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Chapter 5 — Interrogation
Back on board, the famished and weakened hobgoblins sat below deck and leaned against the main mast, looking far more terrified than even Hakam about the fact that they were now floating miles above the ground.

   "It is safer this way," explained Szordrin. "Surely, you know that a blue dragon lairs in tunnels that connect to yours?"

   "Play?" asked Kytharrah.

   "No, we do not play with prisoners," said Leokas.

   Only two of the hobgoblins spoke Common, so Hakam used his magic to communicate with them in their language of Ghukliak. Szordrin cast spells for reading their surface thoughts and for understanding them, so that he could confirm that they were telling the truth.

   Hakam began. "When were you attacked?"

   "It was about ten days ago. It was hard to keep track after we became trapped."

   "Was it an ambush?"

   "No, it was a full-on assault. Hordes of undead poured into our caves."

   "Were they led by a mummy, a very powerful mummy in silks? Or did you ever hear the name El Sadhara spoken?"

   "There were several mummies, along with skeletons of humans, skeletons of minotaurs, and creatures that seemed to be made out of clouds and air."

   Hakam tried to describe El Sadhara in more detail, but the hobgoblins did not seem to know if she had been there or not.

   "Ask if they saw any human wizard," said Solisar.

   "...Or a human with red hair," added Leokas.

   Hakam asked them, but they had not.

   "Was Allu there with you?" asked Szordrin. "What happened to him?"

   Hakam translated.

   "The cowardly false god fled to his chamber when they attacked. We do not know what became of him, only that he abandoned us."

   "How many of you were there?" Szordrin asked.

   They answered back that there were hundreds of them, most of whom were slaughtered by the undead and elemental forces, unless a few members of their "special forces" had managed to survive somewhere. It was suggested that their high priest and the archwizard might have survived, as each was very powerful and were last seen retreating with Allu.

   "What were Allu's plans?" asked Hakam. "Why did he need to gather hundreds of you?"

   "Our god...." The goblin paused and spat. "Our former god was raising an army to retake Calimshan. He told us that Calimshan was his, that it belonged to him and had been taken from him in the ancient past. He told us that hobgoblins would rule once again, serving under him, and that the other races would be driven away. He told us that we would never be enslaved by the Calishite humans again."

   The goblin looked directly at Hakam as he spoke, with no love in his eyes toward the obviously Calishite man.

   Hakam did not try to argue that hobgoblins had never ruled Calimshan, but it was true that genies once did, though certainly not Allu. Instead, he changed the focus of the questions. "Have you heard of anyone named Samber? Or for that matter, Ramseb? or Rembas? or anything like that? or the Maker?"

   They had not.

   "I want to ask about Allu's 'palace' again. To the east of the tunnels where we found you, there is a massive chamber supported by thick columns. You said that Allu's chamber and a gate were that way, and now, there remain skeletons guarding the chamber. What are those columns supporting?"

   "The columns are supporting the 'preparation room' and the gate."

   "The 'preparation room'? Preparation for what?"

   "Preparation for war," said one of the hobgoblins. "Allu was waiting to summon an army of warriors from Clangor through the gate to unleash on the surface."

   When Hakam translated this information back to the others, Ilthian, who had been sitting quietly nearby, asked, "What is Clangor?"

   "It is where goblins believe that they go when they die," explained Solisar.

   The answer did not seem to make any sense to Ilthian, but she kept silent as Hakam asked another question.

   "You mentioned a high priest and an archwizard. Describe them."

   "The archwizard, Booyagh, is a puny goblin. Despite being a weakling goblin, he rose to power by slaying the other hobgoblin wizards in a spell duel, claiming that he wished to reject Maglubiyet, the goblin god, and serve Allu instead. So Allu accepted him, even though he is puny and small.

   "Durbuluk is Allu's high priest. He seemed clearly chosen from the beginning, for he is blessed with a mixture of fiendish and hobgoblin blood and is winged and horned. He came with some of us from the Marching Mountains and quickly replaced Bokkob and Martuk and Harngur, the earlier priests."

   "Why do you supposed that this priest and wizard may still live?"

   "They retreated to Allu's chambers, which are defended against the undead."

   "How so?"

   "The walls of his chamber and of his throne room and treasure rooms are of flaming fire, fires too hot for simple hobgoblins like us to survive."

   "Why did you choose to stay and serve Allu in this place?"

   "He promised us freedom. Did we not already answer you that?"

   "But what made you think that he could keep his promises? What made you believe him?"

   "I imagine that, as a genie, he had the power to create food for his growing army, for one thing," suggested Solisar.

   The goblin that could understand Common nodded, and then spoke his own answer in his tongue. "Before he abandoned us, Allu granted our every desires. We only had to say, 'I wish for...,' and it would be ours — food, females, treasure, anything."

   "From where did all of you come?" Hakam asked them. "How did Allu find and recruit you?"

   "Some of my friends, who are all dead now, claimed to have been former pirates on the Sea of Swords. Karlack here was a former slave as were a good number of us. Most of the rest of us were former subjects of Guthash, King Under the Marching Mountains."

   "What about the blue dragon who shares these tunnels with you?"

   "What about her? Her tunnels only connect to ours where they connect to the sea cave. Allu told us that she was too foolish and proud to think that an army of goblinoids lived right under her snout, crafting weapons and forging armor. For our part, we always used magic to hide ourselves if coming in from or going out over the desert. In any case, no one has seen her since the beginning of the year."

   Hakam had run out of questions to ask and came over to his companions to speak to them privately. "We are probably going to have to fight the remaining skeletons to see if we can enter Allu's inner chamber."

   "That should not be too difficult for us, provided that El Sadhara is not there," said Leokas.

   "Even if she was here, she may have left her priestesses behind in her place," said Hakam.

   "It seems that she came to confront Allu, and he fled," said Solisar.

   "She had confronted him in the past, when his agents destroyed her statue of Calim," said Hakam. "Was this her final revenge for all of that?"

   "How did she find this place though?" asked Leokas. "It was hidden."

   "I wonder if Samber helped her," suggested Hakam.

   "I thought that you considered Samber and Allu allies," said Szordrin.

   "Maybe they cannot be connected," said Hakam. "If it is true that Allu was here when El Sadhara attacked this place, he could not also have been her prisoner, as Jayce reported to us. So one cannot be an aspect of the other after all."

   "You are only guessing about everything," said Belvin.

   "I do not think that our prisoners can tell us anything else," said Szordrin. "We should get rid of them."

   "Did you sense any lies with your magic?" asked Leokas.

   "None at all," answered the wizard. "Their thoughts matched up with their words. They had a bit of hatred toward Hakam for being a Calishite, but that was about it. Mostly they were thinking about how confused they were that we would have rescued them and not outright killed them. And they were thinking about how hungry they were."

   "I object to just abandoning them in the desert without any supplies," said Solisar. "They cooperated with us more than we ever expected."

   "We can provide some rations," said Hakam.

   "Can we not also supply them with some of their weapons from the cave?" asked Solisar.

   "An elf would give weapons to goblinkin?" Leokas appeared shocked.

   "Are there not jackals and other mundane dangers in the desert?" said Solisar. "If I understand the geography of the region, there are no towns or villages until many day's travel by foot. There are blue dragons overhead and El Sadhara's undead below the surface. And are the rumors of purple worms in the Calim Desert only rumors?"

   "They are true," said Hakam, "but no cheaply crafted goblin weapon will protect them from a sand worm. I agree to providing them weapons; it will not make a difference. We can send Kytharrah back into the cave to retrieve four of them; I believe that the tide is still low enough."

   This was done, and an hour later, Belvin sat in the spelljamming helm and carefully lowered it into a region of soft sand east of coastal cliffs. The four hobgoblins looked in shock at being handed both a couple day's of food and a weapon for each.

   "Die well," Leokas said to them.

   What was perhaps intended as an insult seemed to have been taken as a kind farewell by the hobgoblins, and a couple of them responded with something in the Goblin language. "Braeunk vhos trolkh."

   As the spelljammer lifted off from the sand, Solisar asked Leokas what their final statement meant. "It is a common goblin farewell," the ranger explained. "It means something like, 'If you die, do it quietely.'"
Session: 97th Game Session - Thursday, Nov 30 2017 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 5 , Recap
Chapter 5 — Survivors
With his natural eyes, Hakam could barely see more than a few feet in front of him now, since Solisar's torchlight had moved away, but he could still sense the shape of everything within about ten yards of him, as magic helped his mind to process the subtle echoes of sounds through the chamber. Thirty feet was not very far, however, and it was clear that this was the largest chamber yet in this subterranean place. If he was standing in the corner of a giant square facing inward, the walls to his left and right were irregular, as one would expect for a cave, but at the far corner stood something that "felt" very smooth and artificial to his magical perceptions. As he scanned the area for motion, he saw something else, and this with his eyes. A magical aura, revealing the presence of evil, well beyond the range of his magical blindsight.

   He sensed Szordrin coming up beside him. "What is it?" the wizard whispered.

   "A source of evil," Hakam whispered back. "Can you see anything with your fiend's eyes."

   "A dark pillar holding up the ceiling, about twelve or fifteen feet wide. It is not natural."

   "I sense it too," said Hakam. "Can you see anything to the right of the pillar. I sense three sources of evil."

   "I shall move a bit closer." Szordrin did so, and then quickly came back to stand beside the cleric.

   "Humanoid forms, rather thin. Not as large as minotaurs."

   "Bone thin?"

   "Probably so." He extracted a copper wire from his pouch and held it to his lips. "Come back at once! Hakam has found more skeletons!"

   Hakam healed himself with positive energy while they waited, and they were soon joined by the others around the bodies of the three mummies. Hakam and Szordrin whispered what they had seen.

   "Kytharrah, go back a ways and guard us in case more skeletons attack from behind us," Leokas directed. "If you see any more, destroy them all."

   Kytharrah obeyed.

   "They are not attacking us," said Szordrin. "Let Hakam and I go deeper into the chamber for a better look."

   It was not long before they returned. "There are five humanoid skeletons and another giant, horned skeleton," Szordrin reported.

   "I suspect that they were commanded to guard something," said Hakam, "since they have made no move to advance toward us — perhaps an entrance or perhaps El Sadhara herself. I suggest that we avoid them."

   "If they are simply mindless skeletons, that gives us time to explore the rest of these tunnels first," said Leokas.

   Solisar was looking down at the scorched and broken bodies of the mummies. "These have items of magic," he said. "Abjuration magics. Their armor and one of their amulets glow, as do their cloaks, which have resisted damage from all of our fire magics."

   "Are they dangerous to touch?" asked Szordrin. "Can we be cursed if we take them? Should I use telekinesis to pick up the items?"

   "They have been destroyed, so I believe that their curse is spent," said Solisar.

   "I believe that he is correct," said Hakam, "but I would not risk touching their fell kind. I suspect that they are wearing Calishite mail, enchanted to cool the wearer in the desert heat, though mummies would have no need for such things in undeath."

   "Kytharrah," said Szordrin, "come help me search their bodies."

   Kytharrah did so, and he seemed to have no emotional hindrances to ripping through their bandaged bodies searching. Each limb was unraveled or torn open, and the desiccated ash within poured out. The area was filled with pungent perfumes. Each mummy had had a large blue sapphire buried in its wrappings about where her heart should have been, and another on her forehead. (No one else noticed when Szordrin secretly pocketed these latter three gems.) Hakam stepped on the three unholy symbols, grinding them into the stone. They gathered up the amulets until they could identify them later, along with three silver aspergilla, the unholy symbols, and the chain shirts, and stored them in their magical sack. Belvin, Hakam, and Szordrin each donned one of the magical short cloaks, as Solisar seemed convinced that they were of the same magical properties of resistance to harm as the ones that he, Leokas, and Kytharrah already wore.

   All this time, the skeletons deeper within the chamber made no movement toward them nor any sound.

   "Come," said Leokas, "let us see where the other tunnel continued. It forked after some 75 to 100 feet."

   As a group, they returned to the wider tunnel with all the scattered remains of weapon forging.

   "I suspect this was where Allu was making weapons for his army," said Leokas.

   "But El Sadhara destroyed all of it," said Hakam.

   They reached the fork and turned first to the left, where they had destroyed the last two of the minotaur skeletons. On the left wall was a large column and a massive boulder placed too tightly together for a human to squeeze through to the other side. On the right was a pile of rubble as if from a cave-in.

   "We sent Ferry through here earlier," said Szordrin. "That was the boulder that Kytharrah could not budge, and this was the collapsed tunnel that Ferry mentioned to me."

   Kytharrah sniffed. "Food," he said, and he rushed off ahead of them. The rest hurried after him, lest he run into any trouble, but there was no sign either of life or undeath. The tunnel narrowed to five feet in width and then entered a smallish, irregular-shaped cavern chamber. All about it were nasty-smelling dried meats and kitchen implements.

   "Ferry found this too already," said Szordrin.

   "It is clear that all of the goblins are dead," said Hakam.

   "...Or they are holding out somehow on the other side of that boulder fall," said Solisar.

   "Are you suggesting that some of the survivors may have barricaded themselves rather than become zombies?" said Leokas.

   "It is what I would have done," said Belvin.

   "I should be able to confirm that," said Leokas, "if we have not already trampled all over the evidence. Stand back here for a bit. Solisar, may I have the torch?"

   The ranger approached the rockfall carefully with the torch and examined the ground in the area all around. Then, he came to the others and handed back the torch. "There certainly are goblinhobgoblin — tracks underneath some of the boulders that have been propped up over the others. There is no doubt that goblins passed that way into a tunnel."

   "I shall send Ferry through the rubble," said Szordrin.

   His little weasel companion was nervous about his mission, but he accepted it anyhow and scurried underneath and between the fallen rocks and rubble. He was not gone long. He crawled up Szordin's clothing to the perch on his shoulder and squeaked into his ear.

   "Ferry says that there are a few hairy people on the other side. They seem sleepy and weak. There is no decaying. They are alive, not dead or undead.

   "Shall we send a message to them perhaps," Szordrin concluded.

   "I could write it in their language," said Leokas.

   "Could we trust any response that they might send back?" asked Hakam.

   "Considering the circumstances, I think it would be in their best interest to send an honest reply," said Leokas, "and you know that none of us has as much hatred for goblinkind as I."

   "Let me see if there is a secret way beyond all this rubble first," said Hakam. He prayed for special vision and guidance from Anachtyr, but the magic did not reveal the presence of any secret doors or passages in the immediate vicinity.

