Lost in the vastness of the astral plane, our heroes look for a filling station so they can ask for directions.
Chapter the first- Interlude
The dull ache of fatigue gnawed at the Shards who fled from their encounter with Tilit and his fellow mercenaries. They had not slept for over a day at this point. It may have been several days for it is difficult to gauge the passing of time within the astral plane. You don’t need to eat or even breathe, and sages argue that one does not even age while within the dimension. The lay observer acknowledge the point upon the anecdotal evidence of traversing to other planes that are not thought to be timeless. If you have been astral for a long while you emerge from it ravenous, tired, and the effects of aging for a considerable amount of time can be seen in the growth of hair and the like.
The Druid Nique Helin decided that someone should be in respectable shape should misfortune strike them while they were incapable of acquiring the rest they needed. She cast both a cure serious wounds spell which magically healed wounds and a lesser restoration which erased the effects of fatigue from the Stonechild Barbarian Umbrecrom Iron Rage. It was a small misfortune that she couldn’t have prepared more of the fatigue-ending spells the day before when she decided what her spell battery for the day was going to consist of. Had she known their day was going to stretch into two and deliver them to the astral plane, she surely would have. She continued to administer a cure light wounds spell- lesser versions of the one she cast on Umbrecrom- upon Yestamir Carnen the Psion and for herself drinking a magical elixir infused with the magic of such a spell commonly referred to as a potion of healing. Although their bodies mended, the fatigue plagued them regardless.
They moved by the power of thought, deciding on a direction and moving that way. Being lost it mattered little in which direction they went, they looked for a magical color pool- the dimensional gateways that led to other dimensions. Each dimension exhibited a different color, gold for the Seven Heavens for example, others they knew not where they would lead- olive, opal, sparkling blue, a vivid orange streaked with white. The colors and patterns were as varied as the dimensions themselves. They looked for silver, the color that creatures from their prime material plane saw when looking for pools that led home.
Umbrecrom being familiar with some of the teachings of planar lore due to being a Stonechild raised within the domain of an Elemental lord who provided he and his siblings with tutors from an early age, noticed the slow darkening of their environment. The last time a darkening caught them on the astral it was quick and they were caught within the edge of an astral storm. Whatever the cause for this darkening he thought it would be best that they choose another direction to travel which the others agreed to. As they float the grey miasmic mist of the astral, a trackless volume where a person moved by the force of thought, Yestamir and Nique decided that a right turn would be fine.
Before they could turn the Stonechild felt an odd sensation within his mind, within his skull. A look of concern crossed his face as an image coalesced in his mind. A cloud of color and shape flowed and resolved- it was the face of Quingle Gemshadow the Shard’s Gnomish Shadow-craft Sorcerer! He had taken the defeated flute-less corpse of Pr’Gillis, a mysterious Monk of the order of the Fist of Zuoken who had been defeated in single combat by the rival monk Master Tilit of the thought to be destroyed order of the Opaline Fist, by way of teleport spell back to Fennas Ear where they hoped a cleric of power might cast a raise dead spell to bring him back to life. Although he respected the powerful mage, Umbrecrom was not so fond of him that having his face appear within his mind was anything but alarming. Then it spoke:
Umbrecrom repeated what was obviously a magical message that had been sent across the planes to him so that his companions Nique, Yestamir and Baelavel the magical Nimblewright construct gifted to Nique by the astral fortress, Galenial could hear it also.
“… assuming you three are astral. Pr’Gillis resurrected. Return to Port Dawn to retrieve slave failed. Eqximiye debriefed on astral weapon, tell no one.”
Umbrecrom looked around after speaking the last of it hoping no one other than the five of them had heard the mention of the weapon. He made note that Quingle’s message said ‘resurrected’ and not ‘raise dead’ denoting a much more powerful spell. They had reacted immediately- Raise Dead only works within the first few days of a creature’s death. Something went wrong but Umbrecrom would ask about that when he could speak directly to the Half-Dragon Monk.
As Quingle’s face started to disseminate within his mind, Umbrecrom felt as if the Gnome’s magic was waiting for a reply. They didn’t have anything of note to report back that Quingle could relate to the War Lord, Celethor who had sent them on their mission.
“We’re lost in the astral. We’re fine. We’re on our way back. Keep in touch.” Umbrecrom felt a little foolish speaking to the image of the Sorcerer he saw in his mind. It then faded from his thoughts.
