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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Answers & Questions from the Past
The box contained a stack of seven letters from Samber — or Bremas or Rembas — with an unfinished letter from Onran to Samber inserted after the sixth. Szordrin confirmed that the script with large letters was indeed Onran's handwriting. These were all written in Lantanna, the language of Lantan.

   There were also two letters from a woman named Yunoko, who was clearly Onran's late wife. These were written in Common, and each ended with a character in Wanese calligraphy.

   Finally, at the bottom of the box was an inch-thick bound stack of love notes from Yunoko, which smelled heavily of perfume.

   "Woman smell," said Kytharrah.

   They passed the letters around and examined them in turn. There was a wealth of information within, detailing missing details of the lives of both Samber and Onran, and introducing them to Onran's wife, Yunoko. Once again, Sofi stood back out of the way and watched but did not ask to read the letters.

   "Well," said Solisar, as he set down the last letter, "we have learned that Samber relies on the Elemental Plane of Earth to procure the clay needed to make his creations."

   "We already suspected that he has been to many of the planes," said Hakam. "We know, for example, that he has been to the Plane of Fire."

   "Yes, but he goes to the Plane of Earth often, so it may be a means of finding him again."

   "We may as well start at the beginning of the stack and go through the letters methodically," said Hakam. "The first letter tells us unequivocally that Yunoko died. That was Samber and Avilda's condolences letter to Onran."

   "Who was Avilda?" asked Belvin.

   "According to Jayce, Avilda was the name of Samber's former wife," said Solisar.

   "The second letter seems to confirm the story that Jayce told us," said Hakam, "that she left him for creating a monster when they could not have children of their own."

   "Somewhere in the letters, Samber also remarked that he would never make a flesh golem again," said Solisar, "or at least something to that effect."

   "We know that his creations are flesh and blood, though, are they not?" asked Leokas. "Did Ilthian bleed?"

   "Yes," said Belvin. "Recall that she was covered in her own blood when we found her in her room after Samber had transferred his mind into hers."

   Kytharrah, who was bored and writing "Big Minotaur" in the ash of the fireplace, perked his ears when he heard Ilthian's name spoken. "Yes," he said confidently. "Shiny bones, like club." They still carried the large thigh bone of a leucrotta in one of their magic bags. The creatures had bone of a material very similar in structure to adamantine.

   "The later letters go into more details about his more recent models of construct and how they mix flesh and blood with other elements," said Hakam, "such as adamantine skeletons. Ilthian likely had a skeleton far stronger than any of ours."

   Solisar nodded.

   "The third letter tells us how he found his island," continued Hakam. "Did we ever see any of these 'animal Kell' that he describes? It seems so long ago now."

   The others distinctly remembered seeing some of the strange rolling creatures with two legs used as brakes that Samber had created when waiting in the area outside his subterranean abode. Ilthian had confirmed at the time that there were many such creatures on the island, though she only knew this because she had broken the rules and gone exploring outside the Forokell's little village.

   "That letter also confirms that Onran had a spelljammer," said Solisar, "and more important to us, perhaps, it claims that he had sent Onran a 'token' with which to find his island for the purpose of visits."

   "Yes," said Hakam.

   "It probably was used already, but it is worth considering, since we do not know how to return to the island on our own."

   "We know from later letters that Samber and Onran met each other after the sending of the token," said Hakam. "The token, if it still exists, was probably with Onran, not here."

   "I agree, but we should be on the lookout for whatever it is, wherever we happen to be investigating."

   "The fourth letter talks about mining operations," said Belvin. "This must be the mine where we fought the hobgoblins and the bone devil."

   "That one also says that they went to the Rock of Bral together," said Hakam. "It may be worth our time to go back there and see if anyone knew of either of them. None of us heard anything about either of them while there, did we?"

   "We probably would have to use one of their many pseudonyms," said Belvin.

   "The later letters discuss how he built Ilthian's people and their immediate predecessors," said Hakam.

   "The Lillikell and the Forokell," said Belvin.

   "We also know from one of Samber's journals that Ilthian was supposed to have been a Lillikell," said Solisar, "but he changed her into a Forokell at the last moment for some reason."

   "We never met any of the Lillikell," said Hakam, "correct?"

   "What about those armored constructs on his ship and that guarded his palace?" asked Szordrin. "The ones with the glowing visors. Those could be the Lillikell."

   "The letter that Onran never sent," said Hakam, "its year matches the one on most of the receipts and thank you letters from the orphanages that we found last night. Perhaps he was writing it when the rakshasa attacked this house."

   "How could he have had time to place it neatly in the stack with the others, seal it in a magic box, hide it in a secret chamber, and then teleport away, if that were the case?" asked Szordrin.

   "I only suggest it because the letter ends so abruptly, though I suppose that it is possible that he started to write the letter and then never sent it."

   "I think that that is a better theory," said Szordrin. "He wrote that he was afraid that he might offend Samber with his opinion."

   "Yes, he started to reproach him for creating his constructs," said Hakam. "That is true."

   "Is it possible from the letters to determine who else might have known about this island on Coliar?" asked Belvin.

   "If this is the 'vacation home' that Yunoko talks about in one of her letters, then her superiors may have known about it, yes," said Hakam. "It could also be somewhere else though."

   Hakam continued with another line of thought. "Another thing that we can infer from the letters is that Yunoko died because of the tiefling child, the rakshasa's descendent, that she was trying to keep hidden." They all looked over at Szordrin. "This was back in the Year of the Wandering Maiden. How old are you again, Szordrin?"

   "If you are suggesting that Szordrin here is the same as the son of this Mieko in the letters, the years do not work out," said Solisar. "The Year of the Wandering Maiden was in the early years of the reign of King Azoun Obarskyr IV of the human realm of Cormyr. That was nearly 40 years ago. The Year of the Turret, when we can presume the last letters between Samber and Onran were written, was only a dozen years ago."

   "I also have normal human teeth," said Szordrin, "unlike the child Yunoko describes in the letter."

   "When did you meet your master again, Szordrin?" asked Hakam.

   "The Year of the Sword," answered Szordrin, "when I was thirteen years old."

   "I want to make sure that I understand the details that Yunoko reported," said Hakam. "The rakshasa 'emperor' had a son, a half-fiend, who betrayed him, killed him, but the rakshasa came back, killed the son, and pledged to kill the son's whole line."

   The others agreed with this understanding.

   "So, even if you are not this Mieko's son, Szordrin, if you are in the emperor's line, the rakshasa could still be after you."

   Szordrin's grim expression showed that he had already come to the same conclusion.

   "This masquerading emperor, Kando — I would be surprised if he were not the 'ninth emperor of the seventh dynasty' that 'is in your past', Szordrin," said Solisar, quoting from Yashiera's first prophecy for Szordrin.

   "Yashiera's second prophecy for me was about an empress," said Szordrin. "Were there any hints about her within these letters?"

   "I noticed no such hints," said Solisar, "but the prophecy speaks of the 'twelfth circle of the seventh circle,' and, as we have discussed previously, I still suspect that this is one of the moons of the planet Garden — though to call it a planet is a misnomer, as it is suspected to be a root bud of an interplanar plant, perhaps related to Yggdrasil, but I digress."

   "It sounds like a planet that I would enjoy visiting," said Belvin.

   "While we are speaking of Yashiera's prophecies," said Szordrin, "Onran's letter to Samber mentioned an empty sphere, which must correspond to one of Yashiera's four visions for us."

   "The hollow 'ball of glass' 'in a rainbow ocean,'" said Solisar. "I agree."

   "It seemed like an off-hand comment of arcane interest more than something that can immediately aid us in our goals," said Hakam.

   "It may ultimately be someplace that we need to go?" said Szordrin.

   "But Onran only tells that he has been there," said Hakam, "not how to get there."

   "How do you think that they were actually sending these letters to each other?" said Leokas. "Through portals?"

   "It is certainly possible, considering the powers known by each of these two mages," said Solisar, "but there were often many years between some of them. He mentioned five years once."

   "A decade in one of them," added Szrodrin.

   "Another point of interest to me," said Hakam, "is that Yunoko was a member of the Harpers and that she had a mission, so tracking down someone from her organization may aid us in learning more about that mission."

   "Who are the Harpers?" asked Sofi, who had been so quiet that they almost forgot that she was still in the room.

