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The Arrival: Expanse
Session 15: Chapter 3: Cruel Cowards and Competitive Changelings in the City of Silk.
{Hello Frisco,
I left some editing notes in this one, in font like this, because some of the truth is a little bit bent, and I want your advice on if I should make any changes.

Yours mostly truly,
Thane Ilamin}
What we expected when we entered the tavern with our wolfish companion, on that day of trickery, was merriment and celebration. At worst, we expected a harmless prank or two to be set. But Nimlasser herself would be wary to play a trick so cruel as Fate aimed at my party. The mask of a wolf couldn’t be more accurate, for the man who had come before us had hidden himself in plain sight, a wolf in wolf’s clothing. He offered a drink to me in a form of friendly contest, and I was forced to remove my mask to drink it. Although I was unaware of the man’s alliances and cunning at the time, I’m sure this was his exact plan of events. He was hoping that I would expose my identity, and incapacitate my abilities with the drink, which was an especially intoxicating Yalban elixir.
Thankfully, by the blessings of the Gods, my constitution overcame his potent potable, and I was saved from incapacitation. However, the liquor did affect me enough so that my skills were dulled for his nefarious plot to come into action. For right as the drink began to warm my stomach, I saw something that froze my blood. Out from the back of the inn strode the wicked wizard Vorimbor, the one behind my attempted kidnapping in Etir. He exclaimed that he was a conspirator with the man sitting across from me, in one line turning the image of a jovial new companion, to the heartless and calculating monster he truly was.
My hand went to the mask astride my head, but then I decided that I should not cower before the evils of these two men. Even I make mistakes in my adventures, and this, dear readers, was one of them. For I had no idea that when the wolf’s clothing would be removed, I would see the scarred face of one of the most powerful sorcerers and hellish warlords I had ever met, and a ghost of my own past.
His name was Phanalan, and he was once a dark sorcerer in the country of Galmran, who led helpless villagers into the world of the occult, even going so far as to sacrifice children for his own power. I managed to defeat him by calling down a lightning bolt from the heavens, but he apparently survived the attack and had come many years earlier to Janav, no doubt in fear of what may happen if our paths crossed again.
My companions kept their cool at the reveal of this new information, but curse my hot blood, for I could not stand the sight of such evil. I had been a child when I defeated Phanalan, and I was lucky that he did not recognize me when my mask was first removed. {People may figure out who you really are if you give away too much information on your histories} However Vorimbor recognized me rather quickly, and was able to ascertain the identities of most of our party, before he began to threaten us one by one.
I assumed these two ruffians to be wild cards of death and destruction, but they instead turned out to be high-ranking officials in a business corruptly sewn into the fabric of Yalba’s government. The yarns of their business colored many different factions of society in Yalba’s great tapestry, and it quickly became clear that we were out of our element dealing with the two in such a public place. Distracted by thoughts of strategy, and admittedly dulled by the drink, I was suddenly overcome by a force I was too slow to recognize. Phanalan had intruded upon the sanctuary of my mind by some unholy power, and commanded my body to attack the bar and my friends.
Hagar, still disguised as Lisa, managed to restrain me, preventing me from any heinous crimes {Make sure to leave out the part where Phanalan had me kill the barmaid. It would look bad. Make sure you talk to Midi and make sure she leaves it out of any songs she makes.} but not before the combined surprise force of Vorimbor and Phanalan overpowered the other members of our party. They were even able to convince the public that we were the instigators of the attack, though of course, when power like mine is used, it is only natural to be afraid. Phanalan had me break free of Hagar and dash towards himself, striking him and feigning my self control. His little theatre play debuted just in time for his audience, the city guard, to arrive, and have me and my party members arrested.
Once I regained my wits, I struggled to convince my party members that my body was not my own in the bar, and even Midi, as kind as she was, did not believe me at first and was appalled by my behavior. Our new friend Zari was able to convince the palace guard of our innocence later in the today, and we were freed into the open public. However, after my failure as a guardian of peace at the hands of a great foe, I was still feeling very much imprisoned.
We decided that we needed to make preparations for the coming adventure, and set out to first get a map of the city with which to orient ourselves. Zari saved us from the unfortunate irony of being lost in a city and trying to find a map, which makes you more lost in the city, by directing us to the store of who must be the greatest living cartographer. It may seem insignificant to you, my esteemed reader, but as someone who loves only to fight for good and defend the endangered, it does my heart good to see citizens of a caliber as strong as this one. His name was Rafiq al-Ir, and the map he provided us with was clearly one that had taken hours upon hours of slow refinement, careful dying, and a master’s brushstroke. My and my companions hearts were set aflame by this inspiring young man, and swore doubly to protect this city, and this weak, weak boy who had charmed us all so much.
