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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 - Tuesday, Oct 13 2020 from 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM
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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 - Tuesday, Oct 13 2020 from 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM
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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 - Tuesday, Oct 13 2020 from 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM
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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 - Tuesday, Oct 13 2020 from 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Recap , Suzail
Chapter 3 — The Dragon's Jaws
"The Dragon's Jaws has one of the best taverns in the city. It has amazing ales on tap, and it only recently added a wing with a restaurant and rooms to become an inn. Several famous people have stayed at the Jaws when they visit the city."

   A member of the Purple Dragons assigned to guide them to the inn where they would be staying courtesy of the Royal Court of Cormyr was happily chatting with them as he led them along the curved Promenade. They passed the spot where the body of the fallen red dragon lay.

   "I have never heard of the place," Jayce said, "can you tell me more? Where did it get its name?"

   The soldier talked of a spellbattle that had once happened between some drunk men and an attractive woman whom they were harassing who turned out to have been a metallic dragon in disguise. It did not go well for those men or for the structure of the tavern's walls. On the bright side, it motivated the owner to finally add the addition that he had always wanted.

   Jayce seemed delighted to learn a new story and immediately began pondering how he might put the tale to music.

   They were led to a complex of large buildings on the corner. A street sign read "Street of Staves". The northwestern corner of the roof of the nearest stone addition of the complex was collapsed.

   "Here we are," said the Purple Dragon, making no comment about the likely dragon damage. He paused and held his arm to the doorway of the larger, wooden structure adjacent to and sharing a wall with the damaged stone one.

   They entered the inn. Belvin and Leokas once again refrained from entering the building and rested outside on some benches.

   Inside, they found a large open room 45 feet by 25 feet, with a second-story balcony. It had four long tables and four tables for two spread about and a bar with stools on the western side. There was a staircase going up to the balcony, a bench, and several doors to guest rooms on the southern wall, and a large fireplace on the eastern wall.

   All the tables were empty except for one of the smaller ones when they entered. At this table sat a noble woman, who ignored them and sipped at her beverage. (When Solisar tried to bow at her, she looked away and snobbishly raised her nose.) Only two others were in the room, the bartender, a dwarf with a cook's hat, and a young boy, who was sitting by the fire.

   The Purple Dragon entered behind them and approached the dwarf at the bar to inform him of their arrangements.

   The boy became very excited upon seeing guests enter. He hopped up from his stool and approached them. "Sirs and Ladies, can I interest you in placing an order for dinner from the Puffing Jester. We have a special arrangement with the Jaws, because a dragon burned the kitchen down. Only one golden dragon per person. Would you like to see a menu, please?"

   "Is that one gold piece per person?" asked Szordrin. "That is pricey, is it not?"

   "They are decent-sized meals," said the youth.

   "Suzail is rumored to have some of the best restaurants," said Jayce.

   "It is no rumor," said the boy.

   "Have you ever eaten in another city?" asked Oma.

   "No, but I know that the food is not as good anywhere else. It cannot be!"

   "That is a kind offer, young cutter, but I do not have any money for food," said Sofi.

   "What did you do with all the money from the sale of the metal eggs?" asked Oma.

   "I donated most of it to the Pantheist Temple of Tyr," said Sofi, as if this were a normal way to spend adventurers' loot. "Hakam has convinced me, at least, of the worthiness of Tyr's cause."

   "That is most generous of you, Sofi," said Hakam. "I shall pay for your meal."

   "That is very kind of you, Hakam," said Sofi. "Thank you." Then, to the boy, she said, "Do you have any food without meat?"

   "Why would anyone eat food with no meat?" says the boy.

   Jayce had already taken the menu from the boy by now and was skimming the Puffing Jester's offerings. "No, but the roast gammon pie looks good!" he exclaimed. "I shall have that."

   The boy took their orders, and he hurried off into the street. They took seats at one of the large tables. Jayce sat next to Sofi and asked if she wanted to hear more of the story that he had last been sharing with her.

   "I would enjoy that," she said.

   Szordrin sat next to her on the other side and said, "Why do you not share it with me too?"

   Kytharrah also sat down — as best he could — in a chair for storytime as well.

   Hakam walked over to the bartender, who greeted him cheerfully. "My name is Milo. Milo Dudley! You all look like you are in desperate need of some beverages to pour into those stomachs. What can I bring out for all of you? I am told that you are guests of the queen mother, so all drinks are on the house."

   "Where I come from," Szordrin whispered to Sofi back at the table, "a milo is a kind of drink."

   "I have never tasted that," said Sofi, but she half-giggled anyway.

   "Whatever you would recommend," answered Hakam.

   "Well, the most popular — and for good reason — drink on tap is Suzale," said Milo Dudley. "I trust you get the joke? But it is indeed a fine ale, with nutty undertones. It was first brewed here as a gift for King Azoun, and it is also the official ale of the Purple Dragons. I also have several wines from the Dalelands tonight, which are a special treat for this tenday."

   Suzale seemed satisfactory to everyone, except for Sofi, who only had water. Milo brought pewter pints to everyone, filled with the namesake ale. "I am told that you will also be needing rooms. Some of our rooms upstairs are not quite ready for you yet, but are currently being cleaned. There are three rooms here downstairs that are already available. Feel free to take your pick. They tend to be a bit noisier than the rooms upstairs, however, so you may want to wait. The stone of silence does not protect them as well from the sound from the tavern, but it still does some good. It depends on how light a sleeper you are.

   "The tavern, which is connected through that passage there, does not open until dusk, and that is when this dining area officially closes. With the kitchen closed, I truly do not mind however long you wish to relax in here, but I will be moving over there to start serving to the guests of the tavern wing."

   The youth, aided with a couple friends, returned with their delivered food as they were nearly finishing their first pint of ale. The advertised roast gammon pie was a roast ham pie with apricot, honey, pecans, and vegetables, and it was indeed quite tasty. Several of them offered Sofi bits of their crust, but she refused, "just in case it came into contact with the meat." Milo, however, without being asked, brought her out an assortment of dried fruit and vegetables from the storehouse in the back of the kitchen, and she happily accepted these.

   Hakam asked the red-bearded dwarf, "It looks like you do not have many customers. Have the dragon attacks affected your business?"

   "It is true," said Milo. "We used to be known for our restaurant food, but the restaurant is shut down until the kitchen can be repaired. We have had to make an arrangement with the Puffing Jester, who used to be a competitor. Tourism is also down these days. The bar will probably be full tonight though. Alcohol is a good way to forgot one's anxieties, and there are the ever popular competitions. I cannot recall which event is on the schedule for tonight, but they are always fun."

   They began to finish off their meals. Jayce still had more to go, as he was so busy storytelling and making Sofi laugh. As it grew closer to dusk, the noblewoman got up and moved to the other wing of the complex, leaving them the only guests in the room.

   They heard loud meowing outside the door, and Milo opened it, as if it was a common occurrence to open the door to meowing cats. A black cat pranced in, and they saw that it was Panther. He came and hopped up onto Oma's lap and began to meow and purr. "Thank you, Panther," she said. Then she said to the others at the table, "I invited Nargroth to join us after his shift is over. It is almost dusk; I am going to go into the tavern and wait for him."

   One by one, they followed after her. (Leokas and Belvin had joined them for dinner at the table, but now they escaped outside again.) The tavern wing was half the size of the dining area, but it was already filling up with customers, most of them middle-class or aspiring nobles. They gathered around another long table with ten chairs by a smaller fireplace on the western wall, near a set of stairs that likely went up to the inn's upper-level rooms. Most of the locals were either at the bar stools on the back wall or at small, square tables at the north wall at the front. Milo soon came over from the restaurant side and went to work behind the counter at the back, leaving table serving to two women. One of them came up to their new table, once they had settled.

   "Heya! My name is Rustreene," said the pleasantly plump and cheerful waitress in a tight bodice and poofy skirt. "Would you like to order any drinks?"

   "Water for me," says Sofi.

   "What do you have to offer?" asks Jayce.

   "For someone has handsome as you, anything you want?" She squeezed his cheek.

   Those who still felt like imbibing ordered more Suzale, and she went back behind to the bar counter to fill their orders. Nargroth came in through the door, and Oma called out to him. "There you are! I saved a seat for you."

   "Great! Where's the beer?"

   They were all served and began to enjoy themselves. Those less prone to drunkenness in the party glanced around the room and took in more of the patrons. At the bar were a couple notable individuals. At the very end was a bald mad with a sleeveless shirt whose muscles bulged from his arms. At the opposite end, on the stool against the wall, sat an obese man who appeared to be dressed in an off-white bathing robe with pale blue trim. His black hair was in a sort of top bun, though the front of his head seemed to be bald. He was certainly Kara-Turan of some variety. The fat man was stroking a cat that was curled up next to his pint.

   This animal and Panther were not the only cats in the room. Milo had set a bowl of milk on the bar counter, and two additional cats were currently drinking from it. Panther grew excited and asked Oma with a meow if he could go socialize with the other cats and drink some milk, and she allowed him.

   After a while, from the restaurant section of the establishment, a gnome entered the room. He walked with a limp and cane but otherwise seemed as fit as a youth.

   "Oloré, Amara!" he called out to one of the female patrons. To another, "How farest thee, Fredrik?" Indeed, he greeted every patron in the bar by name, and they all greeted him back like a long-lost family member. Then he game to the adventurers' table. "Last but not least, we have newcomers this night! Are ye new to the town or only to this, my tavern?"

   "We arrived in Suzail this morning," said Hakam. "We are waiting for an audience with the dowager queen on the morrow."

   "Impressive! You must all be some important people to have a meeting with the queen mother. Name is Gnorm. That is Gnorm with a G. Are you staying up until the halfling-throwing bout? First place wins a kiss from Molly Sara and a platinum coin." He eyed Kytharrah. "Now you definitely want to play this game; I can tell."

   "Play?"

   "What are the rules?" asked Solisar, a bit concerned for the well being of the mentioned halfling.

   "No offense, my elven friend, but halflings probably weigh more than you can throw."

   "I am asking for my minotaur friend."

   "Well, well, then. Mostly, it is exactly what it sounds like. Here's how it works. We have halflings who have volunteered to — with the help of a little alcohol — be the tossee on a rotating schedule. Next door is an extra-long barn that I have converted into a gaming hall for feats of strength and agility, and tonight, halfling-tossing is on the schedule. Basically, whoever can toss the halfling the farthest wins. The rules are: no magic, just your own natural strength. You get three tosses per person. Every round, that is, every toss — all players toss in a round — you win three points for farthest throw, two for the second farthest, and one for third. Highest score after three rounds wins. If there is ever a tie in a single round, the tied players for that round toss again."

   "What if there is injury to the halfling?" asked Szordrin.

   "Oh, we have a few clerics and magic potions on stock for that sort of thing, but we dump gallons of water onto the ground to make it into a mud pit so that it is safe for the tossees. No one has gotten terribly hurt yet — bruises, definitely, but the local halfling population sees it as a sign of manliness to volunteer. I honestly did not come up with the idea; one of the halflings did. But it sure is fun to watch!"

   "This sounds like the best tavern ever!" said Nargroth, who had already downed his first drink.

   Gnorm left his guests and walked to the sliding wall on the opposite side from the fireplace. To loud cheers from the crowd, he slid the wall back, revealing an opening into the adjacent barn.

   The bald and muscular man at the end of the bar counter slammed his stein down with a shout, causing the cats to jump and scatter temporarily. "Yeah, it's time!" He hurried from his tool to the barn.

   Then the obese man at the other end stood up and untied his kimono slowly. The crowd in the bar began cheering loudly, "Maru! Maru! Maru!" He removed the robe and set it gently on his stool. At first, he appeared naked, but he was, in fact, wearing a thick and padded loincloth. Out of his clothes, it was clear that he was not only fat; he was also powerfully built.

   This Maru slowly made his way into the barn, and Nargroth grabbed Kytharrah by the arm. "Come on, buddy, let's do this!"

   The barn was 35 feet wide and 120 feet long. It was about two and a half stories tall and dimly lit by torches. The northern end, where the contestants and audience were gathering was hardwood-floored for the first 20 feet. Beyond that was mud, all the way to the back wall. Four workers were standing in it, spread out along its length, and bore small flags of various colors for marking distances.

   The halfling "tossee" was standing at the edge of the floor, talking to Gnorm and looking quite excited. He was dressed in a loincloth and looked to be a typical hin specimen, probably weighing about 35 pounds.

   "This is going to be awesome," said Nargroth.

   "Do not hurt yourself," said Oma.

   "What? How would I hurt myself?"

   "Are you going to compete?" Szordrin asked Sofi. "You are very strong, are you not?"

   "No, not particularly," she said. "I just know how to make the most of the strength that I do have. I could never toss a halfling. Thanks for asking though." She smiled.

   They watched as a couple of nobles removed their shirts and then went over to try to pick the halfling up. The halfling protested when they each struggled to lift him with ease. Apparently, he had to approve of any tossers. In the end, the only contestants were Kytharrah, Nargroth, Maru, and the bald-headed man. Straws were drawn, and Nargroth pulled the longest straw, so he would be the first to throw.

   The crowd pressed themselves against the wall to give the half-orc room, as he stood in a circle marked out on the floor at the edge of the mud.

