as he does.”

They walked the rest of the way in silence.


* * *


“Where is he?” Mesik yawned. “I’m exhausted.”

“He’ll be here.” Dabuk watched over his circle of friends, gauging their moods. Garth hadn’t come, or, at least, hadn’t made his presence known. His father could be stealthy when he needed to be, but rarely did so since taking his vows as the Justiciar.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been in this building. It is surprisingly spacious.” Hugh stood near his friends who were all standing around the library’s central table. The Library’s roof was vaulted and there was more than enough room for the vonakyndra to stand straight up and even walk around the center of the building. He’d had too duck down to get inside, of course, but it hadn’t been too difficult.

“I like it here,” Bactra had studied every nook and cranny of the Library of Onaway, and had read almost everything in the library, which wasn’t much. The Keeper Smith had never quite warmed up to him completely, but any patronage was better than no patronage at all. Very few had used the library before Bactra had become its main sponsor.

Bactra had donated a great deal of wealth and time to the library, including several books he’d brought along on his journey to the west, at least, the ones he’d finished already. He’d also penned several testimonials on his views on magic, the Balance, and elven life, while in hiding, as well as a document called ‘An Outsider’s View of the Tangled City.” The Keeper Smith had been both shocked and delighted to receive the documents once Bactra and the other’s innocence had been determined.

The companions turned their heads towards the sound of a door being opened a closed near the back of the library. Bactra knew the door and also knew that it wasn’t for use by anyone but the Keeper Smith. Lord Kassadine obviously had some weight with the library’s keeper.

“Sorry to keep you all waiting,” Lord Kassadine’s voice carried across the small building. :”I had to make sure that none of the guards saw me come in the backdoor. They’re quite the suspicious lot, as you know firsthand.”

“So, what’s with all the secrecy, Connor?” Dabuk still wanted an answer to his question. “What’s really going on?”

“Sit down, my friends, and let me tell you a bit about myself and why you are really here. Not just here in this building, but here in Onaway. I see you father decided not to come.”

“Did you really expect him to come and listen to something that doesn’t concern honor or the law?” Dabuk’s bitterness filled the room, as he and the others each took a seat around the central table. “And what do you mean by ‘not just here in this building, but here in Onaway’?”

“Try not to let your father’s beliefs cloud your own, Dabuk. He’s a good man, in his own way.” Connor sat with the companions and made sure he had their complete attention before continuing. “And what I mean is that the alliance between Onaway and the Eastern Shores isn’t the only reason you were fated to come all this way. There was a purpose that wasn’t revealed to any of you, not even Garth.”

“You sound like you knew we were coming.” Bactra felt uneasy as he looked into Lord Kassadine’s eyes. It was like the man had changed and could straight through him. Then it dawned on him where he’d seen that sort of piercing gaze before. “I see, you’re an arcanist.”

“No way,” Mesik’s eyes darted back and forth between the elven mage and Connor.

“Yes, it is true.” Connor sighed. “Not even Julia knows the truth, as her family has strong ties to those in the senate that are against arcane magic. They would strip me of my title and she would leave me, if it every came out.”

“Even now, after being exposed to Bactra.” Thessa voice was filled with concern for her close friend. “Julia and many in the city have accepted Bactra. Why would they rankle against you, one of their own?”

“Is Bactra considering too settle down and live in Onaway?” Connor looked from one face to the next ending with Thessa. “No, of course he’s not. The Onan people know that you all will be leaving soon and that they won’t have to worry about Bactra’s arcane magic once he’s gone.”

“You’re worried that once we leave everything will go back to the way it was?” Bactra sat back in his chair studying the Onan arcanist. “Actually, you’re sure it will go back to the status quo. You’re not just an arcanist, you’re a diviner.”

“Very good, I’m surprised I was able to hide it from you, at all.” Connor smiled. “I guess I’m better than I thought I was.”

“What does this have to do with us?” Mesik didn’t see how they could help, if the Onan people were dead set against arcane magic gaining a foothold in Onaway.

“You are the only ones I can trust with my father’s story and legacy. He too was an arcanist, a very powerful one. His specialty was evocation and he traveled extensively across the continent before the start of the Second Ogre War, including the Eastern Shores. He had a friend in the east named Heward Tallinson, who was even a more powerful arcanist than my father.”

