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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Coliar
~ eighth-day, 18th of Kythorn, The Year of Rogue Dragons, nine bells
Bral


"I see twinkling light. Like candle. High to port. Two hands." Selu, the ebony-skinned lookout from Chult, called down from the crow's nest.

   Loreene, wearing the vest she donned over her bandeau whenever it was her turn at the wheel as second mate, took a spyglass from the navigator's table behind her and held it up in the direction that Selu had indicated. "It must be one of the port towers," she said. She called out commands, which were echoed by an Illuskan man with a booming voice named Frath. Frath, Guttar, and Tym went to work immediately at the sails, which caused the flying vessel to turn upward.

   Not that anyone on board the spelljammer felt any motion at all. Instead the massive planet filling nearly half of their vision to the port side seemd to tilt but a little.

   The planet truly was massive. Coliar, one of the Dawn Heralds of Toril's dawn and dusk skies was now seen in its entirety for what it really was, a giant sphere of gray-white cloud. Vastly larger than Toril, half of any person's visual field was filled with the planet when he or she looked toward it, and this was despite the fact — Solisar informed everyone — that they were technically still 30,000 miles from the outer layer of clouds that surrounded this strange world.

   The sun also was much larger here, and they knew that the heat from it would be deadly were it not for the protection of their ship's magical air envelope.

   Were they on Toril, it would now have been two days before the beginning of summer. They had had to wait more than two months to set out because of the positioning of the planets. On the sixth of Tarsakh, when they had returned to the Rock of Bral from the Interlink Consortium Corporate Asteroid, the worlds of Karpri, Toril, the sun, Anadia, and Coliar were almost perfectly aligned — something that delighted most astronomers that they talked to on the Rock — but it meant that it was wisest to wait for the planets to move relative to each other. It would have been the best possible time to travel to Karpri, but Coliar was then at its farthest possible distance from Toril and directly on the other side of the sun. It was not enough to wait a short time for Coliar, which orbited faster than Toril, to become visible again. No, spelljamming too near the sun was highly dangerous — they had learned — because of the presence of "helm-killing dead magic zones" called sargassos that were some 40 million miles from the sun. Anadia was at 50 million miles, so it was safest to never fly closer to the sun than Anadia. They needed to wait until the direct line of travel to Coliar did not pass within 50 million miles of the sun. Thankfully, the magic planetary map on their spelljammer tracked the current positions of each planet with glass marbles in circular tracks.

   Alternatively, they could have spelljammed to another planet, say, Chandos, and then to Coliar, avoiding the direct route near the sun, but since they had never traveled so far in wildspace before, they all felt safest waiting a bit and then trying the most direct route.

   They had needed more time to prepare anyhow. The battle with the neogi (and the scavver attack immediately before that) had left them in poor condition, even with the aid of magical spells. Time to rest, mend clothes and armor, purchase needed equipment — especially a replacement for Kytharrah's ruined axe — and learn new spells was welcomed. It also gave the crew of the Frihet time to practice functioning as a wildspace crew. Ombert led them on small merchant journeys among the asteroids of the Tears to gain practice before their first long-distance voyage to another planet.

   They had successfully found buyers for their smokepowder. The giff, the race of humanoids that reminded them of hippopotami, were especially fond of smokepowder, and purchased all of the powderhorns. The military of Bral itself purchased their kegs of the stuff. Solisar had learned that smokepowder was a wanted commodity on Coliar as well, so Ombert had taken a trip back to Lantan on Toril to resupply before their departure for the second planet.

   It had been a productive couple months in non-economic ways as well. Several of them had purchased new magical trinkets. Hakam had made connections with a local temple to Tyr on the Rock and obtained knowledge of rare divine magic kept secret by his church. He also hallowed the Frihet with Anachtyr's blessing, which would, among other things, protect them from mind-control from evil entities, such as, for example, the neogi.

   Szordrin had had Nulara's magic dagger repaired by a skilled craftswoman. She explained to him that the blade could be willed to poison a foe that it had injured with magical venom.

