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Tag: battle

Chapter 1 — Treat for the Trash Monster
"We need to pass through your sewer drain," said Hakam. "If you let us through, I will stop my spell."

   "Or," said the monster, "I eat you; that also stop spell."

   Hakam calmed the winds, and the water flowed back, covering the creature, but it kept its tentacles out of the water. They noticed that only two of its three tentacles had the thorny growths; the other, shorter one had a column of two eyeballs, with which it observed each of them. When it seemed convinced that the wind was stopped, the tentacles moved forward and half of its body emerged from the water until they could see its ridiculously wide mouth again.

   "What do you need to let us through?" asked Hakam, assuming that its ears — or whatever it used for hearing — were also above the water.

   "More food," said the bizarre beast.

   "How about him?" said Szordrin, motioning toward Martho.

   The eyeball-containing tentacle focused on Martho.

   "What? No!" Martho protested.

   Hakkam chided Szordrin for this comment. "He is only joking, Martho. Pay him no heed."

   "Living food not tasty," said the monster. "Too clean!"

   "Hakam, you should create some of that delicious juice with your magic!" said Szordrin.

   Hakam seemed to understand Szordrin's bluff. "I shall do that." He pointed his finger in front of the monster. "Anachtyr, grant thine water to quench this creature's thirst."

   Gallons of pure water flowed out of nothing a foot above the murky pool and poured into it just in front of the creature. It dunked one of its longer tentacles into the water, and then rocked back and forth in anger.

   "Now pool taste worse! You made my water cleaner!"

   "But it has a terrific aftertaste," said Szordrin, "Just wait five minutes."

   "I wait," said the monster, who seemed to believe the lies that Szordrin was telling it wholesale until its own senses told it otherwise.

   Martho went up to Hakam and whispered, "I do not think that it fancies the same kinds of food that we do; it swims in sewage after all!"

   "We bought ourselves sometime for the others to arrive at least," said Hakam.

   "How do you know they are not dead?"

   "For all their faults, they have their talents," he answered.

   "How do you know that they will not continue on to the ship?"

   "They will either see the error of their ways and join us soon or they will find their own way out. I assume the latter, but it will not hurt to give them five more minutes."

