Song of the Ages

Of Demons and Dragons
Farin

In my many years of travel, this is the first time I’ve found myself in Drathl. It’s a shame I’ve never ventured into this strange country before, because I must say it’s vastly more interesting than anything the human kingdoms have to offer.

I came to watch the yearly competition between the Dragon-born clans that decides which Clan gets to rule. An interesting way to run a government, but their unique tradition seemed to have worked for the Dragon-born until about a year ago. According to the rumors I heard, last year the long reigning Moonscale Clan was dethroned because a demon had entered the contest. Given my line of work, and my ongoing research, I could not resist coming to see the contest this year, in the hopes that the demon would return for the finale.

I was not disappointed.

To be honest, I didn’t attend any of the Games leading up to the final fight. My sole interest in this whole journey was seeing the demon. Imagine my immense surprise when it turned out that the Redclaw Clan was facing, not another Clan, but a group of mercenaries hired by the fallen Champion of the Moonscales. The opposing team, named the Black Foxes were made up of Qelroth, the said fallen Champion, another Moonscale dragon-born, a human, a dwarf, a Taboxi, a half-elf and a wood elf. The ragtag group held their own well enough. They vanquished their Redclaw foes, including the famed demon I traveled to see.
Note that said demon was far greater than any I have encountered, and the group has earned my deep respect for their valor.

Unfortunately, the King of the Dragon-born was not ready to give up the thrown. As soon as his champions were defeated he ordered the guards to kill the Black Foxes. In that moment the crowd began to riot, claw against tooth, blood spilling blood. Before I knew it I was surrounded by enraged, brawling, bloody Dragon-borns. Nearly crushed by their massive flailing bodies as they clashed.

Suddenly, the King yelled “Enough!” His command silenced the brawlers, and the fighting ceased in time to watch the King himself transform. Before the eyes of his Kingdom he morphed into an enormous scarlet scaled dragon! The gall of the King knows no bounds if he believed showing his true self would help his case, even his fellow Redclaws were furious to realize that their King was the very creature that they despised.

The great bloody dragon flew down to kill the Black Foxes himself, and the brawling among the spectators resumed.

The Black Foxes were already bruised and bleeding from their fight with the Redclaw champions and the demon, and now they were forced to face a full-grown raging dragon. Right off I could tell they were in trouble, as their taboxi member and Qelroth were scorched by the dragon’s fire-breath. The cat did not make it, unfortunately.
Despite my better judgement, I entered the fray.
It wasn’t the smart thing to do. Honestly I’m not sure why I did it.

Fortunately for me, the Black Foxes were the focus of the great beast’s attention, and I managed to shoot the monster a few times with my musket before it turned on me. I suffered a pretty heavy blow from the creature’s claws, but the Black Foxes got it off me before I received too much damage. (Though I’ll be feeling my wounds for awhile) Outnumbered, and outmatched by the skill of the mercenaries, the dragon finally realized that he was fucked. He started to flee, taking to the skies in his attempt to escape. Hoping to get one last blow on the beast, as way of warning not to return to Drathl more than anything, I fired an arrow after him.

To my astonishment my arrow is what fell the great dragon. It struck him in the eye as he turned back to look. I watched as he plummeted from the air, down into the city beyond the Arena.

And now to my problem…Wyllo, the half-elf and leader of the Black Foxes, has offered a place in their ranks. While it has been awhile since I’ve had a real good job to do, I’m not overly fond of the idea of working for other mercenaries. Fenris seems to like Wyllo on the other hand. He usually doesn’t take well to strangers and like me, he’s not much of a team-player. It’s just been the two of us for a long time…

And then, there’s the other issue…. the wood-elf. As arrogant of any of his kind. Thank the Gods he was too busy being an ass to give me a good look. The first thing he did when he saw me was say “I didn’t know humans came in mutt.”
This was very amusing to me, on several levels. However, I’m worried that he may discover me if I decide to stay with the Black Foxes… I cannot tell what he would do if that were to happen.

This is one of those times I wish that I could speak, it’s hard to communicate with nothing but pantomime and note passing. I want to be able to trust Wyllo and her band of misfits, as I have previously stated, they have earned my respect for not only defeating a demon, but a dragon on top of it. The half-elf after-all, seems nice enough.