   "The Harpers are a secret society," said Solisar, smiling at the irony of what he was about to explain, "but the elves played a role in their founding and have longer memories. They were founded in the Year of the Dawn Rose, about 700 years after the erection of the Standing Stone. Strangely enough, they have dryads to thank, in part, for their formation. The fey beings grew concerned over astrological events and sought aid from elven druids, who in turn called for aid from a group of human and elven priests of good deities. At the meeting in the druid grove, the powers themselves possessed their priests and spoke through them, giving them a mandate to fight against the forces of many of the evil powers, including Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul. This initial group of priests and the small force of recruits that they gathered became what was first called the Harpers in Twilight.

   "After the first 300 years, the organization struggled to exist, for their enemies fought back. It was then that the human wizards Elminster and Khelben Arunsun, both whom Yunoko mentioned by name in her letters and both who live to this day, changed the group into a secret, underground force of agents of good, no longer working openly only to be slain by priests of evil gods. Most of the Chosen of Mystra are among their numbers now.

   "Their agents live hidden lives, acting as the eyes and ears for the more powerful leaders of the group, and this seems to have been what Yunoko was."

   "What do you know about Wa, Solisar?" one of them asked.

   "I have never studied the eastern realms of Kara-Tur," said Solisar. "I know that it is an island nation. They are known for their ninja assassins, their samurai knights, and their geisha escorts.

   "I recently learned during our time on the Rock of Bral that the nation of Wa is trying hard to compete with the Shou Empire in terms of wildspace trade. Though they are far behind, they are building their own classes of spelljammers, which are, in fact, some of the largest wildspace vessels ever built. Returning to our earlier discussions of prophecies, I suspect that we might find an empress of Wa on one of Garden's moons."

   "The empress in the prophecy could be Szordrin's mother, potentially," said Hakam, "at least by some reckoning."

   "Does anyone known what Yunoko meant by 'the slaughter of Chaunteas's worshipers by the shogun'?" asked Szordrin.

   "I took that as diplomatic matters of no import to us," said Hakam. "In any case, I have never heard of such a slaughter."

   "Nor have I," said Solisar.

   "So, then, we suspect that the child Yunoko rescued may have been Szordrin's father," said Hakam. "Szordrin, do you have any memory of him?"

   "My earliest memories are of being beaten by my drow mistresses," said Szordrin matter-of-factly. Then he asked, "She mentioned that Mieko and child were sent away to safety at Onran and Yunoko's vacation home. How could my father then have ended up in the Underdark on Toril?"

   "Perhaps it was when they were being transferred that Yunoko was attacked and killed," said Hakam.

   "Then how did the son survive?" asked Szordrin.

   "The rakshasa said that he only wanted the life of the son," said Solisar.

   "Not if the mother interfered with his hunt," said Hakam, "and fleeing and hiding is certainly interfering."

   "Are we certain that the woman's son is not Szordrin?" asked Belvin. "Could someone have changed your teeth when you were a baby to disguise you?"

   "You remember nothing about your early childhood, but you know how old you are?" asked Hakam.

   "Only roughly," said Szordrin. "I am certainly not close to 40 years old! I chose the day the Onran found me as the day that I celebrate my birth, but I do not know when that day actually was."

   "Do tieflings age differently than humans?" asked Hakam.

   "We age a little more slowly," said Szordrin, "but not by that much. I still grew far faster than the drow children around me, and my mistresses constantly reminded me of my supposed age...."

   "What if you had been placed into time stasis?" asked Hakam.

   "That would not make pointed teeth go away," said Szordin. "I think that the simplest explanation is the best. Forty years is long enough for two generations: my father and me."

   "Khelben lives in Waterdeep, does he not?" asked Hakam.

   "It sounds like we have several places where we can continue our search for Samber," said Leokas. "We could seek an audience with the Harper leaders at Waterdeep. We could find whoever this empress is on the moon of Garden."

   "Yes, we could also visit Wa itself," said Hakam. "If we ever happen upon one of Samber's tokens, we could find our way back to his island. We could gather more information from Bral."

   "What is our intent when we actually meet Samber next?" asked Solisar.

   "Make him stop what he is doing," said Leokas, as if the answer were obvious. "We have been charged by the gods to do so!"

   "I understand that, of course," said Solisar, "but I waited patiently ten years on the Great Glacier to watch the Ice Queen. Sometimes pursuing one's goal does not mean acting with haste. We cannot forget, from our knowledge of what he has done and the times that we have already encountered him, that Samber is an incredibly powerful mage, far beyond any of our own capabilities at the present time. I believe that with some growth in our powers, we will be able to stop him, but that takes time. I believe that we need that time before we face him again."

   "Is your thinking swayed by your own prophecy from Yashiera," asked Hakam, "'the wizard is wisest who waits to wave his wand'?"

   "He did literally exile all of us to the other side of Toril with a word," said Leokas, "although we have learned much since then."

   "Truly, I did not have the prophecy in mind when I spoke," said Solisar, "though I agree that it fits."

   "We need not stop him with violence or a direct conflict," said Leokas, "if that was a concern of yours. We need only convince him of the error of his ways."

   Belvin nodded.

   "Yes, that was, in part, the reason behind my question of our intent," said Solisar.

   "Perhaps knowledge of why his wife left him can help us persuade him," said Leokas.

   "Jayce knows where Avilda lives," said Solisar. "Nothing is stopping us from interviewing her again."

   "It sounds from the letters like Samber just cut ties and left," said Hakam. "It is highly unlikely that Avilda has any current knowledge of him."

   "Do we think that Samber is still in love with his wife?" asked Leokas. "Do you think that if we convinced her to come back with us that it could persuade him to stop his work?"

   "I highly doubt that that would be possible," said Hakam. "She is remarried with children of her own now. It also might make matters worse."

   "She may know the location of Onran and Yunoko's vacation home," said Solisar. "That is the only reason that I can think of for talking to her again."

   "Now that is an interesting thought," said Hakam. "It sounded like the four of them may have been friends."

   "Yes," said Szordin, "and we know that she was with Samber at least until after Yunoko died."

   "It sounds like returning to Lantan may be one of our next stops," said Solisar.

   "We should schedule our next steps," said Belvin. "We need to get off this humid oven of a planet soon."

   "We could, on the way to Lantan, first stop on Bral to ask about Rembas and Ronan," said Hakam.

   The others agreed.

   "We should also check back with the Interlink Consortium to learn if they have finished repairing the rod for us," said Szordrin.

   Solisar said, "Going back to Leokas' earlier question about leverage, I wonder if delivering Onran's unfished letter would convince him. They seem to have been best friends after all."

   "We should certainly keep it in our pocket as an option," said Hakam.

   "I still think that all of this is for a far later time than now, however," repeated Solisar. "We need more information and more magical power. Our best means of actually reaching his island, in my opinion, is through his portal from the Plane of Earth, yet the Plane of Earth is hostile to creatures like us. It is solid earth and stone with only rare pockets of air, and more often than not, that air is not even breathable to creatures like us. We are not even capable of surviving such a journey without knowing exactly where to go. Spells like the one on that scroll there will be helpful for such future travels, but neither Szordrin nor I understand the complexities of the Weave to be able to transfer it into our own spellbooks yet. We need more time before we worry about leverage with Samber."

   "We do not know how to find Samber's island because we were teleported off it," said Hakam, "but did not Jayce and Nargroth sail off on the repaired Daisy?"

   "Did you not explain to us that someone stole aboard the Daisy and stole all of Ombert's star charts and maps," said Solisar.

   Hakam looked frustrated. "Yes, that is right. Jayce send the news to me magically just before we stopped Allustairimarinastralmindivu from freeing Memnon. No doubt, the someone was Samber himself. We did not suspect it at the time."

   "Ilthian told me right after that that she would be able to draw the stars above his island from her perfect memory," said Solisar. "Unfortunately, that very day was when Samber retrieved her. She never had a chance to write it in her journal."

   "They are not the only one to sail from the island," said Hakam. "We also know that the goblinoid pirates sailed from there."

   "Captain Stubs," said Leokas.

   "Would they be able to guide us back?"

   "Hobgoblins are stupid creatures," said Leokas. "I highly doubt it."

   "He is a captain; he knows how to sail a ship."

   "He lost all his limbs and has to be carried around and fed."

   "What does that have to do with navigation?"

