The tent was filled with commotion and murmurs, but behind the impatience and chaos was a boring sigh of collective waiting from the mercenaries gathered. We were promised gold, and we were promised that there was an amulet available for plundering. But I was seeking something more.
Growing up in the temple taught me to follow the Gods where ever they may lead. When the wheel to my cart broke bringing supplies back to the temple, I ended up in a small village. A farmer in that small village sent me to Merryport. Leaving my horses in the care of the farmer, I arrived in Merryport to a scene of gossip and worry. But where there be worry, there also be a cause. When the Gods challenge us with a tragedy, they often pave the way for the forging of new heroes.
The guards of Merryport mistook my hallowed robes and traveling supplies for tell-tale signs of a hero in the making. Though I did not seek glory – actually, I didn’t even knew what all of the chaos was about at the time – I did know that everything happens for a reason. As the guards thrust a scroll of orders into my small dwarven hand and practically pushed me passed the raised portcullis leading to the city, I knew that I had been called to help.
We waiting for only a few minutes in the tent, but it felt like hours. People came in and out, and eventually a half-orc female filled us in on more specific directions. A duke had gone missing, and the mercenaries who gathered were chosen to enter the cave and find him.
I could only surmise that our group was assembled for diversity of background; for, there was a bard, paladin, sorcerer, druid, barbarian, fighter, and rogue. There were two clerics including me-self. Perhaps more diverse groups, once formed, would be sent in at a later time. But I couldna think about that! I could not submit to thoughts of failure or search parties going in after the search party.
Our journey started slowly and awkwardly. I found myself quietly following those who led the charge. The rogue, Garon, was outspoken and uncharacteristically jolly for a drow. The other cleric was a younger dwarf lad named Klister, but he was friendly enough. The sorcerer, Tim, was apathetic from the start. Crowfang the paladin wasn’t particularly remarkable – other than the fine lass who saw him off before he left on our quest. She was quite the maiden! But Crowfang brought a dog with him – named dog. I guess that shows the cleverness of the half orc naming strategies.
We had a pair of muscle with us – both human. The fighter was named William, and his barbarian counterpart was Yuric. The two got along famously for two lads who just met. Wulfgar the druid was a tough sort, too – sturdy and prepared. However, when battle began against a pair of statues inside the cave, his attempt to pull the monsters to us and fling them off the ledge of the platform fell flat . . . and he sighed in resignation. The statues eventually fell, no thanks to my bloody axe failures!
During the battle, the sorcerer actually left! Gods forgive him. I thought we would have to depend on the little arcane magic that the bard possessed for more intellectual bouts, but T’ymm returned. When he came back, it was almost as if he was a different person…Huh. A full party once again, we continued.
We traveled deeper inside, noting the fragile nature of the ropes suspending the platforms above a deep ravine. Eventually coming to a rope going up, the party ascended one by one. A bright light filled our eyes, and the adventure seemed to stop there . . .
But, to our surprise, we awoke in a temple that was filled with pillows and comforts. We were surrounded by elven monks. The reverence of the scene made me feel at home. I took charge, speaking Elven to the monk standing before us, who quickly scooted away to allow the monk in charge to handle our questions.
How did we get here? The monk explained that people frequented the temple for the trials.
What about the duke?! The monk knew of no duke going missing.
There was absolutely no reason to do these trials of cunning, heart, insight, and power, except that there were two very good reasons. First, we had no idea what else to do, and second . . . didn’t I mention that everything happens for a reason?
The first trial – cunning – was quite the event. The party went in as a group, which surprised me since only Garon and perhaps Grif the bard or Wulfgar the druid, were especially equipped to handle agility trials. Still, in we went to find a strange crystalline striped room where the ceilings and the walls were indistinguishable from one another, save for the fact that they were on opposite sides from us. But soon, that, too, would change.
We were greeted by a mischievous ghost-like snake that tunneled in and out of the walls. It toyed with us, leaving the paladin and bard thoughtfully contemplating how to succeed in a way that we could pass the trial. Tag was the game of choice for the spirited snake, and upon “tagging” William and Yuric, the adventurers were flung about seemingly by gravity itself, slammed into the walls, taking damage as it occurred.
Garon was more straightforward and playful than the rest of us. At first, it seemed to work to our advantage. The snake delighted at the rogue’s comments that the game of tag that it brought us into was “fun.” But after someone managed to “tag” the snake and win the talisman, the rogue’s insistence that we “play again” was not such a welcome turn of events.
After another much less fruitful game of tag, we returned to the temple, successful, but licking our wounds. This time the party did decide to split up, taking a cleric each. I stayed with Tim, Crowfang the Paladin and his dog, and the Grif the bard, while Wulfgar, Yuric, Klister, and Garon ventured forth to a different trial. William, injured from the trial of cunning, decided to stay behind in the temple as we continued forward. Yuric was disappointed to leave his comrade behind, but remained focused on the task at hand.
My group undertook the challenge of insight while Garon and company continued on to the challenge of heart. The shrine where we entered the trial of insight contained blind monks who worked on a sculpture despite their conditions. It was an inspiring scene of faith and ability from the most faithful of followers. The Sentinel has true believers.
A globe in the room caught our attention. Though we could speak to the monks, they required proof that we had passed a trial. Since Garon – now off with the other party – had the talisman of cunning, we did not receive help from the monks. And we did not press the issue further.
We turned to the globe and pressed our hands against it. We had difficulty connecting with the magical sphere at first, but eventually, it came into our minds. It saw within the four of us different understandings of knowledge – nature, religion, history – the letters became clear. The crystals were lighting up with the letters to the word “vision,” a word that the sorcerer and his mastery of intellect were quick to point out.
We received the second talisman and a ring as a reward. We stood waiting at the shrine to learn what the other party had encountered. I found myself praying to the Gods that they succeed, though I still don’t know why. Letting fate steer my direction has led me to moments of doubt, but ultimately, I have resigned to follow this quest where it leads.
– Otis Whitebeard