Planejammer: The Misfits

Casimir's Journal - Part 2
A Learning Curve

15th Hammer, 1360 DR (5042 OC)

One simply cannot fathom the difficulties in studying the nude female form until one embarks upon the quest one’s self. It is one thing to delineate that particular bounty which is woman from scholarly exercises, but endless hours spent in museums divining the techniques of the Great Masters such as Easly, Dee, Otus or Frau Zetta become child’s play when confronted with a living, breathing model. To have a woman so near, open and unhindered by the restraint of fabric only for the purpose of painting seems to me, a sin. I can see that my chosen path will be fraught with temptation, and alas, that is the one thing in life I have never been able to resist.

Just this morning I was sketching Geneve, one of the girls here at Lucille’s whom I spent the evening with. The light was shining beatifically through the window, illuminating the smoke in the room as it escaped the hookah and silhouetting her perfectly. After more than once failing to capture the scene accurately, (at least accurately enough for my rigid standards,) I began to realize that I was not giving full attention to my craft.

However, “rigid standards” and “full attention” were certainly not far from Geneve’s mind and even closer to her reach. We spent the rest of the morning and most of the afternoon adding charges to my account, though as a resident, I do receive a substantial discount on the services of the ladies. To be honest, I deem it time and money well spent as Geneve is quite well versed in the language of love. Indeed, she is possibly the most fluent girl here at Lucille’s and she never fails to teach me something new.

It is only my second ride here, and I find myself somewhat hindered in movement by the simple fact of who I am. I must put some serious thought into a diguise of sorts so as to move more freely upon the Rock. Perhaps I should seek advice from Lucille herself. Her clientele is diverse and she may know of someone who can assist me in this matter.

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Casimir's Journal - Part 1
I Re-invent Myself

1st Hammer, 1360 DR (5042 OC)

“There is only so much entertainment that unlimited wealth can purchase.” -H Darger

It was this thought which entered my brain and refused to leave at the last family function I attended, the celebration of the Winter Solstice. Although the evening was one which ninety-nine percent of Realmspace would sever a limb to attend: bards, orators, tragedians, dignitaries, no less than twelve open bars, a twenty-six course feast, and hours of utter boredom.

For instance, on my right was a wealthy duchess, (is there any other type?) who was more interested in the contents of my galligaskins than in the exquisitely crottled greep on the plate before her. On my left, her husband, the 75th Duke of Boringdale or some such province, regaling me with tales of the thrill-a-moment world of multi-planar, inter-species chartered accountancy. Directly across from me sat their daughter, a succulent, doe-eyed ingenue whose interest to me was lost at about the same time as her innocence. (In the cloak room, just before the appetizers were served.) I feigned fanatic interest in every topic thrown my way during the course of the evening, all the while plotting my escape.

The following morning I gathered some canvas and pigments, a few treasured volumes of poetry, a choice bottle of wine and some cheese and bread, (a gentleman should never be denied a good meal due to the inconsistencies of travel,) and set off to find my own path in this world. (Of course, only after duly expressing my deepest appreciation to the duchess for a very stirring climax to an otherwise dreary evening!) After a small withdrawal from the “Family Emergency Fund,” I realized there was only one place suitable to seek the thrill of adventure: that seething anthill which has hung above my head for most of my life like the Sword of Damocles.

Dragon Rock.

After a short recce I installed myself at Lucille’s House, one of the Rock’s finer bagnios, with the intent of improving my artistic skills both as a painter and as an escort de femme. I leave it to time to judge the former, the latter I leave up to the fairer sex.

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Hissarmau's Journal - Part 12
Warning: Flying Cats Ahead. . .

I stared around at the larger ship. Once everyone gained their feet (except Caz), discussion commenced as to the how, why and wherefore of the ship’s change. Suddenly, Lemmy exclained that the ship looked momentarily like a galleon. Violetta, Ibid and myself went to the observation deck to check the ship’s appearance. It looked like a smalljammer. Violetta suddenly got a dreamy look on her face, faraway and remote. Faintly, I heard Xrng’s voice drift up from the helm, “Do we dream still?” Staring at Violetta, I nearly jumped ship at Ibid’s roar, “Wake up!” right into Violetta’s ear. Violetta shook herself abruptly and looked for a moment to be having a hard time getting oriented. Violetta decided she needed to take a little lie down on the deck.

As Ibid and I crouched down by Violetta, she told us of a legend that smalljammers like Caz’s are organically descended from “The” Spelljammer. After she regained her equilibrium, we returned to the helm. Xrng attempted to speak to the ship in Xixchil and received the distinct impression that the ship had just gone through puberty. Witticisms flew back and forth amongst us concerning that incredibly awkward, yet annoying period of life called adolescence. “No, I don’t wanna go to Arabelle and you can’t make me!!!” the ship would shriek through the helmsman. Followed by doors slamming through out the ship.

Three hours later, we made dock at Dragon Rock after much merriment. Leaving the ship, Caz began to negotiate with the appropriate officials regarding fees. While Caz got into heated discussion with the harbormaster, Lemmy turned about in a circle, scanning the area. His eyes drifted lazily across the scene then abruptly focused on the ship, “I told you it was a galleon!” he bellowed. Too late, I covered my delicate ears. “What?” the harbormaster demanded, frowning at us. Caz gesticulated wildly behind the official’s back. “I told ‘em that I’d take ’em drinking at the nearest tavern,” Lemmy rumbled, jerking his thumb in our direction.

“I’ll have to get my pipe. I’ll be right back,” Violetta suddenly said. As the disgruntled harbormaster watched, Violetta raced into the ship. She returned, brandishing her masterwork flute and we all set off to Lucille’s. As we walked along, Violetta informed us that the ship looked like the Voidskimmer and not a galleon when on the ship itself. Was this an illusion, a protective cover or the ship trying out new looks as adolescents tend to do? After securing a private room, we ordered food and beverage to be delivered.

As soon as the server left the room, Lemmy rounded on Caz, “What didja do to the ship?” Caz replied that he was just as surprised as Lemmy, “I’ve known the ship since I was a child and it’s never done anything remotely like this.” Lemmy began to speculate, “Ya think the ship knows we’re off to battle in the Tears of Selune? That maybe its messin’ with our heads?”

Discussion was momentarily tabled while our food was set before us. I ate hungrily of the chicken and egg dish and sipped fastidiously at my ale. Speculation resumed after a last saucy wink from the pretty red-headed server. Violetta twisted a greasy bone between her fingers, "I wonder if “The” Spelljammer cloaks itself and that’s why no one sees it." As dinner went on, Xrng told us of sentient ships of Xixchil manufacture made from space whales. The story was received amidst a chorus of groans with Violetta’s solo cry of “Disgusting!”

As the shadows lengthened into evening, Xrng and I decided to go on a news gathering spree. Five silvers got me a broadsheet full of reports of increased Scrow activity in the area. A vague and breaking story of a major space engagement off of H’catha that had occurred about a month and a half ago was at the very top of the sheet. Was the Unhuman Horde abuilding for the final battle? Frowning, I tucked the broadsheet under my arm and went for more fresh scrolls. Yeah, I may be going into a prophetic battle and might possibly die, but the fresh, pristine scrolls were my personal affirmation that I would live to record our victory.

