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Posted by the GM
De Exilio
Interlude: City Errands
"We may as well start with the Vault of the Sages for the things we seek," said Solisar, after the tour guide had left them, "since we are on the southern bank."

   Szordrin agreed, and they returned to the horseshoe-shaped great library. Once within, Solisar began strolling about the open gallery, while Szordrin approached one of the priests of Deneir, a tall and thin man with large eyes who looked like he had not blinked in a very long time. The man had a golden circlet about his head with the holy symbol of the Lord of All Glyphs affixed to it. His vestments were a tan tunic with a stiff circular collar. Over this, he wore a black-and-white striped "swirl cloak". At his right hip was belted a triangular, leather writing kit. (Szordrin remembered hearing a joke in a pub about how priests of Deneir would rather be caught naked than without their writing kits.)

   "Excuse me," Szordrin asked, "I am a faculty member from the college at Waterdeep. I am looking for works by the great Galormansko."

   "Well met, Professor," said the scribe. "Do you mean from Blackstaff Academy?"

   "Of course," said Szordrin. "Is there any other?"

   "None as prestigious, no!" said the man. "Unfortunately, I am only an Applicant. You should speak with one of the Priest Illuminators, in the gray cloaks."

   Szordrin came up to one of the priests in a gray cloak with black trim, a middle-aged woman with gray hair tied up in a large bun. "How may I help you?"

   "I am a faculty member from Blackstaff Academy. I am looking for works by the great Galormansko."

   "Old Khelben's school! I am good friends with a couple of the faculty members there. How is young Tammert these days?"

   "Tammert is well, though I admit that I do not know him well; I am a visiting scholar from Calimport and have not gotten to know the others well yet."

   "You do not look Calishite," said the woman. "Are you Tethyrian by birth?"

   "I am," said Szordrin, averting his eyes from her gaze, "but about Galormansko?"

   "I admit that I have never heard the name, but I am certain that we can find out about him. Would you like to hire a sage? Or do you know which book is needed and I shall send someone to retrieve it for you?"

   "Excuse me," interrupted Solisar, and Szordrin stepped aside from the priest for a moment. "Disappointingly, Delblood's Atlas of Faerûn has little information any student of geography would not already know. I am going to head to the Map House along the river and then to Everdusk Hall in the religious district. I shall meet you later on the Moonbridge with Leokas."

   Szordrin nodded and Solisar departed. The tiefling wizard then turned back toward the gray-haired woman.

<to be continued...>
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De Exilio
Interlude: Campus Tour
~ fifth-day, 25th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, evening
somewhere over Anarouch

"How about Frihet?" suggested Ilthian. "That is the Giant word for 'freedom'. Since you are now free of having to work for that cold, floating man."

   Most of the adventurers were eating together in the Captain's Cabin of the spelljammer, which was Ilthian's room, so that she would have some company, since they rarely let her leave the room any more to protect her from whoever it was who was still scrying on her daily. They were on their way to Silverymoon for a second time, and the topic of conversation was what to name their new vessel.

   "I like that," said Solisar.

   "Snake in a Barrel," said Belvin, "since we slew a snake on this craft, which is wooden and cramped like a barrel."

   "I am not sure why," said Leokas, "but I feel perhaps a divine nudge to call her Enterprise. It is, after all, a significant enterprise that we are undertaking to stop one as powerful as Samber."

   "Lede lys!" shouted Kytharrah.

   "What does that mean?" asked Hakam.

   "Guiding light," said Solisar and Ilthian at exactly the same time. (This made her blush.)

   "You want to call everything that!" said Szordrin.


They had chosen Silverymoon over a larger city, such as Waterdeep, since Leokas had spoken so highly of its beauty and because Solisar informed them that the city was known, even among the elves of Evermeet, for its university of magic. Then they would visit Sseth on the way to Teshburl to investigate more about Walker and to sell some items not likely to sell in Silverymoon — the extra camels, the cursed robe, and vials of various poisons.

   Sailing through the sky all night, they arrived east of Silverymoon at dawn of the next day and settled the vessel carefully in the River Rauvin.

   Ilthian was frustrated that they would not let her come into the city for her own protection. "Can someone at least buy me some more fabric, sewing needles, and thread?" she asked. Solisar agreed.

   Despite Leokas' good words about the city, Belvin claimed that he was not in the mood for a city, and so he stayed behind on the vessel with her. Kytharrah was asked to remain as well, since they were not sure how the city folk would react to a minotaur.

