Aban's Tale

by Aban

Me head crashed against da wall nearly crackin me noggin right open, but dang did it cause me to wake up in a hurry. I had no clue where I was. Last thing I recalled was finally after months of travel arriving in Iridine, da place dey call da Eternal City. It was late and I was walkin along da docks hoping to find somewhere I could crash fer da night. I didn't have no money fer one of dem fancy schmancy rooms I see folks renting but I figgered what da heck, it shouldn't be no problem wit crashin in an alley or some such. I couldn't have been more wrong!! First thing I heard was a bunch of folks runnin in da darkness, den I heard someone shout right befer I felt a sharp shootin pain in da back of me skull. I bet I could have felt da blood trickle down my neck if it hadn't knocked me plum unconscious. Den I wake up to me head crackin against da blasted wall. I woulda given me right arm at dat momment fer one of dem Apothocary folks to whip me up sumtin fer a headache. But as bad as da headache was I felt a heap worse when I realize dat I was chained to dat dere wall and it wasn't just any old wall, I was in da cargo hold of a slaver ship.

Now growin up in Windward, I always heard da tales of da times when da entire island was held and da whole populas were slaves. But ever since da last war between Tuchea and da Republic, Windward had been free and I sure as heck never figgered I'd end up as a slave myself. But sure as Ereal makes da sun rise in da morn here I was a slave. Da cargo hold we was in reeked of every imaginable smell a man or woman can produce. All around me dere were folks in da same prediciment as me. From da looks of dem all dey came from all walks of life, from every civilized nation, it really don't matter where ya come from when ya find yerself captured as a slave. Da ship travelled fer what I figger had to be least a week. As I came to learn it was dem blasted Cinerans. Anyhow, dat ship travelled on and on. Damn slavers barely fed us and it seemed da only way dey found to pass da time was to torture us and beat us senseless. Now being a stubborn bloke, I kept tryin to rip dem chains right out of da wall, so I could get me hands around one of dem slavers throats, but dem Cinerans know dere slaving. Dey had us in some mighty good chains. And da more I fought da more often dey would give me a boot to da head. To make matters worse dere was dis lad chained right next to me by da name of Bennett. Oh good ole Bennett.... I tell ya dese days I love da lad like a brother but back den he was drivin me nuts. Well come to think of it, he still drives me nuts, but he's a good fellar nonetheless. Anyhow, he just kept whinin and snivilin. Beggin dem slavors to let him go free....ain't no way I was gonna beg fer nutin, I got me pride. But ole Bennett would just wail and whine all da time.

I think all of us figgered dat bout our only options would be to wind up servin dem Cinerans or we would wind up dead. However, fer whatever reason fate smiled upon us. Or maybe it was playin a cruel joke on us, even to dis day I'm not sure. Ya see one monster of a storm was beginin to rage outside. Da boat was tossin and turning all over da place. And dem Cinerans who had been so brave in beatin and torturin us were runnin around like a bunch of scared chickens when da fox is approachin. Dey might know dere slavin, but at least dis group didn't know dere sailin. Because suddenly, we heard a loud crash, seems da ship had hit a reef and was takin on water. Da captain of dat ship was runnin through da cargo hold screamin like a mad man. Guess he was seein his profits sinkin befer his eyes. Bennett was holarin to be let loose, but da captain wouldn't listen. Den me and a few others started yellin dat we would help him bail da water out of da ship. Well now dis captain sure as heck wasn't da brightest fellar in da world because you could just see it in his eyes dat he loved dat idear as he unlocked da first folks. It weren't long until dat ole captain had his very own fightin dirk stuck in his gut and da keys were being passed around tryin to free all da slaves as da water rushed in.

Me, I went rushin up da stairs tryin to figger out where we was. I came across what I figger was da captains quarters, unfortunately standin in dem quarters was da first mate. Now why da heck dat lad would be standing in dat cabin made no sense to me at da time but I was more concerned wit not gettin skewered by his fightin dirk den why he was dere. I leaped to da right as he attacked, dat dirk just missin me by inches.Now it would have just been a matter of time till he got me if fate hadn't smiled on me a second time. As I lept out of da way I sorta tripped and landed right near da captains bunk. And low and behold sittin in a sheathe right under da bunk was a gladius. Now I had never been in a combat in me life. I'm a farmer, and ya don't get involved in much more combat dan an occasional bar brawl. But I tell ya, I grabbed onto dat gladius fer everything I was worth and dat dere mate and I started going at it. We had been fightin fer a few minutes when Bennett comes rushin into da room. He sees dat I'm doing just fine and den spys da captains sea chest. Well he heads fer it and starts tryin to open da blasted thing wit a fightin dirk he must have picked up along da way. Well dat first mate sees dis and goes into a frenzy. Whatever was in dere must have been mighty important and da reason he was in da cabin. He lunges fer Bennett. I lept too, tryin to knock Bennett out of da way. Well I succeeded allright but dat fightin dirk sunk deep into me right arm as Bennett rolled out of da way.

Course I knew, me life was over if I dropped me weapon, so despite da pain I lunged back and I guess dat mate didn't expect me to be able to do dat, cause I caught him by surprise as I was able to nail him solid like in da gut. He fell to da floor, his life at an end. Was da first time I ever killed someone, and don't let dem warriors kid ya, it ain't a pleasant thing. Course ya do what ya gotta do in life and to dis day da only way I know how to fight is to da death. But anyhow, at dat point Bennett grabbed up da contents of da captains sea chest and we went rushin outside. Just as I stepped outside the cabin I saw a rather important lookin young lad chargin up some stairs. Ya could just tell he was of some importance to da Cinerans, I figgerd a diplomat or sumtin so I went chargin up after him. He turned as he heard me. Den we locked gazes, real tight like, da kind of gaze ya don't ferget. I thought fer a minute he would come chargin at me, but he said simply "I will get you for this someday." Wit dat he lept over da side of da boat. I prolly would have gone after him if a big ole wave hadn't knocked me off me feet and into da oceans in da opposite direction. Eventually me and many others washed up on da shores of what seemed to be a deserted island. Of course even more drowned on dat ship still chained to da walls. Not sure I'll ever quite fergive dem Cinerans fer those folks dat never even had a chance.

