Author Archives: Dennis

A Stifling Environment

I realise only now that my previous place of employment was such a stifling environment. I was always quite insecure about my abilities as a software engineer. In the years since I left I have come to terms with the fact that I’m really quite talented, but that I was never afforded the autonomy and space to make the changes required to evolve and fix the software I was working on. I am so much more successful now.

The Aberrant Lords

Previously, the heroes found a member of the thieves guild that was willing to bring them to a safe house where they could get dark delirium. They were lead through the ancient waterways into Grimsdown and emerged in the basement of matron Myrtle’s orphanage. The group was split up, with James and Emrys remaining behind in the waterways, while Luca and Quentin went into the orphanage where they found that the Steady Hand held Hamish against his will and had set up a dark delirium operation under the supervision of two aberrant lords, the tentacle-faced humanoids they had also encountered in Dr. Arkenward’s inner sanctum.

Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

After Garvan mistook an invisible Emrys for a possible skaven ambush, the gnarly guild member called for the aberrant lords to be informed. When the tall and thin creature hovered down into the sewers below the orphanage it became clear that, despite wearing a veil to hide its ghastly tentacles, it was one of the creatures the heroes had encountered in Arkenward’s sanctum. Despite Emrys’ invisibility enchantment, the creature targeted him and assailed him with a psychic force that set his nervous system on fire. James, who had snuck into the orphanage under the cover of the same enchantment quickly jumped back down into the waterways to assist Emrys.

Quentin sprung into action and got up off the matrass he was given to make himself comfortable in preparation of him taking dark delirium. He marched towards the well and was quickly followed by Luca, who warned Myrtle and Coral that they should leave to find safety while commanding Hamish to follow him. The matron and halfling made their way to a staircase leading up in order to rescue the orphans, which were being held upstairs. A commotion could be heard upstairs as well; shouts, scuffles and small explosions could be heard.

Quentin had jumped down into the waterways and together the three heroes continued to fight against the aberrant lord, who was being accompanied by a strange quadruped creature with a fleshy torso. Upstairs another aberrant lord appeared, equally accompanied by the dog-sized monster. Things escalated quickly and Luca grabbed Hamish’s arm and dragged him through a hastily constructed portal, sending them into the waterways below.

The heroes managed to defeat the aberrant lord that was down in the waterways with them. In death, it repeated the same thing the heroes had heard the other aberrations mention; “Xarrombus will not be denied.”

Once again, when Luca landed the killing blow to the aberration, the heroes could see a jolt of pain shooting up the arm in which he wielded Blackstar, but despite that pain Luca looked reinvigorated and strong. Using the short moment of respite, Luca reached out to Aurion and asked for a blessing of healing to be bestowed on Quentin, who immediately felt a warm feeling rise up from deep within his chest, bathing him in feelings of contentment as his wounds rapidly closed and the broken flesh knitted itself shut.

James went upstairs to confront the two guild members; the situation had escalated and he felt the only way to keep his involvement a secret from the rest of the guild was to eliminate Garvan and the thug. To his surprise, Garvan turned out to be amenable to James’ suggestion to make himself scarce. The old rogue said that he felt it was time for him to disappear into the waterways like no other could and let the heat die down. He had no problem with James taking care of the thug in any manner he see fit. As far as the old rogue was concerned, he still owed the heroes for rescuing him from the carceratum. It did not take long for Garvan to disappear into the tunnels of the ancient waterways.

Luca and Hamish were the only ones who remained behind in the waterways while the others had gone up in order to find out what had happened to other aberrant lord who was still on the prowl. Luca took a moment to talk to Hamish, who was babbling, confused and panicked; he was certain they would come for him again. Luca only had limited time to interrogate his friend, and made some strategic mistakes in doing so, which left him with a limited understanding of what Hamish was talking about; the guild was trying to create their own dark delirium without the need for Hamish’s help; the aberrant lords were in charge of the operation and the guild was supporting it; there had been people dressed like plague doctors who had been experimenting with the concoctions, adding strange worms to it.

The commotion upstairs had also become more pronounced and turned out to be Brandomiir, the dwarven demolitionist that the heroes had met months ago working for the Sheridans. He had been waging a guerrilla war against the Steady Hand since the lockdown in Grimsdown was introduced and the guild had taken control of the ward. His intention was to liberate the orphans.

