Author Archives: Dennis

A Quick Update About the Move

Moving my belongings over to England has been quite successful. The moving company that gave us the best quote allowed us to fill a dedicated truck full of items and have them driven over. The alternative would have been to share a truck, which would drive the cost down significantly, but unfortunately, no trucks to this area were planned for a while. So we filled the truck, using about one-tenth of half a percent of the truck’s capacity.

The driver was a cool Polish guy named Bartek, and he was not very eager to drive a 150 pound crossbow across the border, but did everything in his power to make it happen. It worked out well.

Now the apartment in Amsterdam is pretty much empty, and we managed to arrange for Robin to live there for the coming year. That would allow me to have a fall back scenario just in case things don’t work out with the new job here. His girlfriend moved over from London a few days before I moved to England, and they’re going to move in together. I can’t imagine having an easier transition in that situation than that.

I’m going to miss gaming, but we’re scaling back our frequency to once a month (but with more hours each session). We even picked up a new player by the name of Eugenio, in the wake of Edwin deciding to quit gaming. He sat in on a session and seems really eager. I’ll likely be back in Amsterdam for the weekend mid-October and have another session.

And now I have another handful of days before I start my new job, which I’m both excited and nervous about. In the meantime, I am being confronted with English bureaucracy. Opening a back account, applying for a national insurance number, getting background checks done for my work as well as my landlord, etc. It’s unpleasant. I’m not very good at this. I consider it a distraction. It costs me a lot of time.

It’s lovely to continue living with Joasia now that her sabbatical is over. The situation at my previous employer was the spark, but the idea of continuing to live together was the catalyst. My family is very supportive, which is nice. I will have to make sure to go back often enough to cater to everyone, while simultaneously also getting to have fun. Hopefully I will be able to make that work.

The Tower At Last

Note: my recollection of the events during this session is severely limited due to the events of the last few weeks. The recap is shorter and lower on detail as a result.

Previously, the adventurers conducted more research around Pinefall, gathering more information about the region and its people by talking to Bristlecone villagers and the visiting szygani camped outside of the abandoned village.

First Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon is waxing.)

While searching through the abandoned village, the adventurers spoke about the nature of their mission, what they had signed up for, and whether or not they might need to renegotiate their contract with House Sheridan in light of them possibly having to enter the cursed Crimson Tower in order to find Lord Destan. And then there was the question of the message that Falka had received from House Sheridan, dissuading her from helping the adventurers on their quest. Were they even still doing House Sheridan’s bidding? In the end, Emma offered to send a message using her divine gifts, explaining the situation and possibly starting a renegotiation of their deal with House Sheridan.

While visiting the nearby szygani camp, Luca decided to approach Hejduk and talk to him in depth about what brought him to Pinefall. Luca used the information that was given to him by his master to quickly find that Hejduk was indeed the “other who serves” that his master mentioned. He quickly convinced Hejduk that he would have to join the adventurers in finding and entering the Crimson Tower, something he was nervous but eager to perform.

Because the adventurers had committed to the plan of entering the Crimson Tower, most of them spent some time coming to terms with what was about to come. Astrid and James went back to the Rudwick barton to drink while James wrote his mother a letter. Emrys and Luca went to speak to Isobel once again to try and see if there was any way in which they could have access to the tracker without James’ involvement. There wasn’t, but she did sweeten the deal by offering a pearl that Luca could use in his divination rituals. She also promised to cook the adventurers a nice meal.

While the adventurers ate, Luca shared his plan to bring Hejduk along with him, which met with surprisingly little resistance from the rest of the group. He spoke about how Maškar, the szygan deity, had brought Hejduk to Pinefall and that his destiny lay inside the Crimson Tower. Luca also shared what Emrys and himself had discussed with Isobel and that she had expanded her offer.

Second Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon in high sanction.)

The following night the adventurers were awoken by a storm; rumbling of thunder and the sound of rain hitting the shutters. Light kept flickering from beneath the cabin door and in the cracks of the shutters. When the adventurers opened the door and peered outside, they were confronted with a chaotic scene of the wind blowing branches and leaves everywhere while the moons were obscured by dramatic clouds.

