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


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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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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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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World of Kulan DM

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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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.

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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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World of Kulan DM

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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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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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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World of Kulan DM

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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World of Kulan DM
The Tower of “The Sorcerer”:
Dabuk Tigerstorm paced impatiently in the anteroom of the audience chamber of Heward Tallinson. Two weeks. It had taken two weeks to get a meeting with the Sorcerer, while The Ishtar waited in dry-dock. Bactra sat on a nearby divan, his nose in an alchemical text left in the room for guest arcanists to browse. Jeddar stood looking out a reinforced glassteel window, while Dvalin and Mesik sat at a small table munching on sweetmeats and fine venison, also provided for them, while they waited for the Sorcerer.

Dabuk hadn’t spent all that time only trying to speed up discussions with the Shipbuilders League, however. He had spent several days gathering contacts that would allow him to quickly put together a crew and cargo manifest. The regulations of the Shipbuilders League were very strict, on this matter. A new ship required full approval before it’s captain could assemble a crew. It was another layer of red tape designed to tax new captains to the brink of insolvency, so that the League’s control of Fruen’s docks, ships, dockworkers, and sailors remained absolute.

Dabuk had refused to wait, however, and had slowly and quietly begun to recruit groups of hardy sailing men using his contacts in the Tiger Guild. For while the Shipbuilders League controls the docks, the Tiger Guild has the ear of the King, specifically Dabuk’s grandfather, Carl Tigerstorm. Dabuk had soon gained access to the best sailors available from the King’s fleet, at least, those King Dragonguard could spare. Once the sniveling Dock Master of the Shipbuilders League approved The Ishtar, Dabuk would quickly finish his recruitment and provisioning.

But for now, his mind was firmly on this meeting with Tallinson. The archmage was definitely a recluse in kingdom’s society of powerful noble lords and mercantile guilds. The citizens of Thallin view arcanists with much awe and respect, and the Arcane Order was almost as influential as the Tiger Guild. Dabuk knew little about the Order beyond what Bactra had told him, which wasn’t much. Bactra wasn’t important enough to gain entrance into the Order, or wealthy enough to buy his way in. Not even his association with the Tiger Guild was opening that door for him.

Tallinson and Carl were old friends, but not even the Sorcerer would go against Japheth Arcane when it came to membership into the Arcane Order. That had been what his grandfather had told Bactra when his cousin had asked the Guildmaster of the Tiger Guild, several years ago, to speak to the Sorcerer on his behalf. Bactra hadn’t known about the two old men’s friendship then, but after Stephan Kassadine had mentioned Heward’s friendship with the Tigerstorm Family Bactra had realized that he’d been asking a lot from Carl’s old comrade in arms.

Bactra was content to sit and wait for the man he’d wanted to meet for so long. The book, a fascinating study of the craft of alchemy, was one of the most engrossing manuscripts on the subject he’d ever seen. And the book was written in the Sorcerer’s own hand! Amazing!

Bactra watched Dabuk pace out of the corner of his eye, while at the same time taking an occasional glance towards Mesik. The hairfoot rogue was his friend, but this was the Sorcerer’s Tower, and the last thing Bactra wanted was for Mesik to filch something innocent-looking, just for the hell of it, and have it turn out to be something that Tallinson valued, greatly. Of course, the chance of this actually occurring was remote, more due to the fact that Mesik wasn’t likely to steal from an ally of the Tiger Guild than there being something that valuable in the antechamber.

Regardless, Bactra knew that Dabuk was keeping one eye on Mesik, as well.

No, what concerned Bactra more was the mood of his other two friends. They were different since their time, in their homelands, to the north. War did strange things to people, and he wondered what they had suffered through. Dvalin was less morose than Jeddar, but that could have simply been his greater age showing through. Dvalin was nearly 60 summers old, per the New Calendar, and the second oldest of the group, besides Bactra himself. The elf wizard often forgot that he was 80 years older than the dwarf, simple due to the fact Dvalin seemed older, from an “old hand” point-of-view.

Bactra could feel the sadness and weight of the world coming from his right. Jeddar stood there looking out the window towards the north, worrying. He did that a lot, and wasn’t even aware of it. Dabuk hadn’t noticed it until Bactra had pointed it out to him. The half-elven bard was troubled, to say the least, but refused to talk about it. Dvalin had told them, that being Bactra and Dabuk, to leave it alone. Jeddar would talk about it when he felt the time was right, if at all.

