A River Without Water Saga

Also see the cast of characters in A River Without Water

A River Without Water follows the destiny of heroes in Rothirschtal. The following generation is detailed in A River Without Water: Separation.

It begins on the day before Ortlong, 1348 NS.

What a Piece of Work is Man

Upon escorting Fritz the goat herder through the mists to Ackerburg on the return trip from Elby, Anton Halfhand, Sigurt Kraemer and Aldaen Zolmir encountered the hunter Bors Riverstone within Grosseben Wood. They discussed their fortunate arrival in town in time for Ortlong and Bors joins them to the village.

They are greeted by Pfarrer Alex, priest of Ornus, and informs them that both the master hunter, Adolfus Cloos, and Chief Rolf is looking for extra hands for help. While Anton, Bors and Aldaen went to inquire about the help, Aldaen's sister, Golina, took Sigurt to a small hill south of town. She told him that she saw a dragon a couple days after he had left for Elby. While slightly interested in the dragon, he attempted to shirk off Golina, but inadvertently invited her to accompany him in the Ortlong celebration the next day (to which she quickly agreed).

The other three discovered from Dreng, the shaman, that Johann Crull had accidentally created a hole in the town hall and needed volunteers to fix the roof. Adolfus was also looking for volunteers to help him track down an illusive great boar for the Ortlong feast. Sigurt, Bors and Anton agreed to help Adolfus while Aldaen stayed to help with the roof.

The four hunters went north in Grosseben Wood and searched for many hours. Bors found tracks that he was certain belonged to Zaghnol, the Father of Great Boars, and did not wish to harm such a venerable beast and moved the group to another part of the forest without mention of it.

Some time later, a great boar was found and taken down due to a combination of Bors's arrows and Sigurt's crushing grip. Anton, away from the others, was attacked by a bear, but managed to spear it as it was charging and dispatched it.

The next day, the festival went off famously and all had a good time. During the celebration, Sigurt was overcome with an ill feeling and felt the hills to the north watching him. Fyodor, the skald, told him it was the eye of Likho, the witch of bad luck and to beware. Sigurt, though, knew it was not Likho, but something else that was in those hills.

Anton and Sigurt fell asleep, with most of the rest of the town, in the town square. While Bors returned to the house of his good friend, Olaf Cuno, Aldaen retired to his home. However, none had a good night sleep as screams suddenly sounded in the night. Bors and Aldaen found themselves under attack in their dark homes by unseen assailants, while Sigurt and Anton awoke to see themselves literally rooted to the ground by vines and stalks. Bors rushed outside and found a tall, lithe light elf who looked at him before attacking.

Foul Is Fair

Aldaen, having grabbed a knobby cane that was once used by his brother Rama, bought himself some time with his shadowy foes to equip himself with his sword. One of the figures spoke a command in a strange language and the other two attacked. Aldaen, quickly dispatching the two, demanded the last figure leave in peace.

Aldaen and his assailant fenced about the room, but Aldaen's sword became lodged in his door frame after a miscalculated lunge. The figure allowed him to recover, but to the cost of his own defeat. The defeated foe disappeared into air. Aldaen heard other battles outside his home and leaped out the shuttered window to the ground below.

Finding a way to break free of the vines, Anton unsheathed his sword and rushed to the Zolmir household. There he found Melfrin, Aldaen's maiden aunt, becoming entangled in vines. Anton sliced her free and went inside to fetch his shield. As he left, Aldaen dropped from the second floor, injured from his fight and still embroiled in the heat of battle. The two greeted each other and quickly left westward toward the Two Falcons Inn.

The two arrived in front of the stilt inn to find Mal Wreyith and his daughter, Elfrida, being harried by light elves. Before they could act, however, six light elves suddenly appeared in the area.

Bors tried to fight back the elf before him with a spear, but the annoyed fey, with a wave of his hand, set his blade alight with a green fire and attacked. Bors, knowing the language of the elves, asked his attacker why they are attacking the town. The elf replied that the business of elves are not the business of men. He lunged to attack again, but Bors shot an arrow into him, causing him to fall to a knee. The elf disappeared. Bors ran on to the town square.

