Previously, the Heroes of the White Eye spoke to priestess Emma and were treated to a warm sauna on a dreary day. They learned more about the situation in and around the palace and the state that the queen was in. They convinced lieutenant William of Eastwarren, the head of the palace guard, to give them access to the queen’s ante-chamber as well as her bedroom, where she lay in torpor. They found she was protected by Dr. Arkenward, the royal abjurer, who was not just keeping the queen alive, but also kept the curse that had taken hold of her from spreading.
Eighth Day, First Ride, Autumn Red, 1262
(Silvermoon is waning. Bloodmoon is waning. Darkmoon in high sanction.)
The heroes had concluded their investigation of the queen’s chambers and had been unable to find any clues relating to the mysterious box, the morbid khazra head inside, or the curse that had befallen the queen. They retired back to the barracks of the crownsguard on the palace grounds to conclude their conversations.
A young crownsguard by the name of Eric came to report to the lieutenant that a strange apparition of a woman had been spotted in the Grimsdown ward. Supposedly she had turned into a frightening spectre when she was approached by the guards who discovered her. They had fled in terror and when they returned with reinforcements they had found the apparition to be gone.
The heroes recognised the description as that of a Pesta; a pestilence spectre. With the exception of Quentin, who only joined the heroes after their run-in with the Pesta in the basement of an alchemy shop in Bournemouth, the heroes realised that, if true, it might mean that the Pesta was drawn by the potentiality of the queens affliction. They recommended to the lieutenant that the guards best be accompanied by a mage if they were to confront the apparition again.
Quentin, wise in the formal ways of the court and the nobility, asked whether they could be given a letter of passage so that they may gain access to the khazra head for inspection. The lieutenant had explained that the head was at the Circle of Magi and it seemed prudent to carry such a letter in case their access might be denied. Lieutenant William drew up a letter and affixed it with the scarlet seal of the palace crownsguard.
Once they had departed the palace, the heroes discussed on what to do next. Luca suggested leaving town, either in the hopes of putting as much distance between him and the possible calamity that might occur in Kingsport, or maybe because he was keen to follow up on Callum’s mission to find out more about the spell of warding placed over the cursed object preventing the diviner from coming up with a way to break the curse.
James thought it would be prudent to talk to the people at the Cirle of Magi first and to stop by the herbalist outside of Kingsport in order to find out some more information on the ghost orchid. Quentin thought it important to inform the different healers around the city in order to prepare them for a possible outbreak of disease and at the very least talk to Emma about what they had discovered. James trusted that Dr. Arkenward would inform the necessary people if he was unable to contain the curse on the queen, but Quentin was not so certain he’d be able to.
At the Circle of Magi the heroes found that Shakeslocke and the red custodians of the monastic order of St. Catherine were nowhere to be found. The door was answered by Olafur, who let them into the lobby. When the heroes explained why they had come, Olafur left them being tended to by a small whirlwind of scintillating colours who brought them some refreshments. The custodian stepped through a nearly invisible door built into the wooden panelling of one of the walls and shortly returned with Callum the Diviner. After being presented the letter of passage the two men lead the heroes through the door and down a very long corridor.
They passed doors and doors which all looked alike until, almost randomly, they stopped in front of one of them. When they went through it the heroes found themselves in a comfortable room fit for research. There were all manner of books and tools at their disposal. On one of the tables sat the decapitated head of a khazra, covered in tar, with long, rusty nails driven into its eyes. Its horns were covered in evil looking script which Luca identified to be abyssal, but was unable to glean any useful information from.
When discussing the situation of the queen with the two mages, Luca got a little too emotional for Callum’s liking when the diviner dismissed Luca’s suggestion of taking the queen out of the capital and onto a boat in order to prevent her curse from spreading. Callum thought it careless and blind to the political reality that Lyria found itself in and the ramifications that such a decision would have. Callum concluded that he may have made a mistake in confiding in the heroes and they were kindly asked to leave.
While on their way back to the Careless Wanderer Quentin asked Luca why he reacted so inconsiderately. When Luca then started lashing out at Quentin instead, Emrys stepped in and diffused the situation while simultaneously telling Luca how he had been in the wrong. In the meantime James had made use of the distraction to slip into the shadows and head to the herbalist.
