Frith Chronicles [Choose Your Own Adventure] ARC I

Hello everyone!

As part of a fun side project, I’ve decided to write “Choose Your Own Adventures” for my Frith Chronicles books. The events and characters of the CYOA will return in a future series I’m hoping to have out in 2022! (It’s a secret! But also, everyone on my Patreon knows, so there’s that, too, lol)

You can follow the CYOA on my Facebook and Patreon (and you can vote to influence the outcome if you’re part of my Patreon as well!)

If you’d like to read what has happened SO FAR in the story, here is the entire transcript! When ARC II begins, all “skills” and “equipment” gained in the first ARC will carry over.

I hope you all enjoy!

Frith Chronicles [Choose Your Own Adventure] Part 1

               For your entire life, you’ve lived on the Isle of Haylin.

               It’s a moderate island with two towns, and ports on both the northern shore and western shore. Sun shines across the white beaches most of the year, except for the storm season, when clouds blot the sky with darkness for 2-3 months.

               Currently, it’s the warmest summer you’ve ever known in your fifteen years of live—even the ocean seems to be sweating as the sun beats down on everything. Umbrellas are planted on the walkways and canopies hang over every balcony.

               This is the perfect weather for salamanders, the fire-breathing lizards that inhabit the caves near your hometown, West Jin. The mystical creatures have been swarming lately, and they fill their caves with charred plants and smaller animals. Their nests smell of char and flesh.

               People claim that salamanders gravitate toward courage and recklessness. They dislike cowards, and they often enjoy bravado.

               Unfortunately, this is terrible weather for the pack of wendigo that live on the sole mountain in the middle of the island. To be fair, the Wendigo aren’t native to the Isle of Haylin. They were brought here by pirates who wanted to hide them from the Royal Navy. The pirates were defeated in a battle over a decade ago, and they never returned for their prized mystical creatures.

               The pirates had left two adult wendigos. They had pups, and now they roamed the mountain, picking off people who foolishly braved the steep slopes. The man-eaters love flesh, and anyone who they deem unworthy is killed on sight.

               They’ve become a local nuance, and guild arcanists have been summoned to deal with the problem. This is the season they’ll be removed from the island, you’re sure of it.

               Wendigo only bond with people who are close to death and display some sort of tenacity. It’s difficult to pass their Trial of Worth, and mystery surrounds the whole process.

               The bright sun has also brought with it smooth sailing. Well, some people have other ideas on why the waves are so calm. Sailors whisper rumors at the local taverns in North Jin. They say a group of baby leviathans have turned up in one of the coves. The sailors believe the leviathans are the ones responsible for the waters.

               No one has proved that, though. It’s all just whispers.

               Leviathans want to bond with travelers, leaders, and people with strong willpower. Leviathans are considered royalty of the ocean, and have personalities as big as they are.

               This year, everyone is excited for the salamander’s Trial of Worth. The island has traditions about the bonding ceremony, and the whole island is getting prepared for the festivities. You’re certain there will be a lot of grilled meat to eat.

               To your good fortune, you’re fifteen and you want to become an arcanist. To your misfortune, there are three others who want to become arcanists as well.

               Brixin was taller and wider than any fifteen-year-old had the right to be. He was built like a horse, and his blond hair reminds everyone of spun gold. His dashing looks were destroyed when he smiled, though. He had sharp canines, and an even sharp gaze. The man had the aura of a shark.

               Nini was the exact opposite in all ways. Short. Cute. Quiet. She was fifteen, but she could’ve passed as a red-headed eleven-year-old. All her life, people had overlooked her, even her five older sisters. Nini always excelled at academics, though. She studied like no one else and memorized everything.

               Wyre… was an unknown. He had arrived on the island only a year ago—an orphan. He had been given to the silversmith for an apprenticeship, and little else is known about him. He kept his dark hair shoulder-length, and rarely spoke. The sailors who spread rumors said his parents had abandoned him in order to join a band of privateers. A few elderly women in town claimed Wyre had killed his own parents, but managed to get away with the murder by pinning it on his uncle.

               You have no idea what the truth is. You’ve never really interacted with the guy.

               Today is the day to head out and try your hand at a Trial of Worth. Once you’ve bonded to a mystical creature, you can then head to the mainland to join a guild—or perhaps the navy, or even a group of pirates, if your heart is black enough.

               But what creature will you even attempt to approach? Each creature on the Isle of Haylin is unique—and dangerous. People have died during the salamander’s Trial of Worth. Wendigos eat people they don’t enjoy. Leviathans are elusive, and they drown those who aren’t leaders worthy of their magic.

               What do you do?

A) Head to the salamander caves.

B) Head to the wendigo-infested mountain.

C) Head to the secluded leviathan cove.

D) Wait until Brixin, Nini, and Wyre head off to their respective Trials of Worth… and then head to the mystical creature that has no competition.

E) Wait until Brixin, Nini, and Wyre head off to their respective Trials of Worth… and then head to the one with the most participants.

F) Stay home. It’s dangerous out there.

Part 2

               You decide to head to the secluded leviathan cove.

               You pack up a few needed supplies into a leather satchel and then head out the door the moment the sun peeks over the far horizon. It’s another cloudless day, but the wind had decided to offer the island reprieve from the heat.

               It’s a lonely walk as you leave the town of West Jin. Most denizens on the Isle of Haylin are gathered near the salamander caves for the Trails of Worth. The festivals can be faintly heard all over the island, especially the drums, playing the island’s performers.

               A few guild arcanists are on the island, but it seems they’ve headed to the mountain to deal with the wendigo problem.

               Once you get to the coast, and walk the length of the white sand beach, it gets quiet and peaceful. A few crabs scuttle into the water as you walk by.

               Then you reach the rocks that surround the leviathan cove. They jut from the ground at odd angles, forming a natural barrier. You must be careful when trekking over them—the ocean waters have made everything slick. Fortunately, you’re young and healthy! The rocks are a minor obstacle.

               You leap down from a tall rock and find yourself on a narrow path to the cove. Squeezing between algae-covered boulders isn’t glamourous, but it’ll all be worth it once you reach the mystical creatures. Just as you wiggle your way through the last of the narrow pathways, you bump into someone, much to your surprise.

               Your satchel falls to the ground and spills open. Fortunately, the contents don’t tumble into the ocean, they just tumble across the rocks right in front of you.

               “I’m so sorry!”

               The person you ran into is none other than Nini! She’s easy to recognize—red hair, super short stature, and an old book under one arm. In a fluttered panic, she kneels down and gathers your things.

               “I didn’t think anyone else would be here,” she says, gathering everything with quick movements. “I’m so sorry. Really sorry.”

               You brought basic essentials: a rope, flint, rags, water, and a small knife.

               Nini goes to grab the last object for your satchel.

               What is it?

A) A short sword, because you apprentice with the blacksmith.

B) A pistol, because you apprentice with the weaponsmith.

C) Bread, because you apprentice with the baker.

D) Fish, because you apprentice with the fisherman.

E) A book on mystical creatures, because you apprentice with the librarian.

F) A personal good luck charm, because you apprentice with no one.

Part 3

               You remember you apprentice with the librarian! In any situation that involves [academic knowledge] you’ll have an advantage.

               Nini picks up your book on mystical creatures. It’s titled, 1001 Mystical Creatures by Gintus Rowr. Her eyes go wide as she picks up the thick book and caresses the cover. “Oh, that’s right! You’re the one in the library all the time.”

               Nini places your book in your satchel. Then she hands everything back to you and bows.

               “I’m so, so sorry! I wasn’t trying to sneak up on you or anything, I was just trying to get myself prepared for the Trial of Worth.” She stands straight and then pats at her red hair. It falls to her shoulders, so neatly trimmed, that you can’t find a single strand a different length.

               “You’ve probably seen me around,” she awkwardly says, her gaze never meeting yours, like she’s afraid to look directly at you. “My name is Nini Wanderlin. Call me Nini. And yes, that’ my name. That’s it. Those four letters. It’s not short for anything.” She forces a laugh and then continues, “I’m sorry. When I’m nervous I get quiet.” She waves a hand at her own comment. “But I’m not being quiet right now, am I? P-Probably because I’m extra nervous. When I get extra nervous, I get really talkative, apparently.”

               Nini chuckles at her own “joke” and then slides a hand into her coat pocket. Her oversized clothing makes it seem like she’s wearing a tent over her small body—but you realize now it’s because she has several things in her pockets.

               She fumbles for a moment, checking another pocket, and then another, until finally running a hand through her hair, her eyebrows scrunched.

               “Oh! I left it over here.” She dashes away from you before you can say anything. However, as she sets around wet rocks and heads closer to the cover, Nini calls back, “Follow me! I also have a book, you’ll love it.”

