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Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
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
Viewable by: Public
Pointer-left Investigator__male_2_thumb
Posted by the GM
Per Multiversum
Chapter 3 — Planetary Symbology
"Stop!" commanded Hakam. "There are runes on the floor. Do not step on them!"

   The "runes" were large, nearly five feet in radius and covering four stone floor tiles each. There were 21 of them, all but one of which were in a grid of four rows and five columns. They were in six different colors and shapes. There was a blue hexagon circumscribing an inverted triangle, with a circle also drawn around each point of the triangle. There was a white circle divided into thirds and inscribed with a triangle. There was a purple circle with two lines and two circles asymmetrically placed. There was a red hexagon circumscribing a non-inverted triangle, and a green circle inscribed by a triangle, which was in turn inscribed with a smaller circle. These five symbols, in order from right to left, made up the first row of symbols on the floor. The next rows included copies of these five in an unrecognizable pattern. The twenty-first symbol was unique, occupying a space immediately after the fourth row and centered. It was a yellow symbol, a circle inscribed with two intercepting pentagons. Solisar noted that all of the floor symbols had a faint magical aura.

   These glyphs, however, were not the most immediately visible thing in the room. At the far end of the room, the back wall seemed to be made, not of stone, but of a solid rainbow of intense light. The chromatic wall had an intense abjuration aura.

   "Do you recognize any of these symbols, Solisar?" asked Hakam.

   "I do," said Leokas. "There are similar triangles covering the triangular faces of the omlar gem. We were told over a year ago that the triangles on the gem were the alchemical symbol for fire."

   "These are all alchemical symbols then," said Hakam. "Unfortunately, all of them except for the purple and yellow ones integrate a triangle in some way. Minotaur, have you seen these shapes before?"

   Kytharrah shook his shaggy head. "Pretty!" He was very tempted to touch them.

   "Do not touch them!" said Hakam.

   "There are four of each color besides the yellow one," noted Szordrin.

   "I can see no pattern in how they are arranged," said Hakam.

   "There is a room beyond the prismatic wall," said Szordrin. "I can just make it out through the intense light."

   "Prismatic wall?" said Sofi.

   "It is an exceptionally powerful spell effect," said Solisar, "far beyond my own capabilities to create. Each of the colors in the wall has a unique defensive property. Notice how the wall is angled back slightly with red and the bottom and violet at the top. The red light, for example, has fire as a defense. To pass through the wall, you would have to pass through seven separate fields of energy, each of which also blocks seven different kinds of attacks."

   "Could we get through by countering each color with the appropriate elemental spell?" asked Belvin. "Could a beam of ice negate the red color?"

   "Yes, that is indeed possible," said Solisar, "but while we collectively could negate some of the colors, we simply are not powerful enough in the arcane or divine arts to negate all of them. If we still had the genie's wish, perhaps, but without that, this is hopeless for us to pass without determining the code that Onran has presumably left in the sigils before us."

   "If Uminonagame were a city, we might be able to purchase scrolls with the needed spells," added Szordrin, "but it is not."

   "How deep below the surface are we?" asked Hakam. "Belvin has summoned creatures to dig us around barriers before."

   "Do you want to destroy Onran's property?" asked Belvin. "No, we can solve this riddle; no riddle has stopped us before. These are elemental symbols. Red is fire. Leokas is correct that these are alchemical symbols."

   "Are there not four elements, not five or six?" asked Leokas.

   "I want to try something," said Hakam, "but I need everyone to clear the room first."

   "What are you going to try?" asked Solisar.

   "I am going to create water upon one of the blue glyphs in the back rows," said Hakam.

   They stepped back into the first room, Hakam offered a brief prayer, and now there was simply a large puddle of water on the floor amongst the glyphs.

   "I have a feeling that you are supposed to walk over the tiles in a certain order, which will lower the wall," said Szordrin.

   "I am willing to step on one of them and see what happens," said Hakam.

   "If you are going to risk that," said Solisar, "you need to step on the red one first. If Szordrin is correct about the order of colors in the rainbow, that would be the obvious choice. Although, on the other hand, perhaps white symbolizes ice, which would be the first element required to overcome the color red. There are also formally seven colors in a prismatic wall, but only five of the six colors of the sigils match the seven colors said to compose a prismatic wall."

   "True," said Szordrin. "There is no white beam in the wall, for example, to correspond with the four white sigils on the floor."

   "And there are no orange or indigo symbols on the floor," said Solisar. "Perhaps we would need to somehow mix the colors like one mixes pigments in paints."

   "We could summon our friend Krynn and have him run through the rainbow to see what happens," said Belvin, referring to a satyr that he had summoned several times in the past. The others assumed and hoped that he was only joking.

   "I cannot even find a path over the tiles where we would touch each color once in the correct order," said Hakam, "even if they did, in fact, correspond to the colors in the rainbow."

   "Did you consider diagonals?" asked Solisar.

   "If diagonal steps are allowed," said Szordrin, "then blue is the only path that is fully connected over the four rows. I doubt, however, that that is significant."

   "I do not think that I am canny enough to help much," said Sofi, "but why do you think that there is only one yellow sigil, while there are four of all the others? It is also the only one that does not have a triangle within it."

   "I think that it is the final symbol that needs to be stepped on," said Belvin, "but I do not know why it is yellow or lacks a triangle."

   "The purple symbol also does not have any triangle in it," said Leokas, "only two lines that intersect and form an angle. That leaves four symbols with triangles for the four elements."

   "Could these be the symbols for planets? And could the yellow one represent the sun?" asked Hakam. "We know, after all, that Onran was a spelljammer."

   "An interesting idea," said Solisar, "In the field of planetology, scholars classify all planets by the element that corresponds most closely to their makeup. For example, there are fire bodies, water bodies, earth bodies, and air bodies. In Kara-Tur, scholars of wildspace also include plant bodies as a fifth option, because Kara-Turans hold that there are five elements, not four. I do not know which classification Onran would follow, but in Realmspace, this would only be a conflict with how one classifies Garden; is it an earth body? or a plant body? Toril is considered an earth body, while Coliar is considered an air body."

   "How many planets are in our crystal sphere again?" asked Hakam.

   "Eight or nine, because the sun is also counted as a fire body, the only such body in Realmspace. After the sun comes Anadia, an earth body; Coliar; Toril; Karpri and Chandos, both water bodies; Glyth, another earth body; Garden; and lastly H'Catha, a final water body."

   "I do not see how this adds up to a solution," said Belvin.

   "We currently stand on Toril, so perhaps we start there," said Solisar.

   "I want to make sure that I have this right;" said Hakam, "the sequence from the sun is earth, air, earth, water, water, earth, earth or plant, and water, correct?"

   "Correct," said Solisar.

   "So we step on the path through the glyphs that corresponds to that," said Hakam.

   Belvin asked, "Do we start from Toril? from Anadia? from the sun?"

   "That is an open question," said Hakam. "If Onran was following Faerûnian scholarship, then there are four earth bodies, and there are four of each symbol, so that might help us narrow a path down. You would also have to step on two water symbols in a row. I suspect that the two blue symbols in adjacent rows in the middle represent water. If so, knowing that the final planet is also water, the blue symbol in the center of the back row would be the last tile, and if we are supposed to go in reverse, than this tile would be the last." He motioned toward the blue symbol against the north wall in the nearest row.

   "If the yellow symbol represents the sun," said Leokas, "that implies moving toward the center of Realmspace, since it is the final symbol."

   "Going from out to in would have us step on an earth symbol last," said Hakam.

   "If that is true," said Solisar, "then the green symbol could not represent earth, because Anadia is an earth body, and there is no green symbol at all in the final row. That would suggest that the green symbol represents plant and therefore that Onran was using the Kara-Turan classification of planets."

   "But the sun cannot be the yellow symbol," said Leokas, "because Solisar told us that it is a fire body, and the omlar gem is marked with a triangle."

   "There are no triangles in the yellow symbol," said Sofi.

   Hakam sighed. "Perhaps the yellow symbol is not a planet and simply marks the end of the sequence. If that is the case, then this red symbol here is where we start, symbolizing the sun as the fire body, and the blue symbol in the last row is the final water body, and we must connect those two symbols with a path."

   "Earth would be green," said Belvin. "Walking in a straight line, from the red symbol, we would step on green and then white for air."

   "Yes," said Hakam, "but then we would need water next, which we do not have."

   "Unless you can step diagonally," said Belvin.

