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Tag: hisssta

Chapter 2 — Flight School
As they walked through the huts of Hisssta, led by Schlith to the Office of Flight Certifications and Registration, Jayce queried the lizardman about the aarakocra.

   "Do you know anything about Alekra Donakkis?"

   Schlith stopped walking. "Look, I can — and do — curse in four different languages, (I may be a lizardman, but I ain't stupid,) but I struggle to describe how much I loathe the Donakkises and their 'holy-poly' war. I would love for someone to strangle that parharding hen with her own entrails and shove her corpse up Syranita's cloaca. But, she is on the other side of the planet, and I am, of course, a peace-loving lizardman, so that is not going to happen now is it?" They had to step back a bit when he said this to avoid being accidentally spit upon.

   "I suspect that they are terrible rulers, from what I myself have heard," said Jayce, "but you will not be surprised to hear that the aarakocra say the most awful things in kind about your people. One utterly ridiculous tale says that you even eat them. How misinformed is that?"

   "No, of course we eat aarakocra meat!" Schlith replied. "Very tasty; you should try some. But we only eat any after we find them already dead. If you came across my dead body in the jungle, you would eat me, wouldn't you? I know that I would. What's the big deal? Some people need to spay themselves. And here we are...."

   With that they arrived at the Office.

   Gruss Longtail's tail was actually shorter than that of many other lizardmen that they had seen. He pleasantly did not reek of whatever foul offensiveness emanated from Schlith Darkscale both literally and figuratively. He was both articulate and polite. After Schlith introduced them and spoke to Gruss off to the side in the lizardfolk dialect of Draconic, Schlith departed without any sort of farewell. Gruss then approached them and explained to them how the hang glider certification would work.

   "Unfortunately, I offer classes only on the first, second, fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth of each eightday. It takes five full days for me to train someone, and there is a flight test on the last day. It is the fifteenth of the season today, so the next eightday begins in two days at brightest light. You have been given top priority for training, so all other scheduled trainees have been postponed until the eightday after that. The group of you will have my exclusive attention."

   There was some discussion among themselves about timing, but Solisar assured them that leaving in an eightday would probably mean a four-hour flight for them to reach the first island. They also discussed other options, such as constructing their own small spelljammer or using other methods of magical flight, but in the end, they decided that receiving the training might still be the best option.

   "I shall be training you on these, our most well-crafted of gliders," Gruss said, as he showed them some examples. The gliders were about fifteen feet wide and five feet from tip to tail. The wings were made of the leather or skins of some sort of lizard.

   "They are collapsible," he said, as he demonstrated how to dismantle the hanging bar, which then allowed the glider to fold up into a five-foot-long cylindrical bundle. "They only weigh 40 pounds."

   "They would fit in our bags of holding," said Szordrin.

   "Also, do not worry;" said Gruss, "we have gliders large enough to carry your furry friend here. Sometimes, lizardfolk are born much larger than average."

   "Would it be possible to commission your workers or your government to craft few of these gliders for us to take with us when we leave the planet?" asked Hakam.

   "I would have to petition the government elders for that, and it would take some time, but it sounds like you will be on your journey for several eightdays. Let us see how your certification goes first and consider having more crafted after that. Shall I see you on firstday?"