   As Leokas, Szordrin, Solisar, and Hakam descended the rope from the deck to the shallow water, Solisar stopped. "Hakam, whoever has been scrying on Ilthian is now scrying on you."

   "The scrier must have seen Hakam's face from when he rode on camelback with Ilthian," said Szordrin, "and now he or she is trying a new plan to find out what we are up to."

   "It seems that I shall be staying then," said Hakam. "Leokas, would you be so kind as to return to the Tyrran temple and purchase for me a few items?"

   "What do you need?" said the wood elf.

   "If we wish to perform some scrying of our own, it would be necessary to keep a small fount of holy water on the spelljammer. In addition, I saw that they had a phylactery there, which would strengthen the bond that I have with my god."

   "I shall do what I can do," said Leokas.

   So the two elves and Szordrin journeyed up the road to the city. Entering again by the Mulgate, they were friendlily greeted by two human Knights in Silver.

   "Can you direct us to the University of Magic?" asked Szordrin.

   "The Conclave?" answered the guard. "Which school? Many of the schools are located here at the Southbank campus, but others are scattered elsewhere."

   "I am personally interested in visiting Everdusk Hall and wherever I might study some maps," said Solisar, "but I imagine that my companion here is interested in the Lady's College."

   "Everdusk Hall is in Northbank, in the religious district, as it is as much a temple as a library for the Conclave. For maps, you certainly will want to visit the Map House. It is on the southeastern side of Northbank, a soaring stone keep overlooking the river. The Lady's College is just up the road here on Southbank on your left. You cannot miss it."

   They thanked the guards and entered the city. During the day, the city had a different feel than at night. It was still beautiful but the fey feeling was replaced with a jolly cheerfulness. A diverse population filled the streets. They saw nearly as many elves or half-elves as humans, but one in ten folk were dwarves, and there were halflings and gnomes as well. There was laughter to be heard around most corners and happy music could be heard in the breeze.

   As the Kinghts had said, they found a large sign on the left of the Moonway, the wide road on which they were walking:
Conclave of Silverymoon
Southbank Campus

Lady's College
Miresk's School of Thaumaturgy
Arkhen's Invocatorium

   "I know my way to the Market," said Leokas, "and to the Temple of Tyr. You two spend the morning at the Conclave. I shall meet you both later at the Moonbridge at highsun."


"This brand new building is Arkhen's Invocatorium," said their tour guide, "having moved to its new location on Southbank campus. We offer one of the only schools in Faerûn dedicated to innate magics, what some call sorcery as opposed to wizardry. Here at the Conclave of Silverymoon we do not judge one form of magic over another."

   Szordrin and Solisar looked on the building, which looked like a large castle and stood on the south side of the street.

   "They tried to capture the feel of the original location on Northbank when designing the new building," continued the guide. "Our students particularly enjoy all the animated constructs throughout the building, which act as servants and teaching assistants.

   "As we walk to our next stop, let me tell you some of the history of the Conclave. It was one of Lady Alustriel's final acts as High Mage of Silverymoon to create the university, combining together the many schools already present within this city with the newer Lady's College. The High Lady still is involved in the institution, personally defraying some of our costs with donations and research funding for the faculty and even assisting the students themselves with scholarships.

   "Tuition depends on one's skill as a wizard. For those with no magical talent at all, starting tuition is 500 gold dragons per year. We offer seven years worth of education. But I imagine both of you are skilled wizards already and are not seeking to attend?"

   "We are here for research," said Szordrin.

   "Ah, I should note that we do offer established wizards the opportunity to join the Conclave as fellows for only 5,000 dragons per year. We also offer a 50% discount for those attendees or fellows who serve half-time in the Spellguard. You will not find such a deal at other institutions!

   "Here to the right and left are some of our dormitories. As students are on campus, we shall not give you a tour of those premises, but if you were to come in the summer, we would be able to show you the pleasant accomidations. Students rate our housing-halls second best in Faerûn, according to the Magic Today. The housing-halls currenly room just over 100 students. Many more live off-campus, and there is still a waiting list, so we are working with the city to find a location to build another dormitory.

   "Follow me into this building. Here is the refectory of the Lady's College, but students from all schools of the Conclave may dine here. The food is surprisingly good. I know that all colleges say that, but I eat here myself. They even have good wine, and the meals are accompanied by song, dance, poetry readings, or magical illusions for entertainment, all performed by the students themselves."

