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

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

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

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Chapter 2 — Spinosaurus vs. Triceratops
The gargantuan predator brought its long head close to the ground, almost touching it, and opened its tooth-filled mouth wide to emit a deep and deafening bellow.

   Kytharrah felt the otherworldly howl deep in his bones. Nevertheless, he just shook it off, grabbed his axe, and readied himself.

   The triceratops, too, was unfazed by the larger dinosaur's roar. It simply kept on strolling calmly after its mate, which had disappeared into the tree cover to the north.

   Leokas rushed south through the trees and climbed up over the embankment. He passed Solisar, who waved a wand and sent a pulse of magic zipping through the trees to slam into the bony crest along the massive dinosaur's snout.

   From the air, two rays of fire blasted forth from Szordrin's hands. Each struck the dinosaur. It called out, took one long stride, and chomped down on the triceratops' hindquarters. The long conical teeth of the predator easily punctured the thick, scaled skin of the triceratops.

   The triceratops cried out, at last freed from the power of Hakam's calming enchantment, and began to run, but the other dinosaur lifted its back half completely off the ground, so that only the triceratops' front feet were making contact with the earth. Its rear legs moved about uselessly.

   From the top of the embankment, Leokas could easily see the tail of the giant dinosaur. It was finned and shark like. He began unleashing arrows.

   The attacking dinosaur growled and twitched as arrow after arrow plunged into its hide, followed by numerous magic missiles from Solisar's wand.

   The triceratops shook its hips and fell from the bigger dinosaur's mouth. It spun quickly around to face its attacker and lunged forward, raising its thick neck and driving its two long horns into the other beast's chest, just between its arms.

   As the dinosaurs battled just outside the cover of the trees, Hakam laid his hands on Kytharrah to enhance the protectiveness of his armor, while Belvin called out a powerful enchantment to boost the range of his companions' weapons.

   The carnivore, three arrows embedded in its lower body and burned and bleeding, twisted its head around to grab at its dinner's neck. The triceratops instinctively defended itself by lifting its head back to protect the vulnerable spot with its bony frill and knocking the bigger beast's head to the side, where it clamped down instead on the arch of the triceratops' back. The wounded triceratops bucked and yanked free, but the predator also slashed and gashed with its long thumb-claws, cutting deep into the triceratops' bulky side.

   Kytharrah dropped his axe and reached for his minotaur-sized bow, joining Leokas at launching projectiles at the dinosaur, though not as rapidly, of course. A gust of wind, triggered by Belvin's magic, guided the shot into the back of the beast's neck.

   Szordrin drew his new dagger of venom from its sheath and tossed it through the air. Another rush of wind kept the blade spinning through the air, but the throw fell short, and the dagger drove into the ground at the four-toed foot of the towering monster.

   The triceratops bellowed and gored its foe once again, this time severely wounding the larger creature in the neck. It then tried to back up into the shelter of the trees, but the other dinosaur was faster. It stepped to the side, ignoring its own wounds and bit down once again. This time, it used its clawed hands and its bite together to press its prey to lie flat on the ground with the force of its weight behind it. The triceratops let out a shriek. It was pinned, prone, and helpless.

   A mystical sword and hammer appeared in the air on each side of the upright reptile. The hammer missed, but the sword swung down on the back of the creature's neck. The magical force burst a major vessel, and blood spurted. The dinosaur growled and raised its head, swinging it over rapidly to snap at the strange flying thing that had harmed it. As its head turned, Leokas saw the perfect shot. His wind-guided arrow struck the dinosaur in the left eye and burst out on the other side. The huge reptilian body flopped over lifeless and slammed into the ground. The triceratops got up and fled away from the clearing.
Session: 113th Game Session - Saturday, Jun 27 2020 from 2:30 AM to 5:30 AM
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Chapter 2 — Stampede!
~ third-day, 27th of the sixth season, shrinking halflight
Chi-wee-wee-seh-kaw


Belvin, in the lead, saw a clearing up ahead through the thick trees. They seemed to be walking parallel now to an embankment or short earthen cliff about ten feet high. Leokas estimated that they have come about four and a half miles since landing.

   They cautiously approached the clearing. There had been clearings here and there on the last island, but this one was particularly wide, about 30 feet across. Leokas knelt down and looked at the ground. It was covered in leaves, broken branches, and dried mud. "There are countless animal tracks here," said Leokas, "going in all directions, ground birds and lizards of course, but many of them are very large, dinosaurs perhaps, like in Chult. The leaves and sticks have been ground down, trampled under heavy weight."

   Kytharrah sniffed some of the tracks. "New," he said.

   Leokas agreed. "Yes, there are no puddles in them, so these here are from this morning, unlike those there."

   Szordrin looked around the area for traps and was convinced that the area was clear. Belvin believed that the clearing was the meeting place of animals. It seemed like a wide natural "highway" led down over the embankment coming from the south to end here in the clearing.

   "The trail is leading perpendicular to the way we want to go," said Leokas. "Let us just cross and continue on."

   Kytharrah began to move over to the embankment to take a peek over it.

   Just then, everyone heard the sound of crunching leaves and branches approaching rapidly from the south. Leokas, with his elvish hearing, noticed the sound first and quickly darted out of the clearing back into the cover of the trees. "Incoming!" he shouted in warning, as he unslung his magic bow.

   With a cloud of feathers and dust, a small flock of very large and tall birds rushed over the embankment. They looked something like the running birds that some of them had seen in Chult called ostriches. These birds had similar long legs for high-speed running and small vestigial wings, but they had bulkier legs and bodies and shorter necks than ostriches. Even so, they were still taller than Kytharrah. The birds' beaks were large and thick and curved to two sharp points at the top and the bottom, looking almost like a hatchet or throwing axe in shape.

   These "axebeaks" ran off the embankment at a speed of close to perhaps 40 miles per hour. Six of the seven birds landed on the ground in the clearing with a flutter of their small wings and kept right on running. The sixth stumbled and fell flat with a squawk.

   Belvin had barely spun around to the sound of the approaching birds just in time to see one of them coming straight at him. He sprung out of the way just in time, as the terrified bird charged past.