   "You left out Toril after Coliar," said Solisar. "We need to follow the path red, green, white, green."

   Hakam pointed out a path, "Red, green, white, green, blue, blue, green...." The path had led him backwards, and now he was blocked by tiles already mentally crossed. "Oh, but if you are allowed to reuse tiles, you can step forward again onto that green tile in the center: green for Garden and then water and then the yellow symbol at the end."

   "So we are ignoring plant as an option again," said Belvin.

   "There are five runes," said Solisar.

   "...Which does suggest five elements and not four," said Hakam. "So, one would assume that one of them is plant, but maybe it is simply a decoy. Perhaps Onran knew that most people stumbling upon his puzzle would be from Wa and confused by the five symbols, expecting there to be five elements when there are not."

   "What does the yellow symbol represent?" asked Sofi.

   "What is beyond the last planet?" asked Hakam.

   "The crystal sphere itself," said Solisar, "and beyond that the phlogiston, within which all the crystal spheres in the Material Plane float. Now that you bring it up, the phlogiston is also called the 'rainbow ocean' because its substance is usually described as multicolored. I do not know why I did not think of this at first."

   "So, the yellow symbol represents the crystal sphere," said Hakam, "and beyond that is our rainbow ocean. This means that we have the directionality solved. I am willing to give our path a try."

   But they began to second guess themselves. "Is there an alternative path that does not involved stepping on the center green symbol twice, without making a loop?"

   No one could see such a path, even using diagonals.

   "And why are we assuming that white is air?" asked Solisar.

   "If purple is air, I cannot see any solution, even if diagonals are allowed," said Hakam.

   "Purple does not have a triangle," said Solisar.

   "And what about plant?" asked Belvin.

   "I thought that we had agreed that Onran was not using plant," said Solisar. "If so, I think that we would need to touch all four of the green symbols."

   "That is not possible," said Hakam. "It is impossible to solve unless we are allowed to reuse the symbols."

   Still, they were too nervous about testing the theory, afraid of the consequences if they were wrong.

   "Was there no book of alchemy in the other room that might help us?" asked Hakam.

   "Yes, there was," said Szordrin. "I do not know why we did not consult it." He quickly retrieved it from one of the side rooms. Leafing through it, it did not take long to find examples of each of the symbols of the four elements. They did not match the symbols on the floor exactly, but they soon confirmed that fire and air used upright triangles, while water and earth used inverted ones. "Nothing here disagrees with our assumptions thus far about the symbols; fire is red, air is white, water is blue, and earth is green. Purple is perhaps plant, or it is something else altogether."

   "Are there no circles in the book?" asked Hakam.

   The tiefling wizard could find none.

   "The combination of the circles with the triangles is probably used to indicate that these are planetary glyphs, not simply elemental glyphs," said Solisar.

   They paused to think through their options again.

   "We forgot the Tears of Selûne," said Solisar.

   "Does that not count as orbiting Toril?" said Szordrin.

   "True," said Solisar, "like Selûne."

   While they were debating the path, Kytharrah was growing ever more bored and confused by what they were talking about. The red symbol looked fun, so he stepped onto it.

   "Kytharrah, no!" shouted Sofi, but it was too late.

   However, nothing at all noticeable happened — no sound, no sensation, no shimmer in the magical auras, nor change in the colors of the prismatic wall.

   "Step back, minotaur," said Hakam. Kytharrah obeyed. Hakam then took the path that he had first proposed, three symbols forward, starting with the red one, then three to the north, one to the east, one south, and then three to the west to reach the yellow sigil. He recited the order of the planets with each step, while the others watched anxiously. "Fire, earth, air, earth, two waters, two earths, one more water, crystal sphere."

   Instantly, the prismatic wall vanished into nothing.
Session: 128th Game Session - Monday, Jan 25 2021 from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
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Chapter 3 — The Dranyr Minka
~ 9th of Chu, the Year of Ji Chou, morning
Cormyrean Embassy, Uwaji, Wa

Morning came. The guards at the gate had delivered the message to the shogun's castle. Harada Seikwa, the shogun's Voice, was willing to meet with them that afternoon, if required. However, the reply also included permission for Hina to enter the city, and, instead of a written order for Bunden's shoya, they were told that the shogun's officials would look into the matter of the records for them. Not wanting to lose more time, Hakam sent a reply back saying that meeting with the Voice that afternoon would not be necessary; they would continue on to the next location, which was Uminonagame, the village where Onran and Yunoko had lived, and would report back at a later time, probably after first visiting Rukimbaru.

   Uminonagame, they learned, was said to be on a road through the foothills that ran parallel to the south-to-north highway known as Tawata Road, which ran from Uwaji to Rukimbaru along the coast. The much smaller road from Uminonagame instead reached the Akano River, which flowed out of the mountains and eventually crossed the Tawata highway. Thus, they could pass through Uminonagame on the way to Rukimbaru without going too much out of their way.

   That morning, before setting out, Hakam and Szordrin ventured into the city of Uwaji itself and sought a moneychanger. They quickly learned that no moneychanger would exchange their currency, only currency from Shou Lung or another Kara-Turan nation. However, one merchant did give them a tip that a goldsmith might be willing to buy gold bars from them as a material. Before highsun, they finally succeeded in selling four gold bars for 120 ch'ien, which were small silver trade bars, bringing their total number of ch'ien up to 143.

   It was sixteen miles, roughly, to Uminonagame. They first retraced their steps back over fields, hills, and bamboo forest to Bunden. Along the way, they returned the teacup to Hina, who was delighted to hear all that they had to share of their successful communication with Yunoko's spirit. Tano continued to talk endlessly in his unknown language as he rode in the water-filled basket hanging from Kytharrah's back. Mostly, they ignored him, but Solisar noticed that when Kytharrah would sniff a new smell, Tano would sometimes make a reply, as if explaining what the smell was.

   At Bunden, the gate guard let them enter. They walked through the middle of the village and then to the northern path just before the trinket-seller's shop. This led them past a cart seller, the herbalist, a clothing shop, a potter, a wheelwright, and a saddler, before they came to a two-story wooden guard tower and the north gate.

   The path from Bunden to Uminonagame was less well-tended than the road to Uwaji. It rose continuously but gradually in a series of wide ess-curves around and up the sides of hills, moving roughly to the northwest. As they went along, there were several overlooks, marked with stone lanterns, that gave beautiful views of the valleys and rice fields below. Belvin noted that here the hills were covered with cedar, cypress, and pine.

   It was almost dusk when they arrived at the gate of Uminonagame, after walking all afternoon and into the evening. The sun had long since dropped below the snow-capped mountains to the west, but its light was still present. The village was probably about the same size as Bunden, but it was not surrounded with a wall like Bunden; instead, the gate was simply a wooden archway painted red. Neither were the minka arranged in rows; here, they were instead erected wherever they fit into the sloping and rocky hills, and there were far more trees growing among them.

   As they approached the red gate, the road provided them a view to the east. They were high enough now that they could see all the way to the coast and to the ocean beyond.

   "If I understand the language well enough, Uminonagame literally means 'View of the Sea'," said Solisar.

   They passed under the gate. The road continued northward, veering a bit to the left between two minka, and before that was a grassy area encircled by a dirt path on all sides with a stone lantern at the center. Further north, at the top of the hill, they could see a walled complex, which they suspected was the shoya's estate.

   There was a lightly armored watchman standing by the stone lantern. He nodded at them, but otherwise made no movement to intercept them or question them. Beyond the guard and the dirt path, a seller was carrying what seemed to be musical instruments into his shop for the night.

   The dirt path ran atop a short cliff to their left. Looking down, there were several small minka but also a statue or idol carved into the rock. A brazier of fire was lit before it, and two tatami were laid out.

   Solisar tried to greet the guard in Wa-an, without the use of magic, and asked the name of the statue below them.

   Apparently, his Wa-an was passable, and the watchman answered that the god's name was Komoku the Big Seeing — or something close to that — the Guardian of the West.

   By magic, Hakam also queried the guard, presenting the notice from the shogun and asking if anyone currently lived at the former ambassador's house at the top of the hill.

   "The house at the top of the hill is abandoned and locked," said the guard. "Someone now owns the building, but he does not live there, and I do not know who it is."

   Knowing that the sun would set soon, and having received directions from Yunoko that her old home was northwest of the village proper, they continued along the main path. They passed under two strings of red paper lanterns hanging between two row houses. The people here did not seem particularly welcoming, but neither did they seem surprised or scared at the sight of the elves, horned woman, camel, wolf, or even the minotaur and his noisy little dragon.

