The Adventure Never Ends...

 Cataclysm

Having received urgent letters from the Lord of the Supreme Council, the Fellowship reunites at the World's End, where only last year they had imprisoned the villainous Prince of Shadows and Illusions. It is there that they learn, to their great dismay, the truth of the destruction of Questport. However, the eight brave heroes refuse to give up hope, and vow that they will dedicate themselves to finding a new home for displaced inhabitants of Questport. To their relief, many people of Questport have survived the cataclysm, including most of the Supreme Council, Queen Mavia, Djadan, and--unfortunately--the Lord of Angels and Demons. But a most grievous blow has been dealt to those who believe that Questport will live on, for the Tree of Light, the last remnant of the sacred Yostwell's Light, has been nearly destroyed; only a small fragment, bereft of power, remains.

With this sorrowful knowledge hanging over their heads, the survivors of Questport begin a journey that lasts many days. They travel down the dangerous Road of Swiftly-Flying Death, a great highway that was destroyed by the Master of Darkness, until one day they reach an immense castle, now old and ruined. Seeing no other alternative, the refugees settle there. And the Lord of the Supreme Council realizes that the time has come for another quest...

The Three Quests

 The Ghost's Lament

 At the bidding of the Lord of the Supreme Council, the Fellowship gathers in the Great Hall of the crumbling castle they have fled to. The Lord of the Supreme Council greets them solemnly, expressing her relief that they all have survived the great cataclysm unscathed. There is a withered branch lying in the center of the table, its bark charred as if by a great fire, and the Lord of the Supreme Council explains that it is all that remains of the Tree of Light, saved from the burning Sacred Groves by the heroic sacrifice of the High Priestess. Indeed, this burnt piece of wood is the last remnant of the Yostwell's Light that had defended Questport long and valiantly.

The Fellowship is sadden and downcast by these grim tidings, but the Lord of the Supreme Council implores them to not give up hope. The Head Scholar has been searching day and night for some way to revive or restore the powers of the Yostwell's Light, and she had come upon a solution--legends tell that the four Elemental Essences that give form to the world (Air, Water, Earth, and Fire) are hidden all across this strange land that they have come to. If anything could save the Yostwell's Light, it would be these four powerful elements, the essences of the magic that brought the world into being.

Unfortunately, there are no clues as to the location of these Essences. However, the Lord of the Supreme Council tells them, perhaps they should begin by talking to Queen Mavia. The Princepia Altoratrix has been overwhelmed with work of late, trying to protect the Questport refugees, but she knows this ruined castle better than anyone else, and she might have some idea. 

The heroes follow her suggestion and make their way to the room at the top of the tallest tower, which Queen Mavia has claimed as her study. The Princepia Altoratrix is not there, but a note left on her cluttered desk seems to have been addressed to the Fellowship.

The Note

However, none of the Fellowship can decipher the strange symbols that are sprinkled throughout the missive. Confused, they return to the Lord of the Supreme Council, who examines the note with a rueful laugh. When Queen Mavia is feeling stressed, she has a habit of reverting to her native tongue, Syrian, whether speaking or writing. Fortunately, the Lord of the Supreme Council has a copy of the Syrian alphabet with her, and the Fellowship are able to decipher the note.

After puzzling over its contents for a while--and wondering why the Princepia Altoratrix couldn't just say where she was going--they decide that the cryptic clue refers to a mirror. Tulip recalls that she has seen a large mirror in one of the abandoned corridors of the castle. The heroes hurry to that corridor--but Queen Mavia is once again absent. Instead, they find a small scroll tucked into the corner of the old mirror's gilded frame. 

The Second Note

After deciphering the Syrian text that obscures the meaning of the Queen's words, they race to the low porch that protrudes from one side of the castle. The Princepia Altoratrix is not there, either--the only sign of her presence is a small folded paper resting upon a side table.

 The Third Note

Rather irritated now, the Fellowship reads the note, translates the many Syrian words, and hurries to the room of the cathode-ray box. To no one's surprise, they do not find Queen Mavia, only another note.

The Fourth Note

This note, again mixed with Syrian characters, directs them to the castle gardens. The Fellowship walks more slowly this time, sure that they will only find yet another cryptic message. To their surprise, they see a slender armor-clad figure with white wings pacing back and forth in front of a flowerbed. Queen Mavia looks up from the book she is perusing, and seems both startled and relieved at the appearance of the Fellowship. She apologies for not being in her study; last night she was haunted by a strange premonition of a book in the library that she must find, and a specific passage in that book that she must read. Now she has read it but, she can make no sense of it. Perhaps the Fellowship would have better luck?

