Amaranthia

Session 01
Unexpected Introductions
From the journal of Hasan al-Husam

The Feast Day of Sirrushalan

The legendary Sefet at last! I unobtrusively debarked The Batta at the earliest opportunity, as seemed to be the wisest course of action. Though I would have liked to bid adieu to Maram, I would also like to retain all of my appendages.

The city is vibrant and alive, full of strange people and sights. The proprietor of the café I sit at, writing in this new journal, tells me today is a festival day—I seem to have lost track of time on the boat—and I should be remarkably lucky to find a place to stay the night. I shall explore the great market soon, and see if I cannot make my own luck.

I write the following much later, for the sake of completeness. Time has to me lost some of its meaning, and I hope keeping this log will restore some structure to my future historians… If I have erred in my recollections, look to my companions for correction.

The market of Sefet was an entertaining sight, full of food and performers and beautiful women… and danger!

Without cue, explosions began wracking the city, demolishing buildings, until a great blue dragon was revealed amidst the wreckage! A marvelous creature for all its fearsomeness… (As one of my companions later pointed out, its appearance was singular, for despite its age and the blue dragon’s notorious hermeticity it was magnificently pampered.) It was not alone, for chaos truly erupted in a great battle between many magic users, horsemen, and others, with the populace caught in the middle.

By some chance, an object they fought over landed in my hands, the Glass Artifact, and that is when things became strange…

The Fasting Day of Shirrushalan

I awoke in an alley, having been saved by a mysterious, silent woman along with several other strangers. The artifact called out to this woman—whose name I later learned was Lydra—and when she touched it, strange writing appeared on one of its sides. We followed her through the market, discovering that it was no longer the same day; we had, in fact, been carried backwards through time several days!

To think, elsewhere, I had not yet had that fateful argument with the Batta’s captain and my day was one of idyllic boredom. I wonder what became of me—him?—now…

We followed Lydra on a merry chase until we reached a decrepit building, filled with squatters, sinister men, and, notably, not that which she sought. As we looked for answers—and received none from our silent guide—we accidentally attracted the attention of men in room below us, who were apparently servants of one Azu Makeen. Amongst their number was Tu Fan Zui, as rude and arrogant a man as I have ever met and who apparently had a prior connection with Feng.

These men died, as it was revealed that not only was our guide a mighty warrior, but my new companions were all skilled and ruthless fighters as well. I killed a man. I bore him no malice, I did not even know his name, but it had to be done. I do not think I will ever escape his face as my rapier pierced his chest. Khayyam warned me I would have to harden my heart…

On Tu Fan Zui’s corpse, Feng discovered a book of great importance to him, but also a clue in the form of a magic square puzzle. Acting on this, Lydra led us to a new destination, another “abandoned” building. Like the other, this location was also filled with masked killers, these Agents of the Cobalt Crown. Fortunately, there was one other person in the building who was not hostile, a man named Ramal. With the aid of him and Lydra, we survived a rather difficult battle…

It was then we learned a new oddity; Lydra was supposed to be dead! (It seemed news to her…) Again the Artifact called, and when Ramal touched it, more text appeared. But then, something stranger happened and, for lack of a clearer description, the world collapsed. We held the crystal as a drowning man clutches a log, and the last thing I recall was Lydra and Ramal vanishing.

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Session 02
Arachnophobia

From the journal of Hasan al-Husam

Date Unknown (Though I did not think it was far from the previous events.)

The Glass Artifact brings us to all the best places…

Our transit from Sefet to our new location seemed instantaneous, but at the same time, there was something strange about it, as if it simultaneously took a very, very long time. I hope that whatever forces are manipulating us give us a chance for a few answers soon, for we found none on this day.

We found ourselves clinging—with varying degrees of success—to the back of a majestic Cloud Ray. There was a moment where it seemed we had lost some of our number off the beast’s back as it hunted a Manticore, but all survived until it landed on the dunes of the Sheel Khali Desert. It then buried itself to rest, leaving us wondering where we should go next.

The decision, however, was quickly made for us, as it became apparent we had landed upon a nest of giant scorpions! Needless to say, I quite dislike scorpions, and so this was not the grandest of battles. Sensibly, we withdrew while Maisha used magic to restrain the creatures.

In the process of our tactical withdrawal, Sehera encountered a strange woman, watching us with a group of jackals. She was no enemy, fortunately, and lent us a rope with which to tow a levitating Indira to safety.

With enough distance put between us and the scorpions, the woman revealed her name to be Cressida Shesel, a half-elven Druid who happened to see our descent from the sky. The artifact called to her, as it did Lydra and Ramal in Sefet, and when she touched it, more text appeared. She had no insight as to its meaning, however. While beautiful and clever, she did not have the knowledge we sought.

The Zythu tribe who had liberated her from slavery as a youth, the Ushtarak, were not far, and so she led us to their camp, hoping their chief Fusthid could shed some insight on our situation.

Unfortunately, he was not present, having left to meet envoys of the infamous Anari, so we whiled away some time purchasing a few supplies and getting some food. Hopefully, at some point soon in our journey we shall have a chance to eat, bathe, and rest properly. Though the magicks that transport us also restore our flesh, it has been an overwhelming experience. The mind must also have rest.

Of course, we would have no rest here, for Keergai’im, the tribe’s Daleel (I believe a sort of master-of-the-hunt), accosted us with a sizable crowd at his back, accusing us of being not servants of Bes, as Cressida maintained, but rather Anari spies, despite the obvious absurdity of the claim. Fusthid and his delegation had not returned, and he was seeking scapegoats. (Alas, we had not time to see if this was simple xenophobia or if he had deeper motives.)

As expected, diplomacy failed—such formalities must be observed wherever possible, of course, but all opponents we have encountered have clearly been seeking a fight. Sehera stood up to him directly, and challenged his proclamation of accam mak shaiden—formal orcish for “death to the outsiders”—on the grounds that he had no authority to issue such a declaration, which led in turn to a formal duel between him and Sehera.

Unfortunately, the rules of etiquette required her to use a scimitar, a weapon she had little experience with. Fortunately, Khegan, an honorable and experienced warrior we had met earlier, gave her his fine blade to use.

The rules of the fight forbade direct intervention from others, but there seemed to be few, if any, other strictures. The rest of us did our best to keep the crowd from interfering, preventing them from crowding the fighters or breaking their own rules of honor.

I mean no disrespect to Sehera when I say it was not the most elegant of battles. She is a fine warrior, but it was clear neither the scimitar nor this sort of battle suited her. Every warrior has his own strengths… For his part, Keergai’im had clearly overestimated his own strengths, for his fighting was sloppy and undisciplined.

Ultimately, the battle seemed to be decided by a lucky stroke from Keergai’im, who struck what should have been a mortal blow. Amazingly, Sehera remained standing and turned the tide, raining righteous blows upon her opponent until he fell to the ground. I am not a religious man, but I had to wonder if this was indeed a sign from Bes, though I suspect the magicks behind our artifact played a greater role.

The battle won, word came to us that the meeting place Fusthid had been dispatched to was abandoned, and search parties were assembled. We volunteered our aid, of course. It did not seem wise to linger unattended in the camp…

I learned an interesting lesson about the Zythu in this process for, when I suggested we ride, I was met with derision and contempt. I would never tell my companions, but I am unaccustomed to such treatment and had difficulty restraining my indignation.

I had heard the Zythu did not use beasts of burden, choosing to rely on their own strength, but I had not known these reports were so completely accurate. They sounded like the exaggerations of dishonest travelers, and there were no relations between the tribes of the Al-Ramlayan Desert and Hazred to tell me otherwise, for the deserts beyond the high hills at our borders were chiefly home to elven and human tribes.

Indeed the Zythu attitude towards horses and camels is the exact opposite of my own people. They view reliance on beasts as an impurity and a weakness, while to my ancestors it was a vital, defining point of life. Though it is a dozen generations since the people of Hazred were the feared horsemen of the desert, no true Hazredian forsakes teaching his children to ride. It was this implication of weakness that it was hard to swallow back, but I did for the error was mine.

I digress. We had not far to go to reach the meeting site, which was indeed abandoned. We searched and found no sign of struggle or obvious misdeeds, but strangely, though there were tracks leading to the site, there were none leading away.