               Since you were already heading in this direction, following her isn’t much of a choice. It’s the only way to see a leviathan.

               When you round another boulder, you catch sight of the beautiful, glittering cove. The sapphire waves smell of salt and fish—crisp and refreshing.

               Nini continues to talk, even though she isn’t giving you time to reply. She’s around the other side of an outcropping of stone, just out of sight. The clink of metal and the rustle of leather tells you she’s rummaging through something.

               “I love reading,” Nini says. “I actually read that whole book you have. Here it is!”

               She hurries out from the other side of the rock outcropping, holding a book and a… mangled, dead bird.

               The book is smaller than yours and titled Ocean Mystical Creatures. The plucked bird has no head and hangs limply in Nini’s hand. The bird is small [academic knowledge] and you know it’s a common seagull.

               Feathers have been sewn into the dead flesh—of a different bird.

               Nini follows your gaze to the bird and then awkwardly laughs, like she can’t stop herself. “Uh, I know what you’re thinking. But wait! Let me explain.” She holds up her book. “Leviathans love to eat albatross.”

               [Academic knowledge] You know she’s right. Leviathans do love albatross, but there are none located near your island.

               “There aren’t any albatrosses located around here,” Nini says, practically parroting your thoughts. “So I decided to, uh… make one.” She holds up the weird dead bird. “This is a seagull, and I got albatross feathers from the market because maybe they’ll smell good?”

               Nini takes her book and bird and wanders close to the water’s edge.

               The cove is large, and it’s about a three-foot drop to the water from where you’re standing. The “beach” of the cove is nothing but sharp and jagged stone.

               No one else is around. You don’t see any leviathans.

               “I’m going to put the seagull-albatross into the water to attract a leviathan,” Nini says, her quick speech and chuckle-words betraying her escalating anxiety. “Then I c-can take it’s Trial of Worth.”

               What do you do?

A) “Well, this is awkward. I’m also here to take the Trial of Worth.”

B) “You’re never going to bond to a leviathan. You’re too nervous.”

C) “Take a deep breath first and relax. You’ll do fine.”

D) “Only one of us can bond, ya know. And I’m not planning to lose.”

E) Say nothing.

F) Take Nini’s bird and then push her into the water.

G) “Well, if you’re going to bond to a leviathan, I’ll go somewhere else.”

[Part 4]

               “Well, this is awkward,” you say. “I’m also here to take the Trial of Worth.”

               Nini holds her dead bird close as she pokes the tips of her fingers together. A chill ocean wind howls over the rocks, and the crash of waves echoes over the cove.

               “I figured no one else would come looking for the leviathans,” Nini mutters, her gaze on the water, her words slow. “I, uh, didn’t want to compete with anyone. I tend to get… nervous.”

               Silence follows her statement.

               If there’s only one leviathan, then you two will have to directly compete for its approval. However, even if you weren’t here, Nini could still fail the Trial of Worth. If she did, the leviathan wouldn’t bond with her—it would simply leave, unbonded, searching for someone worthy of its might and magic.

               Without another word, Nini tosses the bird corpse. It splashes into the water and then half-floats on the small waves until it hits the rocky shoreline. The cove is deep enough that you suspect leviathans could be lurking nearby, in the dark depths.

               The two of you wait.

               The bird corpse with the albatross feathers eventually sinks beneath the surface. Bubbles float up in its place.

               “Do you think this will work?” Nini whispers. “I must admit, I thought this was a brilliant plan when I thought it up, but now that I’m here…” She tugs at the ends of her hair and frowns. “Do you ever doubt yourself? Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who does such foolish things…”

               Before you can decide on a reply, ripples appear on the surface of the water! Then, from the darkness between the waves, a creature emerges. The serpentine beast lifts its snake-like head out of the water, a crest of fins on its head and spine. The blue and indigo scales shimmer in the hot summer sun.

               It’s a hatchling leviathan! You suspect it’s only fifteen feet long—short for a baby leviathan—but still quite impressive for a young creature.

               The leviathan turns its golden eyes onto you and Nini. Its slit pupils constrict until they’re sharp lines.

               An albatross feather is poking out of its mouth.

               “Uh, h-hello,” Nini says as she fumbles with her Ocean Mystical Creatures book. She flips to the page on leviathans. “I’m here to prove myself.” She finally finds the section and quickly reads a line. “I, uh, want to become a leviathan arcanist. Please.”

               Nini ends her “speech” by bowing to the creature.

               The leviathan slurps up the feather. Then it gives you its full attention.

               “Uh, this is the librarian’s apprentice,” she says, gesturing to you. “We’re both here to take your Trial of Worth.”

               The leviathan smiles—snake-like, and almost mischievous. “Oh, is that so? Two whole individuals?” The creature has an amused masculine tone. “Lucky me.” It serpentines closer to you and then slides up the rocks until it’s on land. Then the creature’s gills flare, and its scales glitter with ocean water.

               “Uh,” Nini murmurs as she holds up her book like a shield.

               The leviathan is much bigger than the two of you. It’s not huge, but definitely larger than a horse. It stares down at you both, water dripping from its nose.

               “Well, then I guess I should test you,” the leviathan says, tilting its head. “Hm. But… how?”

               Nini’s brow furrows as she re-reads the page on leviathans. “Uh, it says here that leviathans have a trial of worth that involves leadership.” She turns the book around and shows the beast. She even taps the page. “See? Right here?”

               The leviathan actually leans down to read the section of the book. Then it snorts—with enough force to blow the pages around. “Hm. That seems long. And complicated. Why not make it a little more exciting?”

               “W-What do you mean?” Nini can’t seem to stop herself from frowning.

               “Perhaps… The two of you should get in the water. All the way in the water—until your feet touch the bottom of the cove. Whoever comes up for air first loses.”

               That’s rather dangerous. You’ve swam around the island all your life, but you have the physique of a librarian. Nini is even worse—like a librarian who hates the sun and hasn’t left the shelter of a building in three years.

               Nini turns to you, one eyebrow lifted.

               What do you do?

A) “I guess we have no choice…” Jump in the water.

B) “Something isn’t right here…” Refuse to jump into the water.

C) “What? That’s it? We’ll be bonded before noon.” Jump in the water.

D) “I’m not swimming in the cove. It’s too dangerous.” Refuse to jump in the water.

E) “Ready to lose?” Push Nini in, and then jump in after her.

F) “You wanted to bond, right?” Push Nini in, and then watch from the shore.

G) Shrug and wait for Nini to decide.

[Part 5]

               “Something isn’t right here…” you say.

               Then you step away from the edge of the rocks, refusing to jump in.

               The leviathan snorts and circles around you, its wondrous scales just as glorious as all the books say they are. [Academic Knowledge] You’re aware that leviathans are difficult to kill and known for their combat prowess. Their beautiful scales are quite sturdy.

               “Too scared?” the leviathan taunts. “I suppose I shouldn’t have expected bravery from a librarian’s assistant.” The mythical creature turns its gold eyes on Nini. “And what about you? Or are you also going to wet your britches and leave before the Trial of Worth has even started?”

               Nini closes her giant coat and practically drowns in the garment. She ducks her chin below the collar and stares at the cold water in the cove. The leviathan laughs—more taunting in his tone—and then Nini closes her eyes, as if to focus.

               Then she runs a hand into her hair, messing up the perfectly maintained locks, and digging her fingers into her scalp. “I… I can’t go to salamanders… The summer sun makes their magic so dangerous… And I’d never bond with a wendigo… I just… I can’t. They would never accept me.”

               Nini opens her eyes, though they’re wetter than before. “I have to do this.” She lowers her hand and walks to the edge of the rocks. “I-I have to stop doubting myself.”

               The leviathan slides into the water, chuckling the entire time. “Oh? This’ll be interesting then.” With energetic moves, the leviathan swims around the water, keeping its head just barely visible. The crest of fins is closer to an angelfish rather than a shark, but the beast moves in circles.

               With a deep breath, Nini inches closer to the edge of the rocks.

               What do you do?

A) “Don’t! This isn’t right!” Pull Nini back.

B) “You’re crazy.” Do nothing.

C) “Good luck.” Do nothing.

D) “Fine. I guess I’ll take the Trial of Worth, too.” Jump in the water with Nini.

E) “Think about this. Doesn’t it seem odd?” Do nothing.

F) “Give it more thought.” Pull Nini back.

G) Say and do nothing.

[Part 6]

               “Don’t!” you shout as you grab Nini’s shoulder and pull her back. “This isn’t right!”

               Startled, Nini stumbles backward a bit. You catch her, so she doesn’t fall over. With shaky hands, she rubs at her face, mostly over her eyes. Then, once she’s calmed down a bit, Nini takes a deep breath.

