Author Archives: Dennis

An Indictment of England

It’s rather remarkable how big the wealth gap is in England. I don’t mean the gap between working class and the elite class, but the lower class and the upper class, since the middle class hardly seems to exist. People seem either more than comfortable, or they are living pay check to pay check, barely able to keep their finances together.

You can see it in the amount of homeless people. It’s not just London, Birmingham and Manchester, it’s even in small and mid-sized cities. Also in Exeter, as city that barely reaches above 100 thousand people. Sleeping in doorways, panhandling, begging, and largely ignored by the average passers by. They are ignored because the average person has their own issues to deal with and they know that helping won’t change the systemic problems that caused them to become homeless. Help one off the streets and another will take their place. These people have no place to go because there are no shelters and there are few resources that can help them get a grip on whatever problem caused them to spiral into homelessness. Whatever services do exist have limited funds and simply can’t help everyone. And so you see people sleeping in doorways and pitching tents underneath overpasses.

You can see it in the corpulence of the people. So many of the people here are incredibly obese. To me this indicates that people either don’t have the funds for nutritious food, don’t have the education to differentiate nutritious food from garbage, or eat because it offsets some of the misery they deal with in life. It’s not surprising that people rely on the NHS so heavily, since their overall levels of health are so poor. They have no choice.

This ties neatly into part of the xenophobia underlying the Brexit sentiment, because the debate was successfully framed by Brexiteers as a matter of free movement causing undue strain on already strained social services like the NHS. Of course, research shows that people from outside Britain were less likely to make use of these services, and that if they were to leave, the NHS would have a crippling shortage of qualified personnel that British people wouldn’t be able to fill.

Another sign; education is slowly becoming unaffordable in the same way that it already has in the United States. A lot of people who are recently graduated are stuck with enormous debts which will take a decade or two to pay off, depending on their chosen field. This means that people start buying houses late, don’t build their assets, which causes anxiety in a society where retirement benefits are a joke. England has enormous levels of personal debt.

I could go on. In the end, anxiety reigns, which in turn leads to sincere mental health issues, which exacerbates all of the above problems. Unless you have a good income, some personal wealth, then you are better off growing up elsewhere in Western Europe, where there are more opportunities for upward mobility.

Exploring the Crimson Tower

Previously, the adventurers had been confronted by the strange clash of the two cavalcades; the forces of the Silver Crusade and the demonic hordes which assaulted them at the Crimson Tower. Suffering through a turbulent night on the shores of Lake Llygad, they were greeted with the horrifying appearance of the tower during the first light of the morning. Before the tower disappeared once again, the adventurers ran down the causeway and moved into the tower and started exploring the ground floor.

Third Day, Second Ride, Summer Flame, 1262

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

After having spent some time on the ground floor, looking at the various suits of armour and tapestries lining the walls, the painting above and the furniture in front of the hearth, the elaborate dining table and the huge candle-filled chandelier hanging above it, the adventurers started working on solving the crystal puzzle they had found kept a lock on the trapdoor leading to the cellar. They had found a blue and a red rod, and they were confident they could break the wizard’s playful attempt at securing the way through.

It proved harder than they had initially thought, but eventually did manage to solve the puzzle and the trapdoor could be opened. The space beyond was completely dark, save for the light coming from the chandelier. James was the first one to go into the cellar and was surprised to hear the voice of a man calling out at him.

The man turned out to be Ser Quentin Morvrayne, the son of a nobleman from Beauclair who had been locked into the cellar for a long time. He had arrived at the tower together with Lord Destan’s expedition, but had gotten separated from the others when they were exploring the tower and the trapdoor had shut behind him, locking him in. He had subsisted on some of the food and drink he had on him, and on what he could find in the pitch black, which hadn’t been much.

The cellar itself was spacious but not as lavishly decorated as the ground floor. It held a torture table, with various wicked looking implements, as well as manacles with which people could be shackled to the wall. It also held some crates, casks and barrels of provisions, which were the cause of Quentin’s survival. Without them, he most certainly would have perished.