   Solisar provided a strip of paper and a feathered pen and ink, and Leokas laid it against a flat stone to scribble a message, trying to keep the letters sloppy, in imitation of how he imagined a hobgoblin to write. The message read, he hoped,
We were sent by Captain Grak. We have come back from the sea. We found and killed many not-dead. What has happened here?

   Leokas handed the paper to Szordrin who put it in Ferry's mouth.

   "Drop the message and then run immediately back to us," said Hakam.

   "He does not understand Common yet," said Szordrin.

   "He needs to wait for them to write an answer, does he not?" said Solisar.

   "I shall tell him to wait under the rocks where he will be safe while they read it and respond," said Szordrin, who then began chirping and squeaking.

   Ferry nodded his little head and then scrambled down Szordrin and into the rubble. Szordrin knelt by the rubble to retrieve Ferry as soon as he came back. The bearded tiefling looked worried, but he could sense no terror in his familiar, only mild fear.

   The weasel popped back into sight several minute later, the same strip of paper in his mouth.

   "We forgot to send them a pen with which to write a reply," said Solisar.

   "Nevertheless, they wrote an answer," said Szordrin, holding it up. "It seems to be in blood." While written in blood, the letters were much neater than Leokas' message.

   Leokas took the strip and read it aloud.
Undead, not "not-dead", attacked us. Only five of us left. Who in the Hells are you? Who is Captain Grak?


   "Ask them if they can move the boulders on their own," said Hakam.

   Leokas wrote a second message.
Can you move the big rocks? If not, we will come back tomorrow.


   Ferry delivered the message, this time with a pen pre-dipped in ink, and carried back their reply.
We cannot move the boulders. We trapped ourselves.


   "Hobgoblins are not the most intelligent creatures," said Leokas, after reading back the message.

   They prepared a third message and sent this one with a small package of rations.
Where is our god, Allu?


   The reply:
Allu has abandoned us. Thanks for the grub. We have not eaten in two days.


   "The genie either fled or was banished," said Solisar, after Leokas read the reply.

   "Are we certain that he is an actual genie?" asked Hakam.

   "Did you not see us fight him with Sseth outside the monastery?" replied Leokas.

   "Yes, I did see the tail end of that, but have we considered if he might actually be an aspect of Samber? We have seen Samber use powerful illusions before, such as the Maker."

   "What would be his motivation to do that?" asked Leokas.

   "He needs more worshipers, does he not?" said Solisar, "From what I have learned about him from you, it would make sense for him to seek out new worshipers so that he might obtain true godhood."

   "But Allu led a small number of the hobgoblins from Samber's island," said Leokas. "Why not keep them there?"

   "To evangelize amongst the hobgoblins of Faerûn?" suggested Hakam.

   "To protect his created worshipers?" suggested Solisar. "In any case," he continued, "is it not likely that Allu and Samber have met, if they came from the same tiny island?"

   "More than that, I suspect that they are at least allied," said Hakam.

   "We simply do not know these things yet," said Belvin. "What good does it do to postulate at this point? All I know is that Allu tried to kill us all and take back the omlar gem; in contrast, Samber healed my arm."

   "Let us ask them where Allu's chamber is," suggested Szordrin.

   Another set of messages passed back and forth.
Is Allu's chamber to the east of here?


The tunnel to the east leads to Allu's throne room of fire and the gate.


   "Gate to what?" asked Szordrin.

   "Is it the gate for our omlar gem?" asked Leokas.

   "To the Plane of Fire?" asked Hakam.

   "That is what we have supposed before," said Leokas. "We know that the omlar gem is a portal key and has something to do with elemental fire."

   Kytharrah was, at this point, exceedingly bored and had wandered off back down the tunnel to where it had forked. He continued along the new passage. He could soon smell the strong smells of bodily waste ahead and figured that it was where the goblins releaved themselves. He returned to the others, who were still talking. They had sent one final message to the surviving hobgoblins, repeating that they would return the next day.

   "We cannot possibly take on El Sadhara if she is still here," said Szordrin.

   "I agree," said Hakam. "We can certainly eliminate her remaining skeletal guards, but if she lies beyond them, we are doomed."

   "I do not know about the rest of you, but I am going back to the ship," said Belvin. "I was nearly gored to death today, and I would like to rest with Kamil before the blue dragon finds our ship and eats him."

   "I agree," said Hakam. "Let us return, hide the spelljammer in the clouds, rest, and return in the morning. I shall pray for the power to move these boulders, and we can interrogate these survivors to learn more about what happened here."

   Everyone agreed, so they began to head back.

   "We should leave a trail of ash near wear we fought the mummies, in case anything should cross it in our absence," said Szordrin.

   "An excellent idea," Leokas replied. "I should be able to identify any tracks left as well if that happens."

   "What about the skeletons?" asked Solisar. "We defeated them, but will that truly stop them from being formed again by the same necromantic magics that brought them to undeath to begin with?"

   "You are correct," said Hakam. "An evil cleric or another mummy could easily create them again if we leave enough bones."

   "I, for one, do not want to fight the same skeletal minotaurs again," said Solisar.

   "Then we need to scatter the bones far from each other," said Hakam, "or else smash all of them to powder."

   "What if we just take all the skulls and dump them in the ocean?" suggested Szordrin.

   "Bones do not need a skull to be animated," said Hakam. "It would be better to toss the hip bones into the sea."

   "It would be faster to toss such bones over the stone wall that you made into the chamber with the bugbear zombies," suggested Solisar. "That way, if any new skeletons form, they will be attacked by the zombies."

   Over the next hour or so, the party went through the tunnels of the cavern, gathering and smashing bones. (They noticed that all of the hobgoblin skulls had been gnawed by bugbear teeth, likely eaten clean by the zombies. All of the minotaur skeletons were much older and had no teeth marks.) Once they had convinced themselves that the formation of new skeletons would be impossible, they used the ash from the fallen mummies to mark lines over the floors of several tunnels.

   At last, they returned safely to their flying ship to be greeted happily by Ilthian. She was very concerned to see the blood-stained clothes of Belvin, Leokas, and especially Hakam, but they assured her that their magics meant that they would be fully recovered by morning.

