Emma, Session 11

7th day of the 3rd ride, month 6 , 1262

After the ritual at the Royal Water-gardens I retired to the Sacred Baths of Sedna to recuperate, while my compatriots pursued more errands. Along the way we ran into James strutting about as if nothing had happened. I missed much of the details, but it seems the scoundrel has rejoined our group and will assist in our endeavor to find Lord Dustin.
James himself is uncertain about what had occurred at the estate and the ancient crypts beneath. All he remembers is slinking of in the dead of night in order to ‘investigate’ some private areas of the estate, before blacking out entirely. I can’t say this inspires much confidence, nor does the sinister arcane marking that has since appeared on the palm of his hand. I have no idea what it is, but it can’t be right, can it?
Best be careful around this one. If not for his own endeavors, then for the potentially sinister outside influences.

I picked up the platinum rings on the way back to the Careless Wanderer, where I hoped to rejoin my compatriots for dinner. Reunited with my friends we found James eager to placate us with fancy chilled drinks. Soon after he started to ask the details about the accursed portal in the ancient tunnels. I recalled the horrid thing with a shudder, but we were all willing to indulge our returned friend.
I doled out the rings and Astrid handed hers to James instead, who wears it on his thumb. Well, at least I can assist most of my fellows. Perhaps Astrid needs it the least anyway.

We agreed to depart around sunrise the next day, so as to make good time in the cooler part of the day before the sweltering heat of summer would strike at us in full force, as it was now at the Careless Wanderer.
I also suggested that we take our spending money to Luca’s room since Emrys was expecting guests for the night,. I later learned that this suggestion was only accepted out of politeness but not acted upon.
After dinner I retired to the common room and James departed to his own abode elsewhere in the city. The others made merry.

8th day of the 3rd ride, month 6, 1262

I started the day early and helped the stable-hand to prepare the cart and the horses. James was punctual. The others not so much. Astrid needed a few minutes to shake off the worst of her cups from the night before. We found Luca near catatonic on his bed with his door broken. He admitted to sleeping poorly and night-terrors, which supposedly awoke much of the Careless Wanderer, including Emrys, who was responsible for demolishing the door.

This is why one shouldn’t drink to excess.

We had to knock rather hard to wake Emrys, but awaken he did. He was in quite a bewildered state. He indeed entertained guests the night before, judging by the half-finished bottle of wine. Luckily, our treasury was still here. James and I promptly brought it to the cart.
After needless delays we departed a little after sunrise. We made our way out of the Eastern Gate and onto the Silesian Road. James procured some snacks for the two of us at a bakery he was familiar with, which I appreciated.

Upon the recommendations of Lorynn and Durham we would aim to make it to the Inn at the Crossroads, a place with a fine reputation. It is located approximately halfway between Kingsport and Bournemouth at a junction with the northerly road to Whitefork. Despite our delay, we should make it there without trouble.
We also planned for a longer break during the hottest part of the day, which we were planning to do at the Seat of Friendship, which we were expected to find half the way towards the Inn on the Crossroads.

James and I shared the reins, for James explained that he was interested to learn how to control a cart and horses. I patiently instructed him and hoped to explain that rapport with the animals is key. I think he is picking it up well enough. Luckily our team of horses is well-mannered and docile enough.

We found the sacred grove called the Seat of Friendship without trouble a little after noon. The grove was pleasantly cool and there were all manner of folk there. A number of druids tended the primordial oak that grew there, one of which joined our group for a pleasant conversation. A conversation that Emrys took the lead in. Luca showed interest in a weedy looking man who was openly peddling in fear. I paid them little to no heed.

There were also Szygani here. Much like me they travel the lands, but following the roads and tracks of the world instead of the streams. They are poorly understood and mistrusted by most people. I have had little interactions with them before, but have heard that they can have insights and understanding that most common folk would not value. For that reason I approached them and brought one of the mysterious ruby-like crystals with me. Their leader, Vadema, examined the stone with great interest and discussed it in an unfamiliar tongue with one of her impressively mustachioed companions. After a while she offered the same appraisal as Eryka.
She wanted to trade with me for the stone. I offered to simply gift it, but she refused. I admitted a poor interest and skill in the art of barter to Vadema and explained that I live a life of service instead. This led to an unexpected theological detour. She was interested to know which of the ‘New’ Gods I serve and I happily explained about Sedna. In return I inquired about the ‘Old’ Gods and she explained that the Szygani worship the moons and Mashkar, the Bloodmoon, in particular. I am intrigued, perhaps even envious of their seemingly ancient customs and their close link to nature.

Ultimately Vadema offered a small silver pendant for the stone with the symbol of Mashkar. I inquired if the pendant would secure a certain rapport with other Szygani I might meet, and she assured me it would. I considered this a fair trade and accepted.
At this point James rudely interrupted and demanded from Vadema what she ‘truly’ knew about the stone. She stayed calm and declined to know anything more than she shared with me. James is certainly truthful about one thing: he is a Kingsport native and a real city-slicker. I don’t think that Vadema and I were merely ‘trading commodities’ but a little more than that. Friendship and respect perhaps? Not all things are purely transactional my dear James.

Admittedly, I could be wrong about this and I was cheated by Vadema. But somehow the ‘transaction’ feels right. That must be worth something, mustn’t it?

Also, we all noted that Astrid’s eyes have taken a rather … lupine … character. We didn’t press the matter too hard.

After a good deal of leisure time I prepared the cart and signaled our departure. We left the Seat of  Friendship in fairly good spirits. We are bound to arrive at the Inn at the Crossroads rather late.

While on the road James and I were alerted by a panicked scream in the forest. James immediately dashed for cover in the thicket while I roused the others of our company.
We soon discovered a couple of gentlemen beset by well-armed and armored louts. I approached them and demanded that they stand down, but to no avail. Violence would follow.

The struggle was quick and brutal and we were victorious. Despite my bold approach I came out of it unscathed! Astrid drew much attention with her enormous sword, a price she paid in blood many times over. James was swift and lethal, running all over the place, being nearly everywhere at once. Emrys covered one flank fairly effectively until the poor soul was struck by two arrows in the back. He dropped like a sack of bricks.

I performed a grand prayer to Sedna that restored much vitality to both Emrys and Astrid.

Luca … Luca’s talents appear to expand and become ever more terrifying.  The dark blasts of raw magical power he conjures seem to grow in lethality and feel ever more grim and disturbing. In addition he now wields deadly fire.

I fear for the young man.

Two of the armed assailants fled after our display of power, while four of the assailants perished. The two gentlemen were most grateful. They explained that they were merchants on their way to Kingsport, when their guard turned on them with demands for gold. When the guard found the offers insufficient they turned to violence.

I offered the merchants to join us on the road to the Inn at the Crossroads but they were still contemplating to press on to Kingsport. They relented however when James painted a rather bleak picture for them and their survival should they continue.
This was perhaps a bit excessive, but thankfully it serves a benign purpose. Oliver and Trent now join our merry little gang until we reach the Inn at the Crossroads.

It will probably be dark before we get there.

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