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(I wrote this I think ten years ago and probably never posted it, or if I did, it was only on the 1019 Almanac's Davaniagroup.. It is the "prequel" to the 1019 almanacs entries of the izonda region, written by one of this characters.. well here it is, comments appreciated)
I'll use fonts color to point out relevant geographical/cultural informations
Terra incognita, a voyage to the uncharted southby Francesco Defferrari
To Lord Reston of Akesoli, king of Ierendi
His majesty, this book appeared, literally out of thin air, in the middle of the Adventurer's Club. I was able to take it before others and I think it's appropriate to bring it to your attention, and maybe, if you think so, to the attention of the Council of Lords too.
Yours faithful friend.
A voyage to the mysterious and uncharted south, by Erion Miklos of Ierendi (and his companions)
Part one: Itís a long way to Davania !
I write all this in the city of Schweidnitz, a far away outpost of the heldannic order in Davania. How I came to be here with my companions Shira, Boduk and Arkalios itís really a long story. Iíll try to summarize it for you. We were in the City of Minrothad three month ago. We had some little problems with the city guards the day before, (Boduk chopped off the head of a guard, note by Shira) and in the morning we were passing by the waterfront, and casually we saw a ship, a strange ship like one we never saw before. We ask the captain where the ship came from, and where was directed. (We hid in the ship and the captain found us only in the open sea. He was quite in the mood of drown us all, but I succeeded in changing his mind, note by Shira). He said the ship was of a davanian city named Kastelios, and that he was ready to return home after finishing loading the ship. He was so kind to let us board for a small fee. (Donít even think it. We had to work as sailors all the trip, and I even had to keep off the hands of the dirty bastard all the time).
We were eager to find new lands and adventures! (We were chased by minrothad guards, and of all the ships of the port we hid in a blasted davanian ship ! Note by Shira).
It was a very long trip in the Sea of Dread. We were attacked by a Dragon Turtle and narrowly escaped thank to the quickness of the ship. We saw tritons and mermaids swim beside the ship. And one night we were hit by a terrible storm that nearly sank our ship. And the voyage lasted thirty days! (We just saw the dragon turtle nearly two miles away, and she ignored us altogether. We never saw one triton or a mermaid. The sky was blue for thirty blasted days, and just one night came down a light rain. These were the thirty most boring days of my entire life, and all the time I had to avoid proposals from the captain and every sailor of the ship. Note by Shira).
We made just one stop on land, to find fresh water in the Thanegioth Archipelago, and we succeeded in finding water barely escaping an attack of the islandís savages. (The crew found the water and took it while us, for a brilliant idea of Erion, explored the island. Erion was hit by a poisoned dart and we never saw who fired it. We escaped among a rain of darts, and just my clerical abilities saved the life of Erion, note by Shira).
At least we arrived in Kastelios, a great port on the north shore of the continent of Davania. We were excited thinking of the adventures that were awaiting us! (We were sick, bored and I hated the blasted ship, all its crew and that bloody stupid of Boduk, and we had not a copper piece. Note by Shira). Immediately, after saluting the good captain (slimy captain NbS) we went to visit the big and colored city. I know that in the last years others explorers have described that city to readers of the Known World, and so Iíll tell here only our impressions in visiting the city. Well, Kastelios is quite a big city, at least as big as Ierendi City and Mirros. And is made entirely of marble, more than Thyatis City, I swear. (You already know you have to believe very few of what this man write, donít you? Note by Shira). There are enormous and beautiful white buildings, like the Temple of Halav, with its marble columns and intricate carvings, and inside the temple there is a big altar made of quartz. The city has even a beautiful marketplace. We spent many hours roaming it, awed by the strange goods sold there. (And we could not buy a thing, being without a copper. Note by Shira). And before the Government palace any kastelian (I think they are named so) can speak about anything he want! But i didnít understand nothing, being not able to speak milenian. Shira told me the man we saw was speaking about being, essence and things like that. (Philosophia, is called, note by Shira). And they have inside the city a place, called the Gymnasium, where they play games like the Worlds games of the Known World twice a year. I think Iím too humble a writer to explain the excitement of visiting this far and marvelous city. (Ah, he wrote at least an intelligent thing ! But he didnít say that we were without a copper and the night was coming. Note by Shira). Kastelians seem interesting people, all dressed, man and women, with white tunics, and probably they thought the same thing of us, because they look at Boduk like they never saw a dwarf before. (Probably they never saw a dwarf before in fact, or most of them anyway. Note by Shira).
And they keep on looking at Shira too, as she was a strange thing. (Seems to me that they donít see many women in armor, and I think they donít approve at all of women adventurers. Note by Shira). But there were very beautiful women in that city, I assure you! (And that is all he and Arkalios saw, not monuments, I assure you. Note by Shira). Having need of a little money to rest in an inn, we went to the dockside, thinking that there we could find some work. (Well, I translate: Arkalios had the brillant idea to rob a woman of her jewelry. And I bet he chose her because she was a beautiful woman and he hoped to became her "friend", while robbing her in the meantime. Unfortunately the woman understood all that quite easily and lift her right hand. In a blink some guards were around Arkalios trying to kill him. We came to explain us and the noblewomanís guard attacked us too! Guess what happened? Yes, Boduk chopped off the head of a guard. (How can he do that being so short is quite a mystery for me. Note by Arkalios) (I can do it anytime, you stupid human. Do you want an example? Note by Boduk). ANYWAY we had to escape when more guards, and this time city guards, arrived. And of all places of the blasted city guess where we happen to go? yes, the dockside. Note by Shira).
In the dockside we met some gentlemen who had some strange ideas about our possessions. We tried to explain that we were without any possession and we were searching for a job, but they said just that those fine and exotic armors of yours could be a good beginning. So we had to explain them we were famous adventurers and tourists too, and if they were not kind with us weíll be forced to complain with their government. (He didnít said anything like that. He put the sword in the chest of the robber in front of him, and Boduk chopped off the head of another. Note by Shira). But they seems not to take the hint, (you mean about the sword in his chest? Note by Shira) and we had to fight hard just to escape from the place and reach the city port. There we were lucky and found a ship and obtain a passage in it. (It was a ship with an Ierendi banner and we hoped it was headed home. And we didnít obtain passage, we sneaked into it like always, thanks to Arkalios. Note by Shira). (Itís been easy, baby. Note by Arkalios). And so ended our permanence in Kastelios, because we slept on the ship docked in the night and when we awoke we found us in open sea. And mind you, I donít think Kastelios is a city very welcoming to strangers. (They are welcoming to strangers provided that the strangers donít rob noblewomen, kill guards and walk the Dockside at night. Note by Shira).
We had some talk with the captain of the ship, and we found he was not ierendian but heldannic! And the ship was not headed home, but even more south, to another and uncharted place of the southern continent! Obviously, we were excited to go along with them! (Well, again I have to translate: in the morning the crew found us hidden in the hold, and they were a strange crew, being all well armed and with a black lion on their shirts. I realized immediately that they were heldannic, and headed to a secret place probably. So I feared we were dead. The crew took us to the captain, a man dressed in complete armor under the sun of Davania. That kind of men is always very dangerous. The captain seem not to like us at all. He looked at us, said just one word, stowaways, and I bet his next word would be kill them. But in that moment Erion began to sing a military march of Vanyaís paladins. The captain now was curious, and Erion explained to him that he was a fallen paladin of Vanya, sent by the goddess to Davania to redeem himself. The captain didnít seem to believe entirely his story, but chose to give him a little trust. So instead of killing us the heldann said that the ship was headed south, and closed us in a little prison in the shiphold. We remained there, well fed but never allowed to go out, for thirty days. Note by Shira). (Damned al the dwarves in the world and their maniacal moods to kill anything that moves. Note by Arkalios). (Oh sure, itís all my fault ! Who tried to rob the woman in Kastelios? Who? You viscid bastard human lawless! When I will go out of here I'll kill you barehanded! Note by Boduk).
