Journeys Through Valkana


Having found the tome the Church of Tempus had charged him to find, Garethix determined to set back out toward Vorakis. The party agreed to accompany him back to the city. On their way out of the ruins, they followed another corridor which opened up impossibly into a vast wheat field and happened upon a curious entity. In the middle of the field, a single giant tree grew. When they approached the tree, it spoke to them. Fascinated, they questioned the awakened tree but were only able to determine that it was a by-product of Arunga who would visit it on occasion. At a loss to the significance of this tree, they left the ruins.

They headed toward Vorakis, but decided to take a quick detour to Nestora. As they approached the city, they noticed smoke billowing from the center of the city and saw a line of cars and people exiting quickly from the gates. They questioned one of the people fleeing and discovered that a group called Umbra had taken the Council of Nestora hostage in the central tower and the city was in chaos. The party recognized that this was the group that they were connected to through Declan and whom they had acquired some powerful artifacts for.  They made their way into the city where they found the tower surrounded by the Nestora’s garrison.

Upon getting the rundown by The Queen of the White Soldiers, they were informed that the tower would be stormed by the guard within the hour regardless of the safety of the council. The party decided to take matters into their own hands and attempt to save the council. They beat down the front door and quickly dispatched the waiting brigands and methodically made their way to the top floor.


Upon easily dispatching the minions, they came to the antechamber of the High Councils meeting room and there encountered two powerful wizards with some familiar toys. The very same shield guardians that the party had stolen were now ironically turned against them. Working in tandem, the group felled the powerhouses and their controllers and approached the doors to the meeting room. Swinging the doors wide, they found the council gathered in a circle with guns pointed at their heads and Nicolas Vorpal, the leader of Umbra himself, aiming his own weapon at Theodas HighCanyon.

He warned the group not to come any closer and explained that he had given the Council a choice. Either Theodas takes his own life for the crimes committed against the people of the city and pay for the death of his wife, or the entire Councils’ lives are forfeit. Either way, Vorpal will have his vengeance and there will be a reckoning and the government will fall to the hands of the people.

The party, trying to move in, blundered and one of the Council was shot dead on the spot. Treading carefully, they attempted to reason with Nicolas, Garethix trying to appeal to him by sympathizing with the need to end a tyranny but insisting he have a plan if he is to topple a government. More persuasive, though, was Kael’thas’ argument that it is far from what his wife would have desired of him. In the end, though, it wasn’t enough to quell his rage and Vorpal shot Theodas and then himself.

They managed to keep the rest of the Council alive, but they were on a clock with the threat of the White Wolves releasing biological weapons into the building. They made it out in time and informed Natasha of what had happened. With the Council in disarray, there was sure to be some residual complications in getting the city under control, but the threat of Umbra’s chaos was alleviated.

“Perhaps,” suggested Garethix to Natasha, “it is time for the people to decide who should rule…”

On Ruins and the Monsters inside them.

Lacking direction and a close friend; the party decided that leaving town and staying on the move was the best option. Fortunately direction came in the form of a new ally; Sir Garethix of Ghalsain. The paladin was the last survivor of a Vorakis task force sent to investigate the whereabouts of a mysterious book. The party followed him to a large ruin in the desert. 

Finding no obvious entrance they descended into a cavern underneath the ruin.  The first peril the group encountered was a squad of Tlincalli. Garethix ran joyfully into battle and the rest followed. The scorpioniods didn't stand a chance. The second test came from a Galeb Duhr and his piercer allies. Again they were quickly bested, but unfortunately the next room was not as straight forward. 

As the group entered a cave with an underground lake they found a well dressed man who claimed he was trapped at the lake. His demeanor made the party uncomfortable and he quickly gave up the innocent act. Before the party knew it there where two of this man and they were forced to play a dire game. Garethix was the first to lose and he was forced to relive his worst memory. The second one to lose was Tethyrian and his loss was far greater. His precious keyblade was reduced to a small ball of technology. The group decided that enough was enough and left the mysterious man to his solitude. 

The next room the group entered opened into a vast forest. Inside they caught the first sight of their mission and it was a truly terrifying sight. The book was held by a parasitic plant that used a headless corpse as it's vehicle. They watched as this creature killed a goblin and then brought it back as a wretched spy. Fortunately they managed to stay hidden. Deeper into the forest they met a group of surprisingly self-aware goblins. The goblins gave the dreaded creature a name; the Arunga. They also offered to take the party to it's lair but only if the party could help them with a small problem at the local watering hole. Thus the party found themselves headed back to their creepy lakeside acquaintance. 

This time no games were had. The party drew their weapons and the man multiplied by ten. The battle was hard fought and the party seemed to be getting nowhere when Garethix had an idea. He jumped into the lake that the creature was bound to and there he found the truth behind the man. Inside the lake was a massive bloated fish-like creature with the face of their foe. The men they were fighting had been the fingers of it's outstretched arms.  With that knowledge the fight came to a grinding halt as the party knew they were outmatched. It's secret out, the monster told it's story. It was Metaphis and it was the creation of an ancient being but it's creator deemed it too dangerous. So she bound it to this lake and left it to an eternity alone. Fortunately Metaphis agreed to give up a piece of itself so that the goblins would believe the party had killed it. In exchange the party was to kill the Arunga as it was killing the goblins that Metaphis called food. The party took this bargain and left the monster to be a problem for another day. 