   "I will check back to see if the others have come down the ladder," said Szordrin. "If not, we just continue without them from here."

~~~~

The three elves and the minotaur reached the bottom of the ladder in safety with the sole survivor, whose name was Barth.

   "I can walk on my own," the man said, "you can put me down now."

   Kytharrah did so.

   "Where did they go? Kytharrah, can you hear or smell Hakam or Szordrin?"

   "Too stinky," said Kytharrah. His nose was overwhelmed by the stench of the sewage. He did, however, see a gate with his darkvision. He bounded to it over a metal, grated walkway over the sewage.

   Solisar made his staff glow with magic, so the others could see where their minotaur went.

   "I think that I hear voices in the other direction," said Leokas. "Over that lowered bridge there."

   At the gate, Kytharrah looked through a tunnel and could see a waterfall pouring down, which intrigued him.

   Suddenly, from out of the corner of his eye, what looked to be puddle of water on the stone ground formed a sort of slimy pseudopodial tentacle that struck against his left leg. He barely felt the blow, but his leg began to sting, and the skin beneath the fur began to sizzle.

   Kytharrah grunted loudly. Solisar heard it and looked in that direction. He noticed that what looked to be a gray puddle of water was definitely moving, most likely some sort of ooze. He did not have time to warn Kytharrah, however.

   The minotaur swung down hard with his axe. It cut right through the puddle and drove into the rock below. The puddle was definitely not water at all. It was about three inches thick and jiggled all over when struck. It was moving as if it were alive. It had some sort of thick membrane, and gray slime was now oozing out from where he had severed it. Part of its surface was rising up to form a snake-like "arm". Kytharrah also noticed that the surface of his axe blade was bubbling and foaming. He tried to yank it back out of the ground as quickly as possible.

   Kytharrah looked at his axe. The cutting edge was flattened and distorted and still foaming. Perplexed, Kytharrah rushed away. Another yard-long pseudopod lashed out, but Kytharrah was too quick for it. Before the pseudopod could recede back into the puddle, it was splattered apart by three simultaneous arrows. The ooze, whatever it was, stopped moving after that.

   "I will not be recovering those arrows," said Leokas.

   "Good, you are here," said Szordrin. He had come around the corner, looking for them, while they waited for the trash monster to taste the water again.

   "We think that we found a way for all the water here to exit," he explained to them. "It might be a way out for us as well."

   They followed the wizard around into the large chamber with the pool. As they walked over the metal grating, Szordrin explained to them the situation. Kytharrah looked at the ruined blade of one side of his axe, still confused as to what had just happened. At least the other side was still sharp.

   When they joined with Hakam and Martho in the alcove, the monster was submerged again, except for its single eye tentacle, with which it continued watching them. Szordrin explained how he planned to magically suggest that the monster move somewhere else.

   "Then what?" asked Barth, whom they had rescued. "What is this monster blocking?" He seemed unnerved by the brown leaf shape with two eyeballs in it that was poking out of the murky water and staring at him.

   "Martho told us that the sewage is vented into wildspace," said Hakam. "I suggest that we go down the drain and let it take us outside the asteroid."

   "Yes, we do vent our sewage, but...."

   "Smells bad!" said Kytharrah.

   Barth nodded.

   "How do we know that any of us will fit through the drain?" asked Solisar. "Or more importantly, Kytharrah?"

   "I saw the opening with my magic," said Hakam. "It was about five feet in diameter. He could fit."

   "Perhaps those manhole covers that I found are another way out," suggested Szordrin.

   "I think that we should explore more before we resort to flushing ourselves out with the waste!" said Solisar.

   Hakam turned toward the eyestalk and spoke to it. "Monster, where does this drain take the water? Does it lead outside?"

   Barth jumped back, bumping into Belvin, as the creature's mouth raised up out of the water and bared its teeth to speak. "It goes away."

   "I am not one of the maintenance workers," said Barth, "but I know that we vent our waste into wildspace. The sewage probably falls down to the gravity plane and then flows out of the asteroid. I never stopped to think about where we get our fresh water...."

   "How long is the drop?" asked Hakam.

   "We came down one level, so we are five stories above the gravity plane now," said Barth.

   "Ask it if there are other exits beside the drain," said Solisar.

   "How you get here?" asked the monster. "I not fit out any holes here," it added.

   "Then how did you get in here to begin with?" asked Martho.

   "My home!" said the monster, as if that answered the question.

   Szordrin once again repeated the idea of examining the manhole covers, and Solisar suggested opening the gate that they had foubd. The monster then interrupted them. "Drink still tastes bad! I waited!" It was sounding rather grumpy now and began to rock back and forth.

   "The magic drink must only work for humanoids," Hakam tried to explain.

   "Okay," said the exceptionally gullible monster, "but still hungry." At least it stopped rocking.

   Kytharrah tossed some rations from his pack into the pool.

   The monster gobbled them down in one messy chomp, which almost splashed all of them. "Food disgusting! You try poison me!" Once again, it rocked back in forth, which seemed to be how its kind expressed displeasure.

   Kytharrah slouched his shoulder's feeling a bit dejected.

   "You, what is your name?" asked Hakam.

   "Barth, saer."

   "Barth, do you have any ideas what we can feed this thing?"

   "Well, this is a sewer; perhaps someone could just urinate in the water."

   Kytharrah and Belvin, both wearing kilts, each took a step closer to the water.

   "No! No!" The monster rocked back and forth. "That boring, every-day taste; want new and special taste. Give me new, good taste!"

   "We could feed it the dead ooze that we just killed," said Solisar.

   "Can you summon something dirty for it to eat, Belvin?" asked Hakam.

   Szordrin removed a vial from his potion belt and dumped a little bit into the water. "I have some of the werewolf blood," he explained to the others. "Let us try a little of that and see if it likes it."

   The monster slurped the area up. "Yum!" said the monster, now bouncing up and down as if its legs were made of springs. "What is it? It very yummy!"

   "Tell it that if it moves out of the way, we will give it the rest of it," said Hakam in a lower voice to the others.

   "Even if it moves," said Szrodrin, "how to we go through. It is a 50-foot drop!"

   "Yes," said Hakam, "but we will fall with the water and then hit a harmless gravity plane at the bottom."

   Few of the rest of them were keen on holding their breath long enough to get flushed down a drain with raw sewage to fall for five stories.

   "We need to get more of this yummy drink for you," said Szordrin to the monster. "We will be back in a short time."

   The monster continued to bounce, which they assumed meant that it was content for the time being and would not try to eat them.

