The Stars woke up the next morning in Axe House, sore after the Crystal Halls, to a loud commotion in the Pens. Outside, dozens of participants from other teams were harassing the Silverwatch mages and workers as they disassembled and cleaned up the stone portals and staging area of the previous day. They complained about the disappearance of the missing teams, refusal of acknowledging it, and that no action whatsoever seemed to be taking place to find them and bring them back.
Vorle from the Crashing Waves and a few other prominent participants were involved, which the other teams began to rally around. Corvus noticed that Tavus and the other Rolling Thunder members sat on their balcony, eating breakfast and laughing at the disturbance.
Sandeev, Smed, and others were also among the group (and said they had been retrieved late last night from the Halls). And as such, with the others brought back to the Pens, a complete tally of the missing teams was now confirmed:
- Grizzly Owlbears
- Raving Rocs
- Limpin Imps
- Towering Titans
- Gallant Gazelles
- Jeering Jackals
- Storm of Swords (minus Smed)
- Dancing Dragons
- Ghoulish Ghouls
- Striking Spears
After a cart ride to the fort, the Stars checked the courier tent to find a modest winner’s purse from the Crystal Halls event, as well as a note from Eynn requesting their presence for lunch that day at the Silver Assembly Hall.
As they killed time before lunch, the Stars noticed that the next Champion’s League event had been pushed up to tomorrow, with new teams replacing the three that had gone missing the day before. The arena was being painted with vivid images of lions, hydras, and all sorts of animals amid expansive backgrounds of landscapes, while growls and, every now and then, a scream, could be heard inside.
There was also news that the week’s 1 vs. 1 bouts would be delayed until next week, with the redemption bracket beginning later this week for those who lost their first match.
Remembering that they were bid by the gnome Nimmonin to a meeting at the Forever Endeavor Trading Company headquarters that day, the Stars stopped by to see if such a meeting would take place, or if it was a lie to sate their curiosity the day before. Corvus led the Falling Stars to the entrance, which was guarded by two private soldiers.
Before he could speak, one of the guards seemed to confuse them with another team (mistaking his orange tabard for a red one) and told them that if their boss wanted to leave a message, he needed to send Merle or come himself. Curious, Corvus and Janos played along and insisted they were indeed the other team, convincing the guards, who called inside for someone else.
A small gnome with a magical monocle emerged, introducing himself as Sturbo and hoisting two satchels filled with small notebooks. He dug through one of the bags, pulling out several books and flipping through them quickly, taking notes on all of the Falling Stars, their appearances, names, and time of day. He let them know that Nimmonin would be away on business until precisely 3:22 that afternoon, and that they should return precisely at 3:47, and not to be a minute late.
Seeming rather final, the Stars agreed and left to meet Meister Eynn for lunch. The doorman reluctantly let them in, and they were led up to the roof by the same sprightly elven girl that had let them in before. The roof was covered in fabrics for shade and a dozen fancy tables, overlooking not only Silverwatch Fort but the coast and bay. Off to the northeast, there was a rising plume of smoke, distant but of considerable size.
They also noticed that the damage done to Silverwatch House had been repaired and reinforced with metal and some kind of stones with dull glowing runes.
Though empty of other nobles, the party found a large table plated with food and placards for each of them. Eynn appeared shortly after wearing an elven ensemble and invited the Stars to sit and eat.
As they ate, the party and Eynn conversed about several things:
- He congratulated them on their finish and hoped for better results moving forward, though he was interested to hear the details of their experience within the Crystal Halls.
- There were rumors of a conflict to the north in the place known as the Lonely Scar, between the forces of Issalin and Valanor, likely due to resource claims.
- He assumed that the next Champion’s League event would be a marathon of sorts and require a lot of time and stamina.
- He knew little to nothing of the missing teams.
- He said that he did not trust the Forever Endeavor Trading Company and had no business dealings with them.
On the way out, the Stars noticed a couple of red robed mages arguing with someone within the quarters marked for the Illodaunti.
Making their way to the FETC headquarters, the Stars noticed a large gathering of teams and participants in front of Silverwatch House, protests led by Vorle demanding action from Vara and the administration regarding the missing teams. More guards had been called to the house and pushed the protesters back. Nearby, Quinn noticed Sandeev taking notes in a book and talked briefly with him about the day’s happenings.
At 3:47, the Stars were met at the door by Sturbo, who told them there was simply no time for them to meet today, as they were already running behind schedule due to missing product testers for an experiment scheduled that day. After a brief overview, the Stars agreed to test a product for Sturbo in exchange for a short meeting with Nimmonin afterwards.
The Stars were led inside the headquarters and through a warehouse filled with gnomes, kobolds, and goblins, all chained to tables as they sorted, built, and boxed various items. At the back of the warehouse were stairs leading to a basement where various other tests were being performed, including a magical barrier similar to the one seen in Silverwatch House and the staff left behind in the Stars’ own Crystal Halls area.
Sturbo had each of the Stars sign a waiver and a contract for the testing, then explained the process: there were four different potions in need of testing to immunize onself against basilisk petrification. Corvus, Quinn, Janos, and Wyverna each chose a potion, drank it, and headed into the testing chamber filled with various creatures in closed pens. Taking notes the entire time, Sturbo then began the test.
The basilisks were released and the Stars were encouraged to provoke them to induce petrification, which had a different effect on each of them, slowing some, speeding up others, and causing some of their blood to feel on fire. Eventually, Quinn’s potion immunized him and the test came to an end. Sturbo then had Quinn euthanize an extra cockatrice as a small favor.
Afterwards, the Stars were led upstairs through a series of hallways and offices, where letters were being dictated to both Valanorian and Issalini contacts, and into Nimmonin’s office. The gnome sat eight feet up atop a series of desks, books, and ladders, where he frantically read and sorted a large stack of papers. The walls were lined with thousands of small notebooks similar to the Sturbo’s own.
Two small gnomes waited, quills at the ready, taking down every word spoken, and Nimmonin formally welcomed the Falling Stars to the FETC headquarters. He said he’s spoken with Vara about their unique experience in the Crystal Halls, and that they seemed like just the kind of people who would be able to help him further explore Meddes.
Nimmonin pressed the Stars for every detail of their excursion into the Halls, and several times accused them of holding back information. He flew into a silent rage at hearing the name Qwallas, and demanded to know the Stars’ own agenda and every word exchanged.
The party had some questions of their own, however, and Nimmonin answered them in a perfunctory manner, stating that his company had the necessary paperwork and approval for their excavations within the Crystal Halls, and that they were simply trying to remove artifacts for museums across the world to preserve the ancient dwarven culture.
Nimmonin gave the Stars a blank map of the Crystal Halls and tasked them with taking notes and filling in their exact route, progress, and any other notes they could think of, specifically those dealing with the elf named Qwallas and the last few chambers of the halls. He assured them that they could expect a considerable reward for their work, and possibly even a sponsorship later in the games.
Then, a gnome interrupted to let Nimmonin know that a Teacher B had left a message on a device known as an ALT (Arkano Leyline Transreceiver), and Nimmonin cut the meeting short, thanking the Stars for their service that day and paying them their contractual fee, plus allowing them to keep four vials of the basilisk immunizer, after Corvus negotiated further.
Led out of the FETC headquarters, the Stars stopped by the Great Hall for dinner, where Vorle and Perrath approached them, inviting them to a secret meeting that night in utility shed #5 within the Pens, after the lights in Farhoon Forest. The Stars agreed, wondering what Vorle and the others had in store for them.