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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 3 — Managerial Changes
What is a jungle reptile doing here?

   Cassiera's snake eyes saw two hideous humanoid creatures standing guard before a large, metal, double door, which was nestled back in an alcove 65 feet back. The guards were about six feet tall and had long tails. Their skin was red and scaly. They were naked and appeared to be sexless, but each carried a saw-toothed glaive in its sharply clawed hands. Their most distinguishing and disturbing feature, however, was the "beard" each bore. Instead of hair, writhing, snake-like tentacles grew from their chins, each ending in some sort of biting orifice.

   One of the creatures immediately vanished from her sight, leaving the other to guard the door.

   We are here to see the one who hired us, thought Cassiera in her mind, in response to the telepathic question.

   The Ice Queen expects no visitors, came the reply.

   Cassiera turned and began slithering back.

   The second guard appeared before the others in the party, and they all heard its voice in their minds. You shall go no further!

   "We were invited by Tosvin, General of Iyraclea the Ice Queen," said Hakam boldly.

   Solisar immediately cast a spell, and they all heard the sound of rolling dice.

   The guard spoke something in its own tongue and glanced around for the source of the sound. The other guard suddenly appeared standing ten feet from Szordrin, near the edge of the drop off down the steep slope behind them.

   Tosvin has been removed from power, said the guard before them.

   "We just spoke to him a few hours ago," said Hakam. "He told us to meet him here."

   "Has he been replaced?" asked Solisar, as he stepped back to a safer position next to one of the more powerful warriors. Mythlos stepped to place himself between the flanking guard and Szordrin, while Kytharrah stepped up to the front by Hakam.

   Cassiera's humanoid form filled her tunic. "Now you know what it told me up ahead," she said.

   The flanking guard lowered its glaive toward Mythlos, who had his own weapon at ready.

   He has been removed for some time. Now begone! The guard shook its glaive at them and its animate beard quivered.

   "Solonor, grant me the mercy of the hunter," Leokas prayed quietly, "to slay my foe quickly."

   "We shall happily leave once you have turned over our companion who rightfully belongs to us per the agreement we made with your previous employer," said Hakam.

   "And the dogs that are ours," added Cassiera.

   The flanking guard swung its glaive, which was deflected by Mythlos' sword. You had your warning, said the other guard telepathically, and then it charged over the snow at Kytharrah. The swing drew a bit of the minotaur's blood and sent a tuft of his fur flying.

   "Be wary of their beards and glaives!" Solisar warned.

   Everyone joined into the battle with haste. Hakam prayed for divine power from Anachtyr. Cassiera lobbed a vial of alchemist's fire. Solisar and Szordrin each scattered silver powder around themselves. Belvin began calling for a creature from one of the planes. Kytharrah and Mythlos each stepped forward and engaged their foes in melee. Kytharrah took another nick from his opponent's blade, and Mythlos struggled to connect with his foe.

   Then Leokas let fly two arrows. The first struck the guard in the center of its bare chest, plunging in deep and causing the guard to stagger back before a second arrow struck it in the shoulder. As it wobbled, it swung weakly at Kytharrah and missed.

   Hakam then stepped forward. As he swung his sword down on the monster, its pole arm caught him under the arm and drew blood. Hakam's sword connected, but the gash it left in his opponent immediately sealed itself back up.

   Three projectiles of magical force then slammed into the guard from Cassiera's fingertips, causing it to drop to its knees, allowing Kytharrah to land a powerful swing of his massive axe, sending the guard flying onto its back in the snow in a pool of black blood.

   On the other end of the battlefield, another sound of rolling dice was heard, as a fire elemental appeared behind the remaining guard, flailing its fiery appendages. The guard seemed unharmed by its blows, but when it turned back to see what had appeared, this gave Mythlos a tactical advantage. Stepping in closer to negate the effectiveness of his enemy's pole arm, Mythlos took another pair of swings. The guard avoided the first swing, but the second left a silver, glowing gash across its chest. It screamed out in pain.

   Leokas rushed back to get a clear shot and loosed two more arrows simultaneously, but he missed. Szordrin also had his shortbow out and fired a shot. It struck the guard in the skull but was deflected away without even drawing blood. Nevertheless, Leokas was impressed with his teammate's aim. "Impressive shot!" he exclaimed.

   The guard dropped its glaive to the ground and gave a terrible cry in anger, its beard extended. It lashed out at Mythlos with its deadly claws, roaring with each swing, but Mythlos easily avoided the swings. Kytharrah and Hakam rushed over, and now the guard was surrounded on all sides. Cassiera send more magical bursts from her fingertips, but her magic was somehow resisted this time. Solisar was able to overcome the enemy's magical resistance with his wand, however, and two more bursts struck the guard.

   "Strike!" shouted Belvin, as he pulled his own bow from his shoulders and nocked an arrow. A bolt of lightning shot from the cloudy sky and electrocuted their opponent.

   The minotaur and the moon elf then dropped their convulsing foe to the ground in a spray of black blood.

   "That was not quite the welcome I had expected," said Hakam.
Session: 77th Game Session - Wednesday, Sep 07 2016 from 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 3 — Wild Empathy
"What comes after twenty?" asked Kytharrah, after they had been climbing the magically constructed stone staircase for some ten minutes.

   "We have walked more than twenty steps, lunk," said Szordrin.

   "I am fast!" protested the minotaur.

   "Twenty-one," said Cassiera.

   "You want 401 next," said Solisar.

   "One hundred is a very lot, isn't it?" asked Kytharrah. "Four hundred must be a very, very, very, very lot," he said, counting the "very"s on his long, clawed fingers.

   "Yes, indeed it is. 401 is twenty twenties and then one more," said the sun elf. "You counted twenty steps twenty times, didn't you?"

   "Yes, how did you know?"

   "Because I already counted 400 steps and know that you cannot count past twenty," said Solisar, smiling.