To arm ourselves against the empire of evil infecting the city, we went to a nearby auction, hoping to procure some magic items that would help us to remove those unfit for the power they wielded from their high thrones. However, we found surprisingly stiff financial competition in the form of none other than the Djinni Moroden, the one who had instilled me with even greater power after glimpsing my true character. He had come to the auction to collect more of his magical wares, no doubt to sell at an exorbitant rate later on, and to thwart the efforts of seemingly every other person in the auction hall. He bid hard and fast, especially against my party and I, and a Dao named Calvinia across the room, who appeared to be a scorned lover from his past.
I tell you now dear reader, if it were not for the abilities of our party, we would have struggled to snatch the mystical items at our disposal from the jaw of someone as sly and clever as Moroden. However, with the financial fortitude of our heroic wallets, we managed to come across some beautiful and powerful items. We procured an elegant elemental emerald {Sapphire, whatever, the alliteration is important}, a concealing clandestine cloak, and some persuasively pleasant perfume. Hagar even managed to receive a truly beautiful spear of lightning, which reminds him of me so much that he declares my praises every time he uses it on the battlefield. He is a truly kind man with a beautiful spirit.
Zari then took us to the palace to meet the retainers of the beautiful, charming, and tasteful Raha’s missing brother. They were two incredibly athletic specimen, a sinewy and handsome changeling named Fazil, and a towering brick of a Tiefling named Rashad. The two were fresh off a gripping wrestling match when we entered, and had their full bodies on display, barely covered by matching loincloths so that they could preen themselves in front of our party, I imagine they were attempting to intimidate us, but they had no idea who they were up against. In the arrogance you so often see in the physically powerful, they decided we would need to prove ourselves in battle to earn their trust and information. Wykeera, in her characteristic selflessness, did her best to convince them that it would be best for their prince if we began searching for him sooner, but their skulls, thickened from years of abuse, were unable to pass the message on to their brains.
I realized during the exchange that it was my fault, once again on this trip I had been careless. My presence had begun to make Rashad terribly afraid, and it began to become difficult to tell if the marks on his loincloth were sweat or something even more unsavory. The slimmer Changeling realized this as well, and looked to defuse the situation, ending all further negotiations. We were faced with one option, engage in their paltry games, or endanger the life of the prince. For true heroes like us, there was only once possible option.
One week later we found ourselves at the bloodsport coliseum of Yalba, a sickening architectural blemish of horrible combat where meager slaves fought for an unachievable freedom. {Should I add the part about Midi researching Dragonborn culture? It was kind of a downer what with the priest who seemed depressed an everything. I should definitely leave out the stuff about me losing money gambling…} In spite of the unpalatable atmosphere of the stadium, we knew that we had come for the achievement of a just cause, and forged ahead into the tournament of glory. The tournament was set up simply, our party made up one of the many teams competing to rise to the top. We would fight waves of monsters, and eventually the other teams until the final two remained, and the winner would be rewarded with glory and gold, though such earthly pleasures disinterested are party when compared to the chance to save the prince.
One of the competing teams was Fazil’s Fighters, led by the changeling retainer and his lover Rashad, and they established themselves as the team to beat with ease in the first round. Whereas the first team struggled for a full minute to dispatch their opponents, and even then seemed to escape with barely more than their lives, Fazil’s team struck the monsters down in merely thirty seconds. We clearly had our work cut out for us as we walked up to the entrance of the stadium prepared to meet our first challenge.
Before us lay a mock ruin of the Zeharian people, with a group of Gnolls placed around. There was also a fair maiden in the midst of these gnolls, being held captive as an objective of rescue for our team. {Switching it from a dummy to a real woman is going to make the kiss at the end better, but it might make it less believable…} For those of you readers who have no knowledge of the gnolls, count yourselves blessed, for their grim visage is almost to horrible to recount. Each one of the five stood on spotted and matted haunches, like hyenas learning to beg, with thick and bloodied bodies haphazardly strapped to pieces of metal and stone creating makeshift armor. Their grizzled necks led to lazily hanging jaws with long strands of viscous slobber leaking continuously from their frenzied grins. They turned their smiling faces towards our party and began to growl, looking to protect the terrified woman between them. The ringing voices and thunderous applause of the audience would have been distracting if we hadn’t all become so single-minded in our pursuit of both this rescue and the next.
