Once upon a time, in the hume and galka dominated Republic of Bastok, there lived a young mithran woman who was called Alora. She'd lived in this place since the days of her kitten hood. Her mama had taken up the post of the Kolshushu regional enchantress stationed in Bastok. This alone was the reason for their long-term residence in this city so many jokingly referred to as "Blah-stock".

Now Alora had a restless heart, she longed to visit the homeland to which her mama had oft told her stories. So on the day of her sixteenth birthday, she announced her ambition to become a career adventurer. Now sixteen was the customary age of maturity milestone for a mithran so her mother was a little sad but not surprised at Alora's decision. Together they prepared for Alora's journey over the next month and finally the day of her chosen departure had arrived. She set off for the distant port town of Selbina carrying a simple sword, shield, and small bundle of provisions. She wore an inexpensive set of leather armor that she'd found for a great discount on the local auction house in the market district.

She headed west across the dull grey plains of Gustaberg then north beyond the great Drachenfalls and into the Konschtat Highlands. It was there that she encountered the biggest ram she'd ever seen in her short life. She was quite alarmed when the beast caught sight of her and quickly gave chase. Alora looked about and spotted a tiny opening in the rock wall to the east. She darted quickly for the opening, she was certain the ram would be too large to follow. Ducking inside, she found herself greeted by a hunter goblin brandishing a sharp knife. Quickly, Alora drew her sword from its scabbard and blocked the blow aimed for her chest. She spun around and delivered a sharp elbow to its chest. The wind knocked out of it, the goblin staggered as Alora capitalized with a well placed strike at its neck. Her blade found its mark and severed it. The goblin groaned once and then fell forward face first unto the dirt floor of the cavern.

Shaking, Alora breathed a sigh of relief as the giant ram could not follow and was heard pacing in frustration outside. She didn't dar make a fire in fear of attracting even more unwanted attention. So she sat in the silent darkness until at some point during the night her exhaustion claimed her. She'd drifted off to sleep and was startled awake by the loud crunch of boots on gravel very nearby. Alora shot bolt upright in a flash and drew her sword in one fluid motion.

"Who are you?" She demanded at the dark haired hume with shoulder length hair standing in front of her.

"Relax Miss, I was not intending to harm you. " He told her calmly, "I was only seeking a shelter to wait out the night."

"I see," Alora relaxed a little, "There was a goblin in here, but he is no more." She gestured as the prone creature lying dead in the corner."

"I am Rikkan," The hume offered a hand, "but most just call me Rik."

"I am Alora," She replied and shook his hand.

"What brings you to the highlands?"

"I am headed for the ferry in Selbina. I am on a journey to the Mindartia continent."

"Ah, the modern homelands of the Mithran," Rik nodded.

"Yes, I've never seen them, not even once. I was born in Bastok, lived my whole life there and felt it is time to see the land of my heritage."

"The way to Windurst is quite dangerous, you should do a little training before you go. I, myself, am traveling north to the valkurm dunes to hone my skills. My understanding is its great place for adventuring bands to meet up and really learn their trades."

"I see," Alora replied knowing he spoke wise words, "You are an adventurer then?"

"Yes," Rik replied, "I want to see all this world has to offer. Staying in Bastok does not suit me. I'd like to offer. Staying in Bastok does not suit me. I'd like to travel to the far north to the city of San O'dria. I have heard tell that there is the place to learn much on the art of dragon keeping."

"That sounds fascinating," Alora commented, "I've seen only a few dragoons in my life. It amazes me how one can learn to control a creature like that."

"Well Selbina lies in the midst of dunes, would you like to stick together for safety till we get there?" Rik asked her hopefully.

The next morning, the pair awoke and after carefully checking for giant ram, they resumed the trek to the dunes. Not two hundred yalms beyond the outpost guardsman, the encountered a small band for four adventurers. Realizing this was a good opportunity for them both as the band appeared to be struggling with a particularly vicious star bat.

Rik called out, "May we join you in your practice?'

"Sure thing," invited a hume samurai with blonde hair cut in a page-boy style. After the bat was defeated, the group mode quick introductions while they all caught their breath from the challenging fight.

"I'm Raf," Winked the tossled haired brunette warrior.

"My name is Danika and this is my brother Davee," The mithran healer gestured to the tall elvaan wizard at her side.

"I'm Rikkan, call me Rik though, please."

"I am Alora, very pleased to meet you all."

Then the samurai stepped forward and gingerly placed a kiss on Alora's hand. "I am called Sy, pleased to meet you mi'lady and kind sir."

"Where are you ready?" The question came from Danika.

"I'm going north to San O'dria, to study with the Elvaan masters."

"Ah, my homeland, I hail from the great city myself," Raf nodded in approval.

"I am bound for the ferry in Selbina," Alora stated, "I've been wanting to see the Mindartia continent since I was small."

"Ah! Danika and I were just on the way back to Windurst," Sy explained. "Davee recently moved to San O'dria. We'd come to spend time with him. The three of us have known each other from childhood. We do a lot of training together."

"Ah I see," Alora acknowledged.

"Shall we continue?" Urged the warrior gesturing at a lone sand lizard nearby.

"Yes, let's do this," Nodded Rik reading his brass colored spear.

