Campaign Stories

This is the story of Wiliken, Jurgen, Morgan, Douglas, Jean-Baptiste, Gracemorel, Dusk, Ugarth, and Jenkins as gleaned from a current Dungeons and Dragons campaign in the Bandit Kingdoms.

Chapter 1: Once a Slave
Wiliken 1Wiliken 2Wiliken 3Wiliken 4Wiliken 5Wiliken 6Wiliken 7

Chapter 2: Blood
Wiliken 8, Wiliken 9, Wiliken 10, Wiliken 11, Wiliken 12, Wiliken 13

Chapter 3: Revelation
Wiliken 14, Wiliken 15, Jean-Baptiste 1*, Wiliken 16, Wiliken 17, Wiliken 18

Chapter 4: The Cost of Living
Wiliken 19, Wiliken 20, Wiliken 21, Wiliken 22, Wiliken 23, Wiliken 24

As of Wiliken 24, Campaign Stories is completed, at least for the time being. Special thanks to my Dungeon Master David, and my fellow players Chad, Adam, Josh, Gabe, Kris, and Randy, and last but certainly not least, thanks to the readers.

* Better known as “Waiting for the One Who Comes”

Campaign Stories: Wiliken 23

The githzerai was surprised at the appearance of this older version of Jenkins, and he was put off by the mystery of the two wizards, but for his comrades — those who had traveled with Jenkins and lived according to his authority for so long — the disbelief was complete. Were they not beset on all sides by a swarm of mucous-slaked giant insects, this would have been a fantastic time to clear the air on exactly what was going on. As it was, however, the conversation would have to be put on hold.

Perhaps of greater importance was the fact that the party’s entrance into this foreign realm had just been cut off and, like this broken old man with dirty, tangled curtains of hair, they would be trapped here until other adventurers found a way into this strange plane.

“What is this place?” Wiliken said to the older Jenkins.

The wizard was weeping. At first the githzerai thought them tears of pain. After all, this Jenkins was limping about on a leg turned sideways, likely broken years ago and healed incorrectly. It took a few moments for Wiliken to realize they were in fact tears of joy. Jenkins was among friends he hadn’t seen for years, friends he’d likely thought long dead. “No place,” Jenkins said, confused, as if language no longer came easy to him.

Wiliken stomped his foot twice on the solid ground beneath him. “This. Place.”

“No place,” Jenkins said. “Thing.”

“What?” Wiliken responded.

“Leviathan.”

If this were the real Jenkins, Wiliken thought, and it seemed so from his response to seeing his supposedly fallen comrades, then who was the wizard they’d seen in the remains of the Shining City, the man that Wiliken had revealed his deepest desire to, the one he’d hoped to enlist the help of in order to stop his son? Who was this man who had chosen to set Wiliken free?

As Wiliken fired off arrow after arrow into the sky above them, he noticed Jean-Baptiste take off frantically into the darkness, and he might have been swallowed by the horde of parasites were it not for the reflexes of strong Ugarth who grabbed their friend by the shoulder and pulled him back.

“You’re no good to us dead,” Ugarth said.

“But,” Jean-Baptiste said, “the portal.

“We stick together,” Ugarth said. “We survive.”

“A portal!” Jenkins shouted. “You have a portal?”

“We had a portal,” Jean-Baptiste corrected him.

“No! No! No! No!” Jenkins shouted. The old wizard scurried off in the same distance Jean-Baptiste had attempted to traverse. He succeeded in escaping the grasp of Ugarth, who cursed under his breath. Wiliken darted forward only to stop dead in his tracks and recoil as a blinding beacon shot up into the air around them. For a moment, the sky was as bright as a sunny day, and the multitude of flying beasts was uncannily clear. When that moment had concluded, there remained a faint jet of light travelling off into the distance, tracing the path to their collapsed portal. The old wizard Jenkins apparently had a few tricks up his sleeves even now.

Wiliken and friends used the moment of brightness to regroup around the wizard.

“Can you reopen the portal?” Wiliken asked.

“I can,” Jenkins said. “But we will have to get closer.”

Wiliken stepped forward before Jenkins stopped him. “Not that way,” he said, and then he pointed in the opposite direction. “That way.”

It was a leap of faith, but Wiliken turned in the opposite direction and ran with the surprisingly spry old man. He and his allies kept the creatures from flying down and swiping at the wizard who might be their only way out of this place. Sometimes to go one step forward it was required to go two steps back.

The group ran, Ugarth punching the dive-bombing insects out of the sky, Wiliken popping off quick shots, sometimes two at once, everyone helping in their own way, and it seemed like they were running a fool’s errand, but when they approached a large membranous chasm, they stopped.

“I think I sense what Jenkins was saying,” Jean-Baptiste said. “In fact, I’ve been sensing it since we got here. This thing we are on. It is alive.”

“Ah,” Wiliken said. “The ancient beast of legend. The leviathan. Large as a world, ever twisting and turning through the nether.”

Grace pointed to the chasm. “Then what is this?”

“A nostril,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I have an idea.”

He shoved his staff into a pink spot on the ground, and it gave way before his strength. A din erupted in the air that threatened to shatter the githzerai’s eardrums. Whatever this beast was that they were currently upon, leviathan or otherwise, they had hurt it. Jean-Baptiste pulled back on his staff, working it like a lever inside the creature’s sense organ, and Wiliken could feel the ground move as the monster fought against Jean-Baptiste. As Jean-Baptiste struggled with his staff, a surprising smile came over his face. Jean-Baptiste was winning. He was turning the beast around.

“Now it’s your turn,” Wiliken said. “Get that portal open.”

Ugarth had turned into a living shield for the wizard Jenkins who had brightened the sky once more with his staff. The now familiar trail of brightness shot off in the same direction as before, but this time it did not taper at the end and whisper away. It continued throughout the emptiness and brightened at its furthest point. As Jenkins muttered silent words from his lips, waves would flow along the route of this string, and the string itself began to grow. Before long the portal was once again visible. It was growing.

But the leviathan was now hurtling toward the portal, and it became clear that the portal was growing too slowly.

“We’ll never make it,” Grace said.

