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Chapter 7 — First Confrontation
"Wake up! It's Samber!"

   The figure raised his hand, palm forward, and shouted, "An o stobadh!" Then, the cloaked form moved so quickly that it appeared as a blur. It moved the sixty feet to Leokas, passed behind him, and then could be seen in the elf's peripheral vision. Before any of them had even sat up all the way, before Leokas could even turn his head to get a better look, they all heard an extremely high-pitched voice that sounded like a rat or a berrygobbler. Leokas saw a rip in the fabric of space open up just at the base of the hill, and he was gazing at stars. He knew he was trying to move, but it was as if time were moving slowly for him.

   More strange squeaks came from the person behind him, and all of them felt themselves falling, sideways, toward the opened gate hovering in the air, as if gravity itself had been altered. Mythlos frantically reached out to grab onto anything, but his bag of holding thumped him in the chest, and he and the sack slid off the floor of the gazebo and tumbled through the air into the opening and vanished. Kamil nuzzed and thrashed, nearly kicking Belvin in the head, as the poor camel joined Mythlos in his fate. Stormshadow followed, barking loudly. Even the armored guards from the castle fell from their posts toward the rift; however, they did not pass through. Instead, several of them seemed suspended in the air on the back side of the opening.

   Cassiera yelled out as she fell sideways, twisting in the air and grabbing hold of the nearest thing she could reach, as her bag of holding plummeted away. She caught hold of Hakam's ankle. He was floating slowly, parallel to the ground, away from the gazebo, as his ring of feather falling slowed his fall towards the fissure. Leokas found himself hanging from one of the columns of the gazebo, which from his perspective was now horizontal. He glanced around quickly. Looking "down" he could no longer see stars through the rift, only darkness. Twigs and pebbles and leaves were flying, falling, all around him. He saw Hakam floating slowly toward the magic hole, with Cassiera hanging from his leg. "It's freezing!" she called out. Szordrin was trying to prevent himself from falling between two of the columns. Belvin, strangely, was suspended, looking like he was hanging by his leg from an invisible rope. "How? What? Why?" the wild elf was mumbling in Elven.

   Just over the top — or side — of the pillar from which he was hanging, Leokas could see Samber, in his maroon cloak. He had three limbs in contact with the ground, sticking to it like glue so that he was not falling. With his free arm, he held onto Ilthian by her wrist, as she dangled sideways through the air.

   "Are you... the Maker?" she asked. "What is happening?"

   Hakam shouted out and held up his hand as he floated farther and farther away. A beam of searingly bright radiance shot from the cleric's open palm, and the ray struck Samber in the chest, enveloping him in light as bright as the sun. Samber gasped out and dropped Ilthian. She fell like a stone and plummeted directly toward Hakam. In a moment of rare agility on his part, he caught her. Moments later, the Calishite and the two women vanished from within the dome.

   Leokas took this opportunity to pull himself up atop the pillar in a feat of strength to balance precariously along its length. Samber glanced over at him, but a ray of fire shot from Szordrin's magic wand. The fire, however, seemed to pass completely around Samber's form, not affecting him at all. Then Szordrin slipped between the two columns. He caught himself again, hanging with one hand on each and using all of his strength to not plummet.

   With Samber distracted by Szordrin's attack, Leokas leapt from the pillar onto Samber's back, pinning the latter's arms in a tight hold so he couldn't use them to cast any more spells. "Toras gné!" Samber shouted, and the man vanished from within Leokas' grasp. Leokas now fell through the air, but he flipped himself around like a cat to fall feet first, kicked himself from the floor of the gazebo — which to him was a wall — and landed on one of the far columns. He wobbled but managed to maintain his balance. Unfortunately, he also stepped on Szordrin's hand.

   Szordrin cried out on pain. He could not hold himself up with only one hand, and he started slipping. As he fell, he shouted out, "If we go down, we are taking your secrets with us!" and he took one parting shot at Samber, who was now "standing" on the ground near Belvin. Once again, his aim was true, but the blast of fire from the wand simply passed around Samber, and the tiefling wizard fell through the fissure.

   "Why are you here, druid?" said Samber. "Why have you followed me? What do you plan to do?

   "I was sent by my god," Belvin answered. "I do not yet know why."

   Samber began chanting in another tongue for several seconds and then touched the stump of Belvin's hanging arm, as he dangled sideways. "Perhaps this will make you think differently of me," he said. Belvin felt a pleasant tingling sensation, as a white energy flowed from Samber's fingertips.

   "Now, farewell!" Instantly, Belvin dropped, shooting head-first through the air toward the rift.

   Now only Leokas remained. He jumped from one pillar to the next, just in time to see his friend fall. Now he balanced deftly and removed his darkwood bow from his shoulders and drew an arrow, but he did not shoot.

   "You are impressively agile, elf!" Samber called up, as he stuck firmly to the ground.

   "You must cease what you are doing here!" Leokas called back.

   "By whose authority?"

   "They sent me back from the grave to stop your meddling."

   "Why? What right do the gods have to stop me?"

   "They created us; they know what is best for their creations!"

   "Likewise, I know what is best for mine," said Samber.

   With that, he simply pointed a finger at Leokas, and everything went black.
Session: 60th Game Session - Monday, Oct 19 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 7 — The Dome
"'...None of them were sailors, and the wild elf was not with them, so I can only imagine that there are even more. I must rise and figure out how to deal with them. Samber.'

   "That's the last page in 'writing language'," said Ilthian. "I cannot read the other page."

   "But you speak Common," said Szordrin.

   Ilthian once again looked confused. Szordrin took the journal back from her and read the last page to the rest.

   "Is Samber... the Maker's name?" Ilthian asked.

   The others nodded.

   "He was talking about me! I am the only Forokell who makes new kinds of clothes. Why did he call me a number? What is a Lillikell? I was supposed to be a Lillikell? What does that even mean? Did the Maker make a mistake with me?"

   "Don't worry about it now, Ilthian," said Cassiera. "We'll figure it out. You are not a mistake."

   "You all followed the Maker here from another land? It was not an accident that you crashed on our island?"

   They nodded again, except for Cassiera, who shook her head. "I did not come here with them, or rather, I did not come with them intentionally. I do not know their plans either; I came along for the challenge of facing a fiend. I am learning just as much as you, Ilthian." She turned to the others. "And I think it's time you filled me in on what is going on. I fought with you against the hobgoblins and helped you on your quest to slay the devil. Why have you really come to this island?"

   So, the others finally explained to her the various tales of their adventures that had led them to this mysterious place. Cassiera interrupted a few times to ask clarifying questions, but for the most part took it all in.

   "What are you going to do to the Maker?" asked Ilthian, who had thus far just been listening, trying to make sense of a world beyond any she had ever experienced.

   No one responded.

   "I do not think we have decided that yet," said Mythlos.

   "But undoubtedly we must do something," said Leokas. "The gods have sent us here for a purpose. He must be stopped."

   "My arm is not growing back any faster, if we just sit here," said Belvin.

~~~~


They examined the room more closely. Szordrin tried to pick the lock on the door and failed, and their magic revealed that it was magically locked. Leokas passed through the portal without incident. He searched the ground thoroughly around the portal opening on the other side and then returned. "I can find no trace of the osyluth beyond the portal among the leaves and grass. Samber's boot prints are there. I don't think the bone devil ever went through the portal."

   "Indeed, it fooled him and then went to explore the caves through the crack in the wall," said Hakam. "Had we not slain it, it would have found a way to the surface and butchered the people there."

   "I never did check that half-domed room for signs of the devil," said Leokas. He crawled back down into the aqueduct and headed back. He returned to the others several minutes later. "Yes, the devil left tracks there. Samber was indeed fooled."

   "So we have time to explore his palace then," said Mythlos.

   "I believe we must," said Hakam. "The gods have willed it. They've given us this opportunity and responsibility."

   "And there may be treasure," said Mythlos.

   "The aqueduct does lead further past the pipe we climbed," said Cassiera. "If this door will not open, perhaps the water will lead us elsewhere we can access."

   Leokas hesitated. "The portal leads to my home. I have missed it greatly. The smells brought back so many years of memories...."

   "We will come back to it," said Hakam. "The portal appears stable."

   "We would also need to retrieve Stormshadow," said Leokas. "Yes, it makes the most sense to explore further while we know Samber is away. Come."

