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Chapter 2 — Answers & Questions from the Past
The box contained a stack of seven letters from Samber — or Bremas or Rembas — with an unfinished letter from Onran to Samber inserted after the sixth. Szordrin confirmed that the script with large letters was indeed Onran's handwriting. These were all written in Lantanna, the language of Lantan.

   There were also two letters from a woman named Yunoko, who was clearly Onran's late wife. These were written in Common, and each ended with a character in Wanese calligraphy.

   Finally, at the bottom of the box was an inch-thick bound stack of love notes from Yunoko, which smelled heavily of perfume.

   "Woman smell," said Kytharrah.

   They passed the letters around and examined them in turn. There was a wealth of information within, detailing missing details of the lives of both Samber and Onran, and introducing them to Onran's wife, Yunoko. Once again, Sofi stood back out of the way and watched but did not ask to read the letters.

   "Well," said Solisar, as he set down the last letter, "we have learned that Samber relies on the Elemental Plane of Earth to procure the clay needed to make his creations."

   "We already suspected that he has been to many of the planes," said Hakam. "We know, for example, that he has been to the Plane of Fire."

   "Yes, but he goes to the Plane of Earth often, so it may be a means of finding him again."

   "We may as well start at the beginning of the stack and go through the letters methodically," said Hakam. "The first letter tells us unequivocally that Yunoko died. That was Samber and Avilda's condolences letter to Onran."

   "Who was Avilda?" asked Belvin.

   "According to Jayce, Avilda was the name of Samber's former wife," said Solisar.

   "The second letter seems to confirm the story that Jayce told us," said Hakam, "that she left him for creating a monster when they could not have children of their own."

   "Somewhere in the letters, Samber also remarked that he would never make a flesh golem again," said Solisar, "or at least something to that effect."

   "We know that his creations are flesh and blood, though, are they not?" asked Leokas. "Did Ilthian bleed?"

   "Yes," said Belvin. "Recall that she was covered in her own blood when we found her in her room after Samber had transferred his mind into hers."

   Kytharrah, who was bored and writing "Big Minotaur" in the ash of the fireplace, perked his ears when he heard Ilthian's name spoken. "Yes," he said confidently. "Shiny bones, like club." They still carried the large thigh bone of a leucrotta in one of their magic bags. The creatures had bone of a material very similar in structure to adamantine.

   "The later letters go into more details about his more recent models of construct and how they mix flesh and blood with other elements," said Hakam, "such as adamantine skeletons. Ilthian likely had a skeleton far stronger than any of ours."

   Solisar nodded.

   "The third letter tells us how he found his island," continued Hakam. "Did we ever see any of these 'animal Kell' that he describes? It seems so long ago now."

   The others distinctly remembered seeing some of the strange rolling creatures with two legs used as brakes that Samber had created when waiting in the area outside his subterranean abode. Ilthian had confirmed at the time that there were many such creatures on the island, though she only knew this because she had broken the rules and gone exploring outside the Forokell's little village.

   "That letter also confirms that Onran had a spelljammer," said Solisar, "and more important to us, perhaps, it claims that he had sent Onran a 'token' with which to find his island for the purpose of visits."

   "Yes," said Hakam.

   "It probably was used already, but it is worth considering, since we do not know how to return to the island on our own."

   "We know from later letters that Samber and Onran met each other after the sending of the token," said Hakam. "The token, if it still exists, was probably with Onran, not here."

   "I agree, but we should be on the lookout for whatever it is, wherever we happen to be investigating."

   "The fourth letter talks about mining operations," said Belvin. "This must be the mine where we fought the hobgoblins and the bone devil."

   "That one also says that they went to the Rock of Bral together," said Hakam. "It may be worth our time to go back there and see if anyone knew of either of them. None of us heard anything about either of them while there, did we?"

   "We probably would have to use one of their many pseudonyms," said Belvin.

   "The later letters discuss how he built Ilthian's people and their immediate predecessors," said Hakam.

   "The Lillikell and the Forokell," said Belvin.

   "We also know from one of Samber's journals that Ilthian was supposed to have been a Lillikell," said Solisar, "but he changed her into a Forokell at the last moment for some reason."

   "We never met any of the Lillikell," said Hakam, "correct?"

   "What about those armored constructs on his ship and that guarded his palace?" asked Szordrin. "The ones with the glowing visors. Those could be the Lillikell."

