The Pakthryxl Proxy

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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First night in a new bed
Finn gets quarters

“Settlin in with an undine aint’in ta be a bad space ta be in.” Finn thought to himself, as he watched the fair nomawyn retreat in like to her own quarters, giving her a nod. “plus thar bein waters in un tha sparse a tha ship what bein a way to fan me fins.” He unpacked his books, chronicles of past heroes and adventurers. He hung a crude sign above the makeshift shelving which stated, “Free Library.” He was always happy to share the stories that might help others learn a little about others’ lives and where their own wind might be taking them. Always happy, equally, to hear others’ tales. He queried also, of hanging the simple clay wind chimes he always carried with him, above the door. “Nay,” he thought, “bestin ta let the wind and the waves hear the chimes for gozreh’s ears.”
With the creaking silence, and rhythmic waves of the hull, his ship legs carried him gracefully to the deck of the vessel. Since his first day coming above water he had fallen in love with the night sky. A vast black ocean full of fireflies and lamp eels. Taking a moment to breath in the sights, and the salty sea air, he looked around for a suitable spot. Out on the eave of the ship’s cabin entrance he thought would be enough to not disturb the ship’s occupants. There, with enough of the sea winds for it to make its slight voice be heard, yet not enough to be a nuisance to her guests. His feet carried him lazily to the side of the ship, his eyes peering dreamily into the edge of the sky and dark waters. Earthly tones played softly in the distance, giving voice to the night breeze. He felt a nuzzle at his calf as Gneshgnesh’s glossy eyes looked up at him puzzlingly.
“Ah, ma friend, didn’t in mean ta be wakin ya. Just getting tha feel of it all I ‘spose.” Hired merely as a sailor and guide, there was already a kind of kinship he felt with this crew…a certain familiarity he had not felt before. “Ain’t it a bit strange, ya likin’?” he spoke to gneshgnesh thoughtfully, “Of all tha ships we be in a boarded on…a wedding under the seas…owners of aboleth souls…a ship with in a like mind ta spake ta ya? Thar be somefin more a foot than a right foot could land on, ‘ol gneshy.” Gneshgnesh’s eyes glared up at him sleepily, then purred and wrapped himself into a circle at his feet. “Aye, my likin in kind, there be more ta these landers than meets the eye. Still though, I be plannin to play a bit a the wind in the morn, what might break tha bread.”
Finn’s eyes peered out toward their destination. “Home again.” he thought to himself, “After so many travels, strange folk and thar ways, strange places an thar folk.” Finn’s burning curiosity had taken him to many places. Places most people might describe as feeling like a fish out of water, “I always end up comin back. The land of the Starstone…the first warning. The Earthfall what might’in have destroyed all the humans akin, and what should a’ve united them. Hope in the Pathfinders thar is in that still.”
“Not too clear a the likin a the crew’s business in Absalom.” Finn stroked his beard and tilted his head confusedly, “Many names be spaked I ain’t ’in my business ta know. Likin ta find out though.” Ready to rest on the unknown for the night, Finn scooped his friend up in both arms. With weary legs and a mind for the morning, he carried them both down to, once again, another new bed.

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216,000 Gold!!! Outbid Ezgar!!!
Captain's log found on the companionway

“50,000”
“75,000”
“100,000”
“125,000”
“150,000”
“175,000”
“200,000”
“205,000”
“215,000”
“I bid 216,000 gold!”, I vehemently screamed almost seething, “It will never be yours!”. The crowd watching the intense bidding war between the Kobold and Gebbite Bloodlord gasped for at least the fourth time. The Nightstall’s finale hadn’t disappointed, we were all breathing rare air. How high could the Sun Orchid elixir go? No one knew, not even the scary undead ones. I only knew Ezgar couldn’t have it.

Earlier in the night, Lorenz getting poisoned was a swift kick to the testicle meat. Our plans were scrapped and our cover was blown as we rushed to care for him. The cowardly bastard responsible will wish he was never born after we are done with him! Mr. Finn did what he could to stabilize him, but he still had to be whisked away by Myrrh’s wedding date, the Red Lady, for emergency medical treatment. She assured us that he was in good hands. She seemed trustworthy! I took up his paddle, I felt the others collective “Oh Fuck!” psychic energy wash over me. The loose cannon was now armed!

We passed on several interesting things that came for auction including repossessed Katapeshi real estate, magic pesh, a sexy portable hole, and a freaking Aluum golem. Professor Goethe and Mr. Finn got visibly excited for a wicked looking devil necklace. A mysterious looking guy, named Master Reapsmoor, did most of the bidding and won it with some absurd amount of gold. Goethe and Reapsmoor had a staring contest that ended in smiles so I guess something weird happened. The next item up for auction was our Aboleth Skull with sapphire Veiled Masters!

The Apis Consortium agent, Fatima, had her eyes on it. Mr. Finn and Fatima got into it for a bit but he soon was outmatched when she bid more than 50,000 gold. I was elated but Mr. Finn looked like an angry eel out of juice. Just as the auctioneer was about to award her the gems, Gilex out of nowhere bid 60,000 gold! I didn’t see that one coming. I heard him say, “Your right, wait until Kaledith sees these beauties”, under his breath. Goethe’s smile had grown into an all teeth grin of epic proportions which looked crazy considering his many skin eyes and fungus stalks. He was never good at hiding his joy.

After all that small time junk, the Sun Orchid elixir was presented and all hell broke loose. I reckoned there was no way Ezgar would go wild with the mysterious Pactmaster overlords watching. He’d have to catch a serious case of the stupid fever to do something that reckless. But I’d been pushing him with my big mouth the whole night. After my last bid, I cut him with one last dagger, “Jaciv geou loreat tagoa di wux (she will die because of you)”, I told him, mimicking my best metallic accent. Ezgar lost it in explosion of blind rage! He rushed me with the single-minded goal of ripping me to salad shooter shreds.

