Adventures in Branterra

Session 6

To Each Their Own

Ayc, Loch, Selene, Suzanna, and Khara slowly approached the well guarded gates of Borgeport, and were met with wary stares from the soldiers motioning for them to stop.

“Have you encountered the undead?” asked a stocky Dwarf. His hand rested on his large mace on his belt as he questioned the group.

“Yes, unfortunately, we have,” answered Loch.

“And are any of you wounded?” the guard asked earnestly.

“No we are not hurt. We were able to dispatch the creatures without being turned ourselves,” replied Loch.

The Dwarven soldier paused for a long moment as he eyed the newcomers. “What brings you to Borgeport?” he asked finally.

“We’re just passing through to Torruga,” Khara answered smoothly. “We mean no trouble, we just need safe passage to the island.”

After thinking it over briefly, the soldier nodded and replied, “That’s good to hear. You may enter, but make sure you keep to your words and stay out of trouble.”

“Of course,” Khara said with a smile, and the group was let into the city. They stabled their horses and walked further down the road. Instantly they were met with the sights and sounds of a thriving marketplace. Shops of all kinds lined the street as they made their way deeper into Borgeport.

There were many soldiers walking among the throng of people, however, many bore different insignias. It was common knowledge that many expensive items came out of Torruga, and mercenaries made up much of the population of Borgeport. As the group walked, a strange hanging decoration caught Khara’s eye. It was hanging from the eaves of a small general goods shop, and he noticed that at the right angle, he could make out a distinct symbol of a cat’s face; he recognized it instantly as Benny Gogood’s mark.

“Hold on a moment. I want to check out this store,” Khara announced as he veered toward the front door of the shop labeled, Holgren’s Goods. The rest of the group followed closely behind.

Upon entering the shop, a loud voice boomed across the store, “welcome to Holgren’s Goods! If you need help finding anything, just holler!” A stout Half Dwarf stood behind the counter wearing simple clothes and a large smile.

The party members smiled back, and began perusing the wares of the store. It was a small general store, with a moderate selection of goods, but none specifically stood out to the group. Khara motioned to the Half Dwarf and began moving his hands in a pattern, which to the trained eye translated to, friend of Benny.

The Half Dwarf seemed not to notice as he began speaking loudly to another customer about the uses of silk rope versus hemp rope, however, he slyly moved his hands to reply, come back at night. Khara nodded slightly, and moved toward the door. “There is nothing here. I thought they would have more. Let’s go find an inn for the night and continue tomorrow,” he said as they followed him out of the store.

“Good idea,” Loch said as he looked at the afternoon sky. It was a few hours until nightfall, but the group was tired from their long travel, and wanted to rest in an actual bed.

The moved on until they came to an inn not far from the docks. “The Warco Inn. This seems satisfactory,” Ayc said as they approached a large building with a hanging sign above the door. It had the face of a laughing Dwarf painted on both sides, and there was the faint sound of music coming from inside.

The group entered the inn and saw a minstrel playing the lute softly in the corner, and an array of customers conversing among themselves. They were greeted by an Elven waitress who smiled and said, “welcome to the Warco Tavern and Inn. What can I get for you today?”

“We need three rooms. We’ll pay by the night if that’s alright,” Khara replied warmly.

“Yes that’s fine. One moment please.” She turned and walked behind the bar, and returned with a small ledger. “It’s two gold per room, per night,” she said as she scribbled something into the ledger.

“Here you are,” Khara said. He handed her two gold, then Loch and Selene did the same.

“Thank you very much. Here are your keys,” she said as she handed them each a key to their rooms. “You are upstairs at the end of the left hallway on the right. You are the first three rooms after you turn the corner. Would you like me to show you?” she asked kindly.

“No I’m sure we can manage,” Selene said curtly as she started toward the stairs. The Elf smiled and looked down.

“Yes I’m sure. My apologies. Enjoy your stay,” the Elven woman said while turning and mingling with the customers.

“I’m not feeling well. I’m going to bed,” Selene said. She walked toward the stairs along the side of the interior. “Come Suzannna,” she said sharply as she made her way up to her room.

“Coming misitress,” Suzanna replied quickly. She moved up the stairs after Selene and they went to their room, closing and locking the door.

“Being sick is never good. Especially in these times,” Loch said to no one in particular as he watched Selene disappear up the stairs.

“I’m going to explore the city. I’ll be back later,” Ayc announced. He walked back out the door into the streets, and turned toward the more lucrative part of Borgeport.

“I have possible connections I wish to find here in town. I will also return later,” Loch said as he followed Ayc out the door and turned toward the docks.

Khara also walked out the door, intent on finding an alchemist who could help him with an idea he had been mulling over for a while. As all three exited the inn, they couldn’t help but notice a group sitting in the corner of the tavern. The group could only be described as adventurers, and they spoke in hushed tones while glancing at Khara, Loch, and Ayc.

Loch meandered through Borgeport, perusing shops he found interesting, until he came upon a blacksmith who had ropes among his wares. “Excuse me, but do you know of a way to make this stronger?” Loch asked politely, holding up his net.

A short and scruffy Dwarf turned from his work as Loch spoke. “Well I can fasten metal clips at each of the knots there. Let me take a closer look,” he said as he all but waddled toward Loch. “Fine craftsmanship here,” he said as he held the net in front of him.

“Yes I am proud of it. I just don’t want it to break whenever I use it. I have had some bad luck in the past,” Loch replied.

“I could have this reinforced in a few hours if you have the coin. It’ll be four gold for the work and materials.” The Dwarf stood in front of Loch with his hand outstretched. “And I take payment upfront,” he said as he waited patiently.

“That sounds fair. Here you are,” Loch said as he handed the Dwarf the coins. “Thank you for your services. I wonder if I may ask you a question?”

“Depends on the question I suppose,” the Dwarf answered.

“Do you know of a Dwarf by the name of Torrik Fueger?” Loch asked.

“Of course I do. I mean I don’t know him personally, but most people have heard the name. He is a well-to-do merchant on Torruga. He’s a wealthy and powerful man. How do you know him?” the blacksmith asked curiously.

“He is an old friend of the family’s,” Loch replied. “He was basically an uncle to me when I was younger.” He was overjoyed to hear of the success his old friend, and excitedly looked forward to seeing him. “Do you know where he is on Torruga?” Loch asked the Dwarf.

“It’s called Torrik’s Shipping. You can’t miss it if you ask around in Dromduur, the port-town directly across the strait. He probably lives in Jettex, the capital city, but people will know more on the island,” the Dwarf answered. “Now no offense, but I need to get started on this.” He held up Loch’s net, and Loch nodded.

“Yes I understand. I will return in a few hours, just after the sun sets. Is that alright?” Loch asked as he turned to walk away.

