Previously, travelled from Egremont, into the Riverlands to Blackbridge aboard the Old Queen. The town, almost completely surrounded by woods, lay on the crossing of the Teign river and the bridge crossing it along the Silesian road. Getting settled in at The Grove, the local tavern and lodge, James was approached by Randall, the stern-faced captain of the guard who wanted to speak to him regarding the dagger he was carrying on his belt and his possible involvement in a string of murders. James, fearful of being made a scapegoat and having a strong disdain for authority, fled the scene. Eventually, a meeting was arranged on the bridge with the local magistrate, a flinty-eyed woman by the name of Loretta. It was agreed that the town sage would divine the truth behind the dagger, under the watchful eyes of the adventurers, minus James, who didn’t feel safe enough to come along.
Second Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262
(Silvermoon is waning. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)
James walked back down the Silesian road, away from the bridge, to once again meet up with Emrys who was hiding in the woods, while Luca decided to stay behind and observe the ritual divination which was about to take place. Loretta lead the way back to the Black House escorted by captain Randall, his guards, Astrid and Emma.
The town sage turned out to be Loretta’s husband Callum, at least twenty years her senior and quite old. He performed a ritual that seemed to tax his strength considerably, involving the burning of incense and a collection of polished ivory sticks engraved with arcane runes.
Before James, the dagger belonged to a curious old alchemist by the name of Alfred Barnaby who ran an alchemy shop in Bournemouth. He was a man of questionable morals and backbone, but with a keen, opportunist mind, like that of a scorpion. Like a scorpion, he learned to utilise the sting in this dagger’s tail and started to experiment with the poisonous substance the blade could be coated with.
The blade came to Alfred in the hands of a wounded assassin named Orgamel, devoted follower of the Dark Queen Takhisis. Orgamel had fled Egremont when a planned assassination of a local miller’s daughter had gone awry and he had caught a guardsman’s blade to the belly. Crudely bandaged up, he stole a small fishing boat and travelled down river to Bournemouth, escaping the law and seeking aid, he had hoped to find it at the alchemist’s, only to die at the hands of the opportunistic quack.
Before the unsuccessful assassination, the blade was given to Orgamel by Melchior, a wicked man from deep in Eastmarsh who spent his entire life in service to the Dark Queen and had spread her dark influence all along the eastern coast of the Lyrian gulf for decades and had acquired a loyal following.
Melchior had been tasked to murder very specific people by Takhisis and had plotted for a decade, trying to find a way to do so. First, he created a following. Second, he trained and equiped his followers. And last, he would direct his followers to assassinate those the Dark Queen had marked for death. The blade was one of the weapons created to perform the murders. It is one of many.
In the decade leading up to Melchior being ready to execute Takhisis’ plan, he took his followers and penetrated deep into the Eastmarsh, seeking out the territory of Kalauranthalasis, an ancient green dragon who, in its old age, had grown so arrogant as to think it had no more need to fear or obey the Dark Queen.
When the humans finally came for Kalauranthalasis, it could no longer rely on its mistress and was quickly overwhelmed by Melchior and his followers. Melchior defeated Kalauranthalasis and subjugated it, chaining it and harvesting its body for its essential salts, fashioning the wicked daggers from its teeth, nails and poisonous fangs. They used the jewels from its hoard to decorate the blades, and used the dragon’s life force to enchant the blades with the same wickedness as the dragon that spawned them.
Somewhere in the Eastmarsh, Kalauranthalasis lies bound a slave to Melchior’s whims.
With the truth unveiled, Callum excused himself and was escorted away. Loretta stayed behind to address Astrid, Emma and Luca. It was decided that it would be for the best that the adventurers take the dagger far away from Blackbridge and that James would not be welcome in or around the town until he was ready to accept the Queen’s appointed authority.
The adventurers went back to The Grove and asked Keogh, the owner, whether they could resume their stay and they were welcomed back into the inn and found that their beds were vacant and their equipment untouched.
In the meantime, James and Emrys had sneaked back into Blackbridge in order to find a place for them to rest which gave them some protection from the elements. Normally able to rely on his talents, James found himself out of his depths a bit in such a rural environment, preferring instead the urban environments of places like Kingsport and Bournemouth, and so the best he could do was an abandoned pigsty on the edge of town with enough dry hay on the ground to allow Emrys a small measure of comfort.
Third Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262
(Silvermoon is waning. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)
The following morning James and Emrys sneaked from the pigsty, through the woods back to the Silesian road and walked down to the bridge to wait for the others. The others woke up late and found that the options for breakfast were limited due to all the other guests having gotten up much earlier than they and picking the larders clean. The managed to eat some scraps but were delighted when Roswyn, the innkeep’s wife, was able to pack five lunches for them to take on the road.
