2 Transformation 500
During the past week, Althessamari, Le Xin, and Elhana have sold their goods and separated their loot. Althessamari has heard rumors that a cult of Kysk was busted up in the tunnels by the city watch. Althessamari also took the vials they found on the cultist to an alchemist to sell. She’s told two of them have water and that one of them is bloodroot poison. The alchemist is appalled that a “nice girl” like her has such a thing and tells her that if she really wants to sell it, she should take it to the “night market”. She ends up dumping the vials down a sewer drain.
But on this day, while the three friends are ruminating at the Alehouse of the Cats, a messenger comes in and asks for them specifically. They are told that Master Maerin Bevans at the University requests their presence post haste. Le Xin finishes his water while the messenger waits. In the meantime, Althessamari chats with the messenger about his job.
Finally, they all head to the University. Master Bevans is in his office to greet them. He tips the messenger, who then makes his way out. Master Bevans then hands the group a flyer that he has received:
You are invited! To the Contest of the Year!
A four-day series of contests to test a being’s
Each contest has a purse of 100 Platinum Sirens
With the Grand Prize being the coveted
Orb of Storms
Present this invitation at the gates of Tarl Qualtrim’s estate near the city of Jirra on 9 Transformation 500 to gain admittance (with a fee of 100 gold pieces of any denomination per entrant).
Good Fortune to You and May the Gods Smile Upon You!
“I want that Orb for the University,” he says. “I think you can win it for me. You are obviously have demonstrated acuity, prowess, and subtlety in your previous endeavors and I think I can put those qualities to use here. The University would fund your entry fees and would be able to supply passage to the city of Jirra. You would also be able to keep, by way of compensation, the winnings of any contests along the way. We just require the Orb.”
After a brief discussion among themselves, the three friends agree to take on the job. They also decide to leave for Jirra early to get a sense of the competition. So Master Bevans agrees to arrange for transport the following day. He will contact them at “their usual haunt” with the details once they’ve been arranged.
After the group leaves, they go to the market district and purchase healing potions and food for the journey, not knowing what to expect of this contest. The journey to Jirra should only take a day, but one never knows what will happen on a ship.
That evening, at the Alehouse, they receive word that the arrangements have been made for them to leave on the ship Amber’s Unity, which will be leaving first thing in the morning. Captain Amber Truaxe will be taking them to Jirra. Althessamari comments that it sounds like a dwarven name.
3 Transformation 500
This morning the three companions head over to the docks as directed and meet up with Amber’s Unity. They call up to the ship and are welcomed aboard by the crew and finally by the captain, Amber Truaxe, a dwarven female. The captain also takes into her cabin where she says she has a package left for them by the University—a pouch of gold and a mention of “entry fees.”
The companions are allowed to be anywhere on the ship so long as they stay “out of underfoot”. As the ship puts out, Le Xin begins to explore the ship while Althessamari meditates in the wind. Elhana simply stands on the deck looking imposing. The only thing of note that occurs during the journey to Jirra is that a cargo ship passes them along the way with an escorting warship for protection. It’s a very quiet, and peaceful journey that takes the entire day.
The companions discuss their return with the captain as they are putting into port at Jirra. She says that she has been paid by the University to stay for 4 days, maybe longer if needed.
Once they put into the harbor, inspectors come on board to inspect cargo and discuss taxes and fees with the captain. Then the inspectors come to the companions for “gate” taxes as they are putting off to shore. Althessamari asks for directions to clean, affordable inns nearby or near the tournament. The inspector directs them to the Trickster and Cask or the Hare’s Meadhall. They opt for the Hare’s Meadhall as it is nearby at the moment.
At the Meadhall, there is a bard playing and the place seems lively. There are two rooms available, so Elhana and Le Xin opt to share a room, while Althessamari gets one to herself. They each purchase a bath and a meal. After settling in, Althessamari wanders about the common room asking about the tournament. She finds a fellow named Franklin who’s willing to talk at length about the contest.
