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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
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?"


   "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 - Monday, Jun 08 2020 from 8:30 PM to 11:30 PM
Viewable by: Public
Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Posted by the GM
Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Athanar
~ ninth-day, 19th of Kythorn, The Year of Rogue Dragons, nine bells

The adventurers were all startled out of sleep by the sound of birds, not just the repetive sounds of songbirds in the morning that most were used to but a cacophony of complex and melodic songs of much greater volume rising from the jungle canopy below them over the edge of the plateau where the Frihet was docked.

   It was dawn already. The night had been short, as it always was on Coliar, and the day would be long. Coliar, they would soon learn, had 30-hour days, fifteen hours of bright light and about seven and a half hours of twilight. That left fewer than eight hours of darkness for sleeping.

   The previous night, they had all felt tired many hours before it grew dark, because of the effects of "jammlag", as it was called by wildspace travelers. The crew of the Frihet kept a rigid schedule of shifts, as most crews did, but without being able to rely on the sun, they had purchased an hourglass and a bell, which is what most spelljamming crews did. One crewman per each of the three shifts was responsible for ringing the bell and turning the hourglass every hour. They had had good practice of this in the nearly three-day journey from the Rock of Bral to Coliar.

   Now on Coliar, it had still been light out, though dim and fading, when the first bell rang after what would have been midnight had they been on Toril or the Rock. About that hour, rain had begun to fall. They had almost forgotten about the existence of rain, having spent more than two months prior on a worldlet with no clouds. Now they were on a world with more clouds than land, and they wondered if rain was to be a common experience.

   The rain itself was welcome, for it cooled things off a bit. The previous day had only grown hotter after Kichichaw Birkinar, the dock manager, had departed for the nearly four-hour rest that all aarakocra apparently took during the heat of the day, and the party soon understood why. It was certainly hot! Even after the rain, the coldest it got all night long was probably still nearly 80 degrees.

   Before the rain had fallen, when the aarakocra's rest had ended, a crew of colorful aarakocra workers had come to inspect the cargo that they had. A receipt was handed to Hakam ensuring that the goods had been approved for sale. They had been told that they would be sent an escort the next morning to carry them down to a military base outside the city proper.

   "Carry us?" Ombert asked.

   "Athanar is not handicapped-accessible," explained the birdman. "There is no way for someone with your disability to get down to the city from the docks. You will have to be carried in litters. It is how all handicapped guests are taken into the city. Your goods for sale will be carried down as well."

   "Actually," corrected Solisar, "I am not handicapped; I fly without need of wings."

   The birdmen had looked at him doubtfully.

   Early that night, after the rain had fallen for about an hour, just as it was getting dark enough that they thought they might be able to sleep or trance, the thunder and lightning began. The booms and cracks and rumbles were greater than any storms that any of them had ever heard on Toril. The bolts of lightning traveled across the thousands of miles of sky in violet arcs in the otherwise endless gray sky.

   And now it was morning again, and it seemed like the entire avian population of Athanar was singing.

   After this, things were mostly quiet for another three or four hours. Thirteen bells rang on the ship. They were hungry for lunch and ate, but it was still clearly morning on Coliar; the sky was barely half as bright as when they had first landed yesterday.

   "Has anyone else noticed that there are never shadows on this planet?" asked Marin.

   "You cannot have shadows without a direct source of sunlight," said Nargroth. "Ambient light will not cast shadows. It is the same way on many of the other planes of existence without a sun."

   "That's a good thing;" said Brad, "we won't have to worry 'bout vampires."

   "That's a bad thing, you idiot!" said Gren. "Now we won't have no way to recognize a vampire on our ship!"

   Before the sailors' argument could grow more heated, a flock of red-feathered aarakocra appeared in the air, rising from below the plateau. They seemed to be flying in formation; groups of four or six were carrying below them wooden litters of two different sizes, each suspended by cords. One after the other, these litters were skillfully set on the shore of the lake. The smaller litters had a single wooden chair nailed onto the otherwise flat platform. From the four corners of each platform rose a wooden framework from which the cords were looped and tied from different points.