Umbrecrom carried Nelkie the Sabertooth companion of the Druid. The cat was a large beast easily 9 or 10 feet long. Because the speed at which a being traveled in the astral was governed by intelligence, Nelkie was reduced to the comparative crawl of animal intelligence. She needed to be carried if they were going to traveling at a respectable rate. Nelkie was highly agitated by the prospect of having no ground on which to rest, no gravity for powerful leg muscles to play against. Front claws reached over the Barbarians powerful shoulders, more than covering them. Her hind legs pulled in tight to her body so she could place her back paws on the back of his thighs. Umbrecrom leaned forward at an angle to better accommodate the Sabertooth which disliked upright travel. Umbrecrom distracted her with an occasional bit of jerky. Knowing she wouldn’t begin to properly digest it until they were on a time-normal plane he was mindful not to give her too much. They continued on their journey, taking a right turn to nowhere in particular, their pace slowed by the speed of Baelavel whose intelligence was that of the Water Elemental that had been unwillingly bound to the mechanism during its magical creation.
Chapter the second- Interaction!
The astral began to lighten as they traveled farther to the right of their previous location. Noting that the darkness was all but gone the Shards saw two explosions in quick succession in the distance in front of and above them to their right placed closely together. Further inspection yielded something dark and oblong. Subjective time being out in the astral was some several days at this point, and although the timelessness of the dimension was odd, they did get the sense of experiencing some several days of inactive searching, with little to show other than the memory of some several dozen pools they had passed along the way. Earlier, Yestamir had even floated the notion of going into the gold color pool, to which Umbrecrom’s immediate response was that they shouldn’t and a brief synopsis of the first few minutes of their visit to Arvendor, home dimension to some of the Elven Gods. The relief of seeing something other than the shifting grey mist and each other, completely overpowered the fact that it was explosions they were attracted to.
As they got within several hundred yards they could tell the shape was some kind of ship. There were several masts that protruded from near the front mid-section angling to the back, several protruded from the back, each set equipped with a translucent sail. The front section had two fires as if something blasted right through both hulls, and the back had a single breach flaming wildly. Several bodies could be seen drifting away from the ship at varying speeds. There was one that drifted near the Shards up and to their right so they approached to investigate. As they neared they could see severals arrows buried in the body that leaked a trail of blood droplets. Umbrecrom moved in next to it and recognized the strange cloth wrappings around the pale yellow humanoid form, oblong head that had two slits where there should have been nose cartilage-
“Githyanki!” Umbrecrom warned, snapping his fingers to retrieve his powerful White Iron sword from magical storage within the Glove of Storing that he wore on his right hand. As the Githyanki wizard’s fingers twitched, dying eyes looked upon the Barbarian with the Sabertoothed Tiger cape who in a single fluid motion executed a coup de grace which ended the threat of Githyanki magic. Yestamir discovered a slender 8" crystal tethered to it wrist and recognizes it as a Dorje. He took the psionic weapon determined to later discover its use. Umbrecrom, honoring the ways of the Barbarian, looted the pockets he found on the corpse and was rewarded with several coins, euphemistically referred to by some Barbarian tribes as victory tithings. They moved closer to the ship noting that it didn’t have the severe angled styling that a Githyanki-crafted astral boat would and deduced that the vessel was being attacked by a Githyanki raiding party. About a hundred yards off they note that the craft was slowly moving away from them and was spinning so that the close side was turning underneath along the length of it. They decided to let the boat continue to spin and moved forward coming in obliquely so that they reach the underside, and could travel along the surface of the boat to approach them unseen.
Nelkie no longer riding Umbrecrom but preparing to land on the ship which due to the nature of the plane and the way it acts with volumes of mass, possessed its own subjective gravity. Once they landed Nelkie gratefully sank her claws into the wooden deck of the Vessel, happy to have a surface to stand on and gravity to orient her. There were signs of battle on this side of the ship- corpses of crewmen strewn across the deck, There were no Githyanki bodies. Two deck ladders led into the ship but the Shards decided to deal with the threat they’d already seen rather than venture within. They placed themselves near the spot on the other side of the clam- shaped hull and began to prepare.
Nique cast the Druid spell Magic Fang upon Nelkie, and gave a potion to Umbrecrom, Barkskin which caused a thick, hard bark to grow and encase his rock-like form. His magic chainmail shirt accommodated the extra layer of armor by growing ever so slightly so as to effect a perfect fit. Nique mounted the Sabertooth to ride into combat, and cast again this time upon herself a spell of Camouflage that alters her coloration to match the shifting grey mists, which also effected Nelkie due to the magic relationship the Druid shared with her animal companion. Noting the Githyanki possess some psionic powers, Yestamir tapped into his psionic strength and activated a protection known as the Tower of Iron Will to safeguard their psyches from any psionic attack the Githyanki might invoke upon them. “This isn’t going to last long…” he warned as he calculated how much strength he might need in reserve in case he had to Plane Shift two more time (two in case the first one were to put the Shards in an even worse situation like in the middle of an ocean.) Everyone understood that the Carnen’s powers were nearly depleted and could appreciate this near final protection he gifted their minds with. Umbrecrom wanted to remain in the protection of Yestamir’s powers so he stored his sword inside his magic glove and retrieved 3 stones from one of the pouches at his belt and infused them with the only magic he was capable of which magically prepared them to be more accurate, and have much more of an impact than ordinary thrown stones, hoping to draw the Githyanki away from the vessel’s crew. Nique then drew the saber she had received from Coramorphus, the first time she had ever drawn the weapon. As the blade escaped it’s sheath Nique’s face revealed a startled expression. The blade then began to frost over, wisps of cool astral mist fell from it’s wake. Nique smiled knowing this is a gift she would appreciate for a very long time!
