The School: An Unexpected School (The Keep)arefully, you pour the contents of the glass vial into the beaker on the table, watching the two fluids swirl and mix, the color of the liquid changing to a deep gold with a reddish sheen. The potion you are brewing is a complicated one, and mistakes in its preparation can lead to it being ineffective, or worse, having an altogether undesirable effect on whoever imbibes it. But the color has turned out just as it is supposed to, a clear indicator that your work so far has not been wasted. You put the empty vial down on the table, when suddenly a loud, drawn-out noise reverberates through the lab, making the various glassware on the shelves vibrate and tinkle. Startled, you turn around, then lunge for the beaker that you accidentally hit with your arm; you manage to grab it just in time to keep several rare and expensive ingredients you've been toiling over all morning from spilling to the floor. With a sigh of relief, you put the beaker firmly back on the table before turning around again, slowly this time. Something has darkened several of the windows and you step out on the small lab balcony to take a look.
Outside, you are met by an astonishing sight. Huge creatures are floating in the sky above the Keep, some high above, others so low that the spires of the Keep almost graze their bellies. They float through the air lazily, propelled forward by the slow movement of their flippers. You look around and see other magi stepping out of buildings or looking through windows, marvelling at the sight. Quickly, you stash your potion in a stone chest designed to keep it cool, then rush down into the courtyard, where several groups of people have gathered by now.
“These are sky whales,” one elder magi explains to several young students standing nearby. “Once a year, they migrate from their usual habitat near the Callisto Islands to the hidden place in the north where they lay their eggs. Usually, they pass this area further north. It's quite exceptional to see them fly over the Keep.”
“Where is that place? Where do they go to lay their eggs?” one of the students asks. “Has anyone ever found it?”
“A few of our brothers and sisters have been there,” the elder replies. “They reached it by following the sky whales in their migration. But to prevent poachers from finding it, they have kept the place secret.”
As soon as you hear that, your sense for adventure tingles. Following these creatures wherever they are going would be just the exciting diversion you need. And as it so happens, you do have a few free weeks ahead of you, now that the potion is a stable blend that can be kept almost indefinitely.
You start planning for the journey at once. You'll need a flying steed to keep up, of course. It should be something peaceful, not a predator, since you don't want to make the herd nervous. A Puvia would do for that. You'll also take a Pegasus to carry your supplies. Two Fog Vevex Rays will be helpful as well, since they can produce fog to conceal you should the herd of sky whales not like your presence. Your plans complete, you immediately set out to get the supplies and creatures you need.
You still need to gather the creatures for your journey. A Puvia to ride, a Pegasus for your supplies and two Fog Vevex Rays to conceal you if necessary.
You have been following the sky whales for five days now. It took you two days to gather everything you need, but luckily, the herd is moving slowly and thus you had no trouble catching up. The herd has slowly turned to the north and currently, you are passing along the north-eastern foothills of the Alasre Mountains. To the east, the icy plains of Arkene stretch out as far as your eyes can see, blindingly white. As beautiful as it looks, it is also cold and you're glad you had the good sense to take your fur-lined clothes. The whales quickly grew accustomed to you and don't mind your presence as long as you keep your distance, although a few of them let you come quite close. Several of the young whales that seem to be travelling this route for the first time even like to float curiously around you and your creatures. The only one you make sure to keep far away from is the cow leading the group; she is very protective of her herd and you don't trust her not to get aggressive. Your Vevex Rays, however, mingle freely with the whales. Not only is the herd not bothered by them, they almost seem happy to see them. It is as if they were long-time friends back for a visit, and you wonder whether there is some deeper relationship between the whales and the rays.
Today, however, you are watching the sky worriedly. Dark clouds are gathering in the north, and they seem to be coming toward you and the whales. You don't like the idea of being caught in bad weather out here, high over the ground and unprotected. The herd doesn't seem to be fazed and is making its way north at the usual pace. If you land now, you might lose them if they make an unexpected turn, especially as you don't know how long this storm might last.
Soon, the wind picks up and bites icily into the unprotected skin of your face. You decide to look around for shelter after all; safety comes first and your Puvia is not well equipped to deal with a blizzard. You look around, but all you can see is ice and bare rock. The whales are now changing their formation, the older ones forming a rough dome over the young ones, protecting them from the small pieces of ice that are starting to fly through the air almost horizontally. Unfortunately, you have no such protection and your Puvia screeches in protest as it is hit by a hailstone. You steer it downwards, closer to the rock walls. The weather is worsening at an alarming pace, and your range of sight is diminishing quickly. You can hear the deep calls of the whales above you, which you know by now is how they communicate with each other, but you have no time to spend listening. The hailstorm is getting worse and worse, when you finally see a dark opening in the rock wall, big enough to fit your companions. Quickly, you steer the bird toward the cave, and the Puvia dives into the shelter, followed by your Pegasus. The two Vevex Rays have long since abandoned you and risen above the clouds, where they are safe.
