Date: June 10, 1883
Location: Cupridrago Overlook
As last night’s sky engulfed us in slumber, a sense of restlessness prevailed among the crew. Needing little sleep, I noticed Amaya wandered the ship in a state of awe and curiosity, touching every surface with wonderment. Her presence sparks a sense of intrigue among us all.
Then, in the midst of our peaceful dreams as the sun came up, the tranquility was shattered by a sudden exclamation from Giada Masai. "Cannon balllll!" she shouted, followed by a resounding splash and a rocking of the ship. Startled awake, we scrambled to gather our wits and determine our course of action. Rundi, ever the stealthy infiltrator, ascended the mast to discreetly interrogate Luna in the crow's nest, hoping to extract information about the whereabouts of our companions. Luna reminded her that most of the crew had departed to investigate the mysterious red flash and the appearance of an unknown ship. Our ship felt eerily empty in their absence.
Amaya, in her introspective manner, delved deep within herself in search of insight, but her introspection proved fruitless. It was then that Mim approached her, bearing a thoughtful gift—a ladybug charm for good luck. Touched by this gesture, Amaya felt a surge of gratitude and happiness, knowing she had found a true friend in our midst. Encouraged by this newfound connection, she attempted to tap into her inner knowledge once more, sensing that her people might have journeyed northward, toward the majestic mountains that loomed on the horizon.
Our resident meteorologist, Jay, endeavored to predict the conditions that lay ahead. Today he felt a breeze blowing from both the north and the south, leaving us with a sense of uncertainty mingled with anticipation. Alas, his forecasts are not always accurate. Meanwhile, Mim, took it upon herself to scoure the map room in search of any clue or document that could guide us on our path. Amidst a sea of parchments, she stumbled upon descriptions of a place called Cupridrago Overlook, located in the northern region. It seemed as if all signs were pointing us in that direction. Quinn assumed the helm and set a course.
Along the way, Cyán, now fully rejuvenated, delighted our senses with a breakfast feast that surpassed anything we had tasted in months. His culinary skills breathed life into our weary bodies and fueled our spirits for the journey ahead.
The journey to Cupridrago Overlook proved to be a formidable test of our resolve and fortitude. Disembarking from The Beholder, we found ourselves confronted with a treacherous path, winding its way up the mountain. Jay initially noted heat signatures, but as luck would have it, his predictions proved wrong once again, as a powerful gust of wind swept through the terrain. To shield ourselves from the relentless wind, we huddled closely behind the sturdy bodies of Giada and L., who acted as our walking windbreaks. Despite the arduous conditions, we pressed onward. The diminutive protector of our group battled exhaustion, but we refrained from drawing attention to his momentary weakness, silently offering our support.
As we ascended, our eyes caught sight of a temple in the distance, its grandeur beckoning us forward. Along the path leading to the temple, a series of small shrines or offerings stood, tempting us with their treasures. At the first bend, we encountered a humble altar adorned with a pile of gleaming gold. A plaque written in a language unfamiliar to us greeted our gaze. It was Mim, our esteemed linguist, who stepped forward, and to our amazement, the language on the plaque morphed to match the reader's native tongue. It conveyed a powerful message: "Beware the allure of gilded riches. True wealth lies not in material possessions, but in the richness of one's character. Those who succumb to greed shall find their fortune fleeting." Amaya, ever attuned to the wisdom of her instincts, knew precisely what was required. With a determined gesture, she removed her own gold earring and placed it on the shrine, setting an example for us all. Inspired by her selflessness, the rest of us followed suit. Mim contributed a piece of silver jewelry, Quinn offered one of her cherished quills, and even Napoleon, our esteemed general, parted with his precious "glitter" [his shed fur]. Amaya generously compensated for those unable to provide by placing her second gold earring alongside her initial offering. Only Cyán, with his agile fingers, succumbed to the allure of the gold, discreetly pocketing a piece. However, keen-eyed L. spotted the deception and swiftly returned the coin to its rightful place without Cyán's knowledge. Our spirits buoyed by this act of unity, we pressed onward.
At the second bend, our path revealed an altar adorned with a gleaming chalice, brimming with a sparkling elixir. The accompanying plaque issued a cautionary warning: "Quench not your thirst with illusions of grandeur. This elixir offers naught but fleeting mirages. True victory lies in the courage to face adversity without succumbing to the lure of empty triumph." Both Leo and Cyán collected a vial of the elixir.
