Finals at the Academy:Campaign/Chapter 03

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Chapter 3: "Just a Little Off the Top, Please..."

When we last left Our Party, they had just survived getting their equipment from "Danger Dan" Killjoy, Quartermaster Extraordinaire. They are now just reaching the Transportation Department to finally start their Test proper.

After walking through the halls of the Academy's Administrative Building for a little while, they all arrive at the main room of the Transportation Department. The walls of the room are covered with advertisements for all sorts of places, and there's a number of doors on each wall in between the advertisements (and sometimes covered by them as well).

In the middle of the room is a desk occupied by a very bored-looking Human woman reading a book. Since it is rather early in the day, there doesn't seem to be any other students besides Our Party looking to get transported anywhere. The clerk looks up questioningly at their approach. "Can I help you?"

"We're headed to Clarksburg, lad. Fire up our transport so we can be off!" Redhill answers.

"That's Ma'am to you, dearie. And, Clarksburg, hmm? For what purpose?"

"Ah, yes, sorry Ma'am. We're headed off on our final project."

"In that case, present your assignment papers and IDs, please."

Ayaka nods and is silent now. She flicks a look to the rest of the group and sighs inwardly.

Redhill hands over his ID and assignment paper. Everyone else presents their IDs as well.

The clerk glances over everyone's ID, and the assignment paper, and says, "Mmm. Very well, the other Party came not too long ago, actually. Follow me, please, students." The clerk stands up and goes over to one of the advertisement-plastered doors.

Hiro pauses. "Er, what other Party?"

"Just ignore him Ma'am, he's a bit slow," Redhill comments.

"You forgot about the Gnome's Party?" Karmillo asks Hiro. Hiro looks a bit embarrassed.

Ayaka rolls her eyes and walks calmly after the clerk. Everyone else follows, Karmillo rushing up to stick close behind Redhill.

The clerk shakes her head slightly, shoves the myriad advertisements aside enough to uncover the door's lock, pulls out a keyring, and unlocks the door. She then beckons everyone into the room beyond.

They find themselves inside a large room with blank white walls. There are three glass columns with doors in the room which are enclosing red circles drawn on the floor. There is a bin of brochures sitting next to each column. Also, each column has a sign hanging on it.

The clerk says, "Once you've all read the signs, I'll unlock the circles. One person at a time, please. Feel free to take one of the brochures. The Academy is not responsible for any damage to gear or persons incurred while transporting."

Khila'eru reads the signs, as does Redhill and Hiro. Khila'eru also takes a brochure. Ayaka reads the signs intently before taking one of the brochures herself.

The signs all read:

"Step 1: Open door. Step 2: Stand in circle. Step 3: Hold on to your hat (if you have one). Note: Usage of Teleportation Circles right after eating is not advised."

"I'll head out first and make sure the other side is secure." Redhill goes over and tries to open one of the doors, but finds that it's currently locked.

The clerk raises her eyebrows. "Just a moment, dear. Wait until everyone's ready."

"I'll go with you," Karmillo says.

Redhill considers kicking down the door, then considers kicking the transport lady.

"Um, Ma'am, we're ready to head out. They can finish getting ready while I go make sure the other side is secure." Redhill pokes Karmillo in the stomach. "Make sure you stay safe on the other side there, sorcerer. I can't keep my eye on you at all times."

"Don't worry, I'll have your back."

"Yeah, that's what I'm worried about. Don't get too close while I'm swinging my axe. Wouldn't want to accidentally cut you open...

"And you be sure to duck when I start throwing my spells about... or, um, never mind."

Khila'eru tightens the straps on her gear and makes sure that her bag is securely closed, but decides to wait until the others go first. Ayaka checks her own things then nods, her eyes narrowing as she thinks.

Hiro, on the other hand, walks to the nearest column. The clerk goes over, unlocks the door, and lets Hiro into the column. He stands inside the circle, then a moment later vanishes down into it in a small *poof* of smoke. The clerk then goes over and opens the other two circles. "One at a time, please, the rest of you."

Redhill, seeing Hiro completely ignore his directions, stands back and waits. "Well fine, then, let him secure the other side. I'll wait here."

The clerk clasps her hands behind her back. "Anyone else ready to go through?"

Redhill waves the Elves through. Khila'eru steps into one of the columns and stands on the circle. With a similar *poof* to Hiro's, she disappears down into it. Ayaka nods slightly, then walks forward, her eyes narrowing before she steps onto a circle and vanishes herself.

The clerk gestures at Redhill and Karmillo. "Well, gentlemen, last call, as it were."

"Head through, half-br... er... sorcerer."

