Paki walked through an empty village of wood and thatch. Open windows stared accusingly from both sides as he shuffled down the dirt street. He was covered in dust and straw, clothes torn, and feet bare. The air was hazy with smoke, sky gray and dull. Shadows abound, the only noticeable contrast to the colorless pallor weighing down the world. He could not remember how he came to be in this place, though it was achingly familiar. Something about it impressed itself upon him with unknown import.
Between one dragging footstep and another (where was he going?) Paki became aware of a presence. Before he could determine the location of the presence it multiplied. First several then many pairs of eyes appeared in the windows, watching him. Try as he might Paki was unable to make out any details. All he could see were the eyes. Wordlessly they stared at him as he slowly trudged on toward… something. Shadows began to lengthen and pool without any change in the lightness of the sky. From the corner of his eye, Paki could tell that the shadows joined behind him, closing off the way he had come.
Though he had very little sense of time, it seemed to stop suddenly as all motion halted, including his own forward progress. Paki became aware of another presence in front of him. A shrouded figure appeared not far away, though distance was difficult to judge in this place. The figure had a humanoid outline but all distinguishing features were either covered by the hooded cloak it wore or lost in the deepest darkness Paki had ever seen. As suddenly as they had appeared, the unseen watchers withdrew. It was clear that they feared this creature.
Paki was struck with the startling realization that he’d been here before in almost this exact situation. As he puzzled over this new understanding he began to feel a pressure building in his chest. The avatar of Death lifted one arm and waved a skeletal hand as if in dismissal, then pain exploded through Paki like a tidal wave. Back in the Prime Material plane, his body stabilized under Tianna’s ministrations and he settled into a deep restful sleep.
Paki didn’t know why the men had tried to kill him and his friends, but he was glad they had failed. When he’d woken up nearly a full day later Julian and Tianna filled him in on what he’d missed. He felt bad for almost dying in the middle of the fight and annoyed at himself for not being more useful. With grim resolve he promised to get better at killing people so he wouldn’t let his friends down. They both looked at him funny when he said that, though he wasn’t sure why.
Frontier was an even stranger place than Adamston, if that was possible. Unlike the mud people’s village where everyone worked together for the common good, there were two very different groups in Frontier. There were the miners and the ones who thought they were better than miners. The miners were always sick because they knocked a lot of bad stuff loose when they mined, then breathed it in. Which was pretty stupid, if you thought about it. But the miners were too busy working to think about those things. What really annoyed Paki was the way the other townsfolk treated miners. If the miners stopped working, the rest of the people wouldn’t have anything to trade so they would be poor, but they acted like they were more important than the miners. They had a place for sick miners to go but there was nobody there to help them and no medicine to give them anyway. Paki did what he could to help them but he couldn’t stay forever. In the long-term it was up to the miners to demand to be treated better, because Paki didn’t think the rest of the citizens of Frontier would suddenly change their minds and treat them better.
When Julian explained about the caravan they would be guarding on their way to the next destination, Paki was confused by the explanation. It made sense that the man who hired them didn’t want the shipment to fall into the wrong hands, but Paki got lost when Julian tried to explain who the wrong hands belonged to and how the man couldn’t just come out and say what he really wanted. Julian gave Paki one of those strange looks when Paki just asked Julian to tell him who to kill at the appropriate time. Was Paki saying something wrong?
Gauths are very dangerous creatures, but not as bad as the beholders that they resemble. Either one appearing out of nowhere was likely to cause panic in men and beasts and that is exactly what happened. Julian wanted to escape with the other caravan guards and drivers but Tianna was concerned about the horses, who could not run, and the shipment that we were hired to protect. Paki could have gone either way but he certainly was not going to leave his friends Tianna and Kopak to face the creature alone. Unfortunately it hit him with one if the beams it was shooting from its eyes.
This time Paki was side-by-side with the shrouded avatar of death as they walked down the empty street in the gray town. He now knew this had been the town where he grew up, somehow engulfed in the drifting borders of the magical wasteland that Atrocida used to protect and isolate itself from neighboring nations. His home was very much like the lands he now traveled as a caravan guard. The silent figure next to him placed a bony hand on Paki’s shoulder and turned toward him. Its touch was shockingly cool but not unpleasant. With the other hand, it reached down and picked a bone up from the street and handed it to Paki. As soon as Paki took the gift he was pulled from the dream and woke next to a blazing campfire. Once again Paki had slept the better part of a day as he recovered from the wounds inflicted by the gauth.