Thursday, 14 March 2013

Canitia: The Hunt

When last we left our heroic adventurers, Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar had made their way out of Aes
Dallas Kasaboski
(Kalgar's homeland), after finding out that the Doomguard might be compromised, and were making their way through Canitia (Tong's homeland). Much was revealed in this session, so let's get right into it, shall we?

Some of the history and culture was made aware to the players before this section, and even though we had traveled through here before, we mostly kept off the main roads. This time, we had a chance to see more the local people and customs.

While I'm sure the DM will make all of the background information accessible sometime in the future, I'll give you the basics as they pertain to Canitia. Located in the northwest of Cyfandir, Canitia itself is split into three parts, separated by location and slightly by custom.

Eastern Canitians are warlords, pretty much have to be as they are right next to the countries of Albus and Adamantina. Middle Canitians are hunters, keeping mostly to themselves. Western Canitians are explorers, adventurers valuing teamwork. Canitia is a beautifully natural place, hosting a variety of environments. The entire Canitian society is fairly easy going, relying mostly on the doctrine of respect. While Middle Canitians were mentioned as hunters, all Canitians hunt for their food, and keep to themselves. Disputes are rare and usually arise due to misunderstandings. Because of the variety of natural environments, there is a variety of creatures to be found and casters from all over come to Canitia for some of the rare and powerful components.

Every year, there is a great Hunt, a 3 day tournament of sorts where hunters try to bring back the most impressive game. The entire country looks forward to this and dedicates itself to it at the appropriate time of year. Around this time, a grey beast is said to be seen, tearing up buildings and ransacking the countryside. However, try as they might, no one has been able to successfully capture this creature.

Tong had been very animated the entire time the three were traveling through Canitia. While a normally eccentric character, one could rarely describe him as excited. But, he was practically bouncing off trees as he told his friends about some of the meals, and some of the beasts caught in previous years.

Making their way to The Vale, Canitia's "capital", the three spotted only a couple of buildings, those made of wood and rock, and a mass of people setting up camp. Since Canitians rarely congregate, living off the land and leaving each other alone, the Vale was as close to a capital city as they were going to get. Entirely dedicated to the Hunt, the landmarks included: the Tribunal, a place to deal with any issues should they arise; Hunter's Rest, a place of respect for those who had fallen in previous years; a Drum Circle, a large gathering spot for hunters to share stories and company; and the Bone Village, a place where the remains of some of the more impressive beasts caught on the Hunt could be found, the entrance to which was lined with a tunnel made of the body of a purple worm's skeleton.

Taking a look around, Kalgar noticed the above and noticed a white dragonborn, dressed in white plate mail, sitting by himself in the Drum Circle. Alvyn noticed this and also saw, off to the side, a group of halflings, all riding terrible looking beasts. Both rider and mount were garbed in black, be it cloak or feather. Tong made his way over to a fountain near the Drum Circle and stared at it for some time. Upon seeing this, Alvyn walked over and asked him what was wrong. Tong tried to say it was nothing, but upon further questioning, Tong explained that there used to be a statue there of the first Master of the Hunt, a man by the name of Whitehelm. Alvyn caught the emotion behind this revelation, but wasn't sure the reason. Tong excused himself and made his way over to Kalgar and the dragonborn.

The dragonborn had but a single blade on his side, but in his hands he held a bottle from which he kept drinking. Trying to make light conversation, Kalgar quickly realized that this dragonborn was a samurai from Albus, and was not willing to talk too much about it. Knowing of the tragedy which befell that country years ago and the recent invasion by Adamantina's armies, Kalgar did not push the conversation, but asked more about his experience with the Hunt. The dragonborn, who said his name was Shizuka, said he had been a few times, and that it was all pretty straightforward. The main rules were that you could only kill one piece of game and that you were not to interfere in the hunt or game of other hunters. Wishing him luck, Kalgar left the samurai to his drink.

