Part III of an open-ended, multi-setting, event-driven Forgotten Realms campaign

Per Multiversum continues the adventures of the eclectic band of "Misfits" who seem to have been chosen by the gods to stop the mysterious Samber, as they travel through the multiverse known and unknown in an attempt to complete their callings.

The adventure continues what began in Part I: Imago Deorum and continued in Part II: De Exilio.

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Chapter 3 — The Cormyrean Embassy in Wa
Back at the indoor garden, the group returned to Sofi and Belvin, each of whom seemed to have been meditating. After they informed their two companions of what they had learned, Jayce said that he thought it best that he remain with the Frihet. "With Wa as protective as it is of its borders and with the power of their spelljamming fleet, we cannot risk using our spelljammer to travel to Wa. That means that I need to pilot the ship and look after our crew, as before, while you are off adventuring. I need a backup pilot, so Oma will have to come along with me, and Nargroth is the ship's cook."

   "What will you be doing while we are gone?" asked Solisar.

   "I will not be staying on Toril, not while the dragons have collectively lost their minds. I am sure that I can keep Ombert interested in a trade route between Bral and the halflings of Anadia. Remember, they have a formula for smokepowder as well."

   "Could he maybe find a way to trade something other than weapons of war?" said Leokas.

   "Anadia had medications also; we could look into that."

   "Will it be bothersome if I continue to travel along with the rest of you to Wa?" asked Sofi.

   "Of course not," said Szordrin. She smiled.

   "You should know that Wa does not look favorably on women, Sofi," Jayce explained. "They consider it 'immoral' if a woman walks in front of any man, for example."

   "I can walk in the back," said Sofi. "It will not bother me."

   "You could wear the magic hat that Onran left behind," suggested Szordrin.

   "No, thank you. I must rely on the power of my patron only and not rely on magical items. I have taken a vow."

   "Having a woman in our party may be the least of our concerns," said Hakam. "I will be the only pure human, and I do not look Kara-Turan at all. We shall all stick out like an eyesore to the people of Wa. We shall have to hope that the queen mother's letter sways the shogun."

   "What do we have left to do here before we set off through the portal then?" asked Leokas.

   "I want to examine the portal with magic before we pass through," said Solisar, "and then I want to spend some time learning what I can of basic Wa-an grammar from Lord Dauntinghorn. He said that he would meet me here in the atrium in a quarter of an hour when he also brings the portal key and the queen's letter to us."

   "How long will that take?" asked Szordrin.

   "I only need about an hour, I suspect, to learn the basics."

   "You can learn a new language in one hour!" Sofi exclaimed.

   "Not the whole language, of course," said Solisar, "but enough."

   "While you are doing that," said Belvin, "perhaps Maru can answer some more questions about Wa, so that we are better prepared."

   "We need to sell the rest of the leucrotta bones, if we can, to that pawn broker we passed yesterday," said Szordrin. "I can take care of that while Solisar sees to the portal."

   "Do you still have your rod of sending?" asked Hakam of Jayce. "If so, perhaps you could see if you could arrange a meeting with Captain Grak at some place safer than the Nelanther Isles for when we return."

   "I can do that," said Jayce.

   "Do you think that you could also check in with Mythlos," said Solisar. "See how he fares in Tethyr's army and find out, if you can, if his sword has been acting strangely. I still suspect that Yashiera's prophecy about Eldenser may somehow relate to Mythlos' moonblade."

   Jayce nodded.

   "I also want to know about the safety of my mother," said Leokas, "and of Cassiera in the High Forest. I know that its trees hide the lairs of many great wyrms."

   "Consider it done," said Jayce. "I assume that you will use the sending stones to contact Oma or me when you need us to return to Suzail to retrieve you."

   "Yes," said Szordrin. "Also, can you check to see if the rod of retracing has been repaired by the Consortium. It seems to be taking an especially long time."

   Jayce agreed. Then, Lord Dauntinghorn appeared. He handed them an official letter, with the seal of the infant king and the signature of the queen mother, and a wooden token imprinted with the symbol of House Obarskyr, not surprisingly, a dragon.

   "Meet back here in two hours," said Solisar. "Will that give everyone the time that they need to be ready?" The plan seemed satisfactory, so they parted ways.

~~~~


The leucrotta skeletons sold for 2,500 golden dragons at the Ring of Coins, the pawnshop that they had passed the day prior. (They avoided purchasing the stool that folded up into a walking stick and dragon masquerade costume that were pushed on them.)

   Maru could not be found at the Dragon's Jaws. Milo said that he only ever came for the competitions at night.

   Meanwhile, Solisar was led to the portal. It was a massive magical gate, made of yellow brass, erected in a hard-to-find courtyard deep in the Royal Court complex. With a small crystal and mirror, Solisar used his magic to examine it. The portal was still active and stable. It functioned in both directions, provided that someone passing through it had the wooden portal token. Gazing into the mirror, he saw a large open porch of hardwood, then an overgrown garden in a sort of courtyard, lit by the dim light of late afternoon. He saw no one moving about on the other side; it seemed quiet, empty, and peaceful.

   Afterward, Lord Dauntinghorn took him to a government library, where he was shown a number of record books taken from the embassy in Wa when the diplomats were expelled three years ago. Solisar spent about an hour with Malark learning some of the more common symbols in the syllabary and going over basic pronunciation and common grammar rules. Despite his fluency in so many tongues, Solisar had never learned a language even distantly related to Wa-an. Wa-an was also unrelated to the Trade Tongue, the "Common" of Kara-Tur. Solisar was fascinated to learn that Wa-an was a member of the Han language family, along with Kozakuran and Koryo. Koryo had a very distinct vocabulary from Wa-an, but Malark said that Kozakuran and Wa remained similar enough that the two peoples could usually communicate without issue. The ancient Han people group had been the original settlers of the Koryo Peninsula in Kara-Tur, which was north of Wa and east of the great Ama Basin. Seafarers from Koryo were the ancestors of the modern Wanese and Kozakuran peoples.

~~~~

Kytharrah, Hakam, Szordrin, Solisar, Belvin, Leokas, Sofi, and their three animals stepped through the portal. They felt nothing; they simply found themselves in another place. The light was dimmer, the sun had already set, and crickets were starting their sounds. The air was also cooler. They were thousands of miles east of Cormyr now and hundreds of miles north.

   As Solisar had earlier seen in his magic mirror, they were standing in a wide covered porch. Wooden walls framed them on three sides. The massive magical gate of brass stood behind them atop a hardwood platform, which was itself atop a foundation of tiled stone. The ceiling was supported by seven thick wooden beams.

   Kytharrah sniffed the air and took in the scents of foreign flowers and plants, as they stepped forward. Surrounding the stone foundation was an outer porch of wood, about five feet wide, with slender beams supporting the roof above it. They looked out into an overgrown courtyard, about 60 feet square. The embassy complex, all constructed of wood, surrounded the courtyard on four sides, with an opening to the south. Two stone-paved paths intersected in the center of the courtyard, dividing it into four quadrants. The two northern quadrants each had a cluster of strange trees growing in a circular stone plot. The southeastern quadrant had a calm pool and boulder, while the southwestern quadrant had a bed of gray sand and large rocks. All around these intentionally arranged pieces of natural art were thick weeds and ferns.

   The narrow wooden porch or veranda extended around most of the complex and was raised off the ground by about a yard. In fact, the whole structure of the complex was elevated off the ground on stilts. Tiny red spherical objects, seemingly made of paper were hanging from the eaves of the roof all around the courtyard at the edge of the veranda.

   Two steps led from the porch down into the courtyard, and the group proceeded down them and began to spread out to look around. Looking up, they saw that the complex was two stories high. Curved, sloped, and tiled eaves between the two stories extended over the veranda, and the second story too was topped with a sloping roof of dark tile. The second story of the northern wing of the complex rose higher than the other three sides.

   "It certainly looks like no one has been here in three years," noted Hakam, observing all the untended plant growth.

   "I think that these are lanterns of paper," said Solisar, upon examining one of the red balls. It had a circular opening at the top, and there was wax inside at the base.

