The party awoke with all members seated at a lavish table in the midst of… nothing. They are surround by a white mist on all sides. It is as if they were seated in the middle of a cloud. At the head of the table was an elderly, kindly-looking halfling man in white robes. His eyes appear to the party as if there were only a soft blue glow inside the eyelids. This is Tachir, god of Life. On his right was seated Koloka, goddess of Defense, who appeared as a handsome dwarven woman in golden plate mail with blank golden orbs for eyes. On his left was seated Alinys, goddess of Luck, who appeared as a richly dressed, beautiful elven woman with coins for eyes.
Tachir stood on his chair and spoke to the gathered mortals, “Greetings friends. I have business I would like to discuss with you all, but first, please dine with us and eat your fill.” With a wave of his hand, the table is covered with a bounty of food. There are all the favorite foods of each of the party members available.
The party begins to eat. Tekh does so with particular gusto, becoming quite drunk on the fine ale in her mug, which never seems to empty. Time passes as they all eat and drink. Eventually, once all have finished, and shortly before Tekh passes out from drink, Tachir stands once again and speaks, “Now that we have all eaten our fill, let us move on to business.”
He once again waves his hand, and the food and all dirty dishes disappear. Tekh, to her disgust, is suddenly stone cold sober. “Hey! What’s going on here! I was just starting to feel good!”
Tachir smiles and answers, “I do apologize, dear lady, but I’m afraid we need your mind clear for the business at hand. You will, of course, be free to seek out more ale to reclaim your ‘good feeling’ once we are done here.” Tekh appears to be about to argue further, but Ferasar stops her. She subsides with poor grace.
Tachir smiles indugently and continues, “My twin and her children have long sought domination of this world. We, of course, would prefer that this does not happen. However, an outright battle between us would destroy the very thing that they seek to rule, and we seek to protect. So grandmother Caithyra decided that every 1000 years, a contest would be held between the forces of good, that’s us, and the forces of evil. Sometimes we win, sometimes they win. When they win, they dominate for a millennium before we, the deities of good, have another chance to restore the balance. The time of these contests are always times of great change in The World, whichever side prevails. If evil prevails, the changes are dark and ultimately destructive. All nations fall, and the races are be reduced to barbarism as they fight to survive in a world turned against them. It remains that way until we, the deities of good, once again win one of these contests. As I’m sure you will have surmised by now, one such contest is upon us. My daughters and I have called you here to prevent my twin and her sons from prevailing. There will still be changes, but not as dramatic or as destructive.”
“Here is how this millennium’s contest will work. Each side will choose champions, who will receive a certain amount of power from the deities who sponser them. The two sets of champions will then compete to gather four ancient artifacts together, and then bring them to the appointed place before the other side does so, and once there perform some final task, to be chosen by our All-Mother, who remains neutral in this as with all things. Mother Lalphaw is also staying out of it, as she has no interest, and Father Smonn will act as mediator, and will aid each side equally as necessary. The exact nature of the final task will not be known until after the artifacts have been brought to the appointed place, which will be inside the very temple which you just left. Myself, Daughter Koloka, and Daughter Alinys have chosen you as our champions. Sister Halit, Nephew Torowe, and Nephew Vicdak will choose their own champion or champions. If any champions fall, give up or are deemed unworthy before the contest is ended, new champions will be chosen. You will note that we have chosen to select multiple champions. This means that we must divide our granted power among you, but we believe that the dilution of our power will more than be made up for by your ability to work together as a unit, and thus increasing your combined power immeasurably. If I know my sister, though, the other side will likely choose to grant all of their power into one champion, as it is not in the nature of evil to cooperate for very long without turning on itself. Their champion will also likely change many times throughout the contest, as it is also the nature of evil to be fickle. You will thus be facing many enemies, each of which are far more powerful than you individually. You must be wary, but you must also have faith that you can prevail. If you do prevail, you will each be granted whatever reward you wish, short of godhood.”
“And now, I will ask each of you: Will you become our champion? Those that agree will be granted a blessing and sent back into The World to begin your task. Those who do not will be allowed to go in peace, and another will be chosen in your place.”