   Leokas flew the spelljammer high into the sky, where it floated two miles over the seas west of Calimshan. They took rest on their bed rolls or hammocks below deck and passed the night.

~~~~

The next morning, they returned to the surface and dropped anchor again. This time, Belvin stayed behind on the spelljammer with Ilthian, having little interest in rescuing hobgoblins. Leokas was in favor of doing so only because he wanted to interrogate them further.

   During his morning prayers, Hakam had requested the power to shape and move stone again. They waited for low tide; then they got into the row boat and traveled to the sea cave opening.

   As they crunched over all the barnacles at the entrance, Hakam looked about for the presence of evil but saw no sign of any here near the entrance. "There is no point traveling through the tunnels in darkness anymore," said Hakam. "We know that the skeletons that remain will not leave the room that they guard or sound any sort of alarm."

   "I assume that we are rescuing the goblins first?" said Solisar.

   "Yes," Hakam replied.

   When they reached the first line of ash, Leokas examined it for a long time. "I am certain that nothing has passed this way since we left yesterday," he said. "We are safe, at least until we are ready to engage the undead in the eastern chamber."

   "What further information are we seeking from these hobgoblins?" asked Solisar. "Have we considered that?"

   "And what are we doing with them after we are finished with them?" asked Leokas.

   "I suppose that you will want to execute them," said Hakam, "but my thought was to release them in the desert."

   "They will be as good as dead if released into the desert," said the wood elf. "That seems a fair fate; let the gods decide."

   They arrived back at the location of the tunnel collapse.

   "We need to inform them that we are not goblins," said Solisar. "If they come out and see elves and humans, they will be like rats trapped in a corner and may attack out of fear."

   So, Ferry delivered another message.
We have returned to release you, but we are not goblinkin. We want to ask you more questions. If you come out with no weapons, we will give you food.


   Ferry returned with a single word in reply:
Understood.


   Hakam used his magic to form the fallen rocks and rubble into a small tunnel, such that the hobgoblins would have to come out crawling on hands and knees. Shortly, the first hairy goblinoid head appeared, and after a few minutes, four exceptionally skinny human-sized goblins dressed in ragged clothing stood in the middle of the party. None of them spoke; instead, they looked around nervously at their "rescuers".

   After a pause, Hakam spoke. "What happened to the fifth? I thought that there were five of you."

   A hobgoblin spoke in broken Common. "Other said, 'Better die than trust elfs,' so we cut off head."

   "Fair enough," said Leokas.

   "Where food?" said a second goblin. "You said food."

   Hakam handed them each the promised rations, which they gobbled down unceremoniously in seconds.

   "It is not safe to linger here," said Hakam. "You are going to come with us back to our ship, where we have questions to ask you. Then, we will drop you off at the next port."

   As they led the way back to the cave exit, Leokas protested, "I thought that we agreed to drop them in the desert."

   "Maybe the desert is our next port," he replied.
Session: 97th Game Session - Thursday, Nov 30 2017 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 5 — The Handmaidens of El Sadhara
"Rise!"

   In under a second, a pile of bones, a discarded weapon, and a large horned skull flew together, and Kytharrah spun to find himself facing a minotaur skeleton. Without hesitation, he swung at the undead creature but struck the haft of its massive axe, finding that his new enemy was stronger than one might expect an animated pile of bones to be.

   With a dreadful rattling, several other giant-sized, horned skeletal warriors sprung up around them, two behind them down the tunnel from which they just came, and at least a couple more could be heard approaching from around the corner beyond their own living minotaur. Solisar immediately reached his fingers into his component pouch, looking for a piece of licorice root.

   The three female figures in the distance simply stood still, as Kytharrah's skeletal opponent swung its greataxe. Kytharrah easily parried the blow, but Belvin was not so lucky. At the back of the line, one of the new attackers swung down its large, curved horns, catching him off-guard and goring into his side, lifting him off the ground for a moment. When Belvin came back onto his own two feet, blood was flowing over his hip from a sizeable hole in his side, and he struggled to hold the wound shut with his left hand.

   A powerful shout came from Solisar, and all of them felt a rush of intensity flow through their bodies. Leokas flipped around Belvin in a moment and unleashed arrows at his friend's attacker at a rate that they had never seen before. Four arrows struck the thick bones of the undead monster, and fragments of ribs, a collarbone, a radius bone, and the massive jaw clattered to the rocky ground. It wobbled about awkwardly as if the necromantic magic could barely keep the bones together.

   At the other end of their line, Kytharrah, also empowered with extra swiftness from Solisar's magic, swung with fury, scattering ribs, severing the magical connection between upper and lower arm bones, and smashing through the thick but short femur of its right leg. The skeleton tottled, as the magics drew the split femur bone back together, but before the dark spell could complete its work, the living minotaur swung his head low, catching the monster at the underside of its lower jaw with his horn. With a bucking motion of his neck, Kytharrah ripped the heavy skull from the skeleton's body. It crashed to the floor, and the rest of the body completely dismantled with a noisy din.

   Solisar was more concerned about the three suspected mummies standing calmly by beyond them than about the skeletal monsters. He was chanting the final words of a spell and tossed a fragment of glass in their direction. Above him, two rays of fire shot down from the ceiling from Szordrin, aimed at more large skeletons clattering toward them from around the corner beyond Kytharrah. Hakam could not see these yet, but he held up his holy symbol anyhow and called out a loud rebuke against the unnatural abominations. Then, he hustled over to Belvin to aid him. As he approached, the wobbling minoatur that had gored Belvin moments earlier now swung its axe, driving deep into Hakam's sword arm. Hakam grabbed his own arm, as he saw the druid toss a gob of beeswax at their opponent. The gob stuck to its sternum, and then the entire skeleton was immolated in fire. It fell apart, and each bone continued burning on the ground.

   Belvin shouted a whoop of victory, but another equally large skeletal beast stepped right up over the burning bones of the other and swung at Hakam. Still clutching the bloody gash on his arm, he managed to spin his body such that the blow struck his enchanted shield. The force of the blow drove him to his knees, but it withstood the blade, and it meant that the undead minotaur's horns swung over his head, missing him.

   "Hakam, stay low!" shouted Leokas.

   Hakam obeyed and heard the sound of arrows whizzing just over his head. The fourth arrow split the sternum in half vertically, and drove into one of the vertebrae, knocking it from the spinal column and carrying it farther down the tunnel. The skeleton tumbled apart with a loud clanging.

   Kytharrah also found himself with a new opponent, which had stepped around the corner from the other tunnel, swinging and goring as it came. Kytharrah hopped away from the swing and deflected the horns with the shaft of his axe. He swung back, with hastened movement, splitting ribs and cracking the pelvis before the animated bones blocked his third swing with an axe. The axe heads locked together, and the two minotaurs began a tug of war. Szrodrin tried to assist from his perch on the ceiling by sending down three bursts of magical force. These shook up the skeleton a bit, allowing Kytharrah to break free. He swung his curved horn at his opponent as they pulled away from each other. The horn knocked the lower jaw from the monster's skull, but then the necromantic magic pulled it right back into place.

   Hakam, back on his feet but still clutching his arm, stepped behind Kytharrah. Grabbing his holy symbol with his right hand, he called out for the fourth time that day, "Anachtyr rebuke you!"

   The minoatur skeleton dropped its ancient axe, turned, and fled into the dark tunnel from whence it had come.

   Belvin came up behind Hakam and touched his arm, transferring a burst of positive energy to him. Hakam fell the wound beginning to reseal itself.

   No more skeletons were immediately present, but the three female figures stood firm, watching from the darkness.

   Solisar touched his clothing, which caused it to glow and shimmer briefly. "Need we fear their touch?" he asked. "Can they doom us with their mummy's curse?"

   "I know not," said Hakam, as he drew his sword, "but they will not be touching me."

   "Kytharrah," said Solisar. "Do not charge them. Only use your axe, not your horns."

   "If these are mummies," said Belvin, "no herbs can cure it if you are cursed by them."

   "What are we waiting for?" said Leokas. Still hastened by Solisar's magic, he rushed forward along the right cavern wall with two arrows nocked. Kytharrah snorted and also rushed forward. Szordrin scurried down the wall from the ceiling to follow behind Leokas, using a spell to protect himself from evil.

   However, as Leokas neared to point blank range and raised his bow, one of the mummies moved her head and looked directly into his eyes. Leokas stopped dead in his tracks and moaned, "Solonor save us." He visibly shook to the point of immobility.

   One of the mummies now looked directly at Kytharrah as well, but still he came forward to within range. He felt no fear, but he heeded Solisar's warning and stood defensively rather than make a first move.

   The first attack instead came from Hakam. The cleric rounded the tunnel corner and could now see his opponents in the dim light from the magic torch that Solisar still carried behind him. They were dressed in strange clothes, looking something like a painting from ancient stories of Calimshan. Silver holy symbols hung about their necks, shaped like clouds. They were priestesses of Akadi, just like El Sadhara. That much was clear to him. He held out his open left palm and offered a short prayer. A beam of energy as bright as the sun shot forward, striking the leftmost of the priestesses in the center of her mailed chest. She staggered backward, nearly blown off her feet by the power of the holy burst.

   The mummies now moved in response. The one that was struggling to still stand from Hakam's attack spoke in a dreadful tone. Only Hakam magically understood the words. "We shall be thy doom, priest of law." The words sent shivers through his spine, and he truly feared that he would not survive this battle.

   The second of the mummies lunged at Kytharrah with her huge mace, but he was ready and deflected the blow with the haft of his weapon.

   Then, suddenly, a thick, heavy mist filled the chamber between the adventurers and the three priestesses, as the third mummy finished a dread prayer, making it impossible for any of them to see more than about a yard in front of themselves. Solisar unleashed several ripples of magical force into the cloud, but he could not see the result and had to hope that they found a target.

   Kytharrah engaged the mummy priestess he could see through the cloud directly in front of him. He struck her in the left shoulder, but her chainmail absorbed most of the force of the blow. She deftly avoided two more swings from his axe, surprising him with her agility by springing away from one and solidly blocking the second with her shield with the loud clang of steel against steel. He could not connect with his horns either. She was a challenging opponent, much more skilled at fighting than those walking bones had been.

   Szordrin stepped in front of Hakam, who looked terrified, tossing a spent magic scroll from his hands as he did so. He raised his palms and blindly fired a scorching blast of fire from into the obscuring cloud, like a stream of dragon fire. There was the sound of metal striking the stone floor and echoing through the passage. One of the mummies within the cloud called out another curse upon him, but he felt no ill effects, most likely because he had taken the time to protect himself with his magic.

   Turning to his left, Solisar saw that Belvin, just like Leokas was petrified and shivering in terror. With little he could do to free them from their magic-induced despair, he drew his wand and simply started firing off more missiles of force repeatedly into the cloud.

   Using his magic to see without his eyes through the dense fog, Hakam resisted the powerful urge to flee, and created a burst of deafening sound directly next to one of the mummies. They all heard another clatter of metal striking the ground, and Kytharrah watched as his combatant dropped her mace, stunned by the intense sound burst just behind her. Taking this opportunity, he dropped to his hands as if doing a pushup and swung his horns, catching her legs and flipping her easily unto her back with a hard thud. Springing right back up to his hooves, he began to swing wildly down at her. The first blow hit soundly, indenting her chest in a way that would have instantly killed a living creature, but the chain mail held together. She rolled over quickly to avoid a second blow from the axe, but his third swing cut off a large chunk from her wide hip. His nose was overwhelmed by the sudden release of potent perfumes, as a cloud of ash puffed from the large opening in her torn silk pants and severed bandages. The young minotaur was confused my the complete absence of flesh or blood. It seemed like he had simply cut through a pile of thick cloths.

   Hakam appeared at his side and joined him in hacking down at the prone priestess. His first sword swing struck true, but the force of the blow was absorbed by her chain shirt. She rolled again to avoid another swing, and it struck the stone with a spark. He hit her two more times as she finally rose to her feet again, but each strike was deflected by the chain links. She knocked away another swing from Kytharrah with her shield and lunged at Hakam, bringing her heavily wrapped fist to connect solidly with his jaw, knocking him back a few feet and causing him to bite through his tongue. He could taste his own blood and spat it out.

   Outside the cloud, Solisar continued waving his wand. He could hear heavy fighting occurring, but he could not see how his friends were faring. Thankfully, Leokas suddenly seemed to shake off his fear and come back to his senses. The wood elf sprung into action and darted around the cloud, past Belvin, hoping to get around to the other side of it where he might be able to see their enemies. As he ran, however, he nearly ran into a hulking form. Instinctively, he dove into a somersault and rolled underneath the oversized greataxe of another minotaur skeleton. Popping back onto his feet, he raised his bow and let fly two arrows, knocking bones from the skeleton and causing it to wobble about as the magics tried to hold it together.

   Within the cloud of mist, Kytharrah once again attempted to trip the mummy with his horns. She swung wildly at him with her weaponless arm but missed, and moments later, she was flat on her back for a second time. He struck her two more times with his axe. The second axe blow struck her in her veiled head, and there was an awful crunching sound.

   Stepping behind Kytharrah, Hakam laid his hands on him. "Anachtyr grant you the strength of a bull," he said.

   "But I am a bull," Kytharrah protested. His thought was interrupted when the mummy at his feet moved. Shockingly, she was still "alive". As she murmured something, a sphere of dark energy was forming around her hand. He silenced her with a final swing that cut her head off. Her moving hands went limp, and the dark energy vanished.

   Just then, the third mummy appeared in the cloud, just on the other side of Hakam. She swung her heavy mace at the cleric, but he deflected it with his own shield. Bursts of magic rippled around her, coming from Solisar, but she seemed unaffected by them, and the amulet about her neck glowed. Then, a cone of fire lit up the cloud around her and engulfed her, and the fire singed Kytharrah's fur as well. The mummy's bandages caught fire and blackened but then seemed to go out again, as if some magic quenched the flames.

   "Move, you big oaf!" shouted Szordrin, from somewhere in the mist. "You are blocking me. I almost scorched you with that spell."

   "Okay," Kytharrah said. He jumped over the crushed and decapitated priestess at his hooves and now was behind the standing mummy, flanking her with Hakam on the other side. Hakam stabbed his sword toward her face, and as she avoided the attack, she opened herself up to a swing from Kytharrah. He took her down, nearly cutting her in half, as the blade cleaved through the charred bandages of her waist below the chain shirt.

   Back outside the cloud, the skeleton minotaur was upon Leokas, swinging its axe in a wide arc. The elf spun to avoid the swing, but the corner of the blade tore into his back, over his right shoulder blade. Leokas yelled out in pain and anger and continued his spin, while drawing another arrow. The shot blew apart the minotaur's hand, spraying carpal bones in all directions, and the axe fell to the ground. A second arrow caused the beast to crumble apart, and the bones lay still.

   Within the cloud, Szordrin evoked another cone of searing flame into the mist, seeking blindly for the third priestess.

   "Anachtyr, show me those who follow the path of evil," Hakam prayed. After a few seconds, he reported, "They are all destroyed." He immediately hustled out of the mist deeper into the cavern beyond where the mummies had been guarding.

   Leokas called back in answer to Hakam's report. "They are not all destroyed; I hear more skeletons down this tunnel."

   The mist faded away then, and Szordrin saw the missing body of the third mummy, the one first targeted by Hakam's holy magic, now burned to a charred crisp by the wizard's earlier magical attack.

   As the mist dissipated, so did the utter despair that the mummy's glance had laid upon Belvin. With a feral yell, a scimitar of fire grew from his clenched fist, and he ran toward the three fallen mummies and began hacking at them in rage.

   "Belvin, they are fallen," Leokas called. "Save your rage for the remaining foes." He nocked two arrows. "Kytharrah, go after the remaining skeletons. They are this way."

   Kytharrah and Belvin obeyed and came back to where Leokas stood in the other passage, the one which they had not yet explored. Hakam stood in his place, watching for if any other foes would appear in the greater darkness of the wide chamber that opened up beyond where the mummies had stood. Likewise, Szrodrin stood guard at the tunnel down which they had originally come here. He created several mirror image illusions of himself, just in case.

   The rest moved after the remaining skeletons that Leokas had heard. "I believe that Hakam's rebuke drove them this way," he explained to the others. As they looked about in the dim light of the torch Solisar still carried, they saw cracked anvils, broken forges, and wrecked weapon racks scattered in a mess about the tunnel, which varied in width from five to twelve yards.

   Kytharrah bounded forward, smelling something dead up ahead. After about 20 yards, he came upon another skeleton, as it stepped out of the shadows behind what was once a functional bellows. It swung at him.

   "Hello," said Kytharrah, swinging his axe in return and leaving a notch in its sternum.

   A rolling ball of fire and three missiles of magic, sent from Belvin and Solisar, respectively, crashed into the animated bones. Leokas ran up and loosed his two arrows. The one disconnected an arm from its socket, and the second punctured a thigh bone. The whole thing fell apart in a clatter.

   As the elf continued running forward, he nocked another arrow. He stopped suddenly and looked back, because he noticed that Kytharrah was no longer with him. The young minotaur was instead following Belvin's rolling sphere of fire as it headed over to the left wall from its earlier momentum.

   "Guiding light!" Kytharrah happily exclaimed.

   Leokas rolled his eyes at the absurd behavior, but he could work with this. "Belvin," he shouted. "Send the sphere up this tunnel to the left."

   Belvin nodded, understanding, and waved his hands and pointed. The ball of fire rolled further down the tunnel and then to the left, where the wide passage narrowed and forked. The tunnel lit up, allowing Leokas to spot two more minotaur skeletons, which were just standing there, turned away by the power of Hakam's earlier rebuke. The first jumped to the side to avoid being struck by the flaming sphere, but here came Kytharrah, rushing after it with a huge grin. He paused to defend against an attack from the one skeleton and returned two swings and a gore, which caused it to tumble apart like a tower of wooden blocks.

   Leokas followed behind, sending two arrows into the center of the remaining skeleton's skull. It cracked in the middle, and the weight of the massive horns ripped the top of the skull in two, and the horns clattered on the ground. The nearly headless skeleton staggered about, but it still managed to jump over the rolling ball of fire as it passed by at Belvin's direction.

   "Finish it, Kytharrah!" shouted Leokas.

   The minotaur charged at full speed and crashed horns-first into the undead monster, sending its bones flying in all directions.

   "Now, stay dead," said Belvin.

   They paused to catch their breath, and only now did their brains allow them to feel the intense pain of their wounds. Belvin and Leokas had clothes soaked in blood. "It appears that Allu lost soundly," said Leokas, as he hunched over gasping. "These must be the remains of El Sadhara's forces."

   "Was that all of them?" asked Solisar. "I cannot see any magic auras about."

   As if in answer, Solisar and Belvin heard Szordrin's voice whispering faintly. "Come back at once! Hakam has found more skeletons!"
Session: 96th Game Session - Thursday, Nov 16 2017 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 5 — Carnage
"It is worth it for us to keep going forward in the dark, if we can manage it again," said Hakam.

   "I agree," said Solisar. "There is a slight chance that an alarm has not yet been sounded, if we are still far enough away from the main caverns of this 'palace'."

   So they continued for a bit farther as they had been doing before, with Szordrin walking quietly on the ceiling ahead with Kytharrah below him, while the others stayed a good distance farther back. The tiefling and the minotaur rounded an S-curve, and the others stopped and waited for a report. Szordrin could see that the passage widened ahead of them significantly, but it was hard for him to make out many details, as darkvision perceived differences in warmth, and most everything in this damp cavern was cool. There was some debris scattered all over the cave floor ahead, which did not seem natural. Some of it was reflective.

   He heard Kytharrah sniff and glanced directly down, that is, tilting his head back. His furred companion tapped his nose and flared his nostrils. Szordrin climbed down the wall to meet him. "Weird food and dead things," Kytharrah whispered, pointing deeper into the tunnel ahead.

   "Wait here," said the wizard. "Stand guard." He walked along the floor back to Solisar and the others and reported what Kytharrah had smelled.

   "'Weird food,'" said Belvin. "He means spices. He smells the Calishite mummy."

   "I agree with Belvin's assessment," said Hakam. "El Sadhara's perfumes were overwhelming. Does this mean that she is still here?"

   "In any case," said Szordrin, "the path immediately ahead is clear; it is safe to advance. I cannot make out things very clearly, even with my darkvision; we will need to risk a light."

   They moved around the bend. "Solisar, the torch," said Hakam. The elf came closer to the cleric, and the light revealed several splotches of dark, dried blood on the stone floor and wall. Bones were scattered everywhere, mixed with sundered weapons, shields, and armor.

   Leokas picked up a severed bone. "A thigh bone, I think," said Leokas, "but much too large to be a hobgoblin or even a bugbear. It is also very old, completely clean."

   "This is a human skull, is it not?" said Szordrin, pointing.

   Kytharrah had found a very large skull with horns, with a similar curve to his own. A minotaur. What had killed it? He glanced around nervously and sniffed.

   "Pajabbar," said Hakam, remembering the fact that el Sadhara had undead minotaurs in her service, the animated remains of the shock troops from Calim's armies.

   "Can you do anything about these bones before they are reanimated again?" Solisar asked Hakam.

   "We could grind them all to dust," he answered, "but I do not think that we have the time for that. I can certainly destroy them if they do become animated. You need not fear skeletons when in my presence."

   "Why are you still holding that skull?" asked Szordrin of Kytharrah.

   Kytharrah snapped off a horn and slid it behind the belt of his kilt, the one sewn for him by Ilthian. "Remember," said Kytharrah.

   Belvin gave him a large smile. For once, someone else in the party was collecting trophies.

   "I am going to scout farther ahead," said Szordrin. "Wait here." Kytharrah drew his axe and continued glancing around nervously with ears perked.

   Leokas motioned Kytharrah over. "Smell this," the wood elf ordered, indicating a large patch of dried blood on a large stone.

   "Goblin smell," said Kytharrah.

   "As I suspected," said Leokas.

   "We know that an undead army was seen coming this way by our dragon friend," said Solisar. "This carnage must be the result of the battle that was fought."

   "Yes," said Hakam, "these are 'dead' skeletons from her army. She had both human and minotaur skeletons. I recall that they were too stupid to even warn her of our presence when we entered the mummy's lair."

   "Where are the goblin bodies?" asked Belvin. "Were they victorious?"

