As the boat glided across the dark waters toward the ragged dock of Port Balifor, Sanak’s mood wasn’t improving. He had spent the past week wishing to finally get off that damn ship, but landing here felt like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Everything, the cliffs, the water, even the air seemed frozen in an eternal moment of agony, forever bearing mute witness to the depredations of the great dragon. Even the voice of the spirits, with which Sanak had grown reaccustomed was muffled here, as if distant, sad or hurtful. For a moment he thought about asking their boatman to go back, but looking at his companions he quickly chased the thougt off. Orr seemed a lot less fierce than his namesake and more like a scared cub, throwing worried looks over the side every time the boat’s prow dived in another wave. Definitely, a boat wasn’t the best place for a bear. A dark magic altered desert probably wasn’t either, but if Orr could speak there and then, Sanak was sure he would have expressed an overwhelming preference for the latter. As for Malik, he was standing at the prow with his usual determination. They were going to Desolation because they needed to. No more and no less.
For some reason Malik was opposed to any kind of disguise, and as a result they quickly came to the attention of what passed for law in Port Balifor, which, given the town’s outlook, Sanak was certain it simply meant ‘the guys with bigger swords’. He tried to give them as little info as possibe, but their leader was quite insistant and had them take a coin which could transmit information back to him when boken. Further divination into the target of their journey revealed draconians belonging to a splinter group of the same Dark Knights that interrogated them. Maybe they could use the coin to turn the two groups on each other.
Before leaving Port Balifor they also picked up a weird local couple. They both looked human, and introduced themselves as such. Not human enough to fool Sanak though. When asked about it they became evasive, but from what he could read between the lines they belonged to a tribe of something called elans, in essence corrupted humans and that their corruption far predated the red dragon’s arrival. Not very keen to push people too much to reveal their secrets (spirits know he had plenty himself) or willing to judge anyone by appearance Sanak decided to back off but not let his guard down. Between himself and Malik they had enough magic to investigate this matter at length. Especially since the presence of an older corruption source might throw a whole new light on the currentstate of Desolation.
The desert proved every bit as unforgiving as he had been told, and it took all of Sanak skill to navigate it safely. Also, he started to know his companions better. Both skilled in the ways of the new magic Malik called mysticism, their personalities couldn’t have been more different. The girl, calling herself Evelyn, seemed little more than a big arrogant child. A omewhat skilled battle mage (and yet to show any skill in anything else) she seemed to take great pride and pleasure in her explosions. The male, calling himself Z’ol, on the other hand, seemed much more agreeable and also a knowledgeable and quite skilled diviner. Of course, it could all be a ruse to make himself liked.
The first desert tribe they encountered wasn’t all that different from the nomads of Khur Sanak had grown among. Harsh men fighting to survive against an even harsher land and beasts. The leaders were a bit weird though. A gold dragon and a druid Malik said was evil. And he wanted a gold dragon skeleton in exchange for awakening Z’ol’s cat. Despite not understanding the need for an awakened cat in the desert, Sanak agreed to help mainly because between the presence of a gold dragon, the moral conduct inherent in every druid and the typical behavior of sand dragons, the druid would probably do with the skeleton a lot less evil than it’s late owner.
All in all, despite being way out of proportion, the land and people of Desolation reminded Sanak of another time and place, and a young idealist named Keja. Like back then, he felt thse people and land deserved a chance to begin anew. And he was willing to give it to them.