   "You shall," said Solisar.

~~~~

Gruss was a kind and gentle instructor who only ever offered encouragement and advice, never criticism. He started on their first day of training by taking them to a small 20-foot cliff over swampy land and had them jump off and let them glide, or crash, into the soft ground. The gliders were rather slow in calm air, but there was a nearly constant breeze on Coliar, always from the west. With the breeze, combined with diving, the gliders could reach over 25 miles per hour. This made reaching a floating island more than 100 miles away feasible.

   There was one small problem, however; when Hakam first tried to jump from the low cliff, his glider would barely go anywhere and rather hovered. He quickly recognized that it was his magical ring of feather falling. After the first day, he made a cord with which he hung the ring around his neck, so that he could slip it onto a finger in an emergency when gliding.

   Back at the Frihet after the first full day of training, Bansh was excited to hear about what they had been taught. "I have, of course, been gliding all my life," he said, "so let me know if you want any pointers." Thus, every day after training, they had an expert review with them what they had learned. Bansh was able to confirm the wisdom of most of the advice that Gruss had provided about responding to air flow and currents and also clarified some of the more confusing points.

   On the second day, Gruss taught them how to bank, roll, and turn. You simply had to shift your body weight. The gliders could not turn very quickly, so they could only make wide turns.

   In their off time, some of them, despite Leokas' protests, tried to sell their remaining smokepowder, but the lizardfolk had no use for it. They preferred more primitive weapons and did not trust the noisy and untrustworthy guns that some spacefaring races had begun adapting in recent decades. It was suggested to them that they try selling the smokepowder to the giff, the same race that had already purchased some of their inventory back on the Rock of Bral.

   Day three was climbing. Typically, a glider cannot climb. However, Coliar was under a perpetual magical updraft. No one could explain how, but it was just a fact of life on the planet. This meant that gliders could have lift. On this day, Gruss took them to a training area near the edge of the island, where the ground below them was thinner. Here, holes had been dug completely through the island and covered with grates, so that the planet's updraft would come up through the holes. Initially, he attached them to ropes and harnesses and taught them how to hover in place over the updrafts and then showed them how to angle the gliders for climbing.

   After several days of living in Hisssta, they — with the exception of Szrodrin, who could take intense temperatures of both hot and cold — had not gotten used to the hot and humid weather. Hakam managed by casting a prayer each day to help endure the heat. One mercy was that at least there were no insects at all, whether because they did not exist at all here or because of the near-constant west-to-east breeze, they did not know.

   The fourth day was all about hazards. He showed them how to respond to powerful gusts of wind, to recover from scraping wings against a wall, and to snap free from the hanging harness and roll into a somersault if crashing. "Do not fly when it is raining, if you can at all avoid it; the gliders are much harder to handle, and visibility drops. There is also the threat of lightning. If you get struck by lightning, Semuanya have mercy! Obviously, besides the danger of darkness, night is when it rains. Plan your flights for early or midday, and you will be safe."

   Day five was all about landing, particularly about the dangers of landing on a lower, faster-moving island. "Let your legs down from the foot harness and begin running as fast as you can as you make contact!" he warned. For traveling to lower islands, it was always safest to jump from islands from the east edges and land on the west edges. For getting to higher islands, you had to rise on the updrafts against the air currents and effectively wait for the target island to come to you. You took off from the west edges and landed on the east edges.

   On the sixth day, they arrived for class at midday as usual. It was then that Gruss reminded them of the final stage of the certification process. "I have nothing more to teach you; today is the day of the pilot's exam. To make it extra challenging, we are going to test you at shrinking quarterlight, after the evening rains begin, to ensure that you can handle any challenge. Meet me at the northern edge of town then."

   So, when dusk was approaching that day, they found themselves as a U-shaped canyon at the northern end of Hisssta. Gruss led them up a wooden ladder to the flat top of a wide wooden tower, some 50 feet over the bottom of the canyon. From here, they could look over the obstacle course that was their final test.

   Gruss led them over a wooden bridge and along the edge of the canyon to point out the obstacles. First, there was a stone pillar on the left, as high as the tops of the canyon walls. There was a sign atop the pillar, written in Dragonic, which Solisar read as, "50 feet; stay right!" Similar signs were posted at various spots along the course.

   "Look down from here at those three palm trees," said Gruss. "They grow atop a land bridge, a stone arch. The only way to make it through is to dive down and under the arch. You will need to be below fifteen feet, but of course, if you are too low, your body will graze the ground and you will crash.

   "If you do crash, but are not hurt too badly to require emergency aid, notice the several rope ladders placed about for you to climb back out of the canyon."

   He continued to lead them around the outer edge. They could gaze out over the white expanse of Coliar here and saw the countless green specks of islands in the distance, but Gruss wanted them to direct their attention into the canyon. "See, we have dug through the ground here to allow the updraft through, just as at the training site. In this area of the canyon only will you be able to gain elevation and lift as you make a wide turn. After the turn, see that ridge? It is 25 feet high. There are more updraft grates beyond that ridge, but there is also another stone pillar to avoid. Come, let me show you the landing platform."

   He led them to the end of the course. Here, the ground was only 25 feet below them, and it was filled with a deep pond, in case they failed to land on the platform. The platform was made of wood and suspend by four, thick, corded vine ropes, hung from counter-weighted support beams. The platform was tied up high at the back of the course, but when a testee approached, workers would cut the platform free, and it would swing down and then back and forth over the pond. Thus, the test ended with landing on a rapidly moving target.

   By now, it had started to drizzle, as it did about now every night. The rain would only get heavier in the coming hours. "Who wants to attempt the course first?" Gruss asked.

   They returned to the "launch tower". Kytharrah, who had delighted in every day of training, was very anxious to fly, so they allowed him to go first. In his excitement, he caught his hoof in one of the planks of the tower and stumbled off the edge instead of the executing the controlled leap that was intended. Thankfully, this only meant that his initial velocity was not what it could have been. He drifted forward slowly. When he passed the stone pillar on his left, he banked left and then right again before pulling into a dive. To Kytharrah, he felt like he was in a maze, only flying through one, so he had a natural sense of when to turn and when to descend.

   With a rapid swoosh, he zipped underneath the land bridge and immediately felt the strong up-currents catch the wings of his glider and apply force.

   Feeling ever confident, he curved around in a long arch to head back toward the south and the second half of this course. Barely missing a hanging leather sign on the right, he rose over the ridge. However, he still had not turned enough. His forward speed took him too close to the eastern wall of the canyon. As he straightened out, his extra-wide glider's tip dragged a bit against the wall and sent small bits of rubble down, but he still had enough breeze to keep on gliding.

   He had safely squeezed past the final rock pillar.

   There was a creaking sound ahead, as the large landing platform was hacked free by the waiting lizardmen at the top of the canyon walls. It swung down toward Kytharrah, just as he had gained enough altitude, sailing high over the pond below now. His hooves struck the moving platform, and he matched speed with the wooden boards as it began to swing back. It was a superbly timed landing.

   "Huzzah!" cheered Gruss. "Well done!"

   Workers helped Kytharrah get out from under the glider, and he shook his wet fur off with a big grin on his face.

   Each of the rest of them relied on various magical enchantments or abjurations to increase their success. Solisar boosted his sense of bravery and was fearless as he swooped and curved around the course. Each time that Hakam approached an obstacle, he loudly shouted out to his god, "Forget not my service to thee!" and Anachtyr seemed to listen, for he had no unfortunate incidents. Since Kytharrah had already demonstrated a successful path to take, most of the rest of them were able to dulicate his choices, and with greater ease, since their gliders were smaller than his. Belvin had no need for a glider to reach the other islands, as he could remain in the form of a pteranodon or other flying animal for over twenty hours at a time, but he took the training nevertheless and easily passed, as he was used to flying on the wing by now.

   Later that night, as it was starting to get truly dark and the water falling from the sky had finally lessened, Gruss, back at the Office of Flight Certifications and Registration, handed them official, stamped documents certifying that they had successfully passed the training and now had a license to borrow the publicly owned gliders.

