New to the Pondathon’s story?
Read this prologue first or read the previous chapter.
With the first morning light, its soft glow shining on the Pond, the forest begins to wake – and so does Sprout’s magic.
As the trees arouse from their rest and the flowers unfurl, Sprout can now feel the hum of the forest, the hum of life. Everything in this world is connected, Sprout knows. A young shoot and an old oak may weather different worlds, but they are still connected to one infinite well of the earth – the greatest and oldest magic of all.
For Sprout, magic isn’t summoning or harnessing raw elements into power. Rather, they intertwine their magic with that of the earth. For Sprout, magic is openness, feeling, connection. Sprout inhales, and with their deep and steady exhale (and a slight wobble of the sprout on their head), they branch out with their magic – intertwining their magic with the roots buried deep into the earth, feeling the flutter of a leaf in a distant tree, and the drop of morning dew fall onto the Pond.
And that’s why, in a distant place entrenched in darkness, Sprout sees it, feels it – a light in the dark.
Can it be? Could this be…?
Sprout only allows themself one more moment of hesitation. They then take flight.
At the Pond, Xiaolong wakes when the light of morning shines on her face. As she gets up from a much-insisted rest by Varian, the first thing she feels is dread. Her sleep wasn’t as restful as she had hoped – it was plagued with nightmares, of the magical boundary shattering again, and her friends getting hurt. Moreover, her magic is waning. Over the last few days, her connection to the Pond has been growing weaker. Last week, she couldn’t bear to cast powerful magic – she had no magic left – and had no choice but to harness the Pond’s magic. Is the Pond’s magic depleting because she drew from its well of magic? Or is she growing weaker, her magic now near gone?
But when Xiaolong gets to the breach, she notices that something is different.
The Pond friends at the breach seem to be pushing the darkness further away with ease. She watches, amazed, as the Pond’s fighters gain one inch, two inches, three inches. More, the shadows seem to be smaller, seem to dissolve into plumes of dark smoke with fewer blasts of magic or fewer arrows.
Before Xiaolong can grasp the weight of this, she hears a chirp in the distance: “Xiaolong!”
Xiaolong whips around, and sees Sprout flapping their wings to the rhythm of Xiaolong’s racing heartbeat.
“Sprout!” calls Xiaolong, running to her friend.
“Our friend has found the heart of the darkness!” they chirp. “We have to get there!”
The sound of her voice almost makes your knees give way.
You turn to see Xiaolong, in the distance and running as fast as she can towards you, with Sprout flying by her side.
“Friend!” chirps Sprout, the sprout atop their head glowing slightly. “Are you okay? I felt your presence – are you here by yourself?”
You look around for Party, but the little otter is gone. Your first thought is that she might have been hurt, but, knowing what you know now, you have a feeling that the little otter would only be seen if she wanted to.
Before you can answer, Xiaolong’s face lights up with a big smile. “Friend! Wow! I always knew you were a good and powerful being! I had a feeling that you were just hiding your prowess from us!”
What happens next happens in an instant. One moment, Xiaolong is there, smiling at you. The next, she is gone, her staff clattering on the ground. You hear a squeal, and see that a tendril of darkness has wrapped around Xiaolong’s foot, pulling her towards the heart of the darkness.
“No! Xiaolong!” shrieks Sprout. Without a second thought, Sprout channels magic from the earth, drawing the power of anything that will listen to them and lend them their strength and power. Roots shoot from the ground, and wrap themselves around Xiaolong’s body. Xiaolong groans as she is pulled in two directions.
“Friend,” whimpers Sprout. “The darkness is stealing Xiaolong’s magic, but it won’t be able to cast any spells until it releases her.” Sprout widens their stance and waves their wings in a pull motion, channelling more of the earth’s magic. “You’re going to have to cast a big spell to sever the darkness’s connection to all magic.”
Hands trembling, you pick up Xiaolong’s staff. The weathered wood is familiar in your hands, and feels heavy with the weight of all the memories you spent together with your friends at the Pond. Despite your best efforts, the last few weeks have taken their toll on you too. Your fingers curl around the staff. You don’t know if you’re ready.
You think of everyone at the brink of the Pond’s breach, fighting their hardest to preserve the beautiful sanctuary you’ve begun to call home. You breathe.
You open yourself to the Pond’s magic, channeling your power and your memories into Xiaolong’s staff.
Xiaolong’s staff glows with your magic, your power, your heart.
This is the end. And you are ready for it.
You’ve received a quest!
While Sprout holds onto Xiaolong, it’s now up to you to save Xiaolong – and to save the Pond. You need to cast one spell to defeat the darkness, one spell to sever the darkness’s connection to magic. This is going to be a powerful spell, perhaps the most powerful spell you’ve ever cast — and you cannot do it alone.
Quest expires on:
5th March 2020, 9:00PM NZT 7th March 2020, 9:00PM NZT [?]
- Read, read, read! Together with all the participants of the Pondathon, collectively read and submit a total of 50,000 pages or more to cast a powerful spell to defeat the darkness.
- Bonus: If we all collectively and successfully read a total of 50,000 pages or more, everyone who submits progress will automatically earn the quest reward item: Wings of Hope.
- Note: The Wings of Hope quest reward item cannot be earned with time-magic.
- There is no minimum pages read required to earn the quest reward item – but if we do not reach out goal, no one will earn the badge!