Path of Fortune

Capital City

It’s the end of Isis Maru’s first day traveling to the Capital City. Meadowlark is in her room, brushing out the tangles in her hair from helping on deck all day. Rysarian heads down to his room from the crow’s nest when the sun drops under the clouds. Phoenix is tiredly leaving the dining hall from a late dinner, ignoring Rysarian as they meet up in the hall in front of the rooms. Phoenix turns to her bedroom door when Quinn’s door opens up behind her.
“Uh, guys? It hatched.”
“Yay!” Rysarian says, rushing over. Phoenix turns to see Quinn standing outside his room, Rysarian excitedly standing beside him. Both were looking at Quinn’s arm where a large clear blue ball of slime was attached to the ink stained sleeve.
“It’s pretty big,” Phoenix says, leaning against her door frame. The slime takes up Quinn’s entire forearm.
“Yeah, I can’t get it off,” Quinn says, looking at it with a mix of curiosity and dislike as he shakes his arm. It wobbles and makes muffled gurgling sounds. “I can’t keep notes when it’s stuck on me like this.”
“I’ll get it!” Rysarian offers. “Here, I’ll take it,” he says, reaching out and pulling it off of Quinn with a loud sucking sound. Large bulging eyes stare innocently up at Rysarian’s face before it oozes between his fingers and suctions itself onto Rysarian’s chest. “I’ll keep you there, then.” He smiles and pats it, it gurgles happily as its whole body wiggles.
“What’s going on?” Meadowlark asks, sticking her head out of her door.
“It hatched,” Phoenix says, still leaning against her own door.
“Oh,” Meadowlark said, looking at the bluish clear blob on Rysarian’s chest. “Is it, like, alive?”
“Of course it is,” Quinn replies. “Should we give it a name?”
“Morph,” Phoenix answers immediately. “Name it Morph.”
“Sounds good to me,” Rysarian adds, looking up at the other three while poking the ball of slime on his chest and it jiggles, giggling. “Morph?” He asks the slime. It looks up at him with its large eyes and makes a cooing sound. “It likes it,” Rysarian tells the rest of them definitively.
“It’s kind of pretty,” Meadowlark says, stepping closer to it. It’s eyes move on its amorphous body to watch her. Small squelching noises sound as it adjust itself while still attached to Rysarian’s chest. Meadowlark grimaces and pulls the hand back that she was going to touch it with, remembering that it was called a slime for a reason. She reaches out the brush that was still in her hand and pokes it in a form of petting. It wriggles away and mewls grumpily at the rough side of the brush. “Oh, well, okay,” Meadowlark says, pulling back.
“Well I have things to do,” Quinn says unceremoniously before heading back into his room.
“Yeah, it’s getting late, I’m going to bed,” Phoenix says, ducking into her own room.
“Yeah, me too,” Meadowlark says, going back into her room. Rysarian tickles Morph and heads to the kitchen to get it some food before going back to his own room.

The third day had them seeing the wall of the city in the distance around late morning. By early afternoon they were hovering close to the ground within quick walking distance to the gate outside the large outer wall.
“We can take the smaller boat in and park closer,” Meadowlark tells the Captain. “You didn’t have to park the ship.”
“I’ll be taking some of the caravaners in and we’ll be going through the trade districts. Some of the people on here are wanting to buy things and others have some things to sell,” the Captain explained.
“We’ll walk with you until we have to split ways, then,” Phoenix says.
“I’m the only one who needs to go to Mid-City,” Quinn speaks up. “The rest of you could stay with them and walk around the trading districts.”
“Will they have monkeys?” Rysarian asks, walking up beside Quinn.
“They have everything,” Quinn replies. “For a price, of course.”
“Yeah, yeah. I just want a monkey,” Rysarian says, heading off the boat to where Meadowlark and a couple of the crew were already waiting.
“We’ll probably follow you to the middle of the city,” Phoenix tells Quinn. “I’m wanting to study something, and your guild might be the best place.” Quinn shrugs and they head off with the other crew members that were going.
The group of adventurers walk with the caravaners and the Captain through the small open gate on the side of the large closed gate in the outer wall. They walk along the path beside the wide road through fields of farmland.
“Wow,” Phoenix says, looking the nearly two mile stretch before them to where the large inner wall was. The different crops stretched out on either side of them, some with a number of people walking through them.
“It is rather amazing,” Captain Charlotte agrees, walking beside Phoenix. “The farmland circles the entire Capital City. Within the outer wall, the city is almost self-sustaining.”
“The city is in that wall?” Phoenix asks, nodding towards the one in front of them. “Or is there another buffer area?”
“The city itself is built with some buffer areas. When we walk into the city, no matter which direction, we’ll be in the slums. That’s where the garbage and sewage are put before they’re taken out of the city or otherwise dealt with,” the Captain explained as the walked. “Workers of those systems live in a ring just within that, then the farmers. After that, there’s a ring of stairs that lead up a couple feet to where the merchants and artisans live and where the trade districts are. That’s where we’ll be heading. If you’re heading to the mage’s guild, though, you’ll head to the center of the Capital. It’s another small flight of stairs up and the only thing more central than the guilds and schools are the nobility and the castle. The castle is on the highest ground and it’s designed to be seen from any point in the entire city. You might have seen it when we walked through the first wall, but we’re getting too close to see it now.”
“How old is this city?” Phoenix asks.
“Old enough that we’ve forgotten the original name of it,” Captain Charlotte replies with a sigh. “Most of the buildings have been rebuilt multiple times, though the mansions and the palace in the middle have stayed the same, mostly, since they were well built with good stone that fit together well since the beginning. The further you get, the more cobbled together the buildings look.”
The conversation ended as they neared the inner wall and walked through into the outskirts of the city. The boisterousness of the crew members didn’t dim in the slightest despite the heavy stench in the air. The group was able to see the tip of the tallest tower of the castle in the distance and they headed towards that through the lower end of the city and up the stairs to the trade district level. The Captain nodded a goodbye at Quinn, Rysarian and Phoenix as she, Meadowlark, and the rest of the crew split ways, the three continuing towards the castle tower and up another set of stairs. The buildings around them were obviously a step up in construction from the trade districts and there were more spaces between them, making the area feel more open and less crowded and frantic.
This was when Quinn started taking side streets that curved around other buildings, making turns that the others felt like he was going in circles and Phoenix, Meadowlark, and Rysarian shared looks, hoping that Quinn knew where he was going. Through another side alley and they were back at the road again. On the other side was a group of six or seven buildings made of sparkling pink granite, large slabs of white granite were place one after the other on the ground to make a path through the buildings and towards a central building that had a four sided clock tower that could be seen from anywhere around the buildings.
The group crossed the road and followed the white stone path into the middle, where a large space of the white slabs were laid out to form a courtyard. Boxes of flowers were evenly spaced with white sparkling benches around the edges of the square. People of various ages and races walked around in brightly colored robes, though ones in the same color of robes would be grouped together, chatting or studying. Occasionally there would be an individual who would walk through, a nose in a book, yet somehow not run into anything. Most of the people walking around seemed to have a place to go and within a minute, there were only a handful of them left in the courtyard.
Rysarian and Phoenix follow Quinn to the central building with the clock tower and through the large oak doors into a long, open room. The walls were the same polished sparkling granite and the floor was the same white, but with a long thin carpet leading from the front door to a desk several feet in front of them. Large, soft looking chairs and couches were on either side of them as they walked in. Quinn walked up to the front desk without hesitation as the other three followed behind slowly, looking around the elegant room.
“Yes, I have an appointment,” they hear Quinn say as they catch up.
“Perfect, I’ll let him know that you’re on your way up,” the receptionist replies with a small wave of her hand.
“When did he make an appointment?” Phoenix asks quietly.
“That what I was thinking,” Rys responds.
“Probably that strange small creature that brought him the letter did it for him,” Phoenix muses.
Quinn turns around to look at them. “You don’t have to go with me. Actually it’s probably better if you don’t. I’m just going to go talk with the professor and make sure they have enough safeguards for the sword.”
“How long will that take?” Rysarian asks.
“Around an hour or so, depending on how quickly this goes and if they need help,” Quinn replies.
“Monkey, here I come!” Rysarian calls as he turns and heads out the door. Phoenix shakes her head at him and Quinn heads off down a hallway to the left.
Rysarian heads out of the building and tries to talk with students that are walking past him. “Excuse me, I’m looking for someone who can improve my weapons?” he tries to ask one of the older looking students walking by. He’s ignored. Others see him and avert their eyes, going around him. “I’d pay you if you could help- If I could just have a quick- Excuse me, I-” but no one would listen to him. He gives up and heads outside of the mages guild, glancing up and seeing the castle tower and heading in the opposite direction. He should eventually get to the trade district again.

“Is there a mage historian around here that I could talk to?” Phoenix asks the receptionist at the desk when Quinn and Rysarian are gone.
“Uh, yes, there is,” she replies, looking up at Phoenix. “There’s a professor of magical histories here at the guild. Are you a student here or a visitor?”
“I’m a visitor, I just have a couple questions about something,” Phoenix replies.
“Well, I think he’s in class right now, but if you don’t cause a commotion you could slip in. The class should be over in half an hour.”
“Okay, where is the classroom?” Phoenix asks, then adds, “And where would your library be?”
“The class that he’s teaching now is in the Loriette building, in classroom 153. To get there, just walk back outside and turn to your right. You’ll see a building and behind that one is the Loriette building,” the receptionist explains. “The library is actually part of this building. If you head to your left over here, go up the stairs to the second floor. Go down the hallway to the back of the building and that will take you to another set of stairs that will take you down to the basement, which is where we have our main library.”
“Thank you for your time,” Phoenix says with a nod.
“You’re welcome. Come back if you have any other questions.” Phoenix goes down the same hall that Quinn had gone through, large glass windows on the left side letting in the sunlight. She followed the directions of the receptionist to the library. As she goes down the stairs to the basement, there’s an archway that leads in. When Phoenix steps through the archway, like a strong wind blew over her skin, but there was no sound of it. She doesn’t understand and she passes it off as a weird thing of the mages guild as she feels a little nauseous.
Phoenix looks around the room and stares in amazement as she realizes the expanse of it. A six story room with huge windows along the sides with brilliant light is streaming in. It doesn’t look like the basement. “There are lots of books,” she says to herself, looking around the room. She glances around for someone who could point her the right direction for the ones she’s looking for. There seems to be another reception area in the center of the very large library. Phoenix walks up to the receptionist desk. As she approaches, there’s four older women with graying hair and spectacles. One of them looks up at her when she approaches,
“Do you need any help?” one of them asks.
“I’m looking for a book about the history of Silvershard. Before he was a god, preferably,” Phoenix says awkwardly, feeling nervous and overwhelmed.
“Okay,” the woman says. She looks through a strange system of cards and papers. “Alright, here we go, we have a few books in regards to Silvershard. More myth and legend than anything else, of course. But what you’ll be looking for is in the history section. That’s section ‘H’, crazy how that works out, but in there you’ll be looking for the books Leonis Empire, as well as The Myth of Silvershard, and then Mythology in Regards to Silvershard.”
“Okay thank you,” Phoenix says and she goes over to section H to look for the books, repeating the titles to herself. She looks through and finds the three books surprisingly easily and takes them to a desk. She flips through the books, looking for pictures, hoping to see one that was like the carvings she saw. There are different sketches and drawings, different symbols and depictions of Silvershard. She recognizes Silvershard’s symbol, but she expected that. There weren’t any depictions that looked like the carvings. She flips to the table of contents of the books, looking for something that had to do with the carvings of what she saw. The History of the Leonis Empire didn’t seem to have much information on Silvershard himself, it was mostly about .

“The Leonis family was the ruling family of an old empire, the actual name now long forgotten, sadly as it happens with many older civilizations. Now only referred to as the Leonis Empire, as that is the name of the ruling family we know of. The God Silvershard is thought to have been a prince of that family near the end of the rule, however many believe he actually belonged to a branch of the family that had been outcast from the area due to meddling with dark magic. Despite the tragic ending of their rule, the Leonis family accomplished much in the 250 years that they held the throne. When the first King took the throne in…”

Phoenix put that book down. If it couldn’t even agree on one simple fact, it probably didn’t have much that was useful to her. The other two aren’t that helpful with concrete details, either as she flips back and forth between them. They both have the air of ‘This is a myth, not a history.’ ‘It happened 600+ years ago.’ ‘This is really old stuff.’

“It is commonly believed that Silvershard was a wizard that led a group of adventurers well known as the Wolf Pack that traveled and rid small towns of troublesome monsters. They were called this because Silvershard would wear a wolf skin cloak that would give him the strength and power of a wolf.”

“As a human, Silvershard was raised by a pack of wolves. He was given the magical powers of the moon when he protected the Mother of All Wolves from being hunted and killed by a clan of half elves that wanted to use her pelt to make a magical cloak for their leader.”

“The Wolf Pack was asked to help one of the towns with a demon, only known today as the Horned One. Silvershard was believed to have treated this demon as his natural enemy, seeing the demon as an elk and himself as a wolf.”

“When the Mother of All Wolves was threatened again, this time by the Black Witch, Silvershard led all the wolf packs into a battle against the Witch’s dark minions. Silvershard, using his powers of the Full Moon, banished the Black Witch’s darkness. However, as we can see in the monthly lunar patterns, the Full Moon fades. As did Silvershard’s magical defense against the Black Witch. At the time of the New Moon, and only on that exact night, did the Witch surpass Silvershard’s ability. However, her reign of darkness did not take hold of the world, as the wolf packs fought her while Silvershard recovered. The stars in the night sky show how many of those valiant creatures gave their lives to stave off the chaos that the Black Witch yearned to cast onto the world. The sacrifices of the wolves were not in vain, as Silvershard grew stronger with the waxing moon and banished the Black Witch into her own world of chaos and misery. Now we have the night sky to always remind us of that great battle to keep the world in balance. The war continues between the dark minions in her world and the Light Wolf Guardians of ours.”

As Phoenix closes up the books, she doesn’t remember where they go. Looking around, there are various books laying around on the other desks and she decides to leave the three books there. She looked around the library again to orient herself and remember where the door was. The librarian that talked to her before walked up to her before she got more than ten steps.
“I found another book that might have information that you might be looking for. It has some stuff, not so much history, but it’s more myth and some prophecies. Ramblings of old prophets, but you might be interested,” she says, offering an old, thick book to Phoenix, who takes it gladly and flips through the messy, handwritten pages.
“I would love to, could I possibly check it out?” Phoenix asks
“Well, we can’t let you check it out, to make sure that we can keep our books,” the receptionist says. “Since you’re not a student.”
“Oh, don’t worry about it. You can put it on my card,” Quinn’s voice breaks into the conversation. He’s standing just a couple feet away, his bag full of papers and books. He was holding several books in his hands to check out himself.
“Thanks Quinn,” Phoenix says. The receptionist smiles as Phoenix hands her the book back to check out and then Quinn follows the woman back to the desk for the checkout process. Phoenix sticks by Quinn as he finishes up and helps carry the books out of the library. Phoenix grimaces as they walk out of the archway, not immediately seeing two of the mages that are walking past them until they talk.
“Oh look! It’s Quinn! The ‘wizard’,” one says loudly to the other.
“It is!” the other one replies in the same mocking tone. “Hey, Quinn, do have more information about the path of magic, or whatever it was?” he asks as they pass. Quinn looks down, pushes his glasses up his nose and ignores them. The two mages laugh as they walk into the library and Phoenix doesn’t ask about it as she follows Quinn out of the building. They walk for a while, out of the guild area and back down to the trade districts.
“I think Rysarian is this way,” Phoenix speaks up, feeling confused, but somehow knowing that she’s right.
“It’s probably the bloodbond,” Quinn replies without any other explanation. Phoenix shrugs and they follow her feeling, finding Rysarian at a magic weapon’s shop.
“But where is the cheap stuff?” Rysarian asks, examining a cloaked dagger.
“There’s this Distance weapon,” the shop owner says, frowning at him.
“That’s still too expensive!” Rysarian complains.
“Magic isn’t cheap!” the shop owner replies. “If you can’t afford it, don’t waste my time!” Rysarian puts the cloaked dagger down and walks out of the store, almost running into Quinn who was watching him.
“Oh, hey,” Rysarian says. Phoenix looks at him and puts a hand to her head.
“Please don’t tell me that monkey is yours?” she asks, looking at the small brown furball on Rysarian’s shoulder. It chatters up at her and waves his fist, climbing up onto Ryarian’s head to be eye level with the dragon to show his teeth. Rysarian grins.
“He’s perfect, isn’t he?” Rysarian asks, gently grabbing him and putting him back on his shoulder. The slime that has been on Rysarian’s chest the whole time looks up at the monkey, happy to be able to see it again, and gurgles at it. The monkey chitters back.
Phoenix groans. “Just keep it quiet,” she tells him.
“I’ll make sure that it makes a lot of noise at night,” Rysarian says casually as they walk off again.
“I will smash it,” Phoenix threatens. Rysarian ignores her.
“What should we do now?” Rysarian asks Quinn.
“We can find a quest board,” Quinn replies, leading the way.
“Do we feel like doing something for other people?” Rysarian asks, petting his monkey and rubbing the slime at the same time.
“Do you feel like getting paid?” Phoenix asks sardonically.
Quinn explains that there were several quest boards around the trade districts and any time people would stop and take one or post new ones, the others would be magically updated as well. “They’re pretty easy to find,” Quinn says, pointing at a large group of adventuring type of people that were talking, bragging, drinking, comparing swords, and grouping up together. Rysarian thinks about what it would be like to steal things from people, but decides not to risk it when they pass two very large men that were comparing their swords, both longer than Rysarian was tall.
“I thought you guys would get here eventually,” Meadowlark greets from her spot on the side of the quest board. The other three greet her and they look at the quests. “They seem to be organized by danger level,” Meadowlark says, pointing at the a paper about eye level. “This circle shows a different color and the colors seem to be grouped together.”
“Look!” Rysarian points to one about two thirds of the way up. The others look. “It’s a bounty for Admiral D’Mire.”
“Yeah, I saw that one,” Meadowlark replies with a frown. “That’s why I think the hardest ones are at the top.”
“Let’s look lower than that one,” Phoenix says. They look and debate about the different types of quests. Bounties, retrieval, distress, protection, everything anyone could think of.
“I think any of these would be within our skill range, but still worth our time,” Quinn says, pointing out a row of quests. “These ones here seem to have higher rewards for the level, too,” he adds, tapping three of them.
“What kind of quests are they?” Rysarian asks.
“One is submitted by a village saying they’re dealing with a group of radicals,” Meadowlark says, reading the quest and explaining it to the others. “We’d have to talk to the village chief for more information. This one is about finding a hidden library for a specific tomb. It’s in the middle of the desert and we’d have to find a camp of nomads at the bottom of a mountain. There are directions to it, of course. And, let’s see, the third one is asking for assistance because a man’s daughter was taken. It says that they’re looking for someone with a certain set of skills. We’d need to contact this man named Niam Leeson.”
“Which one would we like to go with?” Quinn asks.
“I’d say either the radicals or the library,” Meadowlark says.
“I’ve had my fill of libraries for a while,” Phoenix says. “Let’s go deal with the radicals.”
“Sounds good,” Quinn says, pulling the paper off the quest board. “Let’s head back to the ship, then. It’s getting late.”
The four head back through the city and across the farmlands as the sun approaches the horizon.

