The Pakthryxl Proxy

Haute Cuisine!!! The Name is Grulios!!!
Captain's log found in the stowage

I had high expectations for Lorenz and Mr. Finn when they took off to parley with the Emerald Arrow and Drowning Devil. But never in my wildest dreams did I think those two could arrange an intimate dinner with the other Captains. From what Thuxfeldt told me, we had a better chance at the Cathedral of the Starstone than getting a Hellknight Paralictor to change his mind. It was nothing short of a miracle. Lorenz is a dangerous man! His limitless negotiation capabilities are like weapons of mass destruction, no one is safe from his grace. Hellig almost shit a brick when Lorenz told him to whip up some haute cuisine for our illustrious dinner guests. It was funny as hell to see an army of halflings scour the ship for ingredients like chickens with their heads cut off. But out of their chaos came culinary gold!

The Attendees
Captain Marcellano of the Drowning Devil, Aspis Consortium Gold Agent
Rilka, Marcellano’s halfling aid and probable spy
Paralictor Fames Rutilus, Hellknight of the Order of the Nail
Captain Denthanus of the Emerald Arrow, Prideful Andoran Green Half Dragon Elf
Captain Reskafar of the Deep Sea Current, honored host
Mr. Finn, Venture Captain, Bounty Hunter, Elaborate Story-teller
Lorenz and Kaledith, Power Couple of Legend
Goethe powerful wizard, scholar, and foot rest
Myrrh ninja vanish

1st Course: Whipped Salt Vosh Cod with Midvale Gratin

“I refuse to eat a single bit if that Tiefling is on board! I do not like being played for a fool. I demand recompense as a free dragon”, angrily grumbled Captain Denthanus. He sat with his arms crossed across his chest and fists clenched like he was makings diamonds out of coal. His emerald eyes were grenades ready to explode. Damn it all, the introductions were going so well up to that point. I scrambled.

“I do apologize for Goethe’s transgression. He isn’t quite right in the head if you know what I mean. I have an idea! How about you use him as a foot rest this evening?”, I offered. Denthanus scratched his ivory beard, his brow furled as he thought about it.

“Hahahah! Yes, I suppose that will do. Bring me my foot rest. Now I’m glad I haven’t washed my feet in ages”, Denthanus croaked. He unconsciously took a bite of potatoes.

2nd Course: Frothy Mordant Spire Lettuce Le Portage with Alkenstar Onion Custard

Goethe came up from his lab, stone-faced, and dutifully crawled under the table to assume the foot stool position. He looked like he was about to cry. Mysteriously the sobs were coming from his groin area. What was even odder, he didn’t say a single word when he normally runs his mouth non-stop. Still, it was great to see Goethe finally obey my orders. He may have found his true calling! Denthanus was pleased and his hostile mood faded. Well, his hostility towards the rest of us faded, he still took great pleasure rubbing his foul calloused feet on Goethe from time to time. Ugh, it sounded like sandpaper on leather! I don’t know how Goethe didn’t lose his shit.

“I’ve never tasted lettuce quite like this. Wherever did you find it?", asked Denthanus.
“It’s from the Mordant Spire. We were there on a humanitarian mission. It always good to help out people in a jam. You never know what rewards it may bring”, Lorenz charmed.

3rd Course: Deep Sea Serpent Meunière and Caviar Infused Crème Fraîche

“Like I was saying earlier, these waters are ripe with sea serpents. It was only by fortuitous circumstance that we survived. Better for us to sail together for safety”, said Lorenz. Marcellano raised an eyebrow and nodded.
“Sea Serpents are quite delicious! By the size of the head on your deck, big too”, Rutilus blurbed between mouthfuls.

4th Course: Apsu’s Ambulatory T-Rex Dry-aged Steak Tartare with Raw Egg Yolk

“I haven’t tasted such fine lizard in so long. Reminds me of game from the forests of Andoran”, delighted Denthanus.
“Tell me about your homeland”, Mr. Finn asked.
“Ahh! Andoran is the birthplace of freedom…”, replied Denthanus with excitement. The two of them got into for awhile.

5th Course: Qalli Saffron Oil Sorbet with Magnimar Green Apple Bits

“What is your business Captain Reskafar?”, Captain Marcellano expertly interjected in a moment of silence.
“Transporting sensitive cargo to Westcrown”, Lorenz answered.
“Hmmm cargo…I smell a Dragon on board!”, spouted Denthanus.

“Wow, it’s hard to get anything past you. Don’t get me wrong we weren’t trying to hide the fact. I don’t think my dragon is as big as the dragon on your ship. But size doesn’t matter, only breaking the chains of this infernal pakthryxl", I excited said.

Denthanus nodded, “I agree. Let us discuss business while I still have this sweet taste in my mouth. What do you propose?”

“We would like to join your convoy, friend. There is safety in numbers plus the added benefit of avoiding the Chellish Navy with an official escort. Of course, we would naturally split the costs”, Lorenz offered.

“Before we go any further. Prove yourself a friend to true dragons!”, demanded Denthanus. He gave Geothe one last stinky foot wipe.

6th Course: Nylgune Seaweed Salad with Obari Moules in Caster Atoll Amandine

I looked down at my well arranged salad. It reminded sometimes your the lifeline like in Nylgune and Casters Atoll, but other times your at the mercy of the doldrums on the Obari. If Denthanus wanted proof from us, we would have to extend the olive branch and be at his mercy to accept it.

I lead the dinner party below deck to the stowage. There a humongous blue dragon was awkwardly packed in tight with other assorted cargo and draped with golden tapestries. Macellano admired the rugs.

“Please meet Lirovilex, the God of the Sewer Dragons of Absalom. He is a prisoner to the pakthryxl. We, his humble servants, have the charge to wake him”, Lorenz introduced.
“Yeah. We signed that damn Devil contract with Darkatithquent”, I croaked.
“As you can see. There is no way we can pass a Chellish inspection like this. We need your help”, added Lorenz.

Denthanus approached Lirovilex and bowed deeply. He stood up and stroked Lirovilex’s blue scales for a spell.

“All should be free. I believe even a blue dragon should be free, free of this pakthyrxl. You are loyal servants, Achiuk would approve. Would you like to meet him?”, said Denthanus in a soften tone.

7th Course: Rudhale’s Experimental Ooze Cheese Whiz #5 on Artisan Bread

We moved the meal to the Emerald Arrow. Hellig looked very dejected while he frantically loaded the next courses onto the dinghies. We rowed past the titanic Drowning Devil. All my instincts told me I shouldn’t touch the water near that ship. I had a vision of a vicious whirlpools pulling me under to the flames of hell. That ship was dangerous!

“I like this cheese! It is something different”, remarked Rutilus.
“So is the guy who made it”, I snickered.

We got along side the Emerald Arrow. Out of nowhere, living branches sprang from the hull and wrapped around us. The branches lifted us up from the rowboat, passed us upward like batons to more branches, and gently placed us on the top deck. Now that is what I call service!

Denthanus led us into the bowels of the ship. In the middle of the hold I saw a gigantic green dragon covered in protective roots, vines, and leaves. Sound asleep. Lorenz gave us a look. And we all bowed before Achiuk.

“We are honored to be in his presence”

8th Course: Azlanti Tamarind Vol-au-vent with Sugared Spellscar Cacti

“Is Goethe, spying on us. I don’t want that bastard spying on us”, Ashen peppered before we stood up. “And another thing. Tell him I want my Uncle’s horn back. And I want an apology for his behavior earlier…”

Lorenz and I looked dumbfounded by the onslaught. Denthanus and Macellano watched intently. Mr. Finn slipped away when everyone’s attention was pulled to Ashen. I think he was more interested in the living ship than the sleeping dragon.

“He not here, but we are in contact. Shall we cancel the connection? Will that satisfy you?”, offered Lorenz.

“It will. Tell him I hope my Uncle tears his head off!”, she answered. Goethe has a strong effect on women!

