Mysteries of Mystara Dak

Mysteries of Mystara
Dak's Background and Prequel Story

The Landing

The twin masted sailing sloop glides through the water with a surety that belies its quick pace.  Despite the lack of a breeze nor oars in the water it leaves a sizable wake in its path.  Alongside the captain a young dusky skinned man holds his arms aloft with a look of quiet concentration on his face.  The captain works the rudder with confidence born of long experience.  Occasionally he glances at the youth on his right, smiling and nodding in obvious approval.


In a short time the ship pulls alongside the empty pier and several sailors move to secure her. The captain reaches out and shakes the youths hand warmly.  “That was a fine bit o’ work there lad.  Ye saved me boys a lot of work on the oars ye did.”  The youth tries to downplay his contribution but the captain over rides him firmly.  “I’ve been with ye long enough already to know ye won’t accept praise for yer work.”  He forces a small pouch into the youths hands and it clunks softly of metal coins.  “That’s yer passage fee back and a bit more besides.  We never woulda made it through that storm if it wasn’t for ye and yer magic!”  

The captain rubs his scruffy beard nervously and continues talking.  He’s already having said more than his usual wont.  “The boys and I have taking a liking to ya, this ye know already.  Yer a fine hand and a calm one in the middle of a storm.  Not to mention what ye can do with the wind and sea.  We’d like ya to stay on with us and give ye a full share and a quarter to boot!” 

Several of the sailors have stopped in their duties to add their voices to the captain's offer.  He silences them with a gruff wave of his hand.  “Ye were born to sail these waters same as us lad.  The landlubbers there will only give ye trouble, mark me well!  I know your people like to see all what the world has to offer, but ye can do that right here with me and the boys.  What say ye?  Will ye join us?”

The youth smiles broadly and answers them boldly.  “It would be a pleasure to stay and sail with you and the crew of the ‘Emerald Maiden, but the wind is blowing me in the opposite direction!  It will give me no rest until I have followed it to the source.  I do promise if I ever do make it back this way I will look for you and the rest of your fine crew!”  The young man takes a moment to make his farewells before slinging his pack over his shoulder.  

He steps lightly down the gangplank as it bounces beneath his feet.  It takes only a brief moment for him to acclimate to the solid ground again.  Squaring his shoulders he heads down the pier and into town.  Gently but insistently an unseen wind blows at his back propelling him onward.

Dak Goes With the Flow

Dak arrived in Specularum, the capital city of Karameikos. It was the largest city he had ever seen. It was also the stinkiest place he had ever been. He found the sights and sounds exciting, but the press of people and their aroma was a bit much at times. While spending several weeks in the city, he made several new friends, and even some enemies. One interesting fellow was a halfling, or Hin, as they like to be called, named Fergus Proudsun. Something of a rogue and adventurer, Dak was immediately taken by the diminutive character. Fergus helped Dak navigate some of the intricacies of city living and kept him from making too many serious blunders. Fergus had traveled all over the Known World, or at least so he said, and this impressed Dak quite a bit.After several weeks, Dak had begun to grow tired of the city life and was ready to explore the countryside. Fergus, who originally had plans to get a group of friends together to go adventuring, was unexpectedly called away to deal with some “serious business” that he did not elaborate on and was out of Dak’s life. 

Fergus Proudsun
The young Makai decided to again use his magic to pay for his explorations and hired on as a “propulsion expert” on a merchant boat heading upriver. He spent the next several weeks traveling up and down the Highreach, Windrush, and Hillfollow Rivers to cities like Kelvin, Penhaligon, Verge, Stallanford and many smaller villages and towns in between.

One day, while resting between jobs in the city of Kelvin, where the three major rivers come together, he found that he had a letter from his old friend, Fergus. Apparently the Hin was currently located in a place called Castallen Keep, far to the north. Fergus asked Dak to travel the Highreach River to the Castallen River and come north to meet him. He tempts the  young mage with stories of a cave where the water flows upward…

Folding the letter up Dak tucks it away in his rucksack.  Talking to no one in particular, “I wonder what Fergus is carrying on about?  Water flowing upward?  Surely my tiny friend is exaggerating again. Even if he is, it's sure to be something worth seeing.  Wherever Fergus seems to go, adventure is waiting.  Besides, I think I’ve had enough of the city life for a while. Time for fresh water I think!”

