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Tag: interlink_consortium_corporate_asteroid

Chapter 1 — Deathspider
The adventurers stepped onto the lower deck of the the open cargo bay of the so-called neogi deathspider. It was about 50 feet wide and 80 feet deep. The entire Frihet, without its masts, could almost fit inside the "abdomen" of this alien vessel.

   A second-story deck hung over this massive main deck like a balcony. Up there were resting the two ballistae and the catapult that Solisar had seen from the air. They walked underneath this battle deck toward a long wall, constructed of the same black crystal as the ship's outer shell. They passed around a 20-foot-by-10 foot open rectangular cargo door to a lower deck and reached a single open doorway just left of center.

   A short narrow hallway led them to a roughly triangular room that seemed to serve as an access point to the rest of the ship. The black walls made everything seem dark. The only light came from eerie red magic lights emitted by strange inverted domes attached to the ceiling at intervals. At the back of this room, the base of the triangle, was the hallway going back to the open deck from which they come, a ramp leading most likely up to the battle deck, and a hexagonal opening on the floor that seemed to be at the level of the gravity plane, perhaps an open portal to the lower decks.

   At the corners of the base of the "triangle" were two smashed-open doors. They poked their heads into the starboard-side room and found several circular mounds of perhaps sand, most of which had the dead body of a neogi upon them. They guessed this to be a bunk room for the crew.

   They had not seen one of the vile creatures up close until now. They were smaller than most grown halflings with eight spindly appendages. Six of them were exposed bone, emerging from flesh-covered upper "thighs", and they seemed to end in sharp points. The two front-most appendages were fully covered in skin and shorter and ended instead in tiny claws. All eight appendages were connected to a short torso, to which was also attached a bulbous, hairy, very spider-like abodomen, and a long eel-like neck. Most of the neogi in the room had been decapitated by the mercenaries, but all of the heads had needle like fangs, tiny eyes, and various beards, manes, and other hairy growths. Some of the neogi had dyed hair or tattooes on their skin.

   The other room, on the port side, had what seemed to be an operating table in it. Sharp implements for cutting hung from the walls. The table was covered in blood stains, and the room smelled like death.

   At the forward point of the triangle was a long passage, which was likely the "neck" of the deathspider, leading to its "head".

   It felt uncomfortable being on the vessel, with its flickering red light. They agreed to find the master's treasure and get out as soon as possible. They hurried forward down the passageway toward the bow, passing several doorways along the way. Halfway along, the walkway sloped downwards and then straightened again. After about 20 yards, they entered the bridge. The room had originally had three round, red glass windows — the deathspider's eyes — but these were all shattered by the reinforced ram of the mercenary hammership. A neogi's limp body hung from the back wall to the right, impaled by a ballista bolt that had blasted through the bridge hull. In the center of the bridge was a circular indentation in the floor with the remains of another neogi. They guessed this to be the spelljamming helm.

   A door on the back wall, port-side, led from the bridge to a small room, and here they found a headless neogi, hair dyed in many colors and a golden neck band around its neck, likely the master of the vessel. This room had another one of the strange, bowl-like pieces of furniture filled the sand-like substance, which they suspected were neogi beds, and other assorted short desks and tables. A second door led into the main passage.

   Directly across the hall was another door. This one, surprisingly, had not been smashed apart. The door was locked, but Szordrin had no difficulty picking it. It was the same size as the master's quarters but contained a single large chest and a shelf of scroll slots, half of which were filled with star charts and planetary maps.