“It changes every time, mind you. But this time, I’ve heard that each contest will take a day; acuity one day, prowess, the next, and so on. The champion of each day wins the thousand gold piece prize. Then, each champion, on the fourth day, will face Tarl Qualtrim for the Grand Question with the final prize on the line. Whoever answers the Grand Question will win the final prize. If you don’t answer the question—no prize. At least, that’s the way my sister’s brother-in-law’s cartwright’s casker who’s working the event tells it.”
With that information under their belt, the companions go to bed.
4 Transformation 500
The companions check out of the Hare’s Meadhall and head west to check into the Trickster and Cask. There are three rooms available here, so they each get their own room. Once they get settled, Althessamari asks about for information regarding Tarl Qualtrim’s estate. She makes such a good impression that they get the offer of a personal guide.
Their guide takes them to the estate, which is nearby. It is a large, walled affair with large, wrought iron gates out front. It’s hard to get a sense of anything other than size five days before the tournament. There are guards inside the gates, but not outside. They return to the inn.
Althessamari asks about trying to get a sense of the competition—are there any big names, past winners that are competing? Any big favorites? It’s hard to get a sense because the contest changes every time, but there is a tavern brawler by the name of Orlan Tavar that’s probably going to enter. He’s a local with a bad attitude. She is also directed to a priestess of Halor who is sitting alone at table—she apparently arrived today and is here for the tournament.
Althessamari approaches the lone cleric and invites her to sit at the companions’ table. The priestess shrugs and says, “Alright” and moves to drink with them. Introductions are made; her name is Candyse Onlav. She is apparently entering the tournament to help secure funds for her temple back in Kalimsport. She heard that there will be a spellcasting portion of the contest and she hopes to enter that and that there will be combat and she is adept at that as well.
Le Xin approaches her with the possibility of making a deal for the Orb of Storms should she win it—if it is funds for the temple she wants, then perhaps a deal could be reached? Candyse says that she would have to make inquiries at the temple, but is confident some sort of arrangement could be reached. But she has to win it, first.
After they chit-chat for awhile, Candyse excuses herself and the companions make their way to their rooms for the night.
5 Transformation 500
The companions decide to take up small jobs while they are waiting for the tournament to begin on the 9th. Elhana and Althessamari manage to find work, but Le Xin does not. That night, they have dinner with Candyse and settle in for the night.
6 Transformation 500
Today, Le Xin and Althessamari manage to find work, but Elhana does not. They, once again, have dinner at the inn with Candyse and settle in for the night.
7 Transformation 500
Le Xin and Althessamari manage to find work, with Le Xin making a bonus. Elhana finds no work today. Again, they have dinner with Candyse and then make their way to their rooms for the night.
8 Transformation 500
Le Xin and Althessamari find work on this final day before the tournament, while Elhana does not. They have a final celebratory dinner with Candyse and Althessamari chats with the bard about elven things. Then the companions go to bed to rest up for the tournament tomorrow.
9 Transformation 500
That morning, the three companions arrive at the gates of the estate. Liveried assistants direct spectators in one direction and participants in another. They get in line with the other participants and then present their invitation and entry fees. When they do that, they are each given a participant’s sash to wear and are directed to stand out in a large field out in the estate with the other participants. Out in the field are numerous barrels stacked on their sides.
Soon, a large platform, pulled by mules being led by more assistants, makes its way down the field. On the platform is an extravagantly dressed man. He tells the man pulling the mules to halt and then address the gathered participants:
“I am Tarl Qualtrim and this is my Grand Tournament!” There is a series cheers from the spectators. “Here we will test your acuity, prowess, and subtlety in a series of games designed to challenge you to the fullest! Today is the Contest of Acuity, a contest of physicality. We begin with the barrel rolling competition! All competitors line up and ready yourself for the contest!”
The companions line up as asked and proceed with the contest. Althessamari falls off on her first try. Elhana stays on for a long, heroically long, time. Le Xin gives her a run for her money, but ultimately falls short. Their competition falls short as well and, finally, Elhana is declared the winner of the Barrel Rolling competition.