Sigurt, still in his stupor from drinking, took a while to understand the situation he found himself in, but when he saw an elf walking atop the vine entangled villagers and the devil-cat that followed, he summoned his battle-rage and ripped free from the vines and attacked. He and the devil-cat had begun clawing and biting each other, while the elf was shot in the back by Bors. Bors continued to fire his arrows, but due to the devil-cat's enchantment, it never appeared where it truly is. The cat was finally put down and Sigurt rose again to grapple another elf.

In the town square, several dozen elves walked purposefully toward the center of town, where the villagers ran. Bors saw that the elves were herding the villagers into the town hall, and tried to warn the others, but to no avail. He then began to free as many people as he could from the entangling vines, urging other to help him, but the only one to come to his aid was Kersti Kraemer, daughter of Dreng. She used her fledgling knowledge of divine magic to free several people, but in doing so, drained her of her power.

Sigurt moved from the elves with swords to the elves that wield elf-fire. He would grab them and crush the life out while biting into their flesh as powerfully as a wolf. Bors found himself facing a pair of devil-cats and their elven masters as he fought to maintain his defense.

As Bors fought off the two beasts, he saw Johann Crull fighting an elf near the town hall. Johann was not an amateur swordsman, but was still being pushed back. In his desperation, Johann climbed the side of the hall, while his sons held off the elven assailant. The elf soon appeared on the roof and began fencing Johann. Bors took advantage of the elf's misdirection and fired an arrow into his back, causing him to fall forward. Johann stepped back to avoid the slain elf, but fell through the section of the roof that had been recently repaired.

As the elves moved to a perimeter of the town square, a number of elves without armor went to surround the town hall and they began to chant and cause the town hall to begin to be covered in vines. Bors swore under his breath and rushed towards one of the wizards. An elf with a red cloak stepped in front of him, but the fleet footed Bors flitted past and slashed one of the ritual casters. The caster was wounded, but held the ritual.

Aldaen and Anton, in front of the Two Falcons Inn, began fighting their elven foes with amazing speed and precision. Even the power of their enemies' elf-fire doesn't help them win the battle as the elves were slain. Anton and Aldaen climbed to the inn and dispatched the elves harassing the Wreyith family, but Mal was already injured severely. They quickly brought Mal into the main room of the inn and Elfrida went to fetch an herbal infusion to heal her father. Anton left again to the Zolmir house to don his armor. Elfrida gave Aldaen two infusions to help, but Aldaen ate both before she could explain one was meant for Anton.

Anton soon arrived fully armored and brought Aldaen's armor back with him. Elfrida helped Aldaen don his armor and she also gave Anton her kerchief as a bandage to stem an injury to his arm. Together, Aldaen and Anton left to arrive at the town square.

After slaying many elves, Sigurt began to loose his rage and he began to feel the sting of his wounds. Next to death, he attempted to stumble away to recover, but one of the elves took his time to follow and aim his sword to Sigurt. Before the strike came, a loud elven voice rang out a command and all the elves stopped what they were doing and moved away from their human foes to a ready position.

From the north area of the town square, a procession came of a central, regal elf clothed in silver armor and adorned with a silver circlet. He was accompanied by four elven crones in long robes of shining white. This procession was soon joined by a retinue of elven shieldbearers.

Bors demanded of this lead figure the meaning of the attack. The regal elf introduced himself as Elegast the Silver Prince, son of the Erlking, Lord of all Silver Elves. While Elegast did not provide an explanation, he did assure Bors that he meant no specific harm on the village, meaning to merely detain them, and would move along when his business was through. Bors became enraged at the prince's lack of respect for the men of the village and kept a silent vigil over the elves to make sure they did not step out of line.

Anton approached the prince and promised him reprisals if they began attacking the villagers again, a promise which the prince brushed off without care.

The elves brought forth their dead to be inspected by the prince. Bors overhead Elegast speaking to a red-cloaked captain and bemoaning the cost of their quest. The guard assured the prince that all elves would gladly give their lives for him, which caused Elegast grief still. The elven crones began creating a magic circle in the middle of town square while the villagers watched from the hall.

