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voys • reit • tryying • leest • sighlence • pheel • beeleev • thaen • schute • litull

Solisar is dead. A bad monster who triked us and pretended to be a woman did it.

I was not vary sad when Cassiera died because I knew that Hakam could fix her and he did but now Hakam's god is mad at him. I am mad at Hakam for not being kind and making that litull girl dead. Even though she was a bad monster I think that he should have bene kind and I think that that is why his god is mad at him too. If he had bene kind his god would not be mad at him and he would have already fixed Solisar but now he never can so I am mad about that. I do not know much about gods but I think that it is probably better to be kind than to follow rules some times.

I am also sad because Solisar was always kind to me and did not make fun of how I do not know as many things yet. In Hartzvale Tavis' land I sa people drip water from their ies when they were sad. I do not think that my ies drip water. I do not think that the Maker made it so that my ies can drip water.

Szordrin taught me how to spell these words that I guessed incorrectly last time because Solisar is not here to help me. I wish that he were Solisar though. I am also surprized that Szordrin wants to help me at all.

Many other things have also happened since I last wrote here. Hakam came back. He was not hurt. He smelled like purfyume though. Solisar and Szordrin tezed him about this but I beeleev him that he did not get the perfyume on himself from being close to Chalan and tryying to make a baby with her in the way that Cassiera told me that most krechers make babies. I think that that was why Szordrin was tezing him. I do not understand why they think that making babies is funny. Chalan is a woman whom I have never met but they told me about her. She helped them when they visited a floting sity while I was kept a prizoner by Tosvin. She follows a different god thaen Hakam a godes of darknes. I do not think that Hakam wants to make a baby with her since he probably thinks that she is bad but I also do not think that Hakam wants to make a baby with any one at al. I do not think that I can make babies. I think that the Maker would have to make one for me. I think that I would rather lay egs like chikhens and Cassiera do thaen lay babies like hyumens and elvs and gotes do. I just noticed that the word elf turns in to elv before the s when there is more thaen one. I wonder if there is a way to spell the letter s. I have only sene a gote lay a baby and it does not louk ezy.

I miss Cassiera. Now both Cassiera and Solisar are gone.

Hakam coming back safe was one of the good things. We then rode for a long time over sand. I had never sene sand before. I do not like it. Then we sa a strange krecher that they told me was called a sfinx. Al that it wanted was to play games but games with words and language not with bodies like Kytharrah's games or with cards or litull pesays like Cassiera's games. Hakam knew the anser to one that no one els did.

Then we came to an old sity where no one lived any more but we met a woman named Nulara who seemed friendly and needed help but she was only pretending and was really vary vary bad. I was not there because I had to stay with Tavis once again. When they were with her they found a flying bote. Solisar figured out how to make it fly. Then she told them that she was bad and made Solisar dead. She wanted to fly the bote. I do not know why she did not ask for them to giv her a ride. They probably would have said yes.

I had never bene on a bote before. It is suposed to go in water but this one goes in the sky with magic. It reminded me of flying on those giant birds from the top of that mowntin. I would enjoy it more but Solisar is dead so I do not pheel happy. I also spent most of this day watching Kytharrah because Nulara also used bad magic so that he can only stay awake for 9 owers and then he fals aslepe. Belvin asked me to watch him so I did. Now I am in a room that Tavis told me is just for me so that I can write what has happened. So these are the things that happened even though I wish vary vary much that some of them did not. I am not the Maker so I can not fix the things that I do not like that happen to me.

We are now wating for Hakam and Leokas. They are going to a sity to see if they can make Hakam's god not be mad at him any more. May be things will get better again.
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Chapter 4 — Atonement
~ fourth-day, 24th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, moondark
Silverymoon


Leokas leading the way, the two hiked over well-packed snow along the western bank of the river, on what appeared to be a road used by farmers from the countryside. After an hour of walking, they came to the southern gates of the city. Between two towers in the stone wall, two guards stood before the doors, bearing lanterns. Their armor glistened in the moonlight.

   "Ho, what do we have here, Laethil?"

   "Travelers in the midst of night's heart?"

   "Must be adventurers! No one else walks about at this hour."

   "The one walks like an elf."

   "The other... does not."

   "Too short for an elf."

   "...Unless he is a drow. His skin color is darker."

   "Probably another one of those 'reformed' drow."

   "It seems to be the fad these days."

   "Are you going to mock us or ask us our business in the city?" Leokas asked, approaching the two guards. Hakam came up behind.

   "We meant no offense, brother elf," said the one in crisp Elven, and only then did Leokas notice that both of the men were elves. The guard continued, in Common. "It is near the end of our watch, and we would both much rather be at the Dancing Goat, quite honestly."

   "Unless you be orcs or goblinkin," said the other, "you are welcome in our city."

   (Leokas took more comfort in the fact that they opposed goblinkin than in their welcome.)

   "We are here on an urgent matter related to the Church of Anachtyr, whom I serve," said Hakam.

   "Mean you Tyr?" said the first guard. "This city is not known for its worship of the Triad."

   A look of frustration welled up on Hakam's face.

   "No, there is a temple to the Triad here," corrected the second guard. "Jornan worships there. It is between the House Invincible and Rhyester's Matins."

   "I am afraid that we do not know either of those places," said Leokas.

   "You stand at the Mulgate," said the guard, "one of the two gates to the southern bank. A wide road leads straight from here to the Moonbridge."

   "You cannot miss it," said the other guard.

   "It literally glows silver in the moonlight," said the second.

   "Yes, I know of it," said Leokas. "I hail from High Forest."

   "High Forest? Yet you have never visited the Gem of the North?"

   "I am not one for cities," said Leokas.

   "You may feel differently about Silverymoon," said the first guard.

   "In any case," continued the other, "cross the bridge. It will look insubstantial, because it is, but the magic will not fail you. I cross it multiple times per day. Once in Northbank, continue to follow the Moonway road. You will be in the older part of the city, so the roads are narrower, but do not veer from it. You will pass Brightbuckler Street, which has many shops, and then the road will intersect another one of about the same size after about 100 yards. This is the Ghostwalk. Take a right. In about 100 feet, you will reach a four-way intersection. One of the roads here is especially wide, because it used to be the site of the old wall of the city, follow it east to the large open space of the Market. Across the Market, you will see a massive fortress-looking building. That is the House Invincible, the temple to Helm. There should be an alley to the right of the temple. Three or four buildings down that alley, you should find the temples to the Triad. There are three separate buildings. They are not small; they simply lack the fame that some of the other temples in the city hold."

   "Most of us elves worship at Everdusk Hall," added the other guard.

   "I thank you for your assistance, sirs," said Hakam.

   "If you get lost, just make your way to any intersection. All the cistern covers in the city have a green arrow painted on them denoting north."

   "I am certain that we will manage," said Leokas.

   One of the guards turned to open the door. Then each guard took a bow and motioned for them to pass through. "Enjoy your visit, and may you find whatever it is you seek for or from your deity."

   Once they had passed through the doors, Hakam and Leokas felt more like they were taking a walk through a fancy garden than through a city. Some magic seemed to have kept the winter chill outside the gates, and the smell of flowers was in the air.

   "These are shadowtops," said Leokas, pointing at some tall trees, "and oaks, and duskwoods."

   "Shadowtops are those trees that grow in the Golden Grove in my city of Memnon, are they not?" asked Hakam.

   "Yes," said Leokas. His voice drifted off. He had bittersweet memories of that grove with the golden-leafed tree....

   They walked on leaf-shaped flagstone sidewalks along a cobblestone street. The way was lit by countless tiny lanterns, magically glowing with a color reminiscent of the Feywild. Leokas, with his elven eyes, was able to appreciate the beauty of the city more than Hakam, who could not make out as many details in the dim light, but Leokas took note of the many balconies and curving staircases. Every work of construction here seemed to have elegant curves to it, as if the buildings had grown, rather than were built, much like an elven settlement. Even though Silverymoon was primarily a human city, they clearly were trying to imitate elven art, and Leokas had to admit that they did so well.

   After about a tenth of a mile, they had passed through the entire width of the southern bank of the city and reached the famous Moonbridge. They could see its silver glow from beyond the buildings and trees before they could see the bridge itself. They first crossed between the two circular guard towers, where another pair of Knights in Silver nodded at them in greeting. Then the bridge was there before them, steeply ascending in a high arc over the dark river below. It sparkled like silver moonlight and was transparent. Ripples of energy visibly traversed its surface. It seemed to be about fifteen feet wide and a couple feet thick.

   "It is a magical drawbridge," Leokas explained.

   "Let us hope it does not recede while we are on it," said Hakam.

   There were no railings, so Hakam stuck to the center, as they walked on what felt to their steps like glass. Leokas walked near the edge, so that he could gaze down into the cold waters, which reflected the starlight, some 60 feet below at the highest point of the arc.

   They safely reached the other side and continued. As the gate guards had said, this northern bank was the older part of the city, and this was immediately obvious, yet it was equally as beautiful.

   After 50 feet, they began to hear a loud ruckus. It soon became apparent that the noise was coming from a tavern ahead. A sign swinging gently in the breeze portrayed a goat on his hind legs, dancing with a maiden.

   "This must be the Dancing Goat that the guard mentioned," noted Hakam, as they passed by.

   They saw a sign for Brightbuckler Street, which joined the street on which they were walking. Here was a strange stone building with a perfectly round door.

   "'The Shining Scroll,'" read Leokas. "Szordrin and Solisar might like to know about this place if ever we return here."

   Just beyond Brightbuckler, as the guards had said, they came to a street named the Ghostwalk and followed it east. This took them to a much larger road that ran east-to-west. The street sign read, "Old Wall." They followed it east. After a short walk, they came to a great open space, so long across that not even Leokas could see the end of it as he looked south. It was filled with empty stalls and tables for market shops and wares.

   "That must be the temple of Helm there," said Hakam. "We are close."

   As instructed, they walked into a side alley on the right of this stone temple. This must have been a religious district, for they passed shrines to the Red Knight, Tempus, and Valkur on way before reaching the three-temple cluster of buildings dedicated to the Triad. "Anachtyr heads the Triad," said Hakam. "His temple will be the largest of these three."

   Hakam had assumed correctly. While not as impressive to eyes as the House of Justice in Memnon, this temple to Tyr was as elegantly constructed as the other buildings in the city but — Hakam observed — was far more balanced and symmetrical.

   "I shall wait there in that little garden park," said Leokas, pointing to the north.

   So Hakam boldly entered the great doors to the temple. Heavily armored guards at first held their swords out to stop him, but then pulled back to let him pass.

   "Pardon us, sir," said one of them. "We did not recognize you for one of our southern priests at first. It is not often that we are visited by members of the sect of Anachtyr."

   Hakam asked them if any of the head clerics were available.

   "Only the acolytes are about at this late hour," said one of the temple guards.

   "If the matter is urgent," said the other, "we can wake the High Lord Abbot."

   "It is urgent," said Hakam. "Please wake him."

   "Follow me, sir; I will lead you to a waiting room until he comes."

   After thirty minutes or so, a human man entered the room, clad richly in blue and violet robes, with a silver Tyrran holy symbol about his neck and a white sash as a belt. His left hand was covered in a white glove; his right in a black one.

   Hakam bowed. "Rafayam, sir, forgive me for waking you at this late hour."

   "Fret not," said the high priest. "I was already up, preparing for the dawn prayers. You are one of our southern brothers, I presume. Truly, you would not have come so far and at such an hour were the matter not urgent. I am High Lord Abbot Hornraven."

   "Hakam yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr. Indeed, the Just God had chosen me for a task, but his enemies have continually assailed us to set us back from completing our holy quest. My companions and I have been exiled by powerful magics far to the north, though our goal lies far to the south, greatly setting us back in this time-sensitive matter. In my zeal to return to the task assigned me by my god and yours, I sinned greatly, and Anachtyr has disciplined me by removing his blessing from me. This has caused harm to both myself and my companions, and yesterday, one of them was slain, because I did not have the power to prevent what I easily could have, had I not sinned.

   "In this tragedy, there was hope given us. The Even-Handed permitted that we should find suddenly a means of quick transportation. Thus, I have come here posthaste, to seek atonement for my deeds, that I may restore my companion to life, that we may at last complete the mission given us from Anachtyr. May his laws forever stand."

   "In your zeal, how exactly have you sinned?" asked the High Lord Abbot.

   "When fighting in self-defense against monsters of chaos and evil, I slew one who had not yet reached the age of accountability. It was wrong of me to judge such a being, when even in Anachtyr's eyes, she was innocent and not yet irredeemable."

   "Indeed, one must not forget that the Just God is a god of both justice and mercy. What did you do to reverse your error? Was the girl raised?"

   "Her body was burned with her family, for such is how her people see to the bodies of the dead."

   "That is unfortunate. What sort of 'monsters' were her people?"

   "She was born of a family of werewolves, who betrayed and ambushed us, after we had escorted them in safety."

   "Werewolves? In such a case, her death may ultimately have been a mercy, though such was not for you to have decided."

   "Yes, Lord Abbot. It is true."

   "Permit me time to seek guidance from our god. Spend this time in meditation and prayer yourself; then, join me in the sanctuary in half an hour. If Tyr permit it, I shall offer atonement for your sins there."

~~~~

Thirty minutes later, Hakam reverently entered the main sanctuary of the temple. The large chamber was lit with purple, blue, and white candles. At one end of the room was a judge's podium, which many pews faced. Behind the podium, against the back wall, was a massive statue of the Maimed God Tyr, with eyes gouged out and no right hand. His left hand rested on a longsword. In the front of the podium was a massive balance scale. Abbot Hornraven was standing by the balance. No one else was yet in the room, as morning prayers did not begin for another few hours still, for dawn came later in the winter in the North.

   "Come forward, you who bear the burden of guilt for your misdeeds and kneel before the Great Judge." The High Lord Abbot was now quoting from a liturgy. Hakam obeyed, coming forward and kneeling before the balance. The abbot was carrying a large vase. He approached the scale and filled each pan of it with an aromatic oil, taking care to add exactly the same amount to each pan. Then he prayed, "God of Justice, accept this offering as a fragrant smell. May it symbolize our prayers. May my prayers join those of this repentant follower in seeking thy forgiveness."

   In answer to this prayer, the pans supernaturally ignited into flame, and burned with a blue-violet glow upon the surface of the oil for the remainder of the ceremony.

   Then the abbot stepped up behind the podium and opened a large book of laws. "God of Justice, remind us of the justice that you have passed down to us, encoded in these laws that we strive always to follow."

   Hakam knew that every temple to Tyr maintained a massive book of laws. No two temples had the same law book, since the laws of every land and even town differed. What was important is that a law was established, not what those exact laws were.

   So it was that, when Abbot Hornraven spent the next hour methodically reading through laws of Silverymoon, Hakam was not as bored as the average soul might be. He had an opportunity to learn of the laws of this region of the north, finding then rather lax for his own tastes. He also noticed, however, that a focus of the abbot's readings regarded laws of parents and their children, inheritance, age of responsibility, and other such matters of age, as well as sections regarding sentences for crimes and what options a judge would have for administering justice and mercy.

   "Now, Hakam Anachtyr," said the abbot, when he had closed the book of laws, "confess your sin, how you have violated the spirit of these laws if not these laws themselves."

   "I confess to you, High Lord Abbot, and to Anachtyr, the Even-Handed, that I have sinned by passing judgment and sentence on one not culpable for her crimes. I have failed as the example and representative of justice that Anachtyr has called me to be."

   Hornraven stepped down from the podium and approached Hakam. "Do you repent of your misdeed? Do you solemnly vow to right your actions in whichever way that Tyr demands?"

   "I do."

   "Blind Overlord, be blind to the sins that this servant of thine has committed, for thou hast heard his words of repentance." The abbot then placed a hand upon Hakam's shoulder as he continued kneeling and bowing his head. Immediately, Hakam felt a surge of power return to him.

   "By the power granted me by Tyr, I atone you of your sin. You are restored into the service of the Maimed God. Rise again as a cleric of justice."

   Hakam stood, looking somewhat confused. "Is there no task to be given me?"

   "Tyr has revealed to me that the task that you have already been given is so great that no further act of propitiation is needed. I must say that I do not envy the quest that he has given you, as I feel that the matter has the attention of many gods both light and dark."

