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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "By whose authority?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "But you speak Common," said Szordrin.

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

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

   The others nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

   No one responded.

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

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

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

~~~~


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

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

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

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

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

   "And there may be treasure," said Mythlos.

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

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

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

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

~~~~


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Did you see that?" Szordrin asked Leokas.

   "See what?"

   "The oddest creature I've ever seen."

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Hakam!" Cassiera protested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Krynn? Yes, yes, I can do that."

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

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

   They retreated from the guards and congregated in the gazebo.

   "What now?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Ilthian," said Hakam.

   "Yes!" she answered.

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

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

   "Like what I saw," said Szordrin.

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

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

   "Hey! We came clean about that."

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

   "She finally overcame her fear?"

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

~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Leokas darted behind one of the columns of the gazebo and shouted to the others. "Wake up! It is Samber!"
Session: 60th Game Session - Monday, Oct 19 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 7 — The Second Journal
A new excitement filled the group, as they carefully descended through the opening in the wall and lowered themselves down into the water. It was very cold, but it only was a foot and a half deep, so they managed. Kamil nuzzed angrily when they worked as a team to lower him down into the channel of water, but there was nothing the camel could do about it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "What of the other tracks?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   She nodded. "I do not know why?"

   "So you can read this?" asked Szordrin.

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

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

   "My powers are back!" Cassiera announced.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~


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

   Stormshadow did not move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "What is she afraid of?" asked Mythlos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~


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

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

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

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

   "Has she had an aura before?"

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

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

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

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

   "I thought nothing of it at the time."

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

   "But she's not a familiar!"

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

   Leokas cursed.

   "Should we keep following her?" asked Mythlos.

