Vincent Pecoraro as S’zeves V’destrii
Greg Mann as Morik Martok
Paul Vilbig as Borgamat Cadash
A young Shadar-Kai, a stranger in a strange land, awakens sprawled against a beer-soaked bar. His memories were faint, but he knew that this place in which he found himself was far different than any he had laid eyes upon before.
The young man’s name was S’zeves (Zeh-voss), and he was disoriented and disheveled, bruised from a violent conflict he had no recollection of. The bartender thought him drunk, but did not remember seeing him enter the bar. Nobody within did. S’zeves was as afraid as he could ever remember himself being. Most disturbing was the revelation that portions of S’zeves’s skin were radiating a swirling pattern of shimmering purple light, the patterns travelling from the tips of his left hand up to the left side of his face. He was visibly and audibly shaken by these strange revelations, and his distress was obvious to everyone within the bar.
A young human woman and her older Elven companion sat at a table nearest the bar’s exit. They were similarly dressed, each donning silvered armor under blue tabards with gold weave piping, members of the Order of Draconius. S’zeves approached them with a palpable dread and unease, tapping into their natural resolve to aid those in need and protect those in danger. The woman, an Artificer named Vespa Tigh, made an overture of sanctuary, offering to take S’zeves somewhere to treat his wounds and get some rest. S’zeves was unnaturally agitated, making wild claims of being from Sylverton and growing up in the ruins of Drogyn’s Bar, institutions that could not have existed in the young man’s lifetime. So, too, was he distraught when he learned from Vespa and her Elven compatriot, Hector Van Houten, that they had never heard of nor seen anyone resembling a Shadar-Kai like S’zeves.
S’zeves initially turned down Vespa’s aid, deciding to brave this strange city on his own instead. As he stepped outside, he was overwhelmed by a clear blue sky, clean streets free of blood and Drao patrols, and the presence of birds singing and children at play in broad daylight. He spun in place and returned into the bar, muttering odd, insane thoughts about a world that had not existed in a quarter of a century or more. Compiled with the fact that this place in which he had awoken was built on the site of the original Drogyn’s Bar, and this whole city of Drogynia built on the ashes of an obliterated Sylverton, S’zeves admitted that he did indeed require the help that Vespa and Hector were offering.
He found their willingness to aid him without reward, their unfamiliar niceness, to border on the distasteful. It was wondrous and wrong in his eyes at once, like the wide, bright, brilliant sky to which he could barely look without feeling nauseous. In his Sylverton, the sky was under a constant roil of clouds, days were like night, and nights were unlike anything the worst nightmare could conjure. His eyes were immediately drawn to a trio of children attempting to play with an odd-looking gray wolfhound across the square near the alley between two large buildings. The dog noticed S’zeves as well, a piercing purple glow emanating from its eyes; a hint of the same inexplicable violet shimmer was barely noticeable beneath the dog’s thick, mangy coat. S’zeves instinctually gave a whistle to the dog, and it immediately came to his call, sitting next to him as if he had trained it to do so. Vespa went to pet the dog and was greeted with exposed teeth and a low, rumbling growl. Despite never having seen the dog before, it was as if S’zeves had spent all his life with it, and the two felt perfectly comfortable in each other’s company.
Vendors were set up in the small district marketplace square just outside Drogyn’s Bar, small caravans where all manner of wondrous items of interest hung for sale. This, too, was unfamiliar to S’zeves. Only the Black Market existed for him, and it was far from consumer friendly. An interesting item caught his eye, and a strange, powerful force luring him toward a massive Greatsword slung high in a glass display case. The weapons trader, Martin, scoffed at first when the young man asked to hold the sword, as it was a very expensive item and he looked literally like something a cat might drag into a house as a pathetic offering to its master. Hector vouched for S’zeves, and the merchant was friends with the Order soldier for years, so he begrudgingly took the sword down and handed it to young S’zeves. At first, the weight of the sword was crushing, and the gray-skinned young man could barely keep it from slamming into the cobblestones at his feet. The merchant told him the price, 2,000 Gold, and S’zeves nearly vomited. He asked what could be so special to make the sword so expensive, and Martin invited him to activate the small purple crystal embedded in the end of the Greatsword’s pommel.
In doing so, the weapon became very light, oddly so for a weapon of such size, closer in heft to a short sword than a massive two-handed sword such as it was. The weapon was called Featherweight, and it was designed in such a way that it could be wielded one handed, allowing a soldier to make use of a small shield in this off-hand. S’zeves handed the sword back to Martin, saddened by his utter lack of funds. Hector removed seventy gold notes from a billfold, apparently all the money he had, and asked Martin to keep it as a deposit for S’zeves to claim that sword later, when he could afford to do so. It was by far the nicest thing anyone had ever done for S’zeves, and he was moved close to tears. However, the touching moment was not to last, as a young man ran into the square, bellowing out the words: “KOBOLDS IN DROGYNIA!”
Kobolds poured into view, killing and maiming frightened, fleeing citizens of Drogynia, trashing everything in their wake. Hector and Vespa took up arms, and with a little convincing, Martin handed S’zeves the Greatsword to borrow long enough to clean these Kobolds out of the square.
