Finals at the Academy:Campaign/Chapter 04

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Chapter 4: The True Powers of Alya'Eliyre

"When we last left Our Party, the ladies had just entered a local barber shop, Curl Up and Dye, in search of finding out whether their quest instructions really involve becoming 'follicularly challenged'."

The elderly fellow busy cutting hair opens his mouth to greet Khila'eru and Ayaka, who are currently preoccupied with reading the signage on the front counter. Before he can do so, however, he is interrupted by a strange event that is occurring.

The grin fades from Redhill's face as the air immediately surrounding him in the shop doorway seems to grow oddly dim... and start twisting in a rather disturbing way. He tries to move, but seems trapped in place!

Outside the shop, Hiro witnesses a similar spectacle happening to Karmillo, who is trapped within his own deformation of reality. Some of the passerby stop and stare in amazement and curiosity, while others decide that running is a better course of action.

The patrons within in the shop and the two barbers all stare in horror as over the course of several seconds the distortion becomes even more and more twisted and dim... until, suddenly, with a giant *POOF!* the distortion seems to get sucked up into thin air... taking Redhill along with it!

Two of the patrons in the waiting area gasp and cower as a cloud of smoke forms from the disappearance spot, while the last screams and runs behind the counter. The shop door bangs shut, now that nothing is holding it open. Behind the counter, the two patrons and the barbers attending them simply stare in shock.

Khila'eru gapes at the spot where Redhill used to be, unable to put words to her thoughts. "A... A real teleportation deconstruction... You hear stories, but... but... you never expect one to happen in front of you. Ugh, what a terrible way to go..."

Khila'eru then dashes outside to check on the rest of the Party. Ayaka remains in place and shudders, her shape twitching.

From his exterior vantage point, Hiro watches as Karmillo disappears in a similar manner. Several of the rubberneckers gasp, scream, cringe, and/or run off in fright.

Hiro walks over to the place where Karmillo vanished. The smoke quickly dissipates outside the shop, revealing that Karmillo is nowhere to be found. The small group still left outside look at each other uncertainly, unsure of what they've just witnessed.

"What just happened?" Hiro wonders aloud.

"Funny, I was just about to ask you the same thing," one of the on-lookers says. The rest of the crowd all starts murmuring similar questions and exclamations about the odd event.

"Well, what do we do now? How can we continue without the sorceror?" Hiro realizes that he is talking to himself, and shuts up, but not before one of the rubberneckers comments.

"Well, if I was you, I'd go tell a constable or something, I would." The others nod.

As Khila'eru leaves, the barbers and patrons behind the counter are still staring in shock. One patron in the waiting area is sitting upright, holding on to his seat for dear life, his eyes and mouth wide open. Another patron is cowering in his chair, having curled up into a ball. The last patron stands up from where she ducked behind the counter, clutching her knitting to her chest in shock. The smoke still hangs in the air. Redhill is definitely nowhere to be seen.

There doesn't seem to be any damage to the shop or the patrons... well, except for their wits, that is.

The elderly barber, after staring for a few moments, finally recovers his voice and says, "What in the Nine Hells was that?! A teleportation deconstruction, she said? Who are you people?"

Khila'eru runs out the shop door and spies Hiro.

"Hiro! Where's Karm?"

"Er... he's sort of... gone?"

"He upped and vanished, he did! I never seen anything like it!" one of the rubberneckers adds.

"Oh no... not him, too," Khila'eru gasps.

Hiro addresses the crowd of on-lookers. "Look, will one of you lot go and find a constable?"

The crowd members look at each other and nod. "Yeah, sure, definitely." They all run off.

Ayaka whispers to the elderly barber, "We're from the uh... College..." Her voice shakes now.

"Academy folk, huh? Ohh, let me guess, you used those fancy teleportation thingys? Never trusted that sort of thing myself. Prefer to use my own two feet... or a horse's own four feet, maybe."

The Half-Elf barber, having finally recovered his own composure, replies, "They're perfectly safe, Boss... as long as you use them correctly." He looks over at Ayaka. "I'm guessing your friend didn't use them correctly?"

Ayaka nods a little, deeply shaken now. She moves to leave then, her shape shuddering. As she turns and heads out the door, she sees the patrons and the barbers all looking at each other uncertainly.

Khila'eru leans against the shop's wall and attempts to gather her wits.