“Ok, but don’t come too late, or I’ll close shop and you’ll have to wait until morning,” the scruffy Dwarf responded as he also turned away to begin his task.

Loch slowly made his way through the docks and seaside shops, stopping at several basketry shops along the way to examine the “crude” weaving patterns of the surface dwellers. He chuckled, knowing they would never get it quite right.

Khara moved through the streets with ease, and after some searching, found his destination. The sign above the door simply read, Alchemy, and from the look of it, was not heavily trafficked. He entered the shop and saw an array of alchemical tools and devices; mortars and pestles adorned the shelves alongside bottles of strange colored liquids. A Dragonborn woman stood next to a customer, and they spoke in hushed tones over a tome and a round bottle with a violet liquid inside.

“I will be with you in a moment. Please don’t touch anything without my supervision,” the Dragonborn woman said politely, yet with authority.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Khara replied with a well performed sincere smile. He walked through one of the three aisles of the shop, reading different labels on bottles and polished stones of various colors and sizes. After a moment, the Dragonborn woman made her way toward Khara.

“Good evening. My name is Allison. What may I do for you?” Her demeanor was cool and collected, and she had an air of wisdom about her which Khara quickly picked up on.

“I was wondering if I could get all the parts for a smoke bomb, but not assembled yet,” Khara responded.

“I see. You would like to make your own, with a secondary agent I presume?” she asked slyly.

Khara was slightly taken aback, but recovered quickly. “Actually yes.”

“This is easily done. I have the components here. It will be four gold for the parts without assemblage,” she said, but as she started to turn, Khara stopped her.

“Are there by chance any poisons here that are a bit more powerful?” He smiled slightly and raised his eyebrows.

“That depends on the reason for said poisons,” replied Allison, also raising her eyebrows and smiling. “And also on the discretionary details.”

“I simply need protection for traveling in these dark times. And discretion is my way of life,” he said confidently.

“Very well then. Return just before first light, so we may speak in private, and so I can prepare my other wares,” she said quietly.

“I shall do that. Thank you for your time Allison. It will be a pleasure doing business with you,” Khara said with a bow. “Until we meet again.” He walked out the door, and slowly walked back toward Holgren’s Goods, waiting impatiently for the sun to dip down so he could approach his potential new friend.

Ayc easily found an alleyway with men gambling. He wanted to earn some coin, and figured he could relieve some of these men of their gold. “Hello gentlemen. Do you mind if I play?” Ayc asked as he approached five men sitting around a makeshift table in an alleyway between a rundown tavern called, The Barfing Clam and a brothel labeled, Tony’s Whorehouse.

The largest of the men looked up and eyed Ayc in an openly judging fashion. “Do you have coin?” he asked impatiently.

“Indeed I do. What are you playing?” Ayc asked, peering over the man at the table.

“We’re rolling bone dice. If you’re in then let’s see the money,” the man replied aggressively.

“Hey Toby, calm down a bit. We can’t have any more fights or we have to move,” a scrawny man said in a meek voice.

“Shut up Keith. I know that,” Toby retorted as he took a swig from his mug. “Come on and play, just don’t whine when you lose,” he said as he laughed to himself.

Ayc smiled. “Oh I’m not worried. Why don’t we play cards though? It’s much more entertaining than throwing dice.” Ayc pulled out his deck of cards, and began shuffling skillfully.

“But we’re playing dice. If you don’t like it then leave little man,” Toby answered.

“How about this. We play one game of dice, then one game of cards. That way skill and luck are being tested,” Ayc responded cooly. His gaze was locked on Toby’s drunken eyes.

After a moment of inebriated pondering, Toby agreed. “Fine. I’ll beat you regardless. I’m on fire tonight, right boys?” he said loudly, and the group chuckled nervously, obviously intimidated by Toby’s actions.

They proceeded to play, and Ayc proceeded to win. He won every game of cards they played, and roughly half of the games of dice. They played deep into the twilight hours, almost until nightfall.

“These cards are rigged!” Toby yelled out as he slammed his losing hand down on the table. “I get to deal this time little man,” he said as he scooped up the cards and shuffled. “That way you can’t stack your deck you cheating scum.”

“Hey Toby, you can’t get mad at luck man. Maybe we should give it a rest for a bit,” Keith said, apparently the only one in the group willing to interfere with Toby’s rage.

“Shut up Keith!” Toby snapped, as he dealt the cards to the players around the table. Once again, Ayc won, and Toby stood quickly, throwing his cards down. “I’m done playing with you cheater!” He pointed his finger at Ayc. “Get out of here now before I beat the life out of you!”

Ayc smiled at the threat. “Why don’t we up the odds? One final game, and if I win, I get a small part of you that you won’t even miss. How does that sound?” he asked, his smile widening.

“Ha and what would I get out of this cheater?” Toby asked, stumbling slightly due to the liquor inside him.

Ayc pulled his pack forward, and reached inside. As he pulled his hand out of his bag, he summoned forth his scythe which appeared with a small dark pulse. Toby watched as the large weapon seemed to be pulled from the pack. Ayc then pulled out five vials, each with a red liquid inside them. “You may choose,” Ayc said quietly, never losing his smile.

“Woah Toby those will go for quite a bit of gold,” Keith said as he leaned closer to the small treasure before him. The other men around the table also looked greedily at the offer.

“Fine let’s do it. But we play dice, not cards,” Toby said after a moment of looking back and forth between the scythe and the health potions.

“That’s fine with me,” Ayc replied. He eagerly awaited the first round, but was saddened when he lost. “Double or nothing?” he asked as Toby laughed hysterically.

“Well sure, let’s get all of it!” he exclaimed as he picked up his dice with one hand and took a large swig from his mug in the other. They each rolled their dice, and Ayc won. “Damn it!” Toby cried out as he looked at the dice on the table.

“Looks like I win. Time to pay up,” Ayc said greedily.

“No you said double or nothing. I didn’t get double, so I get nothing. Don’t you know how gambling works you cheater?” Toby said angrily, his eyes watching with mirth as Ayc gathered his ante from the table.

“I believe I won so now you have to pay up,” replied Ayc innocently.

Toby flipped the table and the men jumped back as he stepped forward menacingly toward Ayc. “You’re an idiot, and if you don’t leave right now, you’re a dead man.”

The four men around them quickly found their footing, and began drawing knives from their belts. They smiled toothy grins as they inched forward. Ayc backed away slowly, drawing them from the entrance of the alleyway.

“Why don’t we just take all that stuff anyway?” Toby asked rhetorically. “Ain’t nothing you can do about it little man.” He shoved his fingers toward Ayc’s shoulder to drive him back, but Ayc quickly reacted, and caught Toby’s arm before it hit. Toby cried out in pain as Ayc slammed his fist into the outside of Toby’s arm, and with a sickening pop, Toby’s shoulder tore from its socket, leaving his arm dangling at his side.