Hagar ran headfirst into battle, sprinting up to his first opponent and drawing Ostan’s blade from its sheath, preparing to wet it against the neck of the foul monsters before us. Zari brandished her flails and cast two spectral hands that gripped two of them by the neck and began to enshroud them in a dark necrotic energy. Wykeera too leapt forward, sending a knife of ice singing into the throng of enemies, deftly causing shards of ice to hit the targets and miss the maiden. Ever eager to rescue, I teleported to the maiden in a flash of lightning and mist and grabbed her from the gnolls. Midi encouraged me forward, and I was able to frighten two of the gnolls away from me. However, one of them, incredibly brave, or more likely, incredibly stupid, managed to score two heavy strikes against me as I threw myself in front of my new charge. I was buffeted back by the blows and almost thrown into the pit of spikes below, but managed to get cushioned by my favored winds and landed safely on the bridge. The maiden, now unprotected by my frightful presence, was grabbed again by the gnolls, and I kicked myself for not being more careful.
However, it was at that moment that Hagar was suddenly knocked from his position on the bridge onto the spikes below. The crowd gasped in horror, and I too was worried for Hagar’s fate, but I knew that he would want us to continue our rescue. I furiously aimed my next spell at the two gnolls who had knocked my friend in, and vaporized them both in one searing ball of electricity. Wykeera and Zari continued their assault on the other three gnolls while Midi did her best to help Hagar recover from his fall and to exit the pit. Zari grew her necrotic shroud on the two gnolls from before, and Wykeera deftly noticed the weakening constitution of the one on the left, and took him out with a well-placed ice knife.
I was debating if I should attack the remaining gnoll holding the maiden, or the larger gnoll captain who had so deftly struck me with his blade when, suddenly, a thick forearm and sizable hand sprang out of the pit and grabbed ahold of the gnoll captain and pulled it down. Hagar hadn’t been able to spring himself from the spiked pit, but was able to succeed in bringing down one of the enemies to his level. Knowing that no ragged monstrosity like the gnoll could stand up to Hagar in a one on one fight, I turned to the final gnoll on the ruins and blasted them backwards with my magical might. However, my blasts were so strong they managed to cause the maiden to lose her balance as well, and she began to fall backwards. At the last second, in a flash of lightning and mist, I was above her, my arm securely fastened around her shoulders, protecting her from above. The audience went wild with the last minute salvation of the woman, and were only propelled to greater heights of enthusiasm when she passionately embraced and kissed me as thanks for my heroism.
However, there was one thing they wanted to see even more. The battle with the final gnoll had become surprisingly intense, as he was of a sturdier breed, pit bull or some other large dog probably, than the rest of his litter. Even worse, the battle in the pit was too low for anyone in the audience to see, and the sound of shouting, yelping, and metal clanging against stone and metal alike, had driven them into a frenzy of speculation. Hagar, distracted by the audience and his disguise, had made some surprising mistakes, and was having trouble keeping the gnoll at bay. Wykeera in her classically resourceful way, had begun firing her bag of unending water at the mongrel, washing years of grease, blood and decay from its matted fur, and giving Hagar the advantage in the fight. Zari sprung down lithely and managed to hit the gnoll with her flails, sending it stunned and reeling backwards.
However, the true disadvantage was becoming clear, the spikes on the bottom of the pit were hindering Hagar and Zari’s attacks by reducing mobility, while the more animalistic fighting style of the gnoll was unaffected. I realized the best way for them to defeat the beast, was by leaving the pit. So I told the fair maiden to step back, and summoning every ounce of my being, I cast a spell and caused the faux ruins to explode out ward, leaving a method of escape for my teammates. Wykeera followed it up immediately with an especially strong geyser from her bag, sending the gnoll rolling back into view of the audience, battered, wet, and afraid of the hulking warrior now sprinting across the sand towards it. The beast reared up for one final attack, which Hagar easily outmaneuvered, driving his blade through its grinning mouth and out of it matted back. The crowd was silent for a moment, and then erupted into peals of applause and cheers, as the announcer brought it to our attention that we had finished in the same amount of time as our true opponents. Thirty seconds.
An hour later, after rebuilding the stage and testing the other teams, it was time for our second round of the tournament. As we took the field, the thoughts of the previous teams, the ones who had faced this same challenge and been beaten savagely, weighed on our minds, and we prepared ourselves for a battle that would likely not go as easy, as the stadium began to shake from the steps of some monolithic Monster.
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World of Orphel
Into the River Caverns
When the party fled the black dragons overhead, Thelander spied a clearing and path to the mighty river that flows down to the city of Redcrow. This river is called the Crow itself and you find that there is a huge cavern that runs alongside the river. You manage to the open the door to the rocky corridor, but you soon hear massive footfalls coming nearby.