Hiro breathes deeply himself. "OK, the question is - what do we do now?"

"Wait for the constable, I suppose..." Khila'eru spies Ayaka's exit from the shop and says, "Oh Ayaka, it happened to Karm, too."

Ayaka is silent as she steps outside, but as she hears Khila'eru she pales. "Oh... no..." she whispers, swallowing hard.

"He was just a child..." Khila'eru says miserably. She looks around for signs of an approaching constable.

"I think we need to stay calm and assess the situation - I mean, we don't know that they're dead," Hiro tries to reassure the ladies.

Ayaka whispers, "I hope they aren't..."

"It could have been a problem with the transports, they could just be in another dimension? Or, maybe they're back at the Academy?" Hiro hopes that nobody notices his look of doubt and fear.

Ayaka swallows hard and shakes her head. "Who can say where they are now... ?" Khila'eru looks at Hiro with sorrow in her eyes, but not much hope.

They all stand around for several minutes. People pass by frequently, going about their daily business. Eventually a fellow dressed in a chain shirt over dark clothes comes over to the shop. He sports a black "police hat" and a copper badge on his chestplate.

"Are you the constable?" Khila'eru asks.

"I am, yes. I got a report of a disturbance from a gaggle of rather nervous-looking townsfolk... ?"

"There was... an 'incident'," Khila'eru affirms.

"It seems two of our colleagues have, er... disappeared," Hiro says.

The constable pulls a scroll of paper and an inkpen from holders on his belt and starts writing. "All right, could you describe the exact nature of the disappearance?"

"It was a teleportation deconstruction," Khila'eru tells him. She then sighs and leans back against the wall.

"Well, they just disappeared, in a proverbial 'puff of smoke'," Hiro adds.

Ayaka swallows hard. "They just went 'poof'... literally..."

"I see." The constable scribbles. "Did you see what produced this 'puff of smoke'? Errant wand or spell? Rogue spellcaster? Misfired magical device?"

"They were immobilized and surrounded by a spacial distortion," Khila'eru says.

Ayaka nods. "We were just standing talking, then they seemed to be paralyzed before vanishing."

"And then they were deconstructed." Khila'eru shudders.

"It came from out of nowhere." Hiro notices the ladies' discomfort, then says, "I am sorry, but my two friends here are still quite shaken. Do you think we can get this over with? Because we really need to rest."

"Hmm. Well, I can see how you'd be shaken up. Are you folks citizens of the city? How did you get here?" the constable asks.

"We're from the Academy," Hiro tells him.

"The Academy? Ahh, yeah. In that case, this isn't the first time I've heard of this sort of thing happening. It's pretty rare, though, thank the gods."

"This sort of thing? What do you mean?" Hiro queries.

"Do you really think that this has never happened before?" Khila'eru points out. "Magic is inherently unstable, accidents happen."

Ayaka leans against a wall, swallowing hard as she drags both hands over her face, calming now, smoothing away the fear.

"I'd just like to know what exactly has happened," Hiro persists.

"Well, you know that the Academy's far enough away from here that they use Teleportation Circles often, eh? They're usually pretty safe, but sometimes funny things happen, especially if the students don't use the Circles properly."

"Do you mean like taking two people in one portal?" Hiro asks.

"Yes, or using two Circles at the exact same moment," the constable affirms.

Ayaka looks up. "Then... that is what happened... ? They're dead..." She moves a little way off, muttering in Elven.

"So, they're dead?" Hiro says.

"Oh, not necessarily. Circles are funny things... You could end up almost anywhere from another part of the world to another plane altogether. Most of the time, though, you just get pulled back to your point of origin, albeit in slightly worse wear than when you started out."

Hiro looks toward Ayaka and Khila'eru. "See, that's what I thought. They're probably back at the Academy feeling like they're recovering from the worst hangover ever."

Ayaka whispers, in Common, "I hope so..." She gives herself a shake then, before looking distant.

Khila'eru doubts this somehow. "Something about the greasy look of that smoke worries me," she thinks to herself.

Hiro notices a strange look on Khila'eru's face and wonders what she's thinking about. "Are you OK, Khila?"

The constable takes some moments to work on his incident report. Khila'eru starts at Hiro's comment, having been lost in her own thoughts. "Oh, um, yes, just worried."

"You're worried that the other two are dead?"