The next day the goblins keep good on their word and brought the party to the Arunga's lair. Tethyrian tried to lure it out of it's cave to no avail so the party went in to fight it on its own turf. The Arunga was not alone and though it hid behind a wall of thorns the party found themselves occupied by two giant Shambling Mounds. After a few close calls, including Tannis being absorbed into one of the creatures, the two monstrosities were destroyed. During that time Tethyrian worked on exposing the Arunga by destroying it's thorny shield. Seeing an opening Kael'thos launched a fireball and obliterated the Arunga. With the battle completed the party investigated the book and was surprised to find that it was the research notes of a scientist. 

The next surprise came when the party found a giant metal door behind the lair. They cracked the code and entered a room of amazing technology. Before they could investigate it a small robotic crab approached them and brought up a hologram of the scientist that the Arunga had taken as its host. The hologram revealed itself to be EMA; the digitized memories of the scientist Elanora. It explained that they were currently in something called a space ship and that it had brought Elanora here from another planet. It also told the party that Tethyrian's keyblade was a piece of technology brought over from Elanora's planet. A number of these weapon's existed although she only had one in her possession. The group contemplated this new knowledge and rested knowing that they had discovered something truly amazing. 

A Short Term Servitude

As the party escaped the sandstorm they found themselves in the clutches of the ancient blue dragon Kiamet. Fortunately for them the dragon was more interested in conscripting the group into his service than destroying them where they stood. So they were sent down to the caves where they found an ecosystem of people that ranged from bloodied mercenaries to puppeteers meant to entertain Kiamet's brood. Many members of the group decided to make a life for themselves. Declan showed his prowess in tech and set up shop as a fixer, while Tannis befriended an ex-cleric turned local leader by the name of Wilson.

However not everyone was so complacent.  Tytherian immediately challenged Wilson to a battle that went poorly for him. On the subtler side Veil made the decision to walk away and never come back as soon as she had the chance. That chance would come, but first the group took two missions. The first was to hunt down food for the cave and it was completed with ease. Next they were teamed up with a Rock Gnome druid and sent to a camp of Devils who were behind on tribute to the great dragon. The party found little moral difficultly destroying the devils as they were in the process of devouring human corpses. 

Finally Veil's chance came when the party was given a week's leave. They traveled to the town of Respite and looked for a spice merchant with a price on his head. Shortly after meeting him a group of assassins attacked and the party was forced to fight them in the streets. It was a tough battle, but in the end the assassins fled as their injuries grew too great. The party found a place to hide out as Veil reached out to see if they could find out why the dragon wanted this man dead. 

Unfortunately this lead to a trap. While Declan, Veil, and Tannis were drawn away the assassins attacked the rest of the group. Using surprise to their advantage one managed to kill Kael'thos in a single blow. The killer was then promptly cut in two by Tytherian's keyblade. The rest of the assassins managed to capture the spice merchant and escape to another dimension. Fortunately party reunited in time to rush Kael'thos to the local temple where he revived, but unfortunately they lost the trail of the assassins. Feeling the defeat a little harder than the rest Declan went to the lake where an Angel was rumored to live. While the entity he meet was more similar to a Water Nymph than a Celestial it still granted him one wish. 

With this wish Declan accidentally caused the death of Kiamet and gave power over to the dragon's son. This seemed to free the party of their time under the Great Blue Claw as now Kiamet's son was too focused on solidifying his place on the top to pay attention to a few deserters. Unfortunately this caused the spice merchant's bounty to become void so his body was dropped at their feet. In his rage Declan struck out against the assassin and was dragged into the closing esacpe portal. The reminder of the party was left standing by the shore free, but down a friend and without direction. 

Adventures in the Desert

Lacking direction the group decided to seek out Sygnir in the north. This led them to the Rust Wastes where they quickly lost their car and had to set out on foot. Fortunately the soon ran into a group of nomads who were on a pilgrimage to see their deity; the Robot God Orion.  Seeing an opportunity to learn about the giant robot that stole away their friend, TI-84, the group joined these nomads. During the quiet journey to the sacred site the group enjoyed the culture and lifestyle of these nomads.

Upon arriving they came face to face with the giant robot Orion and after an all-night vigil Declan found himself talking with the deity. While he did not learn what he came for, he was warned that the patron of his power may not be as benevolent as he'd thought. Unfortunately though, the peace was not to last. During the ceremony to praise Orion the nomads where scattered by cyborg attackers. Fortunately the party was prepared and made quick work of the chainsaw wielding leader. Lacking leadership; the rest fell quickly.  

