[Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Two Topic is solved

78th of Ashan 720

The cities and villages of Melrath are as varied and diverse as they come. The capital of Raelia is the the jewel of this western kingdom, playing host to a merchants, artisans, Aesir priests, as well as a cut throat political landscape dominated by the nobles of Raelia. To the south in the depths of the Myrkvior Forest lies Melrath's second largest, and oldest city, Fensalir. Here people have learned to live alongside spirits and the natural world by maintaining their loyalty to traditions laid down the first Melrathi. To the east lies the small fishing village of Noatun, and to the western mountains rests the Mer city of Verimeer, the brewing town of Alivilda and the alpine village Vormund.
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[Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Two

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The Tournament of Plants and Potions
76-78th Ashan 720

CHALLENGE TWO
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75th of Ashan and on: “Tournament of Plants and Potions” In Fensalir, House Namdalen and House Magnus decide to host a tournament. It is meant to serve as a recruitment drive for Ydalir rangers and herbalists, as well as alchemists for House Magnus. Jarl Sebastian Magnus, and the recovered Jarl Samuel Namdalen (who’d spent Cylus poisoned from the assassination attempt in late Zi’ da), are both in attendance along with other prominent members of their noble houses.

Herbs and Medicines Challenge Two: The participants are sent to the surrounding wilderness for two trials. They are meant to come back and put together a salve. The salve can be for anything, but the more beneficial or wide-ranged in use it is, the better. Those who fail at putting together a salve, or create something that is harmful, are dropped from the tournament. One haughty woman is found cheating by having purchased a salve instead of harvesting the ingredients for herself. She is sternly chided by Jarl Magnus in front of everyone, much to the obvious amusement of Jarl Namdalen.


Alchemy and Potions, Challenge Two: The participants are given two trials to create a potion with ingredients they have to acquire themselves. The potion can be for anything, but the more beneficial or wide-ranged in use it is, the better. Those who fail at putting together a potion, or create something that is harmful, are dropped from the tournament. An elderly man accidentally causes an explosion, burning down the house he was conducting his work in. He is badly burned but survives. Jarl Magnus and Jarl Namdalen visit him and offer their respective houses to aid in his recovery.

Ashling had succeeded with all the tests in the first challenge and so, she would now do the second challenge!

It was before the dawn of the 76th Ashan. The details for the second challenge of the tournament would soon be disclosed. The participants had gathered in front of the tent on the festival meadow in the Springwater district in Fensalir. They shuddered in the cold air and wondered how long they would have to wait. And why had they been told to come here before the break of dawn?

Finally, the challenge and the rules were announced, by the two Jarls themselves. Jarl Magnus and Jarl Namdalen strode out from the tent, dressed colourful woollen clothing and warm fur cloaks.

Jarl Namdalen spoke first. “Welcome, all who have gathered here! I now will tell you about the second challenge of the plants part of the tournament! "

He made a brief pause, waiting for total silence and attention before he continued. "Your mission is to make a herbal salve. It can be a salve for any purpose. But, the more beneficial it is, or the more wide-ranged the use of the salve is, the better we will consider it!"

The participants smiled in relief. They all knew many good recipes! This seemed easier than expected!

But, the Jarl wasn't done. " You get two trials (and nights) for finding the ingredients yourself, in the wilderness. Then you need to come back and make the salve before the time is out."

Now, many people felt that i was time to stop speaking and get down to business. But, the jarl raised his hand to silence the murmur that was rising from the crowd of contestants. He also needed to tell them how they would do the scoring!

"We have also decided how your results vill be scored! You can use as many ingredients as you wish, but each salve must contain at least four ingredients. Your success at identifying and gathering the four most important ingredients in the salve will be scored as follows. For each ingredient your success will get a score ranging from 0=none up to a 4=all. Your crafting process will get a score for how well you carry out the work, ranging from 0=miserable performance up to 4=top class performance. And, finally, after your salve has been tested, it will get a score ranging from 0=useless, no effect up to 4= widespread use and a good effect for a plethora of medicinal purposes. "

Some eager participants seemed ready to leave at this point. Time was an essential factor here and it made the challenge harder. Many an over-confident smile vaned. They must be on their way ...

But, the jarl blew a small horn to keep their attention! He had evenmore to say!

“Wait! You also need to know the exact rules! Two trials mean two days and nights, beginning at dawn to-trial and ending at dawn after the second night. Keep this in mind! If you fail to deliver your salve before the dawn of the 78th of Ashan, we will drop you from the tournament! If your salve is harmful we will also drop you. If you cheat you will be out of the contest.”

The impatience was rising in the group of participants. How long time would the Jarl speak? They might need every trill and wanted to head to the wilderness already. The conditions were tough. If you would go for but less common plants it would take time and effort to find them.

Ashling felt more nervous than she had expected. There was an element of hazard in the rules. Nature and luck would decide which herbs she would be able to find in time. That, in turn, would decide which salves it would be possible to make. It was much harder than if the task had been to find a specific plant and make a specific kind of salve.

Now, it was Jarl Magnus turn to speak. He gave a similar speech. Their mission was to create a potion, the more beneficial or wide-ranged in use, the better. The alchemists would get the same two days and nights for their mission. Their results would be scored in the same way as for the herbalists. The rules for dropping people were also the same.