   "What comes after twenty hundred one?" asked Kytharrah, after they had gone up 16 more steps.

~~~~

When they had gone about twice twenty twenties of steps, Leokas, whose eyes had been on the skies the whole time, spotted a flying creature. He immediately warned the others. "It is white, so it is hard to make out against the ice, but it is not a wyvern or dragon," he said. "I believe that it is feathered. It is large, perhaps the size of a small horse."

   "It must be one of the creatures of which the galeb duhr warned us," said Hakam.

   "Should we hurry along then?" said Cassiera.

   "I am too winded for that," said Mythlos. "These steps are going to be the death of me."

   "It passed beyond the peak again," said Leokas. "It has four legs, as the galeb duhr said. I think it is a hippogriff or griffon. Both creatures are extremely fast flyers, especially the latter beasts. If they pounce on us from the air, they will certainly knock us to our deaths."

   "Do you still have the rope tightly around me, minotaur?" asked Hakam.

   "Are they dangerous?" someone asked.

   "Not as dangerous as some other predators," said Leokas. "They are not said to savor the taste of humanoids, but they are rumored to have a great appetite for horses."

   "Kamil is not a horse!" said Belvin.

   "Do they know that?" asked Cassiera.

   While they were all glancing up at the one flying beast, a second swooped suddenly down and landed on the stairs some ten yards ahead of and above them, almost without a sound. They now gazed upon a powerfully built, majestic creature, reminding them of both an eagle and a lion. Its head was bird-like with a sharp beak and white feathers. The feathers blended into white hair that covered its body except for its massive feathered wings that came from its back and shoulders much like those of a dragon and spread out some 25 feet from tip to tip. It sat crouched like a lion on its hind legs. Instead of paws on its front feet, its toes seemed more like talons. It pulled its wings partly in and tilted its head sideways to stare at them curiously with one of its large black eyes.

   Hakam put his hand on his sword.

   "Be nice, everyone!" said Cassiera.

   The griffon sniffed loudly through the large nostril holes on its black beak. Kytharrah sniffed back.

   "Does anyone have food?" asked Cassiera.

   "I saved some extra from last night," said Kytharrah.

   "Genie food decays rapidly if not eaten," said Hakam.

   The griffon stepped a few yards closer.

   Cassiera began humming a song and stared directly into one of the beast's eyes. Then she stepped boldly toward the creature. It never took its eye off her as she walked precariously along the edge of the steps and past its large body, turning its head like an owl to follow her with its gaze. When she passed it fully, still humming, she continued carefully walking up the remaining steps, while being sure to continue looking back. When she had gone another ten yards from it, it turned quickly like a feline and pounced forward toward her by ten feet. This startled her, but she maintained her concentration and continued climbing.

   "Come on," said Leokas. "Now is our chance to ascend behind it."

   Just then, they heard a shrill screech, and another griffon landed behind them. It was only five feet away and extended its long neck to sniff at Kamil.

   Belvin turned back in the saddle and began speaking soothing words to the beast in the Sylvan tongue. It bowed its head low and extended its wings. Belvin dismounted carefully and also bowed.

   The others made their way up the remaining steps. Cassiera had reached the last of them and stepped onto the icy ground again. Here, a wide ledge passed along the side of Tosvin's peak, and she began to walk along it in a clockwise direction toward the great cleft that they had seen from below. The griffon still followed her, as the others also made their way onto the ice.

   "Here, I happen to have a few pounds of food left," said Hakam to the minotaur, once they reached the top as well. "Toss some to the monsters."

   The minotaur threw the food off the edge toward the griffon in the rear, and it immediately ceased paying any attention to Belvin and leapt into the air with a powerful downward thrust of its wings. It went into a dive and caught the foot in its beak before gliding off into the distance.

   Cassiera stopped humming and motioned behind the other griffon. It turned to see Kytharrah with the second pound of rations in his hand. The minotaur tossed it behind himself, and the griffon launched itself over all of them and scarfed the morsel down.

   "Belvin, come on!" shouted Mythlos, and the druid remounted and urged Kamil up the remaining steps. The griffon watched them continue on, but seemed satisfied, at least for the moment.

~~~~

Leaving the griffons behind them, they soon reached the split in the peak, the summits of which were still 500 feet above them. The split itself was perhaps sixty feet wide.

   "Where is the entrance?" asked Cassiera.

   "The rock creature seemed to think that the monsters were entering the peaks themselves," said Hakam. "I imagine there must be some sort of entrance ahead."

   Kytharrah was sniffing the air. He recognized the smell of sulfur, but he did not know the word for it.

   Looking into the rift, they thought they could make out an opening in the wall of ice to the right.

   "I will shift into my snake form and scout around that corner," suggested Cassiera, and the others thought this a good idea.

   She soon slithered out of her pile of clothes over the snow, which felt especially cold against the bare scales of her viper form. She slithered some twenty yards before peeking her tiny, flat head around the corner cautiously.

   She heard a voice in her mind. What is a jungle reptile doing here?
Session: 77th Game Session - Wednesday, Sep 07 2016 from 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 3 — The Galeb Duhr
"I feel tired," said Kytharrah, as he climbed his way out of the crevasse.

   "All of a sudden?" asked Hakam.

   The minotaur nodded. "I felt sleepy lying in that red snow, so I climbed out."

   "It must be a curse she placed in the snow," said Hakam.

   "I am not sure what magics they were casting," said Solisar. "I did not recognize the form of any of the spells, accept that they were all druidic magic."

   "Hmm," said Belvin, contemplating this.

   "What were they?" asked Szordrin.

   "Some sort of undead, I presume," said Hakam.

   "Can someone help me down?" said Mythlos. He was still standing atop the column of ice on the other side of the chasm. The minotaur hopped over and assisted him.

   "How are the rest of us going to get across without the bridge?" asked Cassiera.

   Kytharrah roared and swung his axe at the pillar of ice.

   "What are you doing?" asked Mythlos.

   "Knocking this stupid ice over," said the minotaur.

   "That actually might be a good idea," said the moon elf. "Where is that magical rope?"

   "Why?" said Kytharrah. "We don't need to climb."

   "You will see." Mythlos set down the bag of holding he carried for the party and opened it. "Ormur," he shouted into the bag, "tie yourself around this pillar of ice."

   The rope launched out of the bag like a striking snake, flew through the air, and tied itself around the column of ice. Mythlos took hold of the other end. "Now, start swinging again," said Mythlos.

   Belvin understood what his fellow elf had in mind. He spoke to Kamil and then had the camel rush the crevasse and leap to the other side. Dismounting, he chanted a spell, and a blade of fire erupted from his hand. He held the magic flame against the other side of the ice from where Kytharrah was striking.

   In this manner, they melted and chipped away at the column until it fell like timber, being guided down by Mythlos' pulling at the rope. The column was just long enough to form a new bridge across the chasm.

   This allowed Leokas, Szordrin, Cassiera, Solisar, and Hakam to cross, although Hakam did so with great difficulty, assisted by rope. By the time he was on the other side, the others were examining the fallen bodies of the ones who had ambushed them. The male was almost burned to a skeleton now.

   "Were they mummies?" one of them asked.

   "Perhaps of a sort," said Hakam, "but they still had internal organs." He noted the upper half of the woman's bloodless body. "Perhaps they were preserved by the cold instead of by the sands. The male burned quickly because there was no moisture in his body. Dark magic, in any case."

   "They had gems," said Mythlos, removing a pouch from a belt that the woman had worn.

   "Careful!" said Solisar. "They might be cursed."

   "You and Szordrin can appraise them later," said Leokas.

   "I know a thing or two about gemstones, also," said Cassiera.

   "Nevertheless, we should continue onward, we may still yet have 1,000 feet to climb today."