Wiliken was surprised by his own feeling, but he felt his own kind of brightness, something he couldn’t remember feeling. Wiliken had friends. In his mind, he’d called these people friends for most of the day, and sometimes in previous days as well. His wife was dead and his son was a vicious murderer bent on destroying most of what Wiliken had ever known, and yet he felt hope. Nobody was as surprised by this as the githzerai, despite the strange silence that erupted when he placed his hand on Jenkins’ shoulder and spoke.

“Yes,” Wiliken said. “We will.”

Jenkins was straining beyond what should have been his limit, and yet he pushed even harder, breaking any mental barrier, stepping outside of the game of human limitation, a true wizard in every meaning of the name. The githzerai had once encountered a tribe of humans during his military days who had a secluded shaman of great power. They had explained that one of these individuals was born in each generation, and the word they had used for this shaman translated loosely to “miracle.” Jenkins was one of these miracles.

They were far too close to the tiny portal for comfort, and it became clear that the consequences of the leviathan barreling head-first into this tiny portal would be cataclysmic, but at the last moment Jenkins screamed and there was a sudden burst of light. The portal ripped open wide. They were going to make it.

“The portal,” Ugarth said.

“Yes,” Grace said. “It’s open. We’re going home.”

“No,” Ugarth said. “We have to close it.”

“What?” asked Grace.

“We have to close it,” Ugarth said. “If we don’t, this leviathan will destroy everything we’ve ever known. Everything we’ve done will have been for nothing.”

“Can you do it?” Wiliken asked Jenkins, but the old man had collapsed. “Jenkins?”

Campaign Stories concludes in Wiliken 24.

Campaign Stories: Wiliken 22

Darkness. Darkness was the feel of this place, the thought that came to the githzerai’s mind when he tried to capture this alien world in his mind, and yet this landscape was not without light. A strange glow arose here and there, casting strange shadows with dull bio-luminescence. The ground was rough and moist, pebbled with slick scales. Wiliken half-expected a light rain, like those that arise in dense, murky forest, not because of clouds in the sky but because the muggy air had become greedy in its liquid holdings — like all others punished for their hubris its prize was forfeit. Thus the rain. But not so here. Where there should have been water, there was a hot, acrid stench. The githzerai was certain that no life could form in this place. Perhaps they had finally arrived at that preached of place where darkness rules and the inhabitants bite down on stone and bitumen, the place of living death. Perhaps this was the final chapter for Wiliken and his allies.

In death there is nothing left to fear. Wiliken could not remember the source, but the quote had long resonated with him. When he entered this world from the other one and all who came with him were put to the sword, though he was just a boy he would not let the despair of death defeat him, and when the allure of death brought him into the service of the Iuzian empire as one of their most feared warriors he feared neither the foes who stood in his way nor the punishment of his leaders were he to turn from their orders. Perhaps some dark prophet of the god Iuz emerged from one of his ecstasies with only those words on his tongue. Perhaps it was some profound poet of revolutionary peace. To the githzerai, it did not matter. These words were in his blood. They commanded him to move forward one footstep at a time, to trust his senses, to surrender to the inevitability of the landslide of time.

The strange light revealed mounds to either side of the githzerai, few taller than his tallest comrade, mountains in the miniature. He’d seen similar in some of the villages he’d walked through, those less advanced than the cities he’d always called home. These mounds marked where the people had put to rest their loved ones once they had passed away. Even in those days Wiliken had felt reverence for such mounds. It could have been that he’d valued life even in his darkest days or even that he knew that he had put many of those people in the ground either directly or due to the consequences of his choices, but he felt reverence no less.

Time and time again, the githzerai had noted that life will show itself in the most unlikely of places, for even in this place tiny pests skittered this way and that, revealing themselves in the gloomy light. Larger sounds spoke to the possibility of larger beasts. Wiliken drew his bow and readied an arrow. He’d expected a grey-scale gloom and eternal nothingness, but perhaps he ought to have readied himself for the vicious beasts that had proven strong enough over the generations to survive in this horrid clime. Wiliken detected a shuffling behind one of the mounds some fifty paces to his right, and, having decided that the best defense is a good offense, he sneaked off toward the origin of the sound, himself the night-stalker.

His keen ears detected a strange variation of a yawn, a quiet shuffling, and then rest. As he stepped sideways, one foot over the other, he noticed that the sound had died down. His prey was alerted to his presence. Though the beast was clearly attempting to go noiseless, Wiliken heard its labored breathing on the stink-filled air.

Wiliken paused, uncertain how to proceed. He heard the familiar footsteps of his allies as they crept up behind him. The beast might be dangerous, but the githzerai would not die alone if the battle went poorly. It’s better than I deserve, he thought before shouting out, “We have the greater numbers! Show yourself!”

He heard a slight shriek followed by a skittering not unlike a two-hundred pound rodent. What emerged from behind the mound was certainly human, a pitiful old cripple covered in a shroud and stinking of his own waste. The man pulled back his hood to reveal a pair of rheumy eyes, and an unmistakable complexion, if not marred by wrinkles and scars. “Hello,” said the tentative voice. “Who are you?” He raised a staff, still brimming with the spunk of a man accustomed to winning at quarrels.

It was Jean-Baptiste who uttered the impossible words that everyone was thinking: “Jenkins?”

The old man cocked his head sideways like a trained dog at the sound of an unfamiliar command. “Do I know you?”

The last syllables of his question were drowned out by a sudden din as the ground around them erupted with seismic waves. It was as if the stones of the earth themselves were attempting to take form and eject these foreigners.

“Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!” Jenkins said, clutching at his few remaining wisps of hair. “You’ve really done it this time! You’ve really done it this time!”

There were enough explosions in quick succession that it began difficult to track exactly where the sound was coming from, but what was present to the githzerai’s senses was the fact that large nests of insectoid creatures emerged in a blast of puss-like ooze with each blast. Where once there was complete and utter waste, now there emerged a swarm of aggressive beasts that had already began to take quick and painful swipes at Wiliken and his allies.

He raised nocked an arrow and halted. Something else had changed. Something perhaps more dangerous than the flying parasites. The darkness here was different somehow. It was more complete. No sooner had Wiliken posed the mystery to himself than Grace solved it.