Bors called Aldaen, Anton and Sigurt into the hall to discuss the matter. When Aldaen entered the hall, he was accosted by Sebastian and Samson Crull, the sons of the recently departed Johann. They blamed Aldaen for the death of their father due to his failure to properly repair the roof. They swore a blood-feud on the Zolmir family and ran from the hall, out of town.

The four of them discussed what the elves could want, when Sigurt mentioned the dragon Golina told him about. They called over Golina and she repeated the report. Bors, armed with this new information, left the hall and approached the prince again asking about the dragon.

Elegast turned to him with a suspicious eye.

Thy Father's Moral Parts

Bors told Elegast of Golina's dragon and Elegast sent two scouts to look for dragon sign. Afterward, Bors left the village to reflect on the current situation only to see that an elf was following him. Before much dialog, Bors turned back to town to see storm clouds gathering due to the magic ritual called by the elfcrones.

In the village, the elfcrones were holding hands and chanting as the weather picked up around them. After some time, the ritual calmed and Elegast went to the elfcrones to hear their whispers. Troubled, and with no alternatives, Elegast turned to Sigurt, Aldaen and Anton. He asked them for their assistance. Bors returned and demanded the elf prince to promise the safety of the villagers. Sigurt, likewise, asked to spend one year under the tutelage of the elven herbalists to learn their secrets. Elegast agreed to all and explained the situation.

Elegast's sister, the Princess Ionuin, was kidnapped from the elven city, Siobadh Tur, by Tugarin Zmeja, the dragon. The elfcrones, wise and pure, are able to track the dragon by knowing where it touched the land to rest after flight. Elegast has pt together a team of warriors named the Red Slayers and have followed the elfcrones' visions to this village, but their new vision is unknowable to Elegast.

"A house of wood
Claimed by a dead king
Full of people unfree
A lord of beasts
Knows the way to the tower

Aldaen suggested that the vision spoke of a fortress to the south, Dramout Fort. The land surrounding Dramout Fort is cursed. Any man of Vathroni blood to step onto the land will surrender his life to King Kaschey, the Lych. It was also currently the lair of Karabas, the ogre slaver. Bors and Sigurt swore their service to Elegast so that he may find his sister. Within the hour, Elegast and his retinue, along with Bors and Sigurt, left the village. Elegast however, warned Aldaen and Anton to stay in the village and not to interfere with his mission.

Anton, while having no plans to swear servitude to the proud elf prince, also had no desire to do nothing. And so he went to the krin stables of Natassia Cloos and asked her for two of her mounts. She agreed in exchange for the boon of a battle trophy to be brought to her. And with that, Aldaen and Anton rode off after the elves, keeping their distance.

Bors spoke to Elegast of morality. Why the elves didn't come into the village and ask for assistance, if their mission was not meant to be hostile. Elegast told him that the elves couldn't risk the chance to be refused. It was best that they demanded use of the village's land and leave quickly. Bors asked if the loss of several of his elves was worth the gambit. Elegast confirmed it was.

When night fell, the elves set up camp. Elegast told the humans they would camp longer to allow for human sleep. The prince's lieutenant whispered in his ear and Elegast spoke, telling him to send out two elven beastmasters.

Further to the west of the elf's camp, Anton and Aldaen made a camp themselves. Their rest was interrupted when a elven devil-cat pounced on Anton's krin and ripped into it with its tentacles. This attack was followed by another devil-cat and a light elf. Anton and Aldaen dispatched the attackers and decided to forgo camp and travel onward toward the fort.

At the elf camp, Bors heard the sound of song in the distance. He left the camp and found a copse of trees around a pond, glittering in the moonlight. Out of the pond came the likeness of a fair maiden who lifted her hand out of the water in invitation. Bors, cautious and bewildered, grabbed her hand and fell into the water. He sunk to the bottom with the maiden, who introduced herself as Princess Rusalka, daughter of King Vodyanoy. Rusalka warned Bors that the ogre Karabas is paranoid and will allow only groups of less than a dozen to approach his fort and even then, will only speak with humans. After telling this to him she gave him a kiss. Bors then awoke from his dream.