Three of the Kobolds, Ik, Ok, and Uk, muttered back and forth about “finding it” and worrying aloud about the wrath of someone called “Nykathia.” With S’zeves’s aid, these Kobolds were quickly dispatched, but distant screams led Hector to believe this was not an isolated raid but a concentrated attack. Martin packed up his caravan and made for cover, making Hector promise that either that sword or the 1,930 gold balance was in his hands soon. Hector mentioned to S’zeves that, in return for continuing to aid the Order of Draconius, he may have been able to negotiate a loan from the Order to pay for his sword. S’zeves eagerly agreed to these terms and set off with Hector and Vespa once more. While running through the streets of Drogynia, S’zeves noticed a glowing crystalline earring hanging from the right ear of Hector. Hector touched the earring and spoke to someone who wasn’t there, and the faintest sound of a response came from the crystal. It was a Comm Crystal, standard issue for Order members. S’zeves rolled his eyes. This place just seemed to get stranger and stranger. According to Hector, someone called Pac was en route to aid them, news that Vespa greeted joyously.
They found more Kobolds rushing into an ordinary looking storage warehouse near the western wall. S’zevas was badly injured in this fight, but persevered nonetheless. Appearing during the battle, just when the going seemed most grim, was a gleaming yellow and black Nomoid named Sir Pac Sapius, a paladin in the Order of Draconius. With Sir Pac’s mighty ax added to their arsenal, these kobolds were dealt with as well.
Pac announced that the largest concentration of Kobolds were in the park district in the North. S’zeves was injured and exhausted, as were they all, so Sir Pac reluctantly agreed to make a short stop at the Order barracks en route to the park district. S’zeves was nervous, as his wounds seemed serious, but Vespa reassured him that with the power of the gods at their disposal, the healers of the Order could speed their healing and give them ample rest in the little time they would have. This statement, like so many others, baffled and irritated S’zeves. In the world he knows, the gods are dead, and prayers always go unanswered.
Morik Martok and his cousin Roena stood in the head librarian’s office of the Drogynia Memorial Library, their “brother” Crossel leaning casually against the far wall of the office as Morik collected payment for a recent, successful recovery job. The librarian was eager to retrieve these books, as they were important to the restoration of Wyrmshadow’s lost culture. The Shadow Empire had destroyed almost all literature and reference to the cultures it crushed in its path of bloody conquest. Students of the nearby Drogynian Royal Academy of Magic were required as part of their curriculum to spend several hours of every day scribing books in the library, refilling the shelves and restoring the lost works of the past. Morik remembered how odd it was when he was in the academy himself, the hours spent channeling the spirit of a fallen author, writing left-handed in a foreign handwriting, sometimes unable to even translate the language in which he wrote.
The Order considered the library important, but not so important for the work to be free. Morik, Roena, and Crossel deserved some compensation, and the many good works the Order accomplished were not free, so sometimes they were forced to negotiate a nominal fee for such recovery jobs. Thieves had stolen a few dozen books from the library, books that could be sold on the Black Market for hundreds of gold if not more, so the librarian was still hesitant to pay the meager 75 gold fee that he had negotiated with Crossel before the trio left to make the recovery. As the money finally changed hands, screams rang out in the corridor outside the head librarian’s office.
Crossel, Morik, and Roena rushed into the corridor to confront the strange threat, a handful of Kobolds who were busily ransacking the library, overturning bookshelves and smashing objects of art, looking for something. The trio set upon the Kobolds, quickly narrowing their numbers and forcing the last of them to attempt to flee. The attempt was unsuccessful, a careful, accurate magical assault from Morik sending the Kobold sprawling forward and crashing with deadly force against the hard cobblestone street outside the library.
After the battle, Roena was approached by a man to whom she was once romantically involved, a man that neither Morik nor Crossel could stomach being around for too long, a bard named Kelain. Roena shared a few intimate words with Kelain before Crossel abruptly reminded her that this man was a member of the criminal organization known as The Current, and was probably a wanted man here in Drogynia. Kelain oddly offered himself up for surrender to Roena, who promised Crossel and Morik she would deliver him to the closest barracks immediately. Meanwhile, Morik and Crossel had unfinished business downtown, where a young fighter was meeting Crossel to discuss a future in the Order of Draconius. Crossel, as an Order Recruitment Officer, had only agreed to go on Morik’s fetch quest for the library on condition that the sorcerer aid him in gaining the favor of this potential recruit.
The barracks was the first structure of its kind S’zeves had ever seen that was not in Shadow Empire control. Upon entering the structure, the first area was an armed security checkpoint, followed by a long corridor flanked by quarters and bunks for Order members. Some of the bunks were hastily disturbed, and for the most part, the place was abandoned but for a few injured knights nursing Kobold-related wounds like those S’zeves and company now bore. In the back, bridging the gap between the troop quarters and the courthouse, were prisoner cells, where Sir Pac led them.
Pac took an Order cleric aside and murmured orders to her, to which the cleric immediately saluted and rushed into the hall leading toward a collection of empty cells. The cleric ordered a few other Order conscripts to enter these cells and prepare them for triage. Within moments, S’zeves and his dog, who he had named “Sin”, were ushered into a comfortable cell and given bread, meat, and water. Hector leaned into the room and reminded S’zeves that they weren’t going to have a lot of time, perhaps an hour or two, before they would have to get moving. Someone would be in shortly to treat his wounds.
S’zeves found the cell to be far more spacious than anywhere he had ever slept in his entire life. There was a comfortable cot and clean linens. The Order treated their prisoners better than S’zeves had ever been treated in his entire life, and he knew that many had it far worse than him. The people in this world had no idea how good they had it. Just as he was starting to relax, he heard someone whispering to him from the cell next to him, one of the Order’s prisoners. The voice called out to him, asking him what he was doing hanging around the Order, telling him not to get taken in by them too easily. S’zeves declined to pay the prisoner much attention, to which the prisoner merely said “we’ll talk after I’ve escaped in a bit,” a doubtful premise indeed.