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

~~~~


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

   "Where is Cassiera?"

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

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

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

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

   "Let's do it," said Belvin.

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

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

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

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

~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Everyone agreed to this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "The way is blocked," she answered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~

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

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

   "Why is your moonblade dim?" asked Leokas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "No," said Hakam.

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

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

   "What are you doing?" said Hakam.

   "They might be worth something," said Mythlos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "You mean, a statue?" asked Hakam.

   "Or a golem," said Szordrin.

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

   "Alae!" said the elf in greeting.

   The statue did not move.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Cassiera ran forward to check on her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Help us out, friend," said Belvin.

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

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

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

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

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

   "Here, take another torch," said Mythlos.

   Belvin rushed back along the bridge.

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

   Leokas sighed and ran to join the wild elf.

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

   "Go for it," Szordrin said to Mythlos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "'Gift,'" he answered, regrettably.

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

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

   "I don't know yet," said Leokas.

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

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

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

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

   "Go back to the surface," Hakam ordered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "They are," said Cassiera.

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Bork-bork!" said the little girl.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Here, three sacks gold."

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

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

   "How much are they worth?" asked Mythlos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Garlic?" said Cassiera.

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

   "Saffron."

   "I don't understand," said Mythlos.

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

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

   Suddenly, the ground began to shake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Once again, Mythlos was alone with the devil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

   There was a new rune on the blade.

   With a shout of victory, Mythlos plunged his moonblade deep into the fiend's back and clear through to the other side. A hellish shriek came from the monster's mouth. It twitched and shook and collapsed to the ground. Ripples of light pulsed through its crumpled body, and then it exploded into a cloud of ash and smoke that instantly dispersed. The two walls of ice vibrated and shattered into tiny crystals. Yasheira's prophecy for Mythlos was fulfilled.
Session: 58th Game Session - Thursday, Aug 27 2015 from 6:45 PM to 9:45 PM
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Epic!
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 — ...Or Not
"Samber, I presume," said Hakam. The cleric noted that the man before them had no red aura.

   "How do you know who I am?" said the red-haired man slowly.

   "Is this a safe place to talk?" Leokas asked.

   "I don't know of any place any safer, but we certainly are not safe while the osyluth is loose," said Samber.

   "The osyluth? Are you working with the osyluth?"

   "What? No! No, it escaped from my palace. You know of it? Have you seen it?"

   "We were searching for it when we found you. We learned of its existence from the hobgoblins living in these caves. Why did the osyluth spare you?"

   "Presumably because it has not found me yet, but it has caused me great harm nonetheless. It has wreaked havoc on all my work."

   "Is this island your work?" asked Hakam.

   "No, I am a wizard, but I cannot make an island!" Samber exclaimed. "The osyluth has ruined the creations within my palace."

   "Are you the Maker?"

   Samber looked confused. "I make things, yes, but no one has called me that."

   "What things do you make?" asked Mythlos.

   "I specialize in the creation of golems," said Samber.

   "Why was the osyluth in your palace to begin with?" asked Leokas.

   "I know it was foolish, but in my desire for greater knowledge, I summoned the baatezu. I thought that I could bind it within a magic circle, and I would have been successful had a great earthquake not shaken my palace several days ago. The osyluth broke free, and it also released some of my golems. They now run mad destroying what I have taken years to build in my palace and in these caves. I am distraught. What can I do?"

   "Did you make the people on the surface?" asked Leokas. "Are they, in fact, golems?"

   "There are people on the surface?" asked Samber.

   "Stop talking to him!" Szordrin called out suddenly. Szordrin had been growing suspicious of some of Samber's answers, and when the other wizard expressed surprise about the existence of the islanders, Szordrin noticed him flicker, much like a candle. "He's an illusion!"

   Two things then happened at once. Samber vanished from everyone's vision and something large appeared behind Szordrin. As they all turned their heads to look back, there was a blur of motion as the large, scorpion-like tail of a monster from the worst of nightmares struck down at their companion. It never made contact, however. The magic from Szordrin's protective spell, deflected the blow, which would have easily impaled him. The towering devil cursed in its infernal tongue, and before anyone could respond, it vanished again as quickly as it had appeared.

   Leokas immediately rushed forward and kicked dirt in the direction of where the devil had been, hoping to discern if it had turned invisible or simply teleported. The latter seemed most likely, as the dirt fell back to the ground.

   Hakam quickly cast a spell to detect thoughts, yet all he could hear were his companions' internal confusions in their native languages about where the osyluth had gone. "It has moved some distance away," he said. "It is not lurking nearby."

   Szordrin began casting further protection spells, and Hakam did likewise on himself and on Mythlos.

   "Was Samber the devil in disguise?" asked Leokas.

   "It was an illusion it created," said Hakam.

   "Isn't that deception?" asked Szordrin.

   "Not directly," said Hakam.

   "How could it know so much about Samber? Belvin, you are sure that the man you saw in Shilku looked just like that?"

   Belvin nodded.

   "Did the devil read your mind? Can they do that?"

   "I would know if such evil were in my mind," said Belvin.

   "If you were powerful enough to resist its magic perhaps," said Hakam.

   "All baatezu are telepathic," said Szordrin, "but I do not think that means they can steal thoughts. Perhaps the more advanced ones can. I am not certain."

   "How advanced is a bone devil?"

   "They are somewhere in the middle of the devilish hierarchy," Szordrin replied, and Hakam agreed.

   "What do we do now?" asked Cassiera. "If it can simply appear and disappear at will...."

   "We continue very carefully," said Leokas.

   Mythlos moved through the opening to where the illusion of Samber had stood.

   "Wait!" warned Szordrin. "What if the stone door closes behind us and seals us in? Is there another lever on the other side, Mythlos."

   The moon elf did not see one. The tunnel there split in two directions. He peeked his head around the corner of each. Both ways immediately turned sharply again, so he couldn't tell which way seemed best. Leokas joined him on the other side and began looking for further tracks. Beyond the footprints of illusionary Samber, he found none.

   "I am sure we can find a way out even if it closes again behind us," said Hakam hopefully. "Step through."

   Szordrin did so. The stone remained lowered.

   "Shh," whispered Cassiera. "Do you hear that?"

   The elves and the yuan-ti could hear the faint sound of crying coming from somewhere to the right.

   "It sounds like a little girl," Cassiera said.

   "Or another illusion," said Leokas.

   Nevertheless, they moved toward the sound. The winding tunnel began descending somewhat and then made a wide U-turn. They began to smell a stench like that of decaying flesh, and it grew stronger with each step. The sobbing grew louder as well, such that now Hakam and Szordrin could hear it.

   They reached another large chamber and Mythlos took a step inside, just out of the tunnel. The chamber had several more shafts of pure omlar. There, on the far corner of the squarish room, about 40 feet away, hunched the wretched baatezu. It was far more hideous than the hobgoblins had described, and more fearsome-looking than either Hakam or Szordrin had read. Were it not bent over, it would have been nine-feet-tall. Its skin was stretched so tightly over its skeleton that every bone was emphasized. Its claws curled in half circles from its long fingers like scimitars. Its extra-long tail hovered over its body, ending in a bloated poison sack and curved stinger, which oozed drops of venom. Most disturbing of all, however, was its elongated head and skull with its glowing, orange eyes. There was no doubt that the smell of decay they all sensed originated from the monster.

   "Anachtyr, grant me wisdom," Hakam prayed.

   They all heard an unwanted voice in their heads, a soothing and at the same time dreadful melodic voice. "I would slay all of you for sport, but I am too intrigued by your presence here. This massive cavern complex is full of surprises for me. It has been centuries since I have had so much fun."

   "What are you doing here in this cave?" Szordrin called out across the room.

   "I simply seek my freedom." Once again, they all heard its voice in their minds; its mouth remained motionless, as saliva dripped slowly from between its teeth. "Is not freedom sought by all?"

   "Are you not free now?" asked Leokas.

   "Freed from my prison but not yet free to return to my world," said the devil.

   "How were you trapped?" asked Szordrin.

   "The wicked wizard, the one you call Samber — the fool thought he could bind a baatezu. The 'Samber' you met spoke the truth."

   "What do you want from us?" asked Mythlos.

   "Want? What would mere mortals have that I cannot already take for myself? However, I sense I may have knowledge that you want...."

   "We want nothing from you, devil," said Hakam. "This conversation is over.

   "Anachtyr! God of Justice, from the golden fields...."

   For the first time, the bone devil opened its hideous mouth and words came out, interrupting the cleric. "Ig baator han ta, on gelug! it screamed in a voice seething with anger. There was a crackling sound, and a hemisphere of solid ice formed in seconds between Mythlos and his companions, trapping them in the tunnel behind a foot of frozen water and isolating him alone in the room with the dreadful outsider.

   The moon elf heard another voice inside his head: "I see your silver blade, elf. Unfortunately, such mortal superstitions have no power against a baatezu of my status. I look forward to a different flavor than that of goblin children. Let's dance."
Session: 57th Game Session - Thursday, Aug 20 2015 from 6:45 PM to 9:45 PM
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Chapter 7 — Meeting Samber at Last...
~ first-day, 11th of Eleasias, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
the island


The next morning, the eleventh of Eleasias, several of the adventurers were nervous about the task ahead of them — to find and slay a devil, a fiendish outsider from the Nine Hells of Baator.

   That night, they had kept a watch at the mine entrance, but there was no sign of hobgoblin or devil.

   The repairs to The Daisy were going well. Erol had felled a large and straight tree, and it was carved into a new mainmast for the vessel. The sailors had patched all the leaks and sealed them with sap. Ombert estimated that the ship would be ready to sail by that evening. At that point, the tide would be highest, giving them the best chance to get off the sandbar. From the shore to the northeast, the islanders — along with the summoned elephant and perhaps other summoned creatures of great strength — would all attempt to tow the ship off the sandbar.

   Yet many hours remained until then. Leokas had extremely mixed feelings about returning to the mine. On the one hand, he could not care less about the fate of the hobgoblin children. On the other hand, he had a strong feeling that this osyluth was somehow connected to Samber and to whatever reason motivated the gods to send him back from the Fugue Plane. Hakam was very much in favor of finding and slaying the devil, and he and Szordrin had spent much time in the previous night planning which spells they would prepare, while Nargroth kept the first watch.

   "Remember," Szrodrin had said to Hakam, Belvin, and Mythlos, "do not prepare fire or ice spells. Or poison or acid spells for that matter. They will do little or nothing to such a fiend."

   "A fire spell is all I have," said Cassiera. They had forgotten that she was present. She seemed quite committed to joining them on their next quest, despite having just met them the night before. They had to admit she had proven resourceful during the battle with the hobgoblin scouting party.

   "I just want my arm back," said Belvin. "Whatever I can do to speed that process, tell me."

   "I can at least preserve your arm with my magic," Hakam had volunteered. "At least that way it won't rot."

   "Or smell like those horrible severed heads you used to wear," said Jayce.

   "I could summon celestial beasts to fight the devil," said Oma. "As creatures of good, they should be able to harm it."

   "I need you to provide magical support for me when I enter the forest tomorrow," said Jayce, "just in case."

   Oma pouted.

   "You aren't coming with us?" asked Szordrin.

   "No. You know I am no fighter, nor a tracker. Yet all day yesterday, I sucked up volumes of information about a race of people no one has ever known existed before. Someone needs to tell their story, and I am that bard. Moreover, did you know that these people have never heard music? They do not know how to dance or even what dancing is. I've been teaching them. In fact, I have seen no evidence of any creativity on this island from the islanders themselves. They all just do the task they were made to do — and well, but everything is practical for them. I've only found two exceptions. Jareth used to arrange the flowers in Hildia's garden. Everyone else seemed wowed by this simple act. The other exception is Ilthian, the girl who flirted with you, Hakam."

   "Asking questions is not flirting," the cleric said.

   "She makes designs in the clothing she weaves," Jayce continued, "and she once scandalized the whole village for making a one-piece dress! Apparently, the only option women have on this island are those skirts they all wear.

   "In any case, spending another day with these people is adventure enough for me at the moment."

   "You mentioned the forest," said Leokas, who had earlier been interested in it, since the islanders said it was dangerous.

   "Yes. I don't think it is actually dangerous at all," said Jayce, "but I will have Oma if that proves not to be the case. They only say it is dangerous, because the Maker told them it was so. I learned, however, from Erol, the lumberjack, copper-haired fellow,..."

   "Who is gorgeous!" added Oma, nearly swooning.

   "...that he has never seen a carnivorous animal in the woods when he has entered to fell trees. Moreover, he tells me that Ilthian told him that she once explored the forest secretly. She described flying animals with 'spinning wings' that hovered and goat-like creatures that rolled. Weird stuff, stuff any good bard needs to see with his own eyes. Surely, you'd like to join me, Leokas."

   It was indeed tempting to the forest elf and might have been to Belvin as well, had the latter a single concern beyond restoring his arm, but they crucially needed Leokas' silver-tipped arrows, his ability to track, and his skill in navigating below ground.

   "You must come with us, Jayce," Szordrin had said. "Who is going to reason with the osyluth, if not you?"

   "Whoa!" Hakam exclaimed. "We aren't going to talk with a devil. Are you insane? One does not risk talking to a devil!"

   "Aren't they lawful creatures?" said Szordrin. "They don't break their promises or even tell direct lies."

   "One does not need direct lies to deceive," Hakam had answered. "They will find every loophole in words and use it against you."

   "Like justicars?" said Belvin.

   Hakam glared at him.

   "The tales all agree with Hakam," said Jayce. "I trust that I can out-talk a mummy or even a dragon, but a baatezu?.

   "I'll of course leave the elephant figurine with you," Jayce had said, before handing it off to Mythlos. "You won't need me."

