World of Tarvakar

Just putting things in Order.

uhg everything is out of order.

The Doom Brigade.

Part 1
Part 2
part 3

place holder
had an idea need to write down

sorry its all in the DM info

A Perfect Day part 1
just a perfect day

It was the perfect day, there was no why or how, it simply was. Denjo and Cinnamon had come early to Whindle Hall, in that ephemeral predawn world of half dreams they came. Denjo leaping and laughing, sweet Cinnamon smiling and sneaking, the trio’s departure woke the slumbering keep. Even the softly cried curses of the weary could not catch them as they run into yet another perfect day.
To the Rapid Rush River they ran out of breath, giggles and games erupting like sudden laughter. Denjo had smoke and fire which danced upon the white waters. Cinnamon found hidden sights and smells to share with her friends. Your laughter is light, your steps merry as you try to outrun the water in its endless journey. Fish and fowl, mammal and reptile Denjo names them each in turn and chases them with joy. The words are music and your companions’ laughter the lyrics.
There are rocks here and green growing things full of life, the rushing water is forgotten and up is your new down. Green damp between your toes and Denjo is singing a silly song to the birds. Cinnamon climbs with you, all endless smile and ascension. You are above the world but below the clouds its perfect, this whole day is perfect.
Snoozing in sunlight, rolling in moss, the world moves around you three in your circle of green. As the dark creeps into the land Denjo makes fire as Cinnamon finds berries and fish. The twilight is warm and the air taste like metal, there is the sound of distant thunder. You make a fort by piling rocks as the fish cooks. Warm firelight fills the dark night, sweet smells drift in the warm breeze. Cinnamon build shelter while Denjo does tricks, then as the fire dies and the laughter subsides you drift off to sleep in a pile with your best friends.
The dawn is red and the air tastes stronger now. There is a rotten smell on the breeze and rising sun seems extra bright, or is there more than one sun? The sky is full of orange light and black clouds; Denjo is talking about fire and wants to go home. You hug him protectively as Cinnamon climb to look around.
The east is on fire but you walk toward it anyways, you do not want to but Cinnamon does. Denjo can’t stop talking and his words are all too big. Teeth and Wars and things you don’t know, you’re worried about him so you stay close. Cinnamon finds the river and you follow it, you never realized how far you ran yesterday. The water is still a rush but it’s darker now and full of floating things, some of them look like they are not things. Denjo is crying and you hug him till he is quiet but you hold his hand as you walk just in case. Cinnamon makes you leave the river and go back into the woods, grey ash is floating down on the breeze.
You see people in the fields but Cinnamon says you can not talk to them. Denjo is scared of them and wants them to go away. You pick up a rock to throw if they get to close. They are strange people, they all dress the same. They only have two colors which is silly, out of all the colors why only have two. Denjo wore a dozen colors with his patchwork vest and the stained overalls under it. His hat was red and black like the strangers but his shoes and gloves were green today like every day. Cinnamon worn brown but she said they were all different browns and that no two were the same. You were wearing your favorite colors like always but the ash was slowly smudging them grey. You are not scared of the strangers with their red and black colors. But you follow Cinnamon and do not talk to the strangers.
One of the strangers was sitting in the woods; Cinnamon was very bad and hit him on the back until he went to sleep. Denjo got more scared so you left the sleeping stranger before his friends come to wake him up. The smell is much worse now and the air makes you sick. The sounds you hear are all bad ones the strangers are in all the fields. Cinnamon makes you stay with Denjo in the deepest parts of the woods. This is fun every day you do it, every day but this one. You try to play with Denjo but he is mad at you and yells. He will not make fire and he does not care about the animals, you play in the dirt and wait for Cinnamon.
You are hungery and you do not like the deep woods anymore. Even here there is ash and the smell is everywhere. The animals all hide and the voices of the forest are silent. Denjo cried until he fell asleep and so you are alone. You know you are not suppose to be alone but if you wake Denjo he will cry again. This makes you sad but then you hear someone coming through the trees and know it will be Cinnamon. But Cinnamon does not make a sound when she walks. You do not know what to do so you wake Denjo as three strangers come out of the trees. Denjo is scared and wants them to go away. You want to show them your rock but you lost it while playing and so you have nothing to throw. The strangers have big knives like your dad uses to cut his meat and they wave the knives around. They wave the knives at you and Denjo screams for them to leave you alone. You do not like this and so you tell the strangers. They laugh at you and tell you things that make no sense. Your feet are already on the ground and your hands are at the ends of your arms so you cannot put them up. You have no gold and do not know anyone named %$&@er. Denjo is on his knees so you start to help him up then one of the strangers is very bad and hits you. You tell him he is bad and that is not allowed but the strangers laugh. They are bad and you wish your mother was there. Denjo is telling you to get on the ground and give them what they want so you try to explain but everyone is yelling. The stranger hits you again and Denjo is trying to make him stop. Then one of the strangers is so bad you do not know a word for it and pokes Denjo with his knife. Denjo screams and now he is stained red too but the strangers just laugh. You’re scared, nothing makes sense, and you do not know what to do so you ask Denjo but he is crying so you hug him. He is wet with sticky red stuff and wants to go home but you do not know how to get there. You wish Cinnamon was there and you start to cry. The strangers are laughing and Denjo is getting wetter, you know he is hurt bad. They hurt him bad so you tell the strangers, you are yelling at them but they laugh more and circle around you. The one in front of you is waving his knife and talking, the one to your right keeps laughing and the one on your left walks loud. You grab the talking stranger’s arm so he cannot poke you with his knife, he screams and kicks but you hold on tight. The loud walker rushes at you so you hit him with the one who is screaming. The laughing man stops laughing and pokes you in the leg with his knife, it hurts bad and you cry for your mom. You are very bad and hit the man who poked you, then you remember the other man poked Denjo but you do not know which one so you hit them both. You are wet with sticky red stuff and crying. Denjo is still crying on the ground and you don’t know what to do. The strangers do not move but you are still mad at them. You find a rock and hit them with it till all their metal is bent and broken. Denjo is crying or he would yell at you for being bad. You know you are being very bad and you will be in trouble but you are angry. The strangers are bad and they hurt your friend, they hurt you, and you do not know where Cinnamon is. You take the biggest rock you can find and you wait by Denjo. If the strangers wake up you will be as bad as you can and hit them very hard until they go to sleep. You cradle Denjo on your lap and you feel tired.

The Doom Brigade chapter 2.0

Sometimes you have to die good to live well.

Pip Pimpernal was enjoying himself immensely so he put a stop to that. First he triple tightened his loin cloth then out came the scourge and soon salty red tears were rolling onto the floor. Even so he felt pride, extra hard whack for that, after all he had come a long way. Here he was on a human ship heading to a human city; he could not believe it. Soon he would spread the word of his god to these odd beings, enriching their lives as it had his. Nautica had ensured he had a handsome stateroom despite his protests. She knew he would have to atone for it and yet she went right ahead anyway, Pip was beginning to believe it was some kind of joke. This thought pleased him, whack, as it was just one more injustice to bear stoically. He was glad to be off the island, he brethren were far too frivolous and flighty. Oh they listened to his sermons but they were always high on mold and never remembered what yesterday’s subject had been. Sadly the humans were little better, they were drunk all the time or extremely rude. Only the captain indulged him and he knew the man was just humoring him. Like most whose lives were tied to the waves he only had room for one deity and she was a mighty one. But once on land things would change, there was a whole world of beings waiting to hear the word.

Well today was very vexing for pip, after the crew found out he disposed of ALL alcohol on board that is. After advising them it was for their own good the crew lost it. It was all the captain could do just to get Pip stuffed in a sack and throw into a life raft. Pip considered this just his lot after all but it delayed his spreading the word and that was bothersome. After escaping the sack he tried his best to navigate and promptly ended up utterly lost. Pip wished he had listened to anything Nautica said instead of just retorting “God will provide!” He was lost, hungry and worst of all he could not punish himself for feeling this way. They had taken everything he had, which was very little. He only wished they had left his scourge. The only thing left was the amulet given to Pip as a parting gift by Nautica. It bore the sign of her mother and so no sailor, no matter how insane, would dare touch it. In fact the captain had tried to claim Pip was a devotee of the Goddess, but Pip had to set them straight. As the sun set the sea came alight with refracted rays of scintillating color. Burning orange, haughty red and regal purple surrounded Pip as though he was adrift on a rainbow, truly the Blazing Ocean deserved its’ name. As the gathering twilight consumed him he could just make out the lights of a distant shore. Hopefully with the morning he would be close enough to shore to fly for it.

Pip was strolling along a rocky beach; all about him were strange tangled tree and hanging vegetation. He used a bit of driftwood to beat the sin out of him as he went. Pip had no idea how to tell what direction he was going or what land he was in. He could not see any settlements on his scouting flights, and after nearly becoming lunch for a giant salamander he decided flying low was best. Finally Pip realized the beach was too easy a path to travel and so he set out into the swamp.

After a day’s journey the stinking fens and bogs were behind them, sucking mire turning to damp earth. They could see the battlements of the keep in the distance and what Zad saw disturbed him greatly. “I see guards on the walls and there are Pigapes constructing fortifications. Dame Von Nostrum what do you make of this?” “We have rivals it would seems, tell me do they fly a banner?” asked Olga. “They fly no flags but some of the better armored guards have a black griffin, or possibly hippogriff, on a red field emblazoned on their shields.” Olga said nothing in reply, her mouth moved but no words came. “Lady? Does this mean anything to you?” “Yes,” she answered finally, “It is the symbol of Wartooth.” Dozens of frantic questions inundated Olga in pandemonium. “Enough!” She yelled silencing them. “We must return to Mournguard and warn the garrison there. Wartooth will surly have scouts so we must move with all haste. We need to find some solid ground so we can reassemble the wagons.” “Why do we need wagons? Asked Rahg. “It will take us eight days by raft but only three by wagon.” “Well your right there but that’s only if we were going through the Bleakwood and thats…” Rahg’s voice died as he saw the look in her eyes. Olga, Zad, Rahg and the scouts worked hard and fasts, trying to finish the wagon as fast as possible. Olga decided that they would only need one wagon and the rest should be left behind. They would set fire to the remaining rafts and supplies so the enemy could not make use of them. Hurdy like always was forbidden from helping, so he wondered the perimeter. A he gazed into a stagnant pool he was amazed to see something staring back. Hurdy smiled, readied his clubs and braced himself for the fun.

Pip felt better then ever because he knew God loved him. He knew this because of the numerous horrors and hardships he had faced. He had been chased countless times, almost netted five times, hit with rocks about twenty times, absentmindedly terrorized by giant land squid three times and finally shot with an arrow that he suspected was poisoned. He suspected this due to his lack of arms, the melting vegetation and kaleidoscopic swamp muck. He knew God loved him or else why would he tremble so but in awe of the lord?