   Likewise, another of the birds nearly missed crashing into Kytharrah as it darted by. The same bird slowed down at bit as it saw its path was blocked by Kamil. It squawked loudly, and the camel turned and bolted, and the bird followed right after him. Kamil veered into the trees out of the path of the charging bird, which kept on running.

   "Kamil! Wait!" shouted Belvin.

   Kytharrah reached the embankment and stepped up enough to peek up over the edge for a one-second glance, as the fallen bird got back up on its feet and began to run after its flockmates. The minotaur saw two gigantic animals running full speed down the wide path towards them. They were only 50 to 100 feet away and rapidly approaching. He could feel the rumble of their footfalls shaking the ground. He had never seen creatures anything like them before. They ran on four thick legs, which looked somewhat like the legs of the magic elephant that Hakam sometimes summoned from the marble figurine, but their heads were completely different. They had three massive horns. Two long and twisted horns jutted from the back of their heads, and another grew from their beaked snouts. The skulls were shaped something like a shield, or like the dragon Sseth's head, with a thick bony ridge extending in the back. Also, instead of wrinkly gray skin like the elephant, these two creatures seemed to have dusky scales.

   The two animals were also charging. Though not as fast as the running birds, they were sure to reach the embankment in seconds.

   Kytharrah spun around with a snort, swung out his long arm and grabbed Belvin and yanked him back into the woods with him out of the clearing.

   Szordrin also moved into the shelter of the trees, nearly tripping on all the roots and vines now present, since Belvin was no longer in front of him. With a wave of a wand, multiple copies of his form appeared. Deeper in the woods, numerous Solisars also materialized.

   Belvin sprung from root to root toward his camel, who had obeyed him and stopped, and mounted his animal companion.

   Hakam, seeing their minotaur peek over the embankment and respond by moving deeper into the trees, raised his holy symbol toward the earthen slope and waited. Leokas, ten yards north of him, nocked three arrows simultaneous, an arrow between each of his fingers, and also waited a brief moment to see what was coming over the ridge. "Heel!" he commanded Sif, and she obeyed.

   The ground rumbled loudly enough for everyone to hear and feel now. The birds continued fleeing, and most of them had made it across the clearing and into the trees at the other end. A second later, the two bulky, three-horned, quadrupedal dinosaurs came into view at the top of the embankment.

   "Be calm!" Hakam shouted.

   The nearest of the triceratops continued running at full gallop and came crashing down the embankment. It landed on its four massive, multihooved feet and kept on running. Its companion, however, suddenly stopped its gallop, but its forward momentum caused it to skid through the soil and off the edge. It slid down the steep slope and thudded on its stomach.

   Leokas recognized the beasts as ytepka in Chultan and knew them to be herbivores — Yashiera had kept a miniaturized one as a pet — but acting on reflex, he released the bowstring but managed to hold on to two of the arrows between his fingers. The stray missile struck the charging dinosaur and glanced of its head armor harmlessly.

   Solisar, suspecting that there was a still-larger dinosaur coming, cast a spell to boost his speed.

   Kytharrah hustled over to the embankment again and took a second peek, as the still-rampaging triceratops entered the trees at the end of the clearing, followed by squawking from the axebeaks at the rear of the retreating flock. The minotaur saw yet another creature running down the wide path, this one even bigger than the previous two but running on two powerful hind legs. It was sort of like a bird in shape to Kytharrah, and even had some patches of green feathers on its upper torso among its gray, scaled skin, but it had two short arms with long claws instead of wings. Its head and long jaw reminded him of the crocodile that Belvin could transform into with his magic trick. On the creature's back was something that reminded him of the sail of some of the spelljammers that he saw while working at the Rock of Bral.

   As intrigued as he was by this half-second view over the edge, the monster was enormous, three times his own height, definitely large enough to swallow even a big minotaur like him, and it was running even faster than the other two beasts. He sprung back away from the embankment and began to back away again into the tree cover, grunting and gesturing to the others to move deeper into the woods.

   Clutching a tiny feather from his pouch, Szordrin and his duplicate figments magically rose into the air several yards up to get a better view. To the right, he saw Belvin struggling to guide Kamil over thick roots and vines, and to the left, he saw the other triceratops standing back up. Then he saw the bigger dinosaur come into view, sprinting along the path above the embankment. It was bigger even than the ceratosaur that had nearly killed Belvin a year ago.

   "A tyrannosaur with a sail on its back is coming!" he yelled down.

   Belvin reared Kamil and turned back on his mount, prepared to cast a druidic spell. Leokas heard Szordrin's warning and retreated farther west with Sif struggling to keep up with her master. Solisar, and his many copies, all magically sped up, likewise moved quickly through the bushes away from the clearing.

   The remaining triceratops, oblivious to the threat only seconds away from coming over the embankment, trotted calmly over to Kytharrah at the edge of the clearing and sniffed deeply through the two giant nostrils on the side of its beaked snout just under its central horn.

   Kytharrah waved his arms frantically at the friendly beast, trying to get it to follow after its mate. "Go! Go!"

   It turned away from the minotaur, and immediately the pursuing dinosaur came over the embankment in a single long step.

   Belvin screamed out something in Druidic, but it was not clear what magic, if any, had occurred. Szordrin rose higher into the air at an angle, while clutching a tiny glass rod and a bit of fur. Kytharrah backed into the woods even further, dragging Hakam along with him and then shoving the cleric ahead so that he was between the human and the new big monster.

   The dinosaur turned toward the meal that it had been pursuing, which strangely had no fear and simply strolled along. Before it could swing its thick neck down for a bite, there was a blinding flash, followed by a thunder clap, as a bolt of lightning shot forth from Szordrin's fingertips. The dinosaur convulsed from the electrical shock but then shook its head, as if shaking off some minor nuisance.

   Lowering itself onto all fours, it arched its back like a cat trying to look intimidating. Doing so caused its feathers to jut out and the fin of skin on its back to tighten and expand as the spines supporting it stood rigid.