~~~~

Hakam stepped out into the dawn light with joy. He had just shared in the morning prayers with the other worshipers of Tyr, and now he knew that his prayers for powers were heard and answered. He walked down the alley in Silverymoon with a new sense of purpose, as acolytes of various faiths were coming and going from their various temples or shrines.

   "What penance were you given?" Leokas asked when Hakam met him in the nearby park.

   "Nothing, save to follow Anachtyr's righteous path."

   "To stop Samber?"

   "Yes, to stop Samber."
Session: 91st Game Session - Wednesday, May 31 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Chapter 4 — Change of Plans
Hakam stumbled into the helm room to join the others. Belvin was standing naked over the serpentine form of what was once Nulara, hacking away at the thick, twitching tail. Everyone was splattered with black blood.

   "She does not have her head, my friend," said Leokas in Elvish. "Cease. She is dead."

   "What in Anachtyr's name happened?" asked Hakam. Then he saw the minotaur's bulky form on the ground and Solisar's red-stained form slumped over in the chair. He rushed over to the sun elf.

   "You are too late," said Leokas. "He is dead as well."

   "Even were he 'on time', what could he do without his powers," remarked Szordrin.

   "The minotaur?" Ignoring the comment, the cleric moved to Kytharrah and stooped down to check on him. "I see no wounds," he reported.

   "She felled him with her fey touch," said Szordrin. "She touched me also, but I resisted her." The tiefling stooped down, ignoring the woozy feeling he actually felt, and began collecting lamia blood in a vial after drinking its healing contents.

   "He is still breathing," said Hakam, in reference to the minotaur. "He seems to be sound asleep." Indeed, Kytharrah had a large amount of drool draining from his mouth, and he periodically twitched.

   "Perhaps he is trapped in dreams, as happened to Jayce's companion," Leokas said.

   Hakam shook the beast. Kytharrah made a strange sound that they had never heard before, a sort of half-snort, half-lowing moan. In any case, it did not sound pleasant, and he did not wake up.

   "I will ask Thard Harr to grant him the wisdom of the owl tomorrow morning, which should wake him," said Belvin. "For now, we shall just have to drag him over to the wall to get him out of the way."

   "More importantly," Hakam replied, "I should point out that we should not have trusted this fiend." He pointed at Nulara's severed and impaled head.

   "Regrets and accusations do not bring back the dead," said Belvin, moving to Solisar and lifting his limp body off the chair. "Thard Harr, however, can. I shall reincarnate Solisar tomorrow as well."

   "No," said Hakam. "We still have time to raise him. Can any one else besides Solisar fly this magic vessel? We can take it to the nearest city with a temple of Anachtyr, and I will gain my powers back. Then I will bring Solisar back to us."

   "I am certain that Tavis will be understanding if we have to take a detour," said Leokas.

   "Will the magic of your geas allow it though?" asked Hakam.

   "I am not abandoning my duty to guard Jhothûn," the wood elf replied. "With this vessel, we will arrive at the portal more quickly than otherwise, even if we stop in Silverymoon, which is the nearest city of which I know."

   Belvin carefully laid the sun elf's corpse next to the minotaur.

   "What makes you so sure that your god will give you your powers back?" Szordrin asked Hakam. "Has he not ignored all your prayers to do so until now?"

   "The matter must be dealt with in a place holy to Anachtyr and presided over by one of his priests," Hakam replied. "We have discussed this!"

   "It still seems presumptuous to me," said Szordrin.

   "Look, the next thing we need to do is get back to the others," said Leokas.

   "The next thing I need to do is get my camel and gear," said Belvin, who was still unclothed. He stepped out onto the deck.

   "I agree that we should return to Tavis quickly," said Hakam, "but if we can fly there, we may as well." He ripped some cloth from Nulara's clothing and used some water to clean Solisar's blood from the helm chair. Satisfied, he sat down on it and leaned his head back. Nothing happened.

   "Let me try," said Szordrin. "Perhaps it requires someone more sensitive to the Weave." The chair did not react to Szordrin sitting in it either.

   "We have not fallen from the sky," noted Hakam. "It seems whatever power Solisar gave the vessel remains in it, at least for the time being."

~~~~

While Leokas and Szordrin remained on the deck of the floating but stationary vessel, scanning the desert ruins for any further sign of lamias, Hakam and Belvin returned to Tavis.

   The firbolg saw them from a distance and immediately sensed that something was wrong. He came over to them with his lengthy strides. "What happened?"

   "We were deceived by Nulara," said Hakam. "She is defeated, but two of us have fallen. Solisar is dead, and the minotaur is in a perpetual, nightmare-filled sleep."

   "She was a lamia noble," added Belvin.

   "This journey grows more dangerous by the day," said Tavis, "and I feel guilt that had I been there, these two good people might have been saved. Curse my promise to Brianna!"

   "The quest must continue," said Hakam, "but there is still hope, for Anachtyr has blessed us with the discovery of a spelljammer, a magical flying vessel. If we fly to a nearby city with a temple to Anychtyr, I believe that I can have my powers restored and can raise Solisar and restore Kytharrah. With the spelljammer, it is likely that we can arrive at the portal more quickly than had we continued directly from here on foot."

   Ilthian reached them and asked where the others were.

   "We found a boat that can fly," repeated Hakam somberly, "but we fought an unexpected battle with evil monsters, and Solisar and the minotuar fell."

   "Fell?" she asked. "Why can they not get back up again?"

   "They are dead," said Belvin, "like what happened to Cassiera."

   Ilthian gasped and covered her mouth in shock. By now she understood death much better than she did when they had first met her.

   "Who will teach me how to write?" she asked, distraught. "Hakam cannot fix them, since his god is mad at him!"

   "Only Solisar is dead," said Hakam. "The minotaur is only sleeping. I will fix them both. We just need to visit a city first."

   "His name is Kytharrah!" she said, her voice tinged with an anger that Hakam had never heard from Ilthian before. "Solisar named him." She turned away from the others. She did not appear to be crying, but she sounded like she might.

   "I agree that we should travel to the nearest city to seek atonement from your god and try to bring our friends back," said Tavis. "We should not tarry. Lead me to this flying vessel. Come, Kaedlaw."

~~~~

Ilthian had stood aloof and distraught after seeing the bodies of Solisar and Kytharrah. They had since been moved into one of the cabins of the ship. Nulara's body and head had been tossed from the ship, burned, and covered with stones.

   "Do not worry, Ilthian," said Szordrin, once the two groups had rejoined on the floating ship. "I can teach you how to read and write."

   "Thank you," said Ilthian to Szordrin, "but I do not want to learn new words right now."

   "Let her be," whispered Hakam.

   The remaining adventurers were in the room where the battle had happened. Szordrin had just finished examining the desk that was also in the room with the magic chair. Its surface was covered in circular grooves around a large embedded yellow marble. Other marbles of various shapes and sizes filled the circular grooves, but no amount of pushing would move the marbles by hand. They seemed affixed in place by some magic.

   Belvin was busy, crouched on the floor, trying to use magic to warp the floor boards in such a way as to make washing them of blood easier. Next to him, Hakam was showing Tavis, who had to shrink his form to fit in the space, the magic chair. It still did not respond to anyone else sitting in it.

   "Ilthian, can you try to sit in the chair and see what happens?" asked Leokas gently.

   She tried, but there was no response for her either.

   "May I try, too, Papa?" asked Kaedlaw. Likewise, the chair ignored the half-giant child.

   "We may be able to fly it somehow tomorrow," said Hakam. "If not, we shall have no choice but to abandon this ship and continue on to the genie on foot."

   "We shall have to sleep on the ground tonight," said Leokas. "If the power from Solisar that is keeping this ship afloat fails in the middle of the night...."

   "We would risk more lamias finding us," said Hakam, "but I do not see another option. I agree."

   "I do not have a rope trick prepared today," said Szordrin. "I was counting on Solisar for that. We will be more vulnerable on the ground even than usual."

   "We will rest close to each other with our weapons ready, and keep a close watch" said Tavis, "some distance from the craft, in case it falls from the sky. I see little else for us to do."

~~~~

Dawn came to the ruins of Hlaungadath, and they each thanked their patron gods that it had done so without further incident. The vessel still floated in the sky, and they had neither seen nor heard any sign of lamias.

   Belvin greeted the sun with a strange frantic dance in a circle.

   "What was that for, my friend," Leokas asked.

   "Since Solisar is dead," said the wild elf, "we cannot know any longer who is watching us. I wanted to know where Samber was relative to us."

   "And?"

   "He is southwest of us. I can only tell you the direction."

   "That is what we would expect if he were still a prisoner of the mummy priestess," said Hakam. "Where is Szordrin?"

   "He climbed back onto the ship," said Leokas.

   Indeed, Szordrin had wasted no time in reading a scroll for a spell that would reveal to him the mysteries of the chair's magic. Among other details, this is what he learned.

   The chair drained whoever sat in it of all magical power for a full day, even temporarily wiping the mind of a wizard of memorized spells, and formed a bond with him or her. The helmsman's senses would be expanded to become one with the ship. For the next twenty-four hours, the vessel would generate its own lift, its own gravity, (if no stronger gravity source was present,) and an invisible ellipsoid wall of force that would trap a bubble of air around the craft. During this time, if the helmsman remained seated in the chair, he or she could provide momentum to the ship, and pilot it by force of will. After eight hours, a new helmsman could sit in the chair and form a bond with it, replacing the previous helmsman. Anyone with magical power of any sort could pilot the spelljammer; however, those with more skill with the Weave or greater blessing from the gods could do so with more skill and effect.

   It was also revealed to Szordrin that the ship contained a large plate of star metal embedded in one of the lower decks. This plate was the center of the bubble of air and gravity that the ship produced.

   Szordrin shared this information with the others, and they discussed who should try to pilot it first.

   "I should sit in it first," said Hakam. "With my powers still stripped, it is likely that I shall fail, but if I succeed, none of the rest of you will have to sacrifice your magics."

   As predicted, the chair did not respond to Hakam sitting in it at all.

   "I can pilot it later," said Belvin, "but I need some of my magic for other tasks this morning."

   "What other tasks?" someone asked.

   "We need to wake the minotaur sooner rather than later," said Belvin. "I am sure his bladder is much larger than Oma's was. Also, I intend to repair the foremast, and he will be helpful in that."

   "The pearl that I purchased from Hartwick," said Leokas, "I suspect that it will restore to me the powers of the daily prayer that Solonor permits me, if the chair strips them. It makes sense that I should pilot the vessel."

   "You are the weakest among us in magical prowess," said Szordrin. "You will have the least control."

   "What need have we of control?" said Leokas. "We are not maneuvering in a sea battle; we are simply flying in a straight line to a city, are we not? And I am best among all of us, save Tavis, at following the lay of the land."

   They all agreed to this plan.

   "To which city are we going?" asked Belvin.

   "Tavis and I think that Silverymoon, the city to which Mythlos, Cassiera, and my mother were first heading, is our best and fastest option," said Leokas.

   "It is said to be one of the largest cities of the North," said Hakam. "It will certainly have a temple to Anachtyr."

   "Then let us hurry and go there," said Leokas. He moved to the chair and sat down in it. As he pressed his head back, he felt like his whole body was immersed in warm water, and it felt like his senses were somehow exploding. He cried out, as if in pain.

   "Pull him off!" said Hakam.

   "No, I am unhurt," said Leokas. "It was just overwhelming. I think I understand what I am feeling now."

   What he was feeling was every exposed surface of wood on the vessel as if it were his own skin, in addition to seeing from all angles at once everything within the "bubble" projected around the star metal at the center of the ship.

   "Can you move it?" asked Hakam.

   "I am not sure how," said Leokas.

   "Recall how you walked on air on the Great Glacier," said Szordrin, "from Hakam's magic. Perhaps it is similar."

   The ship jerked forward, nearly knocking everyone over.

   "Yes, I can do this," said Leokas.

   "Not yet!" said Belvin. "Kamil is still on the surface."

   "I shall go ask Tavis if he can carry the camels on his shoulders up the rope," said Hakam.

   The firbolg had no problem doing so. The large animals were then leashed securely to the upper deck. Meanwhile, Belvin went to the cabin where they had placed Solisar and Kytharrah's bodies. Ilthian was there besides Kytharrah, stroking his fur and speaking to him, though the minotaur made no response besides occasional pained lowing. "Move away," said Belvin, "and I will wake him." Ilthian obeyed, and Belvin chanted a prayer over the beast.

   Kytharrah jumped up with a start, smacking his head into the ceiling, cracking it, and getting his horns stuck. "No! I was good," he shouted pitifully, flailing his arms in an attempt to escape the debris that had endlessly crushed him in his dreams.

   "You are safe, big brother!" said Ilthian. "You are not trapped."

   Kytharrah stopped thrashing and dislodged his horns from the ceiling with his paws. He seemed confused still, but his relief was palpable.

   "You were only dreaming," said Belvin. Then he turned to Ilthian. "Keep an eye on him; he will only be awake for nine hours, and then he will fall suddenly into a deep sleep again. Make sure that he does not fall off the ship or crush someone when that happens."

   "I am never sleeping again!" declared the minotaur.

   "Nine hours is a long time from now," Ilthain replied to Belvin.

   "I am telling you now in advance."

   Ilthian nodded.

   With Kytharrah and Tavis holding the cracked main mast in place, Belvin used Thard Harr's magic to repair and seal it. When he finished, it seemed as good as new.

   Before they "sailed", Szordrin tested out what would happen to his magic rope trick if cast while upon the deck of the ship. When Leokas moved the vessel forward, the rope continued to hang in the same spot in the sky. Once the ship had moved entirely out from under the rope, it suddenly fell to the ground.

   "Well, that is unfortunate," said Szordrin.

   The spelljammer was equipped with a small deck catapult and two small ballistae, all magically preserved and in good condition. Each ballista was loaded with a single large bolt, but there were no stones for the catapult. They sent Kytharrah out to grab a collection of large rubble to use with it, if they somehow were attacked from the sky. He took his job very seriously, and returned with several well-rounded stones that fit the catapult nicely.

   Once the mast was repaired, the camels and gear loaded, and the catapult stones set in place, Tavis and Kytharrah heaved up the anchor. Leokas sat back in the helm chair, and the preserved ancient sails billowed out, blown by Leokas' will to move the ship forward. Leokas' desire to move forward caused these magic winds to blow perfectly parrallel to the length of the ship, but the sails were not positioned properly to drive the ship forward. Instead, the spelljammer drifted through the sky more to the northeast. Since none of them except Solisar, who was of course unavailable, knew how to sail, it took them about an hour to get the ship moving in the direction that they wanted. Ultimately, Leokas started willing the ship to go in a direction slightly offset from the one he truly wanted, as if aiming an arrow in strong wind. At last they were off, hoping to reach Silverymoon before a day had passed.

   The voyage took a little more than 21 hours of constant sailing. Tavis estimated that they were traversing over the surface of Faerûn at about 17 miles every hour. When Leokas tired of controlling the winds that moved the ship, Szordrin replaced him so that the wood elf could rest. Belvin had spent much of the journey scanning the sky for dragons or other fell monsters with his magically enhanced vision. The skies, however, remained clear throughout the day. Kytharrah stood at the deck railing, enjoying the thrill of flying again, the wind blowing his fur about. It had been some time now since he had flown in a net carried by veserabs. Ilthian, true to her word, kept watching Kytharrah carefully, telling him constantly not to stand so closely to the edge because he might get sleepy again. He would listen to her and back off, only to seemingly forget and be back at the railing again.

   Closer to the end of the day, she was able to convince the minotaur to come study with her. Szordrin had offered to continue her reading and writing lessons. Thus, thankfully, when Belvin's wisdom-granting spell wore off and he passed out again, Kytharrah was not at the railing. After an instant of protest, his body crumbled to the ground with a thud.

   It was now just before dark. Tavis dragged Kytharrah's massive form below deck, and Ilthian retired to what would have been the captain's quarters, which Tavis insisted that she have to herself. Szordrin rested in his hammock, strung between a mast and a support beam below deck. The others had their usual bedrolls.

   They had retraced their path back to Ascore, flying due west. It was not hard at all to find the ruined dwarven city along the cliffs at the end of Anauroch. What stood out the most was the massive black dome of darkness from whatever it was the Shadovar were doing below.

   From Ascore, they had followed the road back to the Fork as best they could and then followed Fork Road from the sky west through Old Delzoun into Sundabar Vale. This took them between two mountain ranges, the Rauvin Mountains to the north and the snowcapped Nether Mountains to the south. They were in lands where none of them had ever been before, but between Leokas and Tavis, they were able to guess where they might be, and Fork Road grew wider and easier to follow from the air the longer they continued westward.

   Fourteen hours into their voyage, they flew over the citadel of Sundabar. Once a dwarven fortress, Tavis told them, much like Citadel Adbar farther northeast, Sundabar was now a human and dwarven city. Even at night, they could make out the double walls with the large moat between them. They stopped briefly overhead, deciding what route to take from here. By moonlight, Belvin could make out a road below continuing west from the fortress-city, but Szordrin could not see it, and he would be the one piloting the ship from here to Silverymoon. Instead, they decided to follow what they believed to be the River Rauvin. It seemed to start a short distance south of Sundabar from the intersection of two smaller rivers, and it flowed through a hilly pass in the Nether Mountains. Tavis and Leokas both were certain that Silverymoon was on the Rauvin; neither was certain that this river south of Sundabar was the Rauvin, but at least Szordrin could make it out from the sky.

   As Szordrin piloted their spelljammer, they passed over some violent rapids and a dimly lit town before following the ever-widening river as it snaked through the snowy hills of the mountain pass. On the other side, it turned and flowed more westerly, passing several towns and villages on a flat, snow-covered valley south of the Nether Mountains and north of a massive, seemingly endless woodland to the south, that must have been the High Forest, Leokas' old home.

   After four hours at the helm, Szordrin stopped the flying craft, as they came over a city on the river. He slowly lowered them to get a closer look.

   "While larger than any city I have ever seen," said Tavis, "I do not think it is Silverymoon. Silverymoon is supposed to have a famous silver-arched bridge, of which I see no sign here, and it lies west of the Nether Mountains. See, we still have not fully rounded them."

   Leokas, having just come out of trance, joined the discussion. "It must be Everlund," he said, "the closest human city to the northern borders of my forest. My mother and the others will likely pass through it on the way to the High Forest, but I doubt that they have even reached Silverymoon by foot yet. We should continue down the river; see, it curves sharply to the north here. It is 50 miles to Silverymoon from Everlund, I am told. We shall reach Silverymoon before night's heart ends."

   Three hours later, they indeed approached an even larger city, built on both sides of the river and sparkling in the light of the moon. Szordrin lowered the spelljammer until it came to float in the wide, icy river some three miles south and upstream from the city. He moved the ship as close to shore as carefully as he could, hoping they would be hidden by tree cover from any late-night travelers that might pass on the shore. In the cold of winter and the middle of the night, they did not expect anyone to be about. They woke Tavis, and he dropped the anchor.

   The plan was for only Hakam to enter the city with Leokas as his escort. Temples tended to be open all night long; if they could find a temple to Tyr, Hakam was certain a priest could also be found.
Session: 91st Game Session - Wednesday, May 31 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Chapter 4 — Snake on a Spelljammer
Down on the ground, Belvin had Kamil crouch, and he hacked the head off the male lamia. He called to Hakam, "Do you see anything?"

   "No," the cleric called back. Hakam had walked through the wall illusion behind which the lamias had hid.

   Belvin then heard a sound.

   When Hakam stepped back through the illusionary, ruined wall, Belvin was gone, leaving Kamil there alone and Hakam confused.