“Heward Tallinson!” Bactra felt like he was going to swallow his tongue. “Y-your father knew the man that in the east, we call the Sorcerer. He’s one of the most powerful arcanists I’ve ever heard of, but he’s a recluse. He never goes anywhere, ever.”

“Every man was young once,” Connor laughed. “My father, Stephan was his name by the way, and this Tallinson person often adventured together and both played significant roles during the Second Ogre War, at least, that what my father told me. I’ve never met this Tallinson fellow, and for years after my father’s death I figured it was just a story for a young boy who looked up to his papa.”

“But…” Dabuk was becoming impatient. So far, nothing he’d heard sounded like it would be important to him, personally.

“But as I continued my studies in the arcane arts, I found that it was easy to learn more about my father’s life and his various companions through divination and study. I found evidence that this Tallinson person did indeed exist and that he and his allies would shape the future of not only the Eastern Shores but the lands of the Wild Plains, as well.”

“And what does this have to do with us,” Dabuk stood up, his patience at an end. “Get to the point Connor, you’re starting to lose my interest.”

“Dabuk shut up and sit down!” Bactra’s voice boomed throughout the building. “Connor is taking a great risk in telling us about this, and I’m sure he will make his point in due time. You must learn to be more patient and diplomatic.”

Dabuk took his seat, grumbling.

“Go on, Lord Kassadine.” Hougwarth stood next to the Onan noble. “Some of us want you to finish your tale.”

“Thank you, sir.” Connor had been taken aback by Dabuk’s hostility, but he figured it wasn’t about him or his story. He was upset because his father hadn’t come.

“Anyway, as I was saying, my divinations revealed to me that there were great changes that were fated to come to all of Harqual, but I couldn’t get a sense of what it could be. The answer eluded me until just last year. It was at this time that rumors began to circulate throughout Onaway and the rest of the Wild Plains that the ogres were once again on the offensive.”

Dabuk sat up straight in his chair, at the mention of ogres. Lord Kassadine now had his complete attention.

“See I told you it would get more interesting,” Bactra chided his cousin.

“Shh, let him talk.” Dabuk smiled back.

Lord Kassadine stood and strolled over to one of the bookshelves and pulled a tome from a series of books that Bactra had been studying intently since he’d discovered them during one of his many clandestine visits to the library. The Onan nobleman brought the book back with him to the table and set it down in front of them.

“This book talks about the history of Harqual and the events of both the First and Second Ogre War, in particular. It is written in draconic and I am one of only a handful of people in Onaway who can read it. The book didn’t appear magical in nature, so it was allowed to sit on the shelves in the section on important historical events and people.”

“But it is,” Bactra nodded. “I was surprised to find it out in the open. The Keeper Smith told me that any book on arcane magic is either kept under lock and key in the Temple of Stars or destroyed. I nearly blew up at him when he said that.”

“It even has several spells written in it throughout the margins. Only an arcanist or someone who understands how to read magic would know that.” Connor opened the book and pointed out a spell in one margin near the back of the book. “This spell was written by my father, and this one, underneath it, was written by Tallinson.”

“Really? No wonder I couldn’t decipher some of those spells.” Bactra walked around to the other side of the table. Connor handed him the book and pointed out his father and Tallinson’s personal sigils.

“Okay, it’s magical. That’s really fascinating. Can we get back to how it talks about the Ogre Wars, please?” Dabuk tapped his fingers on the polished wood table impatiently.

“The book has a section written by my father on his role in defending the Wild Plains during the Second Ogre War. He talks about Tallinson and something called Ogrebane.”

“Really, what does it say? What is Ogrebane?” Dabuk looked like he was ready to crawl across the table and take the book. “Bactra, did you know about this Ogrebane? You’ve read it, right?”

“Um, well I never got a chance to finish it.” Bactra looked sheepishly at his cousin. “I only read the first few chapters before I got distracted by the spells.”

“It figures,” Mesik laughed.

“Sit down you two and let Connor read it to us.” Thessa chided the two cousins.

Both quickly returned to their seats for the tale to be told…

End: The Alliance (Part II)
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
OGREBANE
PRELUDE: THE JOURNEY TO THE FALLENLANDS

The Library of Onaway:
Connor began reading from the book, as the companions waited in anticipation.