   The lock on the chest was more difficult to pick, but Szordrin managed to get it open on the fourth attempt. Within were smaller, cover-less wooden boxes filled with sorted gold and platinum coins and gems. There was also a strange but beautiful, transparent, cylindrical object with crystalline cloud shapes embedded within and a scroll with divine writings upon it.

~~~~

They were happy to step off the deathspider onto the docking platform again, having collected the loot from the vessel left to them by the mercenaries. Some of the mercenaries were guiding the formerly mind-controlled persons onto the hammerhead. They walked like zombies, but they were at least moving by their own will.

   By now, several of the upper management of the company were present, and they were anxious to meet the adventurers who had saved their lives. Most of the higher-ups, it seemed, had locked themselves in a safe room when the umber hulks had attacked.

   Discussing with the mercenary captain, the Frihet crew, and the Consortium leaders, they pieced together that the neogi had staged a concerted, three-pronged attack. A neogi deathspider had jumped to within firing distance of one of the three mercenary hammerships orbiting the asteroid. The hammership had engaged the neogi and was soon joined by the two other mercenary vessels. The ships all exchanged fire, but the deathspider intentionally kept its distance, trying to draw them away. By the time the mercenaries recognized this, the two other neogi vessels had already moved into action. One of them, using invisibility magic, had attacked the tower at the top of the asteroid, so that it could not communicate a call for aid to the mercenaries. Its umber hulks then descended, burrowing through the rock and stone to wreak havoc in the administrative areas of the asteroid. Meanwhile, the third neogi deathspider had entered the docking bay, forced the crew of the Frihet to surrender, and began to send its slaves to remove cargo. The third hammership rushed to the tower, once it suspected the trick, where it saw the neogi deathspider escape, turning invisible as it fled. The hammership then proceeded to the docking bay. The other two vessels were apparently still in pursuit of the original deathspider.

   "They seemed to be after technology that we sell on behalf of the Arcane," explained one of the company managers. "It looks like they had already loaded up a number of astral wind converters that would allow one to spelljam through the Astral Plane."

   "I want to know how they acquired a cloaking helm," said the mercenary captain. "I've heard rumors that the elves develop them, but I thought that it was only a rumor. Someone better notify the Imperial Fleet about this, but it's not going to be me; they still count me a pirate in their memory, and the memory of elves is long!"

   Solisar noted this information but made no comment.

   The president of the company spoke to the adventurers privately, when the group had dispersed. "One of our customer service representatives tells us how you saved his life, and our pilot store manager, Martho, here, informs us that you are seeking a criminal who used one of our technologies for ill. As a reward for your actions, I will have our arcane laboratory repair the broken rod while maintaining the traces of its previous uses. However, it will take us some time to do this, perhaps as long as two or three months. Several of our researchers and arcane crafters also died in this raid, and they will need to be replaced. I suspect that it will be at least a month before we are fully up and running again here. Nevertheless, had you not been here, things could have been much worse. I thank you."

   "Are neogi raids a common occurrence?"

   "It has happened before, back when our company was young, but never since we began utilizing heavily armored hammerships in our defense. What concerns me is that this seems to have been a well-planned and thought-out attack."

   Hakam asked the man about his agent named Walker. "We accompanied one of your planewalkers. He only went by the name of Walker. We aided him in a delivery on Toril through a jungle. Do you, by chance, know where this man currently is?"

   The president had no idea who this Walker might be, but he assigned someone to look into the matter.

   "If it is who I think it might be," said the worker after searching through some records and returning, "this 'Walker' is currently making a delivery of a package to the Plane of Earth."

   "When we return to pick up the repaired rod at a later date," said Hakam, "can you let us know if he is back?"

   The man agreed. "If 'Walker' is willing, yes."

   Back on the Frihet as they prepared to head back to the Rock of Bral, Loreene looked dismayed. "What a day for one's first time in wildspace. I cannot say that I am a fan. First, a shark cyclops almost eats one of you, and then eel-spider freaks mind-control half the men and threaten to tear us apart with a rock-eating bug bigger than your minotaur."

   "Some days are just like that," said Bansh. "It makes you stronger. We are blessed by the elven gods that the neogi were more interested in the goods in this warehouse than in filling their bellies."

   "I hoped that I acted wisely," Loreene said to the Misfits. "Ombert trusted me with the ship and the men, with my friend's lives. I ordered them — the ones able to resist the neogi mind-control, that is — to stand down. I know that Jayce, Nargroth, Bansh, and Indo were ready to fight, and I would have fought too, but they were controlling Frath even. I wanted to avoid any death if I could, hoping that you would return and right things."

   "I think that you made a wise choice," said Solisar, and Leokas agreed.

   They had to wait for the mercenaries to use their hammership to tow the crippled deathspider out of the bay before they could leave. When at last Jayce backed them out of the asteroid, things were rather silent on the ship, as more than half of them had felt the alien presences in their minds ordering them to be ready to murder their friends if so commanded.

   "Would you have done it?" asked Brad.

   "Done what?" said Gren.

   "Slit my throat? Slit Loreene's throat? That was what that monster was telling me to be ready to do. And I had my blades ready to it, Gren! What does that mean?"

   "I think it means that our lives are not quite as safe as they used to be, Brad."
Session: 108th Game Session - Wednesday, Mar 20 2019 from 7:30 PM to 10:30 PM
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Chapter 1 — Truly Horrid!
The gray monster dead, Solisar immediately flew off to recover Kytharrah. As he passed by, he saw the formerly mind-controlled slaves wondering about, all of them seemingly lost.

   At the door, Barth spoke. "These are the docking-bay doors, we are finally here."

   The wooden-planked walkway upon which they stood passed through a slit in the doors, and the doors extended above and below it, such that a worker could guide a floating crate out to waiting ships from either side and from either the top or bottom of the plane.

   Szordrin, still invisible, asked why there were no defenders for a wildspace station such as this.

   "We do have defenders," said Barth. "The Consortium pays mercenaries to protect us from such raids or the threat of them."

   "Where are they now?"

   "Perhaps you were betrayed," suggested Hakam. He put his ear to the door and heard muffled sounds through the thick wood. "Be ready for another fight," he warned.

   "An umber hulk, likely the one with the neogi on its back, came through these doors," said Leokas, noting the scratch marks he could spot on the wood at their feet.

   Kytharrah jogged along the plank to join them. Despite having been cleaned by one of Solisar's simple cantrips, he was still a mess — bleeding, cut up, and missing fur — but he still had a grin on his face, as he chugged from a bottle of healing potion, and at least the prestidigitation meant that he no longer smelled of sewage. Hakam hesitatingly put a hand on his wet fur to heal him. The flesh wounds sealed and the blood stopped, but he would still need a full-body barber to look presentable elsewhere.

   "We will still have the blessing of my god for whatever we have to fight beyond these doors," Hakam said.

   "Minotaur," the cleric continued, "Shove open the door and charge at whatever enemy you see. Do not look any of them in the eyes!" Then, using the magic of his air-walking spell, he flipped himself to the bottom side. Belvin joined him on the bottom side and began stripping off all his clothes, so that he would be ready to shapeshift.

   Kytharrah stepped up to the doors, shoved them wide open, ducked his head, and charged in.

   "Truly horrid!" exclaimed Martho.

   Leokas leapt through the doors at once and saw the object of Martho's comment. There ahead on the docks, standing with its back to them for the moment, was the largest umber hulk yet. It was at least double the height of their minotaur. Leokas let two arrows fly into its upper back just as Kytharrah drove into its lower carapace with his horns. To Kytharrah, it felt somewhat like charging into a metal wall. His head rang from the crash, and he stumbled back dizzily, but he still knew that he had a job to do. As the creature stomped step by step to turn around, the minotaur struck it again with both the melted and bladed sides of his weapon.

   The adventurers took in the scene around them. The umber hulk was not the only threat. Human crossbowmen, probably more slaves, were moving up and down the metal staircase leading from the docks to the upper offices. They were moving about on the Frihet too. Only Solisar, who was still flying, could see down on the deck to notice that many of the crew were bound. Nargroth was tied up at the forecastle, while he spotted Oma bound to the mizzenmast and Bansh to the mainmast.

   The other vessel that had been docked here, the tradesman, was gone, but now a much, much larger vessel filled the back of the docking bay, blocking it. It appeared to be made from a curved, dark crystalline material. Almost double the width of the Frihet, it looked something like a giant spider that had come in backwards, its engorged abdomen up against the back of the dock. Between several spider-like appendages hung sail-like webbing. The dome-like abdomen was open in the back, revealing two wooden decks within. The upper deck had a catapult and two ballistae aimed at the Frihet, while on the lower deck, more enslaved humans were at work moving crates.

   Five different Szordrins suddenly popped into vision below Solisar. From each, a dagger of ice flew forth. The sole non-illusionary icicle shattered against the giant umber hulk as it faced down Kytharrah. Kytharrah swung again but missed. The monster's left claw and then its right clasped the haft of the large axe and snapped the weapon in two. Kytharrah jumped back in shock — and just in time to avoid being decapitated by the rapidly vibrating giant mandibles that the hulk used for burrowing through stone.

   Solisar sent a cloud of glitterdust down on the monster in an attempt to distract it. Leokas stepped forward and prayed for aid on his next shot, while nocking an arrow, waiting for the perfect opening. Hakam walked on air from below and behind Kytharrah and touched him, granting the minotaur enhanced strength. Kytharrah felt the rush of power and snorted. He moved to the left side of the towering umber hulk, while grabbing a small vial. Quickly chugging it, he near-instantly doubled in size. "Now play!" he bellowed, arms ready to wrestle.

   Suddenly, there was an enormous sound of crashing, cracking, and grinding, and the whole wooden dock shook and buckled. The massive umberhulk fell onto its backside, and Szordrin also lost his balance. All five of him tumbled into the gravity plane. Only Solisar could see the cause of the sound and rumbling. A hammership had driven at full speed into the docking bay and rammed into the head of the neogi spelljammer. It fired a ballista directly through the crystalline windows at the head of the spider-shaped vessel. Sword-carrying men swung down from the masts of the hammership on ropes, shouting war cries.

   On the Frihet, Nargroth roared in rage and tore apart his bindings. The mind-controlled man guarding him was tossed overboard moments later.

   Belvin, stark naked, suddenly flipped around from the bottom-side of the dock, behind the umber hulk. As the umber hulk rose to its full height again, Belvin morphed into an eight-foot-tall polar bear and roared.

   The umber hulk turned to face the minotaur that now matched it in height and the white bear and seemed to hesitate. Szordrin magically tried to sway it from where he floated in the gravity plane. "I suggest that you investigate that crashing sound at your ship."

   Instead, it lunged at Kytharrah. Kytharrah ducked and rammed his horns again into the monster. The monster drove its massive claw into Kytharrah's right side.

   Magic missiles and arrows flew at the umber hulk. A heavy object struck the dock, tossed by Hakam. An instant later, a huge elephant now flanked the monster. It punctured the umber hulk's left side with its massive tusks, while the polar bear tried to bite at the legs with its jaws. Then, with a loud twang, a ballista bolt sprung from the deck of the Frihet and impaled the insectoid creature. Nargroth let out a victory yell from their ship, but the umber hulk still stood, even with a huge wooden projectile protruding from the front of its carapace and hemolymph spurting from several gore wounds.

   Kytharrah took the opportunity to try and shove the umber hulk off the dock, but even with his doubled size and enhanced strength, the umberhulk slammed him back with a blow that almost knocked him senseless. He felt blood all over his face, and it was hard to see. The umber hulk's digging mandibles began to whir, and it tried to look Kytharrah in the eyes, but before the magical gaze could affect the minotaur, the floating Szordrins completed a spell that filled the area around the umber hulk with magical darkness. "Lunk, get out of there! It is too big for you!"

   Kytharrah stumbled backward out of the darkness and dropped to one knee, as the monster's bite had still managed to slash at him in the dark as he pulled back. Hakam was there immediately to send a surge of positive energy through his body.

   The impaled-but-standing umber hulk was still in the darkness, trapped between a roaring polar bear and a trumpeting elephant. Leokas flipped himself over to the underside of the docks and hustled to the other end. Solisar flew toward Oma on the aftcastle, while continuously aiming his wand back toward the umber hulk and letting missiles of magic fly unerringly. The Szordrins, duplicate scrolls in hand, called down a rain of icy snowballs into the darkness. Hakam ran through the air to the staircase and observed the rest of the area. The crossbowmen who had been there were now aiming their shots at the mercenaries battling on the decks and dome of the neogi vessel, content to let their masters' monster fight the powerful newcomers.

   From the forecastle of the Frihet, Nargroth shouted, "Hey, hairy buddy with horns!" Kytharrah glanced over to see Nargroth's double-headed axe flipping through the air. It landed on the dock, and Kytharrah swiped it up. He could not see into the magical darkness, of course, but he could smell his opponent. He stepped back in and drove down his new weapon, hearing a loud crack, as the blade cut through the shell of the monster's forearm. He heard the dreaded whirring of mandibles and sprung back, but still they caught him in the chest, digging deep enough to chip a chunk out of his sternum. He fell to his back on the dock outside of the sphere of darkness.

   "Szordrin, I cannot shoot something that I cannot see!" shouted Leokas from below.

   The tiefling wizard dismissed his spell, as Leokas leapt from the dock in an attempt to land on the underside of the figurehead of the Frihet for the right angle to shoot at the umber hulk, but his feet slipped, and he continued past, gliding away on the gravity plane.

   Belvin, in polar bear form, and the elephant, continued to hold the umber hulk at bay, but it was swinging its massive arms wildly at both of them. Hakam hustled back down through the air to Kytharrah, who was on his back heaving in difficult breaths. Positive energy once again restored him. "Stop getting hit!" Hakam commanded.

   Able to see now, Belvin went low and wrapped his furry arms and claws around the umber hulk's legs in a hug, yanking it off-balance. The elephant drove a dusk into the back of the umber hulk's neck, driving the ivory weapon deep into the back of its head. The umber hulk twitched and jerked in its death throes before going still.

   The rest of the battle went very quickly. Solisar cut Oma free, and soon a summoned owlbear skeleton appeared on the neogi deck to block fleeing slaves from the escaping the mercenary boarding party. Bansh, once Nargroth had cut his bonds, helped the half-orc remove the mind-controlled humans from the decks and untie the rest of the crew. No one on the Frihet had been killed; it seemed that the intent had been to make slaves out of all of them.

   Solisar helped Leokas return from drifting away, and Belvin changed back into an elf and began recovering his clothes. Then they gathered at the edge of the docks, cracked where the neogi vessel had been driven into the wood. The deck of the neogi ship was strewn with bodies, and various mercenaries were wiping the blood from their weapons. A large man with a tricorne hat like Ombert and Frath wore stepped out from deeper in the vessel and approached them. He was carrying a small object that was dripping blood. He came up to them and tossed the decapitated, eel-like hairy head of a neogi at their feet.

