Elias Parr, spokesman of the “Adventurer’s Guild”, has been travelling around Acryn seeking various people, among them known and skilled adventurers, to offer them a job.
It seems that one of their clients is embarking on an endeavour which requires travel and may be fraught with danger, and requires an adventuring party to accompany them. A basic reimbursement of 27 Riel is offered for taking the job, but Elias stresses that the real draw is in the exciting adventure that awaits, and that further pay may be negotiable with the client.
The party meet at the Adventurer's Guild headquarters on Mosia Lane, where the client, Hugh Branch, who has turned in his favour with the guild for its assistance, greets his associates. Elias directs them through a labyrinthine series of corridors and passages into the heart of the building, where they reach a large office piled up with papers, files and books, for a meeting with the Chairman. A voice from behind an enormous stack of books and papers piled atop a desk at the far end of the room greets them and tells them of their plan which should allow Hugh to do what he wants to do.
It turns out that Hugh seeks to create an artifact of Flux that will allow him to take an ocean on which to sail his boat anywhere. To achieve this, the Chairman suggests creating an item of possibilities attuned to the shaping of a large body of water, such that he will be able to quickly shape and maintain an ocean anywhere within the Flux. By tying this creation to his barrier, he can then create a bubble of Flux and drag it through the Consensus with him, allowing the ocean to be shaped and maintained even beyond the Flux, such that it can truly go anywhere.
The Chairman lays out some steps which should allow him to do this: if the party meet with Mina Hatcher, a Wayfinder with an interest in possibilities and an “associate” of theirs, she can provide them with some materials associated with possibility which if worked into an item should allow it to make shaping easier. They suggest a figurehead, and inform the party that they should go to a number of locations in the Flux where bodies of water wouldn't usually be found and work on the item by Flux shaping water to attune these possibilities towards shaping the ocean that Hugh desires. By working their way through a forest, mountain, city, volcano and desert, shaping larger and larger bodies of water each time, they can ultimately create something which can very easily shape an ocean. As a final fixing step Hugh should then attune the creation to his barrier.
Before sending them on their way, the Chairman informs them that those who have a hand in the creation of such an artifact will in some way shape the outcome, and that by involving them and their associate the result will have something of an air of new possibilities and stories about it, but that this shouldn't be anything to worry about. They warn the party that the creation of something significant of Flux may well attract the attention of malign influences and tell them to keep their guards up. Elias then provides them with a map of the locations the Chairman had identified and escorts them back to the entrance of the building.
Waiting until nightfall, the party head to their first destination: a late night meeting with Mina Hatcher by the docks. There they find a woman being accosted by some thugs, who seem to have arranged their own clandestine meeting for the same place and time. Seeing the party, she stops trying to tell them that being thugs is a rather tried and tested career and that they should consider doing something new and exciting and instead requests their aid in stopping them from stealing the items in her bag. A fight ensues, but with the thugs out of the way Mina is free to give the party said items: what appear to be five books. Hugh leafs through a couple of them; every time he does so the contents seem to be different. She tells the party that they are the objects attuned to possibilities, which can be used as materials, and confirms that they know what to do with them before going on her way.
As the party make their way back through the city, Hugh is concerned to find that the books no longer seem to change when he looks through them. They return to the docks but Mina no longer seems to be around, and the books continue not to change. However, when Henrietta takes a look and finds that odd pages of books that she looks through seem to vary, they conclude that Wayfinder Insights must have something and resolve to trust in the plan. Before they leave, Hugh obtains a figurehead with 5 arms to act as the basis of his artifact.
Heading out of the city and into the forest, the party dispatch some tree-climbing clouded leopards, though not before Marlo has befriended one of the creatures with the aid of the Tender's power. They reach the Flux and Hugh is relieved to find the books once again varying each time he flicks through them. Arriving at a good place in the heart of the forest they set the figurehead down on a tree stump and Hugh places one of the books into one of the arms and begins to shape a small stream of water. The book flicks open and words seem to fly from it and into the statue as he does so, although the creation of the stream also seems to disturb some Flux tree people who angrily try to stop the party from making their land soggy. These dealt with and the shaping done, the book now seems to be empty, mundane and very soggy, and Hugh can feel the faintest traces of Flux from the figurehead as a tiny trickle of water begins to flow from its mouth.
Encountering a mixture of lost people and what seem to be Flux lost people on the way out of the forest, the party guide the real people back to the nearest Consensus and point them towards the nearest village whilst Hugh and a couple of the others lead those of the Flux back into the Flux when they are hesitant to pass into the Consensus, promising to guide them but ultimately shaping a wall to keep them in and running. Once they reconvene, the party head South and slightly West and up a Flux mountain marked on their map. At its peak Hugh shapes a sizable boat, places a book in another of the figurehead's arms and then begins to shape a lake around them. Bits of rock which break off as the water hits it turn out to be living creatures, and the party fend this off whilst Hugh attempts to do his shaping. It takes a while, but eventually he succeeds and the next step is done, with a more steady flow of water coming from the figurehead.
