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Tag: milestone

Chapter 5 — Durbuluk
The fiendish hobgoblin dropped back to the ground, his goo-covered, arrow-punctured wings barely preventing him from crashing. Landing on one knee and bent over in pain, he dismissed his spell. Then, he strangely began laughing.

"What is so funny?" demanded Leokas.

"I find it humorous that even his enemies do not know his actual name."

Szordrin continued to point his wand at their captive. "One more taunt and you will not be left to recall his true name. Now, tell us all that you know about him. Do not try to hide a thing." The tiefling made a motion with his other hand to imply that he was watching the hobgoblin closely.

"I want a guarantee that you will let me live to leave this cavern and return to the Marching Mountains, before I speak," replied Durbuluk.

Kytharrah had seen the others interrogate prisoners before, so he figured he'd try to imitate them. Tapping the bottom of his axe handle on the ground, he snorted, "Talk!"

"By Torm," swore Szordrin, choosing a god who supposedly cared a lot about oaths, "if you give us all the information that we seek, we shall allow you to go free... eventually. If we intended to kill you, we would have done it by now."

Belvin and Leokas stood by defensively, while Hakam and Solisar seemed to be studying the hobgoblin's body language.

After a short pause, Durbuluk finally answered. "His name is Allustairimarinastralmindivu. Most pure-blooded hobgoblins are too stupid to remember something with that many syllables. I do not have such a handicap."

Now that this was revealed to them, it was not too shocking to Hakam. He remembered learning a little known fact that the names Calim and Memnon were also shorted forms of those famous genies' true names.

"As for who he was," continued their prisoner, "I do not know much of anything about his past. He has never told me his true background, but I suspect that he was just someone at the right place at the right time."

Leokas suddenly seemed to recall something and interrupted the current topic with a new question. "Wait! You mentioned the Marching Mountains. Are goblins gathering in force under the Marching Mountains? Are they preparing for an attack?"

"I promised to tell you of the efreeti, not of the Marching Mountains. Nevertheless, I will tell you what you should already know: the goblins are too weak to ever war against the surface world without guidance. Good for nothing but arrow-fodder are they in combat. That is why they needed someone like Allustairimarinastralmindivu."

Hakam uttered a quick prayer, and instantly, everyone felt a strong compulsion to speak only the truth.

Durbuluk smirked. "Your god cannot overcome the power in my blood, human cleric. Save your magics; I intend to speak the truth on my own."

"In that case, I affirm that you will be allowed to return to your home, provided that you answer all of our questions truthfully," said Hakam. "First, you say that you do not know much of Allustairimarinastralmindivu's past." (Szordrin looked at Hakam with shock that he so easily pronounced the name.) "When and how did you come to learn of him? And why did you join him?"

"I was high priest of Nomog-Geaya and chief advisor to Guthash, King Under the Marching Mountains. About this time last year, messengers came to King Guthash through the goblin tunnels from Calimshan. These messengers claimed to have been slaves to owners in Calimshan yet were set free by followers of Allu, a new god of hobgoblins. Seeing as I serve the only true god of hobgoblins, naturally, my ears perked up at this news. They were evangelizing, recruiting for an army with which to retake Calimshan for the goblinoid races."

"Nomog-Geaya?" asked Leokas. "Who is he?"

"Nomog-Geaya is the General, the god of authority and war. He is the true patron of my people."

Leokas was under the impression that Maglubiyet was god of both goblins and hobgoblins, and this was what they had heard some of the other goblins and hobgoblins whom they had encountered say, but he did not sense deceit in Durbuluk's voice, so he let the matter pass.

Szordrin opened his mouth to say something, but then doubted that he would be able to lie with Hakam's spell in effect, so he thought better of it.

Durbuluk continued. "Even though I knew that this new god, 'Allu', must be an imposter, I was intrigued by the message. King Guthash had been planning for years to build an army to unleash on the overworld. Perhaps this Allu could be an ally of sorts. A genie is a powerful adversary or a powerful friend. I advised Guthash to send me as an ambassador, to observe Allu and his schemes.

"I have thus pretended to be a 'priest of Allu', but while he can grant us three wishes a day, which is not a minor thing by any means, he cannot grant spells. I still serve Nomog-Geaya, and Allustairimarinastralmindivu knows this. The other hobgoblins do not. That is all that matters.

"Nomog-Geaya knows that I am faithful to him. As I bide my time, so Nomog-Geaya bides his time for when he will rebel against Maglubiyet."

Belvin, with singed hair and leathers, asked, "I suppose that you attacked us thinking that we are enemies of Allu-stair-into-the-astral-sea-or-whatever. Could we not have come to a peaceful resolution, considering that we earlier freed your kin? Or does that not matter to a hobgoblin?"

"My goal was to flee this place. You were in my path. I know nothing of any kin of mine that you freed; I only saw my opportunity to escape, since the mummies below had been destroyed. You were not goblinoids nor efreet, so you would be no friends of the efreeti, even if you are enemies of his enemies. For all I know, you are simply greedy adventurers. Whoever you are, you made my task easier, and I took advantage of this, as anyone with any intelligence would."

Hakam jumped back in with a question. "Tell us more about these mummies. Was there another mummy with them, one called El Sadhara? She would have been dressed more ornately than the others that we destroyed."

"What her name was I do not know, but there was another, yes, without a veil like the others, extremely thinning hair, terrifying presence. She commanded the undead and elementals of air and slew many of the hobgoblins with a single word, turning them instantly to ash."

"Is she still here somewhere?" asked Leokas.

"She only left just recently."

"Why did she leave?" asked Solisar.

"Someone summoned her back." Durbuluk shrugged. "I do not know why. She left her handmaidens behind."

"What do you know of her designs?" asked Hakam, "Why was did she come here at all?"

"Allustairimarinastralmindivu, when scouting the desert, had learned of her ancient temple. He discovered that she was seeking to restore the djinni kingdom that once ruled here, one that warred against the efreeti kingdom to the north.

"Her designs were thus completely at odds with Allustairimarinastralmindivu's. He sabotaged her works. Allustairimarinastralmindivu did not expect her to find this hidden palace of his, and he trusted in the 'protection' of the blue dragon lairing 'next door'. But with the dragon gone, she must have seen an opening for her revenge.

"Her forces annihilated us. While I am drastically more powerful than the poor miserable pure-bloods, I am no match for the mummy,... nor was Allustairimarinastralmindivu."