“That night, Heward and I waited for the ogre onslaught, standing with the gathered army on the Wild Plains, watching as the ogre camps prepare for coming battle. Nothing had been going right for the city-states of the Wild Plains for over a decade. The continent wide war seemed to be lasting forever and now I understand how Samson’s story’s about the First Ogre War could be true.”

Connor paused. “Samson was my great, grandfather. He was born near the end of the First Ogre War.”

Dabuk rolled his eyes, in impatience, beckoning Connor to continue.

“The day dragged on into night, and the ogres shifted from the preparation for battle to beating war drums and howling at the moon. The gathered human soldiers, from a dozen city-states, shifted nervously as torches were passed throughout the camp. I had worried that they would break and run when the battle began, but they proved their valor and fought to the last man that night.

‘It will be a slaughter, you know.’ Tallinson had told me. ‘They don’t stand a chance against so many. A pity really.’

‘Don’t count them out yet, my friend’ I had replied. ‘We westerners are known for our endurance and stubbornness.’

I didn’t realize until after the battle that he had been trying to prepare me for the worst possible outcome. And while the outcome hadn’t been a slaughter, it had been worse than I could have ever imagined. I will never forget that day. The lives lost, the blood, and the screams of agony throughout the night. War was worse than death, and I don’t know how I will be able to forget.

‘We shall see, my friend.’ Heward had twisted his mouth into that sheepish smile that I’d grown to know so well. ‘Anything is possible I guess.’

We’d become as close as brothers, not just because of the war, but also because of our travels across the continent together, along with Sandra Firebrand and William Kellmar. (May their departed souls rest for all time.) Time seemed to be against us that night, however, and soon the ground began to vibrate with the force of hundreds of thousands of booted feet – humanoids, giants, monsters, all.

‘If only I had found it then there could be hope,’ I’d almost missed Heward’s words in the noise of heavy footsteps.

‘What do you mean?’ I knew he’d been keeping something to himself for some time. ‘You need to let whatever is bothering you go or you’ll hesitate on the battlefield.’

Heward had then given me a look I’d never seen before. He eyes were filled with failure. He’d always carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.

‘There is a legend that I heard some time ago from a friend,’ Heward’s words had been spoken in whispers, so that only I could hear. ‘This friend is from another continent east of the Karmine Sea, on the other side of Kulan.’

‘But I thought there were only the black storms to the east,’ I had never heard of such a place in all my studies.

‘Aye, that was taught to me in my youth, as well, but I saw the truth of the world from high in Kulanspace when I was the mage captain of the spelljammer, Leviathan’.”

“What in Hades’ Underrealm is a spelljammer?” Mesik interrupted.

“I don’t know,” Conner flipped the page and then back again. “It’s not mentioned anywhere else in the book. I think it’s some kind of air balloon. Such a vessel would need a mage as its captain to safely traverse the world.”

“Seems a bit far fetched to me,” Dabuk shook his head in disbelief. “Such balloons have very limited range.”

“Well, my father seemed to have proof. Listen.” Connor motioned to the book and continued.

“I hadn’t believed Heward’s tales about flying machines and other lands beyond Harqual, at first, not until I had seen the great flying mechanical beast myself. After that I knew anything was possible, from a magical point of view.

‘So you visited this other realm and met this friend of yours? You’ve never mentioned him before?’ I had always wanted to see the world like Heward had. Perhaps after the war ended I might still have the chance.

‘Ha, Zepp is not someone you mention in casual conversation.’ Heward’s mood lightened a bit when he mentioned the name.

‘A bit of an oddball, is he?’ I had asked. The ground stopped shaking at that very moment. The ogre hordes had then waited until dusk before launching their final assault.

‘That’s an understatement,’ Heward had shifted his focus back towards the hordes, his mood more somber. ‘Zepp told me that war once consumed his continent, known as the Fallenlands, more than a thousand years ago. Evil demon-like fire genies related to the efreet conquered and laid waste to the continent for an entire Age. These genie-demons were banished from Kulan using a powerful magical artifact, which roughly translated from Zepp’s language as Ogrebane. The legend said it had the power to kill evil, intelligent creatures, especially those with giant blood, and that could slay an ogre mage with one hit.’

‘Now I see.’ I wonder how long Heward had looked for it. ‘And you never found it?’

‘No I did not and it was partially due to Zepp’s insistence that I not seek it out. Zepp convinced me the thing would be more trouble for the world than it was worth. I did look for it, but not very hard. I did not know how much we’d need it now.’