It was when we began to search under the sand that we made progress, as we quickly uncovered the bodies of the Ushtarak, the Anari, and the Anari horses. Their deaths were horrific. Some tremendous heat had erupted beneath the sand, cooking them as if on a griddle. At least it must have been a fast death, for none even had the time to flee. We never did discover why they were buried though…

The source of the heat—which glassed a layer of sand black—was likely magic, but the only thing we could find that stood out was a group of six rubies, which we took for later identification.

Cressida was shocked to discover the Anari were elves, which puzzled me at first. But it occurred to me that I only knew their nature due to some dealings my father had had with them in the past. From the tales and their dress, one could be forgiven for thinking they were something monstrous…

Fusthid and his daughter Khamuth were not among the dead, and at this time some other party had discovered a small cave. We investigated, traveling into what seemed to clearly be the den of some monstrous animals.

It turns out they were spiders. Big spiders.

We discovered the chief and his daughter encased in cocoons and, when Sehera began to free them, two particularly monstrous specimens attacked. As we fought these, another creature revealed itself, some sort of abominable spider-man. Strangely, the Glass Artifact resonated with this monster and—as it was in her grasp at the moment—Sehera touched the thing with it, causing a peculiar distortion as we had experienced in Sefet.

Cressida (and, presumably, her companion “Creature”) disappeared in a vertical light, as Ramal and Lydra had, while we were taken elsewhere. Though we attempted to take them with us, Fusthid and Khamuth seemed to be left behind. I sincerely hope they were able to escape.

What is this Glass Artifact, and what does it want from us? It seems to me that we are, perhaps, collecting people for some purpose, but why us? What was its connection to the spider creature? For the moment, there seems to be little we can do but try to hold on and survive the journey if we ever want answers…

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Session 03
From the journal of Hasan al-Husam

Date Unknown Soleria-3 Day 1

This time, we woke up in a net hanging over the water. So that was interesting… We apparently were placed there, having been discovered unconscious in a ship’s hold, but this does raise concerns as to what sort of locations we may awake in later.

It has become clear that some semblance of time passes when the Glass Artifact transports us. The last time, I had suspected something odd, but now it seems definite. Before, in the desert, I was contemplating brushing up on my knowledge of the royal houses of Raqaejah and, now, that information is in my mind, but I cannot recall ever studying. I had considered working with Sehera Tarzi to develop a new defensive maneuver, inspired by watching her duel; now we both have mastered it. Hopefully, we’ll figure out what is happening at some point. I am worried about what will happen if more and more time slips away from us.

As we hung in the net, none of the Mashkhet’s crew responded to our hails. It seemed clear they thought us stowaways. Eventually, a remarkable young woman, a fire genasi whose name we later learned was Fazia Shula, emerged from below decks. Sehera noticed the Artifact react when she appeared.

Later Maisha told us she overheard her talking to one of her crew, suspecting us of being agents of “Hokoru”—if she suspected us of being enemies, it would explain her abrupt treatment of us.

She threw me a knife and dropped the net in the water.

After cutting ourselves free, we were able to swim towards an island that was not far off. The sea was very calm and so, while most of us were not able swimmers, we made land.

The island was a strange place, the air utterly, eerily calm. So calm, in fact, that Indira was unable to use her natural genasi magic. Still, mysteries aside, we were alive!

We were then approached by two other castaways, a woman by name of Janna Rejahl and a young man. A man who named himself Marid al-Husam, who claimed his true name was Hasan al-Husaym ibn Hatim ibn Hasshim al Hazred.

He was—is—convinced that he is the son of my father, though of a different mother, a woman named Dessere. He had never heard the name of my mother, nor of my father’s youngest wife, Ulrika and her two sons. He knew the name of Iskandar al-Husam and of Khayyam al-Mahir. He had even rode the same ship as me and had nearly the same experiences—though he had obviously failed to restrain his temper and had been tossed off the ship.

Obviously I suspected him of being a liar or some sort of trick, but his words all rang of truth, and he seemed as disturbed by me as I of him, so we ultimately called a truce. I still don’t know quite what to make of him, but the problem of our stranding was a more immanent threat.

Also, the Glass Artifact resonated and reacted to him, further emphasizing that our meeting was no coincidence.

Meanwhile, Indira and Sehera were exploring, and found a strange cellar, filled with broken jars and a door, sealing something in. Feng, unable to resist the allure of a mysterious door, sought to open it, despite Sehera’s attempts to stop him.

She is too serious. Sometimes you must let fate carry you along a path for a time; if fate puts you on a small island with naught a single door on it, you should open the door, despite the eerie noises you hear on the other side. Feng lives at the opposite extreme and in his impulsiveness set fire to the door with magic, rather than simply opening it a crack to peer inside…

Smoke rapidly filled the airless room, forcing us to evacuate, save for Feng. The creatures from the other side of the door emerged, hostile elemental beings called earth mefits. In the fight, the mysterious woman—Janna—revealed her skill with bardic song, joining her voice with Nessisus’, giving us the strength to control the creatures while Maisha devastated them with her spirit magic.

In the other room, we found a large glass jar, which we brought out into the late. We reasoned that anything the mischievous mefits chose to keep sealed might not be hostile to us. While the rest of us stood back, Feng opened it, freeing a massive air elemental! In its gratitude, it offered us a boon, a way off the island. Now free, winds returned to this area of the sea.

Janna added a magical song to the winds, saying it would help draw a ship to our aid.

There was little we could do now but wait, so we made camp. While Nessisus entertained my companions with performances I copied the text on the Glass Artifact to parchment, reasoning that a record might prove useful in the future. Then, as I had little else to do, I began this journal during my watch.

My mind is continuously drawn to Marid and the implications of his existence. What is he? If he is what he claims, what am I?

Day 2

We awoke early to the sight of a ship on the horizon. It was nice to get a night’s sleep, though my rest was not easy. Janna lit the fronds of a palm and soon, skiffs landed on the beach.

The ship was a merchant vessel—traveling the route between Sefet and Akkarid—run by a man named Haziz, who was thankfully willing to take on paying passengers for a very modest fee. It would have been well within his rights to take us for all our coins; that he did not was a promising sign.

Unfortunately, he new little of the internal politics of Hazred, so I was unable to find any information to solve the problem of Marid. I was, however, able to get a very fair price for several of our rubies!

Less fair were the tidings that interrupted my conversation with Haziz. While all others were occupied with various business, Sehera had been guarding our belongings. She was approached by Janna, who hypnotized her with magic and then leapt overboard… but not before stealing the Glass Artifact!

Though Maisha dived in after her and swam as fast as she could, Janna revealed herself to be some form of sea-creature and outpaced even the ship.

There was very little we could do but continue to Akkarid, in hopes of asking my uncle Adil al-Khayrat for help.

Day 3

We will reach Akkarid today. There was no further sign of Janna nor the artifact.

While my companions rest, I have spent most of my time focusing on the problem of Marid, while he focuses on the problem of charming Maisha. I probably should help her—or more likely warn him—but the distraction is vital. It is very difficult for me to think clearly while he is present.

My thoughts have led me to a hypothesis, though how I will prove it will be a challenge.

Simply, what if he is telling the truth, as I am? Obviously, common sense says that one of us must be mistaken, but he is familiar with the sort of intimate details of my family that nobody, not even the palace servants would know. And my answers to his tests yield similar results. However, there undeniable differences between our lives, such as the Khayyam al-Mahir of his experience being a full-blooded Anari, so it is not simply a question of different parentage. Indeed, the difference in my—our?—father’s wives raises an intriguing possibility, as it implies that the political situations that lead to my father wedding my mother and Ulrika did not occur to Marid’s father.

(It is worth noting that his mother sounds very similar to my own—and of course most of the servants who raised him were the same as the ones who raised me—which may explain the broad similarity between our personalities. And the less rigid training he received from Khayyam may explain why he seems to be slightly less disciplined than I.)

This would suggest that there are two Hazreds, nearly identical. My initial thought was that, perhaps there was some strange magic afoot that had created a false duplicate on some abandoned stretch of coast, but beyond the obvious lunacy of such a thought, it doesn’t explain these other difference.

But what if there were two worlds? What if there was another world beyond my own, with slight only differences from the existence of my experience? A world where some small, seemingly insignificant event had taken a different tack.

A tutor of mine once said:
“An arrow is a fickle thing. If it is kept dry and if the wood is strong and true, it may fly as true as a falcon. But the smallest flaw can twist its flight.”

That same day, another tutor had explained that, at times, a single stray arrow could decide the fate of a battle, as it was when my grandfather’s grandfather, Riaz al-Sahar, was struck by a friendly arrow that splintered in flight, and caused a lethal infection, halting his relentless expansion of Hazred’s borders.