~~~~

As planned, on the 25th day of the sixth season on Coliar, which would have corresponded to the third of Flamerule in the calendar of Toril, Ombert and the crew of the Frihet lifted off from Hisssta River into the sky, taking a large cargo of lizardfolk eggs to rendezvous with a lizardfolk spelljammer orbiting the sun near Anadia. The six adventurers, alone again, headed to the eastern edge of the island. Ombert had lent them a spyglass, and with it, Solisar was able to spot their target island, Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi, with a high level of confidence. "It looks something like a head with two curved horns," he said. "It is the only island with such a shape that I can see in this direction and at the proper elevation below us."

   Some of the locals of Hisssta, when they heard that the foreigners were heading to a nearby lower island took interest. "Careful," said one of them, when the target island was pointed out to him. "Some warriors go there to fight birds yesterday."

   Close to growing halflight, they all leapt from the eastern edge into the great white expanse, five hang gliders and one pteranodon carrying a miniaturized dromedary camel. They immediately tilted at a downwards slope and sailed the winds to the first of three islands and whatever adventures and answers awaited upon them.
Session: 111th Game Session - Monday, Jun 15 2020 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM
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Chapter 2 — Schlith Darkscale
As they waited on the counter employee of Jamm Services to return with the director, Oma looked at the massive bone columns that were supporting the tent. "What sort of creature has tusks this big? They are bigger around than I am!"

   "Are you sure about that?" queried Jayce.

   Oma glared at him.

   Ombert, too, was noticeably bothered by the size of the tusks, as he muttered to himself. "One-eyed space sharks; eel-spider monsters that mind-control my crew; giant hamsters; minotaur-sized bugs that tunnel through rock; and now tusks from a creature bigger than my ship. Why did I agree to captain a spelljammer again?"

   "Where are these guests that you saw fit to summon me from my 'thunderthrone' to speak to?" said a lizardman loudly, upon entering the tent.

   The counter employee motioned in the direction of the adventurers with his head. They were not at all skilled at reading lizardfolk facial expressions, but if they had to guess, the employee was embarrassed by his own boss.

   Schlith was a bulky lizardman wearing a purple loincloth, a headband, and several ornamental bone-jewelry pieces. He smiled broadly at the visitors, as he approached them, and they noticed that he was missing a good number of his front fangs.

   They also caught a whiff of his breath. It was terrible and smelled of rotten fish or spoiled milk — neither of which actually existed anywhere within the planet of Coliar.

   "I am Schlith Darkscale," he said, "but I am sure that you know that already. Now, before I even ask who you are, I want to make sure that I am not wasting my time with you." He lifted up what looked to be a piece of round glass on a chord and held it up to his eye. "I may be a lizardman, but I ain't stupid, so I had this nifty magic glass thingy crafted for me."

   He first looked at Szordrin. "I would not trust you as far as I can spit." Then at Belvin and Leokas: "Probably 'freedom-lovers'," he said in a mocking voice, "like those bird-brained 'democrats'." However, he grinned widely upon looking at Hakam. "Ah, a lawful and orderly fellow! Now, this is someone I know I can trust." He pointed at Hakam's silver holy symbol. "That is the holy doodad for what's-his-name, isn't it? Tor or something; son of Odin; drunk, hammer-smashing god who stlarns frost giants and women both, though not in the same way, if you know what I mean. Heh heh heh."

   Belvin snickered loudly, but Hakam was visibly aghast at the offensive words coming from Schlith's mouth. "His name is Anachtyr, and he is a true paragon of justice, not some loose-moraled mortal."

   Schlith shrugged. "Whatever. He's a good god, right? so you won't stlarn me over, and you are a lawful man, so you won't break a deal. Good, good, I can work with this." He let the crystal drop from his eye. "Now, what in the Hells do you want?"

   Hakam had to wait a moment to calm himself down but then spoke, "We have need to reach an obscure island somewhat near here, and we figured that, with your expertise traveling the planes and spelljamming, you might be able to help us reach an island in your own planet."

   "Or at least advise us," added Solisar.

   Schlith chuckled at this. "Oh, I don't spelljamm myself! Gods' eggs no! Parharding things cost me my front teeth. All their fancy 'oooooh' technology!" As he spoke, he waved his hands to indicate the spooky quality of spelljamming magic. "I would rather eat my own barf or swim in naeth."

   Schlith continued, when he saw a look of confusion in their eyes. "No, what you need are hang gliders. But why would any reasonable person want to go to any of the other islands? There's nothing on those floating dung heaps but dinosaurs and big birds."

   "We are in pursuit of a lawbreaker," said Hakam. "He has stolen something quite dear to us."

   "See, this is why you off-worlders need to learn something from us more-civilized lizardmen; if you don't think you own anything, you don't care if someone takes it, because there are plenty of them things to go around!"