Meanwhile, Alvyn was trying to make conversation with the halfling riders. Despite their small stature, everyone was avoiding the halflings mostly due to their scary looking dinosaur/bird mounts, and also because the halflings had a rather fierce reputation. Still, not one to be turned aside so easily, Alvyn brought over some food and offered it to the head rider, and his beasts. With barely an acknowledgement of his presence, the rider took the food and remained unfriendly. Complimenting the mounts and asking about their role in the Hunt, Alvyn wasn't able to get much out of them, but he did manage to make the head rider almost smile. Alvyn could tell these were a serious bunch, but he had dealt with that before.

Making his way back to the others, Alvyn noticed a couple of impressive looking soldiers making their way over and talking with everyone they came across. One was male and one was female, but they so closely resembled each other they might as well be related. Introducing themselves, they stated that they represented the Brass Company, a mercenary group known all across Cyfandir. They said they were scouting for anyone interested in joining them and were using the Hunt as a testing ground of sorts.

The Brass Company was a pretty big deal in Cyfandir and Kalgar had indeed heard of them. They were a group of unknown number working contracts all across the land. As the two explained, each member made their own contract and were only held to the obligations of their own contract. However, they were held very closely to the details of their contract. For example, should a warrior's contract include killing a person, that warrior was only to kill that one person, and no one else. And the Brass Company, while having bases in most countries, held a headquarters only known to a special few, even Alvyn within the Doomguard did not know where it was, although the same could be said of the Doomguard's headquarters and very existence. Kalgar was familiar with this as well as the phrase loose lips sink ships. This had a special meaning in Aes. The capital city's location was only known to ship captains. When ships would return to the capital, all of the crew, save the captain, were to go below deck. Should a ship make its way to the capital with more of her crew on deck, even one extra person, that ship was sunk, by cannon-fire, without question. It was just one part of the strict military life to which Kalgar was accustomed. Wishing everyone good luck with the Hunt, the members of the Brass Company continued to make their way around the fire, talking with everyone.

As the three stood there talking about the Hunt and trying to decide where to make camp, Tong noticed a tiefling who kept looking at him, or rather, past him. The tiefling kept staring at the bundle on Tong's back, and was not being subtle about this attention. It was getting dark, and most of the hunters had set up camp on their own already, so it was only Alvyn, Tong, Kalgar, and this tiefling. Asking him what his business was, Alvyn kept trying to distract the tiefling's attention away from Tong, and the three noticed that this tiefling did not have a tail.

Introducing himself, the tielfing said his name was Knight Verius of the Knights of Shame. These knights were given this title as a reminder to them and a warning to others that they had broken a great vow at some point in their lives. While some knights tried forever after to clear their name or to make recompense, others decided to become as wanton as they desired, since the world looked at them poorly anyhow. Looking angry and scared, Knight Verius asked Tong how he came across The Edge of Sanity.

Asking the knight how he knew what was in the bundle, Verius responded that as a tiefling, it was in his nature to know. His country, Ruber, home of the tieflings, was constantly vigilant against demons and devils, of whom they were descended. Trying to overcome their ancestry, tieflings had developed a strong sense of evil and could spot it almost immediately. He said that the aura around Tong was impressive, and frightening.

Tong brought out his tome, the one Alvyn had repaired for him, from the library of the last Emperor of Albus, and asked the tiefling to look through it. Quickly scanning through it, he noted nothing out of the ordinary until Tong pointed out that some of the pages seemed to be missing as words from one page would not follow properly into the next. Tong explained that the sword, for that is what The Edge of Sanity is, was bound to him and that he was trying to rid himself of the curse. The tielfing said that the ruler of Ruber would be most interested in that. The ruler, he said, was himself a demon, a balor in fact, who had proven himself to actually be a good guy, except for some wild rages. Not giving any more information and not pointing out why the ruler would be interested, the knight stopped talking.

