Ah, finally… it has been far too long since I have written in this journal. My ink froze in the bitter, unforgiving mountains we trekked through, and I never had time to write in the jungle. But here I am, writing once more.
Having completed our duties to the arch-mage Thalmus, we left the library we had made our base for new adventures, only told that we should find a large city, one where we could hopefully blend in and evade the unknown Enemy. Given magical steeds that carried us long distances, seemingly defying the rules of the gods themselves as we traveled, we arrived at the most wretched city I have seen in my time: Arunden.
As we approached, I surveyed the utterly massive walls surrounding the town, a single visible gate breaking the flawed stone, runes and glyphs of magical warding, divine (and infernal) invocations, and mind-breaking horrors covering them. On a chestnut stallion behind me, I hear Marcus muse, ‘Huh. I wonder how many people it would take to bring down those walls.’ Oh, they’re going to love us.
Finally passing through the massive gate, the portcullis of which seemed to have been made of entire oaks, and trailing behind a gigantic line of humanoids of all races, I, and most likely the rest of my party, began to realize the sheer size and diversity of this town. We saw adventurers greener than summer leaves, dwarves, half-men, elves, draconians, half-giants, and even a few hyena-like sibeccai. Growling deep in my throat, I catch the eye of one of the stunted, weak excuses-for-sibeccai and flash him a hand gesture insinuating that his origins were most likely related to his mother’s unsavory profession, then glare him down until his ears folded back and he slumped off with his mongrel mini-horde.
Trekking further within the walls, I close my eyes and allow myself to listen to the sounds of my party’s reactions, and the familiar sound of multiple tongues crying out to each other, exotic merchants hawking equally exotic merchandise, and the rumble and snorting of various pack-animals. Just like home. To my side, I can hear Zarah beginning to hyperventilate, and at the same moment I’m stuck by how idiotic it was to bring a barbarian who’d never seen a town with more than 10 permanent buildings before in her life to a bustling metropolis. as i ponder the answer to this conundrum, I hear from behind me the line I’d been dreading hearing since we had entered the city proper.
“I wonder how many people i can kill?”
Suddenly we’re surrounded by guards, Valia most-so, and I open my eyes, turn my horse, and confront the apparent captain of these guards.
“Sirs, I’m terribly sorry to have caused a disturbance.”
“What’s with your friend?” he asks shortly, obviously not a man of common pleasantries.
Interesting word choice. “I fear she has a hard time differentiating between the battlefield and common life. you see, we were recently in battle, and she is still in her ‘combat mode,’ if you will. I have some herbs to calm he-”
“Look, if she’s gonna get in the city, she has to pay an… entry fee,” he interrupts, eyes glimmering with greed.
“Sir. I do not believe that is necessary. And should word of this spread, i do not believe your superiors would enjoy this news…” Wait. Shit.
An uproar of laughter. I feign a joking half-smile.
“Now, sirs, if we could be on our way…” Nothing. My words are drowned. I sigh and lean over to Valia. “I hope you’re not attached to your money.”
She looks about a bit apprehensively and pulls out her moon stone, holding it out. “Would this be enou-” Her sentence never finishes. Jumping in surprise, she looks back at her palm to see the stone gone, now in the mailed fist of the guard. I look from hand to hand. Fast bastard.
“This’ll do. Carry on, no lollygagging,” the guard says quickly, shooing us on.
I blink slightly then turn my horse back in line, the rest of the party doing the same. this time, we manage to pass without incident. Stopping at an extremely bored-looking clergyman in the garb of Fharlanghn, Zarah steps forward, seeming more confident than usually, but I notice her hand constantly on the hilt of her sword, and her back twitching slightly.
“Name of party and or person,” the priest says without looking up from his board.
“Do you have any magical items, i.e. intelligent weapons, magical constructs, enchanted beasts…”
At this point, I begin tuning out the conversation, and in an effort to speed the process, I go for the ‘newcomer new guy’ look. I step forward, holding my scrolls.
“I have four scrolls, clerical in nature, and one druidic in nature, various potions of healing…”
The priest cuts me off. Thank Sol’Aur. He stamps five slips, one for each of us, and hands them to us. “Move along. NEXT!”
I sigh quietly and store my scrolls back in their belt holsters, glad to be temporarily free of the bureaucracy. Maybe a bit too much like home. At the final checkpoint, we encounter yet another priest in similar garbs, this one looking even more numb than the last. He holds out a hand for our slips, stamps them upon receiving them, then distributes them back out. “You are allowed to stay for three days, or you will be detained in the Tower. Do not break any laws, or you will be detained in the Tower. If you show any signs of aggression, you will be detained in the Tower. Do not asks any questions, or you will be detained in the Tower. Move along.”