   Szordrin had not been long. "Nothing at all down this first tunnel," he said. "It narrows after 20 yards or so and is impassible beyond that." Two more tunnels branched off from this cavern chamber where the battle had taken place. Szordrin went off down the second. The others continued examining the broken weapons. Some of them were goblin weapons, Leokas was convinced; some of the others were ancient looking, and Hakam was sure that they were Calishite craftsmanship.

   They also examined the structure of the chamber. The wall to their left was not a true wall; it was a row of massive boulders and thick columns with a few gaps between, but there were several spots where one might squeeze through to the other side.

   Szordrin came back again. "There is something moving just ahead, perhaps about 50 feet down the tunnel."

   "Fifty feet?" said Hakam. "Surely it will have heard us?"

   "It is humanoid, larger than a human," said Szordrin.

   "Bugbears, then," said Hakam. "They are larger." Leokas nodded in agreement.

   "I shall get a better report," said Szordrin, "but first a little magic." He recited the final words of an incantation and became invisible.

   Belvin drew his magic scimitar, and Leokas his bow. Kytharrah began wandering toward the other end of the chamber, where the final tunnel began. "Come back!" Hakam hissed at him.

   The minotaur obeyed. "Weird food is that way," he explained, once he returned to Hakam's side.

   Solisar was startled when he heard a whisper to his right. "Eight bugbears. Three of them are lying down. They are in a large chamber with no other exits. Lots of bedrolls and supplies scattered about. I was not detected."

   "They must be deaf," muttered Hakam. "We have been loud and not careful enough with our lights."

   "Can you shape the walls to trap them in?" came Szordrin's whispers again. "As we did with the Red Worm?"

   "I did not ask Thard Harr for such power this morning," said Belvin.

   "Nor is it in my power today either," said Hakam.

   "Did you not know that we would be entering a cave?" said Szordrin's voice.

   "I do, however, have the power to create a wall of stone from nothing," said Hakam, smiling. "My magics have somewhat improved since the last time we have been underground."

   "These are mere goblins;" said Leokas, "we do not need magic! I can drop one per arrow and can loose 30 arrows per minute."

   "It only takes a matter of seconds to sound an alarm," said Szordrin. "We may not have a minute."

   "If there are only eight, I do not even need half a minute," protested Leokas.

   "You may be overconfident," said Hakam. "Bugbears are larger than normal goblins or even hobgoblins."

   "I have slain goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears alike," said Leokas.

   "I repeat," said Szordrin, "all it takes is for one to raise an alarm. Who knows how large the hordes of Allu are."

   "Or were," said Belvin. "We still do not know which of our foes were victorious in this battle." He motioned at all of the bones and blood around them.

   "Bugbears are not very smart," said Hakam. "They would have to have an elaborate system set up to sound an alarm to another part of this cavern complex, would they not?"

   "To be fair, goblins are tricky, though," admitted Leokas. "They often do have traps and mechanisms for sounding alarms to others in their caves. My argument is that I could down all eight before they could respond, so it matters not."

   "Your skill at the bow is the greatest ever I have seen," said Hakam. "Nevertheless, I have seen you miss. No, it might be better for us to explore a bit more before acting. I am concerned about what lies on the other side of these columns here."

   "I could send Ferry," said Szordrin. "He is as invisible as I and even more stealthy."

   So Ferry scurried through one of the tiny gaps between the thick stone columns of the wall behind them, though none of them could see this. They all stood ready for an attack as they waited for Szordrin to speak again. After several minutes, they heard some squeaking and assumed that Ferry must have returned. "Ferry says that there are several more wide passages on the other side. Directly on the other side was an area with a great amount of rubble, like the cavern had collapsed there. When he went to the left, he found a place with smelly food and kitchen tools. When he came back and continued down the right path, the tunnel forked, but he could see 'built things' and tools and such. He did not see anything alive, but there were more bones and more blood. He did not want to be gone too long, lest I worry, so he came back as quickly as he could and did not explore all of the tunnels."

   "Let us decide what to do then?" said Belvin, who was growing impatient. "Clearly, the mummy was victorious here. We came for the fire genie, not the mummy."

   "These bugbears might not be loyal to Allu," suggested Hakam. "Perhaps they defected. Maybe that is why el Sadhara's troops spared them. Or maybe that is why they have not attacked."

   "Perhaps it is best to capture and interrogate them then," said Szordrin.

   "Play?" asked Kytharrah.

   "We only need capture one alive," said Leokas.

   "The only reason why I am hesitant," said Hakam, "is that they are not attacking."

   "They do not know that we are here!" said Leokas. "Otherwise, the fiends would be upon us."

   "Bored!" said Kytharrah.

   "I do not know," said Hakam. "Something is not right."

   "Go speak with them then!" said Leokas. "Shout out for a parley. They will try to kill you in response."

   "I will advance to speak with them," said Hakam. "If any come at me, I will be ready to create a wall of stone, but I will leave a gap at the top. You can pick them off if they try to climb over the top."

   "Goblin blood will fall," said Leokas.

   Hakam enchanted his tongue to speak Ghukliak, and then they all advanced. All of them walked down the middle of the tunnel, and the magic torch that Solisar held lit the stone enough that it would have been impossible for the bugbears not to notice, yet none came out to meet them. "Foul creatures and servants of evil," called Hakam in the Goblin tongue, "you will speak with us as we will, or you shall meet swift deaths."

   There was no response. They could see the five standing bugbears now; the nearest was just over ten yards away. They did not even turn. The smell from the room ahead was awful.

   Then, Hakam took one more step closer, and it was as if this triggered some signal, for all five standing bugbears suddenly turned, raised their arms in front of them and began approaching, while making deep moaning sounds. One of the bugbears was missing an eye. Another's arm was only half attached. A third had a deep gash in its skull, its pointed ear dangling.

   "Zombies," said Solisar.

   "Leokas, how flammable are bugbears?" asked Belvin in Elvish. Not waiting for an answer, he began chanting.

   "This is not worth your magic nor my arrows," said Leokas. "They already have a fate worse than death."

   Hakam reached for his holy symbol and began praying, but the first undead bugbear was nearly upon him, shambling forward, morningstar in hand. Szordrin became visible, as he drew his dagger and swatted the bugbear's large, festering hand away from touching Hakam. Then, a column of fire erupted upon the bugbears, but Belvin's spell did not stop their advance, though it scorched black much of their rotting skin. "A wall betwixt us!" shouted Hakam, and instantly there was a thin wall of granite between them and the undead goblinoids. The wall left a five foot gap between it and the ceiling fifteen feet above.

   They could hear the creatures clawing and scratching against the stone on the other side, combined with their pitiful moaning.

   "It is a shame that the wall does not block their stench," said Belvin.

   "Well, we will not be interrogating these," said Leokas. "Let us go." He turned to walk away.

   "They had a large chest," said Szordrin. "It could contain valuables."

   "Feel free to go retrieve it, then."

   Hakam held up his holy symbol. "Anachtyr rebuke all of you," he said confidently, speaking toward the wall that he created, as Szordrin spider-climbed up the natural wall to the ceiling. "It worked, Hakam," Szordrin called down. "They are all cowering in the far corner."

   "Be quick then," said Hakam.

   Szordrin had a scroll out and tried to read from it, but he nearly lost his grip on the ceiling in the casting. The scroll dropped to the ground, its words fading into nothing. "Curse this mithral shirt!" he cried. "They are turning around," he then reported.

   "Anachtyr rebuke you!" Hakam repeated.

   "Minotaur, climb the wall!" commanded Szordrin.

   Kytharrah, delighted to be needed, was over the wall in seconds and landed firmly on his hooves on the other side.

   "Get the chest!"

   The minotaur obeyed. The large chest was nothing for him to carry, and he slung it over one of his broad shoulders.

   "Behind you!" called down Szordrin.

   Kytharrah spun around and stuck one of the zombies with his axe one-handed. It practically exploded into decaying body parts. A few moments later, Kytharrah set the chest down on the other side of the wall again before the others.

   Solisar examined the chest for traps, and when he found none, Szordrin opened it. There was a large amount of gold and silver coins inside. Mixed in were a couple items as well: a jar of oil and an ivory bust of an ugly female bugbear goddess or shaman.

   Szordrin handed his wand of magic detection to Solisar. "Use this and see if these are magical."

   The jar of oil was, emitting a transmutation aura. The bust had no aura, but ivory sold for a good prize in most places. They had Kytharrah carry the chest back to the rowboat. In the meantime, they returned to the S-curve of the tunnel, where they had first entered the larger chamber with all of the bones and dried blood, and they waited, taking this chance to eat some rations and drink from their waterskins.

   "Do you think that the minotaur could move that boulder over there for us to pass through to where Ferry went?" asked Hakam.

   "I do not think even a minotaur could move that stone," said Leokas.

   "When he returns," said Solisar, "we should continue down that remaining tunnel, once again dousing our light."

   "I am beginning to believe that nothing is left alive in this cave," said Hakam. "No doubt, el Sadhara zombified any survivors and commanded the undead to stand guard. They have no minds, so they cannot go beyond their precise orders. That is why they only attacked once we stepped into the exact area that they were instructed to defend."

   "Presummably, we shall find Allu's chamber nevertheless and with it some clues regarding Samber," said Solisar hopefully.

   When Kytharrah finally returned, panting like a dog from his excursion, they had him try to push the boulder. Indeed, he could not budge it. So, they readied themselves. Szordrin once again took his place on the ceiling among the stalactites, and Kytharrah moved forward below him sniffing, while the others held back, waiting for a signal.

   The remaining tunnel immediately turned sharply to the right, running almost parrallel to the one heading to the bugbears' chamber. On the left side, there were occasional openings, and Kytharrah peeked through to see another spatious chamber on the other side, but these cracks in the wall were not large enough for him or even a smaller human to pass through. He was able to spot a weapon rack on the other side, but it had been knocked over, and the spears were scattered on the ground.

   With each step down this tunnel, the smell of "weird food" grew more intense to his nose. It was a variety of smells, some of which he had smelled on some human or elven women, but others were definitely more food-like.

   After nearly 100 feet, the tunnel gradually curved to the left, narrowing slightly to a width of about ten feet. Here, there was an opening in the left wall. Beyond that, about 40 feet from him, Kytharrah saw three humanoids, standing in a row. They were curvy, like the females of many races, but their faces were veiled, so he could not be sure. Whoever or whatever they were, they each wore chain shirts and silken pants and sleeves. They had thin cloaks upon their shoulders and bore a pair of amulets about their necks. They each carried a large metal shield and a heavy mace.

   Kytharrah raised his axe in defense.

   The three figures did not charge, but one of them called out in a loud, feminine voice.

   Farther down the tunnel behind Kytharrah, Hakam, still under the influence of his tongues spell, understood the shout as a single word.

   "Rise!"
Session: 95th Game Session - Wednesday, Oct 25 2017 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Chapter 5 — The Back Door
~ sixth-day, 6th of Hammer, The Year of Rogue Dragons, afternoon
Sea of Swords


The spelljammer splashed down in the waves west of great cliffs that formed the edge of Calimshan. Nearby was the remains of a shipwreck, its rotting mass still jutting out of the water, a sign of the rocks hidden below. Kytharrah dropped their anchors. Solisar did not have the power to make the whole vessel invisible; they prayed to their gods that the dragon would not patrol over the ocean while they were away. Ilthian, who remained aboard, would be safe from scrying below deck, but she would be helpless if a dragon landed on the deck and crashed its head and neck through the planks to find her. Belvin wanted to stay aboard, having little interest in the fire genie, but the others convinced him to come. He agreed, provided that they would return to the boat and Kamil soon.

   As they had done last Mirtul, the six adventurers all crammed into one of their small rowboats and began making their way toward the shallow entrance of a sea cave in the cliff. The tide was relatively low, and there was a narrow strip of land at the base of the cliff leading to the cave entrance. When last they had come to this "back door" to Yrevkethend's lair and Allu's palace, they had had to find a small inlet under an outcropping in the cliff to wait out the tide. Tymora had worked things out better for them this time, and they did not need to wait long before there was a walk-able sand "pathway". They tied up the rowboat in the same lee as before and set out.

   Ducking, they entered the cave entrance, which was only five feet high but about thirty wide. At first, the floor was covered with sand, sloping downward, before being replaced with endless barnacles, which crunched under their feet and hooves. The passage narrowed but also grew higher, so that even Kytharrah could no longer touch the ceiling.

   It was chilly in the cave, and water was dripping on them from the ceiling, as if it were raining. Kytharrah sniffed, taking in the smell of crabs, dead sea creatures, and salt.

   Each noisy step was disturbing to Szordrin, who was well aware that a dragon, with exceptional hearing, lived deeper within. "Remind me why we are even here again?" he asked. "What does this have to do with Walker or Samber?"

   "We have discussed this numerous times," said Hakam. "Finding Allu may be a good way to find Samber or at least learn what connection they have."

   "The Rock of Bral would have been a safer bet."

   "We will go there soon enough," said Hakam. "I have my suspicions that Allu is allied with or was summoned by Samber. We know that he has summoned other evil fiends, and we know his great interest in experimenting with other genies. We now have the power to find out and should not waste our opportunity."

   "The dragon never detected us when we last came this way," said Leokas, "if that is your concern. She lairs much deeper in the cave."

   "Sseth told us that Allu's palace is at least a mile from the cliffs," said Solisar. "This cave is massive and we have a long way to travel."

   "It is growing darker now," said Hakam. "Recall that I cannot see as well in the dark as the rest of you. If I recall, that means the fork in the tunnel should be soon where we can head up to Allu and away from the dragon's lair. We need to decide on a plan. Do we boldly march in and demand an audience? Or are we trying to remain undetected?"

   "If we were demanding an audience with the efreeti, would we not have used the front door?" said Solisar. "We are scouting things out first, especially if this mummy of which you have spoken to me has her forces here. Shall I turn all of us invisible?"

   "We should wait until we encounter any enemies, rather than waste the magic," said Hakam.

   "We cannot use any light if we wish to remain undetected," said Szordrin.

   "The corners of the cavern will block the light from traveling far, provided that it twists enough," said Leokas. "These walls are not very reflective."

   So they had Kytharrah withdraw his everburning torch. The light revealed a fork in the path ahead, just as Hakam had remembered. One tunnel went up, while the other twisted down. The tunnel that ascended was significantly narrower than the one leading down. They knew that the smaller tunnel led to Allu.

   Szordrin poked his head up the smaller tunnel and saw that it actually grew larger rather quickly after a short distance to be about a dozen feet in width and nearly twice that in height.

   "I will scout ahead, then," said Szordrin, looking back at the others, "walking on the ceiling. Kytharrah can follow a distance behind me, since he can also see in the darkness. If I spot any activity, I shall signal back to him, and then the rest of you can take action to hide any lights."

   This seemed as good a plan as any. So Kytharrah handed his "guiding light" to Solisar, and Szordrin cast his spell and climbed the wall up to the ceiling by his four limbs and began moving forward among the stalactites. "Tracks," said Leokas, bending down and noticing a pattern in the broken barnacles that none of the rest of them would have been able to spot. "Hobgoblins stepped on these barnacles."

   Kytharrah bent down and sniffed them.

   "Minotaur, you are supposed to be following behind Szordrin, not sniffing things," said Hakam.

   Kytharrah bounded forward.

   Thankfully, they soon climbed above the level of the water at high tide, and so the barnacles vanished. The ground was still a bit damp, but the "raining" also ceased.

   The tunnel continued relatively straight for what seemed like forever, reminding Belvin and Leokas of one of their earlier adventures together. They walked perhaps thirty minutes at a gradual incline. "So much for twisting tunnels blocking our light," said Belvin. Finally, however, the tunnel did begin to curve to the right and then again to the left, and Szordrin disappeared from their sight around the corner. Hakam took this moment to call on Anachtyr to grant him the ability to sense his environment without the need for his eyes, just in case Szordrin signaled back that they needed to douse their light. It proved to be a wise decision.

   The tunnel finished its ess curve and then made another. Kytharrah was just about to round the second corner, when Hakam could "hear" the incorporeal shape of someone or something next to the minotaur.

   "Minotaur! To your left!" he shouted.

   Leokas reacted to this before even Kytharrah did, loosing two arrows to the left of their friendly beast in hopes of striking whatever invisible enemy Hakam had sensed. The arrows were deflected into the wall of the passage as if blown by a strong gale. Moments later, two gusts of wind in rapid succession struck Leokas with an extreme force, knocking him back and nearly off his feet.

   With a firm command, Solisar enchanted his own eyes, and Belvin yelled out a jungle call, followed by pointing toward Leokas. The wood elf began to glow with a red aura. So did his invisible opponent, an only vaguely humanoid shape. The red-glowing foe was struck from above by several bursts of magical force from Szordrin's fingertips.

   "Anachtyr protect us!" shouted Hakam, while holding his shield ready.

   Now able to see the outline of the foe, Kytharrah charged with his axe to rescue his elven friend, swinging into the red aura. He struck something at least partly solid, almost spongy. Whatever it was, it had no odor at all. It moved quickly. He hit it a second time with his axe, but when he swung his large head down to catch it with its horns, it had moved too far away. Two arrows flew wildly, as Leokas jumped backward and tried to fight back, but two more blasts of invisible force struck him, and he dropped to his knees, with the wind knocked out of him, and gasped for air.

   Solisar waved his arms, sending a magical burst through the tunnel, and the red aura vanished, or rather dissipated, into nothing. The short battle was over.

   Kytharrah helped his red-glowing friend to his feet, and Belvin and Hakam rushed over to heal him with their magics.

   "Thank you," said Leokas. "I can breathe now. What manner of creature was that?"

   "An elemental from the Plane of Air," said Solisar. "To me, it appeared like an amorphous cloud. Belvin's faerie fire was a brilliant idea."

   Belvin nodded.

   "A stalker," said Szordrin. "Did not you others face one before I joined you?"

   "I would rather not recall it," said Hakam. "It broke my leg."

   "Was this an accidental encounter then?" asked Szordrin. "Or has it been stalking us this whole time?"

   "We would have noticed earlier," said Belvin. "It was guarding the entrance."

   "The last one certainly had been stalking us," said Hakam. "It spoke as much in its tongue. Mythlos could speak Auran. It was sent by El Sadhara."

   "It is at least possible that it is in fact the same one," said Solisar. "You cannot kill such a being unless on its native plane. It may have come back to finish its mission or been summoned by her a second time."

   "I agree that it is probably one of the mummy's minions," said Hakam, "but I suspect that Belvin is correct that it was here to guard the back entrance, not to pursue us in general. She only followed us to get to Samber, and she has him."

   "If that is the case," said Solisar, "it suggests that she has conquered the hobgoblins and Allu."
Session: 94th Game Session - Wednesday, Aug 30 2017 from 11:30 PM to 2:30 AM
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Chapter 5 — Tuning Forks
~ fifth-day, 5th of Hammer, The Year of Rogue Dragons, dusk
The Friary of St. Amahl


A small door opened in the twenty-foot-tall white-stone walls and a tall, bearded priest stepped out, garbed in a gray skullcap. "The Crying God and St. Amahl welcome you to this humble friary!" he stated. "I am Brother Ottad yn... Hakam? I mean, yn Khiber, but... Brother Hakam, is that you?"

   Hakam nodded. "Yes," he answered in Alzhedo. "I am pleased to see you, Brother Ottad." Hakam was thankful that the man had introduced himself, because he had forgotten the Ilmatari friar's name. He did, however, recall the name of the head friar. "Is Father Rahimat available?"

   "He was just retiring to his chamber for the night, but I shall retrieve him. Come, follow me." Ottad led Hakam into the old caravanserai. The courtyard was mostly empty but for a single friar drawing water from the central well. "You surely must have an important matter to be returning to us!" Ottad continued. "I pray that all is well with you and your companions."

   "It is presently," said Hakam, "but the last year has not been a restful one. I am here on behalf of another."

   "I see that you have 'upgraded' your flying carpet for a flying boat!"

   Hakam nodded. The spelljammer was hovering low to the ground a distance from the friary, waiting for Hakam's return. "My god has indeed shown us favor on our quest," said the cleric.

   Ottad led them up the stairs on the wall to the upper level. This was where all the simple rooms were, where the friars lived. An elderly woman passed them on the wall, carrying a basket of laundry. "Brother Hakam!" she said. "Ilmater blesses us with your presence."

   "And Anachtyr bless thee also, Sister...."

   "Jasmal," she completed for him.

   "Is Rahimat still awake, Sister Jasmal?" asked Ottad.

   The old woman nodded. Ottad continued leading them around the walls to the room above the chapel and then knocked on the old, wooden door. Rahimat's voice answered, asking for a moment, and then shortly the door opened. Father Rahimat was much younger than many of the other friars, though still older than Hakam. The Calishite man had a teardrop tattoo beside his right eye. He was no longer dressed in his clerical robes but was still wearing the red skullcap that signified his station.

   "Brother Hakam, is that you?"

   "It is. I apologize for disturbing you."

   "Think nothing of it. It has been almost a year. I see that you have progressed in your order."

   "I am no longer assigned to Memnon," said Hakam. "My god has sent me into the greater world as a justiciar."

   "I congratulate you!" said Rahimat. "Come in, come in. How can I be of service?"

   Ottad left them, and Hakam entered the small room. "My companions and I have an acquaintance suffering from a powerful magical curse. We believe that the only solution is for him to leave this plane. He is not a human; he is a being of fire. I would like to send him to the Plane of Fire until the duration of the curse ends, but I know little about the planes. I know that such magic requires a focus to send one to the desired location. We were nearby, so I thought to stop here first."

   "A being of fire? Have you made amends with that efreeti your companions fought outside our walls last year?"

   "Not the efreeti, no. He violates Anachtyr's holy laws and it is him we seek as the next stage of my divine quest. The one we wish to help is the dragon that assisted us in that fight last year. The dragon is our ally and has been our eyes and ears in this desert in the past year, while we have dealt with matters elsewhere. He has been watching over your friary all this time, in case the mummy or the efreeti were to return."

   "Yes, the mummy. Are you aware that she has been active again?"

   "The dragon has informed us of this, yes, but what more can you add?"

   "About a tenday ago, Brother Hamash was on a prayer walk near Dashadjen, when he saw from a great distance a small army of skeletons emerging from the sand and heading to the south. Some of them were much larger than human skeletons. We have kept a friar on lookout ever since, but the skeletons never returned."

   "This confirms what the dragon himself has told us," said Hakam, "but the fact that you have not seen them return is useful. Thank you for this."

   "Ah, but about your dragon friend, you must know that we are simple folk here at the friary and know little about other worlds — except perhaps about the Seven Heavens and the House of the Triad — much less how to travel there. Have you sought out your superiors in Memnon?"

   "That is where I planned to head next, but we have a limited time in regards to this curse, so I thought to stop here first. I should depart then. It was pleasant seeing you again, and thank you for the news about El Sadhara."

