Dark Sun

The Long and Winding Road

“Ridiculous,” Zogg mumbles under his breath before bedding down for the night in the trading post’s barracks. “Who would have thought that a simple journey to a trading post would take so long, and be so troublesome?”

Though it was indeed an arduous journey, the party has finally arrived at the trading post which they had set out for several days ago at Tectuktitlay’s behest. The final day of the journey was no easier than previous days – between an ambush of lizard men and a somewhat angry silk wyrm, Athas was clearly not giving the adventurers any breaks.

The day was not without its positive points, however. Ajax, a well travelled mercenary battlemind, has joined the party’s ranks, at least for the time being. Is he simply looking for riches and adventure, as mercenaries are wont to do, or does he have ulterior motives? Only time will tell.

Perhaps the next most notable event of the day was the finding of a memo destined for Draj Area Trading Post #4’s constable in a stolen leather satchel carried by the lizard men. It bore the seal of House Tsalaxa, and read as follows:

To Constable Ogrim Hatchetborn of Draj Area Trading Post #4:
It has been brought to our attention that Tectuktitlay is less than pleased with our dealings with other sorcerer kings, and has sent a party of adventurers to disrupt our operations in the area. We all know that this would be extremely detrimental, not only to our organization, but to the people of Draj. This party needs to be stopped. Your resources to stop them will likely be stretched somewhat thin with the recent outbreak of silk wyrms in the area. If you can find some way to stop or otherwise dissuade this group from accomplishing their mission, that would be ideal. As you know, as of late Tectuktitlay’s tyranny has become almost unbearable. Agents of his recently ambushed a friendly caravan of Muls and Dwarves that was headed to Draj. They captured 2 Muls and a dwarf and have them held captive in the royal dungeon. This threatens our relations with other Merchant houses, and indeed threatens the very existence of the people of Draj.

Offer them a considerable reward for helping us – additionally, one of their numbers has crossed us in the past, but let them know we are willing to overlook this minor transgression if they can make themselves useful. They are currently in Tectuktitlay’s favor but if they fall out of that somehow (you and I both know how likely this is, given the King’s current…mood), this could make it easier.

This leaves the party with several options for their next move. For now, the adventurers rest in the comfort of the Trading Post barracks, and prepare for whatever adventure the next day might bring.

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The Death of a Hero

Such is the fate of a warrior. Less than a week has gone by since Kal El won his freedom from the arena and now here he lies, eviscerated on the floor of a dank cave of little importance or significance. The cruel world of Athas has taken someone whose star was seemingly just on the rise. Some may say that this was fate, but the stark reality is that this is how many adventurers meet their end. Not on a glorious crusade, but rather in some unsung hole. While his death may be tragic, recall what he has done in such a short time. He has freed three of the party from their bonds of servitude, saved two from attacking silt runners and has valiantly been at the front of every battle. His compassion and altruism was rare for a Goliath of Athas, but who is to say every creature must fit the mold that they are told they must?

With his death questions must be answered. How will the Sorcerer king of Draj take the death of his newest champion? Can the party survive without his tough skin or mighty hammer? As the torch is touched to his funeral pyre, his party gives one last salute of respect and walks back into the scorching heat of the afternoon to carve their place in the unforgiving world.

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The Gladiator's Paradox

It is odd, what the mind can adapt to. The signs of enslavement are pervasive in the everyday life of someone fighting for their life in the arena. However, if one can survive long enough to fight in multiple exhibitions the blood becomes almost intoxicating. Life is boiled down to overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds, with little to no downtime between challenges when the King demands entertainment.

Skilled combatants who prove themselves quickly move up into the elite echelon of veterans. Surviving becomes easier in the sense that the veterans protect each other to the best of their abilities, but this advantage is quickly mitigated by tougher, stronger, smarter and more sadistic foes than the mass of minions fought by farmers and petty criminals. In the increasingly unlikely situation that a gladiator wins their freedom, they find they can rarely reintegrate with society. The thrill of the arena beckons like a siren song, and relationships that were not forged through the fire and blood of combat seem vapid. Many fighters find themselves either back in the arena or throwing themselves headfirst into impossible situations to satisfy their insatiable thirst for action.

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The Arena of Draj
The Beginning

The searing red sun of Athas is in Zogg’s eyes. “What else is new?” the dwarf snorts to himself. Laying flat on his back, looking towards the sky he thinks about how this is the most peace he has had in a long time. The hard stone feels oddly comfortable beneath him and a nice nap sounds like just the way to pass the heat of the day as his eyelids slowly close. This is such a lovely place. Except for that incessant ringing. It was perfectly quiet, but now some jackwagon of a bug has decided to shrill somewhere nearby.

Cracking his eyes open Zogg sees a bolt of fire flash by and becomes increasingly aware of the familiar sound of battle all around him. Suddenly where and why he is here comes back to him in a rush. The concussive shockwave that flung his body like a doll across the arena accompanied by the sound of a sick thud and then oblivion. Reaching behind his head, he can feel the warm moisture of blood pooling on the arena floor. Zogg is now angry. Very angry. To his left, he sees his axe. As he stands and picks it up he sees the Hejkin sparker that hurled him across the arena in front of him. His rage builds. The sparker moves to attack another group of gladiators, which will prove to be its fatal mistake. As his vision becomes more and more obscured by his bloodrage, all he sees is the hejkin. All he wants is the hejkin. He has one purpose. This creature must die.

The next conscious moment Zogg has is back in the gladiator slave quarters. A formidable goliath is watching him from the edge of the bed. Noticing that Zogg is awake, the goliath extends his hand and in a gravelly voice says, “Well met, I am Kal-El, and I want you on my side in the arena.”

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