“You should never have threatened me,” Ayc said coldly, and he brought his hand up to Toby’s face. A dark energy enveloped Ayc’s hand, and with a silent concussion, Ayc released the dark energy into Toby’s contorted face. Toby’s body jolted, then dropped limp at Ayc’s feet.

“Stay away from me!” Keith yelled out as he ran away from the grisly scene. The other three men exchanged frightened glances, then rushed forward.

“You killed Toby you monster!” one of the yelled as he sliced his dagger across Ayc’s chest. Ayc took the hit without flinching and stared, unblinking at the men. Another man slammed his short blade into Ayc’s ribs, and again Ayc stood his ground, showing no signs of feeling.

A dark aura began to radiate outward from Ayc, and he spoke in a dark and resonating tone. “Leave now or die,” he said simply. The men all backed away slowly, terrified by the presence of Ayc and the tormented voice which pounded through their skulls as he spoke.

“I’m out of here!” one of the men said through welling tears of fear. The other two followed suit, and Ayc was left momentarily alone in the alleyway. He picked up the leftover winnings from the ground, and looked up when he realized there was a commotion headed toward him. He turned and ran down the alley, looking over his shoulder to see a mob of people rounding the corner from the tavern.

He quickly ran through the next alley into the darkening street, where he banked left and kept running. He could hear his pursuers behind him, and darted into a smaller alleyway. Ayc dove down to the ground, and quickly transformed his body into a harmless looking black cat; his body twisted and snapped unnaturally as he became a smaller creature.

The group of angry men and women surged past Ayc as he jumped out of the way as “cat-like” as possible, so as not to draw attention. He quickly left the area, and headed toward where he could sense Khara through his soul link. He stealthily made his way through the now nighttime setting of Borgeport, until he saw Khara standing in front of Holgren’s Goods, knocking on the door.

Just as he was about to send a message to Khara through the link, Khara was let inside the building, and then his presence disappeared from Ayc’s senses. He knew he wasn’t dead, but something was blocking his energy, so Ayc settled into a curled position near the door, awaiting Khara’s return.

Khara was ushered into Holgren’s Goods quickly and quietly. Holgren looked around to see if Khara had been followed, but only saw a black cat making its way toward them. He shut the door, and held his finger to his lips to signal for Khara to stay quiet. Holgren pulled out a scroll, and quietly read the passage, which was written in a language Khara did not understand. A small burst of yellow energy flared out, and seemed to coat the interior walls of the shop.

“We can speak now,” Holgren said easily. “One can never be too cautious.”

“I agree,” replied Khara, admiring the spell which engulfed the shop.

“So you’re here about the contracts then?” Holgren said with a friendly smile. “It’s about time Benny sent someone to help with all the work around here.”

“Contracts?” Khara asked quizzically, unable to hide his interest.

“Wait you’re not here for the contracts?” Holgren said, his smile transforming slowly to worry.

“Well I wasn’t, but that doesn’t mean I can’t help. What contracts are they?” Khara asked.

“They are collection contracts. There are a lot of borrowers out there, and we can’t have them falling behind of payments,” Holgren replied. “If you are interested, the job pays twenty five percent of the contract owed,” he said as he watched Khara’s reaction.

“If it was thirty five percent I would definitely say yes,” Khara said quickly.

Holgren laughed. “You are definitely a friend of Benny’s. I can’t change the rate because you get twenty five, I get twenty five, and Benny gets fifty. It’s just the way it goes, so there will be no haggling on this one,” Holgren said after he finished giggling.

“Alright. I had to try,” replied Khara with a smile. “Do you have any goods besides this stuff on the shelves?” Khara asked as Holgren opened a drawer and pulled out a piece of parchment.

“Most definitely. Come this way,” Holgren said as he led Khara around the counter to one of two doors at the back of the shop. He turned the handle, and pushed the door open halfway. Khara could see inside the small dark room, which was entirely empty. Holgren shut the door, then turned the handle in a series of clockwise and counterclockwise motions. After a moment, there was a loud click, and the door opened again; this time revealing a large, well lit room with hundreds of oddities cluttered about in a haphazard fashion.

“Anything you could need can be found in this room,” Holgren said proudly. “I’m the biggest fence in the organization.”

Khara was awestruck. He saw so many things he wanted, but knew he couldn’t have, for Holgren did not seem like someone to steal from. Holgren showed Khara magical trinket after magical trinket, until one particular ring caught his attention.

“This here is a Ring of Blink. It allows the wearer to travel through the Ethereal Plane, which can be nice in a tough spot,” Holgren said as he held up the translucent platinum ring.

“I’ll take it,” Khara said instantly, pulling out his coinpurse.

“Perfect. It’s five hundred gold. That’s the good price for a friend by the way so don’t try to argue it down,” Holgren said with a chuckle.

“I don’t have that, but if you’re willing to trade, I have three Rings of the Magus Hand,” Khara replied, pulling two rings from his bag, and one from his finger.

Holgren took the rings, and inspected them in the light of a floating orb which was suspended in the air above them. “That’s not the worst deal I’ve ever made. Done,” Holgren said happily as he handed over the ring to Khara.

“I was wondering if you have a Bag of Holding anywhere around here,” Khara said as he looked around the large room.

“Actually yes I do. It’s two hundred gold,” replied Holgren.

“I’ll take it,” Khara said without hesitation.

Holgren chuckled again. “Every good working man needs one of these,” he said as he pulled out the bag. It was a normal looking bag for aesthetic purposes, however inside was a pocket dimension where larger items could be stored and recalled instantaneously.

“One last item I’m searching for is inebriroot. Do you have any?” Khara asked.

“I definitely have that. You aren’t a user are you?” Holgren asked sincerely.

“No, I just have need of some. Thank you for your concern,” Khara replied. Holgren showed him a small chest, where the plants were arranged by size. Khara bought a few doses for use later.

“Now as far as the contracts go, here is the list. there are four contracts we need collected, and sooner is better than later,” Holgren said as he handed over the parchment. It read,

Ferris Kahsa (100 gold) . . . Choral’s Shop . . . Borgeport
Toby Dulart (80 gold) . . . The Barfing Clam . . . Borgeport
Dillon Butte (50 gold) . . . The ports . . . Borgeport
Gregory Phanos (60 gold) . . . Gregory’s Blacksmithing . . . Dromduur

“Take this list, find these people, and return with the coin. Remember, only come at night,” Holgren said as they made their way toward a back door of the magical room.

