Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Why I Want To Go - Feast of Blackwood X

by Lani "Gwen" Jones

I'm so incredibly excited for this event and I can't wait to tell all of you about it. When an event reaches it's tenth in the series it's not just great news for that event holding team or that nation, it is an important milestone for our entire game. It's a symbol of how much history we have as a community, how the traditions that we create together last, and how much we can depend on the Realms continuing to exist in the future. It also makes me feel a little old to think an event that started after I began playing has already reached a decade in age!

Feast of Blackwood has established itself again and again as a can't-miss bookmark event of the eventing year. With a Friday and Saturday full of well thought-out questing with amazing props and a feast on Sunday that raises the bar year after year, theres nothing about this weekend not to love. There's so much to say about the effort this event staff puts in to make their national events engaging and memorable, and what I'm looking forward to this year, so what can I do except sum it up in one of my patented lists?!

Narrative - I've always enjoyed the plot ideas that the Blackwood staff have come up with each and every year and I'm intrigued by the teaser for this year. "Come bring aid to the people, help bless the lands in the name of their beloved Gods and wish well upon the wedding in what can only be a fun and simple quest to remember." Of course we expect this to be simple. Certainly nothing can go wrong when all we're doing is helping to bless the land. Of course there aren't any fantasy tropes out there that might suggest anything could go *wrong* when planning for a wedding. You've piqued my interest Blackwood crew!

Novelty - One of the things I respect the most about this event is the tradition of play testing new rules ideas on the quest. Trying new things and innovating the way we play are both very important to me, and that can only happen if event holders are bold and are willing to take risks. Blackwood never shies away from those risks, even inviting other people from the community to suggest ideas to test out as well. I'm really interested to see how this year's "Fighter Abilities" work out and how much they can add to the game if they are successful and are embraced.

Nuptials - Of course the headliner on this event, the occasion of the season, is the marriage of Sir K and Jinx! In Character weddings are always so much fun. It's always great to see the way that groups interpret the ceremony and celebration of the moment in their own unique ways. And I love the idea that we have dinner options that we've ordered ahead of time as well. The food at this event is always exceptional and I expect that they'll use it to make a statement about how much this wedding, and the bride and groom themselves, mean to the nation.

Feast of Blackwood X promises to deliver like all of the others in the series. You won't be disappointed if you attend. Fun, friends, and food await all of us!

Friday, September 13, 2019

Spotlight On: Team Serra's Armourer Entry




Helm Created by Hygar Athame (Derek Booke)

Write Up by Kindrianna Athame (Renee Booke)




The helmet you see before you started off as a pile of paper and poster board. Hygar wanted to create something new and special for Queen of Hearts this year, so his first step in the creative process had to be creating a custom design/pattern from scratch. Knowing that our Queen Serra is from the nation of Eagle’s Rook, one of the original Knightocracies in the Realms, Hygar wanted to draw inspiration from more historic/traditional helmets and settled upon the visored crusader’s bascinet as a contender. He quickly realized he would have to build a helmet like this in multiple pieces: first the dome and helmet base, then a separate faceplate/visor.


The separate helmet pieces before assembly!


The visor opens and closes so that if a fighter needs to take a quick drink of water/breathe better while wearing it they have a simple solution to do so. The way the pieces were designed to line up it also prevents the visor from falling back closed on you at an inconvenient time. The faceplate is also completely detachable for the fighter that just doesn't want to be bothered with it and it easily snaps back on as desired. Side feather pieces, once hand-tooled, were kept shorter to not interfere with combat effectiveness and molded closely to the head. When fully down, the faceplate uses decorative cut out designs to cover the earholes of the base helm while still providing their benefits. On the front of the helmet Hygar specifically used the cutout design (which he painstakingly did by hand with an x-acto knife) to enhance the field of vision and allow for better breathing in a helmet design that focuses on coverage. Another feature of the helmet that I'm particularly fond of is that it was made so that it can be worn with glasses. Nerd friendly!

