Previously, the heroes managed to make contact with the fleet of the royal armada that were blocking the port of Eastray and managed to convince them of the gravity of their task and the urgency with which they had to reach Kingsport. Lady Fiona of House Kenton, captain of the Sea Spirit, and Ser Aegar of Dunagore, captain of the Green Naga both convinced their admiral that the Green Naga could be relieved to tow a sloop carrying the heroes back to Kingsport. The voyage was rough on the stomach but the heroes arrived in Kingsport, to a large reception at the docks.
Sixth Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waning.)
Before the heroes disembarked from the Green Naga, they were thoroughly inspected and treated by father Devon and mother superior Arwyn, priests at the Temple of Pholtus and declared healthy and untainted. Ser Roderick of House Corbray, a knight in the Order of the Lance spoke to the heroes as well, and it became clear from both conversations that while Kingsport was not in the same dire straits as Eastray, the city had undergone quite a few changes since their departure.
A curfew had been placed on the city and nobody, except those with explicit permission by the crownguard, was allowed on the street between sundown and sunrise. Plaguemaidens had been spotted throughout the city and the crownguard had their hands full in combating them, and not having much success at it. With the added complications of skaven sightings the crownguard were forced to deputise willing citizens. One of the groups who had answered the call were the custodians of the monastic order of saint Catherine, whose ranks had swelled considerably in the wake of the sermon by the living saint, prior Benedict McAllister. The heroes also learned that there were pockets of the city which were locked down due to spreading disease, including almost all of the ward of Grimsdown.
When the heroes came on shore, Callum and lieutenant William were waiting for them. Callum asked after Randall and was informed that the man had fallen. The old diviner supressed his urge to grieve his loss and asked after the success of their mission and was relieved to learn that the heroes had managed to lift the wards that was protecting the curse on the khazra head. Lieutenant William reported that the queen was still alive, but barely, and that Dr. Arkenward had withered considerably and would likely expire soon. Quentin decided to join lieutenant William and stand vigil over the queen, while the rest of the group were going to make their way to the Circle of Magi, to aid Callum in breaking the curse.
Before the heroes were allowed to depart with Callum, Ser Arman de Courtenay, dressed in full ceremonial armour, complete with flying wings made from griffon feathers, rode his horse forward, flanked on either side by a retinue of Courtenay guards. He received the heroes warmly and said that much had changed since their initial encounter below the Sheridan estate, referring to their accomplishments and earned fame. He introduced a noble that rode along side him, dressed in the finest clothes, with short, blonde hair, piercing blue eyes, a small chin and thin lips, and a dark frown; Lord Charles Courtenay, head of house Courtenay, and Ser Arman’s first cousin.
As Ser Arman went down the line, naming each of the heroes, lord Charles observed each of them intently, as if methodically memorising each detail about them. Lord Charles asked whether their mission to Eastmarsh was successful. When the heroes replied that they were, he merely nodded curtly and said “good.” He then asked whether the heroes would do him the honour of visiting him at his manse in Ravensbourne when they had a moment to talk. James said that it would be their honour and with that, the lord, his cousin and the retinue departed.
Quentin joined lieutenant William, and the rest joined Callum in a carriage which would bring them to the Circle. Emrys made sure to thank Ser Aegar for the trust he and lady Fiona had placed in them, and with that the group departed. The carriage was escorted by Ser Roderick and some crownguard across a mostly empty city. The only people that were on the street besides the crownguard and their deputies were citizens hurrying to their homes, usually carrying food, firewood and other necessary sundries.
During the ride, Callum was full of questions, but James was reluctant to share the details of their experiences and what they had retrieved from Xamael’s body, in particular the whip. That frustrated Callum and eventually Emrys placated him by telling him a curated version of their encounter with the dreadlord, about the dragons and their brood. The mention of a dragon surprised Callum, but the appearance of a second dragon confused him, as did the mention of the brood.
In the meantime, Luca made his way through an empty city. He deftly dodged several of the groups of crownguard and deputies and got to within sight of the entrance to the Circle of Magi. He quickly moved up and knocked on the door, only to be rebuffed by Olafur who refused to open up, citing the curfew. Exposed and out in the open, Luca retreated away from the Elysian street in order to stay undetected. While hiding between the hedges of two large manses he noticed a cloaked figured crawling from one hedge to the other, in obvious pain. Luca found the figure to be unresponsive but decided to stay away from them. He continued to try the Earring of Whispers in the hope of getting in touch with James.
Shortly after, James and Luca made contact as the carriage came up to the Circle. Luca came out and informed the crownguard under Ser Roderick’s command about the figure. They went to investigate and found the figure to be a dying skaven, promptly killing it and dragging it away on orders of Ser Roderick. When that grizzly business had been settled Callum and the heroes gained entrance to the circle. Luca gave Olafur a dirty look as the Miðgarðurian opened the door, which made the big man plead with Luca that he was not allowed to open the door to strangers during curfew.
The wood-panelled lobby gained the group entrance to a long hallway which went on and on far beyond the dimensions of the mundane looking building. Despite the curious herb garden out in front of the building, there was nothing to suggest that the building, made from the same Northshire limestone that most buildings in Kingsport were made from, housed the campus of Lyria’s eminent wizard academy.