   "Are you ready?" asked the halfling.

   "Are you sure that you are okay with this, little guy?" asked Nargroth.

   "I was born ready!" said the halfling. He lay face down at the edge of the mud and raised his feet up, crossed together for Nargroth to grab. The half-orc lifted him off the ground by his ankles, and the tossee dangled, his hands barely brushing the floor. The halfling was laughing, so Nargroth began to spin. The halfling rose into the air as Nargroth spun around one, two, three times and then released his grip, lobbing the halfling into the air.

   The hin flew in an arc 50 feet through the air, shouting in glee the whole time, and then landed in the mud with a loud splat. The crowd cheered. Immediately, the nearest worker moved as quickly as he could through the mud to reach the halfling and help him to his feet. Once they wiped the mud from his face, he turned to the crowd and gave a big grin. They cheered again. A flag was placed off near the wall to mark the distance. Then it was the minotaur's turn.

   "That was amazing!" said Oma, when Nargroth stepped aside.

   "I know! Wasn't it?" he said.

   Kytharrah took up more space, so the crowd had to rearrange a bit for him to safely spin. Once that was accomplished, he lifted the halfling effortlessly off the ground by his feet. Then, he began his rotation — around and around and release. The halfling soared through the air. Splat! "75 feet!" called Gnorm. The crowd cheered.

   "Well done making me look bad!" said Nargroth to Kytharrah, but he punched him in the arm in a friendly way and was smiling.

   Next up was the Kara-Turan giant of a man. He seemed to have a routine of some sort. He did a squat with his hands together as if in prayer and made some grunts and performed some stretches and breathing exercises before even picking up the halfling. When he finally released the halfling into the air, it was with a loud, grunting yell. The halfling dropped into the mud barely four feet past Kytharrah's marker. Maru raised his bulky arms to the air to a roaring cheer. "Maru! Maru! Maru!"

   One of the drunk patrons standing next to Jayce leaned over and said to him, "This is great! We haven't had any real competition for Maru in ages. I haven't seen him toss a hin more than 60 feet since the time that a friendly ogre was in town."

   The halfling was limping a little as he made his way back, covered utterly in thick mud, but he was still smiling enough for his teeth to show. "Urogalan's toe, that was great!"

   Finally, it was the bald man's turn. He cracked his knuckles and took a deep breath. He raised the halfling off the ground and began his spin. His rotation was the fastest of the four tossers, but he released too early. The halfling flew sideways and smacked into the side wall of the barn.

   "Ow!" shouted the halfling, followed by what were presumably curses in the hin tongue.

   "Here, drink this," said the nearest worker, giving him a tincture of something in a vial.

   Gnorm addressed the group of onlookers. "That ends round one. The score is currently: three points for Maru, two points for Kytharrah the minotaur, and one point for Nargroth the half-orc."

   There was another round of cheering.

   Nargroth then readied himself for his second toss. This time, he got more into the throw, adding an extra rotation and a wild, Uthgardt battle yell.

   It worked. The halfling flew as far as Maru's last throw, 80 feet. "Yeah! Ilmater be praised!" shouted Nargroth.

   The crowd went wild with excitement, exchanging many a "Did you see that?" Oma began chanting, "Nargroth! Nargroth! Nargroth!" and the rest of the patrons soon joined her.

   It was several minutes before they all calmed down and gave Kytharrah the needed room for his second throw.

   "You can do it, Kytharrah!" called Sofi.

   The minotaur grinned. He also believed that he could do it. While not the brightest, he knew how to mirror others well, and he had observed the technique that Maru had used. He lifted the halfling off the ground. "Make me fly!" encouraged the tossee.

   So, Kytharrah made him fly. "Weeeee!" shouted the halfling as he careened through the barn. There was a collective gasp, followed by a gentle thud. The halfling's head barely struck the back door of the barn. "100 feet!" announced Gnorm the gnome. "Unbelievable!"

   Patrons were spilling beer and slapping their hands together over their heads in excitement.

   Kytharrah, however, stomped into the deep mud to run over to the little demihuman to see if he was alright. The halfling assured Kytharrah that he was fine. He had hit the mud first and slid into the door at the back of the barn, not slammed into it directly. "Besides, that was amazing; I've never flown so far in my life. Can you do it again?"

   Maru appeared distraught and confused as he stepped up for his second throw. He did not seem angry, rather simply in genuine shock. He was so emotionally distracted by the turn of events that he made a severe mistake in technique. The halfling only traveled 25 feet, dropping into the mud with a plop. There was a collective gasp from the crowd, and Maru buried his face in his hands, ashamed. "Such dishonor," he muttered to himself as he cleared the throwing circle.

   The fourth contestant only made a distance of ten feet on his second throw, but at least he sent the halfling straight instead of into the wall.

   "I scored points! I've never scored points before."

   "I hate to tell you," said Gnorm, "but you still didn't score points. That was only ten feet. Maru was fifteen feet farther."

   "Hrast," said the man, and his shoulders sagged.

   Gnorm announced the results. "The scores for round two are Kytharrah at first for three points, Nargroth second for two points, and Maru third with one point. The cumulative scores are Kytharrah in first place with five points total, Maru in second place with four points, and Nargroth in third with three points. One more round to go!"

   The barwenches passed among the onlookers to take more orders. Then Nargroth readied himself for his final throw. He lifted the drunk and happy halfling off the ground and tried to concentrate. He began to rotate.

   Jayce slapped the shoulder of one of the drunk patrons nearby. "Watch this." Then he shouted out, "Hey, Nargroth, I slept with Oma last night!"

   "What? I did...!" but Jayce covered Oma's mouth.

   "What?" roared Nargroth, full of rage.

   "Sugoi!" exclaimed Maru, when Nargroth released.

   The halfling once again reached the back wall. "Oh, my head! My poor, curly-haired head!" A potion vial later, however, and the halfling was beaming.

   "100 feet, twice in the same night!" exclaimed Gnorm. "This is a first for the Dragon's Jaws."

   Nargroth, fuming, was struggling to catch his breath. The bald-headed man came over to him and patted him on the back. "It is alright, man, calm down. It is just a game. What a throw!"

   Kytharrah threw well, but not as amazingly as in round two. The tossee landed in the mud at 75 feet.

   Maru seemed to have better control of himself this time. He appeared peaceful and took a solid minute almost in a trance before even picking up the halfling. Then, with a rush of motion faster than anyone would expect for a man of his weight, he spun around and heaved the halfling hands first through the air. Another thud against the back doors.

   "Incredible!" said Gnorm. "We have a tie for this round between Nargroth and Maru."

   "I ain't had my throw yet," said the bald man. "I can hit the back wall too!"

   They gave the man his chance, and, to be fair, he had a personal record of 35 feet. His friends were excited by this and encouraged him. Then, he cleared the way for Nargroth.

   Nargroth, however, looked exhausted from his previous throw. He gave it his best, and the halfling sailed into the mud. A flag was marked at 50 feet. The crowd sighed.

   Again, Maru gave his full concentration to the task at hand, even holding his arm out and pointing at a distant spot and squinting, as if performing an artillery calculation in his head. With a final two spins, he let fly the little humanoid, sending him to land just ten feet beyond Nargroth's throw. He had played it safe. He then turned and bowed at the crowd, who cheered wildly.

   Gnorm gave the final results. "Round three: Maru wins the tie-breaker throw and earns three points; Nargroth earns two points, and Kytharrah comes in with one point. That gives us five points total for Nargroth, six for Kytharrah, and seven total points for Maru. Maru is the halfling-toss champion!" His announcement was followed once again by loud cheering. Then Gnorm announced, "Come back tomorrow night for the axe throwing and see if you can depose yours truly as champion. Now, have a safe night and journey home."
Session: 121st Game Session - Tuesday, Sep 29 2020 from 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Recap , Suzail
Chapter 3 — War Wizards
After Dauneth left them, they had little to do but sit or stand around in the large court chamber and wait.

   Szordrin decided to have a little fun with the zone of truth enchantment in the room, and tried as hard as he could to tell Kytharrah how intelligent he was acting today, but he simply could not get the words to come out of his mouth. His mouth opened, but nothing came out. It was the strangest thing.

   Curious, he tried other variations. Kytharrah seemed confused why Szordrin kept facing him and opening his mouth as if to speak and yet not saying anything. At last, Szordrin said something, "Kytharrah, you are as intelligent today as you have ever been!"

   Szordrin sounded quite impressed with him, and this made Kytharrah feel proud. He bobbed his head happily. "Play?"

   Szrodrin had another idea. "Come with me," he said. He walked to the doorway, and the minotaur followed. Szordrin opened the door and poked his head out. The guard standing there eyed him strangely. "We have run out of water," he said, "could more be sent, please?" The guard nodded and stepped off to inform one of the stewards. Szordrin then stepped fully through the door and turned back to Kytharrah. "Indeed, your intelligence today knows no bounds!" he bluffed, with no difficulty.

   Kytharrah was shocked to have received two compliments from his bearded friend in one day. Ferry seemed to make funny noises and snorts, his laugh.

   A steward did bring more water, and then a scholarly woman eventually entered the room. She was carrying a stack of books and scrolls and looked like she might tumble over with them. Jayce rushed forward to help her set the books on the marble desk, and she thanked him.

   "Greetings, I am Shandri Binder, court scholar. I was told that there were people here looking for information or records from Wa and our foreign ministry there. I may be of some help to you, but do understand that we no longer have an active embassy in Wa at this time, so the information I can provide may be out of date or inaccurate."

   Shandri looked too young to have been active at the same time as Yunoko, but she certainly had carried a lot of resources with her.

   "What questions were you hoping to have answered?"

   Solisar began, "One of your former ambassadors to Wa, Yunoko, was the wife of someone very important to one of the members of our party. We know that she was murdered, and we are trying to track down her murderer. We have limited knowledge, but we do have a few clues." Solisar quietly discussed with his companions whether they should share one or both of Yunoko's letters. Hakam was in favor of this, and Szordrin agreed.

   Shandri read over both of the letters carefully. Then she picked up the first letter again and seemed to be intrigued by words written on the third page. "This is intriguing. Indeed, Yunoko Blacksilver was the second ambassador to Wa from Cormyr. She was the daughter of Davin Blacksilver. I do not know too much about the history of the events written about here, but it is interesting that she mentions the Harpers." At this last phrase, she strongly emphasized the words, in that way that people often do to pass on a subtle hint while failing to be in any way subtle. She continued. "One thing I can certainly help with, however, is this emperor that she named, Goshukara Kando. I have here in my pile of scrolls an imperial succession list of Wa." She handed to Hakam a heavy and thick scroll from the desk. "This was recorded by the first ambassador from Cormyr to Wa. He translated it from a document that he received from their Ministry of History."

   Hakam loosened the cord, and the scroll unrolled and poured all the way to the stone floor at his feet. Its entire length nearly matched his height. Beginning with the First Emperor Kochi, Master of the Peach Tree in the the First Year of Chisho, it listed every emperor of Wa in order, from pre-historical and mythological times until Wa Year 1754, which was 1311 in the Cormyrreckoning.

   Hakam first scrolled through the list, trying to find the name of Goshukara Eichiro. "Goshukara Eichiro, the son, is not listed, but the father is, the fourth from the end, 'The 1680th Year, Goshukara Kando.'"

   "That would be the year 1262 in the Dalereckoning," explained Shandri for their benefit. "The document was created in first year of Azoun IV as well as the first year of Shogun Matasuuri Nagahide in the Year of the Highmantle, 1336 Dalereckoning. Davin Blacksilver became our first ambassador in 1271 Cormyrreckoning, so...." She did some math in her head. "...1296 Dalereckoning."

   "1336 in the Dalereckoning is also when Yunoko wrote that first letter," said Solisar. "The Year of the Dark Dragon, which she called it, is but another name for the Year of the Highmantle."

   "Is that not also the year that she and Onran were married?" asked Hakam. He removed the portrait of Yunoko and looked at it again. "No, it was 1335. She died in 1338."

   "So, you have found the rakshasa on the list then?" said Jayce. "But what does that mean for us exactly?"

   "We also believe that this Kando, this rakshasa imposter, is the murderer of Ambassador Yunoko," Hakam explained to the visiting sage, and she nodded but had nothing more to add at present.

   "And we suspect you to be the grandson of Eichiro," said Hakam to Szordrin, "the great-grandson of Kando."

   Sofi asked, "Szordrin, did not someone in the group mention a prophecy about emperors that related to you?"

   "Yes, 'The ninth emperor of the seventh dynasty is in' my past," he replied.

   "Goshukara is the dynasty name, yes?" asked Hakam.

   "Yes," said the Wa scholar. "In most of the lands of Kara-Tur, the surname is given first."

   "The ninth emperor of the seventh dynasty," repeated Szordrin.

   "That cannot be," said Shandri. "There have only been three dynasties in Wa. You can see it right there."

   "Perhaps the prophecy counts a change in dynasty each time that the capital moves," suggested Szordrin, who had picked up the tail end of the scroll and was pointing at the places in the line of emperors where such changes were noted. "See, here, 'The 1580th Year, Goshukara Iiso, who moved the capital to the city of the same name.'"

   "Or could it be that there were secret usurpers throughout this history," said Hakam. "There is also an empress here. Could a female break the line?"

