My old journal, along with most of my possessions, are now in the hands of some unscrupulous thief, or the merchants and black marketeers he fenced his stolen goods to. Most of the events it chronicled are inconsequential, my first travels away from my Father’s protective shadow and experiences in these northern lands of war and savagery. My feelings towards these environs are mixed, as a well-traveled scholar my father had more than a passing interest in the skymetal artifacts and alien things in Numeria. He also had no interest in dealing with or exposing our family to the knotted mess of paranoid ignorant barbarians and paranoid miserly mages who live in the debris-littered steppes and plains.
I am getting ahead of myself. I began in Brevoy, I had intended to travel as a merchant, profit less important than experience, along the established trade routes and known paths, seeing new things and new people. Many may be crude and ignorant, but the people of these lands have as much potential for goodness and greatness as any, and there is always something out there to surprise you.
Speaking of surprises, it seems I was operating on outdated information. Roads and towns that were safe when last we left this continent are quite dangerous now. This should not surprise me; it was 40 years and time moves fast among the quick-blooded, but here we are. The trade caravan I was with (and the village it was resupplying at) was hit fast and hard by a force of raiders from Numeria. They were not men of the Technic League, but they were tied to it all the same. Their leader, an impressively large gnoll with a metal arm and a (doubtless stolen) Dwarven Waraxe of Adamantine led a charge that captured or killed most of us. I was beaten, stripped of my possessions, and thrown in a cage with the remaining few lucky survivors.
With few exceptions, everything that was not burned was stolen. Our goods were boxed and sent away to some town, I believe it was Chesed, where the black and gray markets mingle. We were taken towards Starfall for rape, torture, sale, and eventual death at the hands of the horrible monsters that run this country. I did not care for this outcome, so I began working on an alternative.
After carving a symbol to Father Apsu and quietly, secretly healing and preparing my fellow captives, I magically suggested our night watchman take a brief nap when the rest of the slavers were at rest, dinner, and recreation. From there it was a simple matter to lift his keys, slip out of the cage, and slit his throat with his own dagger.
Of course, even when fortified with the blessings of the divine, sneaking is not a natural skill, especially to the folk I was imprisoned with. While opening other cages, we were spotted by one of the more-sober slavers, an alarm was raised, and though our guard was kind enough to leave an enchanted weapon to me in the will he did not write, none of us were particularly skilled with mace and shield.
We fought and ran, I used magical darkness and fire to create distractions as best I could. Surprise may have been on our side, but little else was, and for every raider killed in our flight, they killed at least another two of us.
I am not proud of or pleased with that, but as Zex always says, “change what you can, abide what you cannot.”
The 5 of us that escaped with our lives and freedom followed the river. Though it took several days we eventually came to the settlement of Torch, easily recognizable by the great pillar of purple flame that shoots endlessly into the sky. We entered town ragged, but bearing enough stolen magic to get us back on our feet.
My hand is still shaking a bit, I think I am still a bit shaken up by this experience, and the fact I might be relatively safe again.
A new day, and new successes. The local expert of all things magical is a mage of some skill named Khonnir. He helped me find a buyer for the mace and shield, and while it involved quite a bit of wheeling and dealing, my 4 fellow survivors have a place to stay and seem to be stable. I do not know what the future holds for them, they lost everything, but they are alive, and Councilwoman…Dolga? seems to have some experience in taking care of lost lambs. Hopefully they will survive this experience, but I lack the skill (or temperament) to influence such things. At the very least, some donations and fund establishments will keep them looked after for the immediate future.
Khonnir and I hit it off quite well. He is, in many ways, like my father. He even has my father’s not-particularly-secret interest in worlds beyond. Zex often spoke of other life among the stars, and while he tried to keep it a secret I believe this interest came from personal experience. He would not say it, but I am quite certain he wanted to come to Numeria and investigate the ruins from beyond. I simply presented too much of a responsibility to go endangering our little family in such places.
Khonnir has told me more about the magical ruins that dot the lands. He tells me, (and my own senses see it to be true) that a great deal of the “magic” from beyond is not magic at all. With very little prodding he showed me the town’s water purification system, which has almost no magic at all within it yet clearly functions as well or better than my own magics.
It is actually quite fascinating, my father was always convinced it was just a trick, but I do not see any way it could be. These tools and powers are not magic, they do not tap into the supernatural forces of the world, (correction, the universe) any more than my new crossbow. Speaking of which, the smith and his carpenter friend to good work, this bow was nothing but an idea and raw materials this morning, now it hits apples at a hundred paces. Simple design, but solid.
But as interesting as all this is. I should not stay. I have determined a safe (safer) path out of Numeria, and getting beaten, robbed, and almost killed several times, proves I am not ready. Indeed, with my father’s gifts all stolen I am even weaker than I was when I was first captured. “Know when to hold them, and know when to fold them,” the saying goes. I will purchase supplies for my journey and be off. Some lovely distilled cider is cheap here, perhaps I can restart my merchanting forays with a keg of it.
Perhaps not. For the past few days I have been shopping and preparing for a journey, but strange things have been afoot in the town. First the titular Torch of this fair city went out. I had heard it fluctuated, so I paid no mind until I realized everyone seemed severely upset by it. After asking about I learned that while the torch might flare, it never just went out like a snuffed candle. My magic-wielder’s pride says this proves that this “technology” is unreliable, but as Khonnir pointed out, it is hardly fair to blame a tool for breaking if you never understood how it worked.
He said this to me shortly before leading an expedition into the caverns beneath the town. I probably should have joined him…no, I have too many reasons to avoid such entanglements.