A new goal in sight the party left the Rust Wastes and entered the natural desert to the north. On their way to Sygnir they ran into a group of kobolds lead by some small blue dragons. Despite the air support of the dragons the party mostly found cover under the wreckage of an ancient highway. Tytherion, on the other hand, found that luck was not on his side, but still managed to hold his ground until the battle came to a close. 

Soon the party found themselves at the liar of Sygnir and upon entering found themselves woefully unprepared for his challenge. Most were kicked out immediately, but the ancient dragon took a shining to Flick, the party's Tabaxi. Flick proved his worth and was rewarded with a tattoo and a shiny new dagger. The dragon told them to learn from their earnest companion and to come back when they were worthy of his power. The group left off walking into a sandstorm and wondering where life would lead them next. 

The Goodie-good City

After their ordeal with the were-pack, the party makes their way to the grand city of  Aliston whereupon arriving they are instantly greeted by the city’s most notable characteristic: the aegis of the storm giants. Once inside, and with no immediate task at hand, they disband and explore the city familiarizing themselves with their new surroundings. The general atmosphere of the city appeared to be free of any apparent political or social conflict. The populace seemed content and cheery under the reign of King Archimedes.

Veil and Ajax headed to the nearest temple to see if anything could be done about her new condition. With the financial backing from Ajax, Veil was able to purchase the required ritual to rid herself of her lycanthropic curse after which she took on various odd jobs in the attempt to pay him back for his charity. Ajax decided to go back and see what could be done about the den of were-creatures on the outskirts of town.

Declan, in the meantime, went to work using his unique “networking” skills attempting to dig into whatever underbelly the city might have only to come up empty.  Not fully trusting a city to be so squeaky clean, he nevertheless set up shop in the town bazaar where he hocked his hand-crafted, clockwork sculptures. 

Veil and Tytherion put their collective talent and ample skills together to find some houses to paint when Tytherion wasn't training.

Kael’Thas indulged his elite sensibilities by taking up residence in the finest establishments and dining at the choicest restaurants.

James Bard went on the hunt for romance and graced a few social engagements with his presence. He flirted with one Delilah Briarwood with mixed results.

After spending a week in the city, getting their bearings, Kael’Thas found himself lounging in yet another fine establishment when all of a sudden an explosion erupted outside. A carriage being escorted by some of the town guard had been overturned by some violent force. A woman in fine armor was emerging from the wreckage when a sinister figure appeared behind her and rended the armor from her arms. It fused the gauntlets to its own form and started to wreak havoc in the streets. Kael’Thas scurried back inside and bided his time until opportunity arose.

            Alerted by the noise, the other members of the party rushed to the source of the commotion and a battle ensued against this dark creature and some robotic minions. After taking some blows the demon seemed only slightly perturbed and only decided to retreat when the city guard and a couple of the giants presented themselves. He vanished in what appeared to be a puff of smoke.

            After clearing the battlefield, some of the party attended to the wounded while others approach the city guard to find out the nature of this attack. They revealed that this was a prisoner, a demon named Ganran, who they identified as a technivore. They were in the process of transporting him to another location. The woman in charge of this convoy, the same injured in the attack, turned out to be the kings daughter Amelia. The party was thanked for their service and for saving the woman and the other guard and promised payment by the city. They dispersed and went about their days.

Declan investigated the site where the demon disappeared and discovered that there were traces of it's presence within the computer main frame of the city. He went to the authorities to alert them and offer his services to track down the direction it escaped.

Upon returning to their lodgings each of the party discovered an elegant envelope that had been slid under their doors. It was an invitation for an audience with the king that night for dinner. They all made their way to the Kings Palace and found themselves in the huge dining hall of King Archimedes of Alliston. There the very young looking king welcomed them and thanked them for profusely for the rescue of his daughter and son, Canen, it was revealed further that all of the guards of the city where his progeny. They also learned that the king had lived for hundreds maybe thousands of years and that he'd been around since the inception of the kingdom. He also revealed that he had apparently met TI's  wife at one point briefly as she had lived in the city for a time on a street named Sepulveda.

The festivities commenced and what's his name challenged Leanne to a test of might which he in turn failed. Declan, taking a liking to this king, challenged him in some games of chance and came out on top. Veil feeling uncomfortable try to leave the party but was stopped by one of the guards who compelled her to stay.

When last we left the group, the gala had been dying down and morning was on the horizon…

The Rise of an Empire (literally) and Furryland

The party shifts their focus to tracking down the awakened Saurian Emperor, Donthriss. Back in Vorakis they are directed to a gigantic rift which hides the ruins of a once great city of Saurians. As they enter the caverns, they confront a band of erudite goblins struggling to drag a bag containing a shifting mass. Using his thermal-scope, Ajax quickly deduces it is a living humanoid. As the party distracts the goblins, Veil sneaks behind and opens the bag revealing a tuft of red hair and discovering Declan bound and gagged.