"The dragon Yrevkethend is gone?" asked Hakam. "Where did she go?"

Durbuluk shrugged. "She was last seen flying to the northeast, and she has not returned."

"The hobgoblins whom we freed said that she had been absent since the beginning of the year," added Leokas.

Durbuluk nodded in agreement.

"And where are Allustairimarinastralmindivu and his archwizard now?" asked Hakam.

"When he saw that his plans here had failed, miserably, he fled to the Spinning Keep."

Hakam knew that he should be familiar with the term, but he could not place it.

Solisar sensed this and explained, "The Spinning Keep of Siri'wadjen is the great prison of the genies Calim and Memnon, created by the High Mage Pharos nearly 9,000 years ago."

"Why would he go to a prison?" asked Hakam.

Durbuluk chuckled. "Do you not know the legends of the Calimmemnon Crystal and the Spinning Keep?"

"Clearly I do not," Hakam replied.

"Within Siri'wadjen lies the Calimmemnon Crystal," said Solisar, "in which the entrapped essences of the two noble genies strive ever for freedom. Legends say that anyone touching the gem would obtain the powers of both Calim in Memnon. Other legends say that, if the Crystal were to come into contact with the wind of the desert or the crackle of its dried sands, then the corresponding genie would be freed. Of course, the elves protected the Crystal. No one has ever entered Siri'wadjen or successfully solved its puzzles. In fact, it is impossible even for anyone to pass through the magical field of protection surrounding it."

"Typical of snobbish, arrogant elves, your definition of 'anyone' differs from that of other races," said Durbuluk. "In truth, the protections on the Spinning Keep bar genies, humans, and elves from ever touching the surface of the magical structure, but nothing prevents a hobgoblin or a goblin, like Booyagh, from touching it." Durbuluk gave a truly devilish smile.

Hakam suddenly understood the gravity of Allu's plan and why he was so interested in hobgoblins as a race. "Curse you elves," he said. "Calishites would have protected the prison with better magics!"

"Oh, we shall just go back 9,000 years and fix that then!" said Belvin.

"History has already been written," said Solisar. "We must deal with the present."

"So, Allustairimarinastralmindivu desires the power of the Crystal and needs the hobgoblins to bypass the prison's defenses," said Hakam.

"No, Allustairimarinastralmindivu knows that the power gained from touching the Crystal is only temporary. He wants the permanent power that a fully restored Memnon can grant him. He does not want to simply touch the Crystal; he wants to free the Trapped Terrors within."

"Why would he want to free both genies?" asked Hakam.

"He only wants to free Memnon, of course, but it is likely impossible to free one without the other. His original plan was to have the backing of an army of efreet behind him when the Crystal was removed from the Keep. With the aid of a multitude of genies, surely Calim would immediately be subdued and slain, and Memnon would rule."

"Why release Memnon only to be subjugated by him?" asked Hakam.

"I have always suspected that Allustairimarinastralmindivu is no one of note on the Plane of Fire. He is not noble born. None of his efreeti kin would ever follow him. I think that he believes that if he succeeds at his elaborate plan to restore Memnon to power, then he will be rewarded handsomely or even appointed to higher status among his kind."

"It seems foolish. There is no guarantee that a genie such as Memnon would reward him."

Durbuluk shrugged again.

"What do the hobgoblins get out of all of this again?" asked Leokas.

"Allustairimarinastralmindivu's ultimate goal is to free Memnon and to restore the kingdom of Memnonnar, but he knows that he needs the help of hobgoblins, and in exchange, he will return to us the hobgoblin portion of the kingdom that was once ours."

"Calimshan was never yours!" protested Hakam.

"Typical Calishite human, seeing your history the way that you want to see it! Travel north to the nation that you humans call Tethyr. To this very day, you will find a gorge with the remains of a massive monolith that my people raised thousands of years ago to the greatness of Nomog-Geaya. How many human nations have monoliths that have persisted for so many ages? Do you think that wandering bandit tribes of hobgoblins could build such a thing? No! We were a kingdom. The lands of Tethyr were fully ours, not those of the Calishites!"

Hakam thought it best to return to the matter at hand rather than argue about ancient history. "Where exactly is the Keep?"

"Southwest of here, a few day's journey on foot. I do not know the exact location, but Allustairimarinastralmindivu had obtained a journal from a gnome adventurer, who claimed to have bypassed the Keep's defenses and entered it. She left a map to the site in the journal as well."

"Was the gnome's name Samber? or Ramseb? or anything like that?" asked Hakam.

Durbuluk shook his head. "No, she only signed her name as Stumblesparkle, a typical foolish nickname among those ridiculous people."

"Is this journal and map still here?" asked Solisar.

"It is," Durbuluk replied, "in on of Allustairimarinastralmindivu's storage chambers."

"Beyond the fire traps?" asked Hakam.

"Yes."

"How can they be disabled?"

"They cannot be disabled," said Durbuluk, "but that is not a problem for a fire genie or for a hobgoblin with magical blood like mine."

"I assume that they reset."

"They do."

"Are there other traps?"

"No, but the very walls of the inner chambers are composed of fire, not of stone. You natives of this plane would not fare well."

"Are there other hobgoblins still alive here besides you?" asked Solisar.

"I know not. Remember, I was just trying to escape through the tunnel behind you with my own skin, and now I have lost a good bit of that."

"Did any other hobgoblins go with Allustairimarinastralmindivu?"

"He only took Booyagh with him."

"Why did you not also go?" asked Solisar.

"My talents are not with ancient artifacts and mysteries. I was to remain as long as I could to defend against the undead. Clearly, I failed at that task, as you have now subdued me."

Kytharrah now asked a question. "What do you guard?"

"Allustairimarinastralmindivu's inner sanctum."

"What do you know of Allu's dealings with Samber?" asked Hakam.

"Samber? The same name that you mentioned earlier as a possible name for the gnome? I know nothing of anyone by this name."

"He is a wizard of great power. His was the island where the Allustairimarinastralmindivu first entered our world."

"Ah, the one from whom Allustairimarinastralmindivu stole the gate."

"Stole the gate?" asked Leokas.

"This gate here?" asked Hakam.

"Yes, the gate directly behind you."

"Why would Allu steal a gate to the Plane of Fire?" asked Solisar.

"To lead through an efreeti army for Memnon to lead," said Hakam somberly.

