The Pakthryxl Proxy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

absalom.jpg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Finn's first catch
some time ago

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

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

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

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

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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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