Now den, when we washed up on da shore, dat storm was still ragin on and dere was utter confusion. Everyone scramblin around tryin to find shelter but at da same time expectin a Cineran to pop out from behind every tree. Its amazin we didn't all collapse under da tension. After what seemed like hours we managed to find us a cave near da beach where we was able to rest until da storm let up a might. While dere, Bennett began to go through da contents of da sea chest he had managed to get. Had a bunch of personal stuff, jewelry, some food, pretty much da usual ya would expect. But it also contained three very important letters dat explained who da important lookin Cineran dat had jumped overboard was and told us a bit bout what was going on. It seems dat da Cinerans had a regular full scale slavin operation going on at dis island and it was headed by a Warlord named of Sacathos. And da lad I had seen was none other dan his son Orien. Accordin to da letters, Sacathos had been doing a really great job at breakin slaves wills befer sendin dem back to Cinera. However, also seemed to be a bit of intrigue going on in da courst of Cinera. Da King had written him comending him of his job but callin him back to Cinera cause his house had failed to make da necessary tributes. Da King said in da letter dat he was sure it was his wifes doing and he simply wanted Sacathos to come back fer a time to put his house in order. Now dere was also a letter from his wife tellin him not to come back fer she feared what would happen to him. Lots of silly court type intrigue if ya ask me. And at dis point it really didn't matter a whole heap to us, all dat mattered was at dis point we realized dat da Cinerans had been doing da unthinkable, dey had been kidnapping Iridine citizens and turnin dem into slaves, and dey been doing it fer quite some time.. OH! I almost fergot, one other thing we found strange at dat time. One of da letters mentioned da troops on da island being fraid of dat thing dat swims round da island. At da time we didn't think a whole lot about it, but we eventually figgered it out, and boy what a shock dat was. But I'm gettin ahead of meself.

Soon as da rain lightened we began scoutin da area. Me, I ran into more dan I bargained fer. Found me a Cineran, but he weren't just a warrior or some such, he was a Cineran diplomat. Can't say dat I ever really known a diplomat befer but dis fellar reminded me of a used chariot salesman. Lots of fast talk tryin to save his hide. Another fellar from our group name of Myrdhyn showed up shortly dere after and we tried to get him to give us some information but didn't have much luck. So we decided to haul his butt back to da cave dat we had camp at. Well we got him dere and it weren't long befer folks had him all tied up so he couldn't go no where. Now believe it or not dis twit actually tried to make a deal wit me. Offered to lead us all safely to da Cineran slave camp and to arrange fer just me to be set free if I would see dat he stayed alive in da midst of all da folks in our camp dat wanted to just string him up. Pretty sure he also made dat offer to a couple others, but I can't say fer sure. But I tell you one ting, no way in hell I would ever make a deal to betray me friends even if it was to save me own hide. Now fer one so concerned wit savin his own skin, he sure died like a rat. We had tied him up and a few of us stayed to keep an eye on him while da others went a scoutin. Well da fool woke up and actually tried to leap up, I guess to run. Course dem ropes held him tight and when he got up he tripped right over his own feet, his skull came crashin right down on a rock, killed him instantly. I think bout da only useful thing dat came outta dat was dat we learned we was on an uncharted island up near Cineran lands and almost never did boats pass the island. Ain't no way we was gonna be rescued by chance and ain't no way we was gonna be able to sail nowhere unless we could get our hands on some sea charts. Course fer dat matter we'd also need a crew of sailors lest we crash into another reef.

After dat, fer at least a month we really didn't do much but focus on survival. Spendin our day figgerin out how to hunt and fish, make torches, make lean-tos. Ya know all da stuff ya might need to survive and believe me it weren't easy. Couple warrior folks name of Quintavius and Caessius were real good at surviving and showin us how to fight. Den dere was dat Myrdhyn fellar, he was one of dem scholarly types, he was real good at figgerin out stuff. Heck he was even able to show us what type of berries to eat and what to avoid. Even managed to use some of dem berries to make some crude medicines. Heck if it weren't fer him, we prolly never would have gotten as far as we did.

Little by little though we began to realize we wasn't alone on dat island. Occasionally we would spot a bit of smoke comin from da north, but we never could quite figger out a passage past some rocky bluffs which were also to da north. At one point we even ran across another man on da island. Strange fellar, he was all covered in hair and actin like a wild critter, but yet he had a strange glint of intellect in his eyes. We tried to track him fer awhile to catch up to him, thinkin maybe he could help us, but he knew some nearby woods and we didn't. So he quickly was able to get lost. Course it was while wanderin in dem woods dat we came across another discovery dat proved we wasn't alone. Bennett and I was walkin through da woods tryin to find sumtin dat might help us get off dat rock when we came across a strange formation of stones. Ya could just tell dat dey was put dat way by someone, no way dey could just get dat way natural like. Me I wanted to get dat smart guy Myrdhyn to come take a gander at dem and figger out what dey do. Course ole Bennett uttered dose famous last words "They is just stones, what harm can it do!" Wit dat he yanked one of dem outta da formation. Well all da stones shifted just a tad as he grabbed da smallest one. Now by stones, I don't mean no blasted pebbles I mean big ole heavy suckers, some of dem boulders. And of course ya could just tell dat when dey shifted whatever dat formation was intended to do it, it wouldn't do no more and dere was no way we could ever get dem back in place. Later on we would learn more bout dat but fer den I just thumped Bennett upside da head and we headed back to camp, me doing a lot of muttering and cursing and Bennett proudly displaying his new stone.

It was prolly only a couple days after dat, when we came across another group of ex slaves. But dese ones had been dere fer a might longer dan us and dey was led by an honest to goodness Iridine Senator! Yes sir, Mister Castor Diamantian of the Iridine Senate!! A more infuriatin fellar ya never did meet, all high and mighty cause he had some fancy title back in Iridine. He'd boss ya around constantly, even just to get him sumtin to eat. Course along wit him was an old one-legged, war veteran named Gaerian. Now dat fellar could fight, ya could just tell. Even when he was just standing still, he looked like he could kill ya if he wanted too. Well weren't long befer we all decided to join up into one large group. Safety in numbers don't ya know. Plus I figgered maybe in a larger group I could stay away from Bennett, no such luck though. Dang fellar wouldn't give up on playin wit dat stone. He'd sneak into my lean-to and put it in bed wit me so dat I had to carry it! Den of course I'd jam it into his hands in da morning. But next thing ya know he'd have snuck it into my pack or hidden it amongst my supplies. I swear dat stone passed back and forth between us so many times ya would have thought we'd wear it down from da friction.

