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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 — 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!
Chapter 7 — Trapped Beneath the Ice
"...Send forth servants of great strength!" Hakam finished his summoning, but its result was hidden from him by the wall of ice.

   Belvin immediately began summoning a fire elemental, since he had requested no fire-based spells from Thard Harr that morning. Thankfully, Szordrin had prepared a single fire spell, and he launched a flaming sphere at the ice. Cassiera threw a vial of alchemist's fire at the same spot, which shattered and ignited. Water began pooling at the floor, as the heat from the flames began to melt their prison.

   Hakam touched the wall with his hand. "Magic begone!" he commanded, but the devil's evocation was too powerful for him to overcome.

   Suddenly, they all felt a dreadful chill, and it did not come from the ice. They felt it all around them, a sense of evil in the very air. Instantly, they found themselves surrounded on all sides, as molten blobs of sickening flesh appeared in their midst. The creatures vaguely had recognizable faces, locked in a look of agony, and they had stubby arms, ending in sharp, black claws. They oozed across the cavern floor, moaning and swinging their claws. There were so many that they overflowed into the open tunnel from which the adventurers had come. Hakam now found himself cut off from the others with two of the monstrosities between him and the others, and the creatures cut off everyone from the wall as well.

   "Lemures!" shouted Szordrin and Hakam together, as they separately recognized the new devilish fiends that had appeared in their midst. Neither had ever seen the lowliest of baatezu before, but many tales were told of the pitiful state of the mindless souls of the Nine Hells that composed the largest part of its armies.

   The lemure nearest Hakam recoiled because of the protection from evil that Hakam had cast on himself and could not approach any closer to him, but none of the others trapped under the ice had such an advantage. Fortunately, the heinous creatures were nearly as slow as a typical zombie, though they were persistent. Cassiera soon found herself scratched and bleeding from the swipes from the three lemures that had her completely surrounded. She and Belvin were slashing desperately with their magical scimitars and Szordrin with his dagger, but every deep gash they left in the fleshy devils quickly resealed in seconds.

   "Belvin, use your silver dagger!" shouted Szordrin over the droning sound of the devils' moanings.

   Instead, Belvin turned his side toward Leokas, and the wood elf drew his friend's dagger from the latter's thigh. Leokas swung down at the nearest devil and left a deep gash through its head and between its eyes. The cut glowed silver and the creature's head fell open like a split log. The devil slowed a bit, but it was still alive and just as eager to slash and cut at anything else living.

   Belvin's fire elemental appeared and glided over to join the flaming sphere in melting through the ice. It looked like they had melted through four inches.

   Since Hakam could not be attacked, he continued trying to assist Mythlos, who he hoped was still alive on the other side. The cleric summoned a spiritual longsword, though he could not at all see where it would be appearing. Then he stabbed at a lemure with his longsword and had the same problem as the others. His blade plunged into its soft flesh, and when he pulled it out, the flesh healed back immediately.

   The lemures continued pressing around them, crowding them in with constant groans and slashing. Belvin joined Cassiera in taking wounds from the devils' claws, but neither was badly hurt. Szrodrin's spell of shielding deflected the vast majority of the lemures' blows, and he had no trouble dodging the rest. Leokas, too, deftly avoided injury, yet while they were not suffering great harm, they neither could inflict any on their attackers, for the lemures' amorphous forms made them harder to target, and many swings missed, as what was once a five-foot-tall blob spread out and flattened.

   Kamil was nuzzing loudly and kicking at the foul creatures surrounding it. Then one of the lemures managed to leave a cut on his hide. Belvin screamed and began raging like a barbarian, but still his blows were ineffective as he struggled to rescue his animal companion.

   Szordrin gave up using his dagger and returned to magic. He shot a jolt of electricity from his fingertips at one of the lemures. It convulsed and then continued slashing.

   "Electricity can hurt them!" shouted Szordrin.

   Despite his rage, Belvin seemed to have heard Szordrin's shout. He began waving his remaining arm and began a frenzied chant, calling a storm to form. The lemures swung at him, but he ignored the scratches and kept concentrating on his spell.

   "We've melted through!" Szordrin called out. He was closest to the door, but a lemure and the fire elemental stood between him and the exit. His flaming sphere had faded away, and the fire elemental immediately turned and tried to pummel one of the lemures, but its fire did nothing at all to the creature.

   "You thought you trapped us? Well, you missed one of us," said Szordrin. He was trying to use magic to throw his voice through the opening in the ice and confuse the osyluth, though he had no way of knowing if the ploy was effective. Looking over the elemental and a lemure, he thought he could see a golden-furred bison right at the opening, bucking wildly in terror at something. "A... bison is blocking the exit!"

   "Get away from me, fiend!" shouted Hakam, as he splashed a vial of holy water on a lemure, which melted its flesh like acid. Since he had stabbed it, it seemed no longer repulsed by his protective magic. Still it came toward him, he shoved it back with a violent push and bought himself enough time to wave his hand and dismiss his summon. Szordrin saw the panicked buffalo vanish.

   Leokas was about to attempt a tumble past one of the lemures to reach the exit, but two moved together and blocked his way. The fire elemental blocked the other route. He cursed in frustration. "Belvin, now your elemental blocks the way!"

   Belvin could do nothing to dismiss his summon as he was still casting.

   Cassiera hacked one of the lemure's arms nearly off, but it reattached itself right afterward. She turned her head and called out at the fire elemental in its crackling tongue. It obeyed her voice, stopped swinging at its target, and charged out the hole it had melted. "Clear!" she shouted.

   Leokas heard her call and saw his opening at last. With a bound, he front-flipped clear over an attacking lemure and landed soundly on his feet on the other side. The path was indeed clear to the exit. "Szordrin!" he called and tossed Belvin's silver dagger to the wizard, who caught it on the handle. Then he reached the exit and began ducking and passing through. Cassiera passed between Belvin and Szordrin, dodging the fiends' blows, and followed behind the wood elf.

   Just then, a dark, billowing cloud filled the chamber in a matter of seconds, and everyone's hairs began to stand on end. Belvin pointed at the lemure nearest Kamil and shouted, and a flash of light with an accompanying crackle nearly blinded and deafened all of them. The lemure convulsed violently as electricity pulsed through its body.

   A gunshot immediately followed from Hakam's weapon, as Hakam and Szordrin continued trying to fight their way out from under the ice. Belvin's only concern was Kamil. Another lightning bolt fell from above, and the first lemure was at last destroyed, melting into a pool of ooze and vanishing. Szordrin cheered. A second gunshot followed. Still the lemures pressed in on the three adventurers. There was a third flash of lightning, and then, as suddenly as they had appeared, all of the lemure vanished. The bone devil's summoning had ended.

   Belvin rushed to his camel; the other two charged for the opening in the ice, hoping their companions were still alive on the other side.
Session: 58th Game Session - Thursday, Aug 27 2015 from 6:45 PM to 9:45 PM
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Chapter 7 — The Cleric and the Viper
Hakam was huffing under the weight of jogging with his heavy backpack alone down the descending mining tunnel, being careful not to trip on the cross planks of the mining car tracks. Ahead of him, the shape-shifted yuan-ti, the summoned fire elemental, and the remaining hobgoblins were nowhere in sight.

   By the light of his magically glowing shield, Hakam saw the tunnel finally turn ahead of him. The tunnel turned to the right. It appeared that the tracks teed here, but a cave-in to his left meant that going right was now the only option. Several yards after making the turn, the now level path branched again. The way left went a short way and then stopped. It looked to be an area of active digging. Straight ahead seemed to open into a very large cavern chamber.

   Cautiously, he stepped into the room. The fire elemental was gone, but he saw a hobgoblin with a metal breastplate, helmet, and shield standing there. Figuring it must be the leader of the band of goblinoids, he lowered his musket to shoot.

   The "leader" seemed to be swinging his sword at the ground, and only then did Hakam notice the serpent darting about there in front of the hobgoblin. Just as he was pulling the trigger, something struck Hakam in the chest. Another hobgoblin, an archer, had appeared to his left from behind a boulder. Thankfully, the arrow failed to puncture the thick, hardened leather of his breastplate, but the distraction was enough to cause his shot to go wide. The loud blast of the musket shot echoed through the cave; any secrecy was now lost.

   The shot also surprised the hobgoblin leader, such that the snake had a chance to strike. She latched onto the hobgoblin's thigh, but her fangs could not penetrate past the leather on his thick legs.

   Another hobgoblin, bearing a longsword rushed out from behind a large stalagmite and swung at the viper. She darted away into the shadows, unscathed. This freed the leader to focus on the human cleric who had shot at him. He charged at Hakam and swung a powerful blow. Hakam leaned back against the swing and raised his shield. The swing knocked aside his shield arm and cut through his armor. Hakam felt a sharp pain and the wetness of his own blood on his chest, but the wound did not seem to be very deep. A second arrow from the archer then struck Hakam in the boot, but once again, this caused Hakam no harm.

   Hakam clutched the holy symbol that dangled from his neck. He began summoning. "My Lord Anachtyr, Judge of all that is righteous and just,..." The hobgoblin leader swung again, gashing through Hakam's arm and spraying blood. Hakam winced at the pain but maintained his concentration and spoke more quickly. "...From the Celestial hills surrounding the House of the Triad,..." The second hobgoblin warrior reached Hakam and swung, but missed hilariously, even dropping his sword. Another arrow, whizzed past his head. "...Send a noble beast to my aid!"

   With a searing burst of light, the fabric of the Material Plane burst open for a brief instant, and a golden-furred bear appeared directly behind the hobgoblin leader. The leader spun around, blocking the bear's swings, first with his shield and then with his sword, but the bear stood up and took a bite into the hobgoblin's right shoulder. The hobgoblin yelled out something in his tongue and punched the bear in the nose with his sword arm, and the bear released him. The hobgoblin prepared to run his sword through the bear's neck, but Hakam called out forcefully, "Drop your sword!" The hobgoblin obeyed the magical command, and for a moment, neither hobgoblin warrior carried a weapon.

   The other hobgoblin bent over to pick up his fallen weapon. The viper darted out of the shadows and clasped onto his leg. Once again, her fangs could not puncture the leather of his armor. Hakam also took this opportunity to draw his own sword, ignoring the pain from his injuries. He swung down at the stooped hobgoblin, but the latter blocked the blow with his leather gauntlets. The sword was now in his hands. He swung at Hakam, who easily avoided the swing, while shaking the snake from his leg. Once again, she darted off into the darkness.

   Likewise, the hobgoblin leader tried to retrieve his sword as the golden bear growled at him. He was struck with a loud clang on the top of the helmet by Hakam while the bear's claw left scratches on his shield, but he successfully took up his weapon again and stood to his feet. While doing so, he spun around rapidly, and took a gash from Hakam's legs. The bear then attacked, tearing flesh from the hobgoblin's arms with tooth and claw. The hobgoblin leader screamed in anguish and fell to his knees, struggling to free himself from the bear's mauling.

   Another arrow from the archer flew by, striking nothing, this time, because the snake had now latched on to his leg. The archer kicked Cassiera off and she hissed at him. The archer turned to face his slithering opponent, lowered his bow, and drew his sword.

   As for the cleric, he could feel blood now running down both legs, an arm, and his chest. He was surprised he was still standing, yet his will to survive was strong. He stepped back and called out another prayer for divine power as the second hobgoblin rushed at him with weapon raised. "Anachtyr, protect me!" The charging hobgoblin stopped in his tracks, looking exceedingly confused. Something prevented him from striking.

   Hakam then began preaching at him. "The unlawful represent the epitome of all that his wrong with the world. The order instilled in this Plane by the gods is scorned by those who think they can choose for themselves the way it should run. They bring chaos into an orderly system, like a stone dropped into a finely turning gear...."

   The hobgoblin leader had driven the bear back with his sword, and the demihuman and the injured animal faced each other, waiting for openings. The leader yelled at his underling, but the other warrior seemed magically enthralled by whatever words came from Hakam's mouth. Hakam kept talking, on and on, about the importance of laws and the terrible effects of chaos on the world while he loaded his musket calmly and walked carefully back toward the tunnel from which he had come.

   The archer struck Cassiera, cutting through her scales and drawing blood. In response, she suddenly doubled in length and girth and lunged at him again. This time, her longer fangs did puncture through the leather, injecting her poison into the hobgoblin's bloodstream. She released the archer and slithered off once again, while the archer stumbled about, grabbing his leg and moaning as it swelled from the venom. He limped behind a boulder and disappeared from Hakam's sight.

   While Hakam preached, the bear and the leader circled each other. The bear slashed at the hobgoblin, bloodying his face, and the leader staggered back. Hakam took this opportunity to fire his gun, but as was so typical, he missed.

   The blast from the gun snapped the other hobgoblin free of his enchantment. He now charged at Hakam and stabbed him in the gut. At the same time, the raging hobgoblin leader stabbed the summoned bear and sent it back to the celestial realms.

   Hakam had his sword out again. He parried another blow from the one hobgoblin and made a counterswing, as he saw the furious and bloodied leader coming at him. The cleric knew he stood no chance in his badly wounded state to face both at once, even if the leader was severely wounded as well. With his remaining strength, Hakam made a daring dash past both opponents and into the tunnel. They pursued him, but he called back, "Don't move!" and pointed at the nearest hobgoblin. The weak-willed hobgoblin once again obeyed, and the leader crashed into him. This gave Hakam the time he needed to round the corner and heal his many wounds with the power of his magic.
Session: 56th Game Session - Thursday, Jul 16 2015 from 6:45 PM to 9:45 PM
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Chapter 7 — "I see a bloodstained cave."
As they walked up the hill to the mine entrance, Szordrin took Mythlos aside. "Did you prepare your spell for detecting magic today? I did not."

   "I did. Why?"

   "See if the cyan-haired maiden is magical."

   Mythlos motioned and quietly spoke the completion of the cantrip. "There is no aura," he told Szordrin.