His training was working, as four bursts of white sticky stuff shoot from the pool Hurdy ducks and rolls to the left. Rocks and bushes are netted by the strands then yanked into the pool. The water frothed and churned for a moment and then raged forth. Eight-legged muck-brown crabs, about five feet across with two-foot long serrated pinchers, emerged at a skittering charge. Hurdy smiled and thought four crabs this big would be good eating. The critters rush forth but Hurdy leaps aside, turning left as he does and brings his clubs down hard. Hangnail rips the left claw off the nearest one before KaThumpa splinters its’ shell. Greenblack goo gushes from the beast as its’ eyes pop, franticly pinching at nothing. They lumber at him, circling and snipping but never reaching him. Then Hurdy realizes in he glee he lost track of one, it makes its’ presence known. Brutal claws pinch his ribs as he feels the beast’s fangs slip between his mail. Bone shaking pain floods his body as he fights the seeping dread in his blood. Unnatural sweat flows from his pores as Hurdy fights the evil venom. He slams his elbows down; dislodging the claws but ripping out some of his own flesh. The added pain fuels his savage attack as Hangnail sends the offending crabs shell cascading across the swamp. He brings KaThumpa around and bats the shattered husk crashing through a nearby tree. One crab snares his left leg in webbing as the other snatches his right arm in its’ pinchers. Its grip is deadly tight and tears flesh with ease but to hold Hurdy it has to stay still.

Even the dumb crab knows it made a big mistake as Hurdy brings KaThumpa down over and over on what once was its’ face. The now limp claw falls away as he whips his left leg back hard. The beast attached sails through the air to connect with a savage kick sending it crashing away only to catch on its’ own webbing. Hurdy repeats his action tugging the crab to kick it out to the end of the web tether over and over, very much like a toy he played with in his youth. After several minutes of this game Hurdy crushes the spasming thing into a smear on the marsh. After tasting the meat, retching repeatedly, he decided the whole thing was a waste of time. He kicked the corpses a few times just to show them how displeased he was, then trudged back to the others.

Rahg was uneasy; he did not like the woods. Their first day had been uneventful but the gnarled trees with their leathery black leaves seemed to choke the light from the sky. Nothing lived in this land of eternal shadow save the trees, their warped bark seemed to writhe and ungulate. That night as he secured the perimeter an odd haunting voice rose and fell seemingly from all about them. Rahg did not recognize the tongue if it was it fact speaking, it sounded more like the drunken song of a child. Then he saw it, a ghostly glittering form flitting between trees. The apparition was only a foot tall and looked like a small elven baby. He watched in horror as the dancing infant giggled and began waddling toward him. For once in his life Rahg was scared and he showed it. “AAAAAAAAAAAAAIIIIIHHHHH!!!”

Everyone was armed and waiting as Rahg burst into camp, “Damn it man get it together, how many are they, what armaments?” Olga demanded. Rahg stared back into the darkness fearfully, “I saw a ghost.” was all he said. The others looked shocked and fearful as Olga asked, “are you sure?” “It was a damn wee elf baby running and singing at me.” They just stared at him, “look it was startling ok?” he moaned. “Besides even if it was a baby it’s a ghost now so I think my reaction was perfectly rational.” This got more looks but Olga simple said, “ready yourselves for battle.” They sat around the burning fire, backs to the blaze, eyes to the woods. Zad was the first to hear it a haunting lullaby in an unknown language. “I do not believe it is speaking elvin” “what makes you say that? Said Rahg defensively. “Because I am an Elf!” “Well there are lots of different elves you know” “Really I was unaware of that,” replied Zad sarcastically. Olga silenced them at this point; she heard the sound now. It drifted about in ranges no human could reach; she could understand Rahg’s misgivings. “If it is a ghost I do not think we can harm it, Rahg use your sling, Zad prepare a offensive spell if you have one.” As they readied themselves for battle Olga prayed she had not led them to their deaths. Then suddenly the leaves of a fern parted and there before them stood the ghost. It was about a foot tall with teal eyes, slender pale elfin features and wore very bloody white rags. It continued to sing and dance toward them, until Rahg’s sling bullet hit in it the forehead. Blood gushed from the wound as the tiny being crumpled to the ground. Olga’s healing turned out to be lacking this time. The small stranger was, according to Zad, under the affects of a strong hallucinogenic poison. Zad and Hurdy spend that night searching for a counter agent, the search and application had taken all night but they succeeded. Now as they began their second day through the woods at least the newcomer was resting comfortably. Zad approached Olga, “I believe I know what our guest is,” he began. She nodded for him to continue. “He or she I’m not certain of which, may be a Pixiefairy. They are a Fay folk distantly related to both Elves and common Fairies. I have never heard of any being encountered though, most were dead specimens brought back by adventurers. Every now and again some sailors report sighting them but those tales are most likely so much scurvy.” “Why do you say that?” Olga asked. “Those sightings always involve the Forbidden Isle as well, making them highly suspect.” “The forbidden Isle?” “Ah yes you are native to Janid I forget sometimes. The Forbidden Isle is the mythical island of the Sea Goddess. All manner of fabulous beasts and beings dwell there, including it is said numerous Pixiefairies. Despite its’ legendary status the Daroko family claims to know its’ location. If our tiny ward survives he may shed much light on this.” “Yes we have heard of this place in my homeland but we call it Mur the Enchanted. Tales from the old kingdom speak of it as a place of healing and respite. An old Beldish tale relates how then King Vincent Valino’s ship was attacked by a Sea serpent. He slew the monstrosity but his ship was doomed and he clung to the floating mast. Out of the brutal surf loomed an island where none should be. He desperately paddled the mast toward it but his strength gave out and he slipped beneath the waves. He awoke to find himself on a pure white sand beach surrounded by a peaceful emerald green sea. The island abounded with fruit and fresh water but no animals. It the tale he meets many fantastic beings there before a boat is made for him and he returns home to confront his usurper. Among these beings is a race of tiny prankster’s very similar to our guest.” “I see you have studied much in preparation for your quest but why that childish tale?” “There are precious few records from that time and each is a treasure of history and culture that must not be forgotten. I would learn what I can of the time from any source no matter how suspect.” By that night the tiny stranger recovered and he, yes it was a he, was grateful. He introduced himself as Pip Pimpernel and said he was a devotee of some god called Nudor. When they confessed that none of them knew anything about his god, or indeed had ever heard of it before, he seemed overjoyed and proceeded to enlighten them. “…His is the loving hand that tends the sorrows of the world. His is the gentle…” “For the love of Beld will you please shut the abyss up!” this outburst came from Rahg who had been politely trying to ascertain where he came from for some time. Pip’s tiny face fell then brightened up; after all it was just one more injustice to bear. Before Rahg could continue Olga spoke, ” Mr. Pimpernel…” “You can call me Pip.” “Um thank you. Pip where do you hail from and how did you get here?” “Oh that’s all. I come from Oceanna and I got here by boat, well most of the way that is, after they set me adrift I washed ashore then wondered about till I got shot with an arrow and I assume poisoned, then I wondered some more thought more aimlessly, then I found you and got struck by a falling branch.” Everyone but Pip turned to stare at Rahg as Pip said this. “Yeah, branch that’s it.” Muttered Rahg. As they made camp they continued to question Pip about his homeland, which turned out to be the mythical Mur. When they asked why a sea Goddess needed an island Pip replied, “That’s because of Auqamaya she hates to see you land dwellers drown.” Apparently, and much to Zad surprise, the legends of Janid were true or somewhat true. The only inhabitances were Pixiefairies like Pip and castaways. The castaways would be towed to shipping lanes and then watched to make sure a ship picked them up. Pip’s people spent their time singing and playing pranks, which Pip held obvious contempt for. As interesting as the stories of his odd folk were the most shocking was his claim that gods dwell on the island. According to Pip the Sea Goddess herself visited every few years and her daughters visit every few seasons, Auqamaya every few days. The daughters were named, in descending ages, Nautica, Abyssella, Tempest, and Auqamaya. The only other permanent inhabitant was someone called Ichiclease and when they asked about him Pip would only say, “The Sea Goddess is punishing him for being VERY bad.” With all their attention on Pip’s tales only Hurdy saw the trees moving. They slowly crept ahead of them forming a dense wall of vegetation. The very largest of the trees was about fifty feet away and seemed, as Hurdy stared at it, to be made of rotting hide not wood. He readied his clubs as his companions prattled on about mundane matters. If they wanted to know about why Ichiclease was trapped on the isle of the Sea Goddess they could has just asked him. But no they never did, Hurdy wondered if he would tell them the truth if they asked anyway. After all WWTED? or what would the Eyes do? Pip was right in the middle of his favorite story when they heard the crash. Turning, and in most cases leaping to their feet, to see Hurdy viciously attacking a nearby tree. Olga almost started to scold him until they saw how the trees closed in on him. Suddenly the trees and plants all about them writhed to the attack. A mass of clinging ivy nets Zad’s legs as a dead tree slams its’ rotting branches into Olga. Rahg rolls out of harms way just in time while Pip manages to dart and flutter between leaping bushes. Hurdy snaps branches and cracks trucks as he windmills through the assaulting trees. He moves with purpose pushing on toward the large rotting tree lurking behind the pack. Olga’s blade slices the branches with ease but the mass of wood only rushes forward ramming hard with its’ moldy trunk. Zad struggles with all his might but more ivy adds to the cocoon, he screams for helps just as a large frown covers his mouth. Rahg hurls a dagger, pinning a snaking vine to the nearest tree as it worms for Olga ankle. Pip rushes higher, dodging savage twig rakes as he goes. Wooden fingers burrow into Hurdy as he drives on pounding everything from his path. As Zad begins to choke and writhe on the ground Rahg rolls to aid him, only to get snagged by a branch as he does. The knotted wooden member sends him sailing through the air to smash into a tangled thicket. Olga side stepped the timber and slashes low, toppling the moldering hulk. Pip burst forth into the sun; just for a glimpse however as a snarl of creepers snag his leg. Hurdy burst from the mass of vegetation and brings Hangnail and KaThumpa down on the rotting tree. Massive reeking chucks of flesh came off with each blow, spattering the surroundings with yellowgreen iccor. Zad goes limp just as their assailants suddenly disengaged and rushed toward Hurdy. Olga found Zad unconscious and Pip battered but ok. Rahg however was nowhere to be seen. He was inside a rushing bush as it leapt at Hurdy, raking his back savagely. But Hurdy just kept pounding. With one final mighty blow from KaThumpa the tree-beast quivered and burst, showering everything in putrid funk. As the companions gathered they turned to a new sound. Three more strange rotting trees were overseeing the dismemberment of their wagon. With Zad passed out and more trees closing in they knew what to do.