~~~~

On board the spelljammer, Leokas heard Solisar's scream coming from the forecastle. He moved to the port side and readied an arrow.

   On the starboard side, Kytharrah heard the scream too. "Okay in there?" he asked. He had entered the forecastle and was approaching the door to the room with the magic chair.

   "Everyzing is fine," he heard Nulara answer, but when he tried to open the door, something or someone was blocking him from pressing it open, something or someone very strong.

   Szordrin finished climbing aboard with his spider magic and came up behind Leokas. The wood elf motioned for him to be quiet. Szordrin whispered a question about what was happening, but Leokas did not yet know. He opened the starboard-side door to the forecastle and cautiously entered, dropping his bow to the ground and drawing instead his longsword. He stepped to the door of the spelljammer helm room and stealthily opened it a crack. Tymora blessed them, for as he was doing so, the sound was masked by Kytharrah's shouting from the other side, "Someone hurt? I smell blood! Door is stuck!"

   With the door open a crack, Leokas could not see much, but what he did see was enough — the end of the tail of a very large snake draped across the floor.

   The wood elf back-stepped away from the door toward Szordrin, hand reaching towards his bow.

   Leokas' actions confirmed Szordrin's suspicions about what was happening. He withdrew a root shaving and quietly chanted some Draconic words. His movement grew suddenly faster. He picked up Leokas' bow and held it out for him to reach.

   On the other side of the helm room, Kytharrah shoved against the door for the third time and succeeded to force it open. For an instant, the young minotaur glimpsed his friend, Solisar, hunched over in the helm chair and covered in blood.

   "Go to sleep, you beast!" said Nulara, from behind the door. She shoved back, and slammed the door shut again.

   "No trick sleep!" said Kytharrah, shaking off the spell. On the contrary, he felt a surge of speed from the power of Szordrin's magic from the other side of the ship. Bellowing and snorting, he gave the door a forceful shove, but to no avail. Nulara was very strong! Frustrated, he drew his axe from its holder on his back.

   "You do not want to fight me," she said sweetly. "Do you have my bow for me?"

   Her charm was no more effective than her attempt to put the minotaur to sleep. Kytharrah was not sure what was happening, but he knew that Solisar needed help.

   "Solonor, swift death to my enemies," Leokas whispered, nocking two arrows at once, as he stepped back to take a shot through the slightly ajar door on the port side.

   However, Nulara heard him. Her bulky serpent tail slammed the door shut behind her, blocking Leokas on the other side so that she could deal with the persistent minotaur.

   But the minotaur was no longer playing. His large axe crashed through the door in a single swing, and Kytharrah heard Nulara shout out from the other side in pain or surprise or both. He began yanking back the shattered wooden planks with his huge paws. Nulara was there on the other side of the wrecked door. She was not wearing any clothes. Why? Was she about to change into a snake like Cassiera or Belvin? How did she grow as tall as him? Oh, she was half snake now already. Could Cassiera do that too? Cassiera was never that big of a snake though.

   Nulara gave up on the non-violent route of subduing the minotaur before her. She slashed wildly with her black dagger, knocking more broken door panels aside.

   Kytharrah stepped back and swung his axe. It was hard to swing in the confined quarters below the deck, but his blade cut across Nulara's bare midriff and then again through her lower serpent-like abdomen. Black blood and scales fell to the floor. She raised her dagger high for another swing, but Leokas kicked open the door behind her with his boot and loosed his arrows. One of the arrows drove deep into her back, but the second popped back out of her body without even drawing blood, and dropped to the floor.

   She shrieked in pain from the first arrow. Then, her tail slammed forcefully back at Leokas; it struck against the open door frame instead.

   Kytharrah took the opportunity to attempt to impale the lamia with his horns. They caught her below the rib cage and rocked her humanoid torso back, but when Kytharrah raised his head again, her chest was clear of even a scratch. Only her stomach was bleeding from his earlier swing.

   "Thard Harr, guide his swings!" Kytharrah turned his head for a moment to see a naked Belvin on the deck outside.

   Nulara took her opportunity and swung her dagger with enough ferocity that it could have cleaved off Kytharrah's arm, yet Thard Harr had heard Belvin's prayer and guided Kytharrah's instinctive parry of the blow. The black dagger miraculously got caught in the hook of the minotaur's axe blade. He twisted his wrist quickly, and the dagger blade snapped off its hilt with a crack.

   Nulara flew into a rage, slapping Kytharrah across the snout with the back of her hand. "You spawn...." Slap! "...of Baphomet!" Slap!

   "Ixen!" shouted Szordrin from his knees, where he was now crouched in front of Leokas, and a beam of flame shot from his hand. The fire wrapped completely around Nulara, causing her no harm at all, but it least it gave Kytharrah a chance to step back from the slapping.

   "She is resistant to the Weave!" Szordrin warned.

   Leokas nodded and began releasing arrows rapidly over Szordrin's shoulder, hasted by the roguish wizard's earlier spell, but Nulara was writhing about madly like a cornered animal, swinging her arms and long, razor sharp nails at Kytharrah. Only one of the elf's four arrows struck her in the arm, and she seemed hardly to care.

   Kytharrah fared a little better, striking her several more times, and leaving black gashes across her brown skin. It seemed to him like he was swinging at a tree, not at a creature. He swung his horns and missed and then his axe one last time, before Nulara struck him on the face. It did not even hurt him. Instead, he giggled, as if someone had told a funny joke, before collapsing to the ground with a thud to enter a sleep of nightmares.

   Her first foe bested, Nulara now twisted her form around, and swung her tail at Szordrin, but the tiefling was able to concentrate enough to send off a dagger of ice from his hands. Some unseen force sent the icicle crashing into the ceiling. Nulara laughed.

   "What is happening?" called Hakam from the deck. He had finally climbed Ormur and could hear shouting and see the naked wild elf chanting a complicated nature spell nearby. A dark cloud was forming over the forecastle.

   "We are betrayed!" shouted back Leokas. "The minotaur and Solisar are dead!"

   "Yesss," hissed Nulara. A forked tongue shot from her mouth. "...and you will both join them." Her tail flashed, swatting at Szordrin. It was not a powerful blow, but he instantly felt like he had had too much wine.

   Leokas reached for another arrow, but his quiver was empty.

   "Oh, out of arrows?" she gloated.

   The wood elf drew two instead from Szordrin's quiver and let the first fly, striking her below her right collarbone. She lunged forward, trying to catch his neck in her hands, but there was another twang, and her body fell to the ground. Leokas had put the second arrow through her forehead at point-blank range. "Now I am out of arrows," he said.

   He wasted no time grabbing his sword and hacking off Nulara's head. Black blood gushed from the neck stump and her long tail twitched and writhed spasmodically for a long time in the lamia's death throes.
Session: 91st Game Session - Wednesday, May 31 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Chapter 4 — Lamiae
Leokas stepped to the railing of the floating ship and assayed his enemies. He had a perfect strategic vantage point. The creatures approaching were similar to centaurs in appearance with the lower bodies of beasts and bare upper torsos of stunningly attractive, tanned humans. There were five lamias in all, three of them with the bodies of large lions, one with the body of a goat, and the fifth with the body of a small deer or gazelle. One of the lion-bodied lamias was male; the rest had female torsos. Each carried a dagger in his or her hands or mouth. Beyond that they carried nothing else nor wore any sort of clothing or jewelry.

   Leokas stretched and cracked his neck and drew his weapon. He was ready for them.

   Nulara let fly an arrow at once. It whizzed past the neck of the goat-lamia. The lamia reached Nulara, hair blowing about wildly, and reared back, kicking with her forehooves. One hoof knocked the bow from Nulara's hands; the other struck her in the sternum, and Nulara fell to the ground.

   Leokas filled the lamia with three arrows, allowing Nulara to crawl away from the lamia's stomping hooves.

   The gazelle-lamia appeared to split into a total of five lamias, all of which rushed toward Szordrin in unison, surrounding him. Then Kytharrah, having rushed to the main deck and seen his friend surrounded, and leapt and crashed down unto one of the five, grunting from the painful impact. The lamia illusion popped out of existence. Szordrin darted behind his large companion for cover from the remaining four attackers.

   The two "lionesses" focused their attentions on Hakam. The first reached him and pulled him into a forceful embrace, before he could even draw his sword, pressing his face into her bosom. The second, stroked the back of his neck, while telling him how attractive and manly she found him.

   Hakam felt himself struggling with conflicting thoughts and emotions. The women were extraordinarily attractive to him, yet he knew that they were cursed and evil... and not women at all! It felt rather pleasant being held against the soft flesh of this fair creature.... No, she was a demon! She was draining his sanity. "Fiil," he mumbled. "Fiil tanmu!"

   Hakam felt himself being shoved back. He tumbled unto his back, freed from the lamia's grip as the magical elephant exploded out of the pouch where it had been attached to Hakam's belt. The two lamias were also shoved back. The elephant immediately pounded the nearby goat-lamia across the head with its muscular trunk, knocking her unconscious instantly. She fell limp to the ground and was then trampled to death by the massive pachyderm.

   The male lion-lamia was trying to leap onto the side of the boat. The first attempt, he failed. Solisar floated up beside Leokas, who was turning to seek a new target. He could not shoot at the male lamia, because it was too far below the craft. Solisar tossed a piece of glass down toward the lion, but instead of vanishing as it should have done, the glass simply fell to the ground below. "The Weave is not responding to me!" he exclaimed.