Baelavel actived several of her magic abilities, powerful magical protections and alterations that briefly set her aglow, a show of cascading, flowing, blinking pulses of light. In a moment she leapt up and thought her way into a wide arc that landed her on the top side of the ship to engage a Githyanki combatant.
Chapter the next- Intervention
The Barbarian strode across the bottom of the craft to where it sloped to the ship’s mid-line and crossed over to the slope that become the craft’s top, and crested the curved hull to observe the ensuing battle. He could not remember if Githyanki could dominate as Yestamir had done with the Half-orc Barbarian of Tilit’s band. There were 4 of the creatures engaged with four of the crew, a fifth surrounded by a stringy haze of red stands and droplets floating lazily about his corpse. Bealavel dodged a vicious silver blade of one of the Githyanki silver swords. The legendary swords of the Githyanki looked like flowing glittering columns of liquid silver said to shift their balance with every move of the two handed weapons. Across the ship little more than 20 feet away an unfortunate crewman had been flanked by a pair of the creatures. Umbrecrom hurled one of his enchanted rocks at the closest of the two which slapped hard and fast into the leathery yellow back leaving its cloth wrappings with a growing red stain. Yestamir who had followed his friend had retrieved one of the brain-lock pearls which the Shards had looted from the Githyanki dead within the home of Lashimer, threw it at another Githyanki. The pearl struck its target and rebounded with a fizzle of its resisted psionic energy. Fatigue wore away at the Psion and the Druid. Nique who was riding Nelkie moved next to one of the Githyanki to the left of the others and engaged it. The Sabertooth snapped at the twisting humanoid, but tasted nothing for his efforts. Frostwind, the scimitar wielded by the Druid was the first to bite deep into Githyanki flesh. As the blade parted alien yellow skin, the freezing magic within the sword stung the trauma with a cold that destroyed surrounding living tissue. The wound looked slightly withered and blue, an effect of the freeze-dried sealing of flesh that marked the passage of Frostwind through its victims. The creature continued its assault on the crewman. Baelavel launched into an attack with the rapiers that extended from the mechanisms of her forearms, hitting both times, one so deep that the rapiers pommel slammed into the gut of the unfortunate creature causing it to rebound backwards several paces. Despite being an easy target for the Stonechild’s Magic Stones the Githyanki continued its assault upon the human it faced which earned it two more impacts into its back, one of them cracking a rib. The crewman between the two dodged and bent hoping to avoid dual assaults to little effect. Yestamir, realized that the effects of the brain-lock pearls would be of little service even if they managed to break through the Githyanki’s psionic defenses, decided to alter his attack by way of borrowing Nique’s short-bow- he was too weak from fatigue to utilize the one made for him by Umbrecrom. His arrow flew past his target continuing into the astral. Without the forces of gravity and resistance in the astral plane, that arrow would continue speeding eternally until something got in its way.
