Previously, the heroes had just defeated Atilesceon and were looking to find a way from Old Llygad back to Pinefall. With the portal at the top of the Crimson Tower no longer operational they decided to use the crossing at Isobel’s Vale to come home. The ritual, however, would require many voluntary sacrifices, and Emrys was tasked to convince some of the crusaders to step forward. They managed to perform the ritual and bring over four hundred of the surviving crusaders back, but not before first making a stop in the Feywild, speaking to Yathaghera, the unicorn guardian of the crossing and bartering for their way home with a geis; a debt to a powerful archfey.
(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)
After the scintilating colours of the fey crossing had withdrawn, the heroes and their host of crusaders found themselves standing knee deep in the pond behind Isobel’s hut. The water was cold and there was a crispness in the air. The pines had turned a darker shade and the forest floor was riddled with pine cones and needles. Summer had made place for autumn.
Isobel stood waiting for them at the edge of the pond, dressed for the weather, smoking a pipe. She was carrying blankets but when she saw just how many had showed up she realised that she did not have enough.
At her side stood a seven foot tall man wearing simple clothing that was several sizes to small for him, like a grownup wearing the clothes of a child. Lord Destan, carrying a stack of blankets, just like Isobel. He looked well; or as well as could be expected.
When everyone was getting their bearing slowly the crusaders started to move toward the edge of the pond. Because of the language barrier several people stepped forward who spoke the languages of the elder races, since those had changed far less radically than Lyrian. The most prominent of these were an elven armsman named Dalinda and Ser Kadagar Ashbeard, the dwarven knight that was part of the expedition.
The first order of business was to explain to the crusaders where they were and when they were; some of them had not grasped how long they had been stuck in Old Llygad, or didn’t realise that time was continuing on while they relived the same day over and over.
As the news of the time lapse travels through the camp, causing consternation among the crusaders, the conversation turns to food. Due to the nature of the ritual, the crusaders were able to return only with some personal items. They have no provisions or means for survival. Emma is able to call upon the grace of Sedna, but nowhere near to the extent which is necessary to provide for the crusaders. Shelter is also an issue, but an idea is formed to move the crusaders to the nearby abandoned village.
Here and there, crusaders are gathering wood to make some fires. The wind is chilly and their wet boots and socks need to be dried. Emma goes to console Dame Victoria Greywater whom she inhabited while in Old Llygad. Astrid and Ser Gregorian seem to be staying away from one another, but Ser Edric and Destan meet for a warm embrace.
Emrys and Luca speak to Isobel about the crusaders and what to do with them. Isobel also shares that it’s Highharvestide, and that the villagers are preparing for a celebration. The realisation that it’s already mid-autumn turns their interest to whether the weather will hold, and the witch reaches into a satchel to retrieve some berries which she crushes in her hand. She licks the paste and tastes the air, predicting another two rides before the weather will turn foul and prevent travel.
Lord Destan and Quentin briefly speak about being separated, the retrieval of the sword of flowers and Ser Estienne’s fate. Destan mentions that the sword seems to have changed somewhat since they both laid eyes on it in Old Llygad. The scabbard it rests in is covered in thorny vines bearer vibrant red roses which rapidly grow, bloom and wither away. It seems more alive than it was before.
The heroes realise that many of the items that they gathered while in Old Llygad are still with their respective hosts. Luca speaks to Ser Florianus through a translator to get his items back, and James does the same with Dame Josephine, who seems more occupied with a restless Tourbillon. James offers to help by sharing a cured ham that James had squirrelled away in his magical bag. The large raptor devoured it and screeched for more, unappeased. Dame Josephine returned James his items and declined his invitation to share his fire with her.
Meanwhile, Ser Gregorian shares some of his clothing with Destan in an attempt to make him look a little bit more presentable. The idea is hatched to go by Rudwick’s farm to pick up the items that the heroes and Destan left behind before their departure to the other realm. Destan mentions to James that he’s happy to see him again. James doesn’t remember meeting the man. They decide to postpone a conversation on what happened until later. Destan does, however, remove the mark from James’ hand, leaving only a faint scar.
Emma decides to stay behind to council the crusaders while the rest go to Bristlecone. Their first stop is the Rudwick barton to inquire about their belongings. As they pass through the village and observe the villagers setting up tables for a large feast, they inform Gregor and Drummond, who end up meeting the group at the farm, together with Lem. After inspecting the different cottages and finding everything remained as they had left it, (Destan did mention missing a few items, like the sapphire symbol of mask, and a magnifying glass, etc.), they decided to meet at Gregor’s house to have a conversation.
