The Adventure Never Ends...

The Eight Tasks

 

 The Dreambox

The Fellowship gathers at The Temple. All wear freshly laundered cloaks and carry polished weapons and shields. They are eager to hear what the Supreme Council has to tell them.

The eight have come to introduce themselves and discuss the purpose and object of their Quest. Driven to seek the means by which they might free their homelands and save all the Kingdoms of the World from the encroaching Darkness, they discuss the Legend of Yostwell's Light and vow to seek for its whereabouts. They learn the Rules of Questport and pledge to cooperate with one another so as to complete their mission. 

Mei is chosen as the first Task Hero, due to a dream she had the previous night regarding a small white box that contains vital information regarding the Quest for Yostwell's Light. This is her story...

"I dreamed that I was in a circular room, with walls of shining marble and a high ceiling. Candles were everywhere, and the room was filled with light. All the candles were the same, but their flames shone with every color of the rainbow. In the center of the room was a wide table draped with a white sheet, almost like an altar. There was a  silver candelabra sitting on the cloth, and as I looked at it, it let out a flash of white light and the candles around the room burned even brighter. I only caught a quick glimpse of it, however, because after the light flashed, it shrunk and dwindled, and was swallowed up by a small box. The box was no larger than my fist; made of white porcelain inlaid with gilded patterns. On the top were three perfect roses. Even though the candelabra was totally hidden inside the box, the light of its flames still shone through the sides."

The Fellowship sets forth to find the Dreambox--a challenging task, due to their lack of knowledge of anything about it save its appearance. However, their optimism and strength give them the courage to journey far across Questport to seek their goal.

At first they search in vain, finding no sign of anything resembling the object they are seeking. Coming upon an old farmer, they ask for help. He tells them that although he's never heard of a "Dreambox" before, the Oracle might have an answer to their query.

Indeed, the Oracle has had a vision of where the Dreambox can be found, but he will not share it with them until they present him an offering of the sacred brew. After providing the Oracle with liberal amounts of sacred brew, the Fellowship learns that they must seek the Dreambox at the Stone of Honor. Unfortunately, not one of them has the slightest idea of what that means.

Taking pity on their confusion, the High Priestess of the Oracle tells them that the Stone of Honor can be found beneath the trees of unbloomed flowers. With only these two hints to guide them, The Fellowship finally locates the Dreambox, hidden at the base of an old memorial beneath dying trees. Each of them tries to open the box, but cannot; instead, they return to the Temple with their prize.

The Book of Knowledge 

The next day, the Fellowship gathers at The Temple. They have obtained their signatures and are in costume and character. Mei tries again to open the Dreambox; this time, the small box opens easily in her hands. Inside is a silver key strung upon a white ribbon, and a message telling them that the location of the second key can only be discovered by following the directions found in the Book of Knowledge. Unfortunately, gremlins in the service of The Lord of Angels and Demons have stolen all the pages of the book, and they are now scattered and hidden in books all over Questport. The Fellowship must first REUNITE the book, then follow the directions contained therein, in order to reveal the hidden location of the second key. Spiro is selected as the Task Hero.

 The heroes search the libraries of Questport and--after much research--find all eight pages of the Book of Knowledge. Though the Book has been magically preserved from rot or decay for thousands of years, the spell had not prevented the gremlins from crumpling and ripping the pages. The Book seems to be beyond repair; but with the aid of the Reunite Wand, it is restored.

In answer to the question of how the Fellowship may find the second key, the Book tells of the Secret Keeper, who was chosen from among the Supreme Council to guard the location of the key. She alone of anyone in Questport knows its location.  But the Secret Keeper, who was both proud and beautiful, rebuffed the advances of the mercurial Lord of Angels and Demons. Enraged, the Lord of Angels and Demons cast a spell of utter forgetfulness upon her, and sent his gremlins to steal and deface the Book of Knowledge so that her memory could never be restored.

