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Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Legal Matters
to be written...
Session: 119th Game Session - Monday, Aug 17 2020 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Marauders
to be written...
Session: 119th Game Session - Monday, Aug 17 2020 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
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Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Ropers
Kytharrah rounded a particularly large cluster of crystal growth and spotted motion from the corner of his left eye. It seemed like one of the stalagmites to the north had moved. He gripped the dark leucrotta bone in his fist, ready for if it moved again.

   Suddenly, something shot out at Kytharrah, explosively launching from the stalagmite, like a frog launching its tongue at a fly. It looked like thick, fleshy rope. In the brief instant, Kytharrah was reminded of his little sister Cassiera's insides before Hakam had fixed her again. Kytharrah swung a perfectly timed swing and smacked the fleshy rope aside with so much force that it tore apart, splattering mud-like gore. Fleshy fragments plopped onto the ground. The limp end of the "rope", still attached to the stalagmite, began to slowly recede into a hole in the side of the rock.

   Leokas responded immediately, hopping onto a raised stone platform while nocking an arrow. He let it fly, and it struck with enough force to puncture the stony surface of the stalagmite. A second arrow glanced off its shell. A third arrow missed, and the fourth also stuck in.

   "It has a thick hide!" Leokas warned.

   Nargroth roared and leaped recklessly down the stony slope. Landing on his feet, he rushed over the rocky ground toward their strange attacker.

   Oma began summoning, while Szordrin snagged a piece of sap-encased eyelash from his pouch and vanished from sight. Belvin clutched his holly and mistletoe and prayed for wisdom as he moved to a better vantage point, and Jayce began strumming a riveting tune, which immediately filled them all with a surge of courage. Seven illusory copies of Solisar appeared in a cluster around him.

   "I should not have complained about punching plants;" said Sofi, "I know even less about how to fight a rock." Even so, she followed behind Belvin and readied herself in a defensive posture.

   When Nargroth closed within two yards of the living rock formation, it suddenly bowed forward with an unexpected rapidity. The surface stretched apart, revealing a circular, tooth-filled maw. Nargroth dropped low to one knee and slid along the ground with his forward momentum while raising his double axe in defense. He yelled out in pain as many stalactite like teeth burst through the chain armor about his forearm and punctured his skin. "Kumash damun, dukhal!" he cursed in his mother's tongue.

   The stalagmite sprang back upright and stared at its attackers with an enormous single eyeball. Then, three more appendages blasted forth from it like a frog's tongue. This time, two of them flew out toward Belvin and the third toward Kytharrah again. One missed Belvin, but the other two fleshy ropes wrapped quickly around their targets' waists, like snakes, and began to constrict. The fleshy rope made contact with Belvin's skin, and he felt a strange sensation, which reminded him of a past time when he had been stung by a bee and began to feel its venom. He felt the muscles throughout his body begin to weaken.

   Kytharrah swung down the leucrotta bone and once again splattered the tentacles apart, first freeing Belvin and then himself. Once severed from their connection to the stalagmite, the "rope" around each of them loosened and fell off. What was left of them began to retract back to their source.

   Hakam called upon Anachtyr for protection and an immense wall of whirling swords appeared instantly between the monster and the party, a new power he had never evoked before. The wall of blades stretched from floor to the ceiling 20 feet above and crossed the full width of the chamber as far as Hakam could see. The blades diced what was left of the retracting rope tentacles into bits, leaving only a yard or so to be pulled back into the holes from which they had launched.

   Leokas paused in his shooting. The barrier of blades made things more challenging, but he concentrated on the rate of the spin of the blades and timed his release. In the next ten seconds four arrows left his bow. Three of them passed by the swords, but the fourth was cut apart. Of the three, two had enough force to puncture the rocky armor of the creature, and one of them dove deep enough through that the stalagmite groaned in pain, opening its circular mouth again.

   "How do you like those arrows, nothokari?" roared Nargroth. "Now taste my axe!" With a whirling flourish, he too timed his swing perfectly to avoid the spin of the floating swords. First, one axe head then the other cut chunks of stone from the monster. It quivered and began to move along the ground away from the swinging.

   "It can move?" exclaimed Sofi. "How?"

   Now a huge skeleton burst into existence, summoned by Oma's spell. It stood upright like a massive bear, yet it had a large beak instead of teeth. It appeared just in front of Kytharrah and shambled forward, swinging through the blade barrier to strike at its foe with its sizable claws, but the swords swung down and cut the skeleton apart. Bone fragments were scattered and thrown in all directions as the wall decimated Oma's summons in but a few seconds.

   Just when Nargroth and Kytharrah uncovered their eyes after shielding them from the scattering bones, there was a massive flash of light followed by the sound of an explosion, as a ball of fire erupted behind the stalagmite. As the wave of fire expanded outward, it moved around the stalagmite without touching it at all, as if some invisible force protected it. Szordrin's fireball did nothing at all to the creature.