Quentin had engaged the aberrant lord, but found himself overwhelmed by a wave of psychic pain, leaving him temporarily stunned and unable to engage the aberrant lord. Matron Myrtle had been dominated by the aberration, a strange crown of putrid flesh had covered her head and made her strangely compliant. Just how compliant became clear when Emrys used his telekinetic abilities to hurl some furniture at the aberration with incredible speed; Myrtle stepped in the line of fire and took the hit. Her frail body was unable to withstand such a force and she died. The aberrant lord had previously shown capable of teleporting short distances and it did so again, vanishing in an instant.

While upstairs the heroes and Brandomiir were shocked to see the aberrant lord disappear, as were Luca and Hamish shocked to see it reappear down in the waterways. Luca was quickly incapacitated and he watched as a crown of putrid flesh appeared on Hamish’s head. The dreadful aberration calmly floated towards Hamish and extended its hand, which Hamish took. Unable to react or intervene, both Hamish and the aberrant lord disappeared in an instant, translocating deeper into the waterways.

Infiltrating the Dark Delirium Operation

Previously, the heroes had ran some errands and eventually followed a hunch that Luca had and spoke to mistress Minna Terlane, the woman who ran the boarding house that Luca had stayed at after his initial arrival in Kingsport. While she did not know anything about Hamish’s whereabouts, she did know where the heroes could go to find dark delirium; a young associate of the Steady Hand named Jeroen, who operated out of an alleyway in the centre of Lewisham.

Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

The heroes were standing at the entrance to a cobbled alley between two large buildings, several doors down from the infamous Hoxton, the rowdy tavern that was the epicentre of the Lewisham ward. Halfway down the alleyway stood a slender young man, wearing fancy black clothing, flanked on either side by two thugs. They had taken refuge from the rain underneath the roof of a doorway; two of them were chatting away, while one of them was attempting to light a pipe.

It was decided that Quentin and Luca would approach Jeroen, while Astrid, James and Emrys would stay back and turn invisible so that they could follow discretely. Once Quentin and Luca spoke to the smirking Jeroen and asked him if he could provide them with dark delirium, he told them that he could and instructed them to follow.

He lead them down the alley to a double trapdoor on the side of the building whose doorway he had stood in to hide from the rain. The two thugs followed in their wake and one of them unlocked a padlock which held a steel rod across the doors. When the trapdoors were opened a staircase leading into a basement was revealed, and Jeroen lead Quentin and Luca down. There they found a filled store room belonging to the building they were beneath. In the centre stood what looked to be an indoor well which accessed the ancient waterways underneath the city. Jeroen, one of the thugs and the heroes climbed down the well and into the waterways, while the other thug went back up and closed the cellar doors and returned to his post in the alley.

It was at this point that Blackstar started nagging Luca; it wanted to be fed. Luca tried to block out the dark voice that was emanating from the staff while simultaneously making small talk with Jeroen and surreptitiously scratching markings in the phosphorescent moss that coated the stones of the ancient waterways. It was as much a way for Luca to memorise the way back as it was indicators to the others who were following on which direction they had taken.

Above ground, in the alleyway, Emrys and Astrid managed to distract the guard long enough that James was able to pick the padlock on the trapdoors and gain entrance to the cellar. Astrid continued to distract the guard so that Emrys could join James. Together, the two half elves descended into the waterways and quickly picked up Luca’s trail.

The entire underground journey took about fifteen minutes, during which it took the heroes and their escort through narrow slime-filled corridors, down wide canals with footpaths on each side, along walls that had strange mushrooms and spores growing among the colourful moss, and past narrow pipes that belched putrid human waste into the waterways.

Eventually, Jeroen and his thug lead Quentin and Luca down a large corridor and up ahead the heroes noticed several figures standing underneath a ladder which seemed to lead up into a similar well that they descended back in Lewisham. With a couple of signals, Jeroen informed the figures what Quentin and Luca were interested in. During the walk he had explained what their options were; they would be given a concoction which would allow them to experience a very vivid dream. It could last fifteen minutes, an hour, or even as long as half a day, depending on how much they were willing to pay. It was also possible for a courier to bring the concoction, but that was generally quite expensive and only available for the the very privileged.

