Previously, the adventurers arrived in Pinefall and made their way around the area, meeting various people. They found that Lord Destan had arrived in the village of Bristlecone and had been a guest at a prominent farm until going on an expedition with his guards, the local dog breeder and a tracker from the neighbouring community of Hunter’s Hollar. Rides later three survivors of the expedition were found outside of Bristlecone. It was Destan’s guard Jenna, who died soon after, the dog breeder, who had lost his mind, and the tracker who was unconscious and taken to the witch for healing. The witch was unwilling to give the adventurers access to the tracker in her care until James parted with a lock of his hair, which he refused. A trip to Hunter’s Hollar revealed that Destan had come to them for aid in finding the Crimson Tower, but all of them refused. They could not explain who the tracker was in the care of the witch further deepening the mystery.
Tenth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)
The adventurers found themselves at the abandoned village once again after having explored the shores of Lake Llygad in search for any sign that Lord Destan and his expedition may have left behind. Having found not a trace, and having been spotted by the szygani, the group decided that some of them would approach the travellers. Emma, Emrys and Luca decided to head towards the caravans, while James and Astrid sat down between the wild sorghum to have themselves an adult beverage.
The broad-shouldered, mustachioed szygan that the adventurers had heard playing the violin upon arrival introduced himself as Tibor. He seemed friendly but a little bit apprehensive of the adventurers, but he introduced his wife Selina and his children, Dimmi and Danika. Selina offered the adventurers some small bites of sausage, bread, butter and salt while Tibor offered small glasses of plum liquor.
The others szygani were Hejduk, who was explained to be the group’s “guide” and interpreter of the signs of Maškar, and Mikula and her three daughters Mira, Kezia and Lavinia.
While the conversation turned more amicable between the three adventurers and the szygani, Tibor asked whether or not the James and Astrid would be interested in coming to join everyone. When they arrived, drinks and food were offered, and James was very keen on getting his hands on some of the plum brandy. He found out that the szygani did not create the drink themselves, but had bartered for it to the south, before coming to Pinefall. Their supply was not endless, but James managed to get his hands on eight bottles of the liquor, paying a hefty sum of two crowns and five stags for them. The bottles disappeared into his bag with ease, one by one.
Tibor explained that they had arrived in Pinefall not so long ago, following Hejduk’s interpretation of the signs that Maškar was giving him. He told about the tension between the szygani and the villagers of Bristlecone and about how Drummond came to that tension and explain a few things.
When Luca went to have a conversation with the mysterious, pony-tailed Hejduk, who had been observing Tibor talk to the adventurers, Emrys decided to start playing his lute. He played a cheerful, upbeat tune that Tibor could easily follow with his violin. Together they played and Mikula sent her daughters to dance around the bonfire. James noticed that Mikula’s daughters were probably well-versed in the art of distracting people with their dance, especially men with a fat purse.
Hejduk turned out to be as wary and apprehensive as Tibor initially was, but never eased up. Luca and he spoke about esoteric matters including Maškar, magic, the Circle of Mages and about Luca’s staff. Hejduk explained that he was not formally trained and that he had picked up some tricks along his travels, mostly from other szygani.
When the sun was going down the adventurers headed back to Bristlecone, just in time for them to catch Harm the shepherd, the vulgar and impulsive Volker and Gillian, one of the spinsters with a joy for drink. James ingratiated himself with the Rudwick hands using the newly acquired plum brandy and as time wore on one by one people turned in for the night.
The adventurers found their cottages hot and humid and cleverly made use of their ability to chill water and objects in order to cool themselves down in order to go to sleep.
First Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon is waxing.)
The following day Luca woke up in the middle of the night from the terrible warmth and humidity in the cabin. The magical means by which the adventurers had cooled the cabin had long since worn off, turning the cabin into a steam room as hot as the Sacred Baths of Sedna in Kingsport. Emrys and James were still vast asleep. He felt the urge to go outside and there he was confronted by his master.
Standing in the middle of the guest cabins, impressively tall with that strange, wasp-like waist, he foretold that Luca would be making an important journey and that on that journey he would have a chance to find important books. He would have to find information on the whereabouts of Tharizdun the Mad God. This would be the way in which Luca could repay his master for all the power his master had bestowed on him. He would also be gifted a boon; upon completion, Luca would be allowed to ask one question which his master would answer honestly.
Before that, however, Luca would have to help “another who serves” who was close by. Luca would have to find a way for “the other who serves” to go along with Luca in order to complete a very important task. Luca thought of Hejduk the szygan. With that understanding, his master bent down on those powerful legs and jumped up into the air like an arrow from a bow, disappearing in a streak in the clouds high above. Luca went back to the cabin to ponder the interaction.
James woke up with a terrible itch on the strange mark he had on the inside of the right hand. He had incurred the mark on that strange night he struggles to remember, before being found in the catacombs underneath Lynnecombe. He remembered flashes of being in the Sheridan library, riffling through their book collection when something happened in a hot flash of light, leaving him with that strange burn mark on his hand. It was that burn mark that Ser Benten mentioned when he urged James to go and find his companions and set off to return Lord Destan, ” since it is his mark you bear, after all.”