"By all means, after you."

Redhill latches onto Karmillo's robe, looking to toss him into a circle. However, Karmillo manages to snatch his robes out of Redhill's grasp before he can do anything. The clerk gets a slightly alarmed look. "Oh, for pity's sake, gentlemen, you are graduates, aren't you? Don't you have better ways to act?"

"Look, I've got orders to watch your back," Karmillo protests.

"All right, we'll go together," Redhill says.

"Ah, one at a time, the circles can't handle two people at once."

Karmillo turns to the clerk. "Why not?"

"Do I look like a Wizard? I just work here, I don't cast the things."

Redhill and Karmillo, eyeing each other carefully, ignore the clerk and both walk into separate circles. After dickering over who gets to give the hand gesture countdown, they finally just jump into the circles at the same time. They disappear down into them with two *poofs*. The clerk sighs and heads back to her desk.

After a period of time which consists of the general sensation of being squished into an infinitely small and dense point, hurled through space for a bit, then tossed around like a busboy handling luggage poorly, Hiro gets spit out back into existence with a *foop*!

He finds himself alone in a small clearing within what seems to be a grove of trees. There is a small sign on one tree. Hiro notices that the sign is pointing the way to Clarksburg, but, being a sensible monk, he feels he should wait and see if any other Party members will appear before he sets off.

Hiro waits patiently for a couple minutes. Suddenly, after the same rather unusual experience of getting tossed around existence, Khila'eru and Ayaka both *foop* out of nowhere one after the other inside the small clearing.

Hiro heaves a sigh of relief and looks toward his companions. "It's good to see you."

Khila'eru steadies herself and examines the area. She smiles at Hiro and reads the sign.

Ayaka stumbles slightly, then regains her balance, looking around a bit now as she moves from the spot she appeared in. Her snake, Rune, is coiled about her wrists. She smiles at Hiro's comment. "It's good to be here," she murmurs.

Hiro smiles back. "Should we head towards Clarksburg? It's not that far."

"We could, but the Dwarf has our instructions," Khila'eru points out.

Ayaka nods a little, reading the sign herself. "I think we should, but at a slow walk..."

Hiro nods in agreement. "The Dwarf will catch us up."

Ayaka nods. "I think he will catch us up easily..." She smiles then.

"But knowing them, they would take the wrong path and get lost, " Khila'eru protests.

"They can both read," Hiro tells her. Ayaka nods a little.

"That was not the point that I was making," Khila'eru says.

"So, do you want to wait for them?" Hiro asks.

"I think that it would be wise, but the two of you may go ahead if you like," Khila'eru tells him.

"Its been about five minutes, I really don't think anyone else is going to appear, but we won't leave you alone," Hiro assures her.

"I just want to make sure that those two idiots don't get into any more trouble before we get our instructions," Khila'eru grumbles.

Hiro nods. "Yes, they do seem to have a knack for getting into trouble. Okay, we'll wait. Ayaka, what do you think?"

Ayaka ponders. "I think... considering how much they are trouble magnets... I think we will wait."

Ayaka relaxes then, leaning against a tree and closing her eyes. Khila'eru stretches and enjoys the feeling of the grass between her toes. Hiro meditates.

After a few minutes of eye-resting, grass-toeing, and meditating, there suddenly is a simultaneous pair of *foops* out of nowhere. Redhill and Karmillo suddenly appear in the clearing, having gone through the same bizarre bit of infinite baggage handling as the others.

Hiro looks up. "At last."

Redhill lands on his feet, orientates himself, notices the sign, and heads off to Clarksburg, ignoring the Elves.

Karmillo lands on his head. "Dammit!"

Ayaka blinks as she hears the the other two arriving... and Redhill taking off. "See... I had a feeling we shouldn't wait... !" She moves into a slow run to catch up.

Khila'eru sighs and walks toward the town. Hiro decides to follow the others as well. Karmillo gets up, dusts himself off, notices Redhill leaving, and dashes in an attempt to catch up.

The five adventurers walk out of the grove. As soon as they get past the trees, they find themselves standing in front of a large city wall, about thirty feet away. There is a gate in part of the wall, currently closed. Next to the gate is a booth containing a city guard, snoozing and snoring a bit in his seat. A wooden sign above the gate reads "Clarksburg".

Khila'eru looks over her brochure. Hiro looks at the brochure map over her shoulder and wonders where the red-light district is. After a bit of looking he finds something that looks promising, smiles, and steps away.

Redhill reaches in through the booth window and shakes the guard a bit. "Wake up, you. What kind of guard sleeps on the job? Disgraceful."