 The Ghost's Lament

 The heroes are as baffled by the strange words as Queen Mavia is. Dismissing it as an odd dream, nothing more, they tell the Princepia Altoratrix that they received her notes.

A frown creases Queen Mavia's beautiful brow. What notes? She had left them no notes.

At that moment, a shadowy form appears from the depths of the garden. The startled heroes set hands upon their weapons as the figure glides closer. It has the form of a man, clad in dark robes, but its face is pallid and mask-like and it seems insubstantial. Could it be a ghost?

The spectral figure halts at the edge of the garden, and addresses the Fellowship in a voice that is barely louder than the gentle summer breeze. His name is Bertram, and he was once the lord of this castle, but three years ago he was slain by the Master of Darkness. Ever since, he has haunted the castle, unable to free himself from this sorry existence and pass on. In life, he was the guardian of the essence of the Fire Element and, seeing that the Fellowship was searching for it, he left the notes as a way for him to observe them and see if their hearts were pure. 

With one ghostly hand, he holds out a tiny scroll of parchment that looks as if it is about to slip through his insubstantial fingers. Scorpio quickly takes it from him, and a faint smile touches the ghost's mask-like face. Now that his task is complete, he wishes to pass on to the next world. Is there a song, perhaps, that has the power to release him?

 The Fellowship heeds his request and sings the words of The Ghost's Lament. The ghost of Lord Bertram sighs in contentment, and passes out of existence with a flicker like a candle being snuffed out. Remembering the scroll that he had given them, the heroes unroll the parchment and read the words that Bertram had written long ago.

Fire

A room where wicker shields hang upon the walls, and water flows and is frozen... Queen Mavia knows just such a place. Holding her sword high, the defender of Questport leads the Fellowship to a small room in the catacombs of the castle, where the Supreme Council has stored all the grog that they have rescued from the destruction of Questport. There is a secret door cleverly concealed behind one of the wicker shields, leading to a tiny room that contains only a small wooden box. The Fellowship, opening the box, finds three small crystal talismans.

Three? Hadn't the rhyme said that there were five? How strange. Rereading the instructions that they had been given, the heroes return to the Great Hall to wait for nightfall.

A few hours later, the sun has set and the castle is shrouded in darkness. The Fellowship, accompanied by the Lord of the Supreme Council and the Princepia Altoratrix, leave the castle and stand facing the west. Holding aloft the talismans, they raise their hands and cry "Show us the light!"

Nothing happens. Perhaps they did not say it forcefully enough? Once again the heroes raise the talismans, and cry "SHOW US THE LIGHT!" 

A fountain of light blossoms atop a hill near the castle. Crying out with excitement, the heroes race towards it. By the time they reach the summit of the hill, the fountain has dwindled to a few sparks, but a line of small lights stretches down the road into the distance. Warily, the Fellowship follows the path of lights.

They walk through the darkness for perhaps half an hour, the Lord of the Supreme Council and Queen Mavia following cautiously behind. Finally they reach the end of the path: a small hollow between two hills, in which a small altar bedecked with candles can be seen. Dark shapes move back and forth in the hollow, obscuring the light; bursts of magic shower like colorful stars. 

Peering trough the darkness, the heroes realize that they have stumbled upon a battle. One of the combatants, a tall figure in a dark cloak, fights with glittering bursts of magic; the other, a demon, battles with rending claws and hideous fangs. Both creatures are wearing talismans similar to those that the Fellowship holds--those must be the two talismans that were missing from the castle!

Suddenly the demon becomes aware of the heroes. Turning away from its foe, it races towards the Fellowship with a ghastly light in its eyes, raising its claws and baring its slavering fangs. Before it can attack them, the cloaked stranger sounds a great horn, creating an eerie, keening noise. In a great voice, it commands the demon to BEGONE! 

Whining and snarling, the demon scuttles away. Stowing the horn beneath its cloak, the stranger turns to look at the Fellowship. His face is shadowed by a deep hood, so that all that can be seen is a pair of glittering eyes. For a moment the heroes see a great star sparkling upon his breast, shining brighter that the fiery talismans, but it fades almost instantly. 