After arriving at the herbalist’s cottage, Ecgbrith invited James in for a conversation. As they spoke it became clear to James that it would be beneficial for the herbalist to share what he knew about the orchid with the rest of the heroes and James convinced the herbalist to come back to the Careless Wanderer with him, which he did with great reluctance. Before departure, Ecgbrith asked whether James had been sleeping well, offering him an herb to improve his sleep, which James declined.
Astrid, Quentin, Luca and Emrys arrived back at the Wanderer and found it filled with people, cheerfully eating and drinking while listening to a troubadour that Emrys recognised as lord Andrew Selkirk, whom he had travelled to Kingsport with from the Riverlands. Lauryn came up to inform them that some visitors had been waiting in their room for them.
Upstairs, the heroes found lady commander Miranda and lady Annabella waiting for them. They were keen to know whether the heroes were able to help them bring two of the rebel lords kept at the Kingsport carceratum to safety. They had been imprisoned there and lady commander Miranda had vouched for their safety, but since the lord steward started interfering with her duties, the two lords had been put among the general populace. Word had it that an attempt on lord Szymon Radowan’s life had been made, just as the riots in the carceratum began.
Emrys asked lady Annabella whether she still required help with lord Peregrine Blackwell, but she said that she had found a solution to the bothersome young lord, sending him on a wild goose chase. Lady commander Miranda said that she had hoped the heroes would be able and willing to help out, since they had decided to stay in Kingsport rather than go to the north-western part of Lyria to investigate the orc invasion.
The heroes decided they needed some time to consider and that they would meet the two noble women at the Cathedral of the Platinum Father at noon the next day. The lady commander and the queen’s handmaid departed.
Shortly after, James arrived together with Ecgbrith and the cantankerous herbalist told them all he could about the ghost orchid. He said the orchid was very rare and the source of great and power, which the herbalist called “old magic.” The orchid grew among the roots of the scarlet cypress, which is a tree known only to grow on the sites of great bloodshed. He said that the Druids of the Fang sacrificed their followers by the hundreds and thousands in order to use their blood to fertilise the soil to grow the dreaded trees in order to cultivate the orchids.
Eventually, when the herbalist had left, James decided to leave the Careless Wanderer in order to speak to the people he cared about and tell them to prepare for trouble or leave town. Luca decided to speak to Callum, who was staying at a different room in the inn, and apologise to him for his words, which the old man accepted.
Meanwhile, Emrys had invited Quentin to come downstairs in order to listen to the troubadour sing, promising the young knight that it might well be in his interest. The troubadour was playing a harp that reminded Quentin of Ser Estienne, and the ballad that he sang touched him deeply, singing about a young cavalier from old Celticia who came to join the Silver Crusade and taught them the chivalric virtues. The cavalier carried a special sword;
The earth was sown with early flowers, the heavens blue and bright,
I met a gallant cavalier as lovely as the light.
I knew him not, but in my heart, his graceful image lies,
And well I marked his open brow, his sweet and tender eyes.
He carried sword and scabbard, full of leaves and blossoms mixed,
Encased by vines and verdant growth, with flowering blooms betwixt.
Plunging sword in barren soil, crops and vintage grew,
The hungry, famished and the starved were given life anew.
After the performance was over, Emrys introduced lord Andrew to Quentin and the two spoke about the ballad, the cavalier and the sword. Quentin invited him up to the room and showed him Róisín. Lord Andrew was amazed and delighted and told Quentin of the incalculable value and historical significance that sword had. He admitted that he had heard the stories of Quentin carrying the sword and that he had done some research in the library at the College of Bards to find the story on Ser Estienne.
Eventually, the noble troubadour departed and James returned just before midnight. Before turning in for the night they considered their options while James continued to drink; something the others had noticed he did more and more latetely.
The expedition to Blackbough, the small settlement deep in Eastmarsh was not going to depart until the first day of the next ride, which James didn’t quite understand. It would provide them the opportunity to prepare for the travel and perhaps look into the safety of the rebel lords. James was not convinced of the virtue of rescuing the rebel lords, but he was willing to help out.