They ran on their muscles tearing, bones aching, all exposed flesh lacerated by thousands of thorns. Rahg lagged behind and so Hurdy was forced to carry him as well as Zad. Pip flittered along at her side as Olga led them on until finally there was a spot of light. It blazed through the murky woods like raging forest fire, as it engulfed them they knew the woods were behind them. They spent the next few days resting up while Olga met with government officials. Zad questioned Pip, Rahg kept inconspicuous, and Hurdy played with the local guards. All though the two nations sometimes warred the soldiers of the keep seemed to respect Hurdy’s former military service. He spent his time drinking with the guards and bullying the citizenry until Olga found out. After that Hurdy was forced to train and he did it with gusto. The prince’s steward send messengers for reinforcements but De Silva Keep was nearly eight days away and few other troops were in the area. As the keep’s commander planned the companions prepared for the worst. “So we are staying?” asked Rahg. “I will not force any of you to aid in this defense but I know this must been seen through to the end.” Replied Olga. “I got nothing better to do and besides we still got a temple to loot.” Rahg said with a smile. “My employer made no stipulation in regard to terminating my assistance in the event of invasion.” Said Zad with his usual blank expression. “I don’t know what’s going on but if there is suffering I’m there,” chirped in Pip. “Besides,” said Rahg, “who says we can’t leave before Wartooth arrives and continue our search” “No,” Olga said sadly, “it would not be right to slip way. Even so the quest is dead, I lack the funds to provision and man another expedition. I have already spent every coin remaining on our lodging here.” They sat silently in the gloom awaiting the inevitable assault to come. Pip could not understand the problem, much less the need for gold, and pestered incessantly as to why coin matters. A sound like hundreds of bison belching in unison erupted from the corner. Hurdy was clearing his throat to speak, “Igt sonmney fetle hapsv tqusc.” Hurdy thundered and produced a sack. Olga smiled; “Thank you my friend but we would require far more then tha…” she froze before she could finish as Hurdy upended the sack. Golden octagonal coins showered to the floor of the inn. After franticly counting they could not believe it, “one-hundred-and-ninety-two Royalcrowns!” they jointly exclaimed. The pile was worth nearly a thousand gold coins, Olga just smiled and said, “Our quest may yet live.” Then they heard they cry of the guard on the west wall. It was time. As they made their way to the west tower Rahg pulled Olga to the side. Rahg’s expression shifted to one of concern, “Now look do you want to win this or just get yourself a nice honorable death?” Olga’s fine features twisted in disgust, “I have no desire for death but I do not flee it like a coward. I would gladly give my life if it will slow their advance but a moment.” “Yeah it will delay them a little while they slip in your brain goo.” Olga almost struck him but then said, “if this is about your oath you are free from it. Run like a rat to your hole” “HA! Listen missy I made that oath to Draper not you and he’s not the kind who takes that kinda thing lightly. This isn’t about my oath it’s about you. Do you really want to win this battle?” Her eyes narrowed, “With all my heart but why do I feel you have something unsavory in mind?” “You would be half-right. I got a plan but I need to let you in on a secret. You see the reason I’m running is because I stole something from someone powerful.” “I gathered that much when we first met.” “Yeah yeah no surprises there but it’s what I stole that’s important.” He pulled a small fold of parchment from his pouch. “Is that it?” “No this is just ingredient, I need you to get everything on this list and bring it to the smithy. Pay for the stuff if you got to but get it no matter what understand?” “What to you intend to do?” “I’m going to make FIRE.” They stood with the keep’s commander, one Esper Vorrosia, high on the west tower. He was an old man, strictly a bureaucrat and clearly frightened. The captain of the tower, Lucian Smolt, was the only strategic mind among his officers. Originally the commander wanted the companions to have nothing to do with the coming battle but Lucian was able to change that. He sighted Olga’s knighthood, Hurdy’s military service and Zad’s magical knowledge as, quite currently, invaluable in the coming conflict. Vorrosia grudgingly agreed and so here they were, planning the defense. Only Rahg was not on the tower as he labored furiously in the Smithy. The massive river separating the Bleakwood from Beld was teeming with armored forms. They faced the men of Wartooth, deadly loyal and without pity. They drove great masses of the Pigapes, now garbed in steel, ahead of their front lines, whipping the beasts into a frothing frenzy. They dragged siege towers, battering rams, and huge awls with ease their massive frames hardly slowed by the tremendous loads. “That’s odd,” Olga remarked, “their commander seems to be in the far rear.” “Why is that odd makes sense to me.” Said Rahg appearing silently from behind as was his trademark. “Yes but the people of Wartooth hold courage in battle highly. Their leaders are traditionally at the head of any assault.” “Then it makes all the more sense he’s at the back, that way their tactics are not so predictable.” Rahg retorted. “Yes I suppose but still something about this just seems wrong.” “Forgive me your ladyship,” Rahg said extra sweetly, “but I would say the immanent dead and mutilation of everyone in this keep qualifies as ‘wrong’”.” Olga glared at Rahg but said nothing. “If you were wondering I’m done. I’ll have Hurdy bring the barrels to each of the towers and the gatehouse.” “Barrels?” Olga asked perplexed. “Oh you’ll see.” Even with all their preparations and plans they had to face the bleak facts. All together they had just over a hundred-and-fifty troops. Gazing down at the dark masses beyond the river Zad counted around six hundred of the ape beasts with over a hundred soldiers of Wartooth driving them on. They watched their doom sweep across the river, each companion silently contemplating their fate. “Sumtyes yuavtu dyged tlfwoll.” Hurdy said solemnly. “What did he say?” asked Vorrosia. “Sometimes you have to die good to live well.” Replied Olga. A cry came from the eastern wall, at first they thought it was a surprise attack then they realized the cry was of joy. One of the nearby families had sent troops to assist the keep. They were from the Emanuel compound to the north and were led by the family’s lord. His name was Vincent Emanuel and he brought twenty fine cavalrymen and over fifty skirmishers with him. The Emanuel family was the weakest; they stayed loyal to the crown even as it lay in ruins. Rahg would be with the archers on the west walls, Hurdy by the South Gate, while Zad, Pip and Olga stayed with Vorrosia on the west tower.

