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Tag: rock_of_bral

Chapter 3 — The Shou Embassy of Bral
~ sixth-day, 16th of Flamerule, the Year of Rogue Dragons, 6 bells
Middle City, Bral

The ship bell rang six times, and Belvin snapped out of his trance. Jayce and Oma had learned to roll the ship as they traveled through wildspace at spelljamming speeds, to simulate the day cycle by using the ship's keel to block the sunlight and keep them in shadow at "night". With the sixth bell, the bard rolled the ship clockwise, so that the sun appeared now on the starboard side. Belvin did not need this gesture as much as the humans on board. Hearing the bell from within his spiritual visit to the Feywild was enough for him to come to full consciousness. As they were back to a 24-hour schedule, it was time for his prayers to Thar Harr.

   He was snuggled, of course, against his camel, who was sleeping in the small pen at the center of the main deck behind the mainmast, next to Leokas' horse, Cloud. He looked about as he stood up and stretched. The halfling boatswain, Niff, was behind him on the aftcastle deck at the wheel. Bansh, the hadozee, Gullbeak, the gnome, and Patrik and Diero, two humans, were manning the decks and sails. The only other person on the deck was Sofi, the monk that they had taken with them from Coliar. She did not seem to sleep as much as the other humans, though he knew that she was not entirely human, not that her curled horns kept that a secret from anyone.

   She heard him stir and turned from where she was standing at the port rail.

   Always inquisitive, she asked him about what happened when elves tranced. His answer was brief, but he explained to her about how it was a way for elves to revisit the memories of past lives.

   "Is it like dreaming?"

   "It is more vivid, more real, than that," he said.

   Not one for long conversations, he turned from her and knelt by his camel to offer prayers in the Druidic tongue.

   She watched him silently but intently, which might have bothered some, but Belvin felt no such discomfort and ignored her until his prayers were finished. He rose to his feet again, as he felt the divine power of nature fill his person.

   Sofi had talked with Hakam for many hours about Anachtyr and the faith of that church, but she had not yet queried Belvin about his deity.

   "Why do you worship a dwarven god?" she asked rather bluntly.

   Ilthian, the woman created by Samber, had also asked many questions, but while both women were curious, Ilthian was far more naive, and Belvin was beginning to sense that Sofi's questions were less about the topic at hand and more about the person to whom she was asking the question.

   It was a question that Belvin had been asked many times since he had chosen to follow the strange dwarven god, rejecting the patronage of Rillifane Rallathil the Leaflord, the god most often worshiped by his forest kin.

   He gave the same sort of answer that he always gave. "It just happened," he said, and then he turned his attention to grooming Kamil.

   She wandered off to watch the sailors and began a conversation with Bansh about the gods of his people.


The 150-million-mile journey ended at the second ringing of twelve bells. It was now the 17th of Flamerule. Summer on Toril was nearly half over.

   The journey back was mostly without incident, with one notable exception. The men of the ship were at first delighted to have another woman on board. Sofi had been spending a lot of time with Jayce, listening to his stories and songs, and laughing at them along with the sailors. One of the sailors, Brad, drastically misinterpreted one of her laughs as a sign of romantic interest and foolishly thought this would warrant permission to give her backside a playful squeeze. She almost broke his arm. (Kytharrah was impressed and fascinated by how lightning fast she had grabbed Brad's arm!) That was the last time that any of the sailors tried flirting with her.

   Oma was at the helm this time when the ship came in to the asteroid city, and she guided the vessel into position without any difficulty.

   The Bral docks were just as busy at night as they were during the day. The population of nocturnal creatures living in the Low City was high enough that businesses in that district never closed. Nevertheless, the bodies of most of the adventurers were still struggling from the switch from 30-hour days to 24-hour days, and many wanted to find inns or other boarding to sleep off the jammlag in an actual bed instead of a hammock. (On the Frihet, only Captain Ombert and first mate Loreene had beds.) They agreed to meet at a tavern in the Middle City at nine bells and went their separate ways. Hakam went to stay at the Pantheist Temple of Tyr, while most of the others went to find an inn. Sofi, however, asked to stay on board the Frihet. She did not have money to spend on a room, nor did she think it fitting to sleep in a bed, when the spot on the hardwood floor in Loreene and Oma's room was more than enough for her needs.

   The morning came, and the adventurers sat at a table in the tavern and made plans for the day. The first goal was to sell the metal eggs that they had recovered after the fight with the so-called marauders in the gem mine.

   They went about the town asking around. It took Jayce two hours to find someone, a rare animal keeper, who knew exactly what the eggs were, lonestone marauders. However, he informed the bard that no one sold large animals on the Rock, because there was little space to keep them, and they ate too much and breathed too much of the precious air. Thus, the keeper was not interested in purchasing them.

   However, the man did suggest that they try at the Lesser Market. They all were very familiar with the Great Market. It was where the shop of the Count of Tethyr, Gamalon, was located, and they had already purchased things there in the past. The Office of the Middle Magistrate was there, which Hakam had also visited. The Lesser Market, in contrast, was Bral's alternative market. More honestly said, it was the center of Bral's illegal trade.

   "What do you think about selling these at the Lesser Market," Jayce asked Hakam.

   "The operation of the market itself is not illegal, is it?" Hakam replied. "If we are to sell legally acquired goods there, which we have, then we are guilty of no crime. These are living items; we should be rid of them as quickly as possible."

   So, Jayce, Oma, Hakam, and Szordrin headed down into the Low City to try and off the eggs onto someone. It took another couple hours of walking about the crowded plaza calling out that they had rare, valuable eggs, before they found someone who indeed was very interested. It was a gnomish fellow, with wild hair and eyebrows and his long beard split into two separate spikes. He was willing to pay 1,600 gold pieces per egg. Szordrin and Jayce were convinced that one could make as much as 4,000 per egg. They were able to talk the gnome up to 2,400 but no further. Hakam was eager to get rid of them, so they accepted this final offer.

   Back at the tavern, over a late lunch. Jayce sat down and calculated everyone's share of the cash. He handed a platinum trade bar and five gold trade bars to everyone involved in the battle against the marauders, except for Oma, who received half that amount.

   "I have never seen so much money in my life!" exclaimed Sofi.

   "Why do Sofi and Nargroth receive a full share and I only receive a half share?" asked Oma.

   "It is in your contract," said Jayce, "and Nargroth and Sofi do not have contracts."

   "I can share some of mine with you, Oma," said Nargroth.

   "So, having a contract is worse than not having one," said Oma, ignoring or not hearing the offer. "How is that fair?"

   "Both Nargroth and Sofi have more skill at adventuring than you," said Jayce.

   "Did Nargroth or Sofi, oh, I do not know, say, summon undead ogres from another planet in Realmspace through another plane of existence and compel them to fight for us? And I have been adventuring for almost a year now; Sofi has had exactly two battles with us! Please feel no offense, Sofi."

   "No, you are correct," answered Sofi. She then spoke to Jayce. "If Oma gets only half a share, than I only get half a share. Redistribute it." She slid her trade bars back across the table.

   While Jayce did so, Szordrin discovered that someone in the Lesser Market must have pickpocketed him; he was short nine gold pieces. (Szordrin was simultaneously embarrassed and in awe at this ordeal, but nine gold was not a great loss at this point in his adventuring career.)


After lunch, some of them went shopping. The casters purchased spell components for their new spells or prayers. In particular, Hakam acquired a set of platinum rings, which he explained could be used to protect others in the party with divine protection if he so prayed over them. Szordrin acquired some pearls with which to identify some of their recently acquired magical goods, particularly the unknown potions.

   In the meantime, Jayce went on an errand to find out if anyone on the Rock might remember the young Samber and Onran when they had visited some number of decades ago. He was gone for three hours. When he returned, he had a huge grin on his face. "I am the greatest," he said. "I found us someone who met 'Ronan and Ramseb'."

   After he sat down, Jayce happily explained how he had found the information. "I suspected that if I was to learn about two wizards who visited the Rock when younger, I would need to talk to someone who both has lived on the Rock for a long time and has interacted with wizards.

   "The first name that I came up with was Gamalon, but as you know, he has retired from keeping shop and gone on to become a count of Tethyr. However, his shop is still here, of course, on the starboard side of the Great Market. So, I talked to the new shopkeeper that Count Gamalon had hired to run the place in his absence.

   "I learned that Gamalon moved to the Rock in the Year of the Striking Falcon, which was 40 years ago. He left the Rock to move back to Tethyr during the Reclamation Wars about six years ago. Samber and Onran definitely would have come to the Rock in that time. Apparently, Gamalon was an adventurer on Toril before he came to the Rock, and one of his adventuring companions was a dwarf named Gyudd. Gyudd also came to the Rock and opened a shop, Cap'n Gyudd's, over on the border of the Dwarven District on the leading edge. The two used to send potential customers to each other. Cap'n Gyudd still lives here, so that was where I headed next.

   "Before I entered the shop, I asked around a bit about Gyudd himself to see if I could learn how I might get on his good side. I learned from the local dwarven bars that Gyudd was known to love beer more than women and that he smoked a great deal of tobacco, despite smoking being illegal here. I simply entered his store with my pipe out and asked for recommendations on some pipe weed and got him talking. I said that I would buy him a beer to thank him, and so we walked across the street to his favorite pub, and I got him talking.

   "The Cap'n had an ivory peg leg and hair that matched. He told me some wonderful stories of his days as an adventurer — clearly exaggerations — and his true feelings about tourists. When it was clear that he had a superb memory for an elderly dwarf, I asked him about Ronan and Rembas and described each of the men.

   "'I know just who ya mean,' he said. 'Young depressin' fella with hair the color of a carrot an' a friendly chap with golden eyes an' silver hair, probably one o' those angel-descended folk. I can't tell ya humans' ages well, but they looked barely men. That was in the Year o' the Behir. I remember because it was the same year that Clan Battlehammer saved a town in Icewind Dale on Toril, an' I had a young cousin who fought in the battle against the goblins.'

   "The Year of the Behir was 1342 in the Dalereckoning," Jayce said. Then he returned to Cap'n Gyudd's story. "'They came into Ol' Gemhead's shop one day, while I was sharing a beer at close o' day with me friend. We were talkin' about happenin's down on Toril. The silver-haired one explained that his parents had frequented Gemhead's shop when he was a boy, and he wondered if Gemhead sold anythin' useful for planewalkin'. Old Gemhead says, "Nay, but ya might want to visit the Interlink Consortium o'er on the port side, as they sell just those sorts o' things ya might need." That's all I remember. I'm not sure that their names were whatever ya just said, but they both started with the same letter; I remember that much.'"

   "Gyudd said that you were welcome to come ask him more questions, but he really did not think he had anything more to add."

   "So," said Hakam, "we have a year and a place."

   It was getting late in the day, being about five bells in the afternoon, and they had one more place that they wanted to visit for information, an embassy of Wa. They had certainly seen some people on Bral that they suspected to be Wanese, but as all of them were from the western side of Toril (or below the surface), none was particularly good at telling anyone from Kara-Tur apart. After asking around, they learned that Wa had no embassy on Bral. Nevertheless, they decided to visit instead the Shou Embassy, hoping to learn something about Wa through its neighbor, the Empire of Shou Lung.

   They had passed the Shou Embassy many times during their time on Bral. It was the impressive building with the lung dragon and bronze foo lion sculptures on Dock Street next to the colored archway to Shou-Town. Hakam, Jayce, Szordrin, and Solisar took this errand and approached the guards wearing horned helmets and red, distorted demon masks.

   The guards did not even acknowledge the visitors; they stood as still as statues.

