|The Story of Zax
Author: Teemuu PM
The unlikely adventures of Zax, a roguish tiefling. Read his story as he battle tax collectors, his giant ego, his reputation, scary girls, his magical sword, and more!Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Fantasy - Chapters: 73 - Words: 428,536 - Reviews: 47 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 2 - Updated: 11-02-12 - Published: 01-08-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7723321
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The ranks of Crab warriors swept the remaining giants from the raft and the long boat. At first they looked like knights of some sort, but upon closer examination, Halvor determined they were just well armored and trained fisherman or seaman. The sight of the savage merchantmen dispatching their towering foes would have mesmerized Halvor normally , but the large knight could do nothing but to gaze at their shining savior.
"So...any of you chicks aboard want to touch my muscles? Don't be shy...its alright. Just don't crowd ok?", asked the heroic knight as he hopped off his golden dragon.
Halvor stared in amazement at the warrior god before him. The thoughts of his fallen comrades and neighbors were secondary as he was enthralled by the legendary hero . After the Northern mists had lifted, many of the knights had came south . The young noble had seen many of the warriors serving as mercenaries or guards , and was amazed at their skill , strength, and abilities to ride fantastic beasts. Even though the warriors he had seen up to this point were quite impressive, they fell short of the fantastic and epic tales he had heard from his youth . Stories and legends of a single knight being able to stop a small army just by their bravery and sword seemed more and more like fables when actual knights came to his barony asking for mundane militia work. All those doubts however vanished when the dragon rider suddenly appeared and rescued them from their giant pursuers.
Halvor was stunned that anyone could so easily brush aside the giants. Sarin was definitely impressive , but the warrior in front of him was on a different level. Was it one of the famous Champions of the North, or perhaps a member of the mysterious Knights of Winter that had rescued them?
The Dragon Warrior was a few inches shorter then Halvor, but was probably the same weight due to his massive shoulders and massive arms. He wore ornate but battle worn armor, and sported a white tabard with a blue stylized crab on it. At his side was a gleaming silver sword which shined softly with a warm dazzling light. He had a handsome boyish face, despite being covered with scars from previous battles. He sported short blond hair with clear blue eyes and radiated a commanding presence as if he were some legendary hero from some ancient tale.
As the large nobleman stood speechless before his rescuer, Nymk was the first to kneel before the Dragon warrior. "All hail Hida Franksada , War chieftan and intern Champion of the Order of the Crab. The noble Seigeirr, the first to strike a demon lord. Vanquisher of the false Nabisco, and wielder of the Scourge of the Abyss, Galatea. ", she said humbly with a clear ringing voice.
The Champion of the Crab smiled at the short beauty before him and smirked a wolfish grin. He brushed back his hair and was about to say something in return to the short archer, when he noticed someone familiar. " What are you doing here? ", he shouted to the half elf at Nymk's side.
"Oh hi , Frank, Galatea. I should ask you the same. ", replied Sarin with a wave to the warrior as he scooped up the kneeling maid. Nymk began to protest , but was astonished to see the Dragon warrior and the Half elf paladin patting each other on the back like old comrades.
"Greetings , Knight of Linel . ", replied an echoing voice, that Halvor could not pinpoint.
"Oh hey Sarin. I was here cuz of that lovely dolphin woman that came over to warn us. Naturally trying to warn a Crab knight of danger is like throwing sausages at a half elf and telling him not to eat them. I didn't recognize you at first. Did you lose weight or something? ", queried Frank as he surveyed the carnage and tried to spot any more damsels aboard.
"Unfortunately yes. Those Griffon pricks kidnapped me, and I've been running around the country side ever since. ", shrugged Sarin red faced at his smaller belt size and salivating at the mention of sausages.
Frank nodded, "Those bastards are always up to no good. Hey ...aren't you suppose to be taking care of Hush ? Her parents are gonna freak if she finds out you've been gallivanting around fighting giants and playing pirate. ", asked the knight.
Sarin shrugged, "Well yeah. I've been trying to get back to Grom City, but things got...complicated. ", the half elf replied while waving at the death and weeping refugees around them.
"Hey , your boat, or raft, or whatever it is, looks pretty thrashed. Need a tow? We're headed to the Great Council or something like that. I'm sure someone can fix your ride there. ", commented Frank with a frown as he noticed no throng of women were crowding around him in appreciation.
"Let me ask... Hey Hal. These guys are offering to tow us. That cool with you? ", Sarin asked which broke the big knight out of his stupor.
"Err yes. Yes please. I mean. ", stammered Halvor still in shock by the Knight Champion's presence.
"Very good. I'll let the Captain know. ", replied the heroic warrior as he hopped onto his dragon.
"We will meet you later. We need to talk. ", said the disembodied echoing voice again.
