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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 5 — The Red Rysal
From below deck, Szordrin and Hakam heard Solisar's yell, and both were startled awake. Szordrin sprung out of his hammock and was on his way up the forward stairs immediately. Hakam picked up his sword and shield — he did not have time to put on his armor — and followed behind, touching his shield as he moved to make it glow in the darkness.

   As Szordrin came onto the deck, he saw Belvin moving in his direction while drawing his bow, the elf's skin looking like it was made of tree bark. Szordrin looked up over his shoulder to where Belvin was staring up onto the forecastle. There was Leokas, all but his right arm entangled in a fishing net. The stubborn elf had managed to nock an arrow anyway and was aiming at someone Szordrin couldn't see from his angle. He moved further out into the center of the deck, as Belvin also loosed an arrow. Now he could see one of the assailants, a masked man, dressed fully in red with two arrows in his shoulder. The elves loosed more arrows, but each missed, as the man was moving quickly, and Leokas was half-entangled. The man rushed at Leokas and pummeled him several times with what looked like a small sack. He then moved to put himself on the far side of Leokas, shielding himself from further shots from Belvin or any spell that Szordrin might cast.

   Szordrin heard Solisar nearby chanting spells, but he could not see him. Behind him, he heard Kytharrah grunting in frustration. Szordrin turned to see the minotaur leap into the air, reaching for the yard above him, but falling short and crashing back to the deck. A second assailant leapt down to the deck of the sterncastle beside Kytharrah and stabbed him with a rapier. Szordrin saw the sword pierce clear through the minotaur and emerge from his back. The tiefling turned to take aim with a spell. He saw that the masked fighter, springing back from Kytharrah and withdrawing his weapon from the beast's body, had removed a vial from his bandoleer with his left arm and was readying to throw it at Kytharrah. Kytharrah, however, despite his wound, lunged forward and tried to grab the man, taking advantage of his greater reach. The opponent skillfully ducked and avoided Kytharrah at first. Then Kytharrah caught hold of the man's extended wrist and immediately overpowered him, forcing the man to smash the vial against his own head. The strangest thing happened: both Kytharrah and the man with whom he grappled fell with a thud to the deck and did not stir.

   "What is happening?" Hakam had just reached the main deck.

   Szordrin motioned for the bow of the ship and rushed toward the stairs to the forecastle, while keeping his head low so as not to be seen. As his head came over the steps, he saw Leokas missing several shots; the man was too skilled at anticipating the ranger's shots at such close range. Belvin, however, had also come up the starboard side stairs. One of his two arrows did not miss.

   The man yelled out in pain and turned for a moment to observe his second attacker. Szordin took this opening an fired off two rays of fire from his open palms. The injured man was still quite mobile and avoided the first blast, but the second struck him, leaving a blackened mark on his leather chestpiece. He stumbled backwards toward the rail. With a scream of pain he yanked the arrows out and chugged a magic vial he had in his left hand.

   Then, as Leokas and Belvin raised bows, the man suddenly jumped backwards over the rail, tugging on the rope to Leokas' net at the same time and hoping to drag the elf off the boat with him.

   But the man's left foot failed to clear the railing. Unbeknownst to him or anyone else on the ship, invisible Solisar had cursed the man with bad luck. He plummeted ungracefully into the water with a slam, rather than the smooth dive intended, and lost the grip on the net's rope.

   Leokas drew his knife and began cutting himself free, as the others rushed to the railing. Belvin dropped his bow and started removing his clothes.

   "Hold!" commanded Hakam from the rail. The man in the water stopped swimming and began to sink.

   "Take them alive!" shouted Solisar from the aft of the ship. He was now visible and was waking up Kytharrah. There was no visible stab wound on the minotaur, nor any blood at all. "They have not been using lethal force!"

   Szordrin, also at the railing, ignored this and blasted a bolt of lightning from his fingers to the water.

   Hakam could see the chaotic aura of the man below the surface. Suddenly, he began swimming again and swam below the vessel. "He is under the boat," said the cleric, "swimming to our left." Leokas acknowledged this by moving to the port side and readying his bow.

   Hakam moved toward the foremast and began preparing his most powerful spell, but then he felt a stern warning in his mind. It was the phylactery on his forehead.

   "Stop!" he called out. "Anachtyr demands that we spare his life. Solisar was right."

   There was a splash as a naked Belvin dove into the water.

   "What is Belvin doing?" asked Szordrin.

   "Quiet!" said the cleric. "I am listening for the man's thoughts. He is below the mainmast moving to the rear of the boat. Now he is feeling intense fear."

   From the port side, Leokas saw a fin break the surface of the water. "Shark!" he said, with a smile.

   A large shark lifted its pointed head out of the water and tossed the man's body onto the dock.