   The tour guide led them back outside. They were coming up to a dark stone building with flying buttresses, side turrets, and balconies. "And here is Miresk's School of Thaumaturgy, originally the home of one of our famous wizards, Eltro Miresk. Indeed, he still lives here. The School focuses on cantrips and what Miresk calls 'everytday' magic. Since joining the Conclave it is the first stop for new, younger students, as most of the first year of classes are held here and it is here that students are evaluated for placement into other programs at the Lady's Collge or the Invocatorium.

   "Miresk is an interesting man, but the students love him. He is known for many of his sayings, which act almost as models for this particular college. For example, 'the novice who knows all the ways an unseen servant can be useful is worth six reckless fireball-hurlers.'

   "Let us turn back now and head toward the Lady's College. As we go, I should point out that this path here leads up to Utrumm's Music Conservatory. It also has a new location on Southbank, though it is detached somewhat from the rest of this campus. It is a school of music both mundane and magical. The new location houses more than 40 sound-shielded practice chambers. Rental fees for the rooms are one silver shield per two hours. The Conservatory also has many free recitals and performances for students and the public to attend.

   "Here we are back at the Lady's College, the newest school and the heart of the Conclave. The Lady's College teaches not only wizardry but also the history of magic. The professors, the Masters of Art, as they are called here, teach tolerance and cooperation; all philosophies of magic and schools of spells are taught here, and we require exposure of all of them to all attentding students.

   "Now, follow me as we cross the Moonway to another off-campus location that I am sure needs no introduction. While it is true that Candlekeep contains more books by number, few would argue that anywhere else in Faerûn has the wealth of actual knowledge contained in our library, the Vault of the Sages, for we make up for the fewer books with a greater number of learned sages on our staff. And we by no means have few books, only fewer than Candlekeep.

   They were now within sight of a massive structure roughly in the shape of a horseshoe that was five stories tall.

   "I can only take you into the Forehall," said the guide.

   "How does one get to see the works within the library?" asked Solisar.

   "There is a five-dragon reading fee per mudane tome and the fee doubles for tomes about magic. No works may leave the vault, and copying is strictly forbidden; in fact, you will be searched and any writing materials will be confiscated. However, one can pay a two-dragon-per-page fee to have one of our scribes on staff copy text, up to ten pages per day. Maps, of course, take more work to copy and generally require two days turn-around and a fee of 50 dragons. One can also hire one of our sages for 50 dragons per hour for specific matters of lore. Many of the sages are also priests of Deneir.

   "On the first floor and the second floor, you can see here, are the open book galleries, where there are no fees. After the tour, feel free to return and peruse the volumes there." Large broadsheets hung on the walls announcing news from the various parts of Faerûn.
Debate still rages in Neverwinter over the public execution of Aribeth de Tylmarande.

Gold continues to pour from the Deadsnows region.

Elminster quoted saying that Lady Alustriel would do better to return to Silverymoon.

   Before they left the Forehall of the Vault, Solisar and Szordrin read some of the titles of the books lying about in the open book gallery — Delblood's Atlas of Faerûn, Gaurdront's Guide to Monstrous Beasts, Revendro's Roll of the Years.

   "The Vault used to be housed across the river, where the Map House now is," said the guide as they left the great library. "That site, which is part of the Conclave also, still stores maps and genealogies. Though most of them are copies of the originals, it is still a treasure trove nonetheless. Visitors may browse the maps there for five dragons per hour.

   "This building here is owned by the Conclave but is currently empty. It was once the home of the legendary bard college Focluchan, but it was destroyed by fire over 100 years ago. The Lady Alustriel would like for us to have the place restored. If the fundraising campaign is successful, the new House of the Harp, the Conclave's current bard school, will move to this site once the restorations are complete. The House of the Harp is currently located in Northbank.

   "And here we are, back where we started," said the guide.
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De Exilio
Interlude: The Regent of Jhothûn
~ fifth-day, 25th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, evening
miles above Toril

"He will allow us to use the portals as we will, and we may request our wishes through magical sendings."

   Hakam was filling in the details of their visit to Jhothûn to the others. Tavis and Kaedlaw had remained behind and the genie and Tavis were to discuss what the throne's revelation meant for the boy, for Hartsvale, for Jhothûn, and for all of giantkind.

