(Posted from: http://neverendingnights.com/archives/1524
The Journals of Morobunce Greenhills, Page 42.
Draconia is a world ruled by The Dragons. Split by the Order of Six, the Draconians that rule the world are Ancient Dragons of Red, Green, Blue, Bronze, Gold, and Silver. Though the Dragons claim that there is no “good” or “evil” among the Dragonkin, only a desire to maintain order and peace – there is an old saying among my people, “It is not power itself that corrupts, but the fear of losing such power.”
Those the Order of the Six maintain that they have only peaceful intentions, I am full of doubt. Ancient texts speak of Dragons of Old, whose avarice for gold could be compared to a dehydrated man’s thirst for water.
Most who have been to Shallow Hills, know the name Greenhills. My family is one of the wealthiest among the Halflings. They gladly harvest food for the Armies of the Green Draconian, and hand over their hard work and harvest to their armies, in exchange for fancy bobbles and sometimes even coin. I was destined to do the same, but that is not the life I wanted for myself.
I did not want to work – almost borderline slave away – for another, for simple trinkets and toys. Despite my family’s background and wealth, I left that life behind and did what so few of my kind do – and ventured into the World.
It did not take long for me to soon discover that the World outside of Greenhills was not an easy one. Human Cities sprang about the land like jagged stones, with their towering walls in an attempt to safe guard themselves, marring the land and twisting it to their needs.
But it was within these human cities, that smelled of sewers and filth that I had to learn to survive. Being as small as I was, it was easy to move about, and acquire certain things I had needed to survive. I wasn’t pleased with myself, lowering myself down to stealing in order to survive. But I did not want to live off my family’s money. I wanted to make it on my own. But among humans, Halflings seemed to have little use.
My pride forced me to refuse the idea of ever returning home. Not until I had gone out into the world and left my own mark.
So I spent weeks like this; surviving by stealing. I learned to be quite good at the skill, until I was caught – but not by the one whom I had stolen the fruit from; but another. He introduced himself as a human by the name of Avathan. He explained that I did not have to be alone; there were others, like me, whom society had deemed to turn their backs on, who were forced to survive as I had.
He led me through a maze of alleyways, and side doors, through ancient buildings, that appeared as if they might collapse with just the slightest breeze, until we reached a small sewer entrance. Within there, we walked in the dark for several hundred feet, before he tugged on what appeared to be a rusted ladder. I heard a series of clicks and whirls, and suddenly, part of the concrete slid away, revealing a passage within.
Despite the entrance into this lair, the inside was lined with beautiful rugs, and glistening objects. Avathan explained that this was the Thieves Guild; or as he romantically calls it, “The Adventurer’s Hall.” Here, there were people of all walks of life – of every race, of every color – from other Halflings, to humans, to elves, half-elves, even Tieflings – and one dwarf (though I could not tell if the Dwarf was male or female; a common problem I have with Dwarf-ilk).
As there was a mixture of races among the Thieves Guild, there was also a mixture of personality as well as reason for stealing. Someone stole, simply to survive. Some stole, because they enjoyed the thrill. Some stole, simply because they could not fight the impulse. All of them, however, made payments to the thieves guild in some form or fashion – whether it was food, trinkets, or gold. Those items, were then recycled back into the Thieves Guild – to pay for Thieves to do specific jobs, should they choose to accept it.
After several weeks of doing various jobs for Avathan, he finally approached me and explained that he had another job for me – one that took me out of Stonepeak – and into the city of Ancor. There was a Guild Master there by the name of ‘Teacher.’ (Somehow I doubt that was his real name; but he respected his privacy enough not to want his name known, even among the Circle of Thieves and Rogues – after all, there is a saying among them here that, “There Is No Honor Among Thieves” and “Every Secret Has Its Price – One Need Only Find It.”)
I agreed to go to Ancor to meet this ‘Teacher.’ My first day out of Stonepeak, I met with another caravan of would be adventurers, that seemed to range from warriors, holy soldiers, and outdoorsmen. Our first night, we stopped at an Oasis, where – in the awkward silence, several spoke to make conversation. I met Alek Redmont, who was a Human Ranger; Kalamitee Wolfsmoon, an Eladrin Cleric; and Zerkorza Zaidai, a Tiefling Warrior, who sat nearest to me.
The small caravan was broken into several small circles of strangers talking amongst themselves. The four of us agreed to make a rotating watch for the night. Zerkorza apparently awoke to hear the sounds of chanting; she woke Kalamitee – and before we knew it, we found ourselves attacked by some form of religious fantatics. I was rendered unconscious only to awaken who knows how much longer – by the cleric who had snapped my ropes.