"Yes, exactly," confirmed Durbuluk. "As I said before, Allustairimarinastralmindivu was supremely fortunate to have found an open portal to his plane, and he simply passed through it. He came upon the abode of some powerful wizard with a portal on an isolated island and a band of hobgoblin pirates — with a sailing ship no less. Is it so surprising that he saw this as an opportunity? Everyone knows that to this very day a deep and ancient magic still bars all genies from using their own magic to enter Calimsham or wizards from calling them here. No such magic prevents a portal to the Plane of Fire from operating, however. All Allustairimarinastralmindivu had to do was dismantle the portal and transport it here to Faerûn to rebuild. As you can see behind you, he succeeded."

"Allu told the hobgoblins that the gate would bring warriors from Clangor," said Leokas.

"A lie that appealed to their simple minds more than the truth."

"How is it that Samber has not already located his missing gate and taken it back?" asked Solisar.

"The gate is protected against attempts at scrying. Allustairimarinastralmindivu is not foolish. He knows that the one from whom he stole the gate is a powerful spellcaster who could scry on the gate to find him and teleport here on a whim."

"Why has he not opened the portal yet?" asked Hakam. "Why has the Army of Fire not already come through?

"Because a petty and weak human wizard, a stowaway on Allustairimarinastralmindivu's ship, stole the key."

The party knew that this "petty" wizard was Malick of Darromar, the very one who had set this whole adventure in motion by hiring Leokas many months ago, but they tried hard not to let on to Durbuluk that they knew this or, worse, that they had the very key on one of their persons.

"Is the army waiting on the other side now?" asked Hakam.

"I do not know; I only know that until this mummy attacked us, Allustairimarinastralmindivu was still searching for the lost key. It was a major missing component to his plan. With the loss of the key and now the destruction of his army, the efreet's last chance is to free Memnon earlier than he had willed."

"Is there a way to destroy the portal?"

"I do not know that either. Booyagh might."

"Should we destroy the portal?" asked Belvin.

"There is no need for the portal to be destroyed if the key is still missing," said Solisar.

Kytharrah was growing noticeably bored of the interrogation by now and was scratching at his itching, rotting flesh, causing more fur to fall out.

"Are you satisfied yet," asked Durbuluk, "or do you have further questions?"

"Does the path behind us lead out of the caverns?" asked Solisar.

"It does, to the desert sands."

"How do Allustairimarinastralmindivu's magic bottles work?" asked Hakam. "Is he actually summoned when someone opens the bottle, or do we merely view an image of him?"

Durbuluk seemed thoughtful. "How would you know about these bottles?"

"We found one in the past and foolishly opened it."

"You. You are the ones who have the key. He has searched for so long, and had he only waited, you would have come to him!"

"Were it the case that we had the key," threatened Hakam, "we would have to eliminate anyone who might inform Allustairimarinastralmindivu."

"Now, now," said Durbuluk, "your so-called worshiper of Torm here already gave me a promise."

"Our agreement with you says nothing about finding you again after we let you go."

"After you let me go," said the half-fiend, "you will never find me again. I assure you."

"Nevertheless, you will tell us about the bottles."

"Unlike the bottles crafted by your own people to entrap efreet for their own purposes, these bottles summon Allustairimarinastralmindivu himself for a short time, after which he returns from where he came."

"If one were to open a bottle and then destroy it before that time had passed, what would happen?"

"I have no idea," said Durbuluk.

"Does Allustairimarinastralmindivu have any weaknesses? Or are there any means we could use to bargain with him?"

"You could offer him the gem key." Durbuluk smiled, but then he continued. "If that fails, you could use ice magic, which tends to work well on fire creatures. To be honest, I have never considered attacking him, so I do not know. It seems a foolish thought."

"Bored, bored, bored," complained Kytharrah.

"The fire traps in the chamber below," said Hakam, "what triggers them?"

"They only trigger for non-hobgoblins," Durbuluk replied, "and they only trigger moving away from the center of the four columns."

"So the way into the inner chambers are blocked? Is there any other way in?"

"That tunnel is the only way in. Are we finished here? Are you not yet satisfied? I have told you everything."

"To satisfy us and our agreed-upon conditions, you must tell us everything written in the gnome's journal."

"What? Absurd! I cannot read the language that the journal is written in, and even if I could, do you truly expect me to have memorized it?"

"Can you at least recall the map?"

"Not well enough to draw a copy for you. I only saw it once."

"Then you must retrieve it for us," said Hakam.

"That does not seem to me part of our agreement."

"You agreed to answer all of our questions, and we are questioning you about information found in a document that you clearly have access to. In any human court, this argument would be upheld."

"Perhaps in a human court," said Durbuluk.

"That is the only court that matters at the moment," said Hakam.

"Stay here, and I shall retrieve the the book for you."

"And risk you escaping?" said Leokas.

"We will escort you as far as to the fire traps below," said Hakam.

"So be it. That is only fair," answered the fiendish hobgoblin. "Lead the way."
Session: 99th Game Session - Thursday, Dec 21 2017 from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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Interlude: The Regent of Jhothûn
~ fifth-day, 25th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, evening
miles above Toril


"He will allow us to use the portals as we will, and we may request our wishes through magical sendings."

   Hakam was filling in the details of their visit to Jhothûn to the others. Tavis and Kaedlaw had remained behind and the genie and Tavis were to discuss what the throne's revelation meant for the boy, for Hartsvale, for Jhothûn, and for all of giantkind.

   "My geas has been fulfilled, and our exile is over," said Leokas.

   "We await word from Tavis, as we may need to fly him home, but after that, we can go anywhere we would like," said Hakam. "The question is, where next?"

   "With this vessel," said Szordrin, "nothing prevents us from flying to the Rock of Bral and tracking down the Interlink Consortium. All our destinies are intertwined with that one rock. Only if we know where Samber has been in the past will we be able to know what he is truly up to. And where better to inquire than Bral?"

   "I agree that we should visit Bral eventually," said Leokas, "but I think that we need more information first."

   "I am inclined to agree with Leokas on this," said Solisar. "I admit that I know very little of the place."

   "Teshburl, then?" said Szordrin. "We can follow leads on Walker, who we know had dealings with Samber."

   "Or we could rendezvous with Jayce at Lantan," said Hakam, "since he seems to be making progress with his investigation into Samber's background. Plus, Ombert, The Daisy's captain may be able to use the stars to guide us all back to Samber's island so that we can return Ilthian to her family."

