Friday, September 14, 2007

The Fate of Christofer Silverleaf

Unbeknownst to his half-sister, Christofer spent a great deal of time trying to determine his father's location. He also spent a good deal of gold on shady types that gather information. He learned that Kraig murdered Lorin and later Xelena to unlock the key to the fabled city of Silverleaf.

Over the course of two years, Christofer played an odd game of cat and mouse with Kraig. Both spent a great deal of time and effort trying to determine what the other had discovered about Silverleaf. They chased each other across the Archipelago, into the Darklands, into Chin Cathay and beyond to Araby.

It was in Araby where Christofer met his love.

There was a wizard named Amahl el-Farouk that lived in the great city of Tazhina. Farouk was known more for his great power and wealth than his generosity, but he was not overly vicious either. He amassed a great horde of wealth that included not just earthly goods, but immortal servants as well.
His favorite was a succubus concubine named Surillis. It gave him a special thrill to know he had captured such a beautiful and dangerous demon and bent her to his will. In a classic example of Why Mortals Should Not Truck With Demons, Surillis bided her time, broke the bindings that held her, devoured Farouk's soul, and fled back to her beloved Abyss.
Now Farouk was a powerful wizard and a cunning man, so it took Surillis over three decades to win her freedom. During that time she bore him a son that Farouk immediately destroyed, and a daughter he did not. Farouk named the girl Layali and kept her in a tower far away from her mother.

By the time she was seventeen, Layali was a stunning young woman but her demonic heritage was obvious. She had dark reddish-brown skin, small glossy black horns, and a pointed tail. Farouk doted on her and staffed her tower with eunuchs and mutes.
Despite this precaution, rumors began to spread that the tower held an evil spirit that devoured men's souls. It didn't help that Layali would occasionally escape from the tower and walk about the city at night, so the occasional Tazhinian would catch a glimpse of her skulking through the alleys. Fear of Farouk kept the torch-wielding mobs at bay, so Layali and her servants were left unmolested... until it became known that Farouk was dead.

Even if he had wanted to, there would have been little the Rajah of Tazhina could have done to stop the citizens of his city from razing the large manor of Amahl el-Farouk and then turning their attentions on his tower across the city.

Christofer Silverleaf came to Tazhina because Amahl el-Farouk was an associate of Kraig's. Christo hoped to dupe Farouk into giving him some... well any information about Kraig or his unholy quest to usurp the power of Silverleaf.
When he arrived the city was flush with the news of Farouk's death. He saw the mob forming and knew he had no hope of gleaning any clues from Farouk's manor... but then he learned of Layali's tower from an eager-eyed torch-wielder. Using magic to reach the tower well before the wave of angry peasants, he frantically pleaded for entry with the fearful eunuch guardians. Only when the mob neared the gates of the tower did the servants allow Christofer in.
Layali had been summoned by this time. "Who are you?" she demanded. "What will you do here?"
Christofer, hoarse from shouting through the tower door, replied; "We don't have time for anything but escape! There is an angry mob of torch-wielding peasants at your gate!"
Layali felt a thrill of fear. She regularly had nightmares about mobs of peasants with torches sacking her tower. She knew common folk feared her. Her servants loved her of course, but even they feared her at first. "M-my father will come and tell them... ah..."
Christofer's eyes narrowed. "Your father is...?"
Layali stiffened her spine. "Amahl el-Farouk."
"Amahl el-Farouk is dead. He was devoured by one of his demons."
She nodded, wilting. "I feared it was so." She straightened again. "They will want me. I will draw them away so my servants can escape."
Christofer--who possessed none of his sister's talent or aplomb with the opposite sex--was smitten immediately. The heaving bosom, the full pouty lips, the glossy dark hair, the great dark eyes welling up with tears--
He nearly stood there mute and blinking while the girl made to open the heavy tower door and sacrifice herself to the mob. "Wait! There's no need for that! I'll cast an illusion to draw the crowd away while you and your servants escape!"

And so the girl was saved. She gave all the wealth of the tower over to her servants and bade them to scatter to different cities across the desert land. Since Christofer had saved not only Layali but all her servants as well, she vowed to help him in his quest to bring his father to justice. Layali saw Christofer as a hero from a romantic tale and lavished him all the love (or infatuation, if you will) a young woman could. So, a mere six months after their first meeting, the pair were married by a drunken sun priest in Midport.
For two years the pair tracked Kraig across the world. They learned that Silverleaf was the key to unlocking the dimensional barrier to the land of Egypt. They learned that the fabled metropolis was cursed by the Red King at the beginning of the Defiler Era, and that curse doomed the inhabitants of Silverleaf to an eternity of living death. They learned that only the blood of Silverleaf could unlock the wards that sealed it away from the world. They learned that Kraig had vials of Xelena Silverleaf's blood, but still searched for a gateway or altar that would let him work his blood magic.
In a dirty cobbled street in Drachensgraab, Christofer Silverleaf finally found Kraig.
A wizard's duel began. It became apparent that Kraig was more accomplished in the magical arts than Christofer... but Kraig worked alone and Christo was married to a half-succubus that shot bolts of eldritch power from her outstretched hands. With Layali's help, Christofer fended off Kraig and forced him to flee... but not before Kraig succeeded in magically blinding Christofer.
Under Layali's guidance, they fled the scene of the battle and bribed a local smuggler named Trath to let them use his warehouse as a hideaway. Of course the thieves guild had connections to Trath's smuggling house so it was only a matter of time before Kraig discovered their location...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Zakhi Lends Aid Against Bloody Paul