   Then, the path curved more to the left and meandered uphill through a cluster of tiny homes. They passed between the shops of a cooper and a florist before reaching a fork in the path outside a shop selling tatami mats. Here, the hillside was too rocky to directly ascend, and it looked like either path might work its way up and around to the top of the hill.

   They chose to go left, because it seemed steeper and more likely to reach the top of the hill, where they expected to find Yunoko and Onran's home, more quickly. Sure enough, the road passed shops and minka and another stone lantern and made a u-turn back to the north. After passing two final shops, which smelled strongly of leather, the road turned almost east to go around another rocky slope. At the top of the slope was a cluster of a maybe a half-dozen small homes, and then the road curved north over the flat hilltop. At the center of the hill top, they at last could see the large house, standing two stories tall, built elevated above the ground like many houses in Wa. Unlike all the other structures in the village besides the shoya's, this building had a slate roof. It would have looked like a typical medium-sized home within the city of Uwaji, except that it had a short, square tower or castle turret build atop, which looked like a hybrid of Wanese and Cormyrean architecture.

   The main sliding doors on the western wall were shut, and a chain and padlock secured the house. The padlock was rusted, implying that the house had not been entered in some time.

   "We should go inside," said Hakam. "Can someone pick the lock?"

   "Hakam!" exclaimed Sofi, "I thought that you were opposed to breaking the law. We even know that this house is owned by someone else now. How would it be legal to force our way in?"

   "All property is owned by the shogun, ultimately," Hakam replied, "and we are expressly his agents and thus have his will to enter."

   She furrowed her brow but did not argue further.

   Szordrin took his tiny tools for such purposes from his belt and set to work. Sofi watched him with interest, having never seen someone use tools to pick a lock before.

   Solisar, Belvin, Leokas, and Kytharrah walked to the other side of the house. Bamboo trees were planted here, on either side of an extension coming out from the otherwise square house. The trees provided afternoon shade for a sand garden and a pool. A mildly worn path from a back door led between the pool and sand garden east to an outhouse that sat just before the hill sloped downwards into the forest at the northern border of the village. Kytharrah let Tano hop out so that he could splash around in the pool a bit.

   Solisar examined the back door. It was chained like the front door, but when he looked more closely, he found that the padlock was not actually locked; it was only made to appear closed.

   "Kytharrah, go tell Szordrin to stop and come to this side," said Solisar.

   Everyone now gathered at the back of the house, and they went to slide the door open.

   Leokas stopped them. "Let Kytharrah smell the lock and the area first, and let me search for tracks." Kytharrah smelled the lock, but he did not recognize any scent on it.

   "There are fresh humanoid tracks," said Leokas, after a few minutes of searching about the yard, "of at least two different persons. The larger set comes from this trail beyond the outhouse and leaves the same way. They come up to the house but never seem to go inside. The smaller set goes from inside house to the outhouse."

   They removed the chain and slid the door to the side. They entered the extension, an entryway about ten feet square. This connected to a much larger room that must have occupied most of the area of the home and likely served as the kitchen and dining room. An irori was in the center, surrounded by a tatami in the common manner, and a second mat sat on the southern side of the room with a low table upon it for eating. Also on that side of the room were a wine rack and a small book shelf with dusty booklets. On the other side of the room, against a windowless wall, was a staircase ascending, and a wooden wash basin and broken bucket. A few kegs and several pottery pieces were also scattered about. The kegs had rotted and leaked their contents over the wooden floor.

   The ceramic wine bottles and books on the shelf had clearly not been touched in a while and were covered in dust and cobwebs, but Hakam observed that, otherwise, the place was not as dusty or dirty as he might expect for a truly abandoned house.

   There was a pot sitting in the irori, and Kytharrah sniffed it. There was leftover food residue in it. "Fresh," said the minotaur.

   "Whoever belongs to the smaller set of tracks I found takes shoes off to walk around barefoot inside," said Leokas.

   Kytharrah sniffed where Leokas directed, he crouched low to the floor and followed the scent out from the kitchen and dining room and into the main entry room of the house. This was a long and narrow room, about 25 feet long. It had another, taller bookshelf, and some empty flower vases and a tatami by the southern window. Besides the main door to the outside, there was a small screen door at the north end.

   Solisar picked up a few books at random from the shelf. The first book that he grabbed was written in Wanese characters and seemed to be mythological stories of Wa. The next was written in Lantanese and was children's stories about gnomes and fey creatures of the woods. There were illustrations of rainbows and pots full of gold.

   Kytharrah tracked the scent to the little screen door. Szordrin slid it open, revealing what appeared to be a tiny prayer room. There was a small household idol of a feminine deity and a tatami and only about enough room for two persons to kneel on the floor shoulder to shoulder.

   Szordrin spoke arcane syllables and waved his hands. A aura appeared from something under the mat. "There is a secret door under the mat in here," he called to the others.

   Underneath the mat was indeed a trap door. A string or cord was tied to the corner of the mat and led between the crack between the door and the floor.

   "Someone is hiding under the mat," said Hakam.

   "We should check upstairs first," said Belvin.

   The second floor had four rooms — one at each corner — and a stairwell with a spiral staircase going up on the western side of the building. One room was empty, one had an old table and a shelf, one had two sleeping mats upon the floor, and the largest room was clearly the master bedroom. It displayed an interesting mixture of cultures. The bed was a large four-poster bed, yet it sat on a wall-to-wall tatami. There was a wooden bathtub and a marble dresser and white-washed wardrobe. Atop the dresser sat a silvered mirror.

   The staircase led up to the tower, a small ten-foot-by-ten-foot room with windows on all the walls. A ladder here led up to the top of the turret. It had a small square-pyramidal tiled roof supported by four narrow beams in the center, leaving the rest of the area open to the sky. The edges of the turret were crenelated with wooden merlons. From here, one could see over the trees all the way to the ocean. In one corner they found four grooves carved into the wooden floor of the turret, clearly intended to support some sort of stand for an object.

   "A spot for a telescope, perhaps," suggested Hakam.

   Kytharrah found no trace of the scent of the footprints left on any of the upper floors. They returned all the way back downstairs and readied themselves for whoever or whatever was below the trap door. Szordrin drew his dagger.

   "Put that weapon away!" said Hakam. "We are only dealing with townspeople here."

   "Whoever is here is occupying my master's home," said Szordrin, "without permission. Is that not illegal?"

   "Property rights do not remain when one is dead," said Hakam.

   "In Calimshan, does property not pass down from father to son?" argued Szordin. "In that case, this home belongs to me, and I have a right to defend it."

   "Only if you were formally adopted."

   "Bar that, you berks," said Sofi. "What if the rakshasa is here in disguise, waiting?"

   Szordrin kept his knife in his right hand and lifted open the trap door with his left, revealing a staircase going down into the darkness. He descended.

   His darkvision revealed that there was an old woman standing there in the darkness, a broom held in a sad attempt at a defensive stance. She looked frazzled, as if she had just been woken from a deep sleep.

   Modotte, matawa watashi wa anata o tatakimasu! she shouted.

   Solisar guessed that this meant, "Get back, or I shall hit you!"

   Hakam, still up the stairs, cast the ability to understand and speak her language.

   "Aisatsu, beannachtai, and alae," said Solisar, trying to greet her in three different languages that he thought she might know. He then lit his staff with magic.

   The woman looked very confused, but she did not whack Szordrin with the broom after hearing Solisar's greeting from the stairs. Szordrin took the moment to cast a few spells as the others slowly filed into the basement.

   The stone-walled and -floored room was 25 feet square. The stairs came down from the east, so, in fact, the place was not a basement at all, as it was not below the Dranyr house. They were in an underground chamber or series of chambers west of the actual house. There were three doorways from the room; the ones on the north and south walls were doorless, but the one on the western wall was shut. Unlit sconces adorned the walls, and a pile of boxes and crates was in the southeastern corner. A table, attached by a hinge to the eastern wall, so that it could be raised up for space, was to their right, and just before that on the stone-tiled ground was a small tatami with a sleeping mat, upon which the old woman was standing.

   Her thoughts began to come into focus for Szordrin. Am I in trouble? Are they going to arrest me? Are they going to send me back to Sanfirudo?

   "We are sorry to startle you," said Hakam in Wa-an.