Shortly afterwards the party begin to get a distinct sense that they're being watched, especially the Wayfinders who feel as though they are being deeply scrutinised. Hugh recognises this sensation as having something to do with the Abnegator, and warns the party about him, theorising (albeit incorrectly) that the creatures have fought whilst trying to work on the artifact thusfar were his doing. They head down the mountain only to meet a group of Wayfinders and travelling companions from the Wayfinder's Guild, lead by one Assana Graves, who felt their shaping going on up the mountain and then since felt the same sensation of being watched, and has assumed that clearly they were up to something dodgy and should be stopped.
She does not accept Hugh's claims to be a friend of Xavier and that he can explain it all, nor is prepared to trust that this rather upsetting feeling of being deeply scrutinised is the work of an anomaly that he isn't working for and indeed is trying to stop, and insists that they return with her group to the Guild where they can explain themselves and things can be worked out. After some tense discussions back and forth she kicks off and the party end up having to leave them unconscious and go on their way.
Reaching the next location on their map, the city of Stonehaven, which appears to be entirely Flux and populated by Flux citizens, the party take advantage of the local festivities in honour of the Lord of the Rock and partake of their feast. Talking to the locals and learning among other things about the incineration golems that maintain their sewers and their extreme dislike of water especially within their city walls, they decide that despite the incineration golems they were told about they should clearly go down into the sewers to do their shaping so as not to upset the locals too much. Though first they Flux-shape an enormous pile of money and use it to buy a large sack of the specialty from the local mines: Stonehaven Sapphires, gemstones which have silvery streaks running through them and are beautiful to behold.
Down in the sewers, another book in the statue's hand, Hugh begins trying to shape a huge river flowing along its passages as the party attempt to dodge the large golems that are periodically heating up and exuding large amounts of fire. He is forced to use his Diamond Barrier to quickly move the statue away from the walking incinerators and keep it protected from the flames, but eventually they do succeed and an enormous torrent of water bursts up and out into the streets, much to the horror of the cityfolk. The city walls quickly fill with water, and with only a small amount of bombing the walls, the day is “saved” as a hole is blasted in them, letting out all of the water and stopping most of the citizens from drowning. The party get away, Simon also making away with a Mana Crystal that was intended as a prize for a competition during the festival.
They party move on to a Flux volcano, where they fight through various lava and volcanic rock beasts and ascend to the top. Once again shaping a boat over the edge that they can use to make a getaway, as well as a platform which Hugh can use to work from, he places another book in the figurehead and beings trying to shape the entire volcano into spewing water instead of lava. This proves to be more complicated than he hoped as the water is evaporated as he forms it, but with some persistance and a number of accidental lava explosions he finally completes his work as the wooden boat begins to combust from the heat and all of the disturbance he has caused his new water volcano causes it to erupt. The party are launched on a flaming boat down the side of the volcano and crash quite forcibly into its side.
Finding themselves somewhere dark and quite damp, the party light their way with the twilight pouring from Hugh's body and find themselves in a cavern. They head away from an ominous rumbling and towards what they believe to be the outside world as an enormous wall of scalding hot water chases them past various obstacles and out the side. The volcano is still spewing water, and as it catches the sunlight it casts a beautiful intense double rainbow overhead.
Happy to have seen such a sight, with the figurehead nearing completion and now steadily pouring water from numerous places, the party move on towards the desert. As they begin to cross it a black-clad figure walks towards them, impractically dressed for the hot climate. It is the Abnegator himself, and he attempts to speak to Hugh and offer his aid in creating the artifact, if he'll just allow him to, which will allow him to rid if of the influence of “that bard” and make it more as it should be, with its own story. And in return, he'll use his abilities to grant Hugh great power. However, Hugh and the others at his request refuse to speak to him, and ignore his words. The Abnegator informs Hugh that he couldn't make Hugh his offer the last time they met because he wasn't ready and didn't have enough of a unique identity about which people tell stories, and thus that it wasn't safe, but the Wayfinder continues to be dismissive, and the rest of the party largely continue to ignore him even when he expresses an interest in Aaron and informs him that he has potential. Simon asks if he has potential, but is shot down when the Abnegator points out that he hasn't done anything noteworthy enough about which people tell stories of him.