   "I yield! I yield!" yelled the man.

~~~~

Leokas and Belvin carried the nervous man back onto the ship. Leokas tied him up while Belvin got dressed again.

   Hakam and Szordrin approached the other assailant in the aftcastle. He was held tightly by Kytharrah. The minotaur had pulled off the man's mask, revealing a young face with dusky skin like Hakam's. Hakam noted that the man wore the turban of a rysal, apart from the red color. Was he some sort of pirate captain?

   "Where is Solisar?" asked Szordrin.

   "Ilthian," said Kytharrah. "Told me don't let friend go," he said, nodding to his captive.

   Leokas led the other prisoner over and then set to work tying up the man Kytharrah held.

   "Good jump!" Kytharrah said to the man, after releasing him. "Fun play."

   The unmasked man eyed him strangely.

   Hakam pulled the mask off the other man. This one was not a Calishite; his features were more elven. His ears were pointed but not as pointed as Leokas or Belvin's. Perhaps he was a half-elf.

   Solisar joined them again on the deck. Then, Szordrin spoke firmly with the Calishite man. "Tell us who sent you or we shall kill you!"

   "I am not afraid of the likes of you," he answered. "Nevertheless, I have nothing to hide. I was sent by Atiq el Catahras and Hakamir el Wisynn."

   The adventurers looked at each other. Most of them shrugged; the names were not familiar.

   "There must have been a mistake," said Hakam. "We do not know these names."

   Szordrin did recognize the name Catahras, but he could not place it. "For what purpose?" he asked the men.

   "There is a price on the heads of those who kidnapped Atiq's daughter," said the man.

   "There is only one woman in our number," said Hakam, "and I assure you that she is not a Calishite. She is from a distant island."

   "And why would you suspect us?" asked Szordrin. "We just arrived yesterday, and had we wanted to kidnap anyone, why would we have stayed in port for the night?"

   "She was kidnapped months ago, not yesterday," said the man, "in the month of Kythorn. In that same month, my partner here had been keeping an eye on a certain pasha in this town, one Syan al Derak. We have reason to believe that Pasha Syan has connections to a secret society active throughout the Lands of Intrigue. Men from Tethyr had been visiting him at night. Then, one day, a Calishite priest and a coppery elf with blonde hair wearing a Calishite aba visited him, under the guise of selling gems." He looked directly at Leokas and Hakam as he said this.

   "Yes, we were here in the month of Kythorn," said Hakam, "and yes, we sold gems, but I assure you as a cleric of Anachtyr that we have no connections to any secret society; we were simply on our way to Chult. And what does this have to do with the kidnapping?"

   The man continued, "Shortly after you departed, aboard a ship called The Daisy, we learned of the bounty placed on your heads by the girl's father. El Wisynn, the girl's betrothed, was calling for the kidnappers' capture and execution. They even took her pet cat, it was said. Raisa, the girl's mother, claims that some of the kidnappers stayed at their inn many nights. She describes a handsome man with red hair and strange glasses, a priest, a large orc, and... 'a coppery elf with blonde hair wearing a Calishite aba.'"

   "Curse that bard!" muttered Hakam. It was Oma.

   "He admits it," said the half-elf.

   "El Amlakkar received a report today that two elves were seen in town," continued the human man. "We caught wind of this and thought that your capture might provide us the evidence we need to bring down Pasha Syan. We did not expect you to have a minotaur aboard, however."

   "That is me!" said Kytharrah.

   "So that is our failed plan. Feel free to kill us now, if you wish, but while Pasha Syan has escaped this day, know that you have not, for el Amlakkar and el Nallojal will not allow your ship to sail."

   "We are innocent," said Hakam. "Why would we kill you?"

   The half-elf snorted a laugh. "Three potions, not your innocence, are the only reason I am alive."

   "I could have bitten you in half," said Belvin. "I did not."

   "You attacked us," said Hakam. "We had every legal right to defend ourselves with lethal force."

   "Yet we used no lethal force on you," said the human.

   "The girl, Oma yr Atiq el Catahras," said Hakam, "was a traveling companion of ours. She was hired by a somewhat untrustworthy companion of ours, but it was no kidnapping; she went with us willingly. She is with him still. I can tell you where she is, if you will hold us innocent of the matter. Our dealings with this pasha you mention were purely business. We had gems to sell. We had no knowledge of his secret dealings."

   "As a cleric of Anachtyr, do you not have a duty to bring her back to her father and her betrothed?" asked the man.

   "I would, except that my god has given be a greater duty that involves saving the world."

   "Saving the world?" The man looked doubtful.

   "We have been tasked with preventing a mage of great power from upsetting the balance of the multiverse. Some of our number have literally been sent back from the Fugue Plane to stop this man. The only reason we are here in Teshburl again is to investigate one who may have connections to him."

   "That is a hard tale to believe," said their prisoner.

   "I shall drink a truth serum, if you desire it," said Hakam.

   "Not that we have the upper hand at the moment," said the man, "but I give my word that we shall not pursue you further if you release us and tell us the girl's location. I cannot do anything to remove the bounty on your heads, however."

   "She is on the island of Lantan, far west of here," said Hakam.

   "Tell us more of this secret society," Szordrin ordered.

   "They call themselves the Knights of the Shield," the man replied. "We think that they are trying to influence the politics of the new queen of Tethyr to the north, and worse than that, we believe that Pasha Syan may be trying to fund some of his efforts through the slave trade. It is hard to prove, however. They are a powerful, well-supported group, whose influence stretches as far north along the Sword Coast as Waterdeep."

   "Who are you?" asked Leokas.

   "I — tonight, we — are the Red Rysal," said the man.

   "I take it that you have not heard of him?" said the half-elf.

   "I think that one of the townsfolk may have mentioned you to Hakam and I when last we were in Teshburl," Leokas replied. "Something about blaming you for the lack of temples in town...."

   "The previous Red Rysal discovered that the Churches of Bane, Bhaal, and Cyric were kidnapping children," explained the half-elf. "When this was exposed, the populace revolted and burned every temple, good or evil, to the ground."

   "While I admit that we are not saving the world," said the human, "we do our part to end slavery, kidnapping, and corruption. The slavers have not been able to stay in business in this town for 45 years."

   "Why do we still have these good men tied up?" exclaimed Solisar. "They are telling the truth. This has all been a terrible mistake."

   Leokas and Szordrin immediately agreed to this, as slavery was an important matter to each of them.

   "Only if they do not resume attacking us!" insisted Hakam.

   "Agreed," said the large man. "Besides, I know that I cannot outmaneuver this minotaur of yours!"

   "More play?" asked Kytharrah, eagerly.

   Once Szordrin had untied the man, Kytharrah held up the sword. He had been trying to figure throughout the whole interrogation why he had felt the steel inside his gut yet there was now no hole and no blood. "Trick sword?"

   "Yes," the man smiled. "Trick sword."

   The man stared back in shock as Kytharrah stabbed the blade through his own bicep, grunting at the pain, but then grinning. He then lumbered over to Solisar, the rapier still embedded in his arm. "Look, I can do trick now like little sister. No blood." Then he stopped and put a hand over his mouth, looking embarrassed.

   "Give the man back his rapier," said Hakam. The cleric then turned to the half-elf and offered to heal him of any remaining wounds, as Szordrin handed him back his belt and bandoleer. (No one noticed that he kept two potions for himself.)

   "You said that slavery ended here 45 years ago?" asked Leokas to the human. "You do not look that old for a human."

   "I am the sixteenth Red Rysal," said the man. "The legacy passes through my family. My true name is Kanar yn Baral el Ehrat, but most folk know me as 'the Ox'."

   "Leokas," said the elf. He turned and offered his hand to the second man, who took it and stood up. "I apologize for striking you with one of my arrows," the elf said.

   "Forgotten," said the half-elf. "I am just thankful that we live in a time of magical healing. My real name is Oadif el Wajin. I admit that I am impressed by your skills. You were half-entangled in my net, yet still you unleashed six arrows at me in fifteen seconds!"

   "And your agility impressed me," said Leokas.

   "Until I tripped on the deck railing, I imagine."

   "That was probably my fault," said Solisar. "I cursed you." Then he asked, "How can we get this bounty of our heads?"

   "Again, I cannot do anything about that," said Kanar. "In fact, I request that no one learns that we were even here tonight. However, I sense that Atiq is a good man. Perhaps if you simply explained to him that his daughter left willingly,..."

   "I can certainly speak to him," said Hakam.

   "I am not sure that that is wise," said Szordrin. "If you fail to convince him,..."

   "I will not fail," said Hakam. "The man deserves to know what happened to his daughter. How can we set up the meeting?"

   "I have someone I know who can deliver a message to the Roving Rune for you," said Kanar. "As for you and your elven friend, the two of you should probably stay hidden for as long as you stay here, since you match the descriptions. As long as the bounty is still on your heads, someone else might spot you who does not attack with saps and enchanted rapiers!"
Session: 93rd Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 26 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Chapter 5 — The Warehouse
~ third-day, 3rd of Hammer, The Year of Rogue Dragons, afternoon
Teshburl


With a splash and a jolt to those on board, the spelljammer touched down on the water of the Shining Sea, the ocean south of Calimshan. Instantly, the magic bubble around them must have dissipated, because they immediately felt a breeze cooling them from an otherwise warm day. Having flown nearly 2,000 miles, they were reminded how much warmer it was in the south. The magic bubble had kept the temperature at the coolness of air of Silverymoon in winter.

   "It is good to be in the warmth of home," said Hakam with a sigh.

   There was a problem, however. When landed in the ocean, the spelljamming helm no longer seemed to provide thrust to the vessel. They were at the mercy of the winds, and the winds were blowing perpendicular to their sails.

   "I just realized another problem, beyond that of the wind," said Solisar. "When a vessel approaches a port, it communicates with the harbormaster by means of colored flags; we have no such flags, nor do I know more than a few of the universal signs, even if we had them."

   "I thought that you knew every language," said Szordrin.

   "Many, yes, but not all, and all of them are spoken languages."

   "We need sailors," said Szordrin, stating the obvious.

   "Before we can signal the harbormaster in the first place," said Leokas, who had abandoned the helm and come up on deck, "he needs to be able to see us. Unless they were looking up at just the right time and place in the sky, we probably reached the surface unnoticed, as desired, but we are still two miles from the shore; humans cannot make out flags from that distance anyhow. We need to find a way to sail closer."

   "They almost certainly have spyglasses and are scanning the horizon," said Solisar. "If we were fortunate to have not been spotted descending from the sky, even so, it will not take them long to spot us after that. Perhaps they have pilot vessels and will send one out for us, but even then, they would have to board us to provide sailors."

   "We planned this well," said Belvin sarcastically. "We may as well do the best we can. Kytharrah, help me with the ropes again."

   After 20 minutes, it was clear that they had been noticed. A large sailing vessel was approaching them now from the northwest, from the Sea of Swords side of the port town. After another fifteen minutes, they could see that the deck of the approaching ship was full of marines, armed with crossbows.

   "It is el Nallojal," explained Hakam, "the Calishite navy. If we stay calm and do what they say, I am sure that I can work things out favorably."

   Someone from the bow shouted in singsong Common, "Drop your anchor and prepare to be boarded."

   They had Kytharrah drop the anchor as ordered and told him to stay below deck with Ilthian in her cabin. The rest stood cautiously on deck.

   The Calishite vessel came around to the port side and ran parallel to them. "Keep your hands in the air!" shouted the man from the forecastle deck.

   "We are not hostile," shouted back Hakam in the language of Calimshan. "We are adventurers who formerly were trapped far from here. Anachtyr blessed us with finding this abandoned vessel and has guided us to your coast. Forgive us for not following common maritime protocol, but as you can see, we are not sailors, and we have no crew apart from our persons. We have no signalling devices. Only by Anachtyr's design have we made it thus far."

   Szordrin translated to the others what Hakam was saying.

   "Whence do you hail," called the man on the other ship, in Alzhedo, "that you speak our tongue?"

   "I am a Calishite, as you are," said Hakam. "I am Hakam yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr yi Memnon."

   There was a pause. They could see that the caller turned and was discussing matters with his captain, a man with a large and ornate turban.

   "Stand clear from the railing," came the reply, again in Common. "We are coming aboard."

   Several grappling hooks were tossed over, and the two vessels were hauled close together. A large wooden plank was laid across, and an amhir, with a smaller turban, came across, escorted by six naval soldiers.

   "You have four camels but no sailors?" the naval commander said to Hakam.

   "It is a long story," Hakam replied. He then took the man aside and the two of them talked things over in Alzhedo in quiet tones. Then the amhir turned toward one of his men and called out an order to search the lower deck.

   Two of the marines stepped over to the stairs to the lower deck. One gasped. "Rafayam, there is a dark cloud blocking the way!"

   "Ignore it," said the commander. "I am told that it is only a protective magic. Pass through, and it will clear."

   The two soldiers descended. They were only down there for half a minute before they ascended again.

   "The lower decks are completely empty but for bedding and personal effects," said one of the armed men.

   "As I have said," noted Hakam.

   "Shall we search the cabins and the lower decks?"

   "No," said the commander, "as strange as this man's tale is, he is a priest of Anachtyr; such men do not lie. Bring over a minimal crew to bring these lost souls to port."

   Soon, twenty sailors from the Calishite warship came aboard and set to work adjusting the sails. Five remained aboard to pilot the ship safely through the shallow waters to dock after the naval craft pulled away and they had raised the anchor again.

   So it was that they sailed into Anvil Sabban, into the same drudach where they had docked with The Daisy months ago, before their journey to Chult. Leaving Ilthian and Kytharrah once again aboard the ship with Belvin, the rest stepped onto land and entered the streets of the Calishite town. Once again, people stared at Solisar and Leokas strangely, as if they had never seen an elf before. Many likely had not. Little children pointed and giggled or gasped.