Not interested in fighting for their quarry, the goblins run off leaving the party with mixed feelings toward their new development: the trouble making gnome.  Declan gushes gratitude and promises he can help them find what they are looking for in the rift whatever that may be. They tell him of their search and Declan joins in hopes of high adventure and riches to be won in the fabled ruins.


The party eventually travels into the rift, eventually coming to the ruined buildings of a city. As they make their way through, they catch sight of a strange blue robed figure that catches wind of them and quickly darts away seemingly being sucked into earth itself. Walking a little further into the center of this city, they come upon a massive bipedal lizard, obviously saurian, blocking their way. The Saurian calls out to them and gives them a choice: kneel and pledge allegiance to the emperor or leave the city. While the majority of the party find neither option amenable, TI takes a knee in hopes that deference will get him past this obstacle. Ever the survivor and always looking for the easy way out, Declan joins him on his knee. The others balk at any sort of subservience and refuse to leave. The Saurian chuckles and launches himself into combat with the party.


Feeling confidant that they can take out this lone sentry, the party is surprised by additional players joining the fray in the form of the robed figure, a blue skinned saurian, and her summoned earth elementals and an unseen foe taking shots from a location somewhere in the city. Reacting to the new threats, the party fans out. The fury of the orange saurian shocks them as it takes down the wizard, Kael’thas, in a savage display of combat. The other members have their hands full with the magic user and sniper. Veil and Declan try to pinpoint the location of the sniper while Ajax, TI and the fighter focus on the orange brute.


After trading blow after blow, and TI being knocked around quite a bit the orange lizardman collapses… only to shake himself awake with renewed fury!  Stunned by the tenacity of this beast, Ajax redoubles his efforts and strikes it down again… only the have it rise once more. It snarls and laughs as it takes out the three warriors.


Meanwhile, the sniper continues doing formidable damage while evading discovery by the stealthy Veil and the hovering drones of Declan. At last it's discovered, another green-skinned saurian outfitted with superb technology, but it’s too little too late. Veil gets in a couple good blows but is bested and captured.


Declan, having gone invisible, tries to bide his time to get in a more advantageous position. He watches as his companions fall one by one and are dragged off by the saurians. He attempts to hide, but to no avail. His cloaking doesn't hide him from the green lizard's thermal scope. He gets off one last shot before succumbing to the orange behemoths attacks. The party falls and they are dragged away to captivity.



Waking up with brutal headaches, the party finds themselves trapped in cells and the city flying thousands of feet over the land. They are taken out and brought before the very being they sought, Emperor Donthriss. He presents them with a different choice: Kneel and be put to use for the Empire or be subject to captivity and slavery. Pride wins out and the majority of the party refuses to bend a knee. Declan, ever being the opportunist,  agrees to kneel in hopes for the opportunity to infiltrate and learn what he can from this city. Veil also opts to put herself at the mercy of the Empire. The rest are dragged back to their cells.


Upon awakening the next day, Veil and Declan are escorted from their quarters and given tasks. Veil joins a sentry patrol and Declan is taken to the engine room where he is shown the engine core keeping the city aloft. Immediately enamored, he is more than willing to get his hands dirty with the engine. Afterward, he manages to locate a locked door which he deduces hides a hub of the technology flying the city. He attempts to hack the system with limited success as he has to pause his work.


Back in the cells, TI tries to break free of his restraints to no avail, but with the help of Tethyrian and a well placed kick he liberates himself. All for naught, though, as the guards keep them in check and bring in a game of strategy to pass the time.


Ajax gets restless and restarts to challenging the brawny, orange saurian to a competition of strength. Chuckling the beast brings him an arm to replace the one they took and sets up an arm wrestling match. Ajax is overpowered but not daunted as he continues to taunt the saurian.


The following day the lizard relents and agrees to go one-on-one with him even giving him full access to his arm. The bout is close, but the saurian once again prevails.


Veil and Declan are taken to a field and put to work planting crops. Declan tries to bond with Veil but is rebuffed indicating that water is not completely under the bridge.


The next day the whole party wakes to blaring alarms. Using the alarms as a distraction, Veil and Declan go invisible and make their way back to the locked door and manage to break in revealing the engine room. Declan hacks the system and attempts to pilot the city back down to the ground.


Meanwhile, a ship has landed near where the rest of the party is imprisoned and stepping out of it are several of the Twilight Guard accompanied by Abin-dula him/herself. Also accompanying them is Azog. Abin-dula requests parlay from the Emperor asking that the captives be set free and that the Emperor join the alliance of kingdoms. The Emperor concedes to releasing the party, but is not keen on joining the alliance. Abin-dula warns him not to reach too far.


A search party is sent for Declan and Veil who nearly succeed in bringing the city down but are eventually escorted back. Azog immediately reacts upon seeing Veil and bears arms against her, but is rebuffed by Abin-dula. They all board the ship and make their way back to Vorakis.


Back on solid ground, the party faces another obstacle: each other. Veil and TI stand off with members of the party choosing sides as each wants to pursue their own interests. Tension mounts and Declan buys time by taking an essential part from their vehicle. They stay the night and Veil and Declan sneak off to infiltrate Jameson’s headquarters. The gnome breaks in successfully, but doesn’t find anything of particular interest to Veil. However, they notice a glowing sigil on his back and realize that they are being watched. They beat a hasty retreat back to the inn.