   "We should at least make use of their climbing equipment," said Cassiera. "Their boot spikes might help some of us." She gave Hakam a look.

~~~~


They reached where Tosvin's peak rose up higher from the ridge in a steep slope of ice. Leokas guided them in a northwesterly direction, approaching the edge of the basin again.

   "There is where we climb up," said the ranger.

   "It is covered with rocks," said Hakam. "Won't that cause a landslide?"

   "It is called 'scree'," said Leokas. "It is far safer than trying to climb these ice walls. The slope there is gradual, like on the snow field, and if you stumble, you will get rocks and stones in your boots, but at least you won't be dead. It will be slow going, but it will be safe."

   "I wonder why so many rocks are here at all," said Cassiera. "Why aren't they buried under the glacier ice like everything else?"

   No one had a good answer. Soon, they found themselves scrambling up ground that continuously slipped under their feet. Still, Leokas seemed to be correct; except for getting pebbles in their footwear, they were gaining altitude.

   Then, they all heard Kytharrah begin giggling. He was pointing at some medium-sized rocks that were jiggling around. "The rocks are dancing!" exclaimed the minotaur.

   Szordrin also had spotted the movement, yet he did not find it funny. Suspecting a magician was nearby and animating the stones, he let fly a series of magical bursts from his hands. Cassiera followed his lead, but she sent her magic careening into three separate stones.

   Perhaps in response to the pre-emptive magic attack, ten of the stones began rolling towards them rapidly and flung themselves through the air at the adventurers. They were relatively easy to dodge; since their path was not smooth, they could not roll in a straight line, but Mythlos was struck by one of about four feet in diameter, only narrowly avoiding the full brunt of the blow. He drew his sword and swung at the rock twice, and his blade ricocheted off.

   Solisar cast an unknown spell upon himself, while Szordrin pulled a piece of gum arabic from his spell component pouch and then waved his hands and vanished. Kytharrah drank one of the potions on his belt that made him feel tougher.

   Hakam clutched his holy symbol and touched one of the rocks. "Be flattened!" he commanded. Instantly, the rock changed shape, and now it rattled around atop the scree, looking like a ten-foot-wide pancake.

   Then, it stopped rattling, and all the other rocks became inanimate again as well.

   Solisar cast a spell upon his eyes so that he could see invisible creatures, and then he glanced around, trying to spot whatever mage had enchanted the stones. He saw nothing but Szordrin's invisible form, and he reported this to the others.

   "Shall we press on again then?" asked Cassiera. "Is it safe?"

   The others nodded in agreement, as it seemed that whatever magic had animated the rocks was past, but the minotaur picked up one of the rocks and smashed it against a larger boulder.

   "Minotaur!" scolded Hakam, but it was too late. Immediately, three boulders ahead of them began shaking with life, one ten feet in diameter and the other two well over fifteen feet in diameter.

   "We should have climbed the ice," Cassiera bemoaned.

   All three of the rocks rolled down the hill toward the minotaur. He avoided one and even struck it with his axe as it passed, but he was sideswiped by another. Before the third boulder could reach him, Mythlos had summoned forth the elephant from the magic figurine. The huge pachyderm shoved against the boulder, stopping it in its roll and shoving its solid mass back several feet.

   "What is this? Call off your rocks!" Cassiera was shouting down the scree field toward the basin.

   Most of the others looked back to seat a strange sight. Another small boulder of about two feet in radius was shaking back and forth, but this boulder very clearly had two stumpy legs coming from its side... and two very large, dark eyes and massive stony lips. This "rock man" seemed to have no body separate from its head, nor did it have arms. Cassiera did not know the body or facial language of such a creature, but she was fairly certain it was dancing about in anger.

   "Is it a fey of stone?" asked Belvin aloud from atop Kamil.

   Solisar cast another spell, tossing a piece of glass or metal into the air, and they all heard the sound of rolling dice. Hakam held his holy symbol toward the rock creature and shouted, "Be shattered!" A visible crack appeared in the rock creature's face, and it roared in a deep, grinding voice.

   In response, the smaller of the three shaking boulders launched at Kytharrah, smashing into him and knocking him down to the ground, out cold. Leokas rushed to the minotaur's side and force-fed him a potion. Belvin was there a moment later, jumped down from Kamil and touched his companion with positive energy. Kytharrah sat up with a gasp.

   The agitated rock man kept shouting in some strange language. The elephant continued to strive against one of the larger boulders, holding it back, but it was beginning to lose the pushing match, and it trumpeted in frustration. The other rocks were rolling around the party, gaining momentum for another attack.

   "Szordrin, what is it saying?" shouted Cassiera, aware that the invisible wizard's earlier spell should still be functioning.

   "Where is Szordrin?" asked Mythlos.

   "It says, 'Go away, fleshy things! This place is sacred to rocks,'" they heard Szordrin translate.

   "We don't care about your rocks!" Szordrin's voice then shouted at the rock creature.

   The rock creature roared more words.

   "I mean, we do care about your rocks!" Szordrin corrected.

   Solisar was trying to find an item in his spell pouch. He pulled out a tiny clay model of a tower and it vanished from his fingertips as he spoke a spell's final words. "We mean your rocks no harm!" he shouted, in what sounded like grinding teeth, clicks, and guttural growls to all the others.

   "'You did harm one of my rocks,'" they heard Szordrin say. "'The big, hairy, red one did it, and you squashed one!'"

   "'And you cracked my head,'" added Solisar, translating.

   "Hakam, heal him!" Cassiera pleaded.

   "I am not going to heal it!" argued the cleric.

   "Heal it, or I'll shoot you with my fire!" she said.

   "Solisar," called Hakam, "tell it that I will heal it, but if it does not call off its rocks, we will shatter it into pieces."

   Solisar obeyed, but left off the last part about shattering it.

   The three boulders stopped moving. Kytharrah climbed to his feet, leaning on the one that had knocked him unconscious. "Too rough play!" he said, shaking his finger at the rock, before patting it amicably and turning to join the others.

   Hakam and Solisar walked slowly downhill toward the being of rock, and the others followed. Hakam touched its stony surface. Energy transferred from flesh to stone, and the crack on the creature's face sealed. It spoke more words with its rocky mouth.

   Szordrin came visible again and translated. "'You trespass. You want way to gold and gems under the mountains. Tell me why I should not squash you with my rocks.'"

   "Treasure under the mountains?" said Mythlos.

   "Tell it that we have no desire for its gold or gems," said Hakam. "We give our word. We meant no disrespect to his holy rocks. We are trying to retrieve a friend of ours taken up to the top of this mountain."

   Solisar translated for Hakam. The creature then "sat" its "head" on the ground and pulled its rough-hewn legs to its sides. Now, with its mouth closed, except for its brooding eyes, it looked exactly like any of the other mid-sized rocks.

   The creature opened its mouth again. Its words came out slowly and deeply. Solisar translated. "'Is your friend one of the flying blue monsters or the disappearing and reappearing red ones?'"

   "No," said Hakam.

   "'Is your friend one of the big hairy ones or the big gray ones or the big, shiny white ones or the bigger blue ones?'"

   "That is a lot of monsters," said Belvin.

   "No," said Hakam, and Solisar continued translating. "She is our size, a bit shorter than me, the same height as this woman here with us. She has long blue hair and pale skin with blue markings."

   The creature had seen two creatures shorter than Hakam, wearing thick clothes. One was more curvy than the other. They tried climbing up the peak and then a blizzard came. "They still wander around over the way you came and have never left, but they do not come to my rocks."

   "It must speak of the two undead we destroyed," said Hakam. "Ask him how long ago this blizzard was."