   "Not the same feel as Silverymoon, is it?" Leokas said in Elvish to Solisar, who had never been in a Calishite town.

   "I did not expect all human settlements to be as Silverymoon," said Solisar, "or even Hartwick. I do not sense hate in them, only unfamiliarity. The children are simply commenting on our ears."

   "I thought Alzhedo was one of the languages that you could not speak," said Leokas.

   "It is similar enough to Auran, from which it primarily derives, for me to decipher a few words here and there," said Solisar. Then he said to Hakam in Common, "Your culture requires women to veil their faces?"

   "It is done out of respect for their husbands or fathers," said Hakam.

   Solisar simply nodded, silencing the elven love of freedom that wanted to argue. Now was not the time.

   The main purpose that they had for visiting Teshburl again was to retrace their steps with Walker and see if they could learn more about the Interlink Consortium. So it was that they came to the warehouse where Szordrin had sat bored for eight hours at a stretch, guarding half of a shipment of what they later learned were portal parts for Samber. It only took them a short time to locate the warehouse owner, in his shop further from the docks, which was more like a shack built of three wooden walls against one of the eastern walls of the sabban.

   "How may I help you, rafayam?" The warehouse owner spoke only to Hakam, recognizing him for a priest of some respect, and ignored the presence of the others, yet he did not look Hakam in the eyes directly; instead, his eyes seemed to be focusing on the holy symbol about the cleric's neck.

   "I am Hakam yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr yi Memnon," Hakam replied in his native tongue. "Some time ago, in the months of Mirtul and Kythorn of last year, my traveling companion, Szordrin here, was employed as wizard-for-hire for a renter of one of your warehouses, who went by the name 'Walker'. We have urgent need to communicate with him."

   "I do not recall any such name," said the warehouse owner from his seat on the floor, "but even if I did, I do not discuss my customers with rifar, even to alimarif such as yourself."

   "The matter is one of legal importance to Szordrin's former employer," said Hakam. "As an employee of one of your customers, Szordrin was indirectly a former client of yours as well. Indeed, my group used the warehouse to store two statues during that time."

   "Yet you do not have the means to contact your former employer already?"

   "Szordrin was hired here in Teshburl; we had no contact with Walker afterward. We did not foresee that such a matter as ours with him would come up."

   When the warehouse owner still hesitated, Szordrin set a triangular coin of silver on the low desk. It had a moon shape pressed into one side. "Would this sefen change your mind?" asked Szordrin in Alzhedo.

   Hakam pretended not to hear Szordrin's words — and literally turned his eyes to the side — but the man clearly did. He took the coin without a word and pocketed it. He then rose, bowed, excused himself, and stepped through a curtain to another "room".

   The four adventurers waited for several minutes before the short man returned with a worn scroll. He sat back down on a pillow before his desk and spread the scroll out. "To the best of my knowledge," said the man in Alzhedo, "I have never had a customer going by the name 'Walker', and I certainly did not in either the month of Mirtul or Kythorn. What was the warehouse number?"

   "Fourteen," said Szordrin. "I know because I had little to do but stare at the number carved on the sign for a month."

   "That warehouse was rented to two men during that time, not one," said the owner. "I gave them the keys at the beginning of Tarsakh, not Mirtul. The keys were returned on the 26th of Kythorn."

   "That is about when we sailed from Teshburl," said Hakam. "Who returned the keys?"

   "They were dropped into the metal box outside," said the man.

   "Do you remember the two men?" asked Hakam.

   "Thinking back, I think that I do now. They were not Calishites; their skin was much too pale, and they were not dressed in our manner. One had a very strange way of cutting his hair. I do not know whence they had come; I do not ask questions of customers, especially when they pay in advance."

   "Do you have workers who might know more about them, what they did?"

   "Bakkar!" yelled the man. A large shirtless man with a keffiyeh entered the tiny room. "Bakkar, do you remember the two men who rented number fourteen in the summer of last year, the pale ones? One of them had his head shaved on each side with a strip of hair in the center."

   Bakkar ignored the visitors and looked and spoke only at his master. "Yes, rafayam. I remember them well, for it was very strange. They only spent about an hour in the room before they left. They did not store anything in the room at all. They did not even come back."

   "Who returned the keys then?" asked the owner.

   "A man with a cloak and a staff who arrived about a month and a half later. He had the key." The man glanced up quickly at Szordrin and then back down again. "This alimarif with a beard was one of his guards, as was an orcish sadidrif."

   "As you have just heard," said Hakam, "I have not lied to you."

   "Hakam," said Leokas in Common, "may we have a moment outside?"

   "Excuse us, please, for a moment," said Hakam. The four stepped outside. "What is it?" the cleric asked quietly.

   "Do you remember how neither Szordrin nor Nargroth saw the second crate delivered?" asked Leokas. "The two men must have done something to the room. Maybe they set up a portal within."

   "The room was empty when we arrived," said Szordrin. Then he made strange chirping noises. Ferry, his magic weasel, stretched around his neck as usual, squeaked back. "Ferry did not notice anything amiss when I turned him invisible and sneaked him into the room that one time either."

   "Maybe we can investigate the warehouse further," suggested Hakam. They reentered the "office" and requested such from the owner.

   "You press your time with me," said the owner.

   "We have our suspicions that the two men may have modified your property," said Hakam. "Would you not be concerned about this?"

   "A fair point, I admit, rafayam, but the warehouse currently has a new tenant."

   "Is he local? And if so, may we have his name?"

   "I do not usually give the names of tenants to rifar, even to alimarif such as yourself." The man was intentional in repeating his earlier statement nearly verbatim, and he at last looked at Szordrin directly.

   The tiefling set another silver piece on the desk. The man gave them the name of the new tenant, Feroz.

   It took a few hours to locate the tenant's home. One of the dockkeepers knew him and described him as the captain of a fishing vessel. The warehouse was being used to store crabbing equipment, since the season for catching crabs from the Shining Sea was ending. It was suggested that they search for his home in Mourners Sabban, where many of the local fisher captains lived.

   So they climbed uphill to Mourners Sabban, which was named after a monument in Cliff Drudach called the Mourning Mast. It was a mainmast embedded in the street at the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean in the southeastern corner of the town. Within the crows' nest high above was a statue of a lookout peering anxiously to the sea. At the base of the mast was another statue of a woman who was clearly in deep anguish.

   Solisar stopped one of the passersby, who was dressed in minimal clothing like a laborer or sailor. "Excuse me, rafayam"

   "I am no rafayam, dahyarif! But what do you need?"

   "Can you tell me the story of this statue?"

   "The Lonely Widow? Stories say that she is not a statue! They say that she turned to stone from grief upon hearing that her husband was lost at sea. Such happens to the most of us sailors. That is our lot. Better die there than in a middle-of-no-where town as this!"

   Solisar went to thank the man, but he was already gone. They finally stopped another sailor who knew roughly where Feroz lived, north of the public well. At the well, one of the many veiled women was finally willing to talk to them. (All of the others ignored them, looking ashamed, and left the well when spoken to.) "I am friends with Abiya yr Feroz," she said. "I can point you to her home."

   So it was that they at last knocked on the door of the fisherman named Feroz shortly before dusk. Even though it was the hour of dinner and they were utter strangers to him, the man, introducing himself as Feroz yn Feroz el Danadaf, treated them as honored guests, offering that they join him at the table. Hakam took his companions aside and explained to them that it would be an insult to refuse and quickly told them a few other matters of custom. "Always use your right hand to eat. Do not refuse anything offered to you to eat or drink. Most importantly, do not look at any of the women in the household; pretend that they are not there."

   They all sat cross-legged on pillows at a low table. The dinner served by Feroz' wife and daughters was not in any way lavish — it was only a piece of bread, dried dates, and half a fish — but it was offered with generosity. When the women had departed, Feroz asked Hakam their business.

   "Tabarif, I am Hakam yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr yi Memnon," said Hakam in his usual formal way. "The fact that you have not offered us water with the meal is not lost to me; we do not need anything further from you except permission to visit the particular warehouse that you are renting in Anvil Sabban. We have reason to believe that a former tenant of the room stored something secretly there, and we would request your permission to investigate this."

   Feroz agreed to this, and after dinner, they found themselves back at the warehouse. The owner joined them, Feroz unlocked the door with his key, and they all stepped within. The room smelled heavily of seafood, and wooden crab traps filled the interior.

   Solisar was walking around slowly, staring at the floor, walls, and ceiling.

   "The second crate was there in that corner when I saw it," said Szordrin, pointing.

   "May we move these traps aside?" Hakam asked Feroz. The man agreed.

   Even before they had moved them, Solisar spoke. "Moderate conjuration aura, below the floor."

   "Bhaelros' spit!" said the owner with surprise.

   Szordrin gave the owner and Feroz each a triangular sefen. "To remove the floor panels," he said. Both men seemed quite satisfied and nodded.

   "Can you provide us a crowbar?" asked Hakam. "We have a beast with us who can do the work."

   Leokas left to retrieve Kytharrah, while the owner called for Bakkar again. When Leokas returned with the minotaur, Hakam explained that the monster was tame. Bakkar, very cautiously, handed Kytharrah the crowbar.

   After getting Kytharrah to focus on the task at hand, rather than sniffing the new smell of crabs, it took him no time at all to remove the strips of wood from the floor in the corner. The minotaur then heaved and lifted up a large stone or metal disk of black color, about a human's arm span in diameter and a couple inches thick. Kytharrah gently set the disk on its edge, and all the others came forward to examine it.

   "Again, Bhaelros' spit," cursed the owner. "What in the gods' names is it?"

   "The Interlink Consortium," said Szordrin, with satisfaction in his voice. His finger rested on the distinct symbol of four intersecting circles of decreasing sizes carved into the edge.

   "The Interlink Consortium?"

   "Your previous tenant's employers," explained Szordrin.

   "May we keep this as legal evidence?" Hakam asked. The owner and Feroz were happy to grant this request, and Kytharrah rolled it back to their ship at the docks, while Bakkar hammered the panels of wood back in place. They thanked Feroz and the owner for their assistance and returned to the ship themselves shortly thereafter.

   "It is a sort of 'portable portal destination'," explained Solisar to the others later that night. "It is not a portal itself, but somewhere there is a portal that leads to wherever this disk is placed."

   "Those two men must have also been agents of the Consortium," said Szordrin. "They came a month early and set things up so that the crate could be transported to Walker when it was ready."

   "What do we do with it?" one of them asked.

   "We could try to sell it here at one of the curio shops," suggested Hakam.

   "Who would want a five-foot metal disk?" asked Leokas. "It is useless without the portal, is it not?"

   "We should just bury it in the sand somewhere north of the town," said Szordrin. "That would be safer than having someone from the Consortium teleport onto our ship."

   "I find it highly doubtful that that would happen," said Solisar. "The disk has already served its purpose, and they have had months to recover the item and have not bothered to do so. In the grand scheme of things, the item must not be valuable to them."

   "Unless they have been teleporting into the warehouse to steal goods from other tenants all this time," suggested Szordrin.

   "You are thinking like a thief," said Solisar with a smile, "but a foolish one. The portal to the disk would be one way. The thieves would be stuck inside the warehouse."

   "Nor do I think that the Consortium needs crab traps," added Leokas.

   "What do we do next, then?" asked Hakam. "Do we retrace Szordrin's steps further to Tethyr, where he originally met Walker?"

   "I do not think that we need to waste time tracking Walker any further," said Leokas. "We know that the Consortium is based in the Tears of Selûne, somewhere above our heads. I am sure that Samber interacted with the broader Consortium, not Walker in particular. I doubt that the two men ever met. Szordrin's research found that the Rock of Bral is not that large; surely we can track the company down once we arrive."

   "Which means that we need to ready ourselves for the journey into the Sea of Night," said Solisar. "We are going to need a crew. Leokas is superb at reading the land of Toril from the sky, but wildspace will be much different. I am able to learn about space navigation from my home in Evermeet, but I need time, and we need more hands to man the sails and such, as we learned earlier today."

   "Cannot we hire sailors here?" suggested Szordrin. "If we sell the camels and the poisons that we have collected on our journeys tomorrow, we can certainly aford to hire a minimal crew."

   "I am wary to hire sailors whom we do not know and trust," said Hakam. "Some of you have nearly gotten arrested in Calimshan before. Technically, two of you are wanted by the Syl-Pasha for 'stealing his omlar gem.' His agents could be here in Teshburl."

   "Let us rendevous with this bardic friend of yours, Jayce," said Solisar. "Is he not with a ship and a crew that you already know and trust?"

   "I agree," said Hakam, "but first, I still desire to meet with Sseth and retrieve Allu's 'genie bottle' from him. Tomorrow morning, let us sell and buy what we need to and then fly north into the desert to find his lair. I shall message him for clearer directions at dawn."

   "Yes," said Solisar. "I need to restock on pearls and other magic components for my spells."

   "We can probably rid ourselves of that cursed cloak too," said Szordrin.

   "I know that Ilthian was requesting a hammock, like Szordrin has," said Solisar. "She has not been sleeping well on the hard wood of the ship, and I share her discomfort."

   "For that matter, we might consider having cabins built for all of us," said Szordrin, "and buying furnishings. Is not Teshburl known for its shipbuilders?"

   "It is," said Hakam, "but do we have time for such luxuries?"

   "We need a rowboat at least, before we leave port," said Leokas. "We cannot rely on foreign navies to escort us to port every place we set down."

   "So we have a busy day tomorrow, then," said Hakam. "Excuse me while I go rest in my corner for the night."