“Thank you very much Holgren. I’m looking forward to working with you,” Khara said as Holgren repeated his strange door opening ritual, and opened the door into the back alley of Holgren’s Goods.

“Farewell, and safe travels,” Holgren said quietly as he shut the door, and locked it. Khara started out into the night when he was stopped by Ayc, the black cat. The cat looked around, then morphed from the small feline form into a looming Ork. His body grotesquely warped and bent into the large green humanoid. Khara didn’t even flinch at the unnerving sight, as the large Ork stood before him.

“Why are you that form?” Khara asked suspiciously.

“Some stuff went down and I had to kill a guy. But it should be fine,” Ayc replied. Khara was unable to tell if he was being serious or sarcastic.

“Good to know.” Khara paused for a moment to process Ayc’s new form. “I found a way to make some gold. Do you want to help collect some gold for contracts?” he asked.

“Sure. I have nothing better to do.” He took the list from Khara’s outstretched hand, and read it quickly. “There may be a bit of a problem,” he said after skimming the names.

“What’s the problem?” Khara asked, looking down at the list of names.

“I think I killed this Toby guy,” Ayc replied.

“What?” Khara retorted incredulously. “Why?”

“We were gambling and he tried to rob me,” Ayc answered, “so I had to kill him.”

Khara shook his head slowly. “Let’s go make these collections now so we can still head across the strait tomorrow. We’ll figure out what to do about this Toby guy when we get there. First we should go to Choral’s Shop, and retrieve that one hundred gold.”

“Good plan. Lead the way,” Ayc said happily, his guttural voice sounding very different to him as he formed the words with his new Orkish jaw. They set out into the early night, asking around and searching for Choral’s Shop, until they eventually came across it.

The shop was obviously closed, but Khara could see flickering candlelight shining through the shutters of the windows. He stepped up to the door, and knocked loudly. After a moment, the door cracked open, and a man out from inside.

“We’re closed,” he said simply.

“I’m aware of that, and apologize for the hour, but are you Ferris Kahsa?” Khara asked as he peered past the man into the shop. It was quaint, and the shelves were stacked with crystals and stones.

“I am. What is this about?” Ferris asked nervously, eyeing Ayc’s massive form in the darkness behind Khara.

“We are here on behalf of Holgren. You owe him money and we’re here to collect,” Khara said directly.

“Keep your voice down,” Ferris whispered sharply.

“Ferris who is it?” called a female voice from inside the shop.

“No one Choral, just some… merchants. We’re going to talk outside. I’ll be back in a moment,” he said as he opened the door enough for him to exit, and closed it behind him. “You shouldn’t have come here. This is embarrassing,” Ferris said in frustration after the door shut.

“Then you shouldn’t have borrowed money you couldn’t pay back,” Khara replied. “Now it says you owe one hundred gold. I’m going to need that now.” Khara stared Ferris in the eyes, judging the man’s face as he answered.

“I only have twenty,” Ferris said unconvincingly.

“Now Ferris, we’re here for one hundred. I don’t want this to get ugly, so why don’t you just give me what you owe,” Khara said darkly. Ayc grinned a large and menacing grin, and Ferris stared in fear.

“Please don’t do this. Choral doesn’t know that I had to borrow money to keep her shop going. She doesn’t get how much it takes to keep this place afloat. We don’t have enough customers so I borrowed the money. Please just take this fifty, and I promise on my life that I will pay back the rest by the end of the week.” Ferris was nearly in tears as he spoke, pleading for mercy.

“I’m sure you have lot’s of stress in your life, but you need to pay back what you borrow. That’s just how it works. Why don’t we go in and grab the full hundred, and we’ll leave you alone,” Khara replied. He let no emotion show on his face as he spoke, watching Ferris’ spirit break with every word.

“Please. I’m begging you,” Ferris pleaded one last time in desperation.

“Here let me get the door for you,” Khara answered as he stepped forward and opened the door to Choral’s Shop. He stepped in, and was followed quickly by Ferris and Ayc. A startled Elvish woman stood behind the counter, staring at the three men in confusion.

“What’s really going on?” she asked earnestly when she saw the defeated look on her husband’s face.

“Choral, these men are here to collect a debt I have. I had to borrow gold to keep this place going and they aren’t giving me more time to pay it. I’m so sorry,” Ferris said, still fighting back tears of shame.

“What?” she cried out angrily. “You can’t be serious. You always let me down Ferris!”

Khara stepped forward, between the fighting couple. “I don’t mean to be rude, but we are busy, and must be going soon. If you could give us the hundred gold, we will be on our way,” he said politely.

Choral’s eyes widened, “one hundred gold? Ferris how could you?” she said as tears streamed down her face.

“You live in a fantasy world and don’t know what it takes to run this place. I did it for you!” Ferris yelled as the tears finally broke free and ran down his cheeks.

Choral looked taken aback at the harsh words, and put her hands to her face to cover her sobbing. “I can take the pain away if you would like,” said Ayc kindly as he stepped toward the crying woman.

“Good lord, I’m not waiting around for this. Ferris, fetch the money, and then we will leave,” Khara said, looking from Ayc to Ferris.

Ferris disappeared into the backroom of the shop, then returned with a large bag, which clinked with the sound of many coins. He dropped it onto the counter, and Khara proceeded to count the coins to ensure there were indeed one hundred. Once he was done, he left Ayc to his conventions.

“How could you take away the pain?” Choral finally responded after calming down slightly. She looked up at Ayc, who’s Orkish face loomed high above.

“Well if you come with me, I can take away your pain and leave you with only happiness. All it takes is a kiss,” Ayc replied, his deep voice soothing to Choral’s ears.

“Hey!” Ferris yelled, watching Ayc apparently wooing his wife.

“You don’t speak!” Ayc barked back, glaring at the now cowering Ferris.

“Now my dear, please believe me that you will be happier and pain free,” he said, turning to Choral. She stood, wiping tears from her eyes.

“I’ve been praying for change,” she said after a moment. “Maybe you are the answer I have been looking for.”

“Perhaps I am. Come with me,” Ayc said as he led her out of the shop, leaving a slack jawed Ferris alone with his thoughts. They walked in the night toward a park near the center of Borgeport. There were a few trees, and Ayc led Choral behind a small crop.

“This is beginning to feel a bit creepy,” Choral said as she watched Ayc look around for onlookers.

“No I assure you, all you have to do is kiss me, and all your pain is gone,” Ayc said with a smile; his Orkish tusks took away from his charismatic demeanor, and she winced slightly.

“Is there a different way?” Choral asked skeptically, realizing she was in the dark with a large Orkish stranger.