   "It is possible," said Shandri. "Women are certainly not viewed in a favorable light in Wa, from what I understand."

   "There is only one empress on the entire list," noted Solisar, who was holding onto the top of the scroll now, "Empress Bishkammon, who ruled in Wa Year 669."

   "Is Chisho the first dynasty?" asked Hakam.

   "No," said Shandri, "Chisho is the era, the epoch. They name the pre-historical eras. The first dynasty included a single emperor, said to have reigned for 412 years."

   "Then Kochi is the first dynasty," said Szordrin, "and Kasada is the second."

   "Yes, the second emperor was Kasada."

   "And I see that that dynasty carries through two eras," said Hakam.

   "Yes, the Kasada dynasty died out with Kasada Kogakusha in the 581st Year of the Kuni era, which followed the Koyo era, when the first Kasada ruled."

   "Oh," said Szordrin, continuing to scroll through the list, "there is a large gap between Wa Year 222 and 669. See here."

   "An occupation?" asked Hakam. "The Shou Lung Traitorum?"

   "Yes, exactly," said Shandri. "During that time period, Shou Lung invaded Wa, and the empire fell apart."

   "How many dynasties ruled during that time?" asked Szordrin.

   "Governors from Shou Lung were appointed, but the Goshukara took control again afterward, with the nation's only Empress in power, as you can see noted, until her son came of age."

   "What if we assume that Kando is the ninth emperor and count backwards?" asked Hakam. "Where does that take us? To Hikari in 1529. There is nothing noted here to suggest anything significant happening then."

   Shandri shrugged.

   "Perhaps there were multiple rakshasa usurpers, and the prophecy is telling us when the first was," suggested Hakam. "Perhaps the deceit goes back much further than we had thought."

   "You think that they kept an artificial line going for three or four hundred years?" asked Szordrin. "Do you think that the same rakshasa kept on changing forms?"

   "It is possible," said Hakam. "They are shapeshifters."

   "And they reincarnate," reminded Jayce.

   "I wonder if this Shou Lung Traitorum counts as a change in dynasty," said Hakam.

   "The ninth Goshukara was the first Goshukara to reign after that occupation," noted Solisar.

   "Oh," said Hakam, "there is also the fact that two entries below that, 'Goshukara Sukui... is slain by Nitta Kyozetsu, who briefly reigns as Emperor.' That would add two gaps. That would give us seven."

   "How so?" asked Szordrin.

   "You have the first and second dynasty, then the Goshukara, as third. Then comes the Shou Lung Interregnum, counting as four. Then the restoration of the Empress and her son for five. Next, there is Nitta Kyozetsu as the sole member of the 'sixth dynasty' and finally the Goshukara again."

   "...As the seventh," said Szordrin. "Oh, I see. So then, is Yami the first of the seventh?"

   "Yami would be one, yes," said Hakam. He and Szordrin counted together. "Two, three, four..., Bohatei."

   "That is still hundreds and hundreds of years ago," said Szordrin.

   Shandri seemed confused by all this. "Wait, so, you have a prophecy that an emperor from Wa Year 901 is related to you somehow?"

   "Barmy!" said Sofi. "Who would have ever tumbled to that?"

   "We may have to think about this further," said Hakam.

   Hakam and Solisar asked permission of Shandri and began to furiously copy down as much of the information on the five-foot scroll as they could.

   Hakam then spoke again with Shandri. "Do you know anything more about the murder of ambassador Yunoko?"

   "According to the records here," she said, as she opened one of the booklets on the desk, "the ambassador was murdered in Wa, while on assignment. However, she spent most of her time there anyhow. She and her husband lived in Wa primarily and came to Cormyr to report. It says here that she was survived also by her mother, who was a citizen of Wa. All we ever received from Wa was a notification that our ambassador had been murdered."

   "So, she could have been anywhere in Wa when she was murdered?"

   "Yes, I am sorry that we have nothing more precise than that."

   "Are any of her relatives, on her father's side, still living here in Cormyr?" asked Hakam.

   "Yes, the Blacksilvers are a noble family. There are many of them living in Cormyr that you might be able to talk to. I have no means to contact them, and they are a noble family, so you cannot very well just go and knock on their door to chat. Their holdings are not in Suzail either, and I do not know where they are; I only know of the name."

   Just then, the door opened, and another woman entered. She was clearly a mage, wearing a rich, green dress. She carried a wizard's staff, and there was an arcanabula, a spellbook, attached to the belt at her hip. Shandri Binder noticed and immediately bowed to the newcomer and cleared her throat loudly. The adventurers bowed (or curtsied) as well.

   "Lady Eveningspire," said Shandri, "What a pleasant sur.... I was not expect.... How good to see you. I present to you.... I do not believe that I learned any of your names."

   They all introduced themselves in turn. Jayce, after giving his name, humbly apologized and begged the lady's forgiveness for not bowing sooner.

   The noble woman waved her hand to dismiss his apology. Lady Eveningspire held herself in an elegant manner, but her mouth showed lines of age. She had a pair of crystal spectacles that floated magically over her sharp nose, and her graying hair was braided and fell over her green velvet cape.

   "Thank you, Sage Binder; you may be dismissed." Shandri went to gather up her books and scrolls. "No, you may leave your books here. You can gather them when I am finished speaking with our guests." Shandri departed. Lady Eveningspire waved her hand, and the door closed on its own.

   Now she spoke to the group, looking down and eyeing them over her floating spectacles as if to scold them. "Adventurers should not walk into the Royal Court of Cormyr and openly talk about the Harpers."

   Kytharrah sniffed the air. He smelled the green lady's perfume, but he also smelled someone else's perfume. It was not Oma, who always wore strong perfume, and it was not Sofi, who never wore any perfume at all. The smell was moving, and it came from that tapestry over there....

   "I apologize, milady," said Hakam, "but it was not we who made any mention of the Harpers but rather your sage who read the word aloud from a private letter."

   Szordrin heard a woman's voice speaking arcane syllables, and recognized that someone, presumably invisible, was attempting to dispel magic. He drew a wand and called out, "Invisible friend, what are you dispelling?"

   A woman popped into vision among them, her spell completed. Solisar felt his ring of counterspelling activating. Hakam saw the aura of chaos that always surrounded Oma and Jayce fade away and then gradually return.

   "Adventurers should not try to use divination magics when War Wizards are present," said the new woman.

   She stood at only about five feet three inches and had light brown skin. She was dressed in leather trousers and a white tunic with a thick red coat crosslaced in the front. Her leather boots went up past her knees. A thick red and white layered cape hung from her back, and there were armored pauldrons of a gold color at her shoulders. She wore a red hat with an attached headscarf that covered her neck and the sides of her face. From her thick belt hung a scabbard for a longsword that glowed with a magical aura to Solisar's eyes. In her hand was a magical staff that was taller than she was. Additionally, Solisar noticed that her rings, brooch, boots, and armored bracers also radiated magic, as did her person. She seemed to be older than thirty years.

   Her darker skin and strange manner of dress stood out from that of other Cormytes, and her accent reminded some of them of Rimardo and Diero, two of the sailors on the Frihet. (Rimardo often helmed the wheel when Loreene or Ombert were not on their shifts.)

   "My divine vision is a gift from my god, to execute my role as his justiciar, not a spell of my own weaving," answered Hakam.

   The newcomer nodded cautiously at his reply, but said nothing more. The woman in green chuckled a little and said, "Please forgive us for the precautions, but you must understand that we act to protect our kingdom."

   She continued, "I am Lady Laspeera Inthré of Eveningspire. Some call me the 'Mother' of the War Wizards. This is Caladnei, Royal Mage of the Court of Azoun V and leader of the War Wizards. As you can see, your questions have roused the interest of our national defense. You speak of information of the death of one of our ambassadors and also of the role of the Harpers. Tell me more."

   Hakam once more repeated the details of the story and shared again the letters as evidence.

   The two women read the letters and quickly grew more trusting as time went on. (The presence of the truth enchantment helped in this regard.) They asked a few clarifying questions of the group and others regarding where they were from and why they would care about a Cormyrean Ambassador.

   "The Dowager Queen may wish to speak with them," said Caladnei to Lady Laspeera. "She may have known this Yunoko." Laspeera nodded.

   Then Caladnei addressed the group. "Unlike many of the nobles of this country, the regent and I see the benefit of adventures acting on behalf of the crown. Since your quest involves matters of state, we may be able to offer you a special charter and access to resources that could be of great help to you, but we shall let the Queen Mother decide."

   "That would me most helpful to our course," said Szordrin. "We thank you."

   "If our interests do align," said Hakam, "then perhaps we can work together, but know that we are on a quest from the gods that may diverge from your nation's interests."

   "My master's wife was your ambassador," said Szordrin, "and I desire to avenge her death and his."

   "A fair quest," said Caladnei.

   "Would you be willing to spend the night in Suzail?" asked Lady Laspeera. "The Queen, Filfaeril, is very busy, but I suspect that we could fit you into her schedule tomorrow morning, early afternoon at the latest."

   Caladnei said, "As you must know, the matter of the dragons currently has our military and court occupied."

   Hakam agreed to stay until they had acquired the information that they needed. "Do you have defense against the dragons? That is, would it be safe for us to spend the night here?"

   "The dragonrage affects the whole world," said Caladnei, "but I would warrant that Suzail is one of the safest places in Toril to stay with all of the War Wizards and knights present, not to mention a number of adventuring groups such as yourselves. I cannot promise that the roof will not come caving in, of course, but if it does, be assured that their will be a swarm of wizards there to slay the dragon posthaste."

   "We shall even pay for your stay," said the older woman. "You will be considered guests of the court. We shall have a Purple Dragon escort you to an establishment called the Dragon's Jaws."

   "Play?" said Kytharrah.

   Caladnei gave him a strange look.

   "Now is not the time, Kytharrah," said Hakam. "I apologize; he is simple like a child."

   Laspeera laughed, and then the two War Wizards stepped behind the tapestry and departed.
Session: 121st Game Session - Tuesday, Sep 29 2020 from 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Recap , Suzail
Chapter 3 — Suzail
Cormyr was a land on the Dragonmere, a massive lake 100 miles wide and even farther in length. The Dragonmere was the western spur of the Sea of Fallen Stars, and Cormyr was on its northern shores. Solisar knew that the nation was once a part of the elven empire of Cormanthyr; hence, its name. Hakam knew of Cormyr for having one of the best legal systems in all of Faerûn — not as good as Calimshan's, of course, but at least quite developed. The king of Cormyr, Azoun IV, had died a few years ago, supposedly in battle to defend his kingdom against a dragon. The heir, Azoun V, was a young infant, and the nation was currently controlled by the boy's aunt and Azoun IV's youngest daughter, Alusair Obarskyr, the Steel Regent. She was disliked by the nobles of the land, and she herself despised having to rule. She was a warrior and a strategist and had no love of royal life. She understood adventurers, however, having once been one herself, and she welcomed them into her kingdom, seeing them as beneficial to the defense of her lands. This was all the more so during this dragonrage.

   The fog was heavy on the Dragonmere as Oma brought the Frihet gently into its waters. This was seen as a good thing, as they could hopefully avoid notice as they fell out of the sky. Then, under Ombert's control, they sailed in to the port and capital of Suzail. They intentionally sailed in from a distance of four miles, such that it took about two hours to arrive at Suzail's docks.

   The sailors were guided in by flags and fog lights and directed to their berthing site. There was an abundance of seagulls and the strong smell of fish.

   The buildings were well constructed, though simple. Suzail seemed, at first glance, a relatively small city. This was certainly the case by Calishite standards. It was probably a bit larger than Silverymoon but smaller than Darromar.

   The adventurers disembarked and stood upon the dock. On the street, commoners were walking about and a patrol of soldiers, dressed in uniforms of purple tabards, with purple dragons upon their triangular shields. With the soldiers walked an obvious wizard in purple robes.

   "The famous Purple Dragons," said Jayce, "Cormyr's military. They are known throughout Faerûn for their well-trained regiments."

   "Are these a local force or a national one?" asked Hakam.

   "They serve both roles, if I am not mistaken," said Jayce.

   No one greeted them immediately beyond the flagger who had guided them in, and he had already moved on to another dock, but it looked like the dockmaster's house was nearby. Several cats were chasing seagulls on the parallel docks.

   Hakam noticed a sign nailed to a post at the end of the dock. He went up to it and read the following:
Notice
~ All persons entering Cormyr must register with the officials of a border garrison. ~
~ Foreign currency can only be used in certain locations. Please exchange your coins for Cormyrean golden lions at your first opportunity. ~
~ Adventurers must acquire a charter before undertaking any operation as a group. ~
~ All weapons must be peace-bonded. The only persons exempt from this law are members of chartered adventuring groups and members of mercenary groups that can offer proof of employment. ~
~ The harming of cats is forbidden. ~
~ Bow your head to royalty and the local nobility. ~
~ Purple Dragons have the right to search you upon request. ~
~ Hunting on private land is forbidden. ~
Addendum
~ Because of the recent dragon attacks, no citizen is permitted outside after midnight. ~

   Oma, standing behind her fellow Calishite asked, "What does it say?"

   He read them back to her.

   "How delightful! Panther can come with me this time," said Oma.