Our last days on Dragon Rock were filled with preparations. Xrng and I decided to visit the Seeker’s Library where I dashed off a scroll to my Master, Tsing Cho, Seeker 5th Degree about the time shift. I bundled together Master Cho’s scroll (acting as a cover letter) along with my own written scrolls and the broadsheet dated 5 Uktar and made arrangements for it to be sent on to him. After that urgent task was out of the way, I settled with Xrng in the main reading room and we began to go through all the information relevant to the forthcoming battle. Xrng focused on shape-shifting ships and the Tears of Selune, while I pursued information about “The” Spelljammer and Lemmy’s prophecy. Xrng shared with me that shape-shifting ships were usually associated with wizards while the Tears of Selune had apparently just appeared one fine day many eons ago. While I found nothing concerning Lemmy’s prophecy, “The” Spelljammer information proved more confusing than clarifying. While “The” Spelljammer ranged from being considered a bird of bad omen to a harbinger of great good fortune, its physical appearance, a massive Spelljammer large enough to carry a good-sized city on the back, remained a common thread of the accumulated legends and myths.

Afterwards, Xrng and I met up with Lemmy and Violetta at Gordy’s Grubs and headed over to a psionic, Xixchil tattoo and body modification shop run by a Xixchil by the name of Shintach Kithrick’k. Lemmy got two psionic tattoos on his forearms charged with body purification and a third charged with vigor on his back. Violetta had a pair of angel wings inked on her back. As the tattooing commenced, Xrng fell into conversation with the owner. After listening to the quiet chatter of Xixchil and watching Violetta and Lemmy wince and squirm, I became inspired by their body adornment to do something similar. After a short search, I found a barber who was willing to cut protective symbols into the hair of my coat. 30 GP later, I retired to Lucille’s for the night.

The next day, we all went to our ship to discuss the battle. The possibility of stealing a fully armed Elven Admiral Ship or otherwise gaining the Admiral ship (and thus getting the entire Elven Fleet by extension) involved in the battle was discussed and finally abandoned in favor of taking the Voidskimmer.

We boarded and I was chosen to helm the ship. As we cruised through the Tears, things remained eerily quiet. As I breathed deeply and evenly, my concentration focused on guiding the ship, the quiet was abruptly ended with an explosion to the side of the ship. I grimly held to the helm and kept focused on maintaining speed and dodging asteroids as Ibid cried a warning of an incoming Scrow mantis ship. He quickly cast Sanctuary over the ship. Part of my mind held it’s breath. Would Sanctuary work? It was meant to be cast on living beings. I felt a deepening sense of security and well-being settle over the Voidskimmer and concluded that Ibid’s Sanctuary had been successfully cast.

“Buckle up everyone,” I yelled as I leaned forward willing every bit of speed from the ship that I could. It wasn’t enough as Ibid reported that the Mantis ship was gaining. I began to weave in and out among the asteroid field, much to my companions’ increasingly frightened fury. “Crazy cat,” I heard Caz scream as I whipped between two large asteroids. As I came out, I nearly ran into two Goblin ships and frantically I tried to slip under the ships. Feeling the Voidskimmer begin to veer out of control, I dragged the ship out of it’s slide, coming a hair’s breadth from an asteroid and disaster.

I forced myself to ignore the screams of panic and smile hugely, sensing the pursuing Mantis ship come to a fiery end on the asteroid I had narrowly avoided. “I meant to do that!” I howled. I think I meant to reassure the others. As I rapidly closed in on our destination, the Goblin ships began to give chase. I knew I was on the edge of the Tears. I had to stay within the Tears because of the battle, but perhaps I could send the Goblin ships out. No sooner had I the thought, I was applying the breaks, hard. Panicked screaming was replaced by the sound of tumbling bodies and roars of pain. The noise scarcely registered as I watched with great satisfaction as the two Goblin ships stream past me into open space.

I followed the Goblin ships with my eyes, delighted my ploy had worked so well. My line of vision came to rest on the largest Elven Warbird I’ve ever seen or heard of. Holding my breath, I watched as flitters separated from the Warbird and destroyed the Goblin ships. “TaanMROW!” I screamed as the Goblins exploded into debris. I settled back into my seat, moistening a fingertip and running it over my eyebrows and smoothing my whiskers as if this was perfectly normal and my intended flight plan all along. By the time everyone had sorted themselves out, I was coolly presenting the Warbird to my companions, “Elven Fleet anyone?” I asked cheerily.

As I tried to establish communication with the Warbird, I slowly pulled the Voidskimmer out to meet the flitters, presenting the side of the Voidskimmer to them making clear my peaceful intentions as they surrounded our ship in what I hoped was an honor guard. Ibid had the presence of mind to grab a bottle of wine and two glasses and proceeded to the deck. After righting a table and two chairs, he popped the cork, poured two glasses of our finest wine (Caz winced) and settled back into his chair. A moment later, he received a mental transmission asking about our identities and purpose. Ibid replied that our group was supposed to be here as planned. After a tense moment, we were invited to land on the Warbird, Storm Breaker, to assist with their “inquiries”.

As we exited the ship onto the deck of the Storm Breaker, we were met with Elven troops. Unlike the usual Elven warriors dressed in silver plate mail, these men were dressed in black leather uniforms and armed with star wheels. The troops parted, permitting an older Elven man wearing his hair neatly gathered at the back of his neck to step forth and inspect us. “I am Captain Solon of the Storm Breaker.” Ibid prepared to present Caz.

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Hissarmau's Journal - Part 11
Dreams and Time Lost. . .

I yawned and sat up, enjoying a luxurious stretch as the last wisps of dream floated away. It was my “odd” dream as I call it. It’s odd because it occurs on a semi-regular basis, and in it, I am a venerably old cat. Now the odd part isn’t being old, we all get old eventually—people, places, societal mores—but comes from the circumstances of my old age. I am surrounded by fellow cat folk of all ages (though none as old or even close to being as old as me) and all wear the black skull of the mighty Taanmrow tribe woven into their multi-hued locks. And all these various feline folk treat me with the highest respect as though I were a tribal elder. They ask for my guidance or judgement, bring their kits to me for blessing and abide by my suggestions. Confusing, no?

The Taanmrow only exists in me now. But the dream always leaves me feeling very positive and refreshed with my chi flowing as freely as the air around me. I do not understand it. Have other members of my tribe managed to survive? Or am I to travel the Horde Lands again someday, gathering together the “strays” of other tribes and resurrecting the mighty Taanmrow from the very dust of my ancestral lands? Whatever the case may be, I shall continue to endeavor learning all I can as I travel the realms, but I think I shall start to save as well for a wealthy tribe is (or can be) a powerful tribe as well.

I rubbed at my eyes, rose from my blankets and began my morning meditational stretches. Groans, farts and Cazimir sitting suddenly upright gasping “Mother!” attended my friends’ waking. After dining and gathering our things together, we went to the lowest part of the crater’s rim, which was about 20 feet above us.