   The gargantuan predator brought its long head close to the ground, almost touching it, and opened its tooth-filled mouth wide to emit a deep and deafening bellow....
Session: 112th Game Session - Tuesday, Jun 23 2020 from 2:30 AM to 5:30 AM
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Chapter 2 — Jungle Journeying Without the Sun
~ second-day, 26th of the sixth season, growing quarterlight
Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi


Dawn came to the floating island numbered 0-0-4-6-2. The short night had passed without any major incidents. When the two sylvan elves were on first watch, they had heard high-pitched sounds being emitted by some flying creatures high up in the trees. Knowing that no mammals lived in Coliar, they discussed the idea that perhaps some lizard or bird species in this planet had also evolved the bat's power of echolocation. When Solisar and Kytharrah were on second watch, during the darkest hours of the starless night, they had noticed strange glowing lights on the trunks of the trees that moved slowly up, high into the canopy, but the phosphorescent lights did not set off Solisar's magical alarm, and they did not risk investigating this observation further.

   While Belvin and Hakam prayed for power from their respective gods, the birds of the jungle sang in joy at a new day from high above their heads at the top of the canopy. Szordrin packed up his hammock, Kytharrah and Leokas rolled up their beds, and Solisar climbed down the rope from the extradimensional space.

   Solisar reminded them about their timeline. "Postmaster Spiraldive said that the islands would be eclipsed at roughly brightest light on the 27th of the sixth season. Today is the 26th, so we have more than 30 hours until then, and we would need to wait at least five hours beyond that for the second, lower island to get far enough away for a safe descent down to it."

   "So we still have nine or ten miles to go in well over 30 hours," said Hakam. "That should not be a problem."

   "I am certain that Belvin and I could make three miles per hour in jungle," said Leokas, "but I am guessing that the rest of you would find it difficult to traverse much faster than a quarter that speed. I estimate that we only made half a mile in our hour of sloshing along the stream last night."

   The wide stream that they had followed was now only a foot deep and five feet wide. It had been joined by smaller streams, coming mostly from the right, as they had followed it the night before.

   "Belvin," said Hakam, "that spell that you used in Chult to drive the vegetation from our path behind you — would you be able to cast it again."

   It seemed like Belvin had forgotten about it, but, having been reminded, he added it to the list of spells for which he was beseeching Thard Harr that day.

   Leokas was looking up at the sky — at least trying to; it was not easy to spot any through the thick tree cover overhead. "Speed may be the least of our concerns," said Leokas. "Even if it were not for these trees, there is no sun in the sky; the light just changes intensity throughout the day. At night, there are no stars or moon. I think that east is that way, but I think it best that Belvin prays to Thard for guidance on this."

   "Maybe we should mark the trees once we get going," said Szordrin, "so that we will recognize if we have walked around in circles."

   "But there is no need for any of that; we have a minotaur with us," said Hakam. Then he spoke to Kytharrah directly. "Which direction is where we landed in our gliders?"

   Kytharrah pointed in a direction that most of them thought was north.

   "Are you certain?" asked Leokas.

   Kytharrah nodded. (Without Ilthian around anymore to encourage him to use words, the minotaur was back to speaking very little.)

   "The stream last night must have subtly been curving left then," said Leokas. "We need to walk that way. I am glad that I did not trust my own senses on this."

   Now that they knew which way was east again, Belvin took the lead on foot, so that he could use his spell; Kamil followed behind him. Belvin prayed, and behind him, the plants and undergrowth, extending back some 30 feet in a cone shape, slowly unraveled and moved away from the area, as if alive. A flurry of tiny lizards, frogs, snakes, and little flightless ground birds hurriedly scattered to take cover as their hiding places betrayed them and moved away.

   "I am sorry, little ones," said Belvin. "All will be restored to normal once we pass through; you will not be harmed."

   In this way, they turned a potentially twelve-hour journey into a three hour one. An extra benefit of this was that they would be able to reach their destination before the increasing temperature became unbearable at brightest light. The temperature was even worse deep in the jungle than it was in either Hisssta or Athanar.

   Half way through the third hour, Hakam's nose began to itch and his eyes began to water. Kytharrah also noticed something in the air, a strong smell of pollen. Hakam managed to avoid a violent fit of sneezing, but he was not comfortable. Thankfully, the potent pollen seemed to only be in a small area of the jungle, and the irritation soon passed.

   At last they exited the jungle and reached the edge of the island at a small clearing with grassy hillocks. Having arrived so early in the day, they were able to spend a good amount of time relaxing. There were puddles of water, left over from the previous night's rain, and with this they were able to remain cool. Leokas started a camp fire, and they ate around it on rocks and a log and joked about some of their past adventures together.

   Solisar periodically looked over the edge of the island, but Chi-wee-wee-seh-kaw, the crescent-shaped island that was their next destination, was not yet visible. It was still some 350 miles or so too far west by his estimates.

   The rains came, right on schedule, filling an area west of their campfire with water and forming a temporary pond. Then night finally followed, and the sounds of the animals in the jungle behind them changed from the chirps and tweets of birds to the calls of frogs and the hisses of small reptilian creatures in the leaves. This night passed with less note than had the previous one.

   In the morning, they were once again woken by a cacophony of bird songs. As the day got brighter, it of course got much hotter. Leokas continued to teach all of them simple tricks for staying cool. For example, he dipped his aba in the water and draped it over his shoulders. Kytharrah splashed in the shallow pond that the rains had formed, but it became little more than scattered mud puddles by the time the light was at its fullest.

   It was still some fifteen hours from the time that they woke until it was time to jump from the edge and glide to their next island. Solisar pointed it out to them, and they agreed that it matched the sketch on the copy of the address slate.

   "How long will we have until Onran's island eclipses this next one?" asked Hakam.

   "It will do so at brightest light tomorrow," said Solisar. "The calculations always seem to be for brightest light."

   "This second island is how wide?"