   Belvin swooped down out of the sky, braked with his wings, and morphed back into an elf, landing naked upon Kamil's back. He calmed his companion and guided the camel, who had been galloping away from the battle frightened, back to his pile of clothing and gear. As he turned around, he saw the elephant charging toward Kytharrah. The angry lioness who had lost her grip on Hakam had instead charmed the elephant with her sweet words and commanded it to attack the minotaur. "Kamil, fetch my pouch!" The camel bent down and picked up Belvin's pouch in his teeth, raising it to his master. Belvin began frantically to reach for his holly sprig, but he was not going to be fast enough. The elephant was upon Kytharrah.

   Moments before it would have gored its tusks into the young minotaur, Hakam yelled out from under the boat, "Fiil wa'iinkamsh! The elephant shrunk down into a figurine and rolled until it stopped near Kytharrah's feet.

   The other lioness-lamia followed behind, drawing her blade from between her teeth and waving it about her head. Leokas struck her twice with arrows, the second of which went through one side of her skull and came out the other. Then a column of fire fell down from the sky at Belvin's command and ensured that she was dead.

   From behind Kytharrah, Szordrin sent a ball of fire on the group of four identical gazelle-lamias as they were closing in. Each of them now shared precisely the same scorch marks on their otherwise flawless skin and the same grimaces of pain and anger. They leaned their human torsos forward, granting extended reach to their swinging arms, and clawed at Kytharrah. He noted that their fingers ended not in nails like Cassiera or Ilthian but in thick, pointed claws like his. At first he was confused by all the arms swinging at him, but he trusted his nose. "I smell you," he said, swinging his axe and cutting through the rightmost lamia's bare flesh and spraying foul, black blood. All four lamia's shrieked in pain. He swung again, and they dropped to the ground simultaneously.

   "I got all three," said Kytharrah, but he did not feel happy about it. They looked too much like Cassiera or Ilthian to him from the waist up, but the others who were smarter than him told him that lamias were very bad, so he tried to believe them.

   "Four," said Szordrin, as he spun around and blasted a jet of fire toward the lion-lamia underneath the ship where Leokas could not shoot at him. "You got four." The flames engulfed the male, and it stumbled. Solisar also flew out over the others, drawing his wand and shooting at the same target. At least his magic items still functioned. The male was persistent; despite the burns and magical pummeling, he leapt again onto the side of the ship. This time his claws caught hold, and he clung to the bottom of the vessel like a spider, with four lion claws and two humanoid hands holding onto the planks of wood. He began climbing the side.

   "Help me up!" It was Nulara calling. She had managed to climb up Ormur, but was having trouble pulling herself over the railing onto the deck.

   "Hold on!" said Leokas, who thought it more important to deal with the climbing lamia. He leaned over the railing and aimed his arrows straight down at the beast. A single arrow struck the male, and it crashed 40 feet to the ground with a thud.

   Solisar flew over and offered Nulara a hand. She took it, and he helped pull her aboard.

   "My zanks," she said. Then she drew her black dagger. "One is coming up the side!" she warned, readying herself.

   "Not anymore," said Leokas. He raised his bow and fired off two more arrows at the remaining lioness, striking her in her tawny, furred flank, just as she was raising her arm to point at Kytharrah. "Dreams upon you!" the lamia shouted.

   "I feel sleepy!" said Kytharrah.

   "Fight it! Stay awake!" urged Szordrin, coming now from behind the cover of the hairy beast. He completed a spell and send a barrage of snowballs at the lamia female.

   Covered now in snow, with two arrows in her hide, and seeing all four of her companions dead or dying, she bolted to the north.

   Belvin started summoning allies to pursue her, as Hakam rushed over to the four fallen lamias around Kytharrah. They were still breathing, though a large pool of black blood stained the sand around them. "Which one is the real one?" he asked Kytharrah.

   "That one," said Kytharrah, a hint of sadness in his voice.

   Hakam plunged his blade through the left side of her back and then through the side of her deer-like body to ensure that she was dead. The three duplicates and the gore beneath them vanished.

   Leokas moved quickly to the starboard of the flying ship and watched as the fleeing lamia appeared again on the same side. He sent two arrows after her with a single pull of the bowstring. They struck her in the back. She staggered but then recovered and kept running, taking cover behind a ruined wall so that Leokas no longer had a line of sight.

   Four dire weasels appeared, and Belvin sent them in pursuit. Solisar had flown quickly back inside the forecastle of the ship and sat back in the magic chair. He directed the ship to move, and it jerked forward, positioning Leokas for a clear shot. He took it. The lamia fell to the ground. Moments later, she was overtaken by the four squeaking weasels who brought her to a disturbing end.

   "Victory!" yelled Belvin in the Elven tongue. He then rode to the male lamia to check that it was indeed dead. Hakam recovered the elephant figurine and began walking toward the false wall from which the attackers had come. Szrodrin, having cast another spell, jumped and stuck to the side of the boat by his magic and began to climb on all fours. Kytharrah picked up Nulara's bow and began to climb Ormur again. "I have your bow!" he called up.

   Nulara came into the central room where the magic chair was located, with Solisar sitting in it. "Ze battle is over," she told him. "We are safe. Zey are all dead."

   "Yes, I can see that."

   "Is zat how it flies?" she asked. Solisar was distracted, for he was trying to test his control over the vessel. Could he speak to the others on the ship through the chair? Could he do more than see and move? It had drained him of his magical power, yet he had been able to leave the chair and return, and it remained in the air in his absence.

   "Yes," he finally answered her, "though I still have many questions about it."

   Nulara's face was filled with excitement and delight. "Many years have I wondered about this ship!" she said. "You have served my purposes better than I had hoped; I thank you." With that, she stared directly at Solisar with a look of lust, or perhaps hunger.

   Solisar realized also that she no longer had an accent. He tried to get up, but before he could respond, her black dagger flashed in her hand. She plunged the blade deep into his chest with three stabs, an evil grin on her face the whole time.

   Solisar screamed. The shock of the attack meant that he did not notice the pain much. Instead, with his last strained, blood-filled breaths, he could sense that it was the poison of the weapon that was ultimately going to kill him. He felt his strength draining away.

   "My children proved weaker than I had hoped," Nulara said, as she nonchalantly slid the shoulder of her garment off with her hand. The thin fabrics fell to her waist, baring her breasts, and pooling at her wide hips. Then, it seemed as if she suddenly grew taller, and her clothing slipped completely from her body, revealing not the lower half of a woman but the terrifying form of a giant serpent. "At least there will be fewer mouths to feed."
Session: 90th Game Session - Wednesday, May 24 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Chapter 4 — Hlaungadath
~ first-day, 21st of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, dusk
Hlaungadath


As the sun began to lower to the horizon behind them, they could see dunes up ahead in contrast to the generally level salt flats upon which they were now walking. When they reached the dunes, and summited one of them, they realized that they stood on the lip of a crater. They gazed down on a surprisingly preserved city, sitting in the center of this crater.

   "The fallen city of Hlaungadath," said Tavis.

   The architecture reminded them of Thultanthar — pillars, domes, pointed arched windows, and towers.

   "We do not need to pass through the city, do we?" asked Hakam.

   "No," said Tavis, "we could traverse around the lip of this crater and continue east. However, the sun is setting; we should probably at least hike down to one of those smaller buildings on the outskirts for shelter for the night and better defense."

   So they began descending into the basin. As they neared the remains of one of the ruined buildings, a woman's voice called from the second floor. "Alae, travelers. Zank Isis! I am coming down. I mean you no harm." Her accent was not one any of the adventurers had ever heard before.

   The woman appeared at the base of the building, coming out of its preserved arched doorway. She was tall, lean, and very shapely, with brown skin and black hair. She wore layers of simple, thin white shifts or tunics that left one shoulder bare. She had a belt around her wide hips, from which hung a few pouches, a sheathed dagger, and a quiver, and she carried a well-crafted composite shortbow in her left hand.

   "It is far from any civilized land for you to be alone," said Solisar.

   "I was not alone until a few days ago," she said. "My companions were slain. Only I have survived. Forgive me my caution; I must know if you are safe." She waved her hand and spoke a few words in a language that none of them recognized, but Solisar could tell from her somatic components that it was a spell to detect magic.

   "We mean you no harm," said Solisar.

   "...As long as you intend us none," added Hakam.

   "I know zat you are not lamias," she continued, as she approached cautiously. "At least not all of you are. I suspect zat you are a sorcerer as am I, since you have an aura of magic." She looked at Szordrin as she spoke these last words. He did not correct her.

   "What are lamias?" asked Ilthian.

   "Desert vampiresses that eat children," said Hakam with disgust.

   "They are half-women/half-animal creatures of the desert, somewhat like sphinxes," added Leokas, "freak combinations of woman, lion, goat, and deer." Szordrin nodded.

   "No," corrected Belvin, "my tribe once warred with a lamia tribe in the Chondalwood. They are not like sphinxes at all. They are more like centaurs but have a variety of lower bodies. The most powerful among them, their nobles, have the lower bodies of massive serpents. They fight with both weapons and claws and with magic, most often using illusions to deceive their opponents. The most powerful, lamia 'nobles', can even take on human forms. While the ones we fought all appeared female, some say that lamias are hermaphrodites."

   "I am impressed with your knowledge in this area," said Solisar. "I can only add that they take pleasure in causing pain and suffering and that they often know a lot about history and magic and sometimes guard such places. Lamia nobles are usually powerful sorcerers, but all lamias are said to be able to drain the sanity and will of their prey by mere touch. As Belvin said, they favor illusion spells. There are, in fact, male lamias, though this is not known by most scholars."

   "That was a lot to add, actually," said Belvin.

   "Do not touch any women that we might see!" Hakam ordered Kytharrah.

   "I apologize," Solisar said to the woman. "My name is Solisar. These are my companions, Ilthian, Tavis, his son Kaedlaw, Belvin, Leokas, Szordrin, Hakam, and our minotaur Kytharrah. He is friendly."

   "Play?" said Kytharrah.

   "What did I just tell you about women?" said Hakam.

   "Oh," said Kytharrah.

   "My name is Nulara. I am a Mulhorandi sorceress. Until a few days ago — I have lost count — I was a part of an adventuring party, as I assume you also to be. We came from ze east, from ze Old Empires. Our leader was searting for evidence of Mulhorandi artifacts wizin zis Nezerese city, as he believed zat Hlaungadaz traded heavily wiz Mulhorand before the fall of Nezeril. I admit zat I cared primarily for treasure," she added with a smile, "as I imagine zat you understand."

   "Not all of us seek treasure," said Solisar.

   While she was speaking, Hakam walked around behind her and began stabbing his sword into the ground behind her, in case her lower half were only an illusion and her true form extended back behind her. She did not seem to notice this.

   "Why then are you here in Hlaungadaz?" she asked them.

   "It is complicated," said Belvin.

   "We are just passing through," said Solisar. Then he asked Nulara, "What happened to the rest of your party?"

   "As we explored zese ruins, we found a part of the city zat appeared in good condition and settled. We heard ze laughter of women and ze splassing of water. My zree companions, all men, were excited. No ozer women had zey seen in many monzs, and I had no interest in zeir many advances toward me." She drew her dagger out as she said this, revealing a black blade with a serrated edge.

   She continued. "Ze fools russed onward toward ze sound. I followed reluctantly behind zem. We came to a beautiful pool wizin a circle of columns. Six women were bathing. Zey invited my companions to join zem in the water, and ze men stripped their clothing off in a matter of moments, deaf to my warnings, instead telling me zat I sould join also. Ze women surrounded ze men, embraced them, and began kissing zem. Zen ze illusion faded. Ze pool was empty of water, ze columns were broken, and ze 'women' had ze lower bodies of lions. I gasped, and one of zem not entangled wiz her prey bounded at me from ze ruined pool. I sent an arrow zrough her neck and fled, casting a spell to increase my speed to avoid being tased down by a second beast.

   "I care not for ze loss of my companions. Zey were fools, all of zem, and our partnerssip was by contract, not by friendssip. However, ze leader, Dimon, had our map. Wizout it, I have no hope of finding my way back over ze sands or to my home far to ze east after zat. Zank Isis zat you have arrived! Will you help me? I am a fair fighter myself, but I am outnumbered alone."

   "We could probably draw you out a map," said Hakam.

   "It grows dark," said Leokas. "Camp with us this night. We shall discuss amongst ourselves how we might be able to help you, but to be honest, our mission requires haste, so there may not be much we can do for you."

   "I understand," she said.

   Later, around the campfire, Szordrin asked Nulara if she had ever heard of Samber or the Interlink Consortium. She had heard of neither.

   "How did you travel here?" asked Szordrin.

   "We came from ze Sea of Fallen Stars zrough ze Dragon Reats and into ze Moonsea. From zere, we took ze River Tesk to ze Border Forest and ze desert."

   "That is a fine bow you carry," said Leokas. "May I see it?"

   Nulara handed it to him to examine. "It was my fazer's bow," she said. "He was a tariot arter in ze pharoah's army."

   "This has a very high draw weight," said Leokas. "It is a far tighter pull than my own bow!"

   "My fazer was a strong man," she answered.

   Later, they set a watch. Leokas and Kytharrah were first. The others were discussing Nulara within an extradimensional space. (Nulara herself was sleeping in the ruined building from where she had first called to them.)

   "We could escort her further east at least," said Belvin.

   "If we trust her, we could send her back with Tavis when he returns to Hartsvale," said Szordrin.

   "I do not trust her," said Hakam.

   "You do not trust anyone," said Belvin.

   "It is a pity that you no longer have your magics with which to discern her moral alignment," said Szordrin.

   "I do not think that Leokas trusts her either," said Hakam.

   "She gives off a strong magical aura," said Solisar. "She is likely a powerful sorceress, as she admitted. Her dagger specifically gives off a faint necromantic aura."

   "See, she uses necromantic magic," said Hakam.

   "It is probably just a poisonous blade," said Szordrin. "When I tried to detect her thoughts, she resisted having her mind read, but I could tell that her intelligence is slightly above average for a human."

   "Intelligence and magical skill are not crimes, I hope," said Solisar. "Nor is carrying a poisonous blade, is it? Have any of us sensed deception in any of her words?"

   "No," said Szordrin. "In fact, her accounts are exceptionally detailed."

   "I think it is only right that we try to help her then," said Solisar. "Not all strangers we meet are 'werewolves'."