Side view!


The helmet was dyed using Fiebings Black Leather Dye and Eco-Flow: Silver. Once the base coats were on, Hygar used a black wash on the silver feathers to highlight the detail and went over the silver with actual silver lead to really make the helmet shine. Once dry, everything was sealed with leather sheen.

Going with the classic look and striving to create a piece reliant on mixed media, Hygar also drew inspiration from the "aventail" aka the mail covering attached to the back of the helmet that covers the neck and shoulders. He used black and silver rings in a four in one weave to do so.

Hopefully, you all enjoy this piece as much as we did! It was a challenge to create and we were both pleased with the results and proud of some of the design features that we came up with. If there are any questions about the process, methods or materials please feel free to ask!


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Why I Want To Go - The StoryTellers VII and The Strangers War I

by Lani "Gwen" Jones

One of the things I love most about the fall (okay it's not technically fall yet but you know what I mean) is it really starts to feel like it's questing season! The weather cools down and spending the day out in the woods just becomes the perfect way to pass the weekend. People in the Realms throw amazing quests in the fall, I have so many great memories of them. And speaking of that, I expect there will be lots of new great memories to be made at the events this coming weekend.

First up, on Friday night, is the Story Tellers VII. This is such an amazing series of events because its a place where different event holders can share the stage to tell their stories. Three different quests are going to be run that night, and every one of them sounds interesting. I'm excited to see what comes next in the Divine Intervention series that got off to such a blockbuster start with the release of Garm from his throne. I'm intrigued be the idea of the combined talents of the Magi of the Realms putting together an adventure to experience. And most of all, I'm thrilled to experience a new story from the imaginings of a younger player. Keep in mind that depending on NPC turn out, players might be asked to NPC one of the three quests so that everyone has the best night possible.

On Saturday evening, heroes will be gathering in a tavern in Chimeron to attempt a quest into the Ashenfields, a mysterious place within Deep Fey. The description of this event makes it really sounds different and interesting. I'm intrigued by the idea of relying on cunning and stealth to survive on a quest rather than the more traditional method of bashing down everything in front of us. Something about all of the names and places we're going to see, the Ashenfields, the Path of the Veil, the Strangers, really captures my imagination and kind of scares me a little! In fact, the vibe of this event is supposed to be darker with some horror elements... could anything be more perfect for questing through a cool autumn (almost) night? I scare especially easily too, so I'm probably the perfect audience for this kind of story. A couple things to keep in mind. This is labeled as a high-risk event with the possibility of losing your character so make sure you read the event description very well. Also, the event staff will be selling sandwiches and other food items in the tavern so you don't have to worry about going anywhere else for dinner before the quest starts.

All in all, a weekend packed with adventure and excitement, exactly what we love and expect out of these cool fall (kind-of) days.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