Make Your Choice

Phoenix walks through her door into a short hallway that opens up to a room that seems to be in the same carved sandstone as the previous room. That reassures her. Even with the weird thing of the others not seeing the door, it hadn’t teleported her somewhere else. She walks forward and, as she does, the stone around her changes. The browns of the sandstone darken and the edges smooth together, appearing more like a cave wall. As she walks through the large room, she starts to see etchings in the wall. Names carved into the dark stone. It reminds her of the Cave of Warriors, a place she had only been in once three years ago. But she couldn’t possibly be there. That place was hundreds of miles away in the Aur Mountain. She recognized names as she passed, though. Jausmai, Naves, Syllu, Sihir. Each one brought back an old sadness and sharp sense of loss she had thought she had buried with her tribe.
Phoenix shook her head and forced herself to ignore the pain, attempting to stick it back into the container it had been in, telling herself the walls around her had to be some sort of magic trick. It was just an old memory that was being used to test her. She could pass this test, just like she had passed that one where she proved herself as an adult. Otherwise her name wouldn’t be on the wall in the Cave of Warriors, a fighting prodigy at the age of five. If she hadn’t accomplished that feat three years ago, she would have been caught in the murder of her people and wouldn’t be traveling so far away in the hopes of keeping the Askari clan alive somehow. A heavy burden for someone as young as her.
Phoenix reaches the end of the large room. It narrows into a hallway before opening up to another room, this one even more like a cave. The dark stone of the round room and the domed ceiling was painfully familiar. As was the short silhouetted figure across the room. A dull sheen of dark metal on his face highlighting the metal mask of a dragon skull. Any attempts she made to remind herself that this wasn’t real fled her mind as the fear washed over her.
Phoenix grabbed hold of her hammer, the weight not doing much to reassure her as she stumbles half a step closer. The shock and terror from those memories of three years ago returning.
“Who are you?” Phoenix calls out, her voice trembling. He couldn’t be the same person. He’s supposed to be dead. She saw him die. He couldn’t be here. Yet here he was, standing in front of her. Mordrick. The dwarf who had led a party to kill her entire tribe. The original owner of this hammer.
The masked dwarf stands facing her. “I have come to finish my work. You, the one that got away. You must die!” His voice is muffled and hoarse, but it echoes ominously around the cave.
“Why are you doing this?” Phoenix demands. Why is this happening again?
“You are the one that got away!” he yells at her before wildly running towards her. There was an obvious limp in his step and he was clinging his right arm. The only difference this time and last time was the hammer was now in her possession. She holds it out in front of her to block him, but he grabs it. She sees his eyes, glossed and wild, shining through the slits in the mask. She lets go of the hammer as he wrenches it out of her hand, kicking her in the stomach. She falls to her knees, overwhelmed by the fear of this dwarf, confusion at what was happening as things took a different turn, and sadness of losing her family. Perhaps now disappointing them at her weakness. She sits there, paralyzed, not knowing what to do as the dwarf in front of her raises the hammer to bring it down on her.
“Is this what one of the Askari would fall to?” a soft, gravelly voice murmurs through the air. “Frozen by fear? Is this the child I let pass?”
“Guardian?” Phoenix is barely able to speak the word as she sees the silhouette of the aged dragonborn warrior standing behind the dwarf. The blood stained bone sword slashes through the dwarf and he falls to the ground. The Guardian stands there, a soft look on his face as he watches her staring up at him in shocked awe.
“Little one,” he says, the soft tone of his voice resonating inside of her, “you are strong. Do not let fear overcome you. You have much left to do. Take your weapon and know that your family and tribe stands behind you.” Phoenix’s eyes burn as she looks at the wise, kind eyes. “There is more in this world than these radicals. Move forward. There is much left in store for you.” His body shimmers out of view, leaving Phoenix crying on the floor, the body of the dwarf on the ground to her left.
Phoenix forced herself to calm down, catching her breath before she stands up and picking up her hammer. She takes a deep breath, then steps on the body of the dwarf a couple times before heading out of the room. She was ready to forget this time in her life again.
Through the door, Phoenix finds herself in a rectangular room with the carved sandstone walls again. Along the wall in front of her are four large carvings, with one on the left wall and one on the right side of the room, depicting scenes. Phoenix looks at them and the have an obvious aura of magic, whether it was obvious because there was a strange shimmer to them, or it was a feeling for her, or she just expected magic to be there. The carvings also seemed to be connected, since a diamond like symbol was above one of the figures in several of the paintings.
The carving on the left wall was a guy with the symbol above him, standing on the horizon with a large sword. The second was the same guy with the symbol and his sword, but with a wolf and other vague individuals fighting a man riding a dragon. In the carving, there was a shape around him that Phoenix guessed meant he was using magic. The third carving showed the same guy fighting against a man and a woman.The carving somehow showed the woman as enveloped in a dark magical aura, and the guy was shown to be wearing a horned helmet and holding a very large sword.
In the next carving, the guy in the horned helmet is chained on a small, isolated floating island, his sword also chained a couple feet away from him. The man with the symbol was standing close by. The fifth carving, and last on the back wall, didn’t have the guy with the symbol, but it was the same floating island as the one before, showing that the guy with the horned helmet was breaking free. The last carving, on the right wall of the room showed the guy with the horned helmet and the woman with dark magic, with another strange figure that didn’t have any details, standing above the world. Symbols that Phoenix understood to mean ‘death’ were written at the top of the carving.
For some reason, Phoenix is reminded of the book from the green tower. She wonders if she touches the carvings, would she be transported to the places that the carvings showed? Even though these seemed like they were showing a history, she couldn’t tell what the magic of them would do. She walks up to the one where the guy with the horned helmet is breaking free and cautiously runs her fingers across the bottom of it. There was no rush of wind or any sense of pulling, but suddenly Phoenix’s vision showed her something completely different than where she should be standing.
As if she was standing in the air, several spaces from the guy in the horned helmet chained on the island. He was struggling against the chains holding him down. A dark figure that Phoenix wasn’t able to look at directly approached the island and a flash of sword cut through the chains holding the other sword to the ground. Sparks flew as the metal struck metal, and the guy in the horned helmet broke free at the same time. He held his hand out and his sword flies into it. He swings it to break the arch that stood over him, destroying the last magical defense of the prison. He straightened up and Phoenix felt a shock run through her fingertips. She jerked her hand back involuntarily and she saw the carvings on the sandstone wall again as if nothing had happened.
Phoenix figures that whatever the magic in this room is, it is simply to show the history of what happened. She turns to the left wall, where the first carving was of the guy with the diamond symbol over his head was standing by himself on the horizon. Phoenix recognized the symbol as that of the god Silvershard. Perhaps this was his history. She didn’t know much about him, since he was a god of magic favored by humans.
Phoenix reached out and touched the bottom of the carving, like she had the one before. The images appear in front of her and she sees the young man, an obvious magician. Wind is blowing the grass and his robes ripple out behind him. Several figures and the wolf from the second carving walk up into Phoenix’s view, joining the young man and they walk towards the setting sun. The shock that causes her hand to pull back wasn’t as intense as the images fade.
Phoenix moves to the second one, with the dragon rider, and reaches to see what it shows. It’s a fight between the group of the young Silvershard, with the group that joined him in the first carving, and a group of bandits on the ground, with the guy on the dragon hovering above them. Magic attacks are sent up to the dragon rider, while the bandits on the ground are slowly defeated. Finally, only the dragon rider is left. A large magic attack flies towards him, and the dragon disappears. The guy falls to the ground and magic envelopes him and then he is gone as well.
Phoenix blinks at the carving. “Okay, this is getting really weird,” she says to herself as she moves to the next carving. It’s Silvershard, wearing different clothes than before. He’s standing in the middle of the guy in the horned helmet and a woman wearing a long black dress that expands out behind her. The dress seems to shift and shimmer, as if she was wearing shadows. Silvershard is casting spells and swinging a rapier, trying to fight the two of them.
The fourth carving, just to the left of the one Phoenix looked at before, shows her images of the prison, the archway above where the guy in the horned helmet would be chained. In this one, Silvershard is there, again in a different outfit, with a robe of magic over his clothes, looking older. The guy in the horned helmet is attempting to fight him, but magical chains are slowly wrapping around the guy and tying him down.
Phoenix passes over the one of the guy in the horned helmet escaping and goes to the last one on the right wall. The guy in the horned helmet is standing above the world with the woman in the shadow dress. Another figure, the same as from the carving of the guy in the horned helmet escaping, is standing with them. Again, Phoenix can’t look at him directly and can’t make out any details. As she watches, the guy in the horned helmet pulls out his sword, swinging it at the world and cuts it in two.
The shock from the end of that vision was more severe and Phoenix steps back from the carving. Her mind is tumbling with all the information. This was obviously a history, and it was about Silvershard before he became a god, but she didn’t know about the other people in the carvings. And there seemed to be a symbology of it. Was it about the Shattering of the Astral Plane?
Phoenix looked around the room again and noticed that there was a door in the middle of the carvings on the back wall. She keeps thinking about the carvings as she knocks on the back wall and walks down an extremely long hallway, like the one they walked through when they first came in here. She hopes it means that this strange place was coming to an end. At the end is another door that she knocks on and it slides open.
The next room is a large round room with a domed ceiling. In the center of is an old gentleman sitting cross-legged. He was wearing a poncho and a wide brimmed wicker hat. There’s scruff on his chin that was graying at the same rate as the long ponytail he has. In front of him is Quinn, also sitting cross-legged, and the two were chatting. As the door shuts behind Phoenix, the two glance up at her, but then go back to talking. They glance up again when Rysarian walks through a door on the right side of the room, but don’t pay much attention to him, either. Phoenix looks to the left side of the room where there was another door, but Meadowlark doesn’t come through it.

Meadowlark walks through her door, leaving Quinn and Rysarian in the room with the platform. She finds herself in a corridor so long that she can’t see the end of it. Candelabras on the walls every couple of feet provide dim lighting. She walks along the corridor and it opens up to a large oval cavern that is lit from above by yellow crystals clustered in the ceiling. It’s a smooth, mellow light, not harsh like a sun. As soon as she steps into the cavern, she feels soft dirt under her feet. There’s grass growing up from the ground and even patches of small white flowers. As she looks down, she sees an obvious dirt path winding its way through the greenery. Uneasy at the strangeness of the normal plant life in the cave, and extra careful without the others, Meadowlark checks for magic around her. The light crystals give off a lot of magic which seems to be imbued in the grass and flowers, even reflecting from the walls of the cavern, giving everything a soft magic to the whole cavern. With no hiding places for any monsters to ambush her, Meadowlark slowly meanders her way to the other side of the cavern.
The path leads Meadowlark to a door in the wall. But it’s not the same smoothly carved stone. This one is made of wood and looks like a house door. The stark difference and unexpectedness makes it look very out of place, yet somehow seems very familiar to Meadowlark. She reaches out, twisting the iron door handle and the door swings inward easily. The light scent of lavender and freshly baked bread tickles her nose and she walks through the door, experiencing a wave of nostalgia. Somehow she had just walked into her childhood home. Before it was destroyed. Before her entire family and everyone she knew was killed and she had to run for her life. The door creaks softly as it slowly closes behind her.
As Meadowlark walked into the foyer, the windows letting in a stream of impossible sunshine, the house stays eerily silent. No sounds of the servants moving around, cleaning, cooking. No one walking through the room and greeting her and asking how her day is going or if she needed anything. The soft, bubbly feeling she had when she walked in slowly sinks into her stomach, becoming a bittersweet feeling of nostalgia mixed with grief.
The childhood memories tempt Meadowlark up the stairs and down the hall to her bedroom, her large canopy bed made perfectly, the soft white covers and the gauzy white canopy above it, the ends hanging down the sides always making her feel like she was sleeping in the clouds. She goes and sits on the corner of her bed and it sinks underneath her.
A flicker of movement in the corner of the room draws Meadowlark’s eye. It’s her dollhouse sitting diagonally in the corner across from the door. A perfect scale replica of her own house, with the back wall open and dolls positioned in the different rooms. Meadowlark stands up, feeling a twinge of uneasiness, but she doesn’t notice anything out of place. The house is the same as the one she had as a child, but the dolls are different. There are dolls that look exactly like the cook, the maids, even one for the gardner positioned through the house. Dolls of her parents are sitting on a couch in the front room. In her room, and there’s a doll that looks like her when she was 10. She smiles as she thinks of all the good memories, but her eyes are watering with wistfulness.
In the small hallway next to her doll’s bedroom, a doll that’s completely covered in dark cloth stands by itself, out of place with the other dolls. Meadowlark jumps up, quickly backing away from the dollhouse. She hits the wall next to her door, sliding down to the floor and curling in on herself as she sobs. Loss and fear overwhelm her. A sliver of cold metal is pressed to her neck and she freezes, blood rushing from her face.
“You are the one that got away,” a husky, female voice whispers in her ear. Meadowlark knew that this was the assassin that killed her family. But she had never heard the assassin speak. The sound of the woman’s voice jolted her out of her fear, but she still couldn’t move with the knife against her neck. Thinking quickly, she summoned her cat, having it appear at the top of the canopy of the bed. The cat doesn’t see anything behind Meadowlark crouching against the wall and the cold blade vanishes from her neck.
Meadowlark quickly stands up and walks out of the room, calling her cat back to her at the same time. She goes down the stairs to the dining room, liking the large open room. The outer wall was mostly windows that glowed with the light from the setting sun. She could see the flower gardens, the cobblestone path winding through the white rose bushes, the ivy covered fence in the distance that encircled the house, and they all helped her relax. Even if this wasn’t real, the familiarity was still comforting. She circles the dining room table, running her hand over the tall back of the chair at the head of the table, where her dad always sat. He was a wonderful man. Kind and generous. He would do anything for his little girl.
Meadowlark stops at the chair she would always sit in, next to her mother. She liked that seat because she was facing the door that the servants would come in through, bringing dinner. She would always look for the maid with her black hair in a bun. Jessie. She was an older maid, about the same age as Meadowlark’s mother. Jessie would always bring her an extra dessert at dinner, or stop anything she was doing if Meadowlark needed anything. She was the maid that had saved her.
Meadowlark’s eyes water and she walks out of the dining room, catching her breath as she walks through the house towards the other side of the house. To her favorite room. The library. Inside, the bookshelves were up to the ceiling. A rolling ladder was attached to the wall to get to the higher shelves. In the corner, close to the window, was a small nook that she would sit in and read while her dad worked at his desk. Usually it had stacks of books and papers, a couple bottles of ink and a handful of candles at different heights, the wax dripping onto the table as her dad worked on something, losing track of time. The servants knew not to touch anything on his desk. Right now, though, the only thing on the desk was a single lit candle in the darkening room and a book that was opened right in front of the chair, as if someone had been in the middle of it before leaving it. Meadowlark walks over and sits in the large leather chair. It was the first time she had done so where she could easily see the top of the desk without having to sit in her dad’s lap. The book was opened and there was handwriting that she immediately recognized as her dad’s. The date at the top was marked for her tenth birthday party. Ten days before her family was killed.
In the journal entry, Meadowlark’s dad mentions the huge feast. ‘Everyone came to wish my darling little princess a happy birthday. She was beaming the whole time. It was wonderful to see her so happy. Sadly, I missed the cake coming out. I was looking forward to seeing her face when she saw the magnificent cake that Jessie made just for her, but Kelthir pulled me aside. Business as usual, but it took a while to deal with. Kelthir must have seen how anxious I was and as soon as I told him what to do, he was off to try to fix it. Luckily, it worked out well.’ The entry continues on as her dad describes her reactions to the presents he had gotten her.
With her dad calling her his ‘little princess’, Meadowlark is reminded of her favorite book that her dad would read to her when she was young. The title was simply “The Little Princess”, and she walked over to the bookcase, easily finding the worn book on a lower shelf. The corners of the leather cover was scuffed and the binding was unraveling. The pages were yellowed and some were wrinkled. Meadowlark read through the book, the pictures sparking even more memories for her as she read about the little princess and her family going on vacation. While traveling, she was separated from her family and then at the end, the dad finds her, scoops her up in his arms, and takes her back home.
The corner of a page close to the end was turned down. Meadowlark flipped it open, expecting to see the picture of the dad picking up the little princess, since that was her favorite. But the picture was wrong. It was a shadowy figure that was picking up the little princess, blade flashing under the black robes. Meadowlark drops the book in shock as the picture seemed to move. As the book hits the ground a strong gust of wind blows through, the candle goes out and the window behind the desk shatters inward. Meadowlark covers her face and then looks up, seeing the silhouette of the assassin against a dim pale blue light, as if the full moon was shining outside. The cloak’s hood was up, shadowing the figures face even more. Meadowlark can make out normal clothes, though all black, under the cloak, and the glimmer of a blade in each of the figure’s hands.
Meadowlark straightens her shoulders, unwilling to let this possible figment scare her. “You failed in killing me,” she calls out, pushing past the slight quiver in her voice and infusing the words with magic. “That must mean that you are a failure. I can defeat you.”
“You getting away was a mistake that will be quickly remedied,” the assassin says with easy dismissal. The assassin disappeared, reappearing next to Meadowlark. She only saw a quick flash of silver before pain shot through her shoulder. Her blood soaks through her shirt instantly as the assassin pulls Meadowlark’s sword from her scabbard and pushes the girl backwards. Meadowlark allows herself to fall backwards, landing hard on the ground and the keeping perfectly still. She doesn’t make a single noise or even breath, hoping that the assassin will assume she’s dead and leave. The assassin stabs Meadowlark again, who can’t help but gasp at the severe pain. With another stab, Meadowlark falls unconscious, lying on the floor as blood oozes out of her stab wounds.

The corridor through the door that Rysarian walks through leads to a large octagonal room. He looks around, only seeing a pedestal and something shimmering on the floor in the middle. It seems safe enough for him to go in. Crystals light the large room from the ceiling, giving everything a faint blue tinge to it. On the other side of the room is a door. As he approaches the carved stone pedestal, he sees four small statuettes in a line on it. He’s also able to tell that the shimmering on the ground is a large round pond, about 25 feet across.
A dark shadow passes underneath the surface of the water and a body of dark blue scales breaks the surface. A serpent’s head rises up, intelligent yellow eyes look at Rysarian. Long whiskers hanging from it’s face twitch as the head moves side to side, constantly keeping sharp watch while Rysarian stares up at it. Starting at the back of its head and following down the length of its back are spiked scales. The dragonlike serpent opens its mouth with a slow hiss, showing long, sharp teeth.
“Welcome traveler.” The voice slithers through Rysarian’s mind, quiet and whispery.
“Uh, thanks. How are you doing?” Rysarian asks hesitantly.
“I m doing quite well,” the serpent replies genially.
“Just taking a nap in your pond,” Rysarian asks with a wave.
“Yes,” it agrees with a bob of its head, its eyes unblinking. “I have been waiting for those who seek passage through this place.”
“Where does this lead to?” Rysarian asks, looking back at the door in the wall behind the serpent.
“It leads to a friend of mine.”
“Who’s your friend?”
“You would know him perhaps as the Master of the Monastery,” the serpent replies. It tilts its head and its mouth widens, as if it was smiling. “I must tell you that to leave this room, a sacrifice is required. As you see before you, there are four statues. You may examine any of the statues in any order. Touching a statue will let you see the reality the statue symbolizes. Once you have made your choice, throw the statue into my pond,” the serpent explains.
“Can’t I just hand it to you?” Rysarian asks.
The body of the serpent writhes under the surface of the water and its mouth snaps at him. “Do I look like I have hands?” the voice asks harshly. “You must throw it into my pond. And if you take too long in deciding, then I will eat you as your sacrifice.”
Rysarian nods in understanding, deciding not to ask any more questions. He stands in front of the pedestal and looks at the four small statues. The one on the far left is a chest, next to it is one that looks like Meadowlark. A statue of Quinn is beside that one with one of Phoenix on the far right. The treasure chest on the left is the most tempting for him, so he picks it up. The room lightens significantly and the blue color of the room is overpowered by yellow as the walls of the room turn to glass. Beyond them is an ancient dragon’s horde of gold, jewels, weapons and armor with runes carved into them. All types are set on top or half buried in the mountains of gold all around him. Rysarian takes several moments just to turn in a circle, trying to take it all in. Eventually, he puts the chest back down, thinking he could come back to it, just to look at the wondrous beauty of it.
Rysarian moves on to the next statue, the one of Meadowlark. He picks it up and the surface of the pond shimmers and he sees Meadowlark laying on her back on a carpeted ground in a library, a book on the ground beside her. It looks as if she fell asleep while reading. Rysarian puts the statue back down and picks up the statue of Quinn. The image on the pond shows the wizard sitting cross legged across from an older man sitting in a similar fashion. The two seemed to be chatting contentedly with each other.
“Hmm,” Rysarian is tempted to throw that one in just for the fun of it, but he puts it back down and picks up Phoenix’s. The image shows the dragonborn kneeling in a dark cave, as if she was deep in thought. He sets that one down, too, thinking about the bloodbond. “What happens when one is sacrificed?” he asks the serpent.
“In the case of a living creature, the creature dies and the body is removed from this world,” the serpent answers calmly.
“What world does it go to?”
“None. It no longer exists. In the case of objects, it is merely obliterated.”
Rysarian picks up the statue of the treasure again, the gold light reflecting around him so tempting. “Well, I know what choice I should make,” he says to himself. “Um, hypothetically,” he begins, looking up at the serpent. “If one of the sacrifices is blood bonded, would the other person involved in the blood bond also die?” The serpent tilts its head, intrigued.
“Hypothetically, in the case of a blood bond, the other would also die. I have never run into that before, but that would be my best guess,” the serpent tells him.
“I thought so,” Rysarian mutters. He picks up Meadowlark’s statue in his other hand, holding her statue and the treasure chest in either hand. If Phoenix dies, he dies, so that was an obvious no. If he threw in Quinn’s, then he would take with him the understanding of the path of fortune. And any possible chance of removing the blood bond, probably. So he was left with Meadowlark and the chest as his two options.
“Would you help me carry the treasure?” Rysarian asks the serpent.
“I can help you move the treasure,” the serpent nods. “”I would be able to teleport it to a specific place, if you could accurately describe the exact place you wanted.”
Rysarian looks down at the two statues, wondering if he could throw both in at the same time so he wouldn’t have to make the choice. Or maybe the serpent would only take half of each. He could still get half the treasure, and Meadowlark would only be half dead. The serpent’s body shifts restlessly in the pond and it hisses impatiently at him.
“Alright, fine,” he says, throwing in the treasure chest. It barely causes a ripple in the pond.
“Very well, you have made your choice. Forgoing a lifetime’s worth of wealth, enough to buy a kingdom and equip an army, the chance of having anything you could ever desire, for the life of an acquaintance. You may continue on,” the serpent said, dipping back under the surface of the water. The walls had returned to stone as soon as Rysarian let go of the chest statue.
“You don’t have to rub it in,” he mutters to himself, pulling out a piton and hammer and walks over to the closest wall and hits it against the sandstone, hoping that it was actually glass. It wasn’t. Rysarian sighs and goes back to the pedestal, grabbing the three statues to take with him through the door on the opposite side of the room. He finds himself in a very long hallway and, when he reaches the door at the end and knocks, it leads him into the room that he had seen Quinn and the old man in the straw hat sitting in the center and chatting. Phoenix is on the left of him, as if she had just walked through a door as well. The wall opposite him had another door that stayed closed.

