The Story of Tuso

by Gaunter

Copyright© 2013 by Gaunter

Fantasy Story: Character background for a halfling bard character I created for a Pathfinder(c) game. All references to any materials and names that may be copyrighted are used under the OGL (Open Gaming License).

Tags: Fiction  

Who we now know as Tuso, was born into a loving and happy extended family of bards and minstrels. Known as the Bombarri Troup, they were known far and wide for their wonderful minstrel shows, singing, entertaining feats of acrobatics, and showmanship. He was in fact, the great grandson of Uther Bombarri, the leader of the Bombarri family and troupe. As was the custom, the oldest female of the family, with the help of several different intoxicants, foretold the name of the youngest male of the Bombarri lineage. The old woman was somewhat flummoxed by the images she perceived. She saw and felt a young man who appeared charming to those he wanted to charm, but also quick to anger and due violence to those who stood in his way. Violence and anger were not traits that Halflings tended to have, nor tolerate, as such tended to make them noticeable to the "big" people who the Halflings were always living in the shadow of. In an effort to give meaning to what she saw, she pronounced the new born boy as Kellem, in the ancient language. To most, this meant that that the boy was going to be a great charmer, someone they could look forward to as able to gain advantage in negotiations and diplomacy, (which was always in need for Halflings). To a few, however, the name also included the warning that he could tend toward being a forceful scoundrel, ready to do whatever it took to get his way.

In his pre-ordained path to follow in his family's footsteps, he was raised singing, dancing and learning how to do tumbling and acrobatics at the same time he was learning to walk and talk. Not long after came instruments to play and props to master. Juggling, knife throwing, bow and sling practice, wrestling, self defense, ropes to swing on and climb, all were part of his play. He also learned to ride and take care of animals, as the Troup employed a great number to pull their large wagons to and from the cities where they would set up their stages and tents. As he grew, he became a favorite amongst the Troup. Always with a smile upon his face, and a willingness to help out with anything that needed doing. He learned all of his lessons well and was progressing steadily toward becoming a bard like his father before him. Then tragedy struck.

While the Troup was moving through disputed lands between Cheliax and Anduran, his family's wagon suffered a breakdown. His father told the others to continue on their way while he and Kellem fixed the wheel. While they were fixing it, a group of Cheliaxian soldiers came upon them. While they tried to barter and beg their way out of being taken prisoner, it was to no avail. They were taken to the infernal city of Senara, and put on trial as "spies". Their trial consisted of the prosecutor reading the charges against them, and the winged demon sitting as their judge, pronouncing them guilty. Their punishment was a lifetime of indebted servitude, otherwise known as slaves.

Kellem tried to keep up his happy demeanor, but the conditions he and his family were forced to live under, were simply unbearable. Not only was there never enough to eat, but Kellem was deeply disturbed by all that he saw. The cruel guards took every opportunity to heap added pain and humiliation upon he and his family. Halflings were something of a novelty in Senara, but their small size and physical weakness put them at risk of harm from almost everyone. His father's good voice and bardic ability at first kept them out of the worst of it. However, when one of the overseers decided to see if having sex with his mother was as much fun as having sex with a child, (which she was similarly sized as), his father's protest cost him his life as he was slowly bled while forced to watch his wife raped to death. Kellem, also tried to come to his parent's defense, but was literally held in place just inches from his mother and father as they were cruelly tortured and killed. When Kellem could take no more, and tried to close his eyes, his eyelids were sewn open, though soon after it did not matter as he passed out.

When he awoke, he was in great pain and discomfort, but could close his eyes again. Upon trying to sit up, and failing, he saw the face of an old gnome come over him and say, "Ah, so you have decided to live, how unfortunate for you". The old gnome introduced himself as Begvat. He told Kellem that he had been tasked with "cleaning up the mess" his parents had caused, and upon doing so, came upon him unconscious. So he hauled him back to his little niche, and cut the stitches holding his eyes open to see if he might awaken. Kellem was in no mood for talk, however, as he fell into an inconsolable bout of crying. He felt completely bereft, and wanted only to die as nothing in his life had prepared him for this kind of hell.