He first looks to Rit and asks her, “Will you become our champion?” She grins and responds, “I like it!” Tachir smiles slightly and says, “I’ll take that as a yes.”
He then looks to Cham and asks the question again, to which Cham simply says, “Yes.”
He asks the question to Vast. The halfling looks around at the rest of the group, then back at the deities. Finally, he shakes his head. “I-I-I’m s-sorry, I c-cannot,” he says as he hangs his head in shame.
Tachir nods sadly, “Very well. I find myself greatly disappointed, but we will respect your decision. When you awake, you will be back in Vaa. You will not remember any of this. Goodbye.” Vast then closes his eyes and fades from view.
Tachir then asks the question to Ferasar, who looks proud as he confidently answers, “Yes.”
When he asks the question to Tekh, however, she pauses first, glaring at the deity. Finally she sighs, rolls her eyes and grumbles, “Fine….”
Tachir nods and says, “Thank you all. Now, Daughter Alinys will bestow upon each of you the power which will help you on your way.” He sits back down and nods to Alinys, who stands. She holds a deck of cards.
“Thank you, Father,” she says, smiling at Tachir fondly and then at the assembled mortals, “Now, let’s have a little fun. I think that we should add a little element of chance to this.” She flourishes the deck of cards.
“First, to Tekh Stormcloud,” she draws a card, which floats toward Tekh, “who is so close to the world, and all its pleasures, shall be given the power of The World, so that you might become even more a part of it.” The card sinks into Tekh’s forehead. She looks surprised, then thoughtful, then suddenly she grins and her skin turns stony. Then the chair she sits in groans and smashes. She falls to the unseen floor with a resounding thud as she begins to laugh.
“And for Ferasar Auvraheal,” Alinys turns then to Ferasar and draws another card, which also floats toward him, “who brings light from the darkness, shall be given the power of The Sun so that you might better fight the darkness.” This card also sinks into Ferasar’s forehead, though he does not feel moved to demonstrate his new ability, whatever it may be.
“The one known as Cham Leon,” she turns to Cham and draws another card, which floats toward him, “who has set out upon a great journey, but yet has no destination, shall be given the power of The Fool, and so that fortune shall always smile upon you.” The card once again sinks into Cham’s forehead like the others. He also does not demonstrate any sudden new abilities.
“And last, but by no means least, Rittophoran Chanjefir Diddlyophemeylicles,” she turns to Rit and draws one final card, which floats toward her, reducing to a proportionate size along the way, “the little storyteller who seeks only to bring her story to the world, shall be given the power of The Magician, to help you find your way to what you truly seek.” The card sinks in like the others. Rit doesn’t demonstrate any new abilities, but she looks thrilled.
Then Alinys sits back down and Koloka stands up and addresses the group, "Now I will give you description of the four artifacts which you will be collecting. Each has great power on its own, in addition to being a part of this contest.”
As she speaks an image of each artifact appears in the air before her.
“This is the Pentacle, which holds the power of Earth. The holder will be granted great fortune, and may call upon the power of Earth to protect them from not only physical damage, but also more esoteric damage. It will also grant the power of free movement over the earth, making it nearly impossible for the bearer’s body to be restrained.”
“This is the Cup, which holds the power of Water. This has a simple, yet deceptively powerful ability. It may call forth into itself any liquid the holder desires. Any liquid at all.”
“This is the Wand, which holds the power of Fire. The holder of this wand may call forth a variety of powerful fiery attacks to devastate the holder’s enemies.”
“This is the Sword, which holds the power to Air. In addition to being an excellent sword in and of itself, which delivers a powerful shock to those it strikes, the holder of this artifact may call upon the power of air to propel themselves, and a number of others, through the air. The bearer may also call upon the power of air summon a funnel of air which will not only protect, but do harm to those who may attempt to make their way through it.”
Koloka is once again seated, and Tachir speaks again, “Those are the four artifacts of Balatro which I now charge you to find and bring together. May fortune follow you where ever you may go. The World as you know it is counting on it.”
The party re-appears in The World outside of Vaa.
