The Pakthryxl Proxy

A Grulios Family Reunion!!! Shoddy Plans Got You Locked Out?
Captain's log found on the fairlead

Planning shit out is a tough business. Frustratingly hard to do by yourself and nigh impossible for a group. Devising a complicated plan among my crew takes a miracle, sly bribes, and molasses rum; lots of molasses rum. We instantly become a crew of whiny contrarians or even worse a bunch of antsy noncommittal limp dicked cowards. We go around and around until something sticks. An exhausting process. Goddamn, it makes me angry just thinking about it! I gotta hand it to bank robbers and criminal masterminds around the world. Bravo! Give those guys medals. Let them keep the gold. Just think of the thousands of hours they spent arguing – I mean planning. Don’t get me started on the Gray Dragons. It probably took them millions of hours to plan the stinking pakthryxl. Plus they failed once and were undeterred. Begads, I don’t know if I’d have it my stomach if I were them. I barely had in my guts to sit through our Infernal Line planning.

That being said the value of a good plan is priceless. It’s worth the investment and struggle. Searching for the right plan to crush the Infernal line was a necessity. Westcrown was behind enemy lines, we had no allies, no ship, precious few cards to plan, and a tight deadline. We had been short on resources in the T-Rex’s mouth before but this time it felt vastly different. Apsu had raised the bar and was watching. Cracking open Vira Grulios was going to take more than a wink and wiggle from Lorenz. Unfortunately, we worked through the night to come up with the perfect plan. We constantly analyzed, tweaked, and refined. Drew inspiration for legends of old and contemplated modern arts of war. It was terrible work that turned my brain meat into gravy sauce. What was our perfect plan? I will tell you. The plan was to have Goethe knock on Asad’s door and demand an audience. Nailed it!

We had other plans. No one liked my idea of breaking down the manor door and putting a gun to Asad’s head. We thought about having Liamond send word up the food chain that the Deep Sea Current had arrived and was ready to rouse Lirovilex. Of course, we didn’t have our ship or dragon with us. We thought about reporting Asad to the Westcrani government, but he probably had the right officials in his pocket. Tunnelling, teleporting, trojan horsing, and thieving were all out. All that was left, staring us in our dumb faces, was leveraging Goethe’s delicate family ties. Goethe was the key! God help us.

We still had a few messes to clean up before going to Vira Grulios. Interrogations of Liamond and Hily revealed some interesting tidbits. Murk was a contract devil, the dragon waking occurred at Vira Grulio, and devils from the second layer of Hell were required. I disliked dealing with enemy survivors, so I gave the pair the standard offer. Join up or get exiled. Liamond, the greedy tool, was bought with the promises of riches. The busty beauty Hily was persuaded by Goethe’s powerful revelation.

“I am, Goethe Grulios, the first son of Asad Grulios! I return for what is mine. Come walk through the fires of Hell with me. The path leads to justice”, elegantly said Goethe. He dropped his disguise revealing his true form. Hily gasped. She started running his fingers across Goethe’s smooth horns. It looked very sexaul to me.

“You have his BIG horn! Is it really you Master Goethe? I will follow you anywhere, Master”, replied Hily with yearning. The lustful obsessed look in her eyes was scary and alarming. Goethe didn’t seem to mind it.

We rode out the night in the Miratanza warehouse. The mysterious shadow beasts scratched the doors every so often. Goethe teleported back to the ship with our newest crew members. In the morning, he returned with Hexa in tow. We all took some time to map out the Rego Laina canals with our folding boat before making it to Vira Grulios. The Vira Grulios estate was the most rundown noble mansion I had ever seen. The exterior had wild ivy growth up the walls, broken shutters, chipped paint, weathered bricks, and missing roof tiles. What a dump! Compared to Lorenz’s family ivory castle it looked like an outhouse. We approached the dilapidated main gate. It was time for the rubber to meet the road, could Goethe do this!

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First came knocking. Nothing. Next came banging. Nothing. Then came screaming. Nothing. Lastly, came the Condottari.

“Halt! Who goes there?”, demanded the guard captain.
“Is this place abandoned?”, asked Goethe.
“What is your business? Do you have an appointment?”, said the guard.
“I need no appointment! I am, Goethe Grulios, the firstborn son of Asad Grulios. Do you dare insult me peasant?”, intimidated Goethe. He was really amped up, but it worked.
“My apologies, Master Goethe. This mansion is always locked down tight when not in use; which is why we patrol frequently. Please let us escort you to the private harbor in back. You may find a servant there”, bowed the guard.

