Midsea

A Cat's Tale

Schrödinger the Cat stalked across the waves, walking toward the low bow of the Ship of Fate. The ornately carved prow of the longship plowed forward, as the black cat ran up the side of one wave and reached its peak. Looking down on the boat he could see that sitting in the oar benches were skeletons, animated by magic, relentlessly rowing.

Schrödinger waited as the boat came closer and then timed his leap with a rising wave and landed on the boat. He walked past the skeletons and down into the hold. He looked for the dwarf Bonebeard and the Iron Sage but all he saw were closed doors. An enchantment stopped him from walking through any of the walls, no doubt cast by one of the two wizards.

The black cat’s hair stood on edge and he quickly turned and ran up the stairs. He could sense something wrong. He leapt off the boat and started running down the waves. Schrödinger looked back over his shoulder and saw a greybearded dwarf in salt-stained purple sea coat standing next to a tall figure wearing gold etched scarlet plate mail.

The cat stopped and sat on a piece of sea foam. His tail twirled over his head, tracing out a glowing oval. The oval opened up into a cave lined with books. Schrödinger said a prayer to the powers he knew only as the Conservators of Time and leapt through the oval. The shimmering portal was swallowed by a wave and then vanished.


Bonebeard the dwarf, Captain of the Ship of Fate and the Iron Sage stood on the rolling deck of their enchanted craft; two more unlike individuals and cosmically connected companions could not have been dreamed up by either the Forces of Fate or the Keepers of Chaos.

The dwarf’s graying beard swayed and its dreadlocks looked slightly damp from the ocean spray. He deep-set haunted eyes were in shadow. They stared out over the sea and deep into the maybe-realities that only a Captain who sailed between worlds would know.

The Iron Sage, wearing his scarlet and gold edged helm, looked as inscrutable as always. His armor had once only been red, but with each member of the Golden Horde that he slew he had added some of their metallic essence to his armor. His eyes were unlike his dwarven friend’s in that they were red-orange and glowed ember-like, but like his in their unsettling demeanor.

“I have seen this cat before,” said the Iron Sage. “He is associated with Bettina.”

Bonebeard took some time before answering. “I had a troubling dream. I saw the edge of this world, with its eternal cataracts waterfalling down into the endless void. I then heard a voice say-‘Commit your boat to the winds and you must sail wherever they blow’.”

“Is this why the boat won’t sail to the Firefall Mountains?” The scarlet figure pointed at the glowing tops of the volcanoes ahead of them. “Aren’t you the Ship’s Captain?”

“The Captain does not sail this cosmic ship, it sails him.” said Bonebeard.

“Let’s not tempt the Fates,” said the Sage in his harsh accent. He remembered that even on the dying world he came from, the one that Bonebeard had rescued him from, there were tales of the Ship of Fate. Every tale had a different Captain and every tale pitted that Captain against Cosmic Forces. These legends always ended with the Captain sailing off alone on the Ship of Fate; only later another hero would find the ship abandoned on the edges of the multi-verse.

“We will leave the Ship here and travel to the Ash River Sage. I believe I have enough knowledge to make an attempt to spirit ourselves there. Let’s go see this other Sage.”


Schrödinger looked out the cave entrance. The three abyssal creatures were struggling with both Bonebeard and the Iron Sage. Bonebeard banished the dragonlike leader to another plane while the Iron Sage struck repeatedly at the blue crystal being that did not bleed when his blade, Red Razor, smashed into its side.

The froglike spell-caster mocked Bonebeard but couldn’t break the magical orb about the dour dwarf. “You will perish being a servant to that Ship, “ it rasped. “It will sail you to your death.”

“The tide is turning,” Bonebeard boomed as his skeletons kept up their attack.

Schrödinger ran back down into the cave’s depths.


“I don’t know why you’re so upset Schrödinger,” said the Ash River Sage. His dark hands were lifting a book down from a shelf. His wrinkled face smiled kindly.

“I’m not,” the cat lied. “Just tell me again about how you saved me.”

“You love that story,” he chuckled. “Well there, in the Ghost City of Ghast my small familiar, a too curious feline, was lost and starving since only the surreal memories of things existed there. Substance was nowhere, literally, to be found. He had crawled into a box of paradox.”

Schrödinger heard some footsteps coming down the tunnel. His paw shut the diary in front him that was writing itself in silver script. When the book shut the Ash River Sage disappeared.

“And then you,” said the black cat in a sad voice. “Poured all your magic into that Paradox Box and saved that cat but made yourself a memory.”

The cat had several spells prepared for the demons but then he saw the battered forms of the heroes as they entered the library.

He purred in pleasure. His friend, or what was left of him in the books, would live.

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Bex Hex Begins
Adventure Log One

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Sasha was hurt but she tried to cover the site where the arrow had struck her side under a thin black cloak. She pressed her hand against her left side but the blood kept coming. Her right arm was over Karl’s shoulder as they moved down the alley behind the Moonshadow Tavern. Karl’s leather armor, with its hardened strips and rivets, dug into her bicep but she needed to hold on. Ahead of them was a row of five apartment doors. These small alley level apartments behind the Moonshadow Tavern were cheap because they were one room, perpetually in shadow and right next to the most riotous bar in the most dangerous section of Bex.

Karl pounded on the door and it opened. Inside was a small room with a waist level wooden operating table in the middle. The only light inside was from a five-armed candelabra sitting next to a mirror. Bandages and dressings were on a shelf built into the wall. The half-Elf who opened the door wore a green cloak that’s hood hung over his face.

“Thank the Towers you’re here LC,” Karl said. “Sasha is hurt…”

“Hey, hey, hey” LC said and motioned to the table. “Just come on in and we’ll fix you up.” He looked at Sasha after he shut the door after them. “It usually your partner. I thought you were the careful one.”

Sasha pushed free of Karl and rolled onto the table so she was facing up at the low dark ceiling.

“I stepped in front of an arrow meant for Karl,” she said.

LC shook his head and started working on the bleeding woman when the mirror, which dimly reflected the surroundings, formed the image of a thin pale woman with long black hair, who was not in the room.

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Five blocks away, on the penthouse of the five hundred foot tower of the Fourth Quintana, Alexandra was looking out over the City of Bex with a glass of wine so dark red it flirted with being black. Walking around the waist level rock wall she took in the sprawling city. The bay sparkled from the rising sun in front of the busy Doro Docks, and nearby a long oily black column of smoke showed that Alchemists’ Row was having one of its weekly fires. She could see the teams of horses pulling the Fire Brigades water wagons through the winding streets below.

She turned her gaze south to the grey granite pillars and slate roof of the Conjurors Crypt and its nearby graveyard. The centuries old two-story structure looked suitably ominous and imposing as was the intent of those who built it. Alexandra knew she had a meeting there tonight with the rest of the Inner Circle of Mages. At that thought she looked out at the other four towers of Bex.

Three hundred years ago these five black rock obelisks pushed themselves out of the ground and turned the small settlement of Bex into a powerhouse of magic. The people of that much smaller and less chaotic town had burrowed into these obelisks and made them the home for alchemists’ shops, libraries, apartments and guard quarters. The Bex Circle of Mages than made a pact and had five of their most powerful Conjurors each settle in these towers. These Five later formed the Inner Circle and began turning the small university town into a city of high magic and chaotic commerce that produced magical potions, scrolls and items.

Alexandra waved her hand and a bottle of wine floated over to her long stemmed glass. She made a motion and the bottle refilled her glass. She walked inside and stood in front of a mirror. Her long black hair had more and more strands of grey from her constant worry about her beloved City of Bex. She smiled at the grey, thinking of them as symbols of her commitment to the city that saved her life.

She quickly waved her hands and the image of a small room with three dim figures in it appeared. One of the figures was bandaging the left abdomen of a woman wearing a black cloak. Another man with red hair stood nearby watching them and the nearby door.

“LC,” Alexandra said, startling the man with red hair. “I need you to gather the members of Bex Hex.”

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Zorra sat surrounded on three sides by an ever-growing wall of books. She had three open tomes in front of her and a scroll with freshly drawn diagrams and runes on it. Her right hand had a quill in it and which dipped constantly in a red ink well.

Wenomyr, his white robes whipping about his feet, walked back and forth from the shelves with more books. He would search the shelves, make a motion with his hand and books would fly down into his waiting arms. He would sometimes open one of the books and read from it while walking over to Zorra.

When he reached the table he saw that the pile of books would even be over his tall platinum haired head if he added another delivery of eldritch texts.

“Hey!” said a green robed man who walked in with purpose. “Alexandra’s got a job.”

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Zavvle the Halfling was rolling dice in the fighting pit with an archer from Elvenport, an axe-maiden from Arghad and a sellsword from the Sarcan Theocracy. Being an experienced gambler and uncommonly lucky she was winning as usual. She had already sparred her fellow dice-players that morning and had stopped when the sunlight had started beating down on the sandpit.