Ezgar’s skin suit popped like a balloon revealing his mish mashed bulging muscles and extra large murdering physique. I stood frozen with a dumbfounded look on my face. Was this really happening? I might of misjudged the situation. I got snapped up by his powerful fists before I exhaled. There are certain moments in life when you are certain that something is going to happen. You can see it clearly like deja vu. Hanging there in midair in Ezgar’s clutches, I knew what was going to happen next, clear as fresh water. I saw it happened once before to Aven. There is no way to mentally or physically prepare to be skinned alive. My advice is to scream out all the air in your chest like a little girl and try not to pass out. Ezgar wasted no time stripping me of my scales just like I knew we would. I stayed conscious I think. You might think your chances for life are zero after being peeled like a blood orange, but I like to gamble on the impossible. I didn’t know what was going to happen next which meant anything could happen.

This go around I wasn’t standing on the deck of the Deep Sea Current facing Ezgar alone. This time I had my crew to lean on. Revenge could still be extracted from Ezgar’s hide. The battle was a bloody blur in my head. Staying conscious during continuous massive blood loss is harder than running a marathon on one leg so I was in and out of it. I caught glimpses. I saw Myrrh man up like a boss and go toe to toe. I felt Ezgar’s punches leave earthshaking craters in the ground when he swung and wiffed at Myrrh’s after images. I witnessed my skinned scales mysteriously come to life and grapple an unexpecting Goethe. I managed to annihilate my own beautiful black scales with a lucky musket shot, mere moments before my shredskin was about to crawl up Goethe’s anus meat. Shit I hope I didn’t need that! In thanks, Goethe gave me a temporary magic fix for my skinned condition just in the nick of time. Thanks Goethe!

Watching the killing blow on Ezgar was the single most satisfying experience of my life. I didn’t even care that it wasn’t me pulling the trigger. It was freaking glorious to watch the monster who sunk my ship and murdered my crew die. Mr. Finn with all his might and then some plunged a fucking trident straight through Ezgar’s chest cavity! The death strike was so badass that a stomach plug flew out of Ezgar on to the ground in one clean chunk. Crap, I didn’t even know that was possible! I was expecting organs and bones, not a plug. Ezgar silently looked down at the empty hole in his chest before the rest of his body gave out. His facial expression of utter defeat was priceless. Worth being skinned alive to see.

However, the necro-genius who created Ezgar, must of had a jigsaw puzzle fetish because Ezgar’s lifeless body dissembled into a collection of independent undead monsters. I saw flying eyeballs, a floating head, and fapping claws. The bastard just wouldn’t stay dead! Then I nearly passed out in a pool of my own blood like a runner falling across the finish line. My wounds were too much, my mind and body were at their upper limits. The others had mop up duty. Afterwards, Ezgar was nothing left but a bad memory!

I’m not a mind sorcerer, but there may be more to Mr. Finn than meets the eye. He’s got something that I recognize in myself, in all of us. After watching him plug Ezgar, I would bet Kaledith’s dowry that Apsu’s golden fire courses through his heart. Nomawyn’s friend Time was not wrong, the lost crew has been found. Mr. Finn’s fate matches our own! I hope he realizes it too.

The night finished with Goethe lawyering with the Pactmasters to no avail. One of the slender masked creatures kindly let us know, “You have 24 hours to come up with 216,000 gold. If you are unable to pay we have our ways to recoup the losses”. Then I got thrown into Dung Sweepers cart.

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Wedlock in the Morning!!! Nightstalls in the Midnight!!!
Captain’s log found on the deadwood

How do you measure a day? I asked the crew once. Goethe said in 86,400 seconds, Vestin in taxes collected, Aven in blood spilled, Myrrh in silent footsteps, Finn in recorded accounts, Kaledith in profit turned, and Tebrilith in songs sung. I wager everyone has a different answer. Ask a painter, he might say in brushstrokes or soul crushing frustration. Ask a slave, she might say whip lashes or glimmers of hope. Ask a dying munthrek, he might say in morphine drips or fond memories. Ask me? In triggers pulled? In seas traveled? No, I would say I measure a day in fits of laughter. Any day I laughed is better than a day I didn’t. So what’s gets me going? I’ll tell you what. Seeing an arrogant Kalistocract interrupt a wedding is hilarious, outwitting a Doomsayer is entertaining, and making Ezgar lose his temper is a freaking laugh riot! Easy to say that Vestin’s and Kaledith’s wedding day measured up big time!

Mr. Pipp did a stellar job documenting the nuptials. I’m very proud of my crew coming together in a such a short time to pull off a truly one of a kind wedding. You did me proud lads! Funny thing, Vestin may have made a lifelong nemesis during the ceremony! The Kalistocract Gilex’s outburst at the climax had me in stitches! I wished Gilex had slapped Vestin with his white glove and challenged him to a lover’s duel. I may have died. Instead, he ranted about how the hour of victory was near and Kaledith would be sorry for marrying beneath her station. Mr. Finn interjected and put the munthrek in his deserved place. Gilex turned pink as cherry blossoms when he realized just how big of an ass he was being. Vestin, who looked defeated throughout the morning, perked up for a second when Gilex interfered, but then realized he had already signed on the dotted and slumped over again. Begads, I couldn’t peel myself off the deck!

The newly weds sure got a sweet haul in gifts. I’m a little jealous. I should of married Kaledith! Looks like we have enough wealth to make the Nightstalls interesting. Myrrh got into testy Gilex’s ear and made arrangements for a meeting later in the day. Lord Sevardomos didn’t know what to make of everything, but went along with the festivities as best he could. At noontime, we bid farewell to the wedding guests at port, officially ending the party. I expected Vestin to go on a killing spree but instead he played it annoyingly cool, “That was nice and low key. What’s next?”.