(Okay, maybe I started making things up towards the end of that. But the real thing was just about as silly.)
Wandering the streets and joking amongst ourselves about how we will be ‘detained in the Tower,’ the party moved further in to this city, through the bustling, mixed crowd of inhabitants, merchants, and travelers. Did we accidentally go to Te’rhash? It’s eerie… Suddenly, we hear a loud yell of ‘Stop! Thief!’
I immediately checked to see where Padishsr was, and thankfully found him to my immediate right, broken from his kleptomaniac gold-lust. Looking behind us, I see the crowd parting slightly as a very… well-rounded man chases a small boy clutching a purse. Zarah, glad to have some excuse to take out her frustration with this large, crowded town, swings her arm out, looking to hit the boy in the head… and misses entirely, the boy zipping past, and the fat man slamming right in to her strong-as-oak arm, the wind (and likely a few pounds) knocked out of him. Falling gasping to the floor, the man clutches his stomach, groaning and still gasping out ‘Stop… thief…’
I glance over at Zarah, amused, a half-smile forming on her face.
“Not what I wanted, but satisfying,” she says.
The party chuckles slightly and moves on, though Padishar now seems more amused than ever. After learning about a cheap inn we could stay at, the Drunken Donkey, Marcus suddenly begins to looked panicked, and Padishar is trying his best not to burst out laughing.
“Guys… where’s my purse?” he says, scaly eyebrow raised. Finally, Padishar can take no more and cracks up, draping one arm heavily on Marcus’ shoulders and poking his chest.
“You just got foiled by the oldest trick in the book!” In short, he explains how the fat man was the true thief, nabbing purses as he pushed people out of his way chasing the ‘thief’, and how Marcus had been one of the victims.
Immediately, Zarah, Valia, and I look at each other, then begin concealing or protecting our purses. I don my robe and pull my belt up to around the bottom of my ribs, Zarah shifts her purse to rest next to her sword, which she has had a deathgrip on since we arrived, and Valia… well, probably put it in one of her weird arcane spider-demon pockets or something, I never saw what she did with it. Her pet probably has it.
Anyway, we finally arrive at the Drunken Donkey, all the while Zarah panicking more and more, its colorfully painted and recognizable sign making it stick out like a loud half-orc at a mute gnome’s convention, and we pile inside. The interior is cozy and warm, a perfect respite, fashioned after northern interiors – a style I had always admired and secretly wanted more than the desert-climate housing of my people – and sporting a wide, diverse bar. A crackling fire and heavy ironwood tables complete the scene – obviously, this was a popular place.
After renting our rooms, Valia goes to meditate while Padishar looks for contacts with the Black Hand, an organization which was our only lead from the arch-mage Thalmus. Marcus disappeared in to the crowd, and Zarah and I, of hefty constitution and weary minds, made a straight line to the bar. The tender, a towering mountain of a man that obviously had more than just a little giant blood in him. Zarah ordered a potent mead whilst I chose a Sibben wine, something I hadn’t expected to see outside of my home. Sure it was expensive, but dammit, I was an adventurer, could afford it, and needed it.
When it arrives, Zarah raises an eyebrow at me and glares at my drink judgmentally as I nurse the sweet nectar. I glance back and put my drink down, pushing it over to her.
“Don’t give me that. We don’t have hops or wheat in the middle of the desert, so we make do with what we have. Ever had fermented camel milk? Stuff messes you up. But that wine’s bloody potent. Kills most humans, but sibeccai can take it.”
“Feh. I doubt that,” she snorts, taking a quick swig of the wine. She quickly recoils and puts it down, blinking a few times, then passes it back to me. “Okay. Maybe it’s not such a sissy drink after all.”
I grin in satisfaction and ask the bartender for a cup, retreating to a quiet corner table when I get it, taking my wine with me. Almost immediately after, the trickle of patrons turns in to a full flood as day laborers and blue-collar workers finish for the day and turn in.
From almost the get-go, Zarah befriends a group of loud dwarven blacksmiths, and accepts their challenge of a drinking game that the midgets evidently enjoyed immensely, but not before telling me to pay the dwarves should she lose. Watching in mild amusements as the barbarians and her dwarf friends down flagon after horn after tankard of mead and ale, quickly sliding down the slope to inebriation. I chuckle and place my cup down, then blink slightly as I move. Just as strong as I remember. Moving over to the bar, I hand the cup back to the half-giant, who’s name I had found out was Vonn, and thank him kindly for the wonderful drink. When I finished, it suddenly hit me that I’d lapsed in to Giant half-way through my sentence, much to Vonn’s surprise. Afterwords, we struck up a conversation, mostly about giant-related topics. I was used to smaller sand giants, while Vonn had storm giant blood in him, thus his size. Turned out that he had weather-predicting powers, and merchants relied on his predictions. Thus, the success of the Drunken Donkey.