The war wasn’t going well in the Kingdom of the Silver Leaves. Jeddar had agonized over leaving his homeland when Dvalin had come for him, at the time they had previously set. He had not wanted to go, but a promise was a promise. The Tiger Guild had taught him that, and he felt a responsibility to his other guild, the famous Bardic College of Thallin. He hadn’t been back to “sing to his superiors”, so to speak, about his exploits in some time, and knew he’d put his guild responsibilities on the backburner long enough. And once he’d heard what Dabuk and the others were planning to do, he knew he had to go with them.

Plus, he’d wanted to see Minx again.

Jeddar rubbed the medallion around his neck, unconsciously, as he thought about his old flame. He had enthralled Minx the moment they met, even to the point of her distancing herself from Dabuk and her tight group of friends in the Tiger Guild. He’d been wary, at first, thinking Minx and Dabuk’s relationship had been more than professional, but Minx had assured him that she didn’t see Dabuk that way. Jeddar glanced over his shoulder at his friend, as the half-elven ranger paced. Even after all these years, Jeddar wasn’t sure Minx had told him the truth, not that it mattered anymore. Minx and Jeddar’s relationship had gone beyond friends and lovers.

He’d have married her a dozen times over if she’d let him.

Dabuk turned back towards the door leading into the Sorcerer’s audience chamber just in time to hear the lock click and the door swing open. A young apprentice stepped out, made sure he had their complete attention, and then spoke.

“Master Tallinson will see you now.”

* * *
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World of Kulan DM
Meeting Heward Tallinson:
Bactra couldn’t hide how nervous he was. He had heard stories about the Sorcerer for as long as he’d been a member of Tiger Guild. In truth, Tallinson wasn’t an actual sorcerer; he was a traditional arcanist – if you can call one of the most powerful wizards in all of the Eastern Shores traditional.

In fact, he was said to be an archmage who knew every spell stored in Mathghamhna, the College of Wizardry. Many said he was even more powerful than Japheth Arcane, the Chancellor of the Arcane Order, but no one would dare ask either man such a question.

Thus, Bactra was embarrassed, to say the least, when Dabuk pushed his way past the young apprentice before the young human could announce them to Master Tallinson. And what came out of Dabuk’s mouth after that made Bactra cringe.

“It’s about time,” Dabuk fumed, as he stepped into the Inner Sanctum of the Regent of External Concerns of the Arcane Order. “I don’t care how powerful this wizard thinks he is, I refuse to treated like a serf, or worse some prattling nobleman’s whelp.”

Dabuk walked into the circular, domed chamber like the owned the place. He didn’t even notice the apprentice’s anger. Nor did he notice the two gargoyle golems perched just inside, to either side of the doorway, guardians against unwanted intruders. Both gargoyles cocked their heads towards the young ranger until a voice echoed across the room, from some point unseen.

“Let him be,” Dabuk couldn’t see the speaker but could hear the man’s voice as if he’d spoken directly in his ear. The voice seemed to be coming from behind several large semicircular bookcases. “He and his companions are my guests, regardless of his mocking tones.”

The two golems settled back onto their perches, unmoving as stone statues. Bactra rushed forward an grabbed Dabuk’s arm, while Dvalin, Jeddar and Mesik hovered near the door, unsure of what to make of the two golems.

“Dabuk,” Bactra hissed in his cousin’s ear. “You promised to behave yourself! Don’t embarrass me!”

“Forget it!” Dabuk pushed Bactra away. “I’m not going to let this Tallinson person intimidate or belittle us. You might be in awe of this man, but I am not.”

“Still brash and opinionated,” The voice carried across the chamber once again, this time sounding nearer, closer to the edge of the open, central floor of the chamber, where the two cousins stood. “I would have thought that your grandfather would have knocked more sense into that hard head of yours, Dabuk Tigerstorm.”

“You speak like you know me, wizard.” Dabuk scanned the room for any clue or sign of the wizard’s location. He could find none.

“We have never met, but I know you all the same. You have the look of your father, and the soul of your mother.” The voice’s echo seemed to be moving away from the companions, as if the speaker was right in front of them.

And then, out of nowhere, without any flash or ceremony, the Sorcerer stood before them holding a small book in one hand and wine goblet in the other. He wore the robes of a scholar and his features were plain and serene. And yet, all of them could sense the power that flowed through this man, and even Dabuk couldn’t shake the strange feeling he was in the presence of greatness.