   "Are we permitted to enter," Hakam asked them, "or must we make an appointment."

   There was no response.

   Szordrin, by means of his language magic, repeated Hakam's question in High Shou. There was still no response. He wished that he had prepared the ability to detect thoughts that morning.

   The main door to the embassy, an ornate wooded gateway, was wide open, so Hakam carefully passed the guards. They did not respond, so he kept on up the steps and the others followed him.

   The interior of the building was beautiful. The floors were wood-paneled, with different colors of wood and fancy designs in the corners. Even the simplest elements of the construction were artistically done.

   A woman was standing in the hallway. She had jet black hair piled high on her head and supported with pins. She was dressed in a narrow dress of bright-colored silks. The skirt nearly brushed the floor and had two slits running up to her hips. The tight bodice had a high collar. The dress was embroidered with golden thread in the shapes of dragons. On her feet were a pair of white slippers.

   "Welcome to the Embassy of Kai Tsao Shou Chin to the City of Bral," she said. Her utterance was monosyllabic but otherwise crisp, perfect Common. She gave a slight bow with her hands together. "How may we be of assistance?"

   Hakam said, "We have some questions about events that may have occurred in the Wa empire, and we were hoping that your embassy might be able to help us to learn more about them."

   "Would you be so kind to follow me?" said the woman. "I shall have tea brought for you while I summon one of the clerks of Lord Chan Fu Wi of the Ministry of State. He may be able to answer your questions."

   She led them to a small room through a red door frame with no door. There were ornate chairs and side tables made of multiple colors of wood. Movable, folding screens divided up the room into smaller segments. These wooden screen panels were decorated with images of flowers and trees.

   A tray with assorted teas was brought out for them by another woman wearing a similar form-fitting dress but in less vivid colors. It was set on one of the side tables. The teas were delightful to sample.

   Shortly, a man came in wearing a long tunic reaching almost to the floor. Like the woman's dress, it was made from silk. It had buttons from the floor all the way up to the high collar. This person also wore slippers.

   The man spoke with flawless Common. "I greet you. My name is Kuang Ch'ung, Minor Clerk of Lord Chan Fu Wi of the Ministry of State of the Empire of Shou Lung. How may I be of service?"

   Hakam repeated his earlier request. "We have some questions about events that may have occurred in the empire of Wa. We hope to hear your perspective or that you can point us to people who might tell us more."

   "I shall help in the best way that I can," said Ch'ung. "Do you have any specific questions?"

   "Our particular question regards the assassination of one Emperor Goshukara Kando. We have learned evidence that he may have been an imposter, a fiend taking human form, a rakshasa. Do your people know anything of this?"

   Ch'ung nodded. "It is true that emperors are sometimes assassinated. The most recent assassination in Wa, I believe, occurred nearly a century ago. I do not know the details of it, however. You must understand that the modern emperors in Wa are very weak. The true power in Wa lies in the hands of the shoguns, the military commanders. The emperor is only a puppet to the shogun. It has been this way for centuries."

   "Is the current emperor descended from this Goshukara Kando?" asked Hakam.

   "Presumably. The imperial line is kept mostly as a symbol of earlier times. The nation of Wa has only had one 'ruling' dynasty since the the 833rd year of our calendar, which was almost 2,000 years ago."

   "Dynasties can have branches, can they not?" asked Hakam.

   "True," said the clerk, "but I do not know the details well enough to give you the complete genealogy from Kando. It is also news to my ears and to the ears of Shou Lung that Kando may have been an imposter, as you say."

   After a slight pause, Ch'ung also said, "You should know, Wa and Shou Lung have a tenuous relationship. In centuries past there was open warfare. For a time, the Emperor of Shou Lung even controlled the island of Wa. It was not until the 12th Emperor Chin of the Kao Dynasty declared the Unleashing of Shackles that Wa was granted permission to exist as an independent state. This was over a thousand years ago, yet memories go deep. At that time, the emperor of Wa did have real power. It was in the last two or three centuries that Wa's shogunate rose to power."

   He continued. "Wa is an isolationist nation. They do have open ports with Shou Lung and even a community of Shou living in the city of Nakamaru in the north of the island, but they are still very cautious in letting the outside world know about what happens on their islands."

   "Are rakshasa common in the stories of your people?" asked Szordrin. "Or have they or any other fiends been known to try to infiltrate the government in your histories?"

   "'Rakshasa' is a Nubari word from the Malatran peninsula, a jungle land separate from either Kara-Tur or Faerûn. The rakshasa, while we know of their existence, do not play into many of the tales of Shou Lung. I am not an expert in Wa history, but I have not heard of rakshasa in any tales of Wa either. Nevertheless, Kara-Tur is a realm where the spirit world and the natural world are in close contact. To those of you from the western parts of Toril, it can be very odd coming to Kara-Tur, where the spirits can and do walk the earth as they please. It would not be hard to believe that a maleficent spirit, such as a rakshasa, would try to corrupt the mortal bureaucracy established by the Celestial Emperor. It is believed by most that the line of an emperor is a divine line.

   "I shall also note: honor is very important to my own people, so it should not be taken lightly when I describe Wa as a rigid honor-based culture. It would be very bothersome, to say the least, to the average Wanese citizen to learn that there had been an imposter in the divine line, even though their emperor does not truly rule. The emperor is still a symbol of pride and honor for the people."

   "Where could we find a Wa embassy?" asked Hakam. "And would they report to the shogun or to the emperor?"

   "They would report to the emperor in name but to the shogun in practice," said Ch'ung. "However, I do not know that they have any embassies in any lands. Again, they are isolationists and wary of any foreign presence."

   "You mentioned a port open to Shou traders," queried Hakam.

   "They are open to trade, but only at a few ports and to a limited number of nations, such as Shou Lung and T'u Lung — and only since Shou Year 2589, thanks to our Eighth Emperor Kai Chin. They will only permit trade with nations to whom they have offered an invitation."

   "Are there any large communities of Wanese people living in Shou Lung lands or elsewhere?" asked Hakam.

   "The Shou Lung province of Wa K'an, or, in your tongue, the Land that Views Wa, contains a people known as the Waka. Some of these people have mixed blood with the Wanese. Most are descendants of Shou who lived in Wa during our nation's occupation of that land. When our countries made peace, those Shou were allowed to return home to Shou Lung, and many settled in Wa K'an. Additionally, some Wa nobles in exile from Wa have fled there, though not in large numbers."

   "Have you ever heard of the organization known as the Harpers operating in either Shou Lung or Wa?" asked Hakam.

   "If you speak of the Harpers of your wizard Elminster, I have no such knowledge. In my understanding, that powerful wizard cares only of the affairs of Faerûn and does not venture into the lands of Kara-Tur with any frequency."

   The group of four adventurers looked at each other to see if they had anything else to ask among them. Kuang Ch'ung volunteered the following: "I had said that relations between Shou Lung and Wa were tenuous. I shall note that this is especially true here in wildspace. Wa is jealous of the power of our Imperial Spacefleet, and they have attempted to built a fleet of their own vessels to challenge our power in wildspace.

   "We believe — though it is not proven — that the Arcane have helped them to develop two vessels, about a decade ago, which they call the tsunami and the locust. The tsunami is a massive vessel, the largest vessel in all of Realmspace. It is like a segmented lung, a dragon, built of metal. It carries at least twenty smaller vessels, the locusts, with which they can swarm and overcome their foes in wildspace. We do not know the exact number, but Wa possesses at least three of these enormous spelljammers. As of yet, they have not spread far from the orbit of the Tears.

   "Our dragonships occassionally have come into conflict with their tsunamis. They are known even to have captured some of our vessels. Additionally, the Elven Navy has had a few wildspace battles with Wa. Neither of our peoples are officially at war with Wa, but relations are tense."

   Ch'ung looked directly at Solisar as he spoke these last details. Solisar nodded.

   As a show of good faith, Hakam showed one of Yunoko's letters to the clerk, in case he wanted to pass on the information about the imposter emperor to the ambassador. Kuang Ch'ung seemed very intrigued and thankful for this. The only thing further that he could add after reading it, however, was that the letter was signed in genuine Wanese calligraphy. "It is the character for 'love'," he said.

   As they departed the embassy, Hakam noted to this companions, "I suspect that we will have to journey to Cormyr to follow these leads further."

   "Do we have anything more to do here on the Rock?" asked Jayce.

   "I do not wish to tarry," said Szordrin. "Let us return to Toril and talk with Avilda. Then, we should seek out what we can in the Kingdom of Cormyr."

   "I shall return to Ombert then and tell him that we shall be ready to depart in the morning," said the bard.


On the way back to the Pantheist Temple of Tyr, Hakam stopped at the northern end of the Great Market, outside the shop named Gamalon's Curios. He knelt at the largest cobblestone just outside the main door, placed his hands on the rock surface, and prayed to his god for ten minutes, ignoring the merchants and pedestrians on their way home who looked at him with confusion.

   Suddenly, Hakam spoke to the stone, "Tell me which wizards have walked upon you."

   Instantly, a flood of visions passed through Hakam's mind in rapid succession until they paused around the image of two younger men. The first was a younger version of the red-headed wizard who had exiled them nearly a year ago. The second was a silver-haired, bearded man. The man's hair style was quite similar to that of Szordrin, but the faces were very different; Onran's was much rounder in the cheeks. His eyes stood out, being of a golden color, almost glowing. Samber carried a staff and wore about his neck a silver cog with four spokes. Onran was wearing a pair of red leather boots, presumably the same as that pair that Leokas now wore.

   (He also became aware of the existence of a treasure vault deep below Gamalon's shop, but he had no interest in robbing Gamalon!)

   That night, Hakam also took incense that he had purchased and entered one of the tiny prayer rooms within the temple. Within the small, square chamber, he lit the blue, purple, and white candles and filled and lit the censor that hung suspended by a chain from the ceiling. Thick incense filled the tiny room. He knelt at the altar, a miniature stone warhammer and a functioning balance, and placed his offering of gold coins upon one of the scales. The balance tilted, of course, since the other tray was empty. Hakam began to recite a long and complicated prayer. When he finished it, he began again. On the 20th such repetition, the scale suddenly defied gravity and balanced.

   "How can I learn more about the god represented by the chameleon in Yashiera's vision?" he asked Anachtyr.

   Perhaps one of the other elves knows more about elven history, lore, and legend than the wild one.

   The voice in his head was not his own. When it had finished its brief message, the balance tilted again and the candles were suddenly snuffed out.
Session: 120th Game Session - Monday, Aug 31 2020 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
Chapter 1 — Two Quick Side Stops
~ sixth-day, 6th of Tarsakh, The Year of Rogue Dragons, afternoon
Middle City, Bral

Everyone returned back the way they came, past the Interlink Consortium to Grand Street. From here the group split. While most of them, with Martho and the prospective sailor recruit, returned downhill to the docks, Hakam and the three elves turned right and began to follow the main street as it curved around the Great Market.

   "The elves will not let you into their forest," said Belvin to the human among them.

   "I have no intent to follow you all the way to the forest," explained Hakam. "I am looking for another magistrate's office to report the incident at the pub."

   "They are not going to care about a pub brawl," said Belvin.

   "Nevertheless, it is my duty to report the matter."

   "Did we not pass such an office on the way here, further back on this street?" asked Solisar.

   "Yes, but if I am not mistaken, we entered another district of the city," Hakam replied. "Gamalon said that the Consortium was in Middle City. I strongly suspect that each district has its own magistrate's office. They will if they are civilized."

