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Pointer-left Sofi

Sofi
Posted in Per Multiversum
Sofi's Tale
"It is a long story, so park your ears.

   "I was a Cager, as you already know; I grew up in Sigil. I was not from a... very nice family. My father was absent. My sister and I were raised by my mother, but it was clear that she cared little for us, especially for me.

   "My mother had horns — I inherited mine from her — but my sister did not. The fiendish bloodline seems not to have affected her as strongly, at least not in the physical sense. It affected her more so in other ways; she was exceptionally cruel. I should note that I was by no means a good girl; we were all cruel to each other. But she teased me incessantly, always pointing out how many men she had been with and how many gifts she had been given by Mother, who favored her. She was also... more voluptuous than I and was more canny. She did better in school. She seemed superior to me in every way."

   Now, Sofi paused, took a deep breath, and then continued. "To come to it, eventually, I could not take it anymore. One day, after she had publicly humiliated me at the schoolhouse, I fumed in anger, but I kept it all inside,... for the day. That night, I entered my sister's room and strangled her to death in her sleep."

   She looked at the ground as she shared this. When no one made any comment, she went on.

   "Then, I fled. I stole a portal key from a merchant and passed from Sigil to the Outlands, where I found myself near the gate town of Tradegate.

   Solisar nodded. He knew that Tradegate was the gate-town to Bytopia, the home of the gnomish pantheon. It was a good Outer Plane, known for its two facing layers. It leaned more toward lawfulness than chaos, residing, cosmologically, between Celestia and Elysium.

   "It was here that I met my first cervidal, and I pretended to be one, to fit in better. (A number of guardinals lived in or visited Tradegate.) I had a twigging for him, and I soon tried to seduce him, but while he seemed to genuinely twig me and to find me attractive — though he obviously knew that I was not a cervidal —" She pointed at her bare feet. "...he refused to act on his feelings. He tried to let me down gently, but it was clear that I was not enough of a 'good girl' for a cutter like him, celestial blood and all. He also discovered that I was really a tiefling, and I at last admitted to him my great crime. To my surprise, he was compassionate and spoke to me about redemption.

   "The idea intrigued me, and I left Tradegate and wandered counterclockwise to Excelsior, thinking of no better place to find someone who might lead me on the path to forgiveness.

   "Along the way, I passed a hospital of sorts. It was only a small hostel, but a gentle old monk lived there, named Sarl, who cared for sick orphans and widows at no cost. I offered to help him, thinking that I might earn redemption for my crime through good deeds. He accepted my offer and let me call kip there.

   "I aided him for about a month, before a gang of babaus one day attacked the hospital. I was quickly nicked and left for dead by one of them, but while I lay on the ground, expecting to die, I looked up and saw something incredible to me. The old monk, with nothing but his walking staff, subdued or killed all three of the babaus alone, even cracking open one of their hideous, horned skulls. Not a single patient was harmed."

   "I saw several of these when in the Fugue plane," said Solisar, "lanky, black tanar'ri demons with a single horn curling backward from the back of their skull, correct?"

   Sofi nodded.

   He remembered that they had attacked some imps and led away other creatures made of crawling beetles, but this was her story, so he let her continue.

   "They were awful, yes, but Sarl stopped all of them.

   "He nursed me back to health. From my sick bed, I asked him how he could have possibly fought the way he did. His answer I shall never forget. 'There is great strength in weakness. Great good comes to those who are willing to give everything away.'

   "I asked him to teach me when I was recovered again. This he did. I found it frustrating that his teachings were at first on things like posture and meditation, but I soon scanned the hidden benefits of the knowledge that he was passing on. Eventually, he told me that I could learn no more until I had a true change of heart. He suggested that I seek enlightenment in isolation.

   "I was angry at his refusal to train me further and in his insinuation that I was not 'good enough', so I left and sought training elsewhere, finding it eventually from some githzerai of Xaos, whose entire race was dedicated to the practice of the martial arts.

   "They trained me well, and there were no strings attached to my training, unlike with Sarl. However, I felt a great emptiness inside, and I could not forget Sarl's final advice to me. Nor could I forget the guilt that still hung over me for the great crime of murder.

   "To be fair, isolation already appealed to me, and it was not like I had any real friends among the strange githzerai, so I made my plans and did not bang around there much longer. I had read about a world, this world of Coliar, in Realmspace, in the Prime, a world so large that one could have an entire floating island to herself. I figured that it might be the best place in the multiverse to find isolation, so I passed into Limbo and spent what little jink I had to be dropped off here by some plane-crossing travelers.

