Author Archives: Dennis

Excuses voor het slavernijverleden

Het Nederlandse kabinet heeft besloten om excuses aan te bieden voor het slavernijverleden en een fonds op te zetten voor de bevordering van de bewustwording van dit verleden. Goede zet, denk ik. Je ziet onmiddelijk bepaalde gelederen krampachtig dezelfde argumenten van ‘t stal halen; je kunt geen excuses aanbieden voor iets waar je zelf niet voor verantwoordelijk bent.

Onzin, natuurlijk kan dat wel. Je kunt namelijk spijt hebben voor iets wat een ander is aangedaan waar je zelf geen hand in had. “Het spijt me dat dit je is overkomen,” heeft iedereen met een ons aan sympathie wel eens gezegd tegen een ander. En zelfs als je geen spijt hebt kun je geexcuseerd worden voor het slavernijverleden als je daar vandaag de dag nog de baten van ondervindt in welvaart.

Fiction: A Plague Upon Kingsport

Fifth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

My name is Kasia. I was born in the year of the winter mare in the voivodeship of Żubrówka, on the western plains of Silesia. When life was good, father drove cattle and mother taught letters and numbers. They always spoke about leaving the plains and moving to the lands of evergreen. Father would rear horses or mind cattle for a lord, while mother would be a handmaid to a lady, and we would never have to follow the herd again.

Misfortune struck when the blood rain began to fall; my mother and sister were taken by a plague, as were many others. We were all afraid and everyone prayed. The elders said an old evil had awoken. When the ground was soaked scarlet the dead began to rise from their barrows at night, so father made sure to bury mamuśka and Lena extra deep and to put heavy stones upon their graves.

The situation grew worse. Father said he could not face another day on the plains while they were shrouded in darkness. The snow was upon us but we packed up and left. It was not the way I had imagined coming to Lyria. We were tired and hungry, and we had to sell the few things we managed to strap to Bucefałus’ harness.

We made it across the Lyrian range only to find that the lords of Farcorner were rebelling against the throne, and as a result, were weary of strangers. We travelled further west, passing grim-faced soldiers dressed in crimson cloaks, travelling east along the Silesian road, ready to confront the Farcorner rebels. Father held me close, making sure none of the men stepped out of line.

After days of travelling west, past small towns and hamlets, we reached an enormous tree. The largest tree I had ever seen. There were woods in Silesia, but there was mostly grasslands. In the summer, the Earthmother blessed the plains with wild flowers of all the colours of the rainbow. But nothing had been as impressive as that tree standing but a short distance from the road.

The tree’s warden, a burly man with a large beard and a pleasant accent, offered us a place to rest under the bough of the tree. Other travellers had gathered around the fire. There were Lyrians who were travelling home before the winter, knights in armour decorated with red, merchants ending the trading season, and the Szygani who followed their strange gods. There were even other Silesians who were fleeing the blood rain. It was the first time we felt welcomed.

Father had struck up a conversation with one of the guards belonging to the retinue of lord Jerod Brightmantle, a nobleman who was returning to his estate from preparing his lands for the winter and picking up his daughter from boarding school. The guard introduced father to lord Jerod, and lord Jerod introduced me to lady Grace, his daughter.

Father was offered to drive the lord’s cattle over the winter in return for an honest pay. It helped that father had his own horse and that he was as a more talented rider than anyone else in lord Jerod’s employ. I would wait on lady Grace and help work the stables.

Father departed the estate several days after our arrival, taking Bucefałus and riding north with the other drivers. He had calmed considerably once he found he got along with the others and he started smiling more. He made sure that I would be okay in his absence and I assured him I would be. I tended to lady Grace, which was made easy because she seemed fond of me. I waited on her in the morning and evening, and I worked the stables in the afternoon, while she was studying.

Life was good. Too good. I could almost forget what we had left behind in Silesia. Almost.

It was the second ride of my stay at Dawnlight Hall and lord Jerod was set to travel south, to Kingsport. He was to prepare the Brightmantle manse in the city for their stay during the winter, and he bade lady Grace to join him. Where she went, I was told to go. I was very excited.

It was a day’s travel to the river. There we boarded a boat which took us downstream. It was very exciting, but that excitement paled in comparison to the excitement I felt when the city came into view. Lady Grace pointed out the castle, the spires of the house of Paladine, and the dark peak of the house of the Raven Queen. She could also name all of the gates and bastions which made up the ramparts around the city. I was so mesmerised I did not even notice the gentle flurries of the first snow until one landed directly on my nose.

