Grand Expeditions Project
“The Redhurst Academy of Magic, in conjunction with The Explorer’s Society of the Free Kingdoms, is recruiting adventurers to undertake missions of exploration and re-discovery of ancient and lost magics.”
On the surface, this seems like a straightforward arrangement. The Grand Expeditions Project hires adventurers to explore ancient sites, searching for lost knowledge and the like. The adventures seek… adventure, and riches, and renown. The adventurers take the risks of travel, facing hostile environments, and they get the thrills they seek, and bring back ancient lost lore, treasures and the like. The adventurers gain a secure salary plus bonuses based on what they recover upon their missions. Both parties win. But there are many other things going on here.
This organization is known as the Grand Expeditions Project, causally known as ‘the project’, or GEP. It is a joint effort organization, sponsored by The Redhurst Academy of Magic and The Explorer’s Society. Both organizations have political agendas, as do most of the officer’s and administrator’s involved in the project. Each have prestige and power to gain or lose, should the project succeed or fail. All realize the potential financial gain involved, and some understand the implications of the power to be gained, both political and magical, should uncovered lost knowledge be found practically useful. Certain administrators in Redhurst attempt to garner position within the Academy, and any lost tomes or writings on magic will benefit their stature within the Academy. Likewise for the members of the Explorer’s Society. Additionally, some magical knowledge is potentially dangerous, and certain members of the project wish to control such knowledge, either to study it – or to keep it from becoming publicly known. Some within the organization strive to use such knowledge to their own, less honorable gains, others seek to bury away or destroy that knowledge which could be detrimental to society if it were loosed upon the world.
Although there are two organizations which comprise the project, Redhurst Academy of Magic and The Explorer’s Society of the Free Kingdoms, they are not the only bodies who have an interest in the program. Upon its inception, there have been four major categories of sponsors to the Grand Expeditions Project. The first is a body of administrators and professors of the Redhurst Academy, who have agreed to contribute ¼ of the cost for the program from their pockets; the Academy itself pays ¼ of the costs, the Explorers’ Guild comes up with ¼ of the costs and the last quarter comes from sponsorships and contributions by patrons of the Academy (in exchange for contributor’s credit, memorial status, and other compensations – having one’s name associated with powerful expeditions and the recovery of artifacts is socially and politically beneficial to the sponsors). All four, in theory, receive equal shares in whatever monetary returns each expedition brings, less expenses. Many missions, however, currently cost more than is recovered. It is generally understood when one becomes a contributor, that the rewards are prestige and political notoriety, rather than immediate financial success.
Unknown to most members of this alliance, there is a fifth contributor to the project, a body responsible for pulling most of the strings within the project. The office of the Chancellor of National Affairs, a body under direct influence of the High King, subsidizes a majority of the project (above and beyond the aforementioned funding sources), falling technically under dummy patrons (several real or fictitious contributors), but ultimately this office is the one who has the true power behind the project. The entire GEP is sponsored by this office (in general), and the High King himself has given specific instructions to the effect that he is to be kept advised of anything important that is discovered. As supreme authority, the High King can reject missions, command any knowledge or items to be sent wherever he desires, and direct any team to go to a target location at his desire. Unfortunately, the current High King has but 20 months left in his term (as of Shal, 1332). He was advised of the project by the former High King, who was instrumental in starting up the project. Who knows what the current High King’s replacement will do with the project when he comes to power. There is strong political motivations to elect a new High King favorable to the project, and the machinations of politics are already underway to foster a candidate who may be open to keeping the project alive. This is another reason for the current expansion of the program, in hopes to make significant finds and garner the approval of the powers and patrons who can influence the elections.
It is a little known fact that of the four official funding sources, the body of sponsors and contributors by far bring in more than their 25% of the monies raised for the project. Only a few officers in the Explorer’s Society have knowledge of this, and it is one of the larger dark secrets within the project that, if exposed, would cause significant issues within the members of the project, the sponsorship, and the public at large.
This program has been in effect for three and a half years, and so far has not produced the financial returns that any of the patrons or the sponsors, including the Explorer’s Guild have expected. The administrators of this project claim that everyone is still laying the groundwork for the project, such as performing intense continuing research, detailed planning out of expeditions based on the research, refining the research closer to the sites of the reported target regions, and setting up portals to make the journey’s more cost effective in the long run. All this takes a lot of capital up front, and that the fruits of all these labors should soon come to fruition. Of the finds returned from the field, most were publicly disappointing or financially and academically insignificant. So far, any artifacts discovered have been deemed too dangerous to be allowed to circulate into the public venue, and have been taken away to a special storage facility, known as “The Cellar”. There have been no exceptional tomes or writings of magical knowledge yet discovered. One particularly vicious artifact was deemed too vile to be allowed to remain in the world, and though it seemed impervious to destruction, it was sent through a special gate portal to another plane of existence.