This may be the first in a few Dragon's Nest missions organized IC through the lecture meetings. More might follow, impromptu, to try and grab characters that don't normally get to shine much and show up on all kinds of random missions. The first operation by the Dragon’s nest was led by Dianne Black, appointed titular Captain House-wife of the first team. She was supported by Officer Pastel in-security Gwenyth Zylmoira, Discount Percival Ravenstad Knight Auguste Ravenstad, Furniture support Varran Panya-kha, Demoness-Consort Arcanist Valerie Ravenstad and Token foreign stereotype Ibn Azhar. Obviously, these titles were not their official titles, but rather names made up for the sake of self entertainment by their Kade benefactors. Still, as much as they tried to avoid these titles, the sailors would not let them up, with Gwenyth trying to drown out the grumbling and frowning with a singing lamentation to the calmness of the ocean as the ships sailed due south east. Passing Silverwind, the second crossroad to Farah’deen and then finally the Solangerian coastline, the ship moored at the Zenithian Isles, now controlled by House von Drachenburg and Delmotte. Refitting for a smaller expedition, the group left for the southern coast of the continent, guided by charts provided by Tommen Howlester who had consulted both family records and state papers on the political makeup of Ceardia to triangulate the rough location of the Howlester properties. Why they were specifically sent to find the Howlester estate in old Ceardia wasn’t clear to the group, but then again, who questions a prince when they are both in a bad mood and being arbitrary. If anything, the trip to Ceardia felt like an exploration, an adventure into the unknown, and perhaps even some danger. It was well established many years ago that Ceardia no longer had any dangerous elements. After all, the tendrils of Corruption had dried or turned to stone and become overgrown, coiling around the landscape like forested snakes and causing for dramatic scenery. Indeed, when the group disembarked, they were immediately greeted with dramatic vistas of massive forests, whole plates of soil and rock moved around with massive ravines and cliffs jutting out of the ground. Luckily the supposed location of the Howlester properties wasn’t too far off the coastline. Valerie’s magical hawk scouted far and wide ahead, finding more and more difficult terrain the deeper they went. Apparantly the south was far closer to the epicenter of the Tendrils of Corruption than the present-day colonized north west which was still relatively clean. The rumors were not exaggerated however, there was not a single living creature in Ceardia. No birds, no critters, no predators, absolutely nothing. Wherever they went, the only sound that accompanied their idle conversation and Gwenyth’s occasional hymn was Valerie’s hawk high in the clouds. Eventually the group stumbled on the right location, Dianne Black mostly reading the maps correctly (roll: 80). With Valerie’s hawk circling high above however, the group was faced with a dilemma. They were in the right place, but the land wasn’t. The valley in which the Howlesters had properties was supposed to be exactly that, a valley, not a mountain with a river running through it. Dianne’s navigation wasn’t at issue however, it appeared upon closer inspection that a tendril had crashed into the ground and pushed the terrain up in such a manner that a mountain had arisen where once a town stood. Rubble dotted all around the landscape, making it obvious that much of the properties had been destroyed. Valerie’s eagle however was able to scout a small section of what appeared to look like an abbey or monastery still standing, at the very top of the mountain, as if the tendril’s upwards push momentum had put the building in such a position that it was in the perfect center, being the only building not to have toppled. That being said, Valerie’s hawk (roll: 83) was able to tell that the building precariously balanced on a cliffside that was in a state of near constant collapse. Rubble and stone crumbled down constantly, and given the accumulation of it at the base of the slope, they deduced that the building had been crumbling for decades, and that what little was left was likely the last remainder of anything still in-tact that could be found. Gwenyth led the group ahead, being resistant to the cold of the higher altitude (roll: 80) from her Isldar heritage, and thus clearing the right path for the others. Unlike earlier moments of the journey where she chose to sing, this time she was as quiet as the land around her. The mountain appeared unstable, Auguste Ravenstad had earlier almost slid down a slope when the gravel gave way (roll: 30), barely just avoiding a fall that would have seriously hurt him. The mountain, even if it looked like a mountain, was made out of unstable settled dirt and rooted top soil, which had slowly been decaying over the past fifty or so odd years. Once they reached the top of the mountain, Panya-kha was able to adeptly figure out the right path without causing any of the stones to slide (roll:94). She jumped from one spot to another, using her hearing and agile footwork to ensure the terrain was solid enough to walk on, eventually making it to the doorway where Auguste took the forefront again. There was a doorway, but no door. Clawmarks of all kinds were marked on the outside of the stonework, which looked about human hand sized. This perplexed the group, as Ailor were not nearly strong enough to cut into stonework, Dianne Black not putting the dots together and coming up with an unconventional if unprovable theory (Roll: 12). Auguste unsheathed his sword while Panya-kha extended her claws, but the stonework inside again did not give way to anything alive. The woodwork had badly rotten away with water accumulating on the floor, banners and carpets had unfurled and torn apart and water damage was well visible on all the paintings. Crude middle-Ceardian wall frescos were still barely visible