Candle in the Water: The Delegation (The Keep)caravan! You run down to the courtyard as soon as you hear the news, and you're not the only one. Half the Keep seems to be milling in the courtyard, waiting for the visitors to come through the gate. The Keep Watch announcement said they weren't one of the regular merchants that came by the Keep, and new people usually meant new stuff. Maybe even new creatures!
Except when the caravan finally does enter the courtyard, it's easy to see they're not merchants. Too many guards, too few wagons, the lead wagon too fancy, and the flags it flies too plain. Many of the gathered wander off as they realize these are diplomats, but you stay, still curious. You recognize those flags.
But what is a delegation from Alveus doing here?
A man in the lead wagon stands, and though he eyes the gathered mages nervously, his voice is loud and steady as he says, "I am Gallus of Theia, designated representative for the Alveus region to the Magi Keep. I must speak with Archmage Thane or his duly appointed representative immediately!"
"I'm here." You're not sure when the Archmage arrived, but suddenly he is impossible to miss, standing in a gap in the crowd near the wagons. He bows to the delegation. "Welcome to the Keep, all of you. We can speak inside while the housing staff arranges-"
"We'll talk here," the man interrupts, and gestures towards the last wagon. Immediately two of his companions jump from his wagon to get something out of the one indicated; you notice they are both wearing heavy gloves. "We're not going to allow you to cover this failure, this breach of good faith. You said you'd purge all the magic residue in our lands in exchange for free passage there. You told us it was done! So how do you explain this?"
One of the men holds up something from the wagon bed, covered in dark cloth. The second removes the cloth, revealing a large glass jar filled with... something. Something lovely, glowing and swirling like liquid light, a soft blue-green-white that brings to mind sea foam. A soft chorus of 'ooooohs' rises from the gathered magi, which does nothing to soothe the diplomat's temper.
And then, after a clear in a moment of silence, you hear Talyn say, "Hey, that sort've looks like the same glow as my statue. "
It takes a while to calm Gallus, but he and his retinue finally agree to come to the Great Hall to discuss the situation. Now they sit at the head table with the senior magi, the jar of glowing water, and Talyn's likewise-glowing statue.
"So," Thane says. "Talyn claims it was a gift from someone he met in Triathe, in one of your prisons." The delegation doesn't seem to catch, or appreciate, the humor. "But Talyn didn't seem to know who the man was or where he'd gotten it originally."
"Let's just destroy it!" The diplomat shouts. "Clearly its the source of this problem!"
"Now, lets not be hasty," Thane says, holding up a calming hand. "Why do you think this piece here is the source of your troubles?" While he spoke, he took out a pure white crystal, holding it over the jar and the statue. You recognize it from your first year lessons as a crystal that will immediately detect any source of magic.
"Every year," Gallus says, his face red with anger at the display of magic, "The coast of Alveus sees an influx of glowing water, in the fall, which is clearly...I mean, we assumed it was part of the cursed magic infecting our area from your mage wars long ago. So our people were terrified and upset when it came back after this summer's cleansing, and appointed a delegation to insist the Keep magi return to finish the job. Which you must do!"
"Well, we are more than willing to help," Thane said. "But there's just one problem. There's no magic here." Thane sets the unchanged magic detecting crystal aside. "It might be some kind of residue, but if that's the case it is so faint as to be undetectable - and the source should be brighter than the sun."
Gallus shakes his head stubbornly. "Of course it's magic! What else would cause a light like this?"
Master Belmos clears his throat. "There are quite a few things, especially creatures, which glow naturally. Fireflies, some fungi, deep sea fish..."
"Does it look like there are fish in here!?" Gallus protests, shaking the jar emphatically. His companions immediately try to calm him, very obviously afraid he might spill the glowing water.
Thane, too, tries to intercede. "Gallus, please! While we cannot detect any magic in the sample, or in Talyn's statue, it's possible we might find something if we go to the location. I will take a delegation of magi to Alveus, and we will investigate these glowing waters. We will ensure there are no harmful magics in the water, and if possible find the source of the phenomenon."