   The porters and litter-bearers landed upon the ground or the docks shortly thereafter.

   One of them informed the visitors that their transports were ready.

   "I apologize," he said, "but we do not have a palanquin designed to carry such a large person as your horned one there." He nodded at Kytharrah. "But we have brought with us an extra cargo-carrier if he can hang on without a chair to sit in."

   Kytharrah was quite happy to ride on the cargo litter.

   Once their crates and kegs of smokepowder were strapped down, Ombert, Jayce, Oma, and the adventurers buckled themselves into the chairs on the aerial palanquins, while Kytharrah stood in the middle of an empty cargo litter.

   The aerial coordination of the aarakocra was enjoyable to observe in action. The birdmen perfectly timed their circular ascent into the sky with the slacked ropes, ensuring that each cable grew taught at the same time, such that the jerk into the air from the ground was as comfortable as possible to the passengers. The motion was much like a gentle rock back and forth on a child's swing.

   They were carried out over the plateau and able to look down at the jungle below them. The aarakocra clearly lived above the trees. In some ways, their city or town was like those of forest-dwelling elves, with structures built in the trees and connected by wooden bridges. However, elven tree villages were below the leaf cover, and these were all enormous nests at the very tops and centers of the trees, with the trees' upper branches and leaves fanning out all around them. Each "nest" was typically large enough to contain two or three wall-less shelters — as they had seen when hovering above before docking the previous day — and so they could look about and see the entire bustling population at work "inside" or flying about from nest to nest. Not surprisingly, very few aarakocra seemed to make use of the bridges connecting the network of nests.

   A few of the most elaborate nest-structures seemed to have pools within them, with water pumped up from the ground far below to burst forth in fountains. Several smaller aarakocra were frolicking in one of the pools as they passed over.

   The military base to which they were being carried was actually located on a massive cliff ledge on the side of the plateau on the outskirts of the town.

   They were gently set down on the solid ground with care, and the ropes were released to fall to the sides around them. The porters and palanquin-bearers flew off, and a group of aarakocra soldiers approached. These wore bandoleers and harnesses upon which were hung clusters of round stones and hip quivers with half a dozen short javelins each.

   One of the soldiers wore a green-feathered headdress that contrasted with his own red and orange feathers.

   "I am Lieutenant Blacktips," said the aarakocra male, who seemed to be staring off into the distance as he spoke. "Welcome to Athanar Airforce Base. We have been notified that you are merchants from the Rock of Bral willing to sell us smokepowder to support us in our religious war against the cursed lizardfolk. Is this true?"

   "Yes, this is true," said Hakam. "We would be happy to sell our smokepowder to you at a fair price."

   "It is of the upmost quality," said Jayce, "the best that the island nation of Lantan on Toril has to offer!"

   "This here is my sales negotiator, Jayce," said Hakam. "He can provide any details that you need."

   "This sounds fair," said the lieutenant. "I shall have my men carry your goods into the bay, where they will be inspected by someone who knows more about the quality of smokepowder than I do. I am a flight commander, not an alchemist."

   As aarakocra troops began moving over to their cargo litters, Leokas took his companions aside. "I missed until now that this is a religious war. How do we know that our goods are not going to support a an evil power? How do we know that they will not use the powder against females and children?"

   "Aarakocra are not evil creatures," said Hakam.

   "A population can be good while its leaders are evil," said Oma.

   "I am curious as well," said Hakam. "I shall go question the lieutenant for clarification about the history of the war."

   "Take care not to offend our hosts!" Leokas cautioned.

   Hakam approached the lieutenant. "We do not understand much about your conflict. Can you summarize for us why you are fighting the lizardfolk?"