‘What’s done is done, my friend.’ I’d felt his pain. Such a powerful weapon would have saved many lives that night. ‘You can’t change the decisions you made. Life has to move forward, such as it is. This army needs you here and now. One more magical artifact won’t decide this war even if it helped decide another. That conflict was unique, as is this one. I’m sure there were many other factors that led to victory.’

‘I know,’ Heward’s words had seemed unconvincing, but he’d stood with me during the battle that night and we’d won, if you can call such a bloody travesty winning. A week later he teleported back to the Eastern Shores and I never saw him again. I pray that he lives still, but so many have died that I have lost hope for the future.”

* * *
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Connor closed the book and sat down. “That’s the end of it. This Ogrebane never comes up in the book again and I haven’t found any mention of it in my father’s journals.”

“But this Tallinson person would know where to look for it. He could tell me where this Fallenlands place is.” Dabuk had that look in his eye.

“There’s going to be no living with you, is there, not until you find this Ogrebane.” Bactra sighed.

“I’m going to try,” Dabuk looked at his friends and companions. “And I’d like it if you’d all come with me, but I’ll understand if you don’t want to.”

“This is the Black Storm Sea were talking about,” Mesik snapped. “You just don’t sail into that magical maelstrom.”

“I’m going,” Dabuk looked at Mesik and then at Bactra. “With or without you.”

“You know I’m not going to let you go alone,” Bactra shook his head in disbelief. “Rillifane knows you’re going to need my help.”

“Mesik, Thessa, Hougwarth?” Dabuk looked to each as he spoke their names.

“It’s bloody suicide, but you know me. I like a challenge.” Mesik sighed. “But I need some time. My work here isn’t done yet. I haven’t finished mapping the streets out for Lord LaMarche, yet.”

“I’ll set a date to leave, from Fruen.” Dabuk nodded. “I have to go back and give my report to my grandfather and speak to this Sorcerer person.”

“You don’t just walk up and talk to Heward Tallinson,” Bactra shook his head in disbelief, once again. “He doesn’t just see anyone. Dabuk, sometimes I think your overconfidence and arrogance are beyond control.”

“He’ll talk to me, one way of the other.” Dabuk steeled his gaze into space. Determined.

Bactra groaned, his head in his hands. Mesik couldn’t help but laugh.

“That’s why I wanted your father to be here,” Lord Kassadine stood holding up his hand. “My father’s writing mentions several times, about his friendship with Tallinson, that Heward talked about his home and his friends. One of the names mentioned is a man named Carl Tigerstorm. I assumed that your father would know who that is.”

“Carl is my grandfather.” Dabuk smiled.

“Wow.” Bactra seemed impressed. “Carl knows Heward Tallinson. He never told me that, but then again we’ve never been that close. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, he knows every other important person throughout the Eastern Shores.”

“Connor, do you mind if I take a look at your father’s journals.” Dabuk asked.

“I figured you or your father would want to see them, so I had the important sections copied by my personal scribe. I’ll have it ready for you by the time you leave.”

“I’ll be coming with you too,” Thessa spoke up. “At least as far as Fruen. After that, I can’t promise anything.”

“I’m coming too,” Hougwarth unsheathed his sword in a flourish, managing not to drop it. “Sounds like a grand adventure.”

“It’s decided then,” Dabuk’s voice was calm and determined. “We will find these Fallenlands, find Ogrebane, and bring it back to Harqual. The spawn of Vaprak will rue the day they brought suffering to Harqual. I swear it.”
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
Summary: Back To The East

Dabuk and the others left for Fruen less than a day later, at Dabuk’s insistence. They traveled at a breakneck pace through the Wild Plains past ogre bands, hostile bandits that seemed to know their every move, and dangerous, unfettered beasts both mundane and magical. Once the group reached the relative safety of the Knotwood, the journey went much smoother. Bactra wanted to stay in the Knotwood, but Dabuk wouldn’t have it. His friends noticed that he was becoming even more single minded than usual. All he could think of was this thing called Ogrebane. The group arrives back in the City of Fruen just over two weeks after leaving Onaway.

