[Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Three

81st 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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Ashling
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[Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Three

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The Tournament of Plants and Potions
79-81th Ashan 720

CHALLENGE THREE
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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 Three: The remaining participants have three trials to create anything at all… but Jarl Namdalen requests that it might be something to help the lingering effects that the poison left in him after surviving the assassination attempt. For those who think to inquire, he shares his symptoms in private and they are as follows: insomnia and nightmares for when he does sleep, a dry and itchy rash on his backside, occasional fevers in the evenings, brittle nails that break easily, an intolerance for pig and cow meats, food tasting similarly bland, and sometimes he loses his sight for five to ten bits at a time. If your PC reaches this level and creates something to help Jarl Namdalen, please post in the Plot Tracker


Alchemy and Potions, Challenge Three: The remaining participants have three trials to create anything at all… but Jarl Namdalen requests that it might be something to help the lingering effects that the poison left in him after surviving the assassination attempt. For those who think to inquire, he shares his symptoms in private and they are as follows: insomnia and nightmares for when he does sleep, a dry and itchy rash on his backside, occasional fevers in the evenings, brittle nails that break easily, an intolerance for pig and cow meats, food tasting similarly bland, and sometimes he loses his sight for five to ten bits at a time. If your PC reaches this level and creates something to help Jarl Namdalen, please post in the Plot Tracker

The evening before

Ashling and Tristan were celebrating that they had both advanced to the third and final challenge of the tournament of plants and potions. Only one detail might have dampened their happiness, if they had cared. Tristan and Ashling had each advanced in second place. Their adversaries Biarne (an alchemist) and Buxom (an herbalist) had beaten them and advanced in first place!

Those two were also celebrating, in the same tavern even.

Watching the pair at a distance, Ashling hoped that they would stay where they were and not disturb her and Tristan. For a quite long time it seemed like her wish would come true. But, as the evening progressed from food, drink and cheerful conversation to music, dance and a certain degree of inebriation, things had changed. Biarne and Buxom had gotten to their feet and walked over to Tristan and Ashling.

For once, Biarne had been very agreeable. He had smiled and congratulated them to their advancement. He had also thanked Ashling for saving Buxom from using the toxic golden chain they had mistaken for a beneficial plant. Now, a few unfortunate misunderstandings had occurred during the first two challenges. But hey, the four of them were the top contestants, the elite, so they should be on the right page with each other. No hard feelings! Biarne found it probable that they might all take part in future projects ordered by Jarl Magnus. Well. At least the alchemists. Potential future colleagues should also be good friends! So, he wanted to buy a round of the best Alivilda beer for the four of them. They they would toast for good luck for them all in the upcoming third challenge.

Ashling suspected that Biarne was feeling victorious in advance. He was that jovial. The smiling man held his arm around Buxom in a very possessive manner. It contrasted with how he had pushed his partner away when they had seemed less successful...

Ashling had not felt like making friends with Biarne but as she and Buxom had already dropped the hostilities she didn’t want to cause a scene. She knew that Buxom had been taken advantage of, been abused and treated much like a slave by Biarne in the past. Making Biarne lose his good mood might make him take his annoyment out on Buxom. He might destroy their newfound self-esteem and put them down again. So, Ashling would play along.

She lacked the diplomacy Tristan excelled at but she wasn’t an unreasonable woman. It made sense that they ought to respect each other and put an end to their disagreements. She still felt that she and Tristan was in the right and Biarne was in the wrong ... while Buxom was not really on Biarne’s side anymore after having found out how he had betrayed them. The golden chain beans that had destroyed Buxom’s first attempt to make a salve had been a subtle suggestion from him, as well as the idea that Ashling would try to ruin their work. A smart set up that almost had cost Ashling her place in the tournament when Buxom had accused her for sabotage. Instead, Ashlin had identified the toxic plant. It had led to an agreement with Buxom to help the leave their destructive relationship. (She had already told Tristan all about it).

Right now they seemed like a happy couple though. Ashling knew how people’s feelings could change so she didn’t take it for granted that Buxom really would leave Biarne. He might have hauled them in again. But, Ashling didn’t have time to mull over it. She had to answer, and the only decent answer was to accept. “Er ... well ... yes... Tristan?” she said. A look at her well-behaved fiancée told her that he was not aiming to be the killjoy. His facial expression was a study in perfect etiquette and good manners. His voice was a wonder of politeness when he accepted the beer and the toast.

It would be a lie to say that they all were the best of friends when the two couples parted ways again. But the good atmosphere of the evening had been kept up. Ashling hadn’t drunk all her Alivilda beer though. To her, the reconciliation had a bitter taint and it made even Alivilda’s best beer taste bitter to her. A few swallows out of duty had felt enough as she still didn’t like Biarne. She had left the almost untouched tankard on the table assuming the tavern's staff would get rid of it later.




79th Ashan a few breaks after midnight

It was in Ashling's cottage in Fensalir, where she and Tristan stayed together during the tourmanment. They slept together in the bed. After a night of wild and confusing drunk dreams Ashling hade a final nightmare. She dreamt that she leaned out from a high bridge, looked down into the rapids streaming forth beneath it, then lost her foothood and fell towards a stony riverbed on the bottom of a chasm.

She woke up with an odd feeling of shock. At first she didn’t undertand a thing. Then she realized that she had fallen out of the bed and hit the floor. Feeling groggy, she sat up. She leaned on the bed and shut her eyes. Behind her eyelids, chaos reigned. Incoherent dreamlike pictures and scenes flashed up but fade out again before she had the time to understan them. Confused, she shook her head, only to discover that she had a headache that was killing her. Her first foggy thought was that she had a hangover so bad that she even was delirious. Why had she drunk so much ... but she hadn’t, because she and Tristan had agreed to keep the celebrations modest, as the third and final challenge of the tournament would begin today.

The tournament! By the spirits, which break was it? Was she late to the opening? Would she miss out on vital information or even get dropped from the contest for not turning up? She had no idea because her sens of time seemed gone. Panic flooded her. She got to her feet. It felt like the room was spinning around her. It took her several bits to focus on the window.

Go there. Open it. Find out the time. Try.

It was still dark outside. She felt the cold air of the small hours after midnight against her face and upper body. Ashling breathed it in and felt her heartbeat calm down. She had fallen out of the bed and felt a bit groggy, but she wasn’t late to the challenge. Now, she just needed to calm down and stop acting like she still was caught in them nightmares.

But, when she shut her eyes, she could see them lurk there, like they were only waiting for a chance to pounce on her again. She was up and about, but the dreams weren’t over. Ashling feared that she might have hit her head worse than she had been aware. But, when she examined it with her fingertips she didn’t find a single bump there or even a sore spot. She concluded that it was probably not a concussion.

Now when she was focusing on the head she found something else though. Headache. It was still mild, but it felt like it would grow worse.

Spirits! She mustn’t fall ill to-trial of all trials!

A couple of breaks passed. The headache grew and odd flashing sensations occurred in the perimeter of her filed of view. For a while, tremors went through her body but it didn’t last. As Ashling was a healer she tried to counter what ailed her. What if it was a hangover after all and not a fever? She left the bedroom and went to the kitchen to make an anti-hangover drink. Water, cream ...

The mere view of cream made her body react with wanting to vomit. Ashling realized that she didn’t want to be anywhere near food ... ugh! She grabbed a mug of water and left the kitchen. The water was fine. She sipped on it and tried to think while she scratched her upper left arm in an absentminded manner. Did she have an insect bite there? She rolled up the sleeve of the nightgown to have a look at it. But, it wasn’t an insect bite. It was a small rash that hadn’t been there the last night.

A rash. This made new things come to her mind. Unpleasant things. Poison rash. She had sometimes treated patients who suffered from it. Nightmares, headache, eye-sight troubles, fever-like tremors, nausea at the mere thought of food ... but no common flu symptoms like cough or nasal infection.

She ransacked her memory. Recalled the lump of spruce resin she had chewed at when she and Tristan had been in the forest a few trials ago. But, the resin wasn’t toxic. Had she happened to touch something poisonous when she had fallen on the path and discovered Tristan’s moukou tree? She had been so excited by the finding that it had been all she had been thinking of ...

In a while, she would go and check up Tristan. She didn’t know if he too was awake or if he was sleeping. But, if he was awake she would ask him if he was feeling well and tell him about her condition and her thoughts.



79th Ashan, in the morning, at breakfast

Breakfast had been a no way. Ashling hadn’t felt as nauseated as she had been a few breaks ago but she had no appetite. Skipping the breakfast was a bad start of a day that was going to be busy, she knew, but she could only drink herbal tea. She used the leftover chamomile and mint from the second challenge. These useful herbs could also dampen nausea.

Ashling was set on taking part in the challenge despite not feeling well. During the conversation at the breakfast table, she would tell Tristan so.



79th Ashan at the opening of challenge three, in the contest tent

Here they were now, in the contest tent in the city district Springwater in Fensalir. Ashling wasn’t at her best this trial, but she would do her best regardless. The opening of the challenge followed the usual procedure. As only two herbalists and two alchemists had made it to this final part of the tournament, they stood right in front of the jarls Magnus and Namdalen. Soon, the jarls announced the goal and the rules of the challenge.

