Return of the Revenge of the Midnight Shark Dragons, part II

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Kah and Celestra had been walking for a while in silence, following a forest road which would let them loop back around to the area around Q’art Hadash. They didn’t have much idea of where to start their search, so following the road seemed as good a course as any.

Celestra suddenly had the wind knocked out of her when Kah impacted her chest with his granite-like forearm: he had heard something up ahead, beyond a curve in the road. Rubbing her sternum, Celestra listened as well, and quickly fixed on the sound of bickering coming from fifty yards off.

“How could you just leave him?”

“Leave him? He weighs ten thousand pounds! What was I supposed to do, carry him?”

“Splash some water on his face, maybe use some of those smelling salts you always carry around!”

“Those are for romantic encounters only. Only!

Kah and Celestra exchanged glances: this was an odd group to stumble across.

Still, they didn’t know these people, and the times were such that caution was important. Creeping along the road until they could peer around the bend, Kah and Celestra’s suspicions were quickly confirmed: the strangers were huddled around a wagon which they had clearly stolen, and were going through its contents as they argued. It looked like a human woman, an elf, and a dwarf. A gigantic beaver stood off to one side gnawing on a tree, though whether it was with them or simply wild wasn’t clear.

Gesturing silently, Kah motioned for Celestra to move through the woods and flank them. A few moments later, he did the same. Read More →

Gearing Up

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Kah wasn’t terribly familiar with medicine, but he did know that as long as his friend was breathing, there was hope.

As the fleet sailed north up the Miimadir river from Q’art Hadash, he watched her condition closely. Her burns were extensive and her pulse was weak, but he brought her water and made sure she was comfortable, and he held out hope. The sailors of the ship he had landed on gave him a wide berth, many of them having never seen one of the susarex, the barbarians or “stone-seeders”, in person before. Covered in blood and still coming down from his battle-fanned rage, he was a fearsome sight to even the most experienced sailor.

It was well after midnight when Celestra awoke, coughing in the lantern light as the ships continued to row their way upriver. Kah brought her water and food, and when she was strong enough she summoned her magics to help herself heal. Even that small exertion quickly left her exhausted, though, so she spent the next few hours alternating between sleep and healing.

By the morning, though, she was feeling better. Still uneasy and shaken, but back on her feet.

It was a few hours after dawn when they finally caught sight of their destination: the town of Tevesta, nestled within a curve of the winding Miimadir, was a major hub of travel and trade in the region, and served as the primary access point to and from Q’art Hadash. As such, the entire riverside length of the town was lined with docks, many of which were large enough to support the military vessels which so rarely sailed up from the coastal city. Docking the fleet would mean dominating most of the available wharfs, but it was no matter: word of the invasion was spreading quickly, and already there were very few merchant vessels to be found.

Celestra and Kah, with Celestra’s wolf in tow, disembarked at Tevesta. They got a hot meal at a shop near the docks, then went into the city. Read More →

Wrath of the Midnight Shark Dragons

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The family didn’t have much to offer the adventurers in payment for saving their lives, but they insisted that Fror and Salek at least stay and enjoy some of the food that the family had brought with them for the journey. They found a cave in a nearby hill for shelter, and after setting up a campfire they settled in for the night.

It turned out to be a very worthy offer: the man was an excellent cook, and Fror indulged his love of storytelling by enthralling the little girl with tales of monsters and pirates and giant, man-eating spiders. By nightfall the dwarf had scared the little girl enough that she didn’t feel much like sleeping, so Salek took a turn and told her the story of a beautiful girl in a far-away land who went on an adventure with her parents to find a new home, and in doing so became a princess known to elves the world over as Elana, Daughter of Light.

As he spoke Salek idly plucked leaves and grasses from the ground, and by the time his story was over he had woven them into a verdant medallion of intricate knot-work: a symbol of the princess and a gift for the little girl. He told her it would protect her from harm, and she took it from him with reverence, like it was a priceless jewel.