The trip was very long and boring, and the heldanns didnít spoke much with us. Most of the time we remained in our cabin. (Ah ah ah. You cannot imagine what is to be confined for more than one month in a cell with three men, already dirty and stinking in normal conditions. You cannot imagine what is to have to keep a wary eye on your companions at night just to avoid their hands, and to have to threaten them with a kill spell if they donít turn when you have to undress for physical needs. I hope they were only joking, but after three days they became quite annoying. Thank to Korjis at least Boduk, the only honorable men among them, said he would have killed them if they didnít stop acting silly, and they stopped around the fourth day. Anyway what was the stink! I could not wash it away for five days after going out of that blasted cell! Note by Shira). (And in thirty days Erion didnít say a thing about the matter of him being a paladin of Vanya. He altogether ignored our questions. Note by Boduk). When at least the ship arrived, we saw a little port in a very big gulf. Behind the wharves there was a little town. A heldann told us that the town was named Vanyaport, but we didnít see anything of it because we were taken to a coach, closed and directed to the interior. We didnít speak much among ourselves. The hard sea trip and the recent problems I think stressed a little our friendship. (Good euphemism. We came out the ship hating each other. Iím never been a great friend of Arkalios, mind, but I always found Erion funny and kind, and Boduk a good person. I was at first disappointed with Boduk for what happened in Minrothad, but in the ship all changed. I was deeply offended by the behavior of Arkalios and Erion in the cell, angry for what they done in Kastelios and suspicious of Erion because he obviously hid us his past. But I developed a deep friendship with Boduk. Not only he defended me in the ship from the two others gutless bastards, but we talked a lot among ourselves. He begged my forgiveness for his behaviour in Minrothad and said he acted so because he developed as a child a deep fear of minrothad guards. He just said his family was exiled from Fortress island, and he lived as a child in the street of Minrothad city, until guards came to his house to arrest his father, who never came out from the prison. And Boduk think they killed him. So I came to understand Boduk much deeper. He is a clanless dwarf, an exiled. He sure had a very difficult life. Note by Shira).
We were taken to a big castle, that stood huge and black in the plain. We just had a moment to look at it, then we were taken inside, to the presence of the heldannic governor. Here my intelligence saved our lives, and we were allowed to wander freely in that region, that was said to us being called Schweidnitz. (Another translation: the heldanns probably didnít want at all visitors and people from the known world who could witness their presence in that corner of Davania. I was resigned to the idea of became a prisoner or a slave, or to be killed. But Erion said that his story about Vanya was true, and that he was eager to submit to the judgement of the Goddess. He was taken away in another room with some clerics of Vanya. One hour later he came out with a cleric, and the cleric said something to the heldannic governor. And the man said we were free, and allowed to wander Schweidnitz or leave it by land, but he said too that no ship of Vanyaport would take us north. So we were in Davania now, and probably bound to remain in this misterious continent for a long timeÖ Note by Shira).
Part two: How to escape from heldannic knights without a flying shipÖ
Well, now I'll tell what happened to us in the colony of the heldannic knights, and I promise to be more sincere than Erion. We offered our swords and abilities to the heldanns, because we had to find some work to pay at least for an inn or a place to rest.
The knights said they didnít need mercenaries (in not a very kind tone), because their swords were enough, but they said to Erion that he should spoke to a man named Harald Brunnen, and Erion went. We didnít know that we wouldnít have seen him for days.
Anyway we decided to walk in the town outside the heldannic castle, to see if we could find a job. But again we werenít lucky: the people, almost all heldanns of hattian origin, didnít seem to look friendly at us. There were also many native servants, with their reddish skin, dressed only with small skirts. They seemed quite unhappy to me. The town was small and many building, in wood or stone, were still unfinished. Around the castle, the only building that seemed older than a year and more or less complete, many heldannic and some natives were busy working on steep-roofed houses in the architectural style of northern reaches. Guess they didn't think about the low utility of steep roofs in a warm land without snow. Others were building a big structure of wood, with stone foundation, that I guess would be a temple for Vanya. The town already had a wood wall surrounding it, and outside many hovels of wood and straw were rising, I think the houses of the natives who work in the town.
Here in the townís main square we found some signs with job offers. Only some native was reading them with us. In fact they were only miners or farmers jobs, nothing adventurous. Arkalios said he would have found for us the money we needed, but Boduk looked at him with such a threatening gaze that our rogue friend gave up immediately, even if he added that he had never worked in his entire life and he had no intention to begin now. I asked Boduk if he could find some work as a specialied miner, but he, looking at me with some disappointment, said that not all dwarves were moles. And he added that, anyway, he had no intention of working for people who kept him prisoner in a blasted ship for one month.
We had nowhere to go and nothing to do, and the town didn't offer much regarding pastimes, it had not even a tavern, in which we could not hang anyway, being copperless. We were wandering without a clue among the streets when we met Cauac. He looked like a middle aged native poorly dressed, and began to speak with us in a broken but understandable thyatian. He was very interested in our story and ended up inviting us at his house. We had nothing to do, so we went. He lived in a simple hovel at the edge of town, but had a fireplace and food. He gave us corn bread, bean soup and tomatoes, all foods we knew, and other unknown, particularly strange yellow and red fruits he called sapote, and last, but surely not least, cups of cocoa, that in Ierendi are expensive as a king's ransom! He told us much about the history of Schweidniz or, as the native call the land, Makal. He said that his people had lived here since before the death and the rebirth of the sun, friends with the green, the crab, the leopard, the ocelotl, the horse and the zebra man, enemies of the bull, the lizard, the white, the black and the grey men. I assume he was referring to other races of Davania, that I wasn't able to identify them at the time, having no knowledge of the region yet.
In the last years, he said, the grey men of the rising sun were attacking his people with great ferocity, quite close to destroy them. The iron men came to their aid from the sea, in their winged great boats, and saved Makal from destruction. But now Cauac was in fear for his people, because the iron men wanted to change the land, they build high hovels and dig the earth to find the metal that forms their skin, and they want more and more workers to do all these things, and more and more often they force his people to work much more than a free man should. Cauac wondered if the salvation from the iron men came at a too high cost.
I could not dispel his fears. Once in Ierendi I spoke with a heldanner of haldi origin, escaped from his land and hunted by the knights, and so I knew what's usually the end of subject people under the rule of Vanya's followers. Cauac said that his people worshipped Xical, the Sun, that I guess is another name for Ixion, but the iron men where trying to persuade them to join the faith of the warrior woman they follow. Cauac, we discovered, was a shaman of Xical and so the proselytism by the knights didn't pleased him at all. We spent a lot of time in Cauac's hovel telling him about the Know World while he told us about what he knew of Davania. Me and Boduk were interested in his tales, less so Arkalios, who anyway was happy to have found good food, freely given without the necessity to steal it.
Cauac was so kind to let us sleep in his hovel, where we were a bit crowded but less so than in the ship cell, and certainly more comfortable. We had time to explore the little town, because Erion didn't retun for several days and the heldannic knights never answered to us when we asked where he was.
I tried to speak with as many people as I could, heldann and natives, to get a better idea of the situation in the land. As always, it's more complex than expected. Many natives are happy for the presence of the heldanns, because they believe that the knights can protect them from the gray men, that would be orcs, who live to the east. Others don't like the heldann way of living: they are used to a simple life in a bountiful land and cannot understand why a man should work 8 or 10 hours a day to build many useless things. Among the heldann the opinions are equally divided: some of the knights think that is important to view the natives as allies and not alienate them, considering also the danger of nearby orcs. Others believe that the only way to effectively control this land is "civilize" and control the native population. I must say that the heldann in town seemed to me, on average, not as arrogant as many I've met in the Known World, so maybe they'll find a way to coexist with the natives. There are also those among the heldann civilians who think that this far away from home the Church of Vanya should care only of religious matters and leave to others the day to day administration of the new colony. Time will tell which opinion will prevail and how the relations among heldanns and natives will evolve.
After three days in the town of Schweidniz (I still don't know how me and Boduk were able to keep Arkalios out of troubles for so long, maybe because he was well fed), Erion finally reappeared with a heldannic symbol over his coat. He said that we had to explore the land and other neighbor nations on behalf of the heldannic order, and that was his chance to regain favor with the goddess.
When he said that I looked at the others. Arkalios, as usually, didn't care much where we're going to or for whom, but Boduk was stunned as I were. We had traveled together for two years and survived a lot of dangers and he never said to us he was a fallen knight? And why should we do the bidding of a religious order in which only him was involved?
Me and Boduk had a lot of questions, but he at first refused to answer. It took all my patience to keep myself from strangling him. And I saw that Boduk had the same feelings. But he had money now, and we desperately needed provisions to leave that place, so when he said we were going to buy something for our trip, we put aside, just for a little while, our protests and questions.
It turned out that the heldannic governor had gave him quite a sum of money, enough to buy new clothes, coats, tents, food and everything we would have needed for traveling. Me and Boduk exchanged some looks while Erion was buying those provisions, secretly agreeing to have some words with him later. We told him about Cauac, and that we at least had to thank and say goodbye to the man before leaving. He agreed and waited for us in the town square.
The native shaman gave to me a jade medallion that he said would protect us. We thanked him again for his hospitality and returned to Erion.