   "They profane the name of Syranita, our great goddess, and take the lands that she has granted us rightfully. Their rulers enslave their own people and forbid them common freedoms, like property. They even eat our children and sell their bodies as food to off-worlders like yourselves!"

   "How can the military fight for a leader if that leader changes constantly as a result of these 'elections' about which I hear?" Hakam was highly suspicious of such a seemingly chaotic form of government.

   "Our military is entirely voluntary," said Blacktips. "The soldiers fight because they love Athanar and they love freedom. If an election were to take place and an individual had a moral conflict with the new leadership, he could always request an honorable discharge or not renew his service time. The cockerels are well-trained, and the military pays very well. In any case, the current president has been in place for a long time, multiple seven-year terms, and she is not the first Donakkis president, so there has been great stability in the military as of late."

   "How long has the war been going on?"

   "Decades," answered the commander, as he stared of into space looking bored, "though not in the form of major battles. Nearly every state in Coliar is only a single island or a few, and skirmishes arise over the unclaimed islands depending on where the islands happen to be. The aarakocra people as a whole have had conflict with the vile lizardfolk for as long as anyone can remember, but the Donakkis's current conflict with the lizarfolk of the island of Chazzma has been happening for at least 20 years."

   Hakam reported this to his companions.

   "It may be worth having a meeting with Asharra Chickchee, the other political candidate," said Szordrin. "These people might not be having the whole story told to them by the current incumbent."

   "Do we really want to get into the politics of these people?" asked Bevlin. "I for one, do not. I only came here to learn more about who killed your master."

   "As long as they do not use smokepowder to harm the innocent...," said Leokas.

   The lieutenant ordered his troops to carry the cargo litters into the "hanger". The litters had two poles on the side, with which four aarakocra soldiers each bent down to pick up the litters awkwardly with the hands on their wings.

   "That is a little 'handicap' there," said Leokas stealthily to his companions, and a few of them chuckled. Oma looked offended.

   The adventurers followed Lt. Blacktips and their cargo around a corner and into a massive cave in the cliff. Along each wall of the 40-foot tall entrance were piles and stashes of melon-sized stones, javelins, and lance-like weapons with feathered hafts. Leokas suspected that the lances were intended to be used in dive-bombing attacks.

   In the center of the sheltered bay were several giant kite-like crafts and what was probably a small aarakocran spelljamming craft. It was about 60 feet long and had two pairs of feathered wings spanning 50 feet, a small forward cat-rigged sail, and a tail fin, with a single half-walled deck. It seemed to have two large, encased wagon wheels upon which it was resting, being clearly designed for land take offs and landings, not water ones. (The feathers were much larger than aarakocra feathers, reminding the group of the rocs that they had ridden from the storm giants' abode when in Hartsvale.)

   The lieutenant then ordered his men to place the goods in an open spot next to many other kegs. "Our alchemists will arrive in the next light call to confirm the quality of the powder. If they approve, we will discuss with you a purchase price. In the meantime, we have a room prepared for visitors to wait, and we will bring you breakfast." It took them a second to recognize that he was speaking to them again, since he was facing the kegs and crates, not them.

   The "room" was an open gazebo back out on the cliff lee with comfortable benches — comfortable for everyone but Ombert and Kytharrah at least. They sat here and enjoyed the beautiful view of lush green below them and clouds and floating islands in the distance beyond that.

   Attendants brought them breakfast, which included delicious citrus fruit juices and strips of what tasted like chicken seasoned with lemon and something peppery.

   By the time that they had finished breakfast, they were approached by the first brown-feathered aarakocra that they had seen, and when she spoke, her higher pitched voice confirmed that she was a female.

   "Welcome, visitors to our world," she said. Like Lt. Blacktips, she too wore a feathered headdress, but hers had blue feathers. "I am Captain Selora Honeysong, the munitions master of Tee-Wee Flight Squadron. That is a grand batch of quality smokepowder that you have there."