The boat took us right into the city through the river gate. I have never felt so small in my life. Lady Grace was much more accustomed to it, since her eyes were not on the city, but rather on the sky. She lamented that there were no griffon patrols. I remember my heart skipped a beat; griffons were a danger to the herd and no Silesion would dare or even consider riding the vicious beasts. Yet in Kingsport, the city guard patrolled them across the skies.

We disembarked and were met by Brightmantle guards. Lord Jerod and lady Grace boarded a carriage and I got to sit with the driver. One of the Brightmantle men wanted to inform the lord of important matters about the manse, its stores, and a foreign delegation coming to the city from the west, but lord Jerod first wanted to visit the cathedral to pay his respects to the Platinum Father.

The building was overwhelming in its splendour, and the square it sat on was larger than the village father and I had left behind not so long before. The Brightmantles went up to the great doors and were met by priests and clergymen. It was cold and I wanted to keep warm, so once the Brightmantles disappeared inside the cathedral I left the carriage to wander around. I was told to stay close, so I decided to walk around the square, which the driver told me was called “Steward’s Square”, or “Independence Square”, since the last steward of Kingsport died only two rides before. That fact seemed to hold great significance to the driver, though I didn’t quite understand why.

I walked around the square, always within eyesight of the carriage and house guards. I saw the temple of light, where brothers and sisters of Pholtus patiently tended to the sick and injured. I saw the fertile gardens of the Earthmother, and the placid silent sisters of the Raven Queen.

I stood in front of a small tower on the edge of the square which I later learned was called the carceratum. It had a ramp leading down into a dungeon below. Guards with scarlet cloaks and monks with red robes stood around and looked at me with weariness. It was unnerving, and it reminded me of the soldiers I saw marching east before we came to Northshire. Just as their looks turned to one of horror, I noticed a strange smell of thunder in the air.

The details of what happened next slowly returned to me over the next few years. Even now there are things that my mind refuses to recall. The chaplains of the order tell me that it is my mind protecting me from the hardships of that day. They say it is a testament to my resilience and willpower that I survived it without my mind in shatters in the first place.

There was a sound of rushing air which filled my ears as I turned around to face what had shocked the guards and monks so. Initially I had a difficult time understanding what it was that I was looking at. For years afterwards I continued to search for the words to describe it. Only when I had been witness to a full eclipse of the sun when I was in my sixth year at the order did I discover how to put it into words; a large oval disc, with a golden corona bordering it, just like an eclipse. It was as if someone had erected an enormous mirror in the middle of the square which reflected an absolute darkness, and whose frame was made of a warm, radiant light which was drawn into that darkness, unable to escape its pull.

I looked back to see the monks feverishly putting their hands together to form the sign of the holy triangle of Paladine. The guards raised their arms and shields in trepidation. I did not understand their fear and circled the black disc and tried to peer into its depths. For long seconds nothing happened until I saw something appear, as if emerging from beneath the surface of a dark ink. With every moment more revealed itself until I could make out two lanterns, suspended from chains, swinging from side to side, emitting a curious, yellow vapour.

I remember that my instincts warned me that I was in danger. I have since learned that had I not heeded the urge to hide, I would have suffered a horrible fate.

As I continued to back away, I saw the two figures who were swinging those noxious censers emerge from that dark surface; two hooded ratmen, which I know now to be the insidious skaven. Quickly, more skaven followed, wearing crude armour and wicked weapons; more than a dozen. Their cacophony of snarls and screeches joined the constant sound of rushing air coming from the rift.

The two hooded skaven stood to either side of the rift, while the others spread out defensively, making space for something else to emerge. It took a long moment before it did, the air tense with malicious potential in the meanwhile. The tension finally broke upon the rumbling sound of a deep grunt, resembling the mating call of a Silesian bison bull.

First I saw the beast.

It was enormous and dense, built somewhat like a bison, but ten times the weight. It’s body was covered in a thick, brown leather and a mane of shaggy, reddish fur. A set of chitinous plates ran along its spine from its forehead to its thick tail. It stood on short, powerful legs ending in hard, cleft hooves. Its torso was so muscled that its belly almost dragged along the ground, making its skin calloused from chest to tail. Crude, metal barding was added to its head, shoulder and hips, and it wore a harness which held a saddle on its arched back.