The Champion of the Crab then waved at his fellow warriors and the refugees of the raft. A cheer was raised as he was saluted by all who beheld him. The mighty golden beast then reared up and snorted fire in the air, before launching itself into the air. The rider and mount circled twice around the locked vessels , before landing back on the Crab fishing vessel.
"Did he just fly around us, just to land 30 feet away? ", Nymk asked Sarin in surprise.
"Yeah...that's Frank alright. ", shrugged Sarin. " Just so we're clear on this. I never actually fought along side with him. But he did attend my mother's wedding...and we did hit the open bar pretty hard there. He even did the dragon flying thing a few times to impress the local ladies. ", the half elf added with a roll with his eyes.
Nymk blinked at her companion and shook her head. "Unbelievable. ", she whispered with a smile.
"You think your "guardian" angel did this? Unbelievable! ", declared Darwen in disbelief.
"It's not my guardian angel ...it the sniper! I'm sure of it! ", repeated Zax to his pretty but doubting companion.
"What is this sniper the tiefling speaks of? ", asked Isula. The giantess directed her question to Sharliss as she had once again shrunk down to the size of a school girl. Zax thought it was rude that the question was not directed to him, but he noted that after their last talk, she didn't care much for him. The tiefling wondered if she had ever considered him a friend or companion.
Sharliss giggled at the question. " Oh , that's one of Zax's nickname for Nymk. I prefer Nymph myself actually , because real Nymphs are both beautiful and deadly, just like our friend. ", she replied.
Zax began to reply but his elven companion interrupted him.
Darwen shook her head as she added to the girls only conversation. " I told Zax before that Nymk was the sniper. We were saved several times by a mysterious archer, and one of our companions happens to be a deadly shot with the bow, I thought it was pretty obvious actually. She never denied it, but she pretty much confirmed it when she jumped off the Skyship to rescue Sarin. Yet somehow , despite the mountains of evidence pointing to the barbarian maid, Zax still doesn't believe it. He still thinks their is some magical teleporting sniper that watches over him. ", stated the bladesinger. Isula , Sharliss, as well as some of the elven buccaneers that caught a bit of the conversation laughed.
Zax's orange skin turned a bit red. "Take a look at these arrows...", he stated before he was interrupted once more.
"Even when I could not fully understand the Grommish common tongue, I could still determine people's roles and motivations. I knew very early on that the barbarian wasn't a real house servant. She is a deadly warrior , with an amazing patience for the hunt. I guess from her assumed role that she had some ulterior motive . I am guessing from the tiefling's undeserved Northern title, he has some political value she wishes to exploit. ", noted Isula .
Zax bristled at the fact the giantess referred to him as merely a tiefling even in his presence. He wasn't really paying attention to anything else she said however, as the comment insulted him greatly. " Look here...", he began but was interrupted yet again.
"Oh , I love Nymk, but she really isn't that good of a spy. Besides Kirgi, I'm surprised she fooled anyone with her domestic guise. She's more of an assassin or scout then some secret agent person. ", laughed the priestess with glee. Despite the carnage around her, the levity of the impromptu chit chat had lightened her spirits.
Zax started to get real mad. He was about to shout in anger , when Darwen placed her hand on his shoulder. Despite his rage at being ridiculed, his gentle companion's touch restrained him.
"I'm sure the idea that Nymk is nearby is ridiculous, but Zax does have a point. Who fired these arrows at this Sahaugin here? The buccaneers mainly employ light crossbows. A better weapon on the choppy seas then a long bow, unless they are employing volley techniques. I did not see any archers with Captain Blaze's flying squad, or with our assault group either. ", the elf noted as she examined the fallen Baron.
"It was the Sniper! ", Zax repeated futilely.
"Hmm...these arrows. I am not a fletcher, but I can tell these were hand crafted. The greatest archers normally craft their own arrows. They are similar to the ones that were fired at the battle of ..Fortress Grom...or whatever that place is called. The same ones that our friend Nymk employed. ", added Isula.
"Sniper ! Sniper ! Sniper! ", declared Zax to anyone that would listen.
Sharliss paused, " Wait...from what we know we can rule out this archer started out from the Acheron . My best guess it came from the Sahaugin's vessel. You are also telling me that these arrows are the same as our friend Nymk's ? Is there a chance she is aboard the enemy vessel? ", asked the priestess tentatively, well aware of how improbable her question was .
