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[Avalonia Mini-challenge] Heir of the Druids

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Soon after Artorious Rex had ascended the throne of Avalonia, something strange happened.  Late one night, as he sat in his private study writing the charter and laws of the fledgling guild by candlelight, his study door swung open and a stooped over, wizened old elf with a cane entered.

Artorious looked up, not with fear but curiosity.  “Who are you and how did you come to be here, old one?” asked Artorious, wondering how this ancient elf had circumvented his guards. 

The old elf stood before Artorious’ desk.  “Who I am is unimportant, but I am a seer, and what I have foreseen concerns you.  This peace for which you have fought so hard shall not last.  Dark forces are gathering in the realms of men and the realms below that will usurp all of this land and only the heir to the throne can save it.”

Artorious took in this information.  “I appreciate you bringing this to me, old one, but I have no intention of dying or letting my family be harmed in any way, regardless of the enemy.”

The old elf shook his head.  “You sit on the throne, but neither you nor your kin are the heirs I speak of.  The next to sit on the throne shall be the heir of the ancient druids.”

Artorious laughed.  “Everyone knows that fairy tale: the fabled heir of the druids will possess the bluestone of the elements and the seal of the druids.  The problem is that no one knows what this seal looks like or what the ‘bluestone’ is, and the druids have been gone for thousands of years.”

The old elf moved to the desk and set down an ancient scroll, carefully unrolling it before Artorious.  He moved the candle nearer for better light and Artorious studied it.

“I have found an ancient scroll depicting the seal,” the old elf began, pointing to a circular seal drawn in charcoal on the parchment.  “The form of the bluestone is still unknown, but it resides in the Enchanted Forest and is a source of magical power.”

Artorious looked at the parchment, then the old elf, and shook his head.  “Even if this document is authentic, what would you have me do?  Search every inch of the Enchanted Forest for this ‘bluestone’?  And what is this seal?  Is it a stone carving?  On some golden headdress?  How could anyone ever find it?”

The old elf held up a hand and stood up straighter.  “I am only the messenger,” he replied, and turned for the door.  He stopped and faced Artorious as he exited.  “Good night,” he said simply, and walked out the door.  Artorious got up and walked to the door, sticking his head out, thinking to talk to the stranger, but the elf was gone.  Artorious walked out into the long hallway, looking up and down, but he was nowhere to be seen.  Closing the door and returning to his study, he looked again at the parchment before rolling it up and storing it.  Could any of this be true?  It didn’t matter: there was nothing he could do about any of it, and right now he had a new country to hold together.  He made a mental note to tell his advisors of the parchment and this encounter the following day, then returned to his writing.

 

The old tower was buried in the tall forest trees, but could still be seen some distance off.  Penelope stopped some 200 yards from the tower and hunkered down in some brush, waiting until nightfall to disguise her approach.  As she waited, she reflected on her life that had brought her to this point.

As an infant, Penelope had been found by an elven ranger in the Enchanted Forest, wrapped in a simple linen and stashed on a bed of moss in the crook of an old oak tree.  Her crying had caught his attention, and, after making sure that this strange find was not a trap, picked Penelope up and comforted her, finding a bronze medallion wrapped in her linens.  It was strange to find a human this far into the Enchanted Forest, let alone an abandoned babe.  He searched for tracks from whomever dropped her off, but found none.  Without any other options, he brought her home with him, where his wife and children helped feed and nurture her.

For a week, the elves of the forest searched high and low for Penelope’s parents, but there were no humans in the forest that could have left her, so the ranger adopted her, and she grew up with elven siblings.  Penelope and her brothers and sisters would play in the forest, and though she was never as quiet as her elven siblings, she learned to be quite stealthy for a human.  Her adoptive father taught her about the animals of the forest and how to use a longbow, and she came to understand the environment around her, careful to respect nature’s gifts.  Although the ranger and his wife were very kind to Penelope, many of the other elves of the community treated her differently, and she felt like an outsider growing up, playing mostly with her siblings and few of the other children.  In large part it was this isolation that led her to study magic.  She had grown into a young woman, with strange golden hair and fine features, when she began her studies with the elven mages.  Her elven teachers were practiced in the magical arts and she learned quickly, but they were wary to teach her all the magic of the elves, so she eventually had to leave her home and travel to Albion.

In Albion, she was appalled at the way food was wasted, animals treated, and the awful practices of the lumberjacks.  She had thought she would fit in better here, but her unusual golden hair and her mannerisms from the elven society she grew up in left her again alone.  She did, however, make a few friends.  In particular, she fancied one of the soldiers who guarded the house of her wizard mentor, Halad.  It took her a few tries to pluck up the courage, but she finally talked to him and they went out for a few drinks.  Their relationship grew, and as it did, they spent more time together, sharing stories about the elves and about his time in the war against Raavage.  Penelope learned how to handle a sword, and she taught him a few things about magic.

As is often the case with young love, their relationship ended with heartache, when Penelope caught Halad in bed with another young woman.  Mercifully, she had reached the end of her apprenticeship, so she bid her mentor farewell and set off for home, heartbroken and angry.

Penelope had been gone several years, but the elves tend to take life slowly, so she had not expected very much to have changed.  She had felt she didn’t belong with her adopted elven community, but after living in Albion, she realized she loved the forests and needed to return to see her family.

