Desert World

Episode 1- Just Deserts

Our heroes meet!

It had been a long, hard trip. Brahma looked at the wagons and dray-beasts that drew them and snorted. Difficult indeed- fully half of the caravan had never left the hellish desert waste that now lie between them and home. He snorted again, this time with some interest in his new surroundings. The human city of Oasis, where he was to propose trade and regular caravans with the humans. Perhaps madness, perhaps wealth undreamed of.

As the war slaves dealt with the wagons under the eyes of the overseers, Brahma made his way to the nearest place that resembled an inn. Fortunately, it WAS such a place, and arrangements were made for the needs of himself and the remains of the caravan. Not surprisingly, most if not all of the clientele on the premises left quickly at the sight of the massive forms coming in out of the midday heat.

After most of the caravaners were within and food ordered, Brahma called the Herald over. “I need you to find the leader of this place. We must have time with them for negotiations, to make this trip worth the sacrifice.”

“Yes, my lord. At once.” With that, he turned on a hoof and was out the door.

Brahma watched the door for a short time, then turned his attentions to the food which had just been brought out. Not particularly thinking, he took a bite… And froze.

Beef. If was beef, and cooked. Ignoring the roiling disgust and rising rage, he rose with his plate, silencing his fellows with a glance as he approached the taverner behind the bar.

“You.”

The man looked up. “Yes lord?”

Brahma spoke slowly, not yet a master of the human’s tongue. “This… Is BEEF.”

“Yeah, so… Oh. Oh gods. I…”

“We are NOT pleased with this.”

“I… I didn’t think. I’m so sorry. Let me… Wait. Um. I’m fumbling. What must I do to fix this?”

Brahma watched the human as he panicked, then leaned in. “Not beef. Meat. Do NOT cook. Kill, but do not cook.”

“Yessir!” The man rushed off to the pens behind the tavern, and soon many chickens are losing their lives. Disturbed, Brahma watched the room as the tavern’s employees moved as quickly to remove the offensive flesh from their sight. How they could have thought serving beef to Minotaurs was beyond him.

Ravenae hurried across the floor of the temple. Being a young servant of the divine, she was dutied with generally minor, if not menial tasks daily. Today this duty was working the floor, acting as a traffic control on the people coming to the temple for aid, and providing that aid whenever possible.

Thusly occupied, she was on the spot when the minotaur walked in. The creature glanced around, finally focusing its gaze on her, likely do to her priestess’ garb. With a quiet snort the creature came towards her quickly, Ravenae only barely resisting the urge to backpedal away just as rapidly as it arrived. It once again looked her over, then spoke.

“You… Priestess?”

“Yes. What do you need?”

“Seek… Audience for my lord. For… Trade.”

Ravenae blinked. This was well out of her range of authority. “I must speak to my superiors. Wait here?” The creature nods. She realizes that the creature IS clothed, wearing a rich, decorated tabard and an intricately patterned waistpiece. And though not allowed, it also bears a massive war axe upon its back!

As quickly as she can, she makes her way to her immediate superior. In quick phrases, she explains what the creature wants, namely an audience for its leader with the High Priestess.

“I do not believe that such can be quickly arranged. She IS quite busy. It will be some time, likely a week before she will see his master. I believe that you are suitable to this duty- find out what the creature and its master are, and what they desire.” Concealing her unhappiness with this turn of events, she accepts the duty and returns to the Herald.

“My superiors have sent me to speak with your lord.” The creature tilts its head, its… No, his imperfect ability with the language causing it difficulty in understanding.

“You… Come to lord?”

“… Yes.”

“Ah. You… Herald?”

“Yes?”

“Good. Come.” With that, the creature turns on its hooves and heads for the door. Irrevelently, Ravenae finds herself focused on the almost-delicate clicking of the creatures hooves upon the tiled floor. The journey through town to the inn is uneventful, and she is relieved to see that they are staying at an inn, and a decent one at that. Her escort leads her inside, and she finds herself amidst… A LOT of Minotaurs. Their quiet, inhuman conversation stops at the sight of her, then slowly returns. She looks to the Herald who brought her here. “Your leader…”

“Brahma.” The name is spoken from the far side of the room, where another of the massive creatures waits. “I am Ambassador Brahma. You… Are priestess?”