   Leokas relented. "It is possible, I suppose. Do we know where he currently is?"

   "We know that he has left the island only because he responded to my sending before," said Hakam.

   "He is probably back to a life of piracy," said Leokas.

   "We can probably track them down if we need to," said Hakam. "It is an option. Finding a token would of course be faster."

   Leokas said, "Hakam, if we were to catch Stubs in an act of piracy, what would we do?"

   "It depends on the laws of whichever nation controls the waters in which we find him, of course," said Hakam.

   "So, then," said Solisar, "we visit Bral, then Lantan to talk with Avilda."

   "Again, I agree," said Hakam. "It would be good to learn where Onran and Yunoko kept a vacation home."

   "Finding that home can be our next primary goal," said Solisar, "as well as learning more about his wife's death."

   "...And her last mission," added Hakam, "and for that, we may need to visit Waterdeep to speak with Khelben, assuming he would grant us an audience."

   "This moon is far on the other side of the crystal sphere, is it not?" asked Leokas. "It does not make sense to visit it first."

   "Correct," said Solisar.

   "In any case," said Hakam, "I would not feel prepared to visit the moon until we have first visted Wa to learn more about this empress."

   "Bral may have an ambassador to Wa," suggested Belvin.

   "Yes, we could certainly look for one when we are there," said Hakam.

   "I strongly suspect that Wa would be interested in Lantanese smokepowder, if we need a way to gain access to an official," said Solisar.

   Szordrin remembered Sofi and glanced back at her to see her reaction to all of this. She was still standing there, looking simultaneous confused and fascinated by everything that she was hearing.

   "Sofi," asked Hakam, "you are from Sigil, are you not? It is a diverse place. Have you ever heard of any crystal spheres that are totally empty?"

   "I have never heard the term 'crystal sphere' until this hour," she replied. "What is it?"

   "Do you know how some of the Outer Planes have multiple layers?" said Solisar, and Sofi nodded. "The 'layers' of the Prime Material Plane are called crystal spheres. Each of them floats in a substance called the phlogiston, which is similar to how the Outer Planes are — at least in some sense — separated by the Astral Plane, and each is filled with planets, such as the one we are on."

   This seemed to make some sense to her. "Are the planets within a crystal sphere within the phlogiston similar to how there are realms within each of the Seven Heavens, which are in Celestia?"

   "That is a fair comparison, I think," said Solisar.

   "Have you been to any of the Seven Heavens?" asked Hakam of Sofi.

   "Oh, no; I do not think that I am holy enough to visit there," she replied. "I have been to Excelsior. That is about as close as I have ever been to Lunia."

   Only Solisar and Szordrin knew that Excelsior was what was called a gate-town, a small village on the Concordant Domain of the Outlands that had grown up around one of the sixteen portals to the Outer Planes. The Outlands were neutral territory for most of the gods and goddesses, and the portals were how their servants traveled back and forth. Excelsior was the gate-town surrounding the portal to the Seven Heavens.

   "I wonder if the prophecy about the seventh circle has to do with the Seventh Heaven," Hakam thought aloud. Then he vetoed his own idea. "No, no one travels to the Seventh Heaven; it is the place of ultimate perfection, and it has only one realm, else it would not be perfect."

   "Continuing our discussion of the empty crystal sphere," said Solisar, "we know that Samber wants to obtain apotheosis. With the knowledge of Onran's empty sphere, he will have found a place where he can create life and rule free from all the other powers."

   "We at least know that he has not learned about this empty sphere yet," said Hakam, "because Onran never sent that letter."

   "No, Onran never sent this draft of the letter," said Solisar. "There is always the possibility that he did send another version, perhaps one less condemning of Samber's actions."

   "So, he could know about it then," said Hakam soberly.

   "It is useful for us to know, but we have no means of using this knowledge for the time being," said Solisar.

   "If we find the sphere before Samber," said Belvin, "it might be used for bargaining with him."

   "If the rod from the Interlink Consortium works as advertised," said Hakam, "we can indeed retrace Onran's travels to find it."

   "The gods would not be pleased with that solution," said Solisar, "because then Samber would become a god."

   "If he were just isolated to that one sphere," said Leokas, "I suppose that he could not longer harm Toril, but what if just built up his own power until he could overturn other powers from their own realms?"

   "The gods do not want him to ascend by any means," agreed Hakam, "either within this sphere or another."

   "Well, we have a plan, then," said Belvin. "Bral it is for our first stop. So, how are we getting back to our spelljammer?"
Session: 116th Game Session - Tuesday, Jul 28 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Passing the Night
Unable to open the box this night, they brought the magic items from the storage room and looked at them more closely upstairs in the kitchen. Solisar rolled open the scrolls again and began to examine them in more detail.

   "This first one makes one immune to physical harm from a type of energy for 24 hours," he explained. "It is beyond my ability to cast a spell so powerful. I shall have to look into this more."

   Besides a weaker spell to put monsters into a daze, they were familiar with the other four spells written on the vellum. All of the scrolls had blank regions where spells had once been written but had vanished from the page when cast.

   He next picked up the hat. Flipping it over, he found Elven runes sewn into the inner rim. "It says, 'disguise,' in my native tongue. No doubt that this is a hat of disguise." He removed the circlet that held his black hair back and placed the hat upon his head instead. Then he tried to imagine Szordrin's appearance. He felt a strange sensation as his face and body morphed into that of cat-eyed, bearded man.

   "Szordrin is always making multiple copies of himself when we are in combat," said Hakam. "We do not need any more."

   "Are we assuming that these items are ours to take?" asked Leokas.

   "These things were Onran's," said Hakam, "so they belong to his heirs, so, no, they are not ours to take. That does not, however, prevent us from learning what we can about them."

   Solisar shifted back to look like himself and took the hat off. "I shall identify the red boots in the morning as well, but that will take more effort."

   Sofi had been standing back from everyone else, watching in silence with fascination but trying to stay out of the way. When there was a moment of silence, and it seemed like the adventurers could not answer any more questions until morning, she spoke up. "Well, this day was a yawn, was it not?" It was the most sarcasm they had ever heard in her voice.

   "It is a rather typical one for us," said Hakam.

   "I must say," she said. "I have never punched a dinosaur before."

   "The trick is to aim for the snout," said Belvin.

   "Father Hakam — it is Hakam, is it not?" asked Sofi.

   "My proper title is Justiciar Hakam yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr yi Memnon, but yes, it is."

   "We just call him Hakam, and you may do the same," said Leokas.

   "Justice Hakam in Hamulah ill Anachtyr yi Memnon," she tried, succeeding more than most, "Szordrin's leg is badly cut up; there is blood all over his boot. Can you tend to him with your magic?"

   "I could take care of that also," said Belvin."

   "Assuredly," said Hakam.

   Leokas raised his forearm, which was also covered in his own blood. "I was also injured," said Leokas. "Is that not also a concern?"

   "I am so sorry," said Sofi, a bit flustered. "You took the injury so bravely that I did not notice." There was a brief pause. "Not to imply that you were not also brave, Szordrin," she continued. Then she turned red and said, "I think that I shall bar that now."

   The glow of positive energy surrounded the hands of both Hakam and Belvin, and they restored the wounds of Szordrin and Leokas, respectively.

   Sofi watched with continued interest as supernatural acts were performed before her. "Justice Hakam yi Memnon," she said, "from which of the high-ups do you draw your powers?"

   "I am going outside to take the first watch," said Belvin.

   "I am taking first watch with him," said Leokas.

   "The great god Anachtyr is the source of my power," Hakam began.

   Sensing the beginning of a long sermon, Kytharrah tapped Sofi on the shoulder and said, "Play?" and motioned to the door with his head.

   "No more play tonight, Kytharrah," she said, "but I shall play with you again; I promise."

   Kytharrah followed the two sylvan elves outside.

   "What can you lann me about him?" asked Sofi.

   Szordrin and Solisar stayed in the ransacked kitchen with them as Hakam began to describe to Sofi the wonders of his god, focusing on the power and importance of law in the lives of mortals and how following a just path led to the greatest life. "It can right wrongs, it can restore the fallen, it can heal wounds — if you only obey."