The sky was taking on the rose colour of dawn. The first trial of the second challenge began.
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Two

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Tristan wasn’t sure why he had failed two tests. He was probably one of the best alchemists in all of Melrath and almost as good as the famous Padraig Augustin. He couldn’t help but wonder if it had been due to the latent (or blatant?) xenophobia. But then again, people had begun to cheer for him a couple of rounds into the contest. Maybe the flirty hostess had messed with the final score because he had refused to flirt with her. Or maybe someone had been jealous of his good looks. Or maybe … in the end he decided that it didn’t matter that he had failed two tests (or why he had failed them). The only thing that really mattered was that he had been allowed to progress to the second round. Apparently, someone had been sufficiently impressed with his performance!

“Brrr”, he made as he waited in front of the tent with the other contestants and shuddered. It was quite cold, even though he had put a coat on. “Do you have any idea why they decided to wake us up before dawn?” he asked Ashling who would compete alongside him (in the herbs and medicines part of the tournament rather than in the potions part). “Do they want to find out how we’ll perform if we haven’t had enough sleep?” he mused and moved a little closer to her in order to put an arm around her so that they would be able to keep each other warm while they waited (he had to admit, he was quite happy to have an excuse to touch her – she was just so lovely).

When the two Jarls walked out of the tent, he stood up straighter though and moved a little away from Ashling as being affectionate in front of such people might be inappropriate, especially if the reason for the tournament taking place was a serious one. They talked about the plants part first, but he listened just as attentively as Ashling, nevertheless because he wanted to know what she would be asked to do. “What do you think?” he wanted to know once Jarl Namdalen had finished speaking. If the contestants were sent into the wilderness for two trials, did that mean that they had to sleep in the forest? Would he have to sleep in the forest as well? Tristan had gotten a lot better when it came to dealing with nature, but he still had something of that city boy in him.

When Jarl Magnus began to explain the potions side of the second round, he thus listened with a certain amount of trepidation. He didn’t usually harvest the reagents for his potions himself (although, come to think of it, the Jarl had said acquire and not harvest – when you bought something at a shop, you acquired it as well, right?). In fact, he had only looked for plants that he could use for his alchemy himself for the first time the cycle before, during a brief stay in Desnind (during which he had met a most interesting woman named Dula).

On the other hand, he was one of the best alchemists in all of Melrath and he had a perfect memory courtesy of Vri – and the most beautiful grey-skinned woman next to him, so what could possibly go wrong?

“They seem to be in quite a hurry”, he remarked to Ashling as he looked at the other contestants, some of whom had started to move towards the entrance of the tent the moment Jarl Magnus had finished speaking, as if they were worried that there wouldn’t be any plants left in the forest (even though it was full of them). “We should probably get going as well. Do you think we’ll be allowed to look for our reagents together?” he asked.
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Two

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Ashling had no idea why the rules and time schedule were this way! they did! It was an enigma to her too, but there was nobody to ask about it. She had laughed a bit when Tristan had asked if they were supposed to perform better the less sleep they got.

About what she thought ... she told him that thinking was the key. They would have to think. Rushing ahead in a plan-less manner seemed bad. She didn’t think that it would be so smart to go for sleeping in the forest. The best would be to gather ingredients before the end of the first trial. They could then use the rest of the time for the crafting. It wouldn’t matter how rare and spectacular ingredients people might find if they would run out of time. Her goal would be a salve of as widespread use and high quality as possible, made of herbs that weren't too hard to find.

At this point, Jarl Namdalen blew the horn again, louder this time. Jarl Magnus shouted out to the people who were already heading away from the tent. “There is one more rule! “

One more rule?! The eager participants stopped in their tracks. What now?

Jarl Magnus spoke again. Speeches seemed to be his forte. “All the participants in challenge two can collaborate about navigation and security. We don't want anybody to be alone if an accident happens. There’s important limitations though. Alchemists cannot go with other alchemist and herbalists cannot go with fellow herbalists. We approve that an alchemist and herbalist collaborate about navigation and security. Those need different ingredients and use different crafts and have very different knowledge. So, it's not possible to copy the other person’s ideas and cheat. Note though! We approve it only if you register it in advance.”

Jarl Magnus pointed at scribe who was making ready to take notes.

But there was a bit more. “If you collaborate it may increase your safety. You may get better at finding the way. But, keep in mind that teamwork also comes with risks. Each contestant will still have to identify/appraise their ingredients themselves. For example, if an herbalist finds a toxic look-alike of a plant/mushroom etc ... and makes a mistake at identification ... it's dangerous if an alchemist uses the plant without examining it and making their own identification. All are responsible for their own results. We will not have any pointing at a collaboration partner as guilty of mistakes!”

Ashling picked up the conversation with Tristan where they had left it off to listen to the jarls. “I know the forest here like my own pocket. We will not lose our way. Bring your crossbow though. I’ll bring my short bow and my first aid kit. Hope we don’t need them, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

A mild chaos broke out.

People began to look around for collaboration partners from the other discipline. Most seemed to only think of how that could increase their chances at success. Few seemed to care about the risks of making mistakes together.

Ashling didn’t get time to continue speaking with Tristan. The snarky alchemist Biarne who had harassed Tristan during challenge one turned up. The man hooked arms with Ashling, without caring that Tristan was already holding his arm around her. In a loud voice he announced that she was the herbalist he intended to collaborate with. “Let’s go and register love, so we get a head start!”