The Fighter’s Guild hadn’t had much business this week and Zavvle was bored. The sellsword from Sarcan hadn’t been much of a challenge that morning. His scimitar work was predictable and all he did was use the edge of his blade and never used the point. The Axe-maiden had been a different story since she used a shield and would swing her axe and odd angles.

She started to cast the dice into the downturned shield when she saw Zora, LC and Wenomyr approaching. She smiled. This meant adventure and that she could quit while she was ahead.

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Alexandra began to pace in front of the mirror.

“Where is he?” she asked herself.

She took a long drink from her glass so it wouldn’t spill and then motioned with her left hand, disappearing from her penthouse in a puff of purple smoke.

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Half-Squat the half-Orc was squatting, in a privy at the Moonshadow Tavern. The Moonshadow Tavern used to have large open privies but it allowed for too much illicit activity out of view from the bartender’s view. This meant the Tavern didn’t get its cut. The Thieves’ Guild had an agreement with the Moonshadow Tavern that all deals and any transfer of stolen goods under its roof must entail a small fee to the establishment. This meant that there were four small single privies, and sometimes long lines, at the Moonshadow Tavern.

This being afternoon though only the most hardened drunks and miscreants were inside this infamous den of underworld commerce and conviviality. This was one of two reasons Half-Squat was startled when Ben, the daytime bartender, pounded on the door. The second reason was that Half-Squat knew that Ben was too nice and bookish to be the nighttime bartender.

Half-Squat always noticed that Ben kept a mystery novel open one side of the bar and notebook on the other. Ben, in his spare time (and let’s face it his work time too thought Half-Squat) wrote mysteries and fantastic tales for the Penny dreadfuls that that populated the bookstores of Bex under the nickname Half-Squat gave him. Half-Squat had begun to notice that Ben’s books now had a popular reoccurring rogue called Knee-Bend in them.

“Half-Squat!” Ben said in the worst stage whisper Half-Squat had ever heard, “You have someone of extreme importance asking after you.”

Half-Squat unsquatted and opened the door.

“Did you even wash your hands?” asked Ben in that terrible stage whisper that carried across the Tavern. Half-Squat then thought this makes three reasons that Ben is still the daytime bartender. Ben, usually very distracted was unusually alert, but still suffered from lack of basic social skills.

“Here he is Mage Alexandra,” he said as if he had made a great discovery. “We are honored to have you in our humble Tavern.”

Half-Squat used this time to wash his hands in the Water Elemental powered plumbing and glanced out to see the Alexandra the Conjurer standing in the middle of the Tavern with a rather large glass of red wine and a scowl.

“You need to get to the Piazza!” Alexandra said. She swirled the dark wine in her hand and then took a sip that was less than eloquent but not quite a swallow.. Half-Squat noticed the crystal glass in her hand and quickly realized that it was not from the Moonshadow Tavern’s inventory. “Bex Hex is assembling in the Blue Phoenix Coffee Shop.”

“Okay, not a problem,” he said. “I’ll go right now.”

“Are you alright,” Alexandra asked. “You don’t look well.”

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The patrons at the Blue Phoenix Coffee House were being quickly rushed out into the street. Just moments before they saw two thuggish men try and attack Luna the owner. One had fallen into a magical sleep from a platinum haired spell-slinger while the other had been blasted by arcane energy from a tall intense woman. Then a Halfling warrior stepped between Luna and the last thug. This Halfling expertly sidestepped the thug’s flailing attack and quickly got him to yield.

This being Bex the customers didn’t ask many questions and left. Goncas the very hyperactive barista of the Blue Phoenix had pulled the curtains quickly and put up a “Closed” sign in the window.

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Luna sighed and looked over at Goncas when the members of Bex Hex had left. “Well we now have a daughter,” she said. “She seems strong. She’s going to need it if she’s dealing with my family.”

Luna glanced over her copy of the adoption papers. It gave Zavvle plenipotentiary power over all business decisions with Luna’s share of the Hadrian estate. Any potions, business shares and magic would revert to Zavvle if Luna died and not any other member of the family. Luna hoped this would protect her life and finally separate her from the machinations of the Hadrian Company.

Goncas put a black coffee in front of Luna’s pudgy hands and stirred in some sugar from a nearby bowl. Her smaller elven hands had a set of silver tattoos on their back and they gave a mystical glow as they swirled the spoon.

“That Zavvle seems pretty dangerous herself and her friends seem very loyal to her,” Goncas said. “The Hadrians depend on deviousness and divisive tactics to accomplish their ends. If they stick together they have a chance.”

“Well I told her everything I could about me and that disaster I call a family,” Luna said collecting up the ruminants of the pie and coffee on the table. “I can’t believe you gave them two whole pies! Why didn’t you just bring out a second serving? You are usually very frugal.”

“Well they can eat them on their voyage,” Goncas said. “Its not like they would have been able to finish them in one sitting.”

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Alexandra poured over the Dragonsong Valley Grimoire. She heard the sound of approaching footsteps. There was Zora looking down on her with Wenomyr. She knew she was sending her two librarians into danger but there were eldritch forces at work somewhere. How the Hadrian family was involved she couldn’t say.

“May I have that book?” Zora asked.

Alexandra looked down at the book and smiled. She had confidence in Wenomyr as great researcher and Zora had access to forces and knowledge from one of the Old Ones, the same type of being that caused the disappearance of Dragonsong Valley from Midsea.

“Of course!” said Alexandra. She had enough knowledge to brief the other four Inner Circle Mages. She needed to leave for Conjuror’s Crypt where the Inner Circle held their meetings amidst the tombs of those that had served the city before her.

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Captain Aline stood straight and walked the ironwood deck of the Frost Dancer looking for anything out of place on the ship or anything suspicious on the dock below. She wore a black uniform with gold buttons that sported a high collar. She was anxious to get back to Port Amber. She had sailed to Bex once before with Greta Hadrian’s husband five years before. Finding him dead when she opened the door to his cabin on their arrival at the Doro Docks still haunted her. She didn’t fault Luna for not wanting to travel on the same ship where her father had been murdered.

She saw a group approaching and gripped the pommel of her cutlass.

There was a very strong looking Halfling and a very scholarly looking woman pushing a cart with a sickly looking half-Orc on it. Behind them were a white haired wizard and a man in a green cloak.

She knew it would soon be time to leave.

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Graveyard of the Gods

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Seeress set out four plates on the small kitchen table and looked at her two sons. Hanz her adventurous and slightly built son was making her heavyset son Harno uncomfortable by stepping too close to him and subtly being in the way as Harno tried to help by scooping out the small circular loaves to make bread bowls for the thick soup. Hanz had a roguish way about him like his departed father and was making Harno pay for his earlier insults.

Seeress looked out of the kitchen at the portrait hanging over the hearth at her long lost husband. A Tiefling fisherman who sailed in bad weather, gambled too much and wasn’t above a little smuggling to make ends meet. Hanz had his smile, his charm, his horns and even the same dexterous movements. Hanz had turned the majority of these attributes to adventuring and now was a fixer in “Tiefling Town”. Seeress called for her brother-in-law Pezca to come downstairs for dinner. He usually acted as a buffer between her boys.

There was a knock at the front door and Hanz went to answer it. He stepped outside and talked to the caller on the doorstep of their row house. He came back with a frown..

“A Gretta is at the door,” he said. “She said she needed her cards read now. That you would do it.”

“Oh yes,” Seeress exclaimed pointing at her desk. “She sent a letter and paid in advance with that pouch of gold.”

Hanz frown didn’t abate at her words but he went into the kitchen with his uncle and brother. Her gift of fortunetelling along with Pezca’s fishing had kept them in this house. Her growing reputation now brought visitors who would brave the rough streets of Bex’s Tiefling neighborhood.

The woman was tall and wore a green cloak that covered her face more than it should. All she could see was a bluish face and a hint of golden eyes. Seeress could feel some sort of disguising enchantment on her. That was strange but not unusual. It made sense with the pouch of unfamiliar looking gold coins that she found on her front doorstep that morning.

Seeress shuffled the cards, had her visitor cut the deck, and then began to lay each card down. The first card was The Tower-a lightning struck keep with a king falling from the battlements, the second card was Death-a skeleton on a horse with a scythe, the third showed the Six of Swords-a hooded figure in a boat being poled through the water with a cargo of swords.

Suddenly Seeress began to weaken. She felt swept up in forces beyond those of mortal concerns. Her gift for prognostication was being taxed on a cosmic level. She looked into the gold eyes of the person before her and realized it was that of a god. Seeress passed out.

Seeress started awake to see a helmeted man talking to her in an accent with hard consonants. He seemed familiar. Then she remembered, it was the Iron Sage of Sozonus. He and her son had traveled together on the Ship of Fate. The Iron Sage was the last survivor of a future world whose sun had died. He had traveled back in time to change the fate of his world but could now never return.