Another trip to Alveus! By the murmurs around you, plenty of people are as eager as you are to see the source of this glowing water. Master Belmos stands and looks around the room, bemused. "I believe there are enough people here for this to count as an official announcement. We will be taking volunteers to assist with this investigation. We leave for Theia as soon as possible, and from there will travel to the coast. Please spread the word among your friends and classmates. Dismissed."
Join the delegation in Theia?
Candle in the Water: The Glowing Sea (Theia)Gallus's jar didn't prepare you for this, nor did Talyn's glowing statue. Those are soft lamps, pretty enough on their own but pale in comparison to the shining ocean before you now. It's harder to tell during the day, just an added tone to the sunlight like it's filtered through clear water. At night... well, at night, the strange light was visible on the horizon even from Theia. Now you're actually on the shore, the glowing waves are both fascinating and disturbing, and bright enough some are having trouble sleeping. Whatever is causing the glow, there's plenty of it here.
And it's definitely not magical. Every test has been clean, and nothing has been found in the water to explain the strange light. Items dipped in the water will glow for a time, depending how long they soak and how porous they are, but so far nothing has lasted more than a few hours. Except Talyn's statue, which is carved from pumice and hasn't faded at all. Many of the more scholarly magi are debating the possibility of some creature in the water too small to see, and if the statue's carver might've treated it with something to attract and sustain the theoretical beings, or whether they might be feeding on the pumice itself. While the ideas are intriguing, you opt to focus on a more concrete question: where is it coming from?
Fortunately the magi delegation's work has drawn a crowd of Alveans who's curiousity has outstripped their fear, and some of them are willing to discuss the annual glow. Unfortunately, they don't have much more information than what Gallus reported back at the Keep.
"There's really no magic in it?" The young fisherman you're currently interviewing still seems dubious, though you've reassured him several times already. "So if we caught anything out there, it'd be safe?"
"Not magical, at least. But probably safe. We still don't know what's causing the glowing, but there's no signs of anything toxic, and the local marine life doesn't seem to be affected." This is at least a different angle to his question, and you think you know why. "I take it you don't usually fish while the water's like this?"
He grins, just a touch rueful. "Can you blame us? Some of those old magic pockets did a hell of a number on anything caught in them. So first rule of fishing around here's to get your catch home and your boats docked before the currents turn. But some years its hard to lay up a good store by then. An extra month or so of fishing can mean an easier winter for a lot of people. If you're sure it's safe."
"We won't leave until we're positive," you tell him again, but something else he said catches your attention. "What was that about the currents turning?"
He sweeps one arm towards the shore, following the line of it north to south. "Most of the year we've a warm current comes in from the west and follows the shore south, but come fall the whole thing shifts. This cold water pushes up from the south, and the light show follows not long after. A month, maybe two, and the warm current comes back, but it brings storm season with it. No more fishing. We get the all-clear from you lot, maybe we can use that extra time."
"I certainly hope so. If you'll excuse me, I want to check in with the senior magi." The fisherman waves you off, and you jog down the beach to the main camp, where you last saw Archmage Thane.
He's still there, as is Gallus, and they seem to be... ah... 'discussing' what to do next. You're not sure how to break into the conversation, but before you have a chance Thane breaks off mid-discussion to ask you, "Ah, yes, you have something to report?" You'd guess they'd been talking for a while.
"The glow follows the current!" you gasp, a bit out of breath from the jog. "A fisherman told me, the current from the south only comes in the fall, and the glow comes with it."
Thane turns back to Gallus with a frown. "You never mentioned a current shift."
"I'm not a sailor, how would I know?" the Theian protests. "What difference does it make anyway?"
"It tells us where to look. We can follow the current back to its source, and likely the source of the glow as well. If you've ships willing to-"
"You expect our people to sail when the water's like this?!" Gallus is outraged by the suggestion, and as much as you hate to, you have to back his stance.
"I don't think they'd do it anyway, sir. The man I spoke with said he might go fishing if we prove it's safe, but I doubt he'll sail before then. Probably most won't do it even if we do provide proof."
Thane sighs, but nods. "I understand. Find Master Belmos, please, and tell him we'll need sea transportation to follow the current? I'd recommend leviathans; anyone with a grown one as a companion should try calling it here."
