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Chapter 3 — The Dragon's Jaws
"The Dragon's Jaws has one of the best taverns in the city. It has amazing ales on tap, and it only recently added a wing with a restaurant and rooms to become an inn. Several famous people have stayed at the Jaws when they visit the city."

   A member of the Purple Dragons assigned to guide them to the inn where they would be staying courtesy of the Royal Court of Cormyr was happily chatting with them as he led them along the curved Promenade. They passed the spot where the body of the fallen red dragon lay.

   "I have never heard of the place," Jayce said, "can you tell me more? Where did it get its name?"

   The soldier talked of a spellbattle that had once happened between some drunk men and an attractive woman whom they were harassing who turned out to have been a metallic dragon in disguise. It did not go well for those men or for the structure of the tavern's walls. On the bright side, it motivated the owner to finally add the addition that he had always wanted.

   Jayce seemed delighted to learn a new story and immediately began pondering how he might put the tale to music.

   They were led to a complex of large buildings on the corner. A street sign read "Street of Staves". The northwestern corner of the roof of the nearest stone addition of the complex was collapsed.

   "Here we are," said the Purple Dragon, making no comment about the likely dragon damage. He paused and held his arm to the doorway of the larger, wooden structure adjacent to and sharing a wall with the damaged stone one.

   They entered the inn. Belvin and Leokas once again refrained from entering the building and rested outside on some benches.

   Inside, they found a large open room 45 feet by 25 feet, with a second-story balcony. It had four long tables and four tables for two spread about and a bar with stools on the western side. There was a staircase going up to the balcony, a bench, and several doors to guest rooms on the southern wall, and a large fireplace on the eastern wall.

   All the tables were empty except for one of the smaller ones when they entered. At this table sat a noble woman, who ignored them and sipped at her beverage. (When Solisar tried to bow at her, she looked away and snobbishly raised her nose.) Only two others were in the room, the bartender, a dwarf with a cook's hat, and a young boy, who was sitting by the fire.

   The Purple Dragon entered behind them and approached the dwarf at the bar to inform him of their arrangements.

   The boy became very excited upon seeing guests enter. He hopped up from his stool and approached them. "Sirs and Ladies, can I interest you in placing an order for dinner from the Puffing Jester. We have a special arrangement with the Jaws, because a dragon burned the kitchen down. Only one golden dragon per person. Would you like to see a menu, please?"

   "Is that one gold piece per person?" asked Szordrin. "That is pricey, is it not?"

   "They are decent-sized meals," said the youth.

   "Suzail is rumored to have some of the best restaurants," said Jayce.

   "It is no rumor," said the boy.

   "Have you ever eaten in another city?" asked Oma.

   "No, but I know that the food is not as good anywhere else. It cannot be!"

   "That is a kind offer, young cutter, but I do not have any money for food," said Sofi.

   "What did you do with all the money from the sale of the metal eggs?" asked Oma.

   "I donated most of it to the Pantheist Temple of Tyr," said Sofi, as if this were a normal way to spend adventurers' loot. "Hakam has convinced me, at least, of the worthiness of Tyr's cause."

   "That is most generous of you, Sofi," said Hakam. "I shall pay for your meal."

   "That is very kind of you, Hakam," said Sofi. "Thank you." Then, to the boy, she said, "Do you have any food without meat?"

   "Why would anyone eat food with no meat?" says the boy.

   Jayce had already taken the menu from the boy by now and was skimming the Puffing Jester's offerings. "No, but the roast gammon pie looks good!" he exclaimed. "I shall have that."

   The boy took their orders, and he hurried off into the street. They took seats at one of the large tables. Jayce sat next to Sofi and asked if she wanted to hear more of the story that he had last been sharing with her.

   "I would enjoy that," she said.

   Szordrin sat next to her on the other side and said, "Why do you not share it with me too?"

   Kytharrah also sat down — as best he could — in a chair for storytime as well.

   Hakam walked over to the bartender, who greeted him cheerfully. "My name is Milo. Milo Dudley! You all look like you are in desperate need of some beverages to pour into those stomachs. What can I bring out for all of you? I am told that you are guests of the queen mother, so all drinks are on the house."

   "Where I come from," Szordrin whispered to Sofi back at the table, "a milo is a kind of drink."

   "I have never tasted that," said Sofi, but she half-giggled anyway.

   "Whatever you would recommend," answered Hakam.

   "Well, the most popular — and for good reason — drink on tap is Suzale," said Milo Dudley. "I trust you get the joke? But it is indeed a fine ale, with nutty undertones. It was first brewed here as a gift for King Azoun, and it is also the official ale of the Purple Dragons. I also have several wines from the Dalelands tonight, which are a special treat for this tenday."

   Suzale seemed satisfactory to everyone, except for Sofi, who only had water. Milo brought pewter pints to everyone, filled with the namesake ale. "I am told that you will also be needing rooms. Some of our rooms upstairs are not quite ready for you yet, but are currently being cleaned. There are three rooms here downstairs that are already available. Feel free to take your pick. They tend to be a bit noisier than the rooms upstairs, however, so you may want to wait. The stone of silence does not protect them as well from the sound from the tavern, but it still does some good. It depends on how light a sleeper you are.

   "The tavern, which is connected through that passage there, does not open until dusk, and that is when this dining area officially closes. With the kitchen closed, I truly do not mind however long you wish to relax in here, but I will be moving over there to start serving to the guests of the tavern wing."

   The youth, aided with a couple friends, returned with their delivered food as they were nearly finishing their first pint of ale. The advertised roast gammon pie was a roast ham pie with apricot, honey, pecans, and vegetables, and it was indeed quite tasty. Several of them offered Sofi bits of their crust, but she refused, "just in case it came into contact with the meat." Milo, however, without being asked, brought her out an assortment of dried fruit and vegetables from the storehouse in the back of the kitchen, and she happily accepted these.

   Hakam asked the red-bearded dwarf, "It looks like you do not have many customers. Have the dragon attacks affected your business?"

   "It is true," said Milo. "We used to be known for our restaurant food, but the restaurant is shut down until the kitchen can be repaired. We have had to make an arrangement with the Puffing Jester, who used to be a competitor. Tourism is also down these days. The bar will probably be full tonight though. Alcohol is a good way to forgot one's anxieties, and there are the ever popular competitions. I cannot recall which event is on the schedule for tonight, but they are always fun."

   They began to finish off their meals. Jayce still had more to go, as he was so busy storytelling and making Sofi laugh. As it grew closer to dusk, the noblewoman got up and moved to the other wing of the complex, leaving them the only guests in the room.

   They heard loud meowing outside the door, and Milo opened it, as if it was a common occurrence to open the door to meowing cats. A black cat pranced in, and they saw that it was Panther. He came and hopped up onto Oma's lap and began to meow and purr. "Thank you, Panther," she said. Then she said to the others at the table, "I invited Nargroth to join us after his shift is over. It is almost dusk; I am going to go into the tavern and wait for him."

   One by one, they followed after her. (Leokas and Belvin had joined them for dinner at the table, but now they escaped outside again.) The tavern wing was half the size of the dining area, but it was already filling up with customers, most of them middle-class or aspiring nobles. They gathered around another long table with ten chairs by a smaller fireplace on the western wall, near a set of stairs that likely went up to the inn's upper-level rooms. Most of the locals were either at the bar stools on the back wall or at small, square tables at the north wall at the front. Milo soon came over from the restaurant side and went to work behind the counter at the back, leaving table serving to two women. One of them came up to their new table, once they had settled.

   "Heya! My name is Rustreene," said the pleasantly plump and cheerful waitress in a tight bodice and poofy skirt. "Would you like to order any drinks?"

   "Water for me," says Sofi.

   "What do you have to offer?" asks Jayce.

   "For someone has handsome as you, anything you want?" She squeezed his cheek.

   Those who still felt like imbibing ordered more Suzale, and she went back behind to the bar counter to fill their orders. Nargroth came in through the door, and Oma called out to him. "There you are! I saved a seat for you."

   "Great! Where's the beer?"

   They were all served and began to enjoy themselves. Those less prone to drunkenness in the party glanced around the room and took in more of the patrons. At the bar were a couple notable individuals. At the very end was a bald mad with a sleeveless shirt whose muscles bulged from his arms. At the opposite end, on the stool against the wall, sat an obese man who appeared to be dressed in an off-white bathing robe with pale blue trim. His black hair was in a sort of top bun, though the front of his head seemed to be bald. He was certainly Kara-Turan of some variety. The fat man was stroking a cat that was curled up next to his pint.

   This animal and Panther were not the only cats in the room. Milo had set a bowl of milk on the bar counter, and two additional cats were currently drinking from it. Panther grew excited and asked Oma with a meow if he could go socialize with the other cats and drink some milk, and she allowed him.

   After a while, from the restaurant section of the establishment, a gnome entered the room. He walked with a limp and cane but otherwise seemed as fit as a youth.

   "Oloré, Amara!" he called out to one of the female patrons. To another, "How farest thee, Fredrik?" Indeed, he greeted every patron in the bar by name, and they all greeted him back like a long-lost family member. Then he game to the adventurers' table. "Last but not least, we have newcomers this night! Are ye new to the town or only to this, my tavern?"

   "We arrived in Suzail this morning," said Hakam. "We are waiting for an audience with the dowager queen on the morrow."

   "Impressive! You must all be some important people to have a meeting with the queen mother. Name is Gnorm. That is Gnorm with a G. Are you staying up until the halfling-throwing bout? First place wins a kiss from Molly Sara and a platinum coin." He eyed Kytharrah. "Now you definitely want to play this game; I can tell."

   "Play?"

   "What are the rules?" asked Solisar, a bit concerned for the well being of the mentioned halfling.

   "No offense, my elven friend, but halflings probably weigh more than you can throw."

   "I am asking for my minotaur friend."

   "Well, well, then. Mostly, it is exactly what it sounds like. Here's how it works. We have halflings who have volunteered to — with the help of a little alcohol — be the tossee on a rotating schedule. Next door is an extra-long barn that I have converted into a gaming hall for feats of strength and agility, and tonight, halfling-tossing is on the schedule. Basically, whoever can toss the halfling the farthest wins. The rules are: no magic, just your own natural strength. You get three tosses per person. Every round, that is, every toss — all players toss in a round — you win three points for farthest throw, two for the second farthest, and one for third. Highest score after three rounds wins. If there is ever a tie in a single round, the tied players for that round toss again."

   "What if there is injury to the halfling?" asked Szordrin.

   "Oh, we have a few clerics and magic potions on stock for that sort of thing, but we dump gallons of water onto the ground to make it into a mud pit so that it is safe for the tossees. No one has gotten terribly hurt yet — bruises, definitely, but the local halfling population sees it as a sign of manliness to volunteer. I honestly did not come up with the idea; one of the halflings did. But it sure is fun to watch!"

   "This sounds like the best tavern ever!" said Nargroth, who had already downed his first drink.

   Gnorm left his guests and walked to the sliding wall on the opposite side from the fireplace. To loud cheers from the crowd, he slid the wall back, revealing an opening into the adjacent barn.

   The bald and muscular man at the end of the bar counter slammed his stein down with a shout, causing the cats to jump and scatter temporarily. "Yeah, it's time!" He hurried from his tool to the barn.

   Then the obese man at the other end stood up and untied his kimono slowly. The crowd in the bar began cheering loudly, "Maru! Maru! Maru!" He removed the robe and set it gently on his stool. At first, he appeared naked, but he was, in fact, wearing a thick and padded loincloth. Out of his clothes, it was clear that he was not only fat; he was also powerfully built.

   This Maru slowly made his way into the barn, and Nargroth grabbed Kytharrah by the arm. "Come on, buddy, let's do this!"

   The barn was 35 feet wide and 120 feet long. It was about two and a half stories tall and dimly lit by torches. The northern end, where the contestants and audience were gathering was hardwood-floored for the first 20 feet. Beyond that was mud, all the way to the back wall. Four workers were standing in it, spread out along its length, and bore small flags of various colors for marking distances.

   The halfling "tossee" was standing at the edge of the floor, talking to Gnorm and looking quite excited. He was dressed in a loincloth and looked to be a typical hin specimen, probably weighing about 35 pounds.

   "This is going to be awesome," said Nargroth.

   "Do not hurt yourself," said Oma.

   "What? How would I hurt myself?"

   "Are you going to compete?" Szordrin asked Sofi. "You are very strong, are you not?"

   "No, not particularly," she said. "I just know how to make the most of the strength that I do have. I could never toss a halfling. Thanks for asking though." She smiled.

   They watched as a couple of nobles removed their shirts and then went over to try to pick the halfling up. The halfling protested when they each struggled to lift him with ease. Apparently, he had to approve of any tossers. In the end, the only contestants were Kytharrah, Nargroth, Maru, and the bald-headed man. Straws were drawn, and Nargroth pulled the longest straw, so he would be the first to throw.

   The crowd pressed themselves against the wall to give the half-orc room, as he stood in a circle marked out on the floor at the edge of the mud.

   "Are you ready?" asked the halfling.

   "Are you sure that you are okay with this, little guy?" asked Nargroth.

   "I was born ready!" said the halfling. He lay face down at the edge of the mud and raised his feet up, crossed together for Nargroth to grab. The half-orc lifted him off the ground by his ankles, and the tossee dangled, his hands barely brushing the floor. The halfling was laughing, so Nargroth began to spin. The halfling rose into the air as Nargroth spun around one, two, three times and then released his grip, lobbing the halfling into the air.

   The hin flew in an arc 50 feet through the air, shouting in glee the whole time, and then landed in the mud with a loud splat. The crowd cheered. Immediately, the nearest worker moved as quickly as he could through the mud to reach the halfling and help him to his feet. Once they wiped the mud from his face, he turned to the crowd and gave a big grin. They cheered again. A flag was placed off near the wall to mark the distance. Then it was the minotaur's turn.

   "That was amazing!" said Oma, when Nargroth stepped aside.

   "I know! Wasn't it?" he said.

   Kytharrah took up more space, so the crowd had to rearrange a bit for him to safely spin. Once that was accomplished, he lifted the halfling effortlessly off the ground by his feet. Then, he began his rotation — around and around and release. The halfling soared through the air. Splat! "75 feet!" called Gnorm. The crowd cheered.

   "Well done making me look bad!" said Nargroth to Kytharrah, but he punched him in the arm in a friendly way and was smiling.

   Next up was the Kara-Turan giant of a man. He seemed to have a routine of some sort. He did a squat with his hands together as if in prayer and made some grunts and performed some stretches and breathing exercises before even picking up the halfling. When he finally released the halfling into the air, it was with a loud, grunting yell. The halfling dropped into the mud barely four feet past Kytharrah's marker. Maru raised his bulky arms to the air to a roaring cheer. "Maru! Maru! Maru!"

   One of the drunk patrons standing next to Jayce leaned over and said to him, "This is great! We haven't had any real competition for Maru in ages. I haven't seen him toss a hin more than 60 feet since the time that a friendly ogre was in town."

   The halfling was limping a little as he made his way back, covered utterly in thick mud, but he was still smiling enough for his teeth to show. "Urogalan's toe, that was great!"

   Finally, it was the bald man's turn. He cracked his knuckles and took a deep breath. He raised the halfling off the ground and began his spin. His rotation was the fastest of the four tossers, but he released too early. The halfling flew sideways and smacked into the side wall of the barn.

   "Ow!" shouted the halfling, followed by what were presumably curses in the hin tongue.

   "Here, drink this," said the nearest worker, giving him a tincture of something in a vial.

   Gnorm addressed the group of onlookers. "That ends round one. The score is currently: three points for Maru, two points for Kytharrah the minotaur, and one point for Nargroth the half-orc."

   There was another round of cheering.

   Nargroth then readied himself for his second toss. This time, he got more into the throw, adding an extra rotation and a wild, Uthgardt battle yell.

   It worked. The halfling flew as far as Maru's last throw, 80 feet. "Yeah! Ilmater be praised!" shouted Nargroth.

   The crowd went wild with excitement, exchanging many a "Did you see that?" Oma began chanting, "Nargroth! Nargroth! Nargroth!" and the rest of the patrons soon joined her.

   It was several minutes before they all calmed down and gave Kytharrah the needed room for his second throw.

   "You can do it, Kytharrah!" called Sofi.

   The minotaur grinned. He also believed that he could do it. While not the brightest, he knew how to mirror others well, and he had observed the technique that Maru had used. He lifted the halfling off the ground. "Make me fly!" encouraged the tossee.

   So, Kytharrah made him fly. "Weeeee!" shouted the halfling as he careened through the barn. There was a collective gasp, followed by a gentle thud. The halfling's head barely struck the back door of the barn. "100 feet!" announced Gnorm the gnome. "Unbelievable!"

   Patrons were spilling beer and slapping their hands together over their heads in excitement.

   Kytharrah, however, stomped into the deep mud to run over to the little demihuman to see if he was alright. The halfling assured Kytharrah that he was fine. He had hit the mud first and slid into the door at the back of the barn, not slammed into it directly. "Besides, that was amazing; I've never flown so far in my life. Can you do it again?"

   Maru appeared distraught and confused as he stepped up for his second throw. He did not seem angry, rather simply in genuine shock. He was so emotionally distracted by the turn of events that he made a severe mistake in technique. The halfling only traveled 25 feet, dropping into the mud with a plop. There was a collective gasp from the crowd, and Maru buried his face in his hands, ashamed. "Such dishonor," he muttered to himself as he cleared the throwing circle.

   The fourth contestant only made a distance of ten feet on his second throw, but at least he sent the halfling straight instead of into the wall.

   "I scored points! I've never scored points before."

   "I hate to tell you," said Gnorm, "but you still didn't score points. That was only ten feet. Maru was fifteen feet farther."

   "Hrast," said the man, and his shoulders sagged.

   Gnorm announced the results. "The scores for round two are Kytharrah at first for three points, Nargroth second for two points, and Maru third with one point. The cumulative scores are Kytharrah in first place with five points total, Maru in second place with four points, and Nargroth in third with three points. One more round to go!"

   The barwenches passed among the onlookers to take more orders. Then Nargroth readied himself for his final throw. He lifted the drunk and happy halfling off the ground and tried to concentrate. He began to rotate.

   Jayce slapped the shoulder of one of the drunk patrons nearby. "Watch this." Then he shouted out, "Hey, Nargroth, I slept with Oma last night!"

   "What? I did...!" but Jayce covered Oma's mouth.

   "What?" roared Nargroth, full of rage.

   "Sugoi!" exclaimed Maru, when Nargroth released.

   The halfling once again reached the back wall. "Oh, my head! My poor, curly-haired head!" A potion vial later, however, and the halfling was beaming.

   "100 feet, twice in the same night!" exclaimed Gnorm. "This is a first for the Dragon's Jaws."

   Nargroth, fuming, was struggling to catch his breath. The bald-headed man came over to him and patted him on the back. "It is alright, man, calm down. It is just a game. What a throw!"

   Kytharrah threw well, but not as amazingly as in round two. The tossee landed in the mud at 75 feet.

   Maru seemed to have better control of himself this time. He appeared peaceful and took a solid minute almost in a trance before even picking up the halfling. Then, with a rush of motion faster than anyone would expect for a man of his weight, he spun around and heaved the halfling hands first through the air. Another thud against the back doors.

   "Incredible!" said Gnorm. "We have a tie for this round between Nargroth and Maru."

   "I ain't had my throw yet," said the bald man. "I can hit the back wall too!"

   They gave the man his chance, and, to be fair, he had a personal record of 35 feet. His friends were excited by this and encouraged him. Then, he cleared the way for Nargroth.

   Nargroth, however, looked exhausted from his previous throw. He gave it his best, and the halfling sailed into the mud. A flag was marked at 50 feet. The crowd sighed.

   Again, Maru gave his full concentration to the task at hand, even holding his arm out and pointing at a distant spot and squinting, as if performing an artillery calculation in his head. With a final two spins, he let fly the little humanoid, sending him to land just ten feet beyond Nargroth's throw. He had played it safe. He then turned and bowed at the crowd, who cheered wildly.

   Gnorm gave the final results. "Round three: Maru wins the tie-breaker throw and earns three points; Nargroth earns two points, and Kytharrah comes in with one point. That gives us five points total for Nargroth, six for Kytharrah, and seven total points for Maru. Maru is the halfling-toss champion!" His announcement was followed once again by loud cheering. Then Gnorm announced, "Come back tomorrow night for the axe throwing and see if you can depose yours truly as champion. Now, have a safe night and journey home."
Session: 121st Game Session - Tuesday, Sep 29 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Recap , Suzail
Chapter 3 — War Wizards
After Dauneth left them, they had little to do but sit or stand around in the large court chamber and wait.

   Szordrin decided to have a little fun with the zone of truth enchantment in the room, and tried as hard as he could to tell Kytharrah how intelligent he was acting today, but he simply could not get the words to come out of his mouth. His mouth opened, but nothing came out. It was the strangest thing.

   Curious, he tried other variations. Kytharrah seemed confused why Szordrin kept facing him and opening his mouth as if to speak and yet not saying anything. At last, Szordrin said something, "Kytharrah, you are as intelligent today as you have ever been!"

   Szordrin sounded quite impressed with him, and this made Kytharrah feel proud. He bobbed his head happily. "Play?"

