The Lost Seas

Return to Bloodyfoot
Under the Rim of Dawn 5

As remembered by Birel Windchaser.

After the morning’s battle we took a midday rest, but came across another band of undead in the afternoon. Like the others, their ragged clothes seemed to be remnants of Urikite uniforms, and several of them were heard to ask, “Why did you kill us?”. We managed to defeat them, but afterwards we were weary, parched, and running low on provisions, so we returned to Bloodyfoot.

Back in town we made inquiries trying to figure out who the undead we encountered were and how long they had been there, and what we found pointed to the Battle of the Black Wash.

Ten years ago the rivalry between Urik and Nibenay was particularly heated, and the Black Wash was home to several thriving obsidian mines controlled by Urik. Nibenay sent a force to seize control of these mines, and was successful for a time. Eventually, however, Urik mustered a counterattack to drive the Nibenese away, resulting in the famous battle, now celebrated in song throughout Bloodyfoot:

The Nibenese, the Nibenese, as lava filled the crack
Their green and purple uniforms were burnt to crispy black

This would seem to explain where an army of undead might have come from – except that uniforms we saw weren’t green and purple, they were yellow. And the commander of this famous charge, General Akkad, has since become a recluse, almost forgotten about were it not for the regular deliveries of copious amounts of broy that are still brought to his estate. Finally, if the victory was so complete, then why did it leave the Black Wash in such a state that few have dared to even set foot in it since?

Clearly, there’s more to this story than is widely told. If only we could talk to someone who had been there…

Exploring the Black Wash
Under the Rim of Dawn 4

Recorded by scholars studying the life of K’tek.

The group set their first step into the Black Wash. An endless expanse of hardened black lava stretched seemingly all the way to some place that I’m supposed to know about in this universe that’s far away from here, like Tagaria or Fubungia or some other shit fucking fantasy name . The suns rays beat upon their brows as every step seemingly became heavier and more painful. K’tek was not as bothered by the heat because he was a fucking bad-ass lava dude and all these other guys were all weak and meaty, except for that crystal guy what’s his face, but even he was being a wuss and was heating up. Fucking guy made of crystal and he can’t take the heat?! WTF? well anyway K’tek is a boss and everyone should have been happy he was there to lay down some AOE badassery on a bunch of suckers if need be.

Why were all of the Urikite scouts that were sent to the Black Wash showing up on the backs of milk cartons? The group was about to find out. There were tons of precious obsidian to be had and money maketh the man walketh onto the lavaeth, it is said. After many hours of perilous treading through the otherworldly, almost supernatural terrain, our hero K’tek and the dorks he was with came upon the most wretched sight! A troupe of Urikite corpses dried to a crisp after months being battered by the gigantic crimson sun’s onslaught. But how were they killed, and why? Clearly it must have been the Smoking Crown. No matter, they looted their jerked husks and continued on there way.

Again, after what seemed like an eternity of traveling through the perilous molten expanse, our heros come upon another batch o’ corpses. However, these corpses were different. They were Smoking Crown Initiates! While everyone was being a moron and trying to find Newports in their pockets, K’tek ruminated in deep thought and with great care and intelligence as to why Smoking Crown Initiates would have been killed on their own turf? Why would they have come out here? That’s when K’tek, being as fashionable as he was brilliant and powerful, noticed a sick pair of volcano gauntlets on the corpse of Adwa, his boy that he used to be in a gang with. He put them on and he was like “FUCKING RAD” but no one noticed or cared. Everyone else muttered around their corpses looking under rocks and carving their names into ash and generally being stupid, but it was time to go. No 40s were to be tipped on this day.

And there was some more Urikite bodies and it was fucking hot and we got some more cool stuff. Listen, the point is that there was a bunch of dead guys and we were all like “OH SHIT WHO DID THIS LOL”, that’s the basic gist…

While the rest of the troupe puttered around, ran into shit, screamed nonsense to each other and were just generally moronic, K’tek though to himself, “Our enemy be not Urikite, nor Smoking Crown. Nay, may they be even of the living world?”. Clearly, K’tek was on the ball while everyone else breathed through their mouths and picked their noses.