I guess we prolly stuck around wit dat new camp fer another week or so. We all exchanged stories and da like. But trully, everyones stories had a certain air of similarity to dem cause dey all ended up back on dat blasted island. .Den one day a long-boat was spotted approaching da area of Castor's camp. It nearly turned around before da group was able to hail it. Dey was having troubles gettin in to shore against da current and all so me being da fool dat I can be sometimes, I grabbed a hold of one end of a rope dat Myrdhyn had been able to make outta grass and swum my behind out to da boat. Den we was able to pull dat boat into shore. Once we got it into da beach a beautiful women dressed in primitive clothing and a few of her companions stepped out of it. Fer a minute we thought dey was gonna be hostile and a fight was gonna ensue but we eventually realized dey was friendly. Course we couldn't speak dere language so we had to draw pictures and gesture a lot. Dey seemed to like it when we drank from a nearby spring wit dem. After awhile dem island folks figgered we was from da sea. Which I guess in a sense we was but not quite like dey figgered. Anyhow, she decided to take us back to her village. Well we was more dan willing to go wit dem figgerin maybe dey would have a way fer us to get home. A group of us went in dere long-boat, it was quite a trek, clear across to da other side of da island. Once we got dere, we was able to convince dem villagers to send more boats back to pick up da rest of our group.

Now dis village weren't civilization if ya was from somewhere like Iridine, but to me it was grand. Was a nice little fishin village and da folks was real nice to us. Gave us a hut and all sorts of supplies like food and clothing. Da problem was dat communicatin wit dem was tough since we didn't share a language. In fact, somehow dey got da impression dat we was gods from da sea. Now dis led to a heap of problems. It's mighty tough tryin to not only learn dere language but convince dem dat you need dere help to sail somewhere when dey is busy lookin at ya as a god. Though we did learn dat dey knew of da Cinerans. Seems dem slavers was on da other side of some swamp and da cullaidens had some minor blood feuds wit dem. Dey didn't seem to fightened at da time though. At da time we wasn't sure if it was cause dey figgerd us gods would protect dem or if da slavers had just been leavin dem alone cause its tough to train slaves dat don't understand ya.

Course eventually dis idear dat we was gods would all change and at da same time we'd get a pretty dood idear why da Cinerans had avoided da village. One day da high priestess of da village, a lass name of Saldwyn, came to me and Caessius. Near as I could figger form what she was sayin was dat she wanted to know if we was ready fer da ritual. Not knowin exactly what dey wanted, but realizin it seemed important to dem we agreed. We was led to da top of dis gate dat overlooked a small harbor and told to watch. Up on a nearby hillside dat overlooked da harbor we saw some folks in robes and hoods begin to raise dere arms towards da sky and chant. While dey did dat, right in da middle of da harbor a large object began to rise, it looked like an entire island just sittin out dere in da water. Then dem robed folks tossed what looked like a live goat into da water. Wit dat, da thing we figgered to be an island darted to da spot da goat had been tossed. Ya see dat thing we thought was an island, turned out to be one humongous sea serpent. Obviously da thing dat swims round da island dat dem Cinerans had been so scared of. And I tell ya, rightfully so...dat thing was immense and was able to swallow dat goat in one gulp!!! After dat we was led back down towards da village and told to lay down on da ground. Dey started sayin a bunch of words dat we didn't know da translation fer but luckily we realized we was supposed to repeat dem and was able to. Den dey pulled out a fish and sliced it open lettin da blood drip into me mouth. I tell ya I nearly lost me lunch right den and dere. After dat Saldwyn seemed happy and asked us sumtin or other. Alas we didn't have any clue what she was sayin and dat distressed her. She kept insistin we do sumtin or other but we had no clue what dat was. Finally, she gave up and began exclaimin dat we was false gods and went runnin back to town. Wit dat one simple action we was no longer viewed as gods and cullaidens weren't quite sure what to make of us.

Da next couple days was kinda tense around da village. Dem villagers just wasn't sure dey could trust us and even though a few of us were gettin better at dere language it was still a big barrier. Den one day a cullaiden woman named Corraine became screamin and hollarin fer help. Of course, we went to investigate and found her cryin and weapin. Now she wasn't too keen on us helpin her but we did manage to get it outta her dat her daughter had wandered off in da woods and she was now nowhere to be be found. So, we began searchin da surroundin areas hopin to find her. After hours of searchin we was about to give up when we heard a wildcat in da distance. Carefully we approached and saw dat big ole cat circlin a young girl who was unconscious, and had obviously been mauled by da cat. A couple of us lept in figgerin we would surprise dat cat and she would run but nope dat cat turned and attacked us. However, I was able to keep dat cat at bay while da other folks got dat girl out of dere and back to da village. Now dat little girl was lucky to still be alive cause her wounds were real bad, she was dying and Corraine knew it. However, ole Bennett was wit us. By dis time Bennett had become one amazing healer so he set out to see what he could do fer her. Well I'm not sure how he did it but he pulled off a medical miracle and was able to save her life wit what little med supplies we had. Corraine was utterly estatic. After dat da villagers began to look favorably on us again. Dey realized we wasn't no gods but dey figgered we was ok folks like dem cause ya see Corraine was married to Mikas, da fellar dey called Col-Char which we figger is da leader of da group. So I guess ya save da child of da leader and folks like ya a bit more.