   Just then, a street bum approached them. Hideously ugly and malformed, the man smelled terrible and whined for alms. Hakam reached into his pouch and handed him a copper. "Two more copper pieces if you can show us the fastest way to the Elven Forest and the magistrate's office," he said, while scrunching his nose against the man's vile odor.

   "Ah, ' course I can help ye. Ren the Wretched knows the way 'round the Great Market better than anyone else. Are ye sure ye don't need any goods. If Bral has 'em, Ren the Wretched can find 'em for ye." He looked up at them expectantly.

   "At the moment, all we need is directions," said Solisar. "Perhaps tomorrow or after we may need help finding goods, and if we come across you at that time, we shall ask then."

   "I'll be sure to keep an eye out for ye." Ren the Wretched looked at the sun elf with his only functioning eye. "Ren the Wretched is here every day."

   "Lead on then," said Hakam.

   Ren the Wretched turned to lead them, walking on unbalanced legs. They gave him significant distance before following, so that they could take deep breaths again.

   They really did not need any guidance to find the forest. They never left Grand Street as it continued to follow along the outside border of the market, moving counterclockwise. It then turned sharply to the right. "Keep on up the road," said Ren the Wretched, "and ye'll pass the Festival Grounds. Then the Forest is on the left."

   The elves headed in that direction and Hakam continued walking around the outer edges of the market with their smelly guide.


The elves indeed passed by something like a paved parkway with planted trees and bushes on their right, crossing first Low Park Street and then High Park Street. Then there was the forest, coming up the street on the starboard side. The underbrush was too thick to enter at first; they had to walk half a block until they reached an obvious opening.

   It only took several paces into the cover of the trees before they felt like they were in another world.

   The three elves saw ash trees, oaks, laurel, and birch, many looking hundreds of years old. The light had a silvery gleam to it.

   "Elven magic is at work here," Solisar noted. "These trees appear older than the Rock has been settled."

   "It is beautiful," said Leokas, "though only a shadow of my High Forest home."

   Silently, two armed elves, finely crafted mail in perfect condition, stepped out of the tree cover into the path. Whether they had been invisible or simply well-hidden and quiet was not clear.

   "Welcome, ebrath, to the Elven Forest."

   "Alae," said Solisar. "I am hoping that you can lead me to the Elven Fleet. I have been sent from the Isle of Evermeet on behalf of Admiral Icarus."

   The two elves looked at each other. "Too bold a statement to be a lie, I think," said the one guard. "Nevertheless, such a visit requires advanced notice and an appointment. One of us will deliver your message. Can you return on the morrow?"

   "I suspect that I may easily enough."

   "Then, we shall see you then."

   "In the meantime," said the second guard. "Please feel at home among the trees. All true members of Tel'Quessir are welcome here."

   The two warriors stepped aside and let the three visitors pass. Belvin, Leokas, and Solisar walked along the path for a ways, delighting in the peaceful sounds of birds and small animals and taking in the pleasant smells of blossoms and fallen leaves. (The forest seemed to show simultaneously signs of Spring and Autumn.) There was no evidence of any structures or habitations, simply wild forest and the narrow, soft path.

   When they reached a crossroads; they decided to turn and go back. Solisar looked forward to returning the next day, after finishing whatever inquiry they could into Szordrin's rod with Martho's aid.


Hakam followed behind Ren the Wretched along the starboard side of the market, avoiding most of its crowd of sellers and buyers. He paused for a moment when he saw a sign that he actually recognized: "Gamalon's Curios". It was the curios shop of that old sage from Tethyr.

   He had to step more quickly to catch up, but it was not much further before Ren the Wretched stopped and pointed with his twisted arm. "Trader's Way. The magistrate's office is down that way on the left." He held his palm open until Hakam filled it with the promised two more coppers.

   The offices of the Middle Magistrate were a complex of connected buildings with simple architecture, one of which was clearly a jail house. It was well guarded by men in chainmail and carrying swords and crossbows. Hakam went in the door that did not enter the jailhouse.

   "May I help you?" asked a clerk at the sole desk in the room. Two other doors exited from the tiny entry room, and there was a bench for waiting as well. A single armed man stood guard.

   "Yes, I am here to report an incident that occurred about 30 minutes ago at the Port Hole, a tavern on the port side."

   "How many people are dead?" asked the clerk, dipping a quill in some ink and ready to record.

   "No one died," said Hakam, "thanks to the intervention of my team and me."

   "Were any fires started?"


   "If no one died and there were not any fires, why are you bothering the magistrate? Do you not think that Lady Ketal has better things to do?"

   "Pardon me for my intrusion," said Hakam. "I would have thought that the matter would have been of interest to her. I am new to Bral and also wanted to know more about how law and order were maintained." He kept to himself how disappointed he currently was with how the "system" seemed to work.

   "Well, if she has not the time to investigate non-critical crimes, she surely does not have the time to explain our laws to an off-worlder, no offense. Now, is there anything else that I can do for you?"

   Just then, the door behind him opened and another member of the Magistrate's Watch entered. The two guards nodded, and one bid the other good evening, and the first guard exited the building.

   "No, that is all," said Hakam. "Thank you for your time." He turned to follow behind the guard whose shift must have just ended.

   The off-duty Watch member saw Hakam exit and motioned to him to come over. "The clerk's a clevershank," said the man, "yet completely unhelpful, but he is correct that the magistrate would not have given you any time. How new are you to the Rock?"

   "Just arrived perhaps five hours ago, from Toril." Hakam glanced up at the blue planet hanging in the black sky.

   "Never been," said the man. Then he nodded at the tiny silver balance around Hakam's neck. "You a priest of Tyr?"

   "In my home country of Calimshan, he is know as Anachtyr, but yes."

   "I attend Tyr's temple twice per tenday! You should give the local temple a visit. At least the Tyrrans care about justice on this otherwise gods-forsaken rock. So, you are curious about how the laws work around here? I can fill you in quickly, for what that is worth."

   "I would be most appreciative."

   "Well, first, there are not actually any official law books. The Prince owns the whole Rock, and all the rest of us are tenants, so, technically, his word is law. I know that must be unthinkable to a priest of Tyr, but I am just passing on the information."

   The man lowered his voice and leaned in closer to Hakam. "Now, sure, there are rather convincing rumors that he murdered his brother to inherit his father's throne, but as far as rulers go, he could be a lot worse, so it is not as bad as it sounds. There are three government councils, however, and they in part balance the prince's power and make a lot of the decisions.

   "As far as laws go, the prince has mandated that piracy and slavery are both illegal, but everyone knows that the prince himself is descended from pirates, so that mandate is usually only referenced if the prince has it out to get someone.

   "Treason against the crown and arson are the two most heinous crimes one can commit."

   "How does the legal process work?" asked Hakam.

   The man laughed. "There is a lot of self-regulation, if you know what I mean. Most shops hire their own guards. If you steal, you are likely to get your hand hacked off by a paid guard. However, if the crime is considered serious enough, something that a paid guard cannot handle or that affects the whole asteroid, it can be reported here at the office. If you can get by the lazy clerk, you can present your case to the magistrate or her representative, and they can send some of us, her Watch, to investigate or to arrest the accused. Lady Terissa Ketal handles and presides over cases in Middle City, acting as both judge and jury. If something is too big for her to handle, she can always move the case on up to the prince, but that is not likely to happen unless it is some direct threat against the throne."

   "What sort of punishments does she pass out?"

   "If you accidentally start a fire, you are looking at ten years hard labor on the Underside in the crop fields."

   "What about for other specific crimes?" asked Hakam.

   "Burglaries and common thefts that for whatever reason seem important enough to prosecute earn you one year on the Underside for the first offense and five years on the second or for armed robbery. On the third offense, you are likely to be jettisoned."


   "It is the favorite way to execute someone on the Rock, because it is rather cost-effective. You simply launch the criminal from one of the catapults into wildspace. Hopefully, they all suffocate before the scavvers get them."

   "How commonly is this done?"

   "It is the usual sentence for things like piracy — again, in practice, only if the prince wants your head — arson or murder. If you accidentally kill someone — well, someone important — it is usually just five years on the Underside. Since smuggling has to do with the prince not getting tax money, it is pursued more than some lesser crimes, but the punishments are, once again, time on the Underside, along with confiscation of the goods. Basically, crimes are either labor on the bottom of the Rock or taking a ride into space without a 'jammer. I have seen a few cases of 'provocation' that resulted in a sentence of a month on the Underside, but that sort of small crime sentence is very rare.

   "I should note that the convicted who have a good amount of gold are likely to make pleas to 'pay fines' rather than serve time on the bottom. I think that you understand what I am really saying.

   "Oh, I almost forgot. The official punishment for treason is execution by impalement, and your limp body is hung in the Festival Grounds, but I have never seen that done.

   "Well, I am hungry and am going to head home to my wife and kids."

   "Thank you," said Hakam. "You were most helpful."
Session: 104th Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 18 2018 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
Chapter 1 — Post-Bar Fight
The bartender came back out of the kitchen with a large gallon of beer. "Where did half our customers go?" he asked.

   Drik-ch'kit clicked its mandibles in a way that the bartender seemed to understand, presumably explaining that the man had been charmed.

   The intense pain in its head had ceased, and so Drik-ch'kit escorted the illithid from the tavern. The three who had come in with the mind flayer followed them out, including the Shou warrior and the penguin. The lizardfolk departed quickly as well. Nargroth and Leokas, now recovered from the mind blast, began to help the barmaid and Oma clean the broken glassware, while Belvin and Hakam used their magics to heal the human whom the lizardfolk had nearly killed and the halfling whose brain had nearly been eaten.

   Drik-ch'kit reentered the tavern and chirped about the other bouncer being missing. Solisar followed it out and found that the beholder had telekinetically tossed the other insectoid over the edge of Bral. It bobbed up and down on the gravity plane and was drifting off into wildspace barely visible. Solisar used a flying spell to recover the poor soul.

   Within the bar, the two dwarves were bragging of their prowess, while their third companion was still passed out in the corner, the one about how he had punched a mind flayer, the other about how he had knocked a giff out cold with a single blow. They clearly still had energy. Kytharrah, who was somewhat upset at Jayce for implying that he might break his earlier playmate's head and forcing them to stop, now asked the dwarves if they wanted to wrestle with him. They happily agreed.

   "Take it outside," said Belvin, as he repaired the bald spot on the halfling's skull that had been dissolved by mind flayer mucus.

   Outside, Szordrin and Jayce — back to looking like a drow — were speaking with the man in the cloak from the bar.

   "What is your name?" asked Szordrin?

   "Martho. Thank you for helping me. Truly thankful."

   "We shall be thanking you soon," said Szordrin. "Do you manage the Interlink Consortium shop?"

   "For the night shift, yes," said the man. "What of it?"

   "Walker, tell this man what we need."

   "Do not rush things, master," said Jayce to Szordrin. "Can you not see that this man is distressed?" Then to Martho. "I could not help but notice that you have a lot on your mind, saer. In the bar, you barely noticed the fight erupting around you, and even before that you were not joined in revelry with any others. No, you quietly drank alone. Forgive my intrusion into your privacy, but are you not distraught over something in your life? Have you not come here to drink as a distraction? Your life is full of regrets and you do not know how to free yourself from the guilt that you feel."

   The man looked dumbfounded by this drow interviewing him. Drow were not known for their compassion or emotional empathy. Szordrin also was in awe. Surely Jayce was using magic to read the man's thoughts?

   "What do you want from me?" said Martho.