Time passed, and little by little, Kellem cried less, and became more angry. When he finally started talking to Begvat, it was to learn what he knew of this place, this city, their "masters" and this dungeon. One of the first lessons Begvat taught him was to guard the use of his "real name", for the infernal ones could use such knowledge to bind you to their infernal magic. For a while he just went as "kid", as trying to come up with another name seemed like too much trouble. Then Begvat, upon seeing him able to get out of the clutches of a much larger and stronger slave as they fought for food named him, Tuso, which he said meant "slippery". After that Begvat started teaching him how to be a master thief, (as Begvet claimed he had been before becoming too old and stiff to assure his success). While Tuso was not overly enthusiastic at first, he finally decided that some of the skills Begvet was trying to teach him might help him escape one day, so he dedicated himself to the training fully.

In the fight or starve mentality of the dungeon, Tuso learned that aggression and tenacity could often times save the day. Begvat was of great help. While old and seemingly infirm, Begvat held quite a bit of respect amongst the other slaves, as anyone who fought with him generally regretted it later from the wounds that he would inflict. He was a master at dirty fighting. Sand in the face, knee to the groin, and his favorite, stick in the eye. It was he that taught Tuso his first lessons in real fighting. That a good defense was nice, but aggressive, disorienting, painful, and unrelenting attacks would generally convince an opponent to drop the matter, no matter what it was. So it was that Tuso started being a bully. The smallest guy in the dungeon, but someone the others were afraid of. Tuso had developed a reputation, "Attack me, and I will cut out your eyes and your balls and make you eat them". A few tried to raise there own reputation by taking Tuso on, but no one could match his unrestrained furry nor his penchant for taking out eyes and other sensitive areas with his shivs.

As one can imagine, slaves in the dungeon are not supposed to be armed. One day, as Tuso was hacking off the finger of an unfortunate opponent who tried to take some food out of his hand, he was seen by one of the overseers. The overseer had the guards strip Tuso of the rags he was wearing, and upon searching, they found 5 different shivs on his person. The overseer decided that since Tuso apparently liked to fight, he should be sent to the pits to earn his keep as a fighter. So began another chapter of Tuso's young life.

When Tuso arrived at the dungeon for the pit fighters, the battle for respect began anew. He was low man on the totem pole, and seemed an easy target to those looking to move up the social ladder. Though such new arrivals are supposed to be brought in without any possessions, the guards had missed two of the shivs that he had hid, (don't ask). As such, the first brute trying to pick on Tuso lost both an eye and a ball, and later his life to the infection that developed. There were hard and bitter men, though, and Tuso recognized that his lack of size and strength were really going to put him at a disadvantage.

Tuso's first couple of pit fights were not as bad as he was expecting. Due to his small size, his opponents were selected not to kill him, but to hurt and belittle him. First there was the crazed house cat that immediately tried to shred him. Then came the dog that was supposed to terrorize him. The audience thought both were hilarious, even though Tuso won them both, as he was quite bloodied from the fights.

Then he graduated up to fighting gnomes, (there are lots of them in Cheliax), and a few go missing every month. Tuso knew it was wrong to revel in his opponent's defeat, as they were all forced to fight. But he also knew he was starting to like inflicting pain, and he was afraid of that. When he faced his first full-size opponent, it was a human who was missing his left arm. The pit announcer called it a "fair" fight. It wasn't. Tuso almost died that fight. While he only had one arm, the man could kick like a mule. Every time Tuso tried to close with him, those feet would pound him. So he finally devised a plan using his old acrobatic tricks, and literally bounced off the wall of the pit gaining enough height to fall on the man from above, where he sunk his dagger into the man's back and into his heart, killing him. While Tuso felt utterly exhausted and was wobbly on his feet, the sound of the cheering and the smell of the dead man's blood, mixed with the realization that he had bested the man, made Tuso shiver in delight.

