Dreekt awoke again, this time he was lying by a fire on his bedroll. He tried to sit up, but this caused his head to throb. He tried to talk, and managed a raspy voice. “Hello? Burner, Adalet, Gaem? I need some water.” He wasn’t very loud and he hoped somebody heard him.
Burner’s face came into view, the dark sky behind her head. “Looks like he’s awake again. I think he asked for water.” Her head moved away, and Dreekt felt something lifting his shoulders and then something soft below his upper back. He tried to sit up again, but failed. When he fell back however he was at an angle that allowed him to see the fire without straining his neck.
“Here.” Adalet held a waterskin to his mouth for Dreekt to drink. He took a few small swallows. The water burned at first when it came in contact with his dry throat, but then it felt soothing.
“How long was I asleep?” He asked, or rather tried to ask. He was only able to get out the first two words before he had to stop. His headache wasn’t getting any better yet.
Gaem’s ferret head came into view. “Just the whole day,” he told Dreekt, “but I think you weren’t sick exactly. I don’t think you should touch that stone again though. It knocked you out cold the second it was in your hand.”
“Agreed.” Dreekt tried to prop himself up on his elbows. This time he succeeded and sat upright. Once he was sitting up his headache lessened to a background ache instead of an insistent throb. “I think I can take first watch tonight. I’m not tired. I feel like I sprained something psychologically. Like a muscle I never used before suddenly had to support all of my weight.”
“Interesting analogy. I think maybe you were forced to use magic that you weren’t ready for. I’ve heard of such things happening before. We need to keep that stone wrapped up in cloth.” Burner pulled some small strips of cloth from her pack and gave them to Gaem. “Here, you didn’t have an adverse reaction to the stone. I’d rather not chance anyone else getting affected.”
Gaem transformed into his humanoid form and took the cloth. He bound up the stone then spoke again. “I’ll take second watch. Adalet can take third, and Burner can take last. Two hours each. Agreed?” Gaem looked at the two of them as Dreekt started to stand. They nodded their assent then Gaem walked to Dreekt to give him some support. “Lean on me, you’re still a little shaky.”
“Thanks. Now I’m up I feel much better.” Dreekt leaned over and grabbed at his quarterstaff atop his bag. “I think this might help a bit. I’m not as steady as I used to be.” He almost fell grabbing it and Gaem handed it to him instead. “Maybe I should sit for most of my watch.”
“Just don’t fall asleep. If I die I’ll haunt you.” Adalet laid down on her bedroll and promptly fell asleep. Soon Gaem and Burner were also asleep.
Dreekt hoped that nothing would happen that night and found an uncomfortable rock to sit on. He couldn’t stand, but he didn’t want to fall asleep. It wouldn’t help anything if he let everyone die just because he couldn’t stay awake.
Ah! Salamen, an interesting race. According to the lore I could locate on them, and stories that have been passed down as oral tradition, they are descendant of a six-legged giant salamander race that lives in Dark Under. Apparently the salamanders existed before the skravyn were sealed away and have not changed much since, but I digress.
The salamen came from a cresh of eggs that was lain too deep in Dark Under, according to the lore. The dark magics affected this cresh in unforeseen ways. Instead of causing some mutation that made the creatures even more fearsome, which I hear is hard to do, they turned them into a bipedal race.
Salamen have six limbs. A pair of legs and one pair of arms are the standard bipedal style, but just above their hips they have a second, smaller set of arms. These are just as ambulatory as the larger set of arms.
- Excerpt from the works of Jergolt, the Scholar
Burner, Adalet, Dreekt, and Gaemacirch saw a town on the horizon a few days later. They didn’t remember seeing it on any map of the area. Burner pulled the map out of her pack and the area they were in showed nothing but grassland. Apparently the town was undocumented.
The road they had been following had turned away from the river, to the west. They had been surprised at this, but they realized they had just assumed that the road would lead them north the whole way.
Before too long they found themselves at the village. The guards on watch frowned at Gaemacirch who changed back into his humanoid form. Upon seeing him transform they argued for a moment then motioned the group to approach. They weren’t thrilled to see a zarx, it seemed.
“Who goes there?”
“We are adventurers seeking the force mage of Frozen Pinnacle.” Burner announced to the guards on the city wall. “You seem shaken, is something wrong?”
The second guard looked at the one who had addressed them to start with, then answered her himself. “We have been continually attacked by Dark Under creatures for the last few days. Your zarx friend is a dark race, and so is your skravyn companion. It’s nothing against you two, but we have been fighting creatures that are loosely related to your races.”
