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Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Onran's Dwelling
Solisar was warned by Belvin to be wary of traps as he walked up the hill to the fence gate. From the back of Kamil, the druid now looked past the wizard at the giant crystal. He agreed with Leokas' earlier assessment. "Like in Samber's mine," said Belvin.

   Szordrin carefully examined the area for traps and did not find any signs of them. He also enspelled his eyes to detect anything invisible but saw nothing amiss. They opened the gate. The gravel path forked at the gate and led to the house on the right and to what they soon realized was a severely overgrown garden.

   "We may have to look out for other plant-based guardians," warned Belvin.

   "It is not like my master to have such dangerous guardians," said Szordrin. "His chosen defenses were always illusions and hiding well, not summoned or conjured monsters. Planting a carnivorous plant on his property would be fully out of character. I doubt that he was to blame for the yellow musk creeper."

   "For what it is worth, I see nothing magical in the vicinity beyond the giant crystal pillar," said Solisar. Solisar did not see any aura on the omlar crystal pillar itself, but he could see strands of the Weave stretching in all directions above and around them, convincing him that this was indeed the origin of the powerful illusory effect surrounding this part of the island.

   The garden would have been 25 feet wide and twice that length. Belvin cautiously moved forward and determined that it still had carrots, potatoes, green beans, and other vegetables — all plants that a human might grow for food — growing among the jungle ferns and bushes that had taken over the rich soil.

   West of the garden was a well, still full of water. Next to it sat a plow, its wood now rotted. South of the garden was the remains of a simple bench.

   The house itself was roughly square, only about 30 feet to a side. It had a thatched roof and a chimney. A tiny structure was also east of the house with a single door. The roof on the west side of the house overhung a narrow stretch of ground and sheltered the stone steps up to the main door. There was a back door on the east as well.

   They cautiously peeked into the windows all around the house. Most of them still had glass, but inside, the house seemed to be in chaos. Solisar first peeked through one of the western windows into a rectangular room. There was a bed frame and mattress and an open wardrobe, but everything was a mess. The bed was half off the frame, and a pile of books were strewn on the floor. This seemed to be more than just the results of five years of no inhabitants; someone had tossed things around, searching for something.

   "Szordrin, have you checked for traps at the front door?" asked Hakam.

   Szordrin did so, not finding anything suspicious.

   As Kytharrah sniffed the air; all he sensed was decaying wood.

   Leokas, however, crouching low to the ground at the base of the stone steps, claimed to recognize a footprint. "A giant cat stepped here," he said.

   "How long ago?" asked Hakam.

   "I cannot say. It could have been years. Tymora smiled upon us by placing this overhang above the steps, else the nightly rains would have washed the print away in a day or two."

   Kytharrah sniffed no lingering smell, confirming that the print was very old.

   Through the north windows, Hakam saw an overturned wooden washtub and a flattened, empty sack in the entry room after the front door. In the next room over, moving east, he saw a broken chair, a desk, two empty bookshelves, and more books scattered about. It looked like all the books had been tossed from the shelves.

   He returned to the others standing near the front door. "It all seems fairly mundane to me," said Hakam.

   Solisar agreed. He still did not detect any magic, having wandered along the south side to the east. He opened the back door, which was unlocked. The door opened into a fifteen-by-twenty room. A large amount of dark mold grew at the base of the door. This seemed to be a kitchen. There was a small table with two chairs to the left and a stool sitting beside a cooking fireplace of stone to the right. In the southwest and southeast corners were an overturned and shattered clay vase and a broken wooden barrel, respectively.

   Following Solisar's lead, Kytharrah opened the door to the tiny shack east of the house. It was clearly an outhouse, but it had been so long since it had been used that even his minotaur nose had not noticed the scent.

   Belvin hitched Kamil to the post supporting the roof overhang, and the others came in through the unlocked front door one-by-one, with Hakam leading the way.

   The cleric stooped down to look at the sack. It had been ripped open, and any food that once had been stored within was completely gone. He found evidence of both piercing — perhaps by small teeth — and slashing — whether by blade or by claw he could not tell.

   Belvin passed him and stepped out of the room to the southeast. There was an open closet door to his right. Within was a large wooden chest. It had been smashed open. It was empty.