"Well, if the problem is the current," Gallus suggests, "why don't you people just send it away?"
Thane waves you on before you can recover from your shock enough to answer Gallus. And frankly, you're more than happy to let the Archmage explain just how badly changing natural cycles could destroy the area, or how many magi could be burned out in the attempt. Calling leviathans will definitely be the easier job!
Do you want to help call the sea transport?
You do not have an adult leviathan as a companion and thus cannot embark on the water.
You call your leviathan companion and start travelling south.
Candle in the Water: The Village (Somni)Perched on a leviathan's shoulders is not the most comfortable way you've ever traveled, but you'd rather be here than back on shore. Those who stayed in Alveus were tasked with proving to Gallus's satisfaction that the water is harmless. You suspect they'll still be at it by the time you come back.
Looking around, you can see other magi traveling alongside you; the sight of several dozen leviathans ploughing through the water is a formidable one. That the leviathans are happy to swim through the glowing waves is proof enough for you that there is no hostile magic; the mammoth creatures wouldn't tolerate the water if the glow was harmful, and might even attack the source. Instead, they calmly make their way down to the south, the direction the current that is carrying the glow up to the Alvean coastline is coming from.
You travel throughout the night, somewhat uncomfortable as the back of a leviathan is no place to get a good night's rest. The only one who seems to get sound sleep is Thane, who is traveling in a boat drawn by two hippocampi. You find yourself somewhat jealous of the comfort his foresight has given him.
By the time morning dawns, you have gotten at least a bit of sleep, dozing on and off throughout the night. Then suddenly, you hear someone hollering over the waves. “Land ho!” the voice calls. Looking around, you see Talyn perched precariously on the head of a leviathan nearby, pointing to the south. He grins, even as he slips and barely keeps himself from dropping into the ocean. “This is so cool!” he exclaims. “Who knows what we'll find there?”
Despite Talyn's excitement, it is still another hour until you can make out the coastline yourself, and the hour feels longer due to both eagerness and impatience to see the new lands. Soon you can make out more detail. You are approaching a beach, covered with sand that seems almost blindingly white in the sunlight. Palm trees heavy with coconuts, and tropical vegetation, make up the skyline behind the beach, leading into dense jungle.
You try to find a way through the reefs blocking the water, when one of your companions gives a shout and points to the east. A boat has appeared around a small promontory, a fishing boat from the looks of it. Several of the magi are turning their leviathans toward it, but a loud shout from Thane calls them back. “Hold it, everyone! It will not do to frighten these people with our sudden appearance in force. Wait for me here; I will talk to them.”
He turns toward the fishermen, his hippocampus-drawn boat quickly closing in on them. You are too far away to understand what they are saying, but soon enough, he returns to the waiting group. “I have learned that there is a village called Somni further down the coast, where the owner of the boat hails from. I will go there and introduce us formally on behalf of the Keep. You cannot all come with me; there are too many of us here.” He raises his hands to stave off the complaints that are immediately starting up. “I will take a delegation of a dozen magi to accompany me. The others will have to wait here for now, but you will be allowed to follow soon.” He starts to point out the people who will come with him, starting with Talyn and then choosing several older and accomplished magi. You gape in astonishment and exhilaration as his finger points to you among several other younger magi to complete the group.“Well then,” he shouts. “Let us be off and meet these strangers!”
After a good hour traveling to the south-east hugging the tree-covered coastline, you arrive at the village of Somni. It consists of a number of huts, constructed from wood and reeds and set on stilts that elevate them a good two feet over the ground. Several boats similar to the one you have seen are drawn up on the beach and nets are hung up nearby to dry. A few small brown pigs are running between and under the huts, sometimes chased by screaming children who seem to have great fun making the animals bolt this way and that.
As you dismount the leviathans and wade toward the shore, several adults gather on the beach. They are a big, heavy-set people with dark skin, wearing jewelry made of seashells and many of them showing tattoos on their bare arms and chests. Their clothes seem to be a kind of colorful skirts of various length, worn by both males and females. One of the men spreads his arms with a big smile and takes a step towards you. “
Welcome, strangers,” he intones. “Welcome to Somni, the largest and most beautiful village in the whole Candle Archipelago. I am Elisaia, the head of the village. Please, come and be our guests!”