~~~~


They explored the aqueduct system fully. After continuing 100 feet further, another branch connected to their path from the right at a right angle. They followed this new branch against the flow perhaps 100 yards before it turned sharply to the right again. After another 100 feet. They came to a T in the waterway. The water was flowing from the left, diverging to continue back past them and also to their right. They continued to walk against the flow, heading what should have been roughly west. All along the waterway, there were various pipes extending down into the water, but there were no more cave-ins or openings for them to climb.

   "We must be underneath his palace," said Hakam. "This is how he obtains fresh water."

   Suddenly, they reached a point where the narrow tunnel opened up. They were looking again into a massive open cavern. The narrow aqueduct continued in a bridge over the chasm. Mythlos' sword began flickering.

   "We've reached the antimagic field again," he spoke back to the others, "and the water flows across a bridge from another part of the cave. This may be a way back, if it comes to it."

   "Let's not proceed any further this way for now," said Hakam.

   They backed up and went back to the T, this time following the water as it continued east. They came a pile of rubble that blocked further passage.

   "We are back where we started," said Szordrin. "That's the rubble from the wall. We've gone in a complete circle, or rectangle, now."

   The others agreed with his assessment. "That leaves us with following the water as it flowed from that other T." They returned the way they came, turning back south and then east again, and finally making a final right to head south, following the flow of the water. Up ahead, they could see light at the end of the tunnel.

   They hurried forward and soon came out into a large pool. At first, it appeared that they had come back outside, but they soon realized that they were far from it. They were within a massive dome, at least a couple hundred yards in diameter. Some strange magic covered the surface of the dome, such that a ball of simulated light mimicked the sun.

   The pool in which they stood was deep enough for wading. It was rectangular in shape and man-made. Marble steps led out of it on one of the long sides. They hurried up the steps and out, because the water was cold.

   "Maybe we'll have time to bathe later," said Ilthian excitedly. "The cave was so dirty!"

   On the southwest corner of the pool the water continued flowing in a small stream to the south. There was a wooden footbridge crossing over it. Fifty feet beyond the crossing, they could hear the water tumbling off a cliff in a cascade.

   To the east, behind them, was a hillside, leading up to the edge of the dome itself. To the west, they looked upon a grassy field with a marble gazebo in the center. Beyond that was a grove of fruit trees. To the north was a flower garden at the foot of a hill, and the hill ran up to a large castle wall about a hundred yards wide and four stories tall.

   "There is a whole estate down here!" exclaimed Szordrin.

   They all began spreading out to examine what was interesting to them.

   Mythlos and Ilthian walked over to the flowers, which were roses of a wide variety of colors. "They remind me of Jareth," she said.

   "Something moved in the grove of trees," said Szordrin. He cautiously approached, but stepped on a twig. A creature dropped down from one of the branches to investigate the sound. Szordrin found himself staring at a tiny creature, about the size of a cat, but nothing like a cat in shape. It had three legs, arranged like a stool. Between two of its legs was a small head on a very short neck. It had a long snout, something like an anteater's, and its delicate tongue shot out like a snake tasting the air. It was covered in a mixture of feathers and fur in a flashy display of colors from violets to reds. Strangest of all, however, was the set of three floppy wings drooping over its back from the center. Convinced that Szordrin was harmless, the little creature raised its wings. They became rigid and then began to spin rapidly. The animal — if it could be called that — hovered off the ground and disappeared in the trees.

   "Did you see that?" Szordrin asked Leokas.

   "See what?"

   "The oddest creature I've ever seen."

   "No, but these pears look delightful." The elf plucked one from a branch and took a bite. "They taste wonderful too."

   Hakam had walked to the edge of the cliff to the south, crossing over the footbridge. The water poured over in a steep waterfall into a body of water below that filled the southern third of the dome. A stone set of steps carved into the cliff-side led down to a stone dock. At the dock, a single-masted ship was moored. Wooden planks led from the dock to the ship, and two guards in full plate armor of black metal stood guard before each. There was no visible way for the ship to leave the confines of the dome in which it floated.

   Hakam walked back to the others. Belvin was pointing up at the castle. Guards in full suits of black armor guarded the main gate and stood atop the four towers. "They are the same as the pilot of Samber's vessel," said Belvin.

   "I think you'll also find Samber's vessel docked over that ledge," said Hakam.

   "We should speak with the guards," said Mythlos.

   "We could send Ilthian up to talk to them," said Hakam.

   "Hakam!" Cassiera protested.

   "I did not mean only her!" he replied.

   They all headed up the hill and stood before the gate. The guards were armed with black swords and bore black shields. They stood motionless. One could not see any eyes behind the T-shaped visors of the helmets.

   "Well met!" said Hakam, trying to mimic the same tone that Jayce would have used.

   The visors on the guards' helmets lit up with a violet glow, and they all heard a low hum. A few of the adventurers braced themselves for some sort of magic attack, but none came.

   "We have been sent by the Maker," Hakam lied. "Please grant us passage."

   The two guards spoke simultaneously and with the same voice. "We cannot permit anyone to pass except the Maker. You are not the Maker."

   "It is true that he has sent us," Szordrin insisted, holding up the journal for the guards to see. "See here; his journal was written to us. He wants us to learn about his work."

   "We cannot read," said the guards together, "to confirm or reject your claims. Even if we could, we cannot permit anyone to pass except the Maker. You are not the Maker."

   The adventurers whispered amongst themselves. "Do you think Ilthian is permitted to pass, since she is one of the Maker's creations."

   "I can try," she said. "Good sirs, I belong to the Maker. I belong in his castle. Please, permit me to pass."

   "We cannot permit anyone to pass except the Maker. You are not the Maker."

   "This is not going to work," said Hakam.

   "Belvin, can you summon our satyr friend over the wall?" asked Leokas.

   "Krynn? Yes, yes, I can do that."

   Belvin completed the summons, and they heard a voice come from the top of the wall. "Hey! I'm in a castle! Check it out!" Then the guards on two of the towers turned. Purple beams of energy shot from their helmets, and no one heard another sound from Krynn.

   "That was so quick, he probably won't be certain he was even summoned."

   They retreated from the guards and congregated in the gazebo.

   "What now?"

   "I want to get inside that castle," said Hakam.

   "That hardly seems lawful of you," said Belvin.

   "I think the gods instructions to us trump any other laws in this case."

   "So you are saying that the gods can change laws on a whim?"

   "Your god has sent you to this island. Surely, Thard Harr intends for you to enter that castle!"

   "Or maybe he just sent me to this island and nothing beyond that," said Belvin. "I have followed my gods instructions thus far. Until he gives me further instructions, Kamil and I just want to get my arm back."

   "We could just wait here until Samber returns or until we think of something," said Leokas. "Underneath this magic dome is certainly more pleasant than back in the cave."

   "Yes," said Mythlos. "It would also be good to gain our spells back."

   "Is it safe here?" asked Szordrin. "What if there are dangerous animals deeper in that grove?"

   "I'm far more concerned about the constructs guarding the gate than any animals," said Leokas, "especially if they are as bizarre as you mention, and the guards don't seem to do anything unless you actively try to cross their path."