   "So, I came here, five or six years ago, dumped on an empty island, and have wandered around from island to island ever since, almost always alone.

   "But Sarl was right. When I was truly alone, I cried over my awful crime. I sobbed over what I had done to my sister. I longed to become someone like Sarl, someone who could help the ones that no one wanted. I called out to the powers for forgiveness. I asked to become a new woman, to be freed from my ancestral heritage of hate and rage.

   "And one day, I was visited by an angelic being, who looked something like a winged elf but radiant, with a brass breastplate and a silver trumpet hanging from her back."

   "A trumpet archon," said Hakam, sounding impressed. Solisar and Szordrin each nodded, but Sofi shrugged.

   "Whatever she was, she told me that she was a messenger from Pistis Sophia, that my prayers had been heard by the high-ups of Celestia, and that they had seen my attempts to atone for my sin. If I would promise to devote myself wholly to her teachings, I would find what I truly wanted.

   "This I have done. For the last several years, while meditating each morning, I often hear her voice, gently teaching me the path of righteousness. I have grown in my skills here alone, waiting for the time when she has a task for me to perform in her service."

   "Perhaps that time is now." She looked at them and shrugged again, then blushed, anticipating perhaps some sort of scolding. "That is all," she said. "That is my past."
Session: 117th Game Session - Monday, Aug 03 2020 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Heading Back
Having decided on their next major course of action, Solisar took ten minutes to perform the ritual for identifying Onran's magical boots. His conclusion was that they would permit the wearer to teleport short distances, no more than a couple dozen feet, when otherwise trapped from freely moving. It was agreed that such boots would be very useful for Leokas to wear, so that he would always have a clear shot, and he happily tried the boots on. They were exceptionally comfortable, though they clashed a little with his green garb.

   Since Onran was presumed dead, Hakam insisted that the small collection of magic items belonged to Szordrin, the closest Onran had to an heir, but Szrodrin had no need for the boots, the hat of disguising, or the bracers, though they packed them in their bag of holding, nonetheless.

   Solisar thought that it would be a good idea to check in with Ombert and his crew, so he used their sending stone to message Oma and asked for a status report. She responded that the lizardfolk eggs had been successfully delivered. They had also stopped at Lantan and picked up more trade goods and were now on Anadia, the first planet in the system, trading with halflings.

   There was some discussion about breaking up the massive omlar crystal outside of Onran's house for profit or magic use, but Szordrin strongly disapproved of damaging his master's former property.

   Before they headed back, Belvin used his druidic power to sense the presence of further deinonychuses. There were still a good number on the island, yet none were particularly close to them. The one that Kytharrah and Solisar had heard at the bottom of the hill they found dead, presumably from being infected by the yellow musk creeper, but thankfully, no new plant had taken root in its brain. No other creepers themselves lived on the island.

   "Should we hunt down and eliminate the remaining deinonychuses on the island, in case they are infected?" asked Solisar.

   "They are natural creatures," said Hakam, "not abominations; I do not see the need."

   "If Sofi remains here," said Solisar, "she might be at more risk than she anticipated."

   "But they cannot pass through the barrier or over the rift," said Hakam.

   "Speaking of plans," said Sofi, "May I ask what you all plan to do next? I know that you have big plans to track down this Samber person, but how are you getting off this island itself?"

   "Our plan was to use lizardfolk hang gliders to return to the port of Hisssta," they explained.

   "Do you think, if it is not too much trouble to have a sod like me banging around, that I might be able to come with you on your ride, your quest? Or if not, at least to leave the island with you. I do not see any further purpose for me here. I mentioned this before, but I find it improbable that being dropped off here, of all islands, by the mercane was simply a random chance. I should pray to my mistress first, of course, for guidance, but if she allows it...."

   Kytharrah began bouncing with enthusiasm.

   "We do not have an extra glider," said Belvin, "and I will be carrying my own camel."

   "I carry!" suggested Kytharrah, which seemed a reasonable solution to the others.

   "I have a test for you first," said Leokas. He was only jesting, but his tone was stern, and she took him seriously. "I want to see if you can catch one of my arrows. I have heard legends of ascetics such as yourself having the concentration and swiftness of hand to do so."

   "That sounds... terrifying," said Sofi, "but I shall try it."

   "I shall have my healing magic ready for if there be a mishap," said Hakam.

   "I shall not be shooting at her," said Leokas, sounding mildly offended. "Stand there by that tree. I can hit the same spot ten times in row; just remain still until you are ready to catch it."