“We must locate the Nightstalls venue,” instructed Goethe.
“It’s somewhere near the Gaol block,”, added Mr. Finn.

The Gaol Block was insanely packed with throngs of munthreks waiting for the parade to begin. Conveniently, the people gave Goethe a wide berth since he looks like a monster who preserves babies in formaldehyde solution. Goethe even played up the fiendish part in order to distract the populace from the others who were snooping around. Funny thing was that Goethe’s radioactive parameter didn’t compare to the fallout produced by the most sinister looking monster I have ever laid eyes on. A shadowy animated skeleton dressed in black robes being carried by a four faced flesh golem, who looked like travesty incarnate. People were running in terror. Not Goethe, he approached the Lich and introduced himself. The others were watching a confab contest between two doomsayers standing on soap boxes at the Prophecies of the Doomsayer’s Stand.

“No, I say! It will be the God of the End Times spilling like sand through the hourglass upon our Lady of Graves!” screamed Argoist, Messenger of the Death Clock.
“Nay, fool! I have seen it! A new world approaches, and it’s occupants will tear open the Cage anew!” retorted Rathocles, the Star Gazer.

That Rathocles guy had me hooked since the Colour Out of Space told us that a rogue planet had penetrated the Diaspora and was nearing our sky above the sky. Mr. Finn was smitten by Argoist and decided to use the opportunity to bring up the Aboleth threat. Argoist treated Mr. Finn’s claims as factually correct and laid into poor Rathocles. Myrrh and I feed Rathocles our own knowledge of the celestial bodies and its man-eating denizens. In little time, their debate went from ludicrous to full on batshit crazy. Everything we said they amplified by a hundred fold.

“The Aboleth live among us. They take the forms of our neighbors and loved ones. The person next to you could be an Aboleth!. Their mucus slime will turn us all into mindless slaves! Mark my words as soon as the next starstone falls”, boasted Argoist.
“Malarkey! In the next thousand cycles chartreuse space oozes are coming to feed on all of us! Your lifeforce will be slurped up like a milkshake! Only those cleansed by Presto Oozes will have a fighting chance!”, retaliated Rathocles with a faint hesitation. I was overjoyed by their diarrhea of the mouth. Was their any truth in their madness? Time will tell. I smiled ear to ear the whole time. The day was just getting better and better. Reminder, we need to visit a observatory for evidence of a rogue planet.

Myrrh and I visited Gilex afterwards. We guilted him into letting me smoke his white vial pesh and for me to accompany him tonight. Smoking the pesh was a rare sensory experience. I had visions of five hooded figures pointing to the center of the Gaol Block. I heard a parade in the distance and a bell sound. This confirmed our suspicions that the Nightstalls was going to be held at Gaol Block right after the start of the parade. It was the perfect place to hide the auction since literally everybody in Katapesh would be following the parade. I got to tip my quadcorne to the Pactmasters for that brilliance.

Finally, we all had invitations to the Nightstalls. Goethe and Mr. Finn with the Pathfinder Society, Gilex and me, Vestin with the Church of Abadar, and Myrrh as a seller. Sure enough, once the parade left the Gaol Block, a frightful menagerie of munthreks and monsters remained at the square patiently waiting. Just like in my pesh vision, five tall slender hooded beings with masks blocked the exits to the square. A genial pact-broker named Hashim ibn Sayid welcomed us to the Nightstalls. He informed us that the auction starts at midnight and encouraged us to mingle while we waited. Some of the most powerful, ruthless, and influential players in the region were milling around, including the flesh golem riding Lich from earlier. Any sane person would clearly see that mingling here was more perilous than mingling with hungry dire sharks with chum in the water. But no matter! We had to check if any of the bidders were Ezgar in disguise. My senses gave me no clue. I would have to lean on the others. I noticed Mr. Finn and Master Goethe discussing a Cheliaxian Talisman with its owner and Myrrh glad handing. Still no sign of Ezgar.

Suddenly, I saw Lorenz flash me a nervous hand signal, while he chatted with a vampiric Gebbite Bloodlord named, Azzul Eshlabar. Lorenz’s voice raised slightly above the muffle, “Pleased to meet you. Your GRAY cloak is to die for!”. Holy Living Shit Lorenz was talking to Ezgar!

My blood immediately turned to pressurized steam from my red hot rage. I wanted to open fire but decided against it due to the mysterious Pactmasters. I bet that Ezgar didn’t want to cause any trouble either so I approached them with guile. I was determined to get a rise out of Ezgar. Maybe he would be removed by the forces that be?

“I’ll be gettin’ my knife back, bastard”, I greeted.
“Ah! So Captain Little Shit, how’s your ship?”, replied the Bloodlord, after flashing my my Azlanti digger strapped to his belt.
“Better than yours”, I sneered.
“Who do you think you are?”, intimidated Ezgar.
“Just a fly in the ointment, Ezgar. A monkey in the wrench. A pain in the ass”, quipped Lorenz.
“You all should’ve died in the Mana Wastes. Stay out of this if you know what’s good for you”, threatened Ezgar.
“I was thinking of buying an elixir for my grandma. She getting a little long in the tooth if you know what I mean”, teased Lorenz.
“I was thinking skin bag man. Do you know someone who’s getting really old?”, I asked, then I hunched over and started limping like an old man, “Cough. Cough. I need some medicine. Ow my hip. I’m so old I could die. Help me Ezgar. Help me!”. Lorenz joined in the improv, we both openly mocked the most lethal creature we ever fought.
“Silence! How dare you talk about Grayscale’s mate that way?! I will take pleasure peeling the skin from your bones!”, growled an enraged Ezgar, he effortlessly snatched my throat with this undead fist. Breathing became a luxury I didn’t have.