~~~~


So it was, that next morning, the eleventh, that they set off again, climbing the hill to the mine. Jayce and Oma, as Jayce had explained, were not with them. Nargroth also was absent. His strength was needed to assist in installing the new mast for The Daisy. Cloud, Hakam's camel, and Stormshadow were left in the stable, as they knew they had to climb a great height to reach the tunnel where the osyluth was last seen. Belvin, however, insisted Kamil, in miniature form once again, come with them.

   "How are we going to get Kamil up the cave wall?"

   "We'll tie ropes around his waist and hoist him up," insisted Belvin.

   When they passed the storage building and windmill at the top of the hill, Ilthian appeared from around the corner.

   "What are you doing here?" said Hakam.

   "I want to come with you again," she stated.

   "It is too dangerous," said Hakam, "and did you not see how angry your father — is that what you even call him? — Carthar was last night. Go back to your home."

   "I want to hear more about the different types of 'government'," she said. "What you were telling me yesterday was like nothing I've learned before."

   "I'll tell you all about that after I slay this devil," said Hakam.

   She walked off, appearing hurt.

   "She could have been useful to us somehow," said Cassiera.

   "She has no fighting skill," said Hakam. "She would hinder us."

   "Hakam is right," said Leokas. "This is no quest for one of the islanders. It may be beyond even our skills as a group. We are speaking about an outsider from the Nine Hells, not a being of ordinary flesh and blood."

~~~~


Entering the cave, they found their way back to the large chamber where they had parleyed with Bork, the bugbear guard, using Mythlos' sword for light.

   "You've returned," came the gruff voice of the large goblinoid. "I am surprised by this."

   "We have," said Hakam. "We are back to find and fight this devil. Escort us in and show us where it was last seen."

   "Come up and through," said Bork.

   One by one, they did so, beginning with Mythlos and ending with Belvin and his small camel.

   "It came and left from that corner over there, didn't it?" Szordrin asked.

   "I do not know," said Bork. "I was at the stream then, as I had told you. The others will know. I sent one to bring up the chief."

   Shortly, two hobgoblins ascended from the chamber below, carrying their maimed chieftain on a mat. "I assume you came for your treasure, since you left the children to die overnight?" Grak said.

   "Be thankful we came back at all," said Leokas.

   "If we are to rescue your children," Hakam replied, "we had to regain our spent magic. We have returned as quickly as we could.

   "As for our payment, we will collect the treasure after we slay the devil and bring back your children, if they live. In return, you will swear on oath never to go to the south side of this island."

   "If you bring me back my daughter," said Grak, from his back on the mat, "I will swear it by my ears and by my skix — since I have no other appendages on which to swear — and my eyes and my tongue for good measure. Yet I will not trust to such hope. If she is dead, just kill me when you return, and then you won't have to worry about me going to the other side of the island now, will you?"

   "We can arrange that," said Leokas.

   "The monster went through that hole with the three children," Grak said, waving his stub towards the opening Szordrin had anticipated. "Braeunk vhos trolkh...."

   It was a forty-foot climb up a rough cave wall. "Give me the ring of feather falling," Leokas said to Hakam. The cleric did so, and the wood elf began climbing skillfully. Mythlos followed after him and then Szrodrin. Leokas reached the top first and waited for Mythlos and his sword so that he could see. Szordrin slipped and tumbled to the ground from ten feet up. He was unhurt but embarrassed.

   "That's why I'm not going to try to climb with one arm," said Belvin.

   Up above, the "tunnel" stretched ahead for about 50 feet, a rift in the stone about 40 feet high but with a narrow gap of between five and ten feet between the two walls. Five feet ahead on the left and then again about twenty feet after that, there were further openings in the tunnel walls, leading to a parallel rift. Mythlos and Leokas found a stone knob around which to tie one of their fifty-foot ropes; then they tossed it down to the others.

   Meanwhile, below, Hakam had made his shield glow with magic light again. Then he made his eyes attune to the presence of evil. The few hobgoblins who were standing around watching them set up their rope glowed with a faint red aura, which was no surprise.

   Szordrin tied the bottom of the rope into a loop, so that they could place a foot into it and be pulled up by Leokas and Mythlos. One by one, this is what they did, and they also made a loop around Kamil's chest just below his forelegs to hoist him up too, despite the camel's grumblings.

   "Everyone, be careful not to disturb the tracks," said Leokas, once they were all together at the top.

   "What tracks?" asked Szordrin.

   Leokas pointed them out. "See, here? It's faint, but you can make out the shape of a very skeletal and large foot in the dirt, with obvious claws. That's our devil, I'd wager. There are two sets of tracks: one comes toward us from down this passage; the other goes through this opening here and on that way."

   "Yes, I see it now," said Szordrin. He then removed some silver powder from his pouch and cast a protective abjuration on himself.

   They passed through the opening in the left wall and entered the parallel rift, which was just as high as the other and extended some ten or eleven yards. They walked slowly and cautiously, with Mythlos again in the lead and Belvin and Kamil at the tail.

   "The hobgoblins will not keep their word," Leokas said to Hakam as they walked. "The islanders will not remain safe while they still live. If the monsters are as weak and close to starving as they claim, they will grow hungry and will not let an oath stop them from raiding the surface for food."

   "I agree with you that they are evil creatures," said Hakam, "but I believe that they still have a sense of honor."

   "Honor is often forgotten when hunger is involved," said Leokas.

   "Nevertheless, the hobgoblins are not what concern me at the moment," said Hakam. He was constantly glancing over his shoulder and looking up to the ceiling high overhead, hoping to spot a powerful red aura with his magic sight before the devil spotted them.

   "What is this?" asked Mythlos from the front. They had reached the end of the rift. From here, they could pass to the right through an opening in the wall to return to the other parallel passage, or they could make a left turn and enter a wider and shallower tunnel that seemed to twist and zig-zag.

   Before deciding where to go, Mythlos bent down to pick up what he had seen, a crumbled piece of torn paper. He opened it. It seemed to be a crude charcoal drawing, like that made by a child, seemingly depicting three goblinoids, a girl and her parents, surrounded by the shape of a heart. There were roughly sketched runes as well. He showed the others.



   "It looks like Dethek," said Szordrin. "Leokas, can you read it?"

   "It says, Ooga, ooka, and ki," said Leokas. He looked disgusted. "That's Goblin for 'daddy', 'mommy', and 'me'. This is clearly a trap; evil creatures do not love their parents!"

   They found more tracks. The osyluth appeared to continue to the left, so they followed the twisting tunnel some 40 more feet until it opened up into a roughly triangular room and went no farther. At one corner, in the open, was a mechanical lever.

   "Ooh, I like pulling levers," said Cassiera.

   "The tracks have stopped in this room," said Leokas. He carefully checked around. They do not go to the switch or to anywhere else, nor do they turn back and exit."

   "I wonder if the switch opens a way into a secret chamber of Samber's or of the Maker's," said Hakam.

   "Or of the osyluth," suggested Szordrin.

   "Why would a devil have a secret door in this cave?" asked Leokas.

