Welcome to Katapesh, land of enchantment and burning sands, of trade and adventure, of genies and legends! Our story begins on the evening of the 30th of Desnus, in the year 4711 AR, in the common room of the Breakstride, an inn in the western town of Solku, the last stop on the east-west caravan route before it crossed the Barrier Wall into the Mwangi expanse.
Katapesh is a country on the west coast of the continent of Garund. If you imagine that Golarion is Earth, then Garund is Africa, and Katapesh is where Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Somalia would be, more or less. But Golarion is not Earth!
It is a generally hot and dry country. The north and west are dry, rugged hills; the central part is savannah and shrublands; and the south is shifting sand. Katapesh is bordered on the west by the Barrier Wall, a range of tall mountains that seperate it from the jungles of the Mwangi Expanse; to the north by the Brazen Peaks, a spur of the Barrier Wall which divides Katapesh from Osirion; to the east by the Obari Ocean; and to the south by a tributary of the Ustradi river, which separates it from Nex.
The capital city of Katapesh is also called Katapesh; it is located on the coast of the Obari ocean. It is ruled by the Pactmasters, mysterious immortal entities whose primary law is, "Do not interfere with trade." Trade is, then, the primary economic activity in Katapesh, with the slave and drug trades each forming large sectors. It is said that anything can be purchased in the bustling bazaars and souks of Katapesh. However, it is not an entirely lawless place; commodities which would be contraband elsewhere are legal in Katapesh, but laws against theft (which includes taking slaves within the city) and disruption are strict. The officially endorsed religion in Katapesh is that of Abadar, god of law, cities, and trade, but among the poor, and especially among slaves, the faith of the sun goddess Saranrae, which preaches salvation for the downtrodden, redemption for those who seek it, and vengeance against the unrepentant, is far more popular.
Although in a cosmopolitan metropolis such as the city of Katapesh, all races can be found, by and large, Katapesh is a land of humans, primarily Keleshites and Garundi. There are no major elvish or dwarven settlements that are currently occupied. Halflings, both free and slaves, live among the humans in the cities, but are less common in the countryside. There is one gnomish town, Finderplain, in the west-central part of the country. Orcs, and their half-orc kin, are much rarer in Garund than in Avistan to the north; here, gnolls are much more common, typically preying on hapless travellers and selling those they do not kill at the slave market in Katapesh. The common language of Katapesh is Kelish.
The main agricultural commodity is pesh, a narcotic derived from the flower buds of a cactus which grows in the northern hills and drier areas of the savannah. Pesh is enjoyed by many of the inhabitants of Katapesh, and all enjoy the economic benefits its cultivation brings, directly or indirectly, but it can be addictive and harmful. Imagine something between marijuana and opium, in both effect and harmfulness.
A middle-aged man sits alone at a table, calmly sipping tea. He is tall and neat, with a lantern-jaw and a well-trimmed black beard. He wears a white keffiyeh and the robes of a desert traveller. He appears to be absorbed in some sort of paperwork, but her periodically raises a rueful glance at the group of four rough-looking men drinking at the bar.
That's you guys; Valik is not here yet.
Asad sits and drinks his ale at the bar, quietly taking in his surroundings. He is a bit of a brute, Tall with dark hair, dark eyes, with thick unruly hair and facial hair. It is clear he isn't focused on his looks. This man has seen his fair share of fights, and although he isn't young, he isn't very old either.
"Well men, what shall we drink to today?"
His eyes darting to look a Asad as he large man spoke, the shorter, skinnier man seems to eye him nervously. Though bearing less scars than Asad, Dullen was far from being a charmer. Garbed in simple clothing and bearing the obvious marks of a man who has some experience with Pesh, Dullen could hardly be seen as the type that would take up mercenary work. However, looking past the nervous twitch was the same cold look that Asad had, the mark of a man who had lived a hard life and done what was necessary to survive.
"Um, well how about we just start off with a beer. Word is that it's gonna be a hot one today."
|Dross the sellsword|
With pale skin, sunken eyes and dark greasy hair Dross is not a well looking man. He carries a haunted look of a man that has compromised on morals a few to many times. He stares at the near empty glass in front of him and then looks up at Dullen "Might as well have another while I have the coin to spare." He says with a shrug and then stands looking down the bar to someone who's serving. " Hey! More beer down here " then he drops back down on his stool and downs the last of his drink.
