Calidis: An Ancient Slumber (Theia)salty breeze runs across your face as you lean over the pier along the Alvean coast. A broad Foenaran vessel with green and gold sails is docking with fresh supplies of grain, accompanied by a few playful nimbii. The Alvean sailors watch you and your creatures with a wary eye, but they pay the nimbii no attention; ever since the events in Foenara, the nimbii have become a common sight to see across the channel, propelling the winds of Foenaran and Alvean vessels alike. A few other magi are arriving from Foenara in the transport ship, and as it docks, you spot an irritable old hippogryph pacing around the deck.
You are just about to go greet your fellow magi, when a stelera eagle swoops up to land on the pier in front of you, a rolled-up message in its talon. The bird watches you expectantly, but nips each time you try to take the scroll. When you offer it a small bait fish in exchange, it drops the letter and flies off. The note reads:
One of the Alvean researchers on Calidis has recently informed me of an opportunity for students to help out with their archaeological excavation. They are quite eager for magi to help out because of the difficulty in getting supplies to the island, and request that any interested students gather at Theia by the solstice. Please bring a pegasus, hippogryph, or gryphon to help carry supplies to Calidis.
P.S. Apologies for the eagles, our regular couriers are migrating.
Professor of Antiquities
You have never heard of Calidis, though you vaguely recall reading a map with the name on the large island near Foenara. With summer break nearing its end, you could do with a little adventure.
You line up with a bunch of magi at a space in the center of town. Other students from the Keep have brought their flighted pegasus, hippogryph and gryphon companions and are starting to pack up for the trip ahead. You totally meant to bring one of those, but figure no one will notice if you don't have one. When you get to the front of the line, the Alvean scholar writing down who is in attendance stares at you. "Where are your creatures?" she asks.
Flustered, you say, "I must have forgotten them at the market place. I'll be right back."
You'd best hurry and find an adult pegasus, hippogryph, or gryphon before you return.
You line up with a bunch of magi at a space in the center of town. Other students from the Keep have also brought their flighted pegasus, hippogryph and gryphon companions and are starting to pack up for the trip ahead. As you near the end of the line, you spot an Alvean scholar dressed in light blue robes with a pen and paper, tallying up the students and supplies for the trip. You give her your name as you walk up alongside your own flighted companion, and she directs you over to a pile of food and camping supplies. Your companion can easily carry a few bags along with your own supplies, so you fasten some rolled up tents and bags of dried food to the saddle and head over to a group of students ready to depart.
A student nearby glances over at you and shares a worried look. From the center of the group you hear a familiar enthusiastic voice and spot Talyn in the midst of the people. "Oh, more people? Awesome! Okay, I'll start over. So Professor Tyris is in charge of this really cool site on Calidis called the Ashen Temple, and people used to live there a long time ago, no one knows when, but the archaeologists have been working on it for a really long time -- okay, well only a few decades, so not that long, because they only found it by accident -- oh, I should explain. So Calidis is a pretty big island, right? But it's surrounded by these massive cliffs, so it's really hard for ships to get there, and the weather is pretty bad on the sea over there, so you have to come in from the south to get around storms, and then go in this special cove -- but anyway, you guys won't have to do any of that, because you can fly! It used to be the case that the researchers could only get ships to the island about twice a year, which is how I found out about it, and I told them we'd be happy to help carry supplies, and anyway this temple is really cool and there are a bunch of cool animals that only live on this island, and so here you are!"
Talyn pauses to take a breath, grinning at the circle of students. You are a bit apprehensive about the storms he mentioned, and the faces of your fellow magi seem to reflect similar worries. However, before Talyn can elaborate, an Alvean man steps forth with some sort of map in his hand. He is dressed like an adventurer but wears a captain's coat, and introduces himself as Captain Lievor.
"The winds this time of year are not ideal when travelling by ship. Talyn is absolutely right in that we have traditionally only been able to reach a safe port in Calidis twice per year, when the storms subside and the trade winds are strong enough to get us through the strait. However, travel by flight is faster than by sea, and we have worked out a path that curves over part of Foenara, and our predictions mean that it should take only a few days to reach port. I have arranged passage aboard one of your creatures and will guide the rest of you along our flight path. When everyone is ready, we will depart. We will head northwest to a village on the coast of Foenara, then it's a nonstop flight to the island, so see you all in Calidis!"