   Toward the back of the group, Leokas spoke to Hakam, who was preoccupied with watching Cassiera. "I am going to be honest with you, Hakam," the wood elf said. "Szordrin and I were not exploring the woods; we entered the mine and explored the upper area already."

   Hakam sighed in disappointment.

   "We did not see the missing miners, but the mine was full of stalagmites made of omlar!"

   They reached the large opening in the side of the hill and entered. Mythlos handed Leokas the last of his sunrods, and Leokas snapped it to light it and slid it into his belt. Mythlos drew his glowing sword, and Hakam enchanted his shield with light. A trio of cave rats scurried off to hide in the walls.

   They walked across the entrance chamber to the first pair of wooden doors and used the key Grimno had given them to unlock the padlock. Then they removed the crossbeam and pushed open the door. They followed the mining cart tracks, retracing the path that Leokas and Szordrin had previously taken. They continued following them as far as the two of them had explored, where the tracks began to descend more steeply, deeper into the center of the hill.

   They were startled suddenly, when a crowd of bats flew just over their heads.

   "I wish I could fly like that," said Ilthian, their guide, cheerfully and without any sense of fear. "Maybe the Maker can give me wings."

   They continued further in. Mythlos led the way, with Hakam and Ilthian behind him. Leokas had promised Hakam to keep an eye on Cassiera, and those two, with Stormshadow the wolf, took up the rear. In the middle were Belvin, with a miniaturized Kamil, Szordrin, and Nargroth. They were walking mostly in single file in the narrow tunnel, which was about seven-feet wide in most places, with a ten-foot ceiling, supported by wooden beams. The mine was damp, and the wood of the track tiles and the rails were slippery to walk on.

   "What is Calimshan like?" Ilthian asked. "Is it an island?"

   "It is not," said Hakam.

   "It is a small place like my home?"

   "No."

   "How many people live there?"

   "Over five million," said Hakam, "not counting slaves, of course."

   Ilthian seemed confused. "How many people is five million?" she asked.

   "Five thousand thousands," said Hakam.

   There was a pause. "You must think me stupid," Ilthian said, "but how many is a thousand?"

   They came to an opening in the tunnel and a split in the tracks where a branch led off to the left, which Leokas felt was west. Ten feet ahead, another branch led off to the right. The ceiling was higher here and supported naturally by large stone columns of limestone. Because there were many such columns, it was hard to take in the full size of the chamber they were entering.

   "Do you really know which path to take?" Szordrin asked Ilthian, freeing Hakam from having to explain counting to her.

   "I know how to get deeper into the the mine, where the men would have been working," she said. "I do not know exactly where they were found asleep, but it would have been past the second gate. The second gate is still ahead." She spoke toward Mythlos. "Keep going forward.

   "By the way, I like your shade of blue hair more than mine; I wonder if the Maker can darken mine if I ask."

   "If I see him, I'll ask him for you," said Mythlos.

   They moved 30 or 40 feet forward along the tracks, passing another opening to the left and also to the right, before they came to a T.

   "Hakam," said Ilthian. "What did you do in Calimshan? Did you have an assigned role? I myself am a weaver."

   "I am a justicar," Hakam answered. "I judge whether laws have been followed."

   "That is very interesting," she said, and there was no deceit in her voice. "What sort of laws?"

   Before Hakam could answer, an arrow grazed his arm, tearing through the cloth of his shirt and drawing blood. Two arrows struck Mythlos as well, one stuck into his arm; the other stuck in the thick hardened leather of his breastplate without harming him. Both cried out in pain and surprise. Ilthian gasped. The arrows had come from the right, where the tracks curved northward into a large chamber and ended.

   "What is it?" called Szordrin.

   Everyone drew their weapons. Nargroth began shoving past the others to get to the front. Mythlos rushed to the right and into the large chamber, not even worrying about the arrow shaft still stuck in him. Hakam followed behind him but more slowly. It was roughly 25 feet in radius, with several mining elevators, a large boulder, and a massive crystal of omlar scattered about. He could hear the sound of rushing water ahead of him.

   "What's going on?" Szordrin repeated.

   "I don't know!" said Ilthian. "No one should be in the mine but us!"

   Mythlos ran towards the sound of the water and nearly tumbled into a underground stream. Three figures popped into his vision across the water, from behind the cover of a stone wall. They loosed three more arrows at him, but he anticipated their shots and avoided being struck by any of them. The attackers ducked back behind their cover.

   "Hobgoblins!" Mythlos shouted back, his voice echoing in the dimly lit darkness.

   Hakam summoned a magical, shimmering longsword and sent it over the water to attack the goblinoids behind their shelter.

   "There is no way across the river that way!" warned Ilthian. "The gate is this way."

   Belvin rushed past her to join his two companions, ignoring her warning.

   "Where?" asked Leokas.

   She pointed. "Follow the tracks around the corner." She motioned to the left.

   Leokas' hand vaulted over dog-sized Kamil's back. The camel nuzzed in protest. "Come!" Leokas shouted. "We may be able to flank them."

   Nargroth and Szordrin followed after him and past Ilthian to the west.

   "Hakam has the key!" she warned, but they were already around the corner. Left alone with Kamil, she approached him and took hold of his reins to keep him still. She could not see where Cassiera had gone.

   In the large chamber to the right, Mythlos jumped into the stream before him, assuming it would not be too deep nor the current too strong. Fortunately for him, it was neither. His feet struck the bottom before his head even passed below the water, and in three powerful strokes, he was on the other side and climbing out. Hakam's magical, floating sword bought him the time to get back to his feet safely, before the archers could strike him again, and the sword was soon joined by the flaming body of a fire elemental summoned by Belvin. Hakam and Belvin reached the "shore" of the stream, and the former sent a magical burst of sound upon the opponents that nearly deafened Mythlos. The moon elf rushed to position himself between the floating sword and the burning elemental, and he noticed an opening in the north wall and through it several other bodies stepping into the darkness. There were more foes here than the three archers. The archers, however, were cornered there in a pocket in the stone wall to the left. One was blocking a strike from the sword with his bow shaft. Another was attempting the same against the fire elemental's flaming appendages, but the shaft snapped in half and ignited. The third, the one directly before him, dropped its bow. He stabbed at the goblinoid, but the archer drew its own sword and parried the attack with a clang of steel.

   Belvin followed the moon elf and jumped into the stream.

   Down the other path of rail tracks, Leokas, Szordrin, and Nargroth came to the debris of a mining cart intentionally piled against another pair of strong doors to block it. "Nargroth, clear the doors!" Leokas commanded, and the half-orc charged at the mining cart as if charging at an evil dragon. He smashed apart the cart with a few swings of his double axe. Szordrin was right behind him and picked the padlock on the door in under ten seconds. Nargroth and Leokas pulled them open, and the three rushed through. Stormshadow followed. Thirty feet ahead, the mining cart tracks forked again. Leokas and Szordrin, side-by-side, took the right path and skidded to a stop when it curved onto a stone bridge crossing over the subterranean stream. Two sword-bearing hobgoblins stood on the other side of the bridge twenty feet ahead. Leokas let fly two arrows simultaneously, which struck one of the hobgoblins with such force that he was sent flying back against the wall of the tunnel on the other side and slumped back dead. Two bursts of force from Szordrin's fingertips struck the second hobgoblin on the bridge, and Stormshadow darted across and snapped at his hairy legs, but the hobgoblin adeptly maintained his balance and avoided the wolf's bites.

   A stone from somewhere to the left struck this hobgoblin on his helm, dazing him. (Nargroth had made his way further upstream, but he did not have any ranged weapons.) Two more magic missiles from Szordrin then struck their target and knocked him off the bridge, where he fell into the flowing stream and was washed away.

   "Nice throw!" said Szordrin.

   "I found the missing miners!" Nargroth shouted back. "It's not a pleasant smell!"

   Suddenly, the elf and the tiefling saw the water level in the stream rapidly drop, as if slurped away by a titan. They did not know that further down the stream, on the other side of yards of stone, Hakam had commanded the waters to lower for him to cross, and they had obeyed. The cleric hopped down onto the wet stone, where the stream once flowed, and began to cross, and Belvin, who had been swimming, now found himself instead on his hands and knees.

   Mythlos and the fire elemental simultaneously slew two of the hobgoblin archers, while the third clashed swords with Hakam's magic sword. He turned and stabbed this one through the side, only to be struck in the back with another arrow. (Thankfully, his backpack kept the shot from being fatal.) Another hobgoblin archer had come out of hiding from the northeast corner of the chamber. At the same time two other hobgoblins, with swords, appeared from the southeast and ran at Hakam and Belvin. The one near Belvin, who was closer, reached him, just as he was pulling himself up the stone embankment. The wild elf raised his shield arm to block the blow with his buckler, but the hobgoblin struck true and severed Belvin's arm at the elbow. His scream of anguish echoed through the caverns.

   Leokas heard his friend's scream, followed immediately by a gunshot. He stepped further onto the bridge and turned to the right. From this new point on the bridge, Leokas had the right angle to see Hakam and Belvin defending against two hobgoblins. Hakam held his discharged musket up at defense, and waved his hand. His magic sword responded and flew over horizontally, like a bolt from a ballista, and impaled his attacker. The other hobgoblin pulled back his sword arm to deal a finishing blow to Belvin, whose arm was spraying blood as he hunched over on the ground in agony. From 70 feet away, Leokas sent an arrow first into the hobgoblin's skull and then a second into the creature's chest before his dead body even hit the ground.

   Mythlos dispatched the archer who had shot him in the back. He turned to his left and saw that the fire elemental had entered the opening in the north wall and was engaging two more hobgoblins, being flanked between them. "Fight's not over!" he called back.

   Hakam reached Belvin and touched him, hand aglow with positive energy. Belvin's left arm ceased bleeding and closed off into a stump, as if his lower arm had never been attached.

   Kamil, who had heard his master's screams, had broken free from Ilthian and charged toward Belvin, clearing the stream bed with a bound, even in smaller size. Belvin leapt onto the camel's back while simultaneously dismissing the magic that had reduced his size. Belvin reared Kamil — now full-sized — turned him, and galloped away.

   Stormshadow leapt off the bridge onto the empty stream bed and ran over to the others. Leokas was about to follow, concerned for his maimed friend, when he heard a voice in the goblin tongue from across the bridge: "Maglubiyet give us strength!"

   Szordrin heard the voice as well, though he didn't understand the words, and charged across the bridge while waving his hands to evoke a a spell. He stepped around the corner, by the body of the fallen hobgoblin, and almost was killed by an arrow from another archer five feet away down a tunnel The arrow barely missed his neck and struck the wall behind him. A sphere of flame burst forth from Szordrin's hands and struck the ground. The archer dove toward the wall of the tunnel and avoided it, but the rolling ball of fire struck another hobgoblin behind him, one wearing no armor and carrying a javelin. This narrow tunnel extended to the east, and Szordrin could count five more hobgoblins filling it, the farthest of which was facing a fire elemental. The wizard sent the burning ball rolling down the tunnel with a wave of his hand and fled back onto the bridge. "At least five more!" he warned.

   Cassiera came up running behind Leokas. She had a small vial in her hand, ready to throw.

   "Thought you fled, stowaway," said the wood elf, as he nocked two arrows.

   "Checking if we were flanked," she said.

   "What's that?" asked Szordrin.

   "Alchemist's fire."

   "Burn them all!" said Leokas.

   "I might hit him!"

   "Fire doesn't hurt me," said Szordrin.

   Cassiera tossed the vile. The glass shattered against the wall at the other end of the bridge, and a gooey substance splashed out, igniting into a flash of flame. Some of the goo did get on Szordrin and burned, but he brushed it off himself and seemed unscathed. Presumably, more of the flammable goo got on one of the hobgoblins in the tunnel, because they heard him call out in pain.

   Leokas looked at Szordrin, confused.

   "Fiendish blood has its benefits," said the tiefling.

   Cassiera drew another vial from her belt.

   All of them now heard the sound of a group of hobgoblins yelling from behind them in the cave. Only Leokas understood the words: "Split up and flank them!"

   "We're being flanked!" shouted Leokas in warning. "Stormshadow, seek them out!"

   Szordrin crossed the bridge and passed Leokas, entering the tunnel and running back toward the open gate. "Nargroth, where are you? We have company! To the gate!"

   Meanwhile, in the other part of the cave, Mythlos, who could not get past the fire elemental blocking the opening in the cave wall, instead released magical shock waves at the hobgoblins he could see but not reach. The magical missile killed one of them. Another stepped over the body of his fallen comrade and began to engage the fire creature, running it through with his sword. However, his hairy arm ignited from coming in contact with the elemental's flames.

   Hakam tried to load his musket. "Hakam, look out!" shouted Ilthian, who had made her way to the edge of the former stream. A wild-looking hobgoblin with a javelin on his back and a tiny skull for a necklace had appeared from the southeastern corner of the room. He was rushing toward Hakam with his palms pressed forward. A cone of fire burst from his hands. Hakam ducked quickly. The magic flames passed over him, singeing his hair, but he avoided what should have been far more serious burns. He drew his longsword from its sheath and stood up straight, as the hobgoblin shaman drew the javelin from his back. Hakam motioned the summoned, floating sword over to flank his opponent. The hobgoblin skillfully spun around, knocking aside the magic blade before parrying Hakam's own swing. The summoned weapon vanished, but then Leokas' wolf caught hold of the hobgoblin's leg and tugged. The shaman slipped on Belvin's blood and fell face down on the ground. He tried to rise again, but Hakam struck hard, cracking the goblin's metal skullcap. The creature fell on his face, unconscious.

   "Huzzah!" cried Ilthian. "Well done, justicar!"