   "I had heard that cats were superstitiously favored here," said Solisar, who then proceeded to warn everyone to bow before nobility.

   "How do we recognize nobility, I wonder," said Hakam.

   Kytharrah was particularly confused. To him, lowering a head meant that one was about to charge an enemy. For his people, raising the chin was what one did in the presence of someone more important.

   "I suggest that we watch carefully those around us," said Hakam. "If we see others bow their heads, let us also bow our heads."

   One of the patrolling bands of Purple Dragons neared them. "Hail, visitors! Is this your first time on our shores?" The man speaking wore a purple-feathered helmet to distinguish him from the troops and wizard that he led.

   Solisar greeted the man in the Chondathan language and then explained in Common that they were newly arrived.

   "Are you from the land of Evereska?" asked the knight.

   "Nay, I come from across the Trackless Sea, from Evermeet."

   "What reasons have you for coming here? Are you adventurers?"

   "Yes, we are adventurers," said Hakam, "but our purpose here is only for information."

   The knight motioned toward the sign post. "You should be aware that Cormyr is very welcoming to adventurers, but we do have a few requirements of visitors for the safety of our people, that you please have your weapons peace-tied and register your visit. If you seek information on our kingdom, you may wish to visit the Royal Court. If you have not yet registered, just down the road on the right is the nearest Purple Dragon guard post. You can see the large banner just there." He pointed.

   "Where is this Royal Court?" asked Solisar.

   "If you head north of here," said the knight, "you will come to a large way called the Promenade. You cannot miss it. The Royal Court is a complex of buildings on the north side of the Promenade stretching a quarter mile or so."

   Solisar thanked him for the information.

   Hakam asked the man about how one could identify a noble.

   "Nobles tend to dress fancier than the commoners, although styles change with the seasons here. Currently, everyone is wearing round hats with the right side pinned up with feathers. Last month, it was the left side. Three months ago, they were three-cornered hats. In any case, if the men and women are wearing the latest fashion in hats, there is a good chance that they are either nobility or think that they are." He chuckled.

   "So that we do not run afoul of the law here," asked Hakam, "what constitutes an 'operation' by adventurers? If we are here to seek information, is that considered an operation?"

   "Honestly, I do not know the legal definitions. If you do want to get an adventurers' charter, the soldiers who register you can give you that information. My job is to keep the peace and to make sure that our people are safe in the streets. As you must know, it has been a chaotic time. One never knows when a dragon is going to swoop overhead. We have to keep our eyes open... and up."

   As he spoke this, they noticed that most of his band were paying little attention to the conversation with the newcomers and were instead gazing through the fog toward the sky in all directions.

   Solisar asked, "When was the last time that the dragons were sighted?"

   "Three days ago was the last time that I saw one. Thankfully, it has been smaller dragons who think themselves stronger than they are, and our War Wizards have been able to take them down, but when you take down even a smaller dragon, that alone can cause collateral damage."

   "Which colors?" asked Solisar.

   The man chuckled again. "I have seen every color of the rainbow, even some colors that I did not know existed. We have one or two dragons per tenday at least fly overhead to see if we are worth attacking, and we are but one city in the country. It is much worse in some places." The man looked at Hakam. "I have heard that some of the worst attacks were in the capital of Calimshan, Calimport, is it not?"

   Hakam looked horrified. "What have you heard?"

   "Some ancient blue dragon, a great wyrm, attacked the palace itself. I do not know much more than that, but that is what the rumor said. I wish that I could tell you more."

   The knight looked back at his patrol. "Well, if you would excuse us, we need to keep patrolling."

   The sign for the Purple Dragon guardpost was only some 40 feet down the street, directly across from what they still suspected was the dockmaster's house. The sign before the door confirmed the location, the Purple Dragon guarding the door opened it for them without a word, and a few of them stepped in.

   There were two small tables covered with books and scrolls. Along the walls were extra weapons and armor, crates of food, and wood for a fireplace. Stairs went up to another level. Three persons were in the room, two male soldiers and a female War Wizard holding a magic staff. The woman sat on a bench by a back door in the northwest corner. The men each sat at one of the tables.

   The Purple Dragon at the smaller of the two tables greeted Hakam and then asked where they were from.

   Hakam precisely listed each of their countries of origin but was careful not to mention that they had come to Cormyr by spelljammer.

   "Gods," said the man, "some of you have come a long way to Cormyr!" He looked like he was going to query further and then simply shrugged. "You adventurers have some odd backgrounds and powerful means, I know."

   "We have been guided by the gods themselves," said Hakam.

   "Hmm," said the man, in a tone that suggested that he had heard such claims before and not believed them then either. He continued his official line of questioning, as he dipped a quill in ink and opened a thin book. "Are any of you spellcasters?"

   Hakam clarified with the man what counted for a spellcaster and, after a few minutes, provided a number that seemed satisfactory.

   "However you count it, then," said the soldier, "if you have more than three, we require you to register as such up at the Royal Court. What we will do for you here, however, is peace-tie your weapons so that you can pass through our streets without rousing suspicion, as you make your way there. We will also send a guard to lead the way, so that you will not get lost. Then, you can register there and receive further details about your rights and responsibilities as spellcasting and adventuring guests.

   "Now, are you planning on applying for an official charter?"

   "What would require a charter?" asked Hakam. "We are really only here to gather information."

   "Typically, if your purpose is to traverse the Cormyrean countryside to search out dungeons or fight monsters or pursue some quest, such as a holy mission from your gods, that would require an adventurers' charter, and you would need to talk with the High Warden to obtain one."

   "What if we do not intend on leaving the city?"

   "If your only purpose in the city is to visit some libraries and sages, then peace-tying your weapons is enough, provided that you register your group, because you have a large enough group and it includes spellcasters... and apparently a minotaur. Hmm."

   "What is the fee for registration?" asked Hakam.

   "Twenty-five golden lions."

   "Where can we exchange our currency?"

   "Oh, if you register up at the Royal Court, they will take foreign currency. The shops in Suzail will likely only except Cormyrean coinage, however."

   Satisfied, Hakam signed his name on the line in the man's book as representative for the rest of the group. Two of the soldiers then went to each of them and tied a sort of bow with a cloth ribbon through their scabbards and over the hilts of their weapons. It seemed a mostly symbolic gesture; the ties were loose. It certainly would not slow Kytharrah in the slightest from drawing his greataxe or guisarme from his back.

   "Unless you have further questions, shall we lead you to the Royal Court?"

   "I forgot to ask, but what are the docking fees?"

   "Two golden lions per berth," said the man. "You can pay across the street at the dockmaster's."

   They paid the dockmaster, a bearded man with a patch over his eye. (It was a pleasant change to not also have to pay an exorbitant air tax.)

   They bid the guard at the station farewell. "Remember," he said, "if you decide that you wish to obtain a charter, you would request to speak with the High Warden."

   "Follow me please," said the soldier who would guide them. He began leading them to the north.

   Jayce and Oma were with them, but Nargroth stayed on board the ship, helping to wash the sails and decks. Panther, Oma's cat, was proudly walking beside his mistress, tail up in the air as if he owned the street.

   The street widened and curved to the northeast as it left the docks district. The further they walked from the docks, the fancier the buildings began to get, which was no surprise.

   "This is the first city that I have been in since home," said Sofi to Szordrin, who was walking beside her. "Sigil was much, much more crowded. I think it also odd how you cannot see the whole city at the same time, since it is flat." (The city of Sigil was famously built on the inside of a torus; one could look up and see almost all of it at once.)

   Before he could respond, she quickly changed the topic, upon noticing some peasant women staring at their ragtag group and assuming that it was her horns that were the most noticeable. "Szordrin, do you think that I should cover my head?"

   "No, this looks good," he said. Ferry also nodded.

   She blushed and looked away, but she followed his advice.

   They made a right at a wide street and then a left to go north. The streets were much busier here, as citizens were busy buying and selling at the many shops now lining both sides of the road.

   Of particular interest, they noticed one shop on the left with a sign with the image of a bunch of coins in a circle. Outside the shop was a man hawking his wares, which were clearly pawned items. As they passed by, a man came up carrying what seemed to be a golden hoe to hock or sell.

   "We might be able to sell that leucrotta skeleton to that one," offered Belvin, who walked at the back of line with his friend Leokas. Neither of the two elves were very fond of cities, to say the least.

   As they looked about at the city folk, they saw almost entirely humans among Suzail's populace, with a rare halfling or half-elf in the mix.

   The Purple Dragon's description of the current fashion style was accurate. The men wore capitano hats with feathers. They were dressed in loose, white cotton shirts with belled sleeves and lace collars and cuffs, knee-length breeches, and bucket-top boots. Most seemed to wear two belts. One seemed to be for holding up the pants; the other hung at an angle from the hips and seemed to be for holding a scabbard and various pouches.

   The fashion among the women was slightly more varied. Most women of middle class also wore hats, some of them of the same style as the men, but also many other kinds. Their clothing was a bodice over a white cotton chemise, with or without sleeves. They wore split skirts to show their frilled petticoats beneath. Some of the women were wearing purple scarves in various ways.

   Upon seeing an attractive young woman walking by with such a scarf, Jayce elbowed Oma and said to her, "Are you not forgetting to wear your purple scarf?"

   "What are you talking about?"

   "Do you not know? In Cormyr, it is the custom for young and desperate single women to wear a purple scarf to signal that they are available."

   She groaned and ignored him.

   "Maybe I should replace my towel with a purple one," said Sofi.

   Cats were everywhere, on the roofs, chasing each other across the streets, sunning themselves on tables and benches. Kytharrah almost stepped on two by accident. The stench of cat was overwhelming to his nose, but stronger still was the smell of dung coming from several wagons that horses were pulling along, led by poor peasants.

   Besides the cats and dung wagons, the city seemed quite clean. It was not, however, a particularly beautiful city, at least on the whole. It certainly paled in comparison to the beauty of Silverymoon, having none of that city's elven influence.

   They did see evidence of damage and destruction in places. Some buildings had collapsed roofs or walls, and a few looked like they had caught on fire. When they passed one block where a quarter of the buildings had burned to the ground, Sofi gasped. "Those poor people!" Sad citizens were using pitchforks to pick through the rubble. She went over to them, took some coins or gems from her little mug that she always carried and offered it to them. When she came back to join them as they moved along, the mug was empty. Even after giving back half her share, she should have had more than what had been in the mug, and she wore no money pouch. Perhaps the rest was back at the ship.

   They came to a wide avenue, curving from northwest to northeast. This must have been the Promenade that they were told that they could not miss. On the north side of the Promenade was clearly the rich part of town. The buildings on the other side were made of stone and some even of marble, row houses that were tall and narrow, with stone-shingled roofs instead of wooden-shingled ones.

   Here they made a right. Up ahead, they saw the red-scaled body of a dragon, dead. It was surrounded by a temporary fence, and a group of Purple Dragons made sure that no citizens would cross the barrier. The dragon was not a particularly large one, but large enough to have damaged some nearby buildings south of the Promenade as it fell to the earth.

   The guard who was leading them had mostly been quiet, but now he spoke up, "Second dragon attack in a tenday. The War Wizards drove the first one away. This one they slew, but it destroyed some buildings in its fall."

   Before they passed the dragon's body, they saw what must be the Royal Court, a big complex of columned buildings connected by arched bridges. A few of the buildings even had glass, domed roofs. Behind all of these official government buildings, rising from atop a steep hill, stood a beautiful palace, like something from a children's book. It had towers and spires and turrets, balconies and elevated porches, archways and flying buttresses. This, no doubt, was the Royal Palace of Cormyr. The hill from which it rose into the sky was itself covered in flowers.

   The soldier led them between two thick pillars to the left and into a courtyard of the Royal Court. The courtyard had a black and white checkered floor and a flowing water fountain at the center. Buildings flanked the west and east sides of the courtyard, and a curved staircase on the north side led up onto a second, raised courtyard.

   He stopped and pointed to the steps leading up to a porch of the west building. "The building to your left is where you register. I believe that I will no longer be needed. Good day!"

   As the soldier returned to the Promenade, Solisar noted to the others, "I suspect that that man just now entering the building is a noble. His clothes are more ornate than we have seen."

   As they came up onto the porch, the two guards in purple tabards directed them. "Please enter through the right doors; exit through the left doors.

   They obeyed and entered the building, though Belvin and Leokas chose to remain outside in the courtyard and went and sat by the water fountain. Before entering, Kytharrah stopped to smell some flowers in a vase at the end of the porch.

   "What do you smell, Kytharrah?" asked Sofi.

   "Flowers," said the minotaur.

   "I love how every flower has its own unique smell." She entered the building.

   Kytharrah pressed his nose toward the flower again and then followed after her.

   Jayce and Hakam asked one of the guards if everyone had to be present to register or if one person could represent the entire group. They were told that one person would suffice.

   They were within a large, high-ceilinged hall, supported by a massive column in the center. About the column were comfortable-looking, white, cushioned benches. Marble tables were set about the room, upon which were set glass cups and pitchers of water. A fancy fireplace, not currently in use, was at the far end of the room by a series of tall and narrow windows. The stone walls and the western and eastern sides were ornately carved with the facade of columns. It seemed to be used as a waiting room, and several other citizens were sitting or standing waiting. The potential noble that Solisar had earlier spotted was now taking in the details of a hanging tapestry on the south wall. (The tapestry portrayed a group of armored nights... and some cats.) Next to the tapestry was an open doorway, then a standing guard, and then another open doorway. The northern wall only had a single wooden door, which was closed.