   Belvin continued across the courtyard and stepped up two steps to the porch on the other side. The door before him did not swing open; instead, it slid smoothly to the side, apparently hanging from a grooved railing above the frame on the inside. Within was a large room, 30 or 40 feet in length. There was no furniture in the room, but it had a square hole in the hardwood floor, lined with stone and filled with what appeared to be ash. The pit of ash was surrounded by a large floor mat. Hanging directly over the ash pit from the high, open-raftered ceiling was a chain with a hook at the end, perhaps for hanging something over burning coals. He noted that the only windows, paned with glass, faced into the courtyard.

   Szordrin followed behind Belvin. On the south wall, he moved aside another sliding door and entered into a long narrow room lined on both sides with book shelves. The shelves, however, were completely empty. The diplomats apparently took their books back with them to Cormyr but left the bookshelves behind.

   Belvin stepped back outside and crouched low to examine one of the plants. These were of a kind not known to him in any of his travels.

   Kytharrah wandered north up steps unto a porch and then slid aside another door to enter the northern wing of the complex. He entered a large chamber. There was a large, square mat in the center and two smaller square mats in the far corners. Eleven wooden beams supported a balcony that looked down on him from a second story above. A flight of wooden stairs on his left ascended up to it. Directly ahead of him, on the opposite wall, hung a large tapestry. It depicted knights and cats, and thus was unmistakably Cormyrean in origin. A hallway extended from the western and eastern walls each.

   Szordrin exited the left wing and followed the stone path south between the gap in the southern wing. Stone steps led him to a smaller lower courtyard. Two benches were here, one on each side of the path, which turned sharply to the left to pass through an opening in the stone wall that surrounded this smaller courtyard.

   Solisar, Hakam, Sofi, and Leokas still stood in the center of the courtyard, watching the other three move around. Leokas was looking up at the darkening sky. The brighter stars were beginning to show. "We should probably stay together as a group," cautioned Solisar, but his companions did not seem to heed this. Hakam strolled back to the east and walked south along the veranda. Solisar then himself went north to look after Kytharrah.

   Belvin walked along the narrow porch and opened another door into the western wing. This revealed a small room with another sunken hearth and chain with a mat around them.

   In the north wing, Solisar and Kytharrah found a number of small rooms, probably diplomatic offices, each with a floor mat and a small table that was low to the ground. Solisar examined one of the small rooms more carefully to ascertain if anything had been left behind, but there seemed to be nothing remaining but the mat and low table.

   Hakam found what was likely a kitchen in the southern corner of the eastern wing. Three kegs were left behind, but they were empty. A door in the back of this kitchen led to an outdoor well and more abandoned barrels.

   Szordrin passed out of the wall around the smaller courtyard to enter a space between inner and outer walls, a bailey. The wall behind him had a small tiled roof on the outer side, and the southern wall of the bailey was also roofed. The path split here, one branch passing through the eastern wall of the bailey and the other heading west. He followed the western path between the two walls and passed under a series of paper lanterns hanging from a rope to reach another courtyard. Among the thick weeds were three tiny structures, two shacks with thatched roofs and a stone object that looked like a giant lantern. The two shacks each had only three walls. A hole in the floor revealed them to be outhouses.

   Solisar climbed a set of steps at the southwest end of the veranda and found himself on a roofed balcony overlooking the large inner courtyard, where Leokas, Belvin, and Sofi were now standing with the wolf and the camel.

   Szordrin returned back to where the stone path split and passed out of the second wall into yet another courtyard. To his left, there was a statue of a Cormyrean knight. To his right was a gate house in the outermost walls.

   Coming from beyond the gatehouse, he heard voices. He crept closer to the gatehouse, making sure not to be seen, and peeked outside. He saw two guards. They were wearing a kind of armor that he had never seen before, with metal plates woven into the fabric. The armor had a back and chest piece and a skirt to protect the lower body. Their helmets were sloped and pointed and had horns. When one of the guards turned to speak to his companion, Szordrin saw that he wore a mask that covered his lower face and was crafted to look like the face of a devil or demon. Each warrior carried a long pole arm that looked like a staff with a slightly curved sword attached at the end. (The weapon reminded Szordrin of Kytharrah's new pole arm, but it was not the same.)

   Szordrin heard Hakam approaching from behind and made hand motions that two figures were nearby. Above them from the balcony, Solisar moved to the southern side of the complex and was able to see his two companions and the two guards on opposite sides of the small gatehouse.

   The others began making their way after Hakam and Szordrin. Szordrin began to cast a spell to comprehend languages, but Hakam pulled him back so that he would not be spotted.

   "Did you buy any fish at Northern Market yesterday?"

   "Yes, it was especially cheap."

   "Yes, it was. That was why I asked. The fishermen must have found a bountiful catch this tenday."

   "The sea gods are favoring us."

   "Yes, they have."

   Such was the boring conversation of the two guards, who then fell silent again.

   Hakam spoke to his companions as they gathered in the bailey. "I suggest that I go out and speak to the guards by magic and show them the queen's letter," he whispered.

   No one objected, so the Calishite carefully passed through the gatehouse. Usually, such a tiny building would have had a guard on each side of where the path passed between, but these posts were empty.

   Hakam readied himself and cleared his throat to get the guards' attention, as they were facing the other way, guarding from someone entering the complex, not trying to exit it.

   They spun around and lowered their weapons. "Halt!" they said, and Szordrin and Hakam's magics translated the word to their minds.

   Beyond the guards was a road moving east to west and on the other side a wooden wall with a sloped roof. To the east, the road passed under a red-painted, ornamental wooden gate and down a ramp to a lower part of the city.

   Hakam tried to calm the guards with his words. "I come with an official message for the shogun from the queen mother of the Kingdom of Cormyr. We have discovered information that your government may find useful, and we humbly request an audience. We intend to remain here in our embassy until our message can be delivered."

   The two guards glanced at one another with confusion in their eyes. "Was not the embassy empty?" "Where did they come from?"

   "The embassy was empty," said Hakam, "but we have traveled here by powerful magics."

   At this point, a peasant, pushing a wheelbarrow and heading home for the night, passed by on the street. One of the guards called out to him. "You there! Yes, you! Let go your wheelbarrow and come here."

   The poor man, looking terrified, immediately obeyed. "What did I do?"

   "Leave your things here and go, summon a messenger from the castle. Say that the bushi at the old embassy need a message delivered at once."

   "Yes!" said the man, and he rushed off.

   Then followed an awkward silence where the demon-masked guards stared at Hakam and said nothing.

   Five minutes passed, and a similarly armored man, though without a mask, ran up. Hakam held out the queen's letter to them. "The letter is written in the Common tongue of Faerûn," said Hakam. "Will that be a problem? I can dictate the message to you, if there is no translator to be found."

   "The palace will have a translator," replied one of the warriors. They took the letter and handed it to the third man, who turned and darted away. The peasant now arrived back at his wheelbarrow and kindly asked if he would be permitted to return to his home now. They gave their permission.

   "The shogun's ministers will respond when they will respond," one of the guards said to Hakam. "It is not permitted for foreigners to enter our city. You shall have to remain within until a reply comes to us in the morning."

   Hakam nodded. "We shall respect your laws. Be cautioned, however, that it is only by magic that I am able to speak your language now. Such powers of mine are fleeting. I may not be able to understand immediately if you summon us in the morning."

   The guards looked at each other and then one of them answered back. "We or someone else will be here at all hours. We shall not summon you; we shall wait for you to come out to us to see if a reply has been sent."

   "So that you are aware," said Hakam, "there are seven of us in total. All of us shall remain on the premises."

   The men at the gate nodded.

   Hakam returned to his companions. It was getting dark now. "We should rest for the night. We shall not have an answer until morning."

   "Should we set a guard?" asked Szordrin. "What if the shogun sends soldiers to take us by force?"

   "The fact that they still have guards here watching an empty embassy three years later says to me that they are respecting Cormyrean territory," said Hakam.

   "Could we just return to Cormyr through the portal and come back in the morning?" asked Szordrin.

   "We should at least leave a person behind in case the guards call for us," said Belvin.

   "By my words, I said that all of us would be remaining here tonight," said Hakam.

   Solisar created light, and Kytharrah withdrew the never-ending torch from one of the magic sacks. They found that the second story of the north wing was full of sleeping quarters, six in all, each with floor mats, one or two sleeping pads, and a dresser with drawers. It was almost like an inn.

   Gazing out the windows of these rooms, they could look down onto the sprawling city of Uwaji. Its streets were lit with the red glow of its paper lanterns, and this red light reflected off the endemic tiled roofs of every building. They saw now that the entire embassy complex was build atop a steep, sloped stone embankment, an artificial hill built higher than the lower city.