Meadowlark slowly wakes up, her whole body feeling stiff and filled with varying degrees of pain. She squints up at the ceiling of her family’s library, lit with an early morning light. She panics for a second, checking her sheath, but her sword isn’t there. She struggles up to a sitting position and looks around. Her sword is stabbed into the ground next to where her head was. She grabs the hilt and uses it to stand up. No one else was in the room. She hobbles out of the room and goes to the back door of the house, leading to the garden that surrounded it. Somehow, the bright, morning like light, the smell of flowers and the different colors of the blooms around her, the familiar white elegance of the patio and wrought iron tables and chairs did nothing to help Meadowlark’s desire to leave this place. She walked through the garden to the back gate and stepped out. The light dimmed and she could see the yellow crystals on the domed ceiling above her again. She was on a dirt path with the patches of flowers around her, like she was before. She winces as she walks, but makes it to the door at the end of the path. It was stone like the ones before. She knocks, entering a long hallway. She groans, leaning against the hallway wall as she walks down it, wondering if it was somehow even longer than the first one.
Finally, Meadowlark reaches the door at the end of the hallway. She knocks on it and stumbles into a large round room where Quinn and an old man in a straw hat and a white poncho with black, fire like designs edge it, are sitting cross legged in the middle of the room. Rysarian is sitting next to Quinn and Phoenix is laying on the ground next to them, staring at the ceiling, half listening, half thinking about the carvings.
Meadowlark catches herself on the wall and slides down to the ground as the others look over at her. The master looks back at Quinn and nods before standing up and clapping his hands. “So! You’ve all finally arrived! I’m so glad that you all could make it! Welcome! Welcome!” He starts walking over to Meadowlark. “I seems like one of you didn’t fair so well, here let me help you,” he says, holding out his hand in front of her. The skin on the palm of his hand is lit with a greenish light that forms into pink petals that fall onto Meadowlark and glow as they fade into her, healing her. The Master helps her up and walks back to the center of the room, where the others have stood up. “Well, now that this young lady is all healed up, are you ready for the challenge?”
“Wait, that wasn’t the challenge?” Meadowlark asks, following behind him. He looks back at her, confused.
“What wasn’t?”
“You don’t have a pet serpent?” Rysarian asks.
“Nope. Not at all. I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about,” the master says cheerfully.
“How did you get here?” Rysarian asks. “Obviously it wasn’t the same way that we did.”
“Oh, I know my way through this place. I have some traps, if that’s what you’re talking about. Like enchanted bows and pressure plates, of course.”
“Ah, of course,” Rysarian agrees. “Oh, yeah, I found statues of you guys,” he adds, reaching into his bag and searching for the statues, but he doesn’t find them.
“So are you guys ready to go?” the Master asks, flipping up his poncho and pulling out his sword. It was still wrapped in its sheath, with different magic wards stuck onto it. The others don’t seem to pay him much attention, though.
“What are we even doing here?” Meadowlark complains, stretching out her tense muscles.
“Yeah, is this really worth it?” Rysarian adds, dropping the pebbles back into his bag. He didn’t get any treasure and he couldn’t even keep the cool little statues.
“Well, we came for the sword,” Quinn speaks up. “He’s only challenging us to make sure that we can handle it. It’s holding a demon.”
“Ah, then yes, let’s fight this guy who can control a sword possessed by a demon. I’m sure that we can do it,” Phoenix mutters.
“We’re all going to die,” Meadowlark says to herself, her confidence very low.
Rysarian moves to the side of the Master and tries to attack, but the Master has plenty of time to dodge. Meadowlark takes the other side of him and cuts into him while he’s still distracted. Phoenix takes another side of the master and swings a heavy blow onto the trapped man. Quinn tosses in his spiked wire, wrapping it around the Master. The man just takes the attacks, but then he lashes out at all of them. Rysarian dodges a punch, but Meadowlark is hit by an elbow and Phoenix receives a kick in the shins as the Master steps out of their circle. He takes a second to focus his energy, and then strikes out with his palm in a rapid fire succession, hitting each of them and knocking them all back. Rysarian has a busted lip, Phoenix’s nose is bleeding, and Meadowlark’s eyebrow is cut.
Rysarian positions himself behind the Master and strikes out at him. Rysarian attacks again when he sees the Master’s blood seeping into his white robe. Meadowlark steps up to the other side of the Master, attacking him and pushing him backwards next to Rysarian. Phoenix takes a position on the other corner of him and swings her hammer, missing the first time but using the energy from her anger to swing again. Quinn keeps his distance and attempts to use his static shock, but it misses.
The Master shifts, putting himself in the middle of Phoenix, Meadowlark, and Rysarian before he attacks, using his quick punch and hitting both Meadowlark and Rysarian, but missing Phoenix. Rysarian falls to the ground, unconscious. He attacks again, but this time he misses Meadowlark and hits Phoenix. Meadowlark attacks, but the blood from her cut eyebrow gets into her eye and she misses. She shifts away from them, hoping the get space to heal Rysarian and herself. Phoenix, frustrated at the whole day, gathers her strength as she looks at this old man. In her mind’s eye, she sees the dwarf and she steps forward, swinging her hammer with as much force as she could muster. She was not going to be scared. She was an Askari. Her hammer lands solidly on the Master’s chest, slamming him backwards into the wall. His straw hat flies off and slowly floats down towards the Master’s body, but it explodes into a pile of petals.
“What?” Meadowlark asks, stepping forward in surprise. “Did we kill him?”
“No!” Phoenix turns around angrily. “You don’t understand! He wasn’t even real! None of this has been real!”
“Wow, that was a really good fight.” Phoenix and Meadowlark turn to see the Master leaning on Quinn’s shoulder.
“You’re kidding me!” Meadowlark shrieks. She looks around, seeing Rysarian on the ground and she digs through his bag, pulling out two of the pebbles. She throws them at Quinn and the Master, but her aim is off in her anger and the first one flies way above Quinn’s head. The other is close enough to the Master that he catches it and tosses it in the air as he talks.
“You all did really good. I’ll heal you all up again, no worries. And I have some gifts for you, too.” The Master walks to each of them, his palm glowing green and the flower petals flying out to heal each of them. He walks back to Quinn. “I believe that you can handle this,” he says, giving him the sword. Quinn nods. “Now if you’ll all follow me?” he asks, looking back at the three that were still annoyed. “I did promise to give you gifts, remember?”
Rysarian is the first to follow and Phoenix and Meadowlark slowly walk after them as the Master approaches a normal looking wall. He touches it and an unseen door opens. The master walks through and beckons the others to walk through after him. The walk into a smaller room with a pedestal in the middle.
“Of course,” Rysarian says, looking at the pedestal, an exact copy of the one he had seen earlier. On top of it, however, there aren’t little statues, but there are a couple pouches. The master looks at the pedestal and back at the group, he picks up a pouch with a silver symbol that looks like a coin and takes it over to Rysarian. The master goes back to the pedestal and pulls out something from another pouch and hands that to Rysarian as well. He looks at his hand and sees a perfect sapphire filling up most of his palm.
“Go ahead and put that in the pouch,” the Master says. Rysarian does as he’s told. When he drops the gem in, he hears a small jingling sound. Confused, he opens up the bag and sees a single coin instead of the sapphire. He pulls it out and realizes that it’s a platinum coin. “Oh, and,” the Master starts, going back to the pedestal, picking up the pouch off the top and lifting up the top of the pedestal. He puts the pouch down inside and pulls out a small barrel, setting it on the top of the pedestal. He pulls out a flask and pours some out of the barrel, taking a sip before gesturing to the barrel. “You can have that, too,” he tells Rysarian.
“Uh, okay,” Rysarian says.
“Ah, yes, to let you know, that’s what they call a cask of liquid gold. Every day it replenishes. It’ll never run out of Dwarven Ale.”
“Thanks,” Rysarian says.
The Master then looks around at the others, a confused, distant look on his face that reminded them of Quinn. The Master scrunches his nose as he looks at Phoenix, who doesn’t know what to do as he approaches her. He reaches out and touches her hammer, making it glow red for a couple of seconds before going back to normal. “Yes, yes, that should work. Now, I think that,”
“Wait,” Phoenix interrupts him, “What did you do to my hammer?” Phoenix asks.
“Oh, yes, that,” the Master touches another wall and a door opens before he looks back at her. “There was an enchantment on it. I just activated it.”
“Oh, thanks,” Phoenix says before walking out the door to a staircase. The others follow her out and up out of the cave system. They were all happy to see the sky again.
“Is there anything that I can help you guys out with?” C asks them as they head out of the monastery.
“No, I don’t think so,” Rysarian is the only one to answer. Quinn was focused on the sword and Meadowlark and Phoenix weren’t acknowledging the existence of other people while they were trapped in their own thoughts.
“Okay, you are welcome to come back any time,” C says with a smile. Rysarian nods and they head back to the boat with Ted and head back to the ship.

Knock on Stone

It’s late in the evening and the crew is relaxing, still docked at the Spire. Rysarian is meditating peacefully in his room, sitting cross-legged on top of the large chest. Meadowlark is happily reading a book in her room, her summoned cat curled up at her feet. Phoenix gets bored in her room and heads over to Quinn’s. She knocks lightly, cautious to disturb him.
“Come on in,” he calls through the door. Phoenix opens the door and stands in the doorway, looking in at Quinn sitting at his desk, papers scattered on every surface, and some are hanging in the air for quick reference. Some had quill sized holes in them.
“I wanted to see how you were doing on the journal,” Phoenix said, leaning against the frame and looking curiously at the different papers.
“Well, it’s a bit of slow going. This is basically the hardest part of it, getting through the cypher and figuring out the coding. Different intonations and colloquialisms were used by the writer, so it also requires some background research. As soon as I’m able to get past this point, it’ll be a lot easier, but right now,” he drifts off as he looks up at one of the papers in the air and then back down, squinting at the lines and the swirling handwriting.
“Do you need any help or references or anything?” Phoenix asks, wondering if there was any possible way to help.
“Well, I have most things here, though there are some things at my office in the capitol that would be helpful,” he says, a purple puff of smoke pops up in the middle of his desk, and a small purple figure is standing there holding a giant envelope above it’s head. It’s surprisingly cute, in a demonic sort of way.
“Is that thing yours?” Phoenix asks.
“Oh, yeah, that’s Aime’Vek,” Quinn replies, trying to straighten up the papers that had fluttered away. “She likes to cause problems.”
The creature huffs up at him, “well, boss, you have a letter,” she says in annoyance, bouncing the letter up and down, the flapping ends causing more paper to shift around. Quinn takes it from her, opens it and reads it.
“You may leave,” he says, giving it back to her. She takes it with a roll of her eyes and poofs away in another puff of smoke, sending more papers askew.
“Good news?” Phoenix asks as Quinn situates his cloak as he stands up.
“More or less,” he agrees, sliding his glasses back up onto his nose and heading out the door. “It seems like we have a quest.” Curious, Phoenix follows him as he goes to talk with the captain.
“Captain, I have a request to go to a specific location, if that would be alright?” Quinn asks. Captain Charlotte looks up from a conversation she was having with a young girl and nods at Quinn. “I can say we can leave tomorrow morning, if there’s nothing left to do on the boat.” Captain Charlotte nods again. Quinn nods back and walks off to find the navigator. Phoenix stands confused on the deck for a couple seconds, then heads back to her room. At least they’ll have something to do now.
The news that they’ll be heading off in the morning travels fast around the ship to the crew and several make a last minute trip out to the Spire to collect anything they’d want for another long trip. Rysarian also takes a walk around the Spire, going out late in the evening when most of the shops had closed. Only the Black Stout has any level of activity going on, though by this point it is down to a couple of very drunk dwarves being forcibly asked to leave before they stumble down the path. Rysarian keeps his eyes out as he walks, but so far he’s only found three silver pieces. A glowing light outside the tavern draws his attention and he walks over to look at a strange machine. There are eight buttons and a lever on the side. There’s sections of glass with images that change as they scroll past. Rysarian finds a small slot in it and he sticks in one of the silver that he had found and presses the first button. Nothing happens so he pushes the eighth button as well, but nothing changes. He puts in another coin and the buttons light up so he pulls the lever, but again, nothing happens. He pushes the first button and the other buttons stop being lit. He then pushes the eighth button and it turns on, with the first one turning off. He pulls the lever and he hears metallic clanking. A cylindrical metal object comes out of the bottom of the machine. Rysarian picks it up and shakes it, hearing liquid inside. On top has some sort of mechanism to open it. Rysarian shrugs and heads back to the boat, happy enough with finding a piece of silver and a weird can.

For most of the crew, it’s an early start as they undock the ship and head off on their next quest..
“Hey, Quinn, where are we going?” Meadowlark asks.
“A place,” Quinn replies distractedly, flipping through a book as he sat on the deck. Meadowlark put her hands on her hips.
“That’s so helpful,” she says. Quinn looks up and pushes his glasses back up.
“It’s this old monastery, I have a friend that lives there. I was asked to go see if I can pick up something for the guild and then drop it off at the capitol,” Quinn tells them before looking back at the book.
“Okay,” Meadowlark says, turning around and heading off to play with her cat.
“Are we getting paid to do this?” Rysarian yells down from the crow’s nest.
“Most likely!” Quinn calls up to him.
“That’s better than no,” Rysarian says, going back to watching the sky.

It’s a three day trip for the ship, with the ship starting to slow mid afternoon when they spot their destination off in the distance. Nestled between two large hills, not quite big enough to be considered mountains, but very close to it, was a wall that had to be very tall to be visible from such a long distance away.
“Ted!” Quinn yells, “Get the boat ready!” Phoenix is the first to board the small caravan boat, so ready to get off of the ship. Rysarian boards after, knowing he has to go wherever she goes. Meadowlark boards after Quinn and Ted takes them down to the sandstone brick wall and they land in front of a large redwood gate studded with iron bands at the top and bottom of it.
“Quinn, have you been here before?” Phoenix asks, looking up at the twelve foot tall door.
“Yeah, it’s been a while, but I’ve been here. There should be someone who would open the door. We just have to get their attention,” Quinn replies.
“Okay,” Phoenix says, stepping up to the door and bangs her fist on the door. The sound seems to echo on both sides. The four of them stand there, waiting. Phoenix shifts from foot to foot. Meadowlark fiddles with the hilt of her sword. Rysarian spins a dagger in his hand. Quinn stands patiently, looking up at the door. Phoenix raises her fist to knock again, but the group hears a girl shout over the wall.
“Um, hello? Who’s there?”
“Would they know you, Quinn?” Phoenix asks, lowering her hand and stepping back.
“Maybe,” he agrees, shifting to the front of the group. “Hello, my name is Quinn,” he calls up genially. “I came here to see the master of the monastery.”
“Alright, give me a second to open up the gate,” she calls back. It’s silent for a couple seconds and then the sound of clanking chains and creaking wood as the gate slowly swung open.
Inside, there were a handful of small sandstone brick buildings with patches of grass around the dirt packed training areas. A girl with short blonde hair walks up to them, her short sleeved blue tunic showing tanned skin and delicately muscular form and her grey pants tucked into dusty ankle boots, evidence of long hours spent in those training areas. She stood in front of them, her hands clasped as she looked at them.
“Thanks for letting us in. What’s your name?” Rysarian asks.
“My name is C,” she answers and shrugs. “That’s what I go by, or what the Master calls me, anyway.” She looks behind her and then back at them, frowning. “I’m sorry to say, but the master isn’t currently here at the monastery, he hasn’t been for a while now. He’s been undergoing a sort of training.”
“Uh,” Meadowlark, Rysarian and Phoenix look at each other, then back at Quinn. He’s examining the door, running his hand across the thick redwood.
“Quinn!” Rysarian calls sharply.
“Huh? What?” Quinn asks, turning around to look at them and adjusting his glasses.
“Our purpose for being here?” Rysarian prompts.
“Oh, yes,” Quinn says, joining the group. “We were sent here from the Guild to collect a special artifact. The Master should know about it. I, uh, can’t say much more,” he ends shortly.
C gives him a knowing look, but she nods, understanding the need to be discreet. “Yes, as I said, the Master isn’t here, but he does have a challenge for those seeking an audience from him. If you’ll follow me?” she asks, tilting her head as she waves her hand down the path before turning and leading the way to a larger building in the center of the compound. The door was made of the same redwood as the gate. C opens the door and motions for them to follow her again as she walks in. Quinn heads in without hesitation, the others exchange a look, but Phoenix heads in, followed by the last two.
“When was the last time someone asked for an audience with him?” Rysarian asks from the back of the group.
“Quite a while,” C replies, leading them through the the sandstone halls. “Around five years. There was an attack on the monastery about ten years ago. We lost a lot of the students,” she tells them, her voice muted as they head down a set of stairs to a large training area. “After the attack, with so much destruction, those that were still alive left, calling the master a fool. Since that day, the master has stayed in an underground cavern filled with tests and puzzles to test those who seek him. It’s a way to separate those who truly want his training and those who only seek to gain his artifacts.”
Through the training areas, they are lead to a dimly lit storage area. Supplies are stacked around the room. Along one of the walls is a stone wall inset. C walks over and taps a a sequence across the door and it slides open.
C motions for the four to go in through the door, but she stays in the doorway as the four enter the next room. “Beyond this door is the start of the challenge. The only way to speak with the master is to pass through it. I’m sorry that it has to be this way, but it’s what the master has requested. Anyone who wants to see him must do this, even an old friend. I wish you luck. May your adventure be fruitful,” she bows and then the door closes between them.
They’re in a corridor that slopes downward. Candle sconces hung on the wall every ten feet or so. Rysarian cautiously looks around, but he doesn’t see any danger. Phoenix leads the way down the corridor. It’s a very long corridor and Phoenix was starting to get bored by the time they finally reached the end. A stone door, carved smooth like the one that C opened up before, is sitting at the end of the corridor. Phoenix pushes on it, but it doesn’t open.
“Was anyone paying attention to how she knocked on the door?” Phoenix asks.
“Nope,” Rysarian says.
“Not me,” Meadowlark adds. Quinn just shakes his head.
“Quinn, why don’t you check and see if it has any magic?” Phoenix says. Quinn stepped up and examines the door, adjusting his glasses.
“The door doesn’t seem to have any magical properties. There might be something about it to make it open, but nothing beyond that,” he replies, stepping back. Rysarian walks up to it and tries sliding the door to the right. He can’t get much hold on the smooth stone and it doesn’t budge. Phoenix gets annoyed, not enjoying being possibly trapped in a long corridor, and pulls out her hammer. Rysarian jumps out of the way as she swings her hammer at the door. The loud resulting bang echoes around the corridor and the door slides open.
“Maybe we only needed to knock,” Quinn muses to himself as they walk into a large chamber. In the center is a large platform with a couple stairs leading up the five feet to it on all sides. On the arena are nine large crystals evenly spaced in a three by three grid on the platform. Quinn gets sidetracked by the architecture and doesn’t pay attention to the crystals. Phoenix goes up onto the platform, followed by Rysarian who pokes the crystal on the front right corner. It lights up along with the front middle and the middle on the right. Phoenix is at the back left crystal and touches that one, the back middle and middle left crystals light up with the one she touched.
“The adjacent crystals turn on,” she says. “Touch yours again,” she calls to Rysarian. “If we touch the middle one, they might all turn on.”
He follows her orders and they both touch the crystals again and all of the crystals turn off. Phoenix moves to the middle crystal to touch, but when she does, only the middle ones turn on, not the four in the corners. The group hears movement in the corners of the room and shadowy figures in robes with weapons come out of the corners and on the left and right sides of the room, having six total appear.
Rysarian is the first to react and he jumps down from the platform to the shadow ninja that appeared to the right of the door they walked in, landing a decent blow with his sword. The figure fades and becomes more transparent while Meadowlark takes the one to the left of the door. Quinn is able to draw his attention from the architecture of the room and he pulls out his gun and shoots the shadow ninja that Rysarian had attacked. The bullet of light rips through the shadowy figure and it fades away. Quinn then walks up onto the platform.
“Touch that corner crystal again,” Phoenix says, having been figuring out how to solve the crystal puzzle while the others were getting attacked. Quinn does as he’s told. The corner one lights up, but the mille right and front middle crystals turn off. Phoenix then touches the back left crystal again, with it turning on and the back middle and middle left crystals turning off, and then moves to the back right crystal, leaving the back middle crystal alone. Before she reaches it, she’s flanked by two of the shadow ninjas that block her path, both hitting her. The one fighting with Meadowlark lands a blow and another shadow ninja moves closer to her. One attacks Quinn, but Rysarian flanks that one and attacks it. Meadowlark attacks one of the ones by her.
Quinn runs away from the shadow ninja by him to the front left crystal and touches it, understanding the order that the crystals need to be lit. The one he touches lights up, as well as the front middle, and the left middle crystals. Phoenix attacks the two shadow ninjas by her, using the force of her swings to sidestep closer to the back right crystal to touch it, lighting up the last three crystals. They all flicker brightly, then slide into the floor. With the now open view of the room, the four adventurers realize that they have seven shadow ninjas to worry about.
Two of the shadow ninjas attack Meadowlark.
Phoenix is surrounded by three of them and they each attack her. She coughs up blood from the force of the blows. “I could use some help over here!” Phoenix calls to the others.
Rysarian attacks the one by him and it becomes transparent. “I’m a little busy,” he replies.
“You’re too far away!” Meadowlark calls from the opposite corner of the room. “I could try to run closer, but I couldn’t take too many more attacks.”
“Well, we don’t need two people dying,” Phoenix replies. Meadowlark attacks one of the shadow ninjas and it disappears. She takes the chance to shift closer to the arena.
“I’ve got you,” Quinn calls, tossing a metal ball right behind two of the shadow ninjas surrounding Phoenix. It explodes into lightning and zaps the two ninjas. Phoenix follows up with swinging blows to the same two and they vanish into smoke.
The four shadow ninjas left each attack one of the adventurers, the ones by Quinn and Phoenix hitting, but Meadowlark and Rysarian are able to dodge the attacks. Rysarian attacks the one by him and it puffs into smoke. He moves closer to Phoenix and flanks the shadow ninja still by her. Phoenix swings a crushing blow at the ninja and it fades slightly as she shifts away from it. It strikes out at Rysarian but misses. Meadowlark attacks the one by her, which hits her in return.
Rysarian slashes his sword out at the shadow ninja, hitting it, and then he glares at it. It disappears in fear. Meadowlark slashes through the last one, making it disapparate as well.
Phoenix sits down on the stairs for a quick rest, facing the back wall. As she’s sitting, she sees movement in front of her and realizes there’s a door there. Subsequently, Meadowlark sees a door on the right side of the room, opposite of where she’s standing, and Rysarian sees a door on the wall on the left behind where Meadowlark is standing.
Phoenix gets up and heads over to the door on the back wall. “Hey, there’s a door over here,” she calls to the others. Rysarian looks over at her from his spot by the door on the left.
“No, the door’s over here,” he says.
“What are you talking about?” Meadowlark asks from the wall on the right. “The door is right here.”
“Quinn, do you see this door?” Rysarian asks. Quinn looks over at him and shakes his head.
“The only door here is the door we walked through,” he replies, pointing back at the front of the room.
“Come check for magic over here,” Rysarian says, waving him over. Quinn walks over and feels along the wall.
“Well, yeah, this wall is magical. It’s pretty obvious,” Quinn says. Meadowlark checks her door and senses the strong magic also.
Phoenix simply knocks on the door in front of her and the door slides open. She walks through without a second thought. Rysarian, worried about the blood bond, heads over to where she seemed to disappear into the wall, but there’s no hint of a door. He figures that, since he wasn’t feeling any negative effects, she must be okay, so he headed back to his door, knocks, and goes in after it slides open. Meadowlark knocks on hers and walks through as well, leaving Quinn in the room by himself.