   The elves spent most of their time in Bral's Elven Forest, where Solisar was granted access to the secret headquarters of the Elven Imperial Navy and learned a great deal of wildspace lore.

   Kytharrah had worked as a longshoremen at the docks. His companions also saw to it that his magic axe was mended and further enchanted with the power to cut through the spell resistance of foes. He also had acquired an additional pole arm, a guisarme.

   Lastly, Hakam's camel had been about ready to give birth for a while, and she finally did so on the second of Kythorn. Now the party had to decide what to do with a tiny, fluffy female calf, with barely noticeable humps and silly looking long legs. Belvin believed that the camel should belong to Kamil, since Kamil was the father. Hakam insisted that, by Calishite law, the new camel was his property, as he was the owner of the calf's mother, unless, of course, Belvin wanted to purchase the calf from him. Belvin argued back that Kamil should not have to buy his own child. Leokas agreed to pay Hakam whatever the fair cost for a calf was. In any event, Hakam's camel, the new calf, and Leokas' horse Cloud all remained on the Rock in a stable and under the care of Rinald and his family, who had at last succeeded in finding housing in the city.

   The journey toward this new world had taken 63 hours. They had left on the fifteenth at eighteen bells. When the journey began, Coliar was a gray speck. Now, its clouds were reflecting so much light that it was hard to look directly at it; it was like the glare from freshly fallen snow.

   Nearly everyone was on the main deck, observing the amazing sights, including all 20 members of the crew and the adventurers, with the exception of Jayce, who was helming the magic vessel from the forecastle helm room.

   "Second beacon spotted. Three hands. Same bearing." Selu called down again.

   "I see it," said Loreene, looking still through the spyglass, "and there are two more also."

   After a few minutes had passed, they had spotted a total of just under a dozen such flickering lights, each acting as a planetary lighthouse to guide spelljamming vessels to port. In all, the entire planet only had about 50 spelljamming ports, about half of them belonged to the aarakocra, a race of avian humanoids, and the other half belonged to lizardfolk. In fact, the planet only contained reptilian and avian lifeforms; mammals did not naturally exist on Coliar, or rather, in Coliar.

   After discussions among themselves and with others, the group had decided it best to visit an aarakocra port, in large part because the address that they held in their possession, which they had received from the receipt recovered from the Interlink Consortium, was formatted in the manner of the aarakocra. The largest such port on Coliar was Athanar, located in the southern hemisphere of the giant world, and spacefarers and traders on the Rock of Bral had explained how one could locate a particular port of choice on such a large planet. "It be like navigatin' the seas of any planet," explained one former-groundling merchant captain to them. "Ye find a recognizable 'cons'ellation' of 'stars' and steer the ship right-so. In this case, ye be lookin' for this 'ere shape." He had proceeded to draw a pattern of "stars", which he called a banana—though one had to stretch to see it—and indicated that the second star from the tip on the inner curve was the light tower for Athanar.

   After some argument about which end of the "banana" was the tip, they agreed that they had found the right tower light, a "star". They came directly "under" it, rolled the Frihet over so that the hull was pointing toward the planet, and began to descend.

   It took nearly two hours to descend the many thousands of miles down to the light tower. What started as a flickering candle grew brighter and brighter until near the end of the two hours, no one could look directly at it, because of its intensity. The light was in fact a network of everburning torches surrounded by a half-sphere of mirrors, angled in such a way as to intensify the light into a powerful beam that pointed straight up into wildspace.

   With Jayce at the magical helm, Loreene guided her crew to carefully bring the Frihet alongside the tower. The inverted dome of mirrors rested upon what appeared to be a large wooden platform supported by six thick beams of timber emerging from the thick cloud cover in which their vessel now appeared to be floating. The planetary light house did not appear manned in any way.

   Loreene gave the order to continue to descend, and Jayce used the power of the helm to lower the ship through the white clouds.