   "The lanterns are beautiful," said Sofi. "It reminds me of the street lights in Sigil at night."

   One of the six bedrooms, however, was the exception to the others. This was the room in the northwestern corner, and it had a "western-style" bed with a wide mattress in a frame. The same room also contained two dressers, a desk, a large oil lamp on the floor, and a metal chest.

   Szordrin crouched down to examine the chest. It was locked, but he got out his lock-picking tools and set to work on the mechanism. It took him a full two minutes, but at last there was an audible click, and he lifted open the cover, as the others looked on with interest.

   First, Szordrin lifted out a very expensive looking chess set. The pieces were made of jade and obsidian. The pawns looked like little three-eyed, horned ogres, and the king and queen wore noble kimonos. The knights were mounted samurai with katana raised, and the rooks were pagoda-style towers.

   Second, he removed a small mahogany box. Opening it revealed a set of calligraphy brushes and inking stones.

   The final item in the chest was a woman's parasol, made of paper and delicate tubing.

   None of the items had a magical aura, but Kytharrah could smell perfume on the parasol.

   Hakam got out Onran's letter box and opened it. "Kytharrah, can you smell the ink on these letters and see if it matches the smell on those stones?"

   Kytharrah was delighted to help, and indeed, he thought that the inks were definitely the same.

   "This is her calligraphy set then," said Solisar.

   "And we know that she played chess with her superior," said Hakam.

   "There are enough rooms for all of us," said Sofi. "I know that it is hours later than it was in Cormyr, but shall we each find a room and rest?"

   "Leokas and I shall take first watch, in the courtyard," said Belvin. "I want to examine all the new herbs and plants that I have never before seen."

   Szordrin claimed Yunoko's old room with the large bed. Sofi and Solisar took the two rooms next to that, although Solisar simply used his magic to create an extradimensional space from that room as he usually did. Hakam and Kytharrah headed to the northeast corner of the complex, beyond the balcony overlooking the room with the tapestry, and settled there. (Kytharrah picked a room with two sleeping pads, so that he could push them together.) Belvin and Leokas went downstairs with Kytharrah's torch, where their animals were already lounging.

   It was rather peaceful in the courtyard of the abandoned embassy. Belvin remained fascinated by plants that he had never seen before, and Leokas was captivated by new constellations overhead in the cloudless night sky.

   Belvin noticed something white and mistlike float past in the corner of his vision. It had moved over the western veranda and then vanished in the corner among the overgrowth.

   He tossed a pebble at Leokas to get his attention back from the stars and then motioned that something had moved in the corner and to be quiet. Leokas drew an arrow.

   Quietly and carefully, the two moved together from the center of the courtyard to the northwestern corner, around one of the planted clusters of trees and through a bunch of ferns. Sif lagged behind, tail between her legs, as if she could sense that something was amiss.

   They could see nothing in the small corner that was about fifteen feet square. Leokas stooped down and investigated the ground carefully. There was no indication at all that any of the plants or the grass had been recently disturbed; there were no tracks of any kind.

   "Are you certain that you saw something?" whispered Leokas in Elven.

   "Certain," said Belvin.

   Leokas stood back up to his full height.

   Suddenly, from the north wall, a being floated through the wood. They saw the transparent figure of a woman in a short white kimono. She was hovering in air, arms held out from her sides. Her face was expressionless, but the incorporeal skin was bluish, as if drained of blood. At her hip was a small curved sword in what appeared to be a wooden sheath, though it too was insubstantial.

   The ghostly being also carried a woman's folding hand fan. With a sudden snap of the wrist, the fan unfolded, and the apparition swung the edge of the fan at Leokas. Leokas' superb reflexes spared him any harm, as he bent back at the waist. The sharp edge of the war fan swished by, just missing his neck.
Session: 122nd Game Session - Monday, Oct 12 2020 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Official Corrspondence
Filfaeril Selazair Obarskyr,
Queen of the Kingdom of Cormyr
Grandmother to King Azoun V, the rightful heir,
& Her daughter, the Royal Regent,
Princess Alusair Nacacia Obarskyr,

To His Eminence,
Lord Matasuuri Nagahide,
Shogun of the Empire of Wa:

The favor of the Celestial Bureaucracy be upon thee.
We beseech thee to grant a favor on account of the peaceful standing of our two nations.
Several decades ago, in Wa Year 1756, Ambassador Yunoko, our emissary to thy great empire and, moreover, a daughter of Hirayama Tsuki, daughter of Hirayama Taiyo of Iiso, was slain, murdered while on assignment. Her murder was never solved, as your records will confirm.
Bearing this letter are seven persons who have been chosen by our gods to find new evidence pertaining to Yunoko’s death. We shall not explain the matter here, because of its sensitivity, but we trust that this new evidence will be of great interest to the shogunate, as it pertains to the imperial line of Wa. These seven persons we now send to thee, as a token of good favor and as official representatives of the Kingdom of Cormyr in respect to this matter. We humbly request, first, that thou hearest their discovery, and, second, being convinced of its importance to both of our nations, that thou grantest them permission to investigate the matter further upon your soil until the matter be resolved to thine and our satisfaction.
Perhaps, thou wilst see in this plea and this information a benefit to renewed trade between our two great peoples.

Filfaeril Selazair Obarskyr

Session: 122nd Game Session - Monday, Oct 12 2020 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Chapter 3 — The Dowager Queen
The queen spoke. "I have summoned you to one of the robing rooms, because the words that we shall speak together should not be heard in public. The War Wizards have told me of their conversation with you, and while the matter does concern Cormyr, I am more concerned about the other angle of things.

   "I knew Yunoko. To be more frank with you than wisdom says I probably should be, I was her 'handler', her superior, in the Harpers. I did not know her especially well, but we were close in age, and I respected her and her work. We played chess together once. I won the match, but I had to struggle to do so; she made me think."

   Hakam responded. "We were troubled to learn of her death and the manner of it. We express our condolences to you as her friend."

   "Thank you," said the queen. Then she asked, "How were you yourselves acquainted with Yunoko? The humans among you, at least, seem much too young to have known her in person."

   "We did not know her personally," said Hakam, "but Szordrin here was the ward of her widower."

   Szordrin continued, "Just as your disciple Yunoko passed away unexpectedly, so too did my master also, and I believe now that this is all linked to what Yunoko had discovered was happening in Wa. We are here to discover what befell them both and possibly avenge their deaths."

   The queen nodded. "My War Wizards did inform me of your findings, but would you present the same evidence to me to read?"

   They handed over Yunoko's letters, which Filfaeril read carefully.

   "I remember all of this, yes," she said. "Yunoko put her life in danger to protect a woman that she had only just met, who had come to my husband seeking asylum. Yunoko continued to dig up more and more information about historical matters in Wa. She never was able to solve the mystery and all of its details. She believed that a too-thorough investigation would garner suspicion and put herself at risk, so she bided her time and observed and investigated carefully, trying to learn what she could. Alas, I suspect that she had not been careful enough."

   Hakam said, "We believe that our companion Szordrin here may be a descendant of the woman Yunoko aided."

   Filfaeril seemed fascinated by this information but had nothing to add to it. "I see now why this matter is so important to you." She handed back the letters and then began to provide more information about Yunoko's past. "Yunoko joined the Harpers in the Year of the Marching Moon, the year after I became queen. She had been educated here in Cormyr and must have been noticed by one of the Harpers who worked as a professor at her school. She was assigned to me. The Harpers had few agents in the lands of Kara-Tur, and we thought it wise to take advantage of the fact that she could easily access that part of the world through her father's ministry. Yunoko did not at first have a particular mission from the Harpers; her role was initially that of an observer in a part of the world where we were otherwise blind. In many ways, she acted and made decisions on her own."

   "We only know what is reported in these letters," said Hakam, "and few details about the actual incident of her death, which we know only second-hand from Szordrin's late master. We do not even know where her death occurred or when. We of course suspect that it was this rakshasa mentioned in the letters who killed her. Are the facts that you know about her death consistent with this?"

   "You believe that the rakshasa she mentioned came after her?" the queen queried.

   "Beyond the letters, we also found recent evidence that a rakshasa was in pursuit of Szordrin's master, Onran, and likely Szordrin himself in one of Onran's homes — tiger-like claws and prints with the thumbs in the wrong places."