   Solisar did so. "'Hundreds of melts and freezes ago,' it says."

   "How long has it sat in this basin?" asked Cassiera.

   "It says that it has been here since before the ice came," said Szordrin.

   "The ice separated it from its sibling," said Solisar. "They both broke off from their parent in this valley, which used to be only rocks and dirt. Its sibling left to find another rock field, and then the ice came."

   "How sad!" said Cassiera. "What does it do by itself?"

   "It sits and hums poetry to itself," said Szordrin.

   "What are you?" asked Leokas.

   The creature said that it was called a Galeb Duhr, but whether that was its name or its kind was not clear to either Szordrin or Solisar.

   "What about our dogs?" one of them asked. "Has it seen them?"

   "It doesn't know what a dog is," said Szordrin.

   "Tiny, fuzzy creatures with four legs," said Cassiera.

   "Like me!" said Kytharrah.

   "You are not tiny," said Belvin.

   The rock creature had seen no dogs.

   "If so many other creatures have come and gone, why did you let them pass and not us?" asked Hakam.

   "'They do not come this way. They go up the ice. They have long bodies and climb. Or they fly. They do not come to my rocks.'"

   "Where do they go?" asked Hakam.

   "'They go inside that peak. The closest one.'" The galeb duhr slowly lifted up one of its appendages and pointed with a stony digit. It became clear that the appendages served as both its legs and its arms.

   Solisar asked his own question of the creature; then he explained to the others, "I asked it how long ago the first monster came to the peak and which monster it was. It says that one of the blue flying monsters with big eyes like a bug and a long tail came many melts and freezes ago. This must be Tosvin."

   "Ask it what the best way to reach the peak is," said Belvin.

   The galeb duhr explained that the way everyone else went was straight up the ice slopes (but they had longer arms and legs) or by flying or being carried or by disappearing and reappearing at the top.

   Hakam asked, "You said that everyone wanted to take the mountain's treasures but also that the monsters never came this way. Which one is it?"

   "'Those who come into my valley of rocks have no interest in the peak; they are creatures like you, not big creatures. They do not come very often, only once every ten melts and freezes or so. The big creatures come and go often.'"

   "Now that you know our true intents," said Hakam. "Will you let us go up this way? It is too difficult for us to climb the other way, and our friend is in danger, so haste is important."

   "'You broke one of my rocks,'" said the galeb duhr.

   "Is there any way we can make that up to you?" asked Cassiera. "Hakam, can you fix his rock?"

   "I did not pray for such power this morning," he said.

   "We got some pretty rocks from those dead people," said Kytharrah.

   "We did?" said Mythlos. "What rocks?"

   "Yes, Kytharrah!" said Cassiera. Then she had Solisar translate. "If we gave you some of our gems, would you let us go up this scree field?"

   The galeb duhr hummed in a low, almost imperceptible tone.

   "Szordrin, bring over that sack of new gems."

   He did so, and Mythlos came over also. "I hope you don't plan to give it the valuable ones," they both said.

   "Not that one;" she said, "it's a golden pearl, isn't it? And that one is a spinel. What about this one?" she asked, pointing at an unpolished black stone.

   "Not that one," said Szordrin. "I think it is black corundum. It is the same stuff as emeralds and rubies. If polished, it will be worth more than all the rest in this rotted pouch."

   They offered the galeb duhr a handful of gems. It held open one of its feet/hands, and Cassiera set them there. It then held the gemstones up to one of its large eyes and examined the five stones. A big smile formed on its hewn lips.

   "'You are good creatures,'" it said. "'I will make your way easier.'" The rock creature put its arm/leg down and closed its eyes, looking more like an inanimate boulder than ever. The rocks all around them began to vibrate, and some of them instinctively readied themselves for another attack. The rocks did not launch at any of them, however; instead, they all began lifting off the ground — nearly every stone in the basin except the ones upon which they were themselves standing. In one of the most incredible feats of magic any of them had ever seen, the rocks began floating toward the slope and stacking themselves together to form a high arch, which began to support an enormous staircase ten feet wide and 1,000 feet high. The entire construction took about fifteen minutes to complete, and the galeb duhr did not open its eyes or move during the entire process.

   The galeb duhr then grunted and opened its eyes.

   "That's a lot of steps," said Hakam.

   "How long will the steps remain?" asked Leokas.

   The galeb duhr agreed to leave the steps there until nightime but no longer, but he would allow them to walk through his valley again.

   They thanked the rock creature and walked toward the first steps. It called something out at them, and Solisar translated. It warned about a group of flying animals nesting in the cliffs above it, which sometimes swooped down and carried away goats searching for grasses to eat in the basin. It said that the animals had four legs with claws at the ends, very large feathered wings like birds, and feathered heads and beaks. They were about twice as long as the galeb duhr.

   It then gave a final goodbye, and they began to climb.
Session: 76th Game Session - Thursday, Aug 25 2016 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 3 — Alpine Climbing
~ seventh-day, 7th of Uktar, The Year of Wild Magic, highsun
outside Gharreil


At highsun, the party left Galadrel behind in the care of the Prince of Jhothûn and stepped through the portal to Gharreil. Since the sun was overhead, they were able to enter the ruins without using any magic. They made their way to the center of the city, to the promenade of columns where they had encountered Tosvin over a month ago.

   There was no sign of him, so Hakam used his magic to send the ice devil a message. "We are waiting at Gharreil, having satisfied your request. We wish to exchange our proof for our companion Ilthian and our sled dogs."

   A few moments passed, and then Hakam heard Tosvin's reply. "I deal with Iyraclea's concerns presently. Come to my tower to retrieve the female. Northernmost twin of tallest peaks west of Gharreil. Climb snow field."

   Hakam relayed this information on to the others, and then they gathered their things and returned to the surface.

   When they had climbed back out of the crevasse, they took in the environment around them. To the west was a northern bend of the Lugsaas with its sharp icy peaks.

   Leokas pointed in the distance. "That split peak there must be the twin peak Tosvin mentioned." To reach them, the party would have to climb over or onto a ridge, for the tall, split peak was beyond that. "I see no snow field though, and this ridge is not climbable without climbing gear."

   The split peak was also a bit to the north, so they decided to trek along the snow and ice around the next bend. Having done so, they could now clearly see the snow field to which Tosvin referred, a relatively gradual slope falling between two mountains and leading to a saddle point connecting them.

   It was not gradual enough for Hakam, however, who lost his balance on the ice, fell to his knees, and slipped back several yards before stopping himself. "Perhaps we can make a rope team," Hakam suggested. They tied him and Kytharrah together and continued. Some of the others also struggled but not by as much. Solisar could walk atop the snow by the magic of his boots, but he still needed to mind his balance. Kamil was heavy enough to crunch into the ice surface instead of sliding, and his four legs gave him superior balance.

   After an hour's climb, they reached the saddle point. Now they overlooked the surface 500 feet below and behind them. On the other side, the ridge dropped down very steeply into a basin formed by a ring of mountains, with a final depth of about 100 yards below them. The bottom of the bowl was full of boulders and rocks, in addition to ice. The split peak was more clearly visible on the other side of the bowl, rising some 1,000 feet above the other mountains.

   "I do not see any tower upon that peak," said Hakam.

   "Perhaps it is on the far side," suggested Leokas.