   Szordrin walked by Belvin, briefly moved into the kitchen where he saw Solisar, and then stepped north into a small ten-by-fifteen room. He realized that he was in his former master's study. The broken chair that Hakam had earlier seen through the window had definitely been smashed apart intentionally. Books were all over the floor. He bent down to pick one up. It was decayed beyond readability, its pages eaten apart by mold. He began looking over all of them, hoping to find some clue to his master's past, but each one was in a similar state of decay.

   Sofi stepped into the kitchen with Solisar. He was examining the stool by the fireplace. The padded seat had been slashed, and all the stuffing had been pulled out and searched.

   "What berk would do this to someone's case like this?" said Sofi.

   Belvin approached the kitchen table. On the floor underneath it, he found a small booklet. When Solisar turned to look, he told the druid that the booklet had a very faint aura upon it. Unlike the other books in the house, this one was in perfect condition, likely protected from decay by a simple arcane cantrip. It was a catalog for the Interlink Consortium of Bral.

   Hakam entered the kitchen and then passed into the remaining room in the southwest, the bedroom with the displaced mattress. The wardrobe was empty of any clothes.

   Sofi stepped into Onran's old study to find Szordrin looking at the desk. There were scattered pieces of parchment scattered over its surface in a disorganized fashion. Szordrin was holding a picture frame. It was a charcoal portrait of a woman with dark hair held up in a bun. At the bottom of the drawing were etched the words "My beloved bride, 1335 – 1338".

   "She is beautiful," said Sofi from behind him.

   Szordrin set the picture frame carefully down. He did not recognize the woman. He had not even known that his master had ever been married. He had always sensed that Onran's past was too difficult for him to share.

   Belvin had also entered the room. He picked up the portrait that Szordrin had set down and examined it, while the tiefling wizard searched among the scattered notes on the desk. Most were moldy and hard to read, but a few were still legible. One of them was a formal thank you letter from an orphanage in Cormyr. Onran, it seemed, had donated a large sum of money to the charity. This was not the only such thank you letter on the desk; there were a few.

   There was also a receipt. He carried this and some of the more-legible letters out to the others. "I found some interesting things," he said.

   The group passed around the items and discussed them.

   The receipt was from the Interlink Consortium, regarding the purchase of a "runestaff of passage" for a large sum of Lantanna trade bars on the seventeenth of Ches in the Year of the Turret. It had been shipped here to Kaw-chi-wee-tee-tee.

   "Onran was only married for three years," said Solisar, indicating the years on the portrait that Belvin held.

   "Unless she was three years old," said Hakam, "like Samber's creations. Does anyone remember any of the constructs on his island looking like the woman in the portrait?"

   None of them did.

   "Which year is this on the letter and the receipt?" asked Szordrin.

   "The Year of the Turret?" Solisar replied. "That was the year that the Tuigan Horde was defeated by the alliance of King Azoun IV of Cormyr, 1360 in the Dalereckoning."

   Most of them remembered the event, when a horde of barbarians on horseback invaded interior Faerûn from the wastelands in the east. The king of Cormyr had gathered an army from nations all over the continent to repel the invaders. This all happened a bit more than a decade ago.

   "This woman died decades before the runestaff was purchased," said Solisar, "unless the numbers on the portrait are not in the Dalereckoning."

   "'Kevrin Greenbrook'," Hakam read from the thank you letter. "He was not a Calishite, but 'Saint Fanal' may have been a Calishite saint of Ilmater. Szordrin, which deity did your master revere?"

   "He worshiped Celestian, a god from one of the other crystal spheres," said Szrodrin.

   "So, not Ilmater then." Hakam flipped through some of the other letter fragments. "These all seem to be donations to orphanages."

   "Onran was always helping out various street urchins in Guallidurth," said Szordrin. "He was the most charitable, generous person whom I ever met."

   "If Onran is indeed the 'Ronan' from Jayce's stories about Samber's childhood," said Hakam, "he was himself adopted, by gnomes, if I remember correctly."

   Hakam then opened the back of the picture frame to see if anything was written on the back of the portrait, but he found only blank canvas.

   Meanwhile, Ferry, whom Szordrin had set loose to explore the house on his own, scurried up his master's robes to his shoulder and chirped into his ear.