Ayc’s patience ran thin, and he reached out and pulled her toward him. Their lips met, and Ayc drew in Choral’s soul with a silent rush of energy. Choral felt her core rip from her body as a torrent of energy leeched from her mouth, and into Ayc’s. Her soul spiraled down, and assimilated into Ayc’s being, and his eyes rolled back in elation.

He released her; she stumbled back, but caught herself. She stood up straight, and looked at Ayc with glossy eyes. “I feel nothing.” She stood for a moment, and then turned to walk away. “Thank you,” she said in a monotone voice. She walked into the darkness, and Ayc smiled to himself as he looked around once more for witnesses. He saw none, so he mad his way to where he could feel Khara, toward the docks of Borgeport.

Khara walked along the docks, asking each passerby if they knew the name Dillon Butte. There were not many people out at this hour, but there were enough that he found out the popular taverns along the docks. He made his way to the first, and was lucky enough to find his mark.

“Oh yes Dillon is right over there,” a female Dwarf answered Khara’s question as she pointed toward a short Human sitting among a raucous crowd. He assessed the situation, and planned his approach just as Ayc appeared behind him.

“Sorry for the disruption. Do we know where the next guy is?” Ayc asked. Khara shook his head and rolled his eyes as he pointed toward the man.

They walked over to the Human, laughing at a joke about an Elf and a Spriggin. “Excuse me, are you Dillon Butte?” Khara asked above the noise of the tavern.

The man turned. “Yeah. Who are you?” he asked. The table quieted as the men turned their attention to the newcomers.

“Can we talk outside?” Khara asked, noticing the tension in the group.

“About what?” Dillon asked.

“About personal matters. You owe money and we need to talk about it,” Khara replied smoothly.

A few of the men in group chuckled and Dillon dropped his head down. “Alright let’s go talk,” he said after a moment. He stood and followed Ayc and Khara outside into the cool night air. Once they were outside, Dillon began speaking, “I know I owe Holgren twenty gold, and I was going to go pay it later tonight. So it works out perfect that you came here to call me out in front of my friends.” His sarcasm was overly apparent as he spoke. He pulled out a coin-purse, and handed it to Khara, who tossed it to Ayc.

“Count it,” he said to the Ork beside him. “I appreciate your cooperation so far, but you owe fifty gold, not twenty. I need thirty more.” Khara watched Dillon’s face feign confusion and shock, but Khara knew how to spot a liar.

“I only owe twenty,” Dillon said, raising his hands to his chest in offense. “You have it so leave me alone.”

“This will get ugly if you don’t just hand over the other thirty. I’m not in the mood for negotiations. We’re leaving with fifty gold and that’s the end of it,” Khara said impatiently.

“Get ugly?” Dillon laughed. “You can’t come here and intimidate me. I’m not sca…” Dillon was interrupted by Khara’s fist hitting him in the gut. Dillon’s lungs emptied instantly, and he fell to the ground, gasping.

Two men in uniforms rushed over to the scene. “Hey what’s going on here?” one yelled as they reached for their weapons.

“He owes me money and he’s being a prick about it,” Khara said innocently. “Just pay up the thirty gold or we’ll involve the officials and you can try to pull your tough guy act with them,” he said looking down at the still gasping Dillon.

“Fine!” Dillon gasped as he pulled out two more pouches full of gold. Khara snatched them and handed them to Ayc to count.

“Thank you,” he turned to the soldiers, standing at the ready watching carefully. “And thank you soldiers for ensuring justice is served. I apologize if I caused you anxiety by punching this man, but sometimes scum must be beaten.”

“Next time handle it privately; not out here in public,” the soldier replied gruffly. They continued to walk along the dock, but glanced back at Khara repeatedly.

“Let’s go Ayc. We only have one more before we can return to the Warco Inn. I’m getting tired,” Khara said and they headed toward the shadier part of town, where Ayc had previously caused problems for Borgeport. “Take me to the Barfing Clam. I don’t know exactly how we’ll collect from a dead guy, but we’ll figure it out. Just stay out of trouble this time.”

Ayc smiled to himself. “Of course,” he answered slyly.

They arrived a few hours into the night, but where there should have been an almost empty street, there was a throng of soldiers and commoners milling about. Toby’s dead body was still in the alleyway, covered with a white sheet. A very large Human soldier sat at a makeshift table, taking statements from frightened people eager to give their version of the events of the evening.

“It was the necromancer!” a man shouted. “He was here and he’s going to bring back the dead to kill us all!” The crowd murmured their opinions as the large soldier stood angrily.

“Stop this nonsense!” he yelled out. “We are trying to get witnesses to see what happened so wait your turn to give your account!”

The man who had yelled previously shrunk down, and quietly waited his turn.

“Besides that,” exclaimed Ayc, “if the necromancer was here, wouldn’t the dead already be attacking?”

The crowd once again broke into murmurs of agreement and disagreement. The large soldier shot Ayc a glance, but saw that he wasn’t going to start yelling anymore, so he turned his attention to the person he was questioning.

Khara left Ayc to create a distraction if anything went wrong, and stealthily walked around the adjacent building. He deftly and quietly rounded the alley wall, and crept to Toby’s covered body. None of the guards seem to notice him, and he quickly searched the body. He found no money, but did find a key. He pocketed the key, and walked back the way he had come.

“Hey you!” came a loud voice from the group of people. Khara turned to see the guards staring at him. He bolted down the alleyway, and they followed immediately. He quickly ran into the street, and melted into the shadows of the night, where he was most comfortable. He noticed a door into Tony’s Whorehouse, and put his energy into his new ring. He blinked from existence, and found himself walking through the Ethereal Plane. He could see the soldiers running after him as quivering blobs of white light. He stepped through where the door existed in the plane of reality, and unblinked his physical body. He instantly appeared in the hallway of the brothel.

The soldiers ran after him, but lost him in the darkness. They continued through the streets searching for their suspect. Khara waited a moment, then used his Blink Ring again, popping out of existence and into the plane of souls once more. He looked around, and saw that the only living creatures around him were lying horizontal in private rooms. He chuckled and walked back out into the alley where he reappeared into his physical form. He focused his mind and energy on his appearance, and with a small flash of dull light, Khara changed his form into an Elf. He walked back around the building to the street where the crowd of people was speaking excitedly about the man they had seen.

“That’s probably the necromancer coming back for the body,” one man said.

Ayc quickly answered, “No that was probably just a looter searching for some easy coin. This scary necromancer you speak of probably doesn’t care about a bit of gold.” He was able to convince some, but not all of the crowd.

Khara walked past the scene, sharing a quick glance with Ayc as he walked into the Barfing Clam. He saw that it was mostly empty, save for the few drunks dipping their heads at the bar. Most of the patrons were outside, still excitedly speculating on the night’s events. Khara saw that a short Kobold stood behind the counter, stepping up on stools to clean the counter-top.