It was decided that we would activate Ibid’s invisibility sphere and use a length of spider silk rope to keep us together and under the spell’s power. We began our ascent, but half-way up, Ibid stumbled and tripped. As I felt Ibid going down, I tried to reach out and steady him, forgetting that he’s shorter than me, he’s more mass-y than me as well as being weighed with packs and a heavy double ax. So I went down too (so much for the mighty Taanmrow’s famed grace and agility). Lemmy, doing his best to avoid stepping on our invisible selves, turned his ankle and went down as well. After carefully sorting ourselves out, we finally made it to the top of the crater’s rim.

Violetta cast her Detect Magic and explained to the rest of us that the mist was the result of a conjuration spell, the sort usually found in conjunction with planar portals. While Violetta explained, I gazed into the mist which seemed to be swirling faster. Suddenly, Violetta’s and Lemmy’s faces formed before my eyes and I cried out and pointed. By the time the others looked, the faces has faded. Lemmy glanced at me and then leaned over the edge. And fell. Four pairs of hands and Violetta’s spiked whip tried to save Lemmy, but he went down like a lead pig’s bladder. My chest began to tighten as I stared down in horror, until I saw Lemmy’s head and shoulders pop up above the layer of fog. I sagged at the release of tension.

As we were dragging Lemmy back up, he was “followed” by an ever-growing, green-tinted ship. Just as it filled the crater and looked to burst among us, it disappeared. Lemmy agreed to go back down and explore the area before we ascended. He reported that 30 feet below the mist layer was another realm—Dreamspace.

Dreamspace is the only realm that all sentient beings share in common excepting the Elves who do not sleep. Ibid cast an oracle that came back negative. Violetta shouted down but we only heard the echo of Violetta’s lovely voice. We decided to focus on Thalus as a group mind. The mist slowly coalesced into the image of an older man sporting a fu manchu with a neutral expression on his face and carrying a crystal encrusted staff. Was it the real Thalus or just an emanation of our collective wills and desires?

It’s decided that we will enter the crater. Violetta starts to sing Inspire Courage (". . . and kicks to my face but I’ve come through. . . "). Then she tripped, but her Gods obviously love her for she didn’t miss a note as she tumbled through the mist. Naturally, I tried to grab for her and fell myself again. Taking Lemmy with me, again. Ibid tried to cut the line but was unable to in time, thus tumbling in after us. I slowly dragged myself to my feet and tried to get my bearings. And I couldn’t! A flat, grey landscape with tendrils of mist surrounded me with a visibility of about 200 feet. Above me, the fog layer lazily rotated on an invisible axis. As brightly as possible I said, “Well, at least we didn’t have to deal with the anxiety of actually crossing the fog layer!” Violetta nodded in agreement.

Once we regrouped, we tried to decide what to do. Do we explore? Should we group focus on Thalus again? Would it be the real Thalus or only a figment of our collective imagination? This was Dreamspace after all. As we argued, Cazimir began to pace about looking at us with an ever-growing irritation.

“To hell with it!” Cazimir exclaimed and used the portal key before any of us could stop him. My yowl of protest slowly faded into nothing as I saw we were on Cormir outside the city of Arabelle. After walking to the ship and stashing our stuff, Cazimir offered to buy us dinner. We settled ourselves in a comfortable private dining room and ordered a round of drinks. As I sipped my kumis, Caz came back with a broadsheet tucked under his arm. “I have good news and weird news. But let’s start with the good shall we?” With a roguish grin, Cazimir said, “The good news is that dinner is on its way.” Even more roguishly, “The weird news is that we have lost about 3 1/2 weeks,” and he flourished the broadsheet. I grabbed for the broadsheet and looked at it greedily. Uktar 5! Though only a lowly Seeker 1st Degree, I’ve heard that one of the Great Questions concerned matters of chromomancy—“Does time run the same or differently on differing planes?”

I immediately began to mentally composed a letter to Tsing Cho, Seeker 5th Degree and nearly miss the fact that we are only two days from Lemmy’s prophetic Battle in the Tears of Selune. Aaaiiiii! I’ll have to send a post to Master Cho about the time shift I experienced before I leave. I do not want to die in battle with this knowledge unspoken to others of greater understanding on my soul.

More mundane things temporarily take my attention. My share of jewels turn out to be worth 1000 GP and I tithed 100 GP to Ibid. We went back to the Voidskimmer and Xrng took the chair. En route, Xrng calls back “Something’s weird,” and vibrations shuddered down the length of the ship. “Helloooo?” Xrng yells louder. The ship suddenly jolted. I went down in tangle with Cazimir. I felt a familiar playful tug. “Nice tail,” purrs Caz. I shot back to my feet, snatching my tail free with a short hiss. Not a very serious one as I know how Caz is an equal opportunist when it comes to women and if he sees a chance at a nice tail, he’ll likely grab it. A third jolt and I fell again along with Cazimir, who hit his head on his oh so precious cheese board, knocking him unconscious.

Disgustedly, I laid there a moment, fighting the urge to scramble up, find a quiet corner and groom myself into a state of dignity. Me, of the mighty graceful Taanmrow, fell four times today. I am sure my ancestors are shaking their heads in collective disgust. My sense of humiliation dissolves into puzzlement as I tried to figure out why the ceiling suddenly looked so far away. I rolled over and got to my feet, rubbing my eyes and staring about me. The ship has doubled in size though I was the same height (I checked, sliding up next to Lemmy. I still came to his elbow.).

What happened???

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Hissarmau's Journal - Part 10
Off Chasing My Tale. . .

Oddly, there is this inexplicable gap in my memory. Everyone on the group kindly reminded me of our encounter with Evil Lemmy. After Lemmy killed Evil Lemmy, we took the corpse to Redhurst Academy (along with the stray kids) and the Department of Necromancy where we made Evil Dead Lemmy answer a few questions. The surprise came in who sent Evil Lemmy on his evil mission—an apparently Evil Violetta.

Now I like Violetta. Swell gal, excellent entertainer. And really, I’d rather take a troll piss shower than brawl with those I break bread with, but if she goes orc-ass wild on us, what were we going to do? Would we spot the Evil in time and chase it away from Violetta or could we expect Evil versions of us coming back to kill us or . . . I furrowed my brow in consternation.

My odd little memory tick left me on the steps of the Necromancy Department of Redhurst Academy. Caz and Ibid had gone off to seek the headmaster, leaving the rest of us tense and full of questions as to what exactly we were dealing with. And Lemmy’s foretold battle in the Tears of Selune was only a month away.

I felt very nervous and had to fight the urge to find a quiet corner and groom myself and nap. Whenever I get confused and worried, I do that. I find it clears my head. Caz returned with the portal key we needed to get back to Cormir where we left the Voidskimmer and our pay. Ibid had gone off on some mysterious errand. We were off to Araculus on Spiral in Braal Space where we were to meet someone.

Araculus. What a hornet’s nest that place is. Originally inhabited by elves, the planet was taken over by the Scrow, who continue to occupy Spiral. Before the invasion, seven Sages of Temporal Meditation lived in Araculus. At some point, when arguing over conflicting visions, six mages left the area, reputedly mad, leaving behind one equally mad companion named Thales or Thalus. The Academy normally would not stop in occupied territory but was making an exception in this case in order to pick up refugees fleeing their oppressors. After retrieving a map of Araculus and the surrounding area from the library, we met with Ibid.