   "In any case, let me check for hidden doors," said Szordrin. "Ah, yes, that wall in that corner there is beginning to glow."

   "And the lever?"

   "Yes, it is glowing now also," Szordrin replied. "We should be careful opening it; everyone stand back here and let me use my mage's hand to pull the lever."

   "I think we should check back the other way before rashly pulling the lever," said Leokas.

   "You said the tracks ended in this room," said Hakam, "so we know it went at least this far with the children and not the other way. We can figure out whence it came after we discern whither it went."

   The wood elf agreed to this, so they gathered behind Szordrin. Leokas nocked an arrow and pointed it at the far corner, while Mythlos clutched his sword and prepared to charge. Szordrin beckoned with his hand and commanded the lever to move toward him. There was a click as the lever obeyed, followed by a grinding sound below them. Then, a portion of the wall ahead dropped into the floor with the sound of crunching stone.

   Nothing came through the opening.

   "I'll scout ahead," whispered Szordrin, although if anything was beyond the opening, it would have heard the sound of the crashing stone.

   When Szordrin peaked around the corner, he did see someone, yet not the osyluth. He saw a man crouched over with his hands on his head as if in despair. Szordrin motioned for the others to come over, and the man stood up to face them.

   "Huh? I didn't expect to see anyone else in these caves. Who are you? What are you doing here?"

   The man had red hair and wore a maroon-colored wizard's cloak.

   "It's him," said Belvin.
Session: 57th Game Session - Thursday, Aug 20 2015 from 6:45 PM to 9:45 PM
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Chapter 7 — Lessons About Life
~ tenth-day, 10th of Eleasias, The Year of Wild Magic, dusk
the island


The islanders were holding their second community meeting of the day. They had never held two meetings in the same day before. They had also never had a meeting quite like this, as they all stood around the bodies of Jareth and Millburn. Most held their noses, having never experience the stench of a decaying body before. Nargroth had cared for the bodies and wrapped them tightly in burial cloths, but the people had demanded to see their faces, so they were now uncovered. It took the limits of Jayce's diplomatic skills to convince them that the two miners were never going to "wake up" or breathe again.

   The small crowd was silent and confused.

   "Are they dreaming?" asked the woman with dark blue hair.

   "Probably not," said Jayce.

   "So it is a very deep sleep," stated one of the white-haired women, as if she had discovered a new fact.

   "No, it is not really sleep at all," said Jayce. "We've been through this. You breathe when you sleep, remember? They just aren't there any more." He had run out of his patience for being diplomatic.

   There was an uncomfortable silence.

   "If they aren't there any more," asked the man with the pink hair, "where did they go?"

   Everyone in Faerûn knew that the souls of anyone native to the Material Plane traveled to the Fugue Plane upon death and separation from their bodies. However, if these people were truly made, not born, he did not know how to answer such a question. Did they just cease to be? like how Vashti once described the death of genies? The concept was foreign to him.

   "Where were they before you say the Maker placed them in their house?"

   The man paused. "That question makes no sense," he said. "There was no 'before' for them. They simply weren't yet."

   Jayce let the man's logic work on its own and did not reply further.

   "Jareth will never be able to arrange my flower garden again!" exclaimed the other white-haired woman, and she burst into tears.

   "I will never be able to share a joke with Millburn," said Artor. His voice began to break up. "He has... had, it seems,... such a wonderful humor."

   The once quiet room grew loud, as all around, the islanders broke into crying and weeping. The adventurers stood awkwardly about, with nothing they could say or do.

   Almost immediately, the sadness turned to anger. "We must rid this island of the hairy creatures!" shouted Daxton, one of the yellow-haired miners who had lived with the two.

   "Yes, we will make all of them fall asleep and never wake up!" shouted Charl, the chicken-keeper.

   "Put them to bed forever!" echoed another.

   Everyone began talking at once. It took some time for Grimno and Carthar to calm them down. "People! Family! Calm yourselves," said Grimno. "These are strange events and difficult to understand. And it is even more difficult since the Maker, even today, has still not answered our calls. Even so, we all know that we cannot undo things that have happened yesterday or on any day before that. What good will it benefit us, what good will it do for Jareth and Millburn, if the hairy ones cease breathing?"

   "If they do not cease breathing, however," said Carthar, "how can we prevent them from making more of us stop breathing?"

   "Carthar speaks the truth," interrupted Leokas. "The hobgoblins, the 'hairy ones', will certainly try to do this to more of you if they are not killed,... put to sleep."

   "Your reasoning seems limited, visitor," said Grimno. "Is it not reasonable to seal off the mine instead? This will keep the hop-cob-lings away from us, and we will be safe."

   "You cannot shut down the mine!" said Daxton. "What will we do?"

   "You can join me in building things, perhaps," said Erol, the orange-haired lumberjack.

   "But we must provide gems for the Maker," said one of the white-haired women.

   "The Maker?" said the pink-haired man. "He has abandoned us. If he needs more gems, he can go find them himself!"

   "You speak lies!" said one of them, in shock at what she had just heard.

   "I do not believe the Maker has abandoned us," said Carthar, "but he is currently away, it seems. We should seal off the mine. If... when... the Maker returns, he can deal with the hog-gob-beans as he wishes and can open the mine again and tell us what he wants from us."

   "I can use our firesticks to collapse the entryway," said Ithikar, the purple-haired smithy.

   Hakam spoke up. "Sealing the cave entrance will not stop the hobgoblins," said Hakam. "They will find another way over the island." In truth, Hakam believed the hobgoblins themselves would cause no more problems for the islanders, but he did not want to have to explain the existence of a far more powerful and dangerous enemy in the osyluth. "You would be wise to send us back into the cave tomorrow; we will make the island safe for you again. After that, you could seal the mine or no. It would be up to you."

   After further discussion, this seemed agreeable to the islanders.

   "What about tonight?" asked Nikol, the first islander they had met. "What if the hairy things come before the morrow?"

   "We will set a guard throughout the night," said Jayce. "You will be able to rest in peace."

   "That seems to be how Jareth is resting," said Briel, the woman who was paired with Erol. "He looks so peaceful."
Session: 57th Game Session - Thursday, Aug 20 2015 from 6:45 PM to 9:45 PM
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Chapter 7 — Captain Grak
"So, if your mother had bigger teeth than even you, how did she kiss your father without hurting him?"

   Such was the conversation when the others arrived back to Nargroth, Ilthian, and the prisoner. Cassiera was there too.

   "You found Hakam," said Nargroth with a tusked grin. "I was just telling Ilthian about growing up in the North."

   "What happened to your clothes?" Ilthian asked the cleric. "They are all cut up and stained brown."

   "I am fine," repeated Hakam.

   "We thought you had fled," Szordrin said to Cassiera.

   "I poisoned one of the three remaining hobgoblins but was injured and had to return to my humanoid form," she said. "I did not flee."

   Hakam spoke to the captive shaman. "We are taking you back to your tribe. Get up!"