Slimey Ruins

The Isis Maru traveled, the navigator doing his best to figure out where the X meant them to go on the crude map. They found the mountain that the emap probably meant, but they still hadn’t found the cave entrance when it got dark, so they had to stop for the night. In the next day’s morning light, they finally spotted an entrance in the side of the mountain, just a short distance away from the edge of a forest.
“We’ll take the small boat down,” Phoenix said.
“We have a quick job to do. We’ll be back before night,” Corbin said. “Take your time.”
Meadowlark, Quinn, Rysarian, and Phoenix head down in a boat, Ted staying on the boat, figuring they could handle going down to the flat ground on their own while he helped the ship. The group looks at the cave entrance and head in. The outside light lets them see inside the room. A passageway way was straight ahead of them. Carved reliefs were on the walls on either side of the entrance. The one on the left was of a hero slaying monsters. The one on the right was the same hero, but he was walking with the monsters. Underneath both panels, there was a line of ancient runes.
“Quinn?” Rysarian asked.
“It looks like it’s only one word. Determination.” Quinn replied. There wasn’t anything in the room.
“Was there anything else on the map?” Rysarian asked.
“No, we barely found our way here,” Phoenix said. “We better get going,” she added, walking down the corridor. The others followed. It was a long corridor. The light behind them having more and more difficulty following them into the tunnel and it was getting more difficult to see. The lighting changed, becoming a low intensity blueish green glow. At the very end, there’s another doorway leading to a room that had mushrooms and goo, both glowing with the blue light.
“We just need some slime samples?” Rysarian asked.
“From the queen slime,” Phoenix answered.
“Could this be the queen slime?” Rysarian asked, going up to the wall.
“I would doubt it,” Quinn said. “If it was that easy to get to, we wouldn’t be here.”
“Hey, do you know where the queen is?” Rysarian asked the wall. The other three looked at each other in confusion. Phoenix started to worry what would happen to her if it turned out she was blood bonded to a crazy person. Rysarian looks around the room, the only one who could see clearly in the dimly lit room. There was another passageway, across from where they had entered, that had two armored looking slimes in the doorway. Rysarian walks over to them. “Hello little slimes,” Rysarian said. The two slimes look up at him. “Can we go past?”
The other three walk forward, seeing that Rysarian actually was talking to real things this time. As they approached, an echoing voice, reminiscent of the voice from the wind temple since it was more in their minds than from the air. It was a soft female voice.
“Ah, it looks like there are more adventurers that have come to seek what treasure we have. Have you come to slaughter my children?”
“Who are your children?” Rysarian asked.
“I am the queen of all slimes. They are all my children.”
“Then no, we don’t really want to kill things here,” Rysarian said.
“Then what are you here for?” The Queen asked.
“We were sent here,” Phoenix spoke up. “We were asked if we could gather samples from you, the queen. The man who sent us is very interested in studying you.”
“How can I believe that you are being honest? You might be telling me this just to hurt my children.”
“We could leave our weapons here, would that work?” Rysarian asked. “Then you wouldn’t have to worry about it.”
“That would be some show of trust,” the queen agreed.
“Could you leave a slime to guard it?” Rysarian asked.
“Perhaps one, but I cannot ensure your weapons safety,” the queen replied.
“We could leave Meadowlark’s cat,” Phoenix spoke up.
“Yeah, that wouldn’t be a problem,” Meadowlark agreed. The group walked back to the first room and disarmed themselves. Rysarian putting his collection of knives off on their own. Meadowlark’s sword sat beside Quinn’s two staffs and his pistol, and Phoenix setting her hammer and javelins against the wall. One of the metal slimes had followed them and Meadowlark’s cat stared up at it, it’s large eyes unblinking as the slime sat unmoving by the pile of weapons.
The four of them head back down the long hallway to the room with the glowing mushrooms. The other slime stepped out of the way for them to pass and Rysarian and Quinn take the lead. Phoenix feels nervous without her hammer.
The next room was larger, with purple, orange, and pink slimes meandering about. There were grates on the floor that Quinn walked over to look at. “It seems they use this for faster travel,” he said, pointing at traces of slime on the bars. Rysarian looked at the ceiling.
“Just making sure that they won’t fall on us,” Rysarian said before turning to look at the colorful slimes. They seemed to be smiling up. “Hello little slimes.”
“With you being adventurers,” the queen spoke again, “perhaps you could help me and my children with something.”
“What is it that you want us to do for you?” Rysarian asked, petting one of the pink slimes that was circling around his legs. It was about the size of a large dog.
“Well,” she sounded hesitant, but then she opened up the the group. “There are a few issues that we are having. There are a lot of my new children, but we are low on food for them, and as they grow, we’ll be more limited on space.” She explained. “There is a room ahead of where you are that has a puzzle that I cannot figure out. I believe that it could open up and give us more space. If you were to open it up, it would be helpful.”
“How do you normally get food?” Phoenix asked.
“The nearby forest is where we forage. But the last of my children that we sent out never returned. I am unwilling to risk sending more out unless it’s necessary.”
“What do you eat?” Rysarian asked.
“Fruit, meat, most anything edible, though there are some things that do not agree with us.”
“We have trail rations, would those work?” Rysarian asks. “We have dried fruit, jerky, and nuts.”
“That food would be acceptable for us, but I do not want to take your resources. We would need much more than you would have, and it does not help us for very long.” The queen said.
“We can go look and see if we can find your hunting party,” Phoenix offered.
“Thank you,” the queen said.
“Could you send a couple of your children with us so that we can know where they normally go to forage?” Rysarian asked. The pink one in front of him bounces itself up and down, as if saying it would go with him.
“There are some that would be glad to help,” the queen said.
“Can we take our weapons with us to go find food?” Rysarian asked.
“That would be fine. I am entrusting you with the safety of my children.”
“We will protect them,” Rysarian said. The group head back down the corridor, two pink ones, one of them being Rysarian’s new fan, followed behind them. They were faster than the armored ones. The adventurers collect their individual weapons and head back outside towards the forest. The pink slimes take the lead to the edge of the forest, but then motion for the adventurers to go first. Phoenix takes the lead, feeling better now that she has her hammer again. She looks around for tracks, or any signs of the missing slimes. She notices a path where the grass seemed to be pressed down and a little thinner than the grass around it. It seemed to fit what would be expected of large rotund shapes rolling over the same section repeatedly.
Phoenix walks along the trail, the others following behind her. The sun was out, and the trees weren’t super thick, so the trail was well lit as they walked through the forest. They came to a small clearing that had patches of bushes on the far end. Phoenix looked around and saw two other trails going out from the clearing, as if the three trails formed a triangle. She went to go look down the trails to see if there were any signs of recent use.
There are less used trails at the top of the clearing leading to trees with strange fruit none of them had seen before, and the bushes had berries that Rysarian went to look at at the top of the clearing. He couldn’t identify them, but he starts to gather them up. The two pink slimes follow him over and start gathering the berries as well. Meadowlark stayed near the bottom of the clearing, keeping watch and looking up at the trees. She notices four darker shadows around the clearing. A breeze blew the leaves, causing shafts of light to break through the leaves. The black shapes shimmered with oily colors. The four shapes moved into the clearing, showing themselves as overgrown slimes, almost as tall as Phoenix, but twice as fat.
“It looks like we found the hunting party,” Meadowlark said, pulling out her sword and facing the one closest to her. Another was close to Phoenix, and the two others came in on the other corners of the clearing.
“Do you want some berries?” Rysarian asked, holding out a handful of them. The one in the bottom left of the clearing rushed over, squishing around Rysarian’s arm. His arm started to burn as the acidic inside of the slime ate at him. He dropped the rest of the berries he had been carrying, hoping that the slime would go for that, but it doesn’t even take notice. The two pink slimes huddle together, quivering.
“These slimes seem to have some dark magic on them,” Quinn said, his eyes sharpening behind his glasses. “They don’t seem like they are the same as the queen’s children.”
“So I can smash them?” Phoenix asked hopefully.
“I don’t think the queen would get mad. We’re protecting the two slimes she went with us,” Quinn replied.
“That’s good enough for me,” Phoenix said, pulling out her hammer and taking a swing at the slime beside her, and then backing up a space. She’d rather not get eaten like Rysarian was. The slime follows her, slamming into her. A slime by Quinn attempted to slam into him, but missed. The third one approached the two pink slimes, slamming into one of them. The one eating Rysarian bit down on his arm again. Rysarian pulled his arm out of the slime’s mouth, stepping away at the same time to throw a dagger at the slime that was approaching the pink slimes. His arm is still tingling with pain and he misses. Quinn steps up to the same one, sending a shock at it. It gets confused. One pink slime, the one that had been hurt, curls up around Rysarian’s feet. The other one runs away to the edge of the clearing. The slime that Quinn attacked attempts to hit the little slime as it runs away, but hurts itself in it’s confusion.
The two little slimes each spit slime pellets at the big confused slime. Wherever the pellets hit, the slime starts to bubble and ooze acidic slime.
Phoenix swings her hammer at the slime by her again, causing a large bubble to appear in the slime that rises to the top and pops out like an acidic volcano, the acid oozing from the top of it. The slimes each attempt to slam into the adventurers they’re closest to, but they all miss their attacks. Quinn uses Arcana to try understand the magic that’s been used on the slimes, and to find out the source of it.
“These are too corrupt with dark magic,” Quinn tells them. “If they ever really were the hunting party, they’re basically zombies.”
“Good to know,” Meadowlark said as she swung her sword into the zombie slime in front of her. It also spits acid out of the wound, this time the acid splashes onto Meadowlark.
Rysarian attacks the one that bit him, leaving the other one to Quinn, and motions for the little slime at his feet to run away to where the other pink slime sat safely away from the large slimes. It nods and rolls over there, but the large slime that had bit Rysarian attacks it and the poor little slime barely makes it to the other one. The other one spits at the large slime in retaliation. Phoenix sees what happens, attempts to hit the slime by her again, but only gets a glancing blow as she shift towards where the rest of them were. The slimes all try a slam attack, but they all miss again.
Rysarian shifts away from the slime, the opposite direction of where the little slimes sat. He tries to swing at the slime, but he misses and the slime sucks onto the sword and rips it from his hand, absorbing the weapon into it’s body. Quinn attacks the one by him, sending another shock of lightning that waves through the slime. Internal bubbles follow the wave, popping along the surface of the slime and spewing out acid, though it all misses Quinn. The slime continues to bubble until it’s only a smear of goo on the ground.
Meadowlark sends healing energy to the hurt little slime. The slime feels much better and it spits at the one that attacked it, but it misses. The other one spits at the one beside Meadowlark and it bubbles like the one that Quinn had destroyed. This time, the spewing acid covers Meadowlark with another wave of acid. “Why is it always me?” She asked, trying to fling the acidic goo off of her.
Phoenix lands a solid hit on the slime by her, and it implodes in acid, but not a single drop touches her. “I don’t know,” Phoenix replied to Meadowlark.
Rysarian has pulls out his short sword and swings at the last slime, it bubbles and spews acid angrily out it’s side. Quinn sends a wave of electricity at it, as well. Finally, Meadowlark sends two arrows at it and it explodes, the acid covering Rysarian. Rysarian wipes the acid off of himself. “It’s not just you,” he told Meadowlark, squeegeeing the acid out of his long hair. He picked up his sword that the exploding slime left behind, swinging it around to get the slime off of it before he sheathed it. He then turns to start picking up the berries he had dropped earlier.
Quinn pinpoints the source of the dark magic finally and goes to the center of the clearing and began digging in the dirt. The others rested, Meadowlark and Rysarian trying to get every last trace of acid off of themselves. “Ah-ha!” Quinn said, pulling out a decent sized square stone. There were runes carved on it that were glowing a dark, smoky purple.
“Could we smash that?” Rysarian asked.
“I don’t want to smash that!” Phoenix said.
“It’s okay, that won’t be necessary,” Quinn said, casting a spell that made the stone disintegrate. “But I would advise you not to eat those berries for a while,” he added, dusting his hands off.
Rysarian dumped out the berries he had picked up again.
“So was it because they ate the berries?” Meadowlark asked, stepping around the oily patches of slime.
“That was probably part of it,” Quinn agreed. “And the proximity they would have been with the stone. But we should head back and let the queen know what happened.”
“But we don’t have any food for them,” Rysarian said.
“In a couple days, the bushes should be back to normal,” Quinn said. “We’ll let them know that they won’t have anything to worry about coming out here anymore.”
The group headed back, the two pink slimes circling around them all happily. Phoenix does her best not to step on them. Rysarian pats them on the head as the roll past him. Meadowlark avoided touching them. She’d had enough with being covered in goo. Quinn watched them with interest. When they get back to the ruins, they continue on, guessing it would be okay for them to carry their weapons, as none of the slimes were getting in their way and the queen didn’t say anything to them. They move to the end of the room with grates, finding two passageways. The one ahead had armored slimes standing beside it, seeming like a major passageway. But there was a smaller one to the right that Phoenix wanted to check out. She steps down the short passageway, a strong smell coming from ahead. She finds herself in a small square room with a large hole in the middle. Large brown slimes roll around the edge of the hole. Phoenix decides it’s not worth being in much longer and she heads back out.
“What was in there?” Rysarian asked.
“Waste,” Phoenix replied, trying to get the smell out of her nose.
Quinn heads up the main passageway to the next room. Again, two armored slimes stood on either side of the passageway to a set of stairs. On the wall to the right, there was a large dial with three rings. A button was in the middle and a triangle was pointing down at the top of the dial. Each ring had four pictures on it. The largest one images symbolizing fire, wind water, and earth. The middle ring had a sword, a hammer, a bow, and a spear. The inner ring had a sun, a star, a moon, and nothing, meaning darkness.
“Quinn?” Rysarian asked.
“It looks like a locking set puzzle. You’ll have to turn each of the rings to line up under the arrow before it will unlock.
“Maybe there’s instructions in the next room,” Phoenix said, heading towards the stairs.
“Wait, there’s an inscription up on the wall over here,” Rysarian said, pointing at the wall. “It says ‘strike through the air, the shaft of morning light.’”
Phoenix went back to the dial, looking at it with Rysarian. “Shaft? Morning light?” She repeated. “Probably spear and the sun.”
“Yeah, and strike through the air would be wind,” Rysarian added. Phoenix turns the rings so that they line up under the arrow and then press the button. Gears are heard and the wall slowly opens to reveal another room. This one was as big as the room with grates, and there were three levers on the back of the room with two statues of armor holding swords on either side in the corners.
“We probably have to pull the levers down,” Rysarian said, but he doesn’t want to get too close. “How about we tie a rope around one and then pull it from way over here? We have fifty foot rope. We could even tie two ropes together. We don’t even have to be in the same room as the levers.”
Phoenix ignores his planning and walks up to the levers and pulls the middle one. Nothing happens. Rysarian frowns at her, but he starts looking for hidden doors in the walls. Phoenix looks at the levers and pulls the lever on the right. There’s a click and both of the switches flip back up. The two statues raise their swords and swing, the one on the right hitting Phoenix.
“It looks like we have to pull them down in the right order,” Meadowlark said.”Let’s try the one in the middle and then the one on the left.”
“Wait!” Rysarian says, going over and trying to pull the sword from the grasp of the statue. It didn’t even budge. “Oh, nevermind,” he said, backing up out of the way again.
“Okay, let’s try this,” Phoenix said, pulling the middle lever down. Meadowlark pulls the lever on the left. There was another click, the switches went back up and the armor swing their swords again, one hitting Meadowlark, the other hitting Phoenix. Phoenix steps back, annoyed.
“There might not be a reaction no matter which lever we pull down first,” Phoenix said.
“That’s dozens of different combinations,” Meadowlark said. She pulled her sword at attacked the set of armor on the left, but barely left a dent in the armor. She frowned and put her sword back. “Okay, let’s try this again,” she said, pulling down the lever on the left. There was a clicking sound, but the armor stood still. Phoenix walked further away, almost going into the other room. Rysarian was still looking around at the walls, trying to find where a door might open. Meadowlark went to the lever on the right and pulled that one down. A low rumbling started, the ground shaking ever so slightly. She went to the middle lever and tried to pull that down, but it didn’t budge. The rumbling grew and then stopped. Meadowlark looked around, trying to find where the rumbling was coming from. She turned around to see an opening in the other room. Rysarian was already poking his head in it.
“Oh, yeah, there’s a doorway here,” he said, looking back at the group. Phoenix is the next one to get there and she looks in.
“Quinn, look! Books!” Phoenix called back. Quinn was in the middle of the small room before anyone could blink. The small room was lined with shelves crammed with books. Quinn is excitedly looking around at all of them, piles of books and papers on the floor, too. Phoenix goes in and looked around at the shelves. Rysarian looks around on the ground. Quinn tossed a satchel out of his way to get to more books. Rysarian snatches it up, finding about 100 gold pieces in it. Meadowlark walks in as well, also finding a leather pouch. She looks inside, finding a silver powder in it that had the feeling of magic in it.
“Hey, Quinn, I found this stuff, what is it?” Meadowlark asked. Quinn was sticking a book in his bag, but he looked over.
“Oh! That’s residium. That much is probably worth around 500 gold pieces,” Quinn replied, poking the silvery powder. Rysarian was standing next to them as soon as Quinn had said ‘gold’.
“What is it good for?” Rysarian asked.
“Rituals, normally, it’s used for different components of magical rites,” Quinn explained. “It’s found when you disenchant something. The magic from the item turns into residium powder.”
“Let’s head downstairs now,” Phoenix said when Rysarian and Meadowlark were done looking around. “Quinn, are you coming?” She asked. Quinn pulled himself away from the books and the four headed down the stairs. At the bottom, they found themselves in a small square room with openings in front of them and one on each side. The one ahead of them had two armored slimes on either side of the door and a greenish glow came from that room. Rysarian went to the doorway to the left and glanced in while Phoenix did the same to the doorway on the right. Dozens of small, happy looking slimes were rolling over and around each other, giggling. Phoenix doesn’t want to go in, so she moves to the passageway ahead of them, between the two armored slimes. The other three follow behind. Green slime covers most of the floor and a pillar stands in the middle. The queen slime stands beside it.
“Ah, adventurers, you have come to my chamber,” she said.
“Yes. We were able to solve your puzzle, too,” Rysarian replied. “It should give you more space.”
“And we found out what happened to your hunting party,” Meadowlark added. “We’re sorry, but you won’t lose any more of your children that way.”
“But it’s safe to go out now, in a couple days you can start gathering food again,” Phoenix added.
“We’ll leave our rations here so that you have some more food until then,” Rysarian said.
“I thank you for that. As you have helped me, I will help you in return. You came here for some samples of my slime?” The queen asked.
“Yeah,” Meadowlark said.
“Then you may take your samples. There are also things that have been left by other travelers that have tried to hurt my children. You may take whatever you find from their belongings,” the queen said. A door opens on the other side of the room.
“Thanks!” Phoenix said. She leads the way across the slime, Rysarian follows, worried about hurting the slime, and Meadowlark takes up the end, not wanting to get anymore slime on her. Quinn stays behind to talk with the queen. In the back room, there were two skeletons, completely clean of flesh. One was wearing chainmail that radiated with magic. The other had a cloak with elven leaf designs on it. Rysarian makes a beeline to the cloak and tries it on. Meadowlark goes to the chainmail and tries it on as well. It’s a little loose, but it fits well. Phoenix heads back out to see the queen giving Quinn some things.
“Is there anything else you need help with?” Meadowlark asked, following Phoenix out.
“No, I thank you. I have given Quinn a couple more items to show my appreciation. This is a slime crystal, and also a very special treasure of mine.”
“Thank you,” Quinn said to her. He waved for the others to follow him out of the ruins. They follow him out, curiously waiting for him to explain what he had gotten. When they were back outside the ruins, he held up a deep red glob of slime. “This was something that the queen was working on in case they couldn’t figure out the food situation. It’s experimental, but it’s edible slime. It feeds up to five people three times a day and it replenishes overnight. She said it doesn’t taste very good, but it has all the nutrients we would need.”
“That’ll be helpful,” Phoenix said. Rysarian agreed.
“This is something else she gave me,” Quinn said, pulling out a round white thing. It also had the slimey look to it, but it was more transparent. “It’s a slime egg. It was a runt and was taking longer to hatch. She was worried that it wouldn’t be able to make it with all the other slimes and she wanted us to take care of it for her. I think it’s about to hatch, though.”
“You’ll keep it for us?” Phoenix asked. Quinn nodded.
“Look, the ship’s back,” Meadowlark said, pointing up at the sky as the ship floated above them. “Perfect, let’s go back. We might be able to make it back to the Spire before nightfall.”
The group gets on their small boat and head up to the ship. The Isis Maru takes off for the spire. “Welcome back!” Captain Charlotte greeted them. “Successful questing?” She asked.
“Indeed,” Phoenix replied. “How was your job?”
“It went splendid. It was just a routine supply drop,” Captain Charlotte replied. Corbin chuckled as he walked past.
“Good to hear,” Phoenix said.

They make it to the Spire by sunset.
“Where will Feriday be?” Rysarian asked.
“Probably at the tavern,” Phoenix said. “I should go, since I was the one who’s spoken to him.”
“I’ll go with you,” Quinn said. Phoenix nodded and the two headed through the ever busy shop district to the Black Stout. It was busier than it had been the last time she was there, but the two found Feriday. He looks up and sees the dragon approaching.
“Feriday,” she greeted him. He waved back to her.
“So, so did you all retrieve the the slime?” He asked excitedly.
“We did,” Phoenix replied, passing over the vials. He accepts them happily.
“Oh, thank you, thank you so much. This should help my research, it will help my research greatly.”
“We also found a crystal,” she added as Quinn pulled the crystal out of his bag and handed it to her. Feriday takes the crystal with shaking hands.
“Oh, this beautiful! What a great, a great quality here!” He exclaimed. “Ah, yes, your payment,” he said. He pulled 500 gold pieces out of his bag and handed it over.
“Thank you,” Phoenix said.
“Oh, thank you!” Feriday replied.
“Do you have any idea about how to take care of slimes?” Quinn spoke up. Feriday looked up at the man in surprise.
“Well, I do know, know that they eat pretty much anything. And there are crystals that, that, that can affect their growth. I have, have a couple here with me. I’ll let you take one if you’d like.” Feriday shuffled through his pockets, pulling out globs and vials and even a couple bones before he had found all four of the stones he had. “This one here is wind, and this, this is earth. Here’s fire, and this is water.” He explained, pointing them out.
“We’ll take the fire crystal,” Quinn said, picking up the stone.
“Excellent. Thank you so much!” Feriday called after them as they turned and left, going back to the boat for the night.

The Spire

The next morning, the crew woke up and started moving about. Rysarian came out of his trance and worked on sharpening his daggers in his room. Phoenix sat groggily at the table, eating meat for breakfast in the kitchen. Quinn walked in and grabbed some toast before sitting next to Phoenix, who grunted at him.
“So, uh, the iron bracer is pretty cool. I think you’ll like it,” Quinn said. Phoenix looked at him, her eyes not exactly focused on him.
“What’s it do?” She asked.
“It’s an iron armband of power. It infuses the wearer with extra strength with their attacks. And since you’re a person who likes smashing things, I figured it would suit you best.”
“Sounds good. I like smash,” Phoenix said with a large yawn.
Quinn also passed over a small pouch. “This is a pretty close equivalent of gold for you. It contains 100 gold pieces. I’m not sure where we’ll be heading next, so it might be some time before we get to the next checkpoint.” Phoenix simply nodded and left the armband and bag of gold on the table. Quinn finished his toast in silence and headed off to find Meadowlark.
“This is a healer’s brooch, it should help you in battles,” Quinn said as he handed the small red heart crystal to her. She accepted it happily. “This is a bag of 300 gold. You can buy anything else you feel like you need when we find place to stop next.”
“Okay, thanks,” Meadowlark said, accepting the bag as well.
“No problem,” Quinn said before heading back to his room to study the journal again. He was just barely starting to understand what the next checkpoint might be, so it would probably take a couple days study before he could give the captain hard directions.
Phoenix, once she had woken up enough, left the kitchen and found Corbin surveying the work of the crew.
“How are they settling in?” Phoenix asked.
“Pretty well, surprisingly. New people, new jobs. Not a whole lot of issues so far. Of course, we haven’t been flying much.”
“Are we going to head back through the stone rocks?” Rysarian asked, appearing beside Phoenix.
“Quinn’s going to need a bit of time to figure out the next checkpoint,” Phoenix said.
“There’s a place that we can go get supplies. Good landing area. Called the Spire. It’s a port for airships. Lots of supplies there,” Corbin said.
“Sounds good,” Phoenix said.
“Navigator,” Rysarian called out, “plot a course to get us out of this strange place.”
“We’re headed to the Spire,” Corbin added. The ship started moving through the air slowly, then picked up momentum as they headed back through the rocks. Wind cocooned around them like before to bring them there, blocking the outside world from view. When it stopped, their ship sat motionless, facing two large air ships. One was the same size as their own, one was much bigger. Both had the lengths of their boats facing the Isis Maru, cannons visible with forms beside them ready to fire.
“They found us,” Meadowlark said from the top of the stairs. She had come up when the boat had started to move, Quinn following behind, the journal still in his hand.
“Captain! What’s the plan?” Phoenix called.
“Evasive maneuvers!” Captain Charlotte replied, spinning the wheel and the ship starts to turn. A darkly clad figure with a large had appears beside her, grabbing hold of the wheel and stopping the movement of the ship. Captain Charlotte struggled to fight him off the hold of her ship, but he easily knocked her to the side. Corbin rushed up to stand beside his captain.
“So, my dear friends, it seems like you’ve found the first checkpoint.” the man said, casually leaning on the wheel. His very large hat cast a shadow across his face, so they couldn’t see what he looked like, but by the dark purple of his coat, the oversized and overly fancy folds of his cravat at his neck, and his exceptionally tight pants, most of them could tell they weren’t going to like him. “As you can see, we have all our cannons aimed on you. I say you should surrender now. We may,” he waved dramatically with his gloved hand, “spare your lives.”
“Can I smash him?” Phoenix muttered.
“That’s probably not a good idea,” Meadowlark said. “It looks like his crew is loyal to him on the other ships.”
“Captain, it seems like you’ve lost some of your men,” the man said in fake concern. Captain Charlotte bristled at his tone. Corbin kept a hand on her arm. “Ah, but look, there’s some new little adventurers here. What say you lot?
“Who are you?” Phoenix asked when no one else spoke. If he was expecting them to surrender, he was going to have to think again, but they didn’t know what to do yet.
“I am Admiral Vincent D’Mire,” he said, stepping to the side of the wheel and taking off his hat to give them a sweeping bow, the long white feather on his hat brushing across the wood of the deck.
“That’s a dumb name,” Meadowlark said. Phoenix stiffles a chuckle. Admiral D’Mire straightens up and looks at Meadowlark.
“Well, you appear familiar, now that I look at you. Meadowlark, wasn’t it? I’ll take that as your answer. Men! Send a warning shot!” He called back to his crew.
A loud boom is heard as a cannon blows past the ship, knocking into the right fin of the ship, making it list to the side slightly. His crew didn’t seem to be concerned that their Admiral could be hurt.
“Let’s talk about this for a minute,” Phoenix spoke up quickly. “Admiral was it?”
“What would you like to discuss? I am here for the cypher and all information you have, as simple as that.”
“How did you find us?” Meadowlark asked.
“We followed you,” Admiral D’Mire said casually, almost bored as he ran his hand over the wheel.
“We’ve been in there for a while. Why didn’t you follow us in?” Phoenix asked.
“We decided to ambush you instead of going into the unknown. We assumed that you would get the treasure. We would like it now.”
“Why should we do that? You didn’t do anything,” Meadowlark said. “You didn’t have to face a giant spider!”
“It seems like you don’t want to discuss,” Admiral D’Mire said.
“Wait, no, let’s keep talking. We’re all civil here,” she said, looking around, hoping someone else was trying to figure something out. Meadowlark was annoyed, hands on hips as she frowned at the Admiral. Rysarian had backed up out of the direct line of sight of the Admiral.
Quinn was still standing by the top of the stairs, looking around dreamily. “The sky is gorgeously blue outside and we’re going to die,” he said quietly as he looked up.
“Um, will you have enough understanding to find the next checkpoint?” Phoenix asked, looking at the journal as she addressed Admiral D’Mire.
“We have many resources. More than your little boat could possibly have,” Admiral D’Mire said dismissively.
“You’d still have to deal with giant spiders and lots of things that want to kill you,” Meadowlark said.
“It seems like you need a show of my power,” Admiral D’Mire said, adjusting his hat before he transported beside Meadowlark. “You have been an annoyance with this discussion,” he said darkly as he knocked her unconscious with the hilt of his sword. Suddenly, he was back by the wheel. “Anyone else have problems with my power?” He looked around the deck, but no one spoke up. “Now, will you comply with my demands, or will I have to find what I want in the rubble of your ship?”
“Wait, what was it that you wanted?” Rysarian asked, leaning against the ship’s mast. Quinn had moved to stand beside him. Phoenix looked at them hopefully as they whispered with each other.
“I want the cyphers and codes of the first checkpoint,” Admiral D’Mire said.
“How about we just give you the treasure?” Rysarian asked. Obviously, there was a plan they were working on. Rysarian wouldn’t willingly give up what he rightfully stole.
“I want all the treasure from all the checkpoints!’ Admiral D’Mire proclaimed.
“And we can’t just work together on this?” Phoenix asked. Quinn was nodding and Rysarian shrugged.
“That would appear to be us working as equals, rather than you working for me,” Admiral D’Mire said.
“So we would have to be a part of your fleet with you in charge?” Phoenix asked.
“Of course! I am Admiral Vincent D’Mire! I am above all! So what is your answer?”
“Captain!” Quinn called out while Rysarian stood completely still with his eyes closed. “Get ready to leave!”
“I will take that as your answer!” Admiral D’Mire said. “Ready the cannons! On my mark!”
Both Admiral D’Mire and Quinn yelled “Go!” At the same time. The explosion of cannons was quickly muffled by the roaring of wind. The Admiral disappears from the boat as the colors of the world around them become vibrant and unrealistic. Rysarian recognizes it as the feywild. After a moment, things return to normal, but the position of the boat is several hundred feet away from the other ships. The engines of the ship get started and Captain Charlotte took control of the wheel again, getting them out of the area quickly. Phoenix leaned against the cannon beside her, dizzy and nauseous. Corbin clapped her on the back.
“Motion sickness. You’ll get used to it. We have a couple days before we get to the Spire. The engines are working great, might be earlier. They shouldn’t catch up to us,” he told her. The group head down to the kitchens to get something to eat for lunch, Quinn helping Phoenix carry the still unconscious Meadowlark down. Phoenix still feeling ill and Rysarian exhausted from teleporting the entire ship.
“How’d you get the entire ship to teleport, anyway?” Phoenix asked Quinn as they settled Meadowlark on a bench.
“I was working with the engine crew to engrain parts of the crystal into the engines. It’s why we’re traveling faster than normal. Rysarian just connected to the magic of the crystal and was able to do a mass teleportation.”
“I have no idea what that means, but okay,” Phoenix said. “I’m glad it worked.”
About three hours later, Meadowlark woke up. She sat up groggily and looked around at the other people. “I regret nothing,” she said, holding a hand to her head and barely staying upright.
“Yes, despite all your attempts to convince the guy to kill us, we are still alive. Thank you,” Phoenix said.
“I’m going to go take a nap,” Meadowlark said, not paying attention to Phoenix. The others all left to their own rooms, too, now that there wasn’t a reason for them to stay around each other. Over the course of the two day trip, Rysarian practiced his dagger throwing, Quinn worked on translating the journal, Meadowlark helped out with the workings of the ship, and Phoenix stayed in bed most of the day as she still hadn’t gotten used to the increased speed of the ship.