“The portal,” she said, holding a limp coil of rope in her hand. “It’s closed itself. We’re trapped here.”

Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 23.

Campaign Stories: Wiliken 21

The githzerai’s consciousness hovered over a field. In one direction, he saw many tracks spanning a great distance. In the other direction, the same. The first set of tracks lead to the city of Alhaster, the second to New Doraka – the location that was once occupied by the Shining City.

Curious, Wiliken thought, and the word echoed all around him. At first he was frightened, but then he realized that he was not truly hovering above the land. He was merely encapsulating the world within his mind. He cleared his thoughts and continued.

It was disturbing to look down upon himself, sitting cross-legged in the middle of an open field, guarded by people who had, not too long ago, assisted in his imprisonment. Those who had known Jenkins for some time had explained that his teleportation circles were never pin-point in their accuracy, and that was why his consciousness was climbing, climbing. He had a subtle feeling for the portal that they were looking for. It struck him like a dull pain in his head. Unfortunately, he could neither see it nor find where it was.

Wiliken rotated the landscape in his mind. Perhaps a different perspective on the matter would afford him a clearer vision. The githzerai was surprised at how easy it was to manipulate this universe with his newly found abilities. He was disturbed at the possibilities. Everything was much simpler when he was merely an archer. Wiliken could not remember much about that time, but it couldn’t have been more challenging than the last few months of his life.

As Wiliken reflected on the recent loss of his wife at the hands of his own son, his hold on the universe in his head weakened. What he had once rotated and phased through with relative ease had begun to spin out of control. In a world of thought, metaphors become literal fact, a truth that the githzerai had learned the hard way. As he crashed to the astral earth, he found that the world had darkened. Disoriented, the githzerai looked to the sky. His gaze was met by two flaming celestial eyes. Not a pair of eyes, but rather two distinct eyes from two distinct individuals.

What could this mean? The thought thundered about him, and he immediately knew the answer. Someone is scrying us, scrying us, scrying us, the words pounded down. Two separate parties. Two different purposes. The words hurt his ears, or rather his mind. Wiliken began to run in a feeble attempt to escape the purview of these other minds. As he did, a wind began to pick up, and before long it was pushing upon him, directing him, sweeping him – EAST, it was pushing him EAST. EAST, toward the portal!

Wiliken opened his eyes, certain of the location of the portal. When the party arrived, the object of their quest looked like little more than a knife wound, but a knife wound in reality was nothing to scoff at.

“This is where the creature came from,” Jean-Baptiste said as he pondered the gash.

“Then that is where we are going,” said Ugarth the Orc King of Nothing.

There was a crackling energy about the gash. Fearing nothing save perhaps his memories, Ugarth was the first to step through the portal. Grace followed, and Jean-Baptiste. Finally, Wiliken stepped through the slimy plasm between worlds and found himself in a formless void, standing on a pebbled oddity, with no clue as to what he would find.

Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 22.

Campaign Stories: Wiliken 20

Wiliken wiped sweat from his brow as he reached the top of the hill. It was a sunny day and the sun had sapped a great deal of his strength out of him, but they were almost there.

Jean-Baptiste had already begun his descent down the hill before either Ugarth or Grace had managed to reach the top. Wiliken felt a certain level of freedom when he traveled away from the city. Whenever he felt that Douglas wasn’t watching him, he felt that he could breathe easily. There was a part of the githzerai that felt anxious that the bard had not followed them. This mission was normally Douglas’s sort of adventure, and yet he had stayed behind in the city. It was curious.

As they approached, Wiliken felt a moment of uncertainty. There were two towering she-bears standing with tensed muscles and their backs turned to the adventurers. Wiliken didn’t know what was more disturbing – the fact that the bears didn’t seem to notice the party approaching or the fact that the party had decided to sneak up on a pair of battle-ready she-bears. The bears were transfixed on a point in front of them, a point that Jean-Baptiste had summoned them in order to guard, a tiny tear in reality.

When Jean-Baptiste had arrived the previous night, he’d wanted to lead a party back out into the wilderness that very evening. Jenkins had convinced him to rest and wait out the storm.

“The she-bears can handle guard duty until morning,” Jenkins had said.

“I suppose you’re right,” Jean-Baptiste had responded. “And if they are overrun, I will know.”

It was clear that Jean-Baptiste was unhappy, so Jenkins had called a council on the matter in the middle of the night. Jean-Baptiste recounted his story of being deep in meditation when he’d heard a deep rubbing sound. He’d felt the anomaly before he’d even seen it, a small gash in space much like a knife wound in flesh. Out of it had popped a small creature the size of a house cat which immediately began to devour any living plant, insect or small rodent nearby. Jean-Baptiste had killed the beast immediately, for the creature had disgusted his natural senses just as the gash in the open air had. The creature was no longer a threat, but Jean-Baptiste could see that the tiny gash was growing. He told the group that he had first attempted to close the portal. When he couldn’t he cast a ritual that would slow its growth and decided that he may need help.

The she-bears parted as they walked by. When everyone was present Jean-Baptiste touched the nose of each sentinel gently and released them from their duty. They bounded off into the forest, never to be seen again.

When Jean-Baptiste had originally described the creature, the others had speculated as to its origin. Ugarth had remained silent. As he approached the creature, he became clearly disturbed. His composure fell apart immediately and in a fit of rage he began stomping the dead animal with the heel of his foot before collapsing onto the ground in despair.

“What is wrong with the orc?” Wiliken asked.

“These creatures,” said Grace. “I believe they may be the same beasts that killed Ugarth’s people. He was once the king of the orcs, you know?”

Grace went on to explain that some of the people in the party had been there during the fall of Ugarth’s kingdom. They had been uncertain where the creatures had come from, but they had assumed that it was an Iuzian attack, some sort of biological warfare.

“But these portals aren’t Iuzian,” Wiliken suggested. “They’re far too primal, too asymmetrical. They almost look like they were created on accident. Far too crude for an empire with advanced teleportation capabilities.”

“I believe you’re right,” Grace said.

