| Brave? Powerful? Brilliant? Virtuous?
Our client is searching for heroes to help defeat a terrible monster (and a number of less terrible monsters that are nonetheless really quite bad) and save a kingdom.
Applicants should be willing to provide aid to the monarch of a foreign power, on the clear understanding that such aid will not negatively impact Acryn's interests.
Payment of 30R will be offered on successful completion of this quest.
Go forth, valiant heroes! (Applicants should congregate at the Bear and Biscuit tavern at midday on the 31st day of the month.)
Our heroes are met by Euphemia Glib, who tells them that she is representing the interests of the monarchy and people of the kingdom of Aldarealm. A horrifying power has arisen in that land, a power that seeks to destabilise the area, wreaking death and destruction… and who can say how far such a dangerous influence might spread? She shows them a symbol, the symbol of the royal family - they can reproduce it to show that they are favoured. They will need firstly to search the Sylvan Forest for a friend of Euphemia’s, a woman called Siri, who will give them further instructions….
With the aid of a wayfinder provided by Euphemia, the party journeys south into the Blue Mountains, where the secluded kingdom is located. Fortunately, the Sylvan Forest is just beyond the mountain pass. After battling a group of talking spiders that plan to eat them, the adventurers make their way into a part of the forest that is full of enormous flowers. Lying at the foot of a huge trumpet-shaped flower, they find a woman lying unconscious. Before they can approach, a huge mantis appears from the flower and prevents them from tending to the woman. The mantis introduces itself as the guardian of the Sylvan Forest and asks them to leave. When they request the option of taking the unconscious woman with them, the mantis tells them that she is an evil intruder who must not be revived.
A fight ensues, during which the mantis is killed. They heal the unconscious woman, who introduces herself as Siri - the very person they have been looking for! She informs them that she lives in this forest, gathering nuts and berries, and is a friend to all the animals. She was once friends with the Forest Guardian, but it - like some of the other Guardians - has been corrupted by a malevolent entity that is threatening the kingdom. When they ask if she can lead them to the castle, she suggests that they first stop at the village of Quaint, which is on the way.
Arriving at the village, the adventurers discover that the people of Aldarealm don’t accept Riel, and will only deal in Marks. Fortunately, Siri has a few spare Marks for each adventurer. More Marks can be obtained at various stalls offering games, or by breaking pots in a potter’s shop (the potter keeps falling asleep; the pots keep refreshing whenever nobody is watching… and they have no weak point, as Lionel discovers). There’s also a rather odd merchant called Father Quaint, who offers potions, masks and “Ice Grenades”. Our heroes buy a few of the latter.
They learn that there have been recent disturbances at the Mines of Gu’kk Ghgaerr and at Lake Aqueous - this may have something to do with corrupted Guardians. Hoping for instructions from the royal family, they decide to visit the castle.
However, the guards at the castle gate refuse to let them in and are seemingly too far away to see the royal crest. When Vermillion attempts to draw a larger version of the crest’s design on the ground, one of the guards shoots him with a ballista. Understandably dismayed at this turn of events, the party decides to return to Acryn.
Once again, however, their progress is arrested as they discover that the pass is now closed - indeed, it is almost as though there was never any way through the mountains. “Never mind”, Siri tells them brightly, “I’m sure you’ll be welcome to enter the castle once you’ve defeated the other two corrupted Guardians. And you can choose which order to do the mines and the lake in - isn’t that nice!?”
They decide to enter the mines, mainly in the hope that they can find a passage back through the mountains. They quickly discover, however, that this mineshaft is oddly linear, with no branching paths. Lionel appears oddly distracted - he seems to be able to sense some invisible magical presence a little way in front of his face. The others are a little disturbed at his behaviour, but share a working theory that their experiences in this place are nothing more than a group hallucination. After sneaking past salamanders, they find their way into the circular cavern with a bubbling pool of lava at its centre. In this pool squats a gigantic fire-breathing toad - the Fire Guardian. They use Ice Grenades to knock the toad out of its pool and defeat it.
Deciding at this stage that they have little choice but to give up and go along with the programme of events that seems to have been prepared for them, our adventurers make for Lake Aqueous. There, they find a boat waiting for them - it starts moving in a disconcertingly steady manner as soon as they board it. They are first attacked by angry fish people, and then by an octopoid lake monster, the Water Guardian. With the death of the Guardian, the boat returns to shore. At last, they are ready to return to the castle, Siri scouting ahead “in case they try to shoot you with a ballista again”.
As it happens, they find the drawbridge down and the guards in a friendly mood. They are brought directly to the royal courtroom, where they are finally introduced to their employer, Princess Iris - or Siri, as they knew her previously. When they ask her the reason for her previous deception, she tells them that she needed to know they weren’t the kind of people who will do anything a princess says just because she’s a princess.