Ibid had a sly grin on his face as he approached. He dropped a tiny silver sphere into Violetta’s palm and stood back as if awaiting a standing ovation. We all looked at the ball and then at Ibid.

“I have a cousin here in the Temple of Illusion,” Ibid began, “We whipped this up while catching up. It’s a mass invisibility sphere.” While it was of limited application (you could be heard or felt; the spell only lasted a short time; the spell would suspend when engaged in battle), it would be of great use to us in crossing occupied territory. We oohed and aahed over the magical little sphere and Ibid looked properly gratified.

We landed on Spiral, about 30 miles from Araculus. It was a lovely planet, except for the naked, eviscerated elven corpses nailed to the trees of the clearing the Academy had landed in. The walls of Redhurst bristled with armed men and mages in battle gowns while squads formed at the gates. We grabbed our horses and ran for the gates amid screams of “Incoming!” as a large mantis ship hove into view. We headed for the forest, hoping that our exit went unnoticed amidst the chaos.

Xrng and I led the charge for cover. Running into a clearing, we found ourselves facing three scrow outfitted in black armor with rifles and crossbows. For a stunned moment as my companions skidded to a halt behind Xrng and I, we looked at one another. The balanced tension exploded along with the mantis ship we saw earlier. Debris went flying—killing one scrow outright—and knocking me wily-nily to the ground. I staggered to my feet and heard Violetta call for her familiar, the dog Henri. Feeling like perfect hell, I armed myself in mage armor and took a healing potion under the cover of the wild fight that broke out. Staggering a bit, I entered the skirmish.

Breathing deeply (“To breath is to do.” my old master, Wu Jen Kitaro Fujiama frequently said.), I launched Stunning Fist on my opponent, causing the scrow to stagger back. Frustrated, I breathed even more intently and attacked again, this time combining True Strike and Stunning Fist. To my intense pleasure, an amber glow began to emanate from my hands just in time to knock the scrow unconscious, allowing Caz to deliver the coup de grace with his starwheel. Lemmy dispatched the final scrow and a tense quiet descended on the clearing.

We hurriedly searched the bodies and took the weapons. Along with the weapons, we found explosive charges as well. We decided to pose as scrow guards with prisoners. Violetta put on the smallest set of scrow armor and began to lead us. Right to a dead and mutilated elven girl. I shot a surreptitious glance at Violetta. Were her evil tendencies starting to come out and it was manifesting in leading us to corpses?

While burying the girl, we heard troop movement headed in our direction. A mad scramble for cover took place and I hid myself in the branches of a nearby tree. We all held our breath as a troop of over 20 scrow crossed the clearing. After they left, we continued to hold our breath and positions. My ears pricked—“Stay put. I hear someone approaching by horse,” I whispered.

A beautiful maid entered the clearing riding a nightmare. I heard the bush Caz was in begin panting and bit back a groan of frustration. Just as the maid was about to exit the clearing, she turned and looked in our direction. Turning her beast, she slowly ambled over in our direction stopping about ten feet away from the “corpses” of Xrng and Violetta.

I felt a prickling sensation run the length of my tail and the hair fluffing out in panic. The maid dismounted and approached Violetta’s “corpse”. My muscles began to bunch up, ready to spring. Casually, the maid began to trace a fiery pattern in the air above Violetta’s chest. The Cas bush fired.

And missed.

Violetta jumped to her feet and swept the maiden’s legs out from under her, knocking her to the ground. With a sweet smile gracing her elfin face, the maid faded from view while her steed bolted. We surrounded Violetta in a concerned huddle. I explained that the maid marked Violetta with an arcane mark acting like a signature, which Caz confirmed when he said he saw a corresponding mark appear on Violetta’s armor when the maid worked the spell.

After a short debate over whether Violetta’s armor was marked or Violetta herself, we reformed our prisoners band. Noting the tightly knit forest canopy, I offered to act as a scout as I would be well able to move easily among the branches (there’s alot of similarity between jumping balconies at Wyrmfall and this), an offer readily accepted by the others. Violetta quietly began to sing Inspire Courage as we began to march. A long ride with the occasional evasive action soon saw us to the edge of the forest.

With 17 miles to cover over open ground, we decided to hold to our disguise with me acting now as Violetta’s scout and flunkey. Fortunately, our travel was undisturbed and we arrived at Araculus at about five bells in the afternoon. Unfortunately, Araculus was not there. But a huge crater that looked to be a few weeks old was. About 500 feet in diameter, the rim reached as high at forty feet in some areas.

As we gazed down into the crater, we saw fog obscuring our vision of the bottom of the crater. I blinked and shook my head. Did I just see a face in that soup? We slowly rode down and circled the circumference and found nowhere we could cross with the horses. After a short conference (You wanna go down there when its on the verge of sundown? No? Me neither.), we elected to make camp for the night and enter the crater on the morrow.

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Hissarmau's Journal - Part 9
Introducing Arwal Swansson. . .

When we arrived at Lady Lavinia’s, we were ushered inside to the second floor study with Lemmy in the lead directly behind Lavinia. As we entered, I saw a look of deep pleasure bloom on Lemmy’s craggy face. I glanced around to see what caused Lemmy to react so and my eyes caught on a very handsome, nobly dressed gentleman in a purple-trimmed cloak. As Lavinia left us, Lemmy turned to us and presented us to Paladin Arwal Swansson, a Purple Dragon Knight and the leader of the Sons of Mercy. He nodded solemnly to each of us as we were named and I felt a shiver pass over me when his glance crossed mine.

After introductions, we all settled around a large table and partook of the refreshments thoughtfully left for us by Lady Lavinia as Lord Arwal began to speak. We were told that two Red Hurst Wizardry Academy students have gone missing and that it may well have bearing on Violetta and her situation of all people. But then she is three and wise beyond her years. If we found them, we were to return them to the custody of Nimblame Elminster. Elminster! As it turned out, the legendary Arch Mage was the Dean of the School of Divination.

Red Hurst Wizardry Academy. The premier school of magic. The school traveled from plane to plane and from sphere to sphere, offering students an unparalleled academic experience. Though Xrng and I were eligible to attend as we were wizards, I hardly fitted the usual academic profile being from a family with no reputation for magic (shamanism doesn’t count), poor (tuition was 2000gp. Every half year.), and having few connections. And Elminster was a Dean there! And I might get to meet him if we catch two teen-aged humanoids, a boy named Jethrick and a girl named Thai. They had gone missing right before the Academy moved on to its next destination. If we caught the kids, I’d get to meet Arch Mage Elminster and perhaps he’ll see me as a talent worth cultivating, a diamond in the rough so to speak! But then again, he may not even notice such a lowly wizard such as myself.

It’s decided that we should ride along with Arwal Swansson, who had a Hammership called The Golden Dawn. We had a 24-hour leave before we set off to Arabelle, the capitol of Cormir, where the children had been last seen. Ibid began to prepare to go out, explaining he was to be formally initiated a Priest of Ptah. He kindly extended an invitation to watch his initiation and attend the feast that followed.

