The Royal Ruse

Previously, the adventurers had tried to distract the Sheridan estate from the Kaedwyni orcs’ escape from the stables by performing a religious ceremony honouring Bartosz, performed by Emma. This allowed the orcs to break out of the stables and get a significant head start before getting discovered by one of the hounds and the guards going in pursuit.

This lead to a standoff on the road to Lynnecombe, atop a bridge crossing high above a Lyn tributary. Things moved really fast after Captain Mollen ordered the orcs to throw down their arms, which the orcs, especially Garr, refused to do. Bartosz, Dame Julie and Dame Madeline had manoeuvred themselves between the guards and the orcs. Luca used his magic to scare Mollen and one of the guards, the other guards reacted by letting their bolts fly towards the orcs, but struck Bartosz instead. The orcs jumped from the bridge into the river below.

Sixth Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

(Silvermoon is waning, Bloodmoon is waning. Darkmoon is in high sanction.)

After having received the coin, the cart and the two horses that were promised them – one a Lyrian chestnut mare, the other a Silesian palomino mare – the adventurers headed south towards Kingsport. After two hours, late into the evening, the city came into view. Lady Commander Miranda Ravensbourne, commander of the city’s crownsguard, was seen soaring high above the city on her griffon, Frostfeather. The adventurers made it into the city before the gates were closed for the night, and headed for the Careless Wanderer.

Upon arrival, Wojciech, the Silesian stable master took care of the two horses for five pennies per horse, but said the cart would have to remain outside, since the space in the stables was limited. He said that Ramsey, the cook, would probably still be able to rustle up some food, and that Durham could provide them with drinks. He recommended trying the fruit liquor that he and Durham had been experimenting with in the basement.

Inside the evening was at its peak with most people already deep in their cups. Lauryn arranged the lodgings – the common room for both Emma and Astrid, a simple private room for Luca and a luxury room overlooking the House of the Raven Queen for Emrys. Ramsey got some of the last scratchings from the kitchen, Durham got everyone a fruit liquor and Emma purchased a bottle of Erveluce, the expensive wine that Durham had introduced her to several days before.

Emrys decided to regale the remaining visitors at the Careless Wanderer with music and a tale of the mysterious catacombs underneath Lynnecombe. He made sure to include the Skaven and the Lyrian Knights, but not make mention of the Kaedwyni orcs. In the meantime Emma was observing the reaction of the crowd, noticing that the name of Ser Arman drew some boos, while Dame Julie’s name caused a cheer to erupt in the room.

Luca decided to join a group of veteran travellers at their table with some drinks, thinking he could strike up a conversation after hearing some of the rumours that they were discussing. The leader of the group introduced himself as Arnout Coehoorn, a merchant. He introduced his right hand man, Steffen Skaggs. The rest he didn’t bother to introduce, leading Luca to conclude that they were either help or guards. Luca adapted his accent to fit that of a Lyrian from the Elder Foothills, since that was part of the rumour that he had overheard them talking about.

The different rumours that came to the adventurers’ attention:

  • House Radowan and its banners moved to stand in open rebellion to the crown, withholding its dues and refusing to levy taxes from their people until the crown commited aid to protecting the kingdom’s eastern border from the encroaching threat of the savage races coming from Silesia. The house was supported by the houses from the Mazurian Hills, the Elder Foothills and by House Courtenay. It was fiercely opposed by the Ashenvale and Westershire houses, most prominently by House Grey.
  • Strange bipedal rat creatures had been spotted near ruins throughout the kingdom. Near Eastray, in the Mazurian Hills, south of Fulcaster, north-east of Woodbury and especially in the Elder Foothills.
  • The Plains of Strife continued to see skirmishes between the Lyrian troops and invaders believed to come from Daerlan. The expansionist empire denied that the invaders were their troops or were there on the orders of the empire. House Grey, ever the patriots, committed more forces, as did House Ravensbourne, Bromley, Lockwood and Blackwell.

Eventually, the adventurers decided to call it an evening and make their way to their respective quarters for some much deserved rest.

Seventh Day, Third Ride, Summer Light, 1262

(Silvermoon is waning, Bloodmoon in low sanction. Darkmoon is waning.)

The following morning the adventurers gathered for a simple breakfast and decided to run some errands. Emma wanted to invest some of the platinum pieces that they were given by House Sheridan to fashion rings which would allow her to ward the wearers of the rings through the power of her goddess. Emrys saw it as a good opportunity to look for a scabbard befitting for a sword like Toruviel. Emrys also wanted to drop by the College of Bards to visit a friend. After learning that the College of Bards might have some historians that Luca could speak to, he was also interested in coming along.