   "Let us decide this matter later," said Belvin. "I am going back down to stay with Kamil."

~~~~

The next morning, Solisar mixed crushed pink pearl with some elven wine in a glass flask. After drinking it, he identified the magical robe that the gynosphinx had given them and found that it was cursed. "Be thankful that no one tried this robe on!" he said. "It is strongly cursed. It would have drained the wearer of both physical and mental strength, rendering him powerless."

   "While Tavis is packing our camels up for the next leg of our journey," Leokas explained to Nulara, "the rest of us will go with you to where the map was lost. If your gods favor you, the map will still be there."

   "I give you my zanks," said Nulara with a little bow. "It is not too far."

   When they had traveled half the distance, Belvin said, "Before we continue, let me scry on the site or send Krynn. That way, we can avoid a potential ambush."

   "Both are good ideas," said Solisar, "but I think it will be faster and less effort for me to use my own divination magic as at the tanarukk cave rather than build a scrying pool or sending your satyr friend."

   This Solisar did. Soon, he was describing to the others what he was observing out-of-body. The pool was as Nulara had described, surrounded by square-based broken columns. The sand-covered clothing of the three men was scattered about. Dried blood was scattered all over the bottom of the pool, as were larger human bones, likely left behind by the lamias and picked clean by desert scavengers.

   A half-eaten lion appeared to be lying there as well, but as he moved his arcane eye around it, Solisar saw the skeletal remains of what might have been a woman's upper half emerging from where a lion's neck should have been, something like a centaur. Long hair was still stuck to the skull. An arrow was wedged between the vertebrae of the neck.

   "I do not see any lamias present at the pool," said Szordrin. "It should be safe for us. I see many tracks on the ground also, Leokas."

   A few minutes later, they arrived at the pool. Nulara kicked about some of her former companions' clothing. "Dimon's sack is taken," she said. "The lamias must have it. What hope have I of returning home now?"

   "We can direct you safely to the west," said Hakam. "It is only a two-day journey out of the desert, and a few more days beyond that to a place called the Wildlands Rest. From there you can make your way into the Silver Marches."

   "But my home is far to ze east, not to ze west," said Nulara.

   It was not at all difficult for Leokas to find where the lamias had gone. There were three sets of large lion paws and two sets of hooves that were split like deer, sheep, or goats. "These tracks lead to the north," said Leokas, "toward.... What is that?"

   Perhaps an eighth of a mile away, they could see the remains of a spired tower. Beside it, standing precariously on its bow was what could only be a wooden sailing vessel, complete with sails still intact.

   Nulara said, "Before evening fell and we heard ze 'bathers', we had seen zat sip also. It is ze strangest zing; what do you make of it?"

   "I think I know what that is," said Solisar, "and if I am correct, it would well be worth our time to investigate. If the tracks lead that way, perhaps we will also find Nulara's map."

   "It makes no sense," said Nulara. "Hlaungadaz was a flying city. It was one of ze only ones to survive the fall of Nezeril."

   "It could be an illusion made by the lamias," said Szordrin. "Leokas, can you hit something that far away with your bow?"

   "Of course." The wood elf sent an arrow in a high arc. It struck the side of the upended vessel. "It appears solid."

   Moving cautiously, they approached the ship. Its anchor was caught high above on the spired tower. The foremast of the three-masted ship was cracked from driving into pavement and sand, but otherwise, the boat seemed in good condition.

   "How is it preserved like this?" one of them asked.

   "The whole vessel is magical," said Szordrin. "It has a transmutation aura."

   "I believe it is a spelljammer," said Solisar.

   "A spelljammer?"

   "A ship that can sail the Sea of Night," said Solisar. "If we can figure out how to operate it...."

   "Shall I send Ferry up to investigate inside?" asked Szordrin.

   "Ormur," Leokas called, and the magic rope slithered out of the sack that Kytharrah was carrying over his shoulder. "Tie yourself to that railing."

   The rope obeyed, and Leokas began climbing hand over hand. "I will come too!" said Kytharrah.

   Solisar found a feather in his component pouch and clasped it tightly in his left hand as he performed a quick spell. He began to hover off the ground and then rose to fly through the air after Leokas and Kytharrah.

   "You can fly?" exclaimed Szordrin with not a small hint of jealousy in his voice.

   Leokas walked on the side wall of the forecastle to the starboard door. Opening it carefully, he lowered himself down, dropping to the opposite wall. There was tight passage in this wall toward the bow and a door toward the center of the castle. Kytharrah instead opened the door to the forecastle on the port side, finding a mirror image arrangement to what Leokas had found.

   Leokas opened the next door, which swung halfway open and leaned against the foremast, which passed through the decks at this point. He climbed over the door and worked his way into the central room of the forecastle. There were a wooden desk and a chair here, bolted to the floor and perfectly preserved. The chair appeared to have grooves fitted for one's hands, forearms, and skull.

   Solisar floated in behind Leokas. "What do you make of this?" Leokas asked him.

   "I think this is the ship's helm," said Solisar. He flew up to the chair, which hung above them, and using his magic, pressed himself up against it as if sitting. As soon as Solisar's head leaned back into the hollowed out recess, he felt like his whole body was emersed in a warm bath, and he felt nearly overwhelmed with new sensations. He experienced out-of-body perceptions much like some of his divination magics provided, in that he could "see" everyone inside and in the vicinity of the whole ship simultaneously.

   "Position yourself at the corner of the wall and floor and hold on to something," said Solisar. "I am going to try something." With that, he began to will the ship to move, similar to how he had just been willing himself to fly or willing his arcane eye to move. It worked, even more easily than he had expected. On the ground below, Belvin, Hakam, Szordrin, and Nulara watched as the vessel began to rise out of the sand until the bow and broken foremast were free. Then, it began to rotate such that it was soon parallel to the ground. After only a minute of careful maneuvering, Solisar had the ancient craft floating some 20 feet above the ground, ready to sail.

   Leokas walked — now on an actual floor — back outside onto the main deck and called down to the others.

   Belvin dismounted from Kamil, removed his leathers, and shifted into a pteranodon so that he could circle up to the spire and dislodge the anchor. It fell to the earth with a crash. After Belvin succeeded at his task, Kytharrah went down to a lower deck of the ship and began turning the crank to draw the anchor in.

   Hakam and Szordrin stood by below on the ground, waiting.

   "This is amazing," said Leokas. "We will be able to fly back to Tethyr and Calimshan! Or anywhere else!"

   "Lamias!" shouted Nulara.

   Hakam and Szordrin spun around. Passing through an illusiury wall behind them, five lamias were charging toward them.
Session: 89th Game Session - Wednesday, Apr 26 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Chapter 4 — The Frozen Sea
Having packed up their gear, they set out again on camelback or foot along the old dwarven road, retracing the steps that Leokas, Belvin, and Kytharrah had earlier taken when scouting. They passed through the old gate and then came to the hills and the two impressive granite griffons guarding the path into the hillside. They entered the cave, following the carefully carved and paved tunnel as it descended down a steady slope.

   They emerged within a hexagonal courtyard of dwarven stonework. The remains of two tall towers still stood outside the courtyard walls. In the time of Delzoun, guards upon these towers would have been able to rain down arrows into the courtyard if ever any enemies managed to come so far through the earlier defenses. One tower was to the northeast of the courtyard; the other was to the southeast.

   They passed through what was left of a small gate in the eastern wall of the courtyard and continued down Ascore's main street. It would have been wide enough in its day to fit four horse carriages side-by-side, but now it was strewn with rubble.

   They continued toward the very center of the ancient city, passing a couple intersecting roads along the way. They saw no signs of life or un-life. Ascore truly was much safer when the sun was shining. Shortly, in the distance they could make out a blackish purple dome, the shadow canopy. Surrounding it, they could see strange red, stone structures. As they grew closer, they could tell that they were tall, five-sided pyramids.

   "I saw these early this morning when I came out from under the canopy," said Hakam. "I do not know what they are, but the color of the stonework reminds me of the magical stones in the outer walls of Memnon."

   "They seem to make a ring around the canopy," said Solisar, "or rather, the canopy was set up within the circle of the pyramids. Is that why the Shadovar are here?"

   "I imagine so," said Hakam. "Chalan was more interested in her mission from Shar than with the ongoing excavation."

   "When you were with Chalan, was the Weave inhibited?" asked Szordrin. "Could you tell if you were in an antimagic field like in Thultanthar?"

   "I did not feel any less healthy from my amulet ceasing to function," said Hakam, "so no, I do not think magic was being suppressed."

   "How many Shadovar are under the canopy?"

   "I am not sure, but I sensed that it was a much bigger, more permanent outpost than the last Shadovar excavation we encountered. Perhaps hundreds?"

   "Maybe the pyramids are more portals of some kind," said Belvin. "I could take the form of a pteranodon and get a closer look."

   "Whatever they may be," said Leokas, "I fear that we are drawing too close to the Shadovar encampment. We should leave the road now and circle around. There is no need to waste time investigating the pyramids."

   So they moved north off the road and through the cluttered mess of what was once a residential district of small stone houses — or rather, entryways. They soon could tell that most of these small structures were composed of a single entry room with a staircase descending into the earth. It seemed that even in a surface-dwarven city, its inhabitants still built their homes down into the earth.

   "I imagine that all of the evil things that come out at night hide themselves under the surface through such means," said Tavis.

   Eventually, they came around and rejoined the main west-to-east road on the other side of the circle of red pyramids. A half mile later they came to the ruins of what may have once been a huge forge or fortress or both. The road ended here, and it took them a little bit of time figuring out how to maneuver around the massive structure. They found that they could traverse counterclockwise between the remains of some other formerly connected buildings and then follow a path between the structure and a large series of walls and towers before reaching a wide staircase that descended to the sand.

   Here they were standing about a story lower than the rest of the city. Tavis and Solisar's eyes lit up when they saw the famous dwarven stone ships. There were about a dozen such ships, each constructed of solid blocks of granite. Even the masts were pillars of stone. Some of the ships were nearby; a few others were half buried in dunes farther off in the distance to the east. Most of them were shattered and broken in some way, but collectively, it was easy to imagine how a whole vessel would have looked in its day. In general shape, they were like wooden sailing vessels, but far more angular. Except for the mast columns, there were no curves at all.

   "It amazes me that such boats once floated," said Tavis, "even if with the help of magic."

   Leokas kicked the sand away at his feet to find more stone pavement. "I think we are standing on one of the docks," he said. "Did they make even their docks out of stone rather than wood?"

   "That there was once a crane or a lift," said Solisar, pointing back. "I think the large building we just walked around was the main forge for the shipyard."

   They did not take the time to explore the stone ships further. Instead, they walked out into the Frozen Sea of Anauroch, heading into the sun.

~~~~

It was a forty-mile journey over the hardened sands to Hlaungadath. After leaving the stone ships behind, they were making good time in a straight line.

   "A dragon!" exclaimed Leokas, who was always glancing up at the sky as they traveled. "I think it is a blue." He pointed up at the sky. The humans could only make out a tiny dot, but the elves could see the distinctive shape.

   Hakam handed Kytharrah a potion. "This will protect you from the dragon's breath so that you can attack it with your axe," the cleric explained. Kytharrah took the vial happily.

   "We need to spread out," said Szordrin.

   "We could hide in your rope tricks," said Leokas.

   "That dot in the sky is the dragon, yes?" asked Hakam. "If so, it has not turned around. Minotaur, do not drink the vial yet."

   "I believe that it is indeed passing us by," said Tavis, whose massive bow was ready with an arrow nocked. "That is a relief."

   "It could not have been Yrevkethend," said Hakam. "We are too far north."

   "I agree," said Leokas.