Two days later, around 2 in the afternoon, their ship spotted The Spire, a town built into the side of mountain on the mainland. Other ships were finding port there, with just as many ships taking off. They found a place to dock and the group of adventurers got ready to disembark.
“It’ll take about a day, day and a half to fix the fin,” Corbin told them, walking off the ship with them. “I’m going to go see if I can find some odd jobs for us. They have shops for practically everything here. Take a look around.”
Rysarian is the first to break off from the group, not saying anything to them as he goes to find an enchanter. He wanders the shop districts. Signs for blacksmiths, adventurer gear, clothing shops, jewelers, but nothing that showed any trace of magic. Paths led into the mountain, but the signs said they led to housing districts.
The other three follow lazily down the path, further behind and not having as much a purpose. Meadowlark breaks off, catching site of some interesting boots in one of the shops. Phoenix and Quinn keep going, coming across a small library tucked into the corner of the shop districts and they both go in. There were rows upon rows of dusty shelves packed with books. A girl sat a desk in the middle of the room, her nose in a book of her own. She didn’t notice them as they entered.
“What is with all these bookworms not noticing what’s around them?” Phoenix asks. Quinn doesn’t notice she said anything as he goes to a section of the book and picks one out. Phoenix sighs and looks at the spines of the books closest to her. There were all kinds of topics. She was standing by a section that seemed to focus on histories of different races. She walked past it, reading more titles. She wanted to see if she could find anything about the Path of Fortune.

Rysarian looked around him, seeing that the other three had disappeared into the shops. He circled back to the docks and started looking at the ships. Between two large ships, a small three ship family caravan was docked close together. The one on the far left had someone in it, but Rysarian sneaks onto the one on the right.
Rysarian went into the small cabin in the back, finding a simple looking lockbox on a desk scattered with papers. In a second, he had the lockbox open, finding a bag with 100 gold pieces inside of it.
“What are you doing?” A deep voice asked from behind him. Rysarian looked up to see a guard looking at him knowingly.
“I, uh, I work on this ship,” Rysarian attempted.
“I doubt that,” the guard said. “I’m friends with these people. I also saw you get off a different ship. I suggest you not steal anything. I’ll be keeping an eye on you,” he warned. Rysarian shut the lockbox and left. He wasn’t about to start a fight with a well trained guard who could easily call for help.
Back at the library, the words of the different books were starting to blend together in front of Phoenix’s eyes. She wasn’t retaining anything and she was getting bored. She put the book she had back on the shelf and walked over to where Quinn was, his nose so deep in a dusty book she wondered how he could breathe.
“Find anything?” She asked. He didn’t respond. “Quinn, did you find anything?” She asked, louder. He glanced up at her, as if he was surprised to see her there.
“Oh yeah. This is a book about crystal growth and the environmental requirements it needs to have near-equilibrium growth and how different variations can force a cuboctahedron growth pattern, which is most effective in magical talismans,” he told her, as if telling her something as simple as there were clouds so it was going to rain.
“Fascinating,” Phoenix said, not having understood much more than ‘this is a book’. “I’m going to go wander.”
“Sounds good,” Quinn replied, his nose magnetically pulled back into the book.
Phoenix heads out, keeping her ear out for anything interesting. But mostly the talk around the shops was people haggling or women gossiping. The only mentions of magic were from sellers trying to talk up weapons that were obviously worn and had nothing special about them.
Up ahead, a wooden building stood out against the mostly canvas shops around it. Several paths converged on the building. A sign hung above the door reading The Black Stout. Phoenix went in, seeing that it wasn’t crowded, since it was mid-afternoon, but it was still about half full with different people. The walls were lined with mugs of all kinds of shapes and sizes. Phoenix took a seat in a booth under a white cup smaller than a dwarves hand, but was obviously not a dwarven mug. The mug the size of her head hanging from the wall to her left was more likely to be dwarven made.
A barmaid came up to her table. “Can I get ye somethin’ to drink?” She asked in a lilting accent.
“I’ll have your house special,” Phoenix said.
“Righty, I’ll bring it righ’ out,” the barmaid said, heading back to the bar where a dwarvish manager was barking orders at the workers as he filled four lagers up in a matter of seconds and sliding them down the bar.
Phoenix leaned back in her chair and listened to the conversations around her. Groups of men talking and laughing. Enthusiastic voices telling exaggerated stories. An older group of men sat at a table behind her, complaining about how everything had changed since the Shattering and back when they were young, they couldn’t just fly a ship up here, they had to climb up the side of the mountain with only rope, a pickaxe, and a day’s worth of food.
“Tha’ll be five copper,” the barmaid said, coming out and putting down a large stein of black liquid. Phoenix passed her a coin.
“Have you anything out of the ordinary around here?” Phoenix asked before the barmaid walked off.
“Nay, I don’t hear much more than the sailors braggin’. There’s a quest board there, if tha’s wha’ you’re lookin’ for,” she added, pointing to the wall beside the door.
“Okay, thank you,” Phoenix said. The barmaid nodded.
“Holler if ye need anythin’.”
“Will do,” Phoenix said.

In the shops, Meadowlark was looking through the different pieces of armor. There wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, no magical items, but she was having fun looking around at the different pieces. There were some beautiful robes and dresses. Shirts that were bright colors and hand beading. There was even a stall that had large feathered hats and another that had hair combs made of stone, jewels, and metals. Meadowlark soon found herself gravitating to a pair of boots, though. Dark leather, extra layers in the soles, and a waterproofing conditioning that promised long use from the shoes. Meadowlark ran her hands across the surface and fell in love. She had plenty of money for a new pair of boots. She’d need them, especially if she had to walk through burned cobwebs ever again, though she’d prefer if she never did that. Never ever.
Rysarian walked through the shops again, making notes of all the guards that were walking through the place. He had to admit they had tight security. He stopped inside a trinket store, pulling out the colored crystals he had gotten, bartering with the shop manager as a guard stood nearby.
“These are chunks of quartz,” the man said. “They’re not that common, true, but I-”
“You can use them in all sorts of jewelry,” Rysarian cut in. “And look at the clarity and cut of these. That’s not even looking at the color. This blue one was very difficult to get. It’s very rare,” Rysarian said. The man eyed him, annoyed, but he had to agree.
“I’ll give you a gold piece each for the green ones. Five for the blue one,” the man said.
“I’ll take it,” Rysarian agreed. The two trade.
“Pleasure doing business with you,” the man said as Rysarian walked out.

Phoenix was feeling a pleasant tingling as she put her empty lagger back down on the table. It was time to look at that quest board and see if anything was interesting. She walked through the tables, a little annoyed that the chairs kept getting in her way as she walked to the board, but she was able to avoid tripping over them. The postings on the board didn’t seem interesting, once they stopped moving. Calls for bodyguards, other people asking for transport to different towns, and a section of people looking for rare things, with others trying to sell rare things. Nothing that would fit a dragonborn.
“E-excuse me, c-could I have a bit of your time, just for a moment?” Phoenix looked down to see a scrawny man with messy dark blonde hair. He had a pair of half spectacles that sat in front of green eyes that blinked repeatedly. His tunic was loose and heavily stained with a variety of colors. “M-my name is Feriday Selence. I’m kind of a- well, I am a researcher. I have an interest in a certain species of creature called slimes.
Phoenix tilted her head and leaned against the wall. “I think I’ve heard of those,” she said, trying to think back to when she could have heard of it. Maybe she read it in a book?
“I, well, I just think that they’re fascinating. Th-they have amorphic forms that can fit in different spaces and their different colors. And they have a society all of their own! They each have different jobs. All directed by the queen.” Phoenix wasn’t really listening. She was still trying to figure out how she was familiar with the term slimes. “I hope you have some adventuring travel friends that c-could help with this, too. I had someone go before to check out the ruins where the slimes live, but they said it was beyond their abilities. A-another couple didn’t even come back! I- I’m almost he-hesitant to ask someone else to go, but I really need s-someone to collect some vials of the slime. It, it needs to be from, from, from a queen. She’s the one who has everything I’d need for my research. I’d be willing to pay quite handsomely for, for acquiring these things. I have a map, a drawing of where you can find them, their location.” He pulled out a piece of paper with a crude, hand drawn map. A large circle was labeled ‘The Spire’ and on the other side there were scribbled circles with a label ‘Forest’ written on it. A large X was marked next to another circle mountain between The Spire and the forest.
“A map? Looks good,” Phoenix said, accepting the paper. “I have some friends who can help out with this.”
“That’s great! Marvelous! Oh, and there’s also some, some slimes that that can form into crys-crystals. If you find any of those, I would, oh, I would definitely pay you for that as well. I’ll be here for about, about a month, yeah, a month, doing research before I head back to the Capital city. Look, just look me up whenever you’re around,” Feriday said.
“I will do that,” Phoenix replied, now thinking about crystals and wondering where the others had gotten to. She headed out of the tavern and the fresh air helped clear her mind. She remembered that she wanted to sell those iron boots that she had picked up at the tower. Blacksmiths could do something with them, probably. Back through the shops she walks, looking for someplace that looked promising.
A large blacksmith shop with a metal framed wall covered in thick canvas pulled taught sat close to the docks.The sign above the door said Sky Anvil. A woman kept walking back forth behind the building, carrying boxes over to the shipyards. Phoenix headed inside, looking at weapons hanging from the ceiling, armor leaning against the walls or on tables. Even a cannon sat in the corner, a pile of cannonballs sitting on the ground beside it. There was a counter with a young man standing behind it, a scruffy, not entirely beard marking him as a late teenager. A guard stood on the side, holding a spear and looking like he was asleep standing up. The older woman that Phoenix had seen behind the building pops in through a door in the back, carrying an armful of supplies, and begins stocking the shelves.
“Welcome, what can I do for you today?” The boy asked as Phoenix approached the counter.
“I’m looking to sell these boots,” she said, pulling the boots out and setting them on the counter. The loud bang of the metal souls sounding much louder than she had expected. The guard jumped in surprise and tightened his hold on his spear.
“Wow, where’d you find junk like this?” The guy asked, bending to look closer at the shoes.
“I just want to sell these,” Phoenix said.
“Alright, well, how about five silver? The metal’s rusted, but there’s a lot of, so we could scrap some of it.”
“Sound fine to me,” Phoenix agreed easily. Five silver was a lot lighter than hundred pound boots. The door of the shop opened and Rysarian came in. Phoenix ignored him and went to look at the javelins. He responded in kind and winds his way to the counter, picking up a climber’s kit before he makes it to the counter.
“I’m wanting some daggers to be sharpened, can I get that done here?” He asks the boy.
“Yeah, we can do that. Let’s see them.” Rysarian pulls out the rusted daggers and short sword he had gotten from the goblins back at the keep. He also pulls out the rusted chainmail.
“I’m also looking to sell this,” he added. The boy wrinkled his nose at the chainmail.
“And you want the climber’s kit as well?”
“The chainmail isn’t worth that much, but the blades are all the same material and need the same treatment, so it shouldn’t be hard. We’ll go with one gold piece for everything,” the guy said. Rysarian thought about it, but agreed. Phoenix comes up behind him and pays for a couple javelins.
“I wish they had a portable ram,” Rysarian said to himself, looking around at the shop. Phoenix looked at him.
“I’m a dragon. I have a giant hammer,” she told him. He looked her up and down, her heavy armor, muscular frame, and hammer hanging in it’s place on her back.
“Yeah okay, but still.”
“You’d just have to carry it, anyway,” Phoenix said.
“I’d just make you carry it!” Rysarian said, following her out of the shop.
“Like you could make me do anything for you,” Phoenix scoffed. She headed to the library, finding Quinn still reading. He had made it halfway around the library. Phoenix wouldn’t be surprised if he had read every book up to that point.
“It’s getting late,” she started, but Quinn didn’t respond. Phoenix stepped towards him. “Quinn! It’s getting late, let’s head back to the ship.” Quinn looked up, startled to see the sun was starting to set.
“It did seem to be getting more difficult to see,” he agreed serenely, putting the book he had just started into his bag. The three head back to the ship for dinner, finding Meadowlark already there, strutting across deck in her new thigh high boots.
The four of them go down to the kitchens for dinner and Phoenix tells them about Feriday and the slime quest he asked them to do.
“As long as we get paid,” Rysarian said.
“Yeah, we will. I think he said something about crystals, too,” Phoenix replied.
“Interesting,” Quinn said, glancing up from his book as he ate a roll. “I like crystals.”
“Sounds good to me,” Rysarian said. “I’m wanting to check out the auction house, but it was closed today. So we can leave after I go there tomorrow.”
“You mean after they finish fixing the ship,” Meadowlark said. “It’ll still take a couple hours, but we should be able to leave by around noon tomorrow if everything goes smoothly.”
“Perfect,” Phoenix said. “I’ll be going to bed now.”
The group retires to their individual rooms until the next day. In the morning, Rysarian goes to the auction house first thing, having to buy an index of all the auctions for the upcoming year, but nothing that day interested him. He headed back to the ship, finding the others eating breakfast. The boat was almost done and Phoenix had already given the map to the navigator. He made the best guess he could about the map and the ship took off as soon as they had finished the fin.

Webs and Fire

Rysarian stared around the now empty room, the book sat innocently on the pedestal. He hesitated, but then shut the book, packing it under his arm as he headed down the stairs. He wanted to make sure the chests got on the boat. It took a couple minutes to get down the dozens of staircases and back to the main room. The pile of chests sat in the room that the group had first entered. Rysarian stepped out of the tower and yelled down to Ted, who seemed to be sleeping in the small boat. The man jumped, his hat sliding off his face and onto the boat’s floor, his eyes squinted in the evening light. Rysarian jogged down to the boat, carrying one of the small chests with him in one hand, the book in the other.
“Ted, there are a pile of chests up in that first room in that tower. Several small ones like this one and one big one. Make sure they get to the boat, okay?” Rysarian asked.
“Yeah, sure I can do that,” Ted replied with a nod.
“Also, this book is magic. If we don’t come back out of it, give us twenty-four hours, after that take it to the capitol and let them test it.”
“What?” Ted asked, staring at Rysarian in confusion. “A magic book?”
“Yes, the others went in here and if we don’t come back take this to the capitol.”
“But it’s a book,” Ted said pointedly.
“Yes,” Rysarian agreed. “A magic one. Ted, will you just take it to the capitol if we don’t come back?”
“Yeah, but it’s just a book. I don’t know where you’re going,” Ted said, confused.
“Just, watch, okay? You’ll see,” Rysarian said, flipping open the book to the first page and looking down at the picture on it. Slowly, he lowered his finger onto the page, feeling the texture of the parchment and the slight indents from the pressure of the quill where the ink rested.
A bird cawed from the tower as the two men stood there.
“Told ye. It’s just a book,” Ted said, adjusting his hat. Rysarian ran his hand over the page again and again, but nothing changed. As he stared at the page, though, he could have sworn he saw a flash of red shimmer across the top half of the picture. He wasn’t sure if his eyes were playing tricks on him, but the ink seemed to carry a red tint of color to it on the upper half of the picture. Something was happening. Maybe if he got the book back to the pedestal the book would work. He closed the book, tucked it under his arm, and headed back to the tower.