   "The letter that Onran never sent," said Hakam, "its year matches the one on most of the receipts and thank you letters from the orphanages that we found last night. Perhaps he was writing it when the rakshasa attacked this house."

   "How could he have had time to place it neatly in the stack with the others, seal it in a magic box, hide it in a secret chamber, and then teleport away, if that were the case?" asked Szordrin.

   "I only suggest it because the letter ends so abruptly, though I suppose that it is possible that he started to write the letter and then never sent it."

   "I think that that is a better theory," said Szordrin. "He wrote that he was afraid that he might offend Samber with his opinion."

   "Yes, he started to reproach him for creating his constructs," said Hakam. "That is true."

   "Is it possible from the letters to determine who else might have known about this island on Coliar?" asked Belvin.

   "If this is the 'vacation home' that Yunoko talks about in one of her letters, then her superiors may have known about it, yes," said Hakam. "It could also be somewhere else though."

   Hakam continued with another line of thought. "Another thing that we can infer from the letters is that Yunoko died because of the tiefling child, the rakshasa's descendent, that she was trying to keep hidden." They all looked over at Szordrin. "This was back in the Year of the Wandering Maiden. How old are you again, Szordrin?"

   "If you are suggesting that Szordrin here is the same as the son of this Mieko in the letters, the years do not work out," said Solisar. "The Year of the Wandering Maiden was in the early years of the reign of King Azoun Obarskyr IV of the human realm of Cormyr. That was nearly 40 years ago. The Year of the Turret, when we can presume the last letters between Samber and Onran were written, was only a dozen years ago."

   "I also have normal human teeth," said Szordrin, "unlike the child Yunoko describes in the letter."

   "When did you meet your master again, Szordrin?" asked Hakam.

   "The Year of the Sword," answered Szordrin, "when I was thirteen years old."

   "I want to make sure that I understand the details that Yunoko reported," said Hakam. "The rakshasa 'emperor' had a son, a half-fiend, who betrayed him, killed him, but the rakshasa came back, killed the son, and pledged to kill the son's whole line."

   The others agreed with this understanding.

   "So, even if you are not this Mieko's son, Szordrin, if you are in the emperor's line, the rakshasa could still be after you."

   Szordrin's grim expression showed that he had already come to the same conclusion.

   "This masquerading emperor, Kando — I would be surprised if he were not the 'ninth emperor of the seventh dynasty' that 'is in your past', Szordrin," said Solisar, quoting from Yashiera's first prophecy for Szordrin.

   "Yashiera's second prophecy for me was about an empress," said Szordrin. "Were there any hints about her within these letters?"

   "I noticed no such hints," said Solisar, "but the prophecy speaks of the 'twelfth circle of the seventh circle,' and, as we have discussed previously, I still suspect that this is one of the moons of the planet Garden — though to call it a planet is a misnomer, as it is suspected to be a root bud of an interplanar plant, perhaps related to Yggdrasil, but I digress."

   "It sounds like a planet that I would enjoy visiting," said Belvin.

   "While we are speaking of Yashiera's prophecies," said Szordrin, "Onran's letter to Samber mentioned an empty sphere, which must correspond to one of Yashiera's four visions for us."

   "The hollow 'ball of glass' 'in a rainbow ocean,'" said Solisar. "I agree."

   "It seemed like an off-hand comment of arcane interest more than something that can immediately aid us in our goals," said Hakam.

   "It may ultimately be someplace that we need to go?" said Szordrin.

   "But Onran only tells that he has been there," said Hakam, "not how to get there."

   "How do you think that they were actually sending these letters to each other?" said Leokas. "Through portals?"

   "It is certainly possible, considering the powers known by each of these two mages," said Solisar, "but there were often many years between some of them. He mentioned five years once."

   "A decade in one of them," added Szrodrin.

   "Another point of interest to me," said Hakam, "is that Yunoko was a member of the Harpers and that she had a mission, so tracking down someone from her organization may aid us in learning more about that mission."

   "Who are the Harpers?" asked Sofi, who had been so quiet that they almost forgot that she was still in the room.