In the morning, Elegast told Bors that Aldaen and Anton had been following them. The prince had sent a pair of beastmasters to disable their mounts, but only one came back. Therefore, Elegast needed to send Bors to convince the followers to cease their interference. Bors grew indignant, calling the Silver Prince a fool, declaring it would have been easier to speak to them instead of attacking them. However, Bors had sworn an oath of service and he, fleet of foot, raced to see Aldaen and Anton.

Bors found Aldaen and Anton just outside the bawn of King Kaschey's land, and asked them to consider swearing to Elegast. They refused to do so, insulted at the prince's indignities. The two declared that if Elegast wanted them to swear, then the prince can ask himself. And so Bors returned to Elegast and relayed the request for an audience. In spite of the objections from the other elves, Elegast decided to allow this. He told the elves to journey onward and he, Sigurt and Bors left to meet Aldaen and Anton.

Elegast approached Aldaen and Anton and, while resenting the time wasted with these frivolities, he asked the two to join his mission. They agreed, if only to see the innocent princess returned to her family.

Lord of Beasts

The heroes and Elegast speak of who was going to enter the bawn and face the ogre. With Elegast and Anton the only men not of Vathroni blood. After some debate of the validity of the curse, they decided that they would all go.

In the bawn, the land grew dark. Aldaen heard hoof beats in the distance, always approaching, but never appearing. They arrived at the fort, where a call was shouted and the front gates opened. The fort was guarded and served by the haggrmen, men who had grown wild and savage. After waiting for some time in an antechamber, they were brought into the great hall where a banquet table covered in food ranging from fresh to rotten waited.

In the hall strode a plump man with fine clothes. He introduced himself as Karabas. Bors asks him about the dragon who landed here and Karabas volunteers the information that the dragon is merely a servant of the wizard Chernomor, who was in business with the slaver. Bors asked where Chernomor lives, but Karabas refused to answer, keeping his client information secret. He did, however, let slip that the dragon roosted in a mountain to the south, Mount Silene.

The heroes spoke among themselves and thought if they sold some of the light elves that Chernomor would buy them and they could simply follow they buyer back to the wizard. Sigurt volunteered to bring back a few elves. Elegast gave him his royal seal and told him to be quick. Aldaen decided to follow him, but was not able to keep up with Sigurt's speed. Once alone in the middle of the cursed land, Aldaen heard a screech owl piercing the night and felt a sense of dread.

Sigurt reached the elves and displayed the seal. Two elves stepped forward and agreed to come back with him. Once they returned, the second meeting with Karabas began. The slaver was very interested in the buying of the rare and valuable light elves. However, when Bors and Anton found that they would be unable to complete their plan due to the slaver's shrew business practices, they decided to attempt to take the information by force.

Sigurt barred the door to the great hall, while the rest attacked the slaver. Angered, the slaver transformed before them into a giant ogre. Though even the great size of the ogre was not able to match the wrestling skills of Sigurt and the ogre was quickly run through by Anton's sword. Just as the ogre died, the haggrmen burst through the door and assaulted the heroes.

The fight raged and the heroes pushed the haggrmen out of the hall. The heroes maneuver up onto the walls of the fort, while the elves harry the haggrmen in the fort courtyard. One of the elves fall and Elegast becomes enraged and jumps into a group of haggrmen to bring them down. The battle, though formidable, was won by the heroes, injured and exhausted.

They all searched the fort and found an underground access in on of the buildings. Inside this tunnel was slave cages. All of the slaves looked ragged, old and weary, save one; a young blond foreigner woman. Anton, being the only one who spoke the foreign language, discovered her name was Michelle Martin. Bors gave Michelle a tunic from one of the fort's storage rooms to replace her rags and restore her dignity.

The heroes held council among themselves still not knowing the location of the wizard who was holding the elven princess. They decided to head southward to the dragon's lair. Elegast produced a whistle and blew on it, calling a hawk to rest on his arm. The silver prince whispered to it and sent it off. Elegast informs the heroes that the Red Slayers will be waiting for them in the west.

Aldaen noticed that Michelle was missing, but soon found her in the late ogre's bedchamber peeking under the mattress. He brought the guiltless girl back to the group and they, with the slaves, moved out.