The sun shone high in the sky, a field of patched grass with a crumbling stone wall enclosing the large space. Large rocks scattered across the field, crumbling into the uneven ground. On the far side of the field, there were cobwebs covering the ground from one end to the other. On each side, there were torches and in between them, a large pentagonal brazier, densely covered in webs and looking to be the middle of the webs. Behind that, in the stone walls, a large stone door stood. A large square button, larger than the one that they had seen in the tower, was set in the floor in the middle of the courtyard.
“Where is this place?” Phoenix asked.
“Interesting,” Quinn said, shading his eyes. “Somehow we were transported somewhere completely different than where we were.”
“What do you mean?” Meadowlark asked.
“The sun, it’s midday here. It was almost evening when we left,” Quinn explained. Meadowlark walked towards the button in the middle of the courtyard, Quinn followed behind slower, curious.
“Either way, I don’t like the look of this,” Phoenix said as she wandered to the right, liking the idea of setting the torches on fire to get rid of the spiderwebs.
None of them get very far before a familiar shrieking sound comes from above them and four Lizalfos drop down. They shriek to the sky and brandish their short swords. Startled, Phoenix steps forward, letting out a lungful of frozen air, attempting to attack the Lizalfos, but it freezes in a sheet of ice in front of her before it falls and shatters. Meadowlark walks around the button, cautious about it, and attacks a Lizalfos. The others shriek in anger and surround her, only two of them actually hitting her with their short swords. Quinn moves up to help out, pulling his Netherstaff from under his cloak and shocking the Lizalfos closest to him. Phoenix steps up on the other side and swings her hammer at the closest to her, slamming it heavily into the lower rib cage of the Lizalfo’s, breaking several ribs that poke through its’ leathery skin. Meadowlark follows up the damaging attack with a wide swing of her sword, the force pushing three of the four Lizalfo’s back, one ending up getting tangled in the spiderwebs the one with the broken ribs is shoved into one of the pieces of rubble. It shrieks in pain and jumps several times backwards, getting caught in the cobwebs as well. Another one unwisely follows, ending up next to the first. The one in front of Quinn, however, swings it’s short sword at the man, but barely gets a glancing blow before Quinn retaliates with an electric shock with his staff.
A tremor runs through the ground and everything seems to vibrate in front of them, the movement slowly growing in intensity. The three realize that it’s the spiderwebs that are shaking as a soft scratching sound starts to echo around the courtyard. Even the last free standing Lizalfos stopped and looked around, sensing something wrong. The ones in the cobwebs were panicking even more. Everyone’s eyes focus on the raised pentagonal brazier in the middle of the cobwebs as two large, dark, hairy legs shoot out of it, followed quickly by a face of black eyes, slick looking fangs clicking in front of it’s mouth. Six more legs, a thorax and an abdomen followed along as the giant spider surveyed the dinner guests.
“I hate spiders,” Phoenix muttered. As the spider descended along the webbing, the top of its thorax became visible, revealing a large, rolling red eye that looked at each of the four still free fighters hungrily. Phoenix thought back to her idea of setting the cobwebs on fire and wished she had done it before. “There’s not a chance I could make it to those torches,” she said.
“We don’t know if the cobwebs are even flammable,” Meadowlark said. The spider had stepped in between the two Lizalfos that were close together and was quickly wrapping it with silky threads of webbing..
“You would have to run through the cobwebs to make sure you wouldn’t get trapped in them,” Quinn added.
“What does the button do?” Phoenix asked, looking at it desperately.
“We don’t know!” Meadowlark said, not exactly trusting it, but looking at it the same way as Phoenix.
“Maybe we can get out of here? Just run?” Phoenix said, looking around. The door was the only way out of the courtyard. Everything else was just a giant wall.
“We’re in a book,” Quinn reminded them, a grim look on his face as the spider moved on to the other Lizalfos. It was almost pathetic listening to the third one as it seemed to realize its inevitable fate.
“Maybe the button will get us out of the book?” Phoenix asked hopefully.
“Just try it!” Meadowlark yelled at her. Phoenix obeyed, stepping onto the button. For half a step she felt unbalanced as the button slowly started to compress into the ground. Her shift in position put her a couple feet directly in front of the last free Lizalfos. She pulled out her last javelin and threw it as hard as she could. The javelin hit square in the chest, the impact having such a force that it bounced back through the air into her hand, the Lizalfos falling backwards.
Meadowlark attacked the Lizalfos from the side. It stood up, off-balance as it tried to attack Meadowlark and missed. Quinn stepped up next to Meadowlark and sent a shock towards the Lizalfos, but he was too distracted watching the spider as it moved to the last Lizalfos caught in the webbing before turning back to the middle one for a quick snack.
The button under Phoenix clicked as it fully compressed. The ground shook again, harder than before. There was a faint mechanical whirring, muffled and eerie as the group became silent. The last Lizalfos looked around in fear, its head snapping back and forth as it looked for the source of the sound. Phoenix, Quinn, and Meadowlark all watched the far side of the courtyard. Maybe it was the door opening. A loud pop was the only warning before an explosion of fire burst out of the pentagonal brazier. Smoke billowed into the air, spreading an acrid smell as the fibers of the web darkened and curled away from the flames that licked rapidly across the webbing. When it reached the wrapped bodies, the smell of burning meat rose into the air. The spider’s legs caught on fire, its hairs flickering like candles as it burned up its body. The spider reared and hissed angrily, stumbling on the burning ground.
Phoenix hoped that would be the end of the spider as she turned her attention to the last Lizalfos that was spinning around, looking at the fire and the spider and back at her. Phoenix swung her hammer, smashing the Lizalfos to the ground. It coughed up blood, but collapsed and was still.
“I guess there’s only one thing left to deal with,” Meadowlark said with a heavy sigh. She walked around a taller piece of rubble and swung an arcing attack at the spider. Quinn walked closer to the spider as well, stopping along the line of fire.
“Quinn, what is it?” Phoenix asked, not wanting to get closer if she could help it.
“Well, it looks like a giant spider,” Quinn replied, squinting through the smoke. “I’d guess it’d have a weak venom, so I wouldn’t advise you to get bit. It seems to have a vulnerability to fire. Standardly, like most spiders no matter the size, it can sense movement through the ground. Even with all this smoke, it could sense where we are.”
“Just learn how to fly,” Meadowlark muttered.
“It’s a fairly sturdy creature,” Quinn added, not seeming to notice Meadowlark’s comment. “It’ll be difficult to kill. Good thing it’s on fire, though. THat’s rather helpful.” He then holds out his hands, one towards the spider, the other towards Meadowlark. Darts shoot out of both, damaging the spider and healing Meadowlark. He also pulled out his barbed wire from under his cloak, lassoing it around the spider’s abdomen, behind the large eye on its thorax.
The spider reared and hissed again, turning to face Quinn and Meadowlark and charging towards them, out of the fire. Meadowlark jumped out of the way, but her sleeve caught fire. Quinn isn’t able to dodge and he’s slammed down to the ground. He half rolled and coughed up blood, watching as the spider shook and spun in a circle, the fire on it slowly died, some hairs still glowing red through the smoke.
Phoenix stepped forward, blinking rapidly from the smoke billowing from the spider’s body and swung her hammer, but it didn’t connect. She swung again, this time her hammer landing on the barbed wire. There was a crunching sound with the impact and thick pale blue fluid oozed out of the cuts caused by the barbed wire. Meadowlark followed up with a heavy swing of her sword. She added another backhanded swing and the barbed wire embedded itself deeper into the body of the spider. Quinn stayed where he was, using a healing infusion on himself and attempted to send a shock of lightning, but he was woozy and it missed.
The spider turned towards Phoenix and snapped its large fangs at her, but she dodges, singing her hammer into its legs. Meadowlark swung her sword at the spider’s legs on the other side, cutting into them. Quinn swung his staff, sending a blast of energy that whacked the spider in the head. The spider tried to bite Phoenix again, but with a couple gimpy legs and a pulsing headache it missed again. Angrily, it shot out a web at Phoenix’s feet, making her stuck to the ground. Phoenix hit it with her hammer again, not worried about going anywhere.
Meadowlark swung and cut into the thick hair of the spider’s abdomen and Quinn sent off another bolt of energy to whack the spider with. The spider hissed and snapped at Phoenix once again, finally catching a hold and poisoning her.
Phoenix didn’t appreciate being bitten. Summoning her strength she roared back at its hissing and ripped herself from the webs holding her to the ground. She swung her hammer underhanded square into the spider’s face, breaking the fangs that had bitten her, before she reversed the direction of her hammer, taking it up and over her head. It flew through the air and slammed down onto the large eye on the back of the spider, popping it as more blue fluid splattered out. The spider collapsed, its legs curling up under it, twitching. Phoenix jerked her hammer out of the collapsed eye, the body crunching around it. It twitches again and turns black before disintegrating into smoke. Meadowlark jumped away from it as the smoke started to glow a yellowish white. The light pulled together and formed a small metal and crystalline heart that floated in the air in front of Phoenix.
“Well, you were the one who killed it,” Meadowlark said when no one else spoke.
“I agree,” Quinn seconded. Phoenix nodded and reached out. As soon as she touched it, it turned back into light and zoomed into Phoenix, filling her with energy.
A tremor shook the ground and the three looked around nervously. The door on the far wall was opening. The three exchanged looks that all said they were glad to leave. The head across the courtyard, all the spiderwebs burned up and only patches of still smoking grass were left as they walked through the doorway.
The three enter a small room, the stones the same green as the tower. In the center of the room is an engraved table with an odd looking staff. A large, green, uncut crystal floated above it. At the foot of the table was a large treasure chest. Behind the table was another podium with a book on it.
Quinn almost skipped towards the staff. “Amazing. Part of it is metal. This part here is wood. And this here! It has a crystal inlay! Fascinating!”
Phoenix rolled her eyes and went to open the chest. Inside is a broach with a similar crystalline heart to the one that she had gotten, but smaller. The dark red crystal had iron gold and silver intertwined around it. Magic seemed to radiate from it. Next, she pulled out a large iron bracer. It’s weight in her hands also had a magical aura to it. She put it back down and saw four glass vials filled with red liquid, a leather satchel tied with a violet ribbon that sounded like it was filled with coins when she pushed it over to look at a dagger it was sitting on. It was a large dagger with gold and silver inlay and gems studded into the hilt. The blade itself didn’t appear to be that sharp, but the inlays mimicked the designs from the tower.
“There’s a book over here,” Meadowlark said from the podium. Phoenix looked up from the chest and Quinn barely registered that Meadowlark was talking. He was focused wide eyed on the staff he was holding, a smaller crystal orbiting the top of it. “The picture looks like it’s the room at the tower. I think we have our way out.”
Quinn shook himself and looked around, catching himself up with what Meadowlark had said. He looked over at Phoenix who was still crouching at the chest. “Ah, Phoenix, bring that stuff with us. I can appraise it and divvy it up between us. If you think that’s fair.”
“Sounds good to me,” Phoenix said.
“We trust you,” Meadowlark agreed. “As long as you don’t get distracted by the walls and forget all of it.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll get the chest,” Phoenix said, closing it up and hefting it as she shuffled to the book. They take turns touching the picture and end up back in the room at the top of the tower. Footsteps from the stairway precede Rysarian coming into the room.
“Oh, you’re back,” he said, taking in Phoenix, her face smeared with the pale blue fluid from the spider, carrying a large chest, Quinn, his cloak spotted with blood, carrying a new staff, and Meadowlark, her sleeve burned and her face darkened with soot. “Looks like you guys had fun.”
“No thanks to you,” Phoenix muttered darkly.
“Do you even know what we had to deal with?” Meadowlark demanded. “No! You weren’t there! There was a giant spider! It tried to eat us! It caught me on fire! You don’t even understand! We could have died! And what were you doing? Nothing!”
“I was making sure the chests got on the boat!” Rysarian tried to defend himself.
“Great idea. Get the chest to the boat. I don’t want to carry this much longer,” Phoenix cut in before Meadowlark started again.
“Oh, well, Ted is taking the chests to the boat right now, so we might have to wait a little,” Rysarian said. Phoenix gave him an annoyed look.
“Then you can help me carry this down and then we’ll wait for him.”
Quinn led the way, his step light and happy as he swung his new staff in front of him, watching the crystal orbit the top of the staff. Meadowlark followed behind him, muttering angrily about Rysarian not being any help. Phoenix didn’t say anything as Rysarian tried to keep up with her with his end of the chest.
Outside of the tower, they only had to wait a couple minutes before Ted to get back. He called out to them, waving his hat in greeting.
“Hey Ted!” Meadowlark greeted.
“Hey you guys. Glad to see you’re back. Ready to head to the ship?”
“Yeah, I’m tired,” Meadowlark said, eagerly hopping into the boat. The others followed and sat in a tired silence as they flew to the ship. The sun was setting and the sky around them was turning peach.
“Take that stuff to my room. I’ll appraise it there,” Quinn said.
“Sounds good,” Phoenix said, dragging Rysarian after her. Quinn followed behind, waiting for them to put the chest down in his room and stepping out before he nodded.
“I’ll look this stuff over, start counting maybe, but I’ll go to bed soon. I’ll finish dividing it up and give it to you tomorrow.”
“Thanks Quinn,” Phoenix said. She gave one last annoyed glare to Rysarian before she headed off to her own room to sleep. Meadowlark was already in her own room.
Rysarian gave Quinn an awkward nod before heading to his room where a large chest sat in place of his bed and a small chest on his desk. He looked at both and smiled, liking the look of them. Then his smile widened. They would look even better if there was something inside of them.

In the middle of the night, Rysarian pulled himself out of his trance. Everyone else should be asleep by now.He snuck out of his room and moved silently across the hall to Quinn’s door. It was sitting there, as if asking to be opened. He tried the handle and found it unlocked. He opened it slowly, wincing slightly as it squeaked ever so faintly, but he slipped inside without much trouble. The room is dark, but dim light filtered in from the hallway and from the moonlight in the window.
Quinn lay asleep in bed, his breathing slow and heavy. Rysarian looked around, getting his bearings. The bed was along the back wall, fitting snugly in the small room. A desk was on Rysarian’s right had a small chest on it, along with the large armband and potions. The large chest sat where he had put it with Phoenix between the desk and the wall with the door. He stealthily opened the large chest. Inside he found the dagger and the floating crystal. He noticed that the staff it had been circling wasn’t there. Rysarian took the dagger and moved over to the small chest on the desk. It was more of a lockbox, and a fairly simple one. But it was locked. He caught sight of movement in the corner of his eye and he looked over at it. It was a small imp holding a key.
“If you want to get into that, you’re going to need a key,” the imp said, offering the key to him. Rysarian ignored the imp and pulled out his tools. In a matter of seconds he has the lockbox opened.
“You were saying?” Rysarian asked.
“Oh, I didn’t know you were that good. I just thought the key would be easier,” the imp said before it poofed away.
“Bye then, weird thing,” Rysarian said. He found the brooch and the bag of gold inside the lockbox. He opened the bag and estimated about 500-600 gold pieces in it. He stared at it, debating, then grabbed a couple handfuls. He looked back at the things on the table, the armband and the potions, debating again, but he decided to leave those. He turned back to the lockbox and locks it back up before turning to the chest and closing that. He stepped toward the slightly open door, but it closed. At his feet, a ring of runes light up, completely immobilizing him. When his eyes got used to the light, he saw Quinn standing in front of the door. Rysarian glanced back at the bed, but the form was gone. The imp sat on Quinn’s shoulders looking at Rysarian sadly.
“iI tried to help you,” it said.
“Look who I’ve caught in my little trap,” Quinn said, his arms crossed in front of him and his eyes sharply focused on Rysarian. All appearances of airheadedness or distractedness gone. “I sort of have an issue with you. You’re not someone I can trust. You’re an ‘every man for himself’ type of person. That’s a problem for me.”
“I tried to make it there!” Rysarian tried to defend himself. “I was on my way!”
“Yeah, sure you were,” Quinn said dismissively. “Either way, you still abandoned the rest of us. No matter. I think I have a way to fix this issue.” Quinn walked over, pulling out his dagger from under his cloak. He grabbed Rysarian’s hand and cut the palm, drawing some blood. He pulled out a piece of paper with the blood.
“What did you just do?” Rysarian asked nervously.
“I’ve created a blood bond. It’s an old form of magic. In all actuality I’m being exceptionally nice you with this. If you’re 500 feet or more away from the person you’re bound to, you’ll become weakened. If you stay away for one day, you’ll become sick. If you stay away for two dies, you will die. Also, if either member of the bloodbond dies, the other dies as well.”
“And I’m now bloddbonded to you?” Rysarian asked.
“No, actually. I had a volunteer. Someone else who doesn’t trust you very much who volunteered to be your, uh, keeper, of sorts. Our very own friendly dragon,” Quinn said.
“Of course,” Rysarian muttered.
“On the bright side, since bloodbonds weren’t originally meant to keep guard over people, there are some benefits. You both will have an increased attack power, since you’ll be drawing on each other’s strengths. And with your teleportation, you can appear at her side, even if it’s further than you normally could. Yes, I know about the Eladrin and your abilities,” Quinn added at Rysarian’s surprised look. “If you really want that dagger, go ahead. It was used for ceremonies. It’s not that helpful with battles, but it might fetch a good price.”
“See, I was only taking my fair share,” Rysarian defended. Quinn ignored the comment. The runes on the ground disappeared and the door opened.
“You are free to go,” Quinn said, stepping aside. Rysarian stepped forward and stopped.
“Just wondering, who’s the imp?” He asked as he stood beside Quinn.
“Oh, this is my familiar. She’s kind of annoying,” Quinn said, losing the threatening, power aura he had been carrying through the conversation.
“Yeah, I bet. She tried to help me steal from you,” Rysarian said.
“Well, you’ve met him! Bothersome, controlling, forceful. Wouldn’t you help someone to steal from him?” The imp asked.
“Well, normally he’s pretty calm. I’ve only known this side of him for about two minutes.”
“Wait, you don’t really know this about him? He’s so annoying!”
“That’s enough out of you,” Quinn said, waving at the imp who poofed away with an annoyed humph.
Rysarian looked at Quinn curiously, wondering what else the man was hiding, but he just waved at him as he headed off to his room again.

“Maybe the button will get us out of the book?” Phoenix asked hopefully.
“Just try it!” Meadowlark yelled at her. Phoenix obeyed, stepping onto the button. For half a step she felt unbalanced as the button slowly started to compress into the ground. Her shift in position put her a couple feet directly in front of the last free Lizalfos. She pulled out her last javelin and looked at the terrified Lizalfos in front of her. It eyed her warily. Phoenix extended the javelin in front of her, her arm stretching out as she booped the Lizalfos on the nose. She jumped backwards off the button, lolzing.

Alternate Ending:
In the event that Phoenix, Quinn, and Meadowlark had been killed by the giant spider (perhaps because Phoenix booped a Lizalfos and jumped off the button in her good humor and then they were all killed by the spider that had never been set on fire).
Rysarian was over halfway up the tower when it started shaking around him. He slowed and stopped when he reached a landing. The walls were starting to crumble around him. He turned around and raced back down the stairs. The closer he got to the ground, the less the stairs shook under him, but the more sounds of breaking came from above him. The ceiling started to fall down around him and suddenly the entire tower was falling sideways. Rysarian, unable to keep his balance on the tipping stairs, stopped and leaned against the wall while he concentrated, teleporting out of the tower and onto the grounds in front of it.
“Ted!” He yelled, seeing the small boat start to take off as Ted had gotten the last of the chests on the boat. The boat stopped and came back to the island as Rysarian ran towards it while the tower crashed to the ground behind him, stones rolling out around him. Rysarian makes it to the boat and Ted takes off, allowing Rysarian to catch his breath in the couple minutes it take for them to get back to the ship.
“Captain, let’s get out of here,” Rysarian called when he boarded the ship. Captain Charlotte nodded, looking back at the tower with a grim expression. This Path of Fortune didn’t seem to be worth anymore lives.
“Ready the sails!” She called out to her crew and led them back out of the rocks. The spiral of wind surrounded them, transporting them back to where they were before the riddle. Before them, sat two large galleon ships. “They found us,” Captain Charlotte yelled. “Man the cannons! Prepare to fire!” The other ships were already in ready position and their attack started before most of the crew could even react. Rysarian fell to the ground as a cannon blew through the ship’s mast, the splintered wood raining down on top of them. The crew was yelling and and screaming as the ship was broken.
Rysarian checked his energy and decided to try a teleportation again. He could make it to another island. He focused his thoughts on a safe plot of land and teleported. The rushing of wind lasting longer than it should, he opened his eyes to find himself falling towards an unseen ground. Thinking quickly, he pulled his backpack around and yanked out a large canvas square. Something he had in place of a bedroll since he didn’t need to sleep. He found the corners, fumbling as the cold air started to numb his fingers, caught tight hold and let the canvas open up. His arms were jerked as the wind caught in the canvas and he worried he would lose hold. Or his arms. His descent slowed, his arms aching from the force and his hands losing all feeling, but he held on. He couldn’t hear anything beyond the rushing of the wind around him. Suddenly, he felt warmth behind him that quickly became blistering heat. A fire blast hit him, roasting him perfectly in a matter of seconds, the canvas square burning and floating away as a dragon swooped in for its second breakfast.

Moral of the story: Don’t make the DM mad. You will die.

