Part 1: Statue With Brass

The party arrive at Saecoto by boat, pulled ashore onto a soft white-sand beach by a team of men receiving the ship. Stavroula is holding the scroll that summoned them to this place, a letter sent by Ardesco that merely reads "CUM C MY STATUE". Rikkard remarks on the pristine, beautiful beach and Stavroula supposes that it's because it resembles the primordian's sandy hair and beard. It's the first time Tor has set foot on a sand beach. Uusi is perched up in the crow's nest and looks out over the horizon - she reports that she cannot see the statue.

At the top of the ramp off the beach they are greeted by a short champagne-furred mousefolk with a tightly-drawn hair bun and a tall scarred rat woman with torn ears. The rat follows the mouse closely and holds her tail in the same way a couple would hold hands. The mouse woman welcomes the travelers and names herself Mayor Mouse, informing them that the tour will begin soon. She also informs them that Saecoto is celebrating their summer festival and they are in need of another team to compete in their games, but they will have to register with Taya and Ryker in town. Rikkard looks back over the beach and spots a structure in the distance which looks like a feet ball goal to him. Mayor Mouse breaks character, yelling at him and informing him that the structure is actually an important ruin that they will be able to look at closer during the tour. Stavroula informs everybody that she's the best at feet ball. Ida asks the mayor about Ardesco and is told that the residents of Saecoto venerate him for single-handedly winning last year's cranberry cup.

The tour commences and the party move into town. Tor and Stavroula remark on how some structures in this hidden away, largely unknown city are even taller than the ones in major cities like Silgate. Uusi sniffs dismissively and says she's seen bigger. Ida asks Stavroula if she's really meeting a friend of hers here. Stavroula is given pause by this question, given her lukewarm feelings for Ardesco, but settles on the fact that it's "a vacation". The tour group comes to a stop near a central water feature. They are fascinated by the sight of a large crab wearing a bikini. Mayor Mouse warns that the water in the fountain is neither drinkable nor swimmable. Stavroula is disappointed. Rikkard reaches out and rotates her so that she's standing properly, and Stavroula thanks him. Mayor Mouse begins her tour here:

"This town was originally founded in (OLD TIME YEAR), down on the beach. They arrived in the year (OLD TIME) YEAR and began building on the sand. They soon realized it was a flood zone and half of them died. Come on, let's go there now!"

The tour continues to the far side of the beach, to the ruins identified by Rikkard on their arrival. Tor finds the ruins interesting and Rikkard feels at home on the warm sand again, remarking he wouldn't mind living in a place like this. Uusi draws a loose sigil in the sand and casts detect magic - she senses strong magic emanating from a cave north of her position in the rocky cliff face. Mayor Mouse continues her explanation:

"This town was originally only 500 people, each on their own huts and stilts. Half the population still died to the flooding and the survivors split into two groups. Half hid in the caves and huddled together to stay warm, ultimately dying of starvation. The other half scaled the Nineteen Hands cliffs vertically, and also endured 40 days of starvation. New shelters were finally built around where the fountain stands today, on top of the cliffs away from the floods.

These ruins are now Old Saecoto and we pay our respects to the 456 beastfolk who died so that we may live in our lively holiday town today. Supplies were brought once the flooding receded and the ramp was cut away into the cliff."

Rikkard says he will choose to overlook the implication of inbreeding because it must be a cultural difference. Stavroula doesn't know what "inbreeding" means. Ida calls upon her sensitive bear nose to smell her surroundings. Now that she's paying attention to the smells, it's overwhelming as she is able to perceive the following: rat wife needs to clean under her tail better. Mayor Mouse smells faintly of cranberry pie. The ruins and cliffs smell of 107 different species of moss. The cave smells of "wishes gone wrong".