During the battle with Bart's ship, the Filthy Whore, the port cannon crews of the Maelstrom suffered a fair amount of fatalities, and the good ship herself had certainly seen better days. Figuring Bloody Paul to be nearby, the Captain decided to harvest timber for repairs from an uninhabited island and bade Stelgar to set course for the nearest such.

Alas, repairs did not seem to be in order before they were set upon by Bloody Paul Demmings. The eager lad in the crow's nest pointed out a vessel due south that turned out to be the Vanessa Rose herself! With the chosen island a half day's sail away, the Maelstrom sought to flee to it, mayhap to set ambush or at least provide cover on her weak port side.

During the chase, a thick fog settled upon both boats from a clear sky. Before they lost sight of her, several crew members noted the mages on the Vanessa Rose banishing the unnatural mist, only to sail into a thicker patch. Soon enough visibility was so bad that the Captain gave order to weigh anchor and run silent.
At Jenna's suggestion, the Captain ordered cables lashed to empty barrels and had them floated out on each compass point, for some warning if the Vanessa Rose came close.

For a tense half hour the crew listened and watched as well as they were able. Then one of the ropes put out to sea with a barrel gave a jerk, and then another. Jenna made ready to swim out and put a sword through whatever may need gutting, but Winston bade her to wait til someone showed his face.

The rope a-jerking was caused by none other than Arthur Kerrignun, a sorcerer and seafaring adventurer that was rescued from shipwreck by the Sunrise. He explained that he had been sailing with Zakhi and his undead crew for nigh on a week now, though but one day is quite enough amongst that crew, thank you very much. But on that note, where did Jean-Paul go?

Jean-Paul, as it turned out, was a shadowdancer and crewman on the Sunrise. He looked to be a pale elven man in dark faded finery. He lacked any weapon but his charming accent and piercing gaze.

He related that it was Zakhi that ordered the unnatural mist to cover both ships, so that he might offer the Maelstrom a bargain. Zakhi proposed that the Sunrise would appear on the starboard side of the Vanessa Rose and give them a broadside whilst the Maelstrom did the same.

In return, the Maelstrom would fetch a mcguffin that was sought by Zakhi. When pressed for details he said "It is in ahh, some sort of temple of light, or some such. Warded, you know, against us."

Winston declared that they would not be party to an evil act such as sacking a temple of light. Jean-Paul assured him that Zakhi "knew the character of the Maelstrom" and it would not be a problem. With is conscience somewhat put to rest, Captain Winston agreed to the bargain.

And so the Maelstrom met the Vanessa Rose over her starboard side. BOOM went the cannon! Where the Maelstrom sought to take out gun crews, the Vanessa Rose raked the deck! There was spellcasting, and diving for cover, and scurvy dogs a-bleeding! YARRR! Then the ships came to, and the boarding commenced! Here was Captain Bloody Paul Demmings; seven foot tall and red of skin, bearing a greatsword that radiated a chill like midwinter. Here were Mad Addy and Black Bart, and all the three of them cut a path of blood through the crew of the Maelstrom.

Jenna Swinesdottir fell when the powder keg she had strapped to her arm exploded. Murgosis fell after fleeing a bloody toe-to-toe battle with Bloody Paul on one side and Mad Addy on the other. Paul cut down Arthur when his protective spells became too much of a nuisance.

In the end, the heroes prevail. Otherwise the story goes on, eh? Bloody Paul Demmings was finally brought low and the Vanessa Rose was sunk. A great deal of booty was plundered and a great deal of payment was finally meted out to the worthy crew of the Maelstrom. The reward was collected from the Gnomes of Atlantia and the ship repaired and refitted.

Then it was off to waters east, to uphold the bargain with Zakhi

Monday, September 03, 2007

Dread Pirate Zakhi and the Curse of the Sea Witch

Years before the Red King's Turning there was a dashing privateer by the name of Ricardo Zakhi. Now sacking ports and making off with governor's daughters was all well and good to Ricardo, but he loved to sail to ports unknown as well. So it came to pass that the Dread Pirate Zakhi became known in all corners of the world, from Chin to Ge-Pan to Araby to Dule and beyond.