Things were pretty good round dat village fer awhile. We sorta set ourselves into da village life a bit. Some of us even spent some time helping out doing things like helpin dem wit dere fishin our helpin to haul stuff to some nearby farms where da villagers would bring fish and exchange it fer fresh fruits and da like. Castor would keep bossin us around though, always dreamin up sumtin new fer us to do. But da lad always seemed to manage to tick me off even more. He was always referin to da cullaidens as savages and sayin he would bring back da Iridines to "civilize" dem. Well if ya ask me dey was doing mighty fine on dere own and had a grand culture. Heck da senator and I would argue fer hours about da fact dat he wanted to come back and essentially ruin da cullaidens lifestyle. Dese folks had helped to keep us alive and he wanted to repay it by ruinin dere lives. He even tried to get me to agree wit him once by sayin he was gonna make me da diplomat to cullaiden. I just laughed!!

Now at da same time we was gettin a bit used to village life we would keep on explorin da surrounding woodlands. If we was ever to get off dat island and stay safe we had to know our surroundings. Not sure if it was one of our scouts dat caught da sight of da bandits or if dey just stumbled onto da village. Bennett and I was standin in da center of town tryin to have a conversation wit Mikas when a real scruffy lookin man wandered in. He seemed happy to see Bennett and meself and explained dat he and a few others were ex slaves. We offered him food, we was always willin to help out others. Course we started to realize he wasn't so friendly when he kept ignorin Mikas, tryin to order him around and callin him a savage. Well as I told ya, I can't abide folks callin dem savages, ya see a man is a man, it's his actions in life dat matter, not some money or title. I tried to explain dat dey wasn't savages, dat dey was nice folks. He just laughed at dat. Now I think Mikas must have understood da arguement cause he started sayin sumtin to da fellar. Well now dis set him off, no way he was gonna let what he viewed as a savage say anythin to him, so he pulled out his weapon, screamed to his comrades to attack and dey did. Bennett and I did da same and did our dangdest to defend Mikas and da villagers. Course Mikas didn't need a whole lot of defending, he was a really good warrior in his own right. Eventually, da bandits proved to be less dan adequate warriors and were quickly dispatched. Once it was all over we expected da villagers to be grateful but dey started lookin at us all funny like and sayin a bunch of words we didn't understand while dey pointed at Mikas. Eventually dey turned to me and started askin a bunch of questions. Once we was able to figger out what dey was askin we realized dey was askin why we would blood-feud witout asking Mikas fer permission. Guess in cullaiden ya need permission from da leader befer ya can fight. Now dis struck me as odd cause we was saving Mikas life, and I guess I blurted out dat I don't ask nobody fer permission but meself. Wit dat dey started talkin and pointing again. Den dey all smiled and pointed at me again and started callin me Col-Char, which is da same title dey gave Mikas. Another simple misunderstanding and I'm suddenly da leader of our group in da cullaidens eyes.

About a week later, Bennett and Myrdhyn were out scoutin da area and finally found sumtin of importance. Now don't get me wrong we had found all sorts of stuff out dere, some rivers dat we followed, critter dens, some other cullaiden farms dat we hadn't known about, even a humongous skull dat had been arranged into a shrine, most likely a skull from one of dem sea serpents. It seemed like we searched every inch of da nearby forests. Hell, dey used to call me da Wayward Windwarder cause I'd get lost so much while I was scoutin. But this find dat dem two made was da first sumtin of importance. Way off to da west dey found a giant monolith. Very strange, but dere it was standin in da middle of da woods. Though by climbin up it ya could see all around da nearby region. Was able to spot where da swamp to da north was and sorta give us some bearings of da area. Knowin approximately where dat swamp was would save our life later on and help us to meet back up when we got split up. Now Myrdhyn stayed out dere to poke around and prolly see what sorta useful stuff he could find. He was always dreamin up new things. And Bennett came back to camp to let us know about what he found. Well I swear Bennett wasn't back in town more dan a day when all hell broke lose again. A cullaiden man came into town screamin dat he wanted to Col-Chas wit Bennett. Well it didn't take us long to figger dat Col-Chas meant blood feud and dere was no way in hell dat Bennett wanted any part of dat. Well I always say if anyone is gonna kill Bennett it's gonna be me so I tried to step in to keep Bennetts head attached to his neck. When I did dat, Mikas kinda stepped in too to quiet da man down and we started to sort out why dis man wanted to kill Bennett. Well ya see all dis time Bennett and I had still been handin dat stone back and forth. And now we finally learned a bit about what it was. It seems dis here fellar had created dat series of stones and it was some sorta very special shrine. Dey kept callin da stone "god child" and wanting to know why he would take it. Ya could tell by dere temperment dat it wasn't just like a church or sumtin, dat shrine DID sumtin, or rather it did at one point. Course I don't know dis fer sure, it's only me opinion. Oh I coulda thumped Bennett at dat point, just stones indeed!! Hmm come to think of it I think I did thump him at dat point. Ahh well, in any event it took a lot of arguing and a lot of being stubborn until finally we got everyone calmed down. Bennett was all set to leave da village and not come back befer he would fight da man, he really did feel bad about it all. Mercifully though after everyone calmed down, Bennett apologized profusely and dat smoothed things over a bit. Cept now we still had dis "god child" and it's not just sumtin ya can leave layin around. So Gasha, one of da cullaidens, goes and hands it to me. I just sorta stared at it fer awhile until finally she said dat I was da col-char so I had to guard da blasted thing!! I had to walk around keepin an eye on a stone for a dang week!! I swear Bennett was smirkin da entire time!!!! Thankfully though, at da end of dat week da man who had wanted to fight Bennett came back and took it to apparently repair da shrine. Finally we had gotten rid of dat stone. Guess ya had to be dere though.

Well after my week wit da stone I decided it was time fer me to get back to some scoutin so I decided to head out to da monolith where Myrdhyn was. It was quite a hike but nutin eventful happened. I got out dere and found dat smart guy who was busy workin on distillin sumtin or other outta plants, I never did understand it all. So we was talkin and all about what we should do next when we spotted some movement off to da west. Fearin it might be da cinerans we carefully made our way in dat direction. Dere we spotted a fellar dat was obviously cullaiden but he was all beat up. Had a foot missing, walked wit a crutch, had some spots on his face where da skin was all torn off, and damn did he reek of da swamp. He got one look at us and ran as fast as he could on dat dere crutch. We thought about givin chase but didn't seem like we should scare da guy anymore dan we already had, unintentional as it were. So we came up wit another plan whereby we started a fire and began cookin fish. Well I tell ya dat brough da man back faster dan anyting. Once we saw him standin a few feet away we was able to little by little entice him over to da fire where we gave him fish and allowed him to share da warmth of our fire. Ya could just tell he was a whole lot more at ease now dat he realized we didn't mean him no harm. Now da thing bout dis fellar is he might be cullaiden but he sure didn't speak like da others. He made dese little figures out of stones and leaves and stuff.

