Saturday, September 5, 2009

Intro to Delos, the Dark Continent

It had been a rough life, and particularly a rough month for the half elvish Cadelaine, as she gazed out over the ocean. Born to a Silver elf ambassador and a noble merchant prince of The League (House Valaryan), she had been both blessed (daughter of the leader of a noble house) and cursed, as her mother’s dalliance led to an embarrassing exile for the silver elf and her half breed offspring. Silver elves lived quite different lives from their Gold or Wood elf brethren, and were considered royalty among their kind. Unfortunately, this meant the bloodlines must be kept pure, and half-human liaisons with Silver elves were not spoken of or acknowledged. Except for her silver eyes and streaks of silver in her hair, Cadelaine could pass for human….too closely, some said, for as she grew older her resemblance to her father grew far too recognizable.

Instead of being in line for the throne, Cadelaine had been a constant source of friction. Being a bastard child, even of an elvish ambassador of a Silver Elven Noble House, and the head of House Valaryan, was a hindrance more than a help growing up. When it came time for her mother’s entourage to return to the Elvish isles, Sedalia stayed behind because the shame would have been immense and she reasoned a half-elven child might be treated better in The League than back at home. Cadelaine’s mother taught her the magical arts, and gave her a spellbook when she came of age. Of her father, she saw little, although guilt and love for her mother made him support her with sporadic gifts. However, Sedalia died young for an elf, and at that Cadelaine’s father’s visits (and support) stopped abruptly.

Virtually abandoned on the streets, Cadelaine was lucky enough to be taken in by a local family whose same age son was infatuated with her silver hair and eyes, and became her best friend. His family (a large but happy brood of bakers) welcomed her and soon she lived alongside them as one of their own. The son, Taylor, became as close as any brother, and she soon learned the art of thievery as well as her magic to supplement the business in weeks of low sales.

However, the wonderful life she had fallen into ended the week before. Her resemblance to her father had become too close to ignore, and whispers around the city placed Cadelaine in the middle of any number of rumors and muddled plots among those who wished House Valaryan evil. Sadly realizing her presence would only endanger her new family, Cadelaine packed up in the dead of night, and stowed away aboard a House Valaryan merchant ship bound far, far away…to distant lands, where she knew not. The name "Delos" was mentioned, called "The Dark Isle", "The Dark Continent", or "Island of Shadows". This sounded like an ideal place to escape to, and she hid aboard the ship as it headed out into the unknown.

Discovered several days into the journey, the gruff but kind Captain Bohema put her to work on the ship, telling her she must earn her way and plead her case before the head of House Valaryan when the isle of Delos was reached….for no one rode for free! Captain Bohema hinted when they arrived there would be a way for her to work off the cost of the trip, and if she played her cards right, she might make some gold in the bargain….

On top of this interesting set of circumstances, two other variables had entered her life…another shipmate, a “Sir Nadal Kingsworth Valaryan”, had attempted to befriend her on the voyage. A tall, strong, brash fighter type, Cadelaine soon realized he had also been sent off to far away Delos for reasons of birthright. Being the fifth son of the leader of House Valaryan’s 2nd wife, he had also muddied the waters of succession had his father passed. The scheming of his older brothers and sisters quickly got him out of the way, as he was told he was being sent to far away Delos to learn how to be a leader of men so he would one day rule the noble House. Cadelaine quickly realized (even if Nadal didn’t), that no only had his brothers hoped he would leave to never return (perhaps perishing in the harsh climes of Delos), but that she was his half-sister. Resolving to let him know neither, she wished him well but kept her distance, not wanting him to examine her too closely and wonder why she looked so much like his father….!

The other interesting shipmate was found floating on day on a piece of lumber, miles and miles from land. His name was Endefal, and he was a Gold half elf and priest of Attar. Although the marks on his wrists and back told of a past of servitude, he refused to tell anything about himself, or how he came to be floating on the ocean, even to a fellow half elf (but truly, he and Cadelaine had as little in common in their heritage than any other random human, elf or half elf). Captain Bohema had his ship cleric nurse the young half elf back to health, then put him to work also. Endefal showed a remarkable ability on the boat and sees, which seemed to place him as a sailor at some point in his past. Whatever his origins, he refused to speak of them to either Cadelaine or Nadal.

After several weeks, after open seas, soon various islands began to dot the ocean around them. Unlike anything she had seen back in the League, the islands were covered by lush, tropical foliage, the arm was warm and muggy, the sun hot and merciless. When Captain Bohema would talk to her sometimes, he told her of the dangerous waters they plied, full of orcish, human, and Taranthian slavers and pirates, and containing many other dangers such as dragon turtles and worse! He also talked of Delos, a land hundreds of miles long, filled with jungles, dark skinned natives, incredible monsters, and danger underneath every tree and vine. Yet he also spoke of great treasures contained in ruins on the isle, of cities made of gold, diamonds as big as a man’s fist, and lost magic that had been undiscovered since the Cataclysm. The stories fired Cadelaine’s imagination and she felt excitement to explore this strange new world. If Endefal felt anything, he did not speak of it, but Bohema’s tales of battling pirates and slavers cause his golden eyes to angrily flash and he would rub his wrists where Cadelaine saw knife marks. perhaps where he had sawed free of a set of manacles? She was too embarrassed to ask, and Nadal seemed to be oblivious, in a world of his own…planning his training to one day rule House Valaryan with the troops he would train at their landing spot, Port Maugre!

