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Chapter 2 — Faux and Geese
Hakam gingerly poked his head around a tree to look upon the fallen beast. His spiritual sword and hammer hovered over the dinosaur but did not make any attempt to strike it.

   "It is dead," he called back to the others.

   "Move your poisoned dagger away," Belvin called up to Szordrin while dismounting. "I am going to get its skull."

   Szordrin flew down and retracted his dagger from the ground, then poked the dinosaur in the side. It did not stir.

   "How do you expect to carry that skull?" asked Solisar. "It would not even fit in a bag of holding!"

~~~~

It was less than a hour more of jungle travel to reach the edge of this island. Their campsite was not quite as convenient this time, because of the crowding of the trees, but they made do.

   They sat around a fire in the last hour before the rains and ate their dinner, which included dinosaur meat.

   "You know," said Belvin, "these past few days with lizard people and lizard things reminded me of Yash's vision for us."

   "Which one?" asked Szordrin.

   "The one about three dinosaurs around a jungle pool, who do not see a dark cloud approaching."

   "If I recall correctly," said Solisar, "it was not three dinosaurs. It was a dinosaur, a chameleon, and a crocodile."

   "All jungle reptiles, however," said Belvin, "...such as here on Coliar."

   "Is not this the prophecy that you had already seen?" asked Hakam.

   Belvin shrugged.

   "If not, it certainly would not be shocking to see the prophecy fulfilled here somewhere," said Hakam. "In any case, let us know if you recognize any pools."

~~~~

They passed another short Coliar night and waited as the day grew brighter and hotter, until once again it was time for their third and final jump to reach Kaw-chi-wee-tee-tee.

   "Are we expecting Onran to be on this next island?" asked Leokas. "As a powerful wizard, could he have faked his death?"

   Szordrin had also secretly been hoping that this was true. Surely, Onran, being a great magician, had the means to do so, but he did not want to appear to the others to hold to such a faint hope.

   "I am concerned that he might have set up defenses on the island," said Hakam.

   "Such as an invisible wall to block people like us from simply gliding down to it?" asked Solisar. "The thought also crossed my mind. Did you actually see him die?" This last question was to Szordrin.

   "I found his body," said the tiefling.

   "But we know that Samber can jump bodies," said Hakam, "and Jayce told us that Onran taught Samber some of his magic. Perhaps Onran did the same."

   "Onran was an aasimar;" said Szordrin, "he was naturally good. It is unlikely that he would have shifted bodies for personal gain."

   "He was being threatened with death," said Hakam. "Maybe it was his last chance to escape. Samber did not want to jump bodies either, but presumably, he had to to escape the mummy's prison."

   Belvin was already in pteranodon form with Kamil miniaturized. It was time to jump.

   As they approached this roughly circular island from the air, they observed that it had a deeper underside than the last two islands, and it seems to have more ponds and lakes. They soon recognized that it also had a much nicer spot to land, a lake near the edge, free — for the most part — from trees surrounding it. Solisar, thankfully, saw no aura of invisible defenses with his magic vision, not that he would have had time to warn the others if he had, as they were moving at too quick a velocity for that. Fearing an aquatic dinosaur in its waters, they guided their gliders above the lake and used feather-falling magic to break in the air and land on the opposite shore.

   The lake, however, was covered in swimming birds, similar to the ducks and geese with which they were familiar on Toril. These scattered from the area in crowded clouds of wings and feathers, as the gliders passed by. The shore itself was covered in goose droppings. "Stinky," said Kytharrah, who, as usual, immediately took in the smells of his new environment.

   No one had any issues landing this time, and they began to pack up their gliders or transform back into humanoid form.

   Besides the water birds, there were many flocks in the sky moving from cluster of trees to cluster of trees.

   Hakam and Solisar, when nearing the island, had each seen some smoke rising from somewhere in the northeast, probably less than a mile away, and they made sure that everyone was aware of it.

   Belvin carefully approached one of the geese-like birds. It seemed to sense that he meant no harm, and then Belvin started honking, cackling, and clucking. It honked right back.

   The druid called back to the cleric. "Hakam, what do you want me to ask her?"

   "Ask if the birds have seen any other creatures that look like us," said Hakam.

   Belvin honked and then gave the translation of the goose's reply. "She says that there is indeed one tall, white-feathered creature that walks like us but cannot fly."

   "Can they point us to this person?" asked Hakam.

   The bird indicated that the creature was to the northeast, the same direction as the small strand of smoke.

   "What hair color does this person have?" asked Szordrin.

   The goose described some off-white feathers as well, but Belvin did not think that the bird was distinguishing feathers from fur, clothing, or hair. "Remember, she is a bird," he said.

   "Onran's hair was white, when I knew him," said Szordrin, and he began to remove his mithral vest. They all wondered what he was doing, as he also took a tiny rolled up piece of parchment from his spell component pouch. The wizard muttered a few words, and his body shortened to five and a half feet tall and appeared to gain a little weight. His hair grew white and his yellow cat eyes turned more golden, almost glowing, and the pupils rounded. The hair and beard stayed rather similar.

   "This was Onran," said Szordrin's voice. "Ask the hen if she recognizes me now."

   "She is a goose, not a hen;" corrected Belvin. "The word 'goose' is already feminine. The males are ganders. Nevertheless, I shall ask her."

   Belvin honked at the water bird, and she cackled back.

   "She says that we all look alike to her," reported Belvin, "but she thinks that you have too many non-white feathers to be whom she saw from the sky."

   Belvin then tried to ask the bird if she had seen any structures, though it seemed to take him a while to explain to the simple creature what a structure even was. He tried ideas of unnatural shapes or extremely large square nests. While not sure that he had communicated the idea clearly to her, she did not seem to have seen any such thing as a "structure" on the island.