We entered the temple and wafts of sweet incense reached my nose. Torches mysteriously lit the interior of the chamber we entered and I saw Ibid kneeling between two of his brothers on a dais, setting the small group somewhat over the crowd. The ceremony was lengthy and the priests shaved his head during the course of it. After a last benediction (Finally! I was having a terrible time holding still and not prowling about by the end of it.), Ibid rose to his feet and raised his head. Two glowing blue ankhs shown in his eyes. When we asked about it, he said only, “I can see.”

We left Dragon Rock the next day. Arwal had 35 Purple Dragon Knights in attendance gathered on the foredeck. Arwal cautioned us to leave the Knights to their own devices and invited us to dinner. On the main deck, a formal dining table had been set with beautiful blue and white Shou china and heavy silver. Nine places were set but there were only seven of us. As we began to take our seats, two more gentlemen joined us. Arwal introduced a tall, rangy human male carrying a quiver with two wands as Merlin of Grey Hawk then turned to the second man.

Very old yet robust, the silver-bearded gentleman carried a wizard’s staff of beautiful make, clearly very old, and a broadsword. Arch Mage Elminster of Shadow Dale intoned Arwal solemnly. I nearly leapt from my seat in sheer panic. I found myself suddenly wondering if all my scrolls were in proper order. Arwal began to make the round of introductions but stopped once Elminster began to name us and tell us details of our own lives! Visions of being a “diamond in the rough” in Elminster’s opinion immediately disappeared when he came to me and referred to me as being of “barbarian” origins. Xrng was clearly smitten speechless, staring at Elminster with her multi-faceted eyes. I wondered if she wanted to take classes with Elminster like I did. I couldn’t blame her. He’s a genius and I bet he’s read the most books of anyone, EVER!

Elminster made an elegant flourish (I had to stop myself from trying to copy the gesture) and suddenly a lavish banquet was set before us. Accompanying it was a beverage the Arch Mage referred to as “German Beer”. Over dinner many things were squared away. Cazimir decided to leave the black pearl with Elminster, who kindly identified it for us as being the work of the Demon Prince Razzit. Merlin gave us a letter of introduction to Dean Sector, the director of Red Hurst and a map showing Cormir with the rendezvous point clearly marked. In the course of conversation as we finished dining, I realized that the kids were only a convenient excuse to get us into Red Hurst Wizardry Academy itself. With so many cross-currents of intent flowing, I decided to just focus on the missing children till other matters clarified themselves. After a boozy evening and the vocal stylings of Violetta (a very breathy, bosom-y aria of love while staring at Arwal. In her attempts to impress him, she nearly tumbled off the ship), we retired to bed.

We landed a half-day’s walk from Arabelle and immediately set out after making our rendezvous plans three days hence. A check with the City Guard was negative. So the children hadn’t been accidentally left behind. We proceeded next to the city park where they were last seen. We found a spider-silk merchant who had seen the kids a few days previously in good health and apparently happy. The merchant noted the odd gold Jethrick used to pay for a scarf for Thai. After some bargaining, Violetta managed to get some of the gold they had used. The sparkling coin we looked at had a spider on one side and a beautiful Elf maiden on the reverse. I groaned when I saw it. The maiden was the Goddess Loath and the gold was of Drow origin. Wonderful. We were chasing two teen-aged Drow.

During our search, we stumbled across a fortune-teller. When she looked at the coin, she saw wyvern rather than a spider and the maid had become an old man. Hmmmm. After more searching, we discovered the inn where the children stayed thanks to Ibid and his dowsing rod. The Innkeeper said that Jethrick and Thai had stayed the night with another party of two men going by the name of “Wheeler”. Ibid, Lemmy and I found an adventuring shop where our fugitives had stocked up on traveling gear that very morning. The owner said they were talking of heading east and look downcast. When asked for horses, the owner directed the pair to Rohan’s, “. . . they have the best horses.”

Off we went to Rohan’s where we purchased four horses for our party. I am a lousy rider (I mean, really, a cat person on a horse?) so I rode behind Ibid. I have had better journeys. It was dark (never mind that I have my race’s low light vision, it was still dark). I fell off the dratted horse. I couldn’t wait to get to the crossroads. About 10 at night, we arrived at the crossroads and found a small inn there. We had missed our quarry as the Wheeler party and “Mr & Mrs Erandale” (a common elven name) had left at dusk. As we were exhausted, we arranged for rooms and decided to set out at four in the morning.

By all the Gods, I am tired

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Hissarmau's Journal - Part 8
Oh the humanity....

I found myself on the verge of fainting. Wyrmfall, Nick the Gift-Giver, a levitate potion—My excitement levels were at an all-time joyous high. I was twisting and turning my tiny bottle of Levitate potion, watching it glitter in the light and daydreaming of dropping unexpectedly onto evil-doers’ heads.

I was abruptly pulled from my most gratifying daydreams with Xrng nudging me. Xrng moved among us while Violetta began to make gracious excuses to Nick, explaining that we had to be on our was as we had an appointment that was vital for us to keep. Just as I began to open my mouth to ask, “What appointment?” Xrng hissed “Drow” in my ear. I began to glance around. I didn’t see a single drow anywhere, just ourselves and Nick. Nick? Oh no!

We started down a tunnel of ice and I hastily armed with my mage armor spell. If there were drows about, I wanted to be prepared. We came to a split in the tunnel. From the left came mysterious sounds while the right-hand tunnel led to our ship. Suddenly, a tinkergnome came from the left-hand tunnel. Cazimir hastily hailed the creature but after Cazimir asked, “So why is Nick a drow?”, the charming tinkergnome changed into a female drow! As the drow took shape, she raised her arm and the moment she became corporeal, let lose a blast of undead energy. As I stared in shock at what was happening to the tinkergnome, the blast of undead energy hit me square, severely injuring me and knocking me to my knees. I managed to dig a healing potion out of my pouch and get to my feet again.

Xrng had in the meantime gone to attack the drow. When Xrng withdrew her fighting blade, darkness flowed out from the drow, plunging the cavern into darkness. Suddenly Violetta’s voice rang out, persuasive and strong and I recognized the Infernal tongue though not what she said. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I saw the drow was motioning us to follow her while Violetta sand what sounded like a lullaby.

I felt one of my companions grab onto my tail. Under normal circumstances I would not endure such rough handling and would snatch my tail clear of the grasping hands, but as whoever had grabbed it was most likely unable to see, I patiently endured it. I heard a commotion ahead of me and Violetta’s voice suddenly ceased. Xrng cast a light spell to reveal Violetta sprawled out on the ground next to the Void Skimmer. I was surprised. I had always assumed that Abysal creatures had excellent night vision. I spotted three more drows coming, or rather floating towards us from the shadows. At my startled yow and pointing finger, a mad dash for the ship ensued. So much for carefully securing the ship before take-off.

We decided to go back to Dragon Rock, but we first gathered together the suddenly suspect gifts from “Nick”. While flying back, a Crimson Fleet War Bird began to give chase. A hole opened in space, the inside of which looked like a reddish sky. Cazimir noted that it looked like a layer of the Abyss.