with the vines that had grown over them, showing images of Howlester ancestors in all kinds of faded and discolored dress performing acts that they had become famous for. Ibn-Azhar brushed his hands past one of the plastered pieces (roll:42), causing it to utterly collapse and turn to dust, having weathered badly, causing Dianne to frown at him. There weren’t many rooms left, and to Ibn’s disappointment, barely anything left to steal. All books had turned to molten waterlogged rot and there was a very distinct lack of anything valuable. In the final ante chamber, Panya (roll:12) and Ibn (roll:16) found nothing, while Valerie’s hawk did reveal an antechamber that was actually not properly accessible from the normal corridors that they walked in (roll:57). The room had become visible because the ceiling had collapsed, and something reflected the sunlight from inside it, but figuring out how to actually get to that room proved problematic, since it was practically on the edge of a cliff. It was Auguste who eventually managed to bust down a wall with frescos on it (roll:80) again causing Dianne to frown, but re-assured by the others that it was likely necessary and that these frescos would not have much longer to live anyway given the poor state of the building. Once the dust settled and for some Spirit blessed reason the whole building didn’t come down, the group laid their eyes on what would quickly be seen as the last item of value left in this spirit forsaken area a strange silver statue of sorts. It stood in this final hidden gallery, the sunlight just breaking through the holes of window ports that once in the glory days of this building must have shone colored light through from the stained glass. It stood in the middle of the room, somehow lucky enough to have avoided the falling debris and somehow also having avoided any of the weathering of the surrounding area. The object itself stood on a small pedestal of stone, about two foot wide, arching upwards into what appeared like an armless torso of a large bulky man, with a wolf’s head on top, mouth hinged open, and bending itself over a bowl on a pillar in front of it. The statue itself was about shoulder-height to Dianne, and completely covered in dark silver plating, the silver shining as brilliant as any jewelry and reflecting the sunlight to those entering the room, with crystal-like spikes jutting from its back and neck made of white quartz. The room left no clues as to the purpose of the statue, or indeed what it was. There were no murals in this room, only a thin layer of broken glass and vials and bottles mixed in with grass that had crept into the building on dirt carried by the wind through the window frames. The group ventured closer until Gwenyth made a mis-step, stumbling against a pile of rocks and falling against one of the walls, which caused it to collapse, taking her with it (roll:5). As she screamed, Auguste was unable to make it in time to pull her back up (roll:22) while Panya was too distant and Ibn too busy inspecting the silver. Dianne yelped, yet it was Valerie who quickly responded by using her hawk to leap rapidly at Gwenyth who was stumbling down the slope with the rubble (roll:80) halting her movement, and dragging her back up. When they reached the top, Auguste and Panya pulled them back up to a standing, with Dianne reasoning that the building had become far too unstable to even safely remain inside, and that they should leave right away. Ibn and Auguste were directed to carry the statue out, which was remarkably light, and even caused some rattling noises as it was carried around, implying it was hollow on the inside and contained secret compartments. Ibn tried to crack part of the outside by feigning losing his footing and dropping his end of the statue on the ground, but failed to even make a dent in the silver plating, much to his disappointment, not even being able to chip any part of the silver to keep for himself (roll:4). After chastisement, Auguste, Panya and Ibn continued to carry it down the slope, with Gwenyth still shaken and clothing torn from her near-fall leading them ahead. The group eventually made their way back to base camp, near the coast, from where they would be picked up the next day. Valerie kept watch with Auguste at the edge of camp, while the others slept. During their watch, the two got talking, but Valerie was disrupted with a strange feeling that she couldn’t shake. She turned around to look in the direction of the camp fire next to which the statue had been put down, noticing that the cloth used to protect the silver had somehow come loose and exposed the head. As she looked at the head, it seemed to draw her in, her vision panning forward without herself actually moving, and some strange gutteral echo coming from the mouth of the wolf’s head, like a metal scraping noise distantly echoing down a dark tunnel. It was Auguste’s shaking of her shoulder that snapped her out of her gaze, arguing she probably felt tired after having used her magical hawk for so long. Valerie agreed, dismissing the whole thing as a hallucination from sleep deprivation and promptly went to sleep, waking Panya to take her place as watch. Even Panya however felt something as she walked away from the fire with the statue to her back. The hairs in her neck stood up straight, but each time she turned around to see if there was anything there, she could only see the others peacefully sleeping by the fire. Before long, morning would come and the group traveled back to Zenithia, before finally taking the large ship back to Regalia. Once arriving in Regalia, the group was paid a very small allowance of Regals for having participated in the journey, and recommendation for future Dragon’s Nest missions, while Cedric Kade inspected the statue that had come in. He looked it over a couple of time, shook his head and rejected the piece as “creepy and gaudy” sending it to the Howlester estate instead, declining to add it to the Kade archive collection, thus completing the Dragon’s Nest first Expedition.