At the other end of the ship 4 crew crowded near the passage that led to the lower decks until another Githyanki emerged from the steps. Unfortunately Yestamir had not been able to engage in telepathic union with the Shards or Nique could have reconsidered switching to throwing a brainlock pearl which bounced harmlessly off her targets chest. Although the crewmen fought alongside the Shards, it was apparent that they were crew of the astral vessel and not guards or mercenaries. The crewman who was flanked fell beneath the greatswords of his foes. The Githyanki that had been targeted by Umbrecrom and his magic stones, using the buoyant nature of the astral plane leapt onto the aft-deck, a higher tiered deck that was above the area where it previously battled. Then using its own magical abilities, its form seemed to smear across the spot where it stood, a Githyanki smudge that was difficult to tell precisely where it stood. Meanwhile, Bealavel had dodged the wayward attacks aimed at her, and responded with devastating swordsmanship that first flailed the rapiers that extended from her forearms in a wild array drawing off the defending strikes of her target which allowed her to bury both bladed deep in the suddenly defenseless creature. It rebounded off her hilts and drifted over the side of the transport training twin liquid ribbons of life behind it. Umbrecrom climbed the wall and leapt onto the aft deck landing next to a crewman with a bow and the Githyanki he’d followed who was now a blurred patch, hard to discern. Umbrecrom snapped his fingers retrieving White Iron from magic storage within his glove. He grasped the bottom half of the hilt with his other hand and swung but the blur effect had caused him to miss it entirely. Yestamir who had floated to a higher vantage point over the decks to get a better sense of the battle took note of the other Githyanki that had just killed the flanked crewman, and pulled out his Dorge, the crystal wand that held a reserve of psionic strength in its structure and had been prepared to release it in increments that were patterned to trap its target within an assault known as ‘id insinuation’. Yestamir pointed the crystal, a burst of imperceptible energy lanced out and struck the Githyanki leaving its mind in an incoherent disarray. It babbled helplessly not even understanding the danger it was now surrounded by. Then a passenger crept over the other side of the transport behind the babbler noting its opportunity to strike fast. Kyllie the Tout was plane-touched. Her form bore the heritage of having had a parent who was from a different plane. She had little horns upon her forehead and her shins bore an extra joint which bent in the opposite direction of her knees. A Tiefling. She held two daggers which she plunged in the back of the incoherent Githyanki. Before it could react though, Bealavel moved up to flank the creature, and struck it with her sword. At the other end of the transport another of the Githyanki appeared amid the battling crew striking viciously at the back of the crewman who was fighting its companion to a standstill. Back at the aft- deck as the free crewman struggled to position himself to loose an arrow the raiding Githyanki moved on the closer crewman and with a wide swipe of the silver greatsword decapitated him. The head launched in an upward spin spraying droplets of blood for many revolutions. Umbrecrom struck the creature with his sword tagging it’s shoulder, but missed on the follow-up strike. Nique and Nelkie had been positioning and trading attacks, blood dripped from the maw of the Sabertooth, and anointed Frostwind. Such was her strike so well placed and solidly struck that something within the magiced blade of Frostwind responded- a surge of magic swelled, releasing a torrent explosion of the cold magic upon the unfortunate Gith. The searing cold left the creatures back wafting a frost mist into the grey astral. Back at the other end another crewman dropped. Yestamir, noting the blurring abilities of the raiding Githyanki threw another brainlock pearl, for if it would take effect it would temporarily shut down the higher psionic functions of the Githyankis’ brains. His aim was off though, and another brainlock pearl was lost to the astral plane. Incredibly, the Githyanki flanked between Bealavel & Kyllie hit Bealavel which dented her thigh. The automaton replied by impaling the yellow-skinned Githyanki with a single strike through its breastbone. Another of the crew fell at the the far end of combat, while Umbrecrom delivered a devastating strike at his end, knocking away the creatures defending blade while White Iron slid fatally through collar, ribs, belly and was lodged in the pelvis of the yellow corpse. Bealavel looked on nodding approval of that fell stroke. He ran across the deck to the other end of battle not bothering to shake the corpse free, although it slid off quickly. At the other end, the captain of the vessel, and elemental half-breed of some sort of earth type, has emerged from the below decks and engaged one of the Githyanki. Yestamir noting that Nelke and Nique had moved from their first victim to the far end threw yet another brainlock pearl, but with this one he succeeded and the blur effect the Githyanki had psionically enacted faded away. Nique reached at it with Frostwind cutting a gash along its midriff. Freezing cold sealed the wound. Bealavel moved over to the other which after having cut the captain down leapt behind the other one while the Sabertooth’s maw chewed a leathal wound out of its back. Umbrecrom remembering that his movement was better on the astral plane when he moved by the power of his will, glided over next to Yestamir and struck wildly at the Githyanki hoping to draw its attention away from the Elf. The grievously wounded Githyanki swung at Nique but missed. Yestamir backed away and leveled Nique’s bow sending another arrow to sail endlessly out into the astral. Frostwind struck its target, a cruel slice along the creature’s neck. The wound withered as the cold destroyed living flesh. Nelke though, brought the creature down having sunk its long fangs into its soft midriff and with a quick tug of his head pulled intestine stretching from the mortal wound. Bealavel who flanked her target with Umbrecrom, looked to the Gith as she swayed her blades from side to side daring it to strike, sensing the barbarian’s imminent attack: two rapid strikes that laid it open in a frightening bloom of red tendrils erupting in the astral haze.