But da oddest thing was dese figures made it real easy fer you to understand what he wanted you to know. I think da first one he did was of him expressing gratitude to Myrdhyn and I. We "talked" fer awhile if ya can call it talking. Him askin about us (he realized right off we didn't belong here) and us tryin to learn about him. His name was Rabb....Rabb the maker. I liked him a lot, he just had a sorta gentleness about him. From him we learned a lot of stuff. It seems dat da monolith was fer dat sea serpent, it apparently was to sprout wings someday and fly into da heavens to join its mate, da cullaidens worshiped it. Quite an odd situation really. We also learned dat da cullaidens did not cross through da swamp except fer very special religous circumstances, plus it was apparently a VERY dangerous place. Apparently da only cullaiden who really went dere much was Rabb, cause according to him he could smell da quicksand where others couldn't. We begged him to lead us to da swamp at dat point but all he would do was take us up to da top of da monolith and point out where it was, tellin us it was dangerous. Told us it was too late to go through da swamp. Guess it was da truth since da sun was just about set by dis point. However, we had found us a friend who hopefully would help us through da swamp in da future. Da followin morning both Myrdhyn and I headed back to camp in da village to let dem know what we had learned.

I guess it was only a matter of time until da Cineran forces found us, we were naive to think dey wasn't swarmin all over da island and even a sea serpent can't keep dem away forever. So eventually da day came when dey came. And boy oh boy did dey come. Swarmin down on da Cullaiden village, burnin everyting in dere way. Dey lay waste to da entire place. Such kind givin folks didn't deserve dat. Of course we all tried to fight, but a fellar has to know when to fight and when to run. Dis weren't da time to fight, it was da time to run. Our group along wit da cullaidens high tailed it into da woods and scattered in every direction. Thankfully, most of us were able to regroup out in da woods while da Cinerans scoured da smolderin remnants of da village and began organizing patrols to look fer us. I'd love to tell ya us and da Cullaidens formed a nice unified force and counter attacked but it weren't to be. Da Cullaidens blamed us fer bringin dis disaster down on dem, guess ya really can't blame dem. Dey was hollain and screamin up a storm. We was able to pick up parts of what dey was saying, but I tell ya none of it was good. Wasn't much of a choice, we had to leave dem. So not really sure where to go we decided it would be best to head back west towards da Monolith dat had been discovered earlier.

The trip to da west took days and was mostly uneventful. Lots of movin at night and doing our best to make sure we didn't leave a trail dat da Cinerans could find us wit. Pretty much moving as fast as we could, not sure why we felt like we'd be safe at da monolith but I guess it gave us a destination and a purpose. Once we finally got dere and realized we hadn't been tracked we breathed a collective sigh of relief. Set us up camp and began lickin our wounds and reestablishin supplies. Course we now had da realization dat we had to figger out what to do, we couldn't just focus on.

So, we began sendin out patrols around da area dat kept an eye out fer Cinerans and more importantly hoped to find anytin useful while da rest of da folks would be back at camp preparin fer da inevitable conflicts which would follow. Knowin dat da slavers camp and da swamp was to da north we figgered dat we would head dat way. Last thing dey would expect is fer us to come right at dem and no way dey would expect us to cross through a swamp.

Alas, we stayed at the monolith makin preperations a might too long as dey found us before we were ready for dem. We got word from Gaerian who had been scoutin da area dat about 12 Cinerans were headed this way and would be here within da half hour. We made da decision dat a group of us would attempt to ambush dem and if nothing else slow dem down. While we did dat Bennett would head towards da north wit da non warriors, da sick, and da injured. It would be up to dem to see that Iridine learned of what happened if we failed in our assault on da Cinerans.

Our warrior group lay in wait near our camp, hoping to surprise da Cinerans. In dat we were successful. However da leader of da Cinerans soon managed to rally his men and da battle became heated. He was a nasty bloke too, stood on an edge of a ridge nailing us wit crossbow bolts while his men kept us from gettin away and pinned us in. To dis day I recall him. His name was Philipu and he managed to see dat quite a few of our men fell. Course we was also able to kill da majority of da vile slavers but our outnumbered warriors soon began feeling da effects of dere injuries and fatigue. We fought on but it soon became obvious that da remaining cinerans who had stayed out of da melee and were fresh could take our injured group. I sounded da retreat and our group scattered hoping to find a camp towards da north that we prayed Bennett had been able to establish. Unfortunately Quintavius lay near death in our camp and I spotted him barely breathing. So I went rushin in and managed to slay a cineran right befer he would have done Quint in. Unfortunately my great rescue turned bad as I felt dat crossbow bolt in my back and I slumped to da ground. If it had not been for Senator Castor da two of us would have been recaptured. Out of nowhere he came chargin in waving a gladius around tryin to fight da slavers. However his reward for his heroics was dat he was slain in battle. Fortunately, it did give us da time we needed to recover to crawl into da trees. Fer someone who had been so arrogant, it was a trully selfless act dat I'll never ferget. Eventually, all of our group was able to meet up far to da north along da edge of a swamp (whose location we was able to learn thanks to climbin dat monolith) where we found Bennett waiting with fresh cooked kidneys fer everyone and plenty of fresh bandages.

We stayed along da edge of da swamp for a few days, venturing into da swamp every so often and all to often finding it was not very hospitale. Mercifully we had run into Rabb again who showed us a few tricks that we hoped would allow us to survive in da swamp since our back was to da wall. It was either face da Cinerans to da south (da few we hadn't killed would no doubt have reinforements on da way) or da swamp to da north. We had counted on Rabb showing us da way through da swamp but dis lad in our group named Ace made a bit of a mistake and scared Rabb off and Rabb went running into da swamp towards da North East.

