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


World of Kulan DM
Nerve test results inconculsive!

The tests I had done didn't find any nerve damage, which is good and bad. They still can't tell me *exactly* what is wrong with my left shoulder and arm. (I'm typing with one hand right now. Owww!)

The doctor that did the examination did say I show symptoms of myofascial pain syndrome in the left side of the neck and upper back, whatever that means.

Going to see a different bone and joint specialist as soon as they make the appointment. Everything has been closed around here during the holidays so I must continue to wait.

My life sucks so much right now it's not funny. :(

Still no insurance money yet either. Pray for me.

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World of Kulan DM
Interlude #7

Kingdom of the Greystones, the Hold of Mt. Thunder:
In the deepest, most central part of the Greystone Mountains sits the Dwarven Hold of Mt. Thunder, first line of defense against those that would bring the Kingdom of the Greystones to its knees. Since the death of the High Thane, the kingdom has been under siege from both below and above ground. The ogres and their allies smelled blood on the stone and seemed determined to wipe out the dwarven kingdom.

It is here that Dvalin Thunderstone and Rikin Stonefossil find themselves fighting for their homeland, for honor, and for their very lives throughout the deep halls of Mt. Thunder, against earth ogres, mountain orcs, and much worse. Their regiment was one of 6 spearheading the latest counterattack against the savage hordes fighting for some unknown power.

The unknown power has remained hidden behind a veil of secrecy that not even the powerful clerics of Moradin have been able to pierce. Most believe that an ogre scion is responsible for the onslaught, but others believe that the secret organization known only as The Opposition is behind the attacks. However, so little is known about the group responsible for the destruction of the Hold of Highstone that none amongst the diviners and clergy of the dwarven kingdom can be certain that The Opposition is involved.

“No one has seen or heard anything about The Opposition in nearly 50 years.” Dvalin walked slowly through a winding tunnel, which led deeper into the Underearth. “I doubt very much that they would risk exposing themselves.”

“I am certain that they are involved in this mess somehow,” Rikin was the last of his dwarven clan who were all killed during the destruction of Highstone. “I can feel it in the stone.”

Dvalin watched his blood brother, as Rikin ran his hand gently along the stone wall of the carved tunnel, as their regiment came to a grinding halt. The sound of metal on stone continued to echo throughout the tunnel. These dwarves were not concerned with stealth. Their enemies would hear them coming and fear the sound of an entire regiment of the best soldiers in the Kingdom of the Greystones.

Rikin wore his special armor, granted to him when he became a member of the Ironguard. Several other members of the Ironguard stood nearby waiting for Dvalin and Rikin, their commanders, to give the order to march on. Dvalin was dressed in his best armor. A set of dwarven plate passed down through his clan’s history. Of course, the armor belonged to the clan, not to him, unlike Rikin’s Ironguard armor.

“Maybe, but somehow I doubt ogre brutes would take orders from anyone other than an ogre scion.” Dvalin checked his armor straps and his weapons to make sure everything was in order. He didn’t carry a shield with him, which was unusual for a dwarf of his stature, but he preferred to keep his off hand free during large battles.

“I never said that an ogre scion wasn’t involved. Just that I believe The Opposition is also involved.” Rikin replied.

“An alliance?” Dvalin was shocked. He hadn’t considered such an option. “That would not be good, for the kingdom or for our friends.”

“Sir,” a dwarven boy appeared out of the back of the column of dwarven soldiers. “The other regiments are in place. The attack is proceeding as planned.”

“Thank you, Flint.” Rikin acknowledged the boy with a nod. “Now, go to your post.”

“Yes sir!” The boy was eager to prove himself, almost too eager. He disappeared into the back of the column.

“They’re getting younger every month.” Dvalin hated war and the death that it inflicted on good people. “One so young should not have to worry about facing earth ogres and mountain orcs.”

“He will do fine,” Rikin saw the look of concern of his brother’s face. “Worry about protecting your own back and fighting for the honor of our clan, brother. Besides, I told Jacintha to watch out for him.”

“You’re a better commander than I will ever be,” Dvalin smiled. “You think of everything.”

“Aye, I just don’t rub your nose with soot.” Rikin raised his double-bladed waraxe into the air and roared the signal to attack.