   Sofi stood by a tall tree and was still, looking nervous. Leokas loosed the first arrow, and it whizzed six inches from her head and struck the trunk. He sent another arrow flying, and its tip drove in next to the first arrow's. She remained still. He launched a third and a fourth, and, suddenly, her hand flashed. She struck the fourth arrow mid-flight, deflecting it from its course to be lost in the bushes.

   She was beaming. "I have never tried that before," she said. "My master used to do that. He could actually catch them, but I shall have to start working on that now."

   "Well done," said Leokas. "You have my vote to join the team."

   "Of which master do you speak," asked Hakam. "You speak of someone other than your mistress, yes?"

   "I have learned so much of Szordrin's story," she replied, "I suppose that it is only fair that I share mine, but let us head back to the west. There will be time for me to tell my tale then. Are we finished here?"

   They made their way back to rift in the island — after Bevlin snagged a deinonychus skull or two from the bonfire. Once again, when they reached the rift, Kytharrah ferried them over, by the power of Hakam's spell. Then they came back to the small waterfall-fed lake where they had met Sofi. She asked them for some time to meditate, to see if she could gather how Pistis Sophia felt about her leaving the island with these strangers. They gave her the time that she needed. She sat cross-legged on the ground by the water, closed her eyes, and seemed to go into a deep trance, much like the elves did when they rested. Kytharrah sat down and tried to imitate Sofi's actions, but he found it very difficult to remain so still.

   After about 20 minutes, she suddenly rose to her feet again and came back to them. "I did not receive a clear answer, but neither did I receive a clear no. I would still love to come along, if you would have me."

   Hakam shared how he felt confident that the gods had orchestrated matters such that she would join them. She seemed pleased with this.

   It did not take them overly long to find their way back to the duck and goose pond at the western edge of the island. Solisar looked into the sky and, after a few moments, spotted what he believed to be the crescent-shaped island that was their target. Unfortunately, it was now very distant. He explained to them that, based on his calculations, it was going to be an excruciatingly long journey back, probably between fifteen and seventeen hours. In the time since they had landed, the islands had drifted more than 150 miles from each other, and the other island was more than 50 miles higher in elevation. They would be flying against the ever-constant westerly breeze. If they kept their gliders' noses tilted upwards, the updraft would give them the elevation that they needed, but they would have to "tack against the wind", gaining altitude while being driven farther from their destination and then diving down to get closer to their destination — a "two steps forward, one step back" strategy that they had been taught in their lessons on Hisssta. It would be a flight of endurance and will.

   No one was at all happy with this, but they had no other alternatives. All took the very practical step of emptying their bladder before getting out their hang gliders. Sofi was fascinated with how the long items had been stored in seemingly normal-sized bags. She was to be riding with Kytharrah, and, having never flown on a glider before, was excited for the experience.

   Suddenly, she turned around, her face nearly the color of her eyes. "What is he doing?" she asked the minotaur. She was referring to Belvin, who was stripping off his clothing and packing it, prior to his transformation into a flying dinosaur.

   Kytharrah shrugged. Belvin had not been the only one in the group with a "magic trick" that seemingly required the removal of one's clothing. Cassiera had often done that too, though she could simply slither out of the arm or leg of her clothes as a tiny snake.

   She took a few glances back over her shoulder, but then looked guilty and tried to get Kytharrah to explain to her what she needed to do for them to fly together. She did not learn very helpful information, but Leokas came over and found a way to tie her safely and comfortably underneath Kytharrah's bulk in a manner similar to how he tied Sif to himself, only he left her arms free so that she could hold on to the bar of glider as Kytharrah did.

   Knowing that the flight back would be more challenging, wizards, cleric, and druid had used what magics they could to make their chances of success greater. Then, they launched.

   Sofi screamed with glee as Kytharrah leapt from the edge of the island. She seemed to be enjoying herself immensely as they dove and gained altitude and dove and gained altitude over and over. Eventually, of course, the repetitive act became at first dull and then dreary. Then came the thirst, then the rumbling stomachs, then the painful bladders. Eventually, Sofi seemed to go still, which concerned the minotaur at first, but he figured that she was just doing that thing that she had done back at her lake that morning, and he was right.

   Belvin at least had more flexibility in his flight, having wings that could provide their own lift, but it was by no means fun. The only benefit was that at least the breeze kept them cooler from the planet's heat.