Mesik is the only one of the “companions” who stays behind, and it is his unenviable task of explaining the situation to Garth Tigerstorm, as well as to Bren, his wife, and the other new friends the characters hade come to know while in Onaway. Garth was annoyed, to say the least, which quickly turned to anger. He felt that Dabuk and the others were betraying the spirit of the new alliance with the Onans, and he alone had to explain the situation to Than LaMarche. The Lord of Onaway was more understanding than he would have been in the Onan’s place. Most of the Onan nobility was glad the characters left, period.

Bren and Teresa were shocked that their new friends left without them, but after Connor Kassadine explained the reason why, they understood. Well, Bren understood, at least. Teresa was quite angry at Dabuk for not waiting, as she had wanted to travel with Thessa. Mesik and Bren calmed her down after assuring her that no one had forced Thessa to leave, after all, Mesik had stayed behind for more reasons than his duty to Garth and the alliance. Mesik promised his friends that he wouldn’t leave without them. Mesik also convinced several other friendly Onans, clandestinely, to leave Onaway and move to the Eastern Shores. Garth was not pleased, and the second group’s journey to the east was slower and filled with bitterness between Mesik and Garth.

Bactra left Claris a letter speaking of his affection, which was both romantic and well spoken. The decision was difficult for Bactra, but he felt it was best to walk away without a fuss. Claris was both moved and heartbroken. She spent several weeks in seclusion after Bactra left. When she came out of her isolation she had decided to begin a new life as an arcanist. Her decision was shocking to the Onans, as they hadn’t realized that Bactra was teaching her the basics of arcane magic. She claimed a half-ruined tower just inside the edge of the tangles and started the process of reclaiming the tower. The Tanglewalkers would become her best allies, but the allegiance would be kept low key, as not to offend the guardsmen of Onaway.

By the time Mesik, Garth, Bren, and his family were ready to leave, Claris’ Tower was half finished. Many Onans believed that Bactra had left her a cache of gold to live off of, but the reality was the Garth and Than paid for the construction costs. Garth’s motivations remained a mystery, while the Lord of Onaway’s were cultural. He had witnessed, first hand, the power of Bactra’s magic and the powerful arcane items the companion’s owned. He felt the time was right for his people to come out from behind the walls of fear they had built up against arcanists. It wouldn’t be easy, but then again life in Onaway had never been easy.) :D
 
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Knightfall

World of Kulan DM
JOURNEY TO THE FALLENLANDS - PART I (BLACK DEATH)

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus
“Dabuk had commissioned a sailing ship to be built (with several stipends paid for by the Tiger Guild), called The Ishtar, only days after arriving back in Fruen. My cousin hopes that this ship will be able to take us to a distant land known only to us as the Fallenlands. Now, nearly two months later, this ship has been completed and we will need a crew and provisions to make the journey. Dabuk is hopeful to be underway within the next day or so, but he’s been saying that for weeks.

Carl was pleased about our success in Onaway, and informed his long-time friend and liege, King Travathian Dragonguard, of the good news and of the new treaty with the western city-state. (Dabuk had brought back a ‘preliminary copy’ of the treaty, which not even I knew he’d had. Garth was very mad that his son had stolen the document when he found out later.) King Dragonguard sent supplies and an ambassador to Onaway, along with an escort of 200 soldiers to help the beleaguered city-state, even before Garth had returned home with the ‘signed’ treaty.

The Fall Equinox Festival was cancelled due to the continuing threat of various ogre horde armies. Dabuk’s sister, Crystal has returned from parts unknown, bringing with her a powerful magical staff. She refused to talk about where she had been or why she had been gone, which worried both Dabuk and Carl. Her new staff is quite impressive and she even let me hold it. I want one! I couldn’t get anything else out of her about it’s construction or history, but she did let me copy down some new spells and gave me a tome detailing arcane magic items.

I was pleased when both Jeddar and Dvalin returned from the north, unharmed, but, unfortunately, they also brought bad news. Both the Kingdom of the Silver Leaves and the Kingdom of the Greystones had suffered heavy losses to the ogres while we were gone. The two kingdom’s forces still stand vigilant against the ogre and orc hordes, but if something doesn't happen soon, to end the threat, things will become much worse. Nothing has been heard from the dwarven stronghold of Peakstone in several months. Dvalin told me that the new High Thane, his betrothed Sannl Blackforge, is worried that the stronghold may have fallen to the ogres but can't spare any soldiers to find out.