There was screeching and howling in the air as well as strange cackling laughter. The sounds of leathery wings straining against the howling wind could be heard, with the occasional crack of a whip and the rustling of wicked chains. Wicked shadows could be seen flying overhead, but never in enough detail to make out what it was.

In the morning, the adventurers spent time at rest. The conversation turned to Emrys’ upbringing among the elves of the Aen Adhar of the Riverlands. He explained that he was raised in a cult of Sehanine Moonbow and was a prophesied child, but that much to his frustration it never became clear what it was that he was supposed to do. Emrys believed that his sometimes erratic magical ability might be at the core of the belief of the Sehanine cult, but that his occasional lack of control over his magic has lead to results far worse than his hair turning silver and his eyes radiating with light; it lead to the sudden disappearance of his tutor, the elf named Voriel. Emma recognised the name as the person Emrys had pledged his Sheridan reward to in the case he didn’t return from the mission.

After that conversation, Emrys seemed in a melancholic mood and he decided to continue writing the ballad he had dubbed “The Tragedy at Allenham.”

James decided to pay Drummond a visit and handed Drummond the letter he had written and asked that if he did not return from his upcoming expedition that the letter be delivered to his mother back in Kingsport. The old, retired soldier happily obliged James’ request.

What eventually moved James to decide to part with a lock of his hair was only known to James himself, but the adventurers finally set foot in the witch’s hut. Inside, they found the witch was preparing a meal for the adventurers while the gaunt form of the tracker lay asleep in a small bed.

As you enter the small hut in the middle of the forest your senses are immediately overwhelmed by the rich smell of Mazurian beef goulash coming from a large pot hanging over a small fire in the stone hearth. Tenderly cooked meat swirling in a thick broth of onion, capsicums and tomatoes, rich with pepper, cloves and garlic.

It’s dark inside and your eyes take a moment to adjust to the shaded surroundings. A large table stands in the middle of the hut, set with cups, plates, bowls and cutlery for all of you. Above the table, among the rafters of the moss covered roof hang wreaths of garlic, and thick bushels of rosemary, lavender and dried mandrake.

The hut is decorated with furniture which holds small jars, trinkets, spice racks and kitchen utensils. Several pots of different sizes are standing next to the hearth as well as a rack with implements to raise and lower the fire. Dried firewood is stacked neatly on one side of the hearth. A rope is strung from one end of the room to the other, just below the rafters. It holds several articles of clothing, hanging out to dry.

In one corner of the room stands a small bed in which a man lies asleep. He has dark hair and a gaunt face. He is handsome if it wasn’t for his pale complexion and his sallow features. His face looks peaceful. His hands are placed above the blanket that covers him, gently resting on his stomach. His posture reminds you of a tomb effigy.

A curious circle set with an elaborate star, adorned with unsettling symbols has been carefully drawn on the wall against which the bed has been placed. Small fetishes of dried flowers, feathers and bones have been pinned inside the circle there where the lines of the circle and star cross. The symbols seem to have been retraced with a thick, red liquid. Possibly blood. It has long since dried up.

In the other corner of the room, an owl is sitting on a perch observing everything. Elsewhere a black cat is asleep on the floor amongst several balls of wool, dyed green.

The adventurers spent some time investigating the unconscious tracker, especially after the witch revealed that he had a burn mark on the inside of his hand that was almost identical to the one that James bore. Luca noted, not for the first time, that the curious design of the mark reminded him of several wizard marks he had seen circle trained mages use as a personal seal. Fading bruises and healing wounds dotted the tracker’s body, but nothing serious, except the wound on the back of his head, which seemed to have been caused by a blow.

Once again, Luca made use of Blackstar’s ability to find souls for its consumption and found that unlike Robart, a soul housed inside the tracker’s body. Not only that, but there was a faint, second soul hidden inside the body as well.

While the adventurers discussed what their discovery possibly meant, Isobel took the lock she had received from James and started to create another fetish, weaving his hair into it, together with the small feather of a local songbird and the head of an acorn. She pinned it to the arcane circle above the tracker’s bed, explaining that she believed that James’ connection to the tracker would help power the circle in keeping the tracker’s soul from departing its body.