“For the Greystones!” Dvalin raised his own axe in salute.

“For the Greystones!” Hundreds of seasoned dwarven warriors cried out in the darkness, their voices echoing down the tunnel towards the earth ogre encampment. They began to march in unison, pound their feet into the earth for all to hear.

Beyond the sight of his darkvision, Dvalin heard the sound of ogres and orcs scrambling to fortify their position. The dwarves increased their pace to a trot, causing as much noise as possible. Soon the dwarven blood brothers could see the end of the tunnel, which emptied out into a large cavern beyond.

Rikin roared again. The signal for the other 5 regiments to attack from the other tunnels leading into the cavern. Then Dvalin cried out the signal to charge and the dwarven regiment rushed out into the cavern to meet the horde waiting for them. Simultaneously, the 5 other regiments came at the enemy from behind, as well as from the sides.

The battle raged in the darkness below Mt Thunder until dawn had come and gone in the world above.
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World of Kulan DM
health update...

Went for my bone scan two fridays ago. Got the results today. It was negative, thus the painful mystery/misery continues. :mad:

Doc doesn't know what to do now. He's on my side though, he knows something is wrong but has told me that I'll probably have to wait until I can get an appointment at the chronic pain clinic at the University of Alberta Hospital - I'm on the waiting list. *sigh*

It's getting harder to keep my chin up... everything feels so bleak right now. :(

He did give me a new prescirption for some *heavy* anti-inflammatory meds but I don't think it's going to help... I really don't.

Anyway, gotta go. Time to ice my wrist again.



World of Kulan DM
Interlude #8

Location Unknown:
“This is unacceptable!” The man known as The Father fumed in the darkened Overlords Chamber, as he watched the scene through the scrying mirror. “They will ruin everything if they reach Onaway before our plans come to fruition.”

“I can dispatch a strike team of assassins immediately, Father.” Horz’bak, the Commander of Vespin’s Hand, relished the idea of killing such notable prey. His dog-like features bristled at the thought of ripping the Justiciar’s throat out with his jagged incisors. “It would be my honor to rid you of these vermin.”

“Quiet dog!” Retan raised his voice to subdue the gnoll’s inane suggestion. “The master will decide their fate, not a cowering sycophant. Father let me beat this cur for his brainless impudence?”

“Maybe later,” The Father stood off from his Overlords, trying to seek calm in the black heat of the darkfire pit in the center of the chamber. “For now, you will checkrein your enthusiasm for my favor, as will you, Horz’bak.”

“As you wish, Father.” Horz’bak bowed his head in reverence for his master. He restrained from growling at Retan as the fiendish dwarf cleric of Nether brushed by him.

“Aye,” Retan stood resolute in the face of his master. “I will do my best to please you, Father.”

“See that you do, as your position as commander of my legions is tentative at beast. You have yet to truly earn your position. As for the troublemaker and his allies, I will allow The Foulsoul to handle the situation. And we have other allies in the city who will be most useful if the Justiciar reaches Onaway.”

“If I may speak, Father.” The Overlord known as The Crane bowed his head as he spoke.

“Speak, old man.”

“While Overlord Horz’bak’s words were spoken out of place, he does have a good thought. We should be prepared to strike at the Justiciar in case the worst comes to pass. I suggest diligence and the need for possible alternatives, in case all other avenues fail.

“Your counsel is wise, old one, unlike some others. Horz’bak prepare your assassins, but do not act until I command you. Understood?”

It will be as you wish, Father.” The gnoll growled in pleasure.

The Father waved his hand and the Overlords left the room one at a time until only The Crane was left to leave.

“Do you think she is up for the challenge, Father.” He asked.

“She had better be, old friend. I will not tolerate failure against the Tigerstorm and his brood, this time.”

The Crane left his master to brood in the darkness.
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World of Kulan DM
Interlude #9

The Savage Hills, near the Town of Anhaur:

“They are nearing the edge of the valley. The ogres haven’t seen them yet.”

“How are they armed?” The man known only as The Fancy Bandit wanted to add the adventurers wealth to his own personal reserves, but he wouldn’t throw away good men against seasoned foes.

