Key of Destiny
Chapter 1: Finding the Key
It had been a good winter season for the ogres of Blode. Their raiding partys, that hunted east into the sands of Khur, brought back slaves, spoils, beasts, art from elven lands, weapons, and other resources. Caravans through the Khur desert were the ogresí favorite target. And of these attacked caravans, there were those individuals who escaped, or who otherwise managed to survive the warbands of ogres that came upon the caravans.
Four such survivors, three of them with the delicate features and slightly pointed ears of elven blood, the other a native nomad of the deserts of Khur, found themselves alone in the desert. The ogres had retreated without taking any prisoners, but many were killed in the raid. Each of the four survivors had their own reasons for travelling south through Khur, and these reasons were, for now, their own.
Kharpal Rhaz, a strong and silent Khurish warrior at home here in the sands, and the most adept at finding civilization, led the three others to and alongside the Silvanesti River that snaked through Khur. With the river, there was little danger of thirsting to death, and no chance of becoming lost, but soon food would be a problem. The ogres had taken most all of it. These four had survived with their lives, and for that, they were grateful.
Satya Pheonixborn, the tallest of the three half-elven figures, had merely begun his journey, one that might take a lifetime. The elders of his tribe to the north, in the Malystryx-devastated lands of the Desolation, had dreams and visions. Satya, in service of the Pheonix Risen, had been the one chosen to head south in search of a mysterious key, named only the Sylvan Key by the elders. The recovery of the Sylvan Key would lead to a chain of events, the elders advised, one that could result in the cleansing of the Desolation, and the defeat of a Dragon Overlord.
The lone female of the four, Kamali, had earned the respect of the others by fighting tooth and nail against the slaver attack. Now, the half-kagonestiís feathered short sword hung from her hip as her fiery-blue eyes scanned the riverís flow south. Garn Half-Elven, the fourth traveler, was not faring as well. His courtierís outfit, of the latest Palanthian style, was becoming infested with sand and dust. He remained somewhat withdrawn from the others, miserable, but travelled with them nonetheless.
The region was arid, with sparse, tough grass and few shrubs. More travelers were to join them, as there was an unexpected meeting along the Silvanesti River. A raft was spotted on the shallow river, and on board stood a kender waving with all his might, a fishing pole in his other hand. He wore an eyepatch, and had a deep tan. A shorter figure stood beside him lost in thought, his hair standing on end as though he had been electrocuted by blue dragonís breath. The kenderís pole suddenly bent into an upside down U shape. Thrilled to make a catch in front of his new best friends ashore, Sharky yanked with all his might. A deep bellow of rage pierced the air, as the small raft capsized, and a hulking figure lurched out of the water. Sharky had snagged the toe of a half-ogre bathing in the river. Sharky bellyflopped into the water, still waving at the four travelers ashore as he sailed through the air. The gnomeís interesting trajectory sent him landing at the riverís edge. Though some swords were drawn by the four travelers ashore at the appearance of the beserking half-ogress, for female she was, they were soon or later sheathed as the towering amazon proceeded to hall the kender to shore by the scruff of his neck, setting him somewhat gently upon the shore. Introductions were made, with much fanfare on the part of some, and relative silence on part of others. And such was how Sharky Fishbait, Vexo the gnome, and Yederga the half-ogress came to tag along, following Kharpalís lead to the nearest town.
The nearest town was said to be Pashin. As one of the few permanent settlements in Khur, Pashin was a trading center for the Khur nomads and the ogres of Blode. It had survived raids, wars, floods, famines, and two Cataclysms. It had been a haven for criminals, a major outpost for the Green Dragonarmies during the War of the Lance, and now served as the last bastion of the Dark Knights who occupied the Silvanesti forest during the War of Souls, a forest now overrun by minotaurs. The people of Pashin, Kharpal knew, came from all walks of life, drawn to the neutral haven that Pashin represented, where few questions were ever asked and the only real law was ďthe strong survive, but the sly thrive,Ē a slogan contributed cheerfully by Sharky, and reluctantly confirmed by a grimacing nod from Kharpal to the others.
