The March of Ages


“We leave something of ourselves behind when we leave a place, we stay there, even though we go away. And there are things in us that we can find again only by going back there.”

To My Dearest Bael,

This will be the last letter I write you for a while. I do not mean to leave you alone but the events of the past few months on our journey back to Voltierra have led me to the conclusion that I need to make some changes in my life, for my own benefit. Let me tell you what we’ve been through and I hope that you will understand.

After we boarded the Crimson Raven, Stangil and I spoke with Braeden Brightburn about the voyage. As luck would have it, Kalloruth sent an emissary on the ship with us. It was Odoth Iluith, that weasel, and his naïve wife, Sosyth. We rounded the north-western edge of the Drekaran continent and navigated around the large islands. I was successfully able to merge their charts with our maps and piece together the known world.

Fighting Fire with Fire
Several weeks into sailing, we spotted a ship on our rear. It was gaining on us and would be upon the Crimson Raven in a day. The crewman in the crow’s nest recognized it as the Dreadnought, captained by the mercenary Eisseth. Eisseth was the threat that I had a dream about nearly a year ago after we left Aesteryl, who had kidnapped Briar and the other new humans.

Stangil gave her a chance to run up a white flag by sending a message via arrow. It was returned to us with mocking. We launched flaming ballistas immediately. The battle was horrific. It was the most terrifying thing I have ever seen. Eisseth could control fire; she was more disciplined and stronger than I. My disintegration tickled her and she could diffuse my fireballs before they hit her ship. Luckily, Belaric and the others were distracting her with flaming arrows and I was able to get a few good fireballs shot at the Dreadnought. I took out several oars on the port side and prevented her ship from ramming us. Eisseth also sent over fireballs and, unfortunately, I was unable to stop all of them from damaging our ship and killing our men. Snuffing out the fires on our deck was a new manifestation of my powers. I am thankful that I could focus so well in the heat of battle; that may have saved some lives.

Both ships crashed together, bow to stern. Stangil swung from one of our masts to board the Dreadnought and I took a moment to gawk at how amazingly heroic he is. I have come to rely on him as more than a companion or friend, but as someone to whom I would entrust my life. Others followed his lead and we brought the fight to their deck. Stangil blew a hole through the top deck with Cybil and jumped below to avoid a fireball from Eisseth. I laid down a wall of fire that no one, with the exception of Arianna and Eisseth, could walk through.

As Stangil returned to the fight above, the sea ceased moving. The waves froze. Everyone stood still. Memories of you and your father flashed through my mind. Happy memories that I locked away half a lifetime ago returned to me and flooded my mind. I saw Leviathan. I saw Eliah. I saw you. I saw the fire that consumed our home and took you and your father away from me. When the visions faded, I snapped back into the present. Many people were still dazed and stunned. I assume they saw things as well.

Belaric stood up and told me not to look behind me. Of course, I looked. There was a portal. On the other side of it was you. I saw your handsome, innocent face for the first time in twenty years and it brought me so much peace. Belaric said that he was told this would happen and that he was prepared as he began to run to the portal. I tripped him and the portal closed.

For that, my love, I am not sorry. In that moment, I realized what he was going to do and I could not let him. As much as I miss you and though you are a piece of my heart, I could not let Belaric sacrifice himself. I could not lose one more person that I loved. I do not know if Somnambuliss had set him up or if he really would have been able to pull you through, but I refused to find out if it was a cruel trick. As the portal closed, Belaric screamed and my heart sank for him. I had previously been blind to how much he wanted to make me happy and how unhappy I had seemed to others. It was a wake-up call.

Speaking of waking up, the battle resumed. There was fire everywhere. I was sweeping away dreadnoughts and shouted at Arianna to snap out of it before she got hurt. Belaric shot two arrows deep into Eisseth. Arianna struck her from chin to sternum. Stangil was about to finish her when she pleaded, “stop.” We gave the command for everyone to hold. Stangil and I gave our word that if Eisseth answered all of our questions, we would let her go. She told us that Tol’Storig had hired her and seemed to know little else. That was enough for us.

I pleaded to Stangil to give her over to Briar and the two other new humans because they were owed some vindication. Stangil insisted that we gave our word and must let her go. I hesitated. I thought about ending her right then and there. Eisseth had caused so much destruction and pain and even as she was bleeding out, she was laughing at us. Then, Stangil turned to me, said that I was too good a person to have to do this and snapped the demon’s neck. He then took one of her eight horns as a trophy.

No one could speak for a long while. I wanted to retreat into my cabin and never leave. The dreadnoughts surrendered and agreed to work with us. Braeden said he could salvage both ships. I treated as many wounded as I could. We kept busy.

Smooth Sailing
I found Belaric as soon as the high priority tasks were delegated and carried out. We had a heart to heart and he explained that neither of us were happy and he saw an opportunity to make me happy. He wanted that for me, no matter the cost. I told him that that was not what I wanted. I was moved by his sacrifice but it was not his responsibility to change my past and I certainly did not want him to pay the price. I love him, Bael. Belaric makes me happy and has brought to light feelings that I had hidden and ignored for years. I want to be with him and I think that I could make him happy; I would at least like the chance to try. For that, I need to move on from my past and stop living frozen in time. I think that was why I was able to shake the effect of the memories more quickly than others… I’m used to it.

Stangil, on the other hand, spent as much time as he could in the following weeks repairing both ships. He exhausted himself every day until he ran out of work to do. The guilt he felt for breaking his word broke his spirit. Finally, Stangil had to fill the silence and talk to Julian. Stangil poured his anguish, guilt, and angst into Julian and, in return, was consoled. Julian never judges Stangil; he supports him. It may take a very long time for Stangil to forgive himself and I know a little something about that.

The remainder of the trip was uneventful. We noticed nearly ten thousand southern Feoral organized off the coast. Over a dozen banners, including the Burning Dogs and the Chosen Sons were present. Several hundred Dolgari were enslaved and forced to feed the Feoral. We stopped by Magnus Plains for Stangil and Julian to search ruins for some of Rheumaous’s possessions. Finally, we went upriver for a few days and moored in Lake Sayesteya.

Rolling Out the Welcoming Mats
We were greeted upon our return by Gregar, Rheumaous and Ithaca. Then, we were escorted to court where Aristos presented us and thanked us for our blah blah blah. Gauladek was in the crowd, watching as we walked in with Odoth Iluith and Sosyth. Low and behold, Seripathia was sitting in a council seat next to the king’s mistress, Asala. I was surprised to see so many faces from the other continent had arrived before us.

An hour later, Stangil and I spoke privately with Aristos. Honestly, I would rather have nothing to do with kings and people in power and I am happy when my name is not remembered. Aristos was aware of the Feoral in the south and said that it was not our place to get involved. Seripathia is not on the council, but she is present because Elrathia sent word that she could be trusted. I have to say that that woman has terrible judgment… then again, I’m usually not a fan of people who poison me. In retrospect, it makes sense that those two are friends; they are both so fond of getting their way by poisoning others.

Strange, ghost-like beings were attacking people in the Western Lluaran forests. Rondal was a hero and had saved Luke. Luke had been badly injured so he and Roash were sent back to give word on their progress. A black and red dragon, whom Stangil is confident is Trellius, is also attacking that region. Trellius is the dragon whose son Stangil killed twenty years ago. I remained mostly silent while the two men argued over dragon eggs. Aristos was not happy that Stangil was openly discussing this in front of me. Stangil stood up for me. I was exhausted from the frustrating uselessness of politics and glad to leave when the conversation was over.

The last bit of pomp that we had to endure was a feast in our honor that night. I wandered around the city, not knowing where to go because, of course, the last time I was here I failed to find a home. I found my way to a familiar home… and saw Belaric being greeted by several of his daughters. They invited me in and I told him who I saw in court and that I was not going to the feast. Belaric, the man who supposedly prefers to be home, insisted that the feast would be fun with so many “characters” mixed together, so I borrowed a dress and we went.

A Feast for Heroes
I spoke with Odoth at the feast and watched the weasel squirm when I mentioned Gauladeck was present. I shared words with Gauladeck, who it seems is more of an ally than an enemy. Luke sought out Stangil but was not well-received. I ran into Bruinen… he is doing well. I was so surprised to see him that I could barely speak. Stangil and I spoke to Roash, who was a regular urggen’s ass. I decided to let my vengeance rampage go and let the past remain in the past. I sat at the bar next to Belaric, who easily rallied my lifetime of pent-up anger and we agreed that I would find Stangil, he would find Roash, and we would meet at the summer house in the woods.

I Waited Half My Life for this Moment
When Stangil and I arrived at the house, we saw Roash tied up in a chair and Belaric bleeding profusely from his gut. Roash had gotten a good swipe in with a knife, cutting through his abdomen. I rushed to patch him up while Stangil checked to make sure Roash was secured. I confronted him a second time about the night of the fire. After a few rounds of vague facts, we retrieved some useful information. Roash set the fire. Roash pulled me from the house. He did these things because Noella (Cyth’s sister, a seer) saw both you and Eliah as a threat to Cyth in the future. She told Roash that you would become something evil. I wanted to destroy him.

I wanted to make him feel what I felt and the only way to do that would be to hit his weakness, the family he loves… Cyth’s widow and son. But as easily as the anger came, it disappeared. I know the truth now. I no longer have to bear the guilt that I carried for so many years. I didn’t care what happened to him at this point. Vindication, revenge… it all seemed so pointless. Nothing I could do to him would bring you or Eliah back. Nothing I could do to him would give me back the half of my life I wasted on grieving. I was ready to walk away.

Then… Roash said that Rondal was probably dead. Before I could react, Stangil had cut him in half. I cleaned the room while Stangil buried the body. We brought Belaric home. I watched over him all night to make sure he would survive. I will be keeping him under wraps while he heals so no one will be suspicious. People will notice that Roash disappeared… I need to fade back into obscurity for a while.

Stangil needs to be home with Julian and their children. If the time comes that Aristos sends more people out west, Stangil will volunteer and I will go with him. But my plan for now is to make Voltierra my home.

Bruinen asked me to dinner. He professed his love for me… after fifteen years. A heart like his cannot imagine the darkness that I carry. He cannot fathom the things that have changed me, changed all of us, over the past year. For that, I am grateful. Humanity as a whole should never have to see the things that we have seen. For our race to thrive, we need to be happy. Survival means a few of us have to face the horrors of the world privately.

Anyway, I told Bruinen that I would love to get to know him again and meet his children. However, for now, I want to pursue this special thing between me and Belaric. Not to mention, I have a few other things to try out, like settling down in civilization. This is why I have to stop writing you for a while. You will always be in my heart, son, but I need to move forward. I will never forget you and the past year has shown me that new things can happen in my life without losing any memories of you.