   "My geas has been fulfilled, and our exile is over," said Leokas.

   "We await word from Tavis, as we may need to fly him home, but after that, we can go anywhere we would like," said Hakam. "The question is, where next?"

   "With this vessel," said Szordrin, "nothing prevents us from flying to the Rock of Bral and tracking down the Interlink Consortium. All our destinies are intertwined with that one rock. Only if we know where Samber has been in the past will we be able to know what he is truly up to. And where better to inquire than Bral?"

   "I agree that we should visit Bral eventually," said Leokas, "but I think that we need more information first."

   "I am inclined to agree with Leokas on this," said Solisar. "I admit that I know very little of the place."

   "Teshburl, then?" said Szordrin. "We can follow leads on Walker, who we know had dealings with Samber."

   "Or we could rendezvous with Jayce at Lantan," said Hakam, "since he seems to be making progress with his investigation into Samber's background. Plus, Ombert, The Daisy's captain may be able to use the stars to guide us all back to Samber's island so that we can return Ilthian to her family."

   "We also told Mythlos, Cassiera, and my mother that we would meet them again at Mythlos' keep in Tethyr," said Leokas.

   "This is perhaps lower priority," said Solisar, "but a visit to Evermeet would permit me speak with my grandmother about what I learned about Iyraclea while on the Great Glacier."

   "You intend to stay with us, then," asked Leokas, "now that you have the option of leaving?"

   "I am greatly intrigued by the matter of Samber," said Solisar, "perhaps more now than ever...."

   "And you, Belvin?" asked Hakam, "Has your jungle god given you more visions?"

   Belvin shrugged. "I shall decide where Kamil and I are to travel when I need to."

   "One thing that I have wanted to do since Thultanthar," said Hakam, "is return to Sseth and retrieve Allu's genie bottle. I warrant that we are prepared to speak with the efreeti now and question him about how he obtained Samber's omlar gem. I think that I shall send Sseth a message in the morning."

   "I am against the idea of going to Allu's palace," said Szordrin. "Both Allu and the blue dragon could potentially be there."

   "Fair enough. I agree that Walker is probably as good a source about Samber right now as is Allu," said Hakam.

   "I also wish to return to Silverymoon, before heading to Teshburl," said Szordrin. "We have many things to sell, and from your descriptions, it sounds like there is much we could purchase."

   "I agree," said Leokas. "We are out of provisions. We can probably ask the genie here for a day's food, but genie-created food lasts no longer than that. Our new vessel could also use some ballista bolts."

   "Some furnishings would also be appreciated," said Hakam.

   "...And some sailing implements," added Solisar.

   "Well, then there is the matter of what to wish for...," Hakam began.

   This second discussion took them nearly an hour, and they arrived at no full consensus, though they were leaning toward some way of protecting the spelljammer. Ultimately, they decided to sleep on the decision.


Just after dawn of the next day, Hakam woke the others. "I sent a message to our brass dragon friend about meeting up with him sometime in the future to retrieve Allu's bottle. I had to waste two sending spells to get a response, but he rambled something off about 'skeletons swarming toward Allu's palace from... the Altar...' of the Air. At least I assume that he meant the Altar of the Air; he did not get all the words out."

   "That may change my vote," said Leokas. "We should visit with Sseth in person and learn more."

   "I agree," said Szordrin, "but we should still stop at Silverymoon and Teshburl on the way."


Several hours later, each of them were scattered about the spelljammer, resting and waiting. Ilthian and Solisar were in Ilthian's room, writing out math problems to solve how long the spelljammer's magical bubble of air would last before they would need to return to the surface to replenish it.

   Suddenly, Belvin leapt to his feet from beside Kamil. He had spotted a cloud of vapor coming over the railing. "The Ice Queen!" he shouted to the others, and then he began chanting. An instant later, a column of fire appeared, striking the growing cloud at its center.

   The cloud took shape, as the others rushed over. No sooner had a thick hand formed from the gases then a ray of frost and ice shot forth from the fingers, covering Belvin's skin with white.

   Calm yourselves, they all heard in their heads. It was the qorrashi's voice. I have been sent by the Regent of Emperor Kaedlaw to summon you.

   Belvin wiped the frost from his face and shivered. He was very cold but otherwise not harmed. If the ice genie was injured, he did not show any sign of it.

   "How did you find us?" asked Leokas as Solisar arrived onto the deck to see what the commotion was about.

