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Tag: uminonagame

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 - Friday, Aug 27 2021 from 1:00 AM to 4:00 AM
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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 - Tuesday, Jan 26 2021 from 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM
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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 - Tuesday, Jan 26 2021 from 2:00 AM to 5:00 AM
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