In the morning, the party is greeted by Abin-dula and Declan and Veil are outed. Abin-dula banishes them from the city for an undisclosed time and the party finally decides to follow a vague clue about the whereabouts of TI’s family. They head north of the city to the grasslands to investigate.


As they are traveling through the canyons they are set upon by two strange bipedal animal creatures. The bear like creature knocks Declan and Veil from his newly acquired motorcycle and the party engages them in battle. Before too long they realize the assailants are not alone and a number of different animal people descend into the valley. A wolfman steps forward identifying himself as the raiding party’s leader and gives them a choice. They can either pay their toll of offering one victim to be turned into a lycanthrope, or turn back. The party once again refuses to subjugate themselves and Kael’thas looses his magic destrying Declan’s new bike in the process (he’s not bitter much). The party routs the attackers but not before Veil, Azog and Ajax are bitten and the curse courses through their blood.


They are left alone in the canyon with no option but to seek out this commune and get more information about their new condition and also about the name the werewolf mention that has special significance to TI…

New allies, Dragons, and a Mysterious Blade

Cash in hand and down one anarchistic Gnome the group finds themselves in the company of Tethyrian; a young explorer searching for his path and the purpose of his mysterious weapon. Veil calls in a debt and the group finds themselves on their way to investigate a long forgotten pyramid. During the drive, they pass by a battle between two dragons. Despite Veil’s objections the group does not stop on their way to the Pyramid.

Upon arrival, they find that the pyramid is a shrine to an ancient snake god. They make their way mostly unharmed through a long trapped corridor before they finally find the main shrine. Inside is an alter with a strange blade wrapped up in mechanical statue of snakes. When the blade was removed from its stand the team found that it wasn’t the only mechanized statue in the room, as they now found themselves face to face with several huge snake statues.

Although one managed to disable TI-84 it soon found its end at the fist of Ajax. Another was felled by a shot to the back of the head by a well-hidden Veil. The rest were taken care of by the fire and lightning of Prince Kael’thos. With the battle won Veil took a moment to examine her treasure where unbeknown to the team the object communicated with her; in its own way. 

TI agreed, with a begrudged sigh, to check out the location of the dragon’s battle. They arrived to a scene of ruined forest and a small surprise. Amongst the destruction was a wounded man. After his injuries were treated the man revealed that he had been pelted by the debris caused by a dragon falling from the sky. New ally in tow the group gets back to Vorakis with no further incident, but little did they know they were heading towards something much greater than themselves.

Balefire's gambit

"They weren't our marks, Tobin," the fiery haired gnome snapped at the much taller human behind the desk. "They were tools." His lips spread in his customary smirk as he added off-handedly "The elf in particular, definitely a tool." His tone returned to business as he continued, "And as any good engineer knows, you take care of your tools."

"You lost 6,000 credits on those tools, Declan! I'm not just going to overlook that!" 

Tobin, the spindly, grey-haired rogue rounded the desk and stood towering over the gnome. Not phased by his posturing, Declan lifted his head in defiance and flipped a switch on his mech arm. Gears whirred and a low whine came from his boots as a blue light emanated from the soles and lifted him to bring him eye level with the man. His icy blue eyes bored holes into the yellowing, bloodshot eyes of Tobin. They remained there for a long, tense minute staring each other down.

"You have beautiful eyes" Declan whispered earnestly, keeping his eyes locked on Tobin's.

"Bah!" Tobin spat. He turned away and stomped back behind his desk."You infuriate me, Balefire. I don't know why I put up with you."

"Because I'm the best you have and you know it," Declan replied lowering himself back to the ground his smirk settling into its place again.

"You're damned lucky you are," Tobin muttered as he took his seat behind the desk. 

"What's the big deal, Tobin? They got the job done. I figured they deserved compensation. They fared far better than the crew you picked for me."

Tobin huffed remembering the disaster of their first attempt at the heist. In truth, he had lost double what he'd lost on this excursion. "Be that as it may," he said begrudgingly, "my operatives will be working overtime to recoup that loss."

"Tobin, lighten up! Mission accomplished, hefe! Can't we take a moment to toast some of that sweet, sweet fire oil I know you have stashed in your bottom drawer?"

Tobin looked at him with a scowl of suspicion which then turn into his own relenting grin.  "Damned lucky," he repeated and reached into the bottom drawer procuring a decanter of dark red liquor and two tumblers. He poured out two fingers in each and slid one over to Declan who caught it up deftly.

"To yet another swift kick in the danglies to Jameson and the Machine," Declan toasted.

"May their cogs and wheels rust to dust!" Tobin returned. 