   They began to head back along the grating to where the winch and ladder were.

   "We should split up," suggested Szordrin. "We have been wasting too much time finding a way out."

   "I do not think that it is wise to split up," said Leokas. "We know that there are acidic blobs around."

   Solisar warned the others, "They look like moving puddles of water. Be careful."

   They went to the gate first. It was locked with a padlock. Szordrin tried to pick it, but he failed.

   "Minotaur, bust it open."

   Kytharrah pounded it with a heavy blow and knocked it clean off its hinges.

   The tunnel behind the gate went through stone and led to a narrow metal platform. From the platform, they looked over at the waterfall of sewage. Up above about one story, where the dirty water poured over, they could see another metal platform, but they would need a ladder or something, placed at an angle, to get up there.

   So, they went carefully past the remains of the acidic ooze to the manhole cover that Szordrin had earlier found. (Kytharrah was still carrying one half of the gate with him, in case he needed to whack a monster with it.)

   Szordrin used his grappling hook like a crowbar to lift open the access cover, revealing another ladder going down into the darkness.

   "Who wants to go down?" asked Szordrin.

   Belvin climbed down the ladder with Kytharrah's everburning torch. It descended for about 20 feet. There was a small crawlspace at the bottom and he followed it for 30 yards or so. He shouted back what he could see and then began crawling forward. Leokas, having waited long enough to satisfy his superstition that going second could result in being killed by timed traps, followed down after his friend. At the end of the five-foot-diameter crawlspace, they found a large metal valve wheel. Leokas relayed this back to the others.

   They were in favor of turning the wheel to see what would happen. So, Belvin gripped it and slowly turned it clockwise. Within the tunnel they heard the sound of creaking to their left and the tunnel began to rumble.

   Belvin turned it is far as it could go. Leokas crawled back to see if the others could observe any change. The water was still pouring over the falls, which disappointed them. They couldn't yet notice any other changes.

   "Has the water level changed?" Szordrin asked, but this did not appear to be the case.

   "It may just be me," said Solisar, as he was looking around for a difference, "but I think that the current has changed somewhat. See, the current on that side is moving faster than the current on this side of the bridge."

   "Was the wheel turned to an intermediate setting when you found it?" asked Szordrin.

   "No, Belvin said that it was all the way on or off to begin," said Leokas.

   Upon exploring further, they found that the wheel had caused a sluice gate on one side of the large collecting pool to close, blocking the flow of the water into the pool from the one direction. This forced the water to flow along the other alternate path.

   "Presumably, there is another sluice gate on the other side," said Szordrin, "controlled by a wheel down the other manhole cover, but if we close both gates, the water will not be able to reach the drain, and then this whole sewer will flood."

   "But we did not close the drain," said Solisar. "If we close both gates, the water in the pool will drain, leaving an open exit tunnel."

   "The water level would begin to rise until it poured over the sluice gates to refill the pool," said Hakam.

   "We would have five feet of water level to work with before the water would overflow," said Solisar, looking down. "So, we would have a temporary window of time where we could exit through the drain, before the water would overflow over the gates. We can ensure the monster that its sewage will return shortly after we leave."

   "It does not sound like the smartest of creatures, though," said Hakam.

   "Is this monster even a threat to us," asked Leokas, "even if it does try to attack us?"

   "We can appease it by giving it the rest of the werewolf blood," said Solisar.

   "Yes, let us do that," said Szordrin.

   "I still say that we just go through the sewage and not risk angering this monster unnecessarily," said Hakam.

   Kytharrah shook his head. He had a hard time following most of the time when his little friends talked about plans, but he was relatively sure that Hakam was suggesting that they jump into a big toilet.

   "Do not you mages have cantrips that can clean us all off afterward?" asked Leokas.

   "In limited amounts, yes," said Solisar. "Presently, I would only have the arcane power to clean my own person."

   Leokas sighed. "I think that Hakam may be right. Time may be running out. Who knows what the neogi have already done here by now or how our sailors and our ship have fared. I think that we just need to overcome our emotions of disgust and jump in that pool."

   "If your concern, Hakam, is the monster's reaction," said Solisar, "let us just get it to move over to the other side of the gate and give it its 'snack'. We close the second gate while it is distracted, and even if it notices and is upset, it will not be able to come over to the other side until the water level rises high enough to refill the pool."

   At last, they had a solution that satisfied all of them.

   They set their plan in motion. Szordrin talked the monster into following him into the tunnel and around the U-turn all the way up to the metal drawbridge, where it could not see the sluice gates or the pool. Then he offered it the rest of the werewolf blood as a reward, in small samples to buy them as much time as possible.

   Meanwhile, Belvin, down the second manhole cover, turned the wheel that they expected to find there. Sure enough, a second sluice gate closed. Now, the water had no where to go and began to rise on one side of the gates, as the waterfall continued to pour. They all rushed to the pool and watched as it drained, hoping that it would drain before the water on the other side of the two gates began to overflow.

   The monster seemed to have enjoyed its treat and did not seem to be making any efforts to follow them or worse.

   A stone "ramp" descended down from the alcove where the monster kept its recovered trinkets, so they all could easily walk down to the drain hole, just as the last of the dirty water poured out. The rocky bottom of the pool was dirty and slippery, but less so than they might have expected, perhaps because the monster had scraped any "food" from the surface of its pool with its scraping tentacles. It was still going to be a gross plan of escape, but at least the sewage wouldn't be going into their ears and nose and threatening them with the potential for disease.

   "Hey!" said the monster. They turned back and saw its two eyeballs raised over the sluice gate. "Where my water?" It was time to go.

   Hakam sat at the edge of the drainage hole and then dropped himself in, falling slowly by the power of his magic ring. He descended 50 feet to emerge out of the ceiling of a circular tunnel, about 15 feet in diameter. He stopped falling in the center of the tunnel and floated there in open air, almost as if he were floating in water.