Next, is Taber Tossing. Once again, Le Xin and Elhana come close, but Elhana edges him out. Althessamari, with the help of her spirit “companions”, manages to dig a trough in front her with the Taber, much to the consternation of the judges. But even with the help of the spirits in throwing the long pole, Althessamari doesn’t measure up. But neither does the competition and Elhana is declared the winner of the Taber Toss.
The next competition is a drinking contest. Le Xin, due to his code, sits out of this one. But Althessamari and Elhana are game. Althessamari passes out after drinking only a small amount of the strong dwarven stout. But Elhana manages to hang on a bit longer before throwing in the towel, before actually passing out. Still, she managed to out pace the competition and is declared the winner of the drinking competition.
The final competition is an obstacle course, in which the winners of all the days competitions were to compete. As Elhana swept the contest, there is no need for the obstacle course to decide the winner of the Acuity competition. But, for fun, she decides to try the obstacle course anyway. Tarl Qualtrim claps her on the shoulder and tells her she’s a good sport. However, she fails the first set of obstacles—perhaps it was the dwarven stout.
No matter—Elhana is declared the winner of the Contest of Acuity and given the 1000 gold piece (or rather 100 platinum piece) prize.
The companions take the prize and head back to the Trickster and Cask to celebrate, guiding Althessamari along the way.
10 Transformation 500
That morning, the companions head back to the estate of Tarl Qualtrim and line back up with the participants on the field. Tarl comes out with his mobile platform and announces that today is Contest of Prowess. There will be a series of non-lethal combats. First will come hand-to-hand. Next will come sword play. Finally, will come spell casting. Then, the winner of each of these will combat each other in a general melee to declare the winner! Healing will be provided between opponents.
Le Xin is the first of companions to step forward in the hand-to-hand competition. First, he faces Orlan Tavar, the tavern brawler. He beats him handily. Next he faces a more skilled pugilist, but beats him handily as well. Finally, his third opponent is a Shandorian monk fighting in the Scorpion style. This fight challenges Le Xin, but he eventually comes out on top.
The next challenge is sword play and Elhana steps forward. She is provided with padded armor and a practice sword. She quickly dispatches a foot soldier and a guardsman and is left with a mercenary warrior. This one poses more of a challenge, but manages to dispatch him without much fuss.
The final challenge is spell casting, for which Althessamari demurs, citing the fact that she was not ready for a non-lethal combat when she selected her spells for the day. She watches the competition, however, and sees that Candyse enters and prevails.
So now Elhana, Le Xin, and Candyse will face each other in the “Grand Melee.” The three face each other on the field. Le Xin tells Candyse that this is just a competition and there will be no hard feelings. Candyse agrees. Tarl calls for them to fight.
Lee Xin goes after Candyse. He places her in a firm grappling hold and keeps her from spell casting. Elhana moves in with her practice sword and thwacks Candyse with it. Le Xin manages to maintain his grip on Candyse while also striking her.
Candyse still can’t break the hold. Elhana thwacks her hard. Le Xin maintains his grip and strikes her again and she goes limp in his arms. Le Xin sets the cleric down and faces Elhana. Elhana then yields to Le Xin.
The crowd, who wanted a fight, erupts in boos. But Le Xin is declared the winner of the Contest of Prowess and is awarded the cash prize.
The companions head back to the inn to celebrate. Candyse does join for dinner—there are no hard feelings.
11 Transformation 500
Once again, the companions arrive at the estate of Tarl Qualtrim and are lead to the site of the competition. This time it is a large hedge maze. This will be the Contest of Subtlety.
Tarl announces that only ten may enter and they will be selected by lottery. So all of the companions enter their name into the bin to be selected as competitors. Fortunately, both Althessamari and Elhana make it into the top ten. The lottery winners are then lined up and sent into the maze.