The guard opens one eye blearily. "Huh... wha? Oh. Sorry, it's a bit early, ya know." He stretches and yawns. "Can I help ya?"

"We'd like to enter. So... open the gate."

Ayaka stands a little way behind Redhill, her eyes narrowing as her snake wraps itself loosely about her neck, then is still.

The guard answers, "Yeah, yeah, sure, open the gate, huh? You folks got citizen papers or Academy IDs for me, or do ya need visitor stuff?"

"We're good, thanks." Redhill goes over to the gate and finds that it's rather locked.

The guard stretches and looks smugly at Redhill. "Not so fast there, sport. Let's see some papers, eh?"

"We are students, sir." Khila'eru shows the guard her ID. Hiro and Ayaka also show their IDs. Karmillo produces his ID with the doodles.

Redhill shows his ID. "Now open the gates, you lazy guard."

The guard looks over all the IDs, raising his eyebrows at Karmillo's ID picture. "Lovely getup you have there, Sir Sorceror."

Karmillo grins. "Why, thank you."

"And lazy, eh? You Academy folk think you're better than the rest of us. You try manning this gate all day. Anyway, lemme let you in, yadda."

"Manning? Pfft, you're sleeping. I could sleep just as easily as you could..."

Ayaka snickers softly, her eyes glittering now. Redhill falls asleep standing up, then wakes up a few seconds later. "See?"

The guard leaves the booth and walks over to the gate, muttering to himself. He unlocks it and swings it wide. "Enter and all that. And, you want me awake at the wheel, get me some coffee. Damn bosses don't give us anything. Snots."

"Yeah, well, don't expect much from us either," Karmillo tells him.

Redhill passes through the gate. Khila'eru follows, pausing to say "Thank you, sir guard," as she goes through.

"You're welcome, Sister Cleric." The guard bows slightly at Khila'eru, smiling in the manner of a man seeing a pretty Elven lady.

Hiro follows Khila'eru. Ayaka blinks then smirks, silently passing through the gates. Karmillo runs up to follow behind Redhill, sticking close. They emerge from beyond the gate into the city of Clarksburg. It is a small city, but nonetheless a busy one. Even at this early hour there's still a fair number of people milling about.

Redhill proudly marches in the lead for a while... then, realizing he has no idea where Curl Up and Dye is in the city, pauses and looks at Hiro.

"You've got a map, lead us to Curl Up and Dye."

Hiro snorts. "I do not have a map."

Ayaka nods slightly, pulls out her brochure map, studies it, and licks at her lips a little before leading them in the right direction.

Pfft, useless monk," Redhill snorts. He follows Ayaka.

Hiro glares at Redhill. "What was that, DWARF?" Redhill ignores him.

"Do you need a dye job, Dwarf?" Khila'eru asks.

"I was considering it, Elf."

"Could you by any chance get around to telling us what our quest is?" Khila'eru persists.

Ayaka flicks a look over her shoulder. "Will you quit it... ?" She rubs at her head as she comes to a stop outside the salon. "Here we are."

The front of the salon is whitewashed, with a large window to the left of a door. The sign above the door reads "Curl Up and Dye", and there is a striped barber pole to the right of the door.

"You'll find out what the quest is when I'm good and ready, Elf."

"We're to kill some guy, right?" Karmillo asks.

"Are we all to get a wash and cut then?" Khila'eru persists.

"Indeed, the ladies are required to get their heads shaved... don't ask me, part of the quest. Then we're to talk to the owner of this here shop about our quest."

"You first then," Khila'eru tells him.

"No, it just says ladies, sorry, Elf."

Ayaka narrows her eyes. Redhill opens the door to the shop. "In we go, ladies, let's get that hair shaved off." Redhill waves for everyone to enter as he holds the door. "C'mon people, we haven't got all day."

Khila'eru enters the shop and takes a good look around, then starts reading the brochure entry on the shop. Ayaka enters the shop behind her.

The little bell on the door chimes as the two ladies walk through it. They find themselves inside a small barber shop. By the door there is a counter with a sign hanging on it, and in front of the counter is a waiting area with a few chairs. The patrons waiting in the chairs look up from their books and conversations curiously as the ladies enter.

Behind the counter are a set of more elaborate client chairs, surrounded by mirrors and various counters covered in hair care paraphernalia. Two of the chairs are occupied by other patrons, who are having their hair done by an elderly balding man and an elegantly coiffed Half-Elf fellow.

Redhill grins from the doorway. "Ladies, sit down and get those heads shaved."

Ayaka narrows her eyes and ignores Redhill as she reads the sign. Khila'eru finishes reading the brochure entry, and looks up to read the sign herself.