The conversation continued over the meal, though not all of the adventurers ate the offered food. Isobel did not seem to notice as she was beaming at Astrid’s appetite. The conversation quickly turned to Robart and his lack of a soul and the adventurers decide to talk to Coranthe, retrieve Robart and let Emma perform the Ritual of Restoration in the water of the pond behind Isobel’s hut. Isobel explained that she chose the location of her home because of the presence of a so-called “crossing” around the pond, where the fabric between the realities in the ethereal mist was thinnest.

Surprisingly, Coranthe was very susceptible to allowing Robart to accompany the adventurers into the woods. But unfortunately the ritual was not successful; both the tracker and Robart were unchanged, though Robart, having waded into the waters of the pond and washed by the priestess, did have a much needed bath.

After putting the tracker back in his bed, the adventurers said their goodbyes to Isobel who gave them a parting gift of two pearl earrings. When Luca said the agreement was for but one earring, she snapped at him demanding to know what she was going to do with an earring without its matching pair.

Robart was returned to Coranthe and Luca went to visit the szygani camp to instruct Hejduk to be at the western shore of the lake before dawn the following morning. He then returned to the farm and performed a divination on the leather bracers that James had pulled from the giant’s camp several days before. They turned out to benefit the wearer with an unnatural gift of archery.

Luca and Emrys spent some more time discussing the matters of prophecy and the arcane. Luca shared what he had learned from experimenting with the Lyrium crystals and gave one to Emrys to boost his magic in case of an emergency.

Third Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon is waning.)

Just like the previous night the moons are largely obscured be thick, angry clouds from inside which lightning flickers. Occasionally the lightning bursts through the clouds to the outside, where it dances and plays along the bottom of the clouds, and streaks across the sky like angry, jabbing fingers. Thunder no longer rumbles in the distances but now cracks loudly overhead. Rain drizzles down in waves as the wind blows in.

The sky is the colour of dark purple, as the Bloodmoon and the Darkmoon light up everything around you whenever the clouds part. Like the night that Luca and James met Kalindras the procyon scout and fought against Liliana, everything is awash in a constricting, purple glow. The Silvermoon is in slow ascent and occasionally tries to provide relief, but never long enough or strong enough to inspire you against the foreboding of its siblings.

When the sounds of screeching and howling start again, much closer and much clearer this time, strange shapes and shadows can be seen against the dark and purple clouds, like colonies of overgrown bats streaking across the sky. Whenever lightning strikes you are affording flashes of detail of the figures flying overhead; images of maws and claws, of spikes and talons, of maddening sadness and terrifying wickedness too horrifying for your minds to entertain.

This time there are other sounds and images, too. Those which your mind is all too eager to focus on. Of the alabaster feathers of majestic griffons and the blue and steel of the knights that sit astride them. They streak across the sky like lightning, vigorously engaging the dark shapes with a heroism and confidence that you have a hard time fathoming.

High above the lake, the two cavalcades clash. Fire and radiance, steel and claw. All against the backdrop of the Night of Violet Eyes.

Before dawn, the adventurers get up and prepare to go and search for the tower while the darkness outside is the home to terrifying images. They decide to redistribute some of the healing potions that they liberated from the Alfred Barnaby’s Concoctions and Decoctions back in Bournemouth. Emrys also took possession of the fire breath potion. When they were finally ready, they went out into the darkness, meeting up with a visibly shaken Hejduk at the bridge across the river.

After crossing the river the group ventured north along the western shores of lake Llygad, seeing roving parties of strange monsters and patrolling parties of armoured knights. When the group stumbled close to a group of knights, James decided to throw a rock at them in order to see whether they would respond, half expecting the rock to pass through them as if they were a spectral image. To his surprise, they did respond, calling out a challenge James had heard before in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe; “Decerte!”

He remembered that Ser Arman de Courtenay called that out to the knights he lead in pursuit of the skaven, and they responded with “Adversa!” And so James said just that, with as much conviction as he could muster. When he did, the knights looked visibly relieved and lowered their weapons to approach the group.

There were three knights, two in the vermilion-adorned armour of the Order of the Shield, and one was wearing the lapis lazuli coloured armour of the Order of the Gryphon. They were accompanied by two others; a male dwarf and a female elf, both armed and moving with the confidence of experience warriors.

