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.