   Kytharrah was busy going around the entire hall and sniffing each of the flowers in the pots that were set about to decorate the room, when a man came from one of the two doors to the south. He was dressed like the typical middle-class man of the city, except that he wore no hat and about his torso was a blue doublet and a matching short cloak was about his shoulders. He approached Jayce and Hakam.

   "Welcome! Are you here to register your party?"

   "Yes," said Hakam, "we are here to register a party of adventurers, which includes arcane and divine casters."

   "This is the right place," said the official. "Do rest here. When we are ready for you, you will be called into the room to the right of that guard standing there." He pointed at the guard at the southern wall.

   The wait was about fifteen minutes, and then a guard came and reported that they were ready to be registered. Jayce and Hakam followed the guard into the room. There were two desks in the room; before one of which was standing a peasant discussing some legal matter with a clerk. They approached the open desk and were greeted. The guard took his post in the corner.

   "The cost for registering is 25 gold pieces. We accept any currency, as long as it is the standard weight for gold coins. The certificate of registration that you will receive is valid for one year in any of the cities of Cormyr, including Arabel, Eveningstar, Immersea, Marsember, Suzail, Thunderstone, Waymoot, and Wheloon. If you are ever stopped and questioned by members of the Purple Dragons or War Wizards, you will simply present the certificate." The man looked down at a thick open book and readied himself to begin marking in it with his pen. "First of all, I need to know the general spellcasting capabilities of all of your spellcasters."

   Jayce and Hakam answered this as best they could. "We have a cleric of the all-supreme god Anachtyr in all his grace and wisdom and judgment."

   The man paused in his scribbling and looked up, somewhat confused. "Do you mean a cleric of Tyr?"

   "Some may know him as Tyr, but that is a false representation," Hakam began, but Jayce cut him off and moved on to describe their summoner and incantatar.

   Once they had registered each of the magic-users, the official next asked, "Will you be moving on from here to other locales, or is Suzail your only destination?"

   "Most likely, only Suzail."

   "Noted. If this changes, simply return here, and we can modify the certificate. Now, what name do I put down for your group? This is optional, unless you plan to also acquire an adventurers' charter, but most groups prefer to have us record their group name. Otherwise, I can record each member's name individually."

   "Ombert calls us the Misfits," said Jayce to Hakam. "Shall we just go with that? I am not too fond of the name, but it is up to you. Most adventuring parties do have a name for themselves; we are the exception."

   "I would rather simply list all of us as individuals," said Hakam, and so he did. The man tried his best to keep up and transfer all of the names correctly.

   "Now, are you interested in obtaining an adventurers' charter to help the Kingdom of Cormyr in its defense against the currently raging dragons? Usually, charters cost 1,000 golden lions, but because of the current dragon crisis, the government of Cormyr has reduced the processing fee to only 500."

   "Alas, we are urgently needed elsewhere;" said Hakam. "This is but a quick visit to seek out information before we depart again."

   "What sort of information do you seek that is so unique to Cormyr?"

   "We are inquiring about a former ambassador. We believe that she was the Cormyrean ambassador to Wa, in Kara-Tur, though it might possibly be the opposite," said Hakam.

   "We came to Suzail to speak with someone from your diplomatic office," said Jayce.

   "You probably will want to speak with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I suspect," said the clerk.

   "We can also provide approximate dates for when she served," said Hakam.

   "Oh, I am just a simple clerk," said the man. "I do not know anything about foreign affairs. I can put in a request for you to speak with the High Warden anyway. Normally, you would only need to speak with him to request a charter, but this may be a special case. It is his day in court, and he would certainly know more than I about to whom you should speak and how to arrange such a meeting."

   "We agree to meet with him then," said the cleric.

   "He has a busy docket today, but if you wait in the main hall, I can have you escorted to his chamber when he is ready to see you."

   Jayce paid the 25 gold-piece fee, and the clerk handed them a certificate sealed with the stamp of Azoun V and Regent Alusair.
This certificate establishes that the following individuals so listed below are known to the kingdom of Cormyr and have entered its borders lawfully and with peaceful intent
Hakamin Amdula of Calimshan, cleric justiciar of Anaktyr
Jayce of Lantan, bard of great fame
Solisar Kerith of Evermeet, loremaster and incantatar
Sordrin Dundragon of Mir, evoker
Belvin Boarcharger of the Chondalwood, archdruid
Leokas Dusktracker of the High Forest, ranger and archer without peer
Oma Elcatahras of Calimshan, summoner
Sofi of Sigil, ascetic companion
Kytharrah, minotaur bodyguard

whose travels shall take them to the cities of
Suzail
The aforesigned have agreed to abide by the laws of Cormyr and to abstain from profit-seeking measures so termed as "adventuring".


~~~~

It took an hour or two before they were summoned again. At least they had cold water to drink and soft benches upon which to sit.

   This time, the door on the northern wall was opened, and they were directed to wait within. This room was almost as large as the waiting hall. It had inverted curves at its two northern corners, and the arched ceiling was supported by three squared columns. Cushioned benches were placed along the walls and against the central column, and there were three long marble desks with chairs, two at the near wall and the other at the far wall. Purple carpets were rolled out on the floor and four chandeliers hung from chains. Tapestries of various knights slaying dragons with lances hung from the western and eastern walls.

   This time, everyone except for Leokas and Belvin entered the room to wait. "The High Warden will be with you shortly," said the guard who had opened the door for them. Then the door was closed behind them.

   "Do you feel that?" said Sofi. "There is a mental force in this room."

   All of them did feel it, with the exception of Oma. "What? What is it?" she asked.

   "A strong urge to speak only the truth," said Jayce. "A zone of truth, no doubt. It will prevent any of us from lying, but one can always simply refuse to answer a question."

   "You have much practice with such things, it seems," said Sofi.

   "Let me answer for everyone," said Hakam. "Do not trust your own words in this room."

   While they waited, Solisar examined the tapestries. His keen elven eyes noticed that some of the stones behind the one on the east wall were out of place. "There is a secret door in the wall behind this tapestry," he noted calmly to those nearby.

   After a few brief moments, the door opened again, and a young herald stepped into the room and stood to the side. "Guests to the Royal Court, prepare to bow before Dauneth Marliir, Lord High Marshall of the Purple Dragons and High Warden of the Eastern Marches of the Kingdom of Cormyr."

   The man who immediately entered was six-foot tall, slim, lanky, and bony. He was between 30 and 40 years of age with grey eyes and sandy hair. He was dressed in a Purple Dragon uniform, though one demonstrating much higher rank than any they had yet seen. From his back hung a greatsword, which was certainly too large for a man of his build to wield. The ring on one of his hands glowed with a magic aura to Solisar's eyes.

   They all bowed to him, except for Kytharrah, who gave more of a cursty, lowering his bulk but keeping from lowering his horns.

   Dauneth nodded in acknowledgement of their attempt to follow protocol and took a seat at one of the southern desks. The herald departed and closed the door behind him.

   "Welcome to Cormyr," said Lord Dauneth. "Are you here for an adventurers' charter?"

   "We are here as adventurers," said Hakam, "yet not for a charter. We are seeking information, and we hope that you can put us in touch with the proper authorities to gather this information."

   "I shall do my best. For what sort of information do you seek?"

   Hakam recounted a brief telling of the death of an ambassador from Cormyr to Wa, named Yunoko, around the Year of the Wanderer.

   "I do not know the name Yunoko," the High Marshall replied. "However, since the death of King Azoun IV two years ago, Wa has cancelled all foreign trade with us and recalled its ambassador. They do not seem willing to deal with the Steel Regent, the infant king's older aunt.

   "What time again did you say that she served in her role as ambassador?"

   "The Year of the Wanderer," answered Jayce, "which is the one thousand, three hundred thirty-eighth year of the Dalereckoning."

   Dauneth squinted his eyes as he did some quick math in his head. "Was that the year before the Year of the Weeping Moon?" he asked.

   "It was," said Jayce.

   "Ah, then I may know something," said Lord Dauneth. "About 60 or 70 years ago, during the reign of Rhigaerd II, Azoun IV's father, I know that the crown appointed the first ambassador to Wa, a Cormyrean explorer who had traveled to Kara-Tur along the Golden Way and spent nearly a decade there. I never met the man. He was well before my time, and I do not know the history of Cormyr's diplomatic relationships well enough to recall his name. We have many ambassadors. I only remember this much because I was born in the Year of the Weeping Moon, and when I grew up and was taught the significant events that happened in my birth year, one of them was that the ruler of Wa — I forget what title they go by — re-opened the borders of Wa, which had been closed for several years prior. I know this does not sound like a terribly significant event, but I grew up in the kind of snotty noble family that talked about everything political incessantly and believed in every consiracy theory out there. They seemed to think that this was significant, because this happened the year after the murder of the second ambassador to Wa, who was the daughter of a 'great adventurer'. I can only assume that this second ambassador was this daughter, presumably your Yunoko. I am sorry for this roundabout way to answer your question, but I have never been known for my conciseness."

   "Yes, this is likely the woman in question," said Hakam. "She was indeed murdered, and we are seeking more information about that murder."

   "Would you know of anyone who would have been alive at that time to whom we could speak?" asked Solisar.

   "To be honest, I have only lived in Suzail for about four years, so I do not know many people here myself. I am from the city of Arabel."

   "Oh, Arabel," said Jayce, "the city ruled by the famed adventuress Myrmeen Llal?"

   Hakam knew of Myrmeen Llal, for she was born in Calimshan, in Calimport. She was known for fighting against a mysterious cult infamous for kidnapping children and terrifying citizens, called the Night Parade. Many Calishites from other cities, Hakam included, considered the story nothing more than a ghost story with which to scare children into behaving, but supposedly this Calimport street urchin grew up to become first a noble of Cormyr and then an adventurer who came back to her homeland to defeat the Night Parade.

   Hakam kept his thoughts on the matter to himself, but Jayce shared his knowledge of Lady Llal openly. "She warred against the Night Parade. I know several fireside ballads about the terrors of the Night Parade, living nightmares that steal away children."

   "It is funny that you should mention Myrmeen," said Dauneth, just as Hakam was about to mention his opinion of the stories, "for she is none other than my mother-in-law." He looked at Hakam. "My wife is also from your country, is Calishite. She goes by Krystin, but that was obviously not her given name at birth; she was an orphan and does not know her true parentage. She was adopted by Lady Llal. And yes, Lady Llal rules Arabel.

   "Back to your original question, I have not lived here long, but there are certainly people who did live then and may even have known this Yunoko. I could send a message to see if a sage would be willing to speak with you about Wa and the history of our affairs with Wa, if you would like. Do you have any other information besides just this lead? May I ask why you interested in her murder? If she worked for Cormyr, it would be in Cormyr's best interest to know why people are now asking about her death decades after the fact. What is your intent?"

   "We are looking for her murderer," said Hakam, "and we believe that the same is also seeking to murder one of our party."

   "Do you have a motive, then, for why our ambassador was murdered?"

   Hakam described how Yunoko sought to protect the life of a mother and child from Wa who were being pursued by a rakshasa. "We believe that we need to find him before he can find us."

   Dauneth did not appear to fully grasp the information, but he seemed content with the answer nevertheless. "Rakshasas in Wa? The fiends with the tiger heads and backwards hands? Interesting. In any case, again, this is not my area of specialty, but I think that your intentions are true. I shall send for the proper sage to assist you. Perhaps we can determine someone who actually knew her or the events of her death. Foreign Affairs may have some records from that time period."

   He stood up from the desk. "Do you have any other need of my services?" he asked. "If not, I shall depart. You may wait here for the sage to arrive."

   "Her property records might also be of use to us," said Hakam. "We believe that some significant events may have occured on her vacation property."

   "Such would also be outside my area of expertise," said Dauneth, "but I can tell you that our ambassadors usually live in the foreign country where they serve if not in the embassy itself. As far as I know, the Cormyrean Embassy to Wa would still exist — unless they tore it down — though it would now be unoccupied. Surely, that is where she would have lived at least part of the time, but I could not even speculate where she would have chosen to spend her vacations. If you could take the nearly a year-long journey to Wa across the Golden Way that the merchants take, through the Hordelands into Kara-Tur, and over the eastern ocean, you would still have the whole island of Wa to search for a potential home. All I can do is send you a sage."
Session: 121st Game Session - Tuesday, Sep 29 2020 from 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Recap , Suzail
Chapter 3 — Avilda
~ eighth-day, 18th of Flamerule, the Year of Rogue Dragons, 8 bells
Wildspace


The next morning, the Frihet left the Rock of Bral and headed toward Toril. Solisar had reminded them about the danger of returning to Toril without taking precautions against the dragons, but Ombert had explained that, before their last visit to Lantan, while the adventurers were searching for Onran's abode, he had shared the same fear. "Apparently, only a single dragon is known to live on the big island of Lantan," said the halfling captain. "We learned that this dragon, an ancient blue, thinks of the entire island nation as his hoard. He has spent the whole dragonrage paroling the seas around the islands of Lantan, ensuring that no other dragons come near his property. If anything, Lantan is thus one of the safest places on Toril to visit right now!"

   As the Frihet launched into spelljamming speed toward their home planet, Hakam approached Solisar, who was below deck in the wizard's lab that the elves of Evermeet had constructed for them.

   "May I speak with you in private, Solisar?"

   "Of course, good cleric," said Solisar.

   Hakam shut the door behind him and shared the results of the previous night's divination. "Is there an elven chameleon god in the history of your people?"

   Suddenly, Solisar flashed back to his visit to the human city of Silverymoon last Nightal. Just before he had met the most alluring Loremaster Rivermantle in the library-temple of Everdusk Hall, he had been examining the statue of a god to whom he had never paid much attention, Erevan Ilesere, the Trickster,... the Chameleon.

   "I do not know how I did not think of it earlier," said Solisar, "but there is indeed a god known as the Chameleon among the Seldarine, Erevan Ilesere. He is the god of trickery, not evil, but one representing the more... playful tendencies of elfkind. Though perhaps one of its least popular members among the elves of my own people, he is respected somewhat by the green elves, who are Belvin's kin."

   Upon hearing Solisar's answer, Hakam's own memory was triggered. "Erevan? Is that not the name of the god whom Jayce nominally follows?"

   Solisar did not know the answer to Hakam's question, as he did not know Jayce very well, but Hakam did not need the answer; he knew that it was true.

   Jayce was a relatively irreligious human, but he had told a strange story of receiving healing for his injured leg as a child from a passing elven priest of Erevan, who also left him with a mysterious tattoo. Later in their adventurers together, but before the time that Solisar had joined them, they were joined briefly by a roguish fellow named Mick. Mick also bore a similar tattoo, which he had also received from a cleric of Erevan in his youth. The tattoos magically glowed when near each other and in fact caused pain to either man if they drew far apart after meeting. It was not until several months later that they learned that the two tattoos were the two halves of a map of an ancient temple of Ubtao in the jungle of Chult, a temple that ultimately led them to Samber.

   Connections were formed in Hakam's mind regarding Yashiera's prophecy that had hitherto evaded him, and he smiled with understanding.

   He again discussed with Solisar the prophecy. "So, Thard Harr, Erevan, and Ubtao are allied, and they do not see the 'dark cloud approaching from beyond them.' What is the pool into which they are gazing? A portal? And what is this dark cloud?"

   "The Shadovar could be the dark cloud, potentially," said the elf.

   "They have a dark cloud around their digging site; that is true."

   "Or the dark cloud is their goddess."

   Hakam nodded at the grim thought. He also remembered his brief time as a captive of the Shadovar cleric Chalan. He wondered if revisiting his conversation with her then might lead to new insights. He thanked Solisar for the helpful conversation and returned to his quarters.

   Meanwhile, above deck, Sofi approached Szordrin as he was standing alone gazing down at Toril. They were in orbit around the dark side of the planet, as Ombert tried to spot where to drop down into the atmosphere for the most direct approach to the tiny islands of Lantan.

   "May I ask you a question? You seem deep in thought."

   "Yes, of course," he replied.

   "You seem very intent on quickly tracking down this rakshasa cutter," she said. "What motivates this? Do you desire revenge? Is it to provide for your own safety? What is driving you on this quest?"

   "Both," said Szordrin. "It started out for revenge, but now it seems like my own life may depend on it. Onran may not have simply been murdered; he may have intentionally given up his life to save mine, so it is even more important."

   "Do you think that revenge will make you feel any better?"

   "Yes, I presume so," he said, but his voice lacked confidence. "We can only know when it is done."

   She nodded. It looked like she had something else to say, but whatever it was she kept to herself.

   "Do you think that the stars are beautiful?" she then asked.

   He looked at her, and she was staring off at the endless number of bright points in crystal sphere of Realmspace. "Yes," he answered, though without the awe that had been in her voice when she asked.

   "You never saw the stars growing up, did you? You lived underground."

   "That is true, but Onran taught me the beauty of the stars and explained how they revolved around Toril and the sun. So, I gained a great appreciation for them long before I ever saw them with my own eyes from the Forest of Mir."

   "I, too, never saw stars as a girl. Sigil has no stars, nor a sun nor a moon. The same is true of the Outlands. It was not until we exited the Astral Plane and entered the wildspace of the Prime that I first gazed upon them. Their beauty left me speechless. I only had a few minutes to take in their beauty, for we entered the clouds of Coliar after that, and, as you know, the sky of Coliar is only white, gray, or black." She sighed. "They are wonderful to me."

   Szordrin let her enjoy the view but remained by her side. Shortly, sunlight burst around Toril's orb, and the stars faded. Szordrin asked her a question. "Now that you are coming with us, what do you hope to gain from this journey?"

   "I am hoping to scan who I really am and who Pistis Sophia wants me to be. Maybe it is woven into your story; maybe it is not. It is too early to say."

   "Do you have any idea how long you wish to travel with us?"

   "As long as you will have me or until it is clear where I am supposed to go next." She paused. "Tumble to this, I have literally given up everything that I own in life to follow Pistis Sophia. It is just me and my mug." She held it up for him and smiled. "That is all."

   They were descending now rapidly and burst through the clouds. Sofi's red eyes widened with excitement upon seeing the blue ocean for the first time. "Is that water?"

   "It is," said Szordrin.

   She giggled with glee.

   Szordrin said, "I heard about the incident with you and Brad. Your response was fully justified and should keep him from bothering you again."

   "Is he that way with most women?"

   "They are all like that, these sailors," said Szordrin.