“Very well, sir. They have warriors, the two giants, a wizard, and a small humanoid acting as their healer.”

“Dwarf?” The bandit lord’s interest was piqued.

“I don’t think so, sir. If she is then she’s not like any dwarf I’ve ever seen before. She’s much shorter.”

“Interesting.” These travelers could be useful he thought.

“Should we have at them, sir? It would be quite a challenge, but I believe we could take them.”

“No, I don’t think so. Let’s see how they fare against the ogres. Speaking of, what is latest news on the ogre hordes massing north of the Onan River?” Have the Onans detected them?”

“The hordes are quite substantial, sir. They could crack Onaway open like an egg. And the Onans haven’t detected them at all. I suspect sorcery. If Midas hadn’t been with us on our first foray then I doubt we would have detected them without his magic.”

“Don’t be so over dramatic, Titanus. We are simply better at our jobs than the prattling sycophants of Onaway.” The Fancy Bandit wished he could be sure that this whole situation could be turned towards his favor.

“And what of the intruders?” Titanus wanted the possessions of the group’s leader for himself. “If they survive the ogres, that is.”

“For right now they aren’t to be harassed. If they fight well then I might have use for them later. If they die then move in mop up the ogres and take anything that is left over. Do not reveal yourselves unless they have all fallen. Understood?”

“Absolutely, sir.” Titanus saluted his lord before moving off to prepare his next patrol.

“Yes, they might prove very useful indeed.” The man known as The Fancy Bandit grinned like the cat about to swallow the canary.
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World of Kulan DM
Hand/wrist is feeling a little better, I might try updating this sometime this week. If all goes well, I might do a Realmsian Dragonstar update too... but no promises.


Scratch that, my hand/wrist WAS feeling better. Now it hurts like hell. NEED ICE!!! :mad: :mad: :mad:
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World of Kulan DM
I'm back for another installment of my World of Kulan story hour. I'm going to try an update this one once every few weeks or so but still have to be careful not to type too much.

Heck, if it goes well, I might try updating Realmsian Dragonstar too. (No promises though.)


A rise overlooking a winding valley:
Dabuk looked down into the valley fuming. His hands shook with rage, as he gripped the hilt of his sword with one hand and his horse’s reins in the other. His father sat beside him on Hindle, also enraged, but more controlled than his son could ever hop to be when confronted with the beasts.

They had found the ogres that had destroyed Burnholm.

Halfway down the valley was an encampment of half a dozen of the brutes – laughing, howling, and eating something that was once sentient. The two rangers could smell the burnt flesh in the air.

“We can take them,” Dabuk wouldn’t be able to stop himself, if his hatred for the beasts took over.

“Maybe,” Garth looked over his shoulder to see how far the others were behind them. Only Kellin was visible to the naked eye because of his height and size. “We need to wait for the others. Bactra and Thessa’s magic will tip the scales in out favor.”

“I don’t need help to kill ogres, father.” Dabuk was breathing heavily trying not to let his rage cloud his judgement.

“I know that,” Garth was trying to stall his son so the others could reach the rise before his son did something rash. “I didn’t say that their magic was needed to kill the ogres. I meant that if those brutes down there have a shaman amongst them, Bactra and Thessa will be able to counter the beast’s magic.”

“I know what you’re doing, father.” Dabuk didn’t turn his head towards his father, unwilling to take his eyes off his mother’s killers. For that’s how he saw all ogres. They were all guilty for the crime their kin had committed that day. “Stalling should be beneath you. Soon you’ll start lying just to keep me from living my life. I’m not a child anymore, father. You need to realize that. You can’t protect me from the world.”

“Ten more minutes.” Garth knew his son was right. He hadn’t been there for him or his beloved Eiithinia when the ogres had attacked. It ate away at him that his obsession with duty and justice and cost him his family. He lost his wife and his brother’s wife, a true friend, in one day and his son had become a stranger to him in the years that followed.

It was his fault and he had sworn to never risk his son’s life needlessly. He hadn’t counted on Dabuk to grow to be so reckless. He had blamed Carl for the boy’s wild streak for years. But soon he realized he was his mother’s son. She had always been wild and carefree. It was why he had loved her so much and why he would fight to death before he’d let his son die if he could.

