Back on campus the group splits off to check in on their personal projects. Tormenoth drops off his letter to the secret organization in the mailbox they noted and checks in on Huron to find him guest lecturing some history classes thanks to some friendly TA’s. The history, archeological, and bardic students seem to be eating up his words with rapt attention while he is lecturing, thinking he is instructing Akshi officer corps students on his own military exploits. At the same time, Rila talks to her favorite professor, Grundle Thirty-Claw, about the blink dog of Page and Wisdom. Grundle explains that the blink dog is actually an adjunct working on his own doctorate, as well as a bad, compulsive gambler. Leon researches deities to figure out which one was contacting him as well as taking some time to take his newfound statuary friend on a pranking spree. Him and Tricksie, the new name given to the stony cherub, set up buckets over doors, trip wire Thaumaturgy spells, and other minor pranks to bother random Courvana students. Ariel splits off to hit the library’s picked over Showing of Colors section, where she researches the Meditation on Green Wisdom. She learns about the challenge being one of morals, set up to challenge the internal conflicts of each member of each team specifically, with each team being scored on both the soundness of their solutions as well as their reasoning to arrive there. Points are most highly awarded for solutions that balance two competing moral goals, especially if done in an alternative way that sidesteps some of the dichotomy presented in the challenge.
Meeting up again at lunch, the group heads to Styx for a quiet place to plan their next moves. Once there, they find that she is having the place seriously renovated, including the cave entrance expanding to be dragon-sized. When they finally find her after some helpful pointing by Prince, she presents them with a job when they’re available. She has some old research labs locked down under her manor. They were sealed when something went wrong down there but she has lost track of what apprentices and assistants were researching. This would be a job of exploring, investigating, and most importantly capturing whatever research projects are still intact down below. They demur on fighting, not sure when the Green will happen but when they ask for a room, she hands them off to Prince and leaves to get some wine, murmuring about the construction not being grand enough. Prince finds them a small meeting room and waits outside to give them privacy. After some chatting, the group decides to use up a devil favor to disguise themselves as the Untouchables before pursuing their Blue Mystery task, intending to throw people off their trail. Also, they will at the same time use the disguises to investigate the blink dog’s gamlbing habits in Rhydyr’s gambling district, hoping for leverage or a debt.
As the group steps out of the teleportation room in Blackrun Academy of the Arts, they see their own faces on posters, listed as wanted for questioning. They share a look at their luck in disguising themselves to come here. It doesn’t take long to find that hostility is attached to the name Avon Goldcur, the blink dog, when they ask about him in the gambling halls. He has apparently gotten himself banned from every gambling establishment in the casino district for not paying his debts and blinking away to avoid the usual enforcement methods. A plan forms in the minds of the group. They return to P&W and make the trek out to the swamp biome per Thrity-claws’ information on where the survival class he helps teach is currently camping. With Rila’s help, the trek doesn’t take long and they arrive after the sun sets to find the class has already set up camp. Most of the students have already gone to bed but there are still a few keeping watch, albeit unhappily. With some quiet spells outside of the range of normal human hearing, they get the attention of the blink dog to lure him away from the class. They make promises of parley and striking a deal. As he comes trotting over, they can see his nose twitching as he sniffs the air around them, as he notes that he can smell illusion magic on the group. Avon takes a guess that he is a task in the Blue and wants to know what the group is offering for his cooperation. In exchange for a favor, he smoothly explains, he will go along with the task. That favor is for the group to scare his class with an ambush or attack of his own devising to get the students to take it more seriously. Knowing his tendencies, they offer a counter. If they can beat him in a game of dice, he’ll do it for free and if they lose, they’ll do him a favor and clear his debts in Rhydyr for his aid. With a few rounds of thrown dice, Avon plays a risky strategy with poor odds and ends up losing. Certain his luck will turn, he doubles down, offering his aid in selling a fake story of the groups choosing about who kidnapped him. He loses again even quicker this time, but is eager to increase the wager yet again to recoup his losses. WIth nothing else to offer and the group already feeling guilty for preying on his addiction, they cut him off. He hangs his head but they all head out to Styx’s cave to complete their Blue task. On the way, they bounce ideas back and forth about what fake story they should have Avon tell, but settle on the simplest one, that the Untouchables they are disguised as were the culprits. When they finally find Styx, she is wrapped in a towel, still sweating from a sauna and refilling a rather large wine glass in the kitchen. Styx quickly gets over her annoyance at her self-care being interrupted and tries to leverage Leon’s apology into the group clearing out her manor’s basement laboratories. When guilt fails to do the job, she mentions a lucrative payout and that gets the group’s attention, so they offer to consider it later once they’ve secured things with the Green Meditation. With a laugh, she flounces out of her kitchen, “Good enough for me, I’ll send the message to certify you all completing the Blue from my sauna. I don’t care if you go home, but stop bothering me here.”