All, however, was not the same when she returned.  She walked the paths back home that should have been familiar, but were not.  Where there were once well-tended yet neatly camouflaged paths, there were disused trails overgrown with thorns.  She hurried quickly home, and found her community in ruins.  Much of the village was gone—destroyed by powerful magic.  The few townsfolk who remained told a terrible tale of woe, how elves, corrupted by evil magics, had taken many of the town prisoner and slaughtered the rest.  Her father had fought back, but was slaughtered, along with the rest of her family.  The magic had taken its toll on the forest, too—choking vines, weeds, and poisonous plants were taking over the once vibrant understory of the village, and some of the amazing ancient oaks and weirwoods were dying from blight.  Distraught by the loss of her family, and still angry from her recent heartache, Penelope vowed to track down the evil elves who had done this.

For months, she had searched.  She learned that these elves had once been a clan of mages, but their thirst for more powerful magic had led them to seek out a wellspring of magic.  This font of magic had been too much, and had corrupted the elves’ being, sustaining them without food or water, twisting their features and leaving only husks of their former selves.  They had allied with whomever would help further their power-hungry ends, and were led by the evil enchantress of the wood.  This enchantress had taken up residence at an old tower deep in the Enchanted Forest, and it was there Penelope now went.

She knew that she would likely never return from her self-imposed mission to rid the forest of the evil spell, as the enchantress was powerful and her minions many, but it did not matter.  Her family gone, her lover treasonous, she had only her love of the forest, yet that, too, was being taken away.  Little else mattered to her but the thought of ending the rule of the enchantress or dying in the attempt. 

The sun now finally down, Penelope shook her head to clear it of the memories, and stretched her limbs, focusing on her task at hand.  The tower itself was an old, stone, square tower.  Despite its age, it had been well maintained and looked to be quite solid.  Some of the older elves of the forest had been in the tower centuries before, and had told Penelope that there were two levels to the tower, aside from the roof, plus a basement, and that all the levels were joined by staircases.  Penelope had reconnoitered the tower and had planned to approach this evening during a party to cover her movements.

Penelope stole through the thorny undergrowth that had become thick in this part of the Enchanted Forest since she was last here.  She used her understanding of how to move through the forest to be as quiet as she could, even if she was not as silent as her adoptive elven family.  Her stealth was unnecessary, since her intelligence was correct: the party was in full swing by the time she arrived and there was enough noise coming from the ground floor to have covered any mistakes she could have made.

Because she had no invitation, she couldn’t use a disguise to come in the front door.  She had thought about a number of methods, but finally had discovered a small rodent den near the base of the tower.  Shrinking herself to the size of a mouse with her magic, she crawled through the mouse den and into the basement of the tower. 

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Carefully making her way down toward the floor, she popped back to her full size, startling the dog wrapped in chains.  The poor animal, obviously abused, barked fearfully and backed away from Penelope in the darkness.  She lit a torch on the wall and then fed the dog some bits of meat, talking gently to him in the way that her ranger father had taught her.  Wary at first, the dog warmed up to Penelope, and then calmed down.  She looked around the basement and found a baby dragon caged against the far wall, and an elf, near the point of consciousness, badly beaten and caged as well.  A table sat in the middle of the floor, stained with blood, and containing implements of torture.  On a hook on the edge of the table was a key.  Taking the key, Penelope moved to the imprisoned elf, and whispered to him.  He stirred and looked at her with disbelief.

“My friend,” she began in the elven tongue.  “I am here to destroy the enchantress, and you shall be free.”  She unlocked the door and helped the weakened elf out of the prison cell.  She offered him some water and food, helping him to eat and drink.

“Who are you?” the elf asked in disbelief.  “You are human, yet you speak elven as if it were native to you.  Are you another magical illusion created to torture me?” he asked.

Penelope smiled sadly at him.  “No, I am no illusion.”  She pressed his hand with hers, showing that she was quite real.  “I am called Penelope, and I am of the Brightleaf clan a few days’ ride from here.  I was raised by an elven ranger and his family, though I am not an elf.”

The elf seemed puzzled, then an expression of knowing came across his face.  “I recall hearing of such an adoptive family and know of your kin,” he said, sipping water as his strength returned to him.  “I am glad to meet you, Penelope.  I am Methir of the Willowstream clan.  Blessed greetings to you, and praises be that you have found me.  How did you get in here, and how are we to leave?” he asked.

“I used magic to enter,” Penelope explained as she crouched beside the elf.  “I cannot bring you out the same way, as my magic will not let me take anyone much larger than that dog there,”shesaid, pointing to the dog.  “However, I can arm you, and you can make your way out the front door.”

“I have no strength left in me,” Methir said.  “How am I to fight my way to the front door?  There are guards, the enchantress, and her disciples.  I am no match for them, even were I in top condition.”

Penelope shook her head.  “My hope is that you will not have to fight anyone on the way out.  There is a party upstairs right now, so there are many guests.  Once I create my distraction, you will only have to simply slip in with the crowd to escape.”

“A distraction?” Methir asked.  “How do you know that the partygoers will want to leave?”