"Something about the way they vanished wasn't right. I hope I'm wrong..."

Ayaka remains silent as she leans against the wall. She pulls her cloak up over her head and starts muttering softly.

The constable looks up from his note-taking. "I'm sorry to interrupt, folks, but can I have your names quick-like?"

"Do you think this maybe was part of our test?" Hiro wonders.

"No!" Khila'eru shouts. She then realizes that could be misinterpreted, and adds, "Oh, sorry, not you, Constable. My name is Khila'eru."

The Constable smiles reassuringly at Khila'eru. "It's OK, darlin'. I know you're shaken up. Hell, I would be, too."

Khila'eru raises an eyebrow at the use of "darlin'".

"So, what do you think, then?" Hiro persists.

Ayaka looks up and says, in accented Common, "I'm Ayaka Moon-Shadow." She shivers a little, then addresses Hiro, "No... I think it was not part of our test."

"Sorry, Constable, my name is Hiro."

The constable takes down everyone's name into his report and says, "Thank you kindly, all of you."

"Are we finished, Constable?" Hiro asks.

The constable rolls up the scroll and tucks it back into his belt. "Pretty much from my end. I'll have to check in with the Academy post here in town. I'll be heading over there, unless there's something else you wanted to add."

"May we come with you? I wish to speak with the Academy representatives," Khila'eru says.

Hiro offers his own question. "I think that's all, but can you recommend a place for us to stay?"

"You can come with me, if you like, sure. And if you want someplace to rest in the city, you could try the Goode-Knight Inn. I hear it's a good spot for adventurers like yourselves."

Ayaka smiles faintly then before she nods. "OK... many thanks to you... for helping us like this." The tall elf is clearly shaken up, too, but is hiding a great deal of what she feels.

"Khila, if you want to go with the constable, I could take Ayaka and find rooms at the Inn?"

"Yes, I think that would be wise."

"OK, we'll meet you there later."

Ayaka nods silently at Hiro and Khila'eru's exchange and pulls out her brochure. She and Hiro start looking for directions to an Inn, while Khila'eru and the constable head off towards the Academy Post.

The constable leads Khila'eru through the city to the Academy Post. He whistles a faint tune, scanning the streets for trouble as they walk. Some of the passerby smile or wave at the constable, while others don't pay the pair any attention.

Khila'eru walks in silence, but has gathered her senses and is now calm. The constable glances over at her now and then. "You feeling any better, darlin'? I'm sure they're just fine... haven't heard of anybody getting more than lost, although some people had quite a trip. I remember the fella that got lost in Mechanus for a while..."

"How do you mean?"

"Well, Mechanus is the plane of law, you see... rules and clockwork. All manner of cogs and Modrons and Guvners, too. Said he got stuck in some strange town where everything was fated... everyone knew the exact minutes of their lives, down to the day they die. Of course, that means he found out he'd eventually get saved, so I guess that's not too bad."

"Hmm. Too much law has always bothered me."

The Constable smiles. "Yes, you Elves tend to be free spirits. I find the law important myself, obviously, but I think that much regiment would make even me a bit crazy."

Khila'eru smiles at the constable. "I have much respect for peace keepers, but that is something different from 'Law'."

"Hmm. Well, there's certainly the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law, 'tis true, I agree." The constable looks back to his surroundings. "In any case, here we are, looks like." He gestures towards the Academy Post. It is a large stone building, with two red doors in front. A sign on each door reads, "Devon Aidendale Academy For Aspiring Adventurers - Post 42".

The constable holds one of the doors open and lets Khila'eru enter the building first, then follows her inside. She finds herself in a hallway with a number of doors opening off from it.

"The constable recommended the 'Goode-Knight Inn' - I think we should try that, OK?"

Ayaka reads the brochure and nods. "I think we should, too." She smiles faintly now, before she gives herself a shake. "It's in that direction." She points.

"OK, let's go."

Ayaka nods, and the two of them start to walk off in the indicated direction. Ayaka is silent now as she moves, thinking hard. Hiro glances at her. "I sense that you are troubled, what is the problem?"

Ayaka sighs. "I feel that our companions are indeed dead... and I'm worried in case it happens to us, although none of us used the Circles at the same moment."

Hiro puts a hand on her shoulder. "Although our companions may have indeed left this world, there is no evidence that we will meet the same fate."