   At long last, they landed on ground again, a somewhat jarring and painful experience, as the ground was moving towards them when they made contact. A few of them were bruised by the impact, but mostly they were all just happy that they could find a tree or some bushes to grant their bodies some comfort.

   It was between shrinking halflight and shrinking quarterlight. Except for Solisar and Sofi, they were all exceptionally hungry, and Leokas made them a fire to warm some of their rations. Belvin used his magic to sense whatever animal life might be nearby. This was the island where they had nearly been trampled to death by the pursued axe-beaked birds and the triceratops, but Belvin's druidic magic told him that all of the large dinosaurs seemed to be far from the island edge, at least for the moment.

   As they sat on stones or fallen trees eating their meal in a circle, Sofi asked, "Belvin, may I call you Belvin? Or do you have a special druidic title?"

   "Druids are not bound by the rigid hierarchies that enslave the churches," he said, giving Hakam a look. "I have no rank or title beyond my name."

   "Why are you on this ride, I mean, this quest? The others seem directed by their gods to stop this blood Samber, but I have heard no such claim from you."

   "My god, Thard Harr, guides me," said Belvin, "but in not so clear a manner, more in the manner that a gentle stream guides a leaf. Leokas and I have traveled together for over a year, and our friendship is strong. He has saved my life many times; I have saved his. I want to see the end of his journey, of all my companions' journeys."

   "It is true," said Leokas. "Nevertheless, you must admit that last season, after we defeated Allu, you were ready to return home and did so."

   "I had thought that my visions from Thard Harr had been fulfilled then," said Belvin, "but the same dreams came to me in the sweat cave; the same prophecy was repeated by Yashiera. It seems that I had been wrong. The stream has not yet reached its river, and I am curious now to be there when it does."

   "Speaking of visions and prophecies," said Hakam. "On Bral, I was able to gather some information from my studies. Have we considered that the three jungle reptiles in Yashiera's vision for us are not actual animals staring at the pool but rather symbols of three of the gods." He looked directly at Belvin. "Notably, Thard Harr is often portrayed with the symbol of a crocodile skull, is he not?"

   Belvin did not answer directly, but he looked pleased.

   "The dwarven priests with whom I dialoged," continued Hakam, "mentioned also Thard Harr's allies, and these included the god of 'giant lizards', which, I suspect, is the 'terrible lizard' at the pool. His name is Ubtao."

   "The prophecies about the Queen of the Moon may also have to do with the gods," said Solisar.

   "We know of Ubtao," said Leokas. "He is the god of Chult. His temple was where we found the portal to the western village where we first pursued Samber. In fact, was he not the only god in Chult?"

   "Yes," said Hakam, "the other gods promised to stay out of Chult in exchange for Ubtao guarding over a portal to some giant serpent who is foretold to eat the sun at the end of time. Such is the story that Jayce told us, and Yashiera made mention to this also in her original prophecies to us."

   "Belvin, you promised the wild dwarves that we would return," said Leokas.

   "When we return to Toril again, that is one of the stops that we shall make," said Belvin, "but the time is not now."

   "One god remains unaccounted for in the vision," said Hakam. "Who is the chameleon? Do you know any 'chameleon' gods aligned with Thard Harr, Belvin?"

   "Ask your own god tonight for an answer," said Belvin. "Then ask me again tomorrow." This was presented more as a challenge than as a request.

   They did not have much more time to refresh themselves or discuss further, as the rains would be coming soon. They set up two rope tricks for the night.

   The two sylvan elves took the first watch. The rains came on schedule, but they were not the usual rains. It was a downpour, complete with lighting. One bolt stuck so close that they were all temporarily deafened, and the elves' night vision was wrecked for several minutes before their eyes could adjust again. Kytharrah could smell the ozone in the air. They retreated up the ropes lest they be struck dead from a second blast.

   By the second watch, the rain had stopped. Near the end of it, Sofi climbed down the rope and greeted Solisar, who greeted her back.

   "Finished sleeping for the night?" he asked.

   She nodded, yawned, and stretched. "Has there been anything to see?"

   He shook his head. "There are many jungle sounds, but you know of all them."

   She was silent and listened. "No, these are different sounds, from different animals. Every island that I have been on in Coliar has different sounds at night."

   They were quiet and listened for a while together. Then she asked, "How did you scan so much about the planes? Have you traveled outside the Prime?"

   "No, I have not," said Solisar. "It is all what you would call 'book knowledge', but I have had many, many decades of my youth to read and explore the multiverse through the eyewitness accounts of a multitude of sages and scholars."