   Szrodrin had another idea. "Come with me," he said. He walked to the doorway, and the minotaur followed. Szordrin opened the door and poked his head out. The guard standing there eyed him strangely. "We have run out of water," he said, "could more be sent, please?" The guard nodded and stepped off to inform one of the stewards. Szordrin then stepped fully through the door and turned back to Kytharrah. "Indeed, your intelligence today knows no bounds!" he bluffed, with no difficulty.

   Kytharrah was shocked to have received two compliments from his bearded friend in one day. Ferry seemed to make funny noises and snorts, his laugh.

   A steward did bring more water, and then a scholarly woman eventually entered the room. She was carrying a stack of books and scrolls and looked like she might tumble over with them. Jayce rushed forward to help her set the books on the marble desk, and she thanked him.

   "Greetings, I am Shandri Binder, court scholar. I was told that there were people here looking for information or records from Wa and our foreign ministry there. I may be of some help to you, but do understand that we no longer have an active embassy in Wa at this time, so the information I can provide may be out of date or inaccurate."

   Shandri looked too young to have been active at the same time as Yunoko, but she certainly had carried a lot of resources with her.

   "What questions were you hoping to have answered?"

   Solisar began, "One of your former ambassadors to Wa, Yunoko, was the wife of someone very important to one of the members of our party. We know that she was murdered, and we are trying to track down her murderer. We have limited knowledge, but we do have a few clues." Solisar quietly discussed with his companions whether they should share one or both of Yunoko's letters. Hakam was in favor of this, and Szordrin agreed.

   Shandri read over both of the letters carefully. Then she picked up the first letter again and seemed to be intrigued by words written on the third page. "This is intriguing. Indeed, Yunoko Blacksilver was the second ambassador to Wa from Cormyr. She was the daughter of Davin Blacksilver. I do not know too much about the history of the events written about here, but it is interesting that she mentions the Harpers." At this last phrase, she strongly emphasized the words, in that way that people often do to pass on a subtle hint while failing to be in any way subtle. She continued. "One thing I can certainly help with, however, is this emperor that she named, Goshukara Kando. I have here in my pile of scrolls an imperial succession list of Wa." She handed to Hakam a heavy and thick scroll from the desk. "This was recorded by the first ambassador from Cormyr to Wa. He translated it from a document that he received from their Ministry of History."

   Hakam loosened the cord, and the scroll unrolled and poured all the way to the stone floor at his feet. Its entire length nearly matched his height. Beginning with the First Emperor Kochi, Master of the Peach Tree in the the First Year of Chisho, it listed every emperor of Wa in order, from pre-historical and mythological times until Wa Year 1754, which was 1311 in the Cormyrreckoning.

   Hakam first scrolled through the list, trying to find the name of Goshukara Eichiro. "Goshukara Eichiro, the son, is not listed, but the father is, the fourth from the end, 'The 1680th Year, Goshukara Kando.'"

   "That would be the year 1262 in the Dalereckoning," explained Shandri for their benefit. "The document was created in first year of Azoun IV as well as the first year of Shogun Matasuuri Nagahide in the Year of the Highmantle, 1336 Dalereckoning. Davin Blacksilver became our first ambassador in 1271 Cormyrreckoning, so...." She did some math in her head. "...1296 Dalereckoning."

   "1336 in the Dalereckoning is also when Yunoko wrote that first letter," said Solisar. "The Year of the Dark Dragon, which she called it, is but another name for the Year of the Highmantle."

   "Is that not also the year that she and Onran were married?" asked Hakam. He removed the portrait of Yunoko and looked at it again. "No, it was 1335. She died in 1338."

   "So, you have found the rakshasa on the list then?" said Jayce. "But what does that mean for us exactly?"

   "We also believe that this Kando, this rakshasa imposter, is the murderer of Ambassador Yunoko," Hakam explained to the visiting sage, and she nodded but had nothing more to add at present.

   "And we suspect you to be the grandson of Eichiro," said Hakam to Szordrin, "the great-grandson of Kando."

   Sofi asked, "Szordrin, did not someone in the group mention a prophecy about emperors that related to you?"

   "Yes, 'The ninth emperor of the seventh dynasty is in' my past," he replied.

   "Goshukara is the dynasty name, yes?" asked Hakam.

   "Yes," said the Wa scholar. "In most of the lands of Kara-Tur, the surname is given first."

   "The ninth emperor of the seventh dynasty," repeated Szordrin.

   "That cannot be," said Shandri. "There have only been three dynasties in Wa. You can see it right there."

   "Perhaps the prophecy counts a change in dynasty each time that the capital moves," suggested Szordrin, who had picked up the tail end of the scroll and was pointing at the places in the line of emperors where such changes were noted. "See, here, 'The 1580th Year, Goshukara Iiso, who moved the capital to the city of the same name.'"

   "Or could it be that there were secret usurpers throughout this history," said Hakam. "There is also an empress here. Could a female break the line?"

   "It is possible," said Shandri. "Women are certainly not viewed in a favorable light in Wa, from what I understand."

   "There is only one empress on the entire list," noted Solisar, who was holding onto the top of the scroll now, "Empress Bishkammon, who ruled in Wa Year 669."

   "Is Chisho the first dynasty?" asked Hakam.

   "No," said Shandri, "Chisho is the era, the epoch. They name the pre-historical eras. The first dynasty included a single emperor, said to have reigned for 412 years."

   "Then Kochi is the first dynasty," said Szordrin, "and Kasada is the second."

   "Yes, the second emperor was Kasada."

   "And I see that that dynasty carries through two eras," said Hakam.

   "Yes, the Kasada dynasty died out with Kasada Kogakusha in the 581st Year of the Kuni era, which followed the Koyo era, when the first Kasada ruled."

   "Oh," said Szordrin, continuing to scroll through the list, "there is a large gap between Wa Year 222 and 669. See here."

   "An occupation?" asked Hakam. "The Shou Lung Traitorum?"

   "Yes, exactly," said Shandri. "During that time period, Shou Lung invaded Wa, and the empire fell apart."

   "How many dynasties ruled during that time?" asked Szordrin.

   "Governors from Shou Lung were appointed, but the Goshukara took control again afterward, with the nation's only Empress in power, as you can see noted, until her son came of age."

   "What if we assume that Kando is the ninth emperor and count backwards?" asked Hakam. "Where does that take us? To Hikari in 1529. There is nothing noted here to suggest anything significant happening then."

   Shandri shrugged.

   "Perhaps there were multiple rakshasa usurpers, and the prophecy is telling us when the first was," suggested Hakam. "Perhaps the deceit goes back much further than we had thought."

   "You think that they kept an artificial line going for three or four hundred years?" asked Szordrin. "Do you think that the same rakshasa kept on changing forms?"

   "It is possible," said Hakam. "They are shapeshifters."

   "And they reincarnate," reminded Jayce.

   "I wonder if this Shou Lung Traitorum counts as a change in dynasty," said Hakam.

   "The ninth Goshukara was the first Goshukara to reign after that occupation," noted Solisar.

   "Oh," said Hakam, "there is also the fact that two entries below that, 'Goshukara Sukui... is slain by Nitta Kyozetsu, who briefly reigns as Emperor.' That would add two gaps. That would give us seven."

   "How so?" asked Szordrin.

   "You have the first and second dynasty, then the Goshukara, as third. Then comes the Shou Lung Interregnum, counting as four. Then the restoration of the Empress and her son for five. Next, there is Nitta Kyozetsu as the sole member of the 'sixth dynasty' and finally the Goshukara again."

   "...As the seventh," said Szordrin. "Oh, I see. So then, is Yami the first of the seventh?"

   "Yami would be one, yes," said Hakam. He and Szordrin counted together. "Two, three, four..., Bohatei."

   "That is still hundreds and hundreds of years ago," said Szordrin.

   Shandri seemed confused by all this. "Wait, so, you have a prophecy that an emperor from Wa Year 901 is related to you somehow?"

   "Barmy!" said Sofi. "Who would have ever tumbled to that?"

   "We may have to think about this further," said Hakam.

   Hakam and Solisar asked permission of Shandri and began to furiously copy down as much of the information on the five-foot scroll as they could.

   Hakam then spoke again with Shandri. "Do you know anything more about the murder of ambassador Yunoko?"

   "According to the records here," she said, as she opened one of the booklets on the desk, "the ambassador was murdered in Wa, while on assignment. However, she spent most of her time there anyhow. She and her husband lived in Wa primarily and came to Cormyr to report. It says here that she was survived also by her mother, who was a citizen of Wa. All we ever received from Wa was a notification that our ambassador had been murdered."

   "So, she could have been anywhere in Wa when she was murdered?"

   "Yes, I am sorry that we have nothing more precise than that."

   "Are any of her relatives, on her father's side, still living here in Cormyr?" asked Hakam.

   "Yes, the Blacksilvers are a noble family. There are many of them living in Cormyr that you might be able to talk to. I have no means to contact them, and they are a noble family, so you cannot very well just go and knock on their door to chat. Their holdings are not in Suzail either, and I do not know where they are; I only know of the name."

   Just then, the door opened, and another woman entered. She was clearly a mage, wearing a rich, green dress. She carried a wizard's staff, and there was an arcanabula, a spellbook, attached to the belt at her hip. Shandri Binder noticed and immediately bowed to the newcomer and cleared her throat loudly. The adventurers bowed (or curtsied) as well.

   "Lady Eveningspire," said Shandri, "What a pleasant sur.... I was not expect.... How good to see you. I present to you.... I do not believe that I learned any of your names."

   They all introduced themselves in turn. Jayce, after giving his name, humbly apologized and begged the lady's forgiveness for not bowing sooner.

   The noble woman waved her hand to dismiss his apology. Lady Eveningspire held herself in an elegant manner, but her mouth showed lines of age. She had a pair of crystal spectacles that floated magically over her sharp nose, and her graying hair was braided and fell over her green velvet cape.

   "Thank you, Sage Binder; you may be dismissed." Shandri went to gather up her books and scrolls. "No, you may leave your books here. You can gather them when I am finished speaking with our guests." Shandri departed. Lady Eveningspire waved her hand, and the door closed on its own.

   Now she spoke to the group, looking down and eyeing them over her floating spectacles as if to scold them. "Adventurers should not walk into the Royal Court of Cormyr and openly talk about the Harpers."

   Kytharrah sniffed the air. He smelled the green lady's perfume, but he also smelled someone else's perfume. It was not Oma, who always wore strong perfume, and it was not Sofi, who never wore any perfume at all. The smell was moving, and it came from that tapestry over there....

   "I apologize, milady," said Hakam, "but it was not we who made any mention of the Harpers but rather your sage who read the word aloud from a private letter."

   Szordrin heard a woman's voice speaking arcane syllables, and recognized that someone, presumably invisible, was attempting to dispel magic. He drew a wand and called out, "Invisible friend, what are you dispelling?"

   A woman popped into vision among them, her spell completed. Solisar felt his ring of counterspelling activating. Hakam saw the aura of chaos that always surrounded Oma and Jayce fade away and then gradually return.

   "Adventurers should not try to use divination magics when War Wizards are present," said the new woman.

   She stood at only about five feet three inches and had light brown skin. She was dressed in leather trousers and a white tunic with a thick red coat crosslaced in the front. Her leather boots went up past her knees. A thick red and white layered cape hung from her back, and there were armored pauldrons of a gold color at her shoulders. She wore a red hat with an attached headscarf that covered her neck and the sides of her face. From her thick belt hung a scabbard for a longsword that glowed with a magical aura to Solisar's eyes. In her hand was a magical staff that was taller than she was. Additionally, Solisar noticed that her rings, brooch, boots, and armored bracers also radiated magic, as did her person. She seemed to be older than thirty years.

   Her darker skin and strange manner of dress stood out from that of other Cormytes, and her accent reminded some of them of Rimardo and Diero, two of the sailors on the Frihet. (Rimardo often helmed the wheel when Loreene or Ombert were not on their shifts.)

   "My divine vision is a gift from my god, to execute my role as his justiciar, not a spell of my own weaving," answered Hakam.

   The newcomer nodded cautiously at his reply, but said nothing more. The woman in green chuckled a little and said, "Please forgive us for the precautions, but you must understand that we act to protect our kingdom."

   She continued, "I am Lady Laspeera Inthré of Eveningspire. Some call me the 'Mother' of the War Wizards. This is Caladnei, Royal Mage of the Court of Azoun V and leader of the War Wizards. As you can see, your questions have roused the interest of our national defense. You speak of information of the death of one of our ambassadors and also of the role of the Harpers. Tell me more."

   Hakam once more repeated the details of the story and shared again the letters as evidence.

   The two women read the letters and quickly grew more trusting as time went on. (The presence of the truth enchantment helped in this regard.) They asked a few clarifying questions of the group and others regarding where they were from and why they would care about a Cormyrean Ambassador.

   "The Dowager Queen may wish to speak with them," said Caladnei to Lady Laspeera. "She may have known this Yunoko." Laspeera nodded.

   Then Caladnei addressed the group. "Unlike many of the nobles of this country, the regent and I see the benefit of adventures acting on behalf of the crown. Since your quest involves matters of state, we may be able to offer you a special charter and access to resources that could be of great help to you, but we shall let the Queen Mother decide."

   "That would me most helpful to our course," said Szordrin. "We thank you."

   "If our interests do align," said Hakam, "then perhaps we can work together, but know that we are on a quest from the gods that may diverge from your nation's interests."

   "My master's wife was your ambassador," said Szordrin, "and I desire to avenge her death and his."

   "A fair quest," said Caladnei.

   "Would you be willing to spend the night in Suzail?" asked Lady Laspeera. "The Queen, Filfaeril, is very busy, but I suspect that we could fit you into her schedule tomorrow morning, early afternoon at the latest."

   Caladnei said, "As you must know, the matter of the dragons currently has our military and court occupied."

   Hakam agreed to stay until they had acquired the information that they needed. "Do you have defense against the dragons? That is, would it be safe for us to spend the night here?"

   "The dragonrage affects the whole world," said Caladnei, "but I would warrant that Suzail is one of the safest places in Toril to stay with all of the War Wizards and knights present, not to mention a number of adventuring groups such as yourselves. I cannot promise that the roof will not come caving in, of course, but if it does, be assured that their will be a swarm of wizards there to slay the dragon posthaste."

   "We shall even pay for your stay," said the older woman. "You will be considered guests of the court. We shall have a Purple Dragon escort you to an establishment called the Dragon's Jaws."

   "Play?" said Kytharrah.

   Caladnei gave him a strange look.

   "Now is not the time, Kytharrah," said Hakam. "I apologize; he is simple like a child."

   Laspeera laughed, and then the two War Wizards stepped behind the tapestry and departed.
Session: 121st Game Session - Tuesday, Sep 29 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Recap , Suzail
Imperial Line of Succession of Wa
The following is a translation of an official record of the government of the Empire of Wa as shared by Minister of History Hikkisha Tsuyoi.

The record is complete until Wa year 1754, when Matasuuri Nagahide succeeded Matasuuri Boryoku as Shogun, and corresponds to the year 1311 in the Cormyr Reckoning.

The First Year of Chisho
First Emperor Kochi, Master of the Peach Tree
Who was granted the Moonlight Arrow
By the Spirit of Wa
&
Reigned for 412 years

Then followed
The War of the Spirits
In which the Moonlight Arrow was lost.

The First Year of Koyo
Second Emperor Kasada
Who regained the Moonlight Arrow
From the Spirit of Yakamashi Mountain

The First Year of Kuni
Kasada Nagazane
Who ruled during the life
Of the great Samon

The 581st Year of Kuni
Kasada Kogakusha
Who died without leaving an heir.

The First Year of Goshukara

The 16th Year
Goshukara Tsuba

The 65th Year
Goshukara Hankoteki

The 67th Year
Goshukara Taiyobisho

The 76th Year
Goshukara Rukimbaru
Who built the Imperial Palace
In the city of the same name

The 118th Year
Goshukara Gokami
Who reigned during the Omi War with Shou Lung

The 159th Year
Goshukara Buru

The 168th Year
Goshukara Harukame

The 222nd Year
Goshukara Hametsu
Who was slain by Shou Lung invaders

Then followed the Shou Lung Traitorum
Until Hidden Shogun Nitta Shogoro drove the invaders from the land

The 669th Year
Empress Goshukara Bishkammon
Who reigns until her youngest son comes of age

The 685th Year
Goshukara Sukui
Who is slain by Nitta Kyozetsu
Who briefly reigns as Emperor

The 715th Year
Goshukara Yami

The 748th Year
Goshukara Seisei

The 753rd Year
Goshukara Yorokobi

The 767th Year
Goshukara Meiyoko

The 769th Year
Goshukara Saimukansai

The 789th Year
Goshukara Oku

The 827th Year
Goshukara Takeoji

The 868th Year
Goshukara Noburu

The 901st Year
Goshukara Bohatei

The 949th Year
Goshukara Shirukuburo

The 949th Year
Goshukara Okurimono

The 962nd Year
Goshukara Nodansei

The 998th Year
Goshukara Todoroku

The 1041st Year
Goshukara Kawasaji

The 1057th Year
Goshukara Fuyuyameru

The 1094th Year
Goshukara Fumetsu

The 1123rd Year
Goshukara Seikatsu

The 1168th Year
Goshukara Tomi

The 1209th Year
Goshukara Kyofubusho
When Hidegari Iegusa besieged Kozakura

The 1235th Year
Goshukara Saishunam

The 1269th Year
Goshukara Manzoku

The 1289th Year
Goshukara Yumebijon

The 1343rd Year
Goshukara Tentaiko
When the great teacher
Saizu
Appeared in the clouds

The 1361st Year
Goshukara Ritoku

The 1382nd Year
Goshukara Rezun

The 1429th Year
Goshukara Saishoha

The 1479th Year
Goshukara Aikoku

The 1509th Year
Goshukara Kashikaze

The 1529th Year
Goshukara Hikari

The 1549th Year
Goshukara Umakami
Who reigned during the Tokiryo War

The 1580th Year
Goshukara Iiso
Who moved the capital to the city of the same name

The 1596th Year
Goshukara Shuku

The 1645th Year
Goshukara Raimei

The 1669th Year
Goshukara Konoma

The 1669th Year
Goshukara Kumo

The 1675th Year
Goshukara Natsu

The 1680th Year
Goshukara Kando

The 1697th Year
Goshukara Yoruuta

The 1736th Year
Goshukara Genshukuna

The 1749th Year
Goshukara Choko
Session: 121st Game Session - Tuesday, Sep 29 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 3 — Suzail
Cormyr was a land on the Dragonmere, a massive lake 100 miles wide and even farther in length. The Dragonmere was the western spur of the Sea of Fallen Stars, and Cormyr was on its northern shores. Solisar knew that the nation was once a part of the elven empire of Cormanthyr; hence, its name. Hakam knew of Cormyr for having one of the best legal systems in all of Faerûn — not as good as Calimshan's, of course, but at least quite developed. The king of Cormyr, Azoun IV, had died a few years ago, supposedly in battle to defend his kingdom against a dragon. The heir, Azoun V, was a young infant, and the nation was currently controlled by the boy's aunt and Azoun IV's youngest daughter, Alusair Obarskyr, the Steel Regent. She was disliked by the nobles of the land, and she herself despised having to rule. She was a warrior and a strategist and had no love of royal life. She understood adventurers, however, having once been one herself, and she welcomed them into her kingdom, seeing them as beneficial to the defense of her lands. This was all the more so during this dragonrage.

   The fog was heavy on the Dragonmere as Oma brought the Frihet gently into its waters. This was seen as a good thing, as they could hopefully avoid notice as they fell out of the sky. Then, under Ombert's control, they sailed in to the port and capital of Suzail. They intentionally sailed in from a distance of four miles, such that it took about two hours to arrive at Suzail's docks.

   The sailors were guided in by flags and fog lights and directed to their berthing site. There was an abundance of seagulls and the strong smell of fish.

   The buildings were well constructed, though simple. Suzail seemed, at first glance, a relatively small city. This was certainly the case by Calishite standards. It was probably a bit larger than Silverymoon but smaller than Darromar.

   The adventurers disembarked and stood upon the dock. On the street, commoners were walking about and a patrol of soldiers, dressed in uniforms of purple tabards, with purple dragons upon their triangular shields. With the soldiers walked an obvious wizard in purple robes.

   "The famous Purple Dragons," said Jayce, "Cormyr's military. They are known throughout Faerûn for their well-trained regiments."

   "Are these a local force or a national one?" asked Hakam.

   "They serve both roles, if I am not mistaken," said Jayce.

   No one greeted them immediately beyond the flagger who had guided them in, and he had already moved on to another dock, but it looked like the dockmaster's house was nearby. Several cats were chasing seagulls on the parallel docks.

   Hakam noticed a sign nailed to a post at the end of the dock. He went up to it and read the following:
Notice
~ All persons entering Cormyr must register with the officials of a border garrison. ~
~ Foreign currency can only be used in certain locations. Please exchange your coins for Cormyrean golden lions at your first opportunity. ~
~ Adventurers must acquire a charter before undertaking any operation as a group. ~
~ All weapons must be peace-bonded. The only persons exempt from this law are members of chartered adventuring groups and members of mercenary groups that can offer proof of employment. ~
~ The harming of cats is forbidden. ~
~ Bow your head to royalty and the local nobility. ~
~ Purple Dragons have the right to search you upon request. ~
~ Hunting on private land is forbidden. ~
Addendum
~ Because of the recent dragon attacks, no citizen is permitted outside after midnight. ~

   Oma, standing behind her fellow Calishite asked, "What does it say?"

