Journal Posts

Tag: background

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 - Monday, Aug 03 2020 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
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Chapter 1 — The Wonders of Wildspace
~ 6th of Tarsakh, The Year of Rogue Dragons, morning
wildspace


"I think that one prophecy is about the dragon in that one song that Jayce used to sing," said Brad.

   "What are you babbling about?" said Gren. "You've been trying to solve the prophecies for hours. We are flying higher than we've ever been; isn't that exciting enough for ya?"

   The main deck and castle decks were crowded with all 40 souls — including the animals — aboard the Frihet as it rose higher and higher into the sky, with the exception of Jayce, who was at the spelljamming helm in the forecastle. Many of the sailors were in the rigging for a better view. Even the sailors who were on their sleeping shift were here. Most were looking down, having never seen Toril from this perspective, a beautiful giant orb of blue, green, and brown, with white strands of clouds. About a third of the left side of the disk that they could see was covered in darkness, like a waxing or waning moon, as the sun was to the starboard side and they were pointing north.

   There were numerous conversations among other small groups of sailors, with one stating ignorance about the world not being flat and another responding that only a landlubber would think such a juvenile thing.

   "Some of the worlds are flat!" said Nargroth, interjecting into one such conversation. "The Rock of Bral, for one, is too small for an ocean, but even if it had one, you could not sail around it; it has a topside and a bottomside." The half-orc's tusks were fully visible, so large was his smile. So long had he wanted to leave Toril and see other worlds. It was finally happening.

   "He speaks the truth," confirmed Solisar, when one of the sailors challenged this. "The sailors had come to trust the sun elf as a fount of knowledge about spelljamming.

   Not everyone was enjoying the view. Rinald was trying to get a view down on the planet that he was leaving, but his wife Maegyn, who was severely afraid of heights, was clinging to him. His sons, Torm and Therion, were nearly hanging off the rail for a better view, which only made their mother more nervous.

   With the exception of Rinald's family, all of them had been high over the surface of Toril in the Frihet before, high enough to notice the planet's obvious curvature, but none of them this high. The magic of the spelljamming helm was such that elevation was gained far more quickly than forward motion while within the gravity well of a planet. They had been climbing and accelerating for more than a half hour now. The most they had ever traveled straight up in the past had been about five minutes.

   "How high are we?" asked Ombert, who was trying not to look nervous, as he stood at his position in the aftcastle.

   "I am not certain," said Solisar, who was standing by him. "Remember that this is the first that I have traveled so high either. Perhaps 3,000 miles? The elves of the Imperial Navy explained to me that Toril's gravity well was about 4,000 miles."

   "And what is that supposed to mean?" asked the halfling.

   "It is the point at which down will no longer be down," the elf replied. "We will know when it happens."

   "3,000 miles!" exclaimed Loreene, the short-haired first-mate. "How big is Toril?"

   "If we had tunneled that far through its surface," said Solisar, "we would not yet have reached its center."

   "Look at that there!" said one of the sailors named Diero. "Is that a tornado?" He pointed at a spiral cloud formation traveling over blue ocean far south of the continent of Zakhara, (which was itself south of Faerûn.)

   "It could not possibly be a tornado," said Solisar. "It is far to large for that. See, it would cover all of the Chultan Peninsula there. Perhaps it is what a hurricane looks like from wildspace."

   There was a sudden jolt, and Rinald's daughter Miri let out a scream before her husband Stedd calmed her.

   "What was that?" asked the captain.

   "It is what I told you would happen," said Solisar. "Our ship is now operating under its own gravity. Order our helmsman to roll us over."

   "What?"

   "Trust me."

   "Helm, roll us full about to starboard," called Ombert.

   A sailor, Indo, on the main deck below, relayed the order to Jayce in the forecastle.

   No one felt anything unusual — there was no feeling of vertigo or motion at all — but the disk of Toril that had been below them flipped around to be directly above them in a matter of seconds.

   "Valkur's beard!" cried out one of the crew.

