The soft beach sands flanking Sagan have played host to more footprints than can be remembered. Empires have come, empires have gone. And yet the footprints are a constant. Ever shifting, yet ever present, they tell many stories. Sadness, joy, anger, deception, betrayal, pride, and all the other emotions of the mind have given birth to the drive that causes the humanoid races of the world to walk these shores. Of late, pain, hunger, and desperation seem to drive most. The darker side of life brings many, obliterating all records of: here now the long stride marks of lovers reunited, meeting in a pile of disheveled sand where they met and did not leave for many a passionate moment; here now the triumphant drag left when the hunter brings the kill home; here now the dimples left when a homesick warrior kissed the earth. All gone. All now is steel and leather and wood. Gone are the children with their castles of sand.
Into this war-torn landscape sail many ships, all flying the same flag. This is a time of unity, where if you are not with us, you are the other, and you must be up to something. You may be from many places, you may have seen many things, the world is vast, and contains many strange and wondrous realities. But here, in this place, you are citizen and subject. Everything is order. Everything is function. Very little though is spent on that which is beautiful. The rare slice of beauty seems therefore stark, which in itself detracts from the esthetic. Merchants and foreign lords are the only vestiges of the boisterous world beyond the Wilding Wood. Local lords know well that their soldiers would take it as weakness to spend so much thought on ego. Not that their outfits are cheap, but the materials are simply the best examples of the same things that go into daily life. The best sack cloth, but spun from rich, though muted thread. The best leather and metals in armor. The finest craftsmanship. Function rules here. Gone is form.
It was not always like this. Once, and not so long ago, a vibrant civilization of orcs ruled this land, some say with an iron fist and a hatred for anything alien. All agree that they were masters of everything they attempted. Though slow to pick up new ideas, quick to anger, and even quicker to fight, when one puts its mind to a task, few on this planet would be able to complete the same task with the same speed, efficiency, precision, and granduer as the humble orc. And all with a simplicity and style of form following function that all who behold agrees is beautiful. No wasted material. No wasted lines. No afterthoughts. The orcs that rules this area were truly master craftsmen. Even the dwarves are quick with praise the work of the orc, no matter how much they may hate the orc itself.
Now of course, the beauty of the orcish architecture in Sagan is certainly marred. Crumbled wall sections, repaired by humans and dwarves, show high contrast. Even with the best craftspeople in the Fentish alliance available and looking for work, the repairs look childish and crude. Superimposed on that image you see the scaffoldtowns that rise up in the outer shadow of these walls. The stench of slums out here is thick, and hardly allows one the luxury of appreciating that which most are here to destroy.
Into the sand new feet leave their fleeting scars. Five individuals, bold or foolish, have journied to this corner of Jornhal for their different reasons, but all share a goal: adventure! There is money to be made here. There is gold being plucked from rivers, here. There are goblins and kobolds and monsters who make the goblins and kobolds seem like docile pets. Though they might all have different backgrounds, when they funneled through the town looking for work, they, as many before them have, found Arf.
“He likes you.”
“Can you ask him if he knows where we can find some work? Does he know of something to slay?”
“You can talk to him y’know, he’s not deaf.”
“Arf, we’re here to prove ourselves to the companies and guilds. We must distinguish ourselves from the throngs of armed buffoons roaming the street.”
“He thinks you’re funny!”
Arf knew how to get rid of this lot. The same way he got rid of the last lot. The same way he will get rid of the next lot.
“Arf wants you to help him around the shop today. He says his people are lazy and leave the forge unstocked.”
“Seems kind of menial..”
Arf was wrong. This group knew the value of hedging their egos. He takes a second look. Yes, the female was certainly beautiful, but there is a hard line of muscle propping up her curves, probably the least noticible part of this woman, yet Arf knew well what this definition portained, especially in a delicate elf. The dwarf had several artifacts of ancient civilizations in his gear, surely a traveller of culture and understanding. The old one, he looked useless and weak at first, but Arf had been since finding himself more and more drawn to the man, a sheer force of personality. The holy man seemed steadfast, not surprising, but there was a dark cast to his gaze, a steely tingle crept up Arf’s massive spine when the much smaller man affixed him with his gaze. And the mage.. Arf assumed he was a mage, since there was nothing of the aged arrogance and practiced perfection of gesture that one usually associates with mages about him – young, dishevelled, and undeniably distracted – yet Arf felt that it was this one he’d least like to tussle with.
“Arf says that he might have some work for you after all. He says that he is attempting to craft a set of daggers for Admiral up in the beak, but he needs some special horn material that wont slip in the cold. He wants you to return here with Yeti horn.”
The girl explained how the Yetis had been ruining settlements and slaying people with wanton cruelty. They must have come from the east or west, traveling over the icepack. Nobody had seen yetis before, and nobody knew how to deal with them, other than main force, and that hadn’t worked out to well just yet.
The party knew what to do. Arf was done talking, and the girl went back to her duties.
The caravan was leaving the next day, and agreed to hire the five for a modest fee, knowing well that adventurers were a dime a dozen, almost literally, and that if these were too greedy, he could just wait it out and hire twice as many for half the price. Shalfar, the caravan owner, was glad that it was
this group before long. Anyone could have help fend off the goblins, kobolds, or worse, that assuredly lined their path, but the dwarf was the one who saved the day. His companions did an excellent job with morale, but had the dwarf not been there, he knew he might STILL be trying to fit one wagon by the other.
The Darkswallow name is an ancient one. It goes back for at least four and a half thousand years of recorded history on Mirendor. His ancestors fought in every major war that has ever been fought. His fathers have ruled in more places than any other family. Nearly every municipality has a Darkswallow ruler in it’s past. Sorben was raised to rule. He is very comfortable in that role. He has an absolute air of power about him, and everyone who sees him just assumes he is in charge, wherever he is. Not that this is always a good thing. On the field of battle he was a constant target. Even his men noticed it. So commanding was his stance, that he endangered everyone near him, as every enemy constantly assumed they could behead the snake here, in this place. Sorben reluctantly retired, as a captain, at the request of his men and his King. Now he rules. This is what he was born to do. If the king could have an understudy, it would be Sorben. Alas, the kind has an heir, and so Sorben heads up the most important task in the world, by specific royal decree. This does not leave Sorben much time for his hobbies, of which he has many. One of them, painting, requires many exotic and strange ingredients. The only thing harder than finding time to paint, reasons Sorben, is finding all the pigments to make his paints. At every turn, Sorben hires out intrepid fools to bring him the ingredients he needs to create his works of art.
And so our heroes set out into the wild. Their goals clear and their way straight. Straight into what though? Certain death at the hand of the Yeti? Fame and fortune? Great power? FIND OUT NEXT TIME as we rejoin them at the mouth of the Yeti’s Lair.