It’s only when they came upon a massacre, 12 bodies, all of Urikite rank that shit started to get dark. The midday sun mocked them. It had been a long day and rest was needed. Just as the group settled in their makeshift tents a cataclysmic rumble rolled through the mirrored, sun-scorched ground. Smoke and hot ash shot through the earth as charred, bony hands clamored through the fissured ground. It was only when the dust settled and the shaking subsided that the group was surrounded by an army of undead, roasted, pissed-off Urikite soldiers. K’tek was right!

The undead soldiers shambled towards the group with a fervor in their eyes that could not be matched by even the most devout Initiate. “Why did you kill us?” the soldiers asked in howling, gurgling tones, which was a stupid question. You morons signed up to fight Initiates on the side of an active volcano, you really shouldn’t be surprised. Clearly the undead were not very smart, and also had enormous senses of entitlement. But who cared, it was AOE o’clock and K’tek was on time as usual. That’s when K’tek blasted the shit out of these punk asses and beat everyone at the same time while the rest of the group, Bost, Dealsey, Joe, and that other guy stood in helpless amazement as K’tek put the block on lock. This of course, was his house, and he reminded everyone of this fact in a fiery wave of domination.

As the last whiny entitled undead beef jerky stick fell to the ground, Bost was eager to have a campfire and hang out, which was a stupid idea and everyone thought so, so the group gave Bost a wedgie and split.

Onward to Bloodyfoot, the mystery had been solved, for now.

Arrival at Bloodyfoot
Under the Rim of Dawn 3

…and the loss of another kank.

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Zuri.

It was an ambush! After a period of uneventful travel, the trail toward Bloodyfoot had proved to be as dangerous as Sazerak Saltcrosser had warned. Keenly sensing the impending assault, Dazeel bravely leapt behind the protective cover of the party’s lead kank. The trail began to rumble violently and a column of flame burst forth amidst our heroes, scattering them in burning agony and broiling the poor kank alive. The mysterious assailants emerged from the periphery, lead by a gruesomely burned human wielding a foreboding magmatic hand. Others in the attack party were similarly burned, apparently ritualistically, and the band was presumed to be affiliates of the notorious Smoking Crown Initiates. The surprise did not last long, and our heroes sprang to combat. Zuri, who had awoken that day feeling surprisingly resilient to the fiery attacks of the Initiates, proved useless on the battlefield as it flung chaos bolt after chaos bolt over the heads of the advancing fiends. Others of the party were up to the challenge though, braving the flaming assault with success and navigating the treacherous volcanic emissions of their surroundings with ease. There were some close calls, but one by one the assailants fell and the day was won.

Once in Bloodyfoot, the party was exposed to the dismal state of slavery present in the Urikite mining operations. Bost stilled his anger at the sight of such mistreatment, and pressed on with the plan. Soon the party met with Sazerak Saltcrosser and Uday Kish to discuss the beleaguered obsidian mine they had been commissioned to investigate. Accompanying the House Kish representatives was a stoic genasi slave, apparently a native of the volcanic territories. When pressed to provide reasons as to why Keema Kish had selected our heroes for such dangerous work, the party deceptively claimed that they had been approached by Keema based on their reputation for successfully resolving similar issues in the iron mines of Tyr. The cover story seemed to satisfy those present and Uday informed the party that their genasi slave K’Tek would be available to them on their journey into The Black Wash. K’Tek’s knowledge of the region would be at their disposal, as well as his familiarity with the ways of the Smoking Crown Initiates. Uday and Sazerak were initially taken aback by the party’s intention to better outfit K’Tek for the journey, even planning to arm him should the need arise. This was passed over by those at the table as perhaps a cultural misunderstanding with the free men of Tyr, and the party was quick to assure Uday that House Kish’s ‘property’ would be in safe hands and dealt with appropriately. With that, K’Tek was left in the company of our heroes.

During their private discourse with K’Tek, the party attempted to convey their revulsion for slavery and promised K’Tek that, if he stuck with them, they planned on releasing him from his bondage. Bost, an ex-slave himself, went to great lengths to convince the genasi of the enfranchisement that awaited him in Tyr. K’Tek did not seem too impressed by all this, and expressed that while he certainly held no love for his Urikite masters, his life in their service had so far been preferred to what might have befallen him under the fanaticism of the Smoking Crown Initiates that plagued his village.