   "It is listed as being thirteen miles long and seven miles wide. We are crossing at its narrowest part, so aim for the center of the curve of the crescent."

~~~~

The journey through the jet streams down to Chi-wee-wee-seh-kaw was a shorter one than before, taking two hours, because they had timed the jump better. However, when they were halfway between the islands, it became clear to some of them from their gliders that this particular island did not have any obvious clearings where landing would be safest. It seemed to be jungle trees all the way up to the edge. Landing was going to be more challenging.

   They began shouting to each other over the loud flapping of their hang glider wings. Solisar and Szordrin instructed everyone to pull into a tighter formation. That way, if anyone had issues, the wizards could slow the stray glider or gliders with their spells.

   Hakam expertly banked between two large trunks at just the right moment and landed running, safely underneath the canopy of the jungle. Kytharrah came in behind him safely as well, grunting and grinning.

   The wizards and Leokas, however, came in too high and found themselves stuck high in the branches of immense trees, unharmed, but suspended. Each of them solved his predicament in a unique manner. Solisar simply unattached himself from the glider harness and let himself fall the fifty feet to the ground at the rate of a feather. Having landed safely on the leaf-covered undergrowth, he used telekinetics to jostle and guide the glider from the branches and back down to the canopy floor. Szordrin used his spider-walking spell to suspend himself sideways from the tree. With his free hand, he collapsed the glider and then carried it down the trunk. Leokas balanced on a branch with Sif still tied to his chest, and collapsed his glider. Usually the most skilled climber among them, he shockingly snapped a branch and began to fall, dropping the glider. Thankfully, he was also a superb tumbler; he flipped himself and landed in a handstand at a lower branch, then flipped around like a circus gymnast. Sif yelped and whined, but she was alright. From the ground, Belvin, back in elven form, clapped. Szordrin climbed Leokas' tree to recover his glider from the lower branches.

   Hakam watched all this with a smile as Belvin dressed. Hakam was usually the least agile of the group, being garbed in his heavy banded mail; while in the glider, he just seemed to have a natural sense of how his subtle body motions could control his descent and direction.

   The wildlife on this island was much louder. There were constant screeches, shrieks, chirps, and snapping sounds. It was the 22nd hour of the day, and using Belvin's undergrowth-moving power, they figured that they could easily beat the rains and the darkness to the eastern side of the island, where they would camp, so they set out again, entering the jungle depths.
Session: 112th Game Session - Tuesday, Jun 23 2020 from 2:30 AM to 5:30 AM
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Chapter 2 — Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi
~ first-day, 25th of the sixth season, growing threequarterlight
Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi


While exciting at first, leaping off the edge of one island and gliding to another island was not as simple an ordeal as it at first may have seemed, but the challenge in it was also not what they would have predicted. The enemy here was boredom. In such clear weather, success lay not in any technical skill but rather primarily in maintaining the will-power to stay focused on a journey through an endless white sky. The boredom inevitably came after the first hour or so of gliding. As when Jayce had guided their spelljammer down to one of these islands, distance was very hard to estimate. The relative sizes of objects to their vision changed slowly, so progress was deceptive. Their target was always there in front of them, subtly growing larger, but only if you looked elsewhere for a time and then looked back. If you did this, however, you risked moving off course. Thankfully, even if you did move off course, from stray winds, distraction, dozing off, or any other cause, you had hours still to correct. Szordrin indeed did drift far away from the others for a time, but was able to get back in formation long before the island was close enough for this to be a concern. Kytharrah was the only one who seemed to still be enjoying himself after two hours, and he was intentionally banking left and right and making grunts and calls of enjoyment.

   Sif, Leokas' wolf, in particular, was not pleased with the situation. She was tied tightly in a harness to Leokas' torso as he steered his glider. She would periodically let out a whine to remind her companion that she was not happy.

   When the island was close enough, they saw that the western "horn" of the bull-head-shaped island had a grassy open area that looked like a prime landing spot. The rest of the island appeared covered in lush jungle.

   Hakam was the first to touch down on the grassy field, and did so like an expert. The others followed one after the other, running as they dropped their legs down and tried to match speed with the ground.

   Leokas, however, came in too shallow. His legs slammed against the rocky cliff that was the edge of the island, and he fell back into the expanse with Sif still tied to him. Belvin, who had just released dog-sized Kamil from his talons, shrieked out and circled back.

   Leokas' legs were scraped up and bruised, but he was not badly hurt. His glider had avoided taking any damage, but he was now gliding behind the island, some fifty feet too low. He was following his training and gaining altitude, but there was no way for him to go any faster, having lost some of his speed from the collision. If Belvin had not flown out to retrieve him, he would have never caught up again.

   "Once again, you have saved my life, my friend," said Leokas, when he was set back on solid ground. Sif was fine, beyond being clearly miffed at having been bound up for four hours.

   Near where they landed, there was some sort of stone statue or totem crudely constructed. Kythrrah bounded over to it as the others began collapsing their gliders and slipping them into the extra-dimensional spaces within their two magic sacks. He sniffed the stone for anything familiar but only noticed the new scent of the the vines growing up its height.

   Solisar joined him at the totem. It was roughly bird-shaped, with an obvious beak. At the back of the head were scratchings that the sun elf recognized as Iokharic runes, the numerals 0, 0, 4, 6, and 2, that is, Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi.

   "This is definitely the correct island," said Solisar. "I suspect that this totem was erected by the surveyors who cataloged this island."

   Belvin shifted back into humanoid form and re-clothed. Kytharrah, head raised high, continued to take in all the interesting smells around him, mostly pollen and other plant scents.

   To the southeast, close to where they had set down, was a pond, about 40 feet wide, surrounded by scrub trees, ferns, and short palm bushes. Beyond this, the cover of palm trees and taller kapok trees grew thick so quickly as to form a wall hiding whatever lay beyond from vision.

   Solisar walked back to the edge of the island, where the grass gave way to rock. He gazed about through Ombert's spyglass. "I believe that I may have found our next island," he said. "It is shaped something like a crescent. It is at least two days before it will pass under us, according to Postmaster Spiraldive's calculations. We have that much time to get to the eastern side of this island."

   "She said that this was a medium-sized island, did she not?" said Hakam. "It is about ten miles from edge to edge, if I recall correctly."

   Solisar confirmed this.

   "I should hope that we can travel ten miles in two days, even if the jungle is thick."

   "Boom," said Kytharrah.

   "What?" asked Szordrin.

   "He hears a rumble," said Hakam. "I do too. Infrequently, in the distance to the southeast. Listen."

   It took half a minute before the others also heard the rumble.

   "Water," Kytharrah also said, and he began walking to the east, looking about and sniffing.

   "We may as well explore about a bit," said Hakam, "and we do need to move east." He followed behind the minotaur, hanging back at a distance. Everyone else followed along. Belvin used one of his druid spells to scan the area for any dinosaurs, but while they could hear the sounds of birds and frogs in the distance, his spell revealed no giant warm-blooded lizards.

   It soon became clear that they were on a peninsula — one of the "horns" of the island — because they could see that the land came to an end to the east

   The sound of running water was louder now, such that the others could also hear it. The minotaur, in the lead, at last reached the stream at a sharp turn from flowing north to east. In 30 to 40 feet, it poured off the edge into the great expanse. To the south, the river passed under a land bridge that led up to a hill. The rumbles, still infrequent, where sounding louder now when they did occur.

