“I am Dean Iyrandrar Farstring, and I welcome you to the Green Meditation on Wisdom. I assure you that even with this surprise relocation, your full gear and equipment have made the journey with you. It is said that enlightenment does not move on mortal schedules, and as adventurers you must always be prepared for your challenges.
I shall now explain the guidelines of the challenge you have been brought here to face. From these crossroads, there are a number of situations occurring around us that you all may take particular interest in. When you have investigated as you see fit, thought about them, answered in your own ways, or overturned them as you wish, return here and meditate to end the challenge. If you are unable to continue, the judges watching may, with a vote, halt your challenge for your protection.
Each solution will be graded by judges on a scale of 0-5 points. They are looking for those that exhibit great wisdom and forethought in their actions here, but this is not to be a game of playing to the guessed morality of the judges, as each entrant shall be judged in how their actions line up with their own cultures, beliefs, and moralities. For our purposes, how you come to your answers is just as important as the answer itself. Wisdom gained too late is worth as much as wisdom never found, any ties will be resolved in favor of faster teams. You are hereby released to attempt the Green Meditation on Wisdom now.” The robed elf finishes his monologue and with a bow, vanishes.
With the elf gone, the group takes a moment to look around them. The gentle rolling hills and trees of the crossroads conceals most of their surroundings except for what they can see down each of the roads. Down the north-south dirt road there is angry shouting in both elven and common at a stopped caravan to the north. To the south, along the same road, is a small forested grove with a small farmstead and a single curl of smoke trailing up from the squat chimney. The east-west road is a sturdier one of old stone. To the east a stately tavern stands next to the road, a few construction supplies and the last bits of scaffolding still being cleaned up. The western direction along the stone road heads over the hills where a stuck cart can be seen mired in some mud filled spots. From what they can see standing here, the group takes a quick vote on which to check out first.
The shouting at the caravan draws their attention as something that might change rapidly if they don’t act, so the group heads north. They find it is elves and humans in a caravan bickering over their flight from more dangerous lands. There are elves and humans on both sides of the argument as the groups trade insults and rhetorical flourishes. More insults fly as some of the roudier members of the crowd on both sides think the adventurers might side with their opponents, but Tormenoth and Ariel use stern voices and implied strength to keep the hotheads in line. Not sensing an immediate solution, Rila and Tormenoth then split off to investigate the stuck cart to the west of the crossroads while Ariel and Leon stay to figure out a solution. Leon offers to take a look at the slowest wagons, hoping a repair might help, but they mention they have menders to magically repair the wheels, but the structure and loads on the wagons keep causing breakages on the rough dirt road so they have to stop and repair regularly.
What Tormenoth and Rila find is a group of clergy trying to free a heavily laden, secure wagon from the mud. The trio of priests around it, trying to bribe and cajole their oxen to pull harder, are surprised at the adventurers and sheepishly ask for help. They confide that this is the church’s already late shipment of money to the personal coffers of a local noble, Lord Vunram, and his help could mean legal favors. If they can influence the lord just right, they can restore or even increase their alchemical and scribing privileges that bring them significant funding for their monasteries. They decide to return to Leon and promise to give aid when they return, knowing that Leon will likely have better insight into religious matters as these priests bear the markings of Lathander, his patron.
