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Lhynard
Posted by the GM
Per Multiversum
Chapter 3 — Potentially Useful Discoveries and Grim News
Instantly, the prismatic wall vanished into nothing.

   Various vocalizations of excitement came from most of the group.

   Beyond the rainbow wall was a wall of stone, with a narrow open doorway in the center. Hakam wasted no time in crossing the remainder of the hall and passing through. He stepped into a vault, with curved pockets in the extra-thick stone walls. In the north alcove was a silver chest covered in arcane runes. In the south and west alcoves were three stone pedestals, waist high. On two of them were two different orbs, each large enough to fill both palms.

   Hakam called back. "Solisar and Szordrin, follow the same path as I. I need your assistance."

   They did so.

   "The chest is probably mithral," said Szordrin.

   One of the orbs was golden-colored. It had deep grooves in it and was movable. "It is a puzzle box," said Solisar. "There is almost certainly something inside, if one can figure out the motions to open it." It was not magical.

   The remaining orb, in contrast, was magical, with a moderate abjuration aura. Solisar picked it up very carefully. It was made of a black material that seemed to shift from being transparent to opaque, depending on how one looked at it. Some sort of purple fibrils seemed to be flowing within it when it happened to appear transparent, but this color too morphed into the others in the color spectrum. It was beautiful, but he was certain that it had been created for more than only artistic reasons.

   "I will identify this in the morning," the elven wizard said.

   While Hakam was looking past Solisar into the magical orb, Kytharrah picked up the golden-colored one and started twisting and turning it. (He had had no problem taking the exact path as the others over the sigil-covered tiles.)

   Hakam vocally prayed to Anachtyr that the minotaur's actions would not bring a curse upon them. Then he said, "Minotaur! Put that down!"

   Kytharrah tossed it from his left hand, where Hakam tried to take it from him, to his right, catching it. "Play!" said Kytharrah. A game of keep-away was one that he had not played in a while. It would be a fun game to play with Tano, he thought.

   Sofi did play, and she snagged the orb quickly from his hand with a flash of her arm. "I win!" she said with a big grin up at him.

   Kytharrah did not even know that she had followed him across the tiles. He tried to grab at it again, but she swatted his hand away with a lightning reflex.

   "No, I won!" She tossed the puzzle orb quickly to Solisar, who surprised himself when he caught it.

   "The game is over for now, Kytharrah," said Sofi.

   Solisar examined it. "Actually, the way Kytharrah rotated this piece here may have given me an idea about how it works," said Solisar. "Thank you, Kytharrah! I do not think that I would have so quickly come to the conclusion that it could take this sort of rotation had you not played with it...." He began to rapidly move the quadrants and rings of the orb rapidly. It was only about a minute before, suddenly, a cylinder slid out of the sphere into Solisar's hand and fell open into two pieces with felt internal surfaces.

   It was empty. There was nothing at all inside.

   "Are we certain that there is no other hidden chamber within?"

   "I do not see how that would be possible without magic," said Solisar.

   Belvin poked Szordrin and turned to the mithral chest. He bent down and found it locked. Standing up, he poked Szordrin again.

   "Give me a moment," said Szordrin. "I need to get out my picks."

   But the chest proved to have a high-quality lock mechanism, well beyond Szordrin's ability to open with his tools.

   "Nekra!" commanded Solisar. There was a clicking sound. Szordrin lifted open the lid. The chest was full of several thousand gold coins, with Lantanese stampings, but two other items sat atop the pile — a music box crafted from bronze with an inlay of pearl and a simple grayish-brown hoodless cloak. Szordrin lifted up the cloak, (which had a moderate illusion aura to Solisar's eyes,) and let it hang open. The inside material appeared jet black, although it did not seem to be made of a different material from the opposite side. In fact, they soon realized that one could feel the fibers of the cloak's inner surface, even though they could not see them. Szordrin then discovered that if he rubbed his fingernail along the inside of the cloak, it made no sound.

   "I do have two pearls," said Solisar. "I could identify one of these objects now, if you give me about ten minutes and do not want to wait until the morning."

