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PAJ 2
SOLIZAR TOLD ME TAT I NEDED TO PRAKTIS RITIN TE ALFABET SO TAT I KUD LERN IT I AM KONFUZED BEKUZ I NO IT NAU SINS HE ALREDE SOD ME WI WUD I NED TO PRAKTIS I AM ALSO KONFUZED HAU TO RIT SUM WORDZ HAU DO I RIT TA WORD TAT OR TE OR TA TA SOUND IZ KLOS TU T BUT IT IZ NOT T I ROT IT ANEWA ON PAJ 1 BEKUZ HAKAM SEZ TO FALO RULZ I ALSO AM KONFUZED ABAUT JERNALZ TO HUM AM I EVEN RITIN TA LAZT SAUND IN RITIN IZ ALSO NOT RIT I WIL ASK SOLIZAR IF HE FORGOT TU TEL ME SUM LETURZ ALSO IZ NOT TA LETUR C YUSLES
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Lhynard
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De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Travel & Holiday Plans


Neither Hakam not Kytharrah had shown any signs of transformation; they had both been deemed clean by Simon.

   Queen Brianna reluctantly agreed to let her husband travel with the adventurers to Jhothûn with their son Kaedlaw. He met with them at the castle the day after Mythlos' curse had been removed. "Here are the stipulations," he began. "I shall be carrying Kaedlaw in front of me as we journey. If anyone or any danger comes upon us, I am to immediately retreat back with him to safety. You will be left on your own to defend yourselves. Believe me, I would rather join you in any battles you may face, but I have given my word to Brianna."



   He laid out some parchment on the table and began drawing a crude map as he continued. "The journey will not be easy whichever way we take, especially since winter is here, but I see two options.

   "The first route I propose is safer but longer. We would travel south here to where the Clear Whirl bends and is joined by the Spire Flow. I assume that you know the place, since you came from Mount Woe, which is here. Then we would head west along the Spire Flow through this valley between the Ice Spires West and the Ice Mountains. It is a hilly valley but it will be difficult to lose our way, even with snow covering the trail markers.

   "The hilly valley ends here at Adbar Pass. We will then head south to Citadel Adbar, a large dwarven fortress with a population of some 20 thousand. This is the route that the silver merchants generally use — but in summer — to reach the southern lands for trade, for two trade routes begin at the citadel: an overland trail toward Silverymoon through the Cold Vale, and Adbar Road, here, which heads south to Fork Road at the Fork, there. Most merchants then travel west to the city of Sundabar, which is here, but Fork Road — more of a trail really in that direction, but it is going to all be the same in winter — also continues east to the edge of Anauroch and the ruins of Ascore, an old dwarven port. That would perhaps be a 200-mile journey.

   "From Ascore, we would head due east into the desert, over the so-called Frozen Sea. If we stay straight, we should reach Hlaungadath, another famous ruins, one of the fallen cities of Netheril. From there we would have to continue east until hitting the wall of the High Ice and following it around until we reach the hidden cave with the portal. Once we reach the High Ice, I am counting on — it is Leokas, correct? — to guide us there."

   "I will not fail to do so," said Leokas.

   "Now there is a shorter but more dangerous route," Tavis continued, "not to say that the first route will be danger-free. This second route is to go the direction of Lake Woe. There is a pass through the Ice Mountains southeast of the lake. If we pass through the wilderness, we should reach the desert, and if we continue east, we would reach the Ice after that. This way would have fewer landmarks but would be shorter. It would be far more dangerous, as the region around Lake Woe has dragons, giants, and other wild monsters. The other route might have some goblinoid or orcish bandits but nothing a group like you cannot handle easily."

   "We have defeated many goblinoid bands," said Leokas. "They are nothing."

   "If we went to Mount Woe," said one of them, "we could visit the storm giants again and borrow their rocs."

   "I am not sure I would be welcome there," said Tavis, "and even if I were, one would have to first cross the dark and cold waters of Lake Woe and then climb Mount Woe, which is the tallest mountain in this part of the world. I doubt any of us could survive the climb."

   After discussing the matter further, the group decided to take the longer and safer route through Adbar Pass. Tavis said that he could be ready to leave in as few as two days.

   "Of course you all know that tomorrow is the Feast of the Moon," he said.