   The passage through the thick cloud cover was more challenging than they had at first expected. So thick was the water vapor that it was hard to keep an eye on the six wooden beams of the tower. They had the danger both of drifting too close to the incomprehensibly tall tower and crashing into it and of drifting too far away from it and missing entirely the floating island port supposedly at its base. The spelljammer was too close to the center of mass of the planet now to travel at spelljamming speeds, and they worried about simply letting the ship fall out of the sky because of lack of stability.

   Their fears were lessened when Hakam used a divine spell to ensure that the tower was no further than 800 feet away from them as they descended.

   Finally, after more than an hour of descent, they burst free from the clouds into clear air. A wall of white was now above them and soft light illuminated a vast, endless expanse in all other directions as far as they could see. It almost felt like being inside one of their wizards' interdimensional spaces.

   However, that emptiness was broken up by thousands and thousands of green islands.

   About five dozen islands appeared to be at about the same altitude as where they were currently positioned, but distances were very deceiving in this strange new world. These islands appeared with the clarity of being atop a very high mountain summit. They could make out the rough texture of mountains and valleys and see the blue color of lakes.

   Those five dozen floating islands were but a tiny fraction of the countless other islands that they could see if they looked down in any direction about the ship, growing smaller and smaller until they appeared to one's eyes as tiny green specks.

   If one looked directly down, through the never-ending parade of islands, the light got dimmer and dimmer until only darkness could be seen.

   They were essentially free-falling through the atmosphere now, but it barely felt like they were moving at all until, after about two minutes, they passed below the highest island that they could see and found themselves now looking up at the brown, rocky bottom of it. Compared to the bottom halves of the islands, the top halves were essentially flat.

   The strangest sight, perhaps, were the six posts of the tower to the starboard, which continued to plummet down until they looked like a single brown thread to their vision. The posts seemed to vanish into an island that they could clearly see, even at this distance. To the vision of the humans, it appeared about the same size as a thumbnail held out in front of them.

   Staring at the island as they fell toward it was like watching water boil or a plant grow. Those who came back and looked at it recognized that it did indeed look larger, and more and more islands continued to now appear above them. After about 30 minutes, their target appeared about 50% larger. After one hour, it was double the size that it had first appeared, and they could make out river valleys. After an hour and a half, it was now appearing four times the size it had at first, and the elves could spot blue areas that were probably lakes. The humans could not see the lakes for about fifteen more minutes, when the elves began claiming that they could distinguish rivers, and the island now appeared the size of a dinner plate held out in front of them.

   It became clear that the brown "thread" that was the magically reinforced beacon tower was descending directly into one of the lakes, which was at the top of a round plateau. Around this lake were tiny brown clusters of specks, which they guessed were buildings. After about two hours of falling, it actually felt like they were falling, and they could rapidly begin to distinguish trees and ship docks upon the water. Two other spelljammers were floating there, a hammership and another style that they could not recognize from this altitude.

   The end of the tower no longer looked like a thread. They were probably only a mile above the lake now, and Jayce slowed them down to a hover. The entire journey, from outside the cloud cover of Coliar to the lake-port of Athanar, had taken them over three hours. It had been five hours since they had entered Coliar's gravity well. It was mid-afternoon, but they could not see the sun at all, only white sky. Above and all around them, they could see thousands of floating islands.

   Looking down, they could see giant wooden signs with painted writing on them. These signs were oriented upward, to be seen from the sky.

   "They are written in the Iokharic script," said Oma, "but it is not exactly Draconic. Can you read them, Solisar."

   Solisar had prepared for this journey by learning the basics of the Aarakocra tongue. He looked down at the upward-facing signs. "The Coliar dialect seems heavily influenced by Draconic, but I can make sense of it, I think." He translated the signs for the others:

Re-elect Alekra Donakkis.
Keep Athanar avian.

Nepotism is not democracy! [Both words started with same sound.]
It is time for change.
Elect Asharra Chickchee

Xenophobia is not freedom. [The second consonant in each word was the same.]
It is time for change.
Elect Asharra Chickchee.

Re-elect Alekra Donakkis.
Do your part to defend our islands.

   The crewmembers who were not manning the sails were excitedly looking over the deck railings.