   By the light of his glowing shield, he could see ahead of him that the tunnel indeed seemed to open into the blackness of space, about 40 feet ahead, and he was bobbing and drifting toward it. Spinning himself around, using his arms and legs to get momentum, he saw, also about 40 feet away, a round metal hatch with a wheel for opening it.

   He needed to be able to reach something to stop from drifting out too quickly. He clutched his holy symbol and prayed. Now, he was able to stand on air as if it were solid ground, and he stopped drifting.

   Solisar appeared, using his flying spell to descend in a controlled manner and hover beside Hakam.

   One by one, all the others plummeted down the shaft, entering the air-filled tunnel, slowling suddenly upon crossing the opposing gravity beyond the gravity plane, and striking (safely) the bottom of the tunnel to spring back.

   "Praise Celestian!" said Barth. "I am still alive."

   "We are on the same level as our ship now," said Hakam. "Do we go outside and try to move around the asteroid? or do we try to pass through that hatch? Martho or Barth, do you know where that round door leads?"

   "If we are at the gravity plane," said Barth, "it may enter the shipping facility."

   "The company is run from the upper half of the asteroid," said Martho. "The lower half is the warehouse and the production chambers."

   "There is a central shaft through the entire warehouse half of the asteroid," continued Barth. "When orders are being filled, crates are dropped down the shaft to the gravity plane and floated out to the docks to be shipped."

   "Does the warehouse area connect to the corporate offices?" asked Hakam.

   "Not directly," said Barth. "The only entrance to the headquarters is from the stairwell running up from the docks."

   "The ones that I led you up," said Martho.

   "So, there is a chance that the invaders will not be in the warehouse and shipping areas," suggested Hakam, "at least not more likely than anywhere else in the asteroid. Although, they can tunnel...."

   "The alternative is climbing or dragging ourselves along half the circumference of the asteroid while in the gravity plane," said Solisar. "It is a large asteroid. I can fly, but there are eight of us."

   "It is for certain the more direct path to go through the door," said Hakam, "but is it the safest?"

   "The water is going to pour over the gates soon," said Belvin. "We need to move before sewage starts coming down on our heads."

   "And we need to get to the ship before the invaders do, if it is not already too late," said Solisar. "I can fly to ship around the asteroid and have it come around."

   "If it has not already been boarded," said Hakam.

   "Yes, it is a risk," said Solisar. "We have our sending stone; why did we not use it yet?"

   The sun elf sent a brief message to Oma, who kept the sister stone.

   There was no reply.

   "Our ship must indeed be boarded already;" he said to the others. "We should go through the center."

   They flew, walked on air, or used the stone walls of the carved tunnel to drag themselves along to the circular hatch. It was on the bottom side of the gravity plane, so they also flipped themselves upside down.

   Behind them, water began to pour out of the ceiling — which from their new perspective was now the floor. It was a strange sight to see the water pooling together and floating in nothing. It was coming toward them. Belvin grabbed the wheel and gave it a quarter turn, unlatching it. They pushed the door open and climbed through.
Session: 107th Game Session - Wednesday, Mar 13 2019 from 11:30 PM to 2:30 AM
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Chapter 1 — Umber Hulks
Kytharrah bounded into the hall and turned his head quickly to look in both directions. In both directions, the minotaur saw a hulking, black and brown insectoid creature, as large as a gorilla, not skinny and lanky like the bouncers at the Port Hole but with thick, round, beetle-like exoskeletons. Further down the hall, the one creature had clearly just crashed through the brick wall and was shaking the dust and rubble from its body. Up the hall, from the way that they had earlier come, the second monster held a human in its grip. Before Kytharrah could make a move, he saw the gruesome sight of the human being ripped in half like a sack of thin cloth.

   The monster dropped the gory halves of what was once a person and clicked its enormous mandibles together. It seemed to have two sets of eyes, two large compound eyes like those flies that annoyed Kytharrah so much. These were mostly on the side of its head. In the center of the head was another pair of tiny black eyes.

   Kytharrah heard the one behind it lumbering toward him, but he was much faster. He lowered his head and horns and charged forward like a raging bull toward the one that had just killed the poor human. His horns gored into the thick exoskeleton of the monster, puncturing a deep hole. Green hemolymph began oozing out. The monster made an earthy growl, and its giant mandibles vibrated rapidly with a whirring sound, just missing the top of Kytharrah's head as he rose himself up to a defensive stance on his hooves.

   "Rightly terrifying!" said Martho. "Rightly terrifying. Get a hold of yourself, Martho! Plan something!"

   Leokas and Belvin poked their heads into the hall, seeing the massive, chittering, insectoid aberrations. They had two different sets of eyes. (This reminded Belvin of some spiders.) One pair was compound, the other was simple.

   Both elves stood at the doorway ready to defend.

   Back in the hall, Kytharrah felt a funny feeling in his head as the monster looked him in the eyes. (The two were almost exactly the same height.) It then slashed out at him with the claws at the end of its bulky, armored forearms. Kytharrah dodged the slash from its left arm, but the right claws took a tuft of fur from his arm.

   Kytharrah snorted and swung his axe. The monster rose its arm to defend, but the axe splintered its armor, and a sizeable chunk of chitin clattered to the floor. On the back swing, Kytharrah's axe dragged against the ceiling, giving his hulking opponent time to avoid the second blow. Then came another strike from the minotaur's horn, and now green ooze was spurting out of its other forearm.

   Back at the door, the second umber-colored monster came into view. It swung a bulky arm at Leokas, but he was protected by the corner of the door frame. Wood splintered as the monster struck it. Hakam saw a chaotic aura with his divinely affected vision. Sensing no caution from his phylactery, he shouted out, "Feel order's wrath, space monster!"

   Blue-violet beams of energy slashed in orthogonal directions across the bipedal insect, scorching its exoskeleton. It seemed to stand there wobbling, its mandibles twitching every few seconds.

   Leokas spun around and launched three arrows simultaneously from his bow at the creature's head. It instinctively rose its thick arms to defend itself. An arrow deflected harmlessly from the armor of each arm, but the third punctured the monster's skull, directly between its two black simple eyes, going deep into its head. It gurgled something that might have been a language and stumbled back against the wall, jerking as if it were being electrocuted, likely from having a shaft of wood embedded in its brain.

   Hakam took this opportunity to squeeze past the others into the hall and by the dying but still not dead hulk with the arrow in its head. He saw Kytharrah's opponent slash and snap at the minotaur. Kytharrah knocked away one claw but stumbled back from two other blows. Hakam saw red blood splatter on the floor.