   "...And my birthday," said Mythlos.

   "It is, in fact, mine as well," said Solisar.

   "Why, that is odd," said Tavis.

   "It is actually not as unprobable as you might think for a group our size," said Belvin.

   "In any case," said Tavis, "the Hartsvalers give their blessings to the dead at the mausoleums around the country and tell tales of their lost relatives until the late hours of the night. I think that we should set out the day after the holiday, as Nightal begins."

~~~~

On the next day, the Feast of the Moon, Galadrel was sad. "As you know, our people celebrate the Mystic Rites of the Luminous Cloud today," she told her son, "yet there are no priestesses of Sehanine for hundreds of miles. I miss my people."

   "As do I," said Leokas, "but I suspect not as greatly as you do. We are to be heading south. If I understand Tavis' map correctly, at the Fork we will be closer to the High Forest than ever we have been on our adventure."

   "Happy birthday!" shouted Ilthian, coming into the main room where most of the others were sitting. She carried two small bundles and placed one in front of Mythlos and the other in front of Solisar. "Cassiera told me that in places where women lay babies instead of eggs that people often give gifts to each other on their birthdays, so I made you both gifts."

   Kytharrah hopped up and came over, very intrigued. He also liked presents.

   "This is a cloth wrapping for your mandolin to keep it from getting scratched," Ilthian explained to Mythlos. "See, you can slide it in this flap and then pull this cord to shut it. And this is a band to put over your head like this." She moved behind Mythlos and pulled back his long, blue-black hair. "This way, it will not get in the way when you swing your sword, and it makes you look more attractive to lady-elves."

   "Most lady elves prefer one's hair down, actually," said Mythlos.

   "I think it looks good up," said Galadrel, "or do I not count?"

   Then Ilthian picked up a very tiny item of cloth. "This is a pillow for Shrodinjer's box," she said, "so that he will be more comfortable in there when you are running around fighting."

   Mythlos smiled and thanked her. Shrodinjer, who was sitting on there on the table, croaked.

   "How old are you?" she asked him. "Have you been born for 126 years like Leokas?"

   "This is the first day of my 121st year," said the moon elf.

   "Thank you so much, Ilthian. How kind! What are my gifts?" asked Solisar.

   "These are both covers for your spellbooks, to keep them safe. I know that one is still empty, but you will fill it soon, I am sure. See, they have straps so that you can carry them over your shoulders, like this, and on this side you can put a pen, and here is a slot for a vial of ink."

   "I have lived for 128 years," said Solisar, "since I know that you will ask me. But rarely have I ever received so thoughtful a gift."
Session: 85th Game Session - Wednesday, Feb 01 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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PAJ 1
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Session: 85th Game Session - Wednesday, Feb 01 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Lhynard
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De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Curse of Lycanthropy
~ first-day, 21st of Uktar, The Year of Wild Magic, dawn
The Weary Giant Inn and Orphanage


"You kept something very important from me!" an angry, booming voice echoed through the inn, startling those asleep or in reverie awake.

   It was Tavis Burdun.

   He arrived again the next morning at the Weary Giant. Gone was his cheerful demeanor. Thankfully, he was willing to listen to an explanation before bringing judgment, and he explained his anger thus:

   "I returned to my wife as promised and explained why I thought that we should allow our son to attempt to sit on the throne. It was a difficult challenge for me, mind you! In the end, she agreed to the possibility of letting me travel with you, provided that I at all times put the safety of the boy first. However, before she would allow this, she wanted to speak with Simon, and she had Simon perform an augury.

   "I am not fond of Simon, but he is a true diviner. When he asked, 'Should the boy, Prince Kaedlaw, travel with Tavis to the throne of Iseheim?' he received woe. Brianna had him perform a more powerful divination and ask, 'Are the adventurers lying to us?' and Simon heard 'no'. She had him ask, 'Are they keeping things from us?' Yes. 'Are the adventurers evil?' No. 'Are the adventurers good?' No answer. This convinced my wife to refuse the journey, but I had Simon ask, 'Do the adventurers intend to harm our son?' No. 'Do they wish to help us?' Yes. This allowed me to convince her that I should return and speak to you, to find out what it is that you are hiding that could bring harm to our son, to my son, something from which I cannot defend."

   Tavis stood tall — as tall as he was able — in the room with his massive bare arms crossed over his hulking chest, waiting for an answer.

   "I mean no offense," said Hakam, "but do not all adventures come with a high level of risk?"

   "Of course, but the divinations revealed that you are hiding something nonetheless."

   "Not by intent! It is true that we have made many powerful enemies in our travels," said Hakam. "There is a man named Samber, who used magic to exile us in the first place, yet to the best of our knowledge, he has been restrained by a powerful mummy and priestess. There is also an ice devil, yet he will not pose a problem unless we return to the Great Glacier, which we have no intention to do."

   "There is also a blue dragon," said Leokas. "We slew her offspring, but good dragons intervened for us, and she is bound by dragon honor not to pursue us further."

   "We are also outlaws in Calimshan," said Mythlos.

   "And an ice queen!" said Ilthian. "She froze me in ice."

   "She is also on the Great Glacier," noted Hakam.

   Solisar started chuckling. "I think, perhaps, that it is because some of you may have lycanthropy," he said, "or have we forgotten that?"

   "We were going to deal with that problem on the first night of the full moon," said Mythlos.

   "Were we now?" asked Tavis, trying to remain angry, but he was obviously hiding a smirk.

   "If any of us become werewolves, we must simply be executed," restated Hakam. "It will not change our quest to find the heir."

   "No need to be so grim!" said Tavis. Then could no longer control it and burst into a jolly chuckle. When he composed himself again, he said, "This would not be funny — it is not funny, but I cannot help myself; I understand what it is to be an adventurer, even if I never chose the path willfully. This would not be funny if Simon could not help cure you, but he can. You are correct; it will need to be done on one of the nights of the full moon, and we will need to take some precautions. Who was bitten?"

   They told him.

   "I correct myself; we will need to take extreme precautions. That is near half your group, and one of you is a minotaur! I am not happy that you have caused me extra difficulty in persuading my wife in regards to this, but you have confessed, and the matter still remains that my son may be Annam's heir, and I cannot let that possibility pass."