   Hakam looked like he was about to reply, but Jayce jumped in to try to steer the conversation from politics. "There may be some truth to your statement," he said, "and what better way to learn for ourselves how your superior systems of society work than for you to allow us to partake in it? Can you acquire such gliders for us?"

   "See here, let Schlith Darkscale explain how it is. As off-worlders, of course you cannot just fly off on one of our community-owned gliders. However, I know the big snouts on Hisssta, if you know what I mean, and I could work out an arrangement for you, or I'll lay an egg, but what's in it for Schlith Darkscale?"

   "We could come to an agreement in which you were compensated fairly for your time," said Hakam.

   Schlith nodded his lizard head. "Alright, but just because I like your hammer god so much. Sark those frost giants!" Schlith pumped his fist and growled.

   Hakam winced. Kytharrah giggled. Solisar, with his vast knowledge of linguistics, was fairly certain that Schlith had managed to curse in no fewer than three different languages since the conversation had started.

   "Play?" asked Kytharrah.

   "Do you think that this is hatchlinggarden?" asked Schlith. He looked at the others with confusion.

   "How many persons can the gliders hold?" asked Solisar.

   "One a piece," said Schlith, "which means that it's a lot to ask from the elders, but just because I like you so much, I will walk up to the Hall of the People and rub tails with some folks — figuratively, of course! Why don't you all walk around town and do some shopping. Eat some food." He looked at Oma. "Or, do some 'mammalian activities' with each other. Meet me back here before shrinking threequarterlight. I'll be back before you can swallow a python." He turned and left the tent without any further chance for other questions.

   "What a codloose winker!" said Oma, after the smelly lizardman had departed.

   "I do not think that lizardmen need to or do wear codpieces," said Jayce.