S’zeves took that opportunity to meditate, doing so instinctually without remembering ever having done it before. Somehow, a solid hour slipped by without his notice. When he was finally roused from his meditation, he noticed that he was holding his Greatsword in hand, and that rippling strands of purple light extended down his arm and along the surface of the sword. He dropped the sword to the floor and, somehow knowing that it would happen, saw the blade leap back up into his hand upon his desire for it to do so. This startled the Order cleric who had just entered to treat his wounds and aid in his efforts to rest up.
The cleric had S’zeves lean back and relax, placed a holy water-soaked cloth bearing the symbol of Draconius over the palm of her hand, and a gentle, soothing heat and warm, comforting glow grew from within the cloth. As she placed the cloth-draped fingers over S’zeves’s forehead, he was filled with an overwhelming sense of calm and serenity, his pains subsided, and his exhaustion abated. Within less than five minutes, he felt the rest of six solid hours, and all his Kobold injuries were gone without a trace. He said that he really loved the place the cleric just took him to, and she said that she can return there whenever he wanted, that all it took was faith and Draconius would handle the rest.
The cleric left the cell and a few moments later, a strange man crossed in front of the cell, wringing his wrists and cracking his knuckles. With a coy smile, he said “told you we’d talk when I escaped.”
The man’s name was Kelain, and he said he was a member of a group called The Current. Unlike the Order, the Current wasn’t devoted to selflessness, but finding a way to get everyone in the group what they want through cooperation. Kelain pointed out the hypocrisy of the Order’s kindnesses. He brought up the fact that they will do you a favor out of the “goodness of their heart” and merely ask that you repay that favor, slowly, over the course of the rest of your life through manipulative adjustment of the terms. For example, that Greatsword S’zeves had procured from Martin the Merchant. First, Hector was loaning S’zeves 70 gold, and S’zeves wasn’t going to get to hold onto the sword, just have a guarantee that it would still be held for him as soon as he came up with the exorbitant price of it. Then the Order needed S’zeves’s help with the Kobolds, so Hector upped the stakes, actually saying that if he aided them, he could borrow the sword for the fight. Afterward, when the Kobolds turned out to be even worse a threat, Hector said that his efforts to help the Order “might” be rewarded with a “loan” that he would have to repay, slowly, over the rest of his life most likely, because the hypocrisy wouldn’t end there.
Kelain was making sense to S’zeves. Kelain said that he had to leave before his escape was discovered, but if he wanted to get out of this Order mess he was wrapped up in, he could help, and all he would have to do is give a whistle. After Kelain left, S’zeves sat in thought about what the Current member said, about being caught in a cycle of self sacrifice for little to no personal gain, and the prospect was so alien to S’zeves that he could at that moment little fathom a future within the Order of Draconius.
S’zeves laid his head back on the pillow of his cot and let the events of the day sink in. Within a few moments, he found himself drifting off into a brief sleep. He had a strange dream during his rest, a dream with tremendous consequences. In his dream, he woke to join Hector, Vespa, and Sir Pac in their assault on the Kobolds in the park. The dream became a nightmare when one by one, his friends fell at the hands of a fiendish Kobold witch named Nykathia, amber glowing energy surrounding her. She saved S’zeves for last, hanging him upside down from a tree and interrogating him, saying that she knew another of his people, the Shadow Kind, and wanted to know the secrets of his powers. When he was unable and unwilling to cooperate, she plunged a dagger deep into his chest, and in his dream, he died.
Vespa knocked on his cell door and told him that Sir Pac was eager to get going, and they would meet S’zeves in the anteroom toward the front of the barracks. S’zeves was shaken by the dream, which was too vivid to have been a mere product of his unconscious mind. Somehow, S’zeves knew that those events he dreamt had actually happened, and that he somehow managed to undo the last four hours of his life and give himself a second chance to set things right.
S’zeves consoled Sin, who was similarly upset about the dream, as he had died in it as well and was somehow cursed to share in S’zeves’s fate. Sin barked in favor of taking Kelain up on his offer. S’zeves gave a slight whisper, noticing shortly thereafter the plink of a small coin rolling into view at the end of the corridor leading toward the courtroom.
He examined the coin, finding that it was attached to a nearly invisible filament leading out of the corridor and around the corner, behind the judge’s podium in the courtroom. He felt a slight tugging sensation on the coin, knowing that somewhere on the other end of it, he would find Kelain. He followed the filament behind the courtroom and down a small hallway to a locked oak door. He found a mousetrap nearby, used sleight of hand to remove the cheese on it and disarm the trap, then dismantled the trap to use the metal wire as a makeshift lock pick. He was successful, and found himself in a modest, yet comfortable office with an open pair of windowed doors leading out onto a balcony overlooking the city. Also in the room was a set of armor not unlike the armor worn by Hector and Vespa, bearing the insignia of the Order of Draconius. S’zeves found some stationary on the large desk in the center of the office and wrote a note to Hector and Vespa, explaining his decision, thanking them for their aid and promising to repay Hector for the sword. Realizing that he was still wearing tattered rags, he decided to add the armor to his growing list of stolen goods as well, donning it before following the filament out the doors and over the railing of the balcony.