Ah, well, these problems won’t sort themselves out. I must contemplate carefully tonight before making any final decisions. I should have let the dragon eat the elf before jumping into the battle… that would have solves half of my problems…

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I prefer problems you can hit

Yeah, we were at each others’ throats for a bit there. Wyllo and Oak were going at each other, with some parts of suspicion and shady family pasts coming out and generally just confusing me. I growled at them enough that at least they will work together, something that I’m not used to doing. Not the growling part, no. I mean getting people to work together. We got ourselves patches so that we could identify ourselves as Black Foxes and that’s when it hit me again. I wasn’t just walking around with friends and punching things into submission, I was part of an organization with ranks, leaders and members. Didn’t sit well with me, still doesn’t, but maybe that’s what we need. We need some rules at least so we can work past this chaos that the Redclaws brought on top of us.

The competition? Yeah, it was going well enough I suppose. We managed to work ourselves into the final four, which I guess was more than a big thing since we were outsiders and hadn’t been expected to get that far. Qelroth was doing his fair share of the lifting though and was getting the recognition he’d need to get back into his clan if we pull this off. Belfran though was looking at things funny and insisting that we do what we can to turn things to our advantage. At the end of the day, that consisted of me and Oak sneaking out at night to smear the good name of the current king while the others managed to slip into the palace itself and somehow enter a shrine leading to their dragon god herself. Got themselves some talisman that should help against the Redclaws, but they almost lost their heads doing so, as they somehow blundered right into Belnar, the Redclaw champion. They only escaped alive because Yoon- Yoon of all people!- bluffed their way out of the whole thing.

Hearing about it, I had to admit he’s going to be a nasty opponent, but I think if we manage to pile on him, we’ll bring him down. Granted, that assumes that we get to them at the end of the competition and don’t rip each other to shreds before then.

Pass me another ale, this organized troop thing is starting to get to me.

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The Honor of the Dragonborn
Belfran

I firmly believe that if one engages in a competition, then one should abide by the rules of that competition. To disregard the rules is just as dishonerable as to not try one’s hardest. I would not associate with a dragonborn who participated in a contest dishonerably. You show respect to your opponent and to yourself by taking the game seriously.

My associates assure me that spying, assault, and even assasinations are a common and tollerated occurance at this tournament. (as long as they are suitably subtle, of course) To the point that The Underhand is just as permenant a fixture here as the Nightwing Clan. It’s clear that there is a long tradition of supterfuge, and it would be dishonerable for us to oppose the universally accepted, unwritten rules. Indeed, it behooves us to make use of every oportunity presented us by the format in which we are competing. We would be dishonering these procedings (and by extenstion, the entire kindom of Drathl) if we did not cheat.

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Fool Me Once
Wyllo

[written in Elvish]

I think I have a family somewhere. I think that family is part of nobility, and I think that they’re (more specifically, she—I guess I have an aunt) potentially going to be blackmailed because of me. I’ve been turning this over in my mind from the moment I found this drawing on my bed. It’s of a very regal looking woman, and Oak said something about an aunt to me tonight.

I don’t know what to think about this. I’m not supposed to have a family.

I don’t think I should tell anyone about this just yet, either. Thief turned nobility, what kind of cliche is that?

[written in English]

I’m going to kill Oak. Ripping his tongue out sounds just as well to start with, but I also just really want to kill him. I’ve been very clear on my paranoia, especially with people I don’t know well, and people who know me at all know I also have trust issues. You don’t make it very far as a thief, and I’m pretty sure that I’ve said that before, too.

Still: you don’t mess with people that care about. Or am about to care about—or potentially care about…which amounts to liking well enough. Mostly. Kind of.

I should have let his sorry ass get skinned.

Start at the beginning? Sure. Ok.

We came to Qelroth’s competition, where he’s trying to win back his title and what have you, etc. etc.There was a point where I was envious of how he knew where he belonged—or where he wanted to belong, and how honorable he is about his business. I think he treats people fairly, and I liked seeing that.

That feels like a long time ago, though.

We took part of our first game in the competition, but the night before we won, we were having drinks with a mixture of Dragonborn in the tavern/inn we’re staying at. At some point, Yoon had an encounter someone that we found out later is a black Dragonborn (black Dragonborn are the spy sort, I think? I don’t know where I picked this up.) who told us that someone in our group is not the honorable sort. Spoiler alert: it’s Oak. I think I knew from the start, because he has this way of saying things around me that are very insulting. By the way, he’s said I’m manipulatable.

I’m not. I think I should clarify that now.

Annoying.

At any rate, by the time we’d won this first part of the competition, we were back at this tavern and had a few drinks, and by the time said drinks had worn off, courtesy of Shadow, Yoon had gotten carried away with attempting to interrogate Shadow and making her feel like she needed to leave. I managed to convince Yoon to apologize to Shadow. Lucky. Until I realized that paranoia was right and Oak is the one who’s trying to double cross us.