Tachir’s voice sounds once more out of the air, “Oh, and I nearly forgot, Elrohir promised you each payment for escorting him here. Let’s see… it took 23 days to get here, so that’s 230 silver each, though you did do some fighting on the last day, so I believe 240 silver each is what was agreed…” 24 gold coins appear at each of the party members’ feet. ”…and if you should seek out Elrohir again, be aware that he will not remember you or any of what has happened in the past month. As far as he, or anyone else, is concerned, he has been in Vaa going about his normal business.”
As the group is collecting their gold and generally getting their bearings, Tekh is grumbling, “Gods, my ass! Sound like a bunch of squabbling kids that Mommy had to give them a game play to keep them quiet.”
The party then gets their bearings and head into town to try to find out about the artifacts of Balatro. The party then split up. Cham and Rit left for the library in the local temple of Smonn. Ferasar went to the Sages’ Guild to consult with Elrohir. Tekh went off to the nearest bar to find some ale… and a good burly dwarven man. Vast goes of on business of his own.
At the sage’s guild, Elrohir did not know much of anything about the artifacts, but suggests that Ferasar should try the High Temple of Smonn further inland, in the mountains. So Ferasar goes to meet up with the others.
At the temple, Cham and Rit did not have much luck finding anything in the available books until Rit mentioned to the acolyte helping her that they were looking for the artifacts of Balatro. The acolyte told her that he remembered seeing that name at the High Temple in the mountains.
After a brief discussion, Cham and Rit decide that they would go on their own to make the 600 mile journey inland to the High Temple. They meet up with Ferasar to tell him that they’ll be back later that day. Ferasar, of course, doesn’t believe them, but shrugs and lets them go, thinking to gather the others and follow after the next day.
Once out of Ferasar’s sight, Rit transforms into a beautiful white horse, which Cham mounts, and they take off at a speed impossible for a normal horse… indeed impossible for most modern automobiles without racing modifications.
Ferasar returns to the tavern where Tekh had gone. He goes up to her room and enters, finding her… engaged… with a male dwarf. Ferasar doesn’t blink an eye and just tells her that they need to go to the High Temple. After an axe embeds itself in the wall next to him, he adds, “tommorrow,” and leaves the room.
Meanwhile, Cham and Rit arrive at the High Temple about four hours later. When they go inside, an acolyte meets them and asks them what they want. When they mention the artifacts of Balatro, they are immediately ushered into the office of the High Priest, who tells them that he’d been sent a vision just last night that he was to personally help anyone who came to the temple asking about the artifacts of Balatro. He then told them that he would need to do some research, though, before he would be ready to tell them anything, and asks them to return in the morning.
The pair get a room in the trade town around the temple, and return to the temple in the morning. The High Priest meets them in the main hall of the temple. He says, “I’ve found a possible lead on one of the artifacts. I believe it’s…” Suddenly, there is a soft thunk, and he stumbles, and slowly begins to fall forward. A crossbow bolt sticks out of his back. He manages to get out, “Vidoon… Art Collect…” and dies. Rit sees a flutter of black up near the roof and flies up to try to catch the killer, but whoever was there is already gone. They decide that there’s not much to do then but head back to Vaa to re-join the others.
About 4 hours later, the group left behind were just starting out on the road to the Temple. Suddenly, they notice a cloud of dust on the horizon, and a figure moving toward them very fast. So fast, in fact, that by the time the figure was recognizable as a horse and rider, the pair are pulling up to the rest of the party, and they are revealed to be Cham on a white heavy warhorse. Cham sends the horse into town, explaining that he can summon it again if they should need it. Shortly thereafter, Rit returns to the rest of the party. The pair brings the others up to date, and the party headed out for Vidoon, the capital city of Ceorther, taking the dwarven trade tunnels through the Great Mountain Range that divided Ceorther and Ostai. The Ostai side of the tunnels was by the High Temple.
Along the way, in the high grass of the plains between Vaa and the High Temple, a lone hired assassin tried to ambush the party in order to try to kill Cham, but he was spotted before he was ready, so only managed a snap shot, which hit Cham in the chest, but only did a minor wound. The assassin tried to run away, but was caught easily by Ferasar who started to question him, but he didn’t get very far before Tekh caught up and decapitated the assassin on the run. The rest of the long journey was largely uneventable, and they arrived in Vidoon to look for an Art Collector.