   "All that I know about her death comes from an official letter that we received from Wa," said Filfaeril, "stating that they regretted to inform us that our ambassador had been killed. At the time, Wa had already expelled all foreigners from their nation. When she died, the only persons permitted to work at the embassy in Uwaji were those of Wanese birth or their spouses. Thus, we did not have many Cormyreans there who could speak more to the circumstances.

   "However, since I knew that I would be speaking with you, in preparation for our meeting, I have summoned a man named Malark Dauntinghorn. He was assistant to Yunoko and took her role upon himself upon her death. Lord Dauntinghorn served Cormyr for over three decades until he was expelled from the country upon my late husband's death three years ago. Mind that you do not make any mention of the Harpers when he joins us; speak only of Yunoko's diplomatic role and her death. I shall not call him in until we have finished discussing what we will as far as the Harper's role in this, but he may know more about the specifics of her death."

   Solisar asked, "Your highness has stated that Yunoko had been collecting evidence, such as about the woman and her situation. Is this evidence to which we might have access?"

   "As for evidence of rakshasa activity, she kept any physical evidence hidden, presumably in Wa, or else simply made mental note of what she found. She believed that a conspiracy went deep into Wanese history. As for the woman, it was Khelben who arranged for a spelljammer to take the woman and her son to safety somewhere off-world, but only Onran and Yunoko knew where the location was."

   "You knew Onran?" asked Szordrin.

   "I remind you that I did not know Yunoko very well; I was technically her superior, but she was very independent in her work. I knew that she was married to a man named Onran whom she met in Wa. Her wedding was actually held in this very court. I did not attend her wedding, though I would have liked to have. My role in the Harpers was greatly secret at that time; even my husband was unaware. It would have been unusual for the nation's queen to attend the wedding of an ambassador to a country most thought only a legend, a sailor's tale."

   "Do you know where Yunoko grew up," asked Szordrin, "and where her surviving family might be?"

   "I know that her mother was named Tsuki, and she became the Minister of Spelljamming in Wa about the same time that Yunoko replaced her father as ambassador."

   "So, Yunoko was born and raised in Wa?"

   "Yes, until she was old enough to attend school. Her father sent her to a boarding school here in Cormyr, where she received her training."

   "Do you know what came of her mother?" asked Hakam.

   "That is all that I know," said the queen, "but Lord Dauntinghorn may know more, as he was the ambassador after Yunoko and would have spent a good deal of time in Wa."

   "Do you know the captain of the spelljamming ship that took the mother and her child to safety?" asked Hakam.

   "No, though I am sure that Khelben would know. I could ask my War Wizards to send a magical message to him if it proves that important for you to know."

   "Does the queen know where Onran and Yunoko might have honeymooned?" asked Jayce.

   Filfaeril had no idea.

   "Did the Harpers ever pursue the rakshasa mentioned in Yunoko's letters?" asked Hakam. "Or did they ever pursue the potential illegitimacy of the imperial dynasty in Wa?"

   "Such were the pursuits of Yunoko herself," replied the queen. "Our plan at the time was, since we had an observer there, to have her continue watching and listening to see what she could learn, monitoring the situation. When Yunoko died and it was so hard to send further agents over there, the rumors were largely forgotten. Wa is so far away that it is not considered a severe threat to Cormyrean security, and the majority of Harpers do not feel that it is a threat to Faerûn as a whole. We were very interested in Yunoko's findings, but we simply did not have the manpower to continue her investigations."

   "Speaking of the great distance from here to Wa," the queen continued, "the gods may have favored your coming to us first rather than attempting to journey to Wa directly, if that is what you next intend to do. Wa is 6,000 miles from here. Traditionally, the only way to reach it is a long journey along the seemingly endless Golden Way, then through the empire of Shou Lung, and finally over the Celestial Sea to one of the few ports of Wa open to trade from Shou Lung.

   "Fortunately for you, five years before I was born, when Davin Blacksilver, Yunoko's father, became our first ambassador, after returning from a ten-year journey to the far east, Vangerdahast, the Court Wizard before Caladnei, of whom I am sure you have heard tell, created a large gate, a portal to the city of Uwaji in Wa. The portal connects Suzail to the embassy in the Wa capital. By such means did our ambassadors have direct access to the capital. Presumably, it still functions."

   "Did Wa know of this portal?" Hakam asked.

   "Yes, they know of it. It goes directly to the Cormyrean embassy, and since, technically, the embassy is Cormyrean property, presumably, if Wa respects that claim, the building and the portal should still be there."

   "Would your highness permit me to examine this portal?" asked Solisar.

   "Certainly," said Filfaeril. "I am further willing to write a letter to the shogun of Wa, requesting that you be allowed to enter Wa as official investigators for the Kingdom of Wa. I, of course, cannot promise that the letter will be acknowledged, but it is worth an attempt."

   Jayce expressed his sincere thanks to the queen for this offer.

   "Shall I summon Lord Dauntinghorn?" asked the queen.

   "We should discuss amongst ourselves what we shall ask him and tell him," said Solisar, "for we cannot give him Yunoko's letters to read." The adventurers discussed briefly what they intended to ask him. Hakam was most interested in the details of her death that the queen mother did not seem to know.

   When they were satisfied with what they would discuss, the queen turned to one of the knights. "Gorstag, you may retrieve Lord Dauntinghorn now."

   It only took a couple minutes for the former ambassador to arrive. He was a brown-haired, bearded man in his 50s, wearing a doublet and a matching half cape. He introduced himself and asked how he might be of service.

   "We are investigating the death of Yunoko Blacksilver," Hakam began, and then he shared information about their evidence of rakshasa involvement. "We received this information from letters that contain other sensitive information, so we cannot share with you the letters themselves or all their details, but we ask if you can share any details about the time, place, or manner of her death, which might aid us in tracking this fiend down."

   "Why do I not simply start at the beginning," said Lord Dauntinghorn. "One never knows what details may be key in such an unfortunate query into the truth.

   "I was very young when I began working for Yunoko, barely past the age of majority. My family made its wealth through shipping in the Inner Sea, but I longed to see the oceans beyond that, so I happily joined the small group of diplomats that Cormyr sent to Wa to work under Davin Blacksilver in the Year of the Leaping Dolphin. I was but an errand boy at first, but I picked up the Wanese language, Wa-an, and customs faster than most, and when Davin's daughter Yunoko became ambassador after him two years later in the Year of the Striking Falcon, I was also promoted to be her assistant."

   "Did her father die?" asked Hakam, "or did he retire?"

   "He retired," replied Lord Dauntinghorn, "but he died a few years after that."

   "Did he die of natural causes in Cormyr?"

   "He died of old age in Wa," replied Malark Dauntinghorn. "He lived in Wa with his wife after he retired.

   Malark continued with his story. "I was intimidated by Yunoko at first, because she was so intelligent and beautiful, with an exotic beauty unlike the women of Cormyr. I admit that I was rivvim for her at the time, but there was this other fellow who also was after her hand, an aasimar, certainly, and I did not stand a chance against him. He was the adopted son of two gnomes who were part of a diplomatic scandal in Wa in that first year that I was working there at the embassy. The man's name was Onran, and his 'father' had been arrested when the Wanese discovered that he had entered their nation on a flying vessel from the Sea of Night. Ambassador Davin fought hard for his release, rescuing him from possible execution.

   "I saw Onran several times at social events after that. At first, Yunoko seemed to resist his advances, perhaps because he was about my age and younger than she was. However, after a couple years, it was clear that he had won her over. He even began staying in one of the guest rooms at the embassy sometimes. In any case, Yunoko married the man, here in this very Court in the Year of the Snow Winds.

   "I was not in Wa when Yunoko died. None of us who were not of Wanese dual citizenship were at that time. The year after Yunoko's wedding, in the Year of the Highmantle, when Azoun IV took the throne, that was also the year that Matasuuri Nagahide became shogun. Nagahide was extremely untrusting of foreigners — he still is — and banned most of us from the country, even those working in the embassy. Only those who were of Wanese nationality or those who had married someone from Wa were permitted to stay. Now, he did reverse his decision in the Year of the Weeping Moon, three years later, but that was the year after Yunoko was murdered.