We left the town of Schweidniz on a late morning, heading south on Erios insistence. When we left town he came closer and telling us to keep walking said that he had agreed to explore the land only to convince the heldanns to let us go, but now we were free to do as we like.
Me and Boduk exchanged a suspicious look. I wasn't sure that a knight of Vanya would be above deceit. Maybe Erion was just telling us what we wished to hear.
Boduk smartly asked how he passed the questions of the priests of Vanya, if he was lying to them. Erion just said that it was a matter between the goddess and him. Boduk looked at me and I understood exactly what he was thinking. We could not trust Erion anymore, and obviously we never trusted Arkalios. So under such bad omens we began our journey in the unknown land of Davania.
Part three: Heldannic politics and personal problemsÖ
The first step of our travel was toward the hills we could see in the south, after what appeared to be a long walk on a path recently carved in a plain of tall grass. We decided the direction for no particular reason except the fact that there was a path, while the rest of the plain seemed quite wild and the tall grass a bit of an obstacle. Omitting the irritating silence of Erion of the also irritating babbling of Arkalios about travelling on foot without horses, or a cart at least, I'll tell instead of the wonderful wild life that surrounded us everywhere. I doubt that Erion and Arkalios were willing to notice that, but Boduk was certainly fascinated as I was. There were so many animals and plants that someone born in the Know World has never seen even if he, like us, travelled quite a bit trough different lands. But mostly the wild life was so common and usually undisturbed by human presence that animals would come almost under our feet. There were graceful gazelles and great antelopes with long horns, a leopard, an infinite number of different species of birds, strange insects, butterflies, jumping rodents, big lizards and snakes. We took great care not to walk too near to the latter ones, just in case some of them were poisonous. I saw also many great birds high in the sky, black wild cows in the distance, foxes with big ears and other spotted cats smaller than a leopard but surely quite different from the wild cats or the lynxes I saw in the Known World. But the strangest creature was without doubt a bird taller than a man that didn't fly but walked on two legs. I tried to speak with him, assuming he was an intelligent creature, but he was scared of us (mostly of Arkalios, I assume) and fled, running away very fast!
I'm sure we'll find many other amazing creatures in this land, and I cannot possibly tell of them all, but I'll try to write down at least the most interesting encounters. After a long walk of 20 miles with no human presence and just a short break to eat something, we arrived at the hills and we saw a village. This one was built on the side of a shrubs covered hill with a mixed style of heldannic house and native hovels. The population was equally mixed and we soon discovered that the main purpose of the place was to extract minerals and iron from the numerous mines in the hills.
The young heldannic knight in charge of the place, Heinrich, was a friendly fellow, he offered us beer and food and told us something about this village of Gerben. Apparently they have found a lot of ores and had good relations with the natives. He introduced to us Manec, the local chief who cooperated willingly with the knights and was also in a good mood. He offered us tobacco, but not in a pipe like Halflings do, in folded leaves like I saw once a man from the savage baronies of western Brun did. Arkalios appreciated it much, and even me and Boduk accepted a few smokes.
Manec told us that the knights had saved his people from the grey men of the rising sun, I assume he meant, like Cauac, the orcs of the eastern land. We stopped for the night in Gerben and we were treated very well. Arkalios began a tirade on how the knights could be friendly and helpful and how anyway he and the knights of this land were followers of the true way of the goddess and were nothing like the cruel and arrogant knights we had in mind. Boduk and me presented him with a few example of the friendly attitude of the knights regarding other people of the Known World and the perspective on war and conquest in Vanya's faith, that is just the opposite of my faith in Koryis, patron of peace. The discussion quickly escalated in a shouting match and in the end we all took a walk, except Arkalios who doesn't care about religion or anything else.
I realize that our fight was more about the rift that the omissions of Erion have created between us than heldannic politics, yet I don't know how we'll manage to stick together if we cannot find a way to get along like we once did.
Thanks, the story will resume shortly, in the meantime I have updated the 8mph map of Schweidnitz with the font Myztara and two more names that will be described soon.
Part four: More strange creatures and walking cats
We decided to lay aside for now any discussion about religion and go on. Surprisingly enough, Arkalios was the one who proposed this resolution. He said we were strangers in a strange land and we should stick together at least until we could find a mean to return home. We could not argue with that, so we left Gerben and walked over the hills of the Hangdistrikt (or Maka Etza, for the natives) heading north.
Heinrich and Manec had told us that the hills could be quite dangerous. Ancient dungeons of unknown origin fill them and house monsters. Manec had different names for them but Heinrich was able to translate most, like giant spiders, undeads, beholders, oozes, giant worms and giant lizards. According to a local myth the legendary twin heroes Makal and Tikal, after whom the local people got their names, descended in the underworld in a dungeon of these hills to fight the demon bird Vucub. I don't know what sort of creature that could be, but we were not anxious to explore the place too much. Manec also told us that the hills in the night are prowled by great black panthers they call bo-yaguar, but they are one of the less aggressive creature of the area. After hearing all this we decided to leave the hills before sundown and camp in the plains north of them.
We still encountered strange creatures, like some brown small horses with black and white stripes on the head. Arkalios and Erion tried to approach them hoping to gain some mounts, but they fled faster than the walking bird.
It seems there are no wolves in this land but, besides the many spotted great cats, we saw also some curious foxes, this time gray ones, bigger than the ones in Brun, after the little yellow ones with big ears of two days before. I saw great dogs among the Heldanns but I'm pretty sure they brought some from their homeland, so I wondered if there were native dogs here. We found it the next day, when we encountered a sort of dog, brown, long, with short legs, rounded ears, not easy to befriend even with the treat of food, like the striped horses. And the dog was chasing a strange spotted rabbit with small ears! This land is indeed quite peculiar.
We met other very interesting creatures. There was a large furry animal, mostly brown and white, bigger than a dog, that I don't know how to describe. It had a long gray head with little eyes, nose and mouth at the end, and a long tongue with which it ate ants. And they were red, nasty ants that bit us, but the strange animals was unbothered by them. It was quite slow and didn't try to run away, it just ignored us.
There was a fat, furry mouse with a shell like a turtle. There was a tiny bird with a crest of red feathers on the head, a white hawk, a grey vultures with a red head, parrots and sparrows of so many colors and kind that I could not describe even a tiny part of them.
And them we met the rakastas. We had seen some of them in the past, in Ierendi, yet these were quite different from the rakastas of the Known world. They had light yellow fur with black spots like the cats we saw earlier, big beautiful eyes, high cheek bones and weren't very tall, shorter than me. It was a group of twenty between males, females and children, and they had also in their midst the spotted cats that look just like them.
At first they were wary of us, but also very curious. They had weapons, blowguns knives and spears I think, not much clothing, but seemed quite peaceful. I must admit it was Arkalios that won them, acting so friendly, trying to play with the children and leaving his weapons on the grounds.
I am bewildered that Arkalios has proven to be so useful two times in just a few days. I cannot explain that. Maybe the air of Davania is improving him.
(I see why you hid the diary Shira, to write ill of us! Well, you'll see I'm better than you think! Note by Arkalios. Well I had to apologize with him. I will share the diary again with the others if they want to read it or write something. We should really build our mutual trust back. Note by Shira).
Meeting the rakastas was really a good thing for a number of reasons. I'll write more about them tomorrow, the night has come in the plains of Davania, for now let's just add that they call themselves Ocelastas.
(Note on fauna: I imagine that the fauna of Davania should be mixed south american and african. So far the most important animals saw by the group are in order: fennec fox, leopard, ocelot, ostrich (in part three) and here quagga, gray fox, bush dog, paca, anteater, armadillo, royal flycatcher, white hawk, king vulture, ocelot again).
Part five: Ocelastas, dwarven history and mysterious people.
Through the grace of Koryis, patron of peace, I was able to understand the strange language of the ocelastas and translate for the others. The ocelastas call themselves also the wandering people. According to their history, an evil immortal cursed them because they refused to serve him, and so they never had a homeland. They said there are other rakastas people in this continent, two nations to the south east and many other tribes and groups wandering around. Even here in Schweidinitz (that they call Makal as in the original native name) there are other rakastas in the jungles. Their group is a part of a larger tribe that wanders in the plains from here to the west, were there is a great sea of grass inhabited by humans and centaurs with whom they have good relations. In the past they have often aided the Makal humans against the grey men of the eastern jungle, and many ocelastas have died in these fights. Now they don't know what to think of the pink skinned human who came from the sea (such they describe the heldanns): they saw the bravery with which they defeated the grey men, yet many Makal humans fear that they'll take possession of the land for themselves. Erion insisted that they could not only mantain good relations with the newcomers, but even find a home in Schweidnitiz if they were willing to defend the land in case of another grey orcs attack. The ocelastas looked very impressed with the offer. I said nothing, I didn't want to start our fight again, but still don't trust very much the intentions of the heldanns here.