Tuso's enjoyment was short lived. Now he became the little guy, the underdog that normally most people would cheer for. But this was Senara. Here, it is the infernal order of life that the big and powerful are to dominate everyone else. Anyone stupid enough to come up against this proverb, needed to be put down as an example. So it was that Tuso found himself with little to eat or drink, and facing a series of ever more stronger and more dangerous opponents. Tuso barely survived the first two such fights. With little time to recover before his third fight, he was almost looking forward to the end of his life, as he realized he was starting to enjoy not just his victories, but the violence and pain that he caused those he fought.

As Tuso was lying there, trying to find a way to lay that did not cause him pain and discomfort from his multiple injuries, and thinking that this would be his last night, an old friend again appeared before his face. It was Begvat. Begvat smiled down at Tuso and asked, "So are you gonna live, or finally give it up". Tuso, grunting as he moved, and said, "Don't think it matters much, tomorrow I will likely die in the pit". Begvat thought for a moment, and then leaned in close and whispered, "Well that is if you are still here tomorrow. Tuso, leaning forward now, and somewhat miffed at his old friend for making light of his quickly arriving date with death, whispered back, "And where else in the bloody hell do you suppose I will be at tomorrow". Begvat, still with that annoying smirk on his face whispered, "I'm supposed to go down in the pit and clean it up so it won't stink so bad tomorrow for when all the pretty people come to watch you die. Part of that job will be to take the cap off the floor drain, which I could never fit down, even as a gnome. But who knows, some skinny assed, little Halfling like yourself might just be able to slither on down that hole." Tuso, finally getting the idea that Begvat was trying to help him escape asked, "Where does the drain come out"? Begvat kind of chuckled and said, "Does it really matter"? Tuso, starting to warm to the idea of possible freedom, when he knew certain death was the other option, nodded his head and said, "Yeah, I see your point", as he started to rise.

Tuso followed Begvat as he went down the halls toward the pit. He was surprised to see that there were no guards where he normally saw them. Begvat saw his concern and furtive glances and told him, "Relax, the guards are only posted during the day. Since they seal us down here at night, and there is no way to get to the viewing area above, unless you can fly, we should have the place to ourselves". So it was that when Tuso peeked into the pit, and looked up, there was no one to be seen. Then he heard Begvat grunting, and found him with a small crowbar like device prying on a floor tile. Begvat said, the infernals like to watch "fair" fights as they call them, so they keep this drain covered to prevent fighters from accidentally tripping in the hole. Help me get this thing pried open". So Tuso put his strength to it also, and it suddenly popped up. Quickly peeking below, Tuso was dismayed to see an iron grate over the drain. Begvat noticed his fading excitement and said, "Don't worry, last time I did this, the grate came loose, as the bolts are all rusted, that's what made me think it might work for your escape". So gently laying the tile aside, Tuso and Begvat began working on the grate. It took a couple of minutes, but it finally worked free. As Tuso got his first look at the hole, he became a little nervous. It wasn't that big of a drain, and the more he looked at it, the smaller it seemed to appear. Shaking himself, he said, "Well, guess I might as well try it". Begvat said, "Not yet my impatient friend, let me get a little water run down there to slicken it up for you. While you may be slippery, a little lube never hurts".

So it was that Begvat grabbed a couple buckets of water, and started washing the slick mud, mucus, guts and gore out of the pit, and down the drain. He then turned back to his bucket and pulled out two items and handed them to Tuso. I can't vouch for the strength of this rope, but I figured it might come in handy at some point and one of the guards was kind enough to "drop" this dagger. I figure it might be a bit more useful that those shivs you generally use. Tuso, looking at the gifts, and Begvat's smiling face, broke down a bit and almost started crying. But he pulled himself together and tied the rope around his waist, and then turned to Begvat and gave him a big hug, saying, "You are the best friend I have ever had, I'm gonna miss you". Begvat, wiping something out of his eye, and with a smile on his face said, "Get out of here, you still have a chance for a good life, now go make it happen". So Tuso looked one last time at his friend, smiled, and jumped into the drain.