   "Thus, those of us working from here in Suzail at that time heard about it from Sakura, one of our Wanese diplomats who had married a Cormyte and still worked at the embassy in Uwaji. Sakura explained that Yunoko's body had been found garrotted in a forest somewhere between her home and the embassy. The government of Wa confirmed her death shortly afterward but gave fewer details. Since it was a year until we were all able to return to Wa again, when the shogun had a change of heart about foreigners, I do not think that her death was ever investigated further. She was buried in Wa, but there never was a funeral held among her friends at the embassy."

   "Was her own husband not permitted to see her body?" asked Szordrin.

   "I actually do not know," said the former ambassador. "I do not know what became of Onran. He was not a part of the Cormyrean contingent, so he was not sent back to Faerûn with the rest of us. I know not if he was expelled or no. I never saw the man after I was sent back."

   "Is the garrote a method of assassination common to Wa or to any groups operating in Wa?" asked Hakam.

   "Yes, actually," said Malark. "There are a couple unlawful organizations — organizations in the broad sense, not necessarily related to each other — operating in Wa. There are organized gangs known as yakuza who have been known to assassinate those hindering their businesses, but they are known more as businessmen than assassins, despite the picture that the daimyo and shogun paint. I find it unlikely that they would be the ones to murder her. A group more likely to use assassination would be the ninja, but like the yakuza, to call the ninja a single group is a mistake; there are many ninja 'families', just as there are many yakuza 'families'. The ninja are often hired by various noble parties to do their 'dirty work'. I do not know what Yunoko would have done to anger any ninja or 'dishonor' any nobles. To answer your question though, yes, the garrote is a common method of assassination in Wa."

   Lord Dauntinghorn continued, "I suspect that whoever murdered her must have known where she lived and when she traveled. She was targeted and killed between her home and the embassy.

   "I should note that, in my new role as ambassador, I did obtain a sworn oath from the shogun that the government of Wa had no part in her death. Nagahide is a hard man, but I do not believe that he would order the murder of a Wa-born woman unless she had done something truly dishonorable, and then he would have had her publicly executed, not secretly murdered in a forest."

   "The shogun's government does not include the emperor, correct?" asked Hakam.

   "That is true," replied Malark, "although the emperor is little more than a puppet to the shogun; he really has no separate government at all. The shogun's granddaughter is the favored concubine of the emperor. That is undoubtedly by design, so that he can monitor the activity of the emperor through his granddaughter. She is Nagahide's spy in the imperial house, and everyone knows it. (It is purely coincidence, but her name happens to be Yunoko as well, Kisha Yunoko.)"

   "What is Yunoko's family name on her mother's side?" asked Solisar.

   "Yunoko's mother's name was originally Hirayama Tsuki. She was the daughter of a famous astronomer in Wa named Hirayama Taiyo."

   "Does she have any other family? Siblings?"

   "I am not certain," said Malark, but then he corrected himself. "No, actually, I remember her once telling me that her mother almost died while giving birth to her. Yunoko's mother always told her that a Lady of Compassion, one of the Lesser Immortals, a woman in a white kimono, came and comforted her. Are you familiar with the religions of Kara-Tur?"

   They were not, so he explained. "There are a variety of religions in Wa and in the rest of Kara-Tur, but while the religions and nations hold to different philosophies and practices, most believe in the same pantheon, though they worship its members in different ways. The pantheon is known as the Celestial Bureaucracy, and it is headed by the Celestial Emperor. Beneath him are the Nine Immortals, followed by the Lesser Immortals and then a whole plethora of administrative spirits. Many of these spirits are dragons of the Spirit World, who rule over various aspects of nature or society.

   "Now, the Ladies of Compassion are servants of Kwan Ying, Goddess of Compassion, one of the Nine Immortals serving directly below the Celestial Emperor.

   "In any case, Yunoko's mother believed that her daughter's birth was a miracle from Kwan Ying. Whether true or not, she apparently never risked trying to have another child."

   "It sounds like a very lawful and hierarchical society," noted Hakam.

   "It certainly is," agreed Lord Dauntinghorn.

   "We obtained a list of emperors of Wa from one of the scribes here," said Szordrin, showing the paper upon which they had copied down the names. "Could you help us to understand when the seventh dynasty began?"

   "Wa has only had three imperial dynasties," Dauntinghorn replied, repeating what others had also told them. "The Goshukara have been the emperors for millennia."

   "How did you learn the language of Wa-an?" Solisar asked him. "Did you learn from any particular books?"

   "No, and I do not believe that any such books have ever been written. I learned the language from traveling there and having little option but to figure out how to communicate."

   "Is their number system at least similar to ours?" asked Szordrin.

   "I am not sure that I understand the question," admitted the former ambassador. Szordrin explained how they had traveled to a place where the number system was based on the number 8 instead of the number 10, and once he understood, Lord Dauntinghorn confirmed that Wa used a base-10 system.

   "They use a variety of writing systems in Wa," he then said. "It used to be one unique symbol per word, but now they use what is called a syllabary instead of an alphabet."

   "What about official documents from Wa that were translated into Chondathan?" tried Solisar. "Would any of these exist that I might study?"

   "I could probably acquire some for you, yes, with the queen mother's permission, of course."

   The queen gave her consent.

   The group then explained to Lord Dauntinghorn the information that they had learned about a rakshasa usurper. "We have two theories about her murder," said Hakam. "One, that she was murdered by this same rakshasa himself. Two, she was murdered by some other member of the emperor's line, trying to prevent the information of the usurpation coming out."

   "Whoa, this is out of my league now! This sounds like deep conspiracies and spy stories. I would not know how to confirm or reject either of these theories. It does seem very strange to me that a rakshasa would even be present in Wa. They are told in stories coming from a land far southwest of Wa known as Malantra but do not play into any Wanese tales that I know."

   "How do you anticipate that the emperor's line would react if confronted with this information?" asked Hakam.

   "Oh, the people of Wa would be outraged, to say nothing of the emperor's line itself! The citizens take great pride in the fact that they have such a continuous line of rulers, even if the current ruler has no true power. The emperor is a symbol of their nation to them. In their legends, the Spirit of Wa gave a sacred arrow to the first emperor Kochi of the Peach Tree. Supposedly, that arrow has been passed down through the generations and confirms that the gods have chosen the Wa emperors as the divine rulers of the islands. To learn that the gods' plans had been thwarted by some fiends — it would wreak havoc on the populace!"

   "Would you be able to trace out the lineage of the emperors decending from Kando?" asked Hakam.

   "No, I do not have the imperial line memorized. It means a lot to Wanese people, but the emperor rarely played into the politics between Cormyr and Wa. I can tell you that the list that you have is out of date. The current emperor is relatively young and is not named there."

   "What is your perception of how the shogun would react to learning about a potential imposter in the imperial line?" Hakam asked.

   "Honestly, I could not say," Malark replied. "The shogun is exceptionally legalistic, believing that the nation needs to become more isolated, because outside influences have dirtied the morals of the people. The man wants to ban tea houses! However, he cares about law and order but not spirituality. I do not know whether he would consider such news as favorable, because it lessens a superstitious belief in a divine figurehead in place of the rule of law, or terrible, because it implies an intrusion into Wa life from an outsider. He would want to know about it, in any case."

   "Is the emperor a figurehead only under the current shogun?" asked Szordin, "or has it been this way for a long time?"

   "It has been this way for at least a couple hundred years," said Lord Dauntinghorn. "There was a war among the daimyo of Wa. It was General Matasuuri Shogoro who unified all the daimyo into one nation. Before that, there had been the northern daimyo, the central daimyo, and the southern daimyo. He unified all three factions to become shogun of the entire country. At that point, the emperor ceased to have any true power."

   "Do the shoguns also follow a line of succession, then?" asked Szordrin. "Will this Nagahide's son become the next shogun?"

   "Yes," said Malark, "though the line is much shorter thus far, going back to Shogoro. Before the Matasuuri, there were other families who held the title of shogun, but that was when the emperor had power, and they were only his generals. Some historians claim that Shogoro had the shogun of the previous family assassinated (by ninja) so that he could rise to power, which triggered the start of the war that I mentioned. There is no official law written that says that the shogun's son must be the next shogun, however."

   "What else can you tell us about the legal system of Wa?" asked Hakam.