               “Y-You’re right,” she mutters. “Something isn’t right, but… What can we do about it?”

               The leviathan in the cove growls and then swims back to the rocks. Its scales flare, and its glares with golden eyes in your direction. “Apparently, librarians are just no fun. If you’re not going to get in the water, maybe I should just drag you in and see how you fare.”

               The beast lifts its serpentine head from the water, its mouth wide, exposing its fangs. While it’s still a hatchling leviathan, the creature’s mouth is large enough to fit your head inside. [Academic Knowledge] Thankfully, you know leviathans aren’t venomous.

               Unfortunately, you only have a book, rope, flint, rags, water, and a small knife on you. The knife—no longer than 3 inches—won’t work that well against leviathan scales…

               Before you have to try your hand at awkward combat, another leviathan leaps out of the water. The other mystical creature bites down on the first leviathan, piercing through the tough scales and drawing blood. It pours into the cove, creating a dark patch of crimson among the ripples.

               The leviathans thrash and hiss and fight each other with snake-like speed and severity. After a few bites, the spot of crimson grows larger, and the beasts splash water everywhere. Nini shouts and hides herself behind you.

               It doesn’t take long for the leviathans to conclude their battle.

               The first leviathan—the one taunting you into the water—screeches and then dives into the cove. Its sapphire scales shimmer, even under the water, until the creature goes so deep, you can’t see his shadow any longer.

               The second leviathan has been bitten on the face, and one of its eyes is closed shut and bleeding. With a huff, the leviathan turns to you and Nini. Then, with a gentle tone, it speaks.

               “Forgive me,” it says, feminine and regal, but somehow childish. “That trickster has been causing problems for me and my sisters. It… It appeared one day, when we were traveling through the waves. It’s followed us for some time, playing games on people who think they’re going to bond to a leviathan.”

               Nini slowly steps around you, her courage returning at a sluggish pace. “You m-mean that wasn’t a leviathan?”

               The leviathan in front of you shakes her head. “I apologize. That beast is nothing more than a mischief maker. I told it to leave us alone, but it persists.”

               “What is it?” Nini asks.

               “I don’t know. All I know is that it’s most certainly not a leviathan.”

               You and Nini take a moment to absorb the information.

               Out of the corner of your eye, you spot the “mischief maker” fleeing the cove. The leviathan slithers out of the water and onto the rocks, blood weeping from several bites across its long body. The creature doesn’t even glance back. It snakes into the rocks, disappearing from sight, but leaving a trail of scarlet in its wake.

               Nini turns to you, her cheeks almost as red as her hair. “I, uh, want to thank you. If I had gone in the water…”

               The female leviathan shakes her head. “Who knows what that trickster might have done.”

               “Thank you,” Nini says again. “I really appreciate it.”

               The leviathan lifts her head and flares her crest of fins, like a peacock preening. “Well, then. I assume you’ve come to prove yourself to me?”

What do you do?

A) “Actually, Nini came to prove herself. I’m just here to root for her.”

B) “Yeah, we’re here to take your Trial of Worth.”

C) “Uh, I think I’ve already proven myself, thank you very much.”

D) “Prove myself to you? Laughable. I’ll find another mystical creature.” Leave.

E) “Actually, I want to investigate that mischief maker.” Follow the blood trail.

F) “Uh, I’ll be right back.” Follow the blood trail.

G) Motion for Nini to answer.

[Part 7]

               “Yeah,” you say. “We’re here to take your trial of worth.”

               The leviathan lowers herself into the water and then leaps out with the grace of a dolphin. She lands on the rocks around you and Nini, splashing you both. The beads of water catch the bright summer sun just right—tiny rainbows flicker in the air for just a moment.

               Once the leviathan settles around you, her fins quiver and shake. “My name is Aquitia.”

               “Well, I’m Nini Wanderlin, and this is—”

               “I was nearby when you two introduced yourself,” Aquitia says. “I even saw your interactions with the trickster.”

               “Oh?”

               With a childish pout, Aquitia sighs. Then she turns her attention square on you. “You displayed plenty of assertiveness, but can that be tempered?” With a tilt of her head, Aquitia turns to Nini. “And you displayed plenty of conviction, but it was… foolish and desperate.”

               Nini frowns, her face pink once again.

               “Being a leader of men isn’t a title. It’s an attitude—a way of life. You never have to tell someone you’re the one to take charge. When you’re confident and assertive and capable, people will know. They will look to you for guidance.” Aquitia glances from you, to Nini, and then back to you. With the beauty of regal snake, the leviathan moves around you two, a hiss-like hum on her breath. “And I know how to determine which of you exemplifies those qualities.”

               Nini taps her fingertips together. “You do?”

               “That’s right.” The leviathan stops moving, her fifteen-foot-long body half-circled around you both. “You two will decide who will stay and who will go. Show me you’re a leader and convince the other to leave. In your hearts, you two already know which of you is best suited.”

               The statement causes Nini to grow still and quiet. She doesn’t look over at you.

               What do you do?

A) “Are you serious? This isn’t even a contest. Nini knows she lost.”

B) “Aquitia—didn’t you say you had sisters nearby? Maybe one of us could go there.”

C) “Nini—what do you think? Do you have a way to convince me to leave?”

D) “Oh, in my heart, I know Nini will do great. I should be the one to leave.”

E) “Nini—no more games. You should hurry and find another mystical creature before it’s too late.”

F) “Aquitia—can’t you just decide? Nini and I are basically friends now.”

G) Wait for Nini to say something.

[Part 8]

               “Oh, in my heart, I know Nini will do great,” you say.

               Nini becomes stiff, her wide eyes searching yours. Her lip quivers for just a second before she steels herself and swallows back any sort of overt emotion. “But… you’re the one who…”

               “I should be the one to leave,” you conclude as you place a hand on her shoulder.

               She wipes her face with the back of her arm, the giant sleeve of her coat hiding her expression as she takes a moment to gather her thoughts. Then Nini stands a little straight and gives you a single nod. “I… I came all this way. I made myself a lure—a weird bird lure, but still. And I was willing to do whatever it took.” A smile creeps into the corner of her mouth. “But this… I wish we had spent more time together before today, ya know?”

               Nini throws her arms around you in a surprise hug. It’s quick and powerful, and you know it’s genuine.

               When Nini releases you, she can’t seem to stare at you long. “Thank you,” she says again, awkward and thick with emotion.

               Aquitia watches the exchange, her crest of fins flared with curiosity. She doesn’t say anything, though. Not during the conversation, not during the hug—and not during your departure. The leviathan watches with golden eyes as you head for the rocks around the cove.

               It’s already after noon.

               You probably don’t have much time. Your kindness might’ve cost you the chance to become an arcanist.

               All alone, and with the rocks ahead of you, you must decide where you’re heading. Perhaps some of the other trials are still happening.

               Or maybe you should call it quits and return to the library, where you belong.

               What do you do?

A) Search for other leviathans.

B) Head for the salamanders.

C) Head for the wendigos.

D) Search for the mischief maker.

E) Return to the librarian.

F) Stare at the ocean and contemplate life.

[Part 9]

               With time running out, you decide to search for the mysterious mischief maker.

               You crawl over the rocks, making your way to the other side of the cove, where you saw the fake leviathan exit the water. It’s mostly easy going, until you come to a large boulder. Fortunately, you packed rope for this very reason. With little effort, you toss a knotted loop up, hook part of the stone, and climb your way over.

               The winds help keep you cool, but the summer sun is more aggressive now than it was before. You imagine the salamander Trial of Worth is brutal. Who all had taken it? You’re certain that whenever you’re done with this, you’ll find out.

               You slide down another rock and find a smooth pathway. Lines of blood tell you that you’re on the right track—the mischief maker slid through here, you’re certain of it.

               However, the high rocks make this area a natural maze. It’s difficult to get a good vantage point. And the crash of distant waves—not to mention the overzealous seagulls—create just enough sounds to hinder your investigation. Fortunately, you can see the blood on the rock just fine. The dark crimson stands out on the light-brown sandstone.

               The creature seems to have headed away from the water.

               You follow the trail, keeping your eyes wide. Unfortunately, a short way into the chase, the blood stops. Abruptly.

               You search the nearby area, but you don’t find any blood around the rocks. [Academic Knowledge] Leviathans don’t fly, and you’re certain there aren’t any predators on the Isle of Haylin that could have carried the beast off.

               So where had it gone?

               It’s too late to go anywhere else. You either find this creature… or call it a day.

               What do you do?

A) “Hey! I know you’re out here! I’ve come to bond!”

B) “Hello? Is anyone nearby?”