Ayaka twitches and nods slightly. "True... But it is still a worrying thought..."

"Come, we are nearly at the Inn, you just need to rest."

Ayaka nods and rubs at her face. "Yeah... I think so..." She is silent now.

Hiro looks up then and sees the Inn at the end of the street. Ayaka looks relieved, but remains silent, her shoulders drooping.

They approach the Inn. It's a stylish-looking building with brick walls and a gold sign above the door with a stylish "G-K" on it, followed by "Inn and Restaurant" underneath. A brown door awaits their entrance.

Khila'eru looks around the hall. It is a fairly plain hall made of grey stone, though the stones are smoothly pressed and finished, with torch holders at regular intervals. Each of the doors bears a small sign on it. To her right is a wooden sign listing various departments and room numbers.

Khila'eru reads the sign:

Visitor Services: 101 Enrollment: 102 General Store: 103 Security: 104 Commissary: 105 & 106 Transportation: 107 & 108

However, she finds that she is not sure where she should go right now, and hopes the constable will lead the way. To her relief, the constable indeed gestures to one of the doors. "I'm heading over to Security. They should be able to help you out."

Khila'eru nods and follows the constable. They walk along the hallway to the appropriate door, and the constable opens it.

Khila'eru enters the room and looks around. Inside is an office with a pair of desks and a door at the back. Only one of the desks is currently occupied, with a man dressed in a similar getup as the constable. He looks up at their approach. "Hey, Forrester, how's it going? You still on for Friday's game, I hope?"

The constable grins, "Yeah, sure, Osmond. For the moment though, I got a young lady here with a bit of a problem."

"Oh? What seems to be the matter?"

"My Party and I teleported into town this morning for our final test, and an incident occurred with two of our members. They were caught in a teleportation deconstruction."

"Yeah, it's all here, Osmond." The constable hands the Academy officer his report scroll, and the officer looks it over. Khila'eru waits patiently for the officer to finish reading.

The officer finishes and sighs. "Geez, not another one... usually these only happen during Spring Break. Well, with any luck it was just a backfire this time and the Academy's got them back. Anyway, I got it from here, Forrester, you can head off again." Osmond waves his free hand dismissively.

The constable tips his hat at Khila'eru. "Well, I'll be seeing you, Miss. Hope that everything goes well so you can get back to your test."

"Thank you for your help, Constable."

The constable smiles and leaves.

"Well, I suppose we might as well get in contact with the Academy, assuming they haven't sent over a note already. Can I see your ID, quick-like?" the Academy officer asks Khila'eru.

"Of course." Khila'eru shows the officer her ID.

The officer pulls out his own set of papers from a drawer, and jots down the ID information. "I'll fill in the rest later from the constable's report. In the meantime..." He stands up and goes over to the door. "Off to Transportation with you and I."

Hiro helps Ayaka through the door of the Inn. As they enter, a bell jingles softly. They find themselves in a foyer with a counter in front of them, a doorway off to their left, and a staircase leading upwards.

Ayaka leans against Hiro, her eyes closing. "Just so... tired..." she whispers.

Hiro supports her and shouts, "Innkeeper, your assistance, please!"

The clerk standing behind the counter looks a bit alarmed. "Ah, can I help you?"

Hiro carefully brings Ayaka over to the counter. "Yes, we need two rooms for the night!"

"Well, in that case, it's two gold per room."

Ayaka nods slightly, her eyes remaining closed. She reaches into her money pouch and flicks the clerk two gold.

Hiro then gives his own gold. "What rooms do we have?"

The clerk gathers the gold off the counter. "The two gold is for the standard economy single rooms, unless you would rather something fancier."

"As long as one room has two beds..." Hiro says.

"Double rooms are three gold a piece."

Hiro glances in his money pouch worriedly. "I don't seem to have that much..."

Ayaka reaches into her own pouch and tosses out another gold, which the clerk takes.

"Now will you show us to our rooms?" Hiro asks.

"Certainly. Just write your names in the register, please." The clerk gestures at the register book on the counter.

As Hiro quickly jots in his and Ayaka's name, the clerk goes over to the back wall and takes down a pair of keys. She then beckons to the two as she unlocks the counter flap, goes through, re-locks it, and heads up the staircase. Hiro follows, with Ayaka leaning against him, silent, her entire shape lined with fatigue.