Of course, this is when the plucked, raw, very dead chickens are brought out. To his people, Brahma says in his own language, “Dig in, boys.” Which they do. Ravenae swallows at the sight, but makes no comment.

“We… Come to this place… For trade. We speak to… Leader of this place to talk of this.”

“You wish trade? I can take that to my superiors. But there are three leaders here; you know this?”

“You wish to mate with Our Lady?”

Brahma blinks. “… Mate?”

Ravenae hesitates, then realizes her mistake and BLUSHES furiously. “No… NO! I meant MEET!”

The Ambassador grins, watching the half-elf’s skin change color in her embarrassment. “Yes, meet. No, mate.”

Finally composing herself once again, she says, “I will bear your word to my superiors and return with news, Ambassador.” Brahma grunts in the afirmative, and she leaves, returning to the temple.

Out in the hills between the mountains and the city known as Oasis, a lone figure made its way toward the walls of the human enclave. Not at all human, the creature looked across its surroundings, marking where motion of any kind might represent a danger to it.

Nerash knew his place, and it was nowhere. He was Tok’h, outcast, marked with the scars of the scourge and the knowledge of his death if his tribe ever got firm hold on him again. Seeing nothing dangerous, he continued his easy lope to the city gates, standing open after a caravan passed within. With studied nonchalance and perhaps some foolishness, he shifted his pack, leaving blades sheathed and walked within, shocked stares following his audacious action.

It didn’t take him long to realize that he’d made a mistake- one that might cost his life. He heard the mutterings, but forbore to draw blade… At least until the first rock struck him. This was followed by a knife that grazed his arm, and he knew he had to fight. Pulling the massive war axe, he turned to face his new foes, a mob of peasantry and guardsmen…

Ravenae reenters the temple after the meeting with the Ambassador. She’d learned a great deal, not the least of which was their intentions and what they were- Minotaurs in the Common tongue. Ready to pass on her report and the responsibility of the entire matter, her relief ad the end of the days troubles was short-lived.

“Way! Make way! We have injured!” The call goes out loud across the foyer, bringing Ravenae up short. She looks, and she sees a powerfully-built Gnoll, one of the warrior raiders of the hills being carried in by several guardsmen. The creature has a massive double-bitted war axe still clenched in its hand, and its hide is wet with the blood of many wounds.

Several voices ask what happened, and before any kind of coherent answer can be given five townsfolk are ALSO carried in, followed by several mobile wounded. Initially, Ravenae’s instinct is to go make her report, but another of the priests stops her. “Where are you going? All hands on deck; we have wounded here!”

Seeing that the humans are being cared for and most everyone else is busy, she goes to care for the gnoll. She doesn’t like the creature; his kind have raided the caravans and made limited strikes against the town for as long as she can recall. However, the duty of her order is healing, so she does what she can. First binding wounds, then healing with divine power.

“Get bindings for him; I’ll not have him loose. I’ve done what’s needed to keep him alive.”

However, the recuperative power of the creature seem strong. Before they can chain him, indeed just as the chains are brought in, he wakes and carefully sits up.

Ravenae sees this, and once again directs that he be bound. The creature simply looks at the men bearing the chains, and they hesitate. “Uh… Usually they’re not awake for this, ma’am…”

“Do it anyway.”

“I will not be bound. I’ll not cause harm here.”

The creature speaking, while expected, is not the kind of speech that was expected. Rather than violent action or threats, the gnoll seems reasonable… Which worries the young priestess.

“You are you be bound and held for trial. Submit to the bindings.”

“I will not be bound. Why should I be? What harm have I done?”

“You attacked these people!”

“No, I was attacked BY these people. I simply walked through the open gateway and into the town.”

This gives Ravenae a moment of pause; the creature doesn’t seem to be lying, and hist being attacked is a reasonable possibility. “Why did you come into out city?”