With this Biarne attempted to jerk Ashling away from Tristan. Several reactions from other people followed. First, Biarne’s partner Buxom began to object in a shrill tone. They were an herbalist and they had taken it for granted that they would go with Biarne!

Second, a beautiful event hostess who worked with all kinds of event support came rushing to them. She tried to calm down the situation. “Please. We can’t have the participants arguing with each other about how to team up.”

In attempt to quick fix the problem the hostess told Buxom to team up with Tristan as Biarne was already in a team. Buxom yelled that they would not go with an outlander. Tristan had also failed at half of the tests in challenge one and almost not made it to this round. Buxom wanted to go with Biarne (who had scored 4/4, somehow)!

Ashling tried to shake off Biarne but the alchemist held on to her. There was nothing else to do than kicking him in the ... shin, for a start. “I’m teamed up with Tristan,” she hissed. “Let go of me and team up with your own partner for Myrkvior’s sake! Can’t you see that you are hurting their feelings?”

Kicking the man’s shin didn’t have any effect apart from a grimas. “Buxom scored only 2/4. Like the outlander here. Those two losers are a match. You and I are a winning team. Top scores. Simple mathematics."

Ashling tried in wain to free her arm. "I don't care about your mathematics! Let go of of me!"

"Listen. This is about winning and not about being squeamish about feelings. It’s a contest for Myrkvior’s sake, not a romantic picnic! You go with me, you win! You go with him, you fail!"

“There, there, let’s all be reasonable and solve this little disagreement now,” said the hostess. “No more bickering. We can’t all always get everything our own way. Be sporting and accept the collaboration partner you were dealt!”

Biarne still held on to Ashling and managed to drag her a step or two away from Tristan. Meanwhile the hostess made an attempt to make Tristan and Buxom shake hands. It was futile, because Buxom had begun crying. They refused the matchmaking. Ashling was too busy with Biarne to see what Tristan was doing. But, she though she heard his voice through Buxom’s wailing and the hostess’s fruitless pleas for peace.

The tears running down the face of Biarne’s loyal supporter settled it. He was bad to all, his own partner too! Ashling kicked again, with her knee this time and higher up. She wasn’t a brawler, but as a healer she knew enough about male anatomy to know how to take Biarne out. It wasn’t nice but she had no choice!

Biarne groaned, let go of her, doubled up and fell on the ground. Buxom was irrational in their loyalty. They took care of their cold-hearted partner and scolded Ashling . Tired of them (and angry), Ashling turned to Tristan. “Let’s go and register as a team, get our things and leave. We can plan as we go! ”

The commotion had delayed them a bit. Other collaboration teams had already registered and were leaving. Those who were going solo were already gone. Assuming that Tristan would come with her Ashling walked over to the now free scribe. She told registered them. Ashling Grayhawk, herbalist and Tristan Venora, alchemist.

She neither knew nor cared what their antagonists would do!

A bit later, Ashling and Tristan departed. Each brought the tools and other things for their respective crafts. They carried their weapons, a bow (Ashling) and a crossbow (Tristan). At a good pace they crossed Juniper Hills (north of Springwater, where the contest tent stood). They headed out from Fensalir at the eastern side of the town. Ashling explained why. “We will neither go northeast toward the Old Ruins, nor south towards Fenmoor. And we will not go so far into the forest, if we do as I suggested before that dumb brawl. If we are lucky we will be back before nightfall and start crafting in the evening."

Excellent plan if you asked her. Not much could go wrong there! Right? But, she wanted to hear what Tristan thought of it of course. “What do you say Tristan, do you think this could work for you too? Or should we spend more of our time finding ingredients and go for faster crafting?"
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Two

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“They obviously disagree“, Tristan remarked when Ashling stated that rushing ahead in a plan-less manner seemed bad, his tone of voice tinged with a hint of amusement, and glanced at the other contestants that had begun to move towards the exit the moment that Jarl Magnus had finished speaking (some of them were even trying to push their competitors away so that they would be able to leave the tent first). “I wonder if any of them have actually thought about what they will do. I have to admit, I like your strategy much better. Let’s try to gather the ingredients before the end of the first trial and spend the rest of the time crafting”, he told her and smiled at her affectionately. She was so smart and reasonable. She would definitely win her part of the tournament!

(He also smiled because he probably wouldn’t have to sleep in the forest. Camping with your beloved only sounded romantic in theory; in reality there were bugs, it was cold, there were weird sounds all around you, and then there was the lack of bathrooms and toilets, of course.)

He was just about to offer Ashling his arm and lead her out of the tent – while he wouldn’t rush things, he saw no reason to linger either – when Jarl Magnus proclaimed that there was one more rule. He stopped dead in his tracks and turned around, a questioning (and perhaps very slightly irritated) look on his face. Another rule? When the man announced that the participants were allowed to collaborate and that alchemists and herbalists could go together, he began to look quite happy though. That was a good rule. In fact, it was a great rule, and he already knew who he would collaborate with!

He turned to Ashling and opened his mouth in order to tell her that he agreed that bringing their weapons would be a good idea, when chaos broke out all around them. For a moment, the young noble just stared, his blue eyes wide with surprise. A moment later when Biarne showed up and attempted to drag Ashling away from him, that look of surprise turned to one of anger and irritation though. “Let go of her! She’s with me, besides, this is no way to treat a lady. You don’t just grab someone, you ask them – politely!” he informed him, glowered at him and attempted to separate him from Ashling.