   "You think that you have reason not to trust us?" Jayce continued. "That is fair. Look at us, such strange companions — we are probably a spider-demon-worshiping dark elf and a spellcasting fiend-spawn. Well, if I read you correctly, I have felt what you felt. That is how I see it in you so clearly. So weighty was the guilt of my past life in the Underdark of Toril that I could barely stand to live any longer. So too with my master here, but our lives were turned around because of the kindness of one man. We are evidence of what a good man can do. And do you know why my life is no longer depressed? Because I have passed that kindness on to others. Do you want to feel joy again? The secret is to cease looking inward and look outward at others. Stop regretting and make a difference for good!"

   "Are you priests? Are you proselytizing me?" the man still looked confused.

   "No, we are two trying to set right a wrong, and we need your help."

   "Help? What can I do? I manage a store with such powerful magics and no regulation. Do you know that I have sold portals to necromancers and demon-summoners?"

   "Then make it right; help us right a wrong."

   Martho waited for Jayce to continue.

   "Master, the rod." Szordrin handed Jayce the fragment.

   Jayce continued, "Your consortium sold this rod to the assassin who slew my master's mentor, the man who set us each on the path of good."

   Meanwhile, the baboon with patagia approached the three elves and Hakam. He had not fled the bar as it had appeared; he had been the one to call on the bouncer outside for aid.

   "Most noble elves and human," he said in a gruff but pleasant voice, "I can see that you are newcomers to the Rock. I also observed that you risked yourselves to calm the brawl just now, and I admire this. But I shall be frank. I find myself in need of work. My previous employ, the Silver Rainbow, has been ordered to release its non-elven crew, and I was let go. Do you have need of any sailors on your own ship?"

   Hakam scanned the creature for signs of chaotic or evil auras and found neither. "Technically, such a decision would be made by our vessel's captain, Ombert Stronghull," said Hakam. "Why should we recommend you to him? What skills do you have?"

   "I assure you that I have many years of service on the sails," said the simian. "My people spend much of our lives at sea among the stars. Only have Captain Ombert test me on the ropes, and I shall display my value as a sailor."

   "Why choose ask us?" said Hakam. "Are there not other vessels needing sailors?"

   "Because you have elves!" said the creature, with an odd excitement in his voice. "Elves are the best of all masters."

   Belvin simply burst out laughing.

   "Play?" asked Kytharrah, having bested both dwarves simultaneously and looking for a new game.

   "I might be convinced to play with you, saer minotaur," said the simian, "but permit me to finish this conversation first."

   Hakam directed the potential sailor to the Frihet to speak with Captain Ombert himself. At that point, Szordrin and "Walker the drow" brought Martho over.

   "Good Martho here has agreed to lead us to the Interlink Consortium Corporate Asteroid to find the sale records of the assassin's rod," explained Jayce.
Session: 104th Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 18 2018 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
Chapter 1 — The Port Hole
"What did you think of the new spell I have been working on," asked Jayce, still in disguise as a drow elf as they all left the "flagship store" and turned left onto Wasp Street. "It enhances my glibness not a small amount, if I may say so for myself."

   Szordrin gave him a thumbs up. In truth, he was rather impressed with the power of the bard's magical deception.

   "I have a question though," said Jayce. "What are we trying to get out of this? Do we simply want a free magic rod? Or is it more important to locate the original buyer?"

   "The latter," said Szordrin, "though if you can manage both,..."

   " would be considered stealing," finished Hakam.

   Szordrin ignored this and turned to Solisar as they walked down the busy street. "Solisar, during my conversation with the salesman, he, naturally, expressed great fear of the drow, but in his mind he compared them to 'neoki'. What are they?"

   "Neogi," corrected Solisar. "They are infamous throughout wildspace as despicable slave traders. I believe that there is a population within the Underdark as well. You have not heard of them?"

   Szordrin shook his head.

   "By the mercy of the Seldarine, I have never encountered one, but I am told that they are something like a hairy spider with the neck and head of an eel. They are not an attractive race by any accounts."

   "I would think that a neogi fellow would find a neogi maiden attractive," said Jayce.

   "You would think wrongly," said Solisar, "for they have no males or females but reproduce through other means. They also form no interpersonal relationships beyond ownership and subservience. They are a purely individualistic race, totally alien to any that you or I know. It is even said that they eat sentient prey while it is still alive and take delight in this."

   They came to a building on the corner on the right, which had several signs advertising for the chartering of various small spelljammers for pleasure "cruises" through Realmspace. White flags with a golden S flew outside the main entrance. They turned left onto Galley Street.

   "Did anyone else learn anything from any of the other departments?" Szordrin asked.

   "I can buy a magic mirror to communicate with Mother for only 7,000 platinum pieces!" said Nargroth.

   "You do not have 7,000 platinum," said Oma.

   "I might after Ombert sells our gnomish toys," said the half-orc.

   "Toys?" said Kytharrah. "What toys?"

   "They also sell granite and darkwood," said Belvin, "for much cheaper than 7,000 platinum."

   They reached another cobbler's shop and turned right onto Whale Street. This road began to lead them downhill, and they could see the very edge of the world again and, far beyond that, blue Toril hanging silent in the black sky.

   When they came nearly to the top of the cliff where the city of Bral abruptly ended, they found a public park, planted with green grass and trees. What they guessed to be ogre children were playing fetch with some sort of canine creature. Some couples snuggled on benches staring out at Toril and its moon.

   "What a romantic place to sit," said Oma. Jayce elbowed Nargroth, but the half-orc ignored it.

   Whale Street continued parallel to the park and uphill toward the trailing edge. "There is The Edge," said Jayce, pointing. It was a large and noisy tavern. On the roof was a deck, and an assortment of folk were singing spacefaring songs while frequently spilling their mugs of ale over the railing.

   "So that must be the Port Hole," said Nargroth. The tiny tavern to the left of The Edge had only two small windows, which were, fittingly, round like portholes. The bar otherwise had no sign. Outside the single door stood a tall insectoid creature, looking something like a humanoid praying mantis. In each of its two pairs of arms it held a strange double-sided pole arm with half-moon shaped blades. Resting on the ground next to this creature was a barrel full of an assortment of weapons.

   The group approached the alien bouncer, and it made clicking sounds with its complicated mandibles, and it took them a moment to recognize that it had spoken in broken Common. "No weapons inside." It released its grip on one of its polearms and pointed with one of its four "fingers" to the barrel.

   They agreed and left their weapons in the barrel. Jayce made himself look human again. Then they opened the door and entered.

   They had never seen such a diverse crowd in a single place. Most noticeable was the giant, fleshy orb magically floating over a pair of large stools at the far left of the bar across from them. Out of this eight-foot-wide orb sprouted ten writhing stalks, each ending in an eyeball. While they could not see the front of the bulbous, alien thing, they knew it could be nothing other than an infamous beholder. Some of them had encountered a smaller, beholder-like gauth before, during a short excursion through the Underdark below the jungles of Chult, but this one was the real deal. It seemed to be drinking up a beverage on the bar counter through a thick wooden straw.

   Next to the beholder, with an empty stool between it and them, stood two human sailors, who were slapping the countertop in laughter. Each had red hair, and one had a thick beard. Moving down the line, they saw a sitting figure in a cloak, leaning over whatever it was he or she was eating or drinking. Next were two reptilian humanoids, which reminded some of the group of lizardfolk that they had met in Chult, only these were dressed in far more civilized clothes. Next to the lizardmen, sitting alone at the bar, was a very hairy humanoid creature that reminded them of a baboon. At the corner of the bar counter stood a heavily drunk human calling for more ale from the fat tavernmaster behind the counter. The counter made a turn and along this short edge were placed smaller stools. On one of these sat a halfling with jet black skin.

   Two open doorways were on the back wall, probably leading into the kitchen. One was behind the counter, and from the other stepped a young barwench carrying a tray with drinks to a round table in the far corner. She passed another insectoid bouncer, looking identical to the one they had just encountered outside. She set the drinks down on the table, around which sat three happy dwarves.

   Across the tavern from the dwarves, sitting completely alone at another round table on a large-sized chair was another bizarre patron. This bulky humanoid looked something like the hippopotami that they had observed in some of the rivers of Chult, but it was fully dressed in an ornate naval uniform with an absurd number of badges on its chest.

   The next table had a truly eclectic mix of customers in deep discussion over a trade agreement of some sort. They included a talking penguin with opposable wingtips, a Shou warrior in full Shou scale mail, a human with a tricorn hat, and an illithid, or mind flayer. This latter monster was known in the tales of terror told among the youth of many civilizations; the hunched-over humanoid had what looked almost like an octopus for a head. Like the beholder, it sucked up a beverage through a straw into the circular mouth hiding beneath its four wiggling tentacles.

   Immediately to their right, next to the table with the illithid, was an empty table with four chairs around it. To their left was the final table in the small tavern, and about it sat a group of elves. These were all shorter than any of the elves in the group of adventurers, and all of them were also in naval uniforms.

   "These are members of the Imperial Elven Navy," said Solisar. "I recognize their uniforms." He immediately walked over to the three elves and joined them at their table.

   "Should we be worried about any of the clientele?" asked Jayce, nodding his head first toward the beholder and then toward the illithid, but Nargroth didn't seem to care. He simply moved into the bar and up to the counter next to the black-skinned halfling. The others took seats or stood around the open table by the door. Jayce whistled at the barwench and winked at her. She came over to take their orders.

   At the elven table, Solisar had introduced himself in the Elvish tongue and was trying to learn more about the elves' place on the Rock. "When I was last in Evermeet," he said, "I met with Fleet Admiral Icarus; he suggested that I speak with the Elven Navy stationed here on the Rock of Bral if ever my companions and I are in need of aid in our quest. You see, all of us are newcomers to wildspace."

   "You have been to Evermeet!" said the one elf. "Is it truly as beautiful as the stories tell?"

   "Indeed, it is," said Solisar. "I was born there; it is my home. Yet why should you not visit? Is Toril not before you when you step outside these doors?"

   "My orders do not permit it," said the elf.

   The second elf seemed more impressed that Solisar had met Admiral Icarus. "Icarus? The same Icarus who emerged victorious from fifteen battles against the scro in the Second Unhuman War?"

   "He did not speak of his battle prowess, but he commands a vessel called the Arrow of Justice and is fleet admiral of this whole crystal sphere, if I understood correctly."

   "How did you manage such an audience? Who are you in truth?"

   "I am simply a scholar who, perhaps by the mischief of Erevan, has found himself enwrapped in a quest with these companions whom you see that has taken the interest of no small number of gods. We came upon an ancient Netherese spelljammer. When I piloted alone to my island, to seek an audience with my grandmother, a great seer, I was stopped by the Evermeet fleet and eventually taken to Icarus, after they learned more about my vessel."

   "Who are the Netherese?" asked the third elf. "Forgive me, as I am not from Realmspace originally."

   "No offense taken! They were an ancient civilization of humans on the world of Toril, some of the first humans to attain the power to leave their world."

   "You piloted a spelljammer alone?" asked the second elf.

   "Yes, that was what surprised the captain of the vessel that first apprehended me; it seems that the spelljammer technology of the Netherese differed from that of most other races, and this was of great historic — and perhaps military significance — to our kin.

   "To answer your original question," said the second elf, "you can reach Naval Command by means of the Embassy, which is located in the Elven Forest."

   "Yo ho! Nargroth!" someone yelled very loudly. It was one of the red-haired sailors.

   From the far end of the bar, Nargroth waved back with the kind of grin that revealed that he had no idea who was calling him.

   "It is me, Pat! Fancy meeting you at this place."

   Nargroth took his drink and walked over to the two sailors, who clanked their ceramic mugs against his. "To the Frihet!" said the bearded sailor.

   Nargroth left the two sailors and joined the others at the table. "I think that the captain hired them on at Lantan before we left," Nargroth explained. "I do not remember their names."