The adventurers, ever cautious, asked Quentin to disarm himself and hand over his sword, which readily agreed to. He was weak, and allowed Emma to escort him up to the ground floor living room so that they could talk more about Lord Destan. In the meantime, James took some time to examine the cellar, where he found the green, crystalline rod.

Upstairs, Quentin had told the story of meeting Lord Destan while he was on a personal quest. He wasn’t too keen on sharing too many details about his quest, but some did notice he was fidgeting with a rather effeminate handkerchief which was tied around his left wrist and concluded that this must have had something to do with it. Through some tactical questioning on the part of the adventurers, they found that Quentin had met Lord Destan while he was in the company of his three house guards, as well as Robart, the villager. Quentin also seemed really eager to hear about what had happened to Lord Destan and his retinue and was saddened to hear that some of them had died while others had returned with their mental health no longer in tact. He proclaimed not to know about the tracker residing in Isobel’s care.

During this long discussion, some of the others started to take a look at the trapdoor in the ceiling at the top of the wooden steps that were set into the wall. They found that this trapdoor was locked by one of Atilesceon’s crystal puzzles and it proved significantly harder to solve. They did, however, manage to find out the mechanics of the crystal puzzles and how the crystals interacted with the crystalline rods. One of the mechanics seemed to be that both the blue and the green rod, when changing the colour of one of the crystals, also seemed to affect the crystals directly adjacent to that crystal. The red rod seemed to be the exception, which did not affect adjacent crystals. Some rods turned certain crystals into their own colour, some rods turned certain clear, and some rods turned certain crystals into a colour not their own.

Once the trapdoor to the second floor was unlocked the adventurers moved onward. They found that the second floor was Atilesceon’s personal library and study with bookshelves lining every wall, filled with books of all shapes and sizes. Most of them seemed old but well cared for, mostly written in an archaic form of Lyrian that was hard to follow. Three elaborate reading tables were set up among the bookshelves, each seemingly being dedicated to a particular topic of study; the planes, military history and engineering.

There was one hearth, with again a trapdoor on each side, one in the floor, from where the adventurers came from, and one in the ceiling at the top of wooden steps set into the wall. The one going up was not locked by a crystal puzzle.

Notes could be found everywhere, some of them scattered, some of them laid out neatly on the reading desks. They seemed to be Atilesceon’s words on a wide array of subjects. Most of the journal pages were read aloud by one of the adventurers as they read through all of them, picking out the ones that interested them. Some saw names that they recognised, others touched on subjects of personal interest. Only one was not for public consumption, as James surreptitiously palmed an entry on the mysterious Upright Man.

Emrys found himself interested in the entry on Mohiam, her plots and how those plots were affecting Atilesceon, who was romantically interested in one of her disciples. Emma pointed Emrys to a journal entry which spoke about the Arms of the Senhadrim, and mentioned Toruviel by name. Emrys decided to take a moment for himself to commune with the sword, hoping to get a more direct communiqué from Toruviel, but unfortunately the bond between sword and wielder was not strong enough for that yet, and all that Emrys gleaned was repulsion and rejections; for Atilesceon, his work and ultimately for his betrayal.

Quentin, while leafing through the different journal entries came across one which touched him deeply; about how Atilesceon was in love with Lauriel Skycaller, but how that love went unreciprocated. It also mentioned a dark pact that Atilesceon had struck with someone called Mammon in return for possessing Lauriel. And then there was the mention of a “prior”, but it was unclear how they factored into things.

Luca, overwhelmed with all the information, read an entry on Tharizdun, but decided not to share it with the rest. He did however, read another entry aloud that dealt with something called the Seal of Divine Animus, which Tharizdun put in place to shield the planes of the Ethereal Mist from the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos. Emma, in turn, read about the ebb and flow of magic and how the Seal of Divine Animus also prevented the Ethereal Mist from their access to the weave of magic.

When Luca took a moment to commune with Blackstar in the same way that Emrys had done with Toruviel, he found that the entity inside the staff was as hateful towards Atilesceon as Toruviel was.

It became clear that some of the journal entries were quite recent when Emma read out an entry that dealt with the Daerlan Empire and its current emperor. Taking another look at the journal entries, it appeared that there were some that were remarkably older than others. Some were of this age, and others were of the age of the Silver Crusade.