The heroes followed Callum through the long corridor for what felt like half an hour. They passed many closed doors, and several open ones, revealing students in their quarters, reading, experimenting, debating playing demon dice, or fallen asleep with their head on their books. Eventually Callum stopped in front of a door and opened it to reveal his own quarters. Some of the heroes had been invited their before and recognised it immediately. It was a small room with desk, a fireplace with a seating arrangement, a bed and staircase that went up to a maisonette filled with bookcases.
Callum revealed the khazra head which he had kept underneath a glass dome. He took out a tuning fork and tapped it on his desk. It rang out a perfect c minor, Emrys knew. The diviner took the fork and placed its handle up against one of the khazra horns and the fiendish inscriptions which had been etched into it lit up with a fiery red glow. Removing it, the light died down again and Callum placed the tuning fork against the other horn, whose etchings began to glow as well. Callum concluded and explained that he had prepared a ritual that he could perform to break it, but he would require Luca and Emrys’ help in fuelling it.
Boosting the ritual, Luca offered his remaining magical potency, as well as some that Blackstar granted him. Emrys added his as well, but it was not quite enough. Luca had an epiphany and decided to drain the magical potency in a Lyrium crystal into the ritual. The crystal went dull as the magic was taken up by the ritual. It would take six more crystals for the ritual to be completed, but it taught Emrys and Luca a valuable lesson about the potentiality of the lyrium crystals; they could not only be used to replace a material component in a spell, they could also be used to boost an arcanist’s daily potency.
When the ritual was completed, Callum, who was visibly exhausted, picked up the tuning fork, tapped his desk, and found that neither horn lit up any longer. The curse had been broken, but it still needed to be lifted, but before the diviner was ready to head out to the palace to see the queen, he needed to rest.
“His wife’s a cunt. Randall was a cunt. He’s probably a cunt, too.”
– James White, on Callum the Diviner
Seventh Day, Third Ride, Autumn Red, 1262
(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waning.)
While Callum, Emrys and Luca rested from their effort, James walked all the way up the long corridor to find Olafur in the lobby of the Circle. He asked the Miðgarðurian if there was a possibility to trade for several pearls. After some negotiations James traded roughly four hundred gold crowns in gems which were part of his reward for the work he had done for the Sheridan family in exchange for four pearls which he knew Luca could use to divine the nature and abilities of the magical artifacts they had liberated from Kalauranthalasis’ treasury.
When the young half-elf returned to the room he woke up Emrys and Luca, but Callum required more rest. Luca and James decided to pay Ecgbrith, the Kaedwyni herbalist outside of the city, a visit. They left the tablets, but took Blackstar and the whip and made the long walk down to the lobby while Emrys remained with Callum. The two departed the Circle building and hurried up the empty Elysian street, just as the sun was rising in the east.
They found the herbalist in his hut in the shadow of the Bastion of Restraint and the gruff Kaedwyni was surprised to see them. He was even more surprised when Luca offered him the promised ghost orchid, which he took in trembling hands and carefully secured it away. He had many questions on where and how the heroes had obtained the orchid, but James convinced him that certain questions were better left unanswered. He eagerly thanked the heroes by replenishing the supplies in their healer’s kit. When it came to the potions he was able to offer he was less eager and said that he only had a little over half a dozen health potions left, each at a significant price due to the situation in the city.
The heroes, short of funds, decided not to immediately take the herbalist up on the offer of the expensive health potions and decided to leave. Before they left, the herbalist asked whether they had heard anything about something called dark delirium, a strange, intoxicating sleep that people can go into which allows them to dream fantastical things. It has significantly cut into the profits of the Ravnos, the group of szygani which deal in fadeleaf and blindweed outside of the city. According to Ecgbrith the Steady Hand had taken to smuggling people across the city through the ancient waterways in order to supply them with a place to indulge in delirium. Luca said he would ask one of his friends at the Circle about it if he found the opportunity.
On their way back to the Circle the two heroes were walking down the Elysian street and passed by the southern edge of Grimsdown, and in the light of the day saw that the streets leading into the ward were blocked off by carts and wooden crates, all manned by crownguard and custodians. They were mindful that their friend Brandomiir had found a hut in Grimsdown to hunker down for the winter, and they wondered how he was faring in the lockdown.
While Luca and James were out, Emrys went to talk to Olafur in order to replenish some of his spell components. He found chunks of obsidian and caterpillar husks as well as several feathers he would need, and needed to pay a significant amount of gold crowns for it. When he returned to the room, Emrys found that Callum was reading from one of the tablets, reciting strange scripture in an almost panicked voice. Emrys took the tablet away from the distressed diviner and the old man seemed confused. He wanted to go back to rest and sat back down in a chair, covering himself with a blanket to go back to sleep.
When James and Luca finally returned back to Callum’s room it was about time for all of them to depart for the palace. Emrys explained that he had found the old diviner reading from the tablet. They all decided they would need to be more careful in the future. When Emrys went to wake Callum he was shocked to find that the old man had passed away.