   "Is spelljamming magic so powerful as to move the very worlds?" asked another.

   "It is we who have moved," said Solisar. "Toril is exactly where it always has been."

   "I get it," said Gullbeak. "We are upside-down now but stuck to the floor." He jumped up and down on the deck a few times to confirm his theory. (Kytharrah, too, joined in the "jumping game" and continued long after the gnomish sailor had stopped.) Maegan, seeing her world now above her instead of below her, lost all feelings of unease from height.

   Since most of them had been looking down at their world, only now did some of them notice the rest of wildspace.

   "Hey, the moon is below us now!" called one of the sailors.

   "Where are the stars?" asked Therion. "Do not the stars live in the Sea of Night?"

   "They are all still there," explained Solisar. "You simply cannot see them because the sun is too bright. We must be in its shadow to see stars; it must be night." He pointed up at Toril. "The shadow that we can see on our world is night for all those on Toril right now. If we were to sail to that side, I assure you that we would see many stars."

   "What now, navigator?" asked Ombert.

   "At this point, I think we can rely solely on the magic of the helm," said Solisar. "Give order for Jayce to point us at the moon. Then we should head directly toward it."

   Ombert called out a command to dip the bow of the ship down, which was relayed. Toril fell quickly astern and the moon, Selûne, was now directly ahead. It was a half moon, its left side aglow from the sun's brilliant light. To the right of the moon were the Tears, trailing behind in the same orbit. Only nine were visible as distinct objects at this distance, appearing as unblinking stars, but there were hundreds of asteroids in the Tears.

   "If we are 4,000 miles from Toril now," asked Oma, "how much farther is it to Selûne?"

   "According to the maps that I have acquired," said Solisar, "the moon is 183,000 miles from us."

   Oma gasped. "Even Jayce can only fly the Frihet at 80 or 90 miles per hour," she said.

   "We just came 4,000 miles in 40 minutes, remember. The spelljammer travels different speeds in different contexts. Now that we are free from Toril's gravity well, our speed will be far beyond that, almost unimaginably fast. I am told by my spacefaring kin that we can reach Selûne in mere minutes. Pardon me, I must speak with Jayce now."

   The black-haired elf moved down the steep steps from the aftcastle and crossed the deck to the forecastle doors. He entered the helm room where Jayce was sitting in the magical chair, head and arms pressed tightly into shaped recesses. Jayce's eyes stared straight ahead, but Solisar knew that the bard's senses were greatly enhanced, such that he could see every passenger on the deck outside and even any piece of seaweed stuck to the bottom of the keel.

   "So, my pointy-eared friend, how does this high-speed thing work?" asked Jayce.

   "Unfortunately, I am not certain," said Solisar, "Try to focus on the moon. Do not try to move us forward so much as concentrate on being there."

   "I shall see what I can do," said Jayce, who began humming a song as he tried to feel how to make the ship move forward. After a half minute or so, he spoke again. "Ah, I got it. We are moving. Nine hells, we are moving!"

   Solisar stepped back outside onto the deck and looked out. Everyone else was looking aftward. There were many audible gasps. Toril was shrinking, and quickly. It was subtle at first, but soon it was undeniable. Their bodies once again felt no feeling of motion; Toril and Selûne simply were changing shape behind and before them.

   After only a couple minutes, Toril was small enough behind them that one could cover it with his or her fists. As for the Tears of Selûne, several dozen were now visible.

   "I can't believe me that home is so many thousands of miles away," said Gren, looking back.

   "A hundred thousands," corrected Nargroth.

   "Do people live on the moon?" asked Niff, the bald halfling sailor.

   "Yes!" said Nargroth. "Are we stopping there?"

   "The citizens of the moon call it Leira, not Selûne as do we," said Solisar. "The Leirans are extremely xenophobic; the elves suggested strongly that we do not stop there unless we fall in dire need of air or other supplies. They even use magic to cover the near side of the moon so that their cities cannot be observed from Toril. The government of Leira actually demands that all ships approach from the far side, which we need to pass on to Jayce, as we are almost there."