Penelope smiled a wicked smile.  “I am quite certain that once things start, not even the guards will want to stick around.  I plan to kill the enchantress.”

Methir raised his eyebrows.  “Really?  I suspect that will be more difficult than you have anticipated.”

“Perhaps,” Penelope conceded.  “Whether successful or not, I suspect that a battle with the enchantress of the tower will prove a worthy enough show to cause the partgoers to leave.”

Methir nodded.  “I would like to see that,” he smiled weakly.  “I will do my best to escape.  How will I know when the time has come?”

“I would think when the screaming starts,” Penelope responded.  “Tell me, what do you know of the enchantress and this tower?”

“Upstairs is the receiving floor, where guests are entertained.  At the back of the hall is a spiral staircase leading to a small hallway before the private chambers of the enchantress.  Inside the private chambers are her laboratory and study where she corrupts the magic of the forest towards her evil purposes.  You should know that there is some sort of blue gemstone that she uses as the source of her power.  I think it is something ancient from the forest, but have only seen it once so I don’t know much about it.  She keeps it on herself at all times, but with it, she is too powerful to defeat.  Her disciples guard her private chambers, and the will fight to the death for her.  She also keeps a dragon chained on the roof that does her bidding.  If she can make it to the roof, expect to fight the dragon as well.”

Penelope frowned at the thought of fighting a dragon.  The enchantress seemed a tall order herself, but if she were able to take her by surprise, there might be a chance.  With a dragon?  This seemed impossible, but Penelope gritted her teeth and let her anger and hurt flow through her.  If she could not defeat these evil creatures, she would injure them as severely as she could, hopefully buying a reprieve for the creatures of the surrounding forest.

“I am going to free the dog and dragon,” Penelope said.  “I will take them with me and free them when I can.  My magical bag has an extra dimension of space and I can fit them inside,” she explained, pointing to her satchel.  “You are too large, but take this dagger and my bow and arrows,” she said, handing him her weaponry.  “Take this water and food as well, and rest near the door at the top of the stairs until you hear the excitement start.  May Corellon guide your steps back to the freedom of the forest,” she said.

“And may his blessing smile upon you this night,” he responded, taking the gifts offered him and slowly making his way up the stairs.

Penelope unchained the dog first, scratching him behind the ears and feeding him some more bits of meat, before uncaging the dragon.  That process was a bit more dangerous, but her father had taught her about magical creatures as well, and, with a few singed fingertips, she managed to feed the dragon some meat and water, starting to befriend her as well.  She reached into her bag, pulling out her formal dress and stowing her ranger gear.  She put on some makeup, changed into her dress, and made sure she looked proper.  She then calmed both the dog and the baby dragon before stowing them in her extradimensional bag and walking up the stairs.  She stopped on the landing before the door where Methir stood.  He looked at her, now in a dress, with her golden hair let down. “I see you have come prepared.  Good luck!”

With that, Penelope opened the door, stepped into the hall, and quickly closed the door behind her.  The light and sound from the party washed over her and she moved to the side of the room.  Looking around, she noted the partygoers.  There was a mixture of humans, elves, and elves twisted by magical power, easily noted by their malnourished, emaciated look.  A servant moved around the room with drinks, and Penelope grabbed one from the tray.  The food was obviously for the human and elven guests, as the evil mages derived all their sustenance from magic and had no need to eat.  Occasionally they would enjoy a drink or some sweets, but these were purely for entertainment.  The food looked good, though, and Penelope realized that the enchantress must be courting some of the local elves, trying to win them over or gain their support, making it easy to take over the forest.  She recognized several representatives of local lords, including one lord himself.  It disgusted her to see them entertaining the notion of selling out their own people, but she realized that the enchantress may have become too powerful and these politicians may be here trying to save what remained of their people.  She could not see the enchantress after a few minutes of scanning the room, so she made a meandering path over to the staircase, setting her drink down along the way, and quickly ascending the stairs.

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She slowed as she made the top of the staircase where the second floor grew quieter.  A shield hung on the end of the wall, and a set of windows overlooked the back of the tower grounds.  To the right, there was a door.  Penelope stole her way silently to the door and listened intently.  She heard a discussion on the other side and recognized by the context that the enchantress must be there.  Trying the door slowly, she found it locked.  She pulled out her set of lockpicks, but it was to no avail—she was not nearly as good a thief as she would have liked, and this lock was expensive and high quality.  As she toiled away, she heard the conversation abruptly end and she knew she was found out.  She dropped her lockpicks, stepped back, and cast a spell of force with a shout, breaking the door down instantly.

The door crashed to the ground in front of her, but the enchantress and one of her disciples were ready, and Penelope narrowly dodged a bolt of magic that soared past her.  Penelope’s eyes glowed as she spoke the arcane words of power and hurled a flaming bolt at the enchantress.  The enchantress’ eyes widened as she understood that this was no mere disgruntled elf that stood before her, but a determined attacker that would take some attention to deal with, so she barked an order for her disciple to kill the intruder as she climbed the ladder behind her to the roof.  Penelope knew she was going to set herself up from her greatest position of power on the rooftop with her dragon, but there was another mage to defeat first.  The disciple, clad in blue with a black hood and a black cloak, threw a lightning bolt at Penelope. Penelope countered with a jet of flame, deflecting the bolt, and then burning the evil mage to death.