   "Good job, Hakam!" Mythlos had been running to assist Hakam, but saw he was not needed. "I'll clear out wherever they're coming from," he said, and he ran to investigate. In the southeast corner, there was a three-foot wide narrow opening, which he passed through, sword at ready. To his disappointment, there were no remaining hobgoblins on the other side, only an empty chamber with another large omlar structure and a mining pit before the room ended at a drop off. He moved to this and concluded that he had reached what would have been another portion of the underground stream, had Hakam's magic not still been at work holding the waters back.

   At the stone bridge, Cassiera rushed into the tunnel at the other side, tossing the vial. It shattered on an archer, covering him with a burning acid, causing his shot to stray. The arrow grazed the yuan-ti's arm, but her thicker skin was left with nothing but a scratch. She saw the hobgoblin immediately behind the archer heal his acid burns with a magical touch.

   She stepped back out. "They have a shaman!" she told Leokas.

   The enemy archer followed her out with a nocked arrow, ready to strike her in the back. Leokas felled him with two arrows in the forehead, and he tumbled in a heap atop the previous hobgoblin who had shared the same fate. The wood elf then dropped his bow and rushed across the bridge past Cassiera, while drawing his Calishite longsword. "I'll deal with the shaman," he said. "Follow me."

   He turned the corner at the end and saw a javelin rushing through the air at him from the shaman, who had been waiting for him. The point struck the elf directly in the center of the chest, knocking him back, and he stumbled upon the pile of the two dead hobgoblins, dropping his sword. Time seemed to move more slowly for him, and he wondered if he had been slain before realizing that the combination of his thick studded leather breastplate and his sternum had miraculously left him unharmed. With a feral yell more befitting a wild elf than a wood elf, he grabbed hold of the javelin and rose to his feet again.

   The shaman drew a jagged dagger, but Cassiera appeared behind Leokas and threw another vial, before the wood could take his revenge. It struck the shaman's face, turning its head into a ball of fire. The hobgoblin dropped to the ground, writhing in pain before his life ended.

   Leokas was frustrated that the stowaway had slain his opponent, but then an arrow whizzing by his ear brought him back to the battle at hand. He took a step forward and impaled yet another archer with the shaman's javelin. The hobgoblin fell to the ground, and the shaft plunged clear through his back. Leokas pressed up against the wall and let Cassiera pass, as he drew his dagger next. She tossed yet another vial down the hall. It struck the last remaining hobgoblin in the back, setting him afire and giving the fire elemental an opening to finish it off with a solid blow to the top of the head.

   The tunnel was clear the whole distance of 50 feet to where the fire elemental was stationed.

   Cassiera swung down the sack that hung from her shoulder and extracted another vial, for her supply at her belt was waning. Leokas returned to the other end of the bridge to retrieve his bow.

   There was another deafening crack, as Hakam tried to fire his musket around the corner. There were still at least several hobgoblins beyond the fire elemental to the east.

   Szordrin had followed the mining cart tracks back the way they had come, but he saw no sign of any more hobgoblins. He heard galloping to the east and grew confused, not realizing that it was Kamil and Belvin returning to the fight.

   Thus Belvin appeared behind Hakam on Kamil. "I forgot my arm!" he explained. Then he began summoning again as best he could with only one hand. Momentarily, a second fire elemental appeared beside the first, and they beat another hobgoblin to a burning pulp. "They are retreating!" they heard Cassiera call from around the corner. Then her mouth uttered a crackling tongue, which none of them could understand, but the two elementals turned briefly in her direction as if acknowledging her words. Then they flowed along the ground like a wildfire after the retreating hobgoblins. Hakam and Belvin saw them move off to the right, followed by Cassiera running past the opening.

   Only now did Hakam realize that the opening led to a west-to-east tunnel that must have led from where the others had been fighting. He picked up his musket from the floor — because it had been blasted from his hands when he tried to shoot it around the corner with one hand. Then he went through the opening in the wall and followed after Cassiera. He did not, however, see her. Instead, ten yards ahead, he saw her empty clothing fall to the ground in a heap and a six-foot long viper slither out of the pile, descending along the mining cart tracks deeper into the earth. Beyond the snake, one of the fire elementals seemed to have been struck with something from the right. It turned around a corner and passed out of sight, while the other continued to the east and downward. He extracted another bullet from the pouch at his belt, loaded it into the barrel of his musket, and began pursuing.
Session: 55th Game Session - Thursday, Jul 02 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 6 — Assassin Vines
~ third-day, 23rd of Flamerule, The Year of Wild Magic, afternoon
somewhere north of Mbala



Walker now led the group confidently through the jungle. From Mbala, he had written directions guiding him north to the site of the temple based on specific landmarks. Leokas offered to help with navigation, but Walker said he had things under control.

   It was another hot day, but time passed quickly for them. By mid-afternoon, Leokas was confident that he could spot a rope bridge up ahead and beyond that a stone structure. As they approached excitedly, only Szordrin was focused on the path. He noticed grape-like berries and very strange leaves on the plants surrounding them. They had five-pointed, asymmetric leaves, and some leaves were mirror images of the others, much like human hands. When Belvin, who was riding in the front near Walker moved forward, his magic failed to move aside the narrow vines in the way. They too were covered in the asymmetric leaves.

   Then Szordrin noticed something else. "Jayce, the vines are moving! Look out!"

   A bulky vine, about the thickness size of a man's arm, lashed out at Jayce like a whip from the side of the path. Jayce avoided it, drew his dagger, and tried to hack at it, but he could not cut through the stringy bark. A second vine struck him and in mere moments, it had wrapped itself around his neck and was strangling him. Szordrin instantly had his wand out and shot a ray of flame at the plant. The leaves burned away, but the vine itself simply steamed. It was so moist that it did not catch fire.

   While everyone glanced at the commotion to the left of the path, more vines from the right side of the trail struck Walker firmly, but he managed to duck and escape from being strangled.

   Then it seemed that the whole forest around them came alive. All of the smaller vines spread out over the jungle floor began moving about wildly, seeking for any prey to grab. The vines entangled Cloud's legs, and Leokas tumbled off his saddle and next to Walker, drawing his longsword in the same fluid motion. He hacked at one of the thicker vines, cutting it halfway through. It flopped over limp, but two others struck him hard and, soon, Leokas too was being choked by the plant as if by a constrictor snake.

   Nargroth, screaming wildly, rescued Jayce with several swings of his axe, while Stormshadow tried to free her master, but she could not catch the writhing vines in her mouth. Walker also tried to assist Leokas, swinging his thick walking staff.

   Belvin urged Kamil forward, and the camel charged out of the mass of grasping vines and over the rope bridge, while his master attempted to summon help. Thankfully, the bridge held, and the camel did not trip on the gaps in the planks.

   Missiles of magic struck the remaining vines that were near Nargroth and Jayce, and this seemed to still them. On the other side of the group of travelers, Hakam found himself thoroughly entangled, as smaller vines wrapped up as high as his thighs. He waved his hands to begin casting a spell, but one wrapped around his arm and disrupted the magic.

   Leokas was finding it hard to breathe, as the vine cinched tighter around his neck. He was not strong enough to free himself. Then two more lashed out at Walker. The second struck him so hard on the top of the head that there was a loud thud, and Walker was knocked out cold. Szordrin smirked at this.

   Leokas felt a little relief, as he felt himself suddenly covered in a slippery film, which allowed him to shove the vine a bit off his neck. Jayce had used his grease spell in an attempt to help him.

   It was an even more unexpected turn that ultimately saved the wood elf's life, however. A pile of bones appeared out of nowhere right beside him and formed themselves quickly into a nine-foot tall skeleton. The undead creature stood on hind legs and looked somewhat like a bear except that it had a razor sharp beak on its skull instead of a snout. It swung it large claws at one of the vines, knocking it away effortlessly, then it snapped down on the vine around Leokas' neck, severing it. Leokas was free.

   Oma stilled the carnivorous plant by sending two pulses of force into its two remaining main vines. All of the smaller offshoots relaxed and slid to the ground motionless.

~~~~


"What is that?" asked Mythlos, indicating the towering skeleton, which waited for mental commands from its caller.

   "It was an owlbear," said Oma proudly. "Now that it has died, it's my weapon."

   "Are you some sort of necromantic summoner?" asked Hakam, as he freed himself from the dead vines.

   "Do you have a problem with that?" asked Jayce.

   "I have a problem with the creation of undeath;" replied the cleric, "I know enough not to complain about the use of already created undead to save a companion's life."

   The skeleton vanished, and Leokas leaned over Walker. "He's alive. Hakam, can you wake him up?"

   Hakam approached, but Szordrin stopped him. "No, don't you see? This is our chance to search him and learn for whom he works!"

   "He's our employer!" Hakam replied. "We cannot search him unlawfully!"

   "It's nowhere in our contract that we cannot search him!" answered Szordrin.

   "No."

   "I will not steal anything; I'll only search."

   "No," Hakam said again, emphatically, as he bent over and touched Walker with glowing hand. "I've known you no longer than I've known Walker, and he's paying me!"

   Walker sat up and groaned. "I'm getting too old for this!"

   Szordrin gave Hakam a dirty look.

   "Is everyone alive?" Walker asked.

   "Yes, though I'm not sure whither Belvin rode off," said Leokas.

   "You trust him too much," Szordrin whispered to Hakam, as the cleric walked over to heal Jayce from the bruises around his neck. "Before this is over, I'm sure he will do something that will reveal his true character."

   "I think these are assassin vines," said Walker to Leokas and Mythlos. "See, large berries, hand-like leaves. Carnivorous plants, the bane of many jungle explorers."

   "This cluster of vines was the bane of at least a couple," said Mythlos. "Look here."

   He had found two skulls and a tiny, decayed leather pouch.

   "One of those was a goblin," said Leokas. "Good riddance!"

   "What's in the pouch?" asked Nargroth.

   "A good number of gold coins, a yellowish gem, and... Szordrin, weren't you hoping to buy a pearl? Here's a black one."

   "You might want to come look at this!" they heard Belvin shout from somewhere over the bridge. "I've found Ubtao's totem."
Session: The Big Five-O Game Session (Double Marathon Session!) - Sunday, Mar 29 2015 from 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Epic!
Chapter 6 — The (Lesser) Eye Tyrant
The beam of fire missed, but the black one struck Jayce soundly in the chest. He looked overwhelmed with exhaustion.

   Thorik yanked on the reigns to bring the triceratops to a halt.

   As he so often did, Belvin called forth a ball of fire that launched from his fingertips toward the floating monster. The creature darted to the side to avoid the flaming sphere, but it did not anticipate Belvin directing it to leap back up again after missing. It struck the monster and singed it.

   The monster rose higher in the air, beyond the ability of the ball of flame to reach by its "jumping". It floated towards them, and four more eyed tentacles fired rays of magic at them. A green ray struck Leokas, a black, crackling one struck Mythlos, and a pale blue one Nargroth. A stream of fire missed Jayce, passing right between his legs. Leokas felt a brief stiffening sensation, but the feeling quickly began to pass. Mythlos felt intense pain ripple through his body, but he quickly touched his magic sword to his shoulder and healed quenched it. Then, four illusionary copies of Mythlos appeared about him, as he finished chanting a spell.

   Nargroth felt like he was about to fall into a deep sleep, but he willed himself awake with his anger, and began charging at their attacker.

   Oma quickly rummaged through the sack that hung on her summoned horse's saddle. She extracted a small vanity mirror. "It's a beholder!" she warned the others, before sending two pulses of magic force from her fingers.

   "Aye!" answered Thorik, the dwarven teamster. "Watch your eyes!"

   Leokas didn't comprehend the warning, but he took aim instead, sending three arrows in rapid succession at the abomination before them, as it drew ever closer. Only one of his arrows found its target, perhaps because his muscles were still stiffer than he thought.

   "No!" said Jayce. "It's a gauth, and be thankful for it." He felt too exhausted to attack, but he could still play his music to support his allies. He closed his eyes tightly, and began strumming.

   "Is it evil?" asked Szordrin.

   "Yes!" said Thorik, Oma, Jayce, and Walker together.

   Szordrin sprinkled some silver dust on himself while muttering an abjuration.

   Walker was patting his robe frantically. Then he ripped off another invisible patch, as he had done in Tunji, and with a flick of his hand, a small mirror appeared in his palm. He began watching the movement of the "gauth" in it.

   A three-dimensional grid of violet beams of light appeared in a 30 cubic foot area surrounding the gauth, an answer to a prayer from Hakam, but this seemed to have no affect on the creature. It still drew closer, now fifty feet away or so, and more beams flashed from its eye stalks. Two beams narrowly missed Leokas, another annihilated one of the false Mythloses, and a fourth struck the ground near the running feet of Nargroth.

   The half-orc ran below the beholder-like creature, but it was too high above him for him to have any hope of striking it, even if he jumped. Belvin, however, called the flaming sphere back. It rolled toward Nargroth. Hakam understood Belvin's intent. "Nargroth, launch the fire with your axe!" he yelled. Nargroth understood and obeyed. He lowered his axe to the ground like a shovel; Belvin rolled the fire sphere onto one pair of blades, and the half-orc catapulted it high into the air. It struck the gauth in the back, deflecting it from its course. Three magical projectiles from Oma and Mythlos' wand pounded it, and a magic arrow from Leokas sailed directly into its large central eye. It dropped from the air with a splat, where it rapidly burned into a pile of melted flesh and ooze.

~~~~


"What is a gauth?" asked Szordrin as they gathered around the putrid remains. "I thought it was a beholder."

   "It's like a beholder," said Jayce, "only less powerful — thank the gods! A beholder has eight eye stalks; this one had only six."

   "A gauth is to a beholder what a dog is to a wolf or a goblin is to a bugbear," added Walker.

   "What did you mean by 'watching our eyes'?" Hakam asked.

   "I meant, 'Don't look directly at the thing if you care about living!'" said Thorik.

   Jayce explained. "I trust you know of medusae and basilisks? It's like that. Some inherent magic possesses them such that if you gaze at their eyes you are stunned and unable to move. It's like being in a magically induced trance or hypnosis. You are present but unable to react to anything. And then it comes and bites your head off. Such are typical bar tales of the Underdark."