With all my love,
Your Mommy – Serafina


The humans returned to their quarters swiftly that night. They were immediately aware of the mistake that had been made and the insult that they had directed at Kalloruth. The next morning Serafina asked Governor Anton to requested another audience with Kalloruth so they could repair the damage that had been done and apologize. Messages were sent to Voranyth and each Arkon explaining the vision and requesting a cessation of hostilities, for the good of everyone. A special message was sent to Arkon Desrond Toth to warn him about the dangers of fighting over Aesteryl and to invite him to send an emissary to the annual summit in Voltierra. Finally, Serafina commissioned a sword as a gift for Braeden Brightburn, who would be transporting them home when they left Fey’oth.

Guildmaster Gunnick sent a letter containing a trade agreement to Stangil Drakebane for review.

The humans laid low that day and patiently awaited news of a second chance with Kalloruth. That night, Reikasha visited Stangil. He was in possession of a frozen tear from Leopa, with the ability to contain Kalloruth’s power for a moment. Stangil explained that they had decided to take a safer course of action. Reikatha’s parting thoughts were, “you’ll be sorry.”

Three weeks passed before Serafina and Stangil were granted another audience with Cardinal Durden. They explained to him that their intentions were to apologize to Kalloruth, make amends, and discuss Aesteryl.

They then met with Kalloruth. Stangil apologized for his fiery words. Kalloruth demanded that the humans did not trade with the Arkons of the southern lands. A compromise was made that they would trade openly with all, but not in war goods. Kalloruth agreed to send Drekar to live outside of Aesteryl and defend it against Voranyth’s mercenaries in return for shared knowledge and power. The meeting was successful and no blood was shed.

After, the FimmDrekar sat down to dessert with the humans. Despite this being the first they had been able to spend time together and having a reason to celebrate, the Fimm Drekar seemed on edge. Serafina pressed the issue until Garceroth revealed in an outburst that Shykelith had vouched for them and taken a lashing for their insolence toward Kalloruth.

That night, with heavy hearts, Serafina wrote a heartfelt letter of appreciation and apology to Shykelith and Stangil made a beautiful replica of her ship. Serafina delivered her letter to Shykelith personally with a salve she made for her wounds.

On the morning of their departure, the humans were sent off with words of farewell and gifts from the Fimm Drekar. They boarded the Crimson Raven and set sail.

Get on with it!

As Stangil Drakebane, Serafina Anduril, and their companions entered the city of Fey’Oth they were wowed by how massive and pristine the grand city was. Veins of gold glittered in the cracks of the white buildings, making everything shine even more. Inside the Fimm Drekar’s compound the human envoy was shown their own wing.

Once they were in the privacy of their own room, Stangil and Julian spoke freely to each other. Stangil asked if Julian thought that the Fimm Drekar were acting differently toward them and if they perhaps noticed his and Serafina’s tattoos. Julian expressed that he wanted to return home and had no interest in taking sides. There was concern about the behavior of Briar and the new humans. Stangil informed Julian that it was the time of the full moon and he intended on contacting Aristos that evening with the mirror, despite not having met with Kalloruth yet. Enough time had passed without any contact that it seemed necessary.

After their conversation, Stangil found Serafina in her room with Belaric. They discussed the Fimm Drekar, tattoos, sending word to Reikasha, having Belaric attempt to touch base with any Taalen’Vost in the city, praying to their “friend” (whose name they would not speak aloud, Somnambuliss), cajoling Briar and company into behaving themselves, delegating the responsibility of keeping an eye on Briar to Abrahm, and asking Mirrick what tales he could tell of Kalloruth and Voranyth. Stangil and Serafina divided their tasks and set themselves to work.

Serafina began with Abrahm. She asked him to watch over Briar and the other humans from Aesteryl, ensuring that they did not say or do anything offensive while in Fey’Oth. He seemed nervous and unsure, so she inspired him to take charge and be a leader. That totally went well.

Stangil made his way to Briar’s room. After knocking and announcing himself, he discerned the sound of heavy furniture being slid on the marble floor and then, “come in.” Briar and the others had barricaded the door and positioned themselves in defensive points around the room. Stangil attempted to encourage Briar to open her mind to new experiences and cultures. Still scarred from their introduction to the Drekar, Briar and company were not convinced. She did promise that they would cause no trouble, but impressed upon him their eagerness to return to the human lands and reunite with their people. Finally, she asked Stangil if he could give them some protective armor, to which he agreed.

Serafina found Mirrick sitting alone in his room, contentedly settled in. To her disappointment, she found no new useful information in the lore of Kalloruth.

Dinner was announced and all twenty were shown to a large dining hall. Serafina noticed the continued absence of the Fimm Drekar. The five course meal was prepared expertly and servants kept glasses full. Toward the end of the meal, an authoritative man was shown in. He introduced himself as Governor Anton, their host during their stay.

Governor Anton informed the human consort that he had requested an audience with Kalloruth for them. In the meantime, Emissary Udoth Iluith and his wife had requested an audience with them. Also, dozens of merchants wished to discuss opening trade with the humans. The humans were to have free reign of the compound, with the exception of the Fimm Drekar’s wing. They were allowed to leave and explore the city, but it was highly suggested that they take an escort (guard) with them.

Before retiring for the night, Stangil went out to find a suitable sacrifice for which to offer the mirror. He found a menagerie in town and was able to purchase a lion. With little effort and concern for being noticed, Stangil returned to the compound with the beast tied and slung over his shoulder and retreated to his room. Shoving it through his doorway caused enough of a stir to wake Serafina across the hall.

Serafina opened her door and saw Stangil struggling to push something large, winged, and furry in his room. “Do I want to know?”

“Do you?” he responded.

“I don’t want to know,” she replied and went back to sleep.

Apprehensive, Julian watched over Stangil as he bled the animal, drew sigils, and fell asleep.

Aristos did not seem pleased to see Stangil. First, Stangil disclosed the possibility that the Fimm Drekar had noticed his and Serafina’s tattoos and the danger they might be in. Aristos notified Stangil of a vision that Noella had seen. Thrice, she saw two serpents fighting, one killing the other and moving across the sea. Each time, a different serpent was the victor. Stangil told Aristos what he knew of Voranyth and Kalloruth and asked which seemed like a lesser threat. The order returned was to make a decision using his best judgment.

Lastly, Stangil inquired about Rondal and the dispatch to the Lluaran forest in the west. There had been no word for several months. There was open warfare in the forests and the Lluaran had been attacked, but it was not known with whom they were defending themselves against. Aristos said to Stangil, “you need to come home as soon as possible.” With this news and intense dread, Stangil was pulled from the dream and awoke.

Serafina sat up in bed alone. Naiora was nowhere to be seen. Belaric was not present. There was a thin layer of fog covering the floor. She got out of bed and rounded the corner to the other half of the room to see Somnambuliss grinning. Searching once more for direction, Serafina became frustrated with ambiguous answers and questions in return. Somnambuliss toyed with her, saying that she was not asking the right questions. Once again, Serafina was told that they needed to make a decision for themselves.

Unable to tell what time it was and also unconcerned, the enraged Stangil stormed out of his room and to the bathhouse. The noise startled Serafina awake but as she found herself snuggled between Naiora and Belaric and there were no sounds of a fight, she decided it could wait.

Stangil found Arianna bathing after her morning workout. “If the decision was yours, which dragon would you kill?” he asked her.

Arianna signed, “Kalloruth.”

He then retold his conversation with Aristos and added, “I trust you to check me because my son is on my mind. I need to go home and save my son.” With that, Arianna squeezed his shoulder and left him alone to contemplate.

The bath was not calming so Julian took Stangil for a run outside.

Serafina woke again, still snuggled between Naiora and Belaric. She quietly stretched and Belaric stirred. He had been out late looking for brothers, and was successful. Braeden Brightburn and his crew were in port and would provide transportation home when they required. A message was also successfully sent to Reikasha.

Belaric was still exhausted, so Serafina promised to wake him for breakfast before going out into the common room to check on their companions.

When Stangil returned from his run with Julian he and Serafina shared their news in the privacy of his room. Serafina understood his agitation and pledged to help him find his son when they returned. There was a knock at the door and Stangil answered.

Governor Anton was in the doorway. He seemed to ignore the large dead animal, pool of dried blood, and splatter of blood in the room. To the point, he announced that the humans would have an audience with Kalloruth at sunset, Emissary Udoth Iluith would arrive mid-morning with his wife, and the merchants would be arriving before lunch. Serafina requested a meeting with Shykelith, which visibly stunned the governor.

Stangil needed time to recover before meeting with Kalloruth, so Serafina offered to handle the meetings alone while he went into the city to find something to distract his hands.

Emissary Udoth Iluith and his new wife, Sosyth arrived mid-morning. Sosyth was so happy to see Serafina that she ignored formalities and wrapped Serafina up in a hug. Udoth tried to keep his poise while Sosyth gushed about how she was here and with her love all because of Serafina. When she settled down, Udoth attempted to speak formally with Serafina, asking how long the humans intended to be in Fey’Oth. When Serafina responded, “we are weary of traveling and wish to return home as soon as possible,” he offered the service of his family’s fleet of ships (all three of them).

Sensing that the emissary had an air of importance around him, Serafina attempted to make polite conversation and ask about the Iluith family business. In short she became bored with Udoth’s arrogance and Sosyth’s constant fluttering. A sad reference to Gauladek was made and Serafina realized that they did not know that he had survived.

Serafina excitedly told Sosyth that her brother was alive and well. She had seen him just outside of Haimir, en route to Shaeth. Sosyth was overjoyed. In contrast, the blood drained from Udoth’s face. Noticing his reaction, Serafina suggested that Sosyth immediately write to him and make a plan to see her family again now that she is married and can build a bridge between the two families. Udoth offered to send a messenger for her right away, but Serafina interjected, trying to convince Sosyth that she could borrow a messenger from the Fimm Drekar, which would travel faster and more safely, guaranteeing that Gauladek would receive the message. With that, Udoth Iluith abruptly ended the visit and hurried Sosyth home. Serafina smirked, happy with herself.

Later that afternoon, Serafina was ushered into a large conference hall where two dozen merchants and guild masters were led in. Serafina introduced herself and began the discussion of opening trade. None of the men were eager to speak and most had looks of consternation on their faces.

When asked what was wrong, one man spoke that he was concerned that she intended to speak with them all at once. Serafina explained that in the interest of saving time, she would gather information about their goods, trades, skills, and so forth, bringing the details home to interested merchants. This did not loosen any tongues. She asked again why they were not speaking. Another man answered for the crowd that they had expected to speak with “the big guy.”