The goal was to cure Jarl Namdalen, who wasn’t feeling well.

The first part, Examination, would be a team task and give a team score. Each team (one alchemist and one herbalist) would get a personal interview with Namdalen so they could examine him. They had decided to go for teams as Namdalen felt too tired for four examinations and wanted only two.

After this, the participants had tree trials to make the potions and medicines of their own choice. No cheating of course and so on. The examination would be a collaboration but after that it was each to their own. The alchemists Biarne and Tristan would compete against each other. The herbalists Buxom and Ashling would compete in the herbalist part of the contest. The team score and the individual score would be added for each participant. The outcome would be one winner of the potions tournament and one winner of the plants tournament. All the contestants agreed to this.

They decided the shedule by throwing dice. Biarne and Buxom won the first examination meeting, from the morning and until noon. It would probably not take several breks to examine the jarl, but he would need to rest afterwards and then have lunch. Tristan and Ashling got the afternoon meeting time.
This also meant that Biarne and Buxom had a deadline at lunch the third trial. Tristan and Ashling had a deadline at the end of the afternoon.

Ashling didn't show it, but she found it good that they would get time to speak. They would have room for planning a bit before it was time for them to meet Namdalen.

"I'm going to Sol'anges," she said. "My mother might not be in, but I want to read up about herbs. She keeps an enormous herb ledger. Do you wnat to come with me or do you have other things you want to do before we meet the jarl?"
Last edited by Ashling on Sun Nov 22, 2020 5:13 pm, edited 6 times in total. word count: 2458
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Three

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Truth to be told, Tristan had been a little disappointed that Ashling and he had only reached the second place at first – behind Biarne and Buxom who had already caused so much trouble. But then again, nobody had expected him, the outlander, to even make it to the finals. Besides, Ashling would be there with him which had been his greatest wish, even greater than winning the second round of the tournament. He’d get to compete in the in the third round with his beloved fiancée!

That was something that needed to be celebrated in his opinion. Tristan didn’t drink a lot because he wanted to be a responsible father and set a good example for his little daughter, but this trial he wanted to make an exception. He was quite happy and excited, and he didn’t even mind that Biarne and Buxom were celebrating in the same tavern that much.

In fact, he was perfectly fine with it - as long as they didn’t bother them.

When Biarne walked over to Ashling and him in order to congratulate them, he stiffened a little – while he didn’t have much of a problem with poor Buxom anymore, he didn’t trust their partner – before he thanked him in a very polite and friendly tone of voice. Just like Ashling, he was not too keen on drinking with their rivals, but he didn’t want to cause a scene either – which might ultimately lead to Buxom suffering at the hands of their partner once more.

(To be honest, he was surprised that Biarne and Buxom were still together – or together again – after what had happened during the second round. He wouldn’t want to be in a relationship with such an unpleasant and treacherous person. A part of him wanted to help Buxom, but he wasn’t sure if it would be appreciated; besides, it wasn’t really any of his business).

Throughout their conversation, he was exceptionally well-mannered even though he was suffering a little bit on the inside. He only pretended to drink the beer for the most part though because their supposed reconciliation had a bitter aftertaste (refusing it outright would likely have had negative results), and he didn’t like beer all that much (he preferred wine, especially red wine which was something that he had already had a bit of earlier that evening).


Unlike Ashling, Tristan had a perfectly good night. He was slightly tipsy after their celebration – but that only led to a very deep and dreamless sleep rather than extreme nightmares in his case. On some level, he heard the bump when Ashling who slept next to him fell out of the bed and murmured something before he fell asleep again (which was something that he would feel very guilty about later on, even though he hadn’t really done anything wrong – he had just been very tired).

The next time that he woke up, in the early breaks of the morning, his mind was mostly clear, and he felt a great deal more energetic. The first thing that he did after opening his eyes was to turn around in order to wish Ashling a good morning and ask her how she had slept and if she was excited about the third round as well, only to realize that she wasn’t there!

“Ashling?” he murmured, with a mixture of confusion and worry, before he abruptly stood, put on his clothes in a hurry and ventured down the hallway in order to investigate. Maybe she had been unable to sleep anymore because she was so nervous about the tournament? Maybe she hadn’t wanted to wake him up? Maybe she wanted to conduct a bit of last-minute research? Or maybe she was just hungry? He was hungry!

It was just as Ashling went to check on him that he left the bedroom. When he saw his lovely fiancée, his eyes lit up, but only for a moment before worry took over again. “I feel fine, just a little tired”, he replied when she asked him how he felt. “Do you … you think that you accidentally came in contact with something in the forest?” he wanted to know. The thought that someone might have done this to her on purpose occurred to him as well – he remembered having the feeling that they were being followed again – but he didn’t want to say those things out loud. He was probably just paranoid!

“We can skip the third challenge if you aren’t feeling well”, he told her. He had been quite excited about the tournament, but his fiancée’s wellbeing mattered more than an alchemy contest. There’d probably be a lot more alchemy contests in the future!

“We can just stay here”, he remarked, but it seemed as if she really wanted to take part, even though she wasn’t feeling well. A part of him actually admired her because of that, but another part of him couldn’t help but be concerned. He would keep an eye on her during the contest, he decided, and if her condition worsened, they would leave, no matter how much she protested because absolutely nothing was worth risking your health in his opinion!

He didn’t urge Ashling to eat anything during breakfast. She drank plenty of fluids which was the most important thing anyway in his opinion. Unlike his fiancée, he had some bread with butter and jam (and he drank coffee in order to properly wake up). He felt a little bad about eating when his fiancée was sick, but he was hungry; and besides, he needed to keep up his strength in case something went wrong during the third round!

~~~

When they walked back to the contest tent a bit later, Tristan put an arm around Ashling and stayed close to her. He didn’t ask her if she was sure about taking part when she was sick again. He trusted her judgement; besides, some of her previous nausea seemed to have passed, and she didn’t appear to be quite as sick anymore. He would just be next to her in order to support her and work together with her; and when they finally returned home, he would make some tea for her or get her some chicken soup and spoil her a bit!

The presence of the two jarls distracted him from his worries, and he actually found himself growing excited again. He bowed deeply as he approached them before he listened to the rules for the final challenge. He was glad that Ashling and he would be able to work together. He was quite a skilled alchemist, but his knowledge of medicine left a bit to be desired. He wasn’t sure if he was very good at examining sick people or diagnosing illnesses (unless they were really common ones).

He was glad that they would examine the jarl after Biarne and Buxom as well and have some time to prepare. When Ashling asked him if he wanted to come to Sol’ange with her, he thought about it for a moment before he replied, “I’ll come with you. Maybe I can do some reading as well. I just hope that we will be able to help the jarl. He didn’t look well”, he added. He was not only taking part in the contest because he wanted to win and become famous; he also genuinely wanted to make the jarl feel better!

~~~

“Do you want to take the first look at the jarl and be in charge of examination?” Tristan asked Ashling when they were done with their research and returned to the contest tent where Jarl Namdalen would hopefully be waiting for them. “You are the better doctor of the two of us. I can help you figure out what was used on him though. I know a lot about potions and rare plants, so, if it was something along those lines, I’ll probably be able to tell what it was. I was also thinking about offering him a vial of the potion that I made for the second round”, he admitted. He had called said potion the Potion of General Wellbeing – because that was exactly what you did. It made you feel better and more relaxed, and it increased your appetite, and judging by what he had seen so far, the jarl might benefit from it.

“What do you think?” he asked Ashling as they approached the tent entrance, momentarily worrying slightly again as he couldn’t help but think about what she had been like that morning once more. “It might help us bridge the time until we have found a proper treatment for whatever ails the jarl. I don’t want him to be unwell for the next couple of trials”, he added because they had been given that long to make something.

“Anyway, shall we go in?” he wanted to know.
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Three

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Memories from the morning

Ashling had smiled at Tristan when he had joined her in the kitchen in the morning. In contrast to her slow movements and bad appetite in the morning, he had been energetic as usual. He had been so excited! His enthusiasm had inspired her and made her feel happy despite not feeling well! Besides, wouldn’t it be worse to drop out be worse than to fail at the challenge? As the proverb said, a real Melrathi would find it better to hear the string break than never tensing a bow!

Had she come in contact with something harmful in the forest? Tristan's question made her fall silent. How had it been, a couple of trials before, when they had been gathering ingredients? Chamomile, wild mint, broadleaf and blue spruce were all benevolent plants. Blended with the benevolent spruce resin they had gained her salve a second place. The taste of the spruce resin she had chewed on as candy came to her mind. Spruce tasted of wood and wilderness, It was the taste of the trees blood, a gift from the holy spirit of Myrkvior. She knew that it could stop the infection and support the healing if she smeared it on a wound. In the winters, people used to chew it to prevent colds and flu. She had given Tristan a piece of it and he had laughed and chewed it, trusting her judgement ... and he wasn’t ill at all.

“The herbs we picked and the spruce resin we chewed on are beneficial. It can’t be them.”

She had watched him eat, his breakfast of coffee, bread and jam.