   He read them back to her.

   "How delightful! Panther can come with me this time," said Oma.

   "I had heard that cats were superstitiously favored here," said Solisar, who then proceeded to warn everyone to bow before nobility.

   "How do we recognize nobility, I wonder," said Hakam.

   Kytharrah was particularly confused. To him, lowering a head meant that one was about to charge an enemy. For his people, raising the chin was what one did in the presence of someone more important.

   "I suggest that we watch carefully those around us," said Hakam. "If we see others bow their heads, let us also bow our heads."

   One of the patrolling bands of Purple Dragons neared them. "Hail, visitors! Is this your first time on our shores?" The man speaking wore a purple-feathered helmet to distinguish him from the troops and wizard that he led.

   Solisar greeted the man in the Chondathan language and then explained in Common that they were newly arrived.

   "Are you from the land of Evereska?" asked the knight.

   "Nay, I come from across the Trackless Sea, from Evermeet."

   "What reasons have you for coming here? Are you adventurers?"

   "Yes, we are adventurers," said Hakam, "but our purpose here is only for information."

   The knight motioned toward the sign post. "You should be aware that Cormyr is very welcoming to adventurers, but we do have a few requirements of visitors for the safety of our people, that you please have your weapons peace-tied and register your visit. If you seek information on our kingdom, you may wish to visit the Royal Court. If you have not yet registered, just down the road on the right is the nearest Purple Dragon guard post. You can see the large banner just there." He pointed.

   "Where is this Royal Court?" asked Solisar.

   "If you head north of here," said the knight, "you will come to a large way called the Promenade. You cannot miss it. The Royal Court is a complex of buildings on the north side of the Promenade stretching a quarter mile or so."

   Solisar thanked him for the information.

   Hakam asked the man about how one could identify a noble.

   "Nobles tend to dress fancier than the commoners, although styles change with the seasons here. Currently, everyone is wearing round hats with the right side pinned up with feathers. Last month, it was the left side. Three months ago, they were three-cornered hats. In any case, if the men and women are wearing the latest fashion in hats, there is a good chance that they are either nobility or think that they are." He chuckled.

   "So that we do not run afoul of the law here," asked Hakam, "what constitutes an 'operation' by adventurers? If we are here to seek information, is that considered an operation?"

   "Honestly, I do not know the legal definitions. If you do want to get an adventurers' charter, the soldiers who register you can give you that information. My job is to keep the peace and to make sure that our people are safe in the streets. As you must know, it has been a chaotic time. One never knows when a dragon is going to swoop overhead. We have to keep our eyes open... and up."

   As he spoke this, they noticed that most of his band were paying little attention to the conversation with the newcomers and were instead gazing through the fog toward the sky in all directions.

   Solisar asked, "When was the last time that the dragons were sighted?"

   "Three days ago was the last time that I saw one. Thankfully, it has been smaller dragons who think themselves stronger than they are, and our War Wizards have been able to take them down, but when you take down even a smaller dragon, that alone can cause collateral damage."

   "Which colors?" asked Solisar.

   The man chuckled again. "I have seen every color of the rainbow, even some colors that I did not know existed. We have one or two dragons per tenday at least fly overhead to see if we are worth attacking, and we are but one city in the country. It is much worse in some places." The man looked at Hakam. "I have heard that some of the worst attacks were in the capital of Calimshan, Calimport, is it not?"

   Hakam looked horrified. "What have you heard?"

   "Some ancient blue dragon, a great wyrm, attacked the palace itself. I do not know much more than that, but that is what the rumor said. I wish that I could tell you more."

   The knight looked back at his patrol. "Well, if you would excuse us, we need to keep patrolling."

   The sign for the Purple Dragon guardpost was only some 40 feet down the street, directly across from what they still suspected was the dockmaster's house. The sign before the door confirmed the location, the Purple Dragon guarding the door opened it for them without a word, and a few of them stepped in.

   There were two small tables covered with books and scrolls. Along the walls were extra weapons and armor, crates of food, and wood for a fireplace. Stairs went up to another level. Three persons were in the room, two male soldiers and a female War Wizard holding a magic staff. The woman sat on a bench by a back door in the northwest corner. The men each sat at one of the tables.

   The Purple Dragon at the smaller of the two tables greeted Hakam and then asked where they were from.

   Hakam precisely listed each of their countries of origin but was careful not to mention that they had come to Cormyr by spelljammer.

   "Gods," said the man, "some of you have come a long way to Cormyr!" He looked like he was going to query further and then simply shrugged. "You adventurers have some odd backgrounds and powerful means, I know."

   "We have been guided by the gods themselves," said Hakam.

   "Hmm," said the man, in a tone that suggested that he had heard such claims before and not believed them then either. He continued his official line of questioning, as he dipped a quill in ink and opened a thin book. "Are any of you spellcasters?"

   Hakam clarified with the man what counted for a spellcaster and, after a few minutes, provided a number that seemed satisfactory.

   "However you count it, then," said the soldier, "if you have more than three, we require you to register as such up at the Royal Court. What we will do for you here, however, is peace-tie your weapons so that you can pass through our streets without rousing suspicion, as you make your way there. We will also send a guard to lead the way, so that you will not get lost. Then, you can register there and receive further details about your rights and responsibilities as spellcasting and adventuring guests.

   "Now, are you planning on applying for an official charter?"

   "What would require a charter?" asked Hakam. "We are really only here to gather information."

   "Typically, if your purpose is to traverse the Cormyrean countryside to search out dungeons or fight monsters or pursue some quest, such as a holy mission from your gods, that would require an adventurers' charter, and you would need to talk with the High Warden to obtain one."

   "What if we do not intend on leaving the city?"

   "If your only purpose in the city is to visit some libraries and sages, then peace-tying your weapons is enough, provided that you register your group, because you have a large enough group and it includes spellcasters... and apparently a minotaur. Hmm."

   "What is the fee for registration?" asked Hakam.

   "Twenty-five golden lions."

   "Where can we exchange our currency?"

   "Oh, if you register up at the Royal Court, they will take foreign currency. The shops in Suzail will likely only except Cormyrean coinage, however."

   Satisfied, Hakam signed his name on the line in the man's book as representative for the rest of the group. Two of the soldiers then went to each of them and tied a sort of bow with a cloth ribbon through their scabbards and over the hilts of their weapons. It seemed a mostly symbolic gesture; the ties were loose. It certainly would not slow Kytharrah in the slightest from drawing his greataxe or guisarme from his back.

   "Unless you have further questions, shall we lead you to the Royal Court?"

   "I forgot to ask, but what are the docking fees?"

   "Two golden lions per berth," said the man. "You can pay across the street at the dockmaster's."

   They paid the dockmaster, a bearded man with a patch over his eye. (It was a pleasant change to not also have to pay an exorbitant air tax.)

   They bid the guard at the station farewell. "Remember," he said, "if you decide that you wish to obtain a charter, you would request to speak with the High Warden."

   "Follow me please," said the soldier who would guide them. He began leading them to the north.

   Jayce and Oma were with them, but Nargroth stayed on board the ship, helping to wash the sails and decks. Panther, Oma's cat, was proudly walking beside his mistress, tail up in the air as if he owned the street.

   The street widened and curved to the northeast as it left the docks district. The further they walked from the docks, the fancier the buildings began to get, which was no surprise.

   "This is the first city that I have been in since home," said Sofi to Szordrin, who was walking beside her. "Sigil was much, much more crowded. I think it also odd how you cannot see the whole city at the same time, since it is flat." (The city of Sigil was famously built on the inside of a torus; one could look up and see almost all of it at once.)

   Before he could respond, she quickly changed the topic, upon noticing some peasant women staring at their ragtag group and assuming that it was her horns that were the most noticeable. "Szordrin, do you think that I should cover my head?"

   "No, this looks good," he said. Ferry also nodded.

   She blushed and looked away, but she followed his advice.

   They made a right at a wide street and then a left to go north. The streets were much busier here, as citizens were busy buying and selling at the many shops now lining both sides of the road.

   Of particular interest, they noticed one shop on the left with a sign with the image of a bunch of coins in a circle. Outside the shop was a man hawking his wares, which were clearly pawned items. As they passed by, a man came up carrying what seemed to be a golden hoe to hock or sell.

   "We might be able to sell that leucrotta skeleton to that one," offered Belvin, who walked at the back of line with his friend Leokas. Neither of the two elves were very fond of cities, to say the least.

   As they looked about at the city folk, they saw almost entirely humans among Suzail's populace, with a rare halfling or half-elf in the mix.

   The Purple Dragon's description of the current fashion style was accurate. The men wore capitano hats with feathers. They were dressed in loose, white cotton shirts with belled sleeves and lace collars and cuffs, knee-length breeches, and bucket-top boots. Most seemed to wear two belts. One seemed to be for holding up the pants; the other hung at an angle from the hips and seemed to be for holding a scabbard and various pouches.

   The fashion among the women was slightly more varied. Most women of middle class also wore hats, some of them of the same style as the men, but also many other kinds. Their clothing was a bodice over a white cotton chemise, with or without sleeves. They wore split skirts to show their frilled petticoats beneath. Some of the women were wearing purple scarves in various ways.

   Upon seeing an attractive young woman walking by with such a scarf, Jayce elbowed Oma and said to her, "Are you not forgetting to wear your purple scarf?"

   "What are you talking about?"

   "Do you not know? In Cormyr, it is the custom for young and desperate single women to wear a purple scarf to signal that they are available."

   She groaned and ignored him.

   "Maybe I should replace my towel with a purple one," said Sofi.

   Cats were everywhere, on the roofs, chasing each other across the streets, sunning themselves on tables and benches. Kytharrah almost stepped on two by accident. The stench of cat was overwhelming to his nose, but stronger still was the smell of dung coming from several wagons that horses were pulling along, led by poor peasants.

   Besides the cats and dung wagons, the city seemed quite clean. It was not, however, a particularly beautiful city, at least on the whole. It certainly paled in comparison to the beauty of Silverymoon, having none of that city's elven influence.

   They did see evidence of damage and destruction in places. Some buildings had collapsed roofs or walls, and a few looked like they had caught on fire. When they passed one block where a quarter of the buildings had burned to the ground, Sofi gasped. "Those poor people!" Sad citizens were using pitchforks to pick through the rubble. She went over to them, took some coins or gems from her little mug that she always carried and offered it to them. When she came back to join them as they moved along, the mug was empty. Even after giving back half her share, she should have had more than what had been in the mug, and she wore no money pouch. Perhaps the rest was back at the ship.

   They came to a wide avenue, curving from northwest to northeast. This must have been the Promenade that they were told that they could not miss. On the north side of the Promenade was clearly the rich part of town. The buildings on the other side were made of stone and some even of marble, row houses that were tall and narrow, with stone-shingled roofs instead of wooden-shingled ones.

   Here they made a right. Up ahead, they saw the red-scaled body of a dragon, dead. It was surrounded by a temporary fence, and a group of Purple Dragons made sure that no citizens would cross the barrier. The dragon was not a particularly large one, but large enough to have damaged some nearby buildings south of the Promenade as it fell to the earth.

   The guard who was leading them had mostly been quiet, but now he spoke up, "Second dragon attack in a tenday. The War Wizards drove the first one away. This one they slew, but it destroyed some buildings in its fall."

   Before they passed the dragon's body, they saw what must be the Royal Court, a big complex of columned buildings connected by arched bridges. A few of the buildings even had glass, domed roofs. Behind all of these official government buildings, rising from atop a steep hill, stood a beautiful palace, like something from a children's book. It had towers and spires and turrets, balconies and elevated porches, archways and flying buttresses. This, no doubt, was the Royal Palace of Cormyr. The hill from which it rose into the sky was itself covered in flowers.

   The soldier led them between two thick pillars to the left and into a courtyard of the Royal Court. The courtyard had a black and white checkered floor and a flowing water fountain at the center. Buildings flanked the west and east sides of the courtyard, and a curved staircase on the north side led up onto a second, raised courtyard.

   He stopped and pointed to the steps leading up to a porch of the west building. "The building to your left is where you register. I believe that I will no longer be needed. Good day!"

   As the soldier returned to the Promenade, Solisar noted to the others, "I suspect that that man just now entering the building is a noble. His clothes are more ornate than we have seen."

   As they came up onto the porch, the two guards in purple tabards directed them. "Please enter through the right doors; exit through the left doors.

   They obeyed and entered the building, though Belvin and Leokas chose to remain outside in the courtyard and went and sat by the water fountain. Before entering, Kytharrah stopped to smell some flowers in a vase at the end of the porch.

   "What do you smell, Kytharrah?" asked Sofi.

   "Flowers," said the minotaur.

   "I love how every flower has its own unique smell." She entered the building.

   Kytharrah pressed his nose toward the flower again and then followed after her.

   Jayce and Hakam asked one of the guards if everyone had to be present to register or if one person could represent the entire group. They were told that one person would suffice.

   They were within a large, high-ceilinged hall, supported by a massive column in the center. About the column were comfortable-looking, white, cushioned benches. Marble tables were set about the room, upon which were set glass cups and pitchers of water. A fancy fireplace, not currently in use, was at the far end of the room by a series of tall and narrow windows. The stone walls and the western and eastern sides were ornately carved with the facade of columns. It seemed to be used as a waiting room, and several other citizens were sitting or standing waiting. The potential noble that Solisar had earlier spotted was now taking in the details of a hanging tapestry on the south wall. (The tapestry portrayed a group of armored nights... and some cats.) Next to the tapestry was an open doorway, then a standing guard, and then another open doorway. The northern wall only had a single wooden door, which was closed.

   Kytharrah was busy going around the entire hall and sniffing each of the flowers in the pots that were set about to decorate the room, when a man came from one of the two doors to the south. He was dressed like the typical middle-class man of the city, except that he wore no hat and about his torso was a blue doublet and a matching short cloak was about his shoulders. He approached Jayce and Hakam.

   "Welcome! Are you here to register your party?"

   "Yes," said Hakam, "we are here to register a party of adventurers, which includes arcane and divine casters."

   "This is the right place," said the official. "Do rest here. When we are ready for you, you will be called into the room to the right of that guard standing there." He pointed at the guard at the southern wall.

   The wait was about fifteen minutes, and then a guard came and reported that they were ready to be registered. Jayce and Hakam followed the guard into the room. There were two desks in the room; before one of which was standing a peasant discussing some legal matter with a clerk. They approached the open desk and were greeted. The guard took his post in the corner.

   "The cost for registering is 25 gold pieces. We accept any currency, as long as it is the standard weight for gold coins. The certificate of registration that you will receive is valid for one year in any of the cities of Cormyr, including Arabel, Eveningstar, Immersea, Marsember, Suzail, Thunderstone, Waymoot, and Wheloon. If you are ever stopped and questioned by members of the Purple Dragons or War Wizards, you will simply present the certificate." The man looked down at a thick open book and readied himself to begin marking in it with his pen. "First of all, I need to know the general spellcasting capabilities of all of your spellcasters."

   Jayce and Hakam answered this as best they could. "We have a cleric of the all-supreme god Anachtyr in all his grace and wisdom and judgment."

   The man paused in his scribbling and looked up, somewhat confused. "Do you mean a cleric of Tyr?"

   "Some may know him as Tyr, but that is a false representation," Hakam began, but Jayce cut him off and moved on to describe their summoner and incantatar.

   Once they had registered each of the magic-users, the official next asked, "Will you be moving on from here to other locales, or is Suzail your only destination?"

   "Most likely, only Suzail."

   "Noted. If this changes, simply return here, and we can modify the certificate. Now, what name do I put down for your group? This is optional, unless you plan to also acquire an adventurers' charter, but most groups prefer to have us record their group name. Otherwise, I can record each member's name individually."

   "Ombert calls us the Misfits," said Jayce to Hakam. "Shall we just go with that? I am not too fond of the name, but it is up to you. Most adventuring parties do have a name for themselves; we are the exception."

   "I would rather simply list all of us as individuals," said Hakam, and so he did. The man tried his best to keep up and transfer all of the names correctly.

   "Now, are you interested in obtaining an adventurers' charter to help the Kingdom of Cormyr in its defense against the currently raging dragons? Usually, charters cost 1,000 golden lions, but because of the current dragon crisis, the government of Cormyr has reduced the processing fee to only 500."

   "Alas, we are urgently needed elsewhere;" said Hakam. "This is but a quick visit to seek out information before we depart again."

   "What sort of information do you seek that is so unique to Cormyr?"

   "We are inquiring about a former ambassador. We believe that she was the Cormyrean ambassador to Wa, in Kara-Tur, though it might possibly be the opposite," said Hakam.

   "We came to Suzail to speak with someone from your diplomatic office," said Jayce.

   "You probably will want to speak with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I suspect," said the clerk.

   "We can also provide approximate dates for when she served," said Hakam.

   "Oh, I am just a simple clerk," said the man. "I do not know anything about foreign affairs. I can put in a request for you to speak with the High Warden anyway. Normally, you would only need to speak with him to request a charter, but this may be a special case. It is his day in court, and he would certainly know more than I about to whom you should speak and how to arrange such a meeting."

   "We agree to meet with him then," said the cleric.

   "He has a busy docket today, but if you wait in the main hall, I can have you escorted to his chamber when he is ready to see you."

   Jayce paid the 25 gold-piece fee, and the clerk handed them a certificate sealed with the stamp of Azoun V and Regent Alusair.
This certificate establishes that the following individuals so listed below are known to the kingdom of Cormyr and have entered its borders lawfully and with peaceful intent
Hakamin Amdula of Calimshan, cleric justiciar of Anaktyr
Jayce of Lantan, bard of great fame
Solisar Kerith of Evermeet, loremaster and incantatar
Sordrin Dundragon of Mir, evoker
Belvin Boarcharger of the Chondalwood, archdruid
Leokas Dusktracker of the High Forest, ranger and archer without peer
Oma Elcatahras of Calimshan, summoner
Sofi of Sigil, ascetic companion
Kytharrah, minotaur bodyguard