   "Quick, help me move this desk in the back!" Martho yelled at Szordrin at the back of the room. "There is a sewer access point underneath. We can escape!" Szordrin obeyed and started shoving the desk.

   "You go!" shouted Leokas, as he grabbed another arrow from his quiver and spun back around to take partial cover from the door frame. "We shall stay and defend." Next to him, Solisar rushed up. A strange square-shaped blue field of force floated in front of him, looking like liquid sapphire.

   "Gainful ratty governor!" shouted Belvin, but he just stood there by the door.

   "What are you saying, friend?" Leokas said. Then he spun around again with his bow, taking aim at the dying monster in the hall to finish it off.

   Before he could take the shot, however, Belvin slashed at him with his scimitar. "The cherries are not finished yet!" he screamed in anger.

   Leokas dodged the unexpected attack and jumped back. "Belvin, it is I. What is wrong with you?"

   Out in the hall, Hakam was also shouting again. "Feel order's wrath!" Searing beams of violet appeared, caging in Kytharrah's foe. The now-sizzling beetle-like creature wobbled and turned sideways, its arms hanging limply to drag on the floor. Kytharrah's axe came down with full force, splitting the monster almost in two. Its back shell cracked and fell nearly off, and buckets-full of green fluid splashed unto the floor in a gory mess.

   Martho had the grate open and was crawling down a ladder. He shouted back at Leokas. "This will not be the only two! The neogi never have only two."

   Just then, the brain-impaled hulk stumbled through the doorway, zombie-like, and inadvertently kept Belvin from slashing at his friend again. From the back, Szordrin sent bursts of force over the shelves and across the room. There was an awful crunching sound, as the monster's chest cavity imploded. It fell forward to the ground and began to ooze insect blood.

   Belvin tried to move around the large body toward Leokas, a crazed look in his eyes. Solisar darted around behind Belvin, and the blue shield of force kept itself between the two of them. "Hakam! We have a problem with Belvin," he relayed to their cleric.

   Hakam stepped back and saw immediately that Belvin was under some magical compulsion. "Kytharrah," he called up the hall, calling him by his name for perhaps the first time, "come grab Belvin!" He held his holy symbol toward Belvin and ordered him to calm his anger, but there seemed to be no effect.

   The minotaur came bounding back, and Hakam stepped aside to make room for him. His long, hairy arms were around the wild elf in moments, and despite Belvin's thrashing, he was unable to get away.

   Solisar cautiously stepped into the hall. Seeing both creatures dead, he scanned the area for invisible creatures. He saw nothing, but his elven ears could hear more screams and commotion back in the direction of the open office space. He looked back at Belvin. There was an aura of magic around him. Solisar waved his hands and called on arcane power to free his friend of confusion.

   "Belvin, do you know where you are?" asked Leokas. "What is the name of your camel?"

   But Belvin continued to struggle against Kytharrah's grapple. "Let me free! Let me...!"

   Kytharrah squeezed more tightly, silencing him. Hakam began preaching to him about the sin of anger, and Sordrin tied a second time to dispel the magic. Finally, Belvin calmed, and Kytharrah let him speak. "Why are you holding me?"

   "Let him go," said Solisar. "He is freed, but others are in danger. I hear more of the monsters. Do not look into their eyes; avoid that at all costs!" He began to move down the hall, with his liquid force shield in front of him.

   Hakkam looked toward the back of the room. Martho and Szordrin were gone, but he saw Solisar already committed to helping any others. "This is not our business," said Hakam. "We have what we came for, and we did our part to protect Martho. Come, let us follow him and escape."

   Belvin, while no longer under any magical enchantment, was still too confused to have an opinion on the matter.

   Solisar paused. "Our ship is also in this direction, is it not?"

   "Our guide knows another way out," Hakam protested.

   While the others argued about the correct course of action, Kytharrah returned to where he slaughtered the one giant beetle-monster and gently picked up the two halves of the torn human, bringing them back to Hakam.

   "Fix, like little sister?" he asked, referring to how Hakam had once restored Cassiera to life after a bearded devil had gutted her.

   Leokas looked to the cleric, wondering how he would respond to this moral quandary. He knew that they now had the diamond dust and the divine power to bring the victim back, but it would take great time and resources.

   "The gods have a plan that is beyond mortal understanding," said Hakam. "I cannot interfere in matters of life and death, except where Anachtyr directs me. Besides, even I cannot bring someone back whose body has been so terribly mutilated."

   Leokas seemed satisfied with Hakam's answer.

   "Death is the way of nature," said Belvin, seeming to agree with Hakam on this rate occassion.

   "I am more concerned with helping those who may still be living," said Solisar, "who may not be living for much longer if we tarry here!"

   Hakam frowned at this statement, but Solisar placed his hand upon Leokas' shoulder.

   "Come, let us protect those in the other room."

   Leokas nodded and headed out the door with Solisar. Belvin, too, followed. Kytharrah gently set the broken body down and patted Hakam on the head. Hakam sighed, but he reached out and touched the minotaur, magically closing his bleeding wounds, before Kytharrah went after the elves.

   They carefully moved down the hall, as quickly as they could. It was impossible to avoid stepping in the pool of sticky green and red blood, which had mixed together into brown swirls. The sight and smell of the gore was enough to make them all retch.

   By now, much of the noise seemed farther away, but there were still clear sounds of moaning ahead and some chittering. Kytharrah moved into the lead, and Solisar made sure to keep checking behind them.

   Kytharrah's ears perked up as he heard the loud sound of chitinous steps approaching. He peeked around the corner and saw another monster coming. The minotaur lunged back, just in time to avoid the full force of the creature's swing around the corner. The claw still snagged him in the arm, cutting him.

   Kytharrah stepped out and began swinging and goring. Solisar let loose five magical force projectiles. Leokas moved to the wall and launched several arrows, amazingly aiming underneath Kytharrah's arms and striking true. The heavily wounded monster fought back, but it only could manage one more solid blow against Kytharrah, while chittering with its ferocious-looking mandibles. The claw attack cut a slit through Kytharrah's magic leather armor, but he seemed to be standing his ground.

   There was a cracking, rumbling sound behind them, and suddenly, a second monster burst through the wall, its mandibles vibrating back and forth so rapidly that they were a blur. Solisar spun around in reflex, and accidentally looked into the black eyes of the new opponent. He felt a strange feeling in his head, but his sapphire screen flashed before him, just as a clawed "hand" swung at him. The force field held back most of the force of the swing, but the edge of one claw gashed across Solisar's forehead, and the elf felt blood drip down into his right eye.