While one of the knights of the Order of the Shield was a towering individual standing at a height to rival that of Lord Marcus Sheridan, the real shock came when the knight of the Order of the Gryphon removed his helmet to reveal the face the adventurers had only seen hours before; this was a less gaunt version of the tracker in the witch’s hut. Healthy and strong. He introduced himself as Ser Edrick and ordered them to go back to the expedition camp, taking them for camp followers.

The adventurers watched the knights and their armsmen move off back into the darkness and decided to hide out until the violent storm and strange clash of cavalcades had passed. They waited until dawn started to appear on the horizon, forcing the strange purple glow of the Night of Violet Eyes to make way for the orange glow of a new day. The group made their way to the shorelines and waited.

As the storm slowly subsides and the sky in the east starts to lighten with the coming of the dawn, you are left with a chill in the core of your stomach, caused by the bizarre events of the last few hours. You watch as the first rays of sunshine start the crest the eastern hills and hit the surface of Lake Llygad. The shimmering reflection of the sun momentarily forces you to squint your eyes and the warmth of the light softens the ill feeling in your belly. You briefly close your eyes to enjoy the sun and listen to the lapping of water up against the shore.

You open your eyes again as you hear water start to rush in retreat, reminding you of the sound of the rift you once heard in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe. You watch as out on the lake, at about a hundred paces away from shore, you see a huge maelstrom appear with at its centre a dark, cavernous drop, leading who-knows-where.

At the edges of the maelstrom several figures have risen from the lake. They have a faintly humanoid shape, only much larger, standing at the height of two normal men. Their bodies are made of coursing water, roiling inside of them. They don’t seem to have any legs, nor a head, but they hold their arms aloft their burly torso and you notice the glint of thick, golden bracers at their wrists.

Suddenly, you see the battlements of a stone tower arise from the centre of the maelstrom. It rises up faster and faster as it reaches high in the sky, revealing its blood stained walls. When it stops rising, it stands at the height of twenty men, surrounded by a stone, protective wall. A rampart leads up from the water to an opening in the front of the wall.

The bodies of hundreds of people have been nailed to the surface of the tower and its protective wall. Some of the figures are writhing in pain, moaning and howling from the agony. Some have missing appendages; bloody stumps where their limbs used to be. Sometimes you see limbs impaled on spikes without an attached body. Some bodies are strung up by their own entrails. A row of heads line the top of the wall.

The figures with the golden manacles sink back into the water as the maelstrom stops spinning and the water once against comes to rest. You notice that just below the surface of the lake, a causeway leads up to the rampart.

Gathering the necessary courage, the adventurers, together with the szygan Hejduk, started to make their way across the causeway. Luca was struck with a sudden doubt and Emma had to call upon the calming rituals of Mother Sedna for Luca to regain his confidence. Trailing behind the others, Emma and Luca ran across the causeway, almost slipping on the wet stones and skidding into the water. Luckily they made it in time to go through the large front door before the tower once again disappeared and was swallowed up by the lake.

Inside the to circular tower the adventurers were confronted by a wide open floor, comfortably decorated with chairs around the hearth, a large dining table surrounded by sturdy, high-backed chairs, and walls lined with well-maintained suits of armour lining the wall, polished to a high sheen and playfully reflecting the dozens of candles set in the chandelier above the dining table. Above the mantle hung a large portrait of a balding man wearing an opulent, red, ermine-trimmed robe.

On the left of the chimney was a trapdoor leading down, on the right of the chimney was a set of wooden beams set into the wall to form a staircase ending at another trapdoor in the ceiling.

The adventurers looked around and found two curious, crystal rods, one blue, one red, on either side of a bowl overflowing with fresh fruit. They also found that the trapdoor seemed to be sealed by two sets of three small crystals. One set were all clear, the other blue, red and blue again. James and Luca immediately started to experiment using the crystal rods on the clear crystals, which changed colour whenever they touched them. They thought that they would have to turn the clear crystals to the same pattern as the coloured, example crystals, but it turned out to be more complicated than they thought.

Moving to England

Man, moving is a pain. Arranging for transportation; transporting it yourself or having a company do it for you. The different options and price ranges, deciding between convenience and cost, considering the insurance and possible value of the goods you’re moving. Going through all your things and packing them up*… I’m not having a good time.