After some more fruitless discussion, the Abnegator accuses Hugh of being childish and walks away, saying as he goes that nonetheless one of his associates will attempt to put some of his influence on things. After all, it's all just the act of people exerting their wills and trying to achieve their goals. The party continue through the desert fighting various scorpions, coyotes, living cacti and “Bears of the Sands”, until they find a good place to do the last steps of their forging.
With the last book in place and the figurehead sitting at the front of a Flux-shaped boat once more, Hugh begins to shape an entire ocean, as slowly waters build up around them even in the heart of a desert. However, these efforts are disrupted when the Wolves of the Sea, a group of skilled spear-fishers made distinctly lupine and literally able to hunt in any ocean by the Abnegator's power. The party fend them off whilst Hugh does his thing, but not before they manage to interfere with the figurehead and place black crystal orbs in two of its hands. The party attempt to shatter these, but the structure of the hands falls away revealing black crystalline hands beneath.
There is little time for concern, however, as the creation is near completion and needs fixing. Hugh focuses on forming his barrier into a seal around the figurehead and the party each suddenly find themselves at the depths of what seems to be an ocean, though they can still breathe, with no sign of the others in sight. Hugh recognises this as being something of a representation of his own barrier. They find various generic adventurer-like figures in front of them who attack, and fight them off, as well as what seem to be clones of the Abnegator wandering around, attacking all on both sides. Once there is only themselves left they wake up to find themselves drifting on a boat atop the ocean in the middle of the desert. The figurehead now seems to emanate a strong feeling of the Flux and constantly pour a steady stream of water, and despite two black crystalline hands seems to be completed as expected.
Once they're ready to depart the party head back to Acryn with relatively little difficulty. There, their first port of call is the Adventurer's Guild to report on their success. The Chairman seems to be busy and unable to see them (as they so often are), but Elias asks if they can get somebody to inspect the creation. Hugh agrees, provided they are willing to come and check it out on at the docks where the Crimson Mother is docked. He then returns to his boat.
Marlo finds that of the Stonehaven Sapphires they bought, only a few remained upon leaving the Flux, though there is enough for one each. The party each end up with one of these.
Marlo and Hugh come to an agreement whereby in exchange for certain services from Hugh and his boat Marlo will attempt to bring about a miracle of the Tender upon the figurehead, to bring life to it and fuse it with the Crimson Mother. Fortunately for all involved this attempt to combine the powers of the divine and the Flux doesn't lead to the horrific explosions it potentially could have done, and even works to some extent. At the completion of the proceedings, the figurehead sprouts branches which ensnare and entwine around the ship, holding it securely in place. It is now quite firmly attached, though is not meaningfully alive in its own right. It remains unclear how the Crimson Mother feels about having this water-pouring chunk of dead wood wrapped around it.
Marlo returns to the forest where he previously had to leave behind the clouded leopard he had befriended, the Flux not being a suitable place for such a creature. Finding it again and using the Tender's power once more to reconnect with it and become closer to it, he gives it the name Claude.
Simon informs the Civil Service of what has taken place and they thank him for the information. He asks if they know anything about the Abnegator and they tell him of their theory that he is an anomaly that is capable of producing more anomalies. They ask him to keep an ear out for any further information on this being he can find.
A short while later, a group of heavies from the Wayfinder's Guild turn up at the docks, wanting to speak to Hugh. In response, he simply sails the boat out away from the port and waits out on the waters for a while until they go away. A letter from Marlo to the right people, given his connections, is enough to discourage from pressing the matter any further, and the boat returns to the shore.
The party are celebrating their success on the Crimson Mother when they are visited by Mina Hatcher, who tells them that she's here to take a look at the figurehead on behalf of the Adventurer's Guild. Hugh welcomes her aboard and she checks it out, commenting that whilst the Abnegator seems to have managed to exert some influence on the creation, it doesn't seem to be a serious issue, and it remains one of the less significant influences on it, along with her own. She briefly points out that there is something else slightly odd about the figurehead, though she can't quite place what, but whatever it is seems to be something different, which in her view is exciting.
Once she's done with her inspection, before she departs the party make light conversation and quiz her about her “associate”, the Chairman, and the things the Abnegator was saying about “that bard”. She confirms that the Abnegator was indeed talking about the Chairman, who used to be a bard. Hugh asks her what the Chairman is, and whether they are an Anomaly as well. She smiles and tells him that that's an interesting question, and it would definitely be interesting if that was the case. As she disembarks, Mina Hatcher tells them that the Chairman is a fan of games and wordplay, before leaving the party to ponder whether this means that the Chairman is in fact literally a chair.
A potent Flux artifact forged by Hugh Branch. A figurehead with 5 arms, two of which are black crystal. From its surface pours a constant stream of seawater. Branches emerging from its body entwine the Crimson Mother and hold it securely in place.