whose travels shall take them to the cities of
Suzail
The aforesigned have agreed to abide by the laws of Cormyr and to abstain from profit-seeking measures so termed as "adventuring".


~~~~

It took an hour or two before they were summoned again. At least they had cold water to drink and soft benches upon which to sit.

   This time, the door on the northern wall was opened, and they were directed to wait within. This room was almost as large as the waiting hall. It had inverted curves at its two northern corners, and the arched ceiling was supported by three squared columns. Cushioned benches were placed along the walls and against the central column, and there were three long marble desks with chairs, two at the near wall and the other at the far wall. Purple carpets were rolled out on the floor and four chandeliers hung from chains. Tapestries of various knights slaying dragons with lances hung from the western and eastern walls.

   This time, everyone except for Leokas and Belvin entered the room to wait. "The High Warden will be with you shortly," said the guard who had opened the door for them. Then the door was closed behind them.

   "Do you feel that?" said Sofi. "There is a mental force in this room."

   All of them did feel it, with the exception of Oma. "What? What is it?" she asked.

   "A strong urge to speak only the truth," said Jayce. "A zone of truth, no doubt. It will prevent any of us from lying, but one can always simply refuse to answer a question."

   "You have much practice with such things, it seems," said Sofi.

   "Let me answer for everyone," said Hakam. "Do not trust your own words in this room."

   While they waited, Solisar examined the tapestries. His keen elven eyes noticed that some of the stones behind the one on the east wall were out of place. "There is a secret door in the wall behind this tapestry," he noted calmly to those nearby.

   After a few brief moments, the door opened again, and a young herald stepped into the room and stood to the side. "Guests to the Royal Court, prepare to bow before Dauneth Marliir, Lord High Marshall of the Purple Dragons and High Warden of the Eastern Marches of the Kingdom of Cormyr."

   The man who immediately entered was six-foot tall, slim, lanky, and bony. He was between 30 and 40 years of age with grey eyes and sandy hair. He was dressed in a Purple Dragon uniform, though one demonstrating much higher rank than any they had yet seen. From his back hung a greatsword, which was certainly too large for a man of his build to wield. The ring on one of his hands glowed with a magic aura to Solisar's eyes.

   They all bowed to him, except for Kytharrah, who gave more of a cursty, lowering his bulk but keeping from lowering his horns.

   Dauneth nodded in acknowledgement of their attempt to follow protocol and took a seat at one of the southern desks. The herald departed and closed the door behind him.

   "Welcome to Cormyr," said Lord Dauneth. "Are you here for an adventurers' charter?"

   "We are here as adventurers," said Hakam, "yet not for a charter. We are seeking information, and we hope that you can put us in touch with the proper authorities to gather this information."

   "I shall do my best. For what sort of information do you seek?"

   Hakam recounted a brief telling of the death of an ambassador from Cormyr to Wa, named Yunoko, around the Year of the Wanderer.

   "I do not know the name Yunoko," the High Marshall replied. "However, since the death of King Azoun IV two years ago, Wa has cancelled all foreign trade with us and recalled its ambassador. They do not seem willing to deal with the Steel Regent, the infant king's older aunt.

   "What time again did you say that she served in her role as ambassador?"

   "The Year of the Wanderer," answered Jayce, "which is the one thousand, three hundred thirty-eighth year of the Dalereckoning."

   Dauneth squinted his eyes as he did some quick math in his head. "Was that the year before the Year of the Weeping Moon?" he asked.

   "It was," said Jayce.

   "Ah, then I may know something," said Lord Dauneth. "About 60 or 70 years ago, during the reign of Rhigaerd II, Azoun IV's father, I know that the crown appointed the first ambassador to Wa, a Cormyrean explorer who had traveled to Kara-Tur along the Golden Way and spent nearly a decade there. I never met the man. He was well before my time, and I do not know the history of Cormyr's diplomatic relationships well enough to recall his name. We have many ambassadors. I only remember this much because I was born in the Year of the Weeping Moon, and when I grew up and was taught the significant events that happened in my birth year, one of them was that the ruler of Wa — I forget what title they go by — re-opened the borders of Wa, which had been closed for several years prior. I know this does not sound like a terribly significant event, but I grew up in the kind of snotty noble family that talked about everything political incessantly and believed in every consiracy theory out there. They seemed to think that this was significant, because this happened the year after the murder of the second ambassador to Wa, who was the daughter of a 'great adventurer'. I can only assume that this second ambassador was this daughter, presumably your Yunoko. I am sorry for this roundabout way to answer your question, but I have never been known for my conciseness."

   "Yes, this is likely the woman in question," said Hakam. "She was indeed murdered, and we are seeking more information about that murder."

   "Would you know of anyone who would have been alive at that time to whom we could speak?" asked Solisar.

   "To be honest, I have only lived in Suzail for about four years, so I do not know many people here myself. I am from the city of Arabel."

   "Oh, Arabel," said Jayce, "the city ruled by the famed adventuress Myrmeen Llal?"

   Hakam knew of Myrmeen Llal, for she was born in Calimshan, in Calimport. She was known for fighting against a mysterious cult infamous for kidnapping children and terrifying citizens, called the Night Parade. Many Calishites from other cities, Hakam included, considered the story nothing more than a ghost story with which to scare children into behaving, but supposedly this Calimport street urchin grew up to become first a noble of Cormyr and then an adventurer who came back to her homeland to defeat the Night Parade.

   Hakam kept his thoughts on the matter to himself, but Jayce shared his knowledge of Lady Llal openly. "She warred against the Night Parade. I know several fireside ballads about the terrors of the Night Parade, living nightmares that steal away children."

   "It is funny that you should mention Myrmeen," said Dauneth, just as Hakam was about to mention his opinion of the stories, "for she is none other than my mother-in-law." He looked at Hakam. "My wife is also from your country, is Calishite. She goes by Krystin, but that was obviously not her given name at birth; she was an orphan and does not know her true parentage. She was adopted by Lady Llal. And yes, Lady Llal rules Arabel.

   "Back to your original question, I have not lived here long, but there are certainly people who did live then and may even have known this Yunoko. I could send a message to see if a sage would be willing to speak with you about Wa and the history of our affairs with Wa, if you would like. Do you have any other information besides just this lead? May I ask why you interested in her murder? If she worked for Cormyr, it would be in Cormyr's best interest to know why people are now asking about her death decades after the fact. What is your intent?"

   "We are looking for her murderer," said Hakam, "and we believe that the same is also seeking to murder one of our party."

   "Do you have a motive, then, for why our ambassador was murdered?"

   Hakam described how Yunoko sought to protect the life of a mother and child from Wa who were being pursued by a rakshasa. "We believe that we need to find him before he can find us."

   Dauneth did not appear to fully grasp the information, but he seemed content with the answer nevertheless. "Rakshasas in Wa? The fiends with the tiger heads and backwards hands? Interesting. In any case, again, this is not my area of specialty, but I think that your intentions are true. I shall send for the proper sage to assist you. Perhaps we can determine someone who actually knew her or the events of her death. Foreign Affairs may have some records from that time period."

   He stood up from the desk. "Do you have any other need of my services?" he asked. "If not, I shall depart. You may wait here for the sage to arrive."

   "Her property records might also be of use to us," said Hakam. "We believe that some significant events may have occured on her vacation property."

   "Such would also be outside my area of expertise," said Dauneth, "but I can tell you that our ambassadors usually live in the foreign country where they serve if not in the embassy itself. As far as I know, the Cormyrean Embassy to Wa would still exist — unless they tore it down — though it would now be unoccupied. Surely, that is where she would have lived at least part of the time, but I could not even speculate where she would have chosen to spend her vacations. If you could take the nearly a year-long journey to Wa across the Golden Way that the merchants take, through the Hordelands into Kara-Tur, and over the eastern ocean, you would still have the whole island of Wa to search for a potential home. All I can do is send you a sage."
Session: 121st Game Session - Tuesday, Sep 29 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Recap , Suzail
Chapter 3 — Avilda
~ eighth-day, 18th of Flamerule, the Year of Rogue Dragons, 8 bells
Wildspace


The next morning, the Frihet left the Rock of Bral and headed toward Toril. Solisar had reminded them about the danger of returning to Toril without taking precautions against the dragons, but Ombert had explained that, before their last visit to Lantan, while the adventurers were searching for Onran's abode, he had shared the same fear. "Apparently, only a single dragon is known to live on the big island of Lantan," said the halfling captain. "We learned that this dragon, an ancient blue, thinks of the entire island nation as his hoard. He has spent the whole dragonrage paroling the seas around the islands of Lantan, ensuring that no other dragons come near his property. If anything, Lantan is thus one of the safest places on Toril to visit right now!"

   As the Frihet launched into spelljamming speed toward their home planet, Hakam approached Solisar, who was below deck in the wizard's lab that the elves of Evermeet had constructed for them.

   "May I speak with you in private, Solisar?"

   "Of course, good cleric," said Solisar.

   Hakam shut the door behind him and shared the results of the previous night's divination. "Is there an elven chameleon god in the history of your people?"

   Suddenly, Solisar flashed back to his visit to the human city of Silverymoon last Nightal. Just before he had met the most alluring Loremaster Rivermantle in the library-temple of Everdusk Hall, he had been examining the statue of a god to whom he had never paid much attention, Erevan Ilesere, the Trickster,... the Chameleon.

   "I do not know how I did not think of it earlier," said Solisar, "but there is indeed a god known as the Chameleon among the Seldarine, Erevan Ilesere. He is the god of trickery, not evil, but one representing the more... playful tendencies of elfkind. Though perhaps one of its least popular members among the elves of my own people, he is respected somewhat by the green elves, who are Belvin's kin."

   Upon hearing Solisar's answer, Hakam's own memory was triggered. "Erevan? Is that not the name of the god whom Jayce nominally follows?"

   Solisar did not know the answer to Hakam's question, as he did not know Jayce very well, but Hakam did not need the answer; he knew that it was true.

   Jayce was a relatively irreligious human, but he had told a strange story of receiving healing for his injured leg as a child from a passing elven priest of Erevan, who also left him with a mysterious tattoo. Later in their adventurers together, but before the time that Solisar had joined them, they were joined briefly by a roguish fellow named Mick. Mick also bore a similar tattoo, which he had also received from a cleric of Erevan in his youth. The tattoos magically glowed when near each other and in fact caused pain to either man if they drew far apart after meeting. It was not until several months later that they learned that the two tattoos were the two halves of a map of an ancient temple of Ubtao in the jungle of Chult, a temple that ultimately led them to Samber.

   Connections were formed in Hakam's mind regarding Yashiera's prophecy that had hitherto evaded him, and he smiled with understanding.

   He again discussed with Solisar the prophecy. "So, Thard Harr, Erevan, and Ubtao are allied, and they do not see the 'dark cloud approaching from beyond them.' What is the pool into which they are gazing? A portal? And what is this dark cloud?"

   "The Shadovar could be the dark cloud, potentially," said the elf.

   "They have a dark cloud around their digging site; that is true."

   "Or the dark cloud is their goddess."

   Hakam nodded at the grim thought. He also remembered his brief time as a captive of the Shadovar cleric Chalan. He wondered if revisiting his conversation with her then might lead to new insights. He thanked Solisar for the helpful conversation and returned to his quarters.

   Meanwhile, above deck, Sofi approached Szordrin as he was standing alone gazing down at Toril. They were in orbit around the dark side of the planet, as Ombert tried to spot where to drop down into the atmosphere for the most direct approach to the tiny islands of Lantan.

   "May I ask you a question? You seem deep in thought."

   "Yes, of course," he replied.

   "You seem very intent on quickly tracking down this rakshasa cutter," she said. "What motivates this? Do you desire revenge? Is it to provide for your own safety? What is driving you on this quest?"

   "Both," said Szordrin. "It started out for revenge, but now it seems like my own life may depend on it. Onran may not have simply been murdered; he may have intentionally given up his life to save mine, so it is even more important."

   "Do you think that revenge will make you feel any better?"

   "Yes, I presume so," he said, but his voice lacked confidence. "We can only know when it is done."

   She nodded. It looked like she had something else to say, but whatever it was she kept to herself.

   "Do you think that the stars are beautiful?" she then asked.

   He looked at her, and she was staring off at the endless number of bright points in crystal sphere of Realmspace. "Yes," he answered, though without the awe that had been in her voice when she asked.

   "You never saw the stars growing up, did you? You lived underground."

   "That is true, but Onran taught me the beauty of the stars and explained how they revolved around Toril and the sun. So, I gained a great appreciation for them long before I ever saw them with my own eyes from the Forest of Mir."

   "I, too, never saw stars as a girl. Sigil has no stars, nor a sun nor a moon. The same is true of the Outlands. It was not until we exited the Astral Plane and entered the wildspace of the Prime that I first gazed upon them. Their beauty left me speechless. I only had a few minutes to take in their beauty, for we entered the clouds of Coliar after that, and, as you know, the sky of Coliar is only white, gray, or black." She sighed. "They are wonderful to me."

   Szordrin let her enjoy the view but remained by her side. Shortly, sunlight burst around Toril's orb, and the stars faded. Szordrin asked her a question. "Now that you are coming with us, what do you hope to gain from this journey?"

   "I am hoping to scan who I really am and who Pistis Sophia wants me to be. Maybe it is woven into your story; maybe it is not. It is too early to say."

   "Do you have any idea how long you wish to travel with us?"

   "As long as you will have me or until it is clear where I am supposed to go next." She paused. "Tumble to this, I have literally given up everything that I own in life to follow Pistis Sophia. It is just me and my mug." She held it up for him and smiled. "That is all."

   They were descending now rapidly and burst through the clouds. Sofi's red eyes widened with excitement upon seeing the blue ocean for the first time. "Is that water?"

   "It is," said Szordrin.

   She giggled with glee.

   Szordrin said, "I heard about the incident with you and Brad. Your response was fully justified and should keep him from bothering you again."

   "Is he that way with most women?"

   "They are all like that, these sailors," said Szordrin.

~~~~

To the crew of the Frihet, as well as Oma, Jayce, and Hakam, the island of Suj was a familiar place, but for the remaining adventurers, a visit to Lantan was anticipated with interest. What strange, gnome-filled, remote island produced such bizarre clockwork toys as the ones that they had been selling on the Rock of Bral? They, of course, had been told a little about the place, but it was always different to experience a new land with one's own eyes.

   The fact that they were able to visit at all was mainly because of Jayce and Captain Ombert. When Hakam had visited the island, he had done so under cover of darkness and took his rowboat to shore distant from the actual port. Lantan was known to have a fear of visitors and, in fact, surrounded their entire island nation with smokepowder sea mines. Too many people would want to steal their advanced technology, the natives thought, after having visited. (In truth, most of the people of Faerûn found the Lantanese too strange to want to conquer their island.) Ombert and Jayce had convinced the right people to grant them access to Dtakkar, one of the port towns of Suj, the smaller of Lantan's two main islands. They had landed the spelljammer within the mile radius of the island, safe from the floating bombs, and now flew an official merchant flag allowing them to sail into the port.

   Lantan was a tropical island nation, built on what once were volcanic islands. The low mountains could be seen in the east, but they were approaching a flatter peninsula. Everywhere they looked was covered with jungle, but unlike Chult or Coliar, a constant cloud of steam was rising from several places, a sign of civilization and, more specifically, of the toy factories for which Dtakkar in particular was known.

   The port was not a large one, as Dtakkar was not a large town. In fact, there was only a single dock. Some sort of obnoxious gnomish contraption rose from the water and acted as a crane to offload shipping goods onto a wooden platform with a ramp higher up to the town itself. The ramp, they soon realized, was a moving one; the planks were attached to a belt, which was pulled by gears. A single other ship was in port when they arrived. Bansh noted that this ship was lanteen-rigged. It had a single triangular sail that was maroon-colored. They observed the crane unloading the boat and then watched the moving ramp carry crates from the dock up to the aerial town.

   Dtakkar, like most settlements of Lantan was built some fifteen feet above the ground on metal stilts and platforms. Homes with little turreted towers were the primary form of architecture here, and they were connected by an inter-web of wooden boardwalks and bridges spanning from one structure to another. They did not see many people about, but the evidence of the bustling population was heard in the sound of clanking metal, sounding horns, whistling pipes, and grinding gears. Those they did see seemed to dress in loose robes. Men and women each wore wide rimmed hats to keep the sun out of their eyes, and they seemed to favor the color yellow, as a good six in ten persons had the color somewhere on their clothing.

   They docked, and a small group of them disembarked. Jayce remembered exactly where to lead them. They soon found themselves at the front door of a small house but one still large enough to have its own little corner turret with pointed metal roof, painted red, which reminded some of them of the pointed hats that gnomes often wore. (Given the high population of gnomes here, they wondered if this connection was intended. Jayce had also always wondered if the gnomes wore the hats so as not to be run over by the taller humans.)

   Before knocking, Szordrin prepared himself with magic to read minds.

   After knocking, they waited a minute before the door opened. "Who are you?" asked the man, in Lantanna. Only Szordin, Solisar, and Jayce understood the words, but the meaning was clear enough to everyone. It was not a friendly question. The man who asked it had probably seen six or seven decades. His hair was thin and white. He had a mustache and was probably handsome in his youth.

   "We were hoping that we could speak with the lady Avilda," said Jayce, whom they had requested to do most of the talking for them. He spoke in his native language to the man.

   "What do ye want with my wife?" asked the man in strongly accented Common, once he saw that the group included so many foreigners. Then he recognized Jayce. "I know who you are! You are that man who did my wife hassle several months ago about her ex-husband. You talked with her enough. She does not want remember him anymore. Leave us alone." He began to close the door. Szordrin knew that the man's thoughts mirrored his spoken words. When are these people going to leave my poor wife alone? She does not want to remember that jerk. This is rude. What business do they have bothering our peace.

   "This is not about your wife;" said Hakam, "it is about Yunoko."

   The man stared at the short, dusky-skinned man in banded armor and a tunic, and appeared exceptionally confused. "I do not know what 'yunoko' is!"

   "Good sir," Jayce began in the Lantanese tongue, "I recognize how socially inappropriate it is for us to return again. You are a good husband, wanting to protect your wife, and I respect that. If you wish us to leave, we will agree to your wishes, but please hear me for just thirty more seconds of your time. As you know, her ex-husband was not just a bad husband, he was a disturbed man. Unfortunately, he has caused harm to more persons than only your wife. His actions could have repercussions that affect happenings on multiple worlds, not only your family. We would not be here if we did not think that the information your wife may hold may be crucial to our ending Samber's destructive and aberrant actions forever. If you permit us ask her but a few questions, I give you my word as a fellow Latanna that we shall never bother you again, and your wife will not only be able to leave Samber forever in the past but also know that she helped protect Faerûn from potential great harm."

   The man paused and thought. Well, there is no doubt that he is a true Lantanna; I can take him at his word. He is not lying to me; he will leave us alone after this. Maybe if five more minutes with my wife will save the world.... He spoke again in Common. "If she will agree to it, ye may ask us both your questions, but ye take longer than five minutes or ye cause her a tear shed, I will toss through the window your skinny body."

   Jayce was not a particularly heavy human, to say the least; he was built like a pole. Nevertheless, Avilda's husband was even thinner. Even so, the man's tone sounded like he literally intended to attempt to throw Jayce if they tarried to long, and Szordrin knew that he was visualizing doing so in his mind's eye as he made the threat.

   "Play?" asked Kytharrah, but he was quickly quieted by the others.

   "As soon as she is ready," said Jayce, "we will get right to our questions. Shall we stand here?"

   "I shall get her." The man closed the door on them.

   Szordrin whispered some words to Ferry while the man was retrieving his wife, and Ferry nodded.

   When the door opened again, despite having been warned in advanced by their bard, they were still all taken aback. The woman before them, except for her pale skin and white hair, looked like Ilthian's older sibling.

   Kytharrah might have been confused by this, except that she smelled nothing like Ilthian. (In fact, he had noticed before that Ilthian had no smell at all.)

   Avilda looked nervous, particularly upon seeing a minotaur. She clung to her husband. Kytharrah gave her the friendliest puppy look that he could.

   "Do not fear him," said Jayce. "He is harmless, like a pet dog really."

   "He is like a young child," said Sofi. "I assure you that he is safe." Sofi stroked the fur on his bulky arm to demonstrate.

   "I thought that I answered you your questions already," said Avilda in a very thick Lantanese accent. "What more do ye want?"

   "We have further questions," said Hakam, "not about Samber but about a woman we believe that you knew as well, Yunoko."

   Szordrin felt what might be described as a mental sigh coming from the Lantanese woman's mind, as if it were exhausting to think back on old memories. He saw flashing through her mind the blurry images of men and women dressed in their fanciest clothing, smiling, dancing, and eating at what he soon realized was a wedding. A woman in a beautiful white kimono approached Avilda in her memory.

   "I was not actually friends with Yunoko," said Avilda. "She was a friendly enough lass, but I only her met twice, first be at her wedding, second be at mine."

   "Can you tell us anything about the manner of her death?" asked Hakam, wasting no time.

   "I only knew that she had died because I heard it from my ex-husband. He received a letter. We were told that there would be no funeral."

   "Why not?" asked Szordrin.

   "Samber never went into details, but Onran said that there could not be a funeral."

   "Did you know Master... Onran well?" asked Szordrin.

   "Like Yunoko, I did not know well him. I met him a few more times than Yunoko, as he was my ex-husband's best childhood friend. As far as I know, he moved away from Lantan with his gnomish family as a young ladd. Occasionally, he would come back and Samber visit. We went to their wedding; they came to ours. Samber and he corresponded frequently, but I did not know well him. He seemed a nice enough ladd, but I thought that my husband be nice at the time as well."

   "Do you recall whom she spoke to the most at her wedding?" asked Hakam.

   "I know not how that answer," said Avilda. "Yunoko was half-Wanese, half-Cormyrean. Her father's family was there, dressed in Cormyrean garb. Her mother's family was dressed in those Wanese robes that they all wear." Szordin caught glimpses of the scene in her mind as she spoke.

   "Do you know how they met, Onran and Yunoko?" asked Szordrin.

   She shook her head.

   "Do you know anyone else to whom we could speak who knew either Onran or Yunoko?" asked Solisar. "Anyone whom you met at the wedding?"

   "We were the only Lantanna at their wedding," said Avilda. "I spoke with Yunoko for long at the wedding. She was very easy talk with, and I no one else knew. She was a very kind woman and was friendly to me because so out of place I was." Again, Szordrin saw the briefest images of Yunoko as she spoke to Avilda at the wedding, and he felt strong emotions of not belonging among the rich nobles.

   "Where was their wedding?" asked Hakam.

   "It was in Suzail, in Cormyr," she said.

   "Do you know where they lived?" asked Hakam.

   "They lived in Wa," she said.

   "Do you know if they had any vacation homes?"

   "I do not know where they a vacation home built themselves, but when the second time I met her, says she, how much she loved her honeymoon. Says she, they spent most of it swimming naked and free together and alone on some other world. I did not know what she was saying; I just had a smile on me and my head nodded. Says she, the place was beautiful, full of water, clear as glass."

   "Can you provide any more specifics about either their wedding venue or their home in Wa?"

   "I at their home in Wa never be, but the wedding was at a fancy place, some place official like. There was a black, dragon-shaped throne in the back of the room, with many tapestries."

   Avilda's husband finally interjected. "Ye promised five minutes. It has been that long. The time is up. Leave us be now."

   "I thank you kindly for your information," said Solisar.

   The man and woman returned into their home and left the adventurers outside.