~~~~

"I have heard the voice of a messenger in my mind, as I have remembered you in my prayers."

   "What did the voice reveal?"

   "It told me that you have been chosen as a justiciar, for a special purpose," said Mualak yn Kurush el Anachtyr. "It seems that I am no longer your superior."

   "You are still a man whose advice I covet, rafayam," said Hakam.

   "I thank you. I shall do my best not to disappoint. I admit that I was not surprised, considering our last conversation," Mualak continued. "What more have you learned of this Samber?"

   "Anachtyr has divinely revealed to me Samber's purposes and the urgency needed in stopping him."

   Hakam was now in Memnon, in Anachtyr's temple, the House of Justice. He proceeded to update Mualak further on the happenings in the months since Eleasis, when last he had sent word to the older priest. Finally, he explained the matter with Sseth and the dracorage curse.

   "A planar tuning fork?" said Mualak. "If you already have the power to use such an item, you have already surpassed all of us here in your former home, including myself. Anachtyr has truly favored you, young Hakam. You would have made Hamdulah proud."

   "Is Abbot Mohad still here?" asked Hakam. "I recall that he told many stories of the wonders of the House of the Triad."

   "Abbot Mohad is still with us. His tales were from supposed visions that he had; I am certain that he has never left this plane. Nevertheless, the planes of existence were of great interest to him. I shall summon him."

   A half hour later, Hakam was sitting with an older priest, who had been woken from his sleep. Though it was nearly midnight, the man had seen fit to dress in his blue and purple clerical vestments for this brief meeting.

   "This is what I know of tuning forks," said the white-haired cleric. "Both the material of the fork and the note to which the fork is tuned are important. I do not know all of the 'rules' of how it works, but I can tell you that upper planes usually require gold forks; lower planes usually require iron ones. The inner planes all require specific metals, and the paraelemental planes are alloys of those metals. As far as tuning, the forks tied to the quasielemental planes are usually tuned sharp for positive planes and flat for negative planes. I have no idea what notes are required, however.

   "Most folk assume that one can only reach the first layer of any outer plane, but I have heard a rumor that, if one uses multiple tuning forks, ringing in just the right harmonies, one can bypass the first layer and reach others. For example, a major chord might take one to a second layer; perhaps a minor chord could take you to the third."

   "Do you not know the material of a fork tuned to the Plane of Fire?" asked Hakam.

   "I would guess brass," said Mohad, "since the infamous City of Brass is located in the Plane of Fire."

   "But brass is an alloy, is it not?" said Hakam.

   "True, true, so no, that cannot be — maybe zinc or copper then. Let me tell you this: if you truly wish to journey to the Plane of Fire, it seems to me that the Kossuthans would be the most help to you. As you must know, the Temple to Kossuth here is in Efreet's Drudach. I once knew the Eternal Flame there, Konal al Zalath. We once adventured together in my younger days. He grew to be much more powerful than I and also more fanatical. We agreed on the importance of a lawful society for Calimshan, but he began to believe that only a purification by fire could correct the ails of our nation. When I first came to this House of Justice, he joined up with the Shrine of Kossuth here. It has since grown into a full-sized temple.

   "I shall write you a letter to the Eternal Flame there, requesting his assistance. Perhaps he will grant a favor for his old friend. I must caution you, however. I am told that the Kossuthans of Memnon seek to restore its namesake to power and bring about a Second Memnonnar. Be careful with your words."

~~~~

Hakam found his way along the drudach walls to Coastal Road Sabban in the west. Efreet's Drudach was simple for him to find without the daytime crowds, and like the House of Justice, the temple to the Lord of Fire was located at the intersection of the drudach walls, so he never even had to dirty his feet with city dust. The temple was a ziggurat, clearly constructed of the same strange black stone as the ancient outer walls of the genie-built city. A red glow came from within.

   Hakam entered the temple with caution and was stopped immediately by a bald monk dressed in a thin orange tunic. The man was unarmed, but Hakam suspected that he was trained in combat and had no need of weapons to guard the temple.

   "What do you want, al Anachtyr?"

   "I come bearing a message for your Eternal Flame, sadidrif," said Hakam, holding the rolled up and sealed letter in his palm.

   "At this hour?" The man whistled, and two other temple guards came over. "Stay here," said the monk, taking the letter, "and I shall find out if the Eternal Flame will see you."

   The two guards watched him with arms crossed over their chests. Hakam ignored their intimidating stance and looked to the center of the temple from the second floor. The ziggurat was open in the center, its highest floor supported by a single massive column of black stone. About this column burned an enormous bonfire, which filled the whole temple with heat and light. Lit torches also covered the walls every yard or so. Hakam already found himself sweating from the heat of the place.

   The first monk returned. "This way," he said.

   Hakam followed him around a bend which led them back outside, where they ascended the steps on the outside of the temple up to its highest level. "Enter," said the guard.

   Hakam obeyed and entered the single room at the top of the temple, the chambers of the so-called Eternal Flame. The room was ornately decorated in Calishite fashion and was quite warm from the heat of the immense bonfire below them in the main temple chamber.

   "Greetings, fellow seeker of order," said the single man in the room with Hakam. "I am Konal al Kossuth." He gave a little bow in Calishite manner, and Hakam returned the custom. Konal was dressed in a robe of red, embroidered with a pattern of crimson flames. About his neck was a magically glowing holy symbol of a stylized flame. The man himself looked Calishite in features, with a long, pointed black beard, but his skin was a deep red color. Hakam guessed him to be a genasi, but he kept the thought to himself.

   "I have read the letter from my old friend, Mohad," said Konal. "He tells me that you are seeking a way to the Plane of Fire, though he did not explain why. He claims I owe him a favor.... I owe him nothing."

   "If you owe him nothing, perhaps I could purchase what I need from you instead," suggested Hakam.

   Konal chuckled. "I have no need anymore of a tuning fork to travel to the realm of the Firelord," said Konal, as he walked from Hakam over to an ivory set of drawers on the other side of the room. "This is Memnon, the capital of Memnonnar, a city that was once a city of efreet. Efreet need no tuning forks." He brushed aside a large lizard that was blocking one of the drawers and then opened it. "We Kossuthans of Memnon have discovered a portal in the ruins across the river, the Great Brass Gate, which Memnon himself used to ferry soldiers from his home plane to aid in the war against Calim. It still functions. I would rather arrive at a known location in the City of Brass than chance appearing in a pool of magma." He turned toward Hakam and tossed him something that he had removed from the drawer.

   Embarrassingly, Hakam failed to catch it; it tumbled to the floor and rang in a pure solid tone.

   "Slow reflexes for an adventurer," said Konal.

   "I am our party's healer, diviner, and judge," said Hakam, as he picked up the copper, two-pronged fork from the floor, "not our warrior."

   "Judge?" said Konal. "By what laws do you judge? The legal proceedings of you al Anychtyr are all a farce. You know as well as I that there is no law in Calimshan but for the word of whichever pasha holds the power."

   "There is a higher law," said Hakam, "and a strict cultural order is better than the alternative."

   "Yes," said Konal, "there is a higher law, and it shows this entire Caliphate is corrupt, is guilty. Do you not think that it is time for the purification of Calimshan? starting with the Syl-Pasha and working down the ranks until all of the chaff is burned away?"

   "To speak against the Syl-Pasha is traitorous," said Hakam.

   "Do you think that he came to power lawfully? The man is a murderer and a crime lord. How many sons does he have as puppet rulers in every city? A corrupt leader is no leader at all!"

   "Take no offense, but I did not disturb you to discuss politics or theology," said Hakam. "What do I owe you for this copper fork?"

   "You owe me nothing but to consider my words," said Konal. "Calimshan will one day pay for its sins."

   "I shall consider them," answered Hakam, "and I thank you for this gift. Shall I find my own way out?"

   "You will probably want one of these also, before you leave," said Konal. This time he reached over and handed the item to Hakam rather than tossing it. It was another fork, made of a cold metal. "This one is steel. You will need it if you ever wish to return to the Material Plane."

   Hakam thanked the Eternal Flame again and then departed from this very strange encounter. He returned to the western gate of the city and departed, then walked north over the fields to the banks of the Agis, where he had left the rowboat.