What You Missed at Invictus Questing 2

by Adam "Elric" Blaisdell

A year ago, a group of criminals invaded Rathkeale and overtook some of the islands. Many answered the call to arms sent out by Invictus, and helped reclaim our lands, however, many of the criminals were able to escape. Recently, Shandar sent word that we would be pressing the offensive on them, in their posts throughout the Lost Kingdoms. I was eager to assist and even kill a few of them myself, so I rallied what Rathkeale members I could. Lord Hayden, a few of his underlings, and Sven Svenson III answered the call. I also convinced Evie and Fenrys’ sister, Alessia, to join us. 
When we arrived at base camp on Friday night, we were met by a few familiar faces, and a lot of newer ones. Shandar informed us that the enemy had taken many castles over the course of the year, including one which was close to Invictus and one near Voraniss. During the night we were to stop supply carts from reaching the castles, as to ensure they didn't have extra supplies. Throughout the night, we managed to stop all three without much trouble, but much like last year, we found wanted posters of some of our friend’s faces, and more of their strange writing. It seemed that they wanted to capture the females of our group, for which reason we were unsure. We had also learned that the enemy could learn how to conduct our magics just by watching us. Now I have no problems with them learning Necromancy, but I'm sure that many adventurers with me did not want that to happen. 
The next morning the real attack began. We learned that at dusk, the enemy would be conducting rituals at each of the castles they had captured, however we were unsure what their goal was. While Invictus attacked the castle closest to their border, our questing party would strike at the castle closest the Voraniss and hopefully disrupt their ritual. The day consisted of constant castle siege, through the many outer walls of the keep. We found strange pieces of a tablet, different knick knacks and trinkets, and a large chest filled with food (which a bear seemed to want to help out with later in the night). We fought our way over lava, around barricades, and on floating platforms in water.
Finally we reached the main door to the keep which, when all of the pieces of the tablet were put together correctly on it, spelt out a message about stars dying and beginning the cycle again. The door took a long time to open, and when it finally did, it seemed to be night time. We fought our way through the darkened castle, solving a strange star puzzle and killing a lot of enemies, and finally made it to the ritual. 
The ritual consisted of 4 pillars which created a barrier we could not pass. In the center of the pillars was a woman, who manipulated trinkets on her ritual table and called out to any that would listen. A being much like the one I and many others spoke with last year (which I later found out was one soul inhabiting multiple physical forms) was also present, trying to draw information out of the adventurers in our party. Four other masked beings guarded the pillars like statues. Each of the beings "came alive" one at a time, and we dispersed each one with different strategies. Once each of the beings fell, the pillars could be deactivated by willing heroes grabbing ahold of them. First came brave Elizah, who screamed in pain and fell to the ground, with Mathies using his scolding dad voice telling her she shouldn't have done that. Second Fancy grabbed one, and while he did not scream, a look of pain surely washed over his face. I grabbed the third, but quickly let go as I felt the full intensity of a star trying to force its way into me, to remove my magic. Before I even had time to recover, a man by the name Scalar quickly took my place. Lastly, from the fourth pillar I heard a yell of pain I did not expect to hear. It was Mathies who grabbed the last pillar, and allowed us to finally disrupt the ritual. 
After this, I retired to my place of rest, but through the trees I overheard something about a bunch of souls, a gem, some shanking, a second chance, and someone trapped inside the gem. I won’t lie, I really didn’t want to involve myself in that chaos.
The next morning, we set out to rescue Red, the lumberjack that Tao had employed last year, but sadly I had other matters to attend to, so I did not see it the rescue mission through. 
OOC: The event was great, the immersion was good, the effects were awesome, and the fighting was tiring but satisfying. Another great Invictus Questing, and I very much look forward to the next installment.

Monday, September 9, 2019

An Update on the Newbie Guide


Friends, it is that time again to talk about the IC Newbie Guide. This guide is an IC look at different nations in the Realms. Since Nations change with the times so does this document. We do our best to track down and get the information directly from the Nations and their leaders. We recognize that these people also live very busy lives and sometimes nations write-ups get outdated. We keep this a living document so leaders and groups can update as they are able. We want to take time to give credit to Carol King and Alex Newbold for helping create the concept and first version of this guide. Also, a special thank you to Mike Palumbo who not only helped get it back running but has been tirelessly helping with the updates as well as hosting the guide on the Southern Wastes personal website (http://www.southernwastes.com). Without their help, this document would not exist. Another special thank you to all the contributors who gave us the information we were looking for, your contributions are truly the lifeblood of this living document.

We are currently looking at new hosting options that will allow us to make more frequent updates as well as give Mike a nice needed break from doing all the updates himself. More on that later this year.

For now, let's take a moment to talk about what this document truly is. This document is a means to help New players develop a character. We believe “growing” up in the Realms most of this knowledge would be common. However, Newer players are not beholden to know this stuff if they wish to play a New Traveler to these lands. We recognize that there is no substitute for learning things in-game at an event. This is merely an attempt at having a place with information that would be prevalent to newer players.