Deep within the sacred tome's pages, the heroes find a recipe for an Elixir of Remembrance, which should restore the Secret Keeper's lost memories.  After great trials and toil, they assemble all the ingredients and prepare the potion. Despite the Elixir's bitter taste, its magic is true and the Secret Keeper's memory returns.

She gives them a scrap of parchment she had written long ago to encrypt the location of the second key in a rhyme:

The Nectar of the Council grows sweet and wild

The red is full, the white is mild

I pen these words as help to thine

Lest my memory lapse while strolling the vine

 She tells them that the key is hidden within a dazzling, fiery orb, and gives them sincere thanks for restoring her memory. After much thought, the Fellowship decides that the poem is referring to Questport's Vineyard. At once they make haste to the vineyard, where after long hours of searching they discover a golden orb hidden among the bountiful vines. They bring the orb to the Secret Keeper, who opens it to reveal the second key.

The Book of Knowledge

 The Giant's Bones

The Fellowship gathers at The Temple (again). The Lord of the Supreme Council presents them with a page from a decrepit history text:

A Genealogy of Giants

The heroes are very confused, for this has little to do with their quest. No so, says the Lord of the Supreme Council: the third key needed to unlock the Yostwell's Light had been given in secret to King Aralu of the Oaktree Clan for safekeeping. The King hid the key in the one place he believed to be beyond the reach of any mortal: within the depths of the Chalice of Liavel itself. When attacked by the giant Stonefist, King Aralu was killed in his attempt to defend the chalice and the secret of the key.  Not even the elves' spellcasters knew the true significance of what they sought, and it is perhaps for this reason that they were never able to accurately locate the Giant.

The Fellowship, therefore, must find the Chalice of Liavel, for only by locating the lost chalice will they be able to find the missing key. To begin the quest, the Task Hero must cast the Seek Spell at the Altar of the Sun's Shadow. It is hoped that by drawing upon the Altar's power it will be possible to discover some clue as to the whereabouts of the chalice.

Book of Spells #852: Seek

Gawain, who was chosen as the Task Hero, performed the spell; which indicated that the heroes should seek the Eye of the Monster. After some debate, the adventurers decide that this refers to the Ogre's Eye, an old stone hidden deep in the woods. Joined by a pair of friendly Ninjas who volunteer to assist them, the eight heroes travel into the forest and find the stone. To their surprise, words are scrawled on the stone in magical ink. They read:

Help Help The Giant is near BEWARE

30 paces north

Taking this as a confirmation of the giant's whereabouts, the questers and the ninjas walk thirty paces north, which brings them to a tall tree. Before they can begin searching for the next clue, a large red ogre leaps out from behind the tree and attacks them. Fighting heroically, and with great help from the two ninjas, the Fellowship drives off the monster. Searching the area for clues as to where they must go next, they find a small chest hidden among the roots of the tree. Inside the chest, which looks to be very old, is a poem written on crumbling parchment.

 The Giants' Causeway

Though what you seek lies not here

The giant ahead none should fear

Fallen to rest long ago

Naught but crumbling ruins remains of your foe

Emboldened by news of the giant's death, the heroes head towards the Giants' Causeway. Once a wide, paved path that ran from Questport to the Kingdom of Faerie, the Giants' Causeway has now fallen into disuse and neglect. After searching along the old road for some time, the Fellowship discovers a pile of huge rocks in the forest nearby, surmounted by an ancient boulder that reminds several of the heroes of a skull. Ato and Gawain sight a gleaming sea-green cup, tucked beneath a crumbling rock that looks unusually like a hand. The key lies in the heart of the chalice, which gleams and shines like it had been created only yesterday. Flush with success, the questers (and ninjas) return to the Temple with the third key.