   "Do the birds recognize anything strange below the water?" asked Hakam. "Any lights, sparkling surfaces, things that are not rocks?"

   They had seen no such things under the water, just the plants and swimming amphibians and reptiles that they ate.

   Belvin asked if they had any natural predators, and he learned that they did not in this area. They migrated from island to island, and this island was where they came to raise their young.

   "Have any aarakocra landed here?" asked Solisar.

   None had in the bird's memory. "But she is only four years old," said Belvin.

   "I think that we have learned what we can from this goose," said Hakam. "Let us finish packing up the gliders and walk to where we saw the smoke."
Session: 113th Game Session - Friday, Jun 26 2020 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
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Chapter 2 — Spinosaurus vs. Triceratops
The gargantuan predator brought its long head close to the ground, almost touching it, and opened its tooth-filled mouth wide to emit a deep and deafening bellow.

   Kytharrah felt the otherworldly howl deep in his bones. Nevertheless, he just shook it off, grabbed his axe, and readied himself.

   The triceratops, too, was unfazed by the larger dinosaur's roar. It simply kept on strolling calmly after its mate, which had disappeared into the tree cover to the north.

   Leokas rushed south through the trees and climbed up over the embankment. He passed Solisar, who waved a wand and sent a pulse of magic zipping through the trees to slam into the bony crest along the massive dinosaur's snout.

   From the air, two rays of fire blasted forth from Szordrin's hands. Each struck the dinosaur. It called out, took one long stride, and chomped down on the triceratops' hindquarters. The long conical teeth of the predator easily punctured the thick, scaled skin of the triceratops.

   The triceratops cried out, at last freed from the power of Hakam's calming enchantment, and began to run, but the other dinosaur lifted its back half completely off the ground, so that only the triceratops' front feet were making contact with the earth. Its rear legs moved about uselessly.

   From the top of the embankment, Leokas could easily see the tail of the giant dinosaur. It was finned and shark like. He began unleashing arrows.

   The attacking dinosaur growled and twitched as arrow after arrow plunged into its hide, followed by numerous magic missiles from Solisar's wand.

   The triceratops shook its hips and fell from the bigger dinosaur's mouth. It spun quickly around to face its attacker and lunged forward, raising its thick neck and driving its two long horns into the other beast's chest, just between its arms.

   As the dinosaurs battled just outside the cover of the trees, Hakam laid his hands on Kytharrah to enhance the protectiveness of his armor, while Belvin called out a powerful enchantment to boost the range of his companions' weapons.

   The carnivore, three arrows embedded in its lower body and burned and bleeding, twisted its head around to grab at its dinner's neck. The triceratops instinctively defended itself by lifting its head back to protect the vulnerable spot with its bony frill and knocking the bigger beast's head to the side, where it clamped down instead on the arch of the triceratops' back. The wounded triceratops bucked and yanked free, but the predator also slashed and gashed with its long thumb-claws, cutting deep into the triceratops' bulky side.

   Kytharrah dropped his axe and reached for his minotaur-sized bow, joining Leokas at launching projectiles at the dinosaur, though not as rapidly, of course. A gust of wind, triggered by Belvin's magic, guided the shot into the back of the beast's neck.

   Szordrin drew his new dagger of venom from its sheath and tossed it through the air. Another rush of wind kept the blade spinning through the air, but the throw fell short, and the dagger drove into the ground at the four-toed foot of the towering monster.

   The triceratops bellowed and gored its foe once again, this time severely wounding the larger creature in the neck. It then tried to back up into the shelter of the trees, but the other dinosaur was faster. It stepped to the side, ignoring its own wounds and bit down once again. This time, it used its clawed hands and its bite together to press its prey to lie flat on the ground with the force of its weight behind it. The triceratops let out a shriek. It was pinned, prone, and helpless.

   A mystical sword and hammer appeared in the air on each side of the upright reptile. The hammer missed, but the sword swung down on the back of the creature's neck. The magical force burst a major vessel, and blood spurted. The dinosaur growled and raised its head, swinging it over rapidly to snap at the strange flying thing that had harmed it. As its head turned, Leokas saw the perfect shot. His wind-guided arrow struck the dinosaur in the left eye and burst out on the other side. The huge reptilian body flopped over lifeless and slammed into the ground. The triceratops got up and fled away from the clearing.
Session: 113th Game Session - Friday, Jun 26 2020 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
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Chapter 2 — Stampede!
~ third-day, 27th of the sixth season, shrinking halflight
Chi-wee-wee-seh-kaw


Belvin, in the lead, saw a clearing up ahead through the thick trees. They seemed to be walking parallel now to an embankment or short earthen cliff about ten feet high. Leokas estimated that they have come about four and a half miles since landing.

   They cautiously approached the clearing. There had been clearings here and there on the last island, but this one was particularly wide, about 30 feet across. Leokas knelt down and looked at the ground. It was covered in leaves, broken branches, and dried mud. "There are countless animal tracks here," said Leokas, "going in all directions, ground birds and lizards of course, but many of them are very large, dinosaurs perhaps, like in Chult. The leaves and sticks have been ground down, trampled under heavy weight."

   Kytharrah sniffed some of the tracks. "New," he said.

   Leokas agreed. "Yes, there are no puddles in them, so these here are from this morning, unlike those there."

   Szordrin looked around the area for traps and was convinced that the area was clear. Belvin believed that the clearing was the meeting place of animals. It seemed like a wide natural "highway" led down over the embankment coming from the south to end here in the clearing.

   "The trail is leading perpendicular to the way we want to go," said Leokas. "Let us just cross and continue on."

   Kytharrah began to move over to the embankment to take a peek over it.