Calidis: Reaching the Island (Calidis)Two days after you set off from the coast of Alveus, you spot the jagged coast of Calidis. It isn't far from Foenara, but as the day grows hot, you realize why few boats head directly across this strait. The winds pick up form massive waterspouts, and not too far to the south, a thunderstorm has turned the sky black. The water below the beating wings of your steed is so frothy it looks like ice, and Captain Lievor urges everyone to pick up the pace.
There is no respite waiting as you near the coastline either, as you soon find that what looked like a rocky coastline is in fact sheer massive cliffs. Though nowhere near as tall as the Alasres or even the Mountains of Me'chuan, they rise far enough that you cannot see what lies beyond, and in these rough winds, you doubt your mount could fly over them in a single try. Captain Lievor guides you along the island's coast all the way to the western edge of Calidis. As you fly, you notice occasional pieces of rock falling from the cliffs and into the hungry waters below. The storms are lessened on this side of the island, and eventually you reach an alcove surrounded by sturdy breakers. The captain leads you and your classmates through a massive natural arch in the island's cliffs, and up a little inlet fed by a river. The forest around you is lush, but not as wet as those of the rainforests. In the distance, you can hear the calls of many birds and other animals you've never heard before. One particularly loud and menacing call makes your mount whine in response.
After a short flight upriver, the captain signals everyone to land. It is immediately obvious where he intends you to go, for you can see several large yellow tents set up in a large clearing. The tents are far less interesting however than the massive gray temple positioned on a mound in the center of the clearing. Moss and vines cover its surface, but the intricately-carved stones remain firmly in place. It is difficult to tell just how large the building is, but you suppose a celestial dragon could walk through the front archway with room to spare. Alveans, many of them little older than you, rush around carrying pick axes, shovels, brushes, notebooks, and an assortment of tools you don't recognize. Most of them pay you little attention.
One short man with long hair and a three-day beard runs up and greets Captain Lievor with an enthusiastic handshake. He marvels at the creatures and comes over to inspect your mount. "Extraordinary!" he exclaims. "When Talyn mentioned he'd send for some extra hands, I never could have dreamed you'd arrive so quickly. How was the flight? Lievor says it only took two and a half days. And look at all the supplies you've brought! We're used to rationing everything out for six- to twelve-month intervals, but you've brought over half a year's supply in just a few weeks! Ha!"
As the man speaks, his head bobs up and down, causing his sun hat to repeatedly fall over his eyes. He removes it and shakes your hand with a little more restraint than he showed for the captain. "My apologies, I don't know where my manners have gone. It's so wonderful to meet you all in person -- well, not all of you, of course, I'm sure most of the magi are back at the Keep or questing. I'll have to schedule some time to visit one of these days -- the Keep I mean -- I was delighted reading all of those stories you sent to me a while back! Ah, but I digress again. My name is Emander Tyris, cultural consultant for the excavation of the Ashen Temple. Some call me 'the professor,' but I assure you, I am only a consultant. Pleasure to meet you all."
As students bustle to unpack the supplies, Tyris explains the excavation team's latest discovery. "Most of the city-states of Alveus have had a hand in this project for decades now, but since the Foenarans have allowed trade to resume across the channel, we've been getting more and more workers to help out. Just last week, one of our lead dwelling experts found a new intact chamber and what looks to be an entirely new floor spreading further out than any we've come across. We're still not sure when the Ashen Temple was abandoned or when the people who built it died out, but we do know that it extends several stories below our feet in labyrinths and corridors that run for miles. The temple was used for many different purposes over thousands of years, and we suspect smaller buildings exist elsewhere on the island, but are similarly subterranean. We're trying to both explore and preserve the monument, as parts of the tunnels are collapsed or flooded.
"This new chamber we've stumbled upon is among the best preserved, and I'd love to show it to you. The people of Calidis cared for magical creatures similarly to the magi, so perhaps you can provide an insight into the creatures they reference in their carvings."
