The last day of the year, and the whole of Avramstown was in the colosseum. Fanfares blared from the trumpeteers to the sides of the King’s Box, where we sat as guests, to announce the commencement of the main event! The visiting champion, a Minotaur by the name of Beef Supreme, sauntered onto the colosseum field. A section filled with brightly-clad fans erupted into cheers and a chant, ‘BEEF! BEEF! BEEF!’ Almost to challenge their cheers, the beastial roar of Lord Tinor echoed around the pitch as he walked out onto the field. The rest of the colosseum stood for the general of their armed forces, cheering him.
‘Shove off, you panzy!’ I yelled, but Tinor didn’t hear it over the din, luckily.
‘There he is! The one I told you about!’ Gavin yelled to us excitedly.
‘He’s gonna be slaughtered by Tinor.’ I chided him.
‘Want to put coin on that?’ Gavin asked.
‘Done,’ and with that we each put fifty gold pieces into a leather pouch.
‘I want in on this; fifty for me.’ Overkill pitched in, and I covered it.
With one final peal of the trumpet, the match started. Beef roared in bovine fashion, and charged… right into the ground. Tinor sauntered up, possibly mocking his opponent’s entrance, and sliced Beef’s back.
‘POINT, TINOR!’ the announcer roared, trying to compete with the all-around cheers and the section brightly-clad boo’ers. Tinor offered his hand to Beef Supreme, to help him back to his feet.
The trumpet blared again, and the combatants launched into action. A slash from Beef almost won the round, if Tinor hadn’t been just a hair faster.
‘SECOND POINT, TINOR!’ The announcer beat the cheers this time, as it wasn’t as obvious a win.
Back to positions, and Beef’s form was visibly heaving with rage. If Lord Tinor was a gladiator, he would have faced the crowd, flexed, thrust his weapon into the air; but he’s not, he set his feet, and got ready for the next round. With a third trumpet blast, the two slammed into each other, and Tinor’s lightning-fast cleave was visibly faster than the swing from the Minotaur.
‘TINOR WINS!’ The groaning from the garish gallery was barely audible over the explosion of cheers from Avramstown residents; the combatants shook hands and waved to the crowd.
‘I’ll take that!’ I said, grabbing the purse full of Wolfen Empire gold. After the festivities, Overkill went to Karowyn’s Merchant-house to retrieve the proceeds from the first three Books of CrIsis. He brought back sacks upon sacks of gold. I had never seen as much gold…. Well except for when I borrowed over a hundred thousand from the group to pay Greminor. This was at least half again as much. One hundred fifty thousand gold, proceeds from the books! I am handed nineteen thousand, of which I give twelve back to the group, to start paying off my debt to the group.
We headed off to bed.
The Breakfast Club
That next morning we held a group meeting over breakfast in a secluded dining hall in the manor. Karma took her great centaur form and knelt next to Tyvernos, presenting him with the Finger of Osiris. Apis, told her to do it apparently. The warlock, before he accepted, ran over to Cava and presented him with Lightning Arrows. Or rather showed him he could fabricate them. Cava, in his usual wary demeanor, accepted the arrow held out in the miniature hand, and set it to his bow. He let loose, and as soon as it left the bow, it turned into lightning itself. It hit the tree that he was aiming at, and it was blown away. The gnome then accepted the gracious offer of the piece of Osiris.
I was surprised to hear Cava talk to me about the history of my people. It was refreshing after four months in Avramstown, where I was a mere legend at best, to meet someone who knew my people’s history. He told me that he had learned it in a book called the Aurora Tristinium, given him by Biomancers. I asked to see it, and perused the pages for a while, while we continued our discussion.
The Dwarf, with his prejudices, exclaimed ‘See? I told you they’re barbaric, they exiled you when all you were doing was avenging your wife and son! And you practically died anyway. They basically executed you!’ I understood where he was coming from, though. Many dwarves have had bad experiences with the Danzi near Northolme. My people are strict in their upholding of all Danzi life, and their refusal to take a life. It’s as much a symbolic refusal as it is a literal refusal; if they performed a proactive execution, the Danzi in my village would have revolted against them. So they exiled me, but they expected a great warrior like me to bind my wounds with my accelerated healing, and live, and if I did not live it was because I wasn’t strong enough. I did not have any desire to live, though; I had witnessed the death of my wife, seen the remains of my daughter, and was not able to bury them.
My family was ripped from me by night and my clan the morning after.