We were now back on our own witout someone who knew dis region. However we ran into another acquaintance, da man we knew as da hairy man dat we had tried to track so long ago. Dis time he spoke to us though and said he was King Darius and wanted us to take him with us off this island. He seemed a bit loony but he was strong and more dan willing to help us out. So myself, and a few others with da hairy guy headed into da swamp to da NE to hopefully find Rabb.

We travelled fer at least a day and a half, stumbling, falling in quicksand, and generally having a miserable time of it. Finally we spotted something in da swamp. Turns out it was an ancient abandoned temple. We never did quite figger out if it was of Cullaiden origins or not. At da time we began to explore it and found it filled with traps, gators and was pretty much inhospitable.

Da decision was made dat it probably wasn't a safe place fer such a small group to hang out at but it was also da only place we knew of to move our main camp to. So we travelled back to our camp to get da others and move our camp yet again.

We made it back to our swamp edge camp, and none too soon as Cineran scouts had been spotted nearby. So we gathered what we could and begain da long trip back to da temple. Again it took well over a day but once there we felt it was safer with our numbers to begin exploration. We scoured da place top to bottom and eventually found a hidden staircase to da second floor. Dare we found entirely too many locked doors. But after quite awhile of searching we found a door that wasn't locked and in it was an Altene Mercenary named Galiod who had managed to escape from da slavers main camp quite some time ago. He was not well, his leg was badly injured and he seemed slightly feverish, or perhaps mad we really aren't sure. However he told us his tale of escape, his desire to kill da Warlord Sacathos and most importantly dat he could make us a map to da camp and of da surrounding region. It seemed too good to be true.

He required rest first so our doctors did what day could for him and we went back to make sure our camp here at da temple was secure. Meanwhile Myrdhyn and I set out to open those locked doors. Frankly I thought for sure he would find a way pick dem but he came up with a tried and and true method...Break em' down!!! Who was I to argue with him. Alas after countless hours of bustin open doors all we had was bruised shoulders to show fer it. So we set up sentrys fer da night and we all tried to get some sleep. We camped at da temple for a few days while we tended to Galiod. Our food and water was diminishing and da swamp held little to sustain a group this size. A small group led by Ace had ventured into da swamp towards da north hoping to find da end of it but was forced to return due to lack of supplies and da hazards of da swamp. Though we did get some valuable information bout da surrounding areas from his expedition. In any event, we decided it was time to try and get Galiod to draw us da map. Alas we found him highly feverish and disoriented. Our doctors begain discussing what to do to help him out.

While dey were talking, we felt someting almost like an earthquake which rocked da temple. Bennett went charging off towards da first floor to see what it was. Knowing dat Bennett will get himself killed if you leave him alone I went charging off after him. We went down to da flooded basement where we found an odd statue that we did not see before. It was slightly tilted and we were able to push it over revealing a hole. We quickly gathered da rest of da group and ventured down into it. There we discovered a series of chambers that led to a statue room. Two statues stood there with odd depressions on da floor. Unable to move dem with our brute strength approach we began searching about. I believe it was Quintavius who found da first disk in some mud. The disk fit one of da depressions. When it was put in depression a secret door was opened to another passage. Da passage ended in an odd room filled with strange runes and da like. Dare was also another depression so we quickly went back and began trying to find more disks. Soon we had a bunch of them. We placed a disk in this depression and da room immediately bathed us in soft light and we felt our wounds all healed.

Well damn if we hadn't found a healing room. We'll least thats what we figured it was. Everyone immediately thought of Galiod so I went back to carry him down. We brought him down and stuck another disk in da depression. Well that light bathed us again and den if we didn't all feel great again. We looked at Galiod expecting him to be well and able to assist us but to our shock he was DEAD! For some reason this light which healed us all had killed him. We talked about it for some time but coming to no conclusion picked up our fallen mate and continued exploring this underground chamber.

Well we found disks which we used to open other secret passages. However we didn't really find anything else of particular note cept some dead ends. Unless ya count da first houndsnake we ran into down dere. Big ole trained snake type critters da cinerans used to track us wit. It was da first we had ever seen but certainly wouldn't be da last. After da battle though we were all getting mighty tired so we decided to return to camp and bury Galiod. Den someone suggested we try da room once more and maybe it would heal him. So we went back. Just as we were about to put da disk in da depression, we noticed that all of our hair and fingernails were a lot longer.

Its not something we usually think about, I mean we have been on this blasted island for so long and appearance isn't your main concern but dis was noticeable.

It was den we figured it out, dis room seemed to advance time somehow. And no I ain't crazy, it really did, was da dangdest thing ya ever seen too!! We were all healed since dat is what would happen over time. However Galiod was dying and dis advanced it. Saddened though realizing dis would be good in case of an emergency we returned to camp. Dare we ate just about all of our remaining supplies. It was as if we hadn't eaten in days, and maybe we hadn't. Finally Quintavius saw to it that Galiod had a traditional Altene burial for dere was nothing more we could do fer him.

Dat followin mornin we took a gander at our supplies, or I guess I should say our lack of supplies and it became apparent we had to move on. Fer awhile we contemplated headin back towards da Cullaidens or maybe going back straight south but we eventually ruled dat all out. We hadn't had any luck down dere so maybe if we could find da slavers camp we could sneak on board a boat or some such. So it was back into da swamps headin due north.

Just like a lot of our journey, wasn't much dat happened but we spent a lot of days walkin and tryin to stay a live. Eventually we found da end of da swamp and a area of bramble. It weren't real hospitable either but at least dere was a bit more game and some solid ground fer a change. Little by little we continued north through da bramble always bein careful to keep an eye out fer da Cinerans and send small patrols ahead of da main group.

