EVERYONE: Yearly Session Log for The Jeweled Champions (and Friends)

Brock's Pikachu
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(rated E10+ for fantasy violence and frightening images)

Now that the Summer One Shot competition is over, I can begin the longer story featuring the Pokemon cast playing "Chambers and Charizards" together that I introduced in my entry, "Munchkins and Mythology". A revised version of that story may or may not feature here depending on how the story develops.

Prologue: A Note from Brock


Hello there, fan of the Jeweled Champions (and Friends)! What you are now reading is an account of one year's worth of gaming sessions, sourced from the adventure log I keep at the table, video logs from our filmed sessions, and session write-ups made by dedicated fans.

Who are the Jeweled Champions, you ask? They are Ash, Misty's, and Serena's characters (Aldaron the Red, a battlemage wizard; Dame Meri of Halidor, a Blue Dragon magic knight, and Christine Belmont, a light runeblade, respectively). They are the regular players at the table, and always play these characters to retain some kind of consistency. When it's just me and the three of them, we call the show "The Jeweled Champions". But if anyone else is with us, then "and Friends" is added on--hence the name "The Jeweled Champions (and Friends)".

Usually, we get together at Ash's house for these sessions. The adventures are mainly episodic, but we're not opposed to running a campaign, either at the house, in the enclave, or even live onstage, depending on the nature of the campaign.

With a few exceptions, I'm mainly running ready made adventures. But not every book is perfect--if what happens in an adventure book doesn't sit well with me or the group, I have several options:

A. Rewrite the story to the group's liking on the fly (what typically happens)
B. Take bits and pieces from the original campaign and put them together into a coherent story,
C. Make up a new story entirely from aspects of the original. (This is what happened when we attempted to run "The Rescue of the Storm Giant King" last year--everyone loved the giant keeps so much, that I decided to make them their own campaign, and threw out the rest of the book entirely).

I'm sensitive to how the players are feeling--if something's too boring, complex, or scary for the group, we cut our losses and play something else. Our goal with the game is a heroic romp full of dastardly bad guys, huge worlds bursting at the seams with lore, and high adventure, and usually we manage to accomplish that. I draw the line at overly dark adventures and adventures that involve bug monsters (I apologized to Misty profusely after that session--now I check for bug monsters when doing my pre-game readthroughs).

As for what you'll see in this yearly chronicle?

--our annual playing of "Journey of the Rainbow Priestess" (an attempt at a "lighter" pilgrimage story that grew into an epic world spanning quest. There's a reason audiences keep asking for it again and again.

--Our live playing of "The Theater of the Aeons", live on the stage of the Fireside Theater. This was one of the few times I got to play a character (my go-to minstrel character, Larkin Admore), and Midori was in the dungeon master's chair. Since the entire premise of that campaign is the characters being actors in a theater troupe, we wrote our own scripts for the plays instead of using the cheesy scripts that came with the campaign box. Being able to play the campaign on a real theater stage really helped everyone get into character.

--My salvaged run of the giant keeps, which I like to call "The Treasure of the Giant Lords" (since the players are going after magical jewels)

--Our winter run of the campaign "The Chill of the Frost Sage"

--and lots of one shots and mini campaigns!

I hope you enjoy reading about these sessions as much as we enjoyed playing them. I'm excited to see what next year will bring for our sessions.

So pull up a chair, relax, and enjoy this detailed look into the life of "The Jeweled Champions (and Friends)."

Adventure on!
Brock
 
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Session 0: Chambers With Cousins


"Wow..." Chance gasped as he and Elena arrived in the rec room, where Brock was wiring speakers and the video screen into place. "What's all this for?"

"Effects for the storytelling game we like to play together." Ash explained to his two cousins gawking at the dungeon master's nook taking shape. "Brock is one of those leaders that likes to immerse you in the fantasy world. So you'll actually see the bad guys and what the magic items look like!"

"Cool!" Elena smiled.

"If you want to join in the game, I'll leave you guys character sheets and the Player's Handbook here." Brock assured Chance and Elena as he left a book and two character sheets. "I've tweaked the character sheets and most of the terminology to a level you guys can understand, but if you have a question, please ask."

"Okay then..." Ash joined Chance at the table. "Got any ideas as to what class you want to be?"

"The rogue sounds cool!" Chance smiled as he admired a picture of a cloaked rogue in the Player's Handbook. "Backstabbing bad guys and finding secret stashes of treasure sounds fun!"

Ash watched as Chance wrote in a name on the Character Name line on the character sheet. "All right--rogues can wield two weapons at once, so they would be right at home with twin daggers or twin swords. Archery and other ranged weapons are also good choices."

"I'm gonna wield twin daggers." Chance replied as he wrote "Iron Daggers" in the Weapon space.

Ash left Chance to work, then looked over at Elena writing "Ranger" in the Character Class space. "Need help?"

"I was inspired by this pretty elf ranger in the book." Elena explained as she showed Ash the picture of a beautiful elf aiming an ornate arrow at a dragon. "Do I have to wield a bow?"

"Not at all--you can wield twin swords like the rogue, or have a sword as a backup when a bow is not possible to use." Ash explains. "My battlemage wizard--what I play--mainly wields a magebow, but has a mageblade as a backup if archery's not practical or too dangerous.

"As a ranger, you also have access to nature versions of wizard and cleric spells, so you can help if Ash or Dawn need help." Brock explained as Ash, Chance, and Elena continued working...

---------

Brock grinned when he saw everyone was present. "Let's have everyone introduce their characters before we begin."

Ash got up first. "My character is Aldaron the Red, a neutral good human wizard of the Redstorm Wizard Enclave. Unlike most wizards, the wizards of Redstorm learn to wield such weapons as swords and bows, in hopes they will lend their magic to the battlefield. Shuddering at the thought of being dragon fodder..."

Giggles go up at this. "...Aldaron decided to venture out on his own, looking for others that fought for peace and justice."

Misty is next. "My character is Dame Meri of Halidor, a lawful good Blue Dragon magic knight. Trained in the ways of the blade and magic, she longed to see what lay beyond the walls of the city. So with her captain's blessing, she began searching for others with a similar cause."

Serena got up next. "My character is Christine Belmont, a lawful good runeblade of the Lumiere school of spellfencing. After several years of training, she yearns to make a name for herself as a great hero."

May got up from her place at the table. "My character is Arthien Nightsong, a neutral good elven minstrel. Born with the gift of spellsong, she vowed to lend her song to the cause of peace after seeing a clash of good and evil in her dreams."

Dawn got up next. "My character is Coriel Brightdawn, a neutral good elven cleric. Arceus appeared to her during evening prayers one night, and warned her evil was on the move. He instructed her to find others that fought for peace."

Brock motioned to Chance and Elena. "Okay, let's have you two introduce your characters."

Chance eagerly got up, a black rain poncho fluttering behind him. "My character is Elion Nightwind, a neutral good human rogue. After losing his parents to a terrible disease, a noble rogue took him in, where he learned how to steal from corrupt nobility to feed the less fortunate. He will not steal from good and honest people, and has often worked with the royal guard to bring down some evil nobles."

Elena--now with a green towel tied to her back like a ranger's cape--got up from the table. "My character is Telia Leafstrider, a neutral good human ranger. After hearing worrying rumors of goblin raids and monster attacks from travelers and in town, she sought out others that fought for peace and justice."

"That's everyone..." Serena reports.

Brock smiles back in reply. "What we’re going to do here is tell a story, a story that you’re going to help create." he explained to Chance and Elena. "Each of you has a character, which you introduced to me earlier. Our story takes place in a world where magic lives, filled with monsters, treasure, and adventure."

"Wow!" Elena smiled.

"I’m going to be the Dungeon Master, or DM, for short." Brock went on. "I’ll describe what your character sees, and you'll tell me what your character does in response. Do well and make the right choices, and you guys will be handsomely rewarded."

He went on "I have a script--often called an adventure--that tells what the characters--you guys--will face in the story. I don't have to follow the script exactly--I can deviate from it or throw it out entirely depending on what you guys do, or what would be fair to you guys."

He then shows Chance and Elena the X card. "Sometimes adventuring can get scary--so if you ever feel scared or uncomfortable about something during our quest--just tell me 'X', and I'll do my best to come up with a not-so-scary alternative."

"Got it!" Chance replied. Elena nodded in agreement.

Brock next cued some festival ambiance, complete with music. "And what better way to kick off an adventure with a party?"

He then reads the adventure's introduction. "Beams of sunlight stream past snow·capped mountains as a joyous scene spreads before you. Overnight, the town's main square sprouted colorful tents, a grand looking portable theater, all manner of race courses, and more. Laughter and boisterous shouts echo from the square's corners as its cobblestone streets teem with villagers sporting festive clothes and wide smiles. Throughout it all, the smell of tasty fried goodness weaves through the air. The festivities can mean only one thing--the annual Flower Faire is here!"

Chance and Elena cheer at the notion of a fair and all the festivities that come with it. "What kinds of games are there?" Chance asks.

"Well, you can participate in or bet on the races, play any of the carnival games, catch a play at the theater, or help yourself to any of the fair food and take it all in." Brock explains.

"Does the ring toss exist in fantasyland?" Chance asks.

"Yes, that is one of the games on offer." Brock replies. "The town's toysmith has been busy making plush dolls of the Legendaries, and plush dolls of the angel that guards the town, Aurelia, as prizes for the games."

He projects a picture of a fantasy version of a ring toss game for Chance to see. "It's two coins for five rings. If you can get three rings on the pole, you win a mini Aurelia doll. If you can get all five, you get a big Aurelia doll."

"Are the dolls magical at all?" Elena asks.