   "We also told Mythlos, Cassiera, and my mother that we would meet them again at Mythlos' keep in Tethyr," said Leokas.

   "This is perhaps lower priority," said Solisar, "but a visit to Evermeet would permit me speak with my grandmother about what I learned about Iyraclea while on the Great Glacier."

   "You intend to stay with us, then," asked Leokas, "now that you have the option of leaving?"

   "I am greatly intrigued by the matter of Samber," said Solisar, "perhaps more now than ever...."

   "And you, Belvin?" asked Hakam, "Has your jungle god given you more visions?"

   Belvin shrugged. "I shall decide where Kamil and I are to travel when I need to."

   "One thing that I have wanted to do since Thultanthar," said Hakam, "is return to Sseth and retrieve Allu's genie bottle. I warrant that we are prepared to speak with the efreeti now and question him about how he obtained Samber's omlar gem. I think that I shall send Sseth a message in the morning."

   "I am against the idea of going to Allu's palace," said Szordrin. "Both Allu and the blue dragon could potentially be there."

   "Fair enough. I agree that Walker is probably as good a source about Samber right now as is Allu," said Hakam.

   "I also wish to return to Silverymoon, before heading to Teshburl," said Szordrin. "We have many things to sell, and from your descriptions, it sounds like there is much we could purchase."

   "I agree," said Leokas. "We are out of provisions. We can probably ask the genie here for a day's food, but genie-created food lasts no longer than that. Our new vessel could also use some ballista bolts."

   "Some furnishings would also be appreciated," said Hakam.

   "...And some sailing implements," added Solisar.

   "Well, then there is the matter of what to wish for...," Hakam began.

   This second discussion took them nearly an hour, and they arrived at no full consensus, though they were leaning toward some way of protecting the spelljammer. Ultimately, they decided to sleep on the decision.

~~~~

Just after dawn of the next day, Hakam woke the others. "I sent a message to our brass dragon friend about meeting up with him sometime in the future to retrieve Allu's bottle. I had to waste two sending spells to get a response, but he rambled something off about 'skeletons swarming toward Allu's palace from... the Altar...' of the Air. At least I assume that he meant the Altar of the Air; he did not get all the words out."

   "That may change my vote," said Leokas. "We should visit with Sseth in person and learn more."

   "I agree," said Szordrin, "but we should still stop at Silverymoon and Teshburl on the way."

~~~~

Several hours later, each of them were scattered about the spelljammer, resting and waiting. Ilthian and Solisar were in Ilthian's room, writing out math problems to solve how long the spelljammer's magical bubble of air would last before they would need to return to the surface to replenish it.

   Suddenly, Belvin leapt to his feet from beside Kamil. He had spotted a cloud of vapor coming over the railing. "The Ice Queen!" he shouted to the others, and then he began chanting. An instant later, a column of fire appeared, striking the growing cloud at its center.

   The cloud took shape, as the others rushed over. No sooner had a thick hand formed from the gases then a ray of frost and ice shot forth from the fingers, covering Belvin's skin with white.

   Calm yourselves, they all heard in their heads. It was the qorrashi's voice. I have been sent by the Regent of Emperor Kaedlaw to summon you.

   Belvin wiped the frost from his face and shivered. He was very cold but otherwise not harmed. If the ice genie was injured, he did not show any sign of it.

   "How did you find us?" asked Leokas as Solisar arrived onto the deck to see what the commotion was about.

   I am no longer bound by oath not to leave the palace, said the Prince of Jhothûn. As a genie, I need not air for flight. I suspected that you would be somewhere up, and it is not difficult to spot a sailing craft in the heavens if you rise high enough.

   "I assume that by 'Regent' you mean Tavis?" asked Hakam.

   No, said the genie, I did not. Though the emperor's father may wish to speak with you as well. Do not keep the Regent waiting. If you join hands with mine, I can take you there immediately through the Astral Plane. However, I warn you that the touch of my skin is painful to most mere mortals such as yourselves.

   "Anachtyr, protect me from the elements," Hakam prayed. Then he said to the qorrashi, "I shall take your hand."

   Kytharrah rushed up excitedly and grabbed the genie's left hand. "Very cold!" he said, as the frost nipped his fingers, but he wore a toothy grin on his face. Hakam took the genie's right hand and grimaced at the cold, which was painful despite his prayer.

   I can carry several others through as well, if more of you wish to come. Simply join hands with your companions. Solisar joined with Hakam and Kytharrah, since he hoped to see more of such a historical site as Jhothûn, and Szordrin did as well.

   They all felt a strange and momentary sensation, then found themselves standing in the throne room of Jhothûn. There, leaning against one of the pillars, was Tavis, who was restringing his massive bow. Nearby, the throne of ice and stone was empty, but beside it was a larger obsidian throne of simpler design. Sitting upon it, was the misshapen form of Basil of Lyndusfarne.

   "Am du paart, Solisar of Evermeet!" said the old verbeeg.

   "Am du paart, Regent of Jhothûn!" the sun elf replied.

   "I trust that you have been well this last month or so?"

   "Ignoring the fact that I was stabbed to death by a lamia noble, yes."

   "Annam's juveler!" said Basil.

   "My god returned my powers, and I called him back to the living," said Hakam.

   "Clearly, we have much to talk about, friends," said Basil, as if he knew all of them, though in reality he had only ever talked to Solisar before.

   They learned that Kaedlaw had already returned home to his mother, by the power of the wish. Tavis would be returning home soon in the same manner, but he had wanted to thank the members of the party and say goodbye before departing.

   Brianna and Tavis had spoken with the Prince of Jhothûn at great length, and it had been decided that Basil would reign as regent until Kaedlaw came of age. This would require a long time spent in near solitude for the verbeeg, but at the moment, the idea of exploring the four floors of the citadel excited him more than any concerns of loneliness. Besides, the powers of the genie could wish friends back and forth from Hartsvale three times a day if needed.

   As for Queen Brianna and Tavis, they had much to consider in regards to what to do with the fact that their son was the future ruler of not only the tiny kingdom of Hartsvale but perhaps of all the giant tribes of Faerûn! For now, they intended to wait and seek out advice from what giant and giant-kin allies they had. They suspected that most giants would not accept the news readily. At least they had many years for Kaedlaw to grow up.