~~~~

Szordrin and Solisar carefully walked through the museum of the brass dragon Sseth. Sseth, after talking to them both about happenings in the world for several hours in the the extradimensional space, had been happy to let them explore his library and "hall of historic artifacts." Having returned to the foyer with the nine Calishite columns, they stepped into a massive, high-ceiling hall that was large enough to be a noble's ballroom. Polished stone steps led to the floor of this large hall and also to a raised walkway large enough for a dragon to stroll that curved around the eastern wall. This wall was filled entirely with an enormous bookshelf. Strangely, the books themselves were sparse — no book was adjacent to another — and all of them were lying on their back covers. Solisar supposed that this was because it would be difficult for the dragon to remove one of the human-sized books from the shelves if they were packed together.

   Looking at the books, they did not seem to be tomes of magic or great historical epics; they seemed primarily to be popular works from different times. For example, there were several tourists' guidebooks to places that no longer existed, such as Jhaamdath, Valashar, or Meiritin, and a few copies of Instructions on Operating a Crossbow: A Guide for the Qysar's Soldiers and a few more of How to Dance Like a Jhasina: A Primer for Housewives. Mixed among these were several personal journals of persons of little to no historical significance. Sseth's library was the sort of place a historian of Calimshan would come to do primary research but not a place where a non-historian would come to learn.

   On the far side of the main chamber was another wide hall, the sides of which had on display many artifacts of long ago on marble podiums. These too were neither magical nor hugely significant artifacts in their own right; the hall was full rather of pots and pans, furniture, and everyday items.

