Author Archives: Dennis

Lost Respect

It’s crazy just how much I’ve lost respect for many people in my extended social circle. I have watched in amazement as they took they flaunted the guidelines. Things are getting better in spite of them, not because of them. They seem to be heading towards a second lockdown trying to race each other there.

At the same time, I have gained a ton of respect for people who keep enduring their quarantine with discipline.

Highharvestide Celebration

Previously, the heroes had returned to Pinefall with over four hundred rescued crusaders and came face to face with Lord Destan, alive and well in the care of the witch Isobel. After a conversation with the villagers of Bristlecone aid was sent to the abandoned village where the crusaders would make a temporary home. Food, blankets and tents were provided. The conversation quickly turned to what to do next, and it seemed like the crusaders were not as unified as the heroes had liked. Some had thoughts of returning to their orders, some wanted to live a quiet life and some seemed to have darker goals in mind.

Highharvestide, 1262

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

When everyone was getting settled in at the abandoned village, Luca took the opportunity to speak to Dame Josephine, by way of a translator, to inform her about the current political landscape and the general history of Lyria and the different dynastic families that held the royal seat.

The Celtician listened intently, in particular about King Philip d’Aragon, third of his name, who decreed that women were equal to men under the law, in all matters of inheritance, including in rights of succession. This is how the Valois dynasty started. A dynasty Dame Josephine belonged to and was arguably the most senior member of.

A decision was made by the heroes and the senior leadership of the crusaders that the court should be made aware of the crusader’s presence in the Silverpine Hills, especially considering many of them had no intention of returning to the orders they once belonged to. The court would want to know that a small army of strangers had appeared in the heartland.

A plan was hatched to use the griffons to fly to Kingsport. Dame Josephine would fly on Tourbillon and Lord Destan would fly with her as a passenger. Prior Benedict would be a passenger due to his status as the Knight Captain of the expedition, as would Ser Florianus because of his renown. Dalinda the elven translator would get a spot, as she would be invaluable in any conversations. The rest of the griffons would be used to transport the heroes.

When the plan had been formed formed and agreed upon by all parties, Emrys eagerly joined the Highharvestide festivities in Bristlecone and Astrid decided to go with him. James followed, not because he was keen on the party, but rather to keep an eye out for any of the crusaders who were out for trouble. Quentin went as well and made an attempt to hide the scabbard of his sword by wrapping it in a blanket, only to find that the thorny roses bloomed straight through the cloth.

When they arrived in Bristlecone they found that the villagers had set up tables and bonfires around the bridge across the small river. They shared pastries with clotted cream and jam, honeyed apples, rich stews with mutton, cloves and parsley, and tankards of rich Fulham ale. The inhabitants of the hollar had travelled down to Bristlecone and had laid out their assortments of foraged nuts, berries and mushrooms and some they were roasting a large dear over an open fire, glazing and basting it with honey and forest thyme.

As the visitors arrived the villagers seemed well prepared. Children gawked a little but were quickly distracted by the dog breeders’ puppies and the face paints that one of the villagers was decorating them with. They soon went back to pretending to be bears and wolves.

For a while the festivities were pleasant. But as the evening set in the mood started to turn. The mood of a  small number of the crusaders, armsmen mostly, had turned sour ant their demeanour became hostile. The heroes were quick to pick up on this shift and came up with several plans in order to get the crusaders to depart back to their camp at the abandoned village.

James put Astrid to the task of causing as much awkwardness as she possibly could, trying to dissuade the crusaders from lingering at the feast. Emrys tried to perform a song meant to convince the crusaders to wrap things up and head back. Quentin decided to load up a cart of food and drinks to lure the crusaders back to camp. Together they managed to convince those crusaders who had no or few bad intentions to retire, but a small, persistent group of trouble seekers stubbornly stayed behind.

Eventually, Destan is convinced to tell the Bristlecone villagers to return to their homes and cease the festivities. Due to the visitors from Hunter’s Hollar having plans to camp out before heading back to the hollar in the morning, the troublesome crusaders continued to have a place to gather and look for entertainment. Frederick, the foppish Daerlanian who was the defacto leader of the people of Hunter’s Hollar tried to diffuse the situation, with little success, considering the language barrier.