He found Kelain in a shadowy alley behind the barracks, chatting up an attractive red-headed woman in a skimpy, revealing set of armor. S’zeves overheard Kelain saying “Thanks for this, Ro’. I owe you one.”, playfully patting her behind as she began walking away. She smiled at S’zeves and winked at Kelain as she walked away, which was when S’zeves noticed that she bore the insignia of the Order of Draconius on the shoulder of her armor. Kelain remarked that S’zeves made the right choice, wherein S’zeves revealed to Kelain that it wasn’t much of a choice at all considering that he and the others he was with died at the hands of the Kobolds and somehow he was able to undo that damage. For some reason, as crazy as it sounded, Kelain believed S’zeves, and joined him in attempting to save the lives of Hector, Vespa, and Pac by circling around to flank the Kobolds and take them out before their leader, Nykathia, could rear her ugly head.
Together, Kelain, S’zeves, and Sin went to the park district. S’zeves remembered where he and the rest of the Order entered the park, that they encountered three separate groups of Kobolds, that Vespa was mortally injured before the end of the second melee, and Nykathia came into the picture sometime during the third battle. It was raining when S’zeves died, and it was the dead of night. With some sunlight left and not a cloud in the sky, he began to think that it may have actually been just a dream after all, but just to be safe, he and Kelain intercepted Sir Pac, Hector, and Vespa during their second battle, determined to prevent them from engaging Nykathia thereafter.
The battle was intense, and as the sun began to settle into the horizon, S’zeves felt the first few drops of an unexpected rain. They succeeded in preventing Vespa from getting injured, and even worked out a deal with Sir Pac not to engage the Kobold’s leader, Nykathia, until after they left the city. They had learned that the Kobolds were using the lost Burning Star Mines to the north as their base of operations. With luck, and through use of a Teleportation Chamber, they believed they could reach the mines before Nykathia’s return and lay a trap for her. The problem was that the entrance to those mines were destroyed years ago during the destruction of Sylverton. Luckily, despite all logic, S’zeves spent a lot of time in those caves, and he could lead them straight to the entrance.
On the way out of the park, Hector took S’zeves aside and remarked to him that he knew whose armor he was wearing, and that he wanted it back. They stopped off at the order barracks, where Hector would find him another, similar set to replace it, but then his hospitality for the young man would have stretched to the breaking point. S’zeves promised to make this up to Hector, a promise he was determined to keep. Through the corner of his eye, S’zeves caught sight of a shadowy figure flitting through the trees heading toward Kelain’s location. That shadowy figure was revealed to be a kobold ninja named Yadykath Rathsqar, a member of the Current and Kelain’s spy in the Kobold’s midst. Yadykath confirmed that whatever it was the Kobolds were looking for in their ransack of Drogynia, they had succeeded in finding it.
Sir Pac noticed the approach of Crossel, Roena, and Morik Martok. The approach of one of the Drogynia Guard caused Sir Pac to send Hector and Vespa off to aid the constabulary in rounding up the looters that had cropped up during the chaos the Kobolds had unleashed in the Holy City of Drogynia. Morik, Crossel, and Roena joined Sir Pac, Kelain, Yadykath, and S’zeves, travelling to a Teleportation Chamber nearby. Down a small flight of stairs from a corner of the main thoroughfare, the team entered the Teleportation Chamber, a spherical room with a metal grate floor and a glowing crystal in its center. Normally, to use the teleportation crystal, one would have to pay a hefty fee to an attendant. However, as this was official Order business and the journey was only about fifteen miles north of the city, they were able to use it for free. As S’zeves was the only one who knew the location of the mine entrance, he stood in front of the crystal, placed the palm of his hand on it, and closed his eyes, imagining himself standing where he wished to go. A swirling, pulsating light sprung out from the crystal, filling the spherical chamber. From the top of the chamber, the walls began to disappear, replaced by the night sky, trees, mountains in the distance, and eventually, when S’zeves finally opened his eyes, he found that they were teleported exactly where he desired them to be.
S’zeves went to enter the mines, but Crossel said “I’m always first to go in, kid.” Thereafter, he decided it would be best to go in last anyway. Around a sharp right turn in the tunnel, Crossel and the kobold ninja, Yadykath, discovered that there were four Kobolds left behind to guard their base. Using stealth, followed by a sudden, concentrated strike, they managed to kill all but one of the guards. However, Nykathia and her entourage returned and poured into the caves, effectively trapping the heroes within.
Nykathia soon realized that she didn’t bring the quantity of forces she would need to take this cave from the heroes.. Frankly, she wasn’t expecting them to be there when she returned. Now that she knew, she stated plainly that she would be back with greater force and wipe out anyone blocking her passage into the caves.
Roena and S’zeves discovered that a sealed door deeper within the mines, in a passage that seemed to have been recently unearthed, was emitting a feint glow as Nykathia was in the mines, and the glow faded away as soon as she left. Whatever the Kobolds stormed into Drogynia to find was the key to getting through that door. Morik determined that it must have been a Chime of Opening attuned specifically for that door.
Sir Pac expressed an interest in getting through that door to see what the Kobolds wanted beyond it, but S’zeves started acting quite strangely at this time, saying that he knew these caves, spent a lot of his childhood there, and that passage wasn’t there last time he was here. He convinced everyone to hear him out, but most of what he said seemed too illogical or borderline insane to really gain footing with the majority of them. Really, only the Current guys were paying him heed.