   Szordrin, who had hoped to find information on the Rock of Bral was disappointed, but Solisar enjoyed seeing tools of human civilization from — in some cases — thousands of years ago.

~~~~

   "We have returned!"

   "That is Hakam," said Solisar. "Hopefully he bears a tuning fork."

   It was the next morning, and Solisar and Szordrin, who had spent the night at Sseth's home, were once again conversing with him. In actuallity, Solisar and Sseth were the ones conversing — about languages — and Szordrin was studying his spellbook.

   Sseth poked his head out of the extradimensional space. "Were you successful, Hakam yn Hamdulah yn Hamdulah yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr yi Memnon? I must add that I do enjoy saying your name; it has a delightful rhythym to it as it rolls from patronym to theonym to toponym."

   "Yes, I was successful," answered the cleric. "I just completed my prayers to Anachtyr, and I am prepared. Whenever you are ready, I can send you to the Plane of Fire."

   "I am so excited!" said the dragon. "Is it obvious? I believe that I am ready. I wish that I could take along a book to read, but I do not think the pages will survive the environment. Give me room to hop down."

   Hakam and the others with him stepped back into the passage. The brass dragon then dropped out of the extradimensional space and landed on the cavern floor, shaking the ground.

   "Oh, already I feel the power of the curse," he said. "Send me quickly, if you can."

   "Do you know the name of any places there?"

   "Send me anywhere except the City of Brass, if you can control that," said Sseth.

   "I shall try." Hakam struck the forked copper rod against the wall and it began to ring.

   "Ah, a perfect A," said the dragon, "my favorite note." Sseth began humming the same note two octaves deeper.

   "Anachtyr send you to the Plane of Fire!" Hakam spoke boldly, waving his hands in a wide circle. Then he touched the dragon's thick-scaled arm, and just like that, Sseth was gone. The tuning fork instantly stopped sounding.

   "It looks like it worked," said Leokas.

   "Give me several minutes, and I can confirm that," said Hakam. He began praying silently while holding his holy symbol.

   Ten minutes later, he was ready to send Sseth a message. "Have you arrived safely? Please inform us of your status."

   "Yes, I have arrived in one piece. I appeared, quite fortuitously, atop a floating chunk of rock in a river of flowing magma and rode...," came Sseth's happy voice in Hakam's mind.

   "Sseth is healthy and safe," he told the others.
Session: 94th Game Session - Wednesday, Aug 30 2017 from 11:30 PM to 2:30 AM
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Chapter 5 — Brass Dragon's Lair
~ fifth-day, 5th of Hammer, The Year of Rogue Dragons, afternoon
Teshyllal Wastes


"I lair within a rocky pillar with four spires of varying heights. All true entrances face the east, so that the sun will warm the...."

   Hakam had just sent a magical message to the brass dragon Sseth for clearer details on how to find his lair. He shared it with the others. They were sailing in the sky due "east from the fifth minaret south of the place where one turns off to follow the stones to the" Friary of St. Amahl, as Sseth's directions the morning before had told them. It was over a hundred miles of sand from Teshburl to the Teshyllal Wastes of the Calim Desert. They had been flying for eight hours since morning, first north to where they spotted the monastery they had once visited, then south, and then east. Leokas was at the helm. The dragon had told them to go twenty miles from the minaret. They had about five miles left to go.

   Sseth's directions the day before were so straightforward, relatively speaking, that Szordrin was worried. "Ask him if he is being coerced?" the tiefling had said. He had had Hakam send a second message with a secret response to indicate if he was in any danger. The dragon had not returned the "secret word", but he did not indicate that all was well either. "I must warn you. I am not feeling well these days. I have awful headaches, and I want to eat everything. Do not bring Kamil!"

   The rest of that day had been spent buying and selling and in dealing with Oma's father. Kanar "the Ox" el Ehrat had sent Hakam a message by delivery boy early in the morning.

Hakam, Atiq will meet with you at highsun at the Roving Rune. Use the inn entrance, not the tavern entrance. I recommend coming in disguise. The others should stay on the ship until matters are resolved. Oadif has connections with el Amlakkar and will convince them that waiting to arrest you until you try to leave may give them more time to catch you in other criminal activities. I presume that your party has no intention of partaking in any actual criminal activities and trust that you will not correct this understanding of mine.

Hakam had complained about the disguise, but Szordrin had given him a beard and made him look older by graying his hair.

   The meeting with Atiq el Catahras had gone surprisingly well. "Why did she not tell her mother and me that she did not want to marry Hakamir?" the man had said. "If she had only spoken up instead of run off...." Atiq promised to drop the bounty immediately if Hakam would promise to deliver a letter to his daughter when next he saw her. Hakamir el Wisynn would be furious, but if Atiq cancelled the engagement, the man would no longer be able to keep his own bounty.

   They were still advised to lie low, just in case, so Leokas and Hakam did not leave the ship after that, as those two in particular might be recognized. Belvin, instead, had sold the camels and purchased food and water; Szordrin had sold the gems and the cursed cloak; and Solisar had purchased pearls for his magic and two hammocks, rope and pulleys, oars, and two rowboats for the spelljammer.

   After a second night berthed in Teshburl, to get safely out of the port, they had had to hire a pilot and sailors to take the ship a mile from the docks. Then they rowed the men back to shore.

   That had all been this morning. Belvin was now scanning the land ahead of them from the foredeck. They were only sailing about a half mile over the sand, but even at such a low flying altitude, the horizon was about 60 miles away. The problem was not in any way distance but recognition; there were many sandstone pillars ahead of them.

   Belvin pointed. "That structure, a bit to the north has three spires, each at a different height, but suppose there is a fourth on the east side that is lower, which we cannot yet see?"

   "How far away is that?"

   "I suspect about three or four miles. Leokas would be a far better judge."

   They sent word down to Leokas to adjust their course a small amount to the north. In about fifteen minutes, they had passed to the eastern side, and sure enough, there was a fourth, short spire on that side. As Leokas carefully lowered the vessel to the sand below them, Hakam began another sending prayer: "We believe that we have arrived. There seem to be no cave entrances on the eastern side. Will you come out to meet us?"

   "I do not want to come outside, dear friends. Find one of my sand-covered bolt holes. Follow the tunnels up to the center of the pillar."

   "What is a 'bolt hole'?" asked Szordrin, after Hakam had shared the message. The cleric did not know.

   "It is a place where a small animal like a rabbit hides," said Belvin. "It means that we are going to have to dig." He seemed excited by this prospect.

   "If Leokas takes us closer to the pillars," suggested Szordrin, "I can use this wire to communicate with him."

   "Unless he is standing near a cave opening," said Solisar, "such magics will not penetrate the stone. We have little choice but to find the entrance ourselves."

   So Leokas took the ship down to within a half dozen yards above the sand. Kytharrah then lowered everyone, except Ilthian and Leokas, down to the ground in one of the rowboats, using the pulley and winches that they had recently purchased. He followed after them down the rope. Belvin transformed into a large badger and began digging and sniffing at the base of the massive sandstone formation, and Szordrin sent Ferry, his weasel, to do the same. In the meantime, Solisar used his magic to fly about the pillars, scanning them for any magical auras.

   Tymora smiled upon them, and it was not long before Ferry scurried up Szordrin's leg to squeak into his ear. "Ferry has found an opening that leads much deeper," the wizard shared. Belvin continued digging at the site, and soon enough, he had dug out an opening large enough for them all to crawl through. He then shifted back into his elven form and began to get dressed again.

   "You are not coming with us?" Hakam asked, when Belvin began to climb the rope to the deck of their ship.

   "I stay with Kamil, of course," said Belvin. "Especially since Sseth threatened to eat him! I shall replace Leokas at the helm and take the ship into wildspace. I shall return to retrieve all of you in an hour."

   "Before you go, can you at least use your magic to check for any natural traps in this tunnel?" asked Solisar. "Dragons often leave traps to protect their lairs."

   Belvin did so, but the way ahead was clear of any pits or snares, at least for the first 150 feet of the tunnel. So he and Leokas traded places, and the latter elf joined them. After the initial crawl through the sliding sand, they entered a sturdy, stone tunnel with walls from ten to twenty feet in width. At first the tunnel curved around to the north where it reached an intersection. To the left, west, the tunnel was plugged with sand — likely another bolt hole. This left two other paths, straight ahead and to the right, for them to pick.

   Kytharrah inhaled deeply through his nose. "Bad eggs!"

   "He must smell the sulfur from the dragon's breath," said Solisar. "Which way, Kytharrah?"

   "This way!" Kytharrah said, grinning and starting down the right path. The minotaur had his everburning torch in hand, while Hakam's shield was magically glowing.

   Ten yards farther, they reached a dead end.

   "Good job, Lunk," said Szordrin, sarcastically.

   "No, he chose correctly," said Leokas. "It is not a dead end; we have to climb." The elf motioned up. The ceiling of the passage was gaining significant height above them now, and 20 feet up, there was an opening in the wall in front of them.

   Kytharrah jumped up, grabbed onto the ledge and lifted himself up. Then he cast down his rope and helped pull the others up one by one — except for Leokas, who climbed. It would have been an easy hop for a dragon the size of Sseth.

   They continued onward, east into the heart of the desert rock formation. After 100 feet, the path turned sharply north, but Kytharrah shook his head. "No, up again." He jumped and pulled himself up, vanishing again in the darkness. Like before they climbed up after him.

   This higher passage continued roughly east, though it curved around in an ess shape to do so. By now, the ceiling was a full 50 feet above their heads, and the width of the tunnel was 20 feet. Then they came to the first of a line of nine columns. From here, the wall to the right was smooth and clearly had been carved. The ceiling, supported by the columns was not the natural ceiling any longer either, but the walls to the left were still natural. The passage widened considerably from here with a large opening farther ahead to the left.

   Solisar and Hakam examined the first column. "Calishite design," said Hakam.

   "Yet the carvings are Iokharic," said Solisar, "that is, Draconic runes."

   "Do I smell minotaur?" A deep voice echoed through the cavern, startling all of them.

   "Hello?" answered Kytharrah.

   "The minotaur is with me," Hakam called back, "with Hakam. We are coming to you."

   There was no further answer, but they advanced nonetheless. Passing the large opening to their left, they saw that there were wide steps descending into a massive chamber, but the dragon's voice had come from in front of them, where the tunnel became natural again and curved to the south. Szordrin went to the left to investigate further, but the rest continued on. They followed it and came to yet another wall with an opening up above. They waited for Kytharrah to leap up again, but he was looking down.

   "Shiny bottle!" The minotaur picked up a black bottle. It was polished pottery with a steel stopper.

   Solisar muttered some arcane syllables and then said, "It is magical, a conjuration aura."

   "It is Allu's bottle," said Hakam. "I recognize it."

   Leokas nodded and then began climbing. "Come," he said, "let us meet with the dragon."

   After they all were at the top, including Szordrin, who had returned from scouting, Hakam led the way down the twisting tunnel, which led them through a ten-foot opening into a huge chamber that was roughly square. There before them lay the dragon, resting on a large bed of coins.

   Even those who had seen Sseth before were wowed by the immense size of him. He was at least 60 feet from tail to serpent-like snout. It was impossible to estimate his wingspan at the moment, as his wings were folded close to his body. The dragon's head had the unique curved, bony frill of all brass dragons. Oddly, Sseth's huge eyes were closed. His head was resting on the ground and he covered his ear holes with his two foreclaws, as if he were trying to quench a very loud noise.

   "We thank you for returning the bottle to us, good dragon," said Hakam. "You seem unwell."

   Sseth opened one of his glowing, white eyes. "I have not been outside for many days," the dragon said, ignoring Hakam's comments. "Is there, by chance, a red comet in the sky?"

   "No," said Leokas. "There are no comets in the sky now. I am certain."

   Solisar was the only one of them who understood what the dragon was really asking. "The King-Killer Star can affect dragons even when not visible," he said.

   Sseth opened his second eye, but did not yet raise his head from the ground. "You are a sun elf," he stated simply.

   "Axun, ya vaecaesin aurix," said Solisar. "Arominak Solisar. Rasvim ekess wux."

   "Rasvim ekess wux, shar thric vethirasvim," answered the dragon. "Arominak Sseth. I apologize for my present condition. Were I myself, I would ask to hear your stories, old and new, but I suggest that none of you come any closer, tiny creatures as you are, to a grumpy, old dragon." Sseth at last lifted his massive head from the ground, exposing his two chin horns. "Where is Belvin? Where is Mythlos?"

   "Mythlos is somewhere near the High Forest," explained Hakam, "seeking further training from the elves. Since we last saw you, he has learned the power of his ancestral sword. Belvin could not come see you in person, but he regrets this and sends his greeting."

   "No play?" said Kytharrah.

   "Not today, little brother," said the dragon.

   The others expected Kytharrah to react to being called little, but the minotaur could not object to being called such by a being weighing over ten tons.

   "And what are you?" Sseth now looked at Szordrin and sniffed. "I smell fiendish blood."

   "He is a tiefling," answered Hakam, "but he is not evil."

   "Which is not to say that he is to be trusted," said Sseth, lowering his head to the ground again.

   "We do not trust him much either," said Hakam, "but he is useful to us."

   "I am Szordrin," said the tiefling, "but I must go back to your early question about comets. What is this 'King-Killer Star'? Does it have anything to do with the fact that it is now the Year of Rogue Dragons?"

   In answer, Sseth simply closed his eyes, as if drifting off to sleep.

   "It is certainly possible that a major dracorage would be the fulfillment of one of Alaundo's prophecies," answered Solisar. "However, the last full rage of dragons was in the Year of the Dracorage, which is numbered 1018 in the Dalereckoning. A minor rage, a flight of dragons, which occur when the King-Killer Star does not pass as closely to Toril, affected only the Moonsea and the kingdom of Cormyr in the Year of the Worm, which was only very recently, seventeen years ago, two years before the Time of Troubles. I do not have the cosmological path of the comet memorized, but the King-Killer Star could not possibly have returned to Toril in only seventeen years! Its orbit takes centuries. If this is another 'rage', it could not be caused by the comet.

   "Good dragon, were you alive in the Year of the Dracorage?"

   Sseth wobbled his head. "I have only heard tales from elder dragons of the curse," he said.

   "The curse should only last a tenday at most," said Solisar. "How long have you been feeling... ill?"

   "About half that time," said the dragon.

   "Curse? Comet? I am still confused," said Hakam.

   Solisar sighed as if embarrassed. "One of the unfortunate acts in ancient history for which my people are responsible is the creation of the Dracorage Mythal, an enormous magical effect covering all of Faerûn that is tied to the appearance of one of this crystal sphere's two largest comets. During the Time of Dragons, some 20 to 30 millennia ago, they created the mythal to curse all dragonkind anytime that the comet appeared in the sky. The dragons had recently made a truce with the giants of Ostoria, which meant that the dragons now turned toward the annihilation of the elven peoples instead. The mythal was created to cause all dragons of Faerûn to slowly drift into madness and fight among themselves. This prevented the dragons from ever unifying enough to destroy the elves or establish an empire and rule all the other free peoples of Toril. Were it not for the dracorages, our humanoid peoples would likely not exist on Toril today. On the other hand, the curse of the mythal effects noble dragons as well as evil ones, and since the population of dragons has diminished on this world, the dragons are less likely to fight among themselves and more likely to rage against other surface creatures. In my opinion, the choice to create the mythal has caused more evil to this world than good." Solisar turned to the dragon and offered a heartfelt apology in the Draconic tongue for his ancestor's actions.

   "Thank you for your apology," Sseth answered in Common. "You are innocent in the matter. Nevertheless, comet or no, I am afflicted. You have your bottle. You would be wise to leave."

   "Saer dragon," said Szordrin, in as polite a voice as he could muster, "I could not help but notice that you have a truly grand library with a vast collection of books. Might you permit us to explore its volumes?"

   "No!" The dragon's head lifted off the ground again as his voice boomed. Kytharrah was not the only one who could smell the stench of sulfur in the chamber. "No," he repeated, in a more typical calm voice. "You must understand that to a brass dragon, knowledge is treasure."

   "Perhaps it would be wise for us to leave," said Solisar. "We have the bottle. We cannot do anything to help him now. We can look into how we might help him and then return."

   "Before we leave," said Hakam to Sseth, "if I may be so bold, I was hoping that you might be able to tell us more about the skeletons that you saw marching toward Allu's palace."

   "It was a small army," said the dragon, "humanoid and minotaur skeletons, a force resurrected from Calim's own army. If they were indeed marching on the lair of the efreeti, they would have arrived by now."

   "What of the blue dragon?" asked Hakam. "Would they not have to face her if they entered her territory?"

   "If this is a dracorage curse, it would affect her more strongly than me, since she is already evil at heart. Perhaps she is raging elsewhere in Calimshan."

   This triggered an idea in Solisar's mind. "Noble dragon, in the history of your kind, how do the good dragons usually respond to the ten days of the rage?"

   "They leave Toril," said Sseth. "Or they hide away in their lairs and entrap themselves until it passes, as I am doing."

   "This cannot be a normal rage," said Solisar. "Something else is going on. There is no guarantee that this will cease by the end of the tenday. Is there a way for you to leave Toril?"

   "I would need to find a tuning fork to an appropriate plane," said Hakam, "but my god could shift you elsewhere. Where would you be most content?"

   Sseth perked up his head, looking mildly happy for the first time during this visit. "I have always wanted to visit the Plane of Fire," said Sseth. "I hear that the swimming is most pleasant there."

   "Szordrin, do you have your rope spell prepared?" asked Solisar.

   The other wizard nodded.

   "Sseth," said Solisar, "Szordrin and I can grant you at least 24 hours of relief from the curse, if it is indeed caused by the mythal, by creating an extradimensional space for you, here in your lair. We can then seek out a tuning fork and return. Then Hakam can send you to the Plane of Fire. Would this please you? Szordrin, show him."

   Szordrin removed the required twisted loop of parchment and some powdered corn from his component pouch as the dragon's white orb of an eye faced him, watching his every move. The tiefling spoke the words of the spell while reaching for the rope about his shoulder. The corn extract and the tiny loop vanished from one hand, while the rope launched out of his other to hang from nothing.

   The dragon stood up unto his four limbs, coins falling from between his scales, and moved over to the rope in two enormous steps. They all backed away from him into the passage. Sseth looked up, and then, with a feline-like pounce, shot straight into the air and vanished.

   Several minutes passed with no sign of the dragon.

   "Did it work?" asked Szordrin. "Should one of us climb the rope and check on him?"

   Then the dragon's fifteen-foot neck shot out of the invisible hole above them. "Have you ever tried flying in an extradimensional space?" asked the dragon, voice full of excitement. "It is the most freeing feeling! You really must try it. Delightful! Good for the soul!"

   "I shall try it next time," said Solisar.

   "Now play?" said Kytharrah, sensing that the dragon was now less grumpy.

   In answer, more of the dragon's bulk emerged from the hole, and his neck snapped out. Before any of them could respond, Sseth's jaws had clamped around one of Kytharrah's horns. The dragon pulled himself back up, lifting the 700-pound minotaur off his feet and into the air. Then, both dragon and minotaur disappeared into the extradimensional space.

   The others looked around, not sure how to respond.

   "Do good dragons eat minotaurs?" asked Szordrin.

   Leokas went to the rope. "I shall check on him."

   Leokas' head emerged into the infinite whiteness at the top of the rope. The dragon was there before him, sitting like a dog and looking out into the distance. There was no sign of the minotaur.

   "What did you do, Sseth?" Leokas demanded.

   "I tossed him," said the dragon. "Ah, here he comes again!"

   Kytharrah was now visible, running toward them at his magically enhanced speed, horns down in a full-out charge. The dragon took a defensive stance and lowered his head. The minotaur slammed into the dragon's skull plate with a loud thud and then fell back on his rump. Using his head like he was shoveling sand, Sseth then scooped up the minotaur, and with a snap of his neck, launched the friendly beast into the air. Kytharrah was laughing in enjoyment, as he traveled out of Leokas' sight into the white emptiness.

   Sseth turned back toward Leokas. "Do not worry, my little elven friend. An extradimensional place like this often has subjective directional gravity and is spacially morphic and self-contained. He will be back.

   "So, tell me of all your adventures. Whatever happened to that nice lady who smelled like djinn?"
Session: 94th Game Session - Wednesday, Aug 30 2017 from 11:30 PM to 2:30 AM
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Page 12
Something happened. I do not understand, but I can no longer make things jump. Solisar thinks that the goddess of magic has taken away my power. I do not think that that is fair. Hakam says that my people, the forokell, must not be aloud to use magic. Why are the gods not fair?
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Tags: interlude , Recap
Interlude: The Regent of Jhothûn
~ fifth-day, 25th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, evening
miles above Toril


"He will allow us to use the portals as we will, and we may request our wishes through magical sendings."

   Hakam was filling in the details of their visit to Jhothûn to the others. Tavis and Kaedlaw had remained behind and the genie and Tavis were to discuss what the throne's revelation meant for the boy, for Hartsvale, for Jhothûn, and for all of giantkind.

   "My geas has been fulfilled, and our exile is over," said Leokas.

   "We await word from Tavis, as we may need to fly him home, but after that, we can go anywhere we would like," said Hakam. "The question is, where next?"

   "With this vessel," said Szordrin, "nothing prevents us from flying to the Rock of Bral and tracking down the Interlink Consortium. All our destinies are intertwined with that one rock. Only if we know where Samber has been in the past will we be able to know what he is truly up to. And where better to inquire than Bral?"

   "I agree that we should visit Bral eventually," said Leokas, "but I think that we need more information first."

   "I am inclined to agree with Leokas on this," said Solisar. "I admit that I know very little of the place."

   "Teshburl, then?" said Szordrin. "We can follow leads on Walker, who we know had dealings with Samber."

   "Or we could rendezvous with Jayce at Lantan," said Hakam, "since he seems to be making progress with his investigation into Samber's background. Plus, Ombert, The Daisy's captain may be able to use the stars to guide us all back to Samber's island so that we can return Ilthian to her family."

   "We also told Mythlos, Cassiera, and my mother that we would meet them again at Mythlos' keep in Tethyr," said Leokas.

   "This is perhaps lower priority," said Solisar, "but a visit to Evermeet would permit me speak with my grandmother about what I learned about Iyraclea while on the Great Glacier."

   "You intend to stay with us, then," asked Leokas, "now that you have the option of leaving?"

   "I am greatly intrigued by the matter of Samber," said Solisar, "perhaps more now than ever...."

   "And you, Belvin?" asked Hakam, "Has your jungle god given you more visions?"

   Belvin shrugged. "I shall decide where Kamil and I are to travel when I need to."

   "One thing that I have wanted to do since Thultanthar," said Hakam, "is return to Sseth and retrieve Allu's genie bottle. I warrant that we are prepared to speak with the efreeti now and question him about how he obtained Samber's omlar gem. I think that I shall send Sseth a message in the morning."

   "I am against the idea of going to Allu's palace," said Szordrin. "Both Allu and the blue dragon could potentially be there."

   "Fair enough. I agree that Walker is probably as good a source about Samber right now as is Allu," said Hakam.

   "I also wish to return to Silverymoon, before heading to Teshburl," said Szordrin. "We have many things to sell, and from your descriptions, it sounds like there is much we could purchase."

   "I agree," said Leokas. "We are out of provisions. We can probably ask the genie here for a day's food, but genie-created food lasts no longer than that. Our new vessel could also use some ballista bolts."

   "Some furnishings would also be appreciated," said Hakam.

   "...And some sailing implements," added Solisar.

   "Well, then there is the matter of what to wish for...," Hakam began.

   This second discussion took them nearly an hour, and they arrived at no full consensus, though they were leaning toward some way of protecting the spelljammer. Ultimately, they decided to sleep on the decision.

~~~~

Just after dawn of the next day, Hakam woke the others. "I sent a message to our brass dragon friend about meeting up with him sometime in the future to retrieve Allu's bottle. I had to waste two sending spells to get a response, but he rambled something off about 'skeletons swarming toward Allu's palace from... the Altar...' of the Air. At least I assume that he meant the Altar of the Air; he did not get all the words out."

   "That may change my vote," said Leokas. "We should visit with Sseth in person and learn more."