With the Githyanki defeated Yestamir and Nique tended to the downed crew looking to see if any could be saved. The captain and several others were revived. Umbrecrom had gone down below looking for possible survivors, or hopefully, more Githyanki. He found none that would survive, but fortunately Yestamir knowing that Umbrecrom wasn’t equipped to make such decisions followed behind him and was able to stabilize one of the dead Umbrecrom had deemed beyond help. In all, 4 or 5 were stabilized and healed by the careful skills and Druid spells of Nique.
Chapter another one- Interview
The Captain who introduced herself as Elase Thunderfist Captain of ‘The Lesser Evil’ told that they were on their way to Sigil: City of doors. A trading destination of astral commerce, where it was said anything could be bought. Elase introduced her lone passenger, Kyllie the Tout. Kyllie was a guide of sort (‘Tout’ being another word for ‘guide’ in a planar dialect neither Umbrecrom or Nique was entirely sure of). Elase spoke about Sigil, although not as big as Union- no one recognized the name, was at least as prolific, for Sigil was under the rule of the Lady of Pain who it was said had the power to bannish even divine beings from her city. When Elase announced that afterward she was going to Anoreth after Sigil she had to explain that they were liscenced traders and would find no trouble in the Githyanki home city. Obviously the Githyanki that attacked were pirates, but that didn’t stop the crew from casting the silver swords from their ship as quick as possible, for it was said that Githyanki silver swords were jealously guarded by their race. Elase by way of thanks bid the Shards to keep the the salvage from the Githyanki pirates and offered to take them to Sigil with her.
The Shards were able to find the Githyanki had:
2 rock crystals- 50 gp each
red spinel- 70 gp
amythist- 90 gp
rotochrosite- 8 gp
white pearl- 140 gp
tormeline- 90 gp
eye agat- 11 gp
bluestar sapphire 1500 gp
A dark green crystal dorge with silver wrapping & scribed glyphs upon its length
A glowing crystal power stone
Dull grey locking cuffs scribed with designs with a key which were some kind of elaborate psi-restraint
Since Kyllie is a guide they decided to query about a commission to find a portal back to their own prime material plane. Yestamir led the negotiations. By way of background on Sigil, the Shards were told to avoid the hive, which was the slum area. Portals were everywhere in Sigil, but each portal needed a key, and not all portals were permanent. Kyllie had to determine which prime the Shards hailed from and asked for something distinguishing about their plane. For a moment Yestamir thought. “Would you know of the Eldar?”
“The Eldarea?” she asked. “Coramorphus and the like?”
“Yes. I am a descendant of Coramorphus!” Yestamir offered.
Kyllie briefly slipped into private revelry as resolve locked about her person, determined not to let slip that in her mind she was deep in the full-throated groove of the money-dance.
“Mmm-hm.” she offered. She knew of the legendary Druid-Wizards and imagined the financial power that they might control.
“I’ll be able to do it for 5000 gp” she stated without her voice cracking.
Yestamir, considering how hard a task tracking down a gate to a known, possibly famous (or infamous) world might be, and thought the offer could be a little high. Senses and intuition honed in the halls of the royal courts of Amcarofarne considered her. Was there just the slightest lurch in her stance signifying that possibly her heart skipped a single precious beat at the acknowledgement of Coramorphus’s Eldarea? Was she just slightly too casual about talking to one from the lineage of he who crafted the destruction of the Gurth Morgul Hrui? Did she not feel any gratitude from the rescue from the certainty of being killed at the hands of a Githyanki raiding party? Yes… Mayhaps the offer was a smidge high..
Yestamir countered by stating that he’d not planned on being on this kind of outing, and was ill prepared to pay but a fraction of that cost.
She indicated that maybe in a place where often the most valuable commodity is information that he might possess knowledge of his prime material plane that would be of considerable value to the right person.
“Like what?” he queried
“What do you think might be of interest?” she countered. “Tell me of happenings on your world…” she didn’t even try to fish for anything but waited to see what pearls or pebbles Yestamir would hand her.
Yestamir began with a brief summary of some of the common-enough lore of the Eldarea. After a few moments it became apparent a history lesson wasn’t the kind of information she had hoped for. Yestamir spoke on a few other subjects confounded by what might be valuable and how he might determine that. Kyllie’s reaction seemed completely natural, Yestamir wouldn’t give her anything. She was burning her time in a crucible of his conversation. Then he threw out “The queen is dead.” At first that seemed another dull iota. Then she reconsidered, followed almost instantly by a wave of composure that she hoped buried her reconsideration. Yestamir grew tired of guessing at what would interest her. Of course she wouldn’t know that until she found someone who was interested in buying any of the information he tossed her way. Likely no-one cared for anything he’d said, but you never know. And if she did find a buyer, he’d never really know.