   On their right, there was an icy ledge hugging the mountain slope to the north. The mountain rose up quickly to peak another 800 feet or so higher. To their left, the ridge flattened out and headed west away from the mountain to the south, which rose up to about 1,000 feet in height. Either path looked like it would take them to the other side of the bowl, though the left path seemed both safer and shorter.

   "If we had any plans of stealth," said Solisar, "we shall have to reconsider them; there is no cover from here to those peaks."

   "We should not require stealth if Tosvin knows we are coming and desires it," said Hakam. "Nevertheless,... Anachtyr, vest me in thine armor." He touched his breastpiece.

   Belvin chanted something in Sylvan.

   "What magic are you working?" asked Leokas.

   "I was asking Thard Harr to show me any pits or covered crevasses," the wild elf replied.

   "That is a good idea."

   "Just because I am wild does not mean I am not wise," said Belvin.

   "I never claimed you were not, my friend," said Leokas.

   Kytharrah sniffed the air and perked up his ears.

   "To the left then?" asked Cassiera. "It seems the safer way."

   The others agreed.

   The ground was mostly level here, and they crunched easily atop the snow as they rounded the peak to their left, moving in counterclockwise direction. After perhaps fifteen minutes, they saw a short woman rounding the peak from the other direction. She was dressed in Iulutiun clothing, and carried climbing equipment — a pack, rope, and an ice axe swinging at her side. On her feet, she wore strange boots with spikes at the bottom.

   Szordrin spotted her first. He immediately cast a spell to understand any language she might speak, then shouted out a greeting in Common.

   "Ai!" said the woman in a friendly but raspy voice. "Tung-ashugit! You climb too?" She had wrinkly skin and looked rather old.

   "Play?" said Kytharrah.

   "Wait," said Hakam. "Hold still. Stay."

   "We are heading to that peak," said Leokas, "the one that is split."

   "Yes, yes. Come, come," said the woman, turning herself to walk in that direction and motioning for them to follow her, "This way good."

   They followed her, and Kytharrah bounded ahead of the others. Shortly, they could see that the ground split up ahead, and an ice bridge crossed over an open crevasse. The woman walked over the bridge without any issue, and motioned for the others to follow.



   "She has no smell," said Kytharrah.

   "No smell at all?" asked Cassiera.

   The minotaur shook his head.

   "Let me cross first," said Hakam, "since I have the ring. Minotaur, make sure the rope is still tied tight to me."

   "The bridge will collapse," said Belvin in Elven.

   Hakam and Cassiera looked back at him, since they could not speak that language. "What?" asked the yuan-ti woman.

   Solisar cast a spell upon himself.

   Belvin motioned to Cassiera and Hakam.

   "Why wait?" said the old Iulutiun woman. "Bridge safe. I walk over. See?"

   "Minotaur, hold the rope. I'm crossing over," said Hakam.

   The bridge was about ten feet wide and twenty feet across, and the bottom of the crevasse was 50 feet below. The cleric stepped out onto the bridge. Once he had stepped forward a few yards, just as Belvin had predicted, the bridge cracked. Hakam tried to leap back, but already he was falling, as the ground beneath him gave way. His chest and arms struck the ledge of the broken bridge as he fell, but he could not get a grip on the ice. He tumbled down, and then his magic ring caught his fall and caused him to drift downward like a leaf.

   The woman on the other side of the crevasse immediately began waving her hands and chanting. Hakam landed on his feet on the snow amongst the rubble from the fallen bridge. The woman pointed at him, and he saw red beneath his feet. Glancing down, he watched as the snow all around him turned red, looking as if it were frozen blood.

   "Pull me up!" he shouted, and he took a step back and shot a burst of searing light from his palms up at the woman.

   She shrieked in agony, but her voice was cut off suddenly. Mythlos, in a daring leap, had jumped the twenty feet across the crevasse and struck the woman with his sword. The single slash completely cut her in half diagonally from left shoulder to right hip, as the moonblade glowed with positive energy. The two chunks of her body tumbled to the snow. There was not a single drop of blood. Her flesh fell like frozen meat.

   As this was happening, another figure, looking also like an Iulutiun climber, rushed from around the corner of a mountain slope to the left, also chanting.

   "He is summoning something!" Solisar shouted to the others in warning, as he cast a spell and rushed north closer to the edge of the basin to spread out from the others.

   Leokas immediately loosed two arrows at once, which each struck the man in the chest. Belvin shot a sphere of fire from his finger tips, which the man avoided, while still chanting. Cassiera struck the man with three of her magical bursts of force and moved toward Solisar.

   None of these attacks broke the man's concentration on his spell. He didn't even seem to be in pain from the two arrows in his torso. He pointed a finger, and a large wolf of ice appeared, taking shape from the snow and looking like an ice sculpture come alive. The wolf opened its mouth, and a blast of bitter cold air and tearing sleet came forth. Szordrin dove to the snow to avoid most of the spray of ice. Belvin nearly fell from Kamil's back, as the camel also jumped.

   Kytharrah had pulled up Hakam, and as the cleric got back up to his feet, the minotaur jumped across the chasm to join Mythlos, in a single standing hop.

   The man pointed again and shouted out another command, this time facing Mythlos. With a terrible rumble, a column of ice rocketed out of the ground from under the elf and the minotaur, launching both of them high into the air. Mythlos maintained his balance atop the column, but Kytharrah did not. He tumbled off and fell 25 feet to the ground, striking the edge of the crevasse with a loud grunt and then falling off the edge another 50 feet.

   "Fanilrahd! Solisar shouted, and the minotaur began floating down at a safe rate. With another yell, the sun elf then dispelled the magic of the ice wolf, causing it to burst into snow, just as it was about to bite into Szordrin.

   "The gods will not permit...," Hakam spoke boldly, beginning a magical empowered speech to hopefully enthrall their opponent, but he was cut off by the sound of an explosion. Szordrin had unleashed a fireball. Their enemy fell to the ground and was still, his clothing and flesh on fire.

   "I could not tolerate hearing another of your sermons," said Szordrin.
Session: 76th Game Session - Thursday, Aug 25 2016 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 3 — The Last Prince of Jhothûn
~ sixth-day, 6th of Uktar, The Year of Wild Magic, evening
outside Gharreil


The adventurers arrived in a tight cluster deep within the darkness of the crevasse. Solisar did not waste any time; he held up the omlar gem, still lit with the power of a spell of daylight. The circle of Giantish runes appeared in the ice again, glowing blue. The sun elf pressed his hand to the center and spoke, "Måtte Qorrashen smile til det og gi næring til sine mektige gjerninger og fortsette å favorisere alle Jhothûne." The ice began to melt away.

   They stepped through the circular archway into the subterranean tundra surrounding the ruins of Gharreil.

   "Where is Hakam?" asked Galadrel.

   "He must still be in Choshein," said Solisar.

   "Unless it sent him to one of the other locations," one of them said.

   "We cannot wait another hour," said Solisar. "The daylight spell will end before then, and we won't be able to open the gate again until the morrow."

   "If we wait for him within the dome, we shall be able to open the gate from the inside, shall we not?" said Leokas.

   No one knew the answer to that for certain, but it seemed the best option, so they sat down on the hard ground near the gate and waited. The gate did close itself several minutes later, but indeed, simply touching the wall of ice from this side caused it to open again.

   About an hour passed; then, suddenly, Leokas stood up.

   "Where are you going?" asked Belvin.

   "To the center of the city."

   "Aren't we waiting for Hakam?" asked Szordrin.

   "The portal is calling to me."

   "Can you speak back to it?" asked Solisar.

   "I refuse to guard your portal!" Leokas shouted into the air, but he felt a powerful tug at his conscience. "No. No, I cannot," he said, sounding defeated. "It is best if we all go to it now," he said. "Come!"