   "I think we avoided that because we slew it before it could get close enough to make direct eye contact," said Oma.

   "I think we survived because the thing had lousy accuracy," said Belvin. "Did you see how many of its rays missed outright?"

   "Why was it here on the road?" one of them asked.

   "Beholders and their kin be like dragons in a way," said Thorik, "always wanting new stuff. This one probably was here to collect a toll."

   "A toll?" said Hakam. "It seems to me that it outright ambushed us!"

   "Aye! That's how beholders take tolls in these parts!"

   "Is it worth our time to seek out its horde?" Hakam asked.

   "Nay, nay. It's probably deep below and through tunnels one can't pass through without floating. Let's continue on our way and leave it to the cave rats and centipedes to clean the road of the mess.

   "I thank you for your help. You fought well! I've never seen an axe used in such a way. Moradin's beard!"
Session: The Big Five-O Game Session (Double Marathon Session!) - Sunday, Mar 29 2015 from 3:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 6 — The River Camp
~ seventh-day, 17th of Flamerule, The Year of Wild Magic, midnight
the jungles of Chult


It took nearly an hour to round up the two camels and Cloud, Leokas' white horse, since the jungle was so dark at night. When they at last succeeded, they discussed their next course of action.

   "I think we should sleep here," said Hakam. "It's as good a place as any. In the morning, we can set out for Tunji again."

   "I vote that we head back now," said Jayce. "The combat may attract other creatures to this place."

   "Nay," said Hakam. "We've seen how the natural animals fled from the presence of the undead spirit, and the sentient creatures in the region all know the place was haunted. This may be one of the safest places in the jungle for the time being."

   This argument convinced them, so they set up camp.

   "We should still set a night watch," one of them said.

   "I've already tranced for close to four hours," said Leokas. "I can stay on watch the rest of the night. I need to craft more arrows anyhow."

~~~~


At sunrise, the party began to awake in their camp in the abandoned village. As Leokas finished another arrow, he was surprised to see Walker float into the camp on his carpet with the two crates.

   "Thank Shaundakul I've found you!" he said.

   "What happened?" asked Mythlos. "How did you...? You monster!"

   "I killed no one," said Walker. "On the contrary, they tried to kill me." He hopped down from the carpet. He had an arrow in his upper arm.

   Hakam came forward. "Let me cure you."

   "I was not going to have us lose two days on our journey," explained Walker, as Hakam snapped the arrow in two and pulled the ends out. Walker grimaced but did not call out. "I waited till just before dawn, when all but a few village guards were asleep. Then I bolted. It was easier for me to escape than it would have been for our whole group to have." Hakam sealed the wound with a divine spell, as Walker continued. "I followed the river easily enough, which allowed me to stay under the tree cover. I was trusting that I would be able to spot the old village from over the water by morning light, and thankfully I did."

   "What will Fipya think of this?" asked Mythlos.

   "I don't give an orc's toenail what she thinks of this," said Walker.

   "She thinks this 'delivery' is still potentially dangerous for Chult," said Fipya, stepping out from behind a tree. "Your mercenaries have proven themselves in the ordeal assigned them by the elders, and I believe that they are ignorant of whatever plans you or your customer have with the crates. In my mind, they are free to continue on. I will not attempt to stop you. I'll return to the elders and report, but know that you are still being observed by the Ytepka.

   "Now then, goodbye, adventurers; it was a pleasure fighting alongside you." Fipya strode off northeast into the jungle without any further conversation.

   "You don't happen to have any diamonds in that cloak of yours, do you, Walker?" Mythlos asked.

   "Why do we need more...? Gods! you look terrible. What happened to you?"

   They explained to him the previous night's battle.

   "I've tried removing curses and diseases from him," said Hakam. "Neither magic had any effect. This is not a simple curse nor a natural disease; it requires more powerful restorative magics to replenish his life force that has been stolen. I placed a ward upon him to protect him from death magics, but the damage has already been done. If we don't find diamond dust soon, I will not have the means to restore him. He could fade into undeath."

   "Fipya said that our best bet would be to locate dwarves," one of them said.

   "We should continue forward," said Walker, "yet inquiring with anyone we meet about dwarves in the area. It will do us no good to retreat from our course. I have a responsibility to ensure my employees are in prime health; if we find a source of diamonds, we shall by all means pull aside."

   "I foresaw that we would need greater haste on our journey for Mythlos' sake," said Oma, "so I readied multiple preparations of my horse-summoning spell."

   "How many hairs are you going to need to pluck from Cloud for that?" said Leokas.

   "Four hairs for four horses," she said. "What colors would you all like?"

~~~~


After two hours of continuing to follow the river, it curved twenty degrees or so and began flowing from west to east. Shortly, they came to a small encampment a short distance from the shore of the river. They spotted a canvas lean-to in a small clearing and stopped to investigate. There was also a fire pit and a traveler's chest.

   "It looks recently abandoned," said Jayce.

   "Indeed," said Leokas, stooping over the fire pit. "The coals are still warm; this fire was lit last night." He began to scout around for tracks. "A woman was here, I think — see there... and there — human or elven, perhaps,... and a large snake."

   "How large?"

   "Not as large as the one that killed Losi, perhaps as large around as my waist."

   "That's still rather large," said Walker.

   "Are the tracks recent?" someone asked.

   "Some more so than others," Leokas replied.

   "Did the explorer get eaten by a snake?"

   "That's possible, but there do not seem to be signs of her body being dragged away...."

   "Hey!" Hakam shouted. Mythlos and Jayce had opened the traveling chest and were peeking inside. "That's private property."

   "It's only stealing if we take something," said Jayce, "and it's only tomb-robbing if there's a tomb, which this isn't."

   "There could be diamonds," said Mythlos.

   There were not, but the chest was full of valuables — about twelve pounds of gold coins, atop of which rested a spyglass, a kit of well-crafted thieves tools, and a few smokesticks.

   "So she is a thief," stated Leokas.

   "Not only thieves carry such tools," said Szordrin.

   "Sift through the coins for gems," said Mythlos.

   Jayce did so and quickly spotted one coin that stood out from the rest. It was twice as large and thick as the other gold coins. Jayce picked it up, and immediately he felt himself grow weak.

   Belvin noticed Jayce's reaction. "Drop it!" he said. "It's a contact poison."

   "That's what you get for snooping," said Hakam.

   Fortuitously, Belvin had prepared a druidic spell for neutralizing poisons, which he employed on his teammate.

   They all glanced at the large coin laying flat on the top of the pile. The coin had an eye with a vertical pupil engraved on it. None of them recognized what it might mean.

   Mythlos had entered the lean-to and was searching around the bed roll laid out there. "I've found an amulet... and a map," he called back.

   "Don't touch the amulet!" said Belvin, but it was too late. Mythlos did not seem to be poisoned, however. The amulet also contained eye imagery. It was a black stone surrounded by greenish glass shards that looked somewhat like scales.

   Szordrin scanned the amulet and the map for magic. "Neither is magical," he said. "That amulet looks familiar, though I cannot place it."

   They all examined the map. It showed a river and had several X marks on it with some other drawings and writing.



   "I think we are here on this map," said Hakam, pointing at the centermost X. "See, this represents Wonder Falls. This must be Tunji above it. This village symbol with the skull and cross-bones must be Nyan."

   "Is this supposed to be a shipwreck?" asked Mythlos.

   "Perhaps, but I saw no such thing on the river."

   "Maybe there is one on the other side of that massive boulder in the center of the water."

   "We'll have to confirm that."

   "Can anyone read these letters?" asked Jayce.

   "It's Draconic," said Oma.

   "Can you read it?"

   "Of course. There's no sense wasting your magic."

   She took the map from him. "This X here at the top of the map says irrthoss. Hmm. Irthos means 'secret' in Draconic. I'm not sure why it has extra letters. It must be misspelled."

   "A treasure?" said Mythlos.

   Oma continued. "These little villages are labeled yuan, but I don't know that word."

   "As in yuan-ti?" asked Szordrin.

   "I'm fairly certain Tunji was a human village," said Walker.

   "All the villages on the map say yuan," said Oma, "except for what we think is Nyan, which says loex. That's Draconic for 'death'."

   "It must be Nyan then," said Hakam.

   "What's that cave?" asked Mythlos.

   "Thuandhvaerr. It kind of looks like 'dwarf cave', but it should be tundarwaere."

   "Tymora smiles on us," said Walker. "If those be dwarves, that will only set us back a day. You may have your diamonds after all, Hakam."

   "What's this last word?"

   Oma hesitated. "Thern'sixaess? I don't think this is true Draconic. Maybe it's a rare dialect."

   "Well, we can worry about that later. At least we know the location of some dwarves. We should head out," said Walker.

   Just then, they all heard a woman scream.

   "That came from the river," said Nargroth. "Someone is in danger!"

   "Wait!" said Jayce. "That scream sounded suspicious to me." But Nargroth was already rushing toward the shore.

   "I'll keep an eye on him," said Leokas, and he left the lean-to to follow.

   "Ready yourselves," said Jayce, and he stepped outside. Hakam readied his gun. Szordrin released Ferry, and the little mustelid scurried off through the underbrush.

   "Where are you, lady?" Jayce shouted out to the water.

   "Help!" she screamed again. Her voice came from the other side of the large boulder that sat in the middle of the water. "It's got me!"

   Szordrin magically messaged Nargroth. "What do you see?" he whispered into an enchanted wire.

   "There's a naked lady in the water," Nargroth said. "She's floating face down in the water as if she's dead. I'm going in after her."

   "No!" Jayce spoke into Szordrin's wire. "There are hundreds of tales of men being tricked by bathing ladies who were really monsters!"

   Leokas reached the shore and leapt in two bounds from stone to stone onto the boulder in the river. From atop, he gazed down to see the shipwreck of a small river barge. He looked over at Nargroth on the shore and then saw the woman's floating body. He aimed his bow. Suddenly, the woman's body jerked and went below the surface as he watched.

   "Something pulled her under!" said Nargroth.

   "Wait!" said Leokas.

   Then, out of the corner of his eye, Leokas saw a giant ball of thick shadow erupt from the tree cover to the north and contact the ground. There was a dome of darkness around where Nargroth had been.

   For his part, Nargroth heard something about the weight of a small stone strike the sand near his feet and found himself in utter darkness. Not even his darkvision gave him any sensory input. He stumbled five yards to the north and burst into light again. "What is going on?" he said.

   As if in answer, the grass and undergrowth around him and beyond came alive and began grabbing at him. Several ground vines wrapped themselves around his legs, trapping him.

   Ferry bolted in fear out of the dome of darkness and returned to Szordrin. Mythlos stood nearby, but he was too nervous to battle with the weakness he felt.

   The area of enchanted grasses reached as far as Jayce at the edge of the camp, and he found his legs entangled as well. His arms were still free, however, so he began strumming. Stormshadow darted into the jungle to the north, while Oma and Belvin began summoning for magical help.

   Hakam had already been in the midst of the entangling enchantment when it began, but he managed to avoid being grabbed by anything thick enough to hold him down. He called out for protection from his god and moved to the north toward the tree line from which he too had seen the giant orb of shadow come.

   Leokas hopped up to a higher point on the boulder and jumped up to see over the top of the twenty-foot-radius sphere of black, but he could make out nothing but thick jungle beyond. Whatever spellcaster was assailing them, he or she was well camouflaged. He ran down the boulder and leapt back over the water to land on the shore to the left of the darkness and the animated undergrowth.

   Nargroth thrashed about, growing angry at the vines that held him, but he could not break free.

   "Walker!" Jayce called. "Use the spyglass. We can't tell whom we are fighting!"

   Walker listened. He rushed over to the still-open chest and extracted the spyglass. Then he leapt onto his carpet and ordered it to rise, but before he got very far, Stormshadow reached the base of a tree and began barking up it. An eagle appeared in the sky above Oma and soared overhead, diving suddenly down at something in the trees, but it did not seem to strike anything.

   Belvin's summon also arrived. He had it appear in the air next to the tree by Stormshadow, and the air elemental began swinging its cloudy appendages at something none of them could yet make out. Belvin then turned around to face away from the battle, so that his druidic path-making magic would clear the field of some of the undergrowth and lessen the effects of the enemy magic.

   "Anachtyr, open mine eyes to those who oppose thy laws," prayed Hakam. Immediately, he sensed the presence of chaos to the northwest, so he pressed forward through the moving grasses and vines to escape their reach.

   Nargroth at last ripped free and charged at the tree besides the black wolf, but he still could not see who hid up in its branches. He began climbing.

   Leokas at last spotted movement, yet it was in a different tree. At first he saw the head of a tiny viper up in the branches, but in a few seconds there stood a feminine figure armed with a bow. Walker, from high above on his carpet, also spotted her through the telescope. "There's an archer in a tree to the left!" he shouted down.

   Hakam, still approaching nearer, confirmed with his magic vision that there were two assailants, as auras of red began to form up in the two trees. Szordrin was the first to do damage to the attackers, as he released two magic missiles to hone in on whatever was in the first tree. Oma's eagle dove a second time and missed again. Whatever was in the tree quenched Belvin's elemental with a single blow from a blade of some sort.

   Jayce tossed the elephant figurine as far as he could toward the first tree, and as soon as the giant pachyderm appeared, he ordered it to charge. The hulking beast struck the tree with its thick skull, as Stormshadow moved quickly away. The tree shook with the force of the blow, but the hidden enemy was not thrown from its roost. Nargroth held on tight as well and continued to climb.

   The archer in the second tree took aim, but Leokas put two arrows in her chest before she could release a single arrow. She tumbled backwards off her thick branch and crashed into the undergrowth below.