   "Why focus on the planes and not on other areas of magic?" she asked, as Szordrin and Hakam descended by rope to take the third watch.

   Solisar described that as an incantatar, one of his focuses was specifically means of protecting the mortal planes from the influence of outsiders to it. "I believe that the incursion of outsiders into our world disrupts the balance set upon it when the multiverse was created, even if those outsiders have good intentions. For this reason, I myself will never summon an extraplanar entity."

   "Why have you not opposed Belvin when he has summoned elemental creatures?" asked Szordrin.

   "I will not summon them myself," said Solisar, "but I will not force my views on others, unless they are summoning evil entities, in which case, I will do all in my power to banish the intruder."

   There was a brief pause, and then Solisar asked Sofi a question. "What about you? What planes have you visited? You mentioned to me last night that you had been to the Outlands, and you spoke to us of Excelsior this morning."

   "Yes, I have been to a few of the gate-towns. I lived among the githzerai in Limbo, where I received much of my training in the martial arts. Then I came to Coliar on a mercane trading vessel."

   Solisar knew of the githzerai, an emaciated humanoid race with an orderly, ascetic society, who strangely lived within the most chaotic plane of the multiverse. He had never heard of mercane traders, however.

   "Was your master, Sarl, whom you mentioned last night to Szordrin, one of the githzerai?"

   "No, he lived on the Outlands. I was with him for only a short time." She did not say why that was, and she wandered off to look at some flowers that she noticed were glowing faintly in the dark.

   When dawn came, they were eager to get the torture of their second of three "jumps" out of the way. Rather than risk hours of journeying west through the jungle and potentially facing more large predators, they considered the idea of launching from the eastern edge, where they were, and simply circling around the island. Solisar first flew above the trees to scout out their target. The bull-head-shaped island was even farther away from them than their current island had drifted from Kaw-chi-wee-tee-tee, but he still believed that they would reach it before they ran out of daylight, since it was not even yet growing quarterlight now.

   Four hours into the flight, the dreadful boredom was broken up, though only for one of them. Solisar, who had one of their two sending stones in a pouch on his belt, heard a voice in his mind. It was Oma. "Returned to orbit above Hisssta. Met by aarakocra ship. Claim sailors stole Athanar gems. Gems in cargo. Under 'ship arrest' at Athanar. Where are you?"

   Solisar found her message confusing, but he did his best to answer within the limits of the spell. "Leaving Chi-wee-wee-seh-kaw. In flight now. Island hopping back to Hisssta. Estimate arrival in two days. Which gems were stolen?"

   It was probably foolish to ask her a question, since the magic in the stones only functioned once daily. However, he did, in fact, receive another message hours later, when the planet's white light was brightest. "We await trial, Jayce says not to worry; he will talk us out of obvious set-up. Aarakocra ship can retrieve you. Wait where you are."

   "We are mid-flight, will reach island Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi in...." Solisar paused to do some quick calculations in his head. They were probably half way to Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi now. He added on four additional hours, just to be safe. "...Fourteen hours. We will wait for you to pick us up. The island is in active conflict."

   As soon as they were all on solid ground again and had dealt with important bodily functions, Solisar shared the news that he had received from Oma.

   "This is ridiculous!" said Hakam. "I left the receipts with Ombert, proving that we had acquired the gems from the military in payment for our smokepowder."

   It was shrinking quarterlight when they landed, and the rain began to fall before they even had time to pack up their gliders and set up the rope tricks. Within the safety of the extradimensional spaces, most were too miserable from the second day of traveling many scores of miles through the air at a snail's pace to be up for much talking. Those on watch were careful to look for any signs of approaching spelljammers, but there were none throughout the whole night. Occasionally, they heard an explosion in the west. Apparently, the lizardfolk and aarakocra were still battling for ownership of this floating land.

   First thing in the morning, after receiving his daily allotment of power from Anachtyr, Hakam sent a message to Oma, asking for more details and an update.

   She replied that they were on their way but that the islands were not aligned well with the ports. She also said that the aarakocra would absolutely not fly to a contested island where a battle was happening. She told them to glide to the 'mushroom-shaped island.'"

   Frustratingly, they could see no mushroom-shaped island from the eastern edge. Belvin, however, was able to scout below the island in pteranodon form and returned with a report that an island was below them that indeed looked much like a mushroom.

   They had several hours before it would be possible to jump to the lower island, so they made a campfire and roasted some birds that Leokas had hunted for breakfast. (Sofi passed on the meat and ate only the salbread.)