While all of this had been happening, Luca and Emma had stayed behind in camp. Emma had been tending to the needs of all the shell shocked crusaders and Luca had been taking care of Dame Victoria Greywater, the knight that Emma had inhabited during her time in Old Llygad. She had a fragile mind and was prone to bouts of crying. It would be the perfect victim to Blackstar’s incessant hunger. The staff had been more forceful and communicative since returning to Pinefall and Luca though that nobody would miss Dame Victoria and her constant wailing.

When Dame Victoria had found a moment of calm, which were few and far between, Luca convinced her to lay down to sleep. He made note of who was sleeping where and how easily it would be to prey upon her. He found Emma, and the two decided to head for Bristlecone.

Once there they were quickly informed of the situation and decided to help the rest of the heroes get the unruly crusaders in line. Luca ended up charming several crusaders to come back with him to camp. On the way he changed his mind on Dame Victoria and decided to single out one of the unruly crusaders instead. He lured the armsman into the woods where he murdered him with rays of fire after a short struggle. Blackstar seemed satisfied.

Having no other way to hide the charred corpse, Luca went down on both knees and spent a long time digging in the dirt with his bare hands in order to create a shallow grave in which he could hide the corpse. He paid for the hastily hidden corpse with dirtied and bloodied fingers. He hoped it would be enough.

Back at the bridge things escalated quickly as Astrid and James engaged the last remaining trouble makers. Before the injuries escalated beyond black eyes and broken noses Emrys used his magic to make a bonfire nearby explode in coloured fireworks. Everything came to a screeching halt at that display and in that moment, the remaining crusaders decided to avoid bloodshed and return to camp.

Emrys and Emma returned to camp as well, while Quentin, James and Astrid decided to stay behind, just in case.

Back to Normal

Having worked from home for over two months and having been very limited in my movement, life has become very simple. While it’s been boring, the change of pace has also been nice. We’ve quickly adapted to the need to shelter in place, and that has either forced us to put some chores on the back burner, or forced us to become very pragmatic about having items and groceries delivered. Social events are non-existent right now, work is done from home and exercise is done without the need to travel. It makes the world very small, easy to manage and less anxiety-inducing.

I miss my brother and sister. I miss going over to Amsterdam. I miss going to restaurants, and having well-crafted cocktails. And I miss the prospect of travelling, as we had to cancel our June trip to Finland. I miss BJJ and I miss a well-cropped head of hair. These things I would like to have return back to normal.

But I don’t want all of it to go back to the way things were before the lockdown. And I wonder if I am the only one. I wonder just how many people have been forced to take it down a notch and realised that they were red lining themselves and how much better they feel under the current circumstances. I hope people will take the time to reevaluate what’s important to them. Perhaps there are people who will have reinforced just how good their lives were before the lockdown. And perhaps there will be people who have gotten a taste of a different life that they’ve quietly been craving and weren’t aware of it.

Use of (Modified) Optional Healing Rules

As of the next session I would like to start implementing a slightly altered version of the Healer’s Kit Dependency and Slow Natural Healing optional rules from the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

  • Characters don’t regain all lost hit points at the end of a long rest. Instead, a character regains 1 + Constitution modifier in hit points.
  • A character can spend Hit Dice at the end of a long rest just like they can when taking a short rest. This is done before regaining spent Hit Dice.
  • A character can’t spend any Hit Dice after finishing a short or long rest until someone expends one use of a healer’s kit to bandage and treat the character’s wound and succeeds on a Wisdom (Medicine) DC 12 check.

New Beginnings

Previously, the heroes had just defeated Atilesceon and were looking to find a way from Old Llygad back to Pinefall. With the portal at the top of the Crimson Tower no longer operational they decided to use the crossing at Isobel’s Vale to come home. The ritual, however, would require many voluntary sacrifices, and Emrys was tasked to convince some of the crusaders to step forward. They managed to perform the ritual and bring over four hundred of the surviving crusaders back, but not before first making a stop in the Feywild, speaking to Yathaghera, the unicorn guardian of the crossing and bartering for their way home with a geis; a debt to a powerful archfey.