You notice Talyn opening his mouth to speak but he is quickly shushed by Thane, who then replies: “On behalf of the magi of the Keep, I greet you, Elisaia! I am Archmage Thane and I am pleased to make your acquaintance. I gratefully accept your invitation.”
An hour later, you sit in a circle in a large hut with open sides. A fire has been set up nearby and various grilled seafood is served, accompanied by fruit from the nearby jungle.
While you eat, Thane converses with your host, and he explains the Keep and the role of its magi, as well as the mystery that the Alveans sent them to solve. “We have come here to investigate the source of the glowing water,” he explains. “We can determine it is not magical in origin, but we don't know anything else. Do you have an explanation?”
Elisaia smiles and nods. “The glow comes from a cave further to the south. At this time of the year, tiny creatures from the sea start to glow and drift out from that cave, then get carried past our island and onward to the north. It is a time of great joy to us; it marks the approach of our most holy days, when we celebrate the dead and honor their memory. The glow from the sea allows the souls of our ancestors to descend and visit us, to find this place and share a few days in the company of their loved ones.” He motions to a young boy who sits nearby and whispers a few words to him. The boy nods and dashes off, returning shortly afterward with a glowing statue in his hands.
“Hey,” Talyn remarks. “That looks a lot like my souvenir!”
Elisaia takes the statue and holds it up for Thane to examine. “We put statues like this in the water during this time; the creatures in the ocean will suffuse the rock and make it glow. This one in particular, I created two years ago in honor of my wife, who passed away during that summer. But not every statue is created for a particular person.”
“My condolences for the loss of your wife, Elisaia,” Thane says. “These festivities of yours, they are observed by everyone in the Candle Archipelago, yes?” Elisaia nods, smiling, and Thane continues. “Would we be allowed to observe the rituals? I do not mean to intrude, if you prefer your privacy during this time, we will honor that. But we are always curious about the customs of other people.”
Elisaia grins. “No need to be so circumspect, Archmage Thane. As I said, this is a time of joy, as it allows us to be near our departed again, if only for a few days. We welcome guests during this time, not only to witness but to take part in the festivities. We would not deny you the opportunity to meet your own loved ones.”
A few hours later, Thane says a profuse farewell to Elisaia and the rest of Somni. Dusk is near, and it's almost dark as you return to where you left the other magi, who are greeting you with curious questions. After the delegation has given an account of what happened in the village, Thane again asks for silence and addresses the crowd.
“You have all heard about our hosts and the celebrations to honor the dead. We have been invited to take part in the festivities, and to repay these people for their kindness, I have decided to do so. Lights play a big role in this time, and so we will put up a show for them, using the celestial butterflies and their innate talents. For what I have in mind, we will need at least 3000 of them. Catch them or breed them, then hand them to us in the Keep. I will set Master Belmos in charge of hatching and growing them, so you can hand them to us as eggs. The more butterflies we have, the more impressive the display will be, so don't stop handing them in just because we reached the minimum number. Higher numbers means higher reward, after all.”
Candle in the Water: Preparations (The Keep)Do you want to turn in celestial butterfly eggs?
You don't have any Celestial Butterfly eggs at hand at the moment and thus cannot turn any in.
Ridan has been put in charge of taking in the Celestial Butterfly eggs for the show, so as not to take too much time out of Master Belmos' busy schedule. As you enter his study, you make your way between various plants and books to his desk, then hand over the eggs you brought.
“Ah,” he says. “More butterfly eggs for the show.” He pulls out a notebook and scribbles down something. “That brings our total to [total amount], [player's amount] of which have been handed in by you. Thank you for your contribution, and remember, we can't get too many of the eggs for this.”
Candle in the Water: Celebrations (Somni)It is the day the celebrations on the islands in the Candle Archipelago start. You have arrived at Somni as part of a large group of magi, here to take part in the festivities and to watch the contribution the Keep has prepared. Those involved in the preparations have been very secretive about their plans, and so you are almost as much in the dark as your hosts at the village about what will happen.