Zax snorted at the last comment, and was determined not to be interrupted again. "Ok...now you guys are getting silly. Nymph is just a maid, not this super spy sniper person you guys make her out to be. Sometimes she hangs out in Lord Quick's court, but that's because she's some sort of duelist groupie. She didn't jump off the vessel to try to rescue Sarin, she slipped cuz she didn't pay attention to those "Be careful on the railings" signs they had on the Skyship. Since she's a barbarian its highly probable that the poor thing can't read. If she was some sort of master assassin acrobat why didn't she rescue Sarin and return to the palace? I'm afraid you guys are just letting your girly emotions get the best of you. You are still holding onto the idea that our dear friend is still alive and is the sniper, instead of facing up to the fact she is some unidentified meat pancake in some unmarked grave somewhere in Grom City. The whole idea that she's the sniper is just ridiculous. Just listen to yourselves. Do you actually think she is aboard the fishman vessel shooting arrows at their leader to save my hide. ", declared the tiefling angrily.
Darwen looked at Zax with an amused look. "Look ...you're the one insisting its the sniper. Not us. For all we know it might have been a disgruntled underling that had stolen arrows similar to the one Nymk uses. ", replied the elf.
"Fishmen can't use bows! I'm not a weapon expert, but even I know that. Look at their webbed hands, and how the hell would their bows not warp when they are submerged half the time! ", declared Zax in response.
"Actually, there is a simple spell that protects bows and crossbows from warping in the water. I might also note that there is a breed of sahaugin called the Malenti that are almost indistinguishable from elves. It is a rare breed they use to spy and infiltrate their enemies. It could have fired the bow in question. " ,added a chubby half elven bucaneer as the elf and tiefling were on the verge of arguing again.
As Isula and Sharliss started to add their opinions into the heated discussion a loud cough interrupted them.
"I can explain this easily. I am Lionsong, I was the one that shot them. " , stated a tall auburn haired woman as she stepped out of the shadows. Even though she looked quite haggard, there was a regal beauty about her. She had a lean athletic build with generous sensuous curves . Everyone present knew immediately she was a warrior princess of some sort.
"We thank you for the assistance, but are you friend or foe ?", asked Darwen as she was the first to confront the mysterious woman.
"The title of friend is something to be earned amongst my people, I can tell you that I am not a foe however. I over heard a bit of your conversation, and I can assure you I am also not a Malenti. I do not blame you for being cautious , as my presence here is hard to explain. My brother was captured by Frost giants, and I had slipped aboard to attempt to rescue him. Before I could retrieve enough supplies to build a raft, the giants bargained him as well as other prisoners off to the accursed fishmen. Once again I was able to slip detection , but I knew my time was short. Thankfully due to their slaves they did not submerge their vessel, and I was able to bide my time to plan an escape. Luckily for me, you arrived ..and I seized the opportunity to render assistance with my bow. ", the warrior princess stated as she hefted her black bow and quiver of equally black arrows proudly.
Sharliss looked at the tall woman and was quite surprised. "You managed to stow away successfully for so long? Your skill at hiding in shadows is incredible! ", she declared as she seemed to believe her tale.
"Do you recall which clan of Frost Giants captured your brother? ", asked Isula eagerly but the woman shook her head.
"You risk much in revealing yourself now? What if we are pirates? Would that not mean your brother trades one captor for another? ", asked Darwen cautiously.
Zax of course ignored his companions comments, instead he seemed to be mesmerized at the tall statuesque woman before him. Darwen was aware of his stare, but noticed it was directed specifically at her hand. Or more distinctly , what was in her hand. " Those arrows...that bow...you...you're the sniper! ", the tiefling declared.
Lord Quick grumbled as Captain Ramirez knocked on his cabin door. "Sir, the Indomitable is almost at Narwhal Hold. May I suggest you prepare yourself in case battle breaks out. Due to the current political tensions, we could experience a less then friendly reception. ", suggested the Captain with a smile. Lord Quick could see that Ramirez was enjoying every moment of his discomfort from this "diplomatic mission. ". The elven lord could handle short stints on an airship, but extended travel gave him bouts of nausea.
The Elven duelist weakly nodded as he waved the Captain away. Lord Quick hated the smirking Ramirez but he knew he was trapped till this was over. It was a situation that he created himself, and now he was going to pay for it.
Lord Quick recalled the events that lead to him being away from the alluring socialites of Grom City and the endless parties on the Empire's tab. First his heightened sense of chivalry persuaded him to help the Lady Sharliss leave the city. That would not have been a bad thing, but the Emperor himself was quite strict about her staying in Grom. The elf lord indirectly helped her anyways , hoping for a future reward from her influential father or perhaps a chance at her hand in marriage. He thought nothing would come of it, till a boot licking ex army wash out arrived bearing information about the priestess's where abouts. If he would have went to Lord Quick first, he would have swiftly dispatched him to silence him, but unfortunately his window had passed . His boss Reinhardt had also heard of this information and informed the Emperor about Sharliss's whereabouts. Lord Quick guessed that the priestess was an important diplomatic pawn and it served the Emperor's cause if she was safe and sound in Grom City . Lord Quick guessed they wanted to slowly resolve this situation with the knights through diplomacy , but Sharliss's flight from Grom forced the Emperor's hand. He immediately dispatched Ramirez and three skyships to negotiate a peace with their northern Rivals before the situation got out of hand. The duelist guessed that Reinhardt would prefer a Grommish presence up north if the priestess decided to slander their hospitality. Lord Quick naturally had to volunteer, mainly for fear that Ramirez would find out his involvement in the troublesome priestess's flight. Best the elven duelist was on hand for damage control, and also to flee if things got out of hand.
