Serpent's Skull in Eberron


Race To Ruin

Zor, the 5th of Rhaan through Sar, the 21st of Rhaan

Stormreach, the gateway to the interior of Xen’Drik was a welcome sight after more than two months shipwrecked on that accursed island, Smuggler’s Shiv. Two months of deprivation, scorching hot weather, disease and fearsome wild animals; not to mention, cannibals, witches, foul undead creatures and a real-live serpent folk priestess. Now, ahead, lay the bustling harbor and city beyond it which act as centers for trade and commerce. There I knew fine wines and hearty meals would one again be the norm after scrounging for food from what the land could provide. Clean sheets in a clean bed would be a welcome change as well. For sure, some female companionship could be arraigned.

As the boat found its berth and gently bumped against the docks, we prepared ourselves for what was next. Gelik was happily whistling a tune as he held close the book containing the captain’s log for the ship Nightvoice that we had rescued off that fungus covered wreck. He had promised several times that he would track us down later and raise a tankard of ale to celebrate our rescue. A somewhat subdued Jask nervously paced the deck, worried that the authorities would find him first before his name could be cleared with the papers we had found describing the collusion between port officials and various smugglers. We, Pol, Dadak and myself had promised to escort him to the correct officials and exonerate his good name. Aerys kept her plans to herself. Sasha, a new dimorphodon companion on her shoulder, scanned the crowd of the docks until she picked out the figure of Joffa, who had walked alone into the jungle before we left Smuggler’s Shiv. Shiruu, the professional, was ready to go his own way as well.

Dadak’s green, ugly face was blank with tension. Stormreach would be the largest settlement that he had ever been to. He had confessed his worry of the crowds pushing up against him, or the cries of babies pointing at his gruesome mien or possibly torch wielding crowds bent of chasing off an orc amongst their numbers. I could tell he felt alone. More so since that day he walked into the jungle to say farewell to his companion Kraak. He had not made the decision to let the dimorphodon free to return to the cliffs of its birthplace lightly. He had agonized over the decision for quite some time and now he was tense with fear for the future.

Pol was serene again. His calmness was in the knowledge that his mission could once again progress forward. The island had been nothing but a barrier for him. His prediction that a ship would come for us soon was vindicated when a proud sailing ship appeared on the horizon and settled itself off shore from the lighthouse. During the voyage to Stormreach he took Dadak, Chydak and me aside to tell us of his mission and to inquire if we were willing to accompany him were it led. I was, of course, willing to assist if it brought adventure with it. Dadak also agreed, more for the sake of keeping with what he knew than for any other reason. If Joffa had been there, I am sure it would have been difficult to get any answer than, “I’ll have to think about it.”

Joffa’s motivations are, as always, entirely his own. When it was time to embark for our quick voyage to Stormreach, he said his farewells and strode into the waves. Somehow we would meet him in Stormreach harbor. His decision to strike off on his own somewhat alienated us all. It was strange to see Sasha alone and not following him around as she usually did. Mainly, she kept to herself in the bow, near the port railing. I know that Joffa styles himself as our leader, but his place has seemed to have fallen some with this decision to meet us later. I must say that I was surprised by his announcement that he would not be accompanying the group on our sea voyage. Perhaps as a native to Xen’Drik he has other obligations, but he has failed to share them with us.

Chydak’s eyes gleamed as his racing thoughts moved behind them. That man has a quick mind and even though this was his first time off that island, he was not worried about his future. I hope that those he runs into in Stormreach keep a keen eye on their purses.

True to his word, Joffa was indeed waiting for us at Stormreach harbor. Pol and I shared a look, but just shrugged at Joffa’s antics; Dadak seemed strangely unsurprised. There is no controlling Joffa, but that is how I prefer it as well. Once on the docks, the others went off in their own direction, but Pol, Dadak, Joffa, Jask and I moved off to the port authority buildings to have a word with some officials and possibly, if all goes well, the Harbor Lord. No guards with shackles came for Jask while we waited. After cooling our heels in various waiting rooms we finally found the correct persons to speak to. One was actually a contemporary of Jask who was eager to read the papers we had found. Finally, the officials promised that Jask was nominally exonerated and within the next day or so, it would be official. Jask shook all our hands (twice!) in his relief and promised to buy a round of drinks some day soon. Him and his friend escorted us to the doors and bid us farewell.