   "The Harpers are a secret society," said Solisar, smiling at the irony of what he was about to explain, "but the elves played a role in their founding and have longer memories. They were founded in the Year of the Dawn Rose, about 700 years after the erection of the Standing Stone. Strangely enough, they have dryads to thank, in part, for their formation. The fey beings grew concerned over astrological events and sought aid from elven druids, who in turn called for aid from a group of human and elven priests of good deities. At the meeting in the druid grove, the powers themselves possessed their priests and spoke through them, giving them a mandate to fight against the forces of many of the evil powers, including Bane, Bhaal, and Myrkul. This initial group of priests and the small force of recruits that they gathered became what was first called the Harpers in Twilight.

   "After the first 300 years, the organization struggled to exist, for their enemies fought back. It was then that the human wizards Elminster and Khelben Arunsun, both whom Yunoko mentioned by name in her letters and both who live to this day, changed the group into a secret, underground force of agents of good, no longer working openly only to be slain by priests of evil gods. Most of the Chosen of Mystra are among their numbers now.

   "Their agents live hidden lives, acting as the eyes and ears for the more powerful leaders of the group, and this seems to have been what Yunoko was."

   "What do you know about Wa, Solisar?" one of them asked.

   "I have never studied the eastern realms of Kara-Tur," said Solisar. "I know that it is an island nation. They are known for their ninja assassins, their samurai knights, and their geisha escorts.

   "I recently learned during our time on the Rock of Bral that the nation of Wa is trying hard to compete with the Shou Empire in terms of wildspace trade. Though they are far behind, they are building their own classes of spelljammers, which are, in fact, some of the largest wildspace vessels ever built. Returning to our earlier discussions of prophecies, I suspect that we might find an empress of Wa on one of Garden's moons."

   "The empress in the prophecy could be Szordrin's mother, potentially," said Hakam, "at least by some reckoning."

   "Does anyone known what Yunoko meant by 'the slaughter of Chaunteas's worshipers by the shogun'?" asked Szordrin.

   "I took that as diplomatic matters of no import to us," said Hakam. "In any case, I have never heard of such a slaughter."

   "Nor have I," said Solisar.

   "So, then, we suspect that the child Yunoko rescued may have been Szordrin's father," said Hakam. "Szordrin, do you have any memory of him?"

   "My earliest memories are of being beaten by my drow mistresses," said Szordrin matter-of-factly. Then he asked, "She mentioned that Mieko and child were sent away to safety at Onran and Yunoko's vacation home. How could my father then have ended up in the Underdark on Toril?"

   "Perhaps it was when they were being transferred that Yunoko was attacked and killed," said Hakam.

   "Then how did the son survive?" asked Szordrin.

   "The rakshasa said that he only wanted the life of the son," said Solisar.

   "Not if the mother interfered with his hunt," said Hakam, "and fleeing and hiding is certainly interfering."

   "Are we certain that the woman's son is not Szordrin?" asked Belvin. "Could someone have changed your teeth when you were a baby to disguise you?"

   "You remember nothing about your early childhood, but you know how old you are?" asked Hakam.

   "Only roughly," said Szordrin. "I am certainly not close to 40 years old! I chose the day the Onran found me as the day that I celebrate my birth, but I do not know when that day actually was."

   "Do tieflings age differently than humans?" asked Hakam.

   "We age a little more slowly," said Szordrin, "but not by that much. I still grew far faster than the drow children around me, and my mistresses constantly reminded me of my supposed age...."

   "What if you had been placed into time stasis?" asked Hakam.

   "That would not make pointed teeth go away," said Szordin. "I think that the simplest explanation is the best. Forty years is long enough for two generations: my father and me."

   "Khelben lives in Waterdeep, does he not?" asked Hakam.

   "It sounds like we have several places where we can continue our search for Samber," said Leokas. "We could seek an audience with the Harper leaders at Waterdeep. We could find whoever this empress is on the moon of Garden."

   "Yes, we could also visit Wa itself," said Hakam. "If we ever happen upon one of Samber's tokens, we could find our way back to his island. We could gather more information from Bral."

   "What is our intent when we actually meet Samber next?" asked Solisar.

   "Make him stop what he is doing," said Leokas, as if the answer were obvious. "We have been charged by the gods to do so!"

