Note: my recollection of the events during this session is severely limited due to the events of the last few weeks. The recap is shorter and lower on detail as a result.
Previously, the adventurers conducted more research around Pinefall, gathering more information about the region and its people by talking to Bristlecone villagers and the visiting szygani camped outside of the abandoned village.
First Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon is waxing.)
While searching through the abandoned village, the adventurers spoke about the nature of their mission, what they had signed up for, and whether or not they might need to renegotiate their contract with House Sheridan in light of them possibly having to enter the cursed Crimson Tower in order to find Lord Destan. And then there was the question of the message that Falka had received from House Sheridan, dissuading her from helping the adventurers on their quest. Were they even still doing House Sheridan’s bidding? In the end, Emma offered to send a message using her divine gifts, explaining the situation and possibly starting a renegotiation of their deal with House Sheridan.
While visiting the nearby szygani camp, Luca decided to approach Hejduk and talk to him in depth about what brought him to Pinefall. Luca used the information that was given to him by his master to quickly find that Hejduk was indeed the “other who serves” that his master mentioned. He quickly convinced Hejduk that he would have to join the adventurers in finding and entering the Crimson Tower, something he was nervous but eager to perform.
Because the adventurers had committed to the plan of entering the Crimson Tower, most of them spent some time coming to terms with what was about to come. Astrid and James went back to the Rudwick barton to drink while James wrote his mother a letter. Emrys and Luca went to speak to Isobel once again to try and see if there was any way in which they could have access to the tracker without James’ involvement. There wasn’t, but she did sweeten the deal by offering a pearl that Luca could use in his divination rituals. She also promised to cook the adventurers a nice meal.
While the adventurers ate, Luca shared his plan to bring Hejduk along with him, which met with surprisingly little resistance from the rest of the group. He spoke about how Maškar, the szygan deity, had brought Hejduk to Pinefall and that his destiny lay inside the Crimson Tower. Luca also shared what Emrys and himself had discussed with Isobel and that she had expanded her offer.
Second Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon in high sanction.)
The following night the adventurers were awoken by a storm; rumbling of thunder and the sound of rain hitting the shutters. Light kept flickering from beneath the cabin door and in the cracks of the shutters. When the adventurers opened the door and peered outside, they were confronted with a chaotic scene of the wind blowing branches and leaves everywhere while the moons were obscured by dramatic clouds.
There was screeching and howling in the air as well as strange cackling laughter. The sounds of leathery wings straining against the howling wind could be heard, with the occasional crack of a whip and the rustling of wicked chains. Wicked shadows could be seen flying overhead, but never in enough detail to make out what it was.
In the morning, the adventurers spent time at rest. The conversation turned to Emrys’ upbringing among the elves of the Aen Adhar of the Riverlands. He explained that he was raised in a cult of Sehanine Moonbow and was a prophesied child, but that much to his frustration it never became clear what it was that he was supposed to do. Emrys believed that his sometimes erratic magical ability might be at the core of the belief of the Sehanine cult, but that his occasional lack of control over his magic has lead to results far worse than his hair turning silver and his eyes radiating with light; it lead to the sudden disappearance of his tutor, the elf named Voriel. Emma recognised the name as the person Emrys had pledged his Sheridan reward to in the case he didn’t return from the mission.
After that conversation, Emrys seemed in a melancholic mood and he decided to continue writing the ballad he had dubbed “The Tragedy at Allenham.”
James decided to pay Drummond a visit and handed Drummond the letter he had written and asked that if he did not return from his upcoming expedition that the letter be delivered to his mother back in Kingsport. The old, retired soldier happily obliged James’ request.
What eventually moved James to decide to part with a lock of his hair was only known to James himself, but the adventurers finally set foot in the witch’s hut. Inside, they found the witch was preparing a meal for the adventurers while the gaunt form of the tracker lay asleep in a small bed.
As you enter the small hut in the middle of the forest your senses are immediately overwhelmed by the rich smell of Mazurian beef goulash coming from a large pot hanging over a small fire in the stone hearth. Tenderly cooked meat swirling in a thick broth of onion, capsicums and tomatoes, rich with pepper, cloves and garlic.
It’s dark inside and your eyes take a moment to adjust to the shaded surroundings. A large table stands in the middle of the hut, set with cups, plates, bowls and cutlery for all of you. Above the table, among the rafters of the moss covered roof hang wreaths of garlic, and thick bushels of rosemary, lavender and dried mandrake.
The hut is decorated with furniture which holds small jars, trinkets, spice racks and kitchen utensils. Several pots of different sizes are standing next to the hearth as well as a rack with implements to raise and lower the fire. Dried firewood is stacked neatly on one side of the hearth. A rope is strung from one end of the room to the other, just below the rafters. It holds several articles of clothing, hanging out to dry.
In one corner of the room stands a small bed in which a man lies asleep. He has dark hair and a gaunt face. He is handsome if it wasn’t for his pale complexion and his sallow features. His face looks peaceful. His hands are placed above the blanket that covers him, gently resting on his stomach. His posture reminds you of a tomb effigy.