   Belvin screamed something in Druidic, and the ground began to rumble. With cracks and grinding sounds, something burst from the ground behind the stalagmite, a giant fist of stone. Then two more near the first emerged. The rock hands opened and grabbed for the stalagmite, and two caught it, wrapping around it and holding it from moving. It writhed around but could not free itself from their grasp, but its dense form could not be crushed, even by the earthen fists. One hand fell away, as the stalagmite jerked about, but the hand of rock simply grabbed a hold again.

   With a magic word, the eyes of the eight duplicate Solisars glowed blue. Then, forty bursts of force shot from their collective palms, rippling through the stale cavern air and pummeling the grappled stalagmite monster.

   Leokas hesitated, as his companions' spell effects appeared one after the other. He did not think he could strike the monster while the stone hands clasped it. Then he saw movement to the right, through the barrier of blades. Two more stone hands broke through the ground and grabbed at another stalagmite, sensing that it too, was living. One grabbed a hold successfully, but with a rapid jerk, the stone monster slithered across the ground to get away from the giant hand, fleeing to the dark corners in the northeast of the chamber.

   "There are two of them!" Leokas called out.

   Sofi saw this too. She rushed to the right, sliding down stone into a "valley" in the cavern, getting closer to the second stalagmite, but pausing and taking cover behind a large central column. With the blade barrier up, there was little she could do but wait.

   The first stalagmite then wriggled free from its prison. Kytharrah had watched Nargroth time his swings. He waited, he waited, and he swung with all his might. The long thigh bone of the leucrotta stuck at just the right spot. With a moan, the creature's hard shell shattered, and it crumbled apart, its softer, mud-like insides spilling out in an oozing mess. Kytharrah pulled back, just as a whirling blade from the wall swung down. It glanced off the thigh bone and knocked it aside, but the edge could not cut the adamantine-like material.

   Hakam moved after Sofi and clutched his holy symbol, calling forth a spiritual sword and hammer together. They appeared on the other side of the blade barrier, in flanking arrangement on each side of the second, slowly fleeing stalagmite. The force sword seemed repelled by an invisible force surrounding the monster and dissipated, but the hammer struck it at its peak and knocked off a small chunk.

   Leokas waited for the second monster to move into his line of sight and released. Arrows plunged into the monster in succession as his companions moved along the rough terrain parallel the blade wall and around the large central column. Jayce's enchanted music continued to spur them on.

   Belvin, however, found that he was too weak to move quickly. His gear felt like it had tripled in weight, but he knew it was the effect of the strange magic in the fleshy rope that had temporarily bound him. "Come back toward me!" he shouted to Kytharrah and Nargroth. "The hands may try to grab you as well if you are too close to the blade wall."

   "I think that there is a third one to the east!" announced Oma. She began another summoning incantation.

   Belvin looked to where Oma had directed and saw movement in yet another stalagmite. "Let us toast this thing!" he screamed, as he pointed his finger. A column of holy fire fell from the ceiling and enveloped the monster. A gritty, earthy growl of pain was heard, and lines of fire appeared in the cracks of its earthen flesh. Smoke came out of body as it writhed about.

   The eight Solisars tossed a bit of mica into the air, and a cloud of glittering gold dust appeared and covered the same monster, allowing the humans in the party to see it in the darkness of the cave. The now sparkling monster shot out its fleshy tentacles, but they were futile attempts, as the gold particles had blinded its single large eye. The flopping, elongated masses began to recede, and the monster slowly slithered back away from them.

   "Shatter!" commanded Hakam, but nothing happened. Though blind, its magical resistance was still defending it from direct magical threats.

   Kytharrah charged ahead of the others with a supernatural burst of speed to reach the blinded stalagmite, and he whacked it hard with his improvised club.

   "Kytharrah, use your magic axe, not the bone!" called out Solisar. "Its magic defenses are too strong."

   "Leokas, I have transformed your arrows!" echoed Szordrin's voice from somewhere in the shadows. "Draw from your side quiver!"

   Leokas nocked an arrow from the quiver on his hip, and the tip of the arrow magically ignited. He began to time the spins of the whirling swords again. He watched the stone hands try to catch the slithering stalagmite and fail. Hakam's divine hammer was also pursuing it. It did not fail, cracking down again on the rocky hide of the magical beast.

   Leokas' target moved behind the central column of the cave before he could get a clear shot. Instead, he jumped to the side to aim at the third stone monster and released the fire arrow. The flaming projectile struck the center of its gold-dust covered eye and disappeared wholly within. The monster wobbled and tumbled over. It rolled a few yards and then was still. Leokas shot it again, just to make sure.