   "I understand that, of course," said Solisar, "but I waited patiently ten years on the Great Glacier to watch the Ice Queen. Sometimes pursuing one's goal does not mean acting with haste. We cannot forget, from our knowledge of what he has done and the times that we have already encountered him, that Samber is an incredibly powerful mage, far beyond any of our own capabilities at the present time. I believe that with some growth in our powers, we will be able to stop him, but that takes time. I believe that we need that time before we face him again."

   "Is your thinking swayed by your own prophecy from Yashiera," asked Hakam, "'the wizard is wisest who waits to wave his wand'?"

   "He did literally exile all of us to the other side of Toril with a word," said Leokas, "although we have learned much since then."

   "Truly, I did not have the prophecy in mind when I spoke," said Solisar, "though I agree that it fits."

   "We need not stop him with violence or a direct conflict," said Leokas, "if that was a concern of yours. We need only convince him of the error of his ways."

   Belvin nodded.

   "Yes, that was, in part, the reason behind my question of our intent," said Solisar.

   "Perhaps knowledge of why his wife left him can help us persuade him," said Leokas.

   "Jayce knows where Avilda lives," said Solisar. "Nothing is stopping us from interviewing her again."

   "It sounds from the letters like Samber just cut ties and left," said Hakam. "It is highly unlikely that Avilda has any current knowledge of him."

   "Do we think that Samber is still in love with his wife?" asked Leokas. "Do you think that if we convinced her to come back with us that it could persuade him to stop his work?"

   "I highly doubt that that would be possible," said Hakam. "She is remarried with children of her own now. It also might make matters worse."

   "She may know the location of Onran and Yunoko's vacation home," said Solisar. "That is the only reason that I can think of for talking to her again."

   "Now that is an interesting thought," said Hakam. "It sounded like the four of them may have been friends."

   "Yes," said Szordin, "and we know that she was with Samber at least until after Yunoko died."

   "It sounds like returning to Lantan may be one of our next stops," said Solisar.

   "We should schedule our next steps," said Belvin. "We need to get off this humid oven of a planet soon."

   "We could, on the way to Lantan, first stop on Bral to ask about Rembas and Ronan," said Hakam.

   The others agreed.

   "We should also check back with the Interlink Consortium to learn if they have finished repairing the rod for us," said Szordrin.

   Solisar said, "Going back to Leokas' earlier question about leverage, I wonder if delivering Onran's unfished letter would convince him. They seem to have been best friends after all."

   "We should certainly keep it in our pocket as an option," said Hakam.

   "I still think that all of this is for a far later time than now, however," repeated Solisar. "We need more information and more magical power. Our best means of actually reaching his island, in my opinion, is through his portal from the Plane of Earth, yet the Plane of Earth is hostile to creatures like us. It is solid earth and stone with only rare pockets of air, and more often than not, that air is not even breathable to creatures like us. We are not even capable of surviving such a journey without knowing exactly where to go. Spells like the one on that scroll there will be helpful for such future travels, but neither Szordrin nor I understand the complexities of the Weave to be able to transfer it into our own spellbooks yet. We need more time before we worry about leverage with Samber."

   "We do not know how to find Samber's island because we were teleported off it," said Hakam, "but did not Jayce and Nargroth sail off on the repaired Daisy?"

   "Did you not explain to us that someone stole aboard the Daisy and stole all of Ombert's star charts and maps," said Solisar.

   Hakam looked frustrated. "Yes, that is right. Jayce sent the news to me magically just before we stopped Allustairimarinastralmindivu from freeing Memnon. No doubt, the someone was Samber himself. We did not suspect it at the time."

   "Ilthian told me right after that that she would be able to draw the stars above his island from her perfect memory," said Solisar. "Unfortunately, that very day was when Samber retrieved her. She never had a chance to write it in her journal."

   "They are not the only one to sail from the island," said Hakam. "We also know that the goblinoid pirates sailed from there."

   "Captain Stubs," said Leokas.

   "Would they be able to guide us back?"

   "Hobgoblins are stupid creatures," said Leokas. "I highly doubt it."

   "He is a captain; he knows how to sail a ship."

   "He lost all his limbs and has to be carried around and fed."

   "What does that have to do with navigation?"

   Leokas relented. "It is possible, I suppose. Do we know where he currently is?"

   "We know that he has left the island only because he responded to my sending before," said Hakam.

   "He is probably back to a life of piracy," said Leokas.

   "We can probably track them down if we need to," said Hakam. "It is an option. Finding a token would of course be faster."