With that, both men downed their glasses in one swig. This was followed by faces contorted in twisted grimaces as the liquor did its work traveling down throat to belly leaving a tingling, slightly burning trail in its wake. Brow glistening with sweat, Declan slammed his glass back down on the table inviting Tobin to poor another. To his chagrin, Tobin swiped up the decanter, stoppered it and put it back beneath his desk.

"Let's not get too carried away," Tobin said as he walked around and leaned against the front of his desk arms crossed. "Our work isn't over yet. You are prepared for the next phase?"

"Absolutely," said Declan hopping up into a cushioned chair.

"Pity you let yourself get pinched in Vorakis. And bloody lucky you made it through the Trial. I've told you time and again that The Twilight Guard and Abin-Dula are not to be trifled with. You're gonna be hard pressed to walk through that city without a thousand eyes trained on you with every step."

"And as I've told you, old man, I can take care of myself." He hoped his eyes didn't betray his confident posture as he thought about how lucky he really had been in facing the Trial with that particular pack. The gnome was used to getting out of sticky situations, but were it not for that crew his fortune might have fled. In truth, he owed them much more than the money he had relinquished to them. He owed them his life. Of course, if his guilt hadn't got the better of him, he wouldn't have found himself in the position to begin with. Sometimes he felt things would go much easier for him if he could just excise that nagging conscience in much the same way he would pull a faulty fuse from a bot.

"I made it out just fine," he continued, "and I don't expect to return any time soon so I think I'm doing right dandy."

"Right," Tobin replied, "well, why don't you use that bloody 'resourcefulness' and take care of the next bit of fun we have lined up for our gold mongering friends."

"With pleasure!" And with that the spry gnome leaped out of his chair and made for the door. "Fare thee well, O Captain, my Captain!" With a tip to his brow and a slight bow, Declan made his exit.


Declan made his way down the rickety stairs and through the back door of the abandoned factory which housed Tobins quarters. Once outside he moved along the wall until he reached a spot just below where Tobin's window was and looked up. There, just outside the window, clung EL-1A5, his favorite drone, secured fast by the flux-grav tech he installed in its appendages. Clasped in one of its other mech arms was the decanter of fire oil from Tobin's desk. Declan gave a series of toned whistles and EL-1A5 scurried down the wall to his waiting hand where it deposited the liquor and proceeded to clamber up his arm to secure itself to Declan's tech pack inserting its arms into slots and nestling comfortably in place.

"Good lad," Declan admonished the bot. "You won't be missing this too much, old man," he aimed at the window under his breath as he sauntered away. "You should be cutting back anyway."

Declan sidled his way through the back alleys and side streets of Nestora occasionally utilizing his own flux-grav boots to circumvent impasses and expedite his journey. Dusk was settling in as he made his way quickly to the commerce quarter which was starting to wrap up another busy day. Arclights flickered on overhead bathing the street in their soft glow, signaling the street merchants to pull in their wares and the store fronts to drop their gates. Declan mostly avoided the main thoroughfare darting through adjacent alleyways and sometimes over rooftops. He passed a group of Saurian armorers saddling their rothes and a particularly flamboyant elixir merchant, colorfully dressed and shutting the doors on his equally garish wagon. A halfling textile tradesman made his final appeals to a haggling customer as Declan slipped by and down a deserted ally. He walked about halfway down and then stopped peering up the side of a large, blackstone building. The alley was already dark with the waning day and the shadows of the buildings looming overhead. The only sources of light were the lanterns of the merchants cart from the street side where he entered and one Arclight shining dimly at the other end about 100 feet further. Checking to make sure there were no prying eyes, he turned back to…

Something caught his eye in the direction of the arc-light. He turned back and saw that the arc-light was pulsing in a very un-arclight sort of way. It almost resembled a heartbeat. Then it began to drift down into the center of the alleyway, the light leaving its source, and separated into two distinct lights. Now, it seemed, there were two glowing eyes staring at him from the dark. The shadows around the lights seemed to deepen and almost take form against the dark around it into what Declan perceived as a cloaked figure with a wide-brimmed hat. 

Declan's blood went cold which was quite a feat for the normally hot-blooded gnome. This wasn't his first encounter with this being. His memory raced back to his childhood. To what he remembered as a nightmare he'd had in his nook of a room in his childhood home in Tin City. Those same blazing, electric eyes had gazed down at him from outside his tiny window. His parents had brushed it off as a nightmare as well when he had tearfully ran to their bedside to tell them. The only other time he remembered seeing it was as he was lying half conscious underneath the rubble of Tin City after the Purge. He remembered bleeding out from the loss of his arm and right before going under he had seen those eyes against that shadowy form and then darkness. The next thing he new he had woken in an alley in a different part of the city, his wound closed and seemingly cauterized. Again, he chalked it up to his imagination and delirium. He hadn't given it much thought for years.

But now, here he stood, fully cognizant, staring wide-eyed at the figure from his youth. It didn't say anything. Just hung in the air "eyes" pulsing with that electric light. 

"Who… what… are you?" Declan stammered. He hated this feeling of not having control of his environment. He cursed himself for sounding so unlike his usual confident self.

The figure stayed silent. 