~~~~

They had arranged with Tavis to arrive at Castle Hartwick again on the morning of the 28th of Uktar, at which point Hakam, Mythlos, and Kytharrah would be kept under house arrest, for their own safety and the safety of others. The moon would be at its fullest on the 30th several hours after sunset, but it was known that those suffering from the curse of lycanthropy would change over a span of about three nights. Thus, they expected any or all of the three to change on the night of the 29th, and they cautiously gave themselves an extra day, just in case.

   Over the remaining days of that last tenday of Uktar, they all passed the time differently. Belvin, still concerned with the whereabouts of ousted King Camden, scried on him more. He learned that Camden was in human lands, for he once saw the image of a human bartender, but beyond that, he could learn nothing. The former king's life seemed miserable. Belvin also tried to find someone to buy his leucrotta skeleton, and Hakam even helped him with matters of diplomacy, but no one in Hartwick or Stagwick seemed particularly interested in the skeleton. While nearly as hard as adamantine, bone is not as workable, and folks in these parts hated leucrotta so much that no one really wanted a skeleton as a trophy.

   Ilthian spent a lot of time in her room at the inn, which was odd for her, because she usually liked to observe people and ask a lot of questions. No one knew exactly what she was up to. Hakam had purchased her some paper and ink, and she had asked Solisar to teach her the Thorass alphabet, which she picked up on a single teaching, and perhaps she was writing.

   Szordrin, Solisar, and Mythlos dedicated themselves to transferring spells from scrolls or each other's spellbooks into their own. Szordrin now knew so many spells that he could not fit them all in his original book. He now owned a second, soft-metal-covered one.

   The tiefling wizard also was hoping to make some extra money. Having noticed that the minotaur carried two red spinel stones, which he had found within the collapsed maze before joining the party, Szordrin came up with a plan to pass them off as rubies. After playing "catch" with Kytharrah using telekinetic magic, he got the minotaur to agree to trade the spinels for an oil lamp that he had purchased, "...a small piece of guiding light to carry with you at all times."

   When next in Hartwick, Szordrin visited the shop Gnomes' Envy. He was dressed in the clothing of noble, which he had also purchased earlier, and magically disguised to look like someone completely different.