   Just then, everyone heard the sound of crunching leaves and branches approaching rapidly from the south. Leokas, with his elvish hearing, noticed the sound first and quickly darted out of the clearing back into the cover of the trees. "Incoming!" he shouted in warning, as he unslung his magic bow.

   With a cloud of feathers and dust, a small flock of very large and tall birds rushed over the embankment. They looked something like the running birds that some of them had seen in Chult called ostriches. These birds had similar long legs for high-speed running and small vestigial wings, but they had bulkier legs and bodies and shorter necks than ostriches. Even so, they were still taller than Kytharrah. The birds' beaks were large and thick and curved to two sharp points at the top and the bottom, looking almost like a hatchet or throwing axe in shape.

   These "axebeaks" ran off the embankment at a speed of close to perhaps 40 miles per hour. Six of the seven birds landed on the ground in the clearing with a flutter of their small wings and kept right on running. The sixth stumbled and fell flat with a squawk.

   Belvin had barely spun around to the sound of the approaching birds just in time to see one of them coming straight at him. He sprung out of the way just in time, as the terrified bird charged past.

   Likewise, another of the birds nearly missed crashing into Kytharrah as it darted by. The same bird slowed down at bit as it saw its path was blocked by Kamil. It squawked loudly, and the camel turned and bolted, and the bird followed right after him. Kamil veered into the trees out of the path of the charging bird, which kept on running.

   "Kamil! Wait!" shouted Belvin.

   Kytharrah reached the embankment and stepped up enough to peek up over the edge for a one-second glance, as the fallen bird got back up on its feet and began to run after its flockmates. The minotaur saw two gigantic animals running full speed down the wide path towards them. They were only 50 to 100 feet away and rapidly approaching. He could feel the rumble of their footfalls shaking the ground. He had never seen creatures anything like them before. They ran on four thick legs, which looked somewhat like the legs of the magic elephant that Hakam sometimes summoned from the marble figurine, but their heads were completely different. They had three massive horns. Two long and twisted horns jutted from the back of their heads, and another grew from their beaked snouts. The skulls were shaped something like a shield, or like the dragon Sseth's head, with a thick bony ridge extending in the back. Also, instead of wrinkly gray skin like the elephant, these two creatures seemed to have dusky scales.

   The two animals were also charging. Though not as fast as the running birds, they were sure to reach the embankment in seconds.

   Kytharrah spun around with a snort, swung out his long arm and grabbed Belvin and yanked him back into the woods with him out of the clearing.

   Szordrin also moved into the shelter of the trees, nearly tripping on all the roots and vines now present, since Belvin was no longer in front of him. With a wave of a wand, multiple copies of his form appeared. Deeper in the woods, numerous Solisars also materialized.

   Belvin sprung from root to root toward his camel, who had obeyed him and stopped, and mounted his animal companion.

   Hakam, seeing their minotaur peek over the embankment and respond by moving deeper into the trees, raised his holy symbol toward the earthen slope and waited. Leokas, ten yards north of him, nocked three arrows simultaneous, an arrow between each of his fingers, and also waited a brief moment to see what was coming over the ridge. "Heel!" he commanded Sif, and she obeyed.

   The ground rumbled loudly enough for everyone to hear and feel now. The birds continued fleeing, and most of them had made it across the clearing and into the trees at the other end. A second later, the two bulky, three-horned, quadrupedal dinosaurs came into view at the top of the embankment.

   "Be calm!" Hakam shouted.

   The nearest of the triceratops continued running at full gallop and came crashing down the embankment. It landed on its four massive, multihooved feet and kept on running. Its companion, however, suddenly stopped its gallop, but its forward momentum caused it to skid through the soil and off the edge. It slid down the steep slope and thudded on its stomach.

   Leokas recognized the beasts as ytepka in Chultan and knew them to be herbivores — Yashiera had kept a miniaturized one as a pet — but acting on reflex, he released the bowstring but managed to hold on to two of the arrows between his fingers. The stray missile struck the charging dinosaur and glanced of its head armor harmlessly.

   Solisar, suspecting that there was a still-larger dinosaur coming, cast a spell to boost his speed.

   Kytharrah hustled over to the embankment again and took a second peek, as the still-rampaging triceratops entered the trees at the end of the clearing, followed by squawking from the axebeaks at the rear of the retreating flock. The minotaur saw yet another creature running down the wide path, this one even bigger than the previous two but running on two powerful hind legs. It was sort of like a bird in shape to Kytharrah, and even had some patches of green feathers on its upper torso among its gray, scaled skin, but it had two short arms with long claws instead of wings. Its head and long jaw reminded him of the crocodile that Belvin could transform into with his magic trick. On the creature's back was something that reminded him of the sail of some of the spelljammers that he saw while working at the Rock of Bral.

   As intrigued as he was by this half-second view over the edge, the monster was enormous, three times his own height, definitely large enough to swallow even a big minotaur like him, and it was running even faster than the other two beasts. He sprung back away from the embankment and began to back away again into the tree cover, grunting and gesturing to the others to move deeper into the woods.

   Clutching a tiny feather from his pouch, Szordrin and his duplicate figments magically rose into the air several yards up to get a better view. To the right, he saw Belvin struggling to guide Kamil over thick roots and vines, and to the left, he saw the other triceratops standing back up. Then he saw the bigger dinosaur come into view, sprinting along the path above the embankment. It was bigger even than the ceratosaur that had nearly killed Belvin a year ago.

   "A tyrannosaur with a sail on its back is coming!" he yelled down.

   Belvin reared Kamil and turned back on his mount, prepared to cast a druidic spell. Leokas heard Szordrin's warning and retreated farther west with Sif struggling to keep up with her master. Solisar, and his many copies, all magically sped up, likewise moved quickly through the bushes away from the clearing.