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The crash of the door and the roar of flames had been heard below.  The dragon on the roof began shrieking, and that was enough for the partygoers.  Screaming and panic ensued below and Penelope heard the crowd flee out the door.  She hoped Methir was with them.  Penelope wiped some soot from her face and prepared for her last battle.  She ripped the skirt off from around her waist, leaving her hardened olive green breeches beneath.  She reached into her bag and grabbed her forest green armor, fastening it over the top portion of her dress.  She pulled out her longsword and traveling cloak, donning these as well.  She cradled the impossibly small dog and pulled him out, watching as he re-expanded from the magic.  She scratched behind his ears and wished him luck as she shooed him out of the tower.  He sat for a minute, then turned and slowly walked out of the room.  The last item she pulled out of the bag was her bronze medallion that she had been found with as an infant.  She held it, looking at the strange symbols on its surface, wondering what they meant, and would become of the medallion when she was dead.  She clasped its long chain behind her neck, deciding to wear it proudly in her last moments.  Her preparations done, she laid a hand on the baby dragon in her magical bag, determined to release it as soon as she was on the roof, then climbed the ladder to meet her fate.

She popped open the hatch and was hit with a stinging magical stunning bolt.  It was all she could do to roll herself out onto the roof to avoid falling back down the ladder.  The enchantress stood across the roof from her in a long black dress, her black cape blowing in the strong wind, her white hair done up in a braid about the top of her head.  To her left stood a green dragon, chained to the rooftop.

“Who are you that dares to come here and attack me?” the enchantress asked.  “I have command of the elements,” she began, holding up a large blue gemstone.  “I have command of dragons,” she gestured to the dragon beside her.  “I control this entire forest.  Speak.  Who has sent you here to try to destroy me?”

Penelope struggled to catch her breath as the stinging magical shock slowly subsided from her body.  Her one thought was to free the baby dragon before she was killed so it could fly away.

“No one sent me,” she said as she grabbed the baby dragon and threw it out into the wind.

“Lies!” The enchantress roared, and sent another stinging bolt at Penelope.  The next events unfolded in the space of only a few seconds, but to Penelope everything seemed to move in slow motion.

As the enchantress sent her bolt into Penelope, the baby dragon unfurled its wings and began to fly in the strong wind.  The adult dragon saw it and roared, straining against its chains.  The enchantress looked over at the baby dragon and then her eyes went wide as it circled toward the larger dragon and landed at its feet.  Despite the pain coursing through her body, Penelope saw this scene and realized that the baby dragon she had freed was this dragon’s baby.  The enchantress didn’t have some incredible power over dragons, and wasn’t controlling this one with a spell: she had been holding its offspring hostage to make it carry out her desires.  Now that Penelope had unwittingly freed its child, the dragon turned on the enchantress and attacked.  Penelope saw her opportunity and summoned her remaining strength.  She pushed herself up from the ground and drew her sword.  The first couple steps were painful, but she fought through, and walking became easier.  The enchantress was throwing all her magic at the dragon to keep herself from being eaten, and Penelope moved in behind her, slicing her sword through her neck and beheading her.  Penelope roared with pain and excitement as she held the enchantress’ head aloft. 

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A moment later, she dropped the head and began searching the body.  On it she found a few coins and random spell components, and in her hand was the large blue gem she had seen before.  Penelope picked it up, feeling the magical power contained within, and pocketed it.  She then moved to free the dragon from its chains.  A bit of magic and some bashing with the hilt of her sword and the chains came loose.  The dragon looked at Penelope gratefully as it flew off into the night with its daughter.

Penelope climbed back down the ladder into the study to find the dog waiting for her, wagging its tail.  She petted him, still shaking from the adrenaline, and looked around the room.  She quickly went through the books, stowing the spellbooks and useful arcane tomes in her magical bag, then headed downstairs.  As she had suspected, the place had cleared out, and the door to the basement was open.  She hoped that meant that Methir had escaped.  Grabbing an apple and and a bottle of wine on the way out the door, Penelope and her new canine companion walked briskly out the front door and into the night.

That evening she camped in the woods.  The next day she got up and began to boil some water for tea as she stoked the coals from the night before.  As she sat drinking tea, wrapped in her cloak with a dog beside her, she wondered what she would do next.  She hadn’t really considered what would happen if she managed to kill the enchantress.  Her hand went to her pocket, finding the blue gem.  She studied the large, cut stone that was about the size of an unshelled hickory nut.  Assuming that it would likely fetch quite a price at market, she decided to sell it and use the proceeds to help rebuild her home community as best she knew how.  To do that, she would need to go to the large Albion market, and to get there, she would need more supplies.

She walked the trail to the nearest village, intent to buying supplies for her journey, and found it all abuzz with activity.  The villagers were very excited about something.  She walked up to the well in the center of town and asked one of the girls collecting water there what was going on.

“Haven’t you heard?” the young elf maiden began.  “The enchantress is dead!  The news has been going around all morning.  There was a great ruckus at the tower last night, and this morning all her disciples were fled and her body found atop the great tower!”

