Arriving in Silverymoon, the heroes drop off Vlayn at the High Court. They are confident that proper procedures will be followed. In fact, they get the impression that the urban government of Silverymoon would like to properly try more cases from the outlying areas of Luruar, rather than seeing so many communities engage in frontier justice.
The heroes visit the markets and Pel finds an excellent deal on a Griffon mount. It doesn’t fly, but at only 150 gold, who could say no? The others are content with their horses. In fact, Beef is so content that he gets distracted, allowing Immeral and Gord time to dress up his horse in ribbons and glitter and begin insisting that its name is “Noodles.”
At long last, the party arrives on the outskirts of Silverymoon at the fabled White Lotus Academy. They reach the bronze, east-facing Sunrise Gate of the White Lotus Academy at mid-morning. When they reach the guard house, a short man with receding brown hair and a ready smile walks up the path to greet them. “Welcome to the White Lotus Academy,” he says, “I am Instructor Tevors. Once you’re settled, I’ll give you a tour of the campus and introduce you to the headmaster.”
Instructor Tevors is a teacher of sorcery at the White Lotus Academy and aide to Headmaster Kovaric. He sees to the heroes’ immediate needs and shows them rooms in Umberlin Dormitory that they can use while on campus. Once he has accomplished this part of his agenda, he shows them around the White Lotus Academy.
Instructor Tevors seems unpracticed at showing visitors the comfortable dorms; he points out the many-windowed library; the stained-glass conservatory; the squat, impregnable-seeming laboratory and classroom building; the varied vegetation of the arboretum; and the arcane-shape of the academy’s original building. However, his descriptions seem stilted, as if he is reading from a dry history text. After describing a large circle on the inside of the school’s multi-colored wall, Tevors stops outside the wrought-iron gate of a large house.
“The Headmaster’s Residence,” he states as he looks at the building. He leads the party inside. The interior’s wood paneling has an old, worn look that bespeaks age. Tevors leads them up a broad stairway to a landing and through the door at the top into a study that feels cramped due to the numerous bookshelves. In the center of the study, an aged man with gray hair sits with his head on his desk, snoring softly.
Tevors gives you a small smile that wavers after a couple seconds, then he clears his throat. A few moments later, he steps forward and shakes the headmaster, who sits up with a start and looks at Tevors, then the heroes, with bloodshot eyes and sticky drool on his cheek. Before Tevors can speak, the headmaster sways to his feet and yells, “Tevors!” leaning forward as though to counter the force of his voice. “Leave me! My work is urgent and my time is valuable. Begone, and take these petitioners with you!”
With a small shrug and a warning glance at the heroes, Instructor Tevors ushers them out of the office and closes the door behind him. “I’m, uh, well. There’s a student duel due to begin any time now. I was hoping you would enjoy the demonstration and perhaps share wisdom from your practical experiences. I have some administrative duties to attend to, but I’m sure Pel can show you the way.”
Eager to reunite with his old instructor, who invited him to the Academy in a somewhat cryptic manner, Pel leads the group to the dueling grounds. Instructor Ibok greets him, and the whole party, warmly, but says he cannot talk presently, as he is in the middle of a lesson. He looks disconcerted, but invites them to stay and watch.
At Harrid Yard, two combatants square off against each other. Each wears the White Lotus uniform—one in the form of heavy practice armor with a dulled blade, and the other in light practice armor with a wand. Neither is older than 16. Ibok shouts encouraging remarks and constructive criticisms to the students as the battle proceeds. The warlock is just getting the upper hand when the sound of metal grinding on metal grates in everyone’s ears, and the party turns to see the practice mannequins tearing themselves free of their support and advancing with weapons held at the ready.
Foremost, Ibok’s concern is for the safety of the students. He rushes off to seek help and leaves the heroes in charge of quelling the attack, knowing that they are well-suited to the task. One student ignores their demands to get out of the way, and insists on “helping” with the fight. When threats of death and pain do no good, Beef succeeds in convincing him to step down with a threat of something much more grave: expulsion from the Academy.
With some amusing results, springs and cogs flying everywhere, the party dispatches the rogue mannequins with little trouble. Almost immediately, Instructor Tevors arrives.
Tevors is nearly breathless after his run to the practice field. “I’m . . . ” he gasps, “ . . . so incredibly sorry. Nothing like this has ever happened before. The enchantments on those practice dummies have been unchanged for at least 50 years.” Then he doubles over and breathes heavily for a minute while the Instructor Ibok talks with the students and makes sure they are all safe, trying to calm them.
“I’m going to be examining the records of their maintenance and then I’ll ask Instructor Westbrooke to examine the mannequins directly.” Tevors looks at the party. “If you’d like to help me figure out what happened here, you could find me the book in the library that details how they were created originally. I’d send a student, but it’s likely to be in one of the more dangerous parts of the stacks.”