We then spoke of the bargain between Horus and me. They wondered if I would leave, and I said I was indebted to Horus indefinitely. I serve him in exchange for my people’s protection. I emphasized that it never is spoken of beyond the group.
They asked that we share our True Names, in light of what happened with one of our own recently. I activated Soul Touch, and exchanged hands with Tyvernos (despite the coat of butter from Ferrel’s ‘butter ship’s emergency landing on his face) and Cava. I told them all my True Name and the rest offered theirs.
King Avramson entered the room, and asked if we were ready to go, and that he wanted to extend citizenship to us before we left. Cava gave him a bear hug. I walked up to him and offered a Soul Touch, which he declined. It’s understandable to be wary of strange magic, and most people that see a glowing tattoo on an outstretched hand will not accept it. I accepted his offer, to which he said, ‘I am glad, Tinor spoke highly of you.’
I am now a proud citizen of Havea.
Avramson left the room, and we gathered around Cava to be teleported, (again, I know!) to Sinza.
I later realized I had forgotten something extremely important; I forgot to get the oath I promised Greminor I would get. I will have to talk to CrIsis about that. Not now, of course because we just barely survi…. I am getting ahead of myself, rambling again. I apologize.
A Day of Distraction
We reappeared in a cavern’s entrance; stretching out below us was a massive stone-wrought temple, leading up to the Pyramid above it all. The dwarves working around us cowered in fear, understandably, having a group of seven just appear out of no where, until one of them noticed that it was us, CrIsis. ‘OVERKILL!’ they cried out, and did a dwarven rendition of a dog-pile. Distracted by friends and family, he was carried off to reminisce and catch up.
Ferrel suggested that we go to an inn to rest until the next day, and where he could earn some money. We were rejected at the first two inns, the third one, however, lets us in. Seeing the elf’s success, I got up in a fit of euphoric insanity, and tried my hand at professional ventriloquism. I failed miserably, and the dwarves started to throw rotten fruit. I imitated a ‘dumb dwarf’ which was actually pretty good, if I do say so myself, but it didn’t stop them from pelting me. Unfortunately, they booed us from the inn completely, and Ferrel was rather put-off, understandably.
We visited the orphanage, and the rest of CrIsis saw familiar faces from past visits. Seeing the sad faces in the orphanage, I decided to try my hand at professional ventriloquism again. It was a hit! I sent my voice flying around the room into different objects and people. The best part was to hear the way they squealed at my voice coming from Tyvernos’ behind. Otto was intrigued and went to investigate, only to find that my voice started coming from his mouth. He sat back, and grinned from ear to floppy ear, and the children giggled. I absent-mindedly rubbed my onyx earring.
We went to see the pyramid’s progress, and ran into Laladan, a ramen friend of Gavin, and Malkin. After a wonderful time with them, we retired to our beds. The next morning, we went to the Pyramid to get ready for the grand event. We were greeted by King Bafag, who, upon seeing us said, ‘Greetings CrIsis. I am honored you kept our bargain. Greetings, Overkill, Good to have you home.’ He then asked to hold the Ribs of Osiris. Karma refused, and the glare she gave him could have turned milk sour. With that look at his back, he continued on. Horoth Wavestrider rushed past us whispering a ‘Sorry’ as he passed. I noticed that everyone was in their CrIsis robes except Ferrel, who doesn’t have one either.
As we made our way up to the Pyramid, a bard, Terrasomething Fancipants, stopped us and begged to come along with us. The consensus was a ‘no,’ so he went on his merry way.
Ashes in the Sand
We got to the pyramid proper, and got ready to climb the staircase. Horoth, Bafag, and Christine, (an acquaintance of Overkill, and priestess, apparently) climbed with us. I could almost feel the consternation of the group that the king was with us. We all went through the pool, and stepped through the portal.
The first thing I heard when I stepped through was an earsplitting crack, as if from a colossal whip. Then, in an eerie round, startled shouts and screams sprouted up around me. The acrid aroma of burnt human flesh pierced the air.
‘This is it, then. The gods have killed me because I didn’t bow low enough, didn’t kiss their feet. Well at least death feels fantastic this time, nothing like the last time,’ I thought to myself, believing that I had been killed in the desert.
And then I looked to the rest of the group. I could see everyone not staring down at my charred, ashy pile, but rather to the pile several feet away. I checked the faces around me and surreptitiously patted my robed chest and stomach, just to make sure that I wasn’t the next on the list. I saw a Changeling, Centaur, two Dwarves, Gnome, a Human, an Elf, and a Dragon…. A freaking Horned Dragon??… From the chatter coming from my companions, I found it was the King that was decimated. ‘DODGED THAT BOLT!’ I thought, relieved.