Zakhi was the romantic dashing sort of pirate, one that would treat prisoners fair and not even show mistreatment if the ransom failed to meet his coffers (though many a ladies virtue suffered his advances, 'tis true). One day his eye fell on a young woman in the Chin port of Ran Jang named Xue Yun, and he was smitten with her beauty.
Xue Yun was gifted with a fair amount of sense, and furthermore hailed from a minor noble house of Ran Jang. She spurned Zakhi at the first, but the man was noted for his charm and wit--not to mention his persistence. Time and again he professed his love for the maiden, and he did embellish the romantic adventures they could have on the high seas. Within a month Xue Yun relented, and stole aboard the Sunrise in the dead of night. The very next morning they were married by a priest of the sun god that Zakhi favored.

'Twas Zakhi's sense of fairness and generosity that turns the tale to sadder waters. Not wanting to slight his new wife's Chin gods, he bade her to choose a port where they could be married in Chin fashion. She chose a port far down the southern coast where dwelt a cousin of hers that was a priest. They were married in secret before her patron goddess, Kuan Yin, and set sail the next day for "all the world," as Zakhi had it.
Unbeknownst to the newlywed couple, the priest was consumed by guilt over performing the marriage and made confession to the high priest, who immediately notified the girl's family.

Where a poorer family wouldn't have had gold enough, and a richer family could have paid for a gentler hand, the Yun family was cursed with just the right amount of wealth to garner the services of the Sea Witch Antideluvia. They made offerings and abased themselves in such fashion as pleased the witch, and she consented to "turn the heart of Xue Yun."
Antideluvia gathered dark spirits and cast them across the waters of Chin. One of them found the Sunrise and crept into the nose of Xue Yun, wherein it was able to lay with her spirit. From then on she became tormented and frightful. She would imperiously curse her new husband and command him to return her to Ran Jang, and then come to her senses and beg him to take her as far from Chin as he could. Night and day she fought a spirit battle with the minion of Antideluvia, and the sun priest on board was powerless to cast it out. Zakhi and his crew could only watch in growing horror as the once-lively and beautiful woman began wasting away, consumed by the battle she fought within her very soul.

The priest bade Zakhi to take the girl to a Sun Temple where a high priest could cast out the cursed spirit, or back to Chin. Since the spirit was tasked with bringing the girl to Chin, the torment would end once she arrived on those shores once again. Zakhi set all sails to the Sun Temple in Chokoun, figuring to make port in two days.

Antideluvia heard the priest's words and Zakhi's decision from her spying spirits, and cast a great storm to blow the Sunrise far off course. Zakhi recognized a sorcerous maelstrom when he spied one, and called upon his priest and his faith to banish the storm. The priest's prayer was enough to blunt the furies force, and the Sunrise was back on course again. Antideluvia became enraged and appeared before the prow wreathed in unholy fury.

"You will give up the girl to me, filthy pirate, or I will have her soul away and leave you a lifeless husk!" she screeched.
Zakhi and his crew were paralyzed by terror and indecision. They could by no means give up Xue Yun to this evil crone, but neither could they let her soul be torn asunder. In that moment, Xue Yun took matters into her own hands. From the captain's quarters she crept, tormenting spirit held at bay by her will, and a silver knife clutched in her white-knuckled hand. Before the crew or the crone realized she was there, she leapt from the deck and plunged the knife into the crones withered breast.

Antideluvia fell upon the deck, bleeding foul ichor and clutching dark forces to her will. Twin eyes of darkness grew in both her clawed hands and she made to hurl them at Xue Yun. "My Death Curse upon you, whore of the sea!" she cried, and flung the blackness at the girl.

Is it a blessing or a curse, what went next? Surely no one would be surprised to hear that Zakhi threw himself in the way and bore the brunt of the crone's evil power. Who knows what would have happened had the curse struck its intended target?

For Ricardo Zakhi, the world went black and then gray, and all the folk around him grew so bright as to blind him. "Never will you know the living," whispered a voice from the darkness. "You will take no succor in the house of the Sun. You are bound, and bound, and bound to the dead. Ne'er will you walk the land."

The darkness left Zakhi and struck dead all the crew, and aye, his beloved as well. When he beheld her light fading, rage and grief made him draw his sword and strike off the hand of the Sea Witch. He advanced further to end her black existence, but she slithered over the railing and disappeared into the sea. "By sea and by blood, by the light of the sun, I shall end thee," he roared. Only the sea and the dead answered. For when he turned, he beheld his crew in horrible unlife, shuffling about the deck in vile parody of seafaring crew. So horrified by this was he that he failed to notice ten and two zombies slip overboard into the hungry waves.

Only his beloved remained still. Was she finally at peace in death? He knew not.