The Nightstalls’ opening bell sounded. Bidding was about to start. Ezgar dropped me on the ground, turned his back, and walked away. Just like he did the time before on my ship. I started laughing maniacally, “This is too good! I’m going to pour that shitty elixir into my spittoon. HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH! Welcome to the party, pal!”. Ezgar paused in his tracks for a moment before officially entering the Nightstalls.

How would you measure this day?

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Ezgar’s Peep Show!!! Stag Night at the Sand Dragon Inn
Captain’s log found on jackstaff

It felt like we jammed two long months into one short day. But we had many fruits for our whirlwind labors. We had Ezgar under imp surveillance, invitations to the Nightstalls, a proposal for marriage, a new 2nd mate, and a haughty Kalistrocrat to kidnap. Not too shabby if you ask me!

Lorenz, Kaledith, and Goethe left in the early evening to discuss the espousal with their noble houses. This looked promising! Although Lorenz looked like his seasickness returned with a gut punch and scissor kick to the throat. Note to self, I might have to start wedding planning soon. I imagine rivers of Ink will be spilled like blood on the battlefield during the contract negotiations. Both of ‘em got contract fetishes so I bet 20 gold that the final contract is taller than me. All fracking three of them!

Myrrh popped in shortly afterward, to inform us we needed to get the Aboleth Sapphires ready for auction tonight. No problem! I had ideas falling like apples in the fall. I quickly dropkicked Goethe’s lab door down and rummaged through his junk until I found it. The Aboleth Skull we retrieved from Vosh!

“Lads, let’s put the gems into this thing!”, I yelled while dragging the fossil to the topdeck. Mr. Finn did a comedic double take when he saw the Aboleth head and expensive sapphires.
“Who the hell are you guys?”, Finn said clear as a summer’s day.
“We need a listing price and a description”, disclosed Myrrh.
“I know what will incite bidding”, I teased, “Like tentacles? Crave eyes? Into Aboleth? We got what you’re looking for! Two soul trapping sapphires with Veiled Masters inside. A once in a lifetime offering! 100,000 gold.”

Vandlo the excellent craftsman he is, expertly mounted the sapphires into the Aboleth Skull’s largest eye sockets with delicate ease. After some polishing by the presto oozes it looked remarkable and expensive. Myrrh took to his fence for the auction.

Meanwhile, I started planning the kidnapping of a Kalistrocrat. Gilex seemed to be a key player in Ezgar’s plan. I figured Ezgar planned to impersonate the clean freak at the Nightstalls in order to buy the sun orchid elixir. But if we kidnapped Gilex first we could be a thorn in his considerable side and save a friend of Kaledith’s at the same time. Finn was on board! I like a merfolk with questionable morals. Kicking in the door wouldn’t work, distracting Ezgar was a longshot, and our magic men were gone. It was time for cunning Reskafar style. I had Vaghol write a love letter to Gilex in Kaledith’s handwriting and mark it with her seal. I stole one of Goethe’s bird feather tokens to deliver the message. This is what I dictated to Vaghol, I’m not sure if he changed it.

Dear Gilex Beohrt,

I caught wind that you are in Katapesh. As am I. Now I can’t stop thinking about you and what could’ve been. Your business savvy makes me wet. Come see for yourself at Trillia’s Bathhouse at 10pm sharp.

Sincerely,
Kaledith Sevardomos

We waited and waited, but Gilex never showed. Did my letter not light a fire in his loins? No matter something more exciting happened. Lorenz and Kaledith made their triumphant return. Lorenz looked downtrodden to say the least and Kaledith was glowing like the sun. They were engaged! High fives all around!

For the stag party, we payed a visit to the Sand Dragon Inn looking to collect Gilex. Lorenz and Goethe agreed it was time to see what the hell was going on with Ezgar with our our own eyes. I took a sniper position, Goethe flew around invisible, Lorenz disguised himself as a Zephyr Guard, Myrrh put on his ski mask, and the ballsy Finn walked in the front door. “fukithedontknawmeface”, explained Finn. Looking back now it was such an obvious trap. Ezgar did everything just short of holding up a “It’s a trap” sign to advertise just how much of a trap it was. But we walked right into it like noob cakes.

Ezgar used his collection of shredskins to fool us with the oldest trick in the book, the time tested, bait and switch. Ezgar must of noticed our spying. He then used Aven’s shredskin to impersonate himself for our peeping pleasure, since he knew, that we knew, he was impersonating Aven! My brain meat hurts. Ezgar also had two more skins puppeteering nearby Zephyr Guards to add to the mix. Things got dicey for me when an unyielding Aluum Golem got a taste for my scales. If it wasn’t for Goethe, I may have been paralyzed or torn limb from limb. In the end, we killed the shredskins, saved the guards, stopped the Aluum, and freed Gilex. Not too shabby!

“Captain, let’s keep the ceremony plain and simple. It is merely a formality”, said the weary Lorenz on the way back to the ship.
“Got it. Plain and simple”, I responded, grinning like a demon to the others.

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Behind the scenes in Katapesh
Two Months in One Day

Our first day in Katapesh was eventful. Ezgar was found, a proposal found Lorenz, and many other discoveries followed. After Myrrh’s accidental discovery of Ezgar, I created a sanctum upon our ship, should planning commence. Ezgar is powerful, with powerful allies. I could not be too cautious.

After our discussion, I knew Hexa was aboard as well, in the Dervish’s quarters. I distracted myself with my works. I could not afford to waste time on my sister’s mistakes any longer. I agreed with Reskfar that Ezgar would be best dealt with before the auction for the sun orchid elixir. After he was dealt with, we could replace him and infiltrate the “Old Dragon Bones”, perhaps even failing at the auction in his guise. First, I would need to discover his current activities.