The Ocelastas also said something that caught the attention of Boduk: there are people like him in the mountains to the west! Boduk could not believe that dwarves live in Davania and asked many questions, but surely from the description of the ocelastas about the aspect and behaviour of this "people of the mountain" they seem indeed dwarves. Boduk was really puzzled. He said that according to dwarven history his people was created by Kagyar in Dengar, the dwarven name of Rockhome, and all the other clans of dwarven in the Known World, Norwold, the Savage coast and Alphatia had came in the past from Rockhome. If a clan of dwarves ended up in Davania, how it's possible that he never heard of their travel, not even in an ancient story? For what I know of history, I have to agree with him, a nation of dwarves in Davania is really puzzling.
Yet Boduk said that once he heard from a minrothad sailor that in the mysterious continent west of Alphatia, called Skothar, there is a nation of dwarves too. Boduk at the time dismissed the story as pure fantasy, yet now he wondered if there is indeed another lineage of dwarves of which his people know nothing. He found this story quite troubling, because it could change all he knew of his people's history. Erion was quite kind in this occasion, telling Boduk that eventually we could go to investigate this mysterious nation of dwarves, and for the moment Boduk let the matter rest. We also asked the ocelastas about all the nearby lands they knew. They said their family has wandered only in Makal and in the above mentioned plains of the west, yet they knew something about other lands: the crab people in the northern peninsula, the sun people of fire hills, the lizard people of the jungle and the lizard people of the desert, the rakastas and their nations, the small black humans and the big black humans who want to conquer the world, the good nation of the south, the cruel lords of Klitetatl, the different breeds of gray men and the already mentioned people of the mountains.
So many stories, that added to all that Cauac told us about this region back in Schweidnitz gave us some information on the people that live in this area of Davania. It seems that there are many demi-human and humanoid nations around but we still wondered on some of this descriptions. We asked also about many of the races quite common in the Known World but apparently the ocelastas never heard of giants, trolls, lupins, gnomes and halflings. When we described elves they seemed to recognize them as "the cruel lords of Klitetatl". What kind of elves are in this continent? I suppose we'll eventually investigate this matter too.
In the meantime the ocelastas were very kind and invited us to travel with them, but after some talking we decided to carry on to the north for now, to see the native city of Makal of which Cauac told us and this strange crab people in the north. Yet we promised to catch up with the ocelastas again in the future. Arkalios had become quite popular with their children, and we found them a very good people and most useful for tips on this land.
Besides, they don't just wander around, they are a sort of traders between the plains of humans and centaurs to the west and this land. They had indeed a lot of spices, tasteful fruits and nuts and healing herbs with which we could replenish our provisions. So many that I believe they have some magical bags, because they surely travel lightly and without any pack animal. Arkalios also bought a blowgun, saying that after our experience in the Thanegioth archipelago he had discovered the hard way it was quite an effective weapon. Erion paid them with heldannic gold, and they gave us very fair prices. They usually prefer barter, but we didn't have much to trade. Yet they gave me a bracelet of wonderful green stones in sign of friendship, and I reciprocated with a silver one that they liked much.
We were indeed very sad to leave them, but saying goodbye we left for the jungle now visible in the north. The encounter with the ocelastas did us good, we left them more untroubled and united than in all the past months, with some hope in the future and the renewed thrill of exploring this land. I hope this feeling will last enough.
Part six: The Makal people, their societies, immortals and strange things to eat.
It rains quite often in this land, at least once a day, but fortunately Erion was warned about this by the heldanns in Schweidnitz, so we were prepared with oiled backpacks and cloaks. Yet when it rains, it's really a deluge and sometimes, particularly in the jungle, the land becomes so muddy that is hard to go on. The jungle is also a lot hotter than the plains, I think because of higher humidity and less wind. Later we discovered we aren't in the rainy season yet, and rains in that time are quite more violent. I hope we'll be in some other place by then.
There were just some miles of jungle from the plains where we left the ocelastas to the native town of Makal, yet we soon found out that the jungle indeed could be dangerous. We were observing the wonderful orchid flowers and the lush trees when one large plant with strong vines tried to grab us. We were able to persuade it to let us go (Mostly with my axe. Note by Boduk. It was me that stabbed it in its bulb! Note by Arkalios.), but that taught us to go cautiously.
Anyway at last we approached the town of Makal. We saw that some warriors hidden in the trees were observing us from quite some time, but we made no threatening moves nor we tried to hide ourselves. We came out of the jungle in a very large clearing full of wooden houses and people. Some of them were obviously warriors, armed with blowguns and spears, but Erion, with my translation, told them we were just travellers who wished to visit the land and meant no harm. I added that the wise Cauac in Schweidnitz told us to visit the town of Makal and that made them more friendly. They offered us cocoa beverages, tobacco to smoke, nuts and fruits as Cauac had done, and showed us a comfortable wood house where to rest, even if I found quite strange that most of their houses have only three walls and are therefore open to the outside. As we learned later, to avoid insects and spider, or snakes, of which the jungle has plenty, the people of Makal and of other villages in the area sleeps in hammocks covered with fine nets.
The houses anyway are quite beautiful, much decorated with the many flowers of the jungle and often painted with fine drawings of the history of heroes and immortals.
We soon met also the rulers of the town, a man and a woman. The man was called Mitukal and was apparently not only the town chief but also the ruler of all the Makal people in the jungle, who as far as we're able to understand, are thousands of men and women. The woman was the head shaman of the Makal People. Her name was Kiaka, and she was very curious about my faith and the one of the heldannic knights. We had time to speak at length and she liked my immortal much more than the heldannic one. Erion tried anyway to convince her that Vanya was a benevolent immortal for a people willing to worship her, and that she would have helped them destroying their enemies long ago. I must admit that this kind of speech struck some cords among the Makal warriors. From what we have learned later of their history, they had an hard time surviving lizard men, humanoids and other enemies in this corner of Davania. Their most revered immortal anyway is Xical, the lord of the sun. I assume this could be another name for the immortal Ixion. They also worship many other immortals like Kalaktala, Kukulkan, Itzamna, Ixchel. These should be I think Ka, Atruaghin, Ordana and Terra. And then there are many others, like Chaac, Tuul, Ayikal, Ixtab, Hunnal and much more, most of them I was unable to identify, but I think these last mentioned are Odin, Korotiku, Asterius, Hel and Protius. And there are also the much feared lord of the underworld, like the serpent Hapikern and the death god Xibalb, who I think could be Atzanteotl and Thanatos. They have indeed an impressive list of immortals, yet I believe that many more, like Vanya and Koryis, are still unknown in this land.
Among the many strange facts of this people and this land, much of them I'll probably forget to describe, there are the Societies. These are organized groups of men and women who honor the same immortal, have secrets rituals, greetings and meeting places and share a similar purpose. I know that sound similar to our paladins or clerics, but anyone in the Makal land can be part of these societies, and most of them are warriors, nor paladins or priests. Some of them are wizards, if this word can be used in Makal. Their wizards in fact are quite similar to our druids and I think that here the two classes are practically the same thing, as strange as it sounds. Every society, as I said, has its own purpose. The Xical (Ixion) society patrols the jungle during the night guarding against orc raids, because they stand for the sun during the domain of the darkness. The Kalaktala (Ka) one mantain diplomatic relations between Makal villages, the Tikal tribe in the south and also with foreigners like the crab men of the north. The Kukulkan (Atruaghin) one has the task of protecting the land during the day, the Itzamma and Ixchel societies (Ordana and Terra) protect the jungle and maintain the balance with its animal inhabitants, and occasionally drive away or hunt dangerous creatures. There is also a society of the death immortal Ixtalb (Hel) that take cares of burials. That is a complicate procedure because the Makal dead are always buried under earth mounds, and for the important chiefs and shamans small stone pyramids are erected in the jungle.
Not all the immortals have a society dedicated to them yet as I said before many immortals are worshiped in Makal lands and so there are a lot of clerics, who are almost all women, while the wizards/druids are typically males, even if there are some women among them.