   "Behold, the neogi 'master'," said the man. "My marines are already claiming all the cargo on board the deathspider for us. However, we could not have taken down that umber hulk monstrosity without great loss of life. My thanks is that I've ordered my men to leave its personal treasure horde to you; hearing this thing's spinal column snap as I ripped its head from its body with my hands is reward enough for me. Neogi masters always keep their trinkets in a room across from their quarters at the very front of the vessel. Help yourself. I won't set foot again on that god-cursed ship."
Session: 108th Game Session - Wednesday, Mar 20 2019 from 7:30 PM to 10:30 PM
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Chapter 1 — Neogi
The circular hatch opened through the stone walls into a massive, spacious chamber. They stepped over the metal rim of the hatch onto a wooden plank walkway about ten feet wide. The walkway led forward along the gravity plane to a central, nearly square platform. In the center of the platform, bisecting it, was what might best be described as a cage, around a very large gem or stone that was glowing, providing light to the huge chamber. A metal stairwell climbed around and over the cage and continued rising up for as far as they could see in the dim light, stopping every ten feet at a small metal mezzanine on the journey up. The chamber was probably 50 yards or so across, but it was much wider, and a large number of other wooden, dock-like pathways extended from the left and the right out of wide openings in the stone walls toward the central walkway, leaving empty gaps of gravity plane between them. As they looked up and down, they saw many layers of these wooden docks, several stories-worth of such pathways above them and perhaps twice as many upside-down below them.

   To their left, they saw something flying up from below. It was a crate "falling up" from the reverse side of the plane. It shot through the plane to reach briefly above the height of their heads before dropping again and eventually settling and floating at the level of the plane. Someone must have pushed it off from one of the lower pathways. To receive it, they saw a humanoid figure, with a long wooden pole in hand, reach out the pole to guide the crate along. The human man was not dressed as they would have expected for a warehouse worker of the Interlink Consortium. In fact, he was dressed in rags. They now noticed a number of such "workers" about.

   One of these workers spotted them, and he tossed aside the pole and reached for a crossbow hanging from a hook on his belt.

   Szordrin was the first to react; licorice shaving in hand, he snapped it into non-existence, and he, Kytharrah, Leokas, and Belvin felt a surge of speed. The ragged worker raised the weapon, but Szordrin tossed himself into the gravity plane and glided across to a nearby dock.

   The crossbowman yelled out something in an alien language and released a bolt. Kytharrah heard it whiz harmlessly by his ear, followed by another. He turned his head. There were more ragged crossbow-wielders on the right walkways too, all at different levels — and suddenly another umber hulk, which had somehow clasped the edge of the wooden walkway with it "feet" and flipped itself around from one side of the walkway to the other.

   "Bug!" the minotaur grunted in warning.

   Leokas had his bow raised in a moment and began releasing arrows. One, two, three crossbowmen called out in pain and tumbled off their dock-like paths into the gravity plane to float lifelessly. He turned a fourth arrow toward the umber hulk. It was not just an umber hulk; upon its broad, hunched shoulders rode a hideous, hairy, eel-like thing. It waved two spider-like appendages, as Leokas released the arrow. As it soared toward the small, riding creature, ripples of magical force shot back at the wood elf from his enemy. The arrow struck the alien eel with spider arms, and it shrieked. The magic projectiles, in contrast, were sucked into the brooch holding Leokas' cloak together, a defensive charm that he had taken from one of the mummy handmaidens in Allu's "palace". He smiled, completely unharmed.

   Everyone else also rushed into action, as several more crossbow-carrying persons began appearing on the platforms at different levels both above and below them. Belvin deftly dropped low, gripped the edge of the wood, and flipped himself through the gravity plane to the other side, accompanied by his typical battle yells and whoops. The others heard him rush forward, and soon another ragged body fell from below to join the others floating slain in the gravity plane.

   Hakam stepped out into the void by means of his still-functioning spell and flipped himself around. On the other side of the wooden pathway, he saw Belvin waving his bloody scimitar. Coming toward him was another strange creature. It was huge, hairless, and gray-skinned, bulky with extra-long arms that drooped down almost to its massive feet. It had an elongated head with two nostrils, a wide maw, and six eyes, set in two columns. He had no idea what such a creature was.

   Szordrin lifted himself up out of the gravity plane and onto one of the side pathways on the left. He extracted a tiny glass vial of water and snapped it open. Between his two hands a large icicle formed out of nothing and then launched through the air like a Kara-Turran rocket. It stabbed one of the crossbow man a dozen yards away through the heart.

   Kytharrah rushed toward the central platform with the metal stairs. A crossbowman appeared on the mezzanine above him and aimed but was too slow. Kytharrah swiped out with his long, hairy arm and caught the man by his ankle, yanking the man from the landing and tossing him over his head into the plane.

   Thus far, only two crossbowmen had even had a chance to release their quarrels, but more kept appearing on different walkways and platforms.

   Solisar clutched his sapphire, and another shield of liquidy blue formed before him to defend him. He recognized that the humans in rags were not in their right minds. They were mind-controlled neogi slaves. He had thought that Martho had been confused earlier, calling the insectoid umber hulks that they had fought neogi, but the Consortium manager had been correct; the eel-like monstrosities were here indeed. "Kill the neogi first!" he shouted to the others.

   The neogi, for its part, drove its "mount" forward. The umber hulk bounded and leapt from the walkway to the central platform near Kytharrah and vibrating its tunneling mandibles in a blur.

   Leokas heard his fellow elf's instructions, understood, and obeyed, letting loose a series of arrows. As the umber hulk approached Kytharrah with its dangerous mandibles, an arrow struck the riding eel-thing, and its jerking response to the gash through the side of its neck caused its mount to rear back. The second arrow missed and drove into the exoskeleton of the umber hulk instead, but a third arrow punctured the neogi's neck directly in the middle, and its tiny body tumbled off the much bigger monster into the void.

   But the battle was not over. Hakam watched as Belvin flipped himself around to the topside again by dropping low and swinging his weight around the platform. "Something big is coming!" he shouted out in warning as he stood to his feet.

   "What comes?" asked Leokas, nocking another arrow. Kytharrah's bulk blocked a direct shot at the now riderless umber hulk. He scanned around to ensure that no one else had a crossbow leveled at him or his companions. The numerous human slaves had all lowered their weapons and just stood there looking dazed. He held his fire.

   "Gray, large, six eyes, lots of teeth!" He began a summoning chant.

   The umber hulk, however, was a greater concern for them at the moment. With a front flip somersault through the air, Leokas leapt over the gap to the nearest wooden walkway to get a clearer shot at the umber hulk as it moved on Kytharrah. Kytharrah swung his unbalanced, acid-melted axe, but his blows simply glanced off the hulk's armored shell. Solisar pummeled the monster with magic bursts of force, Hakam called down divine fire, and Leokas loosed three simultaneous arrows that punctured through the beast's side, but these combined attacks did not drop the creature. It swung its claws at their minotaur and left bloody gashes in his side, which had only just been healed by magic shortly before they had entered the room. Kytharrah stumbled about in pain and tried to swing again, but his blow was again ineffective.

   Szordrin was more concerned about the new monster about which Belvin had mentioned. Mirroring the wild elf's actions, Szordrin managed to flip around to the bottom side, and he too now saw the strange gray monster approaching the middle platform with the glowing stone. He took a tiny white stone from his pouch and tossed it, cursing when he failed to complete the spell's actions properly. Thankfully, at that moment, a hippogriff, Belvin's summoned aid, popped into existence immediately before the bounding creature. It screeched like a bird of prey and swung its foreclaw at the gray monster.

   On the other side of the platform, more magic from Solisar's wand and a beam of searingly bright light from Hakam's open palm struck the umber hulk. It was stumbling now and weakly tried to swing and bite one more time at Kytharrah but missed on each attempt. A final, full-powered draw and release from Leokas caused the umber hulk to drop to its knees with a thud and then tumble off the dock into the gravity plane to float alongside its dead neogi master.

   "To the door!" Belvin yelled, and he started for the large double doorways on the opposite side of the chamber, which presumably led out to the docking bay where the Frihet waited for them.

   Not all was safe, however. Kytharrah, rescued from being slaughtered by the umber hulk's mandibles, was still badly hurt, and now he just stood there, babbling nonsense in Giant, his native tongue, the result of having looked too closely into the eyes of the umber hulk.

   On the inverse side, Szordrin watched the gray monster battle the hippogriff in a flurry of claws and feathers. He needed to get past somehow, so he turned invisible.

   Through the sudden and viscous fighting, Barth and Martho had stood huddled together at the circular hatch. Solisar flew to them. "I can drag one of you safely and quickly through the gravity plane. Come! Before more monsters arrive." Martho hesitated, but Barth happily stepped forward. Solisar dragged him along, friction-less in the gap between the walkways toward the large doors at the other end.

   Suddenly, Kytharrah turned and faced Martho. He tapped one of his hooves on the wooden planks, in the way a bull might before charging. Martho had started moving forward but now froze. Was the minotaur going to charge and gore him?

   Hakam, still floating on air, said a prayer to free the minotaur from confusion, but it failed to have any effect. "Apple swim!" shouted Kytharrah, and he shook his furry, red head like a dog shaking off water.

   "Lunk!" shouted Szordrin's voice from somewhere. "I suggest that you calm down and follow our orders."

   This magic, too, had no effect. "Pigs sing rainbow!"

   Szordrin's voice was heard again, this time from a completely different spot, on the central platform by the glowing stone and the stairs. "Kytharrah, Kytharrah, come here." This message repeated in an endless chant. Szordrin hoped that the spell would at least be noticed by the minotaur when he eventually did overcome the magical enchantment. It was more important, in the meantime, for the rest of them to make it to the door before the monster on the lower side....

   The gray creature had just caught the hippogriff in both of its claws and began to tear. The move would have rended the the equine magical creature apart, but it instead vanished into nothing, leaving the gray alien monster confused — in a mundane way — at what had just happened to its prey.

   On the other side, Kytharrah, however, was still magically confused. He did, in fact, charge toward Martho, but thankfully he did not gore, instead, he dove forward through the hatch like one would dive into a lake, landing in the gravity plane and beginning to glide toward the sewage that now poured from the opening in the ceiling of the tunnel from which they had all come.

   "That was too close," muttered Martho, "certifiably too close!"

   "Stop!" commanded Hakam, with the force of divine magic behind the words. Kytharrah's body froze up solid, but it was still drifting outward. The cleric decided that he would have to go recover their minotaur later. For now, he could not harm Martho, and they all needed to get safely to the door, where Belvin now stood summoning a replacement creature of nature.

   "Martho," Hakam shouted, "run to the doorway while you still have the chance. There is another monster on the reverse side."

   The sales manager began sprinting along the wooden path. On the right side, Leokas jumped into the forty-foot gap between the next parallel walkway, falling through the gravity plane and flipping his body around at the bottom of the wave of his sinusoidal curve of his motion to land upside down on the other side. In such a manner, he appeared to move almost effortlessly from wooden dock to wooden dock, making his way toward the door as well. Below them, they could hear the gray monster stomping along the central pathway, still inverted relative to most of them.

   Suddenly, a mystical sword appeared before the creature and swung at it, called into service by one of Hakam's prayers. The monster ducked under the swing, but it seemed to distract it enough that it did not climb around to see the rest of them. Martho ran safely above the creature and reached Belvin, and Hakam was not far behind. They heard invisible Szrodrin's voice nearby, and Solisar arrived as well, dragging Barth along. Releasing the man, the sun elf now waved his wand, sending magic missiles at the creature below them. Leokas, too, reached Belvin, with a final leap over the empty gap.

   "Solonor guide my arrow," he prayed. He then dropped to the edge and rolled himself around to the bottom side. From his knees, he nocked an arrow. Hakam's spiritual sword slashed at the enormous monster with its three rows of glowing yellow eyes. The creature was all rippling muscle. Leokas waiting a few seconds for the perfect shot. A second hippogriff appeared behind it and screeched and clawed. The monster raised its head to roar in pain, and Leokas took his shot. The arrow plunged through a soft spot in its thick neck.

   The monster gagged and tottered and crashed to the wooden platform, dead.
Session: 107th Game Session - Wednesday, Mar 13 2019 from 7:30 PM to 10:30 PM
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Chapter 1 — Treat for the Trash Monster
"We need to pass through your sewer drain," said Hakam. "If you let us through, I will stop my spell."

   "Or," said the monster, "I eat you; that also stop spell."

   Hakam calmed the winds, and the water flowed back, covering the creature, but it kept its tentacles out of the water. They noticed that only two of its three tentacles had the thorny growths; the other, shorter one had a column of two eyeballs, with which it observed each of them. When it seemed convinced that the wind was stopped, the tentacles moved forward and half of its body emerged from the water until they could see its ridiculously wide mouth again.

   "What do you need to let us through?" asked Hakam, assuming that its ears — or whatever it used for hearing — were also above the water.

   "More food," said the bizarre beast.

   "How about him?" said Szordrin, motioning toward Martho.

   The eyeball-containing tentacle focused on Martho.

   "What? No!" Martho protested.

   Hakkam chided Szordrin for this comment. "He is only joking, Martho. Pay him no heed."

   "Living food not tasty," said the monster. "Too clean!"

   "Hakam, you should create some of that delicious juice with your magic!" said Szordrin.

   Hakam seemed to understand Szordrin's bluff. "I shall do that." He pointed his finger in front of the monster. "Anachtyr, grant thine water to quench this creature's thirst."

   Gallons of pure water flowed out of nothing a foot above the murky pool and poured into it just in front of the creature. It dunked one of its longer tentacles into the water, and then rocked back and forth in anger.

   "Now pool taste worse! You made my water cleaner!"

   "But it has a terrific aftertaste," said Szordrin, "Just wait five minutes."

   "I wait," said the monster, who seemed to believe the lies that Szordrin was telling it wholesale until its own senses told it otherwise.

   Martho went up to Hakam and whispered, "I do not think that it fancies the same kinds of food that we do; it swims in sewage after all!"

   "We bought ourselves some time for the others to arrive at least," said Hakam.

   "How do you know they are not dead?"

   "For all their faults, they have their talents," he answered.

   "How do you know that they will not continue on to the ship?"

   "They will either see the error of their ways and join us soon or they will find their own way out. I assume the latter, but it will not hurt to give them five more minutes."

   "I will check back to see if the others have come down the ladder," said Szordrin. "If not, we just continue without them from here."