The Doom Brigade Chapter 1.5

Chapter One part two

Rahg stared at the large dead trees looming on their periphery as they made camp. Near the forest the trees were great oaks, elms and willows but here there was only mangroves and the ancient dead thick with growth. Besides the vast tangles that overwhelmed every tree live or dead, the only living plants were strange shrubs. Some seemed to pivot and sway as they neared, so they kept well away. The rafts worked well and the first day was behind them. Each night spongy moss would be the closest thing to a floor for most of the men. Even so, they would avoid traveling through the Bleakwood, but still it lurked just to the north at all times a tantalizing respite of solid ground. Olga did not need to warn them to stay away, everyone in Beld knew. The Bleakwood came right to the edge of Beld, a place of darkness just beyond Mournguard keep. The woods were the real reason for the keep. Some say the prince was afraid of something within. Tales speak of many reasons for this but Rahg heard one from his teacher Maggot he believed. The prince was not really the prince at all but one of the real prince’s look-alikes. He betrayed the real prince to enemy agents, just who is never said. At a remote-hunting cabin known only to his closest advisers the true prince is brutally slain. However, to the usurper’s horror the agents turn on him next so he flees blindly through the woods, chased by both the agents and his inner demons. By some dumb luck a loyal servant, who knew of the prince’s cabin, learned of the plot and managed to rally help. As they rushed to his aid, they found the imposter being set upon by the agents. The loyalists attacked and slaughtered them to the man, never realizing their mistake. The spirit of the true prince haunts the hunting lodge at the woods center, or so Maggot said. Whatever the case those woods were bad, people who went in died and turned up mutilated but uneaten on the outskirts of the nearest settlement. When the De Silva built their keep they must have lost a thousand men to those trees. Sane beings wanted nothing to do with that place. Sygmand was sick of the damned trees. They did not burn right and his men kept reporting of them attacking. He lost one patrol in the woods after that and he was not going to allow two. He brought some of his best men with him as he headed in the direction his scouts said they had see a cabin. Zad and Olga conferred on what would be the best route. Olga had found and copied an ancient map showing a city called Victory just twenty miles into the swamp. The whole trip would take about four days by raft or half that number through the woods if they had to. After that they could head south to Ragio, northwest to keep Blanco or southwest to an unnamed settlement. Zad originally considered the map a gift from Grawdyng as it was from just before the collapse of the kingdom. He was much less pleased when Olga explained that a nearly two-hundred-year-old human map might not be that accurate. Rahg found the next two days rather enjoyable; after all he loved rafting even if it was the brown water kind. They were making decant progress despite Hurdy’s tendency to fall into bogs. For a hulking stinking half-ogre he was terribly concerned with bathing. Following each and every plunge, after being fished out, he would stalk off to bathe. This was just laughably stupid and so to keep things moving they fashioned a rain barrel and leather tarp for him. Rahg enjoyed everything but the weather; endless rolling fogs making a maze out of the land. This coupled with sudden savage rainstorms soaked everything and only by the skill of their guides could they get anywhere in the fury. Finally on the third day it stopped raining and it was on this day Rahg stopped enjoying himself. Without the downpour the biting insects came, and with them disease. Rahg was lucky but some of the men were not. Olga seemed to have some healers training despite her knighthood and did her best to help. By midday he had another reason to stop enjoying himself, they had reached their destination. They surveyed the half-mile wide bog with the skeletons of old stone works strewn about. “So this is Victory,” thought Rahg. Victory turned out to be on a giant sinkhole so the company was forced to camp about a hundred yards away. Rahg built himself a sort of canvas fort to keep the bugs out while the others worked. Olga had decided to make for the old keep on the map. The journey would take four more days by raft so she let the men rest for the remainder of the day. Zad was exploring the sinkhole using his skeletal minions, Olga had insisted he have a guard. Since the men found him disturbing and unholy it was Hurdy who got the job, after promising not to push Zad in the quagmire that is. Rahg could just make them out from his vantage, and then suddenly they both turned and ran wildly toward the camp. Rahg heard a loud low rumble building as the earth about the sinkhole heaved. Great bones of stone bubbled from the mire, black slime and slithering vermin caking every inch. The spongy earth heaved then bursts like a drop of rain on the cobblestones. As the vomitus mass settles to the surface a wash of putrid brown air washes forth. The horrendous stench rolled over their camp, making the men vomit with such force they fell flat on their backs. Rahg climbed the nearest tree and managed to stay out of the low creeping fumes. For some reason Olga was completely unaffected and started to aid the afflicted. Hurdy did not seem to notices the small but the effect it had on others made him laugh till he fell over. By the time the air had cleared most of their troops were worthlessly sick. Zad had to crawl back to his wagon and rest. Rahg helped Olga minister to the men, and so no one was aware that Hurdy had wondered into the dripping ruins. Cold damp cobblestones cracked under Hurdy’s huge feet. He had searched a few houses and found only bones and bugs. He found a big building with fancy doors and assumed it must be a noble’s house. It took all his considerable might to force the doors open a crack. As he pushed a great torrents of slime spewed forth inundating him in slippery mire. Slowly it subsided and he forced the door open, inside was darkness, but Hurdy got his eyes from his mother. After adjusting he could see fine and there was a lot to see. Massive pillars, caked with slime, lined the chamber. Great chandeliers hung from the ceiling like ambush predators. Mold clung to everything thick as carpet so the floors and walls could not be seen. At the far end was a raised dais that even now seemed to seep slime. As he approached it he heard the scrap of metal behind him, turning just in time to see the great doors close, plunging him into darkness. Then the sound of thick putrid water poring onto the shaggy floor fills his ears. The hairs on his back stand on end. He feels them all about him, circling, probing, and closing in. He can’t let them make the first move. Sygmand was very pleased; after all he was right like always. A few lesser undead stalked the woods it was true, but his men must have been foolish indeed to fall pray to the slow moving corpses. The cabin was very well kept clearly the property of a man a station. There were no heraldic markings, and this was odd. Still it would be improper for them to proceed unannounced so he kicked his lackey in the head. “Lord Sir Sygmand Bloodhawk son of Sir Johan Bloodhawk of Wartooth pays his respect to the master of this household. His mighty eminence would know who’s guest he has the honor of being?” bellowed the page. No sound, save the wind, came in reply. Slowly the cabin door opened. There stood a finely dressed man in his young twenties. His hair and mustache were black and neatly trimmed. He was perfectly normal till you looked at his eyes. Where they should be he had only holes, and through them light streamed as from a lantern. This unearthly gaze fixed on Sygmand who stood frozen beneath the onslaught of those blazing holes. His soldiers stared at each other in horror; their hair was white and their faces wrinkled. Bones aching they try to run only to find a wall of trees surrounding them. They call to their master for orders and aid but he remains perfectly still. The strange man in the cabin is gone like he had never been. The last thing his men see as they are torn apart is Sygmand riding back toward camp on a horse as white and cold as snow. Rahg was the first to notice Hurdy was gone and told Olga. They gathered up ten of the least ill men and left Zad in charge of the camp. They followed his wondering tracks in the slime down the muck-coated streets. They meandered from building to building following the tracks until they came to what looked like a temple. The courtyard around it was filled with a thick swamp of slime. Oddly enough it looked like the slime had come pouring out the temple doors. Muffled cries and crashed could be heard through the door. They pushed with all their might but only opened the doors a tiny crack. Through this crack slime streamed, coating them from head to toe. They slipped and sputtered but through force of will they held the door till the slime drained. To their horror they saw thousands of bones, crushed and shattered, floating in the sludge. A bone shattering crash could be hear from inside. Rahg lit a torch and ventured in. Hurdy was swaying slightly when they found him. He was covered in slime and fresh blood, all of it his. Ribcages, skulls, and other large clumps of bones clustered near the door like driftwood. A steady river of slime flowed from the altar behind Hurdy. With great care and delicacy Hurdy POUNDED the altar to powder. Then he smiled and howled, “Besdam dayf tehol trp!” While his companions checked the parameter, and Olga tended Hurdy’s wounds, Rahg had a look at the altar. This whole place reeked of dark magic, or maybe that was his paranoia talking. Then he heard a sound that could only be described as not quite a splash. It was more of a wet sucking noise. He heard it again. Pieces of the altar and surrounding dais were crumbling away. The floor just gave way one tiny bit at a time and all he saw thought the holes was utter blackness. “Run for your lives!” Rahg screamed as he darted for the door. The entire building began to tremble, sending ceiling stones tumbling down. A falling chandelier made a scout one with the slime. Rolling, running, and in Hurdy’s case walking, they emerge just as the falling ceiling collapses the floor. “Keep running you fools!” Rahg raged bolting past them. Then they see it too, the creeping collapse of the floor continues. It spreads with increasing fury, taking slime and stone down into the dark abyss. No one looks back as they flee the city, no one sees as Victory sink beneath the swamp once again. The companions collapse on the first bit of stable ground they find. All are battered, bruised and utterly exhausted, with the exemption of Hurdy who just seemed confused. The city was gone and after catching their breath they trudged back to camp. That night the rains return, cold and wet, drilling into their rest like an army on the march. Zad sat awake as always, listening to the sounds of the swamp. He was beginning to like it here. All around him death was at its’ peak. Every tiny bug and fish devouring and being devoured. Every scrap of dead tissue reused and renewed. It was beautiful. He spent time gathering herbs and roots. He refreshed many of his spell components and found a few interesting specimens. Tomorrow they would head for the keep and with luck, finally have a suitable base camp. Only two days had passed but already they lost five scouts. Worse Zad claimed he saw things at night lurking in the bogs. Late that day they found one of the scout’s bodies, it was not the first they recovered. They were always mutilated just like in tales of the Bleakwood. This one had been pounded against a stump and was utterly unrecognizable. From then on they stayed in large groups and carried as much fire as they could. At night they posted heavy watches, Rahg was stuck with first watch, Zad the second and Olga got the third. Hurdy was technically given fourth watch but simply could not be counted on. On their third night out from of Victory all hell broke loss on Zad’s watch. Zad was perched, eyes closed, on his wagon. Despite Olga’s warnings he felt quite safe indeed, after all they had over forty men still not to mention Hurdy. His watch was nearly over and soon Olga could deal with this boredom. The only offensive spell he memorized was Disable Foot, as ten soldiers patrolled the edges of the blazing firelight. Additionally the heat from the bonfire was a pestilence upon his darkvision. Superior sight thus diminished he contented himself with study not alertness. Thus the attack came swift and sudden, were it not for the dedication of the guards they would all be caught in their sleep. Zad simply stammered for breath as dozens of large slimy hulks rushed the outer guards. The guards held their ground but three took savage blows from the beasts clubs. One fell with his leg horribly shattered; the other two managed to deflect some of the tremendous damage. The guards cried out for aid as they franticly made a fighting withdrawal. The well-trained men landed many telling blows but the raging monstrosities seemed to shrug them off. Zad franticly called out to Olga and Hurdy but neither was in sight. One of the apish attackers batters a guard’s arm off. The limb flies out of the ring of firelight as its’ owner collapses into a shrieking heap. Only two of the guards managed any kind of retaliation, but again it was shrugged off. As Zad screams for help a heavy hand slams him in the balls. “Just making sure you had some.” Said Rahg wryly before leaping to a nearby tree branch and swinging to the ground just beyond the light. As more guards awoke and came to reinforce those already in combat a horrible bellow split the air. “Trs Fihten aNon Cldma!” Hurdy howled as he came running. Zad watched in horror as the apebeasts brutalized four of the remaining outer guard. The last of the guards retaliated with all their remaining strength, and thought their blows were furious not one beast fell. As even more horrors lope out of the shadows Hurdy and the reinforcements slam into the beasts. Hangnail pulverized the jaw of the nearest ape while Hurdy brings KaThumpa round in a low arc, turning the spine of a leaping beast into dust. All but one of the guards failed to ever scratch the ferocious creatures. He caught the ape’s club hard on the shield, too close for a swing he brought the pommel down hard on its’ temple. The dazed beast stumbled and fell, dropping its crude mace. Three more guard were born down by shrieking flesh rending apes, while a fat green furred one came from behind and brought its’ club down hard on Hurdy’s right shoulder. It clung to his back repeatedly slamming the club down. He tried to strike back but he lacked the leverage for a telling blow. Suddenly the beast went ridged then limp before falling of. He spun around to see Rahg, blades crimson, slip back into the shadows. Olga came charging into the fray, though to look at her you would not know it was she. She wore white plate mail with the shining white two-headed-falcon of Janid on her chest blazing in the firelight. She leapt into a breach in the lines and struck out with righteous fury, splitting the ribs of her foe wide open. Such was the sight even Zad felt a tad of renewed courage. He began casting the only spell he had. Before the beasts could regroup the rallied men struck hard and fast. They ganged up, focusing their attacks on one then the next. Two brutes fell from multiple wounds while Olga lopped the head of the nearest simian beast. Hurdy struck with bone-crushing authority, Hangnail turned the left side of an unfortunate ape into mulch then KaThumpa tore the knees out from under another. Zad’s spell goes off numbing the leg of a passing monster. The beast flails about desperately trying to move it’s now feeble leg. The renewed assault of the monsters was devastating. They stampede over the front ranks, pure muscle plowing through all resistance. Three guards are ground into the mire while seven more are savagely bashed about. Olga’s shield took many determined blows but she never gave an inch of ground. Hurdy however was being ganged up on; four of the beasts were pounding away at him from all sides. They struck like wolves’ one side attacking, then pulling back out of reach while the other side moved in. “Hurdy close your eyes! Close your eyes Hurdy!” commanded a voice from the bushes and so he obeyed. Three small white stones flew out of the darkness, two struck the apes around Hurdy, and one struck Hurdy. They exploded with a thunderclap and flash of brilliant light. The four apes around Hurdy fled in blind panic, tripping and clawing each other as they went. Hurdy lashed out blindly splattering what he hoped were foes. Finally a voice said, “you can open your damn eyes now Hurdy!” so he did. The guards were fairing terribly; they could barely hold back the beasts let alone retaliate. Olga was fighting her way to the wounded Hurdy, shield-rushing foes from her path. Eight guards fall to blows or internal bleeding as the apes’ grind the human mulch beneath their paws. Three of the beasts beat the bushes apparently clever enough to know what was hiding amongst them. Olga reached Hurdy and to Zad’s astonishment, placed her hands upon him and healed some of his wounds. Soft white light surrounded her hands like faeriefire, running down her outstretched fingers to mend and knit the flesh of her injured bodyguard. As more apes swarm in on the pair Hurdy thundered, “Tankchu Oga!” before plunging into the fray. He brings Hangnail and KaThumpa together, scissoring two very unlucky apes between them. The force of the blows collapses their lungs not to mention driving their ribs out their backs. The remaining soldiers were doing their best just not to die. But six more would fall to the awful grind of the shaggy apes. The remaining beasts circled Olga and Hurdy cautiously, launching probing attacking to draw Hurdy out. Zad saw what they were doing and cried out a warning but it came to late. One of the beasts maneuvered around behind them and as Hurdy kept the others at bay it struck. It swung its’ club two handed, bringing it down on top of Olga’s right shoulder. Pain then numbness shot through her arm, her sword clattered to the spongy morass below. Only by some incredible inner will did she remain standing. Hurdy bellows with rage as he comes to Olga’s defense. Hangnail sends the guts of the ape cascading across the battlefield, while he tried to shield her with KaThumpa as best he can. The soldiers are too disorganized to help and so the remaining apes leap at Hurdy’s exposed flank. Or they would have. Back when Zad saw the flanking maneuver he knew something had to be done. He had no spells of use at the moment so drastic measures needed to be taken. He opened his spellbook to the eighteenth page and began to cast. A whirling mass of shadows springs forth, anchoring perfectly to two dead trees and a stump just between Hurdy and the apes. Five of the things run into the adhesive webstuff, thrashing wildly but hopefully in vane. To his horror the savage monstrosities are only slowed by the sticky tangle and rapidly begin to tare free. As three more soldiers die gasping, lungs and throats crushed, Rahg franticly circled the searching apes. Hurdy had helped Olga onto a nearby wagon, where she was safe at least for a moment. He turned, eyes blazing with fury, Hangnail and KaThumpa at the ready. The apes tore free and rushed him howling for blood. Of it looked that way, if was impossible to hear them over the bestial roar unleashed by Hurdy as he dove to the attack. Hangnail sent one sprawling, vomiting blood, while KaThumpa battered a second’s face into its’ ribcage. The best the troops managed was a few minor scratches as three more lost their lives to the savage apes. Hurdy spun his clubs with such fury none of his foes could close enough to land a telling blow. Rahg leapt onto the back of the nearest ape, daggers sinking into its’ leathery hide as he climbed to the ape’s shoulders. With a swift left to right slash he ripped out the beast’s throat, then kicked off the toppling beast to somersault into the bushes. Hurdy advanced, twin clubs arcing wide. He brought them across in unison, driving the three apes back. The beast had no concept of military retreat so Hurdy slammed Hangnail into one straggler, and then KaThumpa into another. The remaining ape ran shrieking away on all fours. The seven apes still in melee with the troops faired better. The guards we witless by this point and only managed to down one of the brutes. The savages repelled their attacks and drove them back against the wagons. With nowhere to maneuver the horrid apes popped them like grapes. As the last five guards fought for their lives, Hurdy and Rahg charged and crept respectively into battle. The last of the guards wheezed his last breath as Hurdy hit the apes like an avalanche. Arms crossed Hurdy swung his clubs out like a great bird taking flight. Hangnail slammed into the right side of an ape’s chest, forcing splintering ribs into the lungs, causing it to cartwheel through the air to land gasping like a fish out of water. KaThumpa caught an ape on its’ left between the neck and shoulder, shattering its’ collarbone and rupturing the beast’s jugular. Hurdy kept attacking, forcing the apes off balance and onto the defensive. They landed a few grazing blows but nothing of note to the enraged half-ogre. Hangnail shatters a defending club thrust overhead, pounding wood and bone deep into the ape’s skull. Hurdy steps back just out of reach of a raging ape, bringing KaThumpa down on the beast’s brow. Suddenly one ape finds itself alone, its last friend falling to the ground howling and groping at its’ ankle. The last beast swings with all its’ might but Hurdy easily parries. He smiles as Hangnail and KaThumpa turn its’ head into a pancake. As Hurdy pounded away, Rahg dealt with the wounded apes. The entire battle had taken only a minute and a half, but they had lot all their remaining soldiers. From Zad’s count they had killed or driven off thirty-two of the brutes. ..r inspection the beasts seemed to be a cross between pig and ape, horrifying to say the least. They buried the dead as best they could and nursed their wounds. Olga mourned the massive needless slaughter and considered what they should do next. Surely the Goddess would not guide her all this way to allow it to end like this. They could regroup, rehire mercenaries, but where would the money come from? May the Queen forgive her for thinking like this, but they needed to fine something of value and fast. They had to reach the keep, it was abandoned when the land was cursed, and something of value must be left. Rahg reported with disgust that they had no valuables while Hurdy was busy repairing his armor and clubs. Olga had instructed Zad to select better spells for defense, he acted haughty but she could see the shame in his eyes. After resting for seven days, ever fearful of attack, Olga had recovered. While she convalesced Rahg organized the scouts, while Hurdy and Zad took charge of the watch. Olga overheard Rahg joking about the whole thing, calling their band, “The Doom Brigade.” “I can see the recruiting campaign now, “sign on with us and get torn to pieces in some unnamed bog!”” No one but Hurdy found his jokes funny. Hurdy had renewed his trained with frightening vigor. He demolished a great circle of vegetation around their camp, if it grew Hurdy put a stop to it. As Olga and Zad planned the constant pounding of Hurdy raged like great waves against the shore. “Does that imbecile ever cease his needless ravaging?” Zad growled, the noise was giving him a horrible headache. ” Trust me,” replied Olga coolly, “It’s best for us all that he stay occupied.” Rahg spent his time with the scouts, trapping and surveying the surrounding area. Most of the scouts were ill at ease with the devious lethality of Rahg’s designs, but given the situation none complained. Many wondering predators fell to his genius, but none of the ape beast ever turned up in a trap. Rahg hoped this meant they were giving them a wide birth, otherwise it meant they could avoid his snares. Rahg was worried that the pigapes, as he called them, were anything but stupid brutes. He hoped they would get the Abyss out of this place. The body of Sygmand smiled, it felt so good to be respected again. Well to feel anything at all for that matter. This Sygmand was the first man of worthy enough baring and heritage to be an exceptable host. He felt the old temple was beneath his station however and that Blanco keep would be a more suitable command post. Sygmand’s men were loyal, but he suspected this was out of fear of the man more then anything else. The SwampApes made excellent fodder and had already reported intruders in his realm, not that this mattered. He had planned for over one-hundred-and-fifty years and his birthright would be reclaimed, even if he had slay every single living one of his beloved subjects.