Uusi asks about the energy she sensed from the cave. Mayor Mouse answers that the cave has not been explored - the beastfolk have heard stories of people venturing inside and coming out "changed". Sensing the growing interest of the party, Rikkard remarks that they shouldn't think about adventuring while on vacation. Bikini Crab (who has joined the tour) sidles up to the party and whispers a suggestion: during the beach dance at night, it would be easy to sneak away during the celebrations to scope out the cave.

Mayor Mouse returns the group to the town square where the party are introduced to the "golden team" - Coconut the capybara, Violaine the guinea pig, Ratthew the rat, Eamon the rabbit and Milo the squirrel. Mayor Mouse remarks on how Ardesco entered their last games solo and still managed to beat the entire group. Stavroula admits that she thinks Ardesco had been lying until now, earning the ire of Mouse.

The golden team tags along for the remainder of the tour and Mayor Mouse continues.

"These multi-story houses were implemented as a tourist attraction, so tourists have somewhere to stay during seasonal activities. We have seasonal activities every season! It's always fun in Saecoto!"

Tor remarks that he's eager to see Ardesco again. As if on cue, the water in the fountain begins boiling intensely before erupting in a geyser. Ardesco leaps out from the fountain and introduces himself with vigor before coughing up water and almost tripping over the fountain's lip. Rikkard is immediately captivated by Ardesco's gravity. Ardesco leans in to Stinky, who is the only person unhappy to see him, and remarks on the large number of travelers she brought with her. He also asks her about Rikkard.

Mayor Mouse addresses him:

"It's so lovely our beloved Ardesco knows so many people! ... And was in the fountain, but you're excused as our beloved winner!"

She then continues her tour.

"Our proper residents live behind these multi-story houses. Though we have an average population of five-hundred thousand, we can jump up to one million in the game seasons! The rest of Saecoto's history is held in the museum, where bones and artifacts are kept.

Up the road are foothills and the edge of town. Past those are hills and lots and lots of snow! We do not recommend going that way. That is... unsavory folk of Saecoto. Those that live up there are hardy folk. The snow falls heavily during winter, then melts and flows downstream, collecting above the cranberry fiends until we're ready to flood the bog. Then it opens to the river, and beach.

The cranberry bog is where the cranberry games are played! We recommend you all to view it, and groups of five or six are welcome to join as a team. It's great fun!"

With tour ending, Mayor Mouse concludes: "In summary, many people died on the beach so now we live up on the cliff. And we're a festival town. And don't go in the caves, and don't kick anything. Have fun!"

Mayor Mouse and her rat wife disappear suddenly into a nearby building, leaving the party with the Golden Team and Ardesco. Rikkard eagerly shakes Ardesco's hand, calling him both a noble warrior and accomplished athlete. Ardesco is flattered and asks if Rikkard is enjoying the Saecotoan sun. Rikkard tells him that it's much warmer here than what he's used to, but he enjoys this over the humidity of the jungle.

Milo admires his reflection in the water feature and Coconut is looking away. Rikkard engages Eamon in conversation, asking if he thinks Ardesco is likely to skunk everyone in this year's games as well. Eamon answers that he doesn't think so, and that he doesn't think he should have last year either. Rikkard is spirited by this and wonders if it's "trash talk", as it is not a tradition practiced among his own people.

At this, Ardesco is alarmed, realizing the party intends to compete in this year's games. Stavroula immediately latches onto Eamon when she realizes someone else in Saecoto doesn't worship Ardesco. Ardesco waves away the talk and calls Eamon a 'sore loser', claiming that he was last king a long time ago before a team known as "The Milkers" dethroned him.

Stavroula realizes their team needs a name. Ardesco suggests "The Menagerie". Stavroula ignores him and suggests "The Winners". Rikkard thinks this is a bad idea, because the people hosting the games could mistake their team name as the outcome of the games and it would be dishonorable to win by default. He proposes that the name has to be as good as "The Milkers" and proposes "The Milked" before realizing it sounds wrong and retracting it. Uusi suggests the name "Convocation of the Amplituhedrous Mysterium" and Ardesco panics and ducks, mistaking it to be a spell or curse.