"The dolls of the Legendaries are no different from any other plush doll." Brock replies. "The Aurelia dolls are magical--the larger the doll, the better its protection magic is..."

To Be Continued...
 
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Session 1: The Dragon and the Angel



"All right...are we ready to properly get the adventure started?" Brock asks the group after noting Elena's reward in a carnival game.

Cheers fill the air in reply. "Okay..." Brock finds the next scene in the book, then starts reading. "As you reunite in the square to decide what to do next, cries of shock and alarm fill the air. Two people stumble into the square-a young dark-haired man and a light-haired woman-half walking and half relying on the shoulders of friends. Winces of pain cross their battered faces. Somewhere, someone shouts 'The Earthdreamers have been attacked! Where is Aurelia'?" The crowd around the Earthdreamers hushes and parts, and a tall, authoritative woman strides purposefully toward the injured teens. A grim look on her sapphire·eyed face, she reaches a hand lovingly toward the boy and the girl."

"Young ones, what has happened here?" he asks in a gentle female voice for Aurelia.

"A thousand apologies, O Lightsworn." he explains in a mimic of Serena for the girl. "We were picking the flowers for the faire when those bullies set upon us. They took us completely by surprise, and they stole the Star of Gaia right from Devon's neck! We barely escaped with our lives!"

"It was Richelle and Tolwin!" Brock vows in a mimic of Gary for the boy, much to Ash's bemusement. "They're up on Rainbow Hill, and they've still got your pendant!"

As himself, Brock narrates "At this news, several others, including those in charge of the faire's events-emerge from the crowd. Turning to Aurelia, a white-haired woman-the town's mayor, from the crowd's whispers-visibly bristles with anger.

"I've had enough of those two! Clearly we should have punished them more harshly!" he vows in character as an old lady. "Aurelia, would you be so kind as to retrieve these villains? We'll get the Star of Gaia back, and those two will get the justice they deserve in the stocks."

Chance and Elena giggle nervously at just how accurate Brock's mimic of an old lady is. "These rogues are two of your own?" Brock asks as Aurelia. "I'm terribly sorry, but I'm afraid I can't directly help. You see, I promised your forefathers that I would never interfere in the town's personal matters. I cannot turn my wrath against any of your town-not even if they may rightfully deserve it."

He addresses the group, still in character as the beautiful angel on the screen. "Are there any among you who are willing to be heroes for this town? Could you find these rogues and the Star of Gaia? I assure you all that those who are successful will be handsomely rewarded!"

"We would be honored to find your treasure, and bring justice to those the rogues hurt." Ash vows.

"No one should interrupt a festival day like this!" Misty agrees.

"You can ask the Lightsworn Aurelia for information about what you need to do, or head for Rainbow Hill now." Brock explains as himself. "However, things are not as cut and dry as it would appear."

"But what if it's not a pair of bullies?" Chance asks. "Or what if something else is holding the bullies captive?"

Brock flips a few chapters ahead in the book--the gears are turning in his mind. "That's actually a better idea than what the book says to do, Chance."

He addresses the others. "Anyone have any objections to Chance's idea of having the bullies be held captive by the real villain of the story?"

"Well, what does the book say we are 'supposed' to do?" Ash asks.

"Keep in mind that you know this info, but your characters don't." Brock cautions. "The book wants you to find a clue in an abandoned shack, confront the tiefling that kidnapped the bullies, and then defeat a red dragon to reclaim the Star of Gaia. What Chance is suggesting is speeding things up by moving the tiefling offscreen, and have the bullies be held by the red dragon. You still find the clue in the tiefling's diary, but don't confront him or the bullies."

"That works..." Serena replies. "That would further reinforce the bullies are innocent, or they tried to play a prank and got into more trouble than they bargained for."

"All right...we'll just cut out the second part entirely." Brock replies.

He flips back to his place. "You can still ask the Lightsworn Aurelia for information about what you need to do, or head for Rainbow Hill." he reminds the group.

"Lady of Light, what is the Star of Gaia?" May asks in character.

"The Star of Gaia is one of my divine treasures." Brock replies as Aurelia. "It is a magical star emerald pendant that shows the Earthdreamers the way to the sacred grove near Rainbow Hill. This is where the flowers for the faire come from."

"Where should we start looking, Great Guardian of Light?" Misty asks.

"If you follow the trail to Rainbow Hill, you should find an abandoned cabin near the sacred grove. You may find a clue there." Brock replies as Aurelia.

"I do not want to outright dismiss the townsfolk's claims." Misty explains. "That, and one of the cornerstones of justice is innocent until proven guilty."

"I fear we are rushing to punish innocent people that may have had nothing to do with this heartbreaking incident at all." Dawn agrees. "So what happens if Richelle and Tolwin are innocent?"

"If this is indeed the case, I grant you divine permission to pursue or slay the real culprit." Brock replies as Aurelia. "No matter who committed this crime and ruined this festive day, we will bring the true culprit to justice, and make things right."

To Be Continued...
 
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Session 2: Into the Storm (part 1)



The group congratulates themselves on defeating the red dragon to clear "The Dragon and the Angel" an hour later. "Well done, everyone...." Brock smiles as the group picks out level 3 skills and organizes their inventories. 'Fury of the Storm' okay with everyone?"

"That should be fun!" Serena smiles. "The Thunder Temple should give Chance and Elena a taste of a dungeon crawl."

"Yeah, that young dragon lair wasn't much..." Chance sighs.

"Where were the puzzles?" Elena asks, memories of countless hours of 'The Legend of Zelda' dancing in her mind.

"This should fit the bill for a Zelda-esque temple very nicely." Brock explains as he sets the adventure up. "We should make it to level 6 by the time we're done."

Once everyone is ready, Brock cues some rainy town ambiance to set the scene. "After saving the Flower Faire, the fact that you slew a red dragon got the attention of the leader of the adventurer's guild." he explains to Chance and Elena. "Impressed with your bravery, he inducted all of you into the guild, where you promised to right wrongs and triumph over evil no matter where it lurked."

He goes on "After settling into your new life as guild agents and doing some easy missions in and around the holy city of Arcovia, you now find yourselves on your way to your first real mission. The misty harbor town of Clearmount has been experiencing strange weather, and many believe lizardmen are to blame. Your job is to explore the town and the surrounding forest, figure out what's really going on, and stop evil in its tracks before the odd storms flood the town."

He adds some ambiance of a distant tavern fight to the rain mix. "But your arrival in Clearmount turns awkward as you arrive at the local tavern...you seem to have walked into the middle of a fight!" He turns up the fight ambiance to prove his point.

"What started it?" Chance wonders.

"The same way 90% of tavern fights start--an accusation of cheating in a game of chance." Brock deadpans. "You can try to break it up yourselves, or notify the guard."

The group huddles to debate their options, then Misty reports "Meri fires a Magic Blade to get the unruly crowd's attention, then attempts to negotiate."

"Christine goes to find the guard while Meri tries to defuse the fight." Serena adds. "Just in case it gets bad."

Brock nods, then plays a sound effect of the Zelda sword beam noise before turning off the tavern fight ambiance. "The blue beam from your sword lights up the night like thunder, bringing the fight to a halt."

"What seems to be the trouble here?" Misty asks in character.

"Soren was cheatin', milady!" Brock protests in character. "His 'and had more stars than a Five Element Ante hand should have!"

He then changes roles to the other patron. "Ye know I would never cheat! Dawson was the one cheatin'!"

"I won't know if anyone was cheating if I don't see what your hands were." Misty replies in character. "May I see what your final hands were?"

"The two men reluctantly show their final hand of cards to you." Brock explains, projecting an image of the two five card hands on a table, followed by a chart depicting valid hands of Five Element Ante, the odds of getting them, and how much they are worth in universe.

"Okay, so Light is the most valuable suit of the five, represented by stars." Ash muses.

"Five Element Ante is basically fantastic 5 card poker." Brock explains as the group studies the image and the chart on the screen.

"Both men had fair hands..." May notes. "Soren had a pair of eights, and Dawson had a pair of queens."

Misty nods. "Both of your hands are fair, good sirs. I see no evidence of cheating."

"This means that Dawson is the rightful winner, as he has the more valuable pair between you." Dawn agrees.

Brock smiles that the group managed to defuse the fight without the guard getting involved. "Soren realizes that Coriel is right, and his companion was indeed playing fair. He gives Dawson ten gold pieces--the wager they agreed on--and take new bets for a new game." He lets that hang as he starts a mix of calm tavern ambiance.

He adds the image of a beautiful woman in white armor to the tavern doorway. "About then, the captain of the guard, Anara Brightstrider, arrives. Her beautiful white and blue armor exudes grace and authority, calming any tension in the tavern. You recognize the symbol of a sword and sunrise near her right shoulder--the Rune of the Hero's Sword."

Dawn rolls a Lore check. "The Order of the Hero's Sword revere Zacian as their guardian Pokemon. They are an order of paladins that fight for peace and justice."

"Captain, I managed to defuse the situation here--all is as it should be." Misty reports.

"I would expect nothing less from the Order of the Blue Dragons." Brock smiles in character as the woman. "Your runeblade companion told me everything--thank you for finding a peaceful solution."

"We come on behalf of the Astral Blades, milady." Chance explains in character. "We want to find out why it is suddenly storming here all the time, and put a stop to any evil causing it."

"Your sure feet and heart of gold will carry you far, little one--because even thieves can steal for a good reason." Brock smiles as Anara. "Surely you have traveled far on your journey here--I will send word to the innkeeper to give you free lodging while you are here."

"Thanks!" Ash smiles as Brock clears off the screen and the table for the adventure's next scene...

To Be Continued...
 
