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Imago Deorum
Chapter 1 — A Dungeon and a Dragon
~ ninth-day, 19th of Hammer, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
Teshyllal Wastes

It was now the sixth day of their travels with Asref's caravan. Asref informed them that they were now in the Teshyllal Wastes. What was once a lush and productive land of farms providing for the city of Teshyll was now one of the most dangerous regions of the Calim Desert. Blue dragons were often spotted here, though Asref had never seen any (up close anyhow), in his three trips thus far. Asref had never seen or heard of the "brown dragon" they had fought the day before until it burst from the ground.

   Considering that grueling encounter with the brown dragon wyrmling yesterday, everyone was rather tense, expecting enormous monsters to erupt at their feet again at any moment. Because everyone else was looking down, only Belvin spotted a large shadow fly across the sun high above. It was definitely not a bird; it was too large and the shape had a long neck and tail. It soared overhead and disappeared in the horizon. He didn't tell anyone else what he had seen.

   Asref was now pushing them at a harder pace. He wanted them to make it to the ruins of Teshyll by the next night, where he said there would be springs. Their feet had certainly adapted to walking, but they were always thirsty.

   When the day grew too hot for walking, they once again set up camp under the shade and shelter of three magically-formed trees. This was most fortunate, because at noon, they were woken from trance or nap by Asref. "I've spotted another sandstorm," he said. "Tie everything down."

   The goods were tied down and a tarp wall was set up with the three magic trees as supports. The humans clustered behind its shelter. Then the storm hit. It was a stronger storm than the last they had experienced, but they managed. It lasted roughly an hour.

   Belvin looked up near the end of its passing and dared to open his eyes slightly. In the blowing cloud of dust, he thought he could make out the shape of a humanoid face wailing, before it dissipated into the cloud. This, too, he kept to himself.


Day seven came and went without an encounter with storm or beast. The thirst and heat, even in the so-called cooler hours, made it hard to think, so time seemed to pass quickly for everyone. They reached an area with many large boulders among the sand dunes. They did not recognize at first that these massive stones were clearly made by sentient beings, the remains of ancient walls. "Welcome to Teshyll," said Asref, "the city of decadence and hedonism of the Calim Empire." He then spit on the ground. "Somewhere amid these stones, we should be able to find a spring or well. Memnon's crackle hasn't destroyed the earth so much as to eliminate all of the water under the surface."

   It took three-quarters of an hour and multiple search teams to find a pool of water, but at last they did, and there they replenished their waterskins, quenched their thirst, and set up camp, just as the sun was setting.

   Since they only had a short distance to the Trade Way from here, Asref informed the adventurers that they had fulfilled their duties to him. They were welcome to head north to Memnon with the caravan, but if they wished to continue elsewhere, they would be on their own. "Pasha Faruk said you would protect us till the Trade Way. As far as I am concerned, you have more than earned your way to these ruins. It is only a few more hours to the Trade Way from here, where the syl-pasha's minarets will protect us from further harm."


For the first time in most of a tenday, the adventurers were able to sleep (or trance) until after sunrise, although they had few ideas of what to do in the morning. Belvin wanted to continue with the caravan, but the others wanted to see if they could find any evidence of the hobgoblins among the ruins.

   From his hammock tied between the remains of two pillars, Jayce rubbed his eyes and looked east toward the rising sun... and saw an enormous dragon lying on its back, wings outspread. Its scales reflected light and were colored like brass. It appeared to be sunning itself.

   Filled with no small amount of trepidation, he quietly lowered himself off his hammock and climbed down to the sand. He gathered up his courage and slowly approached. His bardic curiosity urged him forward. A dragon! What bard would pass up such an opportunity. All of the legends and tales of dragons that he knew would tell him that a dragon with metallic scales was good and noble. Still, the creature was enormous, with at least a 60-foot length from snout to the tip of its tail. "Why am I walking so slowly?" he thought to himself. "It can probably smell me already."

   It could. "Good morning, little man," said the dragon with a deep, pleasant male voice, without moving his head. His left eye opened, revealing a molten white orb.

   "Good morning," replied Jayce.

   The dragon turned his massive head to look toward Jayce with both of his white eyes. He had a unique, curved, bony frill and two dagger-like horns under his chin. He sniffed the air. "Hmm...," he said, taking the smell in. "You have copper hair and two-different colored eyes. What manner of human are you? Are you of the Lantanna? I will guess that you are of the Lantanna. Is that true? Why then do you smell so... familiar?"

   Jayce was taken aback. "Yes," he said, "you guess correctly. Of which smell do I remind you?"