“The moukou tree isn’t harmful either. I can’t think of anything I could have come in contact with in the forest. "

And it couldn’t be the golden rain pods Buxom had picked on Biarne’s recommendation. Golden rain poisoning symptoms were different. Was it only hangover? Mixing wine and beer was maybe not so smart? Might that be an explanation? Tristan seemed to be at perfect health though. Was she for some reason oversensitive to the mix? Or to an ingredient? A bitter taste was not uncommon for beer, had it had been a bit stronger than what appealed to her. Beer spices? She would need to read up to find out, but it had to be a later thing. Tristan had finished his breakfast and they had been off to the opening of the contest.


Research in the time between the opening and their meeting with the Jarl

They had walked over to Sol’anges healing house to consult her mother’s herb ledgers. “Well, Tristan, I’m going to use the salve I made in the second challenge if it can help the Jarl but I don’t know yet what ails him. For now, I’m going to look for beer spices ... I may be sensitive to some herb they used in the beer we tasted.”

Sol’ange’s ledgers was a detailed source of information. Her mother had the mind of a scientist. Ashling admired her mother’s zealous attitude in research but it was fearsome too. Sol could go to extremes with her detailed notes. Ashling wasn’t as disciplined and enduring, at least not yet. It was a recurrent cause of disagreements between them. So, it had felt a bit embarrassing to come asking to use the ledgers, but Sol’ange hadn’t been there. One of her helpers had opened the door.

“She’s out. An emergency. Seems like one of those dumb “dangerously-dead-drunk” cases. Some young boy they found this morning. Smashed and impossible to wake up. A servant of one of the jarls came here, said the boy had managed to get over a tankard of something, somehow...Sol took the case herself. "

They had let Ashling and Tristan into the rooms where Sol worked with research. Ashling told Tristan to feel free to read up too, as long as he would be careful with the ledgers. One of them had was open, which was unusual. Ashling looked at the page and ...

“Here, Tristan, look at this!”

Ashling had found a description of an interesting plant. In Sol’ange’s ledger: Labrador tea! She recognized it as a common plant some people used to call Skvattram, for reasons unknown to her. The Labrador tea was a shrub with white flowers and evergreen leaves, growing in bogs. According to Sol’ange’s notes, you could make a medicinal herbal tea to ease cough and symptoms of a cold. Extracts of it were good for skincare. The plant was also used as a beer spice, sometimes by intention but sometimes by mistake. There was a very similar shrub named Bogmyrtle which was also a beer spice. Ashling had made a note to have a look at that plant too.

Continuing to read, she found out that Labrador tea made beer more intoxicating. It also added more bitterness to the taste. In a small dose, it wasn’t dangerous, but in bigger doses it was toxic. Ashling’s eyes widened when she read about mild Labrador tea poisoning. It matched the symptoms she had woken up with.

She had been reading aloud to let Tristan share the information and now she launched a theory. “Might it be that there was Labrador tea in the beer we had last night? It was rather bitter. Could it be that I’m sensitive to it and the illness is a reaction?”

The Bogmyrtle was also a shrub with white flowers and green leaves growing in bogs. This plant too was a beer spice, but harmless. It was the opposite of Labrador tea. Bogmyrtle could cure stomach aches, fever, liver problems and bronchitis.

“It’s pretty interesting Tristan. Both plants are beer spices but they are each other’s opposites. It even looks like Bogmyrtle might work against the symptoms of its toxic look-alike. It’s like they are twins, one of them good and the other one evil.”

She rose and began inspecting the jars on the shelves. Sol’ange kept a huge store of dried herbs as she was running a healer house. Was there by any chance some dried Bogmyrtle to have? For once, Ashling sent a grateful thought to her mother’s meticulous ways. Sol stored the jars in alphabetical order. It was easy to find what she was looking for.

“Here it is Tristan. I’m going to make a Bogmyrtle infusion and bring it with me in a water skin. It might be good to have if it’s Labrador tea that caused my symptoms. But, I will only drink the infusion if I begin feeling worse.”

In the kitchen, she poured hot water over dried Bogmyrtle. She let it seep until they had to leave. Then she rinsed it and filled a skin with it. She brought this with her along with a big batch of the salve.


The meeting with Jarl Namdalen begins

“Yes, I can begin the examination.” She smiled at Tristan. “It could be a good idea to offer him what we crafted in challenge two. Why not. It would be a pity to let them go to waste. But I must examine him first. “

With this plan, they entered the tent. Jarl Namdalen lay on a couch behind a screen of cloth. When Ashling and Tristan stepped into this makeshift private room the Jarl sat up. He was looking tough, Melrathi style. Ashling, being from the same culture, knew that the man would not allow them to think he was a weakling.

“ So, you two are the next team of torturers, are you? Hah! I regret this whole madness! I’m only a wee bit indisposed. My whole family went wild and demanded me to take part in this tournament Jarl Magnus arranged. Now, I’m more worried than them about who’s going to be the next Jarl if I fall off the stick. But, by all means, get this done and over with!”

Ashling had ample experience of Melrathi patients and their ways. The Jarl was keeping up the appearance, but didn’t they all? “I’m Ashling Grayhawk, a healer from Fensalir. This is Tristan Venora, alchemist and my betrothed.”

The jarl watched them, his eyes wary. “I counted on jarl Magnus to be at my side as it was all his idea to involve me in his plans. But, now he’s away. Some kind of family emergency with that brat Jorg. I don’t know when Jarl Magnus will return. This isn’t going according to plan anymore.”

Ashling nodded. Saying anything about Jarl Magnus behaviour seemed like a bad idea. There was something that worried her with the news, but due to not feeling well she found it hard to think of more than one thing at the time. She must focus on the task ahead. Now, she had to do something to show Namdalen that she was listening. One more nod. “Do you want us to fetch somebody, a family member for example?”

“I have no family member I want to witness this,” the Jarl said after a short silence. He shrugged. “Are you two going to do anything soon, or are you only here to chat?”

“I’m going to examine you if you allow it. “

The jarl shrugged again. “Go ahead. Grayhawk, is it? A healer from Fensalir? A hedgedoctor?”

Ashling tried her best to keep a straight face. “People may call me what they like. I’m a healer and a herbalist." She smiled, but her gaze was the gaze she used on patients who tried to defy the doctor. “Take off your shirt! “

A short silence followed and then the jarl gave an abrupt laugh. “Your competitors asked me to undress too. I regret this whole thing! The alchemist from Vorkund, Biarne, was more polite than you are. He spoke to me with the respect I deserve and he used the word please. The buxom healer was very mild and respectful. Who do you believe you are, Grayhawk?”

“Your helpful healer. Or a hedgedoctor. Can you please take off your shirt now, Jarl Namdalen, if you dare to let me examine you?”

Dare. Had she said that? Had she implied that the jarl might be a coward? Had she used that tactic on him like he was a common man? Oh, Dark Mother Myrkvior! What if he would throw them out before they even got a chance...

The jarl snorted. But he took off his shirt, exposing them to the muscular chest of a man who had spent a fair share of his time on outdoors life. He was tanned despite that it was only Ashan. Nasty parallel scares from the left shoulder to the right side of the chest adorned it. The scars were old, but it was still not a beautiful sight. Ashling eyed the scars. Being Melrathi the jarl was probably proud of them. “Bear claws?”

“Big black bear. I killed it with my bare hands! ” A glimpse of something showed in the jarls eyes. It might be humour. “Go ahead, brave doctor! ”

Ashling nodded. She began by asking the jarl to tell her his symptoms. He gave her a brief recount. Groggy nightmares. Bad sleep and fatigue. Nausea and lack of appetite (“I haven’t had a decent meal for a long time”). Odd sight problems and even a rash and brittle nails. Ashling stood still for a moment. Didn’t it sound like her own symptoms? Her nails were not brittle, but the rest was an exact match! Could it be ... but it seemed like too much of a coincidence. Still! But, she didn’t say anything about the idea yet.

Now, below the jarls impressive chest, he also had an impressive abdomen. For a man who hadn’t had a decent meal for a long time, it was big. The muscles on his chest and arms were as well defined as if there was no fat at all on them, but the belly contrasted to the otherwise gaunt impression. A swelling? “Please lay down. I want to have a look at your stomach.”

“By all dark unholy spirits! You too? The others did this to me too ...” But the jarl did as she had asked him.

“Now, I’m going to run my fingertips over it.” She saw the jarls jaw set. He didn’t speak. She suspected that he was clenching his teeth. For a moment he locked eyes with her. Was there a golden shade in them? It struck her that the golden tan on his skin might be a sign of something else than health.

When she ran her fingertips over the swollen belly, the jarl jerked a little bit. Pain? Could it be liver problems? She abstained from testing the belly by pressing her hand onto it. The fingertips had told her enough. “Where’s the rash?”

The jarl sat up in a hurry and in passing by he pulled a blanket over his belly. “On the back. Itches like Hel.”

It was quite a big rash. Ashling made quick work of examining it, again with the fingertips. The Jarl cringed a wee bit but she pretended to not notice. “I’m ready to suggest a diagnosis. You have liver problems, to begin with. So, we need to treat that. But, the symptoms as a whole... they make me wonder if Labrador tea may be the cause.”

