Recovering the Bloodstone

4th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

After discovering the bloodstone had disappeared from the laboratory I spent most of the morning in a near-constant state of mild panic. My heart kept racing, I felt uncomfortably warm and I couldn’t concentrate. Images of our battle against Nar-Narg-Naroth kept flashing through my mind like unwanted intrusions.

I managed to tell Quentyn about what I had discovered, and I saw the blood drain from his face in the same way that it must have drained from my own. He assured me he would make preparations to pursue the Sembians and retrieve the bloodstone and that gave me enough direction to calm my nerves. I retreated to the laboratory in order to prepare the necessary divinations, evocations and transmutations I would require in the pursuit.

As I prepared my spells I started to calm down. I felt like I had a clear purpose and I found peace in the focus it gave me. With each line of the necessary incantations I felt my heart grow stronger and more stable. I realised something that had never occurred to me before, something I still have a hard time putting into words.

The bloodstone pulses with magical energy every time I touch it. The tanar’ri inside uses its power to push against its boundaries, and if it wasn’t for its flawlessness, the demon would manage to crack the stone’s exterior and erupt from its confines and unleash itself back into this world.

A mage is not that dissimilar. Whenever I prepare my spells, I go through all the required motions and incantations and store the built up spell inside my body. My body is impregnated with the potentiality of the spell. The spell has a very short fuse that I ignite with the last motions, incantations and components. The magic erupts from my body and is unleashed upon the world.

As such, my body and mind need to be a flawless vault, to safeguard myself, as well as the others around me. I realise my body is weak. But my mind is strong. Hopefully it will be able to compensate for my frail shell. It leaves me wondering about Ulster the Black, who brought shame to my family for being a renegade mage. Was he a manifestation of a man who couldn’t contain the mounting pressure inside of him? Did the pressure fracture his mind and send him into a frenzy?

Deep in contemplation and study, I was called upon by Brother David. He seemed unaware of what was going on, so I explained that the bloodstone was missing. The significance seemed lost on him. He was quite happy to be rid of the bloodstone. I said that the break in had the appearance of a deliberate act, since no other thing of value had been taken. He still seemed unconcerned.

We joined the others in the kitchen where Quentyn was busying himself getting ready to pursue the Sembians. Ser Fosco and his squire Duncan had joined and so had the trackers Jago and Widukin. I immediately asked Jago to join me in the study so that he could investigate the break-in further. He managed to find more tracks and traces and quickly confirmed my suspicions; the break-in had been deliberate and they had gone directly for the laboratory and the bloodstone!

Widukin had found tracks the Sembians left behind and had determined they were travelling north, along the Stillwater, trying to find suitable places to ford the river. Luckily, their lack of knowledge of the lands around Glister made their trek slow going and Widukin was convinced we would be able to catch up with them before they reached the falls, a place up river where it would be easy to cross to the other bank.

I started to get excited at the promise of us being able to catch up with the Sembians and retrieve the bloodstone. How long would it take for the tanar’ri in the stone to corrupt one of them and help it escape its prison? Was the demon the one who told the Sembians where to find the stone to begin with? Had the corruption already set in?

Quentyn informed brother David that he would be needed and to my disappointment he said that he would have to think about it. I was stunned to silence. Why wasn’t the urgency of the matter clear to him!?

As David was partaking in the lord’s breakfast, something he was want to do, Quentyn took his plate and told him to think about it outside. Without saying anything David left. I didn’t understand what was happening. Why would he undermine Quentyn in front of the rest? In front of Ser Fosco!? This wasn’t the first time he publicly undermined him. The last time was at the moot, where he spoke out in opposition of Quentyn. Was David purposefully undermining him? If so, why? If not, then why would he not council him in private? I felt had to find out.

I followed him outside. I asked him what he was doing. Unfortunately, I admit I said it in that blunt and foolhardy way I default to when I’m on edge. To his credit, David calmly told me he needed to prepare Glister for winter. A winter with fifty extra mouths to feed.

What I still don’t understand is; he knows of the work I’ve been doing to increase yield, he knows I did the calculations, he knows I did the risk assessments, he knows what is at risk if we let the bloodstone loose. He saw the spider demon! Why he would insult me by pretending Glister couldn’t afford to lose the manpower to retrieve the stone!?

Most of all, how could he think that Glister would be better off with a lord that was perceived as weak? A lord that was constantly under attack from his rearguard? I told him not to disobey Quentyn again and left. As I turned around I heard a snort of derision, I sound I unfortunately have grown all too familiar with, but I had more important things on my mind than to engage David any further.