“If you do not wish to speak business with me, feel free to leave,” Serafina paused. She motioned for a few men at the opposite end of the table to move to one side. Ever so elegantly, she lobbed a ball of fire at the cold fireplace and said, “thank you, it was chilly in here.”

Guildmaster Hubel Gunrick introduced himself and the rest fell in line. Business was discussed and the remainder of the meeting went well, Serafina thought.

Serafina checked on Julian and Zeuth before taking a guard with her to the market where she intended on buying jerky for Naiora, chocolates for Piala, and some local fruit for herself. Whilst enjoying the immaculate city, she spotted a small child in the doorway of a tent holding a sign that read, in human, “come here.” As quickly as she saw it, it was gone. Leaving her guard, Serafina entered the merchant tent.

Shykelith sat inside, “you wanted to see me, Tadpole?” Serafina described her concern that they had neither seen nor heard from the Fimm Drekar since arriving in the city, despite staying in the same building. Shykelith explained that they were “warned not to interfere with [your] meetings.” Serafina pressed, asking if it had anything to do with her and Stangil’s tattoos. They had been noticed.

“It was discovered to whom your allegiance truly lies,” Shykelith admitted. Both women expressed their care for each other but the conversation ended with her warning Serafina to be careful.

Stangil awoke from his nap to the smell of smoke. There was a figure on his couch. It was Reikasha. Weeks ago he received a message from Elrathia to meet them in Fey’Oth now, so there he was. He asked Stangil what they were planning and why. He offered his aid.

Later, Stangil relayed this information to Serafina, Arianna and Belaric. They planned to have a nice talk with Kalloruth and then decide what course of action to take.

A carriage arrived and carried Stangil, Serafina, Arianna, and Belaric to the palace. Once over the portcullis they saw hundreds of honor guards and the Fimm Drekar watching from a balcony.

Inside they were introduced to Cardinal Durden, glowing with an aura of strong heat. He welcomed the three humans and one Feoral into his office and began to answer their questions about Kalloruth. They discussed her divinity, philosophy of ruling, and methods. Stangil weighed the difference between her strategies and Voranyth’s.

Durden noted that Shykelith had said many good things about the humans but immediately addressed Stangil and Serafina’s allegiance to Somnambuliss. Stangil stood by his friend where Serafina once again remained vague about her loyalty and reminded the cardinal that their tattoos did not speak for all of their party, let alone humankind.

Cardinal Durden mentioned the dragon egg that Zheiserayth had seen in Stangil’s possession. He said that it belongs to true dragons. Stangil’s retort is that the egg will be given to its rightful owner when their identity is revealed and to no one else.

Finally, they discussed the proper customs to observe when in the presence of Her Divinity, Kalloruth.

The foursome were led up a series of long switchbacks, leading up the inside of the mountain. At the top, they entered a cave that was full of volcanic glass. The opening of the cavern overlooked the ocean. Sunset approached and there were rows of about 200 people kneeling. At sunset a short ceremony was observed and the other people left. Stangil, Serafina, Arianna, and Belaric remained abased. They were given permission to rise and saw a dragon, over 250 feet long staring at them.

In the corner of the cavern, on a pile of glass, laid a large dragon’s skull with primal fire burning inside. Other than that, it was very unlike Voranyth’s lair. There was not much else, no treasure, just glass shards. Unlike the rest of the city, there was nothing ostentatious about Kalloruth’s cave. All of this was in stark contrast with what they had seen in Shaeth.

Gifts were exchanged and Stangil carved a beautiful statue of Kalloruth, as he did for Voranyth. Both sides expressed an interest in an alliance, peace, and open trade. Kalloruth questioned and evaluated their stance on Somnambuliss.

Serafina asked about the skull in the corner. They learned that Kalloruth and Voranyth had not only killed and devoured their mother, Leopa, but other great dragons as well. That skull belonged to Vulgaros.

Stangil told Kalloruth of the vision and said that it was interpreted as a potential threat. Kalloruth seemed upset by this.

More of the conversation turned to the difference between her and Voranyth. The culmination of the meeting being Kalloruth asking about them traveling with family and friends, which Stangil took as a threat to Julian’s life. It became clear that the discussion might soon turn hostile and both parties took leave.

Kalloruth offered the humans transportation home. Serafina requested the opportunity to say goodbye to the Fimm Drekar before they departed. She had grown close to them, especially Shykelith.

Hot and Bothered

Reunited with the FimmDrekar, our heroes readied themselves to traverse a great desert for the better part of a month to get to Fey’oth and meet Kalloruth. The Fimm Drekar seemed very interested in what Stangil Drakebane and Serafina Anduril thought of Voranyth. They discussed the different methods of rulership between Voranyth and Kalloruth and what the Fimm Drekar believed so strongly in.

Serafina asked Shykelith if she had received her message in Breakwater and was relieved to discover that Piala was safe in Fey’Oth.

Ten days into the trek the caravan reached a small town where they planned on stopping to resupply. As they entered, people bowed and reached out to the Fimm Drekar, who blessed them as they passed by touching the people’s palms and rolling their fingertips down the lengths of their fingers.

The band restocked supplies and Belaric went out in search for beer with the one hundred gold Serafina gave him. Julian and Stangil spent some quality time together. They were both concerned about their son, Rondal, who had been sent on a mission with Elrathia King’s daughter, Mellara. They knew that Elrathia had left in the middle of the night, she had been pulled through the mirror for a mysterious family emergency and left the mirror she used to communicate with Aristos for Stangil.

That evening, Stangil purchased three dogs from farmers and used them to activate the mirror in the room he shared with Julian at the inn. Aristos asked what they thought of Voranyth. Stangil asked about Rondal and was told that word returned sporadically, but there had been no contact in five weeks. Stangil reported about the Twisted Men. As time was running out, Aristos instructed Stangil to reach out in another month, after they had met with Kalloruth. Stangil awoke feeling worse than any hangover he had ever experienced. “More dogs, next time,” he said to Julian.

Meanwhile, Belaric happily returned with two kegs and placed one on the bar for Serafina to try. She took a sip of the delicious honey mead but as she set her cup down, she noticed two or three drops of red liquid falling to the counter in front of her. She slowly looked up and saw a dark reddish-brown puddle on the ceiling. She gestured for Belaric to look up.

The pair dashed upstairs and Belaric kicked in the door just as Julian had gotten up to retrieve a glass of water for Stangil. Stangil, “mostly dead” from the ritual, barely lifted his head. Julian had reached for his blade before he saw who had just entered. Belaric looked distraught at the three dead dogs on the floor. Serafina, recognizing what had happened, slowly backed out of the room and closed the door, that swung loosely on its hinges and didn’t quite latch.

Belaric asked Stangil, “what the fuck is going on?!” Stangil explained the mirror, communicating with Aristos, and the blood draining ritual. Angrily, Belaric suggested, “you might want to do it on the first floor next time.” He paused, “anyone missing these dogs?” Stangil replied that he purchased them. “Fucked up,” he said as he left the room, shaking his head.

In his own room with Serafina, Belaric expressed how upset he was that Stangil had used dogs. “They’re like people.” Serafina, with her chronic foot-in-mouth syndrome, said he didn’t seem to have a problem when it was a Twisted Man that had attacked them on the road, forgetting that at the time, Belaric was building funeral pyres. Belaric then discovered that she had been present while Stangil tortured him and that they gave him to Elrathia to use the mirror. Belaric then ranted about torture, ritualistic sacrifice, right and wrong, and dark magic, before going to bed angry.

Over breakfast the next morning Serafina apologized to Belaric, who remained terse. Stangil awoke, still feeling the effects of the mirror’s magic and headed downstairs for food with Julian. As Stangil sat down to eat, Belaric clocked him. Stangil ordered breakfast and everyone ate in silence.

Serafina ate hastily but as she got up to leave, Stangil said, “wait. Sit.” He then recounted his conversation with Aristos. Stangil also revealed a plan to incapacitate the Fimm Drekar if they were going to attempt an attack on Kalloruth, recalling their susceptibility to poison that one time on that ship with those pirates.

Stangil also addressed Belaric’s concerns with the use of the mirror, explaining the need to sacrifice a predatory animal, promising to request a better sacrifice option the next time, but that he was worried about Rondal. Belaric shot back that the ends don’t justify the means. Stangil reasoned that the dogs were old and killed quickly and mercifully. The conversation ended and the travelers renewed their trek through the desert.

The intense desert heat bothered nearly everyone. Arianna, Garceroth, and Serafina were the least uncomfortable. Sand was everywhere, including up Stangil’s ass and his mood was a constant reminder. There were shards of dark dragon glass littered across stretches of their path, most likely formed by Kalloruth long ago.

Serafina approached Garceroth to ask for training. Garceroth agreed, but needed time to think about what she wanted in return.

Days later, as they neared their second resupply oasis, they noticed smoke off the horizon. Guards rushed them but stopped and kneeled when they recognized the Fimm Drekar’s tabards with the white five-pointed star sigil. A day earlier, marauders had swept through, burned half the town, and stolen people, tools and supplies.

Further investigation revealed that about two dozen Drekar had attacked and headed west eighteen hours ago. The Fimm Drekar were unconcerned with a rescue mission and the humans, tired and hot, did not push. Serafina deferred to their escorts’ preference and Stangil did not want to extend his time in the desert. He spent the day helping to restore the smithy to the best of his abilities and that was that.

That evening, Serafina went to get a drink and immediately spit out the vile liquid. Nearby, Stangil laughed heartily. A day earlier, he had poured out the remainder of the mead and refilled the keg with water. Serafina slowly poured the water out of her mug and walked away. She found Belaric to warn him about the water keg, talk about the town and lament the fact that they weren’t doing anything to help. Julian and Stangil had a similar conversation. Later, Julian passed by Serafina, put his hand on her shoulder and said, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Before leaving the next morning, Serafina went in search of replacement alcohol. She confused the merchant and convinced him that she was insane by first offering 10 gold for a keg, and then 150 gold. Excited that she used money for the first time, she proudly brought the keg to the wagon.

Spirits were heavy when they left the town that morning. The Drekar townsfolk were sullen and the tone was very different from the last town they had departed.

Several days more of sand and heat, something large was spotted heading towards the caravan. As it approached, its form became clearer to the party. About 100 feet long and 15 feet wide, a giant worm was weaving in and out of the sand. Stangil ran his sword into it, attempting to pin it to the ground. The worm continued to move forward, as Cybil sliced it in two. Others surrounded it and attacked at different angles. Serafina laid her hands on the worm and as she touched it, she dug elbow-deep into the thing, burning and scraping flesh off as it moved. Stangil swung again and cut 30 feet off the tail.