Alvyn signaled to Kalgar to circle around the knight. As he did so, Alvyn told the knight that having this information was dangerous. Alvyn said that the three of them were trying to rid Tong of this curse and didn't need anyone getting in the way of that. He said that this information should be kept quiet and that only bad things could happen should this information fall into the wrong hands. As these final words were said, Kalgar's khopesh made its way along the knight's ribs and Kalgar whispered, "And next time...there might not be anyone to stop me from using this."

Tong had already started over to the area Alvyn had suggested for camp and was setting up a fire. Kalgar made his way over and lifted Tong clear off the ground, holding him by the neck.

"WHAT is The Edge of Sanity? What have you been hiding from us?"

Putting Tong down, reluctantly, Tong told the story of how many men had died, including himself.

He began telling the story of Victor Whitehelm, a prince of sorts, of one of the lesser-noble royal families of Canitia. Born to privilege, he spent most of his days riding horses, hunting, and not caring too much about anything other than himself and his legacy. During one Hunt, as Victor pursued a beast he would use to feed his wife and child, the beast turned on him but before it could do anything, a samurai appeared and killed the beast. This outraged Victor, because of the rule of non-interference; to help a hunter was seen as the greatest insult, indicating an inability of the hunter to fend for himself. Despite his inexperience, Victor challenged the samurai to combat on the field of battle. The samurai agreed and left.

Unbeknownst to Victor, a samurai's code of honour was also extremely strict and a little different than Victor realized. While Victor was looking to end the samurai then and there, a combat on the field of battle meant, to a samuria, amassing an army. So, the Albusian samurai and the Canitian noble gathered their armies and met. Having little actual battle experience, Victor quickly fell and was captured by the Albusians, adding to his shame.

Imprisoned, defeated, angry, Victor sought out a way to defeat all who challenged him. Dedicating all of his energy to it, a psychic link opened up between Victor and the underworld. A devil appeared and offered Victor The Edge of Sanity a weapon which would make him invincible against any armed combatant. Swearing his allegiance, Victor escaped his prison and slaughtered the samurai and all of his men. With a lust for blood, Victor killed hundreds, thousands, anyone who stood in his way, and many innocents who didn't.

As Tong told this story, the night became darker, colder, and Tong's normally stoic face became more and more contorted with emotion.

As Victor killed, he realized that the voices of everyone he murdered could be heard in his mind. He tried to get rid of the sword but as he threw it away, it disappeared and reappeared on his back, calling to him to do battle. He went insane, and turned on his own people.

"With barely a semblance of thought, Victor's life became a cacophony of screams. And it was not long before the screams of his wife and young child were added to the madness within his mind. One day, upon traveling in northern Canitia, Victor challenged a group of monks. Try as he might, Victor was unable to even land a single blow, for you see, monks don't use weapons, making them exempt from the curse of The Edge."

Realizing the torture the man was going through, and that the sword and man were bound, the monks did what they could to help him. After defeating him, they bound the sword in beads and garments blessed in Ioun's name, hoping to separate some of the sword's influence over Victor. Taking him in, and training him in the ways of mental self-discipline, it was there that Victor met Ting Tang Wong Gong, the master of the monks. With a stern focus, a quick joke, and the occasional beating by the discipline rod, Wong Gong was able to calm the insanity. The newly made monk shaved his head, denounced all of his former life, and dedicated himself to learning the peace of knowledge promised by Ioun and to one day rid himself of The Edge.

"So you see, dear friends, I am Victor Whitehelm...was Victor Whitehelm. I died that day, and was born anew, but until I rid myself of this curse, it forever will haunt me."

Alvyn and Kalgar sat in silence. All the pieces had come together. Alvyn had known Tong had the sword; he was sent to the monastery to take it back, but once he found out it was bound to Tong, he thought they could remove it together with time. Alvyn thought Tong stumbled upon the sword and was cursed somehow, not that Tong volunteered for it. He was appalled, angry, and worried. They were friends, and Tong had not only kept this secret from him, but had endangered his very life each and every day they had traveled together. Kalgar felt much of the same. While he hadn't realized what the bundle was on Tong's back, he felt betrayed.