The third bend presented us with a sight of an ornate scepter, with alluring precious gemstones, and yet another plaque. It offered a profound lesson: "Power lies not in the grasp of a scepter, but in the strength of one's convictions. Beware false promises of authority, for those who wield power without wisdom shall be bound by their own tyranny." Amaya's gaze lingered upon the scepter, but she wisely resisted its temptations. However, when Leo reached out to retrieve the artifact, Napoleon sprang into action, interposing himself to prevent its acquisition. Leo, explaining his intentions of returning the item to its rightful owner, found understanding in our ranks. Mim, after revisiting the plaque, deduced that the changing language meant the items were intentionally placed here, and the owner was likely aware of their presence. L. concurred and we left the scepter alone.
At the final bend in the path, an altar awaited us, bearing a resplendent crown bedazzled with rare gems, resting upon a plush purple pillow. Its accompanying plaque delivered a powerful message: "Let not the trappings of authority blind your judgment. A crown does not make a leader; it is the strength of character and compassion that earns the loyalty of others. Beware false claims of sovereignty." Rundi, captivated by the silky soft pillow, could not resist reaching for it. In a fumbling attempt to preserve the delicate balance, Cyán tried to hold the crown in place but inadvertently caused it to teeter towards his own head. In a stroke of magical prowess, Rundi swiftly swatted the falling crown back into its rightful position, skillfully retrieving the irresistible pillow.
As we finally reached the crest of the path, a figure draped in long robes stood before us, extending a cautious greeting. Mim, always the voice of diplomacy, swiftly conveyed our purpose, explaining that we had visited the ancient copper temple and sought assistance in our quest to defeat Carver Grimwood, who currently held the heartstone needed to return Amaya to her home. To our surprise, the being, referring to Amaya as a sister, expressed interest in aiding us but posed a test to prove our trustworthiness. Each of us was offered a temptation, the price for which was betraying our comrades.
Amaya was tempted with the promise of reuniting with her people, finding peace in a lasting afterlife, and a resting soul. However, she firmly declined, acknowledging her desire but refusing to forsake the genuine love and friendship shown to her by our group.
Jay, faced with the allure of regaining the wind beneath his wings and the eternal grace of flight, stood steadfast in his loyalty, recognizing that turning against his friends was not worth the personal gain and he was content with creating wind with his wings.
Leo, enticed by the prospect of knowledge encompassing the stars and acquiring the speed of a hare, the cunning of a serpent, and the might of a lion, remained content with his current abilities. He understood that true strength lay in the bonds forged with our companions, rather than in limitless power.
Mim, offered recognition and validation for her linguistic mastery, alongside an everlasting legacy, demonstrated unwavering confidence in her own abilities and resisted the temptation, confident she could forge her own path to greatness.
Napoleon, already acquainted with respect and admiration as a renowned leader of great armies, saw no allure in betraying his friends for further recognition. He declined the offer, firmly rooted in his commitment to loyalty.
Quinn, faced with the temptation of an almighty forge capable of shaping armor and weaponry to protect her kin, rejected the offer with, "If there's one thing that being a CATALYSTS has taught me, it's that small acts of protection can be just as impactful as large ones."
Rundi expressed a simple desire for a room filled with pillows, while L. wished to fit in, Cyán, yearned to become a famous chef, and Giada longed for the life she could have lived if she knew that her family was going to betray her. Despite the varying nature of these desires, we all held fast to our commitment, refusing to turn against one another.
Impressed by our unwavering loyalty and the strength of our bonds, the being declared that we had shown commitment and honor, gaining her trust. However, before she would lend us her aid, she presented us with a riddle and one final test:
"In a palace of copper, I am adorned,
A person of strength, yet in failure I've mourned.
In ancient tales, a legend true,
A creature rare, yet known by few.
I find respite in mountains, secluded and high,
Beneath my gaze, my folly lies.
Still, in riddles and puzzles, I take delight,
Testing your wit, both day and night.
So, tell me, brave travelers, if the answer, you find,
In this grand adventure, what creature am I?
I stand here bare, doffing bravado,
Declare if you dare, the beast of Cupridrago."
With those words, the being transformed into a colossal copper dragon, hovering in the air, commanding us to prove our combat prowess by fighting her. The mighty creature unleashed her formidable powers upon us, seeking to determine our worthiness. The battlefield was filled with perilous obstacles and our own party members faced numerous challenges, yet we stood united, determined to emerge victorious.