It was before dawn that everyone awoke to set out before the first rays of sunlight would crest the hills in the east, hoping to discover some clue about the poem that they recovered from the Bournemouth academy library. The adventurers had considered that the poem was a riddle to find and gain entrance to the Crimson Tower, but so far they had little to corroborate this theory. The Night of Violet Eyes was drawing closer and perhaps they might catch a glimpse of the tower.
As the adventurers started on their walk towards the lake they followed Harm the shepherd and his flock and sheep along the road, across the bridge and toward the lake. He expertly guided the flock with the help of two expertly trained dogs, likely from Robart’s kennel, through an series of intricate whistles and noises.
The conversation came around to the poem they had found in Bournemouth and in particular to the line “The white eye is to be explored.” The adventurers were unsure what this “white eye” was referring to, and they assumed that it was likely the lake.
Having found no traces of the crimson tower as the sun rose above the hills in the east the adventurers returned back to Rudwick’s farm where they enjoyed a nice breakfast. During that time they decided upon a plan to go and talk to Gregory, a local bee farmer, and Drummond, an armsman who retired to Bristlecone after serving in the Order of the Gryphon.
Gregory and Elora turned out to be a delightful older couple living in Bristlecone in a large cabin. They found Gregory in his garden tending to one of the several beehives while Elora was on the other side of the cabin tending to a vegetable garden. The adventurers sat down with them in the shade of a large tree in their garden and enjoyed some of the mead that the couple created from all the honey they farmed from the hives.
The conversation was pleasant but revealed little interesting information. The adventurers found out that the abandoned village had been abandoned for several generations, and they found out that “the white eye” referred to Lake Llygad, which used to be called Llyn Gwenllygad, which translated to “Lake of the White Eye” in an archaic dialect of the elven language spoken in the area long ago.
While the conversation with the old couple was winding down the adventurers noticed Isobel coming up the road, riding a large, black hog, making for an outrageous sight. She stopped in front of Gregory’s garden and asked to speak to James. She reiterated her offer to allow the adventurers access to the tracker in her care. Her price was unchanged; a lock of James’ hair. She did, however, up her ante, saying that she would reveal more about the curious mark on the palm of James’ right hand. James did not agree to the deal and with a smirk Isobel once again mounted her black hog and calmly rode it away.
After that strange encounter, the adventurers said their goodbyes to Gregory and Elora and went to visit Drummond. They found the barrel-chested man in front of his cabin. Their conversation ranged from the recently arrived szygani to the mobilisation of the Bristlecone villagers against the possible threats that the adventurers had seen on their way over from Allenham.
Most importantly, they spoke about Lord Destan and his expedition, particularly about the three who returned. Drummond explained that it was Vulgar Volker who found the Sheridan guard Jenna, Robart and the tracker just north of the bridge on the other side of the river. Drummond was one of the first people to be brought to the scene to help out. Jenna was alive then but had an awful gash in her side and she succumbed to her wounds near the bridge. Robart was carrying the tracker and was raving like a lunatic before his mind collapsed when they reached the bridge.
After the conversation with the retired armsman, the adventurers headed back to the abandoned village. They had previously spotted some abandoned items and the szygani had told them that quite a few interesting things were still around, so they decided to take a look and see if they could find out a reason why the village was abandoned all that time ago.
Rummaging through the village, they ended up finding a chest full of well-preserved linen fabrics hidden away underneath a thick copse of ivy, a dried leather pouch hidden behind a loose stone of a chimney holding eight heavily oxidised copper coins, two worn silver coins and a well-preserved gold crown with the face of King Philip the Tenacious on it. King Philip famously survived an assassination attempt during the Beauclair occupation on the night of Midinváerne in 1068 at Gryphon’s Roost, the nearby home of the Order of the Gryphon.
The real prize find was a scroll case with a collection of papers, together constituting a journal of sorts.The legible papers read the following:
Third Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1187
As predicted, tonight is the Night of the Three Eyes. Last year the Night of the Three Eyes was during the second ride of Winter Deep and therefore less terrifying. It’s the long summer nights that make the night worse on the shores of Llyn Gwenllygad. The year before all three eyes stayed closed. And the year before that it was two days before Highharvestide. Soren has said that if the cavalcade came once more from the Roost we will leave Pinefall for good.
Seventh Day, Second Ride, Summer End, 1187
Tomorrow we are leaving the only home we have ever known. Soren has promised that Fairfields might be far, but that there will be work, there will be people, and we won’t have to relive the slaughter or get woken up by the screams any longer. Soren can work the fields, and I can work the quill.
Ves and Steffen will stay. They believe folk like us won’t survive without the protection of Lady Llyn. Soren says that if the lady cared for us Ves would still have her own hair colour, and would still be able to talk.
I wonder who will live in our hut.