   "I don't see no gems!" shouted Brad.

   "You actually believed the rumors?" Gren replied.

   "Well, I didn't believe in no city in the Tears of Selûne, but where did I live for the last two months?" said Brad. "Oh, and I also didn't believe that you could sail the Sea of Night, but yet here we are!"

   Now that they were only a thousand feet over the water, they could see the two other spelljammers in more detail. The humanoid crew of the hammership seemed to be unloading cargo onto the docks. The other ship looked like it might be seaworthy, but it was still not like any ocean ships that they had seen before. It had figureheads at both the bow and stern — an extremely ornate dragon head and coiled dragon legs with fins. The dragon's head had long, trailing whiskers. From the two sides of the boat were stabilizers shaped like finned dragon claws. The sailors explained to the adventurers that the vessel had "gaff cat" rigging. The dragon tail curved forward over the main deck and had a rear sail attached to it. Most unusual, perhaps, was the small shrine-like house sitting on the main deck where the aftcastle might have been.

   "That must be a dragonship from the Imperial Navy of Shou Lung in Kara-Tur," said Solisar.

   "Aye, it is," said Bansh, the newest sailor and the only one with extensive wildspace experience.

   The buildings that they had seen from the sky were a mixture of types. There seemed to be large rectangular shelters with flat wooden roofs, one at the end of each dock. On the shore, opposite the base of the endless beacon tower was an entirely different kind of "building". It seemed to be a giant bowl of brown, like an enormous bird's nest. In the center of it, there was something like the top of a circular hut. From this height, the whole structure looked like a strange round hat.

   On one side of the "nest", the outlet of the lake poured off the plateau in a waterfall into a jungle canopy of trees.

   Bollus, the Calishite youth with the large dragon tattoo on his back called back that he did not see any flags telling them where to land. Typically, a port would instruct an incoming ship where to go.

   "Caw!"

   The squawking sound was not loud, but everyone on the deck of the Frihet turned around, each expecting the source of the voice to be right behind them. "Incoming vessel," the same voice continued, "you are to proceed to dock four and await inspection. Caw!" The voice sounded like that of a talking parrot or crow.

   "Where is the voice coming from?" asked Rimardo, who was looking disturbed and constantly glancing around himself.

   Loreene issued her commands, and the deckhands moved about, adjusting the sails, while instructions were relayed to Jayce at the other helm to lower the ship into the water. The hull of the ship struck the water with a gentle slap. The sudden rocking that came with floating on water felt very strange to everyone — even sailors who had spent many years of their lives at sea — compared to the completely motionless deck of the past nearly three days.

   At last at the same level as the buildings, they could get a better understanding of what they were. The rectangular structures were wall-less shelters, with wooden poles supporting the four corners of the roof. Each was full of stacked crates and barrels. The crew of the hammership were moving their goods from their ship to the nearest shelter.

   The nest-like structure was indeed an elaborate nest. The nest portion curved up to about a yard in height. It seemed to be woven with the care and detail of a delicate basket, not in the chaotic manner of a common bird, and it was made from thick vines. Tall wooden posts rose from the center of this nest to support the conical thatched roof.

   Now, they at last saw the native inhabitants of this planet, though from a distance. There were two red-colored figures moving about behind the shelter of the wall of the nest.

   Now that they were in the waters of the large lake, everyone felt a sudden change in temperature and the rush of wind, as the air envelope surrounding the spelljammer dissipated. They were fully under Loreene and the sailor's control. They actually had to work quickly and carefully to prevent the ship from being carried by the current toward the waterfall, but there was a constant breeze, so once the sails were positioned correctly, they were able to proceed to dock four.

   Jayce came out of the forecastle and joined the others. He drew out his pipe and lit it up. "It is looking rather overcast, is it not?" he said, as he looked up at the everywhere-white sky. "Also, they were not joking when they said that Coliar would be hot!"

   He was correct. The temperature here was as warm as a summer day in Calimshan but as humid as the jungles of Chult had been.