   "I think that we need to visit Cormyr next," suggested Hakam. "That seems to be where most of the remaining threads lie."

~~~~


With Oma at the helm, the Frihet rose from the waters around Lantan and took to the sky. Solisar had her take the ship clear into orbit. There were not many clouds in the sky this day, and he hoped that they would be able to spot the Sea of Falling Stars, upon which borders the nation of Cormyr rested, from wildspace, thus avoiding any danger posed by the raging dragons. At spelljamming speeds, they should be able to place themselves over the waters in nearly no time at all; however, it would be two hours later in the day at that latitude, and it would take some time to both ascend and descend.

   As they climbed higher and higher in elevation, Hakam readied a spell to complete one further task, communication with Chief Grak, or "Captain Stubs". Since Samber had taken back Ilthian and also apparently stolen the sea charts from Ombert before that, they feared that Samber might also try to take his sailing vessel back from the goblinoids who had used it to escape his island.

   "Remember us? We saved you from the bone devil. We are looking to return to the island. Could you tell us how to navigate back?"

   Hakam waited for a few moments and then heard the gruff voice of Captain Grak in his mind. "Ahoy! This be Cap'n Stubs! Still no arms or legs, but otherwise alive! In the Nelanther now. Maybe I can help. Goonya begs me thank...."

   Hakam asked Jayce what "in the Nelanther" would mean.

   "The Nelanther Islands," answered the bard, "pirate islands and uninhabited desert isles. Hundreds of them. Most do not even have potable water. We shall be flying directly over them on the way to Cormyr, though I am sure we will not be able to spot them from as high as we will be. They are non-human, non-demihuman humanoids mostly. Not the sort of place good folk would want to visit. Great place to hide though!"

   "Should we stop there on the way then?" asked Leokas.

   "We are not ready to stop Samber directly," said Solisar, "so I see no need to learn this information now."

   "I agree," said Hakam, "but having the knowledge in hand may be better, if he is seeking out his missing vessel."

   He paused and then spoke again. "However, we do not know on which of the hundred islands Grak resides, and I do not have the magic of another sending ready for this day. It shall have to wait."

   They passed out of the gravity well of Toril and felt the usual mild jolt. Ombert gave the order to jump, and the magic of spelljamming launched them hundreds of miles to the northeast in seconds. In 40 minutes, they would splash down in the Sea of Fallen Stars and begin sailing to the great Kingdom of Cormyr.
Session: 120th Game Session - Tuesday, Sep 01 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Lantan , Recap
Chapter 3 — The Shou Embassy of Bral
~ sixth-day, 16th of Flamerule, the Year of Rogue Dragons, 6 bells
Middle City, Bral


The ship bell rang six times, and Belvin snapped out of his trance. Jayce and Oma had learned to roll the ship as they traveled through wildspace at spelljamming speeds, to simulate the day cycle by using the ship's keel to block the sunlight and keep them in shadow at "night". With the sixth bell, the bard rolled the ship clockwise, so that the sun appeared now on the starboard side. Belvin did not need this gesture as much as the humans on board. Hearing the bell from within his spiritual visit to the Feywild was enough for him to come to full consciousness. As they were back to a 24-hour schedule, it was time for his prayers to Thar Harr.

   He was snuggled, of course, against his camel, who was sleeping in the small pen at the center of the main deck behind the mainmast, next to Leokas' horse, Cloud. He looked about as he stood up and stretched. The halfling boatswain, Niff, was behind him on the aftcastle deck at the wheel. Bansh, the hadozee, Gullbeak, the gnome, and Patrik and Diero, two humans, were manning the decks and sails. The only other person on the deck was Sofi, the monk that they had taken with them from Coliar. She did not seem to sleep as much as the other humans, though he knew that she was not entirely human, not that her curled horns kept that a secret from anyone.

   She heard him stir and turned from where she was standing at the port rail.

   Always inquisitive, she asked him about what happened when elves tranced. His answer was brief, but he explained to her about how it was a way for elves to revisit the memories of past lives.

   "Is it like dreaming?"

   "It is more vivid, more real, than that," he said.

   Not one for long conversations, he turned from her and knelt by his camel to offer prayers in the Druidic tongue.

   She watched him silently but intently, which might have bothered some, but Belvin felt no such discomfort and ignored her until his prayers were finished. He rose to his feet again, as he felt the divine power of nature fill his person.

   Sofi had talked with Hakam for many hours about Anachtyr and the faith of that church, but she had not yet queried Belvin about his deity.

   "Why do you worship a dwarven god?" she asked rather bluntly.

   Ilthian, the woman created by Samber, had also asked many questions, but while both women were curious, Ilthian was far more naive, and Belvin was beginning to sense that Sofi's questions were less about the topic at hand and more about the person to whom she was asking the question.

   It was a question that Belvin had been asked many times since he had chosen to follow the strange dwarven god, rejecting the patronage of Rillifane Rallathil the Leaflord, the god most often worshiped by his forest kin.

   He gave the same sort of answer that he always gave. "It just happened," he said, and then he turned his attention to grooming Kamil.

   She wandered off to watch the sailors and began a conversation with Bansh about the gods of his people.

~~~~

The 150-million-mile journey ended at the second ringing of twelve bells. It was now the 17th of Flamerule. Summer on Toril was nearly half over.

   The journey back was mostly without incident, with one notable exception. The men of the ship were at first delighted to have another woman on board. Sofi had been spending a lot of time with Jayce, listening to his stories and songs, and laughing at them along with the sailors. One of the sailors, Brad, drastically misinterpreted one of her laughs as a sign of romantic interest and foolishly thought this would warrant permission to give her backside a playful squeeze. She almost broke his arm. (Kytharrah was impressed and fascinated by how lightning fast she had grabbed Brad's arm!) That was the last time that any of the sailors tried flirting with her.

   Oma was at the helm this time when the ship came in to the asteroid city, and she guided the vessel into position without any difficulty.

   The Bral docks were just as busy at night as they were during the day. The population of nocturnal creatures living in the Low City was high enough that businesses in that district never closed. Nevertheless, the bodies of most of the adventurers were still struggling from the switch from 30-hour days to 24-hour days, and many wanted to find inns or other boarding to sleep off the jammlag in an actual bed instead of a hammock. (On the Frihet, only Captain Ombert and first mate Loreene had beds.) They agreed to meet at a tavern in the Middle City at nine bells and went their separate ways. Hakam went to stay at the Pantheist Temple of Tyr, while most of the others went to find an inn. Sofi, however, asked to stay on board the Frihet. She did not have money to spend on a room, nor did she think it fitting to sleep in a bed, when the spot on the hardwood floor in Loreene and Oma's room was more than enough for her needs.

   The morning came, and the adventurers sat at a table in the tavern and made plans for the day. The first goal was to sell the metal eggs that they had recovered after the fight with the so-called marauders in the gem mine.

   They went about the town asking around. It took Jayce two hours to find someone, a rare animal keeper, who knew exactly what the eggs were, lonestone marauders. However, he informed the bard that no one sold large animals on the Rock, because there was little space to keep them, and they ate too much and breathed too much of the precious air. Thus, the keeper was not interested in purchasing them.

   However, the man did suggest that they try at the Lesser Market. They all were very familiar with the Great Market. It was where the shop of the Count of Tethyr, Gamalon, was located, and they had already purchased things there in the past. The Office of the Middle Magistrate was there, which Hakam had also visited. The Lesser Market, in contrast, was Bral's alternative market. More honestly said, it was the center of Bral's illegal trade.

   "What do you think about selling these at the Lesser Market," Jayce asked Hakam.

   "The operation of the market itself is not illegal, is it?" Hakam replied. "If we are to sell legally acquired goods there, which we have, then we are guilty of no crime. These are living items; we should be rid of them as quickly as possible."

   So, Jayce, Oma, Hakam, and Szordrin headed down into the Low City to try and off the eggs onto someone. It took another couple hours of walking about the crowded plaza calling out that they had rare, valuable eggs, before they found someone who indeed was very interested. It was a gnomish fellow, with wild hair and eyebrows and his long beard split into two separate spikes. He was willing to pay 1,600 gold pieces per egg. Szordrin and Jayce were convinced that one could make as much as 4,000 per egg. They were able to talk the gnome up to 2,400 but no further. Hakam was eager to get rid of them, so they accepted this final offer.

   Back at the tavern, over a late lunch. Jayce sat down and calculated everyone's share of the cash. He handed a platinum trade bar and five gold trade bars to everyone involved in the battle against the marauders, except for Oma, who received half that amount.

   "I have never seen so much money in my life!" exclaimed Sofi.

   "Why do Sofi and Nargroth receive a full share and I only receive a half share?" asked Oma.

   "It is in your contract," said Jayce, "and Nargroth and Sofi do not have contracts."

   "I can share some of mine with you, Oma," said Nargroth.

   "So, having a contract is worse than not having one," said Oma, ignoring or not hearing the offer. "How is that fair?"

   "Both Nargroth and Sofi have more skill at adventuring than you," said Jayce.

   "Did Nargroth or Sofi, oh, I do not know, say, summon undead ogres from another planet in Realmspace through another plane of existence and compel them to fight for us? And I have been adventuring for almost a year now; Sofi has had exactly two battles with us! Please feel no offense, Sofi."

   "No, you are correct," answered Sofi. She then spoke to Jayce. "If Oma gets only half a share, than I only get half a share. Redistribute it." She slid her trade bars back across the table.

   While Jayce did so, Szordrin discovered that someone in the Lesser Market must have pickpocketed him; he was short nine gold pieces. (Szordrin was simultaneously embarrassed and in awe at this ordeal, but nine gold was not a great loss at this point in his adventuring career.)

~~~~

After lunch, some of them went shopping. The casters purchased spell components for their new spells or prayers. In particular, Hakam acquired a set of platinum rings, which he explained could be used to protect others in the party with divine protection if he so prayed over them. Szordrin acquired some pearls with which to identify some of their recently acquired magical goods, particularly the unknown potions.

   In the meantime, Jayce went on an errand to find out if anyone on the Rock might remember the young Samber and Onran when they had visited some number of decades ago. He was gone for three hours. When he returned, he had a huge grin on his face. "I am the greatest," he said. "I found us someone who met 'Ronan and Ramseb'."

   After he sat down, Jayce happily explained how he had found the information. "I suspected that if I was to learn about two wizards who visited the Rock when younger, I would need to talk to someone who both has lived on the Rock for a long time and has interacted with wizards.

   "The first name that I came up with was Gamalon, but as you know, he has retired from keeping shop and gone on to become a count of Tethyr. However, his shop is still here, of course, on the starboard side of the Great Market. So, I talked to the new shopkeeper that Count Gamalon had hired to run the place in his absence.

   "I learned that Gamalon moved to the Rock in the Year of the Striking Falcon, which was 40 years ago. He left the Rock to move back to Tethyr during the Reclamation Wars about six years ago. Samber and Onran definitely would have come to the Rock in that time. Apparently, Gamalon was an adventurer on Toril before he came to the Rock, and one of his adventuring companions was a dwarf named Gyudd. Gyudd also came to the Rock and opened a shop, Cap'n Gyudd's, over on the border of the Dwarven District on the leading edge. The two used to send potential customers to each other. Cap'n Gyudd still lives here, so that was where I headed next.

   "Before I entered the shop, I asked around a bit about Gyudd himself to see if I could learn how I might get on his good side. I learned from the local dwarven bars that Gyudd was known to love beer more than women and that he smoked a great deal of tobacco, despite smoking being illegal here. I simply entered his store with my pipe out and asked for recommendations on some pipe weed and got him talking. I said that I would buy him a beer to thank him, and so we walked across the street to his favorite pub, and I got him talking.

   "The Cap'n had an ivory peg leg and hair that matched. He told me some wonderful stories of his days as an adventurer — clearly exaggerations — and his true feelings about tourists. When it was clear that he had a superb memory for an elderly dwarf, I asked him about Ronan and Rembas and described each of the men.

   "'I know just who ya mean,' he said. 'Young depressin' fella with hair the color of a carrot an' a friendly chap with golden eyes an' silver hair, probably one o' those angel-descended folk. I can't tell ya humans' ages well, but they looked barely men. That was in the Year o' the Behir. I remember because it was the same year that Clan Battlehammer saved a town in Icewind Dale on Toril, an' I had a young cousin who fought in the battle against the goblins.'

   "The Year of the Behir was 1342 in the Dalereckoning," Jayce said. Then he returned to Cap'n Gyudd's story. "'They came into Ol' Gemhead's shop one day, while I was sharing a beer at close o' day with me friend. We were talkin' about happenin's down on Toril. The silver-haired one explained that his parents had frequented Gemhead's shop when he was a boy, and he wondered if Gemhead sold anythin' useful for planewalkin'. Old Gemhead says, "Nay, but ya might want to visit the Interlink Consortium o'er on the port side, as they sell just those sorts o' things ya might need." That's all I remember. I'm not sure that their names were whatever ya just said, but they both started with the same letter; I remember that much.'"

   "Gyudd said that you were welcome to come ask him more questions, but he really did not think he had anything more to add."

   "So," said Hakam, "we have a year and a place."

   It was getting late in the day, being about five bells in the afternoon, and they had one more place that they wanted to visit for information, an embassy of Wa. They had certainly seen some people on Bral that they suspected to be Wanese, but as all of them were from the western side of Toril (or below the surface), none was particularly good at telling anyone from Kara-Tur apart. After asking around, they learned that Wa had no embassy on Bral. Nevertheless, they decided to visit instead the Shou Embassy, hoping to learn something about Wa through its neighbor, the Empire of Shou Lung.

   They had passed the Shou Embassy many times during their time on Bral. It was the impressive building with the lung dragon and bronze foo lion sculptures on Dock Street next to the colored archway to Shou-Town. Hakam, Jayce, Szordrin, and Solisar took this errand and approached the guards wearing horned helmets and red, distorted demon masks.

   The guards did not even acknowledge the visitors; they stood as still as statues.

   "Are we permitted to enter," Hakam asked them, "or must we make an appointment."

   There was no response.

   Szordrin, by means of his language magic, repeated Hakam's question in High Shou. There was still no response. He wished that he had prepared the ability to detect thoughts that morning.

   The main door to the embassy, an ornate wooded gateway, was wide open, so Hakam carefully passed the guards. They did not respond, so he kept on up the steps and the others followed him.

   The interior of the building was beautiful. The floors were wood-paneled, with different colors of wood and fancy designs in the corners. Even the simplest elements of the construction were artistically done.

   A woman was standing in the hallway. She had jet black hair piled high on her head and supported with pins. She was dressed in a narrow dress of bright-colored silks. The skirt nearly brushed the floor and had two slits running up to her hips. The tight bodice had a high collar. The dress was embroidered with golden thread in the shapes of dragons. On her feet were a pair of white slippers.

   "Welcome to the Embassy of Kai Tsao Shou Chin to the City of Bral," she said. Her utterance was monosyllabic but otherwise crisp, perfect Common. She gave a slight bow with her hands together. "How may we be of assistance?"

   Hakam said, "We have some questions about events that may have occurred in the Wa empire, and we were hoping that your embassy might be able to help us to learn more about them."

   "Would you be so kind to follow me?" said the woman. "I shall have tea brought for you while I summon one of the clerks of Lord Chan Fu Wi of the Ministry of State. He may be able to answer your questions."

   She led them to a small room through a red door frame with no door. There were ornate chairs and side tables made of multiple colors of wood. Movable, folding screens divided up the room into smaller segments. These wooden screen panels were decorated with images of flowers and trees.

   A tray with assorted teas was brought out for them by another woman wearing a similar form-fitting dress but in less vivid colors. It was set on one of the side tables. The teas were delightful to sample.

   Shortly, a man came in wearing a long tunic reaching almost to the floor. Like the woman's dress, it was made from silk. It had buttons from the floor all the way up to the high collar. This person also wore slippers.

   The man spoke with flawless Common. "I greet you. My name is Kuang Ch'ung, Minor Clerk of Lord Chan Fu Wi of the Ministry of State of the Empire of Shou Lung. How may I be of service?"

   Hakam repeated his earlier request. "We have some questions about events that may have occurred in the empire of Wa. We hope to hear your perspective or that you can point us to people who might tell us more."

   "I shall help in the best way that I can," said Ch'ung. "Do you have any specific questions?"

   "Our particular question regards the assassination of one Emperor Goshukara Kando. We have learned evidence that he may have been an imposter, a fiend taking human form, a rakshasa. Do your people know anything of this?"

   Ch'ung nodded. "It is true that emperors are sometimes assassinated. The most recent assassination in Wa, I believe, occurred nearly a century ago. I do not know the details of it, however. You must understand that the modern emperors in Wa are very weak. The true power in Wa lies in the hands of the shoguns, the military commanders. The emperor is only a puppet to the shogun. It has been this way for centuries."

   "Is the current emperor descended from this Goshukara Kando?" asked Hakam.

   "Presumably. The imperial line is kept mostly as a symbol of earlier times. The nation of Wa has only had one 'ruling' dynasty since the the 833rd year of our calendar, which was almost 2,000 years ago."

   "Dynasties can have branches, can they not?" asked Hakam.

   "True," said the clerk, "but I do not know the details well enough to give you the complete genealogy from Kando. It is also news to my ears and to the ears of Shou Lung that Kando may have been an imposter, as you say."

   After a slight pause, Ch'ung also said, "You should know, Wa and Shou Lung have a tenuous relationship. In centuries past there was open warfare. For a time, the Emperor of Shou Lung even controlled the island of Wa. It was not until the 12th Emperor Chin of the Kao Dynasty declared the Unleashing of Shackles that Wa was granted permission to exist as an independent state. This was over a thousand years ago, yet memories go deep. At that time, the emperor of Wa did have real power. It was in the last two or three centuries that Wa's shogunate rose to power."

   He continued. "Wa is an isolationist nation. They do have open ports with Shou Lung and even a community of Shou living in the city of Nakamaru in the north of the island, but they are still very cautious in letting the outside world know about what happens on their islands."

   "Are rakshasa common in the stories of your people?" asked Szordrin. "Or have they or any other fiends been known to try to infiltrate the government in your histories?"

   "'Rakshasa' is a Nubari word from the Malatran peninsula, a jungle land separate from either Kara-Tur or Faerûn. The rakshasa, while we know of their existence, do not play into many of the tales of Shou Lung. I am not an expert in Wa history, but I have not heard of rakshasa in any tales of Wa either. Nevertheless, Kara-Tur is a realm where the spirit world and the natural world are in close contact. To those of you from the western parts of Toril, it can be very odd coming to Kara-Tur, where the spirits can and do walk the earth as they please. It would not be hard to believe that a maleficent spirit, such as a rakshasa, would try to corrupt the mortal bureaucracy established by the Celestial Emperor. It is believed by most that the line of an emperor is a divine line.

   "I shall also note: honor is very important to my own people, so it should not be taken lightly when I describe Wa as a rigid honor-based culture. It would be very bothersome, to say the least, to the average Wanese citizen to learn that there had been an imposter in the divine line, even though their emperor does not truly rule. The emperor is still a symbol of pride and honor for the people."

   "Where could we find a Wa embassy?" asked Hakam. "And would they report to the shogun or to the emperor?"

   "They would report to the emperor in name but to the shogun in practice," said Ch'ung. "However, I do not know that they have any embassies in any lands. Again, they are isolationists and wary of any foreign presence."

   "You mentioned a port open to Shou traders," queried Hakam.

   "They are open to trade, but only at a few ports and to a limited number of nations, such as Shou Lung and T'u Lung — and only since Shou Year 2589, thanks to our Eighth Emperor Kai Chin. They will only permit trade with nations to whom they have offered an invitation."

   "Are there any large communities of Wanese people living in Shou Lung lands or elsewhere?" asked Hakam.

   "The Shou Lung province of Wa K'an, or, in your tongue, the Land that Views Wa, contains a people known as the Waka. Some of these people have mixed blood with the Wanese. Most are descendants of Shou who lived in Wa during our nation's occupation of that land. When our countries made peace, those Shou were allowed to return home to Shou Lung, and many settled in Wa K'an. Additionally, some Wa nobles in exile from Wa have fled there, though not in large numbers."

   "Have you ever heard of the organization known as the Harpers operating in either Shou Lung or Wa?" asked Hakam.

   "If you speak of the Harpers of your wizard Elminster, I have no such knowledge. In my understanding, that powerful wizard cares only of the affairs of Faerûn and does not venture into the lands of Kara-Tur with any frequency."

   The group of four adventurers looked at each other to see if they had anything else to ask among them. Kuang Ch'ung volunteered the following: "I had said that relations between Shou Lung and Wa were tenuous. I shall note that this is especially true here in wildspace. Wa is jealous of the power of our Imperial Spacefleet, and they have attempted to built a fleet of their own vessels to challenge our power in wildspace.

   "We believe — though it is not proven — that the Arcane have helped them to develop two vessels, about a decade ago, which they call the tsunami and the locust. The tsunami is a massive vessel, the largest vessel in all of Realmspace. It is like a segmented lung, a dragon, built of metal. It carries at least twenty smaller vessels, the locusts, with which they can swarm and overcome their foes in wildspace. We do not know the exact number, but Wa possesses at least three of these enormous spelljammers. As of yet, they have not spread far from the orbit of the Tears.

   "Our dragonships occassionally have come into conflict with their tsunamis. They are known even to have captured some of our vessels. Additionally, the Elven Navy has had a few wildspace battles with Wa. Neither of our peoples are officially at war with Wa, but relations are tense."

   Ch'ung looked directly at Solisar as he spoke these last details. Solisar nodded.

   As a show of good faith, Hakam showed one of Yunoko's letters to the clerk, in case he wanted to pass on the information about the imposter emperor to the ambassador. Kuang Ch'ung seemed very intrigued and thankful for this. The only thing further that he could add after reading it, however, was that the letter was signed in genuine Wanese calligraphy. "It is the character for 'love'," he said.

   As they departed the embassy, Hakam noted to this companions, "I suspect that we will have to journey to Cormyr to follow these leads further."

   "Do we have anything more to do here on the Rock?" asked Jayce.

   "I do not wish to tarry," said Szordrin. "Let us return to Toril and talk with Avilda. Then, we should seek out what we can in the Kingdom of Cormyr."

   "I shall return to Ombert then and tell him that we shall be ready to depart in the morning," said the bard.