Hejduk found an entry on the szygani to read, and it slowly became clear that Atilesceon was very concerned with what he called the Tablets of the Elemental Eye. They seemed scattered among several figures, and that collecting enough of them could lead to someone who referred to as the “Illusive One.” Pazuzu, a demon, had five tablets, while the devil Mammon had three. Various others had one or two in their possession, including some people that the adventurers had met before or heard of.

At that point, James started to go through many of the books in the library, finding that most of them were written in archaic Lyrian, which would take time to decipher. He decided to find the two most expensive looking books and store them away in his magical bag.

When Luca found a journal entry on something called the “Ritual of Returning”, which was a ritual designed by Atilesceon in order to escape a place he called “Old Llygad”, he decided to note this down in his tome. He also noted that the cost of performing such a ritual was very high; the sacrifice of a willing soul.

Afterwards, Luca performed a ritual that attuned him to any magical aura and investigated the study, only to find that nothing stood out to him as magical in nature. That’s when the group of adventurers moved to the next floor, finding there a lavish bedroom, with a large four-poster bed covered in the plushest feather pillows and mattresses, made up with sheets of the finest silks.

There were also windows, letting in an eerie pale white light. Two doors lead to a wide balcony that looked out over the front of the tower and part of the causeway. The walls were clear and made of pale stone, not at all crimson-stained and lined with suffering victims.

The surroundings were shrouded in a pale, milky mist, diffusing the light all around. There was no sun, nor moon, nor other light source available, and yet the mist was evenly white in all directions. Very gentle waves could be heard in the distance, like that of a small lake. A titanic, shadowy creature moved like a shade through the mist at a great distance. It was unclear what the creature was. Nothing could be made out other than that it was much taller than the tower. The creature didn’t seem to notice or care about the adventurers.

After some fumbling with a mirror tied with a rope to a sword, trying to create enough of an angle to see beyond the overhanging jetty above them in the hopes of seeing further up the tower, the mirror slipped and smashed to pieces on the causeway below.

After running out of things to do on the balcony, James decided to go back inside the bedroom and do a thorough search of the floor. The only thing of interest he found was a jewellery box with a set of earrings, a necklace and two rings in them. He asked Emrys whether he could see if they were magic or not, but Emrys responded by saying that this was not part of his arcane repertoire. Once Luca was done transcribing the Ritual of Returning, he confirmed James’ suspicion that the jewellery was all magical. And so the jewellery box disappeared in James’ magical bag.

When the group moved up to the next floor, they found it filled with artificing tools, including hammers, chisels and pliers. There is a small anvil and a forge, which lay dormant. There were two baths, filled with oil and water, and a small smelter, surrounded by ingots of different metals; iron, tin, copper, silver and gold. There were shelves filled with curious glass bottles and ceramic jars, containing strange liquids, powders and pastes. And lastly, there were precious and semi-precious stones and crystals, though no Lyrium.

Emrys, spotting the precious stones, went to look for a piece of obsidian, which he would need to fuel one of his spells. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to find any. James, however, quickly separated some of the more precious stones from the semi-precious stones and pocketed a small cache of them. Luca convinced everyone to help out in filing down enough iron and silver to supplement the iron filings he had gotten back in Allenham. He explained that it would greatly benefit the group in the battles to come, since it would be able to protect against the fiends that they were reading about. Everyone went to work, using the tools to file down the ingots until Luca had enough to fuel his spell.

In the meantime, James went downstairs to the bedroom and stripped the bed of the silk sheets, fashioning them into a makeshift bag. He took it down to the library and started to fill it up with books, taking about fifteen books in total before the bag became too heavy to drag around.

When the next crystal puzzle was solved and the next trapdoor up was opened, it revealed a wide, open space with a large statue directly in the centre. Made of stone, it was humanoid in shape but about the size of an ogre, with large crude arms and legs, and a blunt, shapeless head. Behind the statue, against the wall, stood a large marble archway, covered in a translucent, blue film, behind which lay the black void of a rift, much like the ones the adventurers had seen in the catacombs beneath Lynnecombe. At the base of the archway they saw the same molten slag and jutting crystals they had previously encountered, which seemed to go hand in hand with the formation of these rifts.