It had deep, sunken eyes and a broad, plated forehead from which a blunt, curved horn protruded. Long tusks jutted outward from either side of its jaw like the handles of a wheelbarrow, sweeping low along the ground. The tips of its tusks were fitted with sharp metal and a barbed chain ran between them.

It was clear that this beast was bred for war. What was equally clear was that the beast suffered from a terrible malady.

A sickly yellow foam was leaking from its muzzle. The skin around its eyes was thick and enflamed and puss had crusted in the fur around its eyes. Its flesh was riddled with bloated pustules teeming with the undulating eggs of parasites that seemed like they were about to burst open.

Saddled on the beast’s back was a different calibre of nightmare.

Nausea and dizziness overtook me as I beheld the rider; a tall figure dressed in elaborate armour that must have once been splendorous but now was scarred and battered. The armour was missing the chest piece and exposed skin so drained of colour it had the tone of sour milk. Despite its body being strong and lean, its belly was swollen, like that of a pregnant heifer. There was a jagged gut wound in the swelling and some of the rider’s intestines spilled from the wound like coils of sausage links. Dense clusters of large, puss-filled blisters surrounded the wound.

The rider’s head was bald and its face was the same pallid colour as its torso. Its thin skin was stretched tight along its deep brow and hooked nose. So tight, that it seemed that it didn’t quite fit, and looked like it was a flimsy mask that it was wearing. Around the mouth and eyes it looked as if the skin had started to peel away, exposing a dark, chapped skin underneath. There was not a hair on its deformed head, but instead it had row of small horns pierce through the skin where hair should be. The back of its head was a mess of strange growth the colour of spoilt meat.

Bony branches grew from somewhere behind its head and the pauldrons of its armour. They looked like the antlers of a stag, but more twisted and gnarled. They were adorned with trinkets, talismans and animal bones, which reminded me of the items carried by plainstrider healers back home.

I was awoken from my fright by the stench coming from the invaders and realised that there was shouting and screaming all around me. In my horror I had not noticed that the guards and monks had foolishly engaged the group. They were overwhelmed by the skaven before they could mount an organised defence. I bolted down the ramp of the carceratum and looked on.

The rider observed the dead from atop its mount and wrote something with a filthy, black quill in a large, leather-bound book that it had chained to a girdle. There were several other items attached to its waist, though I can only recall a large hourglass, and something that looked like an abacus.

When it was done writing in its book it stood up in its stirrups and put the quill and book away. It spoke with a booming voice the sound of a rockslide and my mind filled with buzzing, as if my head was invaded by a thousand insects. Both sounds seemed intent on conveying meaning, as if I heard two voices at the same time, though neither made any sense to me.

“Let it be known that plague and pestilence shall take this city,” the two hooded skaven said in a shrill voice, translating for their master, “if the Liber Bubonicus is not returned to me.” Slowly the mount started to move at a slow gait, heading directly towards the carceratum where I was hiding. The hooded skaven preceded it while the others formed a skirmish at the flanks and the rear.

I retreated down the ramp as much as I could and soon found myself with my back against the doors leading into the dungeon, unable to retreat any further. All I could see as I looked up the ramp were the silhouettes of the rider and its mount, flanked on each side by the hooded skaven against the grey sky. The buzzing in my head got louder, and the rider spoke again with a voice like shale rock while raising hand to point a finger at me.

“Tell your queen to root out the one they call the upright man and return to me the Book of Woe,” the hooded skaven said in unison while also pointing at me. Everything they said and did was an echo of what the rider said and did. I remember the rider turning its head to look at something happening in the square and the buzzing subsided a bit. Someone was confronting them again and the group moved away from the carceratum.

I steadied my breath and crept up the ramp only to witness the priests of Paladine, together with Brightmantle guards and several guards in scarlet cloaks which had arrived, confront the skaven and the rider. Lord Jerod was among them, having drawn his sword after ordering his carriage away, carrying lady Grace to safety, though I did not know of her fate at the time.

Again, the buzzing returned as the rider spoke out, its words translated into shrill voices by the hooded skavens. “Your precious good health shall be forfeit until the book is submitted to me, Epidemius the Cataloguer, Lord of Decay,” the skavens shrieked in unison with the rider’s awful voice. “I shall return with each cycle of Nasul and your wounds will continue to fester,” they warned.