   Belvin, however, picked up the music box and turned the crank. A simple tune came out, but none of them recognized it, nor did Negi, the Dranyrs' former maid.

   "The craftsmanship reminds me of things that I saw in Lantan," said Hakam. "Perhaps Jayce would recognize the tune."

   "In the meantime," said Szordrin, "I would like Solisar to identify this cloak of Onran's."

   "Kytharrah," said Sofi, who saw that the minotaur was growing restless, "let us go outside and play with Tano while Solisar does canny spellslinger stuff."

~~~~

They found the large carp-like creature in the little man-made pond outside the Dranyrs' house. He was happy to see his furry, horned friend and ready to play.

   This time, the game was hide and seek. Kytharrah and Tanoshihire were both exceptionally good at this game, as Kytharrah had a phenomenal sense of smell and Tano was gifted with dragon senses. However, Tano started winning, and Kytharrah began to suspect that the carp-dragon was no longer playing fairly. The minotaur tracked his smaller friend to spots behind trees where the scent ended abruptly. Then, he would spot or hear the young dragon some distance away behind or in another tree altogether, though no trail of scent was left between the two locations.

   Eventually, he saw how Tano did it. Kytharrah saw the smaller creature simply poof out of existence. A moment or so later, he would reappear at some other spot.

   Sofi, who was watching them play, noticed this too. "That is not fair," she said. "Kytharrah cannot do whatever it is that you just did!"

   Kytharrah asked Tano in his minotaur dialect of Giant how he did this "trick". Tano seemed to understand and gave an answer in his own language, which only meant that Kytharrah still had no understanding of what was happening.

   Meanwhile, in the underground vault, Solisar had finished his identification ritual and explained to his companions that the magical cloak was a scry shroud. Whoever wore the cloak would be protected against all manner of divinatory magics and — if noticing a scrying sensor of any kind — could immediately turn invisible for one minute in response.

   After this, they crossed back over the floor tiles. (They could not determine how to reactivate the prismatic wall and saw no need to.) They bid the maid, Negi, farewell and came outside to join Sofi, Kytharrah, and the carp dragon. "Fun trick," said Kytharrah, pointing at the dragon. "Here, there." He gestured. "Show." Sofi then "translated" for the minotaur, explaining what Tano had revealed that he could do.

   Solisar knew that Tano had not been speaking Wa-an, yet Hina, the woman at the tea house, had had no issues understanding him. He suspected that the dragon was speaking what those in Faerûn called Trade Tongue, the Common of the eastern realms of Kara-Tur, which was a Shou Chiang language, the family of languages spoken in Shou Lung and T'u Lung. Unfortunately for Solisar, Wa-an was not a Shou Chiang language. However, he had a hunch that the carp dragon might speak another language that he did know. "You seem to understand our languages; do you also speak Draconic, Tanoshihire?" he asked in Draconic.

   The little dragon looked insulted and answered in Draconic. "Of course I can speak the language of dragons; I am a dragon! I told you that!" He gave one of his roar-hisses. Then he seemed to calm a bit and asked, "Do you want me to speak in Draconic now instead?"

   "I can understand you without magic if you do so, yes," said Solisar, "so I would appreciate that, if you would be so kind."

   "None of the rest of us can speak Draconic," said Szordrin, who could at least recognize that that was the language being spoken. "Ask him what other languages he can speak."

   Solisar did so, and Tano replied with pride, "The tongue of water, Common, and the Spirit Tongue. I am very smart!" He grinned, revealing his very sharp teeth.

   "So, you understand what I am saying now?" asked Solisar in Aquan.

   Tano nodded vigorously. "Yes, you must be very smart too," he answered in the same language.

   (To Hakam, Aquan sounded oddly familiar, as it shared a history with his own native tongue of Alzhedo.)

   "Is 'Common' what you have been speaking to us before?" asked Solisar.

   The carp dragon nodded.

   "Can you speak for me in the Spirit Tongue?"

   Tano did so, but it was another language that bore no resemblance to any of the many that Solisar knew.

   "Kytharrah says that you are vanishing and reappearing, Tanoshihire," said Solisar in Draconic. "How are you doing that?"

   "I am just going into the Spirit World and coming back again," said Tano, making it sound like it was as easy as taking a stroll.

   "Can you give me a demonstration?"

   Tano vanished from sight, and Solisar's magic-seeing vision could not detect any residual aura from the dragon either. This meant that Tano was not simply turning invisible; he was actually leaving the Material Plane. About a minute later, Tano reappeared in a new spot. Notably, the protective magic that Solisar always had active to notify him if someone was teleporting to their location did not trigger. This meant that however Tano was teleporting, it was not by passing through the Astral Plane.

   Kytharrah motioned at Leokas and Solisar and said, "You?"

   "Us what?" said the forest elf.

   "I think that he is asking if we can also go to the Spirit World," said Solisar.

   "Why would he think that? I am the least magical of all of you," said Leokas.

   "Because he knows that we went to the Fugue Plane," said Solisar. "It is not the same place," he then explained gently to the minotaur. "It is a special place that one can only go to from Kara-Tur — and only with magic."