The private harbor was large and well maintained. We came around on to a small peninsula with a few out buildings that oversaw the main dock. The wooden dock was long and study, lined with a heavy steel track from end to end, and at water’s edge an impressive crane sat at the ready. On the other terminus, the tracks led to an enormous basement door the size of a dragon!

The harbor was unfortunately deserted. We all hopscotched over some slippery rocks to the the main dock to take a closer look around. Goethe slipped. To save himself, he activated his magic and shifted out of existence like one does. He never reappeared. So much for our way in!

A few minutes later, a tall munthrek figure shrouded in purple robes appeared behind Hexa and embraced her. A caught a glance before the figure and Hexa disappeared. He looked like Goethe if you aged him forty years and he learned how to smile.

“Was that Asad?”, Lorenz asked.
“Lord Grulios is home. We will leave you in his care. Please excuse us”, said the Condottari captain. The city guards left us to wait. Lorenz, Mr. Finn, and I sat down.

“I wonder what they are talking about?”, I said.
“By the look of fatherly love on Asad’s face, I say emotional healing”, cracked Lorenz.
“ayeisaytemptation ”, garbled Mr. Finn.
“This plan was shit! Fuck, we can’t leave them in there by themselves. There’s no telling what will happen next with Goethe!!!”, I shrieked.

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Materializing in Westcrown!!! The City of Twilight
Captain’s log found on the deadlights

Lorenz’s intimidation worked faster than a tea clipper on a day’s run. In no time, we were face to face with Captain Marcellano on dinghies in open water. Lorenz patched up relations by weaving a half truth about Apsu entering the Cage to wage war against the perversion of his precious children. It was Apsu who took their sarglagon and attacked our ship. Apsu was to blame for everything. Lorenz laid it on as thick as mud, using all his creativity and non-verbal trickery to get the point across. Somehow it worked! Marcellano backed off and agreed to hold up his end of the contract, if we upheld our end. Later, Lorenz explained that Marcellano was probably just playing along just to keep a close eye on us. He further explained Aspis Gold agents were shrewd bastards, unlikely to face a foe head-on unless victory was assured. Fine by me. I gave zero shits if Marcellano sifted through our poop trail. But if he ever touched my ship he was in for a world of hurt.

It was agreed upon to limit contact among the ships. We stuck to our ship and they stuck to theirs. Fine by me. We had a mission in Westcrown to get too. No more parlor games. Apsu wanted action so it was time to give the Gray Dragons and Vira Grulios more action than they can handle. Master Goethe materialized us to the middle of Westcrown the instant we were away from prying eyes. It was time to crush the Infernal Line underfoot!

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Westcrown, The City of Twilight, was both impressive and ugly at the same time like a gold polished turd. The baroque castles of the Chellish nobility were truly dazzling sights, but the rest of the city rotted in the flea bottom. While strolling through the Parego Regicona, it was obvious to see that Westcrown was once a powerful city that easily rivaled Absalom in terms of dominance. On the other hand, my trained senses could tell that the canals once ran red with blood. The smell of atrocity lingered in the waters. Likewise, a heaviness in the air seemed to weigh down the people with invisible shackles. To me, the soul of the city was gutted.

Goethe explained Westcrown was the site of the bloodiest battles during the Chellish Civil War, which happened 100 years ago caused by the God Aroden’s death. House Thrune turned to Asmodeus and the infernal powers of Hell to unite the people under one banner. They were successful. Many died. Goethe further lectured that House Thrune goes to great extremes to maintain their supreme control of the government. Everything from state controlled textbooks, to Hellknight inquisitions, to sudden disappearances were used to control the populace like a demented Big Brother. In fact, Westcrown was House Thrune’s prison for the old aristocracy. The noble Houses in Westcrown were too powerful to erase outright so they were forced out of new capital of Egorian. My instincts were right, Infernal Cheliax was as suffocating as I suspected. No wonder Goethe turned out the way he did.