Dak gets up from the levy he was sitting on.  He tucks away the slender pole he was using as a fishing rod and adjusts his rucksack.  “The fishing here was never good anyways, here's to hoping it will be better up north.”  Dak heads back into town and down to the docks.  Surely someone will be heading north soon enough.  

Dak is able to find a riverboat heading upstream on the Highreach, or Volaga, as the Traladaran’s call it, to the Castellan River. The captain of the boat offers 100 silver in payment to see the boat safely to Veseya, one of the farthest points north boats can reach on the Castellan River. 

Dak agrees to the captain's terms with a handshake.  She seems to be a capable leader but he’s still trying to get used to all the new mannerisms these mainlanders seem to have.  Once aboard he’s introduced to the crew and shown a place to stow his gear.  Dak takes a bit of time and begins to familiarize himself better with both the ship and its crew. 

From the stern of the ship he looks back at Kelvin one last time.  It was an interesting city located in such a prime trading locale.  So much to learn and every question answered just led to more questions. Not for the first time he feels like a bluefin in uncharted waters and a strong current pushing him forward.  Dak smiles and holds his arms up taking in the humid breeze from the river.  He has no clue where this current is pulling him but he is keenly interested in finding out.

Eager to show the captain his value, Dak begins casting a spell.  He waves his arms in an intricate pattern imitating the flow of water around the ship and claps his hands together vigorously.  Simultaneously he chants the words of power, first under his breath asking for the water spirits to heed his call.  Then gradually he intones louder and more insistently calling for the spirits to pull the ship forward.  

The water around the ship roils furiously for a moment then erupts in a large wave that crashes into the stern of the ship soaking Dak and the captain.  Abashed, Dak looks over into the now smoldering gaze of the captain.  Hoots of derisive laughter break out from the crew.  Dak pulls some stray moss from the front of the captain's tunic.  “Let me get that for ya ma’am!”  Before she can recover Dak begins the ritual again.

This time the spell goes off without any further blunders.  The nimble ship seems to dance across the tops of the waves.  Dak hopes the captain is impressed enough to keep aboard.  His normally buoyant optimism flounders momentarily as he mutters to himself, “What a way to start a new adventure!”

“Yes, yes, good show, water mage, fortunately for you, we’ll have to sail DOWN river for a bit before making the turn into the Highreach. Not a lot of traffic up this way, and with you to help guide us along, we should make quick time! At least my lazy rowers will get to take it easy enough!” The captain laughs at this and the nearby rowers chuckle uncomfortably. “Really though, even with your magical help, there will be plenty to do. I am assuming you can change the course and direction of the flow in case we need to stop or make maneuvers? The Highreach is fairly navigable pretty far up, but the Castellan can be a bit tricky. See, once we move on to that tributary, the surrounding land becomes more rocky and high. Lots of mud and rock slides come down into the river from the western bank, and the eastern bank is quite shallow and a frequent place for ambushes by bandits and humanoids. There are also a few fords where the boat may need to be dragged a bit, but we'll see."

The boat, a low-keeled riverboat with eight deckhands, is loaded with cargo and a handful of passengers as well, all camped out on deck amid the crates and bales of trade goods. The below deck area is small and cramped, loaded with the more valuable cargo. Dak sees a mast and sail that can be used as well. As the voyage gets underway, Dak notices a lot of looks from both passengers and crew. Not necessarily bad looks, but definitely curious. 

Dak returns their looks with equal curiosity.  He’s about as familiar with the myriad ethnicities of these mainlanders as they are with his island kin.  Undaunted he realizes that time will prove he’s just as capable of a sailor as any of them.  He doesn’t shy away from hard work and is always willing to lend a hand without being asked.

As soon as the work is done though Dak breaks out his fishing pole and chats randomly with the crew and the passengers alike.  There is so much to learn, they have such odd customs compared to what he is used to.  He’s not sure he will ever understand it all.  

Taking stock of the passengers and crew, Dak is able to tell that the crew of the boat are mainly Thyatians, though three or four of them could be Traladaran or mixed ancestry Karameikans, he hasn’t quite gotten good enough to discern that yet. Mostly it was the clothing, he assumed, that set the local people apart, that and their language. Fortunately he had already picked up a workable mastery of both languages and was beginning to understand the customs of the Thyatian segment of the population, though the Traladaran customs were definitely still a mystery to him. 