   The woman remained terrified, but she seemed to be taking intentional deep breaths as if to calm herself down.

   "What are you doing in Onran's house?" said Szrodrin in Common.

   Her face seemed to react to the name of Onran.

   "We are not here for you;" said Hakam. "We are here to investigate the property. We are looking into the pasts of Onran and Yunoko."

   "Did Onran-sama send you?" asked the woman in Wa-an.

   "No, it was the spirit of Yunoko who sent us."

   "Watashi wa kanojo no tamashi no tame ni inorimasu," she said quietly to no one, which Hakam's magic translated as something similar to, "I pray for her soul."

   "Watashi no namae Negi," she then said, giving her name.

   "Are you the cleaning lady of whom Yunoko spoke to us?" asked Hakam.

   "Hai, I was the maid of Yunoko-sama. I worked here five days every ten and stayed in the guest room upstairs. I returned home to my minka in Sanfirudo on the other days."

   Hakam translated for the others.

   "Ask her why she moved down here." said Szordrin. Hakam did so.

   "After Yunoko-sama died, Onran-sama allowed me to remain and work so that I would be able to live. Even when he left about four years later, he allowed me to stay here and keep the place. He would return once every few years or so to check on things, but after about ten years, he never returned."

   Hakam translated again.

   She added, "After that, the shoya of Uminonagame sold the house to a rich samurai or daimyo. I do not know whom. Whoever it is, all they ever did was come once and remove expensive furniture and items, locked the door, and have never returned. I had nowhere to go, for my minka in Sanfirudo was burned to the ground, and my husband was executed for not being able to pay a debt. Without my husband, I have no way to make a living."

   When Hakam translated, Sofi gave a gasp in response to the mention of the husband's execution.

   Negi continued. "The shoya of Sanfirudo died of an illness, and his brother, the shoya of Karyu, claimed that he had the right to take over the leadership of the village. He doubled the tax rate and effectively enslaves its people, having them work the mines. This is why my husband was unable to pay his debt."

   Hakam paused to consider the legality of what she reported before translating. He knew that Yunoko was a noble. If she had owned the house, it would not have been in the shoya of Uminonagame's rights to have sold it, unless Yunoko's nobility was somehow revoked by a daimyo. However, he thought that someone had mentioned that it was originally Onran's home before his marriage to Yunoko. If so, he was unclear how a gajin's property would be handled.

   "By the laws of my land," said Hakam, "it seems that this home should be yours, not the shoya's, but we can investigate further and perhaps offer you help in obtaining justice."

   These words seemed to calm her greatly. She lowered her broom at last and offered several bows of respect to each of them in turn. When she bowed toward Szordrin, her thoughts revealed that his beard reminded her of Onran.

   "I do regret to inform you, however," Hakam said, "that Onran has died. That is why he has not returned."

   It is as I feared, Szordrin heard her think, but she said nothing and only nodded. He was such a nice boy!

   "Ask her who else lives her," said Szordrin, referring to the second set of footprints that Leokas had found outside.

   "I am the only one here," she said. "I only come out at night to eat and find food. A few villagers know that I am here and leave scraps for me."

   "Has the house ever been burglarized?" asked Szordrin through Hakam.

   "Three or four years ago I found the door over there unlocked," she said, motioning to the door in the wall, "but I have no idea who did it or how I was not woken."

   "What else is down here?"

   "This is where Onran-sama did his wu-jen stuff, but it would have been dishonorable for me to pass behind those doors unless invited. The door was always locked until three or four years ago, when I was shocked to find it slightly ajar. I still have not passed through those doors. I never even opened the door; I simply pressed it shut again. I have maintained my honor, though I was afraid to sleep here for many nights."

   "I am suspicious that the rakshasa was here," said Hakam to the others in Common. "However, on Coliar, the rakshasa totally ransacked the house, yet that is not the case here. Maybe it was Samber."

   "The rakshasa would have slaughtered this woman," said Leokas, agreeing with their cleric.

   "It was Samber," said Belvin confidently.

   "What was Samber doing three or four years ago?" asked Hakam. "Was that when he lost his magic?"

   "I thought that he lost his magic more recently than that," said Leokas.

   "When did Onran die?" asked Hakam. "About five years ago?"

   "She said that Onran stopped coming here ten years ago," said Solisar.

   "But that does not mean that it was because he had died," said Hakam. "It was Szordrin who learned of his death."

   "Onran died four years ago," said Szordrin, "in the early months of the Year of the Gauntlet. I met Onran eight years ago, in the Year of the Sword, specifically on the 19th of Mirtul."

   Hakam turned to the woman again. "The furniture that was taken from upstairs, did any of it contain any scholarly books or equipment? Or was it all just furniture? Could any of the furniture have contained any information from Onran or Yunoko inside of it?"

   "As far as this poor woman knows, Onran-sama kept most of his books and journals down here, and Yunoko-sama had her own office in Uwaji. When Onran-sama began traveling about twelve years after Yunoko-sama had died, he took much of his library and magical things with him.

   "I try to keep the minka as clean as I can. I do not touch their wine, for it would be improper for me to do so. I apologize for the spider webs on the bottles and the leaking keg, if you were wanting to drink their sake."

   They began to spread out a bit to examine the area, but Leokas halted them again. He checked the floor for prints in the dust and commanded Kytharrah to smell for recognizable scents. The ranger could find no other footprints besides Negi's however, and Kytharrah did not recognize any scents.

   There was a a half-circle-shaped room off both the northern and southern ends of this main room. The north room had a worn out padded stool and a stone desk, with a paper lantern and several tomes and scrolls upon it. The south room looked to have been a small laboratory for working with alchemical substances. There were two smaller stone tables. One had green glass vials and flasks of an assortment of shapes; the other had an open book covered in alchemical symbolism. A large brass brazier sat on the floor as well. When the wizards examined the scrolls and tomes, they found only notes from Onran, no complete spells or magical items.

   Hakam opened the door, revealing an even larger chamber on the other side, nearly 50 feet in length, and the curious minotaur rushed right in, followed more cautiously by the others. Negi peaked in after them but did not cross the threshhold.

   "Stop!" commanded Hakam. "There are runes on the floor. Do not step on them!"
Session: 128th Game Session - Monday, Jan 25 2021 from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
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Chapter 3 — Another Nightmare
"Morning is coming soon;" said Sofi's voice, "I will not be able to manifest for much longer, and I suspect that you and this young woman need to get some sleep.

   "I truly thank you for doing what you can to help me. I am happy to have learned that Mieko may have survived after all and that at least one of her descendants still lives. This gives me some hope, and I further hope that you can go on to solve the mystery, stop the rakshasa, and perhaps even free Onran's and my souls as well. How will you contact me again if I am needed?"

   "We have the means of sending messages across the planes by our magic," said Szordrin. "We shall be able to contact you."

   He added, "Will you be able to visit the bridge where we found your pin, now that we have carried it back here?"

   "I do not know; I suspect not, but honestly, I have little desire to visit such a place as that ever again. I have no pleasant memories of that bridge...."

   "We will be taking the items with us," said Szordrin. "Perhaps, you may be able to visit with us at night."

   "One of you is welcome to wear the pin in the meantime," she said. "It would have to be returned to the queen, but until then, it is a very useful item. It protects one from possession or having one's mind read. It defends against magical projectiles as well."

   "We were told that you and Onran had a home in a village called Uminonagame. Is this true?"

   "Yes. It is in the hills west of Uwaji. One would take the northern fork from Bunden to get there. It is the next village that you would come to in the hills. Our home was in the northwest, overlooking the village. It was probably the nicest home in the village after the shoya's and would be hard to miss. Technically, it rests just outside the village."

   "Did anyone else live at your home in Uminonagame with you?"

   "We had a maid who lived there part time to clean the house. That was all."

   "What about Onran's adopted parents? Are they still alive?"

   She laughed a little. "You may not believe me, but his parents went by the names Slyeye and Littlesun. I do not know how often that you have interacted with gnomes, but they go by nicknames more often than other names, and these were the names that they asked me to call them. I was probably a bad wife for it, but I cannot recall their actual given names. They were from the world of Krynn, which Onran explained to me is in another crystal sphere. The Dranyrs lived in Wa for a while, but they left and returned to Krynn in the same year that my father, who was ambassador for Cormyr before me, died. That was in the Year of the Dark Dragon, the same year that I helped Mieko, that Azoun IV became king of Cormyr, and that Nagahide became shogun of Wa. I suspect that they left because they feared Nagahide's xenophobic decrees.