Speaking of Goethe, the deep scars of his tortured past were as visible as glitterdust to the naked eye. He was moody, irritable, and fearful all at once. I can’t imagine the enormous stress he was under, considering his father’s involvement and Apsu’s demands He took no comfort being home. Another funny thing was, even though he was home, the people on the street were all incredible prejudice towards him. I was ignored, but he was practically stoned to death by the glares. So weird. I thought Tieflings would be revered given the whole Chellish devil-worshiping thing. Goethe reminded me, that the Chelish credo was “Cheliax doesn’t serve Hell, Hell serves Cheliax”. Devils were treated like livestock in Cheliax and you don’t fuck the livestock. Lorenz decided it would be prudent to use disguises. I was dressed to look like a burned halfling slave and Goethe had to wear a ridiculous Orision Pharaoh headdress to hid his horns. After the quick change, we had more success talking with the merchants and tavern owners.

Lorenz easily found Vira Grulios’ warehouse in the Miratanza district that was described in Dartakithquent’s contract. So we knocked and talked our way past the steward, Liamond. I swear we just wanted to poke around and gather some information. A fight broke out. Two hidden wizards attacked after I tried peeking into a secret room. We had the upperhand until the city bells started going off. Were we found out?!

The bells signaled the twilight curfew. For some fucking reason, after twilight packs of wild shadow beasts materialize in the city to feed on the unprepared. You could barely make out the inky black beasts’ muscular canine bodies from the darkness; your eyes got immediately pulled to their large white fangs. Begads, their twisted howls opened the floodgates of your worse nightmares. I should know, I instantly wanted to flee as soon as I heard the infernal howls. Luckily, Mr. Finn got a pair of brass balls.

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One of the idiot munthrek wizards came around the warehouse and opened the front door with a pack of beasts chasing him. Mr. Finn headbutted the dummy wizard unconscious, picked him up, threw him out, and closed the door. He took several savage claws to his chest and face but it barely affected him. The sound of the man being torn apart from behind the door was disturbing. Better him than us.

We regrouped. Liamond was out cold and the other wizard named Hily was panicked. It was time for some answers. With arms crossed, I confidently stared at our prisoners and menaced, “What is this place? Where is Murk? Tell us everything or your…um…um…whatever the hell those things are, food!”

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Rattling the Cage!!! Course Correction
Captain's log found on the devil seam

We couldn’t see the beach for the sand. Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of our ultimate goal and got balled up in the minutiae of the journey. Were we really going to serve Lirovilex up on a silver platter to the Gray Dragons? Begads, we knew that the Grays planned to wake up Lirovilex by binding a freaking parasitic devil to him like heartworms in a dog. How did this knowledge affect us? We gave exactly zero fucks. We were too caught up. Shame on us! Devil binding was not the cure Apsu was searching for, it was pure snake oil. We hadn’t stopped to consider Apsu’s feelings on the whole devil binding business. Of course, Apsu wouldn’t approve of such abominations! Shutting down the Gray Dragons was mission number one, not getting jerked around by them. Thankfully, Apsu came down on us hard as a motherfucker to belabor those big picture points.

Our much needed course correction, happened at a bad time. Captain Marcellano, while side-stepping inquiry, had just abruptly left the Deep Sea Current in a hurry. Shortly after his departure, Goethe and Hexa informed us that their weird infernal talismans may have eaten the the sarglagon in the Drowning Devil. They showed us their melancholic talismans that were freaking breathing! The talismans reminded me of lungs ripped out of a kittens that were being gangbanged by a parade of green octopi. So quite disturbing. I swear the living talismans looked me in the eyes and shouted, “We are GIGACETAN!

Very mysterious. Oh well, I’m sure Goethe will figure it out.

Captain, you’re going to want to see this”, Tebrilith broke in from the topdeck. I went topside. The Emerald Arrow and the Drowning Devil were slowly breaking formation with gunports open. They may have noticed their missing devil. I called for battle stations, kept our distance at 300 yards, and waved the parley flag.

“Captain?”, said Mr. Finn.
“What now? Can’t you see that I’m busy? We got the devil to pay”, I yelled.
“Aye. That there clockwork dragon just clicked on”, he replied.
“F-F-Fuck…fuckity-fuck-fuck…FFUCK!”, I screamed, “Tell Goethe and Lorenz to handle it!”

