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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — The Postmaster
While they waited, they were brought more water and snacks. As they were told, the postmaster arrived on wing when the day's light was at three-quarters of its brightest intensity. She was another brown-feathered female, wearing a bandoleer with many lizard-leather pouches.

   She formally introduced herself as Postmaster Nareetha Spiraldive of such and such post office and then broke formality to say, "and what is with that wacko lieutenant? Does he not know how to look people in the eye when he talks? What was he staring at anyway?" Her voice was very rapid and animated.

   They looked around at each other, not quite knowing how to respond.

   "So, what do you have that you need a disgruntled postal worker for?"

   "We are looking for this address," said Hakam. "Can you tell us how best to get there?" He handed her the copy of the receipt. "We are searching for someone at that location."

   "Wee, I cannot tell you anything about where that island is located. We deliver to nearly — how much is hoo-ler-kaw-wee-wee in Common? — 32,000 islands. Seriously, I mean no offense, but to be blunt, I have much more interesting things to store in my brain than the bearings, headings, velocities, and silhouettes of 32,000 islands." She did not sound annoyed or anything in her tone; she seemed to just be stating the facts.

   Hakam continued, "Is there not some kind of catalog that we can search?"

   "Do not crack an egg! I did not say that I could not find this information out for you; I just need time to go back to the post office and search through the cabinets of address slates. I hate to make you wait under the rules of this stupid quarantine, but I can be back after the midday rest."

   "Have you ever delivered mail for the Interlink Consortium of Bral?" Szordrin asked, while monitoring her surface thoughts with his magic.

   She hummed. "Hmm. I think that we have. Is that one of those companies that sells equipment to all the rich wizards seeking solitude on our islands?" Her thoughts seemed to be tracking with what she was saying, and if she had any negative opinions about said wizards, it was little more than mild amusement at how common an occurrence it was.

   "That certainly sounds like them," said Hakam.

   "Have you ever delivered anything to the Interlink Consortium," asked Szordrin, "instead of from them?"

   "Wee, we never deliver mail off-world. If you have not noticed, we aarakocra tend to be rather xenophobic and care little for the outside worlds." If such a thing were possible, Szordrin sensed her mentally roll her eyes. "The vast majority of aarakocra never leave their own island, let alone their own planet!"

   "Can you remember the names of customers who purchased from the Consortium?"

   She tapped her brown-feathered skull. "Have you heard the term 'bird brain'? Do you really expect me to remember things?"

   "Is that really true?" asked Oma.

   "Wee, it is not true! I have an advanced degree in mathematics. Nevertheless, I have no memory of any specific names in this case." Szordrin sensed that she was enjoying teasing them in a good-natured way, but he did not hear her think any names.

   "If someone wanted to send a message off-world through your service," said Hakam, "how would it be arranged?"

   "Typically, the people who would want to do that are non-natives. As I said, there are a lot of rich spellcasters who want to live the lives of hermits. Most of them have multiple ways of sending messages with their own magic. We commonly deliver packages to the recluses, often food and supplies, but we rarely are called on to deliver packages from them, and we do not offer a means to deliver anything outside of Coliar. We only ever fly out to islands for scheduled deliveries or pick-ups. Generally, any fool willing to live as a hermit on an otherwise uninhabited island has the magical means to contact outside persons if she has to send mail or to get off the island, or she has the means to leave the island herself."

   "Who controls the islands that these hermits live on?" asked Hakam. "Are there aarakocra leaders in dominion over them, or are they independent?"

   "Typically, they are independent. There are hundreds of thousands of islands in Coliar. Only 25 of those are aarakocra ports, and only a few hundred islands are inhabited by aarakocra. It is relatively easy to find an uninhabited island. Granted, the best islands are farthest from the core, but even then, there are still many thousands from which to choose.

   "If a hermit wants to receive or send mail, she needs to register with the nearest postal service. The post offices also have surveyors who go out and catalog the islands. Deliveries need to be scheduled well in advance, and this is usually done by communicating through magic."

   "If we had the name of a customer, could you give us the address from your records?" asked Szordrin.

   "We do not keep records of who lives where; we only keep records of the islands themselves."