   The remaining triceratops, oblivious to the threat only seconds away from coming over the embankment, trotted calmly over to Kytharrah at the edge of the clearing and sniffed deeply through the two giant nostrils on the side of its beaked snout just under its central horn.

   Kytharrah waved his arms frantically at the friendly beast, trying to get it to follow after its mate. "Go! Go!"

   It turned away from the minotaur, and immediately the pursuing dinosaur came over the embankment in a single long step.

   Belvin screamed out something in Druidic, but it was not clear what magic, if any, had occurred. Szordrin rose higher into the air at an angle, while clutching a tiny glass rod and a bit of fur. Kytharrah backed into the woods even further, dragging Hakam along with him and then shoving the cleric ahead so that he was between the human and the new big monster.

   The dinosaur turned toward the meal that it had been pursuing, which strangely had no fear and simply strolled along. Before it could swing its thick neck down for a bite, there was a blinding flash, followed by a thunder clap, as a bolt of lightning shot forth from Szordrin's fingertips. The dinosaur convulsed from the electrical shock but then shook its head, as if shaking off some minor nuisance.

   Lowering itself onto all fours, it arched its back like a cat trying to look intimidating. Doing so caused its feathers to jut out and the fin of skin on its back to tighten and expand as the spines supporting it stood rigid.

   The gargantuan predator brought its long head close to the ground, almost touching it, and opened its tooth-filled mouth wide to emit a deep and deafening bellow....
Session: 112th Game Session - Monday, Jun 22 2020 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
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Chapter 2 — Jungle Journeying Without the Sun
~ second-day, 26th of the sixth season, growing quarterlight
Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi


Dawn came to the floating island numbered 0-0-4-6-2. The short night had passed without any major incidents. When the two sylvan elves were on first watch, they had heard high-pitched sounds being emitted by some flying creatures high up in the trees. Knowing that no mammals lived in Coliar, they discussed the idea that perhaps some lizard or bird species in this planet had also evolved the bat's power of echolocation. When Solisar and Kytharrah were on second watch, during the darkest hours of the starless night, they had noticed strange glowing lights on the trunks of the trees that moved slowly up, high into the canopy, but the phosphorescent lights did not set off Solisar's magical alarm, and they did not risk investigating this observation further.

   While Belvin and Hakam prayed for power from their respective gods, the birds of the jungle sang in joy at a new day from high above their heads at the top of the canopy. Szordrin packed up his hammock, Kytharrah and Leokas rolled up their beds, and Solisar climbed down the rope from the extradimensional space.

   Solisar reminded them about their timeline. "Postmaster Spiraldive said that the islands would be eclipsed at roughly brightest light on the 27th of the sixth season. Today is the 26th, so we have more than 30 hours until then, and we would need to wait at least five hours beyond that for the second, lower island to get far enough away for a safe descent down to it."

   "So we still have nine or ten miles to go in well over 30 hours," said Hakam. "That should not be a problem."

   "I am certain that Belvin and I could make three miles per hour in jungle," said Leokas, "but I am guessing that the rest of you would find it difficult to traverse much faster than a quarter that speed. I estimate that we only made half a mile in our hour of sloshing along the stream last night."

   The wide stream that they had followed was now only a foot deep and five feet wide. It had been joined by smaller streams, coming mostly from the right, as they had followed it the night before.

   "Belvin," said Hakam, "that spell that you used in Chult to drive the vegetation from our path behind you — would you be able to cast it again."

   It seemed like Belvin had forgotten about it, but, having been reminded, he added it to the list of spells for which he was beseeching Thard Harr that day.

   Leokas was looking up at the sky — at least trying to; it was not easy to spot any through the thick tree cover overhead. "Speed may be the least of our concerns," said Leokas. "Even if it were not for these trees, there is no sun in the sky; the light just changes intensity throughout the day. At night, there are no stars or moon. I think that east is that way, but I think it best that Belvin prays to Thard for guidance on this."

   "Maybe we should mark the trees once we get going," said Szordrin, "so that we will recognize if we have walked around in circles."

   "But there is no need for any of that; we have a minotaur with us," said Hakam. Then he spoke to Kytharrah directly. "Which direction is where we landed in our gliders?"

   Kytharrah pointed in a direction that most of them thought was north.

   "Are you certain?" asked Leokas.

   Kytharrah nodded. (Without Ilthian around anymore to encourage him to use words, the minotaur was back to speaking very little.)

   "The stream last night must have subtly been curving left then," said Leokas. "We need to walk that way. I am glad that I did not trust my own senses on this."

   Now that they knew which way was east again, Belvin took the lead on foot, so that he could use his spell; Kamil followed behind him. Belvin prayed, and behind him, the plants and undergrowth, extending back some 30 feet in a cone shape, slowly unraveled and moved away from the area, as if alive. A flurry of tiny lizards, frogs, snakes, and little flightless ground birds hurriedly scattered to take cover as their hiding places betrayed them and moved away.

   "I am sorry, little ones," said Belvin. "All will be restored to normal once we pass through; you will not be harmed."

   In this way, they turned a potentially twelve-hour journey into a three hour one. An extra benefit of this was that they would be able to reach their destination before the increasing temperature became unbearable at brightest light. The temperature was even worse deep in the jungle than it was in either Hisssta or Athanar.

   Half way through the third hour, Hakam's nose began to itch and his eyes began to water. Kytharrah also noticed something in the air, a strong smell of pollen. Hakam managed to avoid a violent fit of sneezing, but he was not comfortable. Thankfully, the potent pollen seemed to only be in a small area of the jungle, and the irritation soon passed.