“Tea? I don’t drink much tea. Never heard about that Labratea. ”

“Another common name is Skvattram. It’s a beer spice. Too much of it can be toxic. It can cause your kind of symptoms. Sometimes they put it in the beer to make it more intoxicating and give it a nice bitter taste.”

“Beer. The beer! That makes...sense! And I know that shrub...easy to find isn’t it? It would be easy to pick it and put in people’s beer, wouldn’t it? Anybody could do it. ” The jarl looked down, fell silent and seemed lost in thoughts. Then he locked eyes with Ashling again. “What can you do for me? Can you cure me?”

“I have a salve to treat the rash with. It’s the salve I made in the second challenge so it’s good. But I also have an infusion of Bogmyrtle which can treat the liver problems. It may also counter Skvattram poisoning if that’s what ails you. You can get it at once if you wish.”

Then she pointed at Tristan. “My partner here makes the most amazing alchemy potions and I’m sure he will also have treatments to suggest.” It was Tristan’s turn to work so she stepped back and waited.
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Three

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As soon as Ashling and Tristan stepped into the tent, Jarl Namdalen sat up on the couch that he had been lying on before. Tristan recognized the look on his face and his general attitude. The older man wanted to look tough and hide how miserable he truly felt. That was something that Tristan himself rarely did. When he was sick, he admitted that he was sick and told people exactly how he felt. He never wallowed in self-pity or asked others to pity him, but trying to tough it out was a counterproductive strategy in his opinion. Of course, he didn’t point that out, but watched the aristocrat with an utterly polite expression on his face, standing a step behind his lovely, black-eyed fiancée.

When Ashling introduced them, he bowed. Just like his fiancée, Tristan didn’t say anything, although he couldn’t help but wonder what kind of family emergency exactly had come up and if Jorg was okay. He didn’t agree with Jarl Namdalen’s calling the boy a brat – he had grown rather fond of Jorg Magnus recently – but considering that the man was sick, he decided to be forgiving. From his experience, sick people often had a bit of a short temper and were rather moody. They often didn’t really mean it. When the older man called Ashling a hedgedoctor, in a way that seemed a little derogatory to him, Tristan felt the need to say something and defend the woman that he loved though.

“Ashling is one of the most skilled healers that I know, my lord”, he told him in a firm, but polite tone of voice before he briefly turned to his fiancée and smiled at her. He was not exaggerating. In his opinion, Ashling was quite good at what she did. When Jarl Namdalen refused to undress, he was tempted to say something, but it seemed as if Ashling had everything under control. In fact, the way that she handled the situation amused him, and he tried hard not to grin. It seemed as if she knew exactly how she had to talk to the jarl in order to get him to do what she wanted him to do! He was impressed!

When Jarl Namdalen claimed that his scars were from a bear, Tristan’s eyebrows rose for a moment before he admitted, “I’d like to hear that story when this here is over.” Having that said, he moved a little to the side so that Ashling would have enough room for the examination, and he wouldn’t get in her way. When Jarl Namdalen mentioned that one of the symptoms was nausea, he felt the need to ask something though, something that could be important, “Are there any kinds of foods that seem to make the nausea worse or do you get disgusted by the sight of food in general?”

When he was sick, there were certain foods that he couldn’t stomach at all and that made him quite nauseous. Certain other kinds of food generally tended to be fine though.

Jarl Namdalen turned to look at the young outlander who had been quiet so far, a look that was somewhere between irritation and puzzlement on his face, before he replied, “Pork and beef. I can’t eat those at all nowadays, and everything tastes the same and kind of bland.”

Tristan narrowed his eyes for a moment when he heard that before he turned to Ashling and looked at her questioningly. When he had a cold, food often tasted bland, but he wasn’t sure what kind of poisoning gave you an intolerance to certain kinds of meat. That was a really weird symptom in his opinion! Maybe Ashling had an idea though?

To be honest, Ashling’s request to examine the jarl’s belly seemed a little strange to him as well. Some people just bad a big belly in his opinion, and maybe it had been even bigger before the jarl had gotten sick. He didn’t care much about the other man’s belly, but when he exposed his rash, he did a double take. It was quite an impressive rash in his opinion!

Unlike Ashling, he made no move to touch either the jarl’s belly or his rash. He was, as he had told his fiancée before, not particularly good at examining sick people; and besides, he had to admit, he wasn’t particularly keen on touching someone’s very, very noticeable rash!

While Ashling suggested a diagnosis, Tristan mentally went through the list of the Jarl’s symptoms again. He was not familiar with Skvattram (He could hardly pronounce the word!), but it did make sense that the man’s condition was due to a combination of poisoning and liver problems. A lot of the people here probably drank copious amounts of alcohol, so when Ashling pointed that out and proceeded to propose a treatment, he nodded.

A moment later, he stepped forward and remarked, in a polite and friendly tone of voice, “I would suggest Moukou Beans or perhaps a combination of valerian and passionflower in order to combat your insomnia, Roipo Nectar to make you feel more energetic during the trial, milk thistle or artichokes for your liver problems, maybe horsetail herb for your brittle nails. I’m not sure what would help when it comes to your intolerance of pork and beef though”, he admitted and furrowed his brow slightly as that particular symptom still puzzled him a great deal.

“Maybe just avoiding those kinds of meat would make the problem go away though”, he decided. “An herb that soothes the skin and reduces irritations, such as redbush, will help when it comes to treating the rash”, he continued before he paused for a moment and finally took a deep breath as he had just realized something. He looked at Ashling for a moment, wondering what she would think, and then he told the Jarl,

“While I can certainly make one potion that cures your ailment, two potions would be better – a potion with Roipo Nectar that you’ll take in the morning to make you feel more energetic, and another potion with valerian and passionflower that you’ll take before you go to bed and that will make you sleep better. One potion would contain milk thistle or artichoke extract, the other potion would contain horsetail herb, and both would contain a certain amount of redbush.”

“As for the problem with your eyes”,
he added, realizing that he had not suggested something to combat that symptom yet – he was not very familiar with eye problems since his eyes worked perfectly and so did the eyes of everyone that he knew. “Eyebright maybe? It is entirely possibly that your eye problems are simply due to your feeling groggy, not getting enough sleep and having circulation problems as a consequence though. My proposed treatment should make you feel better very quickly either way though.”

Those words were spoken with confidence and accompanied by a light smile. Tristan was aware of the fact that he didn’t know everything and that his knowledge of eye problems in particular and diseases in general was especially lacking (he was no doctor, and he had no desire to become a doctor either – he left that to Ashling who did a great job at it), but he preferred to be optimistic regardless because the opposite just didn’t feel good.

Besides, his knowledge of matters of gardening and his above average skill as an alchemist made up for it in his opinion. So, his proposed treatment might not make every symptom go away, and the plants that he had suggested might not be the perfect choice, but the parts of his treatment that worked would work extremely well – and extremely quickly on top of it!
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Three

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”Your ideas are very interesting Tristan!”

Ashling thought of the herbs he had mentioned. Moukou bean was still a new plant to her. As she was from Melrath she didn’t know much about Passion Flower either. It seemed like one more plant from the warmer climate which would not survive in Melrath’s harsh climate. But, perhaps they cultivated it indoors in Raelia? She was familiar with Valerian though. The plant was common and you could mostly find and in the shadow of the meadows nearby. But, it also grew higher up on the dry and open ground where it grew higher and the foliage was a lighter nuance of green. The flowers of the plant were small but many and fragrant. The medicinal properties were several. The plant could stabilize people’s nerves and make them less anxious and it could improve their sleep.

“The Valerian could be a good idea for the immediate treatment of insomnia. It doesn’t treat the root cause, but it might indirectly support recovery. Good sleep is essential for healing.”

Tristan had suggested Eyebright too. How was it now ... it was a small plant, with withe flower, also quite common, yes? The medicinal uses that came to Ashling’s mind were the treatment of inflammations in the eyelid or the white part of the eye but also for general eye-strain or eye troubles caused by for example colds.

“Eyebright is a good herb. I’m not sure if it will help against the attacks of temporary blindness though. As you say, it may be caused by something else. But, eyebright can be pleasant for the eyes nonetheless and contribute to a feeling of well-being. It doesn’t hurt to use it.”

Redbush. This wasn’t a herb Ashling had used. It seemed like something that must be bought in a herb shop in Raelia. She would ask Tristan about it another time. “I’m not so familiar with Redbush but it could be of interest to combine the external treatment, the salve, with an internal treatment that also can fight the rash. That’s one really interesting idea Tristan.”

Hmmm ... what more ...

“Milk thistle is a bit too double-edged to my taste. It can trigger allergic reactions and I would rather not take the risk to add more symptoms to the case. I believe the artichoke would be better. Mother use to ordinate it to people with bad appetite and nausea, stomach problems and such. I recall that she may have said something about benefits to the liver too.”

She realized that she was lecturing, carried away with her avid interest in medicine and herbs. Tristan’s patience was admirable, to say the least! In her thoughts, Ashling thanked Dark Mother Myrkvior for her ashen skin when she felt her face grow hot. A blush didn’t show much on skin like hers, right? Hopefully, it was so. Now, she would stop speaking of the herbs and instead think of something else Tristan had suggested!