As the battle commenced, Valtarian unleashed a sparkling, amber gas that intoxicated the air. Its effects slowed down Napoleon, Mim, and Jay, hindering their movements. In a swift act of camaraderie, Amaya handed her protective talisman to Mim while conjuring an illusionary infestation around the dragon. Napoleon, quick to seize the opportunity, fired two crossbow bolts, landing accurate hits on Valtarrian. Quinn, wielding her longsword with reckless abandon, managed to strike the dragon twice, but in her fervor, she fell into quicksand and began sinking.
Jay, undeterred by the challenging circumstances, conjured an ice knife and hurled it at the dragon, hitting her with precision. However, Leo, having collected a vial of the elixir earlier, suffered the consequences as its top blew off, poisoning him. Despite the poison coursing through his veins, Leo transformed into his starry archer form, calling upon the power of lightning to strike the dragon.
The effects of the amber gas gradually wore off on our comrades, enabling them to regain their full strength. However, Valtarian, with cunning words, taunted us, hoping that our friends would come to our aid. She then launched a brutal assault, biting and clawing at the party, while her powerful wings created forceful winds, deflecting Napoleon's crossbow bolts and causing Quinn to sink further into the quicksand. Cyán, finding himself in the treacherous quicksand, managed to stay afloat but suffered a critical failure when the dragon unleashed her acid breath, resulting in immense damage.
Rundi managed to land her daggers on the dragon, while L., still shaken by the acid breath, struggled to connect with their attacks. As the dragon flapped her massive wings once again, Giada was knocked down, and in a vicious assault, Valtarian bit and clawed at Cyán, causing him to fall unconscious. However, true to the nature of the test, Valtarian used her magic to stabilize Cyán, while L. swiftly administered a healing potion, restoring some of his strength. Yet, as the dragon flapped her wings once more, Cyán fell unconscious again, and Rundi was also knocked down by the powerful gust.
Seizing an opportunity to shift the tide of battle, Mim stepped forward, unnerving the dragon with her unsettling words and invoking a psychic sense of dark loneliness with noone there to regard her, effectively shaming the creature. The overwhelming fear caused Valtarian to retreat over the ledge, disappearing for several turns.
Jay, utilizing his magic, shaped the water within the quicksand, providing assistance to Quinn in her desperate struggle to escape. However, their efforts fell short, prompting Napoleon to employ his telekinetic powers, lifting Quinn free from the sinking sand. With bated breath, we readied our most powerful blows, unleashing a barrage of attacks as Valtarian reappeared, causing significant damage that ultimately brought an end to the grueling battle.
"Enough!" the dragon exclaimed, her voice carrying a mix of awe and respect. In that moment, Cyán, feeling an overwhelming sense of failure and desperation, reached for a patch on his coat of useful things, pulling it and uttering a plea, "I need that quest!" and a scrying orb appeared. Valtarian, now back in her human form, commanded Cyán to approach her, and with trepidation, he scampered up, tail between his legs. Valtarian instructed him to hand over the orb, which she will use to watch and protect us to make sure we are fully ready to face the challenge of recovering the heartstone.
Now in her human form, she asked Rundi to return the pillow she had taken from the shrine. Anxiety gripped our hearts, fearing we would face punishment for our actions. However, Valtarian's intentions proved to be far different than what we anticipated. With a solemn expression, Valtarian returned the pillow to Rundi, but this time it bore a valuable tool—a compass unlike any other. This compass did not point north, but rather to the core of the heartstone, the very object Carver Grimwood possesses. She went on to say that Carver, had obtained the heartstone, a powerful artifact responsible for maintaining the delicate balance between life and death, after a circle of mages had weaponized the heartstone, and literally shattered the hearts of her and her people. And so, Amaya has been unable to return home because she could not find the stone.
The consequences of the heartstone falling into the wrong hands are dire. It could serve as a dangerous focus, enabling the resurrection of life where it should not be. Valtarian explained that it is crucial for us to retrieve the heartstone, and once we possess it, we are to rendezvous with her at the ancient temple. There, burdened by the weight of her past failures, will offer her own sacrifice as a means of redemption and to bring closure to her people. The significance of our quest became clear—we are entrusted with a mission that holds the fate of realms within its grasp.
As Valtarian finished explaining what we needed to know about who and what we are dealing with, Cyán approached the pools of water before us, discovering that they held remarkable healing properties akin to the water we had encountered at the temple. Valtarian, acting as our guide, led us through the pools, unveiling a hidden chamber of healing and rest. It is in this sanctuary that we have found solace and rejuvenation, preparing ourselves for the arduous journey that awaits us come morning.
May the fates favor us as we forge ahead into the unknown.