Tillday morning found D.W., Kael, and I sitting in the tavern in our usual fashion eating barley porridge, biscuits, and watered down ale. While the meal was not all that appetizing, it was good enough to energize us for whatever tasks lay ahead.
As was normal these days, Lucien was not present. He was busy racing around making preparations for our wedding, which was now only eleven days away. It was all a farce, of course, to draw Ethren to us as Lucien wanted to kill him. He had become the rogue’s enemy, not just mine, and Lucien intended to end his reign of terror over me. His intention by announcing our upcoming “nuptials” was to draw the half-elf out of hiding.
So all Lucien’s time was now being devoted to putting plans in place, sending out notifications to any place Ethren or his hirelings would see them, organizing the local militia in preparation for battle and so on. He would come to bed long after I had fallen asleep and rise before I was even awake.
Kael inquired as to our plans for the day. D.W. stated quietly that he needed to purchase a suit for the wedding. The druid told him he was planning to be part of the guard so would not need fancy clothes. He then turned to ask what I was wearing. I looked down at the well-worn clothes I currently wore and used for regular adventuring and told them it was not a real wedding, so this would do. The shock on their faces was almost comical. The next thing I knew, D.W. was dragging me off to a tailor to find a gown.
At the tailor, we looked over the meager selection of outfits and found little to our liking. D.W. eyed a suit, which was made for a large human, and then held up his coin purse to glare at it. The outfit would have to be drastically tailored to match his halfling body and truth be told, the material was not all that attractive. I whispered to him that I had another idea and pulled him from the shop.
Outside, I reminded him that I had some fairly good skills with crafting, including crafting magical things. If he would like, I could make him a shiftweave shirt that would appear to look like any five outfits of his choosing. His eyes lit up at the idea and we headed back to the tavern to sketch up the outfits he would like. When Kael heard about it, he too wanted to have an item like that. Over the next several days, I managed to complete three of the shirts, one for each of us. D.W. insisted I show him the outfit I planned to wear at the wedding and this time gave his approval to my selection.
Before we knew it, Boxing Day was upon us. The three of us sat at our usual table in the tavern to exchange our gifts. I gave D.W. a very small, drawstring pouch made of green velvet lined in green silk. I had seen him pull out a heart shaped stone from his pocket on occasion and caress it as if it held great importance to him. The stone would fit perfectly in the pouch. D.W. handed me a beautifully wrapped package. Inside was a silver necklace with a garnet on it to match the “wedding” gown I had shown him. Tears ran down my face as his thoughtfulness.
To Kael, I gave a small, leather pouch on which was engraved the druidic symbol he used on all his items. The pouch was attached to a leather cord for him to wear on his neck. The pouch he currently wore was horribly made and I wanted him to have something he could be proud to wear. He handed me a roughly wrapped package, inside of which I found a small crystal. As I looked up at him, he explained it was a crystal of least return which would allow me to draw my sword at a much faster speed than I was used to. I was stunned at his generosity.
Kael and D.W. exchanged their own gifts as well. The druid had given D.W. a necklace with a clear quartz crystal. He explained that he had found the crystal in his travels and had a jeweler turn it into a necklace. D.W. gave the druid a silver ring with leaves and vines engraved on it.
As we finished our exchange, Lucien entered the tavern and walked over to join us. He blinked at us as we each handed him gifts, as if he had forgotten entirely about the holiday. He admired the scabbard D.W. had given him for his sword. The look on his face as he opened the donkey statuette from Kael was laughable. I had only given him a field kit to clean his weapons and armor with. Just a couple weeks ago, I had given him his Boxing gift early, a very expensive ring.
Lucien quickly handed out his presents. For D.W., it was a pair of signal arrows and instructions to use them if he spotted Ethren or his enemies approaching. To Kael, he gave an old signal whistle and the same instructions. Me? He handed a pair of stones with holes in them, shriek rocks that make a horrible noise when thrown. The three of us exchanged looks of our own before thanking Lucien for his “gifts”.
The elf insisted on going over all his plans for the wedding day. He spread out a crudely drawn map of the town and pointed out where the guards would be located, where he expected Ethren and his men to come in, where the wedding party would be and so on. Then he went over every possible scenario he could think of for how the battle would go down. Our eyes glazed over and he continued for several hours to lay out instructions for us.
Two days later, the day before the wedding, Kael, D.W. and I were walking down the main street chatting when the ground gave a violent lurch. Both the druid and halfling were knocked to the ground, though I managed to somehow keep my balance. There were startled screams all around us as many others lost their footing. Seconds later, a blast of wind swept past us in a wave.
In an instant, Kael shifted into the form of an eagle, startling both D.W. and I as we had only ever seen him shift into a clouded leopard. He flew straight up into the air until he was a speck in the sky and hovered there for a moment to look around him. Off in the far distance, he spotted what looked like a mushroom shaped cloud of smoke, lightning spearing through it. A massive wave was emanating from it, rolling out in all directions. The wave came in an unnatural hue of colors of greens, blues, oranges and such. It looked to be demolishing everything in it’s path.