Carl instinctively looked back towards the others. The ten minutes had passed and he knew his son wouldn’t wait much longer. It didn’t matter. He’d ride with his son against an army if he had to. He owed it to the boy and to his mother.

Kellin waved to Carl just as Dabuk’s patience to a crashing halt.

“They’re pulling up camp! I will wait no longer!” Dabuk kicked his horse and was soon riding across the edge of the valley towards a path that was the only path of the descent into the valley they had found.

“Damn it!” Garth spurred his warhorse on and drew his sword. “Dabuk don’t, wait for the others!”

“No!” Dabuk disappeared down into the valley, towards the ogres, as fast as his horse could take the steep path.

Garth followed his son down into the unknown danger that lay ahead. I will not lose him too, he thought.

* * *

“There they go again.” Kellin was tired but not fatigued. He could run for miles more before that would happen. “We must hurry, I think Dabuk is about to do something foolhardy.”

The ogre man increased his gait until he was running flat out. Soon Hougwarth was running next to him with the others just behind, their mounts foaming at the mouth. The war ponies would be the first to die if this pace kept on for much longer.

“What is he thinking?” Thessa patted her fatigued pony trying to ease its uneasiness with her gentle touch.

“He’s not, that’s the problem.” Bactra’s horse was nearly as tired as the rest of them. He could easily force it ahead of the two giants in the lead but didn’t want to hurt the animal.

“I have a feeling that we’re not going to like what we find once we catch up to them. If we catch up to them.” Mesik didn’t like riding. He was much happier simply walking from place to place, taking his time.

“Agreed.” Bactra started to go through the spells he had memorized in his mind. He would need his most powerful magic this day – he could feel it.

The five companions came to the path just as Dabuk and Garth reached the ogre camp.

* * *
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World of Kulan DM
The Alliance (cont.)

From the Journal of Bactra Redwind, son of Minonus

Against the Ogres:
The battle had been harsh. If Thessa hadn’t been there too heal everyone, most would now be dead or dying right now. Dabuk had rode into the ogre camp with fury in his eyes, striking at each ogre as he and his horse passed by. His father had tried to ride along with his son but was forced to rein in Hindle when the ogres closed ranks on him and Dabuk. Two of the brutes had moved towards Dabuk while the others pushed back his father.

Dabuk had just turned his horse to meet the charging brutes, as the rest of our group and I had started down the path into the valley. I had watched in horror as one of the brutes knocked Dabuk from the saddle with its club. Garth had screamed in anger at the sight of his son hitting the ground and tried to move past the four ogres that had cut him off from his son.

The others and I came down the path and as I started to incant an ice knife spell, Dabuk shook off the effects of the blow just in time to avoid being squashed by the other brute’s club. The ogres attacking Dabuk were too far away to hit with the ice knife so I targeted the nearest one attacking Garth. The brute didn’t know it was coming and roared in pain as it took the spell directly in the back. It spun to face us, allowing Garth a chance to concentrate on the other two ugly beasts trying to flank him.

Dabuk had then slashed at the second ogre that had attacked him, slicing off several layers of fat and muscle on its leg. The beast roared and proceeded to hammer my cousin with its club. I watched helplessly as Dabuk soared through the air at the force of the impact. He landed in a crumpled heap and didn’t move. Thessa saw him fall, spurring her warpony towards him and the brutes with Mesik at her side.

I reined in my horse just out of the range of the ogre coming towards us and tried to decide what next to cast. Hougwarth and Kellin charged the advancing ogre. Hougwarth cut the monster’s giant club in half with one quick motion and then Kellin took its head off. I decided upon sleep for my next spell, just as another ogre seemed to appear out of nowhere and cut Kellin and Hougwarth off from Garth. (The Justiciar had been holding his own but would soon be in trouble without help.) The brute was larger than the others and easily avoided Hougwarth’s next attack, knocking the giant man prone. Only Kellin’s swift reaction and sword block saved Hougwarth from being decapitated.