Jeroen and the thug turned around and went back the way they came while Quentin and Luca met with the people standing at the bottom of the rungs leading up and out of the waterways. It was a group of three; two humans, one was bald and built like a brick shithouse, while the other was thick limbed and somewhat hunched and looked awfully familiar; it was Garvan the Tunneler, whom the heroes had met in the carceratum when they had liberated the rebel lords only several rides ago. Garvan was quite surprised to see them and he exchanged some pleasantries, including asking after lord Fabian and lord Szymon. The last person at the bottom of the ladder was a halfling woman dressed in simple commoner’s clothing. Her hair was flaming red and she had a face full of freckles. She introduced herself as Coral.

Coral brought Quentin and Luca up the ladder, out of an indoor well and onto the basement floor of a home. The room that the well was in acted like a store room and was filled with old furniture and crates. The solitary door in the room stood ajar and a soft light spilled through. The room on the other side of the door was larger and had its floor lined with straw-filled, jute sacks which were acting as make-shift mattresses.  Small tables and chairs were lining the walls and one wall seemed to have faded chalk marks on them, leading Quentin and Luca to realise that this once acted as a classroom of sorts.

People were laying on the mattresses looking like they were either asleep or barely conscious. Some of them were murmuring, some of them were lazily reaching out to things that only they could see, but none of them were lucid. Coral lead Quentin and Luca to to free mattresses and asked how long they wanted to be under the delirium’s spell. Luca said that it was his first time and so settled on a short experience. Coral walked to the entrance of the room, a door leading to a space beyond, opened it slightly and announced their arrival. Both Luca and Quentin noticed that the halfling gave a visible shudder as she closed the door behind her and went to find a seat on one of the small chairs lining the walls. She pulled out a half-finished piece of crocheting and continued working on it to take her mind off of whatever it was that she had seen behind that door that had disturbed her so.

In the meantime, Emrys and James, still invisible, had made their way to the ladder leading up. Emrys caused a distraction while James slipped up the rungs and into the room adjacent to where Quentin and Luca were waited to be served. The distraction caused Garvan to get startled, peer down the tunnel with trepidation and turn to the thug; “The skaven are coming. Tell the aberrant lords,” he said, and the thug hurried  up the ladder.

While this was happening, James had sneaked into the classroom just in time to see Hamish and a woman he recognised come out from the doorway beyond. James knew her as matron Myrtle, the head of an orphanage in Grimsdown that James had donated money to after the carceratum work. Hamish and Myrtle walked over to Quentin and Luca carrying a tray with a cup on it. Hamish looked worn, with dark rings around his eyes and sunken cheeks. He gave Luca a look that warned the warlock with an almost imperceptible shake of his head, though it was unclear what he was trying to say.

Luca and Quentin listen to Myrtle explain that they could take the concoction and they would sink into a vivid sleep. Quentin held back as Luca masterfully faked drinking it, sinking back onto the mattress and mimicking some of the behaviour that he had seen some of the other around him display. Quentin was having a harder time faking it, and it seemed as if Coral had noticed, but did not care enough to raise any alarms.

At that point the thug had made his way up the ladder, across the classroom, and through the door. Moments later he returned, this time with a strange figure in his wake; slender, tall and clothed in fine flowing robes of blue and silver. Their face was masked in a long veil that and there was something odd about their gait. James followed them back to the well leading down and watched as the strange figure gentle descended down the well, not using the ladder to climb. It came to hover half a foot above the filthy corridor floor and scanned for intruders.

While it could not see Emrys, for he was still cloaked in his invisibility spell, the figure spoke to him;

“I can sense you. The Upright Man will not be denied. Xarrombus will not be denied.”

And then a wave of distortion erupted from the figure and travelled in a cone down the corridor, overwhelming Emrys with pain, and James jumped down the well.

Grim, Soot and Dark Delirium

Previously, the heroes spoke to the szygani in order to find out more information on the whereabouts of Luca’s friend Hamish. The szygani could tell them that he could be found somewhere in the locked down Kingsport ward of Grimsdown, where he was being held by the Steady Hand. Emrys and James used their combined talents for stealth and sorcery to scout the ward at night and found neither a sign of Steady Hand activity, nor a sign of any of the plaguemaidens which were the reason for the lockdown.