   Belvin gave a tribal holler, and a column of ice erupted from the floor to the ceiling, filling the whole hallway, knocking back the burrowing monstrosity from Solisar by about ten feet and barricading the hall. "Do not look at me, bug! Not again!"

   "Thank you, my friend!" said Solisar, turning to put distance between him and the ice column, for they could already hear the creature chiseling rapidly away at the ice with its vibrating mandibles.

   At the corner, Kytharrah smashed his foe with another solid blow, as Leokas drew another arrow. The monster stumbled back. Solisar rushed up, drew a wand from its sheath, and waved it. The thing's head imploded, and its lifeless shell of chitin clattered to the ground like a suit of armor. Solisar continued past around the corner and into the hallway. Leokas was just behind him, arrow nocked and ready to free.

   The hallway was clear until where it opened into the large workspace. All that they could see was a chaos of shattered furniture and at least one still body in the middle of the floor.

   Belvin appeared beside Leokas. "How long does your spell last?" the wood elf asked.

   "Until it melts, I suppose," said Belvin, "but it is going to gnaw its way through in about ten more seconds."

   Leokas stepped back into the corner, and pointed his arrow toward the ice. "Solonor have mercy on his insectoid soul," he prayed, "and guide my shot."

   Ice shards began falling from the column.

   "Help me!" came a weak voice from the hole in the wall where the one monster had tunneled through.

   "We have a survivor," said Belvin.

   Kytharrah rushed over to the hole and poked his head through. He recognized that this was once one of the wings of the large workspace that they had earlier passed through. There were overturned desks and splintered wooden dividers scattered about chaotically. He saw blood and bodies and body parts but no one living.

   "Minotaur, the ice!" Leokas warned. What remained of the summoned column looked like it was about to crumble apart allowing the digger on the other side through. They could see its hulking from through the thinning ice. Kytharrah took a defensive posture and gulped down one of those tasty drinks that made his cuts go away. Belvin squeezed past Kytharrah and through the hole in the wall.

   With a crack, the ice shattered and clattered to the floor. As soon as the monster appeared, magic missiles of force shot forth from Solisar's fingertips. Leokas released his arrow. Once again, the arrow punctured the monster's skull between the eyes. The creature danced about wildly. It managed to strike Kytharrah with one more desperate blow before the minotaur stuck it with a final swing and dropped it.

   In the room on the other side of the wall, Belvin searched among the carnage for the source of the cry for help. He located the worker hiding behind one of the sideways desks. He was an older gentleman, and his arm had been severed off at the elbow.

   Belvin crouched down and laid his hands on the man. The worker looked on in shock as the spurting blood stopped and skin formed rapidly around the stump. "You healed me!" he exclaimed. "I..., I have never felt better!"

   "I will get your arm," Belvin said.

   The man looked down at his healed stump and over at his severed forearm and just stared at Belvin confused, as the elf picked up the fallen body part.

   The man crawled through the wall into the hall. "Thank you! Thank you!" He was nearly crying. Belvin followed immediately behind him, carrying the bloody arm.

   "Are there others living?" they asked him.

   "I do not know," said the man.

   Belvin shook his head.

   "There are clearly more of the monsters," said Solisar. "They can tunnel through the walls, and we were almost surrounded. I hate to say it, but I do not think that there is much more that we can do. We should get back to the others and to the ship. All that remains here is devastation."

   "Kytharrah, carry him," said Belvin.

   Before the man could protest, Kytharrah scooped him up in both arms.

   They all hurried back down the hall to the receipt room.

   "Where are you taking me?" asked the man. "They caved in all the exits. There was nowhere for us to flee while they slaughtered us."

   "Go to friend," said Kytharrah.

   "We know an exit through the sewer system," explained Solisar.

   The man seemed content with this answer.

   They reached the ladder and one by one climbed down into what they hoped was safety.
Session: 106th Game Session - Wednesday, Sep 12 2018 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Chapter 1 — Void Scavver
Back at the docks, Szordrin, Jayce, Nargroth, Oma, and Kytharrah arrived, bringing with them both Martho, from the Interlink Consortium, and the simian sailor, whose name they learned was Bansh. They had made a quick stop at Martho's apartment in Low City for him to grab some maps first, but otherwise took the same route back as they come to get to the Interlink Consortium store.

   As they passed through the crowds of sailors and dockworkers, they noticed a new vessel now tied off there, a metal and wooden conglomeration with towers, steampipes, and massive waterwheels on each side. A crowd of gnomes were leading four monstrous-sized hamsters off the vessel, each larger than brown bears.

   "Giant hamsters?" asked Jayce, who still looked like a drow.

   "Giant space hamsters," corrected Bansh. "They make tasty sandwiches!"

   Martho explained things a bit more. "It is how the gnomes at least partially power their spelljammers, instead of using sails or wings, but they still have helms, too. I do not pretend to understand it." Martho shrugged. "That is gnomes for you!"

   When they reached the Frihet, they found Ombert deep in conversation with some men on the docks. They overheard him discussing how he might sell their Lantanese clockwork toys and smokepower for profit. They waited for the men to leave and then were welcomed back by their ship's Captain. Upon spotting Jayce, Ombert had a sudden look of fear or discomfort.

   "Good Captain, it is only I, noble Jayce," explained the drow.

   "Oh, yes, Jayce, I did not...," said Ombert.

   "I know! I am barely recognizable in this new outfit that I purchased at market, no?"

   Martho did not seem to suspect anything, thankfully, but Szordrin quickly changed the topic to their next plans. "Hakam and the elves will be back shortly, but they are running some side errands. We found someone who can guide us to the Interlink Consortium Corporate Asteroid. How soon can we set out?"

   "Now? Seriously?" asked Ombert. "How long is the voyage?"

   Szordrin looked back at Martho. The cloaked man answered, "How long? Oh, almost no time at all. It is in the Tears. Perhaps an hour, tops. The trick is navigating from rock to rock correctly to find the right one. Its location is not on any commonly sold maps."

   Ombert shook his head in surprise. "I am never going to get used to how things work in wildspace! To think that one would leave for a second destination in the very same day!"

   "I know! I love the Sea of Night!" exclaimed Nargroth.

