Serpent's Skull in Eberron

A Child's Fancy
Sar the 8th

This land is truly wondrous! The sights to see and experiences to have are one-of-a-kind. In a matter of minutes I was able to discover a flower that while beautiful, smelled of death and rot, and was attacked by a living, animated shade.

I vaguely remember stories when I was very young of the Dreaming Dark and it brought such fantastic visions to mind, those of flowing smoky shapes, insubstantial, malevolently evil; seeking to steal your soul. This is what we fought, a childhood fright made real. I do not know what it was but it flowed like shadow, stepping above the ground rather than on it, vanishing like smoke in front of you only to coalesce behind you an instant later. It was a master of the dark, manipulating it like Joffa handled his eldritch energies. It was fascinating to behold.

I must thank my teachers at some point for their training in mastering my mind and emotions for it was that which kept me alive this day. Besides wielding magic and darkness, the shade evoked a fear that was beyond rationality. I do not fault Kreshton for running in the moment because I was at the brink myself, then my mental training came to my aide. Dadak , to his credit, appeared unphased by the creature, even after it sapped him of his strength and vigor. I wonder if he has faced such a creature before?

I am proud and impressed with our little band.
What we overcame today was truly a heroic deed. I will suggest we partake in some sort of celebration. I am excited and now feel that we can accomplish this quest despite Idarthius being our nemesis. Quori, beware!

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Dark Visions
Sar the 7th

Disturbing news indeed, I will need to communicate with Gilahd soon. Dadak had a nightmare tonight that I believe was a vision. Somehow he was able to see the future or some semblance of it. It was enough to wake him from sleep and put all of us on edge. In his vision he saw his father shackled to an altar with possibly Idarthius standing above him with some weapon that has the ability to possess and control another, a very evil blade. The description was eerily similar to a mind blade but with a greater potency than I have ever heard about or experienced.

This vision chills me to the bone in a way that makes no sense. After some time meditating I believe that this chill has more to do with guidance from il-Yannah in preparing me for what is to come. Therefore, that Dadak’s vision is a warning that needs to be heeded.

Is it serendipity, fate or gods that direct our footsteps so that as uncommon friends as we are in this party are meant to meet and bound together in ways we cannot fully fathom? It is interesting that Dadak and his family’s heritage is linked to mine and my Kalashtar lineage through Idarthius. I am sure that Gilahd will pass this information on to one of the elder psions for further study. Perhaps I will be questioned for days over this…patience will be warranted.

As I can see, my mind is beginning to wander, not surprising given our fight with the lizardmen and water beast. Plus being wakened and spending extra time in thought, I should get some rest before morning. We will have a full day ahead of us no doubt. I still tremble at the thought of facing Idarthius but this adventure is becoming more intellectually stimulating by the day. I cant wait to see what the next sunrise brings.

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River Battle

Sar, the 7th of Aryth

The rumble of the nearby waterfall and rapids must have hit a nerve deep down in Dadak’s psyche. I woke from a deep slumber to the sound of Dadak jumping up and roaring at the four visible moons. Instantly, I was standing next to him, sword drawn, and searching the dark Xen’Drik jungle for threats. The light of Pol’s huge mind-blade helped the dying fire to push back the darkness, but still nothing came to challenge us. Joffa’s dark shape hidden in one of the trees was only betrayed by the twitching of the end of his tail hanging down. Chydak, in a drug induced stupor, as usual, only lay there with unblinking eyes.

It took Dadak several minutes to calm down enough to tell us his tale about his father, hideous serpents, a dark priest and darkness and despair. I sensed that he had not told us all that he knew, from the long pauses in his speech. He seems unsure that it was a true dream, and I agree, but once I caught a troubled glint in Pol’s eye and he wandered off to meditate alone for a while even though he had already meditated once tonight; unusual.