I could write about the customs of the Makal for quite some time and still do not tell all: their society is much different from the one we're used to. For example traditionally men go to live in the house of their mother in law, when married. Women have a different hairstyle and dress depending on their marital status, a brave warrior is supposed to know poetry and cry openly when hearing a sad song, or when a friend is harmed or killed, but women, the married one especially, should never display emotions in public. And the unmarried girls are quite friendly with foreigners, much more friendly than we are used to. While Erion politely declined these attentions, Arkalios was very happy to oblige them, but we discouraged him when was clear questioning the shamans that if a man become intimate with a local girl, he is supposed to accept adoption into the girl's family and consequently into the Makal people. Arkalios obviously insisted he was willing to be adopted right away, but Erion reminded him we're traveling together to explore Davania and it wasn't a good idea to create a cause of tension with the local people if he was unwilling to commit to their customs. Eventually Arkalios realized that such adoption would soon become something very similar to a marriage and grudgingly gave up, even if he promised to the girl he would return. I wonder if he was falling in love. Arkalios really behaves much unlike him in this continent.
We stayed with the Makal for a week, learning much about the jungle and its perils, local animals and monster. We even went with them in a hunting trip of giant spiders. I was quite amazed to see that the Makal do that not to keep them in check but rather to eat them and use their poison as blowguns' ammunition. (They taste just like crabs! Note by Arkalios. Quite good, I admit. Note by Boduk). Unlike the others, I didn't have the stomach to eat spider meat, and for the next weeks my companions too would have to avoid both spider and crab meat, for reasons that will be obvious soon enough.
Part seven: Stories of the Makal land and the Five Suns
We spent some time in Makal land until we decided to carry on to the north toward the mysterious land of the crab men. But before that the Makal leaders, Mitukal and Kiaka, warned us about the Amkaax, the land of the spiders. Arkalios happily said we could eat them, but the Makal said grinning that those were not the kind of spiders you eat, but the kind that eats you. But they also said that the spiders could be pleased with gifts, and so they gave us obsidian and jade and silver beans. I must confess all this made me quite nervous, and I think the others too, but Mitukal and Kiaka send a group of their best to escort us to the border and, in case of danger, aid us. Our new companions were interesting people who I should describe a bit. Akab was a warrior bard of the society of Ixion, with a complex armor of reptilian hide that he said was from a wyvern killed by his father, a short lance and many colorful parrot feather around his neck, his arms and over his head. He was a grave man but occasionally his face opened into big smile while he showed us the wonders of the Makal jungle: rare flowers, small monkeys, big purple butterflies.
Beside him, there were two other warrior bards in the group that came with us, Tsik and Nooh. They were identical twins, and therefore much respected among the Makal, who believe twins have magical talents. They had magic for sure, but it was due I think more to their talents as bards than being twins. They also had an uncanny ability with blowguns and a great talent for telling stories, as I'll soon tell more about this. The last two members of our little escort were a wizard and a shaman. Kinyak, the wizard, was a middle aged, cheerful man who loved to explain to us all the dangers and the boons of the jungle. I must say his teaching has been quite useful because I learned that almost every plant can be use to cure, sustain or poison depending on the dosage, and such knowledge really saved our lives later in our voyage. The shaman, Hatsi, was a beautiful, short woman with dark hair devoted to an immortal I assume must be Valerias. She was very kind and friendly and I learned much about this land from her, too. She also made quite an impression on Arkalios and, surprisingly, on Erion too. We enjoyed our time with them, it gave us the change to know better the people of this land, particularly adventurers like us. One night, Tsik and Nooh told us the ancient stories of the Makal people. They said makals were a powerful nation in the time of the fourth sun, in the age before ours. They had great magic and many dragons were their allies and friend. But when the fourth sun fall in the Great Rain of Fire the jungle became a desert of ashes and the sea became poison, and nine makals out of every ten died. The makals, the story tells, managed to survive in the long years of ashes, the jungle grew again, the water returned pure, yet just when their people started to became numerous again, the little dragons came, the lizard men, and five makals out of every ten were killed. Even after the defeat of the lizard men, more waves of enemies came, the cruel white lords, the bull men, the black men and the grey men, and each time half of the makals were killed, and their number continued to dwindle. Now the iron men have come, and the makals still are not sure if they will be allies of if they'll try to take the land for themselves. One day the fifth sun will fall too, and how the makals will survive, now that they are much less numerous and strong that at the fall of the fourth sun? All the other makals nodded and sighed after the twins' story.
After some silence, I asked them what the fifth sun was, and they told us the story of the Five Suns. They said that after Xical created the giver of life, the sun, to warm and nurture Itzamna, the earth goddess, he needed someone to look after its light. So he gave the first sun to Hunnal, the lord of the sea, and he, because the earth was full of plants but devoid of animals, sent some of his creatures to the lands as a gift to Itzamna. For this, Xical grew jealous of Hunnal, he became the jaguar and ate the sun, so the earth was plunged in darkness and everything, plants and animals, began to die, and Ixtab, the death goddess, grew powerful. The other gods begged Xical to give back the sun and so he forged a new one and gave it to Kalaktala, who made the dragons to populate the earth. But the dragons became more and more powerful and proud and one day they decided to defy the gods, who sent a mighty hurricane that blew away the sun and killed nine out of every ten of the dragons. Ixtab grew so powerful that the death god Xibalb came out of her, so Xical forged the third sun and gave it to Chaac, the sky god. He made another race of dragons to populate the earth, but he made them small so that they could not grew powerful and proud, and defy the gods. But eventually the little dragons too defied the gods, so Xical sent a flood that wiped almost all of them from the earth. Ixtab and Xibalb grew so powerful that they built a city with a palace that reached the stars, so Xical forged the fourth sun and gave it to Tuul, the trickster. He is a smart god, so he decided to make many different people, so that no one could grow so powerful to defy the gods. Yet eventually the people began to fight so furiously among themselves that they hurt Itzamna, so Xical grew angry and blown up the sun, sending a rain of fire on the earth to wipe out the people. But that hurt Itzamna even more and so Xical, full of grief, asked for the help of Ixchel and the other gods to heal her. But while the gods healed Itzamna, Ixtab and Xibalb had a son, the serpent Hapikern, who began to devour the world. Xical then forged the fifth sun and gave it to his champion Kukulkan, who defeated Hapikern. The serpent however still tries to destroy the world and corrupt its inhabitants to devour the sun and plunge the earth into the darkness in which Ixtalb and Xibalb thrive and rule. One day the fifth sun too will die if those who serve Hapikern will grow more powerful and numerous of those who serve Kukulkan. It was a fascinating story, and probably held many truths about the history of Mystara. I asked them if they thought that Vanya, the goddess of the iron men, was on the side of Kukulkan and they answered they didn't know yet. Erion obviously protested and assured them that Vanya was an enemy of all the evil immortals. But I'm not so sure of this as he is (Me neither, note by Boduk).
Part eight: Giant flying insects and spiders!
Before the land of the spiders, we encountered dragonflies. Not the normal, small insects that dwells in humid areas, but flying creatures bigger than a man that had breath attacks. Two of them effectively took a shoot at us when we entered their territory, but they were probably more scared by us than us by them, so didn't pressed the attack once we quickly retreated.
So we arrived at last in the land of spiders without further incidents. The spiders surrounded us without effort, silent and nimble among the trees. Arkalios and our Makal companions were well aware of that before they came too close, but we didn't try to hide from them.
The spiders were araneas, creatures of whom we had heard only stories from the Thanegioth archipelago or from remote areas of the Known World. Spiders who can wield magic as wizards and can speak. And these particular spiders were also willing to talk with us. While my companions were almost paralyzed with terror (We were just wary and watchful, that's all. Note by Arkalios. Dwarves are never paralyzed by terror. Note by Boduk. For the will of Vanya, spiders should not be bigger than horses! Note by Erion), and the Makals seemed quite untroubled, I spoke with one of them, fascinated more than repulsed by his bright multiple eyes. I had so many question about his people and their history, and I quickly understood that these creatures were not at all a primitive and dangerous monsters to please with trinkets as I thought before, but rather and old and wise nation with whom the makals have a sort of agreement. The Makal chiefs clearly sent us to deliver jade and silver as a gift to an allied people.
According to the araneas, them, the crabmen and the makals were the first people of this area of Davania. Later the catmen came too, with whom they had peaceful relations, but after them came the invasions. First the bullmen, then the cruel white lords, the grey men and the black men. The araneas had long histories about all this with encounters, battles, alliances, betrayals. They also knew of the heldanns and feared they would be another invasion that will deprive them also of the small patch of jungle they have left. I looked at Erion and I was immediately troubled, because he didn't protested as usual saying that the heldannic knights are really a peaceful and civilizing people, and I think that even if his heldannic friends will be willing to respect the land rights of the Makal natives, I seriously doubt that they would respect the right of intelligent spiders. Tolerance, whatever Erion says, do not seems to be a virtue of the knights of Vanya. I generically tried to reassure the spider about our peaceful intentions but he was clearly suspicious of Erion and his armor that was obviously similar to those of the knights.
