Legacy of Fire
Escape – Sort of
This is the Journal of Shurooq, Dedicated of Sarenrae, The Dawnflower, The Healing Flame, and the Everlight, Goddess of the Sun and Healing; Shurooq of Katapesh, great jewel of the Inner Sea; Shurooq of the Sands, the Clans and the Kelish people; Shurooq, Chronicler and Collector of Tales. I am your narrator on this perilous journey.
Although I introduce myself here, and tell you, gentle readers, that I am a participant in this adventure, this is not my tale. I am but a passenger on this voyage, a leaf plucked from a branch, tumbling in the winds of fate, a bit of floating moss drawn downstream in the currents of time and destiny. This story has a diverse cast, and we shall begin to meet them now…
THE JOURNEY TO KELMARANE
The caravan had departed Solku almost a week ago, on our way to lost Kelmarane, a remote village in northwestern Katapesh. The village, once a prosperous part of a trade route from Osirion, has fallen on hard times and was abandoned years ago. It is now thought to be in the hands of gnolls, beastly barbarian creatures in service to their “Carrion King” if rumors are to be believed. Not exactly the kind of place most sane folk would care to visit, but each of us had a reason to be travelling to such a locale. Let me get to the whos so that we can better understand the whys.
Khan, a hulking beast of a creature, is a half orc and a hunter of men. He carries himself with the bearing of one whom has military experience. He also has the haunted look of one whom was a pesh addict at some point. He lost a foot at some point in the past, and pesh became his crutch during his recovery. He has an able replacement in a magical limb, but he still seems to have something to prove to everyone.
The dashing and flirtatious Duron is of Kelshite descent. He comes from Katapesh, and although he wears plain, unadorned garb, his jewelry marks him as someone of money. He has an easy-going manner, and is as capable in conversation as he appears to be wielding his spear and shield. He also seems to enjoy tormenting his little sister immensely.
Said sister, Sahlira, is quite the opinionated individual. She seems to like sticking her nose into things, although she seems to blend into the background when necessary. She carries a great many short blades, and treats them with care and consideration. She seems to have a quick temper, and can be a bit difficult if not handled properly. Both are siblings of Almah, the merchant princess we are on the way to meet.
Fiora is an elven slave of the state. She is slight of stature for an elf, but she carries herself well, and her bow fits her like an extra limb. Although very intelligent, she is also very considerate, and takes her time in making decisions before acting. She has a breadth of knowledge commiserate with one who has lived a long life, and could be a considerable wealth of information given enough time.
Garavel, the cavern master, is another dashing human, looking more like a swordsman than a merchant. However, he seems to know his way around the business side of the caravan. He is the driving force of the journey, having organized the caravan’s members and the journey itself in order to meet up with Almah, the merchant princess whom we will meet (and learn more about) later. Underneath his keffeyeh, he seems to have a small, round bolt of metal sticking out of his head, a Pactmaster’s Favor. It is an enchanted item which makes one emotionally numb, but helps them resist being influenced mentally, and is given to direct servants of the Packmasters. Very interesting…
The First Night
After the first week of travel, we are approaching the Sultan’s Claw, a known landmark in the region. A half a dozen wagons, a small horde of camels, and a large tent surround the ancient, withered tree. The animals are acting a bit strangely, and no wonder – there appears to be a fire burning on one of the wagons! Seemingly from out of nowhere, a gust of wind rises and a tumbling Harrow card strikes Fiora in the chest – The Cyclone. If my interpretation is correct, this portends a directed chaos, which some intelligence has unleashed upon the caravan. Sarenrae have mercy!
Khan quickly joins a band of men attempting to move a wagon from the flames, while Duran helps keep the animals secure. Fiora uses her magic to summon water, hoping to save the wagon, while Sahlira helps with the water train. I move to revive some injured men, hoping that Saranrae is merciful and they still draw breath.
The chaos is soon quelled. Father Zastoran, an elderly human and cleric of Nethys, the God of Magic, wanders back in from the desert, where he had been gathering herbs. Dashki, the caravan’s gnoll expert, is with him. The Father takes over treating the injured, while people check the remnants of burned wagon. Unfortunately Eloais, a Varisian fortune telling, and the wagon’s sole occupant, was occupying said domicile at the time of the fire, and is beyond help. Almah asks us and Garavel to investigate the cause of the fire, in hopes of preventing any similar events in the future.
Almah, a beautiful young Varisian woman, is the older sister of Duran and Sahlira. My first impression is that she seems quite bossy and a bit lacking in proper etiquette, but it may be the loss of her lover Eloais that is causing her mood, so I will give her the benefit of the doubt for now. Per her orders, the investigation is to begin at once.