“Are you okay?” he asked. “I do not think what I did will hold you for long. What happened?”

Harno and Hanz stared down at her. She looked up around the room saw another figure. It was Bonebeard, the Ship of Fate’s Captain standing in the corner. He was a tall dark man who always had a somber countenance. Fitting for a servant of Destiny.

“That woman was a cosmic being,” Seeress said between breaths. “A mortal should not start a divining ritual with a divine being. She needs to come back and set me free from my task, or I shall die.”

“Don’t worry,” said the Iron Sage. “We will…”

The darkness came for Seeress again.

In her troubled dreams she saw Bonebeard command his crew of skeletons to sail the Ship of Fate off the edge of the world where cataracts of water poured off its edge into the dark space of the cosmos below.

The ship sailed on, over this impossible waterfall and continued straight on flying into the dark.

Ahead of the ship the stars grew larger, becoming suns and then faded back to blinking points of light as they flew past. At its stern Bonebeard pushed and pulled the rudder, instinctively feeling the cosmic currents. He gave cryptic commands to his skeletons as they raised the sails to catch solar winds, propelling them further.

The ship finally came to a moon circling a planet with four asteroid rings. The surface of the planet had five bands of clouds with various shades of silver and red. A single eye of swirling gold bisected two of the bands. A castle of silver spires came into view.

The dream became troubled. Seeress saw a floating mountain with a skull the size of a city carved into its side. The dream shifted and she saw her son, the Iron Sage and Bonebeard walking through a graveyard where gods were buried. Behind them a spectral figure that resembled the woman she told the fortune to followed them.

She saw a raven fly onto her son’s shoulder, the Iron Sage holding a silver Ankh the size of a wand and Bonebeard picking up a golden hourglass that contained silver sand. Then the stars started to disappear while titanic beings attacked the skull mountain.

She cried out for Hanz and then awoke to see the helmeted head of the Iron Sage standing over her with the Ankh. The mysterious woman was with them and the room was bathed in a golden light.

“I am sorry,” the woman said in a voice that seemed to echo into rooms that weren’t there. “I abused your gift for a struggle the gods started.”

The golden light intensified and Seeress felt a great weight lifted off her. The woman was gone, leaving her with her family and the adventurers who saved her. She fell back asleep, exhausted but with better dreams.

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The Room That Did Not Exist

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Bettina the Younger walked into the Room That Did Not Exist from the Place That Used To Be. Bettina the Elder greeted her. Their brown eyes stared at each other until the Younger looked away and glanced about the shadowy circular chamber. As always the obsidian floor darkly reflected the silver arched doorways that ringed the room. It also reflected the Younger’s green chainmail and the Elder’s red robes. It did not reflect the three-faced alabaster statue of The Conservators Of Time set in its center, nor the domed onyx ceiling.

Bettina the Dispossessed, in her blue tunic and leggings, stood silently in front the more dangerous doors between both the Younger and the Elder such as The Place Which Could Have Been and The Place That Should Not Be. Being the more impatient the Younger spoke first.

“The Captain for the Ship of Fate met and defeated himself,” said the Younger. As she spoke she pulled her black hair back into a jade ring so that it trailed back over her neck and between her shoulders. “The Iron Sage saved Sozonus and brought both Kona and Sir Gavin back from the Chrono-Storm.”

“Which time is this?” asked the Elder. She tilted her head so that her grey streaked hair, which she kept long and loose, spilled to one side.

“This is the first time,” said the Younger. She arched her eyebrows. “Why is it I always remember more than you?”

“You remember more, that is your blessing, I understand more, that is my curse.”

The Younger pointed at the Dispossessed. “And her?”

The Dispossessed did not move. Her severe and short hair hung down to her neck motionless like it was made of black silk.

“She remembers what should not have happened and has insight into the indiscernible.”

“I forget what happened to the Iron Sage,” the Elder stated.

“He had two choices, return to his changed future or stay in the time he saved.”

“And?”

“He rejected both and chose to travel on the Ship of Fate with its Captain.”

The Dispossessed lifted her head back and laughed. It shocked both the Younger and the Elder.

“She never makes a noise!” said the Younger. “And now she laughs in delight!”

“What else happened?” demanded the Elder. For the First Time she was shocked about Something That Happened.

“A very determined spy of Alexandra’s showed up unexpectedly. He was so stealthy I did not see him until he chose to reveal himself. His name was Valrann.”

“You are not telling all. What else?”

“Hanz was also there. He defeated the Forge and sought to stop the Captain from fighting himself.” The younger looked at the Elder and then stared at the Dispossessed. “He and Valrann sailed home to Bex.”

The Dispossessed turned and walked through the archway to the Place That Displaced All Others.

“So Hanz fought Fate, the Iron Sage spun the Wheel of Fortune, Valrann surprised someone who can see the Future and the Captain who sails alone now has a companion,” said the Elder under her breath.

“I don’t remember any of this!” cried out the Younger in a genuine and slightly happy surprise.

“And I don’t understand,” said the Elder. “We can both now see and learn something new!”

In the Place That Will Have Been the Ship of Fate sailed to the Doro Docks, where Tielfing Town made its home. The five black towers of Bex, standing more than a thousand feet above the tallest buildings, cast their morning shadows over the city as the sun started to climb, announcing a New Day.

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No Holiday for Death

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Cassandra

Captain Cassandra Foamrider walked the icy deck of her ship, the Spyglass, doing her nightly inspection, when suddenly the sails grew slack and her ship started to rise. She ran to the railing on the middeck and leaned over. The arctic sea no longer slid below them; instead it massed beneath the Spyglass in one burgeoning black mountain of a wave. Up and up she could feel the ship ascend into the cold salt air.

Cassandra was so engrossed in the spectacle that she didn’t notice Sir Gavin standing next to her. She instantly felt better. The old campaigner no doubt had experienced many things in his battles and adventures and besides that possessed strength enough to bend a broadsword. He was so strong that the crew had given up trying to beat him in their weekly arm wrestling matches and instead gambled how long it would take him to win. Machete Miranda was the current champion of the coveted second place trophy.

“Ah…what’s going on?” he asked. His talking magical weapons, Brother Sword and Sister Shield, were for once, strangely silent. “This wave keeps rising. Also, where is the moon?”

“I don’t know,” Cassandra said. “Just like you this is not my world. I’ve read about this though…Midsea sailors recorded a time, hundreds of years ago, when the wave tops became thousands of feet high while the Moon went into eclipse. It was during the Rampage of the Blind God.”

The old knight distractedly tapped his strange black scale mail and said he would go wake the others. As he descended below deck into the sleeping berths Cassandra heard Sister Shield tell Sir Gavin that the power to make a wave like this came from outside the world, above the firmament, and was cosmic in nature.

Sir Gavin returned with the other offworlders: his friend Kona-the Dwarf Paladin with the well shined armor and magic Ax, the somberly stoic Eldritch Knight-Uldir Blacksteel, the Tiefling Rogue-Hanz the Quickhanded and GFoot the Archer.

Kona the Truthseeker strode up the deck with her regular curiosity. Her ancient helm shined in ship’s torchlight granting her True Sight. The dwarf talked to Sir Gavin about glimpsing some kind of battlements at the top of the titanic wave they were riding.

Uldir Blacksteel walked up the steps to the forecastle and silently stared ahead. As usual his thoughts were his own. Many of the crew feared him. Cassandra, who knew Uldir’s wife resided in a cursed section of the Infernal Planes, thought him a tragic and romantic figure. They all grabbed onto the ratlines, other bits of rigging or the rails to prevent themselves from slipping on the rapidly forming hoarfrost and rime.

This did not affect Hanz or GFoot, despite the ships starboard listing. The Rogue and the Archer, respectively, both possessed a grace that reminded her of a fencing master Cassandra had studied under. Their weapons reflected that dexterity. Hanz wielded a complicated chain and scythe affair while GFoot kept an Elven Bow of the Boarderguard strapped to his back.

Everyone’s breath, which came out in small clouds, became thin and the ship stopped climbing. The whole mountain size wave they sat on had frozen, leaving them icebound and hanging at an impossible pitch below its peak. A small black stone tower sat on its pinnacle. Three lens shaped clouds, each twice the size of Spyglass, slowly swirled around the battlements. Blue lighting leaped between the grey clouds and the black tower, lighting them both from within.

Cassandra gave the offworlders a flat bottom boat. Her sailors, now awake, grabbed thick halyard ropes and hitched it to Sir Gavin’s magical metal horse. The gold and silver steed leaped forward, violently yanking the boat behind it, sending up a shower of ice chips as its sharp hooves cracked through the frozen wave, making its way up the steep slope to the tower.