As the family bedded down, Fror pulled Salek aside for a whispered conference. “We seem to be safe for now,” Fror murmured, “but this family has seen enough fighting. I suggest we stand watch tonight, in case any others try to take advantage of their desperation.”

Salek nodded. “It’s an excellent notion,” the elf replied. “Shall I take the first watch?”

“Nah, you sleep first, lad. We’ve been through a lot, I need to sort out the events of the day. I’ll wake you in a few hours.” With that, Fror sat down in the mouth of the cave facing out into the forest, crossed his legs, and began to meditate.

Several hours later, the cave reverberated with the soft sounds of gentle snoring. Salek and the family were all deep asleep, beyond the cares of fallen empires and invading armies, while Fror continued his meditations at the mouth of the cave.

Unnoticed by anyone, five shapes began to emerge from deep within the cave. Read More →

Heroes in the Woods

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It’s amazing how hard it is to maintain your calm when surrounded by panic and fear.

That was the problem confronting Salek and Fror as they fled from Q’art Hadash, disappearing into the crowd of refugees as they ran out into the plains that surrounded the city. Not quite two miles away stood the edge of a large conifer forest that surrounded the city to the north, and the unspoken agreement of the exiled citizens was to head for the cover of those woodlands.

Even a crowd of several hundred can thin considerably after hours of running, though, and so soon Salek and Fror found themselves trekking between the trees in seeming seclusion. They had a vague notion of where they were, but neither traveler had spent much time in the Sayd Edam, the forest to the north of Q’art Hadash.

As they walked, the adventurers discussed where to go next. Last they had heard their companions were still in the city, working to lower the chain and release the fleet. It stood to reason that they could have made their way up river, although they could easily still be in the city fighting the occupation, as prisoners of the enemy, or even dead.

Assuming that they were able to escape, though, they had likely sailed north with the fleet. The next city up the Miimadir river was Tevesta, a merchant’s town best known for being the biggest hub of goods and materials being moved in and out of Q’art Hadash. As such it had a sizable harbor, and it was likely that the fleet would stop there to reorganize and resupply.

And so Fror and Salek made their way north.

For a while they walked in silence. It wasn’t long, though, before they heard the sounds of angry shouting coming from up ahead.

“Stop,” Fror hissed. “Do you hear that?”

The dwarf glanced around, but all of a sudden he found himself alone in the forest. The slightest rustling of leaves drew his gaze upward, where he found his elven comrade moving silently from branch to branch through the trees, advancing to investigate the noise. Read More →

Releasing the Fleet

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The only bridge between the eastern and western halves of Q’art Hadash stood at the northernmost edge of the city. There, a large canal had been cut through a tall hill, allowing the river to flow straight down through the middle of the city and through the Great Cothon, in addition to the forks on either side.

The result was that, at its northern border, the streets of Q’art Hadash stood several dozen feet above the water flowing past it.  A wide bridge spanned the canal, which was broad enough for the ships of the military harbor to sail north under the bridge and up the river.  The only thing blocking their way was a great iron chain that ran beneath the bridge.

Lowering that chain was the task given to Celestra and Droc, or as he was known to his own people, Sool-Kah-Dell, or simply Kah.

As they ran north through the crowded streets and frenzied neighborhoods, Celestra and Kah forced themselves to slow their pace: in their wake ran two engineers, naval specialists who would lower the chain while the heroes protected them, but the specialists were inexperienced runners. Not wanting to lose sight of their charges before the battle even began, the adventurers slowed to a jog as they discussed their plan of battle.

“I was thinking we should each take one side of the bridge,” Celestra was chattering on. “That way we can each defend one of the engineers and cover as much area as possible. If I remember correctly there are some good bottlenecks we can use between the buildings near the bridge, and as long as we keep the attention focused on us maybe they won’t even realize what is happening until the chain is down and the fleet can get away. What do you think?”

“They’ll work,” Kah said. “I’ll kill anyone who stops their work.” Nothing more to say, the barbarian ran on in silence.

Celestra mulled that over for a few steps.  “Yeah,” she finally allowed, “that’ll do it.” Read More →