“You suggested a food allergy to beef and other red meat. I don’t ... know what could cause it, but it’s a very interesting idea. Whatever the reason for the intolerance may be, it would be useful to try out what a meat-free diet could ...”

The Jarl interrupted her there. “What do you mean? Meat-free diet? Listen! I’m looking for cures, not for drawn-out torture by rabbit-food!”

“It would give us a chance to find out if meat allergy is involved or not. If your symptoms would decrease it could mean that you have for some reason become sensitive to meat.”

“Hah! I’ve been eating good old Melrahti food all my life and it has never made me fall ill!”

“I’m sure that’s true, Jarl Namdalen, but you said that it makes you feel ill today. We can’t know why. At least I don’t know why. But, we know how the beef and other red meat affect you at the moment, so right now it would make sense with a meat-free diet for a while.”

“I regret this whole affair. The other two, the couple from Vorkund, had other ideas. I didn’t find it so appealing when they visited me but in hindsight, I wonder if they are more knowledgeable than you. They did not plan to forbid me to eat meat.”

“We can’t adapt our diagnoses and ordinations to other people’s theories, Jarl Namdalen. We must go for what we believe in ...”

The Jarl looked sceptical. All of a sudden Ashling realized that there was a real risk for all their efforts to fail due to the patient’s low degree of compliance. The Jarl might not follow the ordinations if he didn’t find them pleasant. He might choose to go for what Biarne and Buxom ordinated instead or he might go for a creative mix of all the treatments according to his personal preferences. Disobedient patients were always a worry for healers. Needless to say that free experimentation with medicinal treatments built on different ideas could be harmful or in the worst case, lethal. Ashling glanced at Tristan and wondered if the same risk had occurred to him...

At this point, Jarl Magnus barged in behind the screen. “I apologize Namdalen, but my young relative Jorg’s was knocked out. Fortunately, my servant found a good healer and she took care of it. He’s awake now but doesn’t admit to anything. Innocent as a holy spirit! Bah! I can’t put pressure on him right now, but just wait until he gets up from the sickbed. It can take days though. The healer shooed me out and behaved as she saw me as a threat to the boy’s recovery. But enough of that ... I’m back! How is it going?”

“I regret this whole business, Magnus. Two teams of one healer and one alchemist have examined me. I feel more confused than I was before. They have a lot of different ideas and I’m getting convinced that none of them knows what they are doing. Hedgedoctor Grayhawk here wants to put me on a meat-free diet! Among other things ... she seemed reasonable to begin with, offered me a good salve for the rash and an infusion I can drink at once. Quick and easy! But, her partner here, suggested a whole bunch of more ingredients, several potions and the crazy idea that I’m intolerant to red meat! The other two ...”

Jarl Magnus intervened. “The participants aren’t allowed to know what their competitors do. You mustn’t tell them.”

Ashling was itching to get to know what Biarne and Buxom were up to, but it was against the rules of course. Still. She was curious! But, she had to stop thinking of it. There were however several issues she needed to address...

“Jarl Magnus, I’m seriously worried about what will happen when we aren’t around. Who is going to supervise the medication and who is going to administer the potions and other medicines? Medicine is no joke! Mixing medicines of different kinds can be harmful and omitting parts of the ordinations can make the treatment fruitless. I have no idea what the other contestants have in mind for Jarl Namdalen, but I know that he seems ready to skip the meat-free diet...I’m beginning to wonder how this will go! Making a contest of Jarl Namdalen’s health is maybe not such a good idea if you excuse me for saying it. Serious medical treatment can take time! Three trials? I don’t believe in a wonder-drug to quick-fix it all! So, you will need to weigh in the chances for beneficial long time effects on causes as well the immediate dampening of symptoms.”

“Quite a speech, healer. You remind me about the woman who threw me out from Jorg’s chamber. Sol’ange something. Goldbear, was it? Come to think of it, she might be the right person to oversee the medication of you Namdalen.”

“Spare me. Gray hawks. Gold bears. Outlanders. A buxom whatstheirname. Whatnot. Biarne Slatersen had the idea to...”

“No telling, Namdalen. Now ...” Jarl Magnus stopped there.

Namdalen was out of energy. He laid down on the bed again and shut his eyes. In the silence that followed, questions piled up in Ashling’s mind. Would they be able to persuade Jarl Namdalen to follow sound medicinal recommendations? Would Jarl Magnus appoint Sol’ange to oversee the headstrong Namdalen’s treatments? What had happened to Jorg Magnus? Were their diagnoses correct or were the competitor’s diagnoses the best? Would those two get to attempt to cure Namdalen first due to having passed in the first place? What if their treatment would seem effective at first but have side effects that wouldn’t show until later, during Ashling’s and Tristan’s attempt to cure the Jarl?

“Sol’ange is my mother,” she managed. “You need to appoint a team for the supervision so we don’t get accused of cheating.”

She put her hand in Tristan’s. Everything had become so complicated. She was feeling exhausted too and not too well. But, she wasn’t alone. For sure, Tristan would contribute to solving this mess, wouldn’t he?
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Three

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When Ashling told him that he had very interesting ideas, Tristan smiled at her. He wasn’t one of those people that depended on compliments, but it was nice to receive them, nevertheless, especially from his lovely fiancée and especially from someone that knew much more about healing people than he did. With that being said, he wasn’t sure if he agreed with everything that she said, regardless, especially when it came to treating the so-called root cause. In fact, that statement made the young duke furrow his brow for a moment.

He wasn’t entirely sure about disagreeing in front of the patient – he was, as he had concluded before, not a doctor, but it seemed a little bit unprofessional to him – but it needed to be said, nevertheless, as it might have an impact on the treatment, “Jarl Namdalen survived an assassination attempt. It is entirely possible that the attempts to poison him have stopped and that the poison has already left his body. In that case, all we’d have to do is treat the lingering symptoms and aid his recovery.”

While he didn’t know as much as Ashling about doctoring, he unfortunately knew a lot about assassination attempts as the political scene in Rynmere had been quite chaotic and dangerous. Sometimes, everybody seemed to have wanted to kill everybody else (apart from him, he had never been interested in getting rid of his political rivals or enemies by the way of murder). There had even been an attempt on the king’s life once (which his cousin Andraska and he had prevented; he had gotten his duchy as a reward).

“I’m glad that you agree with me”, he remarked softly when Ashling told him that it wouldn’t hurt to use eyebright and stepped closer to the couch on which Jarl Namdalen was. “A salve and potions would probably be more effective than either of them on their own”, he continued, only to furrow his brow a little bit when once more when she called milk thistle double-edged. He hadn’t known that it could trigger allergic reactions – which would be counterproductive and negate the effects of the anti-allergic herb that he wanted to use as well. “Let’s use artichoke then”, he agreed with her and nodded.

He had no problem with Ashling lecturing him – on the contrary, he loved it which was obvious by the way that he looked at her, and he soaked up every bit of information. It didn’t test his patience – on the contrary, if they hadn't currently been doing something important, he would have asked for more!

“Not entirely meat-free”, he pointed out when the conversation turned to Jarl Namdalen’s potential allergy to beef and other kinds of red meat. “You could probably still eat fish and chicken, for example. Rabbits don’t eat fish and chicken”, he added in a somewhat dry tone of voice, trying hard not to smirk at the Jarl’s outrage (he understood it though, he wouldn’t want to become a vegetarian either, he loved meat far too much!). “I would start by only excluding red meat.”

He realized that he was disagreeing with Ashling again which made him feel kind of weird, especially since she knew far more about medicine than he did. Jarl Namdalen had only talked about an intolerance to beef and pork though and not mentioned that he was allergic to all kinds of meat now, and thus it didn’t make any sense to make him suffer unnecessarily. He’d only exclude chicken and fish after he showed a negative reaction to that as well. Besides, it might make the jarl more inclined to agree to their proposed treatment …

Tristan didn’t like arguing with people. He didn’t like it one bit. He very much preferred to get along with everybody and be able to agree with them, but when Jarl Namdalen continued to complain, like a stubborn child, he crossed his arms over his chest and pointed out, “This is not about something being appealing, sir. If you want to get better, if you truly want to get better, you occasionally have to subject yourself to a treatment that is unpleasant. It would only be temporary, anyway. If you don’t get treatment on the other hand – or only get the treatment that pleases you and doesn’t cause you any discomfort – your symptoms may persist though …”

He wanted to say a bit more – Tristan very much preferred for things to be harmonious, but if he had to, he could argue and try to make other people see his point of view better than most – but it was just then that Jarl Magnus showed up. The young duke turned around abruptly and looked at him, raising an eyebrow slightly as he did so. “Jorg has been knocked out?” he repeated and furrowed his brow. “Do you have any idea what happened? I hope he’ll feel better soon”, he added in a soft tone of voice before he turned to face Jarl Namdalen again who continued to be stubborn and somewhat immature.

It reminded him of …

… Immortals, it reminded him of himself, back when he had just been a spoiled noble brat in Sabaissant!

He frowned.

