10) The Crowned Beast of Stone
In the depths of a boreal forest west of the immortal city of Khromarium and north of the Hellinic city-state of Ptolemides can be found a statue of some great beast crowned with a rusting iron band whose spiked ends, now snapped off into jagged spears, suggested gems or valuable crystals once ran astride the crown. The weed-choked creature now stares forlornly into the stream which begins life as spring whose waters pour from its open mouth and which rushes by its front paws before disappearing in the thick forest and eventually emptying into the great swamp and mire to the north of Khromarium.
Few know of this crowned beast of stone for its waters are sovereign and potent and the alchemists of both Khromarium and Ptolemides strive to keep its existence and location a secret. To this end they have set traps and guards within the forest, paid druids to charm creatures and enchant plants, illusionists to hide the spring, necromancers to set guards that neither sleep nor rest nor tell tales, as well as magicians and witches cast dire spells to protect this source of so many of their potions, solutions and balms.
The power of these waters is quickly diluted after it spills from the mouth of the crowned beast but within certain distances the waters have differing effects. The water at the mouth of the statue pours forth a deadly acid on one side and a supremely potent base from the other. As the water touches the earth it becomes useful for all manner of transmutation elixirs but a dozen feet further and it is sovereign remedy for curses and a foundation for healing potions, a dozen feet further on it is useful for charms and enchantments, till it covers the entire gamut of the alchemists trade. The area where these liquid components can be gathered is not truly large and the waters quickly become no more than any other forest stream and no more useful. Within this area the guilds from both cities have set their guards, wards and enchantments. Beyond this area a steady patrol of foresters, rangers, and various mercenary groups patrol the forest and roads leading to it. Only guildsmen can pass these men, and then only with certain badges, tokens and finally enchantments if they are to proceed to the innermost sanctum of the forest. But all this protection has brought inquiring eyes down upon that which they would seek to remain hidden and differing powers within and without of Khromarium and Ptolemides seek to find out what is being so lavishly protected.
In singles, pairs and groups spies and adventurers are being hired to seek out whatever is hidden within the depths of the northern forest. To date none have returned and only the fact that something valuable enough to warrant such costly measures as guards and enchantments drives the search for this unknown treasure forward.