   "It is just an expression, moron."

~~~~

Despite the seeming laziness of the lizardfolk population of Hisssta, they had to admit that Schlith returned in a far more timely manner from his errand on their behalf than the aarakocra had done. They had barely had time to get a free bite to eat at the government "Snack Shack" across the gravel path from Jamm Services and returned well before shrinking threequarterlight to the large tent again when the darker-scaled lizardman followed in behind them. They smelled him before they heard his obnoxiously loud exclamation.

   "Schlith Darkscale is ba-ack! And has he a deal for you milk-suckers, as promised!"

   Oma turned away and rolled her eyes.

   "You can borrow however many of our hang gliders that you need for your noble little quest thingy or greedy treasure hunt or whatever. (No one gives aithyas about the details.) Anyhow, in return, you need to take some of our eggs to the sun."

   "What does that even mean?" asked Belvin.

   "We are unfamiliar with your customs," said Hakam, "would you be kind enough to clarify what is requested of us?"

   Jayce gave Hakam a nod to congratulate him for his diplomatic handling of the situation.

   "Well, here's the thing; when you really break it down, the government only cares about reproduction."

   There was a pause.

   "No, not 'sex' you dirty-minded mammals, but the spreading of our race in the broader sense. To survive, our people need to be strong, and so our eggs are sent to incubate out near Anadia to guarantee only superior lizardfolk attributes for our tribe — you know, one's like handsome Schlith here has." He winked with his inner transparent eyelid at Oma.

   She looked sick.

   "How does that work?" asked Szordrin.

   "How in the Hells would I know? Do I look like a reproductive specialist? I cannot even get anyone into the mating pool with me!"

   "Another detour?" said Belvin.

   Leokas was also bothered by this suggestion. He shared his concern, in a lower voice, to his companions. "We do not have time to keep running errands planet-to-planet! We are not merchants or mercenaries; we have a serious goal to accomplish."

   Hakam spoke to Schlith. "That seems a fair arrangement in general; however, we shall need to finish our mission here in this planet first, and then we shall gladly transport your eggs."

   Ombert spoke up, "You know, I could take my crew and ferry these eggs wherever they need to go while you Misfits go off and find what you are looking for. It will give the gang more time to get used to wildspace sailing, and you won't have another major time set-back. It sounds safer than visiting an asteroid full of powerful magical technology, too. Also, I have no interest in risking my body as food for any jungle monsters you may encounter!"

   "How far is the range of our sending stones?" asked Oma.

   "They can reach anywhere in this plane of existence," said Solisar. "We will be able to keep in daily contact with you."

   "Hakam's blessing on the Frihet will also protect us, yes?" said Ombert.

   "And you will also have a powerful devil-slaying bard on board too, remember?" said Jayce. "We shall be fine."

   "How long a journey is it to Anadia?" asked Belvin.

   "Our orrery on the ship shows that the planets are in alignment now," said Solisar. "It would be a relatively quick journey."

   "We do not know how quickly we shall need to move to our next destination once we discover what remains to discover here," said Leokas. "Time saved is time saved."

   "As long as we have everything documented in writing," said Hakam, "I am happy with Ombert and the Frihet making the deliveries while we search the islands."

   "Good, good, but before we let your warm, scaleless fingers near our public gliders," said Schlith, "you need to get officially flight-certified.

   "Another delay?" said Leokas.

   "We have time to spare on that end," said Solisar. "According to Postmaster Spiraldive's address slates, we are already looking at many many days waiting for the islands to move to the right spots to make our journey. The first island is west of us now, against the wind and more dangerous to land on from the current direction. Adding an egg delivery to the end of our time here in the planet is extra time, yes, but time for training will not stall us anymore than we are already stalled, assuming it can begin soon."

   "Worry not," said Schlith. "Gruss Longtail is the best glider trainer around, or I am a birdman beauty pageant winner! If you throw some gems my way, I'd be happy to talk to him about moving you up to the front of his training schedule."

   "I suggest that you...," Szordrin started.

   "Now, now, I may be a lizardman, but I ain't stupid!" repeated Schlith, covering his earholes. "Don't go trying to trick me with some magic trick or unfair bargain. See, this is exactly why I only deal with orderly folk!"

   "What sort of gems would make Schlith Darkscale smile?" Jayce asked. "Perhaps we can negotiate."

   "My nifty magic glass thingy didn't say that you were trustworthy either!"

   "He is indeed sly," said Hakam, "but nevertheless, he is my trusted negotiator for financial deals."

   "Besides," said Jayce, "as you aren't stupid; I would not be able to sneak anything past you."

   After five minutes of discussion, Jayce handed off a violet garnet looted from the neogi master, thought to be worth about 300 gold pieces. Schlith's original request was for some aarakocra-mined corundum, in the range of 500 gold pieces minimum.

   "Well look at this," said Schlith, "the elders get what they want, Schlith gets what he wants, and the Tor-worshipers get what they want. Everyone leaves happy! That's what Jamm Services is all about, isn't it, Risskas?"

   "Yes, everyone leaves happy," said the counter employee in a monotone voice.
Session: 111th Game Session - Monday, Jun 15 2020 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM
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Chapter 2 — Hisssta
~ tenth-day, 20th of Kythorn, The Year of Rogue Dragons, eleven bells
Bral


The eleventh bell rang on the Frihet as they splashed down into a calm river delta on the island of Hisssta. In Coliar time, it was shrinking halflight and getting darker. Hisssta was far west of Athanar, which meant that they lost seven or eight hours, but it had still been a ten-hour journey all the way up to Coliar's gravity well and then back down again. The rain would be coming soon, and with it some relief from the heat. It seemed even hotter here than Athanar had been, perhaps because they were now north of the equator.

   As they had approached this island from the air, following another unfathomably tall beacon tower, they observed a similar jungle landscape, though with less mountainous terrain. A single, slow river flowed from hills in the northern half of the island, widened and split into a delta, and then poured off the island's southern edge in several dozen waterfalls to plummet into the great expanse.

   However, the architecture of the lizardfolk differed vastly from that of Athanar. They seemed to have circular or rectangular huts built from clay, hides, stone, and bone and lived on the ground in the swampiest areas among the Hisssta river's distributaries.

   There seemed to be several warehouse structures and a shipyard as well, where a wasp, a small ground-landing, insect-shaped spelljammer was currently under construction. There were also two massive stone buildings outside the town a ways and rising above the trees. One of these buildings contained a tall spire topped with a large golden egg.

   They were directed where to land by the typical flags with which the crew on the Frihet were familiar, and unlike on Coliar, they were guided in carefully by lizardfolk on the docks and in the water itself so that they would not strike any mudbars in the relatively shallow waters. Once alongside the wooden dock, they were met by dockworkers who helped secure the ship with ropes. They spoke in broken Common: "Throw rope." The voices were gruff but not mean.

   Hakam was satisfied to find that not many lizardfolk seemed to be giving off any chaotic auras.

   They seemed to be the only foreign ship present at this time, though the docks were large enough to receive at least a half dozen vessels.

   The dockworkers were typical green-scaled lizardfolk, similar to those that some of them had seen in the jungles of Chult or on the Rock of Bral. Most had yellowish fins that extended from the back of their heads down their backs. Like the aarakocra, they had little use for clothing but wore harnesses and bandoleers for carrying tools and items.

   The docks were guarded by a squad of warriors carrying stone-topped clubs and tortoise-shell shields, a pair at the end of each dock, but there did not seem to be any sort of dockmaster or inspection procedures. Having finished helping secure the Frihet, the dockworkers simply wandered off.

   Solisar had been listening to the voices of the lizardfolk as they talked amongst each other. "They seem to be speaking Draconic but with a thick accent or their own dialect," he said.

   Szordrin noticed that a large number of Hisssta citizens were soaking their bodies in relaxation in the swampy, reed-filled waters, floating around, drinking from beverages in containers resting atop their bellies. It seemed to be a very lazy feel.