   They pulled into a dock that had a green flag with the numeral four marked upon it in both Draconic and Common letters. No one was on the dock to greet them, so Niff and Diero leapt or swung down from the boat onto the wooden boards of the dock. They were tossed heavy ropes and began to tie off the Frihet. Other sailors laid out the gangplank.

   "Caw!" came the voice from simultaneously everywhere again. "Do not leave the dock. Remain on board until you have been inspected and approved. Caw!"

   This time, Belvin spotted the speaker. One of the red creatures in the giant nest had a cone-shaped object raised to its mouth while they all heard the voice.

   Diero and Niff came back aboard. Everyone sat around and waited, (except for silent Guttar and Kytharrah, both who never liked to do nothing. Guttar began to mop the decks and Kytharrah offered to help him.)

   The two aarakocra in the nest were moving around, but no one seemed to be coming over. Why were they being made to wait?

   Finally, Belvin and Hakam saw a flash of bright yellow, orange, and red feathers from behind the nest structure. The nest was built right against the cliff edge of the plateau, apparently so that the birdpeople could leap easily into flight.

   The aarakocra was an elegant flier, banking gracefully in the air much like a bird of prey. Its wingspan was probably 20 feet. It had large black talons, and while flying, it would be hard not to assume that it was not just a large, tropical bird.

   Ferry squeaked from Szordrin's shoulders.

   "No, Ferry," said the wizard, "I do not think that these birds will want to eat you."

   "They are carnivores," said Leokas. "He may indeed want to stay hidden."

   "They will touch Ferry over my dead body!" said Szordrin.

   The aarakocra dove down and gracefully landed just before their gangplank on the dock. Now, at last, with the creature standing this close, they could make out more of its features. It stood upon its talons, with three toes forward and one back. Its lower legs were scaled like a bird, but its knees were about as low as a humans, and it had relatively thick, yellow-feathered thighs. With its wings folded mostly in, they could see that half-way along the length of each wing were three usable fingers and a thumb. The remaining "finger" extended from the hand the rest of the length of the wing.

   "Their wings are like a pteranodon's," said Belvin in a soft voice. "See the hands on the wings?"

   The only clothing worn by the aarakocra was a harness, to which various pouches and pockets were attached.

   The aarakocra's black eyes were forward-facing, like a bird of prey. It looked them over briefly and then spoke in a crisp voice in Common. "Welcome to Athanar, visitors." The voice sounded masculine. "What is your purpose here in Athanar?"

   "We have come to trade," said Hakam.

   "Please present your merchant's certificate?"

   "We have come from the Rock of Bral," said Leokas. "No one informed us that we needed a merchant's certificate to trade!"

   "It is a relatively recent change in regulations," said the humanoid bird.

   "How may we acquire a certificate?" asked Hakam.

   "You must make a petition at the Office of Extraterrestrial Affairs, but you cannot do this in person unless you already have a visitor's certificate. Without a valid visitor's certificate, I am afraid that we cannot let you leave the docking plateau until a time of quarantine."

   "Quarantine? For what? How long?"

   "Eight days. Our tribe has voted to require a time of quarantine to all unexpected visitors to prevent the spread of infectious diseases among our population and to reduce the threat of lizardfolk spies sneaking into our midst. I am sure that you can understand."

   "I struggle to understand," said Belvin.

   "Which diseases?" asked Leokas.

   "It is not for any particular disease," said the aarakocra, "but against the threat of disease."

   "I assure you that everyone on our crew is healthy," said Hakam. "We have two healers aboard."

   "Two and a half," said Jayce.

   "Squawk! I do not make the laws; they are voted on fairly by the people. The moneys collected from wildspace trade fund the war and ensure that our hatchlings grow up in safe nests."

   "How do you expect to collect any moneys if you do not open up trade to visiting merchants?" one of them protested.

   "We were told that the aarakocra desired smokepowder," said Leokas. "Surely, the laws allow exceptions for that."

   "Tee, tee, actually, because we are in a time of war with the wicked lizardfolk, we do allow the sale of smokepowder or other weapons without an approved merchant's certificate. Do you have smokepowder on-board?"