They all reach the top of the staircase and find themselves in a rather nicely appointed hallway, with various plants, paintings, and other decorations along the length of it. The clerk leads the two to a specific set of doors across from each other.

"Here you are - rooms 7 and 9. 7 is the single, while 9 is the double." She holds out the keys.

Ayaka shivers slightly, whispering, "Thank you..."

Hiro takes the keys. "We are expecting another companion. When she arrives, will you direct her to room 9?"

"I could do that. What is your companion's name?"

"She is called Khila."

"Khila? Very well, I shall do that." The clerk bows slightly and heads off. Hiro and Ayaka enter room 9.

They find that the Inn room is small-ish and well-used, but clean. There are two beds with fresh sheets along one wall. On the opposite wall is a large basin with a spigot mounted over it, and a mirror hung above that. Each bed has a small nightstand next to it, with two books on it, one small, one larger. There is also a chamberpot underneath each nightstand.

Hiro helps Ayaka to the nearest bed, covers her with a blanket, then sits on the floor and meditates while he waits for Khila'eru. Ayaka mutters incoherently, clearly grateful, before she drops into a deep resting trance.

Khila'eru and the Academy officer both head over to one of the Transportation department doors and go inside. It's laid out similarly to the main Transportation room at the Academy, only smaller. The clerk at the desk looks up at them both. Khila'eru looks back at the clerk.

"And to what do I owe the honor of your presence, Osmond?"

"It seems there was a bit of a teleportation accident... again. We need to get in contact with the Academy."

"Ah, that. Yes, I already got a note from them." The clerk looks through the papers on her desk, then pulls out a slip of paper and offers it over.

Khila'eru takes the paper and reads it. "Thank you, Ms."

"You're welcome, Miss." The clerk raises an eyebrow at the officer. "Anything else from you?"

"No, I suppose not. Good luck there, Cleric." The officer claps Khila'eru on the shoulder briefly and heads out, tossing a "Don't forget the game on Friday!" over his shoulder to the clerk as he does so.

Khila'eru finds that the note reads as follows:

"Dear Ayaka, Hiro, and Khila'eru:

It seems that your two friends have experienced a bit of a mishap and ended up back in our Teleportation room feeling a bit out of sorts. The clerk says they tried to enter two Circles at the exact same time, and that's likely what caused the problem.

They'll both likely be all right, at least after a turn with our healers, but they definitely won't be in much shape for testing. As a result, I'm working on contacting one of the other graduating students to step up their Testing and join your Party.

If you can send back a note telling us where in the city you'll all be, we'll ship the student down to the Quartermaster, get them equipped, and send them over to meet you. Or you can return to the Academy and wait, it's your choice.

Don't worry, you're all accomplished students... I'm sure you'll all handle this challenge with flying colors. Besides, the Quartermaster is of the opinion that losing your two friends probably upped your chances anyway. No comment from my end, of course.

Signed, Headmaster Eldwin Leopold"

Khila'eru sighs with relief, then asks, "May I send a note on to the Academy from here, Ms.?"

"Sure, I figured you would." The clerk hands over a piece of paper and a pen.

Khila'eru writes a note thanking the Headmaster for his note and telling him that her Party will be resting for a few hours and where. She then hands the note to the clerk. "Thank you, is there anything else?"

"Not that I can think of. The Security Officer's report should take care of everything. You just go on and worry about your test, and we'll handle this, don't worry."

Khila'eru nods to the clerk and heads off.

Hiro continues his meditation, although subconsciously still aware of the sleeping form nearby. Ayaka relaxes as she "sleeps", her shape settling and all signs of fatigue being quietly erased.

Khila'eru looks on her map for a market where she might find some Elven goods. After finding what she's looking for, she heads off in that direction. She makes her way through the city, which has become very busy now that it's midday, and finally ends up at the doorway of a shop proclaiming itself as "Tel'marthaurenamar".

The shop building seems to be made out of rich dark wood, and is covered in all manner of vines and flowers. The entrance itself isn't so much a door as it is a curtain of vines with small bell-like blue flowers.

Hiro continues to meditate, feeling his body and mind regain strength. Ayaka shifts in her sleep, rolling on to her side, one ear twitching.