A few minutes later things went from annoyingly tense to a boiler room of godly pressure. Goethe poofed on to the aftcastle with a rapidly expanding chrome clockwork dragon. The sound of a turbine winding up cut through the air. The metal dragon slowly unfolded itself, each piece locked into socket with a click, then the next piece, and the one after that. Metal legs lifted the gearbox like torso off the deck while springy plasma cut wings spread open wide. Lastly a great mechanically dragon head elevated up from the center of the machine like a stalagmite and snapped into place atop a crane-like neck. A protective circle of golden fire burned around the steel hellkite but I felt no heat. Ringlets of golden steam rose up from its maw which made it look like it was breathing. I knew exactly what was happening. Apsu had come.

“Why have you forsaken me!”, boomed Apsu. The echo bent my bones.
“We haven’t forsake you”, I pleaded.
“Then why are you taking Lirovilex to his end?”, accused Apsu.
“To get close to the Grays”, answered Lorenz.
“Dragons should not be tainted by Devils! I have come to The Cage to see to that. You have become too complicit. Watch me show you how to take appropriate action”, decreed Apsu.

Apsu went into the forward compartment and assimilated the fiend’s mouth cannon hidden beneath the bow. Back on the deck, the metal dragons’ wings parted and the newly absorbed cannon pointed to the sunlight. An enormous blast fired from the cannon, the adamantium cannonball landed near the Drowning Devil. The splash was so powerful it spun the other ships off course.

“That is how you put a stop to the Infernal Line!”, hollered Apsu.
“I will give you one more chance. Swear to me no harm will come to my dragons. Swear to me you will end the blasphemous Infernal line. Swear to me you will no longer stray. What say you?”

My heart started racing. I was getting pumped up. If Apsu wanted action I was prepared to go all in. I would pile Gray Dragons bones to the heavens above if that whats it take. I was about to say something, then Goethe opened his big fat mouth and ruined my buzz.
“Apsu, let me take this opportunity to educate you…”, interjected Goethe.

Goethe went into a soliloquy of epic length. Blah, blah, blah, I need more power. Blah, blah, blah, my father was mean to me. Blah, blah, blah, what right do you have? I never thought I’d see a God who lives in the infinite spaces become so irritated. Apsu took back all his power he lent to Goethe. The intangible grace shrouding Goethe faded. He looked so freaking ordinary it made me feel sorry for him. But then he started talking again and the feeling vanished.

“What say you?!”
“We stopped the Dread line, we’ll stop the Infernal line, we’ll stop all the lines. A devil will never be bound to Lirovilex or Achiusk. We will burn the Grays up in your honor!”, I pledged.
“I vow”, said Lorenz.
“What the Captain said”, said Mr. Finn.
“yes”, said a slightly humbled Goethe. Instantly Apsu’s power returned to Goethe’s body.

“So be it. My time is short in the Cage. I must go now and make my presence felt”, Apsu ended. With that he took off like a rocket, the shockwave was so forceful it spiraled the ships like lily pads in a stream. Such power! It was magnificent!

Apsu made the course clear to me. I hoped the others understood. I will not make the Waybringer doubt me again! The Gray Dragons and all their plans were about to go extinct.

……

A little while later, a hellknight named Munder came to treat with us.

“What in the blimey hell was that?”, yelled Munder once he was on board.
“Thank you for coming. How can we resolve this misunderstanding?”, replied Lorenz, avoiding the question. Munder back pedaled.

“You scum are in breach of contract. Return our devil!”, he snarled in an unpleasant twang.
“Tell Rutilus and Marcellano that the Auditor with the full backing of the Bank of Abadar says they’re in breach of contract. Tell them to stand down. Or so help me, I will rededicate my life to ruining yours and theirs. See my face and know that I am dead serious”, threaten Lorenz with gripping authority. It was a stressful day. Munder didn’t have a chance. He nodded and went back to his ship with his tail between his legs.