The sun was setting over the town as the travelers came upon it. Already, the silver moon Solinari hung overhead, a waxing crescent, while the full red moon Lunitari, began its ascent in the eastern sky. The air began to cool almost immediately as the sun sank below the western horizon; the cold southern breezes causing the temperature to drop swiftly. Breaths became misty bursts, and with every inhalation, came the crisp sharp scent of winter and the distinctive mixture of refuse, horses, and countless cook fires.
Passing through the gates of the town, the travelers saw people closing up their shops, workers headed either home or into one of the many taverns for food and protection from the sharp bite of the winter night. It was a ramshackle town with buildings of sun-baked clay. A strange chill pricked the neck hairs of the travelers, as if someone was watching them.
A great figure loomed in the shadows, a figure that had also just passed through the town gates. It was not a town guard. Silhouetted against the light of Solinari, the travelers saw the great horns of a massive minotaur, standing even taller the Yederga, also making his away into the town. To his surprise, Satya noted the infinity symbol of the goddess Mishakal hanging from the minotaurís neck. The minotaur's sad eyes turned to the interesting group of travelers, looking as though he might speak, before suddenly his head whirled toward an alley.
Tor the minotaur clearly spotted a figure shadowy figure rapidly disappearing down an alleyway. Garn, Vexo, and Sharky caught a glimpse as well. By the time the others turned their heads, the figure had gone.
"Did you guys see that shadowy figure disappearing down the alley? Just like I told you the sly thrive . I must say I'm pretty sly if I do say so myself. Just ask Vexovigimoincognito. He knows everything. I bet he even knows more then the wizard. No offense Garn. Can you believe I caught an ogre? I've caught lots of things on my fishing pole but never an ogre. Well, your just a half-ogre but with that blood an ogre nontheless, just like my Uncle Trapspringer use to say. What da ya say? Should we follow?"
"It'sVexoexigguusmodecognitio,howmanytimesdoIhavet ocorrectyou?" Vexo wapped the kender on the back of his head with the back of his hand. "Anyhow,itverywellcouldhavebeenthemoonplayingtrick s,seehowtheshadowslayontheground,elongated.Possibl yabarrelinthealleymadetheshadowwithatrajectoryofli ghtfronLuintari." Vexo scratched his chin and pondered, "Ofcourseabarreldoesn'tmovesosomeonemayhaveinteres tinoneofus.Hmmmm." Vexo eyed the entire party suspiciously.
Satya hefted his halberd and scanned around. "I did not see anything, young kenderkin. Of this shadow, from whence it came and to where it went, know you? A strange town makes a mind strange things discover, think I. Perhaps the Phoenix in evil finding will aid."
OOC= Detecting for evil in the immediate surroundings.
Thinking to himself what a true blessing it would have been to memorize a cleaning spell today, Garn barely glimpsed the figure in the shadow. Walking in relative disdain for the dirt on his clothes and equal amount under his nails, Garn's eyes narrowed to slits, finally appraising his situation. Taking his mind off his dour thoughts for a moment, he heard enough to finally break his moody silence.
"Though he speaks far too much, I think there is some merit in the kender's words, Master gnome. Besides, I think I would be the better judge of seeing things in the light of the "Veiled Maiden," Garn said with annoyed emphasis as he didn't fully hear the gnomes speedy diatribe.
"Shadowy figures I'm sure are common in a city infested with the dark scum of Neraka, but I find it an odd occurance as we just entered town," he said more to himself than the rest. Grunting with a "hmmmph," he looked more acutely down the alleyway.
OOC= Switching to Darkvision and actively Spotting with a check of 9.
Yederga looked at the kender to his remark about catching her by hook, "Me no think me ogre. Me more human then you think." She says as she turns to the gnome, once he spoke and scratches her head to his words. "Speak slower so me understand better, will ya?" She says as she looks in the direction of those who took concern of the shadow she did not see.