Truth? I don’t know if he’s actually trying to double cross us or them. I noticed him with a Redscale dragon and trying to show off his paintings, but then he came up to me and showed me one, too. There was writing on the other side and it was something about making our encounter convincing.

I don’t like thinking about these things. They should be cut and dry.

He said he didn’t blame my parents for leaving me. If I’d throat-checked him harder, I could have broken his neck. (My fault. Rookie mistake.)

I don’t remember much of the actual fight with Oak, though. He’s fast. I tried to be faster. Afterward, he went out to the docks and I followed him. He met up with some other Redscales and they said that neither he nor Shadow would make it through the night.

What is it that made me want to save his stupid ass?

It took a minute. Maybe it wasn’t even a minute, but it felt long enough; it’s not like Yoon can’t handle anyone about to slit Shadow’s throat or her own, and Shadow can take care of herself, but I had a moment where I didn’t know if I should help Oak or not. I had a moment where I didn’t know who needed me more, and some sort of protective instinct rose up. It was only a minute—moment—but Oak was three against one, and by threatening people I care about, they’d blacklisted themselves. I’ll win this stupid competition.

So has Oak. The little shit. I’ll cut out his tongue, and then he can eat it. Maybe I’ll cut out his eyeballs, too. Yes, that sounds like a good idea.

In the end, everyone is ok. In the end, Yoon’s little encounter with Shadow was apologized for, and Shadow found out that it wasn’t regular hazing.

There’s a reason I’m paranoid. Don’t fuck with me.

I’m not in love with Qelroth.

[written in Elvish]

I don’t know what to do. Why is this bothering me so much?

I wonder if Scratch knows anything. Maybe I’ll write him a letter. I think this is the angriest I’ve been since Yoon got framed. I don’t like being this mad. It’s like I’m a teapot.

How does Oak know all of these things about me—theoretically?

If Scratch knew, he would have told me…Right?

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Turning on ourselves

We knew, based on what Qelroth had told us, that our opponents were likely to cheat. We went in expecting them to do that, but I don’t think we were expecting what happened, or how effective it was.

So, the first night in town one of those red lizards comes up to us and outright offers us a thousand gold for each person that just up and leaves. I admit, that was a tempting offer since the keep could obviously use that kind of cash. However, I couldn’t accept it. Now, I know that you might be thinking it was due to honor or a contract, but the simple fact of the matter is that I’d been travelling with Qelroth for a few weeks now and I liked him. Sure, he’s more than a little uptight, but at the end of the day, he’s a good egg.

Huh… never thought about how that phrase might have extra meaning for dragonborn. Anyway, the others did so as well, or at least they did so at first. Then we started being visited by some of the local spymasters hinting that one of us was working against us. And that’s all it took for us to start looking at each other funny! Granted, the warning was at least partly true, but the suspicion I think is what really started fraying on us. We won the first competition the next day, but the girls were eyeing everyone funny and I learned that night, once I’d gone off to guard Qelroth, that everyone started turning on each other. Accusations, misunderstandings and possible betrayals flying all over the place! It was almost a relief to hear that the red lizards tried to kill them at the end of the night since that at least gave us an enemy to look at rather than each other.

For now, I just want us to hold it together long enough to see this through to the end. If people want to leave afterwards or someone needs gutting, fine, but until then we need to pull through it. We’re made of stronger stuff than this, I just know it.

Right?

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Overthrowing a kingdom again

So we’d rounded up some new members, right? Well, it turned out to be just in time since some armored lizard that the girls knew came around and told us quite the story about his kingdom. Long story short, he wanted to hire us to win some ritual competition so that the leadership of his kingdom would change hands. Now, I know I hated being part of that very same thing in Sutherland, but that was because someone basically stabbed us in the back to accomplish that. This time, at least the lizard was being up front about it and the current leaders sounded bad enough that they should be outed. So we took the job.

We made good time, travelling through Dunkuldir to try to catch a boat. While on the way I caught up with some of my friends and family that I hadn’t seen in… well, it almost feels like forever. At least not since I marched out with the army. It was good to see them, but I could tell I didn’t fit in there anymore. I needed to vent, to howl and break things, and in the steamwork-lined caves of my home, that would certainly not work. I guess I’m just not tame enough, you know what I mean? I hope you do, because I’m still wrapping my head around it, but enough of that line of thought.

There was a little bit of panic as we traveled since we found out that there was a delegation from the lizards at the palace, but ultimately there was little we could do about that except move forward with our plan and just remove the scalies from power. Not to say there wasn’t drama with the others, mind you, but I just ignored it and carried on. We managed to catch a boat to Drathl in time for the festival. Now we just have to go up against the best that the other lizards can put forward and even stay a step or two ahead of whatever tricks the leaders have in store for us. Stone, I miss having Fulgin around to worry about that instead of me.