Khara approached the short reptilian creature. “Excuse me good Kobold. Do you know if Toby Dulart was staying here?” he asked politely, speaking slightly slow in case the creature was less than intelligent.

“Information not free,” replied the creature. He looked up at the Elven Khara and smiled a grin which showed his sharp and crooked teeth.

Khara smiled back and pulled out a gold piece. The Kobold quickly and greedily grabbed the coin out of Khara’s hand.

“Yes he stay here,” the Kobold said. “But he dead and have only key. Permanent guests have only key, so now you have nothing.” The creature laughed somewhat maniacally. “You pay for nothing!”

Khara’s smile widened. “I suppose. And what room was his?” Khara asked as he raised another gold piece. The Kobold’s tail whipped up fast from behind the counter, but Khara was expecting it this time, and he pulled back the coin out of reach from the lizard’s strike.

“Damn,” said the Kobold, eyeing the gold coin in Khara’s hand. “The second room on the left,” he said leaning forward to take the coin. Khara allowed him to take it, and the Kobold gleefully pocketed the gold. “You need more information?” he asked with eyes shining eagerly.

“No that is all. Thank you for your time,” Khara said as he turned and walked toward the stairs leading up to the rooms. The doors were spaced close together, and Khara picked up the stench of poverty wafting from the rooms.

He ignored his surroundings, and used the key fro Toby’s body to open the second door on the left. The key turned smoothly, and the door opened to reveal a small room with a bed and a dresser. Clothes were strewn about and bottles of liquor lay on the floor. Khara found a small footlocker, and oponed it to find a small pouch of gold underneath a dirty tunic. He pulled out the pouch, and counted the coins; there were sixty eight. Considering Toby was dead, Khara considered this a success, and he left the room exactly the way he found it. He locked the door behind him, and left the Barfing Clam.

The guards who had been chasing Khara were now back and talking with Ayc. "You’re a big strong one and you kept this mob calm. If you ever need a job, come talk to us. The Winged Knights of the Tempest could always use fresh mercenaries. The extremely large soldier slapped his palm on Ayc’s back. It was a mighty blow which should not have phased an Ork, however Ayc found it difficult to keep his footing. He managed to not show the pain which erupted from his shoulder blade.

“Thank you. I may just do that,” Ayc replied, faking a smile and bearing through the pain. With that, he walked away in the same direction as Khara, still an Elf. They looked back to see a cart being drawn in, and Toby’s body being hauled away.

“Did you get the money?” Ayc asked once they were out of earshot of the guards.

“Yeah I got it,” replied Khara tiredly. “We need to take this gold back to Holgren, then go back to the Warco Inn. I need to sleep.”

“What’s that like?” Ayc asked. Once again, Khara couldn’t tell if Ayc was being sarcastic or serious, so he ignored the question.

They went to Holgren, and knocked on the door. It took a while, but eventually the door opened and a tired Half Dwarf greeted them. “Back so soon?” he asked as he let them in.

“Yes we acquired most of three of the contracts,” Khara said as pulled out the various bags of gold. “All in all I was able to collect two hundred eighteen out of two hundred thirty. Toby Dulart is dead, so collecting from him was interesting, but we got the job done.”

Holgren nodded. “Nicely done. I can see why you are a friend of Benny’s. The missing gold comes out of your cut, but you did a great job.” He pulled out a small bag of gold, and handed it to Khara. “Now give it a bit before you come back here. Too many visits looks suspicious.” Holgren ushered them out the door.

On their way back to the Warco Inn, Khara gave half of their earnings to Ayc. “You did half the work, so you get half the gold,” he said.

“Sounds fair. Thank you,” Ayc replied as he took the coins. The arrived at the inn, and Khara fell asleep for a few hours after returning to his familiar Human form. He awoke just before sunrise, and went back alone to see Allison, the alchemist. He easily found the store, and knocked on the door. Allison answered, and let him in, closing the door behind him.

“I have the more potent poisons you inquired about,” she said with a smile. She led him to the counter, and opened a leather-bound case with vials inside. Each of these is very dangerous, and cost one hundred fifty gold each. They are expertly concocted and ready for use," she said with pride as she gingerly lifted a vial from the case.

“I see. Those are interesting, but that price is a bit more than I was thinking. I will just take the smoke bombs we discussed,” he replied. He watched as her expression changed from excited to bored.

“Yes your components are here.” Allison pointed to the counter top where bits of metal were arranged, ready to bundle.

“Could I pay you to teach me how to build effective smoke bombs with something inside it? I mean poison smoke bombs, I suppose,” Khara asked.

Allison perked up, and her reptilian tail waved slightly. “Yes I can teach you. I would need to charge you eight gold for a lesson though. Is that outside your budget?” she asked slightly cynically.

“No that is doable,” Khara replied with a smile.

Allison proceeded to teach Khara how to effectively build poisonous smoke bombs. It took almost an hour, but Khara learned quickly, and was able to master the technique.

“Thank you. Here is your gold. I will also need more parts for more bombs,” Khara said after his private lesson.

“Here you are,” Allison said as she handed him a parcel with assorted pieces inside. “Remember discretion is valued highly,” she said as she walked him out of her shop.

“Always,” he said with a smile as he headed back to the Warco Inn. Upon arriving, he saw Loch, Selene, and suzanna sitting with the group of adventurers they had noticed the previous day. He also noticed Ayc sitting at the bar, seeming lost in thought.

Finally you are back, Khara heard a familiar voice in his head say.

I had business, he replied mentally through his spirit link with Ayc.

Convince Loch Ayc had to go, he heard in response. And that the Ork is joining.

Khara nodded slightly toward Ayc, and sat beside him, between the large green beast and Loch’s new friends. He craned his neck slightly to hear their conversation, when he heard a voice say, “if you want to hear us better, wouldn’t you want to join us?”

A Human in dark clothes sat staring at Khara, making it clear he had noticed him listening.

“Oh yes Khara come join us,” Loch said excitedly. “This group is also on the quest for King Weston.”

Khara made a spot to sit at the table. Ayc followed, and sat beside Khara at the now crowded table. “This is a friend of mine. Ayc had to handle some business that came up suddenly, but my friend is here to help,” Khara lied easily. No one seemed to question his story, so he continued, “what have you found about the Heart?” he asked.

“Introductions first my eager friend,” exclaimed a stout Dwarf. “You’re friend Loch has much more manners than you.” The Dwarf laughed and his companions chuckled quietly. A large Dragonborn adorned in heavy armor drank from his mug, apparently not amused.

“My apologies. I am just excited to trade information about the Heart,” Khara replied.