Now Lord Quick found himself heading directly into a possible hostile force. The elf lord quite enjoyed his new position, and worried that it would all come apart soon. If Sharliss was hurt, or if the knight's were truly hostile, the handsome elf knew that not even three skyships could save him from some terrible retribution. Even if Sharliss turned out to be safe and the knights benign, a single slip of the tongue about his involvement would mean he would be reprimanded or punished severely. All in all, not good prospects.
"The Indomitable should proceed ahead, while the Invincible and the Republic, err I mean the Imperial should hold back. ", suggested an annoying nondescript ship steward.
Lord Quick waved him away as he awaited his fate. The elf lord heard that there was a tribe of elves that recently returned north. As an urbanite elf from Glantri, he had little use for the traditions of woodsy backward elves. He heard they were lead by some tree princess or something. Perhaps if things went bad he could use his charms to beguile her , he thought with a smile.
"You didn't have to come aboard my vessel Sar. I could have flown to yours. I was leaving pretty soon anyways. We're close to shore I reckon , and I want to make it to the meeting as soon as possible. ", stated Frank as the large half elven paladin entered his small room. Despite his grandiose entrance awhile ago, his room was quite spartan. Besides a small area for his bedroll, it was only decorated by a silver sheathed sword leaning against the wall, and a small cage with a yellow canary in it.
"Ah that's quite alright, there are at least two other giant longships in the area, I didn't want to accidentally tip off our location with your showy entrance. We should keep your profile low. ", smirked the paladin as he squeezed his way in.
Frank was about to protest, when he noticed the half elf was not alone. Accompanying him was the short lithe woman he was with earlier. "Alright , now I remember why I like you, I guess I can delay my departure for a little while. ", he noted as he gazed upon the attractive barbarian. " You sure know how to party. You brought the chicks, but fear not I have some booze stashed away. ", the Crab knight stated eagerly.
"Frank...do you not know who that is? That is the Emerald Arbiter. Erland's trusted eyes and ears outside of his lands. She's also a Knight of Winter. ", stated the echoing voice. Sarin looked at Nymk and seemed genuinely shocked at this revelation.
"She can be anything she wants to be. ", said Frank as he beamed a smile at the short blushing woman.
Nymk nodded at the sword in the corner. "Hail Lady Galatea, I am honored by your presence. You are quite astute and quite correct. I do not believe we have ever met, and I am surprised you recognized me so easily. ", greeted the swordswoman.
"We haven't met. But I can see the memories of my wielders. You've met one of the more famous warriors that had held my blade. ", explained the sword cryptically.
"More famous then me? Awwww ...I thought I was the most famous guy around here. ", Frank protested.
"I rank you third. ", replied the sword.
"Hey ...I love to hear all this chit chat, but I was invited to talk earlier. From your tone it sounded serious, and most likely political. I brought Nymk along since she could most likely shed light on any goings on in the north. ", declared Sarin unamused at the mindless chatter.
Frank sighed and nodded. "Yeah you are right. It's about your grandfather, my Order, the giants , and one giant pile of angry rocks. " , stated the Crab Champion as he grew somber.
"Is Fetch alright, is he in trouble?", asked Sarin surprised that he cared so much for a man he knew so little of.
Frank shrugged, "Yes and no...its complicated. ", was the best answer he could provide.
Nymk nodded and grasped the paladin's hand. She sensed her companions anxiety and guided him to a sit with her in the cramped room. "I sense there is a long tale involved. Please explain. ", she asked politely and diplomatically.
Frank looked at his sword. "Do you want to tell em' ? ", he asked.
"Go ahead Frank, you are the Champion now. You've never had trouble expressing yourself before, I am sure your explanation will be fine. ", reassured the sword as Sarin and Nymk nodded eagerly.
The warrior took a deep breath and sighed. " This giant raid and stuff...well people have been aware of its roots for quite a while. Actually for years by my count. The root of this entire problem lies with Ogremoch, the elemental prince of evil rocks or sumethin. Popular belief has it that during the era of the time mists, great powers came to the world to do battle for the mantle of God of War. Guys like Geryon the Archduke , Proprokrios the elder titan , and of course Yeenoghu came down to duke it out in some super battle royale. It was thought that Ogremoch had defeated the previous Avatar of Rawk and waited for the victor on his iceberg. I discovered of course, that it was a big lie. Like really if you thought about it, why would the king of bad rocks place his seat of power on an iceberg. An iceberg looks like a rock, feels like a rock, but baby...its not a rock. Its like frozen water and snow or something. Like who knew right? ", declared the warrior.
