Dark Sun - Fate of the World

A Dray in Gulg

The hot morning sun bears down on the leafy canopy covering Gulg’s commoners district. The shade is a welcome change from the blinding brightness of Tyr, but the humidity in the air turns breathing into a workout. Citizens bustle through the maze of pathways connecting the forest structures going about their business as Rohan turns to his companions;

“I’ll meet up with you later. I have something I need to take care of” his deep voice booms.

Daine snaps his head around to ask what is going on, but before he can form the words Rohan is away heading off on his own. “How will you know how to find us? You’ll lose your share if you’re not back by sunup tomorrow!” But his words are drowned out by the noises of the jungle.

Making his way through the city is difficult for the large dray. Passersby turn and stare as he awkwardly twists and turns to avoid knocking down the citizens surrounding him or tripping on the roots grasping at his clawed feet. Despite his difficulty, he quickly makes his way through the city as if he had come this way many times before. Suddenly, he stops and a toothy grin comes to his mouth.

“Sorry, friend. It has been too long.”

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The Fallen Clan

“Oh, you again.” Sneered the rasping form huddled against a nearby hut. “Did you come to gawk? To gloat?” With a slight shift, the form’s mud-caked robes fell open revealing a hideously scarred dray. Mottled gray tumors protruded from between her scales, oozing mucus as she moved. But even worse than her flesh was her eyes; No longer did they sparkle with intelligence and cruelty they had in the past. Now, there was only defeat and regret.

Only a shell of the once powerful sorceress Rohan remembered had remained. How long had it been? Two years? Three? He couldn’t recall at the moment. But being confronted by such suffering shook him to the core. “You look terrible Tooska. How do you feel?”

“How do I look, fool?! Get the hell out of here before… wait… ah yes, I can see it now. You too have the wasting. When did you first feel it? Does it frighten you to look at me this way? Seeing your own future so clearly must be terrifying. Yessss.” Some of the malice had returned to the dray as a smirk played on the corners of her mouth.

Rohan averted his eyes. Pity was not a word one associated with Tooska. And yet, he could not help feeling it. The disease had defeated the sorceress. And not just her body; but her spirit as well.

He understood pain. He understood agony and suffering as well. These things intimidated him no longer. But, the assault on the spirit. This was a new kind of battle; a new manner of fighting entirely unfamiliar to the desert warrior. To combat this new foe Rohan spent a great deal of energy steeling himself. Defending against despair with optimism and combating hopelessness with passion. But to be faced with one who was once so strong willed yet had succumb so completely was, indeed, terrifying.

“No, I came here to give you this.” Discreetly, he drew a small pouch from his belt under his armor. The sound of ceramic coins clinked within revealing its contents. “This is your share from our last deal. Sorry it took so long for me to deliver it. There have been… complications.”

After a moment, a shocked expression crossed the dray’s face and then was gone. “I see you still honor your agreements. At least that remains of our kind.” Tooska withdrew again into her robes to count the coins.

“There is more. I thought you might be interested in this.” In his hand was a small stack of bone discs bound by a sinew cord. On the discs were arcane inscriptions written in some ancient language. “I can’t make any sense of these. They aren’t written in the trade tongue. I’m told they are a journal from one of the templars who attacked Guistenal. And from what I had to go through to get them I believe it. Supposedly, these are his notes about the dray and..”

“You truly are a fool, Rask. Did you think you would find salvation on those discs? Did you think you could save me? Or save yourself? It is too late.” Slowly she reached up and plucked the discs from Rohan. “I will look these over… it… it appears that… they are ritual notes of some kind.”

With that, silence fell between the pair. Despite all the noises of the jungle the quietness was deafening. Rohan stared down at his old companion as she paged idly through the bone dics. Minutes dragged past as the two were frozen in place amidst the bustle of the city.

Rohan broke first. “I guess that’s that then” he said with a sigh and turned to leave.

“Wait.” The elder dray ordered. “I found this in the roots of some tree. When I saw it I immediately thought of you; fighting with trash for weapons.” The sorceress leaned over and rummaged through her pack for a moment before producing an immaculately carved ebony shield. The shield was an Islangu, a traditional dray shield. Designed with gaps around the edges, each gap housed a dozen small rings which rang like a rattlesnake when shaken properly. Inscribed on the back in steady handwriting read “Rask: 1/1”

A tear formed in the corner of Rohan’s eye as he read the description; for he knew what it meant. Tooska was dying, and soon. The gift signified that he was now the leader of his clan… a clan of one. Without turning around he whispered, “goodbye, old friend” and quickly strode off. Suddenly he was eager to be anywhere but there.