Penelope thanked the girl and began to fill her waterskins from the well while looking for a farmer willing to part with some food for her journey.  As she finished filling her skins, and the townsfolk bustled excitedly about, an old elf stopped in his tracks and stared at her.  She looked at him, seeing that he was not just old, but positively ancient.  He had almost no hair left, and was hobbled over, holding himself up with a staff, and wore simple brown robes with a hood that was down.

He raised a crooked finger at Penelope and said: “You!”

Penelope straightened up, fastening her waterskins to her belt to make a quick getaway, thinking maybe this old elf was some friend of the enchantress and was upset that Penelope had killed her. She started to turn to flee, but the townsfolk had already gathered around her. Her new dog companion tensed at her side. Seeing that she was trapped, Penelope faced the old elf.

“I don’t know you and have no quarrel with you, friend,” she said in elven.

The old elf smiled and hobbled closer.  “No, you do not know us, and we do not know you, but we have been waiting many years for you.”

Penelope was stunned.  “Ummm…. How are you waiting for me if you don’t know me?” she asked, confused.

“An ancient prophecy tells of one who will arise to cleanse the forest of a great darkness.  This champion will be the heir of the druids of old and rule the land.”

Penelope looked around.  “And you think that’s me?”  She laughed.  “Do I look like a ruler to you?”

The old man pointed to her medallion.  “You wear the seal of the ancient druids.  That medallion is older than this forest, my dear.  I forsaw this event decades ago and am pleased that I have lived long enough to witness it.  Tell me, do you also possess a large, magical blue gemstone?”

At this, Penelope was a little taken aback.  How did this old elf know she had stolen the blue gem from the enchantress?  She wondered if this was some sort of scam to steal the gem from her, but then realized it would be difficult to have the whole village in on it, and the whole village was watching now by the looks of it.  She slowly reached into her pocket and produced the blue gem, holding it in her outstretched hand for the old elf to see.  He took a long, slow breath.

“I see I am not mistaken.”  He turned to the crowd.  “This is the heir of the ancient druids, bearing their seal, and the bluestone of the elements.  She has defeated the evil enchantress and returned the forest to its people.  She is the rightful queen of this forest, and this land.”

The old elf turned and bowed as low as he was still able.  The villagers kneeled before her.  Penelope did not know what to do.  A moment later, she recovered and reached forward to the old elf and helped him stand upright.  “Please, don’t kneel,” she said to the villagers.  “I was raised in a village not far from here, just like you.”  The villagers looked at each other and seemed unsure of what to do.  The old elf spoke again.

“It may well be that you were raised in a village near here, but you are not just another one of us.  You are descended from the ancient druids and it Is your responsibility to lead us all now.”

Penelope looked around at the villagers in stunned silence, unsure of what to do.

“Come, we shall ride together to Albion.”  The old elf bid one of the others to bring two horses, and he led Penelope on horseback down some trails while her new (as of yet unnamed) dog followed alongside.  Penelope found herself wondering why she was following this old elf, not believing for a second that she was the heir to anything but bad luck.  She thought about bolting on the horse, but the horse wasn’t hers, and she had a feeling the elf or some villagers would come looking for her after the big scene at the well, so she resigned herself to travel with him to Albion.  She smiled, thinking of the politics and chaos of Albion, the big city that she had lived in for so many years.  This old elf was crazy if he thought that he was going to ride into the capital from some small village with a freshly minted mage and have her crowned.  They’d be laughed out of the city.  She sighed as she listened to the old elf ramble on about druids, the enchantress, his home village and a host of other things.  It took several days to get to Albion, so she had plenty of time to listen.

Finally they arrived at the gates of the city and rode through.  This old elf was determined, and rode straight into town, through the inner sanctum and straight up to the great keep.  Penelope had never been there and was more than a little intimidated, now under the scrutiny of the guards.

“OK, I rode all the way here with you, listened to your stories, tried to humor you… but I don’t think we should bother the regent.  I’d rather go home than go to prison.”

The old elf dismounted his horse and waved his hand.  “Nonsense.  These are honorable men and we have committed no crimes.”  He helped Penelope off her horse and then grabbed her arm and gently pulled her into the great keep with him.  Penelope’s new dog followed them both.

Entering the great keep, they found that they had arrived on a grievance day, where any Avalonian could wait in line to beseech the king, or in this case the regent (due to Artorious’ absence), for a remedy to their problems.  The regent looked bored, sitting on his throne, listening to locals’ disputes over water rights, chickens, and other mundane issues.  Finally, their turn in line came, and the herald greeted them.

“Who comes before the king regent?” the herald asked.

“I am Aoer Darkmoss, and this is Penelope Brightleaf,” the old elf replied, and the scribed copied down their names into the ledger.

“And what grievance have you brought before the king regent?” the herald asked.  The regent, slumped to the side in his chair and holding his head up with his hand, yawned.

“We have no grievance for the king regent.” Aoer began.  “I present to you the heir to the throne, Penelope Brightleaf.”

The scribe quit writing for a second, and the regent looked up in surprise.  The rest of the hall went silent as the townsfolk present waited to hear what came next.

“His majesty King Artorious Rex has not been shown dead,” the herald began, “and as the rightful king of Avalonia, cannot be replaced at this time.  Thank you,” the herald said dismissively, and waved the next petitioner forward.