   "Especially under the current shogun, there are many 'morality' laws. For example, if you have any women in your group, they will need to walk behind the men. Men and women are not supposed to eat in the same rooms or sleep at the same inns, in the minds of the most strict adherents to such a morality. As here in Cormyr, you are expected to bow to the nobles. There are very particular rules about what colors and fabrics peasants are permitted to wear. A farmer can be executed for wearing the wrong-colored scarf, but such rules would not apply to you as foreigners. For the most part, the citizens accept these laws as a part of life ordained by the gods.

   "The daimyo set their own laws for their provinces, provided they do no conflict with any mandates of the shogun."

   "Are the daimyo like a governor or baron?" asked Hakam.

   "They are provincial rulers, but a province in Wa is generally a single city and its surrounding towns. They are not very large."

   "Is there a separate daimyo for the capital? or is it simply run directly by the shogun?"

   "It is run by the shogun, yes."

   "How would the people of Wa look upon the non-human creatures in our group?" Hakam asked.

   "They would generally think of your non-human members as monsters from the Spirit World," said Lord Dauntinghorn, "even your elves. You would not be welcome in many villages, but it would depend on the feelings of the local populace toward denizens of the Spirit Realm."

   "It is my hope that my letter sways the shogun to give you some sort of special protection and license to travel his lands, whatever the locals may feel," interjected Queen Filfaeril.

   "Do you think that Yunoko diseminated any of this information about the imposter to the shogun when she was ambassador?" Hakam asked.

   "If she did, she never let me know about it," said Malark. "This is the first that I have heard of such a rumor."

   "Have either you or the queen mother heard anything about a man named Samber?" asked Leokas.

   Neither of them had.

   They tried some of Samber's common anagrams and then described his appearance.

   Suddenly, the description clicked with Malark's memory. "Wait a minute, now that you describe the man, he may have been the best man at Yunoko's wedding! Onran's best man had red hair and green eyes, just as you describe. He stood out from all of the Cormytes and Wanese. I never learned his name, but perhaps it was he."
Session: 122nd Game Session - Monday, Oct 12 2020 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Recap , Suzail
Chapter 3 — The Dragon Throne
~ ninth-day, 19th of Flamerule, the Year of Rogue Dragons, dawn
The Dragon's Jaws, Suzail, Cormyr


At dawn the next day, Belvin and Hakam went out back to a garden to pray to their gods. Solisar and Sofi were also up, sitting in the restaurant dining area drinking water.

   A steward came through the door and asked Solisar if he was one of the adventurers staying there as guests of the queen mother. When Solisar answered in the affirmative, the steward explained that their appointment had been scheduled for the afternoon session and that they should arrive after lunch at the Royal Court and show their registration certificate. They were to ask to be directed to the Dragon Throne. Also, they needed to be sure to wear formal attire.

   Jayce came down from his room at the tail end of this, looking hungover. "Everyone has formal attire except for Belvin and Kytharrah," he said. "Do you have a dress to wear, Sofi?"

   "All I own is what I am wearing," she said.

   "Well, we have an afternoon meeting;" said Jayce. "The shops will open soon. After some water, I think I can find some fitting clothes for the minotaur to wear. Would you want to accompany me on a shopping trip, Sofi?"

   "I would love to!" she said. "I have not been shopping since I lived in Sigil."

   So, that morning, Jayce and Sofi perused the shops along the Promenade in a search to find clothing large enough for Kytharrah's bulk. The inn stewards also rolled wooden bathtubs into each of the guest rooms and provided buckets of warm, soapy water. (Solisar, for his part, kindly rejected the tubs; he always remained clean through use of his magic cantrips.)

   When Jayce and Sofi returned from shopping, he gained the assistance of the bar wenches Rustreene and Molly Sara, and they knocked on Kytharrah's door. As the others ate brunch, they worked to make Kytharrah presentable to the queen. At one point, the brunch-partakers heard angry shouting from Sofi, but then all was quiet again. When the door opened, a new Kytharrah emerged from his room, looking a combination of confined but amused. He was wearing a fancy purple vest with the kilt that Ilthian had made him. His fur was braided under the chin and behind the head, and there were bows involved. He smelled clean, and his hooves shined.

   "I present to you Master Kytharrah!" said Jayce with a flourish.

   As they ate the food that Milo brought out for them, Solisar took this opportunity to share some information. "While on the Rock of Bral, I was able to speak with members of the Imperial Fleet about Wa," he began. "They shared a number of details about their space fleet and the history between the Wanese people and the elves.

   "The elves consider Wa a dangerous military dictatorship, which concerns them. They feel that their presence in wildspace upsets the balance there. Wa has not traditionally respected elven wildspace territory, and this led early to several bloody encounters. At first, the elves were victorious, but then Wa developed the tsunami, that vessel about which we also heard from the Shou Embassy on Bral."

   "Yes, I remember that," said Jayce, "the long vessels carrying smaller 'locusts'."

   "Indeed. Things would be much worse except for two factors. First, they thus far have not left the bounds of orbit of Selûne. Second, there was an incident where a captain of a tsunami assaulted a neogi base in the Tears. This tsunami took on six neogi deathspiders simultaneously and destroyed four of them outright. The other two retreated into space, leaving Wa to conquer the neogi's base, which had previously been a scourge to all other races in the Tears of Selûne for decades. They also freed several dozen slaves who were elves, whom Wa returned to us as a token of good will. The Elven Imperial Fleet then made a treaty for peace with Wa for a period of five years. Wa did break the treaty one time and destroyed one of our men-o-war, claiming that they had intelligence from a Shou Lung spy that the ship was secretly a drow vessel. The Fleet believed that such an accusation was absurd, but the peace agreement did hold. The terms of the treaty have since expired, but there has been little conflict since, primarily because, during the five years of peace, Wa has built up its fleet. The elves suspect that they have ten tsunamis in their fleet now.

   "The elves also confirmed that Wa is exceptionally isolationist. They do engage in trade, but generally, they only purchase, not sell, goods. Spelljamming merchants are permitted to land their vessels to sell but are never permitted to leave their ships."

   "I do not understand how they can only purchase, not sell," said Hakam. "Do they have limitless stores of gold?"

   "I believe that they buy and sell by traditional routes with a limited number of Kara-Turan nations," said Solisar, "simply not with spelljamming traders. In any case, if we try to go there in the guise of merchants, we will not be permitted to leave the ship."

   The meal complete, they readied themselves to leave. By now, everyone was dressed in their formal attire.

   "Will you not be joining us to see the queen?" Szordrin asked Sofi, seeing that, while obviously bathed, she was still wearing her usual simple short tunic and pants. He himself was decked out for the occasion, wearing one of his courtier's outfits with purple accents.

   "I will stay with Belvin outside while you all meet the queen," she said.

   "I offered to buy her a dress," said Jayce, "but she refused."

   "It would not be in line with my vows," she said.

   "What if you were only borrowing the dress and returned it?" asked Szordrin. "I would be happy to cover the rental fee for you."

   It looked like Sofi really wanted to say yes.

   Kytharrah patted her on the shoulder. "Come?"

   "No, I gave my promises to Pistis Sophia and chose to refuse clothing beyond what is needed. I am told that some of her followers refuse even this much. This is not a needed visit, at least not for me. I have little to add to whatever you have to say to the queen."

   The group headed back along the Promenade to the Royal Court, to the building where they had registered. Along the way, Sofi spoke to Kytharrah. "Kytharrah, it is very important for a grown-up minotaur like you to be disciplined. I will not be there to help you inside, but try as hard as you can to concentrate on standing tall and still. It will be a game. If you can stay quiet while everyone else is talking, you win!"

   Kytharrah nodded. He liked new games, and he wanted to impress his new horned sister.

   Showing their certificate to some of the Purple Dragons stationed back where they had registered, they were directed up the curved steps on the northern end of the courtyard with the water fountain. At the top of the steps, they followed a paved path on elevated ground, passing through an indoor atrium with a water fountain, gardens, and a glass roof, then to an outdoor garden with a wooden walkway/bridge over an artificial pond full of fish. Belvin and Sofi remained here at the garden, while the others continued. Belvin began trying to converse with the cats, but none of them were terribly keen on talking with an elf. They were more interested in licking themselves and basking on the sun-warmed marble. They had surprising little information to provide about the affairs of humans in the city.