Highharvestide, 1262

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

After the scintilating colours of the fey crossing had withdrawn, the heroes and their host of crusaders found themselves standing knee deep in the pond behind Isobel’s hut. The water was cold and there was a crispness in the air. The pines had turned a darker shade and the forest floor was riddled with pine cones and needles. Summer had made place for autumn.

Isobel stood waiting for them at the edge of the pond, dressed for the weather, smoking a pipe. She was carrying blankets but when she saw just how many had showed up she realised that she did not have enough.

At her side stood a seven foot tall man wearing simple clothing that was several sizes to small for him, like a grownup wearing the clothes of a child. Lord Destan, carrying a stack of blankets, just like Isobel. He looked well; or as well as could be expected.

When everyone was getting their bearing slowly the crusaders started to move toward the edge of the pond. Because of the language barrier several people stepped forward who spoke the languages of the elder races, since those had changed far less radically than Lyrian. The most prominent of these were an elven armsman named Dalinda and Ser Kadagar Ashbeard, the dwarven knight that was part of the expedition.

The first order of business was to explain to the crusaders where they were and when they were; some of them had not grasped how long they had been stuck in Old Llygad, or didn’t realise that time was continuing on while they relived the same day over and over.

As the news of the time lapse travels through the camp, causing consternation among the crusaders, the conversation turns to food. Due to the nature of the ritual, the crusaders were able to return only with some personal items. They have no provisions or means for survival. Emma is able to call upon the grace of Sedna, but nowhere near to the extent which is necessary to provide for the crusaders. Shelter is also an issue, but an idea is formed to move the crusaders to the nearby abandoned village.

Here and there, crusaders are gathering wood to make some fires. The wind is chilly and their wet boots and socks need to be dried. Emma goes to console Dame Victoria Greywater whom she inhabited while in Old Llygad. Astrid and Ser Gregorian seem to be staying away from one another, but Ser Edric and Destan meet for a warm embrace.

Emrys and Luca speak to Isobel about the crusaders and what to do with them. Isobel also shares that it’s Highharvestide, and that the villagers are preparing for a celebration. The realisation that it’s already mid-autumn turns their interest to whether the weather will hold, and the witch reaches into a satchel to retrieve some berries which she crushes in her hand. She licks the paste and tastes the air, predicting another two rides before the weather will turn foul and prevent travel.

Lord Destan and Quentin briefly speak about being separated, the retrieval of the sword of flowers and Ser Estienne’s fate. Destan mentions that the sword seems to have changed somewhat since they both laid eyes on it in Old Llygad. The scabbard it rests in is covered in thorny vines bearer vibrant red roses which rapidly grow, bloom and wither away. It seems more alive than it was before.

The heroes realise that many of the items that they gathered while in Old Llygad are still with their respective hosts. Luca speaks to Ser Florianus through a translator to get his items back, and James does the same with Dame Josephine, who seems more occupied with a restless Tourbillon. James offers to help by sharing a cured ham that James had squirrelled away in his magical bag. The large raptor devoured it and screeched for more, unappeased. Dame Josephine returned James his items and declined his invitation to share his fire with her.

Meanwhile, Ser Gregorian shares some of his clothing with Destan in an attempt to make him look a little bit more presentable. The idea is hatched to go by Rudwick’s farm to pick up the items that the heroes and Destan left behind before their departure to the other realm. Destan mentions to James that he’s happy to see him again. James doesn’t remember meeting the man. They decide to postpone a conversation on what happened until later. Destan does, however, remove the mark from James’ hand, leaving only a faint scar.

Emma decides to stay behind to council the crusaders while the rest go to Bristlecone. Their first stop is the Rudwick barton to inquire about their belongings. As they pass through the village and observe the villagers setting up tables for a large feast, they inform Gregor and Drummond, who end up meeting the group at the farm, together with Lem. After inspecting the different cottages and finding everything remained as they had left it, (Destan did mention missing a few items, like the sapphire symbol of mask, and a magnifying glass, etc.), they decided to meet at Gregor’s house to have a conversation.