It took five of them to dig up the head. Stangil removed the two largest fangs to keep as trophies.

That evening while they rested, Serafina gave Abrahm some bad advice about girls when she noticed he had a thing for one of the new humans, Briar. A buzzard was pecking at Stangil until he knocked it out and gave it to Serafina to cook for dinner. Abrahm struck out.

As they neared the end of their journey and exited the desert, they came upon the foothills of a mountain with beautiful autumn weather. There were trees and grass and Stangil’s mood improved greatly. It began to rain. Stangil was so elated he stripped and bathed in nature’s shower. He handed a bar of soap to Serafina and she joined him.

The Fimm Drekar took them to a quaint tavern beside a river. There was limited space, so several of the humans were going to have to sleep in the barn. Briar expressed to Serafina that she felt like she and the other new humans were not valued and were always treated second-class. Tired, and wishing to avoid a confrontation, Serafina offered her and Belaric’s room to Briar. Briar accepted.

Belaric was not thrilled that Serafina had given up their room and volunteered them for the barn. She tried to win him over with wit.

Everyone got to bathe! Bodily stank and ill-moods were both lifted away. Serafina tried to put in a good word for Abrahm with Briar, to no avail. The two teamsters that were supposed to share the barn loft with Serafina and Belaric were scared away and slept on the hearth instead.

There was a large, family-style breakfast the next morning with eggs, meats, biscuits, gravy… everyone was there except the Fimm Drekar. Stangil stepped outside and saw them talking with someone mounted on a weird animal. He asked Shykelith if everything was okay and she said that they were merely sending word to Fey’oth so the city could prepare for their arrival. Serafina asked what the mount was and learned that it was called a horse. They were rare and special, only given to those who were close to Kalloruth.

Instead of walking to Fey’oth, they were provided with large carriages, led by more horses. The front of each carriage was donned with Kalloruth’s symbol of flames and the back with the white star of the Fimm Drekar.

Three days later they arrived in Fey’oth, a large shining city nestled at the base of a mountain and up against the sea. The city had prepared a grand reception, clearing a path for the carriages. There were bands, banners, and the procession was like a parade in their honor.

Past the inner gates of the city they were taken to the home of the Fimm Drekar. It became clear just how culturally significant they were to this society. Their home was larger than Aritsos’s keep. The humans gawked in awe as they exited the carriages and were welcomed by Shykelith and the other Fimm Drekar to their home in Fey’oth.

Oh, Shaeth!
Stangil's Sweaty Day

When we last left our intrepid adventurers… a messenger had been sent to the villa to see if the human delegates were going to meet with Voranyth. Their meeting was in an hour. Everyone raced out.

At the base of the mountain, there were two ways to reach the top. Baskets were available to lift passengers, or people could take the walking path that zig-zagged and wound its way up. Stangil, Serafina, Arianna and Belaric chose to run while the rest gathered into the baskets.

At the path’s terminus, an impatient Stangil shoved the Drekar who were operating the basket lifts out of the way and cranked the mechanism, speeding up the baskets. The group had a few moments to rest and attempt to dry their sweaty clothes.

On their way into Voranyth’s chamber, Stangil noticed the architecture was very old and similar to Fire Drake Mountain. The chamber looked very similar to that of Leopa’s in Kuskarosa. Treasure abounded and as they walked, more and more magical items could be detected. Toward the very back there was a lot of power.

As they were led to Voranyth, it became clear that this would be a very carefully handled conversation. Voranyth was three to four hundred feet long and at least twenty feet tall, sitting. His aura gleamed brightly. The humans (and Arianna) kneeled reverently, according to custom.

Voranyth was cordial and very interested in the humans as well as whatever Arianna was. He inquired about the humans’ interests in traveling so far and meeting with him. Stangil and Serafina explained that they were interested in opening trade routes and offering Voranyth representation on the counsel.

While they conversed, Stangil carved a statue of Voranyth using various metals and crystals. It was a beautiful likeness and Voranyth was appreciative. Serafina asked about Kalloruth, tensions, open war, and Arkons. They discussed for hours the differences between the two rulers. Voranyth seemed unconcerned or unconvinced that the table could be tipped in favor of one dragon or the other. He said that there has always been a balance because they are equals. When Stangil asked why they destroyed Leopa, he responded that it was merely the way of the dragons.

Lastly, they discussed Gorug and the Twisted Men. Stangil offered the suggestion to give them land and recognize them as their own tribe or house. Voranyth was willing to consider if their worth was proven and proper tribute had been made.

After the meeting, most of the ensemble returned to the villa while Stangil and Serafina (with Belaric and Arianna in tow) found the capital building and attempted to see Tol’Storig. The guard made them wait while a page sent word. While they waited, he offered them a drink. His name was Porter and he suggested that if they had a rough day, they might want to pop into a local tavern, the Porcelain Chamber Pot. After nearly an hour the page returned to inform them that they had a meeting with Tol’Storig the next day when the eagle reached the sun’s zenith… so like, noon.

That evening the four enjoyed the dive bar briefly before finding an unsanctioned fighting pit for Stangil to blow off some steam. It was literally underground but a disappointing experience. The fight manager matched Stangil with an unfortunately inexperienced youth, who was quickly sliced sideways. Itching for a more worthy opponent, Stangil was given directions to another fighting pit and a seashell. This time, he was instructed not to mention being some big shot human who had just met with Voranyth.

The second fighting pit was a more established setup. Above ground in the warehouse district, the seashell allowed them access. Quickly, Serafina found smoked boar, beer, and good seats up front. Tirron, the fight manager, explained to Stangil that the first fight would be a sort of try-out and if he passed, he would enter the tournament with fifteen other competitors.

Belaric noticed that Tirron was a brother of the Taalen’Vost and Serafina noticed that he was awakened. Tirron gave Serafina, Belaric, and Arianna VIP seating. Stangil gave Serafina 1000 gold to wager with, which she immediately bet all on him winning the tournament.

The try-out barely lasted a minute and Stangil easily knocked the first guy on his ass. In the first bracket, Stangil easily defeated a man wielding a spear by picking him up by the neck with one hand and throwing him down on his back. After circling each other some, Stangil grabbed the man in a bear hug and dropped him to the ground. He was dragged out of the ring. Fight two was against a gimmicky character with a trident and a net. They danced back and forth until Stangil was able to snatch up the net and throw it on his opponent. Despite the third opponent carrying two hand-axes, he was on the defense as soon as the fight began. Stangil’s offense was described as a rabid monkey. The man was slashed from shoulder to waist and coins began raining down from the spectators.

The final fight was against a man holding a two-handed five-foot sword. This was a real fight and a worthy adversary. When the fighter knocked Cybil out of Stangil’s hands, Stangil willed Cybil back and changed her form from ax to sword. The crowd was silenced and the fighter looked terrified. They went toe to toe a while longer and it was a good show for the house. Eventually, Stangil had him on his knees and took a slash from Cybil to the back. He blindly swung back and Stangil responded by kicking him in the back of the head, knocking him out. Stangil walked away with a few cuts.

Serafina and Belaric cheered and collected winnings. Stangil only kept his original thousand and gave the rest to Serafina, who seemed not to know what to do with it.

Back at the house, Julian stitched up Stangil while shaking his head.

In the morning, everyone packed and prepared to leave as soon as Stangil and Serafina were done with their lunch meeting.

At the capital building, the same guard, Porter was at the gate. He seemed even more drunk than the evening before and Stangil asked if he and Serafina were related. They did not wait outside long before they were shown to a waiting room within the building. The waiting room contained a large portrait of Tol’Storig that Serafina made faces at while they sat patiently. They were eventually led to a large ballroom with a table set for a meal.

They found their lunch with Tol’Storig unsatisfying. He claimed that a messenger made an error and that is why they were not informed of their meeting with Voranyth in a timely manner. That messenger had been punished accordingly. When inquired, he said the punishment was to be drawn and quartered. Serafina detected insincerity in his story but gladly sat through the fifteen course meal with accompanying cocktails. On their way out, while passing by the waiting room, the portrait of Tol’Storig mysteriously ignited.

The group picked up a job as protection for a merchant caravan headed toward the twin citadels and embarked on their journey to Fey’Oth. The caravan stopped at the citadel and the party decided to head through the mountain pass without an escort. It would take ten days and they did not want to wait around.

Serafina and Stangil spotted a dark shadow on a ridge that seemed to be following them. Serafina “snuck” down the road, grinding rocks beneath her feet as quietly as possible while Stangil snuck up ahead on a ledge. He felt a pointed object in his back and knew it was Akelecth. Meanwhile, Serafina spotted a campfire and three figures up ahead. As she approached she recognized the large one and began running toward it. She gleefully leaped into Shykelith’s arms.

The humans had been reunited with the FimmDrekar.

Game of Dragons
Stories, Sigils, and Statecraft

Weary and vexed, our heroes crested a hill and their eyes settled on the city of Haimir in early evening. Above the city floated the aurora australis, reflecting the many beautiful colors lighting the city. Haimir was the largest city the humans had ever seen, with a population of over one hundred thousand.

Before they reached the closed gates Kraikos said that this is where he parted from them. Soon, they were greeted by an envoy of guards and two carriages. One Drekar stepped forward. He introduced himself as Veruzan, the magister of Haimir.

The exhausted travelers gladly entered the carriages. On their way to their accommodations, they noticed that the gates were closed and the people seemed to be on alert. Elrathia and Serafina asked Veruzan about news from Breakwater, told him of their ambush by the Twisted Men, and asked about the proper etiquette when addressing Archon Toth. Veruzan asked what their names and titles were. When he learned that Serafina did not have a last name he asked, “then why are you here?”

Their accommodations were on Archon Toth’s premises and the humans were well cared for in a comfortable house.

Elrathia and Belaric discussed his plans to make contact with the Taalen’Vost and what was going on with Serafina. Later, Serafina spoke with Belaric. It rapidly devolved into a fight ending with a slammed door and someone shouting, “now who’s acting like a petulant child?!”

The next morning, gifts of a fancy metal box and fancy human alcohol were prepared for Archon Toth. Veruzan came to inform Elrathia and Serafina that they would first be introduced in public court, as a formality. Later, they would have a private lunch meeting with Toth. The court introduction was simple and quick. The two women spent only a few moments speaking formalities with Archon Toth.

Elrathia remained in court to observe. She noticed that at least three of the advisers standing behind Toth were awakened, including Veruzan. She heard many whispers of the impending war.