“How do you know that it’s a crazy idea?” he inquired in a very polite tone of voice when he heard Jarl Namdalen’s next couple of words. “You haven’t even given the treatment that we proposed a try. You could only try it for a seven-trial or so. That would probably be enough time to see a bit of improvement. That wouldn’t be too long, would it?” he asked, smiling slightly. He had a three-arc old daughter at home, but Immortals, this man here was worse and a great deal more resistant to logical arguments than Ayla!

A few moments later, when Ashling voiced her concerns and had a little outburst, he listened to her with a look of utter admiration on his face. This was the woman that he loved!

She was fantastic!

“We could probably instruct someone to supervise Jarl Namdalen’s medication”, he suggested. House Namdalen probably had healers and alchemists as well, although they might not be as skilled as the two of them. There was likely someone who took care of the medical needs of the jarl and his family. He just hoped that they weren’t a stubborn, stupid charlatan that refused to administer any kind of medicine that they hadn’t made themselves!

When Jarl Magnus reminded Jarl Namdalen that he wasn’t allowed to tell them what their competitors were up to yet again, Tristan couldn’t help but smirk. If the situation weren’t so tragic and had potentially harmful consequences, he would have found it quite entertaining!

When Ashling put her hand in his, he held it firmly and stroke it a bit in order to comfort her, a sympathetic look on his face. He had thought that making the potion would be the greatest challenge in this round of the tournament, but that seemed to be easy in comparison to making the patient see reason. To be honest, he momentarily was at a loss for words.

“Please, sir”, he said in a gentle tone of voice, still holding his lovely black-eyed fiancée’s hand. “Give our suggestion a try. If it doesn’t work, I promise, I’ll let you scream at me as much as you want, and we’ll leave you alone. I understand that some of this sounds unpleasant, but we don’t want to hurt you, and we don’t want to give you a hard time, we just want to help you and make you feel better.”
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Three

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"I understand how you reason Tristan. In the short time we have it can even be all we can do for the Jarl. As you say, if we are lucky, that might be enough to cure him and help him back to full health."

But, Ashling didn't feel so well. At first, she hid it. But, when she felt that she was getting a headache and a flash-like sensation made her sight unclear for a moment she knew that she must either get better or drop out. As she wanted to stay in the contest, there was only one thing to do.

"Excuse me a moment...I'm not feeling so well totrial so I need medicine too..."

She took the waterskin with the bogmyrtle infusion and filled a mug she found on a small table beside the Jarl's bed. Namdalen open one eye and watcher her as she and began drinking the infusion at a slow pace. Ashling took one small swallow at the time. The bogmyrtle had a bitter taste, as you could expect of a beer spice but it didn't nauseate her. Ashling felt a bit better even as she drank it. She knew that it might only be the effect you get from believing that the medicine is beneficial but right now she didn't care. If belief in the bogmyrlte could help her follow through with the attempts to examine and cure the Jarl it was good.

Namdalen opened the other eye too. "What are you drinking?"

"Bogmyrtle infusion. It's the infusion I told you about. I'm beginning to get a headache again and a kind of dizzy flashes disturbs my eyesight. But, don't worry, I'm already feeling a bit better. I will continue with your treatment ..."

"Is that the infusion you spoke about before you derailed to the diet drivel?"

"It is." Ashling took a new swallow of the infusion. After hearing Tristan's comments about the diet she had decided to leave that discussion to him.

"Headache and dizzy flashes." Namdalen sounded like he was speaking to himself. Then he focused on Ashling again.

"Why are you trying to cure yourself with that bog drink?

Ashling had already told he Jarl that labrador tea could cause the kind of symptoms that ailed him. She had also told him that bogmyrtle could counter it. But, Namdalen hadn't known until now that Ashling was ill too or what her symptoms were. Besides, he wasn't a healer. She put the empty mug on the table and began explaining.

"I drank some beer last evening. Not so much ... it was a whole tankard of the best Alivilda beer but as Tristan and I had enjoyed a flask of wine to the dinner I only took a few swigs of the beer and left the tankard on the table. I suspect that it may have been spiced with Labrador tea (the Skvattram, my Jarl) as I got all the symptoms. I woke up from wild nightmares by falling out of the bed and though I was awake I felt groggy and nauseated. I had a terrible headache and flash-like sensations disturbed my sight. At first, I thought it was a hangover from Hel, to be honest. I didn't have breakfast as I couldn't eat. Besides, I didn't want to be overwhelmed by nausea at the briefing about the rules this morning. But afterwards, we went to research herbs to prepare for examining you. I stumbled over the information about labrador tea and bogmyrtle as my mother had left the herb ledger laying open ... So, as I also had a small rash I began suspecting that I may be intolerant to skvattram (the labrador tea, Tristan) I made the bogmyrtle infusion to treat myself with it and brought it with me here."

"Beer!" Jarl Magnus sounded like he had made a major discovery. His gaze became a bit distant.

"Both herbs are beer spices, yes ..."

"Now we're speaking! Gimme that drink, Grayhawk. I'll take it at once. As you are treating yourself with it and for troubles that resembles mine, I trust it to be beneficial!”

Ashling glanced at Jarl Magnus. “What’s the rules...I mean, is it even my turn to...“

“First come, first serve.” Namdalen sat up again, with some visible effort. “To Hel with the rules Magnus. I’m not going to wait unnecessarily when there’s a treatment that can help me right now and I’ve seen with my own eyes that the healer didn’t hesitate to drink it herself.”

“Er...well... I guess...”

“I’m the one in charge of my own body. You heard Grayhawk here, Magnus. My health shouldn’t be made a contest, for Myrkvior’s sake! I’m not a guinea pig!”

“Calm down Magnus. I’m only trying to help you find a cure. The foremost herbalists and alchemist of the tournament are working it now.”

“And one of them have their medicine at ready! Here, now, at once! Give it to me now Grayhawk!”

Jarl Magnus opened his mouth but closed it again. For a few trills a total silence filled the makeshift room. As nobody said anything, Ashling opened the waterskin and filled a mug again, a bigger mug this time...well, it was a tankard. It seemed like the beer had somehow found its way to the Jarl’s bedside. She watched it thoughtfully before she handed it to Namdalen.

The Jarl gulped down a fair amount of the infusion, Melrathi style. Then he swore! “What the ... the taste is awful as old stale beer!”

“Bogmyrtle is a beer spice, if you recall ...”

Namdalen laughed out loud. “Cat piss! You could have warned me. But, I’m not going to back down!”

It didn’t take him a long time to drink the rest of the infusion she had given him. This done, he put the tankard on the small table and wiped his mouth with the backside of his hand. “I’m already a bit better, Magnus!“

The expression on Jarl Magnus face could only be called sceptical. But, Namdalen held his ground. “If you are prepared to test your salve on yourself I may want to try it,” he told Ashling.

Ashling glanced at Jarl Magnus again and also at Tristan. She feared that she already had violated the rules and would violate them even more if she would do as Namdalen asked her to do. (Or ordered her, more correctly, as he was a Jarl and she was a healer from Fensalir.) It was only Jarl Magnus who had the authority to give counter-orders but he seemed to have lost control over the situation. Was it the worry for Jorg that had weakened him? It might be so.

“Well?” said Namdalen in a commanding tone.

“I will use the salve on my rash. After that, if nobody objects, I will apply it on your rash too.” Ashling saw no other option than rolling up her sleeve and revealing the rash on her left upper arm. It was a bit red but neither the colour nor the size of it compared to Namdalen’s rash. She put a small amount of salve on it. It felt cool on her skin and dampened the itch a bit.

“Did it help? What’s in it? ”

“It contains wild mint, chamomile, blue spruce, broadleaf and spruce resin. The use is widespread. It can help against skin issues, wounds and aching muscles. All the ingredients are common plants, there’s nothing rare with them I’m afraid, but they have strong medicinal properties nonetheless. And yes, it feels like it might help a bit...”

“That settles it! I want immediate treatment of my rash!”

Wondering if the others felt as flabbergasted as she did, Ashling watched Namdalen turn his back to them unceremoniously. The big rash looked gross. She slabbed a generous amount of the salve onto it, taking care to touch it as little as possible. “Sit still and wait for the salve to sink into the skin Jarl Namdalen. It will not take a long time.”

Namdalen was done with Ashling for now. “Leave that infusion here. And the salve. Bring me more of it, will you?”

Taking for granted that she would do as he wished, Namdalen began speaking to Tristan instead.

“You seem like a man of common sense, Venora. Eating fish and fowl and only abstaining from red meat, you say? I could try that! Why not? Smoked salmon, pickled herring, grilled cod, fried chicken, pheasant, dove and goose...much more reasonable! But tell me, when can I get the potions you told me about? How long time will it take you to make them? I’m already feeling a bit better after the bog infusion and this wonderful cooling salve...so maybe you are as trustworthy as Grayhawk seems to be. I demand that you taste the potions yourself though, while I watch. I’m not going to let anybody give me something they aren’t prepared to use on themselves! “

“The rules, Namdalen ... “ Magnus sounded exasperated. “The other contestants ...”

“Well, they aren’t here, are they? They can treat me when they come back. I will not sit around waiting nicely for medicines that don’t exist yet. That’s the new rules.”