It was not a smooth ride. The drain seemed to buck and twist, each time taking more skin off of Tuso as he rasped his way along the stone chute. It was completely dark, it was overwhelmingly nasty and smelly, and some of the intersections he ran into, were obviously carrying sewage. Trying to keep his mouth and eyes shut, and breathing only through his nose while trying not to suck in the fetid water around him, made the trip down the drain seem like an eternity. Suddenly, as the drain seemed to bend downward and he picked up speed, his feet crashed into something hard, but it held for only a second. Then quickly there was a splash, and he was under water. As he came up for air, he saw that it was very dark, but that he could see stars for the first time in years. Then he heard a voice in the darkness say, "What was that? Did you hear that splash? And then another voice, "Yeah, probably a big turd from one of them in the castle. I sure wish we didn't have the watch right by the sewer. This place stinks".

So Tuso, trying to keep low in the water, decided to float along with the current since he did not know where he was, or what he might run into if he went ashore. The water was kind of cold, but after a while, Tuso got used to it. He had no real plan, nor food, and he really did not know where he was other than he thought Andoran lay to his east. He figured that his best plan was to get as far away from Senara as quickly as he could, as he knew the Overlord would not take his escape lightly. It was part of the Infernal pride of the city that they had the largest and most secure dungeons of all of Cheliax, and as the Overlord told it, no one lived to tell of their escape from his dungeons. So Tuso knew he would have to be extra careful, and damn lucky to escape. While Tuso had never been much of a woodsman or survivalist, he did know that it was generally much harder to track someone through water. So for now, he would let the current plot his escape route.

As the sun was just coming up, and the last of Tuso's strength and stamina were beginning to run out, he could see how the river he was riding in was bending sharply to the West, and undercutting the bank on the East side. So he swam with all of his remaining strength to pull himself under the bank, and found a small shelf, a foot or so above the water line that was probably cut by the river during the last flood. But now it was just wide enough, and dry enough for him to pull himself out of the water and have a place to rest. Without food, or anything to start a fire, Tuso took his rope and tied it to a root that was coming out of the roof of the overhang, and then to his dagger that he slipped in between some rocks, and hung his torn and stained rags over the rope to dry. He then curled up, and went to sleep, for while he was cold and hungry, he needed sleep most of all.

When he awoke, he could not tell if it was sunset or twilight at first, as there was just a little light. Looking out of the undercut bank, he could see nothing but the river, bushes and trees. As the darkness deepened, he knew that he had slept through the day, and that night was coming on. So it was that he gathered up his few meager cloths, and tied them atop some driftwood that was lying in the cutout bank. With the aid of the driftwood, he again pushed himself out into the current, thinking that traveling at night through the river was probably his best means of escape. Tuso had always been a strong swimmer, and he was now relying on that, even though the lack of food, and chilly water was sapping his strength. Even with the aid of the driftwood, Tuso found himself completely exhausted by dawn. He knew he had to get out of the water and find something to eat and drink, (as he was loath to drink the water in the river after knowing the sewage from the castle was running in it). So he kicked and floated toward the Eastern bank of the river, hoping to find a clean stream that might be coming into the river. After a couple of miles, he spotted one, but he was swept past it before he knew it. Taking the rest of his strength, he was able to grab onto a bush that extended into the water from the high bank, and pull him and his driftwood to shore. Then he agonizingly had to pull himself against the current using the bushes growing a long the shore, to pull him back to where the stream entered the river. Finally he was able to pull himself from the river onto dry land beside the stream.