~~~~

To the crew of the Frihet, as well as Oma, Jayce, and Hakam, the island of Suj was a familiar place, but for the remaining adventurers, a visit to Lantan was anticipated with interest. What strange, gnome-filled, remote island produced such bizarre clockwork toys as the ones that they had been selling on the Rock of Bral? They, of course, had been told a little about the place, but it was always different to experience a new land with one's own eyes.

   The fact that they were able to visit at all was mainly because of Jayce and Captain Ombert. When Hakam had visited the island, he had done so under cover of darkness and took his rowboat to shore distant from the actual port. Lantan was known to have a fear of visitors and, in fact, surrounded their entire island nation with smokepowder sea mines. Too many people would want to steal their advanced technology, the natives thought, after having visited. (In truth, most of the people of Faerûn found the Lantanese too strange to want to conquer their island.) Ombert and Jayce had convinced the right people to grant them access to Dtakkar, one of the port towns of Suj, the smaller of Lantan's two main islands. They had landed the spelljammer within the mile radius of the island, safe from the floating bombs, and now flew an official merchant flag allowing them to sail into the port.

   Lantan was a tropical island nation, built on what once were volcanic islands. The low mountains could be seen in the east, but they were approaching a flatter peninsula. Everywhere they looked was covered with jungle, but unlike Chult or Coliar, a constant cloud of steam was rising from several places, a sign of civilization and, more specifically, of the toy factories for which Dtakkar in particular was known.

   The port was not a large one, as Dtakkar was not a large town. In fact, there was only a single dock. Some sort of obnoxious gnomish contraption rose from the water and acted as a crane to offload shipping goods onto a wooden platform with a ramp higher up to the town itself. The ramp, they soon realized, was a moving one; the planks were attached to a belt, which was pulled by gears. A single other ship was in port when they arrived. Bansh noted that this ship was lanteen-rigged. It had a single triangular sail that was maroon-colored. They observed the crane unloading the boat and then watched the moving ramp carry crates from the dock up to the aerial town.

   Dtakkar, like most settlements of Lantan was built some fifteen feet above the ground on metal stilts and platforms. Homes with little turreted towers were the primary form of architecture here, and they were connected by an inter-web of wooden boardwalks and bridges spanning from one structure to another. They did not see many people about, but the evidence of the bustling population was heard in the sound of clanking metal, sounding horns, whistling pipes, and grinding gears. Those they did see seemed to dress in loose robes. Men and women each wore wide rimmed hats to keep the sun out of their eyes, and they seemed to favor the color yellow, as a good six in ten persons had the color somewhere on their clothing.

   They docked, and a small group of them disembarked. Jayce remembered exactly where to lead them. They soon found themselves at the front door of a small house but one still large enough to have its own little corner turret with pointed metal roof, painted red, which reminded some of them of the pointed hats that gnomes often wore. (Given the high population of gnomes here, they wondered if this connection was intended. Jayce had also always wondered if the gnomes wore the hats so as not to be run over by the taller humans.)

   Before knocking, Szordrin prepared himself with magic to read minds.

   After knocking, they waited a minute before the door opened. "Who are you?" asked the man, in Lantanna. Only Szordin, Solisar, and Jayce understood the words, but the meaning was clear enough to everyone. It was not a friendly question. The man who asked it had probably seen six or seven decades. His hair was thin and white. He had a mustache and was probably handsome in his youth.

   "We were hoping that we could speak with the lady Avilda," said Jayce, whom they had requested to do most of the talking for them. He spoke in his native language to the man.

   "What do ye want with my wife?" asked the man in strongly accented Common, once he saw that the group included so many foreigners. Then he recognized Jayce. "I know who you are! You are that man who did my wife hassle several months ago about her ex-husband. You talked with her enough. She does not want remember him anymore. Leave us alone." He began to close the door. Szordrin knew that the man's thoughts mirrored his spoken words. When are these people going to leave my poor wife alone? She does not want to remember that jerk. This is rude. What business do they have bothering our peace.

   "This is not about your wife;" said Hakam, "it is about Yunoko."

   The man stared at the short, dusky-skinned man in banded armor and a tunic, and appeared exceptionally confused. "I do not know what 'yunoko' is!"

   "Good sir," Jayce began in the Lantanese tongue, "I recognize how socially inappropriate it is for us to return again. You are a good husband, wanting to protect your wife, and I respect that. If you wish us to leave, we will agree to your wishes, but please hear me for just thirty more seconds of your time. As you know, her ex-husband was not just a bad husband, he was a disturbed man. Unfortunately, he has caused harm to more persons than only your wife. His actions could have repercussions that affect happenings on multiple worlds, not only your family. We would not be here if we did not think that the information your wife may hold may be crucial to our ending Samber's destructive and aberrant actions forever. If you permit us ask her but a few questions, I give you my word as a fellow Latanna that we shall never bother you again, and your wife will not only be able to leave Samber forever in the past but also know that she helped protect Faerûn from potential great harm."

   The man paused and thought. Well, there is no doubt that he is a true Lantanna; I can take him at his word. He is not lying to me; he will leave us alone after this. Maybe if five more minutes with my wife will save the world.... He spoke again in Common. "If she will agree to it, ye may ask us both your questions, but ye take longer than five minutes or ye cause her a tear shed, I will toss through the window your skinny body."

   Jayce was not a particularly heavy human, to say the least; he was built like a pole. Nevertheless, Avilda's husband was even thinner. Even so, the man's tone sounded like he literally intended to attempt to throw Jayce if they tarried to long, and Szordrin knew that he was visualizing doing so in his mind's eye as he made the threat.

   "Play?" asked Kytharrah, but he was quickly quieted by the others.

   "As soon as she is ready," said Jayce, "we will get right to our questions. Shall we stand here?"

   "I shall get her." The man closed the door on them.

   Szordrin whispered some words to Ferry while the man was retrieving his wife, and Ferry nodded.

   When the door opened again, despite having been warned in advanced by their bard, they were still all taken aback. The woman before them, except for her pale skin and white hair, looked like Ilthian's older sibling.

   Kytharrah might have been confused by this, except that she smelled nothing like Ilthian. (In fact, he had noticed before that Ilthian had no smell at all.)

   Avilda looked nervous, particularly upon seeing a minotaur. She clung to her husband. Kytharrah gave her the friendliest puppy look that he could.

   "Do not fear him," said Jayce. "He is harmless, like a pet dog really."

   "He is like a young child," said Sofi. "I assure you that he is safe." Sofi stroked the fur on his bulky arm to demonstrate.

   "I thought that I answered you your questions already," said Avilda in a very thick Lantanese accent. "What more do ye want?"

   "We have further questions," said Hakam, "not about Samber but about a woman we believe that you knew as well, Yunoko."

   Szordrin felt what might be described as a mental sigh coming from the Lantanese woman's mind, as if it were exhausting to think back on old memories. He saw flashing through her mind the blurry images of men and women dressed in their fanciest clothing, smiling, dancing, and eating at what he soon realized was a wedding. A woman in a beautiful white kimono approached Avilda in her memory.

   "I was not actually friends with Yunoko," said Avilda. "She was a friendly enough lass, but I only her met twice, first be at her wedding, second be at mine."

   "Can you tell us anything about the manner of her death?" asked Hakam, wasting no time.

   "I only knew that she had died because I heard it from my ex-husband. He received a letter. We were told that there would be no funeral."

   "Why not?" asked Szordrin.

   "Samber never went into details, but Onran said that there could not be a funeral."

   "Did you know Master... Onran well?" asked Szordrin.

   "Like Yunoko, I did not know well him. I met him a few more times than Yunoko, as he was my ex-husband's best childhood friend. As far as I know, he moved away from Lantan with his gnomish family as a young ladd. Occasionally, he would come back and Samber visit. We went to their wedding; they came to ours. Samber and he corresponded frequently, but I did not know well him. He seemed a nice enough ladd, but I thought that my husband be nice at the time as well."