I would have stay to speak more with such fascinating and mysterious creatures as the spiders, but they were obviously wary and didn't want to show us their homes, nor my companions would have been happy to spend too much time with them, so eventually we left. (I really wanted to confront Erion again, I guess I'm still vexed by his hidden membership with the knights of Vanya, but I chose to avoid the matter for the time being, knowing that would probably have lead to just another fight. Private Note by Shira) Anyway we were granted passage and went north through the last miles of jungle to the sunlit prairie of the mysterious crabmen.
The map of Crabmen lands in 8 mph is here
I'll update it asap with a new font and a new village in the border near Makal)
Part nine: Crabmen and omissions
I'm at a loss of words to describe the land of the crabmen. Everything is so different from the world we are used to that I should make a long list and really I don't know where to begin. Most of the land is a prairie, often crossed by rivers and streams, not flat but rather made of big low hills that slowly descend towards the sea. Crabmen build their homes, villages and cities with sand, and this buildings seem like the sand castles made by children on the beach or like termite mounds, but they are usually built on water, in the shallow water by the sea when possible or on artificial lakes in the internal lands. We found a village just out of the jungle that our current makal companions had visited often, and there we met our first crabmen. As the word itself says, they look like a mix of a crab and a humanoid, with expressive and kind faces. They seemed happy to meet us indeed, in particular our makal companions but they were also clearly intrigued by us four and by our unusual clothes and armors. Hatsi, the makal shaman, and Kinyak, the wizard, spoke their language quite well, and also the three warrior bards could speak a little the strange, clicking tongue of the crabmen.
I used the magic granted by my immortal patron to do the same, but shortly later a crabman with many silver ornaments came forward and began to speak in thyatian, thus allowing also Boduk, Erion and Arkalios to understand something of the ongoing conversation. He was obviously a cleric, of Ka as I quickly discovered, and he told me he was pleased to meet us but he had some concern about the heldannic knights, who seemed to crabmen a militaristic people like the izondian. Well it's not a surprise to me that the heldanns could be a concern for every people we meet, but I found interesting that they knew already so much about them. (We are just misunderstood, we fight for order and civilization. Note by Erion). So we found out that the heldanns have already arrived in this area of Davania many years ago but were forced out by the western jungle orcs. They returned, according to crabmen, around a year ago and another group of explorers had visited crabmen lands some months ago. Erion then admitted he was sent by Wilhelm Folgen not only to explore these lands, but also to find, if possible, some clue about the missing explorers. Here it was just another thing he didn't told us. Erion swore he just forgot to tell us, but I find no reason to believe him. (Folgen mentioned those explorers as a matter of minor importance, because he didn't know if they were really in danger or just not returned yet. That's the only reason I didn't tell you before. Note by Erion. Sure, but you are a member of an imperialistic organization that has stranded us here thousand of miles from home, so why should we trust you? I don't think either we should do the bidding of the heldanns. Note by Boduk. Erion, my friend, youžre becoming more sneaky than me! Note by Arkalios. Please stop! Note by Shira).
Well as you reader can tell from these scribbled notes in our first night in Crabmen lands we had a bit of a discussion about what our mission is supposed to be. But eventually Erion explained that as far as he knew these explorers were adventurers from Kastelios who had joined the first expedition of Folgen, had aided the knights against the western orcs and now were supposed to be around gathering information on the surrounding lands, exactly what we're more or less doing. According to the Crabmen cleric, whose name was Ykl'kaktik. (Yes, their names are full of clicking sounds like their language and are hard to pronounce. Note by Shira. That's an understatement, there are impossible to pronounce with normal tongues. Note by Arkalios). I said, according to the cleric these kastelian explorers were last seen headed to the jungles of the orcs, and the cleric wasn't very optimistic about their chances of survival. I saw immediately from the face of Erion that trouble was brewing for us because he certainly will want to search for them in a very dangerous place. But I managed, for now, to postpone this argument saying that we had first to explore crabmen lands. My companions agreed, probably because they were intrigued as me by this strange place.
Note on the story: Things that happens when a story is left behind ten years ago and then resumed: I messed up with the timeline. In the 1019 almanac entries it's stated that some stowaway adventurers are picked up in Kastelios by Folgen original expedition, the one with a thousand people and many ships, that regained Schweidnitz after thirty years since the first original colony was destroyed and Folgen's father killed. The adventurers aid the knights against the half-orcs acting as scouts and then are sent by Folgen on an exploration mission in nearby lands.
But in my present story Shira and her companions arrived with a single ship many months after the colony was taken, many months after the first battles with the half-orcs. So now I have to assume that when the almanac writers will receive the material, they'll make a bit of confusion about the two groups of adventurers, a understandable confusion given the fact that both joined the knights in Kastelios.. So the group that arrived with the first expedition of Folgen and fought with him the initial battles was not the group of Shira.. Folgen sent them too to explore nearby nations but when Erion arrived and proved to be a knignt in search of redemption, he simply thought that two groups of explorers are better than one. We'll learn soon about the fate of the kastelian adventurers. And so the discrepancy has been more or less solved
Part ten: A strange amazing land
A crabmen village is a wonderful labyrinth of passages, caves and internal lakes, full of people and playing children, if it's possible to use these words for creatures that are very unlike humans. Their culture as I already wrote is so different from human ones that it's hard to remember every particular. They greatly value silver as an ornament but do not like gold very much, or at least it's considered a lot less valuable than silver. The same goes for gems and precious stones, often used for beautiful mosaics that decorate floors and walls but valued only slightly more than glass. All that made Arkalios and Boduk quite happy, and greedy. (It is incredible, they gave me gold and gems as presents! Note by Arkalios. We should tell this important commercial information only to honest dwarves. Note by Boduk. We should tell no one! We should return to sell them silver to buy gold and become rich! Note by Arkalios. We are here to explore not to trade! Note by Erion. Please, we don't have any money! Note by Shira. Erion has heldannic gold. Note by Arkalios. Yes, and in crabmen land it was useless. Note by Erion. It doesn't matter! Crabmen offered us free food everywhere! Note by Shira. Good folks, almost dwarf-like. Note by Boduk.).
Anyway! They eat mostly kelp and sometimes small fish and crustaceans, but not crabs that are usually kept as pets and even trained, somehow. I saw that in villages far from the sea as the one where we first stayed they eat also insects, nuts and vegetables, even if it seems they have only some horticulture and not really cultivated fields.
For creatures that don't have proper hands but claws they are surprisingly apt in using tools, so they can weave kelp, make glass, build walls of sand that become hard as stone, shape strange but dangerous looking metal weapons and many kind of objects. (True, and their tools have really odd-shaped handles. Note by Boduk) Their children have often an abundance of toys, mostly models of fish, little boats, a kind of ball with which they play a complicated game. Their society seem very egalitarian about sexes, females apparently do anything that males do, the most visible difference between them is the fact that, as in some kinds of crabs, males have a slightly bigger right claw.
I asked Ykl'kaktik, the cleric of Ka, a million questions right from our first evening with crabmen. It's easy for humans to assume that other races are uncivilized just because their culture is different, but crabmen have a real complex society and a great history, probably more ancient than ours. They are ruled by a council of four elected wise ones, two males and two females, each in representation of wizards, clerics, rogues and warriors. They mine, mostly silver and some precious stones. They fish, and the build very particular boat. They trade with surrounding nations and have octagonal silver coins. They have just some horticulture of land plants but a complex agriculture for kelp on the coast. They don't use carts nor have riding animals, but train giant crabs as packing animals and even for protection. In short, they have nothing less than any human kingdom, except for poverty and crime, of which apparently they have much less.
The village in which we spent the first night in crabmen lands was named Ma'klitl'ak. The crabmen nation is named in their language Tlik'kkil and divided in four regions: we were in Kilkli'tlak, or the dry land. We left the village in the morning and headed north with Ykl'kaktik as our guide, so we were a group of ten with him, us and our five makal companions, ready to face almost everything. We needed the strength of numbers, as it turned out, because the region we were crossing is the driest, the less inhabited and one of the most dangerous of crabmen lands. We had to reach the region capital of Kiek'tlik, city of miners and rogues, the city of silver, 40 miles far from the village near to the border of the makal jungle. Even if the prairie in crabmen lands doesn't seem at a glance a hard terrain to cross, it's full of hills and streams, that in the most arid places become mud pools and crevices, and so it's really impossible to walk in a straight line. For these reason we had to walk for almost four days to cover these forty miles, and those were quite eventful days!