   "Ilthian," said Hakam.

   "Yes!" she answered.

   "Our friend Jayce told us that you once visited the forbidden forest and saw strange animals. What did you see?"

   "I saw a sheep, but I think it was one of ours that had run away. I saw those animals you called 'deer', like the hop-gobbins kept for food and clothes. And I saw colorful, round animals with long noses and three spinning wings."

   "Like what I saw," said Szordrin.

   "...And there were other goat-sized animals... like that!" she said and pointed. A ball of fur rolled from behind some trees and then passed behind others. "It curls itself into a ball and rolls and stops itself with its two feet and its tail."

   "And you and Szordrin never saw such things when you visited the forest?" Hakam said to Leokas.

   "Hey! We came clean about that."

   "Speaking of animals," said Mythlos, "look!" he pointed toward the pool. Stormshadow stood at the top of the marble steps and shook the water from her fur.

   "She finally overcame her fear?"

   "I suppose so," said Leokas. He got up and went over to her. She wagged her tail and seemed to behave like always.

~~~~

They rested within the dome and around the gazebo. The simulated sun apparently moved across the artificial sky, and it now felt like dusk.

   Hakam had examined the borders of the castle. Three of its walls were stone, and the fourth was simply the surface of the dome.

   Mythlos, Leokas, and Cassiera had re-entered the water system and headed to the where the water crossed the chasm. They crawled on hands and knees in the cold water all the way across to where the water flowed from the wall of the massive cave chamber. Cassiera crawled into the crack in the wall from which the water flowed on her side, because the opening was so tight. She yelled at them to pull her back out.

   "I could fit through as a serpent," she said, but there is no way my human form could fit through, let alone any of yours."

   They returned to the others. It began to grow dark, and artificial stars and a moon magically appeared on the inner surface of the dome. There were four benches in the gazebo; these were occupied by Szordrin, Hakam, Cassiera, and Ilthian.

   "I have never slept outside before," said Ilthian.

   "This does not really count as outside," said Leokas.

   Mythlos sat cross-legged in the middle of the gazebo floor and tranced, while Belvin leaned against Kamil on the grass. Leokas stayed up for the first watch of the night.

   Near midnight, he saw motion at the gate of the castle with his sensitive elven eyes. The two guards stepped to the side, the gates swung open, and a cloaked figure stepped out.

   Leokas darted behind one of the columns of the gazebo and shouted to the others. "Wake up! It is Samber!"
Session: 60th Game Session - Monday, Oct 19 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Samber's Journal: Entry VIII
Merciful gods, are you so careless in your punishments to allow for this? And how fortunate that you can blame me for the countless deaths that will no doubt follow! Yet, I admit the guilt falls on me. Never should I have risked the binding. You have no time to ramble, Samber. You started this; you must end it. I have just entered my lower portal chambers to find chaos and destruction. While the earthquake seemed to have done little damage to my palace above, a fallen column punctured the bindings that held the osyluth at bay. It is free. It seems to have set fire to all of my writings and apparatus. Years and years of work are now gone. Clear tracks lead right through the gate to the High Forest. As much as you seem to hate me, O gods, I pray you see that I am risking my life and using my powers to make it right. I am leaving this book here in the open in the hope that, if the devil slay me, at least the intruders to my island might stumble upon this and learn more. I write to you directly now, whoever you are who have followed me here. Do not judge me until you have understood what I have done, and know that I loved all of my creations. Is that a sin? ~ Samber
Session: 59th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 17 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Samber's Journal: Entry VII
I was just now awoken from my sleep by the gong. It is not the "hour of summoning"; it is not even highsun. There are strangers on the island! I can only imagine it was the ship that had been following me, but how? I never saw them after I sent the lightning bolt down on them. There were four of them, a blue-haired elf, two Calishites (a male and a female), and a Lantanna like I. None of them were sailors, and the wild elf was not with them, so I can only imagine that there are even more. I must rise and figure out how to deal with them. ~ Samber
Session: 59th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 17 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Samber's Journal: Entry VI
So this is it then? They are not giving up. They want war, it seems. Cannot they tell that I have no desire to fight them? What is it now, you ask? Everything is going to the hells. I do not have time for this. This voyage started well. The journey to Chult was smooth. I dealt with financial matters. I purchased my merchandise from the Consortium, and it arrived within the promised window. I was excited to make use of the sequencers; I spent the night making plans, scribbling in my technical journal at the rented room in Shilku. On the morrow, I was busy working, when a crazed-looking elf came through the portal. I incapacitated him, set the delay on the gate, hurriedly grabbed the papers from my desk, and fled. Thankfully, the Kell had already loaded the Eternity. I gave orders to leave port at once. I considered my options. My portal in Chult would have to be abandoned. Had even Ubtao betrayed me? Ubtao, who is said to care nothing for matters outside his realm? Or was it simply an accident? Some greedy adventurer in search of famed Chultan emeralds who stumbled upon my gate? Was it the Consortium? Were they no longer happy with me as a customer? I began to hope it was only a fluke, and I began to daydream instead about my journey to the Fugue, but then, a fire broke out above deck. Sabotage. The mast had been set aflame, the work of fire elementals who then vanished. Summoned, clearly. I began to put two and two together. It must have been the elf. He was wild, like a druid. But how could he have followed me? If he came through the portal, he could not have had a vessel waiting on the other side, could he? Perhaps it was simply pirates, but I have never encountered pirates who could summon a creature from such a far distance. A member of some sea race, perhaps, who boarded the ship just long enough to call the elementals and then flee. But why? I was baffled, but the next day confirmed that I was indeed being followed. I spotted their ship through the spyglass. Several hours later, they must have called down flying lizards to attack my ship. I destroyed their mainmast with a lightning bolt, hoping to send them a warning, whoever they were, that I was not to be trifled with. Having dealt with that potential hindrance, I at last arrived home. The journey's setbacks now seemed nothing compared to what awaited me; an earthquake had struck the island in my absence. Much of my palace was in disarray. I have spent the last few hours checking through the rooms to see how badly everything is damaged. Bookshelves have tumbled and items have fallen from their places, but the damage does not seem too severe. Now I wonder of this. Have the gods now recruited Grumbar to their side? Is this only the first of several quakes? Do they hope to break through the dome by force? If they send a more powerful quake, what can I do? I will be finished. I am exhausted from my stressful sailing voyage and must rest. I only hope that the Forokell fared well in the quake. The poor things were probably terrified. ~ Samber
Session: 59th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 17 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Samber's Journal: Entry V
I have received word from the Interlink Consortium that the sequencers are ready for pickup. If I wish to make the exchange, I'll have to leave on the morrow. I have not made much progress in the months since I have returned from Thultanthar. My Loross is not as good as it used to be. The baatezu I imprisoned a year ago has continued to not be cooperative, and I have not had the time yet to investigate No.s 14 & 15. So all three plans are stalled. Even so, while my research has not moved forward, I find myself able to cast every arcane spell I once could. ~ Samber
Session: 59th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 17 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Samber's Journal: Entry IV
It has been many months since my last entry. I left my journal here in the safety of the dome. If they would go to such extents to stop me, I suspect that they might send clerics to find and apprehend me if I left the island, and my research is more important to me than my life. It is my life. I have been busy, and my diligence has again been rewarded. I have overcome. I, of course, have known about the alternatives to the Weave for many decades, but never have I had need to seek them out. Perhaps some of the gods are indeed on my side; Tymora, at least, seemed to have smiled on me, for what luck! That my journey to the desert should come precisely when it did! My power is back. What will you do to stop me now, O gods? ~ Samber
Session: 59th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 17 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Samber's Journal: Entry III
Well, it has finally happened. The gods have acted. Mystra withholds herself. I know not what part Gond plays in all of this; I only know that the Weave has been forbidden me. I cannot cast even the simplest cantrip. My investigations into the extra creativity of No.s 14 & 15 will have to be put on hold until I figure out what to do. I am enraged. How can Ao permit this? What have I done that warrants such a response? I am disgusted. What of all the wicked and despicable acts that have been done on this world with magic? She would allow those? Are they trying to convince me that the gods are but jealous and selfish children? Surely, Gond sees things differently? Are none of them on my side? I am naught but a worm now. I am powerless. I am even more alone.