Everyone in the room rolled their eyes , even the canary , at Frank's insightful revelation. Despite having no face Sarin could tell that Galatea would have rolled her eyes if she had any.
Frank continued his tale, " Anyways , I suspect the Avatar of Rawk defeated Ogremoch and binded the spirit onto the iceberg . From my understanding Ogremoch was nearly a god anyways, and destroying him permanently might have been impossible. So best place him on a floating island of ice so he can't use the bulk of his powers was a perfect prison. This seemed like a good plan, but everybody thought the rock dude won. Maybe it was the old avatar didn't care for his press, a clever trap perhaps , or maybe he just wanted to get away from it all and wanted to fake his defeat, I'm not sure. It had everyone fooled I might add. Even the old high Cleric of Rawk, the guy before your grandfather. ". noted the knight.
"Sir Roland. ", added Nymk.
"Yeah that dick. He recruited a bunch of us to get revenge for his god's defeat, not realizing he actually won. We went up north and were thoroughly stomped when we got there. Although Ogremoch was imprisoned in ice, that didn't stop him from summoning hordes of giant elementals to attempt to free him. Now..I always thought you need rocks to summon them forth, but apparently Ogredude was able to call them with some difficult magic .", explained the knight.
"Calling versus summoning. Yeah I vaguely recall those rules from my mother. ", noted Sarin.
"Well after being unsuccessful in freeing their lord, the elementals hatched a plan that if they could get enough stone on the iceberg, Ogremoch could draw upon their strength or something. Seemed like a decent enough plans for a bunch of rocks to think of , but the problem was transporting rocks to the iceberg. Everytime they left the iceberg they would sink, and would have to walk on the bottom of the ocean. Which is fine for leaving the place, but since rock men can't swim it was impossible to get back to the iceberg. ", continued Frank .
"The frost giants, the frost giants can create ice bridges. I recall from my days as a Bride of Boryis, that they had unique ice shaping magics. Possibly access to some sort of artifact that possess such power. That could connect the iceberg to a source of stone.", replied Nymk as the connection dawned on her.
Frank blinked at the short woman in surprise. He then leaned over to Sarin. "Wow...she's good. ", he whispered with approval.
The crab knight nodded to the swordswoman and continued once again. " Yeah , the rocks figure that out too, and started attacking the giants relentlessly. I guess rocks are pretty bad at negotiation, or giants are big pricks. Whatever the reason a terrible war , almost as great as the third year halfling war erupted. The giants were on the losing side, and abandoned their lands and ...tadah...moved to ours. At this time, your Grandfather , my best buddy Fetch, formed our own expedition to find out what was happening. We did ok, but this horrible ice covered log over a chasm , stopped us in our tracks. It sounds lame, but trust me ...you don't want to mess with this ice covered tree stump. "
Sarin was about to inquire further but Galatea broke her silence. "Just trust him on this one. You do not want to mess with this log. ", the sword simply stated.
"Yeah..bad log...horrible memories. While we did escape, we did find out that the elementals had succeeded in recovering the artifact they were after. Some super orb of storms, or winter orb or something. Fortunately for us , they hadn't returned it to the glacier , or perhaps they were unable to unlock it yet. We were about to find Erland and get some help, but a large band of my order and tribe had followed the elementals to try to score some easy loot. The orb wasn't the only thing they plundered apparently. Ymir ...our dwarf by the way...thought a quick strike with our reinforcements would more likely succeed then a larger force against a fortified opponent. We debated it for awhile, but we decided on her way, since she is a mercenary commander, and is also very pushy. ", sighed the knight as he closed his eyes.
"...and...?! What happened ?! ", demanded Sarin fearing the worse.
"Well...we did secure the orb, but we knew that the elementals would not stop till they recovered it. The cursed northern lands prevented us escaping from magic, and the orb itself proved impossible to move as well by anything other then mundane means. We tried to destroy it but failed miserable. We divined that only by throwing the item into the eye of Thryme would we rid ourselves of it. The Eye of Thryme ..is a chaos gate of some sort. Similar to the Arc of Fire in Grom, except its linked to Limbo or Pandemonium instead of the fire realms. Now...this sounds like the beginning of some epic three novel adventure filled with halflings and orcs , but it really isn't. The Eye of Thryme is actually quite close to our location , roughly 20 miles away, but the elementals had surrounded us before we could get there. I would have flown to it with Molly my dragon but the winds there are crazy fierce, also the orb gets progressively harder to move the further it gets from the ground. We quickly fortified our positions and repulsed their attacks but they prevented us from reaching our destination in return. I was sent to get the aid we originally sought from Erland before the rest of my comrades and order are overrunned by walking walls...and well...here we are! ", declared Frank as he completed his tale.