Ashen, nor her “Convocation” had been seen, but they had passed through the city on a northerly heading, likely following her brother, Slate. Vestin’s church of Abadar will, indeed, be at the nighstall auction. He’d also found the buy-in is an ivory pesh vial purchased at Zandrek’s Pesh Palace.

I had begun my scry on Ezgar. Myrrh had taken to places unknown. When asked, he spoke of a lady friend he had to meet, and a way to sell our aboleth-bearing gems. The captain was chuckling to himself as he left, muttering about “dung guilds”. I could clearly see at least a handful of the blasted “presto oozes” squirming about beneath his gunny sack. Vestin had secluded himself in his quarters.

My scry had found Ezgar, still wearing Aven’s stolen skin. The undead bastard wore an eyepatch, something new this time. He was seated in the Sand Dragon Inn, making tallies on some manner of table. His focus was not on the room, though. His undead form was wreathed in magic, divination, transmutation, and heavy necromancy. His eyes were damned isitoq, his eye-patch was hiding another, but it was gone! Where was it, I worried. Inside his satchel were powerful shredskins, I found.

Many wealthy patrons came and left the inn over my scry, but one is particular stood out. It was the male equivalent of Sevardomos. The white, the gold, the gloves; there was no mistake, a Kalistocrat. I wondered, but not for long. Soon after the prophet’s arrival, Ezgar noticed my sensor. Aven’s stolen lips spread apart like the grotesque facsimile of an aboleth giving birth, revealing the corpse’s grinning teeth beneath. His knowing smile revealed, the monster returned to his ledgers. Dammit.

I needed a moment to recover from Ezgar’s horrendous grin. It was just as well that Reskfar burst into my lab soon after, “Goethey boy, do I have some news for you!

“Get this, bucko! Bought into the dung carters and sweepers guild for next to nothin’, right. Made my way into Zandrek’s, offered my services. Got in, o’ course, and let those prestos do the trick for me while I took a look around, sneakily o’ course! Get this. Some guy looks just like Kaledith shows up and demands an ivory pesh vial, though the stuck-up munthrek won’t smoke none! Silly sod by the name o’ Gilex Beorht.”

I soon knew this was the same man I’d seen in the Sand Dragon Inn.

“Crazy munthrek spent 10,000 gold on that vial! Believe it?! Bastard didn’t even smoke it, while makin’ all kinds o’ threats ‘bout "violatin’ his vows ‘er sumtin’. Guessin’ the “official” invitation is in the pesh or sumthin’. Magic maybe? Whatcha say, magic man?"

“Gilex Beorht, you say? Curious. Perhaps Sevardomos may have information on this other kalistocrat. And yes, the pesh may have properties unknown as yet. We will have to see.”, I said.

“Sure, whatever, Goethe. Let’s go visit the “Old Dragon Bones”. I found out where it’s moored, and since you know where Ezgar is, it’s the perfect time! Let’s take Vaghol too! He’ll be all kinds of useful! First though, let’s go talk to Kaledith about this Beorht character. Maybe they know each other!"

I did my best to ignore the fact the captain was nearly covered in presto oozes, over double the number mere hours before. I could do without that knowledge at this point.

“By the prophet, Gilex is here! What are the odds of that? Captain, you mustn’t tell Vestin of this. Gilex is a haughty old suitor of mine. No doubt he’s here to flaunt his wealth in the auction. Dung collector’s guild?! Begone from me! Bleghh!”, the prophetess reprimanded.

“Well, that settles that, ol’ boy! Let’s go take a look at the ’Bones!”, the captain cheered.

My sighs went unnoticed.

We found the “Old Dragons Bones” moored, but empty, unguarded, reeking of death, and for sale. It was gutted, emptied of anything and everything of value, for the living, or the dead. The hoards of how many dragons had been spent, or converted. We knew Ezgar was making calculations. We knew the sun orchid elixir was soon to be sold. The math was simple, but how was he to leave the city? We wondered.

Ezgar concerned us. The last time we fought was in the Mana Wastes. This time magic would be on our side. We would need holy weapon balm and silver weapon blanch to bypass his resistances. We would also need to keep our distance. We agreed neither of us were inclined to being skinned alive.

I needed to keep an eye on Ezgar while we prepared. The Hellknights were far more useful than the Acadamae. The imp they provided, Schlitz, was most helpful. I could not afford to put Blatz in danger, at least for the moment. I sent Schlitz on his way to monitor Ezgar. With any luck, he would not be noticed, or killed. During that time, a troubled Vestin finally emerged from his quarters, entered Sevaradomos’, closing the door behind him. Of all the manic females, Tebrilith, newly promoted to 1st mate, was the worst, exclaiming, “Aaaahhhh, I can’t take the suspense anymore! I’m going to hire another sailor – maybe someone who knows the route north.”

Soon after, Hexa, Nomawyn, and Reyna returned to their scatter-brained gossip, and Schlitz appeared with strange news. Ezgar was eating! Pork kebobs, chicken, all manner of meat-relieved skeletons were piled atop his greased-stained counting papers. His undead body was stuffed to bursting, both clothing and flesh ready to rip. His revolting form alarmed and nauseated so much as to completely clear the room. More isitoq landed next to invisible Schlitz, dancing with each other. What did this mean?

As I used Schlitz to Commune with Hell about Ezgar, Peril returned with our new sailor, Finnegan Torrentail. I suddenly wished the mana-wasted ogre had blown off my ears when I heard the merfolk speak. It was like hearing six men try to speak the same sentence, in six different languages, simultaneously. As soon as I spoke Aquan, it became much easier. Despite his linguistic…handicap, this Torrentail may make a fine addition.

The merfolk seemed headed to the Nightstalls as well. Is this the work of Apsu, or something else? He did exhibit a certain power about him, something very familiar.