When lunch came around, she and Serafina were sat at a table with Veruzan, Archon Toth, and his wife. They discussed the “challenging times.” Elrathia asked what the Drekar were fighting over in Aesteryl, to which Toth replied, “power, knowledge, and weapons.” Toth seemed reasonable and straightforward. Toward the end of the meal he asked about Sosyth. The humans explained when they had last seen her, that she was well, and as far as they knew, had been sent to Fey’oth. They also notified him of their encounter with Gauladek. Toth appeared to be trying not to seem interested in this news.

As a token of good faith, he said that he had seven humans to return to them. Elrathia and Serafina quickly realized that these were the humans captured by Eisseth outside of Aesteryl nearly a year ago. With some coaxing, they were able to calm the seven young humans enough to not attack the Drekar and come with them to the house.

Once the seven were safely retrieved, Serafina questioned Briar, who seemed to speak for their little band. There were originally four men and eight women. They were taken through the forest onto a ship, where they fought their captors. Those who resisted were beaten; the four men and one woman were killed. The rest of the journey was disorienting, at best. None of the humans spoke Drekar and the only words that Briar could remember were: Titas, Shaeth, Voranyth, and Toth. She did not know if these were people or places, but Serafina was able to piece together the information to discern that Eisseth had taken them to the closest Archon, Titas. From there they were sent to Shaeth for Voranyth to deal with, and then to Haimir with Toth.

Serafina did her best to teach Briar and company that the Drekar were not monsters, would not harm them, and were not to be attacked unless they attacked first. Elrathia instructed the scribes and teamsters to buddy up with the new humans and keep them out of trouble.

Finally, after the long day of babysitting, Elrathia and Serafina went out to a bar to discuss Toth, Voranyth, Kalloruth, and Belaric. Elrathia bought Serafina a beer when she asked what was happening between her and Belaric. Serafina drank it, gratefully, completely unaware that Elrathia had poisoned it. Elrathia went in search of Belaric while Serafina brought Arianna bar hopping.

Bar hopping didn’t feel the same without Belaric, Stangil, and Julian, so Serafina called it an early night. She hadn’t drank much so she was still clear headed and angry when she went to bed.

Elrathia eventually found Belaric in a fight club, venting his frustration. They had a quick talk and he said that he would come by the house in the morning.

When the crickets ceased their chirping and the birds began their song, so like, just after sunrise… Elrathia awoke and was immediately approached by Serafina. She explained that she had been up sick all night and needed something to make her feel better. Elrathia questioned Serafina, trying to pinpoint the precise ailment (messing with her big time). She suggested that it may be new food, new alcohol, stress about Belaric, or even withdrawal. Serafina was given a remedy but still skipped breakfast.

Soon after, Belaric returned. He notified Elrathia and Serafina that he made contact with the Taalen’Vost. The “big creepy guy with a mask” was on board with assisting the humans. In return for a heads up when something was going to happen or chaos would ensue, they would make sure to take advantage of upsetting the status quo.

Privately, Serafina and Belaric had a heart to heart. She finally apologized for waiting days to tell him about the warning from Somnambuliss, especially after asking him to go on that suicide mission with her and Stangil. All the feels were discussed.

In the following days, the humans waited to hear back from Shaeth, to know if they would be given an audience with Voranyth.

Elrathia wanted to meet with the leader of the Taalen’Vost in Haimir, so Belaric set one up. Elrathia and Serafina were taken along a winding path through the city, into a small stone building, and led to a small room that was filled with heavy sage smoke. Across the small table from them was a large man wearing a black robe and white mask. Elrathia asked him questions, trying to size up his intentions. Ultimately, the Taalen’Vost saw the humans as a means to economic gain. Before they left, the man reached across the table and whispered in Serafina’s ear.

Outside, Elrathia asked Serafina what the man has whispered. “They really do look out for their own,” was her vague response.

Later, Serafina sought out Veruzan to ask if there had been any word from Breakwater. The reply was none for days.

Soon, the humans were given word that Voranyth would see them and they would depart the next day for Shaeth. That night, Elrathia had a foggy dream. Somnambuliss warned her that on the day of the last night of the new moon, not to touch anyone. He also told her not to let a man in a blue shirt pass them on the road to Shaeth. Elrathia asked about Belaric, but was told, “that’s not your business.”

The journey to Shaeth was going to take a few weeks. The humans were given two dozen escorts and carts. A day out, they saw a man approaching, heading from Shaeth toward them. It was Gauladek! He looked weary, but he was well.

Later that evening, coming from Haimir, was a man in a brown shirt carrying a bindle and a lute. He asked to stay within their camp for the night. They felt that he was not dangerous, so they welcomed him. His name was Mirrick. He was a traveling storyteller.

Serafina asked what the sigils on his cloak meant and he explained that they were the crest of each of the archon houses. He had studied and could tell the tales of every sigil on the cloak. When asked what his favorite story was, he told them about House Raith’Gomalon. Raith’Gomalon had previously shared the rain forests with two other houses. A plague had ravaged the two houses for over a hundred years. Generations of the Taalen house (eye of the dragon sigil) and Reikin house (plume of rainbow feathers sigil) died and both houses fell. Raith’Gomalon took advantage of that and seized their lands.

It rained heavily that night and in the morning many of their things were drenched. Mirrick changed into a blue shirt. Elrathia and Serafina, perhaps a little too eagerly, asked Mirrick if he would like to travel with them to Shaeth. They suggested that there was safety in numbers and it would be nice to hear more of his stories. Privately, Elrathia asked Serafina if he might be familiar with a certain friend of theirs.

Serafina asked Mirrick if he was familiar with any stories of the great dragons and what his favorite story was. Surprisingly, he did not choose the Story of the Trickster and the Fool. He told them he enjoyed a story about hubris. Hubris, he said, was the biggest flaw of all the dragons, but in particular, Goraurik’s. Goraurik’s lust for Leopa and his hubris were the two things that brought his fate, and that of the other great dragons.

As they approached Shaeth, they saw that the city was ancient. The oldest parts were carved into the side of a mountain and up, while newer sections sprawled out from the base. It was smaller than Haimir, but still sixty to seventy thousand Drekar dwelt there. They were greeted by the magister of Shaeth, Tol’Storig (a.k.a. Not Namor, a.k.a. Toy Story).

Tol’Storig escorted them to a house and curtly told them that a petition for them to see Voranyth had been submitted. If and when it was approved, they would be given a day’s notice. He did not seem pleased when he spoke to them and beyond saying the proper courtesies, Tol’Storig left.

Serafina and Belaric spent the day wandering around, looking for signs that would lead to the Taalen’Vost. They spent the night drinking with Arianna. Elrathia talked to Mirrick about continuing on with them when they left Voranyth, since he was prone to wanderlust and offered him the opportunity to learn stories of humans. She spent the day and evening with Zeuth and Mirrick. They went from inn to inn where Mirrick did what he did best.

That night, Serafina had a long awaited dream. Somnambuliss said, “I heard you calling.” She did her best to ask very carefully thought out questions. Somnambuliss answered, “Belaric’s death is painful for you… he’s dying for you, not in your place.” Serafina asked when and where it happens, the response, “a world away, in a little town, for a boy.” Somnambuliss played around with the ‘when’ part of the question, saying that it was tricky. He alluded to it being both in the future and in the past. He added, “you can stop it.”

“Is there anything else you can tell us to help us?”
“Wake up early tomorrow. Dress nice. Tell your friends.”

Serafina woke up immediately. It was still the middle of the night. She nudged Belaric awake and told him every detail.

When the toads were issuing their last croaks and a fiery woman rose to practice, or like, just before dawn, Serafina woke Elrathia. Elrathia sat up in bed, uncovered, and Serafina hurriedly told her to get up and dress nice. Only when she saw Mirrick stir in the bed next to Elrathia did Serafina seem flustered.

A young teenage boy arrived with a message presently. He looked alert and a little scared, asking if they were going to their meeting with Voranyth. They were to meet with him in an hour!

(…fuck Not Namor/Toy Story!)

The Ones We Love

Three of the humans were dead, Julian was badly injured, and Stangil was overcome with fury. After slaughtering the horned beast with one swing, Stangil returned to Julian’s side and asked Elrathia, who was still treating him, if he would survive. She said he would.

Belaric and the others built funeral pyres for the fallen; Chantor, Diorn, and Echorn.

As everyone set up camp for the evening, Stangil and Serafina relieved Arianna of the prisoner she had taken. Elrathia asked that they spare his life so she could use him to activate the mirror later that night.

One broken ankle and one shattered wrist later, the prisoner was left for Elrathia. Stangil and Serafina learned that there would be more ambushes ahead on route to Haimir. They also discovered that the Twisted Men were now organized and followed a leader by the name of Goruug. Stangil and Serafina decided to seek out Goruug before more bands found them. Their plan was to find him, kill him, and hopefully the followers would be too intimidated to retaliate. Neither Elrathia nor Kraikos wished to accompany them on what was considered a suicide mission. Arianna wanted to remain by Julian’s side.

They found Belaric around the campfire with Abrahm, Bremen, and Farn, telling stories to remember the fallen. Abrahm was shaken by the events and asked if they would be better off turning around and going with the Fimm Drekar. Serafina told him that there was no turning back and Stangil pointed out that not all adventures are happy tales. After sundown, Belaric set off with Stangil and Serafina, in search of Goruug.

Belaric tracked through the night and by noon the next day, the trio caught up with a patrol of half a dozen Twisted Men. They laid a trap. Belaric lay in waiting atop a ledge while Serafina and Stangil walked up behind the patrol eating lunch. Once they were noticed, Stangil asked to be taken to Goruug. The patrol looked to the one with the sword, who spoke for the rest. He seemed disinclined to acquiesce. Serafina said, “either you can all take us, or one of you can take us.” After a second round of asking politely, the leader gestured to the archer in the group but before he could do more than raise his bow, Stangil said, “Belaric.”

All they could see was fletching sticking out of the archer’s neck. The leader grabbed his sword and immediately stopped. He staggered in place, his skin sweat and almost boiled, and his eyes popped. “Too much?” Serafina turned and asked Stangil.

The four remaining Twisted were terrified. One of them offered to take them, but not with the others. Stangil easily dispatched of the three others, leaving only the one. The trio followed the Twisted blood-traitor the rest of the day. Upon evening, Serafina noticed that they were being watched and the trackers had gone from three to two. They approached a figure in the path, who addressed the Twisted man, asking why he had brought strangers. Their guide began to explain but was shot with an arrow mid-sentence. The new guide instructed them to follow him.

As they crested the hill, they saw a large encampment with nearly a thousand men. The Twisted men at each camp appeared to be from different factions and each more primitive than any other race the humans had ever encountered. Each time the humans walked past a campfire, Serafina made the flames rise. Murmurs followed them. Fear. “Outsiders.”