   Sofi — and Solisar — listened intently to Hakam's words, and then there was a brief pause as Sofi seemed to be contemplating them. "As you know, I follow Pistis Sophia, but I do not worship her. I follow her for inspiration, and her hand of blessing is upon me. However, she does not have the power to grant me a home in the afterlife. In truth, I have not chosen a higher power to follow, as I really do not know much about them — not enough to choose one good power over another. So, I find what you say worth considering."

   "It is more than worth considering," said Hakam. "It is truth."

   "I wonder though," she said, "is he a forgiving god? Is he pure justice personified? Or is he justice tempered with mercy?"

   "I will have a different answer to that than members of other sects," said Hakam. "Unfortunately, there is great confusion among clerics of Anachtyr in the countries north of Calimshan about who Anachtyr is. They wrongly confuse him with a god of war from another crystal sphere, because he has a similar name. Moreover, he is allied with two other gods, Ilmater and Torm, and despite the work of my Church to correct the errors in doctrine, more and more followers of Anachtyr confuse his pure essence with the portfolios of the other two gods in the Triad. The truth is that Anachtyr is neither a god of war nor a god of mercy. If he were a god of mercy, it would be impossible for him to judge rightly. Impure justice is not justice at all. It is for Ilmater to provide mercy to those who need it."

   "Why did you choose to worship him?" asked Sofi, and hearing this, Szordrin perked up. None of them had ever learned much of Hakam's past before.

   "My father, Holy Judge Hamdulah yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr yi Schamedar was the seventh of that name. Hamdulah I was a priest of Anachtyr in Memnon during the Eighth Age of Calimshan. Just after the start of the Ninth Age, Hamdulah VI moved the family to the recently rebuilt town of Schamedar, in the Year of the Bright Sun, because that town had no temple to the Even-Handed. The males of the family have always been priests of Anachtyr, and my path was no different. My older half-brother, Hamdulah VIII, became Holy Judge of Schamedar in the Year of the Wyvern, upon the death of my father. Since there was already a priest in our line in Schamedar, I was sent to Memnon, the birthplace of our patriarch, two years later, to begin my training in law, and that is where I had served until Anachtyr assigned me a special mission with these companions a year ago."

   When Hakam had finished his story, Szordrin explained how he had also, until very recently, been without a patron deity. "I believe that I was sought out and chosen by the goddess Waukeen," he said. "She is the Golden Lady, Liberty's Maiden, and the Merchants' Friend."

   "Merchants' Friend?" said Sofi. "She would never choose me; I do not even have a copper to my person!"

   "Neither did I," said Szordrin. "I was once a slave, until Onran took me in and taught me the Art. I realize now that it has been her guidance that has led me to great wealth, without which we would have no chance of stopping the ones who sought my master's death. You need money to change the world for better."

   "Onran reminds me of a mentor that I once had," said Sofi. "His name was Sarl." Then she asked, "When we first met, was the illusion of your old master?"

   "It was the closest that I could come to him," said Szordrin. "I could never match the greatness of the man."

   "I see that you keep the same beard."

   Szordrin nodded but was silent.

   "Where are you sleeping tonight?" she asked. Then she realized that it was an awkward question and said quickly, "I mean, where is everyone sleeping tonight?"

   Solisar explained to her how he always slept — or rather tranced — in an extradimensional space that he created with his arcane magic. Hakam and Szordrin moved into the old bedroom and made space for themselves there, using each end of the mattress as makeshift pillows.

   Sofi remained in the kitchen. "It has been a long time since I have slept in a case." She untied her towel from her waist, rolled it up, and set it near the kitchen wall to use as a pillow. "I am a little bit peery sleeping here; I almost expect a ghost to appear."

   Solisar went outside briefly to set an arcane alarm around the whole house with his silver wire, then bid the other elves goodnight and came back inside to climb up the rope.

   In Onran's old bedroom, Szordrin spoke quietly with Hakam. "You need to ask Anachtyr for the power to detect the presence of evil when dawn comes."

   "She sensed when you tried to read her mind;" said Hakam, as he unfastened his heavy metal-banded layers. "I fear that she would know if I were trying to detect an evil presence on her."

   Szordrin looked nervous about this decision, and voiced this.

   "Pistis Sophia is a being of order and law," said Hakam. "She is allied with Anachtyr, and I trust her choice of this woman. I see no need."

   "Need I remind you about the incident with the family of werewolves? Need I remind you about how Solisar would not have died had you had the power to detect evil with Nulara?"

   "The 'incident with the werewolves' did not end well, true," said Hakam, "but even had I detected their evil then, I think that the ending would still have been the same. In the present case, I believe that Anachtyr is telling me to trust in the power of law and not become a zealot in the pursuit against evil."

   "She may wish to join with our party; how can you trust that she will not try to steal whatever is in the locked box?"

   "Do you not have the box with you? Take care that you guard it well."

   "Keep your voice low! She is only on the other side of the wall."

~~~~

Belvin and Leokas were pacing around the overgrown garden on the hill, sharing occasional words in Elven but mostly walking in silence over the wet ground. Leokas held Kytharrah's everburning torch for light, while the minotaur was curled up under the overhang of the house by the front door. The rain had come and gone, and the planet was in the darkest point of its rotation.

   Suddenly, there was an intense scream from inside the house. Belvin tapped Leokas on the shoulder and the two rushed toward the door.

   Inside, Hakam was startled awake and sat up. There in the window was the shape of an enormous horned creature, backlit by faint torchlight. "Let there be light!" he commanded.

   It was only Kytharrah, trying to see what had happened through the window, gripping its frame in case he needed to rip it free from the wall to help his friends.

   Szordrin was sitting bolt upright and sweating. Sofi rushed into the room and put her hand on his shoulder to shake him gently, before removing it from him awkwardly. "You are okay; it was just a dream," she said.

   "What is going on?" asked Hakam.

   Szordrin looked around the room and tried to orient himself as the elves also stepped into the room, wondering what had happened. First, Szordrin checked on Ferry. The little weasel's fur was standing up like a cat's, as it had magically felt the same terror that Szordrin had felt, but he was alright. "Oh, it was just a nightmare. Do not worry yourselves about it." Ferry snuggled up against Szordrin.

   "Do you want to talk about it?" asked Sofi.

   "Perhaps tomorrow."

   "Do you want some water?" asked Belvin.

   Sofi offered her little mug, and Belvin filled it with fresh water magically.

   "How did you know it was a dream?" Hakam asked Sofi.

   "I suppose that I did not," she replied, "but usually when someone wakes up in the night screaming, it is only a dream. Right?" She did not seem confident in her answer.

   Hakam probed further. "You were in this room before I even evoked a light."

   "I am swift on my feet, and I can see in the dark. I did not mean any harm by it." She looked nervous at Hakam's questioning.

   "Let us get back to our watch," said Belvin.

~~~~

During the second watch, Solisar and Kytharrah were on duty. Kytharrah was certain that he could smell more of the deinonychuses in the area. He nodded to Solisar, pointed to the west of the hill, and drew his axe.

   "Use your words, Kytharrah," said Solisar, echoing what Ilthian used to say to their friendly beast.

   "Smell," said Kytharrah, and he gestured for Solisar to keep back a bit for his safety.

   Both of them could now hear the noise of movement to the west, at the base of the hill outside the fence. The minotaur suspected that it was about 50 feet away.

   They never saw the animal. The creature seemed to be moving around for a half hour, never straying far or getting much closer than the bottom of the hill. Then, they heard a soft thud and no more.

   Near the end of the watch, Sofi came outside. She asked Solisar how the night watch was going, and he described what they had heard. During his report, Kytharrah shuffled back over to them.

   Sofi nodded. "One of the hardest things to get used to when I first moved to these islands was all the noises at night. It was nothing at all like the sounds of the city or even of the forests of the Outlands, where I lived for a short time. I am more used to it now, and I have perfected my skills at meditation through any distractions, but I still do not ever feel safe sleeping for long. There is less a chance of some predator finding me in the night that way."

   "That is a wise choice," said Solisar, "but a tiring one when alone."

   "Chant is that Pistis Sophia promises that those who are tired will find rest, and I have found it to be literally true in my case."

   It was not just talk; Sofi had only had about four hours of sleep — and that disturbed by Szordrin's nightmare — but she did not return to the house to sleep again.

   When the shift was ending, Solisar shared with her how he could relate. "I spent nearly a decade living alone on the Great Glacier in the north of my planet Toril, so I know how you feel about sleeping. Elves naturally need less rest than humans do, but I also wear this magic ring, which permits me to subsist with even fewer hours."