   I am no longer bound by oath not to leave the palace, said the Prince of Jhothûn. As a genie, I need not air for flight. I suspected that you would be somewhere up, and it is not difficult to spot a sailing craft in the heavens if you rise high enough.

   "I assume that by 'Regent' you mean Tavis?" asked Hakam.

   No, said the genie, I did not. Though the emperor's father may wish to speak with you as well. Do not keep the Regent waiting. If you join hands with mine, I can take you there immediately through the Astral Plane. However, I warn you that the touch of my skin is painful to most mere mortals such as yourselves.

   "Anachtyr, protect me from the elements," Hakam prayed. Then he said to the qorrashi, "I shall take your hand."

   Kytharrah rushed up excitedly and grabbed the genie's left hand. "Very cold!" he said, as the frost nipped his fingers, but he wore a toothy grin on his face. Hakam took the genie's right hand and grimaced at the cold, which was painful despite his prayer.

   I can carry several others through as well, if more of you wish to come. Simply join hands with your companions. Solisar joined with Hakam and Kytharrah, since he hoped to see more of such a historical site as Jhothûn, and Szordrin did as well.

   They all felt a strange and momentary sensation, then found themselves standing in the throne room of Jhothûn. There, leaning against one of the pillars, was Tavis, who was restringing his massive bow. Nearby, the throne of ice and stone was empty, but beside it was a larger obsidian throne of simpler design. Sitting upon it, was the misshapen form of Basil of Lyndusfarne.

   "Am du paart, Solisar of Evermeet!" said the old verbeeg.

   "Am du paart, Regent of Jhothûn!" the sun elf replied.

   "I trust that you have been well this last month or so?"

   "Ignoring the fact that I was stabbed to death by a lamia noble, yes."

   "Annam's juveler!" said Basil.

   "My god returned my powers, and I called him back to the living," said Hakam.

   "Clearly, we have much to talk about, friends," said Basil, as if he knew all of them, though in reality he had only ever talked to Solisar before.

   They learned that Kaedlaw had already returned home to his mother, by the power of the wish. Tavis would be returning home soon in the same manner, but he had wanted to thank the members of the party and say goodbye before departing.

   Brianna and Tavis had spoken with the Prince of Jhothûn at great length, and it had been decided that Basil would reign as regent until Kaedlaw came of age. This would require a long time spent in near solitude for the verbeeg, but at the moment, the idea of exploring the four floors of the citadel excited him more than any concerns of loneliness. Besides, the powers of the genie could wish friends back and forth from Hartsvale three times a day if needed.

   As for Queen Brianna and Tavis, they had much to consider in regards to what to do with the fact that their son was the future ruler of not only the tiny kingdom of Hartsvale but perhaps of all the giant tribes of Faerûn! For now, they intended to wait and seek out advice from what giant and giant-kin allies they had. They suspected that most giants would not accept the news readily. At least they had many years for Kaedlaw to grow up.

   In regards to the portal, they had decided to leave the delusional orc druid on the Sea of Moving Ice and the ice devil Tosvin as portal guardians of Karffbadh and Gharreil, respectively. They would serve as first line of defense for the hidden citadel. Now that the qorrashi was no longer bound by oath to the palace, he could pass through the portals, or indeed go anywhere he needed, to also defend the secret. For the portal at Choshein, Brianna had sent Hrodmar, the frost giant guard of Earls Bridge, to serve as guardian. (Hrodmar was happy to give Kytharrah one last wrestling match.)

   The genie provided them with another luscious meal and also with temporary provisions that would last them on the journey to Silverymoon, where they planned to first stop to resupply.

   Solisar sat next to Basil while they ate and told him some of the details of his brief visit to the Fugue Plane. Then the conversation turned to what Basil had learned so far of Jhothûn.

   "Iseheim, I mean Jhothûn, contains no books that have survived the ages," said Basil, "but the genie here revealed to me that there are ancient crypts below. I expect to spend a good deal of my time there examining what friezes I may find. I believe that the base of little Kaedlaw's throne shows the handiwork of stone giants, and I would not be surprised to find more gifts of theirs from the earliest days of Ostoria in those crypts. The steinjotunen were the only true record-keepers of the Jotunbrud. Surely, you will want to stay and explore them with me?"