C) Throw yourself on the ground and pretend to be injured. “Oh, no! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!”

D) Cut yourself with your knife and hope the blood attracts it.

E) Read your book about mystical creatures and try to deduce what you might be following.

F) “Where are you, coward? You tried to trick us! Come and fight me!”

G) Give up and go home.

[Part 10]

               “Hey!” you shout. “I know you’re out here! I’ve come to bond!”

               Your voice echoes off the rocks, bouncing down the narrow walkways between boulders. A handful of seagulls take to the sky, squawking at you as though cursing your existence.

               Then the silence sets in. For a brief moment, it seems nothing will answer your call… but then it gets hot. Too hot. Water on the rocks begins to evaporate in front of you, becoming steam that fogs the nearby area.

               You turn around and spot the source of the heat—an adult salamander.

               And you recognize him! The caves near your hometown, West Jin, are inhabited by three adult salamanders, all of which have lost their arcanists. This one is Linne, one of the males.

               At least… you think it is.

               Linne is large. He’s nineteen feet in length, and you’re pretty sure he weighs more than 2,000 pounds. His body is much like a crocodile—thick, wide, and with shorter legs. His tail swishes behind him, leaving a trail of embers that float on the ocean breeze. When he opens his giant maw, his throat is alight with flame.

               His eyes…

               They’re bright blue. Like the ocean. A cold and harsh juxtaposition to the brilliant red of his sturdy scales.

               When Linne lumbers toward you, his back leg nearly gives out. He’s “limping,” basically. Injured? No blood weeps from the injury, but [Academic Knowledge] you’re aware that salamanders can sometimes close wounds with molten rock to prevent excessive bleeding. They melt stone and patch it over injuries.

               “You’re a long way from home,” Linne says, his voice deep and gravely, but also laced with sadistic amusement. “Since when do library assistants make it out into the wilds?” The salamander laughs and dark smoke gushes from his throat and nose. “Pretty foolish of you to call out like that. You never know what will find you.”

               You’ve seen Linne multiple times throughout your life on the Isle of Haylin. Linne has always conducted himself as a protector—he guards the salamander caves, and watches over your hometown. He’s a hero, not a thug or bully…

               The heat causes you to sweat.

               Linne stands only ten feet away from you, his claws hot enough to wrap the stone under his feet.

               What do you do?

A) “Oh, oops. This isn’t where I parked my boat. I gotta go!” Run away.

B) “You’re not Linne. You’re that mischief maker!” 

C) “Enough games. What’re you doing here?”

D) “Right. Awesome. Look, I need a mystical creature, and you need a human. Let’s make a deal.”

E) “Hey, just give me your Trial of Worth and let’s get this over with.”

F) Pull out your knife. “I’m not going to be intimidated.”

G) “Oh, great and mighty creature, please let me take your Trial of Worth.” Bow.

[Part 11]

“You’re not Linne,” you say. “You’re that mischief maker!”

The giant salamander snorts and more smoke fills the area. With a laugh, he says, “You figure that out all by yourself? You must be the local genius—no mystery gets by you.”

Smiling, the salamander inhales and then exhales a torrent of red-hot flames. They fly by next to you, the heat catching part of your clothing on fire. You pat everything out and stagger away from the fire. Everything smells of burnt thread and cooked meat.

You’re not burned, but you suspect it wouldn’t be difficult for the massive salamander. Then again, when the mischief maker turns to face you fully, his back leg is still stiff and doesn’t support his weight. Likely the injury he received while fighting the other leviathan…

“Sorry, kid, but before you can go tell everyone on this island my secret, I’ll have to get rid of you… And I am rather hungry.”

The salamander flares his scales and flashes his fangs. Again, the temperature increases, and you’re already soaked in your own sweat. You could easily pass out from exhaustion and heat stroke.

[Academic Knowledge] You know that’s a tactic of salamander arcanists. Fight long enough for the enemy to become fatigued from the heat.

Your equipment: a rope, flint, rags, water, a book on mystical creatures, and a small knife.

What do you do?

A) “Wait, you’re gonna kill me to keep your secret?”

B) “Hear me out—you just bond with me, and then it’s our secret.”

C) Lie. “Wait, you don’t want to eat me! I’m diseased. It’s terrible. My insides are messed up.”

D) Lie. “Wait, please don’t eat me! I’m the only one who cares for my two sick little siblings!”

E) Throw your water at the creature and then stab it with your knife!

F) Throw your water at the creature and then run for safety!

G) “Pfft. I’m calling your bluff. You’re not going to kill me.”

[Part 12]

               “Hear me out,” you say. “Just bond with me, and then it’s our secret.”

               The mischief-maker salamander snorts more smoke. This time, the heat isn’t rising, but it remains at its oppressively sweltering temperature.

               You wipe the sweat from your brow as the giant salamander mulls over your comment.

               “It’ll never work,” he eventually says. “There’s a whole group of lunatic mystic seekers after me! If they find out where I am…” The beast shakes his head, sending more embers into the air. “They killed the last person who was trying to bond with me.”

               [Academic Knowledge] You do remember that mystic seekers are paid to bring back rare and usual mystical creatures—they’re often hired by royalty or wealthy merchants. You’ve never heard of them killing people, however…

               You’re also aware, from rumors on the ports, that some “mystic seekers” are just smugglers in disguise. They go from island to island, stealing rare and usual mystical creatures so they can either make unique trinkets, or sell them off to pirates and blackhearts with gold to spare.

               Blue phoenixes were the target many years ago…

               “I’m pretty sure these tryhards are gonna chase me all the way to the moon and back,” the salamander says. “Kill anyone who bonds to me—because I’m just that great.” He holds his reptilian head high. “You think a book-pusher, like yourself, would live very long with goons chasing them at every hour of the day?”

               What do you do?

A) “I’m not afraid of mystic seekers.”

B) “Brains, not brawn, will win the day. Trust me.”

C) “Let me lay down a simple fact: you’re terrible at hiding. You need some help.”

D) “Yikes. People will try to kill me? No deal.” Leave.

E) Lie. “Little did you know, but I trained in the ancient art of island grappling. You’ll be fine.”

F) “What are you, exactly?”

G) “If we’re together, no one is going to punk us. I guarantee it.”

[Part 13]

               “Let me lay out a simple fact,” you say. “You’re terrible at hiding. You need some help.”

               The giant salamander lifts his head at your comment, his lips curled back in a sneer. “I’m a master disguise artist.”

               He breathes flame near you, charring a bit of your trousers. You jump back and pat out the flames. The heat reddens your skin, but you aren’t hurt. You suspect it’s no worse than a terrible sunburn.

               “And I can be anything I need,” the salamander states.

               Before your eyes, the body of the creature shifts and changes. His scales flicker like fire, and then “burn away” to ash, disappearing into the ocean winds. Over the course of a few seconds, the salamander’s body basically disappears into cinders. What’s left behind is a strange sight…

               The gigantic mystical creature has turned into a tiny kitten.

               The kitten has tannish-orange fur, and his eyes are two different colors: one gray, one pink. He has a little bobtail, and longer ears than most domesticated cats. The ears remind you of a lynx—they end in tufts of fur.

               In one quick movement, the kitten arches his back and puffs his fur. He hisses a cute little kiss. “I’m a mighty mimic! Tremble in fear!” He then swings his little clawed paw.

               What do you do?

A) “D’aww. You’re a precious little kitty!” Kneel down and hold out your arms.

B) “Pfft. That’s it? I’m a dog person, sorry.”

C) “Being able to change shape is great, but don’t you want more magical power?”

D) “Curse the abyssal hells! It’s a mimic! I’m in trouble now!”

E) “Curse the abyssal hells! It’s a mimic! I’m in trouble now!” But you say it sarcastically.

F) [Academic Knowledge] “Mimics can stay transformed longer once they’re bonded. Let’s help each other out.”

[Part 14]

               “Mimics can stay transformed longer once they’re bonded,” you say matter-of-factly. “Let’s help each other out.”

               The little kitten mulls over your statement. He narrows his two-color eyes and paces in a small circle on the rocks. His short tail swishes back and forth, and his ears press back against his skull. You swear you can hear a tiny growl rumbling out of his feline body.

               After a huff and a stomp of his padded paw, the kitten sits down.

               “My name is Twain,” he proudly states. “And I’ll have you know that I’m very powerful and well-respected and feared across all the lands. All of them.” He sweeps a foreleg out in front of him. “Those mystic seekers are crazy! They have someone with them that stops me from transforming.” He droops a bit, his head hung and his ears down. “I don’t like that.”

               But then Twain bounces back and straightens himself. “I want to bond with someone tricksy! That’s the essence of being a mimic arcanist. Always having the upper hand, even when things look their bleakest.”