Shortly after they’d arrived, the portal popped shut, leaving no evidence of its previous existence. The party returned to the Felshore knowing nothing more than they had the previous evening, but Jenkins held another council just the same. When they explained what they had seen, Jenkins said, “If there are other such portals, I believe I can track them down. I will need the help of our githzerai friend.”

“You will have it,” Wiliken said.

Ugarth, Grace and Jean-Baptiste pledged their support as well in the search for the next portal.

“Would you care to join us, Douglas?” Wiliken asked. The human stood next to Jenkins with his arms crossed. He considered for a moment before saying, “I have more pressing things to do here in town.”

The others parted to make preparations for their departure, but Wiliken lingered behind.

“Can you give us some privacy, please?” Jenkins asked Douglas. Douglas looked at the wizard angrily before stomping off.

“How may I be of service?” Wiliken asked.

“You have been developing some uncanny abilities lately, it seems,” Jenkins said. “Heightened powers of the mind, one might call them. Don’t be frightened. Any wizard of a high enough caliber can sense these things. What I want from you is to meditate on the portal you saw today. From your description, I will pinpoint our location and send the party out to investigate.”

“I wish to join the investigation party,” Wiliken said.

“That can be arranged,” Jenkins said. “I suppose you’ll want some time to prepare as well.”

Wiliken had been dismissed, but he lingered behind for a moment uncertainly.

“Is there something else you would like to talk about?”

“I fear that my son has become too powerful for us to track,” Wiliken said.

“That is disappointing.”

“But I think there is a way to find him,” Wiliken said. “I believe that if I were to travel back in time I could stop him before he becomes a threat, and I believe that you are the only wizard in the world who has the power to send me back.”

“I will have to think on that,” Jenkins said. “At the moment I am drained. I don’t believe I could even send you ten minutes into the past.” Jenkins looked Wiliken over. “I will need a few items. Perhaps when you return from this mission we can discuss acquiring these things.”

Jenkins might have known about Wiliken’s newly developed powers, but the githzerai felt certain that the wizard didn’t know everything he’d seen in his visions. And he didn’t need to know either. Wiliken had no concern at that moment for tracking down his son. That was only a means to a higher level of trust in the Felshore. What he really wanted was to save his wife, to bring her back to the land of the living, and to do so he would need Jenkins’ time magics.

Campaign Stories is continued in Wiliken 21.

Campaign Stories: Wiliken 19

With targets fastened to hay-bails and lines of men and women armed with mismatched bows and arrows, Wiliken spent most of his days just outside the time-displaced Shining City training the people of Felshore in archery. He’d pace behind an older peasant and correct his stance or offer tips to the son of an aristocrat looking to gain prestige in his social group.

“All must offer themselves up in defense of the city snatched from time,” the wizard Jenkins had said. “And all must earn their meals.”

Wiliken had originally hoped that he might be employed to fix up some of the dilapidated buildings, those uninhabitable and unsightly structures that couldn’t withstand the forces associated with jumping forty years into the future. It was Douglas who asked Wiliken to train the men and women to shoot and shoot well.

“I’ll need longbows just as I’ll need swords and scythes,” Douglas had said.

But to what end? Wiliken often wondered if it was Douglas’s army that had soured the relationship between the bard and Jean-Baptiste. The old man had disappeared into the wilderness a fortnight ago.

“It will do you good,” Douglas suggested, but Wiliken knew one thing for certain: as long as his services were needed in the field teaching archery, Douglas would have no problem keeping tabs on the githzerai.

On a particularly humid afternoon, a young boy reported to Wiliken. The githzerai recognized the boy immediately as one of the orphans his son had intended to sacrifice in order to give a repeat performance of the destruction Wiliken himself had caused four decades earlier.

“My next fletching class won’t be until tomorrow morning,” Wiliken said, dismissing the boy.

“I will learn to shoot,” said the boy, defiantly. The sacrifices had come from various parts of the world and from all walks of life. This boy had the entitlement of a noble’s child. The githzerai mused that Douglas must have been like this as a child if one were to judge only by the way he’d turned out.

“I don’t have any extra bows.”

The boy reached for Wiliken’s own bow, and the githzerai was surprised to find that he was willing to let the boy shoot with True Shot. “I will use your bow.”

If the boy can even draw back the string, I might have to just give it to him, Wiliken thought. Not only could the child pull back the string, but he quickly nocked and fired an arrow at the nearest target with the finesse of an athlete. The arrow found its home, a bullseye.

“You certainly have a knack for it,” Wiliken admitted. “But shouldn’t you choose a skill where your god might give you some advantage?”

The boy had been staying at an orphanage built by a Solaran acolyte named Morgan since they had arrived in the Shining City. Those with a magical inclination – a great many in number, which is unsurprising considering it was probably this particular aptitude for which they were chosen to be sacrificed – would be trained in the way of Solaris if they chose.

“Perhaps Solaris would have you become a paladin, a wizard, or even a monk,” Wiliken suggested.

“A god so weak he cannot guide an arrow?” said the boy. “I have no use for such things.”

Wiliken chuckled. It was like looking upon himself as a child. “What is your name, boy?”

“Alexander,” said the boy.

As Wiliken watched Alexander move on to targets further and further away, to moving targets at varying distances, and even a couple of tests the githzerai had devised himself. The boy had the same self-reliance that Wiliken had always benefited from but there was something else there as well. Everyone is at their best when they are young and their muscles work well, but this boy was simply better than the githzerai. There was no mistaking it.

One generation makes the previous obsolete, Wiliken reflected.

After the citizens had finished their archery practice for the day, Wiliken lagged behind, walking among the scattered stones at the city limits. There had once been an expertly crafted stone road that lead out from the Shining City, and when the area had been transported through time the perfectly hewn stone had broken and scattered about the perimeter of the town. This was the edge of the Shining City, the intersection of the new and the old, and the stones that should have been ruins were just as keen as the day they were laid. This whole city could have been reduced to ruins, had been reduced to ruins, or so Wiliken had once thought.

There was a rustling sound from behind the githzerai. Wiliken spun around and was frightened to see a half-orc towering over him. In his reflections he’d allowed a wall of a being sneak up behind him, and surely this would be his last mistake.

Wiliken shuddered, and the half-orc laughed.