   Nargroth paused in his running. There was no end in sight to the blade barrier, so he could not get to the remaining enemy as it slowly moved to the northeast, with grasping stone hands and a hammer of force behind it. Another owlbear skeleton appeared, but Oma could not cause it to appear beyond the barrier. The brainless creature pursued the stalagmite as well, and was blasted into bits by the spinning swords as the last summons had been. "Hakam, lower the barrier!" shouted Oma. "I am wasting my magic! Nothing can get through!"

   "That is the whole point!" Hakam shouted back. "Summon them on the other side!"

   "I cannot reach that far!"

   "Try another spell for once!" shouted Belvin, as he stumbled weakly toward the others.

   Belvin felt Szordrin's invisible hand touch his shoulder, followed by a surge of new strength in his muscles. He was not at full strength, but at least he could move more than a stagger now.

   Then Solisar moved up to Szordrin, whom he could see with his magic vision, and spoke magic words over him. "Your invisibility will last another minute, my friend," said the sun elf.

   Kytharrah watched Hakam's summoned hammer strike the slowly crawling stalagmite on the other side of the barrier. He moved to try and help, but balked at the spinning blades, snorting in anxious frustration.

   "Kytharrah, use your words," said the Solisars together, coming up beside him. Sofi and Nargroth also stood by, unable to reach the remaining foe either.

   "Swords," said Kytharrah, pointing.

   So, Hakam finally dismissed the wall of swords with a wave of his hand. Minotaur, half-orc, and tiefling rushed forward. Hakam instead went to Belvin and tried to remove any curse that might be upon him, but his full strength did not return.

   Kytharrah, of course, reached the stalagmite first, ahead of Nargroth or Sofi, this time with his axe drawn. He swung. The blade sparked, as it struck against the rock skin of the monster. It made a rumbling moan, was struck by the spiritual hammer, and then punctured by three simultaneous flaming arrows. The creature ignited and burned to death from inside out, leaving an ash-filled stony shell.
Session: 118th Game Session - Monday, Aug 10 2020 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
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Chapter 2 — Deeper into the Mine
The crysmals scattered off into their corners, and the adventurers heard the sound of tapping as the crystalline creatures began picking against the clusters of gems.

   They were now promised to be left alone for passage, but finding a way across the might be challenging for some of them.

   "Fly?" suggested Kytharrah, looking at Hakam.

   Of course, the wizards could fly, Belvin could shapeshift, and they did have hang gliders — though not ten of them — but Hakam had not prepared his air walking spell, expecting to be in a cave, so it was not a simple matter.

   The two gigantic crystals spanning the opening to the expanse of sky below had flat sides that were nearly level with the ground. They stretched out over the chasm and nearly touched. It appeared like it might be possible to walk up the side of one, jump maybe four feet to the other, and walk back down the other side. It would be something like crossing a thick log over a creek, only instead of a creek there was a 30,000-mile fall to the center of mass of the planet.

   "Kytharrah could probably straddle the two crystals and help some of us from one to the other for those who needed it," suggested Jayce. He was looking at Hakam when he spoke, though he himself was not particularly known for his own skill at balancing, climbing, or jumping.

   "We should search for another way before risking it," said Solisar.

   They could not find another path, however, when they searched around.

   "We have plenty of rope," said Hakam. "We could tie some rope to Ormur, which would span this chasm. Then we could tie one end around our waists for safety."

   "I shall go across and tie it off on the other side," said Leokas.

   There was a slight slope to the right and a slight incline, but Leokas had a phenomenal sense of balance. Even so, the surface was smooth and potentially slippery. After fifteen feet, he had to step onto another face of the crystal. This one was more level with the ground. Now came the jump. It was not a terribly far distance, but there was no room for a running start. At least the landing surface was angled upwards, which would help cancel any forward momentum after landing.

   He took the leap and landed deftly. The other crystal had a more consistent surface, and it was about five-feet wide all the way down to the stone ground on the other side. He wrapped the non-magical end of the rope around another large, vertical-pointing crystal and made sure that it was secure. On the other side, Kytharrah held onto Ormur. Someone commanded the rope to wrap tightly around his waist and thighs like a harness. He also held onto the rope with his hands and began to climb. He made his way up to where the face of the crystal was flattest, and then took a big step over to other extended gem, straddling the two. "Ormur, let go," he said. The magic rope obeyed, and Kytharrah tossed it 40 feet to be caught by Solisar.

   Solisar commanded Ormur and then began to climb. Five feet up the crystal ramp, he slipped, falling to his hands and knees. After taking a moment to catch a breath, he stood up and tried again, more carefully, holding onto the rope as he went. He reached the minotaur, who then hoisted him over to the second gem. Solisar reached the other side from there without further issue. Ormur untied itself, and Kytharrah reigned it in and tossed it over again.