On our way back to Dragon Rock, Lemmy suggested having Nick’s gifts checked for safety. Once we arrived, Cazimir asked the Harbor officials to go over the Void Skimmer thoroughly. As we readied ourselves to leave the ship, we heard furitive footfalls in the remoter part of the ship. Lemmy began to scan the area psionically and spotted psionic traces leading out of the area. He immediately began to track the traces out of the harbor and gave chase with Xrng following. A short time later, they returned with the news that we had inadvertently brought back a stowaway who was now loose in the city.

Ibid was handed all of Nick’s presents and the pins found in Vanth’s rooms and agreed to take the items to the Temple of Ptah in order to check their safety. The rest of us went to the Lady Lavinia’s compound, now under heavy guard by a private guard guild. After being disarmed, we were ushered to Lady Lavinia who attended us in the library. As Cazimir began to tell Lavinia about our adventure on Nick’s asteroid and spotting the Crimson Fleet on our return journey, Lemmy went over the property looking for more psionic traces. Lavinia seemed baffled by the news Cazimir delivered and could make neither head nor tail of it. Xrng and Lemmy called us up to Vanth’s rooms where psionic traces led us to a secret hollow in the wall. Using the ivory key found with the pins, Cazimir opened it, revealing another black pearl. I tried a detect magic spell on it and was temporarily blinded for my trouble. It was decided to meet Ibid at the Temple of Ptah and find out about the pins and gifts. Cazimir pocketed the pearl and Lemmy led me from the room.

When we arrived at the temple, we found Ibid in a study room with everything spread out before him. The pins were some kind of fortune-telling device, revealing the past, present and future to those who could read it, but was otherwise harmless. The gifts on the other hand proved to be cursed excepting Lemmy’s crystal teardrop, a psionic third eye. It increased Lemmy’s psionic talents greatly and granted him fifth order kinetic ability, allowing him to disincorporate in a burst of flame. I found it as flashy as his sword and was enchanted, forgetting my pique at receiving cursed Levitate potion.

The pearl turned out to be a Chaos Bomb, capable of spreading chaos across a large city merely by smashing it against the ground. With the advice of the Servants of Ptah, Cazimir took the pearl back into his custody and it is planned to leave it with the Guardians of the Chalice, a Paladin group located in the trailing end of the tears of Selune. But first, back to Lavinia’s to clean up and rest.

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Hissarmau's Journal - Part 7
We're off to Nick the Gift-Giver's Asteroid. . .

Upon arriving at Lavinia’s, we found her compound infested with Bullywugs (amphibious gansters), dead Jade Ravens and Lavinia held captive by three guards in her second floor master bedroom. After reconnoitering, we climbed the fence and entered the mansion. As we headed to Lavinia’s suite of rooms, Ibid quietly motioned to the blank places along the walls of the gallery we were traversing, indicating the missing art.

Having no better plan, we rushed the door, Lemmy leading the charge. The door exploded inwards and Lemmy’s head-long rush brought him face-to-face with an obese bullywug. Cazimir had a second captor caught between the doorframe and the wall, while Violetta confronted a half-orc dressed in pirate garb. When Violetta called for the half-orc’s surrender using Intimidate, he leaped from the window in fear rather than face the enraged bard. I shot after the pirate with Xrng following closely, finally losing sight of the half-orc as he slipped into the Wyrmfall crowds.

When Xrng and I got back to Lavinia’s, we found Cazimir overlaboring door metaphors punctuated by loud slamming noises, “Let me slam show you slam the door SLAM.” I felt a quick flicker of sympathy for the Insectari caught betwixt the door and wall. I hoped he couldn’t hear the metaphors. There’s only so much torture a creature can endure after all. Lemmy’s bullywug was unconscious and Lavinia was armed with a Star Wheel.

The Insectari was finally permitted to fall to the floor and a quick search of his pouches revealed three scrolls. Ibid identified the first scroll as magical clerical “porn”—“. . . magical theory, very complex,” he murmured equably and casually tucked the scroll amongst his own. The second scroll told us nothing, being composed from top to bottom with numbers. Was it a coded message? A key code? Ibid passed the third to Xrng for translation. Xrng explained that it was written in magical notation and was a lock and load spell affecting gun-like weapons.

The Insectari decided to wake then and found himself facing Violetta with Xrng’s battle arms at its throat. After a couple more door slams (minus the metaphors this time) administered by Cazimir, the Insectari admitted to being hired by Vanthus to take Lavinia and also retrieve some items from the house. Lavinia explained the missing art had been sold by her to meet expenses and not stolen as we first assumed.

We slipped back downstairs and after stopping by the training room where Lavinia loaded her Star Wheel with ammunition and grabbed a cutlass, we headed to the kitchen. Peeping into the kitchen, we watched as bullywugs methodically cleaned out Lavinia’s larders. Apparently seeing the last bite of exotic waterdavian cheese go down the gullet of a bullywug was too much for Cazimir to take and he charged in, leaving us no option but to follow. After a short, fierce battle, we found Lavinia in the library, clutching a sheaf of paper. We crowded around Lavinia and discovered that Vanth was headed to Nick the Gift-Giver’s asteroid.

During the next day and a half, as we saw to the details of our forth-coming trip (I closed up my garret with regret, storing my stuff with Lucille’s) and the securing of the house, Cazimir searched Vanth’s rooms. He found an ivory key and six signet pins. It’s decided to divide the pins up amongst ourselves and I ended up with a pin of a left-facing screaming baboon, which I tucked safely away in my pack.

We finally set off for Nick’s. I’m sure you know Dear Reader Nick the Gift-Giver. He wanders Realm Space at will, gifting the good with pleasant surprises while the bad are left something unpleasant. We followed the mad circuitous route carefully and found ourselves—nowhere. I slid a glance at Ibid who was at the helm. Just as I was about to ask about our asteroid, a rainbow shimmer filled the ship’s prow.

I blinked and saw a snow-covered asteroid where none had been before. I gasped with delight. We landed by the entrance of a large and palatial compound. After knocking, we cautiously entered a large hall with multiple doors, a very grand fir tree in the center of the hall, fires dancing in the grates and garland strung about. I jumped as a door slammed. “Boss, Boss!! I got the wrench!” shrieked a small creature. I couldn’t believe it. A Tinkergnome! The little fellow rushed through another door and was away.

We all grinned at each other and headed for a different door. A huge brass spring flew outwards with shrieks of “Oops!” in the background when Violetta opened the door. None of us were hurt in the mad scramble for cover. We entered a large workshop. Tinkergnomes rushed about, some working with wood, others with paint and yet others with small forges. We came to a gnome applying colorful inlays to an intricate puzzle box. It was a beautiful box with gilding. “Big Nick” was in the kitchen said the gnome. On our way out, Cazimir was unable to resist calling, “Oops!” over his shoulder. We shut the door hurriedly on the explosion of chaos that ensued. The kitchen gnomes explained to us that they hadn’t seen Nick in a of couple days.

So we decided to head to the stables. A warm earthy smell of straw and manure filled our nostrils as we went down the main corridor passing the large antlered beasts used by Nick to get around. At the end of the corridor stood a magnificent sleigh painted a bright, glossy red. And beside the sled, rag in hand polishing away, was Nick himself. After a final rub, Nick faced us, “It’s not all hookers and cheese Caz. It’s about time you got here.”