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Session 3: Into the Storm (part 2)



"The next morning, Captain Brightstrider invites you to breakfast at the barracks." Brock reads as he changes the ambiance to a quiet mess hall with rain in the background. "While the recruits enjoy their breakfast in the main hall before beginning their morning patrols, you are ushered into the captain's private dining room."

"Wow..." Chance is impressed at the image of a beautiful dining room on the screen.

"Our thanks for allowing you the honor of joining you for breakfast, Captain." Misty smiles in character.

"After you all broke up the fight in the tavern last night, I saw that you all seem like responsible adventurers." Brock replies as Anara.

"Christine shows the captain the mark of the Astral Blades, stamped on her right hand." Serena reports before explaining in character "We are agents of the Astral Blades, milady. This mark is a sign of our promise to drive out evil wherever it may lurk."

Brock nods in character. "Then perhaps you can help me once again...Clearmount is a community that has had little contact with the region outside its borders, with the exception of some adjacent farmland. We maintain a single, small fort to the south to watch for potential problems. However, Dunstead Keep hasn’t sent a report in nearly 2 weeks. I fear for the soldiers there, but I can't send any of the active troops here, because that would leave Clearmount vulnerable. Can I trust you to travel to the keep, and find out what has happened there?"

"You have our word we will find out what has happened at the keep, and purge any evil we find." Misty vows.

Brock grins as he notes an experience gain. "You've earned a little experience for helping Captain Brightstrider." he explains. "You can explore Clearmount a little, or head over to the keep."

"Let's explore the town before we go." Elena suggests as Brock projects a map of the town for the group to see...

---------

"Okay...rescue the acolyte for the priestess, find some herbs for the salve-maker, find the smithy's delivery and/or the payment, and deliver a package for the shopkeep." Misty finishes noting all the group's sidequests some time later.

"You got 1000 experience total for taking on all those sidequests, with more rewards if you compete them." Brock reminds the group before cuing some windy mountain forest ambiance to signal the group has arrived at the keep.

He then sets the scene. "The shattered remains of a heavy wooden door lie strewn across this opening in the log walls. Several of the splinters are trampled into the dirt. Some pieces of wood still remain attached to large metal hinges at the sides of the exposed entrance.

"Elion realizes something doesn't look right..." Chance reports.

Brock smiles--Chance has disarmed a trap! "You manage to easily disarm a crude trap. Even if you didn't disarm it, there was still only a 25% chance you'd get whacked by it."

Nervous giggles fill the room in agreement. "Across this wide, muddy courtyard, three buildings cling to the sides of the fort’s interior walls. Those to the southwest and the east are sealed tight, while the door to the building in the northwest is slightly ajar. A well squats near the northeastern end of the courtyard, while a fence between the southwestern and northwestern buildings forms a simple pen of some kind. Two human bodies—quickly decaying in the tropical sun—lie in the mud, one with a spear poking out from its chest.

He sighs at the prospect of delivering bad news to the group. "Unfortunately, one of those bodies is the acolyte you were sent to find for the priestess."

"Coriel performs a memorial rite over the body." Dawn reports. She then sings Te lei ze cra riou te ze... for effect.

Brock notes the sidequest as complete, then projects three small brown dinosaur Pokemon into the ruined scene. "Three Tyrunts are here--and they don't look happy to see you!"

"Coriel casts Protect on everyone to shield them from the Tyrunts' huge jaws." Dawn reports. She calls in character "Shining light, shield from all directions!" as Brock starts the battle music.

"An aura of green light surrounds you, protecting you from the Tyrunts' razor sharp teeth." Brock reports. "This means that you will take half damage from any attack."

"Does protection magic stack?" Chance asks.

"Yes--buffs and other protections do stack with each other." Brock replies. "So if Dawn casts it enough times, the Tyrunts won't hurt you at all. But they only have 10 HP each, so they shouldn't be too hard if you know their weak points."

"Christine uses Shining Rondo." Serena reports.

"Your blade glows as you dance to a song only you seem to hear, leaving a trail of light behind you as you do." Brock reports. "You manage to hit a Tyrunt five times for two damage apiece as you perform, defeating it."

"Arthien sings a Song of Ice in an attempt to freeze the other Tyrunts." May reports before singing Furiya, shuru shamato... for effect.

Awed chatter fills the room when the group sees May's results on the dice roller. "Whoa!" Chance gasps.

"Nat 20!" Misty is equally impressed.

"A circle of ice surrounds the Tyrunts and snow swirls around them, silver sparkles and snow spurred on like icy Ponytas to your song." Brock begins. "More and more snow and ice surround the Tyrunts, surrounding them in an icy tower. When the ice shatters seconds later, the Tyrunts are gone--they will trouble others no more."

"Well done!" Ash embraces May.

"Aw, it was just a lucky hit roll." May smiles, flattered by all the attention.

"I'd say 5% is lucky, all right..." Brock smiles. "Not very many Chambers players can do what you just did."

He explains to Chance and Elena "This is why we celebrate when a 20 does come up on the dice roller--because that player has beaten the odds and gotten a critical hit or critical success."

To Be Continued...
 
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Session 4: Into the Storm (part 3)


"This room has a single door. Wood-and-metal racks—their hinges slightly corroded from the humidity—line the walls, each fitted with an assortment of arms and armor." Brock explains.

He tells the group "One of the crates in here is the smithy's shipment--it's the one in the far right corner."

Arthien uses the Song of the Wind to send it back to town." May reports, singing Karuto, iichiida shou... for effect.

Brock notes the quest as complete. "There are a number of powerful weapons in here, so if you feel you need an upgrade, you can take something."

He thumbs through the adventure book, glancing at the clock on the wall all the while. "Do you guys want to just fast forward through the rest of the fort, and get to the real meat of the adventure? We'll assume that you successfully completed all the sidequests in there, and found clues to the real star of the show--the Temple of Storms--as you were exploring and doing more sidequests offscreen."

Affirmative answers waft in Brock's direction as he preps some evil temple ambiance mixed with distant rain and thunder. "Your investigation of the fort proved fruitful, with the hand of a lizardman as proof of Captain Brightstrider's suspicions. The townsfolk and the town council informed you that the lizardmen had taken up residence in the ruins of the Temple of Storms, where you guys now stand. Your task now is to brave the temple and stop the lizardmen from unleashing the ultimate storm upon the world."

Cheers fill the room as Brock starts his ambiance of the temple. "Two solid slabs of dark stone rise up fifteen feet into the air, bordered by the walls of the temple on either side and topped with stone depictions of roiling storm clouds."

"Coriel uses Sense Trap--just in case." Dawn reports.

"Okay--you have sensed and disarmed a Thunder trap." Brock replies. "Now you can go inside the temple safely."

He sets the scene as the group oohs and ahs over the image of the temple on the screen. "Imposing walls flank this open promenade on the east and west. Images of great storms and floods cover crumbling plaster of the walls, each of which ascend twenty feet into the air. A stone double door lies to the south, while a larger plaza opens to the north."

"Let's investigate the plaza." Elena suggests.

"Okay, so you keep going on the path you're on..." Brock notes. "A large, raised basin of green rock sits in the center of the temple’s plaza. A thick brownish liquid quivers just beyond the fountain’s raised lip. A large stone door blocks entry farther north, its surface covered with two circular indentations. Halls extend to the east and west."

He then adds images of two slime creatures to the scene of the plaza onscreen. "The water is actually a pair of two Watery Slimes."

Ash smiles before reporting "Aldaron casts Thundara."

He then announces in character "Light in darkness lost, gather to me and unleash your power!"

Brock plays a thunder sound effect to represent Ash's spell. "A massive thunderbolt flies from your hand, lighting up the room in a bright flash. When the light fades, the basin is empty again, as it should be."

He informs Ash "There are 250 gold pieces here, plus some citrines worth 75 gold apiece. They can also grant anyone--even non magic users--a one use burst of thunder magic."

"I'll take those!" Ash smiles. "If anyone wants to use the magic jewels, let me know and I'll give you one.

Brock, meanwhile, finds the next encounter area. "Four thin pairs of pillars rise twenty feet to the top of the chamber’s walls. Dozens of red silk cords run between the pairs or flutter as frayed strands in the breeze. Small bangles and chimes hang from the intact ropes, jangling in the wind. Broken bones lie scattered throughout the rooms. A doorway leads to the southwest, while a larger chamber lies to the north.

"Coriel uses Sense Evil." Dawn reports as Brock adds some wind chimes to his ambiance mix.

"You sense an uneasy presence here, but it's not evil." Brock assures Dawn. "Maybe there is something here in this room that will give you guys a clue?"

Misty notices a tattered book in the image of the room on the screen. "What's this book?"

"This appears to be an ancient diary of some kind." Brock explains, zooming an image of the book for Misty to see. "While most of the pages are worn and faded by the passage of time, there is one sentence that is still legible--'Great Thunderbird, have mercy on us'."

"Coriel...maybe you can cleanse this place, and send these restless spirits into Arceus' care?" Misty suggests.

Dawn nods before singing in character Gatrandis favel, secret, edena...
Emusto ronzen fine el balaziis...
Katoradis favel siicletu edena...
Emusto koron zen fine, si...


Applause and cheers fill the air for Dawn's performance. "As the last 'si' of your intercession fades away, the remaining chimes fall to the ground and shatter, save for one hanging from a blue silk cord, glittering gently and illuminated by a holy light. The departed spirits have transformed this humble instrument into a Thunderchime, as their last gift of thanks." Brock explains. "Ringing it will count as summoning Zapdos, even if you don't currently have a contract to summon him."

"Can I ring it and make a contract with Zapdos?" Dawn asks.