Speaking with Keogh they learned that if they were quick, they might still catch up with Kedelon, an elven boatsman who was going up to Allenham by barge and was set to depart in the morning. Gathering all of their things, Luca, Emma and Astrid hastily made their way to the soggy flats of the harbour area, making as much haste as they could while simultaneously carrying the chest between them.
Arriving at the peer, they looked around for Kedelon and his barge and finally spotted him, already on his way, having passed by the bridge across the river, punting the barge upstream. Emma tried to call out to him, but couldn’t get his attention. She decided to sprint uphill, towards the bridge, and yelled down at him again, this time getting his attention. She asked if he had space for a few more passengers and he happily obliged, docking the barge on the bank north of the bridge.
The adventurers gathered up their things and climbed aboard and found Kedelon to be a friendly, elven boatsman on his way to Allenham together with Rickard and Willow, the couple who had been travelling in the same direction since Bournemouth. While Willow was handing out some fresh fruits to all aboard and Emma was chatting with the riverlanders, Luca informed James and Emrys of what had occurred at the Black House, and the information they had gained about the dagger.
Emma learned that Kedelon was the Allenham boatsman, working for the village magistrate a man by the name of Theo Strickland. Kedelon had travelled down to Blackbridge to pick up some goods and packages, including some cloth, silks and dyes that were to be used to create the clothing for the wedding feast of his sister’s.
The travel upriver was pleasant and serene with the forest on either bank remaining dense and verdant. Birds could be heard everywhere, only occasionally drowned out by the sound of a rutting moose bull. Kedelon and Astrid took turns taking the large punting poles to push the boat upstream.
Occasionally, Kedelon would stop at small river-side villages to drop off packages he picked up from Blackbridge. It was clear he was a common and welcome sight to most people along the river.
Emrys mostly kept to himself, his mood being tempered by the unnatural appearance he now bore. His silvery hair tucked underneath his hood and his radiant eyes hidden behind his blindfold. James kept to himself, unwilling to engage with the Riverlanders on a personal level.
In the afternoon the large swooping figure of a young wyvern flew overhead, its leathery wings, razor sharp claws and serpentine tail standing in stark contrast to the clear blue sky. To some this was the source of some fright, to others it was a symbol that they were travelling further away from civilisation.
At the end of the day, a small cove in the river was reached, with a shallow beach, protected from the current by two large, round boulders. A grassy clearing with access to the cove, protected by the densely leafed branches of two ash trees was to be their camp site for the night. A semi-permanent, stone fire pit stood in the middle of the small clearing and a supply of firewood could be found in the hollow of one of the ash trees. This spot was clearly used often by the travellers of the Riverlands.
While Willow and Kedelon prepared a fire and started making some stew, Rickard and James went into the woods to find fresh fire wood to replace the wood they would use during the night.
Emma approached Emrys and asked him if he would care to take a swim with her. She wanted to try seeing whether or not she could somehow dispel the magical effect that had gotten hold of him. Initially reluctant, he decided that a swim would do him well after the warm day and accompanied Emma. First they swam, relatively secluded, and then Emma cleansed Emrys in a ritual, restoring his visage to what it was before the fight with the Pesta in the basement of Alfred Barnaby’s alchemy shoppe.
Immediately after restoring Emrys back to his old appearance, his cheerful personality returned as well and while the food was being prepared he began strumming his lute. Emma, satisfied with the minor miracle she managed to perform with Sedna’s help, decided to take up Muirgheal and use it to go spear fishing in the river. Guided by Muirgheal, she speared a huge river trout, which was cleaned roasted and added to the stew for supper.
Eventually, a rotating set of guards were set up for the night and everyone bedded down. James, ever the contrarian, decided to sleep in the barge, looking up at the stars. Just before he fell asleep, he noticed that the Silvermoon was at low sanction, while the Darkmoon was at its fullest, a sign of foreboding.
Fourth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262
(Silvermoon in low sanction. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon in high sanction.)
The night went by without any disturbance, everyone who was assigned to stand guard did so without complaint. Early in the morning the remainders of the fish was served up and the stew was eaten and the camp site was once again brought to its proper state. Trash was discarded, the fire pit was tidied and the fire wood was stacked in the ash tree’s hollow to dry.
The day on the river went by quietly, listening to the sounds of the forest and the river and only occasionally being disturbed by manoeuvres having to be made to prevent the barge from hitting rocks in the river. Kedelon explained that the heat of summer was both a blessing and a curse for travelling upriver; it meant the current wasn’t as strong, making punting the barge upriver easier, but it also meant that the water level was low, making navigating the rocks a lot harder.
Midway through the morning the barge was brought to a halt as a large brown bear was standing in the middle of the river, fishing for river trout. Eventually the bear lost interest in the fish after having pawed several fish from the stream and devoured them, and went on his merry way.