“You, you knew my mother?” Dabuk could hardly believe it. She had loathed human cities and Fruen, in particular; the smell and all. “She never mentioned meeting you.”

“It was a long time ago,” Tallinson looked up from his book and locked eyes with the young ranger.

“Please sit, and tell me of your trip to the west. I am eager to hear of news from that side of the continent. After you have done so, then I will answer your questions about the Fallenlands and the item you seek.”

A circle of divans stood in the center of the room where none had been before. Tallinson had not moved to cast a spell or intoned any incantations. Dabuk and Bactra sat down, while their friends continued to stand near the door.

“Are your friends going to join us?” Tallinson looked to Bactra for a response. “Or are they just going to stand back there.”

“Damn it, will you three come over here and sit down. You’re acting like you’ve never met a wizard before.” Dabuk’s voice was calmer but still irritated.

“Boy, I’ve met more wizards in my lifetime, already, than you’ll ever meet.” Dvalin kept staring at the two golems. “It’s these things that worry me. Such creations are unnatural.”

“I assure you, Dvalin Thunderstone, they will not act unless I order it. Their programming is simple but effective.” Tallinson motioned to the divans before taking a sip of his wine. “You are quite safe here, son of Brekk.”

“You know my father?’ Dvalin turned with a start, his mouth agape.

“Indeed, as well as yours and yours.” Tallinson motioned to both Bactra and Jeddar. “I met them all during the time of the Second Ogre War.”

“Wait a minute, you know all our parents?” Bactra couldn’t believe his ears. “But I thought it was Carl who was your old friend.”

Jeddar and Dvalin quickly made their way to a divan, enraptured by the arcanist’s words. Mesik hid a smile as he took a place next to Bactra.

“Well, I only met your mother once or twice, and she never really took a shining to me. And I don’t know Mr. Tindertwig’s parents, at all. But yes, I know Minonus Redwater, I know Brekk Thunderstone, I know Menkhar Silversun, I know Garth Tigerstorm, and yes, I know Carl too.”

“And you knew my mother,” Dabuk shook his head in disbelief. “So, why did take so long to get an audience with you?”

“I have many responsibilities, Dabuk. I can’t just cancel my daily calendar at the drop of the hat, regardless of past friendships. And it is only the fact that your parents are old friends of mine that are you are here. If you had been anyone else, then you’d have been dismissed as being not worth my time. So please don’t waste it with stupid questions, young man!”

“All right, you make a good point.” Dabuk grinned. “You want to know about what happened during our journey to the west, then listen to this.”

Hours passed as Dabuk, Bactra, and Mesik each took turns telling the story of their trip to Onaway, the dangers they faced, the time they spent in the city, and of Tallinson’s old friend and his family. They told the stories with good humor, a bit of embellishment, and lots of dramatic flair. Jeddar and Dvalin were as transfixed as Heward Tallinson, as they hadn’t heard the whole story from beginning to end. Dvalin became morose as Mesik told of Thessa’s close call in the river, and Jeddar laughed so hard, at Bactra’s description of Mesik running through the streets of Onaway, naked, as the guards chased him, that wine came out of his nose.

“Aw, why did you have to tell them that?” Mesik was red as a beet.

“It was funny,” Bactra laughed.

“Oh m-man, I’m going to have to write a s-song about that.” Jeddar was laughing so hard he started gasping.

“You do and I’ll kill you!” Mesik threw a pillow at the bard.

“You three had quite the time, it sounds. And I’m glad to hear that Stephan and his family survived the war. I tried several times to contact him, magically, but never got a response. I wonder?”

“What?” Bactra sensed some magical mystery.

“Nothing, nothing. It’s a matter for me to look into. You all have other plans. What do you want to know about the Fallenlands, besides where is it?”

“What is Ogrebane, exactly?” Dabuk spit out the words before anyone could speak.

“Of that, I’m not completely sure. It’s an artifact of some kind with the power to slay giants and giant-like creatures. Its name, translated from the racial language of a friend of mine, from the Fallenlands, is Ogrebane, but that’s not a literal translation.”

“But you believe its enchanted to slay giants, ogres in particular?”

“That is why I spent so much time searching for information about it. I’m not even sure if it is a physical weapon. At the time, there wasn’t much Zepp could tell me about it, or its history. The politics of his people can be complicated.”