Declan turned his head a moment looking down toward the thoroughfare on the other side of the alley to ensure that nothing else had crept up on him. All clear. When he turned back, the figure was gone. The arc-light glowing as if nothing had changed. There was nothing left to indicate anything had been there. Just the shadows cast over by the surrounding buildings. 

Declan licked his inexplicably dry lips and swallowed through cotton. As unnerved as he was, he still had a task to complete. He shook it off and summoned EL-1A5 from his pack. It unfurled its nav-wings and lifted into the air to suspend itself eye level with Declan awaiting instruction. Declan pulled down his goggles and synced with the machine's viewport. He adjusted to the momentary vertigo as his vision was filled with his own face. Through his sync he made a quick sweep of the area to ensure the figure was not near. Confident he was alone, he moved EL up the side of the building. It traveled 22 stories and hung in the air right outside a closed window. Declan scanned the interior and ensured that it was indeed empty. He took note of a digital panel on the far side. He gave the command to EL to employ its diamond cutter who complied and circumscribed a small hole in the window. 

Declan once more engaged his flux-grav boots and placed one against the wall which immediately clung fast. He pressed another button and activated his photon cloak which bent the light around him rendering him virtually invisible, then he climbed swiftly up the wall and finally reached the window where EL hovered. He reached through the hole in the glass and undid the latch to swing the window inward.

Before setting foot in the room, he focused on the panel and sent his innate energy toward it. Once attuned to its frequency, he had a little chat with the device and compelled it to shut off the security system within the room. Then he swung over the edge of the window and into the office of Arlin Garrick. Jameson's COO kept a fastidious office space. Clean geometric furniture and, in Delcan's opinion, inordinately tacky modern art hanging on the walls. There were cases which contained archaic suits of armor and weaponry from the Great War. If he wasn't here for more subtle purposes, he might have relieved the man of a few choice pieces.

He sent EL to stand post outside the office door then made directly for the desk at the other side of the room and flipped the panel to the holo-term. He made quick work of the security software and accessed the mainframe. The holo-term flickered to life and the holographic display popped up shedding a blue glow over the room. 

Declan chuckled to himself as he imagined the look on Arlin's face when this scheme played itself out. Boyd Jameson would be enraged when he found out that his first in command had been passing along company secrets to his number one competitor and had arranged the theft of his fuel truck by them. The plan was to embed irrefutable evidence in Garrick's hard drive and drop an anonymous tip Jameson's way. The result would redirect the investigation into the the missing tanker and, more importantly, deal a lethal blow to the infrastructure of the petrol giant. The in-fighting would tear the company apart and Umbra would slide quietly back into the dark claiming another victory against the oligarchy.

 He navigated his way through the various files and finally found what he was looking for. Opening the files, he focused his energy once again and drew upon the force which allowed him to manipulate technology. His eyes began to glow the same brilliant blue that flowed though his mech-gauntlet as he directed his focus into the software. Blue tendrils reached from the gauntlet into the terminal as he accessed the financial records and created a financial trail that told the story of Arlin's betrayal. Also, just for good measure, he went ahead and deposited 6,000 credits into Tobin's hidden account. That would appease the old man. He put up enough firewalls to look as though Arlin was trying to hide it but not strong enough to prevent it from being found out. His glowing eyes flicked back and forth as he put the finishing touches on the illusion. He withdrew his hand and the blue glow receded back into the glove and his eyes returned to their normal icy gaze.

Satisfied with his work, he shut down the holo-term and turned to leave. Only his gnomish height saved him as a glowing green flash careened toward his head. He barely ducked out of the way, a lock of his flaming red hair softly falling to the ground. Cursing, he immediately punched the button in his glove that engaged the pulse-boost. His boots engaged and he dashed to the other side of the room to get a bead on what had just attacked him. Turning on its heel, one of the exo-suits from the display case lumbered toward him. The animated suit held an outdated yet still extremely effective energy sword that it swung back over its head for an over head chop. Declan side-stepped the clumsy swing and the sword showered sparks off the marble flooring. The gnome reached back to his tech-pack and grabbed the handle jutting out. As he swung it back over his shoulder, the handle unfolded and expanded to twice its length transforming into his energy rifle. He swiftly brought it to bear but not before he felt something very strong clamp around his leg. He looked down to see a disembodied robotic arm, another relic from the trophy case,  wrapped tight around his calf. Its grip tightened and threatened to tear through Declan's armor right before he triggered his body-armor shockwave and rendered the thing useless. He looked back up just in time to see the energy sword slashing diagonally toward him and jumped into a barrel roll to once again avoid being bisected. He came up from his roll in a crouch, aiming his rifle at the living armor. He sent a mental command and from behind the armor he heard the small pinging of EL's gatling laser bouncing off the metal. It was enough to distract the artifact and it turned to face the new threat. That was just the opening Declan needed and he leveled his rifle and took aim. Fortunately for him, he had seen dozens of these suits come through his father's shop for repair when he was a child and knew what the inherent flaw was in this particular design. As it turned, it exposed its gyro-stablizer and Declan pulled the trigger. The blast ripped through the mechanism and the armor toppled no longer able to support its own weight. It flopped about whirring and trying to right itself as Declan approached it and unsheathed his energy knife and shoved it through its processing unit. It jerked once and then lay perfectly still.