At first glance, the main page tells you much what this document is about “An attempt to document the known Realms”. To the right, you will notice Tabs, here the Nations that we have researched thus Far appear as well as three other tabs “preface”, “introduction”, and “starting a character”

The preface has a message both IC and OOC telling you overviewing what we are attempting now and what others were attempting when this document first started.

The Introduction is a more in-depth explanation of this guide and what you can expect after reading it.

Starting a character tab was modeled after the starting a character section in the omnibus and the realmsnet guide that came before this one. This is my take on some helpful hints to people collecting gear, creating concepts and what to consider before going to their first event. This section is entirely an OOC message aimed to help newer players.

Next, are the nations Tabs here you will find information on the listed nations. Again, we recognize some may still be outdated or some might have since changed since our most recent updates. If you notice something you want to be updated for your nation please feel free to message us.

The information you will receive from the nations is as follows; An overview of the Nation, A description of the Geography People and life, Information on that Nations Government, as well as a list of the Nations Members.

We are currently looking into creating drop-down tabs for Kingdoms who have multiple nations under them (look for that hopefully soon)

We hope you enjoy this guide, we cherish feedback from the community and look forward to keeping you up to date with changes in the lands of the Realms. If you have any questions or concerns please feel free to reach out.

In Service to the Realms
Love and Respect

Cal “O’Leary” Marsden
Tucker Noyes

http://southernwastes.com/guide/

Friday, September 6, 2019

Rumors for September 1019

((If you wish to follow up on any of these rumors, please contact Ryan Welch))

[Across the Realms]

As Summer begins to turn to Fall  the air crisp and a chill begins to creep its way through the realms, darkness creeps in at earlier times and so do a many number of undesirable creatures.
In particular talk of a thief has begun circulating again, more specifically within Chimeron. A certain thief by the name of the Black Dagger.

[Sapphire Isle]

in the middle of last month, word started to circulate that a large fire burned two thirds of Sapphire Isle’s coffee plantation.  Two store houses also were lost in the blaze on the western side of the island further south of Sapphire Harbor which thankfully was unscathed.  It’s is suspected that it was vandalism, but an investigation is on going.  While no lives were lost, there were burn injuries from those trying to fight the fire.  It is unclear at this time how the damage will impact Sapphire Isle’s coffee trade future but it is not a surprise that this will be a hard loss and recovery for the island.

[Unclaimed Land/Ocean]

After the reported fires at Sapphire Isle some weeks later, four ships sailed into the Blackwood side of The Dark Isle.  The lead ship was flying three flags each with different lettering, S.H.G, M.H. and, E.B.Co.  The other ships were flying flags of singular-multicolored stars.  The word at port was that the lettered flags represented the trading companies Seehandelsgilde, Mitrasperanische Hanse and the East Blackwood Company.  Ambassador Dagger of Blackwood was on this ship.  He only stepped foot into the island for a day while his ship refitted and prepared for another journey southward which was away from the Royal Wedding.  Why is anyone’s guess.

The remaining three ships, however, were heavily laden with cargo and all flew the Star of the West which is the sigil of Mythodea’s Western Seal.  The captain of one of the Western Seal ships is reported to have demanded to see Sayeh of Sapphire Isle before he emptied the holds of his ships.  The chatter from the crews was loud enough in the tavern and around the docks.  The ships were there to provide relief supplies for Sapphire Isle.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Why I Want to Go--Invictus Questing 2

by Lani "Gwen" Jones

Invictus is unveiling the second in their series on the defense of Rathkele and this event is sure to be as intense and engaging as the first. Adventurers have the opportunity to counter-siege the invading army who have taken over the lost kingdoms in an epic multi-part castle ritual.

This strongly-qualified EH team will be providing the Realms with an opportunity to really mix combat with role-playing in what is sure to be an event to remember. One of the things I’m most excited for is the team’s efforts to add high-risk, which will certainly ensure that the fight Saturday night will be heart-pounding and fierce. Many of my favorite Realms memories involve those high-pressure fights, and I know this staff will be able to deliver.

