A Burnished Throne

From Tyr to Altaruk
Morrow 1st, Priest's Defiance

with Nikaia weeks
a marked contact delay
tyr with no entry

coin begets travel
high sun and companions new
tiefling veiled may be

dwarf speaks with spirits
fiery warrior of mind
to altaruk go

we guide elves and kanks
steps over desert changing
troubles overcome

unsurprised reveal
a sand raider melee whirl
victorious, yes

- Kalithan

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Arrival in Altaruk
Morrow 7th, Priest's Defiance

Finally I see something else than just desert and rocks. We are finally at the gates of Altaruk.
Lots of Guards with pointy arrows on the wall. Luckily Kaldras our Employer knows how to get past the gates.

We are waiting now on the elven market in front of Kaldras tent to get our payment. Can’t wait to get the money and get wasted in the next tavern :)

Kaldras you son of a Kank! We should have never trusted those elves. Instead of paying us they attack us in the middle of the market. 5 Elves with bows, 3 poision-spitting mini Kanks and Kaldras. They don’t really stand a chance agaist our desert-proven dream team. Lucky for them the guards of Altaruk end this battle before we could end them.

The governor of Altaruk has a funny way of sorting out conflicts. The next morning we find ourselves in the arena of Altaruk to carry giant coins around. The crowd seems to like it when we push Kaldras elves into the brumble weed. And those surprise Jhakars can be really like a limpet.

It turned out to be a close competition but in the end is was 1:0 with us winning. And we did get even more reward out of it. I start to like Altaruk. I’m just wondering what happens to Kaldras. Hopefully I won’t meet him again in the streets, the city guards might not like what happens then. :)

Lodo

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Altaruk and the enticing smell of gold
Morrow 9th, Priest's Defiance

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 -

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A Murder Mystery
Morrow 11th, Priest's Defiance

After my somewhat fruitless foray alone around this irkesome town, finding only sneers and unfamiliar, impenetrable covert activities, I rejoined the group. Doubtless there is something going on here that involves activities of great interest to a magic user, but I was almost convinced that even likely candidates were being deliberately obtuse.

I did, however meet Selonius, when I’d almost given up, and was contemplating the unenviable task of explaining where I’d been and making my excuses to an already suspicious (yet naive, it seems) band of goodie-goodie adventurers. Selonius seemed interested in what our band could do for him in a certain case of murder. I was pleased at this prospect, as it meant more money, of course, and also the contract seemed to afford us quite some power in our task.

Having resolved a sticky situation for the rest of the party, involving a cell and certain serious injury or death, we reunited, and naturally, I was interrogated. Again, the word “irkesome” springs to mind as I consider events like these, and my hapless, ever suspicious party. There was money to be made, so we were led to the crime scene and had a look around.

Most of the crowd that were there when the murder had happened were still there, being corralled by eager guards, who obsequiously nodded and grinned as we approached. An unfortunately named man called Jonah had been deployed to assist us. He was as dull as they come, but I have to admit, rather helpful when needed. I asked him the name of the victim, as I’d managed to forget already, so riveting found I the proceedings. Tellemon was the answer given, and he was affiliated with Vordon, who traded the rare “iron”, which I had rarely ever seen.

Nasani, whose barely concealed suspicion and lack of understanding towards me was becoming noticeable even to the rest of the party, decided to question some bystanders. Good for her, saved me the trouble. It was fruitless though, and we moved onto the body. Lodo, a rough, salty character if there ever was one, seemed to have the required knowledge to examine the corpse, and who were we to argue? He did quite a good job actually, deducing that there was a wound on the left kidney, but that it was not the lethal blow. Some kind of medic in a previous career, no doubt. As we swung around to continue our sleuthing, Lodo put his hand up and requested another look at the body. Barely concealing a sigh of irritation, I nodded him back. We were glad he did go back, because he found some green paste. Poison?