It was in the early afternoon that the river began to bend off to the east ever so slightly and Kedelon announced that their arrival at Allenham was imminent. Everyone got ready once a small pier was spotted on the western bank slightly upstream and within minutes everyone was standing along a small path leading along the river. While docking, James had noticed that some smoke was rising above the trees to the north. It struck him as a different type of smoke, darker and more acrid, than normal hearth fires.
Willow and Rickard bid the others farewell, as they travelled south along the path while Kedelon and the adventurers chose to head north, towards Allenham. Soon the forest started to thin out and pretty soon a large, gnarled tree with bare branches could be seen on the bank of the river. Several dead bodies were hanging from ropes attached to different branches. Getting closer to the tree, the adventurers identified that all of the bodies belonged to non-humans, mostly elves. It became clear that racial tension had exploded in Allenham.
Kedelon identified the bodies and he became anxious to make it to his family’s cottage to make sure they were okay. Emrys and James, having elven blood, thought it best not to head into town but follow Kedelon to his family’s cottage in the woods on the edge of town. Astrid, Emma and Luca would go into town and see if they could find a place to purchase a beast of burden for their onward journey.
When Astrid, Emma and Luca walked into town they passed by several vandalised homes, some of them burnt to the ground with nothing left standing but the charred skeleton. They walked up to what passed for the rural town square, finding a large group of humans standing and milling about opposite of the largest building in town, which was guarded by two people which looked to be part of the town guard.
There was an amount of posturing from the group loitering which was making the town guard very nervous. When the adventurers asked the guards to see the magistrate, they seemed not at all to care to protect the magistrate and let the adventurers into the building after Luca pretended to be an envoy from the court.
In the meantime, Kedelon, Emrys and James had circled through the woods and found a colourful cabin surrounded by a beautiful, fragrant herb garden. Much to Kedelon’s relief, they found his mother Syldarael and sister Sylvael safely inside, together with a halfling friend of the family.
Syldarael explained that the Allen family, whose daughter Martha was once engaged to be married to Theo Strickland, the magistrate. The engagement was called off when it was revealed that the Strickland family had promised Theo in matrimony to a woman living in Bournemouth. The Allen family, and especially Martha, were disappointed but understood the situation. When, years later, Strickland got engaged to Sylvael, the Allen family felt fleeced.
An underlying animosity towards Syldarael and her family made the situation worse. Syldarael was the town herbalist, healer and midwife. She delivered Martha many years ago but unfortunately Martha’s mother, Anna, passed away from complications during birth. Herman, Martha’s father, head of the Allen family, never forgave Syldarael for losing his wife and held her personally responsible. For years he has been poisoning people against Syldarael, and by extension, against her daughter Sylvael, especially since she is training to become a healer too.
A few days prior to the adventurers arriving in Allenham, two of Martha’s cousins, Justan and Brandon, were sentenced to hang by the magistrate for the crime of destroying the smithy run by Falibor, a dwarven blacksmith who is of great strategic importance to Allenham and its surroundings. The two cousins had been in their cups one night and decided to retaliate against Falibor for firing Justan from his apprenticeship because of poor craftmanship. Thinking they were not going to be punished too harshly, the two boys had proudly admitted their crimes and quickly found themselves with a noose around their necks. This was the spark that lit the fire of racial tension.
Emrys and James spoke with Syldarael about the different ways in which the situation could be resolved. When the topic of breaking off the engagement came up, Sylvael spoke out against it. James harshly told her to shut up and in turn got rebuked by Syldarael.
To make matters worse, Procyon commandos had heard of the problems in the Riverlands and had sent a group into the area. Ostensibly to rescue non-humans from oppression, but Syldarael understood them to fan the flames of hatred. They were lead by an elf by the name of Cendelius, a sharpshooter who used to fight for the Daerlan empire against the Lyrians on the Plains of Strife before the last peace treaty was signed and he and his brigade were traded to the Lyrian empire for execution as part of the treaty. He and several others survived the massacre and became deeply embittered against both the Daerlan empire as well as the Lyrian kingdom. They were rescued by the Procyon and immediately swore allegiance to their cause.
Emrys drew Toruviel from its elaborate scabbard and seemed for a moment to commune with it. He said he was determined to protect Syldarael and her family from any harm that may befall them at the hands of the bigoted people of Allenham. Syldarael refused to have drawn weapons in her house and asked Emrys to depart. He did so and took position in front of her cabin. James was worried that Toruviel’s undue influence on Emrys and departed for the town when he saw that reasoning with Emrys seemed impossible.
Eventually James arrived at the magistrate’s house and was let inside by the guards to find Astrid, Emma and Luca talking to the magistrate. They went over all the key people involved in the conflict, their desires, their grievances and their objections. They found the magistrate was unwilling to relinquish his position in the town and eventually thought it would be best to convene a meeting between the various factions to see if fences could be mended and bridges could be restored.