~~~~

A thousand miles away, Hakam did the only thing he could do; he sat on the ash-covered floor of the cavern and waited. He took comfort, at least, in the fact that his light spell should last him until the portal would be functional again. He pondered the events of the last two months. His god had told him by the power of divination that these portals would be the fastest way to reach Samber. Thus far, it was not seeming that way.

   When the magic light upon his shield was extinguished, he knew that it had been at least an hour. He stood up and reached for the nearest pillar in the pitch black. Silently, the chamber was filled with light, as sheets of green, rippling energy once again appeared on each side of the heptagon.

   Hakam counted to three to himself, this time stepping through on three.

   He found himself not at the bottom of a dark crevasse but rather in a torch-lit circular room built from white marble. The portal had malfunctioned, as Solisar had warned it might. He glanced quickly around, trying to take in the new environment. The domed ceiling above appeared to be gold-plated and then painted with imagery of snowflakes, clouds, and icicles. Directly in front of him was the ornate railing of a balcony, and he looked down through a circular opening in the floor to see another two stories below. Straight ahead, on the other side of the opening, a rectangular room joined with this one, and beyond that was a wide hallway, perhaps 40 feet in width. In fact, everything in this palace-like place was built for creatures far larger than him. Behind him, was an archway, twenty feed wide and 40 feet tall, carved from black stone and engraved in runes much like those that had appeared on the ice wall before Gharreil. The archway stood, a door to nowhere, in the center of the floor. To his right and to his left on opposite sides of the circular room were two other identical looking archways.

   Hakam held up his silver holy symbol to the runes. "Anachtyr, reveal these words to me," he prayed. A beam of light shown from the miniature silver shield, and the runes took new shapes to his eyes. Now, he read aloud Alzhedo words in the Thorass script: "The city of Choshein, seat of the Satrap of the High Ice, loyal servant of the Emperor of Jhothûn. May the qorrash smile upon it and nurture its mighty works and keep the Satrap firm in loyalty. From thence shall the power of the Emperor extend to the south."

   As he finished reading, he felt an intense chill coming from behind him. He spun around to see a cloud approaching him, floating down the hall and then through the balcony railing and directly over the opening in the floor. He stepped to the side, away from the portal.

   The cloud began to take bodily form, first a bald head with an elegant white goatee, then a neck and torso, followed by arms and at last legs. Confident and powerful, the bald humanoid stood as tall as an ogre, but his features were noble, and his blue skin was covered with frost like a window in wintertime. A feeling of sharp cold surrounded him, chilling Hakam even from five yards away.

   Why have you come to this palace, intruder? The creature's lips did not move, and his face maintained its somber expression. Hakam heard his deep voice within his own mind.

   "I am here because of a malfunctioning portal," said Hakam.

   How did you get past my guardian? said the voice.

   "He was bested," said Hakam. "He sacrificed himself in an attempt to destroy us, rather than permit us to pass through, but he alone perished."

   The being began pacing in a circle, and Hakam took notice that the creature's feet were not actually touching the ground, nor were his legs moving. He simply floated in a circle a few inches from the floor, leaving a trail of frosty air as he went.

   "After eons of protecting this empire, how is it that now, in a matter of days, two of my guardians are lost?" Hakam realized that the creature spoke these words with his actual mouth and that they were not spoken to him; it was only because of the spell effect still functioning from when he had read the runes on the portal. Hakam waited for the creature to address him again.

   There were others with you; Hakam heard in his mind. Where are they now?

   "I presume that they are outside the ruins of Gharreil," said Hakam.

   You know the names, then, of the satrapies of the empire?

   "I know of Gharreil and of Choshein, yes."

   What do you seek from them?

   "Nothing, noble and powerful creature of ice. We sought only a way to leave the barren wilderness of the Great Glacier and return to our homelands far to the south and the west. However, one of your guardians, the ice devil Tosvin, accosted us and forced us to pass through and perform a deed for him, stopping any others from entering. We have done this and were trying to return to him to notify him of our success so that we might be free from our service to him. He has also taken one of our own as a pledge till we return to him."

   The creature began circling once more, this time in silence. Hakam thought to himself that this must be one of the qorrash, an ice genie.

   Yes, I am a qorrashi, the last of the Princes of Jhothûn, Hakam then heard in his mind. He did not intend for the genie to have heard those thoughts. ...And I can read even the thoughts you do not intend to share with me, the genie continued, so do not try to hide the truth from me.

   "I have no such intent," said Hakam.

   You are certain that the creatures of shadow have no interest in this palace or its treasures?

   "I am certain."

   "Perhaps," said the genie in its own voice to itself, "after all this time, a new strategy may be more fruitful...."

   Hakam watched as the genie floated over to the stone archway to his right and stared through it, as if looking at something. After a few minutes, Hakam heard, I have summoned your companions. They are going to join our discussion.

   Hakam waited patiently, as the ice genie continued to pace in a circle in silence. Maybe ten minutes later, without warning, Mythlos appeared, as if he had just stepped through the archway, his glowing sword drawn. The genie waved his arm, and the moonblade was yanked from Mythlos' grip, flipped around, and sheathed itself. Mythlos stumbled over to Hakam, looking confused. Moments later, one by one, each of the others came through, ending with Belvin atop his camel and finally Leokas.

