Chapter 2, Part IV: The Hook

The party left Conclave Island, joining Uhfritz on the boat back to Shoalbank. Overhead, an Arcane storm roiled, with unexpected magical effects shooting out over the group. As the storm subsided, Drez was left feeling the lingering effects on his abilities. However, the group took a long rest during the ride and the negative impact faded away, leaving them all ready for the adventure that lay ahead.

In Shoalbank was Poefritz who sought their aid, offering a bargain price of 60 gold to guide him to Platinum City. Promising a little extra in case of any complications, he introduced them to Woefritz, the trusty steed accompanying him on the journey.

As they made their way back to Platinum City, a blockade obstructed their path. Trees and rocks had been haphazardly piled together, forming an impenetrable barrier. Nohki, ever resourceful, invoked the power of wither and bloom to remove the blockade. However, amidst the rustling leaves, a haunting melody resonated, ensnaring Bartholomew and luring her into the depths of the forest.

Firebrook, swift and alert, tackled Bartholomew to prevent her from succumbing to the enchantment's hold. Vance and Drez witnessed the struggle, and Firebrook warned them that she was being charmed.

Vance, attempting to intervene, cast a sleep spell, but it only managed to make Bartholomew drowsy. Still, she persisted in her efforts to venture deeper into the woods.

The rest of the party, including Poefritz, became aware of the enchanting song. Trapped under its spell, Poefritz too began to venture into the forest, drawn by its enchanting allure.

Determined to rescue their companions, the party pressed forward into the wooded realm. However, their noble intentions were met with deception, as the mischievous fey creatures cunningly swindled Poefritz, leaving him considerably lighter in his coin purse.

Though Poefritz managed to spare them 50 gold, a sense of frustration lingered. Bartholomew and Firebrook made their way to the Bowman Ken on the outskirts of Platinum City, seeking information and perhaps even justice for their recent encounter. Inquiring about the criminal enterprises and the presence of fey creatures, the informant revealed the myriad issues that plagued the region, from the forest to the north and beyond.

With their attention turned towards replenishing supplies, Bart decided to re-up her poison stores, purchasing a few vials for a bargain price as well as utilizing a potion of healing to augment her dagger. For a sum of 15 gold, Firebrook acquired a lesser potion of mana and a lesser potion of healing. Though technically expired, Firebrook tested the products and found them to be useful enough for the bargain price.

Nohki, on the other hand, sought out the spell component store, with a specific need in mind. However, the required diamond was not in his price range, prompting him to plan a return visit in the future.

The party hoped there was a handsome reward in store for their recovery of the artifact from Conclave Island, and so next headed to the Platinum Citadel to find the Chancellor, where they were sent to seek him out in the garden grounds of the estate.

They first visited the Training Grounds, where Firebrook and Xerxes recognized the Emperor of Winnith, a arctic southern region of the globe.

As you make your way towards the Training Grounds, the sound of clashing metal and the grunts of warriors fills the air, a testament to the intense training taking place within. The area is vast and open, with multiple sparring circles set up throughout the space. Paladins in various stages of training can be seen practicing their swordplay, archery, and hand-to-hand combat, their dedication and determination palpable.

At the edge of the grounds, a stately half-elf with black hair and lavish garments stands, exuding an air of authority and power. He watches the training with a discerning eye, passing judgement on the paladins who test their skills in his presence. His piercing gaze seems to penetrate through their armor and into their very soul, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses.

At the grounds, Drez and Bartholomew took an opportunity to train with the paladins, displaying their archery and rapier prowess. Drez's arrow hit just shy of the bullseye but struck the training dummy with devastating force. Bart, guided by Firebrook's wisdom and inspired by Vance's song, etched her initials into a training dummy with remarkable precision. The paladins, impressed by both of their skills, extended them an offer to join the ranks of the Platinum Watch, but they both politely declined.

Soon after, the party crossed paths with Ouglana, an Orc Chieftain from the western hemisphere. Vance approached her and asked if she had seen the Chancellor, and she directed them toward the reflecting pond, where she had last seen him with Lady Selkath.

As you approach the greenhouses, you are struck by the intricate gold embellishments adorning the exterior walls. The sun's rays glint off the ornate details, giving the structures a sense of opulence and grandeur. The two greenhouses stand side by side, and inside each you can see rows upon rows of vibrant plants and flowers, each one more exquisite than the last.

As you take in the beauty of the greenhouses, you notice a large, muscular orc woman standing nearby, her greenish skin glistening in the sunlight. She holds a staff in her hand that might look more at home in the training grounds with its metal spikes and heavy ball at the top. She seems to be perplexed as she glares at the greenhouses before her.

The Chancellor was nowhere to be found at the reflecting pond, but a stern looking woman in military regalia stood at the end, lost in thought. Firebrook greeted her and asked her rank. She responded that she was the Archon of Verastin, the highest ranking officer and leader of that region. Firebrook offered her his services in the future if she was ever in need of a competent cleric.

As you approach the southernmost part of the garden, your attention is drawn to a medium-sized reflecting pond, its surface like a still mirror reflecting the surrounding trees and the sky above. In the center of the pond, you can see a small island, lush with greenery and surrounded by a halo of ripples on the surface of the water.