   Sofi did not use the rope at all. She skillfully rushed up the one crystal and was over to the second and back down to the ground again before anyone had a chance to question the wisdom of the action. Sif, too, recklessly raced across the gem bridge to her master on the other side as if it were no big deal, almost knocking Belvin over as he crossed.

   Oma came next and surprised everyone with how easily she made it look. Panther, Oma's cat, followed closely behind her, prancing proudly as if to show off his lack of fear. Hakam came after that, moving very slowly, but he relied heavily on the rope and on Kytharrah moving him from the first crystal to the second.

   It looked like passage over was going to continue smoothly after Solisar's earlier slip, but then Jayce also slipped about half way up the first crystal. Unlike Solisar, however, he failed to catch himself, instead landing on his side and rolling off the crystal altogether. He plunged into the white expanse below. Oma gasped. Solisar was about to call out his spell to slow the bard's fall, but Ormur held secure. Were Ormur not a magical and elastic rope, the snap alone might have killed Jayce, but now he sprung up and down, dangling and swinging a hundred feet below them. Belvin and Leokas called Kytharrah over to join them, and they worked together to raise Jayce. It took a while to maneuver him around the cluster of sister crystals around the large one, but eventually, they managed to get him onto solid ground.

   Kytharrah gave him a big grin, as if he expected the bard to have found the ordeal fun.

   "Maybe this is why I have not been traveling with the rest of you anymore," he said.

   Nargroth and Szordrin were the last to come over, and they made it safely.

   That was everyone. Jayce asked for a moment to recuperate from his shock. They looked about the area on this side. The crysmals seemed skittish of their presence and scurried away to the south and north. To the east, around a boulder, there was evidence of digging, piles of rubble and dirt. Leokas checked again for tracks, once again finding evidence of both crysmals and aarakocra. "Some aarakocra passed this way," said Leokas, "but they never came back. This must have been the new tunnel that they dug."

   They lined up in the same general manner that they had before, with Kytharrah leading the way, holding the leucrotta thigh bone in his right hand and the everburning torch in his left.

   The digging broke through into a natural tunnel that roughly passed from northwest to southeast. They took a right, assuming that heading left would simply take them to another point on the rift further north. The tunnel came steeply down natural steps and then turned sharply right then left, entering a small pillared chamber. On the north wall of this chamber, Kytharrah found some small holes that seemed to pass into another passage on the other side of the stone. The air smelled less fresh on the other side of the holes.

   There were not any crystals in this tunnel, which continued on for a good distance, roughly straight, though bending back and forth, perhaps 50 yards, before making a u-turn at a very narrow column close to the right wall. Light could not reach this far into the cavern complex, so they were now relying on torchlight and Hakam's glowing shield.

   "I have never been this far underground before," said Sofi. It was not clear whether her tone was one of excitement or fear.

   The tunnel came to some stone slabs that served as natural stairs up about five feet and then continued on, curving sharply right then left again. They were now heading roughly due west, presumably parallel but higher up than where they had just been walking. In about 25 feet from here, Kytharrah was stopped by a mass of boulders, a cave in. The minotaur looked nervous, quite unlike his usual playful demeanor. He checked the walls to see if they seemed stable.

   "Can any of our divine spellcasters shape this stone to make a path?" asked Solisar.

   "First, Ferry can tell us what is on the other side," said Szordrin.

   The weasel scrambled down Szordrin's clothes and squeezed through the rocks. He came back after only a half-minute and squeaked and chirped up at his master.

   "Ferry says that if Kytharrah can roll that first boulder up there off the other one, then all of us big people could probably squeeze up and over a larger boulder behind it."

   "You can understand his chirps?" asked Sofi. "That is adorable!"

   Panther mewed and hissed, and Oma simply nodded.

   Kytharrah moved up to where a smaller boulder was sitting atop a larger one. He braced himself against the wall and shoved. Everyone stepped back as the one-ton rock slid and half rolled and crashed to the floor of the cave, shaking the ground and dropping dirt on all of them from the ceiling. Next, the minotaur set down the sack that he had strung over his shoulder and scrambled onto the larger boulder and up eight feet to squeeze himself on his stomach through the tight space against the ceiling.

   Kytharrah got stuck. He tried to move, but his shoulders would not budge.

   Memories of the cave-in that separated him from his tribe and family filled his simple mind, but he knew that a big minotaur needed to be brave. He calmed himself down and tried to twist in a different way. His arm popped free. Now he could maneuver left, then right. His shoulders could move, so could his legs. He used the latter to press himself along, slowly but surely. He now hung eight feet over the ground and carefully figured out a way to climb down on the other side, inverted, among the collection of boulders beyond. He had made it through.

   Kytharrah being the biggest, it was no problem for anyone else to squeeze through the space above the massive boulder and up against the ceiling. It was more of a difficulty getting up there to make the squeeze in the first place. There were ten of them, though, so there were plenty of spotters and hands to provide lifts. Kytharrah, being eight feet tall, could also pull them through to make it faster, once they got up there. After about ten or fifteen minutes, everyone was through this next challenge.