               Twain narrows his little kitten eyes at you. “You’re… Not tricksy at all.” He licks the top of his paw and then rubs it all over his face. Once he’s done, Twain turns his attention to the waning daylight. It’ll be night soon.

               “What’s your name?” Twain asks. “Or should I just call you Librarian?”

               What do you do?

A) “My name is Dawn.” And you’re a girl.

B) “My name is Don.” And you’re a boy.

C) “My name is Robyn.” And you’re a girl.

D) “My name is Robin.” And you’re a boy.

E) “My name is Riley.” And you’re neutral.

F) “My name is Yu.” Because you embody sarcasm.  

G) “My name is actually Librarian.” And you hold up your book.

H) “My name is Mark.” And then you give him finger guns.

Part 15

               “My name is actually librarian,” you say.

               Then you grab your book from your satchel and flip it open so the mimic can see. Twain walks over, his ears erect. Then he stares at the first page. There’s a list of names—the people who have checked out the book.

               Typically, people write their full name when the borrow they tome from the Haylin Library, but if someone forgets, you write “Librarian” in the blank spot to at least show that it had been borrowed. This specific book had the name “Librarian” written down several times.

               It makes it look like perhaps someone is named Librarian.

               The mimic narrows his little kitten eyes at the page.

               “Really?” he balks. “Your name is Librarian?” Twain laughs. “Your parents must’ve hated you. Who can blame them with looks like yours, am I right?” He snorts a small cat snort. “You’d be more impressive if you trained up your physique. Too bad there isn’t a workout for your face.”

               Twain laughs again.

               Last you checked, you weren’t hideous. You suspect the mimic likes to get under people’s skin.

               Before you can tuck your book away, the mimic continues his speech.

               “Look—I’m going to be serious now. You seem nice, even if you’re not clever.” He waves his kitten paw through the air. “So, it would be cruel to bond with you. People are going to come to kill you and take me away. Do you really want that?”

               Twain tilts his head to the side, his ears twitching. “We’re just wrong for each other. And two wrongs don’t make a right. Just look at your parents.”

               Again, the mimic laughs at his own joke.

               What do you do?

A) “Are you done?” Hit him on the head with the book. “Ha! Tricked you. My name isn’t Librarian.”

B) “I don’t care about a bunch of thugs. I’m intelligent, not prank-happy child. I’ll just outsmart these black hearts and stay one step ahead.”

C) “Listen, you sound like a lot of drama. I’m just going to leave you here.”

D) “Okay—how about, you’re the brains of the outfit, and I’ll be your sidekick?”

E) “Those statements really hurt my feelings.”

F) Pick up the kitten and pet him. “D’aww. You’re so cute when you meow.”

G) “If you DON’T bond with me, what’re you going to do? Make witty comments till your enemies die of boredom?”

Part 16

               “Are you done?” you ask.

               Then you hit the mimic on the head with your book. It’s not hard—the little kitten looks more indignant than hurt.

               With a smile, you say, “Ha! Tricked you. My name isn’t Librarian.”

               Twain takes his paw and smooths the orange fur on his head. “Pfft. Yeah? Well…” He jumps onto his four paws and puffs up, his fur standing on end. “Fight me, punk. I’ll transform into a leviathan or a salamander and I’ll take you!”

               You suspect the mimic is at his limit. Since he’s so young, and unbonded, he probably can’t transform any more without resting or eating.

               The kitten hisses as you and then swipes his paw.

               “If you DON’T bond with me, what’re you going to do?” you ask. “Make witty comments till your enemies die of boredom?”

               Twain calms himself a bit. His fur returns to normal, his stub-tail droops, and his long ears hang low on the side of his head. He takes a small breath and stares at the rocks near your feet. “All my siblings bonded with people… but that didn’t save them.” He suddenly lifts his head and ears tall. “I thought I could handle it all on my own!”

               With a sigh, he gets quiet again. “I guess… It would be better to bond. And…” He snorts and laughs once. “You did trick me once. But just once. That’s nothing to get cocky about, bub.”

               Twain walks over and nuzzles your leg, purring as he does so.

               That’s when you feel something unlike anything else. Magic touches your innermost thoughts and being. A special connection—something life altering.

               The mimic wants to bond.

               What do you do?

A) Reject the bond. “Ha! Tricked you again.” Kick the kitten and leave.

B) Accept the bond. “Don’t worry. We’re not going to lose to those mystic seekers!”

C) Reject the bond. “On second thought… No.”

D) Accept the bond. “Hey. I’m your arcanist now. You’ve got to be nicer to me.”

E) Accept the bond, and say nothing.

F) Accept the bond. Then pick up Twain, and hug him tight. “I love kittens, by the way.”

G) Accept the bond. “From now on, you listen to me. I’m in charge.”

Part 17

               You accept the bond.

               A feeling of power floods you. And then it vanishes as quickly as it came. Your forehead burns as the arcanist mark permanently embeds itself into your skin. Unlike most arcanists, who have a seven-pointed star of magic and an image of their eldrin, you only have a star. A blank star.

               [Academic Knowledge] You’re not worried—you know that’s standard for mimic arcanists. The star will shift whenever the mimic is transformed.

               Twain stops nuzzling your leg and glances up at you. He tries to jump up—but he’s just a kitten. Instead, he hooks his claws into your trousers and climbs up your clothing, gently poking you with his claws the entire way.

               Once he reaches your shirt, he claws his way to your shoulder, grunting the whole way. “You’re like a… a mountain…” he says between huffs. Once he reaches your shoulder, he plops himself down and holds on for dear life. “Carry me,” he commands, breathless.

               The sun sets, and the day comes to an end. It was rather eventful, but the island isn’t done celebrating yet. Bonfires have been lit by the eastern beaches—it’s the Arcanist Festival. It happens after the salamander Trials of Worth, so long as at least one person bonded with a creature.

               The Arcanist Festival is beautiful and glorious, filled with food, games, and music. The entire island celebrates, even if they aren’t arcanists themselves. Sometimes, even famous arcanists visit the island to join.

               This year, you’re pretty sure a few guild arcanists will be attendance—the ones who were summoned to deal with the wendigo.

                You can see the faint glow of the bonfires in the distance.

               Twain perks up his long ears. “Is that meat I smell?” His nose and whiskers twitch. “Cooked meat. The best meat.”

               What do you do?

A) “Let’s go to the Arcanist Festival and introduce ourselves!”

B) “Let’s go to the Arcanist Festival, but stay hidden and in the shadows.”

C) “Let’s go to the Arcanist Festival, but pretend to be a leviathan arcanist.”

D) “Let’s go home. We’ve had a long day.”

E) “That’s the Arcanist Festival. Do you want to go?”

Part 18

               “The Arcanist Festival,” you say. “Do you want to go?”

               Twain twitches his ears and pats his paw on his lips. “I say we get close, and you use your new mimic magic for the first time, all right?”

               From what you remember, a mimic arcanist can force his eldrin to transform, but you’re not sure how that’s accomplished. The confusion must be on your face because Twain snorts and half-laughs.

               “Don’t worry.” He urges you forward by tugging on your sleeve. “I’ll teach you everything you need to know. Now get to that festival!”

               Together the two of you leave the rocky landscape and head for the eastern beach. The crisp evening air is made colder by the ocean. You shiver back the chill as you find a small road and head to your hometown of West Jin. Twain remains on your shoulder, and occasionally you catch him purring. Whenever you glance over, however, he stops and looks away.

               Although you haven’t used any of your magic, there’s something different about you. Each step you take is easier, like you’ve gained a whole new reserve of energy.

               West Jin was built more tall than wide. The buildings are two stories—a couple three stories—and the trees stretch so high you swear they touch the clouds at some points. Monkeys are seen on the branches, some hiding in the fern-like leaves of the palms. They’re mischief makers, all of them. The locals know to avoid them, but tourists always get their lunches stolen.

               The city is deserted.

               Obviously.

               Everyone is at the Arcanist Festival.

               But right as you step onto the main street that splits the whole city in half, Twain tenses and arches his back.

               With a growl in his voice, he says, “Something is nearby…”

               Someone stumbles out onto the street. He’s scrawny, and his dark hair has grown so long it touches his shoulders. You recognize him—it’s Wyre. Another fifteen-year-old from West Jin.

               You don’t really know Wyre, though. He moved here a year ago, and rumors follow him like a second shadow. He’s an orphan.

               He’s also wearing a long cloak and a black tricorn cap. Most caps don’t cover a person’s forehead completely, but Wyre has gone out of his way to wrap his forehead with a bandana.

               Wyre seems to be alone.

               When he spots you, he holds his breath, his dark eyes wide.

               “What’re you doing here?” Wyre asks, almost angry.