   "Believe me when I tell you that I would like nothing more," said Solisar. "What scholar of the Jotunbrud would not? However, I seem tied into something greater — or at the least, more urgent — taking place perhaps among the human gods. My companions have been exiled now many months, which has kept them from their true quest, and I am now a part of it. As they are at last free from exile, they are anxious to set out again. May I kindly request a postponement?"

   "Of course!" said Basil. "Remember, I am a verbeeg; what is mine is yours."

   "He means to say, 'What is yours is his,'" said Tavis.

   "Basil, I must warn you of something," said Solisar. "The guardian of the portal at Gharreil is an evil entity who serves a powerful priestess of the human goddess of winter. She is perhaps immortal, so great is her magic. I know not yet the full extent of her plans, but she lusts after the treasures hidden in this city. I do not know how her magics compare to those of the genie who now serves you, but be aware of the matter, and use caution."

   "I thank you for this," said Basil.

   After the dinner, they said goodbye to their friends. "Tell Leokas that I enjoyed the challenge of shooting archery with him and learning of the beasts of the High Forest," said Tavis to Hakam. "I shall remember him if ever I nock an arrow against a goblin."

   Tavis then gave Kytharrah a large bear hug, and lifted the minotaur off his feet. This surprised Kytharrah, but he snorted happily.

   "Keep following the guiding light," said the firbolg.
Session: 92nd Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 19 2017 from 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
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De Exilio
Chapter 2 — Pajabbar Play
~ third-day, 3rd of Marpenoth, The Year of Wild Magic, dusk
the Plain of Standing Stones

"Allen, do you want to hold my guiding light?" asked the minotaur, holding up his everburning torch to one of the Shadovar soldiers.

   The monotony of the rocky desert through which they now traveled was getting to the young minotaur, and he was thoroughly bored as he stood outside the tent, surrounded by a handful of guards. Leokas had "played" archery with the adolescent monster several times already, but now the elf wanted to conserve his remaining arrows for an actual fight. Leokas had also at last finished the large, composite bow he was crafting for the minotaur, its draw weight being so heavy that even the minotaur struggled to pull it back. Unfortunately, it also required longer arrows, and there was no wood available in the middle of the dry wasteland.

   Allen was the soldier who had let the minotaur watch him saddle the bats. The man laughed. "We, too, have many such torches. There are several in our — what is the word? 'barrage'? — in our group tent."

   "Why do you like so much dark?" asked the minotaur.

   "Only the shades like the darkness," said Allen.

   "But the big guiding light lets you see colors!"

   "I know!" said Allen. "Neither had we color in the land whence we came."

   Setting the magic torch down, the minotaur lowered his horns slowly toward Allen and waited for something. "What art thou...?" Allen began, but he instinctively moved his ranseur into a defensive position, which the minotaur took as engagement in a play scuffle. The minotaur swung his head with his horns, catching the ranseur in one of the curves. He shoved back, sending Allen nearly off his feet and back a yard.

   One of the other guards immediately stabbed the minotaur in the side, which drew blood, but not a considerable amount, because of the minotaur's thick hide. The beast spun around to face the new "playmate" and attempted to lock horns with his ranseur, while a few other guards tried to stab him and missed, as he jumped about, snorting happily.

   Allen shouted out something in his own language to the others, but then he heard a couple of the soldiers call out a foreign word forcefully. The minotaur felt a strange wobbly sensation for several seconds, and his thoughts grew cloudier than usual, which made him pause.

   From the corner of his eye, the minotaur saw several of the guards fumbling for various items from pouches at their belts and speaking strange words. One of the guards tried to touch him with a hand glowing with sparkly red light, and a crackling beam of energy shot at him from one of the soldiers' hands, also missing. The guards pulled back. Then he heard the sound of a cricket. "Gulêt!" Allen commanded, and the minotaur lost consciousness.


The minotaur awoke to find himself lying on the ground with Hakam over him. "You were just asleep," said Hakam.

   He heard Cassiera speaking to the guards. "He just wanted to play; the poor thing is bored. You didn't need to stab him."

   "Anything you say, beautiful," said one of the soldiers.

   "This I understood," said Allen. "That is the reason for which I caused him to slumber."

   Cassiera tried to explain this to the minotaur. "You cannot play with the guards," she said. "We have to wait to play later. Why don't you play fetch with Leokas' wolf?"

   The minotaur approached the soldier who had stabbed him — there was still blood drying on the point of his polearm — and patted him on the shoulder. "You play good!" said the minotaur.