   In regards to the portal, they had decided to leave the delusional orc druid on the Sea of Moving Ice and the ice devil Tosvin as portal guardians of Karffbadh and Gharreil, respectively. They would serve as first line of defense for the hidden citadel. Now that the qorrashi was no longer bound by oath to the palace, he could pass through the portals, or indeed go anywhere he needed, to also defend the secret. For the portal at Choshein, Brianna had sent Hrodmar, the frost giant guard of Earls Bridge, to serve as guardian. (Hrodmar was happy to give Kytharrah one last wrestling match.)

   The genie provided them with another luscious meal and also with temporary provisions that would last them on the journey to Silverymoon, where they planned to first stop to resupply.

   Solisar sat next to Basil while they ate and told him some of the details of his brief visit to the Fugue Plane. Then the conversation turned to what Basil had learned so far of Jhothûn.

   "Iseheim, I mean Jhothûn, contains no books that have survived the ages," said Basil, "but the genie here revealed to me that there are ancient crypts below. I expect to spend a good deal of my time there examining what friezes I may find. I believe that the base of little Kaedlaw's throne shows the handiwork of stone giants, and I would not be surprised to find more gifts of theirs from the earliest days of Ostoria in those crypts. The steinjotunen were the only true record-keepers of the Jotunbrud. Surely, you will want to stay and explore them with me?"

   "Believe me when I tell you that I would like nothing more," said Solisar. "What scholar of the Jotunbrud would not? However, I seem tied into something greater — or at the least, more urgent — taking place perhaps among the human gods. My companions have been exiled now many months, which has kept them from their true quest, and I am now a part of it. As they are at last free from exile, they are anxious to set out again. May I kindly request a postponement?"

   "Of course!" said Basil. "Remember, I am a verbeeg; what is mine is yours."

   "He means to say, 'What is yours is his,'" said Tavis.

   "Basil, I must warn you of something," said Solisar. "The guardian of the portal at Gharreil is an evil entity who serves a powerful priestess of the human goddess of winter. She is perhaps immortal, so great is her magic. I know not yet the full extent of her plans, but she lusts after the treasures hidden in this city. I do not know how her magics compare to those of the genie who now serves you, but be aware of the matter, and use caution."

   "I thank you for this," said Basil.

   After the dinner, they said goodbye to their friends. "Tell Leokas that I enjoyed the challenge of shooting archery with him and learning of the beasts of the High Forest," said Tavis to Hakam. "I shall remember him if ever I nock an arrow against a goblin."

   Tavis then gave Kytharrah a large bear hug, and lifted the minotaur off his feet. This surprised Kytharrah, but he snorted happily.

   "Keep following the guiding light," said the firbolg.
Session: 92nd Game Session - Thursday, Jul 20 2017 from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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Chapter 4 — Annam's Heir
~ fourth-day, 24th of Nightal, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
somewhere over the Silver Marches


There was a gentle knock on Ilthian's cabin door. She got up off her pile of blankets and opened it.

   "Good morning! It is time for your writing lesson."

   "Solisar! Hakam fixed you!" She jumped up and down with delight.

   "Yes, yes, he did," said Solisar, "though I feel weaker than I felt before."

   "Did he fix Kytharrah also?"

   "Indeed, he is above deck now, standing at the railing. We are on our way back to the ice genie, and then we will be able to go wherever we want."

~~~~

"We cannot fly the spelljammer directly to Choshein," said Leokas emphatically. "I absolutely will not permit it. Whoever has been scrying on us will see that we have traveled there and know the location."

   The party were gathered below deck, as the ship sailed through the sky on its own wind power. Tavis and Kaedlaw were eating a second breakfast, and Kytharrah and Ilthian were practicing writing.

   "Not if we keep Ilthian in her room," said Belvin. "All the scrier will see is the wooden walls of the cabin."

   "As long as the scrier does not switch to scrying on one of us," said Solisar. "As of earlier, when I visited her, the scrier was still focused on her and not any of us."

   "It is a risk that we have to take," said Hakam.

   "No," said Leokas, "I cannot permit such risks, not while under the influence of this geas."

   "What do you suggest then? That we abandon the spelljammer somewhere in the desert, leave Ilthian behind on the vessel, and ride our camels to Choshein with Tavis and Kaedlaw?"

   "We are not going to abandon Ilthian," said Solisar.

   "It was not a serious suggestion," said Hakam. "I have a duty to see that she returns to her home."

   "I am more concerned about someone stealing our spelljammer, wherever we chose to leave it," said Szordrin. "The fact of the matter is that Ilthian cannot go anywhere near the portal to Jhothûn anymore, and we cannot leave her alone, so we are going to have to split up. We were nearly defeated by a small band of lamia when most of us were present; if they or another band of Shadovar or a blue dragon spot a sailing vessel in the desert, it will attract attention."

   "I agree," said Hakam, "but the spelljammer is less likely to be stolen at the entrance of the cave to Choshein than if we leave it over the desert and some of us travel on camel. Leokas, if Ilthian stays in her cabin, the scrier will not even know whether or not we have stopped."

   "A ship of this size can be spotted for miles, especially from the air," said Leokas. "We could avoid detection of our approach to Choshein on foot easily enough, but even if we are safe from the scrier, while some of us travel to Jhothûn, many hours may pass with the ship drawing attention to our location. As Szordrin said, there are indeed blue dragons in this desert. It is a miracle none have tried to take us out of their skies yet."

   "While some of you go to visit the ice genie, I can take this vessel into the heavens," said Belvin, "into the Sea of Night. Is not that where it was designed to sail?"

   "He is right," said Solisar. "From Szordrin's and my investigations, I am convinced that the magic force surrounding this craft will give us air to breathe for the duration. No dragon can fly so high."

   "I can send Belvin a message to descend again and pick us up whenever the matter with the ice genie is resolved," said Hakam. "We will only need to have the ship anywhere near the entrance to Choshein for the brief time that it takes for those of us going to descend the rope to the ground. What say you, Leokas? Will the geas permit such a minor risk if ultimately it means that the emperor of Jhothûn has been found?"

   Leokas nodded.

   So this is what they did. For the rest of the day and into the night, first Leokas and then Szordrin piloted their flying vessel from the helm chair. Belvin remained at watch, scanning the skies for dragons or other dangers. They retraced the journey from Silverymoon up the river and to Fork Road and Ascore. By night, they flew over Ascore and Hlaungadath until they came to the edge of Anauroch's glacier. This they followed south-southeast until they came to a great corner in the wall of ice and began following it east-northeast. When daylight came, they were passing through a gap in a large north–south mountain range. From here, Leokas again took the helm, watching carefully with his extended senses the lay of the icy land as they headed north over the High Ice. When highsun came, they had at last arrived at the cave entrance to what was once a subterranean frost giant city.

   Leokas, Hakam, and Tavis and his son descended the rope to the ground, and the others waved them off as they entered the dark opening. Belvin then took the helm, as Solisar stood nearby.

   "Take us up," said Solisar.

   Belvin willed the ship to rise and continue rising. Solisar went quickly to the deck, where Kytharrah was standing at his usual spot on the railing. Szordrin was also present.

   "We are very high!" said the minotaur.

   "Yes," said Solisar, as indeed the ground grew farther and farther away, beginning to look less like land and more like a simple blur of white and yellow. "I have never been this high, and we are going much higher."

   "Why is the world bending?"

   "It is always round like a ball," answered the sun elf. "You only cannot tell because it is very big, and usually you are standing on it."

   "Is the sky getting darker?"

   "It is. We are entering the Sea of Night. We are flying into the always-nighttime where the stars live."

   "There they are! I see them!" The minotaur spun around pointing as the points of light became more and more visible as the blue sky faded away into the darkness of Realmspace. "I can still see the guiding light, even though it is night," said Kytharrah, pointing at the sun above them.

   "Ferry does not like this," said Szordrin. The camels seemed agitated as well.

   Belvin joined them on the deck. "High enough for you?"

   "I never knew that Toril would look so beautiful from up here," said Solisar. "Truly the Seldarine have blessed us to see such a sight."