As he first touched the stream, he noticed that it was much colder than the water in the river. He hoped it also meant the water was safe to drink, but at that point thirst won out over caution, and he put his mouth in the water and drank heartily. As he leaned back, savoring the wonderful taste of the water, he saw movement out of the corner of his eye. Then he realized that there were fish, swimming up the small stream from the river. Even though he was bone tired and already suffering from the cold temperatures of the river, he walked into the stream where it was the shallowest, and waited for a fish to come within his grasp. He did not have long to wait, but when he grabbed for it, it was too slimy and slipped through his hands. Tuso rethought his approach, and got ready again. This time when a fish tried to swim through the shallow water in front of him, he used his hands as a scoop, and flung the fish out of the stream onto the dry dirt bank. As the fish twisted and flopped trying to get back to the water, Tuso jumped after it, and was finally able to pin it down. Then taking his knife, he cut the head off the fish, making sure that it could not get away.

Tuso cleaned the fish, removing the guts, and started wondering how he was going to cook it. Realizing that he had no way to make a fire, he finally decided to skin the fish, and try to fillet it. While his technique left much to be desired, and much of the meat still on the fish, Tuso did end up with a couple of good chunks of boneless fish. After having washed them again in the creek, he forced himself to eat the cold and fishy tasting meat. After having lived in the dungeon for so long, he realized that the meat wasn't half bad, and it certainly was filling. Now having his belly full, and warmed by the afternoon sun, Tuso crawled between some bushes where he hoped he would be hard to spot, and instantly fell asleep.

When Tuso awoke, the sun was just rising on a new day. He realized that he had slept clean through the rest of the day and all night. One thing was certain, he felt much better, and his strength was starting to return to him. However, he was both very thirsty and hungry again. So he went back to the small stream and caught himself another fish, and ate and drank. Thinking that he wanted to strike out east across the land now that he felt he was far enough from the castle, Tuso caught three more fish and wrapped their meat in some large leaves he found along the bank. He then set out following the small stream to the East. As he went, the forest got more and more dense, as the stream wound its way through the forest. One thing Tuso had always been good at was walking quietly. It was a game for him to see how well he could sneak up on his friends and family. Those old games now came back to his use, as he tried to move forward as quietly as he could.

Soon he came to a small hill, where the stream disappeared into a very ferny area that had water coming out of the ground. Pressing on, he came to the top of the hill, and carefully peaked over. Taking a good look around, he was startled by the sound of hoof beats coming toward him from the south. He froze where he was, and soon saw something that both amazed him and frightened the hell out of him. There was a four legged horse, with a human upper body where the horse's neck should be. The human part had two hands and was holding a spear in it. It stopped, and looked all around. Then Tuso heard more hoof beats and soon a second one came into sight from the north. It stopped, and greeted the first one and said, "I have seen no tracks of the escaped slave, have you?" "No, none to the south as far as my area extends". "Then the search shall continue, for the Overlord will never tolerate such a stain on his reputation", as the creature that came from the north, turned and started off that way again. The other creature followed suit, and headed south. Tuso was tempted to run east, now that they had gone, but realized the chances of him evading them on land were pretty slim, as they would most likely meet back her in a few hours, and then find his tracks. Once that happened, he knew they would easily outrun him.

So Tuso made his way back to the river, walking in the creak to help minimize his tracks. He thought about trying to float downriver during the day, but was afraid now that he knew there were patrols out looking for him that he would be spotted. So he lay down again, in the same spot between the bushes where he had slept through the night, and tried to sleep knowing that he had a long night ahead of him. When Tuso awoke, the sun was just starting to go behind the trees in the west. So he ate some of his fish, and drank his fill of water out of the creek. Not sure when he would get more, he also caught a couple more fish and again tied the meat in the leaves with his shirt. He then took his rope, and tied several pieces of driftwood together. While it was not a raft he could ride on, at least he could pull his head and chest out of the water, and mostly just ride on the driftwood as he used his feet to kick and steer.