As the second installment in this plot, there are plenty of opportunities for you to become an active part of the telling of this story. I highly encourage everyone to check it out--particularly if you are looking for great combat, great puzzles, and great plot.

What You Missed In Photos: Folkstone 2019

All photos by Ryan Welch
Friday night casino

Grilling tasty food

The outdoor feast "hall"

Hard at work in the kitchen

Ticket raffle items

Auction items

Folkstone holds court

Sir Maliki prepares to award someone a Fireball

It's Kwido--er, well, Not-Kwido!

Raffle time!

The prince of Chimeron shows off his newly-won armor

Bidding on beautiful jewlery

Gathering for a day of adventures

A pair of well-dressed Teng Huanese folk

Learning the traditional tea ceremony

Meeting with the leader of the Trader's Guild

Elemental spirits met us in a 

Two teams of Yousei prepare to duel

EarthLad! I choose you!

Exchanging stories

Preparing dinner after a long day in the field

The Trial of Water, one of the seven trials we had to complete on Sunday


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

What You Missed: Folkstone 2019

After Action Report
Events of 30 August - 1 September 1019
A Weekend Vacation in Teng Hua

Vacation is a foreign concept to me; why would I choose to stop doing my job and instead do... nothing? Maybe “nothing” is a strong word, but honestly I’m always engrossed in the daily activities of managing the Militia that I couldn’t possibly have time for anything else except the occasional feast.

And yet…

The weekend started with an evening feast, with standard fare from Folkstone’s well-equiped kitchen. The feast “hall” was an outdoor pavilion, which was an agreeable arrangement given the cool late-summer evening which surrounded it. The landmark feast has been anchored in my memories past by its incredible dessert pudding, and this year was no exception. An unexpected visitor, a few courtly announcements, and a midnight ritual set my expectation that sun-up would bring with it a fairly typical--yet enjoyable nonetheless--adventure.

I awoke earlier than I had expected to (given the late hour at which I finally achieved sleep), but I embraced the extra time and took a casual camp breakfast with my country-fellows. I was able to equip myself for the day ahead without any of the usual rush one experiences in the post-feast-pre-adventure interval of time. Notable among my gear for the day was a pike in place of my usual five-foot; a chance occurrence at fight practice earlier in the week had inspired me to bring the long weapon questing, and I was very much looking forward to utilizing it.

At the appointed hour, I followed my fellows down the road to the local tavern where we started making our plans for the day. The weather was welcomingly warm and clear, and the Teng Huanese citizens were out and about. I joined other adventurers in learning about a tile-placement board game which is popular in the region, as well as the intricate and specific steps required to perform a cultural tea ceremony (during which I was very nearly robbed of my sidearm, although I was able to reason with the would-be thief without further incident). Later we visited a commodity market and met the leader of the Trader’s Guild. He, like all of the other non-sword-stealing individuals we had encountered, was polite and seemed more than happy to share the culture of his land with us. I struck up a conversation with one of his guards, and in talking to the armsman I learned that the rest of Teng Hua was as peaceful as those of us from the Realms had seen, to the point that my brief run in with a vagabond criminal would be considered remarkable. Indeed, for all of the money that accompanied the trader-master, he employed only three guards in his market, and none of them were armored (not for a lack of interest in the guards’ equipment, because their weapons were well made and showed clear signs of regular use on the training field). Suddenly my unblooded pike felt heavy in my hands, and I found myself thinking back to earlier in the day when Mayumi had read my fortune. I don’t recall exactly what the fates had said, but it could be sufficiently summarized thusly: “Your luck will be middling today, and probably won’t accomplish everything you wanted to, although on the whole your day will still go well.”

We parted from the trader, having established a firm reputation with him on behalf of Chimeron. When we reached the tavern, we heard tell of something called “keiro-rey” in the opposite direction. Sensing a chance to finally cross steel with something, I dutifully followed after the other Chimeronians headed in that direction.

