Another day on Athas, and unfortunately that means blistering heat, scorching sand and meeting a wide variety of people who would like to kill you, enslave you, or maybe just bludgeon you out of general principal. Anyway, my own resources are running a bit low. I think I might have finally played out Urik and even my unique ability to change my face does little to change my songs and stories, which do not generate the awe, and more importantly the revenue, they once did. I hear that there’s a caravan heading to Raam that’s looking for guards and are paying quite handsomely. I’ll write more as the situation develops.
Well, the caravan seems like a good idea, though I still dearly hope we don’t encounter anything out in the wastes. I’ve learned in the past few years that the desert is rarely deserted, a play on words which I should remember for my next public appearance. Though I think it may have been used before. Oh wait, the desert, right. Tales are spread of massive carnivorous beasts prowling the wastes looking for a meal such as myself, and even if only 10% of the stories are true it still sounds a bit too dangerous for my liking.
It looks as though I’m not the only one enticed by the ad as there are a few others here, one of which looks like an elf that caught something it should have died from. I can see one of my associates, more than likely a former slave or gladiator, struggling with the contract. I think it’s written in abyssal, or supernal, or something I can’t read so I jot down a name and return it to the dray. The slave puts a large X on the line and I think the Thri-keen is evaluating whether or not the paper is edible. The elf-like thing seems to actually understand the writing as she is giving it serious scrutiny. I wonder if signing it was a bad idea.
We set off at dusk to take advantage of the cooler night temperature and I spend some time asking questions of both my employers and the other guards. I learn that the sickly elf is not in fact sickly, nor is she an elf but an odd creature (no the irony is not lost on me) called a Githzerai looking for a magic user that assaulted her village. This may prove problematic if she finds out I can do something similar, although by the sound of her story the mages in question were far more powerful than I am. The gladiator is a recently freed slave and the Thri-keen is as inscrutable as most of her kind that I’ve met.
I do learn in talking to the dray that Urik and Raam are at war, or to be more accurate their leaders don’t like each other and send their subordinates to kill in their name. Regardless this has caused normal trade to come to a standstill and gives entrepreneurs like our employers an opportunity for serious revenue. Although to be honest I didn’t think it would be cheese. Priceless art maybe but I guess cheese might be in high demand.
The warrior, Strug, caused a bit of commotion this morning. During the day, when most of us are resting he started wandering off into the desert. At first I thought maybe he couldn’t handle his new found freedom and consigned himself to death by wasteland. Glancing at his camp equipment he had enough rations to last the rest of the way so what was causing this odd behavior? The other guards took note and we followed him a short ways, keeping an eye on the cart of course. Our employers had told us that any damage to the cart or the merchandise would be taken out of our pay, and knowing the dray they would hold us to it without mercy. Hey, pay and dray rhyme, I should remember that for a song. Strug eventually stopped about 100 feet from the cart, and while we were surrounded by the usual bleak scenery I noticed some figures in the distance. They didn’t seem particularly friendly as they set their animals, hyenas, on us and proceeded to launch attacks from a distance away. Here I learned that I should stay on the good side of Strug and the Thri-keen as the former yanked around a hyena like it was a toy and the latter tore them apart with her claws. I believe I acquitted myself well, punctuating my attacks with power chords for emphasis. We triumphed though our employers were less than pleased, believing it to be an unnecessary fight. The crossbowmen and their pets did look a bit emaciated, but then again they probably could have chosen an easier target.
I think the dray want to punish us as we are now traveling during the day as well. I never realized this before but I hate the sun, I really really do. I managed to talk them into taking a break every so often, on the rationale that they would have fewer to defend the cart if we were miles behind them. The miles wore on and there wasn’t much to see or do. So far I’ve seen a lot of rocks, sand and some sort of strange bush that was probably poisonous, but I’m looking forward to tomorrow when I’ll get to see the black lake. I’ve never seen a lake before and I’m looking forward to it.
So, we managed to get to black lake and I see that whoever gave it that name had a sense of humor or was maybe a bit of an optimist. While it is wet my idea of jumping into the cold, blue water was crushed. The lake, or at least the part we’re passing by, is little more than a marsh. I’m sure that drinking from it would give us a myriad of interesting diseases, many of which are probably fatal. It also turns out that this area is inhabited by frogs. My experience with frogs thus far has been the one I saw crawling our of a small cave at night, and the occasional bits and pieces you see in the market, which made me woefully unprepared for the frogs of black lake. They descended upon the cart, a horde of ribbeting fury. We mounted what defense we could but they attacked so fast that the Thri-keen almost immediately fell beneath their spongy mass. I myself was knocked out by their attack but was quickly woken up by the Githzerai and we managed to finally kill the the frogs that remained. They completely ruined one of my better shirts, and several of them burst into a cloud of toxic spores when they were killed. Our employers even assisted in our fight, bringing alchemical and mundane weapons to bear from the relative safety of their cart. We guards are not doing well and I’ve developed a seething hatred of frogs. Hopefully more entries to come.