Nymk considered his words and was the first to speak. "You realize that even if you reach Grand Champion Erland in time, he is most likely in the political fight of his life right now. Even if he somehow retained his position, the other orders would demand he defend our lands against the exiled giants before he engaged in a foreign campaign. I suspect even as we speak the Order of the Griffon is plotting my lord's political and literal death . I had hoped the Warmaster would be at the great council to lend his support to the Grand Champion, but instead we have tales of other worldly invading elementals. I believe your story and recognize your plight, but it would be quite difficult to convince the other Orders given the recent crisis.", the Emerald Arbiter cautioned.
Frank shrugged, "Hey that's no big deal. Fetch expected this type of shenanigans and heel dragging from the Orders. He knew the giants would tie up their forces. That's why we are headed to Narwhal keep. We're gonna get General Olive and my good buddy Clovis to give us some Grommish Skyship beat down action. I believe Champion Fleur has kept open communications with Baltar's port still open. It won't take long at all to get those flying vessels to our aid. ", declared the Crab champion smugly.
Sarin's heart dropped as he heard the alternate plan. "Umm...the knights recently attacked Grom City. Diplomatic ties has been suspended the last I heard. Any attempt to move a large body of Grommish troops, especially flying troops would add fire to an already tense situation. It could mean a war. ", sighed the paladin.
Frank looked puzzled. He then scratched his head in confusion.
"Frank...grasp my hilt and I will explain it. ", orderd Galatea. The knight nodded at the command and grasped the blade. His eyes blinked rapidly for a few seconds before a scowl appeared on his face. " Well...that certainly fucks things up , doesn't it. ", cursed the knight with a scowl.
"She's the sniper you know. ", quipped Zax . " Who else shoots black arrows from a concealed position and saves my hide all the time. ", he added as he examined the cabin.
Darwen dismissed the tiefling's notion and constant chattering once again as she continued to search the vessel. After the upper levels of the Sahaugin vessel was secured, the buccaneers and Zax's group began to methodically sweep the vessel . They were primarily there to root out any bands of resistance or traps , but the privateers were also on the look out for any loot they could recover.
"The more we know about her , the more it makes sense. She would fly around on her griffon , probably some sort of invisible stealth griffon , then take her position on a rooftop. She would fire some arrows when needed then vanish into the sky afterwards. ", claimed the tiefling, disregarding the fact that the sniper had slew many griffon knights in the past in the defense of Zax.
The woman they rescued was indeed a princess , one of the Order of the Griffon to be exact. Although most of the Northern Orders had abandoned the notion of a monarchy for that of a merit based system of rule, the notion of bloodlines and heritage still held much weight. Many former noble houses still held much sway in the north. The Order of the Boar was until recently ruled by a chieftan based system, and the Order of the Griffon and Squirrel were still dominated by those of Royal blood.
The tiefling was skeptical at first, since she did not dress or held any symbols of the Griffon Order. She did sport a tattoo similar to the griffon knights they had previously defeated, but that was not enough proof for Zax. The tattoo could have originated from a drunken bet or something similar. The notion that she was a griffon knight had a negative effect on the tiefling's companions though , they still had bitter memories of the run ins they have had with that Order. Even kind and gentle Sharliss had her reservations against Lionsong , the loss of Sarin, Freiki, and Lilithy still weighed heavily on her . Zax on the other hand was annoyed for a different set of reasons.
Zax was perturbed that the Captain's attentions was no longer focused on him. The red headed elf sensed that a princess of the Griffon was a more valuable guest then a Royal Adventurer, even one with such a heroic background as Zax. As the tiefling labored like a common member of the boarding party , Princess Lionsong was treated like ...like royalty aboard the Acheron.
"You would think that if she was waiting to rescue her brother, she would have rushed and freed him at first opportunity. Instead, she's probably sampling fine wines with the captain. ", grumbled Zax to no one in particular wishing he was in her place.
Darwen paused and looked at her companion. She looked shocked , as he finally said something that made sense, and nodded silently in agreement with the tiefling.
"Those of Royal blood of my people would take care of diplomatic matters , and leave their servants to take care of the mundane. Since the boat is secured, it would make sense that peons like ourselves would free her brother, while she enjoys the luxuries of our fickel Captain. This has the effect of not only setting her place of dominance above the common folk, but also to establish the pecking order with her Royal Siblings. ", Isula corrected with a smirk. "Unless of course , there was a good chance of violence. Then the nobles of my people would be eagerly clamoring to meet the challenge. ", she snorted in disgust.