   "Both kinds of tracks came through this way," said Leokas. "Either the cave-in was recent or the miners and crysmals crawled through like we did."

   After Ferry climbed back up on his shoulders, Szordrin waved a wand and made them both disappear again.

   They continued on. As the went, Hakam was careful to constantly check the ground for stalagmites that might be disguised monsters, but he saw nothing amiss.

   The path zigzagged a bit and began to drift northward. After 80 feet, the tunnel twisted and curved downwards past some boulders and into an area where the stone was subtly different. It seemed to match more the type of stone and rock at both of the openings to the sky where the concentrations of crystals had been the highest. Sure enough, the light from Kytharrah's heatless torch was reflected back at him after he came around an ess-curve corner from some tiny gems poking up through the surface of the stone floor. He sniffed the air and perked his hears but sensed nothing.

   After a second ess-curve, they were heading east again. Then they came to a tee. To the left, the earthen path was mostly clear, but the tunnel to the right was covered along the floor, walls, and ceiling with purple crystals, which only increased in concentration as the tunnel progressed in that direction. Oma gasped as she came up behind Kytharrah and saw the sparkle of the many facets reflecting the torchlight. Solisar expressed similar awe.

   Leokas reached the minotaur and stooped down to look for tracks again. "If I am not mistaken, the aarakocra went to the left from here, but the crysmals came from the right."

   To the right, the passage forked again, northward. Continuing to the east, where the crystal density was at its highest, there was something strange.

   "What is that in the distance?" asked Szordrin and Belvin together.

   It was as if their vision were playing tricks on them. The tunnel seemed to come to a dead end in 25 yards. Here, it seemed like there were crystals popping into and out of existence, appearing and disappearing rapidly. It might have been an illusion, or else it seemed like something was wrong with reality itself.

   Kytharrah was filled with curiosity and moved toward the visual anomaly.

   "Wait! Stop!" said Belvin.

   The minotaur could not move quickly; it was dangerous to do so here. Treacherously sharp crystals jutted from all around. One had to choose his or her steps very carefully to avoid be injured by the jagged points of corundum, and they grew sharper and more jagged as he advanced closer to where reality seemed somehow warped.

   "It is a portal," said Szordrin's voice from his invisible form. "I have a scroll that can analyze it."

   "It emits a strong transmutation aura," said Solisar.

   "I am almost certain that we are seeing an elemental vortex," they heard Szordrin say, "a rift to one of the elemental planes. They sometimes occur spontaneously when the concentrations of certain elements on the Material Plane are very high."

   "Is it to the Plane of Amythest then?" asked Hakam.

   Nargroth chuckled. "There are only four elements," he said, "but there are also paraelemental planes and quasielemental planes, where the inner planes intersect."

   "There is said to be a Plane of Minerals where the Plane of Earth and the Positive Energy Plane overlap," said Solisar. "The creative power of positive energy mixes with elemental earth to create all manner of minerals and gems."

   "This must be whence the crysmals came," said Hakam.

   "Szordrin, you had better behave yourself," said Belvin, motioning to all the gems around them.

   "Do not worry;" said Solisar, "I can still see him."

   "I am surprised that I would have to point this out to Szordrin," said Leokas, "but the mineral wealth on the other side of this portal does not technically belong to the aarakocra."

   "They will interpret the law such that we are guilty if we possess more gems when we exit than when we entered," said Hakam. "Leokas is correct, of course, but it would be impossible to prove in a court of law."

   Leokas turned the conversation back to more serious matters. "Can we survive on this Plane of Minerals?" he asked.

   "If we were to pass into a cavern that happened to have air to breath in it," said Oma, "but there is no certainty in it."

   "Most of the Plane of Earth is solid rock!" said Nargroth.

   "Are we seeing the other side now?" asked Sofi. "It does not look like solid rock. It looks like a cavern tunnel covered in crystals, as it does here. It is hard to tell the two places apart."

   The image appearing to their eyes remained in constant flux, but she seemed to be correct.

   "It is like the common 'blink' spell," said Szordrin, and Solisar nodded in agreement.

   "The aarakocra did not come this way," said Solisar. "I suggest that we search for them and their demise first, before we consider what to do about this vortex."

   "I agree," said Hakam.

   "Is it stable?" asked Leokas. "Will it remain when we return?"

   "We would have to use Szordrin's scroll to know that," said Solisar.

   "If it is stable," said Hakam, "it may be a good route to pursue Samber, perhaps a way to reach the place on the Plane of Earth where he mines for material for his golems. But I agree with Solisar that this is of a lower priority to us at the moment."

   "It should also be noted," said Solisar, "that there are rumors that those who tarry too long in the Plane of Minerals eventually turn into crystals themselves."