Brock checks the summoning section of the magic chapter in the Dungeon Master's Guide. "Using an implement of summoning to summon a being you don't have a contract for and then make a contract with it is a valid action--it's definitely faster than seeking out the being yourself."

"Okay...Coriel rings the Thunderchime to summon Zapdos in hopes of making a contract with him." Dawn replies.

Brock nods, then plays the sound effect of a crystalline D note to represent the chime. "As the Thunderchime rings with a single clear note, you hear soft thunder and powerful wingbeats as a majestic yellow and black bird appears--the thunderbird Zapdos."

"Ye have called, Lady of Arceus, and I have come. What is it you desire?" he asks in a gentle male voice for Zapdos.

Dawn smiles. "I beseech you, great thunderbird, lend your power to mine, as decreed by the promise Arceus made to the first summoner now sealed in this jewel...my name is Coriel!"

"I would be honored to lend the power of the storm to you." Brock replies in character as Zapdos.

As himself, he tells Dawn "Now Coriel can summon Zapdos with the Thunderchime."

To Be Continued...
 
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Session 5: The Maze of the Minotaur (part 1)

"All right! The ultimate nachos are in the Travelin' Pot tonight!" Chance smiles as Brock arrives with the familiar green pot and his gaming gear. A sharp, smoky smell drifts from the pot into the house, cluing Chance and Ash as to what's inside the pot.

"The girls are bringing refried beans, chips, and condiments." Brock explains as he hangs up his coat in the guest closet. "So once everyone's here, I'll generate your characters in a level 1 state, and we'll get going."

"Can we just kill a monster tonight?" Elena requests. "No intrigue, no rivalries, no confusing plot twists...just kill a monster and save the world."

"Yeah, that temple we played last time took too long." Chance agrees.

Brock smiles as he sets the table for the meal. "Okay...we can just kill a monster this time. And I have just the monster."

---------

"Galina, the village oracle, waves you toward the fire, her sapphire blue eyes staring out into the flames." Brock sets the scene for the adventure, some ambiance of a sacred fire from the laptop and the soft crunching of chips as the group enjoys their meal. "One of our own has vanished into the Greatwood. The runes have chosen you to rescue him." he explains in character as a young lady. "Now listen as the blessings of the runes are revealed to you--they will guide you on your perilous quest."

Elena gasps in awe as a rune stone that resembles an archer's bow appears on the screen "Aldaron the Red, bearer of the Rune of the Arcane Bow." Brock explains as Galina. He goes around the table, telling everyone what their respective guardian rune is:

"Dame Meri, bearer of the Dragon Rune." Misty smiles as a rune stone with a rune resembling a Gyarados appears.

"Christine, bearer of the Rune of the Sword." Serena is excited to see a rune stone that resembles a rapier.

"Arthien, bearer of the Rune of Song." May grins as she sees a rune stone with a music note.

"Coriel, bearer of the Angel Rune." Dawn watches in awe as a rune stone with a pair of ornate wings appears.

"Elion, bearer of the Meowth Rune." Chance stifles a giggle at how cute the rune resembling a stylized Meowth head looks.

"Telia, bearer of the Deerling Rune." Brock concludes in character as he shows Elena a rune resembling a Deerling. "So it is, and so it shall be."

"What if we want to know what the runes do?" Elena asks.

"If you wish to invoke your guardian rune, let me know, and I will tell you which effect you invoked, and what blessings it gives you just by holding it." Brock explains as himself. "The Rune of the Deerling grants speed, stealth, and luck just by carrying it. When invoked, it can heal allies, speed allies up, break charms, dispel illusions, and grant protection."

He next cues some dark forest ambiance. "You and your companions come to a halt in the center of the forest clearing. Galina always warned of the dangers of the Greatwood, but standing before the dark, foreboding forest, you know that her tales couldn't even begin to describe the truth. The trees loom over you like scraggly wooden guards. Somewhere within this fell wood is Lucian Brightheart and the minotaur he swore to kill. Steeling your courage, you grip your weapons tighter and wonder if you’ll ever see the light of day again."

Chance swallows hard as Brock adds a cawing Murkrow to the mix. "A Murkrow flaps overhead, wheeling toward the towering cliffs at the northern edge of the forest. Even from a distance, you can make out the ancient ruins high atop the cliffs. The Murkrow caws from the distance, beckoning you into the wicked wood."

"Let's go." Misty replies.

Brock projects an image of three wild Mightyenas into the scene of a clearing. "The narrow forest path opens into a small glade. A trio of wild Mightyenas clusters together in the center of the glade, feasting on the corpse of an unfortunate Rapidash."

He sighs as he breaks the bad news to the group. "A shining white sword in the grass gets your attention--the holy sword of Lucian Brightheart, Faithkeeper. The paladin likely never stood a chance against what ambushed him."

"Can a magic knight wield Faithkeeper?" Misty asks.

"Unfortunately, no--only paladins and warriors can." Brock replies. "Retrieving Faithkeeper is actually your first challenge--you can engage the Mightyenas, or you can try to retrieve Faithkeeper without them noticing."

"I'll try to retrieve Faithkeeper!" Chance volunteers.

Brock smiles as he rolls a Stealth check. "The Mightyenas don't even notice you, and before long, Faithkeeper is in your possession. Finding the holy sword gives you more resolve than ever to avenge Lucian, your hometown hero, or die trying..."
 
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Session 6: The Maze of the Minotaur (part 2)


"Ahead, the trail branches off in two directions." Brock explains, gesturing to the image of the two way fork in the forest on his screen. "Before you can decide which path to take, the flapping of wings fills the air, and hundreds of Murkrows descend upon the trees. A single Honchkrow, much larger than the rest, regards you with ancient black orbs. The Honchkrow caws twice, and a deafening chorus comes back in reply."

Elena shudders at the sound effects of a Honckrow cry, followed by the sound of a large flock of cawing Murkrows. "It seems that the flock wants you to go somewhere...do you follow them, or take the other route?" Brock asks the group.

"They're not gonna attack if we refuse them?" Misty isn't sure. what to do.

"No, they will respect your choice if you want to go the other way." Brock assures Misty. "They only way to make them attack is if you try and attack the chief Honchkrow first."

"Coriel uses a charm against black magic--just in case." Dawn reports, singing Te le ze cra riou te ze... for effect.

"Okay--you guys are now protected against curses, hexes, and other evil spells." Brock explains. "I'll give you a minute to discuss which way you want to go--both routes converge on the same area."

The group huddles to discuss their options for a moment, then Ash asks "Are the Murkrows carrying anything valuable?"

Brock rolls an arcana check to answer Ash's question. "The Honchkrow is carrying an ornate Meowth's eye ring known as the Witch's Eye. If you can destroy the stone, it will make a later villain much easier."

Ash nods. "Aldaron first uses Silence on a Thunder Arrow, then aims at the Meowth's eye."

Brock smiles at the dice roller's results. "Aside from a soft spark from your arrow and the quiet crack of the stone shattering, the flock has no idea what happened."

Relieved sighs fill the room. "We will follow the flock." May reports.

"Good call--the other option would've involved crossing a large pit." Brock replies as he turns a few pages in the adventure book.

He then reads the next encounter. "The forest path opens into a small clearing, the scene of a recent battle. The furry, blood-soaked body of a massive bugbear lies in the center of the path. The forest floor is rutted, and broken weapons litter the clearing."

"Elion has a feeling that something isn't right..." Chance reports before rolling a Sense Deception check.

Brock is equally pleased at Chance's intuition. "Sure enough, this setup is in fact a trap! The bugbear flees as you guys prepare to engage the kobolds."

He cues some battle music. "You guys are up against a gaggle of three kobolds. They shouldn't be too hard to beat."

"Arthien uses the Song of the Wind to speed everyone up." May reports before singing Karuto, iichiida shou... for effect.

"Okay, everyone is hasted for this battle." Brock explains. "This means you get two attack rolls instead of one.

"Coriel casts Protect on everyone." Dawn reports before calling in character "Precious light, be our armor to protect us!"

"Any physical damage you guys would take is halved for this fight." Brock explains.

"Elion backstabs a kobold." Chance smiles as he finds his d20. "16 and 18."

"The kobold is no match for your twin blades--he never saw it coming." Brock smiles as he sees the dice roller's results.

"Meri tries Ice Blade on the two remaining kobolds." Misty reports before making her two rolls...
 
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Session 7: The Maze of the Minotaur (part 3)


"The forest parts to reveal short cliffs descending to a lake shore." Brock reads over some mystical lake ambiance. "The lake is perfectly still, and perfectly blue. A thick gray mist hangs over the surface of the lake, obscuring sight beyond a few dozen yards. As you watch, the mists swirl and twist. You catch glimpses of shimmering figures in the mists--knights astride their faithful Rapidashes, fierce dragons, and magnificent castles. Each shape forms for a moment before vanishing back into the swirling gray. Out over the lake you spot the tops of trees. There must be an island in the mist, but is it real, or just another Illusion? Illusion or no, you do see what is real: an ancient stone dock."

"Aldaron goes to investigate the dock." Ash reports.

"Okay...at first, it doesn't look like anything out of the ordinary, but you sense some magical energies coming from the stone." Brock explains.

Excited, Ash reports "Aldaron uses Sense Magic."

Brock smiles--Ash has figured out the puzzle in this area! "As you focus your power, you see some runes appear on the large rock before the dock. You can read them, and their message is the following: 'Warriors sworn, prophets true; seekers of lore and canting crew: never stray from the path, and you shall avoid the water's wrath."

He continues "As you finish reading the runes, a glowing path of holy light appears before you. So long as you remain focused on the way forward, you won't fall in the water."