The first tutor had been reprimanding me for a lack of concern over a minor error. The second had been trying to impress upon me the apparent fickle nature of the gods. But, the proximity of these two lessons struck a chord with me. What if the unknown archer had pulled a different arrow from his quiver at that moment?

In Marid’s history, perhaps an arrow had struck—or missed—a single target, a minor event, but one with expanding ripples of consequence.

What if the Glass Artifact had brought us not to a different time and place, but a different world?

I am reminded of when, in Sefet, we met Ramal, and he said that Lydra was dead. What if, in his experience, Lydra really had died? Could it be that the artifact has been bringing us to new worlds all this time?

Noon:

I write this later, as we wait for a pilot to guide us into dock in Akkarid. I am now almost certain that we are in another possible world, for in the harbor was a great, black vessel the Demon Slayer, a fearsome naval ship that Haziz explained was a gift of friendship from Thaumeris. A Raqaejah with a friendship with Thaumeris is indeed a different Raqaejah, suggesting a broad range of changed diplomatic relationships that could explain my father’s differing marriages. I am still reluctant to share this observation with the others. I await confirmation at my uncles’ home. Marid and I will enter, and he will embrace only one of us as his nephew…

Night:

It appears my hypothesis can now be called theory, for this Adil al-Khayrat, for all his similarities, is not my uncle, but Marid’s.

For all other purposes, he is still the same man, however, as wise and generous as I remember, and he lent us money—and a letter of introduction—to bring my transcript of the Artifact to a translator, a man named Gaius.

We attended this man only to learn, to our surprise, that another had been here seeking translation before us, Janna! Evidently, what she learned was all she sought and she had left the artifact with Gaius. When we explained that it had been stolen, he very generously offered to return it to us.

As an assistant fetched the Artifact—I find it difficult to call it “our” artifact, for it sometimes seems the chain of ownership is reversed—he translated the text. It was not a magical or lost language, but a multi-linguistic code, the first half of a common twelve-stanza prayer to Bahaumat (if stated in an old style).

Gaius further perplexed us by insisting the Artifact to be a non-magical forgery. When we told him the full story, however his interest was piqued and he rescinded his offer to return it.

Then something odd happened. We felt the sensation of some form of energy leaving our bodies and it was as if we had stepped back in the flow of time, before we told our story to Gaius. Taking this as a sign, we left quickly.

This was not the first time we experienced it, for when we were on the back of the cloud ray, there was a moment where it seemed as if some of our number had fallen to their deaths, only to find us back where we were when we first awoke on it. Sehera has reported a similar sensation from when she was struck a seemingly mortal blow in her duel. It is as if the forces behind the Artifact have given us the potential to repeat certain events to prevent failure… but it somehow seems clear we only have a small, limited number of these opportunities.

We returned to my uncle’s home. My mind was reeling, and I was ready to track down Fazia Shula and be done with this. And so we are bathing and dressing, for we are off to the theater, the great Khaymeshab Bazi Theatre in fact, in Akkarid’s wealthy Arusim district where an event is occurring in the girl’s honor. If the pattern be true, this may be our last moments in this world. I shall have to catalog the worlds we visit. I suppose this is the third alternate existence we have visited. Soleria Three. Hopefully, our journey will return us to Soleria Prime…

Later:

We visited the theater, while Marid and Maisha wait with the carriage (and our weapons) in case something goes wrong and we need to leave quickly. The plan was to find Faiza, allow Feng to approach or sneak up on her, touch her with the Artifact, and be on our way.

After the requisite mingling—where we learned that Faiza sounds as pleasant as our initial meeting indicated—I wrote her a note to go with my gift, the same knife she had throw to me. Meanwhile, Nessisus was socializing, and managed to find a faster route, an introduction to the Shula parents. Apparently, he is of a noble elven family of Danu, which intrigued the genasi (who seemed eager for any hope of marrying their daughter off to someone far away. I was tempted to offer Marid…

Despite their distaste at Feng, they invited Nessisus and I to their box, where their daughter was. However, once there, the Artifact did not resonate with her. Also of note: Feng found a white feather, of a sort not unlike his own. We watched the show while he slunk away. The performance was magnificent! Some of my older brothers had seen it, and I had always wanted to. Shame we couldn’t stay for the whole thing.

Feng followed a noise down the halls, until he came across another Kenku, a white one who named herself Miyuki No-Shi, who was in the process of abducting Faiza! (The one sitting by Nessisus and I was likely some doppelganger. We never found out for sure.)

As he explains it, he was able to convince Faiza’s abductor to allow him to touch her with the Artifact. When he did, it began to react, first with text, and second by collapsing the area around him. We ran towards him—he was easy to find for the Artifact was the eye of the storm—and felt ourselves being pulled to somewhere else, as we hoped Maisha and Marid were close enough for the Artifact to work its magic…

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Session 04

Soleria-4, Day 1

We awoke in a hut, a year before our journey began, with a strange man watching us. Just another day on this odd adventure.

Again, more time has passed for our muscle memory, but not for our perception of the past. Feng has mused that, perhaps we have been having adventures that we had forgotten. Sehera disagreed, but was unable to offer a counter-hypothesis. Whatever the truth, we do not have enough information to accurately discern it. With only a few blank sides left to the Glass Artifact, hopefully we’ll get some answers soon…

The hut was in a Khonoman village called Mji Mkuu, in the Jua Nyasi savannah. We had appeared not far from this village and were brought here before waking up. Troublingly, Maisha and Nessisus were not with us.

It was here that we met Abbet Bhujem, the Bu’ade warrior-monk who had found us with the aid of his spirit ally Kupata, a lunar crane-spirit. He seemed trustworthy, so we told him as much of our story as we could while the village shared a feast with us.

He too had a troubling concern, for a Khedive, Kiso Mngani, and his honor guard Mikelebasah Ulehte, had gone missing on the way to some critical peace talks. We suspected our problems may have been connected, and so we agreed to help each other.

The Glass Artifact resonated with Abbet but, as he touched it, the reaction stopped. This had not happened before. Perhaps there is an order to this that we must follow?

Abbet revealed one more thing to us when we described our companions to him; he had been receiving dreams of Maisha for some time now, and in his dreams, she was dying…

After the meal, we set on our journey, heading towards the location we were found in hopes of finding some trace of our friends. Instead, we found traces of the Blighters, a radical splinter of the Maasi, an opposition faction to Khonoma’s ruling spirit council. These corrupt shamans drain the energy from the Earth, leaving lifeless patches behind. This confirmed some of Abbet’s suspicions regarding the missing Elder.

Upon reaching the location we were found, we were attacked by a ferocious leonine spirit, a water spirit cursed to live on land. Though it fought viciously, I ultimately slew it with a thrust of my rapier.

We then discovered some tracks, stretching far into the distance, which we followed for the remainder of the day.

I write this later, having obtained the story from our then-errant companions.

Nessisus and Maisha awoke, bound together in a large cauldron, filled with warm blood, a Xamuss Mchawi—a wise woman—sprinkling them with a strange powder, perhaps in some form of ritual, or perhaps as a seasoning.

Now, dear reader, you may suspect what they related to me to be nothing but hallucinations brought on by the powder, but I assure you this is as true as everything else I have documented.

In the midst of this strange scene, down from the moon came the great spirit Anansi, and he triggered in Nessisus a strange, dire vision that has left him shaken and questioning his very nature. Then, for reasons of his own, the great spider ordered the Mchawi to set our companions free and allow them to go on their way. He said they were “not doombringers,” as she had apparently thought. And, as a final boon, he left with Maisha one of his own legs, hardened into a deadly spear.

The Mchawi then told Maisha that was dying, for a part of her soul was missing, having been separated from her as she was from us. And so Maisha and Nessisus set off on their own journey, venturing West to find this lost piece, delayed only by a short, unpleasant encounter with some wild spirits of the wilderness.

Day 2

After breaking camp, we continued after the tracks, which ultimately led to the Mbaya Mahali, a region devoid of life—probably destroyed some time ago by the Blighters, or a force much like them. Kupata could accompany us no further, but we felt confident that we could continue on the path without him.

Our desert-made clothing proved a thankful boon, for the region’s only form of surviving life were billowing clouds of biting insects. Abbet was not so dressed, but his determination led him onward.