   "What races live there?" asked Nargroth.

   "Primarily elves and humans, I am told."

   Ombert called out, "Dead stop!" and the moon and planet stopped changing size.

   Though it was well past the end of many of their shifts, most of the sailors remained above deck. A few, however, were growing anxious. "I don't like this!" said Rimardo. "It is too quiet out here, too... empty!" He went below deck.

   Solisar laid out a map across a small table behind Ombert. He glanced behind at Toril and ahead at Selûne (or Leira) and then made some measurements with some tools upon the map. Ombert looked at the map with him.

   "I believe that that largest speck of light there is Sadness, the largest of the Tears," explained Solisar. "All of the Tears are orbiting around the central Tear, called the Castle, which is not large enough to see from where we are, but here it is on this map."

   "How are we supposed to navigate to the Rock of Bral if the Tears are moving?" asked Ombert. "It would be like sailing to a floating island!"

   Like the moon's rotation, the speed of their orbits around the Castle are synchronized with their orbit around Toril," said Solisar. "You can think of them collectively as a single revolving object. Just like we only ever see one side of Selûne from our world, so Sadness is always about 100,000 miles from Selûne and 138,000 from Toril, no matter what time of the month it is."

   "Ah, I understand. So we can make this heading here," said Ombert, taking a measuring tool from Solisar's hands and curving out a path on the map. He then called out a heading for the crew to pass on to Jayce. Moments later, the moon and Toril and the Tears began orbiting around them, as if the Frihet were the center of the universe.

   "Take us forward!" commanded Ombert, and the Frihet launched ahead, meaning, from the perspective of those on board, that the tiny speck that was Sadness grew into an object the size of a fingernail in about half a minute's time.

   "Where is the Rock of Bral relative to Sadness?" asked Ombert.

   "It is here on the map," said Solisar, "about 20,000 miles from Sadness. Once we get closer to Sadness, we should be able to sight this Tear here, Dragon Rock. Sadness is about 50 miles in diameter and we can see it from here. Dragon Rock is the largest of the Outer Tears trailing behind Sadness. It is only ten miles in diameter, so I expect we will be able to see it clearly once we travel about 80 percent.... Yes, it must be that speck there, see?"

   Dragon Rock was indeed a tiny speck next to fingernail-sized Sadness.

   "Dragon Rock is a major spelljamming port," said Solisar. "From Dragon Rock, I am told that one aims first for Tear #213 and then Tear #202. Finally, one can sight the Rock of Bral from there, at a distance of 2,000 miles."

   "How many Tears are there?" asked Loreene.

   "Hundreds," said Solisar. "Most of them do not have names, and most are smaller than a mile in diameter. They are spread out over a distance of some 80,000 miles. The Rock is actually one of the smaller ones. It was originally a hiding spot for pirates. You can see how finding a one-mile-long object in an 80,000-mile area could be difficult if one did not know the way!"

   Omert adjusted their course and had Jayce head straight toward Dragon Rock. In only a minute's time, Dragon Rock was close enough for them to make out features. It continued to grow larger and larger until suddenly, it stopped growing.

   "What happened?" asked Ombert. "I gave no order to stop."

   "We are just at the edge of Dragon Rock's gravity well," said Solisar. "The spelljamming magic will not take us into a gravity well at wildspace speeds. We must be within about ten miles of it."

   "Something moving high above bow to port," called out the lookout from the crow's nest, gazing through a spyglass. "It look like a giant squid, but it has sails!"

   "Ye don't need a spyglass to see that," said Gullbeak. "There is another one right there, probably two miles away."

   "Are they pirate ships?" asked Szordrin.

   "What flags are they flying?" asked Solisar.

   "Ain't no skull and crossbones, but I don't know the colors either," called the lookout.