   Talk of spirits and the Fugue Plane reminded Szordrin of Yunoko's request to them to find Onran's departed soul. He put on the hat of disguise that they had taken from Onran's basement on Coliar and his face transformed into that of his old master. "Ask him if, during his wanderings in the Spirit World, he has ever encountered anyone who looks like this."

   Solisar translated into Draconic, and Tano answered in the negative. Then Solisar asked the little dragon. "I do not even need to translate for you, do I? Can you not understand what all of us are thinking anyhow?"

   "It is easy for me to hear Kytharrah's thoughts, because he and I are good pals, but I almost never know what you or you or you are thinking." Tano nodded in turn toward Sofi, Hakam, and Solisar. "And I do not know your words, just your pictures and stuff."

   Szordrin thought in his head, "Can you hear what I am thinking?" but the dragon did not respond. Instead, he said to Solisar, "Ask him if he knows what I am thinking about." Then he pictured Ferry in his mind.

   "Sometimes I know and sometimes I do not," said Tano. "Oh, now you are thinking about your rat!"

   Solisar translated, and then Szordrin tried to block the image from his mind. Tano reported that the "rat went away."

   "Tano," asked Solisar, "you can jump between the Spirit World and this world; do you know of any pathways that creatures like us can take to get there?"

   "You do not need a pathway, silly creatures!" Tano lunged forward and gently bit onto Solisar's magical winter boot. Instantly, the two vanished.

   Solisar, however, found himself in the same place with Tano's mouth around his boot, only it was not the same place but rather almost a reflection of it. Most of the trees were the same and in the same places, except that they were taller and fuller, and their leaves were somehow more green; their bark had taken on a reddish hue, making the leaves and bark stand out in greater contrast from each other. He glanced behind himself to the west. Onran's house had no analog in this world, being replaced by more trees, but the mountains of Wa, which had already seemed great, now appeared to stretch higher than the edge of the sky.

   "See?" said Tano with pride. "I told you that I am a god. Do you want to go back now?"

   "Yes, please."

   With that, they were back on the Material Plane.

   Solisar explained to the others that Tano could plane shift without any need for a tuning fork but apparently only to the Spirit World.

   Hakam made a suggestion. "Perhaps we can ask our friends at the Interlink Consortium what tuning fork would allow me to take us to the Spirit World, if ever this fish leaves us."

   Tano then lunged at Kytharrah and bit his leg, with far more force than he had applied to Solisar's boot. Kythharah had wanted this, and now it was the minotaur who found himself in a strange mirror of reality, where everything seemed bolder and more intense. He took a deep inhalation, and his nose was greeted with crisp and wonderful scents. He could recognize the distinct smell of every individual tree about him, every pine and every cedar. He could no longer smell his other friends, however, apart from Tano, who had ceased clamping down on his now bleeding leg.

   When Kytharrah was ready to go back, he imagined Solisar, and Tano seemed to understand. The two young creatures reappeared among the others back outside Onran's old home.

   It was getting dark, so they all headed back downhill to the inn, which was where they earlier had passed under two strings of red paper lanterns hung from the corners of the roofs of two rowhouses that faced each other. There was an opening into the eastern rowhouse from this lit space between them, and Hakam stepped up and inside.

   Standing behind the counter was a different sort of person than any whom they had yet seen in Wa. Humanoid but not human, the woman behind the counter was only about four feet tall. She might have been a skinny dwarf, but she did not look like any dwarves that they had seen either, for her facial features were quite different — tiny button nose instead of a large one, thick lips, big blue eyes, mildly pointed ears. Her blonde hair was wild, tangled, and spiky in places. Tiny wispy whiskers hung from her chin. Her arms were noticeably long for her body, and she also appeared somewhat bowlegged. Kytharrah had never smelled a creature like her either.

   The tiny woman spoke in Wa-an, welcoming them to her inn. Hakam conversed with her by magic. Her name was Jun-tua Gim. (The name did not sound very Wanese, and Hakam did not know which of the names was her given name or which was her surname.) She asked him if he needed a place to stay, and he arranged and paid for their accommodations. It was four yuan per room; Sofi was assigned a room in the women's wing, the eastern rowhouse, and the others were given three rooms to split among them from the western wing. (While Hakam paid her, Belvin began to turn the crank on Onran's music box, wondering if the tune would sound familiar to the innkeeper, but she did not seem to think anything of the music.)

   "The big one should probably take the first room, as it has one mat," said Jun-tua Gim. "There are two mats in each of the other rooms, as well as an irori and a bucket of water."

   The rooms were as she had described, simple but better than another night on the hard ground under trees, although that is exactly where Belvin still chose to trance. Kytharrah did not like being in a room by himself, especially one built for tiny humans, so he also joined Belvin that night.