Death

Death waited for the offworlders…and he was getting impatient. Because of his present rank he had to. Now Death would be the first to tell you he was not the Chief Cosmic Death but instead merely a midlevel death, assigned to Midsea. But he had ambition for bigger assignments, if only he could straighten out this chaotic world.

Death sighed, snapped his fingers, and people (destined to!) died all over Midsea in their sleep. He could not stay too long or his duties would be neglected, but he needed to be here. When the offworlders had defeated the White Duchess, whatever strange extra-planar creature had attached itself to her was not destroyed but instead attached itself to a Devil Heart thrown by Hanz.

Now this abomination from the spaces between the stars had grown into an infernal powered Aberration that was destroying the boundaries between Midsea and the multiverse; creating an extra plane of Hell on this level of existence. Death needed to make sure the going concerns of the Entropic Bylaws were followed. The incoming births have to closely match the outgoing deaths, with the understanding that the amount of Entropy must never decrease. In short, it must add up.

One of Death’s many duties required him to account for all the dead. When he first joined the Entropy Guild he loved the simplicity of balancing the Books of Being. In his younger days he thought that the Cycle of Birth and Death only required balancing the paradoxes of Destiny’s Determinations with the Uncertainty Principle or as it was known to the mortals Chaos. Then he found out that the undead required addendums of different types. Skeletons and zombies were relatively easy to explain but vampires and liches, well they were headaches that Death detested.

That is why he had a special affection for the approaching heroes. They had destroyed lots of the Undead and helped his balance sheet. He looked them over as they approached, causing each of them to feel a chill they shrugged off as a wind from the new mountaintop.

He first looked at Uldir Blacksteel. The knight trafficked in magic and had a grudge with devils and demons. His armor matched his name and he carried a falchion dangerous to such creatures called Hell Hacker. Death knew he would be valuable in fighting this Infernal/Extra-Dimensional Hybrid.

Behind him was Kona the Paladin. She would also be very useful to his designs. The resolute dwarf carried an Ax made from the same material that had imprisoned the pale amorphous and vampiric being that had fused with the Duchess and now inhabited the devil’s body.

As always her friend Sir Gavin stood next to her. A juggernaught of destruction and determination, he had slain a Purple Worm with some other offworlders. He often disliked these quests of High Magic but would be an excellent resource.

Behind them all was GFoot the Archer. GFoot had a fiercesome aim and an exacting nature that Death appreciated. He fulfilled contracts with the same ruthlessness Death himself did for the Rules of the Middle Realms. He hoped that he could convince him to help.

Leaning on the oarlock was Hanz. Hanz was a special case; while he had unwittingly caused the creation of this problem he also had the resources to stop it. He carried Devil Hearts that could unlock the mystic guards set up to protect the creature. The Tiefling’s deadly strikes of stealth also made him a welcome asset.

Now, they needed only one more thought Death, a cleric to heal them during the coming battle. Death reached out to the other Deaths of other worlds and found such a man that matched his needs. The Death of this other world owed him a favor and she let him pluck the man to his plane.

The man appeared next to him. He went by the name Creed. He had an understanding of necromancy, resurrection and other aspects of Mortality Magic that this Death appreciated. Creed had been called on to deal with other Multiverse manipulations in the past and had a good track record. He would be a valuable ally to the rest.

Death smiled. He had assembled a force that that could clear up his metaphysical problem!

When the group got to Death he quickly negotiated a deal with GFoot. The Archer proposed that if they destroyed the Aberration he would grant them all one “free pass”, meaning if they perished in the future he would give up his claim on them-but only once.

He agreed. They entered the tower and fought Devils of Cold and Heat in epic battles. Uldir gave the finishing blow to the first one after he and Sir Gavin hacked through a wall of enchanted ice. The second one was the Aberration. It took arrows from GFoot, Kona’s Ax, Hanz sneak attacks and Sir Gavin’s final thrust of his sword to bring it low. Then Creed, stepping forward, finally destroyed the alabaster parasite with his Holy Symbol.

This caused the Multiverse to begin to heal and Death quickly began reasserting his rule, such as it was, over Midsea mortality. This made the iceberg formed by the Aberration to begin melting. Sir Gavin jumped onto his shining horse while the rest ran to the boat through the rapidly forming slush. All of them were hauled away in their improvised skiff and when they got to the slowly rocking Spyglass frantically climbed aboard.

Death hoped the heroes would drown and use up their “free pass” but Cassandra Foamrider expertly plied the wheel of her now responding ship, crying out to her crew to stow the sails. The Spyglass plummeted down to the melted, churning ocean, almost bottoming out as the waters threatened to wash over the bulwarks. It quickly bobbed back above the water and the crew started to put out the sails for the newly blowing wind.

Death sighed and sent a plague into the shantytown of Farbank. He had to get back to the everyday grind. He preferred traveling with the offworlders because they produced such epic numbers but they were safely sailing back to the city of Bex and its magic towers. Oh well, thought Death, it’s a living.

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Giant Turtles, lots of Lava-POSCo must be in Freeport

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Chantal the harbormaster of Freeport sat down behind her desk. She looked at the door briefly and got out her set of keys. Her small dark hands deftly found and fitted one of the smaller keys to a lock in the top left side of her desk. The harbormaster quickly turned the lock with a practiced motion. She pulled the desk open, reached in, and lifted up a pewter flask. She looked at the door again, unscrewed its top, and took a large swallow.

There was a knock at the door. She quickly put the flask away.

“Enter!” she said in Terravingian. She grimaced when she realized her mistake.

“What?” asked the voice on the other side of the door.

Chantal knew that the man on the other side of the door asked this in Merchant Speak, the common language of Midsea. Both Bex and Freeport used it as their official speech.

“Come in,” Chantal said in Merchant Speak.

A man with olive toned skin entered the room. He sniffed the air, looked down at Chantal’s desk, and then averted his eyes and turned his back to her.

“I’ve been following the Off-Worlders who surfaced in the harbor on the giant Turtle,” the man said over his shoulder, somehow shutting the door without a sound. “I hear your willing to pay for news of their movements.”

Chantal studied him for a minute, saying nothing. He went by the name Lo-Ak but she was pretty sure it wasn’t his real name. He usually dressed like a Freeport sailor but he hadn’t been to sea in four years.

“Sit Lo-Pak,” she said gesturing to an ornate couch that looked out of place in the Spartan room. “You know, I always wonder why you never say “Sea Greetings and Good Fortune” like most sailors.”

Lo-Ak sat down. Her ran both hands through his long black hair and synched his ivory ponytail holder closer to his head.

“I do more than just sail,” said Lo-Ak. “But you, unlike most of the fools in Freeport, know this. Do you want the information or should I go to the Sea Lord? My price to you is only a hundred gold pieces. I would charge her triple.”

“Or she would demand you tell her on threat of death for the good of Freeport," Chantal smiled coldly. Her dark face then took on a more pleasant and confident expression. "With the volcano eruption, the lava damage and the strange attacks it’s hard to say what she’ll do in this desperate time. Make it eighty since we understand each other so well.”

Lo-Ak nodded without expression and began to speak. “The druid, who is called Valanthe, seems to be able to communicate with the Giant Turtle. I saw it myself. The Turtle is bigger than any ship I’ve ever seen and could easily stretch across our Central Market.”

“I saw it, Lo-Ak,” Chantal snapped back and pointed at him. “Like most of us who actually work for a living. But the information about the Druid is good, go on.”

Lo-Ak coughed. “The archer GFoot was with them. We don’t think he has a contract with anyone but Alexandra of Bex and sources say he will not break it. Once he takes a contract he completes it, no matter what.”

Chantal nodded and she reached up to her medallion that proclaimed her the Harbormaster. “Good to know.”

Lo-Ak went on, “The mad mage Felix saved much of the city with Valanthe. They froze or diverted the lava with spells. I also saw Felix enter the Library. The gnome left carrying an old tome that some say was the Book of Libraries.”

“My mother used to tell me stories about that book,” Chantal said. “Whoever carries it gains both wisdom but attracts the attention of the Golden Myrmidons.”

It was Lo-Ak’s turn to nod. “It is so. The followers of the cleric Faeron are celebrating his arrival here and there are more converts lining up outside old man Ferrell’s mill. They are using it for a temple. Faeron left the city with Felix, GFoot, Valanthe and an old pirate who tried to keep his face hidden under a large hat. But I managed to bump into him during the evacuation and got a good look at his face.”

“Yes?” Chantal said. “Don’t keep me waiting! We have an active volcano, titanic Turtles the size of a city block in my harbor and Off-Worlders walking through Freeport, who is it.”

“I am almost sure it is Simion, brother to our Sea Lord. The man whom all thought dead these past decades.”

Chantal raised her bloodshot eyes and leaned forward. “I changed my mind Lo-Ak. You will have your hundred and at least thirty more. Where are they now?”

“They have been climbing up the mountain and were met by the Ash River Sage. Beyond that I do not know.”