Before you can get far in, a rather well-dressed Stone Giant comes to the door, investigating your presence. Krillian and Gron, who were trying to close the door managed to convince him not to attack and then paid a toll to use the caverns. After the Stone Giant found out who you were transporting, he gave the money back.

After continuing through the caverns for about a day, the party parted ways with the Stone Giant, whose name is interpreted to Xi as "Hides In Shadows".

The party tried to rest but found that the Night Hag was attacking. After communing with Bones, Xi is able to get information from Dodeliga that provides the True Name of the Hag, Niborlat. Xi uses a spell slot to take that information and banish her back to the astral plane for a fortnight.

However, this also reveals that she's part of a Coven of Hags (usually three) that are part of the pursuit. Later, the other hag(s) break open the door and try to quickly steal Mallet with a spell of psychokinesis. The party manages to hold onto him, and close the passage, moving even faster now. Xi detects that the clothes he is wearing are actually magical and won't come off. She tries to appeal to her Einnick Celestial Warlord (an Alfuur) but her attempt to bargain leaves her damaged and with lesser access to her power.

Soon, spiders, insects, moths fill the cavern in pursuit of the party, who are double-timing it. They reach out to Dodeliga, who tells them through Bones that she's 'sending an envoy.'

The party gets damaged by the various insect attacks and is forced to keep moving as flying crawlies enter the picture, too. Soon, they are taking damage as they hightail it out the cavern. Then, it is noticed that Mallet is gone, claimed by the insects.

The party does find the envoy, a short hooded figure with silvery hands. The party is forced to double-back and obtain Mallet with some damage taken. Once they get him back, the envoy removes the cursed clothing, puts Mallet into a robe and gets him walking again. He'd gained consciousness when Niborlat was banished but he's still daffy.

The envoy leads the party out of the caverns and with not much more time, the party reaches Redcrow, seeing the towering mills and clockwork tools that the Redcrow people use to harness the power of the Crow River. It is clear that Stone Giant and Tellon work together here.