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Trouble on High Waters

Finn’s log,
Likin’ ta ma kinship with tha lot, we be ‘avin a fine dinner an tha sorts. Denthanus be at ma elbow spaken a fey folk an tha way a tha wilds. Good company thar bein, and a way a the world. Then tha lass they call Ashen comes from tha nethers and preaches a melody a crashes what kin ta an old sea sailor been likin ta the lullabies a Gozreh ’imself. Entreated I was in that, what been years I heard any maiden sing ta tha seas not in likin ta Tebrilith in such time. Traced ’er down I did, only to hear sweet words of compatriatism, before her body took her on wings I ain’t but seen up to the air and into the arms of the living ship. By Gozreh’s wings I imagine she soared. An angel at tha bequest of its lord.
Likin’ then to a disturbance, the Captain shrieked loudly that the compatriots we once entreated had turned their gun ports toward us. Distracted by that, and a bit bewildered, I found my skirt being pulled on by a little too impetuous demon.
“come with me, the clockwork dragon is stirring.” it spake. Not Knowing what that bein’ about I traversed tha ship’s depth down ta the belly a this magical vessel. Pullin itself tagether this wild machine was, an readin tha face a ma crew, I thought it was about time someone took it apart. Itching ta go were tha likin a tha demon crew. “’ave at it” I spake, an tha little fella’s done what they been itching ta for a spell. No avail it ‘twas an no more they could take it apart as in it done put itself tagetha. Seein’ it grow an bulge tha belly a tha hull, I spake ta master Goethe, “ya got tha means a telepotin it?” Given a nod an tha like ta tha airy folk what since appeared an be spaken ta tha Arcanist.
Up from tha top a tha deck I hear ma Captain cryin’ out. Me an Vestin come runnin, he’un what was tha way a spaken ta tha machine. An’ that’s when I saw it. Two ships, broadside. Ready ta fire and end us. Bit of a luck and bad planning on thar part.
If ye be wantin ta end a ship, best ta plant yar seeds on the broadside of their vessel. A ship with its stern pointed toward’n ya be a hard star to strike. Yet they bein tha first ta make tha ‘gression, an they bein’ tha first ta be explain’n. As tha wind struck ma beard an the waters be beggin ma ta strike as well, only ta talk sense ta our now ex-compatriots. Mind ye now, not knowin’ what wind turned the ways of compatriots ta fiends, I ‘in liknned ta hear tha voices behind me spaken a the god Apsu, an the likin of our cofrontation.
Goethe then be spakin a spell on words I not inta liken ta be able ta repeat. For maself what bein’ a man that liken ta many kinds an spakin ta many likes, ‘is words seem ta leave me daft as a tuna on land webs. Pullin tagethar the liken of a god inhabitin the form a tha iron dragon, I fealt tha crew bowin ta his presence as is a kin ta their stories. Yet none of ’em seemed concerned as I unta tha liken a tha cannons aimed at us.
Fiercly I felt the eyes a tha Iron God look unta ma. Did he ask me a question? Was it ma turn? I glanced ta ma crew mates for an understandin’, then finally ta ma Captain. A slight nod an’ tha fire in ‘is eyes told ma all I needed ta know. I nodded in silence, only slightly aware of what I was agreeing ta. The infernal line must end before our business in Westcrown is through.
The first transgression came from them, and I entreated the lord on high, his grace Apsu to show a willl of strength to show what our vesssel is capable of. Beyond gozreh’s will, beyond the wind and the waves, his mightinesss soared. He displayed for all willing participants, that the lord Apsu has showered all in his presence with his power, and all should bow before him. He is a God amongst dragons, and amidst dragons, in particular, ye must yield.
Parley thar was after tha’, with an armored fella be wantin ta spake a peace. Likin a was ta that, yet he be spaken a takin Master Goethe inta his charge. Likin I was not ta have a member of tha crew be subjected ta tha whims a tha slaver Rutilus, or tha liken a the greedy consortium. Words been spun in tha way a contracts as ta Vestin’s likin’.
If thar bein a way ta sort it all in likeness, there be bein’ no way I be lettin’ ma Captain inta tha hornets’ nest without a strong sword at ‘is side. Though he bein’ tha bravery sort, that may be tha path ahead.
Westcrown I ‘ave been through once or twice in ma man huntin’ days. Good sport thar is in tha’. Law always be findin a way ta get good reason ta hunt a man. Yet I always felt tha way a tha hunters’ sport upon ma back. Not a pleasant place ta be, and I fear we are much better along with friends by our side, than enemies at our heels.
Vestin be in tha likin ta sort things out, It may be only by his silver tongue we might be makin ta sail inta tha port a devils in good regard. On tha ’marrow, I fear troubled waters ahead.

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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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