   "Is that a shark?" asked Martin. About a mile to starboard, traveling roughly parallel to the Frihet was a sailing vessel constructed to look roughly like a hammerhead shark. It was moving past them at a good pace but was clearly now under the power of wind created by its helm, as its sails were full.

   "Are all spelljammers made to look like marine creatures?" asked Belvin.

   "No, those crafted by our people make them like birds or butterflies," Solisar replied.

   Then he said, "Captain, we need you and the crew to 'sail' us around Dragon Rock. Keep us from getting any closer to it, though, or we will drop into its gravity well."

   Ombert began calling out orders for his crew to steer around the ten-mile wide rock floating in front of them in a clockwise manner.

   "Look! There are buildings on it," called out one of the sailors. It was true, they could see a collection of buildings at the edge of the asteroid. The other spelljamming vessels that they were seeing were all heading toward these buildings. They could count over a dozen other spelljammers now, some of which seemed to be docked close to the buildings.

   "It is a spaceport!" said Nargroth.

   "I think that there is another port there as well," said one of the other sailors.

   "The vessels are oriented the same as the plane of the bulk of the asteroid," noticed Ombert.

   "Yes," said Solisar. "We shall have to do the same when we approach the Rock of Bral. Otherwise, when the asteroid's gravity overcomes ours, what is sideways or up for us might suddenly become down! Notice how the buildings are all on the flatest side."

   The sailors especially were fascinated by the strange array of vessels that they saw. Besides the ones crafted to look like squid or hammerhead sharks, there were several vessels that appeared fish-like, with sails coming off the sides and bottom of the hull like fins and large curved, round windows made to look like eyes. Not all the ships had a nautical theme; there were also multiple vessels with an insect motif, with wings instead of sails and long, spindly legs, perhaps for landing on flat surfaces instead of ocean water. They were too far away to make out any persons on board these vessels, so they looked like giant creatures floating through the ocean of space. Only a few other vessels looked like a standard sea-sailing craft as they had.

   The Frihet sailed through the darkness around Dragon Rock. It was strange to everyone on board that it took them far, far longer to circle half way around a ten-mile-wide asteroid than it did to travel the nearly 300,000 miles from Toril to where they now were in their solar system. They passed scores of additional ports, each with more approaching and departing ships, as they circled, and were introduced to still more varieties — ships that looked like birds, like Kara-Turan dragons, like tiny asteroids carved to look like dwarven heads, like butterflies with wings made from giant leaves, and still others with no comparison to anything that they had ever seen.

   "That is an elven vessel," said Solisar, pointing to one of the leafy butterflies.

   There were suddenly gasps from many of the crew. "Good gods!" cried out Miri, Rinald's daughter. "They are beautiful."

   "I have never seen this many stars!" said Loreene. "They seem so much closer from here."

   As the Frihet passed into the shadow of Dragon Rock, eclipsing the sun, the decks of the Frihet were covered in darkness and brilliant stars became visible.

   Ombert was scanning space, trying to convince himself which of the many specks of light ahead of them was Tear #213. With all the stars, the process suddenly became more complicated, but this problem was solved by simply orbiting a bit further around Dragon Rock to bring the sun back into view. Then, by using Dragon Rock and Sadness as reference points, he and Solisar agreed that the third "star" to the left was #213, and Jayce sent them heading in that direction at spelljamming speed.
Session: 103rd Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 11 2018 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM
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Prelude
"Dead slow!" shouted the halfling. "Prepare for landing."

   Captain Ombert Stronghull's orders were relayed from aftcastle to main deck to the helm room in the forecastle.

   Toward the aft of the main deck, young Oma yr Raisa el Catahras crouched low in her violet gown with her arms around her knees. "Oh, I do not like the idea of landing," she said.

   The seven-foot-tall, 300-pound frame of the half-orc Nargroth Kilmander, in stark contrast, was half-hanging over the port railing, enjoying the rush of a controlled fall out of the sky. "I do not like the idea of crashing;" he called back. "Landing is great!"

   "You are not helping!"