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Reentry
Wyllo

So…Qelroth Delmirev is back, and he’s returned with a proposition.

We have to win a tournament with him in an effort to get his honor back. I think. This is all very strange because I’m not used to speaking for others, and somehow, I suddenly have people to look after.

Is this what Scratch was talking about a few weeks ago? Something about being nurturing—if only he could see me now. (I’m not nurturing.)

I don’t mind going an an adventure, though. I guess. What’s the likelihood of us dying?

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Friendship is Overrated

Hello Journal,

It has been a while, not that I have missed doing this in the slightest. What has happened to our little band of misfits? We collected even more outcasts and useless individuals. You may think I am being harsh, but I am not. All of these people would die on their own if we did not take them in.

Now that we have officially taken my name off of the “kill” list, I have so much free time on my hands. What will I do? I guess I could find hobbies which do not require skills in fighting, stabbing, or killing.

I could…

Yeah, I could be a school teacher or something.

A school teacher whose subject is about the death and bringing people closer to it.

Yeah, I like it. This sounds like a great start.

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New blood

So where was I?

Right; lost a bunch of us, didn’t we? Dead or gone, in the end doesn’t matter to me cause they aren’t around when we need them. You know, it’s funny. I used to see Dax walk around a give orders to the people building the inn, doling out gold left and right, but when I had to start doing the same thing, I really missed that horned bastard. I might not be dumb, but I just don’t have a head for this type of thing, managing money beyond what I need for drink and sleep. I think if Walter ever decides to leave, I’ll break his legs just so I don’t have to do more than I’m already doing. And when Fulgen was around, talking about heroes from other stories, I didn’t think more about it than to ask for the bloodiest tales he knew. Now… well, it’s not just me, but some of us at least seem to be considering what our own stories will be.

And I wasn’t ready for the story of the Black Foxes to be done yet.

We started recruiting, maybe not intentionally at first, but that’s what we ended up doing. Some odd elf comes to the fort, asking to join and the next thing I know we’re on our way to kill some plants to see if he and the dragonborn we were supposed to be watching could hold their own in a fight. The plants were new to me, I’ll say that for sure. Have you ever been eaten alive by a compost pile? Well, I have now. Returned the favor once the battle died down, thinking there might be some meat in there somewhere or that it’d be a pile of some new plant that might actually make good eating. It was good eating, but no new plants that I could spot, just normal plants that somehow decided it would be a good idea to eat local farmers.

Where was I? Oh, right. Recruiting.

So, we went to fight these plants for a reward and at first, we mostly stayed back to see what these new recruits could do. Elf was a decent shot and a better brawler and the lizard seemed to have a few good spells while still wearing a suit of armor, but turns out one of the field hands watching also had some decent magic in her. We took care of the plants, then brought all three back to the fort as new members of the Black Foxes.

Let’s see what stories we’ll be able to tell you now.

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On The Road

“What do you mean you don’t have any money?”

The short elf shrugged and tied back his copper hair. “I mean just that.”

“Fine, give me your weapons and start walking. I can see you’ve got a sword in there.”

“You sure?” The elf slowly pulled the cloth-wrapped bundle from his back. “I’ve got a nice sketch of the mountains that might fetch a few silver. Oh, and some venison jerky. You can’t eat a sword, you know.”

“Don’t tell me what I can and can’t eat. Put it down, now!”

The elf looked at the two other men who had their bows drawn. “Your form is terrible.” He gestured to the one on the right as he slid a bow out of the bundle and strung it. “Don’t lock your arms, they’ll fall asleep if you go another minute like that.”

“Oi! Stop that right now! Put those weapons down!”

“Boss, ain’t elves supposed to be good archers?”

“Right. Yeah, I’ll shoot you right now if you touch those arrows.”

“Alright.” The elf slowly moved the bow with his other hand held flat. “I wrapped the quiver too tightly anyways, if you shot me it would save me the bother of getting any arrows out.”

“Hear that, boss? He wants me to shoot him!”

“Should I shoot him?”

SHUT UP YOU TWO! I KNOW HE WANTS YOU TO SHOOT HIM, IT’S SOME KIND OF-”

The man was interrupted. The trembling outlaw to his side shook his hand and swore, then gasped as he realized it was his own arrow that had silenced his boss

The elf pointed at the archer who had accidentally loosed an arrow, then to the man twitching on the ground to his side with an arrow in his throat. “See? First time shooting a man, huh? At least you nearly hit me.”

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