The Fellowship thanks the stranger for saving them from the demon, and asks if they might learn his or her name. The mage says nothing, but his eyes gleam unpleasantly. He makes a movement as if reaching for a weapon, but instead turns and, with a swirl of his dark cloak, vanishes into the night. 

Puzzling over how strange the encounter was, the Fellowship walks into the hollow and inspects the altar. In the center of the little table, surrounded by candles, are several thin metal rods. Could this really be the essence of Fire that they were searching for?

They pick up the metal rods, and suddenly all the candles on the altar go out. Truly, this must be the essence of the Sacred Element of Fire!

With light hearts, the heroes journey back through the darkness to the castle. Only the Lord of the Supreme Council is troubled, for it seems to her that she had heard a sound much like that of the mysterious mage's  magic horn once before...

 The Lake's Guardian

The Fellowship gathers again in the great Hall of the old castle. This time the Lord of the Supreme Council has good news for them: the Questport scouts have determined that the elemental essence of Water is hidden in Lake Anava, which is relatively close to the castle. If the heroes set out immediately, they will reach the lake before midday. 

Taking her advice, the Fellowship departs at once. After hiking for some time over the hilly terrain that surrounds the castle, they arrive at a green valley that is nearly filled with a large, deep lake. A high wall of horn and iron surrounds the lake, save for a small gate fashioned of silver. The heroes approach the gate, but before they can enter a tall knight in bronze armor rises from its seat beside the door. Raising a curved wooden scimitar rather wearily, the knight announces that he is the Guardian of Lake Anava, and despite his despair he must keep them out.

Despair? the heroes ask. A shadow passes across the knight's face. His pet dragon, an old and faithful companion, was stricken by a great sickness only a few weeks ago. Deaf, blind, and lame, it suffers terribly but does not die.  If the Fellowship could somehow bring him a potion with which the dragon could be healed, the Guardian would allow them to enter the lake in exchange for their gift.

Fortunately, the members of the Fellowship recall that the Questport apothecary has set up shop in the basement of their castle. Surely the apothecary must have a potion that is capable of healing a dragon. They leave the lake and hurry back towards the castle, but as they journey through the hills a strange figure accosts them. The creature is so stooped that it appears to be hunchbacked, leaning on two spears and with a broad-brimmed hat shading its eyes. Over a green shirt and violently purple trousers, it wears a hairy vest that seems to have been the pelt of some great bear or wolf, and it carries a greasy bag that makes a sinister clinking noise.

The creature stares at the Fellowship with beady eyes.  He is the Dragon-Hunter, he tells them proudly. He hunts dragons all across their land and puts their bones in his Bone-Bag (he rattles the stained bag menacingly). With his purple shorts of power and his green shirt of camouflage, none can stand against him! (Although the shirt and the shorts sometimes clash). Suddenly he stares at Scorpio (who is, thankfully, in human form) and sniffs intently at the air. He's found a hidden dragon, he growls. 

The heroes spring to their comrade's defense, and the Dragon-Hunter flees with a wail of terror, dropping the Bone-Bag as he runs. The members of the Fellowship are rather nervous at the thought of touching it, but they decide that they should give the bones a proper burial, and so they take it with them.

Eventually they find the Apothecary, who inhabits a rather funny-smelling room in the depths of the castle. She searches through a tiny book of spells. A restorative elixir for dragons... Aha! She knows just such a recipe. But alas, she does not have all the ingredients--most of her supplies were destroyed in the cataclysm. She lacks dragon bones, a golden apple, and three hairs from a unicorn's tail. The Fellowship gives her the bag of dragon bones, and heads out to search for the other items.

An orchard grows on the hillside to the northwest of the castle; it is there that the Fellowship looks first. The orchard is mostly overgrown and wild, but there are still several apple trees--and, in the heart of the orchard, a single tree that bears tiny gold and silver apples. Mei flies up into the branches and picks one of the golden apples. When she returns to the ground again, she find the Fellowship staring, frozen,  at a pale form that has appeared from behind another tree. It is a young unicorn, its flanks white as snow and its horn as clear as glass.

Tulip, as the youngest and most pure of heart, approaches the unicorn and, very carefully, plucks three hairs from its tail.  The unicorn nickers softly and then trots away, soon vanishing amid the trees. As if coming out of a spell, the heroes slowly turn and walk back to the castle. 

The Apothecary cackles in delight as she receives the last two items, adding them to her cauldron with a hiss of smoke. She stirs the bubbling potion twice, and chants an strange charm under her breath. Finally she produces a tiny bottle--only a little larger than Tulip--and scoops out a minute serving of the now blood-red potion.