The only good thing about the fight was that it was short. I do not remember many details to this day, despite the sessions with the chaplains of the order. What I do remember was that this time the rider got involved. I remember his mount trampling the priests and him twisting lord Jerod into an broken state, both physically as well as mentally. I remember screaming at Epidemius until my voice was raw, begging for him to let lord Jerod die.

Afterwards, when lord Jerod had ceased moving, there was a moment of stillness on the square. The only thing I heard was a snort from the beast. Epidemius wrote something in the book at his belt, snapped the book shut and took the reigns to reel the mount around. The skaven followed, their beady eyes casting furtive glances in all directions.

As the mount continued to walk, Epidemius unfurled a scroll, read aloud from it in his grating voice, and a torrent of ruinous energy projected from him. It ripped into the fabric of our reality and tearing open another black rift, identical to the one through which they arrived. As soon as the last of the skirmishing skaven was through, the rift closed itself and the square fell back into peaceful silence, with snow gently falling from above.

People had dared to come back into the square by the time I stopped shaking. The two large, bloodstained circles in the snow that signalled the two massacres were quickly surrounded by onlookers. Where the first few people that arrived paid attention to me, wondering how a young girl was able to survive what had happened, I was quickly forgotten once the commotion started. More guards with scarlet cloaks arrived who tried to disperse the crowd, with little success.

People were asking what happened, who was responsible, where the attackers had gone. Wild stories began to circulate, each of them carrying a bit of the truth, most had a lot of speculation, and none could captured the horror that I witnessed. It was said that the silent sisters of the Raven Queen had started wailing at the time of the attack and had not ceased since. I also heard that the gardens at the temple of the Earthmother had withered, which I had later verified to be true.

I remember the next couple of days to be very difficult. The curfew was tightened and there were more patrols on the streets, making it difficult to travel through the city. It made it impossible for me to find out where the Brightmantle estate was and it forced me to sleep outside and scavenge for food. All while it snowed.

On the third day after the invasion, while I was scavenging for food in a pig enclosure, I was found by a kindly man in simple, fur-lined robes, carrying a leather case. He introduced himself as father Devon, a priest devoted to Pholtus. He took me to the Temple of Light for some food and water. It appeared that just like the other houses of worship, the followers of Pholtus had also been affected by Epidemius’ appearance for they had been flooded by people seeking healing and care.

With father Devon’s aid, I was reunited with lady Grace a day later. She had been made lady of Dawnlight Hall in the wake of her father’s death and it was clear that she was struggling. I supported her as she mourned the loss of her father and came to terms with the position she had been put in. In turn, she held me whenever I woke up screaming in the night and counselled me on how to reclaim my courage. Which I did.

And still, after all these years, having learned all the things that I’ve learned, I still wonder whether it was not me who brought the plague from the plains of Silesia to the lands of evergreen.

Stumbling Upon Conflict

Previously, the heroes descended into the ancient waterways, found and infiltrated the headquarters of the night master, and then proceeded to explore the place. Besides many rogues, all going about their business, the heroes managed to find the night master himself, watching over Hamish. When Luca’s first attempt to translocate Hamish back to the surface failed, the heroes found themselves in a confrontation with the night master, a dozen rogues, and a pair of aberrant lords who had been hidden inside the walls.

Fifth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

There heroes were scatter all over the underground headquarters of the night master. Quentin and Emrys were nearby one another, at the chambers of the night master himself. They had just seen Luca run in and translocate away with Hamish, but they had no idea where to. Quentin was being confronted by two aberrant lords while Emrys was fending off two rogues.

Meanwhile, Astrid and James were fighting off several rogues, back-to-back, in the lobby of the headquarters. While Astrid was bloodied up from having taken on several rogues, she was holding her own by the time that James came to relieve her.

Unbeknownst to any of the others, Luca had translocated to just outside of the entrance of the headquarters. Hamish was still blank faced and unresponsive. Even after slapping him in his face, the young mage would not acknowledge Luca or respond in any way. Luca had seen him in the same state at the orphanage in Grimsdown, but he had been wearing a grotesque crown of flesh at the time. Now it appeared as if something else was amiss, despite Hamish showing bruising and scarring where the crown had previously sat.