Alora marveled at the style of the brazen warrior leading them in combat. She couldn't help but laugh at his smart quips at a neighboring training group. Oh yes, the rogue was indeed vocal but the light in his azure eyes betrayed his good-natured heart. Ah yes, appearances were very deceiving with this one she marveled.

Together the six fought goblins and lizards for another hour or so until the sun began to edge close to the horizon. Davee bowed to each of them in turn, except for his sister to whom he gave a great hug. Then in a hiss of dark magical energy, he dematerialized with a soft pop leaving them numbered at five.

Noting Alora's confusion at her brother's sudden vanishment, Danika explained, "My brother trains to be a great wizard. That spell is an instant transport one. He has taken the easy route back to his home in San o'dria."

The five decided to travel as a group to the nearby port town of Selbina where they could take shelter and rest for the night. They passed through the gates of the small town and located the inn just a little way down the path.

"I think I'm going to just crash for the night," Sy excused himself inside the door.

"Good idea," Danika agreed and followed him.

Rik chose to take a seat at a table near the hearth, relaxing over a cup of ale seemed to be the best way to unwind. While Raf strode up to the barkeep and called for a stout beer. Alora chose instead to stay outdoors and take a walk along the ferry docks.

It was a beautiful starry night. The sky glittered as if it had been dusted with diamonds. A sickle moon shone only as a small sliver in the midst of the heavens.

"Breathtaking, isn't it?" said a low male voice to her right. She'd not even noticed the shadowy figure.

"Yes…" She stammered slightly alarmed, "It's beautiful."

"But not half as beautiful as you," He added softly.

"I should go," she reacted on instinct.

"Relax lass, I mean you no harm," he replied chuckling heartily.

"Alora?" A familiar voice called from the path leading back to the inn.

She recognized the voice as belonging to Raf. As he neared, Alora could hear the shadow man muttering an incantation and turned around in time to witness his disappearance into thin air.

"Are you ok?" Raf asked with great concern in his sapphire blue eyes.

"Yes, I'm all right Raf, thank you for asking."

Raf regarded her doubtfully for a moment then reached into the pocket of his tunic and drew out a small object known as a link pearl. He pressed it into the palm of her hand.

"Here, something tells me you've got a nose for trouble just call me anytime," He paused then explained, "How you've seen me today is not in the area of my greatest expertise. I'm actually a trained red mage as you are and I've achieved the maxiumum level of accreditation in these arts. I'm always glad to help a fellow red, but.."

'Was he blushing?' Alora studied his features and waited for him to continue.

"I must confess, I find you personally fascinating and would like to continue our acquaintance after we go our separate ways in the morning."

"Why thank you Raf," Alora carefully placed the pearl in her belt pouch, "I'd like that."

"Now then," He stepped forward and took her by the elbow, "Let's get you back inside, lest you find yourself endangered with more shadow men."

"Ok," Alora agreed allowing him to steer her back to the warm glowing lamps of the Inn on the hill side.

The next morning….

Alora awoke later than expected and looked outside just in time to see the ferry boat pulling up to the dock. Hurriedly, she paid the innkeeper and raced down the hill to board the vessel.

"Hi!" Greeted Danika, "you cut it awfully close there girly."

"Yeah," Alora breathed out a sigh of relief.

"Are you excited?" Asked Sy walking over with a reassuring smile.

"Yes much," Alora admitted next, "and nervous too, you see I've never been on a boat before."

"Ah I see," Sy looked at her thoughtfully then reached out and took her wrist into his warm fingers.

"Umm, what are you doing?" Alora was surprised at the contact.

"Old Samurai secret," Sy winked pointing out a pressure point, "If you start to feel sick in your stomach, press your fingers here and… here. It will help."

"Oh thank you," Alora nodded and withdrew her hand, "that's good to know, mama warned me sea travel could be disorienting."

"No problem, once we pull away and the sound the whistle, we are free to roam the deck. It's fun, I'll show you."

Meanwhile Rikkan had resumed his own trek for San O'dria. Carefully, he check the item he carried deep within his rucksack. He made sure the soft cloths that protected the oblong oval orb had remained in place. He began his long walk north through the last sands of Valkrum and entered the plateau region of La Thiene. A smattering of wild sheep dotted the slopes. Now and then he had to sneak through shadowy clusters of trees to avoid some roving goblin kind. About two days into this walk, he came across a humanoid creature before which he'd never before seen the like. A pig-like head atop a burly body with a lizard like tail. The creature was grotesque and smelled like rotting garbage.

"Psst…" Came a voice from a low bush to his east. "Psst, you there!" It whispered.

Rik walked warily up to the bush and saw a small tarutaru hiding from the foul monster and crouched down beside the bush and the taru. Now a tarutaru is but a tiny creature akin to a gnome in some tongues. The tallest of their kind rarely passed the kneecap of an average hume male. The possessed long horizontal pointed ears much like the towering elvaans. However they had tiny little animal-like noses similar to that of the mithran.

"What is this thing?" Rik asked the little person.

"It's an orc, they are foul mean beasts," Then the taru added, "I think if we work together we could slay it so it could harm no more travelers on this way."

"Agreed, I am Rik and pleased to meet you."