Hellig served his tasty puff pastry confections and the atmosphere mellowed, including the cloud around Ashen. She apparently has a sweet tooth. Also, Mr. Finn rejoined us with a big smile on his face while patting his breast pocket.

9th Course: Sun-dried Sedeq Lopi Luwak and Triple Distilled Katapeshi Cognac

“What say you?”, asked Denthanus to his partners.
“It is my experience to keep a close watch on this crew”, Ashen responded.
“I don’t like it. But they got great grub”, boomed Fames.
“I can see the value”, nodded Marcellano as he sipped his third glass of cognac.

“I will help you. Coming to my domain where I could crush you where you stand is proof that you are loyal to your cause. I have one condition. Upon entry into Westcrown, Achiuk will be roused first then Lirovilex. You will go second”, decreed Denthanus.

“To be added to the escort contract, let’s say 2000 gold. Additionally, you must bring me to your meeting with Asad Grulios. I have a feeling you will be meeting him”, slyly offered Marcellano. Lorenz and Marcellano stared hard at one another for a long time sipping cognac. It was always a mystery to me why Lorenz did this. It sounded like a win-win to me.
“Deal”, Lorenz finally said and offered his handshake.

We returned to the Current. Tiny had to carry Hellig back like an exhausted child.

Midnight Snack Drumish Vanilla Crepes

Goethe paced back and forth like a metronome. His brow was furrowed like he was in the deepest of bad memories. Luckily before Hellig passed out he made us some snacks.

“I think you guys should know something before we get to Westcrown. We’re going to see my father, Asad. My name is Grulios!, Goethe finally spat out.

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The Battle of Forks and Light!!! In the Wake of the Emerald Arrow
Captain's log found on topdeck underneath futtock shrouds

The deep sea serpent took a bloody big bite out of Goethe, nearly taking his albino head off again. We all rallied to help; Myrrh sliced off a fin, Lorenz landed a devastating paralyzing spell, Mr. Finn drilled a gill, and I finished it off with a named bullet between the eyes. Mr. Finn wanted to show the mythical beast off to his Pathfinder buddies so he sawed off the overgrown fish’s head and hauled it on deck, the bloody thing was bigger than a horse. Goethe preserved the trophy with alchemical concoctions that smelled like a tango of burnt vinegar and malodorous cheese. A warning to all Sea Serpents who are reading this log entry. Try to capsize our ship and we’re going to take your freaking head!

The battle with the serpent was heart pounding, but an even more epic battle spilled on to the top deck that day. I dubbed it, The Battle of Forks and Light. An all out war between an infestation of fairy vexgits and a horde of Goethe summoned lantern archon exterminators. We all just stood and watched the riveting bloodbath in real-time. Most of the foot-tall vexgits were armed with our missing silver forks which were bent and sharpened to look like either spiked maces or tridents. Some used tin dinner plates for shields and armor. A few had makeshift repeater crossbows outfitted to fire forks instead of bolts. The vexgits looked ferocious with their crude weapons, frothed jeering, and blue painted faces. The lantern archons were the polar opposite, each lantern was a flying singularity of pure white light with a preternatural silence and otherworldly grace.

The war was savage. The archons hovered six feet above the deck in close formation, firing their death rays down like disco balls of doom. To a normal person a lantern light ray stings and is only dangerous in grand exposure, but to vexgits the beam boiled them alive in their own exoskeletons. What a horrific way to die! I can’t lie, it smelled pretty good. The lanterns continued to exploit their air superiority without mercy. Out of desperation, some of the overmatched fairies had to use their own steamed brothers for cover. The sight made me hold my breath. The vexgits lines got scattered to the wind. They were on the brink of total defeat!

When things looked the worse, a regal vexgit stepped out into the open, he wore Kaledith’s missing bracelet as a crown and wielded a gold plated berry spoon as a scepter. The kingly bastard cried out in a roar, “Never Surrender! Never Give Up!”

The vexgit musicians from out of nowhere, began playing an inspiring song on their fork-like instruments that sent tingles to the soles of my feet. The surviving vexgits slowly picked themselves off the ground to the big beat fork-drum. It was stirring. In the face of overwhelming firepower they found their courage! I hope when my time comes, I may find half as much courage as I saw in their eyes.

The Gremlin King shouted, “Remember the Bilge! Unleash our Hell!”

With that signal, the vexgits unleashed an offensive that dazzled me to the core. Repeater crossbows aimed skyward and fired a hailstorm of forks that could’ve brought down a God! Several of the lanterns got popped like balloons and others took evasive action. Ambush parties dropped from the shrouds and entangled the fleeing lanterns with nets made of sail thread. The netted lanterns plummeted to the ground, where they were instantly stabbed to death with sharpened forks. The outnumbered lanterns didn’t go down without a fight and microwaved many vexgits like marshmallows. Soon only the King, his retinue, and a single trapped lantern archon remained. The lone lantern started to shine brighter and brighter while emanating a high frequency sound.

“It’s gonna blow!”, screamed the Gremlin King. He dove on top of the bright light. The lantern exploded in a blinding flash of photonic discharge that dazed me. When my sight returned, the lantern was gone and the vexgits were huddled together around a raising cord of steam. They were weeping.

“King Gizmo! Why?”, pleaded a purplish vexgit. They clutched claws. Gizmo was over cooked which turned his shell orange.
Lagdug my son, you’re the king now. I’m finished”, whispered Gizmo, while looking into his son’s eyes.
“Father, I’m not ready. You can’t die. You can’t!”, wailed Lagdug.
“Son, you must live on. You’re our last hope. I love you…”, were Gizmo’s last words.
“No Father! Don’t Go!”
The pyrrhic victory scene froze and went stony silence for a spell.

“One more bunch of Lantern Archons should be enough”, casually said Goethe as he prepared to weave hand signs.
“Goethe you monster!”, cried Lorenz while wiping tears away.
“Goethe, even I’m not that heartless”, whispered Myrrh.
“GoetheImayhavemisjudgedye”, replied Mr. Finn.
“Lagdug, war is hell. Let us call a peace”, I softly spoke to him. I didn’t think my heart could take any more drama. The terms of our peace treaty were as follows. We got a splinter of the Emerald Arrow, information surrounding the living ship, our stolen property back, and a promise of good behavior. The vexgits were spared, got to keep our silver forks, and permission to erect a monument to honor their Great King Gizmo. Strangely this wasn’t the first time kitchen supplies have aided in negotiations. Thus concluded one of the greatest battles I have ever seen, The Battle of Forks and Light

forks.jpg






Two days later we were in the wake of the Emerald Arrow and the Drowned Devil. Lorenz repeatedly beat his head against a wall trying to figure out the best way to parley. On the other hand, I was cool as a cucumber. Lorenz was forced to leave on his griffon before finding his answer. I got a good feeling about what was going to happen next.

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Ancient Azlanti Sea Serpent Bait!!! Voyage to Westcrown Begins
Captain's log found on the windlass

Lady Kaledith completed the first step. She made all the arrangements and paid all the fees to bring her husband back from the grave in one piece. This time not a zombie! I’m not sure if she was motivated to resurrect her husband out of love, duty, or fear of inheriting his crushing debt. When Lorenz returned, I asked him what it was like to die and be pulled back, he replied straight-faced, “Oh, good. For a moment there I thought I was in trouble.” It was great to have him back!

Goethe completed the second step. He used his magic prowess to transport Lirovelix and half his dragon hoard on to the stowage. He thought my plan of using Lirovelix’s humongous body as a raft and sailing it through the Flotsam graveyard wasn’t the best idea. Rubbish! I can sail anything, even a big blue dragon in a magic coma.

Finally we were ready to set sail for Westcrown by the morning of our third day in Absalom. The Emerald Arrow and Drowned Devil were long gone so we needed to play catch up. The Deep Sea Current was much smaller and faster. Vaghol figured we had 4 days to catch them before it was impossible. Now that we signed a contract with Dartakithquent for the rousing of Lirovelix, I was positive they would welcome us to join their convoy. The more the merrier! Goethe and Lorenz informed everyone that our cargo is not exactly “legal”. We’re pirates. Not smugglers. Would be best to travel with an official Chellish escort ship to cut through the red tape. The devils in Cheliax don’t take too kindly to pirates and are even less kind to tax evading smugglers. Best to catch the wind and never look back.