We’ve pretty much ruled out transporting things yourself. I was looking into it, but it basically means that I shave off a third of the costs, but it means I would be on the road for at least 10 hours a day for two days straight. I tried to combine it with someone I know who is moving the other direction, but our schedules didn’t align, and I couldn’t pick the van up here and drop it off there because you can leave a vehicle with a left-hand steering wheel in England… aaaaargh!

On top of that, we’re trying to hold on to our apartment in Amsterdam because our move isn’t permanent and there’s a lot of uncertainty to contend with (e.g. the exit of the UK from the European Union). That’s not going as smoothly as desired and will likely end up meaning we’re going to have to hold on to our apartment in Amsterdam as long as we’re legally allowed to if we are not able to come to an agreement with the owner of the building.

All in all, it’s making me stressed and not the most pleasant person to be around. Luckily, the people I’ve seen this week have been delightfully tolerant. Joasia, Moulsari and Eva have all managed to take my mind off of the stress and annoyances, while simultaneously making gentle cooing noises in order for me to stop being so aggro. Much appreciated.

In the meantime I’m trying to figure out how to continue with gaming and I’m happy to see that Robin, Richard and Dennis are all committed to continuing even if it means reducing the frequency and increasing the duration of the sessions. We’re also looking for one or two new players to join us, which would be wonderful.

The coming week I’ll be working my last week for MBS from England, wrapping up a lot of documentation. Then we’re off to Ireland for a few days to hike in the Wicklow mountains and explore Kilkenny. After that a few days off before the actual move.

*I’m throwing a bunch of things away, which is making me quite happy. So it’s not all bad.

A Simple Lock of Hair

Previously, the adventurers arrived in Pinefall and made their way around the area, meeting various people. They found that Lord Destan had arrived in the village of Bristlecone and had been a guest at a prominent farm until going on an expedition with his guards, the local dog breeder and a tracker from the neighbouring community of Hunter’s Hollar. Rides later three survivors of the expedition were found outside of Bristlecone. It was Destan’s guard Jenna, who died soon after, the dog breeder, who had lost his mind, and the tracker who was unconscious and taken to the witch for healing. The witch was unwilling to give the adventurers access to the tracker in her care until James parted with a lock of his hair, which he refused. A trip to Hunter’s Hollar revealed that Destan had come to them for aid in finding the Crimson Tower, but all of them refused. They could not explain who the tracker was in the care of the witch further deepening the mystery.

Tenth Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon is waxing. Darkmoon is waxing.)

The adventurers found themselves at the abandoned village once again after having explored the shores of Lake Llygad in search for any sign that Lord Destan and his expedition may have left behind. Having found not a trace, and having been spotted by the szygani, the group decided that some of them would approach the travellers. Emma, Emrys and Luca decided to head towards the caravans, while James and Astrid sat down between the wild sorghum to have themselves an adult beverage.

The broad-shouldered, mustachioed szygan that the adventurers had heard playing the violin upon arrival introduced himself as Tibor. He seemed friendly but a little bit apprehensive of the adventurers, but he introduced his wife Selina and his children, Dimmi and Danika. Selina offered the adventurers some small bites of sausage, bread, butter and salt while Tibor offered small glasses of plum liquor.

The others szygani were Hejduk, who was explained to be the group’s “guide” and interpreter of the signs of Maškar, and Mikula and her three daughters Mira, Kezia and Lavinia.

While the conversation turned more amicable between the three adventurers and the szygani, Tibor asked whether or not the James and Astrid would be interested in coming to join everyone. When they arrived, drinks and food were offered, and James was very keen on getting his hands on some of the plum brandy. He found out that the szygani did not create the drink themselves, but had bartered for it to the south, before coming to Pinefall. Their supply was not endless, but James managed to get his hands on eight bottles of the liquor, paying a hefty sum of two crowns and five stags for them. The bottles disappeared into his bag with ease, one by one.

Tibor explained that they had arrived in Pinefall not so long ago, following Hejduk’s interpretation of the signs that Maškar was giving him. He told about the tension between the szygani and the villagers of Bristlecone and about how Drummond came to that tension and explain a few things.