   "I do not know why the Dranyr's came to Wa, but when they arrived here, their spelljammer was discovered by Wanese officials, and the incident created a huge diplomatic scandal. This was one of the first major diplomatic incidents that my father had to deal with as ambassador of Cormyr. Slyeye Dranyr was arrested and interrogated, and my father sought and obtained his release. That is actually when I first met Onran, at the trial of his father, while my own father was defending him. Onran had only recently come of age at the time, and I was two years older than he.

   "Now, my mother, Tsuki Blacksilver, who used to be named Hirayama Tsuki, actually became the Minister of Spelljamming of Wa after the Dranyrs had become her friends."

   "I have another question, if you have the strength to remain for a little longer. During our travels, a seer gave me a prophecy, 'The ninth emperor of the seventh dynasty is in your past.' Does that mean anything to you? We think that it has to do with my relationship to the rakshasa through Mieko."

   "Wa has only had three dynasties," said Yunoko.

   "That is what everyone keeps telling us," said Szordrin, "but Hakam thinks that the two traitorums count as dynasties, bringing the total number of dynasties to seven."

   "I am not sure that I understand. I know that there were two interruptions to the Goshukaras and that one was the Shou Lung Traitorum and that the Empress Bishkammon reigned afterward, but I do not know more than that."

   "We received a list of all the emperors while we were in Cormyr," said Szordrin. "I think that the list was translated by your father in fact." He retrieved the copy of the names from the long scroll and showed it to her.

   "Kochi is the first dynasty," said Yunoko, pointing with Sofi's finger at the top of the list, "followed by Kasada. The Kasada dynasty died out in the 581st Year of Kuni, which was still the prehistory of Wa, so it is probably all just myth. In any case, Goshukara is the third dynasty."

   "Then the Shou Lung Traitorum occurred in the 222nd year," said Szordrin, pointing. "If one counts this as a fourth dynasty, then when Bishkammon retakes the throne, she does so as the founder of the fifth dynasty."

   "Ah, I understand now," said Yunoko. "So, when Nitta Kyozetsu slew Goshukara Sukui in 685, that would have been the sixth dynasty, the Nitta Dynasty, essentially, and Goshukara Yami would be the founder of the third Goshukara Dynasty, or the seventh dynasty overall. And if you count nine — Yami, Seisei, Yorokobi, Meiyoko, Saimukansai, Oku, Takeoji, Noburu, and... Bohatei, the first emperor who I believe was impersonated by a rakshasa."

   "When you mentioned Bohatei before, I had forgotten that that was the same name that Hakam had predicted when we first examined this list in Cormyr."

   "This is a truly amazing prophecy," said Yunoko, "and it confirms what had only been a theory of mine. If you are related to Mieko, than you are related to the false Emperor Kando, not to Bohatei. The only way that you could be related to both is if Bohatei — or rather the rakshasa impersonating him — reincarnated. I wonder if perhaps the gods have not forgotten me after all and are choosing now to work through you instead, continuing my work."

   "I also received a second prophecy," said Szordrin. "'Within the twelfth circle of the seventh circle, the empress abides.' We believe that this is a reference to one of the moons of the planet Garden in Realmspace. Do you know who the 'empress' might be?"

   "Unlike Onran, with the exception of our honeymoon, I have never left Toril," she said.

   Then she yawned deeply. "My host is growing very tired," she says. "I hope that you will try to contact me again in the future, adopted son. Meeting you has been a special blessing."

   Before Szordrin could reply, Sofi gasped, as if coming up out of water after holding her breath. She looked terrified and confused for a moment and touched her own face and arms as if checking to see that she was actually in bodily form.

   "Barmy!" said Sofi, "that was jarring." She looked around to figure out where she was. "How late is it? The last thing I remember is saying, 'I am ready.'"

   "It is close to dawn now," said Szordrin. "Do you feel healthy, otherwise?"

   "My bladder is about to burst, I think," said Sofi, "but otherwise...."


Szrodrin went back to Yunoko's old room and laid himself down to sleep on the large bed. Sofi visited the outhouse, passing the sylvan elves, Kytharrah, and Tano, and then returned to the courtyard. Solisar had just come out to take the watch from Belvin and Leokas, who entered trance. Sofi was indeed feeling tired, but she was used to taking watch with Solisar, and she strangely did not need the amount of sleep the others did, so she figured that she would stay up with him for at least a part of the watch and keep him company.

   "What was it like?" she asked him. "Was it weird to all of you with Yunoko possessing me? Did she make me do anything... awkward?"

   Solisar explained how they could tell from subtle posture and behaviors that it was not Sofi controlling herself. "She did apologize to Szordrin for causing you to enter his room the last time."

   Sofi blushed. "How thorough of an apology was it? Did she go into any details?"

   "None were given, and I would have been the only one to have overheard. I was in the adjacent room in the interdimensional space. Everyone else had gone to bed or was out here to take watch."

   Sofi gave a little sigh of relief.

   The two were in conversation about other matters, mostly things about Wa and its religions that Sofi had learned from Imoko, when they heard an agonizing scream from one of the upstairs windows to their left. The sound was loud enough to startle Belvin and Leokas from their reveries. It took a moment to recognize that the scream had come from Hakam, who was not prone to such vocal outbursts of emotion.

   "I have never heard that sound before," said Belvin, as the four rushed into the building and up the stairs.

   Leokas reached the door first, and slid it open. Hakam was sitting up on the bedroll with the blanket at his waist. He was visibly covered in sweat. There was no one else in the room with him.

   "It was just a nightmare," said Hakam.

   "Show us your hands," said Solisar.

   "No, I am not a rakshasa!" said Hakam. "Do not be foolish. It was just a dream. It seems that these have been spreading around the party recently." He was referring to the vivid nightmare that Szordrin had when they had spent the night at Onran's house.

   "There are no unexpected magical auras here," said Solisar.

   Belvin wanted to search under the tatami just to be safe. Hakam was annoyed to have to move his bedroll. They found nothing, even after waking up Kytharrah and having him give the room a sniff.

   "You are wasting your time," said Hakam. "The last time that this happened, we were on another planet. If there is even any connection between the two nightmares at all, it cannot have anything to do with this place."
Session: 128th Game Session - Monday, Jan 25 2021 from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
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Per Multiversum
Chapter 3 — Yunoko
~ 8th of Chu, the Year of Ji Chou, dusk
Cormyrean Embassy, Uwaji, Wa

Yunoko's letter confirmed much of what they had already discovered; however, it suggested that not one but three rakshasa might be involved, a leader, who had impersonated Emperor Kando and been assassinated by his own half-fiend son, and two minions, called the Twin Panthers. She had written it the night before she had left for Bunden.

   "It is extremely likely that Yunoko's spirit will return tonight," said Solisar. "I intend to wait for her, all night if need be. Who wishes to join me in waiting?"

   "I need almost as little rest as you, it seems," said Sofi. "I am willing to stay up with you, as long as I do not have to face her ghost alone. Kytharrah should probably stay outside with Tano."

   "That would probably be best," said Solisar, "since that is where she had first appeared to Leokas and Belvin."

   "Someone else should stay out there with the two children," said Hakam.

   "I can keep watch in the courtyard for much of the night," said Leokas, "as before. If she attacks again, I already know that she can be repulsed by magic arrows."

   "Minotaur," said Hakam, "if you see a ghost woman, do not attack her. Use the tricks that Sofi has been teaching you to dodge around and not get hit."

   Kytharrah seemed to understand the directions.

   "I suggest that we put all of her belongings that we have found, including her Harper pin and the rusted sword, back into her chest," said Hakam.

   "I can find some herbs in the garden outside that can serve as passable tea," said Belvin, "and we can leave that out for her in Hina's teacup."

   "More than that, perhaps Belvin and Hakam can actually perform the tea ceremony that we learned from Hina with her if she appears," said Solisar.

   "We would need to purchase more pieces of the tea set for that," said Hakam, "which we could do, but it grows late, and I am not certain that the shops in Uwaji will be open."

   "Perhaps I can alter myself to look like Onran," said Szordrin, but the others thought that it might anger her when she discovered that it was only an illusion.

   "We should plan how to respond if things go awry and she chooses to attack us," said Solisar.

   "I am not overly concerned," said Hakam. "Leokas was able to banish her on his own; if it comes to it, we can certainly do that again."