   "I believe that that hut over there has a sign reading 'Dockmaster'," said Solisar. However, no one from the building was coming to meet them. There was no activity around that hut at all.

   "Maybe we should present ourselves to the guards," said Hakam.

   This they did.

   "Yass iss new Hisssta?" asked one of them in broken Common with heavy sibilants.

   "Yes," said Belvin.

   "Day endss," said the humanoid lizard. "Ssoak time. Dockmasster come tomorrow. Come backs zen."

   It seemed that they had arrived at the end of the business day.

   Belvin was aware that lizardfolk were amphibious lizards and needed to keep their skin moist. He mentioned this to the others in Elven.

   "I suggest that you allow us to dock and enter your town," said Szordrin.

   The lizardman shrugged and motioned for them to pass him. Szordrin was not sure whether this was the result of his magic spell or simply what the lizard would have done anyway.

   "I suggest that you answer all of our questions before you go off to soak," said Szordrin.

   "I no ssoak. Musst work till no light."

   "I think that we should just wait on the ship until morning," said Hakam.

   "I thought that we would at least explore the town first," said Szordrin.

   "It is their soaking time," said Belvin. "Not many people will be present to assist us."

   "Not everyone is soaking," said Jayce. He pointed out several individuals moving along the paths from hut to hut. "Those two look drunk to me. That might be a bar. Maybe they need a bard to liven things up."

   "I suggest that you lead us to the best inn that you have," said Szordrin.

   "Guard, no leave," said the lizardman. He shrugged and pointed, however. "Good drinkss." He had indicated the nearest supposed bar that Jayce had also noticed.

   "A tavern is a good place for information at this hour," said Solisar. "We do need to know where to acquire a glider and, perhaps through small talk, about any fees or laws about which we should be aware. They seem to not care currently about such things, but that may change when the time is different."

   "A fair point," said Hakam.

   "Sslish's Tavern," said the guard.

   They headed to the bar, and Ombert permitted his sailors to do so as well.

   "This is not the name of the lizardfolk that the postmaster mentioned, is it?" asked Belvin. "That was Schlith, not Sslish."

   It was a very small tavern, with perhaps three tables, and two of them were already occupied by lizardfolk. No one seemed particularly alarmed by the entrance of a crowd of off-worlders, not even a crowd including a minotaur; they glanced at the newcomers and then went right back to drinking.

   Most of the sailors, upon seeing how crowded it was, left to find a more spacious tavern. "Maybe we can find one with some women!" suggested Brad. As they were leaving, Gren struggled to explain to him that there was not much difference between lizardfolk males and females. Nargroth wanted to have drinks with Jayce and Oma, and Bansh insisted on staying with the elves, if they would permit it.

   The bartender, presumably Sslish, was wearing an apron. He asked each in turn what they wanted to drink. When asked what was available, he handed out small wooden boards with scratchings. Oma and Solisar read off the offerings to the others. There was rum, tepache (fermented pineapple), arrack (distilled coconut), and ogogoro (distilled palm).

   Most of them ordered tepache and found it quite tasty.

   Sslish was not very talkative at first, though the series of eleven orders in a row kept him busy. He did ask where they were all from.

   "Toril," answered Leokas.

   "Are yass here for a particular reasson?" His Common was much better than that of the guards, but his accent was still very thick.

   "Just passing by," said Belvin.

   "How much for a drink?" asked Ombert, who had to stand on the bar stool to be noticed.

   "No, yass do not have to pay me anything, although tipping iss ssertainly appreciated."

   "Free alcohol!" exclaimed Nargroth. "I have died and gone to Shurrock!"

   "I hate to burst your bubble of excitement," said Jayce, "but I think that they only drink ambrosia in Martyrdomain."

   "What time do we need to meet the dockmaster tomorrow?" asked Szordrin.

   "Probably at brightesst light," said the Lizardman. "Nothing here openss until brightesst light."

   "That is when the aarakocra take their day's rest," said Oma quietly, hoping not to be heard by any lizardfolk."

   "Is it not too hot to work then?" asked Jayce.

   "We ain't exactly cold-blooded;" said Sslish, "my sschool teacherss taught me that we evolved from dumb lizzardss in that way, but we ain't exzactly warm-blooded either. Who wantss to work before the day is warm?"

   "How often do you receive off-worlders here?" asked Hakam, as Bansh and Kytharrah began arm wrestling at the open table. "There do not seem to be many now."

   "It variess," said the bartender. "It iss the hottesst sseasson of the year right now, sso we get fewer tourissts now. In the winter, thiss iss the bussiesst lizzard port, probably because of Schlith. Everyone alwayss wantss to meet Schlith. I do not know why; the guy is creepy."

   "Darkscale, I presume?" asked Leokas.

   Sslish nodded. "That iss the one."

   "How is he creepy?" asked Belvin.

   "Oh, yass will know if yass meet him."

   "Where might we find him?" asked Leokas.

   "He iss the director of Jamm Sservissess. They offer sservissess to off-worlderss ssuch ass yasselvess. Those who come here needing ssomething, not jusst to ssell sstuff or ssee sstuff, go to him."

   "Do you need a special license to trade goods here?" asked Hakam.

   Sslish shook his head. "Not unless yass want a permanent shop to rent from the government."

   "Speaking of shops," the cleric continued, "if we wanted to buy some gliders to get to the lower islands, where would we buy those?"

   "Nobody ownss any gliderss; those are public property."

   "How do we go about renting them then?"

   He shrugged. "That iss actually ssomething that they might know at Jamm Sservissess. It iss not sspelljamming related, but it iss ssomething that an off-worlder might want to know."

   The bartender continued. "If I need to use one, I can, because I am a ssitizzen."

   "Is it true that the government owns everything here?" asked Leokas.

   Sslish nodded. "They own my shop. I wass assigned thiss job as barkeep ssince I wass a little hatchling."

   "Is that what you wanted to do?" asked Leokas.

   "I do not mind. They feed me and my lizzardlingss well, and that iss what iss important in life."

   "Is there a government office that we can visit?" asked Hakam.

   "If yass go out in the sstreet and look at those two big buildingss in the jungle, one iss the temple; the other iss the Hall of the People. Again, it will not be open until brightesst light tomorrow."

   "As non-citizens, can we enter the Hall of the People?"

   "Yass would need an appointment."

   "Is the Hall where your leaders get together to make laws?" asked Szordrin.

   "The political bureau? To be frank, I do not pay much attention to how the government workss. I jusst know that it iss my role in ssossiety to sserve alcohol to keep everyone drunk and happy. They give me my rationss every eightday. I am content with that.I have never even been in the Hall of the People mysself. It iss a pretty building. I go in the temple frequently enough."

   "Do you have the freedom to mix your own beverages," asked Belvin, "or are you limited to the menu that the government provides."

   "I can mix my own drinkss. Ssee, I have thiss drink where I mix together both tepache and arrack." He seemed quite happy about his simple "invention". "I do not sserve food; the resstaurantss do that."

   Belvin began to make some suggestions for adding certain herbs and spices to his drinks, which Sslish took in with excitement.

   When they had finished their drinks, they asked for and received directions to Jamm Services.

   There was a loud thud at the table behind them.

   "Calm yourself!" said Leokas.

   "Kytharrah!" shouted Hakam. "No playing in here or we send you back to the ship!"

   Kytharrah looked defeated; he had "played" with lizardfolk before, and the last bar had been lots of fun. Bansh apologized to each of the elves in turn for leading the young minotaur astray by arm wrestling him and agreed to take him back to the ship.

   "Can I ask you what you think of the war between the aarakocra and lizardfolk," Leokas asked of Sslish, after the minotaur and hadozee left.

   "I do not follow the war much, but everyone ssays that the birdmen are trying to ssteal our islandss because they want all of our gemss. I do not know much more than that. The government definitely fightss them, and all of uss have to sserve. I got lucky; when it wass my turn to sserve, I wass ssent to an island and never ssaw a ssingle birdman the whole time. We jusst ssat there and warmed oursselves in the heat of the day; it wass not sso bad. I have only been off-island once in my life, and that was my time in the military." He added, "Ssuppossedly, they are fighting on ssome islandss nearby here."

   "Is the temple open?" asked Belvin.

   "Not now, but outssiders may freely vissit it."

   There definitely was not a inn here; it was only a tavern. Nargroth, Jayce, and Oma stayed and ordered another drink, but the others returned to the Frihet. It was going to rain soon.