   She then explained to them again that she would need to leave and return to be of better service to them, so they thanked her, and she departed, taking the copy of the receipt with her.

~~~~

"Well, this is fun," said Belvin.

   "This is better than Thultanthar," said Leokas. "It could be worse!"

   "I am not saying that halflings are not lazy," said Ombert, "but who needs an eight-hour nap in the middle of the day?"

   The aarakocra only rested for about four hours each day, but they had been waiting now for over seven, presumably, because it was taking the postmaster time to find the information for them.

   "It is hotter than Calimshan," said Oma, wiping her brow. "I think that I can safely say that I also would rather be sleeping than standing in this giant bird cage."

   "My divine spells are keeping me quite cool," said Hakam smugly.

   "You weakling," said Szordrin, who could take far greater heats without issue, because of his fiendish heritage.

   "It is better to be weak and prepared than strong and foolhardy!" Hakam replied.

   "Forget the heat;" said Jayce, "I want to sleep because it should be midnight now by our time."

   About then, they saw a brown aarakocra approaching. "Finally," said Ombert.

   As Nareetha swooped down to land, they saw that she carried a small wooden box in her talons. She landed soundly on one talon and tossed up the box to catch with the hand on her left wing before setting the second talon to the ground. Aarakocra were apparently very dexterous with their feet.

   "I come bearing presents," she said. "Tell me how awesome I am."

   There was a pause.

   "Wee, seriously; come on, tell me."

   Ombert said, "You are a beautiful... and intelligent... hoo-lee...." He struggled to remember the aarakocra word for female.

   "Caw caw! I was kidding. What do you think I am, a narcissist? I am not a Donakkis! Here, let me show you the address slates."

   She opened the box with her wing-hands and took out a tiny piece of smooth, rectangular stone about three inches by five inches upon which were scratched Draconic letters and other symbols, as well as a crude sketch of the general shape of an island from above.

   "This here is your island," said Nareetha, "number kaw-chi-wee-tee-tee. I do not suppose any of you can read our language?"

   "Solisar can," said about three of them at once.

   Solisar tried to humbly explain that he was not fluent yet but had studied the language for the past month and could pick up about half of what other aarakocra were saying.

   "Caw! Impressive."

   "Even so, I do not really understand what this technical writing means," said the sun elf, "and I do not recognize all the symbols." He read a few of the words and numbers that he did recognize to demonstrate.

   "Tee, this is probably not the sort of thing that they teach in a basic language book," said Nareetha. "Each of these cards gives a list of 'branch-point' islands. These are all islands that either partially or fully eclipse the island at various points in the year or are partially or fully eclipsed by the island during the year. Do you follow?"

   "'Eclipsed' meaning that one island is over the other?" said Szordrin.

   "The islands move independently of each other?" asked Hakam.

   "They orbit at different rates," said Szordrin.

   "...depending on their altitudes," added Leokas.

   "Tee, tee, exactly," said the postmaster. "The islands do not happily sit around in the same spot all year long waiting for us to deliver packages and mail to them. They all orbit at different speeds." She held up the address slate. "See this first digit? The kaw tells us in which octant the nearest aarakocra post office was to the island in question on the day that it was first surveyed. If it was in the fourth octant when it was surveyed, it could be in just about any octant now. You have to do maths to figure it out."

   "Does the address slate give us what we need for me to do the calculations?" asked Solisar.

   "You do not need to," she said. "I already did the calculations for you, and it turns out that it should be in the first octant now. The octants are defined by the the islands orbiting at the same general altitude as the 50 or so port islands."

   She pointed out various markings on the slate. "This is a list organized by repeating 'dates' for lack of a better word. In reality, they are codes that we have to use to run the calculations. This one here corresponds to the 28th day of the sixth season, in the first octant. (Today is the 14th.) With each island listed is the rough direction that one needs to look to see the target island from the eclipsing or eclipsed island for that time of the year.

   "So, what our carriers do is fly their corbinas to the nearest island for that time of year, hope to Syranita that the surveyors correctly recorded their findings and that the geographers back at the office calculated the island flights correctly, try to interpret whatever scribble is supposed to represent what their target island looks like, and look in the proper direction to spot the island.

   "But wait, there's more! They need to first get to the eclipsing or eclipsed island, so they need the address slate for that island, which they also need to find successfully, so they need another address slate, and so on and so on until they can get to the first island in the chain of 'connected' islands from one of the port islands.