               What do you do?

A) “Oh, wait. This isn’t where I parked my boat.” Leave.

B) “I could ask you the same question.”

C) “Are you okay?”

D) “I’m just heading to the beach to show off my mimic.” Motion to Twain.

E) “I’m an arcanist now. I’ll do what I want.”

F) Say nothing.  

Part 19

               “I could ask you the same question,” you say.

               Wyre stands straight and then fixes his hat to be more secure on his head. “You should be at the beach,” he says in an accusing tone. He moves closer to the narrow alley from which he stumbled out of. “No one should be here…”

               Twain’s ears twitch. Then he narrows his eyes. “Hey. What’re you hiding, bub? I can sense it… A mystical creature is nearby…”

               [Academic Knowledge] You know that mimics can sense other magical creatures. If Twain was older—and the two of you had trained your magic—he would know the identity of the nearby mystical creature, but right now, Twain is still young. He can’t sense the species of the creature.

               Wyre glances between you and the mimic. “You… You’re an arcanist? I didn’t even know a mimic was on this island…”

               He blocks the alleyway between buildings. It’s rather small—just a few feet wide—and he seems determined to position his body so you can’t see beyond him.

               “Just get out of here,” Wyre says. “Let’s pretend that neither of us saw each other, okay? I won’t tell anyone about you, and you won’t tell anyone about me.”

               Twain rubs his paw against his chin. “Something fishy is going on here. And it smells like a fish straight out of the abyssal hells.”

               What do you do?

A) “Okay. I won’t tell anyone you were here.” Leave.

B) Push Wyre out of the way. “What’re you hiding, huh?”

C) “You could just tell me what’s going on. Like a sane person.”

D) “I didn’t know a mimic was here either. Did you bond with anything?”

E) “Are you in danger? I could help.”

F) Say nothing and leave.

Part 20

               “Are you in danger?” you ask. “I could help.”

               Wyre holds his breath for a moment, obviously surprised by your statement. For a brief moment, he relaxes, but it’s seriously brief. He hardens his expression to something neutral and glowers at you.

               “Listen,” he says. “If you really want to help, you’ll help me get to the docks. I… I want to get off the island as quickly as possible. Before someone finds me.”

               Twain twitches his long ears. “Hmm. Super suspicious. Let me guess, you bonded with something you shouldn’t have, and now some guild arcanists are after you.”

               “I-I never said that,” Wyre says through gritted teeth. “How could you possibly know what’s happened?”

               “I didn’t.” Twain licks a paw. “But your reaction told me I’m right.”

               There’s a long pause between the three of you. Something moves behind Wyre—in the alleyway—and then it’s followed by a low growl. You suspect whatever is in the alleyway is large. But you still can’t see it.

               “Well?” Wyre snaps. “Will you help me?” He takes a moment to swallow air—and possibly his pride—to add, “Please?”

               What do you do?

A) “Sure. I’ll help you get to the docks.”

B) “What? Never. You’re on your own.” Leave.

C) “Tell me what you’re bonded to, and then I’ll help you.”

D) “Tell me what you’re bonded to, and then I’ll think about it.”

E) “What’s in it for me?”

F) “Twain, what’s your opinion?”

Part 21

               “Tell me what you’re bonded to,” you say. “Then I’ll help you.”

               Wyre scratches at the bandana over his forehead while he mulls over your request. Then he gives you the once over, like he’s trying to determine if you’re trustworthy or not.

               “C’mon,” Twain says. “We know all about running from our problems. I’m on the run from mystic seekers, and my arcanist is obviously afraid of exercise. We can help you out.”

               While you’re obviously more inclined to the mental pursuit, you aren’t weak. Just normal. You suspect Twain likes poking fun at anything, though.

               After that declaration, Wyre sighs and then steps out of the way. The alleyway is dark, and it takes a moment for your eyes to pierce the shadows enough to see the sole occupant. It’s a wendigo—but not a puppy, a full-blown adult wendigo.

               Black fur. Large antlers. Claws that look like they could slice through a whole tuna. The skull over the wendigo’s face is cracked, however… Like it smashed half its face on a rock and fragments of the skull were lost forward.

               And it’s bleeding. You know because of [Academic Knowledge] that wendigo are emaciated in appearance, but this one is far worse. You suspect it might die soon—its four legs tremble as it tries to walk out of the alleyway.

               “I second-bonded with him,” Wyre says as he rushes to the wendigo’s side. “The guild arcanists are saying he’s dangerous, but Helvinder was just trying to protect his puppies. And it’s not his fault he was brought to this island. I’m doing everyone a favor by taking him away.”

               Twain wiggles his nose. “Ew. Dogs.” Then he turned to you, his little kitten eyes narrowed. “The guild arcanists are gonna get mad if we sneak a criminal off the island.”

               “You said you’d help me,” Wyre states, anger in his words. “Are you going to keep your promise or not?”

               What do you do?

A) “I’ll help you.” Help them sneak onto a ship.

B) “Well, that was before I knew you had a dangerous man-eating eldrin.” Leave.

C) “I’m not going against guild arcanists.” Leave.

D) “First off, I’m plenty strong. Second, I can handle this.” Help them sneak onto a ship.

E) “We should just talk to the guild arcanists and resolve this.”

F) “Twain, transform into a wendigo. Let’s stop them ourselves.”

G) “Twain, what do you want to do?”

Part 22

               “I’ll help you,” you say.

               Wyre’s eyebrows shoot for his hairline. For a short moment, he says nothing, but once the shock has worn off, he nods once. “Thank you.” Then he motions to the fully grown wendigo. “Come, Helvinder.”

               With a slight growl on his breath, Twain says, “I’m going to have to transform into a dog at some point, aren’t I?”

               Nobody answers. The four of you turn away from the city—and from the Arcanist Festival—and head for the docks. The cold night air rushes by, carrying cold salty water from the waves of the ocean. Wyre shivers, but he doesn’t seem concerned with himself. He fusses with Helvinder, trying to apply pressure to the wound, and help his eldrin along.

               Spots of blood mark your trail.

               It doesn’t take long for you to reach the docks.

               Everyone is at the Arcanist Festival—except for one lone dock worker. You recognize him (because you recognize everyone who lives and works on this island). It’s Pimma! She’s an older woman, in her late forties, who has a slight drinking problem.

               Which means all she drinks is ale and rum.

               And sure enough, she’s sitting on a chair at the edge of the dock, a mug in one hand, and an old fishing pole in the other. In a loud “singing” voice, she shouts some old sea shanties. They aren’t good, and she forgets half the words.

               “Oh, yo, he, ho, and somethin’ bout ladies,” Pimma sings. “I sold my soul for some… uh… padies.”

               You and Wyre stand near the dockmaster’s building.

               There are three boats. A little dinghy, a one masted island-hopping vessel, and the guild arcanist’s galley ship—it’s rather impressive, sleek, and attention grabbing.

               Pimma farts, interrupting your train of thought.

               Twain snorts and has to cover his mouth with a paw.

               “I think I should take the island hopper,” Wyre whispers to you, completely ignoring your childish eldrin. “Distract Pimma for me? I’ll owe you everything I have.”

                What do you do?

A) “Okay.” Run out and distract Pimma.

B) “No, just take the dinghy. They won’t think it’s odd if it goes missing.”

C) “No. Take the guild arcanist ship. No one can catch you then.”

D) “Just sneak aboard the guild arcanist boat and hide.”

E) “Just sneak aboard the island hopper and hide.”

F) “What do you think, Twain?”

G) Run out to the dock and push Pimma into the ocean.

Part 23

               “No, just take the dinghy,” you say. “They won’t think it’s odd if it goes missing.”

               Wyre slowly nodded. “All right. But I still need you to distract Pimma.”

               His wendigo, Helvinder, takes a ragged breath. “Her flesh… it would help me recover.”

               Silence settles between you. Wyre’s expression doesn’t change—like he’s not even surprised by this suggestion, and he’s giving it serious consideration.

               [Academic Knowledge] You know that wendigoes are man-eaters. As a matter of fact, the stories that revolve around wendigo typically involve cannibalism. It’s regarded as “common knowledge” that wendigo arcanists must eat human flesh to bond with a wendigo.

               Perhaps Wyre didn’t have to do that… You’re not sure.

               Twain twitches his large ears. “Hm. Well, on one paw, if Helvinder gets some food and rest, he’ll probably be strong enough to hide from guild arcanist. On the other paw, eating an older woman for selfish means seems like the actions of a blackheart.”

               Your eldrin turned to you, his gray eye and pink eye narrowed in suspicion. “You don’t seem like you have the stomach for such a route.”

               What do you do?

A) “I’ll just distract Pimma by talking to her.”