Quentin faced off against the two aberrant lords and was immediately assailed by a force that clouded his mind like a wave of hot air. Inspired by Luca’s willingness to charge into the room to save his friend, Quentin shrugged off the evil manipulations by the aberrations and stayed on course. He moved closer to Emrys, eager to lend the sorcerer aid against the rogues who were frustrating him. As the knight did so, one of the aberrant lords lunged at him and latched onto him with those dreadful tentacles. Barbs on the inside of the tentacles bit deep into any exposed skin, and the weight of the aberrant lord dragged Quentin down but despite that he managed to reach Emrys and aid in his defence. The other aberrant lord turned to the night master and engaged him.

While James was squaring off against Lunchbox, a brute of a rogue who had lunchboxes for hands, Luca stopped trying to get Hamish to respond and struggled to come up with a solution to bring his friend to safety without having to resort to leaving his companions behind. It was in that moment that Luca heard a strange sound coming from deeper into the ancient waterways. When concentrating on it, he could hear the distinct sound of rats in the distance. The skaven were coming for the rogues of the Steady Hand to settle the score for the battle the heroes had found earlier in the day. Luca touched the earring he wore and sent a message to warn James, who wore an identical earring, before taking Hamish and heading back inside the Steady Hand base.

Emrys and Quentin struggled to reunited with James and Astrid but eventually managed, though not without taking a few wounds. Emrys relied on his sorcery while Quentin relied on some the innate talents he discovered were awakened by the jaunt through the realm of the fey earlier that year. Emrys let loose an illusion that left the rogues and aberrant lords stunned and confused, and followed it up a devastating earthquake that damaged and collapsed part of the corridor behind him. Quentin outpaced the opposition by shrouding himself in mist and reappearing a long distance away.

It was clear that there were other rogues in the base that the heroes had not encountered yet. One of them, a dwarf with blonde hair poked his head out of one of the doors and negotiated safe passage for him and two others who had been wounded in the fight against the skaven. The other two were a man and a woman, while all three of them were wounded, the woman was especially bloodied up and had to be supported by the other two. The heroes let the three wounded rogues depart. Before departure, the blonde dwarf said that if the heroes were looking for the missing custodian, he could be found in the chamber at the end of the corridor he came out of. Quentin went in to investigate.

Astrid, who had darted down a different corridor in pursuit of two rogues, had reunited with the rest of the heroes, and it was at that point that a gruff, familiar voice called out; “Whoever is out there causing these fucks a headache, let me fight at your side, head to hip!” Some of the heroes guessed that this was Brandomiir’s voice. The last of the rogue opposition went down as eldritch bolts of purple energy shot from the crystal-tipped staff, and Luca felt the mounting pressure of Blackstar’s hunger subside. Temporarily.

Quentin took his lantern and explored the dark corridor that the three wounded rogues came out of. The corridor was lined with rooms on either side, one of which had an open door, revealing a bloody bed, likely where the rogues had tried to dress their wounds. At the rear of the corridor Quentin discovered a room where a custodian was gagged and bound to a chair while an aberrant lord stood over him, tentacles writhing nervously, while holding the tail end of a slug which was burrowing itself into the custodian’s eye.

Chaos in the Headquarters of the Night Master

Previously, the heroes descended into the ancient waterways in order to find the headquarters of the night master. They had found signs of combat between the rogues of the Steady Hand, the aberrant lords, and the insidious skaven. They managed to find the entrance to the headquarters and made their way inside, cloaked by Emrys’ veil of invisibility.

Fifth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

The heroes were unsure on how to proceed. They were fairly confident that behind the closed door they had found, deep inside the guild headquarters, they would find the night master, and with him hopefully Hamish too. As they contemplated on their next steps, James heard the soft whimper of a woman echoing down the corridors. It was not coming from beyond the door, but from back towards the way they had come. Behind them James still saw the two rogues pouring over the map that the mercenary had left behind. He concentrated intently and could also heard a man grunting in pain and discomfort, though the sounds seemed disconnected.

When James shared what he had heard it seemed that something inside of Luca broke as he wondered whether it was Hamish that was being hurt. Luca’s voice rose in consternation and immediately James untethered himself from the rest of the group in an attempt to distance himself, afraid that Luca’s emotions would get them discovered by the rogues. Emrys, equally concerned by Luca’s increasingly unstable behaviour spoke to him and got him to focus on the task at hand; opening the door in front of them. “Either Astrid kicks it down, or I will burn it down,” Luca said, not easily placated by Emrys. Quentin, calling upon the powers of his new patron deity commanded Luca to calm himself, which worked. Once the panic was broken in Luca he found that it was easier to restrain himself.