It was decided that the adventurers would stay in Kingsport for one extra day and leave early the following morning. Just as they were about to depart, Magda, the blind lady who owned the Careless Wanderer approached Emma and informed her that Dagmær of Hammerstrand, the devotee of Sedna who runs the Sacred Baths had left a message at the inn that her presence was requested at the Sacred Baths. The adventurers decided that their first stop would be the Southside Ward to see about the rings, scabbard, and while they were there, to see about appraising the rubies they had found in the catacombs.

The Southside market square was bustling filled with the little stalls of the different crafters that made the Southside ward their home.

Emma found Dervan, a young, apprenticing goldsmith who had completed his technical training and was now being taught how to deal with customers. He would be able to take the platinum pieces she was offering, melt them down and fashion four rings from them, simple and adorned only with a small pattern of water droplets. He could prepare the ring within the hour, and if she was happy with the quality of his work, could finish the rest of the rings by the end of the day.

Meanwhile, Emrys had found the stall of Lyandra Wildrunner, an elven leatherworker who was fascinated by the blade that Emrys showed her. Her enthusiasm lead to a crowd forming around the sorcerer and soon it caught the attention of a barrel-chested dwarf who seemed to command must respect in the market square. His name was Dagran Forgewright, and the crowd parted before him as he made his way over. A young orc walked in his wake, which startled the adventurers, but didn’t seem to startle anyone else on the square. Dagran asked to take a look at the blade and gave his nod of approval and departed, taking the orc with him. Lyandra ended up showing Emrys several beautiful scabbards and he chose a finely crafted leather scabbard and requested there to be a small sign of a crescent moon embossed in the leather, which Lyandra immediately recognised as the symbol of Sehanine.

When Dagran Forgewright had departed, Astrid came to the conclusion that she might invest some of the coin she had earned in two new hand-axes. The last ones she had gifted to the Kaedwyni orcs, and she would need a replacement set. She set off in pursuit of the dwarven master craftsman.

Luca had stayed close to Emma and managed to get in contact with Eryka, a jeweller who was happy to appraise the rubies they had retrieved from the catacombs. She lead both Luca and Emma to a small shop nearby the market square so that they could conduct the appraisal in more privacy. The store turned out to be very small, with an open back which looked out over a communal courtyard where all the other shops shared a working space. There were several stone cutters working away behind Eryka’s shop, cutting gems and polishing stones.

She poured the two dozen rubies out over a sheet of black velvet and took up a spying glass to look at one more closely. To everyone’s surprise she concluded that these weren’t rubies, but likely to be crystals.

Eryka called out of the back across the courtyard for a man named Eustace. A grey-haired man with an elaborate moustache and thick mutton chops and a fat belly came over. He was wearing a stained leather apron and he was asked to take a look at the stones in order to see if he could recognise what kind of crystals they were. He, unfortunately was unable to identify the curious stones. Eryka offered to do more research if the Luca and Emma were willing to leave one of the crystal in her care. They agreed, and the crystal was locked away in a strongbox.

It was time for Emma to head for the Sacred Baths of Sedna. They were in the right ward so it was only a short walk from the market on the Street of Spices. Upon arrival, Luca decided not to enter, but the rest did. Emrys went to the male side of the baths, Astrid and Emma to the female side. Emma was quickly found by Dagmær and informed that an emissary from House Germaine, a new arrival in Kingsport, had need for Emma’s services. The family had just acquired a new manse whose garden held a well that they would have blessed by a priestess of Sedna and they had donated generously to the bathhouse.

Emma decided to meditate on it while bathing and came to the conclusion that she would perform the ritual. A messenger was sent to inform House Germaine and a short while later a carriage arrived with a handsome rider who introduced himself as William. He was to take Emma to where she needed to go. Everyone piled into the carriage and after a short ride through the city arrived at the gate of the royal palace, atop Garamond Hill, where the guards saluted William and let the carriage through without challenge.

The grounds around the royal palace were splendidly decorated. The manor was overwhelming and even the dépendance magnificent.

There are two large buildings that occupy the palace grounds, the manor and the dependance. The royal manor overlooks a terraced, sprawling, immaculately kept park, filled with ponds, marble statues, rose gardens and the like. You also spot a prominent shrine to Chauntea, complete with a statue covered with beautiful roses. It is clear that grounds are meant to impress visitors, of which, Emma notes, there are precious few. Some crownsguard, who all salute William, some diplomats and a few of the nobility are walking around the gardens.