The Stone Giants are called Jättesten in the world of Orphel.
Session: Down to the City of Redcrow - Sunday, Aug 12 2018 from 10:15 AM to 12:15 PM
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A volta dos que não foram

“Zurga, me perdoe…” Narujin pensou enquanto empurrava o irmão para dentro do fosso escuro no centro da sala. Não tem por que morrermos juntos. Você vai, eu fico. Um morre para que o outro possa viver. Parecia uma troca justa. Observou o irmão caindo enquanto a guarda da Imperatriz irrompia pela porta. Resistir? Inútil. Narujin evitou encará-los diretamente. Apenas cerrou os olhos e virou o rosto, com medo. Desejava que o irmão estivesse bem, onde quer que aquele fosso levasse.

Os soldados não foram gentis. Arrastado pelos cotovelos, os joelhos raspando no chão, Narujin foi carregado para o grande salão onde a Imperatriz se encontrava. Vários ferimentos em seu corpo vertiam sangue escuro, mas um era especialmente horrível. Seu olho esquerdo fora esmagado e a pele do supercílio e da bochecha rasgaram com esse mesmo golpe do cabo da espada do capitão.

“Minha Senhora, Imperatriz Gauwervyndhal, soberana de toda Abeir, mantenedora da ordem e arauto da paz, aquela que…” A Imperatriz interrompeu o capitão, impaciente. “Basta! Esses elogios não protegerão a guarda de minha fúria! Como pode, dois pirralhos passarem despercebidos pela segurança do palácio?! Vocês são cegos ou surdos? Talvez um pouco de cada? Se não eram, com certeza ficarão, como punição!” Gauwer esmurrou um espelho, trincando-o com inúmeros vincos.

Ela olhou para o prisioneiro e seu rosto tornou-se roxo de raiva. “Ainda por cima só conseguiram capturar um?! Com qual incompetência se apresentam!” O capitão se encolheu, legitimamente apavorado, e gaguejou: “Minha Senhora, ga-garanto que os homens o encontrarão! Ele de-deve estar escondido em algum outro cômodo do palácio! Mas esse aqui não abre o bico…”

A Imperatriz cessou sua ira e se dirigiu ao draconato. “Eu entendo que o pirralho que escapou era seu irmão… por que não foi junto com ele?” Narujin respondeu grave. “E por que eu faria isso? Lançar-me ao mundo novamente, então a mesma velha guerra por sobrevivência, a mesma incerteza… é preferível a própria morte.” A imperatriz mediu o rapaz com um olhar curioso. “Ora, então por que não tomou a própria vida ainda?” Narujin permaneceu em silêncio, ele tinha uma noção da resposta, mas não queria admiti-la. “Responda a Imperatriz, seu insolente!” O capitão deu um tapa no prisioneiro.

Uma lâmina emergiu da garganta do capitão. Os olhos se reviraram para cima. A Imperatriz atravessara seu pescoço. “Estou farta de sua total falta de responsabilidade, capitão, está dispensado.” Gauwer chutou o corpo do homem para fora do gume. “Onde estávamos? Ah, sim! Você sabe, draconato. Sabe muito bem por que continua aqui… por que não fugiu com o outro. Você sabe que, às vezes, o bem maior requer sacrifícios. Você sabe que o bem é impossível sem que haja ordem… e a ordem se faz pela força.” Ela limpou a lâmina com a qual executara o guarda. “Este capitão não era dos melhores, mas precisaremos de um substituto. Quem sabe, com tempo e dedicação, você não se prove exatamente o que eu estou procurando?” Narujin apenas encarou seu reflexo no espelho partido.



“Capitão? Capitão!” Um soldado chamava Narujin, enquanto ele estava perdido em suas lembranças, olhando para seu reflexo em uma janela quebrada. “Capitão, acabamos com cada último homem, mulher e criança que não jurou sua aliança ao bem maior de nossa Imperatriz. O que fazemos com as casas?” Narujin ponderou por um momento. “Queimem… queimem tudo homens! Precisamos enviar uma mensagem clara aos infratores e vilões desta terra!” Então olhou para um ponto perdido no céu com pesar e pensou: “Espero que esteja preparado, Zurga, porque eu estou chegando…”
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Deadly Quests
35th Session Summary
21st of Hammer

In the town of Tammar the group goes shopping at the market. Tammar's market however is a wholesale market designed for bulk purchases. A jewelery stall caches the eyes of Sevrin and Nix which quickly turns in to larceny and trouble with the guards. Upon their return they find their mysterious passenger, Kikuko Yoki, entangled in a confrontation with the White Wolf. The group manages to restrain Kikuko as the White Wolf escapes in a floating ship on one of the town's landing pads near the market.