   It took a while before they trusted that the dragon was not going to turn and come upon them from behind, but it never did return.

~~~~

They saw no other travelers or any large animals for the rest of that day, though they did see a few small lizards and rodents in the cool of day and could hear the sound of many insects at night.

   On the second day from Ascore, at mid-morning, they encountered a sphinx, reclining in the morning sun. Leokas spotted the strange creature first, and he recognized it immediately, despite its natural camouflage. The creature was about the size of a large warhorse but more similar in body shape to a giant cat, except that her face was more flattened, even somewhat humanoid in shape, and she had a long mane of hair in addition to the tawny fur covering her whole body. Her breasts were high on her chest and prominent like a primate, rather than distributed down the underside of her torso like a feline. From her back grew a powerful set of falcon-like, feathered wings, which were folded back at her sides as she rested on the ground.

   "There is a sphinx up ahead," he told the others. "The females are not generally evil, but they are nevertheless territorial and dangerous. We should approach with caution."

   When they had drawn closer, Hakam stepped forward and yelled out, "Good morning! Will you allow us to pass through your territory?"

   "Perhaps I shall," she said, with a pleasant, melodic voice, "if I am satisfied after speaking with you. You are, as you have admitted, intruding on my territory."

   "Does your territory include the air above?" asked Belvin.

   "Of course," she said. "Now, come a little closer so that we may all see each other. I am not currently hungry."

   They obeyed.

   Like the time they had first met the brass dragon Sseth or at their strange meeting with the immoth, the gynosphinx wanted first to know what kind of creature all of them were. Having been satisfied with this, she next turned to inquiring if they had seen any sign of androsphinxes in the area.

   "Not to our knowledge," said Hakam.

   "That is disappointing," said the leonine creature, "though typical. As it appears that you will not be able to assist me in finding a mate this season, I shall have to seek payment for your intrusion by other means. I shall ask you to play a game of riddles with me."

   "Also typical," mumbled Belvin.

   "I shall go first," she said.

   "What are the rules" asked Leokas, "if I might ask."

   "The game has no rules; I do not seek to win, nor need you best me to pass. I seek only entertainment as payment. When I feel that I have learned enough to satisfy my desire, then you may continue on your journey.

   "So then, let us begin. I always taste better than I smell. What am I?"

   "A tongue," answered Hakam quickly.

   "Too easy for you, I see," said the sphinx, a smile forming on her feline face. "That means that it is your turn."

   Leokas had one for her immediately.
"Thirty white horses on a red hill —
First they champ,
Then they stamp,
Then they stand still."

   "This is already known to me," said the gynosphinx. "The horses are teeth. However, this riddle does not satisfy me greatly, as the number 30 is species-specific. While I myself have 30 teeth, I believe that you elves and humans have 32."

   "Perhaps this is evidence that it was a sphinx who first invented the riddle and passed it on to the other races," suggested Solisar.

   "An interesting hypothesis indeed," said the gynosphinx. "While I consider that though, let me first leave you with the second of my riddles to solve. I am so delicate that even speaking of me breaks me. What am I?"

   This one took them a little bit longer. The answer came to Hakam and Szordrin at the same time. "Silence!" they said together.

   "Well done," said the gynosphinx. "If I could stand upon my hind legs as you do, I would clap my paws for you. Now it is your turn. I hope that you can give me one I do not know this time."

   "I learned one from my sister long ago," said Solisar.
"We are little airy creatures,
All of different voice and features.
One of us in glass is set.
One of us you'll find in jet.
Another you may see in tin.
And the fourth a box within.
If the fifth you should pursue,
It can never fly from you."

   "I see your group has a penchant for riddles that are also rhymes," said the gynosphinx. "Let me see...." She closed her eyes and was quiet.

   "Alas! I do not know," she said after several silent minutes. "You have stumped me. Well done. I must know the answer."

   "They are the five vowels," said Solisar.

   "I understand the other riddles," said Ilthian, "but I do not understand this one."

   "Once you learn how to spell the words 'glass', 'jet', 'tin', box', and 'you', I am confident that you will understand," he told her.

   "You can swallow me, but if you do not, I shall swallow you," said the sphinx. "What am I? That is my third riddle for you."

   This one caused the party the most difficulty, but in the end, Szordrin figured it out. "You are pride."

   "Again, well done, bearded man. Do you have another for me."

   "I do," said Szordrin. "A gnome is at home in his house within the hill. He hears a knock on the door and the voice of his fellow gnome calling. 'I have a guest and I must serve him dinner. Could you spare some food from your stores for me, friend?' In his storeroom, the first gnome has a sack of roots, a box of salted goat meat, and a bottle of raspberry mead. What does he open first?"

   "Ah," said the sphinx, "this riddle seeks to distract me with details when the answer is obvious. The gnome must first open the door to let his friend in. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the story.

   "You are all so skilled at solving my riddles, I shall now present you with one so challenging that I myself could not solve it, nor could I even understand its meaning when the answer was told me. I learned it only yesterday when a strange, dog-headed creature with red fur trespassed in my territory as you have this morning.

   "Here it is: A father and his young son each steal an apple from the market. It is the day before the son's fifteenth birthday. They are caught and punished. On the next day, they each steal an apple again. Once again, they are caught and punished. Four apples were stolen; how many severed hands are in the punisher's basket?"

   "Three," said Hakam, without the slightest hesitation.

   The others stared at him confused. "How...?"

   "On the first day," explained Hakam, "the son is a child, for he has not reached the age of majority. Thus, his father bears the full weight of the crime, and only he receives the punishment and loses his hand. On the second day, as both are adults, both pay for their crimes."

   "That seems less a riddle and more a subtle detail of Calishite law," said Belvin.

   "The laws in Calimshan are strict!" said Tavis.

   "You have given the correct answer," said the gynosphinx. "I am glad now that I have been told a full explanation of its meaning. A strange riddle indeed!"

   She suddenly rose up to stand upon her legs, stretched her lean form, and then moved to the side. They could see now that she had been lying over a small chest. "So pleased have I been from our conversation together that I will gift you with this treasure I took from a band of caravanners who I found more appetizing than mentally stimulating. It contains no small amount of coins and some items of magic as well. Please take it with you as you depart from my territory."

   They thanked her and gladly accepted their reward. "I like presents!" said Kytharrah. The minotaur opened the chest as Szordrin stood close by. It contained perhaps 100 platinum coins and ten times as many gold coins and included a few precious stones as well. It also included three scrolls, a magic wand, and an ornate robe.

   Hakam stepped past Szordrin and handed the scrolls to Solisar to read. "You have been getting a more than fair amount of the magic items we have found recently," the cleric said to Szordrin. "I think that you should get last pick this time."

   "What are they?" Szordrin asked Solisar.

   "This one is for portal analysis, a spell with which we are both familiar." The sun elf rolled open the second scroll. "This one... has three separate spells. The first is for the detection of secret passages. The second... is simply a cantrip for how a wizard can leave his or her own arcane mark, which of course any wizard knows from the first days of wizard school. This third spell is another basic one; it opens or closes any mundane door." He closed up that scroll and took the third. "Here we have a spell to scatter small objects violently by means of telekinesis and... one to grant the splendor of an eagle to the caster."

   "I would not have picked those scrolls anyhow," Szordrin said to Hakam.

   "There are still the wand and robe," said Hakam.

   "The wand is of course magical," said Solisar. "It has an aura indicative of the abjuration school of magic. The robe is also magical. It has a moderate aura of transmutation."

   "I propose that we save further identification of the treasure until we camp tonight," said Tavis. "We still have many miles to cover today."

   So they thanked the sphinx for the chest and for her permission to pass and continued on their way.

   Once they were far enough to no longer be heard by her, Solisar asked Hakam, "I think there is more to the last 'riddle' of the sphinx than you admitted in her presence. Who or what was this 'dog-headed creature with red fur' that visited the sphinx just yesterday?"

   "There is no need for any worry regarding the hound creature," said Hakam. "This has all been a sign from Anachtyr. He has heard my prayers and is teaching me the fullness of my misdeeds."
Session: 89th Game Session - Wednesday, Apr 26 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Chapter 4 — A Pleasant Morning Surprise
Belvin ran off after his fleeing camel, as the others stood around the remains of the earthen monster that had attacked them. It had a very narrow waist for its bulky chest, short but powerful jumping legs, very long arms, and only four fingers or toes on the end of each limb.

   "What was this thing?" asked Szordrin. "Some sort of elemental? or golem? Its body is made of clay, not flesh."

   "I cannot hear you!" shouted Kytharrah.

   "Ah! Do not shout!" said Szordin. "We are right here."

   "I think the sonic attack of the monster deafened him," said Solisar. "I do not know what kind of monster this was, but I agree that an elemental seems likely. Are you all right, Leokas?"

   Leokas shook his head as if to clear his mind. "I am now. I do not know what happened to me. I felt like my heart stopped for a moment."

   "Did that thing kiss you?" asked Szordrin.

   "I would rather not talk about it," said Leokas.

   Belvin rode up, returned to elven form, riding his now-calmed camel. "Now I once again owe you my life," said the wood elf to the wild elf.

   Belvin shrugged. "I stopped keeping track," he said. With that he offered his healing to those who needed it.

   "Can you hear me now?" Solisar asked Kytharrah.

   "You are very quiet!" Kytharrah said loudly.

   Solisar now looked to the others. "I am concerned that we have traveled beyond the range of the magical alarm I left around our camp. If something were to come upon Ilthian or the giant-kin in our absence, I do not think we would have warning of it any longer. Moreover, we are growing low on spells."

   "Are you proposing that we go back?" said Szordrin. "If so, I am in agreement. I already complained that this was a bad idea to begin with."

   "We are not giving up on Hakam, Szordrin," said Leokas. "However, the dangers here are indeed great, as we were warned. We may need to return and rest for the remainder of the night, but on the other hand, Hakam may be close yet."

   "The night is already half-spent," said Szordrin.

   "It is not our fault that you humans require more rest than elves," said Belvin.

   "Let us continue just a little farther at least," said Leokas. "I think there are more intact structures up ahead than any we have yet seen."

   The buildings ahead indeed had four intact walls. Only the roofs were missing. They were otherwise empty, however.

   "The tracks split here," said Leokas. "Some continue on the road; others move off to the left, heading east."

   "We can split up," said Belvin.

   "That would be too dangerous," said Solisar. "Can we get back to this place quickly tomorrow and continue to follow the tracks?"

   "I am sure of it," said Leokas. "They will be much easier to track in the daylight, unless there is a sandstorm in the morning, but I sense that natural sandstorms are not common in this region of Anauroch."

   "Even if we were to catch up with the kidnappers tonight," said Solisar, "would we be able to defeat them?"

   "There are only a dozen or so of them," said Leokas. "I am sure that we could take them."

   "Even if they are shades? Remember the powers of shadow that Uregaunt had."

   "They have spent a great deal of their magics already this night to capture Hakam," said Leokas.

   "True, but if they are shades, they will be far weaker in the daylight."

   "As long as Kamil is content, I am happy with whatever we decide," said Belvin.

   They all agreed to return to the camp. Tosvin was still up waiting for them by his son's tent. He rose to his full towering height. "You are back! You could not retrieve Hakam?"

   "We believe that he has been taken by shades from Thultanthar," said Leokas.

   "Why?" asked Tavis.

   "We do not know why," said Solisar.

   "I do not think I even know what shades or Thultanthar are," said the firbolg.

   They briefly explained the city of the Shadovar to him.

   "Did you encounter any of them? You were gone many hours."

   They described their encounters with the hags, the desiccated zombies, and the unknown creature of earth with its sonic attacks. "We plan to try again to find him in the morning. If they are the Shadovar, perhaps they will be open to negotiation, as we have dealt with them before."

   "I tried to warn you that Ascore is dangerous at night," said Tavis. "If you had not returned, you would have put me in a difficult situation. I would certainly have come after you. It would be my duty as a firbolg even if you had not become my friends over this long journey, but with my son in my care, I would have had to return to Hartsvale with him first before coming back here to find you or your bodies, if even possible. My wife is not so powerful to raise the dead, even if a body is found, and she is one of the most powerful clerics in my kingdom."

   "It is already the last watch," said Solisar. "Since I wear my ring, it makes sense for me to keep the final watch. The rest of you should get what rest you can. Dawn will soon be here."

   "There is no need for us to rise early," said Tavis, "except for those of you who must pray for our magics. Sleep longer if you must. You will have a better chance of finding and rescuing our friend if you are well-rested."

~~~~

At dawn, Belvin arose to pray to Thard Harr. As he meditated, there was Hakam, walking into the camp! He was wearing a dark purple cloak over his Calishite clothing but otherwise looked the same.

   "Good morning," said the cleric to the druid. "I am surprised to find you here. I feared that you would all be foolhardy and come to chase me in the night."

   Before Belvin could respond, Ilthian dropped down out of the interdimensional space and called out, "Hakam! You are back! What happened?"

   "I am back, yes," he said, stepping back to avoid a hug. "I will wait until the others are up, lest I have to tell my story repeatedly, but I am unharmed, so there is no need to be concerned."

   Soon, everyone was gathered around him, anxious to hear what had happened.

   "I was abducted by Chalan," Hakam began, "the priestess of Shar with whom we are all acquainted. It was an ill-guided endeavor."

   "How did you escape?" asked Szordrin.

   "I did not escape. I was released. Except for the matter of the kidnapping itself, I was treated as a guest."

   "Is it a strange human custom to kidnap one's guests?" asked Belvin.

   "Chalan wanted to talk with me alone and did not believe either that I would come willingly or that you would permit her to take me. She also seemed to want the matter kept hidden from her own superiors."

   "She wanted to talk with you?" asked Szordrin. "About what?"

   "Apparently, Shar has been sending Chalan visions about Samber, seeking to learn more about him."

   "Samber must have drawn Shar's attention to him when he visited Thultanthar," said Solisar.

   "Yes, and when he learned about the Shadow Weave," said Hakam.

   "Why were you the only one taken?" asked Belvin. "We all have as much a connection to Samber as you do."

   "Her visions included me particularly," Hakam explained. "Chalan foresaw my coming to this very ruins. She saw me passing between the two griffon statues farther down the road from here. She was waiting for my arrival. It was her you saw scrying on me, Solisar. Chalan — and Shar — thought that I might be 'Ramseb'. Moreover, Chalan sensed that my powers are denied me; she tried to convert me to serve her dark goddess."

   "Did it work?" asked Belvin.

   "Of course not!"

   "What did you admit to her?" asked Szordrin.

   "Very little," Hakam replied. "Simply basic information about Samber. I did not even mention the fact that he was creating his own followers or seeking godhood. I only gave her his true name, as we suspect it, and the fact that he now knows the power of the Shadow Weave, which is already known to Shar of course.

   "She tried to steal more thoughts from my mind," Hakam continued, "but I resisted her attempt."

   "How do we know that you are really Hakam?" said Szordrin.

   "He has no other magical auras than when last I detected them," said Solisar.

   Szordrin placed his hand on Hakam's shoulder and zapped him with a small jolt of electricity.

   "Ah!"

   "You are not an illusion, it seems," said Szordrin.

   Kytharrah was bored with all of the talking and gave a more customary greeting. He pulled the small man into a bear hug. "Smells okay," he reported, as if in justification.

   "Get off me, you oaf! I am not your plaything."

   Kytharrah's nostrils flared over Hakam's hair, and a curious expression came over his face. "Also smells like... her," he said.

   "Who is 'her'?" asked Szordrin.

   "Who is 'her'?" asked Ilthian. She moved closer to smell Hakam's hair for herself.

   "How exactly did you gain your freedom again, Hakam?" said Solisar with a smirk.

   "It was as I told you already!" the cleric exclaimed. "She released me willingly. Chalan did not have the permission of her superiors, so it was necessary that she keep me secret in her own tent until morning. I did no untoward thing!"

   "I still do not understand," said Ilthian. "Why does your hair smell like perfume?"

   "It must have been on her pillow on which she gave me to rest," said Hakam. "It is insignificant!"

   "Do you think that the Shadovar will follow us further after this?" asked Solisar. "Was Chalan satisfied by your answers?"

   "I do not think that she was pleased with my answers, but I do not foresee her trying again. Nevertheless, she advised that we avoid the shadow canopy that they have set up at the center of the city ruins."

   "What is a shadow canopy?" asked Tavis, who till now had not interrupted what was clearly a personal matter among the adventurers.

   When they explained it to him, he said, "That reminds me of the shadow of the Twilight Vale, where the Twilight Spirit, Lanaxis, made his abode."

   "I see the similarity," said Solisar, "but I do not think that the Shadovar or Shar were allied with either Lanaxis or Othea. I surmise that the similarities are circumstantial."

   "You are probably correct," said Tavis. "Well, I share the joy of young Kytharrah here in finding you alive this morning, Hakam. Since we are all awake now anyway, I propose we break camp and see what Ascore has to see in the daylight hours, shall we?"
Session: 89th Game Session - Wednesday, Apr 26 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Tags: Ascore , Chapter 4 , Recap
Chapter 4 — Attempted Cleric-Retrieval: Second Encounter
Leokas gave Kytharrah some water from his skin. "Drink this; it will make you feel better. I tried to warn you that the old lady was not your friend."

   Belvin examined the minotaur's leg. "She yanked your bone from its joint. I cannot possibly set it again for you. I am not strong enough. You need to take your leg and yank it back into place, in this direction, like this. It will hurt."

   Kytharrah did as he was told, bellowing in pain, but he felt some immediate relief once his thigh bone was back where it was supposed to be. He tried to take a step, but the bone popped back out of its socket again, and he almost tumbled over.

   "You cannot walk on it until it heals fully," said Belvin. "Pop it back in place again. Then use your axe to lean on when you are walking from now on."

   "How will I run?"

   "You will not be able to, until Hakam fixes you again." The minotaur was horrified by this news.

   "How will he do that?" said Szordrin. "He is useless to us, even if we ever do find him, which remains doubtful to me."

   Szordrin had just drunk a healing potion and was now walking over to examine the bodies of the slain hags. He found a sapphire pendant on a gold chain around the neck of the hag that he had killed and a jeweled anklet around the hairy leg of the other. Under the ruined dome, there was also a small chest containing perhaps a thousand gold coins and an arcane scroll with an unrecognized spell or spells, which stretched out to about five pages in length. Szordrin then examined a large pot in the center of the floor and smelled its contents. The hag had been brewing something when they had arrived.

   Solisar came over. He could detect a necromantic aura from the pot's contents the scroll appeared to be an evocation. "May I read the scrolls?" he asked Szordrin.

   While the sun elf did so, Szordrin removed a scroll of his own and read from it. Its magic words faded. Then he stared into the pot and sniffed again. He became aware that the oil would animate any corpse on which it was rubbed. Figuring that such an oil might catch a fair price on the black market, he carefully collected some in his waterskin.

   The others transferred the coins into one of the bags of holding, both of which were transferred from Kytharrah's pack to Kamil. Leokas then returned to the task of finding tracks. This was now far more difficult, since the zombies left humanoid tracks, and the haboobs had thrown up a large amount of sand, but Leokas took his time, and Belvin prayed for guidance for him from Thard Harr. Kytharrah sniffed about, still trying to help, though he clearly struggled. Belvin took the shape of a wolf to further assist.

   The ancient dwarven road seemed to fork here, one branch continuing to the southeast and another branching off to run due east. "The kidnappers took this eastern path," said Leokas finally.

   So that is the way that they went, calling out Hakam's name as they walked. Belvin remained in wolf form, and Kytharrah limped along near the rear.

   After 30 minutes, the road terminated at another running north to south admidst the ruins of some large structures. Leokas and Belvin paused to verify the trail of their quarry.