The manor’s enormous facade consists of a rusticated limestone base from which rise impossibly tall, white granite columns, framing the windows of the three main floors. The top floor is hidden by a decorated cornice, which seems to encircle the manor and is capped with a large balustrade, richly adorned with statues of kings, queens, and saints of Paladine. The manor has an almost fairy tale beauty.

The dependance is a much simpler looking building, designed specifically for that purpose. A much plainer facade overlooks the terrace, but made from the same limestone masonry as the palace. It houses the servants, barracks, armoury, stables, stores and larders.

Near the back of the grounds, between the manor and the dépendance stood an iron fence filled with luscious rose buses, obscuring the view beyond. An iron gate was flanked on either side by crownsguard who once again saluted William. The adventurers were requested to disembark the carriage and leave their weapons behind. Emma convinces William that she will require her Muirgheal in her ritual and she is permitted to bring it along.

The sound of water comes through from beyond the rose-covered gate. On the other side you are treated to a beautiful garden, with a multitude of pools and baths, each fed by streams, fountains, and water gargoyles. Beautifully designed, open pergolas and verandas, each framed by colourful lilies, provide ample amounts of shade from the sun.

Underneath the largest pergola, shaded by flowers and silks, sits a young woman, in her teens, dressed a beautiful red dress, adorned by a mesh of pearls. She is surrounded by several handmaidens and several servants are at her beck and call. A table filled with the freshest fruits is laid out, and crystal, elven decanters are filled with the finest Beauclair wines are available.

William leads Emma to the pergola, stands to the side and announces; “Your grace, I present to you, Emma Desmarais, priestess of Sedna, Sister of Streams and Lady of Lakes. Miss Desmarais, may I present to you, her majesty, Queen Isabella Valois.”

The queen turned out to be a commanding, but delightful young woman. She explained that the garden was designed by Francesca Sabatini, a renowned architect from Arroya. She said that it was her favourite place to retreat from diplomats and royal affairs and that she thought it fitting that when a true priestess of Sedna had arrived in Kingsport, to have the gardens blessed. She apologised for her subterfuge.

She was also interested in Emma, asking her where she got her last name, her training, and if there was any truth to the rumours that she had been working for House Sheridan, asking Emma to forgive her curiosity.

Meanwhile, Emrys, Luca and Astrid were invited to sit with the handmaidens in the shade beneath the silks. Astrid immediately gorged herself on the fruit which was being ignored, while Emrys entertained himself by getting to know one of her grace’s handmaidens, Lady Annabella of House Waxley, a sharp and engaging young woman.

Luca spent his time observing the surroundings and noticed a man with a curious mitre wrapped in ribbons of parchment covered with arcane script. The man was on the ground floor of the manor, staring out through the window, looking intently at the conversation going on between Emma and the Queen. All the while his lips were moving in a warding enchantment.

Emma explained to the queen that she could bless the waters of her beautiful garden, but that it would require them to find the source of the spring. The majordomo and several servants were fetched who lead the adventurers and the queen’s entourage inside the manor and down into the cellars. The cellars made way to even deeper catacombs, which eventually lead to a small cavern chamber.

Inside the chamber it was damp and hot and in the middle of the natural rock of Garamond Hill there was a small, natural cauldron up through which warm water bubbled up. This was as close to the spring as the group could get.

Emma started her ritual and first asked the spring what its name was. The water in the natural cauldron rose somewhat and the spring revealed its name to be Bláthnaid. It was an old Kaedwyni name which meant “flower” or “blossom.” Emma concluded that the waters of Sedna and the creations of Chauntea were cooperating exceptionally well in the water gardens of the royal palace.

Emma got inside the water of the spring to continue the ritual and invited the queen to participate. The queen ripped her exquisite skirt off without hesitation, revealing some delicate breeches underneath, and stepped into the warm spring water to join in the ritual. The remainder of the ritual took long enough for several of the servants to excuse themselves to attend to other duties. Eventually, the it came to an end when Emma placed a mark of Sedna in the cauldron of the spring.

Before the adventurers departed, Lady Annabella asked Emrys to confirm that he was staying at the Careless Wanderer, Luca confronted the mage who was protecting the queen with the incoming tide of magic and all the implications, to which the mage only nodded gravely in return, and the queen showed her appreciation by letting Emma know that she would be in her debt as a show of gratitude, something which might come in handy in the future.

Leave a Reply