~~~~

The three elves and the minotaur reached the bottom of the ladder in safety with the sole survivor, whose name was Barth.

   "I can walk on my own," the man said, "you can put me down now."

   Kytharrah did so.

   "Where did they go? Kytharrah, can you hear or smell Hakam or Szordrin?"

   "Too stinky," said Kytharrah. His nose was overwhelmed by the stench of the sewage. He did, however, see a gate with his darkvision. He bounded to it over a metal, grated walkway over the sewage.

   Solisar made his staff glow with magic, so the others could see where their minotaur went.

   "I think that I hear voices in the other direction," said Leokas. "Over that lowered bridge there."

   At the gate, Kytharrah looked through a tunnel and could see a waterfall pouring down, which intrigued him.

   Suddenly, from out of the corner of his eye, what looked to be puddle of water on the stone ground formed a sort of slimy pseudopodial tentacle that struck against his left leg. He barely felt the blow, but his leg began to sting, and the skin beneath the fur began to sizzle.

   Kytharrah grunted loudly. Solisar heard it and looked in that direction. He noticed that what looked to be a gray puddle of water was definitely moving, most likely some sort of ooze. He did not have time to warn Kytharrah, however.

   The minotaur swung down hard with his axe. It cut right through the puddle and drove into the rock below. The puddle was definitely not water at all. It was about three inches thick and jiggled all over when struck. It was moving as if it were alive. It had some sort of thick membrane, and gray slime was now oozing out from where he had severed it. Part of its surface was rising up to form a snake-like "arm". Kytharrah also noticed that the surface of his axe blade was bubbling and foaming. He tried to yank it back out of the ground as quickly as possible.

   Kytharrah looked at his axe. The cutting edge was flattened and distorted and still foaming. Perplexed, Kytharrah rushed away. Another yard-long pseudopod lashed out, but Kytharrah was too quick for it. Before the pseudopod could recede back into the puddle, it was splattered apart by three simultaneous arrows. The ooze, whatever it was, stopped moving after that.

   "I will not be recovering those arrows," said Leokas.

   "Good, you are here," said Szordrin. He had come around the corner, looking for them, while they waited for the trash monster to taste the water again.

   "We think that we found a way for all the water here to exit," he explained to them. "It might be a way out for us as well."

   They followed the wizard around into the large chamber with the pool. As they walked over the metal grating, Szordrin explained to them the situation. Kytharrah looked at the ruined blade of one side of his axe, still confused as to what had just happened. At least the other side was still sharp.

   When they joined with Hakam and Martho in the alcove, the monster was submerged again, except for its single eye tentacle, with which it continued watching them. Szordrin explained how he planned to magically suggest that the monster move somewhere else.

   "Then what?" asked Barth, whom they had rescued. "What is this monster blocking?" He seemed unnerved by the brown leaf shape with two eyeballs in it that was poking out of the murky water and staring at him.

   "Martho told us that the sewage is vented into wildspace," said Hakam. "I suggest that we go down the drain and let it take us outside the asteroid."

   "Yes, we do vent our sewage, but...."

   "Smells bad!" said Kytharrah.

   Barth nodded.

   "How do we know that any of us will fit through the drain?" asked Solisar. "Or more importantly, Kytharrah?"

   "I saw the opening with my magic," said Hakam. "It was about five feet in diameter. He could fit."

   "Perhaps those manhole covers that I found are another way out," suggested Szordrin.

   "I think that we should explore more before we resort to flushing ourselves out with the waste!" said Solisar.

   Hakam turned toward the eyestalk and spoke to it. "Monster, where does this drain take the water? Does it lead outside?"

   Barth jumped back, bumping into Belvin, as the creature's mouth raised up out of the water and bared its teeth to speak. "It goes away."

   "I am not one of the maintenance workers," said Barth, "but I know that we vent our waste into wildspace. The sewage probably falls down to the gravity plane and then flows out of the asteroid. I never stopped to think about where we get our fresh water...."

   "How long is the drop?" asked Hakam.

   "We came down one level, so we are five stories above the gravity plane now," said Barth.

   "Ask it if there are other exits beside the drain," said Solisar.

   "How you get here?" asked the monster. "I not fit out any holes here," it added.

   "Then how did you get in here to begin with?" asked Martho.

   "My home!" said the monster, as if that answered the question.

   Szordrin once again repeated the idea of examining the manhole covers, and Solisar suggested opening the gate that they had found. The monster then interrupted them. "Drink still tastes bad! I waited!" It was sounding rather grumpy now and began to rock back and forth.

   "The magic drink must only work for humanoids," Hakam tried to explain.

   "Okay," said the exceptionally gullible monster, "but still hungry." At least it stopped rocking.

   Kytharrah tossed some rations from his pack into the pool.

   The monster gobbled them down in one messy chomp, which almost splashed all of them. "Food disgusting! You try poison me!" Once again, it rocked back in forth, which seemed to be how its kind expressed displeasure.

   Kytharrah slouched his shoulder's feeling a bit dejected.

   "You, what is your name?" asked Hakam.

   "Barth, saer."

   "Barth, do you have any ideas what we can feed this thing?"

   "Well, this is a sewer; perhaps someone could just urinate in the water."

   Kytharrah and Belvin, both wearing kilts, each took a step closer to the water.

   "No! No!" The monster rocked back and forth. "That boring, every-day taste; want new and special taste. Give me new, good taste!"

   "We could feed it the dead ooze that we just killed," said Solisar.

   "Can you summon something dirty for it to eat, Belvin?" asked Hakam.

   Szordrin removed a vial from his potion belt and dumped a little bit into the water. "I have some of the werewolf blood," he explained to the others. "Let us try a little of that and see if it likes it."

   The monster slurped the area up. "Yum!" said the monster, now bouncing up and down as if its legs were made of springs. "What is it? It very yummy!"

   "Tell it that if it moves out of the way, we will give it the rest of it," said Hakam in a lower voice to the others.

   "Even if it moves," said Szrodrin, "how to we go through. It is a 50-foot drop!"

   "Yes," said Hakam, "but we will fall with the water and then hit a harmless gravity plane at the bottom."

   Few of the rest of them were keen on holding their breath long enough to get flushed down a drain with raw sewage to fall for five stories.

   "We need to get more of this yummy drink for you," said Szordrin to the monster. "We will be back in a short time."

   The monster continued to bounce, which they assumed meant that it was content for the time being and would not try to eat them.

   They began to head back along the grating to where the winch and ladder were.

   "We should split up," suggested Szordrin. "We have been wasting too much time finding a way out."

   "I do not think that it is wise to split up," said Leokas. "We know that there are acidic blobs around."

   Solisar warned the others, "They look like moving puddles of water. Be careful."

   They went to the gate first. It was locked with a padlock. Szordrin tried to pick it, but he failed.

   "Minotaur, bust it open."

   Kytharrah pounded it with a heavy blow and knocked it clean off its hinges.

   The tunnel behind the gate went through stone and led to a narrow metal platform. From the platform, they looked over at the waterfall of sewage. Up above about one story, where the dirty water poured over, they could see another metal platform, but they would need a ladder or something, placed at an angle, to get up there.

   So, they went carefully past the remains of the acidic ooze to the manhole cover that Szordrin had earlier found. (Kytharrah was still carrying one half of the gate with him, in case he needed to whack a monster with it.)

   Szordrin used his grappling hook like a crowbar to lift open the access cover, revealing another ladder going down into the darkness.

   "Who wants to go down?" asked Szordrin.

   Belvin climbed down the ladder with Kytharrah's everburning torch. It descended for about 20 feet. There was a small crawlspace at the bottom and he followed it for 30 yards or so. He shouted back what he could see and then began crawling forward. Leokas, having waited long enough to satisfy his superstition that going second could result in being killed by timed traps, followed down after his friend. At the end of the five-foot-diameter crawlspace, they found a large metal valve wheel. Leokas relayed this back to the others.

   They were in favor of turning the wheel to see what would happen. So, Belvin gripped it and slowly turned it clockwise. Within the tunnel they heard the sound of creaking to their left and the tunnel began to rumble.

   Belvin turned it is far as it could go. Leokas crawled back to see if the others could observe any change. The water was still pouring over the falls, which disappointed them. They couldn't yet notice any other changes.

   "Has the water level changed?" Szordrin asked, but this did not appear to be the case.

   "It may just be me," said Solisar, as he was looking around for a difference, "but I think that the current has changed somewhat. See, the current on that side is moving faster than the current on this side of the bridge."