He offered a sum of 500 gp and promised that upon returning she would get the first opportunity to do business with them or others they would send on their behalf, at her normal rates. To clarify, Kyllie said that she would find sages for 200 gp, as if sages didn’t want to be found to do business because they had enough money which is why they became sages in the first place, and finding obscure portals for 800 to 1000 gp because to the properly ignorant, every portal is an obscure portal, which even given ‘normal pricing’ proved her to be an opportunist who initially sought 5000 gp. Yestamir upon concluding this willing ransacking gave to her all but the most valuable of the gems harvested from the Githyanki that almost killed her out of hand. Kyllie then excused herself, she wanted to check on her cargo.
Over the day and a half it would take to get to Sigil the Shard’s Elemental half-breed struck up an acquaintance with “The Lesser Evil”‘s Elemental half-breed. She found the opportunity to practice her Terran, while he practiced it back to her. As the transport neared a leathery brown astral color pool the Captain gave Umbrecrom an ivory chit that would allow the Shards to pay up to a week for their rooms for at an inn, the Hearty Copper Hero and Camel at the spinward end of the market ward. Umbrecrom thanked her and pledged that they shouldn’t be on her tab that long. As they disembarked Kyllie offered that they buy a gate compass and that they shouldn’t pay more than 2800 gp for one.
The Captain hoped that the portal to Sigil would be in the market ward, and when they arrived they found that it was.
Chapter next to the last- Interjection
The city of Sigil was an odd one, situated on the inside surface of a torus shape. Umbrecrom noted how the ground circled far overhead at the sides but continued to a vertical horizon both in front and behind him such that the horizon was on the same side going either way, ensuring that they would meet on the other side of the torus. He understood this and reconsidered what it might look like if it were just a bubble much larger than this. Exactly like the prime he knew.
The people and races found there spanned the spectrum from human to black-hued Elves, beings that were more plant than animal, to the naked flesh colored humanoids who lacked defining facial features, Centauroid, to living mechanical constructs. The architecture evinced the same diversity- Gnomish Grand Garden style stood next to Fiendish Arch-empirical which was across the way from Yuan Ti Gossamer Scale. Past the great bazaar on the border of the Market and Guildhall Wards was where the Shards would find the Hearty Copper Hero and Camel.
As they exited “The Lesser Evil” they were given each a package of some food for when they left the astral plane. While on the astral the passage of time continued but due to its nature the effects did not manifest there. They did not grow tired, even though Yestamir and Nique still suffered the effects of being fatigued, no matter how long they remained on the plane. They did not grow any more hungry than they were when they entered, nor was their need to relieve themselves any greater. Upon passing through the leathery brown color pool that led to Sigil the effects of the time spent upon the astral saturated their beings. Immediately on the other side of the portal were facilities to handle the most urgent of these deferred needs. These common facilities were not the cleanest one could imagine and the smells that assaulted them were by design ever present as were the glamour of harsh and annoying sounds so that those returning from the astral might not immediately fall asleep. The inn for which Umbrecrom possessed the ivory pass was by chance a bit of a journey from the color pool, though. Even the Barbarian, who something like a day and a half ago had received the casting of Nique’s lesser restoration spell which remedied the effects of his fatigue, was by now fatigued again. The Druid, her Sabertooth and the Psion were by now, a least a week in the astral, close to exhaustion. They made their way dull-eyed and intent through the market sector taking little note of the wares to be had there. Surely others took more note at their passing. Because Bealavel was a construct that didn’t suffer the effects of temporal decompression from the astral she was the most reliable to spot any trouble along the way. Because she was a magical construct she didn’t need the food package and quickly passed it off to Nique’s large animal companion Nelke who more than ably obliged her. Despite reservation the Barbarian thought he would find a forrest to inhabit later and just concede to sleep where the Captain’s chit offered a secured place. At the inn, they were given a large suite that accommodated their entire party of five having two seperate sleeping chambers and a common living area. The Sabertooth was likely as uneasy with the arrangement.The Elves tranced as Elves do, never really falling into the deep rest of sleep, Umbrecrom and the Sabertooth slept silently as Baelavel kept guard.
When they awoke, no one could tell if it was morning, evening or night in this strange demesne, they availed themselves of the tavern within the inn.
The barkeep was a mechanical centaur who had seen some vicious times. The housing of his face was partially missing, ceramic plates on his torso were spider-webbed with impact fractures, a few were missing. Some ad hock repairs were evident as his form wasn’t symmetrically mirrored. “I am Ajax 7, the manager here at the Hearty Copper Hero and Camel. How can I help you?”
Yestamir explained formally that the group was new to Sigil and had just arrived from the astral.
“Ahhh. You’re hungry?”
“Yes.” the elf replied seeing not much need to elaborate.