A curious circle set with an elaborate star, adorned with unsettling symbols has been carefully drawn on the wall against which the bed has been placed. Small fetishes of dried flowers, feathers and bones have been pinned inside the circle there where the lines of the circle and star cross. The symbols seem to have been retraced with a thick, red liquid. Possibly blood. It has long since dried up.
In the other corner of the room, an owl is sitting on a perch observing everything. Elsewhere a black cat is asleep on the floor amongst several balls of wool, dyed green.
The adventurers spent some time investigating the unconscious tracker, especially after the witch revealed that he had a burn mark on the inside of his hand that was almost identical to the one that James bore. Luca noted, not for the first time, that the curious design of the mark reminded him of several wizard marks he had seen circle trained mages use as a personal seal. Fading bruises and healing wounds dotted the tracker’s body, but nothing serious, except the wound on the back of his head, which seemed to have been caused by a blow.
Once again, Luca made use of Blackstar’s ability to find souls for its consumption and found that unlike Robart, a soul housed inside the tracker’s body. Not only that, but there was a faint, second soul hidden inside the body as well.
While the adventurers discussed what their discovery possibly meant, Isobel took the lock she had received from James and started to create another fetish, weaving his hair into it, together with the small feather of a local songbird and the head of an acorn. She pinned it to the arcane circle above the tracker’s bed, explaining that she believed that James’ connection to the tracker would help power the circle in keeping the tracker’s soul from departing its body.
The conversation continued over the meal, though not all of the adventurers ate the offered food. Isobel did not seem to notice as she was beaming at Astrid’s appetite. The conversation quickly turned to Robart and his lack of a soul and the adventurers decide to talk to Coranthe, retrieve Robart and let Emma perform the Ritual of Restoration in the water of the pond behind Isobel’s hut. Isobel explained that she chose the location of her home because of the presence of a so-called “crossing” around the pond, where the fabric between the realities in the ethereal mist was thinnest.
Surprisingly, Coranthe was very susceptible to allowing Robart to accompany the adventurers into the woods. But unfortunately the ritual was not successful; both the tracker and Robart were unchanged, though Robart, having waded into the waters of the pond and washed by the priestess, did have a much needed bath.
After putting the tracker back in his bed, the adventurers said their goodbyes to Isobel who gave them a parting gift of two pearl earrings. When Luca said the agreement was for but one earring, she snapped at him demanding to know what she was going to do with an earring without its matching pair.
Robart was returned to Coranthe and Luca went to visit the szygani camp to instruct Hejduk to be at the western shore of the lake before dawn the following morning. He then returned to the farm and performed a divination on the leather bracers that James had pulled from the giant’s camp several days before. They turned out to benefit the wearer with an unnatural gift of archery.
Luca and Emrys spent some more time discussing the matters of prophecy and the arcane. Luca shared what he had learned from experimenting with the Lyrium crystals and gave one to Emrys to boost his magic in case of an emergency.
Third Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon is waning.)
Just like the previous night the moons are largely obscured be thick, angry clouds from inside which lightning flickers. Occasionally the lightning bursts through the clouds to the outside, where it dances and plays along the bottom of the clouds, and streaks across the sky like angry, jabbing fingers. Thunder no longer rumbles in the distances but now cracks loudly overhead. Rain drizzles down in waves as the wind blows in.
The sky is the colour of dark purple, as the Bloodmoon and the Darkmoon light up everything around you whenever the clouds part. Like the night that Luca and James met Kalindras the procyon scout and fought against Liliana, everything is awash in a constricting, purple glow. The Silvermoon is in slow ascent and occasionally tries to provide relief, but never long enough or strong enough to inspire you against the foreboding of its siblings.
When the sounds of screeching and howling start again, much closer and much clearer this time, strange shapes and shadows can be seen against the dark and purple clouds, like colonies of overgrown bats streaking across the sky. Whenever lightning strikes you are affording flashes of detail of the figures flying overhead; images of maws and claws, of spikes and talons, of maddening sadness and terrifying wickedness too horrifying for your minds to entertain.
This time there are other sounds and images, too. Those which your mind is all too eager to focus on. Of the alabaster feathers of majestic griffons and the blue and steel of the knights that sit astride them. They streak across the sky like lightning, vigorously engaging the dark shapes with a heroism and confidence that you have a hard time fathoming.
High above the lake, the two cavalcades clash. Fire and radiance, steel and claw. All against the backdrop of the Night of Violet Eyes.
Before dawn, the adventurers get up and prepare to go and search for the tower while the darkness outside is the home to terrifying images. They decide to redistribute some of the healing potions that they liberated from the Alfred Barnaby’s Concoctions and Decoctions back in Bournemouth. Emrys also took possession of the fire breath potion. When they were finally ready, they went out into the darkness, meeting up with a visibly shaken Hejduk at the bridge across the river.