Holding tightly on to the small bottle, the heroes return to Lake Anava and present the potion to the Guardian. The knight gently pours the potion down his ailing dragon's throat, and then shouts with joy as the dragon opens its eyes and shoots a stream of fire into the sky. It is completely cured! 

Weeping with delight, the Guardian opens the silver gates and allows the Fellowship to enter. The lake is the same pale blue as the sky, so clear that they can see all the way to the bottom. At the very deepest part of the lake lies a large bottle, its contents gleaming like quicksilver.

Ato and Gawain dive into the lake and bear the bottle up to the surface. Although it had gleamed like silver only a moment ago, it seems to be only filled with pure cold water. Undoubtedly, they have found the elemental essence of Water.

 The Angel's Request 

As usual, the Fellowship gathers in the Great Hall. The Lord of the Supreme Council is there, shuffling through a stack of reports with a weary expression on her face. She glances up as the heroes enter, and tells them that many people across the land have reported seeing a dark-cloaked mage wearing a crystal pendant and carrying a strange horn, much like the strange sorcerer that the Fellowship encountered a few days previously. Before she can elaborate, a maniacal laugh issues from the doorway of the Great Hall, and a young woman with short, sparkling red hair strides into the room. Her eyes are concealed by dark glasses, but her very short purple dress, tall black boots, and the cheap tiara perched on her hair give clues to her identity--the Queen of Rogues and Robbers!

The Lord of the Supreme Council leaps to her feet and demands to know what business her sister has here--and, for that matter, why she has changed her hairstyle. Lirael Du Lac sneers, and asks the Lord of the Supreme Council if she's heard the rumors of the mysterious mage who has been terrifying people all across the countryside.  Since Sabriel is so important, what exactly is she going to do to protect everyone? The two sisters are well into a shouting match when the Queen of Rogues and Robbers adds that the Fellowship had better treat her nicely, or she won't tell them how to find the essence of Air.

That brings the shouting to a halt very quickly. The Lord of the Supreme Council demands to know where the elemental essence is, but the Queen of Rogues and Robbers laughs in her face. Another argument is brewing when a small, ugly gremlin trots into the room, carrying a scroll. It hands the scroll to the Lord of the Supreme Council, and then bounces away. The heroes cluster around Sabriel DuLac as she unrolls the parchment to reveal a letter written in a flowing, arrogant hand that looks very familiar.

The Letter

 Though the Lord of the Supreme Council pleads with them to not attempt anything foolish, the members of the Fellowship, incensed by the insulting tone of the Lord of Angels and Demons' letter, insist that they must go confront him. Arming themselves heavily, they depart for the fort with the golden ramp.

They arrive to find the Lord of Angels and Demons sitting on the highest battlement, looking down upon them with an arrogant smile. "Hello, worms!" he calls down to them, adding that although the Supreme Council imprisoned him, he has escaped. Sure, he has come down in the world some--he lacks shoes, and his fine shirt is in tatters--but he is still their overlord! The heroes roll their eyes. Growing more serious now, the Lord of Angels and Demons tells them that he has a request to make: he wants them to bring him lots and lots of treasure! Oh, and the Queen of Rogues and Robbers. But mostly lots and lots of treasure!

The members of the Fellowship reply that he must be out of his mind. The Lord of Angels and Demons smiles sinisterly. Ah, but if they bring him lots and lots of treasure, he'll tell them where to find the Earth Element. The heroes confer for a moment, and then call up to him that if he tells them where to find the essence of Earth, they promise that they'll bring him treasure. The Lord of Angels and Demons agrees. They will find the essence of Earth, he says, in the root cellar of the old gardens on the other side of the Road of Swiftly-Flying Death. "See you later, worms!" he calls as the Fellowship leaves.

The questers hurry back to the castle and consult with the Lord of the Supreme Council, who believes that it is a trap. She thinks intently for a moment, and then asks her younger sister if she could speak with her in private for a moment. The two Du Lac women withdraw to an antechamber off of the Great Hall, and soon the Fellowship can hear raised voices. After a few minutes, the Lord of the Supreme Council and the Queen of Rogues and Robbers reappear, both looking rather disgruntled.  Lirael, shooting glares at her older sister, tells the Fellowship that, out of the goodness of her heart, she will tell them where to find the Air Element. Well, they'd better give her treasure, also. Anyway, the essence of Air is in the keeping of a man named Aeolus, who lives in the Castle of Air. The heroes should find it easily--all they have to do is follow their noses. However, she cautions, it's common knowledge that Aeolus is completely insane, and the only way to talk to him is to present him with a ZOUS--a Zucchini of Unusual Size. Which, as everyone knows, only grow in the brown lands, the old gardens across the Road of Swiftly-Flying Death.