I quickly decided to concentrate my magic on the new menace and cast color spray at the brute, angling the spell just right to catch it in the spell’s cone-like shape, but miss both Kellin and Hougwarth. I was shocked as the beast shrugged it off like water off a duck’s back. Kellin had tried to take advantage but the beast forced him back. Hougwarth had lost his sword when the brute knocked him down. He rolled away towards his weapon and wouldn’t be much use to Kellin or Garth for the next few moments.

Thessa and Mesik had been cut off from Dabuk by the ogre who had knocked him from the saddle and his cousin was still down and motionless in the distance. The brute that he had hurt was moving towards him. I felt helpless, as I had nothing prepared with a long enough range to hit the ogre limping towards him. Then I did something I never though I’d do. I ran into the fray past Kellin, Hougwarth, and even Garth. I had quickly drawn my dagger as I ran.

Garth lost his footing as one of the brutes slammed into him. Hougwarth came to his aid just in time to take the club impact that had been meant for the Justiciar’s head. Hougwarth slashed out with his sword, which surprisingly hit the mark, puncturing the brute’s thick neck. Both Hougwarth and the ogre fell to the ground in a heap. Meanwhile, Kellin was barely holding his own against the ogres’ leader.

I looked at my dagger and then towards Dabuk just as the ogre brought his club down on my cousin’s chest. I watched as the creature roared in triumph and heard someone yell Dabuk’s name. It may have been me. I dropped the dagger and prepared to cast sleep on as many people as I could. Hopefully, more of the ogres would be affected then my friends. Just as I started to incant the spell, Mesik was knocked off his warpony, and Thessa skewered the offending ogre with her halfspear. The creature laughed at her and pulled the spear away from her and out of its bleeding shoulder.

One of the brutes, taking it to Garth, then noticed me beginning to chant. It came towards me but I concentrated on making sure the ogre standing over Dabuk would take the brunt of the spell. The beast reached down and grabbed Dabuk by the hair and was about to rip his head off when the spell activated. The ogre slumped over into a deep sleep, as did the one coming towards me and the one fighting Mesik and Thessa.

I sighed in relief, as Thessa, who had shrugged off the spell’s effect, moved towards Dabuk to attend him. Garth took out one of the brutes still attacking him and the other looked around to notice its companions lying on the ground. It tried to flee and tripped over Hougwarth. The vonakyndra’s sword skewered the falling ogre and I couldn’t help but smile. Luck had been with Hugh for once. I noticed the ogre asleep next to me and decided to let the brute simply lay there. It wouldn’t be going anywhere for a while.

I had then ran towards where Dabuk had been lying. Thessa was just beginning to bind his wounds and cast her healing magic on him. I threw up when I saw his battered body then began to grieve. He had looked dead to me.

I had learned later that the ogre leader had tried to retreat but Kellin cut it down. Garth and Hugh had made short work of the other sleeping ogres. Garth had though Mesik was dead until I pointed out he had been in the range of the sleep spell I cast. I will the spell’s effect to end and Mesik woke up, battered and bruised, but alive. Thessa was unable to spare any curative spells for the halfling rogue, as Dabuk had nearly died.

I had been relieved when Thessa announced that he would live.

We then sent up camp slighting off the path leading down into the valley. Kellin dragged the dead ogres up out of the valley and burned the corpses. Hougwarth had wanted to help but he had taken several telling blows that had broke his ribs. Garth wasn’t much better but insisted on taking a watch, against Thessa’s wishes. The Justiciar seemed better the next day and obviously had access to curative magicks as well.

Bactra sighed, looking at his cousin lying a few feet away from him. Dabuk had slept for nearly half a day until he woke up. Thessa has been fussing over him ever since. It would be another day before he is ready to travel again.

Bactra had just started to turn his attention back to his journal when Garth appeared next to him in fading light of late evening. Bactra startled slightly internally but didn’t show it externally.

“I didn’t get a chance to thank you, Bactra.” Garth stood at attention, as it was his watch, the firelight gleaming behind him. “That sleep spell you cast saved us all.”

“Thank you, uncle. It was risky but I didn’t see any other choice.” Bactra looked back towards Dabuk.

“He’s more then just your cousin to you, isn’t he? You look upon him as a brother don’t you?”


“Good. You’re father and I had always hoped you two would be close. Dabuk and Joshian are just too different to be like brothers. He needs you as much as you need him.”