Ash nods. "Aldaron motions for everyone to follow him across, making sure to remind everyone to keep moving forward, and focus on going forward."

Brock smiles at the results of a secret check. "You eventually reach an island. It doesn't look like much at first, but the foliage is strangely lush and full. The tall trees make a sheltering canopy, and verdant moss, flowers, including Gracidea flowers, and ferns carpet the rest of the area."

Excited, Dawn asks. "Is there a shrine to Shaymin, or an earth goddess here?"

Brock nods. "Yes--there is a beautiful temple south of your current location. Where you guys are now and the area around the temple are safe zones."

"Okay...let's go investigate the temple." Dawn suggests.

Brock adds some soft music to the forest ambiance to signal that the group has found a safe zone. "Two mossy statues stand in the forest glade. The first depicts a robed woman with braided hair and a garland of flowers; the second portrays Shaymin in her Sky forme, taking flight."

He explains "This is a shrine of the earth goddess Gaia. Any HP loss is healed, and any unpleasant conditions are cured." The group's HP bars rise to full to illustrate his point.

"Coriel makes a note of this sacred place--just in case." Dawn smiles before noting the shrine in her list of Warp locations...

---------

"The trail is densely packed here, and tufts of fur and hair cling to the vines that line the trail’s edge." Brock reads over some forest ambiance some time later. "A long, mournful howl interrupts your thoughts."

May jumps as Brock plays a sound effect of a Mightyena howl for effect. "The wail is answered by a chorus of howls." he continues, adding more howls into the mix all the while. "Echoing off the granite cliffs, the howls seem to come from every side."

"Get ready, everyone!" Elena calls as she grabs her battle dice.

Brock notices the group has reached for their d20s, never mind he hasn't cued battle music yet. After lifting a hand to signal the group to wait, he reads "The trail takes a sharp turn and climbs out of the forest, stopping at the base of the towering cliffs. A small cave entrance, no more than three feet wide and tall, is burrowed into the cliff."

"Let's go inside." Dawn suggests before reporting "Coriel uses Angelic Light to light the way."

"The tunnel widens into a small den." Brock reads as the forest mix fades into cave ambiance. The floor is dirt, packed from the passage of thousands of paws. Tufts of gray and black fur litter the dusty floor, alongside splinters of shattered bones. A pair of narrow tunnels breaks from the den, going further into the spire."

He next adds an image of three Poochyenas in the scene. "Three snarling Poochyenas stand against the far wall, growling in anger."

"NOW we can fight!" Ash vows as Brock finally cues the battle music.

"Coriel casts Protect on everyone." Dawn reports. "Precious light, be our armor to protect us!"

"Aldaron uses Ice Arrow." Ash reports before rolling his red d20.

"Your arrow manages to nick your target." Brock reports before showing Ash his dice roller--Ash just barely passed the damage check, with a 14 to Brock's 12.

"Elion tries backstabbing a Poochyena." Chance reports.

Brock looks relieved at Chance's roll of 9. "At first, the Poochyena seems to be too fast even for a rogue, but your daggers strike true after cornering your quarry."

The group congratulates Chance when they see Brock's dice roller came up with a 2. "No wonder you looked relieved..." Misty notes.

"As dungeon master, I want you guys to beat the monsters." Brock explains. "So even though Chance technically missed that attack roll, I decided to award a hit anyway after seeing a dramatic difference in our rolls."

"Thanks!" Chance smiles as he watches Ash roll for another attack while Brock runs the dice roller again...
 
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Session 8: The Maze of the Minotaur (part 4)

The group congratulates themselves on their victory as Brock finishes calculating experience and turns to the next part of the adventure. "The forest opens to reveal the base of the towering spire." he begins over some mountain cliff ambience. "Here the rock has been carved into the head of a dragon, its jaws open wide in roaring triumph. The carving is quite realistic and detailed, right down to the scales and the hundreds of sharp fangs filling the dragon’s maw. Peering inside – down the dragon’s throat – you spot a staircase descending into the darkness below."

Chance notices a black X on one of the steps in the image on Brock's screen. "Elion has a sneaking suspicion about that X..."

Brock rolls a Sense Trap check. "Nicely done--you easily manage to disarm the trap some kobolds have set here, all without the kobolds having a clue you were there."

"This is why it's great to have a rogue on the team." May smiles. "it's cheaper and more accurate than thieves' tools."

"First rule about kobolds--their traps are very easy to disarm, so rogues in training learn to disarm those kinds of traps first." Chance explains.

Brock next cues some cave ambiance. "A pair of ironbound doors guards the entrance to the inner sanctum. You soon find yourselves inside a great hall decorated with arches sculpted in the likeness of Arboks. Tile mosaics cover the walls, depicting scenes of war and battle. At the head of the hall, atop a marble dais, stands a giant humanoid statue. Crafted out of reeds, thatch, and mud, the statue dominates the hall like a crude scarecrow. Easily twelve feet tall, the creature’s horns scratch the very roof of the sanctum, and its tail curls about the back of the dais."

"Is the statue alive?" Chance asks.

"No--most kobolds wouldn't know magic powerful enough to bring this creation to life." Brock replies. "It would leave a number of injuries if you managed to knock it over."

"Okay...so how do we get out?" Chance wonders--the image on Brock's screen doesn't appear to show a way out.

Brock studies the adventure book, wincing at the proposed challenge for the group's current location and the next room. "Would you guys like to assume there is a clear path out of here instead of grappling with a locked gate and more kobolds?"

"Please..." Misty sighs. "I'd rather we save our power for something besides weak mobs."

Brock nods, then changes the image on his screen to the one for the next encounter, and adds some divine ambient music into the cave mix. "Before you stands a circular room with a high, vaulted ceiling. Eight alcoves are built into the walls. Inside each alcove stands a suit of rusting scale mail armor with helmets cast in the likeness of Pyroar heads."

He continues "On the far side of the room hangs a polished wooden weapons rack. Hanging from the rack are five weapons: a fire elemental spellblade, an ornately decorated magebow, a reddish gold mandolin, a rapier with a red sheen, and a staff with flaming wings surrounding a ruby. Though covered with a thick coat of cobwebs and dust, the weapons gleam with a holy aura in the dim light. A divine rune is inscribed in the floor, depicting Moltres rising triumphantly from the ashes. The fresh corpse of a kobold is lying in the rune, slain by the holy magic here. Up above, the chamber’s ceiling has been painted black; six sigils, marked by glowing gems set into the ceiling, twinkle like stars in the night sky."

"Artifact weapons!" Chance gasps, excited. "Does that mean I'll get some nice daggers, too?"

"Keep doing well like you've been doing, and you will." Brock assures Chance. "There are some artifact daggers and an artifact bow waiting for you and Elena, but they're a little further on."

"I'll take the rapier." Serena smiles.

"All right, you now have the Legendary rapier Phénix." Brock makes a note on the digital copy of Serena's character sheet. "I assume you want to send your old weapon to the vault?"

"Yeah..." Serena explains.

"Okay...Phénix grants the party a divine shield that makes them immune to instakills and critical failures." Brock explains.

He tells Chance and Elena "When you find a stronger weapon, armor or item, your old gear goes in the magic item vault. If you don't want to use the new item right away, or it's something the current group can't use, it goes in the vault too. The vault has infinite space, so it will always have room for new finds. If you ever want to see what is in the magic item vault at any point on your adventures, let me know."

"Right!" Elena smiles. Chance nods in agreement.

"Dibs on the magebow!" Ash smiles.

"Okay...you now have the Legendary magebow Brightflame." Brock explains as he sends Ash's old weapon to the vault.

"Can a Blue Dragon wield a fire blade?" Misty asks. "If not, let's put this blade in the vault for when a Red Lion is with us."

Brock nods as he sends the mageblade to the vault. "There is something a Blue Dragon can wield later on." he assures Misty.

"I was kinda overdue for a new instrument..." May smiles as she writes the mandolin on her character sheet.

"Okay...you now have the Legendary mandolin Embersong." Brock tells May "Your Song of Fire is stronger, and your other non-fire elemental songs now have a burn effect.

"Then I'll take the staff." Dawn smiles.

"Okay...you now have the Legendary Angelfire Staff." Brock reports. "Your offensive holy spells now have a burn effect, and can heal your allies."

Dawn smiles before reporting "Coriel studies the patterns on the ceiling--just in case they are important later.

Brock rolls a Divine Knowledge check, then smiles at the result. "The sigils placed on the ceiling correspond to constellations in the night sky." he explains as he proudly shows the group that Dawn got a natural 20. "The constellations correspond to their proper place in the sky on the night of the summer solstice. In order, the sequence is: Gyarados, Arbok, Pidgeot, Pyroar, Ponyta, Arcanine."

"Got it!" Dawn smiles as the others congratulate her for the difficult roll.

"Remember these Pokemon..." Brock cautions. "They'll be important later!"
 
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Session 9: The Maze of the Minotaur (part 5)

"Screeches fill the air and a mob of kobolds swarms from hiding." Brock reads over some distant screeches in the mix of cave ambiance. "A quick glance around the room is all you have time for. You note a mess of rotting pelts, stacked crates, scattered cooking fires... and an enormous ogre wielding a mighty sword!"

"Elion isn't so sure the ogre is even real..." Chance reports.

"Illusions, lies, to heaven!" Dawn proclaims in character.

Brock smiles in approval at Chance's successful Sense Deception use and Dawn's Dispel spell. "Sure enough, the ogre was only a projected illusion by a kobold shaman, who flees as you dispel his creation."

"Light in darkness lost, gather to me and unleash your power!" Ash commands in character.

