The Fight against Kaldras is won, but it has taken it’s toll. I am quite shaken up, but don’t want the others to know – seriously, at one stage I thought I would die…
Bruised, bloodied and tired we leave the Arena. I am glad I am not the only one longing for a place to lay my head and lick my wounds. Surprisingly Red announces he wants to keep his head down and will leave us for a while on “private business”. As soon as the words have left his mouth – if that’s what you can call it – he has already disappeared leaving a whirl of dust in his wake…
I can’t see that I will ever be able to trust this tiefling – how can a wizard be good? Even though we fought together side by side, after the desecration I have seen be done to my beloved forest, I cannot trust anyone who wields magic – even if he might be a member of the veiled alliance. “Good riddance!” – I think to myself. I won’t miss him or any of his kind.
We walk along the streets of Altaruk, the mouth watering sour-burnt smell of grilled lizard on a skewer creeps up my nose – I can hardly resist, but we can see a sign ahead, four ceramic shards aligned in an arch. “The Four Bits” appears to be an inn, and we decide to stop off there for a night or so, to get cleaned up, have a rest and think about our next move.
As we enter, people look around – it’s a mixed crowd, different races and obviously different occupations – a bit of a nod and a bit of a mumble makes it quite clear that a number of guests already know and approve of our recent victory. News travels fast – even in a small town like Altaruk. I notice there are quite a few guards among the guests.
We share two rooms – guys in one, girls in the other – they are dear, but we don’t care. After the long march through the desert, after all the challenges we have recently faced, we have earned it. The basin of water in the room feels like a pot of gold to me …and, by the looks of it, Nasani feels the same. Having refreshed and tended to our wounds Nasani and I check the restored radiance of our images in the dressing room mirror – not looking bad at all, if I do say so myself; I notice that Nasani seems in a flirtatious mood. The fighting and all the blood must have gone to her head – I smile.
We meet Lodo and Kalithan in the bar downstairs. Doesn’t surprise me that we are not to expect any compliments from these two brutes. Our smiles are replaced by a back-to-business mood. After a short drink and a quick chat we decide to go outside, split up and find out what’s the news on the streets.
Surprisingly, I converse easily with people (if I want to) and in next to no time I have spoken to quite a number of friendly, talkative Altarukians who tell me that there have been a lot of attacks and raids on caravans too in the vicinity of Altaruk. Recently these have increased and so the people in town are getting very uneasy. This I can well imagine – the town lives off trade – a number of trade routes meeting and branching off from here.
When I arrive back at the inn, Nasani reports that no one would speak to her and she thought this quite an unfriendly crowd. Hmmhh, she should try smiling more, looking less serious than she always does and being a little less direct – I feel people are sometimes quite dumbfounded by her approach. She’ll learn. If I – a Halfling – could, she can too.
Kalithan and Lodo return from the Elven market – it appears that Kaldras has fled the city, or so people say. They couldn’t find out much about the origins of the ceramics sold there – dahh, they could have guessed that vendors are only interested in selling and will never reveal their sources – liars and cheats!! Even though I try to sometimes – I don’t like this arid world. It is interesting and adventurous, but also ugly – I miss my forest home.
We put our feet up at the inn and try to get some sort of conversation going between us – apart from talking about business, that is – it’s hard, we are just soooo different. There’s this guy at the bar who keeps staring at us – not in an unfriendly way, mind you, but still, he makes me feel uneasy. He comes over to our table – later on we find out his name is Zatheus – he is human, blond, tall, wears a tunic, a similar fashion as in Tyr. Nasani’s eyes light up – I think she finds him attractive. I play along and smile – seeing as I still have lots to learn about this world. Zatheus pays us great compliments and says, ever since our triumph over Kaldras in the arena we have made quite a name for ourselves – blah blah – and are really quite popular – blah blah. He’s laying it on too thick for my taste! Anyway, turns out he wants to be our agent in a scheduled fight that is going to take place in the arena in two days. He needs some fighters because the old ones have withdrawn, but he can’t tell us much more. 200 Gold pieces will be our prize if we win. He says, we can only get involved through him, because he has good connections. I don’t feel too good about this, and surprisingly, neither does Nasani. Of course Lodo and Kalithan would carelessly leap straight into this – they only see the Gold – bling bling. Typical!!
I mingle with the crowd in the bar and inconspicuously try to find out if this Zatheus guy is kosher. After taking a good look at the object of my interest, one of the customers – who’s luckily not too drunk, not too drunk to still be chatty, that is – tells me with a nod and a smile that “wait a minute, yeah, that there’s Zatheus” and “well, he’s an opportunistic kinda fella…” – taking a big gulp out of his pitcher – “wants to earn his share, if you know what I mean…” – another big sip – “yep, he’s well known in town and a decent guy…”.
The next morning we tell Zatheus that we will fight in the arena on the condition that the captain of the guard, Tellemon, will stand witness to our contract – we want to make sure that we will be paid our due this time …without having to fight for it – ahemmm – twice, as it may be in this case. After short hesitation, Zatheus agrees.
We find Tellemon easy enough – he smiles a little at our request, but agrees. He seems quite happy about our participation in the grand fight, though, and wishes us luck.
Not much else to do, we linger in Altaruk all day, Nasani and I check out Traders’ Row, looking for some possible new weapons. I manage to find out a little more about the recent growing raids near Altaruk – the attackers are former slaves. We call it a day.
Every day a new day – and this day meant serious business. There we were – in the arena again. The doors behind us close with a thump. Short gusts of wind slap fine sand grains in our face. Several column-platforms, 20 feet high, line the arena. Lodo informs us that he has seen something move beneath the sand. We are the last fight of the day – the crowd seems a little tired. I perform a small dance and scream something about delivering a worthy fight – the crowd cheers a little. The fight begins.
Right in the beginning I get hit pretty fast. Caught off guard, I am attacked by two Gith Piercers, they snarl, and despite the underbite of their jaw, they drool – their eerie sounds of joy as they slash into me make me extremely angry – they will pay for this, I swear. Damn ugly sons of canks! While Nasani is hit fiercely and immobilised by an ugly looking Gith Hobbler, who has magically leapt on top of one of the columns, Lodo’s “spirit companion” comes to my rescue. I am able to backstab one of the Giths and kill him. The sand shifts and sets a giant spider free that comes charging at Lodo’s spirit and me. From the corner of my eye I see how Kalithan raises his bow, draws, and as if there was no pressure at all, releases his arrow. It shoots perfectly our way and smoothly moves into the flesh of the second Gith Piercer – it topples over, a clean kill. I wield my dagger at the hairy spider and pierce it through – it bursts, splashes of goo flying through the air. The crowd cheers. At this a second 8-legged ugly ass crawls out of hiding. As Lodo’s spirit tries to tackle this spider, Nasani and I gang up on and kill the Gith Hobbler – who thankfully has been weakened beforehand by Nasani and one of Kalithan’s well aimed arrows. As I move about the arena – quite enjoying the cheers the crowd is now sending my way (cut me some slack, this is new to me!) – I search for more hidden spiders. Meanwhile Lodo’s spirit has driven the second spider into the cover of its web – the stealth only saving it for a moment, for this 8-legged simple minded creature did not reckon with the problem-solving competence of a bear. Lodo’s bear simply torches the cobweb – setting the spider free for all to see. Nasani has by now moved in to the action and in a short calculated move strikes the spider dead.
No more fiends appear – we glance around and are just on the verge of taking a deep breath and thinking that all is over, but what’s that? – a loud scream coming from one of the crowd stands pierces through the air of the arena: “MURDER, GUARDS, HELP!!”…
- Nikaia -