Previously, the heroes were plagued by dreams of summer, which turned into nightmares. The handsome lieutenant William of Eastwarren visited the Careless Wanderer incognito in order to explain the darkening situation inside the palace.
Ninth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262
(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waxing)
When Emrys awoke, he found himself on the bank of a river which snaked its way below the canopy of a grand forest. He must have dozed off. It was a warm day, but the rush of the water, and the shade from the trees made his stay at the river a pleasant one. Though he could not quite remember its location, he recognised the spot to be not too far from his home in the Riverlands.
Emrys got up and started looking around, trying to orient himself. He found that Toruviel was not by his side, and as if struck by wild inspiration, he decided to check whether the petrified rose was still among his belongings. While he found that the wooden plate upon which the rose normally set fixed, as well as the glass dome which protected it, were still both there, the rose itself was gone.
Curious and unconcerned, Emrys started to walk. He quickly found a hillock that seemed somewhat familiar to him. Struck by déjà vu, he walked around the hillock to explore. The hillock was steep and covered in all manner of fragrant plants. A ring of thick trees stood sentinel on the hill’s brow. Water cascaded down a small fall and into a clear pool on one side of the hill, and close by a pathway started which lead up. Marble flagstones were hidden beneath centuries of growth, and remnants of marble arches stood along the path leading up.
The path ended near the top of the hill where the trees parted to reveal a beautiful but haggard looking garden. Marble columns, in various states of collapse stood around the garden, circling a dried up fountain, topped with a statue of two elves in a romantic embrace. The entire affair was covered with the most marvellously blooming rose bush. There is a reverence to the site that is unmistakable. It’s not quite religious, but Emrys got the sense that it was a site of remembrance.
For an instant, the warmth turned to chill, the dappled sunlight piercing through the canopy turned into a bleak grey sky looming behind barren, snow-covered trees. As fast as the sight of winter came, it is once again replaced by the warm summer’s afternoon.
Emrys’ sense of déjà vu grew stronger, and then he remembered; this was where he and his companions battled the Procyon, outside of Allenham. That triggered a flood of memories, not quite Emrys’ own, and he recognised the woman to be Deithwyn, the Lady Without Ending, ruler of the Palace of White Flame at the heart of the Worthwilde and leader of the Aen Canell. The man in the embrace was Mindaran Chillwind, her lover, who, according to legend, mysteriously disappeared. Emrys noticed that Deithwyn was holding a beautifully carved rose in her hands.
And without warning, winter had returned, the trees were bare and the sky grey. A cold wind blew through the forest and chilled Emrys. Suddenly, he saw a tall, slender figure, with long, spindly arms and legs climb over the brow of the hill. Wearing a red shroud to cover skin as pale as the winter sky, the woman carried horns upon her head that looked like a glaive. In an eerie and unnerving manner she crawled over the brow of the hill and with an inhuman speed she reached the statue of the lovers in front of Emrys and snatched away the rose that Deithwyn held. With the same, inhuman speed, she retraced her path back over the brow of the hill, but in reverse.
When Emrys had recovered from the shock he heard wolves coming from all sides. Before he could get his bearing, the wolves were upon him, tearing him apart. Startled, he sat upright in bed, panting and sweating, just in time to hear a knock on the door announcing the arrival of his companions, together with lieutenant William.
When lieutenant William had departed, the heroes turned their attention to Hamish’s funeral. Luca decided that he wanted to do it sooner rather than later. Several options are discussed, including keeping Hamish’s body in state for a while, organising a wake (before or after the funeral), and discussing who would (and would not) be welcome at the funeral.
The decision was made to head to the Church of the Raven Queen and upon departure Neamhan uses her innate abilities to prevent cold air from rushing inside the warm tavern. She had been doing that from inside the tavern whenever someone would enter, much to the appreciation of the fishermen inside. This time, however, she was doing it while walking outside and exposing herself to the scrutiny of the custodians. Luca warned her that the custodians were distrustful of magic and condemned any public display of it.
The heroes walked the short distance from the Careless Wanderer to the church and found that the thick, carved doors were open. Two silent sisters stood inside, on either side of the door, welcoming people in. Quentin asked the heroes to wait while he made arrangements, and went inside. While the others waited, several people joined the line waiting to go inside, including Olafur. Mistress Esmeralda d’Ortega, the archmage for the Circle of Abjuration was there, accompanied by a tall, bald man deep in his middle years, with a high, pointed collar and long robes. An older, plain faced man with a beard and a skull cap also stood in line.
Quentin found cardinal Roark at the altar and explained his intentions. The cardinal told him he could use his chambers to change. There, Quentin found a plain, black robe, which he donned. A small bowl of ash was set up, which he used to turns his face pale like he had seen the cardinal do before. Quentin washed his hands in a bowl of clear water, before displaying the raven’s feather prominently around his neck.
The heroes and the rest of the attendees outside were lead inside by the silent sisters and met by Quentin in the central isle. Quentin lead the attendees down the isle to the transept and headed left in front of the altar, towards an area of the church devoid of pews. The area was the home of large slabs of pale stone, set up underneath a window overlooking the western horizon. The setting sun fell through the red windows, casting long shadows across the church.
Quentin asked the heroes to present Hamish’s body and directed them behind a black lacquered privacy screen set up in front of one of the stone slabs. Luca brought forth James’ bag and hesitated in opening it. He felt Astrid’s hand on his shoulder and she helped him to retrieve Hamish’s body. Overcome with emotions, Luca felt the need to tidy Hamish up, but Quentin stopped him, telling him that there is no shame in death.