~~~~

There was little rest that night, however.

   Kytharrah had just relieved Szordrin from second watch. Solisar, who needed little rest because of his magic ring, was keeping the young minotaur company by asking him stories about his cavern home. Belvin and Leokas were trancing above deck under the stars, the former elf snuggled against Kamil, who was snorting in his dream-filled sleep.

   "What is your earliest memory of one of your mothers telling you a story?" asked Solisar of the minotaur as the two stood in the sterncastle.

   "One time, big brother and me played," said the minotaur. "He jumped on me so hard, food came out of my mouth. Very fun play!"

   "Fun?"

   "I got him good too!" said Kytharrah, proudly tapping one of his horns. "Both all tired and bleeding!"

   "What about mother's story?"

   "She tells of great minotaur, but smaller minotuar like me," Kytharrah replied. Then he clarified, "I was small minotaur then. Now, I am a big minotaur."

   "Yes, I know," said Solisar gently. "Go on about her story."

   "Small minotaur find food for family...," Kytharrah continued. Then he stopped suddenly, and his ears perked up. He had heard a sound above him. Just as he glanced up, a tiny object struck him in the forehead and splattered. He found himself covered in thick, tacky goo. His hooves were sticking to the deck.

   Solisar looked up. There, on one of the yardarms, balanced a figure in a uniform of Calishite fashion. He was clad in red leather with metal studs. Around his head was a red turban, and a scarlet cloth covered his whole face, except for the eyes. His arms were bare, and they were huge and muscular. His bandoleer and belt were full of many pouches, holders, and scabbards.

   Solisar yelled out in Elvish, "We are under attack." Then, he spoke several more ancient words and vanished.
Session: 92nd Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 19 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 5 — A Matter for Dragons
Jayce removed a smokestick from Mythlos' pack and lit it to send a signal to the ship that Leokas could see.

   "They have changed course, I think," said Leokas. "They must have spotted us."

   "Douse the smoke, Jayce," said Hakam. "We do not want the dragon seeing our signal as well." Jayce tossed the fuming stick into the water.

   Thirty minutes later, they were at the side of the sailing vessel. It was a smaller ship that the one they had been on previously. The flag flying atop the mainmast was Tethyrian. The figurehead was a giant flower. A ladder was thrown down to them by two sailors on the deck.

   Leokas was the first to board the vessel. "Thank you for taking us aboard," he said. "Do you have a rope and pulley? We have two statues of great value to us."

   The men left to set up the pulley, and the captain of the ship stepped down from the poop deck and approached. Leokas didn't recognize him to be the captain at first, for he was as tall as a human child, a halfling.

   "Well met and welcome aboard my vessel," said the hin captain. "I am captain Ombert Stronghull, and this beautiful ship here is The Daisy. Who are you and wherever did you come from to be bearing two statues, a wolf, and... a parrot?"

   "I am Leokas Dusktracker," said Leokas. "Our tale is very long tale, but time is of the essence. I shall explain all to you later, but for now, please help us board as quickly as possible. Then, sail us as far to sea as you can. We shall pay you handsomely if you will do this for us."

   "You speak a language I understand," said Captain Ombert. "So be it. Martin, send our passenger to his quarters. Gren, call up our mercenary; he may be needed."

   The pulley system was quickly set up, and Rinald, Mythlos, Stormshadow, and Sseth were loaded on board, while the others climbed up the ladder. The row boat and oars were set adrift.

   "Helm, take us due southwest; full sails, everyone!" commanded Ombert. "These statues are amazingly lifelike," he then said, as he examined the new cargo.

   "They are our friends," said Jayce, "petrified by a gorgon from out of legends."

   "You are adventurers then?" asked the halfling.

   "We are indeed," said Jayce proudly, "and dragonslayers."

   "Yet you flee?"

   "We missed one," said Jayce.

   "Whoa! When you hinted at danger, I was not thinking dragons. That's another matter entirely!"

   "We have summoned powerful help," said Sseth. "We will defend your vessel; we promise you. You should take us aboard and do as we say... for free."

   Ombert looked surprisingly satisfied with this answer, despite the fact that it came from a caged bird. He was oblivious to the magical power of a brass dragon's suggestion.

   Ombert glanced at Hakam, sitting on a step and nursing his injured leg, then at Belvin, who was shaking the water off himself. "You look a group of misfits," said the halfling with a chuckle, "but I've seen stranger things."

~~~~


The ship was on course for Teshburl, where it was to remain in port for close to a month. A rich passenger on board had hired The Daisy to deliver him and his package first to Teshburl, then to pick up a second package a month later, and finally to deliver them to Chult.

   Besides the halfling captain, four of the other crew members stood out noticeably from the rest. There was another halfling sailor, who's skill with the ropes and sails was immediately apparent. He was bald.

   Another sailor was a bulky half-orc. Unlike the halfling, he did not appear particularly skilled at seamanship; rather, he seemed to be in training, as he was always accompanied by human man who was explaining to him what to do.

   Another of the sailors was a short-haired blonde woman. She was shirtless like the men, with a bandeau wrapped around her chest, revealing her muscular and toned abdominal muscles and powerful forearms.

   All of the sailors had a daisy tattooed on their left biceps.

   The fourth crew member did not appear to be a sailor at all. He was a young man but had long jet black hair and a long, full beard. His skin was very pale. He wore a cloak that flowed in the breeze, and a large book and dagger sheath hung from a thick leather belt around his waist. He was clearly a wizard of some sort. He stood off to the side observing the new passengers silently.

~~~~


Jayce sat down on the deck underneath Sseth. The half-orc and his teacher had used a crowbar to break the latter free from his cage, and now he perched on a rung of one of the rope ladders leading up the mainmast. The other adventurers sat nearby.

   "So Sseth," said Jayce, "now that we have a moment for stories, how did you find Allu's lair? And how did you become trapped by Yrevkethend? Are the two working together?"

   "I cannot say for certain, but I do not think they were working together, as I noted in the cave. My parrot ear holes are not as keen as my dragon ones by any means, but I never did hear any conversations in the lair from anyone other than Yrevkethend and her two spoiled children, once they arrived a few days ago. I think they generally lived with their father. She presented me as a gift to them. Can you imagine! They enjoyed mocking me, and they forced me to do silly bird dances for them in my cage. At least they fed me cactus. It reminded me a little bit of what it was like to be a dragon. I always enjoyed the taste of fleshy cacti. First, I would lick the dew of each needle one by one. Then,..."

   "What of Allu, Sseth?" said Jayce.

   "Oh, yes, sorry. As I just said, I do not think they are connected. The side passage about which I had told Hakam by his message spell, which we passed on the way out of the cave — I suspect that it indeed leads up to Allu's palace. I could not confirm this myself, as I could not fit my body through the passage, and the ground was too hard to burrow through. I entered the cave the very same way that we just exited it. I flew over the wide chasm into the large chamber where the two hydras reside.

   "I was pondering why Allu would keep two hydras and confused as to why I did not smell the scent of hobgoblins when Yrevkethend returned. Even if she had not surprised me as she did, I would not have been a match for her. Io did not bless us brass dragons with the same power as blues. Even so, I am thankful that she did not attempt to slay me outright. I think she sensed immediately that I did not intend to trespass on her territory, so she was not in a rush to kill me. She struck me with a bolt of her lightning, and I returned a blast of my fire. Then she simply polymorphed me. It happened so suddenly, it took me several moments to comprehend what had happened. Ordinarily, such magic is easy for me to resist, even if coming from a more powerful spellcaster. It was as if the gods were rolling dice and a one came up for me."