We returned to the ship and gathered our gear that had been offloaded from its hold. We had amassed quite a collection of items from that island. After finding an inn that we could agree on (all except Chydak, who was not welcome at any inn no matter how much we were willing to pay) called “The Jolly Cabin Boy” we separated, off to find a buyer that would give us top coin for our booty. We all returned with various offers and settled on one merchant to unload all of it. I could not stand one more minute wearing these rags that my clothes and armor had become, so when I received my share I found my way to the classiest clothier I could find. After flashing a bit of gold, I was welcomed to the “Perfumed Wrist” to make my purchases. I received a bath in rose scented water and my elf maiden attendants were most skilled in cleaning my body of accumulated dirt. I then moved to a warmed robe and was seated before a fireplace on a luxurious divan. My host suggested many different clothiers and sent away for them to return and wait on me. After several hours of fittings my choice was made and I departed well content with how fine my new black and silver outfit; I felt civilized once again. Next stop was the shop of a well-known armor smith. His stock was more limited than what can easily be found on the mainland of Khorvaire, but he promised that the armor I requested could easily be ordered from his contacts, I would just have to wait a week or two. He promised that later today he would go down to the local House Sivis message station and my package would be on the next ship to Stormreach tomorrow.

The next several days were filled with early evenings carousing in the most different bars and inns that I have ever entered. I have first hand knowledge of sedate parties and the company of fine, aristocrats from my time at my father’s court in Zilargo and only the stories my uncle told me of seaside bars and dives. I fear he may have kept the reality to himself. They are a rough and tumble group that frequent those bars, but once I stepped into one, loudly exclaimed, “the first round of drinks are on me!” I found no shortage of friends to spend the night singing sea shanties or arm wrestling or dancing on tabletops with a lusty wench in each arm until the morning sunlight forced its way in. I did indulge myself once and attended a party of minor nobles. A few of the Houses were there as well. I cloaked myself in mystery but I believe my Zilargo accent and mannerisms may have given myself away and I expect some news of my whereabouts may already be speeding towards my home. I cannot resist a courtly dance, I guess. The next morning, I dispatched a letter of my own to my mother.

Gelik found me in the “Lusty Wench” tavern early today, sleeping off the mother of all headaches from my drunken adventures of the night before. He had to help me shake its effects for several hours with home remedies before he could get a coherent word out of me. He wanted to know more about the pages I had in my possession. The ones of the rubbings I had made from the walls of the Azlanti temple on Smuggler’s Shiv. He was very adamant about borrowing them to show off to a friend of his. I readily agreed but he was reluctant to agree with the terms I came up with. All the way to “The Jolly Cabin Boy” he tried to get me to change my mind. I was about to agree with his terms, just to shut him up, when Pol arrived. I gladly turned over the negotiations over to him and retreated to my bed. Later that same day, while Pol was explaining the arrangement with Gelik to me, Jask entered the inn. I thought he was there to make good on his promise to buy some ale, but he ultimately confessed that some of the people he had been talking to were very interested in what we had found in Smuggler’s Shiv. The Harbor Lord had even dispatched a ship to go investigate. Pol and I eyed each other and immediately became reluctant to discuss details. Jask left unsatisfied. Later that day, Aerys returned; we gave her the cold shoulder and she soon left.

It seemed we had stirred quite a bit of activity with our findings. Joffa returned from wherever he had slunk off to the last few days and seemed unhappy with some of the deals we had made. In the end, we had five different “factions” that wanted to treat with us with the offer of assistance. I favored the Brelish crown patriots because of their close ties to my family, but Joffa was adamant that he would not work with the “land stealing, oppressors”! Pol flat out said he would not have anything to do with House Tarkanon cronies or the Emerald Claw representatives because of their reputations. Which left the Wayfarers or the Lazar Shackle Princes. We accepted the Free Captain’s agreement and their offer of five buccaneers to join us. I am well content to have these men and women join us. I’d like to hear some of their rough tales. I’m sure that I can learn some more about the sea that I love from those folks. Still, it would be prudent to keep an eye on them and not let them become too cozy with us; their loyalties belong to their masters.

All that is left is to gather our gear (I have a few new toys to play with stashed away in a pouch or two) and slip out of Stormreach. The city of Elidar is somewhere ahead of us. This is the life I have chosen. Adventure waits, I must go to it.

—From the log of Kreshton Rel’Astra


gdapkus BraulioB

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