Four From Eljor

Four rode forth from Eljor in the gray days of spring.

The Doom Brigade chapter 1.0
A Story from the Southlands

Chapter I part one

Strange seemingly random gouges in the walls lead sightless eyes through this dark realm…. The lightless walls exude a creeping dankness. The musk of ages weighted heavy here oppressive and hateful. Razor maws sat poised in the twisting gloom, hungrily awaiting the slightest sound. Generations of lurking horrors birthed and weaned on endless night. If there were but a spark, it would be a nova in this place. But there is no spark and so no human eyes could witness the small hunched figure hurrying at his work.

The door was well concealed; the section of wall housing it was like all the others even if eyes could see. The lock was an old Bainsmith’s, a build-in mechanical nightmare seldom encountered and almost sure to be trapped. Rahg had seen this before, well felt it in this case. He had the luck of running into one a few jobs back, though it didn’t feel very lucky then. The trigger was well constructed and showed little sign of yielding to his skills, the best Rahg could hope for was bypassing it. This would be simple enough but years of paranoia had served him well so why stop now? He produced a special pick, thin and strong, with a thick rubber and leather wrapped handle. As he begins to probe a tiny explosion of crackling, hissing light streams up the pick, melting the handle. Rahg worked franticly as his pick bubbled, the magic-trap’s light flooding his eyes making his work all the harder. Click. The door swings inward and darkness swallows him once more. His smoldering pick tinkles to the floor. "Orc toes,” thinks Rahg chiding himself but his fingers were blistering and he had no choice. Carefully, stealthily, Rahg enters the door.

Hurdy was very angry and not in the normal crush-someone’s-ribs angry. It was a deep dissatisfaction with his work, and giving that he was punching someone in the head right now this was very odd. It was not that his boss thought he was dumb, he actually enjoyed that. It was not the currently low pay; Hurdy was never in it for money. It was the damn niceness. He was lucky his “benefactor” let him go this one alone. Right now instead of pummeling, he would be forced to listen to lecture after lecture. Then only if that failed (thank the Eyes it usually did) could he have some fun. This routine had made their journey through the wilderness a very fun one indeed. His boss could not communicate with most of the bandits they encountered, Hurdy could but he never bothered to mention this. Usually a bunch of ugly jerks would leap out yelling for them to throw down their gold. Since no one (but Hurdy) knew what the other side was saying, this always led to violence. But here in the human lands Hurdy was rightly pissed off. He had spent the last few days looking tough while listening to utterly boring talks about such and such. Needless to say he was giving his victims the full fury of his boredom. Lost in thought Hurdy barely notices the head came clean off the man he is pummeling. How long had he been beating that one? Looking around Hurdy realizes none of them are moving, or even twitching for that matter.
“Oofs” says Hurdy.

Zalavad was confused, something he would never admit to anyone much less himself. It had all made sense, the parts he remembered at any rate. It had all started with being sick to death of his brother Vez and his damn acceptance into the Vilsalral order of cavaliers. Just how this gave Zalavad the idea of leaving the Great Forest to run across the continent and join an adventuring group is still foggy at best. He met the shabby band in Ardinia, while traveling to the capital. For a time the thrill of adventure was everything to Zalavad, his advice was well respected, and his magical support adored. The band’s name, The Order of The Burning Tree or OBT, had always bothered him so when given the chance he quit. Why this was suddenly enough to make him seek employment elsewhere was likewise unclear. When the group was taking some time off in Beld and eventually stumbled onto Anzo’s Place he knew the time was right. Having spent some time at dice during his academy days Zalavad fit right in. When Mr. Sarduchi offered him a job he just agreed without really thinking; now he wishes he hadn’t. He spends most of his time instructing his minions in their cleaning and repair duties. The only reason he stays is that Anzo keeps him well supplied with fresh bodies, and the prospect of becoming one is very real. Gazing out from his fake treetop, nothing more than a scavenged crow’s nest from an old ship, over the undulating Pontoon City he plans. The Chains will see some heavy use today so specimens will be abundant. Spray dews his pale platinum hair and the symphony of metal begins. From this vantage and with his elven eyes he watches the dance of the already gore stained combatants whirls within the chain maw of the pit. Swinging, leaping, diving they heave and bound, like frantic monkeys fighting over fruit. The current game is the Cup and possessing it, while simultaneously moving and dodging. Zalavad found this impressive for humans. Even with mortal eyes, he could tell the veterans from the green meat. They knew never to trust a segment and tended to wear very heavy leather gloves incase they grab a handful of fishhooks. The vets are in it for fun and prestige; the meat typically does not have a choice. Zalavad, or Zad as Anzo calls him, found it all very natural, surprisingly so for humans. Once Anzo’s boys were done making the meat squeal, Zad got to try his hand. Zad considers his work far more sophisticated, after all by the time he gets a turn the meat can no longer feel pain. Hurdy was still angry but he usually was. After what seemed like forever his lecture was over and he was told to go think about what he did. He down right refused and so was hard at work training. Hurdy was dedicated for a mad man (actually mad halfman). During downtime, he did nothing but train his body and with his clubs. Hurdy loved his clubs, the first he called Hangnail and was made of steel, the second was KaThumpa and was carved from stone. Though he had been forced to train with other weapons during his service, Hangnail and KaThumpa had always been like extra arms or as someone more articulate might say an extension of his body. Van Nostrum had chosen a very out of the way inn to house Hurdy. Although Hurdy did not know it, the truth was Van Nostrum rented every room in the three-story building and paid the innkeeper to keep others out. This was really out of necessity because, dedicated as he is, Hurdy has the attention span of a housefly. When not distracted he starts training, he does this reflexively like breathing. When distracted he starts gambling, drinking, and hurting people. Since the first two always led to the latter he is better off without distractions. His room was ample, the largest the inn had. Even so, Hurdy kicked down two of the walls to join it with the adjacent rooms. Hurdy then proceeded to savage the slop boy after leaping out his third story window onto the lad. Hurdy claimed he was a spy and through vigorous interrogation forced him to admit it. He later decided the staff was robbing him and proceeded to (very un)stealthily follow the scullery maid, two bar wenches, the cook, the new cook, a random beggar and the merchant who sells the inn keeper his wine. Hurdy spent six hours lurking in the stable recently to “Cach tha littlfukkr bludyhannad“, presumably referring to one of the grooms. In the end, all he managed to do was injure the horses and scare the innkeeper so bad he had to be rushed to the temple for care. All of this has helped keep Hurdy from getting into real trouble but each day he gets a little more restless. One secret, and two concealed, doors later Rahg finds himself in more fair surroundings. Gone were the rough stone tunnels of endless night, with their silent savage inhabitance. First utter darkness gave way to gloomy semi-light, rough stone and oxidized iron turning to hardwood and redbrick. The utter silence of the depths, broken only by distant droplets of condensation cascading to the cold stone, finally driven away by soft steps and muffled voices. Now the true danger was all about him. Below the catacombs of the old lords of Vilnada were filled with dread to be sure. But it was an old dread, long lingering and weary with the weight of ages. Light steps and fast thinking had served him well, allowing him to move about like the more intangible denizens of that underworld. He had many tricks to foil detection by sound or smell, and he never let anything get close enough to touch let alone taste him. But his blistered fingers reminded Rahg that it was the lingering magic of the old lords he should fear most. Now here in the light more mundane dangers lurked. The De Silva compound would be well patrolled and protected. The deterrents will be of lesser ingenuity but far better maintained. “Best tread lightly on this one, no need to rush.” He thought. But vigilant guards and faithful hounds are the De Silva deterrents of choice. “I’ve just the sleeves for that.” He thought as he checked the tiny vials of Catstink and Blindingpowder concealed in each sleeve. A quick snap of the wrist would drop three of the vials into his hand, or failing that, onto the floor.