   "What if she uses her dreadful howling again to fill us all with fear?" said Sofi. "I think that we may have been overly fortunate the last time."

   "Anachtyr will protect us;" said Hakam, "we have nothing to be afraid of. I will surround us with a circle of protection against chaos, fear, and possession."

   "I have similar spells to protect against evil," said Solisar, "which could be cast to protect those outside."

   Night came. Leokas, Belvin, and Kytharrah remained outside. Leokas calmly sat on the main steps and carved arrows. Belvin chatted with Kamil in druidic, and Kytharrah splashed with Tano in the pool. Tano talked a lot. While Kytharrah had no idea what the carp dragon was saying, Tano always seemed to understand exactly what Kytharrah wanted to communicate. They played many simple games in the courtyard, headbutting each other, exploring the other wings of the courtyard, rolling in the sand garden, climbing the thicker bamboo trees. For a four-foot-long fish creature, Tano was rather strong, probably stronger than some of his other "little brothers" in the group. Eventually, the minotaur and the dragon grew sleepy and rested, leaving the elves to remain on watch.

   Upstairs inside the embassy, Solisar sat at the desk in Yunoko's room. He replaced the fallen rook to the board and placed Yunoko's black pawn where she likely had intended it, blocking his own queen's pawn from moving forward. He took his +next move, placing his king's knight to defend his pawn. Then, he sat and waited, reading his spellbook to pass the time. Hina's teacup was filled with tea brewed by Belvin and sat at the corner of black's side of the chessboard. Hakam sat in one of the opposite corners, leaning against an old dresser in the room. Szordrin sat on the floor a yard from him. Sofi, who seemed to have been avoiding Szordrin for most of the last few days, asked if she could sit next to him while they waited. He nodded. Those who could were dressed more formally and not wearing their armor or carrying weapons, and everyone was barefoot, to respect the culture of Wa. The room was lit by the glowing tip of Solisar's walking staff.

   Ferry crawled up on Sofi's shoulders and snuggled against her neck and ears. Szordrin had instructed him to block her ears if the ghost began to moan again.

   An hour passed, mostly in silence, as they waited. Hakam dozed off and started to snore a little. Sofi giggled at this and joked with Szordrin about it, but after another hour, she too fell asleep. Her head fell to the side to lean against Szordrin's shoulder. Ferry gave a little squeak, as he got squished a little and readjusted his position.

   Outside in the courtyard, Leokas was lying on his back staring up at the stars. Suddenly the crickets grew silent. Kamil snorted. "She is here," said Belvin, and Kytharrah snapped instantly awake.

   Belvin and Kytharrah saw the faint, glowing form of a figure hovering along the porch on the western side of the complex, just as before.

   "Hello!" Kytharrah called out, and before Belvin could stop him, he rushed after the ghost. It passed straight through the northern wall, however, just as before, leaving Kytharrah confused.

   "Inside!" said Belvin. He and Kytharrah rushed into the complex and began to ascend the stairs to the second floor, but Kytharrah was much faster and was already at the top by the time Belvin had just reached the door.

   The thundering of Kytharrah's footsteps coming up the stairs and down the hall woke Hakam and Sofi immediately. Sofi blushed, upon finding her head on Szordrin's shoulder, but then Kytharrah slid open the screen door with a big smile. "Glowing lady!" he said.

   "Thank you, Kytharrah," said Solisar gently. "Now, please go guard the end of the hallway."

   Belvin joined Kytharrah in the hall, but Leokas stood outside with an arrow nocked and aimed toward the window.

   After this initial commotion, there was no evidence of Yunoko's presence. A full hour passed after that. Solisar remained determined, and continued to sit at the chessboard.

   Close to midnight, the black king's knight began to shake and wobble a little and then was still.

   "It is a pleasure to me for you to join us, Yunoko," said Solisar calmly.

   Everyone else was silent in the room.

   "My name is Solisar," the sun elf continued. "We have come from Cormyr. We are friends of your people."

   "We are friends of Onran's," said Szordrin aloud.

   Solisar picked up the black king's knight and moved it to defend the queen's pawn, mirroring his earlier move. He hoped that it was the move that she wanted; there were only two possible moves for that piece, and he chose the standard move to follow the opening with which he had begun the game.

   There was no sign of any response, but everyone felt strangely uneasy in the room, as if someone else was there with them. Solisar made his move, sliding the queen's bishop's pawn forward two spaces. He waited. Nothing. He then carefully and slowly removed a tiny vial of talc and silver powder from his component pouch. He snapped it with his fingers, rubbed the powder between his fingertips, and pressed them to his eyes while waving his left hand gently and speaking words in an ancient elven tongue.

   Suddenly, there she was before his enspelled eyes. Yunoko was sitting on the floor on the other side of the desk, neck scarred, face blue, eyes wide, mouth locked in a perpetual gasp for breath. She was wearing a white kimono. Her transparent fingers were touching her king's pawn, trying desperately to move it but unable to affect the matter of the Material Plane of which she was now an alien.

   Szordrin recognized the spell that Solisar had cast and performed the same one, so that he too could see his master's deceased wife.

   "Do you wish to move the pawn forward one space or two?" asked Solisar.

   Yunoko's mouth moved; it looked like she was trying to speak, but neither Solisar nor Szordrin could hear any sound. She kept her left hand on the pawn but moved her right hand to cover her neck, as if to indicate that she could not speak.

   Seeing this, Szordrin immediately rose to his feet and gave a little bow. "Yunoko-san, I was a disciple of Onran. I see that you cannot speak. Will you permit me to cast a spell to read your thoughts?"

   The ghost turned suddenly to stare at him, which startled him and caused him to jump back a little. She did not nod, but neither did she shake her head. He took a chance and cast two spells. Unfortunately, he could not sense her thoughts, not even a force trying to resist his probing.

   Suddenly, Yunoko fully manifested in their plane, making her ghostly form visible to both Hakam and Sofi. The appearance was sudden and shocking, and Sofi gasped. Ferry snuggled tightly around her neck.

   As soon as this happened, Szordrin knew immediately that he was in the presence of an intelligent entity. She must have entered more fully into the Material Plane so that he could read her thoughts. It took a few seconds for them to come into focus.

   "She wants to move her pawn forward one space," said Szordrin, "to defend her own."

   "Ah, she is declining the queen's gambit," said Solisar. "Let me move the piece for you, Yunoko." He did so and then considered his own follow-up move. Solisar tried to be slow and deliberate with each of his actions, as he had learned from the tea ceremony with Hina. Yunoko turned back to look at the board instead of at Szordrin. Her motions were slow, as if she were tired and weak.

   Who are these people? Why are they here?

   Solisar moved one of his clerics. "Check," he said.

   He knows that I can simply move my king forward, since I declined the gambit.

   Szordrin could sense her contemplating all manner of future moves, not in words, but in images of various states of the pieces on the board. Her thoughts also seemed as slow as her motions, however, and it was perhaps two minutes before he could translate her next request to Solisar. "She wants to move her king forward one space."

   Solisar took his time on his next move. He did not want to play either too aggressively or too leniently. He kept glancing up at the apparition to ensure that she was not growing suddenly angry. Unfortunately, her expression changed little.

   Where is Onran? Where is my husband? What did you do with him?

   "I am Oran's disciple," repeated Szordrin. "We are here to help you."

   Yunoko placed her ethereal fingers upon the piece that she wanted to move next.

   "I was raised by Onran," continued Szordrin. "He found me in the Underdark. He rescued me from the streets of Guallidurth and taught me how to live and how to manipulate the Weave."

   Why the Underdark? Onran had never been to the Underdark.

   "I thought that it was only by chance that Onran had encountered me," said Szordrin, "but now I believe that he sought me out. I have come to suspect that I am the descendant of the woman you helped, of Mieko, perhaps her grandson, making me also a descendant of the rakshasa who arranged for your murder and who swore to kill all of his offspring. Thus, my own life is probably in danger. Onran did everything that he could to protect my life, but unfortunately, I have to tell you that Onran is no longer with us in life."

   From her appearance and posture, Yunoko did not appear to be paying any attention. She still had her finger on one of the chess pieces and, had she been alive, they would have thought that she was about to fall asleep at the table. Szordrin suddenly wondered whether she could still hear anything that they were saying at all.

   Suddenly, however, she jerked violently back from the table. She threw her head back and screamed. The scream was a visceral grief supernaturally transformed into physical sound waves. The hideous moan seemed to run through their very skin. Sofi shrieked, slid across the floor and clung to Hakam's arm. Ferry tried to press his body against her ears, as Szordrin had instructed him to do.