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Interlude: Two Princes in Deadwater
From the journal of then-Prince Darren of Shushan

Whitescale, Day Eighteen, Twenty-first hour

Truth be told, I wished it could have been anyone else. But in my dream, the Fates had made it clear. The odd Drow and I were to travel into Deadwater, as the rest scaled Howlmount.

More truth told, I didn't envy them. Even before I heard them recount their trek, I knew it was a deadly place. Few adventurers ever make it back down from its gnarled peak.

I had only told Malthar we were looking for an antique, of sorts, and that we'd need a thief's touch to get it. As we hiked into town, I was beginning to think twice on the secrecy.

"So, what kind of antique is this? Is it the kind that helps you steal more things? I like those kinds of antiques. I also like the kind of antiques that help you acquire a large empire in a short amount of time."

The scarred 'Prince' was carrying a large sheaf of paper and a writing quill in one arm. His smile made me nervous.

"Shorter the better."

I could just make out that the top sheet read "Contract" before he tucked the sheaf into his haversack.

"So the steal-y kind - or the empire-recruitment kind?"

I relented.

"It's an ancient device -a mechanism - for your metal friend. In a dream, The Fates told me The Raven Queen can control minds, but this will allow at least Moi to protect himself."

"Strictly curiosity - but how much do you think it's worth?"

"Please, just wait until after we save the world."

By then, we had reached town. If you've never been to Deadwater, don't feel like you're missing out on anything. It's nothing compared to even the quaintest village in the Communes. Magic is forbidden in Janrenia, and it shows.

Stone buildings jut out from Howlmount itself. Narrow passageways wind between "plazas" with nothing more than a guide rope and a three hundred foot fall to comfort you. A slow trickle of melting snow ends in a stagnant pond at the center of town. Hence the name, Deadwater.

The Fates had told me to make contact with a village elder. Here at least was one blessing, an ancient crone was hobbling toward us. She was blind, carrying a walking stick. A large purse jangled at her side.

In hindsight, I should have guessed Malthar wouldn't have been able to resist.

What happened next - is still a blur. He moved in. I tried to stop him. Then two figures leaped out from behind a house.

The next thing I knew was darkness.

I was gagged, tied up, in a cold stone room.

The door creaked open.

"So, this is how the Seven Swords act? Common thieves? Scoundrels!?" the old woman's voice shook with rage.

"For 1,200 years my family has been on this gods-forsaken rock, watching, waiting, to deliver the Blackrose Mechanism, and this is how we are rewarded?"

I tried to answer - but you know- the gag.

She left, slamming the door behind her.

Several hours passed - no food, but the guards did try to pour some water through the cloth of my gag. I would not wish it on my worst enemy.

Through my tired eyes, I saw something the guards didn't - a shadow in the corner of the room that didn't quite fit right.

Malthar's blade slit their throats in seconds. Without cleaning it, he moved on to the ropes binding my legs and arms.

"I hope you're ready to pay up. I had to trade a fairly expensive-looking timepiece to find where you were. Granted, I had stolen that from someone else- but Taker's Keeper's, right?"

After he pulled the gag, I told him he'd have his pick of a new one from the treasury.

That's when a prison of light gleamed around us.

"I thought you said magic was forbidden here!"

"It is!"

Of course. The crone stepped slowly into the room, one hand tracing invisible runes across the sky, maintaining the force cage.

"What King Korrent doesn't know can't hurt him. Now, you've tried to pickpocket me, broken into my home, and killed two of my sons, tell me why I should let you live."

I tried to reason with her, but Malthar ruined my chances in an instant.

"Yeah, uh, correction. I didn't try to pickpocket you. I did."

From his pocket he pulled out a strange metal plug-- with thin lined patterns running along it, and a black rose stamped at the front.

Her rage gave me the chance to act. I hadn't accessed the aether in ages. I'm not very good. But this time it came to me hungrily. (A side effect of a land that has banned magic? More research needed.)

The bars fell. I ran. And Malthar swung into motion. Seconds later, the crone lay dead.

But the true shock came next. We watched from the window as a blinding white light enveloped Howlmount's peak.

"I'd say our friends were successful. Now let's leave and never come back."

I tossed 500 gold on the table. At least the family's job was done.
Session: Chapter Eleven: Finding Folly - Saturday, Apr 25 2015 from 3:30 PM to 6:30 PM
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