Bactra nodded at the mention of his cousin Joshian. Joshian was a full-blooded forest elf who had been born more than a hundred years before Dabuk, before Dabuk’s mother had lost her first, elven husband. Joshian was even older than Bactra. He had never become close with his full-blooded cousin, as they had been too different.

“Did you know he left the Knotwood shortly after the clan elders cut off access to the grove?”

“No. I’m not surprised though. He doesn’t like the new elders and was almost as mad as Dabuk was when they betrayed her memory, although he would never show it. That elf is one cool customer.”

“So you talked to him while we were at Woodknot? I thought the two of you weren’t on speaking terms.”

“That’s true to a point. He doesn’t like me at all and will never forgive me for taking Eiithinia away from him and his family. Even more so then Dabuk, he blames me for her death.”

“He’s stubborn and cold.” Bactra sighed shaking his head. “He feels similarly towards me because I feel a closer kinship to Dabuk and your family.”

Garth didn’t reply. He just stood there looking at Dabuk with concern in his eyes. Bactra wanted to say something to let his uncle know everything would be all right but words failed him. Garth walked away to continue his watch. Hougwarth would relieve him in about an hour. Bactra closed his journal and began to enter the trance of the Reverie.

“Tomorrow is another day.”

* * *
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World of Kulan DM
The Alliance (cont.)

In the valley:
Dabuk awoke to find Thessa hovering over him.

“You’ll live.” Thessa’s words were meant to comfort him without being overly sentimental.

“Naturally,” Dabuk showed little concern for his wounds trying to sit up straight.

“Don’t you even think of it.” Thessa’s face scrunched up in annoyance, as Dabuk’s movements put strain on the deeper wounds that still concerned her. “I have healed as much as I can through magical means. Now, you must rest for at least another day.”

“I don’t think so.”

“That wasn’t a request, son.” Dabuk suddenly felt smaller as his father appeared over him. He had that look on his face. Dabuk knew that look and hated it. He knew that his father would have his way, even if it meant strapping Dabuk down.

“Fine, but only one more day then we move on.” Dabuk stared back at his father in defiance. He refused to show any weakness or willingness to give more than he already had.

“Agreed.” Garth walked away, back into the darkness. Dabuk did not watch to see where he went. He scanned around the campfire in front of him. All were there that he cared about. Thessa changed one of his bandages, Bactra sat nearby scribbling in his journal, Mesik poked at the fire with a stick nearly as long as the little man, and Hougwarth was laid out like a large log, sleeping deeply.

“Did the ogre die in the fight,” Dabuk hoped old One-Eye had met an untimely end.

“You wish,” Mesik spoke the words just as Thessa shook her head. “He’s on guard duty.”

That didn’t surprise Dabuk. His father trusted the ogre man. Dabuk sorely wished he was up for guard duty, especially if it meant that the ogre would have a shorter shift. He would never trust Kellin, no matter what his story was. An ogre was an ogre.

“And where did my father go?” Dabuk asked the question as if asking were fungus grew.

Bactra put his journal aside with a sigh. “If you must know he has been scouting the entire valley. He’s concerned there might be more dangerous opponents ahead. You really need to cut him some slack, cousin.”

Dabuk said nothing his face grim in the firelight.

“Fine. Be that way.” Bactra turned over away from Dabuk and went to sleep.

Thessa finished re-bandaging the last of his wounds and took up a spot next to Mesik. She said nothing as she rolled into a ball and went to sleep. Dabuk wished he could make her and the others understand. He looked into Mesik’s eyes. He didn’t get any sympathy from them either.

“You were reckless.”

“What else is new?” Dabuk rolled his eyes. They’d had this argument many times before.

“Yes, but time should have taught you to be more careful. You need to learn from this experience and trust your father’s judgement. You need to be more oriented towards being part of a group. Your actions could have gotten us all killed.”

Dabuk heard his friend’s words. It wasn’t a lecture, it was simple, sound advice from a mentor and guild member.

“I know.” Dabuk refused to let his features soften. “But what if what you’re asking of me isn’t possible? What if I’m not meant to have that kind of control?”