   "Do you recall whom she spoke to the most at her wedding?" asked Hakam.

   "I know not how that answer," said Avilda. "Yunoko was half-Wanese, half-Cormyrean. Her father's family was there, dressed in Cormyrean garb. Her mother's family was dressed in those Wanese robes that they all wear." Szordin caught glimpses of the scene in her mind as she spoke.

   "Do you know how they met, Onran and Yunoko?" asked Szordrin.

   She shook her head.

   "Do you know anyone else to whom we could speak who knew either Onran or Yunoko?" asked Solisar. "Anyone whom you met at the wedding?"

   "We were the only Lantanna at their wedding," said Avilda. "I spoke with Yunoko for long at the wedding. She was very easy talk with, and I no one else knew. She was a very kind woman and was friendly to me because so out of place I was." Again, Szordrin saw the briefest images of Yunoko as she spoke to Avilda at the wedding, and he felt strong emotions of not belonging among the rich nobles.

   "Where was their wedding?" asked Hakam.

   "It was in Suzail, in Cormyr," she said.

   "Do you know where they lived?" asked Hakam.

   "They lived in Wa," she said.

   "Do you know if they had any vacation homes?"

   "I do not know where they a vacation home built themselves, but when the second time I met her, says she, how much she loved her honeymoon. Says she, they spent most of it swimming naked and free together and alone on some other world. I did not know what she was saying; I just had a smile on me and my head nodded. Says she, the place was beautiful, full of water, clear as glass."

   "Can you provide any more specifics about either their wedding venue or their home in Wa?"

   "I at their home in Wa never be, but the wedding was at a fancy place, some place official like. There was a black, dragon-shaped throne in the back of the room, with many tapestries."

   Avilda's husband finally interjected. "Ye promised five minutes. It has been that long. The time is up. Leave us be now."

   "I thank you kindly for your information," said Solisar.

   The man and woman returned into their home and left the adventurers outside.

   "I think that we need to visit Cormyr next," suggested Hakam. "That seems to be where most of the remaining threads lie."

~~~~


With Oma at the helm, the Frihet rose from the waters around Lantan and took to the sky. Solisar had her take the ship clear into orbit. There were not many clouds in the sky this day, and he hoped that they would be able to spot the Sea of Falling Stars, upon which borders the nation of Cormyr rested, from wildspace, thus avoiding any danger posed by the raging dragons. At spelljamming speeds, they should be able to place themselves over the waters in nearly no time at all; however, it would be two hours later in the day at that latitude, and it would take some time to both ascend and descend.

   As they climbed higher and higher in elevation, Hakam readied a spell to complete one further task, communication with Chief Grak, or "Captain Stubs". Since Samber had taken back Ilthian and also apparently stolen the sea charts from Ombert before that, they feared that Samber might also try to take his sailing vessel back from the goblinoids who had used it to escape his island.

   "Remember us? We saved you from the bone devil. We are looking to return to the island. Could you tell us how to navigate back?"

   Hakam waited for a few moments and then heard the gruff voice of Captain Grak in his mind. "Ahoy! This be Cap'n Stubs! Still no arms or legs, but otherwise alive! In the Nelanther now. Maybe I can help. Goonya begs me thank...."

   Hakam asked Jayce what "in the Nelanther" would mean.

   "The Nelanther Islands," answered the bard, "pirate islands and uninhabited desert isles. Hundreds of them. Most do not even have potable water. We shall be flying directly over them on the way to Cormyr, though I am sure we will not be able to spot them from as high as we will be. They are non-human, non-demihuman humanoids mostly. Not the sort of place good folk would want to visit. Great place to hide though!"

   "Should we stop there on the way then?" asked Leokas.

   "We are not ready to stop Samber directly," said Solisar, "so I see no need to learn this information now."

   "I agree," said Hakam, "but having the knowledge in hand may be better, if he is seeking out his missing vessel."

   He paused and then spoke again. "However, we do not know on which of the hundred islands Grak resides, and I do not have the magic of another sending ready for this day. It shall have to wait."

   They passed out of the gravity well of Toril and felt the usual mild jolt. Ombert gave the order to jump, and the magic of spelljamming launched them hundreds of miles to the northeast in seconds. In 40 minutes, they would splash down in the Sea of Fallen Stars and begin sailing to the great Kingdom of Cormyr.
Session: 120th Game Session - Tuesday, Sep 01 2020 from 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM
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Tags: Chapter 3 , Lantan , Recap
Chapter 3 — The Shou Embassy of Bral
~ sixth-day, 16th of Flamerule, the Year of Rogue Dragons, 6 bells
Middle City, Bral


The ship bell rang six times, and Belvin snapped out of his trance. Jayce and Oma had learned to roll the ship as they traveled through wildspace at spelljamming speeds, to simulate the day cycle by using the ship's keel to block the sunlight and keep them in shadow at "night". With the sixth bell, the bard rolled the ship clockwise, so that the sun appeared now on the starboard side. Belvin did not need this gesture as much as the humans on board. Hearing the bell from within his spiritual visit to the Feywild was enough for him to come to full consciousness. As they were back to a 24-hour schedule, it was time for his prayers to Thar Harr.

   He was snuggled, of course, against his camel, who was sleeping in the small pen at the center of the main deck behind the mainmast, next to Leokas' horse, Cloud. He looked about as he stood up and stretched. The halfling boatswain, Niff, was behind him on the aftcastle deck at the wheel. Bansh, the hadozee, Gullbeak, the gnome, and Patrik and Diero, two humans, were manning the decks and sails. The only other person on the deck was Sofi, the monk that they had taken with them from Coliar. She did not seem to sleep as much as the other humans, though he knew that she was not entirely human, not that her curled horns kept that a secret from anyone.

   She heard him stir and turned from where she was standing at the port rail.

   Always inquisitive, she asked him about what happened when elves tranced. His answer was brief, but he explained to her about how it was a way for elves to revisit the memories of past lives.

   "Is it like dreaming?"

   "It is more vivid, more real, than that," he said.

   Not one for long conversations, he turned from her and knelt by his camel to offer prayers in the Druidic tongue.

   She watched him silently but intently, which might have bothered some, but Belvin felt no such discomfort and ignored her until his prayers were finished. He rose to his feet again, as he felt the divine power of nature fill his person.

   Sofi had talked with Hakam for many hours about Anachtyr and the faith of that church, but she had not yet queried Belvin about his deity.

   "Why do you worship a dwarven god?" she asked rather bluntly.

   Ilthian, the woman created by Samber, had also asked many questions, but while both women were curious, Ilthian was far more naive, and Belvin was beginning to sense that Sofi's questions were less about the topic at hand and more about the person to whom she was asking the question.

   It was a question that Belvin had been asked many times since he had chosen to follow the strange dwarven god, rejecting the patronage of Rillifane Rallathil the Leaflord, the god most often worshiped by his forest kin.

   He gave the same sort of answer that he always gave. "It just happened," he said, and then he turned his attention to grooming Kamil.

   She wandered off to watch the sailors and began a conversation with Bansh about the gods of his people.

~~~~

The 150-million-mile journey ended at the second ringing of twelve bells. It was now the 17th of Flamerule. Summer on Toril was nearly half over.

   The journey back was mostly without incident, with one notable exception. The men of the ship were at first delighted to have another woman on board. Sofi had been spending a lot of time with Jayce, listening to his stories and songs, and laughing at them along with the sailors. One of the sailors, Brad, drastically misinterpreted one of her laughs as a sign of romantic interest and foolishly thought this would warrant permission to give her backside a playful squeeze. She almost broke his arm. (Kytharrah was impressed and fascinated by how lightning fast she had grabbed Brad's arm!) That was the last time that any of the sailors tried flirting with her.

   Oma was at the helm this time when the ship came in to the asteroid city, and she guided the vessel into position without any difficulty.

   The Bral docks were just as busy at night as they were during the day. The population of nocturnal creatures living in the Low City was high enough that businesses in that district never closed. Nevertheless, the bodies of most of the adventurers were still struggling from the switch from 30-hour days to 24-hour days, and many wanted to find inns or other boarding to sleep off the jammlag in an actual bed instead of a hammock. (On the Frihet, only Captain Ombert and first mate Loreene had beds.) They agreed to meet at a tavern in the Middle City at nine bells and went their separate ways. Hakam went to stay at the Pantheist Temple of Tyr, while most of the others went to find an inn. Sofi, however, asked to stay on board the Frihet. She did not have money to spend on a room, nor did she think it fitting to sleep in a bed, when the spot on the hardwood floor in Loreene and Oma's room was more than enough for her needs.

   The morning came, and the adventurers sat at a table in the tavern and made plans for the day. The first goal was to sell the metal eggs that they had recovered after the fight with the so-called marauders in the gem mine.

   They went about the town asking around. It took Jayce two hours to find someone, a rare animal keeper, who knew exactly what the eggs were, lonestone marauders. However, he informed the bard that no one sold large animals on the Rock, because there was little space to keep them, and they ate too much and breathed too much of the precious air. Thus, the keeper was not interested in purchasing them.

   However, the man did suggest that they try at the Lesser Market. They all were very familiar with the Great Market. It was where the shop of the Count of Tethyr, Gamalon, was located, and they had already purchased things there in the past. The Office of the Middle Magistrate was there, which Hakam had also visited. The Lesser Market, in contrast, was Bral's alternative market. More honestly said, it was the center of Bral's illegal trade.

   "What do you think about selling these at the Lesser Market," Jayce asked Hakam.

   "The operation of the market itself is not illegal, is it?" Hakam replied. "If we are to sell legally acquired goods there, which we have, then we are guilty of no crime. These are living items; we should be rid of them as quickly as possible."

   So, Jayce, Oma, Hakam, and Szordrin headed down into the Low City to try and off the eggs onto someone. It took another couple hours of walking about the crowded plaza calling out that they had rare, valuable eggs, before they found someone who indeed was very interested. It was a gnomish fellow, with wild hair and eyebrows and his long beard split into two separate spikes. He was willing to pay 1,600 gold pieces per egg. Szordrin and Jayce were convinced that one could make as much as 4,000 per egg. They were able to talk the gnome up to 2,400 but no further. Hakam was eager to get rid of them, so they accepted this final offer.

   Back at the tavern, over a late lunch. Jayce sat down and calculated everyone's share of the cash. He handed a platinum trade bar and five gold trade bars to everyone involved in the battle against the marauders, except for Oma, who received half that amount.

   "I have never seen so much money in my life!" exclaimed Sofi.

   "Why do Sofi and Nargroth receive a full share and I only receive a half share?" asked Oma.

   "It is in your contract," said Jayce, "and Nargroth and Sofi do not have contracts."

   "I can share some of mine with you, Oma," said Nargroth.

   "So, having a contract is worse than not having one," said Oma, ignoring or not hearing the offer. "How is that fair?"

   "Both Nargroth and Sofi have more skill at adventuring than you," said Jayce.

   "Did Nargroth or Sofi, oh, I do not know, say, summon undead ogres from another planet in Realmspace through another plane of existence and compel them to fight for us? And I have been adventuring for almost a year now; Sofi has had exactly two battles with us! Please feel no offense, Sofi."

   "No, you are correct," answered Sofi. She then spoke to Jayce. "If Oma gets only half a share, than I only get half a share. Redistribute it." She slid her trade bars back across the table.