~~~~

On the way back to the Pantheist Temple of Tyr, Hakam stopped at the northern end of the Great Market, outside the shop named Gamalon's Curios. He knelt at the largest cobblestone just outside the main door, placed his hands on the rock surface, and prayed to his god for ten minutes, ignoring the merchants and pedestrians on their way home who looked at him with confusion.

   Suddenly, Hakam spoke to the stone, "Tell me which wizards have walked upon you."

   Instantly, a flood of visions passed through Hakam's mind in rapid succession until they paused around the image of two younger men. The first was a younger version of the red-headed wizard who had exiled them nearly a year ago. The second was a silver-haired, bearded man. The man's hair style was quite similar to that of Szordrin, but the faces were very different; Onran's was much rounder in the cheeks. His eyes stood out, being of a golden color, almost glowing. Samber carried a staff and wore about his neck a silver cog with four spokes. Onran was wearing a pair of red leather boots, presumably the same as that pair that Leokas now wore.

   (He also became aware of the existence of a treasure vault deep below Gamalon's shop, but he had no interest in robbing Gamalon!)

   That night, Hakam also took incense that he had purchased and entered one of the tiny prayer rooms within the temple. Within the small, square chamber, he lit the blue, purple, and white candles and filled and lit the censor that hung suspended by a chain from the ceiling. Thick incense filled the tiny room. He knelt at the altar, a miniature stone warhammer and a functioning balance, and placed his offering of gold coins upon one of the scales. The balance tilted, of course, since the other tray was empty. Hakam began to recite a long and complicated prayer. When he finished it, he began again. On the 20th such repetition, the scale suddenly defied gravity and balanced.

   "How can I learn more about the god represented by the chameleon in Yashiera's vision?" he asked Anachtyr.

   Perhaps one of the other elves knows more about elven history, lore, and legend than the wild one.

   The voice in his head was not his own. When it had finished its brief message, the balance tilted again and the candles were suddenly snuffed out.
Session: 120th Game Session - Tuesday, Sep 01 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 2 — Legal Matters
to be written...
Session: 119th Game Session - Tuesday, Aug 18 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 2 — Marauders
to be written...
Session: 119th Game Session - Tuesday, Aug 18 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 2 — Ropers
to be written...
Session: 118th Game Session - Tuesday, Aug 11 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 2 — Deeper into the Mine
The crysmals scattered off into their corners, and the adventurers heard the sound of tapping as the crystalline creatures began picking against the clusters of gems.

   They were now promised to be left alone for passage, but finding a way across the might be challenging for some of them.

   "Fly?" suggested Kytharrah, looking at Hakam.

   Of course, the wizards could fly, Belvin could shapeshift, and they did have hang gliders — though not ten of them — but Hakam had not prepared his air walking spell, expecting to be in a cave, so it was not a simple matter.

   The two gigantic crystals spanning the opening to the expanse of sky below had flat sides that were nearly level with the ground. They stretched out over the chasm and nearly touched. It appeared like it might be possible to walk up the side of one, jump maybe four feet to the other, and walk back down the other side. It would be something like crossing a thick log over a creek, only instead of a creek there was a 30,000-mile fall to the center of mass of the planet.

   "Kytharrah could probably straddle the two crystals and help some of us from one to the other for those who needed it," suggested Jayce. He was looking at Hakam when he spoke, though he himself was not particularly known for his own skill at balancing, climbing, or jumping.

   "We should search for another way before risking it," said Solisar.

   They could not find another path, however, when they searched around.

   "We have plenty of rope," said Hakam. "We could tie some rope to Ormur, which would span this chasm. Then we could tie one end around our waists for safety."

   "I shall go across and tie it off on the other side," said Leokas.

   There was a slight slope to the right and a slight incline, but Leokas had a phenomenal sense of balance. Even so, the surface was smooth and potentially slippery. After fifteen feet, he had to step onto another face of the crystal. This one was more level with the ground. Now came the jump. It was not a terribly far distance, but there was no room for a running start. At least the landing surface was angled upwards, which would help cancel any forward momentum after landing.

   He took the leap and landed deftly. The other crystal had a more consistent surface, and it was about five-feet wide all the way down to the stone ground on the other side. He wrapped the non-magical end of the rope around another large, vertical-pointing crystal and made sure that it was secure. On the other side, Kytharrah held onto Ormur. Someone commanded the rope to wrap tightly around his waist and thighs like a harness. He also held onto the rope with his hands and began to climb. He made his way up to where the face of the crystal was flattest, and then took a big step over to other extended gem, straddling the two. "Ormur, let go," he said. The magic rope obeyed, and Kytharrah tossed it 40 feet to be caught by Solisar.

   Solisar commanded Ormur and then began to climb. Five feet up the crystal ramp, he slipped, falling to his hands and knees. After taking a moment to catch a breath, he stood up and tried again, more carefully, holding onto the rope as he went. He reached the minotaur, who then hoisted him over to the second gem. Solisar reached the other side from there without further issue. Ormur untied itself, and Kytharrah reigned it in and tossed it over again.

   Sofi did not use the rope at all. She skillfully rushed up the one crystal and was over to the second and back down to the ground again before anyone had a chance to question the wisdom of the action. Sif, too, recklessly raced across the gem bridge to her master on the other side as if it were no big deal, almost knocking Belvin over as he crossed.

   Oma came next and surprised everyone with how easily she made it look. Panther, Oma's cat, followed closely behind her, prancing proudly as if to show off his lack of fear. Hakam came after that, moving very slowly, but he relied heavily on the rope and on Kytharrah moving him from the first crystal to the second.

   It looked like passage over was going to continue smoothly after Solisar's earlier slip, but then Jayce also slipped about half way up the first crystal. Unlike Solisar, however, he failed to catch himself, instead landing on his side and rolling off the crystal altogether. He plunged into the white expanse below. Oma gasped. Solisar was about to call out his spell to slow the bard's fall, but Ormur held secure. Were Ormur not a magical and elastic rope, the snap alone might have killed Jayce, but now he sprung up and down, dangling and swinging a hundred feet below them. Belvin and Leokas called Kytharrah over to join them, and they worked together to raise Jayce. It took a while to maneuver him around the cluster of sister crystals around the large one, but eventually, they managed to get him onto solid ground.

   Kytharrah gave him a big grin, as if he expected the bard to have found the ordeal fun.

   "Maybe this is why I have not been traveling with the rest of you anymore," he said.

   Nargroth and Szordrin were the last to come over, and they made it safely.

   That was everyone. Jayce asked for a moment to recuperate from his shock. They looked about the area on this side. The crysmals seemed skittish of their presence and scurried away to the south and north. To the east, around a boulder, there was evidence of digging, piles of rubble and dirt. Leokas checked again for tracks, once again finding evidence of both crysmals and aarakocra. "Some aarakocra passed this way," said Leokas, "but they never came back. This must have been the new tunnel that they dug."

   They lined up in the same general manner that they had before, with Kytharrah leading the way, holding the leucrotta thigh bone in his right hand and the everburning torch in his left.

   The digging broke through into a natural tunnel that roughly passed from northwest to southeast. They took a right, assuming that heading left would simply take them to another point on the rift further north. The tunnel came steeply down natural steps and then turned sharply right then left, entering a small pillared chamber. On the north wall of this chamber, Kytharrah found some small holes that seemed to pass into another passage on the other side of the stone. The air smelled less fresh on the other side of the holes.

   There were not any crystals in this tunnel, which continued on for a good distance, roughly straight, though bending back and forth, perhaps 50 yards, before making a u-turn at a very narrow column close to the right wall. Light could not reach this far into the cavern complex, so they were now relying on torchlight and Hakam's glowing shield.

   "I have never been this far underground before," said Sofi. It was not clear whether her tone was one of excitement or fear.

   The tunnel came to some stone slabs that served as natural stairs up about five feet and then continued on, curving sharply right then left again. They were now heading roughly due west, presumably parallel but higher up than where they had just been walking. In about 25 feet from here, Kytharrah was stopped by a mass of boulders, a cave in. The minotaur looked nervous, quite unlike his usual playful demeanor. He checked the walls to see if they seemed stable.

   "Can any of our divine spellcasters shape this stone to make a path?" asked Solisar.

   "First, Ferry can tell us what is on the other side," said Szordrin.

   The weasel scrambled down Szordrin's clothes and squeezed through the rocks. He came back after only a half-minute and squeaked and chirped up at his master.

   "Ferry says that if Kytharrah can roll that first boulder up there off the other one, then all of us big people could probably squeeze up and over a larger boulder behind it."

   "You can understand his chirps?" asked Sofi. "That is adorable!"

   Panther mewed and hissed, and Oma simply nodded.

   Kytharrah moved up to where a smaller boulder was sitting atop a larger one. He braced himself against the wall and shoved. Everyone stepped back as the one-ton rock slid and half rolled and crashed to the floor of the cave, shaking the ground and dropping dirt on all of them from the ceiling. Next, the minotaur set down the sack that he had strung over his shoulder and scrambled onto the larger boulder and up eight feet to squeeze himself on his stomach through the tight space against the ceiling.

   Kytharrah got stuck. He tried to move, but his shoulders would not budge.

   Memories of the cave-in that separated him from his tribe and family filled his simple mind, but he knew that a big minotaur needed to be brave. He calmed himself down and tried to twist in a different way. His arm popped free. Now he could maneuver left, then right. His shoulders could move, so could his legs. He used the latter to press himself along, slowly but surely. He now hung eight feet over the ground and carefully figured out a way to climb down on the other side, inverted, among the collection of boulders beyond. He had made it through.

   Kytharrah being the biggest, it was no problem for anyone else to squeeze through the space above the massive boulder and up against the ceiling. It was more of a difficulty getting up there to make the squeeze in the first place. There were ten of them, though, so there were plenty of spotters and hands to provide lifts. Kytharrah, being eight feet tall, could also pull them through to make it faster, once they got up there. After about ten or fifteen minutes, everyone was through this next challenge.

   "Both kinds of tracks came through this way," said Leokas. "Either the cave-in was recent or the miners and crysmals crawled through like we did."

   After Ferry climbed back up on his shoulders, Szordrin waved a wand and made them both disappear again.

   They continued on. As the went, Hakam was careful to constantly check the ground for stalagmites that might be disguised monsters, but he saw nothing amiss.

   The path zigzagged a bit and began to drift northward. After 80 feet, the tunnel twisted and curved downwards past some boulders and into an area where the stone was subtly different. It seemed to match more the type of stone and rock at both of the openings to the sky where the concentrations of crystals had been the highest. Sure enough, the light from Kytharrah's heatless torch was reflected back at him after he came around an ess-curve corner from some tiny gems poking up through the surface of the stone floor. He sniffed the air and perked his hears but sensed nothing.

   After a second ess-curve, they were heading east again. Then they came to a tee. To the left, the earthen path was mostly clear, but the tunnel to the right was covered along the floor, walls, and ceiling with purple crystals, which only increased in concentration as the tunnel progressed in that direction. Oma gasped as she came up behind Kytharrah and saw the sparkle of the many facets reflecting the torchlight. Solisar expressed similar awe.

   Leokas reached the minotaur and stooped down to look for tracks again. "If I am not mistaken, the aarakocra went to the left from here, but the crysmals came from the right."

   To the right, the passage forked again, northward. Continuing to the east, where the crystal density was at its highest, there was something strange.

   "What is that in the distance?" asked Szordrin and Belvin together.

   It was as if their vision were playing tricks on them. The tunnel seemed to come to a dead end in 25 yards. Here, it seemed like there were crystals popping into and out of existence, appearing and disappearing rapidly. It might have been an illusion, or else it seemed like something was wrong with reality itself.

   Kytharrah was filled with curiosity and moved toward the visual anomaly.

   "Wait! Stop!" said Belvin.

   The minotaur could not move quickly; it was dangerous to do so here. Treacherously sharp crystals jutted from all around. One had to choose his or her steps very carefully to avoid be injured by the jagged points of corundum, and they grew sharper and more jagged as he advanced closer to where reality seemed somehow warped.

   "It is a portal," said Szordrin's voice from his invisible form. "I have a scroll that can analyze it."

   "It emits a strong transmutation aura," said Solisar.

   "I am almost certain that we are seeing an elemental vortex," they heard Szordrin say, "a rift to one of the elemental planes. They sometimes occur spontaneously when the concentrations of certain elements on the Material Plane are very high."

   "Is it to the Plane of Amythest then?" asked Hakam.

   Nargroth chuckled. "There are only four elements," he said, "but there are also paraelemental planes and quasielemental planes, where the inner planes intersect."

   "There is said to be a Plane of Minerals where the Plane of Earth and the Positive Energy Plane overlap," said Solisar. "The creative power of positive energy mixes with elemental earth to create all manner of minerals and gems."

   "This must be whence the crysmals came," said Hakam.

   "Szordrin, you had better behave yourself," said Belvin, motioning to all the gems around them.

   "Do not worry;" said Solisar, "I can still see him."

   "I am surprised that I would have to point this out to Szordrin," said Leokas, "but the mineral wealth on the other side of this portal does not technically belong to the aarakocra."

   "They will interpret the law such that we are guilty if we possess more gems when we exit than when we entered," said Hakam. "Leokas is correct, of course, but it would be impossible to prove in a court of law."

   Leokas turned the conversation back to more serious matters. "Can we survive on this Plane of Minerals?" he asked.

   "If we were to pass into a cavern that happened to have air to breath in it," said Oma, "but there is no certainty in it."

   "Most of the Plane of Earth is solid rock!" said Nargroth.

   "Are we seeing the other side now?" asked Sofi. "It does not look like solid rock. It looks like a cavern tunnel covered in crystals, as it does here. It is hard to tell the two places apart."

   The image appearing to their eyes remained in constant flux, but she seemed to be correct.

   "It is like the common 'blink' spell," said Szordrin, and Solisar nodded in agreement.

   "The aarakocra did not come this way," said Solisar. "I suggest that we search for them and their demise first, before we consider what to do about this vortex."

   "I agree," said Hakam.

   "Is it stable?" asked Leokas. "Will it remain when we return?"

   "We would have to use Szordrin's scroll to know that," said Solisar.

   "If it is stable," said Hakam, "it may be a good route to pursue Samber, perhaps a way to reach the place on the Plane of Earth where he mines for material for his golems. But I agree with Solisar that this is of a lower priority to us at the moment."

   "It should also be noted," said Solisar, "that there are rumors that those who tarry too long in the Plane of Minerals eventually turn into crystals themselves."

   "My mother told me that story," said Nargroth, "but I never believed it was true! I thought that it was just a morality tale against greed."

   "I know not if it is true or no," said Solisar. "Nevertheless, we would not want to enter until we had taken many magical precautions."

   The others saw a roll of vellum materialize out of nothing, as Szordrin handed his scroll to Solisar to use. The elf read the magic words from the vellum, and they vanished from the sheet as he spoke them. He began to share the information that the divinatory magic revealed to him. It was a spontaneously formed portal; no one intentionally created it. Not surprisingly, it required no key. It was two-way and relatively stable; that is, the magic itself was stable, though if the ground itself were to move, the portal might be destroyed. Unlike magically crafted portals, elemental vortices allowed unaccompanied matter to pass in and out, so air could flow freely.

   "I suspect that this vortex would take us somewhere roughly midway between the two inner planes," said Solisar finally.

   "Let us continue on then?" asked Jayce.

   Kytharrah moved to the front again, and carefully stepped around the sharp crystals to investigate the other fork. The tunnel tapered off to a size too small for him to continue.

   "Neither the crysmals nor the aarakocra went that way," said Leokas.

   Kytharrah was hesitant to try and squeeze anywhere again, so he came back.

   This left one passage remaining to explore. It was relatively wide, and the concentration of red and purple crystals diminished until it was a simple matter to walk again without cutting oneself. This passage made a wide turn from northwest to northeast and opened up into a massive chamber, the largest that they had yet seen in these mines. They were standing on a raised ramp, looking down into the crater-like floor. Their torch- and magic light were not even strong enough to illuminate the full extent of the chamber, it was so wide. Among stalagmites, stalactites, and rock columns, several large clusters of crystals erupted from the earth. A particularly large column of rock, some twenty feet thick, supported the high ceiling.

   "There may be a cave within a cave in that column," said Belvin, noting a dark opening in the wall of the largest column."

   "We should be wary of the stalagmites," said Solisar.

   "Yes, remember the crysmals' warning," said Belvin.

   Kytharrah rounded a particularly large cluster of crystal growth and spotted motion from the corner of his left eye. It seemed like one of the stalagmites to the north had moved. He gripped the dark leucrotta bone in his fist, ready for if it moved again.
Session: 118th Game Session - Tuesday, Aug 11 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 2 — The Gem Mine
~ eighth-day, 32nd of the sixth season, growing threequarterlight
Athanar Military Mining Facility 15


A few hours before the daily siesta, an eagle ship dropped off the adventurers underneath one of the islands in the same jet stream as Athanar. They stood on a wide stone ledge. It was circular and encompassed an area with a 40-yard diameter. In the caverns and mines that they were used to on Toril, they would have been looking down into the dark depths of the ground, but here, they looked down on white sky, clouds, and green floating islands.

   This was Athanar Military Mining Facility Doht, or Tee-doh, that is 1-5, which meant that it was the thirteenth mining facility, since the aarakocra had a base-eight counting system, as they all well knew by now.

   Jayce, Oma, and Nargroth were joining them this time. Nargroth was not needed on the Frihet, since the ship and everyone on it was forbidden to go anywhere else. (Belvin regrettably also left Kamil behind, since a camel would not fit in the mine tunnels.) Nargroth and Jayce both seemed excited to partake in the more adventurous side of things for once. "I have not swung axes with you in a long while," said Nargroth.

   The eagle ship dropped into the sky and departed. The aarakocra would return after the day's rest to pick them up again, so they had many hours to solve the problem, whatever it was. This left ten humanoids, a wolf, a weasel, and a cat standing at the southern end of the circular ledge.

   The planet's ambient light allowed them to see the entire area clearly. (Being on the underside of the island did not in any way mean that they had less light than they would have had on the topside of the island.) Near where they all stood, there were wooden racks and metal clips for holding minding tools, but no such tools currently hung here. The walls showed evidence of picks and pockmarks where gems had presumably been extracted. There was no sign of any gems or ore at all along the circular wall, but at the west, north, and east sides, tunnels had been dug deeper into the underside of the island.

   It had been explained to them by the military's lead miner that after strip-mining an "inverted pit" such as where they were to be dropped off, they usually tunneled into the island to search for less accessible gems and ore. In this case, breaking through to the north and east had led to no significant supply of gems, but breaking through the the west had led to natural tunnels leading deeper into the island. These natural tunnels brought the aarakocra to a rift and a large collection of gems and "geminals". These latter creatures seemed to have come from a tiny crack in the stone on the other side of the rift. The aarakocra opened a tunnel in that direction to continue exploring. Before they were able to start on strip mining the area of the rift, they called off all work on the mine when those few miners sent to explore through the newly opened tunnel never returned.

   "Before we go anywhere," said Belvin to his companions, as they began to walk carefully along the eight-foot-wide ledge toward the western digging site, "give me a moment to commune with the mine."

   "Commune with the mine?" repeated Sofi.

   "He is going to become one with nature," said Jayce. "It is a druid thing, and like most druid things, it is probably going to take a while." The bard sat down on the stone and began to strum quietly on his yarting. The others sat or rested as well, as Belvin chanted under his breath for a solid ten minutes, his eyes closed, while passing his hands over the floor and wall of the strip mine.

   "There are more burrowing creatures living in this mine than just the crysmals," said Belvin. "I see them, a dozen or two, scorpion-like, chipping away at the gems, eating, gathering what they need to reproduce. But there are two other burrowing creatures, four-legged, very large, metallic creatures, covered in spikes."

   "This reminds me of beasts companions of mine once described," said Leokas. "Before Belvin and I joined up, I had taken many short jobs with other adventuring groups, helping them to track various goblinoid villains. One such party had described to me an aberrant monster made of solid metal and covered in spikes in a dungeon that they had explored. They called the thing a 'marauder'."

   "Belvin," said Hakam, "can the mine tell you where any rifts are?"

   "The only rifts are here where we stand and approximately southeast of here by no more than 100 feet."

   "If that is true," said Hakam, "Then the tunnel that they dug into to the west must have curved back around."

   "Nature does not lie," said Belvin, his eyes still closed and his hands still rubbing against the surface of the stone."

   "Can the mine tell you the location of the missing miners?" one of them asked the druid.

   Belvin shook his head. "The mine knows of no aarakocra within its confines at all." The wild elf's eyes opened. The divination's revelations had ended with this third fact.

   "They were likely consumed by these marauders," said the others.

   Those who had been sitting rose to their feet again stood up. They had Kytharrah lead the way, followed by Belvin, who directed him. Leokas, superstitiously refusing to go second in a line, came third with his wolf beside him. Next were Jayce and Oma, leading the three wizards in the middle. Sofi followed close behind Szordrin, and the group ended with Hakam and Nargroth.