“It’s been a good long time since someone’s been properly scared of me,” he said, chuckling. “It’s refreshing. Surely, you know the feeling, githzerai.”

“Not since the orphans took to the teachings of Solaris,” Wiliken responded.

The half-orc introduced himself as Ugarth. “I used to be an orc,” he said, and smiled. “But now I’m a citizen of the world.”

“Your sarcasm is refreshing,” Wiliken said, feeling his muscles un-tense. “It reminds me of a friend.”

Wiliken hoped to meet up with the deva named Jurgen once again, but as long as the people of the Felshore were suspicious of his ally’s motives the githzerai expected he would not see his friend. Perhaps he’d never see Jurgen again.

“What are you doing out here?” Ugarth asked.

“I’m trying to figure out a way to stop my son,” Wiliken said. “I think it is the only reason that they are keeping me alive.”

Wiliken knew this was a bit of an exaggeration. The wizard Jenkins had pardoned him with such fantastic exuberance that he’d thought all sins were forgiven. Douglas on the other hand…

“That explains why Douglas has his eye on you so often.”

“Oh, you noticed?”

“Some people are not so good with mixed morality,” Ugarth said. “Me, I have no problem with messy matters. When you grow up looking like me or you, you don’t really have a choice.”

Wiliken and Ugarth talked for a little longer before Ugarth returned to town to deal with some personal matters. Wiliken remained in the field until it grew dark. As the sun sunk below the horizon, a light rain began to fell. Clouds covered the bright shining stars, signaling that the githzerai ought to return to the barracks.

Wiliken was troubled at how few ideas he’d had in order to track his son down. When he’d served in the blackguard he was the one you went to in order to get something done. But he’d had no scruples back then, back when he was young. He’d had no family to temper him, no guilt to slow him down. The one called Iiuza was too powerful, too well-connected. He could stay hidden from Wiliken for as long as he wanted, and when he emerged he could put to shame any plan they might have of capturing or killing him. Wiliken supposed he should cancel the fletching workshop the next day and spend some time meditating. It was not enough to merely find his son in order to prove his loyalty to the people of the Felshore. Wiliken wanted to live long enough to see his son pay for his crimes.

Wiliken wanted to live.

The storm began to worsen. Thunder clapped and lightning illuminated the sky with no interval in-between. As he entered the city and walked between the buildings, he could have sworn that there was somebody behind him. It could have just been Ugarth, or someone who had just awoken to bring some laundry in from the rain. Wiliken’s mind was caught up in dark matters. It would not be surprising if he’d transformed ordinary occurrences into something quite disturbing just because of where his mind was dwelling at the moment.

Having calmed himself, Wiliken walked through the door to his barracks and closed himself into the small but comfortable shelter from the elements. He sat down on his bed in order to remove his muddy boots. He hadn’t even untied his second shoe when his door swung wide open. Wiliken stood upright and assumed a fighting position. Lightning sizzled from ground to cloud, making night seem like day and revealing a man standing in his doorway.

Wiliken dashed for his bow True Shot, but the man simply walked toward him and put a hand on his arm. The githzerai spun to see that the stranger in his room was Jean-Baptiste. He’d returned from his meditation in the wilderness.

Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 20.

Campaign Stories: Wiliken 18

“They named the bow Wiliken,” said the githzerai. The tribunal of Douglas, the wizard Jenkins, and the Baroness of Felshore sat before him, not in some regal courtroom or even in a public square. The three protectors of the Shining City sat on a bed in the barracks, and the githzerai on a wooden chair, no chains and no ropes, but also nowhere to hide. “I think it was the githzerai elders. I have trouble remembering that time. My adopted father named me Embrion, just as I named my own son Embrion, but I took the name Iiuza while training to become a blackguard, and so also with my son. The nearest translation for the deep tongue word wiliken is ‘true shot.’ As for Iiuza, this word means ‘Son of Iuz.'”

A chill went through the room. None in the Felshore seemed to have any problem speaking of the kingdom of Iuz, the Iuzians, nor even the dark Lord Iuz himself, but the githzerai suspected that Iuz had a different meaning in this city out of time. For the Shining City mere moments had passed between the complete destruction of the surrounding areas and the future some decades later, but for the githzerai and the rest of the world the time had crawled. The hours and days crawled slowly during the in-between time, and as the world began to forget the city that once was, the rumors had spread of how it was put to ruin, tendrils of gossip running from village to village about the one responsible. It was the Son of Iuz, a legendary figure whose heart was supposedly filled with malice. The githzerai could see the truth unfolding in the eyes of those gathered, for even during their short tenure in this time period they must have become acquainted with the cautionary tomes, the vulgar drawings on ruins, but now they understood that the destroyer, this Son of Iuz, sat before them and they were reverent to that fact.

“You,” said Douglas. “You brought this city to ruin. You murdered countless innocents. It was YOU who fired the arcane weapon upon us.”

“And it was only because of those gathered before me today that the death toll was not greater,” the githzerai said. “I am no arcanist, but it was I who gathered all of the innocent children needed to power the weapon, and it was I who introduced them to my blade. I suspect Valgaman was looking for history to repeat itself when he invited me to his palace. Perhaps my son requested that he invite me as a test, to see if I am the ‘traitor’ he believes me to be. But I would not repeat what I did that day. I vowed never to kill an innocent or to raise my hand to one weaker than myself as I watched that beautiful city fall. I dropped my sword and have never again picked it up. That said, I am responsible for enough deaths to damn myself a thousand times over, and none of my actions since then can atone for what I have done.”

There was silence.

“Are you surprised your son followed in your footsteps?” Douglas asked.

“He couldn’t follow in my footsteps,” the githzerai said. “I was born with a father who cared for me, who guided me on the path to manhood. True, he was an Iuzian, and his love lead me to a very destructive place, but I always felt supported. My son… was never supported. At least, not by me. When he was old enough he trained to be blackguard. The son of Iiuza, and yet he struck fear in nobody. He was never meant to be a warrior. He should have been something better, perhaps a builder or a poet. But he took the name Iiuza even though it didn’t fit, and his cruelty surpassed my own. I never wanted to prove myself evil. I just followed the path set before me. Embrion is set on proving to the world that he was chosen by the god Iuz, and I’m convinced he’ll kill anyone… perhaps everyone… to make his point.”