   "I do not remember," said the dragon, somewhat distantly. "It will come to me some day." The huge creature pulled in his outstretched wings and rolled over onto his belly, throwing a cloud of sand. "How did you come to the continent?" he asked.

   "I came seeking a fortune and adventure, the usual tale."

   "Sometimes the usual tale is worth hearing several times," said the dragon. "But how did you end up in the middle of the desert? Surely that is not the usual tale!"

   "I made a poor decision and stole from one I should not have," said Jayce. "He sold me into slavery. I later gained my freedom and now am here."

   "Hmm.... Your story seems... to be missing chapters, I think." The dragon seemed to be frowning. Then he spotted the instrument on Jayce's back and his countenance changed. "Oh, is that a yarting? From Amn? Or is it a local version? You must be a bard then. You must sing me an epic tale. Tell me a Lantanese story." The dragon sat up much like a dog and put his foreclaws together in excitement. "I do love stories. Do you know any with those magical little gnomes in them? Do tell! I am all earholes!"

   So Jayce spun an epic tale about Lantan with a rainbow with a pot of gold at the end and a gnome, accompanied by his strumming. The dragon's eyes were closed as he listened, and his tail thumped in the sand keeping rhythm with Jayce's strumming, while his body swayed back and forth. Jayce thought he was smiling, or hoped so, as the dragon had a vast array of fangs that were now showing.

   Back at the camp, Vashti awoke and rolled out of her hammock. She heard faint music and spotted Jayce performing for the dragon. Concerned, she found Leokas and snapped him out of his trance. "Another dragon," she whispered. "Jayce is playing it a song."

   The two carefully approached as the tale was finishing. The dragon clapped his foreclaws together. "My thanks to you, little bard. That was mighty enjoyable and a new one to me as well. Now I see that you have two friends approaching." He sniffed deeply. "Good morning, forest elf. Good morning,... I am not sure what you are."

   "Uh, Vashti's human," said Jayce.

   "She looks Calishite, yes, but she does not smell Calishite. Perhaps it is one of your lady perfumes. Oh, I must tell you of the time I met an elven adventuress who wore the perfume of a halfling. She had me so confused! It was back in my younger days, when I was quite naïve and young...." So the dragon proceeded to tell his story, which took no less than ten minutes. They began to lose interest, but were cued that his tale had finished by his rumbling laughter at the end of it. "I assure you that I am much older and wiser now.... But here I now know one of your names, and a pretty name it is, but what of you and you? I presume you would prefer not to be called little elf and little man?"

   "I am Leokas Dusktracker."

   "And I am simply Jayce. May we ask your name?"

   "Well met, Leokas Dusktracker, Vashti, and Simply Jayce. My name is Sseth. Only Oghma knows why my mother gave me the same name as a Yuan-ti demigod, but at least it is easier for you little folk to pronounce than some other dragon names, such as Iryklathagra or Sapphiraktar. (Surely, Sapphiraktar's mother knew his siblings would shorten his name to what we call 'tree blood' in Common!) I know those names seem long compared to those in your language, but have you heard the names of genies? I once met a djinni whose name was 16-syllables long! Why does anyone need a name 16 syllables long? It's absurd."

   "The treants in my home forest also have exceptionally long names in their own tongue," said Leokas.

   "Are you from the High Forest?" asked Sseth, excitedly. "Oh, sit down and tell me more. Have you spoken with treants? Do you know any centaurs?"

   Realizing their conversation with Sseth was going to be a long one, they sat down in the sand. Leokas was queried by Sseth for a half hour on the trivia of High Forest and the fey who lived there.

   By now, Belvin (on Kamil) and Mythlos came out to the circle of conversants. Sseth guessed each of their races, asked their names, and expressed his usual delight at hearing all about their homelands of Tethyr and the Chondalwood. Another 30 minutes or so passed.

   Mythlos, as he was apt to do, pulled out his sword and showed it to the dragon. "A moonblade?" said Sseth. "I can see that it must be from the moonstone in the pommel and the fine craftsmanship in the hilt and blade. I have never seen one before; may I hold it?" He held out his large open claws. The claws themselves were frighteningly sharp and there was webbing between each finger much as the brown dragon's had. Mythlos laid the blade out, and Sseth lifted it up closer to his eyes. With that, Mythlos felt a sharp pain in his stomach and contorted slightly in response.

   "Oh, I am so sorry!" said Sseth, handing the sword back to him. "I had forgotten how tightly the swords are said to bind to their masters. How fascinating! How did you get one?" Another story was exchanged.