Calidis: Inside the Temple (Ashen Temple)The chamber Emander Tyris mentioned is lit by many dim candles, but even in the low light, you can see images of dragons, gryphons, and creatures you don't recognize etched delicately into the walls. The creatures dance between curved lines of an ancient runic text. The room is rounded with a low ceiling and several small doorways lead to tunnels even more dimly lit and propped up with wooden beams. Emander Tyris leads you over to a single large carving of some ancient reptilian creature holding an oblong slab of stone. You realize the stone must be a doorway of some sort, but there is no apparent handle. Tyris runs his fingers over the runes carved into the stone and says, an air of awe in his throat, "This is one of the few sealed doors we've come across. Normally they open by a lever or a stone switch, but this one is different."
In the center of the door, you notice a hole that is just the right size for an egg-shaped object. You look to Tyris and he points to the carving. "We've tried every egg we can find, but most are far too small. Have you ever seen a creature like that?" he asks, pointing to the creature above the door. Something about it looks familiar, but if it is a real creature, it's one you've never seen.
You shake your head and Emander Tyris rubs his chin thoughtfully. "We managed to translate the runes of the temple a while back. This one is written as a riddle. Perhaps its answer is the creature whose egg fits into the slot?"
Tyris translates the lines of the riddle. The runes written above the slot read:
Our small rainbow shines brightly,
From eastern shores to west.
Our songs all come in trios,
Blue and golden is our crest.
Ice and fire dwell within,
Here where our forefathers rest.
Calidis: The Riddle (Ashen Temple)Our small rainbow shines brightly,
From eastern shores to west.
Our songs all come in trios,
Blue and golden is our crest.
Ice and fire dwell within,
Here where our forefathers rest.
As you speak your answer nothing seems to happen.
"The answer is a phoenix," you say when you've worked out the riddle. As soon as the word leaves your mouth, a warm breeze sweeps around the room, putting out all of the candles. The excavators down the tunnels yell in protest, but before anyone can relight the room, the door in front of you creaks. New runes appear above the riddle, glowing bright red and crackling like a warm fire. The spot where the egg goes also begins to glow, although more faintly. Tyris leans in close and reaches a finger toward the new runes, but doesn't quite touch them.
Calidis: Fire in the Hall (Ashen Temple)"Fascinating." He stares at the runes for more than a minute, until someone finally sends a hovering orb of light to help the students trapped in the dark hallways. Tyris pulls away from the door and looks around at the source of light, then says, "Oh yes, right, the candles." You and your fellow magi cast a few simple light spells to brighten the room as before, and to illuminate the hallways. Tyris motions you to turn the strength of the spells down slightly. "We try not to bring torches or other large light sources down here often. The paint and fabrics in some of the rooms are delicate, and can be damaged by too much light."
However, he quickly returns to the glowing runes, which shine as brightly as ever against the stone of the door. When one of the students asks, "What does it say?" Tyris smiles.
"It says ecal'tath - literally 'fire-bird.' I think you may be right," Tyris says, glancing at you. "We need to acquire a phoenix egg immediately."
You try to fit one of your eggs into the slot, but none of them fits. The word "fire-bird" still burns brightly in magical runes above the inscription of the riddle. Perhaps you should find a phoenix egg and see if it fits into the slot.
You gently place the flickering phoenix egg into the slot in the door. The flames around the egg illuminate the small space, and slowly the carvings on the door begin to glow a faint red. The word "fire-bird" above the slot glows orange then yellow, then nearly white, until it and all of the other lights on the door hiss and fade into darkness. Tyris reaches out to touch the door, concerned, and you nearly grab the phoenix egg out of the slot. Before either of you can reach it, the door groans, slides backward, and turns, melting into the wall of a tunnel. Emander Tyris steps forward as soon as the groaning stops, his torch held off to the side to illuminate the room. As you follow, you notice more egg-shaped slots lining the walls of the tunnel, one of them containing your phoenix egg.
When you reach another room, a friend of yours casts an orb of light in the center of the room. A smooth boulder sits in the center of the rounded room, the floor carved with ruts and runnels that spider-web out to the walls. Tyris tells you to be exceedingly careful of where you step, but continues forward. The ceiling is likewise carved, though with runes and symbols that dance around in irregular patterns, almost like the words themselves are leaping flames. Just above the boulder, the runes form a neat orderly line.