At night, they met with the rest of the elves and also with a priestess of Ornus who had come upon the camp. She introduced herself as Nika Orlova and tended to the wounds of the heroes. There they rested til morning.

Between a Dragon and His Wrath

The next morning, Anton spoke with Sister Orlova. She informed him she was on a pilgrimage, as is customary for the clergy of Ornus. She agreed to join them as her journey was taking her to the village of Thrace on the slopes of Mt. Silene anyway.

As the group traveled south, Aldaen noticed an elf looking at him. Elegast informed Aldaen that this elf is Mor Sleatroda, the leader of the Crag of the Red Slayers. He was the elf that attacked Aldaen in his bedchamber and allowed him to remove his sword from the door before continuing the fight. Aldaen complimented his honor and his swordsmanship, asking about the elven fighting style. Mor showed him his lhang and the sweeping cuts that make light elves so dangerous in battle.

They broke into the crags of the Wyrmspires and saw the blasted landscape the area was known for. As Anton was climbing along, he suddenly came across a man frozen solid. The heroes investigated the man and saw that his right hand was broken off and nowhere to be found.

They kept climbing up the trail til they came in sights of the lights of Thrace. There was noise of a crowd and Sigurt decided to investigate. As Sigurt entered the village, the crowd panicked at his appearance and dispersed. Some appeared with drawn bows demanding that he leave the village at once. Sigurt refused and they fired, striking Sigurt in the shoulder. Still Sigurt refused to budge. The archers began to draw again, when Anton, Aldaen and Bors came onto the scene and demanded the archers lower their weapons.

The mayor of the village interjected and called the encounter to a close. The mayor of the village and count of Urland, Anders vel'Bulow, invited the heroes to his home and a dinner. However, just as they say down, a servant informed the mayor that his daughter was missing. The count asked the heroes to fetch the foolish girl, she has gone up the mountain to sacrifice herself to the dragon in order to stop his rampages.

The heroes, along with Steffen Grobschmeid, the archer and marshal of Thrace, traveled up the mountain. They found themselves in an ambush with people in albino skin who can freeze flesh with a look. They and their sabercat were defeated. Steffen referred to these as the eisvolk, servants of the dragon.

Bors noticed that they were being followed and decided to double back to find their pursuer, Michelle. They decide to keep the troublesome girl with them rather than turn around.

The heroes come across a savage village above them on a cliff. They hid as a pair of eisvolk came to the top of the cliff and threw over a body. The body, still living, was that of a female eisvolk. Sigurt tended to her wounds as Anton spoke with her. Her name was Gunda and she considered herself dead. Anton told her that her life now has new meaning and he spoke to her of the gods, a subject she was greatly interested in.

Continuing up the mountain, they came to an open area in front of a great cave. There, the daughter of the count, Elspeth, was throwing rocks into the cave demanding the dragon come out and present itself. Aldaen approached her and she recognized him from the time her father and she went to Ackerburg to purchase weapons from Aldaen's father. He asked her to come back with them, but when she refused he hit her with the pommel of his sword, knocking her out.

Aldaen and Elegast prepare to enter the cave with the Red Slayers. Anton also made to enter, but was stopped by Gunda. Inside the dragon's cave, Aldaen and the elves stepped around traps and came to the heart of the lair, though there was no dragon to be found. Aldaen found a small hoard of treasure in the back of the cave where he heard a booming voice asking him what he was doing. In the rock of the center of the cave, Aldaen saw a massive eye looking at him. Aldaen replied that he was present to interrogate the dragon. Which caused the dragon to raise his head from the rock; all three heads.

The dragon Tugarin asks why he shouldn't just light the blacksmith on fire with his breath. Aldaen points out the elven dragonslayers in the cave and asks about the wizard Chernomor. Tugarin, with his three heads, tells Aldaen that he hates Chernomor and has become enslaved to him. The dragon freely gives the location of Chernomor's tower, Naraa, provided that Aldaen smashes the wizard's orb. Aldaen agrees and leaves with the Red Slayers.

Aldaen exits the cave and tells the others that the tower Naraa lies to the north along the Zhelezny River. He picks up the unconscious Elspeth and they all walk back to Thrace.

