Join the Community-Driven Adventures of Almatia...
This new series of the WAYFARER Campaign Setting will consist of a string of short stories decided by you, the community of readers. Each installment of Almatia's journey will detail her trying times, along with a fully usable nonplayer character for Game Masters to use in their games of Pasts, Personas & Prophecies.
TO count the number of times the copper tinge of warm blood, mingled with the gritty texture of dirt had graced Almatia’s mouth would be nigh impossible. However, she found herself once again prostrate on the ground, seemingly defeated by a skilled, if distasteful, blow to her feminine jaw. Catching her breath, Almatia started into a standing position, pushing herself off the dusty street of Argon.
Using her forearm to wipe away the red spittle dripping from her lip, she turned round to face the booming voice behind her, “That gold belongs to me! Where did you stash it you filthy she-wolf?” Her interrogator, a brutish man of the Harbor Swamps, pointed at her with the stump of a severed finger. In his shadow stood a retinue of her former crew mates, whose leather tanned flesh had been wrinkled from many long years sailing the Gaping Sea. Noticing that they bore crude weapons in hand, Almatia recalled from her time aboard Orm’s ship just how easily these men slipped the part of mirthful sailors into the role of common street thugs.
“I already told you Orm; Lygdamis willed me his share from the voyage, if anything were to happen to him before we returned to Argon,” Almatia spat out the words along with a mouthful of blood at Orm’s sandaled feet.
“Captin' Orm,” the large man dryly commented, a title he routinely found himself reminding Almatia to make note of, and respect. Orm’s shoulders slumped into an accepting posture while his voice bore a chastising tone, “You know that’s not how it werks you thievin’ siren. I understand that you were the boy’s only friend, but wit’ him diein’, he forfeited ‘is share back to me, ‘is captin’.”
“I suggest you let me keep his gold, Orm. Let’s call it a bonus for saving your life during that Islander raid which your stupidity stirred up in the first place.” Orm’s eyebrows arched in disapproval, he disliked reminiscing of his late blunders in the Shattered Isles. Almatia however, took pleasure in the large man's failures, gladly reminding him of his mismanagement at sea in order to provoke his displeasure. Almatia leered, continuing in earnest, “The same attack that got Lydamis killed.”
Orm scoffed, shaking his head disapprovingly. He gestured forward with the stump of his phantom finger, commanding his handful of men to surround Almatia, hoping an attempt at intimidation would cow her normally stalwart courage into submission. Offering her a final opportunity to save herself, Orm warned, “Now, I don’t like havin’ to gut no woman, but you’ve got one last chance to tell me where yer’s and the boy’s pay is?”
“You’re a snake and a fatherless cur Orm! You may be entitled to the boy’s pay, but I’ll kill you before you take mine,” she cautioned him to cease following down this path; a road which could only end after one of the two stood victorious over the lifeless corpse of the other. The street’s bystanders began to slink away in an effort to vacate the street, as they too understood that this argument could end in no other way but through cold, life-taking iron.
Orm’s bearded grin revealed a mottled mouth of rotten teeth, save for one lonely gold tooth. “The way I see it, as a captin', you've wasted my time havin’ to track you down. So I’ll need yer share, as recompense for the efforts of me and my crew. So, be a nice little lady; give us the coin.”
At this command, Almatia, who normally would be eager to lash out further insult against a rival, quieted herself. She gracefully shuffled her feet across the gravelled floor into a familiar stance, one which had been impressed upon her muscles by years of training. Luckily for her, Orm and his crew carried nothing more threatening than rusted daggers, axes and splintered clubs; elsewise she may have been shot dead by an inept arrow as soon as she placed her hand on the hilt of her short sword. In her stillness, she was alert, aware of her assailants’ surrounding positions. Time, to her, seemed to have come to a standstill as she focused her breathing, readying herself to quickly strike down the first man to foolishly attack.
Almatia stood ready as the seconds ticked by. Eventually her inaction got the better of Orm, trying what little patience he possessed in that balding head. Orm, folded his arms across his barrel chest in disappointment. Angered by his failure to coerce Almatia out of her earnings, he let out a gruff sigh and groaned, “Spells and curses! If it must be yer life for the gold, so be it. Men, make it quick and slit ‘er skinny little throat.”