The group watches in awe as lightning arcs through the image on Brock's screen, making each kobold in the scene disappear. "Well, that's one way to get rid of many kobolds at once..." he admits.

He grimaces at the adventure book's next challenge. "I'm going to preemptively invoke the X card and not send you through the fantasy counterpart of the trash compactor."

"Yeah, we all know what happened in 'Star Legends'..." Misty agrees.

Nervous giggles ripple through the den as the group remembers the scene in question from the cherished movie. "A heavy iron gate walls off the next chamber." Brock's voice snaps the group to attention. "Past the rusted metal bars you spy a short hallway. The walls of the place are decorated with skeletons that leer at you through the darkness. A statue stares at you from the far end of the hall. The statue depicts a Mightyena clad in studded leather. The Mightyena-man carries a massive greataxe over one shoulder, and presents a jewel with his other hand."

Elena swallows hard at this. "Telia takes a look at the jewel."

"The diamond is actually glass, and worthless to you." Brock explains. "As you study the diamond, a voice tells you the following: Astride the stones, ne’r up nor down, is hidden, the eldritch fane. Shun the warlock’s token crown, to find the Tauros lord’s bane."

"Something to do with the minotaur that killed Sir Lucian?" Misty guesses.

"I wouldn't worry about it for right now--the answer will reveal itself soon enough." Dawn smiles in character.

Brock nods--while Misty is on the right track, the riddle's answer is not the top priority. "Half this chamber has collapsed, scattering rubble about the floor." he explains, adding some sounds of a forge into the cave ambiance. "Some of the debris has been cleared and collected into piles, and rough beams support the ceiling. Racks line the walls, holding crude armor and makeshift weapons. Glowing embers smolder in a fire pit in the far corner of the room."

"Does the forge still work?" Serena asks.

"Yes--while the forge still works, the smith that used it is long gone." Brock explains. "One of the shields in here is more elaborate than the others--Sir Lucian's Braviary Shield."

"I'll take it, and put it in the vault with Faithkeeper." Misty volunteers.

Brock notes the found shield in the vault's massive list. "Okay...sword and shield are reunited."

He looks out at the group. "Anyone need a break?"

"Sure..." May gets up and stretches while Serena opts to use the bathroom.

"What did you mean when you said you were preemptively invoking the X card?" Elena asks as Brock organizes his dungeon notes.

"Sometimes adventuring gets scary." Brock explains. "So if we ever reach something that's too scary, too disgusting, too dark, or anything else that makes the group uncomfortable, you have the option and the right to say 'I invoke the X card' or simply 'X', and I'll try to come up with a workaround--even if it's just a particular monster that gives you the heebie-jeebies. You don't have to tell me why you're invoking the X card, unless you want to tell me privately later."

"Misty..." Ash smiles, making Misty giggle a little in embarrassment over how many times she has invoked the X card over bugs.

"It's thanks to Misty's bug phobia that we have the X card." Brock explained. "But it has been invoked for other reasons besides bugs."

"What happened to scare Misty?" Now Chance is interested.

"Well..." Brock is unsure about telling the story with Misty present. "Is it okay if I tell Chance and Elena about the disaster streaming 'Siege of the Spinarak Eaters'?"

"Go ahead--Chance and Elena deserve to know why we made the X card." Misty assures Brock as she organizes her character's inventory.

"All right...one night, we're doing one of our livestreams on Digitop, and I decide to start the evening with the adventure 'Siege of the Spinarak Eaters'. Brock explains. "I try to frame it as Misty getting revenge on the bugs, but the chat takes Misty's fear--almost phobia--of bugs, and runs with it, flooding the chat with Spinarak memes and Spinarak emojis. May notices Misty panicking, and urges me to put up the technical difficulties screen while the mods get everything back under control."

"Our mod team is very good about keeping the chat in line." Misty smiles. "Usually the chat is fairly nice and respectful, but like anywhere else online, we do have our share of troublemakers."

"The mods step in soon after that, and all that's needed are some warnings and the removal of the upsetting memes." Brock goes on. "A few mods ask if Misty's okay, and she assures me she can go on. Once the stream was over, I apologized profusely, and promised that I would be more aware of bugs and bug monsters in my pre-game readthroughs. The next session--which took place here--we all worked together to create the X card and fair guidelines for using it."

"The guidelines are never set in stone." Serena agrees as she returns to the table. "We--or the chat-- can add to them, or cut what we don't need anymore at any time."

"An awesome idea!" Chance smiles.

Brock studies some upcoming encounters in the book. "I already see some X card worthy encounters right here..."
 
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Interlude: The Jeweled Champions, Live Onstage


"This is so exciting!" Serena smiled. "Our first time ever doing a campaign on a stage!"

"It was very nice of the Fireside to let us use their stage to play." Misty agreed. "And very appropriate, considering the campaign we picked involves the players as adventurers turned actors."

"Well, let me finish setting the camera up, and we'll make the grand announcement to the fans." Brock assured Ash and the girls as he looked over the setup for their announcement livestream.

Once happy with his setup, Brock took a few steps back so he was in focus, then cued the camera with a remote. "Theater of the Aeons live announcement, take one."

He smiled when he saw the setup was working. "Okay, we are rolling camera." he began, spurring excited and cheer emojis to fill the chat.

He began "Good morning--or good evening, all. Today we finally reveal the big surprise we hinted at during the holidays...we're going to be playing a campaign, live onstage!"

More excited emojis and GIFs filled the chat. "It is only fitting that the plot for our campaign--the Theater of the Aeons--involves the players as adventurers turned actors." Misty explained. "But they'll be dusting off their adventurer hats again to find the truth behind the demise of their beloved impresaria."

This got the chat interested. "This also means that for the first time ever, I'm actually going to be playing a character for a change--my spellsong minstrel, Larkin Admore." Brock explained. "As the campaign's name itself suggests, the heroes are actors and crew in a traveling theater--the Fantasia Theater. So that means you will get to see what we all do best--perform."

He went on over his usual "backstory music" "The Fantasia Theater...just the name of the company conjures images of high adventure, magic, romance, and happily ever afters. But it didn't get to be this way overnight--the impresaria Ainara Verdugo has worked hard over the past few years to get the troupe to where it is today."

Misty picks up the story. "From humble beginnings, Ainara sought out both the best performers she could find, and those with potential to be a star. Our heroes fell in the latter camp, and so they gave up their adventuring ways to follow their true calling as actors, musicians, and dancers. For a while, life was grand--our heroes would travel to villages, towns, and cities, and dazzle audiences with many lavish and beautiful plays."

Ash sighs as the music takes a somber turn. "But then one night, the dream came to an end--Ainara mysteriously disappeared in the night while on the way to the town of Abbyvale. At first, our heroes wanted to believe their beloved leader was still alive somewhere, but as the days wore on, reality set in, culminating in the guard finding Ainara's body in the woods near the town. Even though everyone was heartbroken by the loss of their beloved leader, they all agreed that the play they were working to put on will go on, in Ainara's memory."

"But when our heroes can get a moment offstage, they decide to dust off their adventuring hats, and find the truth about what happened to Ainara." Serena concludes as the music turned hopeful again. "As for what they discover, and the world threatening implications that has? You'll find out when we take the stage in three weeks!"

"Tickets are on sale now, if you want to come watch us play live." Brock explains. "If you can't come to the live show, it will be simulcast for free on Digitop--invite codes are given on a first come, first serve basis."

"If you can't make it to the live show or can't get into Digitop for the simulcast, we'll run an encore presentation on MyTube the week after the show." Misty assures the chat. "The MyTube encore stream will be free, as well, and anyone can come to that."

"So you have three different ways to come watch us play out a Chambers and Charizards campaign live on stage." Brock assures the chat.

Serena spots a question in the chat. "What roles do your characters play within the theater?"

"Aldaron is very much a heroic actor at heart, but can also do comic roles if needed." Ash explains. "He knows when to use a show spell and when to use his magic for real."

"Meri sees herself as a heroine, but knows when to step back and let the other actors shine." Misty explains. "She draws the line at bad guys, though. Her knightly training has proved valuable for fight scenes."

"Larkin is a gifted singer and instrumentalist, so when he's not narrating the various plays, he can play either a heroic role, a comic role, or a mentor role." Brock explains. "But he is very good at what he does--and any time he can sing is a media worthy event, if you will."

"Christine is a versatile actor, singer, dancer and fighter--her runeblade training gives fight scenes a sparkle." Serena explains. "She can play any female role or male britches role asked of her, from princesses to lady warriors and everything in between."

"Oh"s fill the chat in reply. "Yes, we will be actually performing the in universe plays." Misty answers another question. "The campaign box does come with some scripts, but you also have the option of writing your own scripts, if you like."

"This is the beauty of this campaign--it's never quite the same campaign twice, so there's plenty of replay value--moreso if you want to write and perform your own scripts." Ash explains. "If actually performing is not your thing, you can still paraphrase the performance."

"Basically, what happens is the group decides which scenes to do, and the dungeon master--or dungeom mistress--makes a secret check for each scene." Serena answers another question. "Once all the scenes have been performed, the average of the checks is what the in universe audience thought of it. Of course, the audience and the chat can also influence what the in universe audience will think of the show. So you guys have a part in this adventure, in a way."

Excited and cheer emojis fill the chat. "We hope to see you all in the audience somehow." Brock concludes. "Whether you're there watching us live, or in the online audience, you'll be in for a treat."

He spots a question in the chat. "The live show and the online simulcast begin at 7 PM..."

"Yes, we do have other costumes in addition to our character costumes." Misty responds to another question.

"Simulacast invite codes will go out the week before the show..." Ash responds to a chatter. "So act quickly and get one now!"
 