Mayhap the excitement of our encounter with the hippo and a trio of lizardmen earlier in the day had helped to trigger this “memory”. It was a straightforward fight. The docile herds of hippos we passed all morning, contentedly munching on the grasses along the banks of the Korir River, had lulled us into a false sense of security until that lone hippo charged at us. It was only then that we noticed the three lizardmen prodding at it with spears and banging loudly upon their hide shields were the cause of the attack. The hippo came at the lead canoe, the one holding Dadak and me, in a huge wave that overturned us as we prepared ourselves to respond. Somehow Dadak was able to finish his spell, even underwater, and summoned two croco-gators to menace it. I expertly dove off the bow towards two of the onrushing lizardmen. In the second canoe, Joffa, unable to get a clear shot because of the overturned canoe ahead of them, paddled furiously to get him and his new friend closer to the action. Ja’Redd stood in the bow with a hand crossbow launching bolts at the large creature. The detonation of a couple of Chydak’s grenades from the third canoe scarred the back of the hippo as Nkechi and Pol paddled around Joffa’s canoe. Chydak managed to keep Pol within range of the hippo by paddling for all he was worth so Pol could bring his strength and glowing mind blade down upon the beast. Frustrated with paddling, Joffa slipped overboard and swam forward and helped me overcome the two lizardmen accosting me. We turned to menace the hippo and the last lizardman. They were quickly overcome.

Later in the day, and several miles upriver, we could hear the roar of the waterfall ahead and we made camp for the night. The hippo meat Pol saved made a great meal.

—From the log of Kreshton Rel’Astra

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A Dagger in the Dark
Dadak's Tales

A Dagger in the Dark.

Boom… Boom… Boom…. Thunderous echoes roar forth through the black shadows of this dark hall. Boom… Boom. Boom… Deep, slow, rhythmic blasts of despair and anger vibrate through the darkness surrounding my helpless soul. I am terrified. Me, Dadak. I have not felt fear like this since that time long, long ago….

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“Tell them they must send another”, she pleaded. “Tell them. I can not bear it.”
“I must go, dearest. They have made their decision, and you know, they will not change it. It is done,” was his graven answer.
My mother started a slow, deep, and sorrowful weeping. It came from deep within. I had never seen this before and it terrified me. Until now I had never known fear.
“Where must you go, father?” I asked.
They both had a start. I saw his shadow stiffen in the flickering firelight. He paused for a long moment and beckoned me to join him. My proud mother feebly attempted to stop her weeping for my sake, to no avail.
“Son,” he said, “I am tasked with an errand.” The muscles in his huge arms rippled as he reached down to me and brushed my hair. “Grave tidings come from Xendrik my son, and the Council has ordered me to investigate.”
“But why father?” I asked, “Why you?”
He paused again. His enormous brows furrowed in concentration and thought. Never before had I seen the concern on his face. I suddenly understood I would never see him again and slowly started to cry.
He slowly began to explain and I only half listened, “Our family carries an ancient and secret burden son; one which some day I hope will pass to you. I can not explain it to you, you are too young. But know that I would not leave you here… I will not leave you alone and without strong reasons. Know and be proud that your father is strongest of our order in this part of Khorvaire, and that he must go.”
A dark shadow began creeping across my soul.

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Boom… Booommmm… Booommmmmm…… Again the black shock waves of thunderous agony wash across me. I can not move my limbs and can only watch what is happening here. Snake like creatures sway to the rhythms of the sounds echoing through the halls. There is an altar. And there is a priest standing upon the dais surrounding it. He is holding a dagger above a bound helpless creature tied to the altar. The dagger is blackest black. It drips venom. It is evil and it is alive. It knows I am here and it hates me. But it wants me here. It wants to torture and torment me. I am helpless in the darkness and can not move. It is then I see the creature bound to the altar more clearly. It is a powerful orc. He is deeply wounded and too weak to resist. I see him, and then I realize he sees me as well.