 Midnight's Medallion

When the Fellowship reconvenes at the Temple for their fourth Quest, the Lord of the Supreme Council greets them with grave news. The fourth key, which lay hidden in a tree of blood-hued leaves on the outskirts of the village, has been stolen! The key was guarded by Midnight's Medallion, a crystal amulet held sacred by all good spirits of the night. For more than a century, the Medallion kept clear the night, just as its sister, The Talisman of Hope, kept bright the day. But now, the fragile balance between night and day is being challenged by the powers of Darkness, who forever seek to poison the night and darken the day.

Shocked, the heroes vow to track down the thief and regain the key. They search the tree where the relic had been concealed, and find a boastful note left by the thief.

The Thief's First Message

Angered more than ever at the thief's obvious confidence, the Fellowship sets out for the Courts of Tenus, an ancient statue garden in the far south of Questport. But as they approach the main road to the Courts, a figure clad in sable armor leaps out to confront them, brandishing a gleaming sword. It is the fabled Knight of Black Humor, renowned throughout the land for his valor, swordsmanship, and terrible jokes. He tells the heroes that they cannot pass this way: an evil lurks on the road to the Courts that makes the road too perilous for travelers.

Using an alternate route through the forest, the questers quickly arrive at their destination. To their surprise, the Courts are deserted. They search the area thoroughly but find only a scrap of paper as a possible clue to the location of the thief.

The Thief's Second Message

None of the Fellowship have any idea where the Sacred Shrine mentioned in the thief's note could be, but Scorpio believes that it may be in the vicinity of the Ogre's Eye. In a hurry to find the vampire, the heroes dash down the main road leading away from the Courts of Tenus--the very path that the Knight of Black Humor had warned them not to take. Soon they find the way blocked by a gigantic spiderweb woven between two trees. In the center of the web sits a spider the size of a small human, glaring at them with beady red eyes. The spider shoots foul webs at the heroes, trying to ensnare them, but they fight free. The members of the Fellowship slay the monster--though not without difficulty, for its blood is black and poisonous--and hack the web to pieces with their weapons.

After emerging from the forest--to the Knight of Black Humor's surprise--the Fellowship searches for the Sacred Shrine. It is not at the Ogre's Eye, as Spiro had thought, but rather on a green knoll overlooking the path into the forest. The small shrine and the grove around it bear no trace of the vampire; once again, they have come too late to apprehend the thief. After much searching, one of the heroes discovers a crumpled piece of parchment at the base of the shrine.

The Thief's Third Message

The heroes realize that the place the vampire was journeying to next must be the Vineyard, from which the Supreme Council obtains its wine and where the second key was hidden until recently. Again, there is no sign of the thief when they reach their destination, but a search of the vineyard reveals a small scroll hidden among the leaves of one of the vines.

 The Thief's Final Message

It is too late! For many years, Fenris the werewolf has been hunting down vampires and slaying them.  As the Fellowship reads the vampire's message they hear in the distance the eerie sounds of a wolf howling. That, along with the panic evident in the vampire's last note, leaves the Fellowship with few expectations that they will ever find him alive. Their only hope is that Fenris will be so intent upon his revenge that he will care little for anything beyond the deed itself. They decide to search for the vampire's remains, hoping that the Medallion and key with be among them.

Heading nervously in the direction of the sounds, which are emanating from a stand of stunted pine trees, the heroes hope that they will not encounter the werewolf. In the shadows of the trees, they find the vampire's remains--impaled upon a bloody sword and sprinkled with garlic. Averting their eyes from the grisly sight, the heroes spot a torn piece of parchment, emblazoned with dripping letters, that is hanging for a nearby tree.

 The Werewolf's Message

Beneath the vampire's cloak, which was careless tossed aside by Fenris, they find a small black box frosted with glittering stars. Inside is Midnight's Medallion and the fourth key.

 The Talisman of Hope

Reconvening at the Temple the next morning, the Fellowship learns that the fifth key is held by the Fairy Queen, who has been kept in a magical sleep at the Pavilion of the Rising Sun for a hundred years. With lies the Talisman of Hope, which keeps bright the day and guards the key. However, it is death to remove the Talisman without the permission of the Queen, so she must be awakened if the heroes are to obtain the key. The only way to wake her is to sprinkle her with water from the Pool of Life using the Sun's Flower while singing the Wake-Up Song.