“Zepp, what kind of name is Zepp?”

It is Nagw, the language of a race known as the nagpa. They are an old race, nearly as old as the Fallenlands themselves. I met Zepp while traveling on a spelljammer, on the other side of the world.”

“There’s that word again. What is a spelljammer? Is it some kind of fancy air balloon, right?” Mesik asked

“No, more like an sailing ship that flies through the air, magically.”

“Really, could we get to the Fallenlands in one? Could our ship be enchanted in such a manner?” Dabuk hoped the answer was yes.

“You wouldn’t be able to afford it. I can’t even afford such a ship.”

“Okay, scratch that idea.” Bactra sighed. “So, we have to travel through the Black Storm Sea somehow, without dying, drowning, or having our souls sucked away by the negative energy of the storms. And then we have to find something called Ogrebane, which may or may not even exist or be a physical thing, and bring it back to Harqual through the Black Storm Sea, once again.”

“That sounds about right,” Tallinson smiles. “You sure you want to risk all that for something that might not even exist anymore?”

“I’m going,” Dabuk’s words are absolute.

“I see. Well, then here is some good news. Zepp doesn’t live on the Fallenlands continent anymore. He relocated to an island, south of Harqual, many years ago. You can find him there living amongst the natives of the island. He’ll be able to tell you more about the Fallenlands than I ever could, as well as how you should be able to navigate the Black Storm Sea.”

“Well, there is some good news, at last.” Dabuk sighed.

“How do we get there?” Mesik asked. “Please tell me you have a map.”

“I only have a rough idea of where the island is, and I can have one of my illuminators make you a rough map, but you’re going to have to do some research in the lands of the Far South, before you sail south. The last thing you want to do is get lost on the way there. There are places south of the Hallian Sea best left unexplored.”

“Great, that’s just great.” Jeddar sulked, as he pushed himself deeper into the cushions of his divan. “Why can’t we just save some lady in distress?”

“Hey, natives mean exotic native girls.” Mesik couldn’t help poking fun at his friend.

“Hmm, intriguing.”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” Tallinson laughed. “Just looking at a chiefs daughter wrong can mean you’ve just married her.”

“Great, another beauty to add to my harem.” Jeddar laughed.

“Jeddar, you have a one track mind.” Dvalin shook his head disapprovingly.

“What’s your point?”

“Seriously, be careful when dealing with island natives. Some of them, but not all of them, are headhunters, and some are cannibals.”


“Warning heard and understood.” Jeddar’s face went white when he heard the word ‘cannibals’.

“Yikes! What are we getting ourselves into?” Bactra looked to his friends for reassurance. All he got were more worried looks, except for Dabuk. The ranger’s face remained poised and impossible to read.

“So, does this island have a name?” Dabuk asked calmly.

“Yes,” Heward Tallinson looked at each one, one after the other before saying it out loud. “It’s called the Isle of Dread.”

“Great,” Mesik moaned. “Just great.”

* * *
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World of Kulan DM
The Journey Begins:
“Come on, move it you sea dogs!” Salisan Marg was a sight to behold standing on the deck of The Ishtar. The reef giant still towered over everyone else onboard even with his magical ring of shrinking. The ring once belonged to his father, and his grandfather, as well. He had hardly needed the magical trinket in the past, but after hearing that Dabuk wanted him to captain The Ishtar, he knew he would need it.

“He really is the best man for the job,” Thessa shouted in Dvalin’s ear, while Mesik covered his own. “The crew won’t be able to make excuses that they can’t hear him.”

“Aye, not unless they go deaf from his yelling.” Dvalin laughed. He laughed again while watching Mesik stuffed cotton in his ears. “He’s already making Mesik’s head spin.”

Dvalin watched as the sailors jumped like frightened rabbits at the sound of their new captain. If any of them had problems taking orders from a giant they were either keeping it to themselves or too scared to say anything. Dvalin knew that Salisan’s bark was worse than his bite, and that the good-hearted giant would never abuse the men, but a little fear was good for them at this point. They would learn to respect Salisan and the giant man would reward them for it.