When James cautiously stepped into the room to investigate, the statue came to life and started to move. “Intruders…” it said in a low, rumbling voice, and pursued James, who quickly darted back downstairs. The statue didn’t pursue James any further, but a clear crystal embedded in its torso started to charge up in a vibrant blue light until with a thunderclap a bolt of lightning arced out from that crystal to painfully hit James.

Quentin demanded the return of his sword, which the group obliged him in, with Astrid kindly reminding him that if he raised his sword against any one of them she would pound him into dust. Quentin assured her and went down to the living room to retrieve a shield from one of the decorative suits of armour. He found a suitable kite shield made of wood, rimmed with a steel band.

In a concerted effort the group engaged what was surely the crimson guardian that Atilesceon had spoken of in his journal, they managed to use the rods to keep the guardian from using the powers of the crystals against the adventurers by touching the crystal with the appropriate rod during the time the power was charging up. Eventually the guardian was defeated, though not without some of the adventurers getting bludgeoned themselves. The life extinguished from the guardian in a super nova of flame that it sent out all around it in a desperate attempt to defeat the intruders.

The adventurers discovered one last crystal puzzle, embedded on the marble archway, which they solved and the protective bubble dissipated and the rift lay naked in front of them. The sound of the ever receding waves that they remembered well from the first rift became louder and more compelling. A conversation was started on whether to go through.

Emrys felt deeply uncomfortable at the sight of the portal. The unease he felt in the pit of his stomach was familiar to him. It reminded him of the moment right after his mentor Voriel disappeared. He was dreading the decision he had to make.

Confidently, Luca decided to step through with Hejduk obediently following him. They were sucked into the pit of the void until they could no longer be seen by the remaining adventurers. Next up were Astrid and Emma, and Quentin quickly followed. Only Emrys and James remained behind. Emrys hesitated for long moments, but eventually overcame his feelings of dread and also entered the portal.

James, the only one to remain after Emrys went through, watched as the wisps of light that had been getting caught in the pull of the void started to chaotically flicker like lightning. The flickering rapidly became more erratic and there was a rumble coming from the portal that started to shake the foundation of the tower. Cracks started to appear in the marble archway that held the portal, and James knew that there was something about Emrys that had caused the disruption. Knowing this, he dove into the rift without further hesitation, forced to leave the silk bag of heavy books behind.

Atilesceon’s Journal Pages

Old Journal Pages

On Mohiam…

Her influence has grown considerably among the crusade and the other Senhadrim. She is… appealing. She has been marrying her disciples to people of influence and it leaves me to wonder if she has plans for me too.

I am having a hard time getting through to her. She isn’t receptive to my suggestions and appears to be unwilling to consider my offer. Her disciples constantly accompany her, which makes it hard to build a rapport, let alone trust. A change in approach is in order. Time to grab the gorgon by the horns.

I am done with her and the games she plays. This is the last time she makes me look like a fool. But I found out her secret; she is not marrying her disciples off for mere influence peddling, this is an elaborate, multi-generational breeding program! She might have more friends on the council, but I am have more friends among the crusade. We will see who has the last laugh.

I have struck a deal with the Dark One. Those traitorous crusaders will pay for chosing her side over mine. They turn a blind eye to her manipulations and becoming willing pawns in her breeding program because they get supplied with wives, and abjurers to boot. I simply have to lure them to Gwenllygad. I will then be able to work on perfecting my creations for an eternity… and she will be there too. Forever. For me to do with as I please. Forever.

On the Arms of the Senhadrim…

Some of these fools are discussing their own mortality, what will happen to them once they pass. They are concerned that their death will have a significant impact on the war effort. I wonder how long it will be before the word “necromancy” will be uttered on the council floor.

Well colour me even more baffled by this than I already was. None of them brought up the usual solution to the problem of death, premature or otherwise. No, instead of necromancy, they are looking to me for enchantment advice! They want to infuse themselves with their own arms. Even the ageless lunatic Toruviel is considering it. The more thought I give it, the more I think it could work, even if I do think it’s absolute madness.