   Ilthian and Cassiera volunteered to stay with Kamil while the others descended with the prisoner deeper into the mine. They decided that Szordrin and Belvin would be the ones to enter the tunnel with the prisoner to meet with Captain Grak. Bork permitted Belvin to bring his weapon, since he only had one arm. Szordrin hid a dagger in his clothes. Nargroth, Mythlos, and Leokas waited with weapons ready, in case anything went sour.

   With some trepidation, Belvin crawled through first. "Well met," said Bork politely as Belvin stood up on the other side. Bork's warhammer was placed on the ground beside him. Bork motioned for Belvin to step to the side so that the prisoner and Szordrin could follow. The shaman grumbled some words at Bork in Ghukliak as he came through. Bork nodded and responded. Neither elf nor tiefling could understand, but they did make out the word "Grak".

   "I am going to unbind your hostage, Agtrik," Bork said to them in Common before proceeding. "Agtrik will take you to Captain... Chief Grak. I will remain at the 'door'."

   "Come," said Agtrik, "see our miserable tribe."

   The shaman led them forward in a southerly direction. The passage immediately widened up into another spacious cave chamber some 70 feet in length. It was lit by many flickering torches set in stakes in the ground. The two adventurers counted six wooden hut-like structures extending from the walls. They each had ramps leading up to doorways and were likely the entrances to larger homes carved into the cave walls. However, all but one of these structures had been smashed. The doors hung off their hinges, and the roofs were collapsed. Wooden planks and boards lay scattered about the cavern floor, as if a tornado had passed through. They also spotted several dark stains, as if from dried blood.

   They only saw a single other hobgoblin here, who snarled at them. Belvin put his one hand on the handle of his scimitar, but Agtrik yelled something back at the other goblinoid. "No one is going to attack you, elf;" he said, "a few of us still wish to live."

   They passed a well in the middle of the chamber and saw that they were heading toward a slope in the ground that seemed to descend below the the floor of this room. They began walking down it, and it curved around much like a spiral staircase, such that they came into another large chamber below the first and were now facing somewhat north.

   This lower chamber had a similar set of abodes, which were also demolished. There was also a large pen with deer in it.

   "Deer?" questioned Szordrin.

   "Surely, your kind keep animals for food and clothing, do you not?" said Agtrik.

   Besides the broken houses and the deer pen, this chamber contained a larger wooden, rectangular structure built atop short stakes. It remained intact. The entrance was on the other side. They came to it, and Agtrik pointed up the wooden steps to the curtain covered entryway. "The chief is in there. Go in."

   The darkly lit structure seemed to contain two rooms, and they were in the first. The walls were covered in various animal skulls and a bear-skin rug was at their feet. Three figures were present. A javelin-wielding guard, a female hobgoblin, and a large hobgoblin wearing a bicorn hat and sitting in a thick, wooden chair. The hobgoblin in the chair immediately started laughing slowly. Only then did they notice that "Chief Grak" had neither arms nor legs. At each stump was a wad of cloth bundled tightly.

   "Finally," said the hobgoblin leader in Common, looking directly at Belvin's missing arm, "someone who might understand."

   Neither Belvin nor Szordrin knew how to respond.

   "Well, what are you doing in my home, elf? human? Have you come here to mock us in our suffering? Have you come here to jest about Chief Stubs?"

   "Your people attacked us without warning and without reason," said Belvin, "as we explored a mine belonging to a race of people living on the surface above. We defended ourselves, as anyone would. In the battle, one of your warriors severed my arm. We took one of your shamans, Agtrik, alive as prisoner. He is beyond the door; we have returned him in exchange for moneys to pay for my lost arm."

   The hobgoblin laughed a deep laugh yet again. "That is all? And whom will you find on this wretched island to pay to grow your arm back? Take all our coins, for all I care, and be gone!" Then Grak muttered to himself, "The heretic, Barlock, would die of laughter if he saw how low I've fallen."

   "Barlock is dead," said Belvin, "for what that is worth."

   Grak appeared suddenly interested. "You know of him?"

   Belvin nodded.

   "How can this be?"

   "He served a nemesis of ours, one Allu."

   Amazed, Grak began talking to himself in Ghukliak before answering in Common. "How do you know Allu, the great deceiver?"

   "We came to this island in pursuit of one from whom Allu stole a certain item," said Belvin. "By chance or by the gods, we stumbled upon this item, and Allu has sent his hobgoblin servants to try and retrieve it from us. He has failed. The gods have favored us and led us here."

   "Do you know of Samber?" asked Szordrin, "the owner of this... item?"

   Grak shook his head, and did not seem interested in the name. "Grant me some pleasure in my misery," he said. "Tell me, how did Barlock die? I pray Maglubiyet it was painful and slow."

   "He was rotted to dust by the unholy power of an undead priestess in the Calim Desert," said Belvin.

   Grak, once again, laughed deeply. "Oh, how I wish mine own eyes could have seen that!" exclaimed the chief.

   The hobgoblin woman standing to the left of Grak began talking excitedly in the goblin tongue.

   "That is ridiculous, Goonya."

   "Please," she said, in Common.

   "What does she ask?" asked Szordrin.

   "My crazed woman here, she wants me to ask a favor of you. She doesn't seem to understand that you are our enemies and wish us all dead."

   "What harm will it do to ask?"

   "True," Grak replied. "what else could you do to cause us pain beyond what we've already experienced?"

   "Go on," said Szordrin.

   "As you've observed, our tribe has been decimated. Your recent slaying of our remaining warriors did not help matters, mind you, but we were already doomed to a slow fading before that. Before yesterday, I was a whole hobgoblin. I had a tribe; I had a family. Then the monster appeared. It was a skeletal fiend with skin pulled so tightly across its bones that one could count them. It had an elongated skull and a tail like a scorpion's. It towered over all of us, smelling like death. It came from an opening in the ceiling and dropped among us. It wasted no time in killing everyone, without warning or reason. No, it did not kill all. Some of us, it chose to torture instead. It sought me out, as leader of this people. I stood my ground. It effortlessly knocked my weapon from my hands and pinned me to the ground with its tail. Then, before all my people, it demonstrated my weakness, how unfit I was to rule, and it gnawed each one of my appendages off while laughing. After, while I bled out, unconscious, it began killing our young, smashing their little bodies against the stone. It finally ran off, taking three of the children with it."

   "Girl,... me...," said the female goblin, clutching her arms over her chest with tears pouring from her eyes.

   "Our daughter," said Grak," was one of the ones taken."

   "Please, please," said Goonya.

   "It was not a golem or a skeleton," said Szordrin to Belvin. "It was a bone devil!"

   "Look," said Grak. "I'm not a fool. I have no reason to expect that humans or elves would help a tribe of hobgoblins. You probably believe that we should all be wiped from the face of Toril. Many of us feel the same about your kind. But I might as well ask for your help. What else can I do? If the last of our children die, this tribe will be wiped from all memory. Certainly, no one will remember Chief Grak the Stubbed One."

   "Where did the devil go?" asked Szordrin.

   "Back the way it came, through a hole in the ceiling in the chamber above."

   "We will go back and discuss this matter with our companions," said Szordrin. "We will return tomorrow with an answer and to claim your payment to us."

   "We will have it ready for you. You know the way back," said Grak. "Go. And return quickly. Do not leave us to wasted hope."