   "My mother told me that story," said Nargroth, "but I never believed it was true! I thought that it was just a morality tale against greed."

   "I know not if it is true or no," said Solisar. "Nevertheless, we would not want to enter until we had taken many magical precautions."

   The others saw a roll of vellum materialize out of nothing, as Szordrin handed his scroll to Solisar to use. The elf read the magic words from the vellum, and they vanished from the sheet as he spoke them. He began to share the information that the divinatory magic revealed to him. It was a spontaneously formed portal; no one intentionally created it. Not surprisingly, it required no key. It was two-way and relatively stable; that is, the magic itself was stable, though if the ground itself were to move, the portal might be destroyed. Unlike magically crafted portals, elemental vortices allowed unaccompanied matter to pass in and out, so air could flow freely.

   "I suspect that this vortex would take us somewhere roughly midway between the two inner planes," said Solisar finally.

   "Let us continue on then?" asked Jayce.

   Kytharrah moved to the front again, and carefully stepped around the sharp crystals to investigate the other fork. The tunnel tapered off to a size too small for him to continue.

   "Neither the crysmals nor the aarakocra went that way," said Leokas.

   Kytharrah was hesitant to try and squeeze anywhere again, so he came back.

   This left one passage remaining to explore. It was relatively wide, and the concentration of red and purple crystals diminished until it was a simple matter to walk again without cutting oneself. This passage made a wide turn from northwest to northeast and opened up into a massive chamber, the largest that they had yet seen in these mines. They were standing on a raised ramp, looking down into the crater-like floor. Their torch- and magic light were not even strong enough to illuminate the full extent of the chamber, it was so wide. Among stalagmites, stalactites, and rock columns, several large clusters of crystals erupted from the earth. A particularly large column of rock, some twenty feet thick, supported the high ceiling.

   "There may be a cave within a cave in that column," said Belvin, noting a dark opening in the wall of the largest column."

   "We should be wary of the stalagmites," said Solisar.

   "Yes, remember the crysmals' warning," said Belvin.

   Kytharrah rounded a particularly large cluster of crystal growth and spotted motion from the corner of his left eye. It seemed like one of the stalagmites to the north had moved. He gripped the dark leucrotta bone in his fist, ready for if it moved again.
Session: 118th Game Session - Monday, Aug 10 2020 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
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Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — The Gem Mine
~ eighth-day, 32nd of the sixth season, growing threequarterlight
Athanar Military Mining Facility 15

A few hours before the daily siesta, an eagle ship dropped off the adventurers underneath one of the islands in the same jet stream as Athanar. They stood on a wide stone ledge. It was circular and encompassed an area with a 40-yard diameter. In the caverns and mines that they were used to on Toril, they would have been looking down into the dark depths of the ground, but here, they looked down on white sky, clouds, and green floating islands.

   This was Athanar Military Mining Facility Doht, or Tee-doh, that is 1-5, which meant that it was the thirteenth mining facility, since the aarakocra had a base-eight counting system, as they all well knew by now.

   Jayce, Oma, and Nargroth were joining them this time. Nargroth was not needed on the Frihet, since the ship and everyone on it was forbidden to go anywhere else. (Belvin regrettably also left Kamil behind, since a camel would not fit in the mine tunnels.) Nargroth and Jayce both seemed excited to partake in the more adventurous side of things for once. "I have not swung axes with you in a long while," said Nargroth.

   The eagle ship dropped into the sky and departed. The aarakocra would return after the day's rest to pick them up again, so they had many hours to solve the problem, whatever it was. This left ten humanoids, a wolf, a weasel, and a cat standing at the southern end of the circular ledge.

   The planet's ambient light allowed them to see the entire area clearly. (Being on the underside of the island did not in any way mean that they had less light than they would have had on the topside of the island.) Near where they all stood, there were wooden racks and metal clips for holding minding tools, but no such tools currently hung here. The walls showed evidence of picks and pockmarks where gems had presumably been extracted. There was no sign of any gems or ore at all along the circular wall, but at the west, north, and east sides, tunnels had been dug deeper into the underside of the island.

   It had been explained to them by the military's lead miner that after strip-mining an "inverted pit" such as where they were to be dropped off, they usually tunneled into the island to search for less accessible gems and ore. In this case, breaking through to the north and east had led to no significant supply of gems, but breaking through the the west had led to natural tunnels leading deeper into the island. These natural tunnels brought the aarakocra to a rift and a large collection of gems and "geminals". These latter creatures seemed to have come from a tiny crack in the stone on the other side of the rift. The aarakocra opened a tunnel in that direction to continue exploring. Before they were able to start on strip mining the area of the rift, they called off all work on the mine when those few miners sent to explore through the newly opened tunnel never returned.