Tristan was normally quite a peaceful individual – he had seen what violence and/or arguments could lead to, and thus he refused to participate unless it was absolutely necessary – but this was not acceptable, and he was just to point that out again when Buxom began to complain such shrill a tone of voice that he had to resist the urge to cover his ears. How could anybody have such an unpleasant voice? It was almost physically painful to listen to!

When the hostess approached them and tried to get things to calm down, he nodded as he agreed with her wholeheartedly – only to make a face when she tried to lead them away from Ashling and Biarne and subsequently teamed him up with Buxom who didn’t have a partner either yet. He looked at Buxom rather unhappily. Buxom looked back just as unhappily. Tristan had never thought that he would actually have something in common with them! Of course, that didn’t change anything. He didn’t want to work with them!

When Buxom complained that they didn’t want to go with an outlander, he retorted, “And I don’t want to go with a xenophobe!” When they went on to complain about his low score in the previous round, the look in his eyes darkened noticeably. He might almost have failed – but he would do much better in this round. He was an excellent alchemist, thank you very much, and they ought to be glad to be in a team with him. Not that he would ever tell them that lest they changed their mind and decided to be okay with the hostess’ decision, after all!

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Ashling had kicked Biarne which was something that he approved of wholeheartedly. She was so brave and fierce! He decided to intervene regardless. That man was harassing his fiancée, and he wouldn’t just stand by when someone was harassing the woman that he loved, but defend her! Unfortunately, he didn’t manage to make more than two steps in Ashling’s direction before Buxom suddenly burst into tears. That was so unexpected that Tristan just stared at them for a few moments dumbfoundedly.

They had been rather mean to him, and they were a xenophobe and probably a few other bad things, but he didn’t like it when people were crying. He didn’t like it at all. “There, there”, he murmured and patted their back somewhat awkwardly while they continued to wail and sob. “It’s going to be alright. Can you stop crying now, please?” he added because he almost couldn’t stand looking at them and listening to them. They weren’t just sobbing, they were sobbing heart-wrenchingly and in an unpleasantly shrill tone of voice!

A moment later, Biarne groaned rather loudly which caused Tristan to abruptly turn to look at Ashling again. The man was lying on the ground, his hands between his legs and a rather pained expression on his face. Had Ashling …? Yes, she definitely had, he decided and beamed at her. Buxom stopped sobbing for a moment and turned around in order to find out what Tristan was staring at before they rushed to their cold-hearted partner who had been ready to abandon them in order to comfort him – and sob some more.

“I agree, let’s go”, he replied and turned to Ashling. “I wish I knew … no, I actually don’t want to know what’s wrong with these two. Let’s just forget all about them”, he decided – before he realized that he couldn’t forget anything - ever again. Vri’s blessing had come in quite handy during the first round, but it also ensured that he would always remember the rude Biarne and his sobbing partner with the utmost clarity. (He didn’t regret Vri’s blessing though; he felt so very honored that he had chosen him, he liked Vri, and he accepted the fact that his new abilities had certain downsides).

Tristan did of course come with Ashling. He did not only bring his nice blue crossbow, he also brought a few bolts (because the crossbow was useless without them) and a bag that contained various supplies such as scissors, a knife, a foldable shovel (for harvesting the reagents), various smaller bags and vials (for storing the reagents), food and drinks (because they might be in the wilderness for a while), some first aid stuff (in case Ashling lost or used hers) as well as a compass (Ashling seemed to be quite skilled at navigation, but a compass might come in handy, nevertheless).

“We will be judged on the finished potion or salve, won’t we?” he replied as Ashling asked him for his opinion. “So, I’d suggest we try to be back before the end of this trial as you said earlier. The best and rarest reagents won’t help much if the finished product was rushed and doesn’t work perfectly as a consequence!” he decided. Once upon a time, he might have thought differently and tried to impress the judges with all the weird stuff that he’d found and dumped into his cauldron, but he’d realized that people didn’t want a potion that smelled or tasted weird or emitted smoke (or gave you heartburn as a side effect) which was kind of unfortunate, to be honest.

Smoking potions were great!
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Two

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Ashling smiled at Tristan as they walked. She spoke with him about how good it was that they had agreed on a sensible plan. It was the effects of the salve and the potion they would be judged by, not by how exotic their ingredients were.

She for one had nothing against camping in the wilds! As Tristan hadn’t told her his less enthusiastic opinion about the charm of camping, she spoke her mind. She elaborated a bit on daydreams she had about the future. Ashling didn’t say that she hoped that they would live in Fensalir, but she tried to point of some upsides.

“We can go camping in the forest another time when we don’t have a deadline! Oh ... and we could bring Ayla with us and Fluffy and Silver. Children need to get outdoors to play in nature Tristan, so they don’t become weak and unhealthy. And they love to camp in the forest. Or, by the lake of Fensalir in the warmer seasons when they can bath.”

Now he can see how much outdoors life we have here in Fensalir, the best city in Melrath!

It was still early in the day and the weather was sunny. It was perfect for harvesting plants. “The plants are at their most effective after the dew is gone but before noon, “she told Tristan. “In the afternoon they may still be good, but the earlier we pick them the better.”

He might already know this, but she felt that it was better to be safe than sorry. “If you want me to help out with finding specific herbs you can tell me and I will do what I can. The rules seem to allow it.”

She didn’t’ have the slightest idea about alchemy ingredients. But, she supposed that Tristan with his high skill as an alchemist would deal with most of it himself. She felt quite interested in what he would do!