~~~~

Sslish the bartender had been correct; none of the lizardfolk came out of their huts, except to bask sprawled out on hot stones until the day was brightest. Some of the sailors slept in their hammocks just as long, being hungover from wherever they had ended up last night.

   They visited the dockmaster as soon as possible. He spoke as well as the bartender had, but his answers were short and to the point. There was a one-time berthing fee of 90 gold pieces, paid on departure, which was far more than the fee on the Rock of Bral yet supstantially cheaper than they were charged on Athanar. In addition, there was an air tax of 40 gold pieces. Optionally, they could pay one gold pieces per tonnage of their ship to have fresh water pumped in. (The swamp water was not potable.) They just needed to provide several "light calls" of notice. (Belvin and Hakam seemed confident that they could create enough drinking water for everyone on board.)

   Belvin was curious about the temple that they could see rising from the jungle. It was easy enough to get to. The building was made of white and black marble and was highly ornate, especially compared to the simplicity of the vast majority of huts in the port town. There was no doubt that a great sum had been invested in its construction, and it was well kept and in pristine condition. The vines growing up its sides were not allowed to grow wild but were guided to form intricate patterns. Solisar noticed a protective magical aura around the building. As they had noted when landing, a great spire rose from the front of the building and was topped with an egg of gold.

   The main gate was open, at the top of twin curving steps. Going inside, the main chamber of worship was high-ceilinged and spatious. The windows reminded Hakam and Oma of Calimshan, being arched and filled with stone latticework. All around the chamber were small prayer booths and alcoves, where lizardfolk were kneeling and leaving offerings of flowers or buring insense.

   In the middle, towards the back of the chamber was a giant marble egg sculpture. Several lizardfolk would approach it reverently and scratch it with their claws before leaving.

   Belvin's curiousity satisfied, they stepped back outside. "Shall we find this Schlith Darkscale next?" asked Leokas.

   "I am inclinded to seek the government for assistance instead," said Hakam.

   "I am fine with visiting the Hall of the People first," said Leokas.

   "We could also be more efficient and split into two groups," said Hakam.

   "Chee chee chi chu!" chirped Ferry.

   "Ferry is reminding us that it is not wise to split the party," said Szordrin.

   The Hall of the People was essentially next door, so they headed that way.

   Belvin stopped suddenly. "Vanilla plants!" he said. "We might be able to pick some and sell those on the Rock of Bral."

   "Just to remind everyone," said Leokas, "we are not here to become wildspace traders; we are hear to learn more information to help us stop Samber."

   "People always need more spice in their lives," said Belvin.

   The Hall of the People was well guarded, both with magical enchantments and with guards, and the tortoise-shell-armored soldiers shook their heads and waved them away when the group tried to ascend the large marble steps up to the columned building. (The columns were carved to look like the thigh bones of a giant creature.)

   "Should I attempt to talk with them and request a meeting?" asked Solisar. "What do you hope to learn here, Hakam?"

   "I have an idea," said Szordrin. He took several tiny items from his component pouch, a small clay tower, a dried snake's tongue, and a piece of honeycomb, all of which vanished from his hands when he waved them about and spoke words in an ancient Draconic tongue. "Wait here," he said to them.

   He stepped up and spoke to one of two guards who were standing there in their language. "I suggest that you tell your partner that we are good people and that your boss would like to speak with us."