   She smiled at his understanding.

   "I grew accustomed to trancing in the extradimensional space that I mentioned earlier. Have you ever been in one? It is strange to experience for the first time. I still remember the first time that I entered one as a young elf. You always must be careful, however; you cannot bring any extradimensional containers with you. Leokas, for example, cannot climb the rope with his magic quiver."

   "I have nothing but this mug, and it is not magical."

   "I know," said Solisar with a smile. "It was just a warning for the future."

   Sofi was delighted to climb the rope after him and observe the strange other-reality of the empty white space at the top.

   "Does it end? Or does it go on forever?" she asked.

   "It wraps around on itself," he explained. "If you keep walking one direction far enough, you will come back to where you started from the opposite direction. Kytharrah always enjoys running as fast as he can until he comes back to us again. Try it out."

   "I think that I shall take your word for it," she replied.

~~~~

Szordrin and Hakam were to take the third shift.

   Sofi was outside with Kytharrah, stroking Kamil's hair when Solisar woke the cleric and wizard. The sun elf departed to prepare his spells for the day.

   "Good morning," said Sofi, when Szordrin and Hakam stepped outside. Other than that, she let the two men do their job and remained with the animals or sitting next to Kytharrah as he slept. The minotaur seemed to take comfort in her nearness and moved his big head closer to her.

   The third shift passed without incident, and, as dawn came, everyone gathered with anticipation in the kitchen. Solisar stood over the box on the table and simply commanded it to unlock with a single word in an ancient Elven tongue.

   He raised the lid effortlessly.

   The box was full of letters.
Session: 116th Game Session - Tuesday, Jul 28 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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La città perduta
Proseguendo nelle profondità delle rovine, lo sparuto gruppetto di avventurieri rinviene una scalinata che sembra condurre nelle viscere della terra. Scesi per quello che sembrava un'eternità, sentono i gradini ritrarsi sotto i propri piedi e precipitano nelle tenebre: ritornati a vedere, davanti ai loro occhi si manifesta lo spettacolo di una città in pietra apparentemente in stato di abbandono. Dopo non molto si presenta loro una figura incappucciata con il resto del gruppo, che si presenta come Nereia, membro di una razza di esseri immortali conosciuti come Iolth, nonché loro attuale datore di lavoro: li aveva infatti ingaggiati in realtà per ritrovare uno di loro, una ragazza di nome Maquia, rapita da un malvagio al comando di uno stormo di viverne, Mezarte. Dietro la promessa del pagamento di una decina di metri di hibiol (tessuti di pregiatissima fattura in cui gli Iolth registrano il sapere del mondo), il gruppo si avventura nel labirinto alla ricerca della fanciulla.
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Onran's Dwelling
Solisar was warned by Belvin to be wary of traps as he walked up the hill to the fence gate. From the back of Kamil, the druid now looked past the wizard at the giant crystal. He agreed with Leokas' earlier assessment. "Like in Samber's mine," said Belvin.

   Szordrin carefully examined the area for traps and did not find any signs of them. He also enspelled his eyes to detect anything invisible but saw nothing amiss. They opened the gate. The gravel path forked at the gate and led to the house on the right and to what they soon realized was a severely overgrown garden.

   "We may have to look out for other plant-based guardians," warned Belvin.

   "It is not like my master to have such dangerous guardians," said Szordrin. "His chosen defenses were always illusions and hiding well, not summoned or conjured monsters. Planting a carnivorous plant on his property would be fully out of character. I doubt that he was to blame for the yellow musk creeper."

   "For what it is worth, I see nothing magical in the vicinity beyond the giant crystal pillar," said Solisar. Solisar did not see any aura on the omlar crystal pillar itself, but he could see strands of the Weave stretching in all directions above and around them, convincing him that this was indeed the origin of the powerful illusory effect surrounding this part of the island.

   The garden would have been 25 feet wide and twice that length. Belvin cautiously moved forward and determined that it still had carrots, potatoes, green beans, and other vegetables — all plants that a human might grow for food — growing among the jungle ferns and bushes that had taken over the rich soil.

   West of the garden was a well, still full of water. Next to it sat a plow, its wood now rotted. South of the garden was the remains of a simple bench.

   The house itself was roughly square, only about 30 feet to a side. It had a thatched roof and a chimney. A tiny structure was also east of the house with a single door. The roof on the west side of the house overhung a narrow stretch of ground and sheltered the stone steps up to the main door. There was a back door on the east as well.

   They cautiously peeked into the windows all around the house. Most of them still had glass, but inside, the house seemed to be in chaos. Solisar first peeked through one of the western windows into a rectangular room. There was a bed frame and mattress and an open wardrobe, but everything was a mess. The bed was half off the frame, and a pile of books were strewn on the floor. This seemed to be more than just the results of five years of no inhabitants; someone had tossed things around, searching for something.

   "Szordrin, have you checked for traps at the front door?" asked Hakam.

   Szordrin did so, not finding anything suspicious.

   As Kytharrah sniffed the air; all he sensed was decaying wood.

   Leokas, however, crouching low to the ground at the base of the stone steps, claimed to recognize a footprint. "A giant cat stepped here," he said.

   "How long ago?" asked Hakam.

   "I cannot say. It could have been years. Tymora smiled upon us by placing this overhang above the steps, else the nightly rains would have washed the print away in a day or two."

   Kytharrah sniffed no lingering smell, confirming that the print was very old.

   Through the north windows, Hakam saw an overturned wooden washtub and a flattened, empty sack in the entry room after the front door. In the next room over, moving east, he saw a broken chair, a desk, two empty bookshelves, and more books scattered about. It looked like all the books had been tossed from the shelves.

   He returned to the others standing near the front door. "It all seems fairly mundane to me," said Hakam.

   Solisar agreed. He still did not detect any magic, having wandered along the south side to the east. He opened the back door, which was unlocked. The door opened into a fifteen-by-twenty room. A large amount of dark mold grew at the base of the door. This seemed to be a kitchen. There was a small table with two chairs to the left and a stool sitting beside a cooking fireplace of stone to the right. In the southwest and southeast corners were an overturned and shattered clay vase and a broken wooden barrel, respectively.

   Following Solisar's lead, Kytharrah opened the door to the tiny shack east of the house. It was clearly an outhouse, but it had been so long since it had been used that even his minotaur nose had not noticed the scent.

   Belvin hitched Kamil to the post supporting the roof overhang, and the others came in through the unlocked front door one-by-one, with Hakam leading the way.

   The cleric stooped down to look at the sack. It had been ripped open, and any food that once had been stored within was completely gone. He found evidence of both piercing — perhaps by small teeth — and slashing — whether by blade or by claw he could not tell.

   Belvin passed him and stepped out of the room to the southeast. There was an open closet door to his right. Within was a large wooden chest. It had been smashed open. It was empty.

   Szordrin walked by Belvin, briefly moved into the kitchen where he saw Solisar, and then stepped north into a small ten-by-fifteen room. He realized that he was in his former master's study. The broken chair that Hakam had earlier seen through the window had definitely been smashed apart intentionally. Books were all over the floor. He bent down to pick one up. It was decayed beyond readability, its pages eaten apart by mold. He began looking over all of them, hoping to find some clue to his master's past, but each one was in a similar state of decay.

   Sofi stepped into the kitchen with Solisar. He was examining the stool by the fireplace. The padded seat had been slashed, and all the stuffing had been pulled out and searched.

   "What berk would do this to someone's case like this?" said Sofi.

   Belvin approached the kitchen table. On the floor underneath it, he found a small booklet. When Solisar turned to look, he told the druid that the booklet had a very faint aura upon it. Unlike the other books in the house, this one was in perfect condition, likely protected from decay by a simple arcane cantrip. It was a catalog for the Interlink Consortium of Bral.

   Hakam entered the kitchen and then passed into the remaining room in the southwest, the bedroom with the displaced mattress. The wardrobe was empty of any clothes.

   Sofi stepped into Onran's old study to find Szordrin looking at the desk. There were scattered pieces of parchment scattered over its surface in a disorganized fashion. Szordrin was holding a picture frame. It was a charcoal portrait of a woman with dark hair held up in a bun. At the bottom of the drawing were etched the words "My beloved bride, 1335 – 1338".

   "She is beautiful," said Sofi from behind him.

   Szordrin set the picture frame carefully down. He did not recognize the woman. He had not even known that his master had ever been married. He had always sensed that Onran's past was too difficult for him to share.

   Belvin had also entered the room. He picked up the portrait that Szordrin had set down and examined it, while the tiefling wizard searched among the scattered notes on the desk. Most were moldy and hard to read, but a few were still legible. One of them was a formal thank you letter from an orphanage in Cormyr. Onran, it seemed, had donated a large sum of money to the charity. This was not the only such thank you letter on the desk; there were a few.

   There was also a receipt. He carried this and some of the more-legible letters out to the others. "I found some interesting things," he said.

   The group passed around the items and discussed them.

   The receipt was from the Interlink Consortium, regarding the purchase of a "runestaff of passage" for a large sum of Lantanna trade bars on the seventeenth of Ches in the Year of the Turret. It had been shipped here to Kaw-chi-wee-tee-tee.

   "Onran was only married for three years," said Solisar, indicating the years on the portrait that Belvin held.

   "Unless she was three years old," said Hakam, "like Samber's creations. Does anyone remember any of the constructs on his island looking like the woman in the portrait?"

   None of them did.

   "Which year is this on the letter and the receipt?" asked Szordrin.

   "The Year of the Turret?" Solisar replied. "That was the year that the Tuigan Horde was defeated by the alliance of King Azoun IV of Cormyr, 1360 in the Dalereckoning."

   Most of them remembered the event, when a horde of barbarians on horseback invaded interior Faerûn from the wastelands in the east. The king of Cormyr had gathered an army from nations all over the continent to repel the invaders. This all happened a bit more than a decade ago.

   "This woman died decades before the runestaff was purchased," said Solisar, "unless the numbers on the portrait are not in the Dalereckoning."

   "'Kevrin Greenbrook'," Hakam read from the thank you letter. "He was not a Calishite, but 'Saint Fanal' may have been a Calishite saint of Ilmater. Szordrin, which deity did your master revere?"

   "He worshiped Celestian, a god from one of the other crystal spheres," said Szrodrin.

   "So, not Ilmater then." Hakam flipped through some of the other letter fragments. "These all seem to be donations to orphanages."