The salve and the ingredients were on her mind of course. “I’m going to make a salve with several purposes. So, I want a salve you apply anywhere on the body. Feet, arms, legs, torso, shoulder’s, neck, all. One. I want it to soothe skin issues and be beneficial for the healing of wounds and burns. Two. In the best case, it will also serve as a painkiller. Three. I want it to ease pain and ache in tense muscles by helping them to relax. Four, I want it to have a general refreshing, relaxing effect that can ease stress and tiredness.”

When she had said this she laughed a bit. “Ambitious, am I? Four effects. But, all are things you can use herbal salves for. It remains to see if I will be able to find the plants I need. I may not succeed with all four effects, but I’m going to attempt.”

Skin. Melrathi Broadleaf ... this common but amazing weed. It grows almost everywhere and it is excellent for speeding up the healing of wounds. If wounds and burns need to be treated the broadleaf is a must. Wild Chamomile for a calming and soothing effect on skin troubles would also be ideal.

What to use for a painkiller effect. Wild mint, also a common plant, would do.

Muscles. Wild mint and Fensalir Blue Spruce would be good for making muscles relax and ease pain and ache. None of them should be very hard to find.

Invigorating and refreshing effect. Again, the wild mint would contribute to this too.


So, Ashling had made up her mind. Her goal was to gather Broadleaf, Wild Chamomile, Wild Mint and Fensalir Blue Spruce. These were the four essential ingredients she needed. If she would stumble over something more, the better, but that would be extras. It was not something she would want to linger in the wilds for. “In the first hand I need broadleaf, wild chamomile, wild mint and bluepine,” she told Tristan. “Those four will suffice, but I may add something more if I happen to find it.”

Herbalism could often be this uncomplicated when it came to the ingredients. That was if you knew the value of the less spectacular plants. She told Trist about what she had learnt from her mother, Sol’ange. “Mom says that the most common plants often also plants that are very good for us. Simple weeds can have strong healing properties. People may think that the rarest plants are the best, but if you think one step more ... very rare plants are not the reason why humankind stays alive and healthy. Almost all plants we eat and use in medicine are common in nature or possible to cultivate in gardens. yes. How much medicine can you craft of a plant that is very rare, expensive, hard to find and harvest? Not enough to be able to test it properly even, in Sol’ange’s opinion. So, unusual plants can be interesting. But valuable for medicine? Only if you can get enough of them to enable proper research.”

Oops...it might not be so smart to speak about Sol’ange too much. He hadn’t met his future mother in law yet. Ashling changed the topic and asked Tristan about his ideas for the potion he aimed to craft. What kind of effects would he go for? How many ingredients would he need? Which were they how tricky did he expect that it would find them? What could she help out with?

It was so nice that they could collaborate to gather the ingredients! The sun was shining, the nature was as wonderful as it always was and there were no troubles in sight.

For a moment she imagined that she heard the sound of a small twig breaking somewhere behind them. But, when she looked over her shoulder there was nothing. It must have been one of the normal forest sounds. It could have been a small animal moving in the shrubbery, a mouse or a pheasant or so. Or the wind. Still... for a fraction of a trill, it had felt like the spiritual side of her, her ose-bori, Kyrie, had reacted to something. Ashling listened inwards, but no intuition came to her. The familiar stayed silent but it felt like it also was staying awake.

Tristan might notice that Ashling seemed a bit distracted. But, she would soon turn her attention to him again. If he would ask about it, she would tell him that she had thought that she had heard a sound of a twig breaking behind them. But, it must have been the wind or some small animal or another common forest sound.
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Two

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Tristan would probably eventually have a word with Ashling about camping trips. This was not the right time for it though. At the moment, he just wanted to enjoy her company while they gathered their reagents together. That didn’t mean that he was completely quiet, of course. On the contrary, when she mentioned swimming in the lake of Fensalir, he smiled and agreed, “That sounds like fun. I agree that Ayla needs to get out more. Perhaps, we can have a picnic by the lake sometime, when this here is over?” he asked and raised an eyebrow. Unlike camping, he actually enjoyed picnics by a lake!

It was still relatively early in the trial, and it was still cool (although he didn’t freeze as much as he had in the beginning anymore), but the sun was shining now, so Tristan actually found the walk quite pleasant.

“I didn’t know that”, he admitted when Ashling told him that the plants were at their most effective after the dew was gone, but before noon. He usually harvested the reagents that he grew in his garden in Raelia whenever he felt like that (or whenever he had time). “So, we should make sure that we harvest most of the reagents now. As for your helping out, I would definitely appreciate that. I’m not as experienced as you when it comes to gathering herbs”, he admitted, nearly without hesitation.

He was not embarrassed about having so little experience in that regard – because his skill as an alchemist more than made up for it. Not even Padraig Augustin had managed to make a cat-speech potion!

When Ashling talked about what kind of salve she wanted to make, he laughed before he agreed with her statement, his tone of voice still tinged with amusement, “A bit maybe, but that’s one of the reasons why I love you. Besides, only an ambitious project will win this tournament. I think your idea sounds great!” he told her in a very sincere tone of voice because it did indeed sound extraordinarily useful. “Personally, I’ll aim for something similar. I want to make a potion that will increase the drinker’s endurance, increase their appetite and make it easier for them to relax at the same time.”