Chantal stood up, swaying slightly. Her years of sailing and fencing made it seem an almost graceful affectation. She wrote a note, held a red candle over the note and dripping wax next her looping signature. She pressed her ring into the wax, leaving a seal of crossed cutlasses.

“Take this note to the Treasurer,” she said. “And tell no one we have spoken.”

Lo-Ak stood, smiled and left with the money note.

Chantal took out the flask and upended it out her window. The brown expensive liqueur poured into the bay. She now had an idea of how to protect her harbor but needed her wits about her. The Off-Worlders brought with them the city’s salvation, but they were also known to bring destruction to any who crossed them.

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Four for Adventure
A Bex Story

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FINBAR the Druid

Finbar the Druid hiked over the Gnarl Mountains on his way to Bex-City of the Magic Towers. Finbar’s cloak was covered in pollen from living in the Enchanted Orchard. Created by the Conjurors of Bex three hundred of years ago, the Enchanted Orchard grew year round from the magical mix of tropical heat, spell struck soil and the ancient incantations cast over them.

Finbar made his way silently among the red oaks and white pines that still grew in enough abundance, even at this height, to almost form a forest. He would occasionally stop and gather the truffles that grew from the base of the older oaks. He could sell them to a tavern he knew of in the First Quintana of Bex; they catered to those who carried gold coins in their belt pouch rather than the copper pieces of the commoners.

Finbar frowned when he came round a corner of the cliff path that topped the mountain. There, opened by a recent storm, was an iced over crevice that held a Half-Orc inside its translucent depths. The tall and broad shouldered creature barely fit inside the icy niche.

Finbar felt magic radiating from the ice. He reached out with his hand at the trapped being and concentrated. A smile replaced the frown on his tanned, weathered face.

“Still you live my frozen friend,” he said. Being a hermit he rarely used his voice except to cast spells or to talk to himself. “This is an ancient bit of mage work that suspends time but does not slay.”

He raised his hand again, this time with the palm facing upwards. The green flames of Gaia flowed more than burned from his hand into the crevice.

The flames lapped at the base of the enchanted ice, turning from a forest green into a more celadon color. The ice cracked and finally tumbled down into fist-sized pieces. A square jawed Half-orc fell from the fissure onto the now warm ground. Finbar dragged the hapless half-Orc away from the cliff, until they were in a clearing just off the path.

He took off his worn leather backpack and quickly set to work gathering pine needles, twigs and fallen branches to build a campfire. He piled pine needles on top of the oak twigs, taking care to pick only the brown dry ones. He reached into his backpack and brought out his steel and flint. He struck enough sparks from the flint to get a fire started.

It wasn’t long until the druid, wise in the ways of woodcraft, had a strong fire burning. He rummaged around in his backpack some more and pulled out a water skin, a tea box and a small kettle.

A few hours later the half-Orc as opened his eyes. “Where am I?’ he said in a hoarse voice.

“You are in the Gnarl Mountains and, up until a few hours ago, under an enchantment that froze you for what looks like an elephant’s age.” Finbar poured him some tea from a tiny pour over kettle into a small clay cup. “Drink! It has some herbs that will soothe your throat and clear your mind.”

The half-Orc propped himself up on one elbow and slowly sipped the green tinged tea. After a while he asked, “I thank you, but I must know who are you, who can break such spells?”

“The towns and taverns know me as Finbar the Druid. My true name cannot be uttered except by the whistling of a witch wind or by the water bubbling over some stones in a brook.”

“I am Huey,” said the rapidly awakening brute. “And my name is what it is, no more or less that that. I serve the city of Bex as a soldier in their Army of the Five Quintana’s.”

He stood and shook his large body. Small bits of sparkling blue ice broke free of his armor and evaporated before touching the ground. “How long have I slept? I was pursuing the Conjuror Nephalt . It was firstday of Midmonth. What day is it now?”

“It is Fifth Day of Starmonth,” said Finbar slowly. “But it is the year you need to know. Nephalt the Conjuror disappeared twenty-five decades ago.”

Huey stumbled up the path to the cliff’s edge, Finbar following in long, slow strides. He steadied the hulking warrior with a hand on the other’s shoulder. Huey looked down on the Bex. The five magic towers shone like dark marble, their oblong stone shapes at least two hundred cubits for the shortest and four hundred for the tallest. The Chaotic Cleric Sozoman had raised them from the earth more than forty-five decades ago when the refugees of Visnor-City of the Shunned, founded Bex.

“The city has changed!” Huey said. “I recognize the Grand Avenue and the Towers, but the Dorro Docks now stretch into the Second Quintana and the city has outgrown its walls on the North!” His sharp incisors, which pushed out and broke the line of his lips on his lower jaw, jutted out in surprise. He then laughed harshly. “The prophecy is fulfilled despite Nephalt’s best efforts!”

Finbar leaned forward on his oaken staff and asked quietly, “Why the sad laughter? You seem both relieved and enraged at your fate.”

“A Wisewoman divined that I would outlive Nephalt by twenty summers and nineteen winters.” Huey knelt by the fire and warmed his hands. “Nephalt believed if he killed me he would die. At least that is what one of his infernal patrons told him. No wonder he chose to keep me alive.”

Finbar pulled out a scroll and opened it. “Fate is not done with you and Nephalt yet. I found a treasure map drawn during your life by Nephalt himself. The same magic that made this map drew me here, to you. I do not seek the gold, though there is rumored to be that and more than a few jewels. What I search for is a key which unlocks a door to another world.”

Huey shrugged. He was an adventurer who grew up in the chaotic city of Bex, where magic was in the very water you drank. He asked to see Finbar’s map and after the Druid gave it to him he whistled quietly.

“This leads to the northern edge of the Dorro Docks, near Williams Street.” he said pointing to Djinni Bay. The blue-green waters sparkled between the large ships and warehouses that made up the largest port in all of Midsea. “If we start walking now we will reach the gates of Bex by nightfall.”

JARLSNELOPIE the Tiefling

Jarlsnelopie stood at the North Gate of Bex, feeling overworked, underpaid and unappreciated. There were more than a few sayings in Bex that kept running through her mind, all of which ended, “like something that came in through the North Gate”.

The North Gate of Bex was the smallest, and most dangerous of them all. It faced the Gnarl Mountains and could only fit, at best; a two-ox cart loaded two bales high. The infamous mountain road that led to it brought mostly indigents, the infamous or invaders. Being a tiefling with horns, red skin and glowing eyes she was regulated to this onerous duty, but this evening, right before the gates were set to close she saw something different.

A half-Orc in heavy armor, with a giant sword strapped across his back, approached the gate; with him was a green-cloaked man wearing a backpack. He walked with a confident stride. The cloaked man had chestnut hair and walked with a stout oaken staff. Jarlsnelopie figured it had to be the famous Finbar, Druid of the Enchanted Orchard. He came to Bex rarely but when he did great happenings were afoot.

The half-Orc was another matter. He did not look about scowling like most of his barbaric kind. His eyes were wide open and full of wonder. His armor also looked strangely familiar. As he got closer Jarlsnelopie sharp Tiefling eyes recognized the symbol on the chainmail. It looked like ones she saw on a monument commemorating a battle that occurred many years ago. Where would the half-Orc get his hands on armor from old Bex?

“Greeting guard!” said Finbar. “We are two travelers who need lodging for the night. Do you know of any?”

Jarlsnelopie leaned forward. Her mother owned a row house in Tiefling town and needed money. It’s why she took a job with the hated city guard, a guard that historically treated Tieflings, who looked like devils, badly. Tieflings like herself.

“Would you be Finbar the Druid?” she asked.

He smiled. “Yes! Have we met?”

“No,” said Jarlsnelopie. “But your reputation meets your description. My mother takes in travelers. I will take you there. We are shutting the gate for the evening.”

“Why so early,” asked Huey. He turned his large head on his even larger, muscular neck and nodded his head behind him at the Gnarls. “The sun is just reaching the mountain tops.”

Jarlsnelopie narrowed her glowing eyes. “For the past twenty years, before I was born, these mountains have produce bandits or bad news. Only Finbar and a few other mountain folk are the only known respectable people to come this way. You wear an old Bex insignia. Surely you know this, unless you come from that time.”

Huey smiled. His sharp teeth and strong jaw looked ferociously friendly and Jarlsnelopie knew there was something different about this half-orc, like he came from a kinder time than this present age of anxiety.

HUEY the Half-Orc

Huey strolled through the streets of Bex. Some of it looked familiar while other things were different. He and his new friend Finbar followed the Tiefling Jarlsnelopie to her mother’s home in a place called “Tiefling Town”. It, along with the different insignia’s and banners, had changed the city he knew from a bustling chaotic place to one with a touch of fear and divisiveness.