When Luca went to have a conversation with the mysterious, pony-tailed Hejduk, who had been observing Tibor talk to the adventurers, Emrys decided to start playing his lute. He played a cheerful, upbeat tune that Tibor could easily follow with his violin. Together they played and Mikula sent her daughters to dance around the bonfire. James noticed that Mikula’s daughters were probably well-versed in the art of distracting people with their dance, especially men with a fat purse.

Hejduk turned out to be as wary and apprehensive as Tibor initially was, but never eased up. Luca and he spoke about esoteric matters including Maškar, magic, the Circle of Mages and about Luca’s staff. Hejduk explained that he was not formally trained and that he had picked up some tricks along his travels, mostly from other szygani.

When the sun was going down the adventurers headed back to Bristlecone, just in time for them to catch Harm the shepherd, the vulgar and impulsive Volker and Gillian, one of the spinsters with a joy for drink. James ingratiated himself with the Rudwick hands using the newly acquired plum brandy and as time wore on one by one people turned in for the night.

The adventurers found their cottages hot and humid and cleverly made use of their ability to chill water and objects in order to cool themselves down in order to go to sleep.

First Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing. Bloodmoon in high sanction. Darkmoon is waxing.)

The following day Luca woke up in the middle of the night from the terrible warmth and humidity in the cabin. The magical means by which the adventurers had cooled the cabin had long since worn off, turning the cabin into a steam room as hot as the Sacred Baths of Sedna in Kingsport. Emrys and James were still vast asleep. He felt the urge to go outside and there he was confronted by his master.

Standing in the middle of the guest cabins, impressively tall with that strange, wasp-like waist, he foretold that Luca would be making an important journey and that on that journey he would have a chance to find important books. He would have to find information on the whereabouts of Tharizdun the Mad God. This would be the way in which Luca could repay his master for all the power his master had bestowed on him. He would also be gifted a boon; upon completion, Luca would be allowed to ask one question which his master would answer honestly.

Before that, however, Luca would have to help “another who serves” who was close by. Luca would have to find a way for “the other who serves” to go along with Luca in order to complete a very important task. Luca thought of Hejduk the szygan. With that understanding, his master bent down on those powerful legs and jumped up into the air like an arrow from a bow, disappearing in a streak in the clouds high above. Luca went back to the cabin to ponder the interaction.

James woke up with a terrible itch on the strange mark he had on the inside of the right hand. He had incurred the mark on that strange night he struggles to remember, before being found in the catacombs underneath Lynnecombe. He remembered flashes of being in the Sheridan library, riffling through their book collection when something happened in a hot flash of light, leaving him with that strange burn mark on his hand. It was that burn mark that Ser Benten mentioned when he urged James to go and find his companions and set off to return Lord Destan, ” since it is his mark you bear, after all.”

It was before dawn that everyone awoke to set out before the first rays of sunlight would crest the hills in the east, hoping to discover some clue about the poem that they recovered from the Bournemouth academy library. The adventurers had considered that the poem was a riddle to find and gain entrance to the Crimson Tower, but so far they had little to corroborate this theory. The Night of Violet Eyes was drawing closer and perhaps they might catch a glimpse of the tower.

As the adventurers started on their walk towards the lake they followed Harm the shepherd and his flock and sheep along the road, across the bridge and toward the lake. He expertly guided the flock with the help of two expertly trained dogs, likely from Robart’s kennel, through an series of intricate whistles and noises.

The conversation came around to the poem they had found in Bournemouth and in particular to the line “The white eye is to be explored.” The adventurers were unsure what this “white eye” was referring to, and they assumed that it was likely the lake.

Having found no traces of the crimson tower as the sun rose above the hills in the east the adventurers returned back to Rudwick’s farm where they enjoyed a nice breakfast. During that time they decided upon a plan to go and talk to Gregory, a local bee farmer, and Drummond, an armsman who retired to Bristlecone after serving in the Order of the Gryphon.

Gregory and Elora turned out to be a delightful older couple living in Bristlecone in a large cabin. They found Gregory in his garden tending to one of the several beehives while Elora was on the other side of the cabin tending to a vegetable garden. The adventurers sat down with them in the shade of a large tree in their garden and enjoyed some of the mead that the couple created from all the honey they farmed from the hives.

The conversation was pleasant but revealed little interesting information. The adventurers found out that the abandoned village had been abandoned for several generations, and they found out that “the white eye” referred to Lake Llygad, which used to be called Llyn Gwenllygad, which translated to “Lake of the White Eye” in an archaic dialect of the elven language spoken in the area long ago.