   "Was the wheel turned to an intermediate setting when you found it?" asked Szordrin.

   "No, Belvin said that it was all the way on or off to begin," said Leokas.

   Upon exploring further, they found that the wheel had caused a sluice gate on one side of the large collecting pool to close, blocking the flow of the water into the pool from the one direction. This forced the water to flow along the other alternate path.

   "Presumably, there is another sluice gate on the other side," said Szordrin, "controlled by a wheel down the other manhole cover, but if we close both gates, the water will not be able to reach the drain, and then this whole sewer will flood."

   "But we did not close the drain," said Solisar. "If we close both gates, the water in the pool will drain, leaving an open exit tunnel."

   "The water level would begin to rise until it poured over the sluice gates to refill the pool," said Hakam.

   "We would have five feet of water level to work with before the water would overflow," said Solisar, looking down. "So, we would have a temporary window of time where we could exit through the drain, before the water would overflow over the gates. We can ensure the monster that its sewage will return shortly after we leave."

   "It does not sound like the smartest of creatures, though," said Hakam.

   "Is this monster even a threat to us," asked Leokas, "even if it does try to attack us?"

   "We can appease it by giving it the rest of the werewolf blood," said Solisar.

   "Yes, let us do that," said Szordrin.

   "I still say that we just go through the sewage and not risk angering this monster unnecessarily," said Hakam.

   Kytharrah shook his head. He had a hard time following most of the time when his little friends talked about plans, but he was relatively sure that Hakam was suggesting that they jump into a big toilet.

   "Do not you mages have cantrips that can clean us all off afterward?" asked Leokas.

   "In limited amounts, yes," said Solisar. "Presently, I would only have the arcane power to clean my own person."

   Leokas sighed. "I think that Hakam may be right. Time may be running out. Who knows what the neogi have already done here by now or how our sailors and our ship have fared. I think that we just need to overcome our emotions of disgust and jump in that pool."

   "If your concern, Hakam, is the monster's reaction," said Solisar, "let us just get it to move over to the other side of the gate and give it its 'snack'. We close the second gate while it is distracted, and even if it notices and is upset, it will not be able to come over to the other side until the water level rises high enough to refill the pool."

   At last, they had a solution that satisfied all of them.

   They set their plan in motion. Szordrin talked the monster into following him into the tunnel and around the U-turn all the way up to the metal drawbridge, where it could not see the sluice gates or the pool. Then he offered it the rest of the werewolf blood as a reward, in small samples to buy them as much time as possible.

   Meanwhile, Belvin, down the second manhole cover, turned the wheel that they expected to find there. Sure enough, a second sluice gate closed. Now, the water had no where to go and began to rise on one side of the gates, as the waterfall continued to pour. They all rushed to the pool and watched as it drained, hoping that it would drain before the water on the other side of the two gates began to overflow.

   The monster seemed to have enjoyed its treat and did not seem to be making any efforts to follow them or worse.

   A stone "ramp" descended down from the alcove where the monster kept its recovered trinkets, so they all could easily walk down to the drain hole, just as the last of the dirty water poured out. The rocky bottom of the pool was dirty and slippery, but less so than they might have expected, perhaps because the monster had scraped any "food" from the surface of its pool with its scraping tentacles. It was still going to be a gross plan of escape, but at least the sewage wouldn't be going into their ears and nose and threatening them with the potential for disease.

   "Hey!" said the monster. They turned back and saw its two eyeballs raised over the sluice gate. "Where my water?" It was time to go.

   Hakam sat at the edge of the drainage hole and then dropped himself in, falling slowly by the power of his magic ring. He descended 50 feet to emerge out of the ceiling of a circular tunnel, about 15 feet in diameter. He stopped falling in the center of the tunnel and floated there in open air, almost as if he were floating in water.

   By the light of his glowing shield, he could see ahead of him that the tunnel indeed seemed to open into the blackness of space, about 40 feet ahead, and he was bobbing and drifting toward it. Spinning himself around, using his arms and legs to get momentum, he saw, also about 40 feet away, a round metal hatch with a wheel for opening it.

   He needed to be able to reach something to stop from drifting out too quickly. He clutched his holy symbol and prayed. Now, he was able to stand on air as if it were solid ground, and he stopped drifting.

   One by one, all the others plummeted down the shaft, entering the air-filled tunnel, slowing suddenly upon crossing the opposing gravity beyond the gravity plane, and striking (safely) the bottom of the tunnel to spring back.

   "Praise Celestian!" said Barth. "I am still alive."

   "We are on the same level as our ship now," said Hakam. "Do we go outside and try to move around the asteroid? or do we try to pass through that hatch? Martho or Barth, do you know where that round door leads?"

   "If we are at the gravity plane," said Barth, "it may enter the shipping facility."

   "The company is run from the upper half of the asteroid," said Martho. "The lower half is the warehouse and the production chambers."

   "There is a central shaft through the entire warehouse half of the asteroid," continued Barth. "When orders are being filled, crates are dropped down the shaft to the gravity plane and floated out to the docks to be shipped."

   "Does the warehouse area connect to the corporate offices?" asked Hakam.

   "Not directly," said Barth. "The only entrance to the headquarters is from the stairwell running up from the docks."

   "The ones that I led you up," said Martho.

   "So, there is a chance that the invaders will not be in the warehouse and shipping areas," suggested Hakam, "at least not more likely than anywhere else in the asteroid. Although, they can tunnel...."

   "The alternative is climbing or dragging ourselves along half the circumference of the asteroid while in the gravity plane," said Solisar. "It is a large asteroid. I can fly, but there are eight of us."

   "It is for certain the more direct path to go through the door," said Hakam, "but is it the safest?"

   "The water is going to pour over the gates soon," said Belvin. "We need to move before sewage starts coming down on our heads."

   "And we need to get to the ship before the invaders do, if it is not already too late," said Solisar. "I can fly to ship around the asteroid and have it come around."

   "If it has not already been boarded," said Hakam.

   "Yes, it is a risk," said Solisar. "We have our sending stone; why did we not use it yet?"

   The sun elf sent a brief message to Oma, who kept the sister stone.

   There was no reply.

   "Our ship must indeed be boarded already;" he said to the others. "We should go through the center."

   Hakam walked on air, while the others used the stone walls of the carved tunnel to drag themselves along to the circular hatch.

   Behind them, water began to pour out of the ceiling. It was a strange sight to see the water pooling together and floating in nothing. It was coming toward them. Belvin grabbed the wheel and gave it a quarter turn, unlatching it. They pushed the door open and climbed through.
Session: 107th Game Session - Wednesday, Mar 13 2019 from 7:30 PM to 10:30 PM
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Chapter 1 — Wildspace Waste Disposal
Szordrin and Martho found themselves in darkness, but Szordrin could make out cold walls around him with his darkvision. They were standing on a metal, grated platform. Horrendously foul-smelling water was flowing around and under them. A few yards away was a fenced wall, though which sewage was flowing, and there was a raised metal drawbridge dividing that fenced wall, also grated. There was a winch there for lowering the drawbridge down to make a path over the sewage to another metal pathway embedded into the stone of the opposite wall, which was perpendicular to the flow of the sewage.

   Looking the other direction, a metal access walkway extended from the platform to where the path seemed to split into two stone paths, right and left against the rocky wall. Right at the tee-intersection was a gate, with a tunnel beyond. His darkvision could only see so far, however.

   "The smell is categorically foul," said Martho, "and I cannot see a thing. Do you have a torch?"

   "I do not carry one, because my eyes can see in most darkness," said Szordrin. He then tried to describe to Martho what he was seeing.

   They looked up and saw Hakam climbing down the ladder to join them. When he reached the bottom, he explained that the two monsters were slain.

   "Where are the others then?" asked Szordrin.

   "They are not coming yet."

   "Are they crazy?" asked Martho. "Why are they not coming?"

   "They are on a fool's errand to rescue any other survivors," Hakam explained.

   Martho looked somber, "If the old wive's tales are true, there probably will not be many left to help. If we do not get back to your ship, any survivors would not be able to escape anyway. We shall all be trapped here on this asteroid. The neogi are intelligent in planning their raids. They almost certainly are blocking the main exit routes."

   Hakam lit up his shield with a magic glow, allowing Martho and him to take in what Szordrin had already observed.

   "Lead us out of here," he said, after glancing around quickly. "If we can get to the ship in time, we can fly it wherever we need to to pick up the others and any survivors."

   "I do not actually know where to go from here," said Martho. "I just knew that there were access tunnels below the washclosets. I also know that the water flows out of the asteroid to be vented out into wildspace. Maybe we can find where it vents and escape to the surface that way. It is hopeless to take the neogi on directly. I am a manager, not a fighter. I do not even own a weapon!"

   "There is also a gate, beyond where your light is shining," said Szordrin, motioning in the opposite direction from the drawbridge. They thought it best to examine that first and walked over the metal walkway to the other side to stand on solid rock before the metal gate.

   The light from Hakam's shield illuminated the length of the tunnel. It was only about 25 feet long. The floor seemed to end at another wide channel running perpendicularly to the tunnel and filled with more waste water. Straight ahead, across the channel, a waterfall of sludge poured down into it from somewhere up above.

   "We are going against the flow of the water if we go this way," Hakam said. "Let us go back to the drawbridge."

   Szordrin looked to the left and the right. The two paths mirrored each other. The stone floor ran along the wall, reached a metal grated bridge and crossed over the sewage-flow to a rectangular alcove in the stone of the asteroid. He could see some sort of flat object in the corner of each of the alcoves.

   "I want to see what something is," said Szordrin. "Wait here; I will be right back."

   He took the path to the left and crossed the bridge into the stone alcove. The flat object was simply a manhole cover. He returned to the others with this report.

   They returned to the ladder and the winch and turned the crank to lower the bridge. Hakam cautiously crossed the metal bridge to stand on the narrow metal walkway on the other side. Like the path, the water split and flowed in two directions, disappearing into the darkness.

   "Which path do we take?" asked Szordrin.

   "Which way is the ship, Martho?"

   "It is behind us in the other direction," said Martho, "in the opposite direction of the flow of the water."

   "We will go left," said Hakam, choosing at random. The walkway, the channel, and the water with it, made a 90-degree turn to the right after about 50 feet, and then turned again after about 30 feet, effectively making a U-turn. They kept walking carefully over the narrow metal grating, staying as close to the wall as they could.