Emrys found a keyhole in the door through which a bit of light shone. He knelt and peered through the hole and noticed that on the other side there were some people, at least two. One of them was pacing, while the other one was stationary, but it was unclear who the two might be. When James was asked to take a look at the lock in order to unlock it he found that after several, frustrating attempts that the door was already unlocked. Swiftly changing tactics he pretended like he managed to unlock it, making quite the show of it in order not to look foolish.

The heroes managed to open the door at a crack and peer inside, seeing a man standing at a desk and hearing him talk. Next to the desk stood Hamish, blank faced and impassive. Close to Hamish stood one of the strange, dog-sized, fleshy animals, ostensibly guarding the pacified Hamish. They tried to listen in on what the man the heroes assumed was the night master was saying:

David, I know our friendship has… cooled in recent years, but I still feel compelled to warn you that we have been infiltrated.

Whoever it is, they waited until this place was almost empty, which leads me to believe that we have been betrayed.

I have the mage and I will be taking him to the Upright Man. I can no longer protect him and I don’t trust the tentacle-faced scum any further than I can throw them. I know there will be consequences.

The man in question was beyond his middle years, but tall and wiry, dressed in blue cotton trousers and a black and blue, striped doublet. His face was cold, with fair skin, dark brown hair, and a regal, aquiline nose. He wore an amulet on a silver chain around his neck. The amulet bore the crest of a raven, which some of the heroes recognised to be that of house Ravensbourne, to which the ward that they were underneath had gotten its name.

The heroes decided that it would wise to cause a distraction which would draw the attention of all the rogues in the headquarters, leaving the heroes to deal with the night master. It was decided that Astrid would be that distraction; she was the fastest and crazy enough to do it. She drew her swords and started running towards the entrance, dragging the tips of her swords along both walls, sending sparks flying.

It worked, and it drew the attention of all the rogues in the complex. The rogues in the opposite room who were pouring over the map were instantly alerted and started to head towards the entrance, following Astrid. The night master was startled and reached into a drawer of his desk to retrieve a conical statuette into which he placed a crystal. He turned around and faced the wall behind his desk. On two sides of that wall were statues that looked like gargoyles with their mouths agape. Into one of the mouths he inserted the statue and instantly the wall transformed into an black, oval void from which the light could not escape. A sound of an ever retreating wave emitted from the portal.

When the night master made a move towards his impassive friend, Luca could no longer contain himself and rushed in. He ran for Hamish and tried to teleport away. His first attempt failed as he did not pick the destination with care; the translocation spell required an unoccupied space as the target, which Luca could not secure. Temporarily dazed, Luca cursed himself for his stupidity, especially since he had lost the veil of invisibility in his attempt to rescue Hamish.

In that moment, the fleshy dog attempted to attack Luca, but was met with a hail of the night master’s personal items as Emrys used his kinetic magic. Both Emrys and Luca were now visible, and the rogues in the other room set their sights on Emrys. Quentin saw that the fleshy dog was still a threat and ran in to finish the dog with a swing of Róisín, also losing his invisibility in the process.

While Emrys was engaged with the two rogues, Luca made another attempt to translocate himself and Hamish away from the headquarters, but this time he chose a safer location; the entrance of the headquarters. While Luca and Hamish disappeared, Quentin was left with the night master and watched as two aberrant lords emerged from one of the walls of the chamber, as if they had been merged with the very stone of the ancient waterways themselves.

All the while, James had joined Astrid in the lobby of the headquarters, both engaged with the rogues at the entrance.

Infiltrating the Headquarters of the Night Master

Previously,  the heroes prepared themselves and set forth into the ancient waterways in search of the night master’s headquarters. They believed that they would be able to find Hamish there and liberate him from the Steady Hand. James had learned of the whereabouts of the headquarters and the heroes found a strange battle scene near to where he believed the entrance to be.