It was durin one of dem patrols when things turned interesting again. I was leadin a patrol group and we came across a woodland ridge. Well naturally we began to explore it, when off in da distance we spotted what looked like a fort and den suddenly we heard voices headin our way. I signalled fer folks to douse dere torches and hide behind some trees. Me I headed on a bit ahead tryin to get a gander at who was up ahead. Now I tell ya, I screwed up royally here. Guess I misjudged how far da voices was cause I ended up stumblin right into da midst of about 12 Cinerans soldiers. Didn't take more dan a few seconds till I was surrounded and forced to lay down me gladius. First ting dey asked was where da others was. I of course told dem dere wern't no others, cause ya see we had made sumtin clear in da patrol when we ran across Cinerans. If someone got captured by a large force, we weren't gonna go tryin to play hero, we was gonna go back and get da others to not only help wit da rescue but so dey didn't get surprised. I mean we was da scout group, it was our job to warn dem. But one of da folks in me group named Ace must have taken charge and decided he was gonna be a hero cause just as dey was about to take me back to dere fort fer questionin I hear him hollarin dat da Cinerans should lay down dere weapons cause dey is surrounded. Now don't get me wrong what he was doing was brave and all, but it just weren't bright and it nearly got me killed. Ya see dem slavers tried to get me to have all my comrades come out of da trees or dey would kill me. All I did was yell in cullaiden fer dem to run away and get help. But nope dey didn't do dat, ole Ace just a kept on hollarin and screamin. So da slavers had no choice but to go lookin fer dem. Da leader was going to kill me since he couldn't just leave me at his back while his force went off lookin fer da rest of me group. Now as I stared at him pullin out his fightin dirk fer a second I though I was dead, but den an idear struck me dat. I pulled out dem letters dat we had gotten from da sea captains chest. I swear his jaw dropped a mile when he saw a letter bearin da crest of da King of Cinera on it and another bearing da Seal of da Sacathos house. I started bluffin how I had messages fer da Warlord Sacathos dat had been given to me by dat diplomat dat had tried to bribe me way back when. Dis seemed to confuse him a bit. He said if dat was so dat I should submit and let dem tie me up and take me back to dere fort fer questioning. Well I figgered dat being captured was a whole lot better dan being dead so I did as he asked. So dere I was tied up in da fort while da rest of my party apparently was runnin around da woods tryin to avoid da cinerans at da same time get to where I was to rescue me. From da sounds of it, it wasn't going well. Dey just had us outnumbered and some of our group weren't warrior types, dey was more pathfinders. Luckily though, Caessius was wit us and he is a fine warrior, he was able to dispatch a couple of da enemy dat had split off from da main group. Stupid move on dere part really, as a single force dey coulda crushed us, all split up we had a chance. In da meantime I was able to break free of me ropes and suddenly I was free within da fort.

At dis point I managed to sneak out of da fort and meet back up wit a few of da original scoutin party. Wasn't much of a force mind ya, just 3 of us, but it was enough to start pickin off a cineran here and a cineran dere dat had split up so stupidly. Den we ran across da leader of dat group and we was on him! He let out a call fer his troops but dey didn't arrive fast enough. A big ole mess of dem showed up just in time to watch us slay dere captain. We figgered we'd have to retreat at da point but dey saw his dead corpse and went runnin off into da woods. We gave a bit of a pursuit but we didn't have da forces to really put up much a fight, guess dey figgered we had more dan we thought we did. So at dis point we did da only thing we could, we went back to da fort and claimed it as our own!! But as we arrive a large bird like critter took off from da fort, we wasn't sure if it was a messenger or what but we figgered it couldn't be good. Warlord usually ain't too happy when you go and capture dere forts. Alas we also found sumtin else dat showed our capturin of da fort hadn't come witout a price. Within da compound we found our comrade Ace in da stockades and his throat had been cut. Apparently da cinerans had managed to catch up wit da lad after I got away and dey wasn't about to let another of us folks get away. Unfortunately dere wern't much we could do fer him but see dat he got a proper burial da same we did wit those who fell befer him and would fall after him. A couple folks went back to get da main group while da rest of us ransacked da fort fer supplies and tried to relax in our new fort. Some of us even mangaged to get our hands on some basic armor, we was startin to turn into real warriors.

Once da main group caught back up wit us it had pretty much already been decided dat we had to move on. No way we could stay when dere was no doubt a bunch of soldiers on da way. So we moved on again, but from dis point on, moving was a whole lot more eventful. Dere were patrols wit houndsnakes all over da place. We would take some out, run from others, it sure weren't easy. Maybe it was da stress from all da patrols or maybe it was all da new ex slaves dat we began to locate who were hiding, half starved around da island but a lot of folks started to get on edge. A lot of fightin and arugin amongst us all started to occur. Though Quintavius and I did our best to keep takin charge cause da only way we was gonna get off dat rock was to work together. It was after travellin ever so slowly to da north fer a few days dat I decided we needed some serious scoutin done. Sendin out small parties just wasn't workin cause da patrols would catch dem. So I set out on me own to scout out da area. Now I travelled fer days and days, as just one person I was easily able to avoid da patrols and move quickly. Eventually I found da northern edge of da island and some rocky bluffs. But me luck at avoid da patrols didn't last. I ran into what I thought was a long warrior so I dispatched him. But his scream caused a couple more wit houndsnakes to show up. I started runnin to da trees, figgerin I could elude dem easy, but sumtin else happened. I heard a horn off in da distance, I was close the the Cineran main camp!!

Now at da same time I was doing me scoutin and sendin info back via a code dat dis fellar named Dytan and I had worked out Quintavius was continuin leadin da folks north. Dey had a few interestin adventures on da journey. Dey found a big ole tower dat was occupied by a small group of Cinerans. Maybe dey was using it as a base camp fer patrols not really sure. Well our guys surprised da hell out of dem because it weren't long before dat tower was ours just like da fort befer it had been. It was also round dis time when dey managed to capture us a cineran to try and get some information from him. Da problem was dis bloke dey captured weren't a cineran, he was Altene. Seems da Cinerans had hired some Altene mercs and as anyone knows ya don't want to mess wit a heap of Altene mercs so dis sorta worried us. I think dey eventually killed him but beferhand dey learned dat we was startin to really tick of Sacathos wit out assault and run tactics as we slipped through his grasp. Our group was just small enough to hide but large enough to make some troubles fer his patrols who were more used to war dan sneak attacks. Dey also got some information from dis lad about da location of da slavers camp and da number of folks dere. Well dat information was passed on to me and I began scoutin in da area he said. I scouted fer a good 3 days while dey held position at da tower, eventually we came to da realization we had been duped, it weren't anywhere near.