At Gregor’s the conversation turns to what has transpired since the departure of the heroes. The szygani departed the abandoned village several rides ago, and recently a small island was spotted in the north-west corner of the lake that had never been there before. An old, broken tower made its home there. Also, there were rumours of a large, weathered standing stone with old, faded inscription on it had appeared on the edge of the forest. The heroes immediately identified the tower as the old Crimson Tower and the standing stone as the stone that Ser Kadagar Ashbeard had used to record his knowledge on.

Once the situation of the crusaders was explained to the three men and the conversation turned to planning on how to move forward. Lem’s estimation was that the village could comfortably take care of the crusaders for about a ride before they would be eating into the new harvest and jeopardise Pinefall’s ability to survive the coming winter. It was decided that Lem would take some of his labourers and bring supplies of food, tarps, tents and lumber to the abandoned village so that the crusaders could be house for a while.

Drummon was very interested in the different orders, the knights and their retinues. He was part of the Order of the Gryphon for such a long time that he became inundated by the stories and history of the order. For the crusaders to show up in Pinefall was for a legend to come alive.

For Gregor the story of their curse and Atilesceon’s realm was the most interesting. As well as the way in which the tower acted as a gateway and how the group returned, through the Feywild, back to Isobel’s Vale.

The group returned to Isobel’s Vale together with Gregor and Drummond. The two immediately were assigned a translator and started to have conversations with various crusaders. Dame Josephine was discovered to have released the griffons so that they may hunt for food, and was simultaneously making plans to head for Celticia to lay claim to the throne. It became clear to the heroes that not all crusaders would be keen on either rejoining the order or resurrecting the Silver Crusade.

Quentin approached Durand and asked him what his plans were. He claimed to no longer want to fight, to live the remainder of his life out in peace. Quentin tried to convince him to take up arms and join a new crusade, even going so far as wanting to knight him in order to motivate him. Durand refused the honour of being knighted, but did believe that he could possibly help by sharing what he knew.

When the crusaders finally deployed to the abandoned village they found a large tent had been set up, with several smaller tents around it. Some of the huts had been turned into make shift barracks by clearing them out and covering the collapsed roofs with tarps. The well had been cleared by the szygani when they were first warned by Drummond not to draw water from the lake, lest it bring about the ire from the Bristlecone villagers.

The conversation between the heroes became tense when James kept reiterating that if the crusaders would not follow the heroes advice they could go fuck themselves. Emma had heard him say that several times and exploded, insisting that the crusaders were undeserving of that attitude merely because they wouldn’t do what the heroes wanted them to do.

A decision was made to call a council and discuss what it was that the crusaders would want to do. Because there was no unity among the crusaders, several different people were called as representatives in the council. Destan would represent the Lyrian nobility, who would sure have an opinion on finding a small army in the Lyrian heartland. Benedict McAllister would represent the crusaders together with Ser Florianus. Dalinda would stand for the elven crusaders, who most recognised might hold different views than their human counterparts. Ser Kadagar Ashbeard stood for the dwarves. Josephine stood for the Celtician crusaders. And last, Drummond would be best suited to speak for the Lyrian Knights.

Ser Kadagar said that the dwarves were united in their opinion that they wanted to travel back to Ard Thoradun and rejoin their people. The elves were much less united. Dalinda said she wanted to go to the Palace of the White Flame and find the Lady Without Ending. She would first want to go by the Riverlands to find the elven tribe that Lauriel started in name of Mohiam to inform them of her fate.

It became clear throughout the conversation that Dame Josephine perhaps had plans beyond claiming the Beauclair throne. Her house is that of LaValette, from the lands of Les Valettes, but that she identified herself as Josephine La Valois. As such, she might have a claim to the Lyrian throne.

A tentative plan was made to use the griffons to quickly return to Kingsport and inform the throne about the presence of the crusaders. It would allow the heroes to return quickly, inform the throne, and get Lord Destan back to Lynnecombe and the Sheridan estate as quickly as possible.

The council came to a dissatisfying end. Gregor and Drummond recommended the crusaders to come over for the festivities and meet the rest of the villagers. The heroes think it’s likely not a good idea and ask Destan to decide, but he leaves the decision to them.