So it is with two goals in mind that the Fellowship sets off for the brown lands. They dash across the Road of Swiftly-Flying Death, dodging the Angry Metal Birds that still guard it, and cross into the gardens. To their shock, the first thing they see is a tall sign warning of a troll that eats adventurers. Weapons out, they creep towards the root cellar, passing many signs that proclaim that a troll's lair is nearby. 

Suddenly a huge troll leaps out of the bushes with a deafening roar. Holding aloft a huge club, it growls that it has devoured a thousand adventurers tougher than these pitiful morsels. Tulip, thinking quickly, sounds her magic flute, and the troll falls into a deep slumber. The heroes step around it carefully, and continue to the root cellar.

In the dank depths of the root cellar they find an earthenware bowl, deceptively heavy for its relatively small size. Continents are engraved on the outside, while the inside in emblazoned with the word "Terra". They have found the elemental essence of Earth!

And not only that! A wicker basket just behind the bowl is filled nearly to the brim with coins and gems, treasure stolen from a thousand adventurers by the wicked troll. With it, the Fellowship will be able to pay back the Lord of Angels and Demons. Lugging the bowl and the basket, they leave the root cellar and search the brown lands for a ZOUS. Although the place was once a garden, barely anything grows there now. The soil is dry and crumbling and almost all the plants are withered and dead--except for a tangle of weeds. In a strange contrast to the infertility of the rest of the garden, the zucchini plants are flourishing amid the weeds. One zucchini towers above all the others, a mammoth vegetable long than Gawain's arm. The heroes carefully pick it, and carry it back with their other spoils. 

They return to the castle briefly to give the elemental essence to the Lord of the Supreme Council and place the treasure under lock and key until when they will hand it over to the Lord of Angels and Demons. As they leave, the Queen of Rogues and Robbers calls after them, saying that once they find Aeolus and realize that she was telling the truth, they'd better apologize for believing her to be wicked.

The Fellowship had been told to follow their noses to find the Castle in the Air, and sure enough, they detect a distinctly peculiar stench in the air. Cradling the ZOUS, the adventurers follow the thread of scent down the road. Soon they see tall signs by the roadside, proclaiming "Bring A ZOUS To My House," "ZOUS This Way," and "ZOUS, ZOUS, ZOUS." Eventually they arrive at the Castle in the Air, a tall, turreted palace that floats a few feet off the ground. An orange-clad man is dancing on the ground in from of the castle, capering in a most bizarre fashion.

He wheels around to face the Fellowship, sniffing suspiciously. Could that be a ZOUS that they are holding? They must give it to him at once! The heroes reply that they will give him the oversize zucchini if he gives them the essence of Air. Aeolus shakes his head woefully. Would they accept a bag of wind instead? No? How about two bags of wind? Three? He brandishes the sacks with a hopeful grin.

The Fellowship are forced to threaten the ZOUS with Scorpio's sword before Aeolus will listen to them. Reluctantly, he gives them directions to find the essence inside the Castle of Air. They surrender the ZOUS, and he clasps it with a blissful expression before racing away in a puff of wind. Shaking their heads at his strange behavior, the heroes enter the Castle of Air. 

The interior of the castle is cluttered with strange objects, clearly reflecting the occupant's unusual personality. After some searching, they find the essence just where Aeolus said it would be: behind a panel of the wall, near a stuffed snow leopard. The elemental essence of Air appears as two small white jars, each filled with a soft powder.

There is one more task for the Fellowship to complete. Stopping by the castle to deposit the elemental essence and pick up the treasure, they once again head to the fort with the golden ramp. The Lord of Angels and Demons is sitting outside, idly poking at a dozing gremlin with a stick. He perks up as the heroes approach. Just as they are about to hand over the treasure, three men in the livery of Questport Guards leap out of hiding and seize the Lord's arms.They arrest him in the name of the Supreme Council, for excessive mischief and annoyance. The Lord of Angels and Demons snivels and curses as they drag him away.

 Conclusion