   "This has been such a pleasant morning of stories," said Sseth. By now it was getting hot. "I wish I had some breakfast to offer you, but I myself have only had cactus dew. It is so good to see you; I have not conversed with elves in a long while."

   "You do not see elves often?" queried Jayce.

   "There are not many elves remaining in these lands and haven't been for my whole life. Plus I do not get to leave the desert often. You see, we brass dragons do not share the magical ability of many of our cousins to polymorph into the forms of other creatures such as yourselves. I am not quite so powerful as the famed Eldenser, of whom you must have heard tale.... No? I must tell you then. Eldenser is one of the most powerful dragons of my race alive today. In his old age, which for a dragon is indeed most old, even for you elven folk, he developed, after years and years of deep study, a way to separate his soul from his body. He placed his soul into a magical sword and arranged for it to be found by an adventurer. He now travels around Toril in various blades, hopping from one to the other when he grows bored."

   Leokas said, "To clarify, are you saying that he polymorphed into a sword?"

   "No, no, his body is still living. It is an empty shell, protected somewhere in his hidden lair. You are correct though that many dragons have and use the ability to change the very layout of the material in their bodies to take on new forms. A very many of my distant dragon kin live among you disguised as humans or elves. Some even have children in those forms! But I am by no means that powerful. Alas, the only way I can experience your worlds is through your books. I am, one might say, a 'book wyrm'." The dragon laughed heartily at his own joke, which caused the ground to rumble.

   "You read books?" asked Jayce.

   "Yes, any books I can get my claws on, though I prefer works from ancient times — well, that is, books in any of the languages I can read."

   "Which languages do you read?"

   "Well, Draconic and Common of course, plus Alzhedo, Elven, Dwarven, Celestial, Auran, Ignan, and Aquan — in the order that I learned them. Have you ever heard Aquan spoken? It is so fun to speak...." Sseth began gurgling an example sentence and then proceeded to give examples and opinions on several of his languages over the next five minutes. Then, he abruptly changed topics; the adventurers almost missed that he was talking about them again.

   "I actually spotted all of you the other day as I was flying overhead. You were with a caravan — I assume as its mercenaries."

   "You assumed correctly."

   "But the caravan left this morning before I arrived for my morning sunbath. And you have ventured far across the desert to be abandoned, and you do not seem concerned about this."

   So Leokas explained their hobgoblin quest to Sseth. "You have not," he then asked, "seen a large group of hobgoblins?"

   "As a matter of fact," said Sseth, "I have. They are about two days ahead of you, traveling by night, heading west. They have crossed the Trade Way and are continuing west."

   This news filled Leokas with renewed hope. "How many were there?"

   "I did not count them, but I would say 15 to 20. I was quite confused as to their presence on the sands. I have not heard of such creatures making such a trip, unless slaves in a caravan. I did not stop them; hobgoblins do not tell good stories in my experience, nor do they like to talk much. Plus, their language is rather unpleasant to my earholes, and I do not like their smell. I just flew about on my business."

   "What is your 'business'?" asked Jayce, wishing he had a book to record everything he was learning about brass dragons.

   "Oh, that was just a figure of speech really. I have no employer or employees; I am 'my own dragon', you might say. I spend most of my time either enjoying the air or enjoying my museum and my books in my home."

   "Your museum?"

   "Yes. I have a large collection of relics and artifacts from ancient days, particularly treasures from the early ages of Calimshan, for this land is very old, and has been the realm of dragons, giants, elves, dwarves, genies, humans, and other fouler creatures."

   "What about other dragons? Do you not spend time with them? Are there many dragons in this desert?"

   "We dragons are very independent creatures. Usually, the older we get, the more we keep to ourselves. You fast-breeding folk would not understand. But yes, there are many dragons in this desert, mostly blue dragons. One must always be careful of blue dragons. I am a somewhat powerful creature of magic, it is true, but I must also admit that I am no match for a blue dragon my size."

   Leokas wanted to get the topic back on something related to their adventure. "Good dragon, might we be able to request your assistance in our quest? We have no means of tracking the hobgoblins further because of the constant storms and shifting sands."

   "Yes, it seems to me that you are in need of an airborne scout with 'the vision of a hawk', as you human folk say, although no hawk can see as far as a dragon, so it is a rather silly figure of speech, if I may say so, no offense to you. It should rather be 'vision of a dragon'. Why do you humans have so many figures of speech? I love to learn new ones."

   "So you can help us?"

   "Yes, yes, I think I would be willing to make a deal with you. About six months ago, Memnon's crackle uncovered a fallen tower among these ruins. Since I was a little wyrmling until now, I am certain that it has remained buried, for I was hatched near these ruins and used them as my playground."

