The party, consisting of Arth, Edolkar, Khorvus, Trix and Darius, continue to follow a large, tree-like Treant, who is directing them towards the Witherbloom campus, out of the Detention Bog. The party engage in light conversation, further introducing themselves to one another.
The elderly Treant pauses for a moment, then directs them to listen, with some light rustling being heard from just ahead on their path. The Treant bends down, picks through the foilage, and grabs a small grub-looking creature. She indicates this is called a “pest”, and is the mascot of Witherbloom students. She notes the pest seems agitated, and likely hungry. The Treant calls to Arth, towards the back of the group, and asks for him to pick some berries. He grabs a handful, moving forward to passing them to the Treant. She thanks him, and explains that pests are friendly, but are cautious to eat offered food unless they see the creature eat some first. Trix offers to try it, and kneels down. She holds a small handful of berries, then showcases eating and swallowing them. The pest watches for a few seconds, then begins to pick at the remaining berries on the ground. As the pest eats, it grows larger and larger, until it is the size of a small dog. As it rolls over its belly, she gives it a rub before sending it off back into the bush. Trix, realising she hasn’t introduced herself, asks for the Treant’s name. She introduces herself as Professor Willowdusk, and they continue their walk inwards towards the Witherbloom campus.
The party arrives at a careful curated set of buildings, constructed from, and built-into, collections of large trees and other sorts of native flora. These buildings form Witherbloom campus. With the close connection to nature, Trix and Khorvus feel some sense of familiarity of the campus with their respective homes. The Treant directs them to a wide and tall open room, with a collection of horse-like creatures standing on a platform, each drawing a carriage. Professor Willowdusk indicates these carriages, drawn by the clockwork horses, depart on a strict 15-minute schedule, ferrying people from the outer campuses back to the central campus. Arth thanks the Professor for the lesson, and the party go to sit in a carriage and prepare to depart. After a few minutes, the horses depart destined for the central campus. With some time to spare, the party talk amongst themselves.
The carriage parks at the central campus, in a station house nestled near the Biblioplex and an array of large, grand buildings, gardens, and walkways. They enter into the bustling Biblioplex, the heart of the central campus. Having been told as part of their orientation to check in at the student store inside, Trix is the first to saunter over to the store. A young human named Groff Lundquist greets them, and asks for their names to sign them off. The party goes through, with Trix, Arth, Darius and Khorvus signing off. Edolkar provides his name, but finds he is not on the books. Begrudgingly, Edolkar leans in and says the name given by Regus and Falstra, Robern Stoutarm. In surprise, Groff recognises the Stoutarm name, and quickly checks the name off. Groff indicates that he needs some time to prepare their first-year packages, including clothes and other gear, so encouages the party to take part in the Orientation Challenge. As Groff passes a piece of paper with the five college symbols on it, he indicates the party must travel to each of the five representatives, spread out through the Biblioplex, and complete their respective challenges to earn a stamp. The first group to return with all their stamps may receive a prize, but many of the other groups are already well into the challenge.
The party moves further inward to the Biblioplex, looking toward a Snarl, a shifting ball of energy that emanates a magical aura around it, one of many contained throughout the demiplane and seen as a raw source of arcane magic. They look to find a professor to begin their challenge, and Khorvus, keen to one-day join Silverquill, approaches a man dressed sharply in black and white attire. The middle-aged man, named Nils, speaks eloquently, asking if they are ready to begin the Silverquill challenge. He indicates that the challenge is a riddle, and says:
Often polite, but not always civil,
I can be explosive, but I am not a missile.
Some use me to barter, though I don’t usually see gold,
I’m used more and more by those who grow old.
What am I?
The party debate for several minutes, presenting a few options on what the answer could be. To avoid spoilers, we won’t provide any of the guesses (or the answer) here! You can skip to ~45:20 on the episode for the answer. After some time, Edolkar presents a suggestion. Nils pulls out a stamp with the Silverquill symbol, and stamps the orientation challenge sheet for the party. Khorvus thanks Nils for the challenge, and indicates his interest in meeting with him again in the future, as a Silverquill student. Arth expresses interest in speaking with the Lorehold professor, and Trix agrees. The party moves towards a short dwarf, dressed in long-flowing robes in white and red. The dwarf carries large scrolls on his pack, and as the party approaches, he introduces himself as Hofri Ghostforge. He welcomes them to Strixhaven, and indicates his challenge is much more straightforward: To learn about navigating the Biblioplex for resources, and to find a very specific tome, and bring it back to him. He indicates to not tell the librarians that he is involved in anyway, as they are not friendly with him at the moment. The party walks up to an information desk, filled with clerks cataloguing books and scrolls. Trix asks a young librarian for assistance, who becomes agitated upon hearing the name of the book, thinking Hofri is involved. Trix is about to recall a small bit of information relating to the book, fooling the librarian. The librarian begins to check through an index, but asks Trix to confirm the book is part of an orientation challenge. Failing a deception check, Trix admits they need the book to retrive the book for the challenge. The librarian indicates she can’t help the students all the way, and writes just the aisle number, leaving them to find the book themselves.
After a few minutes, the party interpret the note and find the aisle, and determine the tome is on a shelf well above even Edolkar’s height. Edolkar lifts then throws Trix upwards, while Khorvus begins to climb the shelves. They find the tome, which is much heavier than expected. Trix begins to push from the outside of the shelf to Khorvus so that he can hold and catch it. Khorvus holds the tome in one hand, still holding on, and shouts for those on the ground to help. Arth rises up and sits of Edolkar’s shoulders, attempting to reach the book that Khorvus passes down to him. Arth fails to hold the book, and it begins to fall to the ground. Darius, in a panic, begins to emanate a bright light, and he then grows in size, with what appears to have been from a Growth spell. In his large form, he easily catches the falling book, placing it on the ground. After a few moments, he meditates and calms himself and shrinks back to his gnomish size. As a team, the party carry the tome back to Hofri. He thanks the students, stamping their orientation challenge sheet.