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Campfire tale .pdf


Original filename: Campfire tale.pdf
Title: Microsoft Word - Campfire tale.docx
Author: JKM

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The sunset is brightly colored in the
desert as the party is reunited. It is a
stark contrast to the dull colors of the
land and few plants of the Great
Wilds during the daytime. The
refugees huddle together in small
groups, staying close to the rocks and
to the three campfires set by their
barbarian protectors. The three
tribesmen enthusiastically welcome the party members back from their trek
to the ogre lair. As the group settles in for the evening, the three tough but
jovial humans regale the group with tales of Uthgar’s childhood. Some of
the stories seem to the others like they might have
embarrassed their barbarian friend, but Uthgar just laughs
along with them and beams with pride, his joy at being
reunited with his kin evident on his bearded face. Just as Brix
finishes a story about a very young Uthgar struggling to pick
up his first sword, one of the refugees approaches the group.
“Excuse me,” she says, “I want to thank you for coming
to our aid.” She is an older human woman, gray haired, but still graceful of
motion and unwavering of voice. “I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, but our
guides here are rather,” she pauses as if looking for the right word,
“boisterous”. This elicits another round of loud laughter and cheers from
the barbarians. The woman continues, “Am I to understand that you have
been working against this new undead menace?”
Grath, the blonde barbarian, the most nimble and most well-spoken
of the trio hoots with amusement, and replies, “Ma’am, my tribesman
Uthgar here is the chosen representative of his people, sent at the
Overlord’s call for great heroes to save these lands. His companions here
are each great heroes of their own people!” Uthgar nods fiercely, and
several glances are exchanged among the others as this exaggeration
settles over the group.
“Well,” says the refugee, “if I may join you, I have a tale I think you’ll
want to hear, and probably some information you don’t already know.
Welcomed, she sits down around the fire. The paladin subtly nods his

approval to the group, not detecting any evil intent. “Where to begin?” she
rhetorically asks, staring into the flames.
“My name is Kestal. I’m no one important, but my husband is
someone you may have heard of. He was called Kraxton, and he was a
wizard, a masterful teleporter. We met by chance, and fell in love, as these
things happen. He was having a tower built just for himself, but when it
was completed, I moved there with him. It was a peculiar tower, I suppose,
though I hadn’t much reason to think about it for many years. It was on an
island in the great lake past the eastern edge of
the desert. It was a round stone tower, with
many fine rooms, and a crenellated top, which I
suppose is not so unusual, but the tower had no
doors, save on the roof. Kraxton used to simply
whisk us in and out at will. The first time he
teleported me it was quite a surprise, let me tell
you.” She sighs and seems to gather herself
before pressing on with her tale. “He was gifted
as a teleporter, as I told you, but his real
passion was history, well, the history of magic
at any rate. He had begun researching the
great war against the undead long before I met
him, but with each passing year, it took up more
of his time. It was a while before I realized what
an obsession it had become. The subject was
never terribly interesting to me, to be honest, but some days it was all he
would talk about, and so I picked up quite a bit of knowledge quite by
accident. I never thought any of it would become useful later, but I’ll tell
you what I know.
“The necromancer that nearly overran the world all those years ago
was called Ullayik, although I don’t know much more about him. In the final
battle of that war, another great wizard, named Olmarion, cast a mighty
spell that utterly destroyed Ullayik, and without him, most of his undead
creations lost their power and were simply dead things again. Olmarion
has long since died, of course, but he was of the same order as my
husband. I gather that my Kraxton wasted or misused the resources of the
order investigating Ullayik, and they eventually banned him, even though