"Not. Cool. " Declan said to the defunct machine.

He retracted his rifle and placed it back in its slot then whistled for EL to dock. The droid took its place on his back and Declan scanned the room. Very clever, Arlin, he thought. The man must have had his trophies enchanted as a secondary defense. Fortunately, there was only minimum damage done to the machines and Declan worked quickly mending the twisted metal and setting the relics back in place in their mini museum. His fingers lingered on the first gen energy sword, but necessity dictated that everything needed to look undisturbed. He couldn't leave any trace of his work behind. Another time, maybe. 

He crawled back out the window engaging his boots and restored the security system. Then he replaced the cut glass and employed his torch, expertly covering the seams and creating a solid piece of glass once again. He set back down the side of the building activating his photon cloak.

He set foot back in the dark alley and started to exit then quickly glanced to the end where the arclight flickered. No sign of the figure. Declan shrugged it off chalking it up once again to his over-active imagination and headed out to the main street. He reached into his side pouch pulling out the bottle of fire oil and took a long draft that nearly knocked him off his feet. Steadying himself, he emerged from the alley and headed home.

Behind him unseen by him as he exited the alley, the arclight went dark.









The Last Flight of the Restoration
By Professor R. T. Stynebane

It is unknown exactly why the Colonization of Valkana was planned but it seems clear that the Home-world of these colonists was reaching the end of its time in this universe. Thus came the creation of the Restoration, a ship with but one purpose: Survival. While little information on this vessel is common knowledge in the common era, much can be gathered from both folklore and the wreckage of the ship itself.

     It appears that an untold mass of people boarded the ship to be put in cryosleep for the duration of the journey. The ship’s Captain, a plant being named Organa, stayed awake to occasionally activate a skeleton crew for security and maintenance purposes. Fortunately, this crew was awake for landing as the ship was attacked just outside of the planet’s atmosphere. It appears they were quickly boarded and a large battle occurred onboard the Restoration. Here is where research falls to folklore.

     According to legend, five heroes joined the Captain for a fight that they ultimately could not win. Though they fought bravely it appears Captain Organa knew that time was short and used her last moments to begin the waking process for the remaining passengers. This led one hero, a mage named Elenora, to leave the battle to pursue a higher purpose; guiding the wakening travelers into the ship’s escape pods. It is likely due to this that the Colonization of Valkana was successful.

     The ship crashed onto the planet and the survivors likely scavenged it to help build the new world. However there has been no evidence of the attacking ship ever landing on Valkana. This, along with the obvious damage to the interior of the Restoration lends credence to the story of great heroes. While their stories may be lost to history, one thing cannot be denied. Without their sacrifice Valkana would have been lost to those attackers before it had the chance to begin.

Deception, Rage, and a Trial by Combat

With the Blackout gang defeated the group found the remainder of their journey to Vorakis a quiet one. A quick registration later and they were able to enter the warm blue light of the city. During an otherwise uneventful trip to the drop off point the group got their first glimpse of the Twilight Guard as they helped fix a power outage. However the pleasantness was not to last. Just as they’re dropping off their payload it disappears along with Declan and their payment.  The city’s lights turn red as the true face of the Twilight Guard is revealed and suddenly the group stands among empty streets. They are quickly surrounded and while being arrested TI-84 gains the ire of Harrow, a dwarf who is more robot than man. Not far off Declan surrenders as he finds a similar fate. 

At the prison they meet another prisoner named Ajax who informs them that they’d soon be fighting for their freedom. TI-84 accepts a duel with Harrow and the first battle is set on its way. He’s brought to the floor of a gladiatorial ring where the dwarf is waiting. Though he throws everything he has at Harrow, TI finds that he cannot gain ground. He begrudgingly concedes and is knocked out as the crowd cheers on their hero. He is healed and the group is told that they will fight as allies in the next battle. While Mubasi is able to abstain, the outspoken Veil is told she must fight. As they are brought to the surface the city’s leader, Abin-Dula, reveals their opponents, an elemental for each of the four core elements. The hulking Earth elemental was first to fall as it crumbled beneath Ajax’s mace. Second down was the Air elemental as Prince Kael’Thas pinned it between plumes of his green flames. Next Declan is able to snuff out the Fire elemental with a few well placed shots fired from atop his perch; and finally the battle comes to an end as TI-84 is able to find redemption by obliterating the Water elemental with a blast from his chest laser.

As soon as they are freed Declan finds himself dangling from the grip of TI-84. With some moderation from Ajax the two come to shaky terms as Declan explains himself and agrees to pay everyone their fair share. With the money divided the six find motivation that ranges from civil justice to burning revenge and back to plain old survival as they prepare for an uncertain future.


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