He had all of the facts; there was nothing he would be able to do in the time we would pursue and retrieve the bloodstone that would better prepare Glister for the winter. He forced me to regard him as an agent de mauvaise foi, as my mother would have called him.

Back inside, Ser Fosco was keen to show his worth, but wanted his squire Duncan to stay behind and coordinate the settlers in his absence. Initially Quentyn wanted him along, but I convinced him that if the squire were to work together with Creighton the two of them would do well together. Duncan, on his part, said he would take up the charge.

My sense of the squire was that in the long run he would be a powerful ally. His temperament was such, I reckoned, that he would be able to temper some of Ser Fosco’s baser urges and be a positive influence on the knight. The only thing we could hope for was that Duncan’s moral compass was strong enough not to pick up any bad habits from his liege.

While Ser Fosco couldn’t offer up any information on the Sembians apart from that they were battle hardened, he did offer to take several settlers as backup. Quentyn requested three men to join, and I asked for Gunnar to be included.

Quentyn and I spoke in private and he asked me what to do about David. I told him what David had said to me, and that he couldn’t let this stand. David’s convictions were not required, just his obedience. Quentyn talked to Godric and his brother, and ordered Godric to come along and for his brother to make sure the militia kept up with training in Quentyn’s absence.

Right when I thought it was time for all of us to depart, Quentyn picked up a travel pack and departed Wizard’s Hill. It was so sudden and unexpected that I couldn’t talk to him before he left. An hour later he returned with David. Somehow he had either convinced David to come along, or supplicated, a thought I did not relish.

We headed north across the Newmark and into the wild, west from the Stillwater. It was likely the Sembians had stayed close to the river, but it would mean our pursuit would be more easily detectable. Jago took the lead, then Quentyn, then Ser Fosco, then came a settler named Marcus, Godric, another two settlers named Jorik and Henrik, then myself, followed by David and Widukin.

We were about six hours into our journey when we moved closer to the Stillwater to stop and eat. We had taken small breaks to rest our feet, but this was the first time I felt like I wasn’t being rushed. I thought I was able to keep up the first couple of hours, but after a while the strength just left me and I couldn’t persist as fast as the others.

David came to me and said that he had noticed me faltering. He asked me if I wanted to accept his lord’s blessing. I didn’t respond immediately because of the distrust this man had built up in me over the last day. I wouldn’t have questioned his offer before the moot, but now I felt the hesitation grip my innards. I quickly came to the realisation that I was here with a purpose that was important, and that I was willing to do what needed to be done. I wasn’t going to disappoint Quentyn. I said “yes.”

The feeling of strength that filled my limbs felt fantastic! It had been so long since I didn’t feel at least somewhat sick and these rare moments of fortitude were so precious to me that I was always shocked at how easily I had forgotten what it felt like. I decided that I’d be remiss not to use this opportunity to try some of the food and ale that the locals consumed!

I asked Jago how fresh the trail was that we had been following. He guessed no more than a couple of hours old. I quickly did the math, based on the time the Sembians left, the time we left and our speed of travel. They couldn’t have been more than half a league away from us. I sent out Blackwing and she came back a little while later reporting that she had seen torches close by.

When we were on the move shortly after and soon we started to notice sounds coming from what was likely the Sembian group ahead of us. When I let Blackwing take flight again, she gave me a good sense of where the Sembian group was. The rest of our party was discussing the best way to approach the Sembians, and at the same time I cast a divination to allowed me to locate the bloodstone. I felt it throbbing with abyssal power, so close it felt like I could almost touch it.

Locate Object
Haalvut fin miiraad ahst aan fin.
Sense the path toward a thing.

I was so distracted by the tug I felt on the periphery of my senses that I didn’t realise the plan was to catch up and overtake the Sembians and head them off at the falls. Before I knew it Jago had excellently lead us onward and we arrived at the falls without incident.

The falls was nothing more than some rapids on a slope at the edge of a small lake. Somehow the Stillwater had hit upon a block of granite that it was unable to push out of its path nor etch down over the centuries. The block made for a natural dam and a good place to get across the river without having to wade through deep waters.