   Nargroth felt his hand touch something scaled. He burst up through the leaves, and was struck immediately with a curved blade, leaving a gash in his shoulder. He shrugged off the blow and faced his opponent, braced against two branches. What he looked at was a despicable creature, thick snake from the waist down and muscular, scaled, male humanoid from the waist up. His entire body was camouflaged to look like the jungle foliage. A forked tongue shot out of the monster's mouth and his torso inflated to an even bulkier size, as he swung two more times at Nargroth, but the half-orc deftly avoided the blows, which struck branches instead.

   "Nargroth, get down!" Jayce wanted to have the elephant fell the tree, but the barbarian was too enraged to give the bard any heed.

   Szordrin and Hakam ran toward the duel in the tree, the former doing so at supernatural speed, the latter calling down an animated sword from the heavens, which flew to assist Nargroth. Hakam could now clearly see the red aura of the creature Nargroth was fighting, but the aura was relatively faint.

   Nargroth and the snake-man exchanged blows. The half-orc slashed through the snake's studded leather breastplate, but the latter parried the second blow with his scimitar and returned a swing. The blade got stuck in the trunk of the massive tree, and Nargroth took opportunity to strike a solid axe blow into the thick snake portion of his enemy's body, spraying greenish blood. Then the snake-man cut at Nargroth's stomach. The snake-man's flexible neck darted forward, and he snapped his fangs at Nargoth. Oma's eagle dove between the two of them, distracting both.

   "Tell the elephant to give me a boost!" Leokas called to Jayce.

   "Do what he says!" ordered Jayce.

   Leokas ran in front of the elephant and hopped onto its thick truck. The animal raised his truck skyward, propelling the wood elf rapidly through the air, where he landed soundly astride two branches in the tree where the archer had been. In a heartbeat, his arrow was nocked. At last he could see the monstrous enemy, who was deflecting an attack from Hakam's animated, floating longsword. Leokas loosed three arrows rapidly into the back of the creature.

   The snake-man staggered, tumbled backward, and fell with a crunch to the ground.

~~~~


"Yuan-ti," said Walker, as they stood around the dead bodies of the two attackers. "She's not human at all either — pureblood." He pointed at the black-haired women. She was wearing a studded leather tunic and appeared human at first glance, but her eyes had narrow pupils and she had subtle scales along her neck. Walker opened her mouth. "See, forked tongue and fangs." The other monster was no longer green-colored; his scales were now black and orange. He apparently had some sort of chameleon-like ability. "And this was a halfblood."

   "I should have known," said Szordrin. "That amulet is the insignia of a yuan-ti house. I've seen one before. We even found snake tracks!"

   "What are yuan-ti?" Mythlos asked.

   "Abominations," said Jayce, "created by twisted breeding experiments by the sarrukh, whom legends call one of the five creator races."

   "They are feared for their telepathic powers," added Szordrin. "They are infused with magic in their beings and can create spell-like effects with thought alone, as we have just experienced."

   "The female must have been the woman who was bathing," said Leokas. "I think she took the form of a viper and slithered back to her tree to ambush us."

   "Yes, the bather did have black hair like hers," said Nargroth.

   "The female had a vial of poison for her arrows," said Mythlos. "It was good you took her out when you did, Leokas."

   "Vile creatures," said Hakam. "Good riddance!"

   "We should find this dwarven cave on the yuan-ti map," said Oma. "Mythlos is not looking any better."
Session: 48th Game Session - Wednesday, Jan 21 2015 from 6:45 PM to 9:45 PM
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Chapter 6 — The Spectre of Nyan
~ sixth-day, 16th of Flamerule, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
the jungles of Chult


The group of nine travelers progressed southwest through the jungle from Tunji. Now that they were out of the village, they felt more at ease to ask Fipya questions about her and about their quest.

   "You speak Common far more fluently than the other Chultans we have met. You have less of an accent than Hakam or Oma. Where did you learn to speak so well?"

   "I grew up in Port Nyanzaru," Fipya answered, "among the traders and explorers. I heard Common spoken as often as my native tongue."

   "Where did you learn to fight?"

   "In the streets. I was the definition of a street urchin. I grew out of that phase, however, and I put my talents to nobler uses by joining the Ytepka."

   "What are the Ytepka?" Szordrin asked.

   "I gathered from earlier that it is an order of some sort, yes?" said Hakam.

   "It is," Fipya replied. "Ytepka is the Tabaxi name for the beast your scholars would call the 'triceratops'. Those from outside these lands who know of our existence refer to us as the 'Triceratops Society'. I myself am now an Ytepka of the fifteenth degree."

   "How many degrees are there?"

   "Ninety-nine. One hundred, if one counts Ubtao."

   "Is it a religious order then?" asked Hakam.

   "No, most of us are warriors of some sort."

   Leokas, riding Cloud, spoke up. "I see you fight with a... kerrie. (Is that what you call it?) Is it magical?"

   "No, it is not," she answered, "but it is the most well-balanced mundane club you will ever find. You ask for doubt of my ability to join you in the fight against the undead. I am not unprepared; Mezoar, Tunji's priest of Ubtao, gifted me with three vials of holy water, and I have an excellent throwing arm."

   "What sort of magics should I use against this undead creature?" Szordrin asked.

   "Fire works very well against corporeal undead," answered Hakam, "but I am not sure our enemy will be corporeal."

   "He will not be," said Fipya.

   "Was he a human when he lived?" asked Szordrin.

   "He was. Now he is an apparition, a spectre, his spirit kept in this world due to the extreme violence with which he was ripped from his body."

   "In the legends," added Jayce, "spectres exist only to kill other beings as violently as they themselves were slain. When someone is killed by a spectre, they become a spectre as well."

   "In any case, my fire spells will not work well then," said Szordrin.

   "Don't you have any force magic to use?" said Oma from atop her summoned black horse.

   "We need not worry much about the battle," said Mythlos. "Hakam will take care of it."

   "Eh, what's this?" Once again Szordrin had spotted something in the magical debris that Belvin's spell drove from the path, this time, an old, thick, moldy book. He snagged it, before it tumbled off the embankment. "It's a spellbook!" he exclaimed, upon examining it. "It's missing a lot of pages, but there are still readable spells in here." Mythlos quickly came over to glance through the pages along with Szordrin.

   Leokas sighed, bothered that they kept stumbling upon items on their journey.

~~~~


They continued to follow the river Soshenstar, walking uphill along the top of the high embankment. At highsun — though they could see no sun due to the continued rains — they turned a corner and gazed upon a towering waterfall.

   "I have seen it many times," said Fipya. "I always forget how beautiful it is. Its name is translated 'Wonder Falls' in your common tongue."



   "Here would be a good place to stop for lunch... and a swim," said Leokas.

   "An excellent time and place to eat, yes," said Fipya, "but I would strongly caution against swimming so near the base of the falls, especially with all the rain we are having. There are exceptionally strong undercurrents, which can pull you under and pin you within undercuts in the cliff walls."

   "Belvin, what's the strongest swimming animal of which you can take shape?" Leokas asked.

   "I could take the form of a crocodile," he replied.

   Ignoring Fipya's warning, the three elves began descending the cliff to the water.

   "Isn't it a little odd to go swimming in the rain?" asked Oma.

   "Why? Our clothes are already soaked anyhow."

   When they got to the bottom, they stood on a boulder, and Belvin began removing his leathers. Oma seemed quite interested in the happenings below.

   "Haven't you ever seen people swimming before, girl?" Fipya asked, as she sat on the ground with the others eating her rations.

   "I'm not a girl!" Oma protested.

   "She's probably hoping to see some elven backside," said Jayce.

   "I was contemplating joining them," said Oma, "but I do not think I could manage the climb."

   There was a large splash as Belvin belly-flopped into the water, having taken the form of a crocodile before his body hit the surface. The current was indeed exceptionally strong, but with his powerful tail, he could overcome the tug and swam back to the other two elves successfully.

   "Can I ride your back?" Leokas asked.

   "One jaw snap for yes," said Mythlos. "Two for no."

   Belvin snapped his jaws once loudly, and Leokas straddled the knobby, armored back of the giant aquatic reptile. They slipped into the water, and Belvin swam against the current with Leokas holding on.

   Stormshadow barked down at them and whined.

   After Mythlos and Leokas each had a turn and performed more daring water stunts, the three elves climbed back up to the others and their journey began again.

~~~~


After about another three hours, they began seeing piles of stones among the undergrowth. "We are nearing the village," said Fipya. "These are the memorial stones for the fallen of Nyan. One of their number defied Ras Nsi, ignoring the zombies sent to collect tithes, so his undead slew the entire village. This was twenty seasons ago."

   "I still wish to know more about this Ras Nsi," said Szordrin.

   According to the tales I have heard," said Jayce, "when Ubtao himself founded the holy city of Mezro several thousands of years ago, he chose seven barae as his deathless Chosen to rule the city and the tribes. A few thousand years after that, there was a war between the two largest Chultan tribes, the Tabaxi and the Eshowe. The Eshowe summoned a great monster of shadow to attack the Tabaxi, and the Tabaxi nearly fell. However, in the end, they drove back the monster of shadow, and it turned on its original summoners. After this, one of the barae, Ras Nsi, began an ethnic cleansing of Chult and tried to annihilate the entire Eshowe tribe in punishment, and he essentially succeeded; the Tabaxi tribe is the only major tribe left today. The other barae expelled Ras Nsi for this great evil. Since then, since he remains immortal, he has used his power to create undead with which he still seeks to control this land."

   "He speaks the same tales I know," said Fipya. "I am impressed."

   "Should we ready ourselves for combat?" one of them asked.

   "Some dead only come out at night," said Hakam. "Do you know if such is the case for this abomination?"

   "Yes, you are correct," said Fipya. "The spectre cannot manifest in sunlight. We have several hours before we need worry ourselves about your trial."

   "We should rest now, then," said Leokas, "so we will have more strength when the time comes."

   "Here is the village," said Belvin, as he stepped into a partial clearing ahead of the others. The village was still mostly standing, arranged in a similar manner to the other Tabaxi villages they had seen, only far more overgrown. Most of the huts' roofs had collapsed, and fences had fallen over.

   They set out their bedrolls, hammocks, and tent, and took four hours of rest.

~~~~


When the sun set, they roused themselves. It had at last ceased raining. Leokas and Mythlos started another fire, and at last they began to dry out their clothes and bodies.

   After a few hours, they turned to telling ghost stories from their respective lands. Oma told of the Red Prow, a slaving vessel from Calimport that sank from the weight of gold it carried from the slave trade, only to rise again as a ghost ship piloted by wraiths.

   Hakam spoke of a secret underworld said to exist under the city of Myratma. From time to time, ghouls and ghasts would grab lost children and pull them through the sewer grates to feast on.

   Fipya narrated a tale of terror about a mother whose children were replaced with zombies unbeknownst to her.

   Belvin shared a story of a phantom city that appeared on moonless nights every few years, hovering over the waters of the Vilhon Reach, just north of his home forest, the Chondalwood. This was the city of Dhinnilith, which was destroyed by a tidal wave sent by elves in ancient past during the fall of Jhaamdath. The city's only inhabitant was a ghostly cloud with thousands of human faces, silently screaming in terror.

   Nargroth told of the grisly deaths that befell a party of tomb raiders who had sought to defile his tribe's ancestral mound at Beorunna's Well.

   "Now, I admit that those stories all had some good qualities," said Jayce, "but you all need to learn a few things about how to tell a tale with dramatic effect. Let me tell you one of the classic ghost stories of Lantan...."

   He did not get a chance to, however, for at that moment, the camels and horse made a ruckus and darted away with such strength of fear that they tore the cords that tied them. Mythlos cried out in surprise, as he felt a cold chill pass through his entire body. Mythlos stood to his feet. "The ghost is above you!" shouted Jayce. As his yarting was already in his hands for the story he had been about to tell, he began strumming a song of courage immediately.

   There, hovering above Mythlos head, the figure glowed faintly. It had come from the ground directly below where the moon elf had been sitting. Though incorporeal, it had the appearance of a Tabaxi tribesman, yet it had a gaping hole in its chest where its heart should have been. It moaned and swung again at Mythlos, clawing at him and yanking and as if ripping some unseen essence from the elf's body. Mythlos felt drained somehow.

   Without hesitation, Oma sent two ripples of force through the air at the apparition. It trembled from the blows. Szordrin mimicked her attacks.

   Leokas was on his feet in a moment and unleashed a volley of magic arrows. His first two shots passed through the being without any effect; the third strayed. Fipya splashed the contents of a vial of holy water, which spread its positive energy through the undead's form.

   Mythlos tapped himself with his healing blade, as Nargroth roared out and took a jumping swing above the elf's head with his axe. The magic blade made contact, severing the spectre's insubstantial legs completely, yet this seemed to have no effect on the undead's ability to hover and act. Mythlos swung up at his attacker, but connected with nothing.

   "I rebuke you, foul creature of night!" Hakam shouted, but the spectre ignored him an took another swing at Mythlos. The elf dodged the blow.

   "Mythlos, climb this rope!" Szordrin had removed the coil of rope from the side of his backpack and began enchanting it. It leapt out of his hands into the air and began hanging down as if attached to something.

   Oma clutched a pearl in her hand and shouted something in Alzhedo. She then repeated her spell of magic missiles, and another two ripples of force struck the spectre.

   Leokas sent another three arrows at the being with the same failure as before. Nargroth jumped and tried to swing at it again, but the ghostly creature had hovered out of reach. Fipya threw another vial and missed. Mythlos took this opportunity to obey Szordrin and escape. He rushed at the rope dangling from nothing and deftly climbed it hand-over-hand.

   His head poked first up into an expanse of white nothingness. He pulled his entire body up. Through a three-foot wide circle in the "floor" he could see the others in motion in the dark below. For their part, the others saw Mythlos climb the rope and vanish at the top; he was safe within an interdimensional space.

   "Rebuke it again," said Jayce to Hakam with confidence. "You will turn it this time." Jayce strummed a moving sequence of notes on his yarting, and Hakam felt a surge of boldness from the music's magic.