After the initial shock of crisped-king everyone turned their attention to the dragon, which I could only assume was Horoth. He told us to calm down and started to answer questions, and stated that he was truly Kym-Nark-Mar, the Dragon God.
‘It is time that you know that even those in other Pantheons wish you success. You are on the most noble of all quests. It is time the gods of light push back the gods of dark.’ And added to me, sensing my confusion over King Bafag’s death, ‘all things holy take belief.’ Why do all of these dung-ridden ‘Gods’ speak in riddles all of the blasted time?? If I wanted to communicate in lymrics and cryptic phrases, I would have become a bard. The Dragon-God leapt into the air and left.
We walked into the Pyramid, and standing next to an ornate altar in the center of the room was a feline being that Ferrel instantly went gaga over. Of course it was female, so that shouldn’t have surprised me. Turns out it was his goddess, Bast. She asked for the ribs, Karma handed them to her, and she placed them lovingly on the altar; though everything she did seemed to be ‘lovingly.’ After a few complex hand movements, blue fire burst from the altar, engulfing the ribs, and shooting a pillar into the sky. The ribs rose slowly until they were completely suspended.
‘Perrrrfect,’ issued from her ‘lips,’ and she asked us to kneel. She took papyrus, and touched our shoulders in a few repetitious movements. She then asked us to leave her, with exception of Ferrel. When he exited finally, we walked back through the portal, and went to the dais overlooking the expectant celebratory crowd.
Upon hearing that King Bafag was struck down, his entourage exploded in outrage. The new king, a dwarf friend of Overkill, Minischmee, walked to the end of the dais and addressed his people. Not all of the people were accepting of the changes, until the gods Algor and Kym-nark-mar made an appearance, and Algor said something on the Dwarf’s behalf. Well I don’t remember what he said because his voice was so loud and crushing I couldn’t understand the words, so it could well have been ‘Let them eat cake.’ That turned the hearts of the people well enough. Everyone went to the Festival of Isis afterward.
I don’t like Dwarven food the way I enjoyed king Avramson’s feasts; probably because they are all too drunk to have a refined palate. Though, their beer-basted boar and beer-battered onions were very delightful. The highlight was actually a singing match between our own Song Mage and Mr. Terrawhatever Lightloafers, which Ferrel won. Despite that fact, we accepted the bard into our ranks. You always need a comedic sidekick, I guess, even though we already had one.
After a long debate, we decided that we needed to keep the Finger to guide us to the other pieces, and that our next piece would go to the city of Haven. The route we were to take would lead us past Haven, where we could try to cool things down enough to buy us time. In need of a map of the Yin-Sloth jungle, we mapped a course through Bizantium.
We threw a birthday party for our little psi-mage. He got a few presents from the members of CrIsis including matching ornate daggers for him and Morgan, a necklace made out of sun disks, and a Wedding ring from Morgan.
Though they don’t understand the importance, I gave them a child-ring each. In Danzi culture, having offspring is one of the highest honors, above even warrior prowess. You are awarded an earring for each child you bear, though as most danzi don’t have many children, their ears aren’t decorated often. A blue earring represents a son, and a red earring represents a daughter, and a black one represents a child that has passed on. I gave them a red stone earring with a small ruby, in honor of their beautiful daughter.
Blood in the Water
Whoever decided that sailing the northern seas was a good idea should be hung. It Is So COLD. I was dealing with the cold in Avramstown as the seasons changed, and I was ok in Sinza, but once you get out on the open ocean… It’s surprising to me people don’t envision Hades as being frozen, cause I was in hell.
That brings me to my second point: Whoever decided sailing was a good idea should be hung.
If Danzi were meant to sail, they would have been born with gills. The strangest part of it is I find myself not as a ‘foal in the wilderness’ but a ‘buck in the forest’ on this ship. My legs are strong and steady, but my stomach isn’t. I find myself being able to handle riggings and sails, but unable to handle the constant rising, falling, churning, tossing and turning. Not a few decks have been scrubbed by me due to my inability to steady my stomach, though I found it felt steadier when I tied a rope to a mast, and wrapped it around my waist. I call it a ‘life-line.’