he was of the second highest rank among them. They even somehow
made it so he could no longer travel to their academy – I have no idea
where that was, I was never allowed to know or to visit. Members only, all
very secretive”, she rolls her eyes a bit and gestures dismissively with her
hands.
“He was in a foul mood for a while after that, although I suppose that
is understandable. Several difficult years after his expulsion from the order,
he came up from his study to our chambers and told me to pack, that we
were going on a trip. He seemed so happy, and I suppose I just wanted
everything to be the way it used to be, so I hurriedly did as he asked. It
turns out it wasn’t just a vacation. We moved from the tower to Westerport,
a city on the far western edge of Luria, past the great wilds.” She gestures
in a vaguely westward direction, and then continues. “We teleported there
of course, so I never actually saw the deserts themselves,” she pauses,
then with a sigh and a little laugh adds, “well, I suppose I have now.
“We lived in Westerport for nearly a year before I figured out that he
only moved us there to continue his research. One day he told me that we
were going on a ship, across the Inner Sea to Belara. He was excited, and
told me he had had a breakthrough in his research, and needed to see
Belara for himself. Come to think of it, I’m not really sure why he couldn’t
have just teleported there. At any rate, I was crestfallen. I thought he had
given up his obsession, and now he was so enraptured with it that he was
trying to draw me into it again. I decided to go along, although I was none
too happy about it. Late that night, I heard him talking outside in the
alleyway, when he thought I was asleep, and I thought he was reading in
his study. I snuck over to the window and listened. I recognized his voice,
but couldn’t understand a word he said, and whoever he was speaking with
sounded simply dreadful, all guttural and slurpy. My curiosity got the best
of me, and I risked a peek out the window. There was my husband talking
to an illithid! One of those horrible, evil, squid-faced mind-flayers that rarely
come above ground. I stifled a gasp and snuck back inside. I barely slept
that night, and I confronted Kraxton about it in the morning, when I felt
safer. To his credit, he didn’t deny it, and I don’t think he lied to me. He
was very upset that I had evesdropped, though. He said that he was just
using the creature for information. He said that if he had to do some
unsavory things in pursuit of knowledge then so be it. I asked what sort of

unsavory things he meant,
t, a
and he just huffed something unpleasant and
left the house, slamming the door. I didn’t see him until the next morning,
when he told me that he was leaving on the ship, and that it wasn’t going to
be safe for me after all, and just to stay in our little house in Westerport until
he got back. He seemed genuinely concerned for my safety, and a bit
jumpy,, which was quite unlike him
him.

We said our goodbyes, I, at least, not realizing they would be the last
ones. That was forty years ago. He would be a very old man now, if he
still lived,
ed, but I never heard from him again. At some point, about twenty
years ago, the ships stopped coming from Belara, and the sailors refused
to go there. I always sort of wondered if Kraxton had anything to do with
why. Then, the rumors started coming tha
thatt the whole island was overrun
with undead. Again, I wondered, but doubted. It had been almost twentytwenty
five years, after all. I had found work as an herbalist to keep me busy,
busy
although my husband left me more than enough to live on.
“Then, a few months ago, in the dark of night, there were horrible
screams and shouting coming from toward the port. Like many in town, I
opened my shutters to see what was going on, and the ships were aflame.
People were running, terrified, away from the sea. I only got bits and
pieces from those running past, until an old friend of mine stopped at my
home and told me what was going on. An army of walking skeletons had
emerged from the sea and began ransacking houses, killing people, and

advancing through the city. I quickly gathered some things and my friend
and I joined the throng of people running from the city.
“Not knowing where else to go, we ran, truly unprepared, into the
great wastes, where luckily, these kind tribesmen eventually found us. In
that time I ministered to the people as best I could, using what little healing
power I possess. They all told me their experience with the undead horde,
and though the tales were fragmented and confused, one thing stood out to
me.
The skeletons had ignored the town’s warriors, even as they were
hacked apart. They moved methodically from house to house and slayed
only human women. I don’t mean to sound conceited, and I know I am just
an unimportant person in the grand scheme of things, but I fear that
somehow they were after me. When they showed up here again, I decided
I needed to tell someone my story. My husband spent his life researching
the ancient master of the undead, then brought me to that city, and
disappeared over the sea, which is the very place those undead came
from. It may well be a coincidence, of course.
“If you heroes are truly trying to put a stop to this undead menace,
then I fear you will have to travel to Belara yourself, if you can find a ship
willing to take you. Before that, I think you should visit our old tower. I
don’t know if he ever returned without me, but we certainly didn’t take
everything with us. We packed very little, in fact. I only know of our
possessions in the upper floors, I never once went below the larder and the
pens into his private study and laboratory, but he spent so much time down
there, there must have been decades of research piled up. He was always
coming up and down with old books and scrolls. You might find something
useful. I think I would like to visit the old place one last time myself, and
see if there is anything there I would like to keep with me, since I now own
only what I’m wearing.
“Anyway, that’s my tale. I’m heading to the Keep now, and then on to
Brill, I suppose. I can think of nowhere else to go, and I’ll likely be as safe
there as anyplace. If you do decide to go to the tower, though please take
me with you, and I’ll be of any assistance I can. I think I’ve told you
everything that could be useful, but feel free to ask me anything.”


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