Fifth Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

(Silvermoon is waxing, Bloodmoon is waning, Darkmoon is waning)

The battle took place on all banks of a junction of several large canals. The groups that were in opposition of one another during the fight seemed to be a large group of skavens and a group of rogues, lead by  several aberrant lords. Curiously, there were no rogue bodies; though there was plenty of evidence, in terms of discarded weapons and blood stains, that they had indeed partaken in the fight and suffered casualties. The heroes concluded that the rogues had gotten away and had taken their dead and wounded with them.

An oddity presented itself in the form of a third casualty; a custodian had been killed while bound by his own shackles. The heroes surmised that the custodian had likely died from wounds suffered at the hands of the skaven.

The aberrant lords, similarly, had been killed by the skaven; likely by one of the two brutish rat ogres whose bodies lay nearby. They were leaking a noxious vapour from their wounds and the roughly stapled surgery scars that held their bodies and grotesque modifications together.

The heroes riffled through the possessions that were left behind and found that the aberrant lords carried no personal items and that the custodian had been stripped of his possessions. The skaven had crude weapons and strange leather armour which the heroes had seen at auction before. The two taskmasters which had been driving the rat ogres had small barbed whips and small crossbows, which betrayed the creatures’ capability of sophistication. Most of them had little trinkets and talismans on them, and a few even carried some strange, copper currency with them.

Emrys and Astrid investigated the skaven shaman, a robed, white-furred creature with curved horns on its head. It was bedecked with talismans and and had a leather satchel and scroll case attached to a crude belt. Inside, Emrys found an assortment of occult items and components, likely meant to be used for spells and rituals. The scroll case contained a spell scroll and a letter. The spell on the scroll was something from the necromantic and abjuration school of magic, and the letter written in a curious script that Emrys was not able to read and decided to investigate later.

After the heroes left the scene of the battle they continued to follow James’ directions until the got to a section of the waterways in which James believed to find the entrance. After several frustrating moments searching for the entrance the heroes finally found the entrance, which was expertly hidden behind some of the plant and root growth that had grown into the corridors from the surface over the centuries.

The stone frame around the double doors was decorated but the carvings were too faded for Emrys to make out. The keystone above the door, however, was still clear enough, but only legible to Quentin. In archaic Lyrian it said:

Welcome to the Halls of the Senhadrim
Sanctuary for all who strengthen the Light
Protection for all against the Darkness

After carefully inspecting the door a cleverly hidden keyhole was found, and James could discern that the lock was fitted with a nasty and potentially lethal needle-trap. He retrieved a satchel from his shoulder bag and unfolded it to reveal a dozen slender tools. He slipped them into the lock and managed to harmlessly discharge the trap and then proceeded to open the lock.

After opening the door on a crack the heroes overheard a conversation between two of the members of the Steady Hand. They discussed tracking down and interrogating Jeroen the Daerlanian to find out if he had anything to do with the raid on the orphanage in Grimsdown. After finding out that Luca’s little dragonling could turn invisible it was decided to let it scout the nearby interior of the headquarters. It was able to show Luca that there was a room beyond in which a group of people were casually talking to one another. There were corridors leading from that room, deeper into the headquarters.

After some deliberation, the heroes decided that Emrys would turn the entire group invisible and they would sneak into the headquarters. In order for Quentin not to draw so much attention while invisible James gave him his enchanted boots to wear which would significantly quiet his step.

Once inside the heroes stayed close together and went exploring. They discovered that the first chamber had three rogues casually talking to one another. They chose to ignore the corridors leading east and west, instead making their way to the far side of the room to take the corridor leading north.

At another junction they found a large store room where two people were quietly doing the logistics for what looked to be a smuggling and fencing operation. While a man was working on a ledger and meticulously documenting all of the items, a woman was packaging valuable art objects in crates, readying it for transport.

It was at this point that Emrys could finally put his finger on something which had been nagging at him since entering the headquarters; the layout was exactly the same as that of the carceratum. This opened up questions on how the headquarters and the carceratum were related, but it also answered why Garvan was so capable of finding a way out of the carceratum.

To the east which seemed the heroes found a room which looked like a mess hall of sorts where two rogues and a mercenary pouring over a map, talking about raiding a retinue of people travelling in from the west. Their intention was to kidnap some high ranking nobility that were travelling with the retinue. Quentin suspected that they might well be discussing the retinue that his father was travelling towards Kingsport with.

There was much more of the interior of the headquarters to explore, and the heroes had seen no trace of Hamish yet.