As we drew close to a clearing near a lake, I spotted movement ahead. I was about to bring my weapon bear against the being when it stepped forward, arms outreached, and welcomed us to the grove in the same soft-spoken tones as had become the regional accent of sorts. I note that this was a “being” instead of a “person” because they were in fact an elemental spirit, an embodiment of one of the seven elements in the Teng Hua culture, here to greet us and commune with us in a humanoid form for our comfort and convenience. “She” (I doubt elemental spirits dabble in things as mundane as gender, but for the sake of keeping things concise, I hereafter refer to the individual spirits by their presented form and reserve “they” for the group) introduced herself as Mizu, which we know otherwise as Water, and invited us to speak with her and the other aspects individually so that we could get to know each other better.

As Mizu stepped aside to allow us to pass into the clearing, I sought respite on a nearby bench. I had walked far enough that the various adjustment points on my armor had settled in, and the pressure points below my knees were sending clear signals that the buckles on my borrowed greaves were a couple of points too tight. While such a routine matter would normally not even come close to deserving to be mentioned in a report such as this, I record it here as the moment where my luck turned with the sort of subtle shift that one can only see after the fact, comparable to the moments leading up to the lucky break that allows the underdogs to overpower the heavily favored team during a war maneuver at Queen of Hearts.

I sat on the bench, and Mizu sat nearby. Unknown to me, I seemed to be close enough to be worth talking to, and she engaged me more personally than she had the group, introducing herself again and asking for my name. I responded honestly, noting that I was adjusting my armor; I pitched my tone in such a way to politely suggest that my interests did not extend much beyond that. However,  Mizu did not acknowledge this cue (whether or not this was intentional remains unknown to me). She continued to engage me with questions about myself, and having experienced almost nothing but genuine courtesy from the lands of Teng Hua so far, I felt that it would be unbecoming for me to not return the same.

I do not recall much of what was said, but only because I was quickly caught in Mizu’s social grace. Just like the rippling water of the adjacent lake, she cast an unexpectedly deep reflection of myself which caught me completely off my guard. Despite my armor, she was able to open my mind and soul with a flowing ease. My sense of time was washed away as her clear and pure intentions caused me to draw up observations about myself as if they came from some newly-discovered wellspring which had been hidden underground for centuries. After an unmarked eternity, she offered me a task so that I may become more attuned to the aspects which Mizu represents: leadership, balance, consideration of the whole. She further encouraged me to talk with the other spirits and seek attunement with them as well.

My subsequent conversations with the other elemental spirits were equally personal, and each of them gave me a task that would help me become more attuned to their aspects. The other adventurers in the grove with me received similar tasks after conversing each spirit. While I will not divulge the specifics of my personal conversations and trials, here is a short list of some of the attributes each elemental aspect embodies:

Mizu/Water: Leadership, Balance, Consideration of the Whole
Kin/Metal: Skill, Labor
Sora/Void*: Spirit, Creativity, Transition between states
Kaze/Air: Knowledge, Observation, Study
Hi/Fire: Endurance, Empowerment
Ki/Wood: Planning, Talent, Growth
Chi/Earth: Nurturing

*It is very important to note that Void here is NOT the Void which might be more readily associated with the Risen Kingdom. The embodiment of Void was unlike any Void Spinner I have ever encountered. However, a small part of me is hesitant to go so far as to declare them completely separate entities. Further investigation is required.

To my surprise, I was comfortable talking to all but one of the spirits. Even more surprising to me is that the one spirit with whom I did not immediately connect was Hi. Typically, Fire is the symbol of the soldier, representing both the burning drive of battle and the smoking destruction left in its wake. As I was born into the aspect of the Soldier in a similar arrangement of attributes (see my records in the Library of Ivory for more information), I assumed that Hi and I would connect most closely. Instead, the spirit seemed largely disinterested in my (admittedly rather passive) approaches. The peaceful surroundings had softened my edge and left me less guared than usual, which apparently wasn’t good enough for Hi. I walked away from that one unsure of how to get the attention of the spirit, and decided to approach the other Chimeronians which had grouped in a small circle to exchange notes on the goings-on. I knew that I was capable of the intensity and confidence which Fire demanded, and asked my gathered Friends for a pep talk that would bring me up to that point. Rel, who had backlashed into his Beast self during the previously-mentioned midnight ritual, spoke up first. And when I say “spoke”, I mean he slapped me across the face. Fortunately, that’s all it took.

