Chapter 1: Tournament Application prompt
When William initially saw the silk ribbons posted on the local guild halls, he assumed they were celebrating some holiday from a different planet he didn’t know about. It wasn’t until his raven familiar, Viggo, stole one of the ribbons that he bothered to see what was happening. Some mysterious organization called the Academic Collective was going to hold a competition to determine which latent elemental power was the strongest. William liked the idea of entering a contest to prove his worth, but he had never heard of this Academic Collective, and no one else seemed to know precisely who they were either. While the flyers proclaimed that these weren’t going to be deathmatches, it didn’t sway the fact that no one seemed to know anything about these mysterious organizers.
Since William’s only clue was the colorful silk ribbons, he decided to start there with his search for the tournament organizers. Each silk ribbon was made of naturally harvested silk, but oddly enough (despite the multiple colors) they didn’t appear to be dyed. Rather, the silk seemed to be organically brightly colored. Silk from William’s home was always white unless it was dyed. That meant that these ribbons had to be from somewhere off the planet. A quick survey of different traders that had arrived in Drakthrope from other worlds indicated that there were several that had worms that produced multicolored silk. However, none of those planets had worms that produced all the colors used on the silk. Meaning that the Academic Collective was either gathering silk from multiple planets, or buying their silk from a merchant that was. Merchants were easier to track than an unknown person possibly portal hopping. So William jumped on it and went with that lead. He asked around again and found a well-known silk merchant on Nircaris, a planet that served as a nexus for trade in the multiverse.
Portal travel to the trade planet was relatively smooth without any major issues. All the buildings on Nicaris were incredibly tall and everyone seemed to be in a constant hurry. Most people were loud and rude, shouting and shoving as William tried to maneuver through the city without knocking anyone down. Thanks to the crowds, it took William several hours to get to the section of the planet he was looking for. Oddly enough, this section of Nicaris seemed to be rundown compared to the rest. It was dimly lit with buildings that were much smaller and in disrepair. William kept a hand on his talisman dagger as menacing shadows seemed to dart around every corner. A lighted sign that sparked and flickered indicated that William had arrived at the correct address. There was no door so he walked into the dimly lit building where silks of all colors and qualities were on display. A female gnome with rainbow-colored hair sat behind a small counter and smoked a sour-smelling pipe as William approached the back of the store.
“Well, hello there,” the gnome greeted William energetically, “we don’t get many of your kind in the darker parts of the city. How can I help you?”
“I’m looking for someone who would’ve purchased silk for these,” William explained as he pulled several silk ribbons from his pocket. As the gnome looked at the ribbons, she made a point of musing over them. William became aware of others that lurked in the shadows of the shop. He was being watched, which was making him uneasy.
“The only person I sold silk of this grade and these colors recently was,” the rainbow-haired gnome paused to point at a shadowy figure as it ran out the door, “them.” William didn’t bother thinking about it as he ran out the door after the shadowy figure.
As he turned left out of the store, William saw the shadowy figure standing a few houses down casting a spell. William ripped his talisman dagger from its sheathe as he prepared to counter the spell. Fire wreathed from the shadowy figure as their spell erupted toward William. A few whistled notes from William created a pocket of space in front of him to empty of air completely. As the fire hit the pocket of empty space, it extinguished completely and left William unharmed. He started to continue after the shadowy figure when a wave of water that filled the street appeared. William whistled a few more notes from the Winter Song accompanied by several complicated gestures with his witch knife. As the tsunami of water raced towards William, it froze solid before it shattered into a flurry of snowflakes. With barely a moment to relax, a tangle of vines, thorns, and poisonous plants erupted from the ground. More whistled notes and gestures with his talisman dagger summoned a frigid subzero wind that killed the plants almost as fast as they sprouted.
“That’s all I need to see,” the shadowy figure clapped as it walked towards William. Some sort of enchantment was making it impossible to fully perceive any details about this person other than the fact that they were slightly shorter than William. Four different colored wands with different elemental pearls in them were inset in each one. “Consider your application to join the tournament accepted.”
“I wanted answers about the Academic Collective not to enter your tournament,” William snapped at the shadowy figure angrily.
“Let’s just say you’ve had to talk to several of us to get here,” the figure in shadows answered as they turned to walk away, “I’m impressed with you honestly. Not many applicants thought to track down the silk used for the ribbons. Fight in the tournament and maybe you’ll find the answers you’re looking for.” William went to tackle the shadowy figure to demand the answers he wanted but a portal appeared under foot and in a moment they were gone. Left alone on the street, William was left with no other choice but to enter the tournament if he wanted to know more about the Academic Collective. With a sigh, he left in search of a portal home.
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