   "Welcome, Good Mister!" said one of the gemcutters. "Welcome! Why am I so honored to be visited by one of the earls of this land?"

   By means of his magic, Szordrin could also read the man's thoughts. I wonder which earldom is his. He is not an earl of the High Duchies. He is not Earl Dobbin or Cuthbert or Wynn. I have met them all before. Perhaps he is from the Baronies of Wind. Why would he have traveled here with winter coming though? Surely, there are places in Lyndusfarne to purchase gems....

   "Are you here for an audience with the queen?"

   "I am here to sell some rubies," said "Earl" Szordrin. "I need coin to purchase a ceremonial electrum dagger from A Taste of Ostoria across the street to give as a birthday gift for my son."

   "Then I can help you," said the store worker. "We will get you the best price. Sit down right here at this table. Set the rubies here on this cloth and let me have a closer look." The man got out a magnifying glass and a small balance from under the table. He began to examine the two stones.

   These are definitely not rubies. This poor man has been swindled by someone.

   "Uh, Good Mister, where did you, um, acquire these stones?"

   Szordrin asked, "Why? Is there a problem? I won them in a game of Talis."

   "Well, Good Mister, I hate to be the one to tell you, but, well — there is no doubt about it — but these are not rubies; they are red spinels, which, sadly, are only worth a tenth of a ruby of the same size. I am afraid that whomever you played cards with that day cheated you out of...."

   "Are you serious? I cannot believe it!" Szordrin stood to his feet and pounded the table. "Curse that Luth! I am going to strangle him the next time I see him. What will my wife say when I come home empty handed, with no gift for our son?"

   The shop worker looked nervous. "Well, Mister, I will tell you this. Because I understand what it is like to be taken for a fool, I will ask the manager if he will let me buy these spinels from you for ten percent more than we would usually offer. Wait here, and I shall return."

   Meanwhile, Szordrin heard one guard thinking about the curves of a woman in the store. The second guard, however, was watching him closely because of his outburst of anger. The gemcutter then returned.

   "Yes, he will permit me to buy the two stones from you for ten platinum a piece with two platinum thrown in as a thank you for your business with us today. We do hope you will come back and visit us if ever you come upon some true rubies!"

   When Szordrin returned to the others, he kept two platinum coins for himself, but he gave Kytharrah the 20 for the spinels, frustrated that he had not made more in the transaction.