   "Finally, all of this assumes perfect weather. Sometimes, a part of a postal service courier's job is orbiting an island for hours waiting for cloud cover to move so that the target island can be spotted and recognized by sight. This also assumes that everyone did their maths correctly. Sometimes the geographers make mistakes, and a courier has to find a way to land her corbina and wait several days before the target island is even visible. Sometimes waiting several days is faster than flying back to the office to receive corrected calculations."

   She slowed down in her rambling and pulled another set of two slates from the box. "So, one slate is not enough; you also need these. Any questions?"

   "Three slates is fewer than I feared," said Solisar.

   "So, the port islands all remain fixed relative to each other?" asked Hakam.

   "For those at the same latitude, tee. The port islands are all roughly at the same altitude. This is by design. There is only a limited altitude range in Coliar where avian and reptilian life can truly thrive, and the port islands sit right at that sweet spot. Dragons and crazy wizard hermits live lower than that, closer to the core, but it is stifling hot, and the pressure becomes crushing, even with the constant updrafts."

   "So," she continued, "there is good news and there is bad news. Which do you want to hear first? Nevermind, I am just going to tell you both at once." She held up the three plates. "Your island is currently three 'jumps' away from Hisssta, a lizardfolk port." The name was pronounced with an extended sibilant. "Flying your spelljammer to Hisssta and starting there is the fastest way to get to Kaw-chi-wee-tee-tee."

   "Are there alternative routes that do not use lizardfolk islands?" asked Hakam. "How does your post office deliver to an island that passes through lizardfolk territory?"

   "If you were to travel from the next nearest port, you would have to make many more jumps. Some corbina pilots will trust that the lizardfolk will not shoot down a civilian vessel, but the Office discourages taking that risk. Usually, we just wait for the islands to move and make the deliveries then. We at the Office pride ourselves in never failing to make a delivery, but we make no promises about how long it will take! Caw!"

   "What weapons do the lizardfolk have to shoot your vessels out of the sky?" asked Hakam.

   "Typical anti-spelljammer heavy weapons, ballistae and catapults." She then clarified. "There are rumors that postal corbinas have been shot down in the past, but it has never happened during my time as a postal worker, and I am not sure that I believe it. The lizardfolk will definitely fire upon military corbinas."

   "Am I correct that in this war, neither side is targeting civilians?" asked Leokas.

   "Each side will always tell you that the other group is targeting civilians. War is terrible, and I am sure that there have been civilian casualties on both sides, but I do not know that either side is intentionally targeting the innocent."

   "What is your opinion of the current president and her policies?" asked Szordrin.

   "Yes," said Hakam, "you did not seem too fond of the Donakkises in your previous comments to us. Does this mean that you are also opposed to their holy war?"

   Nareetha suddenly grew very serious in her tone. "It is rude to ask a foreigner about politics; do you not know that?"

   Hakam began to apologize, but she interrupted him.

   "I am joking. Squawk! That old hen! Hells, wee! I am voting for Asharra Chickchee."

   She looked around to see if any soldiers were nearby and then lowered her voice as she replied, "...Because the free-spawning Donakkises want more gems is why. Do not listen to their religious war bunk. I am the good daughter of a priestess of Syranita. I assure you that Syranita does not care about lizardfolk one way or the other."

   "Play?" asked Kytharrah.

   For the first time, Nareetha Spiraldive did not have an answer or know how to respond.

   "Do not mind him," said Jayce, who was sitting back on one of the benches smoking his pipe with a big smile on his face.

   "What do you mean by 'free spawning'?" asked Belvin.

   "Is reproduction regulated here?" asked Hakam.

   "Wee, wee, I was not serious about that. Surely you have crude things that you say in your own language about your rulers sometimes! I was serious about her being an old hen, though. She is going to fall out of the sky soon, which is another reason to vote for Chickchee instead, not that I need any more reasons."

   "Besides politics," she asked, "do you have any further questions?"

   "How long is the information that you have given us accurate?" asked Solisar. "How big of a window do we have for errors?"

   "As a rule of talon, every 100 miles one descends, the islands orbit about 40 miles per light call faster. That is probably ten miles per one of your hours. If you are off by half a day, the island will be between 100 and 200 miles farther away. That should give you an idea of the kind of window you have." She then added, "it also means that your days get a little bit shorter with every drop in elevation."

   "Do the slates provide any information on the rulers or the laws of each island in the chain of jumps?" asked Hakam.

   "Wee. If an island has a slate, it means that it has been cataloged by aarakocran surveyors. This does not mean that the aarakocra own the island, necessarily, only that they 'named' it. If the island has a name and not a number, it is inhabited. It is possible that an island uninhabited when surveyed is later inhabited by either aarakocra or lizarfolk. As another rule of talon, lizardfolk tend to spread to higher islands and aarakocra tend to spread to lower islands, but neither race deviates too far from the altitude of the port islands. However, both races mine resources from islands that they do not plan to inhabit, sometimes for the short term, sometimes for the long term."