   Belvin asked Hakam if his god had given him any insight about the "chameleon". Hakam replied that he would not be able to divine that until he had access to some holy implements back at Bral.

   "Are any of you married?"

   Sofi's question seemed out of nowhere, and there was silence at first.

   Then Belvin laughed loudly. Hakam looked very uncomfortable.

   "I have forsworn marriage until I have avenged Onran's death," said Szordrin.

   Solisar went into a long explanation about the society of elves, how most of them did not take spouses until well after they had reached the age of 100 years. "You must understand that such a centuries-long commitment is never undertaken lightly. While Leokas and I have passed our first century, we are both considered young by elvish standards. Belvin is older, but his people do not practice marriage at all."

   "Children are raised by the tribe," said Belvin, "not by couples." He seemed offended by the very idea of couples raising children alone.

   "If not wives, do you have any other women at home?" she next asked.

   At this, Hakam stood up an walked away from the group.

   Szordrin quietly questioned the others, "Is Hakam married?"

   Sofi apologized. "Do I ask inappropriate questions? I do not mean to. It has just been so long since I have had the company of others. I will not be offended if you just need me to bar it."

   "Your questions are not inherently offensive," said Hakam, still standing apart from the others. "It is the particulars that are difficult in the present case. Your question reminded me of something in the past that I would rather not remember."

   "Kytharrah!" said Sofi with mock excitement. "Perhaps now would be a good time to play."

   This time, she was ready for the minotaur's swings to grab her, swatting his paws away or ducking under his long arms. In moments, she was around him, leaping onto his back, arms over his shoulders. He shrugged her off, and she tumbled to the ground and rolled back onto her feet, ready for more.

   So, it went for sometime. Meanwhile, the others debated whether they should question Hakam further about his strange behavior and comment, but they thought better of it. Szordrin tried to read his companions mind, but the cleric easily blocked the wizard from doing so by the force of his will.

   It was growing halflight when they were ready to jump again. They were reminded of how enjoyable gliding could be when the journey was all a descent. Sofi shouted happily at the rush from where she was tied below Kytharrah as he looped and banked around. She repeatedly expressed how thrilling a ride it had been when they landed safely on the mushroom-shaped island less than two hours later.

   This one was the most swampy of islands that they had yet visited, more so even than Hisssta, and it seemed to be infested with frogs and other small amphibians, croaking away loudly from every direction.

   Once again, they found themselves waiting. Sofi played a bit more with Kytharrah, and Leokas crafted some more arrows, and they used the multiple small pools of water to keep cool in the day's heat.

   Over lunch, one of them remembered that Sofi had said that she would share her story over the journey, and two nights had already passed since then.

   She seemed hesitant, but as she was not one to go against her word, she readied herself and set her tiny pot down and said, "It is a long story, so park your ears."
Session: 117th Game Session - Monday, Aug 03 2020 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Per Multiversum
Chapter 2 — Answers & Questions from the Past
The box contained a stack of seven letters from Samber — or Bremas or Rembas — with an unfinished letter from Onran to Samber inserted after the sixth. Szordrin confirmed that the script with large letters was indeed Onran's handwriting. These were all written in Lantanna, the language of Lantan.

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

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

   "Woman smell," said Kytharrah.

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

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

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

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

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

   "Who was Avilda?" asked Belvin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Solisar nodded.

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

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

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

   "Yes," said Hakam.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "The Lillikell and the Forokell," said Belvin.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   The others agreed with this understanding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Nor have I," said Solisar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Belvin nodded.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   The others agreed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Captain Stubs," said Leokas.

   "Would they be able to guide us back?"

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

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

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

   "What does that have to do with navigation?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Correct," said Solisar.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Well, we have a plan, then," said Belvin. "Bral it is for our first stop. So, how are we getting back to our spelljammer?"
Session: 116th Game Session - Monday, Jul 27 2020 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
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Love Note
My Husband & Lover,
I write while soaking in a luxurious bath in the ambassador suite. As my body soaks in the water, I am reminded of our very first visit to Karpri. I also still remember the shocked look on your face when I accepted your suggestion in jest to honeymoon there. Do you still think me as shy as you did then? It seems you were able to melchaen baruk bar kolen. I wish that you were here in the tub with me now, for I am not feeling shy tonight....
Expect me home in one tenday.
Your Yunoko


P.S.: It may be in your best interest to draw a bath for me when I arrive....

Session: 116th Game Session - Monday, Jul 27 2020 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
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