Had the bogmyrtle infusion and the salve already begun affecting him? It could be so as Namdalen seemed stronger (for good or for bad). Ashling knew better than assuming that he was cured though. It might be that he was desperate and clung to positive expectations on the medicines she had given him. There was nothing wrong with feeling better due to the power of belief, but she knew that what she had done might turn out to only be a temporary increase in the Jarl’s well-being. He needed more, especially if there were more causes than she knew. She felt relieved that she had done what she could though. Now it was Tristan who must continue the work. Ashling would be at his side, but not craft new medicines, only more of the same.
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Three

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When Ashling told them that she was not feeling well that trial, Tristan turned to face her again, his gaze filled with unmistakeable concern. He had thought that she had started to get better after breakfast, but apparently, she had just not said anything and refused to let him know how bad she really felt because she had been so keen on participating in the third round of the tournament.

He momentarily wondered if he should ask her if she wanted to take a break (he was confident that he would be able to handle things alone for a little while now that the actual examination was over), when his fiancée suddenly mentioned medicine. The young duke’s eyebrows rose when she filled a mug with some sort of drink from her waterskin.

When Jarl Namdalen wanted to know what she was drinking he looked at him for a moment because he had just been about to ask her the same thing. If he hadn’t known Ashling so well and witnessed how miserable she had felt that morning, he might have been wondered if it was all a carefully orchestrated ploy to get the Jarl to agree to the treatment that she had proposed.

As it was, he was impressed by Ashling’s foresight instead. And surprised and confused because his fiancée and the Jarl seemed to suffer from similar conditions – and worried, of course, because Ashling’s condition seemed to be more serious than he had thought at first – and more long-lasting.

At first, he listened to her explanation with interest, but when she mentioned falling out of bed, he blushed and looked rather guilty because he hadn’t noticed that she had fallen out of bed even though he had been sleeping right next to her. “I’m sorry”, he murmured before his eyes widened as something occurred to him.

Had the Skvattram been put into her beer on purpose? He met her gaze, a questioning look on his face. He would not indulge in speculations now though, but wait a little longer, until they were able to talk in private.

When the Jarl exclaimed “Beer!”, Tristan just stared at him incredulously. For a few moments, he simply stood there, looking from their patient to Ashling and back and trying to keep track of the conversation somehow because that turn of events was a bit unexpected to be honest. Was the Jarl really so eager all of a sudden because bogmyrtle was a beer spice? If the situation hadn’t been so serious, he would have been amused!

“I agree that the most important thing is that Jarl Namdalen gets cured and not that we follow every single rule of the contest”, he remarked once there was finally a short break in the conversation and took a deep breath as he tried to sort out his thoughts. “In my opinion, Jarl Namdalen has a point”, he added, referring to the man’s statement that his health shouldn’t have been made a contest. He understood why it had been done, but in hindsight, it all seemed to be a little questionable to him regardless.

When Jarl Namdalen demanded that Ashling give him the medicine at once, in a tone of voice that was a little too rude and demanding, to be honest, Tristan was just as stunned as Jarl Magnus and just stood there, mouth agape. He was a fairly accomplished politician and had dealt with all kinds of people, but as he had concluded before, Jarl Namdalen was worse than his little daughter – and even more unpredictable!

When Jarl Namdalen demanded that Ashling test the salve on herself first, he shot his fiancée a sympathetic look and almost wished that he had a rash as well so he could be a test subject instead of her. But since he didn’t have a rash and still felt fine for the most part (apart from where his mental state was concerned – that was deteriorating at an astonishing speed at the moment), all he could do was watch, be supportive and try to diffuse the chaotic situation somewhat.

He wondered if his cousin Alistair who had been a doctor once had ever felt like that!

“Oh my”, he made when the Jarl didn’t even let Ashling finish explaining, but turned his back to them and exposed his rash. Tristan definitely wasn’t a prude, and he didn’t mind a bit of nudity every now and then (he had even made a nude sculpture of Peake Andaris who had been a rather interesting sight once), but the view of Jarl Namdalen’s red back was almost too much for him. In fact, he couldn’t help but wonder if this was some sort of bizarre dream, and he had drunk more than he had thought the night before, after all!

“Ashling”, he whispered to his fiancée once she went to retrieve more of her salve, taking the opportunity to finally exchange a few words with her and talk about what was bothering him besides the rather surreal experience with Jarl Namdalen. “Do you think that the same people that gave Jarl Namdalen the labrador tea put it into your drink as well, and do you think we should tell someone? How do you feel now, by the way? If you want to, you can sit down and rest a bit while I talk to Jarl Namdalen some more”, he offered. Truth to be told, a part of him just wanted to take her home, despite his initial decision to let her decide, but he doubted that she would agree to that. Ashling could be quite a stubborn young woman sometimes!

And besides, there was a man who was even sicker than she was and who needed to be cured, and they couldn’t just abandon him and leave him to the untrustworthy Biarne and his partner Buxom!

When Jarl Namdalen asked him how long it would take him to make his potions, Tristan turned around, furrowing his brow slightly as the man’s personality was quite overwhelming (all the rule-bending and rule-changing didn’t bother him a lot on the other hand; in his opinion, changing the rules was perfectly fine if someone’s health was at stake).

A moment later, he replied in a firm tone of voice, having regained some of his calm, “I just need to acquire the reagents that I talked about before, and then I’ll be able to make several vials of those potions within a trial, more than enough to ensure your recovery. It’s a fairly straight-forward process, everything considered, and if you want to, I can add an additional reagent in order to strengthen the effect so that it works even faster”, he offered, mentally wondering if that really would be a good idea. Jarl Namdalen was already quite overwhelming when he was sick and weak. How much worse would it be when he had regained his strength (or was even stronger than before because his potions just worked that well)?

He couldn’t just let him stay sick because of his overwhelming personality though. The man was suffering!

With that thought in mind, Tristan mentally went through the list of reagents that he would need (besides the ones that he had mentioned, he would also need binders and primers and such) and where he would get them just as Jarl Namdalen asked him somewhat impatiently,

“What on Idalos are you waiting for, Venora? You have three trials to make your potions, but I really don’t want to wait that long! And remember, you’ll have to drink your potions first! Otherwise, I won’t accept them!” he reminded the young noble.

Tristan looked at the Jarl again. He was a bit flabbergasted to be honest. In most cases, he would have protested, but in this case, he considered it to be better to give in though, otherwise they would probably still argue in an arc (or Jarl Namdalen would just declare Biarne and Buxom the winners by default, because he was getting tired of it all).

Neither option appealed to him.

“We’ll go right now, sir”, he thus told him before he turned to Ashling and proceeded to ask her, “Do you know any herbs shop in Fensalir, or do you think that your mother has some of the reagents that I need for my potions? Since the Jarl didn’t say anything about us having to gather the reagents ourselves this time, we can probably just buy them. That will save us time and enable us to dedicate more time to our creations”, he decided.

“I just hope that they have the necessary equipment here”, he murmured thoughtfully as he gestured for his fiancée to walk out of the contest tent with him. He didn’t realize how tense he had been and that he had in fact been close to losing his mind entirely until Jarl Namdalen was finally out of his sight for good. He took a deep breath, inhaling the clean, fresh air before he turned to face Ashling once more, offered her his arm and remarked in a gentle tone of voice, “If you start to feel worse again, let me know, please. We can take it slow.”
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Three

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Ashling smiled at Tristan when he said that curing Jarl Namdalen was more important than the contest and its rules. Her smile widened a bit when she heard him exclaim “oh my” at the sight of Namdalen’s gruesome rash but only for a moment. She had been working full time as a healer for arcs. The Jarl was by no means the worst case she had dealt with. Tristan might not have the same degree of experience of external treatments. Was alchemy always about making potions and elixirs to drink or could he also craft salve and powders or for example incense or alchemic oils? She would ask him someday.

His whispered question intrigued her. She had been too tired to think of this possibility. Had the Jarl not only reacted to Labrador tea due to drinking too much beer but been poisoned by an extra dose of it? And had somebody put an extra dose of the spice in her beer last night?

“The Jarl has been ill for a long time,” she whispered back. I don’t know if the effects of Labrador tea poisoning is that long-lasting, Tristan. As I said, there may be causes we don’t know. An overdose of Skvatt...er...Labrador tea might be involved though.”

The two Jarls were speaking with each other so she took the opportunity to answer more. “As for me, I woke up feeling ill this night, but I’m not knocked out and in bed. To be honest, at first, I thought it was a hangover. I didn’t think of Labrador tea and Bogmyrtle until I read up in my mother’s herb ledger. A mere coincidence. She had left it open ...”

At this point, it struck her that Sol’ange never left any of her valuable herb ledgers laying around on the workbenches. It was very unlike her to not close the book and put it back on the shelf. The only time Ashling had seen it happen in the past had been when a medicinal emergency had made it important to save time. “Mother must have been in a hurry, Tristan.”

She stopped there because she overheard Namdalen asking about young Jorg. “I’m sorry I was so grumpy Magnus.” He moved a bit on the bed. “The itch of the infernal rash was driving me crazy and being examined was a bit of torture. But I’m feeling a little bit better now. Please tell me how it is with the boy.”