We left a trail of our digested shit in the water, which was not unusually, we left the same poop trail in the water everywhere. All ships do. Our majestic poop trail this go was laced with a special ingredient thousands of years old. Ancient Azlanti Sea Serpent Bait! Hellig had been feeding us the ancient bait recovered from Vosh for the last several days! Lorenz looked horrified. Good thing sea serpents were invented for children bedtime stories and don’t really exist, every sailor worth his salt knows that much.

Funny story, Hellig didn’t knowingly feed us the bait. Somehow all the labels on the pantry jars got jumbled. Well he could of at least smelled the stuff before he cooked it up, but what do I know. Other strange happenings occurred. My musket hammer went missing along with all the forks. Goethe reported several of his books were out of place, Kaledith was missing a few rings, and Pipp his best pen. Seemed like we had some sneaky pranksters on board!

We grid searched the ship. I caught wind of a tiny presence skulking about the rigging from the crow’s nest. Goethe dusted for fingerprints, Myrrh stalked, Mr. Finn tracked, and Lorenz drank. Myrrh eventually got one! By summoning all his predatory instincts he skewered one of the tiny bastards. I’m told he killed a little clam person or a gremlin of the sea. I’ve heard of these mischievous pests before! They mess with a ship and crew so much that either the ship sinks due to mechanical failure or the crew’s morale snaps and they tear each other apart. I hoped Myrrh exterminates them all!

Suddenly the whole ship rocked from a starboard collision. From my nest, I saw a gigantic blurry silhouette beneath the waterline! The stories are true! The bedtime stories are true! Sea Serpents are real! What else can it be? The bait works! Why does it still work? The elusive creature disappeared as fast as it appeared.

I called for all hands on deck. We had a bigger problem to deal with than tiny fairy clam-people. I remembered from the bedtime stories that sea serpents like to capsize ships and dine on the survivors. I activated the submerge ship water jewel. I doubted an underwater ship could be capsized. The serpent crashed full speed into the hull again. Wood splinters flew! The powerful blow whirled the ship around like a wagon skidding in the mud. When the tilt-a-world settled, I was face to face with the overgrown sea snake’s maw. It looked like a super fat manatee with a long eel tail and a tyrannosaurus head complete with banana sized teeth and shrimpy vestigial arms. No wonder they hide their faces!

I shot it in the face through 50 feet of water. It was a miracle I even hit it once. A crimson cloud of blood spurted from its T-Rex head. It darted off again into the deep. Goethe started weaving hand signs and pointing. He shouted, “Ahead!” I picked up what he was putting down. I helped guide the Current to the protected spot Goethe pointed to. We stopped. We were sitting ducks just begging to be shot or eaten.

I heard it pounding against something hard under the ship, but not the ship. Whatever mysterious thing Goethe did it worked like a charm. Goethe was also pleased with the outcome and continued to seal off the bottom of the ship with his magic fingers. Just when I thought we got the handle on the situation it all fell apart again. The creature swooped in and plucked Goethe off the top deck with its massive jaws! I saw the colossal sea serpent preparing to swallow him whole! I cursed the Azlanti prick who made the bait. Why did he make such long lasting delicious nodule meat that can attract fabled monsters from a sailor’s worst nightmare?

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Memoirs of an Oracle #3
B-Squad Adventures #3

Nature teaches us that every hurricane has an eye, the place of calm weather in the center of the storm. Without the eye, the storm goes blind, withers, and eventually dies. Captain Reskafar was not the calm center of the crew nor were any of the other senior officers. They were the awesome winds that battered the shores, uprooted trees, and caused folks to board up their doors and windows. I would say that the junior officers were the eye at the center. We were the ones who sustained the hurricane that ended an age and saved the world.

Chapter 5: A Ship’s Surgeon
The Deep Sea Current was always on the move. In a matter of weeks after stepping on board, we left Sedeq, hid out in Quantium, hosted a noble wedding, crashed a secret auction in Katapesh, and kidnapped a dragon in Absalom. We never stopped. We alway progressed and picked up new faces along the way. The legendary pathfinder Mr. Finnegan Torrentail and his aid Pimpsley (Pip) Orantius were hired in Katapesh by chance encounter. At the time, we needed a sailor with knowledge of the seas to Absalom. Little did we know at the time, that Finnegan would become the world’s greatest hero against the Aboleth threat or that Pip’s journals would become the sacred text of countless new generations of adventurers. Fate always pulled in exceptional people into the crew without a moment’s notice. This constant change was the junior crew’s load to bear. We kept the Deep Sea Current moving through moving waters.

To keep the ship going it took an incredible effort and great skill from all. Tebrilith’s kept our spirits high, Helig kept us feed, Presto oozes kept us clean, Vandlo kept us afloat, Dervish and Hexa kept us safe, Vaghol kept us oncourse, and I kept everyone healthy. Thinking back now, I can barely fathom how much we did for each other. Subtract anyone of us from the crew and we all would’ve died in watery graves. Only by our combined strength did we get along.

A ship’s surgeon was not a job that I was trained for in any way, but it was fated. My oracles powers proved it. Magical ways to cure disease, stop poison, and reattach limbs came to me in my sleep. I decided to embrace my role in the sickbay and in doing so I found my calling. I learned as much as I could, both mundane and magical to support my friends. I delivered babies, fought off scurvy, reset bones, and stitched shut bullet holes. The needs of my patients came first, second, and third. A healthy crew is necessary for a successful voyage and given our many accomplishments, I think I did a serviceable job. Fate had dared me to become a healer in the eye of a storm, but it is not a dare, when you want to do it.

Chapter 6: Defending the Deep Sea Current
Next I present different accounts of the same incident. The night, Dul Xigorath, a Aboleth Veiled Master came to visit. I present this story as a window into our lives aboard the Deep Sea Current. The senior crew was away, searching Absalom’s sewers for dragons.

Dervish (He has no tongue so he speaks in signs and grunts)
“I heard Lorenz’s woman scream. I saw a man harassing her from the sea so I dove in to kill him. He divided into two. Half was me and the other half a rich man. A ghost in my mind asked me to find its brother. I didn’t like the ghost and tried to cut it out with my knife.”

Hexa
“Dervish and I were, like, necking, like totally necking. We, totally, ya know, heard Kaledith scream. So we, like, ran to her. She was all, like, way distraught and stuff. She was all like my boyfriend is back. My brother told me, like, ya know, this super rich guy Gilex was contaminated or WHATEVER. For sure, he warned me to stay away. Umm. I don’t think so. Like Dervish, like, dove in because he’s totally cool. I was all like ‘Ehmawgawd’ when he didn’t, like, come up for air! Anyway, so I, like, dove in, to save him and stuff. I totally got to see the creep, like, get eaten by sharks. So Gross!”

Vaghol
“In the middle of calculating pi to its one millionth digit, I overheard Kaledith and Gilex talking. Gilex was begging her to join him in the sea. I detected at a less than 1 percent error rate that an Aboleth Veiled Master was inside of Gilex. I recorded their conversation. When the Aboleth separated from Gilex, I alerted Tebrilith. I restarted my pi calculations.”

Vandlo
“I heard a loud splash in the water so I got up. On the top deck, I ran into Dervish. He spoke to me so I punched him, a lot.”

Tebrilith
“Vaghol got me up and told me the ship was still anchored. Also that an Aboleth Veiled Master was attacking. Way to bury the lead! I put on my gear. I learned to always put on my gear since crazy shit is commonplace on the Current. Next, I think I raised the alarm. It was already over by the time I got there so I went back to bed.”