“Five Astral specials!” Ajax 7 called to the cook in the back room. “If you find yourself a seat your server will be with you in a bit.” The group wandered over to a large round table near the window that looked out onto the street. Nelke settled at Nique’s feet along the wall under the window. The others sat with no ceremony.
They were then approached by a clean-shaven Half-Orc wearing a tight gold colored vest and a bow tie the shade of copper with baggy pantaloons that reach only below his knees where they were tied off, also copper. “Me am Eyago! Me be serving you today- you like astral special- it have red potatoes!” With little skill he poured them water from the pitcher he carried. The waiter tried to ingratiate himself as servants do. The Shards paid him little heed. When he brought out their food someone mentioned the lack of utensils. “No good Valerius!” Eyago muttered. “He bad busboy! Eyago very sorry!” as if remembering something, he paused then knelt on his knees and repeated with more fervor, clasping his hands before him, “-Very sorry!” He scrambled to his feet and headed toward the kitchens, “Beat him again- no do simple job… All needs spoons!” The astral special was a big breakfast, simple yet filling, well flavored and also covered by the Captain’s chit, including Eyago’s small gratuity. Again Nelke benefitted from the construct’s mechanical nature, which since after the battle with the Githyanki was surrounded by the illusion of her being another High Elf traveler who wore no weapons. They then decided it was time to look for the gate compass Kyllie counseled they find.
As they wandered back into the Market Ward they took note of the wares of this inter-dimensional bazaar. There were many shops that sold weapons and other accessories of combat. Nique with her new wicked Frostwind, Yestamir a Psion wielding weapons of the mind, Bealavel a construct with her rapiers incorporated right into her forearms, and Umbrecrom who kept his White Iron stored in his magic glove had little interest in looking at other blades, sticks, bows or cudgels. There were armor smithies, gem dealers, potters, and bookbinders. Magic was in no small supply and garnered a little more notice, but the Shards looked first for the gate compass that might exceeded the price of the 1508 gp in gems Umbrecrom still held onto from the Githyankis. After several hours and a few close calls into shops and stands that also sold mechanism that they had no idea about, they arrived at the door of a very tidy store with the words “Planar Sextants” scribbed on the window with grey and white lettering outlined in a crisp and flourished black.
Umbrecrom was approached by a wizened old woman who offered him an elixir of celestial blood waving it in his face.
“What would I want with that?” he asked trying not to imagine what diabolic deed obtained such a thing. She offered that it would make him a better swordsman. Raising his empty hand to highlight his lack of a sword sheath he asked “What would I do with that?” She assured him that he’d be a better soldier trying to prompt agreement commenting that a man as big as him was no doubt a soldier. “Noooo….” he countered hoping that the merchant would just move on. Someone suggested that the Barbarian be careful in the crowd to be certain everything in his pockets remained there. As he patted himself down he looked to his belt to see an empty dagger sheath. His weary-of-‘civilization’ eyes rolled back in their sockets. “Naturally” he thought to himself. But at least the old woman had finally let him alone. They entered the store.
A Halfling merchant who strode the aisles dressed in a dapper yet tasteful suit met them and introduced himself as Quaker who sold the finest planar sextants to be had. He offered a few of the product at hand highlighting the fine qualities of each mechanism in turn. Yestamir, oblivious to finer points of commerce where money is exchanged for items, or just to establishing his fine taste, pointed to the largest most glittering contraption in the store and announced “I like this one.” Quaker elaborated a bit and then showed something that unfolded and expanded into something larger than the box that contained it. The Shards revealed that what they required was something that would be easily portable. Eventually the Shards were shown a gate compass which Yestamir bartered to a price of 2400 gp, well under the 2800 gp Kyllie suggested would be overpriced. Should Yestamir ever find need to venture to the astral plane he now possessed the compass that might help him navigate the grey wasteland of mist, color pools, and Githyanki. Nique augmented the remaining funds from the Githyanki massacre with some of her personal money she had managed to save. As they wandered back to their room at the Hearty Copper Hero and Camel they passed a bookstand that Nique notices had the tome “The Compendium of Planar Geography” for 80 gp. Yestamir who had mentioned that his planar lore was not what it could be several times during their tedious ordeal in the astral plane the past week was shown the book, he decided to buy it, and bartered the price down to 50 gp which was well within his means. Soon to be armed with the knowledge of this tome Yestamir might even navigate the astral quickly.
Chapter the last- Interdiction
That evening Kyllie joined the Shards for dinner courtesy of Captain Elase Thunderfist’s chit. Nique passed time by chatting with Eyago.
“Why do you let Vilarius hold you back, Eyago?”