   "Before we go anywhere," said Belvin to his companions, as they began to walk carefully along the eight-foot-wide ledge toward the western digging site, "give me a moment to commune with the mine."

   "Commune with the mine?" repeated Sofi.

   "He is going to become one with nature," said Jayce. "It is a druid thing, and like most druid things, it is probably going to take a while." The bard sat down on the stone and began to strum quietly on his yarting. The others sat or rested as well, as Belvin chanted under his breath for a solid ten minutes, his eyes closed, while passing his hands over the floor and wall of the strip mine.

   "There are more burrowing creatures living in this mine than just the crysmals," said Belvin. "I see them, a dozen or two, scorpion-like, chipping away at the gems, eating, gathering what they need to reproduce. But there are two other burrowing creatures, four-legged, very large, metallic creatures, covered in spikes."

   "This reminds me of beasts companions of mine once described," said Leokas. "Before Belvin and I joined up, I had taken many short jobs with other adventuring groups, helping them to track various goblinoid villains. One such party had described to me an aberrant monster made of solid metal and covered in spikes in a dungeon that they had explored. They called the thing a 'marauder'."

   "Belvin," said Hakam, "can the mine tell you where any rifts are?"

   "The only rifts are here where we stand and approximately southeast of here by no more than 100 feet."

   "If that is true," said Hakam, "Then the tunnel that they dug into to the west must have curved back around."

   "Nature does not lie," said Belvin, his eyes still closed and his hands still rubbing against the surface of the stone."

   "Can the mine tell you the location of the missing miners?" one of them asked the druid.

   Belvin shook his head. "The mine knows of no aarakocra within its confines at all." The wild elf's eyes opened. The divination's revelations had ended with this third fact.

   "They were likely consumed by these marauders," said the others.

   Those who had been sitting rose to their feet again stood up. They had Kytharrah lead the way, followed by Belvin, who directed him. Leokas, superstitiously refusing to go second in a line, came third with his wolf beside him. Next were Jayce and Oma, leading the three wizards in the middle. Sofi followed close behind Szordrin, and the group ended with Hakam and Nargroth.

   Hakam reminded everyone that no one was to remove a single gem from the mine. Sofi joked with Hakam that she would keep an eye on Szordrin, but the tiefling wizard made himself invisible. Solisar, however, could still see Szordrin by the power of his countermagic.

   They moved through the western dig site, passing some fifteen feet or so into a natural tunnel that seemed to pass from north to south. They instructed Kytharrah to make a left, and he did so, sniffing the air as he went. It felt familiar to the minotaur to be in underground tunnels again, and he happily moved forward, lighting the tunnel ahead with his magical torch.

   Thinking that he smelled aarakocra ahead, he bounded forward to a spot several yards ahead where the tunnel widened and a large stalagmite grew from the floor of the passage. He found the source of the smell, a small pit that the aarakocra miners had apparently used in the past as a waste hole.

   "Good work, Kytharrah," said Belvin. "You found a bird toilet."

   The tunnel beyond curved slightly to the left, was split by a stone column, made an ess-curve, and opened into a large chamber about 50 feet or so square. The chamber had a couple large pillars and stalagmites and stalactites. A pocket extended from a corner in the northeast and had tunnels continuing on from the eastern side and the southwest corner. In a pocket in the western wall were some large purple crystals jutting out from the walls.

   The group spread out a bit in this room, but most of them were interested in the first of the mine's gems that they had seen. Hakam raised his glowing shield for light. Szordrin examined them closely, though no one except Solisar could seem him do so. "This is corundum," they heard Szordrin's voice say. "I think that this was a geode that they cut into. There are pick marks here."

   Corundum was the stuff of rubies and sapphires. The aarakocra had access to immense wealth; no wonder the Donakkises had so much power.

   Leokas began to exam the area for tracks. "The avian tracks heading southwest are fresher than those heading east from here."

   Kytharrah, however, had already wandered further east and entered that tunnel, and Nargroth followed behind to keep an eye on him. They squeezed by another stone pillar and found the natural passage turn sharply left. Fifty feet farther, was a pillar made from a stalagmite and a stalactite just barely coming together to meet. The tunnel came to a dead end here, and they saw another cluster of corundum crystals, surrounded by purple gem fragments.

   After the two scouts joined the others, they returned to their earlier marching order and continued deeper into the mine. In 40 feet, they entered a small 30-foot chamber with a low ceiling and a squat column. It looked like a dead end at first, but there was a spot by the eastern wall that dropped steeply to a lower passage.

   "There seems to be natural light ahead," one of them noted after descending down the drop.

   "Fresh," said Kytharrah, after sniffing the air.

   "The other rift in the mine must be just beyond," said Hakam.