   At last they exited the jungle and reached the edge of the island at a small clearing with grassy hillocks. Having arrived so early in the day, they were able to spend a good amount of time relaxing. There were puddles of water, left over from the previous night's rain, and with this they were able to remain cool. Leokas started a camp fire, and they ate around it on rocks and a log and joked about some of their past adventures together.

   Solisar periodically looked over the edge of the island, but Chi-wee-wee-seh-kaw, the crescent-shaped island that was their next destination, was not yet visible. It was still some 350 miles or so too far west by his estimates.

   The rains came, right on schedule, filling an area west of their campfire with water and forming a temporary pond. Then night finally followed, and the sounds of the animals in the jungle behind them changed from the chirps and tweets of birds to the calls of frogs and the hisses of small reptilian creatures in the leaves. This night passed with less note than had the previous one.

   In the morning, they were once again woken by a cacophony of bird songs. As the day got brighter, it of course got much hotter. Leokas continued to teach all of them simple tricks for staying cool. For example, he dipped his aba in the water and draped it over his shoulders. Kytharrah splashed in the shallow pond that the rains had formed, but it became little more than scattered mud puddles by the time the light was at its fullest.

   It was still some fifteen hours from the time that they woke until it was time to jump from the edge and glide to their next island. Solisar pointed it out to them, and they agreed that it matched the sketch on the copy of the address slate.

   "How long will we have until Onran's island eclipses this next one?" asked Hakam.

   "It will do so at brightest light tomorrow," said Solisar. "The calculations always seem to be for brightest light."

   "This second island is how wide?"