It was then that Kaledith’s door opened.

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Devil's Reunion
Even the bloodless have hearts.

Quantium had nearly boundless magical resources for the tapping. If only my resources had been equally boundless. It was a pity to watch it fade into the horizon. Perhaps I’d return one day soon, once we finished our business in Katapesh. Blatz had been returned to me, in effect if not in spirit. He would have none of me, livid over the business of being obliterated, resurrected, and put in danger again. I pulled him from Hell, then non-existence. He’d ought to be more grateful. He circled me invisibly, keeping his distance. He didn’t realize the fungal eyes I’d gained in the desert kept him clearly in sight. He can be so petulant. No matter. I will win him over again.

The trip to Katapesh was a welcome respite from our recent diet of blood and pain. The journey left enough time to time to finish Blatz’s gifts and finish another for myself. It is pleasant to have both Hexa and Blatz with us again, as well as the others, of course. Once we made port, reconciliation was the first order of business.

“Blatz! To me! We have business, you and I!”, I called to the air.

Silence

“I understand that I’ve mistreated you, and that you hold that against me. Understood. However, I need you to understand that…”. The words were coming with difficulty now. “I need you to understand that you are important to me. You are mine. We are partners, you and I. Do you remember how we first met? We were deep in the dungeon, locked away forever. I’d pulled you from Hell, to be by my side.”

Silence.

“Do you know how long we spent there? During it all, you were there with me, enduring with me. I did things to you during that time. Understand, it was necessary. The knowledge I gained allowed us to escape, all three of us. You’ve held that against me, understandably. We are beyond that now. We are free.”

Blatz’s invisible form turned away.

“You are invaluable to me. I am diminished without you. Blatz. You.. you are my companion. You are my friend.”

My neck snapped with unexpected speed as my imp embraced me, “I knew it! I knew it! You couldn’t be such an detestable dick! You did care!”, Blatz elated.

“While I appreciate the compliment, old friend, we have business. I’ve gifts for you. I have the belt I displayed you earlier, including a pair of anklets to nearly double your speed. You’ll be the fastest imp on the material plane, I’d wager. Take them, and use them as the exceptional imp you are,” I said.

“I never thought I’d see the day, you insufferable asshole,” Hexa chided.

Hexa never misses an opportunity to vex me, but it almost made me smile this time. I am growing soft. “Let us take a day to enjoy the wonder and detritus of Katapesh,” I said.

Our little outing eventually led its way to the Acadamae headquarters, the maven of which was a infuriatingly inferior man in all respects. However, Hexa was very kind in her execution of intimidation. Perhaps this lowly leader might be useful yet. If he could provide information regarding potential buyers for soul gems, or locations for Nightstall dealings, he might be worthy of his own life. The Hellknights will be next.

As we traveled the daystalls of Katapesh, I took a moment, “Hexa, you do understand that soon, we will likely return home, yes?”

She looked at me as though I had stolen the confection from her hand.

“I know. I want you to know that when that happens, I will kill them, both of them. You can be with me in that, if you wish. But when it is done, you will assume control. I have no desire to take hold. My path will diverge from yours there. I cannot follow, for the gods have seen fit to toss my destiny in the path of these cursed gray dragons. For that reason, you cannot follow me. There is too much risk, and I cannot stomach my only sister following me to destruction should we fail.”

I should have seen it coming, but family is more difficult to read. The slap came harder than expected. “You idiot,” she said. The words that followed did not bring we siblings any closer. She will see reason, one day.

It appears Ezgar is in town. It’s unfortunate Aven isn’t here. I’m certain he would have enjoyed this. Ezgar will have to suffer enough for the both of us, it seems.

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The Proposal!!! Flower Shopping in Katapesh
Captain's log found on Kaledith's cabin door

Nomawyn rose effortlessly from the white caps. Faint bluish strands of divine grace were draped around her like wings that framed her serene expression. Her eyes shone bright like natural pearls, her blue hair flowed above her shoulders like seaweed dancing in the high tide, and her body surged with a foretold purpose. She slowly descended from the heavens until the tips of her toes graced the shipdeck. Once her gaze locked on to us, her eyes intensified ten fold like a million lit fireflies. A divine presence filled the air swallowing our attention.

“Time is never wrong. The lost crew has been born”, she delivered in a hauntingly beautiful voice that was almost musical. With her last prophecy given the spirit let her go and she fell onto the deck in an ordinary clump. The golden fire that burned in my dragon heart became a roaring furnace upon hearing her words. Would this become true? Would a lost hero join us in the struggle against the Grays? Was fate keeping an ace in the hole in case of an emergency? I think the present time qualified. With Aven gone the sail would be tougher than ever and each new foe would be stronger than the last. The Grays will not let us muck up their plans forever. Eventually they will come for us. Now was not the time for Apsu or us to hold anything back. Let the pendulum of fate swing in our direction for a change. I’ll gladly accept help with open arms if this prophecy comes true! Perhaps this was Aven’s last gift to us, to herald in a new age of prophecy.

We sailed back to Quantium soon after to pick up the rest of the crew and gather a bit more information. Captain Khair was brimming with all sorts of useful intel and hearsay. He told us the Sunken Galleys sail the Infernal line from Katapesh to Absalom to the Inner sea. He heard a rumor that the Nightstalls were preparing to auction off a super rare flower that grants renewed youth. Khair didn’t believe the rumor himself but once he got talking he couldn’t help himself. He got into the tighfisted Pactmasters, the sleeziest brothels, the most notorious guilds, and the upcoming Gaol Festival. Lastly, he stressed cash is king in Katapesh so bring loads of it. And with that we sailed off to Katapesh City.