In an intense ritual which was not for the faint of heart, the first of the Senhadrim transferred their souls into their chosen weapons. Their sacrifice was hailed as by everone as bravery. I still maintain it is lunacy. Their souls might be maintained, but not all of them maintain their sanity…

On Lauriel Skycaller…

Mammon has granted me every wish provided I continue building war machines for him. I have minions that satisfy my lusts and every whim. I have riches beyond comprehension. I have the prior in Old Llygad, defeated over and over again. I have everything I said I desired. He has fulfilled the contract to the letter. And yet…

I should have been more careful with the contract I signed. I was to have Lauriel, but she is caught in Old Llygad much the same as the prior. I have her, but she will still never be mine.

On Tharizdun…

The Mad God, the Elemental Eye, Maškar, Hermod, the Aspect of Luck, Erevan, Hanseith, never has there been a deity so misunderstood. Never has there been a deity who sacrificed so much for the innocent in the Ethereal Mist. Now hunted by all other deities and powers, for the secrets of the Seal of Divine Animus. Trickery, misdirection and change is their domain, and for aeons they have remained undiscovered. Undiscovered by all but one; their most devout follower and the author of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye.

On the Seal of Divine Animus…

When Tharizdun had finally healed from the influence of the Shard of Evil and saw what they had wrought in the Elemental Sea, when they saw the extent of the eternal conflict of the Blood War, they recoiled in shame and horror. They took pity on the mortal creations on the planes of the Ethereal Mist and parted with a sliver of their divine animus to seal the mist off from the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos before going into hiding. As is the nature of their grace, the Seal of Divine Animus is ever in flux.

On Senhadrim Politics…

I joined the Senhadrim because I wasn’t a crusader. But the crusade is what held my fascination. Quickly, I learned that the Senhadrim was less of an organised structure, and more of a collection of individuals with an arcane or divine background who wanted to participate in the crusade. They all had their own ideas and ideals on how to collaborate with the Silver Crusade and the Senhadrim was an attempt to galvanise those differences. The council quickly became a place for debate and exchange, which sounds more appealing than it really was. In those days there were few institutions and every man and woman who was touched by the arcane had to do much of their research on their own. That lead to some wildly different approaches that proves hard to unite. In that sense, the clerics had an easier time integrating into the Silver Crusade, which consequently lead to many of them leaving the Senhadrim and helping the crusade directly. Without the wisdom of the clerics to lead the Senhadrim, the council became even more fractured. Mohiam focused on placing as many gifted diviners and abjurers among places of influence as she could, chasing a prophetic fantasy. NAME focused on efforts to appeal to solars and deva directly. And I tried to equip the crusaders with the war machines they required. Scorpions with lyrium tipped bolts and arcane powered trebuchets. Everyone was collaborating in a different direction, trying to undermine each other in order to secure the most resources. I am glad I am valued for my contribution. I no longer work for the mortals and don’t have to deal with the politics, but the goal remains the same.

On the Ebb and Flow of Magic…

The Seal of Divine Animus protects the Ethereal Mist from the horrors of the Elemental Chaos and the subjugation of the Astral Sea, but it also dampens the access to Mystra’s gift. As the Seal waxes and wanes, so does the Ethereal Mist’s access to the weave of magic. My departure from the material plane to Minauros has unlocked my access to the weave in a way I am still not able to fully comprehend…

On Crossings…

There has been a lot of talk among my peers about crossings, recently; areas where the fabric between our plane and the other planes in the Ethereal Mist are naturally thinner and could be more easily breached. There are fey crossings and shadow crossings, leading to the Feywilde and the Shadowfell, respectively. Oftentimes these crossings are guarded. A fey guardian can sometimes be persuaded to let someone cross by performing a ritual. A fell guardian can sometimes be persuaded to let someone cross by making an offering. What kind of ritual or sacrifice requires intricate knowledge of these realms and their mechanics. It is theorised that there are astral and elemental crossings as well, which allow for people to more easily cross over to the different plans in the Astral Sea and Elemental Chaos, but I have yet to find proof of this.

I have found where I will erect my tower. On the placid shores of Llyn Gwenllygad is where I will make my home. There are both nearby fey and shadow crossings, and I have found proof of an astral crossing now, too. The only thing that’s missing is an elemental crossing, but three out of four is beyond what I could have hoped for!