B) “I’ll just distract Pimma by pushing her into the water.”

C) “Let’s fight Pimma, so Helvinder can feed.”

D) “Actually, let’s just sneak. Wendigoes are good at sneaking, right?”

E) Run around the dock wildly flailing your arms.

F) “Twain, transform into a creature and scare the lady.”

G) “Twain, just pick what we’re going to do.”

Part 24

               “I’ll distract Pimma by talking to her,” you say.

               Wyre nods, and places a hand on his injured wendigo. Before you head out to deal with Pimma, they both seem anxious, and Wyre actually holds out a hand.

               “Thank you,” he whispers, though it’s quick, and you almost can’t hear it.

               You continue over to the docks and smile as you approach Pimma. Although you aren’t hidden in your approach, the moment you get close, Pimma flinches back, her eyes wide. Then she softens and returns your smile, though her eyes are bloodshot, and her hands are gripped tight around a wine bottle.

               “You scared the good spirit right out of me,” she says. Pimma then sighs, takes another swing of her drink, and then relaxes. “What’re you doin’ here? Shouldn’t you be at the Arcanist Festival? Or at the library?”

               You mimic eldrin purrs slightly as he says, “I’m glad you asked, fellow island citizen. You see, we have a perfectly good explanation for being here. Totally average and well thought out, I assure you.”

               Pimma slowly nods along with Twain’s words, but her gaze loses a bit of focus.

               With a quick pat of his paw, Twain taps your cheek. “My arcanist, explain to the lady why we’re here.” He then adds with a whisper, “You got this.”

               What do you do?

A) “Hello, fellow island citizen. I am here to inspect your… booze.”

B) “Pimma, I came here to get you. Everyone should celebrate at the festival.”

C) “Pimma, the guild arcanists want to question you. Come with me.”

D) “Pimma, it’s my turn to guard the boats. Go home.”

E) “I’m lost. How do I get to the beach?”

F) “I came to show you a trick. Watch this.” Dance around crazy like.

G) “There’s a guy trying to escape guild arcanists nearby. Help me catch him.”

[Part 25]

               “Pimma, I came here to get you,” you say. “Everyone should celebrate at the festival.”

               On three occasions, you’ve proven yourself to be a kind individual. When given the option to hurt or maim, you instead take the path of empathy and understanding. Not only will you have [Academic Knowledge] as insight to situations, but you’ll also have [Empathic Insight] whenever dealing with difficult individuals.

               Pimma half looks at you, and then half looks at your mimic. Twain regards the woman with narrowed eyes and his ears twitching, but he says nothing.

               Then Pimma pushes herself out of her chair and smiles. “Everyone should be celebratin’. I never understood why I was left out. Who’s gonna do anything with the boats, right? The wind?”

               “They are sail boats,” Twain says, glancing at the guild book and island hopper.

               Pimma chuckles and pats you on the shoulder. “Ya know, you’re a good kid. People don’t say that enough sometimes.” She burps and then pets Twain with a rough motion. “I like house cats.”

               With a deep frown, Twain slowly turns to you. “My fur is sticky now. Why is it sticky?”

               Pimma slowly wanders off the dock and toward the festivities. You suspect she was too drunk to realize it was Twain who was speaking, and not you.

               All alone on the dock, you motion Wyre and Helvinder to join you. The sickly wendigo is half-carried by his arcanist. Together, they make their way to the dinghy. It was your idea to keep them safe—no one will suspect anything if the dinghy goes missing. They won’t be able to go far, however…

               “Thank you,” Wyre says again. He exhales, his breath coming out as mist on the cold night air. “I really do owe you one.” He places a hand on your shoulder. “When we meet again, I’ll help you in any way I can.”

               Then he helps his injured wendigo onto the small boat, and gets on him. Helvinder lies down and closes his eyes, his skull facemask obscuring most of his expression.

               Wyre rows away from the island, leaving you and Twain on the docks.

               It seems they’ll get away without anyone knowing.

               The winds pick up, and you glance around at the empty boats.

               Twain remains on your shoulder, his cute kitten form lightweight and easy to carry.

               What do you do?

A) Steal one of the other boats and head for a faraway port. [End this arc of the adventure]

B) Return home. You’ve had a hard day. [End this arc of the adventure]

C) Stay and guard the remaining boats.

D) Go join the Arcanist Festival.

E) “Twain, anything you want to do?”

Part 26

               You decide to join the Arcanist Festival.

               And why not? You’re arcanist now, and the entire island will be there. Well, except for Wyre. You made sure he would be safe, at least for the time being.

               With confidence in your step, you head to the beach, leaving the two boats to fend for themselves. Who’s going to take them? No one’s around. They’re perfectly safe.

               The lantern lights, bonfires, and rambunctious music made it easy to navigate your way through the streets of your humble town. The windows are dark, and the houses cold, but you know that no one will go home until dawn.

               Before you make it halfway, your mimic eldrin turns to you, his pointy ears twitching.

               “My arcanist,” Twain says. “I don’t want any of the mystic seekers to find me… So, I think I should transform into something else for the duration of the party.” He pats a paw to his lips. “Oh! I know. I’ll just take the form of a leviathan again! That girl already saw me as one, right? She’ll think you’re a leviathan arcanist, and everything will be perfect.”

               Before you can add any input, Twain narrows his little kitten eyes at you.

               “Don’t mess up our bluff, though. People are after me!”

               Then he leaps off your shoulder and lands on the cobblestone of the main streets. He huffs and then shakes around.

               Before transforming, he glances back at you, his short little bobtail up in the air. “Mimic arcanists can signal to their eldrin to transform, even when we’re not around. You know how you’re blinking without thinking about it? But if you think about blinking, you can control when it happens? That’s kinda how you can ask me to transform. Just… think about it. Okay? You got that? No confusion?”

               Then Twain curls up and transforms.

               In a matter of seconds, he shifts and writhes, and then erupts into scales, fins, and a serpent-like body.

               The mark on your forehead burns with inner magic. Instead of a blank star, you now have a leviathan wrapped around the points!

               Twain is rather large, now. You remember from the cove—he’s practically an anaconda.

               “Let’s go,” he says in his deeper voice. “But not too long… This form is straining me… I’m still young!”

               The two of you head over to the largest beach on the island—South Shore! There’s a lively atmosphere, and you can hear the pulse of celebration, even through the sand.

               Every person here seems to be in one of two gatherings. The first is around Nini! She has her leviathan, and people are asking her questions or offering her food.

               The other person is… Brixin! He’s so tall and beafy, it’s hard to miss him.

               And he has a baby salamander by his feet! The red-scaled lizard is adorable, and Brixin is showing him to everyone who walks by.

               What do you do?

A) Gather your own crowd. “Look at my leviathan, everyone!”

B) Walk over to Nini’s group. “Hey, girl. What a coincidence, am I right?”

C) Walk over to Nini’s group. “Hey, Nini! It’s me! Look!”

D) Walk over to Brixin’s group. “Hey, there! I’m an arcanist, too!”

E) Walk over to Brixin’s group. “Pftt. You call that a mystical creature?”

F) Stand around until people notice your eldrin.

G) Search around for the librarian to tell him first.

Part 27

               You decide to search the Arcanist Festival to find the librarian first.

               Fortunately, it doesn’t take you long to spot him. He’s a rather eccentric man—he loves his hats more than the fishermen love their nets. Today, the librarian has opted to wear a pointed leather hat. It’s black as the night, with white stitching. It matches his dark tunic and puffy cloth pants.

               What was his name again?

               Sorric Til the Librarian.

               Sorric is having a drink near the edge of the beach, where the sand meets the city. He sips at his decorative goblet, chatting with anyone and everyone who gets close.

               As you walk over, you garner a bit of attention. Twain is a gigantic leviathan, and he can’t really remain hidden. No one speaks to you, though. They point and whisper.

               “It’s the librarian’s apprentice!” one said.

               “They’re an arcanist… Thank the good stars,” another muttered.

               When you reach Sorric, his eyes go wide as saucers.

               “Is that a leviathan?” He points, his volume set to the max. “Joyous days!” He pushes his way through the crowd of people and then throws his arms around you in a tight embrace. “I can’t believe it! I knew you were off galivanting about… but I never expected you to return an arcanist!”

               “Watch it, buddy,” Twain says as a leviathan, his voice dark. “That’s my arcanist you’re touching.”

               Sorric holds you at arm’s length. The laugh lines on his face are prominent. So is the faint mark on his forehead. Over a decade ago, Sorric’s eldrin, a relickeeper, had died, leaving Sorric with the faint dragon-shaped scar.

               His black hair is laced with white, but he hasn’t yet given up on the color.