   "Ferry may have found something in the bedroom, when he was searching under the bed," Szordrin translated. "He says that the bed was slashed open with big claws."

   Leokas led the way into the bedroom and flipped over the mattress. There were indeed clear claw marks where the mattress had been slashed. "Claws, once again," said Leokas. "Probably the same creature that left a print by the door."

   Belvin agreed. "Definitely a feline, not a canine."

   Solisar asked, "Szordrin's ancestry includes a rakshasa, does it not? Could the prints be from a rakshasa? In other words, was Onran attacked because he helped Szordrin?"

   "I do not know enough about rakshasa feet to distinguish its prints from those of a weretiger or even a normal tiger," Leokas replied.

   "I do not know about rakshasa feet either," said Solisar, "but I do know about their hands. All legends of rakshasa that I have heard describe them as having 'backwards' hands. Their palms face out not in; the thumbs are on the opposite side of where they should be."

   Hearing this, Belvin examined the claw marks more closely. He grunted, impressed at Solisar's theory. "You are correct. This creature's thumb claws are on the wrong side. See, these lower claw marks would have been the thumb claws."

   Like every other container in the whole house, the mattress had been opened and searched.

   "What else do we know about rakshasa's?" asked Leokas.

   "They are malicious, fiendish entities, like demons or devils," said Szordrin, "yet distinct from either. They do not reside on the Lower Planes but instead inhabit the Material Plane where they scheme and plot evil from the background. They are immortal beings; if one is killed, it simply reincarnates in a new rakshasa body. They are also skilled shapeshifters."

   At these words, Hakam gave Sofi a suspicious look. Too often they had been fooled by shapeshifting fiends. She was definitely not chaotic, but neither were rakshasas. She was looking at Szordrin with concern in her expression and did not notice the cleric's glance. However, he had not prepared any spell to detect evil this day. That concern would have to wait.

   Instead, Hakam prayed for the ability to detect secret doors. He saw no auras in the bedroom, but when he turned back into the kitchen, he immediately sensed the presence of one. A moment later the base of the fireplace began to glow.

   "Onran has a secret room underneath the hearth," he said, and the others gathered with him back in the kitchen with interest.

   Shortly thereafter, the spell revealed a firebrick in the back of the firebox that served as the release for the secret door.

   "I can see the stone that opens it as well," said Hakam, "but I want to scan outside by the well first, before my spell runs out. Perhaps we missed something outside."

   They all followed him outside. The outhouse was just a normal outhouse, the well was just a normal well, and there were no auras from the garden, but as they walked around the grounds a second time, they noticed another overgrown path leading from north of the house, through some thick trees, and down the other side of the hill. Once at the trees, they could look down on a small clearing, with a large wooden platform erected there, still within the confines of the fence.

   They hacked their way through the underbrush and came to the platform. It was collapsed and rotted, but something large and wooden had once sat atop it. The remains were broken apart and burned. Kytharrah and Leokas each found some glass on the platform. Belvin found what seemed to be a scorched chair buried underneath some other wooden debris.

   "This chair seemed to have resisted the fire," said Belvin.

   "It is not magical," said Solisar, "at least not anymore."

   "But it has runes carved into it," said Szordrin. "See? Here and here. This was a spelljamming helm once."

   "I think that you are correct in your assessment," said Solisar. "This was probably the landing platform for a small spelljammer, like a mosquito or wasp."

   "I doubt that there is anything else to discover here," said Hakam. "Let us go explore the secret chamber beneath the fireplace."

   Back in the house, they stood around him as Hakam pressed the firebrick in the back of the fireplace. The stone slid back without great difficulty, and there was a clicking sound. They then found that the whole base of the fireplace was on a pivot, and they were able to rotate it out from the wall, swinging clockwise, which revealed a narrow and steep set of stairs underneath.

   At the bottom of the stairs — more of a ladder really — was a very tiny room, a storage chamber. Hakam lit up his shield, and light filled the room. The room was full of a bunch of items, and unlike everything above in the house, none of these items seemed to have been touched; all were arranged neatly around the walls. Leokas checked for rakshasa footprints on the steps and found none.

   Szordrin wondered aloud. "If they searched the house so thoroughly, how did they miss this room?"