After crossing the river the group ventured north along the western shores of lake Llygad, seeing roving parties of strange monsters and patrolling parties of armoured knights. When the group stumbled close to a group of knights, James decided to throw a rock at them in order to see whether they would respond, half expecting the rock to pass through them as if they were a spectral image. To his surprise, they did respond, calling out a challenge James had heard before in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe; “Decerte!”
He remembered that Ser Arman de Courtenay called that out to the knights he lead in pursuit of the skaven, and they responded with “Adversa!” And so James said just that, with as much conviction as he could muster. When he did, the knights looked visibly relieved and lowered their weapons to approach the group.
There were three knights, two in the vermilion-adorned armour of the Order of the Shield, and one was wearing the lapis lazuli coloured armour of the Order of the Gryphon. They were accompanied by two others; a male dwarf and a female elf, both armed and moving with the confidence of experience warriors.
While one of the knights of the Order of the Shield was a towering individual standing at a height to rival that of Lord Marcus Sheridan, the real shock came when the knight of the Order of the Gryphon removed his helmet to reveal the face the adventurers had only seen hours before; this was a less gaunt version of the tracker in the witch’s hut. Healthy and strong. He introduced himself as Ser Edrick and ordered them to go back to the expedition camp, taking them for camp followers.
The adventurers watched the knights and their armsmen move off back into the darkness and decided to hide out until the violent storm and strange clash of cavalcades had passed. They waited until dawn started to appear on the horizon, forcing the strange purple glow of the Night of Violet Eyes to make way for the orange glow of a new day. The group made their way to the shorelines and waited.
As the storm slowly subsides and the sky in the east starts to lighten with the coming of the dawn, you are left with a chill in the core of your stomach, caused by the bizarre events of the last few hours. You watch as the first rays of sunshine start the crest the eastern hills and hit the surface of Lake Llygad. The shimmering reflection of the sun momentarily forces you to squint your eyes and the warmth of the light softens the ill feeling in your belly. You briefly close your eyes to enjoy the sun and listen to the lapping of water up against the shore.
You open your eyes again as you hear water start to rush in retreat, reminding you of the sound of the rift you once heard in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe. You watch as out on the lake, at about a hundred paces away from shore, you see a huge maelstrom appear with at its centre a dark, cavernous drop, leading who-knows-where.
At the edges of the maelstrom several figures have risen from the lake. They have a faintly humanoid shape, only much larger, standing at the height of two normal men. Their bodies are made of coursing water, roiling inside of them. They don’t seem to have any legs, nor a head, but they hold their arms aloft their burly torso and you notice the glint of thick, golden bracers at their wrists.
Suddenly, you see the battlements of a stone tower arise from the centre of the maelstrom. It rises up faster and faster as it reaches high in the sky, revealing its blood stained walls. When it stops rising, it stands at the height of twenty men, surrounded by a stone, protective wall. A rampart leads up from the water to an opening in the front of the wall.
The bodies of hundreds of people have been nailed to the surface of the tower and its protective wall. Some of the figures are writhing in pain, moaning and howling from the agony. Some have missing appendages; bloody stumps where their limbs used to be. Sometimes you see limbs impaled on spikes without an attached body. Some bodies are strung up by their own entrails. A row of heads line the top of the wall.
The figures with the golden manacles sink back into the water as the maelstrom stops spinning and the water once against comes to rest. You notice that just below the surface of the lake, a causeway leads up to the rampart.
Gathering the necessary courage, the adventurers, together with the szygan Hejduk, started to make their way across the causeway. Luca was struck with a sudden doubt and Emma had to call upon the calming rituals of Mother Sedna for Luca to regain his confidence. Trailing behind the others, Emma and Luca ran across the causeway, almost slipping on the wet stones and skidding into the water. Luckily they made it in time to go through the large front door before the tower once again disappeared and was swallowed up by the lake.
Inside the to circular tower the adventurers were confronted by a wide open floor, comfortably decorated with chairs around the hearth, a large dining table surrounded by sturdy, high-backed chairs, and walls lined with well-maintained suits of armour lining the wall, polished to a high sheen and playfully reflecting the dozens of candles set in the chandelier above the dining table. Above the mantle hung a large portrait of a balding man wearing an opulent, red, ermine-trimmed robe.
On the left of the chimney was a trapdoor leading down, on the right of the chimney was a set of wooden beams set into the wall to form a staircase ending at another trapdoor in the ceiling.
The adventurers looked around and found two curious, crystal rods, one blue, one red, on either side of a bowl overflowing with fresh fruit. They also found that the trapdoor seemed to be sealed by two sets of three small crystals. One set were all clear, the other blue, red and blue again. James and Luca immediately started to experiment using the crystal rods on the clear crystals, which changed colour whenever they touched them. They thought that they would have to turn the clear crystals to the same pattern as the coloured, example crystals, but it turned out to be more complicated than they thought.