“I am not speaking of King Artorious or his line,” Aoer replied, stopping the advancement of the line.  “This is the last descendant of the druids that stands before you, and as such, is the rightful heir to the throne.”

The herald looked to the regent, who was now fully engaged.

“What proof do you have of such an outlandish claim?” the regent asked.

“Penelope has killed the evil enchantress of the Enchanted Forest,” Aoer stated, resulting in a gasp from the audience. “And she possesses both the bluestone of the elements and the seal of the druids,” he finished, pointing to the medallion on Penelope’s chest.  “Show them the bluestone,” he whispered to Penelope.

Feeling all eyes on her, Penelope slowly and reluctantly pulled the bluestone from her pocket and heard another collective gasp.

“Come here, my dear,” the regent said to Penelope, and she obeyed.  He examined the bluestone first, and then the medallion.  It seemed that a glimmer of recognition passed over his face, and he called a page over to him, whispering in his ear.

“Where did you come by this medallion and this stone?” he asked Penelope.

“I was found with the medallion as an infant, abandoned in the Enchanted Forest,” Penelope replied.  “The stone I retrieved from the enchantress after I defeated her.”

“If what you say is true, we owe you a debt of gratitude for ridding the forest of the evil enchantress at the least,” he said.  The scribe returned with a scroll, and the regent unfurled it, looking at the design.  He held the scroll next to the medallion and stared in disbelief.  Penelope peeked over the edge of the ancient scroll and saw a drawing of her medallion on it.  She was confused and not a little scared.

The regent called his advisors over, and they all discussed the medallion and the scroll.  The regent then called the court wizard over, talked for a moment in a low voice, and the wizard then retreated to a side room.  A minute later, he came back and nodded to the regent.

“I am pleased to announce to everyone that the evil enchantress of the forest is dead.  It has been confirmed that she is slain by a woman matching Penelope’s description.  For that, we are grateful.  I must adjourn the rest of the grievances today for a council meeting.”  He turned to the herald.  “Summon the entire council, at once.”  He moved with his advisors and attendants to the council chambers.

The guards moved to usher the townsfolk out of the hall, but the herald held Aoer and Penelope back.  Within a few minutes, they were left alone in the hall with the guards.

“So, what just happened?” Penelope asked Aoer.

“They are starting to believe,” Aoer smiled.  “They have seen the ancient prophecy that predicts the return of the line of the druids, just as I have, and with confirmation of the enchantress’ death, they now must decide the fate of the country.  Shall we remain leaderless with an absent ruler, or shall we embrace the prophecy and restore the line of the druids?”

Penelope swallowed hard and looked around the great keep.  Was this really happening?  Could she really be crowned?  It seemed too much to take in.

And now, it is up to you, the reader, to decide: is Penelope Brightleaf the rightful heir to the druids and the Avalonian throne?  Or is this just a fanciful dream of a young Avalonian child?
 

Spoiler

I almost didn’t post this after de Gothia put his sigfig in the running, as I think that de Gothia would make an outstanding choice for king.  However, I have put too much time into the story and the build to not post it, so I figured I might as well throw it in the contest.  It got kind of long, so hopefully it doesn't get TL;DR from everyone!

My motivations here were to create a character that was unrelated to anyone’s sigfigs or storylines, have her be part of both the human and elven communities of Avalonia, and allow for a lot of open ended threads for others to pull on.  I wanted to present a diverse character that others could build and develop martial, magical, or stealthy aspects of, have a side character, such as a dog, dragons or whatnot, and leave other aspects of her life and history vague.  How is she a descendant of the druids?  What was her childhood like?  What was her time in Albion like?  Without a spouse it also leaves open the chance for more of the Avalonian royal family, so she can marry or not, have kids or not, etc.  I thought it would be fun to have a character with no real backstory attached that could be molded through the process of builds from guildmembers.

I also wanted to build a character who was good with disguises, so that one didn’t have to have specific parts to build the queen, but could rather use much of what they had to get close, and have the availability of multiple faces (including the original smiley face that everyone should have).  The only distinctive part is the pearl gold hair.  Her minis are composed of the following:

Basement: hood, head, satchel, body, legs

First floor: hair, head, satchel, body, skirt

Second floor: hair, head, satchel, body, skirt

Roof: hair, head, cape, body, legs

As for the build itself, it’s on a 16x16 baseplate with only a few pieces of overhand, including a slight roofline from a bay window, a bit of decoration off the windows, a flag on the roof, and the dragon’s tail.  Each floor comes off, including the roof, for access.  Just so people don’t think I posed all the figures over and over for each shot, here is a picture of the whole thing at once.

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I had fun with the chandelier and the spiral staircase. 

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The new candle pieces are more difficult to use than I anticipated, so I wound up only using one, on the second floor.  I really enjoyed building the detailed furniture, so I think more interiors will be in future builds.  I also tried a new technique for the stone walls in the basement to try and replicate a more bricked look, and I think it turned out all right. 

47191781872_808e19ce33_k.jpg

The window I think turned out pretty well on the wall, although it's simple.

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A bonus pic of the second floor so you can see a bit more of the lab.

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Most amusingly, I hate minidolls, so I wanted to villainize them as normal minis turned evil and consumed by magic.  I’m hoping that I will inspire others to create the ultimate battle between good and evil: minifigs vs. minidolls!