The three judges exchanged glances. Is this the moment, the githzerai wondered. Is this the moment where they hold me before their justice? When they pronounce my death?

The baroness looked forlorn. “Iiuza… Or Embrion… How do we stop him?”

“I’d hoped to devise a plan with Jurgen,” said the githzerai. “He had suggested that I help him find the remnants of the arcane weapon. I had intended to tell him whatever he wanted to know if he’d help me rescue my wife and stop my son. But now Jurgen is gone…”

The darkness that had first crossed the baroness’s face had crept its way onto the visage of both Douglas and the wizard. This was the moment in which all would be revealed. The githzerai expected that they would find his answers not good enough. He expected death, and in the most private confines of his heart he welcomed it. There had been a moment when the githzerai first saw Douglas again in which he’d wanted to bum rush the man, to snap his neck before the wizard could strike him down. If he had only been allowed to leave the Felshore instead of spending those long weeks imprisoned. If only he could have sent a message. But Douglas’s only concern was for the precious city. In that moment, the githzerai had wanted to kill them all for letting his wife die. In truth, the githzerai knew that he could have broken out of his prison at any moment, and if he’d really been that concerned he could have escaped the city without anyone noticing. It didn’t matter that Douglas watched his every move. If he’d cared he could have been invisible. But he didn’t care. His wife’s blood was on the githzerai’s own hands. He was alone in the world, without purpose, wasting away the moments until “Iiuza” caught the githzerai and murdered him for a blood traitor. Better that Douglas kill him now.

“Do you have a backup plan?” Jenkins asked.

“No,” the githzerai said. “I would have to think about it.”

“Then you will think about it outside of this dank prison,” Jenkins said. “The Shining City is open to you in its entirety, and you are free.”

Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 19.

Campaign Stories: Wiliken 17

Heightened awareness has its advantages, but it has its disadvantages as well. That evening, after Jean-Baptiste parted ways with the githzerai, as Wiliken attempted to go to sleep, the new level of understanding he had reached was much more taxing than ever before.

Wiliken could feel his bow through the wall that separated them. It was not just there. It was as if the bow were running its hand along the wall, tapping here and there, trying to communicate something to him. He could feel tendrils of consciousness emitting from the device, slithering through holes in the matrix of space, creeping ever closer to the githzerai.

Conscious or not, there was no reason to believe that the bow wished its owner any harm. The dreams that the weapon provoked whenever Wiliken slept within close proximity of it were frightening, just as any unexpected glimpse into some higher power might be, and yet they did not seem to mean him harm. Though the vision of the camel prompted the githzerai to act foolishly and get a group of party guests killed, the vision itself lead Wiliken to free a wise old man stuck in animal form. That man was Jean-Baptiste, and for all Wiliken knew the mystic may have been the only thing that kept Douglas, Jenkins and the Baroness of Felshore from relieving Wiliken of his head. For the most part, Wiliken believed that the bow had, for lack of better words, good intentions.

But then there was the one dream that Wiliken could not shake. He remembered witnessing death and destruction across the entire empire, and not in some abstract way. Clear scenes of real people in real turmoil had appeared before his eyes. A woman dressed in rags being raped by a brute of a man with thick hair on his knuckles. Nearby a church aflame, its bell still ringing as the flames raced up to silence it. A boy coming home to find his baby brother, still in his crib, but in pieces. The githzerai wondered how pictures like this could lead to any kind of greater good. Was he supposed to stop them? And if so, why so many scenes of the problem and none of the solution?

It was these troubling thoughts that occupied Wiliken’s mind until he finally drifted off to sleep. What greeted him in his slumber was the most realistic vision of them all.

At first, the githzerai had thought he was witnessing a continuation of his recurring dreams of death and destruction, and, in truth, he was. But this one was different. There was a woman running. At first she was carrying some clothing and picture frames, but after stumbling on loose cobblestone they all fell to the ground and she was too imperiled to pick them back up. When she got back to her feet, the hood covering her face fell, revealing Wiliken’s wife Iseley. The githzerai attempted to will the dream in another direction, to give more force to Iseley’s flight or at the very least to wake up from his nightmare, but events continued unaffected by his thoughts and Wiliken was powerless to stop them.

Behind Iseley was a hunting party of some twenty Iuzian soldiers. Guilt colored the vision blue, for it was certainly Wiliken’s decision to stand against Valgaman’s torture that brought down the ire of the empire upon his wife. Yet, there, at the head of the party, was the one Iuzian Wiliken was certain would keep his wife safe, his son, the one they called Iiuza. His laugh was a cackle, and he taunted Iseley, calling her a traitor. The hunting party cornered the githzerai’s wife in no time, and Iiuza held a blade to his mother’s throat.

“You will die an unpleasant death,” he said. “A traitor’s death. The same death that father has waiting for him.”

With a quick flick of the wrist, Iiuza opened a gash in his mother’s throat that would never close again. She collapsed as her lifeblood soaked the street and snaked eventually into a gutter. Wiliken felt his mind hovering over the scene, and with one last push, he attempted to manifest himself into the dream, to take flesh and strike his son, or at least to hold his wife in her last moments. Doing so made him feel like his skin was on fire. He remained stationary in that place of terror until his body naturally awoke.

The other visions had been of events that would happen in the future, events that the githzerai could reasonably affect and turn another way, but this one felt different. It happened under the same stars that Wiliken would be able to see were he a free githzerai, people dressed for the same weather. The vision described events that were happening simultaneously as Wiliken slept. He had just witnessed his wife’s murder in real time.