It all made a kind of mad sense. The Sunken Galleys were liquidating sleeping dragon hoards in order to buy a mythical flower that renews youth. Maybe a really old gray dragon wants to be young again? Who knows? It was the best theory we had so we decided to operate like it was truth. Our pooled resources were lacking if we intended to bid on that damn flower, especially if Ezgar had access to numerous dragon hoards. We needed more money fast if we wanted to make a play. I wondered what we could plunder to increase our booty. Maybe rob a Pactmaster or two? Maybe confiscate Ezgar’s wealth after we cut him down like the dog he is? We were busy contemplating ledgers and abacuses when Kaledith approached with serious eyes.

“If money is the only obstacle remaining to put an end to this madness. There is something I can do. By birthright, I’m entitled to a percentage of my families’ considerable fortune in the event that I marr..”, Kaledith explained in a down to business tone.
I cut her off as a feeling of cunning swelled out my gut, “I accept your proposal! But this is highly unorthodox. In a proper Kobold marriage proposal you should’ve made two wreaths of dried mealworms and wet stink root. Then covered yourself in sacred itch mud. Then placed a…”.
“What?! Not you! I’d rather die penniless. I want Lorenz!, cried Kaledith. She turned beat red and covered her mouth with both hands when she realized what she said so boldly. Lorenz came to attention like someone kicked him in the ass. I marveled at his confusion. He uttered all sorts of idiosyncratic economic gibberish out of his lips while she repeatedly apologized. I fell to the deck, laughing my tail off! Goethe and Myrrh were also in stitches. After a while, Kaledith awkwardly gave Lorenz until nightfall to decide. Munthrek love is so childish!

I ordered Lorenz to marry her! We’ll soon see if he followed my order.

We entered Katapesh City’s harbor before lunchtime. Even I could tell that Katapesh City or the Golden City as some call it, was truly a Sin City. More like a Sin Metropolis because it was such a gigantic sprawling monster of a city. Katapesh had it all, whether you’re seeking virtue or vice it was all available in a heartbeat for the the right price. The city teemed with endless bazaars, exotic shops, black markets, and blacker markets. Lorenz called it capitalism at its finest. Everything had a price and everything was for sale.

Katapesh_gate.jpg

After disembarking at the docks we went our separate ways for the afternoon. Lorenz had an appointment at the Immaculate Repository, Goethe went for a walk with his sister, Myrrh vanished to parts unknown, Kaledith and Tebrilith went wedding planning, and I went looking for Sunken Galleys. Splitting up seemed like the fastest way to look for Ezgar and find the Nightstalls. We decided on a pincer attack. Lorenz would gain entry to the Nightstalls as a buyer and someone else like Myrrh would gain access as a seller. We just so happened to have two incredible hard to find Aboleth Veiled Masters on soulstone ice to sell. We could use the gold from the sale to bid on the damn miracle flower. If we bought it, we could put the gray dragons’ balls in a vise grip, and maybe accomplish something.

I found the Old Dragon Bones docked in the hot midday sun for all to see. It was no longer overburdened and looked vacant. I didn’t want to chance an encounter with Ezgar so I moved along after a spell. I tried to talk to an Okeno Pirate Lord but was rebuffed by a mangy sea dog. There ain’t no justice! If I was on the sea I would’ve put holes in his fucking kneecaps. Luckily Lorenz and Myrrh had much better connections.

“I found Ezgar”, slyly stated Myrrh.
“Great! Let’s invite him to the wedding and put his severed head on the cake”, I snarked.

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Farewell First Mate!!! The Age of Aven Begins!!!
Captain’s log found in Aven's quarters

The one thing I know about magic is that it sure does bring the weirdos together. And there ain’t no weirder place than Quantium. I saw Boggarts holding hands with Monkey Goblins, Tieflings parading with Asimars, and Cikavaks frolicking with Entobians. It didn’t end there! I saw anthropomorphic weasels flamenco dancing, floating tentacle heads napping, and a Brownie playing patty cake with a Hill Giant. There were monsters of every hide mingling and munthreks of every skin mixing. It was like the great zookeeper in the sky let all the animals out just to see what would happen. I liked Quantium. My own bunch of weirdos would fit in nicely.

Once you start going down a rabbit hole like Quantium you may never get through with it. There was way too much of everything. Lucky for me, Goethe and Lorenz met me at the docks before my wanderlust kicked into high gear. Sheesh! I must be getting more responsible in my old age. Thankfully, Goethe was in good spirits. Seeing that he got his head reattached was a pure delight. However, he was left with a gnarly scar from ear to ear that nicely suited the rest of his torn up body. I expect by the finish line of this Apsu memorial tour Goethe might end up a floating head in a fish bowl with all the mutilation he suffers. After Goethe rebuffed my scar touching advances several times we got down to the business of the day.

We played it fast and loose after our reunion. We greased the wheels of a city bureaucrat with a surviving Presto ooze and tripled the reward for reopening the trade route to Alkenstar City. Not to mention, our heroics during the B.L.O.B incident. Afterwards, we joined the junior crew and Lady Kaledith for some overdue partying. Their adventure tale was good! I really enjoyed the part when they stuck it to the Brunt Saffron’s slavers. Lorenz the showoff floored them with our adventures through the Mana Wastes! Once all the grog and wine were exhausted we had a quick word with our old Sedeq ally Captain Khair of the Freedom.

“Ghost ship of Katepesh? You say did that”, Lorenz asked while motioning to the smashed Freedom.
“My ship still sails!”, I bewilderingly cried. My excitement level intensified.
“Aye Captain Reskafar. Your luxurious ship slithered up from underneath and surfaced behind me. It’s crack twenty pounders attacked without warning. The only face I saw was on the sails, the stitched face of a furious monster. I swear the face got angrier and angrier as it shelled us. We had no chance. It was a nightmare come true”, recalled Khair, he was visibly shaking. My hands started to get clammy as an old feeling crept up my spine.
“So its back. Aven sure made friends with an impatient bastard”, I muttered under my breath. I shot my companions a nervous look. Lorenz expertly ended the conversation and we left.