Zax was still wasn't sure what to make of the minature giant. Besides the fact her common had improved greatly from when he first met her, he knew little about Isula. She often displayed traits of her Jotun heritage, but at the same time seemed disgusted by them. The tiefling shrugged and wondered if he would lose his stateroom to the sniper.
"Over here! ", shouted Sharliss , breaking Zax's concentration.
The tiefling, giant and elf quickly hurried with weapons at ready at the priestess's beckon , but were relieved to see her tending a large group of sickly prisoners. The priestess was busy administiring her magic to the rescued villagers, as many of them seemed to be malnourished and beaten.
"Thank you..thank you...", gasped a tall old man weakly . Despite his wasted appearance there was a hint of nobility to him.
Zax was well accustomed to be hungry and starving when he grew up on the streets of Lower Lueders, and uncharacterisically bent down and shared with the man a muffin he had saved from the Captain's table earlier. "Eat slow... not too fast. ", he cautioned as the senior devoured the gift.
As the tiefling searched for more sustenance to divy out he noticed a large urn with strange markings on it. Although Zax did not speak infernal, the language of the hellish pit, the tiefling instinctively knew the symbol's origin. As he stared at that unusual urn, he felt something pull him towards it. Not his tiefling curiosity, but something baser, something more akin to hunger.
Zax examined the large container , forgetting the old man he was aiding, and noted it was made of some sort of unrefined iron. It was sturdily constructed and had a heavy lid wrapped with a tarp, sealing it. The tiefling stared at the hypnotic urn and then realized it was the scent of the object. Although Zax enjoyed fine dining, he never considered himself a coniseur of food . He attributed his thin physique to his inability to get worked up about food. He ate to live, instead of living to eat, like certain half elves he knew. The urn before him however conjured some dark desire in him, that caused him to salivate madly . Without hesitation the tiefling cut the tarp sealing the container and lifted the heavy lid.
"ZAX ! NO! " , shouted Darwen , but it was too late.
Zax peered into the urn and a wave of shock struck him. Inside was a writhing mass of what appeared to be worms with crude humanoid heads. They squirmed and twisted atop each other and seemed to wallow in their own filith . The tiefling thought he was going to throw up at the sight, but curiously all he could do was drool hungrily at the disgusting little creatures.
Darwen walked up to Zax and shook her head . "Luckily for you , this urn isn't completely full to the brim. The last thing we need now are demonic larvae crawling all over the place. ", explained the elf as she lifted the heavy urn lid .
"Nooo...we aren't larvae...we are ...umm...baby nagas! ", said a small shrill voice. The elf and tiefling looked towards the urn and saw two of the rough humanoid headed worms peeking above the lid of the urn. "Please free us! ", begged the filthy creatures.
"Baby nagas huh? Well you can't fool me. I've battle a naga recently, and let me tell you , you guys ain't nagas. ", scoffed Zax towards the dejected looking larvae.
Darwen nodded in approval as she placed the lid back onto the urn, then used her magic to reattach the tarp and sealed the container up again. Zax felt a pang of hunger as the elf finished locking the container. He had the urge to stab one of those creatures like a kebab and ...to his horror ...eat it.
"Filthy disgusting creatures. ", spat Darwen in revulsion .
"You called them larvae. Larvae of what? Do they grow into demon butterflys or something ? ", asked Zax . The tiefling was mainly curious if they would grow into a more appetizing looking creature .
"Larvae are hard to explain. Consider them proto demons. The creatures are product of evil souls that end up in the abyss. There are countless numbers of them in the dark pit , and they either grow into minor demons, or in some cases combine spontanously to produce a more powerful creature. ", said the elf with disdain.
"They are also used as currency in the lower realms. Even though they grow in the abyss, many forms of evil outsiders use them as a form of trade. Notably Night Hags and Yugoloth mercenaries. ", added Isula as she picked up the urn and shook it. A chorous of muffled screams came out of the sealed container, much to the delight of the minature giant.
"Trade? ", the tiefling asked eagerly. Zax's interest was definetly piqued now. Anything regarding profit, became instantly interesting to the tiefling.
Darwen nodded but deferred to Isula for a more detailed explanation. Before the minature giant could explain, Sharliss wandered towards the trio and saw the urn . "Ohh..Larvae !", she said happily. "Uncle Baalphzon loved to eat them, but I was never daring enough to try it. It just seemed wrong to eat something that is...sentient. Both uncle Baal and Aunt Dahana assure me they are delicious though. ", the priestess explained.
"Barely sentient. ", corrected Darwen .