After Cazimir recovered from the shock of being rudely teased by a childhood folk tale, he explained that Vanth was headed to this asteroid and to take care. Nick urged us to relax in regards to Vanth, “All in good time,” and then proceeded to present us with gifts. Nick presented us with. . .
Ibid—a bottle of bull’s strength
Violetta—a lovely, carven master flute
Cazimir—a masterwork sword
Lemmy—a psionic third eye
Xrng—a vial of anti-toxin
Hissarmau—a Levitate potion
I can’t wait for the opportunity to uncork that sucker!

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Hissarmau's Journal - Part 6
It's Wyrmfall...

After many adventures, we finally arrived at Dragon Rock. As we disembarked, I noticed streams of people moving rapidly towards the city, dressd in outlandish costumes and talking excitedly. I also noticed some bedraggled maskers stumbling to their ship and watched with great interest as a couple of Harbor Guards disgustedly confronted a drunken dwarf who was relieving himself against a ship. Yes, it was that time of year again—Wyrmfall.

Now I have nothing against Wyrmfall. Its a wonderful festival, full of music, color, art and drunken bonhomie. Every creature needs a respite from labor and every grown animal needs the chance (and for some the social permission) to play like a child. I enjoy watching Wyrmfall most certainly. My tiny garret in Karotown has a well-placed window with a wide ledge, permitting me an excellent view. But to get around in? (sniff) It’s most difficult. I try to avoid going out, laying in enough food, writing materials and scrolls to hold me for the length of the festival. Inevitably though, there’s something I forgot or run out of, necessitating a trip out into the streets.

I’ll wrap my tail about my waist (too many folk enjoy a playful tugging of my tail and greeting me with “Kitty, kitty, kitty”—usually gently done but I’ve suffered the occasional drunken, too-hard pull as well). When it’s children, I don’t mind much—kits are ever curious—so I’ll stop for a moment and let whatever small child fondle my tail a moment (and such a fine tail it is too, bushy and full with sleek light golden hair—All glory to the mighty Taanmrow!!) and answer their wide-eyed questions. But when I wrap my tail as a consequence I lose some of my balance, making navigation of a large crowd somewhat difficult. Moving through a Wyrmfall crowd feels like dancing with a clumsy partner. So I try to stick with balcony and rooftop travel during this time. Its less crowded, a good work out for me and no irritating “Kitty, kitty, kitty”.

We decided to stop by Lucille’s and then my place to check up on our things, then proceed to Lavinia’s for debriefing. On our way though, we noticed the dock inspector’s boy runner following us and conversing with a skeleton clad woman. Once we reached Lucille’s, Xrng, Ibid and myself parted from Lemmy, Violetta and Cazimir to go to my garret.

Suddenly, shots rang out and the crowd surged towards us. Xrng began to scramble up the wall while I unwound my tail and leapt for a balcony. The vertically challenged Ibid crouched down and stubbornly held his place against the fleeing crowd. Cazimir, Lemmy and Violetta were under attack from a pack of stilt walkers commanded by the skeleton we saw earlier. Ibid froze the skeleton woman, allowing Violetta to reveal her face and identify her as a Shadow Dancer. With one comrade dead and their leader neutralized, the other three stilt walkers tried to run, coming in our direction. Violetta summoned her monster dog, Henri, to chase down the stilt walkers. Ibid whipped up a very large batch of tomato sauce, covering the street and causing two of our attackers to fall. The third stumbled about desperately, trying to maintain his balance. He managed to grasp a balcony pole.

Now there’s a unique custom here in Dragon Rock that is part and parcel of the Wyrmfall Festival. It’s the annual custom of greasing the poles. The day before the actual festival is due to begin, the major guilds and city offices make a great ceremony of greasing their balcony poles. It prevents the foolhardy and drunken from climbing the poles, endagering themselves, the crowd and any who are on the balcony. Officials attend, tourists attend, even the People attend. The People then go home and grease their own poles as well, usually with old butter or rancid cooking oils, not the fancy, scented oils used by officialdom.

So the final stilt walker’s grab for safety led to a hilarious, slow-motion slide down the greased pole accompanied by frantic, confused clutching and wildly thrashing stilts. The stilt walker’s rear end hit the ground just as a shot rang out. The Shadow Walker slumped to the street dead as the City Guard flooded the street. The captain of the Guard identified the Shadow Walker as a notorious assassin called Diamondback.

As Cazimir smoothed things over with the Guard, I noticed Xrng suddenly running, apparently chasing what looked to be a half-Orc. I cast my message spell and alerted Violetta of the chase. After a few blocks, the half-Orc gave us the slip but left another corpse-message. Can’t these people just leave a simple scroll for the Gods’ sake? Pinned to a dead man in green was the message, “Things have changed. You are no longer welcome here.” I alerted Violetta and everyone showed up (City Guard included) a few minutes later.

Cazimir gasped when he saw the corpse. We have not been the only mercenary band working for Lavinia. She had also hired the Jade Ravens and the dead man in green had been their leader, Tolan Kientei. After requesting more security for Lavinia from the City Guard, Cazimir handed three vials found on Diamondback’s body to Xrng to examine and identify. Then he led us back into the crowds. Damn.

Violetta began piping a royal fanfare and Cazimir puffed out his chest and began waving to people regally. The crowd opened for us, standing back to see what spectacle we were to offer. Lemmy unsheathed his sword and began to wave it about in martial designs while uttering large, terrifying cries. I gave Xrng a quick nudge and motioned for her to display her attacks and defenses with her battle arms in a great show (the custom of Wyrmfall is unfamiliar to her—I explained later). Ibid began to juggle coins. I started to dash up and down our line, tail proudly unfurled and snapping with agitation as I made loud calls for order among our formation, acting as the Captain of the show. Sure enough, “Kitty, kitty, kitty.” I whipped around and found myself facing four Elves with drunken, friendly grins plastered to their faces. “You, good sirs, are out of order!” I blustered. “Step back and let the Krewe of Ol’ Peculiar pass!” Snorts and laughter came from the Elves and one tried to deliver a drunken bow of apology to me and fell face first into the gutter of the street. Considering them well-punished for messing with me, I turned back to my column with a haughty sniff. As we marched along, a New Year’s style Shou dragon fell into line with us so I extended my haranguing to them as well, switching between Common and Shou.

We finally reached the cross street needed to reach Lavinia’s and (as discreetly as possible) peeled off onto the side street, letting the parade to continue its course down the main street. I felt rather regretful. It was the only time I’ve actually taken part in Wyrmfall rather than just observing.

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Hissarmau's Journal - Part 5
A return to narrative...

Now that my missives are written and safely tucked away, I may return to my narrative.

Once it was ascertained that we had indeed arrived in Realm Space, Swift Star’s Captain decided to make landing at Karpi, where we had a scheduled delivery, skipping Garden due to concerns of piracy. We landed in the water (the only significant land masses are located at the poles, an extremely cold and hostile location for ship landings) disguised as a rock in order to deliver 1/2 dozen boxes to the Sea Elves.