Dvalin patted Mesik on the shoulder with a smile and brushed his hand against Thessa’s as he moved towards several crates that needed to be loaded. Rikin was already hard at work carrying a cask of water on his back, up the gangplank. Dvalin lifted a crate of foodstuff with ease and joined his blood brother in helping the sailors load The Ishtar. Neither of them would be required to do such work on this voyage, but as dwarves they felt it was their duty to pitch in wherever possible. They would be poor sailors, but their strength would be invaluable.

Only Salisan was stronger, and he worked alongside his men with a stern word one moment and hearty laugh the next. He was able to do the work of three men, without even straining himself, and felt that the men would respect him more if he worked alongside them. Yes, it would not be long until the men respected Salisan like they had been sailing with the giant for years.

Thessa and Mesik would only be passengers, for the most part. They would need Thessa’s skills as healer before the journey was over and Mesik’s skills as a mapmaker would be essential. Dvalin was glad to have both of them along for very different reasons. Mesik was the only person that Dabuk would listen to sometimes, while Dvalin’s need for Thessa to come along was more personal.

Dvalin knew he was in love with Thessa, and that he would give his life for her in heartbeat. He also knew she felt the same way, but that she’d rather they live a long life together. His guilt was as plain as the agony on his face. He had a commitment to marry another, but now knew he’d never be able to go through with it. He’d rather live and die as an exile from his homeland, staying with Thessa as long as Fate allowed.

Dvalin tried to keep a positive attitude about the whole thing, but he was sure that Rikin knew that he’d given his heart to Thessa. He looked at his friend working on the other side of the ship with a forlorn sigh. Someday, very soon, he’d have to make a choice and it would lead to blows with his blood brother. Rikin would not understand.

“You need to cheer up,” Bactra had been standing behind Dvalin watching the dwarf work in misery. “You’ll bring the crew down with that long face of yours.”

“I don’t know how I’m going to be able to get through this?” Dvalin sighed. “I’m so torn it’s killing me.”

Bactra patted his friend’s arm, and stepped up beside him, offering him a waterskin. Almost an hour had passed since Dvalin carried his first crate onboard. He’d thrown himself into his work and had done almost as much work as two sailors.

“You have to follow your heart, my friend. Wherever it leads. Rikin will do the same, and I doubt it will ever lead to you two becoming enemies. He cares about you too much to let Sannl’s jealousy get in the way.”

“I wish I could believe that,” Dvalin finished stacking several crates, and two sailors began tying down the cargo. “If it was just that woman’s jealousy that was the issue then I could see Rikin telling her to get stuffed, but she’s the High Thane now. Rikin has sworn an oath that he cannot break without forfeiting his honor, and maybe even his life.”

“Trust in Fate, my friend.” Bactra left Dvalin to continue his work.

* * *


First Post
Good to see another one of your story hours making a comeback Knightfall! I hope all of this writing means that you are feeling better.

Eagerly waiting more!


World of Kulan DM
Mahtave said:
Good to see another one of your story hours making a comeback Knightfall! I hope all of this writing means that you are feeling better.

Eagerly waiting more!
Much. :cool:

However, getting back nito my story hours is more about flexing my writing skills. I'm going to start attending classes, part-time and at night, in January. The classes are part of Professional Writing course that I want to get into. (I'm starting as an outreach student.)


World of Kulan DM
The Journey Begins (cont.)

Dabuk watched as Salisan and the two dwarves worked alongside the rest of the crew. He knew Salisan had been the right choice for this mission, and was giving the reef giant free reign to captain the ship however he wanted, within reason.

This was still Dabuk’s ship, or more correctly it was the Tiger Guild’s ship and he and Mesik were in senior members onboard. Over half the crew were loyal to the guild and his grandfather. They would follow Salisan’s orders to the letter because loyalty to the guild demanded it.

Dabuk knew he’d been fortunate. Carl Tigerstorm had approved this mission, when everything in Dabuk’s bones had told him that his grandfather wouldn’t back him in his quest. Of course, Dabuk soon realized that his grandfather had his own motives in financing the journey. The Tiger Guild was one of the best spy guilds in the Eastern Shores, and the King relied heavily on Carl, his old friend.

This mission would be about gaining as much information on the lands of the Far South, the Isle of Dread, and this place known as the Fallenlands. Dabuk and Mesik were to bring back as much information as they could obtain without raising suspicion from the members of the crew not associated with the guild.

Dabuk nodded to Bactra as his cousin walked past him on the quarterdeck and down the wooden stairs to the main deck. He hated keeping things from his cousin and rest of his friends. He knew they’d be mad once they found out the mission had a secondary, unsavory agenda. Dabuk looked towards Fruen’s docks, wondering where one of those friends was.