   "Lay down!" called the Captain. Oma sprawled herself flat on the deck, not understanding the naval command.

   "Lay down!" echoed Martin, a human sailor standing near the forecastle with a daisy tattoo on his bicep.

   The 40-ton bulk of the Frihet was now some twenty feet over the deep waters of the Shining Sea — now fifteen feet, now ten feet.

   "All hands, brace for landing!" shouted Ombert.

   ...now five feet.... The flying galleon struck the surface with a slap, as walls of ocean spray shot forth on both sides to collapse again in a sizzle. Beneath their feet, they felt the wood of the deck surge.

   Tied up within a small pen in the center of the deck toward the stern, a dromedary camel and a white warhorse nuzzed and neighed. Nargroth stroked the back of each of their necks. "Do not be afraid, Kamila and Cloud," he said soothingly.

   "Helm down!" commanded the Captain, and his order was echoed once again. Suddenly, a cool breeze reached them, carrying with it the smell of salt water, as the atmospheric envelope surrounding them was dispelled.

   "Jayce's landing was more vigorous than yours have been," noted Hakam yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr, as he clutched to the aftcastle rail to the right of where the captain stood on a crate behind the wheel of the mundane helm.

   "He did a fair job," said Solisar Keryth, who was standing next to the Calishite cleric. "Remember that the spelljammer travels much faster now," added the gold elf.

   Ombert licked his finger and held it to the wind. "Of course! We are coming in against the wind...," he said. Then he called out, "Stand by to go about!"

   Nargroth made the two large animals lie down, and then he and Martin rushed over to the main sail. Two other pairs of sailors rushed to the other sails. There were Gren and Niff to the bow and Loreene and Brad to the stern.

   Jayce, looking as out-of-place as usual in his dark eye lenses, stepped out onto the main deck from one of the doors to the forecastle. "How did I do? Amazing piloting, eh?" He removed some flint from his pouch and prepared to light his pipe.

   "Rougher than I would have preferred," answered Hakam.

   "You almost made me puke, orcwit," said Oma.

   "Ready about?" shouted the captain.

   "Aye, aye!" called back the six sailors in near unison.

   Ombert spun the wheel counterclockwise, exhibiting more strength than one would expect from such a small humanoid. "Helm's a'lee."

   "Lee ho!" called the six sailors in unison, as they yanked simultaneously on taught ropes.

   Jayce ducked at just the right moment as the boom of the main mast swung overhead as he approached the aftcastle steps to join his friends.

   The Frihet was tacking into the wind, which was from the north. The three adventurers now looked to starboard to take in their destination, the great city of Calimport, the most populous city in the known world.

   "I must admit that sailing under the power of the spelljamming helm is far simpler than under the power of Akadi," said Ombert. "The wind is always behind us when we are aloft."

   "I could cause it to come from the bow if you prefer a challenge," said Jayce.

   "The wall is indeed impressive," said Solisar. He was referring to the twenty-foot tall sea wall that surrounded the capital of Calimshan.

   "In the stories of my people," Hakam said, as if quoting from memory, "the foundations of these walls were laid by marid and dao during the time of the reign of Calim."

   "We know," said Jayce. "You are talking to a bard and an historian, remember?"

   "They are signalling us," said Solisar. A series of colored flags of various shapes had been run up a pole atop one of the towers of the wall.

   "Yes, yes, I know what the wind speed is," mumbled Ombert, as if someone had spoken to him. Then he called out, "Signal our answer!"

   A spindly gnome at the forecastle was rapidly attaching flags to a rope. (Ombert had hired him and several other sailors on at a town in Lantan, after Hakam and Jayce had convinced the hin to captain their magical vessel, since the Frihet was somewhat larger than the halfling-built Daisy.) The gnome had a rather pointed nose, and the other sailors (at his request) called him "Gullbeak".

   The flags were displayed, and they waited for the harbormaster to respond with a new set of flags.

   "We are permitted entry into the port," said Ombert.