The githzerai felt guilt. He knew he had never been present for his wife. He had seen her as a gift from her grateful father, the first possession bestowed upon Wiliken as he began his life as a human. As he trained and warred and even later as he settled down, Iseley had been someone who was there in the background as he lived his own life. If he were worried about something, instead of confessing these concerns and discussing strategies, Wiliken preferred to trust his own instincts, to steel his mind and solve his problems on his own. He had been self-obsessed. And just as he hadn’t been there for his wife, the murder scene he witnessed from afar was proof that he hadn’t been there for his son. What child could grow to hate his father and kill his mother? If Wiliken had only been more involved…

Wiliken went through all the possible situations, the things he could have done to prevent Iiuza from murdering Iseley, and it kept him awake until morning. As the room began to heat and light began to poke in underneath the door, Wiliken felt dry, nauseated, and most of all, he felt that everything was his fault. Wiliken was the cause of all of the problems, of the murder of his wife, the capturing of the innocent children, the battle at Valgaman’s. He would confess his sins.

He would confess his sins and he would die. Most important of all, he would die.

Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 18.

Campaign Stories: Wiliken 16

When Jean-Baptiste stood to leave, it felt different this time to the githzerai. It had a strange feeling of finality, as if Wiliken would never see the man again. Despite this, the human’s visage softened and transformed into a smile.

“Thank you,” he said.

“For what?” Wiliken asked.

“Thank you for not asking about Douglas.”

Wiliken knew that there was not much time left to question the old man. He considered asking if Douglas had been the one Jean-Baptiste was sent to protect, but thought better of it. It was not much of a question after all. Douglas seemed to be the only person Jean-Baptiste had any affinity with. He respected the others. Perhaps he even cared for each and every one of them. But Wiliken had lived many years, had seen his friends simply fall asleep, never to awake again. There was a feeling there like Douglas was the only thing keeping Jean-Baptiste alive.

After considering, the githzerai chose a different question to close the conversation, “What is next for me? Ransom? Slavery?”

It was not uncommon for people in border territories to sell their enemies into slavery. Wiliken abhorred the notion. Better to die, he thought. The history books told of a time before the schism of the githzerai and githyanki, when they were one united people, united under the foot of the ilithid, a race of tentacle-faced sentients better known as “mind-flayers.” Before his ancient ancestors rose up against the mind-flayers, they had been slaves to the ilithid for ages untold. Wiliken’s people had known slavery long before even history had been invented. He often wondered, before settling down to sleep, if there had been a Time Before, in which his people had been a free nation, or if his entire race been conceived under the slaver’s whip.

“No,” Jean-Baptiste said. “Nothing like that. You fought nobly at our side, and yet you arrived to an Iuzian event wearing the standard Iuzian grays. At this moment, they do not know if they can trust you. And who can blame them. But you are already a better man than you were yesterday, and tomorrow you will be better yet. Tell them the truth. They will certainly free you once they know the truth.”

“And what is next for you?” Wiliken asked.

“Meditation,” Jean-Baptiste said.

As Jean-Baptiste left the room, he thought upon what Jean-Baptiste had said. Tell them the truth. The old man thought that the truth would set Wiliken free. Earlier the githzerai had suspected that the wise one-time battle companion had surmised Wiliken’s true identity, but once Jean-Baptiste said those words about truth and freedom he showed his ignorance. Some sins are not so easily absolved, Wiliken thought. If they knew the truth, they would kill me on the spot.

Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 17.

Campaign Stories: Waiting for the One Who Comes

Jean Baptiste sat with the githzerai.  The crimes he had committed, the crimes his son was committing, were grave.  Without question, they were worse than any that Jean Baptiste himself had ever committed, but the druid’s past was not clean.  Far from it.  Staring into the fire, Jean Baptiste’s mind traveled back, far, far to his own past.

 

The moment of happiness is always so fleeting, Jean Baptiste thought to himself as the whore took his money and exited the room. It was good while it lasted, at least. But as soon as it was over, he again felt unfulfilled. He leaned over towards the bedside table and picked up the tankard that sat there, hoping to find fulfillment in a glass, but when the tankard is empty, fulfillment is impossible. Jean sighed.

Jean was young, not even fifteen yet. His father had money, and so Jean Baptiste spent it. His father believed that one day the business would pass on to his son, yet Jean was unsure if working for a living was something that appealed to him; though to be honest, as of yet, nothing really appealed to him. Jean wondered if the woman was so far from the door that he couldn’t call her back to fetch him a refill from the bar downstairs so that he wouldn’t have to go himself. He glanced towards the door and nearly fainted in fright and surprise.

Standing at the foot of his bed was what could only be described as a monster. Its torso looked like the fiercest of minataurs, yet it stood tall on a horse’s body. Sheathed (thankfully) at its side was the largest and longest sword Jean had ever seen.

“Greetings, prophet,” it rumbled in a deep voice.

“What…. who…. wh….”

“Be not afraid. I am not here to harm you, prophet. I am Ravpos, a member of the Great Hunt of Trithereon. I come to tell you that my god, Trithereon requires your services. Indeed all the gods require your services. You have work to do.”

“I’m just a child,” stammered Jean, trying to get out of this without the monster drawing that ginormous blade. “I work for my father.”

Ravpos laughed. It was horrendously frightening.

“You only work at spending your father’s money on things that do not last. The work you have ahead of you will offer you true fulfillment. Go to the Shining Citadel. Go to the Monastery of Trithereon. Tell the guard at the gate that you have cake to deliver to Herp.”

“Cake?” This might well be, thought Jean, the strangest encounter with a monster that had ever occurred.

“It’s just a code, prophet. You don’t actually have to bring cake.”

“So, the cake is a lie?” Jean asked, confused.

“Who knows, maybe someday Herp will get his cake.”

And with another frightening laugh, the monstrous creature disappeared. It was as if he was never there. Jean looked into his tankard wondering if somehow his drink had conjured such an odd vision, yet it remained as empty as it had before.

“What the hell…, it isn’t as if I had anything else to do.” Jean Baptiste rose from his bed and began to dress himself, resigned to the journey he had before him.

 

The guard was young, as young as Jean himself, younger in fact. He appeared to be unarmed, unless the flute strapped to his back was a weapon. He stood before the door. If he was going for menacing, he was failing.

“I am here to see Herp.”

The guard, if indeed that’s what he was, looked at Jean with a sad and confused look on his face. “Then I fear you are five years too late, traveler. The dragon born has left this plane of existence.”

“But the bull-horse thing told me….”