   Hakam reminded everyone that no one was to remove a single gem from the mine. Sofi joked with Hakam that she would keep an eye on Szordrin, but the tiefling wizard made himself invisible. Solisar, however, could still see Szordrin by the power of his countermagic.

   They moved through the western dig site, passing some fifteen feet or so into a natural tunnel that seemed to pass from north to south. They instructed Kytharrah to make a left, and he did so, sniffing the air as he went. It felt familiar to the minotaur to be in underground tunnels again, and he happily moved forward, lighting the tunnel ahead with his magical torch.

   Thinking that he smelled aarakocra ahead, he bounded forward to a spot several yards ahead where the tunnel widened and a large stalagmite grew from the floor of the passage. He found the source of the smell, a small pit that the aarakocra miners had apparently used in the past as a waste hole.

   "Good work, Kytharrah," said Belvin. "You found a bird toilet."

   The tunnel beyond curved slightly to the left, was split by a stone column, made an ess-curve, and opened into a large chamber about 50 feet or so square. The chamber had a couple large pillars and stalagmites and stalactites. A pocket extended from a corner in the northeast and had tunnels continuing on from the eastern side and the southwest corner. In a pocket in the western wall were some large purple crystals jutting out from the walls.

   The group spread out a bit in this room, but most of them were interested in the first of the mine's gems that they had seen. Hakam raised his glowing shield for light. Szordrin examined them closely, though no one except Solisar could seem him do so. "This is corundum," they heard Szordrin's voice say. "I think that this was a geode that they cut into. There are pick marks here."

   Corundum was the stuff of rubies and sapphires. The aarakocra had access to immense wealth; no wonder the Donakkises had so much power.

   Leokas began to exam the area for tracks. "The avian tracks heading southwest are fresher than those heading east from here."

   Kytharrah, however, had already wandered further east and entered that tunnel, and Nargroth followed behind to keep an eye on him. They squeezed by another stone pillar and found the natural passage turn sharply left. Fifty feet farther, was a pillar made from a stalagmite and a stalactite just barely coming together to meet. The tunnel came to a dead end here, and they saw another cluster of corundum crystals, surrounded by purple gem fragments.

   After the two scouts joined the others, they returned to their earlier marching order and continued deeper into the mine. In 40 feet, they entered a small 30-foot chamber with a low ceiling and a squat column. It looked like a dead end at first, but there was a spot by the eastern wall that dropped steeply to a lower passage.

   "There seems to be natural light ahead," one of them noted after descending down the drop.

   "Fresh," said Kytharrah, after sniffing the air.

   "The other rift in the mine must be just beyond," said Hakam.

   In 20 yards, they came to another cave room with corundum crystals and an hourglass shaped pillar. Here, Leokas found more aarakocra prints but also another kind of mark. "These here look similar to pick marks, but they are in the floor and they come in pairs and triplets. I suspect that it is the crystalline scorpions. They are clustered near the two corundum deposits and they come from farther east, where the light is." Kytharrah smelled both tracks. The first smelled like the talking birds, and the other tracks did not have any smell.

   Hakam's prediction had been correct. The tunnel beyond this room curved and descended, and Kytharrah and Belvin stepped unto a wide and long ledge overlooking a vast gap over the sky. The bright ambient light from below filled the area. The ledge was some 20 to 30 feet wide, and the distance to the other side was at least 90 feet. There were many clusters of purple crystals growing here and there on both sides of the rift. Most of these were at most a foot or two in length, but stretching forth from each side of the opening in the ground were the two largest crystals that Kytharrah had ever seen, even having lived in the Underdark for the most of his decade-long life. Each gargantuan corundum was nearly ten feet wide at its base and grew at a low angle to almost 70 feet!

   Something skittered into Kytharrah's peripheral vision. It was a dozen yards away and looked like a big bug, about the size of a dog, but its body seemed to be made entirely out of purple crystal, similar in color to all the crystals growing from the rock around them. It was definitely looking at Kytharrah with a series of smaller blue crystals on its cephalothorax that seemed like its eyes.

   The minotaur tried to appear friendly and playful. As if in response, a large rock, about four feet in diameter, suddenly rolled on its own from Kytharrah's right side and came to rest in front of him.

   "Careful, Kytharrah," said Belvin. "Remember, they are telekinetic."

   Kytharrah did not have any idea what Belvin meant, but he remembered the talking rock that had made big rocks roll at him when they were trying to climb up to that castle in the ice. Those rocks had played very roughly, because Hakam had squished one. The minotaur readied himself in case this rolling rock tried to jump up at him.

   The others cautiously stepped down the sloping tunnel out onto the giant ledge and gathered behind Kytharrah and around a massive column that stretched up to the ceiling 40 feet above. They began to notice other crystalline scorpions emerge from behind crystal clusters or around stalagmites on both sides of the rift. The crysmals kept their distance and seemed to be watching to see what these new intruders would do.

   Szordrin, now visible again, since the duration of his spell had ended, took a small clay ziggurat from his spell pouch along with a piece of copper wire. He performed the final components of two spells and then held the wire up to his lips. The others heard him speaking a guttural, gritty language. The wire vibrated with his voice. No one heard any response from the crysmals, but Szordrin continued speaking into the wire as if he were carrying on a conversation with someone distant.

   In fact, Szordrin heard a voice, or rather voices, very alien voices, inside his head, and the magic of his tongues spell interpreted for him. He had asked the purple gem creatures if they had seen any aarakocra.

   "What are aarakocra?" the voices asked, together, speaking almost as one.

   "Have you seen any birds?"

   "What are birds?" they asked.

   "Have you seen any red-colored creatures," he tried, "not made out of mineral, like all of you?"

   "The big soft creatures that fly went away," said the collective voices in his head.

   "When did they leave?"

   "They left."

   "When?"

   "Before."

   "Where did they go?"

   "Away."

   This was not a particularly useful conversation. Szordrin tried a different line of questioning. "Did the red soft creatures go over this rift, this opening to the sky, to the other side from where I am standing?"

   "Yes."

   "Where did they go after that?"

   "We do not know. We stay away. We cannot go back that way anymore."

   This was a surprising amount of information. "Why can you not go back?"

   "Big rock monsters eat us."

   "Monsters made out of metal?"

   "No, out of earth."

   The crysmals seemed to know the difference between earth and metal but did not know what birds were. He supposed that that made sense for a creature from the Plane of Earth.

   "How big are these rock monsters?"

   "They are as tall as two of you," said the voices.

   "What do they look like?"

   "Tall and pointy."

   "Ask them if they grow from the ground or hang from the ceiling," said Solisar, who presumed that Szordrin's speaking in Terran was only one side of a conversation.

   They answered that it was from the ground, and Szordrin translated this.

   "We need to pay attention to the stalagmites then," said Hakam.

   "Will you let us pass?" asked the tiefling wizard. "We need to find the red soft creatures."

   "No, we do not trust you," said the voices. "We trust the red soft creatures."

   "Why do you trust them and not us? We are their friends."

   "They give us tasty gems," said the collective.

   Szordrin looked in his belt pouch for the cheapest gemstone that he could find. "This is a very rare and expensive gem," he lied, taking out a small piece of turquoise. "It is of the highest quality."

   "What is 'expensive'?" they asked. "What does it taste like? Let us taste it?"

   The stone leapt from Szordrin's fingers and bounced and rolled along the ground, past Kytharrah and to the nearest crysmal. It touched one of its sharp pointed appendages to the small bluish gem.

   "Copper is delicious," said the voices. "This is good food. You may pass."
Session: 117th Game Session - Tuesday, Aug 04 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 2 — The Eagle has landed
~ seventh-day, 31st of the sixth season, shrinking quarterlight
an unknown island in Coliar


Kytharrah spotted it first. Gliding down at them out of the sky was an enormous bird. At first, he thought that it was a roc, like those fun giant birds that they had flown from the storm giants' mountain, but the elves corrected him. Its wings were too rigid and angular. It was probably a spelljammer made to appear like a giant eagle. As it drew closer, they saw that it was some 50 yards long with a wingspan of more than double that. Its beak was carved out of wood and its eyes were of green glass, but most of its body was covered in reddish feathers or cloth. There appeared to be a stone wall on its back, surrounding an upper deck.

   They stood on the edge of the island at shrinking quarterlight. After Sofi's story, Hakam had been taken quite aback by the gravity of Sofi's sin. At the same time, he was equally impressed with the efforts that she had taken to find redemption. It was hard to argue the fact that she was visited by a celestial and given an ordained path to follow.
   "Speaking of difficult stories," Sofi had said, "you also failed to tell us about your nightmare, Szordrin, as you had said that you would."

   "In my dream, I saw my former mistress kill by best friend, Welphrin," Szordrin had asnwered.

   "This was before your time with Onran?" asked Hamam.

   "Yes," said Szordrin. "It was a series of nightmares really, all blended together. We were in the Underdark, running from a lizard. He fell behind, and I went back for him. The dream morphed into my drow mistress' bedroom, where she was beating Welphrin to death. Then, there was a scene with the scavver who had almost killed me. Onran appeared to rescue me, but he transformed into a rakshasa. It was simply a mix of traumatic events in my life, nothing more."

   "It is horrible that you lost a childhood friend when you were so young," Sofi had said, and Kytharrah had patted him on the shoulder. "Play?"

   At the present time, a number of aarakocra carrying palanquins emerged from the eagle-shaped spelljammers back. These flew to the island edge, lowering the litters to the ground. Jayce was on one of them, glasses on and smoking a pipe.

   "Where is Oma?" asked Hakam.

   "She is on the eagle ship," said Jayce. "Oh, whom do I have the pleasure of meeting." Jayce had spotted Sofi. He drew his pipe from between his lips with his left hand, bowed, and asked for her hand. She offered it, and he kissed it.

   "I am Jayce, humble bard from the exotic land of Lantan, and you are?"

   "You may call me Sofi." She was blushing.

   "Jayce, what is going on?" asked Szordrin. "Why do they think that we stole gems?"

   "Wait till we get on the ship?" muttered Jayce under his breath. He then spoke to the armed aarakocra who perched on the ground impatiently. "They are all here; let everyone buckle in on a litter."

   The eagle ship was unique from other designs that they had seen. First, it had no sails. Perhaps the wings of the vessel captured the arcane winds created by the spelljamming helm instead. Second, there was primarily a single deck. The exception to this was the circular upper deck of wood, surrounded by the stone wall. Upon this was set a catapult on a turret at the center and a ballista each on port and starboard sides. The rest of the "back" of the eagle was an open bowl. Perhaps "nest" would be a better term. It was deep, and the floor extended underneath the battle deck into the eagle's "head" where they could see the spelljamming helm with a priest sitting upon it and the officers by the green, glass "eyes". The rim of the bowl had a narrow railing and a glass wall. Here, the aarakocra with their talons could perch. There were no other floors.

   They were set down into the bowl. As the aarakocra worked to store away the palanquins and prepare for the ascent into orbit, Jayce made small talk. "Ombert learned that Anadia has plants from which smokepowder can be made, so they did not want the Lantanese smokepowder."

   "Smokepowder is made from plants?" one of them asked.

   "Apparently, these halflings know a technique to, yes. That means that we made no money from our short jaunt back to Lantan. Oma told you about that, right?"

   "I did," said Oma, who walked from the bridge to the back of the vessel to greet them.

   After the two women introduced themselves, Jayce continued. "However, Ombert also made a purchase of a plant called crispyleaf by the hin. It is a gastric painkiller and a weight-loss food. Gods know that most halflings need to lose a little weight." He glanced at Sofi. She laughed. Oma scowled.

   "So, we have gone from arms dealers to drug traders," muttered Hakam.

   By now, four of the aarakocra had gone over toward the bow, two on each side, to stand by a set of giant levers that looked something like oars. The passengers stood towards the stern, near two slingshot-like contraptions, which were aimed toward two closed wooden hatches.

   "It is a fascinating class of spelljammer," said Jayce. "The oars there control flaps on the wings, which they use to turn, just like our sailors adjust the sails to turn. Now, Szordrin, translate what I say to the elves in their language." Mid-thought, it seemed, Jayce switched from Common to Alzhedo. Contrary to his nonchalant behavior, he had been paying close attention to when the aarakocra marines and sailors had ceased paying close attention to them. "And, Hakam, forgive my poor pronunciation of your native tongue; I put up with your silly sing-song Common accent and keep my mouth shut."

   Jayce's accent did sound atrocious to Hakam, but it was a good plan. Hakam and Szordrin could speak Alzhedo, and Szordrin could also speak Elvish. Only Kytharrah and Sofi would be left in the dark.

   They felt nothing, but they could tell from looking up at the sky that the eagle ship was rapidly climbing toward the upper clouds.

   "So, here is the problem," Jayce explained, and Szordrin translated into Elven. "In short, someone planted stolen aarakocra gems on the Frihet, supporting President Donakkis' claims that off-worlders are untrustworthy brigands.

   "The military claimed that a large number of gems were missing from their stores, and they interrogated everyone who talked to us. They found out that we had gone to Hisssta, so they sent an eagle ship and a small flock of military corbinas to watch the port for leaving or returning human vessels. They spotted the Frihet when we were returning to Hisssta to collect our gliders — the ones that we commissioned, I mean — and to wait for you all to return from your exploration. How did that go by the way? Was the cute, horned woman the one who ordered the rod?"

   Oma sighed loudly.

   "It went well," said Hakam, "and no, Sofi has no connection to the rod whatsoever. We can explain all of what we learned later. Go on."

   "Right, so, back to my story. They demanded that we be boarded, and they had us bring up our cargo. The gems that we were paid by the military were not the issue at all. They agreed that that was payment for the smokepowder and they acknowledged the receipts that you left with Ombert. However, they searched our food stores and found an even greater sum of gems hidden among the food."

   "When did they manage to plant the gems?" asked Leokas, after Szordrin had translated.

   "It must have been when they came to inspect our cargo on the very first day that we arrived," said Solisar. "That was the only time that the cargo ever came off our ship, and no one ever came onboard."

   "Exactly," said Jayce. "In any case, they told us that we were all under arrest, and we were escorted back to Athanar surrounded by corbinas. I demanded to know my rights and was basically told that, as a foreigner, I did not have any. We were to stay on our ship, on guard, in Athanar port, until our trial, with no indication of when the trial would even be.

   "With the help of a little bardic magic, I was able to convince one of the aarakocra guarding us, one who seemed least likely to support Donakkis directly, to spread rumors about the city that foreigners were being treated unfairly. Sure enough, that night, we received a visitor, a lawyer, who claimed to specialize in representing foreigners in legal affairs. You will never guess her name."

   "Postmaster Spiraldive," suggested one. "Or Asharra Chickchee," said another.

   "Yes, it was Asharra Chickchee! My plan worked better even than I had hoped. But Spiraldive was not far off as a guess, for Chickchee had heard about our situation both from the rumors and from an anonymous tip from someone at the postal service. Chickchee explained that, as foreigners, we did not have many rights, what I already knew. But she also explained that there is a little-known law that allows foreigners to volunteer for the military. Those who serve honorably can receive automatic visitor certificates, pending proper paperwork of course, but if the people demand it, paperwork can find itself completed more quickly. A visitor certificate does afford rights, including the right to freedom from incarceration until trial upon payment of bail, the right to a defense lawyer, and other such things."

   "I am not going to fight in their war," said Leokas.

   "I am of course willing to argue our case," said Hakam.

   "Of course, but we will not ever even have a trial at all unless we first earn our rights. However, apparently, there is a military gem mine that has had some recent 'troubles'. The mining operations had to be halted because, when they tunneled into a new chamber, several aarakocra went missing, presumed to be dead.

   "The only other clue was the presence of a larger population of geminals than normal, strange creatures that seem made out of gems. It is not entirely unheard of to find such creatures within the mines, and they are usually harmless if you do not threaten them, but this particular mine seemed to have an especially large population of them before the incident of missing miners occurred."

   "I wonder if these geminals are the same creatures as crysmals," said Solisar. "If so, they are telekinetic, dog-sized, scorpion-like, crystalline elementals.

   Jayce shrugged. "Whatever they are, they are not likely the direct cause of the miners' disappearance.

   "Now, Asharra was not as spunky as Postmaster Spiraldive; she was all business. Our helping clear the mine would be hugely beneficial to her campaign, and she made no attempt to hide that fact, but she said that she could move the 'legal gears' that would make clearing a military gem-mining facility of dangerous monsters, whatever they may be, count as 'honorable volunteer military service', thus granting us the right to post bail and even leave the planet until our trial. And she assured me that she would be investigating as hard as she could to prove the set-up in the meantime, so that the charges might be dropped before it even came to that.

   "I already agreed to this, and since we now are in service to the military, I suggested that they use an eagle ship to come pick you up, so that we could do our duty to Athanar all the sooner. Because, I do not know about you, but I am itching to get off this steam bath of a planet.

   "So, what do you say?"

   Hakam was not at all happy with this turn of events, but as Jayce had already agreed to it, there was little more that could legally be done.
Session: 117th Game Session - Tuesday, Aug 04 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 2 , Coliar , Recap
Sofi's Tale
"It is a long story, so park your ears.

   "I was a Cager, as you already know; I grew up in Sigil. I was not from a... very nice family. My father was absent. My sister and I were raised by my mother, but it was clear that she cared little for us, especially for me.

   "My mother had horns — I inherited mine from her — but my sister did not. The fiendish bloodline seems not to have affected her as strongly, at least not in the physical sense. It affected her more so in other ways; she was exceptionally cruel. I should note that I was by no means a good girl; we were all cruel to each other. But she teased me incessantly, always pointing out how many men she had been with and how many gifts she had been given by Mother, who favored her. She was also... more voluptuous than I and was more canny. She did better in school. She seemed superior to me in every way."

   Now, Sofi paused, took a deep breath, and then continued. "To come to it, eventually, I could not take it anymore. One day, after she had publicly humiliated me at the schoolhouse, I fumed in anger, but I kept it all inside,... for the day. That night, I entered my sister's room and strangled her to death in her sleep."

   She looked at the ground as she shared this. When no one made any comment, she went on.

   "Then, I fled. I stole a portal key from a merchant and passed from Sigil to the Outlands, where I found myself near the gate town of Tradegate.

   Solisar nodded. He knew that Tradegate was the gate-town to Bytopia, the home of the gnomish pantheon. It was a good Outer Plane, known for its two facing layers. It leaned more toward lawfulness than chaos, residing, cosmologically, between Celestia and Elysium.

   "It was here that I met my first cervidal, and I pretended to be one, to fit in better. (A number of guardinals lived in or visited Tradegate.) I had a twigging for him, and I soon tried to seduce him, but while he seemed to genuinely twig me and to find me attractive — though he obviously knew that I was not a cervidal —" She pointed at her bare feet. "...he refused to act on his feelings. He tried to let me down gently, but it was clear that I was not enough of a 'good girl' for a cutter like him, celestial blood and all. He also discovered that I was really a tiefling, and I at last admitted to him my great crime. To my surprise, he was compassionate and spoke to me about redemption.

   "The idea intrigued me, and I left Tradegate and wandered counterclockwise to Excelsior, thinking of no better place to find someone who might lead me on the path to forgiveness.

   "Along the way, I passed a hospital of sorts. It was only a small hostel, but a gentle old monk lived there, named Sarl, who cared for sick orphans and widows at no cost. I offered to help him, thinking that I might earn redemption for my crime through good deeds. He accepted my offer and let me call kip there.

   "I aided him for about a month, before a gang of babaus one day attacked the hospital. I was quickly nicked and left for dead by one of them, but while I lay on the ground, expecting to die, I looked up and saw something incredible to me. The old monk, with nothing but his walking staff, subdued or killed all three of the babaus alone, even cracking open one of their hideous, horned skulls. Not a single patient was harmed."

   "I saw several of these when in the Fugue plane," said Solisar, "lanky, black tanar'ri demons with a single horn curling backward from the back of their skull, correct?"

   Sofi nodded.

   He remembered that they had attacked some imps and led away other creatures made of crawling beetles, but this was her story, so he let her continue.

   "They were awful, yes, but Sarl stopped all of them.

   "He nursed me back to health. From my sick bed, I asked him how he could have possibly fought the way he did. His answer I shall never forget. 'There is great strength in weakness. Great good comes to those who are willing to give everything away.'

   "I asked him to teach me when I was recovered again. This he did. I found it frustrating that his teachings were at first on things like posture and meditation, but I soon scanned the hidden benefits of the knowledge that he was passing on. Eventually, he told me that I could learn no more until I had a true change of heart. He suggested that I seek enlightenment in isolation.

   "I was angry at his refusal to train me further and in his insinuation that I was not 'good enough', so I left and sought training elsewhere, finding it eventually from some githzerai of Xaos, whose entire race was dedicated to the practice of the martial arts.

   "They trained me well, and there were no strings attached to my training, unlike with Sarl. However, I felt a great emptiness inside, and I could not forget Sarl's final advice to me. Nor could I forget the guilt that still hung over me for the great crime of murder.

   "To be fair, isolation already appealed to me, and it was not like I had any real friends among the strange githzerai, so I made my plans and did not bang around there much longer. I had read about a world, this world of Coliar, in Realmspace, in the Prime, a world so large that one could have an entire floating island to herself. I figured that it might be the best place in the multiverse to find isolation, so I passed into Limbo and spent what little jink I had to be dropped off here by some plane-crossing travelers.