At Gregor’s the conversation turns to what has transpired since the departure of the heroes. The szygani departed the abandoned village several rides ago, and recently a small island was spotted in the north-west corner of the lake that had never been there before. An old, broken tower made its home there. Also, there were rumours of a large, weathered standing stone with old, faded inscription on it had appeared on the edge of the forest. The heroes immediately identified the tower as the old Crimson Tower and the standing stone as the stone that Ser Kadagar Ashbeard had used to record his knowledge on.
Once the situation of the crusaders was explained to the three men and the conversation turned to planning on how to move forward. Lem’s estimation was that the village could comfortably take care of the crusaders for about a ride before they would be eating into the new harvest and jeopardise Pinefall’s ability to survive the coming winter. It was decided that Lem would take some of his labourers and bring supplies of food, tarps, tents and lumber to the abandoned village so that the crusaders could be house for a while.
Drummon was very interested in the different orders, the knights and their retinues. He was part of the Order of the Gryphon for such a long time that he became inundated by the stories and history of the order. For the crusaders to show up in Pinefall was for a legend to come alive.
For Gregor the story of their curse and Atilesceon’s realm was the most interesting. As well as the way in which the tower acted as a gateway and how the group returned, through the Feywild, back to Isobel’s Vale.
The group returned to Isobel’s Vale together with Gregor and Drummond. The two immediately were assigned a translator and started to have conversations with various crusaders. Dame Josephine was discovered to have released the griffons so that they may hunt for food, and was simultaneously making plans to head for Celticia to lay claim to the throne. It became clear to the heroes that not all crusaders would be keen on either rejoining the order or resurrecting the Silver Crusade.
Quentin approached Durand and asked him what his plans were. He claimed to no longer want to fight, to live the remainder of his life out in peace. Quentin tried to convince him to take up arms and join a new crusade, even going so far as wanting to knight him in order to motivate him. Durand refused the honour of being knighted, but did believe that he could possibly help by sharing what he knew.
When the crusaders finally deployed to the abandoned village they found a large tent had been set up, with several smaller tents around it. Some of the huts had been turned into make shift barracks by clearing them out and covering the collapsed roofs with tarps. The well had been cleared by the szygani when they were first warned by Drummond not to draw water from the lake, lest it bring about the ire from the Bristlecone villagers.
The conversation between the heroes became tense when James kept reiterating that if the crusaders would not follow the heroes advice they could go fuck themselves. Emma had heard him say that several times and exploded, insisting that the crusaders were undeserving of that attitude merely because they wouldn’t do what the heroes wanted them to do.
A decision was made to call a council and discuss what it was that the crusaders would want to do. Because there was no unity among the crusaders, several different people were called as representatives in the council. Destan would represent the Lyrian nobility, who would sure have an opinion on finding a small army in the Lyrian heartland. Benedict McAllister would represent the crusaders together with Ser Florianus. Dalinda would stand for the elven crusaders, who most recognised might hold different views than their human counterparts. Ser Kadagar Ashbeard stood for the dwarves. Josephine stood for the Celtician crusaders. And last, Drummond would be best suited to speak for the Lyrian Knights.
Ser Kadagar said that the dwarves were united in their opinion that they wanted to travel back to Ard Thoradun and rejoin their people. The elves were much less united. Dalinda said she wanted to go to the Palace of the White Flame and find the Lady Without Ending. She would first want to go by the Riverlands to find the elven tribe that Lauriel started in name of Mohiam to inform them of her fate.
It became clear throughout the conversation that Dame Josephine perhaps had plans beyond claiming the Beauclair throne. Her house is that of LaValette, from the lands of Les Valettes, but that she identified herself as Josephine La Valois. As such, she might have a claim to the Lyrian throne.
A tentative plan was made to use the griffons to quickly return to Kingsport and inform the throne about the presence of the crusaders. It would allow the heroes to return quickly, inform the throne, and get Lord Destan back to Lynnecombe and the Sheridan estate as quickly as possible.
The council came to a dissatisfying end. Gregor and Drummond recommended the crusaders to come over for the festivities and meet the rest of the villagers. The heroes think it’s likely not a good idea and ask Destan to decide, but he leaves the decision to them.