   Outside in the hall, Belvin and Kytharrah heard the moan, and Kytharrah had the sensation that the roof was caving in on them. He leapt over the balcony railing and landed on the first floor of the embassy welcoming chamber. Belvin chased after him, rushing down the steps and trying to calm him, but the minotaur was already out the door. The wild elf saw that Leokas, too, was sprinting for the embassy gates.

   Zenmeliao? Zenmeliao? shouted Tano loudly from his pool.

   "Be calm!" commanded Hakam, and inside the bedroom, Sofi and the others there immediately felt peace. So too did Yunoko, for she ceased her cry of anguish and returned to her normal posture. Then, she vanished, though Solisar and Szordrin could still see her in the ethereal plane. She covered her face in her hands.

   She remained fully within the ethereal for several minutes. "Take your time, Yunoko," said Solisar. "We know that this news is shocking to you, but we cannot communicate with you unless you hold yourself partially in our world."

   She slowly faded back into existence on their plane. Somehow, I knew that he was gone. I never was able to finish my letter. He never was able to read my final words to him. I do not understand why I cannot find Sanzu-no-Kawa. Why does Kwan Ying show no compassion to me?... Such were the questions that Szordrin heard her repeat over and over in the mind.

   Hakam spoke up. "Yunoko, I am a cleric. Perhaps I can ease your mind. Permit me to also hear your thoughts." Hakam completed a quick prayer, and he, too, could now know her thoughts; however, most of them were currently in Wa-an.

   "I am so sorry to be the one to have brought you the terrible news of your loss," said Szordrin, "but I want to learn the truth about what happened to him, and I believe that you are the only one who can help us."

   Szordrin felt a chill as she turned her translucent head and stared at him with her undead eyes. Her thoughts switched to Common, so that both Hakam and Szordrin could hear her words. How can I help you? I am dead. There was bitterness in the final word.

   "You have knowledge about Onran that none of us have," Szordrin replied in as calm a tone as he could muster. "Onran never spoke much about his past life before he met me. If you can tell us what you know about the rakshasa, perhaps we can track him down and bring you and your husband justice."

   "We believe that Szordrin here is the child of the child who we know you were trying so hard to protect," added Solisar, in case she had missed hearing Szordrin state this earlier.

   What do you want to know?

   "I am sorry to have to discuss such a painful subject with you, but we also have been sent by your friends in Cormyr to investigate your own death, your own murder," said Hakam. "We believe that it was the rakshasa who killed you. We found your Harper pin and what we think to be your family's sword and the skeletal reversed hand of the one who murdered you on the bridge near Bunden. We have returned the items here to this room. What do you recall of your own death, if it is not too painful to share with us?"

   Someone ambushed me as I was crossing a footbridge and strangled me. The stranger tore my pin from my kimono, making my thoughts naked to him or, I suppose, her. I drew my wakizashi and severed the hand. The pin, the hand, and my family's blade fell into the water below the bridge as I began to lose consciousness. The thoughts changed from words in Common to feelings of sad and painful emotions. Then, the thoughts returned to words. I was weak of mind, and in my dying thoughts, I feared for Mieko, and I dread that those thoughts may have given her away.

   Hakam quickly and softly spoke a quick summary of what she had communicated to Solisar and Sofi.

   "We do not know what happened to Mieko," said Szordrin, "but if you were trying to protect her child, you must have succeeded, for I am here."

   "We also know that the rakshasa did not find all that he was looking for," said Hakam, "because we found that he had ransacked your home on Coliar, searching for more clues."

   They sensed confusion from Yunoko's spirit. I never lived on Coliar.

   "It must have been Onran's house alone," said Hakam. "I apologize. We found there several of your writings to him and your photo."

   "He missed and loved you greatly," added Sofi, speaking to the ghost for the first time.

   "Yes, we know from letters between Onran and his friend Samber that he grieved mightily for your loss," said Hakam.

   "Further," said Szordrin, "although I was initially led to believe that it was a drow who took my master's life, I now believe that the same rakshasa was responsible for taking both of your lives."

   "From your writings," said Hakam, "we know that you discovered that this rakshasa had infiltrated the Wanese imperial family. If you help us, if you can explain your theories to us more fully, we think that we can track him down and kill him or banish him from this plane forever."

   I shall do my best, but it is hard to think clearly of things in the past. My world is all shadow, all mist, all straining. Do you know how long I had to concentrate simply to press that rook from the board and from the table? I wanted you to destroy me, the last time that you saw me. Every time that anyone attempts to destroy me, I always find myself reforming here at the embassy. I can not reach the Spirit World, nor can I remain in your world. Even now, I grow weak holding myself here so that you can hear my thoughts.

   "The time of our spells is also limited," said Szordrin. "It will only be for a few more minutes that I shall be able to maintain the connection."

   "I am willing to allow you to possess me," said Hakam, "so that you can speak through me to the others. A ghost can do this, can it not?"

   Yunoko's unblinking eyes looked across the room toward Sofi, making the tiefling woman feel very uncomfortable. I have possessed one of you before, yes. No offense, but I would feel far more comfortable in the body of woman than of a man. I am not used to man's body.

   They explained this to Sofi.

   Sofi said, "Now that I understand what would be happening, I would submit to her possessing me, provided that you can promise me that I would come back when you are finished speaking with her. We could try that. What do I have to do?"

   I only have the power to manifest at night. I do not understand where I go during the day, but I do not seem to exist while the sun shines. So if this young woman allows me to possess her, I can only do so while it is still dark.

   "Can you leave the embassy grounds?" asked Szordrin.

   No, I cannot haunt far from this room or the place where I was killed. Something irresistibly compels me to return to those places if I try to go elsewhere.

   "Could we simply carry your chest with us, so that you could travel with us," asked Szordrin. "Perhaps it is the items within that are holding you here."

   She did not know.

   Szordrin's magic spell ceased, which meant that Hakam's would soon as well. Solisar offered to use his skill in the Art to extend the duration of Hakam's spell, but Sofi again volunteered to be possessed. "That will be much easier for everyone, will it not? And we need to do this before twilight comes."

   Sofi stood up and tried to relax. Her eyes closed and she shook her limbs and took a deep breath. "I am ready."

   Yunoko's spirit rose into the air and hovered over to Sofi, so that their two forms were almost superimposed. Then, Yunoko vanished, Sofi's body gave a sudden jerk, and her eyes blinked open again. She looked around at everyone, then at her own two hands. She touched the bed, taking in the feel of the old blankets. She crossed the room, picked up the teacup, tasted the tea, and grimaced. She made another move on the chessboard and gave Solisar a little smirk.

   "Konnichiwa?" said Yunoko, testing the sound of her voice. It was fully Sofi's voice, but her facial expressions and movements were not Sofi's at all. It was highly disturbing for the others and hard to adapt to. "I think that it worked."

   Then she asked, "I recognize this teacup. Is Hina still alive?"

   "She is, and she is well," said Solisar.

   Just then, the two sylvan elves and the minotaur slid open the door. Tano was propped on the top of Kytharrah's head, something like a hat. Belvin had recovered them after their short bouts with intense, supernatural fear, and they had returned to the embassy second floor and had been listening outside the door, not wanting to risk interupting the efforts within. Now it seemed safe enough to enter the room and introduce themselves as three additional companions.

   "Is that a yu lung?" said Sofi's voice. "You found a yu lung?"

   Kytharrah was very confused how Sofi could forget about their new friend.

   "Yu lung are the shyest of all dragons," Yunoko continued. "One never sees them; they simply hide at the bottom of their lakes until they grow up."

   "Play," said Kytharrah.

   "There is a strange magic currently affecting dragons all over Toril," said Solisar, "which is changing their behaviors in drastic ways, but that is another matter for another time and is outside our purposes for now."

   Sofi nodded. "Shall we begin, then," said Sofi's voice. "I shall tell you everything that I was able to learn about the rakshasa before I was killed." Slowly, Yunoko was able to communicate many of the things that she had discovered or surmised. Completely contrary to her fears, she was able to remember even some of the specific names and dates of persons involved, perhaps because it was easier for her to do so when she no longer had to struggle to maintain the incorporeal appearance of a body. Solisar began to furiously copy the key information into the back pages of his spellbook.