Mesik and Garth returned, soon after Dvalin and Jeddar’s arrival in Fruen, their final duties in the City-state of Onaway completed. Mesik was very excited to see both our friends again proceeded to get drunk with Dvalin the first night back. Garth wouldn’t even see Dabuk let alone speak to him. It was good to see Bren and Teresa again, and even Dabuk found some time to great our friends properly. Thessa had returned home to Mt Rockwood, in the Far South, just before the construction of
The Ishtar started, but she promised she would be back. (Dvalin was disappointed that she wasn’t there when he arrived.)

Before she left, Dabuk had asked her to find Salisan Marg for him. Dabuk wanted the reef giant to help navigate the sailing ship to the Fallenlands. Even though Salisan is quite large, he is the best choice for captain in Dabuk's mind. Thessa promised that she would look for him, but wouldn’t promise anything. She still hasn’t returned and Dvalin seems very concerned, and has become rather moody, even for a dwarf.

Both the Kingdom of Stonn and the Kingdom of Navirosov have agreed to help Thallin and Minar against the hordes of ogres massing against them. (And the help is badly needed.) The first snow did indeed come early and things went from bad to worse for the many soldiers in outlying areas. The snow hasn’t affected the ogre hordes and the King's personal oracle believes that the ogres are getting magical help form someone. Worse than that, the aquatic ogres, known as merrow, are becoming more of a problem along the coastal lands of Thallin. Twice, they attack the city while
The Ishtar was being built.

Dabuk believes it is now even more vital to get to this place called the Fallenlands, wherever it is, and recover the relic known only as Ogrebane…


“I’m telling you,” Bactra sighed. “It will be another month, at least, before everything is ready. You must learn to be more patient, cousin.”

“You be patient for me,” Dabuk fumed at his workforce’s lack of progress. “I need to get the ship in the water before winter truly arrives. If we aren’t ready soon then we aren’t going to be going anywhere.”

“I know, I know,” Bactra was tired of this argument. “But we need to know where we’re going first. Without an audience with the Sorcerer, sailing The Ishtar anywhere will be pointless.”

“And how long will that take,” Dabuk sighed. He was loosing patience with this man that Bactra respected and feared so much. Heward Tallinson seemed like a ghost. Everyone knew of him, but few outside the King’s circle of friends and confidents had even met the man. “Not even Carl’s inquiries can pry this old mage out of his tower, and he continues to insist they are fast friends.”

“Wizardry often requires solitude, cousin.”

Dabuk looked out the window where The Ishtar still sat in dry-dock. The ship was basically finished, but little things kept getting in the way of the sailing ship’s launch. His grandfather called it red tape, but it was all about coin; the unyielding taxes and tariffs of the Shipbuilders League to be exact. They were bleeding him and his grandfather dry, and the half-elf ranger was near his breaking point. Seafaring was not in his blood and he found the whole concept of having to sail to another continent unnerving. If it weren’t for the silent call of this relic known as Ogrebane, he would have given up weeks ago.

“I wonder,” Dabuk sat down facing the window, his words melancholy. “Will there come a day when I can’t pry you away from your arcane studies?”

Bactra didn’t know how to answer that, and he was glad when Jeddar walked through the door to cut down the silence quickly growing between the two cousins.

“Well, still trying to get that thing in the water, are you? I’m telling you it’s a waste of time and good resources when we could be out in the wilderness hacking ogres apart.” Jeddar didn’t like his friend’s new obsession and would have given anything for Dabuk’s old obsessions.

“I will not stop now,” Dabuk stared at his cousin, fully aware that Bactra refused to answer his question. “Is Dvalin having any luck with the Dock Master?”

“If you call yelling at him over the sound of winches and shouting dock workers, luck, then yes.” Jeddar laughed.

“It’s not funny,” Dabuk stood up, gathered up some official documents he’d been forced to sign, and brushed by Jeddar as he exited the small office that Carl had purchased for his use.

“It’s a little funny,” Jeddar smiled at Bactra who was grinning from ear to ear.

“We better go with him or he’ll end up trading blows with the Dock Master. Or worse, with Dvalin.” Bactra tried not to laugh while in earshot of his cousin.

“Now, that would definitely not be funny,” Jeddar sighed.

The two friends walked quickly and quietly behind a fuming Dabuk, as they made their way through the docks towards the Dock Master’s office. They would have been worried to know that their journey didn’t go unnoticed.

* * *
 
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