   In 20 yards, they came to another cave room with corundum crystals and an hourglass shaped pillar. Here, Leokas found more aarakocra prints but also another kind of mark. "These here look similar to pick marks, but they are in the floor and they come in pairs and triplets. I suspect that it is the crystalline scorpions. They are clustered near the two corundum deposits and they come from farther east, where the light is." Kytharrah smelled both tracks. The first smelled like the talking birds, and the other tracks did not have any smell.

   Hakam's prediction had been correct. The tunnel beyond this room curved and descended, and Kytharrah and Belvin stepped unto a wide and long ledge overlooking a vast gap over the sky. The bright ambient light from below filled the area. The ledge was some 20 to 30 feet wide, and the distance to the other side was at least 90 feet. There were many clusters of purple crystals growing here and there on both sides of the rift. Most of these were at most a foot or two in length, but stretching forth from each side of the opening in the ground were the two largest crystals that Kytharrah had ever seen, even having lived in the Underdark for the most of his decade-long life. Each gargantuan corundum was nearly ten feet wide at its base and grew at a low angle to almost 70 feet!

   Something skittered into Kytharrah's peripheral vision. It was a dozen yards away and looked like a big bug, about the size of a dog, but its body seemed to be made entirely out of purple crystal, similar in color to all the crystals growing from the rock around them. It was definitely looking at Kytharrah with a series of smaller blue crystals on its cephalothorax that seemed like its eyes.

   The minotaur tried to appear friendly and playful. As if in response, a large rock, about four feet in diameter, suddenly rolled on its own from Kytharrah's right side and came to rest in front of him.

   "Careful, Kytharrah," said Belvin. "Remember, they are telekinetic."

   Kytharrah did not have any idea what Belvin meant, but he remembered the talking rock that had made big rocks roll at him when they were trying to climb up to that castle in the ice. Those rocks had played very roughly, because Hakam had squished one. The minotaur readied himself in case this rolling rock tried to jump up at him.

   The others cautiously stepped down the sloping tunnel out onto the giant ledge and gathered behind Kytharrah and around a massive column that stretched up to the ceiling 40 feet above. They began to notice other crystalline scorpions emerge from behind crystal clusters or around stalagmites on both sides of the rift. The crysmals kept their distance and seemed to be watching to see what these new intruders would do.

   Szordrin, now visible again, since the duration of his spell had ended, took a small clay ziggurat from his spell pouch along with a piece of copper wire. He performed the final components of two spells and then held the wire up to his lips. The others heard him speaking a guttural, gritty language. The wire vibrated with his voice. No one heard any response from the crysmals, but Szordrin continued speaking into the wire as if he were carrying on a conversation with someone distant.

   In fact, Szordrin heard a voice, or rather voices, very alien voices, inside his head, and the magic of his tongues spell interpreted for him. He had asked the purple gem creatures if they had seen any aarakocra.

   "What are aarakocra?" the voices asked, together, speaking almost as one.

   "Have you seen any birds?"

   "What are birds?" they asked.

   "Have you seen any red-colored creatures," he tried, "not made out of mineral, like all of you?"

   "The big soft creatures that fly went away," said the collective voices in his head.

   "When did they leave?"

   "They left."



   "Where did they go?"


   This was not a particularly useful conversation. Szordrin tried a different line of questioning. "Did the red soft creatures go over this rift, this opening to the sky, to the other side from where I am standing?"


   "Where did they go after that?"

   "We do not know. We stay away. We cannot go back that way anymore."

   This was a surprising amount of information. "Why can you not go back?"

   "Big rock monsters eat us."

   "Monsters made out of metal?"

   "No, out of earth."

   The crysmals seemed to know the difference between earth and metal but did not know what birds were. He supposed that that made sense for a creature from the Plane of Earth.

   "How big are these rock monsters?"

   "They are as tall as two of you," said the voices.

   "What do they look like?"

   "Tall and pointy."

   "Ask them if they grow from the ground or hang from the ceiling," said Solisar, who presumed that Szordrin's speaking in Terran was only one side of a conversation.

   They answered that it was from the ground, and Szordrin translated this.

   "We need to pay attention to the stalagmites then," said Hakam.

   "Will you let us pass?" asked the tiefling wizard. "We need to find the red soft creatures."

   "No, we do not trust you," said the voices. "We trust the red soft creatures."

   "Why do you trust them and not us? We are their friends."

   "They give us tasty gems," said the collective.

   Szordrin looked in his belt pouch for the cheapest gemstone that he could find. "This is a very rare and expensive gem," he lied, taking out a small piece of turquoise. "It is of the highest quality."

   "What is 'expensive'?" they asked. "What does it taste like? Let us taste it?"

   The stone leapt from Szordrin's fingers and bounced and rolled along the ground, past Kytharrah and to the nearest crysmal. It touched one of its sharp pointed appendages to the small bluish gem.

   "Copper is delicious," said the voices. "This is good food. You may pass."
Session: 117th Game Session - Monday, Aug 03 2020 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
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