While the conversation with the old couple was winding down the adventurers noticed Isobel coming up the road, riding a large, black hog, making for an outrageous sight. She stopped in front of Gregory’s garden and asked to speak to James. She reiterated her offer to allow the adventurers access to the tracker in her care. Her price was unchanged; a lock of James’ hair. She did, however, up her ante, saying that she would reveal more about the curious mark on the palm of James’ right hand. James did not agree to the deal and with a smirk Isobel once again mounted her black hog and calmly rode it away.

After that strange encounter, the adventurers said their goodbyes to Gregory and Elora and went to visit Drummond. They found the barrel-chested man in front of his cabin. Their conversation ranged from the recently arrived szygani to the mobilisation of the Bristlecone villagers against the possible threats that the adventurers had seen on their way over from Allenham.

Most importantly, they spoke about Lord Destan and his expedition, particularly about the three who returned. Drummond explained that it was Vulgar Volker who found the Sheridan guard Jenna, Robart and the tracker just north of the bridge on the other side of the river. Drummond was one of the first people to be brought to the scene to help out. Jenna was alive then but had an awful gash in her side and she succumbed to her wounds near the bridge. Robart was carrying the tracker and was raving like a lunatic before his mind collapsed when they reached the bridge.

After the conversation with the retired armsman, the adventurers headed back to the abandoned village. They had previously spotted some abandoned items and the szygani had told them that quite a few interesting things were still around, so they decided to take a look and see if they could find out a reason why the village was abandoned all that time ago.

Rummaging through the village, they ended up finding a chest full of well-preserved linen fabrics hidden away underneath a thick copse of ivy, a dried leather pouch hidden behind a loose stone of a chimney holding eight heavily oxidised copper coins, two worn silver coins and a well-preserved gold crown with the face of King Philip the Tenacious on it. King Philip famously survived an assassination attempt during the Beauclair occupation on the night of Midinváerne in 1068 at Gryphon’s Roost, the nearby home of the Order of the Gryphon.

The real prize find was a scroll case with a collection of papers, together constituting a journal of sorts.The legible papers read the following:

Third Day, First Ride, Summer Flame, 1187

As predicted, tonight is the Night of the Three Eyes. Last year the Night of the Three Eyes was during the second ride of Winter Deep and therefore less terrifying. It’s the long summer nights that make the night worse on the shores of Llyn Gwenllygad. The year before all three eyes stayed closed. And the year before that it was two days before Highharvestide. Soren has said that if the cavalcade came once more from the Roost we will leave Pinefall for good.

Seventh Day, Second Ride, Summer End, 1187

Tomorrow we are leaving the only home we have ever known. Soren has promised that Fairfields might be far, but that there will be work, there will be people, and we won’t have to relive the slaughter or get woken up by the screams any longer. Soren can work the fields, and I can work the quill.

Ves and Steffen will stay. They believe folk like us won’t survive without the protection of Lady Llyn. Soren says that if the lady cared for us Ves would still have her own hair colour, and would still be able to talk.

I wonder who will live in our hut.

A Radical Change

Yesterday I announced to my team that after more than sixteen years of service to MBS, I am leaving the company. Some people were visibly unhappy with the announcement. During my time here I’ve seen others make the same announcement and noted that it was hard for them to say the words. While I certainly don’t think it was easy, I thought it was easier than expected.

I suspect that the people who were unhappy with the news are so partially because I’ve become their go-to guy, and partially because they might be fond of me. The latter I can’t help, but regarding the former, I’m sure that they’ll quickly find that everyone is replaceable. It might take a few days, but business will continue as usual.

Over the next few weeks I will be moving to Exeter. I’m arranging for Robin to live in and take care of my home here in Amsterdam, just in case the exit from the European Union by Great Britain will not go entirely smoothly or if things don’t work out well with the new job that I’ve found in Exeter. And then I’ll move. There is a lot to be arranged and a lot to be wrapped up, a lot of which isn’t entirely clear to me yet, so it will likely be a chaotic few weeks.

In the meantime, my pendulum swings between excited and terrified, between happy and sad, between confident and diffident.