   "You are not limping any more," Solisar noted to Kytharrah. Looking down, the minotaur tested his leg. With a hoot, he ran about and leapt several yards joyfully, acting much more his usual self. He showed no evidence of the injury.

   "That is odd," said Leokas. "An injury like that, without the aid of magic more powerful than in our potion vials, should have taken months to heal."

   "It seems the Ioun stone around his head is more useful than we at first thought," noted Solisar. "It is most fortunate that he was wearing it when he took the injury. I was at a loss for how we would get him back up the cliff to our encampment in that state."

    Leokas nodded. "The tracks we are pursuing continued south," he informed them. So they all turned south. They had not walked very far in this new direction when they were blasted by a terrible sound, like a rasping cough, but so loud that it shook each of their bodies to the core. Kamil bolted to the northeast in terror, and Kytharrah almost fell to the ground from shaking. "That cough hurt!" The minotaur reached for one of his potions. Solisar did the same.

   Szordrin reached instead for a shaving of licorice root from his pouch. After completing a spell, he darted away, moving twice as quickly as usual.

   Their opponent revealed itself, bounding like a frog from its hiding place atop an old crumbled wall to their right. As it traveled through the air, they could vaguely take in its grotesque form. It was taller than most men, but it had a gangly shape to its hairless and sexless body. It had red-colored skin that appeared the texture of dusty clay.

   Kytharrah swung at it just before its feet hit the ground, spraying brown, mud-like "blood". Nevertheless, the monster landed by Leokas, and its head shot forward, as if its neck were a spring. The creature's head was somewhat triangular, and the neck attached near the top of the skull, the base of the "triangle". Its open, toothy mouth came so near to Leokas' face that it appeared to be kissing him. Before Leokas could respond, he felt a violent convulsion shake his whole body, emanating from the monster's mouth. He dropped his bow and stood there stunned.

   Their stalker's head retracted. Its face now leered from below its hunched shoulders, in front of its massive chest. It looked like it was going to make another attack, but Belvin had come to his friend's rescue, snapping his wolf jaws at the monster's short legs. It swatted at the wolf with its dangling long arm, but on a second attempt, Belvin caught tight hold and yanked his head back. The creature fell to its back on the hard sand.

   In moments, Kytharrah and Szordrin were upon it, cutting it to muddy pieces with axe and dagger.
Session: 88th Game Session - Wednesday, Apr 05 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Chapter 4 — Attempted Cleric-Retrieval: First Encounter
The pursuers climbed quickly over a gap in the low hills on the eastern horizon and then haphazardly descended a steep 800 or 900 feet on scree and frozen sand to the surface of the desert. The tracks were easy to observe but hard to follow, as the descent was precarious and slippery. The waxing moon did not provide many details of the expanse of dry ruins ahead of them. In fact, from here, they could see the remains of no structures at all, only a few strewn boulders atop a hardened flat of sand.

   The land continued sloping downward, though gradually, over a quarter mile before leveling out completely. They continued on, mostly in silence, following Leokas and Kytharrah, for another quarter mile, before Leokas stopped to examine the ground more closely. "I think this used to be a road," he said. "I do not think these flat stones are natural. They appear of dwarven cut to me. Yes, the tracks continue this way to the southeast."

   "It must be the Shadovar," said Szordrin. "That explains the armored bootprints and the guano smell. They must have superior darkness magics that allow them to continue seeing within it, unlike the darkness that Cassiera and I can create."

   The road became easier to follow, and soon there were more signs that a city once stood here — the remains of stone walls and columns.

   "A new smell," said Kytharrah, looking up from the trail.

   Leokas looked up from the ground and spotted movement to the south. A large figure was within the shelter of the remains of a domed structure. "Something is there under that dome," he warned.

   As if in answer, there was a high-pitched whooshing sound, and they found themselves engulfed in a haboob. Ferry, Szordrin's weasel, sensed the danger before anyone else and sprung safely from his master's shoulders. Leokas and Kytharrah were near the edge of the swirling column of sand and also leapt to safety. The others found themselves abraded by the violently blowing particles. A second vortex rose up an instant later, surrounding Kytharrah. "Bad sand!" he shouted, getting the stuff in his mouth in the process. He coughed.

   Szrodrin spoke magic words and vanished from sight. The rest pressed against the wind and broke free of the sands. "Solonor, grant my enemies a swift death," Leokas prayed, as he nocked an arrow, but he did not yet have a clear shot at the figure under the ruined dome. Solisar, behind a protecting shield of magical force, heard a raspy voice completing another spell, an evocation of some sort that he could not quite recognize. Its result was clear, however; a third haboob spun into existence, once again pummeling several of them with tiny grit.

   Belvin, since he was on camelback, had now moved farther south than the others, toward some ruined square columns. He spotted something from the corner of his eye and spun Kamil around. A man was swinging his fists but missed. Belvin saw that he was dressed in caravanner's clothes, but his skin was dehydrated and shrunken against his skull. A zombie? But unlike any zombie Belvin had seen, the undead creature radiated dry, sucking heat like an oven. He slashed twice with his magic scimitar, and Kamil raised his thick toes to attack. The undead caravanner wobbled about, but did not fall.

   Kytharrah jogged out of the local sandstorm headlong toward the dome, whence he smelled "lady smells". An incredibly tall, decrepit and haggard old woman stepped out, dressed in a filthy and ragged burnoose. Her skin reminded him of the color of vomit, and her thin hair was iron-gray in color. The minotaur now blocked Leokas' clear shot.

   "My, aren't you a cute boy!" she spoke toward Kytharrah in Jotun, with an elderly, cracking voice. "I just want to hug you!" She raised wide her arms and smiled, baring her few remaining brown and black teeth. They looked rotted but sharp.

   "Play?" said the young bull in the Giant tongue.

   "My pleasure!" said the ugly, old giantess. She sprung forward, with unexpected agility for someone appearing her age, swinging her foot-long, curled nails to catch hold of him, but he avoided the grab, ducked, and swung his horns. She also stepped aside.

   Leokas stepped to the side to get his line of sight back. "Stop playing! She is trying to kill you," he shouted to his young companion. Then he let fly his arrows. The first arrow struck her in the left breast with enough force to knock her heavy frame back. Two other arrows punctured her limbs.

   Before he could loose another shot, there was another eruption of sand from the ground. Solisar was caught in the blast once again and was nearly suffocated and blinded. He stumbled out of the swirling mass and downed a healing potion. "There must be two hags!" he warned.

   Red stained the wounded hag's sagging burnoose, as blood spurted from her chest; nevertheless, in a fit of rage, she shrieked and lunged at Kytharrah again. This time, her curved nails caught hold of him. Kytharrah felt like he had been slashed with knives. She tried to pull him in, but he shook her off. She swung again, but he dodged her. Now it was his turn. He threw his weight in her direction, but she dropped low to the ground below his center of mass and caught hold of his left thigh. Kytharrah felt a pop in his leg and found himself slamming hard onto his back. There was an intense pain in his thigh, and he could not move it. "You win!" he told the hag through gritted teeth.

   There was a crackling sound, and Szordrin appeared out of nowhere, a bolt of fire shooting from his fingertip. "...And I found her!" he shouted, in answer to Solisar's warning. From behind a column, a second hag emerged, engulfed in flame. She fell to the ground, shrieking in agony as her flesh rapidly burned away.

   "Sister!" screamed the first hag, as she stood over Kytharrah's prone form. "My children, attack!"

   Leokas silenced her, putting an arrow first in her throat and then through her forehead. Her massive form tumbled forward to the ruined stone.

   Belvin, still in combat with the ashen zombie, cut its head off with a final swing. Its body hit the ground like a sack of sand. In answer to the hag's final words, eight more desiccated zombies appeared, passing through a stone wall that had clearly been an illusion. Belvin moved southeast to meet them, swinging his scimitar above his head and yelling his feral war cry.

   The zombies were closest to Szordrin, and four of them now had him surrounded. He yanked a vial of holy water from his belt and splashed it over them. They moaned and writhed about as the blessed water burned their shrunken skin, but they were not deterred. All of them struck at Szordrin, bludgeoning him with their bony fists. Worse than that, the heat around them was suffocating. Were it not for his fiendish heritage, he might have passed out.

   "They are slow," shouted Leokas. "We can outrun them. Belvin, rescue Szordrin with Kamil." He then began firing off his arrows into the group of attackers, but the zombies did not seem greatly hindered by having arrows in their preserved husks of flesh.

   Solisar, finally safe from the still-spinning columns of sand along the road, sent forth magic bursts repeatedly at the zombies, striking several and dropping at least one of them. Kytharrah managed to get his uninjured leg under him, and balancing on it, took one of his healing potions and turned to face the zombies. Two of them were now upon him. The first swung its fists. Staggering forward, Kytharrah drew his axe from his back and cut the zombie clean in half. The second zombie lunged, and the minotaur swung again, sending a head and an arm flying through the air. Then the minotaur fell, drained by the supernatural heat of the cursed things. He felt exhausted and desperately thirsty.

   "We are coming," shouted Belvin. Kamil galloped up to Szordrin, and Belvin leaned to the side and grabbed Szordrin around the waist, lifting him from the ground. Szrodrin, lying over the back of Kamil's neck began casting a spell, as they moved away from the pursuing zombies.

   "Get up!" Leokas said to Kytharrah. "We can outrun these monsters."

   "My leg is hurt bad," said Kytharrah in a parched rasp. His face showed growing worry at the realization that the magic of his potion had not fixed the injury.

   Flight was not necessary, however. Magic missiles from Solisar and a ball and column of fire from Szordrin and Belvin, respectively, burned up the chasing zombies, leaving nothing but ash in their places.
Session: 88th Game Session - Wednesday, Apr 05 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Page 8
New words
always • work • double • second • probably • self/selves • never • remember • stuck • ice • sew • room • queen • watch/watching • follow • break • might • stop • friends • mean • really

Some bad people came and took Hakam away! They used magic that made it dark and I could not hear my own vois. Rite now they are gone triing to find him. I am left here with Tavis and Kaedlaw again. At lest it is no longer that cold. I do not know how they will find him because the bad people have that silens magic so Szordrin and Solisar will not be able to cast their spells and only Szordrin can see in the dark.

I am becoming so mad that they never let me help them. I always have to stay with Kamil Ilthian stay with Galadrel Ilthian stay with Tavis Ilthian.

Tavis says that he knows how I must fele. He says that he wishes that he could also help but that he must follow the rules also and his rule is that he must not put Kaedlaw in danger. He says that his people the firbolgs beleve strongly in rules much like Hakam does. I think that Tavis is probably stronger then even Kytharrah and can shute better then even Leokas yet he still stays behind so that makes me fele a littil better.

I was thinking the other day about more number things but rite now I worry too much about Hakam.
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Chapter 4 — Silence and Darkness
An hour later, they reached the thick-stoned ruins of what had likely been a large dwarven toll house on the north side of the road. The road continued farther east between the two hills. "This might be the best place for us to rest for the night," said Tavis. "The walls that still remain and the tower will provide cover and shelter. We do not want to venture into Ascore at night; my wife would kill me. It is risky enough as it is by day. I do not think that the evils will ascend from the valley below. Nevertheless, some of you should scout ahead to assure that the area is safe. Do not descend onto the desert surface."

   Kytharrah smelled the scent of dog urine in the area. "More puppies!" he announced.

   "Worgs again?" asked Leokas, readying his bow, but upon examining the ground around the site, he found the canine paw tracks too small to be worgs. Tavis agreed. "These are the tracks of normal wolves," he said, "and I see no evidence of humanoid tracks of any kind, in case you are fearing another encounter with werewolves."

   "If wolves were here," said Belvin, "none are nearby now." He was gazing about, searching for the auras of various animals and finding none.

   "It is warm enough for a tent here," said Tavis. "How would you like to sleep outside tonight, Kaedlaw?"

   "Outside?" the boy answered, as if the concept had never occurred to him before.

   Szordrin began setting up his hammock between the remains of two pillars, while Solisar used a series of spells to thoroughly check the grounds for the presence of traps, secrets, or magic. He found nothing but ground and stone.

   "I will scout ahead, as Tavis suggested," said Leokas.

   "Kamil and I will go with you," said Belvin.

   "Me too!" said Kytharrah.

   Several hundred yards farther ahead, the three came to an intact wall of granite, stretching from the slope of one hill to the other and topped with lookout posts, now abandoned. A massive gate once hung here, but now the road passed through and continued on. Beyond, to the east, farther down the road, some additional hundreds of yards, was the base of another hill, steeper than the others, looming over them in the shadows of dusk. The road appeared to head directly to it.

   They continued on. When close enough, they saw that the road disappeared into a gaping mouth of a cave in the face of the hill, through a stone archway. On either side of this arch were two enormous granite carvings of guarding griffons, still intact after all these centuries. Impressive works of dwarven art, the lifelike carvings stood guard over the ruins of Ascore to this day.

   They poked their heads into the darkness of the cave. The road seemed to descend at a steep slope into the earth, on pavement stones carefully placed by the dwarves of old.

   Between Kytharrah and Leokas' tracking skills, they were convinced that no one had come this way in a long time.

   "I am satisfied that the area is safe," said Leokas. "Whatever evils lie ahead of us, they do not seem to come up to the road."