   Belvin rode Kamil up to the base of the arch and began to climb up it part of the way, rising over the height of some of the shorter trees and bushes. Looking up the hill to the south, he saw some bright red colors, and realized that he was looking at the back of an aarakocra male, standing on a large boulder at the crest of the hilly ridge. There was another low thud, near where the aarakocra was perched, and the sound of squawking in response. Then, the aarakocra took to flight and disappeared from Belvin's line of sight.

   Belvin returned down the earthen bridge to the others and reported what he had seen.

   "We may be approaching a battle," said Solisar.

   Kytharrah started to follow upstream a bit.

   "Keep your head low," said Belvin. "There are rocks flying through the air."

   There was another thud, and the sound of gravel rolling or crumbling in the south.

   "Do the aarakocra use trebuchets?" asked Belvin.

   "They had javelins and lances and rocks that they dropped, remember?" said Leokas.

   "And we sold them smokepowder for bombs," said Solisar, "but we do not know much about what weapons their lizardfolk enemies favor."

   Kytharrah now saw a splash of dirt atop the hill accompanied by another small boom.

   Belvin motioned for him to come back, and he obeyed.

   "Should we simply hail the aarakocra?" said Hakam.

   "They are in the middle of a battle," said Solisar, "and we do not want to take sides in this conflict."

   Leokas agreed.

   "Let us try to go around to the other side," said Szordrin. "We need to connect to the main island from this peninsula anyhow. I think that we are too far north."

   Most of them turned to go back to the grassy area where they had landed, but Belvin rode Kamil through the stream to the north side of the hill. Passing over thick undergrowth, he spotted a small crater in the ground a dozen feet ahead, with a round stone ball in it. The relatively smooth stone was about a foot in diameter. Another such crater was a short distance southeast of the first one. He turned and followed after his companions.

   They grouped together again and discussed matters.

   "If this is just a skirmish," said Hakam, "we can just wait it out until they stop fighting and leave."

   "We can remain hidden and safe using our rope trick spells in the meantime," suggested Solisar.

   "Let me scout the peninsula from the air more," said Belvin. "We do not even know what the full extent of the battle is at the moment." So, the rest of them sat and ate some rations, while Belvin transformed into a hawk and took to the air.

   Belvin started out flying east back over the stream. Not too much farther from where he had spotted the small craters, the hill became very rocky and joined with the island edge, such that passage further east from this direction would only be possible with dangerous rock climbing and scrambling. Banking around, he flew over the ridge. He spotted a total of only five aarakocra. They had several piles of small, round rocks, likely to drop on their foes from the air, and had constructed a crude nest-like wooden fence from thick jungle vines. In his quick pass overhead, he saw two take off and fly to the south, carrying a rock each in their talons. They dropped the stones into the jungle and then looped around and came back to the ridge.

   Looking to the south, he saw a few clearings in the jungle, and he thought that he might have spotted some lizardfolk hiding in the plant cover and darting to and fro.

   At the top of the land bridge leading up to the hilly ridge, the birdfolk had constructed a spiked barrier of sharpened wood embedded in a mound of clay to block anyone from climbing up by foot behind them.

   Diving low under the tree line, he flew over the water and followed it upstream. It curved around the ridge, which was about fifteen or twenty feet tall, and, after an S-curve, made its way mainly due east.

   Suddenly, a projectile flew past him from the south and slammed into the ridge, causing a small landslide. He banked sharply and headed back downstream, then returned to the others to described what he had seen.

   "We arrived in the middle of an artillery battle," noted Hakam.

   "If we try to follow the stream east, we shall be exposed to shots from both sides," said Belvin.

   He then had an idea. "What if we simply glide across from this 'horn' to the other 'horn'?"

   "There looked to be far more jungle on the other peninsula," said Leokas, "based on what I saw from the edge over there. It would be difficult to land our gliders, I think, without crashing into the trees. I am still in pain from this first landing."

   "I could ferry everyone over one at a time easily enough in my pteranodon talons," said Belvin. "It is only about nine or ten miles to the other peninsula."

   "I could also cause us all to feather fall," said Solisar. "We could all glide over, gaining altitude, and then we could drop slowly into the jungle with the aid of the spell."

   "The aarakocra seem to be staying low when they launch their attacks from the air," said Hakam. "We cannot even see them from here, so they are not likely to have noticed us either. I believe that we are safe here, and there is no rush yet. I think that we should just wait it out for a bit longer before trying to take a shortcut by air. If we wait until morning and they are still at it, I can surround all of us with a holy aura that will keep us in sanctuary against their attacks."

   "Just remember not to take the bags of holding up the rope with us!" warned Solisar.

   "We have more than 12 hours still before it even gets dark," said Leokas.

   "Both Szordrin and I can extend the length of our magics," said Solisar. "Duration of the magic will not be an issue."

   "Boredom will be, however," said Szordrin. "We just spent six hours in one white expanse and now another."

   Solisar cast the spell, and they began climbing the rope. Kytharrah heaved up Kamil with his extraordinary strength and lifted him up to Belvin. They had forgotten one detail; the rope could not be pulled into the space with them, because of the limits of the spell, because there were too many of them in the space at once, nor could Szrodrin climb up while Ferry was on his shoulders.

   "We used to set up two such spaces at a time," Szordrin reminded them.

   "I am not concerned," said Hakam. "If they can see our two bags, it will be no worse if they can also see the rope suspended in the air."

   "Even so, we still have one person too many; I will have Ferry guard the bags; that way, I will also be able to feel if he senses any danger."

   They left the bags of holding at the base of where they had tossed up the rope, and one of them kept watch on them through the dimensional portal as well.

   They saw no creatures pass within their vision or hearing from the safety of the extradimensional space. They rested and passed the time as best they could.

   When dusk came, there was an interesting effect. The presence of the dimensional window did not block the rain that began to fall, but from their point of view, they saw the drops pop into existence and fall from the plane of the window, while they remained dry. Kytharrah was fascinated by this and poked his head down through. It immediately became soaked from the rain. He snorted in enjoyment at the experience.

   Having been stuck in the blank nothingness of the spell for a dozen hours, most of them were feeling restless. It was still another eight hours until dawn, when Hakam could pray for fresh divine power.

   "Play outside?" asked Kytharrah.

   "It is darker and raining now," said Szordrin. "I am sure that it is safe to explore a bit more."

   Belvin and Leokas also were anxious to get back outside. This would leave Solisar and Hakam waiting in the rope trick. Solisar — and Ferry too — were hesitant about splitting up the party, but Leokas assured them that they would not stray too far, and would return quickly.

   The rain, as always on Coliar, was mainly a relief from the heat of the planet, which only Szordrin seemed unbothered by on most days, and being soaked was only a minor nuisance compared to other things now too common in their life as adventurers.

   This time, the smaller party headed due south. Mainly traveling along the western edge of the island. Past the pond, on the left, was where the jungle effectively began. On the right, there were more clusters of scrub trees and large-leafed bush plants and hillocks of grass. Moving beyond a thick cluster of jungle foliage, they came to a couple places where the land had collapsed into open gaps to the sky below, much like the pits that the lizardfolk had dug in the training courses to let the updraft through.

   "The island is breaking apart here," said Leokas. "This whole chunk of the peninsula will eventually tear from the rest of the island."

   Kytharrah passed between two such pits in the earth and pointed southeast. In the twilight and through the rain, they could see a wall of fallen logs, which were arranged in a way that was not natural. A good number of thick tree stumps were also scattered about, and before the log barricade was a leaf-covered clearing.