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Session 10: Live from the Theater of the Aeons


The audience in the Fireside applauds as the house orchestra begins a majestic overture. "The Fantasia Theater...just the name of the company conjures images of high adventure, magic, romance, and happily ever afters." Midori, now in the dungeon master's chair, reads over the music. "But it didn't get to be this way overnight--the impresaria Ainara Verdugo has worked hard over the past few years to get the troupe to where it is today."

She continues "From humble beginnings, Ainara sought out both the best performers she could find, and those with potential to be a star. You guys fell in the latter camp, and so you gave up your adventuring ways to follow your true calling as actors, musicians, and dancers. For a while, life was grand--you'd travel to villages, towns, and cities, and dazzle audiences with your plays."

She sighs as the music takes a somber turn. "But then one night, the dream came to an end--Ainara mysteriously disappeared in the night while on the way to the town of Abbyvale. At first, you wanted to believe your beloved leader was still alive somewhere, but as the days wore on, reality set in, culminating in the guard finding Ainara's body in the woods near the town. Even though you all were heartbroken by the loss of your leader, you all agreed that the play you were working to put on this evening will go on, in Ainara's memory."

Even Ash can't help brushing away a tear, never mind Ainara only exists in Midori's imagination. "But when you can get a moment offstage, you decide to dust off your adventurer hats, and find the truth about what happened to Ainara."

She smiles as the music reaches a major key. "And that is where our story begins."

With that, she cues some ambiance of a crowded theater. "It seems the entire population of Abbyvale has turned out for the play tonight. Many of the town’s most prominent citizens, including the mayor, are among the throng jostling for seats, peering at the beautiful stage, and waiting excitedly for the show to begin. Backstage, however, is a different story. While you're all in your costumes, and the crew is ready, there are whispers that this isn't such a good idea, and that it is too soon to perform."

"Larkin senses the unease backstage, and decides to rally the actors and crew to go on and perform the show--for Ainara's sake." Brock--now in a majestic purple, red, and gold minstrel costume--informs Midori.

In character, he addresses the group. "Everyone, I know that the sudden loss of our beloved impresaria is still fresh on our minds. I also know that we all want answers as to how Ainara met her tragic fate, and who or what could've killed her. But for tonight, I want to go ahead and perform the first of our plays we planned to perform during our time here--in Ainara's memory."

"While I was training as a knight, one of the virtues we were taught was justice." Misty adds. "You have our word that if no one else steps up to answer the questions we all have and bring Ainara's killer to justice, I will play the detective role myself."

"Me too...Ainara wouldn't want us to stop performing because of a setback." Ash vows. "While she isn't physically here to watch the fruits of our hard work, she's watching over us from the holy realm, as the troupe's guardian angel."

"I still plan to play my role in tonight's play." Serena vows. "If anything, let this performance help begin the healing process for all of us--Ainara will always live on in our hearts, and our memories."

Midori smiles as she sees the group has each passed a secret Luck check. "As the four of you each talk in turn, the other actors realize you're right--dedicating this show to Ainara's memory seems like the best thing to do. So the actors all hurry to their places, and the lights flash the five minute warning--the show is going on after all!"

She explains "Since the scripts you guys wrote are way better than the scripts in the adventure book, we'll use those instead. You can perform as much or as little of the scripts as you want for the live audience and the chat. For every scene you do perform, I'll be secretly rolling a Luck check on a d10. When you've performed all the parts you want to perform, I'll tell you what the audience thinks of it by averaging all the Luck checks. 1 is terrible, a 5 is a decent show, and a 10 is an amazing show. Of course, the live audience and the chat can affect the review as well."

"That's fair." Serena grins as the group gets up from the table on a pedestal near stage right, and walks over to the main stage while Midori adjusts the camera filming the livestream to capture the group's in universe performance.

After debating which scenes from their first script they wish to do, then informing the orchestra which music to play, Brock gets back into character while Ash, Misty, and Serena hurry to change costumes. "Good evening, everyone. Tonight, the Fantasia Theater wishes to share a thrilling tale of a warrior from the far off land of Ransei, and how a clever mind bested raw power. So please enjoy 'The Tale of Ryutaro'."

The real audience applauds before the orchestra starts an ancient Kantonian melody for the overture. "In a certain village lived a young man named Ryota, who had near superhuman strength--he could pick up massive boulders as easily as a piece of grass, and pull up trees by their roots as easily as picking a flower." Brock narrates over the music. "Because of his god-like strength, the villagers affectionately called him Ryutaro, which means 'dragon boy'."

Awed chatter fills the auditorium. "One day, the village priest informed Ryutaro that a huge martial arts tournament was being held in the capital in honor of the empress' birthday." Brock went on. "One of the warriors, a man named Kokanja, had heard of Ryutaro's amazing strength, and had issued a challenge for him."

He explained to the audience "Now, Kokanja was a master of the Raikou style of martial arts, and had lines out the door at his dojo. He regularly competed in tournaments large and small, and some said that he had never lost a match."

Fearful murmurs drifted down the rows at this. "The priest told Ryutaro that the choice was his to accept the challenge--if he did not want to accept it, he was not being forced to accept." Brock explained. "Ryutaro replied that he did not fear Kokanja, nor did he fear a demon or monster. The priest smiled and said that before he left for the Aiiro City, he should at least ask Arceus' protection..." He let that hang as the orchestra finished the overture.

Ash--now in blue fighter's garb--arrived in the stage area. After stretching for a moment, he addressed the audience. "It's cool today...but I don't mind. Part of training in the Gyarados style is learning to resist the cold. Although Arceus has granted me great strength and courage, I know better than to brag. All I can do is continue to hone these divine gifts, and grow ever stronger."

Just then, Serena--now in a pale yellow robe with gold Beautifly trim--arrived in the scene. "Good day, sir warrior--where might you be bound?" she asked. "Are you maybe going to the capital for the tournament?"

"I am, good lady--one of the other fighters has issued me a challenge, and I intend to meet it!" Ash smiled back.

"Was Kokanja the one that issued the challenge?" Serena asked. "Be warned, brave warrior--I have heard his Raikou style arts are second to none!"

The orchestra started another ancient melody for effect. Every heart has desires hidden deep within, Ash sang in character over the ancient instruments.
But against the Raikou, Gyarados will win!

Boast not, fair warrior, you will face many styles...
Serena sang back in reply.
Has Gyarados faced the Delphox's wiles?

"Delphox? That's a path I have not heard of before..." Ash admitted over the music.

Serena smiled as the orchestra picked up the pace. If you're going down a separate path,
I will not try to stop you;
But if you wish to stay, then be amazed by Kitsune's holy flame!

I cannot blink, I cannot even turn my eyes away...
Ash sang back, shielding his eyes for effect.
Kitsune is beautiful and yet powerful!

Then come! Meet the holy Delphox in battle!
Serena sang in reply, striking a battle pose for effect.

At the table, Midori couldn't help smiling as Ash and Serena pantomimed a martial arts battle in the stage area. Wow...Ash and the gang went all out with these scripts!
 
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Session 11: The First Investigation

As Midori and the audience applaud Ash's and Serena's staged "battle" some time later, a question from the chat gets her attention. "While the adventure does come with some scripts, you don't have to use them, or even perform them in character at all. This is the beauty of this campaign--it's never quite the same campaign twice, so there's plenty of replay value--moreso if you want to write and perform your own scripts."

She looks over at the group. "Do you have more scenes you want to perform? Or are you ready to hear what the critics and the audience thought of the show?"

"We want to do at least Scenes 2 and 3 so Misty can perform." Serena requests. "So two more rolls for those scenes."

"The tournament scene would take too long to perform." Ash agrees.

Midori nods. "Okay...you may continue the show when you're ready."

Brock finds his place in his script. "And so, Ryutaro begged the maiden, whose name was Ayane, to teach him the way of the Delphox. Ayane agreed, and brought him to the Sakan Dojo, where her older sister was the mistress."

Ash and Serena return to the stage area, which is decorated to more or less resemble a dojo and the outer yard. "Here we are--this is my family's dojo."

"It's beautiful..." Ash smiles.

"Let me inform my sister you are here." Serena assures Ash before walking into the "indoor" half of their simple set, where Misty pantomimed sweeping the floor. "Mika-neesan, I have brought a fighter here to train."

"Oh?" Misty asks. "Did he agree to come here, or did you force him to come?"

"We sparred by the roadside, and he genuinely wishes to learn the way of the Delphox." Serena explains. "He is waiting in the yard, if you wish to see him."

"All right--let me put away the broom first." Misty replied.

After setting the broom aside, Misty followed Serena out to the "outdoor" half of the set. "This is Ryutaro." Serena explains over an interlude. "His main path is the path of Gyarados, but wishes to supplement his innate skills with those of Delphox before he reaches the capital."

"I see..." Misty muses before addressing Ash. "Tell me this--are you entering the tournament for your own glory, or do you have a reason to meet warriors from across the land in battle?

"A rival of the Raikou style issued me a challenge." Ash explains. "I plan to meet Raikou's power with Gyarados' speed and Delphox's wiles."

"Is the one that challenged you named Kokanja, by chance?" Misty asks.

"That's the one." Ash replies.

"They say that Kokanja is very powerful--mastering two Pokemon paths may not be enough." Misty cautions. "Are you sure you want to battle someone that strong?"

"I do." Ash replies.

Misty nods. "Very well. Come with me, and we will teach you the cunning power of Delphox."

The orchestra starts an ancient melody as Ash and the girls pantomime a training montage. "Ayane and Mika worked together teaching Ryutaro the way of Delphox--how to unite the opposing elements of fire and water to create steam, and how to use fire to confound and weaken foes, to name a few things." Brock narrates. "Ryutaro proved a diligent student, and before long, it was time for his final test--battling Mika one on one."