   "I have not met them yet either," said Oma. "They have not tried to slap my backside yet, unlike all the other sailors."

   "Has Loreene tried to slap your backside yet?" asked Jayce.

   "When she was drunk, yes."

   "We need to find the manager of the Interlink Consortium store and talk to him," said Szordrin.

   "Let us at least get our drinks and snacks first," said Jayce. "The manager is either the man in the cloak, the one talking to the penguin and the squid-head, or that drunk who has fallen asleep with his head at the bar over there."

   The serving girl arrived with a tray full of all their orders. "Sagecourse for you, Krynnish ale for you, mead...."

   Pat, the clean-shaven Lantanna sailor laughed so loudly at something that it interrupted the waitress. "Where is the ball?" he repeated. "Shemus, you are making me roll with laughter."

   "Careful," said the bearded sailor, "it might hear you."

   "I do not think that they have ears," Pat replied.

   "...Mead for you," continued the young woman, "an appetizer of fried zard toes and a water for you, a bottle of...."

   "I have one, I have one!" said Pat, in very much an outside voice. "Right now, I am a gorgeous man, handsomer than any asperusa fellow."

   "I suppose I am supposed to ask you why?" said Shemus.

   "You know what they say, 'Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder." He chugged his beer.

   Shemus laughed and put his hand on his friend's shoulder. "Eye see what you did there!"

   "Shemus, my friend, do you think that you could be any cornea?"

   "What is a cornea?" Oma whispered to Nargroth.

   "It is a part of an eyeball," said the half-orc.

   "Oh, I have one," said Shemus, now as loudly as his companion. "How does a beholder, you know, do it with a lady-beholder?"

   Pat shrugged and said, "I dare you to ask it."

   Neither man saw several of the spherical monstrosity's eyestalks cease wiggling and begin to focus on them.

   "No, no," said Shemus, "the answer is, 'With all eleven eyes shut'!"

   Two beams of magical energy shot forth so quickly from a pair of eyestalks that it was almost unnoticeable, and they struck the sailor Shemus on the back of his bald head. A third ray of energy struck Pat's mug of beer, lifted it off the countertop, and splashed it over Pat's face. Kytharrah started giggling at this.

   The beholder hovered over the counter and into the corner of the tavern, now facing the entire crowd of customers with its large central eye wide open and drool dripping between its huge, teeth-filled maw. The huge mouth spoke in perfect Common, "Bathe in your beer, fool."

   "Oh my gods!" exclaimed the man at the table next to them with the hat. He slid off his chair and began to crawl under the table. With a quack that sounded more like duck than penguin, the man's tiny tablemate joined him under the table.

   "Ha ha ha," laughed Shemus, pointing at his drenched friend. "Looks like you've been ray-nd on!"

   "What are you laughing at?" said Pat. "He shot you in the head! Twice! Snap out of it!" Pat tried to slap Shemus but was too drunk to make contact on the first swing.

   At that, the halfling hopped off his stool and fled into the kitchen. The two lizardmen also dismounted from their stools with loud hisses and stood as if ready to defend themselves should anyone attack them.

   The drunk on the corner of the counter woke up suddenly at all the commotion. "Is there a fight?" he asked spinning around to see what was happening in the room. Then he retched and spewed the contents of his stomach all over the wooden floor at his feet.

   Szordrin fumbled for a tiny item in his spell component pouch and started waving his hands in a pattern before stopping. "I cannot feel the Weave!" he warned. "Like at Thultantar." Then he slid off his chair and crouched under the table.

   The others at the table then noticed that the hippopotamus alien had risen to his feet. From somewhere under its bulky uniform it had extracted a concealed weapon, something like a sawed-off version of Hakam's old musket. The beast called out in a booming voice, "How dare you use your magic eyes in this tavern, foul aberration!" He aimed the firearm at the beholder and pulled the trigger. There was a deafening boom, followed immediately by a loud clang and the shattering of glass. For a moment, everyone stopped moving as smoke from the gun dissipated. The Shou warrior was feeling a dent in his horned helmet. Apparently, the bullet had ricocheted off the metal and struck one of the empty bottles of ale on the counter.

   The first one to move was the man in the cloak at the counter, who simply took another drink, as if he cared nothing for the happenings around him. The elves with Solisar did the same. The serving maid, on the other hand, shrieked and ran toward the starboard wall, behind the shelter of the mantis bouncer, who was moving its compound eyes back and forth as if trying to decide which patron was currently the biggest threat to the other customers in the bar.

   Leokas and Belvin each grabbed a dinner knife from their table. Nearby, the Shou man stood up and began shouting supposed expletives in his language at the hippo-man. Mass chaos erupted in the tavern. Another beam shot forth from the beholder, this one striking the bartender. The Shou charged at the hippo-man. Hakam rose to his feet. The baboon like creature stood on his bar stool. Jayce jumped on the table and unslung his yarting. The mind flayer was calmly strolling toward the kitchen. Oma made her way to the far wall by the bouncer. The lizardmen hissed. The penguin squawked loudly from under the table. Kytharrah continued laughing at the great fun happening around him.

   The mantis sprung on its powerful legs and leaped through the air like a grasshopper, over the heads of the lizardmen, and landed in front of the beholder, spinning one of its polearms over its head wildly.

   The bartender yelled at it, "Leave the beholder be, Drik-ch'kit. Stop the giff!"

   "Bar fight!" shouted one of the dwarves.

   "Yes!" shouted another. The two of them flipped over their table, and their companion, who had been leaning on it, fell to the floor with a thud.

   "Typical dwarves," muttered one of naval elves.

   Nargroth reached Pat and tried to pin him so that he couldn't slap Shemus again, but Pat was flailing about too much for the half-orc to get a good grip on him.

   "Don't hit me!" shouted Shemus. "It was just an innocent prank." He tried to punch Pat, but Nargroth pulled the man back to avoid the blow.

   Pat, however, broke free again from Nargroth and swung his own punch, striking his friend but not with a very solid blow.

   Solisar stood and pressed himself against the wall. Suddenly, he was out of the cone of vision of the beholder's central eye and could feel the Weave. His enchanted eyes could now see a residual aura around the tavernmaster. He tried dispelling the beholder's charming magic but failed.

   Just then, someone in the kitchen shouted, "How many times must I say it? Stay out of the kitchen!" The halfling flew through the air like a large doll and struck the illithid, whose attention was on the beholder. The illithid slipped on the vomit on the floor and fell to its back.

   Szordrin joined Oma at the wall. She was chanting something. "Something is blocking our magic," he said. She nodded, with a look on her face that confirmed that she was well aware of that. She motioned close to the wall with her eyes and continued chanting. Finally, recognizing that it was the beholder who was blocking his spell power, he pressed himself to the wall and, shortly thereafter, turned invisible.

   In front of the counter, the man who had earlier thrown up sucker punched one of the lizardmen in the back of its green, scaled head. So, now, three separate fights were ongoing: Shemus and Pat were throwing drunken blows at each other, as Nargroth tried to keep them apart; the giff, the hippo-creature, was blocking countless chops and spin kicks from the Shou warrior and punches from one of the dwarves with his massive forearms; and the two reptilian humanoids were slashing at the drunk human with their natural, sharp claws.

   Now Hakam pressed through the commotion and reached the wall by Oma, and his magical ability to sense chaos returned, though he could only see auras around Oma and one of the naval elves, as the rest of the patrons were within the beholder's antimagic projection. He grabbed a glass from the bar counter, prayed a quick prayer over it, and tossed it toward the beholder. It shattered against the corner behind the floating monster. From the shards erupted a thick darkness that could only form outside the beholder's antimagic, thus outlining the extent of its projection.

   In response, beams of energy shut forth from the beholder. Two of the three beams struck Hakam in the chest, but the cleric did not seem to mind.

   The baboon suddenly raised his arms, revealing that flaps of skin were stretched between his arms and legs, much like a flying squirrel. He leapt from his stool and glided past the fighting sailors and the angry lizardmen and landed by the door.

   Jayce was strumming something like a lullaby on his yarting, but no one seemed to notice. The fighting continued, and the drunk dropped to the floor in a pool of blood, as one of the lizardmen had slit his throat with his claw. Belvin and Leokas moved from their spots and tried to stop the man from bleeding to death, giving the reptiles a glare that warned them to stop further attacks.

   Meanwhile, the brawl between giff, Shou, and dwarf continued. The giff pummeled the Shou on its helmet with his thick fist, and the Shou responded with repeated kicks and punches of his own.

   No one had at first noticed that, during all the other fighting, the illithid had managed to get the halfling's head underneath its tentacles, until the serving wench dropped her tray and screamed. Drik-ch'kit, the bouncer, stopped on its way to the fight with the giff in the corner and swung its moon-shaped blade at the mind flayer, splattering silvery-white blood. One of the dwarves joined in, and hammered his fist atop the illithid's skull. This freed the helpless halfling, who rolled onto the floor unconscious and missing his hair where the mind flayer's mucus had already dissolved it away. Leokas and Belvin, having stopped the human from bleeding to death with a tight bandage, now moved to surround the mind flayer and assist the bouncer and the dwarf, lest the monster tried to eat anyone else's brain.

   Then, Oma pointed, and an enormous skeleton appeared out of nothing behind the bar. It was hunched over, with arms brushing against the ground, and it had a protruding nasal bone and a very thick skull. With one of its long arms, it swung at the eye tyrant, knocking several of its eyestalks limp.

   "Oma, stop summoning!" ordered Hakam. "The beholder is not our enemy here." With that he attempted to dispel her summon but was unable.

   "But it is going to get away!" she argued.

   By this point, the gliding baboon had opened the door and exited, and the elves now stood to depart as well, bidding Solisar farewell as they did so, even though they couldn't actually see the sun elf, as he was within Hakam's magical darkness, which spread out along the walls. For his part, Solisar attempted to dispel magic again, this time from Hakam, whom he had seen struck by the beholder's rays. Once again, however, he could not overcome the power of the beholder's magic. He stumbled against the bar counter in the dark.

   Just as the three elves exited, the other insect guard from outside rushed in. Seeing a giant skeleton, it assumed it to be an enemy and sprung forward with a great leap, then swinging its weapons and splintering ribs.

   Meanwhile, Nargroth had finally pinned Pat. "Kytharrah, give me a hand with... the other guy!"

   Kytharrah happily rushed over and pinned Shemus in mere moments.

   "Get me another beer!" ordered the beholder, and immediately, the bartender stepped into the kitchen. The floating orb rotated, and the darkness along that wall vanished, as did the summoned troll skeleton and Hakam's charm. The cleric shook his head, feeling a strange sensation of momentary confusion that was something akin to the feeling of betrayal. Then, the beholder turned again, and immediately Hakam forgot the sensation. The beholder seemed a fair fellow to him again.

   "Have a good afternoon, everyone," said the beholder politely, as it floated toward the door. As it did so, the magical darkness filled the area that it vacated.

   "Not so fast!" chirped the insectoid guard who had come from outside. He slashed at the beholder, leaving a thick gash. It turned to face its attacker, baring its huge teeth.

   "Forget that, Hakam!" said Oma, and she began another summoning spell.

   Then, several folks screamed from pain and grabbed their heads. Nargroth let go of Pat and clutched his skull. Leokas dropped the dinner knife. His head was throbbing in intense pain. Even Drik-ch'kit, the insectoid bouncer, was affected; its antennae twitched erratically.

   Oma ceased her spell and moved toward Nargroth.

   The other insect was unaffected by the illithid's psionic attack and focused its swings at the beholder, who rose high toward the ceiling to avoid the blows. When the beholder dropped lower again and turned, the mind flayer was back on its feet and had one of its tentacles wrapped around the other bouncer Drik-ch'kit's head.