~~~~


"One, two, three, step!"

   Leokas, Hakam, Tavis, and Kaedlaw found themselves under a gold-plated domed ceiling, painted with images of snowflakes and clouds. They were back in the Palace of the Emperors in Jhothûn.

   "Where are we, Papa?" asked Kaedlaw, who had had no experience of traveling through magical portals. "Where did the cave go?"

   "This may be our new summer home, Son," said Tavis. "Do you think that Mama will like it?" Tavis gazed around. "It is certainly more giant-sized than Castle Hartwick," he continued to no one in particular. "I will not have to worry about banging my head on things anymore."

   A cloud of bitter cold ascended from below until it was level with the wide, circular balcony on which the four visitors stood. The ice genie, the qorrashi, the last Prince of Jhothûn materialized before them.

   You have returned, my guardian. Have you completed your quest? Have you found the heir.

   "We believe that we have," answered Leokas.

   "We are certain that this young giant child has the blood of Annam's youngest son in his veins," said Hakam. "Whether the throne of ice and stone accepts him remains to be seen."

   [i]The blood of Arno and Julien?
Tavis cringed when he heard the genie's words in his head. Did I not explain to you that Ottar stood higher in the ordning than the ettin?

   "Yes," answered Hakam, "you did explain this, but you also told us of the prophesied last son of Annam, who had not yet been born, did you not? This boy here has the blood of both Arno and Julien and the prophesied final son. That final son was indeed born, far to the north in a little-known land of Hartsvale. The humans of that land called him Hartkiller, and his descendants still reign there to this day."

   "My wife," said Tavis, "the boy's mother, is a descendant of Hartkiller."

   "What manner of giant are you?" asked the Prince in Jotun.

   "I am a child of Othea and Ulutiu," said Tavis, bowing humbly. "I am a firbolg."

   The genie expressed confusion upon its frozen face. Does the boy have firbolg blood as well? No one with tainted blood could be the true heir. It is maug.

   "The story is indeed complicated and unpredictable," said Hakam. "You will not believe it if you hear it first. Withhold your judgment; permit us let the boy sit upon the chair, and then we shall tell you the strange plan that Annam has seemingly laid out. We also have learned the fate of Ottar, your liege."

   You discovered Ottar's fate?

   "He was betrayed and poisoned by Lanaxis," said Tavis. "I have seen his corpse with my own eyes."

   Lanaxis... did this?

   "We will tell everything," said Hakam. "May we go to the throne room? Our stories will matter not if the boy is not chosen."

   Come, said the genie. He floated down the large hall away from the portals, and they followed him. He led them to the end of the hall, where it intersected with a larger, window-filled one. They had come this way before, as it was the only way for non-flying creatures to descend to the lower levels of the palace. The qorrashi took them to the banquet hall where he had first told them of their quest. From there, they took a staircase and then another, down to the first floor of the palace. A short distance later, they entered a large rectangular chamber, supported by high narrow pillars.

   Here sat the "throne of ice and stone". It was large enough to seat a storm giant. The four feet of the throne were carved from rock and shaped like the skulls of white dragons. The rest of the chair looked to be carved from solid ice. The back of the chair appeared like thick icicles arranged side-by-side.

   Have the boy take a seat on the throne, said the Prince, but be ready to remove him should the chair reject him.

   "Go on, Kaedlaw," said Tavis. "Hop up in the chair."

   Kaedlaw went over to the throne. It was too large for him to be able to pull himself up onto it. Tavis came over and gave him a boost.

   As soon as his little — by giant standards — rump sat down on the square block of ice, the throne began to melt. Water pooled upon the floor, as the arm rests and icicle-back reduced in size. Within a few moments, the ice of the throne had shrunken down to fit Kaedlaw snugly, as if it had been carved to his size all along. Kaedlaw giggled. "The chair moves funny, Papa."

   "Is it cold?" asked Tavis.

   "No, just slippy."

   The genie floated over and circled the throne several times, examining it.

   "Stôllinn hefur validh." spoke the genie aloud. Then he translated for them in their minds. The chair has chosen. So Ottar's dynasty is ended, and this unexpected child is both Annam and Ottar's heir. Then the genie floated low to the ground as if bowing low and swore fealty and service to Kaedlaw in the tongues of giants.
Session: 91st Game Session - Thursday, Jun 01 2017 from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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Chapter 2 — A Mother–Son Talk
"You were born when I was only twelve and a half pyesigeni old," said Galadrel to her son. (Leokas knew the Elvish term to mean "four-snows". For an elf, a year was such a short time-period, one did not often refer to time periods in years when talking with other elves.) "I was so very young then. Young and deceived. I was blind to the man your father actually was. When I finally left him a pyesigen later, you were still too young to remember it. I wanted to take you with me, but I knew you would be safer in elven woods with our family, and you were too young to make the choice I made. I often visited you in secret, watching you grow into a man from afar."