The next day, after purchasing supplies for their journey, the newly expanded party set out for the Black Wash. Perhaps touchy after its poor performance in the day prior’s combat, Zuri exploded with rage at the Bloodyfoot outfitter for assuming that they would not require food and water for their slave. The outburst was unneeded however, as the flustered shopkeep had already mistakenly included unrequired provisions for the shardmind in his initial assessment, but still, don’t step.

Zatla Cowboys Kill Burrowing Horrors
Under the Rim of Dawn 2

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Bost.

Birel and Bost knew that something was wrong when they noticed that the vegetation in the area was in disarray. Sure enough, a bunch of anakores soon jumped out of the earth and attacked the group.

This was a long and rough fight. Pretty much everyone in the group was on death’s doorstep at some point during the encounter. Whenever the group managed to damage one of these creatures, it simply dug into the ground for a little while before exploding to the top, and causing mayhem. And when the group finally emerged triumphant, they noticed that their kank had run off with their supply rations!

Without food or drink, the group pressed on towards their destination. On the way, they passed around Urik and Fort Courage. The group took notice of the martial outlook of the brutal Urikite society. The group struggled with dehydration, taking turns sharing the meager portions of food and water they were able to scrounge up. Finally, they made it to Makla.

Makla was a brutal place, even for Athas. All around, the group noticed the cruelty inherent in the obsidian trade. Giant slave pits were carved into the stone earth. Although austere and serenely white, these pits acted as virtual furnaces for those unlucky enough to be confined in them.

Exhausted, the group stayed the night at The Obsidian Crown.

The next day, the group met up with Sazerak Saltcrosser of House Kish. Staying to a cover story, the group attempted to determine the location of Uday Kish, their contact. They were told that Uday was off at a nearby obsidian mine called Bloodyfoot. Once again, the group stocked up on rations and commenced the journey to determine the reason behind the disappearances.

Zatla Cowboys Get Out of Dodge
Under the Rim of Dawn 1

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Bost.

Back at the Golden Inix, Vilsis, Birel, Bost, Zuri, and Dazeel looked proudly at the ring of smoke that was arising from Little Draxa, off in the distance. Vilsis looked especially pleased, and the group had not yet seen the pensive eladrin with such a serene look on his face.

This moment of calm soon passed with news that the Crimson Legion, and Rikus, have returned to Tyr. Marching through the Caravan Gate, the Legion’s numbers seemed to have swelled with recruits from the villages, and a bound line of slaver prisoners (including Gretz and the Daughter Seizers) shuffled alongside the column.

The group hurried after the impromptu parade that sprung up with the Legion’s arrival. The commotion led them to the Crimson Legion headquarters. There, the group found the Legion getting good and drunk along with members of Tyr’s adoring populace.

Looking for Rikus, the group knocked on the door of the bedroom he shared with Neeva. Neeva answered. Looking a little pissed, she informed the group that Rikus had left. Pressed further, she admitted that Rikus, in a distressed state, had jumped out of the window and rode away on his kank. Neeva seemed to be upset and Rikus and clearly seemed to be hiding something from the group.

The Zatla Cowboys then left the Legion’s headquarters in pursuit of Rikus. Unwilling to let the man simply be alone, the Group was insistent that they fill Rikus in on all of the information they’ve collected since they last spoke. The trail of Rikus’ kank surprisingly led to Sadira’s residence. The Group then thought better of intruding on Rikus’ seclusion.

The group returned the next morning, and spoke candidly with Rikus. Although Rikus was aware of most events already, it was nice to catch up with the fellow. At this point, the Zatla Cowboys were beginning to feel a little concerned that their assassination of a diplomatic envoy of the Dragon might be a problematic thing. Hoping to lay low, the group decided to visit Agis of Asticles to see if they can take him up on his earlier offer of an adventure.

Agis put the Zatla Cowboys in touch with Keema Kish, a representative of Urik’s obsidian-mining House Kish (and Dazeel’s “fan” from a few days back). Keema was secretly a Tyrian agent reporting on Urikite happenings, and had been tasked by her house to resolve a series of disappearances near her house’s mines in Makla. In order to maintain reasons for her to travel back and forth to Tyr, she was interested in hiring Tyrians. On top of the House Kish fees, King Tithian had authorized small plots of land as a reward for whoever helped Keema. The group agreed to Agis’ offer.