   "Then take us in, good captain," said Jayce.

   Under Ombert's expert piloting, the Frihet passed between the two guard towers at the gate of the great sea wall, which was thirty feet thick. It was an annoyingly slow process and required the efforts of many sailors.

   "That is a good number of boats," said Jayce. He was severely understating the view before them — literally half a thousand sailing vessels were within the sheltered harbor. The waters themselves were covered in debris, both floating trash and the tops of wreckage. Rising from the wooden docks at the shore was the great metropolis of Calimport, with stone and mud-brick buildings of every shape and size surrounded by tents and flags of all colors and punctuated by domes, arches, and minarets galore. Rivers of people could be seen in the streets leading down to the water.

   "I dropped him off at the marina there," said Hakam, pointing to the left. He was referring to their wizard companion, Szordrin Dundragon.

   "Aye, but the harbormaster is sending us to those larger docks on the other side," said Ombert.

   "Where did you tell him to meet us?" asked Solisar.

   "At the marina," said Hakam.

   "Well, it will not hurt us to step aground for a bit, will it?" asked Jayce.

   "The longer we tarry, the greater the chance that Yrevkethend breaks through to the refugees," said Hakam.

   "I am just going to get a single drink with Loreene and Gren," said Jayce.

   "And with me," called up Nargroth from the main deck.

   "Fear not, good cleric; we are not going to visit a festhall!" continued Jayce.

   "Hey, maybe you aren't!" said Brad as he tied off a rope behind them.

   Hakam still looked annoyed at the prospect of a long stop.

   "Look, I have not been to the mainland in months; I am not going to stand on the ship while you search for a tiefling amongst all these people. Also, recall that I have sat on my hindquarters for the last eight hours and that magic chair is no Calishite floor pillow!"

   So, once the ship was docked, a good number of the sailors headed into the taverns of Affar Drudach of Ylar Sabban, the Inn Sabban, while Hakam and Solisar struggled to push their way through the crowds west toward the marina. The streets had an overwhelming smell of seafood from all the fishmongers selling their wares.

   "Watch your money pouch," warned Hakam, who was clearly uncomfortable with the throngs of people about.

   "Is Memnon like this?" asked Solisar, referring to his friend's home.

   "Not at all," said Hakam. "It is far less crowded. Also, I rarely go down to the street level; I walk the drudach walls."

   Solisar glanced to the right and noticed an elevated pathway with steps periodically leading up to it. Many of the buildings had entryways opening to this walkway rather than to the dusty ground below. They were approaching an archway in one of these drudach walls and passed through.

   "We have entered a new district or sector," explained Hakam.

   They passed through another similar arch as they followed a winding road through the Dock Ward, passing countless bazaar tents and booths, inns and taverns, and sea-related guildhalls, until they reached the marina in Bayown Drudach of Jarûz Sabban and walked out onto the floating wooden platform.

   Hakam was correct to assume that Szordrin would be waiting for them at the same spot where he had dropped him off months ago. The black-bearded wizard stood by a couple barrels, and his weasel familiar, Ferry, was curled up and napping atop one of them.

   "Alae! said Solisar. "It is good to see you, Szordrin."

   "Why do you have two barrels?" said Hakam.

   "They are full of spices," said Szordrin. "Calishite spices are the rage on the Rock of Bral, remember? I have arranged for us to make a good profit from this."

   "Black market spices, no doubt."

   "Not at all! They were legitimately purchased from Pasha Halus!"

   "Even so, we have no need for more cargo. Captain Stronghull and I already arranged for a trade agreement with the Lantanna. The Frihet is full of smokepowder and clockwork inventions, purchased from the sale of The Daisy."

   "So we are sailing a large explosive into wildspace now? It seems that spices are a safer route. I spent my own coin on these barrels up front; they are coming with us."

   "Fine, but you are going to have to wait here for me to go get Nargroth and another sailor; Solisar and I cannot carry those!"

   "I shall be here waiting as before."