Second Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

After a long night the heroes woke in the Careless Wanderer. Only James had no intention of getting up, and it was hard to blame him; the weather was cold and wet, and he had been sitting on a rooftop getting soaking wet together with Emrys only a few hours before.

Luca woke up early with nervous energy running through his body, while Quentin woke up with some ideas based on the information that James and Emrys brought back from their scouting mission.

They came down stairs to find that a table had been set for them. Breakfast was still meagre with the continued shortages hitting the city. Magda came to talk to Quentin, mentioning that she felt that something in his demeanour had changed; he felt less radiant and capricious; more grim and sorrowful. Quentin asked her whether she had seen a similar changes in others and she confirmed that she had. Quentin took it to mean that Astrid had changed and asked whether she could sense the same bleakness. Magda said she felt something more akin to regret, but couldn’t be certain.

Astrid made plans to visit the harbour in order to find out whether there was a skipper who was willing to part with their ship. She reckoned that with the winter coming, as well as the lack of trade in the city, she might be able to convince someone to part with their vessel. She would wait out the morning playing demon dice and then head out.

Luca and Quentin went to see Vydia at her manse in Old Town. She received them in her kitchen and explained that she had dreamt that Hamish was being lead down the corridors of a dungeon, possibly in the waterways, and kept in a dungeon. There was a small drain leading to a sewer or a cistern, from which a strange tentacle rose up. Vydia apologised for not being able to provide more clarity; she was not an oneiromancer, so she was not specialised in interpreting dreams, but this was the way in which she had received her vision.

When Luca and Quentin returned to the Wanderer they found James was heading out. The young rogue had to pay a visit to the day master and asked whether Luca was willing to come along and stay within range of their magical earrings. Just in case.

James found that the butcher shop was completely empty, with no commerce or trade happening and the counter being empty. The back was also empty, with no carcasses being butchered. In the basement he found the day master, looking a lot better than the last time James had seen him. He was finally recovering from the wound that his mother had left him with.

James told, in great detail, what had happened in the sanctum of Dr. Arkenward, and what the heroes had found there. He also paid his tribute to the day master by handing over the two books he had liberated from the sanctum’s library. The day master seemed pleased and asked whether he could help James with anything. James, remembering that Luca had been looking for charcoal, looked around and saw that the basement of the butcher shop was filled with supplies and sundries. He asked for charcoal and was offered a jute sack full of it.

Asking about dark delirium, James learned what he had already suspected; the night master was in charge of dark delirium and it was considered an important source of income for the guild and one that the upright man had taken an interest in.

The young rogue also learned that high lord Gauthier’s retinue had grown to include two hundred horses and gods know how many travellers on foot, and that he was chasing down an ancestral blade.

Returning to the wanderer, the heroes retreated to Emrys’ room; the only lodging that was large enough to hold all of them. James shared what he had leared, including the information about the high lord’s intention to retrieve Róisín. There was some discussion on what Quentin would do if it came down to parting with the blade. The young knight said he would part with the blade if he must, which provoked a withering from the leaves and flowers on the blade’s scabbard in protest that only Emrys noticed.

The heroes decided to go out and find out more about dark delirium. Luca suggested  going to see an acquaintance he had made when he first arrived in Kingsport from the Elder Foothills; mistress Minna Trelane. She turned out to be a rotund, homely looking woman with a friendly face. She ran a boarding house in the eastern part of Lewisham called The Fallen Angel, a half-timbered building that seemed so slanted that it felt like it could topple over at any minute.

Mistress Trelane could share that she had heard of dark delirium and that she knew that there was a man in the area that was known to provide it. His name was Jeroen the Daerlanian and he could be found two alleys down from the legendary establishment the Hoxton. The heroes headed there in the pouring rain and found a young, slender man flanked by two thugs, standing out of the rain at the back of an alleyway.

Grimsdown Observation

Previously, the heroes were determined to find Hamish Black, an apprentice at the Circle of Magi and friend of Luca, whom the heroes suspected of being the source of the dark delirium which was quickly gaining popularity in Kingsport. Their search lead them to a szygani camp outside of Kingsport and the centre of power of the notorious Ravnos family. Vadoma was staying at the camp, and as a token of her gratitude she brokered a conversation between the heroes and Ionuţ Ravnos, the defacto head of the Ravnos family.