   Belvin approached one of the stumps. "This kapok tree was cut down with an axe," said the druid.

   They returned to Solisar and Hakam and reported.

   "I admit that I have realized a few flaws in my plan," said Hakam. "First, with all of the undergrowth in a jungle, we would likely not have the time to cross through the fighting while the spell still lasted. Second, the spell would only protect us from direct attacks, not from stray fire, falling rubble, or explosions. I still believe that we should wait out until morning and try to engage at least one of the sides diplomatically. If we start trying to sneak past, one of us — likely me — is bound to step on a loud branch and alert one of the parties to our presence."

   "We could travel along the stream," suggested Leokas. "In this dim light and the rain, visibility would be low, and both the stream and rain would cover any sound."

   Leokas and Belvin were not certain, but they suspected that both the lizardfolk and aarakocra would have sensitive vision, similar to that of elves, but not likely the ability to see in full darkness like Kytharrah and Szordrin could.

   "They are all probably resting until morning now," said Szordrin. "We may run into some scouts perhaps, but I do not think that we have to worry about crossfire anymore."

   Hakam asked Kytharrah if he could still hear any rumbling over the sound of the rain. The minotaur shook his head.

   "We still have four hours at least of rain," said Belvin. "If we are going to try to move past them, then this is the time to do it, before it gets too dark for us to even travel."

   "Minotaur, you will have to carry me through the stream," said Hakam. "My armor is too unwieldy for such travel."

   Kytharrah was happy to help his friend in this way.

   At last agreed on a plan, they gathered their gear and dismissed the rope trick, then headed to the land bridge and entered into the warm water of the stream. It was up to mid-thigh in depth for most of them.

   Kytharrah took the lead, with Hakam riding atop his backpack. Hakam's human eyes could barely see further than forty feet in the rain, but the elves could see well enough, and Szordrin and Kytharrah would be able to spot any body heat if they came upon any non-plant life.

   They moved upstream, under the earthen archway and then around the point of the west-to-east aarakocran ridge. At one point, they had to press through a clump of thick bushes growing in a shallow part of the stream and, after that, through rapids that made it harder to maintain balance, but then the S-curve began and the water calmed.

   When they came around the final curve, the stream mostly flowed due west, and they continued against the flow of the water. Kytharrah, in the lead still, suddenly stopped. His eyes could see a gray dim shape of a humanoid creature with his darkvision, about 25 or 30 feet upstream, sitting or crouching behind a bush on a tiny island in the stream. Kytharrah sniffed. The smell was that of a lizardman.

   Kytharrah motioned with his head to his friends behind him to look forward. The light was too dim for Hakam too see, but he placed his hand behind him to motion for the rest of the party to hold. Szordrin turned invisible, and Leokas nocked an arrow and stepped north onto the shore to take cover by a palm tree.

   The lizardman turned his head and looked at Kytharrah directly in the eyes but did not seem to respond further. Kytharrah tilted his head to the side in a non-confrontational, curious gesture. The lizardfolk turned his head away, rubbed his eyes as if to wake himself up, and then looked back. Now, he was certain that he was not imagining the large, furry, horned monster. He rose quickly to his feet, and his hand reached back for a javelin from a quiver on his back, but he did not throw it; he simply continued staring at Kytharrah to see what he would do.

   "Hold still!" commanded Hakam.

   The lizardman's eyes darted about, but his body otherwise was frozen solid by Hakam's divine magic.

   Hakam looked back at his companions and quietly suggested that they move past the lizardman scout as quickly as possible.

   As they passed by the scout, Kytharrah sniffed him amicably and patted him on the shoulder. "Play?"

   The lizardman's eyes expressed terror.

   Solisar spoke to him in Draconic. "You will be released from the holding magic once we pass by. We mean you no harm; do not fear."

   When invisible Szordrin passed by, he pickpocketed the scout, but only obtained a few frog legs, the lizardman's snack for the night. He turned back and returned the legs to the pouch before hustling to catch back up with the others.

   They followed the stream for about an hour more, before it grew too dark. Satisfied that they had successfully passed through the danger of the warring factions, they stopped and camped for the short Coliar night.
Session: 111th Game Session - Tuesday, Jun 16 2020 from 2:30 AM to 5:30 AM
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Chapter 2 — Flight School
As they walked through the huts of Hisssta, led by Schlith to the Office of Flight Certifications and Registration, Jayce queried the lizardman about the aarakocra.

   "Do you know anything about Alekra Donakkis?"

   Schlith stopped walking. "Look, I can — and do — curse in four different languages, (I may be a lizardman, but I ain't stupid,) but I struggle to describe how much I loathe the Donakkises and their 'holy-poly' war. I would love for someone to strangle that parharding hen with her own entrails and shove her corpse up Syranita's cloaca. But, she is on the other side of the planet, and I am, of course, a peace-loving lizardman, so that is not going to happen now is it?" They had to step back a bit when he said this to avoid being accidentally spit upon.

   "I suspect that they are terrible rulers, from what I myself have heard," said Jayce, "but you will not be surprised to hear that the aarakocra say the most awful things in kind about your people. One utterly ridiculous tale says that you even eat them. How misinformed is that?"

   "No, of course we eat aarakocra meat!" Schlith replied. "Very tasty; you should try some. But only eat any after we find them already dead. If you came across my dead body in the jungle, you would eat me, wouldn't you? I know that I would. What's the big deal? Some people need to spay themselves. And here we are...."

   With that they arrived at the Office.

   Gruss Longtail's tail was actually shorter than that of many other lizardmen that they had seen. He pleasantly did not reek of whatever foul offensiveness emanated from Schlith Darkscale both literally and figuratively. He was both articulate and polite. After Schlith introduced them and spoke to Gruss off to the side in the lizardfolk dialect of Draconic, Schlith departed without any sort of farewell. Gruss then approached them and explained to them how the hang glider certification would work.

   "Unfortunately, I offer classes only on the first, second, fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth of each eightday. It takes five full days for me to train someone, and there is a flight test on the last day. It is the fifteenth of the season today, so the next eightday begins in two days at brightest light. You have been given top priority for training, so all other scheduled trainees have been postponed until the eightday after that. The group of you will have my exclusive attention."

   There was some discussion among themselves about timing, but Solisar assured them that leaving in an eightday would probably mean a four-hour flight for them to reach the first island. They also discussed other options, such as constructing their own small spelljammer or using other methods of magical flight, but in the end, they decided that receiving the training might still be the best option.

   "I shall be training you on these, our most well-crafted of gliders," Gruss said, as he showed them some examples. The gliders were about fifteen feet wide and five feet from tip to tail. The wings were made of the leather or skins of some sort of lizard.

   "They are collapsible," he said, as he demonstrated how to dismantle the hanging bar, which then allowed the glider to fold up into a five-foot-long cylindrical bundle. "They only weigh 40 pounds."

   "They would fit in our bags of holding," said Szordrin.

   "Also, do not worry;" said Gruss, "we have gliders large enough to carry your furry friend here. Sometimes, lizardfolk are born much larger than average."

   "Would it be possible to commission your workers or your government to craft few of these gliders for us to take with us when we leave the planet?" asked Hakam.

   "I would have to petition the government elders for that, and it would take some time, but it sounds like you will be on your journey for several eightdays. Let us see how your certification goes first and consider having more crafted after that. Shall I see you on firstday?"

   "You shall," said Solisar.