Storming off into the night, Kalgar set up his hammock, filled it with his belongings, and then climbed into the nearest tree. Tong's story had an effect on both Alvyn and Kalgar, and for Kalgar, it was a pale mirror he was seeing. Kalgar knew about secrets and lies. Both are part of a military life, but especially key to the life of a deserter. Kalgar knew leaving Aes was the right thing to do, and he thought to seek guidance in Kord. However, the story of Victor Whitehelm held some shocking parallels for Kalgar. Kord's teachings are all about the values of strength. This strength is usually tested and earned through combat. In an effort to find himself, Kalgar has been pushing for excellence through physical combat. In order to give himself a measure of success and to impress his god, Kalgar has devoted his life to becoming better and stronger. While he is more than aware of the dangers of power, Kalgar knows that to not improve is to fall short of what his god wants. However, Victor had almost ultimate power. With a single promise, a great one but nevertheless, Victor became for a short time one of the most powerful men to be seen in Cyfandir. With it, came insanity, and sins too great to be forgiven. Kalgar saw Tong's story, Victor's story, not only of one of betrayal and insanity, but as a warning to what he may himself become.

Musing upon this, Kalgar heard someone making their way over to his hammock. It was Alvyn, and he was poking at the bedroll saying they needed to talk. Noticing the deception, Alvyn smiled to himself as Kalgar landed, noisily, behind him.

"Sleeping in the trees now?"

"I didn't want anyone to know where I was, especially now."

"Finally! Someone is learning, stealth is key! Anyway, let's talk."

They stayed up for quite a while, sharing their grief and their anger over Tong's betrayal.

At one point, Alvyn said, "The thing is, I believe him when he says Victor Whitehelm is dead. We've seen him, been with him for too long now to believe otherwise. He has changed."

"But will he change back? As long as he has that sword, we're at risk."

"Well, let's help him get rid of the thing."

With a grunt from Kalgar, the two made their way back to their beds, Alvyn deciding that sleeping in a tree might not be such a bad idea after all, at least, until he felt better about Tong.

That night, Kalgar and Alvyn had dreams filled with murder and fire. They awoke to the sounds of explosions and screaming. Rushing over to Tong, they noticed that the ground surrounding him was burned. Lying huddled, his clothes seemed burned and his skin bore the marks of claws and bites. Shivering, whimpering, Tong woke up, looking like he hadn't seen his friends in a long time. Alvyn noticed that the explosions were coming from the Drum Circle, part of the opening ceremonies of the Hunt. As they tried to determine what happened, Kalgar looked around to see if anyone else had noticed their screaming friend. It seemed that one camper, who stayed up way too late and had drank way too much, noticed and came out of the woods carrying a bucket. Dumping some water on Tong, he stumbled away mumbling something about drunken people falling into fires.

Tong was a little more awake now and said that he had terrible dreams about being in the ravages of the underworld, with devils and demons all around him. Alvyn sensed some magical energy coming from Tong, most of it was psychic energy but some was portal magic. Maybe Tong was in hell, he thought.

Asking him some more questions, the three reasoned that perhaps the devil who had cursed Tong had tried to come for him in the night, spurred on by Tong's telling of his tragic history. Tong realized this must be right as the bundle of beads and cloths surrounding his sword had come loose. Turning inward, Tong prayed and meditated, calling for the wisdom of Ioun and the council of Ting Tang Wong Gong.

Kalgar and Alvyn had seen this ritual before. Somehow, Tong was able to talk with his monks and usually, Ting Tang Wong Gong gave straightforward, if demeaning advice. Tong once told a story about how he asked for something other than rice at the monastery and Ting Tang Wong Gong had simply beat him with a stick, asking if he still wanted more. While harsh, it was through his dedication to the ways of Ioun, not to mention the humorous side of his master which got Tong through the early days of his monk-hood.

This time, however, the ritual was not purely internal, and Alvyn and Kalgar could see a congregation of monks chanting and praying over Tong. As they did so, the beads and cloths surrounding The Edge of Sanity became tighter and Tong looked much better. His wounds, while not gone, had healed somewhat.