“Aren’t we all?” the Dwarf answered with another short round of laughter. “My name is Frueger. This tall, dark, and angry fellow is Drak’To,” he said as he pointed at the Dragonborn warrior. “That’s Collin, the one who called you out for eavesdropping,” Frueger said as he laughed once again.

Collin tipped his head. “If you ever need lessons in being sneaky, you can let me know; however you probably can’t afford it,” he said with a snarky grin.

Khara smiled curtly, but didn’t show offense. Frueger continued, “and those two are Sam and Tillea, some of the best healers I’ve ever met. I owe them my life.” Frueger’s demeanor changed slightly as he spoke.

“You are too kind,” Sam replied.

“We have just been discussing what we know,” Loch said after Frueger’s introductions. "They believe they know where the Heart is, but it is in a place that is not accessible.

“Not accessible? I don’t know of such a place,” Khara replied. “Where exactly is it?” he asked.

“It’s in the Underdark,” Frueger responded. “We were traveling with another group, thinking we could put our heads together to find the Heart. We went straight to Torruga; to Jettex, the Dwarven capital. Apparently just before we arrived, a Chymaron emissary visited the king. Since that visit, the king has been acting rash and paranoid; with good reason I suppose. Because ever since the emissary left, the oceans around Torruga have become monstrously dangerous. No one knows how, but shipments have not been returning, and more and more ships are being lost at sea, without explanation. So far it’s only been the shipping lanes that have been impacted, but who knows when it will stop.” Frueger paused for a moment to sip from his mug.

“We asked to see the king, but as soon as he heard we were sent on a mission to capture the Heart of Chymeron, he wouldn’t have anything to do with us. The emissary reportedly traveled from Jettex to the Forbidden Caverns, where the entrance to the Underdark is located. I can tell you from growing up in Torruga, that no one goes into those caves and comes out alive. I wasn’t able to convince the other group that if the Heart is down there, it’s lost.” Frueger shook his head slowly. “We decided to wait a few days to see if they return, but I doubt it.”

“We let them walk into their death. We should have walked with them,” Drak’To said angrily.

“Suicide isn’t noble my friend,” Frueger replied. Drak’To scoffed, and returned to his mug.

“I’ve told them that we will go to Torruga and find out more. I have a connection there that may help us,” Loch said happily. He was excited to finally have a lead on their objective.

“That sounds good,” Khara said after taking a moment digest the new information.

“Say newcomer. How about a friendly arm wrestle?” Loch asked, looking at Ayc. “I have been wanting to test my strength, and you seem a worthy adversary.”

Ayc sat silently, unsure about what to say. He shook his head and let out a soft grunt. “But I will make it worth your while,” Loch said after a moment, and he took two gold out of his pouch and set them on the table.

“Go on, let’s see what you’re made of,” Frueger happily said, motioning for Ayc to position himself.

Ayc grunted, and set himself across from Loch. They clasped hands, and Loch counted to three; as soon as he said three he put his power into his arm and pressed down hard. Ayc had the body of an Ork, but not the muscle density, and his arm snapped down, popping his elbow and shoulder out of place.

Loch immediately reeled back. “My sincerest apologies! I thought you were ready.”

Ayc sat stoically with his arm dangling to his side. Loch turned to Suzanna, “please heal him,” he requested. Suzanna turned to look at Selene.

“You may heal him. Even though he doesn’t deserve it,” Selene said coldly.

Suzanna reached out toward Ayc and he panicked slightly. He knew that her healing powers would wound him, and he couldn’t have anyone seeing that fact. He stepped back quickly, saying, “no I’m good.”

Suzanna moved more forward and tried to reach out to heal the Ork again. Once again, he moved away and said louder, “I said no!”

Everyone at the table sat awkwardly watching the strange actions of the large creature. Each step back caused his arm to swing lifelessly by his side. Suzanna looked back at Selene with a face of distress. She needed to fulfill her mistress’ command.

“Never mind Suzanna. If the dumb oaf doesn’t want healing for a dumb action, that’s perfectly fine with me,” she said with a dark tone.

“I say we travel now to Torruga. It’s about a day’s boat ride, so an early start is better than a late one,” Loch announced after giving everyone a bit to deescalate.

“I need a while in my room for preparations, so we should leave in an hour or so,” Khara said as he stood. “It was a pleasure to meet most of you,” he said slyly as he shot a glare toward Collin, who sat smiling at the attention.

“Indeed it was a pleasure,” Frueger replied. Khara headed to his room, and began building smoke bombs using the inebriroot as the poison. He was able to put together quite a few, and he packed them safely away in his Bag of Holding.

After an hour, he returned to the tavern, where Loch, Selene, Suzanna, and Ayc the Ork were saying their goodbyes to the other group.

“Please Loch, take this,” said Sam as he handed a rolled parchment to the Aquan Elf. “It is a Scroll of Daylight, so that if you do ignore Frueger’s warning, you will have some protection in the Underdark.” Tillea scowled slightly, but remained silent as he handed the non-Human the scroll.

“Many thanks Sam,” Loch said as he took the scroll.

“You strike me as an honorable and exceptional man. Be safe on your travels,” Sam said as they parted ways.

The group walked to the docks, and found a large ferry boat boarding for Torruga. They paid their way, and made themselves comfortable on the cots made available for passengers. There were roughly forty other people aboard the vessel as it left the docks of Borgeport. There were more soldiers aboard than usual.

The first half of the ride was uneventful, and Selene even found time to sleep. She still felt ill, but was enduring as best she could. In the middle of the Eastern Strait, a large crash disrupted her slumber. The large boat lurched to a halt while people and items flew forward from the momentum.

Loch, Ayc, and Khara ran up the stairs to the main deck. “Watch the people!” Loch yelled back to Selene as they rushed up the stairs. When they emerged from the bowels of the ship, they were greeted by the gargantuan sight of a kraken rearing up and slamming down into the ship with its huge tentacles. Soldiers cried out in panic, and passengers on the deck ran down the stairs past the three men.

Atop the enormous beast was a blue skinned Aquan Elf, laughing with mirth as he reared a black trident in the air. Loch ran forward, “I’ll try to speak with them. I’m sure it’s a misund…” he was cut off as Khara zipped past him with devastating speed. He ran to the front of the ship, which was closest to the great ocean beast.

In one smooth motion, he pulled his phantasmal dagger from his belt, and flung it toward the Aquan Elf atop the creature. He brought his arm back from his downward swing, and released the same dagger from his hand. The first dagger flew wide, but the second found its mark in the side of the face of the blue skinned Elf.

The dagger slammed into his jaw, severing the bones and leaving it hanging slack off its hinges. The Aquan Elf screamed in pain and fury as he grabbed the dagger, which disappeared from his face. Blood oozed from the Elf’s face as he held his jaw up to his chin with his free hand. His eyes burned with hatred, and he pointed his black trident at Khara. A massive tentacle came flying from the water fast, and Khara was crushed under its immense weight.