Kaledith
“I was enjoying my cabin’s balcony. Lost in thought trying to find a loophole to free myself from my husband’s extraordinary debt, when I heard a familiar voice in the water. It was Gilex! He was greenish and covered in mucus but it was him. He pleaded with me to join him and find the second soul trapping sapphire. I rebuffed his advances. I felt some force try to enter my mind, but I rebuffed that as well. Lastly, I screamed for help.”

My own experience was a whirlwind. I also awoke to a big splash and immediately thought someone went overboard. I grabbed my spell components and blinked through the hull into the sea. There, I saw Dervish and a man in white wrestling under water. Something monstrous like a squid came off the man in white and darted above the waves behind the ship. I summoned a shiver of sharks to protect Dervish which they did by devouring the man in white, bones and all. Later I was told it was Gilex, the man who tried to stop Lorenz and Kaledith’s wedding a week before. The other creature came back with many black eyes and slashed tentacles. Ahhh! It was an Aboleth! I backed away and sent my sharks charging in. The Aboleth, Dul Xigorath, fled. It was not the last time it visited, but that is a story for another day.

If that was not crazy enough for you. In the morning, the Captain and Goethe arrived with a gigantic sleeping blue dragon. They planned to put it on the ship! Also, Lorenz was dead and we were shipping off to Westcrown. I sensed catastrophe on the wind and knew that I needed to stay calm.

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The Gray Dragon in the Sewer!!! Our Slain Diplomancer!!!
Captain’s log found on the timberhead

We tiptoed deeper into Dartakithquent’s lair of decay and darkness. The constant trickle from leaky pipes and the crunch of rot grub husks underfoot echoed through the sewer tunnel. Our lungs with each breath had to chew through the stale air like leathery bread. Bleached out bone fragments of vermin, kobolds, and munthreks littered the sewer path like broken glass. Big lumps of rippling rot grubs swarmed over the fresher bones. If you listened closely you could the arthropods suck the marrow out slurp by slurp. It made my scales quiver on end! I realized that I had the recently departed Trapmaster Tok all wrong. He wasn’t a paranoid power seeking usurper like I first thought, he was actually trying to protect his tribe like a shepherd guarding his flock from bloodthirsty wolves. Or in this case something far worse. Too bad I will never get to say sorry. The denizens lurking below the City at the Center of the World were no friend to the living. Which is brilliant since we just trespassed like thieves in the night.

From the maze of tunnels ahead we detected the skittering of clawed feet. When one hears mysterious skittering you go to the skittering. It’s like a law of nature. Unfortunately, the source of the skittering was a half dozen zombified Sewer Kobolds. The poor bastards were barely held together by rotted scales and rigor mortis. They put up little resistance to our might, but succeeded in luring us into a ripe ambush zone. The sewer corridor opened up bit into a small cavern with room like rock walls and a plethora of blind corners. It was still cramped quarters so we treaded lightly in single file, very lightly. All of us except Lorenz that is. Something magic-y caught his attention. He pushed forward and peeked into an alcove. It was the last alcove he ever saw.

I saw Lorenz get thrown back like a rag doll and crash into a wall. A beastly roar echoed and from a perfect hiding place a zombie ogre four times my size appeared carrying machetes twice my size. Chaos ensued. The close quarters made visibility and maneuvering hard. Goethe eventually was able to freeze the giant in a block of ice which gave Myrrh ample time to cut its head off in one clean stroke. Sadly, the zombie still got the better of us. Before it was defeated the undead bastard hacked Lorenz into a gore pile. Lorenz’s blood rained down us from his massive neck wound that kept geysering blood in long squirts. As his heart failed, the blood spray depressurized until it stopped. Begads, Lorenz’s just got himself killed and there wasn’t a damn thing we could’ve done to stop it.

Before I had time to properly process what just happened, Lorenz’s body stood back up like it was being controlled by puppet strings. What the hell? A munthrek with no blood left to pump and a torso damn near cut in two usually don’t stand up. What trick is this?

“Brains!”, howled the mangled Lorenz with surprising charisma.
“Zombie!”, cried Goethe

The creature formerly known as Lorenz gave Goethe a twisted smile and tackled him. Goethe and zombie Lorenz disappeared behind a wall. I quickly followed them. What I saw, I can’t un-see. Zombie Lorenz had unhinged his jaws around Goethe’s paralyzed head. He was nanoseconds away from feasting on the largest and most delicious brain ever created! I couldn’t let it happen so I blew the zombie’s head away with my musket. Strangely, this was the second time I saved Goethe from an undead facsimile made from one of the crew. My own shredskin was the first. Goethe couldn’t thank me since we was paralyzed from the zombie’s neurotoxin. He was as helpless as a newborn.

We all gathered together to process what just happened. I couldn’t believe Lorenz was dead. No way in hell, he’d die so unceremoniously in the sewers of Absalom. I don’t care that I saw him get chopped up or that I blew away what was left of his head. The man could talk his way out of everything. Surely death was no different. I wagered he was in the middle of negotiating his way back with whatever lived on the other side. He is not dead, only in time out. But damn did it sting like a hot poker to the peehole. The anger in me started to swell. I felt it on my skin. I saw the same intense anger hijack Myrrh and Mr. Finn’s eyes. Our collective blood lust fathered by anger was ready to hatch!

“What kind of shit welcome is this! We have business with the Gods Hater!”, I screamed. I paused for a long second then took a deep breath. From my dark hollows I demanded, “Let me see him! Or else I promise you one thing. There’s no weapon, there’s no army, that can protect you from the sheer hell that is my rage!”

In front of us, thousands upon thousands of teeming white worms began climbing over one another and projected up into an outline of a man. What the f-ck was this? I readied my musket. I planned to execute every last grub if I had to. Once the last grub got into place, a man dressed in a fine cape and suit came to life. I learned later he was a vampire. To me at the time, he just looked like a super pale malnourished munthrek in a fancy suit. The vampire said, “Tell me your business.”

“We were contracted by the Pactmasters to deliver something to Dartakithquent”, replied Myrrh. He also flashed the creature the Pactmaster’s black card.
“So I see. Follow me”, said the bloodsucker while gracefully bowing. He led us through numerous passageways by walking along the ceiling. Along the way Myrrh cured Goethe with a strong drink that got him moving again. Eventually we entered a large open space where many large drainage culverts combined into a humongous drainage channel that probably lead to the harbor.
“Wait here”

I am dumb enough to do what I want from time to time. Thoughts of revenge ruled my mind. As soon as Dartakithquent showed his gray face I figured to put holes in it. I was going to give into rage. I could feel it. Nothing was going to stop me or so I thought.

Suddenly, swarms of rot grubs bordering on biblical proportions piled together in a living mass at least fifty feet high. The vampire being formed was colossal in size! After the worm orgy locked into place, a gray dragon of the likes I’ve never seen, peered down on us like we were caterpillars in a jar. His gray scales were desiccated, his wings were ragged, and his great gray face was aged beyond twilight. Thousands of white rot grubs continuously crawled around his body searching for life to consume. The smell of filth and decay was so strong it was soul curdling. Dartakithquent was to huge and too physical to be real like an eruption out of my worst nightmares. My rage dwindled and my “we’re dead” survival instincts kicked into overdrive.

“Ashen, my daughter, told me to expect you interlopers. What business do you have with me?”, boomed Dartakith with a confidence beyond measure.
“We seek to return your money and collect a large finder’s fee”, replied Myrrh without emotion. I checked to see if urine was running down his leg like mine was.
“I was instructed not to devour you. We might as well do business”, said Dartakith. With that Myrrh handed over the writ and Dartakith produced several chests of gold for us.

“Dartakithquent please tell me, why do you make the sewers your lair. Why do you feed on the Sewer Dragons?”, I pleaded with knocking knees.
“Long ago I became an immortal vampire to oversee my families business. You see little Kobold I’m a friend to true dragonkind. I can wake them up. As for kobolds they are convenient blood. Now take my leave with a final warning. If you threaten my beloved Ashen I will crush you with a claw full of hate”, said Dartakith.
“We consider Ashen a friend and an ally. We would never put her in harm’s way. How much is it to wake up a dragon?”, kindly said Myrrh.