~~~~


They began the return to the surface, discussing the matter as they walked.

   "The monster that attacked them is a bone devil, an osyluth," said Szordrin, "one of the baatezu."

   "A baatezu?" said Leokas. "Like in your prophecy, Mythlos!"

   "They are known for taking pleasure in torture," said Szordrin.

   "Are we seriously considering helping them?" asked Leokas.

   "We are not monsters," said Belvin.

   "Perhaps this devil is related to the ship we followed here," suggested Hakam.

   "True," said Leokas, "it might be worth tracking this devil down if only for more clues about Samber."

   "How does one kill a devil?" asked Mythlos.

   "Some have a magical weakness to alchemical silver, as in your sword," said Hakam, "but not all."

   "All baatezu are resistant to fire, cold, acid, and poison," said Szordrin.

   "Only weapons of inherent goodness can harm them effectively," added Hakam.

   "Where would we even begin to look for the thing?" asked Leokas.

   "I looked around carefully, as we exited the hobgoblin lair," said Szordrin. "There was a large tunnel opening in the ceiling, as Grak described. We'd need a ladder or such to reach it, but I'm almost certain that's where the devil came and went."

   "We need to meet with Grimno again and explain what has happened to his miners," said Hakam. "Then we need to rest to gain our strength back if we have any hope of facing such a force of darkness on the morrow."
Session: 56th Game Session - Thursday, Jul 16 2015 from 6:45 PM to 9:45 PM
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Chapter 7 — Bork
The rest of the group — Belvin, Leokas, Mythlos, and Szordrin — met Hakam as he was coming back up the tunnel. His armor was visibly gashed and blood-stained, and he hadn't yet pulled the two arrows out.

   "I'm fine," he said, before they could question him. "They weren't overly tough combatants; I just was running low on magic and had a tactical disadvantage."

   "How many were there?"

   "Three. I wounded the leader somewhat severely, but they are all still back there."

   "We should be wary," said Leokas. "Hobgoblins are notorious for their trickery."

   "What happened to the yuan-ti woman?" asked Szordrin. "We passed her pile of clothes."

   Hakam shrugged, as he pulled out the two arrows from his leathers. "She slithered off somewhere."

   They returned together to the large chamber where Hakam had fought. The hobgoblins were no longer there, but the signs of the battle were everywhere present as human, snake, and hobgoblin blood was in pools around the stone floor. The massive room was about about 90 feet from corner to corner. It contained two more large shards of omlar and three mining pits with their elevators.

   "There's an opening near the ceiling up there," said Szordrin, pointing to the top of the sheer eastern wall.

   "I don't think I could climb that," said Hakam.

   "No need to," said Leokas from the other side of the chamber. "They went this way." Their bloody footprints were impossible to miss. At the western side of the room, a southern wall had collapsed into the chamber from about eight feet above. The broken stones appeared easily climbable and led up to the new opening. The other's gathered around.

   "The earthquake probably did this," said Szordrin.

   "Yes," said Leokas, "and the hobgoblins retreated back up there. Ready yourselves!" He began to climb. Mythlos followed behind him.

   "Wait!" said Szordrin. "You yourself said we should be cautious. Let me send Ferry in to scout."

   This was agreeable to the others. The magical weasel hopped off his master's shoulders and bounded up the fallen stones, disappearing through the opening in the wall. Only a few moments passed before Szordrin exclaimed, "He's afraid!" The little mustelid scurried back out of the opening, down the rocks, and behind Szordrin's legs.

   "They must have a guard," whispered Mythlos.

   "Leokas," said Szordrin quietly, "pretend to be a goblin."

   "I saw your rat," came a gruff voice from above. "I know you are out there. Don't waste your time trying to fool me."

   "Belvin, summon another fire elemental," said Mythlos.

   Belvin obliged him. Moments later, the creature of flame appeared within the tunnel at the top of the pile of stones. "Burn in goblin hell!" shouted Leokas in Ghukliak as he darted up the stones. Just when he got high enough to see through the opening, he observed the fire elemental being squashed by a large warhammer and vanish in a puff of smoke. The only way to continue was to crawl on one's hands and knees about ten feet. He could not see the full height of the guard at the other end, but he guessed from the thickness of its legs and its hairiness that it was a bugbear, not a hobgoblin.

   "Are you going to parley with me?" said the bugbear confidently, "or shall I crush your skulls one by one as you come through the tunnel, like I just did to your fire monster?"