Rahg spent the next few hours lurking, he watched and he waited. Slowly he made his way from room to room, shadowing the louder groups of servants that permeated the compound. The place was run like a military encampment with guards at key access points. He silently cursed his own need for speed. Spending several hours watching the guard routine and then slipping out with the evening meal would be best. “But tonight has to be THE night, Maggot always said “big risks for big rewards”. "Rahg did his best to eavesdrop but most of what he heard was gossip. Finally he found his target, or so he hoped. It was a single brassbound door, which always had at least three guards, which no servant went anywhere near let alone through. In fact, not one person had used the door while Rahg observed. The last major tip off was the lack of keys. Not one of the guards had a visible key that could possibly fit the door. So either they could not be trusted with keys or whatever was behind that door was accessed too infrequently for them to have the keys at the ready. Rahg smiled, if he was right the next dog team would be through in two minutes, after that he had about five minutes to run the gauntlet. Liberal amounts of caltrops placed at access points should slow any reinforcements. The plan after that was simple, throw a Flashstone followed by Blindingpowder while tumbling to avoid any possible retaliation. After that Rahg would take out the lanterns then move in. He considered poisoning them with darts but the onset would take time, something he did not have. He could hear the patrol coming. “ShowTime.”

“Today may yet be entertaining,” thought Zad as he watched the newcomers dock. Travelers were common at Anzo’s; they were its life’s bloods in fact. Down one fork of the mighty river lay Vilnada, down the other lay the Beldish Heartlands and the Capital New Veliamo. These were not the usually wayfarers, four of the vessels flew family crests. They entered by Sarduchi’s private dock, the Ricardo, Paduchi, Valentino and Martinelli families plus two strangers on the fifth boat. He knew if Sarduchi was letting the Paduchi attend then it must be big. The two families have very bad blood. Once the Paduchi were part of the Sarduchi, back when they had power. It was said the Sarduchi had worked as a secret police force for the kings of old, with them fell the family. Times change but blood stays bad. The two strangers were the most intriguing; one utterly nondescript robed from head to toe in brown. Zad knew anyone who took that much time looking nondescript was anything but, he wondered who or what had just come calling. The other stranger was eight feet tall and broader then any man could be, with a face that had all the effect of a punch in the nose. This monstrous being was clad in dark heavy chain mail, possibly dwarven steel. A large pair of clubs hung from his back and though his helm had a face guard, he seemed to enjoy the reaction of others. Zad turns away; strolling through the false jungle of ropes knotting the air above most of the Flotsam City. Much of the rigging housed cranes, pulleys and other useful devices, the rest of the clutter sprung up thanks to the nature of the inhabitance. All were use to spending days in a ship’s rigging and so made their homes accordingly. About a third was trapped to make a private passage for Anzo’s use. Zad followed the small walkway, carefully concealed among the tangle, from his residence to Anzo’s private houseboat. He enters a secret door to emerge at his master’s side. Zad absentmindedly exterminates and then animates a number of pests who foolishly stray too near.

Hurdy was unsure if he should be angry or not. His moods were in full swing now and there was no telling second to second how he would feel. First, they had spent days-wasting time on some dumb boat. He stomped rats, kicked crewmen overboard when no one was looking and peed in the grog. He got bored benching the anchor and was seriously thinking of killing the captain just because. This routine of agonizing boredom when on for an eternity. This all changed on what turned out to be the second day of the trip. Some bandit morons attacked and he got to crush heads. They boarded expecting easy pickings what they found was Hurdy and bloody death splattered on Hangnail or KaThumpa. The best part was, while he and the captain were fighting them off together he managed to batter the mast down crushing the sickly goat with the bandits. He trod their heads through the deck while the old cod gasped for breath like the fish he resembled. He said he was sorry but laughed for days inside, thinking about the fishman drowning on the deck. After that the boat’s progress was greatly impeded (no mast after all) until a crewmember named Alphonzo helped first mate Creeg take charge. This turned into more boredom as he was forbidden from helping, in spite of his massive knowledge of large wooden things. He had to content himself with kicking down cabin doors and questioning whoever happened to be behind them. This was great fun until he kicked down the door to his boss’s sleeping quarters, after that he sulked on deck throwing bits of heavy chain at birds or, when he thought no one was looking, the crew. When they landed Hurdy really liked the look of the place; crazy forts on rafts littered the watershed. Where the great waterway split a city on stilts and floats blossomed, many beings rushed about and the best part was many of them were not ever people! Half-breeds and humanoids were everywhere as well as the little halfmen from the east. He was ready to hit the taverns when the sweet sound of bloody combat filled Hurdy with great hope and joy, but this sound came from the opposite direction their host lead them. At last, they entered the hold of an immense ship to find a lavish parlor. Fine silks, firs, and no small amount of bejeweled skulls (some human) hang from the walls. Skin after skin covers the floor, while mini swaying hammocks hold plants and magically luminous crystals. Rich pillows litter the floor in a semi circle centered on a raised hooka. “Yep” thinks Hurdy, “ This is really gonna piss me off!”, as his boss motions him to stand guard.

Rahg considered the three guards who stood diligently before his target. All wore standard full suites of chain mail; polished to a shine only true anal retentives could achieve. They had chain coifs but no face protection. They all carried a long sword and buckler with a light crossbow on a shoulder strap. They all wore the silver and red wyvern of the De Silva Family on their chest. They were dedicated and never engaged in those lovable guard pastimes like sleeping, gambling or going to relieve themselves. Time was of the essence so Rahg made his move.
Rahg leaps into a tucking roll as he throws a Flashstone, catching the guards by surprise. They reel from the pulse of pure white light, weapons at the ready. In surprise the rightmost guard manages to fling a desperate hand over his eyes just as Rahg roll up and, with a flick of the wrist discharges three vials of Blindingpowder directly into his face. As the guards claw at their eyes and cry a warning the lights go out. Confused and staggering they don’t ever know what hits them, they do know where it hits them and that is by far the worst part.
Rahg’s blade cut deep into the right guard’s groin, twisting the blade as it withdraws, causing him to drop and writhe in shrieking pain. Rahg gentle cradles his head and slits his throat. The dying-guard’s companions’ yells for aid overpowering the slight rustling sound, followed by a tortured gurgling as he slipped away. Two blades whiz harmlessly in the dark, well harmless to Rahg at least.
The middle guards finds himself crumpling to the floor as his left knee is brutally pierced from behind. The final guard has just enough wits left to swing desperately only to recoil as his thrusts are met only with farther cries of pain from his fellow guard. He swings wildly, trying to work the spots from his eyes. His horror mounts as he makes the correlation between his fellow guard’s sudden silence and the increasing slickness of the bricks beneath him.
A heavy yet supple weight slams into his right knee, sending him crashing to the floor. He feels knees dig into his back as an unseen hand yanks his head up. The last sound he hears is the dagger ripping his throat open.
Rahg works fast, searching for keys before deciding to pick the lock. The lock itself is utterly superior, however he is in rare form, tripping the lock and oh so carefully avoiding the needle, but not the alarm. It took far too long to locate his prize with in the treasure room. Many tantalizing chests of Beldish-Crowns were positioned to mislead and divert his attention. He found his prize hidden under a brick in the corner and it was everything he had hoped for. The fact that he stole some of the gold too was just a matter of habit.

Pack literally bursting Rahg ducks and weaves his way toward the docks. His life’s warmth runs down his leg courtesy of several De Silva crossbow bolt. He had been forced to jump the wall of the noble district and cut through many middle class neighborhoods to throw off pursuit. Not that it had work; they had good dogs and ever better Hitmen. When he reached the docks, he franticly stashed he pack in the nearest cargo hold. Like the rat he resembles Rahg slips in behind it.

Zad did his best to loom sinisterly but even with his lifeless attendants he found himself outclassed. The horrid hulk lurking behind Anzo’s robed guest managed to somehow loom over the entire meeting. Zad was very short by human standards, just five feet tall and very slender. He pale platinum hair and purple eyes clearly announced his gray elven heritage. His robe is a deep black with silver runes visible only in shadow. He carries little save his many pouches. He stood to his master’s right on the raised side of the conference room where he observed the meetings participants. His master Anzo Sarduchi puffs the hooka with long slow pulls. The pungent fumes he exhales are rich with the spices of Ichia but they can not hide the undeniable musky sent of Graycreeper. His cloths are festive in green and orange, making him look like a large confused flower. His neat black hair and deadly gray eyes say otherwise. Anzo led a deadly yet restrained family, making his the perfect place for these meetings. Across from him at the head of the guests was Roberto Martinelli. A large bombastic man Martinelli dressed in fine firs and drank strong ale. His brown beard was always as stained as his cloths. He was a merchant first and foremost but his merchandise of choice was munitions. It was suspected that his family even sells to the beasts of Rapidash. Julian Valentino set to his right, shimmering like a peacock. He was the youngest lord and it showed. He was rashly assured of his superiority to the other lords. He based this on some sense of civility and breeding. This was utterly absurd as he was little more then a gem peddling minstrel. Philipo Ricardo sat to his right stuffing his face with pealed quail eyes. The sound of them popping was not nearly as vile as Ricardo’s chortles of delight. To Martinelli’s left sat Vincent Paduchi a crafty and quite man who dressed like a clerk. Zad knew Anzo would love to slit him up and down but at this meeting Paduchi spoke for both his family and the Da Vinci. His family was made up of professional sycophants who made their living being useful to those in power. To his far left was the robed stranger who never said a word through most of the meeting. The talks centered around everyday matters like trade disputes, possible embargoes on foreign goods and then finally as Anzo wrapped up. “Before we depart there is one final thing” Said Anzo. “Lady Van Nostrum if you please?” the hooded figure stands and walks to the center of the room, slowly pulling back it’s hood. The countenance beneath is one of soft porcelain with a small round face like that of a doll. Her dark hair is tied back and her eyes are blue, clear and steady. When she moves there is the soft rustle of metal. When she speaks her voice is beautiful yet hard. “ I am Dame Olga Van Nostrum of Janid. I have come to barter for your noninterference. I wish to map the Tatch swamp and while doing so search for ancient temple sites holy to both our peoples.” Martinelli interrupted by clearing his throat. “ This sounds like a matter of state, why approach us rather then the prince?” “ It was my understanding,” she replied, “ that we could speak frankly. Rather then of things we all know to be untrue.” “I…” Anzo tactfully cut off Martinelli’s response. “What you seek is a small thing, or so it would seem.” “What do you really seek Dame Van Nostrum?” Her reply startled even Zad.

The hold was nearly empty, nothing but food, water, and munitions. Rahg spent most of his time nursing his wounds and planning. The crew was terribly lax and almost never bothered him. Even so he hid himself and his stash as best he could. Rahg had succeeded both beyond and below his wildest fantasies. If he could get to New Athens or Janid he could make a fortune, otherwise…
The second day out they get raided. They were nothing but clowns with no finesse who would be better off with a hoe in their hands. Ever so the ship sustained a lot of damage and even lost its mast. This was a river going vessel so it was not a big loss but how it happened was beyond him. After the fighting was over Rahg managed to mingle in with the crew calling himself Alphonzo. He did his best to be as useful as possible all the while listening for clues of their destination. After playing second hand to some one-eyed river-rat named Creeg for a few days Rahg learns their destination. The fact that Rahg does not die on the spot proves how little fear he has. The fact that he shows none of it proves what a natural born liar he is.