“If I truly thought that was your destiny, I wouldn’t be here with you now.” Mesik poked the fire sending up motes of flame and cinder ash.

Dabuk looked out into the darkness continuing to ponder his place in the world.

* * *
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World of Kulan DM
The Alliance (cont.)

In the valley, traveling northwest:
Dabuk rode along quietly, sullen. The fight with the ogres hadn’t gone the way he’d hoped. He held his aching ribs, as he rode, looking over his shoulder at Mesik and Bactra. Then the half-elven ranger looked forward towards his father and Hugh, walking beside his father’s horse.

The young man sighed in frustration. He knew Kellin was out front doing his job. He didn’t like it but had conceded that he wasn’t in good enough shape to lead the way. He noticed Thessa staring at him out of the corner of his eye. Her expression was troubled.

“I’m fine Thessa,” Dabuk kept his voice low, as not to distract the others.

“No you’re not and you know it.” She brought her pony closer to his warhorse. She forced him to show her the bandages on his chest. She had healed most of his internal injuries with her magic but Dabuk had insisted on toughing it out after that. “You really should let me heal those deep bruises. Also, I think you still have a cracked or broken rib.”

“No, I’ll be fine.” Dabuk sat up straighter in the saddle refusing to show any pain.

Thessa sighed in resignation. His stubborn pride would be the death of him one day. She whispered in her pony’s ear and the beast responded by trotting up close to Hougwarth.

Tell me more about your people, Hugh.” Thessa spoke loud enough so that the gaint man could here her words.”

Hougwarth looked at her and nodded. He took a deep breath as he raised his hands to pantomime in conjunction with his story.

“Quietly Hugh,” Garth spoke the words without turning his head. “We don’t need any unexpected company. Who knows what lurks in this valley or in the hills above.”

Garth’s words deflated the grandiose tale Hugh was about to spew forth.

“Yes Hugh, I’ve heard your great tales but I’d like to hear more about your life when you still lived with your people.”

“There’s not much to tell, little friend.” The giant man looked down at Thessa with a solemn look to his eyes.

“But your stories speak of a great people with a strong sense of community and ability with magic and steel. Are they only stories?”

“Oh no, Thessa. The stories are true… to a point.” Hugh stared up into the hills surrounding the valley. “My people have existed on Harqual for nearly as long as there has been life. We were one of the few races to first live amongst the human barbarians of the Northlands in peace. We were great then, as well as down through the ages.”

“But not now?” Thessa’s words bit deep, although she hadn’t intended for them to.

“That’s correct,” Hugh’s face grew lines across it like a dozen bleak horizons. “Now, my people are a lost, dying race. Less and less young ones have been born in my stedding through the generations and those that have been born and lived through the cold winters have become more and more isolated from other races, as well as each other.”

“What about your family? They must have been happy when you were born.”

“Aye,” Hugh seemed much older now. “They were one of the few families blessed in our stedding that year. They had such high hopes for me.”

All of the companions were listening to the giant man’s words. Even Garth kept one ear open to Hugh’s words. Dabuk trotted his warhorse up next to Hugh opposite of Thessa’s pony.

“You know, even though I’ve bugged you about dropping your sword, you are a excellent warrior, Hugh. I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings.”

“No, friend Dabuk,” Hugh’s face brightened for a moment. “I haven’t disappointed my family because I still have much to learn about such martial skills. It is because I chose to wield a sword instead of the family plow that I disappointed them.”

“I see. They wanted you to be a farmer.” Dabuk looked back towards Bactra. The elven wizard had a scowl on his face. He too had disappointed his father by refusing to become a simple tailor.

“Aye,” Hugh nodded glumly. “And when I told them I wished to leave the stedding they refused to let me. They said I would expose the few of our people left to the dangers of the world. The elders of the stedding decreed that I be locked away in my family’s sacred burial cave. To die of starvation for my crime.”

“That’s crazy,” Thessa looked at Hugh in shock.

“Man, that’s cold,” Bactra thought of his own family troubles. “At least I was eventually allowed to choose my own path.”

“So you fought them and escaped, right?”

“No,” Hugh shook his head his eyes closed tight. “They are my kin. I could never have hurt any of them. I initially accepted my fate.”