Eyes began to wander among the crew as each looked to the other to lead the charge. Observant onlookers might have noticed how nervousness made the sword arms of these sailing men tremor in fear now that they were forced to face their former companion. Each had witnessed her reaving; how she had effortlessly slayed men more fearsome than they, hurling their bodies into the black currents of the sea. Some of their number recalled how Almatia, caught in the rhythms of her battle-calm, lead the ship’s defense against the Islander assault. She, who many rightfully called, the ‘Red Blade.’
Annoyed by his men’s lack of spirit, Orm yelled in an effort to assuage their fear, “Hurry! 'Er purse goes to the man who draws first blood!” One man’s cowardice evaporated with the enticement of greater wealth which he could squander at one of Argon’s many brothels before the next leg of their voyage. In an undisciplined frenzy, the young man rushed forward, screaming his way toward an anticlimactic death. In a contest where his recklessness would be tested against Almatia’s skill, she would be the inevitable victor. Had he known that she, even for a woman, had been tempered by countless days training among the royal gardens of her homeland, he may have given up this foolhardy endeavor. Instead, he continued his charge until Almatia deftly side stepped the young man’s clumsy downstroke, unsheathed her short sword and met his unprotected flank with the naked point of her sharpened blade.
In amazement, Orm’s men watched as she slid the limp body off of her blood stained sword. To their surprise, she quickly broke off into a sprint down the one route left exposed by the young man’s sudden death. Each stood dumbstruck, attempting to process the fact that Almatia had turned tail in escape, believing that she was just as hesitant to face them as they were to chance her wrath. In truth, Almatia had not succumbed to cowardice, but nor would she foolishly brave a superior force that no less surrounded her, despite her unmatched ability. Better to gloriously fall another day, than to die in a last stand at the hands of honorless scum like Orm and his ilk. Yet, more importantly, she was set to task, determined to finish that self appointed charge which she had left the comforts of her homeland to complete.
Sword in hand, Almatia bound down the darkened streets of the Ngozite Neighborhood. She hurdled through the maze of city districts in an effort to lose Orm amongst the tangled and cramped causeways of Argon’s largest isle. Shopkeepers nearly dropped their wares in shock and women shrieked in surprised terror as Almatia darted by, followed by Orm’s entourage of cutthroats. After shoving her way through an idle city-watch patrol and leaping between rooftops above which pedestrians conversed below, Almatia eventually crossed the isle until she came upon the wooden docks of the ethnically Numerian residents.
Scanning her surroundings, her eyes frantically caught a glimpse of an approaching raft to her left, whose humble craftsmanship carried the remainder of rotten fish leftover from a poor day at the market. The meager and hungry stricken fishmonger lethargically brought his craft across the water in disappointment, slowly passing before the very pier Almatia now found herself standing upon. Halting for but a moment to consider whether it might be possible to-- but suddenly, as she was caught in mid thought, her pursuers spewed out of a cramped alley, clearly winded by their chase. Alerting his comrades, one of the crew yelled as he spotted Almatia.
Desperate for escape, she broke off down the pier, her strides clamping along the wooden planks of the harbor. With Orm’s threat quickly gaining on her, her eyes focused on the passing fish merchant. In a foolhardy sprint, she leapt from the point where the pier ended and the sea began. Bounding over the gap of open water, Almatia landed head first into the slimy pile of decaying fish.
Lifting her head, Almatia could see the rafter’s anger, undoubtedly sparked by her uninvited landing atop the heap of sticks which constituted his vessel. A landing which had very nearly shook him into the water, making his poor day at the market even worse. Over his shoulder, she could see Orm, turning an unhealthy shade of red, cursing her name as she slowly made her escape. Before the fishmonger could gather the words to protest her presence, she plumbed her hand into the stinking pile of days’ old fish and probed through its depths. From its mass she retrieved a fattened coin purse, which she dangled before the man’s hungry eyes. Smiling, the fish merchant asked, “where would you like to go?”