   Szordrin also tried hard to see if there was any sort of blackmarket trade in Hartwick. There either was not or else he simply failed to convince anyone to reveal it to him. He did, however, become friends with one man who went by the name of Slip. The two would share drinks together, and they found that they shared a love of practical jokes. Slip's "jokes" were quite elaborate, and he began sharing with Szordrin how to do such things as secretly unhitch one's reindeer from a pulkka or cause one's cart wheel to fall off.

~~~~

On the morning of the 28th, as they were on their way through Coggin's Rise toward Castle Hartwick to prepare for the attempted removal of their lycanthropic curses, Hakam received another mental message from Jayce: "On Suj, have visited Taan. Nothing. They sell good firearms here, Hakam. You should visit. Did you get your wishes? What happened to your magic?"

   Hakam replied, "We are to take the heir back to the throne. It is a long journey. No wishes yet. Anachtyr is displeased with me — no magic."

   That afternoon, as sunset approached, they were all escorted by armed guards to an open courtyard of the shrine that Hakam had visited earlier within the castle grounds, where Simon, the priest, oversaw that things were prepared for the removal of any curses. "Here is what we know about how to cure the curse," said Simon. "We must wait until the dreaded transformation begins. In the moment that it happens, the sufferer will feel himself start to change. Once the change is complete, he will have no memory of the matter, but in that first instant, it is a feeling of horror, as one's flesh begins to stretch or shrink and one's mind is ripped from his own control. In those critical seconds, I must pray to Stronmaus to grant the strength of mind to the sufferer, one at a time. Hopefully, only one of you has contracted the disease, because otherwise, I do not think that I can pray fast enough! On the other hand, there may be a blessing in that the curse tends to exhibit itself over the course of three consecutive nights. If the sufferer is able to fight off the loss of his mind, the power of my magic should clear the disease permanently from his body and the curse will be forever removed."

   Szordrin used his silken rope to create an extradimensional space, and Kytharrah was told to climb it and remain up there. The thought was that if he changed into a wolf, he would not attempt to jump the 30 feet to the ground. Mythlos and Hakam, on the other hand, were bound tightly. Solisar and Belvin each cast spells on the three to enhance their willpower.

   "Nothing is likely to happen this night," Simon reminded them, "but we cannot take chances. You must remain bound until morning, just in case.

   The sun set that evening. Everyone, (except for the guards, who were ready to wake Simon if anything happened,) rested on the ground or on benches.

   Night was long, but nothing happened.

   They were released for the day, but required to come back that next night. Once again, the same precautions and magics were used. This time, however, after the sun set over the Ice Spires West and as the courtyard fell fully in the shadow of night, Mythlos started twitching violently. In seconds, though elves had no body hair, he had a bluish beard, and his arms were hairy.

   Simon was quick. He rushed to Mythlos and placed his hand upon him. Mythlos' body was a distorted, convulsing form, with shortening arms and a growing nose. His boots were looking like they were about to burst as his feet stretched. "Stronmaus! Grant him the will to resist this fell curse!"

   Mythlos continued shaking for a few moments more, but the transformation stalled. Within a few moments, its progress began to reverse. A few seconds after that, Mythlos was back to his normal self, smooth-skinned and fully humanoid.

   "He has beaten it," stated Simon. "He is cured."
Session: 85th Game Session - Wednesday, Feb 01 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 4 — Tavis Burdun
~ ninth-day, 19th of Uktar, The Year of Wild Magic, evening
The Weary Giant Inn and Orphanage


After a day of shopping for new gear and supplies in the town of Hartwick, over the western bridge, the party had taken the ferry over the Clear Whirl (avoiding the floes of ice) and trekked back over Coggin's Rise to Stagwick, where they were now staying once again at the Weary Giant Inn. They had thought it best to wait around in Stagwick, having asked that Livia, the keeper of the inn, might send a message to her friend Tavis, the queen's husband, that they might speak with him. She was willing to introduce them to Tavis, but she did not know how she, a simple peasant, might get a message through to the royal castle. She had suggested that Tavis might visit sometime, as he was fond of doing so. Without any other options, the group stayed at the inn and helped with the chores.

   Belvin, for his part, had not been satisfied with the stories that they were being told by those such as the queen or Basil the runecaster, or rather, he was not satisfied with what they seemed to be neglecting to tell. "When we were on Mount Woe, I spoke with the birds," he had told his companions. "They told me that three migrations ago, the birds went with the giants when the biggest giant of all called them. There was a baby in a tower with its mother. There was a great battle, and many birds died when they flew in the faces of the bad people who were trying to kill the giants and were struck down. Three of the giants died also. The giants, who were always sad, were even more sad. The old giant leader was the saddest of all the giants. Not even the birds could bring him comfort any more. He stayed in the garden and played sad music. Sometimes the birds sang along with him."

   "Was this the giant we passed in the garden?" they had asked him. "Why did you not tell us?"

   "I did not need to tell you! I went and spoke to him myself. He was Anastes, the former paramount. He spoke with Hartkiller’s descendant, the human queen. He was the only one of the six summoned giants who saw her child. He said that the child was ugly, even for a human, and hideously deformed, looking like an ettin or ogre."

   They had discussed what this might mean. Had Brianna been raped by an ogre when she had been taken? Was Galgadayle's prophecy indeed true? Had the High Priest Simon lied? Had the queen really had twins? Was the ugly one protected in the castle? Was the other twin in hiding elsewhere? Perhaps within this very orphanage? Or did the prince have a dual nature? Was Camden, in fact, the true heir of Ottar?

   So Belvin had used fire to melt himself a pool of water. After calling upon the power of his dwarven jungle god in an hour of rhythmic chanting, he commanded the pool to show him Camden. It the rippling water, he saw the image of an old man, dressed in rags, with a mug in his hands, and hunched over. He watched the man for a long time, but he only ever got up to acquire more ale from a barkeep. He spoke with no one. Wherever King Camden now was, he was reduced to a lonely drunk. Belvin invested another hour to prayer and also tried scrying on the queen's son, but the pool remained empty.