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He stooped down low and patted my head, my father did. He smiled a broad smile and showed his glorious tusks to me again. I smiled too, a little. My mother stood behind me, her weeping was done, and placed her hands upon my shoulders. This was farewell. I would never see my father again.
“Son”, he began, “I give to you this token, given to me by my father, for safe keeping. Guard it well, as it has powers you will unlock when the time is right. You are young, but when you are come of age, you must come for me. I will know when you are near, the birds, the animals, and the trees themselves will speak of you to me. I will be waiting for you.”

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Booom…. Boooom….. Booooommm….. The hideous snakes continued their malevolent swaying. Ever faster and faster the blasts continued. The priest, dancing and swaying as well, menacingly waves the dagger above my father’s breast. The despair and blackness consumes this place. My father’s broken body lays there immobile, struggle is useless against such evil. I call to him, I reach for him, but I am too terrified to move. Just as I can no longer endure the pain, the priests plunges the dagger into my father’s breast. His body lurches. He breaks his bonds. I cry out in fear. I know he can not perform such a feat, he was too weak. He quickly stands tall and strong. He quickly flexes his new dark power. He then looks at me with his blackest of eyes and hisses “Come, my son. I am still waiting for you.”

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“Arrrggggghhhhhh” I scream out into the quiet night. I gasp for air and flail my arms wildly. Kreshton stands above me, his hair wild with his sword in hand. He is looking for trouble but finds none. Pol looks deadly with his fiercely glowing blade. He has sprung into combat but finds no assailants. Something is amiss and he is waiting for it to reveal itself. Joffa looks down at me from a tree above, his tail twitching expectantly. There is a sly smile on his face and he is ready as well. Even Kailia is awry, growling lowly and looking for trouble. I relax and slowly tell the dream-story.

Pol is very deeply troubled, and he is quiet.

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Ambushed

Far, the 6th of Aryth

Long days of paddling has brought us to this riverbank and this ambush. I am a man of the sea and paddling a canoe, especially upstream, does little to quench my appetite. The smell of the water is all wrong; there’s no salt smell. I’ve never been on a galley ship before but I feel that paddling and rowing probably grow arm muscle about as well. At least there is the jungles and grasslands of Xen’Drik and not the insides of a ship to watch. Dadak’s huge bulk, sitting behind me, is quite a bit of weight and I know that I am straining to keep our speed up with the rest of the others. We take turns singing songs; me, singing sea shanties and him, brutal orcish war songs.

The hot day finally came to a close and we watched the darkened river banks with unease. What king of foul creatures could be lurking in the shadows of the sparse trees and tall grasses? Maybe another chemosit like the ones at the Zenj village perhaps? As a native of Xen’Drik, I’m sure that Joffa had an idea but as we tied our canoes together a bit off shore, he remained silent.

First watch, my watch, went by without any problems. But during the second watch, an alert Pol spied four shapes creeping closer. He tried to quietly rouse Nketchi and the boat next to him, but before he could do much, arrows flew from out of the tall grass, one grazing him and at least two thwacking into Nketchi. His cries of pain was what woke me and I instantly saw the threat hidden on the shore. I dove into the water towards shore as Pol began to throw his mind blades at our attackers.

Their arrows continued to rain down on us but tiny Chydak was able to lob his grenades at them from the safety of his canoe and their concussion seemed to spoil our attackers’ aim. Joffa entered the fray, wildly throwing his eldritch blasts. Dadak scrambled to get to Nketchi and find one how badly he had been injured. I briefly foundered between the canoes and only made it to shore as a third attacker fell and the fourth ran off. I moved to their bodies and lit my watchlamp. The bodies were tribal catfolk with bows. A moment later, Joffa was at my side and I asked him to check their gear for magic. He bent down to give them a look, but a moment later he shook his head. As I turned away, I noticed him stuff a piece of the parchment I gave him the day before into the pouch of one of the dead catfolk. I turned back to him and rose an eyebrow but he remained silent. It was his secret to keep, so although I was curious, I let it lie. I don’t think that we are near his tribal lands or that was a note for them; I don’t suspect an ambush, at least not yet. We have the same mission, find Tazion.