   "So, I came here, five or six years ago, dumped on an empty island, and have wandered around from island to island ever since, almost always alone.

   "But Sarl was right. When I was truly alone, I cried over my awful crime. I sobbed over what I had done to my sister. I longed to become someone like Sarl, someone who could help the ones that no one wanted. I called out to the powers for forgiveness. I asked to become a new woman, to be freed from my ancestral heritage of hate and rage.

   "And one day, I was visited by an angelic being, who looked something like a winged elf but radiant, with a brass breastplate and a silver trumpet hanging from her back."

   "A trumpet archon," said Hakam, sounding impressed. Solisar and Szordrin each nodded, but Sofi shrugged.

   "Whatever she was, she told me that she was a messenger from Pistis Sophia, that my prayers had been heard by the high-ups of Celestia, and that they had seen my attempts to atone for my sin. If I would promise to devote myself wholly to her teachings, I would find what I truly wanted.

   "This I have done. For the last several years, while meditating each morning, I often hear her voice, gently teaching me the path of righteousness. I have grown in my skills here alone, waiting for the time when she has a task for me to perform in her service."

   "Perhaps that time is now." She looked at them and shrugged again, then blushed, anticipating perhaps some sort of scolding. "That is all," she said. "That is my past."
Session: 117th Game Session - Tuesday, Aug 04 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 2 — Heading Back
Having decided on their next major course of action, Solisar took ten minutes to perform the ritual for identifying Onran's magical boots. His conclusion was that they would permit the wearer to teleport short distances, no more than a couple dozen feet, when otherwise trapped from freely moving. It was agreed that such boots would be very useful for Leokas to wear, so that he would always have a clear shot, and he happily tried the boots on. They were exceptionally comfortable, though they clashed a little with his green garb.

   Since Onran was presumed dead, Hakam insisted that the small collection of magic items belonged to Szordrin, the closest Onran had to an heir, but Szrodrin had no need for the boots, the hat of disguising, or the bracers, though they packed them in their bag of holding, nonetheless.

   Solisar thought that it would be a good idea to check in with Ombert and his crew, so he used their sending stone to message Oma and asked for a status report. She responded that the lizardfolk eggs had been successfully delivered. They had also stopped at Lantan and picked up more trade goods and were now on Anadia, the first planet in the system, trading with halflings.

   There was some discussion about breaking up the massive omlar crystal outside of Onran's house for profit or magic use, but Szordrin strongly disapproved of damaging his master's former property.

   Before they headed back, Belvin used his druidic power to sense the presence of further deinonychuses. There were still a good number on the island, yet none were particularly close to them. The one that Kytharrah and Solisar had heard at the bottom of the hill they found dead, presumably from being infected by the yellow musk creeper, but thankfully, no new plant had taken root in its brain. No other creepers themselves lived on the island.

   "Should we hunt down and eliminate the remaining deinonychuses on the island, in case they are infected?" asked Solisar.

   "They are natural creatures," said Hakam, "not abominations; I do not see the need."

   "If Sofi remains here," said Solisar, "she might be at more risk than she anticipated."

   "But they cannot pass through the barrier or over the rift," said Hakam.

   "Speaking of plans," said Sofi, "May I ask what you all plan to do next? I know that you have big plans to track down this Samber person, but how are you getting off this island itself?"

   "Our plan was to use lizardfolk hang gliders to return to the port of Hisssta," they explained.

   "Do you think, if it is not too much trouble to have a sod like me banging around, that I might be able to come with you on your ride, your quest? Or if not, at least to leave the island with you. I do not see any further purpose for me here. I mentioned this before, but I find it improbable that being dropped off here, of all islands, by the mercane was simply a random chance. I should pray to my mistress first, of course, for guidance, but if she allows it...."

   Kytharrah began bouncing with enthusiasm.

   "We do not have an extra glider," said Belvin, "and I will be carrying my own camel."

   "I carry!" suggested Kytharrah, which seemed a reasonable solution to the others.

   "I have a test for you first," said Leokas. He was only jesting, but his tone was stern, and she took him seriously. "I want to see if you can catch one of my arrows. I have heard legends of ascetics such as yourself having the concentration and swiftness of hand to do so."

   "That sounds... terrifying," said Sofi, "but I shall try it."

   "I shall have my healing magic ready for if there be a mishap," said Hakam.

   "I shall not be shooting at her," said Leokas, sounding mildly offended. "Stand there by that tree. I can hit the same spot ten times in row; just remain still until you are ready to catch it."

   Sofi stood by a tall tree and was still, looking nervous. Leokas loosed the first arrow, and it whizzed six inches from her head and struck the trunk. He sent another arrow flying, and its tip drove in next to the first arrow's. She remained still. He launched a third and a fourth, and, suddenly, her hand flashed. She struck the fourth arrow mid-flight, deflecting it from its course to be lost in the bushes.

   She was beaming. "I have never tried that before," she said. "My master used to do that. He could actually catch them, but I shall have to start working on that now."

   "Well done," said Leokas. "You have my vote to join the team."

   "Of which master do you speak," asked Hakam. "You speak of someone other than your mistress, yes?"

   "I have learned so much of Szordrin's story," she replied, "I suppose that it is only fair that I share mine, but let us head back to the west. There will be time for me to tell my tale then. Are we finished here?"

   They made their way back to rift in the island — after Bevlin snagged a deinonychus skull or two from the bonfire. Once again, when they reached the rift, Kytharrah ferried them over, by the power of Hakam's spell. Then they came back to the small waterfall-fed lake where they had met Sofi. She asked them for some time to meditate, to see if she could gather how Pistis Sophia felt about her leaving the island with these strangers. They gave her the time that she needed. She sat cross-legged on the ground by the water, closed her eyes, and seemed to go into a deep trance, much like the elves did when they rested. Kytharrah sat down and tried to imitate Sofi's actions, but he found it very difficult to remain so still.

   After about 20 minutes, she suddenly rose to her feet again and came back to them. "I did not receive a clear answer, but neither did I receive a clear no. I would still love to come along, if you would have me."

   Hakam shared how he felt confident that the gods had orchestrated matters such that she would join them. She seemed pleased with this.

   It did not take them overly long to find their way back to the duck and goose pond at the western edge of the island. Solisar looked into the sky and, after a few moments, spotted what he believed to be the crescent-shaped island that was their target. Unfortunately, it was now very distant. He explained to them that, based on his calculations, it was going to be an excruciatingly long journey back, probably between fifteen and seventeen hours. In the time since they had landed, the islands had drifted more than 150 miles from each other, and the other island was more than 50 miles higher in elevation. They would be flying against the ever-constant westerly breeze. If they kept their gliders' noses tilted upwards, the updraft would give them the elevation that they needed, but they would have to "tack against the wind", gaining altitude while being driven farther from their destination and then diving down to get closer to their destination — a "two steps forward, one step back" strategy that they had been taught in their lessons on Hisssta. It would be a flight of endurance and will.

   No one was at all happy with this, but they had no other alternatives. All took the very practical step of emptying their bladder before getting out their hang gliders. Sofi was fascinated with how the long items had been stored in seemingly normal-sized bags. She was to be riding with Kytharrah, and, having never flown on a glider before, was excited for the experience.

   Suddenly, she turned around, her face nearly the color of her eyes. "What is he doing?" she asked the minotaur. She was referring to Belvin, who was stripping off his clothing and packing it, prior to his transformation into a flying dinosaur.

   Kytharrah shrugged. Belvin had not been the only one in the group with a "magic trick" that seemingly required the removal of one's clothing. Cassiera had often done that too, though she could simply slither out of the arm or leg of her clothes as a tiny snake.

   She took a few glances back over her shoulder, but then looked guilty and tried to get Kytharrah to explain to her what she needed to do for them to fly together. She did not learn very helpful information, but Leokas came over and found a way to tie her safely and comfortably underneath Kytharrah's bulk in a manner similar to how he tied Sif to himself, only he left her arms free so that she could hold on to the bar of glider as Kytharrah did.

   Knowing that the flight back would be more challenging, wizards, cleric, and druid had used what magics they could to make their chances of success greater. Then, they launched.

   Sofi screamed with glee as Kytharrah leapt from the edge of the island. She seemed to be enjoying herself immensely as they dove and gained altitude and dove and gained altitude over and over. Eventually, of course, the repetitive act became at first dull and then dreary. Then came the thirst, then the rumbling stomachs, then the painful bladders. Eventually, Sofi seemed to go still, which concerned the minotaur at first, but he figured that she was just doing that thing that she had done back at her lake that morning, and he was right.

   Belvin at least had more flexibility in his flight, having wings that could provide their own lift, but it was by no means fun. The only benefit was that at least the breeze kept them cooler from the planet's heat.

   At long last, they landed on ground again, a somewhat jarring and painful experience, as the ground was moving towards them when they made contact. A few of them were bruised by the impact, but mostly they were all just happy that they could find a tree or some bushes to grant their bodies some comfort.

   It was between shrinking halflight and shrinking quarterlight. Except for Solisar and Sofi, they were all exceptionally hungry, and Leokas made them a fire to warm some of their rations. Belvin used his magic to sense whatever animal life might be nearby. This was the island where they had nearly been trampled to death by the pursued axe-beaked birds and the triceratops, but Belvin's druidic magic told him that all of the large dinosaurs seemed to be far from the island edge, at least for the moment.

   As they sat on stones or fallen trees eating their meal in a circle, Sofi asked, "Belvin, may I call you Belvin? Or do you have a special druidic title?"

   "Druids are not bound by the rigid hierarchies that enslave the churches," he said, giving Hakam a look. "I have no rank or title beyond my name."

   "Why are you on this ride, I mean, this quest? The others seem directed by their gods to stop this blood Samber, but I have heard no such claim from you."

   "My god, Thard Harr, guides me," said Belvin, "but in not so clear a manner, more in the manner that a gentle stream guides a leaf. Leokas and I have traveled together for over a year, and our friendship is strong. He has saved my life many times; I have saved his. I want to see the end of his journey, of all my companions' journeys."

   "It is true," said Leokas. "Nevertheless, you must admit that last season, after we defeated Allu, you were ready to return home and did so."

   "I had thought that my visions from Thard Harr had been fulfilled then," said Belvin, "but the same dreams came to me in the sweat cave; the same prophecy was repeated by Yashiera. It seems that I had been wrong. The stream has not yet reached its river, and I am curious now to be there when it does."

   "Speaking of visions and prophecies," said Hakam. "On Bral, I was able to gather some information from my studies. Have we considered that the three jungle reptiles in Yashiera's vision for us are not actual animals staring at the pool but rather symbols of three of the gods." He looked directly at Belvin. "Notably, Thard Harr is often portrayed with the symbol of a crocodile skull, is he not?"

   Belvin did not answer directly, but he looked pleased.

   "The dwarven priests with whom I dialoged," continued Hakam, "mentioned also Thard Harr's allies, and these included the god of 'giant lizards', which, I suspect, is the 'terrible lizard' at the pool. His name is Ubtao."

   "The prophecies about the Queen of the Moon may also have to do with the gods," said Solisar.

   "We know of Ubtao," said Leokas. "He is the god of Chult. His temple was where we found the portal to the western village where we first pursued Samber. In fact, was he not the only god in Chult?"

   "Yes," said Hakam, "the other gods promised to stay out of Chult in exchange for Ubtao guarding over a portal to some giant serpent who is foretold to eat the sun at the end of time. Such is the story that Jayce told us, and Yashiera made mention to this also in her original prophecies to us."

   "Belvin, you promised the wild dwarves that we would return," said Leokas.

   "When we return to Toril again, that is one of the stops that we shall make," said Belvin, "but the time is not now."

   "One god remains unaccounted for in the vision," said Hakam. "Who is the chameleon? Do you know any 'chameleon' gods aligned with Thard Harr, Belvin?"

   "Ask your own god tonight for an answer," said Belvin. "Then ask me again tomorrow." This was presented more as a challenge than as a request.

   They did not have much more time to refresh themselves or discuss further, as the rains would be coming soon. They set up two rope tricks for the night.

   The two sylvan elves took the first watch. The rains came on schedule, but they were not the usual rains. It was a downpour, complete with lighting. One bolt stuck so close that they were all temporarily deafened, and the elves' night vision was wrecked for several minutes before their eyes could adjust again. Kytharrah could smell the ozone in the air. They retreated up the ropes lest they be struck dead from a second blast.

   By the second watch, the rain had stopped. Near the end of it, Sofi climbed down the rope and greeted Solisar, who greeted her back.

   "Finished sleeping for the night?" he asked.

   She nodded, yawned, and stretched. "Has there been anything to see?"

   He shook his head. "There are many jungle sounds, but you know of all them."

   She was silent and listened. "No, these are different sounds, from different animals. Every island that I have been on in Coliar has different sounds at night."

   They were quiet and listened for a while together. Then she asked, "How did you scan so much about the planes? Have you traveled outside the Prime?"

   "No, I have not," said Solisar. "It is all what you would call 'book knowledge', but I have had many, many decades of my youth to read and explore the multiverse through the eyewitness accounts of a multitude of sages and scholars."

   "Why focus on the planes and not on other areas of magic?" she asked, as Szordrin and Hakam descended by rope to take the third watch.

   Solisar described that as an incantatar, one of his focuses was specifically means of protecting the mortal planes from the influence of outsiders to it. "I believe that the incursion of outsiders into our world disrupts the balance set upon it when the multiverse was created, even if those outsiders have good intentions. For this reason, I myself will never summon an extraplanar entity."

   "Why have you not opposed Belvin when he has summoned elemental creatures?" asked Szordrin.

   "I will not summon them myself," said Solisar, "but I will not force my views on others, unless they are summoning evil entities, in which case, I will do all in my power to banish the intruder."

   There was a brief pause, and then Solisar asked Sofi a question. "What about you? What planes have you visited? You mentioned to me last night that you had been to the Outlands, and you spoke to us of Excelsior this morning."

   "Yes, I have been to a few of the gate-towns. I lived among the githzerai in Limbo, where I received much of my training in the martial arts. Then I came to Coliar on a mercane trading vessel."

   Solisar knew of the githzerai, an emaciated humanoid race with an orderly, ascetic society, who strangely lived within the most chaotic plane of the multiverse. He had never heard of mercane traders, however.

   "Was your master, Sarl, whom you mentioned last night to Szordrin, one of the githzerai?"

   "No, he lived on the Outlands. I was with him for only a short time." She did not say why that was, and she wandered off to look at some flowers that she noticed were glowing faintly in the dark.

   When dawn came, they were eager to get the torture of their second of three "jumps" out of the way. Rather than risk hours of journeying west through the jungle and potentially facing more large predators, they considered the idea of launching from the eastern edge, where they were, and simply circling around the island. Solisar first flew above the trees to scout out their target. The bull-head-shaped island was even farther away from them than their current island had drifted from Kaw-chi-wee-tee-tee, but he still believed that they would reach it before they ran out of daylight, since it was not even yet growing quarterlight now.

   Four hours into the flight, the dreadful boredom was broken up, though only for one of them. Solisar, who had one of their two sending stones in a pouch on his belt, heard a voice in his mind. It was Oma. "Returned to orbit above Hisssta. Met by aarakocra ship. Claim sailors stole Athanar gems. Gems in cargo. Under 'ship arrest' at Athanar. Where are you?"

   Solisar found her message confusing, but he did his best to answer within the limits of the spell. "Leaving Chi-wee-wee-seh-kaw. In flight now. Island hopping back to Hisssta. Estimate arrival in two days. Which gems were stolen?"

   It was probably foolish to ask her a question, since the magic in the stones only functioned once daily. However, he did, in fact, receive another message hours later, when the planet's white light was brightest. "We await trial, Jayce says not to worry; he will talk us out of obvious set-up. Aarakocra ship can retrieve you. Wait where you are."

   "We are mid-flight, will reach island Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi in...." Solisar paused to do some quick calculations in his head. They were probably half way to Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi now. He added on four additional hours, just to be safe. "...Fourteen hours. We will wait for you to pick us up. The island is in active conflict."

   As soon as they were all on solid ground again and had dealt with important bodily functions, Solisar shared the news that he had received from Oma.

   "This is ridiculous!" said Hakam. "I left the receipts with Ombert, proving that we had acquired the gems from the military in payment for our smokepowder."

   It was shrinking quarterlight when they landed, and the rain began to fall before they even had time to pack up their gliders and set up the rope tricks. Within the safety of the extradimensional spaces, most were too miserable from the second day of traveling many scores of miles through the air at a snail's pace to be up for much talking. Those on watch were careful to look for any signs of approaching spelljammers, but there were none throughout the whole night. Occasionally, they heard an explosion in the west. Apparently, the lizardfolk and aarakocra were still battling for ownership of this floating land.

   First thing in the morning, after receiving his daily allotment of power from Anachtyr, Hakam sent a message to Oma, asking for more details and an update.

   She replied that they were on their way but that the islands were not aligned well with the ports. She also said that the aarakocra would absolutely not fly to a contested island where a battle was happening. She told them to glide to the 'mushroom-shaped island.'"

   Frustratingly, they could see no mushroom-shaped island from the eastern edge. Belvin, however, was able to scout below the island in pteranodon form and returned with a report that an island was below them that indeed looked much like a mushroom.

   They had several hours before it would be possible to jump to the lower island, so they made a campfire and roasted some birds that Leokas had hunted for breakfast. (Sofi passed on the meat and ate only the salbread.)

   Belvin asked Hakam if his god had given him any insight about the "chameleon". Hakam replied that he would not be able to divine that until he had access to some holy implements back at Bral.

   "Are any of you married?"

   Sofi's question seemed out of nowhere, and there was silence at first.

   Then Belvin laughed loudly. Hakam looked very uncomfortable.

   "I have forsworn marriage until I have avenged Onran's death," said Szordrin.

   Solisar went into a long explanation about the society of elves, how most of them did not take spouses until well after they had reached the age of 100 years. "You must understand that such a centuries-long commitment is never undertaken lightly. While Leokas and I have passed our first century, we are both considered young by elvish standards. Belvin is older, but his people do not practice marriage at all."

   "Children are raised by the tribe," said Belvin, "not by couples." He seemed offended by the very idea of couples raising children alone.

   "If not wives, do you have any other women at home?" she next asked.

   At this, Hakam stood up an walked away from the group.

   Szordrin quietly questioned the others, "Is Hakam married?"

   Sofi apologized. "Do I ask inappropriate questions? I do not mean to. It has just been so long since I have had the company of others. I will not be offended if you just need me to bar it."

   "Your questions are not inherently offensive," said Hakam, still standing apart from the others. "It is the particulars that are difficult in the present case. Your question reminded me of something in the past that I would rather not remember."

   "Kytharrah!" said Sofi with mock excitement. "Perhaps now would be a good time to play."

   This time, she was ready for the minotaur's swings to grab her, swatting his paws away or ducking under his long arms. In moments, she was around him, leaping onto his back, arms over his shoulders. He shrugged her off, and she tumbled to the ground and rolled back onto her feet, ready for more.

   So, it went for sometime. Meanwhile, the others debated whether they should question Hakam further about his strange behavior and comment, but they thought better of it. Szordrin tried to read his companions mind, but the cleric easily blocked the wizard from doing so by the force of his will.

   It was growing halflight when they were ready to jump again. They were reminded of how enjoyable gliding could be when the journey was all a descent. Sofi shouted happily at the rush from where she was tied below Kytharrah as he looped and banked around. She repeatedly expressed how thrilling a ride it had been when they landed safely on the mushroom-shaped island less than two hours later.

   This one was the most swampy of islands that they had yet visited, more so even than Hisssta, and it seemed to be infested with frogs and other small amphibians, croaking away loudly from every direction.

   Once again, they found themselves waiting. Sofi played a bit more with Kytharrah, and Leokas crafted some more arrows, and they used the multiple small pools of water to keep cool in the day's heat.

   Over lunch, one of them remembered that Sofi had said that she would share her story over the journey, and two nights had already passed since then.

   She seemed hesitant, but as she was not one to go against her word, she readied herself and set her tiny pot down and said, "It is a long story, so park your ears."
Session: 117th Game Session - Tuesday, Aug 04 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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Chapter 2 — Answers & Questions from the Past
The box contained a stack of seven letters from Samber — or Bremas or Rembas — with an unfinished letter from Onran to Samber inserted after the sixth. Szordrin confirmed that the script with large letters was indeed Onran's handwriting. These were all written in Lantanna, the language of Lantan.

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

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

   "Woman smell," said Kytharrah.

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

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

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

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

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

   "Who was Avilda?" asked Belvin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Solisar nodded.

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

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

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

   "Yes," said Hakam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "The Lillikell and the Forokell," said Belvin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   The others agreed with this understanding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Nor have I," said Solisar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Belvin nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   The others agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Captain Stubs," said Leokas.

   "Would they be able to guide us back?"

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

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

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

   "What does that have to do with navigation?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Correct," said Solisar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Well, we have a plan, then," said Belvin. "Bral it is for our first stop. So, how are we getting back to our spelljammer?"
Session: 116th Game Session - Tuesday, Jul 28 2020 from 12:00 AM to 3:00 AM
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