Tulip is chosen as the Quest Hero, but due to her diminutive size, it is necessary for her to have a Champion carry out some of her tasks for her. Ato is selected as the champion. The Fellowship searches the gardens of Questport and find a small patch of golden plants that they identify as the Sun's Flower.

However, an unforeseen problem has arisen. The Pool of Life is far outside the boundaries of Questport, deep within the lands of darkness. The journey is far too arduous for even a group of heroes to attempt alone. Fortunately, they are able to hire a Guide, who agrees to lead them along the perilous path for a relatively low price. Stepping through the protective enchantments that encircle Questport and keep it safe from the powers of evil, the adventurers enter the Darkness in what was once the Kingdom of Faerie. The road is dark and dangerous, and the heroes are forced to stop and hide several times as minions of the Darkness prowl past. With bated breath they sneak past a village of ogres, which survives amid the desolation because its inhabitants swore an oath of eternal servitude to the Master of Darkness.

After hours of perilous journeying--although they do not know how long, for the sun is blotted out by the Darkness--the heroes come upon a crumbling stone bridge that leads across the deep Dark River. But before any of them can set on foot on the bridge, a ogre leaps out of the shadows with a ferocious roar. He raises a huge club and bellows that the bridge is his territory, and he will kill anyone who comes near it. Even the sharpest weapons and most powerful spells merely glance off his thick hide, and the heroes retreat hurriedly.

Regrouping, they return to the bridge with a new strategy. Tulip and Shadowa play their magic flutes, putting the ogre to sleep--but to their chagrin, the rest of the Fellowship falls into a deep sleep as well! The two pipers wake their friends, and they quickly move on, leaving behind the sleeping ogre. Beyond the Dark River is the fearsome Road of Swiftly-Flying Death, once a grand highway but now a cracked ruin. The heroes cross this very fast, before the deadly Angry Metal Birds can rend them to pieces.

When the members of the Fellowship arrive at the gates leading to the Pool of Life, they realize to their horror that the entrance is closed with a mighty spell that is beyond their power to break. A wizard appears nearby and offers to help, but his counterspell involves consuming vast quantities of cheese, of which the heroes are sadly lacking. The wizard instead calls upon his assistant, the Bespectacled Gnome of Spell-Breaking, who, despite a moment of stage fright, dissolves the enchantment.

Stepping through the gates, the Fellowship finds the Fairy Queen laying in a pavilion at the edge of the Pool of Life. Tulip dips the Sun's Flower in the pool and sprinkles the pure water over the queen. Ato reads the incantation that the Lord of the Supreme Council had given them, and Tulip sings the Wake-Up Song.

Incantation 

The Fairy Queen slowly awakes,and is alarmed to find a group of armed strangers standing around her. Suspicious of these ragged rogues and what their motive to awake her was, she decides to test their faith and companionship. Imperiously, she commands them to cross the Pool of Life on a bridge of gossamer without falling. The eight heroes, drawing on the bonds of companionship they have forged through their adventures, work together to help each other across the narrow bridge.

Satisfied that their hearts are pure, the Fairy Queen relinquishes the fifth key, as well as the Talisman of Hope. Vowing to return to the Kingdom of Faerie and combat the evil Darkness that has devoured her lands, she gives the heroes her sincerest thanks for awakening her from the enchanted sleep.

Here There Be Dragons

The Fellowship learns that the sixth key, like the second, has been entrusted to a member of the Supreme Council. However, the Council Members are so wary of the keys falling into the wrong hands that they have been forbidden to speak of its location unless asked directly. It falls to Scorpio, the day's Quest Hero, to ask each member of the Council in turn whether he or she has possession of the key and if he or she will hand it over.