After outfitting themselves, the group headed off on the long, dangerous journey past Urik and towards Makla. After passing Fort Skonz and Fort Iron, the group encountered a bunch of greedy elves at Silver Spring, who demanded an exorbitant entrance fee into their seedy little town. Unimpressed, the group passed the offer and continued on, only to be attacked by BURROWING HORRORS!

To Kill a Dray
Reprisal Against the Dray 2

As remembered by Birel Windchaser

Sadira led us to a shop in the smith’s district, and manipulated a cilops statue to reveal a hidden door, which ultimately led to the cavernous ruins below Tyr. Along the way we passed the charred remains of real cilops, presumably dispatched by the Veiled Alliance’s previous expedition. We arrived at what appeared to be a solid wall, but Sadira dispelled the illusion for us, revealing a large fragment of a broken pillar blocking a crack in the wall wide enough for us to creep through.

A brief feeling of illness swept all of us when Sadira used her magic, similar (though by far less intense) to what we felt at the Dragon’s pit when it consumed the levy. She explained that she uses the same type of magic as the Dragon, which draws from animals rather than plants and earth. I suppose no harm was done, but I must say it made me feel a bit uneasy. In any case, we were on own for the remainder of the expedition – the Veiled Alliance was unwilling to risk being caught striking against the dray, and Sadira would therefore go no further.

We moved the column but the passage was dark and narrow, so Zuri sent his jankx Zeeto in to scout ahead. Zeeto’s sudden death informed us that we could expect a swift attack on the other side, but could provide no further details. Not having any other options, we crept in single file, Bost in the lead.

Sure enough, a grell was waiting for us. Had I space to swing my trikal or Vilsis to bend his bow it would probably not have been much of a threat, but none of us but Bost could even see the vermin, and it turned out to be quite adept at keeping us from emerging from the choke point. Eventually we slew it and got through, but it was a painfully frustrating fight.

Soon we came to some stairs going up to a door that seemed to be about where the dray’s quarters ought to be. Carefully opening it we could see Zalimxan seated at a desk, facing away from us and writing something. Dazeel stealthily entered the room to take stock of the situation, and managed to lock the one door that led to the rest of the building, and none too soon. Shortly after, whether by chance or because he heard the sound of the key in the lock, Zalimxan called to his companions and looked around.

We struck hard and fast. Being unsure of exactly what we were up against but quite sure that a locked door would not hold two dray back for long, we came at Zalimxan from all sides and with all our strength. Fortunately, this battle did not last long, and our target soon fell.

We wanted to leave quickly but a few of us couldn’t help grabbing a few items that were within easy reach, including the parchment on Zalimxan’s desk. Meanwhile Vilsis managed to start a fire, which might have been an excellent way of covering our tracks had not the dray burst through the door just at that point – I fear they saw his face before we ran back into Under-Tyr.

They did not pursue us however, (or at least not quickly enough to catch us), and we were soon through the broken wall where Sadira still waited. We replaced the pillar fragment and she wove the illusion back into place, so that not even a crack was still visible in the wall.

Relaxing later at the Golden Inix, we were approached by a monk wishing to speak with Vilsis. Apparently some personal matter had arisen that required his skills, and it did not take him long to decide to leave us for this new endeavor. I can’t say I was happy to see him leave, but given that the dray may be looking for him it actually may have made things safer for everyone for him to be gone from Tyr, at least for a time. May the wind cool his path.

A plan comes together
Reprisal Against the Dray 1

…and a wild Zeeto joins the party.

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Zuri.

After their victory over the tribe of ssurrans that had been plaguing Kolkhaz Qarbjanoob, our heroes were met by the arrival of Uj, the halfling leader of Tyr’s growing labor movement. The party then sat down to a celebratory feast of roast jankx prepared by members of the kolkhazy. Zuri and Birel struck up conversation with Uj in an attempt to learn more about his place within Tyr’s complex political landscape. They quickly learned that Uj was no friend of arcanists, included the preservers of the Veiled Alliance. Suddenly, amidst the commotion of the feast, a lone jankx escaped its gruesome fate, scurrying into the safety of Zuri’s robes. Admiring the small animal’s tenacity and thirst for the sweet nectar of freedom, Zuri waved off the angrily approaching cook and proclaimed that, like so many other brave Tyrians, this noble jankx had changed its fate.