   "I agree," said Szordrin, "but we should still stop at Silverymoon and Teshburl on the way."

~~~~

Several hours later, each of them were scattered about the spelljammer, resting and waiting. Ilthian and Solisar were in Ilthian's room, writing out math problems to solve how long the spelljammer's magical bubble of air would last before they would need to return to the surface to replenish it.

   Suddenly, Belvin leapt to his feet from beside Kamil. He had spotted a cloud of vapor coming over the railing. "The Ice Queen!" he shouted to the others, and then he began chanting. An instant later, a column of fire appeared, striking the growing cloud at its center.

   The cloud took shape, as the others rushed over. No sooner had a thick hand formed from the gases then a ray of frost and ice shot forth from the fingers, covering Belvin's skin with white.

   Calm yourselves, they all heard in their heads. It was the qorrashi's voice. I have been sent by the Regent of Emperor Kaedlaw to summon you.

   Belvin wiped the frost from his face and shivered. He was very cold but otherwise not harmed. If the ice genie was injured, he did not show any sign of it.

   "How did you find us?" asked Leokas as Solisar arrived onto the deck to see what the commotion was about.

   I am no longer bound by oath not to leave the palace, said the Prince of Jhothûn. As a genie, I need not air for flight. I suspected that you would be somewhere up, and it is not difficult to spot a sailing craft in the heavens if you rise high enough.

   "I assume that by 'Regent' you mean Tavis?" asked Hakam.

   No, said the genie, I did not. Though the emperor's father may wish to speak with you as well. Do not keep the Regent waiting. If you join hands with mine, I can take you there immediately through the Astral Plane. However, I warn you that the touch of my skin is painful to most mere mortals such as yourselves.

   "Anachtyr, protect me from the elements," Hakam prayed. Then he said to the qorrashi, "I shall take your hand."

   Kytharrah rushed up excitedly and grabbed the genie's left hand. "Very cold!" he said, as the frost nipped his fingers, but he wore a toothy grin on his face. Hakam took the genie's right hand and grimaced at the cold, which was painful despite his prayer.

   I can carry several others through as well, if more of you wish to come. Simply join hands with your companions. Solisar joined with Hakam and Kytharrah, since he hoped to see more of such a historical site as Jhothûn, and Szordrin did as well.

   They all felt a strange and momentary sensation, then found themselves standing in the throne room of Jhothûn. There, leaning against one of the pillars, was Tavis, who was restringing his massive bow. Nearby, the throne of ice and stone was empty, but beside it was a larger obsidian throne of simpler design. Sitting upon it, was the misshapen form of Basil of Lyndusfarne.

   "Am du paart, Solisar of Evermeet!" said the old verbeeg.

   "Am du paart, Regent of Jhothûn!" the sun elf replied.

   "I trust that you have been well this last month or so?"

   "Ignoring the fact that I was stabbed to death by a lamia noble, yes."

   "Annam's juveler!" said Basil.

   "My god returned my powers, and I called him back to the living," said Hakam.

   "Clearly, we have much to talk about, friends," said Basil, as if he knew all of them, though in reality he had only ever talked to Solisar before.

   They learned that Kaedlaw had already returned home to his mother, by the power of the wish. Tavis would be returning home soon in the same manner, but he had wanted to thank the members of the party and say goodbye before departing.

   Brianna and Tavis had spoken with the Prince of Jhothûn at great length, and it had been decided that Basil would reign as regent until Kaedlaw came of age. This would require a long time spent in near solitude for the verbeeg, but at the moment, the idea of exploring the four floors of the citadel excited him more than any concerns of loneliness. Besides, the powers of the genie could wish friends back and forth from Hartsvale three times a day if needed.

   As for Queen Brianna and Tavis, they had much to consider in regards to what to do with the fact that their son was the future ruler of not only the tiny kingdom of Hartsvale but perhaps of all the giant tribes of Faerûn! For now, they intended to wait and seek out advice from what giant and giant-kin allies they had. They suspected that most giants would not accept the news readily. At least they had many years for Kaedlaw to grow up.

   In regards to the portal, they had decided to leave the delusional orc druid on the Sea of Moving Ice and the ice devil Tosvin as portal guardians of Karffbadh and Gharreil, respectively. They would serve as first line of defense for the hidden citadel. Now that the qorrashi was no longer bound by oath to the palace, he could pass through the portals, or indeed go anywhere he needed, to also defend the secret. For the portal at Choshein, Brianna had sent Hrodmar, the frost giant guard of Earls Bridge, to serve as guardian. (Hrodmar was happy to give Kytharrah one last wrestling match.)

   The genie provided them with another luscious meal and also with temporary provisions that would last them on the journey to Silverymoon, where they planned to first stop to resupply.

   Solisar sat next to Basil while they ate and told him some of the details of his brief visit to the Fugue Plane. Then the conversation turned to what Basil had learned so far of Jhothûn.

   "Iseheim, I mean Jhothûn, contains no books that have survived the ages," said Basil, "but the genie here revealed to me that there are ancient crypts below. I expect to spend a good deal of my time there examining what friezes I may find. I believe that the base of little Kaedlaw's throne shows the handiwork of stone giants, and I would not be surprised to find more gifts of theirs from the earliest days of Ostoria in those crypts. The steinjotunen were the only true record-keepers of the Jotunbrud. Surely, you will want to stay and explore them with me?"

   "Believe me when I tell you that I would like nothing more," said Solisar. "What scholar of the Jotunbrud would not? However, I seem tied into something greater — or at the least, more urgent — taking place perhaps among the human gods. My companions have been exiled now many months, which has kept them from their true quest, and I am now a part of it. As they are at last free from exile, they are anxious to set out again. May I kindly request a postponement?"

   "Of course!" said Basil. "Remember, I am a verbeeg; what is mine is yours."

   "He means to say, 'What is yours is his,'" said Tavis.

   "Basil, I must warn you of something," said Solisar. "The guardian of the portal at Gharreil is an evil entity who serves a powerful priestess of the human goddess of winter. She is perhaps immortal, so great is her magic. I know not yet the full extent of her plans, but she lusts after the treasures hidden in this city. I do not know how her magics compare to those of the genie who now serves you, but be aware of the matter, and use caution."

   "I thank you for this," said Basil.

   After the dinner, they said goodbye to their friends. "Tell Leokas that I enjoyed the challenge of shooting archery with him and learning of the beasts of the High Forest," said Tavis to Hakam. "I shall remember him if ever I nock an arrow against a goblin."

   Tavis then gave Kytharrah a large bear hug, and lifted the minotaur off his feet. This surprised Kytharrah, but he snorted happily.

   "Keep following the guiding light," said the firbolg.
Session: 92nd Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 19 2017 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Chapter 4 — Annam's Heir
~ fourth-day, 24th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
somewhere over the Silver Marches


There was a gentle knock on Ilthian's cabin door. She got up off her pile of blankets and opened it.

   "Good morning! It is time for your writing lesson."

   "Solisar! Hakam fixed you!" She jumped up and down with delight.

   "Yes, yes, he did," said Solisar, "though I feel weaker than I felt before."

   "Did he fix Kytharrah also?"

   "Indeed, he is above deck now, standing at the railing. We are on our way back to the ice genie, and then we will be able to go wherever we want."

~~~~

"We cannot fly the spelljammer directly to Choshein," said Leokas emphatically. "I absolutely will not permit it. Whoever has been scrying on us will see that we have traveled there and know the location."

   The party were gathered below deck, as the ship sailed through the sky on its own wind power. Tavis and Kaedlaw were eating a second breakfast, and Kytharrah and Ilthian were practicing writing.

   "Not if we keep Ilthian in her room," said Belvin. "All the scrier will see is the wooden walls of the cabin."

   "As long as the scrier does not switch to scrying on one of us," said Solisar. "As of earlier, when I visited her, the scrier was still focused on her and not any of us."

   "It is a risk that we have to take," said Hakam.

   "No," said Leokas, "I cannot permit such risks, not while under the influence of this geas."

   "What do you suggest then? That we abandon the spelljammer somewhere in the desert, leave Ilthian behind on the vessel, and ride our camels to Choshein with Tavis and Kaedlaw?"

   "We are not going to abandon Ilthian," said Solisar.

   "It was not a serious suggestion," said Hakam. "I have a duty to see that she returns to her home."

   "I am more concerned about someone stealing our spelljammer, wherever we chose to leave it," said Szordrin. "The fact of the matter is that Ilthian cannot go anywhere near the portal to Jhothûn anymore, and we cannot leave her alone, so we are going to have to split up. We were nearly defeated by a small band of lamia when most of us were present; if they or another band of Shadovar or a blue dragon spot a sailing vessel in the desert, it will attract attention."

   "I agree," said Hakam, "but the spelljammer is less likely to be stolen at the entrance of the cave to Choshein than if we leave it over the desert and some of us travel on camel. Leokas, if Ilthian stays in her cabin, the scrier will not even know whether or not we have stopped."

   "A ship of this size can be spotted for miles, especially from the air," said Leokas. "We could avoid detection of our approach to Choshein on foot easily enough, but even if we are safe from the scrier, while some of us travel to Jhothûn, many hours may pass with the ship drawing attention to our location. As Szordrin said, there are indeed blue dragons in this desert. It is a miracle none have tried to take us out of their skies yet."

   "While some of you go to visit the ice genie, I can take this vessel into the heavens," said Belvin, "into the Sea of Night. Is not that where it was designed to sail?"

   "He is right," said Solisar. "From Szordrin's and my investigations, I am convinced that the magic force surrounding this craft will give us air to breathe for the duration. No dragon can fly so high."

   "I can send Belvin a message to descend again and pick us up whenever the matter with the ice genie is resolved," said Hakam. "We will only need to have the ship anywhere near the entrance to Choshein for the brief time that it takes for those of us going to descend the rope to the ground. What say you, Leokas? Will the geas permit such a minor risk if ultimately it means that the emperor of Jhothûn has been found?"

   Leokas nodded.

   So this is what they did. For the rest of the day and into the night, first Leokas and then Szordrin piloted their flying vessel from the helm chair. Belvin remained at watch, scanning the skies for dragons or other dangers. They retraced the journey from Silverymoon up the river and to Fork Road and Ascore. By night, they flew over Ascore and Hlaungadath until they came to the edge of Anauroch's glacier. This they followed south-southeast until they came to a great corner in the wall of ice and began following it east-northeast. When daylight came, they were passing through a gap in a large north–south mountain range. From here, Leokas again took the helm, watching carefully with his extended senses the lay of the icy land as they headed north over the High Ice. When highsun came, they had at last arrived at the cave entrance to what was once a subterranean frost giant city.

   Leokas, Hakam, and Tavis and his son descended the rope to the ground, and the others waved them off as they entered the dark opening. Belvin then took the helm, as Solisar stood nearby.

   "Take us up," said Solisar.

   Belvin willed the ship to rise and continue rising. Solisar went quickly to the deck, where Kytharrah was standing at his usual spot on the railing. Szordrin was also present.

   "We are very high!" said the minotaur.

   "Yes," said Solisar, as indeed the ground grew farther and farther away, beginning to look less like land and more like a simple blur of white and yellow. "I have never been this high, and we are going much higher."

   "Why is the world bending?"

   "It is always round like a ball," answered the sun elf. "You only cannot tell because it is very big, and usually you are standing on it."

   "Is the sky getting darker?"

   "It is. We are entering the Sea of Night. We are flying into the always-nighttime where the stars live."

   "There they are! I see them!" The minotaur spun around pointing as the points of light became more and more visible as the blue sky faded away into the darkness of Realmspace. "I can still see the guiding light, even though it is night," said Kytharrah, pointing at the sun above them.

   "Ferry does not like this," said Szordrin. The camels seemed agitated as well.

   Belvin joined them on the deck. "High enough for you?"

   "I never knew that Toril would look so beautiful from up here," said Solisar. "Truly the Seldarine have blessed us to see such a sight."

~~~~


"One, two, three, step!"

   Leokas, Hakam, Tavis, and Kaedlaw found themselves under a gold-plated domed ceiling, painted with images of snowflakes and clouds. They were back in the Palace of the Emperors in Jhothûn.

   "Where are we, Papa?" asked Kaedlaw, who had had no experience of traveling through magical portals. "Where did the cave go?"

   "This may be our new summer home, Son," said Tavis. "Do you think that Mama will like it?" Tavis gazed around. "It is certainly more giant-sized than Castle Hartwick," he continued to no one in particular. "I will not have to worry about banging my head on things anymore."

   A cloud of bitter cold ascended from below until it was level with the wide, circular balcony on which the four visitors stood. The ice genie, the qorrashi, the last Prince of Jhothûn materialized before them.

   You have returned, my guardian. Have you completed your quest? Have you found the heir.

   "We believe that we have," answered Leokas.

   "We are certain that this young giant child has the blood of Annam's youngest son in his veins," said Hakam. "Whether the throne of ice and stone accepts him remains to be seen."

   [i]The blood of Arno and Julien?
Tavis cringed when he heard the genie's words in his head. Did I not explain to you that Ottar stood higher in the ordning than the ettin?

   "Yes," answered Hakam, "you did explain this, but you also told us of the prophesied last son of Annam, who had not yet been born, did you not? This boy here has the blood of both Arno and Julien and the prophesied final son. That final son was indeed born, far to the north in a little-known land of Hartsvale. The humans of that land called him Hartkiller, and his descendants still reign there to this day."

   "My wife," said Tavis, "the boy's mother, is a descendant of Hartkiller."

   "What manner of giant are you?" asked the Prince in Jotun.

   "I am a child of Othea and Ulutiu," said Tavis, bowing humbly. "I am a firbolg."

   The genie expressed confusion upon its frozen face. Does the boy have firbolg blood as well? No one with tainted blood could be the true heir. It is maug.

   "The story is indeed complicated and unpredictable," said Hakam. "You will not believe it if you hear it first. Withhold your judgment; permit us let the boy sit upon the chair, and then we shall tell you the strange plan that Annam has seemingly laid out. We also have learned the fate of Ottar, your liege."

   You discovered Ottar's fate?

   "He was betrayed and poisoned by Lanaxis," said Tavis. "I have seen his corpse with my own eyes."

   Lanaxis... did this?

   "We will tell everything," said Hakam. "May we go to the throne room? Our stories will matter not if the boy is not chosen."

   Come, said the genie. He floated down the large hall away from the portals, and they followed him. He led them to the end of the hall, where it intersected with a larger, window-filled one. They had come this way before, as it was the only way for non-flying creatures to descend to the lower levels of the palace. The qorrashi took them to the banquet hall where he had first told them of their quest. From there, they took a staircase and then another, down to the first floor of the palace. A short distance later, they entered a large rectangular chamber, supported by high narrow pillars.

   Here sat the "throne of ice and stone". It was large enough to seat a storm giant. The four feet of the throne were carved from rock and shaped like the skulls of white dragons. The rest of the chair looked to be carved from solid ice. The back of the chair appeared like thick icicles arranged side-by-side.

   Have the boy take a seat on the throne, said the Prince, but be ready to remove him should the chair reject him.

   "Go on, Kaedlaw," said Tavis. "Hop up in the chair."

   Kaedlaw went over to the throne. It was too large for him to be able to pull himself up onto it. Tavis came over and gave him a boost.

   As soon as his little — by giant standards — rump sat down on the square block of ice, the throne began to melt. Water pooled upon the floor, as the arm rests and icicle-back reduced in size. Within a few moments, the ice of the throne had shrunken down to fit Kaedlaw snugly, as if it had been carved to his size all along. Kaedlaw giggled. "The chair moves funny, Papa."

   "Is it cold?" asked Tavis.

   "No, just slippy."

   The genie floated over and circled the throne several times, examining it.

   "Stôllinn hefur validh." spoke the genie aloud. Then he translated for them in their minds. The chair has chosen. So Ottar's dynasty is ended, and this unexpected child is both Annam and Ottar's heir. Then the genie floated low to the ground as if bowing low and swore fealty and service to Kaedlaw in the tongues of giants.
Session: 91st Game Session - Wednesday, May 31 2017 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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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 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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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 Anachtyr, 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 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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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 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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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 sent 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 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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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 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 pharaoh'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 illusory wall behind them, five lamias were charging toward them.
Session: 89th Game Session - Wednesday, Apr 26 2017 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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