After we had all taken our turns talking to the various spirits, we again made roads back to the tavern. Along the way, I stopped at a field to witness battles between Yousei, which were little elemental beings (not nearly as closely tied to the elements as the spirits I had just talked to were, but elemental nonetheless) which several adventurers had been befriending all season. I myself entered the one Yousei I had attracted (ironically a Fire creature named Faiaraddo), and watching it fight alongside the other Yousei was so enjoyable that I felt like I was in the arena myself. Over the course of several bouts, my Yousei’s performance attracted two other Yousei to me. Following my side-track at the Yousei field, I met up with my country-fellows once more as they were heading to a place where they would meet some storytellers. The storytellers were also sorcerers, and were very interested in exchanging tellings of traditional stories. One such story the Teng Huanese told was a tale of an ancient warlord-emperor whose own audacity caused him to be toppled by a single peasant who was spared when a village was destroyed. As the story goes, the survivor sought powerful magics which would curse the warlord forever. But of course the curse-spell in turn had a seemingly small oversight, which allowed the warlord (or one of the advisors--that part of the story was unclear to me) to live on as a ghost who would rebuild a ghost army in the name of revenge. To the ears of a seasoned adventurer, that sounded like the perfect setup for an adventure. The knowing looks the storytellers gave us as they told the story only added to the evidence.

Camp dinner happened after that. Not much to say, except that it was very good. I relished the opportunity to doff my armor for a few hours and change into a new tunic, but all too soon, it was time to gear up again. The sun had set, and it was time to see if there was any truth to the ghost stories of Teng Hua.

We once again returned to the tavern, but not as easily as we had while the sun was up. Shadows lurking just off the path picked off adventurers careless enough to be off their guard in the middle of the night. As we attempted to account for everyone and sought to rescue those who we thought might have been ambushed, we spotted a pair of eerie purple lights in the distance. Although they did not appear to move, they were very difficult to pick out through the trees surrounding tht tavern.

The shadowy attacks tapered off quickly, the unseen attackers vanishing like wild animals before a natural disaster. Suddenly, a shout came from down the road, and the anticipated ghost army materialized. Wary of engaging a new opponent without at least the barest semblance of cause, we stood aside as they marched past us into the woods. Seeking to find that same threadbare excuse for combat, we quickly followed down the forest path after them. It didn’t take long for us to get what we want. The ghost army stopped in front of the source of the purple light--what seemed to be some kind of dark fortress, turned to face us, and charged. The ensuing battle was the most intense combat I have seen in several years, and the day of carrying my pike unused paid off with interest. Normally I would go into more detail about the specific maneuvers and stages of the battle, but my arm is still very sore from that night of fighting and it is getting more painful the longer I write this report. Here is my abviated summary:

Stab stab stab. Stab. Stab stab stab stab. Stab stab. River. Ranger found a bridge. Stab stab stab. Tidal wave. Stab stab stab. Tidal wave. Stab stab stab. Tidal cyclone. Duels against the ghost general in the eye of the cyclone. Torolf and I beating the shit out of ghost general in the eye of the cyclone. Campfire. Smores. Sleep.

Rusing myself the next morning was markedly more difficult than it had been the previous day. I was unsurprised, considering everything that had transpired in the night. With a shorter camp breakfast made up of leftovers from the previous day’s meals, I and the other Chimeronians met up with our fellow adventurers in a field covered with morning dew. We were met by representatives from a family associated with the Air element, and they explained that after watching us throughout the previous day and hearing of our exploits in the night, they felt that we might be able to help them with an important task: reconstructing a temple to the seven elements. But in order to fully prove our worthiness for such an undertaking, we would need to complete challenges set forth by them and other families who had pledged their names to each of the elements.