They arrived at a tent in the center of the bivouac and were told to wait outside for a moment. Their guide reappeared and told them to enter. Once inside, they saw a large figure kneeling over a bowl, swishing the contents over a fire. Above him, nailed to two beams, was a Twisted man with his guts trailing into the bowl. Stangil and Serafina saw a dark purple aura about the kneeling figure. A few moments passed before he stood and greeted them.

Goruug was 6’6", with the head of an unfamiliar yet horrifying creature. He asked if they had eaten, and gestured for them to sit around a small table. He sliced meat off of a hanging animal and lightly cooked the outside. They began to talk.

Stangil and Serafina briefed Goruug on the attack that befell their group and how they had learned that he had organized the Twisted men. Goruug asked what their intentions were, coming to him. They said that they were impressed by his ability to unite such people and that they saw the advantage in befriending a man like him. Goruug said that he united the tribes with, “murder, blood, and a promise for a better tomorrow,” adding, “we all hate them.” Them being, the more familiar Drekar. Serafina noticed that Goruug did not seem taken aback by humans at all. She and Stangil made several attempts to ask about “mutual friends,” foresight, and dragons, to no avail.

The humans asked for safe passage to Archon Toth in Haimir. Goruug asked for a weapon in exchange, to which Stangil agreed. Goruug said that if the humans kept their word about wanting to destroy the dragons Voranyth and Kalloruth, they would have his partnership. Goruug then asked the humans their names and sent them on their way with a guide to intercept their traveling companions.

Meanwhile, the first evening that Stangil, Serafina, and Belaric were away, Elrathia sacrificed the detained Twisted man to use the mirrors. She was relieved to be able to speak with Aristos. However, her sacrifice was so strong, that Aristos reached his hand through the mirror and pulled her to the other side. They spent some time together before she had to return.

On the second evening, the suicide squad returned. Kraikos said that neither Goruug, nor any of the Twisted “abominations” (as he called them) were to be trusted. Elrathia seemed upset at the alliance that had been forged and stormed away from the conversation.

Stangil visited Julian while Serafina and Belaric went off into the woods to smoke some of the herbs that Ptleamur had given Serafina when they departed from Kuskarosa. Julian asked Stangil if he had dispatched Goruug and looked almost hurt when Stangil filled him in. Stangil insisted that this ensured their safe travels and that no more harm would come to Julian.

The next morning, Belaric appeared upset and in a hurry to get the troupe moving again. Serafina asked him what was wrong and he in turn asked, “who is Ptleamur? You were moaning his name last night.” Stunned, she explained that he had been teaching her how to unlock her magic in Kuskarosa. She also chose that moment to tell Belaric about Somnambuliss’s prophecy before they departed from Breakwater. “That was five days ago,” he said before he turned to walk away.

Later in the day, when Serafina had an opportunity to speak with Elrathia alone on the path, she requested that Elrathia take the bag of herbs for safe keeping. Elrathia questioned why Serafina would give this up because it had only helped her and asked," wouldn’t you do anything to enhance your powers?" Serafina tried to make it clear that she was growing more drawn to them and that she wanted to find a way to explore her magic without the use of a strong substance. In the end, Elrathia convinced Serafina to keep the herbs.

That night, Elrathia awoke in a foggy dream. Somnambuliss came to her to make a deal. He informed her that he had tried to prevent their attack on the road by appealing to Kraikos. He then asked her, “would you really do anything to enhance your powers?” Elrathia asked Somnambuliss what deal he had in mind. He wanted her to murder someone in exchange for information that would save their lives. She amended the terms to exclude murdering her children, Adlei, or Aristos.

Somnambuliss told her to walk 3,700 steps forward, 2,200 steps west, and 400 steps south. Then, instructed her to set the tree she came upon on fire. She could not enlist the help of Serafina for this task. He told Elrathia to bring someone she trusted and that this would lead her to the information he promised.

Before sunrise, Elrathia woke Belaric, told Zeuth that they would be back in a few hours, and set off.

Elrathia found the tree. It was not a Heart Tree, but it was alive and magical. She used Belaric’s flask to douse the tree and lit it on fire. As she watched it burn, she felt prickling on her arms and face. Suddenly, she realized that it was from the falling leaves. Tens of thousands of leaves were swarming her and biting. She could barely see Belaric through them. They cut through her clothes and their ichor leeched her strength. Her insides burned with an unworldly toxin. Elrathia thought she was running away, but was only staggering from muscle spasms.

Twelve hours had passed since Serafina and Stangil set on the road. They noticed Elrathia and Belaric were missing in the morning, but Zeuth had assured them that Elrathia would return within a few hours. They trusted that she would be safe with Belaric and waited for the better part of the day. As dusk drew near, they worried.

Serafina, Arianna and Abrahm backtracked for several hours before they saw Belaric, stumbling along the path, carrying Elrathia over his shoulder. Despite being incapacitated and in much pain, it looked like Elrathia would recover. Arianna carried her back with Abrahm at her side.

Belaric was still struggling to walk. Serafina asked if he was okay and he said that he was but closer inspection of the swollen lump on his arm showed that he had been nicked and was poisoned from one of the leaves. She quickly made a remedy for him and they walked together, slowly. Neither said anything about their fight the previous day.

That night, suffering immensely, Elrathia had another dream. Somnambuliss offered to heal her in exchange for her friendship. She refused. Elrathia asked for the information that he promised her and once again, Somnambuliss skirted questioning. He said that she would receive it when she needed it.

In the morning Elrathia awoke with the same pain. Stangil noticed a difference in her aura, assuring her that whatever she thought of Somnambuliss, he had just made her stronger.

That day, the humans finally made it to Haimir.

Friend is a Four Letter Word
Let's Be Friends

As the Dark Lady left the island of Kuskarosa and navigated to open water, our heroes emerged from the fog. Not only did they feel like their powers had returned to normal, they also felt more like themselves. The fog had disoriented and detached their thoughts as well as their magic.

A week into the journey, the ship stopped abruptly in the night. Elrathia awoke and could feel no swelling of waves or rocking of ship. Above deck, Seripathia, crew, Elrathia, Stangil, and Serafina saw that time itself had paused. The ship was frozen at an upward angle, the distended waves were stretched but not crashing. The surface of the water was hard.

Something bumped the ship, tilting it further and throwing some of the crew onto the the water. A dragon flying above the clouds dipped below them and lurched toward the ship. A sea serpent came out of the water and battled the dragon.

When asked what was going on, Seripathia answered, “it’s a memory.” Stangil and several crew members hacked at the sea serpant’s tentacles on the ship. After several moments, both creatures faded and time resumed. The ship swayed and Elrathia was thrown overboard into the again rolling ocean. She and others were retrieved, but a few were lost.

Seripathia explained that scenes like this played out before sailors, but never before with this intensity. They believed that it had something to do with the humans being aboard.

For most of the voyage, Stangil remained in his room with Julian, preferring to stay out of Seripathia’s path.

Elrathia, when not violently seasick, enjoyed the company of Seripathia and the two had a long conversation.

Belaric pulled Serafina aside and revealed a plan he hatched to uncover Seripathia’s suspected tattoo. Unsure about the plan’s effectiveness, Serafina asked him to wait and promised to try to speak with Seripathia one more time.

Again, a conversation with Seripathia proved frustrating and useless to Serafina. She gave Belaric the signal to go ahead if he was still determined.

Sometime later, Belaric knocked on Serafina’s door. He had a cut below his eye and a bloody nose. He had seduced Seripathia and taken ipecac to induce sickness as an excuse to leave. The dose was far too powerful and an unexpected suddenness overcame him. He was, however, successful in his mission and relayed that Seripathia bore the tattoo for Somnambuliss. Serafina seemed to take the most enjoyment hearing that he had thrown up on Seripathia.

While Serafina cleaned Belaric up, Seripathia paid Elrathia a visit. Enraged at the disrespect and betrayal that Belaric had displayed, she demanded that disciplinary action be taken and that Belaric remain in his cabin for the remainder of the trip.

After three weeks at sea, sailing around the coast, they came upon the port town of Breakwater. Seripathia said goodbye to the humans. Stangil and Serafina were eager to leave. Kalamos, the portmaster, greeted them happily. He was very hospitable as he showed them to his villa where they were given rooms, fresh fruit, refreshing drinks, running water, and personal servants.

Presently, they were revived and ready to explore the market. Elrathia, Serafina, Stangil, Belaric, and Arianna went out. Serafina brought her servant, Piala. They bought silk, linen, candy, fruit, and all manner of foreign and interesting goods. Just as in Kuskarosa, the Drekar eyed them with wonder and suspicion. The mysterious humans stood out.

They split up to pursue different objectives. Belaric, Serafina, and Arianna explored various bars. Stangil went to the smithy to talk shop with the blacksmith, Borund. Elrathia ran an errand and returned to the villa to have dinner with Kalamos and his family. She asked about Archon Toth and learned a little about the Toth family.

Arianna was asked to leave an establishment after having sliced the ear off a patron who had invaded her space. Shortly after that, Stangil met upw ith Serafina and Belaric. Shots were lined up on the bar and Serafina lit them on fire, with more steadiness and accuracy than she had in Voltierra. The bar went silent when Elrathia appeared in the doorway, dressed to the nines. That silence was broken when Stangil and Serafina cheered and invited her over to drink with them.

Unbeknownst to our heroes, from the moment they had stepped off the Dark Lady, they had been followed. Their stalker, Kraikos, and twelve of his aides had observed them all day.

Stangil overheard two off-duty guards discussing a Fey’oth fleet approaching and the port being locked down. Quickly, he, Elrathia, and Serafina devised a plan to uncover more information at the lighthouse. The drunken guard was obstinate about taking them to the lighthouse when Kraikos stepped in.

Kraikos offered to help the humans get to the lighthouse. Blinded by the emergency, no one paused to inquire about Kraikos’s potential motives. On the way, Elrathia stopped to warn Seripathia about the Fey’oth ships.

The lighthouse guards were tough to convince and in the interest of time, the humans accepted that only Elrathia and Serafina would be allowed to the top while a message was sent to Kalamos asking for permission. The two women could not discern a dot in the sky for Laredyth, but instinct told them that the Fimm Drekar were probably in the fleet.

Back on the ground, they discussed which of them should meet the fleet in open water and negotiate to spare bloodshed. It was decided that Serafina had the best rapport with Shykelith and Belaric had likeability so they would go alone.

Kalamos agreed to loan a small skiff and skeleton crew for Serafina and Belaric. He had the port opened for them and after they exited, Seripathia and the Dark Lady sailed south.

As the skiff drew closer to the Fey’oth fleet, the crew became visibly nervous. The Fey’othean war ships towered over their small vessel. One ship was adorned with a black five-pointed star on a white field, indicating the Fimm Drekar. Serafina directed the captain to approach that ship carefully as the other Fey’othean ships positioned themselves in an arc around the small craft.