Session: 59th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 17 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Samber's Journal: Entry II
I noticed an intriguing thing a few nights ago when I was performing routine patches to the Forokell's intellect centers. I was at the house No. 3 when I noticed quite an intriguing array of flowers planted outside in the small garden there. The roses had all been pulled and replanted such that they formed the abstract pattern of the head of a rose using the three colors of roses available to them. Curious, I reviewed the audio from the memory of No. 20, one of the newer models. It took several hours of scanning, but I finally learned that the one who calls himself Jareth had done it. I have looked up his number. It is No. 14, which is fascinating, because No. 15 is the one who is constantly making new clothing for the Forokell. They were made in the same week. As I noted in a past entry, she was originally intended to be a Lillikell, but I decided at the last minute to give her a Forokell intellect core. No. 14, however, was always intended to be a Forokell. I have spent the last few days digging through my old journals, yet I cannot figure out what I did differently with those two, but there must be a link between them. I'll have to put all of them in extended hibernation and bring the two anomalies back to the table for further investigation. ~ Samber
Session: 59th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 17 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Samber's Journal: Entry I
Yet another blank journal to write in. How many have I written since I set my mind to this task? How could I have been so foolish to have expected it to be easier than this? Always one more correction. Always a missing piece. Always one more thing I fail to understand. Yet it must be possible. Finder did it. The Beast Lord did it. I am not alone in the attempt, ...and yet I am so alone. I dare not make the mistake I did the last time around. The Forokell show so much promise, but I remain distant. I feel like a neglective father. The Lillikell can never provide what I seek. They lack the spark a few of the Forokell seem to have. Still, I fail to ascertain what causes that spark. Why do some of them have it and some of them do not? ~ Samber
Session: 59th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 17 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 7 — The Second Journal
A new excitement filled the group, as they carefully descended through the opening in the wall and lowered themselves down into the water. It was very cold, but it only was a foot and a half deep, so they managed. Kamil nuzzed angrily when they worked as a team to lower him down into the channel of water, but there was nothing the camel could do about it.

   The three-foot-wide waterway extended to from right to left. Leokas estimated that this meant that the water was flowing east, but it was hard to be certain, having been underground for so long. Immediately, to the right, the rubble from the collapse of the wall blocked passage; the only way they could move was with the water to the left.

   They passed carefully — as the stone was exceptionally slippery — for a hundred feet or two before the aqueduct made a 90 degree turn to the right. "There is the pipe we can climb," said Cassiera, pointing in the blue-lit darkness.

   "I'll stay down here with Kamil," said Belvin, "until we decide how to respond to whatever you find up there."

   The pipe was made of wood. They could see at the bottom that it had a screw projecting from it. If turned, water would be carried up the pipe. One by one, excepting Belvin, they climbed up the pipe, which was challenging because of the slipperiness, but the narrow walls aided them in the task.

   Coming into the room above, they were met with the smell of burnt paper and wood, finding it just as Cassiera described. Scattered everywhere were ash and the remains of furniture, at least some of which had clearly been bookshelves. It was a rectangular stone room. There was a single doorway on the right wall with an iron door. On the far wall were three large, blackened metal rings. Through the center one, they gazed upon a beautiful forest, as if through an open doorway. They had come into the room from below a stone water bowl, and a gear was there, which was used for turning the water screw they had just climbed.

   The roof was supported by four stone columns, and one of them had collapsed from the earthquake. Their was a final object of note in the room, what appeared to have been an open cube, whose edges were made from silver bars. The broken column had fallen through the cube and broken through one of the bars.

   "That was the bone devil's prison," said Szordrin. "Silver is used for the binding of summoned beings. The falling column from the earthquake is what must have freed it."

   "No one move about," said Leokas. "Let me find tracks first."

   It was an easy task with all of the ash. Three beings had clearly been in the room since the fire. Leokas found the bare feminine footprints of Cassiera, larger, booted prints, and still larger skeletal claws of the osyluth. "The osyluth's prints begin somewhere in the middle of the room, not from within the cube," explained Leokas. "They then go directly toward that center portal. That means the fire started after the osyluth was freed, but it leads out the portal, not through the crack below the fountain. Are we dealing with two bone devils?"

   "What of the other tracks?"

   "They came from this doorway and have moved about almost the whole room. Then, they too exit through the portal."

   Mythlos walked up to the portal and peered through. Szordrin began searching around in the rubble and ash. The former succumbed as usual to his curiosity and stepped through.

   "Mythlos!" Sound, however, did not pass through the magic gate. They saw Mythlos glance around. Then he game back through.

   "That was foolish," said Hakam, "yet not at all unexpected."

   "It is a most beautiful woods," said Mythlos, "and now we know that the portal is stable and not an illusion."

   Ilthian gasped. "There are no trees back here!" She had walked around to the back side of the portal and was trying to make sense of magic beyond any she had ever seen.

   "It looks just like my homeland," said Leokas.

   "I believe it is your homeland," said Szordrin. "Look at this!" He had found a leather journal, unburnt and cast aside among the other debris. "It's Samber's journal!"

   "Who is this Samber you keep mentioning?" Ilthian asked, but no one answered her. They all rushed around Szordrin. "Belvin! Climb up here and join us."

   The wild elf did so, and Szordrin read key sentences from the final page with text.

   "'...Clear tracks lead right through the gate to the High Forest...' He thinks the osyluth went to the Forest and is pursuing him. Either there are two or the devil deceived him."

   "The latter is far more likely," said Hakam.

   "'...I am leaving this book here in the open in the hope that, if the devil slay me, at least the intruders to my island might stumble upon this and learn more....' See, it is written to us. He dropped this here intentionally."

   "That's only the last page. What does the rest say?"

   "I cannot read it. I don't speak the language. Only the last page is written in Common."

   "That is the Draconic script," said Cassiera, "but I do not know the tongue either."

   "Now we need Jayce," said Hakam. "It is certainly Lantanese, just like his previous journal from the mummy's chamber. Like Belvin, I focused my prayers on combat spells this morning."

   "That is the 'writing language'," said Ilthian. "All of our books are written in that tongue."

   "Your books are written in a different language than you speak?" asked Leokas.

   She nodded. "I do not know why?"

   "So you can read this?" asked Szordrin.

   "Yes, let me see." She took the journal from Szordrin and began reading.

   "'Yet another blank journal to write in. How many have I written since I set my mind to this task? How could I have been so foolish to have expected it to be easier than this?...'"
Session: 59th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 17 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 7 — Animal Empathy
One by one, they stepped past the stilled golem and entered the black-walled dome at the other end of the bridge. Hakam brought up the rear. He gave the seeming statue a little shove first, just to ensure that it truly was inactive.

   "My powers are back!" Cassiera announced.

   "My strength has returned," said Mythlos. It seemed that the antimagic field ended with the bridge. Kamil shrunk back to dog size.

   They now stood in a half-dome chamber. The curved wall was lined with large suits of armor — or perhaps more golems of iron — eight in all. Across from the doorway within the far wall was a short flight of stairs and another large doorway with metal doors that were closed. Mythlos and Szordrin examined the doors; they were bolted and locked, seemingly with magic as well.

   "There is a collapse in the wall here," said Cassiera, indicating a largish opening to the left of the door near the floor. She knelt down and poked her head in. "There is water," she explained. "I think we are looking down into an aqueduct of some sort."

   "Perhaps its a way in," said Mythlos. "Can we fit?"

   "I think so. It's about a yard wide. I'm not sure how deep the water is though. It smells fresh; it's not a sewer."

   "Where is Stormshadow?" Leokas asked. She was not in the room with them.

   "I don't know," said Mythlos. "She usually tags behind us doesn't she?"

   "She didn't follow us across the bridge," said Ilthian.

   "Mythlos, come with me to see if we can find her," Leokas said. The two elves stepped back to the bridge, while the others sat and waited.

   "I brought us some food in my sack," said Ilthian. "Does anyone want home-made biscuits? Then you can tell me more about Calimshan, Hakam."