We spotted and approached a group of strange individuals, four men completely covered in cloth and speaking in eerie, sibilant voices. Between them they carried a long, ornate box, like a coffin for a snake. They were reluctant to provide us aid, nor to tarry with us for long, but we learned something quite interesting. Their leader was Mikelebasah Ulehte, one of the very men we sought.

We followed these people at a short distance—they made no effort to discourage our pursuit—and, in time, we began to see more groups, all nearing the same location.

When we arrived, we beheld some manner of ritual being prepared. More of the long boxes were lain out in a fan before a fire by these mysterious beings. And, enthroned beyond the fire was Mikelebasah Ulehte, with the missing Elder, Kiso Mngani, tied beside him.

Amazingly, arriving simultaneous to us were Maisha and Nessisus, who were alive, but not necessarily well. They had apparently also encountered box-carriers on their own journey and followed them to the same location.

We approached Mikelebasha, questioning his actions. My companions may find my formality in such situations strange. I suspect they would have been just as happy to run in, arrows flying, but there are too many unknowns in our situation to lose any chance to gain answers, even ones that may seem inconsequential at the time. I do not believe the artifact is sending us to these various locations at the times it does by chance. Additionally, Khayyam always said one should try to get the measure of a man before fighting him; that battle can be won before they begin.

Admittedly, I need to get better at that, for as soon as battle did begin, our opponent very nearly killed me. If it were not for the timely application of a healing potion, I might not be alive to record this journal.

Mikelebasah and his two Blighter guards were very nearly more than a match for us, even with the strength and chivalry of Abbet. Fortunately, Feng and Sehera freed Kiso before taking any other action, and the Elder revealed himself to be a powerful healer, pulling us back from the brink of defeat.

Feng also had him touch the Glass Artifact, which reacted in its usual fashion.

Once our foes were defeated, we tried to solve the puzzle of the boxes, for we suspected one of them contained the fragment of Maisha’s soul. Fortunately, Kiso was able to pinpoint the correct one and she was reunited with the absent part of her. At least, that is what she tells me happened.

It was then that Anansi showed himself again. As much of a surprise it was to Maisha and Nessisus, it was an even greater surprise to we who had not encountered him previously. I have seen many strange things in the past days, but few so strange as Anansi.

He took back his arm from Maisha—it had served its purpose in wounding Mikelebasha—and, to the shock of all, touched the Glass Artifact, causing it to react to him instead of, as we had predicted, the noble Abbet.

He laughed as he vanished with Kiso, calling us “Doombringers…”

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Session 05

Soleira-5, Day 1

We awoke, bound to chairs. This time, the Glass Artifact had deposited us in a Itwaari military camp, and so we were promptly found and detained.

As we would come to learn, the apparent jump back in time that we experienced was far greater than any before. Twelve years, in fact, relative to our chance meeting in Sefet. At this time, Itwaar held military dominion over Zameen, and our host, Samanya Dinesh Jayendra was commanding forces in the Northwestern Steppes to suppress a rebellion.

Unfortunately, we do not have accurate references of time for our second and fourth journey, but the amount of time we progress back in time seems to grow at increasing rate. After this, we may have one more journey before the artifact’s sides are filled. I wonder how far we will be sent back next? My first thought is that, perhaps we will come to an event that has been the source of the divergences we have experienced from the world we knew, but when I recall that according to Marid al-Husam, the Khayyam al-Mahir of his experience was a full-blood Anari—and thus significantly older by virtue of the elves’ long, slow lives—we would have to go back very far indeed for all of the differences to be accounted for…

It is possible, of course, that I am mistaken in my hypothesis of multiple universes. Indira pointed out that it is possible that not every place the Glass Artifact has brought us to is necessarily a new universe. After all, every contradictory thing we have noticed only contradicts Soleira Prime, not each other. There could be only one additional universe.

That would be a valid solution to our quandary, but it lacks elegance. If multiple worlds are possible, as seems to be the case, why would they stop at two? How could there be only one event momentous enough to create a new history? If multiple realities are possible, why would all realities not be possible? Of course, that is perhaps a digression. I believe Indira’s point was not that there would only be two universes, but that the Artifact is taking us through the history of one. I’d ask her to clarify, but she is… occupied at the moment.

Forgive my tangent. I have had much fine wine tonight. When we awoke, bound by the Samanya, we were questioned. Though Feng’s belligerence could have cost us our heads, it was ultimately his words that persuaded our captor that we were not spies.

Of greater difficulty was persuading him to return the Glass Artifact to us. He wished to send it to be examined by one Sanjay Ere, a specialist in magic and Indira’s father. This offhand revelation shocked Indira, understandably, for her father had been enslaved when she was a child. If we had gone to the Elemental Plane of Air, I wonder what we would have beheld.

But that was not to be our destination. The Samanya decided we were of little use to him, and offered us our freedom and the Artifact in exchange for a favor. We were to travel to “Tamba Khoya” with a man named Sartaj Bharatra and to assist him on his mission. After meeting Sartaj, I suspect the Samanya hoped to bury several problems simultaneously in that mine.

To say Sartaj gave a strong first impression is an understatement. He seemed a wild man, debauching himself on wine, women, and song, and he greatly misinterpreted what we meant when we told him that the Samanya sent us to him. After he recovered from Maisha’s response to his advances, we were all able to clarify our situations.

He was a member of the Order of the Silver Sun, though fallen into disgrace. As penance, he was dispatched to hunt a fugitive, Maqsood Musaru, whose crime was being resurrected, violating Samsara, a crime punishable by death. This Terashal was once an Itwaari sharpshooter, though now he fought for the Zameeni rebels and had become a dire threat. Sartaj had pursued him for a long time, cornering him in Tamba Khoya, an abandoned copper mine.

The Glass Artifact has not been returned to us yet, but I would not be surprised if he was one of those we have been sent to meet.

We have spent a fine evening with him, sharing stories and song and much wine. But now, as the night’s revelries draw to a close—and I write this on some borrowed paper—I am struck by a hint of melancholy. Sartaj has quickly become friends with us, particularly with Indira, but we have not been fully honest with him. Though we have told him some of our story, there are matters of which he does not know, such as my growing suspicion that the other person we must “collect” for the Artifact may be his quarry, Maqsood Musaru. Though we have gladly offered to help him in his mission, depending on what events unfold, we may have to rescind that offer…

The confusion I had when we “collected” the spider-creature in the Sheel Khali Desert has grown into a gnawing suspicion. Our purpose remains unknown even to us and our methods do not feel honorable.

Day 2
Upon the dawn, we were roused and given our supplies and given an opportunity to acquire some new ones. Tamba Khoya was not far from the camp, so our journey was quick and uneventful. When we arrived, I had an opportunity to check on the Glass Artifact, which did indeed react to Sartaj. We then delved into the darkness of the mines.

Though the mine had been used as a stronghold by Zameeni rebels, no activity had been noticed for days and scouts had not returned.

We soon found out why, for some force was reanimating the dead. Fortunately, the Order of the Silver Sun specializes in banishing the undead, and so Sartaj was of great help. Periodically Maqsood shot at us from the darkness in an attempt to drive us off, but he only succeeded in confirming our path of pursuit.

At one branch, we happened upon a dead-end, where several jars of an explosive substance were stacked, perhaps to open up a new tunnel. On the roof of the small chamber were strange eggs… From back down the tunnel, Maqsood lit the fuse, which Sehera promptly cut, but then the eggs then began hatching. In all stories I have heard, things that hatch out of mysterious eggs in dark caves are rarely healthy for adventurers, so most of us ran down the hall while Sehera—the fastest of us—stayed with Feng to light the fuse again. But the creature that hatched was not a threat but kind of cute.

Indira went back to see what it was and was instantly smitten by the tiny flying snake hatchling, which she has adopted as a pet. However, Maqsood had, apparently, remained hidden at the edge of the tunnel and shot the jars, detonating them.

He escaped in the confusion—he must have been right on top of us—but we had wounded companions to tend to.

The wall the explosives broke revealed something strange, the wall of an ancient metal structure, inscribed with strange markings. I wish I had thought to get a rubbing of these symbols at the time, for we were not able to decipher them.

We continued pursuit and encountered a pair of strange flying beasts, not unlike winged gnolls, who attacked us with arrows, driving us down a narrow corridor, where a cluster of zombies which had been pursing us overtook us. Though the zombies were destroyed quickly, unfortunately, there was little we could do to combat the flying creatures. Fortunately for us, however, they also ran afoul of Maqsood, whom they pursued, giving us a chance to continue.