"Master?", Tong asked. "I need to get rid of this thing, but are all weapons a danger, or are some tools? When does a weapon become a tool?"

And just then an old man appeared with a walking stick, and a long beard. "Oh, you have to stop worrying about that. You in bad place now, but that's just because you have that weapon on your back. The answer is that a weapon is a tool and a tool can be a weapon, but stop worrying, get rid of that weapon, and stop being a tool!"

With that, he vanished, and Tong sat bolt upright. He looked over to his friends, who were chuckling quite a bit, and said he was sorry. He did not mean to put them in that situation and would understand if they wanted to leave. Alvyn said he promised to help Tong rid himself of the sword, and Kalgar said he knew Tong was not the threat. With a half-smile, and a slap on the back which was probably a little too soon, Kalgar then grabbed his stuff and walked toward the Drum Circle with Alvyn. With a wince, and yet renewed vigor, Tong joined the others.

As people lined up awaiting the opening ceremonies of the Hunt, party poppers were being handed around. While Tong seemed quite excited for these, Kalgar wasn't too sure what they were at first. About the size of a nice haddock, they appeared to be something related to the celebrations as everyone held them by both ends, at the ready. Tong explained that they were a simple, and yet exciting,  device used for creating a little explosion to mark the opening of the Hunt. The Master Hunter, he or she who was chosen last year, would make their way to the front of the group, wearing the ceremonial Golden Antlers, a cloak fastened to a pair of giant golden antlers from the first Hunt, and explain the rules of the Hunt. Once again, the rules were simple: only hunt one thing and don't interfere with other people's hunts. Additionally, the regions for hunting, and possible prey, were explained. Hunters had to balance the extra value of the prey versus the danger of said prey and the environment. After a little discussion, Kalgar, Tong, and Alvyn decided to go north as they heard there were mammoths up there and none of them had seen a mammoth before.

The Master Hunter made his speech and as he did so, he set off a giant explosion of fireworks, accompanied by the party poppers everyone held. He explained that the explosion was not only ceremonial, but was used to scare the animals away keeping the people staying behind safe and giving the hunters a better time of finding their prey. Among the crowd, Tong noticed someone he had not seen for some time; a female student from one of the other monasteries. Aleia the Stubborn. He mentioned to us that she was always a formidable student, and was able to learn some lessons with great speed and intensity but, due to her stubborn nature, could not even fathom some of the other lessons. They weren't exactly friends, but neither were they rivals. He said she would be a tough competitor.

The Hunt had began, and the three traveled north! Along the way, they saw the samurai, still drinking from his horse and swaying as he did so. Alvyn, noticing the chill and concerned about the weather, took a piece of Tong's robe and used it to make strips which he stuffed between the scale in Kalgar's armour for better insulation.

As they traveled farther north, the three made their way deeper into the glacier and the mountains. The wind picked up and soon snow obscured their vision. At one point, they made it to an area where the two sides of the cliff came closer together. Kalgar recalled one sailor who would not stop talking about mammoth once while at sea. Most of the information was boring and not very useful, how long to cook the meat, how much fat was on a general mammoth, but Kalgar did recall that mammoths generally travel in herds and ate grass.

Coming to a spot where the path narrowed some, Tong noticed an offshoot which would suit their needs perfectly. It was a large, cavern-like opening which featured some grass and protection from the wind. Hoping that the main herd would make its way here, they settled in and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And, well, hunting can be boring.

Finally, even with the snowstorm picking up, they could see and hear the mammoth herd. They had decided beforehand that they would go for the largest and strongest one, Kalgar chose it for the challenge of it all, Alvyn and Tong agreed it would better their odds in the Hunt. As the leader, a giant with long, sharp tusks, made his way into the cavern, Alvyn sprang from his hiding spot, blasting the side of the cavern dropping quite a bit of rocks and debris on the ground. Unsure, and slightly hindered, the other mammoths trumpeted and stomped, trying to both get in and away from their leader.