   "Even so, I will not be able to take you anywhere for a while;" Ombert said, "I have to finish setting up a vendor's booth in the market. The men that you just saw me speaking with will be returning in a few hours to finalize some details with me. However, the ship is emptied of cargo, except that your mounts are still onboard, and we paid the berthing fees, so I could send her with Loreene in command and most of the rest of the crew, if you are in that big of a hurry."

   At this point, Ombert slowed his speech a little, having noticed the upright baboon with droopy skin standing there. Bansh stepped forward and introduced himself with a bow, extending one of his wing flaps like one might bow with a cape. "Bansh nee Rainbowchild, at your service," the creature said.

   "At my service, eh?"

   "He wants to join our crew," said Oma.

   Ombert yelled up at one of the sailors, who was working at the railing. "Frath, did everyone return yet?"

   "Nay, Cap'n. Patrik and Shemus came back just before the Mis..., just before our passengers, but Gorji still isn't here."

   "Well, Bansh, is it? It seems one of our crew could not count his hours, so Tymora may have smiled on you. What can you do?"

   "I grew up on deck, Captain. I can do almost any task that you ask of me, but I am no cook nor can I navigate."

   "Stern sails?"

   "Since I was four years old!"

   "I shall let you work with Loreene's crew on this short jaunt out and back, as a test, and if she likes what she sees, I shall consider taking you on for the long haul. Fair?"

   "It is most fair, Captain!" said Bansh, bowing again. "I thank you. It will be a pleasure to serve." The simian hurried aboard the vessel.

   "He did not even ask what I pay," Ombert said in a low voice. Then he yelled up to Frath again. "Frath, set this one to work with Guttar." Frath nodded.

   "Gorji is missing?" asked Jayce. "Do you think that he was kidnapped? Should we go looking for him?"

   "It has only been five hours," said Ombert. "He is very late, but I am sure that he just had too much fun on shore."


   Everyone else also boarded the vessel, and Solisar began to look over the Martho's map of the Tears with him.

   An hour later, when Hakam and the elves returned, Gorji was still absent. Ombert was more angry than concerned, but Hakam offered to pray for the means to locate him in the morning.

   "That will also give him time to show up," said Solisar.

   "I do not know...," said Jayce. "This worries me."

   The sailors, however, shared Ombert's lack of concern. "He never really loved the sea enough to be a sailor anyhow," said Bollus, a young and bald crewmember from Calimshan with a dragon turtle tattooed on his back.

   "Probably found a pretty spurnarmor at a festhall and lost track of time," said Brad.

   "You always suspect a conspiracy, Jayce," said Leokas.

   "And I was correct the last time that I did, was I not?"

   "Forget about the missing sailor for now," said Szordrin. "Let me tell you what Martho explained to us about the rod of retracing. He said that the it was not a normal rod of retracing but rather a rod of intraplanar retracing. The rod would have functioned somewhat differently than we were told in the store. It still locked onto 'residual threads' in the Astral Plane and could then be used as a spell focus, but it did not retrace to the last cosmological plane that the target was on; rather, it retraced to the last gravity plane of the target within the same plane of existence, whether that be a planet, a worldlet, or even the deck of a spelljammer. This all means that the murdered started from somewhere in our own plane of existence, somewhere in Realmspace."

   "Realmspace is still very, very big," said Oma.

   "Would such a rod give further information beyond that?" asked Hakam.

   "As far as I understood it," replied Szordrin, "it could place you anywhere on the gravity plane, so let us hope that your target was on a small worldlet like the Rock of Bral and not on a full-sized planet like Toril. We still would need to know how the murderer found out that my master was in the Underdark."

   "How expensive is such a rod?" asked Hakam. "Do we know?"

   "We asked him that, and he said about 500 platinum trade bars."

   One of the nearby sailors nearly choked upon hearing the sum.

   Loreene came up to them. "Are you ready to head out, gang?" She already had her vest on that she always wore over her bandeau when it was her turn in command.

   They nodded. "If possible, we hope to be able to return back to the Rock to find an inn before nightfall," said Solisar, "assuming nightfall is even a thing on the Rock."

   "It must be," said Nargroth, "can you not tell that the Rock is revolving? The sun has moved, just like it would have on Toril."

   "You are right, Nargroth. Indeed, it has. At about the same rate as on Toril too, I think."

   "Well, let us sail, then!" said Loreene to the adventurers. "It is a good thing that I held back at the bar with Gren; no one told me that we would be setting sail again so quickly! But, I'm happy to take you where you need to go."

   As they waited for the sailors to untie the vessel from the dock, Szordrin asked Martho a question. "Are fires forbidden on the Interlink Asteroid?"

   "Generally, that rule is held on any small worldlet, yes."

   Jayce took the spelljamming helm again, since it was still linked to him from in the morning. Loreene assigned Rimardo, the Turmish fellow with dreads, as pilot. Solisar and Martho stood behind Rimardo at the map table and prepared to guide the Frihetfrom asteroid to asteroid in the cluster. Loreene began to issue commands to her fellow sailors, and soon, they were rising from the docks at the edge of the Rock of Bral and into the black sky of wildspace.

   Martho would explain to Solisar and Rimardo to which asteroid they should point next, Rimardo would issue commands for heading, which would be relayed, and the sailors would adjust the sails, pointing the spelljammer toward the destination, which was often invisible at such a distance. Then word would be relayed down to Jayce in the forecastle and almost instantly the rocky form of a small asteroid would be some hundred yards in front of the ship. Most of these asteroids were very tiny as far as asteroids go, some only hundreds of yards across.

   When they were about half way to the Consortium's headquarters, Szordrin, who was standing at the port-side railing of the main deck, was enjoying the view. Suddenly, from somewhere below the boat, a 20-foot-long, jet-black form emerged. Szordrin found his head and upper body held sideways in the gaping maw of some creature and felt countless teeth puncturing the flesh of his shoulders and upper chest and back. He struggled with his partly free right hand to press against the monster's pointed snout, which felt like sandpaper. His body went into so much shock, that he did not even feel the pain of the bite.

   Kytharrah spun around, hearing Szordrin's yell. He saw what could best be described as a black cyclopean shark, seemingly able to swim through empty space. Szordrin's entire head was currently in the beast's mouth. The minotaur bounded over and grabbed the "shark's" snout and lower jaw, struggling to pry open the mouth, but even Kytharrah was not strong enough to force the clamp open.

   Leokas launched a volley of arrows from the forecastle into what he hoped was the creature's vital organs.