Hurdy was bored and so was training, the fact that people were near by never crossed his mind. This of course led to his ejection from the private meeting between his mistress and Sarduchi. It was just as well from his point of view, after all, they were only talking so who cares? He spent what seemed like days lurking on the big boat’s deck. Finally they depart but then end up waiting at the boat for some midget in a sack named Zack or something. The little guy was part of the deal apparently and Hurdy really didn’t care, he had more important things to do. He was very suspicious of that new first mate Alphonzo, assuming he must he a mage in disguise with a name that long. Something about the way he just showed up one day, he must have used some spell. After they set sail Hurdy found he had a lot of free time and this meant training. His mistress and the midget spent a lot of time talking and so following Alphonzo became his main pastime. He watched him work, he watched him eat, he watched him sleep and he watched him crap. This too was boring, as Alphonzo never did anything worth spying on. Then Hurdy realized what was going on. Alphonzo knew he was watching him and was pretending to be innocent! The little sneak was going to get it big time but his boss had already forbidden him to hurt the crew so what was left? Hurdy was smarter then Alphonzo and he knew Alphonzo knew, but did Alphonzo know he knew Alphonzo knew? This became a little too much for Hurdy and hurt his head, so he went to lay down in the hold…

Sygmand detested the reeking morass for its’ odor almost as much as for the delays it was causing. The swarming insect plagues, litter concealed bogs, the cursed rain and the wretched inhabitance all slowed his progress. But by blood and honor he had earned this right and he relished the prestige in would bring. Maybe enough to catch the eye of Lady Blaze, that more then any other reward lurked shrouded in his very soul. He could show the upstart outlanders what a true man of Wartooth could do. He soldiers were a problem however, and he considered them the foul spawn of ignorance and ignobility. Oh they bent to his will readily enough but they lacked character. Most were actually mercenaries from the dregs of his homeland but he drilled them and equipped them well. He had hoped they would suffice; after all he was on a quest not an invasion. His men were there to cut trees and ford marshes; he (and his personal retinue) would deal with any threats they hopefully encountered. They were on land now and that improved things considerably. No more listening to some self-important peasant, he put that damn captain on a pike as soon as they hit shore. Moreover, he considered all that silly ship to ship trash beneath him, if you could not charge it toe to toe it was not worth fighting. His horse Bainston had disagreed with the shipboard climate and this angered him even more. But here in his command pavilion he felt right at home, if only he had remembered to bring some decent brandy. After several hours of planning he made up his mind, he would hang someone to boost moral.

Zad was in shock; he had spent the last few days on a dank boat advising this knight of Janid about a swamp he had never been to. His knowledge of the swamp was all but nonexistent, he knew about swamps but not this one. The one thing he knew was why Sarduchi had sent him, but he did not like it. Zad wondered why Sarduchi trusted him this much? Or was it trust at all? No Sarduchi had him shackled even if he wore no binds. His spirit sagged as he silently cried out for an answer. After all his master understood the ways of the blade and venom, not the arcane.

Ok for once Rahg was really confused. First he found out the ship was bound for Vilnada again. As such Rahg had no choice but to try to get off at Vilford. To make matters worse someone, or something, was lurking in the hold. It made a noise that was a cross between a bull and a cat, long and low. He considered gathering the crew to investigate but the sound seemed to be coming from the direction of his stash. Paranoia overcoming Rahg’s normal discretion he crept in to see for himself. What he found was a sleeping behemoth clad in metal, just how it could sleep in all that was beyond him. He surveyed the scene and noted with relief that his hiding place was undisturbed. The sleeping monster turned out to be the brutish bodyguard of the lady in charge. He decided best to watch and wait. After several hours it woke up and scanned its’ surroundings intently. Rahg thought for sure it saw him but then it just got up and wondered off, so he followed.

Olga Van Nostrum sat in her cabin and thought. Her cabin was small and reserved, surprisingly so for the leader of the expedition but Olga preferred nay relished it thus. Her dark hair was a tenebrous free hanging darkness that hung in perfect contrast with her serene continence, a mask that hardly betrayed the emotion of her thoughts. Months of planning and preparation hinged on the next few days. One major hurtle was passed, the families of Beld would not overtly interfere. Olga was far too much the realist to believe no seemingly friendly blade sought her doom. Surely several of the crewmembers were planted spies or assassins. The necromancer Zalavad was assuredly one such informant, whether he was more remained to be seen. The elf was well read to be sure but he overestimated himself. Much of his “briefing” consisted of information her own research refuted. His magical aid might be useful yet and besides she always had Hurdy to watch her back. Hurdy, merely thinking of him made her both very annoyed and happy. He was after all just a, very very very, large stupid dog. His massive six-inch canine’s and three-inch incisors added to this image, as well as slurring his already thickly accented speech horribly. Olga truly believed Hurdy meant well most of the time, and seemed genuinely dedicated. She had noticed a disturbing tendency however. The longer they journeyed together the more often Hurdy attacked people claiming
“ Theya wsgunna jumchu!” At first, this seemed like violent behavior crudely masked but after awhile she began to understand. Hurdy had little to no grip on reality and made up plots and plans against himself. After traveling together for so long, he must be extending his paranoia to include attacks on her. This crazed tendency had saved her life more then once but it had also ended many innocent lives needlessly. She would need to do something about this soon but what she did not know. It seemed she had so much to worry about these days. Even high-ranking members of her order denounced her quest. They were afraid, of the truth, of change but mainly of Wartooth. Long ago Beld was one great nation that encompassed all of Janid, Beld, four of the Nunk ul urgli Islands and the lush pastures that are now the Tatch swamp. However, terrible wars ravaged the land in those long ago days and a foul Bloodcurse fell upon the kingdom. The Lonely Tower burst from the earth, spewing forth a tide of deathly fetid corruption. Its’ flood of poison washed over the land twisting all it touched. The most fertile lands in the kingdom were lost and untold masses starved. The king fell to a hideous wasting disease that left him a quivering blob. Many nobles backed the young crown prince but the right to rule was with the Queen. The ensuing War of Succession that followed was short and bloody as neither side could afford a prolonged conflict. In the end, the prince retained most of what remained with only the northern fiefs staying loyal to the queen. Yet, through all of this there was Wartooth, who had remained neutral during the war. Baron Otto Von Wartooth commanded the armies of Beld during the days of the king, and would serve no other. When the question of succession came to his ears, he proclaimed that “Those most vile mouths that whisper and bellow these words of heresy overlook that most clear of answers. No head save that of the rightful King of Beld may wear our most noble crown. These covetous usurpers seek to mislead as they blather of right to rule when the king yet lives!” In spite of his apparent madness over the years many of the knights who stood by the prince defected to Wartooth, realizing their error in trusting the nobles. Wartooth became a powerful yet tiny realm, and so it would remain until the baron’s son came to power. After the war the religion of Beld was forever shattered. Those in Janid, named for the first queen, worship each matriarch as the divine incarnate. In Beld the religion is all but gone, as only peasants believe in such things there. Olga saw her quest as the last hope for her peoples, as a chance for unity and for salvation.

Zad sat in the crow’s nest slowly returning from his twilight trance. Due to his personal preference, and his master’s active nightlife, Zad rested during daylight hours. His distaste for the diurnal life allowed his sight to be sole witness of the following, as the lookout on guard was not nearly so alert. First, the great oaf who served the knight came staggering out of the hold. Then from seemingly nowhere appeared crewman Alphonzo, who despite his silent appearance now made quite a lot of noise just walking. He wondered around performing random tasks until the oaf took notice, ran over, yelled something unintelligible, and stomped off. After that, Alphonzo surreptitiously slipped into the hold. Zad produced his traveling spellbook and started to memorize spells.