   "Onran was always helping out various street urchins in Guallidurth," said Szordrin. "He was the most charitable, generous person whom I ever met."

   "If Onran is indeed the 'Ronan' from Jayce's stories about Samber's childhood," said Hakam, "he was himself adopted, by gnomes, if I remember correctly."

   Hakam then opened the back of the picture frame to see if anything was written on the back of the portrait, but he found only blank canvas.

   Meanwhile, Ferry, whom Szordrin had set loose to explore the house on his own, scurried up his master's robes to his shoulder and chirped into his ear.

   "Ferry may have found something in the bedroom, when he was searching under the bed," Szordrin translated. "He says that the bed was slashed open with big claws."

   Leokas led the way into the bedroom and flipped over the mattress. There were indeed clear claw marks where the mattress had been slashed. "Claws, once again," said Leokas. "Probably the same creature that left a print by the door."

   Belvin agreed. "Definitely a feline, not a canine."

   Solisar asked, "Szordrin's ancestry includes a rakshasa, does it not? Could the prints be from a rakshasa? In other words, was Onran attacked because he helped Szordrin?"

   "I do not know enough about rakshasa feet to distinguish its prints from those of a weretiger or even a normal tiger," Leokas replied.

   "I do not know about rakshasa feet either," said Solisar, "but I do know about their hands. All legends of rakshasa that I have heard describe them as having 'backwards' hands. Their palms face out not in; the thumbs are on the opposite side of where they should be."

   Hearing this, Belvin examined the claw marks more closely. He grunted, impressed at Solisar's theory. "You are correct. This creature's thumb claws are on the wrong side. See, these lower claw marks would have been the thumb claws."

   Like every other container in the whole house, the mattress had been opened and searched.

   "What else do we know about rakshasa's?" asked Leokas.

   "They are malicious, fiendish entities, like demons or devils," said Szordrin, "yet distinct from either. They do not reside on the Lower Planes but instead inhabit the Material Plane where they scheme and plot evil from the background. They are immortal beings; if one is killed, it simply reincarnates in a new rakshasa body. They are also skilled shapeshifters."

   At these words, Hakam gave Sofi a suspicious look. Too often they had been fooled by shapeshifting fiends. She was definitely not chaotic, but neither were rakshasas. She was looking at Szordrin with concern in her expression and did not notice the cleric's glance. However, he had not prepared any spell to detect evil this day. That concern would have to wait.

   Instead, Hakam prayed for the ability to detect secret doors. He saw no auras in the bedroom, but when he turned back into the kitchen, he immediately sensed the presence of one. A moment later the base of the fireplace began to glow.

   "Onran has a secret room underneath the hearth," he said, and the others gathered with him back in the kitchen with interest.

   Shortly thereafter, the spell revealed a firebrick in the back of the firebox that served as the release for the secret door.

   "I can see the stone that opens it as well," said Hakam, "but I want to scan outside by the well first, before my spell runs out. Perhaps we missed something outside."

   They all followed him outside. The outhouse was just a normal outhouse, the well was just a normal well, and there were no auras from the garden, but as they walked around the grounds a second time, they noticed another overgrown path leading from north of the house, through some thick trees, and down the other side of the hill. Once at the trees, they could look down on a small clearing, with a large wooden platform erected there, still within the confines of the fence.

   They hacked their way through the underbrush and came to the platform. It was collapsed and rotted, but something large and wooden had once sat atop it. The remains were broken apart and burned. Kytharrah and Leokas each found some glass on the platform. Belvin found what seemed to be a scorched chair buried underneath some other wooden debris.

   "This chair seemed to have resisted the fire," said Belvin.

   "It is not magical," said Solisar, "at least not anymore."

   "But it has runes carved into it," said Szordrin. "See? Here and here. This was a spelljamming helm once."

   "I think that you are correct in your assessment," said Solisar. "This was probably the landing platform for a small spelljammer, like a mosquito or wasp."

   "I doubt that there is anything else to discover here," said Hakam. "Let us go explore the secret chamber beneath the fireplace."

   Back in the house, they stood around him as Hakam pressed the firebrick in the back of the fireplace. The stone slid back without great difficulty, and there was a clicking sound. They then found that the whole base of the fireplace was on a pivot, and they were able to rotate it out from the wall, swinging clockwise, which revealed a narrow and steep set of stairs underneath.

   At the bottom of the stairs — more of a ladder really — was a very tiny room, a storage chamber. Hakam lit up his shield, and light filled the room. The room was full of a bunch of items, and unlike everything above in the house, none of these items seemed to have been touched; all were arranged neatly around the walls. Leokas checked for rakshasa footprints on the steps and found none.

   Szordrin wondered aloud. "If they searched the house so thoroughly, how did they miss this room?"

   "It was an impressively hidden secret door," said Belvin. "I searched the area by the fireplace and never noticed the trigger."

   Szordrin looked back at Sofi, who stood back on the steps out of the way. She seemed intrigued by their discoveries, but he could not read anything else in her expression. (Kytharrah was too big to fit in the room and waited at the top as well.)

   Among the items on the floor, there was a set of leather bracers. Solisar indicated that they had a very similar aura to the magical bracers of armor that some of them wore.

   There were a pair of high boots made from deep red leather with brilliant copper-colored leather soles. They looked very comfortable. Solisar described them as having a moderate conjuration aura.

   Next was a tricorne hat with a single feather. This glowed with a faint illusion aura.

   There were three potion vials and three arcane scrolls, all with auras from varying schools of magic. Solisar unrolled the scrolls quickly to check how many were written upon each. One scroll had a particularly strong aura but only a single spell. The other two scrolls had a few weaker spells each.

   He set the scrolls down as Szordrin picked up the remaining item in the storage room, a small, ornate box made of reddish wood with golden metal pieces at its corners and edges. It was held shut with two golden clasps and locked with a series of eight combination dials in two columns on the front of the box. Carved into the box were intricate feather designs. The entire box glowed with a faint abjuration aura.

   "Solisar, can you read the symbols on the dials?"

   "They look familiar," replied the sun elf. "I believe them to be Aarakocra numerals. In fact, I am certain that many of these symbols are on the address slates. My studies of the language before we came here to Coliar involved the use of Iokharic, the Draconic script, to write the language, but I also learned that the aarakocra have their own system of numerals distinct from those of the dragons. I learned how to speak the numbers from one to twenty and words such as 'hundred' and 'thousand', but I never had the time to learn their numerical or mathematical systems."

   Leaving the other items in the storage room for now, they took the small box upstairs and set it on the kitchen table and stood or sat around it trying to figure out a way to get it open.

   Belvin was the first to suggest a solution. "The two sets of dials are the two years on the portrait," he stated.

   "Let me try to simply pick the locks first," said Szordrin. However, despite his best efforts, he could not feel any catches in the rotation of the dials that would allow him to crack the code.

   He set the box back down on the table. "Onran lived simply," he said, "but if he needed something, he always found the best."

   "I think that Belvin's guess is the correct one," said Solisar. "The years of their marriage — or her life, if Hakam is correct that she was one of Samber's constructs — are the numbers at which to set the dials, but I do not know which numerals on the dials are which."

   "We can probably assume that they go from 1 to 8," said Hakam.

   "But which is 1?" asked Szordrin.

   "It might not matter," said Hakam. "If we arbitrarily chose one as 1 and it fails to open, we simply rotate all of them by one and try again."

   "That is a lot of combinations?" said Szordrin.

   "Is it not only eight to try?"

   "Do any of you have a spell to read languages prepared?" asked Szordrin. None of them did.

   "All the dials are currently set to the same character," said Solisar. "Typically, people would set the dials all to 1 or to 8, so we would have even fewer combinations to try."

   "I do not think that you are correct, Solisar," said Belvin. "I think that the simplest of the characters must be 1. In which case, all of the dials are currently set on 7. They become more complicated as you move counterclockwise."

   Szordrin agreed. "You are right. There is a pattern in the characters. In nearly all cases, the characters across from each other share strokes; they correlate somehow. If this is three here, than directly across from it has the same strokes plus this additional arc."

   "Yes," said Solisar, "and they grow more complex after this point. One stroke, two strokes, three strokes. Then it changes to an arc here — so that is an exception — and then you add one stroke, two strokes, and three strokes again."

   "There are two single stroke characters, though," said Hakam. "One horizontal and one vertical."

   "It is not 1 to 8;" said Szordrin, "it must be 0 to 7."

   "Ah, so the flat bar is zero," said Hakam.

   "Yes," said Solisar, "and then it counts one stroke for 1, two strokes for 2, three strokes for 3. 4 then has its own special character, and after that you simply add the character for 1, 2, or 3 to the character for 4 to get up to 7."

   Convinced that they were ready to turn the dials, Szordrin asked Solisar to read off the numerals in the years on the portrait.

   "Ah, there is still a problem," said the sun elf. "One of the digits in the years is an 8."

   "Oh," said Hakam, sounding mildly defeated.

   There was a period of silence, as they considered other options.

   There was a small crash from one of the other rooms, as Kytharrah accidentally knocked something over while trying to allay his boredom. Sofi went to check on him, but he had only broken the door off the wardrobe.

   "What if we simply assume that that is an 8, not a zero?" suggested Szordrin.

   "Can we convert these four digit years somehow to only go up to 7?" asked Hakam. "What if we subtract 1 from all of the digits?"

   "That would give us 0224 and 0227," said Solisar, "but we have the same problem of not knowing whether that horizontal bar is a 0 or an 8. Szordrin's suggestion is a simpler solution."

   Another long pause. Solisar appeared to be doing some complicated calculations in his head.

   "The aarakocra keep time differently than on Toril, correct?" said Szordrin.

   "Yes," said Hakam, "they do not count hours; they use 'light calls' instead, eight or sixteen, depending on whether they count the 'growing' and 'shrinking' segments of brightness. And they use eightdays instead of tendays."

   "They may not count in the same way as us at all," said Szordrin excitedly. "We need another digit when we get to ten, but perhaps they switch to two digits when they get to eight. Solisar, can you count to twenty in Aarakocra for us?"

   Solisar did so. "Tee, chih, seh, kaw, doh, ler, hoo, oot, teet, and chit is ten; set, kat, doht, lert, hoot, ooch, teech, chich, sech, and kach is twenty."

