2nd day of the 1st ride of Summer-Flame, 1262
After our battle on the Old Queen we came to Egremont for a brief pause. At the town we had a meal, while Emrys, being a curious lad, inquired about rumours. He learned that the region, and Egremont in particular had suffered a serious of unsolved murders. This hardly brightened our moods. We continued on to Blackbridge, where matters turned much worse at an alarming speed.
Initially we simply acquired sleeping arrangements at the local Inn and had a good meal and there seemed to be no bother. Then the local head of the guard rather loutishly inquired James about the foul dagger he had recently taken possession of. Supposedly, the blade might be connected to a series of recent murders, much like the ones in Egremont. James’s insolence and the guard’s brazen authoritarianism collided spectacularly and things got out of hand rather quickly. Eventual James simply escaped into the wilderness, later joined by Emrys and Luca who were uncertain of the guard’s opinion of them after the initial scuffle. I was too tired and worn to be bothered and remained.
After some more drama the matter was resolved thus: James would surrender the dagger to the town’s augur, who would investigate the history of the blade in detail. This should prove James’ innocence. As soon as James would be acquitted we would be free to leave. Luca, overcome by his curiosity ‘demanded’ to bear witness to the augur’s divinations. Astrid and I joined him.
The local magistrate, a middle-aged woman, was rather annoyed by all of it and would not be mollified by my offers for assistance. Given the recent murders, this was hardly surprising. The augur turned out to be the magistrate’s husband, an elderly man with, judging from Luca’s keen interest, arcane skills. After a lengthy ritual the augur revealed the sinister history of the blade. The blade was fashioned by Melchior, a hidious follower of the Dark Queen, who used the powers of an enslaved dragon to create these warped foul blades. The dragon itself a follower of the Dark Queen who had grown too arrogant in its power and paid for its arrogance through enslavement. The blades were distibuted to devotees of the Dark Queen for the purpose of assassinating various people. The strange thing is that none of the victims appear to be of great importance beyond their closest family. No nobles or notables, just ‘common’people (a worry the magistrate expressed). This particular blade was also in the possession of an assassin, but one that had a mishap against a mark in Egremont. He injured himself in some way. He sought assistance from Alfred Barnaby in Bournemouth, who betrayed him. Barnaby killed him and used the blade for experimentation, probably creating the Pesta in the process. After the destruction of the Pesta, the blade came into the possession of James White, who, as the Augur confirmed, had no hand in the murders in either Egremont or Blackbridge.
We confirmed that the relevant information would find its way to authorities downstream and agreed that we would depart from Blackbridge at our earliest convenience. James would be free from any charges, so long as he wouldn’t burden the town with his presence for the forseeable future. Luca and I made an admittedly lame attempt to find Emrys and James before retiring to the Inn for rest after this very, very long day.
3rd day of the 1st ride of Summer-Flame, 1262
After a proper night’s sleep Astrid, Luca and I woke later than most. This meant we were consigned to scraps for breakfast, but still found the innkeep willing to provide packed lunches for five. While we discussed the best way to depart from Blackbridge, the innkeep suggested that we might still be able to catch an elven boatsman by the name of Kethelon headed for Alanham. We didn’t hesitate and rushed to the waterfront. After some slight commotion we managed to stop Kethelon in the nick of time, so that we could embark, and by Sedna’s providence, both James and Emrys were there as well to join us. Kethelon was delighted to take us, and we found Willow and Rickon on the barge as well. I entertained Willow, Rickon and the boatsman in all manner of pleasantries so as to give Luca time to fill in our comrades about the augur’s findings.
Thus we departed from Blackbridge, leaving its magistrate with the dire information gleaned from the assassin’s blade and to resolve the bloody trail it and its brethren had carved in the community on her own. But that darkness is behind us, and we are heading up the stream, in what was to become a very pleasant day.
The dark history of the blade seems not to weigh on James in any way.
The trip was splendid. Apart from the brooding figure of James, and the sulking figure of Emrys, we were only disturbed by a passing shadow of a wyvern. A reminder that we are moving into wild country. The weather was nice, the scenery full of life, and no bother came our way. In the evening, while were camping out in a lovely shallow bend, I urged Emrys to join me and performed a cleansing ritual, hoping to remove the strange glow that emanates from him ever since the mishap in Barnaby’s basement. The ritual worked! Praise Sedna!
4th day of the 1st ride of Summer-Flame, 1262
The next day started out lovely, but turned sour once we came to our destination: Alanham. After Willow and Rickon departed to the south we headed into town and quickly came upon the town’s Hanging Tree, which was bearing an upsetting amount of Strange Fruit. All of them Elder races. Our half-elven brothers departed with Kethelon, while the rest of us headed into town. It’s too bothersome to go through every detail of our actions, instead I will provide as detailed an overview of the situation I can give. Our initial aim was to acquire a beast of burden and carry on, but it seems that this is a problem we will have to resolve. Not only is it the right thing to do, it seems Toruviel is making Emrys stay until it is resolved.
The town is subject to a sudden and frightfully violent burst of racist sentiment against the Elder races. There appear to be three factions involved: the Lord Magistrate, the Alan-clan, and the Elder Races.
The Alan-clan is an influential family, and the most prominent local farmers. The town appears to be named after them, and many of its people are related to them in some way or shape. Possibly Willow is of this clan as well. The pater familias, Herman Alan, has a number of grievances that probably were the slow burning fuse to local tensions, which the Lord Magistrate set ablaze.
The first grievance is that he appears to have lost his lady wife in childbirth and blames Kethelon’s mother, the local healer, for failing to restoring her to health. Secondly, the Lord Magistrate cancelled a betrothal to Marge Alan, since she was simply too young to be wed and he had found a more suitable candidate. When this marriage also fell through, the insult to the Alans was aggravated by the Lord Magistrate when his eyes fell upon yet another candidate: Kethelon’s sister.
More recently the Lord Magistrate sentenced two young men to death by hanging. The young men had foolishly vandalised the smithy of a dwarf, for whom one of the young men had until recently been an apprentice. The dwarf had terminated the apprenticeship when the young man had failed to meet the required standards. When the young men rather brazenly admitted their crimes, the Lord Magistrate sentenced them to death. Naturally, the erstwhile apprentice was related to the Alan-clan.
My impression is that the Lord Magistrate is an arrogant and prideful man of little competence who has handled this community very poorly indeed. The Alans on their part have misguided their anger to the Elder races, starting a cycle of violence that can turn very grim indeed. In the meantime, a group of brigands led by an elven-marksman, originally a hireling in the service of the Daerlan Empire, is already seeking to inject themselves into the whole situation. I sympathize with the sentiment to protect others, but fail to see how injecting an unlawful band of armed thugs into the situation might improve it all.
Luca and I tried to convince the Lord Magistrate to elope with the love of his life and leave to town for another, but pride prevented him. It seems we will have to try and convince the relevant parties to place some trust in us and to help them resolve it all.
Sedna guide us.