   "It was an impressively hidden secret door," said Belvin. "I searched the area by the fireplace and never noticed the trigger."

   Szordrin looked back at Sofi, who stood back on the steps out of the way. She seemed intrigued by their discoveries, but he could not read anything else in her expression. (Kytharrah was too big to fit in the room and waited at the top as well.)

   Among the items on the floor, there was a set of leather bracers. Solisar indicated that they had a very similar aura to the magical bracers of armor that some of them wore.

   There were a pair of high boots made from deep red leather with brilliant copper-colored leather soles. They looked very comfortable. Solisar described them as having a moderate conjuration aura.

   Next was a tricorne hat with a single feather. This glowed with a faint illusion aura.

   There were three potion vials and three arcane scrolls, all with auras from varying schools of magic. Solisar unrolled the scrolls quickly to check how many were written upon each. One scroll had a particularly strong aura but only a single spell. The other two scrolls had a few weaker spells each.

   He set the scrolls down as Szordrin picked up the remaining item in the storage room, a small, ornate box made of reddish wood with golden metal pieces at its corners and edges. It was held shut with two golden clasps and locked with a series of eight combination dials in two columns on the front of the box. Carved into the box were intricate feather designs. The entire box glowed with a faint abjuration aura.

   "Solisar, can you read the symbols on the dials?"

   "They look familiar," replied the sun elf. "I believe them to be Aarakocra numerals. In fact, I am certain that many of these symbols are on the address slates. My studies of the language before we came here to Coliar involved the use of Iokharic, the Draconic script, to write the language, but I also learned that the aarakocra have their own system of numerals distinct from those of the dragons. I learned how to speak the numbers from one to twenty and words such as 'hundred' and 'thousand', but I never had the time to learn their numerical or mathematical systems."

   Leaving the other items in the storage room for now, they took the small box upstairs and set it on the kitchen table and stood or sat around it trying to figure out a way to get it open.

   Belvin was the first to suggest a solution. "The two sets of dials are the two years on the portrait," he stated.

   "Let me try to simply pick the locks first," said Szordrin. However, despite his best efforts, he could not feel any catches in the rotation of the dials that would allow him to crack the code.

   He set the box back down on the table. "Onran lived simply," he said, "but if he needed something, he always found the best."

   "I think that Belvin's guess is the correct one," said Solisar. "The years of their marriage — or her life, if Hakam is correct that she was one of Samber's constructs — are the numbers at which to set the dials, but I do not know which numerals on the dials are which."

   "We can probably assume that they go from 1 to 8," said Hakam.

   "But which is 1?" asked Szordrin.

   "It might not matter," said Hakam. "If we arbitrarily chose one as 1 and it fails to open, we simply rotate all of them by one and try again."

   "That is a lot of combinations?" said Szordrin.

   "Is it not only eight to try?"

   "Do any of you have a spell to read languages prepared?" asked Szordrin. None of them did.

   "All the dials are currently set to the same character," said Solisar. "Typically, people would set the dials all to 1 or to 8, so we would have even fewer combinations to try."

   "I do not think that you are correct, Solisar," said Belvin. "I think that the simplest of the characters must be 1. In which case, all of the dials are currently set on 7. They become more complicated as you move counterclockwise."

   Szordrin agreed. "You are right. There is a pattern in the characters. In nearly all cases, the characters across from each other share strokes; they correlate somehow. If this is three here, than directly across from it has the same strokes plus this additional arc."

   "Yes," said Solisar, "and they grow more complex after this point. One stroke, two strokes, three strokes. Then it changes to an arc here — so that is an exception — and then you add one stroke, two strokes, and three strokes again."

   "There are two single stroke characters, though," said Hakam. "One horizontal and one vertical."

   "It is not 1 to 8;" said Szordrin, "it must be 0 to 7."

   "Ah, so the flat bar is zero," said Hakam.

   "Yes," said Solisar, "and then it counts one stroke for 1, two strokes for 2, three strokes for 3. 4 then has its own special character, and after that you simply add the character for 1, 2, or 3 to the character for 4 to get up to 7."

   Convinced that they were ready to turn the dials, Szordrin asked Solisar to read off the numerals in the years on the portrait.