Violaine the guinea pig saunters over to Rikkard and suggests the name "The Hard Stomachs" while openly eyeing his abs. Stavroula is blind to the attempt at flirtation and rejects the name on the basis of her not having a hard stomach - such a specific name has to fit every member of the team, not just a few. For once, Rikkard is aware he is being courted and he tries to ignore it. Instead, he makes an attempt to join in the trash talk and tells the golden team that their fur will "slow them down in the water, perhaps".

Rikkard thinks about the name "Convocation of Knightstower", combining Uusi and Tor's suggestions. Ardesco thinks this is too long and should be shortened to "COK". Rikkard laughs uncomfortably. Uusi suggests "Empyrean Cosmographicum, Apocrypha of the Night" or "ECAN". This earns a sad look from Coconut for unknown reasons.

Ardesco is tired of the group agonizing over their name and asks them to remember what they came here to do originally. Tor and Stavroula suddenly remember the statue. Ida admonishes him over the door he broke and blames him for ruining a nice night a few months ago, but allows him to lead the way to his own statue.

As they walk, Rikkard experiments with combining the two acronyms and comes up with "COKECAN". Uusi questions why Ardesco has a statue but none of the prior victors do. Ardesco supposes it's because he's "sculpturegenic" and tells Uusi not to worry, because they'll probably erect statues in her likeness once her wings grow in. The walk is growing long and Stavroula questions why the statue is so far away, and supposes it was hidden away for its ugliness. Rikkard is impressed by Stavroula's apparent talent for trash talk, never having seen it before.

The party arrive at the large bronze effigy of a smug-looking Ardesco seated on two overstuffed sacks and holding a crown aloft. The finish from the sacks and Ardesco's lips have rubbed away, presumably from people touching the statue. Ardesco takes a seat at the base of the statue and imitates the pose, soliciting the party's reactions. Stavroula hates the statue with every fiber of her being. Ida kicks the statue's base, breaking Mayor Mouse's "no kicking" rule. A large wolf spider crawls out from beneath the statue and glares at her.

Ardesco picks up the spider and explains that the wolf spiders keep the bog free from other parasites that would eat the cranberries. They begin to argue about their prospective team name again. Stavroula asks if the spiders remind him of Ben Drider but Ardesco doesn't want to talk about it. Uusi casts druidcraft to make the statue reek like a skunk and Stavroula accuses him of "ripping butt". He denies it and it is only now that Rikkard begins to suspect his poor character, claiming that "a real man would own up to ripping butt". In order to prove that he is a real man, Ardesco rips open his shirt, revealing a single flaming chest hair. Stavroula is very interested in this for some reason, prompting Ardesco to confirm the "carpet matches the drapes".

Before they leave to meet with Taya and Ryker, Ardesco stops them and suggests combining their teams, claiming that he cannot compete alone this year due to a 'technicality'. When Stavroula asks what the "technology" is, Ardesco explains that the winner is required to sit out for the year following their victory, but that he would probably be allowed to act as "coach" to them. Stavroula allows that they would probably be more likely to win with him on their side and agrees, and so does the rest of the party.

The party walk to the other side of the bog to formally sign up. They are greeted by two enormous dragons speaking through cones enchanted with thaumaturgy, projecting their voices. It's shocking that they hadn't noticed them before. They recognize Ardesco and address him fondly. Rikkard confidently asserts that their team name is "Team COKECAN Diamond Silver Passionfruit Dragonfruit Bog Spiders (Featuring Ardesco)" before anyone can protest, and they are registered as such. Mayor Mouse happens by the group and sees them registering along with Ardesco. She offers them free premium rooms, as they seem to be good friends of Ardesco's. Before they set off for the town again Taya and Ryker invite them to come back later to practice on the bog.