So for the first few days we were on the ocean, I did not go above deck since I did not have any clothes for the cold. Eventually Gavin offered some clothes for me to use, and that made it bearable. Peri didn’t seem to be enjoying herself either. Only a few days were clear and warm enough for me to bring her above deck, to stretch her wings and see the sky. The rest of the time she spent below deck in a room with her cap on. No matter what I say about Danzi sailors, it is nothing compared to falcons on stormy oceans. The first day we were on the ocean, though, she had a wonderful time diving into the ocean, and grabbing the small fish that escaped our nets.
On that day, we saw five ships from the Bizantinian Navy. They passed us by, and Peri decided to leave a present on their flagship, for which I scolded her.
The whole next week was terrible. Nothing but fluid ice pouring over the sides of the deck, from waves crashing over us and the sleet creating rivers on the deck. Misery, your name is Sleet on the Ocean. I am lucky for the gracious gift that was given me from Gavin, though sometimes it feels like I would be better off with just a loincloth; the clothes soak up the water, and hold it there for the wind to blow against.
I wasn’t the only one to be thrown by the constant storming; our Captain lost himself and it took an entire week until we struck land. That morning dawned partly clear, finally, and the winds weren’t so bad as to forbid Peri’s flight. None of us recognized the land we had stumbled upon, so Ferrel had the idea to send a magic pigeon toward MiniSchmee, the new King in Bizantium. We set off in the direction it flew, and were back on track.
Misfortune struck again as we set off; two demons from the deep set upon us. In a situation such as we were, there’s nothing that should have tipped us off to an attack from below, but it seems that I am not the only one with the uncanny ability to feel unfriendly eyes. The Centaur, Changeling and I felt it at the same time – an evil darkness blending in with the abysmal deep holding us up, breaking off to take a snack from the helpless driftwood dinner-plate.
We jumped into action; I activated my Warrior’s Spirit kratos, as a giant demon leapt from the waves and was thrown over the other side of the boat by our new ship-hand. A second beast dove over the front of the ship trying for Terrathingy Whatsisbreath, but it missed. A ready Karma used the magic cannon on the front of the ship and shot directly at the spot that the serpent disappeared seconds before. A muffled shriek came from the side of the ship, and crimson seeped toward the surface. There was an acrid stench rising from the foam, and I am glad that the enemy was under the water to mask the reek. I jumped up onto the middle deck platform, where the masts were, ready to leap into action. Peri, from her perch in the crow’s nest, attentively watched and waited for any call I might make.
And then we waited. Battles at sea are different from any battle on land I have ever seen. I waited, looking from one wave to the next, certain that it was the staging area for the next offensive poised at our throat. The air was thick with tension, as everyone was strung tight like a bow, poised to be launched toward the next target. There was an eerie silence around, as we listened as well to any tell-tale slapping or splashing to give us our new direction. My heart, though not pounding, was one of the only sounds passing through my ears.
And then it happened, almost impossibly slow; Quixis was grabbed by the same beast he threw off earlier, and was dragged into the ocean. Startled screams were my starting trumpet, and I was off in a race with death. I dove off the side of the boat, and hit the icy cold water. I let a gasp escape my lips into the wall of black greeting me, possibly too much air lost. No matter. I kicked against the water, and shot off toward the inky blot below me. Having already drawn the gift of gifts, Lector’s Revenge, I took a mighty swing at the rump fast approaching. With the power of the blow, I lopped off part of the demon’s tail completely. I was pushed back by a wave of crimson that gushed from the tail. Screaming in pain, the serpent released Quixis. Luckily he was wearing his plate armor, so he wasn’t crushed by the fangs. Unluckily he was wearing his plate armor, so he started to sink almost as fast as the serpent was swimming. I kicked as hard as I could through the blood, getting the stinging ichor in my eyes, and blindly grasped for the Paladin. My free hand closed around a tuft of loose cloth poking from underneath his armor, and I kicked again, this time toward the sweet, sweet light filtering from above. I pulled his form laboredly upward, feeling my lungs burn for the first time in a long time. Fighting for our lives I didn’t notice it, but I had used up a frightening amount of air, and was now struggling for that release, my eyes burning.
I started to slow down, and the world started to lose its light, despite the fact I was going toward the surface. Just as I was about to hit the surface, I felt unseen hands grab me around the chest, and heaved me out of the water, and placed me on the deck. My lungs ripped my throat open for a gasp of fresh sea air. I coughed and gasped bittersweet relief back into my lungs. I thanked Gavin for the boost, and blinked the freezing red from my eyes.
Hopefully I don’t have to do that again.
>>As written by Drauka, in the language of the Danzi, translated by Thoth. The third log of Drauka, Mercenary Danzi Warrior, Written on Algor 14 in Drauka’s 105th year.<<