   "How did you locate that tunnel in the first place?"

   "Oh, I never did explain that to you, did I? I finally spotted another hobgoblin out in the desert as I glided overhead. I tracked him from far above, and he was oblivious to my presence. Eventually, he vanished. He must have taken a potion of invisibility or used some other such magic. You were asking earlier about what magic I can cast. In my humble opinion, I am a superb diviner. I opened my eyes to see through his magic and watched as he continued for another mile — it must have been a powerful potion for its effects to have lasted so long.

   "Anyhow, the hobgoblin came to three large boulders leaning against each other. He passed between them. I waited several minutes and then drifted down to the sand. As I suspected, the entrance to this cave was too small for me, but I did use my magic to observe deeper inside. There was a staircase and walls of stone; it was not simply a natural cave. I decided to hide and observe for a while. I flew off about 200 yards and buried myself in the sand. Sure enough, a day later, I saw another pair of hobgoblins exit. Three days after that, I saw them return.

   "Still curious, and since I had not heard from you yet, I decided to seek out if there might be another entrance. I had taken a good look at all three hobgoblins and had kept their images in my mind. After that, I just needed to find a forked twig — which is not an easy task in the desert, mind you! With the twig in hand and a little of my magic, I flew out in different directions. While flying over the desert, the twig always pointed me toward wherever the hobgoblins happened to be walking. Over the next several days, I mapped out a good portion of how the tunnels of the palace are arranged underneath the sand. (If I had claws again, I could scratch a map out for you.) I recognized that a side tunnel that the hobgoblins sometimes used, led out close to the ocean and that this side tunnel curved in a more 'natural' way than the straight hallways that I presumed were part of the 'palace'. So logically, I began to suspect that there might be another way into the palace, perhaps from the sea cliffs nearby. My magic twig soon confirmed this. Thinking I had nothing to fear from a hobgoblin scout I might encounter, I went in what I thought was the back door, and you know the rest of the story now."

   "So you think Yrevkethend knows nothing of Allu at all?"

   "I cannot say that for sure, but the tunnel leading from the sea to the palace is at least a mile long. The palace may technically be in her claimed territory, but it may be far enough from her cliff entrance that she has never chanced to look that way when a hobgoblin has entered or exited. Also, as I noted, they use invisibility from a mile out when coming and going. Moreover, I know Yrevkethend steals sheep and goats, for which she must fly south. The palace lies a bit to the north. As for the back tunnel, neither she nor her children could ever fit through it, so I suspect that she thinks nothing of it. I do not even know that the hobgoblins ever exit out of it. So, I would not be surprised if the palace was hidden to her as well."

   "After we rest, then," said Leokas, "we will have to return to this back door and invade his palace."

   Sseth squawked. "What? No, no, that would be far too dangerous on many levels, even if you had not just slain a powerful dragon's two children."

   "Why do you think we sent you to find the palace in the first place, Sseth? Since we have left you, we have actually learned a lot more about the Omlar gem we have recovered. We have reason to believe that the gods themselves have chosen us to stop him from bringing an army of efreeti upon Faerûn through a portal from the Plane of Fire." Leokas and the others filled him in on the details of their last few adventures.

   "I will not go so far as to use my magic to convince you otherwise," said the polymorphed dragon, "but even so, I strongly argue against this plan of action. You still lack the power to overcome an outsider like Allu, and you still know nothing about this Samber individual. I would seek him out first, before staging an assault against the efreeti and his army of hobgoblins. As far as Yrevkethend, do you think you can go anywhere near her territory now? I believe that Hesjingvaerix and I can protect you from her and grant you a safe escape, but I cannot promise that it will be safe for you to return near Yrevkethend's lair. Nor can I promise that she will be defeated or even that Hesjingvaerix and I will survive."

   "We did not rescue you for you to go off and die fighting for us, Sseth!" Jayce protested. "Besides, you never did give me that promised flight."

   "I have no intent to die, little bard, but this is a matter for dragons now, not for humans and elves. We did trespass on Yrevkethend's territory, and while it was not just for her to have imprisoned me, it was not a fitting retribution to her to have lost her children. Things are... complicated now — and well outside your control."

   "A mermaid! A mermaid! I spotted a mermaid!" One of the human sailors was yelling. "Starboard side."

   The sailors rushed to the right side of the craft.

   "What are you babbling about?"

   "At the rum again, eh? It's not even sunset."

   "No, I saw her tail fins, like a dolphin. Thought she was a dolphin at first, but then her head pops out of the water, and she has long hair floating all over the place in the waves. See! There she is again! She's waving."

   "By Valkur, he's not drunk. I see her too."

   "She's swimming toward us!"

   "Helm, steer us around," said Ombert from the stern.

   They came alongside the "mermaid" and a rope ladder was tossed down to her.

   "She's naked as Eilistraee!" shouted one of the sailors excitedly, as the woman began climbing the ladder they had lowered for her.

   "That's no mermaid;" said another, "she's got legs!"

   "Get away from the railing, bastards!" yelled Loreene, the woman sailor. "Give the lady her privacy!"

   "Niff, bring one of the blankets," ordered the halfling captain.

   The woman from the water climbed over the railing onto the deck, seemingly unconcerned with or oblivious to her lack of clothing. Loreene wrapped her quickly in the blanket, then led her below deck while everyone wondered what was going on.

   A few minutes later, the two women emerged again. The stranger was now wearing some of Loreene's clothes; she was unusually tall for a human woman, standing well over six feet, and the borrowed wool pants and shirt looked amusingly short or her, exposing her shins and belly. Her hair was long and a bronze shade of red, and she had striking green eyes. She wore a single pearl on a cord around her neck, and elegant rings on two of her fingers.

   Sseth spoke from his perch on one of the yards, "Vae! It is so good to see you again."

   "Sseth? Is that you?"

   "They know each other?" asked one of the sailors.

   The woman bent over and began laughing. "What has happened to you, Sseth?"

   The parrot responded in Draconic, and she laughed again. She then turned to Ombert and greeted him. "Forgive me for intruding on your vessel, and I thank you for heeding me and allowing me to board. You may call me Vaerix."

   Sseth flew over to land on her shoulder. She laughed again. "If you excuse me, this parrot and I have much to discuss." She walked away from the crowd of crewmembers and passengers and began a long conversation in Draconic with Sseth, giggling occasionally.

   "Aren't you going to find out where she came from, Captain?"

   "It seems she has business with the parrot," replied Ombert. "We'll leave them be. She clearly is more than she appears; beautiful women don't just appear out of nowhere in the middle of the ocean unless there is powerful magic about, despite how much you men may wish it to be true. It's best we don't meddle in such matters I think. I do not foresee she will bring any harm to us or our shipment.

   "Helm, put us back on course for Teshburl!"

   The "misfits", as Ombert had called them, stood to the side during most of this excitement, also confused as to what was going on. "She looks odd," said Hakam, "as if she has never actually seen a real human woman."

   "You suspect she is doppelganger?" said Jayce.

   The tall woman motioned for them to join her and Sseth. As they approached, she stood at the side of the ship, held her palm below her mouth as if she were blowing a kiss, and spoke messages into the wind in Draconic. "I have sent word to Martivirgix and Hysvearkarif. If they are at home, they will heed my summons," she said, turning back to them.

   "Friends," said Sseth, "this is my ally of whom I spoke. She is Hesjingvaerix. Folk usually call her 'Hesjing' or 'Vaerix' but I like to shorten it to 'Vae' or 'Hess' — but never 'Jing'!"

   "...because he is self-conscious about having a one-syllable name," said the woman.

   Sseth continued, "Vae, these are Leokas Dusktracker, Jayce of Lantan, Belvin Boarcharger, Mythlos Moonspinner — that petrified elf over there — and Hakam yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr, brave adventurers, the ones who rescued me."

   Jayce asked her, "Milady, do you have the power, and would you be so kind, if so, to return our friends here to flesh?"

   "I regret that I do not have such skill," she answered.

   "What about our friend, Sseth? Surely you can return him to his true form."

   "It is likely that I can," she said.

   "Will you, please?"

   "I am not sure that would be wise at this time, Jayce," answered the polymorphed dragon. "You do realize that I weigh some ten tons? I am not sure the deck planks could support my weight in my natural form."

   "Even if they could hold you," said Vaerix, "I am not sure I would want to change you back yet, thurirl; I find you to be quite cute in your current feathered state."

   A gentle breeze blew, and Vaerix sniffed the air. "You smell of... Bruntutalephion," she said to Jayce suddenly.

   "Of course!" said Sseth. "That was the smell I could not place when I first met him."

   "Come again?" said Jayce.

   "An old friend of ours," said Vaerix. "Smells bring back strong memories sometimes. Is this not true for you humans?"

   "Who was Brun...tu...?"

   "She comes," said Vaerix sternly and suddenly, interrupting Jayce's question and turning to the east.

   "We leave you now, little friends," said the parrot. "Worry not yourselves about us. You have already done the impossible and rescued me. Had Hakam not sent me that message by magic, it could have been years before anyone else noticed my absence and sought for me. (We dragons sense the passage of time differently than you.) I will pass on stories of your bravery to all of the brass dragon youth who come to my library to study."

   "You have disciples now, Sseth?" asked Vae, surprised.

   "No, alas, not yet, but I am sure that someday soon word will get out about my impressive collection, and it will be the place all young dragons long to visit to study history."

   "I am sure," said Vae, and she laughed.

   "In any case," said Sseth, "you have my highest thanks. Do not try to come to our aid. As I said, it is a matter for dragons among dragons now, and it need not concern you further. Remain under sail as fast as you can as far away as you can from this place. Vae will send word to you of how we fare."