“Dvalin,” Dabuk turned to his friend. “Are you sure he’s coming?”

“That’s what he told me, lad.” Dvalin held three ropes tight while the two sailors working alongside him secured the extra cargo at the back of the quarterdeck near the davit for the ship’s boat. “You know him, always fashionably late.”

“Well, he better hurry up or I’m going to leave him behind.” Dabuk scowled. “Even Hugh is here already.”

Dabuk knew the vonakyndra was working on the lower deck, helping to stow away the bulk of ship’s cargo. The giant elf man would have to sleep down there too, as there wasn’t room for him anywhere else. Salisan would have to bunk alongside Hougwarth, as well, regardless of the reef giant’s special ring. The Master’s Cabin would be for Bactra, Dabuk, and Mesik. The ship was going to be crowded.

“You’d never do that, and you know it.” Dvalin smiled. “Having him around will be good for morale. He might prefer swordplay but that bard can sing better than any I’ve heard.”

“I know, but I wish he could be on time for once.”

Dabuk looked back towards the docks just in time to see his half-sister walking towards the gangplank. He couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at her appearance. She’d always dressed in dark clothes and the trappings of a necromancer, but now, now she looked more like a cleric of Ramara. And she didn’t look like she was just visiting. She looked like she was planning to come along. She barely acknowledged him as she stopped short of walking onto the gangplank. Half the sailors were gawking at her, half in fear and half in lust.

“Permission to come aboard, Captain Marg.” Crystal Tigerstorm looked directly at the reef giant, daring him to deny her access to the ship.

“Permission granted,” Salisan replied while looking out of the corner of his eye towards Dabuk. He wasn’t sure if Dabuk wanted her along, but he knew that if she was here that her grandfather wished it. “I’m always glad to have more arcane power on my side when traveling towards peril.”

“Glad to have you along cousin,” Bactra nodded to Crystal with a raised eyebrow, noting her new, revealing garments. “What made you decide to join our group of misfits on this quest?”

“Grandfather thought you all might need my help. No offense too you’re magical talents, cousin.” Crystal’s smile lit up the deck and when she flipped her hair several nearby sailors looked like they were going to start drooling.

“Back to work you lecherous dogs,” Salisan roared. “There will be none of that sort of rude behavior on this ship or I’ll have the whole lot of you doing drills until dusk every night! Now, move!”

“Y-yes, sir.” One of sailors looked like he was going to trip over his tongue.

“Now, Miss Crystal, I suggest you wait in the wardroom until we’re ready to set sail. I need the men to concentrate harder on their work, at the moment. And I do hope you have something more appropriate to wear, something that won’t get waterlogged.”

“Of course, I don’t mind at all. And I have just the thing. I keep a wide variety of garments in my haversack.” Crystal wasn’t shy about showing off her beauty, and gave Mesik a wry smile as she entered the wardroom.

“Well, this should be interesting.” Mesik sighed.

“I think she looked great.” Thessa giggled. “Perhaps she can give me some tips on improving my wardrobe.”

Both Dvalin and Mesik’s eyes bugged out at the thought of Thessa dressing like Crystal. Bactra rolled his eyes at the thought of Crystal usurping his place as the ship’s primary arcanist. Dabuk put his sister out of his mind as soon as she left the main deck. He’d accept her presence because he had to, not because he liked it. If Carl wanted her to sail with The Ishtar then so be it. His mind was more on his other friend who was taking his sweet time.

“Damn, where is that bard?” Dabuk grumbled. “Jeddar, wherever you are, you’re really testing my patience.”

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World of Kulan DM
The Journey Begins (cont.)

Jeddar rolled over in bed with a yawn. For a moment he wasn’t sure where he was, but then he heard that voice he loved.

“Bored with me already, dearest.” Minx stretched out her hands over the half-elf bard’s bare chest.

“Never, a’maelamin.” Jeddar’s heart leapt at her touch and he wrapped his hands in hers. “You could never bore me Minx.”

“You need to go,” she kissed him on the cheek with a sigh. “They won’t wait for you forever.”

“I wish you could come with us,” Jeddar rolled her over and buried his face in her ample chest. “But I don’t think the others would approve of our late night activities aboard ship.”