A Sea Elf arrived riding a 30-foot Celestial Shark with a well-used trident strapped across his back. During trade discussions with Quartermaster Kelpak, Cazimir discovers his ship the Void Skimmer is on the planet and last seen the vegetation belt.

With Cazimir arguing with Kelpak (our immediate boss of the moment mind you) about going after the Void Skimmer, Ibid casually put all discussion to an end when he mentioned the red Scrow Scorpion ship of Space Orcs going past us. We dived into the vegetation belt (where the Void Skimmer presumably was). We spotted smoke further beneath us, and Kelpak ordered us to take the skiff with eight hours to find and recapture the dratted ship Syzygy lost. We were also commissioned to discover the source of the smoke and assess its threat.

We took the skiff through a hole in the vegetation where faint wisps of smoke could be detected. Going further in, we discovered four burning ships and various body parts scattered widely about the scene.

We immediately began to back-pedal. And evergrowing shriek begand to fill our ears. Without thinking, I cast my mage armor spell and crouched, ready to spring. I felt an almost simultaneous assault of abysal energy and physical impact from an explosion. Some Thing stuck its face into mine. With a fierece sudden energy of my own, I automatically (and flawlessly I might add—Master Kitaro would have been most pleased) attacked with my unarmed strike, painfully feeling the sensation of smooth muscle and well-coordinated body working flawlessly together. And managed to rip off the Thing’s head.

All well and good one might suppose. Until it rose up and placed it’s head back upon it’s own shoulders. I do not know what manner of thing it was, but as soon as its head was in place, it snarled at me. (Its breath was equally as viscious as its disposition.) Utterly startled, I struck out automatically and knocked it over with my Stunning Fist whereupon Ibid decapitated the Thing. Acidic blood flowed and the body was hastily thrown overboard.

Cazimir and Violetta fought off three more of the Things as we made our retreat and reported our findings to Kelpak. During our de-briefing, Cazimir asked the Captain to add to the incident report he was preparing that Vanthus Vanderboren (already wanted for questioning in other murders) was spotted at the scene of carnage. We had to abandon the chase for Cazimir’s ship unfortunately and returned to Toril, completing our run with the Swift Star.

With our well-earned gold, we went to a local eatery called The Singing Sword, which boasted an excellent menu. The Singing Sword also boasted a rumored interspace portal to Dragon Rock. Not wanting to draw any attention, Xrng and I cloaked ourselves as a Feline Folk and a Bug would most certianly attract attention and make our little group particularly memorable. A server dressed in stage armor flourished a sword which began to sing, looking singularly disgusted with the display he was forced to take part in for pecuniary reasons.

Violetta tried to enchant the portal’s location from our server. Confused, the server politely told Violetta the way to the Ladies Room. Violetta and Xrng politely excused themselves, ostensibly to powder their noses and pinch up color in their cheeks, really hoping to detect the magic of the door. I managed to keep a normal expression when two women raced by shrieking about a bug in the water closets. No one paid the slightest bit of attention as bugs in water closets is a common occurrence. Latrines do have shortcomings after all. Violetta and Xrng came back disappointed.

Needing an excuse to wander freely about, Cazimir apparently hit on something and called the waiter over in a most imperious manner (truly his mother’s son).

“My good man, its my charming companion’s birthday,” with a broad gesture, Cazimir presented Violetta to the server. She managed to plaster a look of birthday expectation on her face in time for the server’s full gaze to rest on her face. “She’s been hinting for weeks that this is where she wanted to dine on her special day.”

With a swift gesture, Cazimir slid his arm along the side of the server’s. Clearly experienced in this sort of thing, the server discreetly pocketed the two gold pieces and waited with a vigilant air. “She’s a dancer and I think she should have a go with the sword there. She has a lovely curve to her ankle witch she loves to show off,” Cazimir said, nudging the server in a good-fellow-well-met manner. Violetta’s cheeks paled in a most becoming blush. I rolled my eyes beneath my cloak.

Pleased with so easy a request, the server went to the harassed Knight. A duplicate routine of the sliding arm and the Knight was at our table beaming a strained smile and presenting Violetta with the sword on a bowed knee. Violetta accepted the sword with a pretty speech and began to dance about. The crowd twisted in their chairs to follow her dance. A fleeting look of frustration crossed her face and I watched her lips move, speaking a detect magic spell to the sword. After much tom-foolery, Violetta found the portal hidden behind a third-floor tapestry. We immediately made plans to return at closing time to use the portal.

We decided to wander a nearby market and I bought some healing potions while everyone stocked up on supplies. While walking along, we spotted Vanth Vanderboren in deep conversation with an Arcane. What is Vanth up to? The Arcane race, as any well-read or well-traveled person may know are renowned traders with a monopoly on spell-jammer parts. He was clearly a person of rank as he was attended by bodyguards and an honor guard holding aloft a canopy. Has this gone from simple greed and murder to a large-scale conspiracy of piracy??? Cazimir lost his self-control and raced over with no subtlety whatsoever with blood shining in his eyes.

We tracked Vanth through the crowd and found ourselves attacked by largely invisible assailants. I say largely invisible as one could detect the occasional flicker of movement. Xrng, Caz, Ibid and Violetta returned to the docks in an attempt to find the Void Skimmer while Lemmy and I continued the tracking of Vanth. Failing that, we were going to steal a ship. (Fortunately, this extreme action was not needed.) Lemmy and Violetta established a mental connection between our two groups, but for the moment we were on our own.

I tried to help Lemmy fight off his attacker. In the course of battle, I received a huge electrical shock to my very sensitive nose and scorch marks abruptly appeared with crisped patches of hair scattered over my body. While trying to drag ourselves away, we were struck by a magic missle attack. The attackers faded away, thinking us dead or near enough. Lemmy got healing potions in both of us and we took the luxury of transporting our battered bodies back to the dock via a carriage. . .

Where we found Cazimir in the company of the Harbor Master, exacting justice and his ship. Lemmy reported the encounter between Vanth and the Arcane more fully on our way to where the Void Skimmer was docked. When we finally arrived, the crew on deck spotted us and one raised a large tuning fork sort of object and struck it forcefully upon the deck. Instantly, Vanth’s crew disappeared.

We waited while Cazimir secured his ship in the company of the harbor watch. Among the x-rated paintings and exotic liquor was a box in the Captain’s (formerly Vanth’s) quarters. After documenting the box and the history of its owner, the harbor Wizard carefully deactivated the spell on the box. A large black pearl was revealed inside. Violetta explained that it was a shadow pearl, an object abysal in origin and able to create a city-wide wave of chaos when ignited.

It was going to take three days for the ship to be cleared by officals so the Harbor Wizard disguised us as Vanth’s crew. I think Vanth is too slick to be caught so easily but it was worth a try.

We had a nice respite and my fur began to fuzz up again when our peaceful bubble was burst on the third day when a dead man collapsed at the foot of our ship. Attached to flayed-open corpse was a note, “Cazimir, we’ll talk later.” There is no doubt as to its sender. Quietly, we made the six hour trip back to Dragon Rock with Cazimir’s gleefully noting the defensive improvements Vanth had made to the Void Skimmer.

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