All around you, villagers and magi mingle, chatting and laughing together. The people of Somni are very welcoming to their guests and seem to enjoy meeting everyone. All the more surprising as this is a celebration for the dead, which would be a very somber affair in the area of the Keep. Although it is just midday, large fires have already been lit to prepare various food for the evening feast. Some of the more culinary inclined magi are curiously inspecting the dishes that are being prepared, noting and sampling the herbs and fruits that are part of the Candle Archipelago's cuisine.
As the sun sets, everyone gathers around the tables where heaps of food have been placed. The center is dominated by a whole pig, that had been covered with earth and baked for hours, turning it tender and succulent. The people of Somni don't seem to use chairs, they just sit on the floor or on tree logs while enjoying the dinner, everyone picking whatever they like best from the various dishes provided. As they eat, the conversations turn to the loved ones they have lost, sharing stories and anecdotes about them. There is a lot of laughter as especially funny tales get told and the mood is happier than during many celebrations you have experienced at the Keep. At first, only the villagers tell their stories, but then, one after another, most of the magi loosen up and join in with tales of their own.
By the time people have finished with dinner, the darkness has settled in full. The fires have burned low and most of the illumination comes from the ocean nearby that is still glowing with the blue light that brought you here. Thane stands up from where he has been sitting between Elisaia and Master Belmos. He clears his throat and slowly people grow quiet. An expectant silence settles on the crowd. With a smile, he starts to speak, loud enough for everyone to hear him easily.
“I would like to thank our host again, for the gracious way you have welcomed us to your lands and allowed us to join in your celebrations. It is rare to meet a people as accommodating as yours, and we are very grateful for your friendship.”
Many of the magi nod at these words and the villagers smile, appreciating Thane's kind words.
“To repay you for your kindness,” Thane continues, “we have prepared something to convey our thanks. Many in the Keep have worked hard on this, and we hope you will like the show.”
Several of the magi get up at those words and approach large boxes that have been brought from the Keep and stand nearby. As they open them, hundreds of celestial butterflies rise up into the sky, blacking out the stars and moon. Then they start to give off light, at first in seemingly random, then in a wave-like pattern. Soon you realize they mimic the waves of the glowing sea below, as if the current was flowing through the sky. Then images appear in the waves above; schools of fish swimming through the waves, caeralis leaping out of the water, and leviathans doing their mating dance. The highlight is an aurora whale laying an egg, which then hatches, the hatchling growing up until it leaps into the sky and joins the herd in its migration.
Everyone stands entranced by the pictures moving above them, admiring how perfectly they flow into each other. When the display is over, both villagers and magi clap long and hard, entranced by what they have seen. Elisaia speaks some words, thanking the magi for the fine gift and commending them on the effort they went to in creating the show. When he finishes, you suddenly yawn and only then do you realize how late it is and how tired you are. It seems to be the same for others and soon, the festivities come to a close and everyone retires for the rest of the night.
The next day, most of the magi are preparing to leave the village. Many of them are returning to the Keep with Thane and Master Belmos, but others are going to travel further. There is a whole archipelago to explore, after all. One of those is Talyn, who already was up at the earliest dawn and has long since said his farewells to your hosts, impatient as always.
Just as the group returning to the Keep is about to set out, Elisaia calls out to Thane again.
“Wait, friend! My people have been busy, as they were so impressed with your display last night that they wanted to give you something to take home with you. We know you make companions of the magical creatures inhabiting the world; several of you have brought those creatures with you. We would like to give you these to add to your collection.”
He gestures at several villagers who carry nets toward the beach and set them down in front of Archmage Thane, nets filled with eggs of a kind you have never seen. There must be hundreds, enough to supply many of the magi with several of them.
“These are native creatures from our jungles,” Elisaia explains. “Please hand them out to those who had a hand in helping with the display, to show them our gratitude.”
Thane shakes the village chief's hand. “I will gladly do so. I will personally make sure than no one is left out. I hope we will meet again some day, my friend.”
Smiling Thane hands you your share of the lovely eggs the Qaitu so generously gave as a thank you for making the wonderful light display happen.