Rahg was bent over in silent laughter by the time he reached his bunk.
“Iknw uknow Iknw uknew Iknw!” The beast had loudly hissed before lumbering off. He tried his best to rest but it was just too funny. Rahg finally drifted off to sleep, content that not only was it too dumb to know anything but that no one would believe it anyway.
The next morning Rahg woke and began lazily handed out orders. The crew were generally lazy to a surpassingly thorough degree yet most knew they way around the ship like they had been born in the bilge, something Rahg considered entirely possible. They knew what needed to be done; they just waited for him to scream obscenities at them to do it. After yelling his head off for a few hours Rahg was told Creeg wanted to see him in the captain’s cabin, so after checking his stash, he went to report for duty. As Rahg was about to open the door he got the feeling he should just grab his loot, jump in the water and swim for it. At this point two very different outcomes are possible. One where Rahg runs and ends up gutted by Noaro assassins on route to New Athens. Something unspeakable eats Zad alive. Sygmand kills a lot of people, and you really don’t want to know what Hurdy does. Luckily for everyone, Rahg goes into the cabin instead.
Van Nostrum, Creeg, Zalavad, and the brute are waiting for Rahg. Before anyone can speak Hurdy thunders,
“Gothu nwbuggr!” “Please do as I requested and remain silent.” Commands Van Nostrum. Rahg tries his best to look innocent, “ now look I don’t know what you guys think is going on but this guy has been following me everywhere. He disrupts my work and honestly just kinda scares me. I didn’t sign on for nothing like this.” “You are correct,” intones the robed mage, “ as you did not in fact sign on this crew at all.” Rahg nearly ran for it right there but replied. “ I’m not on the roster because me and the old captain use to run a few illicit items covertly. We were just making some money on the side.” “Really?” Zad asked, “ and what was our departed captain’s first name?” Rahg had nothing. “We want to know who you work for?” “Looook” Rahg began, flashing his best smile. “I’m not what you think, I just needed a ride and your ship was convenient that’s all. I was trying to get to Greenford but ended up stuck here.” Zad looked to Olga for a decision. “We travel to Vilford and from there the swamp. I believe you are indeed looking for a ride, but I doubt it is by choice.” Spoke Olga in a stern steady voice. “Once in the swamps we will spend many months mapping and exploring. Surly somewhere in the far reaches of the Tach you might find a route to your destination?” “Why would you offer me that?” Rahg asked full of shocked suspicion. “I do not give it freely. You must swear by your Honor and your Gods to aid our quest.” Rahg weighted her words and the possibilities they opened. “I gotta know your quest if I am to aid it.” He said. “We seek the high temple of Beld in the ancient capital of our land. It is recorded in the oldest tomes of Janid that therein is a record of the royal line through the ages, back to the founding of the kingdom itself.” Her reply fascinated Rahg, plus he knew all about the wonderful correlation between temples and gems. “ I swear by my Honor and Draper I shall aid your quest.”
At sunrise, they arrived at Vilford where they unloaded the ship and reloaded it onto four wagons. The fifth wagon contained what looked like parts for rafts or canoes. The sixth was by far the best looking to Rahg; it was the cook wagon. After restashing his loot, he decided to look around. Olga was organizing and trying to placate the whiny mage, who wanted his own wagon. While they sorted that out, he inspected the troops. Apparently Olga send word and gold ahead to organize men and supplies. They looked like your standard monkey-boys-for-hire and about fifty milled around. Most had scale mail and medium shields but a few scout types wore leather and carried bucklers. They had various armaments but most were weapons that doubled as tools. Machetes for hacking through the thick vegetation, Awl pikes to help navigate the waterways etc. Rahg spent the next few hours winning their money in games of chance. He only stopped once the hulking Hurdy decided to play, which made the game unprofitable. By this time things finally got moving and they set out.
In the end they had nine wagons, the original six plus one for Zad, one extra cargo wagon, and Hurdy’s wagon. Hurdy bought his own wagon and four yaks to pull it. Most of it was filled with food for him and the yaks but his main interest was having it be taller then Zad’s. Zad had build a little shaded perch on top of his wagon, Hurdy build a fortification. His had mini parapets and a huge heavy crossbow with ammo. The workmanship of the defenses was laughable but the mass of the crossbow was not. Hurdy build his fort about a foot higher then Zad’s, something Hurdy found very funny for reasons beyond the rest of the company.
Their next stop was New Ragio and from there began the journey to Mournguard keep. The keep was build as a last attempt by the prince to reassert power. After his horrendous budgeting failure, the keep became a joke. Undermanned and incomplete this massive testament to myopia heralded the end of the throne in Beld. After that the four great families, Da Vinci, De Silva, Noara, and Daroko declared their own kin to the king of old. The prince became a puppet and the land divided. They only thing keeping the land together was the constant threat of invasion by Janid, Rabidash or Wartooth. Rahg had heard talk lately, fearful talk of war. The swamp may indeed be the best place to hide out.
Sygmand enjoyed the natives immensely; they obeyed his every word, or the words they understood at least. After showing the simple creatures how utterly superior to them he was they were loyal as dogs. He marshaled most of them and drove them on to the old keep his men scouted on route to the altar. Finding the altar was a stroke of luck that clearly indicated Fate favored him. After fortifying the position and furnishing an acceptable dwelling for himself, it would be time to begin his search.
Hurdy thought of his days back in the Freestates, fighting with twin sister Murga. Oh the games they played, like Orc tossing for accuracy, goblin stampede or piss on the sleeping Hill Giant. Getting blitzed on stolen Thunderrum and laughing Old Bones’ sermons away. Good times they were, that is until the day she hacked his left leg off at the knee. After that everything just turned gray, nothing mattered and there was no hope for change. He would have ended his misery for sure were it not for the pity of another. Goon Vargle was his name; he was a half-breed like Hurdy, part human and part ogre. Goon was warchief of the Gnomestompa clan. He saw much promise in Hurdy and decided to motivate him ogre style, i.e. beat and taunt him horribly. Hurdy tried to hide at first, blending into dung heaps and refuse piles. Running would not work and he could not fight the massive Goon. Finally after weeks of such treatment Hurdy snapped. He set an ambush for Goon, leaping down from a ledge onto his foe. He attacked with all his might, never letting up even as he was clearly outclassed. After beating Hurdy senseless he dragged him to Old Bones’ cave. Vargle fitted him with a pegleg, by day forcing him to train his body and by night his mind. He learned many things, tactics, history, religion, combat procedures and how to use his new leg. Hurdy learned to speak Melkin, Waste cant, Beldish, and Lowargian. The most important and amazing thing he learned was respect; Goon had become his mentor and idol. Yet it was clear his teacher held the ancient mystic Old-Bones in the same awe Hurdy did Goon. Why was still a mystery to Hurdy as the old albino minotaur was hardly inspirational. If he was not ranting to a shrub, he was lurking in some cave screaming at rocks. He was utterly mad but still Goon regarded his words and deeds with humble awe. When Hurdy dared question this, he never received acknowledgment much less a reply. One day Goon handed him a set of fine Heavy chainmail and told him to head south. Goon had done the same thing when he was young and had the best time of his life in some human war.
Hurdy looked down at his missing leg as he thought this. Now his leg was Melkin made constructed from a strange blend of metal and leather. Olga had it made for him after he saved her life in the Bloodlands. At the time, he was just a conscript in the Janid army, having let his guard down while visiting. He laughed aloud at that thought; never go for every Gutbuster in town in one night. After besting all of his instructors, he was sent to some school for brats. They were tough brats he had to give them that. Training with such and such the third made him excel; he had to show them up after all. Kicking and stomping his way to the top of his light infantry division, he put all his frustration into being the best. He got lucky and fought in three minor wars, though he did not know which ones. First came random bandit killing, patrolling for hours just to slay a few humans. He hardly called that a war but most everyone else did. One day they surrounded and slaughtered about fifty bandits, after that someone declared the war a victory. Hurdy always had trouble working that one out, after all there were tens of thousands of bandits in the Bloodlands so who cared about fifty sleeping ones? The Kobolds that came next were just boring, hit and run owlbear dung whittling away at the weak. Necessity helped Hurdy improved his camouflage technique but he still moved about as quiet as a drunken Bewildabeast. The last war was against an orcish tribe that actually fought well. They came in hacking and didn’t let up till Hurdy had his fill. Thanks to the human in charge, they ended up pinned down and bottled in. After that, his human captain lost her nerve completely so Hurdy gutted her before routing the enemy. No one who lived saw him do it so he was honorably discharged and spent the next few months drinking until Olga gave him a job.
While he thought he was lifting thousand pound logs and throwing them on a pile or failing that in its’ general direction. He was not doing this as part of fording process but rather in spite of it. Most of his efforts to help cost lives and so he was told to stack logs on the other side of camp. Mournguard sagging arches lay behind them and the Bleakwood forest, gateway to the Tach swamp, was before them. He heard what sounded like chain mail rattling above him. Hurdy looked up just in time to see a twelve foot copper colored lizard flicking a tongue almost as long as him. It clung to the trunk of a massive dead tree about ten feet off the ground. This meant it was only about three feet from Hurdy’s head however. They froze that way for a second or two just starring. When the thing suddenly shot its tongue at Hurdy, he was almost expecting it.
The great metallic lizard’s tongue narrowly misses his head, snatching up a nearby stick before retreating into the beast’s maw. Hurdy readies his clubs just as the monstrosity leaps at him. It clamps its jaws down hard on this left shoulder, bruising him badly through his mail. Hurdy tucks to the left and turns at his hips to flop the beast off him. Hangnail stampedes into the creature, turning its rear left leg into a pulped mess. It wails savagely before flinging itself wildly at him. Hurdy brings KaThumpa around in a vertical arc, pile-driving its head into the damp shrub brush. The dazed beast only has the time to hiss pitifully before Hangnail mulches its skull. The entire battle lasted eighteen seconds.
After splitting the beasts belly open only to find a handful of gold, he decided to search for its lair. Some time later Hurdy found it in the tangled roots of a half-submerged tree and after much searching was really pissed off! No magic stuff at all, just random coins and rotting cloths. Hurdy managed to find a hundred and ninety two Royalcrowns from various mints. He guessed this would have to do and, having forgotten what he was doing when the beast first attacked him, wondered back to camp.

Talking with Crazle part 2
He just keeps talking

Tweeet Tweeeeeet Tweeet, I’m a beet! I go bloooooooooooom. cabbage! sweet sweet puddy. head tilts to the left and the madness clears from his eyes Ah now to continue our prior intercourse. My home stretches form the Wasteland mountains in the north, to the Blazing Ocean in the south. It is bordered on the north east by Euphibia and the south east by Ichia. to the far north is Melkin, to the west Virox, and the south west dread Wartooth. Our relations with Halflings of Euphibia are cordial. The Ichians are to proper for our taste and we trade with them only through Euphinbian intermediaries. The Melkin are fascinating, ingenuitive and peaceful. Our peoples have a sort of mutual respect for our respective expertise. Virox is full of the clinically mentally divergent, and they call us crazy? Those “people” wallow in death and blood, hardly fun or whimsical. Finally there is Wartooth, land of murder and bigotry. The are the bane of the south-lands and a blight that grows with each passing year. the foul hearted travel from all over Tarvakar to follow their regime of genocide. The primary import and export of my home is adventurers. Our magi are the most skilled in the land, rivaled only by the lords of Hildigran. Wild mages our most common in our land bu to each their own is our motto and so common just means “somewhat more often”. My home land was founded by pirates some two-thousand years ago. the Captain is revered in many homes, as are the Great Gamble or just luck itself. we are as diverse as some say we are “mad”, as people from every corner of Tarvakar come to us, seeking freedom. grabs head aaaaa weeeeee cheese loves you cheese loves me. eat elm, it is better for you then oak. ooo or spruce, spruce is horrible for the bowls.

Talking with Crazle
Info from the mage's mouth

WEEEEEEEEEEEEEE Banana chicken surprise! taste just like boot! Hock your wares, angle’s sin, glory to this bit of string. Peach’s hurse, salsa mild, pot of sinning rectalphiles. babble babble rant rant. suddenly the crazy looks is gone from his eyes However I must occasionally speak in a perfectly lucid manner. After all if I acted crazy ALL the time it would be a pattern, and therefor not very chaotic at all. I hail from Lunaden in Tarvakar. My grand-father (on my dad’s side) Lemming Bedwetter, earned our name by wetting his bed for 30 days and nights. the ensuing flood destroyed his dorm at HC and he was forced to move off campus. His wife Gurtrude twicklegink, died after calling a red dragon a “fat pile of scales and stink”. She is regarded as the wisest of our clan. My mother’s parents, Stanblat Farnul and Loon Cooperbeater, both died in the 3rd War of the Tooth. My father was a mage’s familiar and my mother was a catapult test shot. All of my siblings have gone into the field of hitting things with wads of metal. I must take after old Lemming. I’m something of a scholar and so get along well with Prior Dups. If you do not wish to get spittle on you, I suggest you speak to me during one of my “sane” moments. grabs head Donkeys love rice! I’m a beetle! MOOOOOO! weeeeee.

Fire Elves
Old and noble line of elves

note. Elves in Tarvakar are NOT a declining race like it so many other worlds. it fact most of the surface elves were destroyed some time ago. so while they lack numbers elves are actually a growing population which is why they tend to be overprotective of their citizens. so young fire elves are the most common elf on the planet. however Very old elves of any race are almost unheard of, as most died in the wars of old.

Fire elves fill the role of gray elves in Tarvakar. They did not always dwell in the far north-east and are said to be from somewhere far across the sea. They carved a land for themselves and fortified it with magic to create a forest where only ice had been. They guard their home savagely and will not allow even their allies to enter without direct invitation.

Skills for free. Fire-building 100%, Running 50%, Endurance 50%, camouflage 25%, Set snares 50%.

State changes: +1 int, +1 dex, -1 wis, -1 con. Normal gray elf talents. Alignment normally: LG, many younger elves are CG however. Skin: light yellow to deep gold. Eyes: red to white with golden flecks. Hair: red to white golden.

Fire Elves are direct and headstrong acting as their passion dictates. They are ultimately loyal to their nation as a whole however. They have only been in the human lands for a few generations how, many of the aged remember their homeland. It is spoken of as a paradise. Why they left or how they came to be in these lands is taboo. To speak of it is to invite dread and doom. Many of the younger elves tire of their elders gloomy outlook and have a more adventurous flare.

They are the most common elf but are still rare in human lands.

Elves of Tarvakar


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