   Solisar took one of the tablets and went over carefully with Nareetha each of the markings to ensure that he understood what they meant.

   "Now that you know how to find out where your island is, how do you plan to get to it?" she asked.

   "We came here on a spelljammer," said Solisar. "I figured...."

   "Wee, no, you cannot fly your spelljammer to the island! For one thing, neither the lizardfolk nor the aarakocra will trust off-worlders enough to let them fly their vessels through our planet. They are content to have you land at their ports and trade, but they do not want off-worlders flying just anywhere through the planet. They are not likely to shoot you down or anything, but if they catch you, you will certainly be boarded and will have to deal with an interplanetary diplomatic mess, and who wants that?

   "Second, where would you land? Not all of the islands have bodies of water large enough to land on safely. Most of the islands are overgrown with jungle. As it is, the corbinas themselves only can land on islands with landing strips. More often than not, they simply dump the packages with parachutes and let them glide to the surfaces to be received by the addressee. Outgoing packages are received by hook."

   She looked over the nine of them. "If all of you intend to go to this island, you will probably need a method of transportation that is not your own merchant spelljammer."

   "To clarify," said Hakam, "you were suggesting that we land our spelljammer at another port in the first octant, a lizardfolk island?"

   "Tee. Yes."

   "Yet you just said that they would attack us if we traveled in their airspace?" asked Solisar.

   "Wee, I am saying that they would not take kindly to you flying around without permission. I am sure that they will be happy to have you land at one of their ports. Spelljammers bring in a good deal of income for both aarakocra and lizardfolk tribes through docking and air taxes. As it is, you were permitted to land here on Athanar, were you not, but they clearly do not want you touring even the city. Look, they have your ship quarantined because of silly regulations. Oh, do not get me started again on politics! Squawk!"

   "Then, even if we dock at Hisssta without incident," said Solisar, "what other modes of transportation would we then have available to use to travel between islands?"

   "You could buy a couple corbinas, if you can afford to,... and if you want to get shot down! That plan would only work if you were starting from an aarakocra island... and if you waited out the quarantine... and if they granted your visitor pass.... Common aarakocra cannot afford their own personal spelljammers. I certainly cannot; they do not pay me enough."

   "Do you have any packages heading there, by chance?" asked Belvin in jest.

   "Caw caw! And even if we did, the corbinas can only carry three or four passengers, and each needs a mage or priest to fly, and we do not have the fleet to spare to send two of three of them out to the same island with no delivery. That would also be illegal, since the post office's corbinas are government-owned. Also, few pilots would be willing to sail into enemy territory if not on a military-mandated shipment, and the military has its own corbinas and much larger eagle ships.

   "But this is all moot, because you would be setting out from a lizardfolk island. To answer your actual question: The lizardfolk move from island to island using gliders. I would ask about using those. Honestly, even in a perfect world where you could simply fly a corbina from Hisssta, it might not save you much time. They are not much faster than gliders within the atmosphere, at least not when moving with the jet streams. Gliders are also much smaller and easier to land on a jungle island."

   "How do they glide upward?" asked Hakam.

   "Updrafts," she replied. "Think about it. How could there possibly be this much air on a planet without it crushing everything under its pressure?" Looking at each of them, only perhaps Solisar and Oma seemed to follow her logic. "I see that they do not teach physics on your worlds." She sighed. "Well, for some magical reason that no sage is able to explain, there is a permanent updraft all around the planet, which prevents the weight of the air from squishing all of us into oozes. It allows life to thrive at the highest altitudes, and it also means that handicapped creatures such as lizardfolk can gain altitude on their fake wings. No offense to the present company!"

   "None taken," said Leokas.

   "Are there any gliders for sale in Athanar?" asked Solisar.

   "Squawk! Why would we need gliders? We have wings." She flapped hers up and down, in case they had not noticed.

   "Not for yourselves, obviously," said Solisar, "but for...."

   "...disabled people," finished Leokas.

   "...visitors," said Solisar.

   "In case you have not noticed," she said, "Athanar is not the most 'accessible' place to visit for folks without wings."

   "To clarify," said Hakam, "this island, Kaw-chi-wee-tee-tee, is not owned by the lizardfolk?"

   "It was not when it was first surveyed, but it was nowhere near Hisssta when it was surveyed, remember, and that was many years ago.

   "Caw!" she added. "I just remembered. Because I am wonderful, as we already established earlier, I looked this up for you: The last delivery to Island Number Kaw-chi-wee-tee-tee was about five years ago. Our years are a bit shorter than yours, but still, that matches up rather well with your receipt. And indeed, the shipment came from the Interlink Consortium of Blah. I assume that this was a copyist's error. Chirp!" (They assumed that this final syllable was an aarakocra version of a snorting laugh.)