Pac got really angry when S’zeves openly mocked anyone not behind his plans for the mines. Pac wanted to push further into the mines and S’zeves, being “from here” said it was a stupid idea, and they should be chasing after Nykathia to get that Chime of Opening out of her clutches instead. Pac said she was coming back with greater forces, so he wanted to call in reinforcements from the Order and be waiting for them, daring them to get through. S’zeves said it was a bad idea to invite a bloodbath when a little subterfuge could go a lot further. For this, Morik agreed with S’zeves, and so did Roena. However, S’zeves said that “anyone not with my plan should leave this cave.” Pac said that this cave was on sovereign Drogynian land and thus under the protection and jurisdiction of the Order of Draconius. Pac is a hard case, an unflinching law-monger, something that always rubbed Morik the wrong way. Sometimes there is room for debate… not always, but sometimes, and Pac never ceded that way of thinking.
So, Pac drew a line in the sand and repeated S’zeves’s words to him, saying “I think it is time for YOU to leave this cave to the professionals, kid. Under the Law of Property Defense, I declare you in violation of…”
S’zeves stepped backwards into the shadows and winked out of sight. They heard a thundrous rumbling at the entrance of the caverns. Pac and the rest of the team rushed to see what the commotion was, and saw that S’zeves had somehow collapsed a portion of the cave opening, making exit (and more important, entry) far more difficult. Pac throttled him and pointed a finger into his face, demanding an explanation. S’zeves said “Letting that Kobold back in here would be a big mistake I am not letting you make. Now she has to dig her way in, which buys us time to trap the place. There are other ways out of here. You have to trust me.”
Pac says “Like hell I do. You are under arrest, kid.” He pulled manacles from his belt as Kelain stepped in between them, saying “This is going too far.” Pac said “I agree, and I have a pair of these for you, too, fugitive Kelain of the Current crime organization.”
As Pac placed the manacles on Kelain, the bard whispered something to S’zeves, wherein the kid stepped backward into the shadows of the stones littering the floor behind him and disappeared, reappearing just outside the cave.
Pac ordered Crossel to “hold the prisoner” and Morik to “watch that kobold” while he bashed and tossed stones away from the exit to give chase and recapture the fugitive S’zeves. Roena met Kelain’s eyes and then said something to Morik about how Pac was too zealous and not thinking clearly. Morik agreed to a degree, but also thought S’zeves was too brash presuming to block them all within the caves without consulting them on it. The Kobold did a somersault and a cartwheel, rolling between Morik’s legs and coming up behind him. As Morik turned, he saw Yadykath run up the side of the cave wall and disappear into a fluttering, spinning pile of autumn leaves, also reappearing a few feet outside the blocked cave exit. At this point, Pac was infuriated, reared back and punched a hole big enough to see outside, watching as S’zeves and the kobold ninja ran off together.
Pac had Morik and Roena help him clear the rest of the rubble and take the prisoner back to the barracks, warning Roena not to let him escape again. He kept Crossel with him to re-block the cave entrance until they could return later with reinforcements. On the way back to Drogynia, Kelain tried to “talk sense” into Morik and get him to let him go, but he was a fugitive and did deserve to be locked up for his past crimes, even if he hadn’t done anything expressly illegal just now other than obstruct Pac’s dubious justice against S’zeves. Kelain did, however, convince Roena to stay away from the Burning Star Mines and Nykathia, as he truly believes S’zeves’s claim that the kobold was capable of killing them all should she so choose.
Morik got Kelain locked up solid at the barracks brig, waited for Pac and Crossel to return, and as Pac rallied a force to return to the mine entrance and guard it from being retaken by the kobolds, Crossel agreed that this was beyond the scope of a “free job”. Crossel thought S’zeves was “an unfortunate loss to the Order”. Crossel is a recruiter for the Order. He liked the idea of hunting Nykathia down and getting that Chime of Opening out of her clutches before she could make whatever nefarious use out of it she was planning on doing. However, this wasn’t their fight, and they had other, paying work ahead of them. So, Morik, Roena, and Crossel left Drogynia the next morning heading East toward the Hafhie town of Yonsalyre, which is where their story begins in two Mondays.
Meanwhile, S’zeves was escorted by Yadykath to a clearing east of the Burning Star Mines, at the edge of the Prair Shirelands. There they met up with a monstrous-looking bugbear named Auleak, a barbarian member of the Current, and a good friend of Yadykath. Auleak offered S’zeves some onion to snack on, obviously not S’zeves’s first culinary choice, but S’zeves noted the friendliness and camaraderie he felt with these Current men almost immediately.
Over the course of the night, Yadykath and Auleak began to explain the world in which S’zeves found himself. For some reason, despite how insane it sounded, they believed that S’zeves was not of this world, but of another world and another time. S’zeves felt more comfortable and trusting of Auleak, Yadykath, and even Kelain than he had since he woke to this strange new world. Even Sin, who had been distrustful of Hector, Vespa, and Pac, was at ease near these men. Come to think of it, he seemed to take a liking to Kelain as well.
Now, S’zeves had to make a decision, to join the Current and aid them in rescuing Kelain from the Order of Draconius, or to go off on his own, track down Nykathia, and take that Chime of Opening from her one way or the other. Luckily for him, Auleak and Yadykath were eager to take on both responsibilities.