“He will recover, Namdalen. Especially if it is as I’ve begun suspecting.”

“So? And what do you suspect?”

“I think he has somehow acquired beer and so, become one more victim of the Skvattram ... er ... Lab tea. But, I was too worried to ask questions of the healer. She was focusing on Jorg and didn’t have time to explain much to me, but she did say something about giving him Bogmyrtle infusion.”

“The same medicine Grayhawk is giving me ... and herself too?”

“Yes. Now when I’ve heard about the two beer spices I can’t avoid the conclusion: He’s fourteen and might not have been able to resist an exciting chance to get drunk. And so, drugged himself, if I’m right.”

“Heh. Boys! And there are always sellers looking to make a profit. I recall how I and my buddies used to buy leftover beer when we were that age. Much cheaper. It was stale and ... argh! But the tavern staff made a small side income on selling it in the backyard instead of throwing it away. We boys shut up of course and never told on them.”

“Aha!” Jarl Magnus sighed. “I see.” He sighed again. “It may turn out to be impossible to find out the whole truth. But, I feel convinced that either they have serious production problems in Alivildas breweries or else somebody is putting extra Skvattram in people’s beer.”

Namdalen nodded. “I thought of it myself. But, I’ve been ill for a long time and I haven’t been here in Fensalir until now, so...if somebody gave me the drug - or poison I guess - it can hardly be the same person who put it in Grayhawk’s drink. And your little nephew seems to have taken it himself, by accident. So, maybe it’s brewery problems? Maybe they just used the wrong spice too generously?”

Ashling whispered to Tristan again. “You heard them. It may turn out to be impossible to find out the truth.” She would still try an idea that occurred to her. She turned to Jarl Namdalen. “You said that the alchemist in the other team is named Biarne Slatersen...I didn’t know his surname until now. Is he an acquaintance of yours?”

“Not really. But, I’ve met the man before. He travels quite often. Intelligent man. A renowned alchemist. I don’t know about his plump partner.”

“A top-class alchemist,” Jarl Magnus agreed. “But let’s move on...”

Ashling decided against saying that Biarne had handed her the beer last night and his partner Buxom was from...Rhakros. It would seem like a thinly veiled attempt to accuse their competitors of being poisoners. A cheap trick to discredit Biarne and Buxom and get them dropped from the contest. There was no proof whatsoever to point at. Only speculation. She had also received a warning due to her fight with Biarne in the second challenge. It might backfire big time to insinuate that he had poisoned people.

No, if the Jarls would draw any conclusions, they must do it themselves.

She sat down on a stool as Tristan had suggested. From now on, she let him manage the conversation. In the end, she followed her fiancée out from the tent. They were going to a good shop she knew about. There, they could buy herbs and other ingredients they might need. “Moderate speed is fine, “she told him. “I can cope.”



Later, they were at their workbenches in the contest tent. Ashling was making more salve and more Bogmyrtle infusion. It was easy but slow and time-consuming processes. Good thing that she could treat herself in passing by, drinking some of the infusion and smearing salve on the rash on her arm. It kept her going. But spirits, how she longed to complete the work so she could go to bed and sleep!

Their competitor Biarne and Buxom were also working hard at whatever they were crafting for Jarl Namdalen. Biarne was confident as usual. Buxom less so, but doing their best nonetheless. But, Ashling was mostly watching Tristan. He was after all the best man in Melrath. Would he also turn out to be the best alchemist?
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Re: [Fensalir] The Tournament of Plants and Potions, Challenge Three

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Tristan nodded when Ashling reminded him that the Jarl had been ill for a long time and that there might be causes that they didn’t know. When she proceeded to mention her mother’s herb ledger and that she had left it open even though she normally never left her valuable herb ledgers just lying around, he furrowed his brow a little. Some of his questions had been answered, but those answers had subsequently led to a whole number of new questions, and he was just as confused and worried as before, perhaps even more so.

He was just about to ask Ashling if she had any idea where her mother might have gone when she turned to look at Namdalen. He followed her gaze and subsequently listened to the conversation as well. This time, he furrowed his brow in a more noticeable fashion. Apparently, there had been even more Skvattram involved which made him consider his theory that there was someone walking around Melrath and putting things into people’s beer on purpose in order to make them sick again (Why were they doing that though?).

He did not blame Jorg for not being able to resist the temptation when he had somehow acquired a bit of beer though. He had done much worse when he had been younger. He still remembered very clearly when his cousin Andraska and he had snuck into Granny Ebony’s bedroom, found her secret stash of alcohol and gotten high and drunk, for example – and proceeded to put on her clothes (he had also seen a dragon when he had been high).

(He had not shared that incident with Ashling so far though; he wasn’t sure if he wanted her to try and picture him wearing an old lady’s clothes and seeing a dragon that wasn’t real.)

When Jarl Namdalen shared the story of how his buddies and he had bought leftover beer once and Jarl Magnus subsequently wondered about the breweries in Alivilda having serious production problems, Tristan furrowed his brow for the third time – because it might all have been a coincidence, after all. “It’s frustrating”, he murmured when Ashling whispered that it might be impossible to find out the truth. “I don’t like leaving this problem hereunsolved.”

And then Biarne’s name came up again, and Tristan couldn’t help but wonder if their competitor was involved somehow. If they mentioned his name, the Jarls were unlikely to believe them though, and they might even be forced to leave the contest. Unlike Ashling, Tristan didn’t think that Buxom being from Rhakros might have something to do with it as well though. He didn’t like Biarne, and he didn’t trust him, but he almost pitied Buxom. And besides, in his opinion, it didn’t matter who and what you were or where you came from. Coming from Rhakros, didn’t automatically make you a suspect in his opinion!

~~~

Ashling seemed to have things under control which came as a relief to Tristan, but he still cast a glance at her every now and then while he arranged the reagents that he had acquired at the shop (he had actually been surprised that he had managed to get them all) on the worktable in front of him. Every now and then, their eyes met because she was watching him as well, and he smiled gently at her. As he had decided before, he would spoil her a bit when they came home so that she would hopefully forget this unpleasantness!

While he looked at Ashling, he did not cast a single glance at Biarne because that man was not worth his attention (although he looked at Buxom with something resembling sympathy once).

Since Jarl Namdalen seemed to have a bit of a problem with alcohol, to put it mildly, Tristan decided to not use alcohol as a base for his potion (he normally did so on a regular basis as alcohol greatly extended a potion’s shelf life). Instead, he filled two pots with water and put them onto two adjacent burners because he needed the water to be nice and hot.

Since the Jarl would probably just choke if he dumped a whole piece of dried valerian root into the potion, he then grabbed the aforementioned root, cut it into smaller pieces and ground them into some sort of powder using a mortar and pestle (which made his hands ache a bit as it took a certain amount of strength) – that he then poured into the first pot with hot water.

While boiled root powder would not be as unpleasant to drink as water with big chunks of root in it, it would still be somewhat questionable, so, Tristan decided to put the entire mixture through a strainer next in order to hopefully get a nice liquid that had all the good properties of valerian. He decided to do the same with the redbush leaves, including putting the “tea” through a strainer when he had boiled the leaves sufficiently - and finally filled another pot in order to make eyebright tea.

Having done that, he grabbed two empty jars. He filled the first with both valerian and redbush tea, and the second one only with redbush tea. A mixture of horsetail herb, eyebright tea and honey (which would act as a binder and ensure that the reagents wouldn’t negate each other) went into the first jar. A carefully measured amount of Roipo Nectar mixed with honey went into the second jar, followed by a mixture of artichoke extract, eyebright tea and even more honey. All the honey would have the added effect of the taste of the potions being more pleasant.

The last step was the addition of five drops of accelerating reagent to each jar (he had decided on using jars rather than small glass vials so that he could give Jarl Namdalen more potion which would subsequently last him longer). The accelerating reagent would ensure that the potion would work very quickly and that the Jarl would feel better in no time. Well, actually, it was not really the last step. Once the potions were finished, Tristan took a sip from each one (because Jarl Namdalen had said that he wouldn't accept them otherwise, although he wasn't sure what the point was - a potion that made you energetic and a potion that made you relax would just cancel each other ). Following that, he closed the jars, pulled two bright blue ribbons out of a pocket and tied them around the jars. In his opinion, it was very important that his creations looked nice as well!

“What do you think, Ashling?” he asked his lovely fiancée once he was done and held up the two jars so that she could admire them, smirking slightly, before he stepped forward and presented them to the Jarls, inclining his head respectfully as he did so. He only cast the briefest of glances at their competitors, before he turned away again. He was not particularly curious about Biarne. The man might win the final round (or not), but Tristan would consider himself to be the winner regardless of what happened here – because he had Ashling!
Notes
In case my post is not be sufficiently clear, Tristan made the following two potions:

Potion 1: Morning Potion: Roipo Nectar, redbush, artichoke extract, eyebright
Potion 2: Evening Potion: Valerian, redbush, horsetail herb, eyebright

In addition to the reagents mentioned above, both contain the following: Water base, primer, honey as binder, accelerating reagent
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