Serafina and Belaric paddled a small rowboat to the large ship and boarded. Serafina was pleasantly relieved to be face to face with Shykelith once again. Skykelith grabbed her up in a giant hug and Serafina knew they were safe for the moment.

Shykelith informed her that there was open conflict between the two nations over the human city Aesteryl. Serafina explained that they had been taken to Kuskarosa and made a promise to go to Archon Toth. They intended to keep their word and then make their way to Fey’oth to meet with Kalloruth. This news disappointed Shykelith because she wanted to take the humans with her to keep safe again but she seemed to understand duty. She let Serafina know that no matter what, the town’s fate had been decided. Serafina entreated Shykelith to leave the innocent people of the town unharmed, but it did not move her. Shykelith gave Serafina one day to discuss with Elrathia and Stangil.

Before Serafina and Belaric departed, a familiar furry face bounded out to greet them. Naoira had grown into a gangly, awkward cat but remembered Serafina. Shykelith also offered to return the human’s belongings that had been left behind when Seripathia captured them. Serafina only took the half that was intended for Voranyth and explained that the tribute for Kalloruth would not be diminished.

A quick discussion with Elrathia and Stangil revealed their collective resolve to fulfill their word to Reikasha and travel to Archon Toth, quickly. Kalamos was warned but stubbornly refused to evacuate the town. There was no easy path to safety and many would die en route. He was going to remain and instruct the town’s defenses. Before leaving, Stangil stopped by the smithy to warn Borund. Borund’s only request was to speak with Belaric before they departed.

Serafina and Stangil decided to attempt contacting Somnambuliss and went to bed. Both awoke in a heavy fog and neither were surprised to see Somnambuliss sitting in the corner of the room. They asked for his guidance, whether he preferred they travel to Toth, then Voranyth, or join the Fimm Drekar. Somnambuliss said that he wanted them to choose. He removed them from the tapestry of fate so that he would not know what happened to them. Serafina took this to mean that they were merely his entertainment and asked, “why did you choose us?” Somnambuliss answered that he had chosen thousands throughout time. Feeling even less special, Serafina deferred to Stangil for the remainder of the dream. Somnambuliss changed the topic and asked how Julian was. He followed up by asking Serafina about Belaric. At her curt reply, he said, “does it matter that he dies for you?” Stangil was tenacious in his attempts to obtain guidance but to no avail.

As soon as Stangil and Serafina awoke, there were knocks on their doors and Kraikos’s men informed them that the group was ready to depart. Kraikos led his men and the human party east toward the mountains. There were four strangers with them; a woman and three teenagers. They were Borund’s family.

On the road, Stangil found Serafina distanced from the rest of the pack and pledged to do whatever he could to protect Belaric. Elrathia and Belaric also sought to understand why Serafina was brooding (again) but were both brushed off. In the meantime, attempting to right some impropriety and hastiness, Kraikos handed Elrathia, Stangil, Serafina, Arianna and Belaric offerings he had bought the day before. Not only had he been gathering information about them, he had tried to choose appropriate gifts.

The first night after leaving Breakwater, Kraikos had a dream. Somnambuliss came to him and warned of danger foreseen on their journey to Archon Toth. He offered Kraikos assistance in return for friendship. Kraikos seemed tempted by the offer, but declined when asked to kneel. He resisted the friendship and refused Somnambuliss.

The next day, Serafina told Elrathia about her part of the conversation with Somnambuliss. Elrathia tried to assuage her by offering alternative interpretations and suggesting that perhaps Serafina had the power to change it, given her removal from the tapestry of fate.

At this time, it occured to our heroes that they had blindly trusted Kraikos without learning anything about him. They discovered that he was the second son of Desrond Toth, Gauladek was his elder brother, and Sosyth was his younger sister. They told Kraikos of their encounters with his siblings and the last they knew of Gauladek and Sosyth’s whereabouts.

Arrows flew at them. Caught off guard, several members of the party, including Julian, were hit. Six archers were on the hill above them to the left and six more on the right. A monster, fourteen feet high was barrelling down on them. Stangil protected Julian, providing cover, while calling Elrathia to aid. An arrow entered Julian’s neck and angled down into his chest. Serafina quickly put up a wall of fire between the travelers and the archers and beast on the right. Belaric shot at the archers on the left. Arianna ran through the wall of fire and began slicing at the other archers. Kraikos and his men ran up the hill on the left and took out a few more.

The beast ran through the wall of fire. Serafina channelled combustion and he changed course toward her. Elrathia continued treating Julian while Stangil charged the monster. It was mid-stride when Stangil used it’s knee to boost himself higher up, jumping and swinging his axe down on it’s shoulder. In a single hit, the blade struck and dug down through ribs.

The others quickly dispatched the rest of the archers and Arianna dragged one back alive. Kraikos was somewhat taken aback by the sheer power the humans possessed.

Stangil returned to Julian’s side and Elrathia asked if he could remove the arrowhead. Speaking to the metal, Stangil was able to extract the arrow piercing Julian’s spine. Julian lived. Three others died.


It's About Time
Leaving Kuskarosa

The next morning, Elrathia and Serafina met Stangil at breakfast. They informed him of the deal with Seripathia, to which he was (unsurprisingly) not thrilled with. Serafina asked Stangil to inspect the necklace that Braeden had given her and content with his response, chose to wear it.

After breakfast, Elrathia told Serafina that she wanted to introduce her to someone who could potentially help focus her power. They met with Ptleamur, who offered to help Serafina. In a private room, they “opened their minds” and Serafina took her first step toward accepting herself and her powers.

While the women were busy experimenting with hallucinogens, Stangil met with Reikasha to apologize for the events in the cavern and to ask if Reikasha would examine his tattoo. They sparred for a while after their conversation.

Ptleamur informed Serafina that he would continue to work with her, but that she would need to return every day. She thanked him and then she and Elrathia left for Reikasha’s home. En route, they had a discussion wherein Elrathia asked a number of questions regarding Roash and then about Serafina’s relationship with Belaric.

Once at Reikasha’s, Serafina took a moment to ask if there were books or someone to speak to in town regarding learning symbology or how to interpret dreams. Reikasha loaned her a book and said that he would send her information about a woman in town. Serafina took her leave and Elrathia began her magic lesson.

Following Elrathia’s lesson, Stangil arrived to have his tattoo read. Reikasha once again toiled and drew symbols for several hours. Stangil learned that he too was protected from dragon magic (even from Somnambuliss), had been removed from the tapestry of fate and was immune to many outside influences.

Meanwhile, Serafina had a heart to heart with Belaric. She apologized for acting rashly the night before when Seripathia got under her skin and admitted that it was because she loved him. She also disclosed her conversation with Elrathia and expressed Elrathia’s concerns with him.

Stangil and Elrathia left Reikasha’s and began discussing, for the first time since it had been asked, his question to Leopa. Stangil learned that five of the eggs belonged to one set of dragon parents while the sixth came from a different set of parents. All six, if hatched in the presence of the wrong person, will be uncontrolled and kill. One must hatch in the presence of someone from a long lineage of power, who has chosen to give up that mantle in the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. The other five must hatch in the presence of someone killing another of their own kind for the first time. Stangil had spent the week digesting this information and attempting to formulate a list of people who should hatch the eggs.

Stangil and Elrathia found Seripathia at her usual tavern with Serafina, Belaric, and Julian. Within moments, Seripathia had unnerved Serafina. Serafina whispered something to Seripathia and walked, irately, out of the building. It was not long before Seripathia exasperated Stangil and he, too, left the establishment with Julian trailing. Elrathia and Belaric remained with Seripathia and her crew. At one point, Elrathia suggested to Belaric that it might be easy for him to get a glimpse of the dragon tattoo that they suspected Seripathia had, since she had consistently dodged all forward questions regarding the issue.

Back at their home base, Serafina sat at the bar and ordered some drinks. She was surprised to find herself joined by Ptleamur. She asked him about his experiences as they drank. A messenger arrived with a note for Serafina. It was from Reikasha and told her to seek out Miriam. She handed the boy messenger one of her drinks and proceeded to talk with Ptleamur. He offered her another chance to open her mind and explore more but she declined.

Outside, Stangil had been making his way back but a drunken Drekar bumped into him. This resulted in some harsh words toward an already annoyed Stangil. A third, and rather large, man stepped in and suggested that an apology and a drink would suffice. Stangil offered drinks but more snide comments stemmed a physical altercation. A small crowd watched as Stangil and the large man fought until the man was on the ground. Stangil helped him up and offered him a drink. They introduced themselves and that’s how Stangil met Suerreg.

One by one, everyone returned to the inn. As Elrathia returned, she petitioned for Serafina to try to get along with Seripathia. Serafina promised that she would, again, begrudgingly. As the last of them made their way upstairs, Arianna was coming down for her morning practice.

The next afternoon, Serafina did seek out Miriam of the Midnight Lady. Miriam posed a deal with Serafina. If Serafina murdered the current captain of the Midnight Lady, Miriam would teach her how to interpret visions. Serafina passed.

She also remembered her promise to Elrathia and that night found Seripathia once more. This time it went somewhat better. Elrathia stopped by briefly to put in a good word for Suerreg and left again to find Belaric. Serafina and Seripathia agreed to trade stories. Seripathia entertained Serafina’s curiosity about how she knew to find their sinking ship. In return, Serafina told Seripathia how she came to be stabbed, leaving out the name of Cernnunos.

Our heroes sank into a routine. Until their departure, each of them did their best to stay out of trouble. Stangil spent his time peacefully with Julian and sparred with Reikasha. Elrathia attended her lessons with Reikasha. Serafina attended her sessions with Ptleamur.

The night before they were to take their leave, Stangil and Serafina had dreams. Stangil was transported in his dream to Rondall. They spoke and Rondall assured his father of his safety. Serafina was brought back to a memory that she had forgotten, with her son, Bael. Bael had awoken from a nightmare and she comforted and sang him back to sleep.

The next morning they discussed bringing a token of appreciation to Desrond Toth. Belaric pulled a large sack of jewels onto the table, offering to help. He had spent all of his free time winning card games. Elrathia renewed her concerns about Belaric and Serafina on a ship with Seripathia.

Reikasha, Braeden, and Ptleamur all showed up at the dock to say their farewells and wish the group luck.

The adventurers noticed that the ship had been completely transformed in the time they were on Kuskarosa. It was now, truly, Seripathia’s Dark Lady. There was also a new member of the crew, a familiar face, Suerreg.