32301719407_7dcf319ec9_z.jpg

Thanks for looking, and C&C welcome!

 

 

Edited by Grover

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Nice vignette! Penelope really came with a lot of garments on though!  She changed three times :wink: . It's a cool idea though, and your explanations make sense (in fact she could bring a whole wardrobe with her in the satchel I guess!)  I like the use of the classic dragon and nice way to get Penelope to hold the head! 

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Neat build, apart from being cramped up by the size limits! The spiral staircase is quite nice and the scene up top is well-posed.

And that is quite a story. (I did read all of it.) Do you have a word count by chance?

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6 hours ago, W Navarre said:

Nice vignette! Penelope really came with a lot of garments on though!  She changed three times :wink: . It's a cool idea though, and your explanations make sense (in fact she could bring a whole wardrobe with her in the satchel I guess!)  I like the use of the classic dragon and nice way to get Penelope to hold the head! 

Thank you!  I didn't know if it was allowed to re-pose the mini throughout the build, so I just made a different Penelope on each level (although she didn't change clothes between the first and second floors, so I needed duplicates of the forest maiden CMF).  I happened to have a classic dragon, and though it doesn't look as realistic as Smaug, it did fit the 16x16 requirement!  As for the head, I really had to think about that for a while, because I wanted the gruesome look of her beheading a minidoll, but with the white feather, I figured it looked like her holding a few strands of white hair, so it worked out.

3 hours ago, Captain Dee said:

Neat build, apart from being cramped up by the size limits! The spiral staircase is quite nice and the scene up top is well-posed.

And that is quite a story. (I did read all of it.) Do you have a word count by chance?

Yeah, the size limits made the photography challenging (such as the staircase kind of being in the way of some stuff, and you can't see the door to the basement on the first floor, despite it being there).  Thanks for taking the time to actually read everything! lol  It's about 6400 words.  Oddly, since I type about 100-110 words a minute, it only took me about 15-20 min with breaks, etc. to type it up.  I was able to think about the story driving to and from work, and the most difficult part was finding time to build, 20 min here, 30 min there, until I had it done.  I had to push last night a little bit, but finally got it finished!

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A long story and a tall tower! Nicely done. I'm glad you had the different levels to tell all of the different parts of the story. There's no reason you couldn't have re-posed the figs if you had wanted to, by the way, but this worked, too. The tower is well-laid out, and you did a remarkably efficient job of utilizing interior space, filling it without over filling it, allowing it to still be visible for the shots you wanted. The top of the tower with the blood and hair is the best, in my opinion. 

My main criticism is that the official narrative is that the Druids died out long ago, but they have nonetheless been resurrected by countless builders over the years, including myself (Henjin is the head of the Druidi Order, which is an order of Druids, but not necessarily the only order of Druids) and @Zilmrud (see here), so it seems strange to claim that Penelope is the heir to the Druids in a big sense, entitling her to all of Avalonia. That said, if she were somehow descended from the ruling family of the ancient Druids (an explanation for her existence would have to be made at some point - thousands-of-years-dead people don't suddenly have babies, not even Druids), she could have a perfectly viable claim to the throne to compete against other equally viable claims to the throne. 

A very solid entry and a compellingly written tale. Good work!

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I´m really glad you posted your moc despite your hesitation although I´m glad you think dG would fit for the King. 

 

This moc is really clever designed! I should have thought of something like this aswell as you can show differemt scenes for your candidate. 

 

LLove the wind blowing in the hair in the last moc!

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TL,DR.... Jokiiiiing :poke:

Really nice entry, Grover. As I mentioned for someone else, the ide of having different layer was very clever - I didn't think about it all. I like how you used the different floors for the different moments of the story. One detail about the build is that you left some studs up (on the stairs in the basement, on the borders of the upper floors) that look a bit odd given the tiled floor all around them. On the other hand, I really like the middle-to-upper-floor staircase as well as the furniture in general.

As for the story, while I do believe you could've made it a little shorter (not because long is bad, but simply because avoiding repetitions slims down the whole thing, making it flow more nicely), I got really involved with the reading and really enjoyed it - an intertaining adventure with a cool flashback, a true Avalonian atmosphere and touch of legend. I also think you managed well in creating a character susceptible to change according to potential contributions from others, as you mentioned it was your intention, which makes your entry all the more attractive :thumbup:

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Really nice story.  I like the tower, especially your spiraled staircase and chandelier.  The different variations of penelope is a cool idea.  I really like the last shot with the wind blown hair.  

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8 hours ago, Henjin_Quilones said:

A long story and a tall tower! Nicely done. I'm glad you had the different levels to tell all of the different parts of the story. There's no reason you couldn't have re-posed the figs if you had wanted to, by the way, but this worked, too. The tower is well-laid out, and you did a remarkably efficient job of utilizing interior space, filling it without over filling it, allowing it to still be visible for the shots you wanted. The top of the tower with the blood and hair is the best, in my opinion. 