“I’ll call it the Potion of General Wellbeing”,
he revealed, smiling slightly. “I’ve also considered making a different kind of animal speech potion instead, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to find any of the necessary reagents within a trial or two. I’m pretty sure that there are equivalents of the reagents that I used for my cat-speech potion here in Idalos, but I don’t know where exactly”, he admitted. “Besides, this tournament seems to be more healing-themed. Unless you think that I should go for something animal-related?” he asked. He was always interested in what Ashling had to say!

“If I decide to make the potion I mentioned, I’ll definitely need to find Moukou Beans”, he told her. “They are usually used as a sleep aid, but if I decrease the dose and maybe modify them slightly, they could just make you more relaxed instead. Furthermore, I’ll need tree sap or tree resin as a binder, willow bark to increase the drinker’s endurance if we can find it and maybe peppermint to increase the drinker’s appetite. There are a number of other reagents that we could use to achieve the same effect. Moukou Beans are sweet though, and peppermint will complement them well. What do you think? Will a potion that tastes good get you more points, or do they only care about its effectiveness?” he wanted to know and furrowed his brow thoughtfully for a bit.

“Your mother sounds like a very wise woman”, he added – he couldn’t wait to finally meet Sol’ange and talk about plants and medicines and potions with her. He wanted to say more, but then he suddenly heard the sound of a twig snapping, and froze for a moment. When Ashling told him that she had heard it as well, his hand momentarily went to his crossbow as he couldn’t help but worry a little. “What do you think that it was?” he wanted to know, lowering his voice to a mere whisper so that only she would be able to hear him. “We should be careful, just in case there is something out there”, he suggested.

“Let’s go”, he told her a moment later. It was probably just a small animal or another contestant who had decided to gather their ingredients nearby, so he didn’t want to overreact.

Besides, they were both armed!
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Two

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Ashling waited, but nothing showed and nothing happened. She listened inwards, trying to get in touch with her inner spiritual familiar Kyrie, but the familiar stayed silent. No bouts of intuition came to her, now taciturn telepathic message or even the feel of Kyrie being awake.

All she heard was the usual sounds of nature.

“I don’t know,” she said at last. “It can have been the wind or an animal. But, as you say, let’s be careful and let’s move on. We’ve got to gather our ingredients Tristan. No time to waste. Let’s move on.”

As they continued Ashling kept scanning the ground in search of her own ingredients. Meanwhile, she spoke a bit more about their crafting plans. “The Potion of General Wellbeing seems awesome. Eating good and nourishing food with good ale or wine was a good thing. So was a “dram” or two as well. It makes you relax and enjoy life. In a simplicity it brightens everything up and makes people happy." (Tristan might already know what a “dram” was. It was a small glass of strong liquor, often the local specialty named Forest Star. But, if he didn’t know and would ask her, she would tell him.)

Speaking about it cheered her up. “You know, I think it may be a winning potion. If the taste is as pleasant as the effect it’s even better and ... wait. Wild chamomile! ”

Ashling went down on one knee and inspected the colony of chamomile. Silent, she waited for something she could interpret as a sign of approval from The Great Spirit of Myrkvior. She didn’t explain this to Tristan, as she knew that her religion wasn’t his. He would gather his ingredients his way. She would only intervene if she would sense a sign of disapproval by the spirit. Otherwise she would not comment on his methods.

Myrkvior, Great mother, Dark mother, spirit of the forest, I am allowed to harvest this herb...

A gust of wind sent the pleasant fragrance of the chamomile flowers toward her and she breathed it in. She felt peaceful. Calm. Convinced that Myrkvior had sent her a sign of approval she harvested what she needed. She didn’t take the whole colony and not eve any whole plant. When she was done the chamomile plants were still as many as before and they were all alive. Carefully, Ashling put her small harvest in a small clean linen bag and closed it with a ribbon. She put it in the basket and so, she was ready to move on.

Thank you, great spirit, for this gift ...

The prayers were silent. For an observer it might have looked like she had picked the herb, that was all.

“I don’t know the bean plant you spoke about Tristan,” she told her betrothed. “But, if you can describe it to me and tell me in which kind of terrain it grows I will try to help you find it.” She paused a bit and thought of the other ingredients he had mentioned. “We can both look for mint. And resin. I could use some resin too, it’s a good to use in a salve as well. We can take it from a tree, Myrkvior permitting...”

She kept looking at the ground.

I’ve still got to find broadleaf too, and the blue spruce. None of them are rare. Maybe there’s resin on the spruce?

“Wait ...” Again, she felt like she heard a small sound, something that wasn’t the wind, but when she turned around to look behind them there was nothing. She decided to hold the short bow at ready, she didn’t know why. Silly, maybe, but it felt like they were not alone. She listened, but she didn't hear the sound again. And her familiar, Kyrie was of no use, sleeping in her mind like a hawk with its head under the wing.

“It was nothing. Let’s move on. Time flies.”
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Two

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Just like Ashling, the young noble kept scanning the ground. He wasn’t as experienced as his fiancée when it came to harvesting reagents in the wilderness, but he was good at finding things in general, and he possessed a decent knowledge of herbalism which ought to count for something. Occasionally, he raised his head and took a look around though. They had both agreed that the sound that they had heard had probably just been due to the wind or an animal, but a small part of him couldn’t help but wonder, nevertheless.