   "I said after three!" said Szordrin to Hakam.

   "Who are you?" said Leokas to the genie, finally facing his new master and recognizing him as such immediately. "You have no right to force me to guard your portals!"

   I am the Prince of Jhothûn. I have every right. They all heard his voice now. You have intruded on territory that I swore to protect thousands of years of your time ago. I have a right to slay you with cold here where you stand or to make you my servant until your life ends. Yet I am not without mercy; come, follow me, and we shall speak of another way, which you may find more pleasant.

   The qorrashi spoke with a charisma that filled them with both awe and fear, yet they did not feel threatened or in direct danger. The genie began floating toward the hallway, and all of them followed, Kytharrah still carrying Uregaunt's body and Belvin leading Kamil by his reigns. The hallway was 150 feet long. It connected perpendicularly to an even wider hallway, full of large windows on the other side. Moonlight shone through the glass. They were led to the left. After another hundred feet, they passed a small alcove with a doorway and then a second doorway, before taking another left at the end of the hall. They now came into an enormous, irregularly shaped room, full of banquet tables. The tables were made of marble and had marble benches arranged around them. Otherwise, the room was empty. A row of windows was on one side of the room, and there was a large staircase descending from the same side.

   Join me, here, at this table, the genie offered, or perhaps commanded.

   They all sat down, and the Prince of Jhothûn sat at the head. He held his muscular arms out and snapped his fingers with each hand — once, and the table was instantly covered with a silken tablecloth and set with fine dishes and utensils; twice, and each plate and glass was filled with warmed bread, delectable fruit, and dark wine. Dine with me. I have not had guests in a very long time.

   It did not take much encouragement for them to partake in the meal. As they filled their mouths and stomachs, the genie continued speaking to their minds. The failure of my portal guardians of late has concerned me. This tells me that, after all this time, the world outside the confines of this palace and of the borders of the empire of Jhothûn are changing. The little peoples of Toril are no longer content to remain in their own lands. Even the cold north they covet, though they do not have the hot blood of the isejotunen or of the qorrash. You tell me that the people of shadow will not come again. I trust your words, and I believe it will be so for a time, but they will have the short memories of all mortals; they will soon forget and will desire these lands for themselves.

   I am but one servant of the Lost Emperor, and I am bound by oath not to leave this palace. Only so much can I do alone to restore the Empire to its rightful place, and no longer can I wait for the Holy Ordning to send the heir to me.

   I speak of the true heir of Ottar Annamson, Father of the Isejotunen. His throne lies within this palace, a throne of ice and stone. Only the true heir, approved by Annam All-Father himself, can sit on the throne and not be frozen solid after no more than a twelfth of an hour. Not even a being of the Plane of Ice, as I am, can sit upon the chair.

   I offer you a great reward, if you will perform a service for me. You may refuse, but if so, this elf of blonde hair must remain as guardian of the portal at Choshein, and I shall return to waiting for Ottar's heir to return to me on his own.

   The genie paused. Hakam swallowed the fig he was chewing and answered, "What is this service you desire of us, noble prince?" suspecting already what the service might be.

   Find for me the heir of Ottar Annamson, so that the empire of Jhothûn will be restored and my oath completed. If you accept this service, I will grant you a single wish now, as is within the limits of the power of my magic, as prepayment for your agreement. If you complete the task within one quarter of the time it takes for Toril to orbit its sun, I shall grant you two additional wishes.

   "And if we fail within that three months?" asked Leokas.

   Then you must remain in service to me forever, but I shall let your companions go free.

   "Why must the time limit be so short?" asked Mythlos.

   That is all the time that I will risk, said the genie. My generosity is not unlimited.

   "Your highness, noble genie, sir," said Cassiera, "how do giants track royal line of succession?"

   Each of the jotunbrud follows its own version of ordning; however, the chair judges differently. It seeks to find the rightful Emperor of Jhothûn, not some simple jarl of a barbaric tribe. A rightful emperor must be the male closest of kin.

   "Would he necessarily look like a giant?" Hakam asked.

   I do not know, said the genie.

   "Do you have any idea whatsoever of where to look?" one of them asked.

   The genie shook his head, and flakes of frost fell to the table. Never have I left this palace while it has existed on this plane, and only by the three portals can I gaze without.

   "So the task is impossible then!" exclaimed Szordrin.

   "We could return to the cloud giants," suggested Solisar to the others. "Perhaps if we peruse their library further...."

   "Among you, me, Mythlos, and Hakam," said Szordrin, "I believe that we have looked in every book they have."

   "I have heard a rumor," said Galadrel softly. "It is just a rumor, so it is probably nothing."

   "A rumor about what?" Leokas asked.

   "There is a little-known land, far to the north of the High Forest, said to be covered in snow ten months of the year. It lies within a valley among the Ice Spires. It is called Hartsvale, and the humans living there are rumored to have good relations with many tribes of giants of all the giant races. The queen of Hartsvale herself, it is said, is even married to a giant as her consort."

   "How would that ever work?" asked Cassiera.

   "As I said, it is but a rumor," said Galadrel, "but I suppose Hartsvale should be rife with giant history."

   "We only have three months," said Leokas. "Traveling to High Forest alone would take half a month."

   "...From the High Ice," said Belvin, "but where are we now? Do any of us even know?"

   You are in the capital of the Empire, within the royal palace, said the genie, seemingly unaware of how unhelpful a statement it was. I will permit you to use the portals within this palace for as long as you are in my service, if such will help you fulfill the task. You may come and go from this palace as you will, provided you are seeking to find the true heir.

   "Where does the third portal go?" asked Hakam. "We know only of the portals to Choshein and Gharreil."

   The third portal takes one to the city of Karffbadh, or what was once Karffbadh, the seat of the Satrap of the Moving Ice. I shall warn you, however, that that portal on the other side is the most damaged by the passage of time. Like the portal in Choshein, it is not consistent in its functioning and is in dire need of repair. Only the portal in Gharreil still functions as it was created to do.