   While Jayce did so, Szordrin discovered that someone in the Lesser Market must have pickpocketed him; he was short nine gold pieces. (Szordrin was simultaneously embarrassed and in awe at this ordeal, but nine gold was not a great loss at this point in his adventuring career.)

~~~~

After lunch, some of them went shopping. The casters purchased spell components for their new spells or prayers. In particular, Hakam acquired a set of platinum rings, which he explained could be used to protect others in the party with divine protection if he so prayed over them. Szordrin acquired some pearls with which to identify some of their recently acquired magical goods, particularly the unknown potions.

   In the meantime, Jayce went on an errand to find out if anyone on the Rock might remember the young Samber and Onran when they had visited some number of decades ago. He was gone for three hours. When he returned, he had a huge grin on his face. "I am the greatest," he said. "I found us someone who met 'Ronan and Ramseb'."

   After he sat down, Jayce happily explained how he had found the information. "I suspected that if I was to learn about two wizards who visited the Rock when younger, I would need to talk to someone who both has lived on the Rock for a long time and has interacted with wizards.

   "The first name that I came up with was Gamalon, but as you know, he has retired from keeping shop and gone on to become a count of Tethyr. However, his shop is still here, of course, on the starboard side of the Great Market. So, I talked to the new shopkeeper that Count Gamalon had hired to run the place in his absence.

   "I learned that Gamalon moved to the Rock in the Year of the Striking Falcon, which was 40 years ago. He left the Rock to move back to Tethyr during the Reclamation Wars about six years ago. Samber and Onran definitely would have come to the Rock in that time. Apparently, Gamalon was an adventurer on Toril before he came to the Rock, and one of his adventuring companions was a dwarf named Gyudd. Gyudd also came to the Rock and opened a shop, Cap'n Gyudd's, over on the border of the Dwarven District on the leading edge. The two used to send potential customers to each other. Cap'n Gyudd still lives here, so that was where I headed next.

   "Before I entered the shop, I asked around a bit about Gyudd himself to see if I could learn how I might get on his good side. I learned from the local dwarven bars that Gyudd was known to love beer more than women and that he smoked a great deal of tobacco, despite smoking being illegal here. I simply entered his store with my pipe out and asked for recommendations on some pipe weed and got him talking. I said that I would buy him a beer to thank him, and so we walked across the street to his favorite pub, and I got him talking.

   "The Cap'n had an ivory peg leg and hair that matched. He told me some wonderful stories of his days as an adventurer — clearly exaggerations — and his true feelings about tourists. When it was clear that he had a superb memory for an elderly dwarf, I asked him about Ronan and Rembas and described each of the men.

   "'I know just who ya mean,' he said. 'Young depressin' fella with hair the color of a carrot an' a friendly chap with golden eyes an' silver hair, probably one o' those angel-descended folk. I can't tell ya humans' ages well, but they looked barely men. That was in the Year o' the Behir. I remember because it was the same year that Clan Battlehammer saved a town in Icewind Dale on Toril, an' I had a young cousin who fought in the battle against the goblins.'

   "The Year of the Behir was 1342 in the Dalereckoning," Jayce said. Then he returned to Cap'n Gyudd's story. "'They came into Ol' Gemhead's shop one day, while I was sharing a beer at close o' day with me friend. We were talkin' about happenin's down on Toril. The silver-haired one explained that his parents had frequented Gemhead's shop when he was a boy, and he wondered if Gemhead sold anythin' useful for planewalkin'. Old Gemhead says, "Nay, but ya might want to visit the Interlink Consortium o'er on the port side, as they sell just those sorts o' things ya might need." That's all I remember. I'm not sure that their names were whatever ya just said, but they both started with the same letter; I remember that much.'"

   "Gyudd said that you were welcome to come ask him more questions, but he really did not think he had anything more to add."

   "So," said Hakam, "we have a year and a place."

   It was getting late in the day, being about five bells in the afternoon, and they had one more place that they wanted to visit for information, an embassy of Wa. They had certainly seen some people on Bral that they suspected to be Wanese, but as all of them were from the western side of Toril (or below the surface), none was particularly good at telling anyone from Kara-Tur apart. After asking around, they learned that Wa had no embassy on Bral. Nevertheless, they decided to visit instead the Shou Embassy, hoping to learn something about Wa through its neighbor, the Empire of Shou Lung.

   They had passed the Shou Embassy many times during their time on Bral. It was the impressive building with the lung dragon and bronze foo lion sculptures on Dock Street next to the colored archway to Shou-Town. Hakam, Jayce, Szordrin, and Solisar took this errand and approached the guards wearing horned helmets and red, distorted demon masks.

   The guards did not even acknowledge the visitors; they stood as still as statues.

   "Are we permitted to enter," Hakam asked them, "or must we make an appointment."

   There was no response.

   Szordrin, by means of his language magic, repeated Hakam's question in High Shou. There was still no response. He wished that he had prepared the ability to detect thoughts that morning.

   The main door to the embassy, an ornate wooded gateway, was wide open, so Hakam carefully passed the guards. They did not respond, so he kept on up the steps and the others followed him.

   The interior of the building was beautiful. The floors were wood-paneled, with different colors of wood and fancy designs in the corners. Even the simplest elements of the construction were artistically done.

   A woman was standing in the hallway. She had jet black hair piled high on her head and supported with pins. She was dressed in a narrow dress of bright-colored silks. The skirt nearly brushed the floor and had two slits running up to her hips. The tight bodice had a high collar. The dress was embroidered with golden thread in the shapes of dragons. On her feet were a pair of white slippers.

   "Welcome to the Embassy of Kai Tsao Shou Chin to the City of Bral," she said. Her utterance was monosyllabic but otherwise crisp, perfect Common. She gave a slight bow with her hands together. "How may we be of assistance?"

   Hakam said, "We have some questions about events that may have occurred in the Wa empire, and we were hoping that your embassy might be able to help us to learn more about them."

   "Would you be so kind to follow me?" said the woman. "I shall have tea brought for you while I summon one of the clerks of Lord Chan Fu Wi of the Ministry of State. He may be able to answer your questions."

   She led them to a small room through a red door frame with no door. There were ornate chairs and side tables made of multiple colors of wood. Movable, folding screens divided up the room into smaller segments. These wooden screen panels were decorated with images of flowers and trees.

   A tray with assorted teas was brought out for them by another woman wearing a similar form-fitting dress but in less vivid colors. It was set on one of the side tables. The teas were delightful to sample.

   Shortly, a man came in wearing a long tunic reaching almost to the floor. Like the woman's dress, it was made from silk. It had buttons from the floor all the way up to the high collar. This person also wore slippers.

   The man spoke with flawless Common. "I greet you. My name is Kuang Ch'ung, Minor Clerk of Lord Chan Fu Wi of the Ministry of State of the Empire of Shou Lung. How may I be of service?"

   Hakam repeated his earlier request. "We have some questions about events that may have occurred in the empire of Wa. We hope to hear your perspective or that you can point us to people who might tell us more."

   "I shall help in the best way that I can," said Ch'ung. "Do you have any specific questions?"

   "Our particular question regards the assassination of one Emperor Goshukara Kando. We have learned evidence that he may have been an imposter, a fiend taking human form, a rakshasa. Do your people know anything of this?"

   Ch'ung nodded. "It is true that emperors are sometimes assassinated. The most recent assassination in Wa, I believe, occurred nearly a century ago. I do not know the details of it, however. You must understand that the modern emperors in Wa are very weak. The true power in Wa lies in the hands of the shoguns, the military commanders. The emperor is only a puppet to the shogun. It has been this way for centuries."

   "Is the current emperor descended from this Goshukara Kando?" asked Hakam.

   "Presumably. The imperial line is kept mostly as a symbol of earlier times. The nation of Wa has only had one 'ruling' dynasty since the the 833rd year of our calendar, which was almost 2,000 years ago."

   "Dynasties can have branches, can they not?" asked Hakam.

   "True," said the clerk, "but I do not know the details well enough to give you the complete genealogy from Kando. It is also news to my ears and to the ears of Shou Lung that Kando may have been an imposter, as you say."

   After a slight pause, Ch'ung also said, "You should know, Wa and Shou Lung have a tenuous relationship. In centuries past there was open warfare. For a time, the Emperor of Shou Lung even controlled the island of Wa. It was not until the 12th Emperor Chin of the Kao Dynasty declared the Unleashing of Shackles that Wa was granted permission to exist as an independent state. This was over a thousand years ago, yet memories go deep. At that time, the emperor of Wa did have real power. It was in the last two or three centuries that Wa's shogunate rose to power."

   He continued. "Wa is an isolationist nation. They do have open ports with Shou Lung and even a community of Shou living in the city of Nakamaru in the north of the island, but they are still very cautious in letting the outside world know about what happens on their islands."

   "Are rakshasa common in the stories of your people?" asked Szordrin. "Or have they or any other fiends been known to try to infiltrate the government in your histories?"

   "'Rakshasa' is a Nubari word from the Malatran peninsula, a jungle land separate from either Kara-Tur or Faerûn. The rakshasa, while we know of their existence, do not play into many of the tales of Shou Lung. I am not an expert in Wa history, but I have not heard of rakshasa in any tales of Wa either. Nevertheless, Kara-Tur is a realm where the spirit world and the natural world are in close contact. To those of you from the western parts of Toril, it can be very odd coming to Kara-Tur, where the spirits can and do walk the earth as they please. It would not be hard to believe that a maleficent spirit, such as a rakshasa, would try to corrupt the mortal bureaucracy established by the Celestial Emperor. It is believed by most that the line of an emperor is a divine line.

   "I shall also note: honor is very important to my own people, so it should not be taken lightly when I describe Wa as a rigid honor-based culture. It would be very bothersome, to say the least, to the average Wanese citizen to learn that there had been an imposter in the divine line, even though their emperor does not truly rule. The emperor is still a symbol of pride and honor for the people."

   "Where could we find a Wa embassy?" asked Hakam. "And would they report to the shogun or to the emperor?"

   "They would report to the emperor in name but to the shogun in practice," said Ch'ung. "However, I do not know that they have any embassies in any lands. Again, they are isolationists and wary of any foreign presence."

   "You mentioned a port open to Shou traders," queried Hakam.

   "They are open to trade, but only at a few ports and to a limited number of nations, such as Shou Lung and T'u Lung — and only since Shou Year 2589, thanks to our Eighth Emperor Kai Chin. They will only permit trade with nations to whom they have offered an invitation."

   "Are there any large communities of Wanese people living in Shou Lung lands or elsewhere?" asked Hakam.

   "The Shou Lung province of Wa K'an, or, in your tongue, the Land that Views Wa, contains a people known as the Waka. Some of these people have mixed blood with the Wanese. Most are descendants of Shou who lived in Wa during our nation's occupation of that land. When our countries made peace, those Shou were allowed to return home to Shou Lung, and many settled in Wa K'an. Additionally, some Wa nobles in exile from Wa have fled there, though not in large numbers."

   "Have you ever heard of the organization known as the Harpers operating in either Shou Lung or Wa?" asked Hakam.

   "If you speak of the Harpers of your wizard Elminster, I have no such knowledge. In my understanding, that powerful wizard cares only of the affairs of Faerûn and does not venture into the lands of Kara-Tur with any frequency."

   The group of four adventurers looked at each other to see if they had anything else to ask among them. Kuang Ch'ung volunteered the following: "I had said that relations between Shou Lung and Wa were tenuous. I shall note that this is especially true here in wildspace. Wa is jealous of the power of our Imperial Spacefleet, and they have attempted to built a fleet of their own vessels to challenge our power in wildspace.

   "We believe — though it is not proven — that the Arcane have helped them to develop two vessels, about a decade ago, which they call the tsunami and the locust. The tsunami is a massive vessel, the largest vessel in all of Realmspace. It is like a segmented lung, a dragon, built of metal. It carries at least twenty smaller vessels, the locusts, with which they can swarm and overcome their foes in wildspace. We do not know the exact number, but Wa possesses at least three of these enormous spelljammers. As of yet, they have not spread far from the orbit of the Tears.

   "Our dragonships occassionally have come into conflict with their tsunamis. They are known even to have captured some of our vessels. Additionally, the Elven Navy has had a few wildspace battles with Wa. Neither of our peoples are officially at war with Wa, but relations are tense."

   Ch'ung looked directly at Solisar as he spoke these last details. Solisar nodded.

   As a show of good faith, Hakam showed one of Yunoko's letters to the clerk, in case he wanted to pass on the information about the imposter emperor to the ambassador. Kuang Ch'ung seemed very intrigued and thankful for this. The only thing further that he could add after reading it, however, was that the letter was signed in genuine Wanese calligraphy. "It is the character for 'love'," he said.

   As they departed the embassy, Hakam noted to this companions, "I suspect that we will have to journey to Cormyr to follow these leads further."

   "Do we have anything more to do here on the Rock?" asked Jayce.

   "I do not wish to tarry," said Szordrin. "Let us return to Toril and talk with Avilda. Then, we should seek out what we can in the Kingdom of Cormyr."

   "I shall return to Ombert then and tell him that we shall be ready to depart in the morning," said the bard.

~~~~

On the way back to the Pantheist Temple of Tyr, Hakam stopped at the northern end of the Great Market, outside the shop named Gamalon's Curios. He knelt at the largest cobblestone just outside the main door, placed his hands on the rock surface, and prayed to his god for ten minutes, ignoring the merchants and pedestrians on their way home who looked at him with confusion.

   Suddenly, Hakam spoke to the stone, "Tell me which wizards have walked upon you."

   Instantly, a flood of visions passed through Hakam's mind in rapid succession until they paused around the image of two younger men. The first was a younger version of the red-headed wizard who had exiled them nearly a year ago. The second was a silver-haired, bearded man. The man's hair style was quite similar to that of Szordrin, but the faces were very different; Onran's was much rounder in the cheeks. His eyes stood out, being of a golden color, almost glowing. Samber carried a staff and wore about his neck a silver cog with four spokes. Onran was wearing a pair of red leather boots, presumably the same as that pair that Leokas now wore.

   (He also became aware of the existence of a treasure vault deep below Gamalon's shop, but he had no interest in robbing Gamalon!)

   That night, Hakam also took incense that he had purchased and entered one of the tiny prayer rooms within the temple. Within the small, square chamber, he lit the blue, purple, and white candles and filled and lit the censor that hung suspended by a chain from the ceiling. Thick incense filled the tiny room. He knelt at the altar, a miniature stone warhammer and a functioning balance, and placed his offering of gold coins upon one of the scales. The balance tilted, of course, since the other tray was empty. Hakam began to recite a long and complicated prayer. When he finished it, he began again. On the 20th such repetition, the scale suddenly defied gravity and balanced.

   "How can I learn more about the god represented by the chameleon in Yashiera's vision?" he asked Anachtyr.

   Perhaps one of the other elves knows more about elven history, lore, and legend than the wild one.

   The voice in his head was not his own. When it had finished its brief message, the balance tilted again and the candles were suddenly snuffed out.
Session: 120th Game Session - Tuesday, Sep 01 2020 from 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM
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