The guard, or perhaps door-man, put his hand out to stop Jean Baptiste from continuing. Excitement, wonder, and disbelief warring across his young face. “You saw Ravpos!?”

“Yes, that is the name it gave. It told me to come here and say I had cake for Herp.”

The young boy’s eyes opened wider. The disbelief was gone. “Well, that isn’t what you said. You should have started with the cake! Then I’d have known what you were talking about. Going on and on about Uncle Herp like he was still here when in actuality you were supposed to be using the entrance code. Herp isn’t really my uncle, you know. I just call him that. He and my Grandpa were best friends. The Champion sure picked a strange person to send a message through. Did he have Ginormo with him? That’s his sword. Well, it’s the heavenly representation of his sword now, I guess. The real one, the one he used when he was mortal is in Grandpa’s office. Grandpa! You gave the entrance code. I’m supposed to take you to Grandpa. Well, really he’s my great grandfather, but that’s awkward to say. Neither my grandma, who is his daughter, or my dad, who is his grandson, joined the Trithereon order, but I did. Almost as soon as I could talk…”

Jean Baptiste stood there as the young boy continued to go on about things that made absolutely no sense to Jean. He looked longingly at the door behind the boy as the journey had exhausted him. Luckily, the young boy seemed to notice that exhaustion.

“Oh, listen to me prattling on and on while you wait to get inside. Stupid, Douglas, stupid.” The young boy slapped his own forehead. “Come on in, and let’s get you to Grandpa so you can tell him whatever Ravpos wanted you to tell him and then we can get you some refreshments. Uncle Herp always wanted cake, but I like ice cream. What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? Have you ever had ice cream? Grandpa says ice cream is rare and that not everyone has actually had ice cream. I can’t imagine not ever having had ice cream…”

As Douglas continued to prattle on about gods know what, he opened the door and led Jean into the monastery, past the elaborate entry chamber, and through a small side hallway. Finally, they came through an ordinary looking door into an office that was almost sparse. Sitting at a desk was a very old man. He looked to be in intense thought, although his fingers absentmindedly played a hauntingly beautiful melody on a lute. He stopped playing and looked at the door when Douglas ushered Jean into the room.

“Hi, Grandpa. This is…. Um, I don’t know his name, but he said he had cake for Uncle Herp! Also, he saw Ravpos! Isn’t that incredible!”

The old man smiled at the insufferable young man. He raised a finger and the boy, blessedly, stopped talking. “Thank you, Douglas. That will be all for now. Head back to the door for the rest of your duty.”

Douglas gave a serviceable bow and, as proof that there are miracles throughout the world, departed without another word.

“Hello, Jean Baptiste.”

Jean’s jaw dropped in surprise.

“My name is Zayne. Although I might not look like much, I am the Abbot of the Trithereon order. Well, most of it, anyway. After Kylantian died, not everyone approved of my appointment, but that’s neither here nor there. You’ve travelled a long way. Have a seat.”

Jean set in the comfortable, if worn, chair that Zayne had indicated.

“Comfy, isn’t it.”

As Jean nodded in response, an apparition of a dragon-like humanoid drifted through the wall. “Cake?” it asked longingly.

“Soon, Herp. Soon,” the old man answered. The apparition nodded and continued through the other wall. Zayne watched the ghost depart with a smile, “Even though he’s dead, he still has work to do, as do we all, and he wouldn’t get anything done if we actually gave him that cake.” Zayne looked back at Jean Baptiste, who no longer felt that his encounter with Ravpos was that odd. Things had only gotten stranger since then, after all.

“Um, sir, why am I here?”

“Yes, you must have a lot of questions, Jean. For instance, how do I know your name. Well, that’s simple enough. Trithereon told it to me. You’re also probably wondering how old I am. 94. I probably don’t have much time left on this plane, but I still have work to do, and like my friend Herp, might still have work after I pass on as well. As to why you are here, that is part of the work I still have to do. I am going to let you know your purpose, Jean. You’re young. Younger than I was when I discovered my purpose, which happened the first time Herp died, but that’s another story.” Zayne smiled. “You’ll have to forgive me, telling stories is something I’ve always been rather fond of, so getting to the point can occasionally be a little difficult, although I’m much better at it than my great grandson. Anyway, you have a great purpose. Your purpose is important and so it wouldn’t surprise me if you have probably felt a desire to get to work on that purpose, even if you weren’t sure exactly what it was.”

Jean looked up at the old man in wonder, as the truth of that statement made itself known to him. “I have always felt that nothing I did was what I should be doing. Everything I tried left me wanting.”

“That is it exactly. It is because you have a destiny. You are meant to prepare the way for a great hero. A great messiah, a teacher, a revolutionary. Someone that the world sorely needs, or at least, sorely will need once this person arrives. You will mentor this person, help to guide this person towards their destiny. History might not place as much importance on you, if they remember you at all, but the person that history recognizes, that person will always be indebted to you. And as a person that stood alongside, or at least got to watch the people history remembered, that isn’t a bad destiny to have, I can tell you.”

“How will I do this?” Jean asked, wonder and acceptance coursing through him.

“First you must learn, then you must wait. Your training can begin here, although other gods desire you to study amongst them as well. Ultimately, I have no idea where this task will take you. I’m sure I won’t be around to see how it all turns out, but I will be there at the beginning if you will accept this task.”

“Where do we start?” Jean asked, standing, feeling the stirrings of what might just be fulfillment. It felt like a long desired piece of cake.

 

Jean Baptiste looked at the forlorn man next to him.  He could almost feel the pain that radiated off of him.  “Redemption can be yours, Willikin.  The gods want us to change; they want to redeem us.  My life was one filled with sin, perhaps not to the extent that yours was, but I can not claim to have led a blameless life.  The gods had a purpose for me, and they have one for you as well, if only you are willing to give yourself to them.  I have seen you in action.  You are trying to atone.  Let the gods help you, guide you.  Let them grant you that redemption you desire.  It isn’t too late, my son.  Trust me, the gods don’t let time stop them from having you work towards the good.  They don’t even let death stop it.  Work towards your redemption, my son.  The rewards will be vast.”  Jean Baptiste smiled, “Even better than cake.”

Campaign Stories continues in Wiliken 16.