~~~~

Gruss was a kind and gentle instructor who only ever offered encouragement and advice, never criticism. He started on their first day of training by taking them to a small 20-foot cliff over swampy land and had them jump off and let them glide, or crash, into the soft ground. The gliders were rather slow in calm air, but there was a nearly constant breeze on Coliar, always from the west. With the breeze, combined with diving, the gliders could reach over 25 miles per hour. This made reaching a floating island more than 100 miles away feasible.

   There was one small problem, however; when Hakam first tried to jump from the low cliff, his glider would barely go anywhere and rather hovered. He quickly recognized that it was his magical ring of feather falling. After the first day, he made a cord with which he hung the ring around his neck, so that he could slip it onto a finger in an emergency when gliding.

   Back at the Frihet after the first full day of training, Bansh was excited to hear about what they had been taught. "I have, of course, been gliding all my life," he said, "so let me know if you want any pointers." Thus, every day after training, they had an expert review with them what they had learned. Bansh was able to confirm the wisdom of most of the advice that Gruss had provided about responding to air flow and currents and also clarified some of the more confusing points.

   On the second day, Gruss taught them how to bank, roll, and turn. You simply had to shift your body weight. The gliders could not turn very quickly, so they could only make wide turns.

   In their off time, some of them, despite Leokas' protests, tried to sell their remaining smokepowder, but the lizardfolk had no use for it. They preferred more primitive weapons and did not trust the noisy and untrustworthy guns that some spacefaring races had begun adapting in recent decades. It was suggested to them that they try selling the smokepowder to the giff, the same race that had already purchased some of their inventory back on the Rock of Bral.

   Day three was climbing. Typically, a glider cannot climb. However, Coliar was under a perpetual magical updraft. No one could explain how, but it was just a fact of life on the planet. This meant that gliders could have lift. On this day, Gruss took them to a training area near the edge of the island, where the ground below them was thinner. Here, holes had been dug completely through the island and covered with grates, so that the planet's updraft would come up through the holes. Initially, he attached them to ropes and harnesses and taught them how to hover in place over the updrafts and then showed them how to angle the gliders for climbing.

   After several days of living in Hisssta, they — with the exception of Szrodrin, who could take intense temperatures of both hot and cold — had not gotten used to the hot and humid weather. Hakam managed by casting a prayer each day to help endure the heat. One mercy was that at least there were no insects at all, whether because they did not exist at all here or because of the near-constant west-to-east breeze, they did not know.

   The fourth day was all about hazards. He showed them how to respond to powerful gusts of wind, to recover from scraping wings against a wall, and to snap free from the hanging harness and roll into a somersault if crashing. "Do not fly when it is raining, if you can at all avoid it; the gliders are much harder to handle, and visibility drops. There is also the threat of lightning. If you get struck by lightning, Semuanya have mercy! Obviously, besides the danger of darkness, night is when it rains. Plan your flights for early or midday, and you will be safe."