“Because, for some reason, I believed that I would be safe here. Obviously I was wrong.”

In the midst of the conversation, during which the gnoll has neither gotten up nor made any hostile motion other than refusing to be bound, one of the elder priests arrives.

“What is the matter here? Why is he not bound?”

“He refuses.”

The elder raises an eyebrow and looks at the creature. “What is your purpose here?”

“I came here to be safe.”

“You seek sanctuary?”

“I sought safety, but if I must ask sanctuary then yes.”

“Why did you attack those people?”

“I attacked no one. They attacked me. I refrained from killing any of them, as you see.”

The man watches the creature for a short time, during which it takes a cloth to sponge some of the blood from its hide. “Why are you here?”

The creature gives a resigned sigh. “I am Tok’h. Outcast.”

“Oh gods.” The priest shakes his head, then starts a casting. The gnoll offers no resistance, and the spell, one of truth, settles upon him. Some questions are asked once more, and with his truthful answers the tension in the room lessens. It lessens even more when the creature takes out a symbol of Vaeldur, a divinity of good aspect.

It is decided that he truly doesn’t mean harm, and it is accepted that he was attacked rather than his attacking the citizenry. “You… Are welcome here. You may stay within the temple for the time being, but you will do as she (he indicates Ravenae) tells you.” This is more an admonishment not to kill anyone unless she tells him its acceptable.

“May I have my possessions returned to me? I understand I may not have my weapons here.”

“Your things shall be returned to you.”

With this, Ravenae and the priest fall into conversation concerning her mission to speak with the Minotaur Ambassador; she relates what she learned, and she is once again assigned to the newcomers, to assist them in acclimating to their situation and to provide them with reasonable hospitality. While they talk, the gnoll, named Nerash, proves his own priestly status by healing his remaining wounds by divine power. He ends up being her bodyguard for the time being- a situation that seems to amuse him.

“May I clean up?”

“Of course. After you have done that we’ll return to the Minotaur delegation.”

“… Minotaurs? Small fish, or what?”

“Not small. Huge. Like… Cows.”

Nerash snorts in amusement.

He gets cleaned of the blood and filth, then dresses. The unusual pair make their way to the inn occupied by Brahma’s delegation; people are staring as they walk, Nerash biting down on an amused grin the entire way.

Finally they arrive and enter; Ravenae didn’t see any guards outside, but the moment they pass the threshold two guards appear next to them with disturbing rapidity. They shortly are before Brahma once again. Like his comapanion, Nerash had before this day had never seen a Minotaur before, and is intrigued; wisely, he says nothing on the matter.

The discussion between the Ambassador and the priestess begins once again, Brahma now getting a firm time for his meeting with the high priestess of the temple; from there the discussion turns to actual matters of trade.

“We are interested, Ambassador, in your trade, but what do you offer?”
 Brahma nods, then calls to one of his people. Bring in some of the trade goods!” There is a short delay as the things are gathered, but soon the offerings are within- gold and silver trade bars, leatherworking, and other material unique to the Minotaurs are offered. Ravenae nods, knowing that these will only be the start. She describes some of what Oasis has to offer including the steam tech that the tech mages produce. This gets the solid interest of the Ambassador.

“Steam tech?”

“Yes… I can’t properly describe it. Taverner, do you have anything that we could show the Ambassador?”

The man sets the glass he’s been polishing down and thinks. “I dunno, ma’am, lemme… Wait. Yeah. Yes I do!” He gomes out from the bar and starts rummaging in what looks to be a storage room. He comes out with a fairly hefty device, looking like some kind of pressure vessel with gears and rods protruding from its surface. He sets the thing up on the bar, and activates it.

There is a sound like pressure building, then the gears and rods go into motion. They pump, spin and whirl for a bit, then there is a ‘ding’ sound and the taverner opens the front of the device, removing what looks to be a cup of tea!

