Previously, the heroes attended the closing ceremony of the fishing competition, where they were asked by James to escort a young girl from the Grimsdown orphanage to the docks in exchange for a letter, allegedly mentioning a vault, only to find the letter written in a strange language. Falka, a scholar from the Bournemouth Academy and long time friend of Luca, arrived in Kingsport to help in the heroes in their endeavours.
First Day, Second Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262
(Silvermoon is in high sanction, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)
Luca was the last one to come down in the morning, and was astonished to find Falka there, already having met everyone and puzzling to translate the page they had received from Ramona. He was happy to see her, but when he learned about her intentions to actively help out with the heroes in their endeavours he became concerned for her safety. Like before, Falka asserted that she was quite capable of taking care of herself, had no intention of putting herself in danger, and would not be deterred.
Letting the matter rest, Luca brought up finding a base of operations. The idea had been floated as an idea between the heroes in the small moments, but it felt appropriate to dedicate some time to having an open conversation about it among the entire group. Everyone agreed that it would be a sensible thing to do, as it seemed that the heroes would be spending the winter in Kingsport with few opportunities to travel. The Careless Wanderer, though convenient, would quickly eat into their coffers, and while they were full with the bounty of their adventures of the last six months, they were depleting them at a rate of roughly ten gold crowns a day and would be empty by the end of the winter. It was deemed better to have a place of their own.
Other than getting in touch with members of House Sheridan, in particular their trading representative Caius of Lynnecombe, the plans to find an establishment did not develop much. Instead, the focus would be to talk to Kasia, and attempt to get in touch with James.
During this conversation, Magda came into the tavern, moving carefully from table to table and informing everyone that should there be need for any shoes to be repaired, or any other leather goods needing tending to, they could leave them outside the door of their rooms tonight. She also startled everyone by announcing the return of Durham, moments before the bartender walked through the door, looking worse for wear, with torn clothing, a missing coat, and sporting a black eye. Lauryn gave him a look of disappointment and he scurried away to get cleaned up.
Before the heroes departed, Luca convinced Falka to have a bath and accept the key to his room so that she can use it to take an afternoon nap. She agreed, though would not accept Luca’s offer to pay for any further accommodations. She insisted on proving her value before accepting any rewards or compensation.
Everyone got dressed for the cold weather and made their way to the clinic at the Temple of Light. While crossing Steward’s Square, the heroes saw that the main and secondary stages used in the closing ceremony of the fishing competition were being disassembled, and that all the festive banners had been taken down. The square itself was still filled with the litter left behind by the revellers.
When the heroes walked into the clinic they immediately noticed that it was quite busy, more so than it had been in recent days. There had been a considerable increase in patients when the heroes had returned from Eastmarsh, when the effect of the plaguemaidens was at its zenith, but it had dropped considerably since then, as the queen and the city, had recovered. When they found father Devon in his private quarters, he informed them that he believed that the appearance of Epidemius had something to do with the upswing in patients. He explained that the patients had normal problems, like a cough, or a common workplace injury, but each of them had also been afflicted by the same malady, which worsened their condition considerably. Emrys managed to coax the father to share his belief that if Epidemius would return that the malady would grow stronger. Even though Emrys was certain father Devon had not shared all of his concerns, he could not get him to share more.
Kasia had been taken into the care of House Brightmantle. Before the attack on Steward’s Square, Kasia had been the handmaiden of Lady Grace Brightmantle. Lord Jerod Brightmantle and several guards had been killed during the attack. In the aftermath Lady Grace had been elevated to head of the household and it had taken her a while to get her feet under the table and find Kasia at the Temple of Light.
Father Devon gave the heroes directions to the Brightmantle manse on The Hill, the affluent ward on the other side of river, situated on the eastern slope of Garamond Hill in the shadow of the royal palace. He also wrote them a letter of introduction which might help in gaining access to Kasia.
The heroes bid their farewell to father Devon and departed for the Sacred Baths of Sedna to pick up Emma. On their way they stopped to speak to Goodman before crossing the Queensbridge. He was warming his hands on a burning brazier which had melted all the snow in a fifteen foot radius, attracting stray dogs to the warmth. The big man accepted a gold crown in order to get a message to James that the heroes would like for him to join them at the Careless Wanderer that evening. He also shared some rumours about a group of dwarves painting the town red, as well as a host of knights in the Order of the Silver Lance riding alongside the delegation from Beauclair towards Kingsport. The order was known as the most chivalrous, but also for being the richest, operating the Silver Bank of Lyria, and often funding campaigns and endeavours of important nobility.
After Neamhan made sure to mess with Goodman upon their departure, the heroes picked Emma up from the Sacred Baths. Emma seemed to be in a much improved mood over the last time the heroes had come to visit her at the baths. She reiterated to the heroes that a promise was made regarding her liberation from Muirgheal, and she got Emrys to promise that before the ride was out they would take Muirgheal off her hands, not once but thrice.
A short time later the heroes, together with Emma, had found the Brightmantle manse, a large, half-timbered house with a masonwork first floor and a large, wooden gate leading into a courtyard interior. Neamhan had made sure that she would not be tasked to do any of the talking by transforming into the shape of a tabby cat with a distinct, white ear, lifted by Quentin and eccentrically placed on his forearm. When a rap on the gate was answered it was done so by the Brightmantle majordomo, a stern-faced man by the name of Graemme. It took some convincing but eventually the heroes were lead into the courtyard and found Lady Grace and Kasia on horseback, leaving the stables.
Lady Grace, a beautiful young woman of no more than 16 winters, was astride a well bred Silesian courser and looked like she knew how to ride. Kasia was a plain faced young girl that could not have been more than ten years old, with dark eyes and a dark scowl. She was sitting astride a pony, riding it bareback, and handling it comfortably, betraying her Silesian heritage.
The heroes were invited inside to one of the few rooms which had been furnished. The rest of the manse was a hive of activity, with carpenters, teamsters and stevedores moving furniture, carpets, provisions and sundries into the large, winter home. The room was furnished with a thick rug, expensive reclining sofas upholstered with velvet, set in front of a large fireplace. It had a high ceiling with a delicate cornice and a faded mural. Servants quickly came to pull protective sheets from the furniture in the room and to place a delicate, wooden table in the centre of the sofas. Lady Grace seated herself on one of the sofas, with Kasia taking a standing position to her side. Several servants, including the majordomo, had taken positions at the periphery of the large room.
The heroes took their seats and encouraged Kasia to explain what happened the day of Epidemius’ attack on the square. She started speaking, slowly at first, with a heavy Silesian accent, which became more fluent as she continued. She spoke of her arrival in the city, the Brightmantle’s visit to the Cathedral of the Platinum Father, and her curiosity as she started to walk around the square. She spoke of the horrified crownsguard and custodians when the black portal opened up and the “sound of wind” the portal created. She described the “animal people” with “heads like rats” that came out of the portal, and the objects they carried which emitted a strange vapour. She also tried to describe Epidemius and the mount he rode in on, though she seemed at a loss for words.
Lady Grace had been a late witness to Epidemius when she accompanied her father and his retinue of guards out of the cathedral with some of the clergymen. She tried to add her description of the situation, but it was clear she was having an equally difficult time explaining what she had witnessed. Later, Ser William, one of the house guards who had been horribly injured in the attack, was lead into the room in a wheelchair to add his account.