Dartakith brought his great snout over Myrrh and Mr. Finn and smelled them. Next, he smiled knowingly at Goethe. Then his tremendous gaze fell on to me like a hammer which made me feel like a nail. He chuckled under his breath after coming to an internal verdict.

“Captain are you fond of the Sewer Dragon’s and their sleeping master Lirovelix? If so I have a proposition for you”, stated Dartakith. He continued, “I will wake Lirovelix up for you. All you have to do is sign the contract of devils”.
“Stop eating Kobolds and you have a deal”, I said without thinking. The others looked absolutely shocked at my unhesitating answer.
“I don’t eat my business partners”, replied Dartakith with a calm smile. He then produced a contract with lots of words on it. I gave it to Goethe to read. His face turned even whiter than normal while reading the fine print. It says, “We must take Lirovelix to Miratanza. There we must hand over half of his hoard wealth for the procedure to be initiated.”

I signed. We had a way in now! I reckoned we’d work out the tiny details later with the Sewer Dragons. I thought I might have to become the chief in order to make it happen.

“As a sign of respect and goodwill, please accept my humble gift”, I politely said. I took out a Presto ooze from by gunny sack and commanded it go to Dartakith. The lively ooze rushed to him probably because he was the filthiest thing around and instantly began cleansing his most foul areas.
“AHH!!!! AHH!!! It’s been so long…”, orgasmicly squealed Dartakith. His face made an O-shape, clumps of drool fell from his maw, and his whole body shook. The force is strong with Presto oozes! After a while, he regained his composure.

“Aren’t you full of surprises? I have an unique gift for you as well. Call it a history lesson”, said the sated gray dragon. He produced a fancy gray chest used for potions. On the cover of the case in brilliant platinum engraving were the draconic words “Suryx Tears”.

A few thoughts came to mind as we left Dartakithquent’s lair. First, the Dread line was for shipping dragon hoards and the Infernal line was for shipping sleeping dragons. Second, the Emerald Arrow and Ashen were probably transporting a sleeping dragon. Third, the Gray Dragons were accumulating a mountain of gold for some reason. Fourth, I wondered what history was in the tears? Fifth, with Lorenz gone the Presto oozes may have to conduct the negotiations from now on. Just kidding! Lastly, we needed Lorenz back because tomorrow we sail the Infernal Line!

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The Charming Trapmaster Tok!!! Entering the Gods Hater’s Lair
Captain's log found on a hawsehole

“Kibizax I exiled you!”, hotly shouted Trapmaster Tok, “How dare you return!”. Oh Crap! I backed the wrong kobold. I knew there was a reason Shaman was alone above ground.
“I have business with Dratakithquent”, I calmly said.
“I forbid it!”, croaked Trapmaster Tok, “You can’t see the Gods Hater, you can’t see Lirovelix, and you can’t see the Sewer Dragons. Now, go back to the surface!”
“Ok we turn around”, said the dejected Chief. What the f-ck! I just risked my freaking neck creeping through an ungodly meat grinder at a fat slug’s pace just to get turned around at the best part. Dammit, why are my kin so ridiculous. I had to find a way to crack Tok’s hard shell. If only I had some help!

Suddenly from behind me, I heard a series of booby traps trigger in quick succession like exploding dominoes, the last of which sounded like a heavy rock on rock resounding crash. The knuckle shaking noise faded to quiet for a second, but only for a second, until my ears caught a barely audibly rumble. The quiet rumble quickly swelled into a deafening rolling thunder, I knew that a twenty ton ooze boulder was rattling down that last narrow corridor on a mission to crush all intruders. Then I heard something familiar which raised my spirits. Goethe’s impossibly shrill scream! He must of got stuck to the bottom of the rotating boulder because his screams came around and around and around again. Man he can scream loud! I caught a concerned Myrrh yell, “Hurry! He’ll be cubed to death if he gets pulled through that steel grate!” Lastly, I heard a cacophony of magic babbling, fiendish screams, explosions, weapon clangs, and ooze gurgles. The sounds of a swift fight!

A great plume of dust rocketed out of the tunnel in a stunning visual display. The dust cloud was accompanied by a soundtrack of approaching footsteps that grew more confident with every step. Trapmaster Tok, Chief Kibizax, and I eagerly awaited the entrance of the intruders. Tok in particular looked terrified. I knew what he was thinking, “How could anyone survive my master traps? Who could they be?” The outlines of four munthreks flashed in the dust bowl. Tok and the Chief instinctively crouched their bodies to avoid detection, but I stood up straight, arms akimbo, with a fat grin on my maw.

“Here they come!", I excitedly yelled, “My crew!”
Just as the four silhouettes were about to breach the dust cloud, I proudly announced, “Those are the faces of the four men who came to change your destiny. Burn their images into your mind!” With that, Vestin, Myrrh, Goethe, and Mr. Finn stepped through the dust barrier with beyond serious facial expressions. They were none to happy from their arduous trap filled journey. Goethe in particular looked like a burnt flapjack covered in blood syrup. Tok and Kibizax gasped.

“Tok we are no friends to the Gods Hater. If you want Lirovelix to wake. Let us pass”, I said as diplomatically as possible. Tok glared at the battered Goethe hard.
“I forbid it! Too many devilmen like that one have visited the Gods Hater lately”, Tok hissed while pointing at Goethe.

“The value of racial profiling is not lost on me, except when it affects me. Let me teach you a lesson little kobold”, lectured Goethe while he reached for his spell pouch. Tok was ready and jumped into a hole in the ground that lead to the level below. I shot Goethe a furious scowl. What a hothead! This is not how I wanted it to go down. We wanted allies not enemies. The Sewer Dragons loss their Dragon Overlord Lirovelix to the pakthryxl. They could be swayed to join our side!

Vestin understood my frustration. He signaled Goethe to vanish which he did with disgust.
“Die Betrayer! I always knew you were a towheaded spy!”, roared Vestin with gripping intensity. He then fired his pistol.
“You can come out Tok. I dusted the devilman”, he finished in an encouraging tone. Tok peeked his head out from the hole. Now that is the proper way to fake your own death!
“Please lead us to Dartakithquent. We’ll take him out and give you all the credit”, offered Vestin with his honey tongue.
“Ok, you can go down the hole”, croaked Tok. What? All we had to do was go down a stinking hole!
“Please disable the traps.”
“I can’t. I used to many snares and redundant switches. This tunnel makes the other tunnel look like a cake walk”, Tok replied with a fang smile.
“Idiot!”, accused Goethe after reappearing, “I should’ve of done this sooner.” Goethe then snapped his fingers.

Tok’s suspicious frown sunk back into his face and out sprouted a gleeful smile. He approached Goethe like a jolly friend and immediately offered to escort him below. This was very mysterious, but I cautiously went along with it. Tok lead us to the sewer level below and with a happy spring in his step he approached a locked steel gate with levers on both sides. Without a second thought, he yanked the lever hard then got electrocuted to death in a fabulous lightning spectacle. For a long spell, we all blankly watched Tok’s lifeless corpse sizzle from bolt after bolt of electricity. Next to me, Myrrh, sighed deeply. From behind us, Chief Kibizax shouted, “Hurray! I’m Chief again!” Dammit, why are my kin so ridiculous.

Long story short, we made it through the snares, gates, pits, and lightning. It took Goethe’s spider climb magic, Myrrh’s ridiculously steady hands, and Vestin’s magic eyes for the party to advance. Thankfully, I didn’t have to do anything. At the other side of the trapped tunnel was another dark tunnel. This dark tunnel had a different aura that was more ominous than the booby trapped tunnels. Somehow, the thought of going back seemed like the safer option. What was down there? We reluctantly crept into the darkness. The strong stench of carrion immediately assaulted our lungs. All around us, billions of wriggling white rot grubs covered the walls and ceiling like undulating wallpaper. In the distance the sound of a large monster ferociously growling like it was tearing something apart added to the frightful ambiance.