On the Blood War…

The Blood War. The eternal conflict which started out as a rivalry between the Elemental Chaos and the Astral Sea, has now warped into a war between the Abyss and Ba’ator, Tanari’i and Baatezu, demons and devils. Before the Pact Primeval angels were fighting a losing battle against the ever expanding potentiality of the Abyss. But once Asmodeus established Ba’ator as the primary afterlife of the mortals from the planes of the Ethereal Mist, angels no longer had to corrupt themselves in the fight. The baatezu could now recruit among the wicked arriving in Ba’ator and use the rest to fuel their war efforts. Once I understood how misery and suffering could be leveraged as fuel, I could start my research in earnest.

I have often wondered about the Seal of Divine Animus and why the two sides in the Blood War care so much about access to the Ethereal Mist. It is simple, really; the Abyss seeks to destroy all of creation, just like they did with the reality that the first demons came from. Ba’ator tries to prevent this, able only to fuel their war efforts with the souls of mortals who have strayed from the path set out for them by their divine creators. If the demons can destroy all places in the Ethereal Mist, they effectively cut the devils off from their only source of real power. After that, it would only be a matter of time before the demons take the planes of the Astral Sea.

Recent Journal Pages

On the Age of Arcanum…

The most innervating time I’ve ever lived through was the Age of Arcanum, when we were celebrated as pioneers and the heralds of all that was good and virtuous about magic. Before, and after, magic was considered something to be feared, the tool of fiends and all who served them. I went from a valued member at any court in the land, to a feared and reviled threat to any society I interacted with.

On the Senhadrim Beacons…

When the great waning set in, I observed with great interest as the last remnants of the Senhadrim slowly dwindled out of existence. I watched them blow out the lanterns, lock the doors and close up shop. But we all knew that the Seal would not last forever and there would come a time where the shop would be opened back up and the lanterns would be relit. They understood that when that time came, the Senhadrim Vaults would be valuable source of information. And so they left magical beacons whose signal, with the coming flow of magic, would start to shine more brightly until the vaults were once again unlocked and rediscovered. Their light is very faint, right now, almost imperceptible. But the former Senhadrim, like myself, will soon be sensitive enough to start picking up their signal again. Then the race to recover what’s locked away will be on.

On the Khazra…

The tribal khazra from the beastlands are likely to be our best collaborators, as they are more intelligent and dependable than the skaven and less uncompromising than the minotaurs. I have sent minions to establish contact with some of the tribes chosen to investigate what are now known as the Elder Foothills, as I wish to equip them with artefacts which  may be able to detect the beacons.

On the Minotaurs…

The minotaurs are Ba’ator’s most dependable and precious minion race. Strong, dependable and unshakeable warriors utterly devoted to the archduke they serve. They are militaristic and honourable. As such they are most often deployed to areas of strong military opposition or theatres of war. They do not suit our purposes. For now. The favour which my creations have curried with them might become useful in the future.

On the Skaven…

Of the different minion races, the skaven are primitive, cowardly and the least intelligent. Their only strength seems to be the sheer number their hives seem able to field. They are organised in clans, all of which seem to have their own crude specialisations (e.g. pestilence, assassination) and their society seem centred around the worship of the Horned Rat, a servant of Baalzebul, the archduke of Maladomini.

A note of concern about the loathsome skaven is that they are susceptible to demonic corruption and their continued subjugation during the Blood War cannot be guaranteed. We will have to keep an eye on their hives on Carceri for the next few millennia.

On Kalauranthalasis…

That poisonous wyrm has been taken prisoner by those fanatics, and word has reached us to confirm that it was in possession of two of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye. If it wasn’t for my experiments here, I would seek them out to swell the collection of the Dark One. Perhaps there are those willing to compensate me for me for this information?