“You let them lock you away to die!” Dabuk’s jaw dropped in confusion. “How could you let them do that to you?”

“His people’s ways are not our way, son.” Garth kept scanning the valley and hills for any sign of danger. “You must not judge another culture until you have experienced it. I’m sure his people felt that what they did was right and just. Hugh?”

“That’s correct,” Hugh sighed. “I was not the first to be imprisoned in such a manner and I doubt I was the last.”

“But your people need new blood,” Thessa shook her head in disbelief. “Sentencing their own people to die in such a manner seems so contradictory.”

“Aye,” Hugh nodded in agreement. “I never believed in the practice myself, but the stedding’s elders worry that exposure to the rest of the continent will bring more doom upon the vonakyndra then a handful of imprisoned kin.”

“A handful,” Mesik brings his pony just behind Thessa’s. "So it doesn’t happen all the time then?”

“No,” a single tear rolls down the giant man’s cheek. I was the first to be imprison in such a manner in nearly 200 years.”

The group continues to ride on in silence, none willing to continue the conversation. Everyone reigns their mounts back to their respective positions.

* * *

An hour comes and goes as the companions continue to travel northwest towards the edge of the valley. None have seen Kellin since he last reported back nearly an hour and a half ago.

“Maybe he got lost.” Dabuk grins at Bactra.

“You wish,” Bactra points ahead along the rough path winding through the center of the valley.

Dabuk looks where his cousin is pointing. Kellin One-Eye lopes down the path towards them, the end of the valley rising up behind him.


“No, ogre.” Bactra pokes his cousin’s arm.

“Shut up.” Dabuk smiles swatting away Bactra’s hand.

“Kellin,” Garth reigns in Hindle and waits for the ogre man to report on what he’s seen and heard.

“The valley ends about a mile and half ahead. The path continues on up the valley’s edge but it’s very steep. You will have to lead the mounts on foot.”

“Is there another way?” Hugh’s spirits seemed to be lifting.


“Great.” No one missed the sarcasm in Mesik’s voice.

“And what have you found beyond the valley?” Garth ignored the halfling’s annoyance.

“There are at least two small communities ahead,” Kellin looked at Thessa with concern in his eyes.

“What is it, Kellin?” Thessa gulped.

“They are on the other side of another river.”

“Is it deep?”

“Yes, and fast.”

“Great.” Thessa whimpered in fear.

* * *

The river:
“It’s only water,” Thessa spoke the words but found no comfort in them.

The river, called the Gurret, was indeed as Kellin had said. It flowed along quickly with eddies and white water. It also looked deceptively shallow in most places. The river stretched out even wider than the Silver River had been.

“There’s no way,” Garth looked at the churning mass of water in front of him. “The horses wouldn’t make it across.”

“Agreed,” Kellin and Dabuk both spoke the words as one. Dabuk felt his skin crawl.

“There may be a bridge or ferry downstream but I can’t be sure. I didn’t want to get to close to the communities. I would have scared them. I’m going to have to cross on my own.”

“What about Hugh?” Thessa looked at her new friend with concern. If you believe they won’t let you cross downstream then they’ll likely react badly to him as well.”

“I will go with Kellin,” Hugh beamed at his friends. “I’m sure between the two of us, we’ll find a safe way to cross.”

“Fine. We’ll meet you on the other side. Say 10 to 20 miles north of the community downstream. Agreed?” Garth swung Hindle around parallel to the river.

“Agreed. Dusk, tomorrow, 20 miles north of the community. Light a fire so we can find you. But be careful, I’ve never been this far west of Harqual Forest but I’ve heard rumors about vile monsters, bandits and worse in this region.”


“And if we’re not there by morning the day after, leave without us.” Kellin and Hougwarth started to move off towards the east.


“No arguments Garth!” Kellin stopped in his tracks looking back.

“All right,” Garth nodded to his friend. “Be careful, my friend.”

“You too, Hougwarth.” Dabuk nodded to his giant friend then stared down Kellin as if to say, ‘If he dies you die too.’

Kellin returns the half-elven ranger’s gaze. “Understood.”

Only Hugh hears the ogre man’s response.

* * *
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