   Solisar translated to the others, as the one lizardman turned to the other and spoke in Draconic. "These look like good people; why do we not let them in?"

   The second guard said, "You idiot! Did you not just hear him tell you to tell me that. What is wrong with you?" He slapped the other across his snout.

   The second guard then raised his spear in a more threatening way toward Szordrin, who carefully backed away, while the first guard shrugged and said in Draconic, "What? What did he do wrong?"

   "Be calm!" commanded Hakam, and the guard lowered his spear and seemed content.

   "So, we shall be on our way, then," said Belvin.

   As they walked back along the jungle path to the main town, they crossed fields where lizardfolk were hoeing and planting and other fields where workers were picking. The place was definitely bustling now with workers and activity.

   They passed the shipyard and the workers sawing and hammering away at the wasp vessel. Solisar detected no magical auras. "They are building a spelljammer here," he said, "but I do not detect any helm in it."

   "Maybe it is added later," said Oma.

   The Jamm Services building was really a large tent made from the skins of some enormous lizard supported by the whitened bones of an equally large creature. It was easy enough to find.

   From behind the wooden counter at the back of the large tent, they were greeted by a lizardman. "Welcome to Jamm Services; how can I help you." He had the slightest accent of anyone that they had yet met in Hisssta. "We deal in information and supplies for the modern spelljammer." Nothing about the clerk seemed particularly "creepy". He wore a pocketed apron like the bartender had and had the usual green and yellow scales.

   "We are spelljammers from Toril," said Hakam, "but we are looking to obtain some of your gliders to reach some of the lower islands. Do you have someone who can help us to obtain them?"

   "To be honest, most of the visitors who want to go to islands outside of the ports are powerful wizards who teleport their themselves. If you are looking to see the beauty of Coliar, Hisssta island has beautiful jungles and hills, pools for swimming, a crystal cavern,..." He continued to list a number of tourist destinations. "We do not advise that tourists leave the port islands, as the unihabited islands tend to be rather dangerous. Or did you want to visit one of the upper island towns? There are large commercial gliders for that."

   "No, I meant lower islands," said Hakam.

   "Gliders are not something that are usually rented out to off-worlders," said the clerk. "It takes a lot of training to use the gliders. We do offer a tourist package to sail gliders around this island. Are you interested in that?"

   "You mentioned that the unihabited islands are dangerous," said Hakam. "Why is that?"

   "As you have probably heard, there are no mammals as yourselves in this planet. It is all avian, amphibian, and reptilian life, and there are enormous specimens in all those categories. There are gigantic birds, gigantic frogs, gigantic lizards, gigantic turtles, gigantic snakes. I assume that you get the picture? Every island has a unique ecology, but almost all have risks. Smaller islands cannot support the largest creatures, so typically, the larger the island, the more dangerous it is."

   "Do any creatures regularly travel between the islands?"

   "Just about any creature with wings is migratory," answered the clerk.

   "Do the islands ever collide with each other?" asked Leokas.

   "By Semuanya, I hope not!" exclaimed the clerk.

   The group stepped off to discuss. "He does not seem to understand that we are not simple tourists," said Oma.

   "It is unforuntate that we do not simply have a cloaking helm like the neogi had," said Leokas.

   "I do not know how the neogi acquired such elven technology," said Solisar, "but even if we possessed it too, the postmaster suggested that it would be next to impossible to find a place to land."

   "Perhaps, we should have kept the old helm," said Belvin.

   "What is necessary to create a spelljammer?" asked Hakam.

   "Just a helm," said Solisar, "and something to attach it to."

   "I believe that I can pray to Anachtyr to allow me to enchant any chair as a temporary helm that would last us many days. The neogi master had such a prayer written on its scroll that we found."

   "Are you suggesting that we build a small raft or something and attach a helm to it?" said Leokas.

   "Precisely," said Hakam.

   "Another option would be to find a spell shop, if one exists here," said Solisar, "and purchase teleportation scrolls, but we do not know our destination well, so there would be a risk of missing our target substantially."

   "We have pictures of the islands on the slate copies," said Hakam.

   "I think that one has to picture being there," said Leokas. "I am happy start on a raft, if that is what we want to do."

   "I can help," said Belvin.

   "I do not know what other option we have," said Leokas.

   "We still have not talked with this Darkscale fellow," said Jayce. "Should we not at least do that first?"

   "This is not Darkscale?" one of the them asked.

   "I think that he is just an employee," said Oma. "Schlith is supposed to be the director."

   They returned to the clerk and asked if they could speak with Schlith Darkscale.

   The clerk sighed. "Everyone always wants to talk to Schlith Darkscale; I do not know why. Now, Schlith is a busy lizardman, you know," said the employee. "He does not just talk to anyone. However, if you are willing to hand me a pretty gem, I might just be willing to find him for you."

   "Are you suggesting that we pay you a bribe?" asked Hakam. "Is that legal under your system of govenrment?"

   "Tipping is allowed!" The lizardman seemed nervous now. "It is just a tip!"

   "Do you pool all tips so that all employees receive an equal distribution?" asked Leokas.

   "It is only me and one other buddy! We get each other gifts sometimes. It was just a single gem."

   Szordrin was about to hand him a coin and bluff that it was more valuable than it really was, but the lizardman had already given up, perceiving that these were powerful adventurers. He hurried off to retrieve his boss.
Session: 110th Game Session - Monday, Jun 08 2020 from 6:30 PM to 9:30 PM
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