   So Hakam and Solisar left the marina to find Nargroth. As they walked away, Ferry clicked and chirped at his master.

   "Yes, Ferry, I am well aware that Pasha Halus is the leader of the Loyal Order of Fishmongers, not the Spicemonger Fellowship."

~~~~

   "So, I poked me head in a place called the Copper Ante," said Brad. "Learned today that hin dames look just the same as human dames under their clothes."

   "Why wouldn't they?" asked Loreene. "Hin are just miniature humans."

   "Racist," stated Niff, who was himself a halfling.

   "I expected them to have hairier feet!" explained Brad.

   "Why would they have hairy feet?" asked Gren.

   "Haven't you seen the captain's feet?"

   "What I don't understand," said Martin, "is why did they need to be without clothes for you to notice their feet? As usual, you do not make any sense!"

   "It's the style these days for ladyfolk to shave their feet," said Niff.

   "Is it the style for menfolk these days to shave their heads?" asked Gren. (Niff was bald.) "And why are your feet shaved?"

   "Hey, look! It's our favorite trickster wizard, Szordrin," said Martin.

   Hakam, Solisar, and Szordrin were coming across the gangplank. Behind them Nargroth and a sailor named Guttar were carrying the two barrels over their heads as if they were baskets of laundry. (Guttar was a huge, muscular man who never spoke.) They carried the barrels to the cargo hold in the steerage deck.

   "Let me show you what my kin did to enhance the ship," said Solisar, guiding Szordrin into the forecastle and past the open door to the small room where the magic helm sat. "First of all, it turns out that the helm that we had was a Netherese spelljamming helm, which was only a rumor among the scholars of spelljamming history. They were much slower than standard helms but had the added feature of causing a ship to hover for many hours, even when the helmsmen vacated the chair. You can see how this would be useful to a nation with many flying cities. The elves were delighted to have come across a real specimen and offered an even trade of a modern major helm for our Netherese helm, which they wanted to study and display in a museum."

   The new helm had a more elegant look to it than their old helm. Solisar led Szordrin further on to the steps down to the lower deck and continued, "I agreed to the trade but also got them to agree to refurbish the ship and build separate cabins. As an example, here is our new wizards' laboratory."

   The lower deck, which used to be a mostly open space, except for the first mate's cabin and the galley in the stern. Now had a narrow hallway leading aft with doors on each side. Solisar opened one on the left to reveal a small rectangular cabin with a desk, a shelf for books and scrolls, and an assortment of candles and writing implements.

   "Across the hall here is our crew lounge." This room was a bit larger and had a table and chairs for eight.

   About this same table, Hakam, Solisar, Szordrin, Jayce, and Oma later sat that evening, as above deck, the captain and his crew piloted the ship out of Calimport harbor.

   "Mythlos arrived at the keep," Hakam explained to Szordrin, "but he found it destroyed, flattened to the ground by the blue dragon. Yrevkethend managed to track Rinald there. Rinald was able to evacuate a good number of the keep's inhabitants into the dwarven ruins below. They are all, including Mythlos, now holding up there, but their supplies and food are running out. We have already stocked the ship with food for them."

   "How long ago did this happen?" asked Szordrin.

   "Near the beginning of the year."

   "I suspect that this was motivated by the dracorage," said Solisar.

   "It must be what caused her to violate her agreement with Sseth and the bronze dragons," said Jayce.

   "I have already notified the duchess of Tethyr," Hakam continued. "She was aware of the rage, but her armies are spread thin with other matters. Before we can head into wildspace, we need to rescue Mythlos and Rinald and any other refugees."

   "It seems to me that Rinald should have offered himself to the dragon and spared the destruction and loss of life," said Szordrin. "He put his own family at severe risk."

   "You never met Rinald," said Jayce. "He was a good man and would certainly have sacrificed himself if it would have changed matters."

   "In a manner of speaking, I did meet Rinald."

   "A statue of Rinald does not count," said Jayce.