~~~~

It was the very next morning, the last day of the second tenday of Uktar. Solisar had been the first to rise, as was typical, since his magic ring required even less rest than a typical elf. He spent the early morning studying an assortment of new scrolls he had purchased and deciding in which order he might add them to his spell book. Then he decided to head downstairs for breakfast to see if anyone else was awake.

   The dining area was mostly empty, except for a few of the older children sweeping and a single figure sitting at one of the tables. He was a burly giant of a man, broad-shouldered and taller than Solisar while sitting. His bare arms were almost bursting with muscles. He looked middle-aged, but his hair was completely gray. It was swept back and wavy and hung to just above his shoulders. He had a full beard of medium thickness. A large, bronze medallion with a knotted design was hanging from his thick neck and a heavy, warm cloak hung over his shoulders.

   The man was looking directly at Solisar as he approached, from head to toe. He seemed to spot Solisar's magic boots, and commented to himself, "Ah, Boots of the Winterlands! That explains why I never saw the tracks of a gold elf among them."

   "I am Solisar Keryth," said the elf. "Is it correct to assume that you are Tavis Burdun? Well met."

   "Alae," said the firbolg. "Indeed, I am! Equally well met. I suspect that we have much about which to talk."

   "I agree," said Solisar, "but I think it may be best that I be joined by my companions first."

   "Make sure to call in the wild-looking one who is sleeping in the stable with the desert mounts — strange prints those beasts leave!"

   "I shall do so," said Solisar, and he turned to go back up the stairs to the rooms.

   "There is no rush," said Tavis, standing up to his full height and banging his head on the ceiling, which he simply ignored. "Let them wake to the smell of breakfast! I miss the mornings when I fried eggs here in the kitchen for the children. Would you and your friends want venison with your eggs?"

   "That sounds delightful," said the sun elf, "but one of us does not eat meat."

   "That is his loss then!" said Tavis.

   "Tavis!" squealed a little orphan girl with glee, having just come down the stairs.

   "Ami!" said Tavis.

   She ran over to him and jumped onto his forearm, which was thick enough and strong enough to support her tiny frame. He lifted her into the air as one might raise a parrot or falcon, and he rubbed noses with her affectionately.

   As the smells of breakfast spread through the inn, more and more of the children — and the adventurers too — entered the main room and greeted the firbolg. He was soon surrounded by the children and took care to greet and to speak with each one. So it was that the adventurers were not able to ask him any questions until an hour later, after a hearty breakfast and jolly discussion about happenings in Stagwick with all of the children, young and old.

   Finally, Tavis politely dismissed the orphans, with the exception of Livia, who cleared their plates. "I have heard of you adventurers from my wife," he said, as the last little feet ran up the stairs. "I shall be honest and tell you that she has no trust of you, but she is quicker to make judgments than I. I have come to find that covers do not always reveal what is within a book. (Take Basil, for example!) She is, understandably, nervous about matters related to our son. I, however, cannot deny the strange manner of his birth, and while I know that Annam had no part in Lanaxis' schemes, this does not mean that Annam has no plans at all for the boy.

   "Before I continue, though, I want to hear your tale with my own ears. Why should we trust your story? I caution you that, though I cannot lie myself, it does not mean that I cannot recognize lies in others!"

   So the party told Tavis the story of how they had been exiled by a powerful magic user and how, in their quest to get back to their homes, had fallen into service with a powerful genie from ancient Jhothûn. They kept no secrets from him in regards to the genie's quest, but they did not explicitly tell him the location of the portal in the High Ice. (Had any of them tried, Leokas would not have allowed it, being still bound by the power of the genie's magic to protect it.)

   "There is a magic throne in the main citadel," said Hakam. "It recognizes only the rightful heir of Ottar Annamson. All we ask is for the queen or her son to sit upon it. Indeed, we are asking a great commitment of you, but certainly, the power and riches that could await your son — is it not worth it to try? Please pardon any offense, but your country is isolated and poor, compared to the countries of the south. With also a genie at his command, think what Hartsvale could become."

   "The boy is not even four years old!" said Tavis, "but I admit that I am both fascinated and satisfied by your words. Basil knows far more about the history of the giant races than do I, but it is hard to deny that the Celestial Children of Annam are at work in this. Take another swig of your elderberry wine. What I am about to tell you may be hard to believe — I am baffled by it myself — but I am sure you have heard how hard it is for a firbolg to lie."