   Leokas aimed an arrow at the bugbear's legs. "We do not parley with the wicked!" said Leokas, but Mythlos pulled him back down just before he could let the arrow fly.

   "He asked to parley, Leokas," said Hakam. "You cannot deny him that."

   "How can we parley if we cannot see with whom we are speaking," shouted Szordrin.

   "Are you deaf?" said the bugbear. "I have no problems hearing you. Maybe your little ears should be longer like a goblinoid's. Feel free to send one of your group to talk with me face to face unarmed and I will lower my weapon."

   "Lower it?" said Szordrin. "How is that fair?"

   "There are many of you and only one of me," said the bugbear.

   "I can go up," said Hakam.

   "Don't be a fool!" said Leokas. "We can talk from here, though I'd rather just put an arrow through his knees and be done with it."

   "I'll climb up a little higher, at least," said Hakam quietly, setting his musket down. "Follow just below me and be ready with your bow if he plays unfairly."

   So Hakam climbed high enough to see the hairy humanoid's booted feet at the other end of the tunnel. "Are you going to show yourself?" he called out, "Or am I going to simply stare at your feet?"

   The large goblinoid bent down, and Hakam saw his hairy, long-eared head, with a bugbear's signature bluish, bear-like nose. "Well met," said the bugbear. "I am Bork."

   "Well... met, Bork," said Hakam. "I am Hakam yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr."

   "What are you doing here?" said Bork.

   "We were sent to investigate two missing miners from the settlement on the surface."

   "What settlement?"

   "The group of people living on the surface."

   "I know of no such settlement," said the bugbear, "nor did we know there was a way to the surface this way. You speak as if you are not a part of this group of settlers. Who are you?"

   "We are warriors and travelers," said Hakam.

   "And what do you have against our tribe?" asked Bork.

   "Your tribe attacked us!" exclaimed Hakam.

   "You have your story," said Bork. "All I know is that a scouting party of nineteen left this afternoon and only three returned alive — and of those, one was nearly mauled to death and the other badly poisoned. It hardly sounds like you were attacked."

   "I give my word that they struck first. We simply proved the stronger force."

   "It seems to me an overly excessive response to a scouting party whose territory has been consistently invaded in these last few days."

   "Would not your scouting party respond in kind had we fired the first shot?" asked Hakam. "But who else has invaded you?"

   "First, it was the yellow-haired creatures who attacked our scouts with picks the day after the earthquake, when the scouts were exploring this new opening from our home."

   "I believe your scouts were dishonest," said Hakam. "I can show you the corpses of the miners."

   "Were they your friends?" asked Bork.

   "No, but...," started Hakam.

   "They could have been!" shouted up Belvin, as he shook his severed arm above his head angrily.

   "I am sorry for the loss you would be feeling if they had been your friends," said the bugbear. "However, I'd trust the word of a hobgoblin before that of a human, no offense to my present company."

   "And I the opposite, of course," replied Hakam, "but continue with your tale."

   "Second, it was only yesterday that out tribe was attacked by a creature of bone. It came at us from above and slaughtered a great number of us."

   "A skeleton?" Leokas asked of those below him on the ground. "Can something like an earthquake animate them?"

   "Or perhaps a bone golem," suggested Szordrin. He called up to Hakam, "Ask him if its eyes glowed."

   "I did not see the monster," said Bork. I was gathering water from the stream for the deer when the thing came and attacked. It was gone before I returned. I was a failure to my tribe, a fact I shall never forget. Grak would have had me executed, had he any will left himself."

   "Your tribe could not kill it?"

   "They could not so much as scratch its shriveled, white skin," said the bugbear. "After its slaughter, it stole away with some of our children."

   "I assure you that we have not seen your children," said Hakam.

   "No, it took the children another way."

   "It serves them justly," muttered Leokas.

   "How many of you are left?" asked Hakam.

   "Only a handful, thanks to your group," said Bork.

   "If you have children, you must have had females among you?"

   "Had children. All of them are slain or taken. As for our women, now only three remain."

   "I am sorry for the loss your tribe has suffered," said Hakam out of pure formality. "Now I want to ask about another matter. You say this is your territory; when did you arrive on this island? Were you shipwrecked?"

   "We were," said Bork, "between two and three years ago, on the northern side of this island."

   "Could you not repair your craft?"

   "Not at first," said Bork. "However, later the first year, a being of fire — much more powerful than the weak creature you just now sent to attack me — appeared to us. He was named Allu, and he claimed to be a god. Of course, he was a fraud, but the weaker-willed among us believed him. With his magic, he helped them repair the vessel and they abandoned us."

   "We know of this Allu of whom you speak," said Hakam. "We have faced him in the past. He has made his way back to Faerûn and is one of our foes."

   "What a strange roll of Beshaba's dice that you should find yourselves shipwrecked on this same island whence Allu came! I would be fascinated by such a tale except that we are not likely to survive the recent devastation to our tribe, so it is hard to care about much these days."

   "We learned that Allu can be summoned by means of certain magic bottles. Have you seen such bottles?"

   "I have not."

   "Do you think perhaps that this 'monster of bone' came from the same place as Allu?"

   "It is possible," said Bork, "but we are no more capable of slaying the monster than we were of stopping Allu from deceiving the others, so what does it matter? Do you have anything else you wish to discuss? I hope that I have convinced you that it is not worth your time to pursue us further. Leave our tribe in peace."

   "We will do so, provided you never attack the villagers on the surface again."

   "I will ensure that no hobgoblins nor I will ever pass through this way again."

   "Permit me to go back and talk with my companions for a moment," said Hakam.

   "Go freely," said Bork.

   Hakam made his way back down. "I trust you heard all that?" he asked.

   They nodded.

   "Surely you do not trust him!" said Leokas.

   "I do not think they have the strength to cause the islanders any more problems," said Hakam, "even were he lying. Even so, I sensed no deceit in the creature's voice."

   "Even so, I want payment for my arm," said Belvin.

   "Were they not pirates?" said Mythlos. "Surely, they have treasure!"

   "How much did it cost to raise Vashti?" asked Leokas. "Was it 6,000 pieces? If these hobgoblins have two-thirds that amount, surely we can pay to have your arm regenerated, Belvin."

   "We can trade them back our prisoner and demand payment," said Szordrin.

   So Hakam made his way back up the pile of fallen rock. "We have a prisoner of yours," said Hakam. "We would like to make an exchange."

   "We have no prisoner to trade back to you?" said Bork. "What then are your terms?"

   "When your scouts attacked us, they severed one of my companions' limbs. We require enough gold to pay a powerful cleric to heal him."