   Kytharrah released Shemus, who dropped to the ground and covered his head, moaning. The minotaur darted over to Leokas. "Is little brother hurt?"

   "My head!" Leokas responded. It felt like it was going to explode.

   The beholder closed its central eye. Several more beams shot forth from its other eyes, one of them a solid beam that lifted the insectoid of its feet and tossed it out the door. Then, the beholder itself floated outside and was gone, leaving behind a huge patch of magical darkness, filling half the room.

   "Huzzah!" shouted the dwarf at the far corner, which was still in light. "Did ya see that blow?" The Shou and the dwarf then chest-bumped each other, as the giff lay knocked out cold. Both Shou and dwarf seemed oblivious to the other fighting behind them.

   "Never mind that, help me here!" said the other dwarf, who frantically tried to grab the mind flayer and pull him from the bouncer but to no avail. The illithid was about to get a second tentacle around Drik-ch'kit's neck.

   Missiles of magical force flew through the room from out of the darkness, called forth by both Szordrin and Solisar, but they simply passed around the illithid's body with no effect.

   Hakam called out, "Everyone, heed the holy words of Anachtyr. This chaos must cease! We must restore order to this madness. Choose to repent from your anarchist ways at once!"

   "Shut up, Hakam," said Belvin. The wild elf tried to dispel Hakam's enchantment, but he was as successful as all the other previous attempts at such.

   Kytharrah came to the rescue of the bouncer, however. "Play?" he said, as he grappled with the mind flayer and easily yanked him away from Drik-ch'kit. The Shou ran over, ready to join in the next scuffle but held back when he saw that the minotaur already had the upper hand.

   "...There is still time to repent! Cease this senseless violence!" preached Hakam.

   "He speaks truth! Listen to him!" called the human who was hiding under the table with the penguin.

   "Here! Here!" said the bar wench.

   In the darkness, Szordrin found the cloaked man at the bar counter. "Are you the manager of the Interlink Consortium?"

   "My head... hurts... so badly! Who are you? I cannot see. Honestly dreadful!"

   "Here, let me get you out of here." Szordrin helped the man off his stool and led him out of the darkness. "I found our man, let us get out of here!"

   "Good bye, then," said Belvin, and he followed the tiefling toward the door.

   The illithid, on the other hand had not yet given up. It still writhed, and Jayce feared it would resort to another psionic attack to break free. The bard stopped his strumming, which had clearly been useless anyway and jumped down from the table. "Stand down, calamari," he threatened, "or our minotaur will crush your skull."

   They all heard a voice within their heads. I yield. You have my word.
Session: 104th Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 18 2018 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
Chapter 1 — The Interlink Consortium of Bral
"Remember, Szordrin," said Jayce, "if you need to do any bluffing in here, I am your man."

   Szordrin cast several spells upon himself, and then they all stepped up to the entrance. On the door was a placard that read:
The Interlink Consortium of Bral
Helping You Make Quality Interplanar Connections For 49 Years
The Flagship Store
Store Hours
0:00 to 0:00 daily

   The nine adventurers pushed open the door and stepped inside. Two armed guards, a half-elf man on the left and a Shou woman on the right, stood silently to the side of the small foyer.

   Szordrin could magically hear the half-elf practicing a conversation in his head. "Yu Yan, what are you doing after our watch? I do not know about you, but I could use a glass of wine. Would you be interested in stopping at the Raised Cup?" Oh, but she probably does not drink. I can just say that they also have good food. No, she is probably on a special diet. Maybe Starboard Park? No, too obviously romantic. For her part, the Shou woman was meditating and running through her martial arts exercise routine in her mind.

   Here in the foyer, there was an inner door and another placard.
Dear Customers:
Here at the Interlink Consortium, we believe that the multiverse has much to offer, and our special line of products will allow you to enjoy its delights, but we also know that interplanar travel comes with its risks. Thus we believe that no purchase should be made without careful time and consideration — like buying a new horse, you should be able to try out the product, and an expert should be available to answer all of your questions.
For this reason, we want your time on this visit to be an experience, not just a shopping trip. Feel free to explore our showroom, and if at any time you have a question, simply toss one of the coins in the basket below to the ground, and a knowledgeable representative will be with you shortly.

   The "coins" in the basket were simple round tokens, seemingly made of wood. Carved on one side was the Interlink Consortium logo; on the other was written, "Help is on its way." Solisar could see that the wooden tokens were enchanted. Szordrin took one and opened the door.

   They entered a spacious and open warehouse room. Four more guards stood by, one in each corner, but no further employees could be seen. (Hakam was relieved to note that none of the guards had a chaotic aura.) Placed around the showroom were nine portals. Most of them were unique in shape and style. Some looked like archways; some were platforms. Hanging from the ceiling above each portal was a wooden sign. From left to right around the room, the hanging signs read in large letters: "Our History," "Tuning Forks," "Personal Devices," "Communicators," "Portal Accessories," "Portal Repair," "Planar Guides," "Raw Materials," and "Research & Development". Beside each portal stood a smaller sign. A single banner hanging in the very center of the room read, "All portals in this showroom available for purchase and delivery. Inquire with a representative for pricing."

   The first thing that most of them noticed was the portal under the "Personal Devices" banner; it looked like one of the portals that Samber had purchased, which they had inadvertently helped deliver to him in Chult. Jayce headed toward it. Szordrin walked toward "Portal Accessories", but first, the disguised wizard turned toward Solisar and said loudly enough for the guards to have heard, "My royal historian, go investigate the History portal."

   Solisar rolled his eyes at Szordrin's comment but obeyed. Belvin followed him. The others continued to look around the room. Kytharrah approached the portal underneath the "Tuning Forks" sign, which looked much like a pool or bath. He could see the blurry image of a room in the mostly still waters. He put his large hand in the water and was fascinated to no longer be able to see it. Then he noticed that his fur did not feel at all wet. He began experimenting with placing other body parts into the "water". Then he saw a knob and turned it. The water responded by changing from clear to orange. He turned it again, and it turned green.

   The portal under the "Our History" banner was a simple archway of black stone. The portal was already active; Solisar and Belvin could see a small room through it on the other side. (When they stepped around to the far side of the archway, they saw only the showroom room in which they were standing.) Solisar read the sign beside the portal aloud to Belvin.
Our original, two-way, always-active portal design.

   Nargroth, Oma, and Leokas joined the two elves, and the five of them stepped through the archway to find themselves in a small museum of sorts. Various items were on display in glass cases, and placards explained the history of the company in fancy calligraphy. The four began with the first sign.
How It All Started

The Interlink Consortium is a company founded on the power of love, a power that links all of the planes and all of the crystal spheres, a power that still drives us to put care into all of our products....

Belvin audibly gagged, and he and Leokas turned away to look at other things. The other three read every word.

   In summary, the history described how the company was founded almost 50 years ago by the son of a rich "noble", (in truth, most likely a former space pirate, though this detail was inferred by the readers,) who became an explorer. His life was supposedly changed forever when he accidentally discovered an elemental vortex from the Elemental Plane of Air to the Feywild. Lost in the strange twilight of that world, he gazed upon a fey creature and fell instantly in love with her, so the story said. He pursued her for days, until he stumbled into a pool that was actually a portal back to the Material Plane. He managed to find a way back to Bral, but he could no longer sleep, so great was his desire to gaze upon the fey maiden again. A man of no magical talent at all, he hired wizards to provide him a way of locating her again and began selling items that they made to fund his journeys back to the Plane of Faerie and to other planes.

   The founder soon "linked" his company to other magic shops on Bral and then to those of wizards from other worlds and crystal spheres. Inventors whose products were sold by the Consortium agreed not to sell them through other vendors. In exchange, these products were spread to other worlds and spheres. The company started out by selling simple tuning forks; cross-planar communication devices, such as sending stones; and locators, before expanding to portals and their apparatus and ultimately to even providing guide services and commission work.

   Belvin was looking at some of the items behind a glass case. There was a strand of golden hair, supposedly dropped by the "fey creature" and a silver leaf with golden vanes. "This leaf is not from Toril," said Belvin, "but I recognize it from my visions. Leokas, do you know this leaf?"

   The ranger, too, had never seen it in any forest of Toril.

   Meanwhile, Kytharrah, after inserting his hoof, hand, and nose into the "water" of the pool-like portal and after changing the "waters" to every color of the rainbow, took a running leap into its center. There was no splash. Instead, he felt a strange sensation of falling upward, as he found himself shooting out of a similar pool in another room with the same momentum and landing, dry, on the floor with a thud. The thud caused a strange cacophony of barely audible ringing sounds from all around him. Hanging on all four walls of this place were tiny forks. Spaced every yard or so was also a short, narrow column of stone.

   He picked up one that was particularly shiny and whacked it against the nearest stone column. It gave a crisp clear note. "Pretty!" said the minotaur. He, of course, began sampling all of the forks, though he at least had the sense not to ring one of glass ones, as it looked too delicate.

   Hakam appeared, stepping out of the pool in the center of the room and looking slightly confused, as he had been descending into the pool one moment earlier and now seemed to be ascending instead. His ears were then in pain from the atonal racket that Kytharrah was making.

   "Minotaur! Stop that! Put those back."

   It took some effort to return the forks to their proper spots, as Hakam was not an expert in recognizing the difference between a fork made of zinc versus one made of nickel. He took mental note of the prices of each fork. They ranged in price from only a copper piece for a fork of quartz to a full ten platinum pieces for a fork of adamantine. Every pitch of fork was available, including all sharps and flats of the musical scale.

   Jayce had read the sign next to the circular gate below the "Personal Devices" portal.
Our popular keyed, one-way portal provides extra security. As a demonstration, we provide a sampling of objects that you might chose to make into a key for such a portal. Be sure to take one before passing through the portal. Please return the key to the basket upon returning to the main showroom!

Beside the sign was a small table with a basket. The basket included such small items as a stone, a coin, an actual key, and a ring. There were about ten items in all. He took one and stepped underneath the rounded arch and vanished.

   Szordrin had read the sign underneath the "Portal Accessories" banner.
Our "mirror" portal design, favored by those travelers who wish either their portal to be a work of art or to hide it among everyday furnishings. To activate this demonstration portal, speak the magic words, "We love our customers."

Szordrin looked at the ornate, wooden-framed mirror, and said, "We love our customers." His reflection was immediately replaced by the image of another room. He stepped through. This new room did not have any merchandise on display; instead, scrolls on the wall described various modifications to portals and diagrams of portal attachments and paraphernalia, from portal keys to portal security devices.

   One diagram and its description immediately caught Szordrin's eye.
Galormansko's Sequencer Apparatus
Invented by Galormansko, from the world of Oerth, the same world as the famous mage Mordenkainen. This apparatus is embedded in the frame of a portal. When the portal is activated, it creates a temporary portal at the destination of the main portal, allowing one to sequence portal jumps.

   "Samber ordered one of these," spoke Szordrin to himself. Knowing that the duration of his mind-reading magic was ticking away, he took the wooden token that he had taken from the foyer and tossed it to the ground. When it hit the floor, it grew to a disk of about a yard in diameter and a human man appeared to rise quickly out of it.

   "How may I help you, saer?" said the man, showing an extremely large fake smile. This man dresses very strangely, he thought. He must be an off-worlder. Maybe I will make my commission today!

   "I am a representative from Guallidurth in the Underdark of Toril below us," said Szordrin. "Among other things, the Mistress Mother has sent me to investigate the possibility of beginning a spice trade between her city and those of other worlds." As he said this, he held up a small pouch of spices from Calimport. "Is this something that your company can help us with?"