Tuso followed this pattern for the next few days, as the river steadily carried him southward. One good thing that Tuso noticed, was the farther south he went, the warmer the water became. This allowed him to float along it for longer periods of the night. Several days later, Tuso was working himself toward the eastern bank, as he could see the sky starting to lighten as dawn was approaching. As he was looking for a small stream entering the river to pull out at, he noticed a trail of smoke coming up from the bank downstream. So he quickly kicked his way to shore, and quietly and carefully made his way along the bank, trying to stay out of sight. Tuso found a cut in the bank, where a now dry stream had run at one time, and he was able to pull himself and his driftwood float out of the river. Even though he was very tired, Tuso quietly crawled, and crouch walked downstream toward the smoke. When he was finally able to push through a bush, and see a small cottage, with a stone chimney as the source of the smoke. Looking carefully, Tuso could see that there were several outbuildings including a barn and stable. Nothing was fancy, but the cut fields of what looked like hay, and the various sheep and cattle made it pretty clear that this was a working farm. Tuso, knowing that most farmers are up early, decided he would back off into the brush a ways and sleep. Then hopefully this evening, after the farmer has gone in the house for the day, Tuso can take a look through the outbuildings for anything of use.

Tuso awoke in the late afternoon and moved forward to watch the farm. He saw the farmer and his wife working on various projects, while a young girl sporadically helped her mother or played in the yard. He noted that there were some clothes of the girl drying on a line that might fit him. He was also intrigued by their garden, and the large basket loads of produce that they were taking into the barn. As the light started to fade, and the mother called her family in for supper, Tuso was ready to act. He snuck the long way round to the barn, carefully checking things out as he went. In the barn, he found that the farmer was drying all of the produce they had brought in that day. There were carrots, beats, onions, and a number of other vegetables hanging from drying racks. There were also several baskets lying around, so Tuso grabbed the smallest one, and started filling it with some of the produce. He tried to be careful in taking only a little produce from each area, and then moving that which remained to help cover up that some was missing. Tuso also found some leather straps hanging about the barn that he thought he could cut and assemble into a sling, so he also took those.

After securing those items in the basket, Tuso worked his way over to the stable. Looking in, there were several large horses in their stalls. Tuso was concerned about spooking them, but he also saw the small foundry, and wanted to see what tools and supplies might be available. So he quietly made his way into the stable, and to the foundry. There he found a sharpening stone, tongs, hammer, and some coal that the farmer must use when he needs to do metal work. Looking and feeling around in the fading light, Tuso also found a small box that contained a flint and steal striker, and some tender for lighting the coal. Tuso without a thought, grabbed the sharpening stone and tender box, knowing that they would be useful to his survival. Tuso carried his booty back to where he had been watching the house. After setting it down, he moved toward the string of clothes, trying to stay along side the bushes. At the clothes, he found a homespun dress that he thought would fit him. So he grabbed it and ran for the bushes. Just as he was getting back to the basket with his other goods, he heard the mother yelling at her husband. Guess she came out to get the laundry, Tuso figured, and quickly made his way to his driftwood float. Tuso quickly put everything into the basket and tied the leather straps around it, making sure that nothing could fall out. Tuso then hooked the handle over one end of the driftwood, and tied it in place with the tail end of his rope. He then pushed out into the river, to continue his trip, kicking a bit, to make sure that he was out in the middle of the river, by the time he came to the farmer's house. In the last weak light of the day, he could just make out the farmer searching through his buildings with what looked like a pitch fork. Tuso chuckled to himself, thinking how easy it was to steal what he needed, but then he heard the little girl crying. That kind of bothered him.