When they return to the caravan group in the north, Leon and Ariel suss out the root of the problem. The leaders of both groups sense the opportunity to press their case to a neutral third party to win support. It all comes down to danger vs speed. The caravan has a range of speeds among their wagons and everyone is worried about monster attacks or bandit ambushes. The danger group wants to keep everyone together to minimize the harm that an attack could do while the other group wants to let the fastest wagons speed ahead to make sure as much of the group gets there as fast as possible to minimize the amount of time on the road vulnerable to attacks. The caravan seeks an already prepared homestead for their new town, where their scouts have already set up. An elven elder on the side of speed proclaims the wisdom of not having all their eggs in one basket if a bandit or monster attack happens. A wealthy elderly human on the safety side retorts that splitting the group is basically inviting an attack but staying together has a chance of warding away any aggression. Identifying the route they want to take, the adventurers confer and come up with a plan to compromise with the two groups. They plan to have the fastest wagons go ahead to unload their goods and people at the homesteads then return to ferry more goods and people ahead, lightening the load on the worst wagons to help reduce their stoppages. Overall, it will put the group at less risk than totally splitting up while speeding it up some as well. Leon also offers to invoke his patron and when his ritual turns up a Weal result for this plan, it helps convince most of the hotheads and holdouts on either side. There is grumbling, but the plan is set about as the caravan packs up to get moving again. With the private thanks of some of the wiser people on either side, the Dissonant Whispers see the caravan set off, the fastest wagon drivers whooping and hollering as they speed ahead into the distance. Both groups exchange joking bets of how many or how few round trips the fastest wagons can make before they all make it to the homestead.
With the caravan issue solved, the group turns to Leon as Tormenoth and Rila explain what they found to the east. The group arrives to the loud approval of the now-muddy clergymen. It takes time to help dig the wheel out from the deep mud, while Rila tends to the tired oxen. Leon listens to their story of corruption of the local nobility and their hope that this bribe, while technically illegal and immoral, will help set things back to a more balanced place, restoring the monastery’s rights to produce beer, potions, and scrivening. Between Rila’s restorative effect on the draft animals and some muscle from Tormenoth, the wheel comes free of the mud. With such a valuable cargo of coinage, Leon offers the group’s services as an escort when they hear how close to their destination the clergy got stuck. They arrive at the Lord’s estate to find it expensive and well-maintained, if a bit gaudy. Lord Vunram himself steps out the front of his small manor to welcome the clergy and noting that their timely payment of taxes and fees frees up some of his time that would have been spent poring over accounting tomes to spend on taking a second look at their legal plight.. Without anything else to go on, Leon decides that while he is conflicted about bribery and immoral dealings like this, that the clergy do have a good goal in mind and that Lathander would likely be accepting of things. They choose not to intervene and say their goodbyes to the clergymen.
Returning to the crossroads, their next choice takes them to the southern farmstead on Rila’s suggestion. Coincidentally, the farm is occupied by a family of halflings. When they introduce themselves, the resemblance can definitely be seen: they’re distant cousins of Rila’s, albeit ones she only knew of but hasn’t ever met. After introductions, they wring their hands and ask for help. Having adventurers around until they get their feet under them would be a great help, otherwise they might have to make a deal with the nearby fey for protection. Animals and natural hazards will keep showing up. Everything from mole infestation in their fields or explosive weed growth to foxes and wolves making off with livestock. They have caught sight of a tiny fairy that when they talked to her offered protection in exchange for steep costs. She wanted as much as she could carry off each yearly harvest.
The group sticks around for a while, knowing it won’t be long until some other bit of terrible luck hits the family, while they watch for the fairy to show herself. Not half an hour later, they see the telltale glowing, fluttering form of a fairy. Rila takes the time to cast a Pass Without Trace, boosting her already strong sneaking skills. The rest of the group stays back as they follow Rila. What the druid finds is the smaller fairy stopping and complaining to a human sized fairy deep in the woods, moaning that the halflings still won’t pay up. Taking a guess that the larger fae is the one in charge, she waits until the tiny fairy leaves to approach. The slender fae woman with great green wings sits nestled in a throne of tree roots with a tiny green dragon on her lap, surrounded by lilies in her natural throne room. At Rila’s approach, the fairy queen states, ““Oh you’re from the fae-cursed tribe, I’m glad we could finally meet”. Rila and the fairy queen talk about the halfling family’s situation and what the queen is looking for. She explains that she wants to ensure her sovereignty in this forest isn’t upset by mortals moving in, but she isn’t so concerned about halflings as she might have been about humans or dwarves and their axes. Rila suggests perhaps they could recognize her as queen of these lands, which is countered by the queen suggesting a tax on their harvests, which seems reasonable to the druid. Before she leaves though, Rila makes the connection and asks the fairy queen if she is the green dragon they tried to meet at Page & Wisdom, but receives only a knowing smile and a wink from the fairy queen.