Embarrassingly for me, I could make neither head or tail of this mixture. I’m sure there will come a time when my finely honed skills come into their own on this journey, but at the moment I seem to be a bit of a “fifth wheel” when it comes to matters such as this. As I contemplated this rather unfortunate scenario, a couple came over and told us they’d seen a “massive great bloke in a white robe”. I continued to sit and mull over my unusually small potential contribution as I watched a flurry of activity from the rest of the party. They looked to be searching for something.

To my genuine surprise, a dagger was held up and brought over. Yet again my arcane skills were useless in all but identifying that the symbol on it was indeed “arcane”. As I was shouted at to get up and help, I genuinely thought about leaving these singularly annoying characters to their own devices and going off on my own, permanently. Of course, that was far from the best course of action, so I bit my tongue as we continued, this time splitting into two groups.

I ended up with Kalithan and Nasani, sniffing around the barracks. My level of interest in the proceedings dropped to even lower levels as we trudged over. Of course I would rather be fighting or researching spells, and found the company rather dull. The first thing that hit me about the barracks, was that it smelt. Bad. Thus was our investigation made even more inconvenient as we mooched around, cloths up over our noses, probably looking quite snobbish to the usual residents.

Burke Suntouched. I was sure I’d hear the name before, but regardless, that was the guy we needed to find, supposedly. I’d been sitting on a stone ledge, again ruminating about how many better places there could be for a man of my talents. Just as I thought things had become boring, we were all shushed. I watched as another building was snuck around and investigated, quite thrilling stuff. Soon I was wishing I’d paid more attention, as after a short commotion, thank the lords, it was over, and the suspect was detained.

My mood brightened somewhat, as I realised that most, if not all of the work had been done by the rest of the party, yet I was still to receive gold, gifts and lauding. We even got a membership to the Veiled Alliance! Ah, what leisure.

- Red

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Lost in the Desert

The broken Tower

It was nice celebrating our victory in Altaruk, we got new clothes and lots of drinks. But then the sandstorms hit, fierce and nagging we had sand everywhere, drinks, teeth, shoes… We got to know our barmaid quite well as there was no possibility to go outside…
After the storm seemed to be over this dwarf came into the tavern. Looked like he had spend the night in the sand… Obviously he had heard of us and surprise he needed our help. Well at least he promised some gold if we would find his lost cargo and missing companions.
Getting used to working in the team we set off to look for the tracks of the missing caravan. Not long after leaving the town we saw the wagon tracks move off the road into the sand. Just then we noticed the siltrunners, ugly little beggars who hit me with a poison dart. I couldnt move and had to watch the fight without being able to hit. But not for long and after I was healed by Lodo I pushed them aside and right into Nikaias dagger. I wanted to kill them all but the last one escaped running for its life.

We spotted the wagon but most of the cargo was gone but there was a weird smell around it. Sure enough we got to know the creature of the smell. Stinking Kruthiks, reptile hunters, which attacked me quickly. At least Lodo managed to kill one of their hatchlings. My new flame Bracers came in useful and we could finish them all.

In the distance we saw a tower and had to check it out. We followed the stairs to the underground parts of the tower and splashing through the door caught the beasts by surprise. I went for the biggest of the them but it was tougher than expected. The first kill went to Kalithan. And I was poisoned again but this time the healing made me feel even better than before. I could dodge the attacks even though the ground felt weird and it was very difficult to move at all. Our luck in battle seemed to be failing as lots of arrows flew past their targets. Finally the beasts got me in their middle but well enough, we could even use this to our advantage and left none alive. After the battle we found some of the cargo, a stinking well and stairs leading further down into darkness. A torch revealed some bodies but we had to make sure that it were indeed the lost companions. Our jumps down did not disturb the dead but from the darkness two beasts came towards us: Death Rattle Vipers. Sure enough they were killed and we had some crunchy snake and wine for dinner. All cargo that was left got delivered back to the dwarf and we had earned ourselves some gold.

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