Neither the Ranger nor the Cleric knew where the Warrior had gotten off to. Was she already taken? The stone beds we were tied to had ridges for bloodletting. Where ever we were, it was not a good place. (But then, when is it a good place when they knock you out and tie you up to a bed unwillingly?) We searched for clues within the room. The walls were lined with and endless row of skulls, whose empty sockets seemed to be watching with hatred.
One door had the sound of chanting coming from it; the other had a strange odor – the third door was open, leading down a hallway where we could see a light. There was no sounds coming from that direction. It seemed to be the safest of choices – I took the front, searching for traps or anything along the hallway.
Much to our surprise, we found the Warrior rummaging through the room. “Were you trying to escape without freeing us?” I asked.
The startled Warrior turned, looked surprised, “No,” she said rather quickly. “I was looking for our weapons and armor.”
I watched her expression. She was lying. She was trying to escape without even getting the rest of us out there. I wonder, would I have done the same? Awakened in a strange place, with skulls, and a stone tablet that had bloodletting ridges?
No. I would have awaken the others. If there’s one thing I have learned, is that the Lone Wolf will die without the Pack.
We continued to rummage through the room – the only thing of interest was a small icon – that the Cleric recognized as being a symbol of the god, Bane. Kalamitee, somewhat familiar with the evils of Bane, explained he was a God of War. However, his intention was not for warriors to call upon him during times of battle; but rather, to one day rule over all of the world himself, and crush all those who oppose him and believe in anything other than him, beneath his fiery heels.
I stared at the symbol of Bane and sneered in disgust. He was worse than the Order of the Six Draconians. At least they allowed everyone to believe what they wanted, so long as it did not interfere or conflict with their own ideas. Bane wanted everyone snuffed out, if they did not swear allegiance to him and him alone.
We left the room and returned to the bloodletting room, where we could still hear chanting down one hall. We continued down the third hall, until the scent of copper became extremely strong. This wasn’t going to go well – I could already tell. It was the smell of blood.
Upon opening the door, Alek immediately began to vomit. The entire room was covered in blood splatter, and there were bodies whose heads had been severed and the flesh of their bodies peeled back.
It was in this room, we recovered our weapons and armor and made our way back up to the bloodletting room, where I peered through the shut door and saw six occult members standing around a sconce. None of them seemed aware of our presence; I quickly explained, I would sneak in first and back stab the one closest; as soon as he would yell, the other were to charge in.
Stealthfully moving through the shadows, I approached the first one and dug my short deep through him. I abhor the idea of taking one’s life – but seeing the horrors I had seen today – I knew that there was no other choice. These men were vile – evil, down to their very core, without any hope of redemption.
The others immediately charged into the room. We moved, for the first time, as a cohesive unit. We were aware of one another’s presence, and made the best of every attack. Perhaps because the dark summoners were so entranced with their chanting – which turned out to be some kind of summoning spell, because as the last one fell, a demonic hand reached through just before it closed – a deep, chilling voice, screaming in denial as the mystical doorway sealed.
We made our way further through the room and discovered a hallway that led out. But as I peered outside, I suspected there was more to these three men and their small caravan. After all, why would they be camped right outside the cave’s entrance – unless they were a part of the cult – or if they were the mercenaries that delivered us to the Cult of Bane.
When we stepped outside, Kalamitee tried to be diplomatic – trying to find out who they were and why we were captured; but by the shocked expression by these men, they clearly had no interest in speaking and wanted to silence us. Immediately another fight broke out, and as the others concentrated on the two warriors, my eyes focused on the one who appeared to be a mage – or some dark summoner.
The mage used a number of spells to stun us and disorient us; but that did not slow me down. He had struck me with several spells as I pursued him through the forest, leaving me close to death. Just as it seemed my last breath would escape my lungs, I heard Kalamitee behind me whisper a prayer to her goddess; and a light filled me. My wounds healed, and the mage, who had been cut and beaten, finally surrendered.
He explained that he had been paid by the Cult of Bane to capture us and bring us to them. They had been awaiting payment outside the Cult’s cavern when we came out and surprised them. We debated leaving the mage to die, tied to a tree – but knew it would be better to bring him with us, alive, to the city of Ancor.
We arrived in the City and turned the Mage over to the local authorities who were well of aware of his actions, but had never been able to catch him. Even more interesting – they offered us a job to work for the city cleaning up similar riff raff.
Things, I feel, are only just beginning to get interesting…