Tong, Kalgar, and Alvyn leaped to action! At one point, the mammoth pushed Tong away and he backed into a patch of ice which cracked beneath his feet. Springing from the crack were several small, scurrying animals. Drawn to Tong and Alvyn, despite his invisibility, they started biting and tearing at whatever they could find. Alvyn cast fire on them, but that only seemed to give them more energy! As the swarm became more animated, Alvyn had the clever idea of drawing them toward the mammoth. Very quickly, the mammoth was preoccupied with the swarm and with that, Kalgar, Tong, and Alvyn finished them all off.

In just 18 seconds, they had finished off the beast. As Kalgar retrieved a thrown javelin, he could still hear the sounds of the herd. Moving away, Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar observed as the herd moved in, touched their trunks to the body of the lifeless leader, trumpeted, and moved on. It would seem that mammoths form a very close bond with their own kind. Feeling guilty, but aware of the law of nature, the three prepared to move out. Alvyn had been giving some flares earlier, and used on to call for reinforcements. Together, they collected the mammoth and made the journey back.

Along the way, they ran into Shizuka again, who looked about as sad as before. He hadn't any luck in his hunt, but said he saw evidence of frost giants making their way south. This was disconcerting as they could be very dangerous and normally didn't make their way south at all. Something was obviously inspiring them to push farther than before.

With a reception normally reserved for heroes, Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar arrived. With their mammoth, they were quickly placed high in the list of favoured bets for who would claim this year's Master Hunter prize. It was still early though, and as the raptor-riding halflings came back with their thunderbird, a fierce animal from the south, and a few other hunters arrived, there looked to be quite the competition.

Until Aleia arrived. With quite the showmanship, she arrived with a giant burden, kept hidden under cloth. Making her way to the front, she cried out that she had killed the Grey Beast, and withdrew the cloth to reveal a giant worm of some kind. It was incredibly impressive, more so because she caught it alone. It was the biggest quarry there and everyone speculated whether or not it was in fact the mythical Grey Beast of Canitia.

Except for one woman. A single, older lady in the back of the crowd shouted that it wasn't the beast. It couldn't have been, she said, it wasn't large enough. The crowd parted, and it turns out it was one of the more skilled of hunters who had won the tournament of the Hunt a record of 16 times. After a couple of questions, the crowd began to believe her that this was not the Beast, but it was still an impressive specimen and sure to win Aleia the tournament.

Tong made his way to the front and asked her how she was able to kill such a monster on her own. She told him that she had developed a technique wherein she could focus all of her strength and power into one critical blow which, if dealt correctly, could kill a target. Tong, shaken and confused, made his way to a nearby tree to meditate. Calling upon his Master for advice, he questioned Aleia's tactics and questioned his own training. With a curt word, his Master told him that all weapons are tools and all tools can be weapons, it is what you choose that makes the difference.

Feeling a little dismayed, Tong sat by the tree for some time. As the other hunters made their way in, Kalgar became quickly popular as people were asking about the mammoth. At first, Kalgar was a little grumpy. He had hoped that the mammoth would prove a greater challenge, but in the end, they had ended its life almost entirely too easily. Kalgar said he felt like the victory meant less because of it, but after some reassurance from Alvyn, and the other hunters, began to enjoy the praise a little more. Alvyn noticed Tong sitting by himself and asked him what was wrong.

"It's just...was this all I was excited for? I thought I would feel the same things, but instead it feels empty, I guess I really have changed."

"Come on, Tong, it was still a fun way to spend a few days, and hey, they're about to announce the winner! Let's go! Let's go be with your people."

Reluctantly, Tong made his way over with Alvyn and the results were announced. Aleia's catch put her in the lead and she took the title of Master Hunter. The halflings placed second, and with their mammoth, the three placed third, aptly enough. All three groups were given a bag of gold and more celebrations began.