   By now, most of them had finished eating. The genie saw this and said to them, I shall permit you to consider your answer for a time. You may tell it to me in the morning. For now, please take rest as guests within this palace. I shall prepare rooms and baths for each of you.

~~~~

The genie was true to his offer to provide them with restful accommodations. With a snap of his fingers, he would fill each empty, marble-walled room with a bed of cushions and pillows and a marble tub of steaming water. Having found a room for each of them on the second floor of the palace, he then departed and left them.

   That night, they began a conversation about what they might wish for. Some were very excited about being the recipients of a true genie's wish. Others were more cautious. Leokas warned, "I remember a wizard named Oadif in Calimshan once told us that wishes always come 'true' but that the greedy often find that they come true in deadly ways, such as a man wishing to be rich and being crushed to death by millions of coins."

   "I do not sense that this genie is particularly malicious," said Hakam. "Genies can control how the wish comes true, can they not?"

   "Are there rules for wishes?" another of them asked.

   Shockingly, Szordrin knew more about this topic than Solisar. He informed the party that any wish that interfered with the freedom of another being could be resisted by that being. Just like someone with a strong will could overcome an attempt at being magically spell-charmed to fall in love, so too would a wish have the same limitation. Just like some magics could be blocked by more powerful magic beings who were resistant to magic, so could a wish to kill someone be resisted. Such things were harder to resist than weaker spells, but the risk of failure was still there.

   Bringing someone back from the dead was fully within a wish's power; however, as with everything else, one must be careful with the wording of a wish. If the person's body was not actually there with the wisher, he or she might end up being visited by a ghost! One would need two separate wishes in that case, one to bring the body, and the other to bring it back to life.

   Finally, the genie decided how many wishes to grant, but once done, he or she was bound by honor and by magic to do so. To wish for more wishes would essentially be wishing to charm the very same genie to change his or her own mind. As the one granting wishes was probably magically powerful, the likelihood of resisting an attempt to charm oneself into changing one's own mind was probably high.

   "We should wish for a powerful magical item," said Mythlos.

   "We should ask him to tell us all about the Interlink Consortium," said Szordrin. "That will tell us Samber's plan and complete our quests."

   "My vote is to wish Ilthian back," said Hakam. "Granted, I intend to add several clauses to make the wish as unambiguous as possible."

   "I think instead that we should go back and get Ilthian ourselves," said Cassiera. "We would then have three wishes to use to ask for information or transportation onward."

   "We will need to make sure he will allow us to delay a wish," said Hakam.

   "If we are not permitted to delay the first wish," said Cassiera, "we might also be able to speed our journey and avoid ambiguity even more by asking that we be met by Ilthian directly at the outskirts of frost giant territory."

   "That would be two wishes," explained Szordrin.

   "I am uncertain which is the wisest choice," said Solisar. "Requesting that the genie summon Ilthian might be the safest for her in the short term, assuming the devil has left her unharmed. However, it will likely result in him considering the deal broken and mean additional problems for us in the future. For one, the path through that portal will be sealed. The devil may also try to send others after us in vengeance. The sled dogs will most certainly be killed if they are not dead already.

   "If we delay the wish," he continued, "the devil might not consider our end of the bargain complete and may harm Ilthian before we can return her. Yet this plan also has the best possible outcome should we be careful with our words. If the devil considers the bargain complete, we will recover Ilthian and the remaining gear, the portal will not be shut, and we will not have the additional future threat."

   "I am satisfied with Solisar's plan," said Hakam. "If we can indeed defer the first wish, we could save it to repair anything that goes wrong in her recovery."

   "A down side is that retrieving Ilthian ourselves takes away from our three months," said Leokas.

   Belvin replied, "Our first wish could be, 'We wish that Leokas be freed from being portal guardian if we fail to find the heir in the allotted time.'"

   "We should phrase it, 'We wish that none of our party would be compelled to guard any portal,' to be safe," suggested Cassiera.

   "Why are there so many words?" said Kytharrah. "I thought we were going to beat the dark man. We did. Do we get to see our little sister again now?"

~~~~

The next morning, the group joined the genie prince in a different banquet hall for breakfast. The sun shown through the eastern windows, and they gazed upon a wilderness of ice even more barren than the Great Glacier.

   "If we may be so bold to ask, noble Prince," said Hakam, "we were wondering if we could defer our first wish for a time."

   I will permit this, said the genie. So you have decided to enter my service?

   "Not yet!" said Belvin. "I also wish to know if we can make our wish in absence. If we are far from this place, can you still grant our wish?"

   If I can hear you speak the words, "I wish," I can grant it.

   "Do you know anything about the Interlink Consortium?" asked Szordrin.

   The genie seemed confused. I know nothing of this "Interlink Consortium" of which you speak. Never have I left this palace in thousands of years. Now, are you ready to begin your quest?

   "We still have more questions about wishes," said Mythlos, "and about how they work. Would we be able to, hypothetically, wish for a map that tells us the location of every frost giant on Toril?"

   The genie sighed. You mortals always have such strange understanding about the power of the wish! You could wish for such a map, but only a god could create an artifact so powerful. The result of a wish is limited by the power of the granter. If I were to severely drain myself to the point of injury, the best I could ever do would be to create a similar map that would detect all isejotunen within a radius of about a quarter mile and only if they were not under water or within anything made of lead.

   And as I have no intent to injure myself, continued the qorrashi, I warn you now that I would do all in my power to grant that wish in a way less satisfactory to your desires.

   "We do not wish to anger you, your highness!" said Cassiera. "We are simply ignorant of how such powerful magic works."

   The genie went on. I could create a less powerful map that would work for 90 minutes per day to detect any isejotunen within 760 feet, but even that would be taxing for me and might limit my ability to grant your second and third wishes. The choice is yours....

   "We do not need to know where all frost giants are anyhow," said Hakam. "We need to know where exactly one is. It seems inefficient for us to have to bring any candidates back to this palace to sit upon the chair. Would it be possible to wish for a magic item that would recognize the heir as the throne does?"

   Since neither I nor you have any knowledge of who this heir is, beyond his relation to the Great Jarl Ottar, I could not create such an item, even with the power of the wish. I could, however, create a powerful divinatory item to grant you the discernment of the gods as to what actions to take in the short term were you to find a suspected candidate. But is there not a powerful priest or priestess among you? Can you not simply seek your gods for divine guidance or perform an augury when the time is right? That would spare you a wish, would it not? While I have no desire to injure myself in granting your wishes, neither do I want to see you waste my power on something you could solve on your own.

   "Perhaps an item to teleport us back to a particular location," suggested Solisar, "some sort of wand of returning."

   This idea seemed good to all of them, but they still agreed that they wanted to defer the wish for now, that it would be safer to try and retrieve Ilthian directly from Tosvin first.

   "One last question we dare ask," said Hakam to the genie. "You are Tosvin's master; can you speak to him and have him return our companion whom he has taken?"

   I can only speak to him when he is near the portal, and he is rarely near it.

   "Is that not his duty?" asked Leokas.

   He is bound to defend the portal, not to remain in its presence. He watches it from a distance with magic. Did he not appear to you before you passed through?

   "The first time, yes."

   And it was I who called you through the second time, replied the prince.

   "We are ready to decide," said Hakam. "We will accept your offer to grant freedom to our companion, Leokas, from service as portal guardian, in exchange for our finding the true heir of Ottar Annamson, as confirmed by the throne of ice and stone. You promise to grant us one wish whenever we so desire it, simply for attempting this task. If we succeed at our quest within three months' time, you will give freedom to Leokas and grant us two further wishes. If we fail, Leokas' freedom is forfeit."

   As it has just been spoken, said the genie, so let it be done!
Session: 76th Game Session - Thursday, Aug 25 2016 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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