~~~~


Leokas found his wolf lying on the ground just before the bridge. "What are you doing here, girl? Come!"

   Stormshadow did not move.

   Leokas moved over and tried to lift her up off the ground. She growled. He tried to push her up from behind, and she snapped at him.

   "Stormshadow, it's me! Don't bite."

   "She's never snapped at you before," noted Mythlos.

   "I know," said Leokas. "Her body language tells me she is scared about something. Do you have a sleeping spell readied?"

   "I do," said Mythlos. He pulled a pinch of fine sand from his component pouch, held it between his fingers and waved his arms in the air while chanting. "It didn't work," he explained, as Stormshadow looked up at them both, still wide awake. "She's stronger of will then my magic could overcome."

   "I have a few sleep arrows," said Leokas. "Those might work, and it's impossible for them to hurt her, but she might bolt if she sees me aim an arrow at her. Stand here while I walk past her, and distract her."

   "Here, wolf, look at me," said Mythlos. He began to demonstrate some dancing motions he had learned from his time in Teshburl.

   Instead of watching the moon elf dance, Stormshadow glanced back and up at Leokas. She saw his bow out, and she sprung to her feet and ran past him and into the darkness of the tunnel.

   "That woman did something to my wolf!" Leokas exclaimed, referring to Ilthian.

   "What is she afraid of?" asked Mythlos.

   "I don't know. Heights perhaps? But she's never indicated that before. She even crossed that rope bridge in the jungle with us near Mbala. There was one time she whined at us when we were swimming at the base of the falls, but I don't think that was from fear of heights."

   "She's not a familiar like Shrodinjer is she?" asked Mythlos.

   "No, she is just a wolf. She was sent to me by magic or by the gods, but she is not magical herself."

   "Well, let's return to the others;" said Mythlos. "Maybe she'll follow after later."

   "I cannot leave her here; she might get taken and eaten by the hobgoblins."

   "Maybe the others will have an idea of what to do. We can come back."

~~~~


"I did not do anything to your dog!" Ilthian insisted. "She left the stable entirely on her own. She came to me while I was walking from my house to the mine. I did not go anywhere near the stable cave."

   "No, I prepared spells this morning for the fighting of the devil," said Belvin, "not for talking with animals."

   "I still do have a prayer for magic-detection remaining today," said Hakam. "I can come take a look."

   Szordrin also suggested that a stun dart might succeed where Mythlos' spell had failed. The four of them walked back over the bridge and up the tunnel. They did not go far before they spotted Stormshadow again, resting on the cave tunnel floor. "She indeed has a magical aura," Hakam told the others. "It's very faint, but it's definitely there."

   "Has she had an aura before?"

   "I don't recall noticing one before," said Hakam. "Maybe she ate something magical recently?"

   "You don't recall? Haven't you detected magic multiple times when she was with us over the past several months."

   "I'm not trying to be difficult; I don't recall a magic aura. However, back when we fought the two yuan-ti in the jungle, she did have a chaotic aura. Are not wolves chaotic creatures?"

   "An animal should not have an alignment at all," said Leokas. "Why didn't you tell me this?"

   "I thought nothing of it at the time."

   "Maybe she has taken on some of your character," suggested Szordrin, "much like Ferry has taken on some of mine."

   "But she's not a familiar!"

   "In any case, I'll try to stun her with one of my darts," said Szordrin, "and then we can carry her across the bridge." He threw the dart at her, but he missed. She leapt up and darted off further back into the cave.

   Leokas cursed.

   "Should we keep following her?" asked Mythlos.

   "No, I don't want to force her," said Leokas. "She's either afraid of heights or magic or both, even though none of those things make any sense. We'll explore further and come back for her if we find a way out. We are probably returning this way anyhow."

~~~~


They returned back to the others. Ilthian was eating a biscuit, and Belvin was brushing Kamil's hair.

   "Where is Cassiera?"

   "She turned into a snake," said Ilthian, "and went exploring down the aqueduct. Oh, she's back!"

   They saw Cassiera's pile of clothing refill with a humanoid form. Her skin was wet and her hair was dripping, even though her clothes were dry.

   "I think we can all make it through this way to a room that I think must belong to this Samber person," explained the yuan-ti. "I swam through, but the water is only a few feet deep. Everyone could wade. Even the camel could fit, if we can move him down there. There is some sort of water pipe to climb and another wall cave-in leading to the room. However, the room looks like it has been set on fire. It's a mess, but there are three portals, and one of them is active, leading to a forest."
Session: 60th Game Session - Monday, Oct 19 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 7 — "When the seven swords can go no further...."
While the others were with the hobgoblins collecting the reward, Belvin and Leokas looked around the chamber where they had fought the osyluth. The summoned elephant paced around, Kamil sat and chewed cud, and Stormshadow was curled up on the floor resting.

   "Do you think the elephant could break any of this omlar off?" asked Leokas, examining the tall stalagmite of the dark green.

   "Let's do it," said Belvin.

   They commanded the magic elephant to charge the massive mineral deposit. It obeyed, trumpeting, and ramming the stone with its thick forehead.

   On perhaps the fifth attempt, a small fragment of omlar indeed broke off and dropped to the floor with a clatter. Just then, they began to feel a deep rumble.

   Fifteen seconds later, the shaking stopped. The two elves looked at each other.

   "Did we cause that? Was mining the omlar gems the cause of the earthquake?"

~~~~

Back in the hobgoblins' village, the adventures looked at Grak for an explanation.

   "Aftershocks from the quake a few days ago," said Grak.

   "We should return to our companions," said Hakam.

   They quickly transferred the gold to Mythlos' magical bag of holding and took the other items as well. Then they returned to the large chamber beyond where Bork was guarding. "I will keep my promise to never go to the surface on the south of the island," said Grak, as they left. "I will not forget your mercy."

   They met Leokas, who was waiting for them with Stormshadow. "Are you all right?" he asked.

   "Everyone is unhurt from the quake, if that is what you mean," said Hakam.

   "I fear that Belvin and I caused it. It happened precisely when we broke off this." He held up the chip of omlar.

   "That will be worth a fortune in Calimshan," said Hakam.

   "Or anywhere else," said Mythlos, with a large smile.

   They discussed what to do next. Belvin could not get Kamil back out of the cave without backtracking and lowering his camel on ropes again into the hobgoblins' chamber. "If we are going back that way, we should follow the other tracks the osyluth left," said Leokas, "the ones coming from further back in the tunnels."

   Everyone agreed to this.

   "You have seen and heard the hobgoblin's promise to your people," said Hakam to Ilthian. "Now go back to the surface. You cannot come with us."

   Ilthian looked toward Cassiera, perhaps expecting Cassiera to argue in her favor, but the yuan-ti woman remained silent.

   "Shall I take your dog back with me?" Ilthian asked, looking dejected.

   "If you would be so kind," said Leokas, "I would appreciate that."

   She turned to go and headed back toward the mining car tracks. She had barely turned the corner when she called back. "I cannot go back."

   Hakam was frustrated now. "What is the problem now?"

   "The way is blocked," she answered.

   It was true. They all walked over and saw that the quake had caused another cave in. The way back was indeed sealed off from them.

   "Can we dig our way out?" asked Szordrin.

   "Probably," said Mythlos, "but it will take some time."

   "Maybe the hop-gobbins have shovels and picks," suggested Ilthian.

   "No!" said Leokas. "We are not speaking with them again."

   "Let us not worry about this now," said Hakam. "We shall investigate the other tracks, and perhaps we shall find an easier way out anyhow. If not, we can always return here."

   "It looks like you are coming with us after all," said Cassiera to Ilthian. Ilthian smiled.

