Previously, the heroes had returned from the Sheridan estate finding that the city was on the cusp of the annual royal master angler competition, to start the following ride, and the Careless Wanderer was packed. Regardless, the heroes stumbled upon captain Randall and Callum the Diviner who had come down from Blackbridge to help resolve the mystery of the queen’s illness. They almost got conscripted into an expedition to Eastmarsh to find the source of a rare orchid that was involved in the queen’s illness, but decided to first investigate the matter from within the capital.
Eighth Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262
(Silvermoon is waning. Bloodmoon is waning. Darkmoon in high sanction.)
The heroes found themselves at the Careless Wanderer, retreated to their room in order to talk through their plans away from the packed tavern room. It had become clear to them that they wanted to speak to Dr. Arkenward and find out how the Khazra head got into the queen’s chamber. They thought a good start was to talk to Emma, whom they were hoping to find at the Sacred Baths of Sedna. Perhaps she would be able to answer some questions and fill in the gaps. And lastly, they wanted to send a letter to Falka of Dunagore, the young lecturer at the Bournemouth Academy and ask her to look into whether the curse that was placed on the queen was written about in the history books.
Emrys suggested James get in touch with some of the people of his guild to see if he could find out anything regarding the situation from them. James was very reticent and concluded that he would probably be better off not being in touch with them for a while.
When the heroes departed to go to the Sacred Baths, they noticed that captain Randall had just gone ahead of them and was making his way to Steward Square. There they saw him nail a letter to the notice board in front of the Magisterium. They waited for him to leave and went to investigate what he had left behind. They found several messages that they found interesting.
Crownsguard Looking for Honest Witnesses
The Crownsguard are looking for anyone who has any knowledge of who might have been involved in the delivery of the cursed package to the palace and into the queen’s chambers. Anyone who has any knowledge that will lead to the apprehension of those involved will be royally rewarded. Present yourself to the palace crownsguard.
– Lieutenant William of Eastwarren, Palace Crownsguard
[Affixed is the seal of the Palace Crownsguard]
The decree has been vandalised by several people calling for the execution of Lord Szymon Radowan and Lord Fabian Fetterling.
Soldiers, Guards and Mercenary, Quell the Uprising!
The kingdom needs you! Prisoners have been causing trouble and heroic people are needed to crush their insolence. Present yourself to any of the crownsguard of the Carceratum and ask for Warden Valgard.
Good Coin for a Guide
I am looking for a stalwart ranger who can act as my guide over the next few rides. Mountaineering and swamp navigation are a benefit. Paying in hard coin and can outspend any others.
– Lord Peregrine Blackwell, First of His Name
Will Work For Food
I fled here from the Elder Foothills. Haven’t got nothing to eat. Will do anything at all that’ll earn me a bowl of something hot, even if it’s porridge. Find me in front of the Cathedral on Steward’s Square.
Looking for an experienced gardener to work on transitioning the design of my lord’s courtyard in Ravensbourne from the Daerlan style to the Lyrian.
– Hendrik of Grimsdown, Majordomo to Lord Caedmon Bromley in Kingsport
A Special Sermon
We have a saint walking among us again today! Brought back from the clutches of the Dark Queen top bring the word of the Lord! Come to the cathedral on the last day of the first ride to watch Saint Benedict speak, to hear his words. He is a privilege to all and a direct blessing from the Platinum Father.
Reserve your seats at the Cathedral.
– Lord Bishop Aldred Grey, Voice of the Platinum Father
Expedition to Cure the Queen
Looking for hardy people willing to help find a cure for our queen’s ailment. Must be willing to travel no later than the first day of the second ride. Wilderness, arms or hunting experience is preferred. Knowledge of the arcane or herbalism will be rewarded extra. Present yourself to Lieutenant William of Eastwarren at the palace or Captain Randall of Blackbridge at the Careless Wanderer for more details.
The heroes retrieved Lieutenant’s summons as well as captain Randall’s notice. Quentin had the ambition to gain entrance to the Library of Ioun, so he took the notice left by Lord Caedmon Bromley’s majordomo. And lastly, Emrys took the post by Lord Peregrine; not certain what to do with it yet, but at the very least to prevent him from finding a guide.
When the heroes arrived at the Sacred Baths, they entered and were greeted by an elderly woman in a robe who informed Emma. Emma was pleased to the see them and invited them to enjoy the baths with her when James asked if they could talk in private.
After dressing down to their small clothes, the heroes found themselves in a chamber filled with braziers that held hot stones. Water was sprinkled on the stones to cause a hot mist. In the centre of the chamber sat a large pool. Those willing to sweat it out stayed on wooden benches outside of the pool, while those looking for a more relaxing time sat in the pool. All the while they spoke together, while occasionally sprinkling more water on the hot stones.
Emma explained that she would be happy to help the heroes, but that she found herself frozen out of the group of people around the queen trying to help her recover. Emma was asked by Lady Annabella Waxley to consult on the queen’s condition and found that she was being tended to by Dr. Arkenward, Lord Bishop Aldred Grey of the Platinum Father, High Priest Selwyn of Pholtus and Mother Superior Arwyn of Pholtus. Lieutenant William of Eastwarren, the head of the palace crownsguard, was in charge of the investigation and Emma said she could easily introduce the heroes to both Lady Annabella and Lieutenant William.