   "It is listed as being thirteen miles long and seven miles wide. We are crossing at its narrowest part, so aim for the center of the curve of the crescent."

~~~~

The journey through the jet streams down to Chi-wee-wee-seh-kaw was a shorter one than before, taking two hours, because they had timed the jump better. However, when they were halfway between the islands, it became clear to some of them from their gliders that this particular island did not have any obvious clearings where landing would be safest. It seemed to be jungle trees all the way up to the edge. Landing was going to be more challenging.

   They began shouting to each other over the loud flapping of their hang glider wings. Solisar and Szordrin instructed everyone to pull into a tighter formation. That way, if anyone had issues, the wizards could slow the stray glider or gliders with their spells.

   Hakam expertly banked between two large trunks at just the right moment and landed running, safely underneath the canopy of the jungle. Kytharrah came in behind him safely as well, grunting and grinning.

   The wizards and Leokas, however, came in too high and found themselves stuck high in the branches of immense trees, unharmed, but suspended. Each of them solved his predicament in a unique manner. Solisar simply unattached himself from the glider harness and let himself fall the fifty feet to the ground at the rate of a feather. Having landed safely on the leaf-covered undergrowth, he used telekinetics to jostle and guide the glider from the branches and back down to the canopy floor. Szordrin used his spider-walking spell to suspend himself sideways from the tree. With his free hand, he collapsed the glider and then carried it down the trunk. Leokas balanced on a branch with Sif still tied to his chest, and collapsed his glider. Usually the most skilled climber among them, he shockingly snapped a branch and began to fall, dropping the glider. Thankfully, he was also a superb tumbler; he flipped himself and landed in a handstand at a lower branch, then flipped around like a circus gymnast. Sif yelped and whined, but she was alright. From the ground, Belvin, back in elven form, clapped. Szordrin climbed Leokas' tree to recover his glider from the lower branches.

   Hakam watched all this with a smile as Belvin dressed. Hakam was usually the least agile of the group, being garbed in his heavy banded mail; while in the glider, he just seemed to have a natural sense of how his subtle body motions could control his descent and direction.

   The wildlife on this island was much louder. There were constant screeches, shrieks, chirps, and snapping sounds. It was the 22nd hour of the day, and using Belvin's undergrowth-moving power, they figured that they could easily beat the rains and the darkness to the eastern side of the island, where they would camp, so they set out again, entering the jungle depths.
Session: 112th Game Session - Monday, Jun 22 2020 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
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Chapter 2 — Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi
~ first-day, 25th of the sixth season, growing threequarterlight
Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi


While exciting at first, leaping off the edge of one island and gliding to another island was not as simple an ordeal as it at first may have seemed, but the challenge in it was also not what they would have predicted. The enemy here was boredom. In such clear weather, success lay not in any technical skill but rather primarily in maintaining the will-power to stay focused on a journey through an endless white sky. The boredom inevitably came after the first hour or so of gliding. As when Jayce had guided their spelljammer down to one of these islands, distance was very hard to estimate. The relative sizes of objects to their vision changed slowly, so progress was deceptive. Their target was always there in front of them, subtly growing larger, but only if you looked elsewhere for a time and then looked back. If you did this, however, you risked moving off course. Thankfully, even if you did move off course, from stray winds, distraction, dozing off, or any other cause, you had hours still to correct. Szordrin indeed did drift far away from the others for a time, but was able to get back in formation long before the island was close enough for this to be a concern. Kytharrah was the only one who seemed to still be enjoying himself after two hours, and he was intentionally banking left and right and making grunts and calls of enjoyment.

   Sif, Leokas' wolf, in particular, was not pleased with the situation. She was tied tightly in a harness to Leokas' torso as he steered his glider. She would periodically let out a whine to remind her companion that she was not happy.

   When the island was close enough, they saw that the western "horn" of the bull-head-shaped island had a grassy open area that looked like a prime landing spot. The rest of the island appeared covered in lush jungle.

   Hakam was the first to touch down on the grassy field, and did so like an expert. The others followed one after the other, running as they dropped their legs down and tried to match speed with the ground.

   Leokas, however, came in too shallow. His legs slammed against the rocky cliff that was the edge of the island, and he fell back into the expanse with Sif still tied to him. Belvin, who had just released dog-sized Kamil from his talons, shrieked out and circled back.

   Leokas' legs were scraped up and bruised, but he was not badly hurt. His glider had avoided taking any damage, but he was now gliding behind the island, some fifty feet too low. He was following his training and gaining altitude, but there was no way for him to go any faster, having lost some of his speed from the collision. If Belvin had not flown out to retrieve him, he would have never caught up again.

   "Once again, you have saved my life, my friend," said Leokas, when he was set back on solid ground. Sif was fine, beyond being clearly miffed at having been bound up for four hours.

   Near where they landed, there was some sort of stone statue or totem crudely constructed. Kythrrah bounded over to it as the others began collapsing their gliders and slipping them into the extra-dimensional spaces within their two magic sacks. He sniffed the stone for anything familiar but only noticed the new scent of the the vines growing up its height.

   Solisar joined him at the totem. It was roughly bird-shaped, with an obvious beak. At the back of the head were scratchings that the sun elf recognized as Iokharic runes, the numerals 0, 0, 4, 6, and 2, that is, Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi.

   "This is definitely the correct island," said Solisar. "I suspect that this totem was erected by the surveyors who cataloged this island."

   Belvin shifted back into humanoid form and re-clothed. Kytharrah, head raised high, continued to take in all the interesting smells around him, mostly pollen and other plant scents.

   To the southeast, close to where they had set down, was a pond, about 40 feet wide, surrounded by scrub trees, ferns, and short palm bushes. Beyond this, the cover of palm trees and taller kapok trees grew thick so quickly as to form a wall hiding whatever lay beyond from vision.

   Solisar walked back to the edge of the island, where the grass gave way to rock. He gazed about through Ombert's spyglass. "I believe that I may have found our next island," he said. "It is shaped something like a crescent. It is at least two days before it will pass under us, according to Postmaster Spiraldive's calculations. We have that much time to get to the eastern side of this island."

   "She said that this was a medium-sized island, did she not?" said Hakam. "It is about ten miles from edge to edge, if I recall correctly."

   Solisar confirmed this.

   "I should hope that we can travel ten miles in two days, even if the jungle is thick."

   "Boom," said Kytharrah.

   "What?" asked Szordrin.

   "He hears a rumble," said Hakam. "I do too. Infrequently, in the distance to the southeast. Listen."

   It took half a minute before the others also heard the rumble.

   "Water," Kytharrah also said, and he began walking to the east, looking about and sniffing.

   "We may as well explore about a bit," said Hakam, "and we do need to move east." He followed behind the minotaur, hanging back at a distance. Everyone else followed along. Belvin used one of his druid spells to scan the area for any dinosaurs, but while they could hear the sounds of birds and frogs in the distance, his spell revealed no giant warm-blooded lizards.

   It soon became clear that they were on a peninsula — one of the "horns" of the island — because they could see that the land came to an end to the east

   The sound of running water was louder now, such that the others could also hear it. The minotaur, in the lead, at last reached the stream at a sharp turn from flowing north to east. In 30 to 40 feet, it poured off the edge into the great expanse. To the south, the river passed under a land bridge that led up to a hill. The rumbles, still infrequent, where sounding louder now when they did occur.

   Belvin rode Kamil up to the base of the arch and began to climb up it part of the way, rising over the height of some of the shorter trees and bushes. Looking up the hill to the south, he saw some bright red colors, and realized that he was looking at the back of an aarakocra male, standing on a large boulder at the crest of the hilly ridge. There was another low thud, near where the aarakocra was perched, and the sound of squawking in response. Then, the aarakocra took to flight and disappeared from Belvin's line of sight.

   Belvin returned down the earthen bridge to the others and reported what he had seen.

   "We may be approaching a battle," said Solisar.

   Kytharrah started to follow upstream a bit.

   "Keep your head low," said Belvin. "There are rocks flying through the air."

   There was another thud, and the sound of gravel rolling or crumbling in the south.

   "Do the aarakocra use trebuchets?" asked Belvin.

   "They had javelins and lances and rocks that they dropped, remember?" said Leokas.

   "And we sold them smokepowder for bombs," said Solisar, "but we do not know much about what weapons their lizardfolk enemies favor."

   Kytharrah now saw a splash of dirt atop the hill accompanied by another small boom.

   Belvin motioned for him to come back, and he obeyed.

   "Should we simply hail the aarakocra?" said Hakam.

   "They are in the middle of a battle," said Solisar, "and we do not want to take sides in this conflict."

   Leokas agreed.

   "Let us try to go around to the other side," said Szordrin. "We need to connect to the main island from this peninsula anyhow. I think that we are too far north."

   Most of them turned to go back to the grassy area where they had landed, but Belvin rode Kamil through the stream to the north side of the hill. Passing over thick undergrowth, he spotted a small crater in the ground a dozen feet ahead, with a round stone ball in it. The relatively smooth stone was about a foot in diameter. Another such crater was a short distance southeast of the first one. He turned and followed after his companions.

   They grouped together again and discussed matters.

   "If this is just a skirmish," said Hakam, "we can just wait it out until they stop fighting and leave."

   "We can remain hidden and safe using our rope trick spells in the meantime," suggested Solisar.

   "Let me scout the peninsula from the air more," said Belvin. "We do not even know what the full extent of the battle is at the moment." So, the rest of them sat and ate some rations, while Belvin transformed into a hawk and took to the air.