~~~~

Everyone crawled back through the stones to where Belvin was waiting with Kamil and the elephant. They returned the giant beast to its figurine shape and continued back up the passage to where they had seen the illusion of Samber, past the mechanical lever, and on until they reached the spot where Leokas had found the other set of bone devil tracks. "It came from this way," said Leokas.

   The tunnel took a sharp twist in a direction Leokas predicted to be south, and it began to descend rather steeply. Mythlos led the way, his sword aglow. After a great distance, Mythlos came to a sudden stop. His sword strangely began to dim. "There is an opening into a larger chamber here," he said. "A much larger chamber," he noted, as his voice echoed, "and there is a bridge."

   "Why is your moonblade dim?" asked Leokas.

   "Something does not feel right," said Cassiera. "I feel funny inside."

   "I feel something amiss, too," said Hakam.

   "It is the Weave," said Szordrin. "It... seems to end here." He reached his hand out to the opening where Mythlos and Hakam stood.

   Hakam picked up a loose stone from the ground, made it glow with a magical light, and tossed it forward. As it passed where Mythlos stood, the light immediately faded. They heard it strike the stone floor and roll. Mythlos kicked another stone to the side through the opening. They heard it splash a few moments later.

   They discussed how to proceed. Szordrin was convinced it was some sort of antimagic field or perhaps a dead magic zone. He explained how such pockets of holes in the Weave existed when great damage was done to magic, such as when the former goddess of magic was slain during the Time of Troubles fifteen years ago. The chamber ahead seemed to have a very high ceiling, and the path, over the water below, was clearly not natural. The bridge was made of very smooth stone bricks of regular thickness. They considered trying to climb down the wall to the water, but only a few of them were skilled climbers.

   Mythlos had to light a torch, because Ilthian's had burned out, and no magic would work at all as soon as one stepped out onto the bridge. They moved forward carefully, in single file. Mythlos's sword went dark, and he immediately felt weaker, as the power in his magic gauntlets ceased. He and Cassiera had to drag their bags of holding across the floor, as the items within now took up space and weight in the Material Plane. Cassiera felt like one of her senses had been cut off. Kamil grew back to full size as Belvin guided him.

   "Is now a good time for you to tell me more about Calimshan?" Ilthian asked, as they carefully walked along the bridge.

   "No," said Hakam.

   The bridge remained smooth with no sign of decay. It was ten feet wide, so no one feared tumbling off the side, but there were no railings or walls. Not even the elves could see the other end of the bridge in the darkness.

   Soon, they reached a short pillar or table, about waist high. Mythlos examined in. On the top surface three hexagons were carved into the stone. The first hexagon was inscribed within a second hexagon, which was itself inscribed within the third, such that the corners of a hexagon bisected the sides of another. At each corner of the inner and outers hexagons and at the midpoints of their sides were holes of about half and inch in diameter. The two holes furthest from Mythlos had smooth stone pegs sitting in them. Mythlos removed both pegs and placed them in his belt pouch.

   "What are you doing?" said Hakam.

   "They might be worth something," said Mythlos.

   "Yes, or they might perhaps be the key to getting across this clearly magically constructed bridge!"

   "I can put them back later, if we find we need to."

   While they were arguing about this, Belvin stepped forward and inserted his index finger into one of the holes. He felt a click. "It's a mechanism," said Belvin. "I felt a click."

   Mythlos returned the pegs. "We should try each combination, then," he said, "and see what happens."

   "There are 24 peg holes," said Leoaks. "That is a lot of combinations to try."

   "Only about 500, I think," said Mythlos. Szordrin nodded.

   Seeing that his mind was made up, everyone else sat down on the bridge in the darkness, while Mythlos methodically tried every peg-hole combination.

   A half hour passed. Mythlos had tried every combination, and nothing noticeable had happened.

   "Well, that was a waste of time," said Hakam. "No surprise there."

   Mythlos said nothing and put the pegs back in his belt pouch.

   They continued forward again, dragging the two heavy bags along with them. After maybe 100 yards, the moon elf spotted a large figure a distance away in the darkness. It had a humanoid shape but was definitely too large to be a human or elf. It did not seem to be moving. When they came within 40 feet of it, Mythlos could describe it to the others. "It seems to be a man in a suit of armor carved from solid stone. The bridge ends just behind it with an opening into a dome-like wall... like obsidian."

   "You mean, a statue?" asked Hakam.

   "Or a golem," said Szordrin.

   Mythlos stepped ahead up to the statue, while the others stayed back.

   "Alae!" said the elf in greeting.

   The statue did not move.

   Mythlos took a step forward, and suddenly the statue came to life. It swung out an arm, palm forward, in a very clear "Thou shalt not pass" motion.

   Mythlos looked over the statue carefully for any markings or clues but could make out nothing. He tried to step around the giant carving. It stepped to the side, preventing his passage.

   He took the pegs from his pouch. "Do you know what to do with these?" The statue was silent and motionless.

   "Maybe Ferry can scurry by it," said Szordrin. The little weasel moved down his arm and dropped to the floor of the bridge. Szordrin pointed and gave his familiar instructions. The little mustelid rushed along the bridge and darted between the large feet of stone. The construct tried to stomp on the weasel, as it passed, but the critter avoid getting crushed and passed through the doorway into the darkness beyond.

   "I cannot feel if he is well," said Szordrin, "with this magical blockage. I forgot about that factor."

   "I'm sure he'll be okay," said Cassiera.

   They considered how to pass the golem. "Maybe it will allow the natives of the island through," suggested Szordrin.

   They asked Ilthian if she could try. She happily agreed and approached the giant, stone guardian. "Excuse me, sir," she said, and she tried walking by it. With surprising speed, it grabbed her and tossed her like a rag doll back onto the bridge. There was a moment of shock among the adventurers when it looked like she was going to slide on her back off the edge, but she stopped herself.

   Cassiera ran forward to check on her.

   "Ow," said Ilthian, rubbing her head. She had smacked her skull on the stone and had a large bump but otherwise seemed fine.

   "We should go back and try all the combinations, while someone stays here and tries to pass the golem for each one," said Mythlos.

   "The chamber has an echo," said Belvin. "We should be able to communicate over the distance."

   "What if the golem only gave us three chances, which we already used up?" said Leokas. "What if it simply tosses us off the bridge from now on?"

   "If Jayce were here," said Hakam, "he'd be convinced he could reason with the thing."

   "I do not think we can go any further," said Cassiera. "Let's go back."

   "Wait!" said Leokas suddenly. "Jayce should have been here, and we cannot go any further."

   "I do not follow," said Hakam. "Jayce did not need to be here."

   "The 'seven swords';" said Leokas, "we are the 'seven swords'."

   "Help us out, friend," said Belvin.

   "It's a clock!" said Leokas. "Jayce's prophecy was 'When the Seven Swords can go no further,... remember the time; it is five o'clock.'"

   "There are indeed seven of us," said Hakam.

   "That's why Ilthian had to be with us," said Szordrin, "since Jayce is not here."