The town guards along with the private guards of the jewelery merchant chase after Sevrin, Nix, Church, and Pickle who flee the town. The gnomes and their caravan are also forced to out of town after suspicions arise with their involvement.

As the caravan departs Tammar, the others sneak back on board and they continue towards Two-Stars.

23rd of Hammer

In the evening of the following day, the caravan comes upon the scene of another caravan which appears to have been recently attacked. At the site are three sets of tracks. One set of humanoid tracks leads off in to a nearby corpse of trees. Another set of larger tracks leads east across the grasslands. A third set of tracks, left by caravan wagon lead off the side of the road.

At this point the group decides to split up in to three separate groups. Jarna and Roslyn investigate the human tracks towards the trees. Wyatt, Nix, and Church investigate the larger set of tracks. Xzar, Xaehyd, and Sevrin stay on site and continue to investigate the attacked caravan.

Jarna and Roslyn spot a 17 year old human woman hiding high up in one of the trees. They manage to convince her to come down and she introduces herself as Aeysha Villani. She explains that her family was owns the caravan and they were taken prisoner by three giants. Her family members are Villanis, Garvantos, and Davrioz. Jarna and Roslyn return to the caravan after half of an hour.

Meanwhile Wyatt, Nix and Chruch continue to follow the large footprints as the sun sets and it begins to grow dark. After an hour of walking they come upon a cave entrance from which they can hear a couple of voices talking about cooking one of the humans. Wyatt blesses the three of them and prepares for combat as he attempts to sneak closer to get a good look. Nix decides to go and find the others but Wyatt says that there is no time. Wyatt attempts to sneak around to the cave entrance where he is spotted by a pair of ogres and combat commences. Church attempts to rescue the prisoners while Wyatt is engaged by the Ogres. Wyatt does a substantial amount of damage to the ogres before he is knocked unconscious. Church is also overcome by the ferocity of the ogres and also knocked unconscious. Both bodies are placed in the ogre's holding pen. Church manages to stabilize but Wyatt does not and he bleeds to death.

Twenty minutes pass as the rest of the group make their way through the dark, following the ogre tracks. Along their route they encounter Nix who explains what happened. The find the ogre's cave as the ogres are in the process of eating one of the caravan bodies. The group runs in to battle. Jarna engages with the two ogres and as the group takes on the already wounded ogres Sevrin casts a spell which emits the smell of meat pie. The smell attracts the attention of a third ogre just returning back to the cave. This new ogre charges the group from behind and scores a deadly hit on Roslyn knocking her unconscious.

As the group engages with the third ogre Roslyn continues to loose blood and she stops breathing. Xzar rushes over to try and save her but it is too late. The third ogre falls but so does Roslyn. She has taken her last breath and her body lays on the cold grass.

Jarna attempts to move the large boulder that is blocking the entrance to the ogre's pen but her foot becomes lodged under the bolder. Eventually she is able to move the boulder but her foot has been broken in the process.

The group finds the other two human prisoners along with Church. They also find the ogre's treasure: 12 platinum, 1422 gold, a potion, and a scroll case. Upon the body of the third ogre, Picklecheeks, they find 4 platinum, 50 gold, and two potions.