   Leokas said, "Hakam, if we were to catch Stubs in an act of piracy, what would we do?"

   "It depends on the laws of whichever nation controls the waters in which we find him, of course," said Hakam.

   "So, then," said Solisar, "we visit Bral, then Lantan to talk with Avilda."

   "Again, I agree," said Hakam. "It would be good to learn where Onran and Yunoko kept a vacation home."

   "Finding that home can be our next primary goal," said Solisar, "as well as learning more about his wife's death."

   "...And her last mission," added Hakam, "and for that, we may need to visit Waterdeep to speak with Khelben, assuming he would grant us an audience."

   "This moon is far on the other side of the crystal sphere, is it not?" asked Leokas. "It does not make sense to visit it first."

   "Correct," said Solisar.

   "In any case," said Hakam, "I would not feel prepared to visit the moon until we have first visted Wa to learn more about this empress."

   "Bral may have an ambassador to Wa," suggested Belvin.

   "Yes, we could certainly look for one when we are there," said Hakam.

   "I strongly suspect that Wa would be interested in Lantanese smokepowder, if we need a way to gain access to an official," said Solisar.

   Szordrin remembered Sofi and glanced back at her to see her reaction to all of this. She was still standing there, looking simultaneous confused and fascinated by everything that she was hearing.

   "Sofi," asked Hakam, "you are from Sigil, are you not? It is a diverse place. Have you ever heard of any crystal spheres that are totally empty?"

   "I have never heard the term 'crystal sphere' until this hour," she replied. "What is it?"

   "Do you know how some of the Outer Planes have multiple layers?" said Solisar, and Sofi nodded. "The 'layers' of the Prime Material Plane are called crystal spheres. Each of them floats in a substance called the phlogiston, which is similar to how the Outer Planes are — at least in some sense — separated by the Astral Plane, and each is filled with planets, such as the one we are on."

   This seemed to make some sense to her. "Are the planets within a crystal sphere within the phlogiston similar to how there are realms within each of the Seven Heavens, which are in Celestia?"

   "That is a fair comparison, I think," said Solisar.

   "Have you been to any of the Seven Heavens?" asked Hakam of Sofi.

   "Oh, no; I do not think that I am holy enough to visit there," she replied. "I have been to Excelsior. That is about as close as I have ever been to Lunia."

   Only Solisar and Szordrin knew that Excelsior was what was called a gate-town, a small village on the Concordant Domain of the Outlands that had grown up around one of the sixteen portals to the Outer Planes. The Outlands were neutral territory for most of the gods and goddesses, and the portals were how their servants traveled back and forth. Excelsior was the gate-town surrounding the portal to the Seven Heavens.

   "I wonder if the prophecy about the seventh circle has to do with the Seventh Heaven," Hakam thought aloud. Then he vetoed his own idea. "No, no one travels to the Seventh Heaven; it is the place of ultimate perfection, and it has only one realm, else it would not be perfect."

   "Continuing our discussion of the empty crystal sphere," said Solisar, "we know that Samber wants to obtain apotheosis. With the knowledge of Onran's empty sphere, he will have found a place where he can create life and rule free from all the other powers."

   "We at least know that he has not learned about this empty sphere yet," said Hakam, "because Onran never sent that letter."

   "No, Onran never sent this draft of the letter," said Solisar. "There is always the possibility that he did send another version, perhaps one less condemning of Samber's actions."

   "So, he could know about it then," said Hakam soberly.

   "It is useful for us to know, but we have no means of using this knowledge for the time being," said Solisar.

   "If we find the sphere before Samber," said Belvin, "it might be used for bargaining with him."

   "If the rod from the Interlink Consortium works as advertised," said Hakam, "we can indeed retrace Onran's travels to find it."

   "The gods would not be pleased with that solution," said Solisar, "because then Samber would become a god."

   "If he were just isolated to that one sphere," said Leokas, "I suppose that he could not longer harm Toril, but what if just built up his own power until he could overturn other powers from their own realms?"

   "The gods do not want him to ascend by any means," agreed Hakam, "either within this sphere or another."

   "Well, we have a plan, then," said Belvin. "Bral it is for our first stop. So, how are we getting back to our spelljammer?"
Session: 116th Game Session - Monday, Jul 27 2020 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 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 4:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
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