The Half-Orc waiter just sighed. "Eyago knows this, Eyago just have soft heart… " He glanced at the spoon in his hand that he was about to set, “Vilarious! These spoons are filthy!” He excused himself and ran to the back to find cleaner spoons.
After dinner Kyllie talked about what the Shards 500 gp has bought them:
There was a gate to their world, but it had just appeared within the last 2 weeks so it would likely be a temporary portal. It was in the courtyard on a noble’s property. Portals in Sigil activated by keys, and a key could be anything such as a phrase, an item, a spell- it varied greatly. The key to this new portal that the property’s owner was likely unaware of, was unknown. The property’s owner, a certain Gnomish Sorcerer by the name of Gobble Quillin who lived in the Lady’s district didn’t seem familiar to anyone. Quingle was the only real hope of recognizing the name being a Gnomish Sorcerer himself, but he was back in Illuvinari. And naturally there was no clue as to where on Illuvinari the portal led to. It could easily lead to the Underdark, under the sea, the high court of Gate’s Falls, or the Sendak’s summoning chamber just as easily as it could have led to somewhere safe and convenient.
It was discussed how they might approach obtaining the use of such a portal. Kyllie had no information on the Gnome noble or the disposition of his reputation. Surely some expert research would be needed to discover its key, and then there may be issues of obtaining the key. It was brought up that given the activity in Illuvinari in the past 2 weeks that the appearance of such a portal might not be co-incidence.
The objective being the return to Illuvinari, this incidence although interesting, seemed like a untimely distraction. The Corsair Kings, the 12 great pirate fleets were descending upon Fennes Ear at the behest of the Sendak who had declared war on the Elves. They could just go back to The Lesser Evil and beggar the captain to aid them as they aided The Lesser Evil. It was noticed that she seemed to favor the Shard’s half-elemental Stonechild. Yestamir, having rested, now possessed enough psychic strength to plane shift back and forth between the prime material plane and this one (or the astral if need be) several times in the hope of getting near enough to the coming battle to at least deliver the resources of his companions to the Elven effort. This portal wasn’t their only recourse and not of need their first.
Umbrecrom wondered aloud how much it was going to cost as he considered whether the Warlord paid for their services or just saw fit to equip them.
“.. and this will cost cost you a little more…” Kyllie offered cautiously.
As the Barbarian understood it, the Tiefling, a plane-touched of fiendish heritage just told them that find out how much the information they needed to know was going to cost, was going to cost them. There was a price to discovering the price. With only the memory of the Githyanki gems to remind him of what money they had on hand, it became apparent the Tiefling was revealing her heritage.
The Barbarian, his mind slipping back to one of the misadventures of his youth before he managed to make it to the surface world of Amcarofarne remembered a particularly bad incident where he’d stumbled into the waiting lair of Stirges. Blood-feasting creatures of magic that relied on their superior numbers to defeat their foes. He had embedded his sword in the back wall of their lair with a wild strike. The two attached to him drained him viciously, another he squeezed to a bloody pulp in his hand. It was mostly his own blood. Umbrecrom made the decision to abandon the sword to save himself. He dove into a nearby lye pool which caused the Stirges to abandon him. It took him several months before he could defeat the creatures to retrieve White Iron. Dealing with Kyllie he reminisced not fondly of the Stirges and their barbed pinchers digging into his rock-like hide, their pink proboscises draining him of his vitality. He wouldn’t have to squeeze her until she popped, though.
He stood up from the table and addressed his companions, shaking his head.
“Let’s just go back to the the ship and find another pool…” There was no reason to do otherwise. Kyllie excused herself and left.
They found The Lesser Evil still docked within the astral, Captain Elase preparing to leave for Crosswinds Keep which was located on the ossified head of a dead god somewhere in the astral. Yestamir adjusted the gate compass settings for Amcarofarne because it was, as yet still a more familiar place to him that Fennes Ear. When The Lesser Evil was at its closest point to the proper color pool the Shards would embark on their own into the astral the rest of the way. While awaiting this point the Half-elementals got to know each other better, and the Captain was persuaded to deliver them directly to their portal. Yestamir thought to ask the crew he was near, what color they perceived the color pool to be. He’d been reading. Creatures of the prime always saw their own plane as silver. To those not from his own plane he’d discovered they saw it as grey with silver streaks.
Before they departed for their own plane Elase gifted Umbrecrom a lock of her wiry hair.
Yestamir focused on the color pool with the authority of the knowledge his book had so far bestowed upon him. He focused on Fennes Ear. In a moment they stepped through. Thinking there might be planar wards to alert the Elves to the breach they turned around to see a searing cold blue fire circle the invisible portal in the space they had just stepped through. Then the portal was gone.
They were then challenged by a troop of Elven archers.