We boarded the canoes once again, a wounded but aware Nketchi in Pol’s canoe and moved out into the middle of the river. A mile or two upriver we made for the opposite bank and drug the canoes onto shore to use them as a makeshift barrier against any more creatures with hostile intent. There we spent the day there recovering. Nketchi was in bad shape, but alive. It is amazing how often he seems to be in the wrong place at the right time. Lady Luck is not with him.

—from the log of Kreshton Rel’Astra

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Awake

Wir, the 4th of Aryth

I can still feel the blade sliding between my ribs. I can still feel the chaos of the battle raging around me. The eyes of my assailants surrounding me seemed to pour out heat. The poison on their blades rendered me unable to move and all the straining I could muster to keep standing did little to help me from falling down at their feet. For a short while the battle raged above me then a man came into my field of vision with an evil grin.

And then darkness.

Pain and brightness returns. Sounds once again begin to make sense. There is the smell of water all around me. The feel of wind on my arm stirs the little hairs there. I feel cold.

Suddenly hands on my shoulders raise me up to a sitting position and I see my friend’s worried looks directed at me. They tell me that it has been several days since our run in with the assassins, but it just seems like moments to me. I am thankful to them for not leaving me behind. A night’s rest and I may be able to travel on, Tazion still waits.

—From the log of Kreshton Rel’Astra

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Recipe
Dadak's Tales

Recipe
Rat-on-a-Stick
By Dadak, the Orc

There is an art to a well roasted rat-stick. The best way to make one is to follow the steps below in sequence.

First, get a live rat and clasp it in your hand, face down, with its arse at you. Make sure it’s live, they taste best fresh. Then, take a stick, ¾ forearm length, and insert the stick from its arse straight in, almost to the skull. The rat may struggle a bit, so be sure to hold it tightly.

I have pinned many a foul creature this way, har har har…

After the rat has quieted, put it over a low fire for as long as you can endure, and then a little longer. The smell should be your guide. It may pop a little and explode some, so poke some holes in the skin with a knife. If there’s no knife handy, then some sharp teeth will do. Then viola, (orcish sounds French occasionally), you have your rat-on-a-stick. The fried skin tastes great, and I love starting with the tail.

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Unwelcome
Race To Ruin

Sar, the 28th of Sypheros

Well, that wasn’t very nice of them! Captain Lewin did tell us, before we left Eleder, that the townsfolk of Kalabuto may be unenthusiastic seeing adventurers like us strolling into their town. Still, I did not expect it at the level we encountered. Where ever we walked, there were ugly faces scowling at us. I attempted to sing out loud a time or two, maybe change some attitudes, but that only added my group’s faces scowling at me.

I sense a bit of tension in this town already. A majority of the lesser folk and beggar children, drow most of them, look even more downtrodden by their betters here. I’ve seen the scars of manacles on several of them, and none on the more prosperous citizens going about their business. The docks were worse. Whole gangs of unskilled laborers toiled in the hot weather will little or no rest. Racial tensions are evident. Small “shops” offering local wares and useless junk line the docks.

Then we found The Shrunken Head Tavern. My spirits lifted with the thought of the spirits I would soon be purchasing inside. One step in and all conversation stopped. The dirty patrons stared at Joffa, Dadak and me for quite a while before they turned back to their business. I strode up to the bar, eyed my closest two neighbors sitting there and fished into my purse to buy something for us. Before I could speak, the bartender yelled over my shoulder at Joffa. I groaned, it seemed that Joffa had climbed into the rafters and was attempting to hide in their shadows. The smile on my face died when the bartender turned to me and demanded that I do something about my “friend” before he would serve me. Like I had a chance, in any way, of making Joffa do anything that he did not want to.