Inside the cave, you dismount your loyal companion and go about setting up a camp. A glance outside tells you that you've found shelter just in time; chunks of ice the size of your fist and larger are whipping through the air, splintering against the rock and leaving deep scratches. You would be shredded to pieces out there. You and your companions withdraw deeper into the cave and settle down to wait out the storm.
The School: A Whale in Need (Arkene)It takes most of the night until the blizzard finally subsides. You sleep fitfully through most of it, but wake from the sudden silence when it ends in the early hours of dawn. The sky is barely lit as you and your companions leave the cave and make your way to the north, looking for a trace of the whale herd.
Several hours later, you finally see large shapes in the distance, and the by now familiar sounds of the whales' deep calls can be heard. As you close in, you see that several of the whales are lagging behind the main herd. Two adults are supporting one of the young whales, who has trouble keeping up with the rest of the herd. As you near them, you can see a large wound in its flank that is still seeping a bit of blood with every move of its flippers; it is obviously in pain. One of the bigger chunks of ice must have hit it and caused the wound.
You feel sorry for the whale; from what you can see, the wound is not immediately life-threatening, but with the strain of the migration, you don't know whether it will survive the journey. An idea forms in your head; the whales are still travelling the same direction they were going before the storm and that they had been following for several days before that. If they keep this up, they should be easy to find again, and at their leisurely pace, you could return to the Keep and catch back up to them in about four days. It will be a strain on your Puvia, but you could get one of your creatures capable of healing and bring it to help.
Watching the wounded whale flounder along, you decide to try this course of action. You turn your Puvia around and urge it to fly straight back to the Keep at high speed. Your best healers are your two Ruby Koi, and with a wound as big as this one, you better bring both of them. You tell your Vevex Rays to stay with the herd; if the whales change course, perhaps they will be able to direct you to them.
You need to get your two Ruby Koi to heal the whale. You must hurry or it might be too late.
Several days later, you are back in Arkene, looking for the whale herd. You pray that they have kept their direction, or you will have barely a chance of finding them again. At one time, you wonder whether you should have brought a platypus for the luck they are said to bring, but you turn out not to need it. After a long search, you come across the herd. Even though they are not travelling fast, the wounded whale is now trailing behind several miles, and only one of the adults is still with it. Your Vevex Rays are still floating with the herd, but when you show up, they fall back and join you again.
Glad of their presence, you ask them to do their magic, concealing you as you close in on the wounded whale. The last thing you want is for the big female to attack you in an attempt to protect the wounded calf. But not only does the fog conceal you, the presence of the rays seems to calm the whales, and thus you have no trouble bringing your two Koi in their travelling tank near the whale. The water in the tank gives off a blue glow as the two fish work their magic, and the wound in the whale's flank begins to close. After only a few minutes, the whale is healed, although a big white scar is left in the place. Nevertheless, the calf immediately picks up the pace, moving at a far higher speed and catching up to the rest of the herd, where it is greeted by deep calls and an affectionate head butt from another calf.
You smile and resume following the whales. A few days later, you see a large expanse of water in the distance, strangely free of ice. The whales home in on that place, from what you can see a huge lake that gives off small columns of steam, suggesting that it is warmer than the surrounding ice. That would also explain why the surface is free of ice; if there are hot springs underwater that warm the lake, it wouldn't freeze.
The herd stops above the lake and then the whales raise their voices, the various sounds blending together into one loud song. Soon, the water begins to ripple and whales rise from the lake, smaller than any in the herd. You guess that these might be the young hatched from last year's eggs, who lived in the lake until the herd called them. While the young whales rise to greet their elders, one after another, the adults dive into the lake, staying submerged for a while until rising back out of the water.
You and your companions circle in some distance, watching the events while being careful not to get too close. One of the whales rising from the water, however, flies straight toward you. You get nervous as the creature closes in on you, knowing that it is large and strong enough to hurt or even kill you by accident. Then you recognize the female that had stayed with the hurt calf, and curiosity keeps you from fleeing. The cow slowly floats next to you, then opens her mouth. On her tongue, behind the baleen bristles is sitting a strange blue egg, surrounded by a clear membrane. You hesitate, but as the whale is not moving, you reach inside her mouth nervously and pull out the egg. Once you hold it safely in your hands, the whale closes her mouth and with a long call rejoins the herd. You blush as you realise that she knows very well that you healed the calf, and that your concealment in fog might not have been as clever as you thought. “Thank you!” you shout after her, hugging your new egg, but even if she hears and understands, she doesn't react.
You watch the whales as they lay their eggs and greet the new hatchlings throughout the day. At night, you camp next to the lake, which turns out to be comfortably warm indeed, and the next day, you make your way back to the Keep, with a story to tell and a prize to show. Of course you will not reveal the location of the whale nursery; that much you owe them for their gift.