Only a few hours after the “kidnapping” Avon Goldcur was released to make his way back to the camp and spread the false story while the Dissonant Whispers scattered back to their own dorms. Each found a secluded spot on their campus to end the devil-made disguise spell and walk back to their dorm.In the morning though, Ariel is awoken by Goodscale knocking on her door, the lizardfolk priest from back in the Kingdom of Gaeia. He has been bothered by repeated dream-visions and identified their group from the visions. He wants help getting in touch with dragons to try and pursue what the visions are pushing him to do. She immediately doesn’t want this responsibility alone, and takes him to Leon’s room since he is on the same campus. They talk with Goodscale and Ariel goes to retrieve Rila and Tormenoth. With everyone gathered in Leon’s cramped room, they debate their options between the various dragons they’ve met so far. Klythmnora comes out ahead as their most trustworthy dragon, especially since she does not seem to be tangled up in any of this mysterious Egg stuff. They know she is staying with Styx since they helped rescue her from her lair, so a quick walk up the Page & Wisdom mountainside after a teleportation trip gets them to Styx’s cave, which seems quite bustling with even more skeletal work crews than before. So many are toiling away that Prince is out organizing the undead labor force that is widening the cave entrance, cleaning, and reworking the whole thing to be a presentable entrance rather than a hidden cave. He gestures them into the manor portal without a word. Once inside, the group has to sidle past more work crews redoing almost every part of the manor from its finishes and furniture down to the structure underneath, dodging a pulled up floorboards. As they search around on the first and second floor for a bit, they run into Styx giving Klythmnora an animated tour and sales pitch about the new renovations she is having installed according to the latest trends. Klythmnora is weighing a move here but isn’t overly impressed, presenting a more draconic aloofness than any time before. When she sees the group and Goodscale, she waves them over to talk. Styx gives Ariel the stink eye for the interruption, but Ariel ignores her and presses their case about wanting to introduce Goodscale of the recently un-cloistered Lizardfolk to Klythmnora to help with his dream-visions. Klyth seems more than happy to talk and the two wander off to discuss lizardfolk affairs. Klythmnora seems interested in nabbing some minions on the cheap and helping her distant “cousins” adjust to this modern, human-dominated world. While Klythmnora is busy, Styx waits around with the adventurers and they get more answers out of Styx about her basement laboratories. It turns out that Klythmnora’s main sticking point is the lack of suitable magical ritual space for continuing her revised dracolich ritual. She has plenty of research space below, but the problem is that she mostly left things to run whenever she took on an interesting prospect, but she was drunk most of the time back then so doesn’t remember what projects are locked down there. Whatever happened though tripped the safety to seal everything in. Styx wants to know what things are down there and what happened, especially if the group can capture whatever is still surviving down there. Once things are cleaned out, she can send in her undead work crews to renovate. Leon takes the lead on pressing Styx for clarification on the profitability, and gets her to commit to a substantial payday for the aid. The group promises to help soon.
With their own task done and no information about what other teams have been up to, the group splits up. Leon takes the time to cast a divination ritual for some hints about the Green Medititation on Wisdom.
If it is the Green Meditation you seek,
Find a comfortable bed within this week.
A couple days would be too meak,
But by the fifth it shall speak
With that hint it finally clicks for the group that the colors of dragons and the five colors of the schools seem to match. Wanting to know more about the Green, they seek out a green dragon related to Page and WIsdom. Rila, being a student here, takes the task to her favorite professor, Grundle Thirty-Claw for answers. She even suggests that maybe it might be Dean Iyrandrar Farstring, thinking this might be like the dean of Steinreich School of Mines. He tells her, in his gruff way, that there aren’t any dragons at the school currently, but there was one that used to teach. Even when she didn’t teach, she stayed out of the leadership of the school, refusing the title of Dean when it was offered in the past. When she compares the names he gave her to the current faculty listed in the library, she finds an archmage’s name that doesn’t teach any classes: Archmage Javesge, Professor of Divination. Curiously, the directory her and Leon pull up lists a fifth floor office in a building with only four floors. One staircase in that building goes all the way up, switching back and forth, to an attic door. Leon tries the handle, finding it locked, but that only stops them for a few moments as Rila finagles the simple lock open. Dusty tarps cover stacked furniture that look undisturbed except for one uncovered chair with a note on the seat, the ink almost still wet for how recent it looks. A terrible drawing of a dragon in green ink takes up the bottom quarter of the note.