Oops, forgot posting guidelines.
Narration of in-character actions is in plain text
The proprietor of the establishment, an angular and plainspoken middle-aged halfling woman named Erilene Finch, climbs briskly up a stepladder and pops her head up from behind the bar.
Dialog is <b>bold</b>
"Four beers then?"
Just then, a loud crash erupts from the kitchen.
Shouting is <b><bigger>bigger and bold</bigger></b>
"Hey, be careful back there!"
She turns quickly back to the four men.
Whispering is <b><smaller>smaller and bold</smaller></b>
"Excuse me, gentlemen." She hops nimbly down off her stepladder and hastens back to the kitchen.
Inner monologue/thoughts are <i>italic</i>
"I should never have hired that good-for-nothing nephew of mine..."
Dialog in any language other than Kelish should be in a <spoiler=name-of-language>spoiler box</spoiler>. Only read it if you know the language. This reminds me; you should take your regional language (Kelish, if you are from Katapesh) instead of Common (Taldane). Travis and Dross need to pick languages. Common and Gnoll are other languages commonly spoken in Katapesh.
Why are you reading this? None of you speaks Halfling!
"Antouq, you bumbling idiot! Why can't you be more careful! I swear, if you weren't my brother's son, I'd turn you out in the street! Clean up this mess immediately! Those dishes are going to come out of your pay!"
"Jemma, will you please help Antouq clean up? And we need to get that food remade pronto!"
Erilene returns to the common room and climbs back up behind the bar, the stormy look vanishing from her face as she turns back to her customers.
"You just can't get good help these days..."
Information which requires a skill check is also in a spoiler, with the DC. In your own post, roll "name-of-skill: <dice>1d20+yourbonus+yourotherbonus</dice>", hit the "preview" button so you can see your roll, and then only read the spoiler if you made it.
(for Garavel; normally I don't give you the NPCs' checks for things like this, but this is an example)
Sense Motive: 1d20 ⇒ 3
And of course, out-of-character commentary is <ooc>blue</ooc>. And replace all the <> with .
"Now, where were we? Four beers, coming right up!"
She bustles back to a large wooden keg against the back wall and starts drawing beer for the mercenaries.
In response to Travis' statement, Dullen says, "Ya can pay your own way. I'm not gonna le some man drink on ma own coin." As all the activity happens in he inn, Dullen jumps a little at the sudden noise, his hand slipping to he dagger sheathed in his boot. However, realizing that is was nothing, he calms himself and downs the last of his beer before putting the mug on he counter top. Well that didn't help none. Hopefully tha next one will do tha trick, he thinks to himself as he sullenly waits for he next round.
Sense Motive:1d20 + 3 ⇒ (2) + 3 = 5
Several of the other diners look up at Asad disapprovingly.
The woman, who is dressed in dusty travelling clothes and only modestly pretty, is sitting at a nearby table eating dinner. She looks up at Asad's bellowing, and is surprised to see him looking at her. She glances around, as if to see if there is someone else behind her he might be talking about, then pales. Her eyes dart between the four mercenaries. She abruptly picks up her meal and moves to a more distant table, near where some other patrons are eating quietly.
The bartender plops drinks down in front of the mercenaries. "Now, now, sir, this is a respectable establishment. I'll thank you not to bother my other customers."
Asad says with big grin.
"Just having a bit of fun I am. Aren't you halfkins sposed' to be jokesters yerselves? Or is that the Gnomes?
Anyway were I not respectable man, I could see where we'd have a problem. I'll keep quiet though, just keep the ale a comin so when I open my mouth I have somethin to put in it!"
@Garavel "Ah I meant no trouble. Could they see past the rough exterior, they'd know that. I was tryin' to add some fun to the place!"
|Dross the sellsword|
Asad's comment actually elicits a smile from the otherwise glum and skittish Dullen. Respectable establishment, huh? Yeah, I guess I gotta remember that this isn't my usual haunt back in Katapesh.
"Sorry fer that ma'am. I guess our exuberance knows no bounds. We'll be sure ta behave ourselves while here." With that, Dullen drinks from his mug, seeming to return to whatever place the mercenary normally goes when he isn't speaking.
The door opens, letting in a skirl of windblown sand, and illuminating the interior of the establishment with the sharp glare of noon sun. A large man ducks under the lintel and into the room, shutting the door behind him. The room returns to the comfortable gloom of light leaking between shutters and under the door.