   Belvin started out flying east back over the stream. Not too much farther from where he had spotted the small craters, the hill became very rocky and joined with the island edge, such that passage further east from this direction would only be possible with dangerous rock climbing and scrambling. Banking around, he flew over the ridge. He spotted a total of only five aarakocra. They had several piles of small, round rocks, likely to drop on their foes from the air, and had constructed a crude nest-like wooden fence from thick jungle vines. In his quick pass overhead, he saw two take off and fly to the south, carrying a rock each in their talons. They dropped the stones into the jungle and then looped around and came back to the ridge.

   Looking to the south, he saw a few clearings in the jungle, and he thought that he might have spotted some lizardfolk hiding in the plant cover and darting to and fro.

   At the top of the land bridge leading up to the hilly ridge, the birdfolk had constructed a spiked barrier of sharpened wood embedded in a mound of clay to block anyone from climbing up by foot behind them.

   Diving low under the tree line, he flew over the water and followed it upstream. It curved around the ridge, which was about fifteen or twenty feet tall, and, after an S-curve, made its way mainly due east.

   Suddenly, a projectile flew past him from the south and slammed into the ridge, causing a small landslide. He banked sharply and headed back downstream, then returned to the others to described what he had seen.

   "We arrived in the middle of an artillery battle," noted Hakam.

   "If we try to follow the stream east, we shall be exposed to shots from both sides," said Belvin.

   He then had an idea. "What if we simply glide across from this 'horn' to the other 'horn'?"

   "There looked to be far more jungle on the other peninsula," said Leokas, "based on what I saw from the edge over there. It would be difficult to land our gliders, I think, without crashing into the trees. I am still in pain from this first landing."

   "I could ferry everyone over one at a time easily enough in my pteranodon talons," said Belvin. "It is only about nine or ten miles to the other peninsula."

   "I could also cause us all to feather fall," said Solisar. "We could all glide over, gaining altitude, and then we could drop slowly into the jungle with the aid of the spell."

   "The aarakocra seem to be staying low when they launch their attacks from the air," said Hakam. "We cannot even see them from here, so they are not likely to have noticed us either. I believe that we are safe here, and there is no rush yet. I think that we should just wait it out for a bit longer before trying to take a shortcut by air. If we wait until morning and they are still at it, I can surround all of us with a holy aura that will keep us in sanctuary against their attacks."

   "Just remember not to take the bags of holding up the rope with us!" warned Solisar.

   "We have more than 12 hours still before it even gets dark," said Leokas.

   "Both Szordrin and I can extend the length of our magics," said Solisar. "Duration of the magic will not be an issue."

   "Boredom will be, however," said Szordrin. "We just spent six hours in one white expanse and now another."

   Solisar cast the spell, and they began climbing the rope. Kytharrah heaved up Kamil with his extraordinary strength and lifted him up to Belvin. They had forgotten one detail; the rope could not be pulled into the space with them, because of the limits of the spell, because there were too many of them in the space at once, nor could Szrodrin climb up while Ferry was on his shoulders.

   "We used to set up two such spaces at a time," Szordrin reminded them.

   "I am not concerned," said Hakam. "If they can see our two bags, it will be no worse if they can also see the rope suspended in the air."

   "Even so, we still have one person too many; I will have Ferry guard the bags; that way, I will also be able to feel if he senses any danger."

   They left the bags of holding at the base of where they had tossed up the rope, and one of them kept watch on them through the dimensional portal as well.

   They saw no creatures pass within their vision or hearing from the safety of the extradimensional space. They rested and passed the time as best they could.

   When dusk came, there was an interesting effect. The presence of the dimensional window did not block the rain that began to fall, but from their point of view, they saw the drops pop into existence and fall from the plane of the window, while they remained dry. Kytharrah was fascinated by this and poked his head down through. It immediately became soaked from the rain. He snorted in enjoyment at the experience.

   Having been stuck in the blank nothingness of the spell for a dozen hours, most of them were feeling restless. It was still another eight hours until dawn, when Hakam could pray for fresh divine power.

   "Play outside?" asked Kytharrah.

   "It is darker and raining now," said Szordrin. "I am sure that it is safe to explore a bit more."

   Belvin and Leokas also were anxious to get back outside. This would leave Solisar and Hakam waiting in the rope trick. Solisar — and Ferry too — were hesitant about splitting up the party, but Leokas assured them that they would not stray too far, and would return quickly.

   The rain, as always on Coliar, was mainly a relief from the heat of the planet, which only Szordrin seemed unbothered by on most days, and being soaked was only a minor nuisance compared to other things now too common in their life as adventurers.

   This time, the smaller party headed due south. Mainly traveling along the western edge of the island. Past the pond, on the left, was where the jungle effectively began. On the right, there were more clusters of scrub trees and large-leafed bush plants and hillocks of grass. Moving beyond a thick cluster of jungle foliage, they came to a couple places where the land had collapsed into open gaps to the sky below, much like the pits that the lizardfolk had dug in the training courses to let the updraft through.

   "The island is breaking apart here," said Leokas. "This whole chunk of the peninsula will eventually tear from the rest of the island."

   Kytharrah passed between two such pits in the earth and pointed southeast. In the twilight and through the rain, they could see a wall of fallen logs, which were arranged in a way that was not natural. A good number of thick tree stumps were also scattered about, and before the log barricade was a leaf-covered clearing.

   Belvin approached one of the stumps. "This kapok tree was cut down with an axe," said the druid.

   They returned to Solisar and Hakam and reported.

   "I admit that I have realized a few flaws in my plan," said Hakam. "First, with all of the undergrowth in a jungle, we would likely not have the time to cross through the fighting while the spell still lasted. Second, the spell would only protect us from direct attacks, not from stray fire, falling rubble, or explosions. I still believe that we should wait out until morning and try to engage at least one of the sides diplomatically. If we start trying to sneak past, one of us — likely me — is bound to step on a loud branch and alert one of the parties to our presence."

   "We could travel along the stream," suggested Leokas. "In this dim light and the rain, visibility would be low, and both the stream and rain would cover any sound."

   Leokas and Belvin were not certain, but they suspected that both the lizardfolk and aarakocra would have sensitive vision, similar to that of elves, but not likely the ability to see in full darkness like Kytharrah and Szordrin could.

   "They are all probably resting until morning now," said Szordrin. "We may run into some scouts perhaps, but I do not think that we have to worry about crossfire anymore."

   Hakam asked Kytharrah if he could still hear any rumbling over the sound of the rain. The minotaur shook his head.

   "We still have four hours at least of rain," said Belvin. "If we are going to try to move past them, then this is the time to do it, before it gets too dark for us to even travel."

   "Minotaur, you will have to carry me through the stream," said Hakam. "My armor is too unwieldy for such travel."

   Kytharrah was happy to help his friend in this way.

   At last agreed on a plan, they gathered their gear and dismissed the rope trick, then headed to the land bridge and entered into the warm water of the stream. It was up to mid-thigh in depth for most of them.

   Kytharrah took the lead, with Hakam riding atop his backpack. Hakam's human eyes could barely see further than forty feet in the rain, but the elves could see well enough, and Szordrin and Kytharrah would be able to spot any body heat if they came upon any non-plant life.

   They moved upstream, under the earthen archway and then around the point of the west-to-east aarakocran ridge. At one point, they had to press through a clump of thick bushes growing in a shallow part of the stream and, after that, through rapids that made it harder to maintain balance, but then the S-curve began and the water calmed.

   When they came around the final curve, the stream mostly flowed due west, and they continued against the flow of the water. Kytharrah, in the lead still, suddenly stopped. His eyes could see a gray dim shape of a humanoid creature with his darkvision, about 25 or 30 feet upstream, sitting or crouching behind a bush on a tiny island in the stream. Kytharrah sniffed. The smell was that of a lizardman.

   Kytharrah motioned with his head to his friends behind him to look forward. The light was too dim for Hakam too see, but he placed his hand behind him to motion for the rest of the party to hold. Szordrin turned invisible, and Leokas nocked an arrow and stepped north onto the shore to take cover by a palm tree.

   The lizardman turned his head and looked at Kytharrah directly in the eyes but did not seem to respond further. Kytharrah tilted his head to the side in a non-confrontational, curious gesture. The lizardfolk turned his head away, rubbed his eyes as if to wake himself up, and then looked back. Now, he was certain that he was not imagining the large, furry, horned monster. He rose quickly to his feet, and his hand reached back for a javelin from a quiver on his back, but he did not throw it; he simply continued staring at Kytharrah to see what he would do.

   "Hold still!" commanded Hakam.

   The lizardman's eyes darted about, but his body otherwise was frozen solid by Hakam's divine magic.

   Hakam looked back at his companions and quietly suggested that they move past the lizardman scout as quickly as possible.

   As they passed by the scout, Kytharrah sniffed him amicably and patted him on the shoulder. "Play?"

   The lizardman's eyes expressed terror.

   Solisar spoke to him in Draconic. "You will be released from the holding magic once we pass by. We mean you no harm; do not fear."

   When invisible Szordrin passed by, he pickpocketed the scout, but only obtained a few frog legs, the lizardman's snack for the night. He turned back and returned the legs to the pouch before hustling to catch back up with the others.

   They followed the stream for about an hour more, before it grew too dark. Satisfied that they had successfully passed through the danger of the warring factions, they stopped and camped for the short Coliar night.
Session: 111th Game Session - Monday, Jun 15 2020 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
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Chapter 2 — Flight School
As they walked through the huts of Hisssta, led by Schlith to the Office of Flight Certifications and Registration, Jayce queried the lizardman about the aarakocra.

   "Do you know anything about Alekra Donakkis?"

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

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

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

   With that they arrived at the Office.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "You shall," said Solisar.