   The aarakocra seemed delighted when they answered in the affirmative. "Regardless," he said, "your cargo must also be searched. Please offload all of your cargo into the wareshelter so that our inspectors can examine it. I shall send the inspectors up after the resting hours."

   "May I kindly ask what the resting hours are?" said Jayce. "Regretibly, we are not as informed about your culture as we should be."

   "All take a break in the day's work at brightest light, the start of the hottest hours of the day, to cool themselves and rest. We begin again at shrinking threequarterlight."

   "Can we proceed to the Office of Extraterrestrial Affairs during this time to begin our paperwork?" asked Hakam.

   "Wee, the OEA will be closed until shrinking threequarterlight, and even then, you cannot visit any buildings in the main settlement until the quarrantine is past. That is non-negotiable."

   "How can one fulfill the legal obligations if not allowed to leave the docks?" asked Hakam.

   "We can send a scribe to your ship along with the inspectors to begin filling out the paperwork for you, so that your visitor's certificate can be certified by the time the quarrantine ends. In the morning you can be escorted to the military base to sell your wares."

   "Are there any costs for berthing?" asked Hakam.

   "Tee, you must pay the one-time berthing fee of 125 gold coins to keep your ship docked here during the quarrantine period. There is also an air tax of 200 gold pieces. We accept any currencies with the common-sized circular coins used by most spacefaring races."

   "200 gold pieces is more than a lower-class Calishite makes in two lifetimes!" exclaimed Leokas.

   The berthing fee for their size vessel had amounted to four gold pieces per day on the Rock of Bral with an air tax of only eight gold. Hakam, however, did not hesitate to pay the fee, but insisted that the aarakocra write him up a receipt. The birdman took a feathered pen from a pocket on his harness and began to write out the documentation of the payment.

   As the aarakocra wrote, Hakam and Jayce asked him to describe the strange democratic system that he had hinted at earlier. "The people make the laws? How do you avoid anarchy?"

   "We have police who enforce the laws, which are written by senators chosen by the people. Our presidents leads us, and she always looks out for our greater good."

   "She," said Szordrin. "Is the president never a male?"

   "No male could ever win an election," said the aarakocra. "Everyone knows that males are too emotionally unstable. I will not even try to argue against that. Wee, wee! Too busy pruning our feathers and making ourselves look beautiful. There are several males running in our current election, but males never stand a chance. They just steal votes from one of the real contenders."

   "Who is the best contender, in your view?" asked Szordrin.

   "Alekra Donakkis of course! Alekra Donakkis has been our tribe's president for many terms now. She understands the importance of security as a means of keeping our nests and people safe."

   "What about this other contestant, this Chickchee person?" asked Jayce.

   "Squawk! Asharra Chickchee is a dishonor to all avian creatures! Her words are lies. That is all that I have to say about that." He handed Hakam the completed receipt, after stamping it with the official seal of Athanar with President Donakkis's signature.

   "Why are your people at war with the lizardfolk?" asked Szordrin.

   What followed in response could only be described as an incoherent rant. The aarakocra's voice sped up and was punctuated with squawks and clicks, but they did make out a few choice phrases, such as "blasphemous cannibals" and "eating our children".

   Hakam thought it best to change the topic. "Do you know how we might get to this address?" He handed the dock agent their copy of the Interlink Consortium receipt.

   "It is an address for a specific island, tee, but I cannot tell you more than that it is not on this hemisphere. You are on the wrong side of the planet! Athanar is in the seventh octant; you are looking for the fourth. You do realize that there are thousands and thousands of islands, wee? You would have to visit the Athanar Central Post Office for more details."

   "Is there an aarakocra port in the fourth octant?"

   "Tee, there is. It is called Dohkataka. I would have to send up a spelljamming navigator to explain to you how to find its beacon tower. But I must depart now. The inspectors will arrive after the resting hours."
Session: 109th Game Session - Tuesday, Jun 02 2020 from 12:30 AM to 3:30 AM
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