   Szordrin asked him to repeat a few of the numbers. "Yes," he said, "all of the numbers between eight and fifteen end in a 'tuh' sound. All of the numbers from sixteen on end in a 'chuh' sound."

   "I think that you are correct," said Solisar.

   "Of course," said Belvin. "They effectively have eight fingers, remember? What would be the bones of our littlest fingers are part of their wing; they cannot use them like true fingers. They can only count to eight on their fingers, not ten."

   "The characters also look like abstract bird feet, now that you say that," said Solisar.

   "Yes," said Hakam, "three fingers and a thumb. The thumb is the arc used for 4."

   "In that case," said Solisar, "if I did the calculations correctly in my head, the series of digits that we want are actually 2467 and 2472."

   "Is that not six years instead of four, like on the portrait?" asked Sofi, who was confused by this complicated math.

   "It is still four years," explained Solisar, "but counting works differently. 2467 is the first year, but there can be no 2468, because there is no 8 numeral. So the next digit switches back to 0 and the one next to it moves up to 7 from 6, just like we would go from 69 to 70 because there is no special numeral for any numeral after 9. So, the four years are 2467, 2470, 2471, and 2472."

   "Barmy," said Sofi.

   "Let us try it out," said Szordrin.

   He set the top left dial to the vee-shaped character that they suspected was the numeral 2. The dial below that he set to the arc that they thought represented 4, and so on, until all eight dials were set, with 2467 down the left side and 2472 down the right side.

   He pressed the releases at each of the two clasps, and they did not move.

   "Flip the orientation, going up," said Solisar.

   Szordrin did so, and the box still remained locked.

   "Let us try shifting all the numerals by one, as I suggested earlier," said Hakam.

   "No, of course, I should have considered this at first," said Solisar. "Their language is written from right to left and bottom to top. Swap the numbers on the two sets of dials."

   At last, when Szordrin set the dials and pressed the releases, the clasps popped open with two clicks. They all smiled at their victory.

   However, when Szordrin tried to lift the cover open, it did not budge.

   There was a collective sigh in the room.

   "It is likely additionally sealed with an arcane lock," said Solisar. "That would explain the abjuration aura on the box."

   "I will try to dispel the magic," said Hakam.

   "Let me pray for Thard Harr's guidance over you first," said Belvin.

   Neither Hakam nor Solisar could overcome the magic that held the box sealed, however.

   "Is it impossible to open, then?" asked Leokas.

   "No, but we will need to wait until the morning," said Solisar. "We will all prepare spells specific for unlocking items. I am certain that we will be able to determine its contents tomorrow. We are so close."
Session: 115th Game Session - Tuesday, Jul 21 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Yellow Musk Spores
"No time to explain! Cover your mouths!"

   Sofi heard Belvin's warning, so as she rushed to the northwest, she did so with her left hand over her mouth. She sprinted along the overgrown gravel path toward the limping dinosaur that Kytharrah had just struck. Jumping into the air, she kicked high with her left foot. The raptor's head snapped back with a loud crack. As it wobbled and fell to the ground, she punched it on the side of its face with her right fist for good measure.

   "Stay away once you have taken one out!" Belvin called again in warning.

   She nodded, her hand still covering her mouth and nose.

   Hakam and Solisar followed behind her, squeezing between the fallen tree over the path where it had split apart. The cleric called out a quick prayer and touched the phylactery upon his forehead, and a shimmering field of magic appeared around him. Solisar continued past him and could now see the hill beyond. It had a simple house built upon it, surrounded by a fence.

   Belvin continued to shout out warnings and updates. "Another two are coming from the north!"

   Solisar saw one of the two animals. It leapt the fence around the house on the hill and came running down. He waved his wand and saw the beast struck by an invisible force, but it kept on running on its bird-like legs. Kytharrah ran back through the air, swinging from behind the creature to sever its feathered tail. A moment later, Sofi knocked it to the ground with a roundhouse kick to the right side of its head. It raised its head one and hissed, but she dropped to her knees and punched it. It did not raise its head again.

   Szordrin seemed to feel fine after sneezing earlier. As he floated above the deinonychus that was striving and failing to jump up and pull him from the air, he removed a flask of oleum from his potion belt and began to prepare the fuse.

   Kamil cleared the trees and bushes that were blocking the view, and Belvin could now see the house on the hill as well. Leokas followed behind them, vaulting over the fallen tree, landing, and nocking an arrow for whatever might burst from the bushes into view. At the tail end came Hakam, at last seeing the hill that all the others could see. He also spotted the second dinosaur about which Belvin had warned, and a beam of searing light blasted from his palm through all the branches and leaves and struck the animal some 50 yards away.

   Belvin targeted the same dinosaur and called down holy fire from the sky to burn it to ashes in a matter of seconds.

   Szordrin also dropped fire of a kind, though not with as satisfactory a result. His flask of black, oily liquid broke upon the back of the jumping deinonychus and ignited with a flash, searing off the few feathers remaining on the zombie-like creature. The creature's skin, however, did not ignite, and with another attempt, it leapt up yet again. This time, it made it higher into the air. Its jaws clamped down on Szordrin's right leg, and its teeth punctured the soft leather of his boot. The weight of the ten-foot-long dinosaur drew Szordrin out of the air toward the ground. As they fell, the creature slashed about wildly with its claws and the razor-sharp toe claw on its lower talons as its jaws still held fast. The mage's mithral shirt deflected its claws, and its talons missed, as Szordrin thrashed about. He kicked it in the head and freed himself. The magic from his flying spell carried him back higher into the air, and the dinosaur fell prone to the ground. As the dinosaur tried to get back to its feet, it was knocked back down by the force of two magic missiles from Solisar striking it in the legs. It raised its head one last time, just high enough for Leokas to pierce it with an arrow.

   "We need to burn all the bodies!" said Belvin, as the last dinosaur fell. "They were not undead; they were infected by yellow musk spores. We have to burn anything with spores."

   As if on cue, suddenly a number of thick vines whipped up from the jungle floor and snapped violently at Solisar. His magical force shield darted back and forth to defend him, but several blows got through, nearly knocking him senseless.

   Kytharrah's eyes followed the vines back toward a large, bush-like plant. It had large leaves and beautiful yellow flowers with purple specks. He stepped forward on air and began hacking at the base of the green tendrils, where they seemed to emerge from the plant.

   Sofi positioned herself just outside the reach of the nearest tendrils. "What do I do?" she bemoaned. "I do not know how to kick a plant!"

   "Keep away from it!" warned Belvin again.

   "Watch me destroy it," said Szordrin, as he reached into his spell component pouch, but Hakam was a moment faster and called down fire while clutching his holy symbol. The yellow-flowered plant burst into sudden flame. Its leaves and flowers sizzled and shriveled as they burned up over the next several seconds, and the writhing vines grew still.

   Belvin did not seem confident that the plant was dead. He yelled at it in Druidic, ordering it not to move.

   "Did it not die?" asked Szordrin, as he pointed at the burning ball that he had summoned and directed it toward the corpse of the deinonychus that had bitten him. At least he could burn up one of the corpses.

   "I would continue to keep your mouths covered, if I were you," replied Belvin, as Solisar emptied the contents of a healing potion into his mouth and felt his bruised body refresh. Leokas nocked an arrow and glanced around nervously.

   Kytharrah looked down at the ground. Where he had severed the vines, he noticed tiny shoots budding out of the plant flesh of the tendrils at the point where he had hacked them apart. He had never seen a plant growing so fast. He swung at them again. Then he began slashing at the bush itself, sending shriveled leaves and flowers everywhere. He then bent low and gored the thick, woody trunk of the plant.

   "Keep your distance, Kytharrah!" said Belvin.

   "How do you kill it?" asked Solisar.

   "We need to scorch it," said Belvin. "All of it, so that nothing remains at all. Even the smallest root can begin to grow back."

   "How can a plant grow so quickly?" asked Sofi.

   Hakam came up to Solisar and laid his hands on him. All of the pain left the sun elf's body. "Cannot one of you nature folk start a bonfire?" the cleric then asked.

   "It will be difficult to start a natural fire with all of this moisture," said Belvin. "We are in a rain forest after all, but I do have one idea." The wild elf closed his eyes and began chanting softly and raised his arms to the sky.

   "I am out of fire magic," said Hakam. "I am sure that Leokas would accept the challenge. Leokas?"

   The wood elf was no longer standing nearby, having followed the path up the hill to a large gate.

   "I have a few more fire spells at my disposal," said Szordrin, and he pointed at the remains of the plant, as tiny shoots began poking out of the stump and opening into little leaves. Out of all of the root fragments scattered about from Kytharrah's hacking, little buds were emerging. A flash of fire exploded outward, engulfing the plant just shy of where the others were standing. All of the little growths were annihilated by the blast, but within about ten seconds, once the steam from the explosion had dissipated, they spotted here a fresh growth and there another. Soon, tiny plants were sprouting from the scorched plant material all around them.

   Solisar thought it best to get away from the vines — hacked up though they were — that could have pummeled him to unconsciousness, and followed up the hill toward Leokas.

   "We need you to start a fire," Solisar said to the wood elf. "We no longer have fire spells. What do you see?"

   Leokas vaulted over the fence with his hands. He was looking toward an enormous pillar of dark-green crystal, embedded in the soil and supported by a ring of stones. It had clearly been erected here; it was not a natural rock growth. It was four-feet thick and ten-feet tall. "I may be wrong, but I suspect that we have found another Omlar gem!"

   "It is the center of the illusory field," said Hakam.

   Kytharrah snorted loudly, trying to get the others to pay attention again to the plant that was growing more and more shoots and tiny tendrils with every second.

   "Where did that cloud come from?" asked Sofi. A small dark storm cloud was now hovering some ten yards above them. Belvin yelled out something, and a flash of lightning struck down from the cloud. Some of the little plants drooped over and were stilled... but only for several moments. New ones sprung up immediately after.

   Kytharrah, frustrated, went at it at the tree again, this time striking the remains of the central stump, until it was in several fragments. He cut into the ground with his axe, digging up every shallow root that he could find and churning up the soil.

   "Stop chopping them up!" said Hakam. "You are going to make it worse."

   The minotaur obeyed and stopped.

   Szordrin followed with a final blaze of fire, but he failed to engulf all of the growing plantlets now scattered all about.

   "What is an Omlar gem?" asked Sofi, as Leokas passed her on his way to the decimated yet still living plant.

   "I shall explain later," said Leokas. "For now, it looks like someone needs to make a proper campfire."