When Huey lived in Bex he soldiered for the Army of the 3rd Quintana. They marched against the 4th Quintana Sorcerer Nephalt. Nephalt tried to bring all five Quintana’s under his tyrannical grasp and they had defeated him. Huey remembered chasing him out of the city and into the Gnarl Mountains. Nephalt fled rather than fought Huey because he feared a prophecy that the half-orc would out live him.

Huey wondered if that was why Nephalt froze instead of killed him.

Everyone knew Nephalt the Sorcerer gained his spells from infernal beings who foretold the future, but did so at a nefarious price. Huey fought one of these creatures; a giant frog like creature with red eyes, it croaked to him in the common tongue before it too fled,

“Beware, beware a spell of cold and icy sleep!
You won’t catch Nephalt but across the years you will leap!”

Huey walked to the townhouse where the Tiefling’s mother lived. Her modest home sat in a long row of twelve such homes, built side to side, each one sharing a two-story brick wall. The whole neighborhood had been built the same way a hundred years ago by a wealthy shipping merchant who wanted his workers to live near the docks.

It was a working peoples neighborhood, with many of the residents either employed by the Longshore Luggers Guild as dockworkers or engaged in small time smuggling. The scarlet skinned and horned Tieflings who lived there had little choice. Each looked either more or less devilish than the other and the people of Bex never forgot it.

Huey understood some of this being a half-Orc. Many thought him brutal and violent before they got to know him. Many Tieflings looked at him, averted their eyes and stepped aside from his path. Such was the case when they first arrived at the Tiefling’s home but Huey’s good nature put all at ease.

Huey found Jarlsnelopie’s mother was a kind woman but with a mischievous air like her daughter. He was introduced to a friend of theirs, an orphaned sea elf named Fiona.

FIONA the Sea Elf

Fiona walked to her friend Jarlsnelopie’s home. Many years ago, when her sea elf mother and father died in a tidal wave, she was washed into the Djinni Bay of Bex. A young Tiefling found her floating near the Doro Docks and saved her. This was Jarlsnelopie. It was the beginning of great friendship.

Fiona’s green skin and coral blue hair along with Jarlsnelopie’s red skin and glowing eyes made them very conspicuous companions. Many of the humans in Bex mistrusted them because they looked and acted differently. It kept them from getting some of the better jobs in the bustling city of Bex.

One day, Fiona dove deep into Djinni bay and brought back some silver spoons she found in a sunken Merovingian ships. She could do this because of her ability to breath under water for a few hours at a time.

Jarlsnelopie knew people who would buy the treasure, so she and Fiona helped each other out. When she saw the two strangers take a room Jarlsnelopie called her outside.

“Fiona,” Jarlsnelopie said, her eyes glowing even more brightly in the Bexian dark. “These strangers have a map to a treasure in the abandoned North Charthouse!”

“Do you mean that spooky place on the docks?” Fiona said. “I got inside once by swimming under the docks to a hole in the floor. It was scary.”

“Scary, but filled with treasure!” Jarlsnelopie insisted. “The strangers Finbar and Huey want us to go and get the treasure with them tomorrow. But if you and I leave tonight, while they sleep we can get the riches for ourselves! Just think! I won’t have to work for the guards who hate people like us anyway and you will never have to dive in dangerous water for whatever we can find in those wrecks.”

Fiona shook her head but in the end followed the older Jarlsnelopie into the night. They went down winding cobblestone streets until they reached the docks. They had to take a long route down dark alleys so that no patrolling guards would spot them. They walked to the far end of the docks where no ships ever stayed.

All were frightened of the sinister North Charthouse.

The North Charthouse had sat empty on the Doro Docks for many years, yet it was not covered in lichen or infested with nests of rats. Nothing living could thrive near it. Yet late at night mysterious figures entered and left. During the day it didn’t seem as deadly but some swore it cast shadows even when the sun was directly overhead.

A mysterious fund paid its taxes from an old and notorious banking firm that did business with dark magicians. It kept both the city guard and the curious away. No thief that had entered had ever left, except for Fiona.

So Fiona walked to edge of the dock looked over her shoulder at the haunted house and then looked at Jarlsnelopie. Fiona flipped into the water like a dolphin and began swimming back under the dock. It didn’t take her long to find the opening below North Charthouse and she swam up.

Inside Fiona climbed out of the seawater and onto the rotted floor. She immediately started for the front door to let Jarlsnelopie inside. Suddenly some skeletal creatures, grey-green of skin with claws and sunken yellow eyes charged her. She screamed for her friend.

Finbar finishes the Tale

Finbar woke up, his druidic senses alert. He concentrated, rooting his consciousness in the earth below him, the air around him and the void; from which all magic comes. He felt only the presence of himself, Huey the Half-Orc and Jarlsnelopie’s mother.

Finbar quickly and quietly awoke Huey. Huey put on this armor and they left the house at a fast walk. They went to the Docks in the most direct route.

As Finbar approached the North Charthouse he heard Fiona call out for her friend and saw Jarlsnelopie break its door down!

Finbar flew forward, reading his staff. Huey was close behind, his sword out and swung over his head; readied for a powerful blow.

They entered the Charthouse. Jarlsnelopie was fighting five ghoulish skeletons that seemed more dead than alive. Her sword waved left and right as the yellow eyed creatures tried to encircle her and Fiona. Jarlsnelopie brought her sword across the knees of the tallest one and then there were only four left.

Huey surprised all with a speed one would not think a heavily muscled warrior could possess. Two more of the evil zombies were down before could react.

Finbar flung his hand out and he summoned the green flame of Gaea once again. It encircled one of the undead and it fell.

Jarlsnelopie leapt over the fallen creature she dispatched and stabbed upward at the last one. It fell silently.

Finbar saw Fiona dive into the ocean through the hole in the floor. Jarlsnelopie, Finbar and Huey walked over to the hole. They could hear the ocean lapping at the piers below them.

Suddenly an old box broke the surface of the water. Huey reached down and easily lifted it up, with Fiona holding onto the bottom of it. She let go and Huey placed it down on the floor.

Fiona smiled and waved at the box. “I saw this when I swam inside. Is this what you were looking for?”

Jarlsnelopie open the box with a swipe of her sword. Gold coins and jewels of every color spilled out along with a bright silver key. Finbar picked it up. The key had many glyphs along its stem and seemed to glow in the low light. Finbar slipped the key into one of the many pockets of his verdant cloak.

Then group split the small treasure four ways. Each filled their pockets and coin purses until only the box was left. Finbar put most of it in his backpack. Jarlsnelopie kicked the remains of the box down the hole, making small splashes in the dark water.

“Hold there!” said a voice with practiced authority.

The group turned and saw four members of the city guard arrive. They wore the same red armor as Jarlsnelopie but carried crossbows instead of swords. The one who spoke was a tall, thin, Sergeant that Jarlsnelopie seemed to know.

“That is Bartholomew,” Jarlsnelopie whispered to her companions. “He’s a good man but not particularly smart.”

“What is going on?” he asked.

Finbar noticed Bartholomew scratched at his beard when he was confused. Finbar was pretty sure the Sergeant scratched his beard often.

“I was walking home and noticed these creatures attacking these good citizens!” Jarlsnelopie proclaimed with little conviction but lots of bravado. “We combined forces and defeated them. The Charthouse is no longer haunted!”

The Sergeant looked at the slain creatures and shook his head up and down…very slowly. “Good work Private Jarlsnelopie! I’m going to put you in for a promotion. No more gate duty for you. I’m going to make you an acting Patrol Guard for the Doro Docks!”

Jarlsnelopie smiled, as did Fiona. Huey laughed. Finbar grimaced and then finally grinned.

The ways of Bex always amused Finbar. How this chaotic city could survive so many years confounded him.

Finbar took a breath and thought about how he started his day a solitary adventurer in the mountains and ended it as part of a motley group on a haunted dock over the ocean.

The Druid wanted to take his magic key and his small fortune and return back over the Gnarl Mountains in the morning. He needed to use the key for a special mission given to him by the High Druid. He looked at Huey, Jarlsnelopie and Fiona and wondered if he should ask them to come along.

Finbar yawned. He was tired. He would ask them in after some sleep and a good breakfast.

“Can we leave Sergeant?” he asked. “Private Jarlsnelopie can take us back to our lodgings.”

“That’s Patrol Guard Jarlsnelopie now!” Fiona said. “You’re mother is going to be so proud of you!”

“You’re the one who found the treasure,” Jarlsnelopie said. “She’s going to be proud of you too. You’re practically another daughter to her.”

Huey laughed. “Well if you two sisters are done congratulating each other than you bid brother is tired. Let’s go back to the house.”

Finbar motioned with his staff at the broken front door. All four of them followed as he stepped over its splintered mess and started back to Tiefling Town. The sun would rise in a few hours and if they hurried they could still get some sleep.