   "As I promised the lieutenant," said Jayce.

   The captain continued. "We have no use for the powderhorns, as aarakocra anatomies do not work well with firearms, but would you allow the government of Athanar to take all 100 powderkegs from your hands for the equivalent of 25,000 standard gold pieces in gems?"

   Hakam asked that the gems include certificates of quality so that they could avoid having to pay expensive appraisal fees wherever they sought to cash in the gems.

   Jayce went further than that and directly requested additional money for such fees.

   "I assure you that this is a fair and standard offer for gnomish-crafted smokepowder. It is, after all, my job to provide our troops with the finest of alchemical weaponry."

   Jayce stepped forward. "I can tell that you are an exceptionally knowledgeable woman — forgive me if that is not the correct word to use; I mean no offense."

   "There is a unique name, kwa-thee-nee, in our language, but in Common, female is preferred, but woman is fine. 'Hen', however, is very offensive. We eat chickens."

   "I will be sure to remember that," said Jayce, "but as I was saying,... you know, would do be willing to step aside with me for a moment into the sun? I do not want to bore my companions here with some of the finer details of this deal."

   Jayce came back alone with a big smile on his face and said that he got them an additional ten percent in addition to appraisal certificates for the gems. "The only reason that we got that bonus was because I did not fly the spelljammer this morning; I had to resort to some bardic magic for that deal. And no, I did not charm her; it was just a little white lie — though one which should have been completely unbelievable."

   They were paid primarily in rubies, blue sapphires, and purple corundums.

   "I thank you for contributing to the pending victory of the aarakocra over our pagan adversaries. Now, as you must understand, I am a busy bird with a great deal of work to do this day. I leave you here in the guest room. It is my understanding that you have requested that a postmaster be sent. She should arrive here at growing threequarterlight."
Session: 110th Game Session - Monday, Jun 08 2020 from 8:30 PM to 11:30 PM
Viewable by: Public
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Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Coliar
~ eighth-day, 18th of Kythorn, The Year of Rogue Dragons, nine bells

"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.


   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 - Monday, Jun 01 2020 from 8:30 PM to 11:30 PM
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The Ruins
He bore a strange and strained look since we entered the ruins, and he murmured repeated complaints that his suit of Blackbyrne colors would not be dismissed. As darkness drew itself around us, our search grew more desperate.

Padhraig sensed a growing magical effect around Cabhan, tinged with Necromantic components. And it only worsened as we searched.

Finally, we found what we thought we were looking for: a promontory stretching over the water, etched with a strange and complicated rune nearly fifteen feet across.

“By Your Power, let death at the hands of our kin bind and strengthen us both. In Darkness reborn, ro forge anew in Darkness.”

Lightning struck the sea, the fog collected and thickened until from its depths emerged several fearsome figures.

I’m unsure if I began screaming when they appeared, or when Cabhan coldly ordered them to kill us all, but in short order my throat was raw and my cheeks burned from my tears.

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Hard Candy and Session 21 Notes
Hard Candy

2 1/4 C sugar
1/2 C light corn syrup
1/2 C water
1/2 t strawberry oil (or other flavors)
Powdered sugar

Grease baking pan. Combine sugar, light corn syrup, and water in saucepan and heat until the mixture starts to harden, stirring occasionally. Take saucepan off heat, mix in strawberry oil, and pour into pan. Wait for mixture to cool, take out of pan and break into smaller pieces. Roll pieces in powdered sugar.

Session 21 Notes
After getting the orb of moonlight and the treasure in the tunnels by defeating the ice devil, we went up to the inn, where we found Baba Yaga. We gave her the orb and she said that she had cured Vasili's family. She left and we began bringing the treasure back to Zobeck. Once we got back, we noticed that winter was, strangely, already over. We bought a house for the party and Vasili, her memory restored by the priests of Lada, bought her family out of the sanitorium. Tagrimm is shaken and Vasili is back home.
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