   "Yes, you yourself told us so, a minute ago," said Belvin.

   "Ignore him," said Hakam. "His people skills are somewhat lacking."

   Tavis did not seem phased by the interruption. "By some miracle, Kaedlaw, my son, has two fathers." He let the statement hang in the air for a moment before continuing. "You have spoken to Basil, I know. I expect that he was happy to share the story of our victory over the Twilight Spirit but reluctant to speak of the birth of the boy, or else he sneakily avoided the topic altogether and talked of other things. My wife rarely speaks of it, for she feels guilt in the matter, but she was a victim and is without fault in my eyes.

   "After Basil, Avner, and I first retrieved Brianna — mind you, it was she who decapitated Goboka, not we — we returned together and deposed King Camden. Brianna was now queen, and custom demanded that she take a husband from among the noble humans of the land. We were in love, but a queen sometimes must choose honor over love, or so we believed. As painful as this was to both of us, I understood that I could never marry her. She had accepted that she would take a political marriage without love for the good of the kingdom.

   "So she did not waste time in beginning to see suitors, some from among the nobles of our own land, and some from foreign lands. An attractive man arrived, Prince Arlien. I do not even remember from where he claimed to hail. I had accepted that Brianna would have to marry another, but I also believed that she would not love him. To my horror, she began to show obvious signs of attraction to this man, and it quickly appeared that she would choose him as her husband and consort.

   "In reality, Arlien was Arno and Julien, the two beings in one body of the first ettin, a direct son of Annam and the youngest of his terrestrial children besides Hartkiller. The Twilight Spirit had not given up; having failed at breeding Brianna the first time, he now tried a more subtle approach. He used his magical arts to disguise the ettin, and beyond this, Arlien drugged Brianna and took her to bed.

   "I was too late to discover the treachery and stop it. Brianna, having been freed of the spell, and I did together slay each head of the giant, but the deed was done.

   "Brianna decided then that 'tradition be damned;' she was queen and she would 'marry whomever the Hells she wanted to.' We were married before a tenday had passed. Because our marriage was consummated so quickly after she was raped, I did not know who the father was when she announced a month later that she was pregnant. She, however, had convinced herself that I was the father and would hear nothing to the contrary.

   "It was not long before the seer of the Meadowhome clan of firbolgs, Galgadayle, arrived with his portent that Brianna would bear twins, one fair and one ugly, and that the ugly one would bring the downfall of the races of the valley. Brianna immediately sought the High Priest of Stronmaus, Simon, who assured her by his prayers and magic that only one child was in her womb. Again, she believed Simon, but I was hesitant. First, Galgadayle had never been wrong before, and second, I trusted a firbolg's word over that of a human's, especially one as arrogant as Simon.

   "Firbolg pregnancies are much longer than human ones, so I was not surprised when Brianna remained with child for first one and then two years, but as each month of the third year passed, my anxiety grew stronger. No, firbolg or human child grew for so long in the womb, and never have a seen so large a belly on a human woman. Brianna could barely walk lest she fall over!

   "In the Year of the Gauntlet, the queen was at one of Earl Wynn's new mines in the Gorge of the Silver Wyrm to dedicate and bless it, when fire giants attacked us. We were separated in the fighting, and while my wife was hiding within one of the mines, Avner, who was like a son to us, helped her deliver the child. So big he was, that Avner had to cut him out of her belly. (Thankfully, my wife is also a priest of a goddess of healing!) As she nursed her son, she saw a handsome, although enormous, boy that looked like me, and she even named him 'Handsome' in the firbolg tongue. But Avner saw a hideous monster of a child, deformed, ugly,... and ettin-like, like Arno, the uglier of the ettin's two heads.

   "When I found them again, I too saw an impressively ugly face. It soon became apparent that the child appeared at first as one expected him to look. To the firbolgs he appeared as a monster; only to Brianna and Avner did the boy appear handsome — and for Avner only after he tried hard to see him that way.

   "Basil suspected that Galgadayle's prophecy was in one sense true — as an ettin was two beings in one body, so Brianna's son was two beings in one body, my son and the ettin's son.

   "Lanaxis' arrival spared us deciding how to respond to this. Instead, we found ourselves in pursuit of the great titan. Surely, Basil shared this part of the story with you?