Emma explained that the queen’s condition was very dire; her breath was fast and shallow and her skin was pale, bordering on translucent. Dr. Arkenward was watching over the queen, almost in a trance, keeping her from expiring. When Luca mentioned that Callum the Diviner wanted to mount an expedition to Eastmarsh to find out more about a ghost orchid which was used in the ward around the curse placed on the khazra head, she recalled that she had heard of that orchid. She knew it was a very rare flower that only grew in the flooded forest around the spring of the river Ivel, around a small settlement called Blackbough. She advised that Ecgbrith, the cantankerous Kaewyni herbalist could possibly know more about the flower.
After discussing the political situation, as well as some of the details of the khazra head, the heroes decided to say goodbye to Emma and head towards the palace. Before departure, Emma said that she hoped to see them again when the situation was resolved, since she needed their help in tending to Muirgheal, her legendary trident.
On the way to the palace some of the heroes noticed that posters had been slapped on the walls buildings all throughout town. All of them depicted a man wearing regal robes and a crown on a sweaty brow was fucking a bound and gagged man from behind. The bound man had the head of animal; either a blue lion’s head, a grey wolf’s head, or a black bird’s head, depending on the version of the poster, while behind them a woman in regal robes was playing with a rattle-toy on the edge of a bed in which a woman with a green face was laying. Emrys quickly identified that the caricatures with the animal heads were supposed to be house Courtnay, Grey and Ravensbourne, while the man fucking the houses was the steward, with princess Mildred, the steward’s wife, sitting on the edge of the sick queen’s bed. Several crownsguard were seen trying to remove the posters where they found them.
After presenting themselves at the palace, they were brought in front of the handsome lieutenant William of Eastwarren, the folk hero who had made his name on the Plains of Strife and was rewarded with his position as the head of the palace crownsguard. He appeared to have run out of leads in his investigation and had sent out a call for witnesses and information. He was somewhat disappointed to hear that the heroes didn’t have any but was happy to accept their help, knowing what they had achieved in the rescue of the cursed crusaders. He answered several questions that the heroes had and shed some light on the details of the situation.
Lieutenant William said that brother Shakeslocke had offered to interrogate the servants, diplomats, nobles and guards who had been present on palace grounds during the time that lead up to the queen discovering the dreadful package in her antechamber. It was an offer he had not considered yet, but if there was no breakthrough he would have no choice but to revisit that offer.
The heroes convinced the lieutenant to show them the antechamber, but some subterfuge was in order. Some of the heroes, like Luca, were quite conspicuous and some subtlety was warranted. It seemed the political situation was sensitive, and so Luca used his magic to disguise his clothing a bit to appear more plain. They gained entrance to the palace through a side passage reached by way of the watergardens.
Entering the gardens through a wrought iron gate filled with Lyrian ivy and bushes filled with roses, Quentin heard a satisfied humming of familiar Beauclair nursery rhymes in the back of his mind somewhere. Róisín was harmonising with the ivy and roses, further establishing the personality that was locked in the blade.
The heroes were lead through a door into a plain corridor. Some of the heroes remembered the corridor from the time Emma went to find the source of the spring that fed the fountains and pools in the watergarden in order to bless it. They had gone down deep into the basement under the palace, but this time they took a winding staircase up to the second floor of the enormous building.
When they entered into a beautifully decorated corridor they were met by several guard stations. The guards at those stations saluted the lieutenant and they were granted access. James suggested that this may be part of the problem; the palace guard is completely unequipped to deal with more sophisticated, arcanist intruders who could impersonate people or even sneak in while invisible. It began to dawn on the lieutenant that with the rise in the potency of magic that the crownsguard had never updated their methods or protocols.
When the heroes entered the antechamber they found a lavishly decorated room where the queen could receive guests. A door lead to the queen’s chambers; behind that door the queen was fighting for her life, aided only by Dr. Arkenward. The heroes immediately began to investigate the room in the hopes of finding something that the people who came before them had missed. Emrys discovered a spy hole which had been drilled from the adjoining chambers which were used by the queen’s handmaid.
Once again the lieutenant was impressed by the acumen that the heroes was displaying and decided that it might be good to invite the heroes to investigate the queen’s chambers.
The queen’s chambers was much larger than the antechamber, lots of luxurious furniture and large windows with a view down Garamond hill. In a large, four-poster bed lay the queen, gaunt and sallow, with thinning hair, a deathly pallor and her veins clearly visible below her skin. Her eyes were closed and she was panting furiously, like a dog trying to cool off on a hot day. She was barely recognisable as the young monarch the heroes had met in the watergardens several months before.
At the foot of the bed, sitting cross legged on a cushioned bench, wrapped in a dark robe, Dr. Arkenward was gentle swaying back and forth while muttering to himself. He was clearly in a trance and expanding quite some energy with the ritual he was performing. Luca listened to what the man was saying, hoping to learn something of the ritual he was performing, but was astonished to find that the doctor was reciting a prayer of protection dedicated to Paladine.
The heroes investigated the room as meticulously as they had with the antechamber but were not able to find anything unexpected. They did notice that while Dr. Arkenward was performing a ritual, he was aware of what was happening around him, sometimes looking up to make eye contact with whoever approached the queen.
James asked Emrys and Luca whether they could investigate whether or not they could find anything magical in the chamber. Luca could, but it required a ritual of his own. When he completed it he became aware of the flows of magic all around him. He noticed that the doctor was a source of very strong abjuration magic which enveloped both him and the queen. Upon closer inspection he noticed that the queen was the source of very strong necromantic magic which was trying to force its way out.
It occurred to Luca that the doctor’s efforts of containing the necromancy to the queen might be exacerbating her condition and speeding up her decline, which cast a whole new light on the situation!