Serpent's Skull in Eberron

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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Once More
Race To Ruin

Wir, the 18th of Sypheros

Once more, my adventures lead me underground and once more, undead lay ahead. I clutch Aeshamara’s locket at my chest and struggle not to tremble. The thought of undead still does this to me, even after defeating those zombies and skeletons on the various wrecks surrounding Smuggler’s Shiv. My usual bearing of bravado and style is failing me so I have regulated myself to rearguard. I leave the discovery of danger in Pol’s most capable hands while a small part of me cries out at not being at his side up front. I will have to make up for this, somehow. Aeshamara, only your face keeps me sane.

—From the log of Kreshton Rel’Astra

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What Part of Hurry Do They Not Understand?
Wir, the 18th of Sypheros

I dont think this group speaks common. “We need to get out of here quickly…no, we dont need to go investigate that small spit of dry land over there…GGHHAAA! Now the undead have found us…pray the light I dont kill you all myself!”

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Is it Always a Full Moon?
Wir, the 18th of Sypheros

As we ready ourselves to head into the salt mine as a shortcut on our way to Kalabuto I find myself wondering what curse has befallen us? It seems like we have been doomed from the start of this quest for Savnh-Yhi. While we find ourselves in a hurry, it seems we are delayed at every turn. And if we are not delayed (as we were with the stupid quests set out by the addle-brained Nkevich) we are forced to delay in fights with natives, creatures or each other.

I do not want to be late to the discovery of Savnh-Yhi or the likely meeting with Idarthius. If it truly is Idarthius, then there will be many innocent deaths at the hands of him and his minions. Not that I have a hope of stopping so powerful a Quori but I can at least warn people of the danger. But I begin to doubt our ability to get there in any reasonable time. Speaking of which, I should get a little rest before we move out and confront whatever undead are in these caves. At least battling the barbarian had a slight benefit in providing us with that insight. For now, I will be little surprised in whatever delays we find next.

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Swordplay In The Morning
Race To Ruin

Wir, the 18th of Sypheros

There was not much call for swordplay in Eleder and to tell the truth, I did not expect things to go this far this morning. Joffa alerted us in time to intercept that comely female barbarian and her pet dinosaur before she could cause us harm while we slept. And when he came down from his perch, where he was passing his turn at watch, he and Pol began to speak with her. I left her in capable hands even though my eyes longed to have a better look at her fine figure underneath those few furs she wore. I felt that such a blatant action of just walking into our camp, wearing those garments, was sure sign of an ambush; she the distraction. No matter how much I peered into the forest around our camp, I could detect no hidden foes creeping up on us.

Then the shouts began. With amazing speed, the barbarian readied her weapon, a bone glaive, and skewered Joffa with a mighty blow. She also directed her dinosaur, no longer so meek at her side, to jump behind Joffa and also take a bite out of his side. His abilities run in different directions than physical strength, but even I may have been felled by such a two pronged attack! Dadak stepped forward with a roar and planted his great club in the dinosaur’s body. I chose to aid him so I stepped around lightly behind the dinosaur and sunk my blade into its side. Pol jumped forward to grapple our attacker but she slipped from his grasp.

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