The half ogre looks over at Garn as he looks down the alley. "See something?" She says as she holds her greatclub high in the air and heads to the direction to where Garn was looking. "Me get 'em." She says as she continues to head for whatever he sees, whether or not he saw anything at all.
Although she heard the words of Satya, she didn't understand any of it, just as she didn't understand the gibber from the gnome. "Me get the baddy who sneaks around. Me good you'll see. Yederga eat sneaky baddies for breakfast." She says with a big smile, upon her crooked face, filled with elongated teeth.
Kharpal allowed a smirk to grace his lips as he listed to the kender and the rogue talk amongst themselves. Still shaking sand out of his armor and clothing, he cleared his voice.
"You'll all be chasing shadows forever if you go darting after the first thing you see move in this town. I'm much more interested in our large friend here."
Kharpal gave the Minotaur a quick once over before apparently deciding that he was trustworthy.
"I'm Kharpal Rhaz. I'm mostly willing to call those that I travel with friends, although I certainly won't claim to speak for them. You looked as if you were going to say something before?"
"Wellidon'tknowaboutyouVexo. Butithinkweresafertwiththemorehalf-human. Plus, imagineallthesplendidthingswe'llfind. Whoknowsmaybeyourlifequestcanbefoundrightdownthisd arkalley."
Sharky turned from the gnome, glancing quickly at the minotaur who he had only briefly observed earlier. This minotaur looked different, not like the ones he was used to seeing on the sea. The "Bulls of the Sea" some called them. Then lifting his eyepatch and looking up at Garn with his big, bright eyes and dimplish smile, "Hey Garn if you ever need me to hold anything for you just let me know. Someone once told me I was the master at finding things that weren't lost or missing. So I imagine I'm good at keeping things from getting lost."
Slowly Sharky slipped off behind Yederga, falling into the shadows out sight, out of mind.
OCC: Sharky speaks gnome to Vexo before switching back to common with Garn.
Hide 18 Move Silent 21, rate of 10ft, towards Yederga in the alleyway
Satya turned toward the alleyway with a prayer to the Blue Pheonix. The Pheonix would reveal the very presence of evil, but by the time Satya had done this, the figure was gone. At least, it had gone out of the range of Satya's divination. When Yederga walked to the edge of the alley where Satya was looking, the paladin still did not feel the presence of evil. Garn had seen the figure, though it had darted from his line of sight. He blinked, switching to the Elvensight gifted to him from his mysterious heritage that he knew little about. His sight became black and white, clearly seeing all within a close range despite the shadows of night. Peering down the alley, Garn saw the alley stretched further than his darkvision's range.
Yederga, however, had moved to stand directly in front of the alley where she could peer down it. With her ogre heritage came the gift of sight in the moonlight. Under the faint silvery light of Solinari, she saw the shadowy alley led a ways back between two sun-baked clay buildings. She alone saw another glimpse of the lithe figure, as it took an evasive turn to the left, disappearing down another alley. She gave a glance back, spotting Sharky tip-toeing in her direction.
OOC: Yederga d20+2=19 to catch a glimpse of the figure as it goes out of sight again. Yederga d20+2=22 Spot to see Sharky sneaking in her direction. Everyone else other than Garn loses track of Sharky Fishbait.
Kamali listened to the conversation while keeping a wary eye on both the minotaur and the half-ogress. Using the ability to see in the darkness gifted to her by her elven mother, she peered down the alleyway after Yederga.
Kamali gave a soft snort of laughter at Sharky's comments to the wizard and grinned in the kender's direction as he slipped into the shadows of the alley. With a shake of her head, Kamali followed suit, stepping soundlessly into the shadows in pursuit of Sharky. She figured he had about as much chance of ending up inside some shop or residence as he did keeping his mind focused on searching out whatever or who ever it was he had seen dissappear into the darkness.
OOC: using darkvision. Hide 13; Move Silently 24, movement rate 15' in Sharky's last know direction