   The man took a whiff. "I do not know the smell, but it is indeed pleasant." He maintained his display of white teeth. Drow! Almost as terrifying as the neogi, he thought. Then he added, "If you are asking if we would have dealings with a race that is... erm... disliked by many others, I assure you that here at the Interlink Consortium, we are a neutral party and have respect for all of our customers. We ask no questions; we simply offer you the best products."

   "Can you tell me about this product here? How would it help the Matron Mother sell to, say, the City of Brass?"

   "Oh, you would not need a Galormansko's sequencer to establish a permanent portal link to the City of Brass; any of our simple portals can do that. No, the sequencer is only needed when you would otherwise have to establish, well, a sequence of portals to reach a destination. The Plane of Fire only has a single layer. As I am sure that you know, most of the Outer Planes have multiple layers and the usual magics available to planar travelers can access only the so-called 'first' layers, as these are the only layers that border the Astral Plane. To reach the Ninth Hell, for example — though why anyone would want to do this is beyond me — one would have to establish portals between each of the other eight layers first." I wonder if the drow do want to visit Nessus. Gods help us! "However, if one owns one of our amazing sequencers, the links need only be established one time, when the portal is established. After that, rather than having to walk through a series of nine portals, one would only need to walk through a single portal and instantly arrive at the lowest layer. Because of the dangers of connecting to deeper layers of dangerous planes, we strongly urge that our customers also purchase significant security measures for a portal that uses a sequencer."

   Just then, Kytharrah popped into existence in the room, looking like he had just contorted his body to squeeze through a tiny place.

   Well, that is a shaggy monster! How did he fit through the mirror?

   "What can you also tell me about guides?" asked Szordrin. "I see that you also sell guide services."

   "Indeed we do," said the sales representative with another too-large smile. "Many of our customers have never visited the planes before. We have a team of superbly skilled guides, all of whom are experts in many planes. Our guides can also assist in making the initial connections required for establishing portal linkages, or they can be hired instead for making deliveries to planar locations."

   "Can a guide take me to my family?" asked Kytharrah.

   It talks? "Where is your home, young saer? Is it another plane?" I hope it is young and I did not just offend it! It could rip my head off.

   Kytharrah shrugged.

   Szordrin whispered to the representative. "Do not mind our minotaur bodyguard; his parents are no longer among the living. He has no home."

   Nevertheless, the salesman continued, "Well, if your home happens to be another plane, and if you were taken from your home through interplanar travel, we might have just the thing you need. Come with me."

   The man walked to a mirror on the opposite wall, excitedly said, "We love our customers!" and stepped through. Szordrin waited for the minotaur to twist sideways and stuff himself forcefully into the narrow space. Szordrin took the opportunity to remove a small magic pearl, which he held. Arcane symbols flashed before his mind's eye. He then recast his spell to read minds, before following through the magic mirror.

   Back in the main showroom, Szordrin saw Nargroth and Oma step onto a portal that looked like a dais. They each said, "Communicator Showroom, please," and disappeared.

   The salesman, however, led them to the circular gate made of black metal. "Make sure that you take a portal key from the basket," he said, before walking through and vanishing. Tiefling and minotaur each took a token from the basket and followed.

   They found Solisar in the room, perusing the many items for sale on the shelves. There were rings, rods, staffs, and a miscellany of other objects, all small enough to be carried on one's person.

   The man showed them a rod of dark metal hanging on the wall. "We call this a rod of retracing," he said. "If you speak the name of any of your lost family members, it will lock on to the residual threads left in the Astral Plane as they last passed through it. Then, if you have other means of shifting planes by magic, it will serve the same function as a tuning fork and focus the spell such that you will be taken to the last plane to or from which that person traveled from or to your current location." The man turned to smile at Kytharrah but found that the minotaur had already lost interest and was instead examining a large, round piece of black cloth that seemed to be hole into nothing. Once again, Kytharrah began inserting various appendages into it.

   "Our beast has a short attention span," said Szordrin. "I however am quite interested in this item." Szordrin noticed that the rod, like many other items in this room, had the Interlink Consortium logo engraved on it, but beyond that, he thought it looked extremely similar to the fragment he carried with him.... "This looks like the rod that my drow friend gave me." Then he turned to Solisar and said with a wink. "Slave, go get Walker immediately."

   If the man had any idea of who Walker actually was, his thoughts gave no such indication; rather, he was concerned that Kytharrah might break something.

   Solisar understood and ceased examining a magic staff to go retrieve Jayce.

   "This Walker is the one who told us about the Interlink Consortium," explained Szordrin, "and gave the Mistress Mother and I the idea to visit your store in the first place."

   Jayce and Solisar appeared suddenly again in the room, except that Jayce had pointed ears, nearly jet black skin, and white hair. The salesman expressed thoughts of fear.

   "Master, perhaps you should show this worker the rod fragment," suggested Solisar.

   Szordrin removed the metal fragment from a pouch on his belt and handed it to the man.

   "Yes, this is indeed similar, but it is not the same. See, here, this curve does not match the current design. I believe that this is one of our recalled models."

   "Recalled?" asked Jayce.

   "For what?" asked Szordrin.

   "It was found to be more fragile, if I recall the story. It was sold before I started working here, but I heard about it. I think they tended to explode in the presence of some other powerful energy magics. Thankfully, this only happened after the item had been on sale for a few months."

   "Exploding magic items! This does not put your company in a good light," said Szordrin. "The drow expect quality."

   "Of course, we did everything in our power to replace the items or offer refunds, provided one has a receipt, of course. We have a lifetime warranty on all magic items and portals sold through the Consortium."

   Suddenly, Jayce coughed and sounded like he was choking. However, Solisar was quite certain that he heard the disguised bard mutter a series of arcane words in Draconic.

   "Forgive me; I inhaled my pipe too deeply," said Jayce. "The mention of the rod — it is bringing back powerful emotions for me." He looked truly distraught.

   The salesman looked confused and for once did not have a smile.

   "I purchased one of these rods from Bral perhaps two years ago," said Jayce. "My lover, a powerful priestess of Lolth, who had given me my freedom as a gift of her true love for me, was captured by a demon summoned from Abyss as part of the schemes of a rival House. May Lolth curse them all and strangle them in her webs."

   While Solisar and Szordrin knew for a fact that Jayce was not a drow, they felt a powerful urge to believe every word he said. It was as if their deepest self wanted his story to be true.

   "I purchased the rod, because I was told that I could pursue the demon, whose name I discerned through blood sacrifice and divination, to its home in the Abyss. Using the rod, I did so. I found her. I freed her, and as I passionately kissed her in an oh so brief joy, the demon returned. I battled him with my magic sword of ice and would have had the day, but he struck me with a stream of fire. While I emerged unscathed, because of my powerful protective incantations, the rod shattered. The demon laughed, grabbed my mistress, and plane shifted away with her again, leaving me to wander for over a year in the Abyss before I could find a tuning rod that could get me home. Do you understand the horrors of the Abyss that I had to endure to survive? Your faulty rod nearly cost me my life and it cost me my lover!"

   "I am so terribly sorry, saer!" said the man, who even knelt down in respect. "I assure you that we will do everything in our power to make this right and give you a replacement rod that will not fail you and will allow you to track down this dreaded outsider again. However, I am a simple sales representative; you would have to speak with my manager. I am certain that he will know what to do to make this right.

   "Unfortunately, Martho is not here presently. As the Consortium is open all 24 hours of the Rock's rotation, he just ended his shift. I can tell you, however, that he always visits the same tavern after work. It is a place called the Port Hole. I can give you directions if you would like."

   "Slave, pay attention," said Szordrin to Solisar.

   "First, head port to Galley Street. Sindiath Line is on the corner. Look left, and you will see Thufer's Cobblery. Head up Galley Street toward it, but then take a right onto Whale Street. Whale Street will take you to the edge of the Rock. After you pass Cuttle Street at Wallis Tannery, you will find the tavern on the left. It does not smell nice over there, but the view is great. If you get to The Edge, you have gone too far. That is a much larger and more expensive bar but also more dangerous. I wish you the blessing of the gods of Toril... I mean, of Lolth."

   "We shall return later," said Szordrin. "Depending on how you make good my friend Walker's situation, the Mistress Mother will decide whether we do business with you in the future."
Session: 103rd Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 11 2018 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
Chapter 1 — The Rock
After "jumping" from asteroid to asteroid and stopping to adjust their heading at each one, they found themselves approaching what could only be Bral. The small city looked like one of the gods had ripped it from the earth and tossed it toward the stars, as the whole city sat atop the flattened side of a small asteroid, just as Gamalon had described it. It was a full city, complete with a lake, a forested park, a palace, plantations, an arena, and a clear docks district. All of this was easily visible from a mile away.

   Below the potato-shaped asteroid were large sail-like vanes and an armored fortress, clinging upside down. Large spelljamming craft were orbiting the Rock, presumably its navy. These included a hammerhead ship, two squid ships, and one of the fish-shaped ships.

   The docks were at the leading edge of the asteroid, and that area was clearly crowded with spelljamming ships. A hammerhead-shaped vessel had arrived from a jump just before they did, so Captain Ombert had the Frihet follow behind it. The hammerhead was a bit narrower than the Frihet, but its keel length was almost twice as long. They could watch the sailors on the hammerhead's main deck adjusting the sail on its tiny mainmast, while others on the aftcastle were tugging on ropes to turn the tailfin-like rudder at the aft of the vessel. A larger catapult then the one on the Frihet rested upon a turret on the ship's aftcastle, and they spotted a second catapult and a ballista toward the fore of the ship.

   "They be more heavily armed than us," said Indo.

   It was then that someone noticed something odd about the sailors. "Those ain't humans; they have tails."

   "Lizardfolk," said Belvin. "They are harmless."

   "In Jayce's stories, they eat people," said Brad.

   "We encountered lizardfolk in Chult," said Hakam to the sailors about who were looking nervous. "They have simple minds and can easily be 'reasoned' with."

   Colored flags were run up a pole from a tower on the docks. The hammerhead ship in front of them responded with its own colors and received instructions on where to dock. Then, the lizardfolk vessel dropped down and entered the Rock's gravity field, swooping in toward one of the leftmost wooden docks that jutted out almost 100 yards into space. To the right, on the Rock's portside, they also watched an insectoid spelljammer land on a flat open landing space.

   The "harbor" tower now signaled the Frihet, asking for an identification. Ombert had his crew respond that they were traders from Lantan on Toril. The Rock responded with a location for them to land, dock #7, on the far side of the docks from where the hammerhead had been sent.

   There was a minor jolt when the Frihet entered the gravity well of the Rock, but they were oriented nearly parallel above the Rock's gravity plane, so the jerk was not severe. Jayce began lowering them down to the level of the plane in a gentle spiral, as they had seen the lizardfolk craft do. Once they reached the plane, the ship bobbed up and down and started wobbling a bit before leveling off.

   "That felt something like hitting water," said Loreene.

   Ombert called out more commands and piloted them in to the dock, almost exactly as if the ship were floating on the ocean.

   The docks extended from a flat ledge at the edge of the asteroid. There was a steep, rocky slope rising up from the edge, and many large warehouse buildings on the top of the slope overlooked them. A large cavern entrance was in front of them in the slope, where the wooden dock reached the land, and workers were heaving cargo into and out of it.

   It was clearly "daytime" on the Rock. There was no need to use artificial lighting, as the sun provided ample light and was as large in the sky as on Toril, but the sky itself was black, not blue. No stars could be seen, but Toril was there in the sky, a beautiful blue half-moon shape.