The Fellowship interrogates the two Council members who are in Questport that day, but neither the Chief Builder nor the Princepia Altoratrix has the key. Eventually they discover a third Council member passed out in the tavern, surrounded by empty bottles of mead and ale. Nothing they do can awake him. The heroes therefore go to see the Apothecary, who gives them a sparking, fizzy Awakening Potion.

Using the potion, they wake the Council Member and ask if he has the sixth key. Shaking his head--a bit shocked from the effects of the Awakening Potion--he tells them that he has just recently lost all his possessions, including the key and a brilliant diamond,  to a rogue scoundrel in a poker game. He had four aces, but his opponent had five. He had no idea that there were nine aces in a deck! Now he realizes that the scoundrel was really an agent sent by the powers of Darkness  to capture the key, and thus thwart the efforts of the Fellowship to restore the Yostwell's Light to the world.

In response to the Fellowship's persistent questions, he says vaguely that he thinks the rogue might have gone off in the direction of the Mapliway. Yawning hugely, the Council Member falls back to sleep, and all efforts to wake him again are in vain.

The heroes set off down the Mapliway, the broad highway that leads out of Questport. Their hearts are heavy, for they believe that the rogue must have left Questport for the lands of Darkness. Therefore, they will once again need to journey into the devastated lands beyond Questport's borders.

Just before they reach the edge of the Darkness, a tall knight in a red cloak approaches and stands in their path. Waving his sword threateningly, he tells them that they may not pass this way--they must collect three tokens from around the Altar of the Sun's Shadow first.

A search of the area around the Altar of the Sun's Shadow reveals a small stone dragon, a playing card, and a dead butterfly. The Fellowship returns to the knight, who allows them to pass after he is given the stone dragon.  The heroes enter the Darkness, along with their Guide, who has once again agreed to lead them safely through the shadowy lands.

After traveling through the darkened forest for a while, they encounter a knight in sinister black armor. Fearing that he is a minion of the darkness, the members of the Fellowship ready their weapons--only to relax as the knight cracks a truly dreadful joke. It is the Knight of Black Humor again! After tormenting them with several more awful jokes, he accepts the playing card as a token and allows them to pass. The knight also tells them that he saw a strange, suspicious-looking fellow pass through yesterday. The suspicious person had taken the eastern road from the crossroads up ahead.

 The questers follow the eastern road through the remnants of the woods, and eventually emerge in the ruins of what was once a proud village of wood-elves. A lone figure is dancing among the crumbling houses, waving a sash gaily patterned with flowers.Struck by what a bizarre picture this is amid the destruction and darkness, the Fellowship approaches cautiously. The strange person breaks off from her dancing to introduce herself, amid giggles and snatches of song, as the Knight of the Beautiful Morn. Accepting the butterfly as a token, she tells them that a roguish-looking person had passed this way barely a day ago and taken the dangerous road towards the Home of Dragons.

 With trepidation, the Fellowship also follows this road, leaving the Knight of the Beautiful Morn to continue her dance. After a few minutes of walking, they spy a crust of bread and an apple core left behind on a rock--a sure sign that someone had passed this way recently! As they continue along the road, they see worrisome signs posted along the way: "Beware of Dragons", "Dragon Lair Ahead", "Wrong Way! if you don't want to be eaten", "Go Back! This is your last chance".

Just then, the Fellowship notices a crumpled piece of paper lying in the center of the trail. Unfolding it, they find it to be a discarded note from the thief!

The Rogue's Letter

Clearly, in his eagerness to return to his master, the scoundrel sought to take a short cut through the Home of the Dragons.  All may have been well had he left the diamond hidden, but he was a greedy man and clearly coveted the mighty gem.  It seemed that as he walked, he foolishly began to polish the diamond, heedless of the fact that he was passing through dragon territory. As they cautiously approach the area, the Fellowship realize what a mistake this had been.  They find the Rouge's pack lying scorched and discarded just outside the Home of Dragons, its contents rifled through and strewn all over the area. There is no sign of the key, the diamond or the rogue. However, above the dragon's lair is a message whose meaning could not be mistaken. It reads:

"Do not meddle in the affairs of Dragons..."