   "Let us return then," said Belvin.

~~~~

Over a campfire, Tavis was describing more about what he knew of Ascore to Solisar, Hakam, and Ilthian. (Szordrin was already asleep in his hammock.) "They say that the port of Ascore was the most important trading city of Delzoun. Dwarves used to sail the inland sea, which existed before the fall of Netheril, in massive ships made of stone built here. We might see the remains of some still as we pass through tomorrow."

   Ilthian began asking Tavis more about these stone ships. Hakam and Solisar instead began discussing Samber. "When next I am able to message Jayce," said the cleric, "I should ask him if the islanders of Lantan share any names with the forokell."

   "A good idea," said Solisar, but he looked distracted. "I think that we should go for a short walk away from here, the three of us. Ilthian, come with us please."

   Hakam suspected what was happening; Ilthian did not, but she had grown to trust Solisar and immediately rose from her seat. The three stepped away from the campfire several yards to behind one of the ruined walls before Solisar explained. "A cloaked figure in the shadows is watching us through a magical sensor near the fire," the elf explained. "Whoever it is is nearby, to the northeast within a quarter mile or so. It is not the usual powerful entity scrying on us; this is a new sensor. Nor is it focused on Ilthian; in fact, it remains there by the fire, which tells me that it is a lesser magic and most likely limited to either vision or sound but...."

   Suddenly, they were encompassed in utter darkness. Hakam yelled out for Szordrin. He felt the vibrations of his vocal chords but heard not a sound — magical silence. He immediately reached out for Ilthian with his left arm and shoved her against the wall — more roughly than he had intended — while drawing his sword with his right hand, placing her between himself and the wall so that he could defend her. In just a few seconds, however, multiple hands had grabbed his arm and his sword was peeled from his fingertips as he struggled. More hands were on his legs now, and he found himself lifted completely off the ground. He was being carried away!

   Solisar moved quickly but carefully to what he hoped was the west, humming all the while. When at last he could hear the sound of his own voice, he immediately spoke spell words of dispelling. He could see a large mass of moving darkness, heading quickly to the northeast. He waved his hand, and a portion of that darkness faded away, but the large bulk of it continued off.

   "Solisar, what is happening?" Tavis rushed over.

   "Hakam has been taken," said the sun elf. "It was a concerted magical effort; it must have been planned. Whoever they were, they wanted him alive and him in particular."

   "Why are we not chasing after the darkness?" asked Ilthian. "Something has taken Hakam away!" She was holding onto his sword.

   Szordrin, now awake, came over, and it was explained to him what had happened. Shortly thereafter, Leokas, Belvin, and Kytharrah returned to the camp, and this information was repeated once again.

   "We must go after him!" Ilthian repeated.

   "Without his powers, Hakam was becoming a burden on us and to our mission," said Szordrin. "We should not risk our own lives in such a futile rescue attempt."

   "Szordrin!" she exclaimed. "How can you say that? He would have gone after you!"

   "I am not sure that he would have," said Belvin.

   "Yes, of course we are going to pursue," said Leokas, who had already begun walking around examining the ground. "He was taken by humanoids, probably humans, wearing heavy, armored boots. There were at least a dozen of them."

   Kytharrah said, "I will help!" and bounded happily over to sniff the tracks that Leokas had found. "Bat dritt!" said the minotaur, after a deep inhale.

   "I assume that you mean guano," said Leokas.

   "I do not know either the word dritt or 'guano'," said Ilthian.

   "Yes, guano," said Solisar. Then he noted, "They were heading to the northeast."

   "Yes, they were," said Leokas. "They were jogging, but if they are dragging or carrying Hakam, it will slow them down and we should have a chance. Come!"

   "Solisar, cast a protection around the camp for the boy and Ilthian," said Belvin, as he mounted Kamil. "Let us retrieve our cleric!"
Session: 87th Game Session - Wednesday, Mar 22 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Tags: Ascore , Chapter 4 , Recap
Page 7
New words
change • you • add • figured • out • vowel • longer • escape/escapes • between • funny • smelly • go/gone • triangle • certain • count • together • wonder • impressed • notice/noticed • own • one • school • year • good • teacher • magic • white • space • they/their • there

THEIR is another word that has 2 spellings THERE and THEIR.

My rule about E does not alwaze wurk. It wurks with RULE but not with OWN which is not spelled ONE. ONE is how to spell 1.

I think that I found 2 new spelling rules. First if a word has dubbul letters that makes the vowel before pronounced for a shorter time. Secund the AU sound is spelled OU. I do not know why. Hakam would probable not like these rules because they are broken many times.


1 2 3 5 7 11 13 17 19 23 29 31 37 41 43 47 53 59 61 67 71 73 79 83 89 97 101 103 107 109 113 127 131 137 139 149 151 157 163 167 173 179 181 191 193 197 199 211 223 227 229 233 239 241 251 257 263 269 271 277 281 283 293 307 311 313 317 331 337 347 349 353 359 367 373 379 383 389 397 401 409 419 421 431 433 439 443 449 457 461 463 467 479 487 491 499 503 509 521 523 541 547 557 563 569 571 577 587 593 599 601 607 613 617 619 631 641 643 647 653 659 661 673 677 683 691 701 709 719 727 733 739 743 751 757 761 769 773 787 797 809 811 821 823 827 829 839 853 857 859 863 877 881 883 887 907 911 919 929 937 941 947 953 967 971 977 983 991 997

These are all of the numbers that can only be divided by them selvs and 1. After 5 they nevur end in 2 4 5 6 or 8. I wonder if they are important to remembur. I will remembur them just in case.

We are stukk in a dome of ise because of the cold again. That is why I am playing with numbers again. I would like to so but there is no rume and I do not have any more cloth.

Thimbletoes is still with us. He can talk to Ferry just like Szordrin can. I asked him to tell Ferry not to take Kytharrah's marbles since Szordrin did not do it.

Today the others were talking about the Ise Quene or the Maker waching me with magic. I hope that the Maker is waching me. He made me after all. I do not want the Ise Quene to wach me. She froze me last time we met and I did not even do any thing bad to her! Why do some people do bad things? Hakam would say that it is because they do not follo rules but the others some times brake the rules but they are still good. Szordrin mite not be good. Belvin mite not be good either. The others are good though I think. I think that Hakam wants to stopp the Maker because he thinks that Anachtyr thinks that the Maker broke a big rule when he made me and my family and my old frends. I do not understand why it was bad to make me. Does that mene that I am rilly bad like a goblin.
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Epic!
Chapter 4 — Pog and Band
~ sixth-day, 16th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
east of the Fork


It was only a mildly cold day as they set out from the Wildlands Rest. A constant fair wind blew a fast moving fog, which kept their faces damp and made it feel colder than it actually was. Leokas led the way, now riding alone on his camel. Next to him walked Kytharrah and behind him was Belvin on Kamil. Then came Hakam and Ilthian, followed by Szordin and Thimbletoes the gnome on camelback and Solisar on foot. Lastly, Tavis and his son followed behind.

   Many deer were out that morning, nibbling on what few shrubs still had leaves outside the Wildlands Rest.

   They had not traveled far from the Fork when Solisar stopped suddenly, as Thimbletoes and Szordrin were laughing together about their favorite practical jokes. "We are being watched," Solisar said in Elven, in case the watcher could also listen.

   "It is not the giant siblings or Basil?" asked Leokas.

   "No, whoever it is did not use the agreed-upon signal. The mind is too powerful for me to tell who it is."

   "Is it Ilthian or the boy?"

   "The focus is on Ilthian," Solisar replied.

   "What is going on?" asked Hakam. "Speak in Common."

   "Ilthian," Solisar said in Bothii. "Tell Hakam that you need to stop."

   "But I do not need to stop," she answered in the same language. "We already stopped earlier."

   "Please trust me, Ilthian," said Solisar. "I will be able to explain later."

   She did so, and Hakam stopped his camel and had it kneel down.

   "Now please go over by that tree and sit down and eat some rations."

   She looked very confused but obeyed.

   "Is it food time?" asked Kytharrah.

   "You can join Ilthian and have a snack," said Solisar in Common.

   "Someone new is watching Ilthian," the sun elf then explained to Hakam once Kytharrah and Ilthian sat down to eat a snack a ways off. "I did not know at first if the spell gives the watcher the ability to hear or not, but I did not want to chance it. Hopefully, the watcher cannot speak Elven or Bothii. The eye of the scrying magic has stayed close to Ilthian, which means that it has a very limited perception range, probably only ten feet or so around her, but unfortunately, it also probably indicates that the watcher can hear within that area as well."

   "It is likely Samber or Iyraclea," said Hakam. "We do not know who is more powerful of the two; I am not sure who I would prefer it to be."

   "If whoever it is wanted to and could teleport here to take her, he or she would have already appeared," said Solisar, "although if it is Iyraclea, she may not consider it important enough to come herself and may send one of her servants. Even so, I am not worried yet, as the person appears to be simply observing for at least the time being."

   However, the "observer" did not stop watching them for many hours.

   "Is Ilthian still being watched?" Hakam asked when they had stopped to eat lunch rations, being sure to ask the question some distance from Ilthian.

   "It is a powerful scrying spell," said Solisar. "It has not ceased this whole time."

   "One cannot scry into an extradimensional space," said Szordrin. "We could have Ilthian climb up the magic rope and then back down again. That should cancel the scrying spell."

   "I agree that that should work;" said Solisar, "however, it will also warn our observer that we know that we are being watched, if she or he has not already ascertained this fact.."

   When sunset came, the scrying still had not ended.

   "I can only scry on someone for about ten minutes before the image fades," said Belvin. "Could it be a team of scriers?"

   "I believe that it is simply a single very powerful diviner," said Solisar. "Powerful spellcasters can maintain such a divination for hours not minutes."

   As Szordrin had predicted, the scrying ceased as soon as Ilthian passed into the extradimensional space that he created for shelter for the night. Solisar also set a magical alarm around the base of their camp. Belvin took the first watch, followed by Leokas, and Szordrin wrapped up the guard for the night. It passed safely.

   That night, in the safety of the extradimensional space, Solisar explained to Ilthian what the issue was and how she should be careful not to say anything about Samber or the portals or the ancient giant empire.

   The weather the next day was too terrible for traveling. A bitter cold and dry wind of extreme velocity came from the east. They were forced to build igloos again and take shelter for the whole day, lest they freeze to death.

   "Can the ice queen control the weather?" asked Szordrin during a brief break from the howl of the wind. "Could she be preventing us from continuing?"

   "If it is her scrying," said Leokas, "she would want us to continue unhindered, because she wants more than anything to find the lost realms of Jhothûn."

   "I do not think even a Chosen of Auril could send such winds from so far away from us," said Solisar.

   "A Chosen of Auril is your enemy?" said Thimbletoes. "Garl's jewels, I am beginning to think that I chose my escorts poorly!"

   Whoever it was scrying on them, the magical sensor was fixed on Ilthian again for the entire time that she was out of the extradimensional space.

   They held out against the cold and wind. The next day, the eighteenth of Nightal, it was surprisingly warm; the temperature was above freezing. The winds had calmed down to a pleasant breeze, and the sky was clear.

   Hakam was greeted by a message from Jayce, whose projected voice was full of excitement. "Found man in Dtakkar — claims mother was once married to cleric of Gond obsessed with making golems. Samber? Long shot, but will search more."

   "That sounds promising," Hakam replied to the bard. "Inquire further. Mythlos and Cassiera go ahead to High Forest. Still meet us at the keep. Possible enemies scry on us. Beware."

~~~~


That evening, soon after sunset, Belvin spotted a group of figures ahead and quietly notified the others. Kytharrah sniffed the air. The scent was strong, he told them, he did not recognize it.

   Solisar enchanted his clothing, and Szordrin also began casting some personal spells.

   "Whoever they are," said Hakam, "You cannot play with them, minotaur."

   "You are no fun," said Kytharrah.

   Before discussing further with the others, Hakam rode forward, though not too far, and called out a greeting in a loud voice.

   "Pog greet you too! Pog not attack you!" came the gruff reply.

   Some of the figures moved closer, such that even Hakam's eyes could begin to make them out.

   "They are orcs," said Thimbletoes.

   "Solisar, do you speak Orcish?" asked Leokas.

   "They can speak Common well enough," said Hakam. Then he responded again to Pog, "Good. We are not going to attack you either. I am Hakam yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr, and these are my traveling companions."

   The orcs continued approaching. Though still hard to make them all out, there were at least a dozen of them. Leokas held his bow at ready.

   "Where do you go?" asked Pog. "You ride funny beasts."

   "Noble beasts!" muttered Belvin.

   "We ride to the desert," Hakam replied. "We are simply passing you by. We have no quarrel with you."

   "Pog not know 'quarrel', but Pog thinks you are very brave. Or you are very stupid. Orcs not go to desert. Evil ruins! Ruins filled with dead things and big, beautiful women that eat orcs. Other monsters too!"

   "I wonder what the orcish definition of beautiful is," mumbled Solisar.

   "Nevertheless," said Hakam to Pog. "We are going to the desert, and you will let us pass you by."

   "Pog agrees. Pog and band have work to do. Pog and band look for humans or animals to catch, but Pog not stupid orc. Pog see that you have big, strong warriors. We not fight you. We walk by you now."

   "Proceed," said Hakam.

   The adventurers cautiously watched as the band of orcs passed them by. It was a well-armed group. They counted thirteen orc warriors, two of whom were leading enormous, tusked boars on leashes. Pog was better outfitted than the others, and he had three bodyguards. There was a shaman also. Many of the orcs eyed Tavis with nervousness as they walked by.

   "Excellent conversationalists, orcs," said Thimbletoes.

   "Hill giants and ettins are worse," said Tavis.

~~~~

It was another warmer day on ninth-day, relatively speaking, but it was windier again. Come highsun, they saw some strange herd animals up ahead. The animals seemed something like the giraffes some of them had seen in Chult, yet with shorter necks, though still long enough for them to browse along the high pine boughs of the trees near the road. Their bodies were somewhat like horses, with thicker limbs and massive clublike hooves that were spread out like a camel's for trekking across snow. Their heads were unique, with a bony ridge ending with two parallel blunt nose horns.

   "What animals are these," asked Leokas.

   "Branta," said Thimbletoes and Tavis together.

   The nine branta bolted when the adventurers came closer to them. It was not long after they encountered these animals that Thimbletoes spoke up. "Ah, see that gnarled tree ahead? It is a 'signpost' for us gnomes. Graevelwood is south of here. Here is where we part ways and I carry on on foot." He proceeded to thank them for accompanying him this far and wished them the best of Garl Glittergold's blessings on the rest of their journey. "Be wary of those big, beautiful orc-eating women!" he called out with one final wave, before disappearing into a cluster of small pines south of the road.

   Just before dusk, they could see where the road would end. While just as cold, the fallen precipitation was much less in this region, and the yellowed grass of winter was even visible in patches here and there, a sign that they were approaching the magical climate of Anauroch. Ahead, they could see some low hills, and the road, marked by packed snow, passing between two of them. "The great desert is just over those hills," explained Tavis. "We are nearly at Ascore."
Session: 87th Game Session - Wednesday, Mar 22 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Page 1+2+3
New words
which • above • waste • do/does • pronounce/pronounced • guess • correct • because • other • use/used • question • make/makes • sense • my • friend • sound/sounds • they • have • breathe/breathing • laugh/laughing • language • Common • giant • island • though • speak • actual/actually • instead • where • would • were • Thorass • alphabet • memory • possibly • sure • hear/heard • speak • confuse/confused • able • reach/reached • place • gnome • say/said • here • quiet • her • music • leave/leaving • worry/worried • die/died • already • miss • twice • either • once • whom • egg • lay/laying • afraid • talk • buy • stay • maybe • go/goes • Anachtyr • marble • nice


I do not like how some words chanj the spellings of the first part when yu ad an ending. Who made this language?

I think that I figyured aut that when the letter E is silent that it often makes the vauwel before it last longger.

I learned from Kytharrah that a promp is the sound made when gas eskapes from betwen the top of one's legs in the back. He then kept making fake promp sounds over and over. Promp promp promp. I asked him why it is fune and he said because it is smele. I do not understand. Solisar said that it was not fune. Szordrin said that it is fune. Hakam also said that it is not fune not fune at all. Tavis said that it was not fune but he still laughed. I wish that I could ask Cassiera about it but she is gon now.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
2 4 6 8 10
1 3 5 7 9
1 3 6 10 15
1 4 9 16 25


The numbers of items that can be set up in a triangul in a surten number of rows is the same as the total of that number of numbers in the kaunting order aded tugether. Also the numbers of items that can be set up in a square in a surten number of rows is the same as the total of that number of numbers in the kaunting order aded tugether if every other number is kaunted. I wunder if Solisar knows this.


Solisar did know that but he said that he was impresed that I notised it on my one. He learned it in elf skule many yeres ago. I did not know what a skule is but he just told me. I think that it is like I am in his skule. He is a gud techer.

It is hard to write in this journal in the majik wite spase that Solisar or Szordrin make. I wish that their were a desk up here.
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Epic!
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