Monday, August 19, 2013

Tales of RPGs Past: "A Tenday in the Care of Berrani"

Here's a bonus piece I wrote after Shaba's initial backstory to help flesh out some other aspects of his character. (This takes place after Shaba met Samhein but before the latter gave him the kyte.)

During one such foray into the dust-choked caves and jagged ravines that abut the World Beyond, Shaba went alone, following one of the trails that Samhein had shown him. Not long into this misguided adventure did Shaba sense the presence of something stalking him in the dark—a predatory beast on the prowl, a desert tiger perhaps, or was it merely a shadow? When the thing moved so too did Shaba, stumbling over crags and trampling down coarse scrub underfoot. So wild was Shaba’s escape that he lost his footing and fell down a long slope, coming to rest only when blackness found him.

When he came to, a massive mustachioed man stood over him, helping him to his feet. Strangers surrounded Shaba, each of the outlanders drawn up in fancy leathers and plate armor. The large man introduced himself as Sir Claude Roancoat (LG male human Msl 3/Pal 6 of Torm, age 37), a boldblade in the service of the Forest Kingdom. Shaba looked at each of their faces. He had never seen such a gathering of people before. There was a slight female, with pointy ears—an elf, Shaba thought—who wore twigs in her hair and smelled of tree bark, and one who stood half as tall as the man, closer to a D’tarig in stature, wearing a smile and carrying a lute decorated with imprints of bare feet. But it was the ugly one, a snaggletoothed half-orc, proudly wearing a pearly breastplate and a shield devoted to the Lord of Battles, who gave Shaba the leery eye. Samhein had spoken about such people before—“adventurers” he called them. They invited Shaba to sup with them while he recovered, and unwilling to accept hospitality without giving something in return, Shaba agreed so long as they would trade with him. It was through these interactions that Shaba acquired a finely crafted but rustic looking dagger with a cruel edge, much akin to his liking.

As the night wore on, Shaba learned that Roancoat’s company was intent on finding the ancient city of Rasilith, lost as it was in the concealing sands of Anauroch, the Great Desert. Trouble had arisen in a place called the Stonelands, and it fell to the adventurers to track the source of that trouble back to where they believed it had come. Shaba knew that Rasilith was said to stand in a region of the Great Desert known as the Quarter of Emptiness, a more desolate and lifeless place that did not exist anywhere else. It was not a place to be sought. But the smallman was confident, singing songs of yore and playing his lute to rally his friends’ convictions. The smallman also claimed to know much about Shaba, telling his friends that the D’tarig was a fortunate find and that he could help them in finding their destination. The druid seemed open to the idea, stating that her powers were more attuned to the woods than the sandy plain. But the half-orc, with the leery eye, was doubtful, warning his friends against trusting “One Who Lives Under Shadow.” Roancoat calmed them, and bid them to rest on it for the evening.

Meanwhile, Shaba’s mind was racing. The strangers had been kind to him, on the whole, and he felt he should repay them. He would draw them a map while they slept and leave to rejoin Biradoon by sunup. Alas, the strangers were always wary of him, though he felt he gave them no reason to be. It was the half-orc that proved to be his greatest foe, tricking Shaba into thinking he was asleep before catching Shaba as he tried to sneak away. Shaba whirled on the half-orc with his new dagger, believing the shadow that had stalked him when he fell had returned. The brief skirmish awoke the rest of the camp, and Shaba was quickly captured. Unable to properly communicate his stance, mostly by the half-orc’s bullying, Roancoat decided that the D’tarig was likely a spy attempting to return to the desert to warn his masters. This was something they couldn’t chance. Thus, Roancoat held Shaba hostage, though treated him well, as they moved on.

Days past, and Shaba grew to appreciate the company of the smallman, trading stories of the Zhentarim’s conquest of the desert and teaching Shaba how to read the stars. Roancoat fed and sheltered Shaba, always trying to cajole some new bit of information about the desert from the D’tarig, but forced to settle on half-truths and hearsay. Shaba would often find discussions of ultimate good and evil interesting—which is to say confusing—and would often question Roancoat’s proclamations of good deeds that ever seemed invisible to the near future. Shaba entertained his captors by flying his kite, and getting them to reveal more about the lands outside of Anauroch. Practicality—he was making use of the situation however he could, giving the adventurers only what they deserved in light of his predicament. Beshaba had repayed him for his hyper-curiosity, or was Shaundakul rewarding him for his adventurous spirit?

Finally, the day came when the adventurers were ready to enter the desert. Shaba’s usefulness to them was at an end, and so too, it would turn out, was their usefulness at an end for Shaba. They had taken care of him, had led him into no harm, but had kept him from his appointed place for longer than he needed. For this he would help them, to a point. Shaba would give them the map he had created, a map that remained incomplete since the night he had been captured. The map indicated a safe route through Desertsedge to the rim of the Quarter of Emptiness, but from there it ended. With a few finishing touches, directional indicators and warnings, Shaba’s map would appear to lead them directly to Rasilith, when in truth it would only take them part of the way, and perhaps even get them lost because of it. Thus, he would be repaying his captors for delaying his return to Biradoon by delaying their discovery of Rasilith. Indeed, Beshaba provides!

This time, back in Biradoon, it was Shaba who had a story for Samhein.