   Leokas and Belvin, who had each been straining their eyes, trying to see what Vaerix claimed to have seen, at last spotted a blue dot approaching.

   Vae raised her hands to the sky. "Kepesk!" she cried out. Storm clouds gathered almost instantaneously in the distance and some sort of precipitation began falling between them and the approaching dragon.

   "Rain?" asked Hakam.

   "Hail," said Leokas, who's elven vision was far clearer. "She is delaying the blue's approach."

   "Goodbye, humans. Sweet water and light laughter, elves." The parrot Sseth flew off Vae's shoulder, flapping frantically and clumsily to gain elevation. Vae pointed and spoke a word of command, and the bird morphed into his true form, a hulking brass dragon, wings rippling in waves as he flew gracefully toward the approaching blue. Then, with three fluid motions, the tall woman pulled off her borrowed shirt, dropped her pants, and dove over the deck railing with a perfect dive into the water.

   "Did you see that fine rump?" said one of the sailors crudely and excitedly.

   "Too skinny for me," said another.

   "Not for me," said the first.

   "I don't think she'd 'ave gone for you, being human and all."

   "Where do you think half-dragons come from?"

   "Not from you!"

   Seconds later, 100 yards from the boat, a bronze-colored dragon erupted from the water into the air.

   In the distance, Yrevkethend was close enough that even the humans could make her out. Everyone, even the pilot at the helm, rushed to the port side for a better view. They saw Sseth breathe a 100-foot plume of dragonfire, which struck Yrevkethend, before he banked to avoid being bitten by her. Hesjingvaerix came up below the blue dragon and struck her with her rear claws, flipping Yrevkethend into a tailspin before she recovered.

   Then, two more bronze dragons burst out from below the surface to join the aerial battle. Yrevkethend sped away to the east toward the coast with the four metallic dragons in pursuit. The passengers on The Daisy watched them fade into the horizon, until they could no longer see the sun sparkle in reflection off their scales.
Session: 40th Game Session - Wednesday, Sep 10 2014 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Tags: Chapter 5 , Recap
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 5 — Sunlight
Leokas stepped into the water, the elephant figurine in his left hand and the sunrod slid into his belt. Hakam read from a scroll, and Belvin felt the muscles in his fins and tail ripple with new strength.

   "Stormshadow, stay here with Sseth and the statues," said Leokas. "We will return for you." She sat. Leokas held onto Belvin's dorsal fin with his right hand, closed his eyes, and held his breath.

   With a jolt, the bull shark carried the wood elf down into the pool. (Thankfully, he had had some practice riding sharks in the past.)

   Hakam and Jayce readied themselves while they waited. Hakam cast a spell from a scroll to protect himself from the hydra's fire breath. Jayce was swinging his new-found rapier around.

   "What are you doing?" Hakam asked.

   "Trying to figure out the magic in this blade," Jayce replied. "Caexlitrix!" he suddenly spoke. His arm jerked.

   "What just happened?" Hakam asked.

   "The blade moved my hand of its own accord," said Jayce, "into a defensive posture, I think."

   "Here is the shark again," noted Hakam. "You go next."

~~~~


Belvin had no need to see in the pitch blackness of the water, for he could feel the walls nearby by strange sensations his new shark's body could pick up. Moments after he dove down with Leokas, the wood elf came out of the water on the other side, careful to inhale the air slowly and quietly. He released Belvin's fin, and the shark disappeared. He could stand here; the water was up to his neck. He reached for his sunrod and raised it out of the water to shed a little light. There, five yards away, slept the hulking beast, partially submerged at the other end of the pool, its five long necks piled and coiled around each other. It's tail was draped on the shore, split likewise into five snake-like tips, and its body raised and fell as it breathed deeply.

   Carefully and quietly, Leokas made his way to the shore and out of the pool. He set the elephant figurine ten feet from the monster, stepped back, drew out his bow, and waited for the others. Jayce's head popped out of the water next, then Hakam's. The former waded close to the hydra with his rapier out of the water, ready to stab; the latter, trusting that smokepowder could still work when wet, held his musket under the water with just the tip of the barrel sticking out and held his breath with his head just below the surface.

   Leokas looked at Jayce. Jayce nodded. Leokas spoke the command word to summon their elephant for the third time that day. It came to life with a rumbling roar, which startled the hydra awake. The monster unraveled its heads and tried to stand to its feet to have its torso simultaneously gored with two tusks, pierced through with two magic arrows, stabbed with a magical rapier, shot with a musket bullet, and chomped on by a shark's sharp teeth. The elephant, wrapped its powerful trunk around one of the hydra's five necks, and thrashed back and forth. The monster tumbled sideways into the water with a massive splash, almost crushing Jayce. The elephant then trampled on the monster's heads. The creature no longer moved.

   "I think its already dead!" exclaimed Jayce. "It didn't even get a chance to breathe flame."

~~~~


Before Belvin returned to his elven form, he carried the others back to retrieve the statues. They harnessed each in turn to Belvin, who dragged them carefully through the water-filled tunnel to the other side. Stormshadow managed to swim through the tunnel as well, with Leokas guiding her, and Belvin, in turn, guiding him. Finally, they placed Sseth's cage directly into Belvin's mouth. "Please, remember that I am not your dinner!" he pleaded. Belvin swam quickly through one last time, and Jayce removed the cage from his mouth on the other side.

   "We've made it!" said Jayce.

   "Hardly," said Hakam. "We still have to heave these heavy slabs of stone up that fifteen-foot wall out of the hydra's pit we are in, then carry them hundreds of more feet up and down through the cave tunnels, then shove them through the crawl space down into our hiding chamber and out again, to finally lower them ten feet into the tidal pool, before we can carry them outside — if the tide is out."

   "Let's not waste any more time then," said Belvin, who was hurriedly putting his clothes and gear back on his humanoid body.

   "Perhaps we could exit out one of the other ways?" suggested Leokas.

   "Aren't they both cliff exits? Are we going to fly?"

   "The scorpion tunnel likely leads to the surface."

   "...And to a battle with scorpions. Besides we don't know if we can fit the statues that way."

   "And all three of those paths involve significant uphill climbing for a cripple and a magically weighed-down man and two 500-lb. statues."

   "Even if we make it out of here before the dragon returns, what then?" If we reach the desert or the coastal road, there will be no cover for us. The dragon will certainly spot us from the air. Even if she ignores us on the way to her lair, as soon as she finds her children's bodies, she will fly after us with a vengeance."

   "Is the ocean any better? We can't hike along the beach — if it's even uncovered by water when we exit — and our only other means of transport is a cramped rowboat, which may likely sink under the weight of the two statues."

   "You are all such pessimistic adventurers!" said Sseth, who had been listening to their discussion. "There may still be hope yet. If you can get us all to the ocean, and if Belvin here still has power remaining to summon a dolphin or porpoise or whale or some other fast-swimming and moderately intelligent sea animal, I may be able to summon us some help. I agree that we have no hope at this point of making any safe distance from Yrevkethend's lair, but if we can just deliver a message, I have a powerful ally who lives in these waters. Her name is Hesjingvaerix. I am confident that she will be able to protect us if we can find her. That is my advice to you." Sseth's tone seemed far more serious and confident than it usually was, as if he finally comprehended how difficult a task still remained ahead of them.

   So here is what they did: Leokas and Belvin scaled the wall out of the hydra's pit. They pulled each statue up, as the other tow pushed. Then Jayce and Hakam passed Stormshadow up to Leokas, followed by Sseth. They lowered rope down for Hakam to climb, and all of them made it out of the hydra pit safely.

   Jayce remembered to retrieve Shrodinjer from his hiding place in the wall. Then the four humanoids carried Mythlos all the way up the spiralling passage to the tiny tunnel, where they laid him on his back and slid him carefully while crawling downhill into the room where they had spent so many days waiting. They returned and did the same with Rinald. Stormshadow carried Sseth's cage in her mouth.

   They managed to squeeze each statue, one at a time, down the small tunnel that opened above the tidal pool. Carefully, they lowered them down with the ropes.

   There was a cracking noise, as they lowered Rinald, then a splash, as something struck the water.

   "Oh gods! What was that?" said Jayce.

   "Keep lowering him," said Leokas. "Don't drop him!"

   As soon as Rinald was safely standing upright in the pool, Leokas rushed over to examine the damage. He sighed in relief. "It was just his ponytail," Leokas reported. "When we bring him back, he will have just had a haircut. He's fine."

   Thirty minutes later, they saw sunlight for the first time in nearly a tenday. It was so bright that all of them were blinded and they had to wait for many minutes before their eyes adjusted so they could see clearly.

   "Belvin," said Sseth, "summon me a dolphin. Quickly!"

   Belvin did so. As soon as the cetacean appeared in the water near them, the parrot began making strange clicking sounds. The dolphin obeyed and launched itself under the water.

   "I told her to call other dolphins for us," said Sseth. "Their calls travel very far under water; more will come here soon, even if she will return to from whence you called her momentarily."

   The tide was still in, but the water was only up to their knees, so they made their way as quickly as they could to where they had left the rowboat. It was still there. Everyone glanced nervously up at the sky almost constantly. It had taken many hours to escape the lair. The sun revealed that it was mid-afternoon. If she kept to her usual schedule, Yrevkethend would return home very soon.

   They set the boat in the water and began loading it. It did indeed barely stay afloat, so much so that Belvin and Leokas stayed in the water treading and hanging on to the sides.

   They heard clicking and splashing, and a large pod of dolphins appeared, jumping out of the water in graceful arcs. Jayce held Sseth's cage close to the water. He began clicking, and several dolphin heads popped up near the boat, fascinated by the strange bird in the cage that was communicating with them. All of the dolphins but one swam off at high speed; the remaining one began circling the rowboat.