Looking up as the warrior departed for the last time, she too whispered “goodbye, old friend.”

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The Plan

Scene: Midmorning in a busy square.

Rohan pushed the spiced rice around his bowl idly with his spoon, as if staring into it would reveal some solution. The smell from the dish was very sharp and cut through the stink of the crowd but it did little to clear his muddled mind. It was all so stupid anyway. The idea that a cure could come from some book no one has heard of was ridiculous. The real answer was simple: there is no cure. There couldn’t be! If there were, someone smarter would have discovered it by now and he would still be with his clan. In a way, the resolution to his current dilemma was similarly easy… They should just walk away and pursue more real rewards.

After leaving the Spotted Kank the group had stopped at a bazaar set up in a small square. Merchants claimed their space with colorful tents providing some respite from the blazing suns. Rohan bought the Nibanese rice dish and sat down against an intricately carved wall of a permanent storefront, hoping to quell the uneasiness in his stomach while his companions spread out looking through the wares. He looked up at them each in turn.

Zebulon slowly strolled through the plaza in some pattern that Rohan could not discern. He carefully examined each merchant’s wares for some oddity or antiquity that only he would recognize. Jelleneth was locked in a heated debate with some half elf about the price of his goods. Rohan couldn’t see from here what she was buying but it was probably some silk finery. She always seemed to be buying the best quality goods. Daine was nowhere to be found; although he was probably scheming someone out of their week’s wages.

When he turned to see K’TkTik Rohan was startled to see him staring right back. The Thri-kreen tilted his head oddly and held the dray’s stare for a moment before turning to watch the rest of his clutch. His protectiveness, no, loyalty was amazing. All of his new friends were strangely committed to helping him even though they had only recently banded together. That’s what made this situation so frustrating. He had convinced his new companions to help him on a wild mekilot chase.

Rohan’s gaze lingered on the bug’s gear strapped across his body. Most of the gear didn’t make any practical sense. He didn’t carry a bedroll, yet had numerous dasl crystal “sculptures” which swayed and clanked softly. Mok Toi’s scalp twisted along with the crystals with the bug’s abrupt movements. The strange tattoo on the halfling’s head was yet another mystery the dray could not unravel.

It was amazing really when one thought about it. Daine was seriously considering breaking into the High Companion’s personal library. Simply preposterous. One might as well charge into the giant sandstorm tearing through the plains to… to the.. East..

OF COURSE! The sandstorm! It all made sense now. The Red Scale mercenaries, the trails leading away from Mok Toi’s body, the “information” they were selling to the high companion. Like a jigsaw puzzle sliding together all the pieces seemed to fit. The “map” must be a safe path through maelstrom!

Rohan leaped to his feet splattering his rice on the caked ground. But before he could take a step Daine appeared at his side. “What’s got you all excited?” Daine drawled.

“I’ve got a plan. And you’re gonna love it!” Rohan replied. The twinkle had returned to the Dragon-man’s eyes.

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Zebulon's Farewell to Alatruk
Zebulon's note to Rotan

Master Rotan -

The aid you have provided during my recent convalescence has been greatly appreciated. I am in your debt, and will do what I can to repay your hospitality.

However, I cannot accommodate your desire to have my mind flayed by your personal psion. He would undoubtedly reduce me to madness without learning anything of your lost goods. I have a perfect recollection of the events surrounding the attack on the caravan, but the sandstorm shrouded the particulars of the ambush quite effectively.

In lieu of this pointless destruction, I have decided to depart Altarak. I will discover what I can of your lost goods or, should they prove truly lost, pursue other means to compensate you and your House.

Respectfully yours,

- Zebulon

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Battle for the Seed of Life

The seed hurtles through the air in a shocking, dreadful moment. As Theren holds aloft his prize with a triumphant shout and turns toward the exit, the chamber’s guardians erupt into a storm of violent motion. Azor Firesworn screams, the remnants of his blackened, undead flesh shaking in hate grown through centuries of crazed desperation. The flames at his fingertips blaze into white-hot flares of light. The cracked flesh peels back from his teeth in a hideous smile as he and the other creatures lunge forward. At last, these guardians will fulfill their duty!

Seed of life

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A Decisive Moment

Shamash felt herself freeze. It was a strange and novel feeling for someone used to immediate, bloody action. In that crystallized moment, she was torn between two equally powerful and urgent actions -attack the undead abominations which now were converging upon her and the Thri’Kreen, and beat the living shit out of Theren. Pragmatism and the soul-chilling howls of the undead loosed her in the direction of the necrotic guardians, but oh, when this threat was vanquished, there would be a dragon’s hell to pay….