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Two NPC’s walk into a Bar (Tavern)
Part One

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Simion attempted to stride into the Moonshadow Tavern but was shouldered aside by a broad-shouldered Blue Giant. Simion reached for his dirk and then realized it was Seneschal, the large cobalt skinned creature that acted as Alexandra’s butler and occasional backstabbing bodyguard.

“Hold fast Matey!” bellowed Simion in the voice he used to make to make himself heard over a gale. “Watch yourself or Alexandra will be looking for new help!”

Seneschal turned and stood up to his full height. He had stooped over and turned slightly sideways to fit through the notorious tavern’s door.

“Do I know you?” He said.

“Tis me Simion,” he said patting his chest with his dark-skinned and tattooed hand. “Sunfollower to the Cleric of Lathander, Faeron the Lightbringer!”

“Sorry,” Seneschal turned his head. “I didn’t recognize you at first. You humans look all alike.”

“No wonder GFoot dislikes ye,” Simon muttered.

“What did you say?” Seneschal asked.

“Nothing, nothing my bear sized, blue-skinned friend. It is Last Harvest, the time of Pumpkin Plenty, before Winter Fall. Lets get a drink, I need one.”

“I concur,” Seneschal said in his deep, formal and slightly scary voice. “These off-worlders are troubling my nerves.”

Simion laughed. “Let’s share some stories. I’m coming here because of the recent fight with the Hegemon. We won but it was a bloody business.”

Simion entered first, letting Seneschal follow. The old pirate knew that coming though a door in this busy and gang run establishment with a seven-foot giant would get him some respect and maybe a few drinks on the house.

The strange, hypnotic, hurdy-gurdy music of the Tavern greeted them along with curious and slightly fearful stares. Simion sat on a barstool. Next to it was a large chair, specifically built for the Blue Giants of Midsea. Seneschal eased into it smiling in a way that showed his sharp teeth. There were few instances of furniture built to accommodate his kind in Bex.

Simion stroked his graying goatee and ordered an expensive Fey Whiskey. Seneschal received a pitcher of Bex Pumpkin Brew, which fit like a tankard in his gargantuan hand. After a long draw of orange drink he burped a pumpkin flavored belch.

Simion wiped his mouth with the back of his hand after slugging the whiskey down. He looked at Seneschal and shook his head silently. It seemed to him like everything had to be Pumpkin flavored during this time in Bex. There were even some coffee shops that stooped to the practice.

“So,” Seneschal intoned in his gravelly baritone. “What happened with the Hegemon? I heard you captured him with Felix, Lathander, GFoot and the Druid. ”

“Aye!” Simion. “Captain Dawnbringer and crew, we were sailing to Bex, minding out own business for a change and there he appears, the Hegemon, with all his top Generals! He wanted to parley.”

“So what’s the Hegemon all about?” Seneschal asked.

“He’s not big, a bit on the small side for a Hobgoblin, but fast! He’s so full of quick the eye canna follow th’ sword. He’s like GFoot he is with his Bow.”

Seneschal grimaced. GFoot and him had a long running dislike for each other.

“So Captain Dawnbringer, who you all call Faeron sent a magical message and then Felix, GFoot and the Druid arrive. Let’s just say the parley dinna go so well.”

“Typical Off-Worlder drama?” Seneschal asked and almost drained his whole Fall flavored beer. Unlike Simion Seneschal loved the abundance of Pumpkin during Last Harvest.

“Aye,” said Simion and he motioned for another Fey Whiskey. “Felix was shooting lightning, the Druid had plants growing everywhere and GFoot was filling everyone with arrows. Captain Dawnbringer was calling on the “might and light” of Lathander like ye wounna believe. Lucky they dinna burn the boat to th’ waterline like usual.”

“So the Hegemon surrendered?” Seneschal asked.

“No!” Simion exclaimed. He downed the shot glass and its green glowing whiskey in consternation and clapped it down hard on the bar. “He was betrayed by his own Generals! After slicing them up he tried to commit hari-kari but GFoot jumped in the way. ‘course with those two it happened so fast it was over and done ’fore we knew what happened.”

“Ah,” Seneschal said. “So that is why Kona and Sir Gavin got to talk to him in that prison they keep in Conjuror’s Crypt. What did they talk about? The Hegemon seemed pretty quiet when I last saw him.”

Simion smiled. “Kona and Sir Gavin convinced him to become Protector of the Trade Roads and battle against any Orc Tribes, bandits or monsters who prey on the merchants.”

“Sir Gavin is the big one with Brother Sword and Sister Shield, right?” Seneschal asked. “I sometimes get him and that other knight Uldir Blacksteel confused.”

“Cause we look so alike?” Simion growled.

“Take no umbrage,” Seneschal said in his best butler voice. “Some of my best friends are human.”

“Simion!” a melodious voice called out over the hurdy-gurdy music.

Simion turned and spied Bettina making her way over to him. She gracefully maneuvered between two whispering Tieflings and around a drunken half-orc while holding a topped off glass of Scarlet Terravingian Wine. Her curly red hair had grown long since he last saw her. He noted her green eyes still looked as wise, and as slightly sad, as ever.

“Thank the Dawn…” Simion said. “It’s great to see you.”

She looked at Seneschal. “I didn’t know you and Seneschal had become friends.”

“Neither did I,” Simion said.

“Cleric Bettina!” Seneschal said bowing. He grabbed a barstool a drunken gang member was about to sit in and placed it behind Bettina. The gang member fell to the floor cursing, saw the group and quietly slunk away.

“Sea Greetings and Good Fortune milady,” Simion said bowing and then looked at Seneschal. “It seems you are very recognizable to our good butler here, while I am not.”

“Cleric Bettina is a legend,” Seneschal said.

“I’ve sailed the Madric Ocean, Midsea, the Floating Fens, been a Cutlass Pirate and First Mate to the Founder of Lathander Temple in Al Baku!” Simion said, his eyes squinting like Felix before he cast a Fireball. “I’ve helped the Offworlders make their way to Elvenport and had Jorge the Necromancer give me skeleton sailors and you can’t tell me apart from anyone else?”

“Which one is Jorge?” Seneschal said. “It takes me awhile to tell you apart.”

“I’m on the far side of fifty and you can’t tell me apart from a young necromancer?”

“Cleric Bettina has been in Bex for years.” He looked at her. “By the way, how old are you?”

Bettina made the same ‘Felix casting a Fireball’ face as Simion just had.

“So,” said Simion raising his hand for another drink. “What’s a nice legend like yourself doing in a place like this?"

Bettina turned her back to Seneschal and smiled. “I’m here to meet someone. A sailor like yourself and…oh there she is!”

A woman dressed in well-worn sailor garb made her way to them. Unlike Bettina her hair was not red but sun bleached blonde and her skin was not pale but bronzed and weathered.

“Sea Greetings and Good Fortune,” she said to the three distinctive adventurers. She then slapped her hand down on the bar and yelled. “A round on me for all! I have returned from the Glacial Sea after the Off-Worlders defeated the White Duchess!”

A cheer went up in the Moonshadow Tavern. The hurdy-gurdy player pulled off his scarf as he was now sweating and launched into a famous sea-chantey, “The Tipsy Tiefling and the Drunken Devil”.

“Simion and Seneschal may I introduce Cassandra Foamrider,” Bettina said. “Captain of the Second Spyglass!”

“What happened to the first Spyglass?” Simion asked with a sailor’s concern.

“Burned to the waterline by an Off-Worlder battle.” Cassandra said sipping at hot Midsea Mead.

“These Off-Worlders may be able to save the world,” said Simion. “But they sure are hard on ships.”

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A Fortune Teller's Reading
A Glimpse into the Future

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Seeress gathered her son and the off-worlders together around a circular table in the cramped front room of her row house in Tiefling Town. The table, an enchanted six foot wide Bexian Oak carved from a single gigantic tree stump, would help with the card reading she was about to do. It’s top was covered in Largyptian hieroglyphs. She inherited it from her teacher and surrogate mother Spintera.

Sitting at this table was a collection of heroes that any Inner Circle Mage would be proud to host; Sir Gavin the Knight of the Talking Sword and Whispering Shield, Uldir Blacksteel the Hell-haunted, Kona the Truthseeker and Hanz the Quick-handed. They had just negotiated terms of surrender with the Hegemon. He had agreed to take up his old duties as defender of Bex and would now patrol the trade roads around the city, all the way up to Crimson City of Redstone, the Dwarves of the Gnarl Mountains and the Blue Giants.

Sir Gavin with his broad shoulders, deep chest and obsidian scale-mail, filled much of the room. Also his talkative weapons Brother Sword and Sister Shield made his presence even larger. The human was an old campaigner and his face had both worry-lines around his eyes and smile-lines about his mouth. He frequently looked over at his longtime friend Kona when talking about old adventures.