   "Basil talked me into trying to obtain the Sky Cleaver, and his brilliant scholarship led us to it. I did not expect how heavy a burden the axe would be to carry. It drained me of my moratlity while at the same time granting me invulnerability, yet I see no other way that we could have bested Lanaxis.

   "Best him we did, and when I at last was reunited with my wife and the child, I had to decide what to do. The Sky Cleaver, we had been discovering, could cleave more than just physical things. It could 'cut to the heart' of any matter. I thus used its power to 'cleave' Kaedlaw's enchantment. There, in Brianna's arms, was now a boy neither overly handsome nor exceptionally ugly, just rather normal-looking, with clear features both from me and from the ettin. Basil saw this as a sign that his destiny would depend on how he was raised.

   "So that is my strange tale. As hard as it is to fathom, Basil and I believe that Kaedlaw carries the blood of Annam through Hartkiller and Brianna and through the ettin and carries the blood of Othea through the same and through me, a firbolg. After so many millennia of rejection from the All-Father, I wonder if this supernatural conception is a sign of his adoption, as it were, of the giant-kin races. Is it a show of forgiveness to his now-dead spouse?"

   "What can you tell us of your own lineage?" one of them asked him.

   "I was an orphan," said Tavis, "born under a red moon, as my people say, which is to mean that my mother died giving me birth. My people are very sensitive to omens and signs, and to be born under a red moon is to be cursed. I was expelled from my clan and raised among humans by the kindest woman I have ever met, Isa Wirr, here at this very orphanage. She was a mother to me, and she passed this place onto me at her death. I do not even know my father or my mother's names."

   Then Solisar spoke up. "Having heard your story, I am now convinced that your child will be able to sit on the throne of Jhothûn. Yet we are not the ones in need of convincing. Is there anything else that we can do to prove ourselves and our purpose to the queen, your wife?"

   "Let me return to the castle and try to reason with her," said Tavis. "Wait here until I return again. Brianna wants our son to grow up as a normal boy, but even after he was freed of his 'condition', he cannot be called 'normal'. At three-years-old, Kaedlaw is almost as tall as some of you! If Annam has chosen him, if Stronmaus has led you here, why should we fight against their will? If Kaedlaw is to go with you, I would accompany you. While I trust you more than does my wife, I still care about my son's safety. He is my boy too, after all! How far is this throne?"

   "We would travel there by a hidden portal," said Solisar.

   "We cannot tell you its location," said Leokas, "but I estimate that the portal is 300 or 400 miles from here, as the crow flies."

   "Yet we are not crows," said Tavis, "and winter is here...."

   "You said that the Sky Cleaver can cleave non-physical things," said Belvin. "Can it cleave distances, make our journey shorter?"

   "I suspect that it could," said Tavis, "but I no longer have it. I gave it back."

   "Gave it back?" asked Cassiera. "To whom?"

   "To Annam," said Tavis. "The blade was never meant for mortals. Look what it did to Basil, who only held it for a few minutes.

   I was able to wield the blade for a time, yes; however, Lanaxis had more of a right to the axe than I, being a direct son of the All-Father, and he tried to recite the words of binding to take it from me by the strength of his will and rage. Knowing that I had no hope to resist his power, I took a chance that the power of mercy might outweigh the power of hate. With my final swing before he completed the ritual words to draw the weapon from my hands, I used Sky Cleaver to reveal the truth to Lanaxis rather than strike him down. Instantly, we were both transported — whether in our bodies or just within a vision, I do not know — to Annam's presence. Lanaxis pleaded with his father, but the god expelled him a last time from his presence, claiming that Lanaxis' plans were never a part of a his will, that the voices in the titan's head were those of madness, not of divine guidance. Lanaxis was cursed to be a mortal, and the last I saw of him, he flew far to the west in his shadow roc form. I then offered the axe back to Annam, who took it from me. The next thing I know, I woke up on the ground with Basil, Brianna, and Galgadayle around me. When I had finally faced Lanaxis, I had looked worse off than Basil does now — nearly transparent I was — but after I gave the axe back to Annam, he restored my flesh. Only my gray hair still shows sign that I once carried the weapon."
Session: 85th Game Session - Wednesday, Feb 01 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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