Alvyn took back the strips he had used to insulate Kalgar from the cold and, with a little magic, repaired Tong's robe. As the three prepared to settle for the night, Alvyn wondered over to the samurai.

"Hey, heard you weren't quite so successful, sorry about that? My friend here saw your sword and would like to challenge you to a fight!"

"I would?" Kalgar said.

"He would?" the samurai echoed.

"He would." Alvyn agreed.

Tossing the bottle aside, the samurai stood up and nodded his head over to a small clearing beside their camp. Setting non-lethal rules, they agreed that this was just a fight for skill, not for life and death.

With a quick slash, Kalgar's khopesh made for the samurai, flat edge out. In an instant, Shizuka's blade matched his and turned it aside. Without withdrawing, Shizuka turned his blade on Kalgar who blocked it with his boarding axe. Just as Kalgar was about to attack, the samurai shifted his balance and attacked again! Caught off guard, Kalgar stumbled back before preparing another attack. Back and forth they went, each time the damage offset by using the flat side of the blade. At one point, Kalgar decided to try and intimidate his enemy a little. Drawing upon the strength of Kord, and the chaos of Melora, he issued a threat to Shizuka.

Tong and Alvyn, watching from the sidelines which had picked up quite a crowd, noticed something odd. Instead of his usually defiant roar to the heavens, Kalgar's challenge was quiet, eerily so. With barely a flicker of movement, Kalgar's threat had the same effect as usual, as the crowd retreated slightly and gasped, but not so on Shizuka.

In the samurai's mind quickly flashed every single struggle he had ever faced. Every game, every argument, every battle, and each time he had lost, the face of his adversary was replaced by Kalgar's. In less than an instant, every failure Shizuka had ever experienced had the face of Kalgar.

In a flash his blade was up, and sliced into Kalgar's side.

"Oh, you want to make this personal? Fine by me!"

Shift, parry, overhead slash, deflect, boarding axe to the face, the two went back and forth, the crowd barely able to tell who was winning when suddenly, it was over.

At the last moment, Kalgar had turned his blade aside and knocked the samurai out cold. The crowd, who had been betting on the fight, exchanged their money and were on their way. Alvyn ran to Kalgar and asked what had happened. Kalgar wasn't too sure, he recalled threatening Shizuka but this time it was different. Sensing no magic or psionic effects, they shrugged, and helped the samurai back to their camp.

When he awoke, Kalgar praised the fighting of the samurai and apologized if his threat was taken personally. The samurai said the dishonour was his as he felt a rage he had not felt in some time. Taking it personally was a mistake and for that, he acted rashly. As Shizuka reached for a bottle of alcohol, Alvyn suggested that there might be a better way. They were making their way south, and Shizuka could come with them, if he wanted. Kalgar said that he would find no answers at the bottom of a bottle and while Shizuka may not be a religious man, he should be able to see that no good would come from drinking his life away.

"Plus, you have skills I wish to learn, like that shifting attack! How did you do that? You attacked much faster than I expected!"

With a shrug, the samurai agreed to come with them, but kept on drinking.

Later that night, as the celebrations were quieting down, an extremely old man walked in, followed by an entourage of dragonborn. These dragonborn were quite unlike any Kalgar had ever seen. While Kalgar was a bronze dragonborn, these were a lighter colour, not white like the samurai, but more like the mother-of-pearl colour Kalgar had seen on the jewelery of some people from Aes. The human walked up to Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar and they recognized him as the Oracle. A highly mysterious fellow, the Oracle had made predictions in the past, and all of them had come true. Some were incredibly cryptic, and some were incredibly simple, such as when it might rain in the month of March, but all heeded, and even tried to demand, his council.

As he approached the three, he said, "The arcane knot will come undone, the Edge of Sanity will be called into action, the thunder god will challenge the storm god, and one way or the other, the game will end!"

Without awaiting a reply, he left, as mysteriously as he arrived. Alvyn, Tong, and Kalgar sat open-jawed, with only the sounds of a crackling fire, and the clinking of the samurai's bottles to accompany them.

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