Doors and Puzzles

Phoenix, Meadowlark, Rysarian, and Quinn walk into the next room. It’s lit, and the same green stone as the room before, but the only thing in it is a set of stairs. The groups starts climbing. After a couple flights, the get to a landing with a door on it. The stairs continue going up, but the group looks at the door. It’s similar to the one before, but it doesn’t seem to need a key.
“That is a door,” Quinn says, looking at it.
“That is a nice door,” Ryarian says.
“Should we open it?” Quinn asks.
“Not it!” Rysarian says quickly. Phoenix rolls her eyes and walks up to the door. As soon as she touches it, it pushes in slightly, then slides up into the wall, like the other doors. The others follow her into the dark room. The only light is a torch in the middle, and Meadowlark, Phoenix, and Quinn all squint as they look around. Rysarian easily sees everything in the room. Once he decides there’s nothing there worth taking, he describes it to them.
“There are other torches in the corners of the room,” he says. “And, on this far wall, over here,” he says, walking over to wall opposite the door, “there’s a ledge about ten feet up with one on it, too.”
“So how many are there total?” Meadowlark asks.
“Four down here, one in each corner, then one on the ledge. So five total.” Rysarian explains.
Meadowlark pulls out her own torch and lights it. Everyone’s able to see the room, now. Rysarian looks closer at the torches, but there’s nothing interesting about them. Phoenix walks around and lights the four torches around the edge of the room, but the go off a couple seconds after she lights them. Rysarian teleports up to the ledge and lights that one, but that one also goes out.
“Maybe they have to be lit from the one in the middle?” Meadowlark says. She goes up to the middle torch and inspects it, but there’s only some magic to keep the fire going. The fire itself isn’t magical.
“Let’s try lighting them all at once,” Phoenix says. “Meadowlark, you go by that one, Quinn, you can take that one. Rysarian, stay on the ledge. I’ll take these two by the door.” Everyone does as they’re told. “Ready? Three, two, one, light!” The each light their torch and Phoenix quickly goes to the last torch before the others go out. They wait a couple seconds, and all the torches stay lit. A small chest falls from the ceiling, landing in front of the ledge. “Go ahead Meadowlark,” Phoenix says before Rysarian can get down from the ledge. Meadowlark goes to open it and pulls out a small gear key and puts it in her bag.
They head out of the room and up the stairs. Another couple flights later, there’s another door, just like the last one. Phoenix opens it and it’s a large room, about fifty feet wide by fifty feet long, but only thirty feet tall. On the far wall, about two-thirds of the way up was a square inset, like a mini room in the wall. The group could see a small pillar up there with a white circle with a dot inside it on the pillar. A similar symbol was on the ceiling about fifteen feet away from the inset. A silver crystal was floating just a foot down from the symbol on the ceiling, and similar crystals were in each corner and one on the ledge.
“Those look expensive,” Rysarian says.
“I think we have to collect them,” Phoenix says. “I think I’ve heard of something like this before. Meadowlark goes around and collects the four in the corners, each giving off a chime as she picks them up. Rysarian walks over to the far wall and jumps, catching on to the wall and climbing up to the small room, picking up that gem. It was an easy climb, with the rough green stone of the walls.
“That’s five out of the six,” Quinn says.
“How are we going to get the last one?” Phoenix asks. Suddenly, a chunk of broken chainmail tied to a rope flies at the crystal from the inset room. It only makes it about ten feet before it falls, crashing against the wall. “Wow. What are you doing?” Phoenix yells at Rysarian.
“I figured it would knock it down or something!” Rysarian yells back, pulling up the rope.
“Nice, that worked out so well!”
“Do you want to try it?” Rysarian asks.
“Why don’t you just use a dagger?” Phoenix asks.
“Well you’re standing there, I didn’t want to throw something sharp that way. Why don’t you get out of the room?”
“Uh, no. I don’t trust you.”
“Then I’m not going to throw it!”
“We can move!” Phoenix says, walking over to the wall with the ledge, but not standing underneath it. Meadowlark joins her. Safely out of the way
“Fine, I’ll try a dagger,” Rysarian says. He pulls out one of his daggers and throws it perfectly aimed at the crystal. It also chimes before disappearing. Another small chest falls in front of the ledge. Meadowlark opens it up to find another small key while Rysarian collects his dagger.
“Ready?” Phoenix asks. They all head out of the room and up more stairs. Surprisingly, finding another door exactly the same as the last two. They walk in and see a room very different, though. The four are standing on a ledge about three feet up from the center square of floor. A ramp connects the two. Three other ramps lead to ledges on past the middle square. Four dragon statues, each a different color, sit in the corners of the lowered square floor, each also having a pedestal in front of them. In the middle of the room are four more pedestals. There’s a charred body in front of the red dragon statue, a red gem sitting on the pedestal in the middle.
“This seems fun,” Rysarian says dryly.
“Oh look! There are tablets on the walls!” Quinn says, finding the two on either side of the door they just walked through. Two other tablets are on the walls on the far side. Quinn walks around and reads them all. “The dragon of poison despises all others. The crystal of water longs to be with the sword of flames. The arcing lightning of the blue dragon dances across the watery crystal. The red dragons flames lick all but the sea’s sword.”
“It’s a puzzle,” Phoenix says excitedly. “I love puzzles like this.” She goes down to the main floor. “So we have four dragons. Red is fire, green is acid, blue is lightning, and the white dragon is ice. It looks like there are four crystals and four swords, each a different color.”
“And obviously this red crystal doesn’t go here,” Meadowlark says, looking down at the charred body.
“The crystal of water longs to be with the sword of flames?” Rysarian repeats. “But which crystal is the watery one? The blue one?”
“But the white one is ice,” Phoenix says. “Shouldn’t that mean the blue one is lightning?”
“But do they actually correspond to the statues? Or are they different?” Meadowlark puts in.
“Well, I’m just going to try something,” Phoenix says, walking over and picking up the red sword. She takes it over and puts it in the slotted pedestal directly in front of the blue dragon. It slides in to the hilt. Nothing else happens. “I think that means it’s right?” Phoenix says before walking over to the red crystal.
Rysarian goes and picks up the white crystal, putting it on the middle pedestal in the corner of the blue dragon. Lightning shoots out of the dragon’s mouth, jolting Rysarian.
“Well, I don’t think that was right,” Rysarian chokes out.
“Um, no,” Phoenix says. “But, it said The dragon of poison despises all others, so it should only like its own, right?” She goes and picks up the green sword and the green gem, putting them on their respectful pedestals in front of the green dragon at the same time. The green sword slides in, the gem rests on its pedestal. Nothing else happens.
“So the watery crystal is actually the blue one,” Meadowlark says, switching the white crystal with the blue one, cautiously watching the dragon. The dragon seems content.
“So which is the Sea’s sword? Would it be the blue one?” Phoenix asks.
“Well, if it is, then the white one would go here in front of the white dragon,” Meadowlark says, taking the sword and sliding it into the pedestal. It seems like it was the right decision. Phoenix takes the blue sword and puts it into the last pedestal in front of the fire dragon. A small chest falls from the ceiling on the ledge across from the door, beside where Quinn was still staring fascinatedly at the tablets. Rysarian went to collect the small key. He also picks up the chest.
“What are you doing?” Phoenix asks.
“This is a nice chest. I’m going to go put it at the entrance. And get the other chests, too,” he says, jogging down the stairs when they leave the room. The other three wait for him.
When Rysarian jogs up the stairs, Quinn is sitting cross legged on the floor, the journal in his lap, his glasses slowly sliding off his nose. Meadowlark is swinging her sword around, the whistling music barely audible as her cat circles around her feet. Phoenix is laying flat on the ground, staring up at the ceiling and reciting historical sonnets in her mind.
“Are we going?” Rysarian asks. Meadowlark swings her sword one last time before putting it back in its sheath, Phoenix jumps up, ready to get going.
“Quinn,” Meadowlark calls. He looks up at them, his glasses at the tip of his nose.
“Oh, he’s back. Are we going then?” Quinn asks, shutting the journal and putting it in his bag as he stands up. The group goes up the stairs, another two flights, finding a shockingly similar door to the last three.
“I’m starting to get worried about this,” Meadowlark says. “I don’t know why.”
“Well, we’ll probably have to go through this at some point, anyway,” Phoenix says, touching the door to open it and walking in. The others follow, Meadowlark walking in last. The room is large and long. On the far side there’s a large stone button on the floor. The door behind the group slides shut, then a metallic sound follows. The group turns around the see metal bars covering the door.
“I knew it,” Meadowlark mutters.
“This isn’t good,” Phoenix says.
“You think you could smash that?” Rysarian asks, taking a step back towards the door. A squawking shriek echoes around the room and the group looks back to the room at large as two green humanoid lizards with leather armor fall down to the ground, one to the left side of the room, one more on the right. They hop where they stand, squawking to each other and swinging their short swords before they see the group.
“What are you things?” Meadowlark taunts, walking up towards the one on the right. “You’re kind of ugly. Lizard soldiers?”
“It’s called a Lizalfos, and I think you just made it angry,” Quinn said as the Lizalfos jumps up and down, it’s yellow eyes glaring at Meadowlark. Phoenix walks up to the middle of the room and throws one of her javelins at the one to the left. Ryasarian follows quickly behind her, throwing a dagger at that one as well. Both weapons hit and the Lizalfos shrieks angrily. The two hunch their shoulders and shuffle forwards, their short swords out. The one on the right stabs at Meadowlark, the one on the left swinging at Rysarian, who’s able to dodge. Quinn, finally realizing that there’s a fight, turns his focus away from examining the metal bars, wondering if there were pressure sensors on the floor that caused the bars to come down, and moves up beside Phoenix, pulling out his barbed wire and lassoing the lizard on the left, causing the Lizalfos to let out another shriek. The barbed wire cuts deep into its scales, and red blood oozes out.
Meadowlark attacks the Lizalfos beside her, her sword swinging through the air, music playing to encourage her comrades. Phoenix flanks the Lizalfos with Meadowlark and swings her hammer, making a solid connection to the leather covered shoulder. The Lizalfos side steps, swinging its short sword at Phoenix, causing a minor cut on her arm. The other attempts another strike at Rys, but again it misses. Quinn flanks that Lizalfos and charges up electricity in his hand before touching the lizard, sending a wave of electricity through it, the barbed wire adding another shock to it.
Meadowlark walks around the Lizalfos, flanking it again and gives it a Warsong Strike, her sword coming down and slashing it across the back, since it’s focused on Phoenix. Blood pours from the deep cut. Phoenix adds another heavy blow to the wounded lizard.
Rys attacks the Lizalfos, tripping a little and almost missing, but with the Lizalfos so badly wounded and tied up in barbed wire, he lands enough of an attack that the Lizalfos falls to the ground with a final shriek. Rys then moves closer to the other fight. The last Lizalfos sidesteps again, unluckily putting itself right in the middle of the three attackers, striking out at Phoenix. Quinn takes the last side around the Lizalfos and deals the final blow.
The two Lizalfos lie on the ground for a couple seconds before turning black and puffing up into smoke. In the center of the room, behind where Meadowlark’s standing, a light glows up from the floor and a large chest appears. Phoenix walks up to it and open it, pulling out a pair of boots, the bottoms covered in metal.
“These are so heavy,” Phoenix says. “And they’re too small for me.”
“I don’t want those,” Rysarian says, coming up to stand beside her. “But I’ll take the chest.”
“I’ll help you carry it,” Phoenix offers, not willing to wait for him to drag it down the stairs again.
“The metal bars are still down,” Quinn comments.
“Maybe if we stand on this button over here?” Meadowlark says, walking onto the switch. It doesn’t do anything.
“Here, let me,” Phoenix says, walking over to it. As soon as she steps onto it, it collapses to be flush with the floor and the metal bars slide up. A small chest falls to the ground. “Quinn, why don’t you grab that one while we take this down?” she says, going back to the chest. Quinn nods and goes to the chest. Phoenix and Rysarian carry the chest back down to the room that had the jars, leaving it with the other three small chests that Rysarian had piled there.
They had back up, Meadowlark and Quinn join them as they continue up the stairs. Another two flights up and they are at the top of the tower. One door is on the landing, bigger than the other ones in the tower, but not as big as the front door. There are four inserts for keys. Meadowlark puts in her two, Rysarian puts in his, and Quinn puts his in as well. The door slides open. Inside is a fairly small room with a small pedestal with a lectern on it in the middle. The four circle the lectern, looking at a dark green book on the lectern.
“Quinn?” Phoenix asks.
“I can’t read that,” he says, shaking his head. He opens the cover and the first page had extremely complicated picture, impossible to understand. Phoenix reaches out and picks it up carefully, looking at the binding and flipping through the pages. It was completely blank. She could smell the dusty old parchment. The leather binding was dark green, with light green leafing in the designs of it. Phoenix puts it back down, flipping to the picture, and leans in, tilting her head curiously. She runs her finger over the picture. Suddenly, she’s not able to move her finger off of it as wind whips around her. Energy fills the air against her skin and she feels a pull.
And then Phoenix disappears from the room. The others stare at where she was in shock. Then Quinn excitedly reaches out and touches the picture as well and gets sucked away. Meadowlark and Rysarian look at each other nervously.
“Not it,” Rysarian says quickly. Meadowlark sighs, but reaches out and touches the picture. Rysarian looks around, thinking. Carefully, he reaches out. And closes the book. He puts it in his backpack and carries it down the stairs. He’s determined to make sure the chests get on the boat.

Wind and Riddles

The Isis Maru arrives at the floating keep. Captain Charlotte, wanting to go see the cypher, leaves Corbin in charge to get the new crew settled. Captain Charlotte, Quinn, Rysarian, Phoenix, and Meadowlark get ready to head off the ship.
“Wait! I need to find my cat,” Meadowlark calls, the others stop to look back at her. A small cat appears at Meadowlark’s feet, who trips over it as she turns.
“Graceful,” Quinn mutters before heading down the board to island, the others following behind him. They quickly arrive in the room with the writing on the walls.
“With the journal, does the wall make any more sense?” Phoenix asks.
“From what I can understand, this line here is the key.”
“What does it say?”
“‘Thoramyre was here’,” Quinn replies. The others look at him in confusion. Quinn looks back unconcerned. “Well, it’s a cypher. It doesn’t really matter what it says, it’s the key to deciphering other things. Give me some time. I’ll figure it out.”
“Okay, we’ll head back to the ship and see how the crew positions are sitting,” Phoenix responds. The group head back, Quinn staying behind and muttering to himself as he looks back and forth from the book to the writings.
“Corbin!” Captain Charlotte calls.
“Yes Captain!” Corbin responds and heads over.
“How is the new crew settling in?”
“Very well, we have the caravaners as Head Engineer, Head Deckhand, and another as the Navigator, Presley seemed very excited for that job. They picked out some workers for their crew. The guardsmen are on cannons, and the rancher’s wife is the new cook. The rancher, that big burly guy over there,”
“The one holding a goat and a cannon?”
“That’s the one,” Corbin says, “he volunteered to be a cannoneer.”
“Hey,” Quinn says, breathless as he runs up to them. “Does anybody have a compass?”
“Yeah, here,” Corbin says, pulling out a compass from a pocket. Quinn accepts it and runs over to the front of the boat.
“We have enough deckhands?” Captain Charlotte asks. Corbin nods.
“That loud caravanner woman jumped on it, seems like she’s been wanting that kind of job for a while. She immediately started yelling at people to get things done. Everyone seems to call her Mum.”
“Her name’s Chrysanthemum, it’s a nickname,” Phoenix puts in.
“Seems to work well,” Corbin says with a nod. “All in all, things worked out pretty well. We even have a couple extra hands, but they’ll probably be looking after the kids most of the time. We got a small area down below set up for them. And all the beds have been assigned, too.”
“Sounds good,” Captain Charlotte says approvingly.
“Hey, hey guys, come look. I think I’m ready. You really should come check it out,” Quinn says, bounding over excitedly again.
“Sure, I’ll come,” Meadowlark says.
“I think I’ll stay here,” Rysarian says.
“Not a chance,” Phoenix says, grabbing his arm and dragging him over with the others.
At the front of the boat, there’s a large chalk circle with the compass in the center. Quinn holds his hands out in odd positions and starts speaking in an odd language.
“I did not sign up for this,” Rysarian says. Phoenix keeps are hard grip on him.
“If he needs a sacrifice, you’re volunteering,” she tells him quietly.
Quinn stops speaking and lowers his hands as the compass glows blue. The light grows and rises above it, slightly transparent. Inside, it looks like another compass with a needle that spins around a couple times, then stops in a Northwest direction.
“So, Quinn, what is this pointing to?” Rysarian asks.
“Oh, the compass?” Quinn asks, back to his air-headed self now that the cool magic stuff was over.
“Yeah, the big one,” Rysarian says.
“Well, if I got the spell right, it should be pointing us to the first checkpoint.”
“Checkpoint?” Phoenix asks, taking a step closer, letting go of Rysarian.
“The cypher?” Meadowlark asks.
“No, the checkpoint, for the Path of Fortune. There’s several along the path and each is said to hold a very special treasure, which is why it’s the path of Fortune. The person who laid out the path used spells and stuff to help people find it so they could find the checkpoints.”
“Who would do that?” Phoenix asks.
“Does it matter? Let’s go get the treasure,” Rysarian says.
“As soon as we get to the first checkpoint, we’ll have some sort of riddle that we’ll have to figure out before we can enter,” Quinn says. “But, yeah, we should go that way,” he adds, pointing the same direction as the needle.
“Yeah, we figured. Captain, what say you?” Rysarian asks.
“Let’s get on our way! Sail crew?” Captain Charlotte called.
“We’re good to go!” Mum called back, turning to her crew and yelling directions at them.
“Presley, plot us a course!”
“Aye aye captain!” Presley says excitedly. Everyone takes their places and the engines whir into life as they take off, following the giant blue compass.
The group gladly rest while they travel.
Soon, in the distance, they see a group of rocks dead ahead of them, an opening in the middle. As they approach, they notice that the rocks are floating in tandem and the needle of the blue compass starts spinning around like crazy.
“Uh, Quinn, what does this mean?” Rysarian asks.
“I think this is where the compass wants us to go,” Quinn replies. Rysarian nods.
“Sounds good to me.”
The boat slows and sails carefully between the rocks. The group starts to hear something, just barely able to tell that it’s words. As they get closer to the middle, the voice resonates in their minds and by the time they’re in the middle it’s as clear as glass.
“What can bite but has no teeth, can kiss but has no lips? What can kill without a blade, but at the same time giveth life?”
“I guess this is the riddle we have to figure out?” Phoenix asks.
“Is the the sun?” Rysarian asks.
“But that doesn’t kill people,” Phoenix says.
“In the desert it does,” Rysarian retorts.
“That’s a stretch,” Meadowlark says. “It’s probably a simpler answer.”
“Quinn, what do you think?” Phoenix asks.
“What?” Quinn asks, looking with wide, fascinated eyes around them.
“About the riddle,” Phoenix prompts.
“Oh, yeah, it’s really cool. I wonder how it’s doing that. It’s like the voice is in my mind. That’s pretty cool magic.”
“But do you have any idea about the answer? Maybe something in the journal?” Meadowlark asks.
“No, it just talks about the checkpoints and directions and stuff. It only says that there will be riddles, but nothing about the answers,” Quinn says, going over to the edge of the boat to look at the rocks better, muttering to himself about magnets.
The other three think about it. “This riddle sounds so familiar,” Meadowlark says, hand to her head, eyes closed. “I swear I’ve heard it before. I think the answer is wind,” she says.
“Sounds good to me,” Phoenix says, thinking it through. “So we have the answer? Now what?”
“If you have come upon the answer,” the voice in their minds says, “Shout it to the heavens.”
“Not it,” Rysarian says quickly.
“Meadowlark, you’re up,” Phoenix says.
Meadowlark stands in the middle of the boat and attempts to yell “It’s wind!” She’s not very loud, but the voice stops. The air around the boat swirls, getting faster and faster. The sound of it getting louder and the sails start flapping in the gusting air. The air seems to get thicker around them, as if they’re getting engulfed by a thick fog. It gets to the point where they can’t see through it, but then it slowly dissipates. Quinn is staring around them excitedly.
“So cool! Look, we’ve moved! It’s some sort of teleportation. Oh, look at that! The stones are way behind us now!”
“Uh, Quinn? What do you think of that?” Phoenix asks, pointing out what’s now in front of them. Quinn turns and sees the island in front of them, in the middle of it is a large tower made of a dark green stone with moss and vines climbing over it.
“Captain, should we take her in?” Rysarian calls.
“I’m not sure how this large boat would do getting closer, the edges of the island are too uneven. Why don’t you take the small boat?”
“Ted!” Phoenix yells.
“On it!” Ted calls back, quickly readying the boat.
“Come on guys!” Quinn says excitedly, getting in the boat. Meadowlark follows, her cat on her shoulder, its tail twitching. Rysarian jumps in next and Phoenix calmly follows.
It’s a short flight to the island and Ted parks it, letting the others get off. “I’ll keep the engine on for you,” he says.
“Thanks Ted,” Phoenix says with a wave before following the others up to the tower. There’s an overgrown path, similar dark green stones are inlaid in the ground, only partially overgrown by the grass. It leads up to a large front door, several feet taller than even Pheonix. The door is carved ornately with symbols.
“Quinn?” Phoenix asks.
“Fascinating, it’s not like anything I’ve ever seen before,” he says, staring transfixed at the swirling symbols. “It probably has a connection with wind, because of the riddle and how it’s been designed, but beyond that I don’t know.”
“How do we open it?” Rysarian asks.
“Do we want to open it?” Phoenix replies.
“Because there’s probably treasure inside?” Rysarian retorts as if it’s obvious. “But there aren’t any hinges or handles or anything.”
“Well if you really want to get in, you should figure out how to open it,” Phoenix replies. Meadowlark walks up to it and reaches her hand out. When she touches it, it presses in very slightly, then slides up. Phoenix and Rysarian stay quiet as they follow Meadowlark into the room.
It’s a fairly open room. In the middle is a pedestal with a jar on top. Similar jars are around the room, either on the floor or in insets in the wall, with other decorations around the walls. The jars were large and cream colored, but with green swirls along the rim and narrower neck. Hanging from the ceiling was a glowing crystal-like chandelier that easily lit up the room. On the opposite wall, there’s a door, smaller than the front door, but with similar designs on it. In the middle of the door, where the swirls seem to start from, is a small circular hole with gear-like teeth on the outside.
Quinn immediately walks in and starts to look at the walls and designs around the insets. Phoenix and Meadowlark head towards the pedestal. Rysarian looks at the light, wondering if there was a way that he could take it.
“That door looks like it needs a key,” Quinn says when he gets around the walls to it.
“So it’s probably in one of these jars?” Meadowlark asks.
“There doesn’t seem to be any traps around,” Rysarian says, looking at the pedestal and then the pots to the right. Phoenix heads to the ones on the left.
“We can look inside them,” Rysarian says. “This one has something sparkly in it.”
“This one looks like there’s something lumpy,” Phoenix says. “And it smells bad.”
“What if I…?” Rysarian takes one of the jars that had something sparkly in it and flips it over. Something small and green falls out, shining in the light.
Meadowlark sees it and goes around the room, breaking pots. Rysarian goes around behind her, collecting the green gems, but leaving the lumpy, rotting hearts. Phoenix goes up to jar on the pedestal on puts it on the ground. She looks in and sees something that could be the key for the door. She breaks the pot and goes to open the door. Meadowlark and Rysarian are finished with the pots, so they follow her to the next room. Quinn follows behind, his eyes lingering on the walls.