"This one is more straightforward," he says. "It reads, 'We've slept here long, and now is our time to awake. Bring us light, orange or blue, and our ancient wisdom shall be yours."
Tyris smiles, and points his torch at the walls of the round room. The walls are covered in egg-shaped slots, hundreds or perhaps even thousands of them. You realize that ice phoenix eggs would fit in them just as well as those of regular phoenixes. Emander Tyris seems barely able to contain his excitement. "Oh this is exquisite! Look at how well-preserved the lines are -- I've never seen so many of these runes in one place. It'll take me a week to get this all down. Where is Adwin with those sketchbooks?" He walks past you and starts down the tunnel before he remembers to turn around and say, "Oh, we'll need phoenix eggs. Lots of phoenix eggs. I'm sure you and your friends know where to find more? If you can get any of those ice phoenixes, I'm sure they would be even better. I'll have one of the students collect a tally and fit them into the slots -- Adwin!"
As Tyris rushes off to find one of the Alvean students, you exchange looks with your fellow magi and glance about the room again. It will take a lot of phoenix eggs to illuminate this whole chamber. You'd better get started.
Calidis: Hand in eggs (Ashen Temple)When you return to the round chamber, a dark-haired boy, Adwin, is sitting on a folding stool in front of the tunnel entrance, squinting at a sheet of notebook paper in the dim light. A pile of phoenix eggs to his right and a smaller pile to his left of ice phoenix eggs provides extra illumination. When he notices you, he looks up. "Oh, hello. Professor Tyris put me in charge of counting up the eggs. If you want to help, bring a live phoenix or ice phoenix egg back here, and I'll add it to the piles."
When you return to the round chamber, a dark-haired boy, Adwin, is sitting on a folding stool in front of the tunnel entrance, squinting at a sheet of notebook paper in the dim light. A pile of phoenix eggs to his right and a smaller pile to his left of ice phoenix eggs provides extra illumination. When he notices you, he looks up. "Oh, hello. Professor Tyris put me in charge of counting up the eggs. You have a new one to drop off? Excellent! That brings out total to X phoenix eggs and Y ice phoenix eggs.
Calidis: Secret of the ecal'tath (Ashen Temple)As Adwin puts an egg into the last vacant slot, the well-lit room begins to rumble. The channels and cuts in the floor begin to glow red like molten rock, the light from them slowly flowing along the channels' lengths like liquid. When it reaches the large boulder in the center of the room, the boulder glows along tiny fissures you couldn't see earlier. Parts of the stone melt away, pooling on the floor, then crystallizing like stony flames. The boulder transforms into the statue of a bird-like creature, a phoenix, but one you've never seen before. Its face is almost reptilian, and it has claws on its wings. Flames pour off its back and wings, its tail curled around its feet, both feet and tail similarly alight. The stone of the statue is marbled red and black, unlike the original plain stone of the boulder, and when the rock has finally melted away, two large blue diamonds are revealed to be the statue's eyes. Its mouth is open and hollow, and something could easily fit inside.
The statue is sitting on a glowing nest of rock and flame. Inside the nest are more runes, which Emander Tyris reads out to you. "This is the Elder, greatest and oldest of all the phoenix. Place a bird in the nest with a feather of Flame, and he will share with it his wisdom."
At the foot of the statue there are multiple scaly eggs that don't quite seem to belong. Emander Tyris tut-tuts and ushers discreetly a few students to move the eggs.
Outside the temple, Emander Tyris shakes each and every one of your hands. "This is fantastic," he says, accidentally shaking the hand of a confused Alvean passing through. "Thank you so much for all of your help. This is one of the greatest finds of the decade, and it'll no doubt shed light -- pardon my pun -- on the secrets of the temple. I'm sure you'll want to explore the rest of the island, but be careful, it's a dangerous place. Oh, and take these!" He hands you a couple of the eggs found inside the temple. "These do not belong in there. They were literally everywhere when we started uncovering the chambers. These creatures must've made their nest inside the nicely abandoned corridors. Hopefully now they'll leave this place alone. In any case, be sure to thank Talyn for me as well, once you get back to the Keep. I'm sure we'd love to have you back any time."