   "We will reach the Rock of Bral shortly enough, Szordrin," said Solisar. "The new helm is significantly faster. We will make up lost time."

   "We have no deadline in any case," said Hakam. "Leokas is free from his geas; we are free from the ice devil Tosvin; our exile by Samber is over; and Ilthian is back on her island."

   "Presumably," said Solisar.

   "The more time we give Samber, the more powerful he will become," said Szordrin.

   "Cassiera and Galadrel arrived safely at the High Forest before Mythlos left them," continued Hakam, ignoring Szordrin's protest.

   "Cassiera was that snake woman who stowed away on The Daisy, was she not?" asked Oma. "She followed you into the mine before you all vanished, but who is Galadrel?"

   "Galadrel is Leokas' mother," explained Solisar.

   "She was his wolf, Stormshadow, in disguise this whole time," said Szordrin. "We only found out becuase we entered an anti-magic field in our travels."

   "A werewolf?" she asked.

   "A lythari," corrected Solisar.

   "And what about Samber?" asked Szordrin. "He is, after all, the only reason all of us are together."

   "I was just waiting my turn," said Jayce. "Let me tell you what I have already shared with Hakam and Solisar.

   "Samber was born in the settlement of Dtakkar on the island of Suj about 50 years ago. His full name is Samber Lamstrand. Both names are common Lantanna names. He started out with a typical story. Like many boys in Dtakkar, he took an apprenticeship in one of the clockwork toy factories. He also became a follower of Gond and became one of that church's temple boys.

   "I found that Samber learned magic from a young friend named Ronan who was an orphan and raised by gnomes. The boy was not Lantanna, and he was described as having silver hair and golden eyes."

   "A half-gold half-silver elf, perhaps?" asked Solisar.

   "No, he definitely was not an elf," continued Jayce. "In any case, this boy who introduced Samber to arcane magic and his whole gnomish family vanished one day, and no one knows where they went. Samber, I am told, was not that bothered by it."

   "He probably murdered them," said Szordrin.

   "As a child?" said Oma.

   "If Samber were a murderer, I believe that all of us would be dead by now," said Solisar.

   "His sins are deeper than that," said Hakam.

   "That is all I know of Samber's childhood," said Jayce. "Once he reached adulthood, he became a full clergy member of the Church of Gond. Those who knew him during that time claimed that he was one of their most promising priests. He mixed his arcane and divine magics to animate the toys that he created and became mildly famous for this in Dtakkar. This fame attracted the attention of a woman named Avilda SeKorc. He proposed, and the two were married after about a year of courting."

   "And Avilda looks like Ilthian?" asked Szordrin.

   "Yes," Jayce replied, "but she had red hair, green eyes, and pale freckled skin, like the average Lantanna maiden.

   "Samber and Avilda seemed to have had a happy marriage, at first, but they were unable to have children. This devestated both of them, and they tried a wide assortment of solutions, including herbs and the most bizarre gnomish contraptions, all without success.

   "I spoke with Avilda directly, and she told me that she left Samber because he 'loved his work more than me,' but the town gossip says differently. See, Avilda remarried and had four children with her new husband. Samber is the one who is infertile. He knew this and tried his hardest to give his wife children. According to the elderly neighbors, Avilda left because Samber began experimenting with creating a child using magic, which ended with disturbing results.

   "The priests of Gond told me that Avilda's departure threw Samber into a severe depression. Her remarriage drove him mad, and he disappeared. No one in Lantan has heard from or seen him since."

   "When did he disappear again?" asked Solisar.

   "About 35 years ago."

   There was a knock on the door. It was Nargroth. "Milady, the captain is calling to lay aloft. We have cleared the harbor; you are needed at the helm."

   Oma rose to head to the spelljamming helm.

   "Well, that is the story I have," said Jayce. "Now I am off to bed. Wake me when we reach Belvin and Leokas."
Session: 101st Game Session - Wednesday, Apr 18 2018 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM
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Tags: Background , Recap