~~~~

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   He had safely squeezed past the final rock pillar.

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

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

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

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

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

~~~~

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

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

   Close to growing halflight, they all leapt from the eastern edge into the great white expanse, five hang gliders and one pteranodon carrying a miniaturized dromedary camel. They immediately tilted at a downwards slope and sailed the winds to the first of three islands and whatever adventures and answers awaited upon them.
Session: 111th Game Session - Monday, Jun 15 2020 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
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Chapter 2 — Schlith Darkscale
As they waited on the counter employee of Jamm Services to return with the director, Oma looked at the massive bone columns that were supporting the tent. "What sort of creature has tusks this big? They are bigger around than I am!"

   "Are you sure about that?" queried Jayce.

   Oma glared at him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Or at least advise us," added Solisar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Play?" asked Kytharrah.

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

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

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

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

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

   "It is just an expression, moron."

~~~~

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

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

   Oma turned away and rolled her eyes.

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

   "What does that even mean?" asked Belvin.

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

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

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

   There was a pause.

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

   She looked sick.

   "How does that work?" asked Szordrin.

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

   "Another detour?" said Belvin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Another delay?" said Leokas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Yes, everyone leaves happy," said the counter employee in a monotone voice.
Session: 111th Game Session - Monday, Jun 15 2020 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
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Chapter 2 — Hisssta
To be written...
Session: 110th Game Session - Monday, Jun 08 2020 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
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Chapter 2 — The Postmaster
To be written...
Session: 110th Game Session - Monday, Jun 08 2020 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
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Chapter 2 — Athanar
To be written...
Session: 110th Game Session - Monday, Jun 08 2020 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
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Chapter 2 — Coliar
To be written...
Session: 109th Game Session - Monday, Jun 01 2020 from 5:30 PM to 8:30 PM
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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 4:30 PM to 7:30 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 4:30 PM to 7:30 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 4:30 PM to 7:30 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 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM
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