Eventually, we found a stair leading to a lower level of the mine, where we discovered the corpse of a Daricassan, perhaps Maqsood’s spotter, and a particularly hideous undead creature. Upon defeating that beast, we came upon Maqsood.

Though Sartaj wished to slay him immediately, the Glass Artifact resonated with our quarry. Though we convinced Maqsood to touch the Artifact, we also had to break Sartaj’s trust. Embracing the place of cold authority within my mind, where such decisions must be anchored, made it possible to do—exactly as my father taught us—but no less unpleasant.

I have not had many friends in my life. Many brothers and cousins, of course, and a few who I would count as true friends as well as family, but that is different. That night in Sartaj’s camp is one of the first times that I have spent in easy enjoyment with ones who I could call peers. It distresses me to have tarnished it thus. I hope we have a chance to meet Sartaj again. We used him unfairly for our own ends. I suspect he could have been a great friend; now the best I can hope for is to atone, so that we do not have to be enemies.

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Session 06

Session 06

Soleira 6

Our penultimate journey via the Glass Artifact. Whatever comes next, I shall be happy to never hear another joke about “touching my glass rod.”

We awoke in darkness, having been found by a Daricassan by the name of Lazar Al Rakim. We were still in Tamba Khoya, but as this man seemed to be the same who we had earlier found dead, something clearly was different…

Interestingly, the fact that we have arrived here not only close to the time we had on our last trip, but actually later casts the significance of our time travel into some doubt. Obviously, something notable occurred in the Spring of Ash, something of note to the forces behind the Artifact, that is, something more significant than at any other time or location we have visited.

After some quiet negotiations, we got to know our new guide a little better. He resonated with the Artifact and we persuaded him to touch it. I had hoped that, perhaps, if the artifact was breaking its apparent time-travel rules, it might also break its rules for extraction, but no such luck. As we already “collected” Sartaj Bharatra and Maqsood Musaru—aside from us the only living people in the mine last time—this meant there was someone, or some_thing_ we had yet to encounter.

We followed Lazar a ways until we yet again encountered the flying gnoll-like creatures. This time, however, they were not nearly so successful against us, with much credit going to Lazar’s powerful magics, exactly what one would suspect from an Imrebat. (What a Raqaejahn soldier was doing in Zameen during the Spring of Ash is another quandary altogether.)

After defeating the creatures, called Marrash, and some of their zombies—according to Lazar, these strange, Outsider creatures are responsible for the undead scourge—we met Maqsood Musaru again, leading to a tense discussion of our purpose here and of our knowledge of the ancient metal structure behind the rock wall. And, again, Sartaj was on his trail, accompanied this time by several soldiers. Alas, there was no compromising with him—for what did we have to offer save for handing over Lazar?—and had to fight. It is only a small comfort that it was Lazar who struck down this Sartaj in the end.

The immanent threat dealt with, we ventured yet again into the depths of the mine. We happened upon ritual site, where some spell had gone awry and only with the ultimate sacrifice were the spellcasters able to undo their mistake. It seems plausible that this is how the Marrash entered the mine.

Further, the tunnels grew light from some mysterious source. In a dead-end chamber grew a strange, glowing tree, a Saramite Tree, a thing of which most of us had only heard briefly mentioned in legend. Maqsood and Lazar seemed frustrated that it bore no fruit, but we had not much time to ponder this for two Spawn of Kyuss, like the hideous, rotten thing we had previously encountered, had followed us.

Instead of destroying these abominations, however, we had an additional challenge in store for us, for Lazar tasked us with bringing them within reach of the Tree, while we ourselves kept our distance. While we braved their hideousness, their repulsive grasp, and their monstrous, flesh-eating grubs—a thing I fear will haunt my dreams for some time to come—Sehera, Indira, and Feng bound them in rope and dragged them to the Tree, which destroyed them.

From their energies, the Tree grew a strange fruit which Maqsood shot after we found shelter. The resultant explosion tore the Tree apart and a section of the wall as well, revealing a tunnel.

Following this tunnel led us to the interior of the metal structure, a cyclopean chamber of strange geometries, miles across. As we explored, Nessisus was seized by a violent fit, falling to the ground. Almost immediately, the structure began coming to life, complex patterns of runic symbols glowing with life.

Later, Nessisus described the experience as a powerful vision. My description would not do it justice however, and surely he will immortalize it in song.

Eventually, we found an entrance into a tunnel, which led to a nexus of many tunnels. After choosing to continue straight ahead, Nessisus was beset by another fit, another vision he said. I had an aunt who had fits like this, who also claimed to have visions. She began to change and died painfully. I hope Nessisus is correct about the nature of these episodes, but perhaps we should drag him to a physician… and perhaps a cleric.

As before, his episode seemed to trigger another change in the structure around us and, from everywhere, these things began to awaken. Roughly like a man in form, they were tall and gaunt and they looked at us with hungry eyes. As there seemed to be no end of them, we sought to outpace them, running down the corridors until we reached another chamber, within which stood a mighty statue, not unlike others we had passed in this strange structure. The Glass Artifact resonated with it—perhaps it was an inactive golem or some even stranger being—and we touched it.

As great violence beset our surroundings it whisked us away again…

Unknown

We awoke bound. Memories flooded back, vague patches of a man questioning me, asking me my story.

Moments later, that same man entered, he had called himself Anton De Orlean, along with a woman who looked almost exactly like Lydra Geb, and a man who bore a similarly exact resemblance to Abbet Bhujem. They spoke briefly of preserving us—and of disposing of the “others”—before “Abbet” left, leaving us with de Orleans and “Lydra.”

But he, himself was not who he appeared to be. He was none other than Anansi in disguise, as he revealed by spitting web at Lydra. He freed us and gave us some cryptic remarks before vanishing…

And so the tale of our journey by the Glass Artifact comes to a close but, dear reader, the greater story is far from over. Indeed, I suspect it has only just begun…

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Session 07

Unknown

Having been freed from our bonds by Anansi, we collected our bearings and removed the acupuncture needles that had suppressed our magic-users powers, before turning to the woman who looked like Lydra Geb. Feng, in a particularly anxious mood, attempted to bully the woman into talking, go so far as to light the webbing that bound her.

After Sehera patted out the flames—and began arguing with Feng—we bound her to one of the chairs. It seemed this woman was as mute as the Lydra we knew and was unwilling to communicate, we took her keys and left her be.

We hid in a neighboring cell as a pair of heavily armored guards passed on patrol. Upon observing them, it quickly became clear that they were mindless automata. (We later learned they were of a type typically called “Dread Guards,” little more than animate suits of armor.)

Waiting patiently for them to move into the distance, we proceeded down the halls of our prison. The architecture was plain, unadorned, and lacking in windows, offering no hint as to where we were. Any rooms we passed were empty, and signs abounded that the facility had been abandoned, its users—presumably those responsible for the Glass Artifact—leaving little trace of their identity or purpose.

The first room of interest we discovered contained some abandoned equipment, including a large crystal container containing a fog not unlike that within the Glass Artifact and several strange beetles, large ornately colored creatures with tentacles for limbs. Clearly these entities were not of this world.

Feeling sorry for them, Indira freed these creatures, but the noise attracted guards. When the beetles began chewing holes in the air itself and escaping, we followed them, for we were unarmed.

We found ourselves in a peculiar, ghostly realm, the Ethereal Plane. We explored our surroundings, finding we could move through obstacles of the Material Plane with ease, and discovered where our possessions were kept. We also realized we were being watched… Finding no way out, we recaptured one of the beetles, passing through the portal it made in trying to escape us.

Reunited with our arms and armor, we felt more confident in our chances of survival. We also discovered a seventh set of belongings alongside are own. Perhaps there was another captive nearby who needed our help? After waiting for more guards to pass, we examined the nearby rooms until we found one that was occupied.

Within, a strange scene was being played out. At the center, a large tank was filled with faintly glowing oils, slowly roiling and changing colors. To either side were chairs, facing the tank, in which were secured a Xamuss woman and a strange, wormlike creature of vaguely humanoid proportions. All were connected by cords into a single apparatus.

We freed her and disconnected her from the apparatus. The woman, a cleric of Pelor named Lyr, later explained that it was some manner of game that she and the creature were forced to play against each other. She knew not how long she was in captivity, but it seemed to be several days.