~~~~

Leokas gave everyone orders to search for the driest wood that they could. They began kicking all the chopped up plant parts into a central pile, and Leokas surrounded it with small stones. Then he began arranging sticks around it. Sofi seemed impressed with how much care he put into building the fire, having never seen the ranger at work before. It was a long process, but during the time needed to build the fire, Belvin continued to call down bolts of lightning on the largest plantlets every minute or so, preventing any from growing too large.

   Only when Leokas was satisfied with the bonfire's construction did he use his flint to ignite the wood. It only took a single spark.

   Belvin approached Szordrin and neutralized any potential poison with a prayer to Thard Harr.

   "I felt no ill effects," said Szordrin.

   "I heard you sneeze. Did you smell a musky odor? If so, than its spores may have gotten into your system."

   "It can take days for one to become infected by diseases," said Leokas. "I imagine it is the same for a natural spore taking over one's brain."

   "Is it a disease, or a curse?" asked Hakam.

   "I do not fully know how it works," said Belvin, "but if it were a curse, I suspect that your divine magic would have done more harm to the zombies. All I know is that the spores take over the infected creature and cause it to care for nothing but protecting the parent plant."

   Once the fire was ablaze, they ensured that every last scrap from the plant was thrown in. Kytharrah used his axe like a shovel to toss in dirt that might contain the smallest bits. They also recovered the mushy, yellowed bodies of the six deinonychuses that had not already been burned by other means. Their open wounds revealed plant matter and what looked like vines growing within what should have been reptilian flesh. From the heads of a few of them, small plants had already burst from the skulls, each with tiny tendrils that were slithering around looking for a surface to which to cling. These were all tossed onto the fire.

   Curious, Szordrin held one final root fragment with a growing shoot and pierced it with his dagger of venom. The little shoot still wiggled like a worm. Frustrated, the tiefling wizard cast it into the fire.
Session: 115th Game Session - Tuesday, Jul 21 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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