~~~~

   Night passed without any nightmares, visits from ghosts, or other unpleasant incidents. Belvin was up at dawn as usual to request his druidic powers from Thard Harr. He was standing just south of the gate when he saw a woman approaching, wearing red-dyed leather. He recognized her as the shrine guardian from Bunden, and Kytharrah also smiled at one of his playmates from a few days ago.

   Imoko tried to communicate with Belvin, but he waved, shrugged, and nodded toward the village gate, so she continued on past them and entered Uminonagame, and Belvin and Kytharrah followed her.

   She first spoke to the watchman at the stone lantern and then went on to the inn, where she quickly spoke with the dwarf-like innkeeper. Belvin and Kytharrah watched her then go to Solisar's room and knock on the door. (Belvin again got out the music box and began to crank it.)

   The door slid open, and Szordrin and Solisar both were there to greet her.

   She spoke immediately. "Aisatsu, tomodachi, watashi wa nyusu o motte kimasu."

   "Aisatsu, tomodachi," said Solisar. "Nani no nyusu?"

   She rambled off an answer quickly, relaying the news that she claimed to have brought, but Solisar had to stop her, because too many of the words he did not know. He cast a spell and politely asked her to speak again.

   "The ometsuke arrived yesterday afternoon," she said. "A crowd gathered around, as they approached the shoya's estate with a band of mounted samurai. The shoya was made to walk to the very center of the village. He knelt on his knees, drew his wakizashi, and shoved it into his own stomach. As he yelled out in agony, one of the samurai then drew his katana and decapitated him. There was so much blood. It was truly awful! I requested immediately that Ieharu permit me to head north to find you. I traveled through the night. I thought that you would want to know the news."

   "Those are indeed grim tidings," said Solisar, "but can you explain to me who or what the ometsuke is or are?"

   "The ometsuke are the shogun's officers who handle the discipline of the daimyo," said Imoko.

   "Thank you for the information," said Solisar. "Will you be returning back to Bunden?"

   "Ieharu suugested that I return to my monastery at Jiyu and report to the brothers there what has happened at Bunden. If you are still traveling that way, perhaps I can travel with you."

   "Play?" said Kytharrah.

   "The group will likely welcome you to come with us," said Solisar.

   They did not tary much longer in Uminonagame; the seven adventurers and the sohei — together with a camel, a weasel, a wolf, and a carp dragon in a basket — departed through the northern red gate and journeyed on.
Session: 129th Game Session - Thursday, Aug 26 2021 from 1:00 PM to 4:00 PM
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