   "I have sent them off in all directions to search for Hesjingvaerix," Sseth explained to them. "This last fellow has volunteered to pull us out to sea if you throw him a rope."

   They did so, and the dolphin swam fifteen yards ahead of them with the rope in its mouth dragging the boat behind and the two elves in the water.

   "Now what?" said Hakam. "I'm not sure going further out to sea is the right idea."

   "You are welcome to swim back to shore if you wish," said Belvin.

   "I see a ship on the horizon," said Leokas.
Session: 40th Game Session - Wednesday, Sep 10 2014 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Imago Deorum
Chapter 5 — Trapped in a Dragon's Lair
~ ninth-day, 19th of Mirtul, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
Yrevkethend's lair



Leokas stood to his feet, amazed none of his bones were broken, and pulled the sword from the corpse of the metallic bull.

   "Is the monster slain?" Jayce called.

   "It is," replied Leokas, "but our losses are great."

   Jayce quickly hopped down the steep ledge. Belvin and Hakam remained above.

   "Mythlos, elf-kin, how did this happen," said Leokas, examining the statue of his companion. The former blue elf had an expertly carved look of terror on his face, the now dim moonblade encased in a stone hand.

   "Surely, there are ways to reverse such magic," said Jayce, who was examining Rinald's petrified pose. The old man had been straining to climb out when he had inhaled the magical gas. "Perhaps Sseth has such magic."

   "Even if such magic does exist, it will not do us any good if we cannot find a way out of this lair," said Leokas. He struck another sunrod and shined light into the further reaches of the passage. They were at the bottom of a narrow chasm. Nearly eighty feet above them, Leokas could see two openings in each wall. The chasm ended ahead of them in half that distance.

   Jayce ducked under the legs of the stone elephant. "What is that pile?" Jayce asked when he reached Leokas, pointing to the far end of the tunnel.

   "It looks like... stone dung," said Leokas.

   "Where are you going?" called Hakam. "The dragon could return."

   "Searching for a way out," Leokas called back, "but it's a dead end. We are coming back."

   They passed their stone allies and climbed back up to those who were still made of flesh.

   "Let's find Sseth and get out of here."

   "Stormshadow, here!" called Leokas. The obedient wolf came to his side from where she had been waiting safely.

~~~~


At this stage, Sseth was easy to find. They figured the dragon Leokas slew with Rinald's arrow must have been the one mimicking Sseth's voice, so they headed for the easternmost tunnel. It was not long before the tunnel opened into a medium-sized room. There on a flattened stalagmite, like a podium, rested a metal birdcage, with a small parrot inside. The parrot began hopping up and down.

   "I am so relieved you have survived," the bird said. "Did you defeat the gorgon? Did you defeat the dragons?"

   "All are slain," said Leokas, "yes."

   "For the gorgon, I feel no sorrow," said Sseth, "but I would have liked the two youth to have had time to reform."

   "Are they not inherently evil?" asked Leokas.

   "That's absurd!" said Sseth, flapping his wings and bobbing his head. "Where did you learn such things? But enough philosophy, you survived! You cannot imagine how hard it has been to keep my mouth — or beak, I suppose I should say now — closed, waiting to find out if you lived. I have not had anyone to talk to for months now, except for those two spoiled brats. I feel like I could talk on and on for days. What of you though? Do tell me what other adventures you have been on before you found the time in your schedules to come rescue me?"

   "Um, we actually have the important matter of escaping this lair alive first, Sseth," said Jayce. "As much as I'd love to exchange stories with you. You don't happen to be able to cast lightning of any sort, do you."

   "I'm sorry, no! The powers a dragon manifests as he ages tend to reflect his outlook on life, and my outlook is more of a 'look-in', I think."

   "What about healing power?" asked Hakam. "Rinald told us that some dragons can cure various maladies."

   "You must be Hakam," said Sseth in Alzhedo, "the one who sent me all those pleasant messages for the others. It is a pleasure to meet you face to face, or is it fair to say that, as you haven't really met my actual face yet? A Calishite, yes? What is your family name? Never mind, I am sure you have taken the name of your god Tyr, or rather Anachtyr, as your people do; I can see from the holy symbol about your neck. Am I correct? Your father's name then?"

   "I am yn Hamdulah," said Hakam, "but what of your magic?"

   "Oh yes, I only have a very small control over positive energy," said Sseth. "Certainly, your powers as a cleric of a god of goodness are far greater. Who is hurt? Where is Mythlos, the blue-haired elf lad?"

   "Two of our companions, Mythlos and someone you have never met who had been helping us find you, have been turned to stone," they explained to him.

   "What dreadful news!" said Sseth. "I am sorrowful to hear it. I was fearful of this result as soon as I heard you make mention of a gorgon. What kind of insane creature keeps a gorgon as a pet? Dragons are not immune to petrification magics! Everyone knows this!"

   "Can you reverse such magic?"

   "Alas, I cannot!"

   "Is such magic permanent?"

   "Not with the right kind of transmutation magic," said the parrot-dragon. "There is still hope, if you can transport the statues safely to the right mage."

   "Are they dead?" asked Belvin bluntly, "because that has not stopped us before."

   "They are not dead," said Sseth, "but neither are they alive. Their bodies are no longer what they were. The statues they left behind are made of actual stone, of elemental earth, but the substance of that stone is still them. Their souls are in stasis, tied to the statues as long as the statues exist. Their souls are not now wandering on the Fugue Plane; if you restore flesh to them, it will have been as if no time at all passed for them. Be careful with them! If the statues are broken and they are returned to flesh,... well,... I am sure you can imagine the horror of what might result."

   "Do you have any useful magic at all?" Jayce asked. "No offence to you intended."

   "In this form? No, unfortunately. These feathers simply will not do for the somatic motions required. The only spell I can cast is to daze the weak-minded."

   "Is your cage trapped?" asked Hakam.

   "I think not."

   "There is no door; how were you trapped inside?" asked Jayce.

   "She used magic to shape the metal and seal me in," Sseth explained.

   "Hakam, can you dispel the magic?"

   "The cage itself is not magical," said Sseth. "There is nothing to dispel."

   "I can shape stone but not metal," said Hakam.

   "Maybe we could bend the bars with natural strength. Belvin, cannot druids take the shapes of animals? Can you morph into a bear or something and bend the bars?"

   "Do not worry about my state for now," said Sseth. "One extra day as a bird never killed anyone. It is far more important for us to leave here, as you yourself have reminded me."

   So Jayce picked up Sseth's birdcage, and they departed that chamber. As they walked, Jayce asked, "Please do not be offended again, Sseth, but can the lightning magic be extracted from the dragon's bodies somehow for us to use to escape?"

   "My good Jayce! Even if so, what a barbaric thing to suggest! Mutilation of the dead? Surely your cleric would not stand for that. Now some will indeed tell you that a dragon's draconis fundamentum is the source of its breath weapon, but I say hogwash and hag baths! Absurdity!"

   They entered the large chamber again and took the time to examine the treasure piled in the corner that they had earlier overlooked in their rush to find Sseth.

   "Is that the dragon's hoard?" asked Jayce.

   Sseth laughed, which was more of a squawk. "No, no. No grown dragon could sleep on such a tiny pile. That is the bed that the two brats shared."

   It seemed a large pile to the humans and elves, the largest they had yet seen on their travels, a mound of coins roughly fifteen feet in diameter. The pile consisted mostly of silver coins, but there were a few platinum specks in the mix and the sparkle of an occasional blue gemstone. In two separate rolls were some sort of expensive fabrics as well, which they guessed to be velvet.

   "How many coins do you think that is?" Jayce asked.

   "Oh, I would say about 50,000," said Sseth.

   Jayce searched for magical auras in the pile. This led them to find several magical scrolls buried underneath the coins. Two of them bore arcane writings, the third was divine, but Hakam could not understand the script. He kept the scrolls in his scroll tubes.

   "If this is not the mother dragon's hoard, then it must be down that last tunnel," said Jayce.

   "I'd be happier to find another back exit for the dragon so that we can escape," said Leokas. "Treasure does us no good if the dragon returns to find it in our pockets.

   "Hakam, stay here with Stormshadow and Sseth. Jayce, Belvin, and I will search out the remaining passage." So Hakam bent down and began picking out platinum coins and gems from the pile. Sseth, who seemed to have a much better eye than Hakam, pointed out to him when he missed a gem.



   The others traveled down a large cave passage that was fifteen-feet-wide and taller than that. It started out heading what Leokas presumed was south, but it quickly curved — like so many of the passages — to the left. The passage began to grow even wider and they came to a chasm nearly twenty feet across. The elves looked down and could just spot the bottom.

   "We are above where we slew the bull," said Leokas. "See, there is that pile of fossilized dung."

   "I'll take your word for it," said Jayce. "I can see nothing but darkness below."

   "Can we make it across?" asked Belvin.

   "Didn't Mythlos have a grappling hook?" asked Jayce. "His backpack is not stone; I could go down and get it."

   "I think I can make that jump," said Leokas.

   "You'll die from that drop if you miss! I'll go get the ring from Hakam."

   "We gave it to Mythlos last;" said Belvin, "I do not think we'll be able to get it off his stone fingers."

   "We can get more rope out of his pack at least," said Leokas. "We'll tie the ropes together to make it reach 100 feet. I'll tie an end to me and jump across — I'm confident I can make it. I'll tie it around that stalagmite there and lower it into the chasm. The two of you can climb the rope up to meet me from below. There are lots of footholds on the wall; just take your time."

   "I'll need the sunrod." Leokas handed it to him. The two elves sat in the darkness and waited. Jayce returned several minutes later with more of the silk rope. He handed it to Leokas, who began tying knots.

   Jayce unslung his yarting.

   "I do not think it is a time for music," said Belvin.

   "My music will inspire him," said Jayce. "I don't want to lose three companions on the same adventure."

   Leokas went back to get a running start. He ran toward the ledge,...

   ...and easily landed the jump.

   "Impressive!" Jayce exclaimed.

   The rest of the plan went just as desired, and Belvin and Jayce began climbing the rope up the 75-foot wall in turn to join Leokas at the top.

   "Wow," said Jayce, drastically understating his awe at the view before them.

   They stood in the largest part of the cavern system they had yet seen. This final chamber was 40-feet-long in one direction and at least twice that in the other. The ceiling was so high that not even the elves could see the top. The rock formations in the room had a strange beauty to them, unseen by the vast majority of intelligent creatures from the surface.

   "Now that is the true hoard!" said Leokas pointing into the dark at something that Jayce could not yet see.

   Jayce tried detecting magic again, concerned that there might be some final traps before reaching the hoard, but the way seemed clear, and soon even he could see the twenty-foot-wide pile of coins and other treasure in the far corner of the massive room. Again, this pile was mostly of silver, but about ten percent of the coins were gold. There was a scattering of platinum and some silver trade bars as well and twice as many blue gems about as trade bars.

   "Again, why did we not buy bags of holding?" asked Jayce. He spotted the hilt of a sword glowing with a magical aura to him. He drew it out of the pile to reveal an exquisitely crafted rapier. He immediately drew his own and tossed it.

   "The treasure doesn't bring much enjoyment to me now," said Leokas, "considering two of us remain statues."

   "It is going to cost us a very large sum of money to pay a wizard enough to restore them," said Jayce. "It's in their best interest if we carry out as much of this as we can manage. Let's focus on the platinum and gems of course, since it's all we'll be able to carry out reasonably. Eh,... what's this?"

   While rummaging through the spread of coins, he came across a palm-sized, polished black stone. It glowed with a magical aura. "Surely, this is worth a thousand coins," he said. He picked it up; it was heavier than he expected. "Ah, look, there's a potion vial here also." That, too, he grabbed and placed in his potion belt.

   They began picking out as many gems and platinum coins from the pile as they could manage, but the elves grew nervous about tarrying too long. "Don't forget that we have two statues to drag out of here as well."

   So they decided to head back to descend the rope. Jayce grunted a little. "This is odd," he said, "I didn't pick up that many coins; why does it feel like I am carrying a ton of weight?" He detached his bandoleer and dropped it to the ground. It struck with a loud thump. "I still feel like I'm carrying the same amount," he said. "What the...!" He placed his hand into his pant pocket and pulled out the black stone he had taken from the dragon's hoard in his palm. He tossed it to the ground. An instant later, it reappeared in his other pocket. No matter what he tried to do to get rid of the stone, it appeared back on his person.

   "Wonderful," said Belvin. "As if a cripple and two statues to carry weren't enough, you are now weighed down as well. So much for escaping here quickly. Be a little more careful looting a dragon's hoard next time."