In Chains of Magic

Once back in Thrace, they returned Elspeth to Count vel'Bulow. Anton also introduces Sister Orlova to the eisvolk Gunda. Nika agrees to take in Gunda and teach her of the glories of Ornus.

They decide it is best to travel to Naraa with a light party. Elegast has the Red Slayers stay in Thrace to ensure the safety of the town for the time being and they decide to take Michelle as well, knowing that she is just as likely to follow them anyway. Aldaen, Anton, Bors, Sigurt, Elegast and Michelle take their krin and head north along the Zhelezny.

They find the tower, sure enough, on the eastern bank of the river in the mist. They opened the door to the tower and found the first chamber to be quite comfortable with a roaring fire, couches, endtables and contemporary paintings. As they entered, the fire roared up and took the shape of the dwarven wizard Chernomor. The fire-image warned them not to journey forward or their life would be in peril.

Heedless of the wizard's warning, they ventured upstairs. They saw a round hall with many doors. Aldaen tried the nearest one, but the door burst outwardly and a being of solid rock began attacking them. Though resilient, the creature was defeated, but Aldaen suffered heavy wounds and was near death. His hair also turned slightly grey at the temples. Sigurt saw this greying and thought of the slaves they found at Dramout Fort and suspected Michelle had some responsibility for this. Michelle, however, was not to be found at the moment, heightening his suspicions.

The next room they found was adorned with a large hookah and many pillows. Though, there seemed to be the sounds of someone in the room, there was no one to be seen. Sigurt saw the pillows being stepped upon by feet unseen and he leaped at the invisible figure. The figure became visible when Sigurt jumped and knocked the magical hat off, and he could plainly see it was a female light elf, Princess Ionuin! Elegast saw his sister and raced to embrace her and Sigurt awkwardly attempted to apologize for leaping onto the royal lady. The princess had stolen the wizard's magic hat and had been hiding from him in his tower.

However, Chernomor's servant, the tiefling Ayasha appeared at the doorway. She had been looking for the princess and she was to be brought before the wizard immediately. Ayasha fought the heroes and nearly defeated them, but lost to Anton's sword. Aldaen's hair grew even more grey.

With Ionuin found, Elegast's quest had been fulfilled. Sigurt and Aldaen, however, wanted to make sure the wizard payed for his crimes. They continued up the tower to find Chernomor's ritual chamber. There, the dwarven wizard and his black goblin servants, were preparing some magical plot. Aldaen charged into the room and smashed the crystal ball in the room, which exploded with great energy. Sigurt ran to the wizard and snatched away his staff and dispatched the goblins. Chernomor surrendered.

Downstairs, Anton and Bors found Michelle in the first chamber of the tower, trying on a gold necklace she found. Anton, thinking that she was causing Aldaen's affliction, moved to strike her down, but Sigurt and Aldaen entered the room to stop him. Sigurt had deduced that Aldaen was being affected by the curse of King Kaschey, not Michelle.

They group headed out to leave the tower, but saw an approaching black goblin army blocking any escape. The army had been summoned by the wizard, but now that his crystal ball was smashed, they were beyond his control. Sigurt demanded that the wizard perform some trick to allow them to escape. So Chernomor lead them up to the roof of the tower and produced a carpet, telling all of them to sit atop it. With two taps of his returned staff, Chernomor magically lifted the carpet and it flew off northeast to Ackerburg.

Once there, Sigurt recaptured the wizard's staff and Elegast thanked the group immensely. Soon, the rest of the Red Slayers met up in Ackerburg. Elegast brought Chernomor in on arrest and sentenced him to servitude as a court jester for elf royalty. The four heroes were invited to journey back with him to Siobadh Tur, and all but Anton agreed. Anton wished only for rest and quiet for now.

For the rest, they met with Elegast's father, the Erlking, who gave them the thanks of the Silver Elves. He presented to them each, and Anton as well, an elven dagger and their weight in gold. Sigurt was to stay in the forest and learn their ways, and for bringing in the wizard Chernomor, was given the hand of Princess Ionuin in marriage.

In the years that followed, these four men married and had children of their own. The tales of their heirs are presented in A River Without Water: Separation.

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