The first creatures we met in the wild were harmless but interesting animals: the giant running birds, antelopes and great cats we already saw in Schweidnitz, lizards, scorpions, spiders, fish and frogs near or into the streams, many kinds of big and colorful birds and insects. Then we met the Ak'tkl'eku, as crabmen call it. (I had heard of such a creature once from a minrothaddan dwarf who traveled in the Four Kingdoms of Davania, never thought I'd met one. Note by Boduk). It's like a big bull, for lack of a better comparison, that has only one horn on its muzzle instead of two on the head. It has a sort of gray armored skin and strong legs and seemed quite menacing to us, but maybe slow. Ykl'kaktik however said that it's not at all a dangerous animal if left alone, even if it can be quite fast. He also said that we had yet to met the really dangerous inhabitants of the dry lands, and that wasn't exactly reassuring, but unfortunately it was true.
Part eleven: Do not sleep near dragons land
After a peaceful night on the prairie we met a group of centaurs. They were friendly with us and anyway Ykl'kaktik reassured them of our peaceful intentions. Like the crabmen they too had a lot of silver ornaments, but also effective bows and spears. They warned us that the dragons land was quite restless. They spoke in crabmen with our guide obviously but I was able to understand them thanks to the blessing of Koryis and I have to say these words were not reassuring either. The centaurs anyway offered us food and water, even if we had already a good stash of provisions, and when they discovered we were from the northern continent they asked us about centaurs in our lands. Well in Ierendi centaur are rare, only the occasional adventurer, but I know there are tribes in many places of the Known World, and Boduk and Erion knew something more, so we told them. They were happy to hear that and asked us to tell their brethen in our lands about them, and we promised to do so. They also said that there is a mixed nation of centaurs and humans in the west named Eseri, if we wanted to visit it. We said we certainly would like to do so and then they taught me some greetings and words in the centaur language of the land that I could find useful once there. Once we left the centaurs, Ykl'kaktik said we should hear their warning and avoid the central dry lands, where the people of the dragons live.
I obviously asked who this people were and he said that blue dragons and snake men live in the dry lands, and the fire lizards, and what he called something like "the running fire demons", lacking a better translation of his crabmen words. When we camped that night I warned everybody about the dangers of this land but no one seemed scared, that because adventurers are stupid or reckless, or both, that being the reason why ierendian commoners call us "the death wishers" or things like this. Ykl'kaktik anyway tried to reassure us saying that he knew how to avoid the most dangerous parts of the dragons land.
It was the plural he kept using on the word dragon that worried me most.
At some point in the night we saw fires in the prairie, quite far away from us. Tsik and Nooh, the makal twins, were awake and alert and maybe I was a little on edge because just some whispers from them were enough to wake me, so I saw them. Hundreds of little fires burned in the hills, enough to worry me about the creatures that had started them. The next day Ykl'kaktik led us through a convoluted path among hills and crevices while the prairie became more and more dry. Lizards and tortoises were the most common animals now, except for insects and some vultures high in the sky, while grass became lower and drier and cacti appeared here and there. We didn't see other living creatures until the sunset when in the west sky something was flying, something far from us, but bigger than a vulture. Ykl'kaktik told us to lay down. Blue dragons never attacked small groups of travelers, he explained, but sometimes they would send their minions. Now I could clearly see that everyone was nervous and unsuccessful in hiding it.
Akab told us a funny makal story about a thief and a green dragon to cheer us up, but I saw clearly how there was an edge of tension in everyone's laugh. Then just before dusk we saw the salamander on a ridge, watching us. I mean a flame salamander, a kind of creatures I know because there are volcanoes on Ierendi and once I saw a dead one in my temple. Such a creature spying on us was Not a good sign. Everyone was immediately alert and ready to fight. But the fire salamander went away after a few moment. That was unfortunate. I'm a priest of the patron of Peace and I can talk almost everything out of a fight. If I can talk. If someone of something attacks me before, then my talents are useless. We decided to walk a bit more after the sunset to put some distance between us and possible pursuers. We had a peaceful dinner, but a very rough night.
Kinyak, tha makal wizard, was doing the first watch turn when he had to wake us. The prairie was silent in the night. Never a good sign. It was a matter of moments before fire arrows began to rain on us. We could have been severely hurt in that first round if Kinyak had not have the presence of mind to cast a protection from arrow on all of us at the first sign of danger. The attackers probably realized they weren't doing any damage and changed tactic, charging us from all sides. In the confusion and the dark of the night I was barely able to see them. There were flame salamanders for sure, who fought with vicious spears, and among them great lizards with 8 feet breathing fire, and behind snakes with human head and torso, who were casting spell. As happens in any battle everything was fast, confuse and terrorizing. I avoid killing when possible so I launched any spell that could be useful as fast as I could: hold monsters, healings, cause fear. My companions fought for their lives beside me and at some point I saw that Arkalios was gazing motionless at a female figure outside our circle. She was chanting something and suddenly Arkalios was turning around with his knife to stab Boduk! I run to him and touched his head, dispelling the charm. He looked confused at me. The female figure hissed in rage and throw flames to us. I dived to the ground with Arkalios, but the flames had painfully scorched me. I said a word to the creature, a command to repel her, and luckily it worked. I went back to healing burns and injuries. I don't know how much time passed. In battle, it seems always too much, every moment a victory if you are still alive. The attackers somehow were repelled. All my friends, the crabmen cleric and our makal companion fought bravely. It wasn't the end of it. There were two other assault that night. We won, no one of us died, yet we saw no dead snake creatures dead either, at the end. I suspect they didn't want to press the attack too much. Maybe they just wanted to drive us away, or prove a point scaring us. In any case, me, Ykl'kaktik and Hatsi, the makal shaman, had to use every healing spell available. When the sun rose we were so tired we could hardly stand. Yet Ykl'kaktik led us away and we walked under the sun for many hours. We could not spend another night near the dragons land.
Part twelve: About crabmen, makals and dragons children
The rest of our trip to the sea and the city of Kiek'tlik was uneventfull, but I could tell that everyone was on edge after the trial of the second night. Any herd of antelopes running in the distance or any scuttling lizard made us jump, often my friends and even the cold looking makal warriors had weapons in hands just because a bird took flight a few paces from us. I was shaken too but I was also very curious about the nature of our attackers and so I was endlessly pressing Ykl'kaktik for answers. He indulged me telling a long tale about the history of crabmen in Davania. According to the cleric crabmen are one of the most ancient races of Mystara. Only dragons and the emerald people, who were born with the first trees, are more ancient. But the lizard people, the sons of the dragons, were born also in ancient times and soon they became so many that they founded nations in every corner of the world. At the beginning the dragons and their children were kind with crabmen and the two people lived alongside for a long time, but one day the dragons and their children tried to conquer the sky of the Immortals. There was a great terrible war and in the end the Immortals destroyed all the realms of the dragons and their children and hid the sun for a long time, so that anything living died and crabmen had to search for food among the ashes. After this terrible time many new kinds of dragons children were born, like the ones we fought, and some of them are arrogant and violent, and want to conquer every corner of the world. Crabmen tried to resist against them for generations, but years after years crabmen lands shrinked and dragons children lands increased, until crabmen found allies: the tree people and the winged bulls, sons of the sun, and the good dragons of the west. So crabmen survived, even if they had to fight some of the dragons children many times more. Other allies came, the makals, that proved to be crabmen friends. But one day Immortals hid the sun again for many years, and crabmen didn't know why. The dragon childrens attacked, full of rage, every people of the world. Allies of the crabmen were hardly pressed too and dwindled in number, until new creatures came from far away places: the lords of magic, apparently similar to the emerald people and the makals, but evil and cruel, and the grey and black people who came from the north as numerous as ants, wave after wave. These people will eventually become enemies of the crabmen too, but for a while they attacked the dragons children and so indirectly aided them. Yet some of the dragons children escaped to crabmen lands and stayed here, refusing to leave. In time crabmen reached an uneasy peace with them, but they often attack groups of travelers who aren't composed mainly of crabmen, fearing invasions and encroaching in their lands. Sometimes they have even been allies of the crabmen during wars with the grey men of Ou'kl'klol, that must be the crabmen name of the orcs land to the southeast. I asked Ykl'kaktik if there were other nations of "dragons children" around and he said there were many in the south, so it seems that Davania has quite a population of lizard men and similar creatures, but I hope not as hostile as the ones we had to fight.