When Ashling told him that his idea seemed awesome, he smiled at her. Truth to be told, he could have taken her into his arms and kissed her right there. They needed to focus on their task though, and thus he refrained from engaging in more romantic activities, at least for the time being and remarked, “Maybe we will both win our part of the tournament then. I would love to compete in the third round together with you again!” Of course, competing in a plants and potions tournament was already quite exciting as it was, but it was much more enjoyable with the woman that he loved by his side.

“Wait … what?” he asked, a little confused, when Ashling abruptly went down on one knee before he recognized the plant in front of her (he had gotten better at recognizing plants). “Oh, wild chamomile!” he remarked a moment later. He was not sure why she didn’t harvest the plants right away and what exactly she was waiting for, but he did not interrupt her, as it seemed as if whatever she was doing was important to her. Instead, he stood there and watched her calmly and with a respectful expression on his face.

“Moukou Beans”, he explained when they continued their search. “I first saw them in Desnind last arc. They grow on a thin, tall tree, in the form of pods. They make you relaxed as I told you before, but some of the Sev’ryn actually cook the beans and make cake frosting out of them and a quite delicious drink. It’s a versatile plant.” It really was – but there was one thing that Tristan hadn’t considered. The climate in Desnind was very different. Mokou Beans were extremely common in Desnind, but rarer in other parts of the world, and thus it would take a certain amount of …

“Lucky! I think we might be lucky!” he remarked, trying to lower his voice a bit as being loud in the forest didn’t seem right; besides, he couldn’t shake off the feeling that they were being watched. Without further ado, he bent down in order to inspect a short plant with semi-sprawling squarish stems and leaves that were arranged in opposite pairs. A moment later, he sniffed at the plant before he proclaimed, smiling, “It smells minty! I think I found my first reagent!” Having said that, he harvested the leaves (just like Ashling, he didn’t take the whole plant, he would not commit plant murder) and put them into one of the small bags that he had brought with him for that purpose.

“You need mint as well for your salve, don’t you?” he remembered and made a step away so that Ashling would be able to harvest some of those leaves as well (there were more than enough).

“I’m pretty sure that tree over there is a maple tree”, he said a little later, when he stood again and pointed. “All we need to do in order to harvest the sap is to drill a hole into it”, he explained before he added, “It won’t harm the tree.” He wanted Ashling to know that treating nature with respect was just as important to him as it was to her. He was just about to root through his equipment and look for his drill and container for the sap when he heard that sound again and shuddered slightly. His hand went to the bag where he stored his crossbow bolts, and he reached for one of them before he relaxed again. He would not get paranoid now!

“It was probably just the wind”, he agreed. “Let’s continue. We still need to find a couple of reagents!”
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Two

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Ashling smiled at Tristan. He was so lovely! She picked the mint she needed, but declined the maple sap. Then she waited while he harvested the sap. She felt worried that drilling without permission by Myrkvior would backlash. Oh, spirits! What if the sap would turn low quality or even useless? What if an accident would befall her beloved fiancée? She felt that they must ask for permission, but as Tristan wasn't a spirit worshipper she didn't say so.

Instead, she closed her hand around the Stormlight Amulet and prayed. The great spirit had granted her the amulet with the vague explanation "so you can help them". That was all the messenger, a child of dusk, had said when it had handed Ashling the trinket.

Ashling had used it in a very selective manner and not so many times, as the effects troubled her. People felt a tiny shock of lightning hit them when she channeled the power of the amulet by touching them. It had once made Nathon Eagleowl run away from her. She had (in vain) tried to cure the man from the stormtouched condition. Later, it had scared an oxen-trait stormtouched into being collaborative. So, the Stormlight Amulet had some kind of power but the effects on people seemed double-edged.

Myrkvior, Great Mother, Dark Mother. Forgive this immortal worshipping outlander, as he doesn't know what he is doing. I will mend the wound on the maple, stop the bleeding, cover the hole with healing leaves and spruce resin. Please let him take a small amount of sap. He will not hurt the maple too much. I pray to you on his behalf...

Wind rattled in the leaves of the maple. Branches moved and a ray on sun fell over Tristan as he worked. To him it might seem to a natural variation in wind and sunlight. But, to Ashling it seemed like an answer from the great spirit of the forest. She held on to the amulet and hoped for the best.

While she watched, she spoke to him.

"You are so nice and I can understand that the sap can be right for a potion Tristan. But I'm going for spruce resin for my salve. The consistence of the spruce resin is thicker. I'm going to make oil infusion of the herbs and need to add a thickener. "

Speaking of ... there was a blue spruce nearby, a conifer that was very common in Melrath and very hardy. The tree was of medium height and sturdy for being a spruce. The needles were blue green and there were still a few big light brown cones left from the last arc. It seemed like Myrkvior was on Ashling's side, because there were a lot of resin on the trunk.

After a new silent prayer she began by cutting some of the thick and sticky substance away with a small knife. Then she gathered needles as well. She put the harvest away in bags for later use but saved enough resin for keeping her promise to Myrkvior. Also...she took some extra resin and offered Tristan a piece to chew on.

"Free candy!" She laughed and began chewing on a small piece of the resin while she moved on to look for broadleaf. She found it within bits. "Here it is. Broadleaf grows everywhere. People think of it as a weed, but it has fantastic medicinal properties. It stops bleedings, pulls wounds together, prevents infection and speeds up the healing. You can even use them as they are, crush them raw and put them on a wound." She harvested the broadleaf she needed. Then she took care of the maple as she had promised Myrkvior.