Khara’s vision faltered for a moment as the intense force slammed him down into the wood of the deck. He felt himself being crushed to death under the fishy wall of death atop him. His skin instinctively hardened, and kept him from exploding outward like a squashed tomato. The tentacle slid slowly over Khara, scraping him against the wood until he was no longer grappled by the ridiculous weight. He scrambled weakly away from the front of the ship, pulling out a health potion from his bag.

Ayc noticed at the side of the ship, that bone and coral grappling hooks were being flung over the railings. “Cut the ropes!” he yelled out to the scared soldiers. Those close enough did as he commanded, and cut the hooks from the sides of the ship. On the other side of the ship, however, the soldiers did not hear, and they stood frozen in fear as Aquan Elves clad in rocky armor climbed over the railing. One soldier was flung into the ocean with a scream of terror, which seemed to break the trance of fear the soldiers were stuck in. They charged forward to fight the invaders.

Khara regained his senses in time to watch a soldier be ripped from the deck by a smaller tentacle from the terrifying beast. The Aquan Elf atop the creature still screamed and pointed toward Khara.

He knew he had to end this or that creature would destroy the ship, so he charged forward once again, and flung his dagger toward the Elf. It found its home deep in his chest, and the Elf stopped screaming. He slid slowly from the top of the creature, and dropped into the water. As soon as the trident hit the water, there was a silent pulse through the water, and the kraken seemed to become placid. Loch ran without hesitating and kicked his boots off as he dove into the water, intent on finding out why his brethren would attack like this.

Once underwater, Loch saw that multiple Aquan Elves were swimming quickly toward the sinking trident. He swam quickly, and managed to retrieve the trident before the assailants.

Attack! he mentally commanded, however nothing happened. He looked more closely at the trident, thinking that it should control the kraken. He swam quickly toward the now still kraken, knowing he didn’t have much time. He quickly analyzed the symbols running down the trident’s shaft and saw they matched scarred symbols along the kraken’s body.

He saw that the enemy was close, so he relied on faith, and touched the trident to the kraken. A silent pulse radiated outward, and Loch could feel the creature’s simple thoughts. Stop them! he commanded in his mind, and the creature lurched into motion, sending tentacles toward the oncoming Elves. They were entangled in the array of squirming arms, and Loch swam down to grab one by the throat.

“Why are you doing this?” he yelled in Aquan. The fighting Elf stopped fighting for a moment.

“Dorren has commanded it. You see I am protected,” he responded moving his hand to his belt and producing a golden seal. Loch saw red, and knew exactly who this vile creature was talking about.

Kill them all! Loch screamed psychically, and the kraken began ripping the entangled Elves to shreds, creating puffs of red under the surface of the water. One managed to escape, and swam as fast as he could away from the ship and certain death, but Loch followed, and the kraken easily overtook the Aquan Elf. A think tentacle shot forth, and impaled the Elf from behind. Dark violet tendrils of blood floated up from the limp body as Loch yelled in frustration under the ocean’s surface.

Ayc watched as the kraken disappeared under the surface, and looked at his situation. The Aquan Elves were making headway, and most of the guards were dead under the stabbing daggers of the assailants.

Khara was still hurt, having spent much of his energy in his final surge against the Elf atop the gargantuan beast. He was holding his own against two of the Elves, but it was apparent that he couldn’t keep it up for long.

Ayc ran to the middle of the ship, and began dancing vigorously while chanting a strange verse in a dark language. One soldier, still alive in the battle, noticed what Ayc was doing. He saw as a dark vortex of power began swirling above Ayc, and bolts of energy crackled forth from the cascading darkness.

“Stop! What are you doing?” the soldier yelled out, but it was too late. A huge eruption of deadly power exploded outward from Ayc. A black line of energy, roughly waist high, passed easily through the Elves, and their bodies slid in half as their surprised eyes went dim and lifeless.

The soldier was hit by the blackness, but was lucky enough to keep his torso attached to his legs. He slid down against the guardrail, watching as the the bodies of guards and Aquan Elves alike fell into heaps of gore. He looked toward Khara, who was somehow unaffected. Khara walked slowly toward him.

“Please help me. We have to stop him. We need to…” the soldiers words trailed off into a gargled mess as Khara slit his throat. Confusion and shock spread through his dying body as he was kicked over into the ocean. He landed in the water, unable to move or breathe, and darkness filled his vision until he pass on to the next life.

Thank you Khara heard in his head, and he looked toward Ayc the Ork. He stood above a pile of fresh corpses, and raised his head. Khara watched as Ayc drew in a huge breath, and the souls of the bodies around him raised out of their physical prisons and into the lungs of Ayc. They swirled and danced as they spiraled into Ayc’s large open mouth until they disappeared from sight.

Ayc looked at Khara with a smile, and Khara shuddered. Just then Loch appeared over the top of the guardrail. He had a dark expression on his face as he examined the ship. No one was alive on the main deck, but no one was hurt on the lower deck, where Selene still waited.

Loch noticed that a soldier was still alive in the water, sputtering and crying for help. He helped him onto the ship. “No!… No!… You’re one of them! Get away from me!” the man began yelling as he realized Loch was also an Aquan Elf.

“Don’t be stupid. I was on the ship the whole time and I fought with you,” Loch said, unable to hide his impatience with the Human’s ignorance.

“You’re a spy then!” the soldier yelled as he backed away again.

“Why don’t you go check on the passengers?” Loch replied as he turned toward the side of the ship. The soldier moved quickly to the stairs and ran down to check on the passengers and to get away from Loch.

Loch looked down at his trident, and then at the kraken which sat obediently below the surface. He knew that this was an enchanted trident used to command the kraken against its will. He didn’t agree with this, but didn’t know how to break the enchantment, so he focused his thoughts on the now gentle beast.

Go forth and be free from command. Return to your home and live freely he thought. The kraken shuddered for a moment, then speedily headed West.

Finally, the ship was repaired enough by the unarmed crew to continue, and they arrived at Dromduur only to find themselves surrounded by guards, all wearing the same uniforms. Unlike in Borgeport, these were soldiers of the Dwarven army, and moved with precision and intent.

“Search the ship!” a Dwarven soldier yelled out, and soldiers began escorting all the passengers off the boat. “No one is to leave our custody until the inspection is complete, as ordered by the King!” he exclaimed toward the crowd of rattled commoners.

Loch and Suzanna sat happily waiting, unafraid of being interrogated. Ayc, Khara, and Selene, however exchanged slightly nervous looks. They did not look forward to being questioned by any authority; each for their own reasons.

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Sade12

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