   Ropes were tossed from the crew to workers on the docks, and their ship was moored. The sailors laid out the gangplank and an official-looking human man approached. "Request permission to board," he said, with a strange accent that none of them had ever heard before.

   "Permission granted," said Ombert, who had stepped down to the main deck. His men cleared the way politely for him, so that he would not be hidden behind his much taller crew.

   The man came across the gangplank and offered no sign of surprise at seeing a halfling captain. He even knelt down in an obvious act of courtesy to speak with Ombert at his level. "Welcome to Bral. I am Urth, one of the harbormasters. Based on how your crew are glued to the railings, I'm thinkin' that this be your first time here. I'll give ye a couple quick rules. In the Low City, unless ye want to end up in the jettison, stick to the main streets and never go anywhere alone!"

   Ombert and Urth discussed things quietly for a while, before Ombert handed him some coins and he rose to depart.

   Rinald stepped forward to stop him. "Saer, before you go, can you recommend any boarding houses for my family and I?" he asked. "There are six of us."

   Urth frowned. "Er, space is tight on the Rock. I'd check at the Red House first, off Eel Street, about halfway starboard toward Hammer Street. Ask around; anyone local will know where it is. If you come to the Green Galley and Marshall's Smithy, you've gone too far. Oh, one more thing; the place looks to be falling apart on the outside, but it's actually quite cozy and well-kept on the inside. I stayed there for a few months when I first came to Bral. Owned by a nice old gnome lady it is. Has a few rooms especially for families, and, as few families come to Bral, the larger rooms are actually more likely to be available."

   Once Urth had moved on, Ombert explained matters to the crew. "It will cost us one silver piece per ton per day — so four gold pieces, since the Frihet weighs in at 40 tons — to dock here, and we will need to pay the cargo offloading fee of six silvers per day, which includes storage in the docking caverns. Finally, we are required to use the harbor's longshoremen, and they each need to be paid two silver pieces each. Harbormaster Urth here says that he will send us eight longshoremen.

   "We will have an assigned spot in the docking caverns — I suppose that is one there," he said, pointing at the large opening in the steep slope of the asteroid. "As you can see, it's a long and steep walk up that slope to the city proper. We can rent a warehouse and its lifts, which carry our goods from the caverns to the surface; we can hire porters; or we can carry the goods ourselves. (It looks to be a hundred-foot climb.) In any case, they said that it would take about four hours to offload and inspect our cargo, and I have a stack of customs paperwork to fill out, so all of you are off duty and free to explore the city until then."

   "Remember, everyone," said Solisar. "Do not go anywhere alone, and it is illegal to start any fires!"

   The sailors excitedly began exiting the ship over the gangplank unto the dock, which bounced up and down as one on water would. One of the sailors, however, a skinny youth named Tym, was terrified of crossing over the plank.

   "What's your problem, Tym?" asked Diero. "Be a man!"

   "You climb up the jibboom all the time," said another. "What's different?"

   "If I fall off the jibboom, I hit the water, and I can swim," explained Tym. "If I fall of the plank, it's emptiness; I fall forever."

   "How are you going to fall off the gangplank?" asked Diero. "It's six-feet wide!"

   "Didn't ye hear what Solisar told us?" said Martin. "The gravy plane is like water, just invisible water. What ye think the ship be floatin' on?"

   Tym wouldn't budge, however.

   "Ye can't stay on the boat, man."

   "Guttar," ordered Niff, "toss him overboard."

   Tym shrieked like a young girl as the massive sailor did not hesitate and grabbed him, lifting him off the deck with ease. "Niff! Please! No! Wait!"

   "It be for your own good," said Niff. "You'll be fine and ye'll thank me later. Can't have a fearful sailor if we want to survive wildspace. Toss him."

   Guttar stepped onto the plank and dropped Tym off one side. The other sailors cheered and laughed as the young man fell some eighteen feet, dropping past the docks and lower than the keel of the ship before he slowed and then shot right back up, launching past the docks to several feet below the gangplank. Then he fell again and shot up again — and again and again — until now he was simply bobbing gently in empty space between the hull of the ship and the dock.

   "See, that weren't so bad!" called Niff, who then immediately ordered for the other sailors to toss him a rope and help him onto the dock.

   Before they had even grabbed the rope, Kytharrah voluntarily threw himself off the boat as well. Soon several of the sailors had tried it, and a grand time was had by all.

   Before leaving the ship, Szordrin changed into the clothing of a noble, while Solisar took time to prepare a more complicated spell that would grant him the ability to detect magical auras for the whole day.

   Then, the adventurers and Rinald's family stepped onto the dock. "Come on, Syphilis," Szordrin called back to Leokas' new wolf, who was cautiously considering the gangplank over what looked to be an abyss.

   "Her name is Sif," said Leokas. He then called her to him, and she obeyed.

   "Are you absolutely sure that you do not have a sister named Sif," asked Jayce, who still could not get over the fact that Leokas' former animal companion had been his own mother in another form.

   "I am certain," said the ranger.

   They walked — or rode on camelback — out to the flat ground at the very edge of the Rock. Turning left, they began walking toward dock #6. They were passed by eight longshoremen, sent to unload the Frihet. Half of the men were human, one was a half-orc, one was a lizardman, and another looked like an intelligent gorilla in clothing.

   Dock #6 was about 200 feet from dock #7, and they passed another cavern entrance. They noticed many large orange-feathered gulls nesting above the cave.

   "Kara-Turan architecture?" said Torm, Rinald's eldest son, pointing at a massive building above them. It was a brightly colored building with columns and with a sloped, tiled, tiered roof. The whole building sat on a raised platform supported by large wooden beams. A four-story pagoda rose from its center.

   In another 300 feet, they passed dock #5 and another cavern entrance. Shortly thereafter, they found one of the winding pathways leading up the stone slope and began climbing. Midway up they looked over to the left and saw a hexagonal stone tower, about 25 feet tall, rising out of the slope. On the flat roof of the tower was the largest ballista any of them had ever seen. It looked to be within some sort of gyroscope-like contraption.

   The path was even more crowded than the docks below, as it was a bottleneck of traffic going back and forth from the city. Most of those passing them were porters carrying cargo. The porters were mostly recognizable races, but there were many exceptions. One porter looked like a reptilian centaur with a small dragon-like head. Another looked like a gnome and a frog had had a child together. They saw a one-eyed, horned giant and another giant that looked like a stone giant with hair. (Leokas was happy that no goblinoids were among the races that they observed.) Many of the humans were Shou or Wanese, ethnicities found on Toril in the great eastern continent of Kara-Tur. (A few of the adventurers remembered meeting a Shou man during their first week on the Great Glacier.) It was safe to say that no one gave Kytharrah the minotaur a second look. In fact, more people were looking at Kamil strangely than they were at Kytharrah.

   The pathway had several switchbacks but eventually took them into the city itself. At the top, a wooden signpost informed them that they were on Dock Street and that Grand Street was to the left. Directly across the cobbled stone road was another building of Kara-Turan architecture. Golden eastern dragons crouched at its cornices and two foo lions sculpted from bronze guarded its massive wooden doors. Heavily armored guards with horned helmets, crossed sword sheathes on their backs, and red masks with distorted faces stood guard. To the left of the building was a colorful archway, woven with a curled dragon motif and covered with strange Kara-Turran characters in bright colors. In the Thorass script, "Shou-Town" was written in Common.

   They turned left and walked down Dock Street toward Grand Street, which was said to lead directly through the center of the city up toward the Prince's palace. At the corner, they saw one large warehouse with an infinity symbol within a sphere standing across from a large store named Hanwo Cobblery.

   Jayce laughed. "Ha ha! Bral has a Shou shoe-mender!"

   Nargroth guffawed.

   "It is not funny to mock someone's ethnicity!" Oma protested.

   "Sorry," said the half-orc.

   Among such large establishments as the cobbler's shop and the warehouse were countless peddlers trying to sell their wares, some from make-shift booths, others from within their long, many pocketed jackets. One woman with many-colored and layered skirts lined with tiny bells tried to get Nargroth to play a card game for money, but Oma shoved her away. Miri yelled out when a giant insect-like monster walked up on eight legs and offered her jewelry with one of its two exoskeleton-covered arms. "I meant not scare thee, pleasant-smelling human maiden," it said in very formal Common in a chirping voice with sharp clicks of its mandibles, before it skittered away into the crowd.

   "Will Grand Street lead to the forest we saw on our approach?" asked Belvin.

   "I believe so," said Solisar.

   They turned onto Grand Street, which was even busier than Dock Street and began walking uphill. In 200 feet, they passed a small shrine on the left that looked older than many of the other buildings around. "The All-Father deserves your worship. The All-Father is your true father," repeated an old human priest with a dark, wide-brimmed hat, a cloak of black feathers, and an obviously fake patch over his left eye."

   "It is strange for a human to worship Annam, is it not?" asked Jayce.

   "Annam? I speak of no giant god!" protested the priest. "I speak of Odin All-Father, the High One!"

   As they passed further up the road, Jayce asked, "You do know, Hakam, that Odin is your god's daddy, right?"

   "Foolish nonsense from the Northerners of Faerûn," muttered Hakam. "Any true Calishite knows that Anachtyr has always been a god in Calimshan. He is no interloper deity. The other nations confused him with Tyr Odinsson, because the names sound similar; that Anachtyr has not corrected their foolish idea does not make it true."

   Jayce smiled but did not argue further.

   After walking almost a tenth of a mile up Grand Street, they crossed Eel Street, according to a sign there. "Here is where we leave you, adventurers," said Rinald, "to search for the boarding house that the harbormaster mentioned. I shall send word to you at the Frihet if we are successful at procuring a room. Tymora smile on your search for answers about your mentor's death, Szordrin."

   Just past Eel Street, the road opened into a triangular plaza and was joined by a road named Windlass Court. Then, the road narrowed and continued upwards, though curving slightly to port, that is, to the right. They walked for two more tenths of a mile, crossing Squid and Sailmaker Streets. On one of the corners of Sailmaker Street was the "Office of the Low Magistrate". As they passed on, just outside the doors was a heated argument between a thuggish half-orc and a lizardman, with an armed human in banded mail with a halberd trying to keep them from taking swings at each other.

   "He ssstabbed me firssst!" hissed the humanoid reptile.

   "He stab me second!" yelled back the half-orc.

   They continued on and reached Trader's Way, which, a large billboard announced, was the beginning of the Great Market.

   "We are almost to the Consortium," said Szordrin, who was nearly shaking with excitement.

   "Look behind us," said Oma.

   "At what exactly?" asked Jayce.

   "The view," said Oma. They had come a good height uphill by now, and they could see the sprawl of the crowded Low City below them.

   Nargroth turned to look as well. "There is no horizon here;" he said, "we can look back and see the very edge of this world."

   "The Consortium," said Szordrin, impatiently.

   Past a small cluster of shops and other buildings on the left, the buildings ceased, revealing a massive open area, the Great Market. The plaza contained a plethora of activity and was full of several hundred persons. Entertainers were juggling, bards were singing, clerics were preaching, beggars were asking for alms, to say nothing of all the merchants selling and customers buying.

   Not the time for shopping, they continued. Very shortly, on the right, they passed Anchor Street, then a very busy store called Gaspar's Reclamations. Then finally, they came to Wasp Street.

   "Gamalon said that it was on this road," said Szordrin.

   Gamalon's directions were correct. The third building on the left was Frada's Provisioning, as the old sage had said. The very next building had a small metal sculpture outside its doors of four interlinking rings of decreasing sizes.
Session: 103rd Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 11 2018 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM
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