Quentin took over. One of the silent sister presented him with a knife, which Quentin held aloft before using it to cut away Hamish’s clothing, leaving him as naked as the day he was born. Another silent sister presented a bowl of water and vinegar, and together with a sponge, Quentin cleaned Hamish’s body.
A bronze bowl filled with the fine ash of an oak tree were presented and, again, Quentin lifted it aloft before setting it down to rub the ashes onto Hamish’s skin. Cardinal Roark, who had been standing to the side, stepped up and handed Quentin a heavy bronze censer which emitted a strong incense. Quentin walked around the stone slab upon which Hamish rested in a cloud of fragrant smoke. Twelve times deosil, and twelve times widdershins, representing the cycle of day and night.
One has come to cross the Threshold, o Majesty. Hear my plea, hear you’re servant’s words.
I wash him with the water, to cleanse them of its earthly impurities. I anoint him with the ash, to remind the soul of the transience of its body. I walk him through the smoke, to ease his passage into the realm of the spirits.
I ask you to grant him mercy, and I deliver him to the Halls of Judgment, where you shall weigh him and guide him to his final destination.
O Faceless Guise, o Raven’s Claw, beat your fierce wings in the deep chasms of Latherna, spread your scent, your power burning to the West. As the sun rests, so shall this soul.
I bid him farewell.
Quentin dipped his fingers in oil and touched Hamish’s forehead, drawing a stylised shape of two spread wings in the ash. Then the silent sisters came to wrap the body in a white shroud, standing in stark contrast to their black robes. For a moment, all of the colours seemed to be sucked from the world, leaving everything in greyscale.
The body was carried to the rear of the church and out into a courtyard where a funeral pyre was waiting. The shroud was soaked in myrrh-scented oil and a torch was passed to Quentin by cardinal Roark. Quentin called for any tributes to be placed on the pyre, and Olafur stepped forward to place some hand-carved toy figures on the pyre. The plain-faced man placed several flat stones on the pyre, and Luca followed by tearing out several pages from his prized book and placing them with the rest of the items.
The fire, once lit, spread fast. The smoke veiled the ugly part of the process away from sensitive eyes. The smell of myrrh filled the air. As the smoke ascended, the sound of a large bird could be heard and Astrid eagerly looked to the skies.
Lady Miranda stood in the doorway to the courtyard moments later, dressed in full regalia, her helmet resting under her arm. Not long after she went back inside, followed quickly by mistress Esmeralda and her bald companion. The plain-faced man followed, and Olafur lingered a few moments longer. Luca was last to leave.
Inside, as the heroes passed through the church to head out of the front entrance, they passed lady Miranda talking to cardinal Roark near the privacy screen in the western chapel. She ordered the bones of her brother John to be delivered to lady Olivia at Hungerford, saying that he deserved to be interred with the rest of his family.
Outside the front entrance two crownsguard stood watch over Frostfeather. When lady Miranda came out she remarked that it was a very dignified farewell and conveyed her condolences before setting to the skies on her mount.
The plain faced man came to talk to Luca, introducing himself as Cornelius Black, Hamish’s uncle. He admitted not being in touch with Hamish much, but having given him a home when he had first arrived in Kingsport. He was working at the Magisterium and offered his help in case Luca or any of the other heroes needed anything. Shortly after he departed.
Neamhan decided to ask Astrid whether Frostfeather was a giant eagle, which Astrid found preposterous, saying that it was a griffon. When pressed on the size, Astrid said that it was simply big, but certainly not giant. Perhaps northeners had a different idea of what “giant” meant.
Back at the Careless Wanderer, Neamhan, who had felt the urge to shift into the shape of a goat, which she knew to be Luca’s favourite animal, in order to make him feel better. She crept up the staircase and waited for a moment where she felt she was unobserved and shifted. Before she could respond to the sound of a tingling bell, she felt something jump on her back, grabbing a hold of her mane and yell “Death to summer! I have found my mount!” Neamhan decided to charge down the staircase and into the tavern, which made Wyn scatter and hide behind the bar.
Luca and Emrys are fascinated by Neamhan’s ability to transfigure her shape and ask her whether it hurts, which it does not according to her. They hypothesise that perhaps her magic is different, or there’s another element that sets her ability apart from others that had the rare ability to transfigure themselves or others.
The conversation turned to deciding on the next steps. A long topic of conversation was on ways in which Quentin could prevent having to relinquish Róisín when the Beauclair delegation arrived in Kingsport. Ideas about creating forgeries were shared, but that was made all the more precarious when a courier came to deliver another letter from Falka to Luca:
I often feel that while I am busy studying history, you are busy writing it.
Yes, I am quite familiar with Epidemius as well as the Liber Bubonicus, due to my connection to the Order of the Shield and having grown up in Dunagore. I literally wrote a book about it. I will start work on a summary right away, which I will send before I set sail for Kingsport. Please make arrangements for my stay.
Also, you should know that my friend Corinne – Do you remember her, she works at the Landsdowne auction house? – has informed me that Villem Landsdowne is currently in Kingsport, awaiting a delegation from Beauclair. He is on retainer in order to authenticate an ancient sword when they arrive. If rumours about you and your companions are to be believed it will be of interest to you to know that.
Speak to you soon.
More ideas on deception were raised, to the point of Luca using his magic to impersonate Villem Landsdowne, until Quentin explained that his goal was to transcend his position as being “merely an heir in a line of succession”, which would be jeopardised if he was caught in deceit. The discussion was tabled. There was still time before the delegation would arrive, which at the earliest would be the.
It was decided that with the remainder of the day, the heroes would visit both Emma at the Baths of Sedna, and Dagran at his forge, both of which were relatively close to one another. Then tomorrow, the heroes would attend the closing ceremony for the fishing competition where they would hopefully get a better understanding for the queen’s state of mind.