Session: Chapter 5: The Road to Rashemen III - Sunday, Aug 05 2018 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
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De Exilio
Chapter 5 — The Back Door
~ sixth-day, 6th of Hammer, The Year of Rogue Dragons, afternoon
Sea of Swords

The spelljammer splashed down in the waves west of great cliffs that formed the edge of Calimshan. Nearby was the remains of a shipwreck, its rotting mass still jutting out of the water, a sign of the rocks hidden below. Kytharrah dropped their anchors. Solisar did not have the power to make the whole vessel invisible; they prayed to their gods that the dragon would not patrol over the ocean while they were away. Ilthian, who remained aboard, would be safe from scrying below deck, but she would be helpless if a dragon landed on the deck and crashed its head and neck through the planks to find her. Belvin wanted to stay aboard, having little interest in the fire genie, but the others convinced him to come. He agreed, provided that they would return to the boat and Kamil soon.

   As they had done last Mirtul, the six adventurers all crammed into one of their small rowboats and began making their way toward the shallow entrance of a sea cave in the cliff. The tide was relatively low, and there was a narrow strip of land at the base of the cliff leading to the cave entrance. When last they had come to this "back door" to Yrevkethend's lair and Allu's palace, they had had to find a small inlet under an outcropping in the cliff to wait out the tide. Tymora had worked things out better for them this time, and they did not need to wait long before there was a walk-able sand "pathway". They tied up the rowboat in the same lee as before and set out.

   Ducking, they entered the cave entrance, which was only five feet high but about thirty wide. At first, the floor was covered with sand, sloping downward, before being replaced with endless barnacles, which crunched under their feet and hooves. The passage narrowed but also grew higher, so that even Kytharrah could no longer touch the ceiling.

   It was chilly in the cave, and water was dripping on them from the ceiling, as if it were raining. Kytharrah sniffed, taking in the smell of crabs, dead sea creatures, and salt.

   Each noisy step was disturbing to Szordrin, who was well aware that a dragon, with exceptional hearing, lived deeper within. "Remind me why we are even here again?" he asked. "What does this have to do with Walker or Samber?"

   "We have discussed this numerous times," said Hakam. "Finding Allu may be a good way to find Samber or at least learn what connection they have."

   "The Rock of Bral would have been a safer bet."

   "We will go there soon enough," said Hakam. "I have my suspicions that Allu is allied with or was summoned by Samber. We know that he has summoned other evil fiends, and we know his great interest in experimenting with other genies. We now have the power to find out and should not waste our opportunity."

   "The dragon never detected us when we last came this way," said Leokas, "if that is your concern. She lairs much deeper in the cave."

   "Sseth told us that Allu's palace is at least a mile from the cliffs," said Solisar. "This cave is massive and we have a long way to travel."

   "It is growing darker now," said Hakam. "Recall that I cannot see as well in the dark as the rest of you. If I recall, that means the fork in the tunnel should be soon where we can head up to Allu and away from the dragon's lair. We need to decide on a plan. Do we boldly march in and demand an audience? Or are we trying to remain undetected?"

   "If we were demanding an audience with the efreeti, would we not have used the front door?" said Solisar. "We are scouting things out first, especially if this mummy of which you have spoken to me has her forces here. Shall I turn all of us invisible?"

   "We should wait until we encounter any enemies, rather than waste the magic," said Hakam.

   "We cannot use any light if we wish to remain undetected," said Szordrin.

   "The corners of the cavern will block the light from traveling far, provided that it twists enough," said Leokas. "These walls are not very reflective."

   So they had Kytharrah withdraw his everburning torch. The light revealed a fork in the path ahead, just as Hakam had remembered. One tunnel went up, while the other twisted down. The tunnel that ascended was significantly narrower than the one leading down. They knew that the smaller tunnel led to Allu.

   Szordrin poked his head up the smaller tunnel and saw that it actually grew larger rather quickly after a short distance to be about a dozen feet in width and nearly twice that in height.

   "I will scout ahead, then," said Szordrin, looking back at the others, "walking on the ceiling. Kytharrah can follow a distance behind me, since he can also see in the darkness. If I spot any activity, I shall signal back to him, and then the rest of you can take action to hide any lights."