So it was for Tuso. He would float the river at night and then huddle somewhere during the day. When he ran out of food, he would steal what he needed. While the dress felt funny at first, it did allow him to kick better in the water, and he planned on pretending to be a small female child if he got cornered, as most people wouldn't be so wary of a young girl. Then one night it started raining. While the rain didn't really bother Tuso while he was floating the river, as dawn approached, he realized that he didn't want to have to try to sleep with the rain pounding down on him. As he had progressed south along the river, more and more small farms had started to appear. So it was not hard to find a barn and sneak into the hay loft to try to get some sleep and get dry. Unfortunately, the rain also convinced the farmer to work in the barn, and as he was throwing hay down from the loft, Tuso's hiding place was exposed. Tuso had awoken as soon as he heard and felt the farmer climb up onto the loft. He was hoping he could just stay hidden, but when the pitch fork was coming in his direction, he figured he only had one option, so he launched himself at the unsuspecting farmer. A quick stab to the heart, and a cut across his throat, caused the farmer to silently fall backwards off the loft onto the floor of the barn. He didn't move. Tuso looked down at his latest victim, and tried to justify the killing as his only option. It bothered him though; he really didn't give the guy much of a chance. So he buried the dead farmer in the hay that the farmer had already thrown down. Then he searched the barn for anything of use, finding some vegetables drying in their racks. He didn't bother trying to hide his theft this time, and stuffed as much as he could carry into a large basket he found. He then barred the door of the barn, and waited till dark. As night started to fall, and the rain finally let up, Tuso used the dry hay as his tender and started a fire in the barn. He slipped out the door just as the wood supporting the hay loft caught fire. He was hoping that the fire would burn up the body of the farmer enough that no one would suspect he had actually been stabbed to death.

That night, as Tuso floated along, he was able to see in the pale moonlight that one of the farms he was getting ready to pass had a dock that extended out into the river. Looking close, he could see what looked like a small boat tied up to the dock, so he swam closer. Using the dock, he pulled himself out of the water to investigate. Tied to the dock, he found a small boat that was covered by waxed cloth to keep the rain out of it. Sneaking along the dock, and looking above the bank, Tuso saw what looked like a rich person's estate rather than a farm. Sneaking back to the boat, Tuso pulled aside the cover, and searched inside. There were two oars, and two built in seats, that was all. While it was a risk, Tuso was sick and tired of trying to float in the river. The water still chilled him to the bone every night, all of his possessions stayed wet, and he could carry very little with him. The boat gave him the opportunity to stay dry and to be able to carry more supplies, but it was also a risk, as the boat itself could cause more attention to be focused on Tuso. In the end, comfort and convenience won out, and Tuso quietly loaded the boat with his few meager possessions, protected by the waxed cloth. Then he untied the boat and pushed off into the current.

While Tuso was a good swimmer, he quickly found that that he was not a very good oarsman. Due to his small size, it made it very difficult to row the boat at first, as he had a hard time reaching up high enough, to make the oars go low enough, to actually dip into the water. He finally took the wax cloth, and bundled it up as a pad to sit on, so that the extra height allowed him more control. When dawn came, Tuso found a secluded area where a small stream flowed into the river. Pulling the boat as hard as he could up onto the shore, he then set about cutting limbs and vines to hide the boat from view. As he was finishing, a light rain started falling. So Tuso got back in the boat, and put up the waxed cloth to protect the inside of the boat. He then lay down in the bottom of the boat and listened to the rain drops hitting his makeshift home, until he fell asleep.

With the use of the boat, Tuso was able to gather and store more supplies and equipment that he was able to scavenge from some of the farms he passed. He was also able to travel further each night, but still always stopped during the day to hide the boat, and rest up for the next night's adventure. While he did have a couple of tense moments, for the most part, he had easy pickings from unattended barns and out buildings along the way. The farther south he went, the more built up the countryside appeared to become. There was also more traffic upon the river, however by night, Tuso seemed to have the river all to himself.