A human woman in full militaria regalia stands at the water's edge, a striking figure with tan skin and short dark hair, seemingly lost in thought as she gazes at the ripples in the surface before her. The gentle rustle of leaves and the distant chirping of birds create a serene atmosphere, at odds with the tension the woman holds in her shoulders.

Not too long into the conversation, Vance noticed that Xerxes was no longer with them. They doubled back to find their half-orc friend to ask him if something was wrong. Xerxes revealed that the woman they encountered was the leader of a country that his own, Terriah, had been in conflict with. The war had ended not long ago, leaving scars and memories of strife.

Near the guest houses, Firebrook engaged in a conversation with Professor Constantine Pluveria, seeking knowledge about the Legends of the Warden and the mysterious shield. The professor confirmed that the shield in the legend played a pivotal role in the defeat of Solana, emphasizing that it was not forged but rather "created" by the Warden's father, Brio.

Intrigued by the professor's words, Firebrook probed further, inquiring about the existence of five enigmatic gems. The question seemed to unsettle the professor, who cautioned that such knowledge was unknown to most. Sensing the tension, Firebrook opted to deceive the professor, fabricating the source of his information about the elusive gems.

From their position amongst the floral wheels of the expansive gardens, the party noticed Lady Selkath and Chancellor Darling walking along the path and met them to show off their job well done.

The chancellor guided them to the sitting room within the majestic Platinum Citadel. He expressed his relief at the party's safe return and eagerly inquired about their findings on the isle. As they shared their discoveries, he marveled at the sight of the shield, remarking that it had been absent from his sight for centuries. The retrieval of such a remarkable item from the keep confirmed their status as chosen ones by the Warden.

The Chancellor then revealed his past as a Keeper of Destiny, recounting the tragic decimation of their order at the hands of The Order of Righteous Conflict, Solana's elite followers. He also revealed his true name, Typhon, and his position as the leader of a council within the Keepers: the eight Divine Protectors. These protectors had been entrusted to keep safe the very shield that the party now possessed. As time passed and hope waned, the Divine Protectors became scattered and disillusioned, each seeking their own signs and purpose.

He unveiled the unsettling truth behind the conflicts and the presence of monsters and chaos in Fynali. These were not merely the actions of a cult, but manifestations of Solana's corrupting essence, spreading destruction throughout the world. Urging the party to recognize the gravity of the situation, he emphasized the need to stop the sources of her power and bring light back to Fynali.

Recognizing the party as the sign they had awaited, Typhon implored them to reunite the eight, shatter Solana's grip on the world, and rekindle hope before it was too late.

Firebrook inquired about Professor Pluveria's affiliation with the Keepers of Destiny, and the Chancellor confirmed his membership within the organization as one of the Divine Protectors.

Seeking guidance and aid, Vance asked if they could acquire weapons for their quest. Typhon explained that the true weapon were the party members themselves.

With a desire for advice on which gem to pursue first and a request for additional funds, Vance found himself facing the Chancellor's wisdom. Typhon took hold of the shield and poured his power into it, renewing and polishing it until a large gold bird appeared emblazoned upon its surface.

Suddenly, a moment of darkness enveloped them all, rendering them unconscious. Floating within a void, they witnessed a gold and silver gate before them. From within their chests, white birds emerged, soaring into the gate and opening it.

As quickly as it began, they found themselves back in the study, the enigmatic experience leaving them bewildered yet intrigued.

Firebrook approached Typhon, asking him to keep an ear out for any information regarding the Sienfete family. The Chancellor gave his word, ensuring Firebrook that he would do so.

Weakened from the relinquishing of his own power, Typhon was assisted out of the sitting room by Lady Selkath. Before doing so, he urged the party to visit the Wiltspar tree and consult with Aurifar, the Oracle residing there. Additionally, he recommended that they visit the Adventurers' Guild, a valuable resource for their endeavors. Grateful for their agreement to assist Fynali, Typhon expressed his thanks on behalf of the realm.

In a heartfelt gesture, or in an effort to irritate Firebrook, Vance presented Lady Selkath with a flower, expressing his desire to study alongside her. Touched by his sincerity, she promised her aid, on the condition that he returned safely from his mission.

Before assisting the Chancellor, Lady Selkath turned to Nohki. She noted that she had promised him to give him more information regarding his arm. She explained that she believed that the wood that made up his limb was part of the Wiltspar tree that the Chancellor had pointed them toward.

It was revealed that Typhon specialized in the school of magic known as Abjuration, and this knowledge was imbued into the renewed shield.

In a moment of vulnerability, Firebrook disclosed his connection to the Sienfete family to his party mates, sharing glimpses of his perilous history. He revealed that his father possessed a special weapon and his mother was skilled in the art of poison, and that the pair of them were not to be trifled with.

When the party arrived at the Adventurers' Guild, they were greeted by a too-cheerful concierge named Judy, who provided them with a pamphlet and instructions for registering their adventuring party with the guild. She brought over the provisions that the chancellor had graciously provided for their journey: 300 gold pieces, two antitoxins, three potions of healing, three potions of lesser mana, and enough rations to top them up to a total of ten.

Armed with renewed purpose, guidance from the Chancellor, and a shiny new team name, the Platinum Talons set forth, ready to face the trials and dangers that awaited them in their quest to safeguard the realm from the growing darkness.

Completed: May 2023