The Trial of Air was about observation. Members of the family demonstrated a game in which a pair of chopsticks were passed around a circle of players, and as each player passed the chopsticks, they had to say whether or not the chopsticks were crossed. We had to deduce the rules of the game by watching, but we could not communicate with each other, nor could we ask very many questions. If we were able to successfully pass the chopsticks once around while we all sat in a circle, we passed the challenge. The Baron of Banecroft was very good at passing hints to the rest of us by breaking the rules of the game in very visible and creative ways. It still took us a while to succeed at this Trial

The Trial of Water required us to complete a metaphorical trade between two metaphorical farmers. The two farmers were separated by a river, and on their respective banks they had three trade goods. However, certain trade goods could not be left on the same bank together at the same time, and we could only move two goods at a time. Top, a new adventurer in the Realms, was instrumental in organizing the success of this Trial.

The Trial of Fire was an endurance test. We had to fight members of this family for a total of twenty minutes. During each fight, they would go around and (try to) mark those of us on our side who had fallen. Anyone who was marked would fight against us until they were cut down in battle. It was very hot out, and we did lose several people to the other side at times, but our strength never faltered. At the end of the countdown, we were still standing, and were thus successful.

For the Trial of Earth, we were all instructed to pair up with a person whom we did not know very well. We were given a few minutes to talk and learn about each other before embarking on an undisclosed task. Once the meet-and-greet period expired, the task was revealed: make lunch for your partner without further consulting them. I performed exceptionally well during this Trial, praise be to the Lady Vesta. Overall, the group succeeded as well.

The Trial of Void and the Trial of Wood occurred concurrently, so we had to split the party. The Trial of Void was about creativity while the Trial of Wood was about planning and strategy. For some reason I chose the Trial of Void. The ground in the area of the Trial was littered with colored pieces of felt cut into different shapes. We were told to create things based on a series of prompts, and implicitly we were supposed to use the provided materials. Rel covered Syruss’s back with shapes to make him look like a turtle shell. I pretended to be a chicken. It was weird. From what I saw of the Trial of Wood, there was a grid inlaid on the field and rectangular pieces of materials spread out across it which took up multiple squares. It seemed like the Trial involved moving the colored pieces in a particular way. We succeeded in both of these Trials.

The final Trial was the Trial of Metal. This trial focused on Labor. We had to fight entities which entered the field, and upon defeating them, they would drop a paper bag containing colored “ore”. But these bags could only be broken open with special daggers in a limited area of the field. Once the bags were broken, the ore then had to be sorted and placed in their respective pools in the middle of the field. Oh, and the entities that we were fighting all had five, ten, or fifteen points of armor. We did finally complete this trial.

After each Trial, we were awarded a banner for that element. These banners will be the foundation of the new temple in Teng Hua and we should display them together whenever we visit the island in order to bring honor and power to the elements. In addition to that, it seems that it would be beneficial to hang the banners whenever we gather in other places, even if we can’t get all of the banners together; this will likely empower the elements and their spirits even more. There was some trading of who has which banners, but to the best of my knowledge, this is the current list:

Air (Yellow): Laika
Water (Blue): Dani Danger
Fire (Red): Tao
Earth (Green): Top
Wood (Brown): Amyse
Void (Black): Orion
Metal (Gray): Avendar

Conclusions:

We all indulged in the rich culture of Teng Hua. Both the mundane and mystical beings that reside on the island seem welcoming towards us. This is almost certainly not the last time we will see the spooky ghost army, though, as these things have a tendency to keep coming back. There might be some other dark forces at play, which Mizu and the other elemental spirits have alluded to.

And I learned the meaning of vacation.

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In Service to the Realms,
Captain Orion Mars, Chimeron Militia
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