He continues, “If I could use your experience and knowledge any other way, I would. But both the maintenance records and the creation instructions are confidential and proprietary, and we can’t allow you to see either without permission from the headmaster who . . . who might not be forthcoming, as you saw. This is something you can do now.” Tevors gives the party a crystal the size of a finger that, through warmth and chill, will guide them to the correct room in the Lost Secrets Library.
After arriving at the library, the guiding crystal leads them quickly through the first floor, which is a well-lit warren of book-filled nooks and crannies thoroughly seeded with comfortable chairs and desks. Once the party reaches the back stairwell, the journey becomes more surreal. The crystal guides them down several flights, then leads them out onto a floor that appears identical to the first floor but has no windows or students. It glides up a flight of stairs, into a small corridor that opens into another flight of stairs, and then down another two levels to a door. After performing a few checks, they decide to open it.
A large sphere set in the ceiling gives off a flameless glow as the heroes enter the room. The dry smells of cracked leather and ancient paper assault them from the shelving in the wall and the freestanding wooden shelves.
As the last of the party enters the room, the door slams shut behind them, and the room falls into complete darkness before the sphere in the ceiling flickers back to life, though it does not shine as brightly as before. A pair of luminescent eyes watches you through the gaps in the freestanding bookcases, and a chorus of whispered voices sounds in your ears, “I was never allowed to leave. Neither shall you be.”
The poltergeists attack the party. They use the walls and freestanding bookcases to their advantage, phasing through them to avoid attacks between their turns and knocking over bookcases to trap and injur the party. The battle is long and somewhat arduous, but the heroes fight well. Not only are they protecting themselves, but they know that by defeating the ghosts they can give peace to the spirits of the students who once died here. When the last ghost has fallen, with a whisper of thanks, its insubstantial body collapses inward and manifests a scroll case, which drops to the floor.
Melthos recognizes the designs on the scroll case. It’s engraved with a symbol of Bahamut, and cases of this type were used for only one purpose at his monastery: to protect scrolls revered as containing prophecy. The scroll depicts four stone carvings, and judging from the surrounding architectural details, the heroes recognize these as being similar to the building styles they saw in Waterdeep. On the scroll are words in Draconic, which Immeral reads for the party: “A great evil that has long been departed will seek to forge an alliance and return to the material plane. He can be defeated by those who seek justice. The final battle will take place at a location known only to the spirits. In each of the places depicted on this scroll, the heroes will meet a dragon. The dragon will tell them about the place of the final battle and bestow a boon to aid them in their quest.” The party decides it’s worth investigating, but for now return to the task at hand, finding the book they were sent for.
The Lost Secrets Library is not done with heroes yet. As they continue to search for the book, they realize that the Library itself is interacting with them, and begin to respond. They soothe, cajole, and finally bluff their way to victory, promising the library they will return the book once they’re done with it even though they are not sure that will be possible. They manage to jump out a window just before the library catches on, and escape safely with Holman’s Treatise on the Imbuement and Maintenance of Armed Conflict Training Mannequins, and with some modicum of sanity still intact.
As the heroes step out of the library, a rolling baritone greets them: “Ah, just in time! Tevors needs to speak with you.” They find the dwarf, Instructor Ibok, approaching. “He asked you to meet him at the arboretum, by the sundial.” depite their protestations, he encourages them to hurry and says he is working and unable to talk at the moment. Pel is frustrated, as he not only has questions about the goings-on at the Academy but about his own past, and he can tell that his old mentor is being intentionall evasive.
At the Aboretum, the exotic foreign trees and bushes exude several scents, some sharp and some soothing, and they are engaging to the eye. Even the small landscaped fen is pleasant to walk past. A short stone-and-brass sundial stands at a widening of the path ahead, and a bench stands near it, but Instructor Tevors is nowhere to be found.
Despite the riot of sensation, the party notices that they hear no sound of birdsong or of animal life of any kind. They also notice bark-skinned humanoids camouflaged against the bark of nearby trees, and see writhing masses of vines rise from the nearby swampy ground. Blades of grass shift, and they see the faintest ripple in the air. Something invisible is here.
The party senses that a binding may have been removed, as the plants begin to attack them mercilessly. All the monsters hunger to indulge their vicious natures after feeling bound to be peaceful within the academy’s exotic arboretum for so long. The battle is brutal and intense beyond anything the heroes have yet experienced. The shambling mound attempts to consume the heroes one by one, while arborean beasts keep the others immobilized. Many fall and are stablized just in time. After what seems like ages, they emerge triuphant, but only barely, and their wounds are deep.
Will the heroes recover? What is causing the problems at the Academy? Why is Instructor Ibok being so evasive? The adventure continues next month!