   "I said, I rebuke you, foul creature!" Hakam roared.

   A look of terror fell upon the once-human's face. It shot straight up into the air, into the night sky and out of their vision.

   "Not so fast!" said Belvin. He had finished his summoning spell and pointed. A swirling being of vapor appeared in the air, about human-sized, larger than any elemental Belvin had called in the past. The cloud creature rocketed up in pursuit. It was faster than the spectre, and the elves could see it swinging at the spectre in the night sky just at the lower boundary of the tree canopy.

   Szordrin and Leokas shot arrows into the air, but neither could tell whether their shots had damaged the spectre or not. The ghost and the elemental rose higher in the air until they passed above the tree cover and out of sight.

   Jayce turned to Fipya. "Well done, Fipya! Let me play a song of victory for you." He had hoped to fascinate her and convince her that the spectre had been destroyed and not just sent off.

   "What are you talking about? We are still in battle."

   Fortunately, the elemental returned to them a quarter minute later and hovered before Belvin, waiting for any new instructions.

   "It says that it destroyed its enemy," said Jayce. "Huzzah!"

   Mythlos, who had descended out of the hiding place created for him by Szordrin, tried to cast a spell to comprehend its language, but he could no longer feel the connection to the Weave.

   Fipya, however, seemed to believe Jayce's bluff, and the elemental vanished to return to the Plane of Air.

   Hakam approached Mythlos and tried to heal him. A minor scuff the moon elf had visibly went away, but Mythlos' skin remained pale, and he looked weak.

   "Lesser magics will not help him," said Fipya. "He's been struck by a spectre. His life force cannot be restored so easily."

   "Can the village elders do anything about this?" Mythlos asked.

   "They are old, not powerful," said Fipya. "You need the care of a mighty priest." She looked at Hakam.

   "Where can I find a powerful cleric in these jungles?"

   "Mezro," she said, "on the east coast, farther from here than you could risk traveling."

   "Where can we find diamonds," Jayce asked, "so that Hakam here can cure him."

   "Dwarves are the most likely source of gems in this land," said Fipya.

   "I don't think the wild dwarves we met had any more gems on them," said Jayce.

   "There are two races of dwarves in Chult," said Fipya. "There are the wild dwarves, which are shorter and hairier. They never stay in any given location long; they move about from spot to spot.

   "Then there are other dwarves, much like the dwarves you likely know in the north. They keep cities underground and work mines in the hills. The only mines I know of are in the foothills, however, and those are on the west coast or far to the south near the Peaks of Flame. You do not have time to travel to either place. The spectre's touch is like a poison of undeath. The worse may be yet to come for your friend."
Session: 47th Game Session - Monday, Jan 12 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 6 — Arachnophobia
The adventurers did not give the enormous spider before them a chance to decide whether it thought them a fitting dinner or no; without hesitation, Nargroth and Mythlos charged, yelling, with weapons raised. They struck at two the giant arachnid's spindly, chitinous left legs, striking near the joints of the knees, as a ray of scorching heat from Szordrin's wand struck the monster on its forehead, above its cluster of eight eyes. Its armor glowed hot, and it flailed its palpi about.

   Stormshadow dashed in a wide arc behind the spider, as Hakam took aim with his musket — and missed, as was typical of him.

   Jayce had tossed the elephant figurine into the fray and summoned the giant beast a second later. It trumpeted and charged, plowing between the spider's four left legs and puncturing its carapace with its tusks. Then Belvin called a ball of fire from the sky. The spider sprung to the side, and the fireball struck the ground. Belvin directed it back up at the monster, scorching it.

   "Careful!" shouted Walker, who held his staff before himself in a defensive stance. "It can spray webbing."

   Indeed, the spider brought its swollen abdomen forward under its cephalothorax and prepared to spray silk from its two spinnerets, but Leokas loosed two magic arrows into the air. The first punctured the abdomen, and when the spider reared up higher on its legs, the second arrow pierced its narrow waist. Blue-green blood sprayed from the wound. The spider curled up its legs and collapsed to the ground, as the blue goo continued spurting into the air like a water fountain for several more seconds until the spider's heart stopped beating.

   "Can it now, Walker?" said Nargroth smugly.
Session: 47th Game Session - Monday, Jan 12 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 6 — Ceratosaurus
~ second-day, 12th of Flamerule, The Year of Wild Magic, midnight
jungles of Chult


"If the druidess foretold that you are heading into danger," Leokas said to Belvin as they neared the end of their watch for the night, "you are safe telling me, Belvin. I'll follow you wherever your future leads you, and I'll fight by your side."

   "I have it covered," the wild elf replied.

   The two elves were the first watch. It was just past midnight, and they were soon to be relieved by Mythlos and Jayce. After leaving Yasheira, Walker, Leokas, and Hakam had examined the map. The river seemed to be flowing from south to north for as far as they could see, which gave them a sense of where they might be on the map, as for the most part, according to the map, the river ran southwest to northeast. They had estimated that were not even half way to Mbala yet. Walker suggested that they head due southwest, assuming they would come to the river again before Mbala. The alternative would be to follow the river heading south and continue to follow it as it changed course. The latter option would be safer, but the former option would safe time. They had chosen the former option.

   The rest of the day had been uneventful, except for a shard of pottery from a clay jar, which Mythlos had found. It was non-magical, and they had tossed it, with Leokas complaining once again about trash. They had found a defensible clearing and had set up camp as dusk approached, eating another dinner of trail rations.

   "You can, however," Belvin continued, "help me slay the Batiri when we return from delivering this package."

   "Of course!" said Leokas.

~~~~


The next morning, Jayce was fully free of "the shakes", and Hakam used his magic to ensure Kamil was also fully recovered. (Leokas began wearing the periapt of health again.) Hakam also created pure water for everyone, and once again, poor Oma had to be woken up for minutes before being returned to her sleeping torment.

   Soon, they were on the move again, and by mid-morning it was already hot. There was a snapping sound, and the three elves, who were walking in the front of the group, felt themselves falling. They crashed to the bottom of wide pit twenty feet deep and yelled in pain. Instantly, small plants, leaves, stones, and fallen branches, flew back from off the trail as the magical field that had cleared a path for them fell with Belvin into the pit. The camels and horse had to be restrained from fear of this sudden chaotic motion.

   "A hunters trap," said Leokas, as he held his knee at the bottom of the pit and tried to ignore the intense pain. "Thank the gods there were no spikes!"

   Belvin lay there flat on his back afraid to move, as he caught his breath. Mythlos was already on his hands and knees, feeling around the walls of the pit as his eyes adjusted to the dim light.

   Szordrin rushed to Kamil to retrieve his rope from the camel's saddlepack, while the others moved to the edge of the pit to look down at the the three who had fallen in.

   "Is everyone sound? Are there broken bones?" Hakam asked.

   They would be severely bruised, but none of them seemed to have broken anything. The ground at the floor of the pit had been relatively soft.

   "Are the walls climbable?" asked Jayce.

   "Yes, I think," said Leokas.

   "I might have some difficulty," said Belvin.

   "There isn't another way out," said Mythlos. "It's just an empty pit. I've checked every surface."

   "Szordrin is throwing you down a rope, Belvin."

   The rope was tossed into the pit, and Szordrin braced himself so Belvin could climb while Mythlos and Leokas scaled the earth and stone walls.

   Some of them heard the sound of crashing somewhere in the bushes to the southwest.

   "What was that?"

   "Belvin, hurry!" said Szordrin. "Something is coming."

   The other two were just lifting themselves out of the hole. Belvin had a yard left to climb.

   Hakam aimed his musket toward the bushes. Mythlos drew his sword. Leokas readjusted his quiver and nocked two arrows simultaneously. "Is it the hunter coming to view his catch?" he asked.

   "There's a lot of movement in the branches," said Jayce. "If so, it's a large hunter."

   Belvin stood to his feet at the top of the pit and brushed the dirt off his leathers.

   Then it burst out of the bushes and into the clearing, a twelve-foot-tall, bipedal, horned lizard. It was charging at them at the speed of a horse.

   "A dinosaur!" warned Walker, as he held his staff up defensively.



   "No jesting!" said Jayce sarcastically. He spoke a spell command. (Nothing happened.) Hakam fired his musket. (The bullet strayed.) Leokas loosed the two magic arrows at once. They plunged into the dinosaur's gullet, but this did not slow its charge in the slightest. Belvin reached to draw his scimitar, but the terrible lizard was upon them. It snapped down with its powerful jaws. Rows of fangs pierced through Belvin's right shoulder, piercing his lung from both sides and nearly severing his right arm. As he screamed, blood sprayed out of his mouth. His body in shock, Belvin tried with his left hand to pound at the monster's snout, but its small, four-fingered right limb pressed down on Belvin's other shoulder and jerked its head, rending leather and flesh. Belvin's body went limp, and the dinosaur shook it around like a rag doll.

   "No!" shouted Mythlos. He stretched the flat of his magic sword over to touch Belvin's dangling legs. The healing power sent a jerk through Belvin's body. He was still alive, but barely.

   "Bull's dung! Bull's dung!" said Szordrin frantically. They thought he was cursing, but he wasn't; he was looking for a spell component. He shouted something, and touched Mythlos. The moon elf felt a surge of power rippling through his muscles. He roared out and swung his blade, splitting open the bird-like lizard's head with a deep gash between its forehorn and the knobs above its eyes, just as an angered Nargroth reached the dinosaur in a charge and also struck the beast.

   The animal released its prey then, and Bevlin tumbled to the ground, blood pouring out of his shoulder and chest. Hakam was instantly there beside the pit to seal his wounds with magic.

   Nargroth swung again, embedding his axe in the creature's gut, just above its muscular right thigh. The dinosaur squawked loudly, spraying saliva over them, but Leokas sent an arrow directly into its open mouth, through its tongue, and into the back of its head, silencing its call.

   Even the animals joined in. Stormshadow latched onto the dinosaur's tail from behind, and Kamil, with Jayce strumming battle music atop, reached the dinosaur and snapped at one of its forearms.

   It was not yet finished, however. It lunged again, and in a moment, Nargroth's left arm was in the creature's mouth. There was a popping sound, as the dinosaur dislocated his arm by jerking its head violently.

   A ray of fire shot forth from Szordrin's wand, a perfectly aimed shot that struck the monster in the side of its head and turned its eyeball into a charred orb. It released Nargroth and staggered about for a brief moment, before Mythlos finished it off for good by plunging his sword deep into its neck. It fell to the ground with an earth-shaking thud.
Session: 46th Game Session - Thursday, Dec 11 2014 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 6 — Night Hunters
Even the enhanced senses of two elves could not perceive the two night hunters as they crawled along thick tree limbs, paw over paw, leaping soundlessly from tree to tree, pausing every few branches to sniff the air.

   They smelled new smells, animals with which they were not familiar. With their sharp claws extended, they clawed into the bark and descended slowly, carefully, silently.

   Food was hanging there, suspended between two trunks. It was warm and alive, edible. The jungle feline pounced.

~~~~


Leokas and Belvin heard Szordrin cry out in pain, followed by a snarl. Leokas nocked an arrow, then tossed it aside and drew a white-fletched one when he saw his target. Flipping around and around on the other side of the fire pit, a large spotted cat was trapped in the hammock with Szordrin. He shot the sleep arrow at the flipping hammock, but just as he was releasing his fingers, a tiny creature leapt from one of the trees; he was distracted, and the shot went wide. It was Szordrin's weasel, chirping loudly before bravely locking his tiny jaws onto the jungle cat's back.

   "It's a leopard," said Belvin.

   Stormshadow was barking loudly as she ran to the opposite side of Szordrin's hammock. She then yelped, for the first leopard almost landed on her, Ferry the weasel still attached to its back. The hammock had finally stopped flipping around; Szordrin had punched the large cat in the cheek and then kicked it out of the hammock with both feet.

   With Szordrin's yelling, the weasel's high-pitched calls, and the wolf's barking, everyone (except for Oma) was awake. Hakam unzipped his tent, Jayce strummed his yarting from his seat in his hammock, and Mythlos darted from his tree toward the leopard, as a fully nude Nargroth slashed his way out of his tent with his axe with a roar.

   Then, the leopard's mate dove out of a branch onto Leokas, and the elf felt the hundred-pound feline sink its fangs into his shoulder. But Leokas was lightning-quick to respond, and the cat only tore a small chunk of skin, as he grabbed the animal with his right arm and tossed it five feet through the air. The leopard landed on its feet and growled, not at all expecting its prey to be able to throw it.



   "Leokas, duck!" shouted Belvin. The wood elf obeyed, and an arrow from Belvin's bow sailed past. Leokas stood to his feet and nocked another arrow as the naked half-orc reached the cat nearest Leokas and struck it with his axe. Leokas shot it twice in the skull and watched it slump to the forest floor, before spinning around and sending a third arrow at the remaining leopard, just as Mythlos slashed its side open.

~~~~


"Why are you naked?" said Leokas. "Put your clothes on!"

"I was sleeping in a tent!" said Nargroth, out of breath. "It's 80 degrees out after a full day of hiking. It's the only sensible way to sleep! And you are welcome that I ruined my tent trying to save you."

   Hakam approached Szordrin. He had two deep bite marks and several slashes from the jungle cat's claws and was loosing a lot of blood and wincing in pain. Hakam touched the wizard, and his divine magic closed the wounds and brought him relief.

   "Once again, I am impressed by your skills," Walker said. "You are earning your pay."

   "You can let go of it now, Ferry," said Szordrin. "It is quite dead."
Session: 43rd Game Session - Wednesday, Oct 22 2014 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 6 — Babbling Madness
They retraced their steps as best they could, Belvin now wearing a strap of snake skin over his shoulder. They reached the shore of the Soshenstar, where they indeed saw several large rafts tied off and Tabaxi tribesmen about, as Losi had said they would.

   They no longer had a member in the group who could speak Chultan, so Jayce had to use his tongues spell to arrange for their transport across the water. They were ferried across on four separate rafts, which the tribesmen guided with long wooden poles. The current took them somewhat further downstream to the north, but they landed where the tribesmen desired, just outside the village Nsibu.

   Hakam paid them a silver piece, and Jayce informed them later that the men were excited that they might be able to travel to Mezro that year because of it.

   Nsibu looked a lot like Binkwan; it consisted of a circle of huts around a few central common structures. The villagers were cautious of them.

   Leokas wanted to hire a replacement guide. Walker said that he had no more magic writs for that purpose, but the others could hire another guide if they wanted.

   Jayce inquired. Those in the village only knew an area of the jungle somewhat local to where they were, but one, named Mim, agreed to take them to the next nearest village, Teetee, which was somewhere to the southwest, a few days away.