On the Upright Man…

None of our agents has been able to get close to the Upright Man for a very long time. The last time anyone of ours got close they disappeared… but not before confirming that they didn’t have one, but two of the tablets in their collection of antiques. It has proven nigh impossible to get anyone close to the situation since. If I can get close to one of their underlings, however…

On Dr. Arkenward…

Out of professional curiosity I track the movements of some of the promising wizards around, and this one caught my attention when he was appointed as the court abjurer to the current ruler of Lyria. His only form of compensation was an old and dusty stone tablet from the royal collection. Could it be? Dr. Arkenward will get more of my attention…

On the Daerlan Empire…

The expansionist tendencies of the illustrious emperor Wilhelm var Adelheim-Stoltenborg are impressive, but his decree that the practice and pursuit of arcane inquiry and discovery be regulated and only limited to the military is a travesty. Despite my own proclivities towards the military – I did join the Senhadrim with the express interest of aiding the crusade, in all my youthful naivety – I begrudgingly admit that this leaves many areas of discovery unexplored. Their aggression, however, did unearth one of the tablets from the personal collection of the Daerlan arcanist outlaw known as Griswald the Grey.

On the Szygani…

During my time in Lyria, before departing the Senhadrim and the crusade, the phenomenon of the szygani was a rarity so much as to be unknown. Since, hostilities, in what is now Mazuria, has lead to a diaspora of these curious people. Notoriously unaligned and reviled, their natural arcane connection is undeniable. They are one of the last to openly worship Tharizdun, in the form of Maškar, and therefore it didn’t surprise e to learn that one of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye was rumoured to be in the possession of one of them. It is unclear to me who; if there is any truth in their thieving nature it could literally be any of them.

On the Ritual of Returning…

As I want to be prepared for the possibility of returning some of the prisoners of war, and of course those who occasionally have found their way to Gwenllygad, I have devised a ritual which would allow me to let them depart. It has been modified, over time to separate the visitor souls from the prisoners of war. In my younger years, when I was still hopeful that Lauriel could be reasoned with, I adapted the ritual to allow for prisoners to be returned, too, but I have since destroyed any written evidence of that. The ritual is lengthy and requires a crossing to the right realm in the Ethereal Mist. The ritual is also very costly, as it requires the consumption of a voluntary soul, as the “burden” of imprisonment needs to be taken on my someone. Below are the details of the ritual, as well as my ongoing research on how to mitigate that almost insurmountable cost.

On the Senhadrim Vaults…

Recently we have started to deploy several of clans of the loathsome skaven in search for artefacts among the old crusader vaults. Some valuable things were recovered, some of the old Senhadrim arms among them. Their souls are being interrogated as we speak. After my departure from the Senhadrim, when the seal slammed shut and the age of arcanum came to a close, the Senhadrim created vaults of their own where they hid their treasures. I am almost certain we will find at least one or two tablets among those collections.

On the Devil Mammon…

During my time at the Senhadrim we knew the legends about the archdevils that ruled over Ba’ator. From the lore, we all developed a particular idea about each one of them. When I got in contact with the Dark One, I was quite surprised to learn that the lore was not even remotely close to the truth. No opulence, no gaudy jewellery… no, just a hunger for power and influence. The currency is not gold or precious gems, it’s knowledge, it’s influence, it’s clout. It takes all kinds of shapes, like souls. Like my soul. But sometimes it’s more material. Like the three tablets in the Dark One’s collection. I have yet to learn what the purpose of the collection is, but I dare to hazard some guesses…

On the Demon Pazuzu…

Pazuzu goes by many names. I call them the great corrupter. They swayed Asmodeus to abandon the “glory” of servitude. They have long ago targeted Tharizdun for corruption, and while that didn’t work, I am convinced Pazuzu is going to try again. How do I know this? Because I have learned that Pazuzu is in the possession of five of the Tablets of the Elemental Eye. It is said that with fifteen or more tablets, it should be possible to locate the Illusive One. If the demon gets to Tharizdun and manages to corrupt them, like the Shard of Evil once corrupted the Mad God, then nothing will stand in the way of the Abyss destroying all planes in all realities.

On the Crimson Guardian…

I am very proud of my creation. After water, I have now mastered stone. It shall serve as the guardian to the portal to and from Old Llygad. I have imbued it with the possibility of a directed lightning attack. It ejects flames on all sides and it can self-repair. It takes a moment for these abilities to take effect, and during that time there’s an option to alter or abort these functions.

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.