   "I even have a sword!" said Ilthian, holding up her carving knife proudly.

   "We waste time," said Belvin. "I need my arm reattached. Mythlos, give me the pegs." He took the pegs from the moon elf.

   "Here, take another torch," said Mythlos.

   Belvin rushed back along the bridge.

   "Which one is five o'clock?" they heard Belvin's voice echo back a few minutes later.

   Leokas sighed and ran to join the wild elf.

   "The time is set!" the others heard shouted back.

   "Go for it," Szordrin said to Mythlos.

   The elf stepped toward the golem. It slowly lowered its arm and stepped aside, leaving plenty of room for Mythlos to pass. He entered through the doorway safely, dragging the sack of loot behind him.

   "It worked!" Szordrin shouted back. "Come on!"
Session: 59th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 17 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 7 — Reunitings
Hakam tended to Mythlos' wounds while Belvin saw to his camel. "Stop swinging your sword around," said Hakam. "You have more wounds."

   "My sword has fully chosen me," said Mythlos. "There is another rune! I'm trying to figure out how it works."

   "Its power is probably spent," said the cleric. "Worry about it once you are fully healed."

   "Where did the snake-woman go?" asked Szordrin.

   "She took the two children to safety," said Mythlos. "She went that way, toward that pile of rocks."

   They made their way to the pile of rocks. With some careful maneuvering, one could twist and crawl through to the other side. One by one, they did so, except for Belvin. "Kamil will not fit through that way," he said. "I stay here until you return."

   They each popped out from between the rocks and found themselves back in the large chamber at the end of the mining car tracks, where Hakam and Cassiera had fought with the hobgoblins and where the "ramp" of fallen stone led up to the goblinoid village. Cassiera was there crouched on the ground with the two hobgoblin children. They were both hugging her, and the little hobgoblin girl was chatting away happily in Ghukliak, unaware that Cassiera had no idea what she was saying. She was showing Cassiera her stuffed toy and saying, "Nying, nying!" Cassiera was not alone with the children. Ilthian, the cyan-haired young woman, and Stormshadow, Leokas' wolf were also there.

   Leokas emerged first, and was filled with a mixture of disgust and confusion. Why was Cassiera fraternizing with such evil creatures? and why was his wolf there?"

   Before he could ask any questions, Cassiera said, "Leokas, you speak their language, yes? What is she saying?"

   "'Gift,'" he answered, regrettably.

   "Why thank you, little one," said Cassiera, as she accepted the toy.

   "What is she doing here?" muttered Hakam, as he crawled through.

   "I don't know yet," said Leokas.

   "We told you not to follow us!" Hakam said to Ilthian.

   "I know, but I did not listen. I simply had to know what was going to happen."

   "You could be killed," said Hakam, "'put to sleep' forever."

   "I am not unprepared," she protested. She held up a small sack of supplies and was dressed in pants instead of a skirt. "I even have a dagger in case a hop-gobbin attacks me." She held up a carving knife.

   "Go back to the surface," Hakam ordered.

   "Why is my wolf here with you?" asked Leokas.

   "Oh, she found me when I was approaching the mine, and she followed me in and kept me company."

   "I told her to stay in the stable," said Leokas.

   "She was there at the mine entrance, waiting, I think," Ilthian replied.

   "She's just a wolf," said Szordrin, who had now joined them. "I don't think she knows the word 'stable'."

   "Are these hop-gobbin children?" Ilthian asked. "They are adorable."

   "They are," said Cassiera.

   "Leokas, ask the children where the third child went," said Szordrin.

   Leokas did so. The boy hid his face, and the girl looked like she was going to cry. She answered something back.

   "It says that the monster took the other one away," he translated.

   "Let's return the children to the hobgoblins," said Mythlos, "and collect our treasure. Come."

   "I will stay back with Belvin," said Leokas. "I want no part of this."

   Mythlos led them back to the pile of fallen rocks that led up to where Bork was guarding. The bugbear greeted them and let them all pass. When they had all climbed up, the bugbear greeted the two children.

   "Bork-bork!" said the little girl.

   "Sipsi," said Bork, patting her on the head, "...ack Tanji." He spoke a few words to the children in Ghukliak. Then he summoned one of the hobgoblins, and the hobgoblin went off to call Chief Grak.

   "I did not expect you to succeed," Bork said to the adventurers.

   A few minutes later, Grak appeared, being carried on a mat by four attendants. His woman, Goonya, was also there with him. The little hobgoblin girl squealed in delight. "Ooka! Ooga!" She ran to them, throwing her arms around her mother's legs. They set Grak in a sitting position, and the little girl seemed unsure what to do. The last time she had seen her father, he had his arms and legs. Her mother spoke to her, but she seemed nervous to hug her father, who tried holding his stub arms out to her. Grak visibly cried, as his daughter remained afraid. He spoke to her, and she carefully approached and hugged him.

   The adventurers stood off, not wanting to interrupt the reunion.

   "Even their women are hairy!" Ilthian whispered to Hakam.

   Grak called them over, and returned his daughter and the boy back to the care of Goonya.

   "Bless Maglubiyet, he has spared my daughter and my nephew," Grak said to them. "I thank you for returning them to me. Now, come, I will give you the promised treasure."

   His attendants lifted him back up on the mat, and they were led to the lower chamber and taken to a back corner where there was a pile of sacks and a small chest. One of the attendants began explaining each item in broken Common.

   "Here, three sacks gold."

   Mythlos lifted each one up. "This one is about fifteen pounds, I think." He frowned on the second. "This one, perhaps five." He smiled at the third. "This must be 30 pounds!"

   The hobgoblin took a small box from the chest and opened it for them. Within were three gems, one purple, one red, and one clear. Szordrin looked at them carefully. "I'd wager this is iolite, and this is a garnet. I don't recognize the third."

   "How much are they worth?" asked Mythlos.

   "Iolite is only between 20 and 100 gold pieces," said the wizard. "Garnets tend to be about twice that."

   The hobgoblin now showed them a two scrolls, and Szordrin and Mythlos unrolled them.

   "I have these two spells in my book already," said Mythlos. "Aganazzar's scorcher and a mask of shadow to conceal one's face."

   "These three I cannot fully understand," said Szordrin, "but the first two are used for communication, I think, and the third is some sort of light spell."

   The hobgoblin held up two potion vials from the chest. "Guard from big sounds," he said regarding the first. "Guard from arrows," he said about the second.

   Next, he held up a tiny jar and opened it for them. It appeared empty. "See," he said. Then he stuck his hand in the jar and lifted out a pinch of something that smelled very strongly.

   "Garlic?" said Cassiera.

   The pinch of garlic cloves vanished after a few seconds. The hobgoblin put his fingers in the jar a second time, then held his fingers out for them to smell.

   "Saffron."

   "I don't understand," said Mythlos.

   The hobgoblin and Grak exchanged words. "He says that it is a magic spice jar," explained Grak. "It never runs out of any spice you desire, but the spice only lasts a few seconds if you don't immediately use it to season your food. Such food then has mild healing powers. It belonged to the old cook on my ship, but the monster stabbed him in the face, so it's yours now."

   The hobgoblin held up the last item, a wand. "Wand learn magic. Shamans use find good magic."

   Suddenly, the ground began to shake.

   "It's happening again!" said Ilthian.
Session: 59th Game Session - Thursday, Sep 17 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 7 — Dance with a Devil
"...I look forward to a different flavor than that of goblin children. Let's dance."

   Before Mythlos could respond, three giant animals appeared before him, golden-haired bison with shaggy manes and sparkling silver horns. With deep, angry grunts, the celestial animals charged the creature of evil on the other side of the cavern chamber. The devil avoided the first two with unnatural dexterity but was gored by the silver horns of the third. It lifted the devil a foot in the air and shook its shaggy head, before the osyluth freed itself, dripping black blood to the cave floor where it sizzled.