The arrival at Port Maugre had been a bit anti-climatic. For what is was worth, she felt a bit smug yet also sorry for the proud Sir Nadal, who had been laughed at and scoffed at during his arrival as he found out rather than “commanding” anything, he was to be assigned to work at House Valaryan like any other employee, family member or mercenary alike. His pride with his plate armor and sword were even taken from him, as well as his bragged-about riding skills, after finding out that heavy armor could not be worn, the best weapons to use were small and compact, and that no horses existed on Delos to ride (they all caught some sort of disease within weeks of landing and died).

She, Endefal and Nadal all stood in the plush office of Gam, referred to as “The Patriarch”, who was the nominal head of House Valaryan here on distant Delos. Along with other members of House Valaryan, Gam took care of trade with the native Ashante and Kongon tribesmen from his villa in Port Maugre. Dealing mainly in spices (cloves, cinnamon) and ivory, House Valaryan was along with House Tarn and House Mith (rival trading houses) the only noble houses of the League able to operate out of the outpost of Port Maugre. Captain Bohema had introduced her and Endefal to Gam, saying they were “not half bad youngsters”, and suggesting perhaps Gam could find a place for them there. Gam told Endefal that he owed House Valaryan his life, and it would only be right of him to work off his debt working for House Valaryan; to Cadelaine, he sternly told her the penalty for being a stowaway was indentured servitude, but since Bohema had vouched for her, he would instead let her work off the cost of the trip while working there at House Valaryan.

Three others were there, also. A tall native warrior type, and an older warrior named Ardu who obviously had worked for House Valaryan for awhile. He introduced the young native boy as his nephew Mongo, and said since his village had been destroyed by Tzulan natives, he was eager to join his uncle at House Valaryan to use his skill as a ranger and tracker. The last individual was a full blooded Gold Elf, wearing the holy symbol of Faerel…a druid! Apparently from the conversation he had with Gam, he had come to Delos with several other elves searching for a mythical elvish city founded some 500 years earlier, and his mentor and the rest of the expedition had been killed not two days into the jungle by “snakemen”, creatures who sounded perfectly horrible! The elf, Kalphistane by name, had survived with several Vistnan priests accompanying the expedition, and he had been brought here awaiting a future delegation of gold elves. Not knowing when they might arrive, Kalphistane was offering his skills and powers to House Valaryan until that day. Gam questioned Nadal, Kalphistane, Mongo, Endefal and Nadal a bit, and then told them their duties and the rules of House Valaryan: they were employees of the House, and would be assigned duties such as caravan escorting, scouting, or being bodyguards of important members of House Valaryan or merchants they had to deal with. In return, they would be given room and board, and allowed (when not on duty) to pursue their own explorations. Agreeing to the terms and signing a contract, Gam produced a small sack of gold for each member (10 gp each) and told them to go out on the town and celebrate their employment, as the next morning would be their first day of work!

The five made their way to the local inn/tavern, taking in the rough dirty streets of the town, which sat on the end of a peninsula extending off the coast of Delos. A huge stone and timber wall separated the town from the heavy rain forest only half a mile away, and looked to be (even at this late hour) manned by ever alert warriors on several towers along the walls. While the area they walked through consisted of several poor huts, they could see a few expensive mansions and towers farther on towards the end of the peninsula, indicated that there were at least a few inhabitants that seem to have profited from their stay in Delos.

Still a bit stunned by the recent turns of events, the five made their way down to the “Number One Inn”, the best known drinking establishment in Port Maugre. Inside, the age of the building was evident, and it was full of every sort of individual. Port Maugre was the ass-end of the world, it seemed, and every criminal, outcast, runaway, warrior with something to prove, secretive mage, or worse ended up there. While drinking banana beer in the bar, they met the acquaintance of one bard of ill-repute, Drake by name, as he introduced himself to the five. A man of high spirits, and apparently low morals, Drake seemed to be an engaging rogue and entertained them with a few tales. When the head of the local house of ill repute (Nann) came into the bar roaring his name (something about money owed), he beat a hasty retreat out the back. The young adventurers also met the bartender, a shifty old gnome named Skull, who told them a bit about the town (and told them not to wake the muscled halfling woman passed out at the bar, if they valued their lives), and several other interesting individuals. Tired yet excited, they walked back through the earthen streets to their barracks in House Valaryan, eager to discover more about this strange land.

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