With S’zeves’s aid, Auleak tracked down a “Little Bird”, a magical, long-distance, person-to-person form of communication in the guise of a small, colorful Crystech bird. With the Little Bird, Auleak sent a message to their old friend and fellow Current member, Reks Relagia, to come to Drogynia and help them in springing Kelain from custody. While they awaited Reks’s reply, Auleak and Yadykath accompanied S’zeves back toward the entrance of the Burning Star Mines, where they hoped to use Sin’s nose and Auleak’s tracking abilities to find out where Nykathia was heading. Hopefully, they thought, they would catch up to her before she got a chance to get those reinforcements she was after…
The trio found their way back to the entrance into the Burning Star Mines, discovering that the entrance had been carefully bricked over, a note attached to the outside of the wall. Neglecting to attempt reading the note, instead S’zeves examined the area for footprints. Yadykath immediately located a number of fresh kobold footprints heading to the north. Aware of alternative entrances to the caves, S’zeves determined that the Kobolds must have been going to the Leviathan’s Intestine, a treacherous section of the mines that had fallen into disuse for a reason S’zeves struggled to remember. Impatient, Auleak barged into the cave, only for S’zeves to remember that the Leviathan’s Intestine was abandoned because the mining had caused a number of hollow pockets to form beneath the cavernous floors, making a heavy footfall especially treacherous. As soon as he realized that an enormous bugbear had just rushed into the caves, he heard a tremendous cacophony of stone on stone, a rock fall, and shortly thereafter, Auleak dashing back out of the mine shaft, clouds of dust billowing in his wake.
Promising to make his footsteps more gingerly from now on, Auleak followed S’zeves, Sin, and Yadykath into the Leviathan’s Intestine. Soon thereafter, they found themselves on a perilously narrow path, a high, rainslick cavern wall to their left, a deadly, fifty-foot drop to their right. Across the chasm to their right, through which rays of sunlight and streams of captured rainfall flowed in from above, they could make out the presence of another, similar narrow walkway about twenty feet away, narrow stalactites and stalagmites dotting the chasm in between them. These caverns had formed after a dreadful, cataclysmic earthquake shifted, likely when Windjammer Isle was hurled by Oblivion into the center of nearby Silverton. A small pool of rainwater glistened and gave off a feint shimmering glow. Upon close examination, S’zeves determined that it was swarming with deadly bacteria, narrowly preventing Sin from lapping the potentially lethal water.
Across the chasm, on the other narrow ledge, Yadykath spotted a skeletal arm, its hand hanging over the chasm, the rest of its body crushed by fallen, loose stone debris. Something on or near the hand of the crushed skeleton gave off a glint of reflection. Meanwhile, Auleak stumbled onto a disgusting sight, a massive rat swarm piled over the recently mauled skeletal remains of two kobolds. The rat swarm noticed Auleak and began to lash out at him, but together with Yadykath, S’zeves, and Sin, they were soon able to kill all but a few of the rats, who skittered and scurried into the safety of some tiny, narrow cracks in the cavern wall.
S’zeves was very interested in retrieving whatever shiny object that crushed skeleton was holding, but it was poised almost thirty feet away, a fifty foot drop onto deadly stone spikes awaiting him should he fail in his attempt. He intended to leap onto one of the narrow stalagmites, then again from the stalagmite to the narrow ledge on the other side. It was an ill-conceived plan that was doomed to failure from the very start, and he kicked himself immediately for thinking it was going to work. He jumped, fell, and had to use his Shadar-Kai Shadow Jaunt to reach up and take a hold of Auleak’s outstretched hand. He was made to promise not to do anything that stupid again.
However, he had come up with another, far more brilliant plan during his brush with death. He tied a length of rope to the hilt of his sword and threw it with all his might, stabbing it into the narrow cracks between two segments of stone wall. Auleak wrapped the other end of the rope taut around his wrist and waist, and the tiny kobold ninja leapt onto his shoulders and dashed across the rope. S’zeves was duly impressed with how well Auleak and Yadykath worked together, and with the alacrity of the kobold in gracefully navigating his way across the suspended rope. Yadykath hung down from the rope by his tail, telling S’zeves and Auleak that there was a ring on the skeleton hand’s index finger. As he touched the ring, Yadykath completely vanished into thin air! Auleak and S’zeves were stunned, but then heard Yadykath landing from the rope onto the ledge next to them, asking them what they were so glum about, he got the ring.
They revealed to Yadykath that he was invisible, and he began to celebrate having found an invisibility ring. However, he suddenly became horribly morose, saying “Oh my gods… I lost it!” Auleak asked where he was standing and Yadykath replied that he was tugging on Auleak’s shirt, but the fabric wasn’t being pulled. “Oh my god, it doesn’t make you invisible, it makes you a ghost!” Eventually, eagle-eyed Auleak found the ring, pointing Yadykath’s way to retaking it. Yadykath did so, and as he picked up the ring, he became visible and corporeal once again. In earnest, he dropped the ring, spitting toward it, calling it a cursed thing. S’zeves walked right over to it and picked it up, thinking he would have to put it on in order for it to effect him. However, that was not the case, and the sound of more rats shambling toward them began to draw their attention. Worse, S’zeves lost the ring, and was unable to render any aid to Auleak and Yadykath against this new threat until he found it and undid this dreadful curse.
There was another Rat Swarm much like the last one, accompanied by a Dire Rat whose owner was a Kobold Slyblade. The Slyblade arrogantly scoffed that they would make short work of two wayward fools and their dog. However, S’zeves managed to find the ring once more, tossing it immediately toward the Dire Rat, who instinctually caught the ring in its mouth and disappeared. The Kobold let out an impassioned scream as he heard the Dire Rat panic and stumble over the edge of the cliff. He cried out: “YOU KILLED FLUFFY! FLUFFY WILL BE AVENGED!”