   Yunoko's belief was that the Emperor Kando was actually a rakshasa, but such an impersonation had happened multiple times in Wanese history, beginning with Goshukara Bohatei. She theorized that this emperor was murdered in year 458 of the Cormyr Reckoning. Goshukara Shirukuburo, brother to the real Bohatei, discovered the deception nearly fifty years later and assassinated the false Bohatei, becoming emperor and restoring the true line. However, Shirukuburo himself was assassinated in the same year by two of Bohatei's former bodyguards, and Shirukuburo was replaced by his son Okurimono. Yunoko believed that these assassins were in fact two additional rakshasa working for the first, but that Okurimono was in fact a human and of the true imperial line. "I believe that this was the first time that they tried to enter into Wa's imperial line."

   History repeated itself almost 800 years later, in Cormyr Year 1202, when Goshukara Raimei was impersonated. Raimei's cousin, Konoma, supposedly discovered the deception and assassinated the false Raimei. As before, Raimei was almost immeditately assassinated by twin assassins. The reports of that day strangely noted that the men had "deformed hands." They fled the scene and were never seen again. Raimei's brother, Komo, then took the throne.

   "I discovered all this after months of research at the Great Library in Rukimbaru," said Yunoko. This was as much as she had been able to discover before her own death.

   "Do you know if the shogunate is somehow connected to all this?" asked Hakam. "Should we trust the line of the shogun? Or is he not to be trusted?"

   "Who is currently the shogun?"

   "Matasuuri Nagahide."

   "He is the same shogun as when I lived. He came to power around the same time as Queen Filfaeril's husband, Azoun, did. I have had many dealings with him. He is extremely untrusting of outsiders, extremely harsh in his judgments, and extremely legalistic. He believes that such things as the playing of cards will lead to the moral downfall of Wa. If you do not break any of his laws and stay in favor with him, he is actually a strong leader and skilled at the matters involved in actually running a country, but he is ruthless."

   She gave an example, "There was one time where a peasant approached him — illegally; no peasant can come near the shogun — and told him that he had proof of the betrayal and plan of assassination by one of the daimyo. Nagahide immediately had the peasant executed, on the spot, and then he ordered the removal and punishment of the daimyo and his family. There was no thanks for the fact that the peasant had saved his life. He has no mercy, so be careful. He certainly does not trust you, and if he is using you, it is because he must truly want to understand what is happening with the emperor."

   "We learned that you had investigated the beating of a foreign merchant right before you were murdered," said Hakam. "Does this have any significance to your investigations?"

   "No. I do not think that there was any relation. It was a local diplomatic matter. I believe that the shogun arranged for this foreigner to sell cards with a magical means of tracking them, to catch the yakuza of Bunden in the act of violating the law."

   "We also learned that there was also a false tax collector sent to Wa the day before," explained Hakam. "We suspect that this was the rakshasa who murdered you the next day."

   "I know nothing of this," she said.

   "Why are the rakshasa specifically interested in Wa?" asked Szordrin.

   Yunoko had no theories about this question. "I wish that I could tell you more. I truly hope that this information can help you. I take no small comfort in learning that one of Mieko's descendants still lives. Perhaps not all hope is lost among the living. Yet no hope I have for myself or for my love. Is there nothing you can do to help me reach Onran?"

   "We would be happy to try to put you at peace," said Hakam, "but, unfortunately, we have bigger business with the same Samber who was friends with your husband. It seems that he has since gone mad with power. We were hoping that some details that you might remember about him could help us prevent him from bringing great evil into our world."

   "I do not know how much I can help you on that topic," said Yunoko. "I only met the man a few times. I had a few nice conversations with his wife at each of our respective weddings, but that is really all there is to say. No doubt, Onran and Samber were best friends in their youth on Lantan. In some ways, Samber understood Onran better than I ever could. I know a small number of spells and cantrips, but my understanding of the Weave and the multiverse is nothing compared to their combined knowledge of such things. I know that Onran was actually the one to first teach the Art to Samber, when they were young."

   "Here," said Hakam, "let me show you the letters that we found from Samber to Onran and one unfished letter that he appears to never have sent back in a reply. He shares some of his thoughts about you in it, which may give you some comfort. In the letters there is also mention of an 'empty' sphere. Did Onran ever discuss such a crystal sphere with you?"

   She did not recall him ever mentioning an empty sphere. "His spelljamming interest was not the part of him that I fell in love with. It was his hobby alone. We surely talked about it on occasion, but not frequently. He would share some of the amazing sights and sounds and people and cultures that he had experienced or met, but except for... where we honeymooned, I was not able to experience most of these wonders for myself, and the pure astronomical matters that he and his mother discussed were outside my interests and harder to remember. Similarly, I rarely talked with him about my love of tea."

   "Yes, in one of the letters," said Szordrin, "Samber mentioned a specific vacation home that you shared with Onran. Where was that vacation home? And a related question: When you discovered this whole rakshasa plot, where did you hide Mieko?"

   She paused for a moment and then said, "I want to believe that you all have good motives and that everything you speak is true, but I cannot risk betraying Mieko a second time, if I have been wrong to trust you thus far. However, if you could somehow prove your willingness and ability to help me by somehow delivering my final letter to Onran, I would be willing to tell you where Mieko is."

   "We will do our best," said Hakam, "but it will surely be very difficult, since Onran has also died."

   "And so have I, and yet here we are speaking together."

   "Who was his patron deity?" asked Hakam. "On what Outer Plane would we even hope to find him?"

   "He worshiped Celestian," said Szordrin.

   "Yes," said Yunoko, "a god of wildspace. He always told me that Celestia's petitioners become one of the stars on his black robes, but surely that is only religious myth."

   "Hakam," asked Solisar, "is there no spell for which you can pray that would grant her spirit rest?"

   "Only if I have the individual's body," said Hakam. "Such spiritual matters are greater than I have been granted power from Anachtyr to control."

   Belvin offered to reincarnate her, but she did not want to come back to life in a body not her own, much less a potentially non-human one. "I also have little desire to live in a world absent from my husband. I want to join with him."

   "What do you want us to do with your items that we found?" Hakam asked.

   "Is my mother still alive?"

   "We do not know," said the cleric, "but we have intended to look for her in Rukimbaru when we travel there soon."

   "Of course, I want my letter to reach Onran, wherever his spirit is. I want my other items — especially the wakizashi — to go to my mother, if possible, except for the pin, which I would like to have delivered to the queen of Cormyr."

   "The letter that you started is with your other items in the chest," said Solisar. "Finish your letter tonight, if Sofi's body is rested enough for you to do so, and we will take it with us."

   "May I have time alone to do so?" asked Yunoko.

   They left her alone in her old room, at her old desk, with her old calligraphy set, and she completed her unfinished letter. Some of the others went off to the empty rooms to get their rest for the night, but Szrodrin waited up by the balcony overlooking the lower floor.

   "I am sorry about the other night," said Sofi's voice behind him, an hour later.

   He did not know at first if it was Sofi or Yunoko speaking, but the way she swayed when she walked was not typical of Sofi. Sofi walked on her toes, and — unless she was meditating — always seemed tense, like a tigress ready to spring. Her next sentence confirmed this. "Your hair and beard immitate his; in my undead state, it confused me greatly."

   Szordrin assured her that it was nothing. "It was... an interesting experience."

   "Did you grow your beard intentionally to look like his?"

   "It is how a proper man should look."

   She laughed, and then gasped, having never laughed with Sofi's body before, and finding the laugh very foreign. Once she had gathered herself again, she said, "Well, that is very strange. Anyhow, I was going to note that I see that you have inherited his sense of humor as well, and I agree; the beard looks very nice."

   She handed him the finished letter. "It is fine if you and your companions read it. I am dead, after all; I can hardly get embarrassed about personal matters anymore."

   He then asked her if she had any questions about Onran's life after she died.

   "What did he do after I died? Of course, I know nothing. Sit with me and tell me."

   When Sofi's body sat down, it was in a way that Sofi would never sit, with her back straight and head upright, such that one could probably have balanced books on top.

   Szordrin did not know much about the period of time from when she had died to when he had rescued Szordrin from the streets, but after that, the tiefling was able to tell her many stories of their years together. For most of his story, Sofi's face wore an expression of sadness, but there were a few times when a smile would begin to form.

   "In some sense, then," said Yunoko, "I would be your long-lost adoptive mother, would I not?"

   "Yes," said Szordrin, "you would."
Session: 128th Game Session - Monday, Jan 25 2021 from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Viewable by: Public
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