   "Positively terrifying!" exclaimed Martho. He rose from the map table and covered his eyes. Oma gasped. Solisar looked over. The space shark's body was easily three times as thick as a man's. Its single eye strangely glowed. Solisar's magical vision showed an aura around the whole body as well. He rushed down the starboard steps from the sterncastle, extracting a bit of licorice root from his pouch as he descended. Several standing around him felt a sudden surge of energy and motion, but this transmutation magic was not soon enough for his friend.

   Szordrin continued to struggle, but to no avail. "Ormur!" he shouted, hoping to summon their magic rope from within its pack. The black, one-eyed shark opened its jaw rapidly, surprisingly wide, and its teeth jerked forward before the wizard could respond. In about three seconds, Szordrin's entire body was gulped into the beast's mouth.

   Szordrin was gone.

   Belvin appeared beside Kytharrah and laid hands on him. A surge of strength rushed through the minotaur, but the minotaur had no idea what to do. The monster had just eaten his friend! Belvin began screaming threats and obscenities at the beast in Sylvan, commanding it to spit out his companion. Leokas continued to shoot arrows, now aiming for the shark's tail so as not to also strike his swallowed friend.

   The sailors only just recognized what was happening and began screaming out, "Shark!" Nargroth roared in rage and charged down the steps from beside Oma to the main deck, but he could not reach the shark-like creature in time. It lifted its large head from the railing and was turning in space, about to "swim" away.

   From the top of the mizzen-mast, Bansh dove down recklessly, wings extended and cutlass drawn. He struck the side of beast, slashing its flesh open behind its tail fin, but the four-inch deep gash was not even enough to draw blood. Bansh continued to shoot past the shark into the reverse gravity below the ship's central plane.

   "Man overboard!" shouted Rimardo.

   Hakam burst through the port-side door from the forecastle, having no idea what the commotion was outside on the deck. Seeing a massive shark directly in front of him, he called on power from Anachtyr and boldly pressed his open hand against the shark's side. Black, crackling energy spread through the monstrous shark's body, and it twitched and writhed, but it was still not dead. Only then did Hakam seem to process how large and dangerous his opponent seemed. He stumbled against the railing and grabbed hold tightly.

   The shark flapped its tail to jet away from the side of the ship, but it was pummeled by two blasts of force from one of Oma's spells. It rolled to the side a bit, giving Kytharrah clear access to its thick neck.

   Hasted by Solisar's magic, and strengthened by Belvin's spell, he drove his blade down with great speed and power. The first swing opened up its neck, spraying blood on everyone nearby. The eerie glow in its one eye immediately faded, but not before Kytharrah could stop his second swing, which almost entirely cut the shark's head off.

   The massive, limp form of the beast slapped against the side of the ship and then tumbled. Bobbing in the gravity plane, it began to drift away, but Bansh, also bobbing, grabbed its tail and heaved it back. He reached his hand into the exposed gullet of the shark and tugged an unconscious Szordrin from the creature, covered in vile ooze. Gore and mostly digested bits from earlier meals now floated out of the shark's body to spread out over the invisible gravity plane.

   Sailors and adventures all hurried to help get the bodies of Szordrin and the shark back onto the ship, and they tossed ropes out to Bansh.

   "That was verifiably terrible!" exclaimed Martho.

   Belvin and Hakam were both examining Szordrin on the deck. "He still has a pulse," Belvin said. Oma gasped in relief.

   The druid neutralized the poison that Szordrin had inadvertently ingested, while the cleric used his magic to close the multiplicity of dagger-like bite wounds.

   Szordrin came to consciousness and coughed up a mess of stomach acid from the shark. Thankfully, his fiendish blood granted him magical protection from many acids, granting him the few more seconds that his teammates had needed to free him.

   "Is this dinner?" asked Kytharrah.

   "Might not be safe to eat, my man," said Diero, another Turmish man.

   "Certifiably not!" said Martho.

   "No, I have eaten void scavver meat," said Bansh. "It is not as delicious as night scavver meat, but it is still delicious."

   "A scavver?" asked Belvin and Solisar together.

   "The smaller ones are just annoying scavengers," said Bansh, "but these kind are person-eaters. All scavvers hang around the air envelopes of small wildspace objects, hitching rides on passing vessels. The small ones are actually nice for tossing waste out to, and the night scavvers are, as I said, delicious, but these big ones,..." He didn't finish his thought.

   Szordrin stood silent, still in shock, as the others discussed eating the monster that had so nearly eaten him. Belvin finished decapitating the scavver, and more of its stomach contents oozed out. There was something shiny there. Out of habit, he swiped it. It was coin. He wiped the poisonous goo off and saw a woman's face on the coin. The iconography looked familiar. He went below deck without saying anything else to the others. He had a lot to think about.
Session: 105th Game Session - Wednesday, Aug 22 2018 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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Chapter 1 — The Port Hole
"What did you think of the new spell I have been working on," asked Jayce, still in disguise as a drow elf as they all left the "flagship store" and turned left onto Wasp Street. "It enhances my glibness not a small amount, if I may say so for myself."

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

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

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

   "...it would be considered stealing," finished Hakam.

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

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

   Szordrin shook his head.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "When she was drunk, yes."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Bar fight!" shouted one of the dwarves.

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

   "Typical dwarves," muttered one of naval elves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Kytharrah happily rushed over and pinned Shemus in mere moments.

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

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

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

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

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

   Oma ceased her spell and moved toward Nargroth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   "Here! Here!" said the bar wench.

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

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

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

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

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

   They all heard a voice within their heads. I yield. You have my word.
Session: 104th Game Session - Wednesday, Jul 18 2018 from 11:00 PM to 2:00 AM
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