The battle was fierce, but once again, the trio was victorious. Pressing onward, they were met with another threat. As the path widened and curled to the right, it ended abruptly, a five-foot wide chasm separating them from two Kobold Skirmishers brandishing a bow and a crossbow, a Dire Rat, wearing a collar, standing on the heroe’s side of the chasm. These Kobolds said “Mittens, sic ‘em!” S’zeves said “Awww! Look at that, it does look like he is wearing mittens. Prepare to die, Mittens.”
This battle was far more dangerous than they realized. The chasm protected the Kobolds from most of their attacks while the Dire Rat provided a long enough distraction to keep them too busy to close the distance between them and the Kobold Skirmishers. Also, Yadykath suffered a dreadful bite from the Dire Rat that infected him with the Filth Fever, weakening him almost to the point of death in a relatively short expanse of time. Eventually, S’zeves managed to cause enough damage to the Kobold Skirmishers for one of them to retreat further away from the chasm, where a Kobold Wyrmpriest came into view. She had been there all along, but had only just then made herself known. She had been watching the heroes, formulating a plan, and was ready to unleash her fury. She began by healing both of the kobolds, half the damage that had been caused by S’zeves’s deadly Flame Cyclone earlier in the fight. S’zeves then used his Aegis of Assault to place a mark onto the Wyrmpriest’s forehead, which she was observant enough to notice immediately. Yadykath’s fever was worsening, and he had to retreat to a dark corner of the cave, Sin guarding him as he rested.
S’zeves and Auleak were still on the wrong side of this chasm, and Auleak had a plan. He asked S’zeves if he trusted him, and S’zeves nodded excitedly, and Auleak immediately picked S’zeves up by the scruff of his neck and the seat of his pants and hurled him across the chasm, using S’zeves’s whole body as an improvised ranged weapon against the unsuspecting, mortified Kobold Skirmisher. S’zeves landed awkwardly, but still managed to get back up to his feet and kill the Kobold Skirmisher, closing the distance between himself and the Wyrmpriest. He taunted the Wyrmpriest, which prompted her to demonstrate her most deadly attack, Dragon’s Breath, a plume of fire erupting from her mouth and filling a fifteen-foot space, which was very intimidating to behold and caused a great deal of damage to S’zeves. Auleak decided to leap across the chasm on his own power, succeeding in doing so, but like S’zeves he landed awkwardly and was unable to immediately pursue the Wyrmpriest. S’zeves promised that he was going to crush her skull.
S’zeves then decided to place his Aegis of Assault mark onto the other Kobold Skirmisher, which the Wyrmpriest again noticed. The Wyrmpriest ordered the Skirmisher to do nothing, lower his weapon, and retreat into the tunnels from whence they came. She told him to let Nykathia know they had uninvited guests, and that she would handle these interlopers personally.
The Wyrmpriest retreated toward the tunnel in the northern end of the cavern, using her Energy Orb to cause stone debris to spill into the path leading toward her, rendering it difficult terrain to pass. However, not to be denied, S’zeves and Auleak climbed over her hasty cover and brought the Wyrmpriest death. As promised, S’zeves went to her body and crushed her skull. He then looted her remains, finding two healing potions on her person. However, he also noticed, while standing in this tunnel, the approach of an amber glow. Nykathia was coming, and in Yadykath was in no condition to fight on.
Auleak had entered into the Bloodhunt Rage when he made that last strike against the Wyrmpriest, and it was very difficult for S’zeves and Yadykath to convince him to leave the caves. However, he eventually understood that for Yadykath to be any help in the fight, or even to survive at all, they had to get him out of there and get him medical attention immediately.
On the way out of the caves, S’zeves thought to examine the skeletal remains of the two Kobolds that had been devoured by the first Rat Swarm they had encountered. Left behind on one of the bodies, he found an Augmenting Whetstone. His delay allowed him a brief glimpse of Nykathia, but she didn’t notice their exit from the caves, and they seemed to have made a clean escape…
Late that night, Yadykath, Auleak, S’zeves, and Sin had made camp near the bank of a small and shallow stream about two miles east of the path leading toward the Leviathan’s Intestine. Auleak was still restless, his Bloodhunt Rage leaving him feeling empty, like he left things undone and couldn’t think of anything else. Against S’zeves’s plea, the bugbear barbarian left the campsite, saying he wanted to stretch his legs. Yadykath claimed that this was common for Auleak, and S’zeves should trust him. The funny thing was, for the first time in his life, S’zeves really did trust someone, and felt perfectly comfortable in both of their company.
Suddenly, S’zevas and Yadykath caught sight of a distant movement in the shadowy backdrop behind the other side of the stream…
The Nomoid Avenger of Veil, Borgamat, had finally found a place to wash the disgusting Kobold blood from his metal hands. He knelt on the banks of the slow-running waters and dipped his hands into the cool currents, watching as the blood flowed down stream, thinking of how fortunate he was to escape his latest encounter with his life. He didn’t realize until it was too late that someone had found their way behind him, the end of their weapon placed against the back of his skull. A voice called to him, a low, guttural grumble seething with anger and spite, asking him what he was doing. He gave a simple, honest answer: “I am washing my hands in the stream.”
A big, brooding bugbear brandishing a brutal broad-faced battle-club moved to flank Borgamat, asking for more details. Borgamat again saw no reason for deceit, informing the bugbear that he had recently been beset by a Kobold ambush and was simply at the stream to wash their blood from his hands. The bugbear stubbornly refused to buy into Borgamat’s story, regardless of how sensible and truthful it was. Suddenly, another figure came out from the darkness behind Borgamat, a young, gray-skinned man with white hair and glowing purple lines on his left arm and face.