About that precise moment, Zarah slurs loudly, “C’mon, that.. hic ..all you got?!” With that, she lifts a tremendous horn the size of her leg and downs the entire thing… and promptly falls over, knocking over multiple chairs, tables, and mugs, as well as leaving a considerable imprint on the floor. The dwarves giggle drunkenly, then collapse in much the same fashion on top of her, forming one big, hairy, snoring mass around the barbarian. I chuckle and shake my head, standing gingerly as I check on Marcus, who’d found some draconian friends and was playing Three Dragon Ante, and Padishar, who was still wrestling with trying to find the appropriate contacts.
I step over to the mass of drunken dwarves and retrieve Zarah from the center, openign her purse and dividing out the coin promised to each of the sleeping dwarves, who I’d named, for lack of real ones, Drunky, Smelly, Hairy, Snorey, and Timothy.
I liked Timothy the most.
Slinging the half-conscious barbarian over my shoulder, I carry her upstairs as she slurs drunkenly about puppy tails and making grabs at mine, exclaiming victorious when she managed to. Responding only with a chuckle and a flick of my tail, I place her on her bed in as dignified position as you can with a drunk, semi-conscious, six-and-a-half-foot barbarian, her head hanging slightly over the side with a bucket below it. Afterwords I retire to my own room for the night, occasionally hearing the thunderous snore of a drunken Zarah from four doors down.
At least she’s a silly drunk.
The next morning, I’m awoken by a rapping at my door. Raising slowly and rubbing my temple, I invite the guest in. A female gnome in the inn’s uniform steps in.
“Your presence is requested by Mistress Zarah.”
“Dammit, she’s awake?” I sigh, rubbing an eye.
“Fine, I’ll be there.”
Dragging myself out of bed and trudging down to Zarah’s room, I knock gingerly on her door, then enter. She’s sitting up slightly in her bed, grasping a bowl of liquid and staring at it apprehensively. She looks up as I enter.
“Korsa,” she says shortly.
“Zarah. How are you feeling?”
“Like hell. This safe?” She raises the bowl.
“At least you don’t have to work a forge like your dwarf buddies.” I lean towards the mixture in the bowl, sniffing silently and looking the liquid over. “It’s fine. Won’t be pleasant, but it’ll help.”
She nods quickly and begins drinking, and I excuse myself to allow her to ready herself. When she emerges, she’s squinting and looking like she could kill bunnies without any forethought or remorse. In a sudden wave of impishness, I grin and say, “So. You drank a lot last night.”
She responds with a simple grunt of acknowledgement, more than I’d expected to get.
I grin wider. “Do you remember trying to get my tail?”
Suddenly she stops in her tracks and turns, a mixture of anger, embarrassment, disbelief, and amusement on her face. “I did WHAT?!”
Chuckling quietly and moving down the stairs, I calmly say, “Try to get my tail. I had to carry you up to your room after you passed out, and you woke up halfway there, started grabbing for my tail saying, and I quote, ‘Getcha tail!… Getcha tail!’”
Blinking slowly and continuing to move downstairs, Zarah raises an eyebrow and responds, “Well, that explains the puppy dreams.”
I pause for a moment to keep from doubling over laughing, manage to save myself, and chuckle quietly instead, unfortunately coming out more as a falsetto growl.
Rendezvousing with the rest of the group, each looking much better off than Zarah and myself, and Zarah seeming less pissed and more ravenous, we order breakfast from the gnomes that seemed to work the day shift. During our breakfast, a stranger comes to our table, asking if he could sit with us. finding nothing strange about it, we let him, and he proceeded to babble about business, supply and demand, etc., until finally he finished and left, without taking his bowl up. Grimacing, Padishar grabbed the bowl, revealing a note beneath, giving instructions to Padishar on how to meet the Black Hand. After, we left for the marketplace to purchase weapons and supplies and dump our loot.
Now, I could tell you of the events that led to, happened during, and occurred after me finding my perfect weapon, but I have some dignity left to preserve and prefer this not go down in the chronicles of our group.
But in summary, after meeting with Zarah’s dwarf companions Drunky, Hairy, Snorey, Smelly, and Timothy, Timothy showed me a special, silver kopesh that seemed to catch the light. In my culture, a sibeccai, be they male or female, have a special attachment to one weapon, one they name and keep with them for their lives. And that one was mine, I knew, and I hadn’t even laid hands on it yet. I wanted it badly. I knew it’s name. It spoke to me.
But now, past that fiasco in which I’m now in an embarrassing deal with the warmage and the rogue has left to meet with his contact, Zarah following as muscle, I await in my room for Padishar to return with his news. For now, I close my journal, and shall partake in some more sibben wine…