~~~~


"You took long," said Hakam, when the others returned. "Was there another way out?"

   They shook their heads.

   "Let's get the two statues up here."

   Dragging the Rinald and Mythlos statues out of the pit was no easy task. They were able to tie ropes around the torsos of each like climbing harnesses. Then two of them pulled carefully from above, while two lifted and pushed from below. They estimated each statue to weigh around 500 pounds.

   "We're never going to be able to carry them both out! It will take all four of us to move one."

   "We'll have to do it in stages," said Leokas. "We are not leaving either one of them behind."

   "Be thankful that you don't have to carry out me in my dragon form!" said Sseth.

   "What about the elephant?" asked Hakam.

   "Sseth, do you know if dismissing the spell that summoned our giant elephant here will cause it to revert to its figurine form?"

   "Ah, a figurine of wondrous power! I was wondering how that giant animal got itself stuck in that tunnel."

   "So you know about such figurines?"

   "Yes, but not about what happens when they are petrified."

   "If it 'dies', we were told it reverts, yes?" asked Hakam. The others nodded. Hakam raised his musket and fired. The bullet struck the elephant statue and cracks appeared.

   "What are you doing?"

   "'Killing' the elephant so it will revert," he said, as he loaded another bullet.

   "Warn us next time," said Belvin, covering his ears. "The sound is ten times worse in this cavern!"

   The others covered their ears as he fired a second shot. The statue crumbled apart into three massive chunks of stone. Those chunks then shrunk rapidly and flew together to form the miniature figure again.

   "What do you know? It worked!" said Jayce.

   "Shall we try the same thing with Mythlos?" asked Hakam.

   "By Io, I hope you are joking!" said Sseth.

   Jayce crawled down the ledge to recover the figurine. Then they all headed back down the tunnel toward the the dragon's pool, first carrying Mythlos, then returning to recover Rinald. Stomshadow carried Sseth's cage in her mouth. It took them great care to maneuver each statue over the pit trap, but they managed.

   They stared at the glass wall, trying to figure out what to do.

   "Worse case, we can hide in the dragon's cesspit until morning, when Belvin can cast another lightning bolt."

   "If I were a dragon," said Sseth, "— well, I am a dragon, but you know what I mean — and if I had children and I returned home to find those children dead, I imagine I would ransack my entire home for clues, even my own cesspit. It would be different if you had simply stolen an item from her bed. You've gone quite beyond that, I'm afraid."

   "What do you suggest?"

   "I regret that I have no suggestions."

   "We've not tried brute force yet," said Jayce. "Let's summon the elephant again." So he set the figurine by the glass and gave the word. The figurine morphed into the massive elephant again, now made of flesh. "Break down the door!" commanded Jayce. The elephant tired to obey; it pounded against the glass with its large forehead, but the glass seemed impervious to any sort of physical harm. The elephant trumpeted loudly in frustration.

   "She must have magically sealed the door," said Sseth. "Magic is the only way out."

   "Perhaps I can dispel it," said Hakam.

   "Her magic is probably too powerful for that," said Sseth, "but certainly, you should try it."

   The dragon was right; Hakam's dispelling had no effect on the wall.

   "Do not feel bad, Hakam," said Sseth. "Her magic was more powerful than mine, as well — hence, my present feathered state. Blue's have very powerful spells."

   The elephant, giving up, now wandered into the pool and began to spray water on its back happily.

   "I still think that pool has a chance to connect to the hydra's pool on the other side — or better still, the ocean," said Jayce.

   "I think it's fresh water," said Belvin, "because the elephant is drinking it."

   "We should all get in and search underwater for an opening," said Jayce.

   "Did you forget that the crazy elf soiled the water?" asked Hakam.

   "The elephant doesn't seem to care," said Jayce.

   Leokas looked as disgusted at the idea of stepping in the water as Hakam.

   "It was one stool," said Belvin. "Do you know how many animals emptied their waste into the forest pools you must have swam in growing up?"

   "I don't see you in the water yet," said Leokas.

   "Look, we don't have any pleasant options," said Jayce. "Even with what Belvin did, I see the pool as a more pleasant option then the dragon's dung hole!" With that, he ducked under the surface and began to search the far wall with his hands in the darkness. After coming up a few times for air, he surfaced excitedly. "I was right! There is an opening here. He stepped to the shore, shaking the water from his hair and clothes like a dog.

   "We have no way of knowing how long the tunnel is, though," said Hakam. "I've never been a very good swimmer, and we have half a ton of stone to drag through there with us."

   "...and a tiny bird," said Sseth. "I didn't like water much in my dragon state! I doubt my tiny lungs can hold much air."

   Belvin began tossing his gear on the ground. "Hold on to these," he said. Then he began unfastening his leathers.

   "What are you doing?"

   He did not answer. Instead, he tossed aside his leathers and boots and stepped naked into the water. They watched as his arms and legs began shortening, a finned tail sprung from between the top of his buttocks, his skull morphed, and a fin grew out of his back. In a matter of seconds, now in the shape of a gray bull shark, Belvin flopped into the pool with a splash and began darting around below the surface. The elephant rushed out of the pool, confused. Jayce dismissed the spell and retrieved the figurine.

   The shark fin disappeared under the water. A few moments later, it reappeared, and the shark nearly beached himself, snapping its jaws.

   "Uh, we can't understand shark, Belvin," said Jayce.

   "He says that the tunnel leads after about 30 feet to the pool in the room with the hydra," said Sseth.

   "You can speak with animals?"

   "Of course!"

   "This is a slight improvement in news," said Hakam, "but we still have two statues and a bird to swim through this tunnel, and a hungry hydra on the other end with one head to eat us each."

   Belvin the shark flopped back into the water to breathe, then returned again to snap its jaws.

   "He says that the hydra seems to be sleeping," said Sseth. "Do not be so pessimistic, priest of Anachtyr; see, there is still hope."

   "How do you advise us to fight a hydra?" asked Jayce.

   "Well, all of the tales tell of severing its heads one-by-one and sealing off the stumps with fire or acid. However, if you ask me, that's all a waste of time: why not just kill its body as quickly as possible? It only has one of those!"

   "Maybe one of us can go through quietly and set the elephant nearby. Then the rest of us can follow; we can summon the elephant and attack it all at once. If Tymora smiles, we may be able to slay it before it can even wake."

   "That would be a very large smile, I think," said Hakam.

   "I could swim through with the figurine," said Leokas.

   "On second thought," said Jayce, "with this cursed stone I have picked up, I do not think I can swim through that tunnel without drowning, and Hakam is right; how will we get Sseth or the statues through?"

   The shark in the water snapped its jaws again.

   "Belvin says that he can ferry us through quickly. We should not have to hold our breaths very long."

   "Perhaps we could tie the statues to him with the ropes, and he could drag them through," added Jayce.

   "I could imbue the shark with added strength," said Hakam. "I have another scroll for that."

   "So we have a plan," said Jayce, unslinging his yarting. "A song for morale before we try our crazy idea?"

   "Oh yes, I do love your music!" said Sseth. The parrot bobbed side-to-side as Jayce strummed.
Session: 40th Game Session - Wednesday, Sep 10 2014 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
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