“I’d love to fight by your side, but my place is here. The Tiger Guild needs my expertise in the north. The Wind Cities are in turmoil right now.”

“When aren’t those lands in turmoil?” Jeddar knew he’d never convince her. Her loyalty to the guild was paramount, in her mind. “Sometimes I think that old guildmaster wants to keep us apart.”

“It’s not like that,” Minx gasped as he nibbled her tender bits. “I volunteered.”

Jeddar pulled back with a look on his face that would tear out your heart. He couldn’t believe she would do this. He would be gone for a long time and she was letting him go.

“You volunteered”, Jeddar got up from the bed and began gathering up his clothes. “I can’t stand you sometimes! You are so arrogant and selfish! This is an important mission and we could really have used your help!”

“Gods, you are so dramatic sometimes.” With one bound out of the bed she tackled Jeddar and wrestled him to the floor. “You call me arrogant and selfish and yet you think that I should go everywhere you do. It doesn’t work that way, dearest. I have my life, and you have yours. Why you can’t just be happy with time we do have together I’ll never understand.”

All the fight left Jeddar the moment he found himself staring into those two perfect pools of amber. He loved Minx more than he could have ever thought possible. His friends, his homeland, his troubles seemed a world away when he was with her. He’d leave her because he had to, not because he wanted to. His friends needed him more than she ever would, which made it even harder to leave her.

She smiled, fluttered her eyes, and then kissed him hard. They pitched and rolled on the floor like The Ishtar would on the high seas. Jeddar broke their embrace for a moment panting.

Mela en' coiamin.”

* * *

Two figures stalked the docks near The Ishtar with two very different purposes. One watched the captain, crew, and passengers with intense interest, while the other looked for an opening to sneak aboard the sailing ship. Neither saw each other and no one noticed them.

* * *
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World of Kulan DM
The Journey Begins (cont.)

Jeddar stepped out onto the city streets with a sigh and a smile. He’d miss Minx deep inside, but he’d go on and do his part for the ship and his friends. He strolled down the streets and alleys of the city of Fruen whistling a sea shanty he’d learned his first year as a student of the Bardic College. It was a popular tune in the city and as he passed through the throng several of the city’s citizens gave a laugh and waved to the bard.

In Fruen, Jeddar was becoming quite famous. He knew he’d never starve in this city and could count on the patronage of the lower caste for his bread and butter. The local nobles were less enamored to the Bard of Blades, but that had to do more with Jeddar’s cutting wit and many admirers amongst the daughters of Fruen’s noble houses.

Yes, Jeddar was more than famous in Fruen he was infamous!

Several street urchins began singing the shanty’s chorus and Jeddar unbelted one of his sheathed swords and pretended to strum it like a lute.

“Give me a sword and a ship to sail
and I'll never come home again,
I'll travel the waves and kiss the maids
and fight a hundred men,
I don't know why I’m leaving, lass,
I don’t know where or when,
But give me a sword and a ship to sail
and I'll never come home again.”

As Jeddar neared the docks, he had an entire crowd pacing alongside him as his voice rose above the din of dockworkers working and street vendors selling their wares.

“I left my home soon after
and I bought myself a sword,
I fought for silver and for gold,
I built up quite a hoard,
And so I went down to the wharf
and bought a boat and then,
I had me a sword and a ship to sail,
and I never went home again.”

Jeddar unsheathed his sword and jumped up on a cart heading towards The Ishtar. He flourished with his blade in the air and hoped up and down on the cart like a typical sailor. He sung the chorus twice before jumping off and tumbling past several annoyed members of the local watch. The watchmen were not his fans, and they took their job way too seriously.

Jeddar continued to sing and prance about, all the while avoiding the pleas of the constables for him to stop singing, and stirring up trouble. He ignored them, as he ran down a side street doing cartwheels and back flips. Several street vendors blocked the watch as they tried to pursue him towards the dockyards.

After checking that the watch was nowhere in sight, he sheathed and buckled on his sword. He sang the next verse in harmony with several nearby sailors.

“O’er many years I’ve plied the seas,
I’ve seen nigh every sight,
I’ve cut the throats of men by day,
loved lasses in the night,
I’ve fought and drunk and learned far more
than many a wise man’s ken,
And with my sword and a ship to sail,
I’ll never go home again.”