 Knowing that they are drawing closer to their quarry, the heroes hasten onwards along the path. Soon they come to a wide clearing in the midst of the forest, surrounded by tangled vines and brambles. In the center is a vast pile of gold and gems.

Hoping that the dragon will not return, the Fellowship decide to search through its hoard in order to find the missing key and gem. However, no sooner had they begun to do this then the Dragon itself appears and a great battle begins. The dragon's flames are scorching, and its scaly hide dulls and chips their weapons. However, relying mostly on magic to confuse and distress the dragon, they succeed in driving it off.

But no sooner had the heroes touched a single gem in the hoard when another dragon--slightly smaller than the previous one--swoops in, roaring and blowing flames. Not eager to fight another dragon, the Fellowship hurriedly grabs the likeliest-looking chest of treasure and retreat.

Luck is with the eight heroes, for the chest that they had made off with contains--among many other ancient coins and priceless gems--the Council Member's gigantic diamond and the sixth key.

Lost in the Darkness

Since being woken from her long sleep, the Fairy Queen has been sending her fairies all over the world, trying to discover information that might hinder the Darkness and assist the Fellowship in their quest for the Yostwell's Light. But it is with solemn news that she returns to the Temple . The sacred Everpure Fountain, source of much of the world's water and resting place of the seventh key, has been tainted by the Master of Darkness. The water is now so contaminated and foul that any who touches it will die a most awful death. Only the Heart of the Earth itself is powerful enough to purify the water once again, and it is hidden deep beneath Questport within the catacombs of the Great Cavern, where no minions of the darkness would ever dare step foot.

Emmy is chosen as the Quest Hero, and she leads the rest of the Fellowship to the catacombs. But all the tunnels are pitch-black, without the usual spirit candles to light the way; the footing is treacherous, and several of the heroes nearly fall. When they reach the central cavern, where the Heart of the Earth rests, the cave is completely dark and eerily silent. The Heart of Earth, overtaxed by the struggles to keep the balance of nature in the face of so much Darkness, has gone out.

Shocked, the Fellowship returns to the world above. They talk to many sages and wizards, but not one of them knows how to restore the Heart of the Earth. In the end, it is the Fairy Queen who again comes to their aid. It is spoken of in old legends, she tells them, that if the balance of nature is disrupted, a ceremonial dance around the Maypole will restore it again. Eager to explore this clue, the Fellowship rush to find this strange Maypole, which has appeared near the Sacred Groves of Questport.

Indeed, this is no ordinary ceremonial pole, but rather an ancient relic that weaves the Fabric of Life itself. The spirits that guard the Maypole invite the Fellowship to take part in their dance. Some agree more readily than others, but eventually all eight heroes join in the dance. As they weave the colorful ribbons into fabric in their dance, the questers see that the Maypole is glowing with a soft light.

When the members of the Fellowship return to the Great Cavern, they are greatly relieved to find that the spirit candles once again light the way through the dark caves. When they reach the deepest cavern, they are awed by a spectacular display of shining lights, all of which emanate from a beautifully-carved cube of crystal: the Heart of Earth.

The heroes take the Heart from its pedestal and set off to find the Everpure Fountain. According to the Fairy Queen, it lies just outside of Questport, on the banks of the Dark River. As such, the Fellowship is accompanied by those who can see the path through the Darkness: the two brave ninjas they had met before, and a pair of valiant hobbits. 

They soon reach the Dark River, a swiftly-flowing expanse of  shadowy water. By its western bank sits a tiny stone fountain--carved with mystical runes and strange patterns--that is filled with a sludgy substance that seems to be more swamp mud than water.

But once the Heart of Earth is placed amid the poisoned liquid, a great flash of light goes up and the water turns as clear and sparkling as the finest crystal. Lying in the depths of the now-purified fountain is the seventh key.