There were 11 passengers on the boat. A Traladaran family of five: father, mother, young adult daughter (16-18ish), and two younger boys, they all appear to be a dour, mourning lot, all wearing black; three Thyatian soldiers or mercenaries based on their armor and weapons carried onboard; an older, bronze skinned Human wearing a turban and long flowing robes traveling with a very attractive young woman with bronze skin and dark hair; and finally a young Human minstrel that is constantly singing, joking, spinning yarns, or strumming his lute. 

Just as Dak settles in to do some fishing, the bard sashays over and begins singing a song about a dark stranger filled with the magic of the water. He dances around Dak’s spot paying no mind to the fact that Dak is trying to fish. "Toss a coin to your fisher…” he sings on and on.

As unobtrusively as possible Dak murmurs a few words of power and twirls his hands delicately.  On the boat reactions are mixed.  The two young boys catch sight of Daks casting and look at each other quizzically.  The Thyatian mercenaries seem unimpressed although one does ease his blade in its scabbard just in case. A long fat tendril of water pulls itself out of the river behind Dak.  

The bard gives Dak a raised eyebrow look as he continues playing, the water tendril rises up and dances above his head, threatening to pour down on him at any moment. The two boys at the other end of the boat point and laugh, bringing attention from pretty everyone else. The Captain turns and looks as the bard steps away from the edge of the boat and moves in next to Dak, still singing and strumming, now going on about a magic river and the luck bestowed upon any who sailed her waters. Recognizing the audience and the potential consequences, Dak has his water snake move and undulate to the bard’s song, forming a little dance. This encourages the bard who launches into yet another song. Dak and the bard keep this up for a few minutes until Dak fears he is going to wear himself out again so soon after casting the taxing Current spell on the boat. He nods to the bard who raises his eyebrows in understanding and both finish their performances at the same moment, the water splashing down back in the river and the bard doing a little jump. Everyone, even the Thyatian soldiers, clap and cheer at this impromptu music and water show.

“Ahh, my friend, that was grand, was it not?” the bard says as he flops down on a pile of canvas sacks full of something not altogether uncomfortable. Dak eases himself down onto a nearby crate. “I am Willoby Montgomery Egorian, III, esquire. Pleased to meet you, navigator. I did not initially intend to disturb you, well, let’s be honest, sure I did. I was feeling you out. You being the outsider of the group. You hail from the Irendi Isles, no doubt, one of the Makai people? I have met your kind before. I was merely engaging you in hopes of drawing you out, to see who you really were! And well met, well met!” He laughs heartily then leans forward, extending his hand to shake.

Dak grips his hand firmly and returns the greeting.  “It is good to meet you, Willoby.  It was no disturbance but I just thought to return the favor a bit.  As you sought to learn a little about me I thought it would do to show me some of your character as well.”

“I am of the Makai, although now it has been many days since I have seen my homeland. The winds of change have caught me up and blown me in this direction. Then as the winds faltered the current grabbed a hold of me and continued pulling me forward.” Dak seems to be quite literal about the forces that have brought him to the mainland.

Dak gestures to the lute the bard is carrying. “You play and sing very well. It pleases me that you were able to make these people forget their troubles for a while. I thank you for that.”  

The bard smiles and he and Dak become friends. Over the next few hours, Dak reestablishes his control over the flow of water beneath the vessel. This keeps him relatively depleted magically and he mostly just fishes and rests. At the rate the boat is moving, the Captain expects to arrive at Misha's Ferry before nightfall, well ahead of schedule. The plan is to dock there for the evening and continue on at first light. 

But before the boat reaches its first day destination, things start to happen. While fishing, Dak starts to notice some strange debris floating downstream around the boat. It appears to be clothing and foodstuff with an occasional barrel or broken up crate. Curious, he gets up to have a look but before he can glean any further information, he hears a terrified scream from the other side of the boat. Juri, one of the two young Traladaran boys, has snagged some of the clothing debris with a pole and pulled it close to the boat. His brother, Laszlo, is quickly retreating from whatever they have discovered. 

As it turns out, the boys had discovered a huge, dead fish that stunk horribly. The boat, the River Arrow, reached Misha's ferry well before nightfall. The Ferry is a minor affair: a dock, a shack, a raft, and a Traladaran youth named Bahaznic, though today it was quite busy. Some homesteaders from nearby were there driving a herd of majestic white horses and would use the ferry to cross in the morning. Another group of Traladarans had just been ferried from the far side after doing some work out on the moor harvesting peat to fuel the big cities downriver. If that weren't enough, there was a small group of lumber men from the camps to the north waiting for passage back to Kelvin.