               “I never imagined you would bond with a leviathan,” Sorric says with a frown. “You just don’t’… seem like the type. Not that I’m insulting you. No. Far from it. I just thought… I thought you’d be the perfect fit for something else.”

               You go to open your mouth, to say something either for or against, you spot a couple people pushing through the crowd—right toward you.

               And you don’t recognize them. Which is crazy—you know everyone who lives here. The only logical conclusion is that they’re guild arcanists, or mystic seekers. All guild arcanists wear pendants…

               And these guys aren’t wearing pendants.

               What do you do?

A) “The leviathans accepted me! You can ask Nini about it.”

B) “I have to go!” Run away!

C) “Yeah, Twain is amazing. I love Leviathans.”

D) “Twain is a special leviathan.”

E) “Twain, look out!” Throw some food at the mystic seekers.

F) Try to disappear into the crowd. “Twain! Drop the disguise!”

G) “Sorric, can we go to the library? I have things to tell you.”

H) “Twain!” Point to the men. “What’re we going to do?”

Part 28

               “Sorric, can we go to the library?” you say. “I have things to tell you.”

               The librarian tilts his head, his massive wizard hat almost falling off his head. “Is that right? Well, okay. Let’s go.”

               You turned to Twain, and your leviathan eldrin gives you a little wink. “Hop on.” He motioned to his back.

               While Twain isn’t huge, he’s still the size of a full-grown anaconda. You suspect you could hold onto his back and allow him to take you through the city at faster rates than you would go walking.

               The moment you grab onto him, Twain takes off through the crowd, over the sands of the beach, and straight back into the empty, dark city. You glance back at the librarian. He waves to you.

               “See you at the library! Oof!

               The mystic seekers slam into him as they rush to follow you. Twain is fast, but he’s still slithering around like a snake. Once you reach the road, however, he shimmers and shifts. Your forehead hurts, and Twain grows in size underneath you.

               He transforms into an adult salamander!

               “Let’s go!” Twain said.

               He runs across the streets at quicker speeds than when he was a leviathan.

               Heat pulses in your palms.

               The salamander is a creature of pure earth and fire.

               What do you do?

A) Try to use some of your magic.

B) “Let’s go down some back allies!”

C) “Transform back into a cat. We’ll hide until they’re gone!”

D) “Let’s turn around and fight them!”

E) Enjoy the ride.

F) “Woo! You’re amazing, Twain!”

Part 29

               While Twain is a salamander, you decide you’re going to try using your magic.

               [Academic Knowledge] Evocation is the easiest, and fastest, ability that most arcanists learn. Since Twain has shapeshifted into a salamander, you should be able to evoke fire.

               With one hand, you hold onto the salamander. With the other, you point your palm to the sky. You don’t have anyone around to teach you, so you just… try things. At first you try flexing your arm muscles, and then you try waving your hand. No fire.

               Twain glances back as he runs through the city, panting and huffing the whole way. Then he finally growls, “Imagine the fire within you. Escaping.”

               You take a deep breath and focus on what Twain said. Allowing the fire to escape you. That’s when you feel the pulse of magic through your body. It erupts outward and creates a small ember that wafts off your palm and floats into the night sky.

               Then Twain turns, breaking your concentration.

               You’ve arrived at the Haylin Library! It’s… not very large. As a matter of fact, it’s two buildings built together. One is a local schoolhouse, and the other is the library. They’re merged together to give the students easier access to the books, scrolls, and tomes.

               It’s over a hundred years old, and it shows. Dirty, thick windows. Worn doors. Wood of varying colors.

               Twain is huffing and puffing, and when you dismount, he immediately transforms back into an orange kitten. He collapses to the ground. If he could sweat, he’d be swimming in a pool of his own fluids.

               “Carry me,” he whines, his voice half a meow.

               You scoop him up and head into the library. It’s easy—you know how to get in, even when it’s locked. You’ve been an apprentice here for years. You crawl through a window you know can’t lock.

               Once inside, you light a lantern and head into the back. Obviously, the librarian isn’t here yet, so you place Twain on a desk and allow him to catch his breath.

               With a purr, Twain says, “Thank you… But I could’ve done it myself, if I needed.”

               [Empathic Insight] You’re fairly certain Twain has been alone a long time. He doesn’t want to be “weak” because he has to be tough at all times.

               Before you can deal with Twain, the front door opens, and Sorric the Librarian enters. He takes off his large wizard hat and hangs it on a hook. Several other hats are on display, and he immediately takes his “indoor cap”—a fluffy brown thing that keeps Sorric warm at night.

               “Oh, my,” he says as he hurried over to you. His old relickeeper mark on his forehead is faded and cracked, but it’s easy to see once he’s so close. “It seems odd things are happening tonight!”

               Sorric glances at Twain, and then to you. “A mimic?” His intelligent eyes seem to put everything together in an instant. “Ah. I know now why the mystic seekers are here… They want your mimic! The pelt of the mimic can make powerful trinkets and artifacts, after all.”

               What do you do?

A) “Uh, can you send the seekers away?”

B) “How do you know about mimic pelts?”

C) “What kind of items?”

D) “His name is Twain. He’s a little grumpy, but I already love him.”

E) “What do you think I should do?”

F) “How much do you think the seekers will pay for him?”

G) Say nothing.

Part 30

               “His name is Twain,” you say. “He’s a little grumpy, but I already love him.”

               Your mimic takes a seat in the middle of the desk. “I’ll give you an autograph. You’re welcome.” His long ears point up, and he smiles a feline smile.

               Sorric strokes his chin as he leans down close to your eldrin. “Fascinating. I haven’t seen a mimic in some time. They’re quite rare, you know. Very valuable.”

               Twain’s ears flatten back, and his smile disappears in an instant. “I’ll have you know that I’m priceless.” He stands, turns around quickly, and then leaps onto your shoulder.

               Well, he tries. Twain fumbles for a bit, obviously still a kitten, and you help him onto your shoulder with a gentle pat. Once he’s settled, you turn to the librarian.

               Your old mentor straightens his fuzzy brown cap as he mulls the situation over.

               “The mystic seeker will be here soon,” Sorric mutters. He stares at the floor as he thinks. “Attacking you would be criminal, but some of these seekers can get vicious. I wouldn’t trust them to stay civil. By the abyssal hells, I wouldn’t trust them to deliver groceries.”

               “What should we do, then?” Twain asked. “I wanted to stay hidden, but those monsters won’t relent.”

               “They must’ve been offered a large reward.” Sorric snapped his fingers. “That settles it. You need to get to the mainland and report this to one of the larger guilds. I’ll travel with you.” He starts grabbing books, a few bags, a couple scrolls with maps, and even two more hats. “Here, help me pack.” He throws you a bag.

               What do you do?

A) “We should go to a guild that keeps the peace.” [Ends this arc of the story.]

B) “We should go to a guild that trains knights.” [Ends this arc of the story.]

C) “We should go to a guild that explores the world and helps people.” [Ends this arc of the story.]

D) “We should go to the largest and strongest guild out there.” [Ends this arc of the story.]

E) “Let’s go to the mainland, but no guilds.”

F) “Twain, what do you think?”

Part 31

               “We should go to a guild that explores the world and helps people,” you say.

               Sorric nods along with your words. As he stuffs his bag with some maps, rope, flint, and a couple hats, he ponders the situation. Twain watches with his kitten eyes narrowed.

               His little bobtail twitches.

               “I know of a few guilds on the mainland.” Once Sorric is finished packing, he motions to the back of the library. There’s a narrow exit out the south side of the building. “Come, come. Adventure awaits, and you don’t want to keep it waiting.”

               At that comment, your eldrin smiles. “Oh, okay. I can see why you apprenticed with this guy. I like him already.” He leaps back onto the shoulder and holds on with his tiny claws.

               You grab some supplies, tuck them all in your bag, and head for the door. The library doesn’t have much—a few books on survival, some cloth, some more rope, and ink to write—but you have more than before, and a way to carry it all.

               “There’s a schoolmaster who runs an academy,” Sorric says as he takes you to the exit. “We go way back. You’ll never find a better artificer.”

               As you exit out the back of the building, your heart beats with excitement. Leaving the Isle of Haylin is a gigantic milestone! From this day forward, you may never be the same…

END OF ARC I

You gained…

[Empathic Insight]

A mimic eldrin

A backpack (filled with cloth, rope, three books on survival, and ink)

               Overall, you were flexible and compassionate to others, often going far beyond the norm to accommodate people who seemed in distress. You helped Nini bond with a leviathan, and you even helped the enigmatic Wyre escape the island with his wendigo in tow.

               Now, with the master librarian, you head to the mainland to avoid mystic seekers after your kitten mimic.

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