In Elvish Nerash comments, “Damn lot of work to boil water…”

The tea is offered to Brahma, but the taste of boiled leaves is decidedly not to his taste. He sets it down, then growls at one of his men. That worthy goes out to the caravan wagons, returning with a cask. This Brahma opens, pouring a cup for Ravenae to try- she does, finding it to be VERY potent wine, almost a brandy in its heat. She coughs a bit at the fiery drink and sets it down; Nerash raises an eyebrow to her, and she indicates back that he can try it. Its strong to him too, but more to his taste than hers. Still, he doesn’t just guzzle the beverage. With interest now found on both sides, more details will have to wait for Brahma’s meeting with the city council. Ravenae also explains a bit more of how the city leadership works, with the three councilmembers representing the military, religious orders and Tech Mages. With the Ambassadors interest in this, she asks a question in turn.

“May I ask where you are from?”

Brahma snaps his fingers, and a roll of maps is brought out. The table is cleared and these are rolled out, revealing that the caravan apparently crossed the desert, something few if any would ever consider- generally, such attempts are fatal. However, with a known distance and an identifiable destination, the task becomes a great deal more possible. Nerash scans the map as the other two talk, but sees nothing by way of landmarks that he recognizes other than the city itself.

Brahma snorts softly as the maps are removed. “Can you… Show me… City?”

“Of course. I can show you the city, and when it gets darker you’ll see the steam lights.”

“I would like that.”

The three prepare to leave, Nerash barely containing his amusement; he knows what kind of spectacle this is going to create. Brahma garbs himself in the tabard of his office, strapping on his massive axe; he then starts to put on a terrifying steel helmet- It covers much if his head, encasing his massive horns with serrated-edged sheaths- running down its center is more deadly metal, and Ravenae pales at the thought of people’s reaction to the sight.

“Um… Perhaps not wearing the helmet would be best.”

Brahma considers, and being that he IS an Ambassador understands why and acquiesces to the request. “I will bring my axe.”

“That will be fine.”

The trio leave the tavern, and start a grand tour of Oasis. As they go, all three note that guardsmen stare at them, when they pass one stop and approach the next, the numbers of guards increases. Nerash is having trouble not laughing, and can’t get the Gnoll equivalent of a grin from his face. They visit the two towers in the city, starting with the Temple Spire wherein Ravenae makes her home.

“This is where I live.”

“This is your home?” Brahma looks around the tower, obviously impressed at the architecture; he seems doubly impressed by the finely-carven stonework covering the walls.

“Yes, I live here. The carving was done by Elves.”

“It is very.. Fine. My people… Could not do this. Not done by humans?”

“No. Elves. I’m Half-Elven myself.”

Brahma nods, still looking at the carvings. Nerash asides to Ravenae in Elvish, “Such carving is something valuable as trade between your peoples; perhaps you could suggest this.”

She nods. “We could talk to the Elves.”

“Arranging it through the city would be best. Kill two birds with one stone, more of a meal.”

From the temple, they make their way to the Mage’s Tower, wherein the Tech Mages reside. It is in this quarter of the city that the so-called steam lights are most prominent. As the mountains are to the west, the sun sets behind them and causes an early twilight; shortly some of the lights start to come on, even Nerash being interested; his people have faced the dreaded steam-powered weapons of the Tech Mages. As they continue, there is a sudden rumbling, followed by a nightmarish shreik that rips through the air! Brahma instantly draws his axe and prepares for a fight, Nerash stopping himself from doing the same, knowing that if they were under attack from something that loud, the fight isn’t going to last long.

Ravenae, knowing what the noise is and being used to it, quickly calms the warriors. “Its the Mage Tower. It sounds to indicate that it is dark.”

Nerash tries to not look at her like she’s mad. “If it is dark, you can SEE that it is dark. Why is noise needed?”

Brahma comments as well. “My people make sounds like that with horns when we are about to enter battle.”

By now there are large knots of guardsmen watching the trio nervously. Nerash can’t resist grinning and waving to them as they make their way back to the inn. Brahma thanks Ravenae for the tour and her assistance, then takes his leave. She and Nerash, with an unplanned escort as by now it is past the curfew return to the Temple Spire for the night,

And there we end for now, in two weeks we continue!

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Sorien

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