Khila'eru pushes aside the vines and enters the shop. The place is like something out of a dreamy Elven land. The counters, walls, and ceiling are made of intertwining plants, and the many countertops hold various containers of assorted goods. The large shop is filled with mostly Elven customers, though there are also a few Humans and Half-Elves milling about, all twittering in the musical Elven language so familiar to Khila'eru.

The walls and ceiling are covered with all manner of bright and colorful flowers growing on them, and the entire place smells of rich spices, perfumes, and other scents. Finally, various carefully-shaped gaps in the plants let in sunlight from outside.

Khila'eru approaches the nearest clerk and asks, "Pardon me, would you direct me to your selection of Alya'eliyre?"

The clerk smiles at her. "Ah, yes, yes, we have a fine selection of that, it's very popular!" She beckons Khila'eru over to one of the counters, covered with bins of several different types of the treat, as well as various other sweets. True to her comment, there are a few customers already in line at the sweet counter purchasing morsels of their favorite flavors.

Khila'eru looks over the selection and picks up a small sampler, housed in a small wooden container, which has on the front markings that say "Lisse'lote's Nir'alya'eliyre", as well as a stylized picture of a white lily. Underneath that, a price of "3 sp" is hand-marked on it.

Khila'eru then gets in line with her purchase to buy it. As she waits she takes another deep breathe of the perfumed air and sighs with homesickness at the memories it brings to mind. When she finally reaches the front of the line, she hands the clerk three silver from her pouch. "Thank you."

The clerk nods at Khila'eru, takes the money, and smiles. "Enjoy your sweets!" she says, then turns to take care of the next customer.

Khila'eru then leaves the shop and walks to the Goode-Knight Inn. She enters and finds herself within the main foyer.

The clerk at the counter greets her, "May I help you, Miss?"

Yes, I believe a couple of my companions are resting here. Their names are Hiro and Ayaka."

"Ah, yes. Are you..." The clerk looks at her notes. "... Khila, then?"


"In that case, follow me." The clerk leaves the counter and locks it behind her, then leads Khila'eru up the staircase to room 9. She knocks on the door lightly.

Ayaka remains resting, her snake curled up on the pillow beside her head. Hiro, however, wakes immediately. "Come."

Khila'eru thanks the clerk as she enters the room. The clerk nods, "You're welcome," and heads off.

Khila'eru looks around the room, noting the beds, basin, nightstands, and Ayaka's resting form. Hiro looks up at her. "So, I take it everything went well at the Academy Post?"

"Yes, Redhill and Karm are back at the Academy."

"That is good to know; Ayaka will be pleased to hear this."

"They are somewhat worse for wear, but otherwise fine, aside from being n'umahandasse." Khila'eru spits out the last word with vehemence as she sinks to the floor beside Hiro. She nods upwards to indicate Ayaka. "How is she?

"She is just exhausted, but she will be fine after a few hours rest. If there is nothing more, then I will bid you goodnight."

"Sleeping already? It is early yet, and I brought a surprise."

Hiro looks at her curiously. "A surprise? What do you mean?"

"An Elven treat to lift our spirits."

Hiro is suspicious. "What sort of treat would that be?"

Khila'eru reaches into her bag and pulls out her purchase. Hiro finds himself intrigued by the intricately decorated box.

"Alya'eliyre, have you ever had any?"

"Remind me, what does that word mean? It's been a long time since I spoke your language."

"Hmm, it is hard to translate... sort of like an 'abundant pleasure'?"

"Some kind of sweet food then?"

"Yes, but not very sweet."

"Er, I regret to say that my order, or previous order, denied all earthly pleasures."

Khila'eru removes the lid of the box and offers it to Hiro. "It is a good thing that you left them, then," she says with a mischievous smile.

Hiro looks at the delicate pieces inside the box. "Well, I left to experience new things, so here goes." He takes a sweet, pops it into his mouth, and chews on it experimentally. "Hmm, it is a strange feeling, though not unpleasant."

"In my faith we believe that Corellon Larethian created all good things in the world and it is honorable for us to enjoy his gifts."

"Your strange ways will take a while for me to be accustomed to them."

Khila'eru selects a dark sweet and pops it in her mouth with a smile. "Are they so strange?"

"I have been alone with my order for over 20 years, and only recently have I experienced the ways of the outside world."

"That is long for humans, yes?"

"Maybe. I was given to my order as a child and I have spent many years studying meditation and combat."

"Do you enjoy it?"

"Do I enjoy my new found freedom? I am not sure yet, it is... different."