Back in Tyr, while discussing what to do next regarding their plan to assassinate Zalimxan, various plans of attack were proposed. Zuri, in consultation with Ziggurat Ultra, arranged for a meeting between itself and Sadira. After traversing Sadira’s elaborate security measures, it presented the heroes’ intention, seeking any assistance that Sadira might be able to provide them. Sadira, no friend to defiler nor dray, was eager to aid in Zalimxan’s assassination, but expressed her need to remain unconnected to the act itself, and for the Veiled Alliance to remain unimplicated. The next morning, Sadira presented the party with a workable plan, as well as a map of Under-Tyr showing a path leading to a passageway located directly under the diplomatic quarters of the three dray. They would depart at nightfall.

Meanwhile, the party had been called by Agis of Asticles for a meeting at his estates just outside of Tyr. There the group embarked on an inward journey of psionic meditation led by Agis. Confusion and frustration soon gave way to understanding and tranquility as the group constructed psionic manifestations of each other within their minds. Afterwards, Agis told the party that he had urgent work available suited to their skills, but that the details would have to wait until their acceptance of the job. The party expressed interest, and told Agis that they would be in touch soon after completing their business in Tyr.

Scouting Dray and Defending the Commune
Confronting King & Council 2 (Trouble at Kolkaz Qarbjanoob)

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Vilsis.

Following their audience with King Tithian, the party was asked to vouch for a newcomer to Tyr hoping to join the Crimson Legion – it was none other than Petal. All members of the party were happy to vouch for her steadfastness in battle and in life (or at least not not vouch for her), which seemed to be enough – especially considered that Rikus had left only the most inexperienced legionnaires in Tyr when he left the city.

With that business concluded, they made sleeping arrangements (with most deciding to take advantage of Dazeel‘s free accommodations at Anzo’s Pleasure Argosy). While Birel wandered off to develop her commodities business, the rest of the party met back up in a secluded booth at Anzo’s to contemplate their next move.

Vilsis brought up the possibility that the facially-impaired dray present during the council meeting may well have been the hooded defiler whose squadron of grell had attacked The Crimson Legion‘s headquarters before the party left for Altaruk (the defiler blasted in the face by Vilsis’ shining example of combat excellence – an example which he has had considerable trouble replicating ever since). Further investigations confirmed that the three dray diplomats are confined to their quarters in the Little Draxa section within Tyr’s templar district. Their names are Kazimzadeh, Oliquluushagi, and Zalimxan – the latter being the disfigured dray. In fact, Zalimxan was conspicuously absent from public view for several weeks following the grell battle.

There was relative consensus among the party regarding Zalimxan’s need to meet an untimely end, but access to Little Draxa would be exceedingly difficult. Zuri was hopeful that a contact at Veiled Alliance would provide an in, but the party would have some waiting to do before the cell’s next scheduled meeting.

However, while making their investigations around Tyr, the party couldn’t help but notice a steady stream of rumors about raiders attacking the collective farm, Kolkhaz Qarbjanoob, an hour or so outside the city. For several days, unknown assailants had been stealing grain from the farms stored. The prior night, however, a local resident had gotten in the way – and paid with his life. An opportunity to help the downtrodden of Athas from ruffians proved irresistable and the party quickly headed to the farm.

Upon their arrival, the people of Qarbjanoob were overjoyed that a group of expert combatants had volunteered to protect them. Though they regretted that they had little wealth to compensate our heroes for their services, they were more than happy to offer what hospitality they had.

An extended tactical discussion ensured regarding how to best ensnare the raiders when they (no doubt) returned to the farm for further pillaging that night. Eventually, it was decided that the best plan was to construct a makeshift tent on the outskirts of the kolkhaz – a decoy offering from the terrified farmers. Inside the tent was a pile of faro – but also a hidden pit trap!