   The wide tunnel and channel opened into a large chamber with a giant collecting pool. The water seemed to be revolving in a gentle whirlpool. They continued along the wall and reached a cavernous alcove to the right. They stepped off the walkway onto solid ground. This stone area was about fifteen feet wide and high and maybe twice that in length. Various objects of junk were scattered about here, as if they had been collected intentionally — a fork, a metal armored boot, the metal bands of barrels, a miscellany of discarded stuff.

   Hakam immediately prayed for knowledge about the magical nature of the items, but none of them radiated any sort of auras. He glanced up to see if perhaps a chute had deposited these things here, but the ceiling was the solid rock of the interior of the asteroid. They did seem arranged in a line, much like a cave pack rat might do, but several of the items were too large and heavy for a normal rat to move.

   "These were not arranged accidentally," said Hakam, "but I cannot make any sense of it."

   Szordrin looked about, seeing if he could notice anything further with his darkvision. He guessed that the incoming water he saw further ahead simply mirrored the way that they had come. In other words, they were essentially on an island, or rather an alcove within a large rectangular column around which the sewage flowed to enter this drainage pool.

   Hakam used another divine spell to detect the presence of any secret exits. He could see an aura radiating through the dark, murky water, likely a drain through which the water was leaving the pool.

   "I can tell from my magic that the water is only about ten feet deep," he reported, "and there is definitely a drain."

   "That must be the way out of the asteroid, then," said Martho.

   "How good are you both at swimming?" Szordrin asked.

   "I am terrible at it," said Hakam.

   "You cannot be serious," said Martho.

   "This was your idea," said Szordrin.

   "I thought that there would be access paths along with the water," said Martho. "This is honestly dreadful! We are doomed."

   "I am relatively good at sinking, though," said Hakam, "and that may be all that is needed here."

   Martho did not know whether to take the priest seriously or not.

   "We will not have to get wet," said Hakam. "I still have power in me yet. Stand behind me."

   They obeyed. Hakam clutched his holy symbol and raised his palm toward the waters. "Waters, blow back!" he commanded.

   With a whine and a howl, a powerful gust of wind rushed from each of the tunnels. The water in the collecting pool began to be driven back against the far wall, as if being pushed back by an invisible moving wall. The wind continued to blow, with near hurricane-force winds, and the upper five feet of water were now held toward the back of the chamber.

   This action revealed the presence of a hideously ugly creature that had been submerged and hidden under the dark water. It was the color of earthen stone, and three writhing tentacles rose from the back of its bloated, bumpy back. Each ended in a leaf-shaped flap of flesh covered in thorny protrusions. It had a stumpy neck — if it could even be called that — ending in a massive, wide mouth. It did not really have what could be called a head. It was unlike any creature any of them had ever seen.

   "Undeniably wretched!" exclaimed Martho.

   Shockingly, the monster opened its mouth — revealing its needle-like teeth and and a fat, pink tongue — and spoke.

   "Stop blowing away my drink!" the gruff voice said in Common.
Session: 106th Game Session - Wednesday, Sep 12 2018 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 1 — Umber Hulks
Kytharrah bounded into the hall and turned his head quickly to look in both directions. In both directions, the minotaur saw a hulking, black and brown insectoid creature, as large as a gorilla, not skinny and lanky like the bouncers at the Port Hole but with thick, round, beetle-like exoskeletons. Further down the hall, the one creature had clearly just crashed through the brick wall and was shaking the dust and rubble from its body. Up the hall, from the way that they had earlier come, the second monster held a human in its grip. Before Kytharrah could make a move, he saw the gruesome sight of the human being ripped in half like a sack of thin cloth.

   The monster dropped the gory halves of what was once a person and clicked its enormous mandibles together. It seemed to have two sets of eyes, two large compound eyes like those flies that annoyed Kytharrah so much. These were mostly on the side of its head. In the center of the head was another pair of tiny black eyes.

   Kytharrah heard the one behind it lumbering toward him, but he was much faster. He lowered his head and horns and charged forward like a raging bull toward the one that had just killed the poor human. His horns gored into the thick exoskeleton of the monster, puncturing a deep hole. Green hemolymph began oozing out. The monster made an earthy growl, and its giant mandibles vibrated rapidly with a whirring sound, just missing the top of Kytharrah's head as he rose himself up to a defensive stance on his hooves.

   "Rightly terrifying!" said Martho. "Rightly terrifying. Get a hold of yourself, Martho! Plan something!"

   Leokas and Belvin poked their heads into the hall, seeing the massive, chittering, insectoid aberrations. They had two different sets of eyes. (This reminded Belvin of some spiders.) One pair was compound, the other was simple.

   Both elves stood at the doorway ready to defend.

   Back in the hall, Kytharrah felt a funny feeling in his head as the monster looked him in the eyes. (The two were almost exactly the same height.) It then slashed out at him with the claws at the end of its bulky, armored forearms. Kytharrah dodged the slash from its left arm, but the right claws took a tuft of fur from his arm.

   Kytharrah snorted and swung his axe. The monster rose its arm to defend, but the axe splintered its armor, and a sizeable chunk of chitin clattered to the floor. On the back swing, Kytharrah's axe dragged against the ceiling, giving his hulking opponent time to avoid the second blow. Then came another strike from the minotaur's horn, and now green ooze was spurting out of its other forearm.

   Back at the door, the second umber-colored monster came into view. It swung a bulky arm at Leokas, but he was protected by the corner of the door frame. Wood splintered as the monster struck it. Hakam saw a chaotic aura with his divinely affected vision. Sensing no caution from his phylactery, he shouted out, "Feel order's wrath, space monster!"

   Blue-violet beams of energy slashed in orthogonal directions across the bipedal insect, scorching its exoskeleton. It seemed to stand there wobbling, its mandibles twitching every few seconds.

   Leokas spun around and launched three arrows simultaneously from his bow at the creature's head. It instinctively rose its thick arms to defend itself. An arrow deflected harmlessly from the armor of each arm, but the third punctured the monster's skull, directly between its two black simple eyes, going deep into its head. It gurgled something that might have been a language and stumbled back against the wall, jerking as if it were being electrocuted, likely from having a shaft of wood embedded in its brain.

   Hakam took this opportunity to squeeze past the others into the hall and by the dying but still not dead hulk with the arrow in its head. He saw Kytharrah's opponent slash and snap at the minotaur. Kytharrah knocked away one claw but stumbled back from two other blows. Hakam saw red blood splatter on the floor.

   "Quick, help me move this desk in the back!" Martho yelled at Szordrin at the back of the room. "There is a sewer access point underneath. We can escape!" Szordrin obeyed and started shoving the desk.

   "You go!" shouted Leokas, as he grabbed another arrow from his quiver and spun back around to take partial cover from the door frame. "We shall stay and defend." Next to him, Solisar rushed up. A strange square-shaped blue field of force floated in front of him, looking like liquid sapphire.

   "Gainful ratty governor!" shouted Belvin, but he just stood there by the door.

   "What are you saying, friend?" Leokas said. Then he spun around again with his bow, taking aim at the dying monster in the hall to finish it off.

   Before he could take the shot, however, Belvin slashed at him with his scimitar. "The cherries are not finished yet!" he screamed in anger.

   Leokas dodged the unexpected attack and jumped back. "Belvin, it is I. What is wrong with you?"

   Out in the hall, Hakam was also shouting again. "Feel order's wrath!" Searing beams of violet appeared, caging in Kytharrah's foe. The now-sizzling beetle-like creature wobbled and turned sideways, its arms hanging limply to drag on the floor. Kytharrah's axe came down with full force, splitting the monster almost in two. Its back shell cracked and fell nearly off, and buckets-full of green fluid splashed unto the floor in a gory mess.

   Martho had the grate open and was crawling down a ladder. He shouted back at Leokas. "This will not be the only two! The neogi never have only two."

   Just then, the brain-impaled hulk stumbled through the doorway, zombie-like, and inadvertently kept Belvin from slashing at his friend again. From the back, Szordrin sent bursts of force over the shelves and across the room. There was an awful crunching sound, as the monster's chest cavity imploded. It fell forward to the ground and began to ooze insect blood.

   Belvin tried to move around the large body toward Leokas, a crazed look in his eyes. Solisar darted around behind Belvin, and the blue shield of force kept itself between the two of them. "Hakam! We have a problem with Belvin," he relayed to their cleric.

   Hakam stepped back and saw immediately that Belvin was under some magical compulsion. "Kytharrah," he called up the hall, calling him by his name for perhaps the first time, "come grab Belvin!" He held his holy symbol toward Belvin and ordered him to calm his anger, but there seemed to be no effect.

   The minotaur came bounding back, and Hakam stepped aside to make room for him. His long, hairy arms were around the wild elf in moments, and despite Belvin's thrashing, he was unable to get away.

   Solisar cautiously stepped into the hall. Seeing both creatures dead, he scanned the area for invisible creatures. He saw nothing, but his elven ears could hear more screams and commotion back in the direction of the open office space. He looked back at Belvin. There was an aura of magic around him. Solisar waved his hands and called on arcane power to free his friend of confusion.

   "Belvin, do you know where you are?" asked Leokas. "What is the name of your camel?"

   But Belvin continued to struggle against Kytharrah's grapple. "Let me free! Let me...!"

   Kytharrah squeezed more tightly, silencing him. Hakam began preaching to him about the sin of anger, and Sordrin tied a second time to dispel the magic. Finally, Belvin calmed, and Kytharrah let him speak. "Why are you holding me?"

   "Let him go," said Solisar. "He is freed, but others are in danger. I hear more of the monsters. Do not look into their eyes; avoid that at all costs!" He began to move down the hall, with his liquid force shield in front of him.

   Hakkam looked toward the back of the room. Martho and Szordrin were gone, but he saw Solisar already committed to helping any others. "This is not our business," said Hakam. "We have what we came for, and we did our part to protect Martho. Come, let us follow him and escape."

   Belvin, while no longer under any magical enchantment, was still too confused to have an opinion on the matter.

   Solisar paused. "Our ship is also in this direction, is it not?"

   "Our guide knows another way out," Hakam protested.

   While the others argued about the correct course of action, Kytharrah returned to where he slaughtered the one giant beetle-monster and gently picked up the two halves of the torn human, bringing them back to Hakam.