So I passed word back and I guess dat was when dey decided to move out again while I headed back in da opposite direction hopin to find da slavers camp.

At dis point, dey was travellin in da woods when someone better dan us at movin in stealth caught up wit dem. It was our old friend Rabb. It seems dat part of da reason Sacathos couldn't turn his full attention on us was dat we weren't da only ones attackin him. It seems da Cullaidens had decided to blood feud wit da Cinerans and were also somewhere up here to da north fightin in small groups. However, Rabb needed everyones help, he had found a farm wit a bunch of Cinerans where slaves both cullaiden and from da mainlands were being held. Well me friends figgerd dey had to help so dey let Rabb led dem to da farm. Dere dey pulled another sneak attack. Dis time though dey almost got dere butts whooped. Da battle didn't go well fer awhile, dey even had to pull a retreat. However eventually dey was able to turn da tide and take da farm freein da slaves. Like always dem Cinerans dogs ran as soon as things looked bad fer dem. Now bout da same time dat I saw da signal dat dey had taken da farm I finally found da slavers main camp. It was HUGE!!! Fencing was more dan a mile and a half long, covered in archers. Da fort could easily hold 50 soldiers, not to mention da slaves who dey was obviously holding dere. It was also situated in such a way dat a mini bay jetted into it so dat any boat dat might come to da island could sail safely into da fort. I did as much recon of da area as I could witout gettin caught and den headed towards da farm to catch up wit everyone and pass on me recon.

It was good to get back to da main group and see dat everyone was still well. I passed on all da information dat I had learned from seein da Cinerans Fort. Now, wit each victory we was becomin just a bit more bold. But we realized if we ever came across a big force and got pinned we was in trouble. A few of da slaves we had rescued at da farm joined us so our group got a bit bigger. We had lots of idears at dis point, we thought about hauling a bunch of spears and tryin to sneak into da fort to get da slaves held dere to revolt. We thought about tryin to get da cullaidens to help us build some longboats and ambush a supply ship befer it ever got to da fort. To be honest, we had been dong a lot of flying ba da seat of our pants instead of having a concrete plan. But when yer in dis kinda battle, ya don't have organized plans, ya use what presents itself. It was at dis point while we were tryin to figger out what to do dat we found us a nasty thief in da woods. He snuck in and out of dat farm stealin stuff so fast I swear he coulda been invisible. We split up all over da place hopin to catch him, and eventually he slipped up and we got him. It seems he was a thief from one of da poorer parts of Iridine and he didn't trust us at all. A real dispicable fellar who would take anytin dat weren't nailed down and blamed us fer his problems. Wouldn't even admit he was a thief. Finally though after a heap of arguements, he admitted what he did and returned da stuff he even apologized grudgingly because it was about da only way I was gonna even talk wit him. I can't abide folks who have no honor. Its one ting to be a thief, another thing to lie about it. If ya think its ok to take stuff, which mind ya I don't, least ya can do is be a man about it and admit it. Well after all dat arguin we started talkin wit him. He finally came to realize we wasn't da Iridine Police or anyting and he made us a offer. He was willing to sneak us into da slavers main camp and in return we would create a distraction fer him while he stole da Warlords treasure. We would den fight our way to a ship and sail back to Iridine. We den had to give him an hour or so head start once back in Iridine. Me, I had never heard a more ridculous idear. It's one thing to try and break into a big ole fort, its quite another to waste yer energy and risk yer neck over a heap of cash! Dead men can't use money, and ya can't take it wit ya. Too much greed if ya ask me. Me and a few others dat had some common sense quickly told dat thief what he could do wit dat idear. But we did learn sumtin we thought maybe we could use. Dere was a underground passage into da fort dat da houndsnakes used as a den. However in late afternoon dem houndsnakes was asleep. I personally thought sneakin in through a houndsnake den was a sure way to die but some folks in da group thought it might work. Guess we spent a couple day arguin after dat about what to do. A lot of folks went off scoutin around hopin to find sumtin to aid us. Was a lad named Unger dat did a heap of scoutin and got some real good recon of da area. He and a few others eventually decided to head up towards da slavers main camp. Was about 12 or so of dem while a bunch of us remained back at da farm. Not sure what exactly dey figgered dey was gonna accomplish, maybe just get some more recon but dey managed to pull of a bloody miracle!!

Dey eventually got to da camp and I have no clue what dey was thinking but a lad named Levine and Unger led a group figgerin dey could sneak in. Well dat didn't work at all and dey had to retreat. Levine even tried to lead a bit of an assault and he'll tell ya straight he screwed up. And it was bad, da majority of dat group got captured. Wasn't a good situation, da rest of us didn't even know dey were captured. However good luck was startin to smile on us again. Fer Sacathos' head lackey slave named Selaric helped dem to escape and get out of da fort. Dey was free once more. Boy oh boy I would have liked to see Sacathos' face. He finally had some of us and dey got away. At dis point dey headed to da north searchin some nearby plains. After a few hours dey saw some activity to da south back where da slavers fort was so dey headed back. Well when dey got dere it looked like da place wasn't quite as occupied as it had been. Wit dem dey had dis lad named Slyce, a whiz wit a lockpick. Not sure I really want to know why he was so good but he was able to sneak up to da fort and pick da front gate witout anyone even spyin him!! Wit dat our forces went rushin in. Dey met some resistance in da outter keep but it sure wan't heavy and dey started makin quick work of dem all. I weren't dere or nutin but accordin to da tales Levine and Patch were like wildmen killin more dan dere fair share of Cinerans in da assault. Fer ya see da Cinerans were out on patrol and dere were only light forces left back at da camp. It weren't long befer dey had taken da entire camp!! Dey had pulled off da amazing and taken da fort right under da warlords nose. Talk about right place at da right time!! Dere was even a few reports of da warlord himself fightin in da combat but nutin confirmed and nobody knew at dat point where he had run off to. And so long as da Warlod and his main force was out dere we was hardly safe. Some even thought he might have gotten away by boat. And if dat was da case we was trapped and soon da Warlord would be back wit many many more warriors.

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