   Mythlos held his sword defensively and rushed to the right behind a large boulder for cover. There were the hobgoblin children, two of them, one with bows in her hair. They were hugging each other tightly in terror.

   The osyluth shouted out something in its beautiful yet frightening tongue. Mythlos made out the word baator again. He charged past the two children and with a heroic lunge, leapt onto the back of one of the golden bison, swinging his silver sword down at the nine-foot-tall monster before him. His blade struck the osyluth on the top of its elongated skull, and more black blood splattered.

   The bone devil gave a hissing cry and raised itself to full height, showing its claws and fangs. The bison panicked and fled, and Mythlos found himself flat on his back as the animal he had been standing on pulled from under him. The next moment, the moon elf found his sword arm in the devil's jaws. He screamed in pain and struck its head with his left fist. It released him and then slashed him across the face, gashing his cheek and getting his own blood in his left eye. A second swing from the devil's claws seemed to have been deflected by an unseen force, Hakam's spell of protection. He tried to stand up, but found himself pinned to the ground by the creature's scorpion-like tail. Fortunately, his armor took most of the force of the blow, and he was spared the effects of hellish poison entering his bloodstream.

   Over the devil's left shoulder, Mythlos saw the faint image of a floating sword appear. It struck at the osyluth and was disrupted into nothingness by the power of the devil. Even so, it distracted the devil for long enough for Mythlos to roll to the side and launch back to his feet with a rising handspring. He swung his sword again at his enemy, but the monster dodged the blow while laughing. Then it swung its skeletal claws and snapped down with its jaws. One of the claws struck Mythlos soundly, tearing through his leather armor and flesh. The elf touched his blade to his skin to heal the wound, while dodging a stab from the monster's tail and deflecting another swing of its claws. He retreated to his left, placing a tall shard of omlar between him and the devil until he could figure out a better strategy.

   The osyluth slowly approached the moon elf. "I see you realize now the foolishness of taking me on in combat, mortal." Mythlos heard the melodic voice in his head. "You cannot hide behind rocks forever."

   There was the sound of shattering ice and Mythlos looked over to the right and saw the hand of a being of fire punch through. Then the bison, who were cowering at opposite corners of the room, vanished. The osyluth glanced back at the sound. Mythlos rushed out from behind the omlar and swung with all his might at the towering fiend, but the hellish creature darted aside, unscathed, and again it laughed at the elf.

   Behind the bone devil, Mythlos saw the fire elemental come through, followed by Leokas. The osyluth took a swing with his claws, which Mythlos blocked, and then turned and obliterated the fire elemental in a series of savage blows with claw and tail. Leokas darted to the right to get out into the open, but the osyluth's long neck brought his sharp teeth down unexpectedly on the wood elf's shoulder, biting out a bit of leather and skin. Cassiera, however, managed to sneak past the osyluth as it focused on Leokas, and she ran beyond them to the large boulder.

   Leokas heard the devil's voice. "So, you've made your way out of my first trap, I see."

   In response, Leokas sprang backwards and loosed two arrows, one silver and one magical, with the same pull, but the devil anticipated their flight and leapt to the side like a jumping insect.

   Cassiera spotted the children behind the boulder and ran to them.

   "They aren't worth the risk!" Leokas shouted at her.

   "The elf speaks the truth, serpent-spawn," she heard. "Wherever you take them, I will find them — and you."

   She ignored this. She reached the children, took one under each arm, and jogged as fast as she could to a pile of rocks she spotted ahead.

   Mythlos stepped forward again and swung. This time, his blow found its target, and more black blood splattered. The devil hissed, spun, and struck Mythlos in the head, nearly tearing off his ear, but Mythlos had a trick up his sleeve. As the devil pulled back for another blow, he called out a magical command. He had set the marble elephant on the ground between him and the outsider. The elephant grew into its massive size, knocking the osyluth back with its expanding mass. The moon elf healed his ear with his magic sword.

   Two more arrows whizzed past the devil, as Leokas shot and missed. He was careful not to strike the elephant.

   The summoned beast trumpeted, gored at the devil, and kicked at it, but even though its attacks were accurate, the devil didn't seem hurt by them at all. Then, just as Leokas was about to loose another shot, the osyluth vanished. The elephant began to shake and stomp. The outsider had appeared upon its back and dug its sharp talons into its hide. Leokas re-aimed his shot. The arrow struck true, finding its target in the devil's forehead but unable to pierce through its thick skull. The devil did not even flinch.

   Leokas heard the fiend's laughter with his ears and then its voice in his head, "Do you really think a tiny arrow will...?"

   It was interrupted by a surprise attack from Mythlos' sword. The elf had stepped on the elephant's trunk and been launched up to join the devil on its back. The swing left a black gash on the monster's chest.

   "You really want to die, don't you?" the voice said. "Why would you sacrifice your life for evil beings?"

   "The only evil I see here is you," said Mythlos.

   "So be it, fool" said the devil. "I'll gladly kill you now." Then it hissed, spit splashing from its maw. Mythlos' blood sprayed as the osyluth slashed, snapped, and stabbed with its weapons, every blow striking true. The elf was knocked like a rag doll and fell the nearly fifteen feet to the ground, landing on his back for the second time. He tried to get up, but he felt the devil's poison weakening him.

   "Mythlos!" Leokas began shooting rapidly, but the arrows seemed to deflect off the devil's body, as if he were shooting at stone. The elephant could not get the monster off its back; it only dug its lower claws in more deeply.

   Szordrin had just made it out from under the ice. "Belvin! We need you!" He sent two magic pulses through the air, but they did nothing.

   The wild elf appeared and called down a bolt of lightning from the dark cloud hovering above. It struck the osyluth as it was about to jump from the elephant's back. Both the devil and the poor magic animal convulsed from the shock. This gave Mythlos the time he needed to get back up on his feet. He stumbled forward toward Hakam, who had just appeared again from behind the ice wall.

   "Hakam! Help me!" moaned Mythlos, but just before he reached his companions — on gelug! — a second wall of ice formed, cutting him off. "Not so fast, elf. A devil always keeps its promise."

   Once again, Mythlos was alone with the devil.

   Behind the second wall, Szordrin drew his wand and began melting through the ice with a stream of fire.

   "There's no time!" shouted Leokas. "We need another strategy."

   "It's hopeless," said Hakam. "Even if we break through again, it can simply teleport."

   Belvin shouted out, sending down another bolt at his enemy on the other side of the ice, hoping it would save his friend. "Patience, elf," he heard in his head. "I'm killing your friend now; I'll come for you next."

   Back on the other side of the ice, the osyluth leapt from the elephant's back. Mythlos turned, and it was as if time were running more slowly. He saw the sharp point of the devil's venomous tail aimed directly for him, as the monster plummeted down on him. It was going to hit him directly in the chest. This was it. This was his last breath.

   Then there was a strange flash from his sword, and the next instant he found himself standing behind the devil. It had struck the ground with a thud, and its stinger was thrust deep into the earth where Mythlos had once stood. It was stuck.

   There was a new rune on the blade.

   With a shout of victory, Mythlos plunged his moonblade deep into the fiend's back and clear through to the other side. A hellish shriek came from the monster's mouth. It twitched and shook and collapsed to the ground. Ripples of light pulsed through its crumpled body, and then it exploded into a cloud of ash and smoke that instantly dispersed. The two walls of ice vibrated and shattered into tiny crystals. Yasheira's prophecy for Mythlos was fulfilled.
Session: 58th Game Session - Thursday, Aug 27 2015 from 6:45 PM to 9:45 PM
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Epic!
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