The competitors take a good part of the day exploring the vast maze. Elhana, unfortunately, gets almost hopelessly lost in many twists and turns of the labyrinth. However, Althessamari finds her way through just ahead of another elven competitor and takes the prize.
That night, at the Trickster and Cask, Althessamari pays the bard in gold to play only Elven music that night.
12 Transformation 508
That morning, Elhana, Lee Xin, and Althessamari all stand before the crowd at Tarl Qualtrim’s estate and await The Grand Question. The eccentric merchant comes out once again on his mobile platform and address the crowd:
“Today is the final day of the Grand Tournament! Our champions all will have the opportunity to answer the Grand Question to win the Orb of Storms!”
A liveried staff member walks up with a velvet pillow on which sits a crystalline orb. One can almost see purple lightning striking within the glass. Another assistant walks up with a bag and slips of parchment and a quill for each of them.
“I will ask the question. You will each write your answer on the slip of parchment and place it in the bag. If only one has the correct answer, you win the Tournament! If more than one wins, I ask another question of those with the correct answers. If no one has a correct answer, the Tournament is done and there is no winner. Are you ready?”
The crowd goes wild with excitement.
“Forward I am heavy. Backward I am not. What am I?”
Each of the companions give the question some thought and write an answer on their slip of parchment. They each place their answers in the bag. The bag is then collected and handed over to Tarl who reaches inside and reads the answers.
Tarl smiles from ear to ear. “My friends! There is one correct answer in this bag!”
The crowd erupts in applause.
“The correct answer is ‘ton’. Forward, it is heavy and backward it is ‘not’. Althessamari is the winner of the Grand Tournament!”
The Orb is brought forward, along with a wooden carrying case. The crowd rushes forward to congratulate all of the competitors. Finally, the companions break away and move to head back to the inn. Candyse is with them and Althessamari offers to let her travel back to Kalimsport with them. Candyse says she would like that. They decide to take a carriage back to the inn as they are carrying an expensive magical artifact and they don’t want to be accosted in the streets with it.
As they are alighting from their carriage at the Trickster and Cask, an arrow twangs into the side of the conveyance, narrowly missing Elhana. They look up to see a shadowy figure on a rooftop across the street. Le Xin goes to climb up and give chase, while the others climb back into the carriage for cover.
Le Xin climbs up and sees that the figure has jumped across to the next rooftop. He does the same and is gaining on his prey. Finally he catches up and grapples her, a female half-elf, to the ground. He questions her as to why she’s doing this, but she gives no answer. He pins her and ties her up with rope from his pack. Then he lowers her down the building, not taking care to be gentle, and climbs down the building himself.
As the two make their way back to the carriage, she tries to free herself from the rope. Le Xin thumps her ear and tells her to stop it. “You’re going to be sorry,” is all the woman will say, other than “Call the guards already.”
Althessamari tries to get her talk, once they get to the carriage, but to no avail. They strip her of weapons, and when she tries to maneuver out of the way, Le Xin continues to thump her. Finally, guardsmen come and ask what is going on. Althessamari explains the situation and they take the woman away, after manacling her and returning Le Xin’s rope.
They then check out of the inn and head to the docks to catch up with Amber’s Unity. They explain to the captain who Candyse is and ask if she can make arrangements for passage. The captain takes the cleric to her cabin to make those arrangements. The ship sets sail for Kalimsport soon thereafter.
About an hour after sundown, they make it into the docks at Kalimsport. After paying their gate fees, they head into the city and bid farewell to Candyse. They then head home, opting to see Master Bevans in the morning.
13 Transformation 500
The three companions meet at the University that morning and head to Master Bevan’s office. He asks if they were successful in their endeavor and Le Xin (as they were nervous about Althessamari’s spirits) sets the Orb on Master Bevans’ desk.
“Excellent!” he says. “A mutually fruitful endeavor then. I had every confidence in your abilities.”
He shakes each of their hands and assures them that if he has another task that requires their expertise that he will be sure to call upon them. The three leave the University in high spirits.