Khan attempts to enter the wreckage and look about, but the wagon’s wreckage doesn’t seem to support him. He has quite the inventive vocabulary about the situation. As the rest of us join him, we begin to gather our data for analysis. The deceased appears to have perished from his burn wounds, and there is nothing unusual about the body or the area. Perhaps he knocked over a candle, and was too exhausted or even inebriated to revive himself in time? Of note, however, is that during our investigation Dashki seems to be very interested in our efforts. On top of being hygienically challenged, he also acts suspiciously when confronted. His story needs to be confirmed, as he may have a bit of a crush on Almah, which could lead to motive.
Father Zastoran is the next person we seek to question. His wagon is stuffed to overflowing with herbs, vials, and various potions, which I file away for later, knowing Fiora has a particular interest. His alibi is that he was in the wilds seeking a specific herb known to grow in these parts. Dashki did guide him into the wilds, but Zastoran cannot confirm his presence throughout the search, so the gnoll expert could have slipped away unseen. Zastoran also thinks that Eloais was a sharlatan as a fortune-teller, and that the caravan is likely better off without him.
The camel drivers, Hadrah and Hadrod, are very upset by the evening’s events. Hadrod is near tears. They are quite the chatty couple, however, and quickly open up to Duran. Hadrah noticed the fire first, but they spent most of the time trying to calm the animals. Hadrod’s favorite goat Rombard appears to have gone missing in the excitement, so we should keep an eye out.
Almah is unaware of the attentions Dashki wishes he were paying to her. She also denies any relationship with him, although her nightly visits to his tent may have given that impression. Almah was in her tent when the fires started, and didn’t see anything of note. Her siblings, however, indicate that she is a very talented liar, so she may have deceived Fiora. Why she would do so is unknown.
Meanwhile, Khan and Dashki have found some goat tracks, accompanied by what appears to be those of pugwampi, which are smaller, rat-like gnolls. They could cause trouble to the caravan, and may need to be eliminated. They also bring about bad luck. Almah agrees, and sends us out to bring one back for questioning.
We track the goat back to a patch of cacti, where we hear the animal screaming in pain. Anticipating a trap, we careful proceed through the cacti, where we are able to reach a clearing where the goat has been tied. As soon as Khan attempts to cut the goat free, the pugwampi emerges and attacks! Duran, with his spear and shield, makes quick work of the creature, and we search the body for clues, finding a dagger, a short bow, and more telling, a dozen singed Harrow cards. Pugwampi also exude an aura of misfortune, which could account for a tipped cabled. Perhaps this is our culprit after all?
After returning with our prize, we further negotiate our fees in helping Almah before retiring for the night.
About a mile from the Withered Claw stands the abandoned ruins of the monastery of St. Vardishal, one of the Templars of the Five Winds, and dedicated follower of Sarenrae, may Her light be forever bright. The Templars were a group of jann, or mortal genies, serving Nefeshti, a great genie princess whose designs upon Katapesh and Osirion have had both positive and negative effects. Although originally mortal, the were granted immortality, which supposedly came from a great wish bestowed by Nefeshti on the Templars, and rumors suggest they would retain it so long as they kept her favor. They were also known as great opponents of the spawn of Rovagug.
Planning to use the monastery as our base of operations in the region, Almah orders us to scout the ruins and check for any vermin that may need to be removed before our caravan can occupy the structures. Of course, right away we find said vermin in the form of pugwampi, as well as a tribe of baboons, both of whom seem quite adverse to our presence. We deal with them with righteous indignation, or at least with swift and gentle mercy.
Some of the ancient artwork is still present in the monastery, and are of great interest. The murals seem to indicate that Vardishal was left behind by his fellow Templars, whom rise off into the heavens and leave him in vigil of the mountain behind him. In the next mural, Vardishal is stabbed and killed by a flaming half man, half snake creature, only to rise as a spirit. Continuing around the room, next depicted is the Templar’s spirit counseling pilgrims and priests of Sarenrae as the temple is built. Also depicted are the ancient battles of the Genie War over Pale Mountain.
One room seems especially serene. A statue, though greatly defaced, is identifiable as that of Vardishal himself. He appears to be waiting for some form of offering. Perhaps this begs more investigation later.
After clearing out the unruly pugwampi on the first floor, we continued into the lower levels of the monastery. During our explorations, Ibn Kahn is taken with a sudden flash of inspiration, and guides us to courtyard, where he begins his own archeological dig, again for no apparent reason. However, when his digging is complete, he raises a falchion above his head, recovered from the hole, and proclaims, “I found it!” The item quickly flashes with a bright burst of light, and the energy seems to fuse with various items in the party’s possession. Some sort of blessing appears to have been bestowed upon these objects, as they shine with the light of Sarenrae and Vardishal. Apparently, our quest has not gone unnoticed in the heavenly realms…
Once cleared or menacing vermin, the monastery becomes the base of operations for the caravan and the reclamation of Kelmarane.