Isula scowled to her companions and they fell silent. "As I was explaining to Zax here. They are a cornerstone of trade. On the prime worlds they use mainly gems, gold , silver for commerence. On the outer planes though, they use residum , astral diamonds, and ...larvae. Sure they trade in gold and gems as well, but the value of base metals fluctuate , while the price of larvae is generally consistent. Even merchants that don't have a hint of fiendish blood would trade in larvae, unless of course you are on one of the upper planes. From Sigil to the City of Brass, a bag full of larvae can get you further then a bag full of gold. ", noted the minature giant.
"So...what are these guys doing with them. Err...were they going to eat them ?", asked Zax as he began to drool at the thought of a larval feast.
"Perhaps, but most prime races can not stomach such a feast. Creatures of the lower planes though have noted they are quite tasty. Most likely they have them to power their dark magics, also, like I mentioned before, they have them for trade with whatever dark forces they have allied with. I might note that only the most degenerate of evil races on the prime use Larvae for trade. Namely mindflayers, ixitxachitl , aboleth, the old drow empire, and of course ..our old friends the sahaugin. ", extrapolated Isula.
As Zax processed this information, a loud bending of metal and snapping of chains could be heard. The tiefling froze, but Darwen immediatetly interposed herself between Zax and the source of the disruption.
"Me free now ? Me tired of being caught...wanna smash smell fish men. ", said a large beast of a man as he effortlessly destroyed the chains that held him. The tiefling recalled he was one of the first prisoners they rescued earlier, and assumed they brought him down here to be processed , with the rest of the loot. The hulking man, was recognizable as human, but barely. He looked more like some shaved giant snow ape to Zax, then the prisoner he obviously was.
The large brute paused and sniffed the air, especially towards Isula. "Giant! Giant bad! Me smash giant! ", he declared as he picked up a bar from his shattered cell. Isula smiled at the challenge and readied her bladed staff , but Sharliss quickly intervened.
"We are not enemies here. Lower your weapon Isula...", the priestest commanded. Reluctantly the minature giant replied. "You too..Sir ? ", asked Sharliss.
"Me IceClaw. Yuu purty , like sistah. Me do so. ", the brute replied.
The bucanneers , prisoners, and especially Zax all gave a sigh of relief . The battle would have been one sided , but due to the narrow confines of the vessel and the obvious power Iceclaw possessed, the crew of the Acheron would have have taken casualities for sure if a fight occured.
After the initial incident, Iceclaw seemed quite responsive to orders and almost seemed jovial at the situation. Sharliss had given him some of her own food, and the big brute seemed to have taken an immediately liking to the priestess , as if a hungry dog would to a man that fed it scraps.
The ship was quickly looted and scuttled as the Acheron once again began its trip towards Narwhal hold. Lionsong and her brother were reunited, but the griffon princess acknowledged him but did not seem overly eager to see him. Zax was just glad that the captain hadn't kicked him out of his stateroom for her new guests.
"Those two don't seem that close. ", commented the tiefling as the Acheron's noisy engines churned to life. Darwen and the tiefling stood on the deck of the vessel as it sped once again to its destination.
"I think they are closer then you think. Princess Lionsong seems cold, but she did stay hidden to aid her brother when she could have taken an opportunity to escape instead. ", refuted Darwen.
Zax nodded and grasped her hand. "You know that last couple days with the Captain...", he started but the elf simply smiled and nudged closer to him.
She gave a light kiss and a nod. "I know...I also know it would serve your appearance better if you had a jealous lover. The captain seems to be the type of person that feeds on that type of drama. ".
Zax grinned as he held Darwen closer. He moved in to kiss the elf but was rudely interrupted by a large hand.
"ORANGE MAN! ORANGE MAN! Me smash orange man! ", declared Iceclaw with a dazed look as he suddenly pushed the elf to the side and bear hugged Zax. Darwen flew against the railing and appeared to have been stunned by the unexpected attack. Zax was shocked at both his predicament and the fact the large brute had somehow snuck up on both Darwen and himself.
"Wait...you have the ...wrong guy. I'm Zax...", gurgled the tiefling as the life was squeezed out of him.
The large brute looked even more puzzled then Zax though possible. He sniffed the tiefling and wriknled his nose before dropping him onto the hard deck. "Zax? Me killed Zax already. Me squish his head. You still have head. You not smell like Zax. He smell tough...like a house ...like paint...you smell like flowers...like a woman. ", Iceclaw snorted.
Zax wheezed and tried to recover his breath, but the large hand once again grasped his shoulders and lifted him up so he was standing again. He handled the tiefling roughly but at least in a helpful and non aggresive manner.
"Me sowwy, for trying to squish other Zax. ", replied the brute as he went to help Darwen. The elf had sufficiently recovered and was already up on her feet. Her blade was drawn , and it seemed her spells at the ready, but she wisely did nothing to provoke the large simpleton.
"It's alright . You won't be the first griffon knight that has tried to kill me. ", smirked Zax with a swagger.