As we reunited her with her belongings, four guards arrived. As we fought them, the creature escaped its bonds and began to attack us, using mental abilities to cloud our minds so far as to force Indira to turn her bow against us. Lyr, however, proved a skilled ally and helped us overcome this threat.

We continued to explore our prison, eventually stumbling across a room we recognized, for we all remembered—before awaking a few hours ago—Anton De Orlean interrogating us in this room, ostensibly for the benefit of our captors, though we knew the truth.

It was then that we were found yet again. A woman named Jaleh—who claimed to be our chief jailer—entered the room accompanied by more women who looked exactly like Lydra Geb. We learned that these beings were called Ancillae, though what they are remains a mystery. Needless to say, we did not desire to return to our cell and wait patiently for fate to play its hand.

The fight was a difficult. Jaleh wielded twin rapiers with inhuman ferocity for she was, in fact, some sort of construct, and the ancillae were fierce combatants themselves.

Perhaps it was the strange way that time has affected us—allowing us to improve our skills without the benefit of experience—perhaps it was ill luck, or perhaps she was simply the superior combatant, for Jaleh brought me to the brink of death more than once in our brief battle. If not for Lyr’s magic, I would surely have died then. But I did not die and, in fact, managed to sever one of her hands, striking her with one of her rapiers.

As the battle wore on, she began to slow, until she decided to withdraw, vowing vengeance upon me in particular. I must train heavily for such an event, for I hope I can meet her evenly next time. I suppose I should also offer my thanks to Pelor…

Badly wounded and nearly spent, we continued to search for an egress. Instead, we found a large chamber, in which a man was conducting some form of experiment on the strange statue we found in Tamba Khoya.

When confronted, the man caused the doors to be sealed with great slabs of rock by some magical command. Feng lost his composure and appeared about to assault the man. I also nearly lost my own composure and was a breath away from striking Feng when Lyr stepped in, forcing us all to cease hostilities.

A potential crisis averted—I suspect the man was no mere scholar and we would not have survived another trying battle—we talked. The man named himself Seb Rashidi, Provost of Al-Mhuqtebel, the laboratory/prison we were in, and servant of an organization called the Ordo Clavis. At last, we had a name to put to our captors…

Seb Rashidi explained that none would leave Al-Mhuqtebel without his permission, that those we collected with the artifact were to be killed, that he felt no responsibility or regret for this, and, since there was nothing we could do, we should return to our cell. Our conversation revealed little else of note, for he was evasive, answering questions as honestly as possible while remaining entirely unhelpful.

In addition to Seb Rashidi’s experimental apparatus, the room contained many games of strategy. Feng began to take his frustrations out on his surroundings, knocking over a Pai-sho set. While Seb Rashidi and Feng argued, Indira and Sehera began to examine a Chaturanga board, which caught Seb Rashidi’s eye.

He offered us a bargain, if we would amuse him by solving a puzzle, he would give us a boon. We agreed and he set before us The Riddle of The Herald. Upon our discovery of a solution, he said that he would allow one of our companions to live. Seemingly on impulse Nessisus declared that the ally to live should be the statue. Though Seb Rashidi thought at first that this was a jest—for of all our companions, the statue was the only one who was clearly not alive—Nessisus was quite serious. With a mocking tone he declared “Statue, I give you life!”

Promptly, Seb Rashidi dropped to the ground dead and the statue came to life. As I understand it, most constructs are animated by binding a spirit within a physical frame. (Jaleh seemed to have been powered by a water spirit, for example) Sehera believes he accidentally sacrificed himself to bring the golem to life. I am not so sure, and would not be entirely surprised to see Seb Rashidi’s machinations return in some way. Nessisu feels this only confirms his greatness.

Then Feng lit the body on fire.

The golem seemed to begin its life as a blank slate. If it had such an existence before, any access to its history seemed lost, and it was capable of saying no more than its name, Chaim. But it quickly began displaying great intelligence, for, when I suggested that it break down the blocked door, it instead how we could use a crystal wand we found on the body of Seb Rashidi as a key.

Free of this chamber, we discovered nearby more cells, these containing our ten remaining companions. We freed them and managed to avoid any possible conflicts—such as between Sartaj Bharatra and Maqsood Musaru or between the spider creature and us. In the later case, Kiso Mngani helped open a dialog with this being, who was revealed to be intelligent, if wild and scared.

After also finding our companions’ belongings, we decided to see if the crystal wand would allow us to leave Al-Mhuqtabel, for Seb Rashidi said that his permission was required to leave. Indeed, the wand opened up a portal and we all escaped through it, finding ourselves within The Great Library of Akkarid

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Session 08

Akkarid, Soleria-Prime. May 16

We have made it home and for that I thank the gods who oversee travelers. All our actions since our chance meeting in Sefet have been in pursuit of this. I would like to say that I had been able to tell the instant we stepped into The Great Library of Akkarid, but it was not until later that we were able to verify this.

We now stood in the middle of The Great Library, with guards approaching from all sides. Weary and blooded, we were strapped for options of an easy escape. That is when inspiration presented me a clever plan. Quickly, I gathered up a handful of scrolls, Feng, a bottle of ink, and a boot…

Lady Lestoue, as you have no doubt noticed, the previous several pages, detailing the unusual adventure of our escape from the library—while hopefully entertaining—are entirely fictional. I thought it wise to not leave an accurate description of our conversation and my companions’ travel plans in the Library, within easy reach of the OC. Thus the prior account of our “escape,” as devoid of facts as possible. I have, however, recorded the truth for my own purposes, and could provide copies of these pages if you request them, along with the inevitable further accounts of our strange exploits. Yours, HHHHH.

Upon the entrance of myself and my fellow escapees from Al-Mhuqtebel, we were greeted by a group of guards. We were able to convince them that we were not an immediate threat but, understandably, they were not quick to let us leave. Eventually we were joined by one Captain Hunzuu, who would hear our story. He led us to a side room, seeking to avoid any patrons or librarians noticing us. We thought that he may have simply been seeking to avoid mass panic at such a large group of armed warriors but, from what we would later learn, he may have had greater concerns in mind.

Though skeptical of our story, he could not deny the evidence before his eyes, particularly when a guard, Emad, who had once served the Shula family, identified Fazia, who in this world had died several years ago.

With this knowledge—and our explanation of how we entered the library—he seemed convinced and brought us through back passages up many, many flights of stairs. He spoke little but, when questioned, he provided the date (two months since Sefet) and confirmed that there had indeed been a conflict there akin to the one we saw.

Ultimately, he gave us over to the care of the Provost of the library, Claudia Lestoue, the former Queen of the Kingdom of Lestoue and of the unified Kingdom of Rastahl.

She heard our story and seemed particularly interested in our experiences with the Ordo Clavis. She then relayed her own experiences with them and their role in her rise and fall in Rastahl. She clearly bore them no love and seemed distressed at our tale, which confirmed many of her worst fears of their cruel nature, but there was little she could do. The Ordo Clavis, through extensive funding of the Library, has obtained great political power in Akkarid.

I recall hearing of the troubles in Rastahl from my tutors as a youth, but the conflict seemed far away and so had little to do with me. Is it irony that elements of that strife now affect me so personally, or simply proof that I should have listened to my teachers’ words? Perhaps, some day, it will be my lack of attention to al-Kitab al-Jabr will result in a mathematical doom, not death by foe’s blade or a dragon’s fangs.

Lady Lestoue then showed to us a piece of an Onyx Artifact that was, in form, exactly like the Glass Artifact. It was a piece of the device we saw broken in the conflict in Sefet. She suspects that its purpose was solely to keep the other device in check and, when it broke, the Glass Artifact began operating on a pre-determined course, taking us with it.

This was a stark reminder. I had been blaming the Ordo Clavis for our journey for the past several hours, but it was only chance that saw it land in my hands. Chance or the design of the gods. I might as well attempt to revenge myself on a winter storm.

But as I look at my companions, now enjoying the hospitality of our host, I do not think I can let these dogs lie. They had been so willing to dispose of the others. The apparent destruction caused by our exit of the other worlds was due to their designs. And let us not forget what they had done to poor Lyr, who is still struggling to regain her bearings and fractured memories of her past.

Quite simply, I do not like them. Every instinct of judgment, every lesson of ethics and responsibility I have been taught by my father, my tutors, my mentor screams at me that the Ordo Clavis is not to be abided. The search for knowledge is no more excuse for atrocities than the lust for wealth, power, any of the factors that drives a corrupt mind to harm others.