“Come on. Come the hell on. Who the hell would live down here?”, I questioned while trying to stay calm.
“A Vampiric Gray Dragon, that’s who”, someone responded.

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Booby Traps!!!! A Really Slow Journey to the Sewer Dragons
Captain's log found on the tuck

Some say it takes a Kobold to track a Kobold. We’re shifty little buggers so it’s tough. Good thing I’m a Kobold!

I followed the the elderly blue scaled Kobold through the hordes of munthreks that infested Absalom like fleas on a hairy badger. We moved quickly through the Ascendant Court to the Foreign Quarter. My blue cousin did his best to go unnoticed by shrouding himself in his dirty gray cloak and by weaving his way around as silent as a church mouse. Most passers-by probably just assumed he was a destitute halfling or a child slave. Usually munthreks don’t give a second look to those they perceive as derelicts or slaves. This is not a trait shared by Kobolds, as hatchlings we are taught to notice everything for fear of danger. I remember giving names to every snake and bat that entered my warrens before I was knee high. I knew his methods of concealment and used it to my advantage. I had to catch him before he went to ground or he would be lost forever.

I saw my opportunity to pounce in a dark alley near a storm sewer runoff in the middle of the Foreign Quarter. He was caught off guard but still did the right thing and cried out a warning down the sewer before turning to meet my gaze. He was a rare Kobold indeed! He kept his wits after being surprised which meant he was experienced or knew I was coming. Rare indeed, for leaving the warrens alone which happens seldom and only in extenuating circumstances. Were the Sewer Dragons in trouble? Was it connected to the religious symbols? I had so many questions I felt all my blood surge to my head.

Shaman was his name and he was a Sewer Dragon yapper, a very distinguished position within a tribe, legends has it a skilled yapper can rouse a dragon. I told him I needed to speak with his Chief on behalf of Azzul Eshlabar (Ezgar alias) and flashed him my Nightstone of Sorrow. His eyes lit up like oil lanterns and he nodded his head. In a grave voice he said, “Following me is akin to suicide, the Trapmaster has sealed the way and the God Hater is near. But cousin, I will take you if you so wish”.

Before following him into the sewer, I sent magic bird feather tokens to the rest my crew. I couldn’t pass off the chance to brag about the fact that I was the first to find the Sewer Dragons! They were going to be jealous for sure.

It was painfully slow going. I wager I could’ve dug a hole into the sewers faster than our pace through the entrance tunnel. We slow danced through trip wires, constructed bridges over stone slabs, tiptoed along pits, squeezed through metal bars, fed oozes, and blindly searched for secret levers. The Trapmaster was obviously a paranoid genius to devise such intricately layered death contraptions. The sheer amount of killing technology in the tunnel was mind boggling. A flea on a rat couldn’t make it through alive without an experienced guide. I decided it would be wise to leave instructions for my crew. I carved several clues with my Azlanti knife at certain junctures. Perhaps it would raise their odds of survival from zero to the low single digits. I’m a thoughtful Captain afterall!

My mind wanders when I move slow. You would think the pressure of genius level booby traps would be enough to prevent my mind from wandering. Nope. So even though I was in the middle of maneuvering through invisible tripwires that could kill me instantly if touched, my mind wandered. I thought about my breakfast of parboiled fish innards, whether I had cleaned my musket, and new ways to impress Tiny. Finally my mind wandered to thoughts of my crew. I wondered what they were up to. Probably having more fun than me.

While Shaman and I slowly assembled a wooden bridge over a charred stone patch, I thought of Vestin. No doubt, the money hound would get to the bottom of Dartakithquent’s writ, which is likely connected to the Emerald Arrow and its Chellish escort. Since he has advanced testicular maturity, he would be unafraid to parley with the powerful Captain of the Chellish escort ship. What will Lorenz agree too?

While Shaman was oiling a rusty lever in seventy different places and a living swinging ax chopped at our heads, I thought of Goethe. I wondered if he remembered that he faked his own death. Knowing him probably not. I could see him making a big display of himself down at the Coins by crassly interrogating an old acquaintance. Later, I bet he would wind up staking out Chellish ships for secretive reasons. It would be funny if he ran into Lorenz! Will Goethe do something foolish?

While Shaman and I tiptoed along a half inch eave around an open spiked pit, I thought of Mr. Finn. He is an experienced tracker so I bet he could find the Sewer Dragons’ entrance on his own, but that first trap was a doozy. He would probably drag his nearly dead body back to the Grand Lodge and meet with his superiors like nothing happened. Will Mr. Finn spill his guts there?

While Shaman and I outran a rolling boulder that dropped from the ceiling on us, I thought of Myrrh. Absalom is full of chances. I imagined Myrrh might find some of his family like his sisters at a Black Mass costume shop. Will he be tempted to leave with his lost family?

I imagined my crew trying to follow my clues through the over-engineered hell tunnel. They would have to work together in order to have a fighting chance. I knew they could do it, but that last boulder trap was a dirty trick. I could easily see Goethe getting smashed in between the metal bars by that enormous boulder since his athleticism is lacking. Would Mr. Finn’s trip over his unstable fin legs and fall to his doom? There were so many ways for them to find death it made my heart race. I patiently waited for screams, but none came. I must stay the faith. They’re no ordinary bunch, their testicles are meaty along with their perseverance.

Before I knew it, Shaman and I made it through to the end of the death tunnel. Shaman looked astonished that I had followed him without getting a single blemish on my scales. Furthermore, he was rattled that I whistled a peppy tune during the most dangerous parts. I tried to impress him by saying, “I cut off long ago everything that makes me hesitant”. I couldn’t tell him the truth that I was distracted the whole time and probably would’ve misfired if I thought about the unparalleled peril. What kind of Kobold do you think I am?

Suddenly, we were greeted by an uneasy presence. I saw another blue Kobold emerge from the shadows, he was decked out from head to toe in impressive trap-making tools, and his utter expression of animosity was undeniable. Shaman the old coot, responded with equal unleashed hostility.

“What brings you here Trapmaster Tok?”, hissed Shaman.
“Nothing Chief Kibizax, nothing at all”, growled Tok. I sensed tribe politics at play!

Some say it takes a Kobold to solve Kobold problems. Good thing I’m a Kobold.

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A Chance in Absalom!!! Goethe’s Crappy False Demise?
Captain’s log found on cofferdam

While sailing to Absalom, I had a small epiphany. It got me excited the more I thought about it. Absalom was the city of chances! How many first, second, and last chances have been found there? Probably more than raindrops in a hurricane. For crying out loud, anyone can become a freaking God in Absalom! Proof that more so than anyplace in the world, Absalom can make impossible chances possible. The thought of it was intoxicating. Truly a gateway like no other! Once setting foot, I aimed to make the most out of my chances. We all did.

absalom.jpg

Absalom is easily the largest city I have ever seen. It appeared that many hundreds of thousands of residents and visitors lived on top of one another in an urban jungle. The number of ships anchored outside of the Flotsam graveyard was obscene, easily numbering several thousand. There were ships from every corner of the world! Further proof that endless opportunity can be mined from the heart of the world. From our anchorage in the harbor, Absalom looked like a collage of city blocks that grew side by side like companion crops in a narrow field. The thirteen remarkably distinct districts were easy to make out even though it was my first time visiting. Each district had its own architecture, colors, and flags. Goethe explained that a Grand council ruled Absalom but for the most part each district has great autonomy which added to the polyculture atmosphere. Most impressive of all was the Starstone Cathedral that shot out of the center of the city like a giant middle finger to the rest of the world that seemed to say, “Get a load of me!”. Very exciting.

Goethe got weird. Granted he has always been weird but as we got closer he got more and more nervous. He paced the topdeck incessantly, struggling with something in his steel-trap mind. Maybe it was memories? Maybe fear? Maybe diarrhea? I don’t know. As soon as the city was in sight, Goethe masked the ship in gray clouds for some reason. He obviously didn’t want our or his presence known in these strange waters. He refused to dismiss the dense clouds like a defiant prick. Fortunately, we could still see out of the mist.