   The others reached a small side building adjacent to a large and ancient hall. There were a large number of Purple Dragons stationed here. They were told that all weapons and magical items had to be removed before entering the Court of the Dragon Throne.

   "All of your equipment will be highly guarded and stored for your return after your audience with the queen."

   One of the guards wore spectacles that gave her the ability to detect magic items. When Hakam was told to remove the phylactery on his forehead, he protested. "This is a religious token of my faith and of no danger to anyone. Its magic is purely divine. To force me to remove it would be unfair bias against the Church of Anachtyr."

   To the others' surprise, Hakam's argument worked, and he was permitted to wear it.

   Kytharrah's bullshoes also posed a problem, but after several examinations from multiple guards, they decided that it was not worth the effort to remove them. They were, after all, literally nailed into Kytharrah's hooves, and they did not have a farrier present with the tools to put them back on again, even were they to have successfully removed them by crowbar.

   Each of them were handed a receipt including a list of each item being held for when they returned. Then they exited from the small building and entered a sort of covered bridge with a marble floor that crossed over into the ancient hall that they had seen. This hall was the center of the Royal Court, the chamber of the Dragon Throne of Cormyr.

   They passed through the double doors at the end of the passage, and one of the posted guards at the corner directed them down the wide hallway and told them to wait in the waiting room until the doors to the inner chamber were opened for the afternoon session.

   They walked south along the high-windowed exterior wall of the building, past another guard and through a small door, where the hallway continued but was narrower now. They passed a closed door on their left, and then they came into a large waiting area, about 25 feet wide and almost twice that long. In the northeast corner of the room was a wide staircase leading up half a story to a set of double doors. The room had tapestries on three of its walls and was furnished with benches and side tables, much like the other administrative building that they had visited the day prior.

   A middle-classed woman was the only occupant when they entered. Solisar acknowledged her presence with a friendly nod. She nodded back, followed by widening eyes when Kytharrah stepped in. As they moved about the room, passing time by looking at the tapestries, (which, once again, included several depictions of cats amongst scenes of military conquest,) the woman approached Solisar and whispered to him, "Is... is that a minotaur?"

   "Indeed, he is a minotaur. His name is Kytharrah, which in my own tongue means, 'Friendly Red Beast.'"

   "You can just call him 'Minotaur', if that pleases you," said Leokas."

   The woman pondered these answers and moved away to her own corner.

   It was not a very long wait before the double doors at the top of the stairs opened, and a Purple Dragon entered. Clearing his voice at the top of the steps, he announced, "Court is now in session. The Dowager Queen is now ready to hear cases. You may enter the viewing area but must wait until called upon for your voice to be heard." He then turned and stepped back through the doorway.

   As they filed over to ascend the steps, Szordrin held back a bit and removed a copper coin from his pouch. He cast a quick spell, while moving the coin between his fingers, and began to monitor the thoughts of those around him.

   They stepped out onto a ten-foot-wide balcony overlooking a massive, high-arched-ceilinged hall. On the southern wall were a pair of impressive tall and narrow stained-glass windows, which provided the chamber's only natural light, and tall tapestries prevented much of even that from reflecting off the old stone walls. Between the windows, resting upright on the ground, was what appeared to be a large stone coffin surrounded by a circle of runes on the stone-tiled floor. Forty or 50 feet across the hall was another balcony, and it was clear from the dress and behavior of those standing or sitting in luscious couches upon it that this was the observation area for the nobles. These were all staring down at the north side of the room.



   There, standing upon a raised dais was a high-backed, imposing throne carved out of black stone into the shape of a dragon, its head at the top, its foreclaws as armrests, and enveloped with large wings. An enormous purple carpet rolled out from under the throne, down the wide steps of the dais and two-thirds of the way toward the coffin. No one sat upon the throne, but standing on the steps several paces in front of the throne was a woman who almost certainly was the queen mother. She wore a blue gown and a slim circlet upon her head with two spires.

   A cluster of peasants were standing some distance from her, ready to make their appeals. A wall of Purple Dragons stood between the peasants and the widowed queen.

   Lady Laspeera was also present, standing to the right of the throne on the dais, as was another War Wizard on the other side.

   Szordrin moved as close as he could to the northern end of the balcony, still rolling the coin in his fingers. The peasants were expressing thoughts of stress and trepidation as they faced the queen, because, for some of them, she was their last chance at justice.

   One of the peasants was called upon to speak, and he stated that his feudal lord had treated him unfairly by demanding the same amount of wheat even though the crop that year had been less. A woman appealed for justice against a merchant who had ripped her off and thus far not been punished by the lower courts. So it went, and Szordrin learned nothing more from their thinking than what they were saying.

   Queen Filfaeril would listen carefully and then give commands to a clerk sitting in the shadows in the northwestern corner, who was furiously taking notes. In most cases, she ordered that the accused be summoned at a later date for his or her side of the story to be presented. While she did her best to listen, the queen seemed frustrated or exhausted from some of reports. When she had made her preliminary judgments, the peasant would leave, and a Purple Dragon would call out the next name on the docket, as told to him by the court clerk in the corner.

   Through all of this, the nobles on the opposite balcony were whispering and muttering among themselves in response to what the peasants were saying, yet they remained silent whenever the dowager queen opened her mouth.

   When the last peasant departed the lower chamber, the name of the woman in the balcony with them was called. She came to the corner and spoke from the railing her case. A noble had wronged her by not paying a promised fee for housecleaning services. As she spoke, there was booing from the other balcony, but this was silenced by a word from the queen and the steady stares of the two War Wizards.

   Szordrin continued to make his way forward, hoping to get within a score of yards of the queen so that he might be able to make out her thoughts, but when this distance was attained, he felt an immediate arcane resistance to the probing of his spell.

   When the middle-class woman in the balcony with them had spoken what she had to say, the queen announced that there would be a recess.

   "Were we forgotten?" said Jayce to the nearest guard. "We were told to present our case during the first afternoon session."

   The guard shrugged. "That is for the queen mother to decide. You should return to the waiting room."

   They looked down and saw the queen leave the dais by passing behind a tapestry on the western wall.

   It had been an hour, but they had little that they could do but return to the room and wait again.

   It was not long, however, before a small door on the eastern wall opened. (It was made to blend in with the wall, though it was not quite so hidden as a secret door would be.) A Purple Dragon entered and spoke to them. "Are you the party that includes...." He held up a piece of parchment. "...Hakamyn Amdul...?"

   "Yes," said Hakam, in a very curt tone, "this is the party of Justiciar Hakam yn Hamdulah el Anachtyr yi Memnon."

   "I apologize, milord," said the guard. "The queen has requested that you follow me posthaste, please."

   He stepped back through the door. Following him, they entered a long, dark, and narrow passageway, which seemed to run between the walls of the waiting room and the throne room. It was so dark that the two humans, Jayce and Hakam, had to carefully walk with their hands along the wall.

   "May I create light?" asked Hakam. The guard permitted it.

   The tunnel passed underneath what they assumed were the stairs to the balcony. Then the tunnel had stairs of its own, which took them up to a 20-foot-by-30-foot room, lit with torches, apparently a secret chamber of sorts. The guard turned and stopped blocking further movement down the passage to elsewhere, which only allowed them the option to crowd into the room.

   Here, the queen mother waited, with a contingent of six Purple Dragon knights with special ornamentation, silver, almost-glowing pendants at their throats shaped like a right-handed open gauntlet with the Purple Dragon symbol in the palm.

   Filfaeril herself had faded blonde hair and icy blue eyes that matched with her royal gown. She was slender, with pale skin, and was likely in her sixth decade. Up close, they could see that sapphires adorned the brow spires in her crown.

   Jayce and Hakam immediately bowed to her, and the others followed their lead.

   "Behold, Filfaeril Selazair Obarskyr, the Dragon Queen," proclaimed one of the knights.
Session: 122nd Game Session - Monday, Oct 12 2020 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Recap , Suzail
Chapter 3 — Maru
Molly Sara went up to Maru to give him his platinum coin and his kiss. She puckered her lips and leaned forward, lifting her head up to him, but he gently refused, "No, no, my lady. You know how it is." He held, instead, his hand out to her, and she kissed that instead, then set the coin into it.

   "Same answer every tenday!" said Molly Sara.

   Kytharrah also came up to Maru and patted him on the shoulder. "Play?"

   "Another time, young oni. I go to drink water now."