   "How old are you, if it is not rude to ask?" said Jayce.

   "It is not rude to ask. I am a couple centuries old.

   "As I was saying, this tower was now uncovered. Upon studying it more carefully, I am convinced that it is the Harem Palace of Calim himself. Calim was a fickle genie, and he liked variety; the palace is said to have housed nearly 2,000 male and female, human and jann slaves and concubines. Can you believe it? 2,000! It seems to me that there are only so many possible ways.... But I am off-topic again. My apologies. Yes, yes, the architecture was impressive. It had 64 towers and multiple pools and gardens. Were it still standing today, it would surely be one of the wonders of Faerûn, if not all of Toril. I had thought that only wall fragments and pillars remained of anything from Teshyll, let alone this amazing palace, yet there it was! I suppose the magics needed to maintain its bizarre shape helped protect its stones after all these millennia. It has been open to the sun long enough for desert animals to take shelter but not long enough for it to have been raided by adventurers yet."

   "I suppose you want us to bring you back some gold," said Mythlos.

   "Gold coins make for a nice and comfy bed, but I am not in need of more bedding. What I really long for are ancient revelations of the past, objects that I can add to my museum collection or study. Would you be interested in seeing these ruins?"

   The adventurers looked around at each other and then nodded in confirmation. "Allow us to pack up our remaining things first," said Leokas.

   "I will be waiting here," answered the huge dragon.

   They returned with all of their gear and followed behind Sseth as he walked in front of them, talking to no one in particular about the weather or the number of skradda he counted yestermorning. He had a very feline gait, and they had to take care to avoid his swinging tail.

   Leokas picked up his pace to come beside Sseth. "Might I ask you a question?"

   "Yes, of course."

   Leokas described their strange adventure at el Yndhar oasis, particularly the ordeal with the little girl, Rabi. "Do you know what they might have been?"

   "Were I to guess, it sounds like they were jann. There are several tribes of jann still living in this desert, even after all these millennia. Obviously, they still fear revealing themselves to humans."

   Leokas fell back with the others. "He thinks the nomads were 'jann'. What are jann?"

   "Jann are a kind of genie," said Vashti.

   "No one mentioned jann at the enclave," said Jayce.

   "They are the weakest of genies," said Vashti, "and thus, they do not come into many tales. Unlike other genies, they embody all four elements. Because of this, they must dwell on the Material Plane, though they are not human. They can change their size and teleport and fly, for example, and are exceptionally strong."

   "Now it all makes sense," pondered Leokas.

   She nodded.

   "Here we are," said Sseth, after twenty minutes of walking. They stood at the top of a dune, looking down into a bowl-shaped valley. There below them was the top portion of a minaret, fallen on its side and extending into the sand. It had a large hole broken into the onion-shaped cap. "If I am not mistaken, you look upon a fallen tower of the Harem Palace of Calim. Granted, after thousands and thousands of years, not much will have survived the decay of time, even buried under the protection of the sands. However, maybe, just maybe, you can find me some artifact to add to my museum back at my home, something that will reveal a glimpse of what life was like back then, so many ages ago. You see, I am too large to fit through the opening in the roof that you see, and if I were to burrow into the sand, I might cause whatever remains of the structure below to collapse. Would you do this for me, please? I would be so delighted."

   "What about any other treasure we might find?" asked Mythlos.

   "They will be yours to keep," said the dragon.

   "If we bring you back such a relic," said Jayce, "would you permit me to ride on your back to fly? I have always longed to soar in the sky."

   "Asking a dragon for a ride is considered rude, you should know," smiled Sseth. "However, because you played me such a wonderful song this morning, if you bring me back two artifacts, I shall give you a ride."

   "I do not think Kamil will fit through that opening," said Belvin. "Would you be able to watch over my camel for me?" he asked Sseth.

   "Your camel looks delightfully tasty," answered Sseth, sniffing the air as well, "but I see he is your friend, so you do not have to worry. I give you a dragon's word."

   "What do you know about a 'dragon's word'?" whispered Mythlos to Jayce.

   "Nothing at all," he whispered back, "but I do not sense any deceit in him."

   "Please take good care of him," said Belvin.

   "Yes, yes, I will. Now, may your gods go with you and keep you safe. Remember, I will find you your hobgoblins if you can bring me a suitable treasure for my collection."

   So they carefully descended down the steep bank of sand. When they looked back up, they saw Sseth lying on his belly and happily talking to Kamil.
Session: 10th Game Session - Wednesday, Jun 05 2013 from 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM
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