"May I ask why you left your order?"

"Ah, although we are companions on a quest, I do not yet feel ready to discuss my past; although one day soon I hope to feel comfortable enough to tell you. I hope that this does not offend you..."

"I apologize, I did not intend to pry. I can be a bit too inquisitive at times."

"No offense taken, when the time is right you shall know everything."

Khila'eru smiles.

"What about you? How did you come to be here?"

"That, as with all Elven stories, is long. But I can 'give you the highlights', if you wish?"

"Well, we have the time, as long as Ayaka is still sleeping."

Khila'eru sighs. "Yes... well, I knew from a young age that I was 'called' to be a servant of Corellon Larethian."

Hiro nods.

"And having displayed a certain talent with magic, I began my training as a cleric when I was 63."

Hiro listens intently.

"I was ordained as a full cleric four years ago. My mentors advised me to go into the world and seek wisdom from living life outside the Elven territories. I came to the Academy because it seemed like a good place to start, and it was recommended by my uncle."

"It is good that you were given this assignment voluntarily - I had no choice but to leave and find my own way..."

Khila'eru raises her eyebrow inquisitively at Hiro's comment, but doesn't pry.

"Please, carry on," Hiro tells her.

"Well, that's about it, really. Now I am here, waiting to start my adventures."

"I thank you for your truthfulness." Hiro nods over at Ayaka. "What do you know of our sleeping companion?"

"Her past is for her to reveal."

"Well, then, we shall wait for her to awaken. I think that I should leave you to rest now, if you wish."

Ayaka starts to waken, shifting slightly.

"I am not tired, but her cycle will be disrupted if we let her sleep any longer." Khila'eru stands and sits on Ayaka's bed, bouncing jovially.

"I am not tired either, I have spent a long time meditating to regain my strength," Hiro admits.

"Time to awaken, Sleeping One," Khila'eru says cheerfully.

"If you think that is wise." Hiro glances at Khila'eru on the bed.

Ayaka makes a very strange sound as the bed is bounced on, before she opens one eye, the snake hissing at her. She shifts a little then, muttering softly as the snake wraps around her wrists, and then wakens fully.

Khila'eru grins at Ayaka. "Do you feel better?"

Ayaka smiles a little. "Yes, I do. Thanks." She grins a little more now, before it fades. "Any word on our... companions... ?"

"Yes, they are fine, but they have been removed from our Party," Khila'eru tells her. "The Academy is sending out someone to replace them."

Ayaka sighs in relief. "That's good that they are OK..." She nods then, rubbing at her face slightly.

"I hope they are more mature than the last two..." Hiro says dryly.

Ayaka nods. "I hope so, too."

Khila'eru gets up and fetches her box. "I got a little treat as well. Would you like one?"

Hiro looks away in embarrassment, while Ayaka grins as she sees the box. "Alya'eliyre... I haven't see any of that in years." She grins wider.

Khila'eru hands Ayaka the box. "Help yourself."

Ayaka blushes and politely takes one. "Thanks." She grins as she nibbles at it, her face rapt with pleasure at the treat.

Khila'eru stretches and glances out the window to see where the sun is. "Well since everyone is recovered, why don't we head down to the bar for a game of darts, or we could go back to the salon and get our information."

Ayaka finishes the piece of Elven chocolate then nods, beaming brightly now. "I think we should try and get our information."

Hiro nods (although still trying to resist the pleasurable feeling from the chocolate). "Yes, the information. That is our priority."

Ayaka nods a little, rising to her feet and straightening her clothing. Khila'eru pockets the box with the remainder of the candy, goes over, opens the door, and starts downstairs.

Hiro looks at Ayaka. "Are you OK to carry on?"

Ayaka nods. "I'm fine." Ayaka exits and walks quietly down the stairs. Hiro pauses to make sure the door is locked, then follows.

They all head down into the foyer. The clerk looks over at them. "Feeling better now, I trust?" Ayaka nods, silently.

"Good to hear. Your room payment is good up until noon tomorrow, so feel free to return when you need to. The restaurant to the left is open all day, if you ever desire anything."

Hiro nods. "Thank you."

Ayaka whispers, "Yes, thank you."

Our Party, feeling much better now after rest and Elven chocolate, head outside the Inn to recommence their Testing... and to wait and see who their new Party member will end up being.