The man shakes the dust off his worn travel cloak and flips it over his shoulder, then lowers his hood. The man is ruddy faced and blonde haired, with the barest wisps of a beard beginning to grow in. Large, young and well armed, he seems to have brought a fair amount of weapons with him as well. He holds himself quite proudly as he stands in the entryway, perhaps with the arrogance of youth...or perhaps with the surety of his strength of arms.
Valik squints into the gloom of the bar as his eyes adjust to the lower light.
"I uh...this is the Breakstride Inn correct?" he asks nobody in particular. "Is there someone named Garavel here?" he says in an accented common tongue.
Valik weaves his way between the tables, conscious of the eyes of some in the tavern on him, sizing him up.
"Ah, Garavel. It is my understanding that you are travelling to Kelmarane soon. I seek to accompany you there. I have family that traveled to that village a few months ago, and I would like to follow them. I know which end of the sword to use, and have fired a bow once or twice."
Valik grins again at his little joke, which has the unfortunate effect of making him look even younger, despite his size and considerable weaponry.
Head bobbing towards the door that opens, it takes a moment for his eyes to adjust to the glare. A futile moment as the door shuts once more, forcing his eyes to once again adjust. Once he is able to see, he lays eyes upon probably the most impressive man he had ever seen. And here he thought Asad was impressive. Leaning over to Asad, he mutters, "Hey Asad, don't look now, but looks like the caravan might get a new resident strong man."
Garavel nods, sizing up Valik.
He is young, but I think this one has potential. Certainly more than the rest of this wretched lot. Almah will be pleased.
Welcome, then, Valik, and salaam. It is strange, indeed, that you have family in Kelmarane, for it is my understanding that the city is overrun by bloodthirsty gnolls. I hope your family member did not travel there in... unpleasant circumstances of servitude.
Perception 1d20 + 2 ⇒ (11) + 2 = 13
Valik looks visibly perplexed for a moment.
"And uh, may the Lady light your path, to you."
Valik is silent for a moment as he thinks.
"Well that is odd." he says, "I am pretty sure that she wasn't a slave going with the caravan, I mean the folks that I talked to said that she paid her way and all. The caravan was heading towards Osirion though, and the drover at the caravanasi that I talked to said that he had heard some of them mention travelling through Kelmarane."
"In any manner, Kelmarane is closer to Osirion than Soklu right? So it still makes sense for me to travel with you. If Haleen did get into trouble in Kelmarane, well, the caravan is going to be the best way of making sure that I get there. The desert is unforgiving to one man alone."
Garavel glances coldly at Asad, and then turns back to Valik.
Very well, but I am recruiting for an expedition, not running a caravan or escort service. If you accompany us, you will be expected to follow orders, to fight as necessary, and not to take your leave until our task is complete. You will, of course, be paid for your efforts.
|Dross the sellsword|
Indeed. My mistress, the merchant princess Almah Roveshki, has been charged by the Pactmasters of Katapesh to restore order and rule of law to the town, so that it may become open to trade once more. I have been authorized to promise 200 dinars*... His eyes stray to Dross. ...to each able bodied individual... He returns his attention to Valik. ...who assists in this venture. We leave at dawn tomorrow.
* gold pieces
"In that case, I most certainly wish to fight with you! That is a certainly a good cause. I have heard that the Pactmasters only do what is in their interest, but it seems to me that people that are free to trade are free from the teeth of gnoll tribes as well. The Lady will certainly be pleased with such an outcome and most likely smile on our efforts."
Valik smiles, quite pleased with this outcome, he had doubts when he had first seen the notice, but this was turning out to be an excellent opportunity.
|Dross the sellsword|
Garavel nods. Very well. We will also provide you with a stay at the Breakstride Inn tonight, and food for the duration of the expedition. It is your responsibility to furnish your weapons and any other equipment. If you will just sign this contract... He slides a piece of paper and a quill pen across the table to Valik. The text is written in complex legal jargon, containing the words "Almah Roveshki," "Kelmarane," and "200 dinars."
Just kidding. Not usable untrained!
@Travis He said you leave at dawn tomorrow. ;-)
I guess I didn't make it clear that the mercenaries already know all this stuff, and have signed their contracts.