   "We have no use for our gold any more," said Bork, "but I do not have the authority to grant your demand. I'm just the door guard. Come back with your hostage, and I can lead him and two of your number to Captain Grak."
Session: 56th Game Session - Thursday, Jul 16 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 — The Story Comes Full Circle
Leokas dropped into the empty stream bed and climbed back out near where Hakam, Belvin, and Mythlos had been fighting. Belvin was on his knees, holding his severed arm, and looking distraught. Kamil, sensing something amiss, was nuzzling him. Leokas put his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Hakam will be able to restore you," he said.

   Mythlos returned from exploring the room to the southeast, having found neither foe nor treasure. He had clearly removed the arrow from his arm and healed himself. "There is nothing else back there," he informed them.

   Szordrin and Ilthian appeared next. "I explored two other chambers behind us and there was no sign of the other hobgoblins who were trying to flank us," he reported. "I did hear galloping, however." He looked around. "Where is Nargroth?"

   "I thought he was with your group," said Mythlos, "and where is Hakam?"

   "He will be fine, I am sure," said Ilthian.

   Only Belvin knew that Hakam had followed the fire elementals and Cassiera, but he said nothing, still staring blankly at his arm, as if in trance.

   Leokas poked his head through the opening in the wall, saw the dead bodies slain by him and Cassiera, and recognized that the tunnel connected here from where he had been fighting. "Maybe Hakam is with Cassiera?" Leokas suggested, "but the last I saw of Nargroth, he had lobbed a perfect stone throw at a hobgoblin from somewhere to our west. He shouted to us that he had found our missing miners."

   "Is he okay?" Ilthian asked, pointing at Belvin.

   "He will recover," said Leokas. "He is a strong elf."

   "The Maker can make him a new arm, I'm certain of it," said Ilthian, "if only he would answer us again." She looked around. "I've never seen so much blood. Why is some of it black? My blood is red like this poor elf's."

   "The blood of evil creatures is often black," said Leokas.

   "I'll go find Nargroth," said Mythlos.

   "This one is still alive," said Szordrin, who was bent over the shaman Hakam had struck down.

   "Mythlos, before you get Nargroth, bring this one back to consciousness," said Leokas. "I want to interrogate it."

   Mythlos touched the hobgoblin with his sword, and the shaman stirred. He then jogged off to cross the "stream" and find Nargroth.

   "What are you doing here?" Szordrin asked, in the most threatening voice he could manage.

   The hobgoblin sat up and rubbed his sore head, where his broken skullcap had once rested. "What are you talking about?" he answered in clear Common with a subtle Calant accent. "This is our cave and has been for three years."

   "Her people have been mining this cave for longer than that," said Szordrin, motioning toward Ilthian. "When did you first come upon them?"

   "Several days ago," said the shaman. "We found them through a tunnel that had recently opened. We thought we were alone on the island."

   "Whither did your companions flee?" asked Szordrin.

   "How many of your scum are there?" asked Leokas.

   "What makes you think I will betray my tribe," said the goblin. "Look, I know you are not going to permit me to live. I've been defeated fairly. Now give me a swift death, if you are civilized men and not barbarians."

   "If you answer our questions, we'll grant you your wish," said Leokas. "Now, who is your leader?"

   "Chief Grak."

   "And who is Maglubiyet? Another of your kind called on him for aid."

   "He is our god," said the shaman.

   Leokas felt embarrassment for having forgotten this.

   "Do you know anything about a man named Samber?" asked Szordrin.

   The goblinoid shook his head.

   "The Maker?"

   "No."

   "Allu?" said Leokas.

   The hobgoblin appeared to grow angry. "That false god! He stole half our tribe away!"

   "Tell us more about this."

   "Two years ago, a being of fire appeared in our cave and claimed to be a new god for the hobgoblin race, claiming that Maglubiyet was a weak god, better suited for the goblins. Despite the fact that it is Maglubiyet who made the goblins our lessers, half of the tribe followed him."

   "Where did they go?" asked Szordrin, who had not been a member of the party when they had first heard a version of this story from Malick of Darromar.

   "With the help of Allu's magic, the blasphemers rebuilt the ship that first took us to this island and they sailed away. I pray Umberlee sank them."

   "How large is your tribe now?" asked Leokas again.

   "I will not betray my people."

   "Do you wish to die painfully?"

   "You promised me a swift death. Kill me now."

   "I agreed to that only if you would tell us what we want to know."

   Just then Nargroth and Mythlos joined them, each bearing one of the bodies of the yellow-haired miners. They were wrapped tightly in blankets, but the smell of death still emanated from them. "I'm sorry I left the fight early," said Nargroth. "You looked like you had things under control on the stone bridge, and I wanted to care for the dead, so I cleaned them up a bit and wrapped them in the blankets from my bedroll."

   "You found Jareth and Millburn," said Ilthian happily. "Are they still asleep?"

   "I'm afraid so, miss," said Nargroth, "very, very asleep."

   "One was struck by a hobgoblin longsword, the other from three hobgoblin arrows," explained Mythlos, quietly.

   "We should bind and gag him," said Szordrin. "We can bring him to the villagers and execute him before them in payment for these murders."

   "What difference will that make to them?" answered Leokas. "It will not bring their companions back. Besides that, we need to find Hakam, and we cannot drag this creature along with us."

   "It might be useful for us to have a hostage," said Szordrin.

   "For what purpose?" replied Leokas. "Hobgoblins are not trustworthy; they will betray their own kind. They will simply laugh if we try to use it as barter. We should execute it now."

   "I agree with Szordrin," said Mythlos. "We should keep him as a prisoner."

   "You've always been quick to execute evil prisoners in the past," said Leokas.

   "And I am beginning to regret those actions," said Mythlos.

   "It's a spellcaster," said Leokas. "If we don't kill it, it could use its magic to escape or kill us."

   "We can gag and bind him," said Szordrin. "He won't be able to cast anything."

   "I do not detect any magic aura on him," said Mythlos.

   "I can watch him," said Ilthian, trying to be helpful but not even fully understanding what was being discussed.

   "I'm against executing him also," said Nargroth. "I'll stay here and guard him with Ilthian."

   "Fine," said Leokas in exasperation. "We've wasted too much time. I'm concerned that Hakam has not returned yet. Bind and gag the prisoner and let's move. There are more hobgoblins to hunt and kill."

   Leokas looked over toward Belvin, who still remained silent, and spoke to him in Elven. "Friend, you have suffered greatly today. I understand if you wish to rest here until we return. We will find a way to heal you, and you will fight another day."

   "How can I fight with one arm!" shouted Belvin madly. "I stay here," he said, somewhat more calmly.

   "Maybe we will find the Maker deeper in this cave," suggested Mythlos. "Perhaps Ilthian is right, and he will restore your arm."

   Belvin stood up. "Let's go," he said. "Watch Kamil, Nargoth."

   "There may be other hobgoblins who flanked us," said Szordrin. "Stay sharp, Nargroth."

   The half-orc nodded at both statements, and the others drew their weapons and began jogging down the path Hakam and Cassiera presumably took.
Session: 55th Game Session - Thursday, Jul 02 2015 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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