Besides, these are good people, I am sure they know what they are doing. Khonnir already returned once with some kind of broken science-construct, his eyes practically glittered with excitement over the new things he could study and experiment on. Khonnir has gone back down to keep looking for the source of the Torch, (and though he will never say it, a chance at finding more toys to play with.) I intend to leave as soon as he gets back, I should say goodbye to such a nice and helpful person.
Khonnir has not returned, everyone is worried, and as more people go down and no people come up things look more and more troubled. I do not know much about Numerian Politics but I know politics in general. The city’s main source of power is broken, and without it they grow weak and their enemies grow bolder.
Life on other worlds, I wonder if it is better than this. If civilizations and societies of the stars have grown to love life, and seek higher goals than a world or predators and parasites. I wonder if the answer to that question lies at the bottom of those caves…
No. I need to leave, I could not even do anything down there, not alone. And I do not know anyone in town able enough of mind and body to join me. It is foolish. Tomorrow I am seeing if Jondas has any more of that lovely green tea, loading up Hughie (that is my new horse) and heading out.
Father often says, “no matter what you want, sometimes fate don’t give a flip.”
I was shopping at the market square when a ruckus started. I was kind of distracted, it being light out, but the sun was less of a concern than the assault and…robbery? Rape? Of Madame…I wish I was better with names. The local Madame of the Merry Maid. While I do not know (or particularly like) her business, such an assault on someone who is undeniably a pillar of the community is very strange.
That aside, with some sort of loud distraction behind me, I called upon the strengths of my adopted scaly kin and began to stare down the attackers as best I could in the blinding light.
My efforts were aided, (or vice versa) by the involvement of a skilled Dwarven Warrior. His name, I came to find, is Vidon Fatesapper, and whatever other observations I might have made were eclipsed by my surprise at seeing a very familiar axe. But I am once again getting ahead of myself.
Three local bravos also dove into the fray, they are almost as odd a bunch as I am. A fellow child of Sovyrian, a humanish person I suspect is plane-touched or even (dare I say it?) related to the alien wreckages of this land, and finally a clearly shadow-touched man of cocksure demeanor. They worked well together, and apparently do so on a regular basis. The elf, tattooed mystery, and shadow-charmer are named Susie, Harkness, and Arim Shadowbleeder. The most interesting to me at the time, however, was Vidon. His axe was remarkably similar to the one I saw cutting down innocent victims in the hands of the metal-armed gnoll. I was pleased to learn it WAS the same axe, and my new best friend had ripped the beast’s head off before taking it in hand and letting the rest of the band run in terror. I take some solace in the knowledge that though we lost much, the enemy was undone.
We made short work of the bandits, helped the lady, managed to not get arrested for fighting in the streets, and got little information except that this was a contracted job, probably a robbery, involving hired agents from the local scumbag hive.
I was going through the motions, helping out, turning down an offer of carnal rewards. Then Dolga turned on the charm.
Try as I might, the hardened but puppy-dog eyes of a woman trying to hold her city together as pieces of it fell off beat me, and I offered to join the latest merry band of mildly suicidal fools exploring the depths.
We went to look at the construct that Khonnir had found dead, it was alive again. It stumbled around, attacked in a most ineffective manner, and I batted its head off with my staff. To be honest, I felt more disappointment than elation, now the thing was even more broken, and I cannot claim brave heroics against such a pathetically broken enemy. Vidon was similarly disappointed; he really, really hates machines. I think he was somewhat placated with the knowledge the machine was so easily broken.
Now we go into the water, since the caverns are only accessible through a tainted spring, and into the darkness.
I should start keeping track of the days in this thing. Too used to magical convenience. Day 10 of my misadventures in Numeria, Evening.
We found…things. There were the usual bugs that infest most surface caverns, 3 corpses of some of the previous expeditions. Other things of little note. The Russet Mold was interesting. I should have brought some of my apple brandy to kill it, but since our tattooed mystery humanoid claims to be as resistant to disease as our shadowbleeder was resistant to cold, we were able to manage.
We met, and killed, some sort of frog-like monster. I believe it was a fey, though that is not really my area of expertise. Later, as part of a deal, we killed/drove off a Wrench of Gremlins, which were teleporting around and causing all kinds of troubles.
But the deal was the part I have the most mixed feelings with. We met a clan of Skulks. Their race seems forever doomed to be preyed upon and enslaved by the deep elves of the Darklands, and indeed this little tribe had fled such depredations. I empathized with their desire to survive.
But victims can still be villains, and these skulks are also murdering little shits. They took a deal from some purple-haired tattooed woman (similar to our musket-toting fellow traveler, in fact) that hired them to kill anyone who came behind her. They have since ended this contract, having lost too many to maintain it and not particularly caring for the exchange rate of lost tribemates to gained treasure, but they are still murderers. They showed us the giant starmetal wall, and the strange metal doors cut into it. They gave us the treasures and told us what little they new, and we left them.
I have misgivings, but frankly we have higher priorities than meting out justice and judgement on a band of mooks. We drove away the gremlins that had been troubling them and warned them that the folk of the city would be coming, or someone even worse, and soon.
We retrieved the corpses that were intact enough to deliver, and that had people who would recognize and mourn them, and returned to the surface.
We have also been offered some rewards, we found some treasure, we were promised superior-quality weapons. I supposed my crossbow could be upgraded a bit, but I think I will wait until our more dedicated warriors get better tools first.
Tomorrow we return to the caverns, and continue to search for Khonnir and the source of the Torch.