   "If traveling to Hisssta is indeed our best option," said Hakam, "do you have any recommendations for dealing with the lizardfolk? You must have had some dealings with them, being a post officer."

   "Wee, I am not a courier; you have to have training in the Art or be a former priestess of Syranita for that, and I never followed in my mother's updraft. I started out as geographer; now I am the postmaster. Clearly, you were not listening to my very formal introduction." Her beak opened wide, perhaps a grin.

   "Honestly, I have not had extensive dealings with the lizardfolk, meaning, none at all. However, whenever I talk to visitors who have been to Hisssta, they always mention this one lizardman named Schlith Darkscale. He is supposedly a famous expert in spelljamming equipment. For an aarakocra like me to know the name of a non-defeated war leader among the lizardfolk, it must mean something.

   "As far as how to deal with them.... The Donakkises want to tell us that all lizardfolk are cannibals or worse, but do you believe every rumor that you hear? Look, I have never met any lizardfolk, so I am not going to say that they are all wonderful creatures or anything; I just know that the 'religious war' lie is political propaganda, just like this 'off-worlders bring diseases or lizardfolk spies' nonsense. There is not one single documented incident of either. Tee, they are at war with us, but that does not mean that they are going to attack visitors from off-world. They will probably treat you similar to how we do. Hells, they might not even quarantine you! Despite what certain politicians may tell you, I do not believe in entire races of people being inherently evil. But, enough about politics....

   "That is a tough lesson to learn," noted Leokas. "It is true that not all members of a race are inherently evil, except perhaps devils."

   "Drow are also an exception," said Szordrin. Then he asked, "Could you give us a moment, please?"

   "Certainly."

   "Why would Hisssta allow us to dock?" Szordrin said to his companions, while Nareetha Spiraldive stood a distance away and waited, "We have nothing to trade with them."

   "We still have the powderhorns to sell," said Hakam. "We only sold the powderkegs, remember?"

   "I think that we have the magical power among us to avoid detection altogether," said Belvin.

   "It would take a lot of spells to hide the Frihet," said Solisar.

   "I do not mind selling the powderhorns," said Szordrin, "but is there any way that the aarakocra would find out?"

   "I do not get the sense that the two warring races are in any sort of magical communication with each other," said Oma. "These places are on the other side of the planet from each other, are they not?"

   "We just need to hide the receipt of sale that we received from the aarakocran air force," said Hakam.

   "Is this at all ethical," asked Leokas, "selling weapons to both sides of a conflict?"

   "These are not humans or even demihumans," said Hakam, "so ethics do not apply here."

   "I realize that that is what you learned in Calimshan," said Leokas, "but that is not what we learned in the High Forest."

   "There is no particular reason for us to favor any side over another," said Szordrin.

   "I want nothing to do with politics," said Belvin.

   "Ethical standings of races aside," said Jayce, "this is not technically two sides of the same conflict. Athanar is warring against Chazzma, not Hisssta. It would be like selling weapons to both humans in Mulhorand and drow in the Dalelands."

   This seemed to satisfy most of their qualms about the potential trade. They called the postmaster back.

   "Thank you for your most helpful information," said Solisar.

   "Squawk! It is my job. You know what they sing, 'Neither thunder nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays our couriers from the swift completion of their appointed flights'! That is the best translation into Common that I could do. It will have to be good enough. It has more of a jingle to it in Aarakocra."

   She looked like she was readying to leave, but then she said, "Oh, I need to take the slates back to the office. Do you have any means of copying them?"

   "Solisar, give me one of your sheets of paper." said Belvin. "Does anyone have any graphite in their component pouch?" Having obtained some, Belvin held the sheet over each slate in turn, then rubbed the graphite over it, leaving a satisfactory image of each slate's contents on the paper, in the negative space.

   Postmaster Spiraldive packed up the address slates and then made her way over to the edge of the lee. She turned back for a final comment. "Be careful over there on that island; you were especially fun for visitors, and I would hate for something to happen to you. They probably told you what they always tell the tourists, wee?" Her voice suddenly changed to the deeper voice of a male making an advertisement. "'Come to Coliar and see the most beautiful avian and reptilian life in all of Realmspace!'" She returned to her own voice. "Tee, an allosaur has beautiful neck feathers, but no one cares about that when it is trying to swallow you!" She squawked this last part. "Again, be careful!"

   With that she tossed the slate box, caught it with her left foot, and dove off the cliff.
Session: 110th Game Session - Tuesday, Jun 09 2020 from 12:30 AM to 3:30 AM
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