   Leokas listened without interrupting. Elves reached physical adulthood at about the age of six pyesigeni, but they don't consider anyone a full adult until around the age of 100 years at least. In fact, elven culture discourages elves from marrying before that age. So his mother was indeed young.

   It was also the case that elves were expected to be raised by their extended family and the community after their first few years with their parents, so even with the early loss of his mother, Leokas' childhood was little different from that of his peers.

   "The 'man my father actually was'?" said Leokas. "What do you mean? He told me you were murdered by hobgoblins."

   "It was easier a tale for him to tell you than the truth. The truth was that I left him."

   "Whatever did he do?"

   "I cannot bear to talk now about the things I discovered he had done. Please, my son, permit that to wait until another time."

   "But I saw my father slain by a hobgoblin with my own eyes!" said Leokas. "Then they burned the entire village down!"

   "Yes, sadly he was. I heard of your father's death ten snows ago. It grieved me, truly. Thrandual paid for his crimes, but he did not deserve the death he received. He chose a dangerous path, one of which I could not approve, but he was not evil in his heart; I know this. He had much good in him.

   "My second husband died a few years after that," she continued. "Having lost both of the men I have ever loved, I was distraught and left the pack. I headed south into the Forest of Tethir. So long remained I in wolf form in my grief that I almost forgot what it was to be an elven woman."

   "Pack?"

   "You do not recognize what I am?" she asked. "This wolf form was not a curse. I became a Lythari by choice when I took a second mate."

   The Lythari, the Ly-tel-quessir, were an oft-forgotten subrace of elves. Many believed that they had abandoned Toril for the Feywild long ago, but obviously not. They were lycanthropes, but it was a chosen condition, not a curse or disease.

   "How is it that you found me? How did you become my... animal companion? I had a vision while in reverie the night before Belvin and I found you, or rather before you found us, in that cave during the great storm. I believed that Solonor had sent you to me."

   "It is truly a miracle of Sehanine that led me to you, my son. And perhaps the Lady of Dreams and the Great Archer fated our meeting together. Whatever the Seldarine's will, I did not even recognize you at first. When I did, I felt it best to observe secretly as your animal companion until which time I should know why it is that the goddess led me back to you.

   "All this time, I have not known whether I should reveal myself to you in my true form or not. Now, it seems, the gods have made that choice for me." A tear came to her eye. "It is good to see you with my elven eyes again, my son."
Session: 74th Game Session - Friday, Jul 01 2016 from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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Chapter 2 — A Rather Unexpected Revelation
~ ninth-day, 9th of Marpenoth, The Year of Wild Magic, morning
Thultanthar


On the morning after the tenth night of flying, a massive cluster of thick, dark clouds appeared on the horizon. As they drew closer, they saw that these clouds kept the desert land below cloaked in shadow. They could see a reflection off the surface and realized that this was a large body of water. Soon, they could see a large object hovering between the land and the clouds.

   As they neared it, Thultanthar appeared more clearly as a floating inverted mountain of stone topped with harsh black spires and foreboding walls. It floated over the northeastern shore of a vast lake within a half-bowl of steep-sloped mountains erupting from the sands.

   The closer they got to the lake, the more moderate the temperature became, as the large body of water and the vegetation around it had a powerful cooling effect, as did the cloud cover, which blocked the sun's heat.

   They passed under the shadow of the clouds and reached the water. As they flew over the lake toward the city, they looked down. The waters of the lake were cloudy with mud and nearly opaque from turbulence caused by wind. The shore was rocky. Very small trees and bushes grew about the shore.

   Below the flying city, they spotted what appeared to be a young orchard of short trees, several acres large. How the trees managed to grow in the shade of the dark clouds remained a mystery to the visitors. Eventually, they could make out moving figures tending it, but by this time, they were nearly upon the city itself.

   Several patrolling guards on dire bats orbited the city. The bats squeaked high-pitched calls to each other. They were guided in by these air patrols to a large opening, like a massive cavern, in the bottom side of the inverted rock bottom of the city.

   The veserabs bearing Tethost and Aithe entered the opening first and landed, followed by Chalan's bat. Next came the bat upon which Cassiera rode with her pilot, Presmer. As soon as she passed into the large cavern with a smoothed floor, she felt a horrible sensation. She had felt it once before. All of her connections to magic were suddenly severed. She felt weak, like part of her was missing.

   Hakam came next. He immediately noticed that the aura that surrounded Cassiera ahead of him vanished to his blessed eyes. Then more of the Shadovar soldiers landed, followed by Szordrin's bat. He, too, knew immediately that some of his inherent powers gained from his fiendish bloodline had vanished.

   The largest change would be observed by the minotaur, however, though he himself was not a magical creature. As for every other flight, he sat in a large net amongst the folded tents and other gear of the Shadovar, towed by four veserab. Stormshadow, Leokas' wolf companion, sat by him. As the large worm-like beasts drew their package into the cavern, the minotaur heard Stormshadow howl, as if in pain, but then her voice changed until it now sounded like the moan of a woman.

   He glanced to his side. The wolf was gone!

   In her place, the minotaur saw a feminine, humanoid figure, curled in the fetal position, her nakedness covered in exceptionally long jet black hair.

   "Does everyone know that trick?" said the minotaur, as the net gently touched down.

   "Do you have any clothes?" said the woman almost imperceptibly. The minotaur did not understand the importance of clothing, but the giantess Skata had taught him that it was important, so he immediately removed his large cloak and covered the strange woman. She stood up, wrapped in it like a small child in her mother's clothing, and almost fell over again. The minotaur steadied her. He thought there was something familiar about her smell, beneath the usual canine scent. It was like a smell he knew but not the same.

   Leokas, who had entered the cavern landing area ahead of the minotaur, had heard the strange cry of his wolf and was making his way back to see what had caused such a yell. "What happened?" he shouted to the minotaur. "Where is Stormshadow?"

   "Look out!" shouted Mythlos. He pointed outside.