My main criticism is that the official narrative is that the Druids died out long ago, but they have nonetheless been resurrected by countless builders over the years, including myself (Henjin is the head of the Druidi Order, which is an order of Druids, but not necessarily the only order of Druids) and @Zilmrud (see here), so it seems strange to claim that Penelope is the heir to the Druids in a big sense, entitling her to all of Avalonia. That said, if she were somehow descended from the ruling family of the ancient Druids (an explanation for her existence would have to be made at some point - thousands-of-years-dead people don't suddenly have babies, not even Druids), she could have a perfectly viable claim to the throne to compete against other equally viable claims to the throne. 

A very solid entry and a compellingly written tale. Good work!

Thank you!  I didn't know about re-posing the figs, but glad to know I could have!  If I have to do something like this again, I may take more shots with the figs reposed so that there's a more coherent story in pictures.  Thanks for the comment about filling space--I struggle with not overfilling space, and I'm glad to hear that I didn't do that here.

I think everyone loves the top of the tower shot, and that's actually where this whole idea began.  I had the statue of liberty hair piece in gold and wanted to somehow use it and have the contender for the throne beheading a minidoll, so between those two things, this is the story I came up with!

As for the narrative, I honestly don't really expect to go very far in the tournament, so I'm not too concerned with specifics.  However, if it does come down to it, I think that we can make up a good narrative.  I was hoping that you, Zilmrud, and maybe some of the folks who were on here since the inception of the Guilds could help me figure out the history of the druids (as the pre-history of the Guilds is kind of nebulous) and make up something that worked.  As I said, though, I am not going to worry about it right now.  Thanks again!

7 hours ago, de Gothia said:

I´m really glad you posted your moc despite your hesitation although I´m glad you think dG would fit for the King. 

 

This moc is really clever designed! I should have thought of something like this aswell as you can show differemt scenes for your candidate. 

 

LLove the wind blowing in the hair in the last moc!

Thank you!  I at least wanted feedback from people, so I went ahead and entered it.  I did have fun building it and thinking of how to make a MOC to tell the story, so I'm glad people seem to like it.  And yes, that hair blowing in the wind is really the apex of both the tower and the build I think!

5 hours ago, en_zoo said:

TL,DR.... Jokiiiiing :poke:

Really nice entry, Grover. As I mentioned for someone else, the ide of having different layer was very clever - I didn't think about it all. I like how you used the different floors for the different moments of the story. One detail about the build is that you left some studs up (on the stairs in the basement, on the borders of the upper floors) that look a bit odd given the tiled floor all around them. On the other hand, I really like the middle-to-upper-floor staircase as well as the furniture in general.

As for the story, while I do believe you could've made it a little shorter (not because long is bad, but simply because avoiding repetitions slims down the whole thing, making it flow more nicely), I got really involved with the reading and really enjoyed it - an intertaining adventure with a cool flashback, a true Avalonian atmosphere and touch of legend. I also think you managed well in creating a character susceptible to change according to potential contributions from others, as you mentioned it was your intention, which makes your entry all the more attractive :thumbup:

lol!  It was a bit long, but I'm glad that you found the story compelling enough to keep reading!  As for the studs up, they are supposed to be up on the borders of the upper floors, as these are meant to represent the wall that you can see through.  The studs up on the stairs, though are just an oversight on my part.  Thank you for the feedback!

20 minutes ago, zoth33 said:

Really nice story.  I like the tower, especially your spiraled staircase and chandelier.  The different variations of penelope is a cool idea.  I really like the last shot with the wind blown hair.  

Thanks!  I had fun with the build for sure.  The staircase isn't as flimsy as it looks either, it's reasonably stable.  As I mention above, I think that the last shot really kind of makes the build for sure!

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The tower looks great, was a good idea with the different levels. The story is strong, but for me, she is more like a MarySue. She is too good in any problem-solving. Magical talents, good at stealth and sword fighting, the limitless bag feels like a folk tale from my home country.

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18 hours ago, Grover said:

It's about 6400 words.

Aha. I was just curious for... some reason...:innocent:

2 hours ago, kahir88 said:

MarySue.

It seems to me that contests of this nature encourage a degree of Mary Sue-type character traits. :grin:

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Posted (edited)
On 3/2/2019 at 4:21 AM, kahir88 said:

The tower looks great, was a good idea with the different levels. The story is strong, but for me, she is more like a MarySue. She is too good in any problem-solving. Magical talents, good at stealth and sword fighting, the limitless bag feels like a folk tale from my home country.

I intentionally made her more heroic, as I thought that would be appropriate for this particular calling, although her sword fighting is basic at best.  On the other hand, I had a folk hero for my original concept:

On 3/2/2019 at 6:33 AM, Captain Dee said:

Aha. I was just curious for... some reason...:innocent:

It seems to me that contests of this nature encourage a degree of Mary Sue-type character traits. :grin:

Yeah, I wrote a bit much perhaps, but I was having fun.  My first thought was that we need a character who's awesome at everything to be worthy of the Avalonian throne.  Or else you wind up with Bob...

Edited by Grover

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Really nice work Grover! Love that you went for a story tower here! Great story as well. As far a favorite detail, I gotta go with that awesome chandelier using the pirate wheel! Keep up the good work man!

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Plenty of nice details included on each level of the tower :thumbup:
Clever way to use both minidolls and minifigures in the same scene, and I did enjoy reading the story :classic:

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