Returning to the family, Rila explains what has been going on, suspecting that the misfortune of the family has really been the extortionate efforts of the tiny fairy. They want to take the little fae’s head off, proposing a bounty to the adventurers, but she calms them with talk of the inexpensive deal the fae queen offers. The family gets to thinking on the deal and propose their own concerns, which Rila allays by saying she made sure the queen’s deal wouldn’t take effect until the homestead was complete and ready. The halflings start talking about the obvious loophole, that they could leave a portion of the house unfinished so they never have to pay. A loud, high-pitched shriek of, “unscrupulous fraudsters!” moments before the loud buzzing of a great swarm of bees is heard. The Dissonant Whisperers move to fight off the swarm and gather the halflings inside to protect them from the insects. At the same time, Ariel and Rila try to convince the family to bargain with the fae in good faith. It takes some doing while they are getting stung and swarmed, but desperation makes for a powerful argument. They agree to the deal and to work with the fae in good faith. The tiny fairy can be heard shouting, “Liars, Cheats, Scoundrels!” until a soft voice as big as the wind whispers, “Lysolda, you already pushed my patience with your schemes on this family, if I have to step in further…”. The fairy emits an embarrassed squeak as she flees, taking the bees with her.
Having secured a deal with the fae that leaves both sides satisfied, Rila rebuffs the halflings requests for her to stay longer, chiding them that they’ll have to stand on their own two feet at some point. Goodbyes are exchanged as the group returns to the crossroads to take the last path they have not yet traveled.
The newly-built tavern to the south has the owner and her husband standing outside struggling with paintbrush in hand on what to name the place. The red-haired dwarven woman and the tall, dark-haired man both turn to the adventurers with a sigh of relief, jokingly betting with one another that the adventurers can solve their problem. They lay out the crux of the issue, he wants to name it something after his family that helped them build it, Firman, but she has just as strong reasons to name it after her noble, if distant, parentage ,Stormforge, for prestige and name recognition. Scott Firman and Lisolda Stormforge introduce themselves. The group listens to the reasons to name it after either side of the odd pair, but Tormenoth suggests holding to an older tradition of tavern naming: the adjective-noun arrangement, famous in the adventuring world. Ariel adds in her own twist that they should use her first name because her husband loves her while she gets a dwarven name to honor her side: Fiery Lisolda’s. It is a compromise that gets the couple laughing again instead of arguing, and they agree to the idea, happy to get down to serving drinks instead of arguing over paint brushes. The group declines the invitation to drink, and heads back down the road.
When they return to the crossroads this time, it is to meditate to end the challenge. The elven man clears his throat. They open their eyes to see him standing amongst them again. He offers some platitudes about the wisdom they have found and turns more serious. He asks them about the true lesson of the Green Meditation on Wisdom, "What problem are all of these events facing? What common thread do they share?" All four of them talk amongst themselves but eventually converge on the idea that all of these events needed an outside influence to jolt them or shake them up, but ultimately they were problems that each could have solved on their own. With a nodding head, the elf considers their answer but gives no indication whether it was a good or bad one. Instead, he begins to explain that this whole exercise has been one done purely in an astral, dream-construct. They will awake back in their own beds, having been prepared and monitored remotely to astral project to this challenge. Before they go, he relates that the teams’ scores will be posted on a Page and Wisdom bulletin board the following morning. Finally, he wishes them a good night's sleep. Unlike a normal dream, they will remember all the events of the projection as clearly as if they had experienced them awake.
When they open their eyes in the morning, Tormenoth finds an envelope in the middle of his dorm room floor. He grabs it to read as he walks out of his room to go meet with the others, but freezes for a moment with his hand on the door handle. He reaches into the folded letter to pull out an obsidian numeral “1”.
You have passed your initiation. Your next tally must be one you choose on your own.