The party waited in concealment for the raiders to arrive. After several hours, a party of Ssurran slunk out of the darkness and approached the tent. The ssurran on point fell into the pit, at which point the party jumped from their hiding places and engaged. However, the ssurran raiders showed little stomach for battle and immediately fled back into the desert. The party tracked them briefly up into the hills, but being unfamiliar with the area and wary of ambush (or just getting lost), they returned to the Qarbjanoob to await first light.

When dawn broke, they follow the ssurran tracks back into the desert, eventually finding their way to a stubby hill covered by dried brambles. Vilsis suggested setting the greenery on fire to smoke out enemies lurking within, but Bost vetoed the idea on warden principles. Instead, they crept around the perimeter and, having still found no signs of ssurran, Bost and Vilsis made their way up to the top of the hill.

To everybody’s surprise, a Blackscale Crusher reared up from the brambles, striking out at Bost and Vilsis. Meanwhile the ssurran dreadtail raiders poured out from a crack in the rocky hill, accompanied by a Desert Mystic, who used appropriately mystical powers to attack the party from afar with blasts of salt from the earth.

Bost faced off with the Crusher one-on-one while the rest of the party disposed of the ssurran. The desert mystic, who had remained at range during the combat, found himself the sole survivor facing a quartet of angry heroes, he was overcome by terror and seemed to suffer a fatal heart attack on the spot.

Revolutionary Council meets the Choom Gang
Confronting King & Council 1

Recorded by scholars studying the life of Bost.

The Zatla Cowboys followed Sekh as he answered the summons of the Revolutionary Council.

Along the way, Sekh filled the group in with his passing familiarity of the relevant Tyrian politicians. Sekh informed us that we could expect the following participants: Davith, of the merchant class; Xalos, of the tradesmen; Styan, the templar; Sadira, of the freed; Strategos Gevello, of the military; Agis of Asticles, of the nobles; and King Tithian. Rikus, although technically a member, apparently had little interest in politics. And besides, as we knew, he was out of Tyr, ranging with the Crimson Legion.

When the group arrived, the Revolutionary Council was busy arguing about iron ore. Davith indicated that Tyrian mines have had trouble reaching Kalak-era levels of production. During this debate, the political bias of certain council members became apparent. Davith blamed new worker-friendly employment laws. Xalos indicated that the iron shortage has led to a corresponding work shortage for his tradesmen. Gevello complained about the lack of iron weapons for the military. Sadira and Agis, however, commended Tithian for instituting the reforms. Tithian indicated that Urik has been threatening military action because of the lack of iron ore coming from Tyr. Although Gevello indicated that he was ready to fight for Tyr, Agis and Sadira expressed concern at Gevello’s feud with Rikus.

At this, Sekh and the Cowboys were called forward. Sekh was asked about the current whereabouts of Rikus, but Sekh claimed to not know the answer. Gevello expressed concerned about Rikus’ apparent lack of accountability to Tyr, but Tithian was quick to defend the mandate of Rikus and the Crimson Legion. When Gevello complained about the allegation that he was responsible for leaking information to the slavers, Tithian suggested that Rikus’ suspicions were not unreasonable.

While the group was listening, they noticed three Dray in the chambers. One of these dray was noticeable disfigured, with pink scar tissue covering half of its face, and with one of its eyes missing. Oddly, it seemed to be ignoring the proceedings and instead was staring at Vilsis.

The group then stepped forward and gave a basic recantation of their experiences with the Crimson Legion and the environs of Altaruk. The group was circumspect about certain details, but they told the council about the map they found, the mysterious levy they observed going to the Dragon’s Altar, and also about the presence of Druze and several Dray in Altaruk the day before this levy left. King Tithian seemed upset and ordered the dray that explain what happened. One of the dray explained that the Dragon’s agreement was that no Tyr citizens would be used to pay the levy, and that slaves were not considered to be Tyrian citizens. Very angry, Tithian ordered the dray to leave the chambers.

The group also told the council how they witnessed the Dragon himself. The Orchid of the Dunes gave a hauntingly morose account of the sensation of having one’s essence being trained by the Dragon. She explained the peculiar feelings of emptiness and uncertainty, of the sense of profound dread that is somehow accompanied by a deep sense of apathy, the act of becoming one with oblivion.