“It has been foreseen you would reach here today, but it is too early on your journey to meet.I shall reach out at the appropriate time. You shall know me when you approach.
Ariel and Tormenoth’s investigations turns up a few details about where other teams have been seen but before long the group reconvenes to dress up and head out to the flood relief charity even Leon was invited to by his rival, Hector Ruiza. They arrive in the banquet hall in Alara to a fairly wealthy crowd in the central area around a fountain, buffet tables to the sides, a head table monitored by royal security, and balconies along the sides with windows with great views. Leon spots Hector talking to a suspicious and well dressed half-fae man who breaks off their conversation as Leon approaches. Leon flounders as Hector brags about the event and excuses himself for more important business. The half-fae introduces himself as Lucillo, but dismisses Leon rudely when Leon bluntly tries to get him to talk about what his business with Hector is. Ariel talks with her father who shows up to the event before he takes a seat in the head table for royalty. They exchange pleasantries, him mentioning that the queen herself is due to show and also that he wants to talk to her privately. Rila hangs out in a side-room with other smallfolk who find the human-sized banquet hall uncomfortable. She starts chatting up the new halfling addition to the Huntresses, one who left Camden’s Own after their previous failures, possibly setting up another information exchange for the Blue. Tormenoth chats with Huron, who is here in full Akshi regalia, enjoying what he thinks is a military celebration. As Leon awkwardly exits conversation with Lucillo, he signals Ariel and Rila, who come over to talk with the half-fae. Lucillo immediately changes his tone to a smooth, engaging one to flirt with the two, playing up how big of a deal he is going to be soon. Rila holds his attention the most and he even gets her to promise to a future date.
When the Alaran queen finally arrives, the exasperated nobility are finally able to take their seats at the elevated table. Not a long time later though, less than one course into the meal, she breaks off to privately meet with some people at a signal from her private waitstaff. While she is out, a bunch of hooded figures show up from the side doors and Huron appears on the balcony ordering them to take the guests hostage. The figures lash out with long knives while keeping their faces covered by the black hoods and robes they wear. As the robed, shadowy figures are defeated, more show up on the balconies above as well, but the attackers are quickly disposed of, inflicting only a few minor wounds but scaring the other party-goers. Rila’s summoned wolves along with the combined ranged magical attacks of the group quickly blast apart the mysterious robed figures. As Tormenoth pushes through the figures to get up the stairs to Huron, four black-clad individuals with obscured faces and glowing numeral “III”’s where their faces should be descend to land on the chandeliers talking in a synchronized, disguised voice,
“By who’s hand do you think the historical records of his activities were derived? His writings are confessions in all but name. Regardless, we found out what sort of man he is. He had one final chance to change his ways. This tyrant again proves his colors. Given fresh command, handed the reigns of power, and this man’s truth is apparent to all. What say you of Huron Tezoa’s deserved reward?”
Huron calls out, “Soldiers to me, repel these assassins” and takes a swing at Tormenoth with his longsword, blocked by a quick shield movement. Tormenoth’s reply to the question is a killing blow after a short, hesitant fight, slaying the old man with a thrown dagger just as city guards finally show up. Seeing law enforcement arrive, the robed figures surrender. The Dissonant Whispers stay to answer the guards questions about the attack and the robed figures are unmasked to be bardic studies and history students brought in for a live event. The students cry out that they were told it was an intentional performance with healing potions ready for any minor wounds suffered. When the body of Huron Tezoa is investigated, the four black tally members flood the balcony and their own perches with smoke bombs as they disappear. Thinking quickly, Tormenoth recalls his knife magically and the group leaves without suspicion from the guards. The guards search for a murder weapon, but none is found and the formerly robed students point fingers at one another, assuming another must have stabbed the old man in the confusion.
On the way out, Ariel sees the nobles who had ducked out as soon as the fighting started and talks with her dad. She confirms a meeting with him about all this blackmail business tomorrow over dinner before he heads back to their duchy. Adrenaline starts to fade, so the group returns to their dorms, tired, to get a headstart on tomorrow. Their sleep is disturbed, though, when they find themselves waking up, standing in the middle of a crossroads, a scholarly robed elf clearing his throat.