In Ierendi indeed we encountered in the past groups of lizard men and I was always able to talk with them, even if they usually don't trust humans at all. Well if the local lizard creatures were often attacked in the past by humanoids I can understand that any mammal on two legs must seems a dangerous threat to them.
Beside my cultural interest in our attackers, not shared very much by my companions, the night battle gave me another insight on the different warriors ethics of the makal and my human friends. I must state beforehand that Arkalios and Erion had fought with incredible bravery during the previous night, but I noticed in the makal warriors a behaviour that was more similar to Boduk than to human warriors. For example, they never ask for healing even when severely hurt or in great pain. They never complain about anything. They never show unecessary bravado as the fighters I'm used to often do. Another big difference that surprised a lot my friends, even Boduk, was the fact that for a makal warrior is considered appropriate to weep when listening to a moving poem or story. Something that a human warrior of our lands, or a dwarf, would never do.
I told our makal friends about atruaghins, even if I met one of them only once in Ierendi. There are clearly similar cultural traits and also some physical resemblance between the atruaghins of the Known World and the Makal of Davania, and I wonder why. But Akab explained to me that his people has many legends about a long voyage from the eastern sea to the Makal land, so I guess makals come from atruaghin lands, or both people originated from a common place somewhere in between!
Anyway at last my inquiries stopped when the sight of the city of Kiek'tlik, in a wonderful sunset by the sea, silenced me and everyone else. We stood some moments on a sand dune, enjoning the beauty and the peace of the view, glad to be alive, thinking about the many wonders to come in our fantastic voyage. (How poetic, but really I was just wondering if these crabmen could have something at least partially related to beer. Note by Boduk. I was sad because I had not much hope to find beautiful and friendly girls in a city of crabmen. Note by Arkalios. Please, boys, do not piss off Shira scribbling on her diary! Note by Erion. Ok, I deserve this, I should keep the book far from their hands. Note By Shira).
Part thirteen: A very different place.
We spent the first night in Kiek'tlik as guests of the temple of Ka, a marvelous, low building made of jade, obsidian, glass and silver. The clerics here were friends of Ykl'kaktik and very kind to us. They also taught me some meditation technique I found fascinating. (What's more boring than spend the night in a temple? Note by Arkalios).
In the city we had time to know crabmen and their strange society much better. The differences between them and humans, or even other humanoid races, are huge: all the cultural discoveries I made regarding the makals pale in comparison. For instance, they have a very different idea about private properties, even if we later discovered that this particular trait is mostly evident in Kiek'tlik. They have different ideas on everything: on social differences, on the education of children, if this word can be used, on the right behavior with friends, family, strangers. I know I've already told some of this when we first entered crabmen lands, but I'm afraid that I'll not be able to explain it well.
For example, they have families, but not like ours. A crabmen family is sometimes started by two people, a male and a female, but more often by three or more people of any sex. Families form because the members feel they have a common purpose, dream or interest.
They have money, but not like ours. Their "coins" don't look like our coins at all, because they are octagonal or shaped like small silver cylinders. They also have small iron cylinders, valued less than silver, and gold hexagons and cylinders that here are valued like copper coins in the Known World. Therefore our heldannic gold wasn't worth much here, but fortunately Ykl'kaktik was very generous and paid for almost everything we could need.
They have a calendar, but it's really complicated and based upon daily and yearly tides. I couldn't figure it out.
They have writing, but they don't write from the left like in Ierendi, nor from the right like in Ylauruam and neither from the top like in Ochalea. They write in spirals, from the inside to the outside, so that a crabmen writing looks like a circle of tiny signs. They have paper and books, but the paper is made from kelp, is round and has a light green color, and the books are big cylinders with cases made of a strange, light and resilient glass.
They cook, and their cuisine is really amazing. I've tasted the delicate elven cuisine and the strong flavored dwarven one, but nothing I ever experienced was good as crabmen meals. They eat kelps, mostly, but also fish, molluscs, insects, nuts, fruits and vegetables and every dish is made with an unique combination of blended flavors that make it astonishing. Their dishes always look like big spheres or half spheres with the consistence of pudding, of any possible color, but every dish we tried in crabmen lands was amazing.
For the joy of Boduk and Arkalios and the appreciation of everybody else, they make an incredible variety of beers and liquors, mostly from kelp, fruits and vegetable, with variable intoxication properties. (I must admit they have an expertise with liquor that matches dwarves. Note by Boduk. Great eating and wonderful drinking, unfortunately not many friendly human girls. Note by Arkalios. He obviously was drunk most of the day and made a fool out of himself with me, the makal shaman Hatsi and a couple of random female travelers from foreign lands. Note by Shira.)
They have a government, but it's not like ours: they hardly have taxes and have an efficient system of cooperation to build roads and public buildings. Each of the four regions of crabmen land elect a councilman who has something more like a persuasion power than real authority.
It seems they don't have crime and for sure they don't have guards nor prisons. (Yeah, this place would be the best on Mystara if only had more human girls. Note by Arkalios. I like them, they are like dwarves. Note by Boduk).
These are just some examples on how much crabmen lands are different from other humanoid nations. I'll for sure write more on their peculiarities as we continue our travel in this lands.
But now let's spend some words on Kiek'tlik, the city of silver and iron miners, but also the capital of the region governed by rogues, if this word can be used for them. Rogues in crabmen land are almost everything: adventurers, guides, singers, sailors, traders, thieves. What they really do is to find things and knowledge, wherever it is and whoever owns it. Kiek'tlik is also a city of artisans, so silver is really widespread here, and I mean that it's often used to build whole palaces. The city also has a really big market where crabmen sell anything, including weapons of every kind.
But the most wonderful view of the city are the docks, with two enormous rounded piers shaped like crab's pincers and covered in silver, with so many docked little ships and boats, their light blue sails lighted by the sunset.
After wandering the city for the whole day we spent our second night in a inn by the docks. Ykl'kaktik said it was worth staying there at least for a night, even if we could have slept again in the temple of Ka, and he was definitively right. (He really was! Note by Arkalios)
The map of Western Davania in 24 mph
Part fourteen: An inn and the good kind of night
The inn was called the Blue Ship, because of the sign on the wall that depicted a rounded crabmen ship in blue stones. The place itself was wonderful: a small circular building on the outside, it extended under the street level in a maze of glass tunnels that allowed to see the waters of the dock area, with fishes, kelp, seashells, ships bottoms and all. I could have stayed by these glass windows for hours. But the most interesting feature of the inn were in fact its customers, adventurers not only from the city but from all the lands of this part of Davania! There was a mixed group of adventurers from the land inhabited by centaurs to the west of Schweidnitz, and indeed the group was composed by three humans and three centaurs. There were other groups from a nation to the south east of crabmen lands, called Alol, with wonderful feather clothes and a skin lighter than the makals. There was a group composed only of rakastas, different from the ones we saw in the Known World and also from the ocelastas we had met back in Schweidnitz. There was even a group of troglodytes and half-orcs from a nation to the east and a group of lizard men from somewhere in the south, and these were not as unfriendly as the ones who attacked us in the dragons land.
I think there is only one kind of adventurers' inn or tavern around the world with the same common characteristics: people from very different places and different histories who came to rest and relax after experiencing some danger or before facing it, the veterans who benevolently sneer at beginners and the latter searching for advice, hints and trouble. Yet the adventurers' places can have two very different nights, the good one and the bad one. In a good night everyone is willing to talk, dance and drink like men and women who don't know if they'll live through the next day. It's quite an unique atmosphere of camaraderie and sympathy that can bond even people with very different opinions who could have become enemies in different circumstances. In a bad night however there is a group of adventurers, or more than one, that has come to the place searching for answers, revenge or simply trouble, and in this case things get ugly pretty fast, the guards eventually come and bodies pile up.
Fortunately our night in the Blue Ship was a good night, one of the best we ever experienced in similar places, we heard so many stories and gathered so many information that I cannot even begin to report them, we met many friends I hope we'll find again in the near future, and received tips for enough adventures to fill up our next months in this land.
(And we drank good liquors, too. I must repeat that crabmen are good people, very much like dwarves. Note by Boduk. I danced with some interesting girls from a place somewhere to the east and after that I had an interesting night, if you know what I mean. Note by Arkalios. The inn indeed had many interesting customers and they had nothing against heldannic knights, by the way. Note by Erion).
Anyway, everyone was happy that night, we had fun and the next day, in a beautiful morning over the sunlit sea, we took a crabmen ship to the west, toward the city of Itl'kilk!