I spotted a familiar gray dragon on one of the anchored ships. At first the other ship looked like a big merchant freighter, but something seemed off so I stared extra hard at it. Slowly, the image of the ship morphed in a tangled mass of vines, leaves, and tree roots! It was a freaking living ship! I want it! Ashen was the gray dragon I spotted, but she was accompanied by a number of green draconic henchmen. I wondered if she would be happy to see us or not. We planned to find out.

Lorenz and Myrrh flew over to her on the griffon figure. They seemed to have nice conversation from my viewpoint. I think I even saw her giggle at one point. Ashen called out, “Please, dismiss the fog shrouding your vessel, Master Goethe!”.

Goethe got crazy eyes all over his body. His mind was working thirty steps ahead of everybody. He was sweaty and breathing hard. This place really twisted him up.

“Captain, I have a plan. You are going to kill me”, stated Goethe. I crooked my head in confusion. He then explained he wanted to fake his own death.
“Great Plan! I’m in! It can’t fail!”, I replied. Mr. Finn looked as confused as a merfolk on land could be. And Hexa just shook her head.

“Suck on this you stupid lizards”, he yelled. Goethe then poked Slate’s platinum horn outside of his conjured fog and waved it around like his cock. Ashen looked unimpressed, but her henchmen readied for attack. Goethe created an illusion of himself and sent it above the ship to further mock them, “I’m seen jellyfish with more backbone”. The real Goethe dived into the water. We were reaching the climax.

“Quit it! Goethe. This is no time for tomfoolery”, shouted Ashen.
“I will destroy you all with my unstoppable magic. Die worms!”, replied illusion Goethe in a robotic tone as it gathered light in its good hand. Immediately, Ashen’s bodyguards attacked the illusion with acid breath and spit. Illusion Goethe melted like albino candle wax but continued to mock them in a very scripted manner. This was my cue!

“G-o-e-t-h-e-! Y-o-u i-n-s-u-b-o-r-d-i-n-a-t-e b-a-s-t-a-r-d. I m-u-s-t k-i-l-l y-o-u f-o-r d-i-s-o-b-e-y-i-n-g m-y o-r-d-e-r-s”, I deliberately read out loud from a piece of paper that Goethe had given me. Then I shot the shit out of the illusion’s horned head. The illusion mechanically grabbed its chest and screamed, “Nooooo!”, in an overly dramatic fashion, then fell into the water and died.

“Leave Now!”, shouted Ashen, “I don’t have time for your childish games”. What? That was fucking perfect. I killed Goethe just like he wanted. No way she saw through his genius plan. Vestin took flight again and motioned for us to move the ship. He also looked unimpressed at the performance. I guess I really need to work on my acting skill. I moved the ship away.

Goethe did not reappear. So the rest of us took a rowboat to shore. Mr. Finn and Myrrh went to the Foreign Quarter. Lorenz and I went to see his father in the Petals. We all needed to investigate possible leads into the Sewer Dragons, Dartakithquent, and the Infernal line. I overheard Lorenz’s father talk about the Emerald Arrow and a Cheliaxian convoy, but I soon got bored and took a stroll to the Ascendant Court. I was eager to take measure of the Cathedral of the Starstone with my own eyes. The Gods were calling!

Outside the God’s market, I met a big oafish pirate munthrek named Tiny who knew my name from my Arcadian adventures. This was a first! My name is getting around! I tried to impress him with more tales of awesomeness but he was too drunk to believe me. It was very frustrating. During our drinking, I just so happened to spot an elderly blue Kobold buying Dahak and Apsu idols. My mind meat got heated up with dragon fire!

“Tiny go see my quartermaster Vestin at his castle in the Petals. He will show you proof of all my tales like a Saffron Collar. Now, I must go and subjugate the Sewer Dragons.”

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Next Port!!! The City at the Center of the World
Captain's log found on the fore-mast

There I was lying in a dung cart, skinned alive, marinating in my own salty blood, being carted off by two strangers, and I couldn’t help but smile wide. Ezgar was eliminated! He was roadkill on the side of the highway to our final destination. It’s always good to give yourself a pat on the back, even when that pat lands on your bleeding subcutaneous tissue. The dung cart carrying me was swift almost like it had magical properties to make it go fast and the munthreks driving administered first aid. This was the Dung Guild’s secret emergency recovery team!

I got to say Katapesh City’s Street Sweeper and Dung guild is a world class organization filled with the most generous Shitheads. Those munthreks really do take care of their own even if it has been less than a day. I got patched up and re-scaled in no time flat. As thanks, I gave the guild leaders some Presto oozes and promised to make them famous. As it was, the Presto oozes were what they were angling for since they somehow learned that the disinfectant oozes can split once high enough on quality pesh. The pesh can also grant them other special qualities depending on the potency . I agreed to something business-y, but I don’t quite remember the details. As a parting gift, the Dung master presented me their most prestigious medal the “Golden Shovel Broom” and the honorary title of Shuiblith Sonear!

Shuiblith Sonear. I like the sound of that. A proper pirate name! I will wield that title to strike fear into the asses of my foes like a double barrelled shotgun from thirty feet. My enemies will flee in terror from the Shuilblith Sonear with holes in their asses!

I was escorted back to the Deep Sea Current by my guildies in the single hours of the morning and I hit my rack. Before breakfast, Myrrh fetched a fully recovered Lorenz from the Red Mistress. I giggled at Lorenz’s sorry state, he was encrusted in dried vomit, smeared with still wet diarrhea, and smelled of elderberries. And I’m called the Shuiblith Sonear! After Lorenz took a three hour long milk bath, he was itching to see Gilex for some payback. For some reason, he thought Gilex was responsible for his embarrassment. Sounded like fun!

Unfortunately, Gilex’s wasn’t at his ship, The Prophet’s Coffer, when we arrived. That may not be entirely true, pieces of him may have been amongst the carnage we discovered. All of his black jacket bodyguards, personal attendants, and slaves were slaughtered like sick cattle. Mr. Finn got riled up after examining the mysterious streaks of slime found all over the corpses. He tracked the mysterious slime to the topdeck and jumped into the sea. He was intensely obsessed. In a corner of the carnage cabin, the Aboleth skull was shattered and a sapphire was missing. It appeared Gilex was a bigger fool than me to play with such dangerous artifacts. Oh well! I took it upon myself to take a few things to remember poor Gilex by like weapons, jewels, and silverware. Lorenz reported that a night watchman from another ship saw a man dressed in the finest white dive into the sea in the middle of the night. The man never came up. So there might be hope for Gilex afterall!

After lunch, we paid the 216,000 gold for our prize, the Sun Elixir. Just knowing Ezgar didn’t have it was enough. Thinking about what to do with it was provocative: keep it, sell it, or drink it. Each path has extraordinary possibilities and consequences. We decided tucking it away for a rainy day was the best option. Call it a trump card, in case things get messy!

Lorenz was in rare form. I think he felt like he let us down at the Nightstalls by getting poisoned. Nonsense. But I do wonder what would’ve happened if was there. Lorenz spoke so elegantly and shrewdly to the Pactbroker Sayid, I didn’t know what was going on, except it was some next level negotiation. Lorenz might of bribed him, sold him something, or threatened him. Maybe all three. I don’t know. In the end, Lorenz arranged for us to be couriers on behalf of the Pactmasters and we were charged with returning Dartakithquent’s 215,000 gold writ to him in Absalom. Lorenz even got his hands on a shiny looking black card that he said could open invisible doors in invisible places. Like I said in rare form.

For better or worse we left our mark in Katapesh so it was time to get the heck out. After Mr . Finn investigated some minor ship damage below the water line, we shoved off for Absalom the proclaimed City at the Center of the World. We had Dartakithquent’s writ, Ezgar’s skin maps, and Infernal line rumors to fuel us. I felt like the next leg of the journey is going to bring us closer to the truth. Probably hell too. We can’t run away now, we’re all in after killing Ezgar. Besides, if Apsu’s heroes run away who is left to struggle.