   A large pteranodon — Belvin — carrying a miniaturized camel, was approaching and looking to crash. The adventurers and Shadovar scrambled to get out of the way. Bats shrieked and flapped about, tossing pilots to the ground from their saddles. Belvin had luckily seen the unexpected transformation of Stormshadow and immediately understood that some magic — or rather anti-magic — was at play. If he was forced back into humanoid form, both he and Kamil would plummet into the murky lake below and likely perish. So he had looped about for a second approach, positioning Kamil facing forward with his taloned feet and trying to fly at the camel's running speed.

   Kamil's hooves hit the floor and he began galloping and nuzzing as he quickly expanded back into his half-ton form. Atop his back, Belvin's leathery wings and fingers contracted into arms and hands, and his talons reverted to normal feet. He had enough forward momentum to make it into the cave, but he lost his balance upon Kamil's back, and the naked elf tumbled off, smacked into the ground, and rolled quite painfully with many shouts, curses, and grunts.

   "What is going on?" Leokas demanded of Aithe. The arcanist simply smirked back at him.

   "It's an anti-magic field," said Solisar, "or perhaps a dead magic zone."

   Hakam handed Belvin his clothing, but was unable to heal him from his bruises. Leokas turned to the strange woman among them. "Where is Stormshadow?"

   "She knows a magic trick like those two," said the minotaur, pointing at Cassiera and Belvin, "but the other way."

   "Form ye a line," commanded Tethost. "Ye must pass through customs."

   "Can't you see that we did not expect this anti-magic?" said Leokas. "Give us a moment."

   "See ye not that I care not," said Tethost. "Get in line!"

   A new collection of soldiers had entered the landing bay. These were humanoid creatures with dark gray skin much like the shades, but their hair, if they had any, for many were bald, was not insubstantial like Tethost's or Aithe's. Their ears were sharply pointed, much like an elf's. They were tall and wore the same dark black breastplates and bore the same sort of ranseurs as the other Shadovar soldiers.

   The adventurer's reluctantly formed a line. "I believe that those are krinth," said Solisar.

   "Yes," said Szordrin, "tieflings, like me, yet with the blood of shadow demons. Some live in the Underdark, yet never have I seen so many in one place. It is said that they are incapable of fear."

   "Who are you?" said Leokas to the shy woman now in line with them?

   "For whom have you been spying on us?" demanded Szordrin.

   "Let her be," said Leokas.

   "Can everyone else do magic tricks?" repeated the minotaur, still unsatisfied.

   "I am... Gala," said the woman timidly. Her head was tilted down and hidden under the massive hood of the minotaur's cloak.

   "How did you meet this dog of yours again?" asked Hakam.

   They now came into another room, and large wooden crates were brought forward. "Place ye your weapons in these crates," said the only human guard. "All shall be returned to you when leave ye the city."

   The Shadovar had passed through a separate door into the same room, and they could be seen showing badges to krinth guards and passing one by one out of the room.

   Solisar asked, "Do you need our magic items?"

   The human guard acted like it was a stupid question. "Nay."

   "Then I have no weapons," the elf answered. "This is just a walking staff." The guards let him pass through.

   Mythlos was next. "We may have to leave Mythlos in customs," said Hakam, but the elf's sword had ceased glowing. Mythlos hesitated but then handed it over to the krinth guard, and it was placed in a crate. "Name?" said the guard.

   "Mythlos Moonspinner."

   The krinth guard carved some draconic runes on the wood with a knife, closed the crate, and shoved it across the floor to another krinth. Mythlos stepped forward, and did not feel the usual sickness he felt when separated from his magic weapon. The group's bag of holding, which he usually carried, was now almost bursting with coins and random goods. It was so heavy that the minotaur had to carry it.

   Leokas had calmed down a bit from the shock at discovering his wolf was not a wolf at all. He gently asked the woman, Gala, again about who she was.

   "You don't recognize my voice, do you?" she said.

   Now that she had mentioned it, it did sound familiar to him, but he could not place it. It wasn't Vashti. It wasn't the voice of the being who spoke with him on the Fugue Plane. It wasn't the voice he heard in his head when they had rescued that little janni girl in the Calim Desert....

   Hakam and Cassiera had passed through the line, depositing their swords and her vial of acid. Cassiera still looked weakened from the effects of the dead magic and moved like a zombie.

   The minotaur was next. "Saw thou his horns off," the human ordered one of the krinth.

   "No!" shouted the minotuar, and he thrashed about, sending two krinth guards flying. Many ranseurs pointed in his direction, and wands were drawn.

   "Could he just be shackled instead?" asked Hakam, trying to prevent any bloodshed.

   "Wait!" called a woman's voice. It was Chalan, the priestess of Shar. She was one of the last to have shown her credentials to enter the city at the other side of the room, and she had heard the commotion raised by the horned beast. She hurried over.

   "Spare ye his horns," she said. "This one is but a child."

   "His horns are weapons, child or no;" said the human man, "therefore, are they removed."

   "I outrank thee, soldier," said Chalan angrily, almost spitting at the man.

   Presmer, who had been Cassiera's pilot for most of the flights, came over. "My father was a herder on the Shadow Plane," he said. "We had knobs for the horns of our animals."

   "Find ye him some," commanded Chalan.

   "Step thee to the side, animal," said the man, and the minotaur was made to stand and wait in the corner, surrounded by krinth guards.

   Szordrin was next. He dropped his bow, arrows, dagger, and darts into the crate. "What... this?" asked the krinth who was looking through his pack. He held up a flask of oleum, a highly flammable substance.

   "It's an oil I use in my beard," Szordrin said, "for personal hygiene."

   The krinth shrugged and placed it back in the pack.

   The stranger, Gala, stepped forward. She removed the hood from her head, and pulled out her long hair. It fell past her knees and there were streaks of silver in it. Her ears were long and pointed — she was elven. She appeared frail and thin in the face, yet she had an otherworldly beauty. Her skin was very pale, perhaps from not having seen any sun in months or longer, yet she had a slight tint of copper tone.

   "Open ye your cloak," said one of the krinth guards gruffly. She hesitated.

   "The cloak is all she has," said Leokas. "I swear it. Grant her her modesty."

   The krinth let her pass, and Gala gave him a half-smile in thanks.

   Leokas was next, but as he was placing his longsword into the crate, he suddenly remembered hearing Gala's voice before, long ago, when he was only a few years old. Gala was Galadrel.

   "Mother?"
Session: 74th Game Session - Friday, Jul 01 2016 from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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