   This seemed as good a plan as any. So Kytharrah handed his "guiding light" to Solisar, and Szordrin cast his spell and climbed the wall up to the ceiling by his four limbs and began moving forward among the stalactites. "Tracks," said Leokas, bending down and noticing a pattern in the broken barnacles that none of the rest of them would have been able to spot. "Hobgoblins stepped on these barnacles."

   Kytharrah bent down and sniffed them.

   "Minotaur, you are supposed to be following behind Szordrin, not sniffing things," said Hakam.

   Kytharrah bounded forward.

   Thankfully, they soon climbed above the level of the water at high tide, and so the barnacles vanished. The ground was still a bit damp, but the "raining" also ceased.

   The tunnel continued relatively straight for what seemed like forever, reminding Belvin and Leokas of one of their earlier adventures together. They walked perhaps thirty minutes at a gradual incline. "So much for twisting tunnels blocking our light," said Belvin. Finally, however, the tunnel did begin to curve to the right and then again to the left, and Szordrin disappeared from their sight around the corner. Hakam took this moment to call on Anachtyr to grant him the ability to sense his environment without the need for his eyes, just in case Szordrin signaled back that they needed to douse their light. It proved to be a wise decision.

   The tunnel finished its ess curve and then made another. Kytharrah was just about to round the second corner, when Hakam could "hear" the incorporeal shape of someone or something next to the minotaur.

   "Minotaur! To your left!" he shouted.

   Leokas reacted to this before even Kytharrah did, loosing two arrows to the left of their friendly beast in hopes of striking whatever invisible enemy Hakam had sensed. The arrows were deflected into the wall of the passage as if blown by a strong gale. Moments later, two gusts of wind in rapid succession struck Leokas with an extreme force, knocking him back and nearly off his feet.

   With a firm command, Solisar enchanted his own eyes, and Belvin yelled out a jungle call, followed by pointing toward Leokas. The wood elf began to glow with a red aura. So did his invisible opponent, an only vaguely humanoid shape. The red-glowing foe was struck from above by several bursts of magical force from Szrodrin's fingertips.

   "Anachtyr protect us!" shouted Hakam, while holding his shield ready.

   Now able to see the outline of the foe, Kytharrah charged with his axe to rescue his elven friend, swinging into the red aura. He struck something at least partly solid, almost spongy. Whatever it was, it had no odor at all. It moved quickly. He hit it a second time with his axe, but when he swung his large head down to catch it with its horns, it had moved too far away. Two arrows flew wildly, as Leokas jumped backward and tried to fight back, but two more blasts of invisible force struck him, and he dropped to his knees, with the wind knocked out of him, and gasped for air.

   Solisar waved his arms, sending a magical burst through the tunnel, and the red aura vanished, or rather dissipated, into nothing. The short battle was over.

   Kytharrah helped his red-glowing friend to his feet, and Belvin and Hakam rushed over to heal him with their magics.

   "Thank you," said Leokas. "I can breathe now. What manner of creature was that?"

   "An elemental from the Plane of Air," said Solisar. "To me, it appeared like an amorphous cloud. Belvin's faerie fire was a brilliant idea."

   Belvin nodded.

   "A stalker," said Szordrin. "Did not you others face one before I joined you?"

   "I would rather not recall it," said Hakam. "It broke my leg."

   "Was this an accidental encounter then?" asked Szordrin. "Or has it been stalking us this whole time?"

   "We would have noticed earlier," said Belvin. "It was guarding the entrance."

   "The last one certainly had been stalking us," said Hakam. "It spoke as much in its tongue. Mythlos could speak Auran. It was sent by El Sadhara."

   "It is at least possible that it is in fact the same one," said Solisar. "You cannot kill such a being unless on its native plane. It may have come back to finish its mission or been summoned by her a second time."

   "I agree that it is probably one of the mummy's minions," said Hakam, "but I suspect that Belvin is correct that it was here to guard the back entrance, not to pursue us in general. She only followed us to get to Samber, and she has him."

   "If that is the case," said Solisar, "it suggests that she has conquered the hobgoblins and Allu."
Session: 94th Game Session - Wednesday, Aug 30 2017 from 4:30 PM to 7:30 PM
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