   "Fix, like little sister?" he asked, referring to how Hakam had once restored Cassiera to life after a bearded devil had gutted her.

   Leokas looked to the cleric, wondering how he would respond to this moral quandary. He knew that they now had the diamond dust and the divine power to bring the victim back, but it would take great time and resources.

   "The gods have a plan that is beyond mortal understanding," said Hakam. "I cannot interfere in matters of life and death, except where Anachtyr directs me. Besides, even I cannot bring someone back whose body has been so terribly mutilated."

   Leokas seemed satisfied with Hakam's answer.

   "Death is the way of nature," said Belvin, seeming to agree with Hakam on this rate occassion.

   "I am more concerned with helping those who may still be living," said Solisar, "who may not be living for much longer if we tarry here!"

   Hakam frowned at this statement, but Solisar placed his hand upon Leokas' shoulder.

   "Come, let us protect those in the other room."

   Leokas nodded and headed out the door with Solisar. Belvin, too, followed. Kytharrah gently set the broken body down and patted Hakam on the head. Hakam sighed, but he reached out and touched the minotaur, magically closing his bleeding wounds, before Kytharrah went after the elves.

   They carefully moved down the hall, as quickly as they could. It was impossible to avoid stepping in the pool of sticky green and red blood, which had mixed together into brown swirls. The sight and smell of the gore was enough to make them all retch.

   By now, much of the noise seemed farther away, but there were still clear sounds of moaning ahead and some chittering. Kytharrah moved into the lead, and Solisar made sure to keep checking behind them.

   Kytharrah's ears perked up as he heard the loud sound of chitinous steps approaching. He peeked around the corner and saw another monster coming. The minotaur lunged back, just in time to avoid the full force of the creature's swing around the corner. The claw still snagged him in the arm, cutting him.

   Kytharrah stepped out and began swinging and goring. Solisar let loose five magical force projectiles. Leokas moved to the wall and launched several arrows, amazingly aiming underneath Kytharrah's arms and striking true. The heavily wounded monster fought back, but it only could manage one more solid blow against Kytharrah, while chittering with its ferocious-looking mandibles. The claw attack cut a slit through Kytharrah's magic leather armor, but he seemed to be standing his ground.

   There was a cracking, rumbling sound behind them, and suddenly, a second monster burst through the wall, its mandibles vibrating back and forth so rapidly that they were a blur. Solisar spun around in reflex, and accidentally looked into the black eyes of the new opponent. He felt a strange feeling in his head, but his sapphire screen flashed before him, just as a clawed "hand" swung at him. The force field held back most of the force of the swing, but the edge of one claw gashed across Solisar's forehead, and the elf felt blood drip down into his right eye.

   Belvin gave a tribal holler, and a column of ice erupted from the floor to the ceiling, filling the whole hallway, knocking back the burrowing monstrosity from Solisar by about ten feet and barricading the hall. "Do not look at me, bug! Not again!"

   "Thank you, my friend!" said Solisar, turning to put distance between him and the ice column, for they could already hear the creature chiseling rapidly away at the ice with its vibrating mandibles.

   At the corner, Kytharrah smashed his foe with another solid blow, as Leokas drew another arrow. The monster stumbled back. Solisar rushed up, drew a wand from its sheath, and waved it. The thing's head imploded, and its lifeless shell of chitin clattered to the ground like a suit of armor. Solisar continued past around the corner and into the hallway. Leokas was just behind him, arrow nocked and ready to free.

   The hallway was clear until where it opened into the large workspace. All that they could see was a chaos of shattered furniture and at least one still body in the middle of the floor.

   Belvin appeared beside Leokas. "How long does your spell last?" the wood elf asked.

   "Until it melts, I suppose," said Belvin, "but it is going to gnaw its way through in about ten more seconds."

   Leokas stepped back into the corner, and pointed his arrow toward the ice. "Solonor have mercy on his insectoid soul," he prayed, "and guide my shot."

   Ice shards began falling from the column.

   "Help me!" came a weak voice from the hole in the wall where the one monster had tunneled through.

   "We have a survivor," said Belvin.

   Kytharrah rushed over to the hole and poked his head through. He recognized that this was once one of the wings of the large workspace that they had earlier passed through. There were overturned desks and splintered wooden dividers scattered about chaotically. He saw blood and bodies and body parts but no one living.

   "Minotaur, the ice!" Leokas warned. What remained of the summoned column looked like it was about to crumble apart allowing the digger on the other side through. They could see its hulking from through the thinning ice. Kytharrah took a defensive posture and gulped down one of those tasty drinks that made his cuts go away. Belvin squeezed past Kytharrah and through the hole in the wall.

   With a crack, the ice shattered and clattered to the floor. As soon as the monster appeared, magic missiles of force shot forth from Solisar's fingertips. Leokas released his arrow. Once again, the arrow punctured the monster's skull between the eyes. The creature danced about wildly. It managed to strike Kytharrah with one more desperate blow before the minotaur stuck it with a final swing and dropped it.

   In the room on the other side of the wall, Belvin searched among the carnage for the source of the cry for help. He located the worker hiding behind one of the sideways desks. He was an older gentleman, and his arm had been severed off at the elbow.

   Belvin crouched down and laid his hands on the man. The worker looked on in shock as the spurting blood stopped and skin formed rapidly around the stump. "You healed me!" he exclaimed. "I..., I have never felt better!"

   "I will get your arm," Belvin said.

   The man looked down at his healed stump and over at his severed forearm and just stared at Belvin confused, as the elf picked up the fallen body part.

   The man crawled through the wall into the hall. "Thank you! Thank you!" He was nearly crying. Belvin followed immediately behind him, carrying the bloody arm.

   "Are there others living?" they asked him.

   "I do not know," said the man.

   Belvin shook his head.

   "There are clearly more of the monsters," said Solisar. "They can tunnel through the walls, and we were almost surrounded. I hate to say it, but I do not think that there is much more that we can do. We should get back to the others and to the ship. All that remains here is devastation."

   "Kytharrah, carry him," said Belvin.

   Before the man could protest, Kytharrah scooped him up in both arms.

   They all hurried back down the hall to the receipt room.

   "Where are you taking me?" asked the man. "They caved in all the exits. There was nowhere for us to flee while they slaughtered us."

   "Go to friend," said Kytharrah.

   "We know an exit through the sewer system," explained Solisar.

   The man seemed content with this answer.

   They reached the ladder and one by one climbed down into what they hoped was safety.
Session: 106th Game Session - Wednesday, Sep 12 2018 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
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Chapter 1 — The Interlink Consortium Corporate Asteroid
Several of the sailors were now at work mopping the deck of blood and scavver-stomach contents. Nargroth and silent Guttar carried the body of the scavver town to the galley to butcher it for meat — being careful to avoid any meat around its stomach. Oma went to Jayce to explain what had happened. (He, by the helm's magic, had been able to observe the whole incident but was helpless to do anything about it.) Szordrin bathed himself as best he cook with a bucket of water and changed into other clothes. Solisar and Martho went back to the map.

   They returned to the process of making small "jumps" from asteroid to asteroid, but now, twice as many sailors were above deck, watching both every asteroid they came to and all around the ship for any sign of unwanted creatures entering their air envelope.

   Before Bansh began to climb the ropes up the mizzen-mast, Hakam asked the newest sailor a question. "What manner of creature are you? I have not seen your kind on my world."

   "I am a hadozee," said Bansh, and he then leapt up and began to climb.

   It was not long before they arrived. The Interlink Consortium Corporate Asteroid was about 750 feet in diameter. At one of the peaks of the irregularly shaped space rock was a tower, sticking about eight stories out of the stone. A few tiny lights blinked from some sort of pole at the very top, perhaps acting as guiding lights for approaching vessels. The tower had many windows, with light seen beyond them.

   From another side, a large wooden shaft seemed to jut out from the rock, like a sideways — relative to the tower — chimney or pipe.

   "That is the warehouse docking tunnel," said Martho. "Steer us carefully into that. Keep the tower up."

   "Understood," said Rimardo.

   The wooden tube structure was easily large enough for the Frihet to sail into. It had a flattened rectangular opening that was twice as wide as it was high. When they had centered themselves, they all felt a sudden jostle, as their ship fell into the asteroid's gravity plane and began floating. The entrance tunnel extended into the asteroid for about 300 feet. At the far end was a wooden dock, built at the same level as the gravity plane, as were the docks on the Rock of Bral.

   On the right side of the dock was tied another spelljammer. This one was a bit larger than theirs. It was somewhat shaped like a naval vessel with a main deck and aftcastle, but it had no masts or traditional sails. Instead, it had "fins" like those of a great fish, made of canvas stretched between ribbing. Two of the fins were massive and extended well below the dock.

   "What manner of ship is that?" asked Rimardo.

   "I believe that the vessel is a tradesman," said Solisar.

   "Yes, that is what they call them," said Martho.

   "Where are its sails?" asked the pilot. "Do not even spelljammers need sails?"

   "They use the fins to catch the spell-winds instead," explained Martho. "Have us dock on the left. I am sure that that tradesman is the last outgoing shipment of the day.

   Their spelljammer came alongside the wooden platform and slowed to a stop. A worker there motioned to one of the sailors, who tossed the man a rope with which to tie them down.

   Oma, Nargroth, and Jayce remained on board with the sailors; the six other adventurers walked across the gangplank with Martho. Martho showed some sort of identification to the dock worker, who nodded and went about some other task.

   The dock was thirty feet wide and at least twice that long. From the middle of the dock was a metal set of stairs that rose 60 feet into the stone ceiling. At the end of the dock, a much narrower wooden bridge led to a large, open doorway through the back wall of the docking tunnel.

   "That is where the main warehouse and magical laboratory facilities are located," said Martho.

   The doorway was three times wider than the wooden bridge that passed through its center, and workers were guiding crates along the side of the bridge with wooden poles. The crates floated in the gravity plane adjacent to the two sides of the bridge, so workers needed only give them a gentle nudge to move them along, much like loggers might move timber down a river. Only when the crates reached the edge of the actual dock were winches and cranes needed to raise them onto the waiting cargo ship. The tradesman was currently being loaded thus, when the Frihet arrived.

   "We, however, are going to go upstairs to the corporate offices. Follow me."

   Martho led them up the six flights of stairs into the ceiling.