~~~~


There was no fixed path any more, yet they made good progress with Belvin's magic and the new guide's leading.

   Before noon, Szordrin kicked something as it was being brushed away by Belvin's magic. "What's this?" He stepped aside and picked it up; it was a leather belt pouch, empty.

   He showed it to the guide, who mumbled something in Chultan. Jayce used his magic to translate again.

   "Do you have any idea why something like this would be here?" asked Szordrin.

   "He says that a traveler must have dropped it and lost it. Do not people lose things in the woods from where you come?"

~~~~


By mid-afternoon, they entered a dried stream bed, which led away from the river. The walls were about four feet high on each side and covered with thick vines.

   Oma let out a sudden scream upon her summoned horse.

   Everyone turned and saw a dark phantasm emerge from the right wall of the stream bed. It looked vaguely humanoid, with highly distorted features, and it trailed off into a black fog at its extremities. It was flailing its immaterial arms at Oma, though nothing seemed to be happening to her in response.

   The being was babbling endlessly in a quiet, far-off sounding voice, even as it swung its arms at Oma. It spoke in Common. "It will end soon. The worms are coming. The time is near. No more pain. The fruit is ripe. The water is peaceful. They said no. What is this? What is this any more...?"

   Stormshadow was the first to respond. She charged and leapt up at the floating being, but she passed right through it and landed with a whine.

   Hakam, who was in the back near Oma, held out his holy symbol and commanded the foul creature to return to the dead, but it ignored him.

   Oma let loose two magical missiles of force, which honed in and struck the being. It visibly quivered.

   No one else seemed to be doing anything. Mim, Leokas, Mythlos, and Nargroth were all intently listening to whatever it was the thing was saying. "Food for the stomach; stomach for food. Life goes on. The rats know it. The spiders know it. Why did it happen? They do not know me. They do not know."

   "They are entranced!" Hakam shouted.

   "Don't listen to it!" said Walker. "Block your ears!"

   Oma started giggling. "It thinks it's hurting me!" she said.

   Szordrin rushed to Mythlos and touched him, and magic surged from his fingertips, but the blue-skinned elf still stared blankly at the dark shadow and listened.

   "Make it end. To sleep, to dream. The day is dark. There is no peace."

   "The day is bright, my friend!" Jayce argued from atop Kamil. "There can be peace. We can help you."

   It flailed again at Oma. "The store is empty. The glass is drunk. Thick wine pours down the wall." Oma's giggles became hysterical laughter. Then, all of a sudden, she tumbled backward off her horse and struck the ground, silent. Her horse neighed in fear and galloped away.

   "Begone! foul creature of death!" Hakam tried again. Nothing.

   Belvin, who had paused, confused about what unnatural thing it was that they were fighting, now let loose a flaming sphere. It launched over the heads of everyone else in the party and passed through the incorporeal creature to strike the ground. Stormshadow darted out of the way to avoid being burned. The shadowy creature vibrated and jerked as if affected by the heat somehow, but now it floated forward toward the rest of the group.

   Szordrin shot a magical icicle at the creature, but it passed right through its form and did nothing.

   "The dirt is my bed. You will walk upon me. Come! Come! Join me in my song."

   But Jayce had another song in mind. He drew his yarting from his back and began strumming. For every tone the ghostly being emitted, Jayce struck a chord in perfect dissonance with it.

   The discord snapped Mythlos out of whatever trance was holding him back. He drew his blade and rushed as fast as he could over the rough ground toward the action. Nargroth did the same. (Both of them had been on foot near the front of the train of travelers.)

   "Stormshadow, defend Oma!" Leokas shouted from Cloud's back, as soon as he came to his senses and observed the scene before him. Mim, their hired guide, also took in what was happening; in response, he shouted out and turned and ran.

   With Oma fallen to the ground, the black shape now floated toward Hakam and struck out with its immaterial arms. The attack was painless. In fact, Hakam felt nothing much at all except for a strange sensation like he had had a little bit too much to drink. He stepped back, while calling forth the power of life. His hand became aglow with a white light, as he waited, ready for the twisted shape to lunge forward again.

   It was distracted, however, by a volley of arrows from Leokas, and a repeatedly leaping ball of fire controlled by Belvin. The entity, whatever it was, was skilled at dodging and anticipating attacks. It avoided two attacks from the flaming sphere and an arrow from the wood elf's bow. Another of Leokas' shots went wide; a third passed through its target without connecting with anything. At last, the fire struck their opponent and caused it to quiver again.

   Szordrin took this opportunity to unleash another magic attack. He hopped unto a nearby small boulder and then bounded across the path to land on the magic carpet, from which he had a superior vantage point. He pointed a small wooden wand. "Valignat!" he shouted. A scorching ray of fire burst forth. The aim was true, and it should have struck the spectral creature directly, but the flame passed right through its form harmlessly.

   At first, Hakam fared no better with his magic. The thing lunged closer to him, flailing once more. Hakam, standing ready, had swung his own glowing hand, but the nightmarish babbler rose into the air to avoid the swing and then came crashing down again. Its form passed through Hakam, and now he felt thoroughly dizzy. He thought he could make out maniacal laughter over the atonal sounds of Jayce's strumming.

   Mythlos at last arrived, angry and swinging. His attack, like so many of the others, passed right through. His sword struck the ground and sparked off one of the stones. However, as this happened, the moonblade glowed intensely white, and a jolt of visible energy shot into the mad spectre. Hakam plunged his hand into its center and discharged his store of positive energy as well. The thing lit up like a white torch for a moment and convulsed.

   Jayce continued countering the being's mad babbling, as Belvin guided his spell with his pointed finger. Szordrin, still standing on the floating carpet, evoked the same ball of fire, and now the ghostly form was darting to and fro dodging a pair of leaping fireballs successfully. On the other hand, those on the ground were repeatedly unsuccessful at making any contact, even with their magic weapons. Mythlos felt his sword deflected by an unseen force, though it still discharged once. Hakam could not reach with his glowing hand. Nargroth's axe was knocked away on his first swing, and passed through nothing on his second. Leokas flipped off his horse like a circus acrobat and sent another arrow up. This one, at last, seemed to strike something. The arrow vanished, as if pulled into another dimension.

   As the battle ensued, Mythlos and Nargroth had each found themselves "struck" by their assailant, and each of them felt a little woozy now. The former's counterattack was dodged, but the latter, enraged, finally struck something tangible with his magic axe. He gave a wild shout of victory.

   "Walker, what is this thing?" Jayce asked.

   "Some sort of ghost, I reckon; I'm not the adventurer."

   "Are they even hurting it?"

   "Seem to be. Keep it up."

   At last, another one of Leokas' endless flow of magic arrows struck true, and the thing seemed to break apart. Then, the two flaming spheres rose up together and burned away whatever they had been fighting entirely.

   Stormshadow stood over Oma's form, growling at where their enemy had been.
Session: 42nd Game Session - Wednesday, Oct 08 2014 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 6 — Not the Best Start to a Jungle Journey
~ eighth-day, 8th of Flamerule, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
jungles of Chult


It rained again all night long. Those with tents stayed dry, but those without did not fare too badly, since the trees provided full cover.

   As the sun rose, the steam was even thicker than the day before within the jungle canopy. This meant that visibility was minimal. Thankfully, Belvin had asked Thard Harr that morning for the same spell that Kothar, the lizardfolk leader, had used. He himself had been trained back in St. Faelar's Cloister how to step quickly through rough natural terrain, and he hopped from tree root to stone deftly, as behind him, a magical force shoved plants, rocks, and fallen debris aside so that the other's had an easy trail upon which to walk. This sped up their travel significantly, and they made much better time for the first hour of the morning.

   They descended from the high embankment overlooking the River Soshenstar. Now they could hear it flowing to their left. At their current speed, they should have reached the shore where the boats were moored at the end of the second hour. They nearly did.

   The ground was everywhere wet and marshy so near to the river, and there were many fallen logs. As they walked, Mythlos, who was in the front right, noted that one of the "logs" moved.

   "There's something to the...," he started, but he was too late. From the forest floor, a massive snake sprung forth and struck down over their guide Losi's head like a bolt of lightning, biting into him with its fangs. Mythlos swung and took a deep gash out of the giant serpent, but its skin was so thick that the wound barely even drew blood.

   The reptile's head was as wide as a man's shoulders, and Losi's entire head was in its mouth. It could probably have swallowed Losi whole, but its instincts were to coil itself around its victim. Mythlos swung again at the snake's body, but it whipped about so rapidly that he missed and stuck the wet earth, throwing mud. The scaled coils wrapped round and round.

   Everyone leapt into action. In a matter of seconds, all of the following occurred: Belvin shoved past Nargroth and slashed with the magical scimitar he had purchased from Darromar; snake blood splattered. Leokas loosed three arrows from his now magical darkwood longbow; two struck true, sinking deep into the animal's neck. A dagger of ice, like Vashti used to evoke, flew from between Szordrin's hands and struck the tail of the giant snake with a burst of snow. This was followed immediately by a burst of fire from Oma and Hakam firing a round from his musket. Finally, a shout of rage came from Nargroth, and the huge half-orc struck the serpent with two of the four blades of his double axe. Jayce had barely strummed the first line of his song of courage.

   But all this was not enough to take down the over-sized reptile. There was a dreadful crunching sound, and the snake released its grip. It let fall Losi's body and hissed at its attackers.



   Then it thrashed madly, for Mythlos and Belvin each severed a major artery and an arrow from Leokas sailed into its open mouth. The snake flopped to the ground, and they hacked at it until it ceased convulsing.

   Hakam ran to Losi's side, prepared to cure him with his divine magic, but the man had already been crushed to death.

~~~~


"You fought well," said Walker.

   "Well? Someone died!" Leokas exclaimed.

   "Be thankful it was only one. These are the jungles of Chult."

   "I knew adventures were not all treasures and fame," said Oma, "but I didn't expect this to happen...."

   "We should bury the poor man," said Nargroth, who was hunched over out of breath.

   "No," said Walker.

   "Where is your compassion?" said Leokas.

   "You mistook my answer for a lack of it. We must burn his body, not bury it. That is how things are done in Chult."

   "Why is that?" asked Belvin.

   "To prevent the spread of zombies," said Walker.

   "Do we burn the snake as well? Can snakes become zombies?"

   "Anything can become a zombie if the right evil is at work," said Hakam.

   "It will take a large amount of firewood for that," said Jayce, "and Tymora's smile if you can get such a fire going in all this moisture."

   "I can't believe this is happening!" Oma repeated.

   Mythlos returned to the already hacked-up body of the snake and began cutting it in half. "This will prevent the snake from returning as an undead," he said.

   "Or else now there will be two undead serpents," said Hakam.

~~~~


They spent the next few hours in the grim work of laying Losi's body to rest. Carrying his body, they hiked back up to higher ground, where it was drier, and they dug a pit and built a pyre within. It was difficult with the high humidity, but Leokas managed to get a fire started, and they stood around somberly as it burned. Mythlos had removed an obsidian ring from one of Losi's toes. "I shall return it to his family somehow," he said.

   When Losi's flesh was wholly consumed, they filled the pit with dirt and found a large stone to mark the site. Jayce and Nargroth worked together to scratch an epitaph into the rock.

Here lies
Losi
of Port Nyanzaru,
traveler of the great jungle,
faithful guide.

Year of Wild Magic

Though you entered this world without arms,
we pray that Ubtao grant you wings to fly the House of Nature.
Session: 42nd Game Session - Wednesday, Oct 08 2014 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Epic!
Interlude: The Roving Rune
Belvin, Hakam, and Leokas walked along the streets of Teshburl as night fell, by light from the magical street-torches. At last they spotted the large stablehouse ahead. Belvin began running towards it. He reached the door, and one of the workers greeted him. "What's the rush, dahyarif? Oh, are you Belvin? I was told to watch for a dark-skinned wild-looking elf."

   Belvin nodded.

   "Come with me," said the man. Hakam and Leokas arrived also and followed them in.

   "Everything was paid for already," said the stablehand. "You should know a couple things though. That one camel there is crazy! Always waking up in the middle of the night in terror."

   Belvin nodded with a smile of recognition. "That's Kamil; isn't he great?"

   The man continued, "The other information you may wish to know is that that other camel is pregnant, I'm guessing by about two months. I'd have never known, except that some wizard came by on business and told me."

   Hakam grunted. "Wonderful! Now I have to get myself a new camel."

   "Probably not for a while," explained the stablehand. "Camels are pregnant for fifteen months."

   "What of my horse?" asked Leokas.

   "The fine white one? Yes, he seems quite happy here and in good health."

   "This is your fault," Hakam said to Belvin.

   "I haven't been with your camel!"

   "You know what I mean!"

   "How do you know it was Kamil?"

   "What other camels have been around?"

   "Kamil is a free camel; I have no control on whom he chooses to love!"

   Hakam sighed. Then he turned again to the stablehand. "Are they paid for another night?"

   "Until the end of the month," said the man.

   "Thank you, rafayam." He spoke to the two elves, "I'm going to find this inn Jayce was discussing and get a room for our time here. I assume you both will find some 'natural' place to stay?"

   They nodded, so Hakam departed.