This one was far less openly hostile, but still held the Nomoid in his cautious gaze. He repeated the bugbear’s question, asking who Borgamat was and what he was doing here. Borgamat elaborated even further, saying that he was en route to Drogynia due to news reaching him of a Kobold Uprising there, and about three miles east, at the Kabuhm-Braony Crossroads, he was ambushed by Kobolds. He defeated the ambush and continued on his way to Drogynia when he heard the sound of the Silver Whisker Stream and decided to take advantage of the opportunity and clean the blood from his wounds. S’zeves kept their identities a secret, but revealed to Borgamat that they had recently ran afoul of Kobolds as well, and wished to do so again shortly. Borgamat saw an opportunity to enlist their aid in fighting these Kobolds, and offered to join in their efforts. S’zeves looked to Auleak, who grimaced, backed away, and left. Borgamat knew that look, that attitude. He knew anti-nomidism when he saw it, and he saw it often.
As the bugbear disappeared into the shadows, a number of leaves began to spin and swirl in a small, sudden cyclone of wind, and a kobold ninja sprang up as if from a non-existent hole in the ground, the leaves subsiding in his wake. Having just fought Kobolds himself, Borgamat was on the defensive, drawing his magical broadsword and small shield, causing S’zeves to follow suit and draw the Featherweight Greatsword as well. However, the kobold ninja stabbed both of his swords vertically into the ground in front of him, leapt up to let his feet rest on the pommels of the two swords, and look Borgamat in his crystalline eyes. He asked Borgamat to tell him where this ambush was supposed to have occurred, and the Nomoid once again told them the truth, saying that should they wish, he could escort them back to the site of the Kobold ambush. Yadykath said to S’zeves that they should investigate his story and, if it checked out, they should let him accompany them back into the Leviathan’s Intestine. Auleak was against the idea, but relented.
On the journey to the ambush site, S’zeves asked what his problem was with the Nomoid. Auleak replied that the gnomes had sided with the Shadow Knight, that everything they will ever do thereafter is suspect in his eyes. S’zeves said “that was in the past”. Auleak said “So were you, and that doesn’t make your claims less ‘true’ than it does the gnome’s treachery.” S’zeves ceded the point and continued the journey in silence.
They reached the ambush site at the Kabuhm-Braony Crossroads, a Y-shaped intersection with two small stone structures nestled against the converging Kabuhm and Braony Trails. They could easily make out the presence of a large amount of recently spilt blood, as well as a few splattered pools of Nomoid lubricant oil. Yadykath went in for a closer look, stealthily zipping from tree to tree, silently dropping to the grassy roadside, crawling to and examining the blood first hand. He dashed back to the party and asked to examine Borgamat’s hands, smelling this blood and confirming that it was the same. He then asked Borgamat a very important question: “Okay, that’s the Kobold’s blood… so where are their bodies?”
Borgamat had not moved the bodies. They should have been there. That means that somebody else did move them not long after he left. Yadykath believed that the Kobolds had not devoted all of their forces to subduing a single Nomoid traveler, but had more in reserve, watching. S’zeves seized upon this revelation, asking his allies to remain behind while he scouted around for any signs of the other Kobolds.
He made his way to the larger of the two stone buildings, a two-story structure with castle architecture and a roof seemingly designed for defensive archer positions to be set up. Failing to find any open doors and seeing absolutely no windows, S’zeves deftly scaled the front wall of the building, taking footsteps on the roof, and taking advantage of the elevated view to scout the area. However, until he heard his allies’ clamoring, Sin’s barking, and Auleak’s furious accusation of Borgamat in leading them into a trap, S’zeves had no idea that two Kobold Slyblades had successfully scaled the building.
A small, yet ferocious force of Kobolds spewed out of the shadowy dark, two Wyrmpriests flanked by three Kobold Cleavers. Between them and the two Slyblades, there were eight Kobolds in total, meaning the party had found itself outnumbered two-to-one. However, this was the first battle in which they had the pleasure of the Avenger of Veil as company-in-arms. One of the Wyrmpriests boasted that she knew the Nomoid would return with reinforcements, that they fell right into her clever trap. S’zeves and the Wyrmpriest began yelling insults at one another from the roof, S’zeves attempting in vain to incite a labor dispute between the Cleavers and the Wyrmpriests commanding them. It was a dismal attempt, and one of the low points in S’zeves’s short career.
The battle was met. S’zeves was on the rooftop with two Kobolds while Auleak, Borgamat, Yadykath, and Sin were below at the intersection, tangling with the other eight Kobolds. Yadykath made directly for one of the Wyrmpriests, who had carelessly ordered her Cleavers to leave her unguarded. He was hoping to make her pay for that mistake, but the Wyrmpriest proved far more resourceful than he was expecting, and he was greeted with a face full of lightning. Meanwhile, the Cleavers were descending on Borgamat, Auleak, and Sin. To their credit, Auleak and Borgamat took out four of the Kobolds in short order, Borgamat with a psychic assault and Auleak with a vicious swipe of his Greatclub sending one Kobold crushing into his neighbor. The other Wyrmpriest attempted to lob an Energy Orb toward S’zeves on the roof in aid of the two Slyblades, but her attack was dreadfully inaccurate, and S’zeves capitalized by swinging his sword and reflecting the energy orb back toward her. It didn’t manage to connect with her, but it sent the message not to underestimate the gray-skinned young warrior with the ridiculously large sword again.