   It now felt like they were in a brick-walled building, lit with torches. There was a wide hallway with wood-paneled floors. Martho led them down it, and they entered into a wide open space. There were many people at work at desks here, each segregated off into separate workspaces by short wooden dividers. Several of the workers appeared to be deep in conversations, which confused the visitors at first, until they realized that these must be rings of sending.

   "Have you tried commanding the portal to activate first, sir," said one of the workers, as they passed, a look of deep frustration on his face.

   None of the workers in the room seemed to give them any mind, with the exception of two who simply nodded at Martho in recognition and greeting. It seemed like the giving of tours to visitors was a common enough occurrence to not warrant suspicion.

   They entered another hallway at the other side. Martho stopped them and said, "Wait here for a moment."

   He went back into the large work area and out of sight. Two women employees passed them, carrying bundles of scrolls. Again, they did not seem bothered by the presence of strangers standing there.

   Martho returned and beckoned them to follow again. The hallway made a sharp turn to the left, and they could see a figure about halfway down. Martho stopped them a second time. This time, he spoke in a quieter voice. "The room that I am taking you to is off-limits to visitors. So, here is the plan. Take this key. The next door on the right is the washcloset for males. All of you go in there. The door after that is the storage room for receipts. I will summon the hall guard ahead, who usually mans the door, and I will try to get him to follow me around the corner. That will be your chance to exit the washcloset and get yourselves into the storage room. Then shut the door again. Understood?"

   They all nodded.

   The plan, simple as it was, worked without a hitch. All of them soon found themselves hiding in the dark in a room with over a dozen wooden shelves loaded with crates full of parchment and scrolls. Soon, Martho joined them and shut the door behind him. "We should have time to search now," whispered Martho, "but keep your voices low and do not use any overly bright lights, because the guard may notice that it is more than just me in here now."

   Martho explained to them how things were organized by years and months and value and place of sale.

   When he notice a look of hopelessness on one of their faces, he said, "The good news is that the item that we are looking for was only sold for a limited period of time before being recalled, and I know roughly how much it would have sold for, so if we divide up the search, I am sure we can find it. It is only a four to six month period for us to search."

   They divided up and began to search through seemingly endless piles and bundles of receipts. Poor Kytharrah tried his hardest to help, but besides barely being able to recognize the letters that little sister had taught him, his large fingers were not very good at flipping through pages. He spent as much time sniffing the old papers as he did trying to read them. Solisar had told him to look for the letters R, O, and D, but the others were able to go through stacks about three times faster. He felt like he was losing this finding game, until....

   "Found it!" he said, probably too loudly.

   "Shh, Lunk!" whispered Szordrin.

   "One rule of this game is to speak very, very softly," said Solisar kindly.

   "Found it!" whispered Kytharrah.

   Kytharrah found no fewer than eight different receipts for the purchase of various magical rods over the next hour or hour and a half. By the time he actually found the receipt that they were truly looking for, no one expected it to be the correct one,... but it was.

   Szordrin swiped the receipt from his paws and read it:

Receipt of Sale
This document certifies
that on
Uktar 5 of the Year of the Banner
_____Onran_Dranyr_____
_Kaw-chi-wee-tee-tee,_
________Coliar________
has purchased and paid for
1 (one) rod of intraplanar retracing
for the full, asked price of
480 (four hundred eighty) certified Lantanna platinum trade bars
from


   Everyone else gathered around.

   "That is a lot of gold coins," said Solisar.

   "The purchase was made with Lantanese money," said Hakam. "Samber made his purchase with Amnian tradebars. I do not know if that means anything."

   "Coliar is one of the Dawn Heralds," said Solisar. "It is not a star; it is actually the second planet from our sun. I am told that it is a massive planet, much larger than Toril, made primarily of air and clouds, but it contains thousands of floating islands, much like Thultanthar, I suppose."

   "Is Kaw-chi-wee-tee-tee some sort of address?" asked Hakam. The others shrugged, so Hakam turned to Martho, who was standing back, hoping that whatever it was that this group had found would result in some good to balance the evil done by the sale of the rod.

   "What is the question?"

   Hakam took the sheet from Szordrin and handed it to Martho. Szordrin let him take it and stood there in almost a daze. The others did not seem to notice, being curious to hear Martho's answer. Only Kytharrah noticed his little brother's odd expression and posture, but he did not know what to do or say about it. A few hours earlier, Szordrin had almost been eaten alive, and there was still poison in his system; maybe it was just that.

   "Is this an address on Coliar?" Hakam repeated.

   "Typically, we require customers to record their addresses, yes," Martho replied. "I have never been to Coliar or to any of the planets in this crystal sphere — I was hired from Krynn and live in Bral — but it must be some way of locating the customer on the planet of Coliar." He shrugged. "Every planet, every culture is different."

   "Does this look like any language that you know?" Hakam asked Solisar, who shook his head in response. Hakam prayed for Anachtyr to open his eyes and held his holy symbol over the receipt. "It is just a bunch of numbers," he said, "Four-two-zero-one-one."

   After another pause, Hakam asked the group, "The name Onran does not sound like a Lantanna name, does it? Jayce would know."

   "I also know," said Szordrin from the back, finally joining the conversation. "Onran Dranyr... was my master."

   "What?" said Leokas.

   "This is not possible," said Szordrin. "I found the broken rod in the hands of the murderer. Onran never possessed such a rod!"

   "How well did you know him?" asked Hakam. "Maybe he stole someone's identity."

   "I trusted him like a father, and I lived in his home. He also never once traveled in the time that I knew him. I met him in the Year of the Sword, when I was thirteen years old. He was at home in Guallidurth during Uktar of the Year of the Banner. That was three years after we first met. I found him dead early in the next year, the Year of the Gauntlet."

   "Martho," asked Belvin, "does someone have to make a purchase in person from the Consortium?"

   "No," said Martho. "Nearly all of our primary customers are learned and wealthy mages, all of whom, you must know, have many creative ways of communicating with us here to place orders. We have a good number of agents who make deliveries all over the planes and crystal spheres."

   Szordrin looked at each of his companions. "Is Coliar a place that we could visit? Can humans survive there?"

   "I believe so," said Solisar. "It must be much warmer, since it is closer to our sun. We could look into it more back at the Rock of Bral."

   "Oh, I hope that you can track this murdered back to Coliar and bring him to justice!" said Martho. "I will sleep so much better at night, knowing that this little breaking of the rules by me has led to some good."

   "Breaking of rules rarely leads to good," muttered Hakam, not loud enough for Martho to hear.

   "We will do our best," said Solisar.

   "Would you let us search for more receipts?" asked Szordrin of Martho. "We also know of another very, very evil man who purchased portals from your company."

   "Portals are our number one product!" said Martho. "We would never have a chance of finding such a receipt. As you have seen, nothing is organized by customer name."

   "Let us be sure to share this receipt with Jayce once we get back to the ship," said Hakam. "He may have some further insight or ideas. He also speaks Lantanna."

   "So do I," said Solisar.

   "Part of me wonders if there is some kind of word game in this receipt or its address," said Hakam, "like we have seen Samber use."

   "Do you think that there could be some sort of connection between Onran and Samber?" asked Szordrin, surprised at the suggestion.

   "What was name of Samber's childhood friend who disappeared?" asked Hakam. "The one that Jayce was telling us about?"

   "It was not Onran," said Szordrin. "I would have noticed that."

   Hakam looked like he was trying to remember. "No, it was not Onran, but it was Ronan. I recall it now. The name is an anagram!"

   "Interesting," Szordrin muttered softly.

   "We already know how much Samber likes to use anagrams," said Solisar.

   "Szordrin, what did your master look like?" asked Hakam.

   "He was a white-haired aasimar," said Szordrin. "His celestial features were about as subtle as my fiendish ones."

   "Jayce told us that the boy had been adopted by a gnomish family, that he had silver hair and golden eyes."

   "Yes, Onran's eyes were gold," Szordrin confirmed. "Onran was always mostly silent about his background. He did not like to talk about it much. When he took me under his wing, he explained to me that his family had done the same to him. He, too, had been adopted, but he never explained by whom or the details of it."

   "Everything matches up," said Hakam.

   "I also know that he was in the Underdark because he did not want to be found, but I do not know why."

   "I wonder what he was trying to hide in his past," said Hakam.

   "I never sensed that he was evil;" Szordrin clarified, "I have never met a man more good. I sensed that he had faced some great tragedy in his past. He simply wanted to leave that past and start anew, and it pained him to discuss it, so we did not."

   "Jayce never told us 'Ronan's' surname," said Hakam. "I wonder if he learned it but failed to mention it. We shall have to ask him. I would not be surprised if it is also an anagram."

   Szordrin and Solisar stared at the so-called address for a while, trying to figure out if it, too, was some sort of puzzle. Neither of the wizards could make anything of it.

   "Perhaps they are some sort of coordinates on Coliar," suggested Hakam.

   "That would make sense," said Solisar.

   "Martho, would you be able to speak to the scribe who wrote this receipt to find out more about this address?"

   "We do not track that information," said Martho, "but I am fairly certain that, whatever the customer tells the scribe who takes the order, that person writes down. Few questions are asked. If the customer wants to receive the product, it had better be a valid address for that world and race. The only ones in the Consortium who might know would likely be our workers who actually make the deliveries. One of our tour guides might also know. I could look into that for you."

   "We have tarried here for a long while now," said Solisar. "We should probably make a copy of this receipt and refile it and then see if good Martho here can get us all out of this room as smoothly as he got us in."

   They all agreed, and Solisar carefully copied down the information onto a sheet of paper.

   "How are we going to exit without being caught?" asked Leokas.

   "Here is my idea," said Martho. "I will exit again first, but I will drag one of these boxes of receipts with me, and I will ask for help carrying it back to the manager's offices. Just give me maybe two minutes, then you...."

   His plan was interrupted by the sound of human screams — one a scream of fear, the other a scream of pain — followed by loud thuds and banging outside the door.

   Szordrin did not hesitate and rushed to the back of the room. A few seconds later, multiple images of the wizard appeared around him.

   Martho ran to the door, and Kytharrah, Leokas, and Hakam followed behind him. Their guide opened the door. No hall guard was standing there, so he poked his head out to look down the hall.

   They heard him gasp in horror, and he immediately pulled himself back into the room.

   "Neogi!" Martho shouted, with a look of dread on his face.
Session: 105th Game Session - Wednesday, Aug 22 2018 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
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