5th Day, 1st Ride, 9th Month, 1374th Year

We took up position at the top of the rapids and prepared to encounter the Sembians. Jago stabbed his torch into the ground, and I took his lead as I offered up a prayer to Chauntea. When the Sembians came within sight they held their ground for a moment. Quentyn stepped forward and called for them to relinquish the stone and that all would be well. I cannot imagine how he expected the Sembians to believe that, if they would surrender it would only be just for at least Mateo to be sentenced to death, regardless of the extenuating circumstances. Despite my doubts, three torches broke off from the group and proceeded forward.

Suddenly a hulking figured appeared right next to me and smashed Henrik to pulp with a sickening crunch! Chaos ensued and the first thing I did is snatch a small strip of leather from my pouch and twist it into a loop. That was the spark that lit the fuse to unleashing the transmutation power that was stored inside of me. I rapidly levitated up into the air and out of danger.

Fus kotin faal su.
Force into the air.

Hovering high above the battle that was raging down below me, I got a better sense of what was going on. An ogre had somehow sneaked up to us and attacked our party. Across the Stillwater I noticed more ogres, one of which was horned and clothed in more sophisticated garb. It touched the shoulder of another brute standing next to him, and that one turned into a vapour and quickly rolled across the surface of the Stillwater and slid down the rapids towards the Sembians.

It was an ogre mage. I only hoped that the Sembians were not in league with that powerful creature.

From up on high I retrieved a small clump of sulpher from one pocket, some goopy fat that I had purchased off The Hoof from another, and rubbed it together. I sprinkled the jelly with some iron shavings and felt the components tap into the stored arcane energy inside my body like a spigot. A sphere of fire ignited at the location I had been concentrating on, right amidst the ogres across the Stillwater.

Flaming Sphere
Zu’u ag hi voth aan krein do yol.
I burn you with a sphere of fire.

Chaos erupted among the group as one of them caught fire. Another started attacking the sphere with its club. I managed to manipulate the ball towards the other ogres and I noticed the dimwitted ogre who was swinging his club was in danger of hitting his friends. A scuffle started to break out among them and I was glad for the confusion amid their ranks.

Unfortunately the horned ogre mage, well known for having a very keen intellect, wasn’t going to let a simple invocation cause such distraction. It callously countered my invocation with one of its own, extinguishing the fire with a blast of frost that killed the dimwitted ogre outright. It was not just powerful, it was also willing to sacrifice its thralls.

The horned ogre lost interest in what was happening across the rapids and retreated back into the wilderness, but not before sending two of its thralls across the rapids. One of them stumbled and fell down the rapids, swept away by the Stillwater’s current. The other one was met and dispatched by the rest of the party below.

I dared to descend, touch down and run towards the slope leading to the Sembians. I jumped and levitated up again, using my forward momentum to get closer to the Sembian group, who were now stuck in a battle with the ogre that had been turned to vapour and several lizard-like humanoids. The ogre had reformed to its normal form and had been laying waste to both the Sembians as the lizards. The lizards were secreting a strange fluid from the glands close to their necks. It was causing great distress in everyone around them, causing them to gag and retch involuntarily.

Quentyn was badly wounded by a spear to the gut, but regardless helped in defeating the ogre and the lizards. The Sembians had taken refuge among our party, so when the fighting was done they were wise enough to throw down their arms. Quentyn demanded the bloodstone, and received it from the traitorous Mateo Prencipis.

As Jago searched the surviving Sembians for weapons and bound them for transport, and while David started administering to all the wounded, I made sure the Sembians weren’t carrying any more magical artifacts. As it turned out, Mateo was carrying a crude, green hued long sword that exuded a magical aura. It almost looked like it was made from bronze, aged by time. I made sure to keep it with me.

Quentyn gave me the bloodstone. It was familiar with its perfectly round cut, dark, blood red surface with thick black veins running deep within its core. The throb of power locked within was hauntingly familiar. I reckoned David was best equipped, both mentally and physically to keep the stone safe. Regardless of all else, I trusted him to do that.

I tried to help David administer to the wounded and watched him pull a Sembian from the brink of death. The man was in shock and shaking uncontrollably. I offered him one of my blankets to keep comfortable. Until Quentyn decided what to do with them, I was going to treat them more fairly than they had treated us.

At that point, Quentyn decided to execute the surviving lizards, who in turn secreted the vile mist in their death throws. It sent my stomach into violent upheaval and I voided the contents of my stomach all over myself. The bodies of the fallen were burnt, including Henrik. I took my rest near the prisoners. I felt absolutely miserable.

Leave a Reply