Pirates and Conflict

Ted flew the group back through the sky. About halfway there, Quinn looked up from the journal for the first time.
“Do you smell smoke?” he asked curiously.
“I smell it too,” Rysarian said, looking around.
“It’s not the boat, is it?” Phoenix asked, standing up and walking around.
“The boat’s running just fine,” Ted spoke up.
“So it’s not the boat,” Phoenix said.
“We’ll keep our eye out,” Rysarian said. The first sign was smoke in the distance that slowly got thicker as they approached the island. Soon, they could make out large shapes around the island. Two large pirate airships were on the side of it. One, the closer one to the group, was firing its canyons on the island, destroying everything there. The further one, on the opposite side of the village, was waiting further away from the land. It was more difficult to see past the black burning buildings and columns of smoke.
“Stop the boat here, Ted,” Phoenix says before they flew too close. She looked over the village, but not seeing any people on the island. There weren’t any ships from the caravan that she had come with, so she hoped that they had been able to evacuate everyone. “What do you think we should do?”
“We could turn around and fly away right now,” Rysarian spoke up.
“But I don’t know if the people are safe. I promised to report back to the mayor. And Ted is part of the caravan that was here. We should figure out what happened.”
“And how would we do that?” Rysarian asked. Phoenix pointed to the two pirate ships.
“We ask one of them,” Phoenix said. “With force.”
“That island is on fire,” Quinn spoke up, looking up from the journal again. Phoenix and Rysarian looked at him for a second, then went back to their conversation.
“So which boat should we go to? I think the one that’s not firing, since that’s probably the one in charge and that’s would be where the villagers would be if they were taken.”
“I think this closer one,” Rysarian disagreed. “The pirates would be distracted because they’re firing. We could sneak up on them.”
“We can sneak up on the other one,” Phoenix said. “Ted can fly us under the island and up by the boat, you can help hide us. You’re the sneaky one.”
“I can’t hide a boat!” Rysarian retorted angrily.
“Quinn, what do you think we should do?” Phoenix asked, turning to the human. He looked up and surveyed the whole situation again.
“I think that far one. Even if they spot us approaching, it would take them time to aim a cannon at us,” Quinn said.
“Sounds good to me,” Phoenix said. “Ted, can you get us over there? You, help him out,” she added to Rysarian. He grumbled, but went to help the pilot. They flew the small boat under the island and came up on the side of the far ship, keeping the boat low and glancing up over the railings. Phoenix notices a group of the villagers on the other ship, women holding children close to them and crying. The men standing protectively on the outer edges of the group as the pirates fire on their homes.
On the deck of the ship they had approached, there were about ten pirates, all looking the other direction. They were gathered to the far side of the boat, watching as an old man stood on a plank and talking to one of the pirates.
“Looks like the mayor,” Phoenix spoke, barely above a whisper as their boat dropped back down to be hidden.
“It looked like one of the pirates was talking to him, but I couldn’t make out what they were saying,” Rysarian said. “She seemed upset.”
“Ted, could you get us closer? Keep us under the boat so they can’t see us,” Phoenix directed. Ted nods, understanding the serious situation well. He takes them under, keeping in rhythm to the rise and fall of the airship.
“-have to tell us. You would be the one to know. We need the cypher. You don’t want us to stay here. Just give it to us and we’ll leave and you can go back to your little hovel,” a woman’s voice was saying angrily.
“I don’t have it. I don’t know what you’re talking about!” That was the mayor. “Take whatever you need from the village. We don’t have much. Please, just don’t hurt my people.”
“You have to know. This is the start of the path. It’s here!” the speaker got more frustrated.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about! I don’t know anything about a path!”
“We were told the runes were around here and you’re the only people living in the sky! you have to know about it!”
Phoenix motioned for Ted to take the boat back to the other side.
“Runes? You think she’s meaning in the keep?” Rysarian asked.
“Doesn’t matter. We have to save the mayor,” Phoenix replied.
“Why do we have to do that?” Rysarian asked.
“Because I promised I would help them!” Phoenix snapped back. Quinn was ignoring them, still looking through the journal. They weren’t sure if he had even paid attention to the conversation they had overheard.
“So what do you think we should do?” Rysarian asked.
“Well, they’re all facing the other way, so we could board on this side and surprise them,” Phoenix said.
“That would be a good idea. I could go first, maybe take one out before the others even notice,” Rysarian said, finally giving in to the idea.
“Ted, take us up a little,” Phoenix said. Ted nodded and raised the boat enough for them to catch onto the railing to easily climb up onto the deck. Rysarian jumps up to it. “Ted, when we’re all up, take the boat over to the other side to catch the mayor, just in case.” Ted nodded.
Rysarian climbed up onto the deck in silence, looking around at the pirates. Besides the female pirate interrogating the Mayor and a dragonborn standing beside her, Rysarian counted seven others. There were two deck hands with their back to him just a couple steps in front of him. Four more stood closer to the middle of the ship, one with a sword. Another was standing with his arms folded beside a cannon, and a female pirate leaning against the mast, seeming to be falling asleep out of boredom, but also had a sword. Rysarian approaches the one in front of him, covering the pirates mouth and bringing his knife up. Somehow, he cut the pirate’s ear as he brought the blade up and the pirate jumped away, spinning and yelling out in surprise. The other pirates turned to stare at the strange, blue haired elf that suddenly appeared on the deck. The female pirate with the large captain’s hat interrogating the mayor doesn’t pay much attention. The dragonborn beside her glanced back, rolled his eyes, then stepped closer to the mayor, expecting the crew to be able to get rid of the little nuisance. The lady pirate next to the mast stood up straighter, looking intrigued at the new development.
Quinn pulled himself up over the edge of the boat, taking advantage of the confusion the pirates were experiencing and pulling out a dagger from his robe. He stared at it for a moment, as if forgetting what he was doing, but twists the handle and it begins to whir. After a moment, it extends into a staff. Quinn points it at one of the pirates, holding his hand out towards Rysarian. The hair on everyone’s arms raise as the air fills with static. A bolt of electricity shoots out of Quinn’s and jolts Rysarian, filling him with energy. At the same time, a wave of thunder explodes out of the staff and slams into the pirate in front of Quinn.
By this time, Phoenix was on board and, after looking around, lets out a large breath of ice, freezing several of the pirates that weren’t paying attention. It doesn’t last long and the two pirates close to Rysarian close rank. One was still slowed by the cold air and Rysarian’s able to dodge the swinging arm, but the other pirate kicks out at him and hits him square in the shin.
The three pirates in the middle had surrounded Phoenix, figuring she would be the most dangerous in the battle as she stood almost a foot taller than the others. They had also seen their Dragonborn comrade fight and they’d rather not want to face that for long, so they ganged up on her. The first on take slashes out a knife and cuts deep into Phoenix’s arm, blood seeping out of the wound. Her deadly look had the other one missing, the third one getting so nervous that he stumbled and stuck his sword into his fellow pirate’s foot.
The lady pirate by the mast casually walks over, pulling out her sword and swung it through the air, attacking the pirate with the knife. The sword whistled in the wind, the sound reverberating a tune that seemed slightly familiar, but no one could place it in the middle of the battle. The sword cut down the pirate’s arm, spilling blood onto the deck, with the music still ringing in his ears.
Rysarian attacked the pirate in front of him and Quinn attacked the one beside him. His aim was strong and waves of energy from the attack filled Rysarian and Phoenix on either side of him. Phoenix, annoyed at the pirate that cut her, swung her giant hammer at him. And since he was already disoriented from the music, he didn’t have a chance of avoiding the deadly blow. The force that Phoenix put into the hammer carried it into the pirate in front of her. She somehow felt better after the death of that pirate. The pirate she had hit, wounded and grieving over his fallen comrade is too distracted to retaliate, but the other one beside her lunged forward, striking her in the forehead. The pirate beside Rysarian attacks him again and makes another cut on the elf’s arm.
A cannonball shoots over their head as the Cannoneer finally attempted to aim the cannon at them. The lady pirate that had randomly joined their side goes over and stabs at him with her sword.
Rysarian returns the attack on the pirate that had cut him and the pirate falls to the deck. Rysarian takes the chance to step back, finding partial cover on the side of the mast from the pirates close to him. Quinn slices his staff like he had before, cutting into the deckhand close to him. Phoenix swings her hammer blindly at the two pirates in front of her, but can’t see through the blood spilling into her eyes and misses.
The lady pirate swings her sword across the chest of the Cannoneer, shattering a cannon that had strapped to the chest and exploding into him. He stumbles, but catches himself. Straightening up, he forgets about the cannon and punches the lady pirate in the face, giving her an immediate black eye. One of the pirate’s in front of Phoenix, also standing beside Quinn, swings a punch towards the human, knocking into the man’s arm.
Rysarian responds by sneaking around the pirate and stabbing him in the back, but miraculously missing all internal organs. Quinn’s staff shortens to a dagger again for the close combat and he cuts into the pirate’s stomach, who falls to the ground dead. Phoenix is swinging her hammer, but only catches a glancing blow to the pirate’s arm in front of her as blood is still spilling down her face. The pirate attempts to retaliate, but his arm is too hurt.
The Cannoneer again tries to punch the lady pirate, but misses, his injuries taking their toll on him. The lady pirate swings her sword at him again and cuts down his arm.
Rysarian and Quinn team up against another pirate, Rysarian stabbing his long knife into the pirate’s shoulder, Quinn stabbing the pirate through the chest. The two let the man crumple to the ground. The Cannoneer, still swinging wildly at the lady pirate, misses once again before she cuts into him. He finally falls to the ground.
By this point, Phoenix, frustratedly wiping the blood out of her face, swings her hammer in a dreadful blow onto the pirate in front of her, smashing in the pirate’s face until it poured more blood than was on her own face. He swings a punch back at her, but she doesn’t notice it in her anger. Rysarian risks a short teleport and lands behind the pirate, stabbing the man in the back. As he falls, Phoenix grabs him and tosses him off the side of the ship in frustration.
As the sounds of fighting ended, the Dragonborn pirate turned around to look at the bloody group, several of his crew now dead on the deck. “What do you guys want?” he asked.
“We just came for the mayor,” Phoenix replied.
“You can have him,” the Dragonborn said, tossing the mayor into the middle of the deck. He laid there quietly.
“But you don’t think you’d be allowed to leave that easily, do you?” the Pirate Captain asked in amusement as the group of fighters thought they could relax. In a quick blur of movement, she sliced her sword through Rysarian, causing him to stumble and cough up blood, barely alive. The Dragonborn breathed out a lungful of poisonous gas, Quinn barely avoiding it and Phoenix choking on the toxic air.
The lady pirate, truly showing how mutinous she would be, attacked the Captain, also pushing Rysarian past Quinn and healing him. Rysarian stumbled, feeling after-effects of the Captain’s attack and taking the chance to heal himself as well before stepping up to the Dragonborn pirate and attacking him.
Quinn twisted his dagger into a staff again and held it towards the Dragonborn pirate, his hand held out towards his Dragonborn ally. Darts fly out towards both beasts, but the pirate is injured while Phoenix is given strength. Phoenix takes that energy and swings her hammer at the captain, marking her as Phoenix’s enemy, but missing her in the swing. The Captain runs backwards and climbs up the mast of the ship. All attention is turned toward the Dragonborn pirate, who attacks Rysarian. The lady pirate takes position on the other side of the Dragonborn, causing him to be flanked, as she cuts into him with her sword. Rysarian pulls out his rapier and slowly twists it into the side of the Dragonborn.
Quinn pulls out a cord of barbed wire. No one really knows where he had it or where he got it, but he lassoes it around the Dragonborn and entangles the pirate’s limbs until he’s unable to move. The wire cuts into him at the same time. Phoenix steps up and swings at the trapped pirate as well. He swings angrily back at her, missing the first time, but he lashes out again. She doesn’t notice the impact.
While the group is focused on the Dragonborn, the Captain, still above them, climbs across the sails and down the ropes to land behind Rysarian.
The lady pirate slashes into the Dragonborn, weakening him and making him slow to defend himself. Rysarian, noticing his now dangerous position between the Dragonborn and the Captain, tumbles out of the way. The Dragonborn sends an attack after him that disorients him enough that he’s only able to deal a glancing blow to the Captain. The barbed wire cut into the Dragonborn again because of his movements.
Quinn, deciding it’s time to change tactics, put away his dagger staff and pulled out a pistol from his robes and pointed it at the Dragonborn and pulled the trigger, sending an explosive bullet of light into the Dragonborn’s face. Phoenix also attacked, the swing of her hammer so well aimed against the Dragonborn that it stuns him as she steps past him and swung a blow at the Captain as well. The Captain responds with an attack of her own, but directed at Rysarian, who falls unconscious at the loss of blood. The Dragonborn attacked Phoenix, causing her to stumble, feeling faint. The lady pirate swung her sword again at the Dragonborn, but turns her attention to Rysarian, sending him healing energy in time for him to get up and attack the Captain again.
Quinn fired his gun again at the Dragonborn, then turned to Phoenix and gave her a quick healing infusion. She swings her hammer at the Dragonborn but, still feeling weak, misses. She takes a deep breath, steadying herself, before attacking again, hitting the Dragonborn, and then using the force of the hammer to carry itself into the face of the Captain, breaking her nose in the process. Angered, the Captain attacked Phoenix again.
“Wait a moment!” the lady pirate spoke up. The group stopped for a moment to look at her. “Why is this still happening? You’ve already given back the mayor. Your crew is dead, and you know how dumb I thought this idea was since the beginning. Why are you still fighting?”
“I would rather die than lose my ship!” the Captain said, preparing to continue with the battle.
“But why are you doing this in the first place?” Quinn asked.
“We are looking for a cypher,” the Captain said, breathing heavily, blood splattering out of her nose. “We are wanting to get through what is called the Path of Fortune. We need the cypher. We have sided with the man who wants to go through this.”
“Well,” Rysarian spoke up, his voice strained, “why don’t we show you where the cypher is?”
“What do you know of the cypher?” the Captain asked. Rysarian cleared his throat.
“What would we get from showing it to you?” he asked.
“It doesn’t help you to destroy this village!” the lady pirate added.
“I would like to say something,” the Dragonborn said, holding his hand out to the Captain. “I have seen the prowess of your fighting. With your iron-skinned Dragonborn, fighting with the cleverness of the elf, and the magic power of the human, I believe that you could be beneficial to this quest. I find that this way would be honorable. What say you?”
“Sounds good to me,” Rysarian said, a hand to his side as he winced.
“I guess I can’t really disagree,” the lady pirate said, not being on either side at the moment. The Dragonborn looked at Quinn, who shrugged, and at Phoenix, who simply waited defensively, but didn’t argue.
“It seems like we have an alliance,” the Captain said. “I believe we could work well together, with your help in deciphering the clues.”
“Could we bring two more?” Rysarian asked.
“What two do you speak of?” the Captain asked back.
“Well, the mayor, for one, and we have a friend who has piloted our boat.”
“That is acceptable to me,” the Captain said with a nod. “We could use the help of the villagers, if they are willing. It seems we have had a loss in our crew.”
“It’s not like they have much to go back to, anyway,” Phoenix muttered.
“It seems we have come to an agreement,” the Captain said, holding her hand out to Rysarian.
“Yes, I believe so,” Rysarian replied, shaking hands with her.
“We must gather our members now, call a meeting, and decide our course of action. Meadowlark will be in charge of diplomacy and communicating your needs to us.” The lady pirate, Meadowlark, steps forward and nods.
“Agreed,” Rysarian said. Ted, who had been listening on his boat below, comes aboard and the other ship is informed. The villagers are let up onto the deck of the boat, the Isis Maru, and a meeting is called by Captain Charlotte to decide where each person will belong. After talking with the new crew, positions were assigned and the Isis Maru was on its way.

The Keep in the Sky

The sound of rushing air stopped as Rysarian teleported. His long, muted blue hair flying in the wind as he held his arms out for balance as rocks crumbled away from what looked like the edge of a cliff just inches in front of his feet.
“Whoah!” he said as he glanced down to an unseeable bottom, only misty white clouds that engulfed the falling rocks. He looked behind him to make sure he had a place to back up.
“Ok. I am good,” he said before backing up a safe distance away and looking around. As he took in his surroundings, he saw that he was standing on a floating island. There was a run down keep on it, the west side of the building was mostly destroyed. The tower on the east side had two and a half stories. The last part was half of the stairs. There was a front gate that had been bashed in, broken pieces and rubble surrounding it.
This was not the destination he had in mind.
Rysarian decided that it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to try and teleport again if it somehow was messed up. He didn’t want to go any higher than this. And there might be something interesting inside. So he headed into the keep to look around.
He walked through the broken gate, stepping over the broken masonry, and headed first to the partially intact tower. Once inside the bottom level, he looked around the room. It was shadowed, but with light coming in from the broken walls above. The walls were well built, but old. On the ground, there were a few rags, a broken gong and a really old cauldron with what used to be food over a pile of ashes. He looked closer and saw there were a few skeletons of goblins in the shadows of the stairs. He searched the goblins pockets for anything worth something, glad that the bodies were old enough they didn’t smell too bad. He found two rusted daggers that he decided to use as throwing knives.
After seeing that the first level was clear, he went up the stairs to the second level. On that floor there were more goblin skeletons as well as some construction scaffolding. After a quick look at the skeletons he saw there was nothing of value. Up the last intact part of the stairwell to the third floor brought him to an impromptu throne room that was open to the air. Around the throne there were some fake jewels, rags and an already triggered trap door a couple feet away. There were a few jewels that had already been taken. Rysarian decided to take the rest. Then he looked in the trap and found a large goblin. He had broken chain mail and a rusted short sword which Rysarian gladly relieved him of. With the next floor gone, and only a couple stairs up the walls still intact, Rysarian decided he was finished in the tower.
Back down in the first floor, he found a hallway that he walked through, light filtering in through cobwebbed windows higher in the walls. At the end, he found a fairly large door. Interested in what would be beyond it, Rysarian tried to push it open but it wouldn’t move. Rysaraian figured there would have to be something interesting beyond, so he headed back outside to see if there was another way around.
As he did so he saw a flying ship off in the distance. The chance to get off the island distracted him from the possible finds in the ruins so he headed close to the edge of the island, waving his hand in the air. The flying ship turned from its course and headed straight to the island with the ruins he was on.
As the ship approached, Rysarian made out two forms on it, one nearly a foot taller than the other and much broader. As the boat landed on the island, Rysarian was surprised to see the large Dragonborn step out, a large and imposing creature with a hammer the size of the human driving the ship.
“Thank you Ted, please wait for me here,” the Dragonborn said before looking at the blue haired Eladrin already on the island.
The castle ruins hadn’t been too hard to find, but since it was another floating island, and Phoenix didn’t see any other boats around, she was curious as to how this Eladrin got here. She looked him up and down, taking in his outfit and weapons. He appeared to be a rogue. She immediately didn’t trust him.
“How long have you been here?” she asked him. He didn’t seem to be in any distress, so he couldn’t have been here long without rations.
“A couple of minutes,” Rysarian replied casually. Phoenix looked at him distrustfully.
“Have you found anything interesting here?” she asked.
“Not really,” he replied. “Could I get a ride back with you?”
“I must look around to see if this place is dangerous before I leave,” Phoenix said, carefully not answering his question.
“Well it doesn’t have much in it, nothing interesting there,” Rysarian said.
“You looked through all of it?” Phoenix asked.
“Not exactly,” Rysarian replied hesitantly, recalling the heavy door he had been unable to open.
“So there’s more to this place than you saw?” Phoenix asked.
“Yes, why don’t I show you?” Rysarian asked, “Right this way.”
“Yes, thank you,” Phoenix replied, cautiously following the Eladrin rogue through the tower and down the hallway to the door. “This is the door you couldn’t open?” Phoenix asked.
“Yes. Why don’t you give it a try?”
“I will do that,” Phoenix replied. She took a step forward, stumbling a little and knocking into the door. It didn’t budge. Rysarian stifled a laugh. Phoenix ignored it, putting her hands on the door again and shoving it open easily this time. The side she had pushed opened creakily into a small courtyard. It had an open ceiling that brightly lit the dingy, patched grass. A tree stood in the far left corner a couple feet from a door on the far side. Phoenix and Rysarian stopped right inside their own doorway when they saw a handful of skeletons.
There were fives piles of the sun bleach bones, two in front of the far door, two by the tree, and one by itself on the far right of the courtyard from where the two stood. One by the door and one by the tree each had a short sword. The other three appeared unarmed.
“They appear to have died defending the door,” Phoenix said. Rysarian took that as a positive sign that there was something worth defending on the other side. “Their opponent seems to have made it through.” Rysarian nodded and took a step forward.
Eerie rattling echoed across the courtyard and the piles of bones pulled themselves together and five skeletons rose from their dusty piles.
“Well this isn’t good,” Rysarian said. Always quick on his feet, though, he sprinted his way to the skeleton on its own on the right, attacking with his favored rapier. The skeleton bones fell to dust as the steel made contact.
Angered by their fallen fellow guard, the remaining four skeletons moved, the two by the door blocking Rysarian, the two by the tree focused on Phoenix. The one with the sword approached her and swung, the dull edge not doing much damage. The other one stayed where it was, pulling out one of it’s ribs and throwing it at Phoenix. The throw went wide and the bone landed behind her.
Phoenix, annoyed at the skeleton in front of her, pulled out her hammer and swung it, easily crushing the bones to pieces.
Rysarian swung his rapier at the skeleton with the short sword, the bones falling apart at the attack. The skeleton beside him pulled off it’s own femur and whacked it into Rysarian’s arm while the skeleton beside the tree pulled out another one of it’s ribs and threw it at Phoenix. The throw was better this time and smacked Phoenix right in the forehead. Phoenix stormed up to it and swung her hammer with such force that the bones of the skeleton disintegrated before the metal even had a chance to make contact. Rysarian swung his rapier again and the last of the skeletons fell to pieces. Phoenix looked at the rogue, thinking that this had been too easy and worried about what would come next. The two approach the door the skeletons had been guarding and try the door, it doesn’t budge.
“And here I thought you were the strong one,” Rysarian taunts as Phoenix fails a second time. Irritated, Phoenix shoved Rysarian into the door, finally getting it to open.
The two stumble in to a dark room with only one torch lighting it. The torch was held by a figure in a cloak, the hood half up on the figure’s head.
“Come in, come in. Shut the door behind you, you’re letting in a draft,” the man said, waving at them without looking back at them. The two closed the door behind them.
“Are there anymore torches?” Rysarian asked.
“Oh, yes, I have some in my bag,” the man said, pulling out two torches from his pouch, a couple scrolls and quills falling onto the floor. The man doesn’t notice. Rysarian and Phoenix approach and take the offered lit torches from him.
“How did you get in here?” Phoenix asked, holding her torch and looking at the wall the man was still entranced with.
“Oh, I have my ways,” the man said. “Would you look at this? It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Such an interesting find. These writings aren’t from the same period as the castle is.”
“You didn’t come in from the door back there, did you?” Rysarian asked, meaning the door they had come through.
“What? Oh, no I didn’t. Why?” the man said.
“Oh, well, there were just some skeletons out that way.”
“There aren’t anymore, though,” Phoenix added.
“Oh, that’s interesting,” the man said, not really paying much attention.
“Nice shoes,” Rysarian said quietly, looking at the man’s nice leather shoes before taking his torch to look around the room.
“Why are you here?” Phoenix asked.
“I was sent here to find a colleague of mine. But this writing, it shouldn’t be here.”
“What’s so strange about this writing?” Phoenix asked the man.
“The writing is from a culture in the west, but I’ve never seen it this far east. The group spread, but still. I did hear that this castle once belonged to a wizard, and maybe this writing was from him.”
“A wizard? I remember reading something about that,” Phoenix said mutely. “But how would the writings be from a different time than the castle?”
“Perhaps they formed later as a history or a warning about what happened here,” the man said.
“You can’t read it?” Phoenix asked.
“Not right now, it would take a while to translate.” The two looked at the wall of oddly shaped writing.
“What was your name, by the way?” Phoenix asked suddenly.
“Oh, my name is Quinn. Now what’s this part here?” Quinn asked himself, looking closer at a section on the wall. Phoenix looked around and spotted Rysarian over in the corner.
Rysarian had made his way around the room, finding eight pillars along the walls, the writing only on the back (one)[wall], but finding no other entrances. He had stopped when he found a dead body in the corner. He had searched it quickly for any valuables, but the man had only seemed to be carrying scrolls and quills like Quinn was. The man’s clothes[,] not high quality and the man’s boots not as nice as Quinn’s. Rysarian had found a journal filled with what seemed like gibberish. The last couple pages however looked like they had been written in blood.
When Phoenix approached, Rysarian hid the journal in one of his bags. Phoenix examined the body quickly. Yup. Dead. But it didn’t look more than a couple days old. It didn’t smell at all. She looked curiously back at Quinn.
“There weren’t any other entrances that I found,” Rysarian told her quietly. Phoenix looked at him and nodded in understanding. The two both looked back at Quinn. Could he be hiding something?
“How long did you say you had been here?” she asked him.
“Oh, what day is it? What month? Oh I forget. How old am I?” He muttered to himself for a little bit. “What time of year is it?” he asked the last question at them.
“Just the ending of winter,” Phoenix replied. He appeared to really just be in his own little world, not trying to deceive them.
“Ah, then I am 23 still. But how long have I been here? Perhaps a week?”
“A week?” Phoenix repeated, looking down at the body. “How did you you say you got in here?” Phoenix asked again.
“Oh, I have my ways,” Quinn replied again.
“Do you know magic?” Rysarian asked.
“Magic? Yes, I do know some magic.”
“What kind of magic do you know?” Rysarian asked. “I found this,” he added quietly to Phoenix and handed her the journal. “It looks almost like words but, not.”
Phoenix took it and looked through it as the Rysarian continued his conversation with Quinn about magic. Phoenix saw the same as Rysarian, that it almost looked like words, but it didn’t make sense. Also, the pages that seemed to be written in blood. She looked up at the writing on the walls, but it wasn’t the same language.
“Do you know a magic like teleportation?” Rysarian asked Quinn. “Or, I mean, I think that’s what it is called. Where you disappear and reappear somewhere else?”
“Ah, yes! I have heard of it, and I’ve studied the theories of it. I know the spells, but I’m not nearly that advanced as to be able to perform teleportation. That’s very advanced.”
“Yes, I see,” Rysarian said to Quinn, then looked at Phoenix. “I think we should go back to the boat,” he whispered. Phoenix gave him an annoyed expression.
“Not now, I don’t know the danger level yet,” she whispered back.
“Well you can stay, I’m going to leave,” Rysarian replied quietly.
“Ted won’t leave without me,” she whispered back. “So what languages do you read?” Phoenix asked Quinn as she walked back over to him, holding the journal of the dead guy casually behind her back.
“Oh, several, if I have the time for it. But these ones, oh it would take a while. If only I had the notes of my colleague. Oh, you haven’t happened to see a dead body around here, have you?” Quinn asked.
“Yeah, actually, right here,” Rysarian said, still beside the body.
“Oh! What a fantastic spell he must have done! Look at how well preserved his body is! You didn’t happen to find his journal with him? He should have been keeping notes.” Rysarian and Phoenix exchanged looks, Rysarian shaking his head. Phoenix frowned.
“We did actually. It’s right here.”
“Oh fantastic!” Quinn said, taking the journal from her. Then flipping it upside down. Or, rather, right side up. It looked even more like gibberish to Phoenix and Rysarian, though. “Ah, that’s better. Wow, what expensive ink! Red Demon’s blood. It must have been used for his spell.”
“His spell to preserve his body?” Phoenix asked.
“Yes, yes, let me look. It greatly slows the rate of decomposition, but it seems like he’s been dead for a century or two now.”
“And you didn’t notice him lying here even though you’ve been here for a week?” Phoenix asked.
“Why would I have noticed that when there’s writing on the wall?” Quinn asked curiously.
“Right,” Rysarian agreed. “I think we should go now,” he whispered to Phoenix.
“Not yet,” she said back. “So can you read his notes?”
“Yes, yes, it’s sort of a short hand of what’s on the wall. Much easier to translate, yes,” he said as he flipped through the journal. “I should take this back to the Capitol. They’ll want to see this.”
“Would you like to come back with us?” Phoenix asked. “We have a ship and it has plenty of space.”
“Oh yes, that would be wonderful, thank you,” Quinn said.
“Great,” Rysarian said. The three left the dead body and headed back through the courtyard and hallway and out to Ted wating by the boat.
“Oh, hey, look there’s another guy,” Ted said.
“Yeah, we’re going to be heading back soon,” Phoenix said.
“Hey, guys, you have to look over there, see that island over there?” Ted asked, pointing out a floating island of rocks. “If you turn your head a little to the side and squint, doesn’t it look like the mayor?” The three others looked and did as he said.
“Yeah,” Phoenix said. “I can see that. Well, we should get going.”
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll start the boat.
“Oh! I forgot my bag. I’ll be right back,” Quinn said, sprinting off back through the keep as the other two got on the boat.
“I don’t know if this is a good idea,” Rysarian said.
“He seems just as trustworthy as you,” Phoenix replied calmly. “Maybe more so.”
The two stayed silent as they waited for Quinn. When he got back, stuffing scrolls into his bag as he ran over, the four of them took off.


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