I made my request again and again I was denied. Fortunately, or so I thought, I quickly spied a dwarf drinking at a table alone. This was the contact that Captain Lewin had told us about. I knew that the bartender would only continue to be hostile while Joffa swung like a monkey above his patron’s head, so I grabbed up my coin and made my way over to the dwarf gentleman. Ignoring the bartender’s increasing demand to leave I tried to have a conversation with the dwarf. He denied that he was who I was looking for, even when I mentioned his name and then it struck me; he may not want to seem associated with us so as to stay on the Kalabuto citizen’s good side. With a wink, I acquiesced to his farce and bowed. The bartender followed me and Dadak out of the tavern and locked the door behind us.

It was only a matter of time before Cheiton would emerge from the tavern, so I moved on up the docks closer to the shore where I could keep an eye out. I tracked down a Rat-on-a-stick vendor and munched contentedly, one eye on the tavern’s door and the other on the river barges and small ships floating on the River Of Lost Tears.

—from the log of Kreshton Rel’Astra

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The Many Faces Of Dadak
Race To Ruin

Zol, the 24th of Sypheros

I must say, Dadak is starting to become quite a asset to our little party. He helped to make those two months shipwrecked on Smuggler’s Shiv less of a burden. I’m not talking just about his brute strength, he is able to swing that mighty great axe about with quite a bit of proficiency and raw strength. And I’m not just talking about his ability to rejuvenate our wounds and heal us. I am talking about his new powers.

Traveling down the road to Kalabuto we spied birds circling in the sky. Joffa and I were able to determine that they were vultures and that two or three of them were extremely large vultures! We approached the area they were circling slowly, fearing that those monsters would swoop down on us, but Dadak had a different idea. In a blink of an eye – Bamf! – he turned himself into a vulture and with two flaps of his mighty wings, he joined the flock circling in the sky! A few minutes later, Dadak returned and landed next to me then changed back to his usual form. He reported that the birds were circling the carcass of a dead horse laying in the road. That easy! He assessed the situation and let us all know the dangers.

Just a few minutes later, after that huge lion bounded out of the tall grasses and pounced on me, Dadak showed his abilities again. As the lion ripped my flesh and my clothes with equal ease, the corner of my mind that was not distracted from my screaming and pain, I felt a sudden heat blossom near me. Dadak turned into some Primal Form of fire with the casting of a spell and threatened the lion. The lion decided to make a meal of me somewhere else and moved within range of Pol. Pol struck the lion a mighty blow and it released me. Dadak moved partly into the grass to ignite them and to further scare the lion of with the flames and smoke.

Tonight, sitting around the campfire I’m going to have to cast my mending spell several times to get the rents and tears out of my new raiment. I may have even lost a gem or two in the collar. I must remember, before I make my bed upwind from Dadak, to thank him for his part, and maybe, uplift his spirits with a song or two. I know, I’ll sing him that song he taught me so long ago on Smuggler’s Shiv. How did it go, again? Oh yes!

We stomp our feet, Ha!,
We crush their bones, Ha!
We fling them up, Ha!
Their woman all are wailing!

—From the log of Kreshton Rel’Astra

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Almost Time To Dance
Race To Ruin

Sar, the 21st of Sypheros

The jungle sounds outside are muffled by the walls of this hut I am waiting in. Dadak is kneeling with his eyes closed next to me, his massive great axe held lightly in his hands. Somewhere above us, outside in the thatching that works as a roof, I can hear Pol’s steady breathing. Chydak and Joffa await in the darkness beyond my sight. A pool of blood on the threshold sours the air as it sends tendrils of scent in the hopes of attracting the Chemosit that has been plaguing this village of Zenj to us. Joyous battle will be joined once it makes its presence known.

This waiting for the creature to show up is filling my mind with possibilities. I have a new spell I am dying to try out and new ideas to try in battle. I feel like I should be more nervous than I am, I am not used to waiting for battle to come to me, but all I can right now is breathe slowly in tandem with Dadak’s great breaths, and wait my turn to dance.

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