Undead guardians

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Rohan's Problem

Italicized text represents mental dialogue.

Scene: The standoff between the undead guardians of the tree and Daine’s travelling menagerie (feat. Rohan)

“We should help the thri-kreen move the seed; It’s not safe here anymore. The agents of the sorcerer king surely know about this place by now and it’s important that he doesn’t get his hands on the seed.”

Jelenneth’s words were still ringing in Rohan’s ears. What the hell is she talking about? That’s not why we’re here. Her words were straightforward enough but they simply didn’t make any sense. Jelenneth had promised to help Rohan find something to trade for the high consort’s book. That’s why they were out here in the first place! And now that they’d found something she was going to give it away? Surely she was playing a game of some sort.

Something else was wrong about this place. He couldn’t put his finger on it but it made him feel… dizzy. Like all the blood was draining from his head. That, coupled with the throbbing in his chest made it difficult for Rohan to hide his symptoms. A rogue grimace crossed his lips. _That’s the third time today. _ Perhaps he would have to resign from the fight to keep his weakness secret.

The debate about what to do with the seed continued to rage around Rohan and in his distraction he had missed some of it. He desperately glanced around to see what was happening, and things did not sound good. The thri-kreen, Shamash, and K’tik-tik were all convinced that the seed should be moved and then (gulp) buried. But worse of all was Jelenneth. Apparently, she was honest in her desire to toss away the seed.

“The thri-kreen want to use the seed to bring back some life to this world. What could be more important than that?”

“What could be more important than that?!” Rohan roared, stars swimming in his eyes. “How about my life? Or, more importantly, my entire race! You are sentencing me to death so you can go plant a tree?”

The dragon man’s sudden outburst surprised Jelenneth, but she recovered quickly. “Look, I don’t mean to say that finding a cure for you isn’t important. Maybe we can look into…”

“ENOUGH! You promised to help me search for something we could trade for the book. And now that we actually found something you’re all too eager to use it in some way that you think is ‘more important’. You know what that makes you? An oathbreaker.”

The floor was rolling under his feet and Rohan was struggling to stay standing. “I’ve done a lot of bad things in my time. I’ve raided caravans, I’ve traded slaves, and I’ve hurt good people. But one thing I’ve always done is honor my word. That’s what separates civilization from anarchy, order from chaos. And if…. If…”

At precisely that moment, several things happen. Theren’s arm flashes out and the seed of life hurtles through the air into it, the guardians of the tree of life spring into action to safeguard their charge, and Rohan’s eyes roll back into his head and he collapses.

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Jelenneth's Reaction

Scene: The aftermath of the standoff between the undead guardians of the tree and Daine’s travelling menagerie (feat. Jelleneth)

Jellenth finishes the upstroke of her last movement, and turns to see all the undead fiends have been destroyed. Her attention then quickly turns to Rohan, who is physically recovered from his earlier spell. Whether his sense has returned is another matter.

“Rohan!” Jelleneth shouts over the voices of the others left in the cavern, for now that the immediate danger is past, the group is now splintering into several factions. They all quiet, however, as they realize the potential for serious violence has not passed. Jelleneth and Rohan lock eyes as Jelleneth begins to speak.

“Of course I promised to help you and your people, and of course I will. But I don’t recall the plan ever involving trading for the book. I thought the ‘plan’ was to trade some antiquity of value in order to gain access to her house, so that we could steal or borrow the book for a bit. That aside, we cannot trade the book for the seed. First of all, she won’t trade the book. It’s a magic book. The sorcerer kings and their minions guard such information jealously. She would not trade it. Second, even if she was willing to agree to a trade, we would be double-crossed in a heartbeat! We have neither the resources or the power to actually protect the seed. If she sends troops or even bounty-hunters after us, we will be swarmed under without ever coming near the book. The seed is far, far, far too great a prize to try and trade. All the sorcerer kings and queens in all of the world would stop at nothing to possess something like this seed. There is a very real possibility they might all come after us if they know we have such an item in our possession. Third, even if she did agree to a trade, and even if she actually played fair with us, I would not and could not put one of the last remaining sources of pure lifeforce in this world in the hands of a sorcerer king. I don’t have many lines that I won’t cross, but that is one. So if that is the line in the sand where we must come to blows, so be it.” Jelleneth’s voice becomes deadly quiet as she levels her swords at Rohan.

“Finally, I realize you are in pain, and terrified for yourself and your race, but you call me an oathbreaker again, and you won’t have to wait for the curse to kill you.”

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