By the time he arrived near The Ishtar he had dozens of sailors and wenches walking and singing with him. They improvised several verses before Jeddar climbed to the top of an unlit lamppost and jumped to a nearby balcony to avoid several watchmen that appeared out of nowhere. He sung the last two verses as he walked along the railing.

“The sea has always been my love,
the blade has been my life,
But one morn after too much wine,
I woke up with a wife,
And, alas, she kept me home
and clucked at me like a hen,
So I gave her a sword and a ship to sail
and she never came home again.

And now I’m old and stooped and gray,
my eyesight’s growing dim,
But when I die, I’ll happily go,
I won’t be glum or grim,
For I have seen the great wide world,
I didn’t stay in my den,
‘Cause I got me a sword and a ship to sail,
and I never went home again.”

With that he took out his blades, put one between his teeth, cut a nearby rope anchor of a large block & pulley used for shipbuilding and used it to swing out onto the deck of The Ishtar. The crew cheered, Salisan laughed with joy, and even Dabuk cracked a smile. Jeddar finished the song with the chorus, and the entire crew sung along.

“Give me a sword and a ship to sail
and I'll never come home again,
I'll travel the waves and kiss the maids
and fight a hundred men,
I don't know why I’m leaving, lass,
I don’t know where or when,
But give me a sword and a ship to sail
and I'll never come home again.”

Jeddar turned towards the docks and bowed with a flourish of his swords before turning to Salisan Marg and saluting.

“Jeddar Silversun reporting for duty, Captain Marg.”

“HA! HA!” Salisan gave the bard a big bear hug. “Glad to have you with us, my friend.”

The sight of the giant captain, even reduced, and a look of scorn from Mesik sent the watchmen scouring back to their posts. The reach of the Tiger Guild was long and undisputed. For without the guild, crime would be rampant throughout the city.

Salisan put the bard down and barked out to the crew to stop singing and start working. One by one, the companions came and shook the bard’s hand. Dvalin slapped the bard on the back and even Crystal came out of the wardroom to give Jeddar a hug and a smile.

The last too praise the performance of the Bard of Blades was Dabuk, who simply shook his friend’s hand with a wry smile.

“So, can we go now?” Dabuk cracked wise just as the din was dying down.

The companions all laughed.

* * *

Note: The song Jeddar is singing is called "Give me a Sword and a Ship to Sail (And I'll Never Come Home Again)". I got it from an old issue of Dragon Magazine.
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World of Kulan DM

Jeddar’s performance was all one of the skulkers needed to slip onto the ship unseen. She dropped down into the hold while all eyes were on him as he swung onto the ship. There, she hid herself amongst the tied down cargo, ducking under a tarp.

“You’re not leaving me behind this time,” she whispered to herself.

* * *
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World of Kulan DM
Agent of Evil:
The second skulking figure watched silently from his hiding spot on the docks, as The Ishtar pulled up anchor and set sail away from Fruen. He waited until the ship has passed beyond the sea walls of the harbor before beginning the long walk towards The Black Pony near the city's graveyard.

As he walked he split his mind with his schism ability, so that he could organize his thoughts on everything he'd seen and heard. He knew that she would brook no errors in his report on The Ishtar and its crew. She had taken the “heroes” interference in Onaway very personally and wanted the young Tigerstorm's head on a platter. They would all suffer, for their insolence, but torturing the half-elven ranger would be her special pleasure.

As the man approached the cross street, just north of the graveyard, he stopped and scanned the crowded streets for anyone that might be following him or watching the graveyard. If he led anyone to the secret headquarters of the Opposition, under the Pony, then his life would be over. The others would make sure of that. He immediately spotted two street toughs prowling near the edge of the graveyard. They were obviously from one of the local thieves' guilds. For months, those lowbrow bullies had been trying to uncover the “secret guild” operating out this area of the city without any luck.

The Opposition agent knew that he'd need to deal with them before heading towards The Black Pony. He stepped out into the street, looking for an easy mark to pickpocket. A young noblewoman walked by, heading in the right direction. The man fell in behind her waiting for an opportunity to snatch some minor trinket. He made sure the two rogues were aware of his presence, and his intentions. He managed to slip off one of the lady's rings without her knowledge, and then he ducked into a nearby alley.

He drew his serrated dagger, poisoned it, and waited for the two men to come to him. They'd never stalk the streets for anyone ever again, and the man would make sure the bodies were properly displayed for some unsuspecting soul to find.

* * *

Epic Threats

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