 Unseen Runes

In order to retrieve the last key, the Fellowship is forced to make a dangerous bargain with the King of Thieves and Assassins. Through his network of spies, the King has learned the secret location of the eighth key, but he will only give up the information at a price. For many years, the King has greatly coveted the Harp of Remorse, a magical treasure whose music is said to banish all greed and selfishness in those who hear it. The King believes he can use the power of the Harp to undermine his rivals, leaving him the unchallenged chieftain of all who pillage and plunder.  Caring little about the encroaching Darkness or the noble intentions of the Fellowship, the King demands the Harp in payment for his information. He will accept nothing else.

Desperate for some clue as to the whereabouts of the Harp, which has been lost for centuries, the Fellowship turns to the Book of Knowledge for help. They ask the question: How may we find the Harp of Remorse?  In the book, two new pages appear...

Unseen Runes

The Fellowship is stymied by the blank page that apparently contains the clue, and spend much time staring at the page in bafflement. Suddenly Spiro remembers that the Lord of Angels and Demons once had a wand that could make invisible words and messages appear. Desperate to try anything that might lead them closer to finding the Harp of Remorse, the Fellowship--led by Ato, the quest hero--sets off to seek the Lord of Angels and Demons.

The great lord is pleased to see them--or so he says--but unfortunately cannot lend the wand to them: it is far too precious to be just given away for free. But he has another idea: he was planning to go on a romantic picnic with The Sphinx later that day--he has finally gotten over the Secret Keeper--and if the Fellowship could help him set up the picnic, he might let them borrow the wand for a short--very short--while.

Happy to have a relatively easy and nonthreatening task, the heroes head off to the markets of Questport. They aren't sure what a sphinx would like to eat--and none of them wants to suggest that Spiro's Demon Bunny, the Lord of Angels and Demons' favorite treat, becomes a part of the meal. Improvising, they lay out a picnic of cheese, apples and other fruits, roast chicken, ketchup, corn chips and salsa, and mead. The Lord of Angels and Demons pronounces himself satisfied with their efforts, and grants the wand to them for a short time.

Returning to the Temple, the questers tap the blank page in the the Book of Knowledge. At once, strings of incomprehensible runes appear. They are such ancient symbols that even the Lord of the Supreme Council and the Head Scholar cannot make sense of them--although the Lord of the Supreme Council does know where they can buy a Cipher Wheel that may allow them to read the runes.

Some time and a lot of gold coins later, the Fellowship obtains the Cipher Wheel. At first they still can't understand the runes--until they realize that they are reading the wheel backwards. The translating process goes much smoother after that, and the heroes soon are holding a set of directions that should lead them to the Harp of Remorse! 

They follow the directions through the woods of Questport, knowing that with each step they are drawing nearer to their goal. But suddenly a strange form leaps out of the shadows to bar their way. It is The Sphinx! Like all sphinxes, she will only allow them to pass if they can answer her riddle correctly. Though it takes some time, the heroes eventually work it out, and continue on their journey.

Deep in the heart of the forest, they find a small, battered-looking package concealed beneath the roots of an oak tree. When they unwrap the rough cloth, they discover a beautiful harp. Flush with success, the heroes turn back towards the village, hoping to find the King of Thieves and Assassins near there. But instead a huge knight in black armor strides out to face them. Swinging a mighty sword, he demands the harp from them. The Knight of Black Humor has turned rogue!

The Fellowship sends the evil knight fleeing, however, and returns to the King of Thieves and Assassins with the harp, as promised. Delighted to finally have the Harp in his possession, the King of Thieves and Assassins cannot help but stoke its delicate strings. Surprisingly, the heroes hear no music at all. However, a look of desperate sorrow crosses the King's face. He has fallen victim to the power of the Harp! Finally aware of the misery his actions have brought upon others, the King vows never again to steal from or harm any individual. As a token of his good faith, he presents them with the eighth key, which had been in his keeping the entire time.

The Journey's End