Dan takes all this in and watches as the bard, Willoby, entertains the rather large crowd easily. Based on the amount of coin, food, and drink he takes in, Dak considers briefly learning to sing.

The next morning, the River Arrow heads north. It stops at two lumber camps, Ilyakana and Sielo to take on some lumber cargo. Though the boat only traveled 20 miles that day, the rest of the time was spent loading lumber at Sielo, which seemed more like a fort than a lumber camp. Apparently some trouble with Goblins several years ago had prompted the Duke to fortify the area. Seemed safe enough now, if not loud and boisterous after sundown. 

As the River Arrow heads out the following morning, Dak learns that Willoby has decided to stay in Fort Seilo for a while, as have some of the other travelers, though a handful of new travelers have boarded, including another Bard. This one keeps his distance from Dak, though it is clear that the Traladaran entertainer is intrigued by Dak’s magic. The Captain explains that there are not many safe or civilized places to dock between here and Veseya, so everyone needs to be on the lookout for danger. The river is narrower and runs faster here as well, which means, due to Dak' s magic, the boat travels faster as well, making underwater obstacles more of a problem. Dak and the crew have little time for much else than safely navigating the rapidly moving River Arrow.

Just after noon, the steep northern bank levels off into a wide plain with a high escarpment about 200 yards back. The escarpment is the near edge of a high plateau that runs on for some distance. Soon, a broken, ruined tower can be seen above the edge of the plateau. Numerous ravines run into the plateau here and facings of buildings and cliffside dwellings can be seen. Flocks of large, dark birds can be seen circling the top of the strange, octogonal tower. Even though it is broken off at the top, it towers some 60 feet over the top of the escarpment and nearly 100 feet above the river. 

"Xitaqa," the Captain mutters. "No good, that place. It was at the center of all the trouble several years ago. Goblins and slavers and the Yellow Wizard. Nothing but trouble." As her boat rushes past, she says no more. 

A little later, both banks are high, rocky cliffs, the sound of many galloping horses can be heard. Up high on the top of the western bank, a company of mounted riders can be seen. After a second look, it seems they are not horses and riders but a large herd of Centaurs, at least thirty of them. They hoot and holler and wave their spears and axes in the air but make no threatening moves. One of the crew calls them the Stormwind Centaurs.

The day ends where the Castellan River joins the Volaga from the north. The Captain directs her crew to make for the bank between where the two join because there is a campsite there that some hunters and trappers use and it is the best, most defensible spot in the area and there are too many people and too much cargo to comfortably rest on the boat anymore. 

The campsite is deserted, which is just fine, as the passengers need all the room they can get. Dak opts to sleep on the boat as he prefers the slight undulating motion of the craft to the unmoving ground. The following two days of travel are uneventful. Only two other boats pass heading downstream. As the boat pushes farther north, the banks become higher and higher, only leveling off occasionally. The dark line of mountains can be seen in the distance, but usually their view is blocked by the wooded hills of this area. The leafy trees obscure anything beyond the banks in most cases. Here and there, pine trees begin to appear. Despite the approaching summer, the wind occasionally has a coolness to it as well. The land continues to rise slowly and finally, just after noon, the boat arrives in Veseya, a quaint little riverside village. The docks are busy as another boat looks to be loading up. Several dockhands wave and indicate where the River Arrow is to tie off. Dak and the crew guide her deftly to her destination. The Captain thanks Dak, pays him his 100 silver and tells him he has a job with her whenever he likes. The two shake hands and Dak steps onto the wooden planks and makes his way into Veseya. As he approaches the base of the dock, he notices one of the other passengers standing there, looking at him. Dak recalls that he was another bard type that came aboard at one of the lumber camps. The young Traladaran man is tall, over 6', smiling widely, and has a small stringed instrument hanging from his shoulder. He is definitely waiting for Dak. Further into the village, across the street, Dak notices a strange woman with bronze skin and a top-knot of dark hair wearing an unusual outfit of matching jacket and pants. She is staring at Dak and this Traladaran bard then stumbles and sits down hard on a barrel. The Traladaran turns and looks at her too. She just stares back in open-mouthed surprise.

Cast of Characters:

Dak, a Makai islander fluid mage - played by Ben L

and GMJasonGURPS as the DM

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