Kael dropped immediately back to the surface and shifted back into his half-elf form to relay what he had seen to us. He was fairly certain we had an hour before the wave would reach us. A chill ran down my spine as he described the devastation heading our way. As Kael finished his description, we heard horses galloping and looked up to see two centaurs headed straight to us. One we recognized as Barthello, who we had met weeks ago. The younger one with him must have been the mage he had told us about, the one who was trying to create a permanent portal back in Farseek.
“Good, we found you in time” Barthello panted. His words were rushed as he told us they had come to try to save as many of us as possible before the blast wave reached this town.
I began barking out orders to everyone around us. Barthello and his mage friend were to create the portals to the North side of town. Kael was to convert back to his eagle form and keep a watch on how close the wave was getting. D.W. was to help herd everyone in the direction of the portal as fast as possible. When he started to head to the opposite end of town, I yanked him around and sent him toward the portal side as I wanted him as close to the portal as possible. Then I headed toward the Southern end of town to get people moving.
While soaring above the town, Kael spotted another portal that had been opened Northeast of town. He could see Lucien on that side directing folks toward it and rushing any stragglers. It was clear the rogue was following the same plan as the rest of the group.
As Kael watched the approaching wave, he began to realize there was far less time than he had originally estimated. He flew back down to D.W. to tell him, then asked where I was so he could tell me as well. Just then, a wagon tore through town, coming to a rapid halt in front of D.W. Talista Davis, an old friend of his, sat on the wagon with Davy next to her. The boy was in shock and could only stare straight ahead.
Talista and Davey had been on their way to see us. She had hoped we might know something more on her beloved son Rory. Davey had wanted to come along and visit his friend Lucien, so had begged her to take him with her. Since it was only a town away, she had agreed. They were almost to Pendleton when they felt the shockwave and saw the wave behind them. They had no doubt Farseek was already destroyed, along with Davey’s mother.
Andar came running out of his tavern, several crates of liquor in his hands. He glanced at the half empty wagon and started filling it with crates. Talista urged him to hurry with his items, but was willing to wait if she could help out in that way. Looking at the horse drawn wagon, D.W. realized our mounts and wagon were still at the stable. He raced off to gather our animals and get them through.
Utter chaos ensued as the wave continued rumbling closer, a roaring sound accompanying it. Kael raced off to find me and force me to hurry with the others to the portal as time was running out. In turn, we both ran toward the portal, shouting warnings to anyone still trying to pack belongings and get them moving.
As we approached the magical portal, we could see the wave reaching town. For a moment, we stood frozen, watching it destroy everything in it’s path. D.W. planted his feet, still trying to get everyone through the portal. Kael and I each grabbed an arm and pulled our friend through. Seconds later, the centaurs joined us and collapsed the magic doorway behind them. Just before it closed, we could hearing horrified screams of anguish from those still left behind.
We stood panting and shaking as we looked at where the portal had been. So many people had not heeded our warnings, wanting to pack all their valuables or unwilling to leave as they would not believe such a catastrophe could strike like that. We had no way of knowing if Lucien had managed to go through the other portal in time. Nor did we know where that one was set to go. Our whole world had just changed in that moment.
Over the course of the next several days, we moved to the North. Kael was our guide, flying overhead and guiding us toward a massive lake. He had spotted a city of some sort quite a distance off. We discussed what would be an ideal location and he was sure he had found what we had agreed upon. The group of survivors needed a new home.
Barthello’s friend could not remember exactly where this was as he had been panicked when he created the portal. As we moved further along, he seemed more and more agitated. Even Barthello was a bit confused by his behavior.
The pace was slow going as we had several children and a few elderly people with us. We placed them on the few wagons we had while the rest of us walked. Without a large supply of food, we did not dare move them any faster. Fortunately, we passed a number of streams along the way, so there was plenty of water.
All told, there were about 145 survivors from Pendleton, including ourselves. It was a depressing number when we thought about how many had been living there. Not knowing how many made it through the other portal, we could only guess at how many had died.
The third day of traveling found us in a small clearing next to a river. Across the river was another clearing, this one a bit larger. We surveyed the area and decided this was the perfect spot for us to start rebuilding. It was decided to use the small clearing for farmland and the larger clearing for the town itself. A bridge would need to be built as the river banks dropped off sharply into the water. It took us over an hour to find a spot to cross over.
Andar Bellman began taking inventory of the goods we had managed to bring over with us as well as an accounting of the people. He took his task seriously and began organizing everyone. We stepped back at that point as he seemed to know what he was doing and we were glad for it. Being responsible for the lives of so many people was a bit overwhelming as we had never done so before.
I heard someone ask what we were going to call this new town. Would we call it Pendleton like the town we had left? Perhaps we could name it New Pendleton? Or should we come up with something else. D.W. cleared his throat and told them of a name that in halfling meant “renewed hope”.
And that is how the town of Kaldaran began.