There Are No Secrets That Time Does Not Reveal

After the events that took place in the cavern, the humans and their traveling companions were instructed not to leave their domicile. When one week had passed, a summon was sent from Reikasha, to which Elrathia and Serafina complied.

Elrathia and Serafina were led into the ship where Reikasha resided but before they broke words he commanded, “follow me,” stood up, and walked away. He led them outside and to the mausoleum that Elrathia recognized from their previous race. This time he pricked his finger (instead of slashing his hand open) and drew sigils until the door opened. The three took the portal into the cavern.

Once inside, Elrathia noticed a change. They were walking through a series of wards about thirty feet in diameter. When Reikasha reached the edge, he advised them to stop. Serafina and Elrathia stopped while Reikasha pulled a chair to the outer edge of the ward and sat. He then said, “explain.”

Elrathia told Reikasha about the two dragons known to the humans; Somnambuliss and Elynsinias. Serafina explained how she was sworn to Somnambuliss and why she and Stangil had entered the cavern.

Reikasha then asked, “can I trust you?” Both women plead their cases and convinced him that they could be trusted and meant him no harm. Reikasha used a staff to smear the concentric circles of wards and release them. Walking toward the cavern entrance where they could see the “view” that Somnambuliss installed a week prior. Through this window they could see many flying animals, birds, cats, even dragons. One in particular flew by the window and tears streamed down Elrathia’s face, it was so beautiful.

They were gestured toward a low table where Reikasha brought food and began to ask the many questions that they had been achingly curious about. They learned that the window was a one-way portal to the past, a time in the world when there were two moons and dragons ruled the chaotic lands. Reikasha had no desire to return to that time, as he was a different person now and would not belong. He did not know why Somnambuliss created this or what his intentions were with the world today. Somnambuliss had once offered Leopa a part in his plans, but she had declined. Goraurik had changed the world when he was tricked into convincing one moon to eat another. The world became more docile, other races appeared, the dragon war began and ended. Leopa fell to her two children, Kalloruth and Voranyth, and that is how Reikasha got his deep scars.

Reikasha said that he believes that humans will change the world and swore his support to their race. His intentions have always been to keep Kalloruth and Voranyth at odds, allowing neither to make peace with the other because that would be the end of all other races. By maintaining balance, he kept their potentially catastrophic cumulative power at bay. Reikasha wishes for dragons never to return to power and for the world to be in the hands of the other races. He also warned that Goraurik’s body remained somewhere in the world, but he knew not where.

Elrathia and Serafina learned about the two opposing factions. The Shaeth Empire was ruled by Voranyth, who preferred to guide more than govern. Shaeth was divided amongst five arkon families. Fey’Oth was ruled more actively by Kalloruth and protected by the Fimm Drekar. Reikasha then informed them that he would be sending Sosyth Toth to her lover in Fey’Oth and the humans to Arkon Desrond Toth.

Serafina asked about the Taalen’Vost. It was explained that they were originally founded to foster knowledge and learning. The brotherhood became a bastardized cabal full of individuals seeking only to advance themselves and member interests. They were controlled by a small group called the Tribunal. Membership is typically a lengthy process during which pledges prove their worth and loyalty. It was found to be unusual that Belaric was approached and inducted so quickly.

Elrathia showed Reikasha a sketch of Cernunnos’s tattoo, which he identified as Goraurik. When she began asking about dragon eggs, of which little information could be discerned, Serafina looked distracted and somewhat disturbed.

After leaving the cavern, Serafina explained to Elrathia that she had spoken with Somnambuliss, or what she thought to be a Somnambuliss from another time. He had mentioned that he was glad to see that she was alive again and when asked what that meant, he matter-of-factly said, “the fire that killed you years ago.” From then on, he skirted the conversation.

Serafina had confided in Elrathia the week prior that twenty years ago her home had caught on fire, trapping and killing her husband and young son. Serafina’s question to Leopa had been, “what happened the night my family was killed in the fire?” The answer had stated that a man named Roash, known previously to work for Cyth and currently in the employ of Aristos, had set the hut on fire. He ensured that Serafina’s husband, Eliah, and son, Bael, perished, but he had dragged Serafina to safety. This new information that she, too, had met her demise and was yet alive was disorienting. Twenty years of guilt now turned to anger and confusion.

Back at the inn, Serafina explained all of it to Belaric. He expressed frustration at always being left out of the loop and all of the secrets (almost as if he were an NPC). Serafina promised that from now on, he would be kept informed.

Meanwhile, Elrathia, accompanied by Zeuth, ventured into the marsh to use the magic mirror to contact Aristos. Not only was it to no avail, she awoke to a scuffle and a bleeding beast upon her. Seripathia and a handful of her men were there. It was unclear what had transpired, but that Seripathia believed she had done Elrathia a favor, slaughtering this animal on her. She and her small band left Elrathia bewildered. Returning to the inn, Elrathia threw a chair across her room in a rage. Seconds later her door was kicked in. Arianna stood in the doorway with a look of concern. Elrathia waved her off and went to bed.

Subsequently and elsewhere, Serafina expressed to Belaric an interest in meeting his contacts in the Taalen’Vost, to gauge their helpfulness. She also warned him of what she had learned from Reikasha about the curious swiftness of his initiation. Both of them at this point were a few drinks in and it sounded like a good idea to go right then. Belaric led her to a nicer establishment where they were let into the back room and sat down to speak with Braeden Brightburn.

Braeden treated them to drinks. They were presented with small shot glasses, carefully balanced, full to the brim with a dark liquid and something swimming inside. The trio took their shots and began to talk. Braeden did not seem to appreciate Serafina’s curiosity and was standoffish when responding to her questions. When he asked Serafina where they were to travel he caught her in a lie and promptly left. Dejected and angry, Serafina returned to the inn with Belaric.

Thoughts turned from annoyance to curiosity when they began discussing how grotesque the drink was and wondered how Elrathia would respond to it. The liquid was a poison, which the serpent would neutralize, if it did not first die. Curious about her immunity to substances, they went to her room and knocked on the door. Broken, it swung slowly open. Serafina and Belaric entered the room with concern and a grumpy Elrathia awoke. They also noticed a pile of bloody clothes on the floor and demanded to know if she was okay and what had ensued. Elrathia, in turn, noticed that the tattoo on Belaric’s wrist disappeared. Belaric was confused. He could see the tattoo, but the others could not. Elrathia explained what had happened to her that night and the three broke plans to find and speak to Seripathia and Braeden the next day.

An hour before dawn, or an hour after they all went to sleep, depending on how one looks at it, Elrathia woke Serafina and Belaric. Groggy, and perhaps still a little drunk, they went to the pier to find Seripathia at the Serpent’s Grace. Crew member Baldingdickface was less than gracious while they waited and again when they were turned away.

At the inn again, Serafina and Belaric spotted Braeden at the bar. He was looking for them and brought a gift to apologize to Serafina for his reaction the previous evening. It was Serafina who thought she owed the apology but Braeden presented her with a beautiful necklace with rolling green waves dotted with sapphires and pearls.

Presently, Serafina and Elrathia made their way to Reikasha’s. He had agreed to teach Elrathia some magic of the Drekar and to see what he could determine of Serafina’s tattoo. For over six hours, Reikasha toiled over Serafina. He traced the tattoo with a razor and rubbed ash in runic patterns around her body, spiraling out from her heart. When he was finished, she asked what he had picked up. Reikasha explained that it protected her from dragon magic. It was put there by Somnambuliss, but he did not know how long ago. She was protected from the tapestry of fate and may be able to glimpse the future or past. Serafina explained that she had once received a vision but was unable to decipher it. Reikasha said that with the study of symbology and addressing personal fears and regrets, she could train herself to understand the visions. Serafina returned to the inn while Elrathia practiced magic with Reikasha.

Later, Elrathia found Seripathia at a bar, enjoying drink and entertainment. The establishment was large with bands playing music on three consecutive floors, all open to the entrance below. Seripathia and Elrathia had a productive conversation. Seripathia told her story to Elrathia including how she grew up in the streets and was early on sold to pirates for entertainment. Lasting an astonishing ten years, she eventually tired of being in the control of others and found herself a captain. Elrathia learned that she knew Eisseth and agreed to an exchange for more information. They broke a deal that allowed Seripathia to be the captain that escorted the humans off of Kuskarosa. In return, she revealed that Eisseth had been sent on a mission for Voranyth. She alluded to “fate” a couple of times when she referred to their serendipitous meeting on the sea.

On her way out of the bar, Elrathia spotted Baldingdickface haggling with a young girl over price. She handed the girl some coins, pulled her back, and yanked the stool out from under the man. Despite the advantage of sobriety, Elrathia was struggling to land a hit on the drunken man. A large bystander stepped in to aid. He slammed the man’s head into his raised knee, knocking several teeth out. Elrathia bought the large man a drink and left.

Upon finding Belaric and Serafina, Elrathia explained their new arrangement with Seripathia and that she suspected Seripathia of being sworn to a dragon. The amalgamation of Serafina’s curiosity and inebriation led to the idea of bar hopping until they found Elrathia one of those dark shots. First, they went to speak with Seripathia.

Serafina brought Seripathia a drink as an olive branch to open communication. Seripathia was gracious and showed an interest in becoming friends. However, she segued away from all of Serafina’s attempts to discuss dragons and made several attempts to catch Belaric’s attention. Nearby, the large man introduced himself to Elrathia and offered to buy her a drink. His name was Suerreg and he was a pirate aboard the Iron Lady. Elrathia introduced him to the others; apparently, this equated to hanging out with rock stars. Five shots of the serpent drink were ordered and Seripathia toasted, “to old friends and new friends.” Serafina added, “and mutual friends.” Seripathia brazenly asked Serafina if she had a family or any loved ones. When it was clear that she had struck a nerve, she ordered five more shots. As the shots arrived, Seripathia insisted Serafina make the toast. “To our loved ones.” They all drank.

Uncomfortable with Seripathia’s increasingly aggressive glances toward Belaric, Serafina made effort to leave. Seripathia asked Belaric to stay a little longer so they could talk. Serafina interjected, insisting that she needed Belaric’s help to walk Elrathia home. Oblivious, Suerreg swooped Elrathia up, leaving Serafina and Belaric empty handed. Silently enraged, Serafina made her way toward the door. Glancing back, she saw Belaric whisper something to Seripathia, Seripathia respond, Belaric turn to leave, and Seripathia wink at her.

Once they were outside, Serafina vented, “I want to smack the smirk off her face and rip her purple hair out of her scalp!”

Belaric shouted, “I knew it was a trap!”

Elrathia let Suerreg know that she did not require assistance back to her room and he was ever the polite gentleman.

Sometime before dawn they all returned to their lodging feeling a mixture of irritation and exhaustion.


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