My mind burned with thoughts of the adventure ahead of us. Goethe sensed it too and offered, “Did you know that one can become a god in Absalom?” I couldn’t help but smile wide again.

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Finn's first catch
some time ago

Pulled up on tha sands I did, ‘bought a spell ago among tha likin a tha town a marrimore. Been trackin a bounty for a bit. As me fins found a likin to land webs, me ol’ gneshy be finnin ‘is feet as well. Fluffin ’is fur a bit and lappin tha waters as ’es akin ta. Missin the waters as we always do, kinship there is in that. Sand is a strange thing when ya first get your land legs. A bit o’ the sea, but not worth swimmin through. A bit a the land, yet not worth walkin through.
Then we find our land legs on a bit a road, much more ta ma likin, yet gneshy prefer’in tha grass. He ‘in snorts a few times, gettin’ the salt sea outa his way as we past the mist o’ the beach and head toward tha lights not meant by tha moon in tha sky. Foggy air covers tha lanterns a the city as we approach. Bit a luck there, what helps the transition. Smoke comes then also, a bit a nuisance, yet reminds me a the fires a men, an’ tha world what we be upon now.
Gatekeeper calls, “what business you have here?”
I responds, “Finnigan Torrentail, what come ta spake ta tha pathfinders’ lodge.”
Whispers, an’ a boy sent off…waitin fa’r the usual time. Gate opens an I be givin’ a nod ta the watchman, what all in good favor a human ways. Cobblestones gleam shear as ice as’in I make ma way toward tha lodge a ma’ brethren.
As I push tha door open, the eyes fall upon me. Gneshgnesh stands at ma side eagerly awaitin the warmth a the hearth. Startled an weary eyes land on the wayfarer in ma hand an I wave for chuckles to land ‘imslef down at the warmer part a tha fire.
A clerical man with dark bags in ’is eyes inquires unspoken a ma likin. “Name’s finnigan, ma goo’din man. Been trackin a bounty goes by tha name-a Doughtry the Fist. Likin ta know anything ya might be awares of in these parts.”
Tha man done smiled in a politin’ way, yet looks across tha room ta a couple been spakin a spell, then stopped suddenly at the spakin a the name.
He says ta me then, “ I have heard of a man by that name, and the bounty is quite fetching. Many have tried to track him, and yet, he seems to have disappeared in the wilds of the south.”
Lemme tell ya, down south I ‘ave been, an no man o’ the city could survive in them wilds.
I somber ma face and spake in all ernesty, “well if that be true, than ’ere’s a drink ta his soul, he would’a bout be’in eatin by dragons by now.”
An eagerly restfull face falls upon the lodge-giver, and equally upon the two lads in tha corner. There is something there to see, but for the night, I lodge a room, and inquire only briefly a the two compatriots. After the night, there will be more to find.

Wakin in tha morn I find comfort in ma bag, packed right, gneshy sleepin comfort an like a tha foot a tha bed. Snorin an whiskers ticklin tha feet at ’is own mouth. Likin ta tha, yet thar bein a man on tha run we be fetchin ta find. Near a poke an a whisper be bein all its needin to stir ’im up in runnin. ’es a kin ta tha hunt as much as aye.

Words been parsed an words been spaken’ yet thar be words unspaken ‘as well. Approachin I was ta tha men be spaken a ma hunt.
“morn laddies,” I spake, “an cheers ta ol’ Doughtry tha brave, what caught ‘is wilds in tha lands o tha south.” strangely they looked at me, and telling it twas in thar eyes. Ma likin sayin ta me that doughtry ain’t in been down south yet’.
Tha peak’ed one spoke only, an muchin ta tha point. “Good morning to you sir…I’m sorry I don’t believe we’re familiar with this Doughtry you speak of.” aghast in his likin as iffin I couldna see right through ‘im.
“Aye” I says an gives him a wink. The shakin’ heads an befuddled looks tells me more than thar open silent gapes could tell me if they be spakin. I passed em by with a positive notion in me head. The prey be near, in town likely, lessen takin ta tha wilds be his likin indeed.
Gneshy’s nose be ticklin im as we enter tha street proper. Occurrin ta me then that tha likes a ma compatriots had pointier ears in tha morn. Mightin not ta be the same lot. Appologies be long past to be givin, an gneshy be on tha scent. Sees I does as well, a man aboutin ol doughty’s leisure been about here last night, an been limpin ta tha east. I gives gneshy a nod, an he sends off sailin on tha wind.
Mornin sun be risin an shinin bright in tha east. Bit a discomfort thar, lights not bein as bright undar tha waves. Bit a folk be wanderin’ about, givin ma best ta give em a polite how d’ya do. Most ain’t in ta have tha time ta likewise meet ma eyes. Strolled a bit ta be findin tha side a town be likin ta be a bit a market. Good place ta be hearin tha words a the winds a the morn.

Spake a bit ta a man be bein tha brighter ways a tha morn. Spake a tha mornin catch an ‘is way about tha sea. Bein a man a tha sea an his way a catching tha fish what glow in tha mornin light. Not much knowledge be passin ma way, yet a bit a food for me an ol’ gneshy. His likin an ol ta a bit a breakfast. On tha scent afta that ta tha likin of our hunt. Doughtry did’ un passed this way. Crossbeams on high an a tell a the wind sayin there aint but been the prey bout here in a while.
Sidestreets gone by, an gneshy lookin at me like I don’t know the north wind from tha south. Solice thar is in that, an a bit a temperament. An’ suddenly as gozreh ‘imself spaken a word of kindness. A wind come inta ma nose of a man, tha same scent of the prey, tha scent a fear. Followin tha’ like a wolf with tha scent a blood, we travelled through the city. Out into the expanse a tha wild.
Out into the forest we traversed, me an gneshy, each following our nose and aiding each other with a gentle nod of yes…and no. Out into the wild until we found ourselves at a perplexing part in the wilderness.
Now gnesgnesh knows his way in the way of the forest much better than me, so it was with a trepidacious heart that I followed him, reluctantly, into that dark cavern. After what seemed like an eternity, I eventually heard the boisterous laughter of men, which finally made me feel within the realm of understanding. Though gneshy knew the wilds better than I, I certainly knew the way of men better than he.
Outa the darkness I crept, yet hearin, an knowin that I been heard long before ma feet hit tha light. I spake then, “doughtery, I be here for you an you alone, come out an surrrender yarself, an no one else will need to be a part.”
Russlin then I heard and a sword ta my right. Ducked down and swung at ‘im in kind, two times I struck ’im and as tha warm blush of blood poured at ma chest, I knew I had slayed him. Not much sport in that really, a bit a shame. Yet not much time ta waste as another blade swung at me from tha dark. This one caught ma shoulder an I likin it ta a cold iron filled with fire piercing your skin. I grabbed the wrist a tha man an ran ma blade clean though his neck, so that’an tha likeness a his eyes looked back on me as it rolled across the cavern floor.
Killin’ a man aint’ much joy, yet bein not killed by a man, be much a joy in itself. Ol’ doughtry be still about in tha dark, an I know his joy be much more in killing me, than in me in him.
Slowly a drew myself down through the cavern. Not much spaken I heard, so I knew we were encroachin’ amongst tha prey. Finally I found tha dirty lot, cowerrin’ and pleadin’ as is the way a tha prey. Spake a family an friends not much to bein his likin when he did his crime. So ma trident struck true. Straight ta tha likin a his head.
Unconscious an unkind, I dragged tha sorry soul back ta his fate. Without death thar always be hope for a soul. Upon this likin I collected ma reward an never again would ‘ol doughtry scourge tha country, an’ never again would the likin a finn be upon these shores. Too many folk knew his name, and too many folk be spakin tha tale. An’ too many folk get tha tale wrong. On that day, I saved a man’s life, yet on that day, too many would tell the tale of when ’ol finn took the life of a man.

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