“No problem,” replied Dreekt, “I grew up in Rentaz. I can take a dose of temporary distrust easily.”
“Yes,” the first guard responded, “well I see no good reason to keep you four outside. Please come in, and if some of you join the watch tonight you will get a discount at the inn.”
As they entered the doors of the town they saw a sign that said Dregton. The town was odd to the whole party. The buildings were all one story at first glance, but when they entered the inn the building had stairs leading down. All of the buildings had been built with the majority of the rooms below ground. Dreekt could imagine two ways that the buildings were dug out. Either the family builds a house then starts to dig out a basement and then another floor as they need, or the family digs out the lower floors and then erects a house over the dug out section. Neither of these options seemed particularly easy to pull off, but the concept was interesting.
“Welcome to the Blue Flagon, will you be staying the night?” The innkeeper, a slightly translucent pale-blue Salaman, was polishing a few dishes behind a bar when they entered. As his top two arms were busy doing this he waved with one of his bottom two. “We don’t have many visitors in these dark times. Where do you hail from?”
“We traveled from the south of Dulz Thicket. These dark times you speak of must be fairly recent though. I left Rentaz only a week ago.” Dreekt looked around the bar and saw only one patron, an off-duty guard in the corner. “I assume the low business is because of the recent attacks from Dark Under?”
“Yes, it is. Are any of you planning to take a turn on the wall? The creatures tend to attack at night.” He looked over at Gaemecirch. “It’d be best if you stayed in bipedal form while in town sir zarx. Large creatures are likely to scare the townsfolk into attacking you.”
“Thanks for the advice. I gave the gate guard a start when I walked up, and again when I changed forms. To answer your question, I think the skravyn and myself will be up to manning the watch for a few hours. He’s Dreekt by the way, this is Adalet, this is Burner, and I’m Gaemacirch but most call me Gaem.”
“My name is hard for most to say so I go by Samuel.”
“Well, it’s nice to meet you Samuel.” Burner stepped forward and offered her hand to shake. The salaman passed the dish he was polishing to his bottom set of arms to shake with his top arm. “How much for the rooms?”
“No cost, that is if you only want two rooms. The two ladies in one and the two gentlemen in the other.” Samuel turned and set the dish down. “Also, if you go into the caves for the governor I bet he’ll give you his Quarterstaff of Fatigue. You’d need to find a way to collapse the tunnels so the creatures stop coming of course.” He tossed two keys behind his back to Dreekt who caught them easily.
Once Burner, Adalet, Dreekt, and Gaemacirch were safely in one of the rooms they made a plan. Burner and Adalet would talk to the governor about the cave while Dreekt and Gaem talked to the captain of the guard about serving on the wall for the night.
Burner and Adalet set out for the governor’s office immediately to try to catch him before he left the office for home. As it was they barely got there in time.
Burner approached one of the two guards standing outside the government building in the center of town. “I’m Burner and we would like to speak with the mayor about the entrance to Dark Under he wants cleared. Adalet and I, along with our two friends who are taking a shift on the wall, would like to help.”
As she was finishing a portly old man with a salt and pepper beard walked out of the building. “Ah, and I would love to talk with you about it as well.”
“This is the mayor,” said the guard, motioning, “and this is Burner.”
“Pleased to meet you, but I think we should speak inside. Please follow me to my office. You caught me just as I was leaving.” They entered the building and started towards the mayor’s office. “So the two of you and two of your friends would like to look into the Dark Under entrance for me?” Burner and Adalet nodded. “Very well. I’ll send a map to where you’re staying in the morning.” He wrote a note on a piece of parchment. “I’m assuming you’re staying in the Blue Flagon?”
“You assume right.” Adalet answered, preoccupied. She was eyeing the quarterstaff hanging on the wall behind the desk. It looked somehow familiar to her. “Is that the Quarterstaff of Fatigue that the barkeep said you might be willing to part with as payment?”
“I am willing to give you the Quarterstaff of Fatigue as payment, but the quarterstaff you see is actually the Quarterstaff of Mind Flaying. It’s a more powerful version of the Quarterstaff of Fatigue that was wielded by the founder of this town, Grigori Petrovich. I’m afraid I cannot part with that one as it has cultural significance and belongs to the whole town.”
A darkness wash over Adalet’s face for a moment, then disappeared. “He founded this town? That’s odd, I thought he was more of a loner.” The darkness of her tone was barely contained as she talked.
Ignoring Adalet’s comment Burner talked to the mayor about the details of the arrangement. Afterwards they made their way back to the Blue Flagon and went to their room. Adalet had a restless night as she dreamed of her childhood in Ertval. The northern county of tundras and ice plains.