Next to him Uldir Blacksteel’s namesake armor and legendary broad bladed falchion Hell Hacker also made for a large, if darker, presence at the table. His eyes held a hard look and his voice, when he did speak, were Hell-haunted. Seeress knew his wife Lythia resided in an Infernal Prison.

Left of Uldir was Kona the Truthseeker. The dwarf Paladin didn’t sit as tall as her other companions but her outgoing spirit and happy disposition did much to balance the others. Her magic helm shined so much you could catch a reflection of the room around her. Her hand absentmindedly strayed to the haft of her Axe of the Arghad. Seeress sensed the importance this Axe held in their upcoming journey North of North. Her bright gaze looked about the room taking in details and noting anything of interest.

Seeress smiled when she looked at her roguish son Hanz. Growing up as a Tiefling on the docks did not diminish his love of adventure. His brother Harno, a large dockworker who kept himself to himself, had the reinforced reticence of most who lived in Tiefling Town. Hanz was more like his father the fisherman, rest his soul, and his Uncle Pezca. Both were outgoing dealmakers who enjoyed meeting new people.

Seeress shuffled the deck and spread across the table in Midsea fashion, with an arc representing the Firmament, a line connecting each ends of the arc representing the Madric Ocean, three cards within arc for the Conservators of Time and four cards framing it all for the four elements, the four winds, the four Suits of the Deck, (Coins, Swords, Glyphs and Stars) and the four corners of existence.

She brushed her curly dark hair away from her eyes and readjusted her red scarf, which covered her small horns. Then she motioned with her scarlet hands for Sir Gavin to choose a card. He drew the Avenger: the first card in the Suit of Swords. It showed a Knight intently looking to the left, holding her sword in the reversed position, pointing down. Sir Gavin’s talking weapon, Brother Sword, exclaimed in approval.

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“This card shows you will take on a duty to avenge an ancient wrong,” said Seeress. “There will be a great trial in front of you but your friends will stand with you and offer assistance.”

Uldir reached forward with resignation and smiled sardonically when he saw he had chosen a card from the High Deck, The Horseman. It showed a skeleton, on a skeletal horse, holding a bloodstained backsword.

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“This is not from one of the Four Suits, this is a card from the High Deck and carries great weight.” Seeress controlled a shudder. Her son liked Uldir and Uldir obviously liked the Hanz but the Hell-haunted Arcane Knight carried a doom.

“Death rides with you and not just because of your war with an Infernal Prince. The blade you carry has many names, Demon Cleaver, Hell Hacker and Devil Death. Our people know it well. Carlock the Wizard who made us Tieflings a hundred years ago created this sword to defend him against the Devils and Demons he used. It turned against him. Remember, that weapon has a mind of its own and doesn’t look out for the one who wields it. It only cares about killing beings from the lower planes.”

Seeress, with her supernatural senses heard Sir Gavin turned to Sister Shield and said under his breath, “Why didn’t you tell me about this?” The shield whispered back, “I thought everyone knew, by the way his wife is trapped in Hell.”

Kona reached forward and flipped her card over. Seeress was relieved to see it was the Fifth Glyph Card, which showed a venerable Druid in the left foreground with the Twin Trees of Knowledge and Life in the right background. The reading started to feel more optimistic.

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“Your quest is tied to the Axe of the Arghad and it gathers its power from the forces of the Natural while what you face is the Supernatural.” Seeress liked that Kona smiled. She appreciated the smart dwarf whose always looked out for others. She hoped her son stayed close to Kona in this Quest.

“The Druidic Counsel will be watching during this quest. Make sure you utilize any of their counsel that you can gather. They keep to themselves but carry a power that cannot be ignored.”

Kona scrutinized the card and then looked at Hanz.

Hanz, no stranger to his mother’s cards, quickly turned over his card and saw it was the Three of Coins. Seeress smiled. The reading would end well. It was the Trader, a card for merchants and promised a future of good business.

The right foreground showed a merchant holding up three fingers, in the background were cattle and above him three coins stretched across the sky like phases of a metallic moon.

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“My son you have a card of good fortune! In you voyage to the North of North you will have a chance to reopen trade with the reclusive Feydril, the oldest elves in Midsea. It has been almost a millennia since they opened relations with the world.”

She collected her cards and the heroes left. She gave the three-fingered blessing of the Conservators of Time, which she noted, looked just like the figure on her son’s card.

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Captain's Log-Year of the Blind God Five Hundred and Twelve -Second Moon of Autumn- Fifth Sunrise
Sea Battle with Ghost Ship after going back to Bex

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Captain’s Log-Year of the Blind God Five Hundred and Twelve, Second Moon of Autumn, Fifth Sunrise

This is Cassandra Foamrider, Captain of the merchant ship The Second Spyglass. I took over from being first mate when our previous Captain refused to take this journey. He said he was done with ferrying the devil-sought Uldir Blacksteel between worlds and would remain among the alien lands of Midsea in Bex City of the Magic Towers.

I was not always a Captain who counted cursed Arcane Warriors as clients and an inter-dimensional itinerary. I started out in Waterdeep on the good ship Spyglass, a modest merchant two-master. I worked my way up to first mate, and as my duties grew so did my profit share on the ship. I spent many years in that capacity until the fateful day we took on Uldir Blacksteel as a passenger.

We had left Waterdeep without a cloud in the sky. An hour later we were rocked with a tempest only an Infernal could cook up. Some of the others who booked passage attacked Uldir, reasoning correctly it was a devil’s curse that was causing the storm. The bravest of us attempted to protect Uldir, as he was a passenger, cursed or not.

I was too busy keeping the ship afloat to do much else, but Uldir killed any who opposed him.

Then the strange purple gate opened and we passed through, ending up in the world of Midsea. A world with no sun, only a Phoenix that flies overhead everyday and a land with no horizon, the edge its existence ends in some strange firmament.

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We came into Bex Harbor with our ship sinking along with our prospects. Many were rescued; many were not. Uldir ended up being saved from drowning in his heavy armor by the Tiefling rogue Hanz and his fisherman Uncle Penzca.

The Captain, the Quartermaster and I gathered up as many of the Waterdeep crew that didn’t drown and found work on the prosperous Doro Docks. After a few months we pulled our meager resources and finally figured a time when the Purple Gate between the Worlds would open by consulting with the Tiefling Seeress in Tiefling Town. The Fourth Quintana Mage Alexandra, who wanted to see how we fared returning to our world, financed a new ship through on one condition. We take Uldir with us.

The Captain could not conscience such an action and chose to stay in Midsea, making a new life for himself. The Quartermaster backed my bid and I was voted in as the new Captain.

So I assembled my crew along with recruited sailors who wanted to leave this world. As you can imagine many of them were running from something so it was a crew as scurvy as they come. So when we sailed to the last sighting of the Inter-Dimensional Portal I had more than Uldir to concern myself.

I remembered it was between the sightlines of the Eternal Torch and Marid Island’s third mountain. Sure enough a Purple Triangle appeared at the wave’s crest, with seawater spilling into it. It was four ship lengths wide and inside I could see a tunnel that was even wider. I set the sail and let the water that fell through the gate pull me in, wondering if the wind would still keep inside the tunnel.

I sighted Uldir Blacksteel on deck. His dark armor and dark countenance kept many sailors away from him. What happened to our last ship that brought him through the gate was still whispered in the back alleys of Bex and no doubt in Waterdeep. He paid well though and it was enough to buy us a ship and this desperate crew.

Uldir was looking down and talking to something. I came up close and heard a tormented voice speaking with him. I looked over the rail and saw the form of a woman in the sea foam near the ships waterline. I could not hear all of what she said but it seemed she was his wife and was locked in torment somewhere. She then pointed back the way we came and dissipated.

I quickly walked back to the wheel, where the new First mate was talking to the Navigator. I turned and saw Uldir walk up.

“We must go back.” He demanded in that terrible shiver inducing voice.

The Quartermaster said Uldir’s words always echoed of a soul scarred by damnations.

“It will cost you much,” I said. We were still poor from losing the first ship Spyglass and in debt to the shipwrights for The Second Spyglass.

Uldir lifted up a hand full of gems.

“Turn this ship around you sorry excuse for sailors!” I yelled.

The money in his hand would pay all debts and leave many of us comfortable for years. I also didn’t want to go against this desperate warrior or his devil-damned wife.

We turned back and exited the strange hall of waters between the worlds. We came back to Bex and then were confronted by a rotting ship that rose from beneath the harbor. The heroic dwarf Kona and the knight Sir Gavin got on our ship, defending it from a Pit Fiend. I even saw the deadly archer GFoot send shaft after shaft into its scaly hide.

Of course Hanz showed up with his Uncle Penzca and got that deadly group off my ship after the battle was done. We then put in at the Doro Docks and paid our debts with Uldir’s Diamonds.

I must finish up this log quickly. Kona is said to be coming by later. She wants to book our ship to travel North of North to some strange destination found on a Magical Map to Keep of the Crystal Library.

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