   Day five was all about landing, particularly about the dangers of landing on a lower, faster-moving island. "Let your legs down from the foot harness and begin running as fast as you can as you make contact!" he warned. For traveling to lower islands, it was always safest to jump from islands from the east edges and land on the west edges. For getting to higher islands, you had to rise on the updrafts against the air currents and effectively wait for the target island to come to you. You took off from the west edges and landed on the east edges.

   On the sixth day, they arrived for class at midday as usual. It was then that Gruss reminded them of the final stage of the certification process. "I have nothing more to teach you; today is the day of the pilot's exam. To make it extra challenging, we are going to test you at shrinking quarterlight, after the evening rains begin, to ensure that you can handle any challenge. Meet me at the northern edge of town then."

   So, when dusk was approaching that day, they found themselves as a U-shaped canyon at the northern end of Hisssta. Gruss led them up a wooden ladder to the flat top of a wide wooden tower, some 50 feet over the bottom of the canyon. From here, they could look over the obstacle course that was their final test.

   Gruss led them over a wooden bridge and along the edge of the canyon to point out the obstacles. First, there was a stone pillar on the left, as high as the tops of the canyon walls. There was a sign atop the pillar, written in Dragonic, which Solisar read as, "50 feet; stay right!" Similar signs were posted at various spots along the course.

   "Look down from here at those three palm trees," said Gruss. "They grow atop a land bridge, a stone arch. The only way to make it through is to dive down and under the arch. You will need to be below fifteen feet, but of course, if you are too low, your body will graze the ground and you will crash.

   "If you do crash, but are not hurt too badly to require emergency aid, notice the several rope ladders placed about for you to climb back out of the canyon."

   He continued to lead them around the outer edge. They could gaze out over the white expanse of Coliar here and saw the countless green specks of islands in the distance, but Gruss wanted them to direct their attention into the canyon. "See, we have dug through the ground here to allow the updraft through, just as at the training site. In this area of the canyon only will you be able to gain elevation and lift as you make a wide turn. After the turn, see that ridge? It is 25 feet high. There are more updraft grates beyond that ridge, but there is also another stone pillar to avoid. Come, let me show you the landing platform."

   He led them to the end of the course. Here, the ground was only 25 feet below them, and it was filled with a deep pond, in case they failed to land on the platform. The platform was made of wood and suspend by four, thick, corded vine ropes, hung from counter-weighted support beams. The platform was tied up high at the back of the course, but when a testee approached, workers would cut the platform free, and it would swing down and then back and forth over the pond. Thus, the test ended with landing on a rapidly moving target.

   By now, it had started to drizzle, as it did about now every night. The rain would only get heavier in the coming hours. "Who wants to attempt the course first?" Gruss asked.

   They returned to the "launch tower". Kytharrah, who had delighted in every day of training, was very anxious to fly, so they allowed him to go first. In his excitement, he caught his hoof in one of the planks of the tower and stumbled off the edge instead of the executing the controlled leap that was intended. Thankfully, this only meant that his initial velocity was not what it could have been. He drifted forward slowly. When he passed the stone pillar on his left, he banked left and then right again before pulling into a dive. To Kytharrah, he felt like he was in a maze, only flying through one, so he had a natural sense of when to turn and when to descend.

   With a rapid swoosh, he zipped underneath the land bridge and immediately felt the strong up-currents catch the wings of his glider and apply force.

   Feeling ever confident, he curved around in a long arch to head back toward the south and the second half of this course. Barely missing a hanging leather sign on the right, he rose over the ridge. However, he still had not turned enough. His forward speed took him too close to the eastern wall of the canyon. As he straightened out, his extra-wide glider's tip dragged a bit against the wall and sent small bits of rubble down, but he still had enough breeze to keep on gliding.

   He had safely squeezed past the final rock pillar.

   There was a creaking sound ahead, as the large landing platform was hacked free by the waiting lizardmen at the top of the canyon walls. It swung down toward Kytharrah, just as he had gained enough altitude, sailing high over the pond below now. His hooves struck the moving platform, and he matched speed with the wooden boards as it began to swing back. It was a superbly timed landing.

   "Huzzah!" cheered Gruss. "Well done!"

   Workers helped Kytharrah get out from under the glider, and he shook his wet fur off with a big grin on his face.

   Each of the rest of them relied on various magical enchantments or abjurations to increase their success. Solisar boosted his sense of bravery and was fearless as he swooped and curved around the course. Each time that Hakam approached an obstacle, he loudly shouted out to his god, "Forget not my service to thee!" and Anachtyr seemed to listen, for he had no unfortunate incidents. Since Kytharrah had already demonstrated a successful path to take, most of the rest of them were able to dulicate his choices, and with greater ease, since their gliders were smaller than his. Belvin had no need for a glider to reach the other islands, as he could remain in the form of a pteranodon or other flying animal for over twenty hours at a time, but he took the training nevertheless and easily passed, as he was used to flying on the wing by now.

   Later that night, as it was starting to get truly dark and the water falling from the sky had finally lessened, Gruss, back at the Office of Flight Certifications and Registration, handed them official, stamped documents certifying that they had successfully passed the training and now had a license to borrow the publicly owned gliders.

~~~~

As planned, on the 25th day of the sixth season on Coliar, which would have corresponded to the third of Flamerule in the calendar of Toril, Ombert and the crew of the Frihet lifted off from Hisssta River into the sky, taking a large cargo of lizardfolk eggs to rendezvous with a lizardfolk spelljammer orbiting the sun near Anadia. The six adventurers, alone again, headed to the eastern edge of the island. Ombert had lent them a spyglass, and with it, Solisar was able to spot their target island, Wee-wee-kaw-ler-chi, with a high level of confidence. "It looks something like a head with two curved horns," he said. "It is the only island with such a shape that I can see in this direction and at the proper elevation below us."

   Some of the locals of Hisssta, when they heard that the foreigners were heading to a nearby lower island took interest. "Careful," said one of them, when the target island was pointed out to him. "Some warriors go there to fight birds yesterday."

   Close to growing halflight, they all leapt from the eastern edge into the great white expanse, five hang gliders and one pteranodon carrying a miniaturized dromedary camel. They immediately tilted at a downwards slope and sailed the winds to the first of three islands and whatever adventures and answers awaited upon them.
Session: 111th Game Session - Tuesday, Jun 16 2020 from 2:30 AM to 5:30 AM
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