   The group broke up and the majority of the patrons said their farewells to their friends and headed to their homes. Maru returned to his stool and put his kimono back on. Jayce went back to the table, followed now by one of the young nobles, who had taken a liking to him. Nargroth, who usually loved beer and would stay in any tavern until kicked out, strangely left to return to the Frihet.

   "Wait! Nargroth! Let me walk with you," said Oma, and she left the tavern as well.

   Solisar and Hakam went to one of the available rooms for the night, but the rest joined Jayce at the table. Rustreene appeared and asked if they wanted more drinks.

   Szordrin ordered another drink but then excused himself, supposedly to go out back to visit the privy. In reality, he used the opportunity to prepare his regular magic that allowed him to read thoughts. When he returned back inside, he approached some of the other guests and said, "Excuse me, but I am from out of town; could you tell me more about the queen mother?"

   "She should re-marry. It has been long enough, and she owes Cormyr a real king." Such was the gossip that he heard from those at the other tables, both spoken and unspoken. Some of the surface thoughts were about the strangeness of Szordrin's eyes. "His eyes are like a cats — the Nine! Well, I suppose it would be worse if he had dog eyes. Ha ha ha!"

   "Is the queen a powerful wizard herself?" Szordrin asked.

   She was not; she relied on her War Wizards for protection. He also learned that she was an older woman, once with blonde hair, who still showed most of her beauty. Some said that she had not married the former king out of love, but most agreed that she and her husband had had a cordial relationship and seemed to be fast friends. He learned other gossip such as that, but nothing that was particularly useful toward their quest.

   "Well," said Jayce, as Szordrin sat down with his companions and Rustreene brought out their drinks, "I was going to go visit a festhall tonight with some of the boys from our ship, but that was better entertainment than I could have imagined. I do not need anything else; I am content for the night."

   "What is a festhall?" asked Sofi.

   "A place for people to be festive, of course" said Jayce.

   "It is a brothel," whispered the young noble who had joined them.

   "That is horrible," said Sofi.

   "They are not all simply brothels!" Jayce insisted.

   "Festhalls are dishonorable dens for friends of yakuza," said a quiet, gentle, calming voice behind them. It was Maru, now clothed again. "The horned spirit lady speaks true."

   Maru then glanced around. "Did the half-oni young warrior leave? He fought honorably."

   "He retired for the night," said Jayce.

   "May I join your table? I would be honored to drink with the hairy horned oni who also fought alongside me." He looked at Kytharrah when he said this.

   "Of course," said Sofi, and Kytharrah nodded.

   Szordrin tried to read the man's mind but felt resistance. Maru glanced around looking nervous, so Szordrin ceased trying. Then the large man sat down, the chair creaking under his weight.

   At this point, Belvin and Leokas also entered the tavern and joined them, now that most of the crowd had gone home. They ordered some Suzale but remained quiet while the others chatted. Maru also was silent until finally Jayce addressed him directly and asked his name, though of course, every one knew what it was by this time.

   "I call myself Maru," he said, "but it is not my true name. My true name is no longer spoken, because I am a warrior without honor."

   Sofi asked, "How does one lose his honor? Am I allowed to ask? I do not wish to be rude."

   "I am ronin," said the large man. "I was once a samurai of my clan, but my master tried to take a peasant's daughter by force, and I took his head from his body. For this, I am shamed."

   "Bar that!" Sofi protested. "You saved an innocent; how is that dishonorable?"

   "Because of the chaos and disorder in the world, sometimes the honorable and good things to do are not the same."

   "Why did Hakam go to bed?" asked Jayce. "He would like this guy!"

   "It is not that way, however, in the Celestial Empire," continued Maru, with real sadness in his voice, "yet that is not yet where I live."

   Maru then asked the ones at the table where they were from and why they were in Cormyr.

   "I am Szordrin Dundragon," said the tiefling wizard when it was his turn to speak. "I am on an honorable quest for vengeance against my master and teacher's murderer."

   "Wakaramas," said Maru with a somber nod.

   "I am from a city in middle of the multiverse," said Sofi, as if this were a common, everyday thing, "yet I have never heard of this Celestial Empire."

   "It is the Bureaucracy of the Spirit World, the world that is nowhere and yet everywhere in Wa."

   "Oh, you are from Wa then?" said Jayce. "Tymora's smile, that is where many of us are heading next! We would be happy to learn what you can tell us about it."

   Through conversation mostly guided by Jayce and Sofi, they learned the following: Maru was from a small town named Benoka between Rukimbaru, the emperor's city, and Uwaji, the capital of the shogunate, on Tawata Road along the Akano River on the east coast. When he became a ronin, he moved to the west coast, to Jasuga, where he became a wrestler in Kowa Arena and took his new name. He left Wa on a Shou trading vessel after a competition in Semmishi, back on the east coast, where a person in the crowd recognized him somehow and called down curses on him for betraying the bushido code. Shamed, he left the country and came to Cormyr via Shou Lung and the Golden Way. This was three years ago. He had decided to continue heading west on foot until he could walk no further, as penance for his "crime", but when he came to Suzail, he was visited by a stray cat that reminded him of a childhood cat he once kept named Foo. He called the new cat Foo Two.

   "I see that Foo Two has made a new friend," he said, motioning to the bar where his cat was drinking from Milo's bowl of milk. Panther, Oma's cat, was sharing the same bowl. Kytharrah, bored with the conversation and not strongly affected by human-doses of alcohol, went over to pat the cats, and soon he had all of them purring.

   "We have come upon evidence suggesting that one of the past emperors of your nation was a rakshasa, a fiend, in disguise," said Szordrin. "Thankfully, he was removed from power and replaced with a true emperor. Is this a commonly known tale among your people?"

   "Sugoi!" exclaimed Maru. "No, it is not. The line of emperors is said to descend from the first emperor Goshukara, who holds the Moonlight Arrow, a gift of the gods themselves. I cannot believe that the Celestial Bureaucracy would permit such an imposter to live."

   Sofi began querying Maru about the Celestial Bureaucracy and the Spirit World. Jayce was not sober enough to ask further thoughtful questions, and the elves remained silent and observed.

   When Milo announced the final call, Maru called to Kytharrah and said, "I promised that I would play with you, young hairy oni. An arm wrestle?"

   Kytharrah was delighted. With his larger size, the minotaur defeated the large human twice in a row, though the former samurai indeed had good technique, and the matches were close.

   "Did you ever perform for the nobility as a Jasuga wrestler?" asked Szordrin.

   "The Jasuga style is only recently growing in popularity in my nation," Maru explained. "Jasuga is a city on the west coast of the main island of Tsukishima, just north of the Fochu Peninsula. The citizens of the east coast, where Rukimbaru and Uwaji are, see the people of the west coast as backward and show them little respect. The people of Jasuga hope that their sport will take root in the eastern cities soon, but this has not yet happened. Neither the emperor nor the shogun have shown any interest in the sport. The last city where I performed, Semmishi, where my shame was exposed to all, was an east-coast city. That had been a demonstration match. I do not know if the sport has spread more since I have left Wa behind."

   "Are non-humans permitted to compete in this form of wrestling?" asked Szordrin.

   "The Spirit World thrives with non-human creatures," said Maru, "but the Spirit of Wa gave his islands to man."

   "Are there no elves in Wa?" asked Belvin.

   Maru seemed confused by the question. "Perhaps there are elves living in the Spirit World, but my eyes do not see into that place. Those spirits who leave their world and enter man's are most often dishonorable, such as oni." He looked at Sofi as he spoke. "I mean no offense to you, young spirit maiden. I have learned since coming to Faerûn that it is different here, that not all spirits are constrained to the Spirit World, that an oni in Faerûn may in fact be good. Indeed, the Spirit World does not seem present here at all, except for in the lands of Thay and Rashemen perhaps."

   "We have fought and slain evil oni in our travels," added Leokas, referring to their battle at the ice devil's fortress on the Great Glacier.

   "My friend," said Jayce to Maru, "Sofi here is not a spirit at all; she is made of flesh, but you keep calling her a spirit maiden."

   "Why can a spirit not have flesh and blood?" asked Maru.

   Milo now announced that it was closing time. The two bar wenches cleared the tables, and everyone found a room on the first or second floor of the adjacent building and passed the rest of the night.
Session: 122nd Game Session - Monday, Oct 12 2020 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Recap , Suzail
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