The big news is that three other guardians have been discovered to have been corrupted by Mordeef, the evil force blighting the kingdom - the most concerning is the Spirit Guardian that lurks in the catacombs under the castle, but the Wind Guardian and the Ice Guardian have also gone rogue. Of more interest, however, are a clothier and hairdresser who offer diverse possible changes to a person’s look in no time at all - several party members opt for changes to the colour of their hair.
Lionel attempts to communicate with whatever magical presence he’s detected - the magical focus has been moving around distractingly and he’s sure he can hear muttering occasionally. His efforts to start a dialogue have resulted in nothing - or, at least, only a sense that something may be sniggering at him. Then, when he detects the Weak Point of a biscuit, breaks it, and watches as the dropped half drifts rapidly along the Z-axis and disappears through the wall, he tries challenging the entity. He suddenly finds himself back in the forest, fighting spiders… and then back outside the castle again. When he complains about the expenditure of a potion in this little escapade, he finds it mysteriously restored to his pocket.
Venturing down into the catacombs below the castle, the party prepares to destroy the corrupted Spirit Guardian. First fighting vampiric swords, they are a little disconcerted to witness their wayfinder fall through an apparently solid wall. Continuing to a large candlelit chamber, they break apart the Spirit Guardian, a bone composite who protests futilely about their apparently unthinking willingness to follow the princess’s orders.
Next, they find their way to Bleak Peak to meet with the Ice Guardian, but at this stage, there are unambiguous signs that whatever vision they are trapped in is beginning to degrade - several of the monsters are moving erratically and the princess is repeating key phrases and mangling her dialogue. They make a concerted decision to rebel against the path chosen for them, turning back instead of fighting the Ice Guardian - and turning on Princess Iris instead. Confused by their defiance, she tries exerting mind control over them, but quickly falls….
The vision fails. Our heroes awaken to find themselves in a ritual chamber alongside their wayfinder, surrounded by mages who seem rather concerned that their prisoners have awoken. One mage, who seems to be in charge, orders the others to attack the “subjects”; recovering their weapons from a pile nearby, the adventurers knock out most of the mages, although the leader manages to get away. They revive one of the other mages for questioning….
While they wait for the Watch to arrive, they question the captive mage about the purpose of the ordeal they have been put through. The mage denies any in-depth knowledge of the plan, claiming that most of those recruited to assist in running the “experiment” were just poor students looking for a little extra cash. They do, however, confirm that they obtained some really useful data about people’s responses to certain situational pressures. When asked who would know more, the mage provides Dan with the address of the important-looking mage who managed to escape. Lionel promptly pickpockets this note, quickly returning it to his fellow adventurer’s pocket when Dan becomes suspicious of him.
The Watch arrives and arrests the unfortunate mages; Vermillion accompanies them to the station to offer his testimony, ensuring that every detail of the inhumane treatment he and his companions have been subjected to is carefully noted.
Meanwhile, Lionel is checking with his True Council contacts for any information about the mages behind the experiment (the True Council has no useful information, alas) while Dan secures some backup from House Terrec’s other guards before heading over to the house where the rogue mage is hiding out. As Lionel watches unseen from the shadows, the guards batter down the door, only to discover that the mage has already fled their temporary lodging. Dan and Lionel are both in a position to see the little shrine in the corner of the room, with what seems to be a dragon scale and some unusual iconography on display… before the Watch intervenes.
Vermillion visits the College of the Stars with the magical writings he recovered from the ritual chamber, in the hope of selling them to interested scholars - this was, after all, an act of unauthorised magic performed by some of the college's own students. Unfortunately, the junior mage he speaks to doesn't seem able to make much sense of the papers, failing to believe that the methodology described would yield anything in practice. Vermillion protests that he has experience of their practical applications and demands to see someone more important. The scholar, while unwilling to interrupt a more senior mage at the present time, promises to forward Vermillion's query to a supervisor later - this isn't terribly convincing.
The following day, however, Vermillion is visited by a group of official-looking people - although it isn't clear exactly what official capacity they occupy. They are aware that Vermillion has some documents that may be of interest to the city, and explain that they'll be taking those off his hands - this doesn't seem to be something they're willing to negotiate on. They ask a few questions, confirming the names of Vermillion's fellow adventurers and promising that he will be reimbursed for his cooperation. They leave with the magical writings.
These officials track down each of the other adventurers over the next few days, questioning each of them in turn and confiscating any other relevant documents they can find - Lionel, however, manages to hide most of the paperwork he recovered.
Shortly afterwards, the students they apprehended in the ritual chamber are imprisoned; the leader, however, has not been found. Each of our adventurers receives 40R in a plain package.
Lionel dyes his hair purple.