~~~~


From the outside, The Roving Rune seemed little different than other minarets in a Calishite city. It was four-stories tall. At first, Jayce and Nargroth didn't recognize it as a tavern, for it seemed too quiet from the outside and only a few lights were lit in the second through fourth floors while the first was dark. They approached the door where a simple sign indicated that the entrance was out back. So they went to the back alley and finally began to hear music. Another sign and arrow pointed down to a basement entrance, which explained the lack of noise and lights at first — this was a basement tavern.

   Things were far more active down below. There was loud music and lively discussion. The basement was a single large room, larger than the minaret above it, though there was a section in the back separated off by a hanging tapestry. There were two men and a teen-aged girl behind the counter serving drinks from taps that came down from the ceiling. The place was full to capacity, despite the fact that there did not seem to be any tables. Folk were either standing or seated on rugs and pillows on the floor about the walls.

   In the torch-lit darkness, they did not at first notice the intricate mosaics covering every wall of the room, depicting a variety of everyday items and settings.

   Nargroth though he saw movement out of the corner of his eye and turned his head to stare at the wall. "Jayce, wasn't this picture of a sailing ship a tree a moment ago?"

   "I have no idea; I wasn't looking to come here for the art."

   One of the patrons noticed them discussing this. "Ay, you must be new here! Try to ignore the walls; they'll drive one crazy just like me." Admittedly, the man did look a little crazy with permanently crossed eyes. "...Unless you see the rune, of course!"

   They stared at him.

   "Aren't you going to ask me what the rune is?"

   "What is the rune?"

   "The roving rune, that bluish-green little devil!" The man jumped into a monologue, as if it was his job to educate new patrons. "If you see it appear on a tile, mind you, the whole place will be up off their pillows in a mad rush to be the first to touch it. Many a folk have gotten badly beat up from the chaos. That's why ol' Atiq don't keep no tables in the room no more."

   "Sounds dangerous," noted Nargroth.

   "What happens when one touches the rune?" asked Jayce.

   "Pure delight, I tell you! I touched it once meself back in the Year of the Prince. Better than the richest ale or the strongest pipeweed, it is!"

   Nargroth glanced around. Sure enough, he noticed that many people were obviously not that interested in the words of their conversation partners and were instead darting glances to the walls.

   "Don't be like them," said the man. "The walls only change when no one is looking directly at them. You got to be all sneaky like this." He distorted his face to demonstrate looking out of the corner of his eyes in a wholly unsubtle manner.

   "Well, I'm getting a drink," said Nargroth.

   He approached the bar. A grimy man was leaning over the bar, making comments about the bartendress' hips as she filled his mug from the ceiling tap.

   Nargroth placed one of his over-sized hands on the man's shoulders. "Leave her be," he spoke gruffly with his lower tusks exposed, "She may not even be of age."

   The girl slid the pewter mug to the man. He took it and stepped away from the bar and half-orc. "Back off, mujah!" He then took a sip from the mug, and the contents sprayed out all over his face with a blast, getting in his nose, eyes, and hair. "Ah! You little piece of lumal!" he screamed at the girl. Then he stormed off.

   The bartendress use a rag to wipe of the counter and spoke to Nargroth without making eye contact. "Thank you for trying to protect me, but as you can see, I am more than capable of handling myself. And yes, I am of age," she added, looking directly at him, "for two whole months now!"

   Nargroth was taken aback and stuttered nonsense. "Are you a sorceress? Do you know anything about the Planes? I like to cook!"

   Before she could reply, Jayce strode up beside the half-orc. "Excellent play of magic, milady."

   She gasped loudly. "Are you an adventurer?"

   "'Adventurer' is far too tame a word," he replied, winking at her with one of his mismatched eyes. "What spell was that?"

   "That?" she laughed. "That was nothing; just a little prestidigitation."

   "Presti... what?"

   "'Quick-fingers'," said Nargroth. Jayce pushed him aside.

   "So, tell me about yourself," Jayce said. "You clearly have fine magical talents."

   "My mother is a wizardess, and she has been training me since I was young," said the girl. "To be honest, however, I'm growing bored. I long to truly test my powers."

   "Which school of magic has she taught you?"

   "I focus on summonings. Surely, though, you must have better tales than I. Will you tell them?"

   "Hey, I'm waiting on a drink over here!" yelled one of the impatient patrons. She took the man's order, then returned with a mug of mead for Nargroth and Jayce. Nargroth downed his in nearly one gulp.

   "Have you ever touched the rune?" Jayce asked her.

   "I do live here."

   "What happens?"

   "It's nice," she said.

   "I'm not leaving here until I touch the rune," said Nargroth. "Might I have another drink, please, lady?"

   As she filled it, Jayce said, "If you wish to hear of our exciting adventures, the tales are best put to music. Whom might I ask for permission to play for you and the guests here?"

   "Just start playing in the corner," she said. "My father owns the place; he's fine with that sort of thing. I can't wait to hear your stories!" She smiled at him.

   He set a silver piece on the table, more than covering his drink. "The change is for you, milady."

~~~~


Hakam stepped into the bar and immediately found the other two, as Jayce had a crowd of entertainees around him and a very drunk Nargroth was taking on four humans simultaneously in an arm wrestling match that was using a fifth man's back as the table.

   He limped to the bar and ordered a drink from one of the bartenders. Jayce joined him at the bar. "Good, you were able to find the place. Oh, by the way, I got us a job for next month with that 'Walker' fellow. Here's some upfront payment." He handed him the magic writ.

   "You did what? Did you not think to discuss it with us first?"

   "You can give the payment back if you want out. It's a whole platinum bar. I figured it would go a long way toward getting Mythlos back. I was trying to help the team."

   "We aren't exactly a team," said Hakam.

   The two inquired about rooms. For two gold pieces —pulon in Teshburl — a day, they rented rooms for themselves and retired for the night.

~~~~


Szordrin sat by the warehouse room door, waiting to be relieved of his first stint at guard duty. Walker was being even more secretive than on The Daisy. He had hired servants to deliver his dinner and breakfast. They were even paid to exchange his full chamber pot for a new one! Szordrin brainstormed for a way to use his magic to observe what was going on inside the room or to learn what was in the crate, but he could come up with nothing fail-proof.

   Nargroth stumbled up to him. "I never saw the rune!" he complained. Szordrin had no idea what he was talking about. He handed the half-orc his double axe, which had been waiting there for him, took his pet weasel onto his shoulders, and headed off to find breakfast and a place to sleep.

~~~~


In the middle of the night, something poked Jayce awake. He got up onto his elbows, startled, and opened his eyes.

   A young woman was standing at his bedside, dressed in a white dressing gown. Because her dark hair was down and she was not wearing the keffiyeh she had then worn, he did not recognize at first that it was the bartendress from earlier in the night. She put her finger over her lips for him not to call out.

   "Did you break into my room?"

   She jingled the collection of brass room keys that hung on a cord about her dusky neck. "I have a proposition for you," she said softly.

   "Maybe I should learn your name first, milady," he said groggily.

   "Oma."

   "Well met, Oma. What is your... proposition that I might be able to oblige?"

   "I listened closely to your songs. I guess that you would like to free your fellow adventurers from stone. I may be able to help you."

   "I'm listening."

   "I told you my mother has been teaching me. Well, Father inherited this tower. He was involved in the sea trade before that in Memnon. He moved us here once he received word of the inheritance. Mother and I discovered a secret basement below the one in which you performed last night. He lets us use the place for my magical studies. What neither he nor Mother know is that I discovered yet another secret basement even below that one."

   "I do like secret rooms," said Jayce.

   "The tower used to be owned by a powerful wizard," she said. "There is a library down there, which may have a scroll that could help you."

   "And what would you request from me in exchange?" he asked her.

   He noticed that she tried to be subtle and "accidentally" let one of the straps of her dressing gown slip off a shoulder a bit.

   "I've grown bored of my lessons, as I've told you already," she said. "The fact of the matter is that I have more magical potential than my mother, and she is holding me back. My father wants to marry me off to some rich fool. I must get out of this fish-stinking place. Take me with you on your next adventure!"

   "Why don't you show me this room?" he said.

   "You'll take me with you?" She squealed and bunched her hands together in front of her.

   "Might you give me a bit of privacy as I get out of bed?" he said. She turned her back to him, but he caught her peeking a glance as he pulled on his clothes and boots. He took his newly found rapier from the nightstand and strapped it to his belt. (Thankfully, Hakam had removed the curse from the stone he had taken from the dragon's hoard last morning, so he did not have to deal with that burden any longer.)

   Oma led Jayce down the hall by the light of the oil lamp she carried. They descended down to the basement, and she took him behind the large hanging tapestry. She pressed one of the magical tiles on the wall. It glowed, and a door opened below the stairs to the first floor.

   They stepped down into the room that Oma and her mother used for training purposes. There were a few stools, a table covered in parchments and maps with arcane writings, and a little lab for brewing magical concoctions. There was a bookshelf with several thick tomes and a chandelier. The stone floor was made in a circular pattern.

   "I cannot reach the lever without a stool. Can you lift me up?" She held the hem of her skirts up, exposing her bare foot.

   Jayce held his palms together, and she stepped onto them with her tiny foot. He lifted up, and she reached above to one of the arms of the chandelier. There was a clicking noise, followed by a low rumble. Jayce noticed the floor lowering to form a stone spiral staircase in the center of the room.

   They descended again, passed through a narrow dark hall and entered a rectangular room. The dark room was covered in dust; the oil lamp did little to enlighten it. Oma waved a hand and spoke a word, and four violet, glowing spheres of light appeared and flitted to each corner of the room. Several mice scattered and a bat fluttered off into the corner. There was a rack of scroll tubes on one wall, a table with empty bottles and flasks on the opposite side, and a large summoning circle in the center of the room.

   "Here are the scrolls I mentioned. Unfortunately, I have not figured out how they are organized."

   Jayce and her began searching through the tubes. "A spell like that will likely take a lot of writing," said Jayce. "Let's start with the thickest tubes and work our way down from there. I can only read magic from musical scales; I trust you can read arcane writings?"

   She nodded. "Of course."

   He pulled out the first scroll and unrolled it. She looked over his shoulder at the writing. She was wearing strong perfume.

   She laughed. "That is for marking a circle of death, a ward against living creatures, probably not the sort of thing you need right now."

   He re-rolled it and placed it back in its tube. As he reached for a second scroll, he heard Oma yell out, "The bat...!" He turned his head and saw a red, barbed tail flash past his eyes, just missing him. He spun around and drew his rapier, which forced his arm into a defensive position. He saw a tiny red humanoid with bat-like, leathery wings flap away to the far corner of the room. It had a long tail with a sharp point at the end and two twisted horns. It had yellow, glowing eyes, and it bared its white fangs and began jabbering at them in some unknown guttural language with its high-pitched voice, obviously angry that it had missed its sneak attack.

   "It's an imp!" said Jayce. "We should be more careful."

   Oma was already muttering an incantation under her breath. She placed a hand in one of the pockets of her dressing gown and pulled out a small candle.

   With more determination this time, the little devil flew at them, covering the distance in a matter of seconds, and flying over Jayce's head. He felt a sharp pain in his back as the fiend stabbed him with the stinger on its tail.

   "Vutha!" Jayce shouted, commanding the imp's eyes to go blind, but the imp could still see, and it drew back its tail for another strike.

   However, a large, golden-furred dog suddenly appeared between the man and the devil. It growled and leapt up at the creature, snapping with its maw and nearly knocking the devil out of the air. The imp recovered extraordinarily well, hovering back up to face the new animal assailant, but before it could strike the dog, a plume of fire shot forth from Oma's outstretched palms.

   The imp laughed at her and then vanished into thin air. Had it gone?

   The dog knew better. With its keen nose, it could still smell the evil creature. It snapped at the invisible foe and made contact with something physical.

   Oma raised her arms to her sides, and Jayce could see two ripples of air rush around the room, spiraling in to strike the unseen enemy. They heard it squeak in pain. The dog began sniffing at the ground. Jayce stepped forward and began stabbing blindly. His second blow stuck into flesh. The imp reappeared, dead and oozing black blood, with Jayce's rapier stuck in its side.

   "Oma, did you summon that devil?" Jayce asked, as the golden dog vanished from the Material Plane.

   She, however, rushed to his bleeding back. "Take your shirt off! I must check the wound. Imp stings are poisonous."

   "It's nothing!" he said, but he pulled the shirt off anyway.

   He felt her fingers on his shoulder blades. Was she rubbing his back? She chanted a spell.

   "The wound is not deep," she informed him, "and it is free from poison. Thank Sharess."

   "May I put my shirt back on?"

   "If you wish."

   He did so.

   She moved to the scroll case again. "Where were we? Here's a large one.... Hmm. No, it's for a symbol of fear...."

~~~~


It took another hour, but they succeeded in finding a copy of a spell that could turn stone to flesh.

   "Can you cast such a spell?" Jayce asked her.

   "I think I could succeed if casting from the scroll," she said, "though certainly not if I had to prepare the spell myself."

   "Would you be able to join us at the docks in Anvil Sabban tomorrow to try?"

   "I am a member of your adventuring party now, am I not? So of course I will be able to help free my own team-mate."

   Jayce was silent.

   "I am young, but I am not stupid; I realize that you have not technically agreed to your half of our bargain, while I have most certainly fulfilled mine."

   "And I have not forgotten that you failed to answer whether you summoned that fiend."

   "Pick me up after my classes tomorrow morning, just before highsun," she said, twirling around on her bare feet. He caught another whiff of her perfume as her hair waved. "I trust you know the way back to your room? Be sure to reset the secret stairs." She walked off, hips swaying.
Session: 41st Game Session - Wednesday, Oct 01 2014 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Epic!
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