My master often told me of “The Call,” the thing which all blademaster dream of. More than a cause to fight for, it is a guiding mission. A thing that gives one’s life meaning beyond and enhancing the joy of adventure. I believe that I may have found my Call.

May 17

In the morning, I breakfasted with our companions one last time and reflected upon the previous evening.

After our discussion with the Provost last night, Fazia Shula left to return to her family. I can understand her desire not to accept our help, but I fear she is in for a troublesome time. Perhaps I should ask one of my cousins to keep an open ear for rumors of her activities.

We were treated well by servants chosen by our host. A healer tended to Sehera and I, then, a luxurious bath, a new shirt not covered in my own blood, and a fine meal later, I began to feel alive again. Nessisus performed a song for us, a strange piece describing visions he has had. (I am still somewhat concerned for his health. If he suffers another fit, I am bringing him to a master healer whether he likes it or not.) Finally, I was able to record in my journal the events of our two experiences in Tamba Khoya and in Al Mhuqtebel. I felt a great sense of relief in finally being able to preserve those events. I must also have Nessisus transcribe his song when we have the opportunity.

And now, our large party is dividing.

Marid al-Husam is accompanying Maisha and Kiso Mngani back to Kohonma.

Sartaj Bharatra and Cressida Shesel are traveling across the Sheel Khali Desert towards Itwaar, both seeking to return to their homes.

Lydra Geb and Ramal will return to Sefet to attempt to assess the Agents of the Cobalt Crown, servants of Azu-Makeen, the great blue dragon. These former allies of the Ordo Clavis may be allies no longer, a fact we may be able to use to our advantage.

Maqsood Musaru and Lazar Al Rakim will return to Al-Mhuqtebel along with Qessab, the Ettercap whom we all have finally learned the name and species of. They plan on ambushing the “cleaners” we heard spoken of and, hopefully claim the structure for our own purposes.

Chaim seems content to remain at the Library. He has been reading all night, with no signs of slowing. I hope when next we meet, we can hold a conversation. I am interested to learn if he knows anything of the strange place we found him.

The rest of my traveling companions, Feng, Indira, Sehera, and Nessisus plan on accompanying the operation to retake Al-Mhuqtebel then, later, hopefully reunite with Lydra and Ramal in Sefet. I shall be accompanying them. Lyr has also expressed interest, but her condition, after hours if not days of neglect, is still quite tenuous. She will do as she must, but she is a spirited companion and would be a welcome addition to our band.

But first, we shall take advantage of being in Akkarid and acquire some new equipment. Then I would like to call upon my uncle. His help will be valuable in our enterprise; I would like any who need contact us to be able to do so through him and his knowledge could be a great help as well.

I would also like to warn him about the Ordo Clavis. Ideally, he could use his influence at the court and amongst the community of noble alchemists to undermine their growing power in Raqaejah. At the least, I can warn them about the subtle danger they may pose to him personally as a notable scholar. He is an honest, loyal man, but the lens of curiosity through which he surveys the world could be a weakness the Ordo Clavis could exploit. I will not have these bastards suborn my family.

Tonight, we may finally stop reacting, and begin to act.

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Session 09

Akkarid, Soleria-Prime. May 17

It is difficult to tally up how long we have been traveling together, as our method of travel has created broken strands of causality. I feel like months, years have passed, or perhaps only mere hours.

Our first meeting, in Sefet, took all of a few seconds until we were whisked away to several days in the relative past. There, we spent, at most, a few hours following Lydra Geb until we reached Ramal. (Now that I think of it, she knew where we were going. Did she realize the date? Was she trying to prevent something from happening? Did the Ramal of our world die in that warehouse by the hands of the Agents of the Cobalt Crown? I wish I could ask her.) Let us call it three hours.

We then journeyed to the Sheel Khali Dessert and met Cressida Shesel. It was but a short walk to her tribe’s camp. We then stayed in the marketplace through the end of the afternoon. After Sehera’s dual, the sun was beginning to set. We could not have been in Qessab’s cave for longer than half an hour. Generously, I estimate eight hours.

Our next journey was our longest. We were dropped into the ocean by Fazia Shula at about midday, spent the next day aboard a merchant vessel, and left via the artifact the following night. Fifty-six hours.

Our fourth journey began around lunchtime, and we spent the entire afternoon walking, camping that night. The next day, a long walk, coming to a close in our battle with Mikelebasah Ulehte around sunset. Thirty-two hours.

Our fifth journey began in the evening. We entered Tamba Khoya before midday and we not in there long. Being generous, twenty hours.

Our sixth journey was shorter than the previous to the mine, as our travel time was entirely eliminated. Three hours at most.

We then spent about four hours escaping Al-Mhuqtebel and approximately fourteen hours in the library. It is now late, roughly thirty-four hours since we were freed by Anansi.

That is one hundred and fifty-six hours, generously estimating and including the time spent asleep. Six and a half days placed end to end. A week since I parted ways with Maram afore her father could… well, best not to think of it.

I feel it not overly presumptuous to say that no man has ever had a week like the one I have just survived.

We began today by bidding our companions farewell and good luck and then set out to purchase equipment, provisions, and some new clothes. I invested a portion of our funds in a fine buckler. I lost my old shield at some point and I am glad to get a new one, particularly a lighter one that will not slow me down. My brutal handling by Jaleh reminded me how close death can be…

Eventually, we regrouped at a central fountain and journeyed to my uncle’s estate. A second carriage followed us closely, unbidden. Sehera pursued us on foot to keep an eye on it.

My uncle’s manservant, Abu, did not recognize me at first, prompting a momentary lurch of fear, but he simply had not seen me in ten years. Neither my uncle nor aunt was home, but he welcomed my companions and I in. Eventually the second carriage discharged Maqsood Musaru, who entered through the servant’s entrance with a trunk that held his rifle. (I had begun to suspect that it was he, and possibly Qessab, when they made had made no hostile move. I surmised that Maqsood, who was acting in such a secretive manner, would prefer to pass through the less-visible servant’s entrance.)

Unfortunately, Abu seemed convinced that one of my companions was my wife, fiancée, or at least a… romantic partner. There was naught I could do to dissuade him of this, just as there was very little I could do to cause him to stop talking.

We spent the next few hours in the garden, drinking tea and observing the interesting flora and fauna, until my Uncle returned.

He was, as ever, himself.

After explaining to him my romantic circumstances or, rather, the lack thereof, I shared our entire story. Fortunately, he believed every word of it—except perhaps that I was not engaged to Sehera, Lyr, Indira, or some combination of the three. When he asked me why I told him this, I answered truthfully that I wished to warn him about the menace of the Ordo Clavis, that he should spurn their influence, reject any advances of theirs, and, if possible, advise others to do the same. I did not tell him of the nightmare I had last night, of a very different outcome to this meeting as, here in the comfort of family, such fears seemed increasingly far away.

He then helped prepare some explosive devices, which Maqsood, Feng, and I felt might be helpful in our return to Al-Mhuqtebel. He also prepared a potion for Lyr, to help her troubled body and mind. It rendered her unconscious, but my Aunt—who returned at about this time and to whom I did not have to explain my female companions—assured us that it would not cause her harm. Of course, it is quite possible that all Lyr truly needed was sleep, long and sound, after her ordeal and, in his own way, my uncle had recognized that.

It has grown late as I write this at the desk my uncle uses for his diplomatic work, his curiously faithful half-basilisk at my feet, and a glass of mulled wine in my hand. I realize now that, for the first time in that six and a half days, I am fully relaxed. Up to now, to this moment, my strange journey had not truly been over.

When I first set out on my adventure, there was something always in the back of my mind that I wasn’t even aware of: that I could go home. That, if something ever went truly wrong, be it crippling injury or simply realizing that my father was right and this is a stupid idea, I could return to Hazred and see my mother’s beautiful face and once again laugh with my brothers and cousins and eventually marry some minor noble girl as chosen by my father and live out to a comfortable old age. It was never a prospect I thought much of, but it was there. A safety line.

After the first time the Glass Artifact carried us away, I knew something strange was happening. When I met Marid I knew that my safety line had been cut. There was no true home for me. There is no true home now for Marid. But he has time to adapt and he will. (And, as far as I am concerned, he is family, and I will do what I can to do right by him.) The Glass Artifact did not give us time to adapt. We had nothing but the vague hope that, when it finished whatever it was doing, it would bring us back. I almost envy Maisha in her return to Khonoma.