He lets that hang as Ash and Misty meet on the "indoor" half of the dojo set. "Ryutaro...you have done well during your training." Misty begins. "You began your journey by defeating my little sister Ayane...and now your journey ends by facing me in battle."

She strikes a battle pose as the orchestra begins some Gekijou fight music. "Now, show me what you've learned about the Delphox's fire!"

---------

"All right... Midori smiles as she finishes calculating the audience reaction some time later. "The people of Abbyvale are enthralled by the high flying adventure--they don't even know of the tragedy that happened offstage."

The group--now back in their character costumes--cheers at this. "So how did we do on a scale of 1 to 10?" Misty asks.

"The show was a 9." Midori smiles back. "If the critics had anything bad to say at all, it was just a few minor nitpicks."

She intones "But now that your first play is over, you can begin investigating what happened to your beloved impresaria. And the best place to start is the troupe's caravan."

---------

"So what do we, the heroes, know about who or what killed Ainara?" Brock asks Midori.

"You know the following from the Abbyvale guard..." Midori explains. "The cause of death was identified as Arbok bites. The guard in charge of the report noted that he had never seen Arboks act that aggressive before."

"That is weird..." Ash muses.

"This does absolve all the theater performers and crew of suspicion--as theater troupes don't use venomous Pokemon on stage for this exact reason." Midori explains. "If one must be portrayed at all in the storyline, it is a live actor or a puppet. So none of the other actors, crew, or Soraya; the acting impresaria, are suspects."

"Then that means Ainara's killer was from outside the Fantasia." Serena smiles.

Midori nods. "Even though the show was a success, the mood in the caravan is subdued."

"So what happens if the killer is still in the caravan?" Brock asks.

"I will tell you that the killer is still hiding in the caravan." Midori explains. "If you do manage to find her, you subdue her and turn her over to the guard in the morning. But even if you do find and subdue her, she still rigged a lot of traps around the caravan, so it would be best if you disarmed those first, and looked for clues regarding the killer's motive for killing Ainara."

"That works." Ash smiles over some night plains ambiance Midori has cued. "Let's start with Ainara's wagon."

"Okay...Ainara’s personal wagon is parked near the pond, in front of the campfire." Midori explains. "A colorful banner on each side of the wagon advertises the Fantasia Theater in large and elegant letters, surrounded by images that depict some of the most famous actors in costume as their most iconic role--including you guys."

She smiles. "So, what were you guys' iconic roles in this world? Keep in mind that 'The Three Musketeers' and most tales of our world don't exist in this universe..."

"Aw"s and musketeer hat emojis fill the chat as the real world audience and the online audience remember Ash, Misty, and Brock as the Three Musketeers. "Does 'The Tale of Moltres' or some variant thereof exist in this world?" Ash asks.

Midori smiles as she checks her world notes. "Yes, that's one of the few stories in our world that exists in this world. In this world, it's called 'The Ten Jewels of the Phoenix'."

"Then our most iconic roles were all in the same play!" Misty announces. "Meri plays Princess Valencia when the troupe does put that on."

"Larkin narrates the epic adventure as Nikolai, a wandering minstrel." Brock smiles. "He uses one of his more exotic harps for the role."

"Christine plays Yulia, Danil's Braxien companion, in that show." Serena grins.

"...and Aldaron plays Danil, the archer that is the hero of the story." Ash smiles.

"That works." Midori smiles before finding her place in the script. "The door to Ainara's wagon is unlocked--she was clearly planning to return that fateful night."

"Aldaron gently opens the door." Ash reports.

Midori plays the sound effect of a slightly squeaky door. "Ainara's room is just as it was when she left it that fateful night. None of her belongings have been taken or moved. The only thing out of place are two odd flowers at the entrance with their pollen bulbs empty."

After rolling a successful Magic Lore check, Ash reports "Aldaron recognizes these flowers as Dreampods, who are named for their sleep inducing pollen. Luckily, these two pose no threat, as their pollen bulbs are empty."

"So did Ainara's killer plant these, and wait for their bulbs to fill so she could put Ainara to sleep?" Brock muses.

Midori smiles--Brock has found a clue! "While these Dreampods pose no threat now, you do want to uproot them before their pollen bulbs fill again."

"Christine cuts down the spent Dreampods, pulls them up, and takes them to the trash heap to burn them." Serena reports as Midori sets up the next part of the investigation...
 
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Session 12: The Vision of Tragedy


"Is there anything else of interest in Ainara's wagon?" Brock asks as Midori notes the cut Dreampods.

"Ainara's faithful Espeon, Galina, is here." Midori explains, adding a sleeping Espeon into the scene of the impresaria's wagon. "She is aware her master has joined Arceus in heaven--but if you ask very nicely, she could offer a clue as to who or what brought her master to a tragic fate."

Inspired, Brock starts a relaxed melody on his guitar. "Larkin tries coaxing Galina awake with one of her favorite songs."

Sure enough, the sleeping Espeon on the screen wakes up. "Oh...Sir Larkin, it's just you." Midori smiles with a feigned yawn in the role of Galina. "Is anyone else in danger, or has anyone else met the same tragic fate as my mistress?"

"That's what we're trying to figure out, Lady Galina." Brock replies in character. "We want to protect the rest of the troupe, figure out who slew your mistress, and learn why they committed such a horrible crime. At the same time, we will make sure the show will go on, for your mistress' sake."

"Can you see anything that would help us figure out who would kill your mistress?" Misty asks. "That, or any other traps they may have left?"

"That, or where this person or being is?" Ash asks.

The ruby on the Espeon's head glows in response to Ash's question. "The one who slew my master hides here in the camp." Midori replies as Galina. "You have disarmed one of her traps already, but another--some thorny vines--remains in the forest. They have already slain two more Arboks she planned to unleash, and kill many more of the troupe."

"Can you see who this person was?" Misty asks.

The ruby on the Espeon's head glows again. "Her name was Nemma." Midori replies as Galina "She apparently believes the town is damaging nature, and is willing to wipe out entire cities in the name of nature."

"So, a fanatical druid turned up to 11?" Serena asks.

"What would the Fair Folk have to say about this?" Ash wonders.

"We all know that some fey do harm, but the majority of fey mean to help." Midori explains as Galina. "What we need to do now is find Nemma's last known location, find out what she planned to accomplish by killing my mistress, and rally the Fair Folk to our cause--as they do not take kindly to what Nemma has done. Once we earn the favor of the fey, we can then deal with Nemma, and avenge my mistress."

"Where is Nemma now? Can you sense her?" Brock asks.

"I can...she is hidden in one of the prop storage wagons, biding her time." Midori replies as Galina. "I shudder to find out what her next move will be."

"Maybe, if we can rally some of the other actors to help us out, and the fey, we can find out if this is worse than a single fanatical druid." Misty suggests. The audience applauds in approval.

Midori smiles--Galina is actually your ally. "I will do my best to help in this matter as well--I fear that other troupes, no, the world, may be at stake!"

As herself, she tells the group "You now have ownership and custody of Ainara's Espeon, Galina--she will prove a valuable ally for your adventures."

"I will care for and look after Galina as her new master." Brock offers. "For Ainara's sake."

Applause goes up at the fanfare announcing an ally has joined the group. "Galina is a powerful Espeon--as Ainara trained her to battle as much as perform. So if you're struggling in a battle, or need information on your opponents before a fight, she can help you."

Brock nods. "Galina...I promise I will use my song to protect you, the rest of the troupe, and the world."

"I will stay here while you investigate." Midori replies as Galina. "If I sense something, I will let you all know!"

---------

"This small clearing—no more than a widening in the path through the thick woods—contains a small pile of leaves a few feet in diameter with a thin blanket. Next to the leaves rests a small backpack emblazoned with a green patch. The stream burbles merrily nearby." Midori reads over some night forest ambiance, complete with a babbling brook.

"Christine looks in the bag." Serena reports.

"You find a highly detailed map Nemma made of Abbyvale and the surrounding areas." Midori reads. "While not as fully detailed as a survey map, this map is a valuable clue to your investigation. Nemma has made very detailed notes about different locations all over the map, most notably on the Fantasia Theater. The detail on the movements of the actors and crew is highly accurate."

Ash swallows hard. "This is evidence--we need to give this to Soraya, or the guard!"

One of the percussionists starts a soft beat on a frame drum as Midori sets the scene for the fey encounter. "The sound of flutes, fiddles, and lutes echoes across the camp from the meeting fire, where many of the other actors, dancers, and musicians have been waiting for word that it is safe for them to return to their wagons. But now, many of the musicians and dancers have formed two concentric rings, with the musicians and clapping onlookers on the outside, and the dancers dancing on the inside. The audience they are dancing for, however, is different than anything you have seen before--a pair of two fairies, who watch the spectacle with smiles of approval as the dancers weave and whirl in the inner circle."

She projects an image of a male and a female fairy in the festive scene of the troupe camp. "Oh, are you part of this merry band yourselves?" she asks as the female fairy.

"We are, good lady." Serena replies as she locates her mandolin near her place at the table. "If you like, we can share a song for our dancers."

Excited whispers fill the auditorium as the others locate their instruments to join in the soft beat. "By now, the previous song is over, and applause fills the air." Midori explains. "This is your chance to please the fey in your audience by playing something for the dancers to dance to. As you locate your instruments, the dancers wait to find out what kind of tune you're going to perform."

"Swellow's Tail..." Brock whispers, spurring the others to get ready as he snaps a few times to count the group off...
 
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