Myrrh validated the ghost ship story in some of the seediest harbor dives. He also learned that the Infernal line starts in Katepesh and goes to the Inner Sea. Lastly he set up a Presto ooze franchise. This was in about ten minutes. A bit slow for him if I do say so.

We all agreed that the Personification of Fury was most likely to blame. In our last encounter, It demonstrated its ship possessing power with ease. Lorenz deduced it was probably trying to get our attention by ruining our sterling reputation. Something he didn’t appreciate. The Fury has always been hungry to claim Aven for its war against the Brine Drake. We couldn’t expect to hold the Fury to a contract no more than we could expect to bottle the wild wind. Shame on us. If the Fury wants a fight we can give it one hell of a fight. We owe the Deep Sea Current that much. What kind of friends would be if we didn’t try to rescue it?

The next morning we sailed through the Miasmere to the northernmost tip of the Spell Scar desert to meet the Fury. Thinking about it, we sailed the exact route and for the exact reason that Camrad laid out to us before he evaporated. How could that undead bastard known? Sometimes I get a bad feeling that everything I do is preordained like shipbuilding plans. I couldn’t stay still. I commanded Tebrilith to write a new shanty that honored the Fury’s greatness. T’was the only thing I could think of. Maybe if we stoked the Fury’s pride like last time we could point the compass needle in our direction. The others were also searching for an advantage. Lorenz was tuning up his voice, Myrrh was sharpening his swords, and Goethe was busy magically tracking the Current. Aven was calm though, as calm as I ever seen him. But he was always calmest before battle. Did he expect blood?

“Its here!”, cried Goethe. The Deep Sea Current plunged out of the ocean to our port side. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It really was my ship.

The Personification of Fury exploded high over the sails in a burst of violent gales. The Elemental God had an intense hurricane for a body, sharp tornadoes for arms, and flashing lightning bolts for a face. It spoke thunder and breathed hail. The ocean carrying us bent its knee in loyalty to the Fury’s awesome presence. The God controlled the wind and sea. Pillars of moving water shot up out of the sea trapping our schooner into place. The raging Living Storm looked dead into our eyes like we were caged meat. Instantly, a ferocious blast of wind hit us like a sledgehammer. The pressure was so great I had to anchor myself to keep from blowing away. No more games were being played like last time. My heart started pounding like dynamite. Bargaining seemed impossible. Fighting seemed like suicide. I clung to my musket tightly, desperately searching the others for a plan.

“Hehahaha! I know you! I knew you couldn’t wait!”, shouted Aven confidently, taking center ship. Did he have a plan? I didn’t see an opening. I braced, ready to squeeze my trigger, and then darted my eyes at Aven. He was standing up straight, eyes wild, and pointing his sword directly at the Fury with the biggest shit eating grin ever. The Undine and Storm God stared motionless at one another for an endless eternity. Everyone was fixated on the contest stuck in time. The whipping wind and crashing waves were no distractions. Some say two strong warriors can have a conversation with a single glance during a duel. I never believed that bull shit before, but witnessing Aven changed me. The bravest man I ever did met. Then I heard Tebrilith’s song cut the silence like a knife.

For the voyage is done and the winds don’t blow
And it’s time for us to leave her

Aven sheathed his sword and turned to us. Could it be? No he wouldn’t! He’s not that foolish. We have a job to do. We vowed. We can still fight! Aven’s expression turned gentile like a childs. He wouldn’t! He doesn’t care that much. Aven purposely approached us. I staggered backwards a step. What was he doing? Stop moving.

For the voyage is done and the winds don’t blow
And it’s time for us to leave her

“This is where we part ways, Dandies”, he said in earnest. He let out a shallow sigh and continued to address each of us in his own style.
“I’m sorry I cut your head off. We’re even now”, he said to Goethe.
“You’ll have to kill twice as many now”, to Myrrh
“I should’ve listened to you. Always read the contract”, to Lorenz
“Captain”, Aven said like a true first mate. Then his expression turned fierce like he was ready to kill. I matched the challenge and we locked gazes for the briefest second. Clarity washed over me in that instant. Aven wasn’t giving up, he wasn’t sacrificing himself. Aven was pushing us along! He intended to fight. He intended to win. I took a breath and nodded.

Without a word, Aven slashed his palm and offered it to me. I puffed up like the wind just filled my sails and did the same. This is the true sign of respect between sailors. All at once, Goethe’s bloody good hand grabbed the top of our hands. Myrrh did the same. Lorenz too. Lastly, Kaledith added her virgin hand. Our blood mixed becoming one. Unconsciously Apsu’s mythic power surged through my arm into the circle like a sunbeam. I felt the increasing power from the others smolder in my hand. Suddenly, golden fire ignited from our clench. No one spoke. This was our connection. A final promise among blood brothers. To save everything, to leave no one behind, and most important of all to never give up.

For the voyage is done and the winds don’t blow
And it’s time for us to leave her

Aven left with the Personification of Fury to fight a war. Would he be the difference? Or course, he would, he’s Aven. I knew in my gut that I’d be seeing him again. If not I’d never forgive him. I struggled to hold back the tears like the others. The only thing left to do now was to move forward. Just like Aven wanted us to do.

A few long calms passed. Just enough time to remember Aven was gone, but nothing stays calm for long. Something else was coming.

“The Chosen One was chosen. A major prophecy fulfilled. A new age is coming", we heard a feminine voice say. The words circulated with the wind which had picked up a knot or two.
“Time is never wrong”
We spotted her near the water. Nomawyn who we left in Quantium was hovering a few feet over the the waves, her eyes were completely white, and glowing. The spirit had caught her.

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