But I do not want to retreat to Hazred. I know that now with certainty, not from having lost it, but from having that option returned to me. I set out for a purpose. It may seem a selfish purpose, but it is in memory of my friend, in service of my master’s sword, in honor of my great ancestors, that I do this. I embrace this journey now. Now that I have the choice to do so.

And yes, Iskandar, I will have fun.

It is time now. The streets are quiet and I must allow Feng and Sehera out of the side door. Maqsood said that he saw someone in the opposite house—a typically unoccupied house—observing us and that he “took care of it.” It would not have been appropriate at the time, with the streets so busy, but now, they will sneak in to this house and see what there is to find. I could not possibly guess…

They have returned. Maqsood’s knife flew true. They discovered the body of a lone assassin, who had on him a list of names. Most were unknown to us, even to Abu.

One, however, was Indira Ére.

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Session 10

Akkarid, Soleria-Prime. May 18

We awoke early, but Lyr had already been up for some time, filled with energy. My uncle’s concoction had helped, though her memories are still shattered. Beyond amnesia, her mind seems intact. I wonder again at the aim of the experiment she was trapped in. Was this devastation of her memory, leaving her other faculties intact, the purpose of it?

The six of us, Lazar Al Rakim, and Maqsood Musaru commissioned a pair of carriages and traveled to the library. Alone, I approached the guards bearing a letter for Captain Hunzuu, posing as a courier. Not betraying the content of the letter or our prior knowledge of each other, he informed me of where to “make the delivery.”

My friends and I waited at this location until a pair of guards approached, as the Captain had described—we knew them by the blue plumes, rather the standard red—and led us down an alley, changing their appearance along the way so as to confuse any onlookers. Though we know the Captain and the Provost of the Library are friendly to us, there were no doubt agents of the Ordo Clavis whose gaze we hope we avoided.

They brought us into the Library by some form of teleportation magic and the Captain escorted us to the location within the library where we had arrived. Once Qessab joined us, Indira opened the portal and we stepped through…

Al-Mhuqtebel was dark and abandoned so we retraced our steps, finding ourselves again in Seb Rashidi’s chamber. The corridor leading to the rest of the complex seemed a suitable enough point to lay an ambush, and so we prepared ourselves.

Indira slipped into the darkness, returning once she heard the noise of the Zabaniya—the construct guards—as well as a strange disturbance in the air. Qessab wove a tangle of webs in the hall to, hopefully, slow our enemies. She warned us that what approached was not just the guards, but also their leader, a thing that was not like us, but like all of us. We would soon discovered what she meant…

As we waited, a deep, inhuman voice called out to us from the dark, telling us that evacuation had been ordered and to state our business. I attempted to give an impression of Seb Rashidi—our presence was already detected and so I might as well obtain some information—but after a short dialog the conversation abruptly ended when something burned away Qessab’s webbing.

The thing that spoke charged down the hall. In form, it was like a gigantic gorilla, but made of metal and leather and unnatural substances. I later learned that this was a type of construct called a Warforged, which are more like living things than the Zabaniya.

As we engaged this hulking brute, several Zabaniya approached from down the corridor… as well as a pair of fireball spells, which detonated beyond Sehera and I. Lazar was instantly killed from massive burns and Nessisus was brought down as well. It seemed for a moment that he shared Lazar’s fate, but Lyr was able to save him. Upon recovering, he was panicked and nearly fled the field.

When he rejoined the battle, we had killed the warforged brute and began to fight the Zabaniya by the illumination of a rock charmed with a light spell.

In a moment of resourcefulness, Feng used the remains of the Warforged to create a metal warrior, which joined us against the Zabaniya. When we destroyed some of their number, more devastating spells began to strike us from the darkness. Sehera ran towards the source as I, Lyr, and Feng’s metal warrior continued to fight the targets in front of us.

Feng cast another light source beyond us in the dark hall, revealing Sehera and Qessab paralyzed and brought near death by an unknown foe. Quickly, I dispatched two more Zabaniya and dived away from the fray. I grabbed the light-ensorcelled rock, dashed towards the darkness, and hurled the light beyond my allies, revealing what they fought.

The creature that was not like us, but like all of us was a six-armed thing about the size of a slender man, with a strange, birdlike face. It held in two of its hands a magical disk and its other hands were in constant motion, for it was able to cast powerful spells at a fearsome rate, giving it and its kind the name Spell Weaver. Beyond it were two large entities, with strange, indistinct bodies and eerie white masks for faces. These were the “Cleaners” we heard spoken of.

Leaving the remaining zabaniya to the metal warrior, Indria and Nessisus’ arrows, and Maqsood’s bullets, I engaged the Spell Weaver, giving Sehera and Qessab a moment to recover. We surely would have all perished yet again if not for Lyr’s healing magic, so we were given a great fright when it struck down Lyr with dozens of simultaneous magic missiles. Fortunately, we had purchased several healing potions yesterday and were able to get her back on her feet.

The Cleaners were fearsome beings, but could not withstand us long, particularly after Feng scorched them with a fireball of his own. Once the remaining Zabaniya were destroyed, both of the Cleaners were brought down by our combined might.

The Spell Weaver was not so easy to defeat. With both Sehera and I bearing down on it, it teleported away, surprising Nessisus and nearly killing him again. The Spell Weaver had used the time we spent fighting the Warforged wisely, casting protective spells upon itself. Even my uncle’s bombs proved largely ineffective on it. Lyr was able to dispel some of them, which would ultimately prove our salvation.

As Sehera and I ran towards it, it cast a dazzling spray of rainbow light, hypnotizing Sehera and I while it struck down Lyr and the metal warrior. It required great effort to break free and, by that time, we were all seriously injured, save Indira and Maqsood. Out of spells, Feng rushed at the Spell Weaver, hoping to distract it momentarily so I could slay it, but still somewhat dazzled by the spell, I missed. Hope seemed lost until Sehera, broken free of the spell by Qessab, charged and severed its head with her scimitar.

We breathed a sigh of relief and set about helping Nessisus and Lyr back to their feet. A quick inspection of our surroundings revealed that Al-Muhqtebel, once a sprawling complex, now consisted of this room, the ones behind it, and one more room down the hall, the room the corridor led to. Where once doors had opened to other corridors and chambers was nothing but blank walls.

Sadness in our hearts, we began to offer final rites to Lazar when Maqsood interrupted. Sartaj Bharatra was not with us, said he, why could we not get a priest of Bahamut to resurrect him? I did not know that one could resurrect someone as badly burned as Lazar. Of my brothers who have died, none were in a state fit for resurrection. Umar had lost a long battle to a wasting illness. Zahi lies at the bottom of the sea. Makram… who in their right mind, even as a joke, jumps off of a He is in a better place now and I don’t mean the jaguars.

Carefully, we wrapped Lazar in a sheet and quickly inspected the bodies of our foes. All that remained of the Cleaners were their masks, which, upon examination, seemed as if they would be incredibly valuable if we could find a buyer for such a strange object.

The Spell Weaver’s disc seemed to have no power and so to did the crystal key. We were all somewhat at a loss what to do—trapped now in Al-Mhuqtebel with little food and water—when Indira on an impulse, set the key on the disc. The two merged somehow, which charged up the key but, when activated the portal it created was incomplete, showing no location on the other side.

We tried different ideas and, eventually, Indira pictured in her mind the guest room she had slept in at my uncle’s house. The portal finally connected, this time with that room, and a symbol appeared and remained on the disc. Wasting no time, we stepped through.

As we recovered, I sent a servant to sell one of the masks. He returned with a great sum of money but with a somewhat unsettling story. The merchant he had sold it to claimed to be of The Mara, the infamously mysterious, cursed ship.

Whatever the provenance of this gold, it should be enough to pay the priest if he can resurrect Lazar. I shall have to make sure Sartaj never reads this.

Later, I hope to have a chance to examine this new Key Disc. In my wild imaginings, perhaps it will allow us to set up Al-Mhuqtebel as a sort of hub, with portals in different locations. I wonder if, instead of traveling overland, we could simply create a portal to Sefet. (That abandoned house where we fought Tu Fan Zui springs to mind.) Perhaps, if we could get some servants and a couple trustworthy tradesmen in there, we could remodel it as a base of operations. I don’t think there is a source of water, but if we could stock it as one would a ship for an ocean voyage… But I race ahead of myself.

I hear noise from downstairs. Perhaps it is the priest. I hope we can still save Lazar.

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