   "Ah, there is still a problem," said the sun elf. "One of the digits in the years is an 8."

   "Oh," said Hakam, sounding mildly defeated.

   There was a period of silence, as they considered other options.

   There was a small crash from one of the other rooms, as Kytharrah accidentally knocked something over while trying to allay his boredom. Sofi went to check on him, but he had only broken the door off the wardrobe.

   "What if we simply assume that that is an 8, not a zero?" suggested Szordrin.

   "Can we convert these four digit years somehow to only go up to 7?" asked Hakam. "What if we subtract 1 from all of the digits?"

   "That would give us 0224 and 0227," said Solisar, "but we have the same problem of not knowing whether that horizontal bar is a 0 or an 8. Szordrin's suggestion is a simpler solution."

   Another long pause. Solisar appeared to be doing some complicated calculations in his head.

   "The aarakocra keep time differently than on Toril, correct?" said Szordrin.

   "Yes," said Hakam, "they do not count hours; they use 'light calls' instead, eight or sixteen, depending on whether they count the 'growing' and 'shrinking' segments of brightness. And they use eightdays instead of tendays."

   "They may not count in the same way as us at all," said Szordrin excitedly. "We need another digit when we get to ten, but perhaps they switch to two digits when they get to eight. Solisar, can you count to twenty in Aarakocra for us?"

   Solisar did so. "Tee, chih, seh, kaw, doh, ler, hoo, oot, teet, and chit is ten; set, kat, doht, lert, hoot, ooch, teech, chich, sech, and kach is twenty."

   Szordrin asked him to repeat a few of the numbers. "Yes," he said, "all of the numbers between eight and fifteen end in a 'tuh' sound. All of the numbers from sixteen on end in a 'chuh' sound."

   "I think that you are correct," said Solisar.

   "Of course," said Belvin. "They effectively have eight fingers, remember? What would be the bones of our littlest fingers are part of their wing; they cannot use them like true fingers. They can only count to eight on their fingers, not ten."

   "The characters also look like abstract bird feet, now that you say that," said Solisar.

   "Yes," said Hakam, "three fingers and a thumb. The thumb is the arc used for 4."

   "In that case," said Solisar, "if I did the calculations correctly in my head, the series of digits that we want are actually 2467 and 2472."

   "Is that not six years instead of four, like on the portrait?" asked Sofi, who was confused by this complicated math.

   "It is still four years," explained Solisar, "but counting works differently. 2467 is the first year, but there can be no 2468, because there is no 8 numeral. So the next digit switches back to 0 and the one next to it moves up to 7 from 6, just like we would go from 69 to 70 because there is no special numeral for any numeral after 9. So, the four years are 2467, 2470, 2471, and 2472."

   "Barmy," said Sofi.

   "Let us try it out," said Szordrin.

   He set the top left dial to the vee-shaped character that they suspected was the numeral 2. The dial below that he set to the arc that they thought represented 4, and so on, until all eight dials were set, with 2467 down the left side and 2472 down the right side.

   He pressed the releases at each of the two clasps, and they did not move.

   "Flip the orientation, going up," said Solisar.

   Szordrin did so, and the box still remained locked.

   "Let us try shifting all the numerals by one, as I suggested earlier," said Hakam.

   "No, of course, I should have considered this at first," said Solisar. "Their language is written from right to left and bottom to top. Swap the numbers on the two sets of dials."

   At last, when Szordrin set the dials and pressed the releases, the clasps popped open with two clicks. They all smiled at their victory.

   However, when Szordrin tried to lift the cover open, it did not budge.

   There was a collective sigh in the room.

   "It is likely additionally sealed with an arcane lock," said Solisar. "That would explain the abjuration aura on the box."

   "I will try to dispel the magic," said Hakam.

   "Let me pray for Thard Harr's guidance over you first," said Belvin.

   Neither Hakam nor Solisar could overcome the magic that held the box sealed, however.

   "Is it impossible to open, then?" asked Leokas.

   "No, but we will need to wait until the morning," said Solisar. "We will all prepare spells specific for unlocking items. I am certain that we will be able to determine its contents tomorrow. We are so close."
Session: 115th Game Session - Monday, Jul 20 2020 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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