On the way out of the Council chambers, the group was informed by a guard that King Tithian wished to speak to the group later. As the group was waiting in a nearby garden, they spied Agis and Sadira leaving. They gave Agis and Sadira a more detailed account of what happened, and explained that they had information which suggested the Druze himself was responsible for arranging the levy.

When the group met with Tithian himself, they also gave the full story and expressed their earlier reluctance on the fact that they were concerned about the presence of the dray. King Tithian thanked the group, and issued a summons for his cousin to appear before the council the next morning. The group told Tithian that they’ll be staying at the Golden Inix, and left the Golden Tower.

The next morning, rumors spread through the city that Druze of Mericles had been thrown into Tyr’s dungeons by his cousin King Tithian due to an unspecified offence.

Paying the Levy 10

As remembered by Birel Windchaser

From our vantage point in the hills we could see the pit beyond the gate, an enormous bowl of obsidian with steep, smooth walls. The perimeter was lined with debris which appeared to primarily be a mixture of rags and bones, and the whole area was covered with a thin layer of ash.

When the expedition reached the gates, Galad stepped forward, produced an iron key, and unlocked the gates. I was astonished to see the guards move barrels of water to the center of the pit, but the reason was soon evident—the bulk of the slaves eagerly poured into the pit on their own accord, eager for a long draught of water, possibly the last moment of relief they would ever know. Those who lingered behind were driven into the pit by the guards. When this was done Galad locked the gate and those outside it left.

It seemed the Altar Skulkers were the only ones to have been in this situation before, so we asked the leader, “What now?”

Not wanting to be eating by the Dragon, they typically fled into caves at this point, but Bost, Vilsis, and (bewilderingly) Dazeel all felt their work was not yet done. Bost and Vilsis went to lower ropes into the pit so that some of the slaves might escape, while Dazeel went to try to pick the lock of the great iron gate.

Zuri and I, believing that discretion was the better part of valor, fled to caves (though I first gave my rope to Bost) and we chose a cave from which we could see them during their efforts. While watching them lift slaves out of the pit one by one, a feeling of inexplicable foreboding overcame me, and I looked up and saw the Dragon.

It has wings. It flew swiftly towards us and descended towards the center of the pit. By the time it occurred to me to look at my companions Bost was already running towards the cave, and Vilsis helped one last slave to the surface and turned to run as well. The center of the pit was empty by the time the Dragon landed, the slaves having fled to the edges of the pit, futilely trying to climb over each other to escape. Then the Dragon consumed them.

It was not with its maw. The Dragon raised its hand in a motion similar to what I had seen Zuri do countless times, but this was different somehow, behemoth, horrendous, and an aura of defilement clearly spread from the Dragon outwards, to the edge of the pit and beyond, so that I could see Bost and Zuri fall ill even as they raced towards the sanctuary of the cave. My stomach turned, but seeing them still live I raced out to help them back, stretching my will to heal them however I could so that they might survive to remember the day. I fell into a fissure, but no sooner had I regained my balance than I saw Bost’s hand reaching down to help me out, and all three of us made it to safety. The Dragon, having depleted its tribute, lept into the sky and flew away.

I have to admit I was in a daze for while after. I had seen the Dragon and survived. It was not the first time for the Altar Skulkers, however, and they seemed to take it as a given at this point that we would stay with them indefinitely, and were surprised when we expressed our intention to rejoin the rest of the world. Fortunately their surprise did not escalate to animosity, and they let us (after a much-needed night of deep but… memorable… sleep) go on our way, even reluctantly letting us take with us Dirk, a battered soul of their rank who wished to come with us.

At Altaruk, Dirk left us to seek his home village, and we left him with a few remaining provisions and a purse of dragons to help him on his way. We returned to Tyr, and after our ordeal in the mountains crossing the desert seemed almost comfortable. We cautiously had our House Shom chit replaced and went to the Crimson Legion headquarters.

Rikus was still away, but we were able to meet with Sekh, the ranking officer in Tyr at the time. However our meeting was interrupted by Tyrian guards, who seemed have been ordered to arrest Sekh in fact if not in name. He implied that we were his personal guard, and none of us contradicted this assertion as we rose to accompany him to whatever his fate may be.


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