After almost two weeks of traveling down the river by night, Tuso came into what appeared to be a good sized city. By this time, his scavenging forays had provided him with some decent clothing, a thick horse blanket, about 50 foot of good rope, and a half-filled oil lamp. As Tuso made his way as quietly as he could through the darkened city, he was able to see by torch and lamplight that there were extensive docks. He then heard the sound of waves crashing, and upon tasting the water, realized that it was brackish, with the ocean tide bringing in salt water. Tuso realized, with no small amount of trepidation, that his trip down the river was over. He certainly could not go out on the open ocean in this small row boat. So he needed to try and find another way to get out of this damned and infernal country.

Not knowing what else to do, Tuso rowed the small boat back up stream, just to the edge of where the docks had ended. Given that the docks were designed to work with ocean going ships, they were built out over the water upon pilings that rose out of the water. This construction created an open space along the shore, but back under the wooden docks and pillars. While most of these areas could be seen by anyone upon the water, there were places where debris had become entangled in the pilings, or retaining walls had been built, which created obscured areas. So Tuso quietly paddled his boat below the docks, back up river looking for such a spot. He finally found what he was looking for. In the dark, he almost missed it, but there was a curved rock wall that had been constructed, apparently to support the weight of something above. On the back side of this wall, was a small void, maybe 10 feet long and 4 foot high, which only might see water during the highest of tides.

So after checking the area out, Tuso spent the last few hours of the night, pulling and pushing the boat up through the mud to the backside of the wall, where he felt he would be safe from discovery. He then tried to clean himself in the river as best he could, as he was covered in mud. Then he got into the boat, put the waxed fabric over the top, and lay down on the heavy horse blanket, which certainly made his sleep more comfortable. Tuso awoke sometime during the day, to the sound of a loud argument above his head. From what he was able to make out, apparently someone was claiming that the other had cheated them, and the other fellow took umbrage to the claim. It also sounded like each of them had some friends handy to help push their respective point. After a while the shouting died down. Knowing that sleep was not going to come again, Tuso quietly pulled back the waxed fabric to see his surroundings. Above, there were a few small cracks where light shown through the heavy wooden planking of the dock, but most of the light came indirectly from both ends of the tunnel like void.

Sneaking carefully, Tuso peeked around the end of the rock wall. There he saw a number of boats, (well, he could see their hulls at least), moored to the docks above him. He could hear the sounds of the ships being loaded and unloaded, and every once in a while, pick up a word or two from what the people were saying. He could also see boats coming and leaving into the dock.

That night, Tuso decided to sneak up to the city, and see what was about. He tried to stay to the shadows, with an exit always available. The dock area seemed to be lively almost all night with its taverns, and what appeared to be Houses of Comfort. Tuso was surprised, but happy to see that a small percentage of the people he saw were Halflings. The way they acted, they did not appear to be slaves, but Tuso was still afraid to come out of the shadows, for fear of being discovered as an escaped slave. As his night time reviews of the city showed, most was pretty quiet after dark, but the dock area was the exception. In looking at some of the signs, Tuso was able to figure out that he was in the City of Remesiana. While looking in some 2nd floor windows, he found some sort of shipping office which had a map of Cheliax drawn on the wall. Tuso was not happy to find that he was almost in the middle of the damned place, but at least he had a sense of where he was now.

The third night he went exploring, he left a little early, just before dusk, as he wanted to get a better feel for the comings and goings of the regular city folk, and not just the ruffians and sailors that appeared to inhabit the dock area. As he was watching from a hidden rooftop, he saw a Halfling who was carrying a basket and moving quickly, get "bumped" into an alley, wherein he was faced with two human street urchins, demanding money. This was a secluded little spot, and seeing an opportunity, Tuso only hesitated a second before he slid down the roof, leaped and did an acrobatic flip in the air, squarely landing on one of the ruffians. While Tuso might only way 55 pounds or so, having 55 lbs drop down on you from a height of 10 feet without warning can drop just about anyone. Given that the other street urchin was still frozen, seeing his friend dropped to the ground, Tuso put his dagger under the young mans chin and told him to, "Run!". The man certainly understood that request, as he took off without even a backward glance as to the fate of his friend.

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