The trip back to Fort Rannick was not one of the easiest journeys for the Heroes of Sandpoint, but the turning weather made the trip considerably more comfortable. Spring was finally turning to summer and the rich Varisian foliage was coming to life. Although Variel’s spell made the trip instantaneous, the warm rays of light that reflected off the stone walls of Rannick made the group feel at home.
Of course, as always, news was waiting for them on arrival.
Dmitri, recently installed as the Fort’s chaplain – his desire to go adventuring seriously hampered by his sojourn into the realms of the beyond, as well as his new elven form, approached Moagh.
“I have had bad visions, friend,” he began, his deep eyes set with the melancholy of a man who has spent time only too recently with the dead. “Your mother, she is very, very close to passing. If you wish to say goodbye, I urge you to travel to Janderhoff.”
Moagh nodded at the shaken priest, noting how Dmitri’s symbol of Sarenrae didn’t seem to shine with the same light it used to, and moved inside. No one would accuse Moagh of cheap sentimentality.
The Fort’s castellan, Jakardros approached the group – bearing news of a visitor. A courier, from the metropolis of Korvosa was calling for each of them personally, and he had put him up in one of the empty guest halls until the party returned.
At dinner, Jakardros introduced them to Grolk. Grolk had envelopes for each member of the party – personalized invitations for a certain annual contest help in Korvosa, the Breaching Festival. Held at the Acadamae in Korvosa, the Breaching Festival challenged students of the fabled magical school to attempt to enter the Hall of Wards, and with it, claim fortune and glory. Unfortunately, the contest was as lethal as it was difficult.
Not only were the challenge grounds now littered with the corpses of those who had tried, no one had successfully won the contest in 150 years. This year, it seemed, the school was intent on finding a winner, which was why invitations were going out in addition to the usual invitation for Academae students. The party’s renown had grown – and the Headmaster, the prestigious Toff Ornelos wished them to come to Korvosa, for him to personally meet them and invite them to participate. Grulk himself had a magical scroll which could take them there tonight. The Festival was to begin in the morning.
With little to no time to prepare, and a number of individual reasons why the party wished the visit the gotham of Korvosa, and after dining on a meal, they entered the portal, and found themselves within the ivory towers of the Academae, in front of one of the greatest wizards of the age, Toff Ornelos. Even Variel himself found himself slightly in awe – it had been a long time since he had walked with an equal in the arcane.
“Welcome to the Academae, heroes…we are honored to have you…and now I will tell you of the contest…”
Toff provided the instructions on the Festival – they could not interfere with other students, there would be several traps located around the school, and once they conquered them, they would be able to enter the Hall of Wards. He had no idea what they might find there, but if they could overcome any challenges in the Hall, they would receive 150,000 pieces of gold, as well as a lasting fame throughout Korvosa – adding to their already significant prestige. He explained that before he gave up the reins of leading The Acadamae, he was determined to have a winner – and he also explained only one could win, though there were no rules for helping each other out, or even working as a group – which was why he had opened up the contest.
He had great faith in the heroes that they could succeed where so many others had failed.
He then bade them farewell, and he would see them in the morning, at the crack of dawn to begin the contest. The heroes joined the other competitors for a drink before turning in for the night in the school staff’s quarters. The other competitors were a hardy dwarf named Knur, a shifty, peevish halfling known as Fatmire, a human thief Illia Ean, and an Acadamae student, vivacious and welcoming, known as Maganrad.
After the drinks, as the heroes were retiring, a scream echoed from one of the main halls of the campus. An unlucky conjurer had lost control of the being she had willed into the Prime Material, a nasty, 8-legged Retriever whose eyes could burn, electrocute or turn to stone. Still – it was little match for the heroes of Sandpoint, who after they had saved the young student’s life, stood passively by as Toff Ornelos arrived and made her promise to pay for the damage caused by an indentured servitude to the school.
Finally, the group slept.
In the morning, the grounds of the school were overrun by those who had come to see the contestants of the Breaching Festival try their hand at this most dangeous game – even Queen Ileosa, flanked by a number of burly bodyguards, had come to the Festival, though she seemed too preoccupied to watch the show.
Toff began the proceedings as the sun cracked over the rim of Golarion, and bade all the participants good luck, and instructed the contestants that in order to breach the Hall of Wards, they would need a key-light, and he displayed a shimmer gold sphere that shined with an arcane light. There were 7 key-lights hidden throughout the campus in each building of the major schools and each one would likely be guarded with a trip. First-year Academae students set off an impressive round of fireworks and the contest had begun…
The party first entered the The Hall of Induction, where they didn’t find a key-light but found the mangled and exploded body of Knur. Next, they went to The Hall of Seeing, where they were vexed by a strange group of mirrors. Although Kasirith solved the riddle, and got the key-light, it wasn’t without cost, by touching one of the mirrors, the visions that he had seen took a terrible toll on his psyche, and he seemed seriously damaged to the group.
They regrouped, however, and began to head for the next school building.
For this session, Kasirith receives 8,000 XPs, Variel, Jesail, and Moagh all receive 7,250 XP.