A low sound? What? Had there been something ? Tristan had his weapon at ready and for a moment she wondered...but, nothing happened. The unnerving moment passed and once again they shrugged it off as the wind or an animal. Ashling made sure that she would be able to quickly grab and load her bow though. It felt a bit dumb. They kept getting tense, but as nothing happened it seemed like they were being skittish for no reason. Still ...

"Let's look for your Moukou Bean tree now. I'm not sure if I can find it but I will attempt..."

A quite long walk followed. It was so hard to find the tree Tristan needed that she feared that his plan would come to naught. Why must he go for an ingredient so exotic to Melrathi standards? She didn't want to give up too easy though. She wanted Tristan to get his chance to shine. It was so important to her that he would get accepted in Melrath. Being a renowned crafter of useful alchemy drugs would help him so much. Failing...would be bad.

She was so concerned with thinking of this (and praying to Myrkvior in silence) that she forgot to mind her steps. A stone on the path sent her stumbling down on the ground. It happened so fast that she didn't stand a chance to stay on her feet. Ashling managed to not drop the harvested herbs, but was unable to save herself.

"Ouch! How could I ..." She found herself staring at a low tree on the side of the path, right where she had fallen. It was small. It looked like it didn't exactly thrive. It looked like one of those unfortunate plants that grow in the wrong place. It looked like ...

"A Moukou Bean Tree? Can it be? But it's so small, like a miniature tree, and it doesn't look particularly healthy."

Still sitting on the ground she pointed at the tiny tree. "What do you think, Tristan?"
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Two

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Tristan paused for a few moments, drill and container in hand, and watched Ashling as she closed her hand around the amulet, a somewhat questioning look on his face, before he finally approached the tree, slowly and trying to act respectful. Praying when you were harvesting reagents was something that he found a little unusual, to be honest, as he had never done so himself (the reason for Ashling touching her amulet was obvious to him; you didn’t touch something like that for no reason), but he decided that he liked it and wondered if he should do the same. It seemed like a wonderful thing to do.

He wondered how exactly one prayed to nature and spirits such as Svariella and Myrkvior as he tapped the tree in order to find the best spot to drill his hole. He was not very good at actual praying. His relationship with his three Immortals had always been … different. He had sent fan mail to Zanik, Vri was not only a deity, but also Ayla’s uncle, and he had made a sculpture with Vhalar. Maybe he could ask Ashling or a local priest? Or maybe he could just visit Svariella and tell her a few stories, for example? She seemed like someone that would appreciate an interesting story.

With that thought in mind, he started to drill the hole which constituted a bit of a challenge as he was not a particularly strong man, and finally started to collect the sap, pausing briefly and blinking as the sunlight suddenly seemed to be brighter than before. He raised his head for a moment, towards the sky that was visible through the canopy and smiled slightly before he continued to work and finally stepped away from the tree.

“I’ve never considered spruce resin”, he admitted as Ashling told him what she would use. “I wonder if it would work just as well as maple sap. But then again, I need something thinner as I want to make a potion that can be drunk effortlessly.” Having said that, he packed his maple sap and his drill away and followed Ashling to the spruce. He stood next to her, watching her, calmly, and didn’t interrupt her until she handed him a …

… piece of resin?

While Ashling laughed and immediately began to chew, Tristan eyed his piece of resin with a certain amount of suspicion for a moment before he shrugged his shoulders and just popped it into his mouth. “Huh”, he made as he chewed before he chewed some more. “This is … different. Different, but good. I like it!” he decided and grinned at her. While Ashling harvested the Broadleaf (he found her explanations about that plant quite interesting!), he let his gaze drift across their surroundings, looking for the remaining reagents. When he saw what looked a bush with raspberries, he collected a few of said berries, in case he needed to improve the taste and color of his potion some more.

“Thank you”, he said softly when Ashling took care of the maple tree before he went on his search for the Moukou tree. As he didn’t know that Moukou trees were harder to find in Melrath, he was quite hopeful and optimistic, and there was a light smile on his face.

It happened so quickly that he didn’t have time to blink, let alone try to stop it. One moment Ashling was walking next to him, looking for reagents, and then she was on the ground. Tristan’s eyes briefly widened, before he rushed to her side, a concerned expression on his face. “Are you hurt?” he asked softly and extended a hand in order to help her up. Fortunately, his fiancée didn’t seem to have suffered more than a mild shock.

When Ashling directed his attention to a plant right where she had fallen, he looked at it in confusion for a moment before he came closer in order to examine it. “I think it’s a Moukou Bean Tree”, he agreed. “It looks just like the trees that I saw in Desnind. It … it looks sickly”, he murmured. “I don’t think it’s happy in this forest. The poor thing … Ashling, can you help me?” he asked as he picked a few beans, just enough for his potion, carefully, so as to not cause the poor little tree further harm. “I want to take it home with me and see if I can help. It looks sad. I don’t want it to die in this forest.”

Having said that (in a sincere and genuinely worried tone of voice that was devoid of sarcasm – Tristan did really care about such things), he produced his foldable shovel and started to dig, slowly and carefully (and with some effort; digging wasn’t any easier than drilling holes into trees), provided that Ashling thought that taking the little tree with them was a good idea.

Once he had gathered everything that he would need (including bark and such), they would finally begin the trip back to where the contest was taking place in order to work on their potion and salve respectively.
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