Valik frowns as he makes a vailant attempt to read the document.
"I cannot read this! I don't know what many of these words mean!" Valik says, frustration and anger making his face flush red. Then, he visibly calms himself.
"I am honor bound to complete what I set myself to. As I cannot read this...contract...we can do one of three things, you can pledge Almah Roveshki's honor that I will be given board, transport and 200 dinars for the rescue of Kelmarane from whatever evil lies there. I will pledge my honor that Almah Roveshki will be my captain until the rescue of Kelmarane is complete. If necessary we can write the same on paper and I will make my mark on it. Or I can sit down with you and you can explain to me what each sentence means. I am quite happy to learn and if you are a patient teacher, I can be a patient student.", Valik finishes with a friendly smile.
Garavel blinks several times. His face remains calm, however.
Intriguing... All the others signed the contracts without reading them. A different sort of man altogether, this one.
Indeed, sahib, if you would like to go over the finer points of the contract, I would be happy to explain it to you. It is just as you say... except for transportation. The main part of the expedition, with all the wagons and supplies, set out for Kelmarane three days ago. We will travel lightly, with only such provisions as we require to reach the rest of the party. I have only three camels; two will carry our food and water, and one will carry me. If you have a beast of your own, of course you are welcome to ride it.
Now, as to the contract...
Garavel goes over the contract with you line-by-line. After about 20 minutes, it still seems strange and convoluted, but you're pretty sure you get the drift. (You can read the spoiler.)
Most of the NPCs in this adventure have their pictures as avatars on the forum, but for some reason Garavel doesn't. Here is what he actually looks like.
"I will sign the contract." Valik says as he writes his name in the Skaldic runes on the page. "I have a few questions. Are there any others who have signed up yet? Are we travelling at night, or during the day? Are there any particular hazards on the route that we will travel?"
Welcome to the expedition. Garavel adds the signed contract to a stack on the table. These four... gentlemen have also signed on," he says, gesturing to the mercenaries. [b]Travis, Dullen, Asad, and Dross, meet... He glances down at your name on the contract, written in runes. I'm sorry, I don't believe I caught your name. Just realized Garavel never asked your name, even though he already said it once... Oh well.
After Valik answers,
To answer your other questions:
Although summer swiftly approaches, the rains have just stopped, and it is yet cool enough to travel during the day, especially in the hills. We will make better time in the light of the sun, and stand less risk of becoming lost or injured. The journey should take us five days along the trade road. Here near Solku, there is little danger for a group of six armed men. As we near Kelmarane, we must be wary, for gnolls prowl the hills.
"Well, how about that. Valik Roffeson is my name."
Valik nods his understanding at Garavel's answers. At Erilene's approach he smiles broadly.
"Of course! A beer would be fine." Valik moves over and takes a seat near the other members of the expedition. Not at their table, but next to it. Looking at the three men, he grins, and says in a lowered voice: "Now that I have ordered it, is the ale any good, or will I be fishing out floating bits?"
|Dross the sellsword|
"Ahh" Dross swallows down a large gulp of beer, floaties and all. "Don't pick them out, they're what makes the beer great!" He belches loudly before continuing. "It's no dwarven stout, but halflings know what they are doing when it comes to ale brewing... Hey that rhymed" the last bit said with surprise.
The proprietor, overhearing the conversation, says to Valik as she brings him an ale, I'll have you know, those "floating bits," as your friends call 'em, are fine spices, and they are indeed what makes it great! Don't you be picking them out! We don't scrimp on anything here at the Breakstride Inn, and I'm sure you'll enjoy your stay, however short it may be.
And she's right. The ale is certainly unconventional, but the exotic flavors of nutmeg and clove are a nice addition.
"Well this ale is certainly interesting. I can honestly say I have never had anything like it.", Valik says after he puts the mug on the table and wipes some foam from his lips.
"I guess that you heard my name already, so I will be happy to hear yours as well. I have thought that it is good to know the names of those who you will be standing with against the foe."
"As for telling my story, I think that I will leave that until we are on the road. It will give us something to do as we travel."
|Dross the sellsword|
Gulping down the ale noisily and slamming the mug down on the bar Dross calls out to the proprietor " Another ale here. " then he turns on his stool to face Valik's table. " You can call me Dross. A name my father gave me after the scum that forms on silver while you purify it. " He shrugs.
|Dross the sellsword|