First Day, First Ride, Autumn Twilight, 1262

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

It was a cold and wet afternoon outside of Belstone Corner, the small village a little ways outside of Kingsport where the szygani made their camp in the treeline of a small stretch of woods.

Luca and Ionuţ took a walk while followed at a short distance by Astrid and Vadoma. Ionuţ explained that he was willing to help find Hamish, but in order to be effective he would need some personal items from Hamish in order to speed up the process. The szygani had narrowed his location down to the locked down ward of Grimsdown, and Ionuţ could add that he was likely being moved through the waterways below the streets; territory held by the Steady Hand.

The heroes said goodbye to the szygani and headed back to Kingsport in order to make it beyond the ramparts and inside the city before the curfew went into effect and the city would lock its gates. During the walk back the heroes discussed the concern of going into Grimsdown and Steady Hand controlled territory and James being recognised. James thought it was a risk that was necessary to take because without him he believed the heroes would likely not make it out of the ward.

There were some fundamental questions about why the ward was in lockdown and Astrid could offer that she had heard rumours of plaguemaidens being sighted in the ward. James wondered aloud why there would be plaguemaidens remaining in the ward seeing as how they were attracted to queen’s curse, which the heroes had lifted.

In order to validate the situation inside the ward, James suggested he would go out for the evening and scout the ward from the air and looking at it from the top of the ramparts that overlooked the wards, for which he needed Emrys’ help. The heroes remembered the plaguemaiden they fought in the alchemist’s shop in Bournemouth, and that she had an eerie glow that should be easily visible from the air should any plaguemaidens be roaming the streets of Grimsdown.

The heroes arrived back in Kingsport just before the gates were closed for the night and they decided to skip going to see Vydia and go straight to the wanderer. There they spent some time having supper, talking and listening in on some of the conversations going on around them. There was a persistent rumour that the queen was going to take her new army and march on Farcorner.

Some merchants speculated that they could make a quick bit of coin if they could do one more run to Càrceres and purchase food. An army tended to require a lot of food and since they were passing by Fairfields it would mean their grain stores would deplete significantly.

People were much happier now that the queen had survived her ordeal and the belief was that she would lead Lyria to better times, despite the disappearance of princess Mildred and her husband, the lord steward.

James and Emrys went to get ready; dressing warmly and preparing for their scouting mission over Grimsdown. They left from the balcony of his room. Emrys enchanted the both of them with the ability to fly and quickly they rose up in the cold, rainy air. They had noticed the lady commander flying atop Frostfeather high above the city and so decided to stay low by the rooftops in order to avoid detection. The rain in people’s faces would mean people were unlikely to look up at the sky, so they felt safe.

They landed on the rooftop of the library of Ioun in the Ravensbourne ward, holding on to Ioun’s eye that was raised atop roof of the highest point. They observed Grimsdown for a while until they were confident they could move in closer and take up position on the roof of the tallest building, which was conveniently located in the centre of Grimsdown, along one of the larger streets which allowed access to North street which divided Grimsdown from Sevenoaks. That, according to James, was the easiest way in and out of Grimsdown, should the other heroes need to sneak their way in.

From their vantage point, Emrys and James were on the lookout for lights, congregations of people, possible hideouts and plaguemaidens. They saw few lights, almost no signs of people, and none of the plaguemaidens and it became clear that perhaps the latter was a rumour which was kept alive for nefarious reasons. There were three areas in Grimsdown that were suspiciously devoid of activity and James believed that this might be the areas of the highest Steady Hand concentration. Regardless, all around the ward there were signs of ransacking and all exits were barricaded by the crownsguard and custodians.

While James and Emrys were atop the buildings in Ravensbourne and Grimsdown, in the cold rain, Luca and Quentin were warm and dry, and enjoying some wine with Astrid and Druham, though it came at a steep price; apparently the lack of goods coming into the city had also affected the cost of the wine. Even though he knew what the answer was going to be, Luca asked Durham to check with the kitchen to see whether there was any charcoal left, but found that Ramsay had been cooking on logs rather than charcoal.

Eventually Quentin retired to his room and decided to pray to the Raven Queen for the safe return of his friends and companions. Luca and Astrid sat with Durham into the wee hours of the night until James and Emrys safely returned, landing back on the balcony outside of Emrys’ room and walking down into a quiet tavern room for a last drink.